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Dear Chump Lady, I’ve got a problem with self-worth

im-not-a-nice-guy-they-let-you-walk-all-over-them-im-a-good-guy-we-have-too-much-self-respect-to-be-treated-like-crap--204daDear Chump Lady,

I’m a little over three months out from my STBXW meeting a new guy, and beginning a divorce a little over a week later, after being together for 12 years, married for 10. I have read all the usual advice for moving on, and I’m doing it the best I can: find new hobbies, reach out to new people, forge new relationships, rediscover yourself, learn to be happy with yourself. Ultimately, I keep coming back to: “This advice doesn’t apply to me.” I wonder if many chumps feel this way?

In therapy, I’ve begun to understand that the concept of “innate self-worth” is apparently a thing — that you have value simply for being who you are. But the idea that this applies to me seems absolutely ridiculous. My innate self-worth is zero. Instead, my overall worth has always correlated with what I can do for others. This has become uncomfortably clear when reviewing my marriage in therapy. Your post titled “When You’re the Parent in the Relationship” was incredibly difficult for me to read, but necessary. “You need to be needed.” Yep. 🙁

I have no idea how to develop real, actual, innate self-worth. I can think of many examples in my life where I stopped or reduced the “service” and discovered how much less I actually mean to people than I thought. The idea of improving how I feel about myself without being able to “prove” it via feedback from others seems bizarre. It’s like I’m ignoring all this evidence to the contrary.

I also recognize that this is probably the best opportunity I’ll get to fix my self-perception, which is the only path I see to not repeating these same mistakes in a future relationship. But I’m completely lost as to how to make real progress here.



Dear Theory,

Well, you can begin by reframing “doing for others” as a Bad Thing. It’s not. Being a nice, caring person isn’t pathology or even chumpiness — it’s being a decent human being. We need more of you! What’s a Bad Thing is doing for others who don’t reciprocate. 

That’s your fatal flaw, Theory, and that’s what needs a tune-up — your ability to recognize and value those people in your life who reciprocate.

And — shocker! — this really isn’t that hard. You’re a giver and you just need to find other givers. (They’re out there. Ask me about my blog numbers…) You need to avoid takers, and develop boundaries to dump, or limit your exposure to, people who prefer lop-sided relationships.

The reason your marriage dynamic felt parent/child is because the only people we don’t demand reciprocity from are children or elderly parents — vulnerable people. However, eventually we teach children to be independent, and we owe our parents a certain deference because they once raised our defenseless selves. The only other people we should be unilaterally generous with are charity cases. Don’t marry a charity case, Theory.

That leaves us with ordinary adults. How can you identify an adult?

a) Adults know how to do Adult Things — like balance checkbooks, unload dishwashers, and carry life insurance. They can support themselves. They come into relationships with mad skillz such as punctuality, returning phone calls, and a firm handshake.

b) Adults are not sad sausages. Sad sausages have 17,000 excuses why they cannot be punctual, balance a checkbook, or unload a dishwasher. It’s the February Solstice. They stubbed their toe on an orphan. Dishwashers make them break out in a hives. Sad sausages feign helplessness — and “Help me!” is chump kryptonite.

Pay close attention — do they really need help? (Adults sometimes do) or is this a convenient excuse to welch out of responsibilities? Are they never reciprocating because they’re sad, but feel perfectly entitled to your help? Sad sausages feel above reciprocity. It smacks of equality and respect. Sad sausages have the manipulation channel firmly set at self-pity. Avoid the pity vampires!

c) Adults reciprocate.  Real adults feel uncomfortable with an imbalance — they WANT to return the favor. Healthy people respect your time and your acts of service. They demonstrate appreciation with actions — they thank you, they’re present, they reciprocate.

Your job as a chump is to LET PEOPLE RECIPROCATE. I know it will make you uncomfortable (Must Right The Imbalance Immediately!) — but fight that urge and accept kindness. Good people are like you — they WANT to HELP. You want to attract a better class of friend? Don’t shoo off anyone who wants to give of themselves.

The chump will brush it off, “Oh no. I simply couldn’t…”

Let that self-effacing shit go. Say “thanks” — and then reciprocate in kind later.

The only people comfortable in a relationship where you do all the giving are TAKERS. Takers never question the lopsidedness. It’s all in their favor, why would they? The bigger a chump you act, the more you will attract takers. So, have some boundaries.

In therapy, I’ve begun to understand that the concept of “innate self-worth” is apparently a thing — that you have value simply for being who you are. But the idea that this applies to me seems absolutely ridiculous. My innate self-worth is zero. Instead, my overall worth has always correlated with what I can do for others.

Okay, Theory, I think you’re confusing things here. People who think they are splendid for simply being who they are, are narcissists. Why should they ever do for others? They’re SPLENDID.

People who know their worth, on the other hand, have boundaries. You can’t treat me like crap. I deserve better. That’s knowing your worth.

You should correlate your worth on what you can do for others, but that doesn’t mean accepting exploitation! Being of service to each other is what we were put on the planet to do, Theory. It’s being human.

Learn to exploit and manipulate others for your own personal gain is what narks, sociopaths, and other Cluster B freaks do. Don’t be of service to others! Make them serve you!

We don’t need more freaks, Theory. We just need more discernment.

Rock on with your good-hearted self. Just don’t waste your gifts on the undeserving.

This post ran previously.

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  • A good way to start is to, with friends and those who are in your orbit who are NOT your children or otherwise vulnerable in specific ways, such as a very elderly person might be, asking ”what’s in this for me” on a general level. I don’t mean to say you should be constantly on the take, but norms of reciprocity are there for a reason. ”Unconditional” is not something to strive for with anything other than your baby. Love and respect is conditional upon being treated well, by having boundaries respected, feelings cared about at the very least, and then in terms of giving back and forth. It needn’t be strictly bean-counting and record-keeping OBVIOUSLY, but you offer to help once, then do it gladly and graciously, then step back a little and wait and see. Do they eventually in some way do something ”for” you within a fair amount of time?

    There are always exceptions and caveats along the way, but I found my social circle very changed when I simply stopped inviting people (even family) who never, ever returned my invitations in any way, over years and years, and that’s not even to do with cheating, so the stakes aren’t as high! I just decided to be as nice and friendly as ever, but to match their efforts precisely. Let’s just say the results have been interesting…

    • Yes. This.

      “I just decided to be as nice and friendly as ever, but to match their efforts precisely. Let’s just say the results have been interesting…”

      I used to have “lots of friends”, but I also used to get screwed and neglected a lot. Now I reach out and make an offer, then wait to see if the person reaches back.

      Most people don’t. Their lives are full and other people (or dramas) are already on the front of their radar. So, the potential connection fades. This makes it seem hard to make friends.

      Some people say “call me”. Nowadays, I will actually say “I’d love to get together, but if you want to invite me to get together, please call me and let me know when you are available, just like I do when I want to invite you to do something.” I will often get a response like “I know, I’m so bad at that. I’ll *try* to call you, really soon!” I am not surprised when I don’t hear from those people. If you have to work that hard to want to hang out with me, I don’t see a strong future for us.

      Occasionally, a person will reach back and place an invitation. I work very hard to accept these when I get them because they are rare among adults over a certain age. These people tend to be the ones who take care of themselves, support you being you, and truly enjoy your company as equals, which feels easy and comfortable and like a good fit to me nowadays.

      I lost a lot of “friends” when I stopped being everyone’s personal event coordinator. I also became a much happier person and my self esteem started to improve. Being treated like a lackey who has to beg for others’ time is hard on one’s self worth.

      • Mmm, or “sure I’d love to come to your party” which I will spend three days prepping for, then have a significant number of no-shows because they wer “too tired”.

    • I’ve even noticed that the depth of relationships can be a fluid thing, and that that’s okay. Putting my time and energy into the relationships that reciprocate in kind has been very satisfying. Learning to trust that things will generally be fine, regardless of whether the less prioritized relationships persist, stagnate, fade away, later thrive, whatever – that’s been powerful for me.

    • As a super nova chump just out of a 5 year highly toxic relationship it was a shock to have my eyes opened to all the other lopsided relationships I had with friends. Single and alone for the first time since I was 16, I began focusing on friends, classes, Meetup groups and exercise. I am feeling happy and now I have a few crumbs of self worth to build on. Then I noticed I was always the one extending the invites, making the plans and going out of my way. Or in conversations the focus was always on them and when I would share it was dismissed quickly and switched back to them. So I scaled that back the invites to see what would happen. These friends who I saw weekly seemingly forgot about me. It was a real eye opener. So I further scaled back my relationship with them to match their efforts and reciprocity with me. I really like the “what’s in it for me” slogan. I used it with my Narc and his multiple hoovers. Now I weigh it with friends once I feel I’m doing the heavy lifting. Get rid of the Narc and then fix your inner circle because it is likely you have a few there as well.

      • “Or in conversations the focus was always on them and when I would share it was dismissed quickly and switched back to them.” – or even ignored as though I never spoke.

        • That’s why I didn’t like Schmoopie the one time I met her before I knew she was shagging my husband behind my back.

        • Yes I am more conscious of this now, my ex narc was like this as well as just talking right over me, no more, not interested in the self absorbed they can take a hike, nothing worse than people banging on about themselves endlessly.

