Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Dear Chump Lady, How do I get over the pick-me dance?

Dear Chump Lady,

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?

Janet

Dear Janet,

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.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Janet- I’m not much older than you are. CL is right about learning this early- because I had to deal with my nonsense in my early 20s as well, it meant that when my right one came along, I could say with confidence: “Yes this is who I am now and he’s the one I want to grow old with”

  • Live and Learn, Janet. It sounds like you are doing a good job of that.

    Almost everyone goes thru at least one experience like this with a turd. I went thru several myself. It’s not a reflection on you, at all.

    Your ex is going nowhere, as are any girls who cheat with him. One day you will look back and honestly be amazed that you saw anything in this loser creep.

    • I saw an internet inspiration meme type thing a few years ago “You live, you learn, you upgrade.” That is the truth! In a few years you’ll be doing so well you may actually glad he cheated on you. You would have settled for unemployed loser because you loved him but this way you got a chance to leave him guilt free and upgrade to the next wonderful person if you so choose.

    • I saw an internet inspiration meme type thing a few years ago “You live, you learn, you upgrade.” That is the truth! In a few years you’ll be doing so well you may actually glad he cheated on you. Out of love you would have settled for unemployed loser but this way you got a chance to leave him guilt free and upgrade to the next wonderful person. I wouldn’t be surprised if you are able to find a partner in the future who is a much better match for you and who will push you and challenge you professionally and personally to be the best you can be.

  • Janet, you can get rid of that whole letter except for one word, cocaine. It owns him now. That is what has his loyalty. He will surround himself with other drug users. That is his “girlfriend”.
    Cry over your lost dreams and then run like hell.

    • Cheating aside, an addict has only one love, and that is the love of his or her drug of choice. Even if he had not cheated on you with another person, his addiction precludes his ability to be in a loving relationship with you. His love is the love of getting high. Everything and everyone else is secondary to his addiction.

      • And after living through the helping him with his multiple addictions and him constantly going back to them I can say most of them fail at recovery I invested 7 long years be glad it’s over !

    • My thoughts exactly. As someone whose husband got addicted to pills, I can say with confidence that while cheating makes people absolute assholes, drugs turn them into absolute sociopathic assholes.

          • Yes!! Patsy! Home run! Lying and addiction just walk hand in hand. And sometimes, even if they get sober, they’ve spent their whole lives lying to get what they want, meh why change? It’s easier to lie than to work.

    • Please also consider the risk to you, the longer you stay with him. Drug addicts will do anything to get to the next high. I have a friend who just discovered her daughter is on heroin and stealing from her. She had to tell her own daughter to leave until she is willing to go to treatment. You don’t owe your ex even this much. Run like hell, and change the locks.

    • Amen Let Go!!!! YEEESSSSS….run like hell! I used to think the addictions were like the “other woman” in my former marriage. Took me a long time to realize that I had it backwards. I may have been his wife but he was really “married” to the addictions and I was just the side chick.

    • I’m going through this now! My husband and father to my 5 year old has been addicted to cocaine, pain killers drinking and smoking weed for the last year. He was/is cheating on me with a 25 year old junkie stripper (he’s 42). I wish I was making that up. He never treated me badly and always took care of us but as soon as he met this girl his whole personality changed. It’s so hard but I kicked him out and have someone talking for us and now am starting the process of divorce.

  • // , Well said, Chump Lady.

    To Janet, your audience is Chumps. They like long stories. No need to apologize for writing a novel.

    Also, given some of the other horror stories on this site, it sounds like you have demonstrated more than your fair share of mightiness, to the person whose knowledge of you matters most:

    your self

    The following advice, incidentally, is likely to go hand in hand with something Chump Lady calls “fixing your picker”:
    “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.”

    We have a responsibility to ourselves not to get involved with jerks. Women and men have different weak spots, in this regard, but I’d recommend reading a bit about the science of Chumptation: http://www.livescience.com/20294-women-choose-bad-boys.html

    • Yeah, well I picked the other one, the one that seemed gentle and kind, and he was still a narcissist who lied, cheated and took advantage of me for over 20 years.

      Oh, how I wish I had learned the lesson young, like Janet. As much as it sucks, she’ll be equipped to weed out the assholes and save herself from years of confusion, self doubt and misery.

      • Cheaters come in all kinds of surface characteristics–tall, short; broody, cheerful; critical, supportive. The trick, I suspect is to bail at the first significant indicator of danger–whether it is chronic lack of reciprocity, secretiveness, extreme shallowness, etc.

      • Same here, heard it all in the beginning, I’ll never hurt you,you are the one for me,I’ve been looking for you my whole life…I stayed in this country because of this narcissistic asshole,with NO family or friends.Took 14 years ,and him cheating for my eyes to open wide and realize ,this isn’t just your regular selfish man,this isn’t because he was mommas boy…he truly is horrible narcissist.Only god thing that came out of that marriage, is my beautiful 8 year old,who is unfortunately being put through his narcissistic hell on Earth. ..one day at a time,we will come out of this and be SO much better off…I’m already doing SO much better ,and the fucker can’t stand it. At 38 I still have plenty of time to find the “right person” …and honestly,I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life,than to deal with another entitled aashole.

  • Janet so glad you recognize your worth enough to feel bad now about the little bit of pick me dancing you did. Unfortunately I missed red flags galore and spent almost 20 years with a fuckwit. I tell myself, but he worked and was educated and made money. He really does love me and the kids underneath it all.

    But sadly he loves himself more. And if along comes a ho, well you know the rest.

    Believe that he sucks and always will. Believe he will chose himself and what he wants every time. Believe if you were married and had kids, there would be less kibbles for him and he’d only ramp it up. Believe you dodged a bullit. Believe you will recognize red flags in the future and will find someone that reciprocates.

  • Hey 2 months of spackling and hopium addiction is nothing! And thank God you’ve learned this at 24. Funny how we feel ashamed, really we were just trusting and loyal (if a little blind to the red flags).

  • Janet, I on the other hand, think pick me dancing has it’s purpose.

    Besides being a natural gut reaction from someone who values relationships, like many chumps do, the PMD can be part of the ultimate detachment and growth for the chump.
    Secondly, when I did the dance, I sincerely processed and apologized for what I found to be my portion of relationship failings – I did not know about OW, but I certainly had three decades of emotional baggage to shift through. PMD only was a few weeks, and those emails were hard to write, but at least I said them.

    Cheater took these pleadings like an entitled, selfish jerk, but that was ok – it was not his reaction that was important, it was that I processed and honestly put the things I could control better and didn’t out there. Nothing was left un addressed.

    Today, I have absolutely no regrets and nothing to feel bad about ending that relationship. Bittersweet, but I feel really good about how I left it. Like a grown up.

    • Magento, thanks for this perspective. I never thought about it quite like that before. I totally agree. During my short pick me dance, I took responsibility for my faults and failings (we all have them), and made efforts to change them. I think that’s what normal, unselfish adults who are capable of love and empathy do. Ex, who continued to see his whore and did NOTHING to change his failings, reacted with snark by saying, “I see the changes you’ve made, but now I can’t trust that this is the real you.” Really?!? Someone who has lied and deceived for 2 straight years is going to tell me that he can’t trust the positive changes I’ve made? What a mind-fucking load of shit. It was just a way for him to move the goal posts and prolong the game.

