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Dear Chump Lady, Do they turn bad or were they always bad?

Dear Chump Lady,

It’s been almost 10 months since D-Day. Things are slowly but surely getting better for me after finding out that my tramp of an ex had been cheating on me for the past 10 years or so. It was a tremendous blow to my heart and ego, but I’m starting to realize that I’m glad I finally found out rather then having to live with my suspicions for the rest of my life. The only time I feel really angry about the situation is when I have to look at her during the court proceedings and having to fathom the thought of giving her things that she doesn’t deserve.

I did not know anything at all about her before we met and got married. But I saw her as a good person who worked hard, was a good mother, and was really a good wife. We had our issues like any young couple experiences during the first years of marriage, but nothing that damaged our relationship. But after our first daughter started school (10 years into our relationship) and my STBXW met other mothers (lowlifes who liked to party) through play dates; getting attention from other men (boob job) and forgetting her responsibilities as a mother and wife; I saw the person I loved turn into some one that destroyed our family. She turned into a “me and I” person and forgot about the family and its needs.

So what I’m basically asking you is: “Was she a bad person who put on a charade when she met me, but ultimately changed back into the person she really is? Or was she good person but slowly but surely turned bad?”

I can’t see how someone can do a 180 in their life and purposely hurt people, because I could never do that. Was there always a narcisist hidden inside of her or was she just so greatly influenced by the people around her that she decided to sleep with our daughters’ soccer coaches, ruin our finances, and make my daughters and I live a lie this whole time? I guess that is the only thing that I still question about her because I never thought that this person who I loved so much could turn in to a monster that broke up our family.

Sincerely,

Tremont10

Dear Tremont10,

This is a classic Untangling the Skein of Fuckupedness question and I’m about to give you a really unsatisfying answer at 10 months out. (It will probably only make sense at about 10 years out, which is where I am in the chump trajectory).

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if they were a good person with oodles of potential, who took a bad turn, happened upon the wrong set of friends, wandered into the carnival, and grew donkey ears. It doesn’t matter if they were born evil and presented a convincing mask for decades, which one horrifying day you saw behind. It doesn’t matter if they’re a confused muddle of midlife crisis and regret. What matters is her ACTIONS and what you will TOLERATE.

Everything else is untangling the skein. Why? Why is she this way? How could she do this?  Which is another way to say you’re in the bargaining stage of grief. Maybe if I understand it, I can prevent it. Maybe if I could change something about myself, this wouldn’t have happened. We’ll pick up those thoughts in a moment…

What you’re really asking me is — did I matter? Did I EVER matter? Do my daughters matter?

Probably. But not enough.

That’s the suckfest of being chumped. The feeling that this is all somehow personal, that you didn’t register, that you bonded to someone who wasn’t bonded back. And worse, you were not special, you were just of use. The connection was shallow. Your commitment to your ex-wife didn’t stop her from fucking around on you for 10 years. Your daughter’s love did not prevent their mother from fucking their soccer coaches. She did the cost-benefit analysis each time and decided that her kibbles were worth more than your well-being. And if her kids are mortified and lose their friends, and their home breaks up — hey, Coach Douche LIKED HER NEW BOOBS.

You’ve been married to an idiot gambler who traded the family homestead for a Mexican jumping bean. That doesn’t jump. But is purportedly MAGIC.

And you’re there, standing with what’s left of your shit, having lost your entire home thanks to this bad trade, and you’re wondering, “Have you always been an idiot, or was this something that came upon you suddenly?”

Dude, wrong question.

The right question is — How fast can I get away from this person and protect myself from their horrible judgement?

Tremont10, you’re doing the right things. You’re divorcing and building a new life. Put your energies there. Focus on what you can control — you. Figure out what your values are and what you will and will not tolerate in relationships. Learn how to enforce boundaries. That way, when people start acting shady, you’ll speak up and remove yourself from harm. You won’t get lost in their skein.

Be brutally self-appraising. I did not know anything at all about her before we met and got married. But I saw her as a good person who worked hard, was a good mother, and was really a good wife.

Yeah, you SAW her that way. Was she that way? I’m going to bet there were signs of her entitlement in the past, but you spackled over them. That’s the kind of shit you can fix going forward — projecting your values on to other people. Judge people by their actions over time, NOT on how you wish to perceive them.

I’m sure your wife wasn’t all bad. Few people are. Even the most loathsome people have their hooks. But that doesn’t mean you can sustain a relationship with them. It’s all about the price of admission you’re willing to pay. We’re about self worth here at Chump Nation.

I will tell you this, however — a decade of a double life isn’t normal. It might not be uncommon, judging by my sheer blog numbers, but it’s not sane. In my opinion, the only people who can sustain a lifestyle of constant deceit — cheating, stealing marital resources, lying — are Cluster B personality disorders. The people whose empathy synapses don’t fire. They’re wired wrong and they’ll step over your broken heart for a Hot Pocket. It’s a good life lesson to know that these people exist. Not everyone shares your values.

Your job going forward is to:

A). Trust your resiliency. Are there freaks? Yes — but with some better life skills you can shut their shit down. (See “boundaries” above.)

B.) Be the sane parent. Your daughters need you to model what loving attachment looks like. Mom’s having Girl’s Night Out with her 36Ds.

C.) Work on the new life. You escaped the idiot! Rebuild!

Don’t look back and try to pinpoint where it all went bad. Don’t waste time wondering what motivates someone to cheat. (She was a Sagittarius. And it was August. It was bound to happen.) Don’t look to idiots for validation. (Did she ever LOVE me?)

Full speed AHEAD. Leave her in the dust.

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.
  • Here’s how I think about it. People make a million choices, small and large, that make them who they are in this moment. There’s no way to know the exact choice that leads a married woman to be willing not only to cheat but to fuck her kiddo’s soccer coaches. Or a daughter’s boyfriend. Or a neighbor. Or her boss. Or all of the above. But that chain of choices led to who she is D-Day #1.

    Then Chumps get a chance to make their choice. And that choice makes our new future. It’s not who they are and why they do what they do. It’s who we are and what we do. Post-D-Day we can make our own choices in the light.

  • I think everyone here can agree that cheaters are entitled narcissists. We all want to know if they have always been this way, just tricking us now or have fooled us the entire time? Smoking hopium we wonder if they will ever slide back into the person we thought they were before.

    What we tend to forget is that narcissism is a spectrum, no one stays at any stage all the time, including cheaters and chumps. It does not matter what “number” they are today, were at yesterday or will be tomorrow. Do they have or need a diagnosis of a cluster b disorder to prove they are certified turds? No.

    What matters is how their current behavior is affecting you and how you should react to it. You need to be proactive and protective of your most valuable asset, your sanity. Put your air mask on yourself before assisting others…

    • Thank you, Magneto, for this insight. It clarifies how he could be semi-normal for a few hours/days and then slide back down the spectrum to full-blown narcissist. The only thing that matters is that I am rid of him, and don’t have to try to diagnose him. I love the wisdom of CN.

      Thanks for posting.

    • Magneto, thank you. I needed to hear this about the spectrum because that is what messed me up so bad: there were days he was wonderful – brought me flowers for no reason, would take care of me when I was sick, would listen to me vent, etc. – and then there were the horrible days – the drinking, the selfishness, the manipulation. It really was like living with Jekyl and Hyde.

  • My 2cents:

    The disordered types are not created in a vacuum. Resist the urge to untangle their bullshit. I can assure you these assholes come from a nest of fuckupedness. CL is very correct in that the redflags were there and you spackled in your own way.

    Stay the sane parent. Invest in yourself and your daughter. If needed, and I highly recommend, find an excellent therapist for you and your daughter. The best satisfaction for me was early on telling the MIL and the inlaw minions that this shit stopped with me- I was not (an am not) raising the next generation of shit heads.

    You got this. BE the gray rock and role model of a man you want for your daughter.

    • The sane parent…. God…. I feel like the insane parent ona rollercoaster ride in hell. I’ve got seriously pissed off kids who cannot and will not ever see their bio donor the way he is and I have to tip toe carefully to spare their hearts from something it can’t be spared from so tht I can come off as the sane parent.

      And every time he talks in that agreeable tone of voice that makes him sound reasonable, I want to punch him in the face.

      I literally hate his guts.

      • Early days, Sunflower. Just hang in there. Do extreme self care, go NC as much as you can, work hard on that new life, and know that time will take care of the rest. I was with Fucktard for twenty eight years and then-poof!-he ran off with his spectacular racquetball partner. At the same time and on the way out he annihilated our family’s finances: savings, college funds, the house, etc. I should say his actions were directly targeted at me and our kids. I was fucking ANGRY for three years. That is NORMAL. Let it propel you forward (some days it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed) and recognize, too, that you are grieving. Oh, and that “agreeable tone of voice” is an Edgar suit; no real person is there.

      • Agreed, it’s early days.

        Practice as much NC as you can. Use scheduling software to avoid interacting with him, and practice Gray Rock responses when your kids bring up stuff that they do at their father’s or that their father tells them. “Dad got us a Nintendo Switch!” Your response: “Cool!” “OW took us to the state fair!” Your response: “Wow!” “Mickey got sick after eating deep fried Snickers” Your response: “Bummer!”

        If they’re minor children, it might be helpful to get everyone (yourself included) in therapy. The kids will need an independent outlet for their anger, and you’ll need someone you can vent with.

        It’ll take a while, but that mask their father’s wearing will slip.

        • Yes, they’re minors, 7 and 9.

          I’ve already raised kids (5) as a single parent. I’m pissed that I have to do it again. Been through the drill.

          My 9 year old is one mad kid. I too think therapy is going to be a must…and I have no idea how to find a good therapist.

          At least their dad has military insurance for them…I’ve got squat.

          • Kb I agree with the cool wow bummer strategy. Also, sunflower, being the sane parent doesn’t mean you never get upset in front of your Kids. It helped me to just say out loud around my kids “yes I’m sad today guys” or “I had a hard conversation with dad and I’m upset about it, but I’ll be better later”
            I think it helps them see that you’re being honest and it helps them know that it’s OK to express their feelings.
            Also regarding getting a good therapist that can be hard. I would interview them by phone or in person and give yourself permission to give somebody a pass if they don’t seem like the right fit or if you try going to them a few times and it isn’t working trust your gut and stop and try someone new. took me a lot of trial and error to find good therapists. I extensively interviewed kids therapist about all kinds of questions I had regarding boundaries honesty disclosure and how she handles confidentiality between kids and parents and between their dad and me and the person that I chose is fantastic. I wish you the best in finding someone that’s helpful for your kids.

          • I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. You deserve all the support there is.

            If you’re affiliated with military – and being a former spouse or unmarried partner counts as being affiliated – you can get free counseling through Give An Hour. Counselors volunteer their time for months or years.

            You can go with your kids and/or alone; and they’ve got plenty of in person, phone and other options. Your mileage may vary – highly populous urban areas have more counselors (and more of everything) than rural areas, but that’s where the video or phone options could work.

            I’ve used them and have really benefited.

            I’m so sorry about this. It will get better as you know, but holy crap will it ever suck right now, as you also know, and my heart aches for what you’re up against.

      • Hugs, Sunflower. My X also uses the bullshit “calm, collected, sane” tone of voice (until he gets defensively tantrumy) and it drives me nuts to the point of questioning my sanity as well. I respond with nothing at all or just play along and keep it business (which is the only contact I want anyway). It’s early here for me too (and my daughter is only a toddler). The kids will know who the sane parent is in time, based on actions and not on words alone. Trust, and stay sane. <3

      • Sunflower, It seems they ALL use an “agreeable tone of voice”. Impression manaagement and subterfue to make YOU look bad.

      • Ah yes the agreeable tone. Sends me misty angry too. It says ‘I’m giving myself a pass on my adultery. Your devastation is not to be acknowledge. BTW I don’t have a girlfriend, it’s all in your crazy head’. It says ‘Mim, nothing has changed, we are all good’. It says ‘I’m a reasonable, straightforward good man just going about with my life! It says ‘What crater of mass destruction?’ Standing in said crater of mass destruction. With a-fucking-greeableness!?

        Its an inappropriate tone of an inappropriate man.

        Misty angry.

