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Dear Chump Lady, How can I save my friend?

bigmouthHi Chump Lady,

Please advise regarding my friend whom I think is making a mess of her life with a rebound relationship. 

My ex left 3 years ago for an OW, and his best friend followed suit 6 months later for his OW, leaving my friend with 3 small kids. A whole 3 months later she announced she was healed, ready to move on and started on-line dating. After several months dating many men, she found herself a creepy man-child who wooed her with soppy poetry and sob stories about how his wife cheated on him and left with his young son. Fast-forward to this year — he has moved across the country to move in with my friend, quit work, is paying minimal child support to his ex-wife, is pursuing a dream to study at university (with no foreseeable career prospects) while Chump-friend works full-time and fusses around to give him quiet study time and even helps with his assignments and Powerpoint presentations.

He is increasingly undermining of her parenting, mean to her kids, unbearably arrogant about topics he knows nothing about, and is clearly enjoying the biggest free ride of his life. Chump friend must have smelled a rat as she checked his phone and found he’s been checking out numerous online dating sites and also found out he had actually left his wife, and told various other lies about his former life and qualifications. After being lied to and cheated on by her ex, I assumed it would be “pack your bags and out by the weekend” and told her exactly what I thought of him — big mistake.

She thanked me for my “perspective” and after calling about 25 friends, found a few men who told her to give the cheater another chance. I told her she is grasping at straws, putting her kids’ welfare and finances at risk, and asked her to contemplate why she is so terrified of being alone. I suspect the fact that her ex is now engaged and expecting a baby is a big factor.

If it wasn’t for her kids I wouldn’t feel so worried by her appalling choice, but they have another odious man in their lives who is at best a parasite, looking for a new adventure at the expense of their emotionally vulnerable but financially secure and professionally well-connected mother. At worst… who knows what his motives might be.

Should I have said nothing or been more subtle? I have the urge to keep pointing out his numerous scary red flags until she either boots him out (unlikely ) or severs the friendship (which has already been strained due to my honesty). Maybe I need to stop trying to rescuing her, accept that people make crap choices to avoid being alone and back off?

Many thanks,


Dear Vastra,

You’re a good friend. And you’ve got a big mouth. I like that in a person.

I know I should point out that you and your friend have codependency in common — she thinks she can change the idiot, you think you can change the idiot — but I still admire your spunk. Most people THINK these things, “Stop! You’re ruining your life!” You say them.

I mean, what else are friends for? It would be one thing if you were criticizing the drape of her new pantsuit. It’s quite another to express alarm about the man she inflicts on her children. It’s not a little thing. It’s a great big toxic elephant in the room.

That said, some people just love their toxic elephants. You can point it out, and they’re all like, “Dumbo and I have a bond. You wouldn’t understand.”

So… what to do. You can go two ways here. Path 1 is stay in her life. Tone down the bitchslaps and when she complains about the latest dating profile discovery, don’t shriek. Say, “Chumpy, this relationship doesn’t seem to be bringing out your best self. Does this feel acceptable to you?” Point out her choices and her agency.

She didn’t leave a cheater — she got left. I imagine she’s feeling quite powerless and rejected, and Dumbo’s kibbles feel very significant. Or his soppy poetry is that good. As her friend, you could point out her value outside of Dumbo — her mightiness raising three kids, how great she is at her job, her value to you as a friend. Give her validation that’s not Dumbo-centric.

Keep the lines of communication open. Do NOT apologize for telling her the truth. If it comes up, you simply say “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” And every single time she wants to bitch about him, or tell you her sad sausage tale, you STOP her and point out that agency. “Is this relationship ACCEPTABLE TO YOU?” We only control ourselves. Then change the subject to growing peonies, or pine cone elves, or whatever else it is you have in common.

Path 2 is detach. It is really, really painful to watch someone drive their life over a cliff. It’s even worse if you’ve yelled out “HEY! CLIFF AHEAD!” and they do it anyway. It may be that your friend just needs a few more kicks in the teeth to get it. She clearly hasn’t suffered through enough PowerPoint yet. Maybe you should go invest your time in friends who aren’t being such colossal fuck ups.

Ooh, was that harsh? Consider our Dr. Simon axiom, “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.” It applies to chumps too. It’s not that your friend doesn’t SEE that Dumbo is a dumpster fire of dysfunction. It’s that she DISAGREES she should save herself. She values the appearance of togetherness and “winning” a partner over her own and her children’s well-being. That’s who she is.

Many of us have been her. And we got past it — painfully. I hope your friend will too. For now, I vote for Path 1. She hasn’t done anything horrible to you for calling her out (except staying with the bastard). See if you can keep channels open. If she persists in being tied to Dumbo, detach. You can’t save everyone.


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.
  • Being on the other side of the discussion gives us a peek at the compassion fatigue we caused our supporters during our initial discovery that we were chumps. I know my sister got pretty tired of asking me why I stayed stuck in limbo for two years when the inevitable final outcome (divorce) was clear. It only seems right to offer that same patience to a good friend. The problem may be that patience feels like yet again being chumpy. I am all about enforcing boundaries these days. Sometimes it is okay to be just a little bit chumpy as long as you get some reciprocity, in this case continuing a meaningful friendship.

    • I totally agree. In fact I realise it’s a Meh moment when you can recognise your past self. “Dumbo and I have a bond. You wouldn’t understand” was my Mantra but reading it here and other ‘Dumbo-centric’ observations just made me laugh out loud.

      It does also help in supporting others. I have a friend who, although not a chump, has horrendous codependency in other areas. I’ve learnt to be directional but tactful in my support.