      This painful but necessary process showed me that there truly was nothing left to work with there, so I walked away with my dignity intact. I know I did what I could to fix our 20 year marriage. No regrets, no what-ifs.

      Hold your head high Janet. You are young and educated, and this terrible experience has made you wise beyond your years. Your kick-ass new life awaits!

      • Thank you, Dee
        Recovery is really is about not what people give you, but what you put out in the world.

        I don’t think anyone should blame themselves for going through this stage… can you imagine?
        “When I was a kid riding a bike, I wobbled and fell over SO MANY TIMES! What a embarrassment to the entire block I was!!”
        Heck no, we conceded it painful and frustrating, but part of learning.

        Just like pick me dancing. We all know that one day, chumps will get on that bike and peddle away, it takes time, experience and a will.

      • I’m pretty sure idiot cheater and your idiot cheater must’ve been reading the same book ? My idiot cheater had to fuck the whoremat because he “didn’t feel wanted anymore” and because I “didn’t love him that way anymore”. ILYBINILWY. My libido died a sad and slow death, possibly caused by the fact that for YEARS of our marriage he spent HOURS daily looking at porn right next to me on his phone and then when he couldn’t take it anymore he’d either go jerk off in the bathroom or turn to me and grab my boob to signal he wanted sex. I’m sorry I’m not a porn robot and that doesn’t turn me on. I got fat(ter) at the beginning of our marriage (as many people do when they are happy and comfortable with the one they love) and my body image took a big hit as well as libido with the weight gain and feeling rejected by my own husband who couldn’t even get it up for me and used me as a hole for his own gratification (that’s how it felt to me at least). When d-day came and he was so sad and rejected and it was all my fault he cheated ??? I took to heart all of the things he said and tried to make the changes he wanted. I had already started a self improvement regimen when I turned 30 and this just added to my feelings of wanting to be a better, more well rounded person (AND wife). Apparently all I needed was to know that he wanted me back when he was looking at porn (which is probably lies but lifted the weight of feeling unwanted) and I guess losing 20lbs through that never ending sick feeling of being betrayed has reignited my libido. It came roaring back with hysterical bonding and hasn’t gone away in 8 months after d-day even without anyone to focus it on. But “how do I know this is the real you? The new you that won’t change back?” Um, because people CAN change but people that DGAF and choose not to, don’t?! I’m not the liar and the cheater! ? Somehow I’m the one that isn’t trustworthy. I have also looked at all the accusations he put on me and made note of them and anything I can control I have made a conscious effort to change and that’s all I can do. Idiot cheater only had to SPEAK TO ME to get everything he ever wanted from me but instead he wallowed in his self pity CAUSED BY ME ? not wanting him caused by his love of porn and making ME feel unwanted and spent all his time boo hooing with the whoremat instead of trying to “fix his marriage” by whore fucking. It’s incredible that the whoremat had her own cheating asshole and that her marriage wasn’t “fixed” by his fucking whores either. So why would the whoremat offer to “fix” my marriage by offering to be the whore for the whore fucking? ? Something tells me that whore fucking is NOT the answer to “fixing” anything except a dearth of whore fucking ??‍♀️

    • Magneto,

      You are so right about the pick me dance being part of the process. I know that if I had not of gone through it, though I wish I could erase it in many ways, I may have very well been left with the regret of leaving him which I truly believe would have been worse for me in the long run. I was not mighty while I danced but I did do what I thought was best for us. When I left Turdd, it was the same thing, I did what I thought was best for us, my children and I. No regrets whatsoever aside from wishing I had of done it sooner! lol

    • Spot on Magneto, most of us who picked me danced genuinely tried to improve what we were doing wrong in the relationship. And during that time our efforts were dismissed and undermined by the cheaters and the APs in tandem. But we were doing our best and we’ve proved that we can and want to do our best. That’s the difference.
      So Janet, don’t feel bad about a few months of pick me dancing.
      This idiot doesn’t have the same values, he values drugs and whores. He can’t value an intelligent, caring woman who juggles studies and looking after her ailing dad. Think about it: intelligent, caring woman who is going places and cares for her ailing dad on one side of the scales; drugs, whores, jumping out of one job with no other lined up, unemployment, on the other. That’s the side the idiot chose.
      Thank goodness he showed you who he is before you wasted more years on him, and pat yourself on the back for seeing it after only a few years.
      You’re mighty!

    • Yes. I did 6 months of pick me because I didn’t understand until the ‘her or me’ ultimatum that he really wasn’t going to give up on the dream girl. That 6 months leaves me proud that I did my absolute damdest to save my 23 year marriage for us and for our kids, to the point of near breakdown even. I didn’t feel mighty about it at the time, and if we’d had less years together and no kids I hope I wouldn’t have done it at all, but the future I hoped for was worth it – that’s how I feel about it now and yes, I am mighty. good for you, Janet. xxx

    • Thank you! Magneto, I couldn’t agree more. In my case:. 5 months of extreme pick me dancing, kicked him out, then another 18 months of gradually diminishing pick me dancing (really more in the form of stating my terms for true reconciliation — he never accepted those). Divorced and completely NC now– 30 months after DDAY 1. 25 years and 4 kids invested– in so glad I truly tried EVERYTHING …. I now know that it wasn’t me, never was.

      Huge hugs to my sister/brother chumps–

    • Thank you Magneto, this is a great way to frame the PMD!

      I didn’t dance. The moment I found out about his affair, I knew it had been going on for over a year. In that instant, I understood that my marriage had been dead for at least that long…

      See, before we had gotten married, I had shared with him how painful it had been to have to end my previous 9-year relationship due to finding out that my then-ex chumping me. My future husband had empathized with me and had shared my pain, said how resilient I was, how much he admired my strength… We had all the grown up conversations needed to check on our values, align our goals, etc… So I married him, had a child with him… Only for him to chump me a decade later (that I know of). Upon stumbling on the evidence of his affair, all that was going in my mind was:

      “Who the hell does this? Not someone I want to be married to.”

      It’s been the toughest thing that I have done to move, file, and get over the buffet of shit sandwiches the divorce proceedings has been. It’s been even more painful having to deal with shared custody. Chumps are left with no good choices, only painful ones, but at least I had the option of divorcing him… The pain is finite, the reconstruction is a long road in shared custody situations…

      So Jane, as painful as your PMD felt, please don’t beat yourself up. It is super painful to get chumped, beyond painful. You will develop very useful skills of watching possible mates for what they do above what they say… Take all your time, feel the grief, the pain, the anger, the disappointment, the loss… You will be vulnerable as you recover, highly vulnerable as in narc bait, please be careful and stay on this site so you can gather more wisdom from CN and CL to help you as you extract wisdom from this painful chapter in your life…

      (((Janet)))

      • I refuse to feel shame about anything related to ex’s cheating. Even attempting reconciling, if you are married and sincere don’t feel bad about it. Marriage is one of the most important relationships you ever have, especially if you have children. So, unfortunately, you might stay too long but feeling bad about it isn’t really going to help anything.

        The ones who should feel all the shame are the whores, and I’m just not doing it.