        Taking on the wisdom of Chump Nation, I’m grey rocking as much as possible and getting better at it. I was a bit wobbly starting out, what with the rage and pain. I’m fortunate that I can go no contact in a couple of months. Seriously coming to look at it as a nearing oasis.

    • ANC, I did the same as you and confronted them. It took me a few months though beforehand of bafflement at the FOO’s evasions, flippancy and gaslighting before I began to connect the dots and began to recognize their dysfunctional ecosystem and how it clearly produced their disordered daughters. I was so new to the world and even the existence of Cluster B. I confronted them as you did, but I did so stupidly thinking it could awaken or alter them. I say this to warn any who are new to this situation. It sounds silly to even say so but a disordered family will work exponentially harder than a disordered individual to smear, slander and destroy any healthy chump who confronts them. It absolutely does not matter if they have nothing on you and you have truth and facts. They have lifetimes of lying and zero shame. Those of you who may be brand new to this world of disorder need to de-naive yourselves very quickly when it comes to dealing on any level with a brood of disordered vipers. If you find you must, given your circumstances, confront them…be prepared for a never-ending shit campaign. I’m talking years long. Bring your recording device on day one. The roots of these disorders goes back generations as I have found (I am one who went whole hog into the skein). Anyway, I live with a few daily mantras now…one of which is like yours ANC: “this shit stops with me”. My children may never fully know. And almost certainly their children won’t. But we chumps can live with the knowledge of our true mightiness -that while the disordereds controlled (through deception) a limited period now past, we control the future.

      • Thank you! I too have said (from a surprisingly young age, looking back at it) “This stops with ME.”
        Thank you, Chumplady and all posters here.

      • Wow TKO!! Wow!

        What helpful stuff!!!

        + a disordered family will work exponentially harder than a disordered individual to smear, slander and destroy any healthy chump who confronts them

        + The roots of these disorders goes back generations

        + while the disordereds controlled (through deception) a limited period now past, we control the future

        + They have lifetimes of lying and zero shame. Those of you who may be brand new to this world of disorder need to de-naive yourselves very quickly when it comes to dealing on any level with a brood of disordered vipers

        I copied from your letter because it helps me learn. Only this week, I wrote to my now former sister-in-law and asked her: “Don’t you care what has happened to us?” and “Why was I the only one to hold him accountable?”

        • When I first met my stbx family, I tried to say his family doesn’t reflect on him. Just because all his sibilings had at least one divorce, if not many doesn’t mean he would follow that path. Just because his family and parents were obviously disfunctional, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t keep H from following that path. Really really want this crazy distinction to end with me and not my son. Sometimes I want to change both our last names to symbolize how we are not one of them.

    • I cannot wait until the divorce is final and I get to tell his father the truth about his son. The 53yo son who is still afraid to confront his father. The father who thinks he’s only had the one affair.

    • Yes! “The shit stops here”!

      It’s absolutely terrifying that I believed my STBX shared the same vision for decades…until he upped and left for a schmoopie 3 months ago, no warning, blindsided, narc discard…The seemingly loving spouse and father that unleashed an a-bomb on his family and home and ran away without a care or even faking the “I’m sorry”.

      God help me be an effective sane parent and spare my children from damaging the next generation. I have a hard time dealing with the fact that my kids are suffering more acutely because of my misguided belief that my husband could/would rise above his own demons.

      This post is so provocative in contemplating how nearly a 25 year-long journey came to end this way.

    • I know this is an old post but Tremont 10 I think we were married to the same woman. Is that possible?

  • I think the question regarding, “did they turn bad” for me is about my ‘picker’. Because, if I was simply hoodwinked and bamboozled from the first time we ever met, I will never, ever date again. Because, if I was so wrong about someone that they were a lying, scheming, porn addicted sex addict from day one and I had no clue, that is a ‘picker’ that can’t be fixed.

    • Coolbreezeout, I agree with the “it was about my picker” part. I disagree with the “that is a picker that can’t be fixed part”. Don’t be so hard on yourself. As many folks around here I was hoodwinked and bamboozled by my psycho cheating ex as well. For me, therapy is working. For now it has worked upon not falling for the same bullshit again, taking my time, learning how to listen and when to speak, finding out more about who I am and what I want, and understanding and enforcing my boundaries. I am not going to lie, it’s been hard work still is, I failed during the process and made mistakes, but I have faith that one day I will be able to walk back in the sun and know a good person when I see him instead of mistaking a douchebag for him. Have faith in yourself, Coolbreezeout! You are not the one who cheated and lied, you did nothing wrong, I trust that your picker is fixable :).

      • Same here. The question of “were they always bad?” definitely points back to what made us choose them in the first place (forget them — we know now that we can’t work on that!) and fixing our pickers. I don’t think pickers — or how we view others, really — can never be fixed. We just have to consciously look at ourselves and then apply it to accepting people into ours lives. What are our values? Where are our boundaries? Core aspects of self and make-or-break type stuff. This is examinable, malleable. We just need to step back and actively work at it.

    • Second this cool breeze out!!! Simply stated yet encompassing. This is a great follow up to yesterday. I think I am the one with the low self esteem. I blame myself for being the spackler and having a screwed up picker. I guess that is kind of the definition of a chump. I wonder if I can ever move past this.

      My priest tells me regularly that we can’t control feelings, only how we react to them. He advises to keep doing the right thing and hope that the feelings will change. Good advice but hard as hell which he acknowledges.

      It is also comforting to hear chump lady say “Few people are. Even the most loathsome people have their hooks.” I get these times, like last night where I feel confident cheater is disordered and I am on the right track and then amongst 100 plus self centered deceitful things cheater has done, I hear of a kind or admirable thing he has done and I immediately think oh gosh, it must be me, I have him all wrong and this is all my fault. I must be a horrible person. I need some kind of self talk coping strategy for when those feelings hit.

      • One thing I loved about my XH the substance abuser was how horrified he was to catch one of the cats stalking a mouse when he saw the mouse stand up to try to defend itself. I loved him for caring about that poor creature and for scooping it up and putting it out of the house. I loved how he would mow his elderly neighbor’s lawn and how he could grow great tomatoes and how smart he was. But I couldn’t live with the drinking from morning till night and the opioids were the last straw. These people don’t have to be monsters for us to leave them and gain a life. We have to find their sbuse (of drugs, of alcohol, of our marriage vows, of the law–whatever applies) totally unacceptable to us. We get to have standards. And we can love a person without being able to live with him or her.

        • Thank you for the above, Loved. I really needed to hear that. I still have a bag of mixed feelings about my STBX, who has done both great good and great bad in his life. But when I think of how awful my life would have been had I ignored his recent slide into worse and worse behavior (of all kinds), I know leaving is the right decision. Let them untangle their skeins alone, should they ever see fit. Not our jobs!

        • My XH fed the pigeons that infested our garden and pooped all over the furniture because “they are creatures of God too”. Impression management and to bother me.

        • So true. It’s sad to recall these parts of X that were lovable. But, I mean, they have to have had loveable parts to them, right? We loved them. Then, poof, immediate and horrific problem (such as cheating, substance abuse, etc.) pops up and we have to look at everything. It comes down to the underlying issues being too great to ignore.

        • Yikes. My ex was like this too. Crying about the mouse in the glue trap. So upset about chickens in a truck headed to the processing plant. (For the record, I’m this way too, it’s just that I don’t put the people I purportedly “love” in a somewhat lower category.)

          I made the mistake of thinking this tenderheartedness was due to his deeply kind nature.

          Well, I sure learned differently! When it was HIS OWN BEHAVIOR that was called into question, you never saw a nastier man.
          He seemed to have compassion for everyone and want to save them from other “bad” people00unless it was HIS fault.

          Then everyone was to blame for making him feel bad.

          Oh. And he did lots of really crappy things to people, just figuring no one would ever get wise.

          But yeah. I fell for that whole “I’m a softy, couldn’t hurt a fly” thing.

        • This is a terrible dichotomy for my STBX, too, the soft spot he has for pets. He rescued 2 adorable cats from Saudi Arabia when he was expat there for work for 18 months. Little street kittens starving for handouts; he went to enormous trouble and expense to bring them home to the States. He was so lovey with all of the feral cats, both while in the country and at home. He especially loved the last one he brought home and would immediately go scoop her up and love her to pieces every night when he got home. I didn’t get even a sideways glance while he was snuggling in her belly. I admit I was jealous of a dumb cat, he showed them far more affection than me and was never sweet to me like that without me begging over our 31 years together. I think he enjoyed tormenting me by gushing all over them in front of me. He was charmingly lovey with these helpless little critters and rescued them, and yet treated me like a ball of crap. I know that he will do exactly the same to any OW though, he will avoid displays of affection with anything with less than 4 legs, the exception being toddler girls. He loves little girls and just melts when he sees them, but doesn’t like little boys at all nor girls over the age of about 4. My adult daughters have lived through his devaluing. Disordered fuck.

          He never did the maintenance part for pets like food and litter– well, actually he did the litter scoop exactly one time and made sure to announce it like “I am soooo awesome, don’t you agree?” when it is something I did 3 times a week without notice or comment. And finally, when it was time to put an elderly cat to sleep (one he took in 7 years earlier from a friend who couldn’t keep him), my STBX wouldn’t deal with it. He didn’t have the balls to help the poor fellow exit his terrible pain and his wandering into walls, unable to eat or go to the bathroom. I had to be the one to follow through and take him to the rainbow bridge.

          Of course, when EVER he was really needed the STBX never stepped up, all dirty work of our life was the job of the wife appliance/personal assistant. Pets are just his adoring fans, only good for their innocent adoration for him. When they become inconvenient he poofs on them, just like he did on me. Disordered fuck.

          • The rescue pets were appliances, trust me. That’s why he wouldn’t do the right thing by them and I would bet when no one was around to see him he didn’t spend any time or thought on them. I had a disordered asshole like that with his wolf dog, he wouldn’t give him mercy until animal control was called, he was invested in being the owner of a wolf.

            • Yes. My monster adored his evil cat. Bought her bday presents etc. I always wondered how he could be so loving with a cat, but not me or his son. It goes against the condition of narcissism/psychopathy etc. however I think it might be that the pets never ask for a true bond. They can’t speak up or out. They’re good narcissistic supply, always providing the narc with endless, reliable attention.
              My monster was very cruel to my kitty when he was dying. In fact, I’m pretty damn sure he killed him. 😭
              He said he would be more hurt if his cat died than a human being. Well, I guess that says it all.

              • Also, he relished in triangulating me with his cat! I’m sure he tried to make me jealous by lavishing allnhus attention on her instead of me. Sicko called her “sexy”.

              • Wow. I just realized my ex triangulated me with his dog very early in our relationship.

                He had a blue heeler that he said was about to be destroyed. That damn dog was such a itung dig. Bit his boss, bit my 11 year old daughter, bit others and was basically a huge liability.

                Then he bit our 1 year old daughter andI put my foot down. The dog goes, I told him. Don’t care how, but it goes.

                He took him out and shot him and it became the first of many grudges and justifications he had for fucking Alpo behind my back.

      • FeelingIt – right there with you. Many times, my STBX did what seems like a really kind and unselfish thing for others. We both need to stop analyzing these things and putting them in two categories…bad and good. The reality is that even when they do something that appears admirable, we do not know their motives or their heart. And to continue to waste our time trying to figure out which category an action falls under is time we are not spending on ourselves and our kids.

        I am not so good at practicing this all the time yet either, but I am working on it. And more often than not, I am trying to simply default to “trust he sucks” so I can move on quicker.

        • This really confuses me and my picker. I always thought his kindness to animals and disabled kids was a sign of his greatness. I do remember some red flags from our engagement. I don’t want to imply that I am perfect but my reflection of my part in our sucky marriage was that I didn’t complain more or leave him sooner when he becam intolerable. I keep hearing how important it is to take responsibility for your part in the marriage. Does being too nice count? My stbx seems surprised when I am not understand and nice about divorce when I have been for 15 years. Whenever I pick a fight over his lack of financial support or getting upset at his discard he acts like I am crazy and there isn’t anything to be upset about. Today he was giving me a list of potential jobs for me. All them them high paying crappy jobs. I have always been the main bread winner and make decent money with a rewarding job. Of course he works at a very low paying job he doesn’t want to leave. It would really make his life better if I made even more money so he would have to worry about it.