  • I agree with Dixie Chump’s perspective and also CL in opting for option 1. She knows your opinion of her relationship. If she continues to talk to you about him, it may be that she is looking for the truth, “Is this relationship acceptable to you?” She know who the other friends are that can help her spackle. Keep validating what a strong person she is for her other good choices and hopefully she will some day understand her value and kick him out.

    • and when the friend brings up the merits of Suckerfish Man, practice the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile. Sometimes people do the right thing (toss his leeching ass to the curb) when they have no one to rebel against.

      • I can relate to that. The more my friends told me to leave X, the more I felt I had to be “protective” of him. They just didn’t understand him and my love would fix him. On one of many DDays, I spoke to a counselor and stated my intentions to leave. She immediately applauded this decision and proceeded to tell me how awful he was. I then stuck it out another 6 months before I actually left. FOO issues there which I’m working on , but my point is, everyone has to reach that decision on their own. Sometimes a friend telling you what to do will make one dig in their heels, fill their chest with “stand by your man” feelings and try to prove that you can fix this. The friends that say I don’t get it but I’m here for you either way were the most help to me

        • My sister told me after I let him back in after the first dday, “I love you and will accept whoever you love.” I thought that was so sweet. I didn’t realize what a big shit sandwich that was for her to swallow until after the second dday when I announced that I was filing for divorce. Her response, “Oh thank God.” It makes me love her all the more and laugh at the same time.

      • I’m practicing that smile. It’s hard to turn my mouth off, but I’m trying.

  • Sometimes, to help someone you have to be their friend, NOT their advisor. I don’t always agree with what my friends do, but it’s really their choice, no one else’s. Just because you know something like this doesn’t mean you have to act on it. You may be doing more good then you know, just by your presence.

  • There is a quote I like, Henry David Thoreau I think. ” The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend.”

  • back in my 20s I faced a choice regarding two close friends from high school. Both were moving away from our friendship, albeit in different ways. One made it clear that if I wanted to hang around with him it had to be within the context of his new college friends and life; the other would frequently commit to plans made, but then would back out without explanation.

    In both cases, I was forced to ask myself: “Do I value my friendship with this person enough to accept and continue it on these terms? Or does this new reality represent something I don’t want as part of my life?”

    In one case I chose the former; in the other, I chose the latter.

    Being an adult many times means accepting a reality and letting it be (if it’s something you think you can handle) or cutting things out of your life that are weighing you down. Only you can know the value your friend brings to your life.

    • Do I value my friendship with this person enough to accept and continue it on these terms? Or does this new reality represent something I don’t want as part of my life?”

      Loved that so much UXworld that I took a screenshot so I can measure all my relationships by that standard. Thanks for sharing.

    • This helped me too. I had an interaction on Monday that threw me for a loop. A female work friend and I had been going out a few times. Not a close friend, but still, it was nice to go out to dinner or whatever. She caught her boyfriend cheating about the same time as my dday. Suddenly she stopped talking to me. I had no idea what I did or if perhaps she got back together with her boyfriend and didn’t want to tell me. I finally had a chance to be alone with her on Monday and simply asked if I’d done something to offend her. She told me yes. When I asked what (I’m imagining the worst, such as she thought I broke a confidence or some kind of horrible other thing). She said to me, “When I had a cold and was talking about this stuff I was taking, you said it sounded like voodoo. When I said no it’s not voodoo, you said it certainly was.”

      I don’t even remember the conversation. I told her as much, but said that I was sorry that I made a comment that offended her and that I would never intentionally offend someone that I considered a friend. She accepted and I left. I drove all the way home thinking, “What the fuck?” If I said voodoo it was probably in the context of a joke.

      I still don’t understand it and I was thinking that I should ask her how voodoo offended her. Then I read your comment, “Do I value my friendship with this person enough to accept and continue it on these terms? Or does this new reality represent something I don’t want as part of my life?” The answer is no, I do not. Anyone who can’t simply tell me how they feel and cut off all contact really isn’t someone I am willing to accept. So it doesn’t matter what the voodoo was all about (although I am curious) but that she thought so little about me she could end a friendship without even informing me she was ending it.

      Look out world, I’m enforcing boundaries.

      • Annie–anyone that petty (and with no sense of humor) doesn’t deserve your friendship.

        • Thanks for that. It was just so damn odd, but you’re right. I’m not about to let any more crap from anyone.

  • It could be that you are growing past this friendship as you have known it. You may have internalized the painful education you were forced to swallow by your situation more than she did when she was in the same boat. This may change the friendship from a closer one to a more acquaintance-like arrangement. That is always painful. She may not understand, which could make it all the tougher.

    One of the tougher things about becoming un-chumpier is that you gradually expect more reciprocity and mutual respect in friendships and family relationships, too. People don’t like to lose control of familiarity and they unconsciously press to push you back to the way you were when everything felt normal to them.

    Yet, as painful as it is to navigate, you also need to keep growing if that’s the way you’re pointed. Once we’re in growth mode, we usually can’t stop sending if we try. The mind has opened and you can’t pretend it didn’t.

    I hope her vision begins to clarify. Especially for her kids’ sake, but CL is 100% right, you can’t rescue her. Only she can do that.

    Empathy and support to you .

    • All we can do is be there for them. Your friend has to realize her value and worth. I was chumped four times before i got it. By the same pod. Just be her friend all you can do. CL spoke the truth.