  • My dear friend and I had this very same conversation Friday night. We are both single moms to two kids. We both have sole custody with zero dad involvement. Uncle Dad pays no child support because he sucks at life. The paternal DNA contributor of her two boys has a terrible habit of spending most of his time in federal prison.

    As single moms, we are TIRED. we works full time jobs–she owns her own marketing firm. We take care of our kids. Then, when we do get time to ourselves, we could spend it doing things like getting a pedicure or our hair done or whatever…. Or we could go on a date.

    But he is going to need to be one hellova guy to compete with a *kid free* spa day.

    She and I are both over three years out from our separations from our spouses. I was officially divorced in August of 2015. I don’t have any real desire to date someone. Like I said, if I have time away from my kids, my choices are spa day, drinks with my girlfriends, a non-animated movie alone, or just quiet me time. All of that ranks way higher than an awkward first date.

    For the self-esteem stuff, I started small. Do at least one thing every day that makes you happy. If it’s running or cooking or playing tennis or whatever you love, do it. Find a passion. Not a person. The rest falls into place.

    Also, I’ve found taking classes always helps boost self esteem. You don’t have to go to get a degree. A paint your own pottery class–which btw is MESSY–will do. Take a continuing education class at a local community college or university. They usually have everything from photography to business stuff and everything in between. Hell, if you want something useful, get a notary certification. Everyone is always looking for a notary, and you can make some decent cash on the side.

    I digress…

    Make healthy changes in your lifestyle. Physical hobbies can be good. I had a friend set a goal to run a marathon after her divorce. She said a marathon would be a piece of cake after what she had been through. Plus, exercise releases the happy hormones, so you’ll feel better afterward.

    It does get better with every passing day, to our new chumps. Big hugs!!!!

    • As Tracy wrote “The gym is a great place for punching things” ! I always feel better after some physical exertion-swimming,pedaling furiously or running.

    • “Find a passion. Not a person.” We need to make that part of our lexicon.

    • I now do yoga five times a week, that is my new passion, mind body and soul, it is truly amazing apart from the occasional crying, it has a strange way of releasing emotion from the body..

  • Here’s a song for us chumps, by Drake: “I’m Too Good to You.”

  • As chumps we need to be selfish with our energy and time. What is lacking in takers is appreciation. I’ve learned to stop giving when I feel like I have provided a service which was expected. Takers are the ones who call you first when they need something yet disappear or are always too busy to help you when you need them. Dday is a perfect time to sort out those who reciprocate from the takers. My good friend took out a day from work to be a witness in my hearing.

    This impacts every relationship. Takers get pissed when you change and stop providing your services. Set boundaries; have expectations. It weeds out the assholes.

    • ^^^This^^^

      Learning how to expect and appreciate reciprocity has been one of the biggest endeavors of my chump recovery!

  • I was thinking of this just this morning when I had a bit of a realisation. I think it was Hehid who had posted in the forum a while ago something about ‘are there any good people anymore’ I had replied something to the effect that there are loads of lovely people but it’s hard to see them when suffering from such a deep wound such as betrayal. Something about the whole topic though was nagging. Driving home from the store today after thinking what a great guy the checkout person was I suddenly thought oh, so my criteria for a great person is one that is just nice as part of their job. I realised that I must go around life a bit like a puppy being really pleased that people are being kind and decent and NOT hurting me or disrespecting me, or doing anything bad. I think people are mostly great as maybe I set that bar really low.
    We often talk here about FOO issues as well and I think that my narc-y parents set me off down this road. I learned two things for sure in childhood. I had to please and entertain myself (which means my self concept is pretty good. I love myself an know what I like) and also that a lot of my happiness depended on giving to others to keep them happy and appeased.
    So in my long lopsided marriage I gave. The betrayal was a disguised blessing. It was such a hard shock that I was forced to question everything. I do note that if he had just been a taker and a lazy non giver I would have spent the rest of my life vaguely anxious and dissatisfied but would not have thought to strike out for more for myself.
    I am fairly good at loving myself and knowing what I like to do but when I am with others I saw myself as having value by virtue of what I could give in terms of practical and emotional support rather than valued for who I was.
    When my son recently emptied the dishwasher for me without being asked I realised again how little I expect from others.
    I just have to be more aware of these issues I have when I meet or mix with people now and think deliberately about reciprocity until a higher bar of expectation becomes my new normal.
    I also have to work at taking from people without feeling uncomfortable and the possibility that they will not like me because I am not all giving all of the time.
    This all takes time but if you are aware at least if where you are going then you are already halfway there.
    In my marriage I had no real awareness I had a problem but when his taking had stepped up to a whole new level that spackling wouldn’t fix then I began to see everything differently.

    • Wow, Capricorn. Your post had me nodding and my mind racing. My bar is pitifully low. After it all went down, if someone was kind to me in the grocery store, I would have to fight back tears. If they talked to me, I would overshare immediately. (Cringe).

      I am dating someone now. He is so sexy and funny. However, I realize that I was doing all the “work” already. I have cooked three times, he has never brought me a flower. Not a token. Just shows up sort of late. I smother him with affection, he responds back a bit and then falls asleep.

      I move too fast, and then become hysterical when they do not contact me every four hours.

      What a horrible realization I have had, one year out from DDay- I am still emotionally healthy enough to date. I crave human company with a wildness….but I just have too many triggers, issues….to act like a sane person. Too just take it slow and not feel frantic.

      When I found myself breaking up with him because I had not heard from him in 7 hours…I did stop and apologize to him. I told him it was my stuff. My X did such a job on me with unpredictability and being unavailable that I cannot act normally. Not that I think he cared. I think he was just salvaging the connection because it is so obvious I want to jump his bones and what man does not want easy sex? Very few. And some women.

      That’s seems like one huge shit hoagie, you know? He is still destroying my life. This is not some sad sausage routine…I have been a nun for one year. I do not want to be alone. I am ready for the work, the inconvenience, the giving a relationship demands. But I can’t dial it back….I can’t be casual in a relationship. I rush from hello to exclusivity in mere hours. Like a idiot.

      It makes me feel desperate and ridiculous. It makes me fear a very loooonnggggg life ahead of silent nights and eternal weekend lunches with my elderly mother. Not the life I want.

      • Duh- NOT emotionally healthy enough to date. I should have to wear a helmet and a warning vest.

        • Pippi, I was you. For years–probably 30 or so? If you haven’t read Tundra Woman’s recommendation on “Harpy’s Child” or even something from “Out of the” you should.

          I “thought” I was pretty self aware and independent, but I would do exactly what you do. Even before I was chumped (twice). I would overshare. Pleeeeeeeeease be my friend. I will give you everything. Advice. A place to stay. A ride home after I sit and sip soda and you get it on with every guy in the bar. Rent money. Grocery money. Bail money.

          And it NEVER, EVER worked. I have ZERO friends from prior to my last chumping. None. I did have “best friends”–and when I was chumped the first time, my “best friend” came to me and said, “I want to look you in the eyes and ask you, Are You Alright?” I said, physically yeah. Emotionally, no. She said, well, as long as you aren’t in any danger, I’m okay.

          She never, ever spoke to me again. And she lived next door.

          Look. I used to be the girl who when I walked into work, I had a huge smile for EVERYONE and a bright “HELLO!” I would feel compelled to acknowledge every single person. All the time.

          I was the one in college who sat at home alone, collecting study materials, collating them into simpler forms, and then emailing them out to classmates. Classmates who were at a dinner or fun outing with EACH OTHER, but I somehow wasn’t invited. But….YOU ARE THE BEST!!!!!!!!…..was the response to me doing all of their work for them.

          At graduation? Not a whisper of a grad party and even after the ceremony, I got ghosted by every single one except a married guy in my class who wanted to get drunk over at the “local hotel” since his wife was out of town/not at graduation (narc anyone? angry bc his wife was off working to support him through college and now he’s gonna fuck his classmate to make himself feel better?)

          I did this until the discard–ALL of my former relationships were using relationships. I have actually heard from one guy I was with for three years and took care of his four kids while he went off and did his thing—“YOU want me home after work every night! YOU want me off the beach and away from my friends and things I like to do!” I said, “THESE ARE YOUR KIDS, not mine! Get your ass home!. We broke up. He came to me two weeks later and said, “Does this mean that you’re not going to help me anymore with the kids and finances?”

          During this last discard and bullshit from the ex–I started doing an experiment. When I walked into work, I DID NOT say hello to everyone who passed me. If THEY said hello first? I said hello. During the shift, if someone asked me to do something that was truly going to set me behind or I felt that they were being lazy? I said….Sorry, I am busy right now. If it can wait, I will do that for you later. Usually, it was just bullshit.

          With ExAsshole–I did the same thing. No more doing for him. We are not friends. We are not dating. We are not married. I am not his mother. I am not his sister. I am not his fuckbuddy. I am not his banker or his accountant.

          He is someone I used to know and I have one single item in common. My kids. I treat him like I would someone I met on a bus.

          Now, for you “I don’t want to be alone” and “I need to be with someone” thing. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh.

          But this is a trait that narcissists—covert usually—have and abundance of. They simply cannot be alone. They do and say anything to be with someone. It may not be MATERIAL things that you are after, and it doesn’t sound like that is the case.

          But you are getting something out of it. Affection. Attention. Companionship. You are love bombing people or even friend bombing people in order for them to not leave you.

          In out of the, “fear of abandonment” is one huge trait of NPD.