          • “Taking responsibility for your part in the marriage”. I know Chumplady already covered that subject. You need to get a new therapist/friend, i.e., one that’s not putting the blame on you for the dick that you married. That comment messed with my head for a very long time. I thought I was selfish because I didn’t always ask his opinion when I made a decision. In fact he would get very angry and say, “You made a unilateral decision!” I doubted myself over and over. Only after divorce and with time have I been able to see things for what they were and I’ve said to myself, “Hey! That dick made a unilateral decision when he had a F*kn skank on the side for 11 years!” I also had time to reflect that the only times he complained about my unilateral decisions were when the outcomes weren’t perfect. Another comment when I took his $50K, 4-wheel drive, off-road package, F-15 King Ranch on a gravel road and hit a grapefruit-size rock which unfortunately tore a hole in the tire and bent the rim, was when he yelled at me, “You took an unnecessary risk!” Again, after divorce and time, I said to myself, “Hey! What about the unnecessary risk he took by potentially exposing me to venereal diseases by having a skank!” So my advice to you is go back and read what Chumplady said about ‘taking responsibility for your fault in the marriage’ and forgive yourself. You married a dick — pure and simple.

            • Well said, I too felt like I should own up to my part in this failed marriage until I realized, thanksto you lot, that he was the one who had destroyed our marriage. I find it very telling when I have said to people that I take no responsibility for this failed marriage. They look at me like I must be joking until I quote some of the ‘truths about cheating and betrayal’ from Tracy’s book. No one is perfect but as it’s been quoted here several different ways ‘ there is an honest way to end a marriage, discussion, counseling etc.’ cheating is betrayal pure and simple’ and an easy excuse not to work at a relationship.

              • I agree with you 100%!!!!! I need to save what you wrote and keep reading it! There was an honest way to end things! This is all on him and he knows that too!!!!

      • I feel the same way STBX would be concerned about the old ladies at church not having a seat in the morning and then he would be off screwing the OW later on that evening. How can he care about an old lady at church but not about his pregnant wife at home taken care of our son .

        • Oh yes! All their goodness and their constant being there for everyone else…take a really good look at that my Chumps. I was with Scumbag from 18 years old. My therapist was working with me on what my “hook” was with a guy like this. I finally was able to find that piece of me and verbalize it. (I was a child 18 and married at 22 in the 60’s.). My hook…”If he was that GOOD to everyone else, imagine how he will treat me and our imaginary children!” He was a narcissist at 18…love bombed me to pieces and then big withdrawals. Triangulation was present throughout dating, engagement and the marriage. But his goodness which he gave to all was simply self serving…it provided him with a vast servings of kibbles!!!
          I had 0 knowledge of personality disorders and his life and how he lived it was my normal. I am just now (3 plus years out)
          starting to understand and forgive myself.

          • Yup ! Doesn’t mean jack sh*t just an amazing capacity to compartmentalize and act “as if” when it suits their fragile ego !

          • Dogs love their owners no matter what or who they are. There are no consequences or judgement there. Never ending kibbles…

    • CoolBreeze,
      I wonder about this too. I did everything “right” in my relationship – we were friends before we dated, we dated for a long time before we married, etc. I thought I knew him as well as you could know another person until I discovered I didn’t know him at all. I tried online dating for a while but it made me so uncomfortable I had to stop – the constant worry about whether I could trust a stranger when I couldn’t trust my best friend/husband was causing me way too much stress; it just wasn’t worth it in the end. I think the only way it will happen for me is if fate literally drops a good man into my lap.

      • EXACTLY! He was my friend for 3 years before we got in a relationship. I knew then that I wanted a man with my values. Somebody who did not think women were objects, somebody who respected everybody because that is right. I thought I knew him and he was a good man. And then in march I discovered I didn’t knew him at all. Right now he is around hunting vaginas (he is 38 and my neighbor told me he had a very young person, no more than 21, staying at his home, using my car). When I went to pick up my things from his home, i saw boxes of condoms, new clothes and a motorcycle helmet. He told me once he had low self esteem because he had sleep with two few women. He does not respect us at all: we are only holes to him.

        I haven’t been able to find any signal of his asshattery that is not related to me. My IC tells me it’s not me, it’s my position as the partner/wife. So I’ll never see him abusing somebody else. But I’m so afraid because my picker wasn’t wrong. I was conned. By the time I could have realized something was wrong, the only signal was his indifference towards me, and I would have been hurt anyway. I’m terrified of the pain.

        • I was friends for 30+ years with Jackass and probably could have stayed friends had I not had the up-close and personal experience of what happens when someone is intimately connected to him. I wasn’t the first discard and I won’t be the last.

          BVC, your counselor is very smart to say it’s the position you have in his life that made you a target. But you DO know he is “hunting vaginas,” so I think there is probably a lot of evidence that he uses people. You just aren’t present for it.

          Look, we can all be fooled. But fixing the picker means having confidence in our ability to observe someone, long term before making a choice to allow them in our lives. I let my 21-year old “love’ pick XH the substance abuser. I let 30 years of sporadic friendship make the decision about Jackass. Now I observe. I ask questions. I wait and see what people do over time. How do they treat others? What does their work record look like? How do they handle adversity? How smart about money but not in a shifty way? We think we know our “friends,” but many of those people hark back to childhood and we unconsciously give them a pass for bad behavior (we spackle) because we assume we “know” they are good. That’s projecting our own values onto our friends. The ticket is to really look at people and see what they DO not what they say, see the patterns of their actions and not their attempts to charm.

          • I’m sure he uses people. I just don’t know how to see it. I believe all his good behavior was just to get approval and to cultivate the image of a good guy, but this is one of those cases where the motivation is what counts, and I’ll never get him to say that everything was fake.

          • The nice thing about being in my late 50s and having 3 grown sons is that there’s absolutely no hurry to rush into another relationship. None whatsoever! It’s not like I’m ever going to have anymore children. Plus, I’m financially sound and able to pay my own gas, lights, water, food, house payment, and all my necessities and extra necessities. At this stage, I have absolutely no desire to be someone’s nurse or purse. I have lots of time to observe, ask questions, and get to know somebody a long, long time before I get involved. AND…., I don’t “have” to get married. Yay me!

            • I had to laugh at the “nurse or purse” remark my sister who was widowed 25 years ago always said “at my age they’re either looking for a nurse or purse and I have no desire to be either! “. I can’t certainly relate at my age too, life is pretty darn nice with no one else’s agenda to have to consider. I too, was one if the lucky ones that left with enough money to live comfortably.

          • My stbx still acts like we are friends. He is always interesting to talk to and can easily move on like nothing bad has happened. I think he might also believe it too. Before I went nc, I asked him about the texts about star gazing with OW and downloading special software on OW computer hidden from her boyfriend. He said he couldn’t remember that. I sent him a copy of the text messages to refresh his memory and he got very upset that I kept a secret record of the text. Wish I could “forget” like he can or move on like nothing bad happened.

        • “He told me once he had low self esteem because he had sleep with two few women.” This was probably said to purposely mislead you into believing that he had very little experience. The reality is that he probably had lots of experience and it goes back years.

            • Chump Lady is right we will never figure these asshole cheaters out! My AC was Mr Wonderful helped with the housework,the kids, made dinner occasionally, looked after finances, always worked, very responsible with money, didn’t drink too much a decent guy right? Unfortunately, he had this insatiable need for kibbles. He had to be part of the inner circle (any inner circle) got involved with all kinds of clubs, needed to be centre of attention, needed to be praised and always went over the top at anything he tried. Started running and before long was doing a marathon, started a model train layout and it grew to about 500 square feet and on and on, you get the picture. Enough was never enough! he started playing duplicate bridge about 10 years ago, bridge players pretty harmless right? Before long it was bridge lessons, bridge tournaments, president of the bridge club and well after dancing around for several weeks announced 4 months ago, he wanted a divorce ‘he was in love with his new bridge partner’ no discussion, no argument, just not a happy sausage! This asshole is 68 years old the OW is 65. Now after 40 fucking years of putting up with all this obsessive compulsive behaviour and accepting it as being a bit eccentric, but a decent good guy, do I feel stupid and used and chumped ? Well of course !! But was it that my picker that wasn’t working or was I just conned and used. I thought I married a decent honourable man and he appeared to be for almost 40 years. Truth is I married a fucking, self absorbed cheater. Who knew? Well, this chump isn’t spending any time trying to unravel his fucked up skein. Life is short I’m moving on. Stop trying to figure them out they are just stupid fucking morons who never grew up!

              • I always used the word eccentric to describe my stbx. We didn’t own a bed for about 4 years because he preferred the floor. (I had enough and got a bed after that). Always had lots different pets and hobbies. So offended if I called them hobbies, they are apart of who is is. To reject his snakes and lizards is to reject him too.

              • I think it was Tempest the other day that said ‘continuing to care for someone was has put a hatchet in you back only keeps you roped into their drama’.Words to live by!!!

      • Hi lovedajackoff

        I totally agree with you that dating sites are creepy as hell.

        I waited five years between bombdrop and dating. I thought dating sites would make sense, but they absolutely suck ass.

        • UGH!!! Online dating SUCKS!!! I try it because I live in a very rural area and don’t like to go places by myself, where I might meet someone, but every time I try online dating I get so disgusted at men (no offense to all men) that I just have to stop way before my subscription lasts. Then it takes me about 1.5 years before I am brave/desperate to try again and I have the same results so I just will not do it anymore. I have been divorced from Cheaterpants for over 21 years and last relationship was over 7 years ago, but like Beth said, I am just waiting on The Universe to bring the right person to me because I just can’t do the online thing again.

          • I was on a dating website for one weekend. It was creepy and then I saw a pic of someone I know is a pediphile getting out of prison soon. I was done that hour.

            • I’ve done on-line dating (that’s how Mr. Twatwaffles and I met) and I actually like it (can’t blame the site for character flaws of the ex) I just see it as a tool and nothing more, but you do have to consider the pickings and be careful. At my age and in my rural area, the pickings are slim.

              However, when I was on match.com when the ex and I met, there was a profile of a man who had 5 kids, couldn’t spell to save his life, and was a seriously creepy dude. Turned out months later, he was busted in one of the biggest child porn rings in my state’s history. He’ll die in prison.

        • Dr. Cluster B was on all sorts of dating and hook up sites before, during and after our marriage. In fact his ex gf saw him on match.com and ratted him out to me.

          The more I learn about the disordered and myself the more I see all the red flags I missed. And I can work on never making those mistakes again.

      • Exactly this! If I could date someone for 8 years, be married to them for 14, and then find out what little moral worth they were comprised of….how the hell would I ever date again?

      • It’s too early for me, but I’ve pondered the notion that I’ll be single (for the first time in my adult life). Massive anxiety attack with just the thought.

        I know I’m working on fixing my perspective (my “picker” along with that), but I don’t care. Even the idea of sex repulses me now.

        I just want to model a strong, resilient mom for my kids. Maybe have a couple of cute fur balls in my life. And books. Lots and lots of books! I think my new “happy” place is simply peace.

    • I agree with coolbreeze too, it’s about whether, going forward, I have the ability to recognize someone who will fuck me over without thinking twice about it. (Okay, actually someone who will fuck HER, but let’s not split hairs.)

      In addition to a picker, I think I have a problem with a Tolerator. Tremont10 was treated badly during at least some part of his marriage. He can really recognize it now, but he tolerated it like the proverbial lobster in hot water for some period of time. I can relate to that, because while my WS may have been a basically nice guy when we met and maried, over the course of 30 years he grew more self-centered, as exhibited by selfish and nasty behavior, culimating, of course, in his cheating.

      Clearly there came a point when I needed to jump out of the pot. Instead, I just tried to adapt to the increasingly uncomfortable water.

  • I’ve been working with a therapist and she had some advice that has really helped me. By trying to untangle the skein we are still trying to control the situation what we have to do is accept it. Just accept that she did this the reason doesn’t matter. (Radical acceptance) My brain has stopped analyzing every detail and trying to predict the future and thus my anxiety has decreased. I would also suggest reading about abandonment and how to love yourself as this helped me as well. Good luck!

