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Dear Chump Lady, Is this a unicorn?

unicornposterDear Chump Lady:

I potentially have that mythical unicorn in my life. It shares its body with the original transformer that sadly still becomes my spouse on occasion.

In the morning light with dew on the grass, the unicorn seems legit. Doing and saying the right things. Making good changes and taking responsibility for his choices. Going to counseling on his own, developing better relationships with all. When he sees me in pain, he knows that he is the sole reason I cry. Got the truth after a couple weeks of gaslighting/denial, not willingly but eventually admitted / shared details nonetheless. He has agreed to all boundaries and for the most part I do believe he is heading down the path of a better life, with or without me.

However, I see remnants of the transformer’s personality in his underlying choices.

For instance, I requested that he acknowledge a few hard days I have most every month. Instead of doing as I ask, he chooses (for my benefit) to NOT say anything on those hard days; he identifies that he believes that he is protecting me from pain on those “special” days and he chooses to ignore them because we are moving forward. I called him on his bullshit but truthfully his thinking/decision making is so skewed that he talks himself into believing that line.

For instance, we finally told our college age kids the truth (for over a year they had been rebuilding a relationship with their dad based on his BIG LIE that he only sexted her when in reality they had multiple sex overnights and were just getting started with their affair because they both deserved some happiness). He was upset, not because of what the truth would do to his kids, but upset that he should have been given adequate time to prepare how to tell his kids.

For instance, this past month, I brought up divorce. 95% of the time, he appears to want to continue the marriage and actually does “think” of me when making some choices. However, his yearly vacation with a relative became a priority and a reality over this last holiday weekend of the summer. He “asked” me if he could go. I told him it was not my decision to make. When he made the commitment to go, I told him that I was floored that he made the choice he did with the marriage hanging on a thread. Instead of the obvious truth (that he really wanted to go), he again talks himself into another bullshit story about the other person’s happiness with the annual trip and also that I probably needed a break.

The first question I asked the marriage counselor over a year ago was whether or not he was possible of true change, not just the surface rust changes, but the soul busting changes that govern underlying choice process. I have stuck it out for a while to see what changes he was capable of making. Divorce is now an option to explore given the rare but continued surfacing of the old husband.

The unicorn that I am married to reverts to a transformer when pending decisions require him to make a difficult choice.

Looking for your input. I actually do see the real remorse (not just the genuine imitation naugahyde remorse); however the default transformer just will not allow the permanent conversion to the unicorn. Don’t think that will change.

Honestly, maybe it boils down to how the affair has changed me: weary, untrusting, doubtful and just plain disappointed. Maybe I don’t believe in unicorns anymore.

Thanks for your column. It provides an angle of sanity to turn toward instead of the daily stupidity.

Chump Loving Life

I’m confused CLL. You say your husband is “making good changes and taking responsibility for his choices” and then give me chapter and verse on how he’s not doing that.

He doesn’t comfort you when you have a bad day — and does the mindfuck that it’s really for YOUR benefit. He takes a trip alone with a “relative” (you sure about that?) — and says it’s really for that relative’s benefit, and you “needed” a break. And he attributes his inability to tell his kids that he had an affair to… inadequate preparation. I mean, maybe he had a flip chart and PowerPoint, CLL, and you were just too hasty!

It seems to me, when pressed into an uncomfortable situation, he reverts to mindfuckery and probably gaslighting (a trip with family? Really? Why aren’t you invited?) Yeah, I wouldn’t be very trusting either, CLL. What exactly has he done other than go to counseling by himself? Do you have a post-nup?

I only have a letter to go on, but it looks like you both have issues saying what the hell you want. When he asked if he could go on that trip – yes, I would object to the whole parent/child dynamic, but you should’ve said exactly how you feel about that. HELL NO I DON’T WANT YOU TO GO ON THAT TRIP. Instead you say it’s his choice, and then get pissed when he chooses.

You’ve stepped into the mindfuck bear trap. Because he posed the question as a Mother May I kind of thing (grrrr), you’re quick to back off to not be seen as controlling or parent-like. I Trust Your Best Judgment on This. When of course you trust no such thing. He, naturally, does what he wanted to do in the first place. And the no win is, if you object, you’re the bad guy, and if you consent, you’ve fucked yourself.

Instead, take a step back and stop focusing on him and his purported motivations. “..Truthfully his thinking/decision making is so skewed that he talks himself into believing that line.” Do you want to have to take his temperature each day on how much he wants the marriage? Oh, today he’s 95% in!

Why not ask yourself — is this relationship acceptable to ME?

Do you want to play marriage police? Do you like that parent/child shit? Do you want a marriage where every time he fucks up he says really it’s for Your Benefit?

My take is the guy is a spineless, manipulative dude. He’s very quick to cloak himself in righteousness at your expense. Hey! He’s just misunderstood! Why can’t you appreciate him and how much he does for you! Like giving you a BREAK by taking holidays with other people! He’s really a Very Nice Person whose only fault is how much he considers others. And there you go, picking him apart, like nothing is good enough. He doesn’t comfort you when you’re sad because you’re ruining that whole “moving forward” thing. It’s for your own good. If you could just suck it up, we could all get past it, but you there with those emotional days. He was only thinking of your happiness when he was ignoring you.

Are my only choices to see this guy as a unicorn or a transformer? I just see him as a cheater. An unreformed one.

Figure out what you want, CLL, what you stand for. Is this enough “sorry” for you? (((Big hugs)))

This column ran previously.

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  • My then-spouse was significantly less helpful than the cheater in this letter and I still tried to label him a Unicorn and begin the rebuild of our marriage. (bad idea)

    For anyone in the midst of the confusion and waffling about your decisions, set some serious boundaries and see if and how the purported Unicorn handles them…if they are the entitled ass we all expect them to be it wont be long before they show themselves and when they do, we should believe them.

    • Unicornnomore, I was pick me dancing after he reluctantly confessed after 5 months of gaslighting. I believed in a unicorn and was preaching this to family and friends. The first bump into the newly established boundary was when I expressed frustration after the unicorn forgot my b-day for the 12th year in a row. He turned into the robot transformer right away. If I had discovered the CL then I would be more knowledgable. But I still hoped. And still hoped.

    • I set some boundaries after dday#1. He did quite a bit to change. The few times I saw glimpses of his old behavior and choices, I wrote it off as change takes time. In other words I spackled. Somewhere between a year to a year and a half later, the old behaviors started coming back full force. After he left the second time (and before I had dday#2), I set hard boundaries. He wanted to come back but he made no attempt to get in the boundaries.

      After I told him he had to find somewhere else to stay until he could make the changes needed and prove over some time that these changes were real, would I even consider letting him come back home. Within a couple months we had dday#2. And then the lies he had told over the years starting coming to the surface. The entire first wreckonciliation was built on partial truths and lies.

      That nagging feeling that you have that you can’t trust them is spot on. Listen to it. Every time he “slips” and lets you see a glimpse of his old self is real. That is who he is.

      • Yes, GMF, I later learned that the 7 yr “Wreckonciliation for the Ages” I had build my life on was itself built on lies. He had SO little respect for me to know the truth about my own life…what an amazing amount of contempt he must have had for me.

        • The trouble with Wreckonciliation (the speed at which I had him back after inviting him to ‘work his way back’) just told him he had gotten away with it.

          And after huge and enormous amounts of self pity his refusal to let me know what was really happening and why he did it, turned into more and more contempt.

          • Lies, disrespect and contempt. WTF? These are men (and a few women) who VOWED to love us, care for us and protect us. The ONE PERSON in this world you are supposed to trust has your best interest at heart.

            How messed up do you have to be to violate such a basic principle? To be so disrespectful, so selfish, so mean-spirited to take advantage of the person who has devoted their life to be your partner?

            It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see so many of us in the same boat. To be duped for years, holding on to the promise of what we thought we were signing up for in our marriage. Trudging through the daily grind of being a parent and all the responsibilities that come with it.

            And our spouses? They live in some alternate universe where they are entitled to do whatever they please, with whomever they please, whenever they please and come home to a clean house, well-cared for kids and lie in our beds, withholding love and affection. It’s sick and twisted. They are empty creatures, getting their thrills out of sucking the essential life out of us. Until something happens that snaps us out of our imaginary world — a world that was off-kilter, but we couldn’t grasp what was happening because we cannot imagine our spouses were so cruel, selfish and evil.

            We will heal in time. We will rebuild our lives. We will find ourselves again. We will love again. We are strong. We are real. We are capable. We are worthy of real love, real affection and living a life based on honesty, integrity and the ability to feel and express those feelings.

            And as we move on to our new lives, there will be others, sadly, who take our place. Who are coming to grips that their lives have been shattered by the lies of their spouses. It’s a shame that we can’t forewarn them of their impending doom. Because, as we all know too well, we see what we want to see until it all comes crashing down on us.

            • Thank you Giddy Eagle for so beautifully expressing what I’ve felt for a long time. I have simply read many posts on the Chump Lady site and never commented. But, your post so summed up what I’ve been thinking and feeling about my STBX and his leaving me for the OW. That it spurred me to start expressing myself here too.

              We sometimes, at least in my case, want to feel for them at first and be there for them. Because often this seems like some kind of thing they are going through. Like in his case a midlife crisis. Then all of your caring and support are chucked out the window for someone else who gives them the ego kibbles they so crave. It’s hard, really hard, to realize that you’ve been married to someone who is a narcissist. But what you said in this paragraph is exactly how I’ve been feeling. It’s an awful feeling.

              ” And our spouses? They live in some alternate universe where they are entitled to do whatever they please, with whomever they please, whenever they please and come home to a clean house, well-cared for kids and lie in our beds, withholding love and affection. It’s sick and twisted. They are empty creatures, getting their thrills out of sucking the essential life out of us. Until something happens that snaps us out of our imaginary world — a world that was off-kilter, but we couldn’t grasp what was happening because we cannot imagine our spouses were so cruel, selfish and evil. ”

              I still am trying every day to wrap my head and heart around the fact that the person I thought was my best friend and love of my life for 17 years could behave so suddenly the way he did. Though, of course there were clues over the years that said again and again, narcissist. However, I was just too uninformed to even understand what it all meant. He walked out on me just to have someone else as though I am now nothing, our years together, nothing. You can actually see and feel the change in him. They become someone else, except that, that’s only the way it seems. In truth they were really this way the whole time, though you can’t hardly admit that to yourself. At least I am really struggling with that.

              I look forward to what you describe in this paragraph. ” We will heal in time. We will rebuild our lives. We will find ourselves again. We will love again. We are strong. We are real. We are capable. We are worthy of real love, real affection and living a life based on honesty, integrity and the ability to feel and express those feelings.”

              Though I will admit at this point I wonder how I will trust again? Sadly, my STBX isn’t the first narcissist romantic relationship in my life. And in fact I am learning online how I have been attracting them with the way I am. Which is a kind, loving, empathetic person who sees the good in people. Apparently this makes me narc bait. I am working on being wiser and learning all I can online about narcissism and co-dependency. I have this site to thank for that.

              When I first started to read, and it’s often repeated, the word narcissism on the Chump Lady site, I thought that didn’t apply in this case. I was still in the big denial of he’s just a confused midlife mess and I should be understanding. I have thankfully since wised up, though I have done all the stupid things she warns us about.

              Live and learn and forgive yourself for your kind and trusting heart’s nature, that causes you to be abused by them. I am saying this to myself or anyone else who is still wrapping your head around what is incomprehensible to our natures. We could never behave that way, anymore than we could suddenly change our eye color permanently. It’s that much a part of us. Is it any surprise that we can’t imagine the person we love being so the opposite? I am about 6 months in since bomb drop, and I still am, in so many ways in shock and disbelief, though I am believing. It really is heart breaking, but I am keeping my eyes open and my heart closed to him, and believing.

              I will post more here in the future as this is a safe and kind environment and support system to what she calls Chumps. But could also be called the dumped Co-dependents support site. Chump Lady is more fun and less clinical sounding. I am grateful for her humor, this site, and people like Giddy Eagle, and all who post here. You help me get through day to day. Thank you.

              • Hello Wishing Tuesday Came Sooner. Can I call you Tuesday for short? BTW, that was the post that got me into this site. It was exactly the right message, at the right time. And I am so very grateful to have found this community. I appreciate the honesty, the humility, the humor, the sarcasm and the general bad-assness of the women (and a few men) here.

                Like you, I was initially a lurker, but at some point, someone shares something that strikes a cord and you feel compelled to join in. I’m happy I was that share for you. Although I would never wish the pain and grief I have been experiencing on anyone, it’s comforting to know you’re not alone, you’re not crazy, and you’re not stupid. Others have been duped as well, by their own version of the Asswipe Evil Narcissistic Husband. And it’s helpful to listen to their stories and see the similarities. Easier to understand we are dealing with men with deep-seated insecurity and inadequate coping mechanisms. Better to self medicate with alcohol, drugs and/or women. Or all three in the case of my STBX.