      • Thanks Amiisfree that sums it up very well, I am much less tolerant now of unhealthy relationships or behaviour at home or work

  • This definitely struck a chord with me. My former SIL and I were married to cheating brothers, and found out around the same time. She clung to her unicorn dreams as he flaunted his mistress in their small town, until it got so obvious she was forced into action. She has remained friends with him, celebrating holidays with him and their adult children, hosting family gatherings, etc., which of course says that What He Did Was Not That Bad. I just don’t get it, as he was a serial cheater for most of their marriage, cheated and lied shamelessly, involved their kids in his exploits, etc. I have finally just accepted that this is her choice, and I can either continue our friendship or cut ties with someone who’s actions I can’t fathom or agree with.

    • I’ve witnessed scenarios such as your former SIL’s throughout the years. They are absolutely forced to divorce but still make nice with the ex, you know for the sake of the children. I call horseshit on that, they are still playing the pick me dance and it is their way of still desperately hanging on.

  • After my best friend’s husband died, she discovered that he had basically left her bankrupt so that he could maintain the illusion that he was well-off. During his illness, he hid a lot of financial shenanigans, which were fully exposed after his death. She refused to blame him in a any way and, in fact, would blame everyone but him for the mess he left. I learned to listen but not offer my opinion about how awful I thought he was. It was clear she wasn’t going to listen to what I had to say about that subject anyway. But what I did do was be there for her and try to offer solutions to her fairly dire situation. Over time, she came to realize on her own that her husband was not the man she thought he was. She had to radically change her lifestyle, sell the family home, return to work (at age 60) and stop subsidizing her grown kids. Three years out, she is happier than she has been in many, many years. Sometimes people know what they need to do, but they have to come to those decisions on their own. I chose to love my friend, support her as much as possible and change the subject when she began talking about her dead husband. It wasn’t always easy to maintain our friendship, but it has been wonderful to see her come to a good place on her own. I never gave up on her, but I also never lied to her about her situation.

  • I would just add, it’s hard to be friends with people you don’t respect.

  • I go for Option 1 as well. All you can be as a friend is a sounding board and give advice/feedback if it’s wanted.

    In the beginning stages for a chump, it’s like living in the Twilight Zone. Down is up, up is down, is this just a dream, you’ve got gaslighting, blameshifting, no idea what’s true and what isn’t……the whole drill. A friend can be one of the few tethers a chump still has left on reality. So I would still offer that tether to her and hopefully she’ll be able to pull herself back to reality when she’s ready.

    • Yes! I think the reason I stayed in wreckonciliation for several years is because I had no tether. My lovely ex convinced me that I shouldn’t tell anyone because he was ashamed of what he did. Yep, so ashamed that he kept doing it. Once the gaslighting got extreme and I really started hurting, I reached out to some people in an online support group (not this site, a different one). They helped me see the light.

  • To me blind acceptance is one of the most dangerous things we provide ourselves and our loved ones. The reality is I love myself, but I don’t always like all aspects of myself. Sometimes I have to face up to the cold hard truth, which is, I have to change to be who I want to become, because I can no longer stand who I am at the moment. Isn’t insanity continuing to do the same things and expect different outcomes? When you really think about it — we should all thank any and all of the powers that be that we are ABLE to change. Think of the Loser Dysfunctional People who are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over and over — who cannot change. Change is scary, and hard, and it sometimes feels like you have accidentally put on someone else’s skin, and it doesn’t fit just right. Change is also a process, and you cannot control the speed of the process — even for yourself. You most certainly cannot control the process for others. They will not take the blinders off until they are ready to see, will not pull the ear buds until they are ready to hear. When I was on active duty for the marriage police, the preponderance of the evidence was not enough to make me conclude the investigation. I had to have irreversible, unquestionable hard core conclusive proof so that none of my weak willed defense attorney tendencies could offer any option but the death penalty for the marriage. I stopped when I was ready to stop. I fled when I realized my own death would occur before things could be fixed, because he would never change.

    One of my close friends from college always had a terrible picker when it came to men. Always one horror story after another. I was one of her bridesmaids, and we AND the maid of honor all begged her to exit the church through the back door and flee for her life, on her wedding day. We had pointed out all the red flags and flaws, many times over. She could recite all the red flags and flaws, herself. But — she was going to “love him so much” that “he will change.” We cringed, we cried, we helped her get ready for her wedding. We listened to the litany of horrors, several years, until we just couldn’t anymore. We told her — we love you, BUT we will not listen, we will change the subject, he is dead to us, don’t even bring it up. She couldn’t believe we would abandon her in her “hour of need”. She cried, she tried to manipulate, she tried to divide and conquer resistance. We stuck to our guns and FINALLY, she became so isolated she sought out a counselor. It still took two more years, but finally she got divorced. We celebrated. It was her pain, her process. No amount of love and understanding can force another person to change. It was a life lesson.

    You cannot save the world. You are lucky if you can save yourself. No matter how clearly you can see something, you cannot provide sight to a blind person.

    • “You cannot save the world. You are lucky if you can save yourself. No matter how clearly you can see something, you cannot provide sight to a blind person.”

      Great quote!

    • Portia,

      I loved your comments, but especially the last part and this, “I had to have irreversible, unquestionable hard core conclusive proof so that none of my weak willed defense attorney tendencies could offer any option but the death penalty for the marriage.”

      You are so clever in your writing. I got the mental image of the crime scene. It’s 5:20 and Annie’s dying body is crumpled on the floor after being stabbed dozens of times. Fucktard standing over her with the bloody knife in his dominant hand. The blood splatter pattern consistent with the positioning of Annie’s body. The cuts on Fucktard’s hand where the knife slipped in the blood while making stabbing motions. The witnesses saying, “We heard Annie screaming to call 911 because Fucktard was stabbing her. She even said he was using the chef’s knife from the Chicago Cutlery Set. Yep, she even said he was using his dominant hand” The text on Annie’s phone, “Annie, this is Fucktard. I will be there at 5:15 and stab you dozens of times.” Then the Colombo type detective standing there saying, “Okay, he’s saying he didn’t do it. Before I can arrest him, I need to know if anyone actually SAW him stab her.”