    • That is so hard – to stop analyzing the why’s of this. I think your therapist is right in that we are still trying to control the situation instead of accepting it. I am a deep thinker and obsessed with understanding things, but I don’t think I’ll *ever* understand why my ex-husband did this. It makes ZERO sense.

      • Yup – this is great advice that I think we all know but it’s so hard to stop obsessing over why bc it doesn’t make sense and never will! I too am analytical and my mind just won’t stop! It’s torture!!!!

  • Spot on.

    The hardest thing for me about ending the 11 year relationship with the cowardly liar was the devastating realization that he was completely different from what I believed. It felt like 11 years of my life boiled down to a sack of lies, like I had completely lost that time living a lie and I could never get it back. It felt like he had stolen ME from me.

    Now, well over ten years later, I am able to look back without self-loathing and self-doubt see the ways I allowed myself to believe things that I had not actually confirmed were true, ways he only stated half the truth so I would believe what he wanted me to believe without him having to “actually lie” (I could wax poetic all day about the deliberate deception of omitting key facts…) because it gave him the life he wanted.

    It took years of counseling and self-reflection for me to move from “how could I be so blind/stupid/ridiculous” to “he was an abusive master manipulator who targeted me because I was kind, understanding, and already abused enough to respond to love bombing and gaslighting, and his disordered nature was the problem all along. I was not a problem because I was innocent or because I was broken. He was a problem because he was mean, calculating, harmful, and dishonest.”

    We try to untangle the skein partly to try to figure out how we can trust ourselves again, I think. As CL says, focus on untangling yourself and especially on untangling your beliefs that you had any responsibility for her cruelty and lies. There is nothing wrong with you because she did this to you. The problem is all her. Your life is still yours, all the good parts of it, and you are still a wonderful you, who has flaws like anyone else, but who would never be cruel like her. Be good to you.

    • “he was an abusive master manipulator who targeted me because I was kind, understanding, and already abused enough to respond to love bombing and gaslighting, and his disordered nature was the problem all along. I was not a problem because I was innocent or because I was broken. He was a problem because he was mean, calculating, harmful, and dishonest.”

      Bingo!

      Looking back now, I see all the red flags clearly. We both came into the marriage with baggage, but I worked on mine in the early years of our 26 years together. He never did.

      He’s still a bitter, angry, hateful person and I’m grateful to be free from that.

    • Amiisfree, thank you for this post. Exactly the experience I have had with STBX and the place I want to get to.

  • Tremont10,
    I’m a few years out from last dday and I still need to keep reminding myself that he sucks. My mind continuously travels back to the same thoughts you’re having. Save Chump lady’s response and read it over every day.

    • Same here Mavis. I try not to expend too much energy on “what did I miss!”

      Maybe a cartoon of “they’ll step over your broken heart for a hot pocket” would help as a visual reminder. Or maybe it’s a mural on my wall someday. Either way CL nailed it with that one!

  • I am exactly 13 months from finding out that my 10 years with the XH were completely false–(cheating and drug use and the constant lying that go along with hiding that abnormal and damaging behavior)–12 months from filing-almost 7 months divorced-about to close on a short sale (alone, as he filed bankruptcy), have paid off all the other debt from believing in that fraud of a person for 10 years–continue to be the sane parent to my Little Person by telling her the truth and answering all questions without commentary about his character, validate her feelings, demonstrate that her relationship with him is hers and she has a right to it all while being there for her when she feels disappointment from his continuing bad behavior-working on strengthening those relationships I have that are fulfilling…
    Basically I am doing all the things I need to and am proud of myself for the accomplishments I have made, BUT those feelings that I have like you, Tremont 10, are keeping me stuck. I actually have to ask myself (when I start thinking about all the unbelievably nasty things he has done and continues to do all while pretending he is such a good guy and great dad) IS THIS THINKING HELPING YOU TO GET TO MEH?! No. It’s not. But I still do it. It sucks.
    My dad died when I was a kid in a pretty awful way. I was held up at gunpoint as a young adult and robbed and manhandled. I had to change carreers midlife because I had to admit I was failing at my first choice.
    All these things I got over. But getting taken by a conman and realizing that I was just “of use” is a whole other animal.
    All I do is put one foot in front of the other, have gratitude for all the great things in my life (because I do know there are many) and try to continue to let go while building the life that I want. I wish that for all of us out there.

    • “All these things I got over. But getting taken by a conman and realizing that I was just “of use” is a whole other animal.”

      Yes, this. I met Cheater when we were very young and I thought that people who would grow up into being such monsters would be more obvious. I had no idea that a person who looked like a good guy could be so awful.

      And he did keep me around because I was “of use”. I recently wrote an anonymous column about being a Catholic wife who endured abuse and I tried to get a point across and I think I failed. The point I got across was “some people suck” but what I hoped to convey was deeper…that if you enter a marriage with the Christian value that your life priorities should be “God, spouse, kids, others then self down there somewhere” then you had better make sure that the spouse is worthy of that kind of primacy. If they reciprocate, you can have an amazing, strong marriage…if they use it to manipulate you then you (if you dont change your priorities) are seriously fucked.

      • Appearances can be deceiving. I know that I just assumed because cheater’s parents went to church, and worked together in a family business, that cheater would have enduring religious and family values. I missed the factors of a narc mother who was all about appearances and catered to this son who in her eyes could do no wrong. Never realized I was spackling the whole time.

        Only now am I hearing from one of stbx’s aunts that she saw it for years and put up with it because it was her brother’s wife. She told me she foresees no contact with her sil when her brother who has als passes.

        • Feelingit I did the same thing. My STBX went to catholic school and insisted on a catholic wedding, even though I did not want one. Because of this, I also assumed he would have enduring religious and family values. The thing is, even though he wanted that catholic wedding, he did none of the work for it. His family did not attend church regularly, which made it difficult to find a church willing to marry us. I did all the heavy lifting for something I didn’t even want. The same thing happened when our child was born. He wanted her baptized. I couldn’t have cared less. I swore I wouldn’t do all the work for something I didn’t want, but after 6 months…yup, you guessed it. I caved into his demands and arranged for it all.

          Looking back on it, it was all for show. He doesn’t really hold any catholic or family values. The whole family was always about appearances and his mother always catered and enabled to both her sons. Even now he is managing apperances. He couldn’t possibly be seen as a person who leaves his wife during cancer, so he’s keeping at all on the DL. He and his mom recently went to a family reunion and I saw some of the pics that were posted on FB. One of the comments from someone who was at the reunion said to give his wife and child a hug. ??? I wonder what excuse he gave for us not being there?

          • Yes, exactly. I was not Catholic when we married but I was Christian and the fact that he insisted on a Catholic wedding (and a Catholic baptism for our kids) gave me a false sense of security. I later became Catholic, a passionate convert and he barely knew what to do with me. I’ve been on Catholic TV and published in Catholic media.
            And yet for him, he manufactured the lie that his degree of reluctance to marry invalidated our vows and he was ok to fuck around and lie about it. I think at the end of his life he hated the horrid dark corner of lies and sin he had painted himself into. I think he wishes himself dead. He refused to go to a doctor (had full medical benefits) and dropped dead at home

            • unicornomore – did you get an annulment? I don’t want to say that I wish the same for my ex (drop dead), but it may be easier — on me — if he did. It has been 2.6 years post divorce for me (I’m 57) and I still haven’t gone through with an annulment. In a way, your ex was right. His degree of reluctance invalidated your vows. Too bad he couldn’t have expressed that before the marriage. When I reminded my ex of the vows, “Till death do us part”, he said, “That was at a different time.” Geez! If I had known he was only committed while he was in the mood to commit, I (would hope that I) wouldn’t have married him. But alas, here I am divorced after 30 years. He stopped going to church with me, but I kept going. My faith and belief that God loves me was the only thing that helped me make it through such a devastating time. I’m still a tiny, little bit messed up. Especially as he seems OH SO WONDERFUL to EVERYONE else!! I’m angry that because EVERYONE sees him as WONDERFUL, that they all must think that there must have been something wrong with me! He screwed around behind my back with his skank for 11 years and now he’s with her now that we’re divorced. How is it that no one else thinks that’s bad? How is it that they can still hang out with him because HE’S A WONDERFUL GUY? I just don’t get it. Was I like that? Would I have hung out with A WONDERFUL PERSON even though I knew the ugliness of which he was capable? I hope not. I’ll never know what I ‘would’ have done, but I do know what I’ll never do. I will NOT associate with someone if I find out that that person is still living a lie, an UGLY lie. I think we ARE the company that we keep. I got angry at my brother when he told me that he’d still be friends to my ex. I told him that if he did that he’d be condoning his actions; he’d essentially be saying, “It’s okay Dave. You had every right to screw around on my sister for years, divorce her, and go off with your skank.” He said that he never thought about it in those terms. Yuck! I hate feeling this way!

      • You are so absolutely right Unicornomore … spouse has to have the same order of priorities for it to work. If your spouse never really had it or changed that order unilaterally somewhere along the way, you are indeed seriously fucked to the point where there will be a stark choice – your soul or your spouse. There’s only one right answer to that one. No use trying to work out whys and wherefores, just get out, stay out and try not to look back. I was lucky because my kids were older by the time I got to that point.

        • I think I’m most situations like mine, the solution is to run like hell. I asked God what to do and if He had intended to give Cheater a lot of days, I think He would have told me to run. God knew Cheaters days were short and I never heard “run”. I would not use my “sample of one” experience to guide anyone, it was an aberration.

      • Unicornnomore you have an important but often overlooked message…you have to give up that ideal of both partners living in love, being as unselfish as possible, always giving the benefit of the doubt with a smile on your face, etc. The ideals are good, but impossibly one-sided in these cases.

        Doing any of this with a hiding cluster B is not going to work. He is a scorpion that will sting because he can, because he is made to deliver pain. You would never show your soft side to a dangerous beast, and a cheater is a dangerous beast!

        I hope that churches will realize this and not just pressure spouses to just “keep sweet” and not make a fuss and just forgive already. Won’t work. Nejla I hope you know some other super-strong and wise women. You’re amazing.

        Neil’s, you are very mighty to have made it to where you are, good for you! Unicornnomorr

      • Haha. I am sitting in my therapists office parking lot (early as always) and crying reading your comment. Thank you for that. It made my day.

    • Nejla,
      You are mighty.
      All that you have been through and yet you come out a very strong, positive, loving person.
      YOU are the sane, present, loving parent to your young daughter.
      I wish, along with CN, for many, well deserved happy days ahead for you and for her!

      Your strength amazes me!

      Xxxxxx

  • In the beginning of my shitstorm I created a list: Early Warning Signs. Things like his unreasonable hatred for his mother and two exes before me- he still spewed venom about ex #2 15 years after their divorce, me not being able to wear heels because I’d be taller than him, his childlike tantrums when upset, him wanting me to tell him I “need” him…. crazy shit. I’ve added to this list over time. When I date now, if I see ANY of these same warning signs, I’m done. And I wear heels all the time now…..especially on court days when I see him. Inside I say “what’s up shorty?” Trust that he sucks and that you don’t.

      • Yes. This is the truth. We abdicated some portion of our character to be with them. There are some things that resonate with me by Dr. Laura and this is it. In the beginning, somewhere, we saw a character trait in the cheater we either chose to ignore or live with.

        Fixing the picker is only a matter of going into a relationship with eyes wide open, no questions left unanswered, no character flaw smoothed over.

        I will bet there was something about her, Tremont10, you saw ahead of marriage that may have indicated a serious character flaw. It is still there, always was, you just can’t live with it anymore.

    • Weird love/hate mother relationships are among the top red flags for me. As is love/hate relationships with anyone in their life. If the talk badly about people but then go spend enormous amounts of time with them this is a sign that all is not well.

      • I recall asking Jackass why he got into so many relationships with screwed up women. And he said because they weren’t me. Bingo. I was all in. Which shows how screwed up and needy I was. They can’t con us if we don’t need the bullshit they are selling.

        • “They can’t con us if we don’t need the bullshit they are selling.”

          Wow! That is brilliant. Thank you!

          I remember CheaterEx going on and on (and on) about how beautiful I was when we were first dating. I was young, inexperienced, and shy, and it felt nice to have a man tell me all those things. Still, I wondered, “Me… really?” I wanted to believe it, but it just felt… off. (There was a country song on the radio back then, “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful,” and he used to sing it to me all the time.)

