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Tips for Starting a New Life?

mountainHi Chump Lady,

I found your site recently, I love the support here.

Can I make a request for a post for those of us who just can’t leave? In the sense that, it’s not just about escaping abuse and infidelity, but also about literally starting a complete new life down to the BASICS.

For example the women who has not worked in the last 10-20 years as she was a housewife, or for the men or women who has become so worn down and isolated by the narc that they have NO friends left (some could have been driven off a long time ago by the narc or the constant drama the spouse has to ride). Or if the spouse has no money, no resources, no family of their own to turn to for help to leave.

This seems like an unsurmountable mountain. How do you get out of the pit and maintain your sanity while you are trying to do so (and still having to live with the abusive spouse?)

Thanks much.

Abby

Dear Abby,

Well today I’m going to crowd source your request from a bunch of people who did all those things — started over after being stay-at-home parents, left abusive partners, made new friends or re-friended old friends they thought they’d lost, went back to school to get credentials for a new career, forged new “families”, remarried, reinvented.

It CAN be done, Abby. If you don’t believe me, go back in the archives and read every single Tell Me How You’re Mighty post and marvel.

But you need a plan, and you need to BELIEVE you can do it. Worn down? Yeah, aren’t we all after this shit storm. Isolated? Reach out. No money? Start saving, start siphoning, get a job ANY job. If refugees and immigrants and single moms flipping burgers can do it, so can you. And consider public support (welfare, the dole) — that is why we pay tax dollars for these programs — so every citizen has a safety net, at least temporarily.

If your husband is abusive, call your local women’s shelter or domestic abuse hotline. They’ll connect you with professionals who will help you make a safe escape plan.

The mountain isn’t insurmountable, Abby. It’s just uphill. Slogging up mountains sucks, no question. But staying with an abusive spouse sucks worse. And unlike staying with a shitty person, the mountain climbing has great rewards — and the view is amazing. Start climbing!

Chump Nation — I want your practical tips today — how you’re rebuilding and starting over. Throw a rope to the newbies and let’s hoist them up the mountain top.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • The only item I have for you Abby is . . . you need someone to confide in, someone who you can speak with or see, someone who has always been there for you and had your best interests at heart. As fantastic as the support you get from CN is (and I don’t know where I’d be without it), without a live being in your corner, the shit just keeps rattling around in your head like some hellish feedback loop.

    I wrote to Chump Nation about it earlier this year: https://www.chumplady.com/2016/07/finding-friend-can-confide/

    I get that any friends made while you’ve known the narc may either be switzerland or gone for good, but surely there is a family member or someone from your pre-narc past who fits the bill. Find that person.

    • Ditto what UXworld says..

      Re-connect with people who were alienated through your narcissistic experience. I re-connected with my best mate who I had semi-lost touch with due to him moving 300+ miles away. He was a fellow chump and has been my ‘venting sponge’ and is always willing to listen and understands what leaving a cheater is about, I simply couldn’t have made it through the shitty mess without him.

      I figured out early on on that some people will listen but simply can’t and don’t really understand. They make all the right noises and you know they’ve got your back, but they won’t ever fully empathise with what you are going through.

      Some (Switzerland friends) may well fall by the wayside, that can be hard but you have to ask yourself are they really a great loss…for me they weren’t, it’s sad but life goes on.

      Make new friends…Going through a break up and learning about Narcs and manipulative people you’ll recognise these negative qualities in people you meet and will learn to avoid them.

      • That’s good advice Mickeyblueeyes,
        but that’s part of my problem. The old friends I lost were narcs themselves (ok not to the degree my spouse is, but enough to annoy and frustrate me). I’m kind of glad my life is cleared of them in a way, but I’m really starting from SCRATCH and it’s hard. I’ve been in a vortex with my spouse and it killing me.

    • No, there’s really not. My parents were immigrants to the country I grew up in so we never had extended family. My dead Dad who was the only one in my corner died a couple years ago, and only my narc mother and narc siblings are left who she has spent my entire life triangulating against me. I’ve been no contact with them as a matter of survival for years.

      As for the friends, my marriage has truly cost them all; some got mad I would not get a divorce early in my marriage and gave up on me and drifted away, some got sick of the drama, most were narcs themsleves (yes I am like honey to the narc bee) and the relationships disintegrated when I got sick of the lopsidedness.

      Add to that a heap load of depression and inertia from years of adultery and abuse, and natural introvertness to boot, and it makes for a very isolated position to be in. In fact I almost lost my one remaining friend a few weeks ago who said: “I can’t handle this anymore” after I arrived on their doorstep escaping the latest episode of emotional abuse. Now to save the friendship I know I can’t talk about my husband and marriage anymore.

      I know the situation I am in is not healthy, and I want to make positive moves forward. But there are some of us that are in very unique situations and are hedged in on all corners. Hence my post. I need some solid encouragement on how to get out of the hole when you can’t even reach a rope.

      Thanks for the post link. I will check it out 🙂

        • I feel like I just read my own life story in your words. I wish I could give you a hug. I just found this site tonight this is the first post I read. Please know you are not alone! I’ve come to the point where it doesn’t matter if I have no friends or family to back me up I am done and will risk life and limb to get out of this. Praying for you.

      • I have only one good friend left, lost my BFF a year ago, she basically just ghosted me. It sucked. I’ve made 2 good friends here at CN, they are long distance though. have a couple of ‘kinda’ friends in the neighborhood. I am introverted as hell and have a hard time making connections. So I get it. One thing that helps is to talk to a therapist if you can afford it. This give you a place to get the pain out instead of pouring it all over friends/possible friends. Even the best don’t want to hear crap all the time. Jedi Hugs!

      • How about lose the cheater narc husband and the friends will return? That seems to be the common thread here — the people who care about you are frustrated that you stay with him and can’t support the unhealthy choice.

        So, work on getting healthy and making better choices. Be a friend to yourself first.

        • Friends DO come back and the friendships are better than before!

          Consider volunteering in hopes of getting a job. Talk you way into volunteering for anything you’re good at! In 3 months I was hired at the best job I have ever had (with fabulous benefits). I hadn’t worked in 25 years.

          Look up meet-ups for a divorce support group. Or call a Y or county support agency to find one.

          Plus individual therapy. Local women’s centers, government agency or even a religious agency (Jewish Family Services helps everyone who calls for free. Funds come from Jewish groups but serves anyone) – call and ask what services they can help you with.

          Consider Shared Housing as a first place to land. Works for singles and families.

          Ask. Just ask anyone and everyone for help! You never know who can help or direct you to help or knows someone who has walked this road before you who can help. Hold your head high and ask for help. Most people really want to help.

          • Divorce care at local churches is a good resource – A little corny but everybody is in the same boat and you will find healing there at the end of the program

            • OMG! Yes, Divorce care was what really helped me. It taught me through 4 sessions(my choice) that I was better off without the f*tard, and that I needed to be single for a bit to find me. Plus, I’m supporting my teen daughter on less then $1000 a month and I get help from family, church, selling off my old life(furniture out of storage) and really budgeting and no extra spending. One thing I know is this; this is not forever! It’s only temporary and there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m just praying it’s not the train! Prays and doing the right thing has always been rewarded.

        • Abby I would bet that the frustrated friend will be a support if you start preparing for divorce. I’m in the situation now of being a frustrated friend to a chump who has picked an even worse rebound partner after being chumped, but won’t kick him out. If she takes action, I would be back in her life, but can’t tolerate hearing about her (totally justified) mistrust of him anymore when nothing changes.

        • I agree. I can’t tell you how many friends that cut ties with me years earlier because of my exh#2/the evil one. They couldn’t stand him , thought he was a total ass and that I deserved better. Once he was gone, they all came around again.

      • Individual Counseling … If you have no friends find a counselor!… They can help you move forward, I still had friends and family when I was going through this shit, but it was therapy that helped me get moving!

      • Start at the beginning – you have to really believe you deserve better. Therapy is a good place, if you can’t afford it check the resources via your local womans shelter – it may be embarrasing and you may not feel as if you fit the definition of a victim of abuse but you are. They will understand verbal and emotional abuse as much as physical. Just getting some support is a huge deal.

      • Abby, also check out the Chump Meetups section of the forums for this site. Look through them to see if there is a post for your area and chime in for a get together. If there’s not one close to where you live, add a post to see if there are chumps nearby that want to get together.

        I met a fellow chump from this site earlier this year and we have become very good friends. She gets it because she has lived through it. We also met another awesome chump a few months ago who we hope together with again soon. There are a few others in our state that may join us as well. I highly recommend it.

      • You need to work on yourself firstbefore seeking friends. If you get out of the house, go to social places such as your local library, park, dog park, volunteer work, believe it or not you meet people in those places who will become great friends. But you have to be in a position to accept those people as friends. Then of course you have your CN friends who you can “talk to” when having a bad day, who you can bounce ideas off of, who you can bare your soul to with very little judgment and “snap out of it” discussions with 2x4s thrown into the mix. It is truly possible to “start over” it may not be easy like starting a new school- but even when starting a new school you make new friends, new goals, and have new adventures- and graduate into a new and better life.

      • Abby-the first question is do you want to divorce? If the answer is yes, then sit down and make a one month plan, a 3 month plan, a 6 month plan, etc. Then delineate how you are going to meet each goal in the plan – do not inlude why or how you will not achieve those goals, but write down how you will achieve those goals. Of course every month you will have to adjust, but having an outline of a plan may assist you in visualizing your goal. If the answer is no then get counseling.

      • One place where you might meet someone who could potentially be a support is in a group like Divorce Recovery or something similar. Usually these are courses of so many weeks and you meet other people going through a similar experience. It is educational in that you learn about the stages of grief when you separate and you also learn practical strategies that you might try when you hit a wall. I didn’t go to a group because I have many friends who are therapists and have gone through their own difficult journey, but I have a friend who did go to a group and she said it saved her life.

      • How about a divorce support group or one that is for PTSD survivors? Or if you have a therapist there might be a group with it.

        Chump Nation meetups is another way to meet like-minded people.

      • Abby, I am in a similar position in terms of having no family left and we moved away from my job and friends to the farm. My family was him, his kids and his family. It’s all gone except that his family is actually lovely and I am secretly in touch with them but they all live very far.

        I deliberately set out to make more connections in our rural town, long before I knew of the cheating, because I felt too isolated and I hate the way he was always picking quarrels with people.. I started volunteering in a couple of places, simply because I needed a little oxygen. I thought we still had a real relationship and I lovd him with all my heart, despite what I thought was just a really difficult personality. At least I realised I needed to make other connections. It was an eye opener, I had become so isolated I didn’t see the abnormalities in the relationship. But I figured I could cope and farming wives offer suffer from isolation and enjoy getting involved in the local town to get away from the constant tete a tete with hubby. So, when the shit hit the fan, I was lucky I had made half a dozen good sensible female friends, mostly older women, who immediately got my back. It takes time to build relationships, especially if you have a difficult partner who sabotages them. So build them completely separate from him, in some women’s groups or something.

        If you are stuck in this marriage for a while, I suggest you try volunteering somewhere locally. It will give you an excuse to get some space. Also try to pick up a new hobby that can be useful after you leave. For example, find out if there is a local community garden project. You would meet new people there and learn to grow your own vegetables at the same time. It’s a cheap and very useful hobby. It will save you money when you leave if you can grow some of your own food, it’s something to get the kids involved in, really useful and cheap. Win-win. Same with keeping a couple of laying hens. The kids would love it and you’d have you own eggs from chooks who eat your scraps. If you are in a big city and an appartment, you can still grow a few veggies on a balcony, look up hanging gardens on you tube.
        So look at hobbies and activities in this light: which ones will help you make new friends out of the home and also be useful when you live alone. Could be a woodworking club, car mechanics for women, anything.
        Also, reconnecting with friends you think you have lost. Maybe they are sad they lost you because of your marriage and will be happy to have you back.
        Whenever you manage to overcome an obstacle, write down that you did it and how in a little book. So whenever you dread a new obstacle, you can remind yourself that you have overcome other obstacles you dreaded. Keep a record of your achievements, it will build your confidence. Very soon, you will be surprised at how much you are achieving. The picture of yourself your narc has painted is false!
        Always come back to CN for encouragement and tips. People here just want to help.

      • There are free divorce groups out there – many churches offer them. You don’t have to be religious or a member of that church to participate. Finding other people who get it is SO important.

    • I was lucky that old friends responded when I reached out to them but they have lives, kids, parents needing care, jobs so they couldn’t be my everything all the time. Plus, as Mickey notes, most folks just don’t get it unless they’ve lived it. I admit I paid for it. I found a good therapist and went into debt getting it all out. Hard to do financially but worth it for me because my work days were spent with the door closed sitting under my desk with a jar of Nutella and a spoon trying not to cry loud enough for anyone to hear me. I could not concentrate on work very well and I did not want to lose my job. It was an investment in my mental, emotional and financial well-being.

      • Alloutof Kibble,
        I know your pain but your image of a jar of Nutella and a spoon under your desk is comedy gold.
        I just started crying in the ice cream aisle. I bought 3 kinds of Magnum bars.

  • I am in the stay at home parent camp. Now I’m a little different because I am in Australia and our social services system is AMAZING, but I have 3 kids and finding work has been REALLY hard, the kids and I are living in a crummy rented house that is in reality too small, we have literally had to do everything from the ground up (the things we have left from the family home are a tv unit, coffee table, bookcase and 2 tallboy sets of drawers, everything else is new). But we are doing it. We have pulled together more than I could have ever imagined and my kids are amazing.

    Most of my stuff is second hand but I spend time picking it out so that it is good quality and more often than not simply needing a lick of paint or some minor repairs (I LOVE council cleanup and op shops), I manage our budget fairly well and we have some amazing family support…. actually we have phenomenal family support. I am currently a full-time student studying psychology and hoping to go into counselling and coaching other women going through this situation as more often than I care to count I have heard from friends and others on message boards that their psychologist JUST DOESN’T GET IT! It is possible to start from scratch and make a new life. We will be on the borderline for another 2 years or so until I graduate but hopefully after that we can start moving forward again.

    • It’s sounds like you are doing a really good job! Good on you. But not having family is one of the big problems I have. I truly believe if I had even just ONE family member to help me I would be out of here yesterday!

      • Abbyinthispost

        I get it with the isolation. I’m introverted even though it’s sounds more romantic when I say I am a lone wolf…
        I had to separate from my entire birth family too. I really miss having a sibling or aunt or great aunt etc. for that family connection. It can feel that you are standing over a void and there really is no one at the end of the safety rope. Friends or actually acquaintances are good and helpful but there is only so much to ask them for.
        I have three boys which does make me feel less alone but I feel the responsibility for them even more.
        In the end you just have to do it for yourself. You have to dig deep and know you can do it.
        You know you can’t be with family because of their abuse. Same goes for where you are now.
        But trust people here – you can do it. Even on your own. I am and I’m scared stiff most of the time but I trust it will get better.
        Chump nation are my family right now!
        They are my bridge between my old life and my new life. I wish it wasn’t so high and windy in this bridge but I can see happy people on the other side.

      • Also Abby, before you diagnose yourself with depression, make sure you are not suffering from oppression instead!!

  • Dear Abby,

    I have no idea!

    I left a beautiful life (minus cheater STBXH) behind LITERALLY 6,000 miles behind overseas, oh yeah and while I was super pregnant.

    My daughter is 20 months old now, I have never been back. I miss everything about my old life (except for STBXH), my awesome job, the wildlife I had worked with for over 10 years (I know a lot of the animals that I worked with very well, they would come look for me and say hi to me in the rainforest, fairy tale stuff really), good friends… feeling like I belonged.

    I am still mourning all this, I havent been back because the STBXH has been so idiotically stupid during my pregnancy (and still) and is an asshole, and an addict, and impulsive, and reckless… to a point I highly doubt his sanity at times. Since he raged at me over SKype when I did not want to be back with him (baby was 3 months old at that point), thats when it actually scared me, I found CL and went grey rock NC. He is still with with evil sociopath OW that I am sure took pleasure out of fucking the husband of the pregnant chick and using all her belongings and build a brand new business with my STBXH before the baby was even a out of me. I do not want to go back and witness that, I heard STBXH looks like shit and is unhappy and only stays with OW because he cant run business alone and is cheating on her (hehehehehe)… but 1) I think when STBXH would see me he would still feel like I am “his wife” and it is kinda scary, and the thought of seeing OW (its a super small town, I cant escape seeing them EVERY DAY RIGHT IN MY FACE if I go back, no I cant go to other places), I just have too much hate and I dont want her near my little girl.

    So here I am, just over 2 years since DDay, mourning my old life, no reliable income, no real home, desperate to leave my home country again that I already left 10 years ago and didnt miss at all. I have no real plans yet, which is so frustrating, everything seems to suck, except my little girl and support I have here. I try to enjoy the happy moments fully and try not to want to be happy besides those happy moments (advice someone gave me on here). But it all fucking sucks, I am scard for my future all the time… financially really.

    So… keep going I guess and expect it to take years, it wont be quick to start a new life, it will suck, until hopefully someday it doesnt.

    • JC. hang in there, I feel your pain. I also lost a place I loved and worked very hard to get to. I worked away from my family for 12 years, week on week off. I finally got a job next to my house and had only worked there for four months and then of course D-day. Ew was sleeping with a “FRIEND” of ours. He moved into our little mountain valle. I sold the house, divorced her, and hate being anywhere close to that valley. I still work close. I fly a helicopter, and have to fly over the valley occasionally. It’s really heartbreaking every time.

      • Yes, getting to meh about a person who treated you like shit is one thing, but how can you get to meh about losing a favorite place/job in the world…

        I now I will go back there, but how and when, no idea, it’s all to painful. Probably can never live there anymore, but who knows part-time, once I figure a ton of things out. It sucks so much they are there. Sorry you have to experience losing your beloved place too! WHo knows time will make things easier, also to return.

        Too bad the hellicopter is noisy or you could dump something on their yard.