      Of course, let’s not forget Annie’s passive-aggressive MIL who steps over Annie’s crumpled and bleeding body and says, “Well dear, at least he didn’t shoot you. You should think about taking him back.”

      • Yes — it isn’t really that bad, UNLESS it happens to me — Right? Or, that will never happen to me because I didn’t do anything to deserve it. The power of denial is staggering. The amount of pain we find a way to endure is too. So, be sure to be thrilled he only ran over you with the car, and didn.t use the truck. I might add, he didn.t back up and run over you from another angle, either. got to give him credit for that!

      • No kidding! And remember the MIL probably also said Annie wouldn’t have been stabbed if he hadn’t been so unhappy for a long time. There’s always going to be people in this world who engage in blameshifting, many of whom are the cheater’s/rapist’s/muderers/abuser’s parents.

  • Just as we model strength to our children we can do this for our Chumpy friends. Be that model. Talk about the steps you took; recommend a therapist, attend to her strengths with praise, and involve her in positive activities that support her needs.

    These are the ways my good friend supported me when I needed to detach.

  • Having been involved with a series of Dumbos in my life, I am very grateful for the friends who saw the train wrecks coming, but loved me anyway. I eventually figured it out, but I’m a poster child for the difficulties of getting past FOO issues about relationships, codependence, and the idea that a new relationship will fix everything. In Vastra’s case, her friend appears to be competent and functional in other aspects of her life. One thing that Vastra can do to help is get therapy herself–get past the codependence and change the dynamic of their friendship in a positive way. She can model what it means to let people solve their own problems and dig into her becoming deeply invested in her own life, apart from others.

    • I just wanted to add, that if it feels like you are talking to a brick-wall when it comes to her well-being, then she’s not listening and you are getting upset that she doesn’t ‘get it’. That takes away happiness from your life, not to mention other people that would like your attention, as well. To be worried about somebody that may not want your support and may possibly turn it against you someday when she goes back to him and he realizes you were an interfering friend and he doesn’t want you in their lives. Then, when the wash/repeat happens, she’ll want you back as a supportive friend. That’s a bad spin cycle if you ask me. I would distance myself as she doesn’t get it and you’ll be dealing with her for years of your emotional life.

  • Vastra, your friend is avoiding the huge chasm in her life. The pit she’s avoiding is “Who am I without someone else?” Right now she’s choosing to avoid answering the question by filling that space with a man.

    I can relate to her fear of being alone. I’m sure she wonders how in the world she will be able to take care of herself and her three small children. You don’t mention whether her ex is good about supplying child support, but if he’s not then she must be terrified of financial ruin.

    I know my counselor was really tired of hearing me talk about trying to “reach” my husband and wake him up from the nightmare he’d plunged us into. She patiently listened week after week. Eventually, she asked if I couldn’t see that no matter what I did, his actions never really changed. I admit that I COULD see it, but I COULDN’T accept it yet. Even my sister told me, “This relationship is destroying you, it’s time to pull the plug.” Still, I couldn’t do it.

    Your friend is addicted to Hopium. Unfortunately, it’s a powerful drug. I would suggest you change the subject whenever she brings him up. She’s heard your concerns, but she’s not ready to listen to them yet. You might even repeat like a mantra, “I think you should find a good counselor,” any time she brings up him up. That lets her know you care, but takes you out of feeling responsible for her choices.

    I agree with CL that pointing out HER positive attributes instead of HIS negative ones would be helpful.

    • Oh, I just reread the original post and see that Vastra’s friend is able to support herself, so at least financial concerns aren’t driving her decisions now (but they will be if she keeps spending on this guy).

      • You know, being married to a cheater is kind of like the movie Ground hogs Day. Bill Murray never changes until he’s forced to see the need for change. It’s brilliant really (and funny!).

  • This took me back. I’m from NY originally and I had a Greek chorus of super loud, very blunt friends and relatives that held nothing back opinion wise. It was like being hit with a two by four from the cast of the Godfather each day that went by. Yet, my ex still managed to frame it as “us against the world” by making them seem jealous and petty, saying they had no real idea what we were “about”. They were “sabotaging us!”
    Anyway, fast forward many years and I thank my lucky stars they kept at it. They are all still wild and loud as ever, and my ex is slumped in a corner of his “glass case of emotion” where his annoying girlfriend yells at him for crying over his “lost life”. Boo hoo, muthafucka.

  • One of my closest friends is walking the same chumpy path I did with my ex-H — only she’s about five years behind me (still spackling, still addicted to hopium, etc.).

    Even though I’ve been (mostly) unChumped — THANK YOU, ChumpLady and ChumpNation! — it took me many long years to finally be mighty and work up the courage to identify and leave an unacceptable, abusive relationship.

    People have to learn it on their own, unfortunately, even though we would rather they learn from OUR mistakes rather than their own. Remembering how long WE were chumps helps us be patient when all we really want to do is smack them upside the head. 🙂

    CL is spot on, as usual. ….speaking the truth in love. (Eph 4:15)

    Best wishes to you, your friend, and your friendship. <3 When she finally figures it out, she'll be GRATEFUL for your gracious honesty.

  • “Give her validation that’s not Dumbo-centric.”