  • Thanks for killing it again CL and clarifying shame and anger for me. I am accused of being angry in our 13 year relationship. I said it was a reaction to his shiftiness and yes boundary violation and lying makes me frankly pissed off, nope according to him I was an angry nasty person, no mention of provocation or self defence.
    And yo Janet, that made me laugh, you dodged a bullet, mine had drinking issues and it just adds another layer or selfishness to these people. I will not be dating anyone who has had addiction issues in the future, too hard , you can’t help or change them.
    Great things await you.

    • My cheater told me I had a “siege mentality” ( that I was constantly under seige) and he was right, i did… because i was.

  • Oh Janet… I was you. Almost exactly. First love, only man I’d been with, same age as you. The only difference being, I pick-me danced, spackled, etc., myself into a marriage with that guy. I gave him another 30 years of my life before I walked away. Don’t be me. Stay no contact. Trust that he sucks (he does). Believe in yourself and your entitlement to a love who is worthy of you (I didn’t). Go get that law degree (we have that in common too – it’s almost as hard as leaving a cheater but totally worth it) and continue to honor the sacrifices your parents made for you by living a happy, healthy cheater free life.

    • You and me, Beth. I danced and danced and danced… for YEARS. I do feel some shame … like I discovered a part of myself that was just butt-ass stupid. In reality though, he hid his cheating really well… I honestly didn’t know. I knew that he was a selfish ass, but i thought he was MY selfish ass. I was wrong

      • “I knew that he was a selfish ass, but i thought he was MY selfish ass. I was wrong”
        Sums it up perfectly for me too…

      • Whenever that shame thing rears it’s ugly head, I remind myself that the Edgar Suit fooled EVERYONE – my entire extended family, all of our friends, etc. It wasn’t just me. Not one person said to me, I think he might be a lying, cheating, stealing character disordered asshole. Everyone was shocked when I finally told them what was going on. And silly me, after the first time, which wasn’t “technically” cheating since he told me he wanted to date around (probably in hindsight before one of his roommates accidentally spilled the beans), I trusted him to be honest and faithful and didn’t see a single red flag until many, many years later. Like you and Kiwichump said, “I knew he was a selfish ass, but I thought he was MY selfish ass.” So I regularly give myself a pass on shame. I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. I can’t even regret staying with him all those years ago because I have my two children and they are worth every bit of pain he caused me. But for Janet? Cut and run sweetie. Cut and run.

        • Doing a chapter in my Masters thesis at present that includes the geographies of shame. And guilt. And the materialities of these. Really interesting to examine either ‘side’ of this. One of my research participants particularly, echoed the experience of my gay, cheater dad’s thing. She needed to leave an unfulfilling marriage (no cheating, she left because she knew she was done, did not line up a replacement, character right there) so she walked away, with four kids, from a lot of the material comforts in her Catholic-raised guilt and shame for leaving a ‘perfectly good’ (not for her) marriage and man. Her penance (in her mind at the time) was to lose the material comforts. My dad did something similar, leaving the greater portion to my mother when she kicked him out. These were not entitled narcs. Rather people who felt truly terrible. Shame. Guilt. Remorse.

          Also a lesson in the ‘quick’ divorce (not really possible in my country, with compulsory two year separation.) But they both got separation agreements locked down early. Which helps negate any change of heart with time, hindsight and a schmoopie in your ear!

          • That’s awful for the person left behind if they really loved the leaving spouse BUT that’s all they could do at that point. If your spouse is an addict or a dead beat or gay and only realizes later, etc I get that. Shit happens. All marriages aren’t meant to last.

            • Exactly, Shelby. In my research participant’s case, they worked hard to get through her unhappiness, and it didn’t work. So they had the discussion and she left.

              My dad grew up on an era and family where he was never made aware of any sexuality but straight! He realised at 38 that he was gay. No one ever suspected. More than 30 years after my parents divorced, he recently told me he self identifies as bi. However, the only woman he has been with was my mother. He did not deliberately use her as a beard. But he did not leave her before he started cheating. He knows that was shitty, but was is denial. Not that this absolved him from putting her physical and emotional health at risk.

  • Hi Janet,
    Please don’t feel bad. I put up with my future ex-husband being cruel to me for 3 years before I found the love letter to the other woman. I was going to confront him about his attitude, but that letter made things crystal clear. You and I fell victim to the sunk cost fallacy, I had been with mine 14 years when he started being nasty, but I had ignored many red flags about his selfish nature over the years.

    Last year, after we split, I had a brief liaison with a younger man. We stayed friends but he ended our friendship when I told him I didn’t want to discuss a topic he kept bringing up. Knowing your worth takes time. When people don’t respect your boundaries, let them go, whether you boot them, or they walk. I am getting great at saying no, establishing boundaries, and trusting my gut. You have a rich life ahead of you, put yourself first, leave him behind, literally and figuratively.

  • You are smart. You got out far more quickly than many of us. I pick me danced for 5 years after he cheated(the first time I caught him anyway, I don’t think a man decides to suddenly cheat after a 29 year marriage, but I digress). He was actually on his way out the door and I hesitated because of my daughter’s final university exams. Cue the world class hoovering including a trip to Central Park to renew our vows(gag!). Followed by 5 years of massive financial ($400000) and every other type of abuse. I would give so much to go back in time and kick his ass to the curb before I was put through that

  • I think most of us stayed and danced for at least a little while. There’s no shame in being a loving partner who tried their best to salvage a sinking relationship. While experience teaches me to stand steadfastly with Chump Lady and advise anyone who has suffered infidelity to GTFO, I also don’t entirely regret my attempts at reconciliation after D-day. I walked away with not a single “what if?”, not a doubt in my mind, and absolute clarity on what a fuckwit my ex is. You earned that clarity for yourself, too, and it’s not a bad thing.

    In the grand scheme, 2.5 months is not long. That’s about how long it took me to really wrap my head around things, too. It might seem like a long time now because you’re in the thick of things, but 5 years from now that period of time will be a blip. It probably won’t even be a painful blip, just an educational one. In fact, it’s probably among the most valuable education you’ll ever receive, so embrace it as an “I’ll never do THAT again” experience.

    Your job going forward is to stop beating yourself up for responding exactly the way most of us did, and start rebuilding your trust in your judgment. You do that by learning, applying what you’ve learned (there’s nothing quite like enforcing boundaries for the first time after having them trampled), and listening to yourself when something doesn’t feel right.

    Going forward, please start treating yourself with the respect and kindness you expected (and didn’t get) from your ex. Give yourself the compassion you deserve. Stop worrying about what you should have done (or not done) and keep your focus on knowing what to do next time someone pushes your personal boundaries.

    You’re going to be ok.

    • Agreed, Free Vix.

      I wish I didn’t suffer through 6 months of pick-me dancing. But, it wasn’t a waste. It showed (or rather, continued to show) just how committed I was to my wife, and how much sacrifice I was willing to make.

      But you can only sacrifice for so long before expecting something…anything…in return (such as your partner ending the affair). As CL says, that’s what adult relationships are.

      I’m 4 years out from frantically dancing, and those 6 months keep getting smaller and further in the rear view mirror.

      Isn’t there a fellow chump on here named TimeHeals? Damn straight.

