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Dear Chump Lady, Is he just your average narcissist?

narcissisticDear Chump Lady,

I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now and am learning tons about all the different kinds of fuckwits out there. For some reason I really need my cheater to be a narcissist. I’m stuck on the idea that if he isn’t a narcissist then maybe there was something wrong with our marriage. A lot of things point to him being on the narcissist spectrum, but then other things don’t fit the profile. I would love your diagnosis of our marriage history.

We met in college and dated for five years before we got married. We had what I thought was a great marriage. Lots of friends and family, financially secure, active sexlife, two kids. The sour note in our wedded bliss was me finding out about visits to porn sites and strip clubs. It was incredibly painful to discover that he would take his wedding ring off when visiting the strip clubs. It was very hurtful too that he didn’t seem very sorry about it. He kissed my butt for a little while, but otherwise seemed very annoyed that I was hurt. He supposedly stopped those activities, but I guess I don’t know for sure. We moved on from it. I felt very loved and I adored him and thought he was the best thing ever in spite of how he had hurt me.

Then one fall he started to get distant and mean. He lost weight and became preoccupied by his appearance. I remember saying to my friends, “If I didn’t know better I’d think he was having an affair.” Fast forward a couple months and I confront him with the big question. He denies an affair, but says he has lost feelings for me. I spend a month trying to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

Finally, I ask his best friend what’s up and he tells me the truth — that my husband has been having an affair for about five months. Our friends and I stage a confrontation to which he responds with violent anger. The next year was a time of limbo. I believed in unicorns and was pick me dancing like crazy. Throughout that year we went to counseling he was putting very little effort into our marriage, but was not ending it either. Just when I would feel like I had had enough, he would do something kind or initiate sex and I’d get my hopes up again that maybe the “affair fog” was lifting.

When his stash of love notes from her appeared in our bedroom, I kicked him out. He left, but then returned the next day humble and somewhat remorseful. He said he needed space. He needed some time to think things through. Then he intiated sex. Stupidly, I complied because I believed the unicorn was in sight. He leased an apartment a few miles away and he would come and have dinners with the kids and me. I gave him his space and continued the pick me dance. As his lease was ending, I asked him for his decision and he said he didn’t see us working out. I waited almost a year for him to file and he never did, until I finally told him I wasn’t going to file since it was his deal. Couple months later he did and now he and “Schmoopie” are getting married.

Is he your average cheater? Was it an exit affair? Is he a narcissist? Will you please give me Chump Lady’s diagnosis? I’m hoping it will help give me more closure on this painful chapter of my life.

Andrea

Dear Andrea,

I diagnosis him as a cake-eating fuckwit.

Does it matter what flavor of crazy we diagnose him with? That’s untangling the skein of fuckupedness. Is he a narcissist? A pathetic guy having a “midlife crisis”? A pileated yellow-bellied nitwit? It doesn’t matter. What matters is — is the way he’s treating you acceptable to YOU?

That’s the ONLY person we need to untangle here — you. What are your deal breakers? What do you think is acceptable behavior in the marriage? Is he good enough for you?

For some reason I really need my cheater to be a narcissist.

I get it. If we give him a label (like “mid-life crisis” or “narcissist”) then we can explain the phenomenon of discarding people who love us. If he’s a victim of a stroke, or a brain tumor, or has an affliction like “sex addict” (it’s just a brain disease!) then all this crazy has meaning. And better yet, perhaps it can be FIXED!

Similarly, if it’s something immutable like a personality disorder — he’s just a narcissist and he was born that way and has no empathy synapses and he can’t change — then we’re off the hook. Nothing to be done! He’s a disordered fuckwit! It wasn’t me, it was HIM!

I’m stuck on the idea that if he isn’t a narcissist then maybe there was something wrong with our marriage.

There was something wrong with your marriage — he wouldn’t quit cheating on you. You had nothing to work with.

That’s either an acceptable situation to you — I’ll let him eat cake and keep devaluing me — or it is not — I’m getting a divorce.

You tried limbo. You chased. You let him eat cake for a LONG time, including dragging out a divorce, but in the end, this marriage was not sustainable with three people in it. He married the affair partner, now he needs a new hypotenuse. Please ensure it’s not you.

Andrea, I don’t argue that every cheater is a certifiable personality disorder. I’m not a shrink, I’m a chump. I argue that the act of cheating is narcissistic. You cannot cheat on someone without suppressing empathy for them. Lack of empathy is the hallmark of narcissists. Maybe they overflow with the milk of human kindness in the other parts of their lives, but cheaters lack connection and compassion for their chumps.

Moreover, you cannot cheat on someone without emotionally abusing them with lies, gaslighting, and blameshifting. It’s not what you think! I’m not having an affair! You’re crazy! To cheat on someone is to devalue them. Worse, cheaters turn it back on chumps and blame them for the abuse.

Cake eaters USE chumps. That’s not an “exit affair” (which I’m beginning to believe is a pretty rare unicorn too). To sustain cake eating (and yours sustained it for, what, a couple of years?) means the cheater is extracting value from the chump, using them for kibbles, and maintaining a position of privilege (all the attention on ME! Dance everyone! DANCE!) for their own advantage (AND PAY MY BILLS WHILE YOU’RE AT IT!).

Cheaters avoid responsibility and the consequences of their bad behavior. They act entitled. Yours flew into a “violent” rage when confronted.

Whatever you want to call these dynamics and the idiots who dish out this crap — it’s deeply messed up. Personally, I think to maintain a double life for any significant amount of time, to keep suppressing your empathy and using and abusing people, means you’re disordered and belong on Planet Narcissist.

It helps to learn about personality disorders and narcissists and sociopaths because it gives us a framework to understand that such people exist. They don’t play by the same rules. They’re wired differently. Chumps imagine that if they hurt their partners, they would be eaten up by guilt, or admit it, or accept consequences. We’re baffled when people don’t play by the rules of civilized conduct. (Which keeps us getting played. This gesture has MEANING! I got a KIBBLE! The FOG IS LIFTING!)

Dr. George Simon talks in terms of character and I think that’s more useful. Character is on a spectrum. Character can change, but it’s very difficult because authentic growth is hard and painful. You have to give up entitlement and exchange it for humility. You have accept consequences. You have to feel other’s pain, and why when there is a shiny new source of kibbles?

Your ex had lousy character. He treated you appallingly and devalued you. For quite awhile there you let him — that’s what you need to puzzle out — why? Not is he this or that kind of narcissist — maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But why were you the kind of chump who didn’t serve his ass.

I asked him for his decision and he said he didn’t see us working out.

It was never his decision — it was yours.

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.
  • I used to wonder why my ex did what he did, was he a narcissist etc. Now, it just doesn’t matter much – he’s an arsehole and that’s neither my fault nor my problem anymore.
    Andrea, whatever your ex is, he’s not yours to worry about anymore. You no longer have an arsehole to live with:) That’s got to be good news!

    • On yesterday’s post, I replied that I just took a test sent to me by a trained therapist from Saferelationshipsmagazine.com. (I linked to the site from my Screen name if you want to check it out) It revealed that my STBX is a full on Anti-Social Psychopathic Narcissist. Yep.
      This I Know For Sure. There is no cure for him. Can’t fix that. I tried for nearly 40 years. Had no clue what was going on other than a subtle bad “off” feeling in my gut that I stuffed down when told I was crazy and too emotional, while he manipulated and gaslighted me for decades. The abuse was covert and extremely subtle, until I finally discovered the truth. I’m seeing things a lot more clearly now, but had to be no/limited contact to detox from his poison KoolAide. With this diagnosis by a trained professional in the field, I am no longer fighting the cognitive dissonance of “He’s this amazing man, the love of my life, father of my son’s”, and “He’s a serial cheater and con, who’s gotten us into a long drawn out business lawsuit because of his actions”. I filed. Now Schmoopie’s got him, (no pick me dance) so he has a fresh one to prey on. It is evil and sick. There are “Super Traits” of those of us who get sucked in and traumatized by cluster B’s. Sandra L. Brown from the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction has lots of videos on the topic. It helped me to have this professional confirmation and validation that he is so high on the spectrum. It will make it easier to forgive myself for being fooled for so long. It doesn’t change the facts, but I won’t be wondering what I did wrong anymore, and second guessing myself. I was told that he’s not dangerous because he’s a bad guy, he’s dangerous because he’s a bad guy wearing a mask. These disordered monsters get away with their BS because they hide so very well, and make us Chumps look like the crazy ones.

    • I foolishly held my Cheater to higher standards than the average, I made excuses for the cheater, believed his BS, I was even willing to accept blame for being less than perfect and I somehow deserved to be shit on.(I just choked typing this).
      I didn’t want to believe he could be so deceptive and cruel.

      CL again puts things in perspective, it doesn’t matter, his behavior is unacceptable, inexcusable.
      I’m still in stunned at how much I was willing to put up with until I finally accepted the truth.
      If it wasn’t for CN and CL I might still be floundering and blaming myself.

  • I too struggled with labeling my cheater. I spent hours in the counselor puzzling it out. Looking back I realize those hours could have been spent on myself not trying to figure out someone who wasn’t part of my life anymore. Labeling them doesn’t make the demise of your marriage any more or less someone’s fault. I get it that giving the cheater a horrible label puts most of the blame on him, but narcissist or not, HE CHEATED!! And that makes him a certifiable asshole. Cheaters don’t need a fancy label other than cheater. End. Of. Story.

    • Owl

      The importance of attaching a label to them is important in my opinion. What does not make sense are their behavior and actions. These are not random acts as we see here on a daily basis. The demise of a marriage when a partner cheats is ALWAYS their fault. Blame shifting is typical of cheaters. I believe it is one of the first red flags we often ignore because WE are willing to work on our relationship. Knowing you are with a serial cheating narcissist, covert narcissist, or sociopath can save your life and answer the question ‘why’.

  • Andrea,

    I can totally relate to what you are going through. I, as well, have tried to process all of this and understand what exactly the root cause was. Narcissism? Sociopath? Psychopath? Anti social disorder? Personality disorder? Just an ass hole? Multiple personalities? Sex addict? Because it makes absolutely no sense that someone would leave his family and young children to be in an apartment on his own because he doesn’t want to waste his free time going to counseling and “feeling like shit about himself all the time” after cheating on his wife again. None of this makes sense. What a counselor told me that helped me last week is that I’m trying to apply logic and understand something that has no logic or predictable pattern to it. The even more confusing part to me is that he spent his life in social work helping people with disabilities and children in orphanages. On the outside he looks like such a caring loving person. He has me so baffled that my mind will never make sense of what has occurred and how these behaviors are coming from the same person. Like chump lady said. You have to decide what you can live with and what marriage looks like to you. I remind myself of that frequently and that this wasn’t a healthy relationship and I would have been the one to continue to suffer his consequences had I stayed. It’s taken a lot of therapy with some really honest counselors to repeatedly tell me that this isn’t healthy and get the hell out if he’s not willing to put in the work to change himself. My heart goes out to you Andrea. You are not alone. You will make it through this. Even though it’s painful it is much less painful than continuing to live in a house of lies, lack of trust, lack of security, and a truly protective bond. It is absolute hell trying to live otherwise.

    • I agree these idots come off as great, kind and nice people. My ex worked with troubled kids and family’s. He was a director of a home for boys with family problems. The familys saw him as the perfect husband and family man except those that worked with him and his secretary. They knew what was going on with him and hi secretary. When asked why his employee didn’t like him he would make up excuses. They saw the real idot his was.

      • It is both sad and interesting how many cheaters hide behind their ‘good acts’, as if that makes the terrible stuff they do okay. X went out of his way to help people-everyone except his family. OW was a Jesus cheater social worker, who made sure everyone knew about her so-called street ministry. It’s all window dressing to make them look good and stroke their egos. Fundamentally, they care only about themselves. The label doesn’t matter, be it egotistical, narcissistic or just a garden variety asshole. All you need to know is where you are in their equation, always at the bottom and dead last.

        • It certainly isn’t uncommon for someone to use an appearance of authority and respectability to abuse people who trust them. Happens all the time: Bill Cosby, Jerry Sandusky, etc. Then there’s systemic abuse by institutions such as the priests who abused children and the church’s role in covering it, etc. There’s no arguing a lot of good came from these same people/organizations, but at the same time abuse was going on. It’s a very strange world, isn’t it?

          My own uncle had a 10 year affair and another child with a young woman from his church choir, at the time he was still married to his wife of 40 years. People still write to tell him how he changed their lives for the better by the work he did in the church, at the same time his children barely speak to him. So he helped a lot of other people’s children while emotionally abandoning his own.

          My counselor told me the issue isn’t figuring out why my ex did what he did, the issue is figuring out why I stayed in a situation that was so painful for me.

          In my defense, it wasn’t like the truth was clear. If I’d walked in on him with someone else, I’d have had no trouble ending it. Instead, there were lies and lies, and distance, and gruff treatment that I interpreted as stress from an overly hectic work schedule. Even after finding and reading in his own handwriting what was going on, he told me I didn’t understand what I read. I think cheaters believe their own lies. That’s how they’re able to live with what they do.

          • “So he helped a lot of other people’s children while emotionally abandoning his own.” This is my ex, too. A pastor who spent a lot of time working with youth. I frequently told him that if he treated his own children as if they were youth group members he would have a happier home life. He never did, our college age son rarely speaks to him now. Our college aged daughter is trying to maintain a relationship with her father but frequently comments on how she isn’t a priority. And yes, both he and his AP are Jesus cheaters.

            • Another X Minister’s wife here …. Totally understand what you are feeling!

              It’s all impression management. Underneath isn’t very pretty. Watch out for that burny place you preach about is all I have to say.

          • So nicely stated, as always, Lyn. There would be no need for “lies, lies and distance, and gruff treatment” if they were not disordered. Who treats the one closest like shit just because they can? The disordered.

            I don’t even think that they are doing the ‘good acts’ that violet refers to as a shield or cover-up, although there is a good argument often made here re image management as a factor. My opinion is that they would not put that much effort into anything like image management, but get rather immediate kibbles for ‘good acts’.

            It seems to me that they are neither attached to their good acts nor their bad behaviour. They are like a toddler who follows whatever current impulse draws them. Their sense of entitlement to have everything they want is the engine driving their bus.

            I’ll wait for a different bus. No. 4, Karma.

            • Virago, I’ll be waiting there with you. I spent the last few years of my marriage in therapy trying to fix/improve myself so I could make my man happier. Little did I know someone else was already doing that.

              But two of my therapists said it was like I had another child at home, and my last one actually called him my fourth child (before an actual fourth child came along) which always made me both embarrassed and amused because she was right.

              Toddlers are narcissistic by nature because they have needs that have to be met. But the difference between my 40-year-old ex and my 2 1/2-year-old is she’s growing out of it, means it when she says she’s sorry and our family means the world to her. Ex should have fucking taken notes.

          • “If I’d walked in on him with someone else, I’d have had no trouble ending it. Instead, there were lies and lies, and distance, and gruff treatment that I interpreted as stress …”

            WOW…^^^^^ THIS^^^^^^

            Exactly how I feel Lyn!!! If he had left me honestly without all the lies and deceit, I could deal with the ending of our marriage…instead, he had to lie, cheat, and steal from me.. and how quickly he moved on & remarried, that’s still got me scratching my head, but in the end I’m glad he’s gone, and he’s still such a bastard!!!