    Yes! When she starts expressing her feelings about the trap that’s she in, help her to find her courage to get out of her situation. So often we put up with maltreatment from our significant others because we feel secure in the thought that “at least he is present”…. D-day was the motivator for me and even then I was hesitant because I was insecure with myself.

    • Over and Out, you triggered a memory in me when you said, “at least he is present.” Bad enough we thought that way at one time, but how useless they are is apparent when they are “there”, but not really invested! My ex would yo yo between the OW and false reconciliation with me over and over. I would ask him if this was what he REALLY, REALLY wanted and his response would be, “I’m here aren’t I.” Fairly useless situation actually. I should have booted his ass long before on DD one! What a waste! Sorry, so off topic!

      • It was exactly what THEY wanted (we served a purpose on their one-way street) and they molded us into thinking that staying together is what we wanted, too. It’s hard to accept that we allowed them to mistreat us for far too long.

  • I think you should go for Path #2 and DETACH.

    Personally, I don’t see why you should invest a single moment of emotional energy on a person who intends on staying with a man who mistreats her children. He is not their father, so it’s not like there’s any legal or blood ties that would prevent her from kicking him out of her kids’ lives completely.

    If Chumps want to make bad choices for themselves, they’re entitled to do that. But once they start making bad choices that impact their children, they cease to be victims and are, in fact, abusers.

    • Lulu

      Kids without a sane parent is so unacceptable. The way to help this woman might be through her children indirectly.

      I would suggest the friend recommend therapy for the children as we know these kids are flailing in this pool of fuckedupness. The therapist may make suggestions and help her see the impact of her decisions.

      • If the friendship is already strained because Vastra advised her friend to kick this guy to the curb for cheating, then suggesting the kids go to therapy will probably cause the friend to completely blow a gasket.

        But if the friendship is going to crumble anyway, then I suppose it’s worth a shot.

      • LuLu, I think it’s worth the shot. I got lucky, as a child in a toxic situation. One teacher and one family friend actively sought me out, just once each, and literally gave me part of a tiny window of hope and sanity.

        If I were Vastra, and there were ever a moment when her friend seemed relatively intact, OR a moment when her comments seemed to lean toward more “rooted” (realistic?) sorrow, I’d ask, very gently, “Friend, how are your kids holding up? What’s happening with them?” Or something like that. At least open the door.

        Many parents are agonized (maybe chumps especially, because cheating, at first and maybe for years, seems SO connected ONLY to the chump). They agonize about which will hurt the kids more — divorce and single parenthood, or at least the STRUCTURAL semblance, of a “traditional” family with two adult caretakers. RIC successfully plays on this fear often. It sickens me.

        It is really easy to proclaim that the answer is obvious, that a toxic environment is much worse than a broken family.

        If it were so easy, everyone would get it immediately. They don’t. It’s hard. Damn near killed my mom. Times have changed such that if I were her friend, I’d choose option 1 and I’d direct the focus to the kids with simple and gentle questions. Those kids need help. Her friend needs help. How to get it to all of them is obviously the issue — but it’s pretty early in the game. Friend won’t see what it’s doing to HER until she’s ready. But she might be nudged more readily if asked, carefully, about her kids. I can’t see how it would make the situation any worse.

        I don’t know if anyone ever asked my mom about us, without shaming and blaming, of which she had plenty already. I do know that silence about abuse reigned in those days. I think it’s different now, different enough that those kids deserve at least for their mother to be questioned by a friend.

        If she showed no sign of recognition after a few tries, or defended him repeatedly, that would be it for me.

        I would say, “I cannot watch your children get hurt and watch you not face and fix it. That’s a deal-breaker.”

        • *the STRUCTURAL semblance of a traditional family that, underneath, is riddled with danger that can be hard for parents to assess

          • Claire – ‘I would say, “I cannot watch your children get hurt and watch you not face and fix it. That’s a deal-breaker.”

            I applaud this! For, it is true. It is difficult to watch children suffer (and animals) when abuse is going on and you worry a lot about these people. I think it’s a great friend to be a sounding board (God knows I sure needed them for awhile) but to have her needs to go on and on seems very draining to Vastra-her friend. Like sucking the emotional oxygen out of most every day. You offer your best and, my experience is, most people never listen anyway. And do what they’re going to do. But, I can only offer so much advice (seeing a bigger picture) before I figure they have drained me emotionally and, of course, they may eventually figure it out, but you wouldn’t get any credit. They need to come to conclusions on their own so they own the decision.

        • I totally under why people feel compelled to reconcile with the father or mother of their children. You both brought them into the world and you don’t want to break up their family without doing everything in your power to make it work.

          But that’s the not the case here. Both parents in this scenario– the father with his OW and the mother with this cheating leech– have chosen their own selfish, romantic pursuits over the well-being of their kids.

          If I were Vastra, I wouldn’t mince words. I would say, “[Friend], this man isn’t your kids’ Dad; he’s a leech that’s invaded their home and draining time, love and money that belongs to them. If you continue to stay with Dumbo and allow him to behave cruelly toward them, you’re going to cause permanent damage to their psyche and you’ll be lucky if they even call you on Mother’s Day once they’re old enough to move out.”

          • ^^^THIS^^^… her friend is sacrificing her children’s youth on this man and as they grow into adults they will understand the choice she made and resent her for it.

          • I’m all about whatever works to help the kids. To their mom, who is seriously fucked up, it may seem as if a man in the house makes for more stability. We know that’s not true. Maybe she doesn’t. (Doesn’t matter that he’s not their dad. My mom thought, after FINALLY getting past crazy dad, that one two-year boyfriend was better for my teenaged siblings than no man at all on a consistent basis.)