  • I know with me, I had to hit rock bottom before I left. They say there are stages to grief…I think there are stages to being chumped also.
    Confusion (you haven’t confirmed any infidelity but you know “something is rotten in Denmark”), then comes the numb feeling when you first find out your relationship has been a lie, the bargaining (pick me dance) usually followed by euphoria “now I know what’s wrong and I can fix this”, denial (oh, I fixed everything it could never happen again), hyper-vigilance and suspicion where you track and attempt to verify everything they say and do, grief, anger, acceptance……..followed by more numbness, second guessing yourself, and finally Tuesday comes and you don’t give a flying crap anymore…..
    Consider yourself lucky. I danced for two years.

    • It is a process, and not an easy one. I compare it to experiencing a death because it is a death. It is not only the death of a relationship, it is also the death of a future. All of us, no matter the length of our marriages, had a vision for what we thought our life would be. That vision was destroyed by our cheater’s infidelity, and all our hopes and dreams for our relationship were destroyed with it.

      I am not so much interested in fixing my picker, because I have zero desire for any type of romantic relationship. What I have been working on is healing. I know the best thing for me is to spend time finding peace within myself. I’m not there yet, in part because of my particular life circumstances. But the fact that I know I deserve it is surely a sign I’m on the right track.

    • I’m one of those that hit rock bottom and refused to give up the pick me dancing until after he walked out.
      I’m not proud to admit that his last words to me as he walked out were “where’s your dignity?”
      X had robbed me of all my self worth with my approval of course, which included pick me dancing and spackling every shitty thing he did and said to me. I’m what I call a professional pick me dancer which is a degrading title to have. My stomach sinks as I’m writing this because I’m not very proud who I was.
      My advice to you is to stop, take a deep breath and really take a look at his behavior towards you and imagine someone you cared about was involved in a relationship like yours what advice would you give them? Keep in mind people like him NEVER magically change into a caring human being, the only change you will see in him is that he will become more selfish and cruel. Imagine your future if you were to stay with him and God forbid have children what kind of role model would he be? the answer to that is a very poor one. It’s one of my biggest regrets is having a child with my X.
      He’s made it clear how he feels about you, you’re not worth wasting a meal on…, Sadly, I would have spackled that remark to death, please don’t be me. No one deserves to be treated or talked about like that. You deserve much better. You’re young, eventually you will find someone who shares your values and life goals. Set boundaries of what is acceptable to you in a relationship and those things that aren’t and don’t compromise. Anything questionable or bordering on being unacceptable is unacceptable. Take your red flag moments seriously, you’re worth much more than a meal or a line of cocaine. He’s disgusting, someday you will look back and wonder what you were thinking. I promise.

  • “Slog your way through the heartbreak” CL nailed it ! 11 months after DDay , 6 months after decree absolute – I still feel the Shame of doing the pick me dance in the first couple of weeks. Cringe to recall my desperation . Shoulda just pointed at the door calmly and said “ok, U can leave and be with ur Twu wuw “. For all the difference it made and for increasing his scorn towards me . It hurts like hell no matter what and still feel sucker punched at random times , in random daily tasks etc. Betrayal’s servant is a nasty bitch at times . But we chumps have yo plough ahead . Slog thru the heartbreak. Been no contact for 6 months except absolutely necessary on access for the kids . Slogging towards meh ….

  • For me, the pick me dance only lasted a few months until the initial shock of discovery wore off. Then I decided that no, HE should be the one busting his ass to convince me that he deserved a second chance. So I laid out my expectations and told the POS to start dancing or GTFO. After a few more months, I realized that I was just waiting for him to mess up so I could dump him and be done. Right after that, he blew it and I dumped him and went total no contact. If I had to do it again, I’d have dumped him from the start. But I’ll admit and own that it felt good to lay the law down and watch him squirm and grovel. For a while at least then I just wanted him out of my life.

  • I too got the “how can you work when I’m unemployed” line. “I had to cheat because you worked all day to support me.” It doesn’t get more irrational than that.

  • I think that the way we chumps approach marriage – give all, forgive everything – is a powerful instinct that makes proper marriages work. Few people would ever get married without such an instinct. It’s when our “give everything, forgive everything” behavior is one-sided that it becomes abusive and ridiculous.

    • “give everything, forgive everything”. That was me from start to finish. STBX started out with give everything then it went to resent everything given, stop giving and forgive nothing.

  • I think part of the humiliation of being chumped is allowing ourselves to feel foolish about who we are I.e. Caring, loving, trusting, etc. It’s kind of like we jump on the blame band-wagon and ask ourselves “how could I have been so stupid?” Blaming ourselves for our own human qualities and for hoping for reciprocal love. I think it’s too easy to devalue ourselves for loving, trusting, hoping and caring. I think self-forgiveness for pick me dancing is saying,

    “Yes, I did this because I am a good person and I was expecting the same from a cheater. It was these admirable qualities that stopped me from seeing who this person really was; next time I will not attribute my good qualities to people that do not demonstrate them.” I think we need to proudly own our good qualities instead of devaluing ourselves for them because fuckwits took advantage of them. In the words of CL… “cheaters cheat, because that’s what they do”

    • Yes. I picked me danced because I cared about salvaging our marriage. It didn’t work because he didn’t care about me or keeping our family together. He is a selfish idiot asshole, I’m not. End of story.

      Same for all of us chumps.

    • Having admiral qualities is one thing…..letting someone shit on you time and time again is another….it’s called to thy own self be true……dont lie to yourself………everyone know when someone is out of line…………I’ve never gotten how people could make excuses for people over and over and over again……….no one can love and admire anyone they dont respect………relax I’m not excusing losers mentally ill whack job nac sociopaths behavior…BUT…. OWN IT …dont let anyone shit on you…….yes I know what it’s like to be cheated on I get it…..but I had rage NO understanding I punched him in the face …gave him three tries to tell the truth NO not 3 ddays …one and all in one conversation gave him 3 chances to come clean….three strikes YOUR OUT punched him in the face…..he’s lucky that was all I did………….u know what’s so funny I know someone now who has cheated there whole like on there wife she filed for divorce…but I know stuff on this person that could wreck his job…..and his life…they’re SOOOOOO STUUUUUPID…in the end they wind up FUCKING THEMSELVES THE MOST….it’s soooo funny….dumb bastards

    • Yes, Got-a-brain, we assumed they had the same feelings as we do, sensitive, caring, considerate, loving.
      We believe they’re a good person, honest, reliable and have the same values as we do. X had me convinced he was like me. X was constantly comparing himself to others claiming he was so much more honest and had so much more integrity than everyone else. That should have been a warning to me, honest people don’t feel the need to constantly remind you or themselves. A neighbor of ours told us they had taken a towel from a hotel room. Afterwards, when we got home X went on a tangent about how wrong stealing towels from a hotel room is, he would never do such a thing, that he’s a man of integrity blah, blah, blah. I remember thinking he was over reacting, we all know it’s not the right thing to do. It’s too bad he didn’t feel as strongly about marriage vows and infidelity. We can’t blame ourselves for trusting. They have no shame. X is the most dishonest and dishonorable person I’ve ever known.

  • Janet, you are sooooo lucky. You are soooo smart. You will be fine.

    I would make an I.Q. test that consists of putting a blank line to what fellow chump Kimhopes just wrote here: “You and I fell victim to the sunk cost fallacy, I had been with mine _____ years when he started being nasty, but I had ignored many red flags about his selfish nature over the years.”