          Am I saying you ARE a narcissist? No. I am saying that you really need to sit with a therapist who understands personality disorders—and be honest about yourself.

          I had to admit to myself that I am a covert narcissist to a degree. Here’s the difference between me and my ex. I WANT TO CHANGE. I know that I have an issue with trust and abandonment, and nobody else is going to solve that for me. I have to learn to LIKE BEING ALONE before I can be good at being with someone else.

          I hate it that you feel this way. I hated it as well. But I can tell you, in the past 4 years, I have learned that I DON’T have to go out of my way for anybody, if they don’t reciprocate. And you’ll get hurt by the ones who don’t. It fades faster and faster as you realize…those are people you didn’t want in your life. You dodged a bullet for every time they acted like a self absorbed asshole.

          Please please. Get a good therapist. You clearly see the problem here. If you re-read your statements, it sounds like a text book case of fear of abandonment. You have to like your own company before anybody else can like being in your company.

          Good luck to you. I get better every day. I still find myself chasing some people, but then I sit back and ask a few simple questions…”Has my phone rung at all by this person in the past 2 weeks just to see how I am doing?” “Have I called this person and they have forgotten every single thing about my life that I’ve told them and I have to repeat everything? (no recollection of even the most profound events in my life)” and “If I gave this person’s name/number out as a personal reference, would I have to coach them through it?”

          If I have “known” this person for more than six months, and any of these questions ends up that yes they forget it all, no they haven’t called me on their own, and yes i would have to remind them of what i do and who i am…..I dump them.

          Busy with their own lives is one thing. It’s not hard to get caught up in life. But when someone can’t even call you for a month and see if you’re still alive…that is when those thoughts of “I could be lying dead in my house by myself for a month and I would not be found before the smell started to bug the neighbors” comes in. If you have a bunch of THOSE in your life? You need to cut them loose and be alone for awhile. Fix yourself first. Stop trying to fix everyone else.

          • I would just add that I think it’s not so much about being narcissistic ourselves–I think fear of abandonment is also a huge issue for people who were abandoned emotionally in childhood, kids whose connection with necessary adults depended on having no boundaries. Kids in this situation often seem more mature than their age, taking care of things that adults would normally do. Once when I was 5, my mother had me call the grocery store and place her order (back in the day when small town grocers delivered). I had no idea how to answer questions like, “Do you want the 12 oz can or the 20 oz?” I was terrified that I would fail to do the job right. At age 5. So I grew up hyper-responsible and very attuned to what others might want from me. Certainly that need to please was rooted in deep fear of abandonment because I was told I would be “sent away” if I didn’t behave, defined as “do what Mom wants.”

            How I think about this now, post DDay, is to look at whether I am in adult mode or child mode in a relationship. It seems counter-intuitive, but being over-responsible is “child mode” for me, operating out of the need I had for a stable home when I was 5 or 9 or 15. In adult mode, I know that breaking off a friendship or a romance won’t kill me. I don’t aspire to be “needed” or of use.

            • thanks for this, LAJ. I don’t think it can be easily to oversimplify connections between certain traits and their most commonly associated neuroses/psychoses. But these are just individual symptoms, and you need a whole picture to put together a reasonable diagnosis … and even then accept you may be off-base.

              What does “fear of abandonment” even mean? Aren’t we all avoidant of abandonment? Doesn’t it, by its very definition imply it is something to be feared? No one is saying “fear of a mature discussion regarding the status of a relationship, the work implied in correcting some of the patterns of negativity, and possible decision to terminate the relationship,” right? We’re saying “abandonment,” and what right-minded person wouldn’t fear that? It means a person you put your love and trust into up and decided to walk out. Abandon.

      • Pippi
        We could get matching vests and helmets!
        I too have a tendency to overshare that I am working hard to stop. If someone talks to me and smiles that often then results in a torrent of inappropriate sharing of personal stuff from me. I think this is in part my attempt to force the conversation to a deeper level where I feel happiest. I am not good at small talk.
        My saving grace at the moment is that I do not want another relationship for a good long while. I want the time and space to enjoy myself. I want all that energy for myself so can’t risk another relationship again where I will at the moment automatically become the physical and emotional caretaker in the relationship.
        You certainly can learn to slow down and not overshare but it takes thinking about what you need and what you are afraid of. Good therapy can help figure it all out.
        Maybe our vests could shock us if we use more than a dozen sentences with complete strangers? ??‍♀️

        • I am laughing! This is so much better than obsessively checking my phone for a man to call me I have known…..2 weeks…..while he is working (Forehead Palm Slap).

          Oh yes Ma’am, I do it too.

          Cashier: How are you?

          Me: Well, I just had my heart smashed. That’s a good price on the quick rise yeast.

          Most people are usually so kind. Along with looking relieved when I gather my bags and go. Therapy. Restraint. Activating an internal editor.

          Every tool box needs a hammer. I need a hammer to thunder down and stop me when I rush to bond with someone who has not even shown me that they are worthy of my time and or affection.

          • From the IKEA car park to the 1st level I met a woman for the first time, learned we were both chumps, learned we were both Northerners, learned it gets better, learned she has been remarried for nine lovely years after 5 years alone, learned we both have three boys, had sad sausage narcs and are actually much deserving of more.
            All goes to show that if we meet our own kind out there it can all go really well too.

          • I have been oversharing too much lately as well. I hope this is just a temporary phase due to my current heart ache and need to talk it out. This got carried away, however, when I unknowingly confided my distraught over the blow up of my marriage involving another woman to a woman who turned out to be Schmoopie 1.0 (before 2.0). Oops.

            On the other hand I did meet two very nice chumps at my dance class by oversharing so it goes both ways. They are farther along in their journey and I think they recently started dating each other so I find that hopeful.

            Right now I feel as if I would like to have another relationship again someday, but I am afraid I will be too scared of rejection to put myself out there.

        • Thanks Capricorn and others. I’m still reeling from realising my 23 year marriage, over this year, was so lopsided. And I never even noticed. Again, I thought I was a self-aware person and I know I’m intelligent – how could this happen?? Now I’m 50, on my own with 3 teen-aged kids and no money, very little family, living in a fairly isolated rural Cornish village, but good friends are coming out of the woodwork. Just starting a job-search after many years of home-making and actually passing my driving test at last. Wow. I’m working on not feeling that I’ve wasted so much time and not feeling bitter about that – updating my CV did that to me!

      • Aww Pippi I hear ya!

        It’s hard, being a decent person on the other end as well. Just started talking to 2 new potential dates online, and already, within a few messages, I have paragraphs of life story and waaaaaay to much personal information. We haven’t even met! I could be Hannibal Lector. I’m not, but you get what I’m saying. And I get being so hungry after being starved for human affection. People just doing everyday nice things would make me cry too. But, what can you say?

        It’s like not having chocolate for years and someone gives you a Hershey. And you are like This is the best. Thing. Ever. It’s just a chocolate bar.

        Any tips for those are struggling with too much personal too soon? On both ends?

      • Pippi, Capricorn…could I get a vest too? I came to this conclusion as well after my life with Turdd blew up. I made so much out of so little. Always have. In many ways, it is such a lovely quality to have but unless it applies to stretching a dollar or making ends meet it can cause such havoc. I think the fact that we see it means there is hope for us.

      • So, I went through something similar, but instead of focusing on self worth I decided to “find my joy again”.
        My whole criteria in dating became, does he make me happy on a continual basis….Do I feel uncomfortable when he isn’t with me, Am I trying to figure him out, Do his actions match his words, is he reliable, Is there reciprocity….
        What it all boils down to is finding joy and I believe the self worth will follow….
        I found it. It was unexpected and I wasn’t really prepared to find it so soon but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
        Now the divorce can’t go fast enough and I wonder how I ever put up with all the crap I tolerated in all of my other relationships…..

        • I wonder so much if there’s a right way to date after such an epic betrayal. I definitely don’t feel emotionally healthy enough, and I definitely don’t have it all together, but then like.. who does? I’ve learned so much in the few short months I have been dating. But I’ve made lots of mistakes and been reckless and put my emotional and physical health on the line. Right now I’m proud of two things.

          One, telling a guy that I don’t want to see him anymore. My intuition started screaming at me when he started going on about his exes and all the women he used to hook up with. I left the date early after that but kept talking to him, and I just told him this morning that it wasn’t a right fit for me. So yay, I think that is progress!

          Two, and this one is hard, is I am starting to accept that this other guy I fell really hard for a few months ago is not my soulmate, does not understand me, and it was not right. I knew even from the beginning that I was playing out old daddy issues and hoping that my magic love would heal all his myriad childhood abandonment issues. It sounded like he had cheated on his ex, I wanted to prove that I could do it right this time and wrangle a cheater I guess. How to fix the picker when the picker is a fixer…

          • “How to fix the picker when the picker is a fixer…” That’s good.

            We have to stop fantasizing and being seduced by the potential of people.

            I think, along with our helmets and vests, we need an internet shock button. When someone becomes a project….when we are investing time in making them understand or grasp big life issues, we want to read something to them from CL (raising hand) or we have to breakdown common sense character issues…we need to step back, and distant ourselves from this fixer upper.

            Another problem is I don’t have time to play games. I don’t want to play games. But, time and again, my upfront honesty is mistaken as being desperate. Perhaps I am desperate to be with someone. And that’s so attractive, right?