          As thirsty as I was for that validation and affection, I knew it was over the top… a con. Red flag. I mean, I’m awesome in many ways, but I’m no supermodel!

          • That’s the rub, though … someone who authentically loves you will say stuff like this. My STBX used to tell me a lot of the “right” stuff as well. He told me he loved me daily; he told me how beautiful I was; he told me how lucky he was; he told me I was his best friend (and he would confide in me and ask for my advice), etc. I felt the same about him and told him as much.

            It isn’t that what they are saying is true or false in the love-bombing. The problem is that they are only saying what they know they should say … they’ve seen it in movies … heard others doing it, etc. So, even if it’s true about YOU … like when my STBX said he loved how trustworthy I am (I really am) … it doesn’t matter. His feelings on the subject are not authentic.

            So, kaycan: Supermodel or not … if a person genuinely loves you, he WILL find you to be beautiful. He will likely TELL you this. I wouldn’t want you to write off an authentic relationship because you think calling you beautiful is a red flag. It MIGHT be, but it might not.

            I don’t know a single person who doesn’t need to FEEL loved. To feel loved, the other person should do and say things that make you feel this way. Love-bombing looks and feels a LOT like normal courtship. Disordered assholes are expert at doing that … because it’s useful to their endgame.

      • Ouch. Yes. Looking back I do remember always thinking it was odd that I seemed to have a better relationship with his family that he did. I thought it was because they kindly shielded me from the BS he had to put up with.

        Now I realize that his family was unaware of the tensions in their relationship with him. He complained about his family all of the time when it was just us, but they all thought he was great. His sister was jealous because he was the “golden boy” and she could never measure up. She still loved him anyway, however, because he was the “golden boy”. They are all shocked and heartbroken at what he has done. They still love him though because he is their Son/Nephew/Brother. I am fortunate that they still make an effort to have a relationship with me as well although it is now separate from him.

    • We should have a group list compiled of all the red flags we ignored. I remember my stbx complaining about having a musical group for our wedding. My mom wanted her cousin to play something but my husband didn’t. I was in the middle. No one asked me. Trying to make my narc mom and my narc husband happy. In the end we agreed to a short song but he over did it for 30 mins. According to XH, our wedding was ruined. He didn’t like even seeing any pictures from our wedding. Whenever we got into a fight he would bring it up like I failed him. 10 years later he could still complain about it.

  • Tremont, fair warning — you’ll be asking yourself these types of “why” questions for a long, long time. CL and everyone else who’ll post here today are correct — it doesn’t matter why. But that doesn’t mean the desire to untangle the skein will stop. It’s what we chumps do. I still get them a few times a day and don’t see it ending any time soon.

    My advice — don’t fight it, let the questions and theories come, but keep them to yourself and quickly move on to some other positive, productive thought. You’ve making all the right moves and have a foundation of good character to build from — keep the forward momentum going as much as you can, and the “whys” will become less intense and pervasive in your daily life. Not gone totally, but less consuming.

    • Tremont, listen to this guy. He’s one of the best authorities here at Chump Nation on dude chumpdom; he, Mickey and nomar need to become your best friends.

      • I’m 3 years+ from my D-Day, and only yesterday I was asking myself the question “Is Yo Yo Knickers really that bad a person? Am I demonising her in my own mind? Am I blowing everything out of proportion?”

        A couple of years ago I would have allowed me occupy my mind for days, these days it’s a few minutes. Your heart will catch up with your head over time (Or is it the other way round?). You’ll learn to not give a shit about her anymore or whatever disordered category she falls into and these thoughts occupy your mind less and less.

        Totally agree with UX. I needed to understand who and what I was dealing with with Yo Yo Knickers, I read books, watched videos, posted in forums. I pretty convinced she’s a covert Narc and it took me a year to work that out, does she have full blown NPD i don’t know, but I’m at the point that I don’t care anymore.

        She’s just a giant shit who thinks the world evolves around her.

        • And remembere! Narcopaths know the difference between right and wrong, they just CHOOSE to do wrong, and they don’t care. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of trying to impose normal, empathetic feelings and thoughts onto them (poor sausage had an unloving mommy, he was a latchkey kid, he never had a puppy) They have decided to game you (and everyone) because that’s how they have chosen to get thru life.

  • Tremont,

    Your question is one I have asked myself one million times in the last 18 months. And I am 65 and was married for 40 years. We must be honest, especially in dark times like these: I look back and I see that I did spackle out of fear, laziness, and/or ignorance and lack of insights. Some of my values were wrong. Not that I am shallow, but I was naive and even good people need to understand the entirety of human nature. Fix the Picker as we say at Chump Nation.

    I am not at Meh yet because I curse cheater every day, like when I look at my bank account or stumble on a problem cheater created. And I hate doing it, I truly long for Meh.

    But from where I am now I do firmly believe that figuring out whom cheater really was DOES NOT MATTER. As Chump Lady says, do not give cheaters real estate in our souls. From now on everything only matters about ME living a good, fair and wise life for my children and my community and being treated with respect in order to accomplish this.

    This blog is essential for healing and helping ourselves and other chumps.

    Your report reminded me so much of my parent’s story, but you are luckier than my dad, Tremont. Take care.

  • Tremont10. CL gives us the wisdom of being out on the Chump Trajectory and just wise and insightful. I would like to add my 2 cents that I got from this awesome post. She ended with your ABC instructions. It’s simple if you just do those 3 things, all of which also happen to be:

    A) In your control – anything not in your control is a brain and energy suck which you can’t afford, which includes feeling sick about what $ she gets and doesn’t deserve. Add it to the suckiness that is her and divorce and custody laws and look at it as the price you are paying to get free of a parasite.

    B) Focus on living a sane life- for your and your daughters’ benefit- a known positive and

    C) Resiliency has no requirement of feeling resilient today. Allow the anger and unanswered questions to come up, then name them, and work on moving past the time wasting thoughts and feelings (untangling her skein, the unfairness of it all, the challenges ahead, how could you not have known for a decade?). Going through this will make you stronger, and recognizing red flags in your future is on your learning curve too. Better days are ahead. That you can trust!

  • I can totally relate, Tremont10. Two and a half years out from DDay, and still not divorced, though it should be resolved soon in court. Married 20 years, together 22. I spent far too much time wondering the exact same question you posed, and I am done. CL is on the mark, as usual; it doesn’t matter. Our four kids need me, a WHOLE mom who isn’t gonna waste anymore of their precious years focused on a man who has the emotional IQ of a chickpea. I know it’s beyond hard, but you need to wrap that question up (along with all the others like it), and place it firmly and securely in your Not-my-monkeys-Not-my-circus box, and mentally misplace that fucker. These fuckwits are Oscar-worthy actors/actresses because they HAVE to be, so don’t beat yourself up anymore with regard to not seeing the signs. They were definitely there, but as a committed partner with the humility to know you are not perfect, you looked past those red flags; we all did. Show your daughters what healthy looks like in a man, and when they are grown and dating, they will have a better shot at weeding out any cowardly, emotionally-stunted or counterfeit fuckers fast. You got this, Tremont10. You are mighty!

  • “Leave her in the dust”, YAY to this 🙌🏼

    This is exactly what I did to the cheater who f**ked with my life/mind/family/trust/love (he f**ked with the wrong gal). It was like the mother of all mic drops when I left him at the airport. Twas the best thing I’ve ever done. I highly recommend it. Leave her in the dust 💨 and go live an awesome life without her ✨

  • Wow! I feel as though CL wrote today’s entry for me! The only differences – no new breast implants (at least not yet) and it wasn’t the soccer coach (at least not yet), though give my ex time and she’ll likely work her way around to him when she’s finished with the other strange men.

    Never in a million years would I have imagined she was capable of the shit she did, or stupid enough! But it happened. My family was destroyed and I feel like I’m starting over, but starting over is exactly where the good things begin. Staying and trying to unravel the skein would have ended up killing me, and never changing who she is.

    • THIS: “Staying and trying to unravel the skein would have ended up killing me, and never changing who she is.”

      WOW – right? Even if you somehow managed to part the Red Sea AND untangle the skein of the X’s fuckedupedness… IT. WON’T. CHANGE. THEM.

      Thank you GDD… I needed to hear that today.

      • Yes, exactly. I actually shudder to think where I would be right now if I’d stayed, even if he HADN’T cheated. Because I was spiraling downhill fast. 18 years of living with a selfish narcissist with horrible anger issues and a drinking problem was slowly killing me. My brother told me the other day, “I hate how it all happened, but at least now you know it’s OVER.” And he’s right. Cheating was my red line. There was ZERO chance of reconciliation. But since he’s gone, I’ve learned SO much about who I am and who HE was – and there is no need for me to spackle ever again.

        • Same Keepin Calm. I shudder to think where I would be right now if he hadn’t cheated. I had spiraled downhill for years. I even went to counseling by myself. It should have been obvious to me then that he was never going to change.

          The stress with dealing with his selfishness and drinking was causing me so much stress–I am sure it contributed to my cancer (stress causes inflammation in the body and inflammation can lead to cancer). So he literally was killing me.

          • Yes, same here! Though not cancer, I developed rheumatoid arthritis and it was getting REALLY bad the last few months of our marriage. If I’d stayed, I really do think I would have had to go on disability. I’m doing much better now. Still get bad flares, but they don’t seem to last as long.

      • Ditto to every word ICanSeeTheMehComing has written about
        “Staying and trying to unravel the skein would have ended up killing me, and never changing who she is.”

        NEVER changing is what we need to convince ourselves of.

      • Re: the disordered changing…

        People committed to changing will get themselves into therapy by their own efforts. There are chumps who do wait around while this is happening. It’s strongly recommended by CL CN to get a solid post nup or separation IF you stayed tied to such a person.

        I witnessed the disordered getting therapy, acquiring therapy-speak to appear as an empathetic bi ped, try on new facades until one stuck with continued gaslighting of kids and additional attempts to manipulate his plan B aka me.

        It’s best to move forward without the toxic mess. Their presence will seriously impede your healing and health. The disordered’s commitment to change is exactly like yo-yo dieting. They are not emotionally healthy people and will never be emotionally mature adults. They do not change. They acquire new facades, hobbies and ancillary ‘friends’. Their bonds with people including their children are superficial and based on what they can get from those relationships.

    • Ditto Gratefully Divorced Dad…no breast implants yet here either (Or at least I don’t think so) I can’t even stand looking at her in the eye these days let alone her chest! (.)(.)

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a boob job wasn’t on the horizon though, she’s started on the botox and lip fillers. She also said that if she lost any of her teeth she would have to have expensive dental implants…whatever the cost.

      • A few years ago STBX decided to get lazar surgery on his face to get rid of the old acne scars that had always bothered him. It was a big expense for something that seemed rather vain to me (not that I would have dared say that to him). I had never really noticed the scars and thought he was very handsome in spite of them. Turns out it wasn’t me he wanted to impress. 🙁

        P.S. It didn’t really work. Just money down the drain.

    • “I’m starting over, but starting over is exactly where the good things begin.”
      This!
      💖💖💖💖💖💖💖

  • Tremont1o, this makes me think back to a post I saved from CL and read many times. It’s all part of trust that they suck, but it helps answer the question of wait, how can I move on if my whole life has been a collosol lie. It is called Standing on Lies and refers to a great article by Dr. Anna Fels on betrayal. I suggest you check it out.

    A nugget from that post:
    Usually, chumps spend a lot of time untangling the skein of fuckupedness precisely so that they do NOT arrive at that conclusion — my life was a lie.

    Tremont10, you and your life were not a lie. Being played by your ex does not change one truth about YOU and what you thought you were living. All of that is still true.

    Take your truth and move on with that intact. Her shittiness is hers to carry and yours to lose!

    • This. Time a million.

      Your life isn’t a lie. HIS or HER life is a lie. But once you know his life is a lie, you have to leave or then your life becomes a lie.

      • “Usually, chumps spend a lot of time untangling the skein of fuckupedness precisely so that they do NOT arrive at that conclusion — my life was a lie.”

        Well yes, I did that. Patsy (here) and I were friends on another board where we spent YEARS untangling our then-husbands skeins. Years

        I was TERRIFIED, but I wouldnt have admitted it.

