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Dear Chump Lady, I was completely duped. How do I ever trust again?

trustyouDear Chump Lady,

I’m a newly-minted Chump. I discovered by accident two weeks ago that my boyfriend of the past year had been leading a double life, and had another girlfriend in another city — not to mention a totally different social circle there that I knew nothing about, and a slightly different persona around them than around my friends. I contacted the other girlfriend, and she was just as shocked to learn about me. We are both heartbroken, angry, devastated and confused. We know we probably aren’t the only ones, now, too. There was at least one prostitute.

How did he dupe us? He is a widower (this much is actually true), and frequently used “grieving his dead wife” or “seeing a therapist for PTSD” as excuses to disappear for a few days; being a Chump (and a generally understanding human person), I gave him all the space he needed during those times — and so did she. Nothing else seemed off about our relationship; when he wasn’t “in a depression,” he was present, compassionate, and supportive.

He’s an amazing liar. Even after the breakup, he was lying about small factual things. Like, “where were you on this date?” I had the bus passes and pictures and texts on hand, and he still denied it with total conviction. Maybe he even believed his own lies, but what’s worse, is I found myself believing him, too, even though I knew he was lying. My gut still said to trust him.

This is not a question about reconciliation; l do not believe in unicorns, and he doesn’t seem to have any remorse other than for losing his cake. I have gone NC (after a few ill-advised attempts at communication). I’m seeing a therapist. The OW and I are supporting each other through this, sharing STD test results, and reading your blog. I’m trudging through this as best I can.

My question is, how can I trust another person ever again? I usually have a pretty good sense of when I can or can’t trust someone; my inner voice is not often wrong. But this time it failed me completely. My spidey senses all told me I could trust him. If my gut instincts failed this badly, how many other times has it happened? How could I ever know? I’m having paranoid thoughts that everyone close to me might be a totally different person than who I think they are. It’s terrifying.

Have you or other readers felt this way? How do you overcome it?

Gonna Need Someone On My Side

Dear Gonna,

I think the “Will I Ever Trust Again?” stage is pretty common to chumps. But I don’t think your question is really “Can I ever trust again?” Just by existing in this world you trust every day. Trust is the social glue that holds us all together. Unless you’re agoraphobic and locked in a bunker, you trust as you go through life.

You trust that the barista isn’t going to poison your latte. You trust the pilot when you step on a plane. You trust that the doctor who anesthetizes you really went to medical school. To go through life is to make assumptions of safety.

What you’re really asking is: “How can I have a relationship and not be vulnerable?”

You can’t. Loving people makes us vulnerable.

Now, that’s not to say you should go about blithely exposing your tender underbelly and handing people harpoons. There are certainly ways to manage risk. But the fact remains that some people are just evil motherfuckers.

That right there is some very important information — some people are just evil motherfuckers.

Oh sure, before you were chumped you had theoretical knowledge of evil motherfuckers. Read about a few in the history books, watched a couple Dateline episodes, checked for monsters under your children’s beds… But now you are changed forever because you have actual evil motherfucker experience. You KNOW these people are out there pretending to be mild-mannered, grieving widowers.

You can see this knowledge as a terrible burden, or you can see it as wisdom. Not everyone is what they appear to be. Some freaks have very carefully constructed double lives. Some freaks lie effortlessly. No adaptive anxiety, as the shrinks say. They live to con and their consciences don’t bother them because they have none.

But, but! They seemed so REAL!

Isn’t that every duck’s last thought as he alights next to the decoy?

Back to you. This is how you move forward:

1.) Develop some healthy skepticism. People who “grieve” live with it. It’s not a sort of weekend getaway kind of thing. Oh right, Tuesday through Friday are my scheduled Mourn Veronica days. A tip-off to freaks is they aren’t available. The complicated schedules, the not-all-there, but then almost a bit too present, checking in constantly on YOUR schedule? Can’t always commit? Always has a very good excuse? Good people’s words align with their deeds. They’re steady, emotionally available, and fairly uncomplicated.

This guy sounds complicated and sad puppy-ish. (They say sociopaths lead with self-pity.)

I’m not saying you could’ve known. But with hard-won experience, you will have more discernment going forward. Take time to really suss potential partners out and judge for character. Does he have friends? Is he available? Does his story check out? How much am I spackling and hoping, versus what is he really saying?

Yes, that doesn’t feel as nice as unblemished chumpy naiveté. You’ve lost your innocence. But again, that’s not a bad thing. Hold out for character, pay attention to ACTIONS over words, and take it slow. With freaks, the crazy starts to show eventually.

2.) Know that YOU are resilient. That’s the only person you control — you. If you love, you trust. If you trust, you can be played. But you don’t have to remain a chump. You can have boundaries and enforce them. (You did that. No unicorn for you. Well done!) You know that you can reinvent. You can trust yourself. Gonna is gonna take good care of herself. She won’t let this freak keep abusing her.

Remember, the freaks are the MINORITY. They exist, but so do many good people. For one of him, I’m sure there are many other people lifting you up and who care. Who are horrified for you. They’re right here on this blog too, commenting on your post today. Take comfort in that.

You’ll bounce back. We did, and you will too. ((Hugs))

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • We’re on your side, Gonna. I know it may not seem like much right now, but hopefully it’s a start.

    Also, I’m glad you and the OC (other chump, not sure I’d call her an OW) are on the same page here, but just so you know, this does not obligate you to be buddy-buddy with her. I’m sure she’s nice enough, but shared experiences doesn’t mean she has to be your best friend if that’s not comfortable for you.

    • Yes, good point. I misused ‘OW’; I would not want to malign her – she got screwed as much as I did. I don’t think BFFs is in the cards, but I’ve been glad to have the communication and commiseration. What’s messed up is that I think if we’d met under different circumstances we might actually have been friends; we’re similar in a lot of ways. I guess he has a type.

  • The important thing is that you are OUT! Good for you. You can work on the rest. What chump lady says is true. Do some research on the red flags of narcissism and personality disorders so you will recognize them next time. You will be hypervigilant for a while. It will get better. (((Hugs)))

  • You have a couple of things going for you, Gonna, that quite a few of us wish we’d had. First, he’s a boyfriend and not a spouse. Secondly, the timeline is a year rather than decades. Fully digest CL’s excellent response and it will all become easier than you presently think.

    • This kind of minimizes her experience, though, don’t you think? Having someone tell me “it could have been worse” never made me feel better, and instead just piled on guilt and shame that I felt 100% crushed over what some were telling me was a 60% injury. I don’t think pain and betrayal are beholden to time and marital status. Yes, it’s a blessing that she doesn’t have to jump through the miserable hoops of divorce, but hurt is hurt.

      • I think you’re both right. Getting chumped hurt like nothing hurt me before. I seriously thought it might kill me and that was in the gaslighting and the mindfuck channel phase, even before DDay. After was worse. On the other hand, I had only invested a couple of years, wasn’t married to Jackass and didn’t have kids with him. It’s not that I felt less crushed. It’s that I could really go no contact and work on going through the pain with only minimal logistical issues (e.g., what to do with the stuff he left in my house, how to respond about the money for our business, etc.). You can get to meh a lot faster if you aren’t tied up in court for years, sharing custody, and dealing with a Cheater’s BS every day.

        • Yes. As an Other Chump myself who spent eight months in a situation similar to Gonna’s, the initial pain and untangling was excruciating. But I never spoke to the cheater again (or his “real” girlfriend), because they cut me out of their lives to attempt reconciliation. It was the most awful experience of my life, but I reached meh much more quickly than many chumps do, I think. I immersed myself in therapy and Chump Nation and I think I reached meh in around ten months? I honestly don’t even know Tuesday came.

          I’m having some triggers now because I’m actually dating someone. But luckily, he is kind and understanding, being a chump himself. And I note that I don’t have the same sickening gut reactions that I did around my cheater. Things are looking up! 🙂

      • I don’t think it is minimizing her pain or experience but the limited invested time in the “relationship” is one less item to dwell on as she reflects on being chumped. A lot of chumps go through the “why didn’t I get out when he/she did this or why did I put up with the abuse for so long?” Dwelling on the length of time spent with a scumbag can be agony.

        • Though I do think that the first thing anyone needs after a trauma is to feel validated–betrayal hurts like nothing else, no matter what age you are, how long you’ve been in the relationship, married or not,with kids or without. All you can feel is the pain, and thinking vascillates among (a) how could s/he do this to me?; (b) how did I not KNOW? and (c) those horrible mind movies of what the cheater did with someone else.

          In the throes of pain after D-day, it doesn’t feel as if it will ever get better; you just need to talk through the pain. “It gets better” is a message best heard down the road, I think, after a person has started to have some calm days interspersed with grief.

          I found this quote the other day, “To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence.” -Andrei Lankov

          • I had a technique for the mind movies. If I pictured them together, what I would do is picture myself coming in and roundhouse kicking them in the head. Or I would picture a load of bricks falling on them. Since, it was my movie, I could control what happened in it. That knowledge really helped me get through the mind movie phase.

        • And how many of us used our “length of time in the relationship” to keep pick-me-dancing? I think it’s “easier” to swallow the injustices of pick-me-dancing when you’ve been together 10/20/30/40 years. It’d be an interesting study – does 5 years together = 2 months pick-me-dancing? Does 10 years = 6 months? And so on. I wish I had been like Gonna. It sounds like she didn’t do ONE SECOND of pick-me-dancing and was mighty. Even now, 18 months post Divorce, almost 3 years from D-Day, it’s my part in the pick-me-dancing that disgusts me the most.

          • This idea of length of marriage possibly correlating to length of pick me dancing intetests me. Because it provides explanation for the “chump handbook”. I was completely amazed when i found CL and realized that cheaters AND chumps followed such a predictable pattern. Because if I believed the repeated experience of every chump (and I do), then it made me believe what CN said about how to most effectively deal with what was happening. And most importantly, it made me believe that I will be OK. Better than OK!

            So here are my dates: 22 years married = 4 months pick me dancing.

            • I never understood that statement of “the length of time”. I was dating a guy that was becoming verbally abusive and a woman told me that I had invested a lot of time in this relationship and therefore shouldn’t walk away from him. I dumped him anyway, because what the heck does time have to do with tolerating abuse?! Because I’ve been with this person X number of months, that it gives them the right to abuse me? I wonder if this friend would follow her own advice and stay in that type of interaction if she was in it. Let’s see how much time she would continue investing because she already spend X number of days with an abusive person. Friggin idiots.

      • “Yes, it’s a blessing that she doesn’t have to jump through the miserable hoops of divorce, but hurt is hurt.”

        Free, I think your last sentence sums up what Chumpalumper was trying to say.