  • Having your cheating narc partner leave is a blessing in disguise, it forces you to cope. However I have friends that chose to leave abusive partners & I admire their strength & patience in planning their exits. One friend went back to uni while still married to obtain a teaching diploma, as she’d been out of the workforce for almost 10 years & knew financial independence was crucial. Several years later, she has an apartment, a car, a great teaching job & joint custody of her kids. She needs to watch her money more than when married, but she quite likes the simple life because it’s a peaceful one without her angry narc ex.

  • Abby: one second,minute,hour,day at a time. It is hard, probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I was married 34 years and emotionally shredded by my mother first then my stbxh..luckily I. Do have a business but he timed the discard to destroy a season and it is a seasonal business. I walked dogs(cathartic since I spent the time crying and raging over the injustice), then I drove a cab (awful especially when a fare propositioned me),just get whatever job you can..read and research, seek counseling, until you understand it wasn’t you and you deserve soooo much better. Love your kids as the sane parent–that even applies to my grown kids and he just keeps blowing up his relationship with our kids. Know that you are worth it..deal with things as they come up and don’t be afraid to ask for help from wherever you can ..pray and meditate and love yourself in whatever form that takes..it may feel like you can’t do it but you can..we are here for you..build that new life and one day you will reach meh..

  • Abby, you’ve got this. What a great invitation for those farther down the path to share. I am 6 months out and still emotionally shaken but resolved and quick to act.

    First I kicked him out and joined CN. I pushed through the pain to complete the first steps of filing, going NC as soon as was possible, and telling everyone I knew (including the kids). Each of those was challenging beyond belief, but chumps deserve to start fresh with honesty and self respect so each is important.

    Clear your from the mindfuck through therapy, finalizing the divorce, starting over (and over) with NC, being a calm and sane parent, and accepting help from those who offered. I didn’t think I could succeed at any of those, but, remarkably, I did. And you will, too. I read here a lot and went to church. I realized how much I had isolated myself and vowed not to do that moving forward. I had honest and direct conversations in all areas of my life including family and employment.

    Once peace and hope are restored, take baby steps. Just get through the week (or day!) and don’t worry about making it through the whole holiday season. Just go on one outing, have one new conversation, serve at one charity event. Continue to step out in faith. This is challenging at times but considering all I’ve done, I can do this too. I just need to keep building confidence.

    Just continue to inch up the mountain even when you can’t quite see the top and it’s overwhelming. See it as a journey instead of a destination. Simply do not stop. No matter how hard. Take small steps. You are mighty.

  • Abby
    My DDay five months today. I left because I could not stay. Just couldn’t swallow even the tiniest corner of the shit sandwich.
    I was a SAHM for 20 years. I was a research psychologist before – no way back in. I was lucky I had retrained for five years to be a psychotherapist to prepare for my empty nest years. Little did I know my whole nest was about to go up in smoke.
    So I do several things. I have a standing appointment at my doctors (GP) one every two months. I asked, said I was afraid and needed the support. They agreed no problem. That keeps me steady.
    I have made new friends by forcing myself to ask people out for coffee, neighbours, school moms, even people I meet in coffee shops. I see someone anyone twice a week.
    I am returning to work in the next six months by volunteering at first (when my head is a bit straighter). Baby steps.
    I arrange things to do on the weekends even if it’s just a walk with my sons. Even if I don’t want to.
    I check in with chump nation many times!!
    I got a Fitbit to walk more and keep moving.
    I try to eat well and set a good bedtime.
    At least once a week I have to buy myself something for getting through (a book, earrings, a knick-knack, lipstick, scarf etc).
    I use the Chump forum when I am desperate.
    I try to take it day by day and not panic about the long term.
    I try to go with my moods as far as possible. I cry when I need to, laugh as much as possible.
    I don’t watch much tv as I get triggered easily at the moment but am almost sick of nature documentaries.
    I try to nurture hope.
    I try to have limited contact with my STBXH.
    I do glad you asked this question as I will also benefit being a newbie.

    And I have to say I wish it had not happened but I had become complacent about my own desires and needs and dreams so it is tough but there is also a sense of excitement and empowerment that grows a bit each day. I like liking myself!!!!

    I like feeling quite brave and capable. Stronger.
    My own person. And there is the sheer joy of wearing silly slippers and pjs at night drinking a little wine and eating chocolates sprawled out on the sofa, boys safe and asleep, watching nature stuff and just being alone but ok. Happy even.

    I wish you all the best. Good luck. And thanks again for your question.

    • These are really solid steps for self-care and moving forward one step at a time. I would add that Abby can go to the Forums and post in “Chump Meetups” to find some real life chumps. There are Mighty Chumps the world over, so even outside of the US, Canada, or Australia, you can find CN meetups. And that would be a great place to start making new friends, Abby.

  • And Abby just to add.

    I have survived so far because of the people here. I joke about living here but I do. The advice and support is literally life saving.
    How people did it before I have no idea.
    I check in all the time. Re-read the archives and use the forum.

    Literally life saving. I offer thanks every day for this site and the people who post and share.
    Could not have done it alone.

    And there are people here who did do it before CN. Mighty is right.

  • Abby,

    The start of my relationship detox is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I am educated, and yet it took discovering his affair to realize that I had been that frog who started chilling in that cold water a decade ago… The moment I stumbled upon evidence of his affair (because of course he didn’t confess), I realized that the water that once felt refreshing and nice was now a boiling bath of dysfunction.

    My advice is start small with feeding your mind with great info so you start your mind detox from his/her control. You know in your heart that you are not in a healthy relationship nor living a life that is peaceful and happy. But you need your head to catch up, to move past the fears of losing the little you have. That detox starts with reading, and you are at the right place here at CL to learn as much as possible. It is hard to believe you can be what you cannot see… Stories from CN will show you how far resilient chumps can get (both how far from their X and how far in terms of heading to Meh).

    You might have to stay put, but you can re-educate your mind and find your mighty so it can catch up with your heart… It might take time, but be patient with yourself, it is a long road to recovery from an abusive and controlling relationship…

    Books that have helped me immensely as I started my detox included:
    Disarming the Narcissist by Wendy T. Behary
    Stop taking care of the Borderline and Narcissist by Margalis Fjelstad
    Joint Custody with a Jerk by Julie Ross & Judy Corcoran (this one is useful on building boundaries no matter whether you have kids or not)
    Why does he do that? by Lundy Bancroft
    CL’s mighty book…

    In addition to these books, I would highly recommend that you start seeing a therapist on your own, one that specializes in abuse and complex PTSD. That space will help you get started in decolonizing your mind from your controlling partner, and insert doses of mighty into your daily routine until you are at a place where you feel strong enough to kick start other steps like finding a job, and move forward with your own life.

    Living for years with a controlling disordered personality is very damaging to the psyche because we spackle and find excuses for our controlling spouses and decrease our needs so much we find ourselves apologetic and guilty for asking anything to others…

    I was hesitant to share anything about my life with my local friends, but they were super welcoming and helpful when I did, they validated how poorly my X treated me and keep me sane as I navigate parallel parenting post-divorce.

    Start small Abby, with giving yourself permission to feed your mind with information and with therapy so you can diminish your STBX’s influence in your mind. You are already mighty for having written to CL, use the forums to keep building on this great first step, and know we are here to support you!

    • This is all great advice that I can vouch for 100%. It’s taken me a good year to get my mind in the right place but now that it is – full steam ahead. I feel so much better and much more like my old self. The hardest part is getting over the shame and being honest, both with yourself and others.

      • The shame is crippling.
        Breńe Brown is helpful in dealing with the shame piece. Both her books and TED talks.

  • Plan. Plan very carefully if you have the time and can stay in your untenable situation a little longer. I went back to grad school 2 years before divorce. My c said to me “why the f#*ck would you do that”. a year before I filed I consulted a lawyer just for information after my x was physically violent with me. She put me on the path of watching and waiting. When the shit hit the fan I lost all of my friends. But I reconnected with my x’s best friends wife who was divorcing as well (another story). Gather everything you can and get the documents out of your house. I mailed mine across the country to a friend who mailed them to my attorney a year later. Save money. Get a credit card in your name. Follow the money, where is it, are assets hidden? It takes digging. Look, you are smarter than him. Work part time or full time if you can. Go grey rock, in the quiet, watch and listen. This will help you begin to quiet your mind. Go to the doctor get a physical, std test, any surgeries or other procedures you may need while you have health insurance. Start standing up for yourself in front of your kids, build your strength. Practice living with less. Create an interactive budget, plug in numbers. Shop for housing, see if keeping the house is cheaper than renting, or living with parents or friends. Visualize a new life. Even if you stay, lay the groundwork. Just knowing you can is powerful.

  • I’m one of those women. I was a stay at home mom of 3 for 15 years. I finally diviorced my alcoholic,abusive, Narc/serial cheater in March of this year. It’s most definitely an uphill battle. I found help and support through my local resource center for domestic violence and was able to work through some of the issues I had with ptsd. It’s something I work at everyday, since then I’m in school full time and working towards a goal. Reinventing myself as I go. I never had an exact plan, I just knew I had to keep going forward. I never believed I was capable of achieving anything since I was so broken down by the relationship. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you are free from abuse.

    • “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you are free from abuse”. Now THAT is what I call good advice, wisdom, P2.0.
      You will now have room for growth, the most important thing to have, Abby! Friends and opportunities will fill this room. And I hope you are healthy. I assume you have an education and live in the USA or at least not in Syria. You now have Chump Nation and Chump Lady. That’s all you need. Just keep walking. I’ll be thinking about you! Good luck!

      • Not in USA but in a good country. Husband made me quit my uni degree a few years back.

        Thanks for all these comments. There’s some good stuff in all of them for me to take hold of x

        • One thing to put on your list is to go speak with various universities/degree programs (secretly if necessary) – whatever exists in your country. You might be surprised – they may “credit” you with whatever work you already did, and you could find out what your options are to complete a degree – either the one you had already started, or a different one aimed at providing the most job prospects. Depending on what the resources are in your country, you could also find out about scholarships and loans to help women in your situation. Too, find out whether there are any online options to help you advance towards a degree or certificate; in some programs now, you can do a lot of course work online. If you have the equivalent of community colleges, they are a fantastic resource and very cheap, and you can still get financial aid to attend. Even if you end up having to take any job at all to survive for a while, knowing you can advance professionally by taking one course at a time, or something like that, will be very helpful information. Taking even one course could also give you new social prospects for friendships.

          If necessary, if you need to hide all this, you can be on the internet in an incognito browser or erase your history, or go somewhere like a library that has computers to use.

          You’ve already taken a huge first step by reading here and posting. You are mighty, and you can do this.

  • Short and sweet:

    Every time I went to the grocery store, I bought a gift card for a place I knew I would need things (superstore, grocery store, hardware store, sandwich shop, gas station). Not in amount big enough to notice and one time. I stockpiled until I had enough for two months worth of groceries and gasoline.

    For friends, I joined a running group for beginners. I didn’t know before then that runners drink more beer and get out more than any other social group with whom I’ve ever associated.

      • I will, too. Great plan. I think that my financial adviser knew what my STBX was doing but he couldn’t tell me. I went to see him over money I got for selling my horse trailers , truck and a couple of saddles. My STBX was terrified that I was seeing the FA without him. I told him he was welcome to come to the appointment as I had nothing to hide ( he did). The FA did the best he could to help me. I asked him if I should give the money towards the $75,000.00 that my husband owed the IRS or something else. He replied. “This is not your rainy day. If I were you I would put this $ amount for emergency funds and the rest in a money market account for an emergency. So if something happens, you have money to survive on for 6 months. The FA saved me from total ruin. I found extra money in a joint account and took that immediately. I was able to hire a good attorney. I, too, have been a SAHW . I did without. I am still living in the home on the farm waiting for mediation after 18 months. You can do it.

      • I did the gift cards too, after reading about it on CN. In the end, I didn’t need them, things didn’t get that bad, but at the time I was afraid he would freeze the bank accounts and I’d be stuck. Great advice. I also took extra cash out when buying groceries and hid it along with a lot of important papers at a friend’s house. Learned all that on CN.

    • Gift cards are good. Cash is better. Each week I tucked away a $20 in the pages of a book. No safer place to hide money from my ex than in a book! I was saving for legal fees to secretly file when I started, but then everything blew up and there was no secret about it. The accumulated cash was endlessly helpful after he moved out.

      Once he moved out but while we were still sharing accounts, I also prepaid on my electric and water and phone in small amounts each month. By the time the accounts rolled over to be my responsibility, I had a few months already paid which helped during that transition to a lower income.

      Similarly, I kept the gas tank full, bought extra nonperishables, cat food, dog food, litter … I really wanted to get new tires, but decided that was too brazen.

      If you are going to have to return to the workplace, start looking for reasonably priced work clothes so you don’t have to get them all at once.

      Still on shared medical? Get that wellness exam, mammogram, dental cleaning, new glasses or contacts, and yes, start some therapy for yourself if you can.

      Start looking for stuff you might be able to sell quietly. I sold a few silver items and some jewelry (including the 10k walmart wedding band) for cash and tucked the cash into my little stash.

      • I also strongly recommend the slow accumulation of the cash stash. By the time I filed, I had $3000 in cash in my desk at work that my ExH knew nothing about. I also still had my personal credit cards and personal bank accounts that he could not see or access from before we were married. I changed my direct deposit for work a few months before I filed, but continued paying “our” bills out of the joint account. I had a nice little cushion built up. But – I was lucky because my ExH was so wrapped up in his world of his whore and his “business” that he didn’t really pay any attention to our personal finances. I cleaned out half the joint accounts the morning of filing and like 6 weeks later he still hadn’t noticed. It can be tricky if your asshole uses money as a means of control, but give it some thought and you may come up with a solution. If your SO controls money so tightly that there is no way for you to have some money of your own… then you may be in abusive situation and should look into support from organizations that can help you.

        Re: friends – I found once I admitted to people that I was getting divorced friends came out of the woodwork. I have nice friends, they are polite people who are kind and mature. They are not going to tell me “Naw… I don’t want to hang with your b/c your husband is horrible”. But once he was gone… people had me over. I went to happy hour, friends met me for bike rides. Turns out everyone hated my ex.

      • On prepaying utilities before you are on your own: “Once he moved out but while we were still sharing accounts, I also prepaid on my electric and water and phone in small amounts each month. By the time the accounts rolled over to be my responsibility, I had a few months already paid which helped during that transition to a lower income.” This is brilliant, Dixie Chump. And good advice for anyone who may be out of work or looking at reduced income for a while for any reason.

    • The ex opened up a new bank account for “his money” without telling me. The bank notified me with what was going on with the joint account so I did find out immediately. However, I only then had access to my pay check. That’s it. Nothing else. In a matter of hours, 3/4 of my income was gone and there was nothing I could do about it. Looking back I now realize how lucky I was that all the bills were solely in his name. He had absolutely no choice but to keep paying them unless he wanted to default. I guess the point is, you have no idea what he is capable of. Put nothing past him. He is the enemy and it suxks to think like that, but it’s the truth. Start siphoning money any way you possibly can. The gift cards idea is awesome. Buy groceries and get cash back. Start shopping more often for the essentials and siphon money every time. Buy things, return them, and pocket the cash. It adds up quickly and will give you a little piece of mind. Plus, money “earned” like that is untraceable so it is YOURS if you don’t put it into a bank.

  • Assessing you situation is the first step. Often times our abusers isolate us by moving away from our families and friends.

    After moving with him I lost my home and found out he was cheating. I packed my truck left all my belongings, took my son and moved back with 500.00 dollars in my pocket. I lived with family for a month and lived in a cheap dumpy studio that I could afford given the job I found.

    At that point I should have filed. He returned and made promices. I suffered anither 14 years of abuse.

  • The first baby steps for me were setting up consults with attorneys. It’s important to understand the legal landscape, at least it was for me. If you cannot find a GOOD therapist, you need to lean on your good friends or a trusted family member. The next practical step is gettting a full physical from your GP. Tell them what has happened. Get the STD panel done.

    I was a SAHM for 18+yrs. left my career, moved all over the place to support the asshat’s climb. I went to one of those non-profit career centers to get my resume updated and make a re employment plan. Set up a savings acct in your name and get a safe deposit box to hold all of the copies of every piece of financial and legal documents about you, your cheater and your kids. Begin paying yourself a little at a time. To get your skill set refreshed or explore a new field, volunteer. This way you are making contacts, getting out and doing something.

    Xoxoxo.

    • Agreed about the legal landscape. I almost copped out entirely when I realized the amount of money I didn’t have that would be going to my lawyer. I spent endless hours looking for ways to save Benjamins but finally had to grin and bear it while legal team went to work. I’m still aghast at the industries that profit from the pain of divorce (marriage counseling, financial, forensic accountants, lawyers) but I suppose that’s the way it is.
      It’s funny to think of my attorney on his boat in the Turks and Caicos while I budget for food but he did win me freedom and a decent settlement so there’s that..

      • By way of perspective — I know legal help is expensive, but among lawyers, family law is not the law people go into to make loads of money. It’s emotionally fraught and it’s hard to collect. (That’s why you need a retainer.) And a lot of cases go to court, which costs time and money. It pays to consult with lawyers and do your homework. But IMO, the legal help is worth it. No one likes lawyers until they need one. (Kind of like cops that way.)

        • Agreed. In the end it was worth every penny, but newly chumped me was looking for any and all ways to put off the inevitable- divorce and financial restructuring. Now that I look back I can’t believe the huge improvements from the top to the bottom of my life- almost all thanks to the legal team that did a stellar job.

          • You are absolutely right – Every single penny is worth legally severing your relationship with a cheater. Money well spent even though the cost is ridiculous -it would have cost me way more had I went along with the financial and emotional abuse for even one day longer.

  • I think that people have to feel that their situation is completely intolerable in order to embrace change. The guy with the housewife has to find the idea of paying an alimony check and driving a crappy pinto to be bliss compared to spending another night under the same roof with her. The woman who is isolated because of her crazy narc spouse has to be desperate enough to walk out the door alone with a backpack and say “Fuck it, not one more day.”