                A recent reply, I think it was in response to this post in fact, talked about how narcissists pick strong women as their prey. And honestly, prey is probably overstated. I don’t think my STBX was that calculating. He was initially drawn to my success and his jealousy built over the years as he was disappointed by own lack of success. Add entitlement to the mix and things devolved into cynicism, and eventually contempt. Would have been nice for him to deal with shit, instead of faking it and gaslighting me.

              • I reread this again this morning as I saw it again while looking for an email. I want to thank you for sharing your story. You too, have a eloquent way of expressing yourself and I encourage to continue doing so. Without knowing you, but knowing you are facing similar circumstances, I feel a connection and look forward to seeing your posts in the future.

                You rock! Those qualities you speak of that make you narc bait are also what makes you you. Don’t change yourself, rather learn how to spot the narcs and give them the heave-ho, before they have a chance to sink their hooks into you.

                Heartfelt hugs,

                Giddy Eagle

    • This worked for me. My unicorn showed his true colors really quickly after I set boundaries. Suddenly the cheating was my fault. Lol

  • My advice would be: don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that your trust in him is permanently shattered, which is what you seem to be saying in a very roundabout way.

    It’s a chump’s nature to look for and emphasize the positives in people, including those who have harmed us. Drawing a line in the stand and not giving second chances is outside of our comfort zone. But as any self-help guru will tell you, safely and productively moving outside of your comfort zone is a good thing.

    • UX
      I agree about chumps needing to see the good in people and I know I have difficulties with boundaries. I feel like I can deal with my misery but I can’t deal with his unhappiness. This is what drives most of my chumpy behaviour. I can deal with my own bad stuff but can’t cope with other people being unhappy around me. FOO issues anyone!
      I always say to myself and others that when I found out what he had been doing for four years after 21 together, my trust just ‘snapped’. I can remember the exact point at which I heard it go. DDay number three was actually finding out about his second affair with a girl half his age (I found out about affairs one and three a week earlier). I couldn’t hear anything for a couple of minutes like on tv shows when a bomb goes off and all you can hear is watery silence and high pitched ringing.
      I was so blindsided I think my trust just shattered right there and there was no way to fix it at all.
      Now we are almost divorced and he is being, well I would say generous but probably mean fair and I still struggle with who he really is but it’s not such an intense process because I am less vested in the relationship every day. I think I have accepted already that I will never really know or understand who he is/isn’t and my only healthy option is to start off my own life from scratch.

      • In hindsight, my trust irreparably was shattered DDay 1. I am clearly able to see that now: there is a delineation between how I acted before I knew, and how I acted afterwards. What is foggier for me is the hidden timeline involving my feelings, as opposed to my actions. When did I start to accept so little and call it a marriage? And a tangential question, how much did things devolve once STBX started going into cheater chat rooms (virtual cheating) and then having affairs (actual cheating)? I am like you in that I grow more and more detached, but I feel like I still need to figure some of this shit out. Not his part, because he is a horrible person who did horrible things – that is cut and dry. “My part” – and this is not the MC bullshit where I have to take 50% of the blame for the failure of the marriage – my part is why I was vulnerable to this scumbag? My part is why didn’t I see the red flags? Or did I see them and just ignore them because I was wearing stupid rose-colored glasses (“look at the pretty flags, louisvilleflower!”)? My part is how could I let my children and I be so devalued and still think that I had a family to fight for? My part is how could I have forgotten how much I like to laugh and have sex and be a fun person instead of a drudge? It is a tangled mess for me. I don’t particularly want to analyze my childhood for the “whys.”
        My question, to you and other chumps here is do I need to figure out why before I can fix it?

        • LouisvilleFlower

          For me his cheating broke me open and my whole life of keeping my needs small, looking after the emotional needs of others first, keeping all of my stuff (hopes, dreams, ambitions) small and easily slotted in underneath those of EVERYONE else, all of this was suddenly revealed. Like the curtain and the Wizard of Oz.
          So for me I just knew I had to work on changing it. Not why it happened. But how to bloody well change it! Just the how.
          And it feels good. It feels right. I feel valuable suddenly to myself. It’s starting to become fun some days to treat myself, buy myself stuff, do things I want to do, say no. To be my own person. Take up room in the world. So my advice. Fuck the why. Work on the how.

            • You are my forever therapist, Capricorn, and I am sure most here would be honored to work with you. Tell me the how part once you’ve figured out! I went to a jewlery store for 5 days in a row and made myself and friends bracelets out of natural gemstones. Does this count as a ‘how’??? 2 more days to go…

              • The how I do not know. What’s funny and shows me how backwards I am here is that if I do set a boundary or do something for me ahead of someone else (and for me this distinction is important. It’s easy for me to be good to myself – if I know everyone else is sorted – but to actually prioritise my needs occasionally over those of others) then I worry I’m becoming too much like a narc! I guess when the discomfort fades I’ll have made progress.
                So if one day you are feeling low and you know making a bracelet will make you feel better buy a friends calls who really needs you but you politely decline and go to make your bracelets then I think that will be how.
                I don’t think chumps will ever not take care of their special people but to occasionally put ourselves first is a starter skill for the emotionally balanced.
                And of course if we ever meet someone else (bit of a shuddery thought) it would be a good sign to see how they dealt with our prioritising of our own needs.

            • I think in the long run, this experience will make you a great therapist. You actually understand how people can hold themselves in situations that are not healthy. Not just text book, but actually lived experience. Love your wisdom and the walk you live that makes you stronger. Even if you don’t always feel it.

              • Alethia
                You are right. I am not the same therapist I was. In all honesty looking back I was not as good as I should have been because now I understand the force of an emotional shock (like bereavement) much better than I ever did. I didn’t realise how ‘physical’ an emotional trauma can be.
                All my training was, find the why, the how’s will follow. Now I will reverse that or shift it around. Partly this is from NW who recommends and shares such resources that have revolutionised my thinking.
                The book F*ck Feelings particularly. But this has certainly humbled me which is always good for therapists. It messes with your head sometimes to always have people come to you for help. Can make you feel like you ‘know’ what others need rather than being a simple facilitator of their own skills and coping abilities.
                Hopefully the next time I need a bit of humbling I won’t need such a hard lesson!

            • Capricorn, I had myself in a bottomless pit for being so stupid for so long.

              Thank you for your advice.

              Fuck the why. Work on the how.

              • ClearWaters
                Love that name by the way.
                Fuck the why. Work on the how.

                A new tattoo I’m thinking. Maybe reversed on the forehead so we can read it every time we look in a mirror!

            • I would hire you in a second Cap. “Fuck the why. Work on the how.” You perfectly and succinctly put into 6 words what my marriage counselor couldn’t figure out in millions of wasted words over a solid year. Where should I send the check?

              • ???
                I only just finished 5 year training (the formal stuff anyway – 17 years of psychopath mom and narc dad counts more!) and am still a volunteer so I come free !!

          • Capricorn, I agree with everything you said. That’s exactly how I felt during my marriage, and I believe it started in my childhood. I remember telling my husband, “All I ever asked was to occasionally eat out and go to a movie, and even that was too much for you.” The question I later came to ask myself was, “How did I ever get to the point that it was enough for me?”

            • I felt exactly the same way. When did I decide to accept so little and think it was ok. It all happened so slowly that it took the affair to bring it all out in the open. I’m a people pleaser. Now I’m trying to find a balance between being a nice person and being a chump.

            • Same here. He took his affair partner to the theater, romantic getaways and $300 dinners and paid for it all out of community assets.

              I couldn’t get him to take me out dancing twice a year. But I trudgesup to the mountains every weekend in the winter for 10 years because skiing is his passion. Perhaps I should tattoo Chump in my forehead.

              • Yes, I was also one of those wives who believed it was my duty to make sure his wants were met. I don’t think I ever considered my needs. Well, the days of trudging up the icy slopes to make some asshole happy are over. I am sure enjoying my cozy reads by the fire!

          • Your advice is so wise, Cappy. The why will reveal itself gradually over time in small ah-ha moments. Best to get busy with the how rather than wait. Otherwise, you end up being one of those people snacking on chips while waiting to get motivated to lose weight! (ahem … munch munch munch! :))

          • Precisely this: “Like the curtain and the Wizard of Oz”

            I think of this analogy, and the Emperor Has New/No Clothes ALL. THE. TIME. I do not see anything the same way now. Almost immediately, if my Bullshit-meter goes off, I want to strip away the veneer and expose the seamy underbelly. (not that anyone will choose to see, but I do)

            Also, I met a fellow chump while I was traveling in France some years ago. She’s a psychologist and she was (in my opinion) living proof that these cheaters give NO indication, so that whole, “Well, surely you must’ve KNOWN!!!” argument goes right out the window. (Lovely person, the chump I met — as you seem to be, as well — and I’m sure a spectacular therapist.)

          • Great insights, although I would suggest that recovering chumps who leave/divorce cheater have a built-in WHY: better self-respect that leads to better self-care and a higher quality of life than they had with their cheaters…

            The HOWs would then become NC, setting up and enforcing better boundaries until reaching Meh…

            A difficult path, and although I am so sorry for the pain you endured Capricorn, I’m glad you will be there to help chumps as they build their post-cheater life!

          • That is a very good article. I hope everyone takes time to read that one. Going through my ex wife’s adultery has made me hypersensitive to any and all things that show up in my day to day life. It’s been over 2.5 yrs since the divorce of our 20 yr marriage and I’m still not recovered. I wonder if I ever will. I’m getting through it, but not recovered. I just hope after our youngest (16yo) is no longer a minor the ability to have zero/no contact will help speed up the recovery process.

            • Hi Bud 🙂

              I think it is a great article too and I am glad you found it useful also.

              Next month I will be 2 years divorced from my 30 year marriage – 36 year relationship, 5 years from ddays, and my children are grown. My sons were adults and out of the house when the horror began.

              I think it is the nature of the beast. We have been soul raped by ruthless monsters that led us to believe in fairy tale love…(monsters are real)…while I am able to be completely NC with satan, I still feel like you do. I still have days where I cast about trying to find an anchor, my purpose, etc. I think it just takes time and understanding and, as CL says, trusting that they suck. We are not responsible for the choices they made.

              We got this 🙂 Its just gonna take time.

            • Just weighing in for the “Two-Plus Years” Club. I am at Meh, but I am not the same. The world is not the same, to me.

              • The world will never be the same.

                “It has been said ‘time heals all wounds’. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” ~ Rose Kennedy

          • Jeep Tess
            Thanks for a brilliant article. I’m going to re read it a few times as it’s stuffed full of insight.
            Sometimes I come back to stuff I read ages ago only to find different things I wasn’t ready for before.
            One of my new learning points was when I read about having an asshole parent “you can become dangerously reactive to negative feelings”. I think I was very sensitive to my mothers moods because it was a survival thing. If I could stop the bad moods by being good/helpful/unobtrusive etc then I wouldn’t get the rage or the cold contempt and silence. Not difficult to see how that played out nicely for my covert narc.

            • Hi Capricorn 🙂

              I am glad you found it information you can use 🙂 I know how grateful I am for helpful information.

              I will look for a link to the article she posted about her mom. It is powerful. Her mom was married to 2 disordered men…and, I’ll find it. It is a very powerful article.

              I have found this to be so true in my journey through this hell also:
              ‘Sometimes I come back to stuff I read ages ago only to find different things I wasn’t ready for before.’

              And, I agree with your last point too. I was also raised by a narc, my abusive alcoholic narc father. Yes, set me up perfectly to accept satan’s treatment…perfectly normal to me.

              Thank goodness we are free of their actual presence! Much easier to heal once the ‘contagion’ is eliminated 🙂

          • JeepTess, best post Christmas gift received! Great artical, one that is needed at this time of year when so many past memories seep up for all of us chumps. All the best in 2017 for you and all the beautiful, loving people here at Chump Nation.

            • 🙂 Thank you PTBarnum!

              It warms my heart to know it helped! I know it helped me a lot too!

              Happy New Year to you! 🙂

        • Wow! Thanks for being so incredibly articulate — you are describing my feelings. Why did I choose this man? Or rather, why did I let this man choose me? I asked him that once in MC and was floored when he responded with “because you were successful.” He was straight out of college; I was a few years older and well into my career. I was a shortcut to adulthood; a way for him to look good to his father. Fast forward 28 years and he’s still trying to impress his father.

          I recently wrote my story to help organize my thoughts and vent my feelings. In doing so, I realized something very profound about myself. Every major decision in my life has been influenced by the fact that I am a child of divorce.

          I thought I was aware; that I was making good, solid decisions that would protect me and ensure I would not make the same mistakes my mother did.