        I have a friend who keeps telling me that my ex cheated and abandoned because she was immature. To me that’s minimizing. My response is always people can be immature and not do evil stuff. Immaturity causes people to say awkward stuff, be embarrassed or make a stupid decision out of ignorance. Then they learn. Cheating is about as decisive as a NATO air strike. No ignorance there. They know full well that it’s wrong before, during and after the fact.

      • Fucking grief. Sheesh. I never married my ex – she had already left two husbands, so it didn’t seem that a marriage certificate was gonna keep her around. She said I was different and I believed her, and when our relationship hit the point where it was longer than any of her previous, I thought I was safe. Then in the depths of my depression and a traumatic period of dealing with FOO issues, I forgot who I was dealing with.

        It’s been over a year and a half. I saw her car last week in a part of town I didn’t used to visit and that when I knew her she had no connection to. Now I’m obsessed about how good I felt when things were going well, my inability to keep her from running (despite realizing that I had no control over that and that she was simply following her long established pattern), and wondering about what she’s up to. It’s agonizing to think that shedding me made her life better and that she’s happier without me.

        I’m not sure where I’m going with this; I guess the not being married part reminded me of the people who acted like my experience was no big deal since I wasn’t married, this despite living together, mingling finances, and me acting as a step-father to her son.

        On top of it all I beat myself up for forgetting who I was dealing with. I think trusting again is more about us than about other people: trusting that if something feels off, we’ll pay attention. Trusting that if they’ve done it to someone else, that they’ll do it to us. Trusting that we’re working our asses off to recover and change who we are, and trusting that no one is able to magically change by simply deciding one day that their old lifestyle no longer suits them. Now, does that mean I don’t imagine that her next victim, er mark, er partner will be her forever home? Of course not! The next person will keep her by being everything I’m not. Stupid brain.

        • I’ve had those feelings and thoughts. Especially since my ex told me he wouldn’t have done this if…[insert attempt to insult me here]. Well, I found out that he is maintaining his poor behaviors. It’s really interesting because he told me he wouldn’t do this stuff if it wasn’t for me. I’m not around. So why is he STILL doing this stuff again? I dodged a bullet by no longer being with him. You dodged a bullet by no longer having to be with her. I know that doesn’t make it hurt any less. I’m sorry you were chumped too.

        • “The next person will keep her by being everything I’m not. Stupid brain.” And what makes this thought possible is focusing on the cheater. What the cheater is doing, how the cheater feels, what the cheater may or may not do, what we have to do to “deal with” someone who is disordered and unfaithful. The road to Meh is the road to a place where the cheater no longer matters to us emotionally.

          • All of that is true. I’ve made tremendous strides in the last year, being more social and mentally healthy than I’ve ever been in my life. I still have a lot of work to do, as evidenced by suffering a setback from seeing her car. I know the setback isn’t permanent, but it’s disappointing not to be beyond this point by now.

            And I’ve said it before: I love your posts. You’re further down the road to where I want to be, finding a satisfactory (or better!) life on your own and then supplementing it with someone else. I’m still working through the codependency that made my ex so very important to me.

        • I really like Chump Lady’s phrase, “It’s not he pain Olympics.” The hurt and fall out from betrayal is the SAME. Unfortunately some of us may suffer from PTSD too. There’s no correlation between married, dating or some flavor of commitment. When you get fucked over by the one you trusted most, it shatters the victim.

        • Whichwatxidshego

          It W?S a long established pattern. This was my life!

        • WhichWayDidSheGo,

          You said, ‘The next person will keep her by being everything I’m not.’ I often have those or similar thoughts. I imagine that my now ex-boyfriend’s current partner is younger, richer, and less encumbered (i.e., childless) and thus can do anything and everything on a whim and has lots of money to throw around on luxuries because she doesn’t need to support a family and therefore is more attractive to him.

          You also said, ‘I guess the not being married part reminded me of the people who acted like my experience was no big deal since I wasn’t married…’ Being dumped by my now-ex-boyfriend/’friend’ of 30 years after one year of dating hurt my than being abandoned by my abusive, cheating STBX who left me 10 years after meeting me.

      • For me, it helps quite a bit to realize that it could’ve been worse. It’s probably the medicine I get here, reading everyone else’s experience and comparing my life to others’. I think it’s because the thing that bothered me the most was that feeling of being duped. Being lied to and cheated on, with several people in on it and not telling me, made me feel like a colossal fool. I hate feeling stupid. Fortunately, I got out without a disease, had 8 years prior to final Dday to separate myself from him financially, and had convinced him to get vasectomy after our last child (big deal, since his favorite pastime is having babies). It’s not that I enjoy other people’s pain. I really do hurt for all of you that have it worse than I do. I also cheer for those who got out minimally scathed (a little jealous too, if I’m being honest). It’s just very helpful to me to have the perspective, and the reminder that it could’ve been worse.

      • Right. Hurt is hurt. My divorce sucked but I heard a lot of the “Well at least you two did not have children” sentiment. I guess they were trying to make me feel better but now ex has new marriage with a child it caused me to wonder if actually they considered it less valid in some way. Maybe I got overly sensitive about that but even so it did hurt.

        • No pain should ever be minimized. Yes, I wasn’t married to my cheater, yes we didn’t have kids, we had been doing long distance for the last 2 years of our relationship so I got to escape to an entirely new city without ever having to worry about him. I probably had an ideal situation when it came to NC. I was very lucky. However, my ex left me with an std that luckily was curable however it already scarred my insides. I may not be able to have children thanks to him. That is a fact I cannot escape. Every cheating scenario comes with it’s own battle and it’s own circumstances. When people say to me “hey atleast you weren’t married with kids”, I can say “atleast you were able to have kids”. I don’t believe in comparing pain.

        • When I had cancer, I had a nurse tell me, “well, lucky for you it’s one of the more curable cancers.” She said that as I was in the midst of horrendous treatments that left me feeling exhausted and depressed. I remember feeling like she trivialized what was a frightening and difficult experience for me. I am grateful that my cancer had a good prognosis, but the treatments and long recovery certainly weren’t a piece of cake. In fact, there are life long complications and risks from the type of cancer I had. Some people try to make others feel better by pointing out how things could be worse. They just don’t have a similar life experience to understand what you’re really going through. That nurse had watched cancer patients go through treatments, but I bet you she hadn’t experienced having cancer herself. World of difference between the two.

          • I am so sorry Lyn you had to go through all this!

            Your story reminded me of the birth of my kiddo. 19 hours of labor that left me with a sizable tear that required stitches. Having trouble standing up and making my way to the shower before leaving less than 24H after her birth, I asked for the nurse to help me. I apologize for my slow movement, and told her that my tear was hurting like hell. She scoffed and told me that my tear could have been bigger.

            That day, I thought the urge to punch her was due to hormones or exhaustion. I know better now.

          • I get you Lyn, recently went through a surgery that was horrible to me but the Dr deals with ppl who are in a much worse situation, she made me feel 2 inches tall about the pain and misery I evinced. Not helpful. Jedi Hugs!

      • So, I think I’ve told you guys I had a former co-worker who’s son was murdered in the Sandy Hook shootings. My first D-Day happened shortly after the Newtown shootings. I have 2 wonderful, young sons. My older son is in the same class year as all of the children who were murdered. After my D-Day, when all I wanted to do was cry in bed all day, everyday, I thought of my friend who had to bury his son, and his words 4 months after the shooting where he was recounting bawling over his son’s casket, seeing the plugs where the undertaker tried his best to plug up the bullet wounds in his son’s body. It was those images where I’d pull myself together and say, “yes, this hurts terribly. However, you have SO much to be thankful for. If your friend can get out of bed every day, so can you, so get up, pull up your big girl panties, and get moving”.

        Yes, betrayal and infidelity hurt like hell. It’s also not a crime to remember it CAN always be worse. It does help you get over that hump so you can start “getting a life”.

        • Yes, Chris! I work in a children’s hospital, and when I get to self-pitying because I’m single-parenting a couple of mischievous teenagers (and it’s NOT FAIR that I have to deal with it alone, with the added insult of scrutiny and finger-pointing by ex and his tramp), I think of those parents whose kids, my patients, are dying a slow death of cancer or from a congenital heart defect or muscular degeneration. I remind myself that these parents WISH they had my problems. They just WISH their kid could grow up old enough to do stupid teenager things.

          • Exactly. I try to never engage in the Pain Olympics, because I never know what someone else is going through. I’m now so much farther down the road, I joke with my coworkers and friends and family about “Saddam”, “Dracula”, or any other funny name I call him and they laugh, but the reality is both my kids are healthy, happy and I have them 88% of the time. There are so many out there who can’t say the same. There’s nothing wrong with counting our blessings, even in spite of the infidelity horror we’ve all encountered.

        • ChrisW

          It IS important to appreciate what we have. This gratitude we have is a strength. I loved my life and my children always.

          It’s the strippig away of my soul that got the best of me. No one imagines the person they love to deliver such hatred and indifference. Despite everything he did I still loved him.

          I just had a discussion about walking off the job due to negotiations. I told my friend I was uncomfortable ending my day with a client left hanging because my day needed to end sooner. I said I was NOT willing abandon him as couldn’t justify that behavior for anything. It goes against my personal values.

          Did he not once see who I was?
          He’s incapable.

  • Gonna, are you trustworthy? Yes? Then there is your proof that trustworthy human beings exist.

    Trust that even if in the future you were to get duped once again, you are coming through this, and you will also come through that one as well (you can’t always avoid it even when being very careful). In my opinion love’s worth taking risks.

    • “Are you trustworthy? Yes? Then there is your proof that trustworthy human beings exist.”

      Thanks so much for this upbeat reminder that there ARE good people out there … Just what I needed today!

  • I think the lesson others can learn from your story is that people who are genuine don’t just disappear. They might travel for work, or pleasure, but they are always where they say they are. If they add some sort of hush hush story(military etc) you can check it out enough to know if it is the truth. Liars lie. If you catch them in one there are many others. Like cockroaches. If you see one there are hundreds you don’t see.

    • THIS!!!! I ignored weird lies about time being spent with old same-sex high school buddy for many years. I knew my husband cheated on me with women, so that is where all my vigilance and attention was spent. I lacked the imagination to consider he was ALSO cheating with that same-sex buddy. Surprise! All lies, no matter how small, tell you the most important thing … you’re dealing with a liar. Seems so obvious to me now …

  • I would suggest reading M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie.” It’s a eye-opening examination of human evil as a real and viable phenomenon.