    I know that’s not really specific advice, but it basically comes down to wanting happiness (real happiness) more than fearing discomfort or the unknown.

  • Even when you don’t feel like it – do it. Whatever it is that you fear. Of course, there are days when you can’t get out of bed — and you may need those days sometimes — however, MOST days, push yourself.

    I joined a divorce support group. Reluctantly. When I say reluctantly I mean I went in there, week after week, with my arms crossed refusing to believe I was a part of their island of misfit toys. I’m two years out and I can tell you with absolute certainty that it changed my life. I met two wonderful women there — I consider them family now. Because the three of us started in the pit, every challenge in our lives now feels like cake.

    I know it’s scary. I know. But do it anyway. Join a meet-up. Volunteer. Be a part of the world in a way that you never were while married to that selfish asshole.

    You can do this. And when you think you can’t, come back to Chump Nation. We’ll remind you.

    • Yes. Each day do one brave thing. No matter how small. For some, that can mean smiling at a neighbor instead of quietly walking by. It is all those small steps that slowly but surely show you the way out. The path to freedom and happiness is there … you are already on it … you just need to keep doing those small brave things.

  • Abby, I moved 2,500 miles across the country with my fiancé. Five years later, she was fucking another man and demanding that we “make the marriage work.” Almost all of my local friends were “our friends” who quickly showed their true allegiance to a cheater. Having a VERY thin local support network, I was wayyyy out on a limb, and alone.

    Regardless, I left her and filed for divorce.

    I knew I had to stay in our chosen state to push the divorce through. But to get away from her manipulation, which I was susceptible to, I moved out on her and found corporate month-to-month housing (fully furnished) in a very sketchy neighborhood. The cost was so high that I had to stop saving for retirement for several months. Six months later, I found a sublet (nothing like living in a one-room sublet at mybage, but that’s what I got for living single in an expensive market).

    Given all of my best friends and family were 2,500 miles away, I made my loose local friends into GOOD friends ASAP. One of them eventually became a long-term girlfriend.

    I plowed through the divorce, realizing that it was up to me to push it forward. I turned down several requests from my ex to “give it another try.”

    I paid off my graduate school loans on my own and began to save again. A year later, I was headhunted for a job in a nearby city and moved there to try something new.

    I did it for a year. And during that year was the last time I heard from my ex (a year ago yesterday, in fact). But the job wasn’t for me, and neither was the life I tried living so far from family.

    So, I searched online, applied to three jobs back where I was from across the country, got three job offers, and made the move back 1.5 months later.

    You can make any changes you want, within the bounds of your responsibilities (children, income, etc). For me, the hardest part has been figuring out what I want and what makes me happy. That has taken much more time/effort/emotion than actually making the changes.

  • 20+ years of working together to build businesses (his career) all over the world ended with me in a foreign country bound to stay there for five more years (part of the divorce agreement – his access to children) and completely and utterly alone. Each move left me more and more isolated while he developed a huge circle of work friends as he travelled internationally for his job. 1.5 years after DDay followed by ‘trying to make it work’ (as if…) it’s over.
    Backstory done – now the practical recommendation.
    Think of what you are good at – secular skills, organizing (standard mum skills), being bossy, applying nail polish – ALL your skills. Then VOLUNTEER. Go to an aged care facility and do free manicures for one hour a week. Do volunteer gardening. Not only may this lead to paying work, it builds a resume of skills and has the huge bonus of creating a network of friends and giving to the community. All of this is helpful. The children will grow up and not need 24 hr attention and you will need the network and work experience for your resume. It all counts.
    Plan now for a future of independence. It’s working for me!

  • I was a sahm for 20 yrs, the last year was jumping thru hoops and mindfuckery. We were going for lunch one day and I had had enough!!
    Gave him 5 mins to pack his shit and get out, impulsive yes, or I like to think I had a self survival moment of clariety .
    It was one of the scariest things i have ever done, when it sunk in that I had kids and no job…OMG, Omg…reality kicked in.
    Within 2 weeks, I begged and borrowed money to lawyer up, got a shitty part time job.
    Everyday i would say 10 things outloud of why i was grateful he was gone, cut out switzerland friends (fuck them), went NC, with his flying monkey family.
    I kept my imaginary horse blinders on to anything or anyone that was not supportive to my new life for me and my children.
    I got a full time job ( i love) a new place to live( i never lived on my own) and my kids know, my actions match my words.
    I am tired and our lives have changed, but our home is peaceful, we no longer have to walk on eggshells, and honesty is priority.
    My ex is a new grandpa, oops I mean daddy to his young ow baby and still lives the narc chaos life, she is living my old life, picture perfect on the outside but I am sure she walks on eggshells, gaslighting,cheating…she is his new hostage

  • Two words: Self Care

    This is not you being greedy. This is you making sure you are able to take care of others by taking care of yourself. What were the activities you did before you met the Narc? Do them again. You found joy in them before the Narc and will probably enjoy them again and remind you that there was a life before the Narc.

    My example. I am a gamer. If it is a game, I will play it. Card games, board games, role playing games, computer games, etc etc etc. Part of realizing how bad the abuse was is that when the fog lifted I realize that I hadn’t been to a game store in over 5 years. I realized that I did not own any dice after dday caused be the flee. This was unthinkable to anyone who knew me before getting involved with my Narc.

    Narcs take up so much time I am certain your hobbies have suffered. Go back to them. They are part of what was you so long ago and are part of what the Narc took away. Get them back.

    • Thank you for this, I quit my hobby (sewing) and it’s left such a hole in my life. I need to give that back to myself.

  • I am reading lots of great ideas here, and I am also reading many that cost money. What some people consider cheap would have been so expensive to me at the time — I didn’t have “just ten dollars”. My budget was quite literally to the penny.

    People would always talk about scraping up money and I would wonder how the hell they found sources from which to scrape. He had cleaned out our savings and taken everything with him. I was left with blankets, a pillow, a couple of kitchen implements, two cats, and my ass. I was in deep financial shit.

    When my ex and I split, the only job I could get quickly enough to squeak by on the rent of my small town studio apartment and a peanut butter diet was a low paying entry level reception job. I had been a computer support person making the times that when I stopped working, but the time gap in my work history made me a weak competitor for those jobs.

    My crappy insurance didn’t cover therapy and I couldn’t afford copays for regular doctor visits or regular meds, though I DID have to buy mandatory medical supplies only partially covered by insurance.

    Paying a lawyer wasn’t even a glimmer of an option. The only blessing there was that I was so poor he couldn’t come after ME for support.

    I learned a lot about assistance, as CL mentioned, including off-the-“dole” stuff like local thrift stores’ willingness to give away small amounts of basics to low income people and the food bank. The dole is great, but the process is slow (and I was working at those times with no sick leave or vacation available.) The other resources were faster.

    I stopped drying my clothes at the laundromat to save money and hung them up to dry, and I learned that they will get un-crunchy while you wear them. 🙂

    Now, this was a long time ago — well over ten years have passed since then. I am doing a LOT better. I scratched my way back up through applying for, and eventually getting, better work with insurance and leave, and I joined some local free activity groups which garnered some new friends who didn’t know or care about the ex. (Summer music nights in the local park, library stuff, and book discussion groups topped the list.) It was slow, but I got more solid in time.

    And, for all the trials of that time, it was with it to be rid of a cruel and heartless man. He was far greater poison than any difficulty I had once separate from him.

    It’s so scary. I know it well. And I would have done it a LOT better if the support I needed had been there. But YOU, my dear, have one thing I did not have — you have this place, Chump Lady and Chump Nation. Even if you have to use a library computer on Saturdays, you have a resource to pick you back up when you feel crazy and alone.

    I know it’s an enormous risk. You are worth it. Please try and extricate yourself from the poison that is your cheater. We’ll do all we can to support you.

    • What about journaling? I am terrible at it – I tried at the recommendation of my therapist – but I have a chump friend who does it a lot. She writes down ah-ha moments, the good, the bad, the ugly, and it is really helpful to her.
      Anyone else in CN have input about this?

      • Hi LouisvilleFlower

        I’m not really good at keeping a journal but for the first three months or so after ddays I was epic. I wrote down loads in different notebooks. I wrote ‘texts’ that I wanted to send, I had an angry notebook where I vomited all the bad stuff, a recovery notebook for good quotes, ideas, thoughts etc. I also kept a daily diary.
        As time has gone on I just needed them less. At the time though in the early days it was an invaluable tool. I just couldn’t think straight at all. The writing gave me a sense of control.
        Now I can see how far I have come. It is actually upsetting to see all my anguish written in black and white but I can see things have improved with time.
        I would say to anyone to try it, try everything and if it’s not your thing then move onto a different way of processing all the toxicity.

  • Take it one step at a time, you can do this! Find someone supportive to talk to about your situation…start coming up with a plan. Say nothing to your spouse about your plan.

    Never give up, keep going and believe in yourself. Keep telling yourself – I deserve more out of life than this!

  • Abby,

    I worked part-time and stayed home part-time with my daughter. She has severe special needs. My ex was an abandonment cheater. Never looked back. I was hospitalized twice due to the emotional stress. Had to have two surgeries.

    Now, 3 years later, I’m a single mother, I have my own cleaning business (yes I scrub toilets for a living and make damn good money), I have a small townhouse that I own and my daughter is doing great. It’s not easy but way better than being with a cheater. How I did it? I have a very supportive mother, I’m in Canada so we have community support for special needs children. Ex by law has to pay child support, alimony and extraordinary expenses. I had to go to court to fight for that! But I did it! And I work like a dog! But my daughter and I have a great life now and we’re very happy!

    Hang in there. I’ve read the last chapter. You win! Fight, fight, fight and ask for help! From everyone!

  • On Dday I diverted my small part time income to an “escape fund”…it was easier that one would expect because he had just changed careers and all the money stuff was being reshuffled so when the dust of change settled, he didnt notice my pay was gone. I saved $40,000 but hadnt pulled the trigger to leave yet.

    While he made good money, I paid off bills so there would be less shared debt to work through. I found a cheap apartment building near work and I thought of a task that my employer needed to be done so I might talk them into bumping me up from part time to full time.

    I was coping daily with his shit (I was very much the frog in the pot that Chumptitude describes above) but there were 2 or 3 stressors headed at him (none of them I had any control over) which I expected to send him into rage and I had PROMISED myself that I had endured my last rage from him.

    The last piece of the puzzle was what to do with my adult kids who were recovering from mental health crisis…they were getting better but not self sufficient yet. My (then) teen got along with husband and leaving was going to be hard on her.

    We were about 2 months away from the first wave of stress I knew would unhinge him when he died very suddenly. Logistically I had an easier time in the wake of his death than most chumps have when they leave…I got the house, the cars, the money. Trouble is I also found stuff in the house (while going through his private papers) that indicated that he was a bigger shit than I knew him to be…then it happened again and again.

    I now vacillate between thankfulness that God solved my horrible situation by removing cheater from planet earth, but Im also disappointed in myself for not leaving earlier and not seeing how bad it really was.

    I now have MASSIVE respect for the chumps who stuck their spear in the ground and said “No More!” and followed through.

    • I love that!! “I have MASSIVE respect for the chumps that stuck their spear to the ground and said no more….”
      What a visual!!
      I, too, have massive respect for all of the incredible people who post their stories here – as they stick their spear to the ground – I want to say Thank You!!
      Love it love it love it!!!!

  • Some tips for living cheaply–none of them are amazing, they are just things we sometimes forget about.

    Use the public library–not only can you find books to take your mind off things, but you can check out audio books and movies. Many local libraries host all kinds of activities as well. At mine, I can get free tickets for the zoo and a children’s museum once a year. And the people who use these services are frequently frugal–they’ll understand why you want to meet in the park with sack lunches instead of “going out” for coffee. If you live near a college or university, you may be able to get a library card as a member of the community. If they charge and you can’t afford the fee, ask who on campus can help (in my town the librarians might not be able to waive the fee but people who run the community literacy program sure could).

    Save a small nest egg for grocery shopping (maybe $100) and then use that to shop sales. Don’t buy pasta every week, buy two months worth when it is on super-sale (or whatever dry goods you like). As much as possible, get in the habit of maintaining a pantry of staples purchased when on sale and only buy dairy, fruit, and vegetables at regular prices. Meat can also be frozen–only buy it on sale. If you’ve not used these strategies before, you’ll find you can cut your grocery bill at least 25%. If you are between jobs, look into the couponing strategies promoted (no cost to use the service) by people like the Couponmom.com. You have to wade through tons of advertising on the site (which is why all the info is free), but if you have 2 to 3 hours a week to gather and organize coupons, arrange to shop at more than one grocery, and plan ahead, you can cut your bill down further. I’ve done this once or twice, but I’ve never managed to make enough time to systematically use coupons effectively.

    Take on new challenges (it is not like you’ve got a choice, really). I can’t fix my own electrical problems, but I’ve learned to unstop drains by watching internet videos. It will be slow. You might need to watch 3 hours of video to figure out the 10 minutes or repairs you can do yourself.

    Ask for help. I am still not great at this one, but it is a skill we all need to learn. It helps to be precise. Don’t say, “My house is such a mess, and I don’t even know where to begin with repairs.” Instead, say, “I’m trying to fix up my house. I think there’s a blown fuse that needs to be replaced, and I don’t know how to seal my windows better.” You are much more likely to discover that someone used to work as an electrician’s apprentice and can replace a fuse for you really cheaply with the second statement than the first. And then you can offer to collect the electrician’s mail and water her plants next time she’s on vacation–or share whatever your skill set includes.

    Asking for help also includes calling any service you feel you need to have and asking for a lower rate–car insurer, home insurer, cell phone plan, etc. They may tell you that they cannot offer you anything cheaper. Or, they might have a suggestion. Maybe you make 6 calls and get one vendor to reduce one bill by $20 a month–that’s a win. If you have debt, make these calls to those who hold your loans to ask for lower monthly payments for a period of time or ask for reduced interest rates.

    I’ve met several people who live on tiny incomes–they inspire me. I used to feel awkward as a hostess because my home is not expansive or lovely, but having met a family with 3 kids that lives in a 1-bedroom house and who regularly host potlucks, I’ve learned to rethink my ideas of what I value. Everyone realizes that we’ll eat outside at those potlucks regardless of the weather–you perch on the picnic table, on the steps, or on the chair you brought yourself. If you want to drink something other than water, you bring it yourself. The company is great; it is why everyone comes back. So I’ve learned that anyone who is disappointed by what I offer as a hostess probably isn’t someone I need to spend much time with. Part of starting over from the SAHM situation is learning to give up the social vision of “normal” that goes along with being a SAHM. (I’m not knocking SAHM–been there, done that–I just think I picked up some habits during those years that I’ve found I don’t miss once I was forced to shed them.)

  • Abby,

    I highly Ly recommend contacting an organization like Human Options. They gave me a great psychoeducational course on domestic abuse. I made friends with wonderful people. We have supported each other in many ways over two years.

    I also set one goal each day so that I keep inching forward in life.

    I face numerous challenges related and unrelated to my divorce, but I reduce my worry about the future by reminding myself that life is full of all types of surprises.

    We, Chump Nation, are rooting for you!

  • My advice… whether you want to try wreckonciliation or not, see an attorney within 1 week or so of D-day. Online forums are great BUT there is nothing that is more helpful and grounding than the counsel of a professional who can tell you what you can expect if you pursue different paths. Some will charge a fee for the consultation – others will make it complementary. DO NOT TELL your cheater or anyone who could tell them about this.

    My ex-wife cheated on me and within a week I visited a high powered family law attorney who represented the local NBA players and a well known reality TV star. He was super expensive and I really didn’t like him because he told me that basically, there was no strategy, hope for 50/50 and bend over and get ready to pay through the nose on alimony. That being said, he painted a picture of what I could expect which was helpful. I fired him and found a better, less expensive attorney who coached me through mediation. I was 2-3 steps ahead of my ex-wife at every turn – it’s empowering. When 2 months of wreckonciliation ended, I knew my state’s family law better than my ex-wife who is an attorney.

    I got 50/50 custody, a non-modifiable waiver of alimony, generous buy out of the house and a cheater free new life!

    • I am just a year out from what I call my DDay – DoneDay … the day I was done. Last year, I was on a plane from Los Angeles to DC and I was reading a divorce book on my iPad. I decided to take some notes using my little portable keyboard. The nice lady in the seat next to me said something like “Oh I hope you are not still working.” I peered over the edge of my little reading glasses and said “I’m researching my divorce, and like any good researcher I’m taking notes”. She laughed and gave me some kind words of encouragement.

      But yes – I read a book and took notes. I took an informational meeting to get basic info. I booked an appointment with an accountant to look at business financials and understand the process of valuing a business (so much is just knowing the vocabulary), I researched and took notes at work and had questions about various options to discuss with my professional, and I had a meeting with a high powered attorney who basically took the bits and pieces and turned it into my plan. I had a best case plan, a worst case plan, and a goal to end up in the middle.

      By the time I actually filed and ultimately got my Ex sitting in the office of the mediator (a 3rd attorney who learned things only on a need to know basis), I was orchestrating every moment of that divorce practically down to the word. Things that I already knew I acted surprised. Things that I knew the answer to, I acted like I needed to think about it and make a decision… The few times he tried to fight me, I knew exactly what to say to make him step back from whatever threat he thought he could throw down.

      I work in a field where research and attention to detail are critical to success. I have said “Never divorce someone in (My Field). I will fuck your shit up…. with carefully completed paperwork.”

  • Dear Abby,

    I just want to say to you: You can do it!! It’s not going to be easy. In fact, brace yourself for hell. I likened it to blowing up my life and then spending a year crawling out of the hole. I lost everything – literally everything – when I left my husband, all my money, my home, all my possessions. Everything I had fit into four duffel bags. Because of him, my career also came crashing down. I was broke, unemployed, homeless for six months (couch surfing with friends and family). I got on food stamps and medicaid (investigate these options now – they are a life saver – but it does take a few weeks/couple months to kick in).