        Terrified that my husband didnt love me, terrified that our nuclear family would break up, terrified that if he left he would later become better for someone else, terrified that a break up would destroy my kids.

        Well, he is gone and never coming back and I realized that he didnt love me and our family is forever changed and he never became wonderful for anyone else.

      • MotherChumper99, Glad the article helped.

        That article brought me the words and clarity I needed. I wasn’t so much asking how to understand the lying ex. I had gotten past that. But, I wanted to move forward and felt that I could not without a clear picture of what I was living for 30 years since my life had a parallel track which was not mine! It’s like I was on shaky ground and wondered how to step forward without a clear picture first.

        Here’s what I think now. We don’t need their story or validation to construct meaning from our lives! I have my story (and my story is true) because I lived authentically, felt the real feelings, truly loved and those days really happened. I looked into The Deceptors eyes and renewed vows at our 25th and meant them. Screw him for making a mokery of vows. That’s on him, not me!

        His lies and revisionist history throw the poo on HIS story.
        In fact, he cannot take one millisecond of my truth, my feelings, or my story.
        Yes, he stole my options and made me live in an inauthentic relationship. I lived the best I could without the benefit of hindsight or truth of his adultery and financial infidelity. As CL said, we know we brought our A game- not perfect, but in it and not cheating.

        As for me and my fellow chumps, let’s not give them one ounce of our story. We are the rightful owners of that.

        • I’ve just starting seeing the horizon on this … oh, it’s been a long painful road to it. Yikes.

          What helped me really see this was my oldest daughter (young adult). She commented that she felt like her life was a lie. I was stunned, honestly. Yes, her dad is a shit … yes, his “input” was a lie. But the rest? Not at all.

          I told her: “I really loved you. Everything you got from me was authentic. And you were real. Your feelings and thoughts and experiences were real. Those pictures where we were laughing, playing, hugging … those are 100% real.”

          And this was my lightbulb moment. Sometimes it takes seeing it from another’s perspective to really understand something ….

    • Thanks for the article! Maybe I need to go back and look at all those photos where my ex looked so lovingly at me and narrate the ‘real’ story. Maybe I can even put captions on the back of the photos. I’m feeling pretty good about myself these days, but if this is what it takes to move forward much quicker, then so be it.

  • Based on my experience and from seeing other relationships explode, I can tell you that the person was likely messed up in the head from the start and the signs were always there. It’s in the rare occasion when someone does a 180 and even then, I find this hard to believe. But I can tell you that based on what I’ve seen, the person is usually a bad person FROM THE START. They are just good at hiding their true colors, enough to carry out their plan to marry you for self-serving purposes.

    • I don’t think they are all bad from the beginning but they have the seeds of it in them. Some do a slow 180 as those seeds grow. I don’t think STBX was always a asshole, but he had personality traits that made him vulnerable to it. Oops. Still psychoanalyzing.

    • Dear Tremont
      Yes. She was this horrible person from the jump. I too have spent countless hours asking why! Why did he do this? I can tell you he admitted living a double life ( actually more like quadruple lives!) for more than 14 years!!! Since he was 20! He was juggling multiple women usually at least 3 a week.
      CL is right as usual. Having the ability to live double lives indicates a PD. Narcissists are always doing this. It’s their version of fun. In my case, my monster is a psychopath. These freaks love to have harems. They get off on duping us. They enjoy triangulating us. They often get worse as they age. Their whole existence is a charade. Their masks are always changing, depending on who they’re interacting with.
      It’s shocking I know. Just imagine what it takes to pull this shit off?!?! It’s a lot of work deceiving a loyal spouse, juggling multiple partners, keeping up with the lies. Your wife has a missing chip in her brain where empathy and conscience should exist. She suffers from moral insanity. It’s sick, twisted and something someone with a normal brain and conscience can’t fathom.
      When you’re feeling down or doubting yourself, remember that you can’t buy morals at the store. There was absolutely nothing you could have done to change this fucked up situation. Having the capacity to live honestly, ethically, morally, and conscientiously is something you learn as a child. Personality disordered freaks of nature (reptilian brains, literally) are abnormal, poor excuses for human beings. They’ve been this way since children, no doubt.
      Once you research ad nauseum psychopaths, narcissists etc you will start to understand that their brains are different than yours. Then you should be able to start accepting the why’s and focus on yourself. It will take time. It will take time.

  • It seems so devastating at the time, but it’s pretty simple. None of us are stupid. In most respects we’re competent and discerning on obejctive matters.

    The simple answer is, they were good to us for as long as we were good for their ego and image. The more we chumps bust our asses to prove our worth or show our commitment to building a future, the more they extract only the bits they are going to use to propel them on to better things.

    Keep the family’s credit rating good? Help a Po Baby Man/Girl finally get theirs decent? They’ll use that well to impress Schmoopie.

    Have a lovely home? The extra cash for awesome vacations? That will be marketed as the Ho Workers’ future life.

    Are you nice to dogs while the whore yells and kicks them? Dandy! The whore just met a guy who volunteers at the Humane Society!

    Looking back, there were ALWAYS signs Cold Slab O’Meat wasn’t in it for the long haul. Even when I was on a pedestal for years.

    *No Male Friends with any emotional connection, not even a drop of warmth for his own dad and brother. Estranged from his sister. Would go entire months without speaking to his family, and then only when he needed or wanted money. Beep! This means he only wanted worship, not love. And what good is a friend you can’t fuck?

    *Overly fond of dating stories. Even planning our wedding he liked comparing himself to free agent days. A person in LOVE is GLAD to be out of that cesspool.

    * I would send kickass baked goods to work with him, and ask how his coworkers liked them. He blinked and said, ‘I’m not sharing those. They can see them on my desk and be jealous. They’re for me.’

    But I know how to spackle! Damn I do! We think cheaters are good because once upon a time they knew we served a use. Until we didn’t. They were already in Repair or Replace mode. Hint: since no cheater ever thinks they did anything wrong, Replace is always the answer.

    We all need to learn to simply filter actions against our hope that partners share our values and our need to be with somebody, anybody before we fix our own shit.

    Part of the reason I am alone right now is that when things like the list above happen, I speak up very early on. And if I’m dismissed or told my ears and eyes are lying, I walk. Right then. It weeds a lot of chaff.

    By those standards only one man I ever loved would have met the test. If I had been a practitioner of my own value, my story would have been much different.

    • Luziana, I have reached exactly the same conclusion: “The simple answer is, they were good to us for as long as we were good for their ego and image.” And that’s what fooled me and made me press my spackle button when cheater wasn’t so good to me.

    • Luz, this concept is becoming the foundation of my new life: “If I had been a practitioner of my own value, my story would have been much different.”

      It’s never too late to change my view of myself and what I deserve. And, to act with integrity towards myself.

    • “Have a lovely home? The extra cash for awesome vacations? That will be marketed as the Ho Workers’ future life.” So true, Luizana. #askmehowiknow

  • This really hit home . I had 32 years in of living the big wonderful life: children, grandchildren , community involvement etc, . Then D day 2015: discovery of the double life with an alcoholic , crack whore half his age and they had a child . I actually did the wreckconciliation for a year. I thought “it takes two and he suffers from low self esteem”. Then tragedy , OW died and my husband announced at 67 that we were raising 6 year old. That’s when I left, by then I discovered financial devastation of what a double life costs. There were several young family members on both sides that wanted to raise child but husband refused. I beat myself up for 10 months, “this poor man, lost his marriage and family , he must be so sad, etc” I am now in my own place, trying to move on, but stuck at times feeling sorry for him for losing it all, he was broken and I couldn’t help him. I don’t understand why I still feel sorry for him and such deep sadness when I have opportunity of new life. I think it’s what you said , that chumps like me are unraveling the skein of why and if our cheaters had felt better about themselves they never would have looked for validation elsewhere. That’s messed up, thank goodness for CL that shines the light so I can stumble through this pain and get to a new and happier life . The”price of admission ” to the old life would have been for me to lose my life and dreams , just to prop him up. No thank you.

    • rushin, Hi, I read your story on the forum a few weeks ago…so you decided to leave? Good for you. Glad you didnt sacrifice yourself to prop him up.

    • I’m so sorry! I think your loser beats mine hands down! A child — and — “we are going to raise him.” And undoubtedly you feel like you’re abandoning an innocent child. Don’t feel that way. That child has a daddy. Let his daddy have fun handling his own responsibility. He’ll fail at that too.

  • I was musing over “things” a bit this morning. Although I’m nearly 2 years out from abandonment, a little over a year divorced, and well on the yellow brick road to Meh, a couple recent events have returned Shithead to the fore of my consciousness.

    I was remembering our early days and how we met. Shithead was married, we we all quite young – me 19, him 23, his wife 22. He told me later he married her that young “to get her out of an abusive home situation.” Anyway, I knew OF Shithead, but had never met him – he worked for a specialty automotive part supplier my dad bought from and Dad was friends with the owner. There’s a HUGE annual auto show that happens annually in a major midwest city near where I grew up and Dad asked me if I’d be willing to help this supplier by volunteering to work on his show booth, “and look pretty.” Hey – it was the 70’s, people got away with those kinds of comments and I WAS young and cute.

    And stupid.

    I agreed to work the show and immediately met Shithead. Who was suddenly very friendly, but not in any overt way, but went out of his way to cross the city to pick me up at the train station, or meet me in the parking lot to escort me in, bringing me little gifts, or show me around all the displays on the show floor, taking many pictures of me which I innocently added to my photo album. We were all invited out to dinner after the the show was over, to thank us for our work. I brought my steady boyfriend and Shithead shiwed up with his wife, first time I’d ever seen her. She was an iceberg. Big time cold. He’d told me later she was just shy.

    His wife, sadly, passed away a few months later of a blood-related autoimmune disease. Three or four months after her funeral, I got home from a date with my boyfriend at about 2:00 am to find Shithead sitting on my back porch waiting for me. Unannounced, univited. Boyfriend was NOT amused and that was the last time I saw him. And he had been talking marriage! Shithead and I went out for pie, at 3 am on a midwest mid-winter morning and . . . 9 months later we were married.

    So, and I’m sure you all see already what I didn’t figure out until just the other morning – the asshole wasn’t “being nice” to me in the big-brother manner I’d assumed at the time. He was fucking HITTING on me! A married man with a chronically ill wife – HE WAS HITTING ON ME!!!

    **face palm**

    I think the motherboard in my picker was just repaired. Too bad it too four decades to finally get the upgrade.

    • I meant to add that I found out later Shithead had successfully cheated on his first wife, NOT with me, and I believe (with the magic of hindsight) he’d cheated on me on and off for at least 20 years of our 38 year marriage. I’ve been told recently that others witnessed him “behaving inappropriately” with other women on numerous occasions. He is a car salesman by trade, and a pretty good one, very earnest and “honest.” He can convince anyone he’s truthful; I sure believed him.

      My point is – I believe they’re always bad, just looking for an excuse.

      • Always bad is right. And I think they can become worse with time. I have no doubt money was a big factor in stbx’s decline. The more money he earned, the more perceived power he had. He even made reference to the fact that he can afford to get divorced although now he complains about the cost as if it is my fault. It is ridiculous but he is the one who gave me no choice.

        • Omg! I’m convinced the real devalue and discard happened when X’s income approached the 1/2M$ annual income mark and increased as his income increased.

          He makes me sick.

      • Mine was always bad… it’s taken two year and many therapy bills to finally accept that. The cheating started during dating, through engagement, really fired up during the 2 pregnancies (which he fucking admitted to with no remorse because he was worried about fatherhood, so those “didn’t count.”) He too was a sales person who traveled a lot. Then a medical condition slowed the traveling (and thus slowed the fucking strangers in hotels on his very generous expense account, and all the client and colleague whores who lived out of state) He made VP, became even more arrogant and had to turn to in-office colleagues, and subordinates which is how the whole thing finally was discovered. The character never changed; his lying and manipulating skills improved immensely over time, but the character was never changed. It’s interesting to read these and remember that he never did treat me well like some of you others…. I was so young (7 years younger than him meting at 18) and naively flattered (1st boyfriend) and somewhat broken from a bi-polar mother that I was just an easy con who never asked for anything. Yep, he was always bad and I was the perfect target. Now I’m 45 and still naive and even more broken… but I do have 2 beautiful children who I love dearly. Maybe someday I’ll be brave and trust my “picker” again but it is so hard to imagine now.