  • Gonna,

    I dont think you were stupid for falling for your cheaters tricks, widowers are a statistically rare lot and there are no instructions on how to date one. Grief is such an odd thing that they can justify almost anything and tell you its grief. When his wife died, he got a sociopathic narc cheaters version of a “Golden Ticket”.

    I have had the “how could I have been so duped?” reaction to learning that my husband of 26 years was a serial cheater. He got caught and fessed up to an “emotional affair” which now seems like a farcical joke compared to what I learned of his real deeds. I learned that he had at least 3 affairs, but I seriously doubt he stopped at 3, I am pretty sure it was a hobby. He never had to fess up to his shit cause he dropped dead.

    And to add to the awks of it all…I learned that I was horribly duped 3 months before I remarried.

    I likely would have had your same reaction if I had known it all sooner but by the time I knew, I had found a trustworthy person to marry…I share all this to say that I agree with all of CL’s advise, her words are wise.

    I kind of wince when I hear people say “Ill never trust again !!!” because even though you have that prerogative, refusing to trust shuts you off from much of life. I figure that deadhusband already stole enough from me, Im not letting him steal any more.

    You dodged a bullet getting away from such a sick bastard…shake the dust off your feet, lick your wounds and when you are healed, live and love again.

    • Thank you so much for your response, CL! I’m not going to lie, living in a bunker was not off the table for me for a while there. The “healthy” skepticism is not as easy as it sounds. I think I’ll see signs of this particular variety of fucktard coming a mile away in the future… but I wonder how many other fucktard varieties I have to experience to learn to avoid. And how many other differently-flavored fucktards are already in my life.

      It’s the second point you made that’s getting me through right now. “Gonna is gonna take good care of herself.”, and she is working on that. I do trust myself – even when I’m not sure I can trust family and friends. When I get into that headspace, I do something for fun, alone. A concert, or dinner, or a book in a park. I don’t know that I’m ready to be vulnerable to anyone just yet, but doing enjoyable things alone helps with the resilience part.

      • ‘When his wife died, he got a sociopathic narc cheaters version of a “Golden Ticket”.’ Yep, you hit the nail on the head. I didn’t think anyone was really capable of using a dead spouse as a means of manipulating other people. It’s almost cartoon-villain.

        The “I’ll never trust again” response isn’t so much a choice as it is a survival tactic, I think, but not great in the long run. Working on that…

  • You are certainly not alone. I was married to a sad sausage sociopath. I was naive when I met him and couldn’t spot the red flags. I didn’t know there were disordered people who could do an excellent impression of normalcy until they got you hooked, and I certainly didn’t know how to spot those people.

    If you’ve read CL’s writing on the three channels, it’s a fantastic guide to identifying disordered behavior. In retrospect I can see that pattern so clearly from the day I met my ex (when I was being love bombed).

    Use your hard won knowledge going forward, and don’t let one disordered fuckwit prevent you from moving on to mutual and truly fulfilling relationships.

  • Congrats on following up on the info you found – many do not and live in denial for years, or decades as noted above. Also as above, it is a year and BF, not spouse. Mine was 9 year marriage – total double life for at least the last 2+ as that was all the research I could get done before making myself physically sick and climbing out of the hole mightier than ever. After I tossed him on D-Day1 found out he cheated on first wife – cheaters don’t change. Like you, the OW was a total chump too and we leaned on each other and she shared as much info as she had so I could have peace of mind knowing the full pieces to the puzzle and get max settlement with little attorneys fees while he pretended to be remorseful and CYA to “reconcile” (all the while still sleeping with new women and pretending to go to counseling and Sexaholics Anonymous). Gotta love a good PI. And I shared with OW all the others I uncovered – who knew nothing about me and my kids. They all rallied with me as they realized they too were chumped and wanted to help provide what I needed for divorce. They cheat because they can and they will always do it….whether it is through paid services or chumping women everywhere. “Work travel” that is ever changing and just oh so flexible and overlaps weekends is another red flag – research showed it would either be time completely spend with the OW or a day or two tacked on before/after an actual work trip. You will trust again – you will move on – you know now to be more cautious, more protected but anyone who is truthful and trustworthy will be consistent and understand your need to take it slow. Take a break though – enjoy life on your own – move on knowing you have CN for support and you didn’t waste any more time. There are many of us here as examples that you do indeed leave a cheater, gain a life!

    • Work travel was a biggie with mine as well. A convinent skank in every city seasoned by strip clups, dancers/prostitutes.

  • Dear Gonna,
    The “sadz” is what my (stb)ex uses to attract women. Sure they know he’s married, but his wife is such an evil physically abusive witch! He also goes for less than confident women with issues. Looking at your situation it sounds as though this guy is a longtime cheat wayyyy before his wife’s death.
    Be thankful, you dodged a bullet.

    • My lateH had a specific method of using the sadz to attract women and not only did I fall for it, when he TOLD ME what he did, I assumed something about MY wonderfulness was different and that he no longer used this method of attracting females. My guess now is that neither of these things turned out the way I assumed they had.

      A takeoff on Muhammud Ail’s “Rope a Dope” he used to call it “Mope a Dope”…he would go int a bar and look all sad and women would approach him “Oh why are you all sad?” He had a perfect sad puppy face, it worked like a charm. 26 years of his stupidity…shoot me.

  • Gonna: One psychologist has studied people’s decisions after big disasters (public or personal), and found that people often engage in “dread risk”–they avoid the thing that caused the disaster. It’s natural to avoid romantic encounters after the huge shock you’ve had, but it’s a temporary response, but not adaptive in the long run. For example, that psychologist found that after 9/11, people started driving to vacation destinations rather than flying. But guess what? Deaths then went up (because flying, even adding in the terrorist attacks, is still statistically safer than flying).

    So how to get over it? Don’t make the trauma and the jackass your main memory of people. Connect, connect, connect with compassionate people of integrity so that the unconscious, statistical part of your brain tips toward “People are trustworthy” because the sheer number of good people outweigh the sociopath you were dating.

    The connections can be both in real life and on-line (almost every chump on this site has at one point remarked that being part of this community has made them realize there are good people in this world). But give yourself time; being betrayed is a huge shock to the psychological system, and there is good reason that we don’t forget it easily.

  • Gonna,

    Trusting again is a choice. If we choose not to love again, we let the disordered win, IMO. And we cannot love as CL says without trusting again. But it is understandable to go through a “I won’t trust ever again” stage…normal grief over a rather traumatic experience.

    Yes, you have a scar on your heart now. A few. But that means you survived and are tough. As CL points out, you are no longer blithe about the real world. Disordered people exist who act in evil ways. Knowledge is power. And–from personal experience–you find when you do enter into a new relationship that you appreciate the non-disordered all that much more knowing how it could be otherwise.


  • Great advice from CL! Both of my parents and my entire family are narcissitic assholes and I don’t talk to any of them. So I can understand the feeling of not wanting to trust again. And that is a normal reaction after you’ve been duped by people that are supposed to look out for you. Based on your writings Gonna, you aren’t trusting yourself. The problem isn’t trusting others, it’s developping trust in your own skills and discernment abilities to spot the red flags, interpret them correctly and leave a bad situation. You wrote that you still believed your boyfriend when you knew he was lying. Right there, shows me you don’t trust your judgment. Your gut is telling you to trust him, when that isn’t really your gut. That is a Stockhold syndrome phenomenon, where ih order to keep the attachment with someone, you have to deny the lies and red flags to keep the attachment in place. That is a survival mechanism which ends up harming you. Please look into therapy to figure out why after seeing the red flag you dismissed them, and you brushed them off. So to answer your question, how can I trust another person again? By trusting yourself first, and that means, developping your discernment skills so that you actually spot the dynamics and interpret them correctly, to protect yourself and leave a situation that is bad for you. Good luck and hugs!

  • I’m sorry that you had to go through this. I also have similar story, although I married and had children with this person. To my knowledge none of the other women knew his true story. The last OW on record lived in another country where he was working at the time. He was using a fake name and had been in a relationship with her for about a year. All the background information he had provided about himself was false.

    He told me both big and small lies, When confronted with evidence he would not admit the lies and held fast to his stories. I view him as a ConMan. a predator, a liar, and a user. In my case there were a few warning signs, but I like you, had never had experience with this type of person and I ignored them.

    When I discovered the truth I too doubted my judgment and thought I could never trust anyone again. I’ve been moving through a painful divorce for about a year now. I have not re-entered the world of dating, as dealing with the divorce, raising small children, and reentering the workforce has been enough to manage. However, I think that this experience has prepared me to spot inconsistencies in behavior and to trust my judgement as I move forward. I believe you will get there too.

    • When caught in a lie, H would claim that 1) I couldnt tell that he was kidding (“God, UNM, what is WRONG with you hahaha!”) 2) he would ignore the whole lie and say “men spin yarns, its what they do, its a tradition”…yarns are lying about the size of a fish you caught…lying was telling your family that you thwarted an armed gunman at a gas station by throwing hot coffee on him (and the purpose of that lie was what?)

  • They say integrity is what you do when no one is watching. So, just casually observe anyone you are in a relationship. How do they treat people who can’t further their interests? How do they treat clerks, waiters, anyone they aren’t trying to impress? How do they talk about others, especially like people on television? Look for lies and inconsistencies. See how they respond to stories of cheaters and adultery. The last one tells you everything you need to know.

    • Anita,
      I agree that it is a good idea to observe how people you might date or are dating treat others, but I don’t think that how that person treats others (e.g., clerks, waiters, friends) tells the whole story. My now-ex-boyfriend, who I considered a friend for 30 years and many others considered a great guy, did a 180 on me, started lying to me during the dating relationship and acted unnecessarily cruelly and selfishly when he broke up with me and the months since he broke up with me. (He said that he wanted to remain friends when he broke up with me but since then has coldly brushed me off every time I have mentioned (over the phone) getting together for even coffee or a short run.) His behavior is rather insulting as he used to chase his cheating wife and I bent over backward to make him happy, especially while we dated, and always treated him extremely well. I’ve been kicked to to the curb.

      • You are right, Rock Star Wife, how they treat others may fool you. That’s why every thing a person does matters. All their actions taken together will show you what a person really is. You have to treat everything equally. A tiny lie is as bad as a gigantic one. A thief will steal, whether it’s a penny or a million dollars. Texting someone in secret every day is as bad as screwing them everyday day at lunch. The tiny incidents show character as well as the big ones. The mistake most people make is brushing off the small actions, which leads them into feeling comfortable with committing bigger offenses. Like the cockroach example someone gave, the first one is really the only one you need to see to know they are there.

  • Another excellent post, CL!! Full of wisdom and just the right amount of snark.

    “Isn’t that every duck’s last thought as he alights next to the decoy?”