          • “t certainly isn’t uncommon for someone to use an appearance of authority and respectability to abuse people who trust them. ”

            It’s called “hiding in plain sight.”

  • I hear you loud and clear Andrea — mine hit the same notes as yours: extreme anger when confronted about her actions and the impact they were having, constant “ILYBINILWY”, disengaged from the marriage but not willing to end it either.

    That last one was particularly tough to take — she kept harping on how fantastic it was that she was so easily able to “compartmentalize” my life, and she just kept doing little sabotages that forced me into finally throwing down the gauntlet.

    When I told her she had to decide between our marriage or the life she said “I was meant to have, to be the person I was meant to be” she couldn’t bring herself to do make the decision. So when I did it for her, she responded, “Well, if that’s what you want.”

    Cowardly beyond words. And as CL says, non-acceptance for responsibility of their actions.

    Hang in there — you know by now you’re not alone, there are fuckwits aplenty. You and I just happened to get stuck with them.

    • Cowardly. Yes, this. I think one of the things my deadH feared most was ever being called a coward, he presented himself as brave (war veteran trained in hand to hand combat). He went to his grave without me ever calling him the names he feared. When he told me of his intent to divorce and on D day, he blamed me completely for his actions – those are the doings of a coward.

    • UXworld, I relate to what you wrote so much. I also got the equivalent of “If that’s what you want.” I kept telling him to stop pinning his decisions on me. He kept saying, “You’re unhappy too.” Of course I was unhappy, when I’d been spending weeks at a time alone and trying to connect with someone who had no interest in connecting any more.

      • When I told my ex that our bogus reconciliation was over and I was moving ahead with the divorce, he replied, “Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.” From that day forward, he used the excuse that I was the one who abandoned HIM to explain the end of the marriage, conveniently leaving out his staggering level of infidelity and insanity.

        • Cheater excuses and claims of abandonment always remind me of the Shirley Maclaine scene in Terms of Endearment where Nicholson’s character is explaining how he doesn’t like feeling obligated within the relationship, and she responds, “blah blah blah blah…..blah.”

          • Tempest – I always loved when Garrett says to Aurora ” . . . I don’t want to blow smoke up your ass . . .” and she says, “What a relief!”

        • @GladIt’sOver Yea this. When I told my STBX after D-Day 3 that I need to move on (at 8 months pregnant) because I can’t trust the affair will ever end despite his continued professions that he wanted to make our marriage work, I got the same “well you do what you gotta do.” He is still with OW 3 months later yet had the gall to say to me recently that its my fault we are not still together.

          • All your fault for loving and marrying a fucking rat bastard. And how much effort did he put into the relationship? I would be generous to guess 0 – 10 percent.

            I hope your baby is a beautiful soul.

    • SNAP UXWorld! The problem now is that since I have decided not to play the game any more and have spoken to an attorney and started to get the ball rolling, all of a sudden what he has given me per month has been halved and is not taking any responsibility for expenses to our house. Real assholes! The lot of them! No 4 bus……I hear you in the distance.

  • YEARS down the path, Im incredulous to look back and see all the proof that he was a mean horrible spouse and I refused to admit it to myself. I now realize that I was far too afraid to have face that truth because with it my hope would have died and I would have been left with the final decision to leave or not.

    For us incorrigible chumps, if we believe they DONT have mental illness then we think they might get better and if we believe the DO have mental illness then we might consider ourselves their long suffering benevolent caretakers. Either way in this, a mean person gets away with abuse and our lives are ruined.

    I have changed my mind about this 100% since my worst chumpy days. I now think that abject abuse should not be tolerated and we must stand up for ourselves and make the hard decisions. My dead husband was very mean to me and that is all I needed to know.

    • YES, this Unicornomore, it is why I stayed for over 4 years when he became verbally and psychologically abusive. That sense of obligation and guilt and hope. With the help of a wonderful group of friends and our marriage counselor, I opened my eyes to what he was and started the divorce.

    • It took years for me to understand that having a bad childhood and severe mental illness did not excuse abusive behavior. I, unlike my spouse, meant my vows and believed I had to support him through his mental illness. What a chump I was!

    • I’m just the opposite. I believed my ex had an undiagnosed emotional problem. Nope, just an ordinary plain old cheat.

  • Absolutely agree. At a certain point, one must turn the camera around onto oneself and say: how and why did you not get out sooner? Really, it’s so hard to look critically (at least it was for me) and say, “OK, your partner wronged you, but YOU accepted it for a long time, and that’s on you.” But once I did that? And I went into that dark place where I felt worthless because I let me accept the responsibility for putting up with my own shitty relationship dynamic and not demanding more? Then I could work with something. And unlike trying to work with your narcissistic partner, you know that you’re reliable and responsive and dependable and honest. FWIW, I found mindfulness-based therapies (like MBSR) and yoga to be of extraordinary value in my personal development. It got me over what had been a long-standing anxiety disorder and intense FOO issues. I’m more badass than ever now and I couldn’t have done it without my partner FORCING me to stare myself down and say, “Alright, what’s going on here?” To his credit, my ex- did help me along with my therapeutic process … but it was often a battle between succeeding because of and in spite of him.

    Hope that wasn’t too much of a rant hehe (^_^;)

    • “how and why did you not get out sooner?”

      This is my sticking point. I learned within hours of finding Chump Lady that Narkles the Clown was a narcissist. It was all too easy to connect those dots. But it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to change no matter what label I put on him. But here I am with the big question being how I struggled for so long before I knew about his deal breaking behavior. Make no mistake, once I found out CL helped me decide to end the marriage, but I still struggle with how I couldn’t get myself out of the abusive relationship I was in. Looking back it was so abusive. Why did I wait until I found an affair? I cried to a friend this past weekend, explaining it. All he could say was “I had no idea you were dealing with such trauma.” No one knew.

      • Lots of reasons conspire to keep us stuck. It’s very hard to leave someone, even someone who treats us appallingly. Because even crappy people don’t suck ALL the time.

        And also we need THEM. We invested our lives in them! Look, being in a relationship has advantages (which cheaters absolutely are aware of) — financial, how you’re perceived, companionship.

        It’s also humiliating to admit to yourself and everyone else that you chose a lousy partner and life has become unmanageable. We fear hurting our children with this realization too.

        Most good people will try very hard before they get out.

        That said, we cannot accept abuse. The price of keeping it together should never be our self-respect and our sanity.

        If chumps are so unbearable and unlovable they should be left openly and honestly.

        But of course, they aren’t. Cake is just too damn delicious.

        • This line stings: “If chumps are so unbearable and unlovable they should be left openly and honestly” I was left. I was left swiftly with no looking back. I spent a lot of time crying, believing I was horrible, unbearable, and unlovable.

          • Strawberry Jellyfish–But that’s not leaving you honestly, is it? Only the disordered pick up and leave without trying to work out a marriage, without any compassion for the person being left, without any admission of their own flaws. And “honestly” doesn’t include finding a replacement spouse before they go. He sucks.

            • Oh, good point, Tempest. Whatever else Dr. Phil says about relationships aside, one thing he harps on is people have to “earn their way out,” that is, make an honorable exit, not just cheat or run out the door. Now I don’t think that’s true for anyone who is being abused in any way, including infidelity. But it is true of people who just want “out.” Do the work and leave the right way.

          • Neither openly nor honestly, Strawberry Jellyfish.
            He sounds horrible, unbearable and unlovable.
            You are, on the other hand, FREE of the nitwit!

          • Hugs, Strawberry Jellyfish. I feel what you said, very much. Swiftly, with no looking back. It was 18 months before I stopped crying every day about it. You are OK, you’re a good person, and he’s a schlemiel.

          • SJF, I’m not saying you’re unlovable. I’m calling the cheater’s bluff. If we’re REALLY so awful, why not leave honestly? Or why not try and fix it? Or why not own your decision to bail, give the chump a fair settlement, and not blameshift?

            Don’t buy any crap that you Made Him Cheat and you’re so awful you Compelled Him to Leave. To cheat is to cake eat. He had agency.

          • Strawberry Jellyfish, I feel your pain. I know how it is to feel abandoned with no looking back. The coward couldn’t even come back for his things. It stings so bad that even 6 years out I’m not at “meh” and not sure if I’ll ever be. We had no voice.

          • Strawberry,
            I felt unbearable and unloveable in the last year’s of my marriage. But I wasn’t like that in the first 15 years of marriage. I was loving and supportive and respectful and patient and empathetic. So what changed? I did, because the cost of doing EVERYTHING in the marriage and being always positive, when I was getting virtually NOTHING in return (or worse getting mindfucked), became too high. It was sucking my soul dry.

            So yes, yes I was absolutely unbearable and unloveable in the last years of my marriage. So yes I guess the affair was my fault. Except the reason I was unbearable and unloveable was because of his actions/choices (lying, denying, gaslighting, distancing – making me paranoid, controlling, batshit crazy). I think I should have tried harder, done something more, but then think what did he do to try and save the marriage? Nothing. He checked out and then had an affair. It’s like they push you until you break (become a nasty person) and then they blame it all on you.

            After 6 months of NC, I am back to being my normal self – loving, connected, empathetic, patient. So…if this is me without him. And that was me with him (unbearable and unloveable). Then I have to conclude that something he was doing/not doing during the marriage changed me…? Or maybe I’m bad at intimate relationships? But I seem to do very well in my relationships with kids, family and friends. All I know is that in the last year’s of my marriage, i slowly became someone I didn’t recognize. I became someone I hated. I became someone that was completely at odds with my natural personality.

            So maybe he did leave me because i was unbearable and unloveable. But that doesn’t mean I AM unbearable and unloveable except maybe only in the dysfunctional relationship with him. That’s how I’m starting to think about my marriage anyways…and maybe this is the dynamic that causes most affairs (rather than the cheater being character disordered). That a marriage deteriorates so much that both spouses are unbearable and unloveable and then one of them gets to the point where they consider the marriage over (and devalue their spouse) and are open to being with someone else. And yes, the respectful thing to do is ask for a divorce. So yes the affair and all the emotional abuse that goes with it are something more than just marital breakdown.

            I know that the process I’ve been going through the past six months since he left is likely exactly what he did to me before having the affair: I am devaluing him (listing every horrible thing he has done, I am distancing myself from him (NC)). It’s like all the steps CN say to take to end an abusive relationship are all the things the cheater did to end their connection to us during the end of the marriage. I guess it’s how to “fall out of love” with someone.

            • If you are in an abusive relationship and trying to survive inside that, you will indeed become unrecognizable to yourself. It’s a fundamental reason to leave a cheater–what you will become if you stay.

              • LAJ, maybe my STBX would say the same thing? That I was emotionally abusive and that he became unrecognizable to himself? I was certainly extremely withdrawn and unhappy. I never lied or manipulated or cheated on him.

                I vacillate between thinking it’s all him – he is a cheater, liar, manipulator – to thinking maybe I drove him to the affair with my unhappiness, lack of affection, hopelessness. I guess it doesn’t matter at this point…separation/divorce/NC is what I need to do with him. I guess I want to know if it was him or me, so that I know if I need to fix something about myself, so that I can have healthier future relationships. I guess it’s a conversation to have with a therapist. I have spent every session talking about him, but I need to start focusing on myself.

              • Brightness,

                “maybe my STBX would say the same thing?”

                Of course your STBX would (or already had tried) to gaslight you into the mindfuckery of shared responsibility! That is why going NC is so critical to chump recovery. You have years of deprogramming to do about who you thought your spouse was and how he really is…

                For starters, please let the pus of his mindfuckery out of your system by keeping posting here, CL/CN has your back, we’ve all been there…

                Second, please read Tempest’s beautiful literature review on the similarities and differences between cheaters and chumps – http://www.chumplady.com/2015/08/what-is-the-difference-between-cheaters-and-chumps/

                Third, if you are not NC with your cheater, go NC asap. If you have kids with your cheater, set up a court-approved communications system such as ourfamilywizard.com to protect yourself and go as NC as possible. It took me around 7 months of NC to start seeing him through his actions instead of my projections of who I wanted/hoped he would be. 16 months after putting my custody-compatible NC in place, my triggers are significantly lower and my X appears to me more like a cymbal-playing noisy and sort of pathetic fez-wearing eye-bulging circus monkey.

                This is a rough rough road, but the sooner you go NC, the earlier you will be able to process the incredibly painful and life-changing experience of being cheated on and focus on your own peaceful cheater-free future.

              • Brightness, you can’t put your unhappiness and hopelessness next to his cheating and emotional abuse. That’s a natural reaction to the abuse itself. That’s human and normal. Of course, we want to own our part in the failure of the marriage. Your last sentence is gold! My therapist helped me with the guilt of ending a marriage to an alcohol abuser who was just miserable to live with. See what happens if you stick to talking about yourself for 4-5 sessions. And change mental channels when you start to think about him.

            • “I felt unbearable and unlovable in the last year’s of my marriage. But I wasn’t like that in the first 15 years of marriage. I was loving and supportive and respectful and patient and empathetic. So what changed? I did, because the cost of doing EVERYTHING in the marriage and being always positive, when I was getting virtually NOTHING in return (or worse getting mindfucked), became too high. It was sucking my soul dry.

              So yes, yes I was absolutely unbearable and unloveable in the last years of my marriage. So yes I guess the affair was my fault. Except the reason I was unbearable and unloveable was because of his actions/choices (lying, denying, gaslighting, distancing – making me paranoid, controlling, batshit crazy). I think I should have tried harder, done something more, but then think what did he do to try and save the marriage? Nothing. He checked out and then had an affair. It’s like they push you until you break (become a nasty person) and then they blame it all on you….”

              ^^^^THIS^^^^ You are telling exactly my same story, @Brightness !!!

              The Evil One did all of these mean, cruel, rude, disrespectful things to the point that I had just had enough and instead of standing up for myself and fighting for what I know (now) what I deserve/entitled to (not that kind of entitlement, more like care, respect, courtesy entitlement)…I shut down completely. I just went numb and didn’t speak out against anything he was doing… in my deepest levels, I knew what he was doing- he was trying to make me toss him out so he could play the vicitm, but I didn’t— by shutting down and not speaking up, I just waited him out – he eventually just said he was “Done” with our marriage and moved out about a month later.

              Once he had OWhore locked in, he filed for divorce and married her 60 days after our divorce was final.

              Mind-fuck for sure. I have spent many a sleepless night over-analyzing, over-thinking, over-processing the obvious when it comes to The Evil One — he’s a garden variety asshole narcissist —- the whole time I was with him, it was ALWAYS about him. I can’t tell you how many times, give you example after example of how I denied myself of just about anything and everything for his need/benefit no matter what.

              Was I that desperate for companionship? Did I truly not want to be alone that much? Did he really ever truly love me? Those questions haunted me for a while after he left, but those thoughts dissipated over time…I realized that it was him, not me that made the shitty choices. It was him, not me that has no morals or values or good character. I have slept fine ever since.

              It’s been a year or so since he left. I made it through the “first year” and I’m still here! I feel like Andy Dufrense in The Shawshank Redemption: “…Andy Dufrense, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side…”

              (((hugs))))

              • Molly, Chumpitude, LAJ, Thank you all so much for your thoughts and support. I am completely overwhelmed by the kindness on this blog. So much positive energy and encouragement (and snarky humor). When I first discovered CL I was at the lowest point in my life (3 d-days, 4 months pick me dancing) followed by his choosing to leave (he chose his AP rather than choosing to try and fix our 22 year marriage). I had lost 50 pounds in six weeks and was only getting 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I was a complete basketcase and had no idea what to do. Reading CL/CN gave me concrete steps to follow. Gave me clarity about what exactly happened (reality vs mindfuck). Gave me hope that I could survive what had happened (and the incomprehensible idea that not only would I survive, but that my life will almost certainly be better).