            And I think that is one of the reasons I detest, loathe and blood boil hate my X so much. That he put me back out here…dating at 45. Having to navigate these strange waters when every part of me just wants to be monogamous and steady.

            • Pippa, yes. Dating feels like a foreign language to figure out. I know that people say when you find the right one it should be easy, but especially after going through what we went through it is so hard to keep balanced in such a sensitive and emotional context. I completely relate to the texting anxiety. For me, as I get more confident and able to admit to myself what I want, my skin has gotten thicker and my anxiety has lessened. Baby steps, and trusting that I always find what I seek.

            • Dear God, the two most dangerous words coming out of a chump’s mouth: “potential” and “soulmate.”

              Just tonight I had a long talk with a younger male colleague suffering because his GF doesn’t like his job and he’s stuck in a dead end…and he wants her to be more independent from her parents. I told him you have to love each other as you are. I don’t do any fixing any more and it is a great relief.

              • Loved ajackass, coworkers GF sounds like a future gold digger. Tell him to RUN! In a more subtle way, of course.

            • Bottom line, if you find yourself making excuses, trying to figure out someone’s intentions, or if you feel uneasy about anything walk away…..actually run away as fast as you can!!

      • Pipi, don’t forget to breathe. Sit down. Let me tell you what I see. I see a very Courageous Lady. It is not easy doing a fearless inventory. It is even harder to admit it out load to other people. If you can do that, the rest will come much easier.

        For me, realizing that I had CPTSD was where I turned the corner to healing into a healthier me. It’s still a daily effort to feel safe in this world that taught me young to keep my needs small and be worthy of my father’s extraordinary lineage (his self-image).

        Learning to flip the narratives like Chump Lady does all the time here is part of it, too. I believe that if you can spot your neediness after only a few hours/days – versus months/years. It shows how much progress your courageous mightiness has already brought you.

        Have hope. Chump Nation believes in you!

      • Hey mickeyblueeyes I think it was you that got me enrolled in the Chump Nation via Mumsnet, thank you! X

    • “I realised that I must go around life a bit like a puppy being really pleased that people are being kind and decent and NOT hurting me or disrespecting me, or doing anything bad.”

      This resonates with me. I remember saying during my marriage that the reason I fell for my ex is because she was nice to me. I thought that was sweet at the time. Now this makes me think, “That’s all it took? Shouldn’t I expect more than that?” Trying to internalize this has been slow, but steady, progress.

      “The betrayal was a disguised blessing. […] I do note that if he had just been a taker and a lazy non giver I would have spent the rest of my life vaguely anxious and dissatisfied but would not have thought to strike out for more for myself.”

      I think both of these things, too. I would have stayed in my unbalanced vaguely-meh marriage perpetually if she hadn’t blown it up. It would probably have been like the frog in slowly-increase temperature water, a slow and vaguely unfulfilling life. Thankfully, I was set free.

      • I would have stayed too and down deep I was so sad with that relationship but we had kids and what was I to do? Now that I am on the other side of it all, what a blessing it has been. I see him now and I cannot imagine what I ever saw in him. It gives me the creeps.

        • Me too GraceInMotion. I would often say “i’m not happy”. I was tired of working, doing most of the parenting, homeschooling, managing our household. I am so grateful, now, for me time and alone time and being able to decide for myself how I spend my time and how I run my household, spend my money, raise my son. I am capable. But with ex, I was capable then, too, but another person was very OK with me doing everything I do now PLUS more. He did not see the need to help me. I won’t be in that situation again. At least if I am tired, its because I am doing everything because i am a single parent…back then I was tired because I was married to a taker. It was exhausting.

        • I would’ve stayed too. About a year before Dday #2, I had come to the realization our life together was never about me, never about my wants and needs, always about him. And it was never enough for him.

          After the initial sucker punch of Dday #2, I had deep sorrow for the life and future I would never have again with our family together as well as a giddy relief I was no longer stuck with him. I remember thinking ‘what a lucky, lucky girl you are’…..

          • Oh MJB…I was heading into the last chapters of my life with him…46 years married. Every word you wrote above was my life as well. When his many actions finally “set our home on fire,” and it was blazing in front of me, I ran like I was burning as well. Satan had walked through my door. I had no time for “lucky me.” I jumped into my black hell hole. Three years later, I am slowly finding my peace with who he really is, the disbelief is turning to my reality and I am creating my brand new life. Slowly I feel that smile appear, with my thoughts heading to “You lucky, lucky lady!”
            I ❤️ U CN…
            Blown Away

    • So true, Capricorn. It took betrayal to make me realize how little kindness I had received in my marriage.

      About a month and a half after D-day, I took a guest speaker out to lunch to thank her for the presentation. When she offered to drive so that I could keep my parking space, I had to choke back tears that someone was willing to do a favor for ME.

      • +1000 Thirty years of being the one offering to drive, so to speak.

      • True that. About 3 months after H died, I was fielding some sort of problem in my house and sitting in the master bedroom, I realized that that was the exact moment when H would normally have come into the room and said something nasty, insulting and blaming fully inserting blame for whateverthehellwasgoingon straight up my ass. In that moment I realized life without him was so much easier.

        But I had quite a sad sausage moment just before DDay when I realized how suck my life was…I had been asked to give a lecture that I prepared mightily for. I arrived, set up and no one showed. I was disappointed & humiliated…on my way home I sat alone in a Chinese restaurant trying to figure out how I would explain that the thing I had been preparing for was a huge bust…until I realized that no one was going to even ask. I was right…he paid so little attention to me that he didnt know, care, or ask how I was doing.

  • Great advice, CL.additional considerations on boundary setting:
    when someone – anyone – asks you to do something that will take considerable time, effort, money, energy, etc., always say you will get back to them later with an answer. Never commit on the spot – even if it is someone you trust. Give it a few days, check your calendar, weigh it against your other commitments, consider how suited you are for the role, and give serious thought to the person(s) and organization for whom you would be doing this. Do a background check. Imagine yourself doing the thing. Imagine what happens if you stop doing the thing later. Imagine what happens if you say no. Think about if YOU really want to do this thing and is it something you would want to do if this person hadn’t asked you. Now, after all this thinking, notice how much energy you feel when thinking about it. Do you feel energetic and excited about the thing? Do you feel exhausted and stressed about it? Or just neutral? Those are clues, pay attention and make your decision accordingly.
    Also, have some ready “no responses,”. Practice them until you feel comfortable saying them. The say them regularly.
    Say no sometimes just because. Even to people you like. Build that skill of being able to say no.
    Schedule regular me time. Put it on the calendar. Just alone time where you do something for yourself. Take a bubble bath. Watch a movie. Garden. Read a book. Read chumplady. Hahah. Get in the habit of doing something for yourself every day,no matter how small. Relish this time for yourself. Schedule it and look forward to it. You deserve it. Practice the skill of taking time for yourself. Eventually you will crave that alone time and need it to function. That’s ok!! Be your own best friend first. Give yourself what you need. Then you can do for others, drawing from that well of strength. Good luck with your mighty self.

    • LOVE this. Also, people who won’t take anything but an immediate commitment from you are letting you know your value. Saying you want to check a few other priorities before you commit your time and you will respond with a firm answer by the next day is nearly always reasonable. That should be respected.

      If you get an immediate guilt trip back for a non-urgent issue (if you aren’t sure right this second whether you can help me move in a month, I can always choke on the money and hire a moving service…) then it most likely would have been a mistake anyway. 🙂

      I lost a friendship because after saying yes to being a bridesmaid in her wedding, which was scheduled one week before mine, I learned it was going to cost me well over $500 to buy all the things. Also, I had to come up with cash for all of it on short notice so she could pay the bill some specific way. I told her I was very sorry to say that I couldn’t do that financially and told her I would like to help with her wedding in some other way. She freaked out (in an email – I had to leave VM for her because she didn’t ever answer her phone), said I didn’t care about her or her wedding and that she couldn’t believe I would do something that horrible to her right before her wedding, and removed me from her invitation list.

      It hurt, of course, but, honestly, I don’t need that sort of horse shit in my life.

      • Wow. SOME friend.
        I agree that most times when folks demand an immediate response that’s a sign of a manipulator or a user, or at best a really selfish, unaware person. Red Flag, people!!! That gets complicated when that person is say, your boss. (Hint: time to start seeking another job, just as a backup). I know this: the times I let myself be talked into stuff (before I knew this was a red flag) I ended up regretting it. Every. Single. Time. There have been times when I consciously have chosen to comply after weighing my options. I still resented it but I kept my higher purpose in mind (ex. Staying employed, Biding my time with a narc family member so as to keep from becoming a target until I can put some distance between us). when I do choose to comply with undesirable request, if possible I try to set it up with a boundary or a caveat. “You are in luck! After checking my schedule I am free to (insert whatever it is here). Normally I have another commitment at this time but I’m unexpectedly available. (NEVER EVER let them think you cancelled/postponed existing arrangements just for them. You will be marked for life!). I am happy to help you this time because I don’t know when I’ll even have another break in my schedule.” When you are done, define the end of your contribition: “I’m glad it worked out for me to spend my weekend helping you scrape the matted cat hair and solidified dust off the walls of your apartment before you move out. Best of luck with the rest of your move.” Then LEAVE. Then you can get said request out of the way and you are setting them up for a no next time. Never say “anytime” “it was nothing” “no problem” etc. This is just one example for how to handle the endless mundane requests that can be thrown our way. Remember with these types: one time and it’s a pattern. So set it up from the beginning so that YOU have control of the “pattern.”