    Thank you for another spot-on visual. You have the knack for perfectly stating the chump/cheater dynamic. Us–trusting, kind, understanding, empathetic. Them–evil, conniving, disordered, sadistic.

    I’m so grateful I was directed to this site just a few days after the final DDay. I’m convinced you and CN saved my sanity and kept me hoping for a better life and hanging on until the worthless Yellow-Bellied POS was kicked out of my life. More than 30 years of my life given to that POS, but now I’m free!!!

    Congrats on the book launch party!! So nice seeing some of the faces of my tribe.

  • Disappearing is a massive red flag. It’s what mine started doing right after we got married.

  • You are fortunate to find this out so early on rather than 23 years later as I did. You are fortunate to have faced it head on and not spackled and denied like I did. You are fortunate that in your support system in the OW. You are very mighty.

    How could you know? Before you ever get “played” you really just don’t expect people to have this in them. And all the crap you see on TV, well that happens to everyone else never “me”. Everyone thinks their relationship is superior to the other failing ones. It is normal, but only the first time.

    Trust again? I hear what CL is saying, I do. But I had trusted again and went all in after my ex and I turned out to be the OW. It took a few months but I did see the flags and I did address them and ended it squarely as soon as I knew within 4-6 months. So, yes. I wasted 4-6 months, so what? Yup, another creepy guy. But….. why again were things not how they appeared, well this is when I said it can’t be everyone else so it must be me. And it must and I am doing the work.

    All I can say that I learned in this situation is while you may be vulnerable and you should it is who you are, you still need to be aware and have healthy boundaries. These are just words until a time like now and over the next coming months, they will make so much sense to you as it becomes a newly added ingredient to the wonderful you you are.

    Good luck and stay Mighty.

    • ‘How will I ever trust again?’ Is one of my big questions too at the moment. 2nd day of 7th week post-final d-day. I have no interest at the moment, but I’m thinking forward to the future when/if I am ever ready to look for intimate companionship again. Not only am I worried about my ‘broken picker’ and whether I can trust myself to make a wise choice next time, there are all the concerns about the ‘dating pool’ that’s out there to ‘pick’ from. I now know full well it includes the predatory cheating type who are out there deceiving chumps for sport. They bait their hooks with what they know we are out their looking for and do a great job of imitating the real thing. I’m sure we’ve all feel like this Gonna, so know you’re not alone.

      I read an article a few days ago on a local news site that really drove this dilemma home to me. It was click sit type stuff…modern day ‘Dear Abby’ type advice column in the life and style section of the news. The letter-writer was a woman in her 40s who had been doing ‘online dating’ for ten years. Her relationships had lasted from months to one year, but each man had fled when commitment was mentioned. She wrote that many of them had come back to her proposing ‘friends with benefits’ type arrangements and she was currently negotiating or ‘juggling’ as she put it, five such exes. This made me go cold. My ex could very well have been one of these such men. Imagine. She’s got five side dishes. Each of them probably has a wife at home and a few side dishes like her. Who each have their own buffet of strange. It’s a veritable soup of genital germs out there being shared around. I am going to be very careful if I EVER risk going there again. I feel so much safer being on my own right now.

  • This columns was definitely well-timed, I’ve been asking myself this same question for a while but particularly struggled with it this weekend.

    It seems like I’ve worked so hard to rebuild my life that I cannot imagine putting myself in jeopardy again by starting a new relationship. My ex was a perfectly nice guy until he wasn’t and by then I was already in love, and married, and completely 100% in.

    Now less than a year later I’m still figuring out how to be just me, and he has gone through at least two girlfriends (one of them his AP, but that only lasted a few months to the best of my knowledge).

    I’m more inclined to try to find a way to just be super happy all by myself, because at least I can count on me and have a lot of control, but I think I might be entirely too young to give up on love and having my own family. It just seems like the safer route, heartbreak and drama free, and I’m not much of a risk taker.

    • I feel the same way. It’s been a year since we broke up and I thought by now I would feel open to seeing other people but its only gotten worse. I feel so safe being by myself with no one to take advantage of me. I have become so closed. I don’t even make eye contact with men anymore. It’s not that I have trust issues because I have many people in my life I trust %100 it’s just terrifying for me to take the time to build that trust with someone new. I know that if I was cheated on again the pain would probably kill me. Too many people have gone through it. Girls around me are finding out their boyfriends have cheated. I found out a lot of my ex’s friends had cheated. It is not worth it.

      • I’m not necessarily more closed off, I’m still a very friendly and open person. I like spending time with my friends. But I meet a guy, we flirt for a bit or go on a few dates, and then I quickly feel suffocated and I shut things down. It’s like I just don’t want to give up being single right now, but also I generally enjoy flirting and talking to people so then I end up just repeating the cycle and staying a safe distance away from people.

  • The lessons & wisdom you gain from this experience will teach you to “trust” again.

    It will take time and perspective.

  • Let me add a word about dating. The whole point of dating is to sort out the bad prospects from the good. Many disordered people can keep the mask on for a year, even two, but given time, the mask will slip. The ticket is to give yourself enough time to really evaluate. A disordered person can fake a lot of qualities, short term, but the mask will slip a bit if you are paying attention. Gonna Need figured it out in a year!

    For example, you’ve got the whole story about PTSD and depression served up by Gonna Need’s cheater pants. I’ve been diagnosed with something akin to PTSD resulting from childhood abuse trauma. I’ve had clinical depression (although thanks to all that is Holy, 30 years ago a great therapist raised the floor for me with 6 months on a therapeutic drug and starting me on talk therapy, which I continue to this day, because there is always something new to learn about being a healthy human). Depression doesn’t turn on and off. It colors everything in life. It’s not the Sadz. You see a therapist for PTSD once or twice a week, at most. If someone is dropping off the radar for a week at a time and you are being “patient” and “understanding,” you probably need to stop dating that person exclusively. That’s not cruel or unkind. That’s the purpose of dating. A healthy person takes himself or herself off the market until they are ready to start dating. And they don’t jump into a commitment until they are ready for that. That’s a sign not only about the person you are dating, but about yourself. No reason not to go out to a movie with a depressed person or go to the church carnival or have lunch. But keep boundaries in place while you see how that person is healing. And date other people.

    Part of the problem I have as a chump is that I make excuses for not-so-great aspects of people. The ticket is to figure out what is a true deal breaker. Drinking to excess, for me now–dealbreaker. Any sign of opiod or other drug abuse (or the indicators thereof)–dealbreaker. Treating other people unkindly in front of me–the waitress, his mother, a subordinate, a stranger–dealbreaker. Grandiose stories about how great they are–dealbreaker. On-again, off-again contact–dealbreaker.

    Then, take it slow. Very slow. I’ve been dating a kind man for 6-7 months now. I was in an active relationship with Jackass for maybe 18 months and then on my own, concentrating on healing, for 2 years. We met as a result of a shared interest in an activity and found lots of other things we both enjoy. I’ve met his whole family and have been included in their regular monthly gatherings and their holiday celebration. He’s met my people. In the beginning, I was concerned about his contact with his ex but he was very patient about answering questions, and as we have moved forward, he has slowly but surely redrawn some boundaries with her that made it clear to all her position in things. His word is his bond. And he expects reciprocity on both sides. Now, I’m not moving in! We have big differences in housekeeping standards AND the big bonus is both of us enjoy our space, our separate pets, and our financial security. Maybe someday that will change. But all along the way, I’ve had time to check out how he operates in the world, to check my own responses to him, and to see how I feel about things. And I would not hesitate to end the relationship if I think I’ve chosen wrong AGAIN. Dating doesn’t mean that getting chumped won’t hurt or that you won’t encounter disordered people. But those folks hate to go slow, to answer questions, and to be accountable. We’ve all assumed that if people “love” us and we love them back, that we can trust them. You can trust once you’ve determined a person is trustworthy–by what they do over time.

    • I’m thrilled you’ve moved on to happier times, LAJ. You’ve been a voice of reason, integrity, and compassion since I first found this site a year and a half ago.

      • Thanks, Tempest. I’d say, though, that the cornerstone of that happiness is having my own life, apart from anyone else. I found the pain of losing a beloved friend to untimely death painful in an entirely different way from being Chumped, but the less on for me was that the only way to heal is go through the fire to the other side. And once we do that, we have the confidence to do all sorts of things.

    • Great dating advice!!! So glad you shared. I am getting back into it a little and, after some time to just be, I feel ready but cautious. My sister and brother-in-law vet ALL suitors now!! Well, if I find a man who raises no red flags, I get them to double-check. If he’s not willing to meet them, that’s a red flag!! haha!

      • My big moment came when we therapist said, “He’s a grown up.”

    • “But those folks hate to go slow, to answer questions, and to be accountable.” Great advice thank you LAJ!

  • No other person deserves your trust until they prove they are trustworthy. But on the flip side, no one deserves your distrust until they earn that.

    Everyone I meet, I start a Trust Account for them. The beginning balance is zero, absolutely neutral. Every action can add or subtract to the account.

    I read a book called The Butterfly Effect, which basically says “Everything single thing you do matters.” I never thought about it but I think it’s true. So, don’t ignore anything about a person, it’s all relevant. Any minor lies, minor theft, inconsistencies, nasty comments about people, bad attitude, secrecy and sneaking, disappearances, it all counts. It’s a pain in the ass at times, but it works pretty well. And anyone who talks about being a Good Person or Nice Guy never is. People who are don’t talk about it.

    • The cheater pants that I knew always boaster about what a “nice” guy he was. Turns out he was a chronic liar and a major cheater. Yeah…real nice guy. Nice, as long as you don’t date them.

    • Thank you, Calamity Jane. It is such a short book and it literally changed how I view basically Everything. I think we all have more impact than we really know. I also loved The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews.

  • “That right there is some very important information — some people are just evil motherfuckers.”

    Critical info that most of us had no exposure to UNTIL we met our chumpers. I was a happy, confident, successful professional when I started being love bombed. It altered my brain function, somewhat like hypnotherapy, and I was totally duped by a charismatic, skilled-at-deception, sad sausage. The betrayal by my trusted soul mate (of over 20 years) was a violence of sorts. And recovery from that takes considerable time.

    Gonna, your spidey senses are, as you know, good for ordinary levels of trust. Intimacy involves a much more complex degree of trust. Greater vulnerability. It requires that we have more experience. I am just beginning to see the gift of experience. To see that there is value in dark nights of the soul. For me. From it I acquire depth. It demands that I self explore. It makes it mandatory that I apply my newly acquired skills. I have been alchemized by it. Galvanized.