    The lower the number that fills in the blank, the smarter the chump. You are a genius. My test answer is 65, 40 years of marriage and at least 39 of red flags, pick me dances, confusing blameshifting. Talk of shame and feeling humiliated…

    BUT: Chump Lady is so insightful about what drives us chumps: “Hopium gives you the false “courage” to stay. Mightiness is having the self-worth to leave because you deserve better. …. Hopium lies and says you can control these outcomes. Mightiness knows the only thing you control is yourself.”
    That is what I am doing now, busy being mighty, and it feels so good. The shadow of shame is getting smaller and smaller.

    Good luck Janet. You will be fine because you are an honest and smart and fair woman.

  • Janet, First, so sorry that you’re going through this. Doesn’t feel “lucky” at all.. but, it is a lucky break that you are learning about these type of people in your 20’s.

    Second, so it took 2.5 months for you to find your feet and start moving. That already happened and is also in the past. Don’t let another 2.5 months pass while you’re still stuck in the memory of the mess. Don’t allow him or your own regrets steal any more time. I spent far too long beating myself up long after I’d left my relationship with my x.

    If I can suggest – Today, take some time to really sit in appreciation with the experience of all that you went through with him, the reasons that you stayed for 2 months, and what strengths began lighting up for you which caused you to finally walk away – and then choose to put it all in the “learned experiences” folder and move into new thoughts about yourself.

    Let him be part of your past learning experience – and let yourself move into your new and mighty self. Your whole life is waiting for you to stop kicking yourself into the past, yk?

    Wishing you and your family the best life!

  • I think you are doing a great job, Janet. You’ve got a future planned for yourself, and you figured out that it cannot include him after only 2.5 months.

    When he first “admitted” things to you, he lied. He minimized everything. Forgiving him and extending a second chance to him a chance made sense because you would want that same grace extended toward you if you made a mistake and confessed it. Your reaction was not shameful–it was a reflection of your generosity and compassion. Eventually, you learned that he was lying and that your compassion was misplaced, and then you felt ashamed that you had believed a liar—and that shame and anger led you to a smart next step. This is not a poor reflection on your character. It shows you being gracious and learning and changing and getting better at taking care of yourself. The fact that you’ve managed to make so much progress in a few months is terrific.

    Don’t feel badly that you made a mistake. Feel proud that you responded so astutely once you figured out you were mistaken.

    I hope those education programs you are embarking on are filled with fine new friends who deserve you!

  • Janet, let’s just pretend that the pick me dance was a big hit and the two of you got back together…

    How easy do you think it would be to focus on your future goals knowing that you have to keep one eye (probably need both) on cheater/drug addict while caring for your dad?

    While continuing with your education?
    While getting into the job force?
    While spending time in faux counseling trying to save him?
    While being pregnant?
    While raising your children?
    When you want some time with your friends?
    When you want to spend the day shopping?
    When you want to take an overnight trip and he doesn’t?
    While making sure he gets to work on time…if he chooses to work?
    When paying all the bills and checking where all the money is disappearing to?
    When credit cards start racking up to astronomical heights?
    When trying to keep his drugs and other women away from your children?
    After the divorce, trying to keep your children safe from him while he circles the drain?

    THIS is what you just saved your life from. Price? 2.5 months of pick me dance. That’s a bargain I’d say. Well done, go and dance no more.

    • Good points. It is hard to look ahead when you see all your dreams shattered. But when i was at thst point i saw the post wedding slack behaviour and my instinct was to just push on and do more. He used to sit in bed and watch cartoons till lunch time at the weekend while i did the household DIY. then it was time to put his back out which meant i literally had to do all the heavy lifting plus ft job. Then pregnant and its double time on everything + the nagging feeling you get that hes not ‘number one’ . Spend the next 20+ years looking after everything and he leaves on cue of kids all grown up. All the hard work done hes off for his chapter 2 in life ( actually said chapter 2) what follows is a shit storm of blame on me and how he was going yo kill himself if he hadnt made the get away. Not to mention financial armageddon and its all very hard 3 teens devasted and zero finance. So i dont want to say get away and dont think twice. …but actually dont think twice and dont look back. ..hard but youth is on your side. ?

  • 2.5 months of pick me dancing – you are MIGHTY.

    I realized I was a chump in 2009, after six years and a son together, and I stayed until HE LEFT ME 5 years later… and I still picked me danced for almost 12 months.

    You’ve got this.

    Trust that he sucks. Trust that you don’t.

    And, I liked what Magneto said about the pick me dance – to some degree, it did help me realize what an amazing, loving person I am… and he didn’t value a woman like me. HIS LOSS.

    Stop looking in the rearview mirror at the road kill behind you. You’ve got a bright future ahead.

  • Putting aside people who stay at home with the kids or an ailing family member or who are themselves disabled, if your partner WON”T work, that’s a huge red flag, as is not pitching in when their partner’s family member is ill. Janet gives leaving the job as the first step, but it’s just as likely that her ex was already involved in drugs and other shady stuff that makes holding a job inconvenient. He had Janet to pay for the dinner party she wasn’t invited to and the “hit of cocaine” that omitting her would buy. He had Janet to pay for the roof over his head and the food he ate and the phone he used to set up his activities. So he was a user long before he took up with an OW. Janet, you say, “I wanted to give us a future.” But in a marriage, it takes two people working together to make a future. So fixing your picker starts with finding someone who takes up his share of responsibility, and not just for holding a job but also for the tough jobs of raising kids and caring for ailing parents.

    Janet, you are already mighty. You are building a secure professional life. You are talking care of the people you love who can’t care for themselves. And you left after only 2.5 months. Put your learning abilities to work looking at where the red flags were that should have indicated it was time to pull back and evaluate what was going on between you. Essentially, you chose this loser when you were still young and unformed. You fell in love and neither of you were the adults you were going to be. So the major misstep here was young “love” that didn’t survive the transition to adulthood, in spite of getting married. (Been there, done that, by the way).

    So get to know who you are as an adult and what, from that adult perspective, you value in a partner. As the daughter of immigrants, you are likely still to deeply value your ties to previous generations and your obligations there. Fixing your picker will involve learning to identify a potential partner who shares that outlook. If your ex had helped with your father, the experience could have deepened, not weakened your connection to each other. Learn who you are, what your deal breakers are, where your boundaries need to be. You have your whole adult life ahead of you. Take a couple of years to focus on finishing your education and practice evaluating people based on what they do, how they approach adult life.

  • Hello fellow Chumps!

    Janet here. Thank you so much, everyone. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you. Every single one of you. It’s so crazy how alike we are… and how alike the cheaters are, too.

    It’s hard, but even now things are better. I feel lonely after spending so long with him, but it’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can do all of the things I need to do with my life (research, write, volunteer, take care of my dad, enjoy myself…) without having to worry about him. God, policing someone is exhausting.

    Thanks again for all of the supportive comments! I know I’ve made the right choice 🙂

    – Janet

    • Yay, Janet! Go for it!

      My BF of 4 years cheated on me when I was 21, was with the OW for 7 months, then returned and hoovered me into marrying him because I couldn’t imagine life without him. 2 kids and 29 years later, turns out that OW continued all along as part of his secret life. They are together now, I divorced him, and started a new life thousands of miles from them.