    But I crawled out of that hole. I have a nice apartment now. A job where I earn more than I ever did. And I’m looking to buy a house in the fall. I made it. You will, too. Going through hell to leave him and start over was totally worth it. I’m finally emotionally healthy – and now financially too. I wouldn’t be if I stayed with him.

    The best thing is I’m not afraid of anything anymore. If the sky falls on me again, I know I’m able to survive and I’ll figure out again. It’s a wonderfully freeing feeling.

    You don’t even know how strong you are yet – and finding out is pretty awesome.

    • “The best thing is I’m not afraid of anything anymore. If the sky falls on me again, I know I’m able to survive and I’ll figure out again. It’s a wonderfully freeing feeling.”

      Yes, Jennifer! Exactly!

  • I wrote a longer post earlier–but rereading it I have a better sense of what changed for me most in regard to finances.

    When I was married, we ought to have had more than enough money. But things got worse every year. Money was often tight because the EX spent so much on himself. I developed habits of “spackling” financially just as I spackled everything else.

    I’m proud of the fact that I’m raising my kids alone–no financial help from the EX. I don’t spackle any more. I am confident and at ease being frugal . I’d cringe when the EX ordered an overpriced bottle of wine to impress a friend. That was a lot harder for me than it is for me now to turn down going out for coffee with a friend and saying, “Oh just come over to my place, and I can make us a pot.”

    I think many of us find that no matter how lousy our finances are, if there were financial problems caused by the EX during the marriage, it is easier to live on less than you want without a jackass than it is to be financially worried with a jackass.

    This is not to say that it will be easy. I’d just sum it up as saying my financial anxieties are different, but I wouldn’t trade this set back for my old ones.

    • Eilonwy

      Great point. My STBX earns a lot but we are always teetering on the edge financially. Bills don’t get paid, he decided to not pay for contract stuff and gets a bad credit score, collection agency letters, court proceedings for non payment. We had the money, he just couldn’t be bothered to be sensible.
      No I don’t know how much I will have after the divorce but throughout the marriage I have been frugal. Now I can be frugal without the fear of what he isn’t paying. I will be in control. Scary but better than living in constant financial insecurity.

      • When I separated from my husband, I was shocked that I could manage financially without my XH’s income (he was not Jackass the cheater. When you are married to someone who is committed to a lifestyle that doesn’t include you (drinking, using drugs, cheating, etc.), their resources go for their life, not yours. I’ve had to tap my minimal retirement fund, but I can keep working while my health holds out and if Social Security doesn’t get dismantled. But even if the worst happens, I’ll figure it out. What I learned is that fear can’t hold me hostage because what I feared before–that to survive I had to have another income from some man in my life–turned out not to be true.

  • Hi Abby 🙂
    I have no kids and I had a job, so I was lucky. But, maybe I can help with something else. For me the turning point has been restoring the confidence in myself. My self esteem, destroyed by the cheating, the mess, the abandonment. It has been two years since that day. (We were together for more than a decade, not married, but a stable couple). And in these 24 months, step by step, I regained confidence in myself. It was hard, it really was. But it was amazing at the same time. At the beginning I could not see it. No one can. The pain is just too much. I was broken. Inside and outside. I was thinking that my life was over. Every night when I was going to bed I was preying to do not wake up. But I was waking up, I was taking my shower, having my coffee and leaving the house. Even if I did not want to. I started to focus on the present. Non the past, nor the future. Only the single moment I was living in. The report to fill. The mail to write. Routine. One thing after the other. I had no space for anything else. But it did help. The evening and the weekends were harder. One of the things I find out to have was, in fact, free time. There was no call to wait for, no plan to make for the weekend, no movie night out. No grocery for two. No cooking time together. Nothing, I was all alone. So, I decided to fill in my schedule… I went running cause I wanted to start loosing weight. And after that I joined a gym and I started kickboxing. That summer, I took my first solo trip. Four days in Budapest, all by myself. It was the first time in my all life. I never traveled alone. Only with my ex. I had my first dinner alone. I went to the movie alone… I am not going to lie. I cried big time. I was feeling a waste of space most of the time. But, I kept doing it. And, day after day, things went better. Little by little I re-build my confidence. I was changing. I joined every meetup of my city: hiking, running, sailing or walking. I made a list with what I wanted to do in my free time and I started to follow it. I discovered that the idea of being a weak little woman that would never accomplish something by herself… was a lie. A big fat lie. And my ex’s dream. He was the one hoping me to be unhappy. He was the one that could not accept to see me realized, confident and satisfied (cheaters tent to have a very poor self esteem… when you glow they are miserable). My social life followed this path as well. At the beginning I started to say hello to my co- workers. I started to talk with those that were on the train with me. Commute -chitchat on Monday morning going to work. That was the start (Lucky me, I am not living in London). After a while I decided to invite those I became a little closer with over for lunch or a coffee. And, can you imagine? I went dancing. Not to flirt or date or any other bullsh*t, just for dance and laugh. Just for the fun. I went back to school. Online classes for me right now, but I am considering taking a second degree pretty soon (sadly I have the dentist first… lmao). I gave up my bad habits simultaneously with my sadness and the broken memories of my old life. Now, two years passed and I have not finished yet. But what I learned is that I can do it. And whatever it will happen, I know I will be all right. I will make it. For anyone out there starting the journey I would say. Find a job. ANY job. Maybe you are not going to like it at the beginning. Maybe you are going to feel wasted and lonely. Fine, keep moving. Be nice with you as much as possible. You are your own best friend. You are the person you should love the most. Be kind… we have already being through a lot… One of thing I did (do not laugh!!!) was writing on the mirror of my bathroom “Look at you, sugar! You are amazing!”. A message for me by me… To read every morning and to repeat aloud in the hardest days. another thing, find your hobby. Maybe you have a job that you do not like. Maybe you spent years doing things you did not like with your ex… why don’t you try to find out what you actually love to do? Try new things! Join meetup, go running, go walking in the woods, paint, go to a cooking class… Make order in your life as well. Cut out the fake friends, the users, the backstabbers and surround yourself with people that will support you. Even in the small things. Positive vibes rule 🙂 Cut the bad habits as well and well, followed your dreams. It is never too late. You are going to make it. You are going to be happy. You are beautiful and you deserve all the great things that are yet to come. Send you kisses… and… well… sorry for the long post… 😛 I am no good to sum up things! Love you all!

    • Emm- Thank you for sharing your story. It was so encouraging. I completely connected to the part about being alone. I too found myself in the same situation and at times it felt like I could not move past the pain. You described it perfectly, “There was no call to wait for, no plan to make for the weekend, no movie night out. No grocery for two. No cooking time together. Nothing, I was all alone”. That reality was so hard for me to face. I’m working towards being my own best friend and being alone still scares me. So thanks for sharing that it can be done, that you will survive the pain and you CAN do things by yourself. Even if you have to cry- the feelings will pass and life will get better. Thanks again, you are definitely MIGHTY!!

      • NotThisGirl trust me. It can be done and it is awsome. Pain is not forever. Nothing is forever. Not even us. Every day we are a little closer to the meh. If I look back I am happy for the sadness I went through. Those days forced me to learn a lesson that mad me a better person. I have not finished yet. I am still in the process. But I can see the end, out there. Almost there. And every day I feel stronger. Two years ago I was a girl afraid of everything. Talking to strangers, taking decisions. Today I am a woman that can do stuff. And I love this woman. I really love me. Every day a little more. And it is amazing. And you and all the women here are made of the same magic. I mean, I am reading your stories and I am thinking… these girls are badass… they are sooo great! We are all walking the same path, we are just at different points. We will all reach the meh. Stay strong… and go out. Do stuff by yourself… Go running or walking (sport helped me sooo much… all those natural endorphines running through your veins!!!). I discovered a walking group in my city… go out with them once a month. It is fun and there are always nice people there. 🙂 I really believe that loosing my ex was the best thing EVER!!!!!! 😀 Lmao… that looser was slowing down my awsomeness!!!! 😉 Thanks for your comment! I feel so much welcome here in this forum… and… well, it is great!

  • I think the most under recognized problem people like you deal with is depression. It comes from feeling helpless and hopeless. Get to your local mental health office. Get therapy if possible or medication if needed. If that is not an option keep looking. Feeling helpless makes us give up. Keep fighting. If you need to go to a women’s shelter because of abuse and don’t know how contact the police. They know. If you are not in physical danger and go to church then reach out to a pastor. If your church is against separation and divorce then find anyone in the helping services for guidance, including another pastor, rabbi etc. If you feel shame stop it. Seriously. Trying to find you way out of the depths of despair you live in is a hard, hard job. Look at yourself as mighty. You have reached out to CL. That is your first step. In the US you can go to places like a Sharing and Caring for clothing. Use The Salvation Army. Use food stamps. Ask for help. Stay on this blog. This is a mighty army you are joining.

    • This is so true. When you are depressed, your body is held captive by your mind. Until those chemicals are tweaked, even getting up out of bed seems like a win.

  • The local women’s shelter can be of great help. I was able to see a great therapist at no cost. They have pro bono lawyers that may take your case. Didn’t help me, they said they only take cases they can win so I hired my own lawyer for the PO. I won, it was hard and very costly, saved me though! They also know the system to help you get training and social services. Do check out your local shelter.

    Jedi Hugs.

    • 🙂 Thanks, Capricorn! I am sure you are just as mighty — it’s always our trials that eke our mightiness out of us. 🙂

  • Ok, practical tips? Well, “practical” is so boring but I think it’s this mindset that prevents us from rebuilding and starting over. I really do. I feel the key here is you have to get *excited* about doing this!

    You have to make a commitment to yourself and get excited about it.

    Let’s say that your commitment is I have to find a job. Lets also say that you have been a SAHM/D for 10 years.

    Where do you start? Well, I feel since the hardest door to open is your own front door. So open that front door – get in your car – or walk over to your city’s small uptown area. Talk to people in the stores. See if they are hiring. Go to the city’s municipal building and do the same. Get the vibe out there that I AM LOOKING FOR A JOB. Get excited about it!

    At the very least you are out of your home and you will feel tremendous validation and confidence for doing so even if you don’t get that job. Repeat in the next town over. Keep it close to home. Stay excited!

    Technology can also be your friend in finding a job, especially a professional job, but I feel nothing can take the place of face to face contact. Ask me, I know. I hired a Mom that just walked in my door just that way. I hired her because she was excited!

  • I’m in bed next to my sleeping narc husband as I read all these comments, and I’m on phone so it’s hard for me to respond well at the moment, but just want to quickly say, THANKS for all these kind and encouraging and inspiring comments. I truly appreciate you all sharing your experience. Lots of good advice and tips. Will check in tomorrow and respond better as needed x

      • Dear Abby,

        It’s hard but it is the only real solution. You are an introvert. You have to try a little, friends don’t fall from the sky (though sometimes they do). Post D Day I remembered a couple of women I new from before, but was not friends with. I knew they had been at the same situation with me. All it took was to pick up the phone. I called and there I had my new very sympathetic friends…

  • I have a few different mottos, but the most applicable here is “progress is incremental.” If your expectation is to get back into the workforce, move, find a new home, make new friends, go through divorce, and all the other hard stuff all within a week’s time, then hell yeah that’s virtually unachievable. Most of us who have broken free and started a new life did it step by step. You have to prioritize, think ahead, and have realistic expectations. First I left. Then I stayed with family. Then I found a job. Then I moved. Then I found a school for my son. Then I started to make new friends. Then I filed for divorce. That took a solid year and a half. Eventually I’d like to meet someone new, and although it hasn’t happened yet, I’m confident that it will eventually.

    All of this has been incremental, and sometimes painfully slow, and sometimes overwhelming to the point of breakdown, even still. But you eat the elephant one bite at a time. You climb the mountain one step at a time. You survive one breath at a time. It’s not easy, fun, or fair, but neither is it insurmountable.

    Take the first step, and the path will eventually appear little by little. Good luck.

    • Well-said! One of the things that kept me stuck for years was trying to get my head around the entire situation and trying to solve everything at once. When he finally left, I had to take things one step at a time, deal with every crisis as it arose. It’s been a year and a half and I’m still going step-by-step through the things I need to do to get my life together. That’s the only way to rebuild when everything falls apart — with time and distance I can see how things have gotten incrementally better, including my mental state.

  • Abby… you are not alone. Ever. You have Chump Nation.

    I admit, I didn’t leave Mr. Sparkles. I stayed in an abusive relationship because I feared breaking up our family and having to go 50/50 custody with our son (who was 3 the first time I caught Mr. Sparkles with online profiles and “what not”). The idea that I was modelling that abusive behavior is ok in a marriage never occurred to me before I found the folks here.

    And, when Mr. Sparkles left me for the OW… SIX YEARS after my first D-day, I was BLINDSIDED. How could he leave ME after I stayed through everything. I bank-rolled his life. I gave up my career advancement to raise my stepchildren that came to live with us. I took care of the laundry and cooking and worked full-time. I paid the bills and planned the vacations. And, I loved him. And, it still wasn’t enough. You see, you have to remember that you are living with a person who has no loyalty, no allegiance to you (or kids if you have them), and can and will turn on you in a blink.

    And so, as much as you think you are “safe” in your abusive situation you are not.

    This is why you must TAKE CARE OF YOU. Like you’re reading here, break it down in to baby steps. Formulate a realistic plan. Read everything you can about narcissism and leaving and going No Contact. Develop a support network (yes, it can be one person – your minister, a friend, someone here in the Forums)… stockpile money (loose changes adds up, buy small gift cards with your grocery order… a dollar here/a dollar there)… think about what is the minimum you need to leave (you’d be surprised how very little you do need).

    You deserve a life so much better than the one you are living. The question is – what are you willing to do to get it.

    Life doesn’t come with guarantees for anyone – we make our own happiness through our choices. Choose wisely… choose better.

    The journey begins with one step.

  • Abby-

    I’ve read your email and I’ve read some of the responses (yours included). I’m guessing that if you are in bed at this time, then you’re not in the US so I’m not sure if any of this will be practical for where you’re living but it might get the wheels turning and relate them to ideas that are practical for where you live.

    1). CL mentioned reading the archives, particularly anything about your walls will sing again. Read those because it’s chock full of chumps who made better lives for themselves, some out of nothing, when they left the cheater. Start imagining that one of those people is you. Start seeing yourself free of the cheating narc. I found that I had to start imagining it for myself before I could find the courage to actually put a plan in motion.

    2) You don’t have family close by but do you have public resources you can tap into? Shelters? Legal aide? Are there food banks? Help with re-entry into the work force? I think you have to start investigating those things first to see if your situation is a little less dire than you think.

    3) Are there support groups for going through divorce that are close to you? You’re bound to discover someone there who has been through infidelity. Have you checked the meet up forums on CLs website? Are there any chump meetups happening where you live? I’ve seen a few threads started by groups in other countries. If there aren’t, maybe you could start your own. Build a network.

    4) Is it possible to start putting away monies for yourself and put it in a separate banking account? Now a days with everyone doing online banking, you can sign up and make sure that you are “paperless” so that account information doesn’t show up at your house.

    Usually the hardest step is the first one you take and most of the time it’s because we look at the whole journey ahead of us instead of focusing on that first step. Just focus on that first step, then focus on the other and don’t look up-just keep moving.

  • Abby,

    There’s great advice here and I’ll add in what was helpful for me. I went back to work in the field I have my degree in and I was lucky because it’s an area that always has employment opportunities. I didn’t care what it paid so long as I was working. It forced me out of the home and into the world. I said yes to just about every social outing there was. I’d become isolated and depressed in the last few years of my marriage and I knew that I needed to climb out of that, so being around people and activities helped me. I forced myself to go sometimes because I felt so sad, but afterwards I’d feel better. It helped to keep busy. I focused on exercise and being a good parent and friend. I fixed up my home the way I wanted it. I travelled when I could afford to and had the opportunity. And yes, I got a lawyer. They are absolutely essential in this mess. Finally, read. Read everything you can including CL’s book over and over again until your brain gets it. Lundy Bancroft’s book ‘Why Does he Do That?” is hands down one of the best books on abusive men and understanding them.

    You really can do this. Check in with CL often and keep fighting for the good life you deserve.

  • Abby, I was left bankrupt and emotionally unstable. If it weren’t for my parents opening their home to me, I would have been on the streets. We all need to ask for help at times. Even though I was 56 at the time, my parents made it clear that I could stay with them, but not go back and forth to my ex. They had had enough of that. Thankfully I had too because even though I thought I still loved him, cheating was a deal breaker for me. But I felt it was reasonable of them not to want that much drama in their lives/home. They saw me struggle; go to counseling regularly; get meds when I needed them; exercise as much as possible; and begin to do volunteer work, which ultimately led me to finding paid work. I think it was helpful for my parents to see that I did as much as I could and didn’t just stay all day in bed, even though I felt like it.
    So for me, the saving grace were my parents. Do you have someone who can help you similarly?

    • Oh, and I called my local legal aid society and was on the waiting list for many months, but ultimately a lawyer in the community called to help me get through the bankruptcy free of charge. There are people out there who can help. It can take time and perseverance, but it’s worth it.

      • This comment reminded me that there are private legal aid sources also, at least here in the states. Lawyers volunteer their time and they provide fantastic service. Some are religious affiliated but they take ALL comers who meet the criteria. They have intake hours in the evenings and various times/days so anyone should be able to attend. So if there’s no public legal aid where you are or you don’t qualify, check to see what private legal aid clinics there might be. Short of that, lawyers in big fancy firms do pro bono work all the time, so ask.

    • How nice to see you here, ML — long time no see, as I also flit in & out. I remember when that place you were volunteering offered you a paying job — what a victory (and relief) that was! — I’m so glad to hear from you and to hear the positivity in your post!!

  • I wanted to add a few more ideas to the ones I listed earlier.