    I am in awe of you. You have done everything right. I did not. You need time to let Experience teach you. IMO you will emerge with wisdom and mightiness, and they will guide you well. You won’t have to trust others. You will trust Gonna. Many hugs.

    • If you feel well enough to read, you might look at Thomas Moore’s book, ‘Dark Nights of the Soul’.

    • Can’t remember who makes the great memes Memes here as I’m fairly new to contributing but, we need one for “some people are just evil motherfuckers!”

  • Not suggesting at all that this experience happened due to any fault of yours – BUT – do heed CL’s advice to “fix your picker” which is something I continually work on.

    I wonder – where did you meet this guy – online? I think there needs to be a complete checklist of sensible things to do when you start agreeing to date a complete stranger. I spent a period of my life going on dating sites, and it’s enough to rip the soul out of the best of us. I can list a whole rap sheet of guys who pulled this and similar tricks on me – for which, through experience, I developed some pretty effective detective skills.

    First, make sure you meet his family and friends. Do his grown kids like him? Has he got a couple of long term buddies? If there are none = red flag.

    Second, meet people who know him from the past, colleagues, or club members, and chat with them. If there are none obvious =red flag.

    Third, he must be transparent. If he has “emptional” issues, why are you starting behind the eight ball? Your standards as to what YOU need are more important than trying to fix/understand a “project boyfriend”? Have a list of must-haves and then walk on by if they don’t meet your grade. This sounds dreadful but it will cut out some of the loners/losers who trawl those dating sites.

    Finally, IMHO widowers are to be avoided because the dead wife is the saint who always be setting the standard for you.

    I had a time when I said I would not trust again. What evolved was a mindset where I trust myself that if another D-day happens, I have Plan B in mind. That includes ALWAYS being financially independent of any partner. Then let them do their thing, and just push your boat out if they don’t live up to standards. In the meantime enjoy each day.

    • Marci, What is it about the absense of close friends that is a red flag? My cheating h has had close friends but the relationships ended because their wives mustve known something I didnt. Now my h has acquaintenance friends but none that he would ever confide in.

      • No ability to connect. No empathy. No reciprocity, in which there is give and take for a given time long enough to call it a friendship. If you can not do friends you pretty much fail at relationships.

        • Denvergirl has it right. If a guy has no platonic social life (ie. Man friends, couple friends, or interest groups) he is either a loner or is pretty damn boring. If he has managed to retain some long term buddies (not arsemonkeys, but just solid boring friends) then he must have shown decent behaviour over the years.

          When I met my SO he was a stranger sitting on an airplane. He was a self described chump, but I listened carefully and remained sceptical for a good three months until I finally met his two oldest friends and their wives. They clearly hed him in high regard, but were also able to tease him mercilessly, and this was far more telling of his character than any self testimony.

          In the ensuing three years, in meeting his mother, I have slowly gained a picture of his life, and can see the good side of him, as well as his weaknesses. He was indeed gaslighted and humiliated by his ex, who to this day continues to try to bullly him via the grown kids.

          Any guy who will not include you in family & friends, or who never takes you to his home, or who is mysteriously busy with his “other, pre-existing interests” must be viewed as a possible player.

          The only attitude we have conflicted about was his original contention that he should remain “friends” with former lovers. He thought of that as being a nice guy; I argued that being civil while passing in the street is a far cry from taking them on lunch dates etc. especially without me present. I made that one a hill to die on since I firmly believe that sexual history with a person makes it so simple to fall back into old behaviours if the opportunity arises. He finally saw my logic and has agreed that showing respect for our relationship is more important than winning popularity contests, He agreed that the old GF thing was about attention-getting and he has made it clear to the chancers that he’s off the market.

          While I enjoy my life with him, I will never completely let down my guard. This is partly about being unable to trust but I like to think that my “love myself first, and have Plan B” is not a bad strategy in later lif.

          • Marci, by your first two I’m a walking red flag, I imagine quite a few chumps are by that description. The only family I have is 4000 miles away and we are not super close. By the time I got away from Saddam my entire social circle was gone save three long time friends. One of those 2 friends did the has abandoned me, I’m no fun you see, the other I cut out of my life due to Switzerland. I have another couple of several years long friends that are long distance. I now have a couple newer long distance friends. I know many people in my hood, I’m becoming friends with a couple and have coworkers, but no one new in my life is likely to meet them until I know they are worth introducing.

            All that said, I’m with Coquette on red flags :

            • This is just such a fascinating thread…of threads on this post.
              Sorry if we’re high-jacking.

              The X had no hobbies and no friends, long-term or otherwise.
              Lost all contact with college buddies and his small-town upbringing buddies and I always wondered why his 2 younger brothers never invited him on a special fishing vacation. (ALERT – RED FLAG)

              I’m not sure why it wasn’t a red flag to me, but he said ‘all his friends were work customers’.

              I’m saying…no, those are business ppl, not friends…what don’t you get.?
              Asked him why he didn’t want any hobbies…we had a huge garage and he came from a farm and he wouldn’t even plant a thing in the ground.

              The more he was into his 3 yr affair the more he neglected everybody around him; First friends, next my family reunions (which I drove 1500 miles to every year) and he rejected his mother coming out on the train during the entire time and refused to go back to visit her at xmas. I believe it was shocking behavior, and his mother noticed…but yanno, what Asshole wants, Asshole gets.

              He sure broke a lot of hearts and now lives in a a trailer in a trailer park.

    • I actually met him through mutual friends, and we are affiliated with the same workplace. He’s well-liked and mild-mannered. And I certainly didn’t want a boyfriend ‘project’… I accepted his emotional issues and complicated past because in every other way, he seemed perfect for me. (Mirroring, I’ve learned, is a sign of sociopathy. He was VERY good at saying/doing what I wanted and needed.) I wish there had been more obvious red flags. The only ones I can see in hindsight are ones you have to be actively looking for, and I don’t want to go through life presuming that everyone I meet is out to hurt me. “Fixing the picker” is so much harder than it sounds!

      I’m not sure I will always see the warning signs, but I really like your approach – trust that if it does go to shit, you can “push your boat on by”. That’s what I’m going to work towards. Thank you.

  • The love – bombing is another big warning sign, too. If they come on really strong in the beginning, that’s a warning sign.

  • Does anyone else feel that the popular media in our culture trains us to see love-bombing as true love? Novels, movies, TV shows, music…my ex always reeled me in by acting like a character. It was/is the only thing that felt/feels real to me. When I am in a relationship without the grand gestures and sappy talk it feels dead 🙁

    • JBaby—yes yes yes! I too and used to the grand gestures and can’t tell if they have ‘real’ intentions behind them or not. I was lovebombed slightly by my XH….then POP came along and mega bombed–both men used mostly words, not tangible items to love bomb.

      Then after 5 yrs of being ‘alone’, I decided to date a man. A widower. He was verbal with his praise and very thoughtful with his actions….flowers/cards/gifts etc. I was always wondering “is he legit? I mean there ARE some well intentioned men who act this way and I AM PRETTY DAMN SPECIAL so, I do deserve this treatment. ;-)”

      I still don’t know if that was legitimate fondness for me or just a way to lovebomb. I do know that after our agreeing to close our dating profiles (‘no need to seek out anyone else’), I inadvertently found out he was on the dating site we met through. I dumped his ass within an hour.

      It was nice to get the gifts, compliments etc but not worth the constant back of my mind questioning.

      That ended about 5 months ago. He immediately closed his dating profile so I assume he went on to his next conquest right then. Just yesterday, I got notice that he’d viewed my profile (why? for what purpose? lol) and see he now has an active profile. I will NOT view his profile–not giving him a kibble. I am certainly not going to be his next in line again

      because I DESERVE BETTER!!!

      • Oh man, JBaby, you are absolutely right about how love bombing is portrayed in popular culture–so many romantic comedies portray it as a sign of true love, even when the recipient very clearly rejects her “suitor’s” advances. But the guy (it’s almost always a guy, people seem more inclined to view women who do this as what they are, stalkers) just keeps on wearing her defenses down until she finally realizes how dedicated and loving he is, and then the movie ends.

        My God, that was the freaking script of my first few months with X, only the ending was just the beginning of years of emotional abuse, starting with the stone cold silent treatment I got the first time I veered just a little bit off-script.

  • Also, here’s how cynical I am:

    My thought as I read this is Cluster B + dead wife = probable homicide

          • I thought suicide but if he’s that good at deception, homicide sounds very believable.

          • Yes. This has been haunting me. And the homicide thing crossed my mind, too. It’s comforting to know I’m not totally crazy for having those thoughts.

  • Gonna… I am going to take a chance and offer up some advice that will likely get me a 2×4 upside my head here. Don’t be me.

    I married a covert narcissist who, like your ex, is an accomplished and gifted liar. I also grew up under a raging narcissist father and enabling borderline mother. My experience tells me that the people closest to me will never have my best interests at heart. People only want what they can suck out of me and then turn around and blame me for being so stupid.

    Who the FUCK does that to someone they love?!

    I’ve come to hate, loathe, and despise the rest of the world. I’ve given up friendships with anyone else because they’re pointless. I don’t reach out except here on Chump Lady because these are the only people who truly understand. It’s my only outlet. Unless they’ve been through the wringer themselves, nobody else has a fucking clue as to the gut-punch we’ve been through. Every fiber of my being is consumed by my anger. The truth is nobody wants any part of that. I don’t blame them. I don’t want it either.

    It’s not the first D-day that does it; its the second. On my first D-day, my cheater wife lied just to save her own ass. And boy was she brilliant! I absolutely BEGGED her to tell me EVERYTHING and she just rattled off lie on top of other lies. They hand out Oscars for the second-rate acting compared to the brilliance that came out of her mouth and the look in her eyes.

    D-day #2 was when I was finally able to crack her phone open and uncovered all her videos, photos, and texts to her boyfriend. It was a whole new world that I have never been privy to. And it took even more digging and even more D-days to realize just how easy it is to lie to me. I lose, she wins. And I see the same pattern everywhere else. Now, when anyone opens their mouth, I trust that it’s all just bullshit.

    There was a scene in “The Dark Knight Rises” where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character talks about being bounced around foster homes because he couldn’t just “move on” and get over his anger. After awhile, people just stop “understanding.” He learned to mask his anger by practicing smiling in the mirror.

    I do a LOT of just smiling these days.

    • Betrayednomore, I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve gone through and are still going through.