      It’s never too late to start over, and the delights that freedom brings are not to be missed. I travel the world, and don’t take any crap from anyone now. Never been happier. You will be happy too.

  • Janet,

    Your case represents one of the most extreme differences in persons. You, daughter of immigrants, college graduate, getting MSc and then going to Law school, caring for your ailing father (repaying his sacrifices, sort of, but you’d care for him regardless, because that’s who you are). Him, blame shifting irresponsible drug addicted cheater who will act out if you have anything else in your life besides him (like school, your family, etc.) You are SO much better off without him. But you know that now.

    ‘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.’

    At this point, that feeling is natural, but here’s the deeper truth. You stayed because you’re a genuine person. Genuine people don’t just turn love on and off like a bathroom faucet. Even though he did things that were unworthy of your love, that emotion was still in you, for him. On the other hand, narcissists don’t really feel love the same way (except for themselves), so it’s easy for them to hop from one partner to another, try recreational drugs without remorse or worry, and so forth. You stayed because you’re fundamentally human, and he strayed because he’s fundamentally flawed. You shouldn’t be embarrassed that you did the PMD, you should understand that you did it because you’re a good person, that you wanted to save what you thought you had. But over time (a short 2.5 months) you realized that he was not a good person, and committed to move on.

    As Magneto said above, you probably needed that time to let his badness sink in, to help you get out of love with him. And you took it, and then found your Mighty, and went N/C. If you view that as a lapse on your part, forgive yourself of that lapse – you’ve been emotionally beat up enough already, and shouldn’t add to it yourself.

    Over time, hopefully you can think of this as a growing experience. A painful one, but if you learn the lessons from this relationship, you will be in a position to set yourself up for a much happier life, with a partner who is, like you, near the top of the heap of humanity, and not near the bottom like your ex. Hopefully, twenty years from now, you will be thanking the powers that be for letting you learn this lesson now, and teaching you what you needed to know to find the wonderful person you’re with and build your amazing life together.

    Hugs. Strength. Peace.
    aeronaut

    • And as Magneto will add….

      Two years post bomb drop, no contact on both parts… XH sent a two sentence email on Valentine’s Day – just to see if the “ole charm” still worked on Magneto.

      No reply. Two days later he sent another request to meet, to exchange one poop shoveling boots of all things, and imagine his response when he got the 7 word email I sent…

      “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

      I didn’t have to ignore, I didn’t have to be catty, outraged or desperate. I just didn’t think it was a good idea. Still don’t. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when he realized I was done.

  • I’m not a big fan of shame as an ongoing thing. In the short term, sure. Like guilt, anger, or fear, it’s a useful reaction to tend to and act upon, and we ignore it (in favor of spackling, usually, sigh) at our peril. But I see quite a few chumps here who get completely mired in the shame, and that’s no good. That’s taking on far too much blame, totally inappropriately, and getting stuck forever in the cheater’s narrative. No good! Gosh, yes, it is embarrassing as hell to ponder what a completely sappy and hopeful person I was, believing or wanting to believe multitudes of lies long after dday. However, I’m starting to be able to look back on poor sappy me not only with compassion, but with some humor. Look, most of us were operating without all of the available data. Lacking that, and functioning from a place of love, commitment, ethics, and faith, we did what we thought was right and best under the circumstances, and we often did what we had to do to survive. Now, we can look back, knowing a whole lot more (though likely still not all, since the lies are infinite), cringe, and think of all the things we could have or should have done differently. But there is no going back. Every single time we look back, there the cheater will be doing cheatery things, and there we will be doing chumpy things. Nothing changes that. So, now I think it is best to look upon the past and think, “Oh, you poor, sweet, misguided little chump. You did your best, never knowing it was doomed from the start, but also, you survived.” Way better than writhing in shame over what was done under duress and out of good motives, and cannot be changed, in any case. Now, when I think of all of the times he was off bedding some AP or another while I was at home sweating bullets over some insignificant thing that might, egads, displease him, I do still cringe a bit, but I have to laugh, too. Yeah, right. I was the problem. I mean, a weed in the mulch or my car parked a few degrees off of perfect alignment in the garage? Those are real problems. Amazing he withstood them for so many torturous years, poor fragile thing.

    • My ex was OCD too. My ‘clutter’ sent him over the edge. With kids there was always a small stack of papers and to do items on the kitchen counter. Drove the asshat nuts. Funny thing was, when we would have visitors I would be asked if we were getting ready to sell our house as our house was always so neat, tidy, and clean. Hard to keep this up with working full time, doing all the cooking, cleaning, appointments, chores, shopping. It was never enough for him. Hopefully Schmoopie can keep up. Being half his age and no kids (mine don’t want to spend time there and my son does all the housecleaning for asshat), it’s probaly not reared it’s ugly head yet for the special snowflake.

  • Janet, you are so mighty. Good for you for leaving so quickly. And law school is going to be an absolutely amazing experience. Trust me. I had just gotten out of a 6 year relationship – and a broken engagement – when I went to law school and I absolutely threw myself into the experience. It was honestly some of the best, and most fun, years of my life.

    I pick-me-danced for 2 weeks after discovering my ex-husband’s affair and took so much blame for his affair. It’s the one thing I wish I could go back and change. Because I really think that now he believes that his behavior was absolutely justified. I so much hate everything I told him during that time. I try to forgive myself because I had a 5 year old (at the time) and I was trying to keep her family intact. I realize now that I was so very dumb. And I know that I can’t go back and change anything. But I do regret trying to absolve him of his actions. I really want to just let him have it and unequivocally take back every single thing I said. I know I can’t (and shouldn’t!) but every now and then, I slip in a snide comment here and there just to remind him that he is, in fact, an admitted liar and cheater. Not very mature, I know.

  • Even if he had not cheated with another woman, anyone doing cocaine is already in a relationship. With cocaine. They are not available to be your partner. They are checked out of life.

    If he continues using cocaine, he will start smoking it. Unless you have access to huge amounts of cash, no one keeps snorting cocaine. Too expensive. They start smoking crack. It is cheap, everywhere and immediately addictive. And once they start smoking crack- it is prison or death if they don’t stop. Or simply graduate to meth. Bye Bye teeth! And if you are riding in a car with him, are pulled and he has dope on him? Bye Bye law school.

    I know you want to focus on the OW. Don’t. She is fungible. Addicts fuck around like cockroaches seek out filth. The issue is not the fidelity. It is the addiction.

    You can’t imagine the hell house that awaits you being shackled to an active addict. Threats for money, non stop cheating, beatings, constant unemployment, sketchy freaks showing up at 3AM, beloved jewelry disappearing, lack of sex drive or filthy perverted sexual requests, failing health and rages. Sound fun? Like your dream life?

    Believe me- the Universe has done you a solid. I PROMISE.

    This helped me so much. Print it out!

    What Addicts Do

    My name’s Jon. I’m an addict. And this is what addicts do. You cannot nor will not change my behavior. You cannot make me treat you better, let alone with any respect.

    All I care about, all I think about, is my needs and how to go about fulfilling them. You are a tool to me, something to use. When I say I love you I am lying through my teeth, because love is impossible for someone in active addiction. I wouldn’t be using if I loved myself, and since I don’t, I cannot love you.