            • I can totally relate, Brightness. My behaviour/attitude was less than stellar (controlling, short-tempered, distrustful and hypervigilant – all after I found the evidence of his first batch of infidelity, mind you) and I am certain that did not contribute to the healthy functioning of our marriage. I was very vocal about not being happy (he heard it regularly) but I was certainly “in” the marriage and working on it – booking and attending counselling, reading the assigned books, etc. to make the marriage a better place to be.
              However, I would bet my bottom dollar that my stbxh would say that my behaviour was abusive and that he became unrecognizable to himself. I never lied or cheated, but was I manipulative? passive-aggressive? unreasonable? I don’t know. The fact that we are actually looking at ourselves and our behaviour is probably a whole lot more than our cheaters will ever do. I also have to consider that I have never exhibited these types of behaviours in other prior long term relationships.
              Yet I struggle with the distinction between being accountable for my part in the demise of the marriage and being “gaslighted into the mindfuckery of shared responsibility.” I won’t take responsibility for his cheating and lying – ever – but where does my responsibility lie? Again, I don’t know.

              • Blessing, yes I was very vocal about my unhappiness after d-day too. I would guess that’s pretty normal!? How can a person be happy when they are choking on shit sandwiches?

                It’s so convoluted in my head…what came first (before d-day) my unhappy/angry feelings or his narc/cheater actions? If it was me and he just gave up on the marriage, then his checking out of the relationship and having an affair is almost understandable. But if he was lying/cheating/manipulating me for years before I discovered this affair (and i had no clue but was unconsiously reacting to it) and that’s what made me unhappy/angry/withdrawn…it’s just all such a mindfuck. And so exhausting. Only he knows the real truth, but he denies doing anything prior to this affair. And so i’m left feeling like I’m crazy – that my entire marriage was just smoke and mirrors.

                I guess what I do know, what is real, is who I am when I am not around him now (positive, empathetic, loving). So whatever happened in my marriage (chicken or egg) I no longer have to be that person. He released me from that no-win situation by his choice to cheat.

            • “So what changed? I did, because the cost of doing EVERYTHING in the marriage and being always positive, when I was getting virtually NOTHING in return (or worse getting mindfucked), became too high. It was sucking my soul dry.

              So yes, yes I was absolutely unbearable and unloveable in the last years of my marriage. So yes I guess the affair was my fault. Except the reason I was unbearable and unloveable was because of his actions/choices (lying, denying, gaslighting, distancing – making me paranoid, controlling, batshit crazy). I think I should have tried harder, done something more, but then think what did he do to try and save the marriage? Nothing. He checked out and then had an affair. It’s like they push you until you break (become a nasty person) and then they blame it all on you….””

              Oh @brightness !

              This was my story too !

              When I finally stood up for myself and refused to pick up his lazy slack any more he started an affair.
              I divorced him and he married his AP. They are still together and have 2 kids.

              Chump lady, you said that cheaters thrive on triangulation and kibbles, so who does he triangulate with now I have no contact with him (and haven’t had for many years)??

          • Strawberry, you should read “Lessons from the End of Marriage” by Lisa Arends. Her husband disappeared, ended their marriage with a text message. She found out later he siphoned all their bank accounts and was married to another woman. She has amazing insight, a good blog and Facebook page too. I read her along with Chumplady.com every day.

            • WOW, I went to Lisa Arends’ blog and could not stop reading. My mouth was actually hanging open in astonishment. That’s a great site, I highly recommend it to any fellow chumps who found out the hard way that their ex led a double life.

          • SJF-Like others have said you are not unlovable.I think CL was just pointing out that if things were so bad the cheater could either try to work things out or leave honestly BEFORE they start having sex outside of their marriage.

            They tell their AP and their own sorry selves that things are so bad because it makes their sorry selves feel better about being a liar and a cheat. There is nothing honest about what cheaters do.

            As far as him leaving and never looking back, that’s all part of making it easier for them. I mean when you think about it, it’s why we all preach going as close to No Contact as you can possibly get after divorce. It makes it easier for us too. It’s for different reasons but the principle works the same. Your ex or STBX is the cowardly loser. Nothing is wrong with you!

            • SJF, no douchebag can brand you for life. Once released, you will learn how to thrive again. How to become unstoppable again. How to like yourself again. There was a line in an old film (Gumball Rally?). “What is behind us does not matter.” It had to do with a broken rearview mirror, but it sounds good to me.

          • I too was left without even a glance back after 20 years. That was 5 years ago (it still hurts). He even packed his stuff while I was at work one day and just left and I found him at the OWs house a week later. I too spent the first 18 months just crying everyday wondering what hit me. No conversations, not even an argument. No explanations. Nothing. CL is right, this is not you. It is his character, his lack of integrity and honesty. He is an ass nothing more and you deserve so much better. Hugs xx

      • AllOutofKibbles

        I too struggled with how I couldn’t get out of the abusive relationship. Once I was told he was a narcissist all the pieces fell into place. My own mother said he was a good guy despite his poor behavior. I came from a place where comparatively he never flipped over the kitchen table filled with dinner as my father did. He didn’t have tantrums, rage, and storm out of the house.

        I was determined to find a person I could trust and raise children with. Now that I look back I’m disgusted with myself for believing his lies. To the outside he looked good and as you stated NO ONE KNEW. He used my children from an early age and brought them to his AP’s home to play with her children. He DENIED it. When they were in their twenties he flirted with their friends and complained about how abusive I was to his children. They felt sorry for him and he used them to hook him up with their friends divorced mothers after he moved into their basements.

        Luckily my coping strategy was to get degrees so I wouldn’t end up like my mother. By the time I was self supporting and my children were out of the house I was so worn down it was nearly impossible to ESCAPE as I was broken. For this I still cry.

        It was never about being alone. I was always alone. Instead I took a job to get away from him during the week. I did this for the past eight years. I only saw him on weekends. It was tolerable.
        My therapist saved my life in openly telling me what I was dealing with, Stockholm Syndrome and an narcissistic, sociopath, serial cheater. In that one session I found my answer and over time I have forgiven myself (never him) for not recognizing it sooner. I was emotionally abused for 41 years during my marriage. For the past two years I have reevaluated my memories and now know it was much worse than I imagined. Staying damaged my children as they too are coming to terms with living with an illusion of a father that lied, used them for supply, and never respected any of us.
        Forgiving yourself works.

          • Definitely. I’ve had friends ask me how I’m dealing with the loneliness since he moved out. I’m alone but I always have been. It’s not a new thing. In some ways I feel less lonely because I have now chosen to live “alone.” It’s more authentic I guess. No longer hiding the fact that I’m living this lonely life married to a jerk.

  • Couldn’t agree more with Chump Lady. He’s no different from my cake-eating fuckwit, and every other cake-eating fuckwit we at CN had the misfortune to become entangled with.

    The flavour of the cake may vary, but cake is still cake. Fuckwits may come in all shapes and sizes, but they are still ALL fuckwits.

    Wake up every day and think yourself lucky he’s someone else’s fuckwit now. I do 🙂

  • Andrea, I see a big flashing “N” on your ex’s forehead. He needed “space and time to think” so he got an apartment. The “space” was to bang his whore in privacy, the “time to think” was for him to figure out how to get out of the marriage while winning the financial fight. (BTW, “thinking” does not require paying rent on an apartment which takes money away from you and the kids.)

    I was married to the Emperor of Narcissistan and I figured out that love is only a word to them. They only “love” people who are useful to them. The chrome coating that was all shiny was starting to wear thin with you (he probably showed you once too often who he really was) so he found someone else who was blinded by the shiny. He doesn’t love her either. She’s just more useful to him at this point. He’s probably only marrying her to prove to everyone that it’s “twu luv” so they don’t think he’s a complete jackass for blowing up his family. How people see him is the most important thing in his life.

    I get your wanting him to be a narcissist because then you’ll have an explaination as to how he could just throw away all you had built together. The answer is they are self-contained. You built your family all by yourself. It’s very easy for them to walk away because they were never an invested partner in the marriage and family.

    I’m still in awe of the fact that these people roam free leaving destruction in their wake. I’m so sorry you’re going through this but remember: he’s the sick one.

    • I second this post in its entirety! Healthy people don’t just walk away and abandon their families. He’s sick in his head all right.

    • “They only “love” people who are useful to them. The chrome coating that was all shiny was starting to wear thin with you (he probably showed you once too often who he really was) so he found someone else who was blinded by the shiny. He doesn’t love her either. She’s just more useful to him at this point. ”

      I got this…. I asked her for a post nup after D-Day and was told it was “against her principles” and she wouldn’t “invest in the marriage” if we weren’t joined up financially. I told her that day we were done.

      She then tried to reel me back in with pity/charm followed by rage. She has an anxious attachment style – I understand it is rare for this type of personality to also have narcissism, but boy does she play the part. Her fuckwit OM has NPD (according to his marriage counsellor), so those two are in for a fun time.

      Before pulling the plug, I did try and work out where she was on the Simon spectrum that CL mentioned (to see whether reconciliation was realistic), but then I just concluded that she’s a lying fuckwit with serious insecurities that she was unwilling to deal with. She could never truly love someone (it was all about her) and would always put herself first.

      I have now let go and am moving on, safe in the knowledge those two deserve each other and the karma bus is revving it’s engine, just down the road.

        • My cheater told me he had “investments in his integrity” I asked him how that secret trip to Las Vegas with his OW fit in with his ‘investments’…gag me with a spoon.

          • Speaking of Las Vegas. My stbx wants our child 50/50 – oh how he wants to be with her! Never mind he treated her like she barely existed while he was out meeting OW at the hotel every weekend for months. Now that he and OW live together and I want support money he wants our kid 50/50. Well he wants to see her so bad that he’s taking Mother’s Day weekend (his weekend) to go to Las Vegas. I put in the summons I wanted her on Mother’s Day. But he could still pick her up Friday night and bring her home Sunday morning. What happened? I thought he wanted to be with her so bad! hmmm. Lies. So many lies. I asked him to send me a picture of a document he had. He said NO! And what the hell – I don’t believe him?! Really? I don’t believe him???
            No, I don’t believe you. You lied and cheated and betrayed our family for months. They are brain dead.

      • FTSL – I did the same when he came crying about how he couldn’t live without me and he’d do anything to have us back. This man loves money like a redneck loves meth. He actually had kept money in his first-ever money market account for “sentimental reasons”. That’s just plain sick.

        So when he was making noises about wanting us back, just for fun I told him I wanted a post-nup stating a 70/30 split in my favor if he ever cheated again. He was appalled. I told him it was completely in his control – don’t cheat, don’t pay. He said “you obviously don’t trust me.” Truer words were never spoken, Douche Canoe!

      • FSTL – Switch “she” to “he” from your comment and you have a carbon copy of my X… Good riddance!

  • I can remember telling a girlfriend that I found a hotel receipt way back in 2008. She asked me what I was going to do. I replied, “What can I do? I’m not giving up son every other weekend.”

    Flashforward 8 years of my life lost and he’s gone for another woman.

    Nobody’s fault but my own because I stayed. I spackled. I will never get those years back.

    Thanks to CL and CN… I filed first. I got a lawyer. I stopped “discussing” anything with him that didn’t directly relate to our son. I got the custody order I wanted. My lawyer got the pre-nup upheld. I even found him cheating on her on an adult website.

    Yet, I still miss him in my mind some days. So, lots more counseling in my future.

    I could label my STBX a million names, but Mr. Sparkles fits best.

    Get a lawyer. Protect yourself and your kids. Nail his ass for adultery (even in a no-fault state, the judges hate these fuckwits too.)

    Keeping coming here and looking forward to a better future. It is out there for us all.

    You deserve – and your kids deserve – a better life.

    • I found a used condom wrap in our bedroom. Liar went so far in his blame-shifting that he accused our than 10 years old son to have something to do with it. After my hysterical disagreement he accused our landlord’s a bit older son for coming in and using our bed while we are away. F-unbelievable … yeah, I did not see it then … it took me way too long to realize that he sucks.

      • Heee. When I found such a thing, I was accused of whoring myself and leaving the wrapper behind. A little PROJECTION, maybe?

  • Andrea, I understand where you’re coming from. I think we’ve all been there to one degree or another – wanting to know WHY the cheaters acted as they did; to give them some sort of diagnosis that makes sense of the crazy. But eventually you get to the point where you realize the only diagnosis you need is your own. Once you label your own self as a chronic Chump you can begin the process of healing. Fortunately Chumpitus has a very high cure rate and you don’t need a shot except maybe in a shot glass.

    Best of luck to you.

    • “you don’t need a shot except maybe in a shot glass” Awesome Beth!

      And THANK YOU! One of the most memorable shots of reality/clarity I got from CN was from a link you believe you shared from Sandra Brown radio show on “is he happy with the other woman?” – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/relational-harm-reduction/2014/10/24/after-a-pathological-love-relationship-hes-moved-on-and-is-with-someone-new

      Painful as hell to come to terms that I had been played so masterfully, but necessary to stop untangling the skein and be able to instead focus on my own recovery.

      • Hey Chumpitude,

        I wish I could take the credit for that link from Sandra Brown but it must have been one of the other Beths on this site. There are a couple of us. I hope it’s some relief that ALL of us were played masterfully. In my case, my ex was my best friend before we started dating. He was well acquainted with my entire family and none of us saw him for who (what) he really is. I’m 54 now and I’ve known my ex since I was 17. You have to be pretty damn good to wear a mask that long. And I can tell you from personal experience that as soon as you stop trying to figure out the cheater and focus on figuring out how to heal and grow, life becomes good again. Promise!

  • Uggh. This reminds me exactly of my cheater dad. The cheaters, and I agree with CL, they are all entitled narcissists, they do what they want whenever they want. If they want to be nice, they are. If they don’t feel like it, they aren’t. But here is the part where you can’t fool yourself about their character. They KNOW how to behave (that’s how you got seduced), but when they don’t feel the effort is worth it, they stop. They walk away from their responsibilities, try a little image control, and when they can’t do that, they disappear.

    • Got this also….

      She was consumed with rage when I filed based on adultery. Said it should have been a “joint decision to file” so as to preserve her image. All my family have said they never expected it from her, she had such a good image in their minds. As soon as I made it hard for her (as in, give up the affair/the affair thinking and, until we reconcile, any prospect of more money from me), she walked. She could have stayed and got the same money later, even if we later divorced, but in her entitled mind, that wasn’t enough, so she walked (or dared me to do so – how could I do it, she was so splendid, she thought).

      And then when I refused to gaslight the kids… total rage again, then pity, then charm.

      I don’t know if she’s a narcissist, but she sure does act like one.

      • FSTL, thanks for your post. I’m not sure if you’ve recounted your divorce-tale elsewhere on CL. I too am seeking a fault divorce for adultery. The fact that your X was so entitled seems similar to my situation. How did the “channels” play-out for you? It sounds like your X never stopped seeing the OM. Did she use charm to try to better her settlement or just to get a no-fault divorce? You really went through hell, obviously.