          At 16, I swore I would never be financially dependent on a man.
          At 27, I met my husband. He was young and fun and was going to be my summer lover. I fell for this young man — I never had another date, another kiss, another lover.
          At 28, I bought my first house. We were living together, so I thought it was important for him to feel ownership as well, so he owned 1/3 of the house. His father gave him the money for down.
          At 30, I married with a prenup to protect my stock options and I kept my maiden name.
          At 32, confident that I was in a good marriage, I put 1/2 of my separate property into a new house, changed my name and invalidated the prenup.
          At 35, I started talking about children. He deferred me.
          At 37, I forced us into counseling to make a conscious decision about whether to have children. He immediately agreed.
          At 40, after three miscarriages, I had a beautiful, healthy daughter.

          I gave up my career so I could care for our daughter and so he could pursue his career. I had been successful and traveled. I was willing to be home; I wanted her to have the love and attention I didn’t have. I wanted him to be successful; to be the man I always thought he could be.

          I believed in him more than he believed in himself. I knew he was insecure, but thought my love and attention would be enough. I didn’t realize he resented my success in my career. And then he resented that I wasn’t working. And he resented that he couldn’t retire at 50, even though he didn’t start making real money until 40. And that resentment turned into contempt. All the while, he pretended to be Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. Family Man.

          He’s a narcissist, but I didn’t see it. Truthfully, I didn’t know what a narcissist was — I thought it was an egomaniac. He’s in sales and a master manipulator and I was his prey. It was the ultimate long con. I was naive and trusting and believed in him, in our marriage.

          And yes, I knew things were off. There was no intimacy. But he blew in on the weekends to do his laundry and have family time and then was off again on his weekly business trips.

          When I found out about his infidelity it had been over for more than a year. My daughter was 10. I wanted her to have her father in her life; mine left when I was 6. We went to marriage counseling. He said what he needed to say. And I trusted him again. He did what narcissists do; he continued to have affairs. And when he got caught again, he said “I deserve to be happy.” WFT? I deserve to be lied to for over a decade? I deserve to be unloved and untouched? I deserve to be in a facade of a marriage? I deserve to be disrespected and humiliated? I deserve to have given up my career for this bullshit? It turns out that he’s been having affairs for more than a decade. Every cliche you can think of — someone he met on a plane, a high school girlfriend he reconnected with on Facebook, a dear friend of mine, a mutual friend, a work colleague. And that’s just the ones I now know about. As I go back in my mind, I realize a couple of other “incidents” were probably other affairs that date back before my daughter was born. Why would he have a child with me if he was cheating?

          I gave him everything — my love, my fidelity, my money, my career. I believed in marriage. I believed in making decisions in the best interest in my daughter and the family.

          In retrospect, I drew the short straw. I fell for a mirage. A book I’m reading talks about how women fall in love with the man they believe he’ll become; not the man he is. It certainly was true for me. I trusted too much, loved too much, believed too much, wanted too much. Love is indeed blind; we project the best on those we care about.

          So now I’m mid-50’s, a single mom with no career. I’m exactly in the place I swore I would never be when I was 16. It happened slowly over time as I committed further and further into my marriage and my family. I lost myself in the process. After the dust settles, I hope to find myself again. And be a role model to my daughter about perseverance.

          • Giddy Eagle
            That was a very powerful post. IMO you not only will find yourself but are definitely the kind of mother who will pass on everything you have learned.
            I hear how painful it is to look back and finally ‘see’ how it really was. I had to do the same. 20 year SAHM. He travelled and yadda yadda you can get the rest.
            From your post here and others over the last couple of days I get the feeling that you are strong, smart, articulate, self aware, focused and capable. My advice would be to take a running jump at this new life- you are going to soar high.
            You just lost your anchor.
            I hope you have a head for heights. ?

          • Giddy, you are already amazing. I can’t wait to see what you do and accomplish after that dust settling process is done. Mid-50s is young, girl. You have all the time in the world!

          • It hurt to read your post. So, so much of it is exactly as I experienced with my STBX. Nothing sudden. Nothing overt. Just a mirage of who they were. And they were so good to say and do just the right thing when they needed to draw you back in.

            You were conned, plain and simple. And for a very long time. You will be okay. You will have a fulfilling life. You will come out of this more than fine. But trusting not only someone else but yourself may take a very long time. I know it will for me (if I even try to EVER let anyone else in that way again).

            • This^
              The fact is that we were lied to and betrayed. How can we make informed choices and decisions when we are not in possession of the facts? We can’t. We are labouring under false pretences and we don’t know it.

              • After hearing the general details of my ex NPD treatment of our marriage my dad’s first thoughts were ‘he’s a con man’ . I was absolutely blown away. NO way, it seemed like con man belonged to another era. But on examination of the facts there is nothing new about people. Just different labels. He was in sales of sorts too – gave me the lines to string me along and appeared to be the ultimate family man to the outside world. Even though he managed to jettison the relationship overnight leaving the us +3 kids penniless he still managed to portray himself as some sort of victim. It was uncanny. But good old fashioned con man describes it. Its taken me over a year to finally wrap my head around the events of our 20+ years together re-analysing all the assurances, plans, spending habits, relationship moments, his FOO issues to conclude it was all about him all of the time and I only caught up to how his mind worked in one massive hit at D day. That evil will last me a life time and I am not exaggerating when I describe it as evil.

          • Giddy,
            Your post resonates with me on so many levels. I’m curious about the book you are reading about. Can you offer the name?

          • These words:
            “Women fall in love with the man they believe he’ll become, not the man that he is.” OH MY GOSH! That absolutely describes my current situation.

            I am still in the marriage, mainly to get things in order as I have three kids and don’t want to live in our current location (surrounding by his family). I keep asking myself how this happened. My husband got addicted to porn and went to a massage parlor once. I confronted him before the real acting out began, although he admits he was gearing up for it.

            I have to admit, since d-day he has been working hard, but falling completely short in surfacing as a unicorn. No relapses, but in seeming him without my rose colored glasses, I see a completely insecure man child that has no idea how to be an adult. He wants to, it just isn’t there. But, that is what I need.

            I keep asking myself – how in the hell did it come to this? And those words have slapped me in the face. I went into this marriage thirteen years ago knowing he wasn’t as mature, confident, or capable as he needed to be. But, I saw his ‘potential’ and thought he just needed time (even though he was three years my senior). He had a good job, but was still floundering in life, unsure of himself and making stupid decisions – bad business deals and such.

            He admits he admired my confidence, the way I got things done in life, the way I was brave and accomplished everything I set out to do. I also clearly see that his porn addiction was his way of slapping me in the face. There was a flip side to that ‘admiration’, jealously. I reminded him of what he wasn’t. Everything I got a new accolade in the workplace and he was just sitting there, doing ‘good enough’ – a part of him was happy for me, but the other part wanted to see my fall down a couple pegs.

            I came home for the kids and it was his time to ‘shine’ – except he didn’t. I changed careers so that I could continue to be home with the kids, but also work (I was raised to not be financially dependent on a man by my divorced mother). Once again, I started to rise, even in my job where I was making less than he was. The thing is, I honestly didn’t understand why he wasn’t rising, being the man he wanted to be. The reality is – that isn’t my problem to figure out. I couldn’t keep looking at his ‘potential’, I had to open my eyes to what was right in front of me.

            Teenagers have potential, when I met my husband we were both adults in our mid twenties and we were pretty much in a state of ‘what you see is what you get’. I allowed myself to be blinded by what I saw he could become if he just worked at it a little.

            It wasn’t even professionally that I was talking about, it was being a husband. If he just went a little further in conversation, if he showed just a little bit more compassion, if he were just a little bit more intimate, if he was just a little bit ‘more’ he would be an amazing husband. The reality is, he showed me who he was and who he was would never be satisfying for me. He knew it and he resented it. I believe his plan became – “If I can’t be good enough, I can just break her down so that she is satisfied with less.”

            For a long time it worked, but the thing about lazy people is that no matter how much you lower the bar, they will continue to fall short. Every time I accepted less than my ideal, he reached lower. It finally got to the point where he pretty much mentally and physically checked out of the relationship and spent his nights jacking off to porn while I laid in bed feeling completely rejected and alone.

            I have to remind myself of his consistent adulthood pattern – no matter how much I lower the bar of what I want and need in a relationship, he will miss it. I don’t even think it is intentionally, something he picked up from his family. His parents brag about being married over 40 years, but they are never in the same room together while awake. She walks into a room, he leaves. He even built himself a tiny house out back, so he doesn’t have to be in the same house with her. My husband never saw this as a problem, he didn’t even notice – just beamed with pride at his parents long, ‘strong’ marriage.

            I spent so much time giving him ladders that only resulted in me climbing down to meet him rather than him climbing up to reach me. Now, I am choosing to climb up. The more I climb, the more I see the gap between us growing. Now longer looking through the ‘potential’ laced glasses, I see a marriage between us could never work. Not unless I sacrificed my entire self. But, that is what I did for thirteen years, and I still wasn’t happy.

            I don’t like the road ahead of me, being a single mother and everything that goes along with it. But, I know I will do great and will consider his attempts at being a true dad to the kids potential icing on the cake when they happen (I know he will get some things right, he really does love the kids – he is just a man child that cannot handle being a husband and true partner). It will be hard, but I know if I gather all the ladders I put in place for him to climb, and use them for myself – I will rise again and have the life I knew I deserved in the first place.

          • I was out of the loop career wise for many years, although I had a home based seasonal business that was rather successful. I got back into the work force in 2013 and the first two jobs were rather beneath me but I worked hard, stayed positive and found the job of my dreams. I’m also in my fifties, nearer the 60 side. Do not let age define you and the coulda, woulda, shoulda crap is behind you, look ahead.

          • GiddyEagle,
            Jeez. We have lived parallel lives with similar covert assholes.
            Your narc told you what you have that he doesn’t – the ability to BE successful because you must be resilient and resourceful.
            Fuck the Why. Focus now on the How to paraphrase Cappy.
            Big hug to you!

          • Sorry to say it had nothing to do with being a child of divorce. My parents had a decent marriage and are in fact still married. Yet I endured alot of what you mentioned. You did hit on a key point and that is that you were a spring board for him into life…. Bottom line he was a user. As is mine.

          • Hi , this sounds like my STBXH. I had suspected something was going on for the last 8 years. This October I filed for divorce due to mainly his narcissism and the long term emotional abuse this has caused me and the kids ( now late teens/ early 20’s but still affected by my husbands behaviours).
            A week after he found out about the divorce my world blew open like a bad soap opera on crack. I discovered my 8 years of hunches were right. But it was worse than some affairs. He is having sex with prostituutes and also with men. He is also booking hotel rooms and having several people turn up for swingers parties! This was a revelation. I can’t understand what I did to deserve this. He rants on about our son having no respect but clearly has none himself having being doing all this, including, I have discovered, bringing some of these people into our family home! I feel our whole relationship and 23 year marriage has been a complete lie, after all, I had no idea he was bisexual ( though in hindsight this explains some of his odd fashion choices!) I feel he has put me and our daughter at risk ( she is still at home). I sadly have to wait at least 6 months to get out of here because I have to wait for the divorce to be sorted and the finances – he is also financially abusive, I pay for everything and therefore have no savings so can’t get out quicker. He has also been manipulating large sums of money from his own father who is a 90 year old pensioner. Over the last 9 years he has had upward of £50,000 from him and I don’t know where this money has gone. On 3 occasions he also had large sums of money and I cannot identify where this has been spent either. I don’t think he has a gambling or drug problem so can only think he is either hoarding this cash for himself somewhere or he has another family I don’t know about that he is paying for.
            He has already totally lied to his own solicitor and is trying to swindle me out of my share of the house.
            I did at least 10 months of research and serious thinking before filing for divorce so I didn’t make a snap decision but turns out I should have done this years ago. I also felt a little guilty in the first week after he knew as he kept saying he was disappointed because he still loves me! Trust me, once I discovered his disgusting sex secrets that guilt went straight out the window! He clearly doesn’t understand what love actually means. I feel my whole relationship has been a massive lie – he only married me so that he appeared to be socially acceptable when his true behaviours are anything but.
            My daughter and I are already picking furniture out for our new house – we don’t want any from our home as we don’t know who’s touched it. My whole family are supportive and even his own father is furious with him. However, because he doesn’t yet know that I know about his secrets I am enjoying the moments when he says something that I can throw back in his face. For instance, when he found out about the divorce – because he opened my post- he said I had deceived him and gone behind his back and when people do that they always get found out! Now I can’t wait to throw that back in his face once me and my daughter are safely away from here and I feel strong enough to confront him on his atrocious behaviour. I’m gonna make a PowerPoint and everything! I feel I deserve some answers after 25 years together.
            Everyone out there needs to know, they never change, narcissism is a personality discorder they have and it’s at least 10 years in therapy to dent it. My guy also has a serious sex addiction and has passive aggressive and sociopathic tendencies. My guy would keep a therapist in business for over 20 years! And still be no better.
            I now approach him with this knowledge that he is built this way – not as an excuse for him- but so it is easier to personally cope when he lets us down again and again. I feel I wasted half my life with this lying tosspot. The worst thing for me is I know the real reasons for the divorce but he doesn’t and I have to keep my lip buttoned so I don’t give it away. At the moment he is being friendly and I need this to continue as I don’t want an atmosphere with my teen daughter at home. He actually spent over 2 hours moaning how he couldn’t face losing the house if we were getting divorced and where would he put everything?. It took him 3 days to come back to me and ask what about our daughter. Shows where his priorities are.
            These people are the scum of the earth. Nobody deserves to put up with their behaviours. They will lie, cheat and manipulate everyone around them. They cannot stick to the truth even when a lie isn’t needed and serves no purpose, for example, my guy opened my post hence found out about the divorce. He then told his own father that I had left a letter lying around and he had found it and that’s how he knew I wanted a divorce! Even when his own father challenged him that he thought it was unlikely I would be so careless with such an important letter he stuck to his lie and said that I did! The fact that he didn’t even need to tell his father anything about a letter is the point I am making. He could just have told him we were getting divorced. He didn’t need to mention any letter whatsoever. It was relevant. But instead he invented a story that was unlikely as it was untrue and tried to convince his dad it had happened. Of course, these spiders create their webs of lies and deceit and manipulation and this works for them until parts of their web start talking to each other. Well me and his dad are talking and now we both know the truth. It won’t be long before his whole web will crash.
            I wish everyone out there who has made the decision to leave the best of luck and hope we can all find true happiness with genuine people in our futures. I hope everyone reading this who has yet to decide if they should leave to think on this – is it fair to yourself and your kids to carry on living like this for another 5/10/20+ years? However hard it may be to get out, it won’t be harder than realising you have screwed up the rest of your life and your kids lives by staying. I am giving up a house because being out of this abusive relationship is more important than property or material possessions. I have opted to have more respect for myself and get out. I am not setting s good example to my kids by staying. I cannot consider living like this for another 25 years so I am refusing to stay and put up with his crap.
            My counsellor said it best when she stated ‘what are you actually getting out of the relationship?’ Followed by her telling me that all of my anxieties and stresses had one trigger and it was him. If I stayed then my anxieties and stresses would continue forever. When put clearly like that there was only one choice. Leave.