    • Yes, he was hitting on you. And lining you up to be his next “host.” Young and pretty, with a Dad who had a good business. And for those fixing their pickers, the gifts are a dead giveaway.

  • Tremont10 you are so much better than her and deserve so much better!!!! CL gave you great advice! At the end of the day it doesn’t matter why she did what she did or how what matters is that you are getting away and making a better life for you and your daughters!!!

    I really needed this today. I am 9 weeks out from DDay 2 threw out my STBX and am filing for divorce. I have been wracking my brain reading everything under the sun, working in therapy and analyzing why he did what he did. The truth is that I will never know because he doesn’t even know why he did what he did. I need to keep telling myself this that I will never know why and that’s ok because it doesn’t matter! I need to focus on moving on for my son and I and forget about him!!!!

    Thank you CL and CN for all your support and wise words which have been invaluable to this new chump. We are all better than the disordered assholes who did this to us and are better off w/o them!!!!

  • You asked if she was greatly influenced by the bad people around her. I’m sure she had good people in her life also, you and your daughter for instance. Why wasn’t she influenced by them? She chose to do what she did because it was all about her. No one else mattered.

    • Very true. I used to wonder if working around narcissists at the big bad bank for all of those years had affected him (I wasn’t a trophy wife like the wives of so many of his coworkers). If they did influence him, however, it is because he allowed himself to be influenced. He’s like the middle schooler who abandons his real friends to go join the popular crowd. Doh! I did it again. Still trying to analyze him. Stop that Chumpinrecovery.

    • I can’t untangle the Fuckedupness that is my CheaterX. I know that to a very real extent, the attempt to untangle it is another version of the Pick Me Dance. Cheaters cheat because they can.

      My own CheaterX had some red flags that I spackled over. Initially, I saw his cheating as a product of his depression, his loss of his (cheating) father, and work stress. Schmoopie was there at work for 8 hours, ready to be sympathetic. I thought he was a good man who felt sorry for Schmoopie because she had to struggle in her life (single mom, twice divorced, always dated losers).

      Enlightenment came when I was shopping for attorneys and told one of them that I’d learned CheaterX had cosigned an auto loan for Schmoopie. Her jaw dropped and said that Schmoopie must have seen him coming a mile off. I was about ready to launch into the old saw of how I thought he saw himself as the White Knight riding to the rescue of Schmoopie, who had always picked losers and finally found herself a man willing to be nice to her when I realized that no, Schmoopie’s radar was dead on. She picked losers, and CheaterX was a loser.

      • KB – you could be my twin!

        My POS lost his mum and was going through a rough time at work. Cue the entrance of Schmoopie, an unattractive, dim 34 year old still living with her parents, in a rubbish job, who stumbled from one crappy man to another – and he felt “sorry” for her. Looks like she’s found another crappy man! 😂

  • Tremont10,
    I have a similar story. I married a woman I thought was a really good person, then noticed she was having GNO with party girls at work, then getting a lot of attention from men there, then apparently it was more than just attention…and I wondered a lot at first whether I was completely fooled by all her charisma, or whether others’ had corrupted my good girl’s morals. I’m now 3 years from D-day, and I am 100% certain the Chump Lady is absolutely right, it doesn’t matter. You’ll never get an answer to that question, and trying to spend time with your soon-to-be-ex to find out will only make you crazy. However she got there, you know now she’s not a good person, and you need to focus on you and your daughters.

    For what it’s worth, I’m now in the “always was bad, just masked it well” camp.

  • I too struggle with untangling the skein. I can’t help it. I have an analytical mind. It’s what I do. It would probably drive STBX crazy if he knew how much I try to psychoanalyze him. Chump Lady is right, however. It really doesn’t matter. I need to stop analyzing STBX because it is interfering with analyzing the things I am supposed to be analyzing (like my job). Even if I came up with all of the answers, that doesn’t mean I would find a solution. The solution lies in getting over him and moving on. Time to redirect that analytical mind elsewhere.

    • It’s ok. I am very much the same. It takes a while. Recognizing it is important. As soon as a thought pops up, tell yourself STOP and visualize a 🛑. Replace that thought with your kickass self or sometask you will do today to kick ass.

  • I also keep trying to untangle the skein. Just earlier today, I concluded that I’m never going to understand why he chose to throw away everything for the occasional out-of-town orgasm. It will never compute for me.

  • Untangling the skein… what a turbulent and horrid moment in my life. Is it him? Is it me? What’s my 50% contribution? It must be something BAD I don’t see in myself! What is it?
    I think that’s were most of us get it wrong, we are looking for something generalized as bad inside ourselves that would cause someone to do this to us. Here’s my 50%… I have empathy and gave and gave to someone who didn’t give back. Bad? Nope, just a dysfunctional response to a person I have no control over… I only control myself. I saw him through my moral lense. He lied about his moral lense, but it’s not my job to figure out why he lied, it’s my job to understand why I didn’t want to see it. People who spend a lot of time “convincing” you to trust them (instead of letting their behavior define your trust) are probably not people who should be trusted. I bought into words( I waited for people to tell me who they are, instead of observing who they are), along with the societal belief that people are mostly good, and there’s something wrong with “judging” another person; So I was the perfect target 🎯. we are taught things like intuition and gut feelings
    are to be pushed down because they are silly, and of course we should give people the benifit of the doubt. No! doubt is there to warn you something is amiss, and figuring out why you have doubt doesn’t classify you as judgmental, bitter, crazy, conspiracy theorist, paranoid or any other negative label someone wants to throw on it. For me, and I’m guessing a lot of other chumps, I was so intent on being a good person to others that I forgot to be good to myself. My worth was wrapped up in what other people (particularly my spouse) thought of me, and I didn’t bother to look at my self-worth. Here’s the thing, who you are doesn’t determine who someone else is. Sure, if your pleasant and agreeable you are more likely to influence that response in someone else, but ultimately they are who they are; the thing that insulates you from being devastated by someone who might deceive you is knowing your self-worth, having “real” boundaries (my version of boundaries was nagging) and acting on them. Those are the things I control, how someone else responds or behaves is what they control. The reality is, You can’t stop someone from deceiving you (they control that), the thing you control is how you’ll respond to it. I had to ask myself not what it was about my spouse, but what it was about me (not accepting any blame, his serial cheating is on him). I was looking for traits in myself that would “cause” it, but what I found were traits that let it continue, spackle, hopium, and believing in unicorns!

    • Brain-
      Speak it sister! We need to trust our intuition at all times!!! Every time!!!
      I once said to monster, “I know you’re cheating, I feel it. My intuition tells me so.”
      Monster: “you’re crazy. I’m not doing anything wrong”.
      See!! Nice wordplay/word salad there. He never denies cheating, but dances around the subject.

      We should all trust ourselves first and foremost! If we really think back, we can remember numerous times where we didn’t listen to our inner voice, but silenced it instead.
      Sometimes, I know for me, it was easier not to confront the pathological lying monster. They manage down our expectations so much, that we become desensitized to their pathology. We get accustomed to abuse so much so that it sadly becomes the norm. ☹️

    • How I love this explanation Got-a-Brain because it sums up my relationship with cheater perfectly! I didn’t listen to my intuition because I didn’t want it to be true. The more I ignored, the stronger it got and then I collapsed when the truth was finally found. I was busying my time with being a good person to everyone else and neglecting me in all of the chaos. Little did I know this allowed the cheater to be sneaky and deceptive without question. Attention he says. Attention seeking fool is more likely. I continually vyed for his attention and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t get reciprocations. Now I realize it’s because he found another to dwell his sights upon without regard to his marriage or hers. He has the character and core value flaws, not I. He can preach all he wants and watch shows that display inherent goodness, yet in the end his actions are what matters. His actions are not truly what they seem. He thinks he is a good person because other people like him. He doesn’t realize he doesn’t like himself and neither do the people closest to him. I am trying with all my strength to crawl out of this abyss and take care of myself to continue living my life authentically with purpose. He is the defective one, not I.

  • Oh, I got mired in figuring it out and fixing it for years and years. Wasted time.

    Truth: they suck, that has nothing to do with anyone but themselves, it can’t be changed or fixed, and getting out is essential because they do endless damage thoughtlessly and always will.

    Nugget learned here that has proven sanity saving: cheating is a character problem, not a relationship problem.

  • 1. If Tracy’s answer does not save us months of therapy time and money then I don’t know nuttin’.
    2. If we don’t know how much of a lifeline her answers are to those of us still threading the dark waters of post traumatic readjustment then we don’t deserve her time and efforts.
    3. Brilliant answer.
    4. Since she has been out of the dark waters herself and still is taking the time to help strangers like us to heal, we truly appreciate and love this blog.
    5. Thank you for your humanity Tracy.

    Pascale

  • Tremont10… here is what I have learned from Mr. Sparkles:

    – YES. He was always a cheater, and always will be.
    – YES. He was always a liar, and always will be.
    – YES. He was a master manipulator, and always will be.
    – NO. He will never change.

    Skein untangled.

    Stop looking at her (and her boobs)… look at the man in mirror – the guy who didn’t cheat, the guy who knows how to love honestly and monogamously, the guy who wins the job of being the sane parent. HE is a great guy. Get to know him… put your energy there.

    • This plus a bazillion. It really is that simple.

      And I do believe in the “spectrum” talked about above.

    • “– YES. He was always a cheater, and always will be.
      – YES. He was always a liar, and always will be.
      – YES. He was a master manipulator, and always will be.
      – NO. He will never change.

      Skein untangled.”

      THANK YOU!

  • I know that for me the signs were there right from the start. I was very young, idealistic, desperate to be loved, and massively projected on X and he was more than happy to play the part as long as I was of use to him. When we had kids is when I matured enough to start seeing him more clearly and I still couldn’t consider that he was constantly deceiving me. It took time to come to that realization, chump lady is right it doesn’t really matter but I think the answer is she was like that all along. They like to play house but then they get bored.

    • And Tremont, you are still projecting onto your ex. The glamour will fall away with time and mental discipline on your part.

    • “They like to play house but then they get bored.”

      Nodancing, nicely done! You boiled down the behavior of the disordered into one succinct statement.

      • They get bored because they don’t know what “playing house” means. Turns out its work. Kids aren’t the kibble dispensers they expected. Turns out kids need kibbles too so less supply for cheater.

        • YES! My STBX was in constant competition with our child for kibbles. And would purposely create drama with her. I had to break up countless disagreements between the two, where he would just annoy her until she broke. He was a bigger child than she was!

  • It comes down your definition of “faithful.” I define being faithful as “being true to my spouse” and the commitments I’ve made.

    My XW defined “faithful” as “being true to herself” while married. Her self wanted both a husband and an OM, so she had to “be true to herself” because that was more important than being true to me.

    And, she added in some mindfuckery, asking, “JC, Don’t you want to to be with me as my true self, or would you rather be with me lying and pretending I don’t want [to be with my OM]?”

    In other words, she was ALWAYS this person; a person who pursued her desires to be true to herself. If she wanted to make an an omelette, she was willing to break some eggs. She was telling me as much, straight to my face.

    The only thing that had changed was the object(s) of her affection.

    People don’t change.

    • I really loathe the idea that just because a person wants something that they are entitled to it. Taking something you want with no regard for consequences is not being true to anything but base desires. It’s what toddlers do.

    • Feel for you, JC. As mid-life hit, the ex realised he had to do work on himself, but began to see his authentic self as someone who could abandon his three kids, and his wife of 23 years because she wasn’t as young, pretty and vibrant as the OW he THOUGHT he could have a relationship with, to go adventuring and living on the edge. If that’s really his authentic self, who wants that person in your life?