        • I only noticed the channels after reading Simon’s books and CL’s blogs on channels. When you’re stuck in a relationship, you don’t notice them (well, I didn’t). A lot of her behaviour can also be explained by her attachment style, so – whilst she has narcissistic traits – I’d be reluctant to label her as a narcissist. All I know is – she sucks!

          Once I identified her channels, I then began to form a view that her behaviour wasn’t genuine. At Christmas and after I told her I wanted out, she went all affectionate on me (despite having told me she couldn’t commit… until I told her I was leaving). I told her I wasn’t going there as I didn’t feel it was genuine. This was followed by a channel change to rage.

          When rage didn’t work, I often got pity next. Or charm and then pity.She then misunderstood where I was at after that and fell back to “I can’t commit and need time to sort myself out”. This just reinforced my view she was faking and trying to reel me in.

          Now we’re near the end, it happens less often, but that’s only because I won’t engage with her.

          Best advice I ever got was to detach and observe. You can see a whole lot more clearly and not get sucked into their drama. I now see her VERY clearly, and that made it so much easier to let go and move on to a better,. cheater free life.

          • Howdy, Chumptitide.

            Thanks for the great links.

            No, I heard from my lawyer that Match Girl got a new lawyer. Imagine that. Delay and obfuscate. My poor little one-year-old golden retriever is stuck living at Match Stick’s house. I’m starting to wonder if she gave mh dog away. Oh well. One benefit of Chump Nation is none of her behavior surprises me anymore.

            Also, all of the exit-affair responses west great. I don’t have an exit-affair cheater on my hands. With her two months of pathetic reconciliation-esqe communications, her lead-foot dragging this divorce, and the likelihood of at least on other adultery partner three-years ago, I’ve got a serial cheater on my hands. But, as Tempest mentioned it’s helpful to me to ditingush between explanation and responsibility.

            Finally, all of the chump guy’s responses today were so helpful.

            • “One benefit of Chump Nation is none of her behavior surprises me anymore.” and yes, Tempest’s distinction of explanation and responsibility was on target… As usual :)!

              MG is changing lawyers? How surprising [insert eye roll]… Yep, one of the best gifts from CN was for me to realize through CN stories that character disordered cheaters are very likely to reach lower lows in my esteem by disrespecting chumps in uniquely cruel ways. The only way to protect our chumpy self is to exit the dance floor.

              Keep forging on Ian, this might get tougher on you before it gets better, but you got this, keep forging on!

  • Your red flags were there when you met him. You were just so young, and like all healthy people, you expected the best of him. He is never going to be faithful to anybody. With Smoopie he might have learned to stay under her radar but he is who he is. I am going to quote (paraphrase?) someone….he has enough integrity to put in a thimble and have room left for a sesame seed. You have a great life waiting for you. Go get it.

  • I’m not sure where “exit-affair” comes from. Exit-affair seems like just another cheater justification. I struggled with whether the cheater in my life used an exit-affair to end our marriage.

    Now I am certain that an exit-affair is just another tool for chumps to beat ourselves over the head with. I worried, “what if she was unhappy, and she was just too much of a coward to end it gracefully.” Bullshit. I have deal-breakers. Commit adultery once, and I’m out. My marriage-contract stated that any extra-marital sex was verboten. Match Girl could have broken-up with me. If she had waited even one hour after she broke it off, I’d be fine. I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me.

    Andrea, I’m of the opinion that it’s natural, okay, and sometimes a good thing to untangle the skein; but *only* post-divorce. Too many chumps try to work-it-out with a cheater; that’s when the untangling is destructive.

    It sounds like you are progressing through all the stages, Andrea. You got this.

    And yes, he’s a narcissistic, entitled, abusive, pathetic, horrible person.

    • They’re cowards – simple as that. Mine told me how terrible things were (and uses it as an excuse in property settlement discussions, FFS!) – yet couldn’t bring herself to leave me. Because then she would be taking a risk, I wouldn’t be paying her bills and her image would be tarnished

      Exit affairs are BS – they’re “an affair”, same as every other affair, with same character flaws attached to them.

      • Every affair includes a certain amount of cake eating. IMO what makes it an “exit affair” is that the cheater immediately realizes that they need to leave and ends things with the chump. The other ingredient to “exit affair” is this was the first and only affair.

        Every cheater has to start somewhere. So maybe there is “just one” affair. Still, they crossed a hundred lines to get to the fell-in-love-left-for-someone-else stage. The honest thing to do is when you feel you can’t go on in your marriage, to END it.

        To me, the problem is that most of the infidelity discourse assumes that all affairs are this exit kind. A one-off. A decaying relationship that died overtime and then briefly overlapped with a new one.

        Or affairs are those mythical one night stand at a convention things. Another OOPS! I fucked a co-worker “mistakes.”

        Instead, judging by reading tens of thousands of chump stories, here and elsewhere — NO — cake eating is the norm. Cake eating is perpetuated. Cheaters go to tremendous lengths to maintain cake and then even after they are left, become cake eaters in their next relationship.

        To me, yes, all affairs are bad. But cake eaters are MUCH worse. They stick around and mindfuck. They try to keep their chumps captive with hope and second, third, and fifteenth chances. They extract kibbles and advantage. They goad chumps into pick me dances.

        That is what we all need to guard against. We must refuse to engage with these people.

        I’m not saying it doesn’t suck to be discarded — it does. But IMO, there is a small mercy in the finality of an exit.

        • I’m thinking I agree, CL. An exit-affair is:

          1. Commit adultery
          2. It’s the first-occurrence of adultery
          3. Exit
          4. No attempt at reconciliation
          5. Cheater files for divorce and then does everything they can to make it easy and equitable for the chump and children

          Yeah, that makes more sense.

          So, like yesterday. Taking a poll: raise your hand if you’re here as the result of an exit-affair.

          • I classed Mr Fab as having an exit affair-I think he ‘deliberately’ left his facebook messenger page open for me to find. We were both miserable, but my pleas to have an honest conversation fell on deaf ears, because Cake. Found out years later it has been going on at leasr five years, if not longer, and other OW have since come out of the woodwork.

            When I confronted him, he immediately went on a rant about how stressed out he was. Highly narcissistic. I am going to try to use the adjective, since, as CL says, we are Chumps, not shrinks. The word ‘narcissist’ denotes a serious pathological disorder which I think lets them off the hook a bit. But along with the hallmark of having little to nor, or, selective empathy the other hallmark if ‘too perfect for therapy’.

            As I have said before, a lot of Chump discourse is just determining what shade of shit is in your sandwich. I am less interested in what kind of asshole he is, I am just trying to contend with the fallout of what he has done, and I am getting there.

            The Amazon Chump phase is useful, and necessary, but it IS a rabbit hole. Better to focus on healing literature, when the time is right.

            So, what pernicious combo of clusterfuck B characteristics Mr Fab or the Downgrade has is irrelevant-whether his being an asshole springs from narcissism or sociopathy, likewise.

            There is an important corollary to “Trust that they suck.”, fellow Chumps, and that is trusting that you DON’t.

            Both important steps on the road to Meh.

            x-Mehphista.

          • Hand raised, Ian, although I’m not sure there weren’t a couple of emotional affairs in between. But at the end, he couldn’t stand me, nothing I did was right, my attempts to fix things made them worse. But he didn’t say the magic words “I want a divorce” until he’d hooked up with an old acquaintance on Fuckbook. She’d been married 5 times already so she was able to coach him on how to discard me. Swift, no attempt at reconciliation, and he never looked back or acknowledged have any feeling whatsoever about our marriage ending. “I used to love you,” was all he said, the day he asked for the divorce.

            • I always thought that an ‘Exit Affair’ was identified as such for these reasons:

              The Cheater was unhappy, but too dishonest to tell his/her wife, doesn’t want to be seen as the person asking for a divorce, so does something so dispicable so the Chump is compelled to do the ‘dirty work’. Then the Cheater can say: Yes, Chump asked for a divorce….” (of course not disclosing why Chump initiated the divorce)

              And, the Cheater does not continue with the initial AP…moves on to a life of multiple partners or a 2nd or 3rd person after the initial ‘Exit Affair..’… Basically using another Human being to extricate themselves from a Marriage commitment and not ‘look bad’. Totally heinous logic…

              • Ian – ‘Taking a poll: raise your hand if you’re here as the result of an exit-affair.”

                Two hands up. I can’t tell you how good it made me feel to read that part of C/L’s post today. Yay, maybe it WASN’T an ‘exit’ affair, it was a ‘coward affair’. I clicked on all the questions – yep, first affair. yep, long-term (3 yrs), married 36 yrs (long term) and I figured, after he started being mean to me, that he was probably right in saying he never loved me. (I wish I had the ILYBNILWY)

                Once I discovered the affair – I kicked him out and he was gone for good. Never wanted to reconcile, or debate the divorce when I filed. It’s all very confusing but C/N is sure helping me to figure out.

                I’m SO relieved to know there is probably NO SUCH thing as an EXIT AFFAIR!

                pffffffffffffft!

            • Haha, DoingMe. The whole list came from my twisted sleep-deprived mind. My knowledge of exit-affairs comes almost exclusively from Chump Nation. I also read some legal scholar’s ideas about alimony earlier this week. So it’s an amalgam.

              Because Match Girl outearns me, I’ve been struggling with the question of alimony without children as a consideration. A man requesting alimony is far from the norm. But a search of Google about men requesting alimony turns up some pretty scathing opinions. There is a gender-based double standard.

              So, I’ve been thinking about what factors into the actual legal separation agreement. Regarding number 5, legally I am not at fault for the dissolution of my marriage, and I am not the moving party. I am trying to think of divorce as the dissolution of a contract.

              Anyway, in the context of an exit-affair, I was trying to quantify what makes an exit affair for a divorce. I think I can concede that maybe *maybe* if a person wants to break-up with their spouse but is otherwise too cowardly, I can see the argument in favor of letting the cheater off a bit easier if it’s an exit-affair. But, if the cheater doesn’t make it as easy as possible for the aggrieved spouse and any shared children, it’s absolutely not an exit affair.

              No chance I’m letting cheaters off the hook, just trying to get the lingo straight.

        • CL, this post today has brought up something that I have been thinking about recently. I know at least five women, very nice loving parents and good friends, who had affairs and left their husbands. And in each case I have asked why didn’t you just leave first and every single one of them saId it did not occur to them. They were married to men that were so nice and genuine that the idea of not loving them seemed almost blasphemous. Their families and friends thought the world of their husbands and could not understand why these women had affairs and left. Every single one of them said they felt some sort of pressure to marry. One said that her boyfriend loved her so much she could not turn him down. Another said she married to please her parents because he was such a good catch. Another said she begged her parents two weeks before the wedding to let her out and they said with all the presents coming in and the social standing of the husband they would not let her. We are talking about late 20th century America. They don’t understand how they let things get so far. Subtle pressure to do the “right thing” made it impossible for them to feel like they could say “no” because the men were just really good guys. But they did not love them. How they managed to talk themselves into marrying they cannot explain. They hurt good men and their children. They all feel guilty even years later. All but one married their affair partners. None of them got the happily ever after altho they stayed married. It has maddened me for years that the thickest magazines are for brides. TV shows push it. It is all about the wedding and nothing about the marriage. Good people get hurt.

          • Nowdeadserialcheaterwife put /herself/ in this boat. She strung me along as a long distance boyfriend for years, carrying on happily with local guys. Clueless me was clueless. But then love-of-her-life (whom I was later told about as “fitness coach”) dumped her for religious differences. Suddenly her biological clock is ticking, and if she wants a kid by 30 she needs to be married within the next 18 months. All of a sudden I look a lot more interesting.

            Not that she had the slightest interest in me for anything other than my employability and biologically-normal sperm count. She was flirting online with guys again before we even got to the ceremony, and was actively cheating again within 8 months after that.

            Silly me, assuming she was basically moral.

            • Heat, the men actually has happy second marriages except one. ( He never remarried.) In fact I think their marriages were much happier.

          • Let go -“How they managed to talk themselves into marrying they cannot explain.” No one put a gun to their heads and they made a choice, a conscious decision. Now the motive behind it is a different story. They wanted to get married to fill a *need* of theirs, not because they wanted to share their lives with another person because they loved them. It was a very selfish decision they made, so that some unmet needs of theirs got filled, e.g. whether it’s to have a child, to be a married person, to have their family approve of them, no longer wanting to be single, etc. It’s always a selfish decision, but a conscious choice nonetheless. The intent behind it is what is questionable, but everyone is exactly where they want to be.

    • Exit Affairs are for cowards that simply cannot be alone-they’ve checked out of the marriage for one reason or another but before leaving they need to secure another partner. So the cheater never works on him/herself, they end up with a person that has no qualms about getting involved with someone already married (most times with kids), what could possibly go wrong? I think this is the way it should be, let these defects/train wrecks end up with each other and let chumps have the opportunity to move on to a decent, authentic life.

      • My cheater would have left if she could have, but she then did Cake because her NPD AP didn’t want to leave his wife. Now his wife is aware of the affair, he is doing Cake and is now trying to reel his wife back in whilst keeping tabs on my cheater (who is now single).

        No honour with these Fucks – as has often been said, the only honourable/empathetic thing to do is to leave when you’re finished with the marriage. But if you’re entitled, then that is way too hard. Far better to fuck over your spouse until the coast is clear and you can leave with money and image intact.

    • I believe that once a chump realizes the affair is going on there is iceberg damage. The cheater has become so emboldened and full of kibbles that they get sloppy and screw up. They care so little about you that there is no need to hide their behavior and it is now time to rub your nose in it. They’ve most likely cheated in the past, at least emotionally, and badmouthed you to their friends and family. The exit affair is just the first affair that you try to convince yourself happened (in a way to somehow rationalize why you had a relationship/marriage with an asshole.

      • I do believe X quit caring whether or not he got ‘caught’. My feelings no longer mattered to him, so he got sloppy. I am not quite sure why, other than the fact that he probably did not think I would muster the courage to leave him, Toward the end, he definitely thought he was smarter than me, which OW encouraged. For whatever reason, it was very important to her that the affair be publicly exposed. Weird that my partner of decades had less insight about me than the OW. Was it cake, kibbles, or just plain hubris? I will never know because once the affair came to light, he completely shut me out. He wanted the marriage to continue, but never wanted to talk about what he had done again. The conflict between my need to understand what had happened and his complete refusal to even acknowledge what had happened was the ultimate marriage killer.

    • re: untangling the skein

      There is a difference between explanation and accepting responsibility. For example, a student might say “I cheated on the exam because I didn’t have time to study fully and I’m worried about my GPA.” That is an explanation, but it doesn’t let them off the hook for plagiarizing someone else’s answers.

      Likewise, my classes had a discussion about the UTexas murder and murder suspect the other day. Hard to ignore that the suspect’s neglect and abuse growing up didn’t contribute to his heinous act. But it doesn’t justify it, either, and he will (and should) face legal consequences for violating someone else’s rights so violently.

      Likewise, cheaters who have FOO issues might provide some semblance of explanation for their deceptive and abusive behavior, but it doesn’t let them off the hook. Unless one believes in 100% determism, there is choice involved in behavior. Having a crappy childhood narrows your range of emotional possibilities, it doesn’t *guarantee* that you have to become a fuckwit.

      And I also think a distinction needs to be made between FOO issues that lead you to hurt yourself (e.g., chumps who stayed in emotionally abusive situations longer than they should) versus those who use their FOO issues as a way to victimize other people, including their own children.