        • Oh I forgot to say, also AT THE BEGINNING make it clear how much time/money/etc you are willing to put into it. Then stick to it. Don’t explain yourself. Don’t give details. They just see that as a way to judge you and a way to convince you to drop that and help them. Just say I can help you from 1 pm to 5 pm on Sunday, does that work for you?

          • This is good advice. I have finally learned to practise this because I have made friends through a new volunteering network who understand, respect and set healthy boundaries themselves. So I watch what they do, how they are helpful, kind and reciprocating, but also how they notice when someone doesn’t reciprocate and point it out. A great education for me, finally.

        • The need for an instant answer reminds me of buying a furnace last fall. I got estimates from 3 companies. One sent the owner, who did a big walk around and really educated me on what the alternatives were. He sent an estimate and followed up. Another sent a young estimator. He did a walk around, spent time measuring, etc. and went out to his vehicle and put together a detailed estimate. He also showed me I could get a tax rebate. Their estimates were within $100 of each other, even though the products were different brands. The third man was a salesman, who did minimal walk around and spent a lot of time being charming and showing me prices in a book. He took a long time and was super friendly. He had a contract drawn up and tried to get me to sign it. He pushed and pressed. I said I was waiting for another estimate (the company with the young estimator). He left and never re-contacted me. His estimate? $6000 over the other two. If someone needs an answer now, it’s rarely in your best interest. “If you need an answer immediately, it’s NO.”

          • PS. I signed a contract on the spot with the 3rd company, with the young estimator. I liked the written estimate the best which broke down everything. I liked his non-pushy demeanor. And I liked how he helped me with each choice point, not by pushing me but by helping me weigh what I need. The company did a great job. I got my easy-peasy thermostat that I never have to touch. They called me just last week to start up the AC unit for the first time. I have 10 years where they come out and fix stuff for free labor-wise.

            Think of dating as buying a furnace. You want the best deal for you.

            • Great analogy!!!! Plus, you want the furnace to be red-hot when you need it! Hahahaha

  • Leaving the world of romantic relationships for a while, even years, is a reasonable response to being chumped, especially for those with small children. But I would respectfully disagree with the notion that many chumps ***just don’t have the time*** to explore a better match.

    In my experience, a good way to develop your picker is through a long distance relationship. Find someone who responds to your long, thoughtful emails with their own long, thoughtful emails. Get to know them slowly, brain first. Avoid anyone who avoids meeting (catfish!). But limit yourself to 1 real date per month. ONE. Real physical contact (perhaps only hand holding or a peck on the cheek, perhaps more), but physical contact that complements a deeper connection rather than masks a lack of deeper connection.

    This allows you to avoid rescuing, better assess their character, and reflect more on whether the relationship is truly balanced (as CL says, do they “pick up the ball and throw it back”).

    We chumps need to modify our methods, no doubt. But that doesn’t have to mean throwing out the boyfriend with the bath water.

    • This is actually how I met my current partner. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worked well for me. Another advantage is that while I’m still in a state of figuring out my own needs and how I like to spend my time, I have plenty of time apart to do so, rather than falling back on the relationship as a crutch to doing that personal growth work simply because she’s nearby.

      • I agree 100%. I’m in the same situation, and while it is difficult at times, we both know that we need time and space to get our own shit together first.

        Ironically, a long distance relationship can be an amazing way to hone your communication skills with a partner. I’ve learned more in 2+ years about a guy who lives 3 hours away than I ever did about Cheater Ex, despite living together for 18+ years.

        All the best, Theory.

        • I have to weigh in here, because the slow and steady is how my relationship with the ex began. He loves the game. Once the game is over, that is when he gets bored and starts looking for another game. Bear that in mind.

    • I still do almost all contact with Very Kind Man by email. We “talk” better than way and I am way better at parsing written language. What I learned? He’s transparent. He says what he means, even if I am not going to like it.

      • My goodness. So, this how these long-distance relationships (or affairs – no offense chumps) start off with being so ‘deep’ that people feel they are in love and they haven’t even met the person in real life? That’s pretty tough to believe, although I know it happens every day. I think people are far more bold with putting their feelings out there on ‘paper’ and typing, in a fairly anonymous medium. And, sure – you may get to know somebody pretty well and feel comfortable around them when you meet…..but I sure as hell am not buying it. When you finally meet physically, you still have all the mental shifting and adjusting to do when you see into their eyes, body movements and expressions. Not to mention, people don’t reveal all their innermost feelings in real life when they feel more comfortable only doing it across the wires. The only good thing I see from a long-distance (fantasy) relationship is the fact you never have to meet and you can say anything you want without anybody questioning you. Sorry, just cannot see it being real in any form. Not for the long term anyway. But, it sounds fun and enjoyable as a pastime. 🙂 Congrats if it’s worked for you.

        • Have to say my cheating ex is in long distance relationship with AP, it’s all bullshit pipe dreams he is feeding her.
          I prefer total opposite approach, like their profile, message them and meet for coffee. I only date local people. I don’t have time to send endless emails and am not comfortable on video. I can read body language over coffee.

  • When you set boundaries users leave. This is good. When you set boundaries you may get nasty messages. This is disappointing and good. If you can remain magnanimous in the face of all of this, learn your lessons, and carry on with your life with kindness and compassion, this is great.

  • There is book called The White Knight Syndrome. Look it up on Amazon. It explains all about men and women (Florence Nightingales) who use being “nice” and doing stuff as an means to an end. I’m not saying that’s what Theory is doing but it might help him understand why he does some of the things he does.

    The ex had White Knight Syndrome and I’m not sure he even realized it. He just thought he was such a nice, nice person. Enough of a good person to throw away his decent family in favor of a loser damsel in distress and her juvie delinquent offspring.

    But I think it would be a good read for anyone struggling with these issues because it goes into how you may have gotten this way, specifically usually your family of origin. And yes, ex’s family was a fucked up mess, especially passive aggressive ex mil.

    • My husband also is a white knight (we even had a white horse). His 9 year affair was with a dumbsel in distress. She played him like a harp. Her husband adored her. Someday, when I haven’t already eaten breakfast (I get nauseated thinking about this), I will regale you with my predictable story. But he threw us away to “be there for her” – and that’s the difference between chumps and Narc rescuers: we help without hurting anyone but ourselves.

      • Gonna be OK. I look forward to hearing your story. Ex’s dumsel also played him like a harp, she’d had plenty of experience, being in her late forties.

        One thing to watch out for is that TAKERS are really really good at disguising themselves as GIVERS. This was ex’s spiel. He gives but only after he’s calculated what he’ll get back in return.

        There are entire websites on how to “win” women and ex could have written one himself. Gifts, vacations, dinners. always call when you say you will, love your mother, expressions of Love. Blah, blah. Blah. They even know to be nice to the waiter, cashier. Etc.

        The smartest takers know how to distract you from their true self. That’s why you have to look for character. Do they lie? Steal? Make fun of those less fortunate ? Make a big deal of their good actions?

        • My last narc was all over websites like that. He constantly tried to game the system. Any system. Adults know how to get sh!t done, and are clever in their efficiencies, but for my ex, it was all about gaming the system.

          So maybe that’s another sign of character?

          So that (compulsively gaming the system) and a hero worship of gangster stories (The Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, the Sopranos) are huge red flags for me.

          • House of Cards Kevin Spacey character is asshole’s idol. However, asshole played this with a victim, GoodGuy visage.

      • One thing I noticed in my ex was the fact that his Sense of Humor didn’t match that Nice Guy persona. Truly good people don’t make fun of people for their weight, appearance, education, etc. We would watch television and he would make nasty comments about people. Surprisingly, the whore shared this quality and one of his praises of her was “she is just so funny !!!!!!”. Naw, she’s really just a nasty, insecure bitch. You two really do have a lot in common.

      • “dumbsel in distress”! LOL Anita, I’ve met a few, and so many men are suckers for that!

    • Dumbsel! Ha I love it! My situation too. The ex really enjoyed that his dumbsel had myriad mental health issues, no friends, and was allegedly in a physically abusive relationship with an alcoholic that he could save her from. Oh, look at me, I’m a responsible white knight with a wife and daughter who knows exactly what to do to bring stability to your life… have lots of sex with you behind my wife’s back. Yea that’ll do it. One of his complaints about me was actually that I didn’t NEED him enough. Not healthy in the slightest.

      • And I don’t know for sure, but I also suspect she was playing him like a harp.

      • Yes, I suspect my exH felt the same about me….which is a big reason why he probably chose me in the first place.

  • My new husband is a giver and he willingly gave to his XW who was and is a huge taker. She was so used to setting the terms and demanding from people, she set out to find even greener grass than newH. Trouble for her, he wised up while she was searching and asked to wreckoncile after the bridges were burned to cinders.

    He and I had dated in the 80s and had long lost touch.

    He knew he didnt want her but he was very gunshy after doing all the “right” things and still being left. Ironically, his shying away from trying eventually benefitted me as I was deep in my marriage and trying harder than you can imagine. God had the final word and my H1cheaterpants died and I later set out to find real love. My dad remembered H2 from the distant past and called him.