    My feelings are so pushed down and numbed by my drugs that I could be considered sociopathic. I have no empathy for you or anyone else. It doesn’t faze me that I hurt you, leave you hungry, lie to you, cheat on you and steal from you.

    My behavior cannot and will not change until I make a decision to stop using/drinking and then follow it up with a plan of action.

    And until I make that decision, I will hurt you again and again and again.

    Stop being surprised.

    I am an addict. And that’s what addicts do.

    -An Addict

  • Ahhh, the Pick Me Dance, memories of which are hauntingly familiar!

    The pain is often next in line to DDay Pain.

    I liken it to being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool, with chains and balls tied around the ankles, hands are free to flap around, and struggle to keep the neck arched, the face above the water, to gulp in enough air to keep breathing.
    One has to keep breathing, to keep the love, to keep the hope, alive!

    Sigh….”May I have this dance?”
    No thank you.

    Not too late for you Janet,
    YOU are mighty!
    I am so happy you found CL, CN!
    (((Hugs to you)))

  • UGH. That whole “shame is a sign you are not living authentically” stuff is such a huge trigger for me. Most of my husband’s emails with the OW contained variation on that. Any time they started feeling shameful about what they were doing, they reminded themselves that shame was this toxic soup of other people’s expectations, and they should not be ashamed of their relationship. (Of course they were not NOT ashamed enough to tell her husband and me what they were up to, but once we did find out, they used their insistence that they were not ashamed to keep hurting us and blatantly acting out their ludicrous lovey-dovey “platonic love story” RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.

    The New Age cheaters twist words so they don’t have any meaning anymore.

    • Look, shame is also SHAME — you’re doing something WRONG. But disordered people, IMO, don’t feel it. (The empathy synapses don’t fire. It doesn’t hurt them to hurt other people.) Chumps feel shame, and because of that we’re easily manipulated — which is why the mindfuck of “you’re not forgiving enough” or “you’re selfish” or “you’re not trying hard enough” tends to work. We question and doubt and feel bad.

      If we listened to our gut, we’d do better. When someone tries to shame you in a blameshifting way (I cheated because you’re X…) — it makes you ANGRY. Then comes shame and confusion. (Maybe i’m not perfect maybe I deserve this…)

      The shame I’m talking about is knowing deep down that you deserve better, and that this person is being abusive, but behaving in ways that are undignified — begging your abuser, demanding explanations from your abuser, trying to get your abuser to love you.

      Yes, that is NOT living authentically. It’s putting spackle — a fake veneer — on something we KNOW to be wrong. (Their cheating, lying, and generally atrocious behavior towards us.) Spackle is making excuses for them. And making excuses for ourselves.

      Cheater “authenticity” is genuine imitation naugahyde truth. Just like their remorse.

      • Yup, trick is to face it, learn the painful lessons, and move on. Shame is one stop on this path, but not the place to stake a claim and try to live forever.

    • I feel your pain, bluebell. The one I will never forget is my cheater telling me:

      “Oh no, OW was very clear about that. OW said ‘You wouldn’t be leaving Chump for ME, you’d be leaving for your own personal growth and development!” His “development” as a person naturally imbued with guru-level “energy” and near supernatural empathy, only held back from his destiny by … me.

      Right.

      Which line he parroted ever after.

    • I like Elspeth Probyn’s work on shame – and guilt – I think cheaters tend to – MAYBE, some of them – feel the ‘guilt’ part, but not really the ‘shame’, a la:

      “While both guilt and shame are excited by what others think of us, shame goes further. Shame is deeply related not only to how others think about us but also to how we think about ourselves. Guilt is triggered in response to specific acts and can be smoothed away by an act of reparation. Shame, however, demands “a global [re]evaluation of the self.” (From Probyn’s 2005 book, Blush.)

      Chumps want to reevaluate their ‘part’ in the mess, Cheaters just want it to all go away – hence the often brief words (rarely, acts) of contrition, but now real evaluation. They don’t feel shame in the same way we do, just the guilt of being caught!

      I agree 1000% with Tracy here, the shame I (still) feel at staying with a cheater for so long, is sometimes debilitating. I had constructed my identity as mighty, and staying was not mighty! The other side of things was that I am also a very loving person, and I did have a VERY remorseful cheater, who I know is gutted at his actions – so I felt that maybe we had something to work with. In the end, my shame at my (perceived?) lack of mightiness was a huge factor in me needing to leave, eventually.

  • Janet, 2.5 months is nothing. It took that long for me to finally get the truth about whose panties I found on my closet floor. First ex claimed he’d only had a single one night stand, even though I had strong suspicions about his howorker. Only after I found more evidence, (including pictures from howorkers FB page prominently featuring the view from his very secluded cabin in alaska) did he finally admit that yes, it was the howorker, and that they had been sleeping together for 6 months. Turned out it was more like 18 months (thanks howorker for calling me to enlighten me!). Even then I continued the pick me dance for another 5 months. My point is, it can be nearly impossible to make the bold move of kicking him out immediately when A) you’ve been absolutely emotionally gutted (scientists say that the physiological reaction a human has when they discover a partner’s infidelity is the same as that of a baby animal who has lost its mother and thinks it’s going to die) and B) you don’t actually know exactly what you’re dealing with because the cheaters NEVER tell the full truth. EVER.
    Also, you’ve been living with this idea of who you thought they were. The affair(s) and other bad behavior strike you as so out of character, so contrary to WHO THEY ARE, it is easy to convince yourself that if only you could talk, shake, punch some sense into them, they’d realize the error of their ways and go back to being their true selves. When the truth is, that good man, that loving partner, the one who had your back who would NEVER EVER treat you like this – that is the lie. That is the mask. The cheater, the liar, the selfish user… that is who they really are. And it can take awhile to really accept that, and accept that the person you fell so hard for and did your best to love and care for was a complete fraud of a human being.
    Stay strong Janet – you are building an amazing life for yourself. And one day, if you decide you want it, you will find a wonderful partner to contribute to your already amazing life.

  • OMG, only 2.5 months, you’re truly mighty. Lady I wish I’d only pick me dance for such a ridiculously short amount of time. I danced for years in a shitty marriage. I didn’t know he was having an affair, but the dance was still no less humiliating. To me credit, I stopped dancing the day I found out about Shrek, but I stuck around for another 2 months listening to well intentioned folks telling me not to be too rash in filing. We all go through the shame, even if it’s a short time dancing like you. CL is dead on the money. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, reflect on what you could have done better (i.e. learn what the red flags look like), and keep stepping forward.
    Right now you’re feeling the hit to your self esteem and you’re hurting, but soon, you will realize just how short 2.5 months are and see for yourself how mighty it is that you cut loose so quickly.
    You are young, smart, educated, and fierce. Those are some amazing qualities that a real man one day will admire about you. Forgive yourself, you were just trying to save something you thought had value. It’s human. Learn, so that if there is a next time, you’ll drop a jerk in a second flat.
    My gage for red flags now is this, if I find myself in a relationship with someone (and it doesn’t have to be an intimate, love relationship either, friends and family are included), and they say things or do things to me that I would never do to them, it’s time to bounce!