  • Ugh I am still doing this to myself as well. Why? I’ll be like, “Maybe he wasn’t actually cheating until the very end…” Who cares? He was acting horribly to me for over a year so whether he did or didn’t enter Schmoopie at the beginning or middle of treating me so poorly shouldn’t be a concern of mine at this stage. IMHO he at least wanted to, hence all the picking of fights so he could justify exactly what he’d wanted all along.

    • This as well (everyone here has the exact same experience as me today!!).

      Mine ramped up the abuse, which then was cycled over and over. I was a shit husband – or so I was told for years – even though she was having an affair. My cheater still makes false comparisons between her affair and me not taking the garbage out as often as I should (or being annoyed at being dragged to her family Christmas for the 17th year in a row, even though I’d like to go to my family’s Christmas for a change…).

      She had me so beaten up when D-Day came along that it just followed that the affair was all my fault – after all, I had not been a good husband. It took some therapy and a lot of reading to get past this (and yes, I could have been a better husband), but the fact is she was a dreadful non-wife the whole time she was having a dual life affair.

      • Cheaters have real difficulty with chicken-egg problems. Mine claimed he had an affair 8 years ago because of “marital problems.” Aside from the usual tension of trying to make a marriage work with a narcissistic jackass, there weren’t insurmountable “marital problems.” In fact, we added on to the house and got a puppy the summer that then-H happened to run into a grad-whore with daddy issues who was willing to screw someone more than twice her age. THEN, marital problems started in full swing as my (and the children’s) devalue began. He became mean, critical, and irritable to me, the kids, and the puppy, and I remember thinking “why am I with this idiot?” and I did emotionally withdraw (but kept working at the marriage).

        In his mind, though, the marital problems pre-dated the affair, and no amount of talking or data will dissuade him from this view post-divorce. He has effectively used it to isolate me from one set of friends who had previously been morally on my side.

        The trick is to stop caring what they say, & how they explain their behavior. It’s all “blah, blah, blah” (per the video above)

      • FSTL – Same here. Apparently, calling a cheating wife out on financial infidelities is also cause for being a lousy husband and justifying her cheating. Who knew?!?? 😉

      • FSTL, What did you read? I feel I am sorta stuck there to. Terrible husband and what not. As well, totally there with you on the too much of her family time and not enough of mine.

        • I read everything (I am a “book whore” or Amazon Chump) – even stuff not about cheating but about character, relationships, psychology, etc. but importantly I also read and began to believe CL and CN. I read until I got it that there are fucked up people out there who just think differently from me, but also act the same (ie cheaters mostly act the same). I aint the gold standard of personal behaviour…. but I know it wasn’t my decision to have any affair and I know the she had other options and now that I can see her behaviour patterns (thank you CL and CN…) I recognise what a shitty person she is and can leave knowing I’ve made the right decision not to invest anymore time in her.

      • Just like my story FSTL….
        She beat me down so gradually and regularly throughout the 25 year marriage, that I reflexively took full blame and responsibility for HER affair and subsequant leaving. Some of her arsenal included the fact that I “didn’t sing in the car” , like Schmoopie did. (Who the Fuck cares?)
        Took me several years of therapy and No Contact to “forgive” myself and see her for the selfish, entitled, BPD mess that she is and always was.
        The only regrets I still have are for all of the fruitless grovelling that I did – in front of my sons – to try and win back the Whack Job.
        I pray that they have chosen to respect me for trying to save the relationship with their Mother. I can’t change the past…I just know that I was reacting like a normal human being would.
        I have not mentioned her name in front of them for years.
        Having personal power back now includes never allowing her to take up space of any kind in my life.

      • Same playbook from my X, pointing towards the great points repeated throughout CL’s archives… Character disturbances in cheaters are more widespread than anyone wants to believe.
        Character disturbances in adulterers are gender neutral, and leave chumps with a whole lot of hard work to achieve a state of mindfuckery-free Meh…

  • “You had nothing to work with.” It took me YEARS to figure this out. I believed….
    When my therapist uttered the words, “He is a narcissist, a serial cheating narcissist” in my FIRST therapy appointment I was shocked. It couldn’t be, my father was a narcissist and I knew all the warning signs and made sure not to marry anyone like him. Then as I spent hours upon hours researching narcissism in relationships, I found him. He was a covert narcissist who could feign empathy is such a believable way. I was told I made him look good, he would discard his adult children, and that he could not maintain any relationship. No way. I said he would never discard his children. Sure enough he saw them a few hours over the next few years.

    The evidence of his narcissism was always there when I reviewed our life together. Was I ever duped. He led a double life throughout our 36 year marriage. While I recognized the pattern (infatuation, devaluation, discard) over time, I didn’t know about the cycles of a narcissistic relationship. I never had any power or control. As the years went on the discard over the past ten years became blatant and in the end sadistic.
    When my therapist told me I would die if I stayed as the next time would be much more traumatic. I believe he wanted me to kill myself. There is no doubt in my mind.

    Knowing he was a narcissist gave me clarity. It helped me understand it was always him. He confirmed it when his parting words were brutal. I was weak then and now I am stronger knowing it was never me.

    Don’t wait for a cheater to make up his mind, ever. Leave the FIRST time as there will always be a NEXT time. You have nothing to work with. Know this.

    • Doingme – You had a great therapist, as I do believe these Ns do push people to the point of death. I had to find out on my own, because my parents are both narcissists, with my mother being a malignant narcisssist. She was so awful to me that I realized she was evil when I started harboring suicidal thoughts and told myself, this isn’t how a mother should treat her very own daughter and I’ve been no contact for almost 5 years now. But your therapist is right in that had you stayed, you would have died. These Ns are that sadistic and evil. Thank God you got out, you are mighty!

  • I think I said it before but the term Narc gets thrown around like confetti. We like to have a ‘reason’ why our mate chose to be a dickwad. We have to explain the why. A Narc, Socio path, and how about just plain old selfish. The label on the ‘why’ just helps make sense in our brain. Its like standing around looking at the rubble after a tornado. Your house just didn’t randomly blow up. Narc traits seem to fit the profile of most cheaters so I think people immediately associated the two. Do I think all cheaters are Narcs …no. Its Narc-ish but as most mental health diagnosis its along a spectrum. A very wide and fuzzy spectrum.
    Like any diaster…there is fall out and damage regardless of the preparation. When some one says ‘ Tornado’ or ‘ Fire’ u fucking run. When your spouse says ‘ Thats not my profile on Ashely Madison’ …. We should be running… But we dont … We step a little closer. The Tornado hits us.

    • The Clip: I agree with you and with Tracy’s post. The prevalence of cheating is way higher than the prevalence of all the diagnosable mental disorders combined. Cheaters are selfish assholes; that’s the only flavour of fucked-up that matters.

    • Agreed – my cheater has a lot of behaviour that matches narcissistic behaviour, but there are other reasons to explain it (like massive insecurities, attachment issues and shitty character). Her AP, on the other hand, IS a narcissist, so she may also be reflecting his behaviour (and I suspect a lot of affairs have this pattern as well).

      That’s not to say there aren’t Cluster B’s who cheat – CL’s cheater sounds like a total wing nut, as do many others – I just think a lot are short of serious disorder (rather than crap character). All we need to know is that they suck.

    • Agree, though for those of us who *clearly* have narcissistic cheaters (raising my hand), the “narcissist” label helps to connect the dots. The crappy behaviors are not just random acts with proximate (direct) causes, there is an underlying ultimate cause: The narcissism is the root cause of cheating, emotional abuse, blameshifting, rages when they feel someone is not obeying them, etc. Just like mammal genes are the ultimate cause for having fur, being warm-blooded, feeding young with milk (and all those traits are correlated), a near-NPD diagnosis (even without all boxes being checked) gives an essential explanation for otherwise seemingly-disparate acts.

      • not sure what I call mine anymore… I think a lot of evidence would point to being a Some kinda flavor of a Narc. Quasi Sociopath. There were days I swear he was/ is the Antichrist. Holy water anyone?
        What I realized is its not so important to define what he is to me anymore….rather define what is not to me anymore. He is not my problem. He is not my responsibility. He is not what defines me or the life I believed we had.
        He is a lying sack of dog shit disguised as a man. Appearances are deceiving to most except me. I know exactly who and what he is…. One whiff… And yup u guess it… Dog shit

        • You and I are past the need-for-explanations phase; we’re in the “if you can’t do me the favor of spontaneously combusting, please book a seat on the one-way flight to Mars” phase of dealing with our cheaters. Having a diagnosis is useful in the need-for-explanations phase.

          If any chumps still hold sway over their cheaters, here ya go: http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/22/world/mars-one-way-ticket/

          • Is there life on Mars? There will be after we send a ship of cheaters up there. You’re cracking me up.

            Your post on chump and cheater characteristics was enlightening too. Hyena, meet prey.

  • I think we all go through a stage trying to understand the cheaters, the why.
    When I first discovered CL I felt a bit out of place…my ex was not the flaming narcissist reported on these pages. No anger, so crazy behavior (NO dancing yetis!)
    That was his power. The quiet self assuredness that makes you doubt yourself.
    Even after almost 4 years, he cannot take any personal responsibilities for his cheating (marriage long over, no marriage ends due to infidelity/we both messed up, etc).
    Regardless of the label, he has entitled and narcissistic tendencies, that’s all I need to keep in mind.

  • Damn, Chump Lady. I’m buying a copy of your book for me, for all of my kids, my friends, relatives and my therapist. I kinda got an adrenaline rush from reading your response. Thank you. You have changed my life.

  • It’s often said that the most dangerous four words in Finance are “this time, it’s different.”

    If there is one thing that CL and CN has taught the world, it’s this:

    The most dangerous four words in Character are “this time, it’s different.”

    The same snake-oil pitch that has kept too many shady financial advisors in the black – “this time, it’s different!” – is the same thing keeping Chumps on the hook with cheaters.

    Andrea, it’s *not* different this time. That guy is a run-of-the-mill fuckwit, just like 99.8% of all people who cheat on their spouses. Don’t analyze him; get away from him and analyze yourself (what you want out of life, out of relationships, how you will move forward to your best life and best self for YOU and on YOUR terms).

  • I maintain that anyone who builds and maintains a separate life is by default a disordered fuckwit. Label them if necessary (I had to), normal people just don’t do that shit.

  • Andrea~ Sadly your story is not all that unique. Mine reads EXACTLY like yours, except for the part where his friends let the cat out of the bag. What you should take away from this is that he may or may not be narcissistic, but he does lack empathy, honesty and morality. I don’t know about you, but people like that do not have a place in my life. I remember thinking that I could make him snap out of it, that crazy behavior of his and make him see how much he would be losing if I kicked him out. And for a while I think I may have (if I am honest here) liked the full on attention I would receive from him each and every time I caught him in contact with the OW. He love bombed me full force to keep me on board. I helped him portray the “good husband, good dad” image he needed to keep in tact. Other than that, he didn’t think that much about me. He thought of HIM! And your fuckwit sounds like he was doing the same thing. Even if he isn’t a narcissist, he is 100% an asshole for being disrespectful to you and your children. There is absolutely nothing you did to cause this and your marriage was just fine. Nobody is perfect and no marriage is perfect…….it takes work…..from BOTH people in it. He stopped working at it!!!!! It’s that simple.

    Gain a life girl! Get out there and enjoy it. YOU deserve it!!! Good Luck!

  • I agree with Chump Lady, I think Exit Affairs are pretty much a myth. They require 1) affair and 2) exit. (Voluntary, not being thrown out)

    I believe people who want to leave a marriage, leave. Not have an affair, cause that is staying. Duh. If they do have an affair and stay, it’s to wrap up loose ends. Not continue the marriage, which nearly all of them do.

    Ex’s cheating looked like an Exit Affair on the surface. Contacted a whore from the past. Pursued and dated her about nine months. Confessed to me, said ilybinilwy, wanted a divorce. He was “in love with someone else and she’s in love with me.”. Riiight. I actually think he was just inviting me to step up my game, and do the dance. Which under RIC guidance, I did.

    I honestly don’t for a minute think this guy wanted a divorce. He never left voluntarily, he never filed, he never did shit. Except bang a whore while married. That’s not love, that’s fucking strange on the side. The more intelligent cheaters know this. The affair partner is not a good relationship choice. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

  • Andrea,

    Don’t even bother trying to figure out if he’s a narcissist (he is) or try to find an explanation for his cheating (there is none, cheaters cheat). It won’t make you feel better about anything you’ve done but going forward do everything based on your wants and needs. Mourn the death of the man you thought he was (that husband never existed) and the marriage you thought you had. Then get busy and live YOUR life.
    I was one of those chumps that was unaware of the cheating until halfway through the divorce process. Lots of huge red flags. I actually thought my loving husband had dumped me because after years of alcoholism he found AA and no longer needed or wanted his codependent anymore. No he cheated years before he hit the bottle, while drinking himself into a stupor and even while on the AA train. He just waited until our youngest turned 18 to dump me to avoid co-parenting . Cold and demeaning.
    3 1/2 years out and now most of my anger is at myself for allowing my children and I to be sucked into his self absorbed life, his alcoholism. My kids managed to weather most of their lives with x because he travelled a lot but they do harbour a lot of resentment for his treatment of me and the youngest son.
    Even after looking over the police report (detailing his DUI while cruising the red light district) and his chats on Ashley Madison this little chump still treated him kindly.
    Took me a year to admit to myself that an asshole who cheats on his wife doesn’t need a reason. He was and is and always will be a self absorbed cheating asshole. And now no contact, blocked social media and cold civility if forced to see him. Attended my son’s graduation from uni (YAY kiddo) last year and told my son that under no circumstances would I sit with or god forbid have a dinner with his father. I told him he’s your father, you can have a relationship with him but do not disrespect me even more than he has by forcing me to be fake nice nice with somebody who treated me like something to scrape off his shoe. He hugged me and said he understood. Luckily x was unable to attend.
    So Andrea, don’t bother trying to explain or label or understand your cheater. It’s not worth the effort. He cheated. He lied. He’s an asshole. Nuff said.

  • Andrea I understand the need for a label, a diagnosis. You feel that it may provide some sort of of closure, that it is an answer. The truth is, even if those things were provided, the empty, wtf feeling is still there…I am learning everyday that searching for an answer to one question just creates a focus on another, a vicious cycle. It is slowly sinking in that I have an opportunity for a “do over” in my life, that I am in charge, and as long as I am focusing on answers and closure from someone INCAPABLE of providing those things I will continue to suffer. I am done suffering. We all are, that’s why we are here. One step in taking back your life is to turn the focus back onto you, even if it just something small, little by little. This situation is a lot like when you’ve lost electricity to the house, for no reason. It’s beautiful outside, there’s no reason! So we worry, “when will it come back on???”, the anxiety… But then, out of the blue it’s back on and the response is “whew!! I can do things now!!”… Your power is due to be turned back on Andrea, hang in there!!!! XOXO

  • “I asked him for his decision and he said he didn’t see us working out.

    It was never his decision — it was yours.”

    ^^^^^^ This! It took a couple of years for me to get this!! People would always ask me, “but what do you want?” and my answer would always start with ” But he… ”

    It was so totally freeing when I finally completely understood that it was MY DECISION, not his.

    Andrea, dealing with this infidelity fuckedupness is hard, it’s a process, and you will get there!