    He is a wonderful giver, but I find that the capacity for our human nature to be being selfish and base is real and I have had moments of becoming lazy and selfish being treated so well…in these moments I metaphorically smack myself and give myself a “what the hell is wrong with you, don’t be an ass”. I am glad H2 found someone with the ability to check themselves and not have the “spoiled woman” scenario repeat itself.

    CL gives good advise here, read it again and again. There are decent, self aware women out there who will appreciate your giving nature and not become spoiled asses.

    • And that makes all the difference. We DO check ourselves. Takers never do. We acknowledge our limitations, shortcomings etc. in general. It’s refreshing to meet others who also do that. And reciprocate.

  • Theory,

    I second CL in saying that you shouldn’t go over to the dark side that says, “Doing for others is bad” or “I’m stupid to do for other people.” What I discovered unchumping myself is that chumps don’t meet more selfish takers than other people. They just allow takers to drain themselves dry for much longer periods of time. If you date a taker, or, even if you have a “close” friendship with a person who is constantly taking–all the time you are giving to that vampire is time you aren’t meeting and interacting with other possibly good people. Because we spend years being drained before we catch on, we have the illusion that “everyone” we meet is like this.

    I started listening and looking for the people who offered me things. When my radar was up, I started to find lots of them. When the narc president of the PTA dumps a huge project in your lap, that person who stopped in the hall on the way out and said,”Do you want me to take part of that call list?” That’s another giver. Instead of saying “No. No. I can do it” and not taking the opportunity to both get the help AND get to know that good person–say “Yes.” You will get help and you may strike up a friendship with a person who is reciprocal. When you say “No” that good person thinks that you either don’t want help or that you aren’t interested in help from THEM. As a result they won’t “bother” you again, and you will have lost out on the chance to get another reciprocal giver in your life. But, believe me, the narc that dumped on you will keep coming back to dump on you.

    As chumps we have to realize that it’s a numbers game. Plenty of rotten people out there–plenty of good. When you run into rotten people STOP giving them your time and resources. When you run into good people invest more heavily in them AND let them invest more heavily in you. We don’t meet more assholes than other people we just keep them around longer.

  • Ah yes, the unconditional love fairytail… I look back at my younger self and cringe. I know my idea of love was skewed. It looked something like, I’ll give you all my time, attention, devotion, try to make you happy and predict your needs; all you have to do is “say” you love me (words are so easy to believe). I’ll overlook all the inconsistencies in your behavior and words, because hey, I probably misunderstood what your profile on that adult website meant, and if you tell me you love me, I’ll believe you! Gag. That’s not unconditional love, that’s unrequited love!

    My big girl self understands that no matter how much you unconditionally love some one, they are not obligated to return that feeling or reciprocate behavior… this in terms of adult love is called a dysfunctional relationship! In dysfunctional relationships there is an imbalance in the way that each person is considered. In healthy adult relationships each persons feelings, needs, thoughts, ideas, wishes and preferences are taken into consideration, and given worth and value – this is what reciprocity looks like.

    • Great summary Got-a-brain, That first paragraph was my marriage exactly.

      • And, the 2nd paragraph was definitely my marriage.
        Your entire post was, in fact.

  • If we are brought up in environments where love is only ever given conditionally, I think it is very hard to develop “innate self-worth”, that isn’t conditional on how you perform in some way – usually how well you are serving someone else’s needs. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it is possible but it will certainly take time (and probably more therapy!). As I suspect is the case for many of us chumps, I definitely internalized the message that self-sacrifice was the way to be a worthy person – and I was milked dry for it by my ex.

    What I think is easier, however, to achieve than innate self-worth is self-compassion. Self-compassion (like true other compassion), by definition, is not based on deserving it – it is given without judgement. I really like the work of Kristen Neff on this topic and have found this very helpful. It is a way to feel better towards yourself without getting caught up in the whether you deserve it or not.

    I agree with Tempest that there are many wonderful people out there in the world and, despite being chumpy, I do not want to become cynical myself. Generosity and compassion make the world a beautiful place for everyone, including the giver. The trick is obviously in picking the right person to donate to, I guess. Something maybe I’m not so good at but trying to work on!

    It is horrible that this poisonous person has made you feel so badly about yourself but perhaps a blessing in disguise if it gives you the opportunity to explore developing your sense of self-worth based on your own values, not those bestowed upon you by (never totally predictable) others.

    • I’ve learned more over the past year about how my upbringing has affected my self-worth. I got a lot of verbal praise from my parents but it was often hollow and didn’t match their actions and priorities. My ex also had a damaged upbringing, in a different way. I internalized that I had to earn love with giving, and she internalized that love was a scarce resource to be taken whenever possible. This set up our imbalanced dynamic from the start.

      One thing I have developed now is confidence in my ability to put myself in a good situation in the future. This is different from knowing that I’ve already put myself in a good situation, because it relies more on my ability to do the unknown, rather than relying on what I’ve already done, which is much easier to discount when I’m not feeling great about myself. This is what I think I have done the most to develop “self-worth based on [my] own values”. It feels mighty!

  • Dr. Omar Minwalla’s research on what cheating/sex addiction does to spouses helped me understand why my self worth was in tatters. Minwalla typically deals with the suffering of wives….but I’m sure his principles can be applied to men who have been victims of deception/infidelity. Take a look at the 13 things that happen to chumps- after they have been sexually betrayed:

    Your self esteem is one of the first causalities of cheating/sex addiction. In my opinion you need to do what makes you feel good. That could be something as simple as joining a gym….shedding a few pounds…….or updating your hair do, glasses/wardrobe. Small things that help you feel better about yourself- are a great place to start. I think helping others is nice- but right now you need to “help you.”

    There are a lot of theories on what increases self worth. I suspect that different folks need different things. Accomplishment is not always it (look what happened to poor Robin Williams- very accomplished). Helping others doesn’t always help either. Maybe a combination of things could help?

    Infidelity always leaves us chumps with low self worth, and feelings of being unattractive/unwanted. It’s not the truth though. It’s just fall out from the infidelity. Don’t buy into it. Every minute of your presence on earth….means something to someone somewhere. You matter! Your post mattered to me! Thanks Friend.

    • Great article–noddedcall thecway through. Thanks for posting the link.

      • Um. Ignore the typos produced by some combo of my traumatized brain and the vagaries of auto fill. ?

    • Leaving
      That is a great post and the research by Dr. Omar Minwalla you posted is the first comprehensive and appropriate theoretical response I have seen to the trauma of infidelity.
      Brought back quite a few memories. It is good to know I am recovering but amazing to remember the absolute suffering.

      • Minwalla is forging a new path for the treatment of betrayed spouses. Unlike the 12 step model of treatment for sexual addiction (Patrick Carnes)- Minwalla is calling a spade a spade and advocating for the betrayed spouse. There is NO scientific evidence of “sex addiction.” None what so ever. All made up by Patrick Carnes and his followers. Keep your eye on Minwalla- he is going to explode the Sex Addiction industry to the moon!

    • Great link. I dream of a world in which this expert could come and testify in support of chumps who would seek compensation from the cheaters and APs for the trauma, and receive it. No fault divorce my arse!

    • Thanks for posting this. I have never read anything this validating to me before. I felt like I was going to cry as I read it. Wow just wow.

      • My fellow chumps…..please read up on Omar Minwalla. The man is ingenious. He is pioneering the “trauma model” for betrayed spouses. The inadequate 12 step treatment models merely treat the symptoms- not the underlying personality disorder. They also re traumatize the already traumatized betrayed spouse. Let us hope that Patrick Carnes’ work winds up in the dumpster of bad ideas- like lobotomy.

    • Two men I greatly admire-Dr. Omar Minwalla and Lundy Bancroft. This site is so helpful for directing the chumped to resources like this.

    • This is a great article. I didn’t understand the “ego shattering” thing until he said that it can include the “process of ruminative preoccupation,” which I take to mean that the chump brain is on a hamster wheel “ruminating” about the cheater, the OW, reliving DDay, etc.

  • Great post, Out of Sparkles! Theory may have had adults who didn’t give him the unconditional love he needed to develop self worth. If you have to “earn” a parent’s love, that’s how you will think relationships should be.

  • I had to scrape off everyone and start from scratch. Chumpy Me thinks, in retrospect, that being betrayed and angry about the affairs was THE sliver of opportunity to really pare all of my relationships down with everyone. I had guilt… but only until I got angry again. being taken advantage of was such a fresh, RAW feeling that I sensed it from many people who’d been part of my life. I saw those people with new eyes as I’d never be ABLE to before…

    Begin with NO.

    No is a complete sentence. You give no excuses for why your answer is no. You do NOT preface it with “Sorry, but…” Don’t apologize for your answer. You have good reason to say No but other people do not *deserve* your reasoning. Reasoning and objections will be overcome and that puts you on the defensive.

    Just say NO and leave it. If asked why (this will not happen as frequently as you think), say “I will not be able to.” And let the refusal linger in the air. If pressed again, laugh at their rudeness to challenge your answer. Some people call it bold. Those people are rude. Never feel guilty for calling out rudeness curtly; they have absolutely no hesitation about making you feel inferior.

    Then start really deciding if you want to do something you’ve been asked to do. It doesn’t matter what other people think of you for it. It doesn’t matter if you always used to do it. You don’t anymore; not if you don’t want to.