            So I’d try the soft sell — only about the kids — first. What if, regarding kids, she can hear the soft sell? If that’s true, Vastra could give more specific or nuanced info (i.e. what he’s doing to the KIDS in his mean treatment of THEM) than an instant ultimatum can deliver? Why rule out one option that doesn’t need to be ruled out? What’s the damage in trying it first?

            If soft sell failed three or four times? I’d go hardline in a heartbeat. Deliver the “dealbreaker,” lines and walk away.

            • The reason I don’t go for the soft sell is because I think she’s enabling an abuser and therefore an abuser herself. She deserves a verbal kick in the ass, if not a literal one.

            • Great insights Lulu and ClaireS, I would also focus on the kids, with a softer tone and message as a warning/evaluative step before going 2X4 on the kids’ behalf.

            • “I got lucky, as a child in a toxic situation. One teacher and one family friend actively sought me out, just once each, and literally gave me part of a tiny window of hope and sanity.”

              That tiny window once given never leaves us. It’s something you never forget. It becomes the light in the darkness.

  • That one sentence about her ex getting married and having another child is the big one to me. Is he a good father? Is he still very involved in his children’s lives? Does he see them on a regular basis? Is he required to pay child support and does he do it? If he has abandoned his children as well as his wife she will eventually see what kind of scumbag he is. Until then all you can do is love her and support her. There is nothing worse than feeling worthless and abandoned and that is what happened to your friend. Right now any warm body seems better than being thrown away like so much garbage. I have often heard it said that men come and go but friendships can last a lifetime. This is nothing against men but friends really are like precious gems. I hope you stick around for her.

  • I wished someone, anyone for that matter stated the obvious to me about the X. At the time I may not have been able to make changes. However it would have validated how i felt. And in those moments of craziness I would have had at least one person I could turn to.

    The first and only person to validate he was an asshole was my therapist.

    • I didn’t get any 2×4’s during my marriage either… My mother was from another generation and as long as my ex wasn’t beating me and was a good provider for the family, she encouraged me to stay until my kids were grown. I was a SAHM, had given up my career, and had 2 young kids. Tried to get my then husband to go to marriage counseling and he refused. I went alone (early 1990s) and the therapist has no way to evaluate him, she recommended I “not rock the boat”… Worst advice ever. I had no clue about personality disorders and that I was over my head in a very bad situation… 23 years. Validation came very late for me, too.

  • Vastra – Let me share this story with you.

    A young woman climbed a mountain. It took her many days and she encountered many struggles along her journey. When she finally reached the top, she was blessed to see the most amazing view – a landscape that went on beyond her imagination and a bright shining sun.

    She slowly made her way back down the mountain, facing challenges and struggles, because she wanted to share the experience with her friend.

    BUT, her friend didn’t have much interest in mountain climbing. Still, she pushed on and insisted that her friend come along. She would CARRY her friend to the top of the mountain. So, her friend agreed to go.

    After many days and even harder challenges, because she was carrying her friend afterall, they reached the top. She was too exhausted to enjoy the view and her friend was, frankly, unimpressed. So, frustrated and tired, she said to her friend that she must climb down the mountain herself. Her friend replied that she couldn’t – she didn’t know how. Because she had been carried UP the mountain, she didn’t learn to climb… and now she was stuck because she didn’t have those skills to take care of herself to get back down.

    Quite the conundrum, right?

    You must live your life and allow your friend to live hers. You can choose to love her and support her, but maybe from a distance, but you cannot walk her journey for her. Her life lessons are her own as are yours.

    When I read CL’s response, I was hit upside the head like a brick. After the discard, I so desperately wanted to PROTECT the OW and her two young children from the journey they were embarking on with my STBX. And you know what, she told me to mind my own business – I didn’t know her or her story. In hindsight, I think I was trying to turn back the clock and save myself from ever getting involved with Mr. Sparkles. She wants this journey with him in spite of knowing about his being married but online dating with women/groups/couples… then that is her journey.

    I am humbly stepping out of the way and focusing on controlling what I can – me and my actions and reactions.

    Rock on Chump Nation!

    • IcanseeMeh – this was a fantastic story. Thanks for sharing it, it was lovely and insightful.

      • Fantastic analogy!

        I will add that several times I have stood up for other adults that I thought were not being treated fairly. They were all too happy to let me do the work, had no courage on their own behalves, and wouldn’t return the favor. Lesson? People have to want it for themselves…I cannot want it more than they do. (Different story with children, of course…children do need the care and protection of adults).

  • I have been this woman — time and time again, my friends have been there loving me as I made horrible choice after horrible choice trying to “save” my family. She needs you. My friends never sugar coated how they felt about my husband and my situation. They were always honest. But, they ALWAYS loved me. It has taken me forever — but I am almost out of the darkness that is/was my marriage, and I could not have done it without knowing my friends loved me — no matter what.

    • This.
      I’m so sorry you’ve lived through hell. I’m so glad you’re on your way out … that friends helped with love … and that the name you’ve chosen perfectly captures the path that love and tenacity (theirs and yours) helped you take.

    • So what made you finally decide to leave? It seems you really were opposed to it for a long time.

  • My best friend from college, (the most wonderful girl on earth) tried to warn me about another friend I was infutuated with at the time. Her name was Lola. My BFF told me, Can’t you see that Lola is a Yes Man?

    I did not know what they was at the time. I understand it now. And there is nothing worse than a Yes Man. They add no value to your life.

    This is one of the reasons that traditional counselors do not help me. I do not want someone to sugarcoat anything to me. This is my life! I want brutal honesty.

    I actually have to said to some people: If you see me making a catastrophic life mistake, please tell me.