    • Betrayednomore, no 2×4 here, just so sorry that you started out with such a bad FOO and then, predictably, ran into a narcissist spouse. But you already know that there are people in the world who are good and decent because you see that Chump Nation is full of those people. I hope you are (like me) in therapy. One of my favorite therapy moments came when my insurer sent me to a psychiatrist for an evaluation for insurance purposes and after asking me questions for an hour about my background, she said, in a somewhat alarmed manner, “You’ll be in therapy all your life.” There are so many things to unlearn when you have been clinging as a child to a pair of barbed-wire monkeys instead of real parents. That’s what therapy at its best did for me; helped my see and question the very things in childhood that helped me survive but that, in adult life, kept me from making a happy life. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.

      • Everyone would benefit from great therapy for their whole life. Families filled that role in earlier times. Or the court jester. Or a medium. SIncere introspection creates an examined life and the process gives one a chance to find the meaning and worth of that life. Kudos, LaJ!

      • Betrayed, I totally get what you are saying, and as a child of a malignant narcissist father, and a covert narcissist mother, I think that we are set up to attract personality disordered people. How our family of origin installs those buttons, and other personality disordered people recognize them is mind boggling. It sets us up for a lifetime of unhappiness unless we start connecting those buttons and uninstalling them.

        I really understand what you’re talking about, and how scary it is to let people in our lives. And I have had times personally when I have felt just so tired about the prospect of being vulnerable to one more person. And those are the times that I have put up barriers to other people. Over the years though, through therapy, as I’ve started to connect the dots with my narc installed buttons, I guess you could call them, I have found that I’m starting to trust myself more to open up to just a few people because I’m getting better at recognizing narc bullshit and protecting myself. I have tossed a few narc friends out on their butts too. I’m now very, very choosy about who I allow in. And one strike or two strikes you’re out. But I really understand that feeling of just being so, so tired of getting screwed over yet again.

        I think as you heal it’ll get a little bit easier. For now I would say, just be gentle with yourself. That, this healing stuff is a huge task and it takes time. There is a lot to unlearn.

        I’m rooting for you and sending you a hug.

    • BetrayedNoMore–how far out are you from the last D-day? are you divorced yet? Am I recalling correctly that your wife is still living in the house? I fully understand how you feel; it’s as if a mask has to come up to be around other people and our honest self (with all its suffering) can only be revealed to other chumps.

      No real healing can take place until the cheater is out of the house. My metaphor continues to be trying to heal from surgery with the scalpel still stuck in the wound.

    • “I lose, she wins.” I remember telling myself that to try to come to some level of “acceptance,” not sure I ever truly will do so.

      I am so sorry you are going through this, BetrayedNoMore. I will never fully fathom their lies, double lives and betrayals. I sometimes wonder, if I was so easy to hurt and humiliate, shouldn’t I have been easy to leave decades before my ex did so?? Why didn’t they all just leave us in peace before so many years were stolen from us? I have come to believe some people are just evil.

    • Betrayed, please do not give up. I am probably older than you and I know many many wonderful people. People who are happily married and have been for many years. One of the most beautiful marriages was the one of grandparents. They were so kind and considerate of each other. When my grandmother died my grandfather said she was the love of his life and he missed her for the rest of his. My grandmother and talked about how loving and kind he was. He said the same thing about her.
      My brother was cheated on by his wife. She abandoned him and his children. I mean that literally. That did not stop him from falling in love and marrying again and having more children and being happy.
      What you need to do is heal yourself first. I suggest you look up “cycle of need”. What it is is a need expressed by an infant, if the need is not met the baby begins to form opinions, good and bad, long before it can talk. If the baby is mistreated or neglected what happens is he either goes in one direction and becomes antisocial or he goes in another and clings to everyone. You may have grabbed your wife and hung on for dear life even though she was not worth it. You need to fix your picker, as CL says, and that means getting into some intense counseling. I suggest EMDR because that takes you back to infancy and helps you sort out all the bad things that happened to you. Those memories don’t go away but they stop having so much power over you. Don’t give up. There are so many loving people on this blog who have suffered the same pain as you. There are 7 billion people on this planet and some of them are horrible but most of them are good, decent people. You will find someone someday. Just keep coming here.

  • There is a movie about this exact thing called “Deceived” with Goldie Hahn. I used to think it was so far fetched until I experienced, and learned about sociopaths.


    Sounds like he was ‘disappearing’ to reappear in the other womans home. Typical of Narcissistic behavior. Consider yourself luck you found out when you did and that the other gal was so understanding and open to working together. They are often so arrogant that they don’t think you will even look so they don’t bother to slam your character to the other gal(s). But when they suspect, watch out. They will attack everything good and filled with light about you. Best of luck in learning how to be you again. Hugs.

    • My pretty-sure-he’s-a-narc ex was always online, always…except occasionally when he’d disappear for 10-12hrs and then resurface saying he’d had food poisoning. For a guy who prided himself on his culinary skills, he had food poisoning a lot. I don’t know what he was doing during those times and I don’t want to know, but I have a strong feeling now that he wasn’t driving the porcelain bus.

  • Gonna, I understand how you feel. I’ll never forget confronting my ex about evidence I found in his journal of an affair with his coworker. He started explaining it away and telling me I didn’t understand what I read…even though I’d just read it in black and white. Listening to his explanations, I felt like maybe I WAS crazy and had misunderstood what I read. The cognitive dissonance almost made my head explode. That was the moment I realized how very good he was at lying, and that he’d been lying to me for a long time.

  • Self-pity is the hallmark of a sociopath – beware of any person who wants your sympathy from the get-go. That is a huge red flag. Also, the disappearing acts is more evidence of a person living a double life. Connecting the dots is the key to an overall true picture of these sick, fake people – and then run like heck away from them and anyone closely associated with him/her.

  • I’m probably going to get murdered for this but it sounds like a Sex and the City episode: Grieving widower, etc.
    As far as how do you trust again? I don’t know. You had a year with this jerk, I had 20 years and discovered that for many of those years he was cheating. That was quite the blow that dark November night. Not to get into a comparison of pain but one year, with few sunk costs, is something you can walk away from. Go completely NC, block, block, block, and next time think carefully about red flags. I know how many I missed, when I look back now, and I’m guessing you can also see a few things that probably warranted closer attention.

    Good luck.


    Guys check out this video. I think I found the Chumplady theme song.
    Listen to Carousel my Melanie Martinez too, also great.
    I work out to this…..keeps my head in a good place.

  • Great posts! I just wanted to add….I had the same thing happen to me.

    Widower, (we weren’t married) fake grieving…business travel….then the other woman found me on his twitter…she also acted like she was as devastated as I was. For about 30 days. When he and I decided to try and work things out ( after all….we had been together 6 years) After that she began to contact him & they resumed where they left off…covertly. She had called him everything but a white man & encouraged me to “run like my hair was on fire” away from him…because she wanted him.

    I was part of his family too. I was the respectable, presentable girlfriend that he could take out in public & show his family. She was the BDSM “little, rope whore”.

    That is actually a thing btw…look it up.

    I finally dumped him after he had driven 4 hours to be with me & I made him turn around and drive home after yet another of his lies.

    I’m finally starting to get some balance back in my life after 6 months. And yes, kids or no, married or no it still hurts like hell. Hang in there.

    • My shithead ex was also a widower. Like Marci said, I’d steer clear of widowers from now on, even though I know my ex’s sociopathy had nothing to do with that. There is just no way you can win the sainthood contest (believe me, it adds a whole extra level to the “pick me” dance), and for the entire time I was with my ex, I had to hear ad nauseum about his late wife and what an amazing mother/wife/cook etc. etc. she was (I do believe she was an amazing person). I lost count of how many times we’d be out in company and he’d start telling stories about “my wife,” obviously not referring to me, and people would just stare at me not knowing how to react (we weren’t married but rather common-law spouses). It was as though she was in the other room making tea, and I was just some stupid seat-filler. At first it didn’t bother me because, hey, he was the grieving widower, and I felt really bad about what he’d been through. But after a couple years, it really started to get under my skin, especially when I had to hear the same stories over and over and fucking over, when my own stories never got heard. So I finally told him how much this bothered me, which meant that he actually did it more. -All unintentionally, of course.

      Turns out his late wife’s perfection didn’t prevent her from being a chump, any more than my pick-me dancing protected me. He cheated on her when she was battling cancer! And I found out just after my own D-day that for years she’d had to suffer through his porn addiction, online antics, and constant triangulation, too. The way he tried to frame it was that he “had to cheat” because she got sick. But knowing what I do now, especially after having read Gabor Mate’s work on how unexpressed stress and anger affects the body, I believe if there was a causal relationship, it went the other way.


  • I’m right there with you sister…as many of us are. Eventually, someone’s gonna come along and you’ll trust again. I hope ha ha ha…

  • For me, unless you found CL right after the first chumping, you sort of go for the reverse cheater the next time. So for me, I had a covert narc the first time, second time, thinking I am not doing that again, I went for an overt narc. Now I am stepping back and looking at me. What I know is that I grew up with a nasty covert narc step dad and an enabling mother and an overt narc bio dad. So I am learning all I can about my FOO issues, and then I am applying small lessons. I think that for us chumps, we, especially if we grew up in a crazy family, we don’t know what it feels like to be in the ‘normal’. So I am working on making my friendships work, in a way that is all the things that friendships need to be (When you come from this sort of environment, you lose sight of your value as a human being) Semi friends, pffft out of my life. I feel like once I have a group of great friends, and I internalize what that feels like, I am going to employ those rules of friendship to any romantic interest and then add every red flag warning to the mix. The way I figure it, on a planet of 7 billion people, I might find 1 or 2 men who meet that standard. But I only need one. 🙂

  • I’m sorry you are going through so much. It is really hard to deal with the betrayal, the grief, and the sense of hurt and abandonment all in one fell swoop. It leaves one feeling like they every think they knew and understood is a lie. If I could be tricked so completely by this guy, what else in my life do I need to seriously reexamine.

    I think you have a few things going for you:
    1) You actually got corroboration of the true narrative from the Fellow-Chump. As you mentioned in the letter – he was lying down to the end. One of the things that kept me stuck in Wreckconcilation-Land for a long while was the fact that to this day… my STBX stands by the claim that she’s “just a friend”. I never saw hard proof that he was actually inserting Tab A into Slot B. Up until really the last few weeks right before I filed I couldn’t get into his phone and when I did I just glanced at a few things (i.e. I didn’t have pages of screen shots or photos or the like). Even when you are 99% certain that your take on the situation is correct, there is always that nagging concern that you are blowing up your life and you are wrong. It would feel so good to have him or her, or someone actually say “Yes, we have been screwing for like 2 years. You are correct.” When your mind starts to reel and you are like “wait, what just happened”, it’s pretty great to have like an outside resource that helps you confirm “oh yeah, he’s a lying sack of shit… that’s what happened.”