    I remind myself that the greatest shame in my situation would be my permitting my STBX’s toxicity to poison my view of the world. I don’t want to let this unpleasant facet of my life obscure the beauty of all the other facets

    Although I hate the abuse by my STBX, I realize the value of it in training me to withstand all types of garbage in the world. I think of myself a lot like Ethan Hawke’s character in Training Day My STBX unintentionally has trained me to deal with the public.

    For some months, I was mortified by my abusive husband leaving me. Now I am grateful in many ways. If he had not repeatedly abused me in multiple ways, including falsely accusing me of committing violent crimes, I doubt that I would have left him. Now I have a fantastic partner and realize that some committed romantic relationships can be easy, healthy, intensely romantic, and immensely satisfying.

    I highly recommend reading work by Lundy Bancroft, Jeanne King, and Bill Eddy. (I spoke To Bill Eddy over the phone about ways to protect my family from my bully of a STBX.)

    By the time my divorce is officially over, I will probably have appeared in court for more than 25 hearings and a trial that together spanned at least three years. My STBX still abuses me, although he was the one who cheated, filed for divorce, and repeatedly broke the law. I sometimes make bad decisions in court (agree to things that I did not need to and put my kids and me at an undeserved disadvantage). I try not to beat myself up for making these mistakes as I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in nearly four years due to an injury and stress of my marriage/divorce. It’s very difficult to think clearly in this state. I wouldn’t blame a torture victim for cracking under pressure, so I am going to try to give myself a break. I am establishing safety measures in court. For example, I will call a couple of relatives/friends before signing anything legally binding–even when STBX, judge, mediator, and even my own attorney are pressuring me to sign. I will not make a decision until I have had time to thoroughly discuss the issues with these relatives/friends, my calm, logical allies. (I have discovered that I suddenly cannot read under these conditions and I cannot count on my attorneys–I have had a few.) I also realize that I will likely go back to court a couple of times each year until my youngest reaches majority–a decade from now–as my STBX’s main hobby is suing people. (He may think, ‘Why not? I deserve to get what I want, it costs me virtually nothing to take people to court, and with my winnings I can buy cocaine and hire prostitutes for sex.’) I sincerely hope that your situation does not get this serious but want to prepare you in case it does.

    One thing I did right, fortunately, was put some of the money (less than half of the joint assets) in my own account before STBX left. Doing so financially saved my kids and me. As an unemployed parent with a spouse who had great earning potential who I suspected would and did take advantage of me every way possible, I realized that I needed emergency funds–the rainy day had arrived.

    Make no assumptions about your abuser, attorneys, judges, or anyone else. I try to be the most ethical, honorable person I can be, but I do not make decisions based on the assumption that STBX or anyone else will be ethical, transparent, civil, logical, or accurate.

    I wish you peace and happiness in the new chapter of your life.

    • You seem to be doing well, RockStar. You’ve been through such a tough time. I love how you are reaching out to others to help you stay sane!

  • In 2007, I was married to an abusive man in a large city where I had no friends, a low-wage job, and no family. I had started back to school (my narc bio-dad said I shouldn’t go back to college because I wasn’t “self-actualized”-I went anyway), and was saving money in a secret account. I had had enough, and had a plan to get loose. Then he forced my hand – he threatened to kidnap and hide my kids where I couldn’t find them. I called the cops, and we (myself and a 2 yr old, a 1 yr old and a 9 month old) left under police protection. We went to the battered women’s shelter.

    I call the next four years the “Burning Years,” after Madeleine L’Engle’s essay about the burning bush in the Bible – a holy fire that consumes everything non-essential. Everything that wasn’t essential, was left behind, released, let go of. And when I got to the other side of those years, my anger was gone, too.

    For me, I had a steel resolution of a mind-set – Failure Was Not An Option. Like a mantra, I told myself this everyday. Focusing on such a specific goal – a degree, was what kept me going.
    It is very hard to make friends in my city, due to the high military concentration. People come and go, so relationships are held loosely. I learned to trust in angels unaware – the kindness of strangers. This will come from places you never expected. One of those angels danced at my wedding three years ago, when I got remarried.

    Find a church. I was terrified, I was facing bone-crushing loneliness by myself, and depression fell down on me like rain. An evangelical church saved me. I didn’t stay at that church – as I got stronger and felt safer, I switched back to the church I was raised in. But initially, I needed that refuge of being surrounded by strangers checking in on me, providing coats for my family, and giving me a place to be.

    Take up a hobby where you can gather with others and meet people. There was a science meetup I attended for a few years, a book club, and then I tried SCUBA diving. Ironically, scuba became an interest after I was traumatized by a Borderline who was a diver, but I wasn’t going to let him ruin a new interest for me.

    Four years later I got a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and a job that doubled our income. Two years after that, I completed my master’s degree in accounting, and got hired at one of the big international accounting firms. I now have my CPA, and was just promoted. There is a country song I listened to over and over again- “If you’re going through Hell/Just keep going/You might get out/before the Devil even knows you’re there.” It’s by Rodney Atkins, it’s called If You’re Going Through Hell. I am giving this song to you, as a gift. Godspeed, Abby! We are here for you.

      • Thank you, NotThisGirl! It was difficult, and if I had to do it all over again now I would probably lay down and cry.

        I forgot to put in my earlier post, that something I did was go to grocery stores (there are lots of locally-run and ethnic stores in my area) and ask for whatever they were going to throw out as expired. I made friends with employees who would let me know what they would be getting rid of, and then I could buy it at a drastically reduced price, or just have it for free. Sometimes I would get more than we could eat right away, so I taught myself to can using YouTube.

        I planted a garden. We had broccoli, beets, radishes, watermelons, spinach vine, onions and lettuce. It was really a pretty pitiful garden, because we didn’t get much, but it was a huge boost psychologically.

        We did lots of dumpster diving, so to speak. In our area, there is something called brush pick up, where people would put old furniture, etc. on the curb. I was able to clean up and reuse quite a few items by doing this, including a vintage set of Professional Contractor books. My husband was surprised to find out some of the things that were trash, that he was admiring. 🙂

        Learn to forage, and ask people if you can pick from fruit trees they are not harvesting. Where I am, there are abandoned lots with fruit trees (oranges, loquats) and the kids and I would go pick fruit from those. We were also able to get pecans from our tree and the neighbor’s tree.

        I hope some of what I shared is helpful.

        Where I live, there isn’t a strong social safety net. This is why I don’t advocate applying for assistance – please see my cautionary tale: We were able to get government assistance for childcare, however when I applied for CHIP for the kids (court order requires me to maintain insurance – he is supposed to pay for it, that never happened. The Attorney General hasn’t enforced this part of the order for him), the state put the kids on Medicaid (because of their ages) and then took most of my child support that I had been getting to reimburse itself for the Medicaid I didn’t want, and hadn’t applied for, but I fit some sort of demographic. I got us off of assistance as quickly as possible, because the co-pay for doctor visits was so much cheaper than what the state was taking for Medicaid. Now I live in a Southern state, so this advice applies pretty much to people who live in those areas. I understand other places have better nets, so to speak. 🙂

  • Abby,

    My husband left me a couple of days before Christmas. It was abrupt and came out of nowhere; I was completely blindsided. I also recently started a doctoral program on an assistantship, so my financial stability was threatened by this. I resolved to stay in the house until I determined my course of action. Luckily, he was busy with his mistress, and when he started to kick up dust about reclaiming the house, my attorney threatened to charge him with abandonment. This came with a price. He broke into the home and there were other occasions where I had to call the police over strange sounds or cars following me (not saying it was him, but highly suspicious). I had to deal with his batshit crazy “negotiating” techniques, which included giving me the modest things I requested in our settlement to completely reneging or making threats.

    I did what I had to do. I kept going to class. I won awards. I took on side jobs. I took on extra teaching classes. Finally, I just decided I would have a more dignified life sleeping on the floor in a shitty apartment than being married to him a moment longer. I didn’t need him anymore. I also came to understand that if I kept holding out to receive “fairness” or “justice” in this situation, I would miss out even longer on living life on my own terms. That is, I had no idea what was on the other side, good or bad, but I would never know if I didn’t let go.

    So I gave my bottom line, which was far less than what I should have received, left everything, and went on.

    Divorce is one of those situations where you say things can’t get any worse. . . But they do. Yet, the worst-case scenario, the most awful things you can imagine, never come to pass. If they do, strangely, it’s not a catastrophe. You figure it out. Basic psychology delivers you right back to your baseline mentality.

    You also have to get to a point where you simply don’t engage. That your spouse can stand on their head and spit wooden nickels, but whatever, you’re just going to balance your checkbook and read the ingredients list for shredded wheat. You don’t care. You’ve said your peace and made it clear where you stand. Nothing else has to be said. They can do and act however they please. It has nothing to do with you. Nothing says “go to hell” better than indifference.

    I would say consult with an attorney. Consult with several attorneys. Consult a pro bono attorney if you have to. Find a divorce support group if your friends don’t cut it. Just know your rights and what to expect.

    Always say less than you think. You don’t owe anybody an explanation of your intentions. Knowledge is power. Take back your power. Advocate for yourself.

    Just remember the worst things never happen. There is possibility and probability. No matter what, everything ends up okay because it has to.

    For what it’s worth, I’m okay.

    • I love your sentence about the pointlessness of waiting for things to be “fair” or “just.” The desire for that is so strong, but part of unchumping ourselves is realizing that the “fair” ship already sailed and the karma bus runs on a very unpredictable schedule. We can’t make things “fair.” We can make things “better” for ourselves.

  • Abby,
    I planned my recovery as if I was an athlete in training.
    1.Start siphoning off money,even if it’s tiny amounts.
    2.Get help,even if it means going to a Women’s aid shelter.
    3.Exercise.Walk,run,whatever you can do.
    4.Yoga.Loads of YouTube guided sessions on line.
    5.Meditate.Again I used short guided on line meditations.
    6.Read as much as you can about narcissistic abuse syndrome.Again there’s loads of stuff on line.Being informed brings clarity and propels you forward.
    5.Find a spiritual practice that sustains you.I am not religious at all,but it did help to become more spiritual.
    6.Eat well.
    7.Read Chump Lady archives.
    8.I did EMDR on line to help cope with the trauma as the expense of the therapist was prohibitive.
    9.There are loads of videos on Youtube about recovery from narcissistic abuse.Watch them as therapy.
    10.Get a job.Any kind of job.

    I decided I was going to be fierce even though initially I was shattered and broken emotionally and psychologically,a total mess.Eventually the warrior inside me emerged as it did for so many on this site but it’s a monumental battle.

    Good luck.

  • Two years ago, I was this girl. I was a stay at home mom. The cheater narc jackass I was married to had alienated all of my friends. He hated my family. He didn’t like it when I had to travel for work, or had to work late, so I was laid off from a pretty cush state job.

    Then, after 6 months, the only job I could find was teaching at a for-profit “college” at night. Which meant he was stuck at home watching our then 1 and 2 year old daughters. The child care duty put a cramp in his style, so he bullied me into quitting my job. I was a stay at home mom for about a year when I found out he had conceived a child with a co-worker.

    Well, he had not only conceived a child, but he did it on our youngest child’s second birthday.

    When she was sick with chicken pox at the time.

    He said he had a work trip. But really, he went out of town to a concert.

    On our daughter’s 2nd birthday. When she had chicken pox. And conceived a child. With a co-worker.

    Meanwhile… In the six months or so between conceiving the child and me filing for divorce, he stopped paying the mortgage and my car note. He bought himself a new truck. He spent every dime he got. He got himself his own checking account, and started putting his paychecks–our only source of income–into the new account, which I did not have access to. The only money I had was our tax refund from that year. For 6 months.

    Sure, there was the arrests for domestic abuse (his), child endangerment (also his), there were the break-ins (again, him), threats (guess who…), financial blackmail and abuse, etc. I lived through it all.

    When I filed for divorce, I had an overdrawn bank account. I had no job. My house had gone into foreclosure. My utilities were being threatened with disconnect notices. I had two weeks to make a payment on my car, or it was going to be repossessed.

    I had two children, one who had just turned 3, but was born 14 weeks premature and has special needs. She was in state-funded programs for speech, occupational, and physical therapy because she was developmentally delayed. I had a barely two year old. Both were in diapers. I had no way to buy diapers. I had no job, so I had no health insurance.

    I had no money to buy food. I was feeding my kids canned veggies mashed up because I couldn’t buy groceries.

    I was fucked.

    Luckily, I have family that lives in the same town. My dad gave me some cash to buy groceries and diapers. My mom helped me with my car and utilities for a few months. When my oldest daughter got sick with a 103.7 fever 3 weeks after I filed for divorce, my mom paid the urgent care bill.

    I got a job a month after I filed–a good job. I’ve been here 3 years–a Public Relations Manager for a regional cancer center–and I love it. My grandmother babysits my children during the day.

    My stepmother is a lawyer, and she took my case for free. She’s been a godsend.

    Three years later, I kept my house. I am divorced. I have sole custody. I have my career. I went back to school and got an MBA. I have my life, my friends, and my Meh. I’m happy. That chapter of my life is starting to blur into a fading memory.

    Most importantly, my life is MY life. I live it on MY terms. I don’t have some crazy person bouncing me off of his tennis racket at his whim.

    And, that, my friends, is worth all of the uphill bloody battles I fought to get here!

  • 1. Get a post office box in your name only, preferably in a nearby town or suburb. (This one little tip would have saved me so much stress and frantic driving to get the mail before he did! I wish someone had told me this the day after DDay.)
    2. Get your own bank account in a different bank from the one you use as a couple.
    3. Get a job. If you don’t want him to know you’re working, find a part time job you can do from home a few hours a day while he’s at work, like being in phone sales or collections or billing. Make sure you only use the PO box and bank account mentioned above.
    4. Go to church. Remind yourself that there is a Higher Power and that all of this pain is a great source of knowledge, growth and strength. Most people you meet at church make great friends, love to be helpful, and have good resources to recommend.
    5. Get some exercise. It helps relieve stress, makes you look better, feel better and sleep better. This was the biggest confidence booster for me. After about 2 weeks, I found I had MORE energy, not less.

    This journey takes a lot of confidence, which I gained through each little accomplishment. The more you do, the more you know you can do. You CAN do this.

  • I felt the task was impossible too, and it took me years to finally get free- from the time a counselor told me I was married to an abuser to the time the divorce was finalized took 6 years.

    When it finally hit I was married to an abuser I was also suffering from depression. I took steps to get back to me again, joined a yoga studio, went to grad school, started playing music again…I was much stronger by the time I found out he was cheating again, but I still didn’t file for divorce for another 3 years!

    Once you love yourself enough to put up healthy boundaries and protect yourself, people to love will find you…friends, relationships, everything just seems to naturally fall into place, the first step is finding value in yourself and taking care of your needs first.

    It took time, it hurt ( to face own my issues of feeling worthless and unworthy), it was hard but in the end, totally worth it!

  • My own experience has been that this has been the hardest job I’ve ever had to do. I spent sixteen years repeating patterns with the same man, the same house, the same same same everything…. and now here I was, being asked to do a million things completely differently all at the same time: what to eat, how to sleep (alone), how to watch movies & listen to music…. Everywhere, triggers dragged me down.

    Today, two years later, those triggers still snag, but they have less impact. Because I did the work. It was a nearly impossible task some days, but it was like an injury I had to rehab from, like those painful exercises I had to do after my knee surgery: if I wanted to be healthy again, I had to do the work, painful or not.

    And by “doing the work,” at its most basic level, it means creating new neural pathways, to strengthen and override those habitual “muscle memory” reflexes I’d cultivated for years. I had to replace them with something new.

    So I tried everything I could think of. After the initial self-work (reading books about abandonment, narcissism, infidelity; therapy; yoga/running/swimming), I joined a bunch of Meetup groups. (I, too, lost most of my/our friends in the divorce.) I played volleyball for the first time in twenty years — I was terrible, but I did it to meet new people. And I didn’t always like those new people I met, but that, too, was valuable in helping me figure out what I did and didn’t like about new people (shiny peacocks? no thanks)

    I have several times thought about getting a tattoo on my hand, just an arrow pointing forward, because that’s the only direction we have: forward. The future. Some days it’s going to feel like you’re dragging a ten-ton boulder over rough ground — I’d swear I could feel that scraping sound in the marrow of my bones, some days when I didn’t want to do it, when I just wanted to lie in my bed and lick my wounds. But make yourself do it. Get involved, join a volunteer group, or a running/walking club, … pick things that aren’t solitary, if you can. Interacting with others takes the emphasis off your own pain.

    In a nutshell, just keep moving forward. Any way you can. You’ll get there. You will.

  • In moments of clarity throughout my marriage I would think I want a divorce. But then I would list all the reasons I could never….my family wouldn’t support me, I was a STAHM with no education and no marketable skills.

    And then he left me and the kids and hasn’t looked back. Talk about being pushed into the deep end! This is what I found out/did. Bear in mind its been 8 months since Dday.

    Nobody really liked Fucktard. I thought everyone loved him and tolerated me. People were happy for me!

    My kids are going through hard time now…but not a single one of them asked me to take had m back, and they have never once begged him to come me back. That says a lot.

    I made a list of what i need to do to make my new life work. I reaearched the hell out of different careers that made sense for someone like me. I went back to school….and I am kicking ass.

    I asked around for recommendations for divorce lawyers and signed up, filed.

    I reached out for support on Reddit and was directed here within days of Dday.

    Therapy.

    I think you will be surprised when you speak to a lawyer. If you have children you will be awarded child support. If yours was a lengthy marriage you will probably get alimony. You will mist certainly get 1/2 of all marital assets. See? You are not starting out penniless!

  • Don’t. Get. Stuck. How often do you see people on here saying oh I wish I’d taken more time before divorce? Set a date, work towards it one step at a time. You can get out even if you have to do it solo. It’s really easy to go numb and say I can put up with this but eventually gangrene will set in and part of you will turn purple, die, and fall off.

    Take note when he accuses you of shit that’s totally off the wall like cheating, throwing away his possessions, being an alcoholic or hiding money. He is telling you, announcing with a megaphone, exactly what HE is doing. Track it down, gather evidence.