            • Mally–you are mighty, and absolutely correct about the impossibility of dealing with/staying married to/fixing a personality-disordered spouse.

              This resonated with me, ” ‘what are you actually getting out of the relationship?’” and is my mantra for all future relationships, including friendships. I will no longer be the one giving, giving, giving and getting very little back. That was the story of my marriage–sacrifice, sacrifice some more, be his emotional rock, do 95% of the parenting, and yet remain lonely, misunderstood, and un-cherished. Never again.

              • How do we teach our daughters not to repeat our mistakes? I was so sure I married better than my mom…

  • It might be ok for you now but it’s only a matter of time. I know, I did the same thing. Use the time that he thinks he’s got you where he wants you and get those ducks lined up. Get the legal advice, find all the documents u need. Tell yourself it’s only information in preparation. Then when Dday comes (or sooner) don’t hold back. You’ve given him the warning so he’s probably doing the same. Mine hid money for 2 years while I pad his bills. Don’t do that!

    • The time factor also stuck out for me in this letter. For how long will a person try (or pretend to try) before they finally quit? It’s not forever. And it sounds like this chump is having no progress with her cheater, overall. A few steps forward, a few steps back, but no overall gain.

      Eventually, he will quit trying entirely and probably also hold the chump responsible for all the judgement and rules and … blah blah blah. And if you think he won’t resent you for that, you’re mistaken.

  • I see this column ran previously, but hopefully CLL took all of CL advice. Man, this cheater is a manipulative POS. He sounds very much like my cheater.

    The thing that screamed at me in this letter to CL was the 95%. My ex did the same thing. But he started lower. He was at 50%. In all honesty he was at 0%, starting the smear campaign (he’s a narc!) behind my back. Telling his ho-workers and bosses that I was “crazy” among other stuff. Yeah, narcs don’t like being exposed. I kept ALL his dirty little secrets for over 25 years, but when I finally started speaking the truth to my family, his family and some close friends — out came the smear campaign. Our relationship was a textbook narc relationship.

    So 50% of him wanted to still be married. So out came tapping shoes. Danced the Pick Me dance even harder! What could I do to get it back up to 100%? God, I was such a chump! I forgive myself for it. Trauma bonding and wanting to keep my family together — I would have done anything for him.

    And now with time and distance, I look back and can I was dancing for more shit sandwiches. I was dancing to be constantly lied to. I was dancing to be cheated on. I was dancing to be ignored on a daily basis.

    I’m not a meh yet, but I’m on my way. Life is so much better without all the mind fucks. I never want to in that kind of relationship again! Thanks CL and CN for all your help and support this past 11 months! And thank you for a place where I can swear and I’m not considered a bad person for it. 🙂

  • Yep ducks to you. Go and check every account you have now , and get your next chapter in order. Work out how you want it to be , it’s for the best . Deep down you know that . . You can’t go back .
    On those hard days , you need smile like your ve never smiled before and believe that shit. Don’t let your unicorn pity you . Good luck and keep reading the blog

  • Every time you let him make a bad choice you take responsibility for his actions. Your permission gives him power and control. Pull yourself out of the parent role immediately and see your own therapist.

    When there are three in a marriage it’s over. Stop with the percentages and protect your health, sanity, and finances.

  • Get the post nup – that will give you a clue. And if you keep him, then be prepared to do this stuff for the rest of your life because you will never be able to trust him. He isn’t trustworthy – and yes it is an “either you are/or you aren’t” kind of thing. Kind of like asking him to transplant his right hand over to his left. Can’t.Be.Done. And they can’t change…..

  • Character comes out under pressure. With this guy, it seems whenever the pressure rises, he turns douchey.

    95%? More like 20%, I’d say. The easiest 20%. Typical cheater M.O.: “I’m in at as long as it’s easy and fun.”

    Not. Marriage. Material.

    • Nomar, this: “Typical cheater M.O.: “I’m in at as long as it’s easy and fun.”

      My cheater used to advocate that I should “keep him for the fun stuff like travelling and vacation once a year together” while he was not “made for routine” so any child rearing and household chores are to be undertaken by routine lovers (me).

      The wreckonciliation in the summer was reinforced by the fabulous road trip he proposed. We had great fun for 10 days. Then another great fun during a camping trip. I thought he was at 95% – he finally confessed to the affair and even more after 5 months of gaslighting and denying it. We finally started talking! He promised he would not “fuck outside of home” (95%) but would still talk with women and go to bars and flirt innocently (the 5% I was willing to concede) Then routine life kicked in and everything fell back into its place.

    • Yes, what happens if there’s genuine trauma? Life-threatening illness, disabling car accident, senile aging parents who need care, bankruptcy, etc. — So many things can happen that are externally devastating, so much more than the burden of “I can’t believe she expects me to fuck only her and keep my word and put some effort into this marriage!” Is this who you want on your team when the chips are down? I’d rather have no one than an albatross around my neck.

      • Interesting point. There are a number of CN members whose cheaters up and abandoned them, or started longer-term affairs, when they (the chump) had some health crisis, or had to deal with a special-needs child. Cheaters are in for the sprint, not the marathon. And as soon as their muscles hurt, they stop running.

        My X told me that when his former wife left him, after years of emotional abuse and infidelity, she said on the way out, “You’d never have taken care of me if I got ill.” [Yes, yet another red flag I should have noted.]

      • Almost certainly any cheater would be horrible dealing with genuine trauma. How can the empathy-impaired be otherwise? Most cheaters cause immense amounts of trauma themselves and, as CL describes, step over us sobbing on the floor to heat up a Hot Pocket or log onto Farmville.

        • So true, nomar. I got seriously ill years later and it chilled me to know to my marrow that the Fucktard would have let me die rather than assisting me at that time. I recovered, but only because no one was about to disparage me for getting sick and not washing his socks or getting his dinner on. If that was his response to pneumonia, he wasn’t up for cancer.

          • Glad to hear you recovered. Yes, most cheaters aren’t up for the demands of ordinary life (bills, maintenance, kids homework, boredom), so any crisis is out of the question. Losing the drag they create makes life easier, addition by subtraction.

  • I had a unicorn. She asked me when will I trust that she’s a unicorn. My answer “that trust took time to shatter, but if she continues to be a unicorn eventually I’ll believe in unicorns” was apparently too much stress for her. So she turned into a twat. See? It’s my fault she’s a twat. I did it by not believing in unicorns.
    If your guy was a unicorn, he wouldn’t need for you to believe in unicorns because it wouldn’t matter. He’d just exist as one, and it wouldn’t be based upon your perception of him as one.

    • haha. i love this answer!!! so very well said.. .. .. ironically my exhusband turned into a twat also.. .. for the same reasons.. .. .. your last paragraph ROCKS!!!!

    • Every once in a while, I dream of meeting a man who is an adult. Someone who takes responsibility for his actions, has integrity, doesn’t play word games with our conversations (except in a good way — wit never goes out of style). — I can’t even imagine it, it would be so foreign.

      DunChumpin, this is beautifully said. Thank you for sharing.

      • There are so many men just as you describe right here. Which means there are also so many out in the real world … the trick is meeting them!

        • Yes, and all apologies to the good men here at CN. I did not mean this as a damnation of all men. I actually love men, quite a bit. Many of my friends have really good guys as husbands (though I suspect my friends used to say the same about XH, so who really knows?). — I just mean… I’m not sure what I mean. The concept, I guess. The concept of two adult humans behaving as adult humans to each other, each pulling their own weight. There WAS a guy, but he lives in a town I would never live in (and his job keeps him from moving) — he was talking about going to a friend’s dinner party and so he had to get home to finish prepping the dish he was bringing. Wait a minute!! He’s invited to an event and HE’S bringing something to contribute besides his sparkling personality??? What a change!!

      • I’ve got a long haul ducks in a row situation going on that I can’t really speak about in detail. So I’m here acting oblivious and lining them up. I’m glad you’re out. Be grateful. There are good men just like there are good women. These vampires just suck you dry. That’s part of their mindfuck “you think there’s somebody better than me?” For fucking year and years. You know what? The answer is a definitive yes.

        • DunChumpin

          Yes! And it’s even better when you realise that “someone better than them” also includes no one. As in being on your own is better than them. Some one else is proper icing on Chump cake. ?

  • Yep, he’s selfish and its not changing. Like, ever. Mine XN pulled the whole “marriage therapy by himself” bullcrap…but here’s the kicker, he was going in secret! Yes, you heard that right, he was going in secret and telling our MC that I “didn’t want to go anymore”. Such a drama queen. Crazy. He did that because she called him out after the first few sessions. I think what slays me still is their never ending need to be the victim. Somehow my cheating XH and schmoopie (who have done nothing but throw rocks at me and drag my through the mud for the part 4 years) are pitiful victims and I’m crazy and mean. There’s just no fixing delusional people. They live in a bubble.

    • The eternal victims. I don’t know how X and OW survived being married to such horrible people. It must have been awful being with spouses that supported them emotionally and financially. Who loved them and stood by them. Oh the horror!

  • Unfortunately Hopium is most chumps crack of choice.

    Go cold turkey and detox from the Unicorn. While you are in unicorn observation mode, get your ducks lined up. One of the best gifts I gave myself was a few sessions with a divorce financial planner. Understand where you are at today and what you need in the future. My limbo area was finance. I gave up a career to raise kids FT all over the place for 20 yrs. By doing this, I helped asshat climb the ladder. So my 401 is stupid near nothing and his is pretty cushy. Get those ducks together.

    The best a chump can ‘hope’ for is some sort of behavior modification. Their character won’t change, it’s set for life=life long douchebaggery. The constant therapy they need will take YEARS, not months, of intensive work to even begin shifting the needle. Life is much easier for them being they way they ARE vs emotionally healthy.

  • This looks like an excellent portrait of what life is like for most people who try to reconcile. Most cheaters are not full blown narcissists. Most cheaters would like things to go back to “normal.” Most cheaters are willing to make small changes to get their spouses back. Most cheaters are not going to engage in the enormously difficult work of transforming themselves and rebuilding the marriage. They would like it, however, if you took on the difficult work needed to hold the marriage together.

    The letter is a good crystal ball for chumps who have discovered garden variety cheating–there are no mandates to leave (no STDs shared and love children left in baskets on the porch, no violence, etc.) The cheater is just a jackass (not a unicorn). He probably sincerely regrets the mess he is in, but that is a far cry from being dedicated to change. He’ll repaint the marriage fence if you insist, but he sure as hell won’t dig any new post holes or put up a better set of boundaries. It is cosmetic work only–and his willingness to do that is probably temporary.

    This letter also captures the experience of being caught between two unhappy choices. CLL is not satisfied with the changes her husband has made or the direction of their reconciliation. CLL does not want to divorce. Both staying and leaving will be painful. Those of us who left simply decided that the prospect of being happy in the future (1 or 3 or 5 or 10 years down the road) seemed more appealing and likely than staying in the marriage.

    I think CLL is right in diagnosing herself as the one who has changed the most. I hope her change involves the realization that she deserves more.