  • You didn’t know. Now you know.

    Can’t fault you for trying–really. You didn’t know.

    Now? So young and so wise. You’re my kids’ age. I’m impressed with your drive and your heart and your brain. You have SO got this, chica. You’re going places. Mourn your loss–you have loved nobly. THAT says good things about you. I’m sorry that the young male you loved doesn’t have the character that he needs to keep up with you. You WILL find a good man who does, who will appreciate and admire and respect you for what and who you are. He’s out there. Your ex just made way for him.

    Hugs, young lady! After reading your letter I’d say you’re in a really good position with excellent insight. The pain will lessen, but will leave you with a valuable lesson.

  • Janet, big hugs to you. In time this awful pain will decrease and you will feel happy and relieved, yes RELIEVED that this asshole is no longer in your life. It takes time and you are a smart woman with values, compassion – YOU will be just fine. Find a good life partner who would never dream of doing this, that has compassion, that has empathy and loyalty.

    I was married for 20 plus years but the warning signs were there from the start. He lacked empathy and reciprocity. He liked control and enjoyed power imbalances. He picked away at vulnerabilities and made them worse. He wanted to be a “Knight in Shining Armour” for women but was a menace. It took time for this to unravel and for me to see his true colours but it was there all along. Once his cheating was revealed I kicked him to the curb and got the hell out. It was still difficult to leave but day by day I did it. You can too. One day at a time, focusing on the life you want for yourself.

    Now I am so so glad he’s gone. He doesn’t ruin holidays, or family events. There’s no more pussy footing around his drinking and lousy friends. I don’t miss his grumpy workaholic joyless ass. We plan fun holidays, we go to festivals, we have a nice peaceful home, we have freedom from his abusive behaviour. Honestly, that I put up with that shit as long as I did is something I still work on forgiving myself for, but alas, I’m a chump and I believe in people. However, I’m here to tell you that some people are just negative energy suckers and your life will be so much better without them in it. Be smart and move away from this loser as much as you possibly can, no contact, no nothing – a good life is there for you, work for it and best to you as you heal.

  • The pick me dance is really humiliating, but damn girl, 2.5 months is amazingly mighty (in my opinion). I did it for 3 years. I spackled over his poor, POOR character the minute I started dating him and that was 12 years ago. Janet, you’re going places! You sound like you are doing great things – going to school, taking care of a sick parent, etc. These characteristics sound like a loving and intelligent human being. Like CL says a lot – your stock will trade high.

    Personally, I feel that one of the most curious things that happens in the wake of finding out that your significant other is having an affair is that you still love them after you find out about it. It is such a weird phenomenon and it drives you to do crazy things (like pick me dance). When I was younger, before I married my X, I remember thinking that I would NEVER stand for such behavior. Low and behold, not only did I stand for it, I enabled it because I allowed him to treat me like garbage for so long. I continued to allow my X to treat me poorly AFTER I found out about the affair. I felt the deep sting of humiliation for a long time, but I’m not going to let that get me down. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    Best wishes Janet – you got this!

    • it is truly weird that we accept their cheating, pick-me, and somehow hold our selves responsible for THEIR POOR CHOICES.
      I actually felt sorry for my STBX upon discovery — I realized it explained his horrible treatment and detachment as h’ed been living a double life with a 28-year old ho-worker (hes 55) for nearly two years.
      Why I didn’t feel sorry for me, is something I have had to work on.
      I was all about fixing him, instead of heading for safety myself.
      They say your fear of change makes you accept the unacceptable….after 30 years married, 35 together, I guess I was suffering from a severe case of hopium

  • As the others have observed, so many of us danced for so long, and after many years of marriage and children. I was married eight years, two young children, and I danced desperately for eight months. That was eight months of living death. You are heroic, strong, and damned lucky to have dodged this bullet at such a young age and without children. If you are not hurting now, then you would not be the loving, sensitive person that you are. And your qualities will be a gift to the right man who will reciprocate and whom you will meet some day. And you will look back on this chapter as it fades into the past with a “Whew!”

    You will be Ok 🙂

  • OMG! I always learn something here.

    I’ve been stuck with sharing a life with this asshole for 30 years … then I read this in the very first part ~ coming here today…

    …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…

    I’ll say it again! OMG! DON’T MISTAKE SHARED HISTORY WITH SHARED VALUES…

    That’s pure gold.

    Thanks!

    • That was also my take way line that I’m sure I’ll be using the next time someone has a ridiculous conversation with me.

      CL is an ORACLE.

  • So lucky to be learning @24 to “trust that he sucks.”
    Many of us at Chump Nation were just learning to professionally spackle at your age… e.g. cover up selfish spouse actions with all kinds of rationalizations….and losing our selves in the process/
    You are lucky.
    Move on.

  • “Ladies,ya’ll wanna know what will keep a man faithful ? Himself, it ain’t got sh*t to do with you” Eddie Griffin

    Werd !

    p.s. Applies to any gender

  • I used to date a guy that was into cocaine, mild but probably a growing habit. I was Devastated when I found out he was back with his former girlfriend again. I saw him years later in a crowd—oh my God he looked like half of his mind had left him, it was very disturbing. I often think of the my lack of any thought or feeling for him when I think of how I would like to feel about my Cheater years from now. (Except I don’t want cheater to destroy himself since he is my son’s Dad)

  • “”Don’t mistake shared history with shared values.””

    LOVE THIS LINE!! Wow did this resonate..thank you CL.

  • Yes we all made use of hopium..The cheap endorphin hits which came from the sparse kibbles sent our way. The guy I was married to always used the ” I” . “When I retire “I” want to move to the west coast” for example. When socializing with our friends while I was sitting right next to him. I recall one couple looking at me rather perplexed and the woman asking pointedly ” Are you not retiring as well? ” But when the “WE” was dished out to me, oh boy, it felt so good, how valued was that “we”, so rare, special as solid gold.

    Solid gold indeed!

    Solid golds do not leave and abandon their family anymore than solid golds can be found in nickel and dime stores. In fact it is absolutely impossible to sway a solid gold from his devotion to his mate, to his children, to his family life. If you succeed in poaching one, sorry Hun, what you get is not solid gold. Not even 10 karat. Therefore what are these people?

    Guard dogs ( as a family person is in term of protection and care) who can be enticed with steaks. Now the poacher knows only too well that her/his guard dog was enticed with steak. A savvy poacher will keep that in mind and never fully trust poached that one guard dog. That one guard dog looks like a guard dog, acts like a guard dog but that one guard dog is a guard dog which can be poached with steak. Period. A stupid poacher will think that she/he is such a great and tres beaucoup better owner that of course that one guard dog was the smartest dog in the world when by opting to follow her/him. Still that one guard dog was therefore can be enticed by steak. That one guard dog will be always be a guard dog who followed steak. Thus that one guard dog will never be a good guard dog, either to his past owner, his current poacher and his subsequent owners. Furthermore if poacher keeps feeding steak as poacher knows deep down must be done to keep that one guard dog happy by poacher’s side, that one guard dog will retain from this situation that steaks can be had if one keeps sniffing around for goodies. The winner? Not the poacher, not the subsequent owners but the past owner who simply got a bad dog off her/his shoulders. Thus saving wallop of kibble money for retirement on the west coast.

  • >