    Seconding the suggestion to volunteer to create a support network and job opportunities. It will not be as threatening to him as you getting a job. Try to volunteer doing things that are physically and psychologically distant from your husband so he has fewer opportunities to sabotage. My husband hates the elderly — volunteering I found that I love spending time around old people plus I knew he would never show up unannounced so I could actually relax and think.

  • It was baby steps for me. #2 was the hardest but once I stopped procrastinating it worked wonders.

    1. Write to Chump for help (Check!!!) Nice one – you’re off and running.
    2. Call a lawyer (this one is HARD but vital, get some recco’s – and GO. They move you one when you feel like dying. They are worth the money)
    2. Write a list of the things you like to do (connect with who you are – ‘you’ get lost in all this remember)
    3. Email to an old friend. They might not respond, but keep going. Try another one.
    4. Picture yourself in this situation this time next year……knowing that what I was doing was so awful and painful and bad for me that I had to get out. I didn’t have the energy left to continue, which gave me strength for the climb out (and it’s a f**king climb but the view at the top is AMAZING)

    I know I went in surges, a few days of mighty, then I’d tumble. Don’t beat yourself up. Just know with each cycle you are getting closer to success.

    My Dad (in UK and I live in CA) would write three things down and tell me to get them done by the time he called me the next day – (copy financial statements, call the bank, take a bath)…..

    It’s a long road, but I’m out the other side and it is beautiful. You can and will get here – just go one step at a time. Read Chump daily and remember there are too many survivors and wonderful stories for the long road to be SO worth it!

    We’re with you!!!

  • You guys are incredible. I cannot overstate how ridiculously, off-the-charts MIGHTY everyone is. I have said many times that this website is a lifesaver, and I can say it again now – this site is a lifesaver. No hyperbole, no exaggeration, this information SAVES LIVES.

    Thank you all so much for being you.

    • Little Mighty Me, you are so right. This site did save my life and gave me the strength to file for divorce, and stop my 7 years Pick Me Dance…

  • If you can’t afford a lawyer get on the list for legal aid. You will get some financial support with the divorce. Find a job, any job. Start stashing money a little at time so he won’t know. Put it in a bank account that is separate. Apply for government assisted housing. Apply for food stamps. Check with your local college most have programs for sahm and single parents. Look for temporary assistance from churches. It is hard to start from scratch. But you can do hard, you’re doing it right now with the cheater. Don’t give up, it can be done.

  • Abby,

    I have a bit of magic that at first appearances seems so insignificant you would question my even calling it magic in the first place. Do one thing.

    Every day Abby, do one thing to move you forward and away from your Hell. It does not have to be monumental, it can even be just between your ears but every day, do one thing.

    There are basics everyone of us needs in order to live; a home, food, clothing and the means to obtain the first three.

    There are basics everyone of us needs in order to THRIVE. I think this can vary for each of us but I would say the basics are; physical and emotional safety, peace and calm. For me, I also need my children having all they need to live and thrive. I need nature around me. I have also learned that the more I volunteer and think of others (in a healthy way), the better I feel about everything. Maybe your one thing today can be thinking about what you need to thrive?

    When I was bleeding out, dying every day for at least four years, I forgot all about me and what I love, who I was and the most simplest things about me. Even my children brought me little joy as I spiraled through my pain and devastation. I would like to suggest that your One Thing can also be doing something you enjoy or used to enjoy doing.

    I have some suggestions what your One Thing could be but trust me, as soon as you get the hang of it, you will be surprised how beautiful your inner voice will begin to sing. Your One Thing will become Two Things and so on…

    -Open a bank account. Secret stuff! Very exciting!
    -Make a point of speaking to one new person a day. Start being the friend you need to someone else!
    -Brainstorm jobs you can do. Anything and everything!
    -Watch a funny movie!
    -Explore your educational opportunities, It is never too late to go back to school. Truly. NEVER.
    -Think about housing. Stay where you are? Rent? Buy? Share a space? Just explore the options!
    -Make a list of what you like about yourself.
    -Read a book!
    -Think about the amount of money can you funnel away without anyone being the wiser. Even a few dollars a week can make a big difference!
    -Take a walk!

    I also learned, and it was quite a surprise to me, that the only obstacle between me/my kids getting out and finding good lives, was me. It was my inability. It was my fear. It was my self doubt. While there is no doubt that my STBX is solely responsible for the situation we found ourselves in, there is also no doubt that the only reason we remained there was me. That realization both pissed me off and motivated me in ways I could never articulate. It was ground breaking and changed the world, at least our part of it.

    I also want to encourage you to continue visiting us Chumps here. I do not participate on the forums (I trigger easily still) but I read the website almost daily. When I was still residing in my Hell (it has been three months since we have moved!) Tracy was my voice of reason. When I believed he would change, Tracy and our fellow Chumps simply provided the information that it was unlikely. Every single time I thought I was special, that he was special, that we were unique and could pull it off, Tracy was there, with love, reminding me that he was most likely a POS and I was a Chump. A Chump that was not alone. A Chump that wasn’t crazy. A Chump who had every right to feel as I did/do. A Chump that deserved monogamy and respect. For me, she has never been wrong, not one time. My Chump family has never steered me wrong, not one time. They are always right. When I question what I should do, what direction I should go, how I should handle my divorce, I just come here where the truth reigns, where I am known very well if only by my circumstances and I can always count on someone to give me what I need. Tracy Schorn saved my life and my children’s lives. She is the best friend I will never meet.

    I know you feel alone and you may very well be devoid of people physically present, but you are not alone. We are here. You do need a super hero but she has always been there, YOU. Go buy her a cape and by doing one thing a day she will start to fly!

    • GraceInMotion

      Lovely post.

      I would add something that I have learned (re-learned quite a few times) is to accept the bad days and the terribly sad days for what they are. Go through them. Accept them. It’s hard but it’s the only way.
      I still panic when I have a really bad day. I think I’m going to spiral all the way down but then I post on the forum and I find my balance again.
      Try not to dodge or deny the pain. It will diminish over time and going through the grief and fear and pain is necessary. But it gets less. And chumps are always there to calm your fears and steady your ship.

      One other important thing for me was that after my trust was shattered by my husbands multiple and long affairs I was worried I would never trust again. But the people here I TRUST. I absolutely trust CL and the CN tribe.

      They have already gone a long way to helping me trust generally again. Yes I was betrayed by one man but I trust everyone here.

  • We were all stuck. But then SOMETHING happened that forced us to act. It may have been a big event, or a small, otherwise insignificant moment that changed our lives and prompted action.

    For me, it was a neighborhood party on 12/29/07. The Patriots were one game away from a perfect season, and one of our friends hosted the neighborhood to watch the game against the Giants. We used to get together practically every weekend. Pot luck, pool parties, sledding on hill, ice skating. Yeah, we were THAT neighborhood, and our kids had a really nice childhood.

    That night as per usual, our oldest son (who struggles with noise and chaos) became overwhelmed by the crowd 45 minutes in, and was ready to leave. I started to say my goodbyes and my husband said, “I’ll take him home. I have a migraine. Just come spot me later.”

    That was a FIRST. The running joke among our friends was that I never made it past an hour into a party, and X closed them down.

    Well, the game was amazing and I had the best time! We partied till midnight, and our other two sons and I got home in the wee hours of the morning.

    The next day, I was at my desk when my husband came into the room. I greeted him with a “Wow! What a game, huh? Are you feeling better?” He replied, “Where the hell were you?” Then he ripped me a new one for not coming home and relieving him so he could return to the party. And, he was surgical in his acerbic nastiness, suggesting he had it waiting to unload for years. Mind you, that was the ONLY time he ever offered to help our with our son, and ONLY because he had a headache. But because I had the audacity to enjoy myself for once and forgot to obey him, I was an asshole.

    After being ripped apart for my selfishness and worthlessness, I couldn’t breathe. I went upstairs, got dressed and left for the day. I went to the beach 90 minutes away and sat on the retaining wall, watching the gray day meld with the gray waves.

    It was during that afternoon that I realized I was tired of being treated like shit by a man who had no respect for me as a human being. I was tired of living with a hateful, selfish, thoughtless person. I had finally reached the realization that nothing was ever going to change.

    That’s when I vowed that I would make changes in my life so I wouldn’t be forced to have no choices should he continue to abuse me.

    It didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t enroll in school for my master’s degree until September 2008, and that took four years. But in those four years, other people valued me, which made me start to believe in my worth again.

    I was hoping my newfound confidence and added income would enhance our relationship. But it had the opposite affect. He took up with his Skank a month in to another temp job in 2011. That’s when he unofficially discarded me like a used appliance and started to steal money in earnest in preparation for his exit.

    A wise professor once asked us at the beginning of the master’s program to picture ourselves four years from that class, with and without our degree. It kept me focused on the outcome. I hope it helps you focus on your outcome. It won’t happen overnight, but start planning and preparing for YOUR wonderful life without a cheater. NOW.

  • In no particular order, these are some of the things I did right after Dday, and I was in similar situation of being a SAHM for ten years, introverted and shy, not a lot of friends and no job.

    1. Did DivorceCare program through local church, even though I am not Christian (lots of non-religious people do DivorceCare, it’s very helpful and easy to overlook the religious elements if they are not your own worldview.)
    2. Spent as much time as possible with friends.
    3. Bought myself a bouquet of supermarket flowers every week to keep in my bathroom during the nightmarish four months I had to continue sharing marital home with the cheater.
    4. Went back to school — BE VERY CAREFUL IF YOU DO THIS. For me, it turned out to be a very expensive mistake, as I realized towards the end of the program that the career was absolutely NOT for me, but I’m still stuck with student loan. I recommend inexpensive classes at a junior college, at least to start. Watch out for those for-profit vocational colleges.
    5. Moved into an apartment with my son. Decorated with lots of cheery colors.
    6. Walked my dog for a few miles every single night.
    7. Joined lots of MeetUp groups.
    8. Signed up for tennis lessons even though I didn’t really care about tennis. But it was something active that got me out of the house.
    9. Went to therapy.
    10. Went on antidepressants for a year or so.
    11. Although I’m not particularly religious, I did attend a Church of Religious Science for a year or so after separation. (Note that this is NOT Scientology.)
    12. Kept a journal.
    13. Treated myself to little splurges, in my case mostly various shades of pink lipsticks from Target.
    14. Every night before bed, I wrote down three things that were good about that day. There were some days I could find little more than I vacuumed, or I cooked dinner, or the day was over.
    15. Prayed a lot. Yes, I know that contradicts my earlier statement that I am not especially religious.
    16. It took me way too long to do this, but eventually went as NC with cheater as possible.
    17. Immediately after Dday, at my attorney’s suggestion, I applied for a credit card in my own name. Do this while you can still claim a higher household income.
    18. Opened up checking and savings accounts in my own name.

    I’m way out now (next week will be the seventh anniversary of my final Dday), and I’m remarried, have a new career that doesn’t make me much money but keeps the lights on, have a great relationship with my son (he’s still at home with me) and have basically zero contact with my ex. My journey to this point was very hard, but I did it. So can all of you, but you have to treat yourself gently, be willing to let time work its magic and most importantly, go as NC as you can.

    • Glad, we share the belief in those supermarket flowers. Before I got married the last time, I was writing a dissertation and living on a bank loan my mom had co-signed. (For all her emotional abuse–and even in the moment of signing she was taking shots at me, she ALWAYS supported my education as best she could). One day I went to a local store that had farm vegetables and local meat and bought a bunch of gladioli along with the produce. I remarked to the cashier that I shouldn’t have splurged on the flowers, but they were just so beautiful. I’ve never forgot what he said: “You have to feed the soul, too.”

  • 1. Apply for food stamps, Medicaid and scour the food banks. Get the free cell phone that comes with Food Stamps and do not give your number out to anyone associated with your Narc X.

    2. Apply for financial aid and to go back to school.

    3. Go to Caretaker Gazette and register. They have all kinds of places you can stay for free in exchange for upkeep and maintenance (think the Shining without Jack trying to murder you.)

    4. Cut out all the fluff. No cable, no take outs, no $4 coffees, shop for clothes at Thrift stores. Don’t buy anything unless it is necessary to live. Clip coupons. Buy generic.

    5. Sell anything of value on Ebay or Let Go. Sell extra cars, boats, anything that is not a bare necessity.

    6. Join a church, any church. If you are Atheist, join the Unitarian Church. Can’t bear church? Find an interest and join. This is not optional. You need people.

    7. Begin a walking program. It is free and you will boost your health and keep your sanity. It is like taking out the trash in your mind.

    8. Get a second job. Tutor, baby sit, pet sit, sewing, cleaning….offer your skills on Craigslist.

    9. Find a therapist that offers sliding scale help. Can’t find one? Go to AA. It is free and you don’t have to say a word. Substitute your Narc’s name for alcohol. The positivity will get you through bad nights.

    10. Offer a room in your house on AirBNB for extra money.

    11. Stop following your Narc in any manner….no social media, no contact, no cyber sleuthing. No post mortem on the relationship. Move on.

    12. Take a breath, and write letters to all non crazy people in your life you miss, and just be honest. Being honest is the best thing you can learn. Dear Susan, I am so sorry we lost touch. I lost my way in my marriage and lost touch with people who I deeply cared about. Can we meet for lunch? If they don’t respond, that’s ok.

    13. Don’t let your looks go. Go to a beauty school for cheap cuts, wash your face and whiten your teeth for pennies with peroxide and baking soda. The better you look, you will not feel like laying around like a slug in the house. Why should he get to take your looks, too?

    14. Explain your situation, if dire, and start a GoFundMe page for what you desperately need. Ask for a camper and live in for free. The generosity of people will stun you.

    15. Let your ego go. Ask for help. Don’t let pride stop you. This is not a dress rehearsal. Get busy living or get busy dying. (Shawshank Redemption)

  • And, for a bold move:

    If you have a 4 year degree, go teach English in China or Korea. They pay for your airfare, a modest apartment and health insurance.
    If you have a Masters in Education, go for Saudi Arabia. You will not get any dating action, but you can save money.

    CL said to give practical advice. Here is a whooper:
    Don’t get too bogged down in the details of the cheating and the OW’s specs.

    CL was wonderful enough to respond to my SOS. And then, it really hit me, the horror (The horror! The horror! Kurtz by Conrod) of just how low my EX had sunk. It doesn’t do good things for your mind.

    I am educated. I get my teeth cleaned. I pay my taxes. I do the Times crossword (not Sunday). I work. I own a home. He was right there with me….pretending to have my values. Pretending to be like me. And I was cheated on with a 28 year old low life. Who is vicious and cruel and dumb and poor, by choice.

    I am 45. You think…was it young flesh? But I look great and she recently lost tons of weight and has the drapey skin thing (no offense to anyone who has it) but you start to compare. She has no lips. She acts like a thug. She is spiteful and small minded and uneducated and mean and low class and stupid.

    And he let her tell me to kill myself. He cheated on me with her. He sort of defends her to me. That just breaks me. It kills me. Not for nothing, I loved the shit out of that man. And it hurts like a bitch. Then, you add in that he let a piece of garbage try to goad me into suicide? He knows I am depressed?

    It ain’t a good thought. I would come home from work and go to bed this week. I have today off, and I am pep talking the hell out of myself
    -no reflection on me
    -if not her, another site of trailer park tits (CL’s great line)

    but still….but still….

    So, practical? As much as you Humanly can, don’t start panning for all the shit details. I wish I did not know.
    Would a Mensa Super Model who is breast feeding Yemen babies right now be better? As opposed to a stumpy, no lipped, harpy who does not even have a car or a place to live?

    I don’t know. Don’t be me. Focus on your life with a single minded determination. Fuck them.

    That is practical…because until you lasso your thoughts, all this stuff will just be going through the motions.

  • Wow, I count at least five women here who just struck out on their own and made it! Awesome.

    Abby, it sounds like you are childfree, so that makes your options even easier.

    I think a great option would be to enlist in the military. A great career and you can get a education. Many chumps here are veterans. You got this!

        • Thank you Ian. I often think I should change my moniker to ‘rebel without a cause”!! I have always loved the name Rebel but I will not elaborate because I may give the game away. Suffice to say, good to hear from you young man !!

  • Ok I am lucky in that I never left the workforce so for me it was really just a matter of moving out of my in laws’ (my daughter and I were living with them while my ex was living on the other side of the country) and setting up a new single mom routine for myself and my daughter. But let me also add that I have no family in this country as I didnt grow up here so if it’s possible for me to do it with a bare-bones support system, it’s possible for you to do it too. I believe it’s all in the mind and you need to have the confidence in yourself . It will be hard – i kid you not, especially in the beginning but it is so worth it. As Chump Lady said, the view is amazing once you’ve climbed the mountain.

    I love making lists. Make a short term list of all the immediate things that you need to do to move out: Find a place, save money for the security deposit if you are renting, making sure you have enough to cover the first 2 months of rent, figuring out how to get furniture (do you need to buy new ones, can you buy second hand off craigslist, can you use your old furniture), getting your kids set up in school if they are still at school going age etc., get a job to make sure you have a source of income to see you through the first couple months – it may not be the eventual career you want but at least you get some money from it. Then make a long term list of all the things you would like to do eventually e.g. completing that degree so you can get a better job, saving towards a house etc.

    The idea may seem daunting at first but trust me – its so doable! And you can do it! There will be bad days but eventually the good days will surpass the bad ones.