    • Yes. Great response. Adding again that choosing to stay is a lifetime of marriage police. Not a healthy way to live. Also my STBX was livid that I shared his cheating ways with our adult children. I did along with immediate family and close friends. He was always the good father and good husband role model and a Sunday School teacher too. Something is seriously broken in this guy. May he and schmoopie live in their lying world and leave me alone.

    • Yes to all of this. Coverts can be so confusing to wrap your mind around. I’m ‘glad’ mine had egregious affairs because a two month one time thing I don’t think would have been enough for me to decide to go being a very chumpy Chump. The person I thought I knew and what he had done were so far apart there was no way even I could spackle over the canyon.

      • This. All this.
        I would also stay for a 2- month thingie. Heck, I was ready to stay after discovering the 12-year long term affair and multiple sex flings just based on his word that he wanted to have a family with me. And his word that he would try. In fact, he gave me a list of what of my own qualities I should work on and change and I had already started. Talk about self-worth…long and hard work needed on myself here.

        • Longtime.
          Yes. Lots of self worth work needed for me. At the moment I see it as if his cheating actually forced me to ‘grow up’ in that I was very responsible for raising children, looking after things, organising things but I see now that I had not taken full emotional responsibility for my own happiness. I had outsourced that part of my needs to others for all my life. I waited for permission and approval. So when the cheating happened I was forced to fall back on just my self which I was not used to. So now I have to learn what I like what I don’t like, who I like, who I don’t like, set boundaries etc. I had to care for myself as no one else was going to do it. In some ways my lack of family of origin has made this ‘easier’. I have no one to outsource stuff to (I have friends to chat to but no one to which I can transfer those emotional needs to). There is only me so I had to step up and grow up and it’s really tough as I’m not used to it – being in charge of my own happiness and growing it.
          But the benefits are becoming clear.
          Another of those ‘hard blessings.’

          • Totally agree with you, Capricorn. Ask me now what I like…I don’t know…what makes me happy…what my hobbies are…what I like doing when I have spare time. My answers would revolve around the cheater…doing stuff with him…talking to him…arrrgh…this is a new learning and I don’t really like it. It’s so much easier to do stuff for others…see what others need and want and do it for them…organize it…implement it. Even my job is along those lines…

            How do I help myself? By acknowledging I have a self-worth and self-value issue. First step. What next?

            • Erm ?????

              I don’t know either any of those things. Who the hell am I?
              I’m even reduced to googling ‘hobbies for people who don’t have hobbies’
              I’m like the most boring CV. Reading, bike riding……does cleaning count?

              • Cap, can’t even bike. Ashamed to admit.
                Love gardening, but I live in an apartment.
                Loved cooking and trying new recipes for the cheater and his friends. Now my cooking usually takes no more than 15 min.
                My MIL discovered she loved painting at the age of 67. Signed up for a painting course and I now have 9 of her paintings in my place. I guess it’s never late.

            • Same here. I’ve been a mom, housecleaner, cook, yardman, errand girl, nannie, tutor … all really useful but not so in touch with having fun. It is hard work to rediscover what really interests you when you’ve neglected your dreams for so long. I am starting with my love of horses and may add in learning target practice. Small steps.

              • Dixie, happy for you! I sat on the horse for the first time a few days ago. Made me dizzy once she decided to lightly gallop. But we have to start somewhere.
                Cheater is a great traveler and he kept telling me that I don’t like travelling so we hardly went together anywhere. He was either “by himself” or with his “guy friends”. I love travelling and discovering new places. I have to make the time for it now.

              • Equine therapy volunteer!

                I’ve only ridden a horse 2x’s- The second time in affirmation of how much I did NOT like it the first time.

                However, I love horses. I love handwalking, grooming and handling them. Don’t know why. Hippotherapy places are always in need of adult volunteers to do a variety of tasks. You can start there-zero cost, only your time.

        • You say that you would have stayed for a 2-month fling, but that shatters trust, too. I divorced my X on the basis of a supposed 3-week affair from 8 years prior. The trust was never going to return, and the devalue during that affair (and after he broke it off with her) was too awful to think about continuing with him. Who wants to play marriage police, or wonder if they will do the same thing to you in the future as you near retirement? [And as it later turned out, post-divorce I found out my X had been both a serial cheater and a sexual harasser.]

          Furthermore, if a partner knows about one affair, chances are there are plenty more, or that the affair was much more intense than the cheater is admitting. Even for a 2-month affair, think about how many decisions are made to deceive the chump and children, how many lies must be told (both omission & commission). Mind-boggling, and even a single fling dynamites the foundation of a relationship. Exclusivity is paramount, unless mutual arrangements were made beforehand (and plenty of polyamorous relationships don’t last).

          • I agree, Tempest. All I said that if I was ready to stay after a 12-year affair and many mini-affairs, then I would definitely give my best to the 2-month fling.
            When I asked the cheater during the supposed wreckonciliation what we would do with the broken trust, he said “Well, trust takes years to build and only a second to break. WE need to start re-building it and maybe one day it will come back.”
            They use the right words, Tempest. And we fall for it again.

            • I know, Longtimechump, their words (but not their actions) are very compelling. I tried to leave my then-husband almost annually for emotional abuse, and was always hoovered back in to give him one more chance, so I empathize with how you could be talked back into a marriage. The infidelity, for me, was the last straw after many straws. And I spent a long time berating myself for not leaving for the emotional abuse alone–it was, admittedly, subtle, but I recognized it at the time. We all stayed for the right reasons–to keep a family together, because we thought it was best for the children, because we had taken solemn vows. Our intentions were good, and for that we deserve to forgive ourselves.

              • Thank you for this: “Our intentions were good and for that we need to forgive ourselves.”

    • I love this, Eilonwy! What a spot-on response. Bottom line, what road is more likely to lead to long-term happiness. We choose ourselves and the possibility of a whole, fulfilling life over a half-life of not-quite-good-enough with the cheater.

    • Love this, and this is where I am right now. Can’t stand the thought of ?? more years with him. Both options suck, but leaving is the better one for MY future. And of course, he calls me “selfish” for breaking up our family…

    • Most cheaters are not going to engage in the enormously difficult work of transforming themselves and rebuilding the marriage. They would like it, however, if you took on the difficult work needed to hold the marriage together.
      Eilonwy, you are right on the money there and on your analysis of CLL’s feelings.

  • My ex loved the “Mother May I” request. He would dutifully ask if it was okay to go on yet another long weekend trip with who turned out to be his boyfriend knowing that I would say yes. To say no and point out that he took 3x more vacations with his buddy than his wife would make me look controlling, petulant, and an overall kill-joy. And when I said yes, he pretended to himself that I had agreed to not only the trip but also EVERYTHING THAT TRANSPIRED on that trip including sex. In my last two years of marriage policing, I was well aware that they had already put down nonrefundable deposits months in advance of him even bringing up the trip as a “possibility” … so the whole asking permission thing was just a mindfuck from the get go.

    I agree with CL that I should have been more honest about my opinion on those trips directly rather than via my passive aggressive sniping. Giving permission to an adult to make you the last priority on a regular basis is detrimental to you both. And seeing glimmers of the transformer means he is alive and well underneath all that self-applied spackle. Say goodbye, dear.

    • Me too. Wish I was more honest when he told me he was going to sleep at her house. “But don’t worry I’ll sleep on the couch”. No matter how you look at that just ugh. She’s still married. He’s still married. And no her kids weren’t there. I just have told him he’s an absolute idiot and NO I was NOT ok with that.

    • OK wtf is it with these fuck heads and permission? I truly believe it has nothing to do with alleviating guilt on their part, but that they are fucking evil. I think they sit around and on some level fucking laugh that we gave them permission to be whores.

      As they also think multi dimensionally with relationships, they are probably aware that whatever they true love dejour thinks, they know it’s doomed too and if they can’t go so what? They get to blame us for them being assholes to their true loves VII and VIII. Then they can dance harder as well.

      They are bad bad people.

      • For XH, it seemed to be part of some creepy parental/Mommy (shudder) role he had cast me in. Poor sausage. If he just used his own judgement and behaved as if unmarried (staying out til 4am, doing god knows what else), I would be angry and hurt. So he would ask. And at some point, I decided I would “let him” (shudder) have these late-night wine things that saw him rolling in at 4-5am maybe twice a year — that seems ok, right? I don’t want to be — someone here already said it — a “killjoy.”

        So it was just like having a kid, deciding on curfew and allowances and shit. — And to think I was having sex with this person who became like a child to me. It makes me queasy just thinking about it.

        Now he’s all liberated, he does what he wants, etc — or maybe not, I have no idea, having been NC for well over two years. But, yes, the permission thing is just one more thing for them to rebel against and liberate themselves from, to justify their behavior (to themselves and others), in the end.

        • They intentionally put you in this “mommy role” and then they pull out the ole ball and chain “joke” with each other … used to piss me off to no end.

          • One of the few things that used to genuinely piss off XH (he was very laid back and hard to rile up) was whenever I’d joke about him being a “kept man.” Ooooh, boy, he did NOT like that, even if it was just a tiny joke between just us two. I stopped saying it because it hurt his feelings, even though, financially, it was 100% true.

        • They are all so fucking cliche and gross. Honestly that’s what help shut off my love. When I realized what trash she was. I was doing all this psychological evaluation of how she could choose (this time) such a aged dirt bag. He’s garbage. The answer became so clear, because she’s trash too and just like that, the light went off.

        • The traitor claims I agreed to him fucking the whore, when he tried for an entire week to bully me into agreeing to a menage a trois with his ex. I said ” WTF do you want? You want my blessing? You don’t have it! You want me to agree to it? I don’t agree. This will only end in tears and it is the worst thing you could do, with the worst person you could do it with. Fuck off, you’ll do what you want anyway!”. What does he claim I said? “Fuck off and do what you want!”. That’s why he lied about going to see his sons 500kms away, told me he wanted me to spend some time alone with his youngest son with the whore, left me to look after their kid for 2 days and took off and went to her in secret. Because I gave him my permission…

          The whole business of asking permission is a mindfuck. No matter how assertive you are with some people, they only hear what they want to hear, and only do what they want to do, then blame you.

      • I agree with you, DunChumpin. It’s part of their power play to get “permission” to run off and fuck strange.

    • Yes, my then-H knew I was independent and tolerant of him taking trips, etc. He would use the Mother-May-I strategy, too, knowing he could get his way.

      E.g. [speech in brackets was unsaid], “May I stay at the graduate student party until 5 a.m. [so that I can fuck grad whore]?” “May I go to the conference in China 4 days early to be able to see Beijing and the Great Wall of China [because I have a new affair partner who is fluent in Chinese and she can help me navigate the city linguistically, and also suck my dick to relieve stress before my conference presentation]?”

      • Tempest, never dealt with the “may i” type. Mine was this (speech in brackets is unsaid):

        “You wake up for a pee too many times (pesky wife is 8 months pregnant) and I can’t sleep. I have to be prepared for the conference happening this whole week so I will move to the hotel where the conference is (and where his foreign colleague is also staying to relieve daily stress after the conference). See you.”

        TEL call: “Hi…no…i am not at home. I am in Spain….why does it matter I told you or not. I am answering your telephone call. What’s the difference where I answer your call from. The important thing is that I do answer. I am with my friend C (and with the AP who also flew over)”

        “Yes, I am packing because I have a business trip. Leaving tomorrow morning. Why does it matter where. It’s business. You know I travel a lot. I will the go to London for the weekend to see my friend C (and the AP that flew over)”

        “By the way I have a business trip that was planned way before we planned your C-section date. I cannot postpone this trip. It’s important. And hey, while I am there, it’s a nice ski season so I ‘ll stay for a few extra days and go to Austria and also see our friends (and the AP that flew over). My mom will be there with you during the surgery and my friend will take you to the hospital. Don’t worry. I have your back. Everything is under control. If you need anything you can always call me.”

        Funny thing is that THIS did not bother me enough to end it. THIS was already unacceptable! Thank you all for helping me put this into writing, read it and marvel at my own stupidity. If this is the only way to see it them I am “glad” as Capricorn said to be here and feel this pain. Hopefully this will help me get out.

        • Longtimechump–it does help to write it down to see what we endured. I’m very happy you’re about to get out of the situation : ).

        • You’re not stupid, Longtime. You believed and trusted in the one person who you thought had your back. The fact you were horrible duped is on them and their shitty character.

          Not every person is an asshole. Every cheater is an asshole though.

      • They absolutely take advantage of independent women who do not have trust issues and support their independence.

            • They aren’t stupid, just lazy.

              I have a theory that most people fall more or less into two categories: Those who do things themselves, and those who look for someone else to do things for them. The independent people, the competent people, the adult people, handle their own shit, budget and pay bills, make plans and execute them, do their share or more, sacrifice when necessary, and generally get where they intend to go. The gold diggers, con artists, lazy asses, and their ilk desperately search for someone to give it to them so they don’t have to worry their little heads or carry their own weight through life. Cheaters tend to fall in the latter category, chumps in the former.

