I just turned 24, and was recently chump-ified by the first and only person I have ever been with, loved, etc. It has just been a nightmare. The worst pain I have ever felt.
I met him when I was just barely 19, started dating when I was just barely 20, and just initiated no contact today. I just can’t take this anymore. I tried, pick-me-danced, and now I’m done. I have just finished my undergrad, and am about to start an MSc while I apply to law schools. Professionally, my life is great… but I had to work really, really hard to get here. My parents are immigrants and gave up everything to start over in a first-world country so I could have a shot at a decent life in a decent place. It was always important to me to make the best of what they gave me.
A few months ago, my ex was unemployed — he quit his old job before finding a new job (I know… smart, right?). Then, he got into drugs… with another girl… that he was also sleeping with. I had no idea. I trusted him. My dad hasn’t been doing well, so I’ve been living with him, taking care of him whenever I’m not working or in class. I didn’t police my ex. I didn’t have time. I thought he was a good person. I trusted him.
March 23rd, 2017 was D-Day. He came over for dinner, and told me what he had been doing (of course, he made it sound like a one-night stand… the trickle truth was excruciating, and the whole “full-blown affair” thing came out gradually over the next few months). I couldn’t keep food down. I couldn’t sleep. I’ve lost almost 20 pounds since this happened. It’s been horrible.
I tried to save what he had already destroyed, not knowing that he was still seeing her. Eventually, he stopped… but we fought about what he’d done. He’s told me it was my fault for not being around enough while he was unemployed (pesky education got in the way of his kibbles). He told me he didn’t feel like a priority. I don’t think that’s true. I wanted to spend my life with him. I wanted to give us a future. He was always so, so important to me.
Chump Lady, he was so cruel. I can’t believe I stuck around for 2.5 months after things hit the fan. I was always afraid, physically, and emotionally. Today, I uncovered a text sent to the wife of one of his friends. He had invited the husband and wife for dinner, and she asked him if I was coming. He replied by saying that the money he’d save by having to cook less for me would be enough for a hit of cocaine. It was the last straw. I will never speak to him again.
I’m so sorry for the novel I wrote you. My question is this…
Most of us Chumps stick around for a while (in my case, 2.5 months). This whole thing was already such a big hit to my self-esteem. I never thought I would put up with something like this. Ever… but then I did, for over 2 months. I feel ashamed. I wish I’d cut things off sooner. Actually, I wish I’d cut things off when he started seeing her. I didn’t know at the time, of course, but I did notice how cruel he became. That’s when I should have cut ties — but I didn’t. I stayed, and spackled, and tried to convince myself that he loved me.
I feel like staying, trying to “work on things” for over 2 months, well, it doesn’t feel very mighty. Looking back, it doesn’t make me feel very good about myself. I feel gullible and stupid and weak and just… small. I feel like I let this happen. I feel like I let him hurt me because I didn’t value myself enough. When it started, I would tell myself that I was just “compromising,” that he was acting so mean because he was going through a rough time, that I had to put him first… Ugh. Now I just feel ashamed.
I’m trying to gain my self-esteem back, Chump Lady. How do I deal with these feelings?
How do you deal with the humiliation of being chumped? You acknowledge it, forgive yourself, fix the ol’ picker, and do better next time. Welcome to the very large chump club.
I feel like I let him hurt me because I didn’t value myself enough.
He hurt you because he’s a cheating asshole, and hurting people is what cheating assholes do. Think of them as human wrecking balls. It’s not like you provoked him into being an asshole by wearing a “Cheat On Me” sign taped to your back. Did you “let” him hurt you, as in invite that abuse into your life and condone it? No. You didn’t make him do anything (contrary to his blameshifting).
However, as a chump, yes, you do have to own sticking around after D-Day and performing the pick me polka. As I say here a lot, we don’t control what people do — however, we DO control how we respond.
People who know their worth do not pick me dance. People who value themselves do not tolerate abuse or think they can pretzel themselves into new pleasing shapes to stop it. Mighty people call that shit out and they leave.
But, but! That’s so judge-y and extreme! Maybe cheating was a bad stress-coping mechanism! Maybe he’s really sorry and could do better and my harsh, angry reactions will scare him back into a Bad Place! Maybe he’s an enchanted goat and if I just perform 12 heroic feats, the evil wizard Azurtha will restore him to his human form!
We’ve all toked on that hopium pipe, Janet. Hopium gives you the false “courage” to stay. Mightiness is having the self-worth to leave because you deserve better. Hopium is based on what a cheater MAY do. Mightiness reacts to what the cheater has actually DONE. Hopium lies and says you can control these outcomes. Mightiness knows the only thing you control is yourself.
Most of us huff a lot of hopium before we get to mightiness. It’s so hard to walk away from someone you loved so deeply. The powerlessness is gut-wrenching. Don’t beat yourself up for wanting to save him from his self-destructiveness or believing his do-better promises. Learn from it.
People who love you would never subject you to humiliating pick me dances to prove your worth. Grown-ups who want to change will DO IT regardless of what you do or do not do, because getting sober, or trustworthy, is THEIR job — not yours. Loving people don’t blameshift.
Janet, you’re a young woman who is going places. He’s a fuckwit who would trade your dinner for a snort of coke. Don’t mistake shared history with shared values. Just because you spent years with this guy doesn’t mean he values education, employment, fidelity, or sobriety. It’s okay to reject him just on the basis of incompatibility! He’s not your kind of people. Hold out for someone who does share your values. They EXIST.
I’m not sure the mortification of being chumped can be overcome — but that’s not a bad thing. Look, the mortification I feel over 4 D-Days propels this blog into daily existence. I will forever sit at the sidelines of others’ chumpy lives and shriek “DON’T DO IT!” such is the shame I feel at my own stupidity.
Shame gets a bad rap. Oh it’s toxic, we should all silence shame. No, shame is just an internal warning sign that you’re not living authentically. It’s not dissimilar to anger, a warning sign that your boundaries are being violated. Shame says, “Yo, Janet — this pick me dance is not your best look.” We feel shame when we’ve let ourselves down. When we reached for the hopium pipe instead of believing in our agency.
If you want those icky shame feelings to go away, start ACTING like someone who values herself. Do the things you think mighty people do, even if you feel sick and scared inside. Keep being a great student, and a loving caretaker, invest in your relationships with people who truly care about you. Slog your way through the heart break. And one day (it’s a Tuesday), the pain stops.
Learning this at 24 is a great gift. You’ve got so many years to get it right! Stay mighty, Janet.