    Gradually, people with good boundaries, like you will have, will start popping up. Reciprocal people you find because they’ve done something for you and you find yourself WANTING to do something for them. It will snowball from there into real friendships. You will feel genuine and not stuck. You will find that Takers don’t like you and you’ll be able to spot them almost instantly. And because of your previous experience with them and sense of self-worth, you’ll instinctively know how to stall them out.

    Your life will expand on its own, once you set up those boundaries.

    • What’s funny, the best advice I ever got (and internalized) is from someone who is a cheater and I loathe him. Dr Phil.

      First, he said that people who are chronically late? Believe that their time is more valuable than yours.

      If someone says that they’ll be at your house at 7p, they get one shot. If they’re late the first time, they get that one pass. Next time? You determine how long you’ll wait, but you shouldn’t wait more than 15 minutes. If that person doesn’t call in a panic, that they’re roadside with a flat tire or a saving a drowning kitten—you do something else. Whether it’s just leave the house and go to the grocery, or simply turn off all the lights and go watch Netflix in your bedroom alone. YOU DO NOT ANSWER THEM when they deign to call you an hour late or show an hour late with no call.

      He said, “You teach people how to treat you.”

      If someone says they’ll call at 11a and I wait until 11:30a and no call? I leave. I do my thing. Garden. Go for a walk. Whatever. COOL DOWN because I get pretty fucking pissed off that someone is wasting my precious time. When I feel like answering, I will. If I get a call the next day and it’s anything other than—“My mother was rushed to the hospital yesterday” (snark here, folks) I am no longer interested in hearing your bullshit. Usually it’s “I forgot.”

      Well, then I’m not that important, now am I. At least, not to you. And in true reciprocal fashion, you are now no longer that important to ME.

      Walk your dog. Or GET a dog. Garden. Go sit on the porch and enjoy the sounds. Walk to a coffee shop. Get a bicycle. Ride said bicycle. Find your kid and take them to the park. Or to a movie. Or just sit and have a snack with them, find out what’s up.

      Satisfaction and contentment doesn’t come from other people, it comes from inside. I am just as happy sitting with my dog (he’s 15, deaf, arthritic and has had 2 strokes, so sleeping and breathing is quite the accomplishment). He has shown me that sometimes, you just get to sit quietly and sniff the air.

      I used to work 65 hours a week. Anybody need me to cover their shift? I’m your girl. Had nothing to do with money. Had everything to do with not being at home alone, finding someone worthwhile who gives a shit about me (THAT IS HARD) and making myself indispensable to people (maybe they’ll like me?). When I’d ask someone to cover me—everybody was busy. Hard lesson learned.

      My hs boyfriend told me once, “the world is filled with assholes of varying degrees. it just depends on what kind of assholishness you are willing to put up with.” very immature way of saying something profound.

      You decide on what it is you want in your life and if you are not receiving those things, move along. Doesn’t mean you have to trash someone, but those that don’t give you what you need in your life certainly are not worth spending your time chasing.

      • Your high school boyfriend was my former (regrettably) BIL Tom. Career military and absolutely no BS kinda guy. His theory? There are two kinds of people in this world, givers and takers. If you’re a giver, you just have to decide how much you are willing to give. Yep, truly a clumsy way to something all of us chumps need to hear.

        • * to say something all of us chumps need to hear.


        • *say something all of us chumps need to hear.


  • I cannot believe how timely today’s post topic is, really about givers and takers.
    Recently when I suffered a severe head injury accident, caring people appeared out of nowhere, all giver type beings.An incredible lady took charge of the happenings. She rolled me onto my side in recovery position and barked orders at everyone who stopped as I lay on the pavement.
    Funny, as I lost consciousness, just before the ambulance arrived, my last thought was, ” Shit, I won’t be able to read Chump Lady today.”

    Yes, most chumps are GIVERS, they loveingly give and give with an open loving heart.
    Hell, yes, cheaters are takers. The love and caring of one woman/man is never enough for them, they need EXTRA ow/om

    Theory, you are a giver! With CL ,CN’s advice and caring you are on your way to finding a giving person, in time. Meanwhile be gentle with yourself. Take it slow. Givers are out there, in this mostly good, kind world!

    Be careful out there, keep safe. My horrible wack to the head injury resulted from a quick trip,( loss of balance ),on my handsome, caring dog’s lead. ( he literally had to be pried from my side as strangers whisked me away in the ambulance).
    All animals are givers!?
    Happy to be alive and sending love to fellow chumps.

    • Sending you oodles of healing juju!!! So glad you’re on this side of it and I hope your healing process is swift and sure.

    • “Shit, I won’t be able to read Chump Lady today.”

      When I read about your head injury experience, I felt upset for you. And then you went and made me laugh out loud. I do hope you’re recovering well and feeling better. Take good care of yourself!

    • Wow. Your example set off a long-buried memory. Years ago, when I still believed I was married to a gem, a man with his wife was crossing the street and got hit by a car. We were coming out of the Jiffy Lube and didn’t actually witness him being hit on the corner (hit and run), but him on the ground starting to go into shock with several passerbys standing helplessly around. We ran to him. My X and I are both trained in first aid. I dismissed the cold look in my (then) husband’s eyes as confusion, but looking back, it was just that he didn’t care because he is a taker and was just assessing how much attention and adulation he could get for doing the right thing. I immediately jumped into action, looking and feeling for obvious injuries, loosening his clothes, barking orders at the people standing around to call an ambulance, start a timer so I could get a pulse, etc.
      Crazy how your memory just gave me so much clarity on my own give take situation with my X.

      • Lucky for the man in the accident that you were in the right place at his wrong time.
        Sugar Plum you, for sure, are a true giver.

    • Hope you are recovering well Peacekeeper. Reading your post, it sounds like your mind is working perfectly! Stay strong.

      • Thank you sweet kiwichump.
        I remain on head injury-concussion routine, but I break it once in a while to read Chump Lady.
        CL,CN,You all are the very best medicine in the whole world!

  • I think in our society people have gotten used to “expecting” things from others because of friendship, family, etc and they are very comfortable in asking people to do too much for them. This is kind of how the Giver,/Taker and White Knight Syndrome gets started.

    I’m not jaded and I like to do things for others. So my solution is to do for others without expecting anything back. This takes the form of “charity ” work for the most part. One thing you have to be careful of is that being a giving person always attracts Takers.

  • I was a big giver in my marriage, yet I was ignored when I asked to go out to dinner with XH. Sex, I’m too tired, it’s too late, I’m not in the mood. Everything was getting emptier during the end days and I found his text.
    I’ve thought about my moods because 3 years out and I’m not interested in dating. I wanted to after divorce but I was vulnerable. My friends told me to wait.
    Well, I’m glad I have. I recreantly discovered while in deep thought that it is what I call “Serial-depression”. By this I mean being married to my XH was depressing. Go thought a divorce and he’s dating, going out, vacationing nonstop. Depressing. But once I said serial depression I could see I depended much too much on others actions for my feel good. It’s also a big empty hole.
    Start new dreams for yourself and work though goals. This made me give up old dreams and see myself in a whole new light. I feel much happier and lightweight all over. What a difference perspective makes!

  • Theory, I feel like your clone. It’s very hard to break what we do, but it can be done. I’m getting there slowly but surely. For me, I know when a person is a taker but I can’t seem to shake being a giver or rather a giver of takers. It’s difficult to pick and choose when you’re a giver.

    My dad always used to say……’there’s pitchers and catchers and so and so is a catcher’!
    He’d call it as he saw it. Boy do I miss his words!!

  • After Dday, I met a guy who was a friend of a friend — kinda cute, really smart, but way too soon and entirely the wrong town — and I thought, “See? Now, I could kinda go for a guy like that.” — He was talking about attending a dinner party with friends so he had to “get home to make something, so [he] could bring a dish to pass.” — You could have knocked me over with a feather. BRING something? To a dinner party??? — XH only ever brought HIMSELF! Wasn’t that gift enough to everybody??

    Since then, I’ve used this as a criterion: If invited to a dinner party, would they spontaneously (no parenting-type prodding!) think to contribute something of their own accord, or even of their own making? Good sign.

    • My ex boasts often about how many weddings he’s invited to. NEVER EVER gave a wedding gift until he met me – well I gave the gift, offered to help….

  • CL/CN, thank you again for your support, then and now.

    I’ve made so much progress since I first sent this about 16 months ago. My divorce was finalized about a month later, and all the logistical loose ends were tied up about a month after that, and I’ve maintained No Contact since. I’ve been able to avoid her life completely, and rarely even have urges to look her up now (even though she moved into a house in the same neighborhood…!)

    My life is much less hectic. Gone is the menagerie to navigate, the spending to absorb, the crises to resolve. The mental and emotional progress is still ongoing, but much-reduced are the dismissal and deprioritization of my own needs and desires, the judgment toward myself for sticking around for as long as I did, and fear about the future (it’s become much more exciting than scary).

    I’m in a relationship with a fellow chump now, and since we both understand the sore spots that can bring, we have been great support to each other. I’m also learning about healthy sexual intimacy – slowly, though, as it’s been very tough to unwind the emotional responses and learned coping behaviors from a decade of a dead bedroom.