    And so, everyone…everyone…was sounding the alarm about my X. Even strangers I did not know who knew him would warn me when I met them.

    Didi I listen? I listened. But I did not care. I was beyond hope.

    *I don’t think you can reason someone out of something they did NOT reason their way into.” None of this is logical. Staying with someone who is horrible to us is a type of insanity.

    Now, I would nod and intellectually & I agreed with everything they said. It was true. But, when I saw those baby blue eyes with that leopard like gaze and he would fold me into his arms, all reason and sane thoughts put on their hat and left the room.

    As we get older, it is hard to make female friends. I have cringed at how strong I have come on to women in the past few months, only because I wanted to be their friend. They probably thought I wanted to date them. (Maybe I should have). I was just too eager.

    But, if this friend is a good friend, in her character, she has just lost her way. She is off the path. She is in crazy town. I would not judge her too harshly because after you have been gas lighted and cheated on , you are lost.

    I would listen, listen, listen (great point Dixie about compassion fatigue!) and then say, at a point: We have analyzed this to death. I want the best for you. Why don’t you at least speak to a therapist and see what they think? I think you are being used. I don’t want to be used. Let’s table this for a while and let you truly think about the dynamics of your relationship.

    She has to see it on her own. I will take the phrase, you can’t help everybody, to the next level: I don’t think we can save anybody. Not a person. Just ourselves. (Just animals). They have to arrive at the horrible truth solo.

    • SIS thank you for your wonderful honest posts.
      A thing that really really helped me with anxious attachment patterns as you describe, was the 12 steps programme (any one for codependents).
      How it gently teaches to keep the focus on yourself and learn where you stop and others begin is nothing short of a spiritual miracle. 12 steps programme is the best kept secret out there.

  • In thinking about the numerous people who have posted that we can only save ourselves, I believe that’s true. But I once read a metaphor about how going through a trauma makes you feel like you’re all alone in a jungle. You’re lost, you’re afraid, and you don’t know what to do. You wonder if you’re going to die before someone finds you. Eventually you cry out in despair, and that’s when you’re shocked to hear someone call back to you. You suddenly realize there are others all around who are also lost, but fighting to stay alive. You start encouraging each other, and share stories of what’s worked for you. Eventually you find your way out of the jungle and, and if you’re lucky, you get to meet others who made it too.

    • I like what you said lyn. Really nice. Im not bitter definately jaded. No disrespect intended to any guys here or good guys anywhere but i never see myself believing or trusting another man for a partner again. Friends yes, life mates no. But i like what you said.

      • Lyn always has a very good input into the posts she comments on. Kar marie, I am with you totally, however, there was a time when bitter would have been the right word to describe me but not now and I am not even jaded any more. It is what it is and for me life goes on as per usual very quietly.

      • I hear you Kar Marie. I can’t imagine trusting another life partner again and I’m sure there are men here who feel the same way about women. I have had a few friends/family who seem to think I need to find love again. I’m not sure I care that I might be missing out on a potentially good situation. After all, I might also be missing out a bad situation. So, I just work hard to make my life better as a single.

  • I’m dealing with sort of a similar situation with a friend where my codependency is out in full force. This friend is making some self-destructive decisions that have affected her career, reputation, family, kids, etc. I have gently tried to ask her if she’s sure these are the right things and I’ve tried being there for her, but I am literally losing sleep over her problems. A few times I’ve felt like staging an intervention for her to help her see the light. I discussed with my therapist and she told me what she always tells me when I get super involved in other peoples’ problems: mind your own business! I like her harsh, tough-love style because she always gives it to me straight. If you are a codependent like me (I wanted to “save” my “broken” ex-h–now I realize no one can save him and he doesn’t want to be saved) and can’t stay away from other people’s problems, this piece of advice might help, I’m working toward the point where I can be a supportive friend without getting so wrapped up in the drama, and if the drama gets to be too much, I have to step back. Easier said than done when this has been part of you forever, but it’s the only way to get out of that codependent cycle!

  • I wish I came up with this: these relationships are soul contracts.
    Yes, we can tell our dear ones what we clearly see. They see it too, but there is more than meets the eyes. They are entrenched in these relationships for a higher purpose. This is their soul contract. They need to learn their lessons…painfully. We cannot open the book for them and point to the lesson. They need to learn it on their own. If not, repeat, another relationship or another lifetime. Until they get it.

    This is beyond what our logical mind is telling us. And each of us has been there, where the voice of reason says one thing, and our heart has chains on it, and makes up reasons to defeat the reasonable. It’s hell.

    But I think chump Lady has made a good point. Your friend needs validation. I would call it encouragement. Be there for her, but don’t allow her to flood you with complains about her poor choices. Protect yourself, emotionally, first of all. Document the c* out of her relationship and remind her when she forgets: he did x, y, z. You are still with him. What’s in for you?

    My assumption is this: she is not over her ex. Who would be in 3 months? Perhaps she needs more than friends, she needs therapy, to get over the shock and pain.
    They say the best revenge is to live well. Your friend is not getting her revenge this way…

    • They say the best revenge is to live well. Your friend is not getting her revenge this way…

      But, she may THINK she’s getting her revenge this way. It probably looks like a facade of living well from the outside.

  • Vastra’s friend (like many chumps) is thinking with her feelings instead of her head. She’s scared and sad about her relationship and she’s basing her decisions off these emotional states. Breaking up with him is a non-starter because the friend can see that doing so would just bring MORE overwhelming feelings of fear and sadness. Trying to reason with someone who is stuck in this feeling space is futile.

    A little bit of empathy, along with some encouragement that they are capable of sorting things out, can go a long way towards helping the friend shift gears into a better head space.