  • This was so good. At first I thought I wrote it but then noticed a few variances. WOW how can they be so similar these cheaters?! Who cares, so glad I am finally rid of mine and sadly think he’s playing the OW now but let them learn their lessons on their own. Thank you both. This was just too good!!

  • Andrea,

    I have experienced the trauma of my marriage to/divorce from an abusive, cheating, personality-disordered (extremely narcissistic) STBX and relationship with /break up from selfish (probably not cheating) boyfriend of one year (post-separation)/friend of 30 years who I wanted to marry but viewed me as Friends with Benefits. Both relationships and break ups devastated me in somewhat different ways. I realize that my relationship with ex-boyfriend may have lasted a bit longer if I hadn’t looked so traumatized by my divorce, deaths in my family, etc. However, ex-boyfriend would have almost invariably left me because from the get go he was not invested in our relationship. (Sadly, he Just Wasn’t That Into Me.) I missed/ignored all the red flags.

    I have been dumped and chumped a huge number of times over my 50-year-long life. I need to choose better partners, heed warning signs, especially early on, and ensure that I have a self-sustaining/family sustaining life that I can depend upon for my well-being and sanity in case other disasters beyond my control occur.

    I wish you strength in creating an authentic and happy life, the life you deserve.

    • RSW – I keep sending you good thoughts, and am so glad you posted an update!

      Both your STBXH and your SBF suck… They suck for different reasons, but both suck…

      And yes please focus on you, your own growth and on strengthening your coping skills… Please forge on!

    • Me too – I was worried when you went quiet, RSW.

      Please focus on you, and don’t even think of looking for a new partner till you know who YOU are first. And that means finding out why you have made such poor choices in the past.

      I have had to do this work, and it took a few years, and at the other end of it I am so glad I am single. I have gone from pitying singles, being determined not to be That Woman, being sure that This Time It Would Be Different, and being terrified of being alone, to really loving it. And I’m only 46!

      You will be safer, healthier and happier when you work through this. You’ve got this.

      (On a separate note, how is your hormonal side? I started perimenopause early and it made me desperate, hysterical and suicidal. HRT later, within a month I felt better than I had in about 10 years.)

      Jedi hugs and burgers, as always.

  • There are so many points that are so spot on here. I read a posting on another site and the chump asked the cheater “what is it that you bring to the table that would allow me to put up with this level of bullshit?” The reality is that there is nothing. It took me a long while to realize that if I kept that fool around I’d probably be doing 25-life right now for premeditated murder. All the lies, gas lighting and cheating shows you that they have no respect for you. And in my case, he used out kids to cheat, so our kids as well.

    So few of their affairs are exit, cake eating is truly the most selfish way to live as you are taking from someone else at their expense.

    I tried for a long time to label my cheater too…sex addiction, narcissist. I’m in the middle of a divorce that he has managed to drag out to 2 years with no end in sight and my current description is “selfish brat”. It doesn’t matter, he’s not my problem. Let the OW who he is still with deal with his mess…

  • CL is right.

    A rose by any other name…
    A cheater by any other name…

    When my ex started cheating, I believed in the affair fog.

    After I filed for divorce, I went so far as to ask my psychiatrist aunt for advice regarding my ex’s “disorder.”

    And when I found his blog, I liked being able to describe my ex as a narcissist.

    But the actual point in every instance was that she was willing to treat me like shit, and she made conscious decisions to do so.

    That’s all that mattered.

  • In the early stages after my D-Day, I took all the blame and internalized it and it was agonizing. Then I learned about Narcissism and, yes, it did provide relief to me that there may be a reason and it is not me. I even thought, exit affair? UNTIL, I learned of others and other activities UGH. Now I think it may have been all along. I labored over this and that and this and that. But MAN after going No Contact and allowing myself to heal a bit I can see it really just does not matter what it was.

    Think about it…. if he had not done this… would we be pulling ourselves apart at all? No.

    All I know is I would not do those things, I would never even have the desire NOT because it would hurt another but because it is not my value system and it would hurt me.. I don’t think along those lines. Why? Because I know how to love right. I have compassion, a heart and am HUMAN. It is not my job to understand the way he thinks and why, I now get that. The fact of the matter is, I simply have no control over it … only have control over me. It all DID happen and cannot be unhappened. So no matter the whys, hows, wheres… the fact is it is FACT and there is not choice but to dust off and begin again.

    It is horrifying, the worst thing ever to have happen to you. But when you get to the other end and yes there is another end of this… WOW.. it ends up being the best thing they could have done. I mean, another 30 years with that man? It would have never ended unless it blew up like it did. If he was capable of such horrors (and I don’t even know the half of it I am sure) believe me with that in him I was not being loved right all along and I now see that and had he not been exposed I may never have seen it.

    When you heal up a bit, you will see the only thing that matters is what did happen and how you are going to NOT be a part of it.

    What could I have done different or better in our 23 years together.. Ah, I could have not grown out of partying, stayed young and dumb and just maybe he would not have wondered off… BUT I now realize he wondered off when I was still young and dumb, sooooo…..

    You will get to a point you just won’t care what or who or how he is, you just won’t. Then you will kick yourself in the butt a while for not being more self aware, then you forgive yourself and then you hit MEH.

    I am almost two years out and it is always on my mind but not in my heart anymore if that makes sense.

    MY ANSWER TO YOU IS HE IS DISORDERED. Maybe a sex addict, maybe a Narc but whatever he is he is not a good person capable of love and likely never was.

    • Amen Jackie! You’re doing great, good attitude. I thought about how he (I now realize) was cheating when I was young (20’s), pretty hot, and running around in a bikini in the Summer. I was young and trusting, and he was pursuing many girls around his work and the neighborhood. I was having his babies, and knocking myself OUT taking care of him, and he didn’t even care.
      Live and learn, and I totally forgive myself, that I had a dream of a lovely life that included him, and it’s not my fault he was deceitful. I’ve now moved on.
      I no longer care why he did something awful!

      • One thing I had the hardest time with in all this is that my entire life since 23 was a lie. None of it was real and I wasted my entire youth on him. Yada yada yada.. we all go through that I am sure. But reading CL’s book, she addressed just this and said… YOU WERE REAL.

        Recently I just started to be able to have memories of my 23 years (I was numb to memories) and my life in spite of him was good. My days were planned, I did my thing and lived a good healthy right life. My experiences were real and they were truth. He was the lie. No me, not my life, nothing. HIM. He was the only thing that was no real and I will leave that his burden to take on as I have now been able to let that go.

  • I like what you said Sephage. “This time, it’s different”, yah right. They are always the same person, different relationship. I had to figure out what made mine do what he did, because like everyone else I couldn’t fathom how someone just up and leaves his wife of 23 years and children. I settled on Asperger’s with Narcissisitic tendencies. It was reconfirming to talk with friends who agreed and mentioned how they always knew he had Asperger’s and wondered what the hell I was doing with him.

    I suppose being in a caring profession I felt sorry for him. Not so much now. No contact allows you the distance to see them for who they truly are and thank your lucky stars you are no longer with them. And Schmoopie can find out on her own what he’s all about. Hehe.

  • I think it’s normal to try to “make sense” of something that doesn’t make sense. A healthy person will be reflective, ask about their role, make adjustments accordingly and grieve. Unhealthy people do not. It seems that most cheaters do not do the self-reflection piece and instead they blame others and move on quickly. And those are the exact traits of a narcissist. It’s very likely that most cheaters are going to fall within that narcissism spectrum.

    I think it’s just too psychologically painful for cheaters to really do the hard work and look at their behaviour. They have to ask themselves this question: “Why am I a fuckwit?” And that’s a mighty tough question to answer when your ego is screaming for supply. I think without supply and a new source of adoration, narcissists can’t cope, period. They cannot begin to answer that question, it’s almost impossible for them. It’s far easier to blame someone else then do that deep introspective work.

    I think chumps like us cannot imagine inflicting that kind of pain on someone so we apply our standard of behaviour and understanding onto someone who has a fundamentally different standard of operating in the world. As painful as it is, thank god we do not have that kind of reptile brain roaming the world. I don’t think we will ever fully understand dysfunctional people but we sure can learn from them and that lesson is to get the hell away from them once they have been revealed to us.

  • “There was something wrong with your marriage — he wouldn’t quit cheating on you. You had nothing to work with. That’s either an acceptable situation to you — I’ll let him eat cake and keep devaluing me — or it is not — I’m getting a divorce.”

    It’s statements like these that keeps me coming back and makes me feel vindicated.

  • I have spent more time than I want to admit trying to figure out what the fuck was/is wrong with my stbxh, but I have come to the conclusion that he is “disordered.” I use that term liberally – it could be personality disordered, character disordered or attachment disordered. I, personally, like to think of it as an attachment disorder, which exhibit symptoms very similar to Cluster Bs.

    What I know is that there is something wrong with him: There is something wrong with a person who flat out lies to the face of the person he claimed to love and committed to spending his life with. There is something wrong with someone who thinks it is OK for his children to be permanently sad. There is something wrong with someone who goes out to fuck the whore du jour while his child is contemplating suicide at home (and daddy is aware of the contemplation). There is something wrong with someone who just walks away from his life in search of the latest bit of fun and happiness.

    The challenge with the skein is that we have to be a bit aware of it because whether we like it or not, whether we want to admit it or not, our children (if we have them with our former spouses) will be affected by any of the disorders (personality, character or attachment).

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what label you give to your ex-spouse, it matters how you respond, and how you protect yourself and your children from repeating the disordered behaviour and thinking.

  • I totally understand labeling as well, it does help it make sense somehow, but in reality – it doesn’t matter what you call it. Your better off without the lying cheating snake. Even if you don’t feel like it right now. He’s with the AP and they are getting married? Mine too – fancy that….

    Just know that nothing is as it seems and whatever baggage he brought into your relationship, he took with him and has brought it into the next, only this time it’s heavier…and darker…

    You’ll be ok. CN and CL have your back sister!

  • You must make peace with yourself and realize you got chumped for a long time – you got played – we all did. As time goes on, you will recall more times earlier in your relationship that you allowed yourself to be mistreated by the Narc. I now realize I could have walked away from my XW and avoided a bad situation while we were dating. I have accepted that and know my life is better without narc abuse. You will realize that too someday.

    • Exactly, Scott! That is why and I quote from yesterday’s article that ” it is so much more than infidelity”.

    • THIS X 1,000!

      You must make peace with yourself and realize you got chumped for a long time – you got played – we all did. As time goes on, you will recall more times earlier in your relationship that you allowed yourself to be mistreated by the Narc. I now realize I could have walked away from my XW and avoided a bad situation while we were dating. I have accepted that and know my life is better without narc abuse. You will realize that too someday.

      • I have started to see and remember those things from the past too and they are helping me more and more to see the truth of how my ex was never the person I thought he was.

        • So true.. It is so much deeper than an affair or affairs. It is only the affair or affairs that bring everything else up to the forefront.

          If someone is/was capable of such horrors they could never be capable of being a good person to begin with. As chumps our brains aren’t wired that way so how the hell would we realize it all? When there was anything bizarre or cruel or unusual that is why we spackled, we simply could not understand. NOT until you are hit by that big MAC truck do you see you have been standing in the middle of a busy highway the entire time and it was only a matter of time before you go run over. Unfortunately, the very person we trusted was driving that MAC truck and then got out and while they rolled us over to side of the road, until we could get ourselves back up they just kept kicking at our wounds over and over and over.

          Fucktards.

  • The thing that finally made me see through Cheater was when I finally realized that all my hopes were pinned on my projection of my own values. I would speculate that he wasn’t happy, so I would try to make him happier. I would tell him that we needed to work on communication so that he would feel free to share with me when he was struggling with temptation. Oh, he lapped it all up. He was a sad, broken man who was Struggling With Temptation. Except he wasn’t. He was actively seeking out opportunities.

    I finally realized that I was assuming there were some honesty and good values under the outward cheater skin. There weren’t. He was a cheater all the way through. In fact, he was adopting the skin of a good honest person to fool me and everyone else.

    He was fucking around because he wanted to fuck around and because he thought he could get away with it. He was lying because he didn’t want me to know. It wasn’t poor communication and bad sex causing the cheating. It was cheating causing the poor communication and bad sex.

    Cheater still doesn’t admit to physical cheating… only to porn, strip clubs, and phone sex lines. But certain stays in hotels suggest otherwise, and since he only admits to what I can prove, I assume he is lying.

    Andrea, your husband IS a narcissist, because narcissist is a fancy word for selfish bastard. And only selfish bastards do what he did. The only pain cheaters see is their own–and they are chronically in pain because they are insufferable even to themselves. They grab everything they can and throw it into that empty elevator shaft in their souls trying to fill themselves up, but the sensation of fullness only lasts until the latest toy disappears in the void, and then they need something else.

    • if we took a pole we would probably find that the rinse, spin, repeat cycle of discard is common in relationships with cheaters.

      I can now identify that same cycle playing out in other relationship with my ex husband. Especially with those he used to bolster himself when we first separated. telling them what they wanted to hear to get the most sympathy, being compliant with those who were not happy with his behaviour but willing to give him the support he needed at my expense in the hope of a full recover. It is very subtle but I can see it and its actually like watching a slow motion theatrical production of fuck you. It’s almost like he is a little kid testing the bounds of their tolerance. its sick but its funny because it is not me.

  • I have read every Surviving a Narc and Personality Disorder book I could find to help put into a rational concept the twisted reality that my cheater just didn’t give a fuck. He cheated because he could. And he did’t care!

    I could sit here and type for days about the awful shit my cheater has done and how it made me feel. but it doesn’t change the reality of him being a cheater. every thing he did, or didn’t do was so he could have his cake and eat it to. He was really passive our entire marriage some times in my opinion too passive that was up until he realised after D’day that there was no going back and the marriage was over. THEN the anger, the blatant projection, the blame, the desire to be seen as he victim at any cost all came to the fore, quickly followed by the need to be seen as the overcomer getting into a relationship with another woman and marrying her to prove that he is over men. because the the common denominator in all his woes was me but now he has his twu wuv. Life is just how it should be.

    Does he fit the mould of a Narc of course he does, and then some. most of them do.

    People who don’t give a fuck want cake and they do not care what lengths they need to go to to get it, because along the way they get extra kibble. And if they can secure an endless supply of cake while getting extra on the side they are never going to give a fuck because in their mind life is how it should be.

  • Andrea, I am another chump that can resonate with your story, very similar to mine. I couldn´t believe that my charming, succesful, smart husband who adores our children would ever have an affair after so many years of marriage and all that we built together. But then when I started trying to untangle and read about narcissists , everything seem to almost fit (except the type of narcissist that is unemployed or financially irresponsible). I suddenly started to remember all the things that I tried to disregard and not blame on him: that he cheated on his first wife, that he was “friends” with many women, that he had a terrrible relation with his father (who I now call King of the Narcs because it is so obvious what an abusive SoB he is), that he was not charming with me, that he would withold sex or never initiate it, he always delegated responsibilities but blamed me for anything that went wrong, that he was always mad at anything and everything 90% of the time, etc, etc,

    Other people around me saw the abuse but would not say anything because I had many excuses (he is a good father, we are so succesful together, etc) But a few days ago, my 10 year old daughter came to me and said that “Daddy says that you broke up not because of the cheating but because you had communication problems.” I had to explain to her in an age appropriate way that it was totally because of the cheating , because cheating means that someone doesn´t love you or respect you and “communication problems” can be resolved if both Mommy and Daddy love each other and are willing to find a solution. or, if there is no solution, then if there is respect, they can end the marriage with honesty and there can even be friendship after the divorce. But when someone cheats, it shows a lack of integrity incommensurable with any problems that may have occurred in the marriage. Cheating is the ultimate form of abuse because of the deception involved, and the destructive emotional, physical and financial consequences.