              • That was the ahhhh! Moment for me, not stupid, but they do get lazy. And why not the Chump has been chumped for years, spinning in their universe of self reflectiveness at the cost of family, finances & future, all of any three at any given time in their path to so called happiness. It,s called CRAZY MAKING! And a rational human wakes up eventually.

                Shit hit and I found Tracy and the tribe! To all of you newbies out there, I will tell you this; Your world will change, all you thought, what was, will need deep reflection and work. The path for yourself is how did I get here, and how the hell do I get out, whole. In the end the solution is about you as a human, you as a loving individual.

                Not sure that the adage, Time heals all wounds, is appropriate for many fellow chumps, the pain runs deep and is inter-connected to so many real life experiences, warts and all! But the other day, someone called me Pollyanna, and I said, I’ll take that as a complement, I knew then that the Fucking , Lying, Stealing, Gaslighting POD had not reached the inner santction of my heart , soul and being, and how I relate to the world. I was just doing my job and doing it well, and the speaker , a 200llb construction worker with a smile on his face! Sweet but not my type!

          • Yes. The independent ones can take care of themselves AND the cheater … load reduced to nothing but keeping all the lies straight. Mine probably would have liked some help with that as well.

            • Mine says she’s a lousy liar. I was just stupid. Well in fairness she didn’t utter the word stupid since she was in hoover mode. I got “you were just st….”

              • Yes. I could give a fuck anymore but yes. Maybe it’ll wake someone up who reads this. Yes in stupid because she’s good right? She was right. Only bad people lie. Well only bad people lie well, so since she’s not a bad person she can’t lie well, therefor if I believe her lies I’m either stupid or complicit and at fault for letting her get away with it. When you look at it from their evil twisted mind fucking perspective, it makes perfect sense really.
                Right now I don’t have the luxury of being anything but a smiling idiot as I mentioned above do i got time to kill hoping I don’t lose my mind getting my house in order. So I’m telling anyone who’ll listen. This is their mind fuck. This is how they think. If you can get the fuck out, get the fuck out.

              • But wait just a minute. Admitting to being a lousy liar may have been a glimmer of the truth. A lousy person, and a liar too, yes?

        • Shit. That is one of the things that my asshole said he like AND hated about me.

          Adulting can be so difficult for the emotionally stunted losers.

          • ANC and kiwi, spot on! At first I was supposedly “too much of an independent career woman and would’t make a good mother”. Then after I became a mother I became “too comfotable in a luxury housewife lifestyle” (for 2.5 years) and he was missing the independent careerwoman. Now I am an independent career woman and a single mother (from day 1) completely in charge of my child, home, career, etc.

            Cheater is still unhappy. He does not know what he wants. In a rare clarity moment yesterday he said “longtimechump, you outgrew me.”

  • I was married for 17 years, with him for 3 before that. He left me for an affair partner that was an on again/ off again thing over 18 of the years I was with him.
    Unicorns don’t exist. They get busted and want to maintain cake and start doing all the right things….saying the right things and it feels sooooo good that you feel like they’ve finally seen the light or invested. It’s all bullshit, don’t waste your time.
    My ex now lives with his mistress, raises her children….literally just parked himself in another family like it was nothing. Narc…
    I’m getting divorced today after 2 years of arguing over stuff….today… 15 min it’ll be over. He sent me a text yesterday telling me he would send me a text today letting me know it was done. That’s what the 20 years of my life were worth to my “unicorn”…..a text message to let me know it’s done.
    I have been here and thought I was finally meh, but I’m trippin today. Not because I lost a loser, but because I spent 20 years being a chump.

    • Paintwidow

      Congratulations on the divorce.
      You spent 20 years as a chump which we all know means that you loved wholeheartedly, you trusted wholeheartedly, you were likely the responsible spouse and you have a solid set of values. Nothing about you is in any way diminished by what he has done.
      I can understand the grief you feel over all of your time and effort for something that ultimately wasn’t what you thought it was. I will be in the same place in a few weeks. But you as a person can be proud of who you are and the life you can have now. You always share such great advice here too. Hugs to you. Do something fab for yourself. Day one of your new life should start with something special.

    • Paintwidow, I hope you are not sitting there waiting for his message. The wording says exactly that: “you wait for me (my call, my text, my move)” Stop waiting for him. Stop!
      Start organising your life according to your wishes. You set the timetable!

    • Yes, I felt the same way 2 months ago on my divorce day. Wreckonciliation is the ultimate hopium high and such a huge waste of time. When cheaters move right in with APs and pretend to have a completely new life, you realize the marriage just didn’t mean much to them. That’s why they cheated in the first place. He sucks, Paintwidow. Just get through the day. Hugs to you.

    • PaintWidow… I know what you’re going through. My divorce was final almost two weeks ago. It was the most anti-climatic experience of my life. And, I imagine, it is what beating cancer feels like. It’s a major victory, but you’re too exhausted from the battle to see it as a “win”.

      We need to give ourselves time to heal. The toxins are leaving us slowly… they don’t just disappear because a document gets signed.

      You’re right… your Narc did just “change partners”… but you have an opportunity to CHANGE YOUR LIFE. When you are ready, take it.

      Mr. Sparkles left me for the OW and became a great “Step Dad” role model for her two young kids as my adult stepchildren looked on going “WTF?!” They broke up because…drum roll… he cheated on her. Now, he’s got a new chippy he picked up at the gym and he’s all about “fitness”… see how his persona did a 180???? NORMAL PEOPLE don’t do that.

      You’re free of the insanity and the disease… take your time, heal, but don’t look back… you’re not going there.

    • I’m sorry, PaintWidow. The start of freedom from a fucktard is bittersweet, and the divorce itself feels anti-climactic for the occasion. After a death, there is weeping and wailing, eulogies to be delivered, huge bouquets of flowers with condolence cards. But the death of a marriage….nothing but an official copy of the death certificate. The marriage deserves a burial ceremony, but instead we’re stuck with the stench of the corpse decaying in our proverbial living room.

      Do something special for yourself today, either with a friend (if social support would help), or by yourself if you need alone-time to grieve–go out for a nice dinner, have a massage, buy yourself a chocolate-rich dessert to savor. Hugs to you.

      • Right?? Isn’t it funny how just a particular day can get you all messed up like that?
        I know the devil he is, believe me. I’m happy he’s gone, and will resume my NC.
        It’s almost like crying for the naive girl that I was, that thought if she just tried harder, was thinner, sexier,prettier…..that he would stop and want her.
        I cry for her today, but at the same time I got so many great things including my family here.
        I guess I’m legally divorced, I never got the text…..

        • Paitwidow, Of course you are crying for the naive girl you once were, who was taken advantage of by a person incapable of giving anything meaningful in return for your love. We’ve all had that cry, loads of times. But in the end, you got a valuable prize. You are stronger. You will rebuild your life on your own terms, and you will be better than okay. You will nurture yourself and you will thrive. Hugs to you.

        • PW,

          We’re your tribe; sad for that girl you used to be, too, but grateful you found your way to us.


      • It’s funny you should mention funerals vs divorce, Tempest. That was the final salvo from me to try to smooth it over, in the end, so that I could have at least some good feelings from the marriage. Before the court hearing but after he moved out (remember in my case, this was a mere 47-day window from Dday to Divorced), I sent him a letter asking if we could meet just one more time — I used the funeral analogy, telling him that I felt like our marriage was a child that we had made and raised, together, and now here we were, burying that child, and there was no public gathering of mourners, no eulogizing… I said I thought we owed it to that “child” to have one final chat.

        And, you know, we did. We sat on our Switzerland friends’ back porch (where he was living) and each said some nice things to each other. Alas, I cannot remember what any of them were because the last thing I asked him was whether he was dating anyone, and his poor little sad sausage face (couldn’t meet my eye) nodded, and when I asked if it was OW, he nodded again. — And it was the “don’t you feel so sorry for me? I just couldn’t help myself!” look on his face that exploded the whole thing in my mind. This fucker actually expected me to feel SORRY for him? After everything I’d done??? — Many vicious text messages were exchanged that day, I can tell you.

        But, I digress. The funeral thing — yes, our divorces are like unto deaths, but in so many cases, more like murder. And it’s hard to have the murderer in the room when you’re trying to conduct a respectful funeral.

        • NWB–I would expect no less of you than a classy ending to a marriage. And I would expect nothing less than a sad sausage ploy from the cheater who exploded the marriage (mine lamented that he would die alone…waa waa waa, since Beijing-trip AP was waiting in the wings). Your X deserved any nasty text you sent him.

          Years ago, I heard a quote, “Divorce is harder than death because the corpse is up and walking around.” Sometimes wish I’d rectified that ; ).

          • And also, my sister (also a chump) told me that, too, after Dday. I wrote a blogpost about it once but never quite got to finishing/publishing. — A chump whose spouse had died recently replied to one of my other posts here saying the death was hard because she’ll never have the answers. But, then, neither will I. But I have enough of them to move along.

    • I’m so glad it is over. Now you can have a day to process the finality of it all … it sort of ends with a whimper. But also make plans to really start tomorrow out right. The first full day of your independent life calls for something memorable, even if it’s just flavored coffee and pastry!!

      • I have now been divorced for one year (separated for almost 5 years before I got the divorce). When the papers were finally signed, all I could do was laugh. It was such a relief that I was no longer tied legally (though here in Ontario there is a year after the papers are signed that issues can be revisited). Now I am really breathing easy. It doesn’t mean I haven’t had sad moments, but they are way fewer now and I have come to realize that you don’t have to have a certain kind of life to be happy. You can create whatever you want. I have also come to accept who I am more. It is okay to not see being coupled as a goal, it’s okay to have large pieces of time alone to just read, or whatever. This acceptance is actually quite new (really only the last couple of months). So, in previous posts, people were talking about “how long” – I think “as long as it takes”!!!

    • Paintwidow, I am sorry you feel bad today when you are finally getting your divorce and your freedom. It just shows that you are a person with true feelings, you took your marriage seriously. In a few days you will probably be able to appreciate again what you have regained. Freedom from his lies.
      Tempest is right, it is also the funeral for your hopes that this marriage was forever and you were married to a real man. I suggest you turn it into a funeral for the naive girl who got chumped and celebrate her rebirth as a mighty woman who will believe no bullshit in the future. Big hugs

  • Very recently, I was reading “Seat of the Soul” and the author said something about his wife (or partner, not sure if they’re married but they’ve been together for over 20 years) that really struck me: “I love her and I love loving her.” I loved the cheater ex but did not love loving him because it was too painful. When trust is shattered, I don’t think there is a way to actually love loving a cheater, no matter how much we want to believe otherwise.

  • Glad to see I’m not the only one who spotted dysfunction on the writer’s side.
    Lots of things not said straight, lots of frustration.
    What on earth means “I requested that he acknowledge a few hard days I have most every month. Instead of doing as I ask,” ???
    Are you asking for empathy when you’re not at your best?
    Are you asking him to do stuff?
    Are you expecting things from him?
    He does not listen, does not comply, does the opposite?
    Wow, that must be like Sisif, carrying a rock uphill. Never ending.
    It also sounds controlling.

    Yeah, I’m witnessing dysfunction at my parents. It works exactly upside down. A lot of things not said directly, a lot of stuff done in spite of, lots of toxicity. Can’t wait to be on my won with a small child, rather than live with them.

    • Enraged

      I don’t see CLL as controlling. I think that’s too harsh. If she were controlling she would have been able to say no to his trip. She would actually be controlling. The problem is that she doesn’t feel upto taking control of her own needs possibly through fear of being seen as too needy or too controlling !) I feel that it’s chump behaviour being unable to ask for what we want or expecting others to see what we need.
      I think this is part of that whole chump thing of making our needs really small and hoping then we will be loveable and worth the effort.

      • I don’t see CLL as controlling either. The stuff she’s asking for from her unicorn are things that we shouldn’t have to ask for. Cheaters reduce us down to needing to ask for respect and recognition from them … We do it in indirect ways and skirt around issues because we’re still doing the pick-me dance. We’re being the grown-up and we’re hoping they want to be, too. We want the cheater to choose us … but if we say that, then shit! we’re controlling, or shit!, then we’re the narcs because we need attention. Then when the cheater does do the final dump and says we’re too controlling, we get to ask ourselves, should I have just come out and told him how I feel? Should I have had boundaries? What if, what if, what if …

        CLL is asking to be loved … and giving her cheater the chance to love her. That is not controlling. That is something we shouldn’t even have to ask for, directly or otherwise.

        • I agree; when we have to start openly requesting empathy and respect from our partner (things that should be freely given), it’s time to bail.

          • During wreckconciliation, STBX assured me that his individual therapist said FF “could learn empathy.”
            17 years into the marriage and he is just starting? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Least of all me.

            • Sure, and maybe he can win the Olympic pole vault gold medal, too.