  • Hi Abby, when D-Day arrives and the sh*t hits the fan, we Chumps really do not have any option but to put our heads above water and swim and if you can’t swim, tread water or grab hold of a floating device for support. There isn’t a one size fits all in our recovery but we have to move forward even if we do not want to and you being here with us in the club that nobody ever thought they would join will help you in your recovery. I know back when my life really fell apart or so I thought at the time after 37 years of marriage and 46 years of friendship as well as the loss of my 2 adult children to my ex husband and his 3rd world prostitute twu wuv, I grieved so badly I thought I would die and I wanted to die trust me on that. I no longer want to die now as I have finally arrived at meh with the wonderful support and advice from Chump Lady and Chump Nation and just a few great friends. It was an awful path to walk and at times crawl along but it had to be done and I have arrived at meh, which by the way I truly didn’t think existed but it does. If you have any supportive friends, rely on them for their support only if it is for them to listen to you. Accept whatever kindness people will offer you but also protect yourself. Dig deep inside yourself and find the mighty in yourself, which has been pushed down for too long. You will keep friends and you will lose so called friends through this sh*t storm but the friends who remain will remain because they believe in you and your mightiness. Keep those friends close. I will share this with you. Yesterday I took a dear friend out to celebrate her 70th birthday and we hadn’t seen each other for about 6 months. She could not believe how wonderful I looked and I am a month off turning 65. She thought I looked really soft and attractive as well as happy. She also commented that I have an inner strength that I didn’t know I had in order to have come through my trauma in one piece. Each and every Chump has that inner strength. It just takes some of us a bit longer to find it, recognise it and use it to propel us forward into a better life. You can do this Abbey trust me. ((HUGS))

  • I think consulting a lawyer is a priority even if you don’t plan on leaving but do NOT tell your spouse. A lawyer will inform you about what you’re entitled to receive. A therapist or counselor is also helpful but if you really can’t afford one try to find a 12 step program in your area like Al-Anon or CoDA. I too, felt very alone and the 12 step I went to helped. It offered me an opportunity to talk in a safe environment because it’s anonymous. They don’t have all the answers but I learned about boundaries and what I can and can’t control. Read all Chump Lady’s advice here and allow yourself some righteous anger about your situation. Wean yourself emotionally from the abusive spouse. For years I thought my STBX my best friend. When I discovered his deceit and how he had been manipulating me it was tough to shift gears. I had to stop going to him for comfort. It was hard. I desperately wanted validation from him but everything he told me about myself was a lie. I’m learning to be my own best friend and that the only opinion that matters is my own. Be your own best friend.

  • There were a few months when I was performing the pick me dance while my husband tried to make up his mind. That was a horrible time because I was so racked with anxiety it was difficult to think straight. The first thing I did was to find a pastor to confide in (luckily a good one familiar with abusive relationships). I also told a close girlfriend who recommended an excellent counselor and started talking to her once a week. My friend and I made plans that I would move in with her my husband ended up leaving. In the mean time I started shoring up close family member support and building a network that ended up saving me when the other shoe dropped. Luckily I already belonged to a really good business networking group and they really came to the rescue. There was a financial advisor, a mortgage broker, an insurance broker, real estate lawyer, realtor, etc. They worked as a team in helping me set up my new life.

    The secret to building a new life is you don’t have to do everything yourself. You just have to be willing to ask for help.

    • Ugh – typos from typing too fast at work – I meant, “My friend and I made plans that I would move in with her if my husband ended up leaving.” That’s exactly what I did, and she only charged me for the increase in utilities.

      Basically I just started taking steps to strengthen my own life in the even that our marriage didn’t work out. In my mind, whether we ended up staying together or breaking up, the steps I was taking would lead to a more independent life. Those 2-3 months were horrible but also gave me a little time to prepare for the worst. (But it was still hard to accept when the worst actually happened!)

  • Abby

    I’m six weeks out. Everything is incredibly unstable. I think that is the same for everyone – even those of us who do have jobs and family and friends. It’s the nature of the beast and instability, self doubt and despair are what these Narcs create in us. Fact.
    I truly believe that once we step away – even with nothing – it creates some space for the good things to start to flow in to our lives. Narcs are like life “dams”, they literally stop the flow and starve us of everything good.
    I have found CN to be amazing, I too come here every day and knowing others before me have gone through way worse is enough to kick me out of the pity party and woman the FUCK up!!! I have no excuse and fear of the alternative is NOT enough of a reason to stay.
    Essentially you are alone now. You have no support, friends, people, job NOW, but you have a Narc who is making your life hell. When you leave you will actually be better off because you won’t have the Narc.
    Put classifieds and notices in stores that offer ironing jobs, cleaning/housework services, dog walking, child minding, shopping for the elderly. Anything you can do without a “trained skill” that will bring in some cash in hand. Go to agencies that are non government and community managed and ask for help.
    Go to the library and ask for help. Go to your local aged care facility and talk to the oldies there.
    The key is that you have to kick YOUR shame and pride to the kerb and just ASK. And ASK anyone and remember, you don’t know what others have gone through and as this site is testament to, there are many Chumps out there so people may surprise you with their responses.
    Finally, check out Melanie Tonia Evans site. She’s in Australia and her work and program is all about THRIVING and not just surviving. Some of her message may seem a bit hokey at first but the whole purpose is to get the focus on YOU and making you thrive. Where intention goes, energy flows. I believe that.
    The point is that until you ACT it will stay in this awful status quo. You just have to take the leap and have faith.

    “But what if I fall?
    Oh but my darling… what if you fly?”

    • We ought to go through this whole post and carve out the key insights, like this one: “I truly believe that once we step away – even with nothing – it creates some space for the good things to start to flow in to our lives. Narcs are like life “dams”, they literally stop the flow and starve us of everything good.”

  • Dear Abby, I know it’s hard to see from where you’re standing what will happen once you let go, because if you’re anything like most of us, at first all you see is pain. However, that clears, and something truly amazing happens. You become light of heart, no longer weighed down by a soul-crushing partner. Your problems are tangible and definitely don’t disappear, but there is more of you left over at the end of each day to solve them. You begin to truly respect and love yourself.

    One thing I’d add to the above excellent pieces of advice are that there is free or low-cost therapy almost everywhere; take all the help, all the free, offered to you. It will help, just having someone who says hey, it’s gonna be okay. Get connected through church or a community center; create a network of support. You’ll need this like it’s water and oxygen.

    Good luck! You can absolutely do this woman 🙂 And hugs

  • Practical Advice:

    1. Job: A lot of stores are hiring right now for the holidays. Go to the mall and see if there are any hiring signs posted. Also- indeed is a really good way to find jobs online.

    2. School- the new semester for junior colleges will be starting in January after the holidays. So you have a small window. Go online and start to sign up for classes that will help fill your undergrad requirments (if needed) or take a couple of classes that will help you to get a job. You can also go to the school and ask to set up an appointment with a counselor. Most schools are very helpful and can give you direction about what classes you will need to take in order to achieve your specific goal. Junior colleges are very inexpensive and it will get you out of the house as well.

    3. Friends/Support: if someone in your life has ever had a sexual or alcohol/ drug addiction groups like Al Anon or Cosa are amazing. Unfortunately, most of the cheaters usually qualify us. I found a wonderful women’s support group through Cosa. They are understanding, kind, and have walked similar journeys, Truly one of the best outlets I have found during this time. Most of these programs heavily focus on not being codependent. Which for us is chumps is usually a major issue.
    Cosa: http://www.cosa-recovery.org/face2face.html
    Al Anon http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/find-a-meeting

    3. Emotional Encourgement: If you can’t go to a meeting, I would recommend getting this book, especially if your trying to get out. I can’t adequately express how helpful this book has been: The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents by Melody Beattie Amazon: http://a.co/jaMt2G2

    You can do this!

  • In my initial shock and trauma, I stumbled into a counselor’s office who was free to me. She was actually great, but it’s one of her small offhand ideas I haven’t seen mentioned yet that I thought I’d mention. She suggested creating a ~vision board type board on Pinterest and filling it with images, quotes, etc. to represent *me* and things that I wanted to have in my life. I was in such grief and trauma that I was afraid to write and journal – it was too triggering for me – but this I could do. And it’s free.

    Once there, I found resources on narcissism, sociopathy, cheating, etc. on Pinterest and created a (secret!!! non public!!) board to pin those things to.

    I also created a googledoc with the new private email account I created, being absolutely sure no one else especially cheater could ever access it, and started copy pasting things from this site into it that especially resonated. That doc is like 500 pages now, and probably traces my development through the stages I’ve gone through so far (13 months out from massive DDay). I found it weirdly soothing to read this site, and did so hour after hour, especially at night when I couldn’t sleep.

    These steps aren’t as practical as the great ones already posted, but if therapy is out of the question for financial or secrecy reasons, these things can at least provide a way to at least start building some sense of yourself and your future back up.

    • These are great! I never would have thought to go the visual route. I write write write for my living — emails to detailed technical proposals everyday — so I really did not want to face the idea of stringing together more sentences. Pictures are great!!!

      Something that REALLY helped me was to find a place or event I could volunteer. It got me out of my rut. See I lived 200 mi from any family and yes there are those Switzerland friends. But volunteering just a couple hours a month brought new faces into my life. I just found really easy things to do that while simple are impactful–became a Secret Santa to an elderly woman through a local organization, delivered or prepared meals on wheels, and taught basic computer literacy for adults at a local church. Along the way I met interesting and nice people.

    • I used Pinterest like a mad mink for the first 2 years after the discard started. 70 boards, all kinds of stuff. But I first focused on choosing happiness, gratitude, learning healthy vulnerability, living in the present, and finding an outlet for my pain. I also had boards for my efforts to get fit, to re-imagine my personal style, and to transform my home. I collected quotations from the Bible, the Dalai Lama, and other wise people. I collected poems and comic strips and photos of vintage stuff from my childhood. Whatever I fancied. Totally awesome resource for revising our lives.

  • I have advice for the woman who hasn’t been in the business world for a LONG time.

    For me? Although I was part of a relatively unsuccessful small business for much of my married life, I hadn’t been “out there” as a working employee of a company for well over 20 years when I got divorced.

    I had no college degree, but had a new technical certification.

    I HAD to find work. Alimony and child support weren’t going to cut it; and, that was all coming to an end a few years down the road. So….The field I had the certification in had some jobs available, but they weren’t great. I took one anyway – part-time. Well that grew into more hours, with benefits! And last year, I got a promotion into lower management. I’m still not making the money I need to overcome the impending loss in maintenance, but, there’s hope for that. …. And I’m over 50, too.

    This CAN be done. DO NOT believe you can’t start over – even AFTER 50.

  • Abby:
    On D-day, I asked myself, “How much more self-respect do I need to give up to stay in this marriage,” and a strong voice inside me said, “No more.”

    Staying in an abusive situation just makes you weaker over time, not stronger. This is the mightiest you will be. Act.

    Sending hugs your way.

  • I can’t say that my situation is the same as someone who gave up a career and has been in a decades-long relationship that isolated them, but I can say that I did become much more isolated in my relationship with my ex- and that I did flounder in my career as a result of turmoil in our relationship. My paltry advice would be that I was SHOCKED to find as many friends and as much support as I did. It didn’t come fast, and it wasn’t expected, but because I was looking for it, it eventually came. I have made such close friends and felt so freed by constantly pushing myself to get out there. There are people who understand. Who want to understand. And who won’t judge you, even if you say the same story a thousand times and can’t “seem to get over yourself,” as I felt (feel?). So … in sum, there are surprises in store if you leave. Good ones. Ones you couldn’t have predicted and wouldn’t have ever found if you didn’t leave. I guess you have to take a leap of faith if you feel this is what’s right for you.

  • Hi, Abby –

    I want you to know that YOU can do this. It is not easy, but I wouldn’t trade my worst day of starting over with my best day of being stuck in a marriage with a cheater!! I left a wealthy lifestyle (he disappeared to Costa Rica and doesn’t pay a penny of the money he was ordered to by the courts), got a new cute little house, and started graduate school to become a counselor to help other men and women in our position. Easy? NO!! Worth it? YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!

    Divorcing a narcissistic cheater is not for the faint of heart. Find a few friends who get it and lean on them (we at Chump Nation are here too). Face each challenge as it comes, make some courageous moves! You’ve been a stay-at-home mom (as I was for 23 years), get back in school! Dr. Omar Minwalla says that infidelity is a human rights violation. When I view it in these terms, it makes it easier to keep fighting. If my kids and I had been displaced by another type of human rights violation, I would fight to
    start over without hesitation.

    Leaving is not easy, but you’re worth it!

  • 1. Fix your mind on the road ahead. Quit looking back. Can’t change it. Waste of your time.
    2. Set yourself a mantra – mine was ‘I won’t waste one precious second of my precious life on people who don’t deserve me’. the other one was – ‘the last third of my life will be the best’.
    3. Get guidance. Counseling is best but get a group of supportive friends.
    4. Get your financial house in order. Realize you can do without cable, the newest gadget and clothing. Goodwill shopping has been chic. Go. Even for the kids.
    5. Drive the old car. I have a minivan. Oh, so uncool. Do I care? No. Its reliable, safe and I like driving it. I don’t care if its 12 years old. It will run for another 10 years at the rate I drive. Oh, I will get something newer in a year or two, but I don’t have to.
    6. Build joy into every day. What do you enjoy that you gave up to live with your ex? Find those things and the dreams you had as a kid. Go for them.
    7. Have a spiritual center. There is more to life than working, day to day grind. We all need to tap into the other dimension that exists in the universe. For me it Christianity. But for whatever it is for you. Do it.
    8. Make physical exercise and good food a part of your life every day. Get a fitbit if you can afford it. Taking care of yourself, getting adequate sleep and eliminating stress during this transition. Or you will get ill. So realize stress is like smoking and taking drugs, it can kill you. I assume you don’t drive drunk. Don’t live stressfully.
    9. If you need help put it out there. Ask.
    10. Meet other chumps. Only they understand all the layers of ‘fuckupedness’ you are going through. Meeting them is like meeting family you never knew you had.
    11. Don’t waste time trying to figure out why ‘they’ did it. Here is the narcissists prayer:

    A Narcissist’s Prayer

    That didn’t happen.

    And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

    And if it was, that’s not a big deal.

    And if it is, that’s not my fault.

    And if it was, I didn’t mean it.

    And if I did…

    You deserved it.

    Now go be Mighty.

    • These are great. I have to say I’m stuck at the “why” and “how could he do this” phase. It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s done. I know I should Move on. But damn it hurts and it’s sucks.

      Gotta keep moving forward…got to

  • CL and CN Thankyou from the bottom of my heart for this post. I honestly have been in tears reading each post because it gives me hope that I will leave the cheater and gain the life! There are chumps reading, digesting the information who want out. Who want a change! Kudos to those who are doing it.

  • Abby, you seem to assume that you have not choices, because you say you “can’t leave.” Yet you also say you have lost friend because you stayed for years. You seem to assume that unless you have a place to go or someone to take care of you, you are stuck.

    You are stuck because you think you are.

    You don’t mention your age, but you have one living parent, you’ve been married for a long while, and yu write about women who haven’t worked in 20 years. So let’s talk about a 50 year-old woman in reasonable health who hasn’t worked since age 30. Since you didn’t mention kids,

    The best move for this person is a woman’s shelter, where there are professionals who help women start from the basics all the time. The shelter provides a place to stay, food, job advice, and therapy or counseling. They even hook women up with clothes for the job search.

    Another move is to get a job. Tomorrow or Monday. Part-time or full-time–any job will do. The goal is to put enough money away to move. Make $8/hour, 25 hours per week. $200 per week gross, $150 net. You put 1/2 of it away, $75 per week. in 20 weeks you have $1500, enough for a deposit and rent on a studio apartment in many places. Work 40 hours, $320 per week, $230 per week net. Save 1/2, $115 per week. 20 weeks you have $2300. That would provide rent deposit and first month’s rent in lots of places. (Many big complexes have a “first month’s free plan”–so look for deals.) A job is essential, but even a part-time job would be a huge step forward. If you can save $125 peer week and chisel another $25 from getting cash back at the store or selling jewelry you don’t like, you could have $1500 in 10 weeks. And the very act of getting a job will start to alter the dynamic between you and your H. If you get a childcare or eldercare job in someone’s home, paid under the table, you could walk away with the $200 a week in your pocket. Waitress work also offers a chance to save cash fast because of tips. Your H might not like you getting a job. But you first task is to stop caring what he thinks. About anything.

    You can find a very small apartment (assuming no kids), or someone who is looking for a roommate. You could look for a family who needs someone in the house at night for an older person or to watch kids.I have a friend who had a woman living in the house to care for a parent with dementia. There are hundreds of opportunities.

    Even if you have a wonderful, loving family, they aren’t going to save you. You have to save yourself. Your friends tried. They encouraged you to leave, but you stayed. If you own a home, and file for divorce, you are entitled to your share of the equity, probably at least half. Same is true of pensions, etc. If you have kids, you would get child support. You would certainly get rehabilitative alimony if you have been abused.

    So first, start documenting any instances of abuse. If he is physically abusive, take photos and consider calling police to make a record. Find out what the assets are and how much is liquid (in cash or in accessible savings). Copy bank records, taxes, etc. Secure any significant possessions (jewelry, photos, heirlooms) so that you can take them when you go. But most of all, decide that you have to save yourself. In fairness, your old friends tried.

    You say your H made you quit your degree. Well, pardon me all to hell, but why does he get to “make you” do anything? This appears to be the crux of the problem. Maybe even before you get a job, you need to figure out why he gets to decide what you do.

    I’m 65. I started over at 61. I have a good job but I gave away everything in the house to my alcoholic XH and started over again on the mortgage to buy him out. I started over. No parents, no siblings close. Best friend 2,000 miles away. And I’ll be working till at least 75 or maybe beyond if they cut Social Security, as they are talking about today. But I wake up in my happy home, without a drunk or a cheater to make life miserable. I saved myself, with help from a therapist, and any other resources I could find (Pinterest, “Law and Order” on the TV, music playlists, working out). You can save yourself. But you have to start believing you have a choice.

      • Typos and all. LOL.

        The biggest problem is believing you deserve to be happy, well-treated, in control of your own life.

        • Yes, LaJ. This is it. It really helps to have support, money, a good job, whatever. But it does ultimately come down to making a decision that you are going to walk away and start over. No matter what it takes. No one can save you … it’s on you. And you can do so much more than you ever thought if you make that decision instead of carefully explaining to yourself and others all the reasons you can’t. I say that with love and understanding, Abby.