    • “Daddy says that you broke up not because of the cheating but because you had communication problems.”

      Chumpita, you handled that magnificently. I’d have been vigorously holding a pillow over his face!

  • My ex was actually diagnosed as NPD, although he fits the criteria for sociopath as well. But you know what? It makes no difference. If your spouse is a liar and a cheater, then they are a scum bucket who is extremely unlikely to ever change, and they are a bad person with lousy character. Makes no difference if they have an official diagnosis or not. The cure is the same regardless: cut them out of your life like a tumor, and then go as NC as possible.

  • In my case, what made for the “exit affair” was that I finally busted the cheating bastard. With undeniable, hard evidence. When it was no longer possible to lie his way out of the situation, the mask came off permanently, I stopped “pick me” dancing, and the Fucktard was suddenly IN LOVE! with the younger, thinner, prettier replicon who wanted my life. As I looked back, I realized there were others and that I’d never know how many, but the asshat wasn’t going to give up his cake unless or until he felt he had no other choice.

    If you look up narcissist in the dictionary, you’ll see his picture. But selfish assholean idiot works for me just as well.

  • This paragraph stopped me cold: “We had what I thought was a great marriage. Lots of friends and family, financially secure, active sexlife, two kids. The sour note in our wedded bliss was me finding out about visits to porn sites and strip clubs. It was incredibly painful to discover that he would take his wedding ring off when visiting the strip clubs. It was very hurtful too that he didn’t seem very sorry about it. He kissed my butt for a little while, but otherwise seemed very annoyed that I was hurt. He supposedly stopped those activities, but I guess I don’t know for sure. We moved on from it. I felt very loved and I adored him and thought he was the best thing ever in spite of how he had hurt me.”

    The description of the “great marriage” here is about friends and family, financial security, sex and two kids. So, Andrea, look at how you defined the marriage; none of these things have to do with respect, reciprocity, shared values, empathy, communication, and a commitment to be “in it together as partners,” which I take to be part of marriage–seen as a relationship between two people rather than as the byproducts of a legal connection. If you look at the by-products (house, money, kids, joint social circle) as the marriage, you can avoid looking at how you are being treated. The “sour note in [your] wedded bliss” is actually the evidence that you were the only one in a “marriage”; he was off visiting strip clubs with his wedding ring off and blaming you for being hurt about it and you were “adoring” him. Here’s your list:

    * Visiting porn sites and strip clubs, with wedding ring off –infidelity? no empathy or respect
    * Annoyed that you were hurt –no empathy, no reciprocity, no respect, no remorse
    * Distant and mean–abuse
    * Denies affair (which was going on)—gaslighting and lying
    * Reacts to confrontation with rage–abusive, violent, no remorse
    * Put little effort into the marriage–detachment, no remorse
    * Keeps a stash of love notes from AP in marital bedroom–abuse, no empathy, arrogance
    * Played two women against each other for over a year–triangulation, no respect, no remorse, no empathy
    * Intermittent reinforcement, cruel then kind–a form of abuse, gaslighting
    And don’t get me started on gaslighting the kids by living elsewhere, carrying on an affair, and eating dinner at “home” with them.

    Once again, CL is right on target about the real issue, which is how you saw yourself in this marriage and what you are still telling yourself–it was a “great marriage”! You “adored him”! But not one word about how he cherished you, respected you, worked side-by-side with you. What exactly was there to “adore” about this guy? It takes two actual people to be in a marriage. One person and a cheating hyena can’t make it work. You met him in college. You were still a kid. And you bought into the wedding -> house -> kids fairy tale. The story you are telling yourself is keeping you stuck. Tell yourself a new story about how you married a hyena in a human suit and how long it took you to see the hyena. (Shout out to Rumblekitty.) Then it won’t matter what sort of character disorder he has. Recovering from this level of abuse will require you not to beat yourself up about that (Should have seen the hyena!!) but rather to revise your thinking about what makes a good marriage and what a person should do if you figure out that the entity across the dinner table is a hyena. And to stop making him the central figure in YOUR story.

    • Wow Lovedajackass, you just provided a missing piece for me, even awhile after the shitshow. i am a few years out from my god-awful trauma, I dealt with it, separated, divorced, got mighty, hit meh, in a great relationship, etc. There was always a lingering tragedy in my head because much of my dead marriage had seemed good. My memory of it aligns with what Andrea said: loads of friends, successes, good sex, good parenting, etc.

      The core stuff you identified: “respect, reciprocity, shared values, empathy, communication, and commitment” was not there. I was pretty alone and had to be a bit player in it. I have to own that I tolerated that for years.

      • You didn’t know. And until we run into a shitshow, we think because we are putting in our 100% that the other person is, too. Then, we see that is not the case and there’s the house and kids and the religious belief in marriage that help us do that tolerating. Now you know.

    • There should be some kind of award, LaJ!! Way to go. You dissected Andrea’s shitshow and guess what was there ~~ cheater turds. Highly recognizable to some of us here!

    • LovedaJackass – Your post has infinite wisdom and perspective. Just wow! It’s so good that I printed it and will refer to it often. You are so right that the material things are there, which mean nothing, but the core values, are completely missing – how he treated her, the reciprocity, respect, mutuality, empathy, kindness, caring. You are wise beyond your years!!

  • “It takes two actual people to be in a marriage. One person and a cheating hyena can’t make it work.”

    Truer words were never spoken.

  • I admit up front, I just read the headline. But here is my response. Average narcissist. No way, no narcissist is average, just ask one. She’ll set you straight.

  • I am still unsure if my EX is a narcissist or a sociopath or if he was abusive or maybe it was immaturity. What I can clearly see is that he has zero capacity for empathy and — I understand implicitly that he is a fucktard. (We were together for close to 20 years and have been divorced for 6 years.)

    I think it is natural to seek answers, but what I learned is that it comes back to what you want and what is healthy for you. Remember – you?

    Listen to CL — “What matters is — is the way he’s treating you acceptable to YOU? That’s the ONLY person we need to untangle here — you. What are your deal breakers? What do you think is acceptable behavior in the marriage? Is he good enough for you?”

    I know it hurts like hell but once you get a bit of distance things will get clearer.

  • At some point we need to admit there was never anything special about the cheater. I read about other chumps’ experiences, but spent way too long rationalizing that my cheater was oh so special. He had such a difficult childhood with a smothering mother, he was a short-statured man in a culture that values tall men, blah blah blah. Finally seeing him as nothing special, just a normal creep, was the way out. Then I had to forgive myself for investing 30 years in an ordinary creep. Being able to laugh at his tactics helps dissolve the shame. Keep posting here and dare to poke fun at the little emperor. It’s very healing.

    • Ali Rose – Exactly! They’re just ordinary creeps and are nothing special, never have been. And they are often parasitic bottom feeders, with not much to offer thanks to their dimwitted brains. It’s very liberating when you in fact do see that the Emperor actually has no clothes on and is rather a clown and a fool in reality. I’m with you on this one!

  • Andrea sounds a lot like me. Nagging questions and suspicions WILL nag me to the point of misery until I get a satisfactory answer. The content of the answer may be infuriating, but I need the explanations. End of story.

    I did unravel my ex. I dressed him down top to bottom because I needed that unveiling because it was the concrete proof and confirmation of what I knew deep down but couldn’t prove. For me, unraveling my ex was torture turned triumph. No, I’m not “psycho” or “crazy” or whatever it is women get labeled with when we won’t accept bull shit. Nope! I was DEAD ON RIGHT. And I had proof. And once the panic and inconceivable pain and fury wore off, I found the confirmation I needed to prove that I was right all along, that I was none of the things he said I was, and he was EVERYTHING I said he was and had denied so many times.

    Everyone else has to decide what the value of unmasking the cheater is to them and spend the amount of time they feel is worth getting those answers. For me, it was countless hours. There were times when I thought I was dying, but I knew I needed it to finalize things and I did it until I was satisfied.

  • CL, you are the home run Queen! Magnificent response. Again.

    Andrea, I am so bloody sorry that you have had to endure this colossal insanity. Here we all are with you. In our both collective and individuated dark nights of the Soul. We are intimately familiar with the need to make sense. The miracle for me in therapy was that after the first couple of sessions I realized that my focus shifted from MoFaux to me!! No more sleuthing, analyzing fuckwit ~~ time to mine the depths of my own beliefs and values and take control. I have NO control over him. If I did, I’d drive him over a cliff!

    BTW, you have GOOD friends. Rely on them during this dark period. Hold them close. Support is critical. And you have CN.

  • Thank you Chump Lady. I cannot express how your site has aided my healing from an ex who fucked other women online constantly over an almost 20 year marriage, ending only when he said, hey, can I got to a group erotic party with my online friends. And I replied with WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!! He then said he intended to lie and cover up 80% of what he did, but that failed after a year of TT. What a chump I was!

    “Moreover, you cannot cheat on someone without emotionally abusing them with lies, gaslighting, and blame shifting.”

    My cheater ex did stop cheating when I found out, completely dumped all the (several) active online sex partners and the several online/met a couple times EAs. That did not undo all the emotional abuse from when he WAS cheating. He wouldn’t own that the cheating was constant emotional abuse. I gave him the Gottman bit about cheaters and the cheater’s cascade of demonizing the faithful spouse. He got very upset about that and denied he acted like that. By then I had read here and elsewhere about gas lighting and didn’t accept his evasions.

    “To cheat on someone is to devalue them.”

    Once I recovered a little from the trauma I started asking for him to REVALUE me. He refused. He claimed that was unfair, unbalanced (!! right? really it was /too hard/ and took time away from his leisure pursuits he liked more than he liked me) and practically described me as selfish. If I said I felt devalued by his betrayal and online sex with other women, he would acknowledge my feelings .. and then stop. He never, ever owned that HE DEVALUED ME. And our marriage. He did it for so long, and he felt smug and superior and righteous that those women were just SO nice, and SO hot that while sometimes some remorse would shine through, he shut it down with his shame and selfishness pretty quick.

    “Worse, cheaters turn it back on chumps and blame them for the abuse.”

    Got that too, it quickly became clear when he started in on that and since he was a craptastic husband — in the things I knew about, ha! — I got right back at him. And then said AND YOU CHEATED WTF!

    I was and am still so angry that he ruined everything and was such a profound coward he kept his online secret sex life and betrayed me daily acting like he wanted to be married. He wanted to be single and eat cake.

    I don’t need any special names for him. Cheater suffices.

  • Andrea, I wanted my ex to be a narc, as well. Otherwise, he was just an average guy who couldn’t stand his wife any more and chose to handle it badly. And I was the wife with a neon marquee, “Unlovable LOSER” twinkling across my forehead night and day. But if he was a narc, well, there’s scientific proof that it was his mental defect! So maybe I’m not a big hairy wart on the butt of humanity, after all! Whew! So I understand your eagerness to slap that label on them. But CL and every commenter here is right – it doesn’t matter what his title is, the job description is the same: Abuse spouse, have affair(s), snort cake. This is one job where gender equality is not an issue – both sexes make excellent professional fuckwits. I am sending you hugs and waves of “Mightiness Vibes,” my dear!

  • When I start getting lost in the why, I remember that he’s always going to blame me. So if it makes you happy to label him, do it. If it helps you step away from the dumbass pile of shit his decisions mount up to… Do it. It’s what he does to justify his actions- “she pressured me into kids and she took my freedom I had to put on a kilt and go Braveheart some wee lass, she ate my spaghettios and didn’t let me have a man cave and I had to have a full time job and she expected me to do my part in the family… Plus she never put out” all you will ever be to him is a pile of reasons he was a dip shit. So if you really think that label “narc” is going to let you walk away, somehow? Just apply it. Who cares. There’s no going down that black hole. If it helps you get onto the “finding coping strategies to co parent like a grown up” and “fixing my picker” and “now I need to work on me”…. Then get yourself a Gd label maker and sticker him up as every disorder under the sun. I actually rather enjoy that image- sack of shit. Covered in duct tape labels…. In the hot sun. Yep. Label away. But labelling doesn’t mean fixing. It means “biohazard warning never return”

    • creativerational, I like this! It’s harsh, but it’s the truth. Oh how I wish I would have internalized this from the beginning. It makes perfect sense. Bio-hazard warning!!! Never return, chump. (to the toxic, evil assw*pe!!).

  • Andrea…I, and all of us here, have experienced very similar behavior from our X’S – or soon to be x’s (I love the PAST TENSE of that :D) and couldn’t fit the pieces together in our own minds until we educated ourselves on personality disorders…then the REALIZATION that they SUCK sunk in and we got on the way to LOVING OURSELVES and forgiving ourselves for listening to their lies and putting up with their absolute cruelty and disrespect…and it just doesn’t matter anymore what their dys-fuck-tion is…cause WE deserve more than what they were handing us AND we do not want them in our lives ANYMORE. So, yes, while educating ourselves on the pathology is essential for our future well being, eventually it really has no bearing other than that…it is just no longer about them…the what if’s become about us and what we want ONLY. Trust me, it does happen just like Chump Lady says it does. No contact will get you there quicker…I hope you are maintaining no contact 😀

    Stay strong and stay on the path to Meh! Remember to stop and smell the fresh air and gaze in wonder at the beauty of nature and all it has to offer your heart and soul. You got this sister! And it’s gonna be more awesome than you can imagine right now…but 😀 IT WILL BE I promise!

  • Andrea, focus on why you stayed, why you feel you have to convince anyone of your value. Your ex? He is an asshole, a douchebag, a jerk, you get the point. And more importantly, he is irrelevant. I, too, went through needing to diagnose the cheater ex. In the end, my friends and coworkers nailed it: he’s a snake and a rat.

  • Andrea,

    You are trying to make sense from nonsense, which we have all tried to do at some point during the process. However, you are asking the wrong question, which is what CL’s response alluded to and which is what I read once in a book about counterfeit relationships. Implicit in the question “why does X do Y” is the desire to somehow control X by fixing the cause of Y or absolving yourself of having to view X (or yourself) in an unfavorable light. Instead of looking for the why of your STBX’s behavior, ask why you never considered doing any of the things to him that he has done to you. The answer to that question is what CL has repeatedly said to us – you don’t share the same values. Once you begin evaluating why you could not do those things to him that he has done to you and how difficult or impossible it would be for you to change who you are in order to behave in a like manner, it will become clear to you how difficult, if not impossible, it is for him to change those things about himself. Attempting to find a reason for his behavior is part of our normal brain function which seeks to make nonsense make sense. Everything that makes us caring human beings is what makes us vulnerable to these people.

    Is he somewhere on the narcissistic spectrum? Probably. Whatever else he is, he is an asshole who does not treat you the way you deserve. Narcissist, sociopath, psychopath, jerk, asshole – labels are a useful indication of the possible level of mistreatment, not an indication that you’re not being or not going to continue to be mistreated. Learning about who and what he is should be a tool for learning how best to protect yourself and your children from his manipulation and ill-treatment. I gleaned some extremely important information from the book “The Confidence Game.” People who are interested in conning you lead with (and continue to utilize) a narrative. It is human nature to become emotionally invested in the narrative. Once you’re emotionally invested, it is difficult to retain objectivity. Forget the marriage/husband/partner/friends/family narrative. Stop focusing on that. Focus on the DETAILS of his behavior. Once you begin focusing on details, it is easier to harness some objectivity about how he is treating you. It may be painfully revealing and you will have to navigate that through therapy and/or other means, but it is important that you begin to view your life through a lens what is real.