              Oy vay; there is a critical period for morality and for empathy; cheaters missed it.

    • I see controlling, as in wanting to change and mould things to your own wish, especially things we don’t have control over. She wants him to fell empathy towards her and perhaps to see her needs. That’s nice, but unrealistic from someone who is only wearing a mask. She is talking about his change, she wants him to change into a good person. Again, that’s trying to control what’s beyond her control.
      I truly understand what she’s holding on to is that idea of a life she had before DDay. Because admitting to the truth is devastating. I feel for her, as we all here do.
      But perhaps part of this horrible experience is to realise that we can’t control other people, we cannot help nor force them to morph into something else.

      • I kind of see your point, Enraged, but if a spouse has agreed to go to counseling and work to reconcile a marriage, then I think he or she has agreed to work on things like empathy and meeting the other spouse’s needs. I don’t think CLL is being controlling, she’s just wondering why her spouse’s words and actions are not matching up as promised. I think her efforts were misplaced, but not because she was being controlling.

      • Yes, your clarification helps, Enraged. I agree.

        I think loss of control is a difficult thing to accept. We all hear it, all our lives, but sometimes we can’t believe it until we’re trying and trying and yet nothing is happening.

        All any of us can control is ourselves, and sometimes not even that. In this scenario, all CLL can control is her responses to what her husband is doing and then act based on those responses. Is it enough for her to continue to live in a situation like that? If so, then stay. If no, then go. The third option (she’d stay but only if her husband would become more empathetic, etc.) is not actually an option.

        To wit: My husband was crap in bed. Terrible. I knew this from the beginning. We (I) worked on it a bit but it never actually got any better. I could have left him then, but overall I made a decision that I could live without the sex part because he had so many other good things about him.

        CLL has the same situation — and, if I may be so bold, so do we all — which is to stay or go.

        • One more thing: Towards the end of my marriage, XH & I used to fight all the time about him being at work all the time. He used to go in at 6pm, then 5pm, then the next week he had an errand he had to run before work so he had to leave at 3pm. — I got so angry about his time management (he was always late for everything) that I completely lost sight of the fact that his actions were telling me “I would rather be at work than here with you,” in spite of him saying the exact opposite. So I was frustrated and angry, and maybe “controlling”, but I thought he was trying and I loved him and wanted to help and to give him the benefit of the doubt… in SPITE of his ACTIONS screaming at me.

          The word “controlling” is hard to pin down, in my opinion.

          • Are we really supposed to be in tune with actions versus words? What kind of asshole gives loving cards expressing their undying love, saying they will always be true, blah blah blah, and then does the complete opposite? What kind of asshole says, “I love you” and thinks “I want outta here”? How are we supposed to control anything if there’s chaos in the minds of the person we’re trying to live with, but we don’t know there’s chaos? We’d have to be therapists ourselves to look at someone who says “I love you” but is working late at the office, or is a bit grumpy, and put two and two together. Normal people don’t do this mindfucking stuff … we’re assuming we married a normal person. We’re not looking for actions versus words until something happens, like D-Day.

            Mine had a really bad memory … turns out, he has a terrific memory and was storing up all my “sharing” stories to use against me … turns out he was listening all along to me, and thinking negative thoughts. When I said, “So and so is giving me trouble at work and the environment is hard to handle”, he heard, “She doesn’t like her job, she’s going to quit, she won’t make money, I’ll have to support her, she’s lazy.” I didn’t know this until he started fucking someone else with money and benefits. So I should have seen the red flags … he wasn’t forthcoming with the empathy, he didn’t support me, but I was fighting my own fires and didn’t notice so much. I just thought he was quiet, with a shitty memory. So me asking him to offer some input into my situation? I shouldn’t have had to do this. But I also shouldn’t have had to be a mind reader and known that he couldn’t give a flying fuck about me. Where in the world does saying out loud, “I love you” not mean “I love you”?

            Well, I ranted there, didn’t I. Sorry.

            • Rant away, and good points all. I’m not saying we should be mind-readers (see post above about bringing your “adulting” to a relationship), just that, for a long time, I felt neglected and sad in our marriage precisely because he WAS telling me “I love you” and “Of course I’d rather be here with you than at work, but I just can’t get away.”

              (Funny aside: He used to talk about how I “just don’t understand — you just can’t LEAVE at the end of the shift. What if someone wants and needs something? I HAVE to stay!!!” — I’m an Emergency Veterinarian, so if there was ever anyone who understood I couldn’t just quit in the middle of a splenectomy, glove out and go home because “it’s quittin’ time!,” that’d be me. But I also know these true emergencies [In a wine shop? Seriously? What’s the emergency? That the Riesling is at the wrong temperature??], do not happen every single day.)

              All I mean — and this is for myself only — is that I did sometimes feel “controlling.” I tried being as “laid back” as he was, and ended up paying some bills late, fucking up an airport arrival time for a trip we were taking, and a few other gems. Because he never did any of it. Had I not had ahold of the wheel, we’d’ve been in a proverbial ditch a long time ago. So, yes, I was “controlling,” maybe even “dominating.” But I always gave him a chance. And time. It was only when we were getting near the cliff that my “controlling” side came out.

              Yes, I think it was HIS responsibility to, AT ANY TIME IN OUR SIXTEEN YEAR MARRIAGE, sit down and say, “I’m not happy, and this is serious.” He told me only once, about two years before Dday, as he was walking out the door to work. When I posed a follow-up query over breakfast the next morning, he blew it off, “Oh yeah, that, never mind, I was just tired.” And so I BELIEVED HIM.

              IOW, Champ? I feel ya.

          • I’m thinking that intent might be key here. If you are doing/saying something to someone in order to change their behaviour then that is controlling – like telling your girlfriend/boyfriend what they can wear or who they can spend time with or what things are purchased for the house. This is controlling.
            If you are pointing out carefully the gap between what someone is saying and what they are doing then the intent isn’t to change their behaviour per se, it’s to get them to SEE the gap and therefore CHOOSE to act differently.
            Not controlling.

  • My ex had ‘business trips’ that he took at our expense (how does that work?). I gave him every opportunity to come clean; he kept up the lies. He wanted me, basically, to beat his ass. I got tired of the Marriage Police dynamic, and I had more important things to do – like fighting for my life. Even now, he would love to wreckoncile. But even a post nup wouldn’t make me feel safe with him again. He sucks. So does CLL’s man. Next!!

    • I feel for you. Some people are formed like that. They don’t know how a healthy, normal relationship works. So they turn it into a mess, into something they are familiar with.
      I bet you can see the same shitty dynamic in his family.
      I’m glad you stopped playing his game. Yes, get busy living your life!

  • CLL… there was a great comment a few columns back… if you’re best friend was in this relationship with this transformer/unicorn… would you tell her to stay in it?

    Seriously. Let that one sink in for a minute.

    Would you let your child get in the car with a drunk driver?

    Would you let your parent live in a nursing home that abuses its residents?

    Would you let your best friend marry Ted Bundy?


    I’m divorced now. It was the hardest two years of my life… reading blogs one adultery and narcissism and personality disorders and CL’s entire archives! I slowly took steps… documentation, notarized financial agreements for separation, lawyered up, filed first… and each step got me closer to my WIDE OPEN LIFE OF OPPORTUNITY now.

    It’s hard… but not nearly as hard as lying to myself every day about my self worth and the well-being of my child.

    Just yesterday, Mr. Sparkles brought my son home from visitation and told me they were going to do a tough mudder together. Great, I thought… good for you. I’m glad you will spend your money on that BUT not pay your daughter’s dental bill. Do you see it??? They don’t change. Ever.

    Make a plan and get out. Oh, and send your therapist a copy of CL’s book and let him know we are a legion of survivors and you have decided to become a member.

    Rock on Chump Nation!

  • Yes. Some people will agree to everything at first and seem to mean it. A manipulator will seem really earnest because s/he feels really earnest! That’s why they are such good cons. The best con is the con that can also contact himself in the moment.

    S/he really does want to keep your goodness because it is REALLY good. Who wouldn’t? So, s/he is willing to put forth a lot of effort to make that happen. Appearing like a potential unicorn has always worked before, so s/he gives it a try. Nothing to lose by trying. Manipulator thinking.

    S/he does all the thingz, and doing all the thingz is supposed to result in the desired outcome, the chump’s total commitment and full attention.

    The problem is, a manipulative person can learn and do the thingz, but it’s not coming from the heart. It’s motivated by intense desire to achieve his/her desired outcome.

    We chumps interpret emotional intensity as an earnest willingness to be fully present and committed. We forget that other people don’t necessarily mean those things. Emotional intensity does not automatically equal heartfelt commitment, and desire to keep you around does not equate to the desire to treat you like you deserve to be treated.

    It’s pitiable, actually, in a way. A person that can’t begin to understand the things you understand about beauty and goodness is really a deflated, hopeless soul, and that’s sad. But, just like you wouldn’t store a corpse in your house, you don’t have to keep a robot that sees everything in a framework of stimulus and response as a primary figure in your life.

    You don’t have to hate him to stop being married to him. As CL says, you get to decide whether he can offer you what is right for you. If not, it is OK to stop depriving yourself, and others like you, of your beautiful heart by wasting its energy in this very sad marriage, says me.

    • As far as “were just getting started with their affair because they both deserved some happiness”, if that is what would give him “some happiness”, then he should go do that.

      You see a lot of that here, cheaters who say chumps “don’t want them to be happy” or “don’t respect their spiritual growth” or ” don’t understand that people aren’t wired for monogamy”. They often say this forum is mean and everyone here is bitter and unfairly angry.

      My response is, if you could pursue happiness/spiritual growth/polyamory without sneaking around and lying to someone you have convinced that you are trustworthy, we would have no problem with you. Once you have to dupe a person who is sharing his/her life with you to fit your behaviors into your life with that person, you forfeit the privilege to keep the person you are duping in your life.

      Deliberately deceiving another person so you can do things that cause harm to that person is unacceptable. There is no positive spin for it. A pink bow on a like of shit doesn’t make it anything other than a pile of shit.

      If you don’t want to be treated like a pile of shit here, all you have to do is stop deliberately deceiving people.

      Chump Nation isn’t asking everyone to be monogamous. We are only asking everyone to tell the damned truth and calling them out when they don’t.

      • ^^^THIS^^^

        I asked, rhetorically, Mr. Sparkles why he continues to roll into “monogamous” relationships when he lacks the ability to be monogamous. Even his stepdaughter suggested he was polyamorous (which blew my mind).

        Reason… they want the world around them to view them as “normal”. They want to fit in and not have to defend their alternative lifestyle. AND – they get off on the control and the deception and the mindfucking.

        Remember, a narcissist has no soul. They are filled with self-loathing. The only thing that placates their emptiness is the adoration of others… they are parasites because you can never fill a black hole. Never.

        • Cheater told me today he was always committed to me. Even now. Not faithful. But commited. Committment does not equate to fidelity. I asked him how about his email to the AP where he outlined his exit from our marriage and their life together? Where is the committment? He said he was not planning to leave the marriage. He was still committed to being with me for 6 months and with her for 6 months! It was just a brainstorming session. He never made it into the actual plan (she chose to stay within her family). So commited to me he is!

          I should write to the Oxford Dictionary and ask them expand on the word “committment”.

          • Sounds like he was committed to doing all he could to keep you where he wanted you. Doesn’t sound like he was committed to keep the agreements he made with you. Sneaky use of word salad, there.

          • Longtimechump, do you actually place any value on his words?
            The whole plan blew up in his face. Of course he sees the grass green again, when he has no other options. What I find mind blowing is their ability to fabricate and BELIEVE this shit themselves!

      • Yep. Level playing field. That’s all I’m asking for. If you get to fuck around, then so do I, but ask anyone in an open relationship: there are rules there, too. See? Marry into a monogamous relationship, your partner has rules but you don’t. What could be better?

      • Fantastic post, amiisfree! You have expressed many things I could not adequately put into words!


  • Paintwidow, I’m sending good vibes your way today. I am also so close to my freedom, stay strong and remember to put all your energy into healing yourself.
    I have forgiven myself for staying in a long marriage that was really a narcs mask. When i was able to except that he used me, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
    He used me because I am a good person, that I was good to his family and friends, that i made a nice home and was involved with the children.
    He was able to use me to blend into society.
    The discard was brutal, not only from him, but all his flying monkeys.
    I have come to realize that she is his new hostage, she will never be good enough for him or his batshit crazy family, in some ways I feel bad for the ow, she is not truly loved, she is only serving a purpose.He will suck up her youth, her credit anything that he can. He is like a tic.
    As a chump, I have learned the biggest life bombing is not romantic, its a red flag, gaslighting and questioning what i heard is a red flag, when someones words dont match their actions its a red flag.
    I thank god everyday now for that discard, because I’m free, I could have spent the rest of my life jumping thru hoops for that loser. This is the beginning of really living your life

  • While CL’s response was spot on, it was the 2nd to last paragraph of CLL’s letter where she answered her own question – she’s “weary, untrusting, doubtful and just plain disappointed”. Those feelings are never going away as long as you stay with The Cheater.