    • I guess I think friends and family can actually play a much bigger role, not smaller. They need to play a bigger role for calling the Asswipe out on his bullshit. Confront him. Again, Dr. Simon’s book is referenced in this thread. Use the guidelines in Simon’s book, and call out the homecrusher. The wife does all she can to reign in his self-centered tendencies until she’s worn to a spider web. This kind of fight cannot be fought alone. Why can’t people of integrity go to his home and visit him? Talk straight to him, look him straight in the eye, not calling him bad, but defining his actions as bad, self-destructive. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, fellow church members, any, all, don’t let him think that you don’t know and that you don’t care. Don’t let Assclown think it doesn’t matter.

      Let him know it does matter, and that he needs to get his shit together.

  • I had a friend who was considering cheating on her husband around the time my marriage blew up. My advice was to either work on her marriage or leave. Cheating wasn’t an option. If she wanted out, the reason could not be another man. Leave on your own and learn to take care of yourself first as the pain of cheating is never ending. I told her that I didn’t feel she was the type of person who could cause that kind of pain and not have it destroy her. She ended up staying in her marriage and working it out. There was no cheating in her marriage just a lack of communication that lead to resentments. She thanked me later for not giving her the ” do whatever makes you happy talk” that others had. I have to admit if she had cheated I would have dumped her as a friend

  • If she wants to be a volunteer doormat, let her. Some people just enjoy drama.

    • Asswipe and his whores adore drama not me about a month or im outta here! Whoo hoo!

  • Wow thanks for all the helpful comments CL and others!
    CL you are spot on, this is my codependency at play, and after the shock of this apparently intelligent and independent woman tolerating this unfaithful lying man-child, I have realised how one-sided the friendship has become.
    I plan to stay in touch, but have already told her I will only catch up with her or with her kids.
    She maintains the relationship is now great and he is very respectful (or rather, now has the sense to use a password and clear his search history when he browses for his next parasitic host) and the kids are so happy and secure. Hmmmm. Both parents are living in la-la land with new partners, so I’m not sure that’s the case.
    I’m ready to deflect the long discussions about the boyfriend’s virtues and renewed devotion to her with a comment like “you know my feelings”, maybe a suggestion to talk with a therapist, and change the topic.

    • I always referred to asswipes other life as lala land and i wish for it to nutralize him. Sorry im having a real bad day.

      • Kar Marie: Given what you just found out, you are entitled to a bad day. I know it hurts, but you had mentioned that you didn’t want to hate him before finding the pictures. Unfortunately, these jackasses always warrant hatred because they are pathological liars and emotional abusers. The short-term lesson is an awful one that wrenches your marital memories to their core. Next week you will know that its benefit is the hatred that allows you to disengage entirely (even emotionally), and the last nail in the coffin of certitude that he sucks. Big hugs, friend!

        • Thank you tempest. It was just one thing i thought he would never do i should have known better. The nail has been in awhile now but finding those pictures brought everything rushing back. I do hate him now but it will not consume me i am already past that. He doesnt know i know but he will they will be stapled to the walls in the kitchen when i move to be discovered by him later. Its hard pretending while im still here when i still have to look at his ugly face. But i can do it and i will never give him another thought! Thanks tempest!

          • Yeah, I also found it hard to be attracted to my ex after he started cheating. He gained a beer belly, I still found him attractive. He shaved off his hair, I still found him attractive. He grew sideburns without a beard or hair, I still found him attractive. He cheated and cheated and said some hurtful things, I no longer found him attractive. Emotional abuse and infidelity are great ways to help a spouse lose attraction for you.

            • Yes i loved him warts and all. Now he is just ugly and mean and evil as far as im concerned and i feel absolutely nothing for him.

  • Gah. I have a friend in this situation. Really sunk costs, her house is owned by his family. She says she plans to tough it out until the kids a son and daughter are grown- does them no favors! Not to mention I can see her life being shortened by all the stress.

    Maybe point out to your friend that sticking it out teaches mancubs that it is okay to be a lazy, entitled, belligerent ass, just because you are wearing a dick. And for the girlcubs, she is teaching them that the only way to keep a man is to be a doormat, and for both, that love equals abuse.

    I have compassion fatigue with this person, a lot of our friend group don’t hang with her any more, because they can’t stand him, or watching her suck up his nastiness in the name of ‘normality’. I am doing as CL recommends-we don’t discuss it much, but I still call out abusiveness when I see it.

    That’s what is at stake when you have bred with a fuckhead-and the choice Chumps have to make is whether they can tolerate the kids being treated or acting the same way in their adult relationships.

    A friend put it that way for me, and once I computed that, it was a no-brainer.

    • I hope she at least has a job or is looking at getting one. Perhaps, this would be a good time to start socking away money. Maybe, get a keylogger program to determine what he is doing with his finances.

    • The frustration is that this man is not even their dad, so there’s no history of a good relationship that deserves sticking anything out. We had so many conversations about the benefits of our narc ex-husbands running away, in that our kids now have minimal exposure to bad role models (her ex has full-blown NPD) It just dumbfounds me to realise she is repeating the same mistake, but even worse, with someone with no job or assets. 3 years on I am still working on “why did I marry someone like my ex?” but my friend seems unable to accept that her need to be with a man is blinding her judgement.
      I felt terrible about what her ex did, and until now have given her a lot of emotional, practical and some financial support. Now I have so little respect for her choice and her stubborn insistence that she is a strong woman in a great respectful partnership, at no risk of being screwed again financially because he is a “good man” (despite all the evidence to the contrary). The compassion tank is running low!

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