    2) I think (I hope) that once you are over the pain, you will be able to recognize this particular flavor of Shenanigans in the future. I had one of these guys and we dated for maybe 7 to 8 months. The early part of our relationship was fine, normal. But then I started noticing things like – left town nearly ever Thursday night and came back usually on Monday night. Didn’t actually have a place of his own, but was crashing with a buddy. I never really met or socialized with any of his friends. There were several occasions that plans with a friend of his were made, but then they always canceled. I remember I once called him and I got that “gotta get off the phone with you ASAP and not show any interest in the person on the line” stonewall… he was probably with whoever it was that he had on the other end of his life.

    So like Tracy and others have said – this particular brand of asshole is out there, but once you clue into the pattern, you recognize it immediately. In my case, and in your case, it took you some time to put the pieces together as to the most likely explanation for this type of behavior. It won’t protect you against every type of asshole, but just think of all the cheating assholes you will now avoid getting mixed up with if you learn from this experience and about the second time some guy comes up with a convoluted excuse as to why he has to cancel plans, coupled with the fact that he goes radio silent for several days at a time… you will just be “Peace, I’m out. Not sure what your deal is, but I don’t play this game.”

  • I agree with CAGal, once you’ve been through it–and most importantly, once you educate yourself about NPD and other personality disorders–you will be so much better equipped to see the red flags in the future.

    And if you’re like me and probably many others here, as you learn more about PDs you’ll begin to identify similar patterns in other relationships, a previous partner, a colleague, a parent, a sibling . . . almost all of us have probably been exposed to a disordered person or in a relationship with one long before we figured out what we were dealing with when it came to our spouses or SOs.

    As you learn more about PDs and look back wondering how you couldn’t have seen the problems or identified other relationships with a disordered person before, the red flags will come to you in hindsight. It can be a painful experience kicking yourself for not having seen or paid attention at the time, but it will be one more tool in helping you identify and heed red flags in the future.

    And in my experience at least, even covert narcs like my X have “tells” that can be spotted well before the mask slips if you recognize them when you see them. His was selective attention. One day at lunch together, after weeks of love bombing and hanging on my every word as if I was the most scintillating person on the planet, I noticed he had stopped paying attention during what I thought had been a very engaging and interesting discussion about one of the classes we’d met in. Instead of recouping after I stopped to look at him, waiting for him to notice that I was no longer talking, he took it as an opportunity to leave, abruptly stood up, and said, “Sorry, I have to run,” with no apparent awareness or concern that he had just cut off our conversation mid-sentence.

    Of course that episode resulted in the first of many spackles to come, but now it would most definitely give me pause. That’s just one example of many, but I do believe you will be surprised by how much more attuned your picker will get with time and how you will find yourself able to identify disordered folks and their patterns much more easily than you did before.

    • I agree with you. It can be hard to recognize the exact moment when someone goes from just having an “off day” or is “really busy with work” to, I don’t know what’s going on with you… but obviously there is something weird and I’m out. With my married boyfriend (as I called him). I was looking at my plans for the weekend once and was like “huh, I have no spent a weekend with my supposed boyfriend since before Christmas” (in like late February). But once I recognized that problem, all of sudden my mind was open to other red flags. And one “red flag” alone may not be a big deal. When STBX started in with the “just a friend” Ho-Worker, he was texting with her on the phone all the time, picking up bar tabs, helping her out when she got a flat tire, helping with stuff around her apartment… and so on and so on.

      I remember saying “I don’t care if you do those things, I care that you are doing all those things at once, for one person, who is not me”. It can be a hard call to know at what point do you allow ONE thing to be your deal breaker (say someone goes out of town every other weekend to help his ailing parents) or do you need multiple things. I know when my grandmother was ailing and they were selling her house, my mom was going over to her mother’s place every other weekend. She would leave on Friday evening, drive 3 hours, spend the weekend cleaning and checking in my grandmother, then drive home to get in on Sunday night. She was very busy, didn’t have a lot of time to chat on the phone and sometimes my dad went, sometimes he didn’t. So this is a legit thing. Or it could be a great cover for a double life. …


  • Very timely post, I’m in the same mindset at the moment. He’s been out of the house 3 months now so I know it’s early on. Like others have said I do think time helps that and being willing to risk again comes with that. But also educating myself on what to look for in others. After 15 years of marriage I’ve certainly matured a lot as an adult as well and have very different perspectives on life and what I need/expect in a mate than when I was 20.

    I think for me, I need to get to the point where I’m ok with being without someone. Yes, there may be someone out there for me, who is a healthy adult who respects and truly loves me. But I need to be ok with there not being someone. And I think this gut reaction of “how will I ever trust again” is a healthy defense mechanism right now. I shouldn’t even be considering another relationship at this point, so that feeling helps avoid that. I have a lot of healing to do, and a lot to focus on with my school-aged daughter as well. And then when I *am* ready, I’ll be willing to take it very slow and cautiously because I’m not just desperate to fill this hole in me.

    Of course, I joke to my friends that if I’m considering dating someone, I’m going to require he get a background check, credit check, lie detector test, and psychological evaluation. And a psych eval for me too for even considering dating again. 🙂

  • Gonna, I have found that building resilience is even more important than building trust. Trust is something that can be betrayed and gutted as everyone here knows; resilience on the other hand is something that NO ONE and nothing can take from you. Trust is out there interacting in the world and at the mercy of others, which leaves you very vulnerable; resilience is deeply internal, a sacred place you guard in the core of your being. My favorite metaphor for this is the ocean: resilience is the deep, quiet and very still place at the bottom of the ocean (your self), which cannot be touched by the hurricane happening at the surface.

    Paradoxically, the more resilience you have, the more you are able to risk trusting again because if it goes bad, you have a different point of reference to grab on to. When you build up resilience, no matter what chaos and pain is at the surface, you know you have a place of refuge and strength to dwell in. I think of people I know who have been through hell and came out the other side still able to love, able to trust, able to carry on with courage and humor – and those who didn’t. And the difference is resilience.

    • Really good point, Athene. I would also add that for many of us, we have no idea of how strong we really are until we have to walk through the fire, so to speak. We here at Chump Nation are the perfect example of this. We are/have …..walking\walked through our own personal hell, and yet here we are offering strength and hope to fellow chumps.

  • I, too thought my cheater was my soul mate & trusted him completely. I felt I had nothing to worry about because of his low self esteem. How will I ever trust again, or forgive myself if I make a similar mistake? He left 5 years ago, & it’s a glacial-paced process for me, but I realized that I can decide that IN MY WORLD, THERE IS NO CHEATING. I can learn to trust myself by healing & taking care of me & not try to get into a relationship until I am okay. Someone told me, “It could be worse.” I cringed at that for a long time until I began to heal. I still cringe, but believe it, too. I see him every day at work. I raised his son while was out whoring. This is a club I never expected to have credentials for. So, it’s a process. Learning to forgive myself for falling in the hole of hell & losing myself. I am healing, no hurry to get with someone else yet (or maybe even ever) & dammit, no one will keep me down.

  • I do know how to trust, I have amazing long-term, very close friendships, I have an excellent relationship with several family members, and more distant ones with several who clearly have narcissistic traits. I get along with pretty much everybody at work, it’s not hard.

    But woooooooh did I have a terrible picker for men!

    I feel much more confident now, because of

    a) the resilience Athene mentioned above. I know I can survive the collapse of a relationship, I know I will love again, I know I will have good sex again, I know I will be OK. And that kind of confidence only comes from experience. I don’t have to cling to any man because of fear of being alone, or of not being OK. My kids led me to keep trying longer than I would otherwise have done, because he was their dad. But for me? Now I know how to get out, pretty fast.

    b) the knowledge that some people are just evil motherfuckers. Learning that there are people who really just don’t care about others, even their own kids, and that they don’t all look like arrogant assholes off the bat, that was a hard hard lesson, but an important one. I really did think my ex had a good heart, despite all his fucked-up-ed-ness. Nope.

    c) not granting trust as the default option, and not moving into a relationship too fast. Now I know how to keep my eyes open, how to judge, with time and observation, whether someone deserves my trust. My ex threw up so many red flags, I should have run so far so fast so early! But I was so understanding, and so damned soft-hearted (yes, he led with having the sadz, so predictable now that I know). Not any more, not towards someone who cannot reciprocate.

    So it doesn’t scare me to date again, to start a relationship again. I feel like I can figure things out pretty well, and while I may be sad or annoyed by the end of a relationship that looked promising, it won’t devastate me ever again.

  • Paigeup, I’m also a glacial-paced processor. I flip every stone, again and again and again until I don’t need to overturn them anymore; I’ve found whatever I’m going to find. For me, at least, the best way t o move forward is to do everything in my power to try and understand what the fuck happened and why. It makes people impatient. They want me to move on faster than I am able, for their sake and they think mine, and I push back. Betrayal by the person you trusted above all others blows up your life and your mind.

    • Yes, thank you. Your comments are validating. It is good to not be alone.

    • Time is our friend, if we’re doing the work you are doing–going through the pain, sorting out the red flags we missed, and fixing our picker–it’s going to take time usually measured in years. And no one else has a right to push us to move faster. They can go ahead and be patient about stuff in their own lives. Take your time!

  • While some may reflect on the cheaters new life with others, my ex has issues with me dating again and finding a new love. He wants me to be miserable forever celibate never experiencing the touch of another human being. (He was the only guy I ever slept with.) I will not give him the satisfaction of ever thinking that I just closed myself off after my marriage to him. He cheated and yet he’s so jealous.

  • Gonna-

    So sorry you’re in this place. You said that you believed him even when you knew he was lying and you sort of blamed that on your gut. Your gut was the one telling you he was lying though. You wanting to believe him really has nothing to do with your gut. That’s a totally different problem but here is the good news: Your gut is what ultimately helped you draw your boundaries. You found out and your gut told you not to reconcile. What’s even better? You listened. That makes you so mighty!

    I know you’re in hell but give yourself and your gut just a little slack. It’s a relatively fresh hell for you since you just found out about his betrayal a couple of weeks ago. A really fresh hell actually. The wound is new and it’s going to take time to heal. How much time is very individual.

    It’s normal that you’re second guessing yourself because you feel like you “let yourself be conned.” You didn’t. You’re a human with human emotions and you were dating a widower. You believed (as most normal people would) that no one would use that to get their disordered rocks off. You were dealing with a real special kind of disordered wingnut in my humble opinion. That’s why you wanted to believe him even when he was lying. I don’t think normal people can wrap their brains around what kind of person would do what he did.

    Bottom line? There is nothing wrong with your gut instinct. You just need to heal and learn from some of the things chump lady pointed out, like the disappearing act. That might set off bells and whistles the next time you come across it so it’s a valued learning experience.