          • Read or watch “Lord of the Rings.” That books saved me when I was a kid living with a narcissist and a dad who drank too much. It helped me see that no one will save us but ourselves, that we have to meet the challenge of the moment. It just took another 50 years to rid myself of the “not complete without a man” part…. 🙂

  • I had no job and my unemployment had just run out on DDay.

    Nearly 1 year after divorce I have one ONE regret – not leaving that mother-f•cker sooner.

    Do your prep, extract as much as you can. Line up your ducks and get the hell out of there. At the end of the dark tunnel is light and hope and freedom. You can’t get there until you go through.

    It’s very scary and very hard, but you are worth it.

  • Hi Abby,

    I got away 20 years ago. The Fucktard I was married to harrassed my employers implying I was servicing them sexually so I lost my job as well after I was cast away after 16 years. It was a hard time, but I was not alone. Trust me, you are never alone. Back in those days there was no Chump Lady, and I didn’t actually know what happened in real terms until I found this place recently to help a family member. But the advice here is sound, and I followed it. Probably intuitively. I found a good therapist; no, I was given her name by the good people at the domestic violence center after my cheating husband claimed I’d harmed him. I hadn’t, but our state law allows a citizen to arrest another citizen, and he did that when I found him out even though he had not been touched. So, I went to jail for a night “to teach her a lesson.” My Dad didn’t have the money to bail me out, so he slept on the bench in the lobby of the jail. My sister flew in from another city to bail me out and got me an appointment with a couple of lawyers. One to handle the criminal bs my wasband was heaping out, and another to get me divorced from that asshole. The cheating Fucktard I was married to strutted in come morning and announced that I should have learned my lesson and said he’d drop the charges if I’d apologize for making him angry. I got an off duty sheriff to accompany me home to get some things, and left. The Fucktard moved his student into my house and let her wear my clothes. After six months of no contributions from me, he wanted me home again. I fell for it, and it lasted about six months more. Maybe less. By then, the abuse was not just occasionally physical. I brought home the dry cleaning and he grabbed it from my hand, ripping open my hand in his hurry to lock it away in his office. Why I don’t know. I called my Dad and met him at the Police Station. I made the report, and mentioned it was not the first act of violence, and they took the Fucktard in. And locked him out by protective order. This time I kept him out until he settled the divorce. I nearly starved. To stay in the house I had to pay for it. That left me about $3 a day after the bills and the pets and all. I lost 35 lbs. in less than three months. When I went to court, he asked me why I wouldn’t do that for him. Really? A size 6 is unacceptable? You want a size 2? Even if that woman is starving? Thankfully, I didn’t find it in me to reply to that piece of garbage.

    So, bad tends to go to worse. Lift yourself Abby. Now, I am married to a nice former chump. Have a wonderful job for 16 years. A good peaceful home. I still save money regularly, like it’s a habit, but that’s okay for the future. Good luck to you, and please take care of yourself. You will be happier on the other side of that relationship. Everyone is. Hugs to you.

  • One step at a time.

    After helping my X finish off 7 years of education to start a new career, we had no money in the bank and huge debts.

    We moved to a city that was unfamiliar to me for his new career and as I was unpacking boxes BD hit!

    I could not find a job and I had no rights to the house because it was a rectory.

    Two very confused and heartbroken kids, a Father with late stage Alzhimer’s and not a friend within a 3 mile radius.

    I went back to school. I was a zombie – but I did it. I lived in a very bad neighbourhood so far bellow the poverty line I required assistance from a women’s shelter. I did not own appliances for a year and a half and am still very tight financially.

    Having said this – best feeling in the world sleeping in my own bed away from all the crazy!!!

    Not saying any of this was easy – but it is important to save yourself!!!

  • Abby I hope you’re feeling even just a little better from this group. Even have a glimmer of hope. Baby steps.

    Not sure where you are but in the US there are lots of Meetups for support, divorce, breakups, or groups for painting or book clubs or anything to get your mind off the pain and meet new people. Baby steps. You may not feel like doing it but once you do you’ll be glad you did. This community on CL will help you stay motivated and know it’s not going to be easy.

    “Even if you fall on your face you’re still moving forward”

  • “The shit lasts as long as you let it.” Great quote, and so very true. Fear of change is a powerful thing. It tells you that you can’t/ shouldn’t. There are some really great suggestions here… the common thread in all of them is that you just have to take that first step. You get one life, and time goes by so quickly. Do yourself the favor of not giving up one more minute of your precious life to this nightmare. Without that first step, you can be certain of one thing: it will NEVER get better. Most likely it will get worse.
    The only thing I can add to these great posts is to correct the idea that you have “nothing”. That is not true. You have half of everything- including his paycheck and his retirement. When you have been married 20+ years, you are entitled to alimony. Get to a lawyer asap to get a real picture of what you can expect in terms of support. Go from the lawyers office to the bank and take half of the savings account, if there is one. Open a savings account in your name only and deposit your half. Go grey rock until he gets served. You are under no obligation to explain yourself, or even get into a dialogue with him about “why”. He does not own you. Your lawyer can best advise you, but my guess is he will tell you not to leave the marital home, unless your safety is at risk. If you are unsafe, or he responds in a threatening way; call the police immediately (you can use that documentation as evidence in your divorce). Get a restraining order so HE has to leave the home, not you. If that’s not possible, get your lawyer’s permission to go to a women’s shelter while you wait out the divorce. All of this is possible for you… but you have to save your own life- no one can do it for you. Just muster up your resolve and take that first step. When the shitstorm is over, you will be so happy you did.

  • On August 20, 2005, I found email evidence that not only was my husband carrying on numerous online affairs, but had nurtured a special relationship with a gullible hobag in his hometown 4 states away. They had plans for him to visit within weeks and apartment hunt together. And parentally abduct my daughter, with gleeful rejoicing that I’d ‘never see her again.’ My ex was so complusively unfaithful he was planning to expose our daughter to a complete stranger and commit felony kidnapping JUST FOR FAPPING AT THE COMPUTER.

    Ex’s family may not have been aware of the shiny new replacement, but they were down with moving back home and are dysfunctional drunks, so they don’t think verbal abuse is abuse. They were all telling me the visit was for daughter to meet extended family. They knew ex had no intention of returning. I’d been sick, so my older son and I weren’t invited on the trip.

    Instead of getting my ducks in a row and getting a restraining order right away, I made the mistake of confronting the cocktwomble and attempting to still leave for work third shift, Cocky-T was upset. He’d gone drinking after work, had only come home an hour before I had to leave with no word, and was pissed that his hangover might be made worse by actually caring for a baby. He wanted me to call off my 9 dollar an hour Overnight MRDD carer job. I had no choice as I didn’t want to be in the same bed with him and I needed every penny I could hoard to leave.

    When I confronted him, he exploded with rage. He attempted to physically prevent me from leaving. Got on the phone to tell his evil mother that I knew about the trip. I collected my son to go to work with me as he would not be kind to him in my absence, and…that motherfucker punched me square in the face right by my car with his mother on the phone. In front of eleven year old son.Then he tried to grab my keys.

    Any drop of concern I had for him evaporated in that moment. My son managed to get inside the car, unlocked it for me and I wrenched my key back and we sped away.

    I took him to work with me. Luckily my job was okay with that. I discreetly talked to my coworker about it between chores while my son slept curled up in a chair.

    In the morning we went home as if nothing had happened. I pretended like a hundred times before that allowing him to cool off was normal. But hitting me was not normal.I collected my daughter and held her tight. I had a small paycheck coming. I would wait. I would let him get off work and drink or whore about till right before my shift. I would call the utilities and make payment arrangements to free up a chunk of money. I took pictures of my bruise. I went downtown and pressed assault charges and asked for a restraining order by submitting copies of all the emails. I placed a deposit on a small apartment in my name only. I did this in three days. I don’t know how I did it. I just did

    The everliving cocktwomble was arrested in front of his coworkers for domestic violence. He lost his job. He didn’t make it to his rendezvous with his new supply. For the neglect and conspiracy to kidnap, he had a restraining order, then only supervised visitation. I moved everything I owned into a tiny apartment with only a banged up Ford Festiva. I left EVERY stick of furniture but my son’s behind. I was out of fucks to give. I shut off the utilities. There was only one month left in the lease- I worked out with the landlord to market the apartment as furnished and they would not put the broken lease on my report. The ex came out of jail to an empty, dark apartment. He was only allowed by the landlord two supervised hours to collect his things and then the locks were changed.

    My point, and I do have one, is that you CANNOT function and thrive under the same roof with someone who wishes you didn’t exist. I do realize there are some who might have serious chronic illnesses and few options. But if you can work, you can make it work. We had NO money for months. We went to every food pantry we could. And it was still heaven compared to being held emotional hostage by an angry cheating drunk.

    The road is still bumpy. My next serious love (I waited 7 years to date) cheated too. But instead of my daughter being missing, she’s with me most of the time. I make three times what I made then, and twice what my ex makes. I am old, I have past due bills and my son is gone. But I speak from experience when I say you can make the change, and you can be responsible for you. Your children should never witness verbal or physical abuse. They shouldn’t have to stay in a family that’s a lie for convenience. I regret daily that I did not spare my son from seeing his stepfather’s rage.

    If you expected and were promised monogamy, there is no way to coexist with a cheater without scarificing your own soul. Just my opinion.

  • For all those who come here and feel you have nothing, the first thing to do is understand that living with an abuser has created this mindset. First of all, you have yourself, your own “wild and precious life.” And in marriage, you have a right to shape your own life within that marriage–to get an education, to pursue a career, to have hobbies and friends and ways to give back to the world. So if your spouse opposed your development as a person, that’s a more fundamental problem than even infidelity. That’s the foundation of abuse–for one spouse to prevent the growth and development of the other as a person. So the first step is to understand you have a fundamental right to growth and independent thought, which is life. If you can’t grow and think on your own, you are in prison. Voluntarily.

    I love to quote my fellow chumps, and overit hits this one out of the park: “The only thing I can add to these great posts is to correct the idea that you have ‘nothing’. That is not true. You have half of everything- including his paycheck and his retirement. When you have been married 20+ years, you are entitled to alimony. Get to a lawyer asap to get a real picture of what you can expect in terms of support. Go from the lawyers office to the bank and take half of the savings account, if there is one. Open a savings account in your name only and deposit your half. Go grey rock until he gets served. You are under no obligation to explain yourself, or even get into a dialogue with him about ‘why’. He does not own you.

    Finally, let me say something about public assistance–welfare, the dole, food stamps, Medicaid. I used to work for the welfare department in my state, back before the program was called TANF in the U.S. I recall a woman who came for help whose first husband had ghosted on the family years before. She had remarried and things went well for years until the older son was in an accident that caused brain damage. The husband couldn’t cut it; the kids weren’t his and the son created massive chaos in the home. He left and took his paycheck. She was a SAHM at that point because of the son. By the time she saw me, the utilities were off. The younger kids (middle school and HS age) were trying to support the family by cutting grass and babysitting. There was no food in the house. They were awaiting a court settlement on the accident but that could be years down the road.

    It took me 4 hours instead of the usual 90 minutes to get things sorted. She left with a check retroactive to her initial contact with DPW and taking her to the next check date. She had food stamps and a medicaid card for her and the kids. I had the utilities back on, after a few phone calls, since many utility companies will grant grace to people with medical emergencies. We started the process of tracing husband #1 to find out if she could get child support, or in the case of his death or disability, Social Security for the kids. I referred her to a handful of Social Service agencies for additional help as needed. And I told her never again to allow her pride to get in the way of applying for help. That’s one reason why we pay taxes: to make sure our neighbors and their kids don’t starve when disaster strikes. I was just a kid, maybe 25 or 26 at the time, but I’ve never forgotten this woman. It was my first real life lesson in how government can make a difference in individual lives (other than just making sure the bridges don’t fall down). And it was my first lesson in how people are often in need not because they are lazy or unworthy, somehow, but because life is hard and throws us curveballs.

    So apply for help. Contact Salvation Army, Goodwill, Catholic Social Services, anything that’s out there. One local church during my time at DPW provided mattresses, sheets and cribs. Good social service workers know these resources. Call around. There’s help out there. And in rural areas, call the mayor, the town council, a local pastor. My dad was a small-town political leader and he and my mother were all about finding help for people. You aren’t alone.

    • I wish all government workers had your earnest competence, LAJ. And I wish we lived in the Nordic states that are CIVILIZED and everyone has a social safety net when they don’t have a family to help them. I pay over $1800 a year in property taxes and I don’t even have a park or a library within 45 minutes. (Sorry, Social Rant).

      But, the point is clear: The help is there. I think navigating the bureaucracies are like a part time job in themselves, but once you get the benefits, it will change everything.

      There is no excuse for staying with an abuser. Even stage 4 bone cancer, a hospice with take you in.

  • This is for everyone who is newly single and starting out on their new life or for those of us who have been single for awhile and enjoying our new life –

    I’m single.
    Don’t pity me.
    I am not lonely
    I chose to be single.
    Because I’m done.
    Done settling.
    Done dating shitty men &/or women.
    Because now I know.
    I know what I want.
    And I know what I deserve.

    And I don’t mind waiting for it.

    • Maree, I love it, too!
      I decided to contact an old high school boyfriend so I would not be alone on the holidays. He even sent me a text this morning, “What’s up, Buttercup?” and my heart soared. I was singing washing the dishes.

      But this is what I have learned in our three, 6 hour total phone conversations:

      1. He is currently on felony probation for felony breaking and entering.
      2. He has a SECOND pending assault charge on a female for his ex- wife.
      3. He has two daughters from two other women, he did not marry.
      4. He had a past cocaine addiction.
      5. He admitted he used to drink vodka in the morning to get going but he has “cut back”.
      6.He admitted that he, at one time, had 70 liquor bottles in his condo.
      7. He admitted that he did not want to plan for the future, as far as he could get was tonight.
      8. On FB, when he posts a photo (I am not kidding) over 200 women “Like” it. (Because he is so handsome.) He is.
      9. He admitted he had cheated on partners in the past.

      I am just now resurfacing after having my heart ripped out by a cheating, lying addict.

      I went on a walk and thought….You know what? I was just be at Christmas with my little weird sister, and my domineering Mom and a few old aunts and WHO CARES? I will eat and be kind, and I will be DAMNED if I
      jumping out of the frying pan into the fire so I will (Gasp!) not be alone at Christmas.

      THE PICKER IS GETTING FIXED!!!

      • Kendal K, you have dodged a bullet. I sometimes think we Chumps get sucked in or should I say sucked back in because anything has to be better than what we have endured or come out of. That is where the problem is unfortunately. We have to step back and weigh up each and every encounter for what it is.Your Christmas sounds like it is going to be just fine to me with your weird little sister, your domineering Mom and a few old aunts. You know these people and they love you no matter what. Sounds pretty good to me. Have a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year celebration. Here is to all of Chump Nation in 2017. Sadly we will have new members but our collective experience will help them hopefully navigate the mine field. (((HUGS)))

  • My two cents on starting a new life, and filling in the immense space left by a prior long term relationship:
    I bought a new planner, the kind with a view of entire months, and I engaged in an intensive and intentional process of filling it. At the beginning, I made sure I did one thing every day that involved guaranteed contact with other warm-hearted humans – anything. If I had the opportunity to choose something that might involve the potential to meet new friends, then that activity was a priority. I lived in a place of YES. If good humans were present, then YES I would go. I got dressed and out of the house and made it happen, every day, and I forced myself to be really present every time I encountered another soul. It is amazing what is possible out in the world when you are broken and well-intentioned. The angels appear everywhere. I don’t mean this in a religious way, although that can work as well if you’re so inclined. I just think that there really are good people all around, and when we go out there with a focus on connecting, even for a few moments, magic happens. And those interactions, even momentary ones with strangers, can fill your bucket and be very healing. And all of this builds momentum and confidence.

    I reinvested with old friends, and got even closer to them. I met new friends. I looked for “communities” to engage in in addition to connections to individuals. This can be a
    Meet-up group, skiing club, church group, homeowners association, PTA, sorority or frat alumni group, AA or Alanon group, etc. Communities provide weekly or monthly guaranteed opportunities to belong and connect. They can provide a chance to make friends, but even without that they are super important to add to the mix.

  • I purchased a new bible, a set of weights, and some exercise tapes. Next I joined a lady’s gym, explored new walking trails and became more social.
    The weights helped me feel strong, the bible quieted my mind and the social activities forced me out of my shell. My discard became intense at the time of change that comes with the empty nest.
    When I realized he had essentially had a new life it could have been even more devastating, but it’s true what they say about girls that participate in sports.
    There is a line in the movie The Color Purple, where Oprah character says ” I’ve had to work hard all my life. ”

    Nothing was ever given to me, my family are from humble beginnings, and we were taught certain things about expectations. A husband with a wandering dick is painful but not the end. I’m still here, God still has my back.

    I started a home based business out of unmet needs for my clients. God has blessed it. There are so many things you can do, we are all given abilities to support ourselves. Simple things such as canning foods or teaching a class about vegan cooking can bring in quite a bit of extra dough.
    My kids built and designed gaming computers well before it became popular. I know of ladies who will plant your flower beds, clean your home etc. With so many working single mothers a “hire a wife”business is a great service.

    The same can be said for guys as well. Changing outdoor lights, cleaning gutters traditional guy type things or teaching how to classes.
    In addition to my educational pursuits my parents instilled in me the need to be able to work with your hands and do other things as well. In this disposable society people can’t do anything.
    You can do it!

  • Being given permission to take care of myself first has been some of the most freeing advice I have seen so far. Taking long walks, curling up on the couch watching TV, a glass of wine, and binging on this site for support and encouragement!

    But there always seem to be more discoveries. Can anyone offer resources for finding out owners of cell phone numbers attached to texts? The reverse cell lookups online just don’t come up with anything, unless you sign up for a membership – which I wouldn’t mind doing if I was assured of discretion. Are there any sites for reverse cell phone lookups that garner results? Searching in google really only works for landlines.

    Thanks everyone for the support, and for just plain being here.

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