    For anyone that does crafts – woodwork, knitting, painting, leatherwork, sewing, etc. If you’ve ever done any of those crafts and a mistake occurs that’s visible in the piece, your eye FOREVER goes to the mistake immediately. You can’t even really see the rest of the piece, even if it’s beautiful, your eyes immediately go to the mistake. Cheating is like that. It doesn’t matter if the person is truly remorseful and changes and is wonderful. All you’ll be able to see is the flaw (ie their cheating), and you won’t be able to look at the rest of them.

    Get out. Leave. Stop wasting your life staring at the flaw and move on.

    • Chris
      Well put. I was thinking that even if he is 100% per cent remorseful, she will keep looking for the flaw. It’s like food that has spoiled. It doesn’t become good again. It’s like CLL (and a lot of us as well) is looking to turn back the hands or time, but (sorry for the bad language) he can’t unfuck that whore.

  • Well, CL decoded it for you. Now you need to decide if you want to stay and accept the situation. It’s your decision. Your gut is telling you what to do as well. Based on my experience, I wish I had never overridden that message and accepted the excuses I did. You seem to be high on hope while the messages you are getting are telling you your hope and dreams aren’t really reality. We’ve all been there and it’s hard to accept that your dream isn’t true or reality. It sucks! But in the end, you have to decide if this is the life you want to continue living. I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Oh, your unicorn has had it’s horn cut off by CL!

  • I’ve been no contact with my ex for about 4 years now, so I’ve almost forgotten what a mindfuck our whole fake reconciliation was. The “asking for permission” thing was maddening. He always put me into the position of being his mean mommy. The trap: If I say yes, then I’m complicit in his cheating (because that’s what he was doing). If I say no, I’m trying to control him. Cue the crying, yelling, fighting, driving off to do what he always intended to do.

    Leaving that nonsense behind was the best decision I’ve ever made.

  • Yes, I thought I had a unicorn too. He did and said all the right things. He booked and went to his therapy alone and was excited to share his new insights. He would sit and listen to me and “try” to empathize. He would cry with remorse. He did all the cooking for basically 2 years. And yet. I just didn’t believe it – once I knew X was capable of a 10-year secret life, I knew he had to be a master manipulator and master liar. My therapist kept saying that things would get clearer – to keep seeing if his words were matched with ACTIONS. The words vs. actions idea (something CL has always touted) clarified everything. The words were good but the eye rolling, heavy sighs, lack of eye contact, strangely formal speech patterns – it was all so odd. He was desperately trying to hold on to the marriage but it was for the lifestyle. I earn the money and I pay him alimony. Fast forward 6 months. I am divorced and the mask is off the X. He is exactly the same as he was 5 years ago – an entitled asshole who plays victim. He is sorry for himself and he is sorry he got caught. His main focus is image control. He is having huge success on and loving his single life. Those poor poor women. I am so lucky to be free of it all!

    • This!

      “… eye rolling, heavy sighs, lack of eye contact, strangely formal speech patterns…” alternating with intense eye contact, admonishment, or flippant remarks. The word “labile” comes to mind.

      It’s funny, but once you set yourself loose from them, and live your own life, you become as free as the cheaters told you they wanted to be … Here they were wanting freedom, fun, excitement, and yet us chumps are the ones who actually end up getting it! Cheaters stay stuck.

    • Yes, I call it “paint by numbers.” They’ll often try to do the work but because it’s not coming from an authentic place within them it just doesn’t work. No feeling behind it . . .

      • Yes! The “paint by numbers” describes my husband completely right now. He is doing everything I am his therapist ask him to do, but there is zero feeling or emotion behind it. I even mentioned that to him and he said he is “trying”. Why does someone have to “try” and feel something?

        So, I am just letting him go through his motions while I do the things I need to do. At some point is he going to decide going through the motions isn’t worth his time. In the meantime, I am given the space and resources I need to land on my feet and with a clear head.

  • To the OP, say what you mean, mean what you say. Tell him you will never be ok with solo trips. What you must figure out is what is acceptable to you. Love yourself first and best.

  • That tug-of-war game, one minute he’s slathering you with (what you think is) love, the next he’s cutting you into pieces — the total mind fuck — your brain feels like it’s been the ball in a tennis match. Getting over him and the relationship is like no other breakup because the relationship was like no other! Recovery is possible but it takes time and finding the right kind of help from someone who knows about trauma based therapy. For me, 28 years of marriage, then 10+ years in a long term relationship with similar men left me in a heap on the floor wanting the ground to swallow me up so as to escape the indescribable pain. Now, 7+ years later, I feel so much better, have gotten on with life, filled it with joy and community in which I find validation every day and can “give” in ways that no longer put me in harms way. The article linked above to — that’s where I began my healing journey and found the answers I had been looking for – that described both of my exes and where I was, that heap on the floor. Blessings and all the best to each and every one of you who find yourself in that same place. You, too, can heal and recover. I did and I’ll never go back to any relationship where I’m treated in a “less than ” manner.

  • I like the idea that my future is me in the driver’s seat of my life, looking through a clear windshield at the wide open world I can explore. My past is in the rearview mirror: small and disappearing rapidly. It took me many years (10) and many many second chances to finally get the divorce. My cheater had a Ph.D. in gaslighting. My hard-earned advice is to watch their actions, not their words. I heard this so many times, but it took me a long time to ignore those sweet-talking words. Mine kept cheating on every AP while telling me he was a unicorn. He was diagnosed with a chronic health problem 5 years ago, and has started to deteriorate physically and mentally. I get emails (along with my alimony wire transfer notices otherwise they are filtered out) about how I should be taking care of him “in sickness and in health.” I don’t respond. I accepted bread crumbs in the marriage for over 30 years. I would rather start a relationship with someone new and unknown than go back to a known cheater. He cheated me sexually and financially, but even more importantly he cheated me of the loving, reciprocal relationship I deserved. He was always a cheater and he will forever be one. But the view through my windshield is spectacular, and I will not look back.

    • Meg, your comment reminded me of one of my favorite CL columns:

      Especially this part:

      “Okay, you know what, cheaters? — go for it. Please, fuck the younger woman, the Thai prostitutes, the Craigslist hookups, the slutty co-worker. Do it all in service to Almighty SEX. Make that your paramount value. And good luck later when you need someone to change your colostomy bag. When you’ve traded all your gold for a magic boner — who’s going to love you when you’re old and vulnerable? When your equipment fails? When you’ve invested all those years in the magic boner and not in meaningful relationships — then what?

      “That Thai hooker is going to step over you and your wrinkled junk and steal your wallet. Schmoopie is going to be sick of your shit and find a new mark. Your kids will find you a colossal embarrassment. All because you sold your soul to the Magic Boner.”

  • My STBXH was sorry for hurting me. So sorry, that after months of asking him to attend counselling, he agreed. He would go first to “sort himself out” then the therapist would invite me so that we could “both share.’

    He went to therapy every week and came home with exercises from his therapist that I needed to do so as to be a “better wife.”Months later, no change on his part.

    I later learnt that it was ALL A HOAX. He NEVER went anywhere! He would leave home and hang out at a friend’s home where he would down load marriage building exercises and give them to me to complete. Sooo, the writer in this post better be VERY sure that he is actually doing what he says he is doing. They are known to lie yuh know!

    • CLL, you want to know if you have a unicorn. I question whether you have a husband. A man whose marriage is in trouble would take a year off from the separate vacations and his concerns about telling the kids about his affair would be on the terrible erosion of their faith and trust in him. When you ask him to acknowledge your “bad days,” he doesn’t. He makes excuses. If he were truly remorseful–remorseful–he wouldn’t be playing games around those “bad days.” You write, “he chooses to ignore them because we are moving forward,” so I hypothesize that those days are related to the infidelity. A remorseful person would know what he did and why you need that acknowledgement and he would just GIVE IT. He wants to “move forward” but it is not his call. His job is to make amends and “do his time” until he earns back your trust.

      On that point, you would not be bringing up divorce or dancing around the “bad days” if you trusted this guy. You can’t heal unless he changes his behavior, makes true amends, and demonstrates, day to day, that you are his #1 priority. I don’t see that in what you tell us, sad to say.

  • I finally recognized that “I” am the unicorn. My husband had it all. A great, faithful, loving wife that looked past his flaws. I was there whenever he needed a hand, even when he didn’t return the favor. I worked full time, took care of the kids, cooked most meals (he cooked some), did the majority of the housework, and supported him endlessly.

    Instead of looking up and saying, “Damn, my wife is awesome!” his response was – well, she has everything under control, guess I will go jack off to porn and buy some tokens to get private jack off sessions with webcam girls!

    He if finding out the hard way that unicorns are fragile creators. At first I was sitting there, letting my magic fade. My bright colors were vanishing, my beautiful horn disintegrating to dust. But, you know what – screw him! I will not lose my magic to a man child!

    • Thank you, THANK YOU for this: “At first I was sitting there, letting my magic fade. My bright colors were vanishing, my beautiful horn disintegrating to dust. But, you know what – screw him! I will not lose my magic to a man child!”

      Thank you!

  • Tracy and CL Community:

    I recently returned to the website after the holidays to find that Tracy had re-ran my initial letter.

    After rereading my note, the old comments and the new comments, I was a bit overwhelmed with old and new emotions. I decided to pen a quick update.

    CLL timeline:

    April 2013 Dday
    September 2014 Wrote to Tracy
    October 2014 Filed for divorce
    August 2015 Finalized divorce


    With all that said, we are still together. We are dating and sharing expenses/house and seeing if there is a new us. I can hear the rumblings and the tapping on the monitors. That’s perfectly fine.

    I am convinced that my ability / approach to love / trust has forever been changed, whether that is in a new relationship or one with my ex. As such, with the 25 years plus of life together and two amazing daughters, I chose to see if there was a new relationship with him that could make me happy. Jury is still out on that verdict as we move ahead.

    Is this path something I would recommend? Probably not. I think all of us have a personal journey with no cookie cutter approach being the best. Although we all share the same gut wrenching, soul-busting heartbreak, we all have different experiences and lives that shape our choices. My path just happens to be one that most on this site (and even myself at times) question and consequently reject as a viable option. I have complete respect for all CL members and I think Tracy’s time and passion to help chumps is invaluable. I am sure I would have healed much sooner kicking him to the curb.

    Have the ex’s changes been permanent? Overall I believe yes. One realization that kicked my butt was that permanent changes don’t become default very quickly; in fact the pace of ingrained change is PAINFULLY slow. My patience has been stretched to the limit several times and there are some times here and there where I swear he just doesn’t get life (not just this but decision making process and comments). I recall having noticed those many years ago but at that time I would just chalk it up as being part of him. I would also say that my personal changes/views are slow to become permanent as well.

    I do have one major bitch tho. I apparently didn’t get the friends/family handbook that outlines an appropriate, step by step checklist to make sure I properly announce that we are divorced and dating without pissing someone off or scaring those that are married. The looks and the comments that are made about my ex and I dating/living in the same house is incredible. Last night in a heated text exchange with a relative I was called a fraud by a family member for not updated all of my social media about the proper relationship status. WOW!! Apparently it would be a better choice to invite a new stranger that I know nothing about into my life/into my bed.

    Do I regret the time that I have given over the past 3 ½ years to my ex and myself and the family? No. My two daughters remain the most important people in my lives. Although many readers may disagree, I do believe that the choices I have made reflect commitment, integrity and love, both for the family and myself THAT WERE RIGHT FOR ME. One of my favorite saved text messages from my 20 and 22 year olds after the divorce: “You are the strongest, kindest woman we know. You are our role model.” They put all my struggles and doubts into perspective. I would never tell them to stay with someone who cheated on them if they cannot figure out why it may be worth fighting for a future. Why was it worth staying for me? I needed to find myself and decide if there is room in my life/choices/values for the person I gave my heart to a long time ago.

    No right or wrong answers. Just choices and moving ahead with life based on the choices made. Tracy wrote to me, “Whatever comes next is a gift, that you’re not obliged to give.” A gift worth giving is a gift worth getting. I am giving the gift to myself to be able to say I am trying my very best to empower the best me.

    I again conclude that the readers/posters on this website are truly kind, wise souls. Tracy, I do believe that life leads us to experiences that help shape perspectives. You taking the time to respond to my email at a time when I was at rock bottom really reminded me that there is still good / kindness in the world. Thank you again for your ongoing quest to help those hurting.

    Chump nation is mighty. Find your mightiness in making choices that empower the best you.


  • Would have been 28 years this year. Ugh……

    Chumpnation rocks. Should have jumped in headfirst a long time ago.

    What about lifestyle? Giving up the home you worked 15 years to own? Is that worth staying?

    Not happy in the midwest……..


    • Kim, your comment took me back here and I reread the thread and my own comments almost a year ago.

      Do I sense you want to leave now for good?

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