    I think Tracy says it best in her book in her gain a life chapter when she reminds us that we shouldn’t want these fuckwits to be the last people we love. I know I certainly don’t. I’m not ready to date yet. I have a very long history of having a bad picker and ignoring my gut instincts. I’m working hard on repairing those things because I don’t want my ex asshat to be the last person I love. I need to learn my worth first.

    Based on what you wrote, you valued your worth enough to cut him loose as soon as you found out. You’re further along than a lot of us so hang on to that!

    Jedi hugs to you.

  • I love this blog, and I have been reading it for ages because I loved the strong people I met here and the wisdom you’ve shared.

    And I am so freakin glad you are here right now. I have just been chumped myself, and in the most hurtful and unexpected way by a minister who I trusted and thought I had a good and close friendship with. As of last Saturday.

    Turns out that the lady we all warned him about a few years ago – to which he responded by gaslighting, accusing us of troublemaking, being uncharitable, etc – was in fact engaging in yah-hey-hey with him. Whoda thunk.

    She had been the illicit lover of another ‘celibate’ minister beforehand, which my minister and everyone else knew about, and which we also told him, just in case he’d ‘forgotten’. In fact, he was friends with the ‘wayward’ minister throughout this man’s laicisation process.

    And so he got given the now ex-minister’s prayer books and shit, and apparently also ended up with his ex-girlfriend … Which was for me like discovering incest in my family, and this is when I almost barfed at work.

    And now she’s reported him, and he is in doo-doo up to his neck and it’s getting higher, and so he decided – bless his heart – to reveal to me on Saturday morning that he had in fact gotten intimate with her. But he then immediately rushed into a LOOOOOOOONG description of the oh-so-unfair disciplinary process he was now involved in, and finished up with a charming appeal to my good nature to help him get off the hook.

    Coz I am the kind of person who just rolls over, you see. Especially when a minister is threatened by a Designing Woman who is Vindictive and Seduced Him.

    No contrition was expressed to me at all for effectively disembowelling me. Just informing me that he’d given the authorities my name as someone who could corroborate some evidence he’d given in his own defence. HE DID NOT ASK ME FIRST …

    This man and I were – I thought – good friends; trusting friends who got on well, who thought alike, who supported each other as minister and congregation member. I have put my heart and soul into that church community. I loved him; I really did – and somehow I managed not to seduce him in the process. Our whole community loved this guy; he was fun, serious, prayerful and all that. You could rely on him in a crisis, and he was supportive and kind and a real man of prayer.

    I have been utterly blindsided by this. I now have to question EVERYTHING he ever said and did with me. Know the feeling, Chump Nation?

    Do you know, I have never experienced the Infidelity Diet before, and it’s amazing – I’ve lost 1kg in four days. And hey, that ‘sudden desire to vomit in the garden beds at work’ feeling? Wow.


    Because of ChumpLady, I have been able to process this much quicker, recognise the lies and gaslighting, tap into the anger, use this constructively, and I am lining up my ducks. I have been through all my diaries, established a chronology, and documented, documented, documented. I am being interviewed by the authorities on Thursday. He is toast.

    And I mean that in a prayerful and Christian way, of course.

    • Hey, if it was good enough for St Paul to hand someone over to Satan to be taught not to sin…good on you for doing what’s necessary to keep him accountable. It truly is the most loving thing you can do for a person who won’t admit to wrongdoing.

    • Glad to hear you won’t cover for him, Jesus cheaters seem to be a special sort.

  • PS The reason I am posting this here is that a) this is pretty much the first day I have eaten anything and can think reasonably straight, and b) Gonna, I know the feeling about not being able to trust your gut.

    The spidey senses aren’t 100% infallible. In my case, I KNEW there was something going on, but I was being gaslighted, so my gut was actually right and I should have listened.

    Right now, I am having to fight the seductive undertow – to run to the very person who cannot comfort me, and say, ‘WHY WHY WHY WHY?’, and demand closure, and scream at him for hours, and demand that he apologise.

    I can’t do any of that right now, or perhaps ever. When he told me, I wanted to say I forgave him, except that I realised that he had expressed NO CONTRITION for what he’d done.

    Disordered much?

    And I also learned a hard lesson – that I think I was lured in by sparkles here. Sparkles, I am now realising, are a really really good indicator that the person’s disorderedness will fit just a bit too nicely with mine. I now am learning to run when I feel a ‘magical attraction’ to a man.

    Oh, it’s so sad.

    I hate belonging to the club nobody wants to join.

  • Gonna, you’ve given a voice to what so many of us are thinking and feeling. I’m two years out from my d-day. 14 years with my husband. We had 1 and a 2 year old together when he literally walked out on us with zero cause and zero warning, and moved to the other side of the country for the AP I’d learned about just 20 hours before. Surprise! I don’t love you and you’re a single mom in the blink of an eye. There were so many far-reaching implications surrounding his departure, but none so personally terrifying as the notion of EVER trusting another man again. I, too, felt like my radar was in great shape. With the help of Chump Nation, I’ve come to see some of the more glaring signals that I missed (or rather, that I spackled over with the belief that this was just loving someone for better or worse). My ID, Ego and SuperEgo can’t reconcile with each other over how trust will ever be possible again. I wrote about that very thing at Hopefully just knowing that others are in the same boat will help. I know it did for me when I found Chump Nation.

    • That was a wonderful piece of writing on your blog! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Some horrible stories here. I think the thing that helps me when I think about trusting people is to make every person in my life (except my child) dispensable. Friends, relatives, coworkers, everyone. There is no one who cant be cut out. When people think they have a “right” to be in your life is when you start getting shit from them. Yes, it’s hurtful to be mistreated by others but you don’t have to hang around for further mistreatment.

  • I’m so prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and not wanting to nitpick little things, and I find it hard to think critically about what people are telling me when they’re right there in front of me – I am a sitting duck basically. But I’m good at seeing patterns if I write it down. (I’m borderline ASD and apparently this combination is very common for people like me.) So, my therapist has suggested I keep notes of things that seem inconsistent or off with the next guy. Then I will see patterns rather than spackle each individual item as it comes up, or have concrete examples to bounce off a friend if I’m doubting myself.

    I realize the writing it down may make people uncomfortable – like I’m keeping a record of wrongs. But I’ve come to realize that people who really care about me will support me doing what I need to do to keep myself safe. I will be open about what I’m doing and why, and I don’t intend to use it as a club – more like, hey, I’ve noticed you keep doing this thing that bothers me, what’s up with that?

    The other thing I need to do is not throw my whole heart and soul into a new date – I’m liking the idea of a trust account that starts at 0 and is added to or subtracted from with each action!

  • (Accidentally posted this as a response to another comment earlier because I’m technologically inept.)

    Thank you so much for your response, CL! I’m not going to lie, living in a bunker was not off the table for me for a while there. The “healthy” skepticism is not as easy as it sounds. I think I’ll see signs of this particular variety of fucktard coming a mile away in the future… but I wonder how many other fucktard varieties I have to experience to learn to avoid. And how many other differently-flavored fucktards are already in my life.

    It’s the second point you made that’s getting me through right now. “Gonna is gonna take good care of herself.”, and she is working on that. I do trust myself – even when I’m not sure I can trust family and friends. When I get into that headspace, I do something for fun, alone. A concert, or dinner, or a book in a park. I don’t know that I’m ready to be vulnerable to anyone just yet, but doing enjoyable things alone helps with the resilience part.

  • Hi Gonna.

    I think I know exactly how you feel. My ex-husbsand’s lies were so convincing I honestly never once suspected that he was leading a double life. It was actually a cell phone representative that alerted me to the amount of calls to a specific number and even then it wasn’t until 2/3 days later, when my ex-husband refused a call from that number, that I realized.

    When I did, apart from the heartache, it was as though the world I knew evaporated and I was in a foreign country surrounded by totally alien people. Because of the lies I had believed, or even the question of what was and what was not a lie, my brain had no reliable point of reference. So each encounter with any other person, and sadly, especially those closest to me, was frantically being assessed as it happened. Who is this person, what are they saying, what do they really mean, to what extent will they go to get it, what kind of person do they take me for and to what extent am I prepared to go to let them have what they want? It was exhausting and frightening.

    For me the question was not “how can I trust another person ever again?” but “Will I ever trust my own instincts again?”. And the answer is YES. Mine have been exercised so thoroughly since that they are now rock solid. Not in an obstinate way but in a self assured way. And as an aside to the work my brain had to do in order to create new and better informed reference points other aspects of my life and my relationships with other people have changed positively.

    I can’t say I was unhappy with my ex-husband but I can say I am a lot happier in myself now. So my advice is be very kind to yourself but keep doing what you’re doing. It’s a natural process. It’s hard work and it’s exhausting, just like a spring clean. But after spring comes summer.

  • Maya Angelou has a wonderful quote (well, who are we kidding, many wonderful quotes) that goes: “When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time.” It’s healthy to be slightly hypervigilant after what you’ve been through because you are trying to learn and grow. If you feel out some red flags that you can’t seem to shake off, trust yourself and go on your way. It’s okay. You’ll find some great people out there for you I’m certain of it!

  • Gonna – here’s my 2 cents for what it’s worth.
    You know the saying: Forewarned is Forearmed. You did not ask for this life lesson, but you got it anyway. Does it mean you go into hiding or swear off any possibility of a new relationship? Of course not. You sound like a very nice and patient person who does not want to be taken advantage of again. Who can blame you? So use this experience to your advantage – get better prepared in advance of future relationships..
    How? Well, for starts, if you are in the 50-plus or 60-plus range you must realize that there are more available women than available men. Someone like this widower has his pick. Does that mean all widowers or divorced men are players and liars? No! But to protect YOU, you should almost expect any man you should meet in the future to be dating multiple women, which is okay IF he is honest about it with everyone. If you meet a new man who says he’s not with anyone else, don’t just take him at his word. Ask to meet his family, friends, neighbors, anyone who knows him well, and learn what you can within reason from these other people. And don’t you be so readily available to go out every time he wants to take you out, either, even if you are not actually that busy. You protect yourself by taking things s-l-o-w-l-y. And maybe date around and keep your options open too, if you can. There are nice people out there who will be worthy of your trust in the future, but they should EARN it – and not simply by whispering sweet nothings in your ear or by giving you some sob story that you readily fall for.

  • I first read this just after realizing reconciliation was NEVER going to work, about four or so months ago.

    I reread it today because I needed the reminders. My XH needed a lot of my spackle to pass inspection as “uncomplicated and available.”

    Just emailed this post to myself so I can find it easily when I need it again.

    Thank you, Chump Lady

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