    I’m back to doing well at work and taking care of myself physically. I’ve continued to reach out to others and expand my social world. I do my best to not say “no” to opportunities at new social experiences. I’ve even discovered a hobby! (playing cards)

    I’m optimistic for my future, and I owe much of that optimism to the support of those I reached out to in my time of crisis, including this community. Thank you again, and I wish you all the best. Take care :]

    • Glad to hear you’re doing well! I wrote a response below before I read your comment. Looks like you’re well on your way. Carry on.

      • Me too! Thanks for the update. You’re an impressively quick healer!

    • Good to hear, and thank you for the update. It’s great when CL runs an older post and the chump in question gets in touch and tell us what happened. Congratulations on your progress with self-worth.

  • The building blocks of self esteem begin at birth and have solidified by about age four. The difference between guilt and shame is one is self induced and the other is forced on us by circumstances. As adults we think we have free choice but if we have been mistreated as children we often choose the wrong spouse, friends, jobs etc. We don’t know why but there are several reasons. One is that we recreate what is familiar and another is to fix what went wrong when we were young. Before you try to find another love PLEASE get yourself some intense therapy. Try EMDR because it helps bring up past emotional injuries and takes their power away.
    You need to actually practice dialogue telling yourself that you are worthwhile. Talk out loud. Driving in the car have a conversation with yourself about your gifts. Nothing is more important than how you feel about yourself.
    Nobody starts out life worthless. Someone imposed that on you. Don’t give them that power anymore.

    • Oops. I had not had a chance to read the reply. Good for you. Still, anyone with deep self esteem issues should get help because your decisions are based on a lie………that you are worthless.
      Good news! Congratulations.

    • I’ve actually been doing EMDR for a long time, and I think it’s helped out quite a bit. I also created an affirmation sheet early on that I carried around with me all the time and would read to myself if I started getting in a rut. On the one-year mark of my divorce being finalized, I took it out of my wallet and put it on a shelf with some other mementos of my progress. That felt very good.

      Thanks for your powerful words! I hope they help others, too.

    • There are some great people on you tube to help with esteem, just type whatever you would like info on. I like it also as it is usually talking heads so you can listen and do other things.

  • Its great to hear a Then and Now update from a poster. So happy to hear Theory, that you’re doing better. Time definitely does help.

  • Serving others is, IMHO, one of the most noble callings. Just know who you’re serving and who’s worth it. Serving maybe who you are. I wouldn’t allow some fuckwit to make you doubt yourself like that. You don’t control other people’s reactions. It may be that you served them well and they didn’t give you the reaction you expected or wanted. That’s OK. Know that you were true to yourself.

    I don’t think your service it the problem. It’s quite noble actually. Your problem might be you don’t know who not to serve. So stop questioning your self-worth. You just got fucked over for your kindness. That’s all. Please don’t stop being yourself! The world needs more decent human beings.

  • The problem of “self worth” is essentially, I think, about boundaries, about knowing where other people end and you begin. Before you can even start “giving” to others, you have to take care of your own needs. Not “wants”–not the trip to Aruba or the sports car or the shiny new love interest–but your needs. That involves taking care of yourself physically and financially. That involves paying attention to your own emotions and how your intuition works when you are around others who are boundary violators. That involves understanding the ebb and flow of friendship and its give and take, as described so well by CL.

    Those people in relationships who walk on eggshells or make their needs smaller and smaller to placate a demanding, narcissistic person are not taking care of their own needs–for respect, for equal status in the relationship, for reciprocity, for basic kindness. Self-worth starts with imagining a SELF separate from spouse, parents, children, friends. The Bible has the basic rule for this problem: “Love your neighbor as you love your self.” That is a wise formulation, indicating that love for others comes after love of self, which is a birthright. That kind of “self love” is not about thinking we are above criticism or special. It’s about thinking that we deserve our own care.

    The great servants of humanity aren’t door mats. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama. Their capacity for service comes out of a finely honed sense of self and mission.

  • What has made a difference for me, has been learning to enjoy my own company. I was married for 33 years and when we separated, not only was there the trauma of the betrayal and my sense of worthlessness, I also had to face being alone for the first time in my life. I had two terrible years of never sleeping and crying whenever I was alone. So, I ran around volunteering all over the place and offering constantly to help others. I was really escaping from the reality of my life, that I just didn’t accept. Then I became angry and for a long time (about another 2 years), vented my anger at what had happened to friends (yes and even some folks I really wasn’t close to). But things were changing inside me and somehow that started to diminish and I started to see that being alone was okay. I learned to be still and accept my life as it is (I also learned to meditate, which helped with this). Over time, I have gotten comfortable in my own body. Now, I still volunteer, but not at such a frenetic pace. I have dropped some of my involvements and only kept those that I feel good about. My life has a whole different feeling. I have said a few times on this forum that I truly believe it takes time to work through the issues that come from being a chump. We should allow ourselves the time. I’m now 6 years out and happier than I have ever been. I don’t aspire to have another partner, but I have the most amazing friends and family. I am so thankful to have come this far.

    • Finally Free Heart, my story is very similar to yours. I also ran around frantically for awhile just to escape being alone. Now I seem to enjoy my own company. It does take awhile to adjust to a new way of life, but it’s not necessarily a bad life, just a different one.

  • I think the reason you do for others might be something to think about. Are you doing it because you genuinely want to? Or because you feel you have to?

    It took me a long time to understand I was not being selfish for doing things I wanted to do. My model growing up was that mothers sacrificed their own needs for their family. To put yourself first was seen as selfish. The only problem is you start to feel resentful. You keep putting your needs aside and hoping someone will notice your sacrifice and appreciate it. LOL. But that never happens.

  • There is nothing wrong with being generally helpful, generous and kind even if it isn’t reciprocated every time. While it is true that one needs to be careful about always giving to the same individual over and over again who takes advantage of it and never reciprocates, one doesn’t want to become too stingy with the kindness either. If one expects reciprocity for every kind act from every person every time, then you aren’t really being kind. Just be generally good to people, build your karma and in the long run you will get back. This is especially true of being kind to strangers in need. They may not reciprocate to you directly, but if they go on to do something kind for somebody else down the road using you as an example, then that is a good thing too. As for the friends and family, do give them a chance to reciprocate honestly and in their own way and not because they feel obligated. Don’t expect reciprocity, but accept it when it is given. Eventually, it does make sense to move away from those who show no appreciation over an extended period of time. It is a fine line to walk between being a genuinely nice person who looks out for others needs without being a doormat. I believe it can be done, however.

    STBX was always being helpful to others, volunteering for things etc. From the outside it appeared that he was just a good guy, but in truth he was always keeping score. He expected reciprocity even for unsolicited acts of kindness and would become resentful when he didn’t perceive it. The worst part is that he also didn’t notice or feel any sense of gratitude for the many times others did do things for him or showed him kindness. He never knew how to count or even notice that he had blessings. He focused on what he didn’t get and didn’t notice what he did. He felt that he always gave and never got back and that simply wasn’t true. The hardest part for me was realizing that he had lumped me into the category of people who didn’t reciprocate. That hurt because I was reciprocating in many ways, but he never noticed. He never noticed the kindness my family showed him either. He ended up being one big ball of resentment. It’s just sad.

  • I’m a giver. It’s just who I am. I still do things for my STBX ( we are still in the same house – but living apart, if that makes sense.) I like that I’m kind. I just don’t have it in me to be otherwise. That being said, I have learned to set boundaries. Which is why I’m getting a divorce. STBX did a deal breaker. No going back. He is the father and grandfather to the people who are my heart. I got the best part of him. There is no one OW ( that I know of). He lied to me and disrespected me and I found out. That was his second chance and he blew it. There won’t be a third. So now we all get to live with the consequences of his choices. Thirty nine years together. I know my worth. I am mighty. His thoughtless acts brought me to my knees, but I got up. I continue to get up every time I am overcome. This life I have is not a dress rehearsal. I will keep moving forward and I refuse to be broken. I will continue to be kind. I have learned to set boundaries. This is essential. Like I have read from so many on here, No is a complete sentence.

  • Theory –

    Give yourself some grace right now. The pain of your experience is still really fresh. My self-esteem took a huge hit after learning that my seemingly amazing husband of 25 years had led a double life for our entire marriage. I felt like I’d gained 10 years and gained 10 pounds and lost my life meaning overnight. For 25 years my focus had been on taking care of “life” so that he could build businesses, flyfish, and apparently do other things I still can’t even imagine. I took care of myself during this time, wearing nice clothes, makeup and working out a reasonable amount. My focus, however, was on my cheating ex, making him happy, and my awesome kids.

    Healing and finding a new life rhythm has been painful, slow, but successful. It’s been five years. Through a chump counseling group I have discovered friendship at a level I never had experienced. These ladies don’t care if I call crying or want to eat at Panda Express because I’m trying to watch my budget. It’s real and meaningful. I have discovered that I don’t want to wear heels very often, and that my value does not depend on having a perfectly clean house or the perfect meal ready. My kids have realized that life is different now, but they understand I now have boundaries because my time is more evenly dispersed, including graduate school, working out, taking care of my new house, friends and family. Although I don’t appear “perfect” any longer, my life is real, deep, and valuable. You’ll get there, just be patient with yourself and surround yourself with people who support your journey!

  • I am so sorry-I feel for your suffering-and it is suffering. But it takes time. A theory-one year recovery for every 5 years together.

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