    I am so sorry that this is happening to you, but listen to Chump Lady and to everyone else who has posted. It is painful and difficult to remove yourself from what you believed you had, but you will eventually feel so much better once you have done it.

    • “You are trying to make sense from nonsense”

      That’s the problem right there. I constantly tell myself that the answer is: THERE IS NO ANSWER. Yet whenever I have to have contact with ex (and that is limited to brief business like emails a couple times a year), I still chumpily go back to trying to fathom reason out of insanity.

      I know it intellectually, I just hope that some day soon my emotions catch up with my mind. Seems to be some strange form of cognitive dissonance- searching for signs of humanity you know do not exist.

  • For a long time (and still, to some extent) I was obsessed with whether he was a narcissist or a bpd. I also believed it was an exit affair since it was the same damn woman for EIGHT YEARS, but during the five years I knew about it, he left her four times and came home to me. He was detoxed for alcohol four times in five years (and i never knew he had a drinking problem). He never filed, but I finally did after the last D Day in May of 2015. Then he completely stopped talking to me, after an almost 40 year relationship. That was a curse and a blessing because he had blamed me for everything, everything. The silence really hurt- like I was left for dead- but it helped me to gain some peace and perspective- that he had been criticizing me, lying to me and gaslighting me for years. I still wonder if it was an exit affair and if the marriage just died. But there can’t be three people in a marriage. He said he went to mc and lied about continuing the affair because he wanted to come home. But he couldn’t. He just loved her so much!!! So he finally left me and he is with her. So was that an exit affair? I don’t know. The lying, the drinking, the emotional and financial abuse and abandonment, none of that is ‘normal’. So I just don’t know about any of it, but I can finally answer the why of it- he did it simply because he wanted to. I told my shrink that I am broken. She said that is my choice and I have to choose to stop asking about him and start thinking about myself.

    • an 8-year exit affair? No–he was a cake eater. I think “exit affair” refers to someone who wants to leave a relationship, but won’t do so until they have secured someone else as a crutch.

    • Sorry to be late here but, lostandfound, he is totally into cake. Every ingredient in the cake. Smalls like cake. Looks like cake. He is so into cake that he IS cake. Ugh!

    • lostandfound, you can do that–you can choose to stop asking about him and start thinking about yourself. It’s hard because the cheater and the abuse blot out the sun for a while. But you can find ways to actively stop thinking about him; get a strategy for what you will do when you start thinking about him: Do pushups, sort the laundry, listen to music, do mindfulness activities like yoga or meditation, dance, call a friend, paint the hall, play a game on your computer. Whatever it takes.

      • Your comments are all really helpful. I spent a long time running away from myself- going out every night to meetings or to a friend’s house. Because I believed all the blame he heaped on me. Because I didn’t tell him to f off every time he told me he needed help getting over her. Because he kept telling me that none of the 35 years of marriage were any good. I threw out my bed and repainted my bedroom and added a bookcase. And on that bookcase were lots of books about disordered individuals- books on bpd, books on narcissism and sociopathy, Chump Lady’s book, a book on runaway husbands, everything I could get my hands on to read so I could figure out exactly what was wrong with him and how to move on. It was funny to see this blue, peaceful room with these books about what he did to me. So I read the books, put most of them away, and started to read about forgiveness and letting go (I still kept Chump Lady’s book and Pema Chodron, “When Things Fall Apart”) I feel like I am waking up after years of being emotionally battered. But this deep sadness we all know and share, that may never completely go. And in my weaker/sadder moments I still ask the questions that have no answer: what was better about her, why did he cheat, was the marriage always bad, was any of it my fault. I am waiting for the final decree and then I intend to date. My life is full of so many good things. I recognize it’s time to move on. And I agree that I actively need a strategy to stop thinking about him and trying to figure out what will never make sense. So I am working on that.

        • Broken….. can be fixed. We are all going through a bad patch. But we are “going” through it. You just need to keep going and that is very difficult but it can be done.

  • I understand your need to diagnose why your partner did what he did, and why you put up with it. That is part of your journey and your need to cope better with the world you live in. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what the label is that describes your X — what matters is that you never received what you were promised, the X was never the person you believed him/her to be, and that you accept the part of your life where you shared space with the X is over.

    Once you accept that the relationship was never what you hoped it would be or thought it was, and that it is over and you need to move on to a different future, you can take your time to learn about the different problems and disorders that may, or may not have had something to do with the demise of your relationship. Nothing you learn about how damaged and disordered individuals operate will hurt you — some of the information may well resonate with your “relationship autopsy” — you may even learn things about yourself and your past that you had never considered before, and you may want to change certain behaviors you have to make yourself less vulnerable. This is all part of growth.

    The best thing that Chump Lady told you was to get away from the person who hurt you. Once you get away from the influence, you will start to get better and feel better. The time it takes to work out all the details varies from individual to individual. When you finally get to Meh, you will know that it really doesn’t matter what kind of crazy started you on the journey — what matters is that you not only survived, but learned to thrive.

  • I am soooooo grateful to all of you and especially to Chump Lady for starting this community! You have all done way more for me than the two years of therapy I had post D-day. THANK- YOU ALL!

    • Awe, shucks. Chump Nation loves your right back and if you should need a virtual baseball bat or tire iron, just ask. Hugs to you!

  • From Arleen Martin Lloyd’s post about. I clicked on the link and this smacked me in the head :

    ” Contrary to popular belief, narcissists do not love themselves. They loathe their true selves. It is only the image of their false self they love, and they think and expect everyone else should love that false self as well.

    You cannot be loved by someone who cannot love themselves.”

    Andrea, Your asshole has already shown and demonstrated to you what he is. Believe it and run. Doesn’t matter if he is diagnosed as NPD or not, a person that can love and loves others does not seek to destroy people he/she cares about.

    • After 16 years with one, I don’t actually believe that assessment. Some of them DO love themselves to the exclusion of anyone else. They hurt anyone and everyone who won’t worship the false self they hold to the world. And they think that punishing non-worshipers is their right.

      • I agree, Survivor. The psychological evidence suggests sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists, and bullies actually have higher-than-average self esteem.

        • Yes. I know popular thought is that narcs and such — bullies as well — secretly have low self esteem, thus their behavior. I have never believed that. It’s very clear if you’ve been the victim of one of these people that they really DO think they are above everyone else. There is no secret loathing inside, other than the fact that they secretly (or not so secretly if they are into the discard phase) loathe YOU.

  • Andrea- I will repeat some of the sentiment you’ve already read but most of the time, we chumps can’t hear this stuff enough. Labeling him is untangling his skein and that shouldn’t be your chief concern right now.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand the basic concept behind wanting to label their issues. I was convinced for a long time that the ex in my life had an “exit affair’ but after reading here for 3 years I realize that it doesn’t matter. Also when it came right down to it, he didn’t “exit” after his affair. We did the whole wreckonciliation nonsense for about three years. I think exit affair is just another way of saying big, ginormous coward anyway.

    Bottom line? It’s just like CL says. It doesn’t matter if they’re a garden variety narcissist, a sex addict or a serial cheater. It doesn’t matter because whatever his nature is you can’t control it. You just have to figure out where your boundaries are, and most importantly how to enforce them. That’s all we get to control.

    Hope to see you on a Tuesday at Meh soon.

  • Snake has never been diagnosed as NPD.

    But is he image conscious to the extreme? Gaslighting pro? Blame shifter. Psychologically abusive? Yep yep yep.

    I just didn’t tie it all together in a big narc bow until I saw where the suspected cheating fit in.

    But regardless of the diagnosis, snake is a steaming pile of entitled abusive arrogance, and I am far better off having left him.

  • Never wait for a diagnosis on the personality disordered. They do not seek help because according to them its all on you. Sometimes its subtle, like a look of disgust or indifference toward your feelings. Most of the time for me it was having conversations and his denial we ever discussed anything. Then suddenly to keep me hooked he would bring up a shared goal to keep me hooked. It was when I started slipping away in thinking we were on the same page. This was always pure manipulation.

    Now I see there were many instances over the years when his mask dropped momentarily. I was with a covert narcissist and doubted the truth because he had a good guy exterior. Cheating removes all doubt. It lets you know the person you are with does not have morals, is selfish, cunning, and a fraud.

    Never wait to see the mask drop. I do not need a diagnosis to know. I looked into the eyes of evil once his mask dropped. He has readjusted it for his new victim and has made attempts to put it back on for his adult children. Knowing for me was how I got out and it was a process. Now I have no doubts about myself. I never blame myself. Staying with a cheater is torture. Know what it takes for someone you love to maintain a relationship with someone else while married. Narcissists are pathological liars and do not suffer from consequences. Why should the consequence of cheating ever lead to reconciliation? Reconciling with someone who has the ability to cheat and lie is a free pass for cake. Underneath there is a disordered person. Make the first affair the last. Always trust your gut and know you deserve better.

    • doingme, “make their first affair, the last” should be right under “Leave a cheater, gain a life”, in small print.
      Just get out of the “marriage” that you singed up for because the cheating never stops. The entitlement is too great and the chump can never “win”, the game is rigged.

  • I agree that labeling them isnt the answer. Analyzing their family history isnt either. Looking at their ACTIONS and believing that that is who they are especially when their actions repeat. Aside from the cheating, how many of these people treated others well? Were they assholes to their kids, to friends? did they talk about others behind their back, were they racist, selfish, bad relationship with their parents? For me Yes, yes,yes….. They arent people that I would chose as friends for myself, kids, etc. Let alone as a marriage partner. That we stick around for sooo long with people who do not act right or share are values now that is the real issue! Cheating is just a small part of their makeup. My h always talks about how he would beat the crap out of this motorist or that one. Wtf? However, when my daughter was in an abusive relationship and was being cheated on ( She also had a gun held to her). Did my h ever say to this boyfriend you better stay away from my daughter or what are you doing treating her this way? Nope, because how could he when he was abusing us as well. Anyone can have great sex, beautiful kids, fun vacations. But like someone else said above do they share the same values, goals, beliefs? If not then it is a marriage of smoke and mirrors.

  • More and more I am seeing how everybody in my ex’s life is just a prop or tool to support him and keep him going and feeling okay. I was his prop for 20 years. Now Scmoopie will be the next prop.

  • This is so important for us all to learn. A certain type of person: very analytical, organized, etc. will often feel the overwhelming need to understand WHY they have been treated like dog shit. Because, if they can just understand the underlying mechanisms, they can, perhaps, fix it. The central message of this post is that, our need to understand, and (over) analyze what happened just keeps us from moving on from the asshole who treated us and our relationship as if we had no value. CL is right. The only important thing is: did the asshole treat you as YOU want to be treated? If not, then walk. The reasons he chose to destroy your relationship, your trust, your heart, your peace of mind, your family and your life are ultimately immaterial. And, don’t EVER let him tell you that, the reason your relationship ended was because “you held grudges and refuse to forgive”. That’s just his Jesus Cheater way of throwing the blame back onto you and not where it belongs – on his porn-addicted, cheating, lying, obfuscating, gaslighting, rather fuck his whore-ex than a woman who loves him pathetic ass. You have the right to be loved as you want to be loved. And, that does not make you a “crazy, desperate drama queen” like my ex called me, that makes you a normal woman who knows that she deserves better.

  • He doesn’t sound like a typical Narcissist to me… the one I know would never grovel, never apologize, and never even admit to wrong-doing. He would find a way to make me think that the entire thing was my fault.

  • Thank you for sharing your feedback regarding all horrific scenarios everyone has faced dealing with ‘character disturbed’ individuals. I have to say it resonates greatly and am grateful to have found this thread and for finding out how much many share in common. Wishing you all the best as you continue your journey to heal.

  • The confusion and labels keep my head swirling even after two years since I left. I had never heard of a covert narcissist before I left my 13 year marriage. Yes, I was the parent. I learned early on with him that his capacity to sustain stress and depression would make him angry – illustrated by broken windshields and punching holes in the walls. Yes, I was raised by a mother who had those some characteristics and it was ‘familiar’.

    Quite honestly, he was one of the kindest men I had ever met 90% of the time. We married when my son was 6 years old and was very supportive from day one. Once my son got older and I started gaining some autonomy (and individual counseling in addition to marriage counseling), I was ready for a partner. I really didn’t realize that wasn’t part of his plan until then. Up until that point, I thought that our life was too hectic and that once my son went to college we would have more time to develop our relationship.

    For a while things seemed to be improving albeit slowly. Then he started crossfit (he’s 48) and became a ‘beloved’ regular. LOTS and LOTS of single mothers there too (with their kids). Of course he loves kids, too. While the crowd wasn’t my scene, I supported him completely. Apparently, so did the engaged to be married lesbian owner. I suppose I should say bisexual at this point.

    What I now call Armageddon, in our 16th year, ignited with his vile name calling of me and two violent episodes. The first ended up with him choking me and telling me he could kill me if he wanted to and the other with him throwing me down on the floor by my hair, smashing my hand in the door and breaking all of the sentimental family photos that I had spent months putting together. I’d say over 50 shattered everywhere. Of course, there were bruises.

    After that episode, he shared that he felt the anger come on, decided to give into it and that he would never hurt me more than that. The premeditation and lack of genuine horror at his own behavior made it clear to me that I needed to go. I gave him three weeks to address the issue (not keep it a secret from our family) and get help. He did neither. While he was working, I arranged a 30′ moving truck, put my things in storage and stayed elsewhere. I knew that if I stayed in the house, I may end up liable for an enormous mortgage that I knew I couldn’t sustain while supporting my son through his last two years of college. The bigger concern was that my 6’4″ 220lb son may take matters into his own hands. He was home on winter break.

    My son sent him a letter saying he had lost the privledge of calling him his son and that until he took full responsibility for his actions to all of us that he will not have any communication with him. That was two years ago. I have only seen him twice with attorneys at the divorce is final.

    The 30 year old bisexual gal moved into the house very quickly after leaving her fiance. I had no knowledge of all that was going on there until after I had moved out. Apparently, my son was somewhat aware of their mutual infatuation and is thoroughly disgusted.

    The only conversation we have had about personal matters came a year after I left. His main point was that I enable him and that he is mad at my son for not forgiving him. Of course I didn’t bring up the fact that he never acknowledged any of his behavior or did anything to clean it up. I did ask him what he thought would happen when he never came back to the table. After a long pause, he said he hadn’t thought about it. I believe him.

    He has told others that I am mentally unstable (due to three family deaths) and that I have turned my son against him. My mother has taken pity upon him. It’s like my life went from seemingly “normal” to Jerry Springer front runner in record time. I honestly still feel shell shocked.

    Thank you for reading this LONG post! I’ve never posted on a forum before but I read this blog religiously. I don’t know what to call my situation. Exit affair? Narcissist? Abuser? Mid life crisis?

    I really would appreciate insight….It’s not so clear as just an affair or….well, you get the insanity!

  • and yes….the labeling came from the counselors who both met him and are aware of the journey up to this point including my own childhood. It’s just that he was so NOT overt that it makes me doubt everything.

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