      • Ditto to every detail artist. … thats what his rationale boiked down to…younger chump suited his changing image of hip guy around town….even to the point of image managing me to everyone we knew to be seen as the bitch and bringer of his misery so when he left he could cry on their collective shoulders and also had a free drink on offer. I didnt find that betrayal out till well after d day… i was in such a hellish place the fact that people were avoiding me was not that obvious. ..luckily i suppose i would have not been able to cope. But the truth came out – its a small town – but as we all know others are not into analysis of our relationship as much as we are so you start protesting too much and you look like the crazy one. Its hood advice…write all those crazy bitch letters explaining the truth to yourself . People dont really care that much and just want things to be pleasant. My ex was a master at this type of social game. Problem was i didn’t think me and the 3 kids were part of the game . When we didnt play along with the narrative that he ‘needed to feel happiness ‘ and just move on like nothing happened (with no financial support even his own kids) then we were the bad guys. Its taken me nearly 2 years to admit to myself i was in an abusive marriage. Fuck him its over now.

  • Thank you so much Chump Lady and fellow chumps for your advice. I do need to move on from trying to answer the questions that are still in my mind about the situation. The good thing is that I’m at a place where I never thought I would be considering how devastated I was right after D Day. But through the help of my family, friends, pastor, therapist and this website I’m headed in the right direction. Not saying that it doesn’t still hurt from time to time but I know I’ll get past this. I have custody of my daughters, moved to a new city, and have positive people around me. I wish I was an “Meh” right now but I know I will be there in time.

    • Tremont, we all understand your pain… we really do. You will get to Meh even though the road there is bumpy. You’re doing all the right things and, over time, the pain will diminish.

      (hugs)

    • Tremont, it sounds like you are doing an amazing job of rebuilding you and your daughters lives. So glad you have custody!

    • So happy you have custody!!! You will heal and be ok. She’s a horrible person! You deserve so much better!!!!

  • I was fortunate to get some clarity from Princess YogaPants herself on this. Some days after DDay she told me that because of me that she was a better person than she would have been otherwise and that she was uncomfortable with that. It turned out that while around me she didn’t feel comfortable drinking heavily, smoking pot and sleeping around because she felt that I would disapprove ….

    Looking back over the decades and at the woman I first met, she was always the person that she “became” and a combination of menopause and Senor Moneybags coming into her life on rebound from the death of his wife freed her from her self-applied spackle I suppose.

    One take-away that I did get from this that helped me was to know that even from HER point of view that I was a decent guy and the better person. I already knew this which is perhaps different from many other situations where the Cheater is very cutting to the Chump and talks them down. It does make me wonder on occasion if she is comparing Senor Moneybags to me – there’s no way that he would measure up.

    • Haha, that’s a good thought! Asshole told me I was admirable, that I was strong and resolute in ways he didn’t think he could be, always able to keep going even in the darkest moments. He told me I was the smartest woman he has ever known, and that I gave him the best fucking of his life while in hysterical bonding. I never thought I should grab all of this with both hands and KNOW that the chances he is going to find someone better than me with his life story are very, very low, which is the thing I was afraid. He likes dumb ones? He can have them all, hahaha!

  • Another very relevant post, that has just made something crystal clear to me – thank you CL!

    I have been trying to work out if he “changed” and cheated for the first time, or if he was always a cheater, but there wasn’t any emotional attachment until this time.

    But if this IS the first time he cheated, it is simply a new way of expressing his shitty character, because he has ALWAYS been incredibly arrogant, entitled, lazy and a proven liar. So no, he hasn’t changed and obviously won’t.

    The advice that we use our energy to look at why we tolerated such crappy behaviour is spot on. And I don’t think we were “trusting fools”, just good people who mistakenly assumed everyone else was as trustworthy as us.

    Tremont10 – thank goodness your daughters have you as an excellent role model in their lives. You’ve deomstrated to them what real love and commitment is, and shown them they shouldn’t tolerate cheating and disrespectful behaviour. You are a good father.

    • Well, there you go: “He has ALWAYS been incredibly arrogant, entitled, lazy and a proven liar.” That alone would have been reason to divorce him.

      • I wonder now why I stayed so long, looks like I spackled a lot. I guess I figured that at least he didn’t cheat or hit me. But once he did one of those two, I had a “reason” to call it quits.

  • I am sure that you believed that she was “good” initially…and I am sure that even SHE believed that she was good too. Self deception is a powerful thing. She fit herself into the role of “being married” because it appealed to her on many levels…one being that she could get what she wanted in life easier by being “coupled” to a great guy, and it is very appealing to have someone else along side her working hard for her goals. But both she and you did not really know what she was made of deep down through all the bluster of married life functions…UNTIL other “opportunities” presented themselves.

    Why was she attracted to the kind of people that she began to hang out with IN THE FIRST PLACE? She should have been repulsed by them AND she should have guarded her marriage…but she wasn’t, and she didn’t. So there you have it.

    The excitement and dopamine rush of the “forbidden” or “strange” or “variety” appealed to something deep down inside her soul. It is a form of rebellion. It is that simple…and it was there smoldering and being suppressed all along waiting to be unearthed. She figured that she should have IT ALL at the same time while keeping you on the line for security and image control.

    My X made a few lame attempts to change back into the “good guy” throughout two marriages…he KNEW that what he was doing was wrong and destructive. He tried from time to time to resist the “pull” of giving into his temptations, but the internal Siren Call of the Wild was stronger than his commitment to either of us Chump wives. He never bonded to either of us because he really DID NOT WANT TO have to give up all the “other exciting options” out there…but he wanted “wife appliances” to keep his life comfy. He is now 65yrs old and STILL chasing tail full speed ahead now that he is no longer encumbered by Vows (not that he ever was). That’s all I need to know.

    It is a CHARACTER issue aka lack of morals.

    • Well written description of what might be the skein. Now I don’t have to do an untangle exercise today! Thanks Sweetz.

  • Once again this is the perfect post at the perfect time. Court is tomorrow finally, a mandatory appearance for STBX who has stalled the divorce for months, not as I had once hoped, because he wanted to “snap out of it” and come back to our beautiful home and life, but because he doesn’t want to give up any $$. I also wondered if my loving hub was the “victim” of a particularly virulent form of midlife crisis or if he was alway this way for whatever FOO issues he brought to our marriage, even though that’s true, he has a horrible toxic family. As of yesterday, I can honestly say I DONT CARE. For whatever reason, he cheated, destroyed our family, hid his porn addiction, and is now trying to harm me financially. Maybe I ignored red flags (and there were many) but he is a master manipulator and I had never met anyone like him, had no frame of reference for disordered people, sociopaths, etc, so I have given myself a break. I am oh so much smarter now at the age of 63 after 26 years of marriage to a liar and a shapeshifter. What sealed the deal for me are two things-his relentless pursuit to take away sole and separate property in the form of our home (he’s not on title) which was gifted to me before my mother’s death TEN years BEFORE I met him (California laws SUCK) and an email I reread from the beginning of the brutal discard, which says it all about who he is–evil and a monster. He had masked it pretty good but once the mask fell off, there no way back. Deviant sex/painful/dangerous sex with multiple people/all probably explaining how I got Hep B. Please think good thoughts for me for court. I need the CL Nation behind me as I face him and his woman hating lawyer.

  • I think this by CL bears repeating: “I will tell you this, however — a decade of a double life isn’t normal. It might not be uncommon, judging by my sheer blog numbers, but it’s not sane. In my opinion, the only people who can sustain a lifestyle of constant deceit — cheating, stealing marital resources, lying — are Cluster B personality disorders. The people whose empathy synapses don’t fire. They’re wired wrong and they’ll step over your broken heart for a Hot Pocket. It’s a good life lesson to know that these people exist. Not everyone shares your values.”

    There’s no way a chump can untangle the skein of a Cluster B; we are their polar opposites. After months and years of trying to understand narcissistic personality disorder and whether/how my x fit the description, I’ve learned that all you really need to know is what CL says above… then go out and build yourself a wonderful new, narc-free life. It’s challenging, time-consuming work but it does get easier over time.

    Good luck, and hugs to you Tremont!

  • I have been hoping for a column like this. I feel my whole adult life has been invalidated by stbx’ lies. I don’t want to remember ages 21-49 as everything is tainted because he was in it.
    To make it worse everyone thought he was so nice- and a saint to put up with me.
    Sometimes I repeat the mantra, “ignore the words, look at the actions” and see the incipient narcissism was always there. Sadly I am having to teach that children that ‘ promises lots but wait and see what arrives’ to protect themselves/ and because I am the one managing the fallout.

    • (((Hugs)))

      We lived factual, true lives with losers. These people are not NiceGuys or NiceGals. Keep being the awesome parent you are!

      • Thanks for your kind words, ANC. I am really struggling right now with my own depression and that of my 15yo. There is one of me trying to keep three children, and myself, afloat. I am starting to realise I need to put more effort into myself or we will all go under.

    • Your life is not invalidated. The experience you had with him has gotten you to the point where you know that “nice” can be a facade and that people are not always what they seem. You’ve got a lot of years to make that knowledge pay off. And of course, you have the kids.

      • Hi, LaJ. I am still struggling with my own, the children’s and others’ reactions to what The Evil One has done. Sometimes I can’t believe it 23 months down the track from the (legal) DD.
        The children are with me but there is no custody agreement and not even a financial settlement 18 months after I made him leave the house. He has denied any wrongdoing and continues to cast himself as the injured party. I can’t look at a picture with him in it and do not want to speak his name. I can’t believe I spent my adult life with a person I do not know.

  • Such a great post today, well and every day! It really hits home for me too. It’s sort of like the old question ‘What came first? The chicken or the egg?’. The answer for me Tremont10 is it doesn’t really matter. It is what it is now.

    I’ve said before, I don’t think my ex is some pure evil, devil in disguise, all bad person. I genuinely believe he thinks both times he found twu wuv. I always thought of cheaters as nasty ole skanks out trolling for ho’s. And yes some here are actually doing this! My ex grew up with a cheater for a dad. In those times, women rarely if ever left. My former MIL went to great lengths to keep his dad from cheating, actually using the kids in this fruitless endeavor. I’m guessing my ex thought leaving his wife family when he got the kibbles and butterflies from these damsels in distress was actually honorable. Nevermind the first one was a howorker twice divorced with history of cheating and the second was a poor, pitiful, no one appreciates 20-something assistant soccer coach for his teenaged daughter.

    Ultimately all us chumps can see he is flat out a shit. How horrible to do to your wife and kids. Twice. It’s neither honorable nor twu wuvs. Now that the divorce is final this time, the kids don’t really want to spend time with you, and the twu wuv’s have faded, the texts have increased. The honorable thing to do would be to leave us the hell alone. Fuckwit really again is just concerned about his wants and needs. It’s never been about the family. It’s always about what he extracts from it.

    How horrible of a person she is Tremont10 to screw around with soccer coaches. I feel ya’. What a shit sandwich for you. A shit sandwich for your kids. Does it matter why? I get stuck there too. The only thing I truly know is I’m a front for normalcy for a predator to prowl. I won’t do this ever again to myself nor to my kids.

    • Oh my, I still contradict myself trying to untangle 🙁

      He loves me, he loves me not = He’s evil, he’s not evil!!

  • ALL of the signs were there in the beginning, and were there for 24 years until I found out my ex wife was banging my cousin and I kicked her out.

    I take full responsibility for being in the place where that could happen to me because I needed to evolve to a person who would not have a partner like that.

    Had I somehow managed to evolve earlier, my boundaries would have likely meant that our marriage ended earlier than it did.

    Five years later, I’m involved and living an amazing life. Having the balls to accept responsibility for everything that happens in your life because ultimately you put yourself there, is it guaranteed road to personal evolution and freedom.

  • Fremont

    Untangling the ‘whys’ was best answered by my therapist during my first visit. After telling him about the discard, hateful statements, and behavior on and following Dday he said the Limited never respected me, and he was a narcissist.

    I sat there in disbelief. I look for the good in others, loved unconditionally, was selfless, and still loved him.

    I did have to go back through every memory and apply that lens to finally have clarity. I participated in my own abuse and had him on a pedistal for years.

    “What matters is her ACTIONS and what you will TOLERATE.” Best statement ever CL. I had no idea how much power and control my abuser had, I thought he lacked the ability to problem solve. I poured on the support, forgave, until I knew the truth.

    Narcissists aren’t all that bright. They fit a clear pattern in both the relationship as well as the discard. Centrality and taking care of their needs is typical and magnified once caught.

    Don’t beat yourself up Tremomt. Cover your assets, stay in your home, and take care of your own needs.

  • I still come back to these questions myself. CL is right — we’ll never know, and it doesn’t really matter anyway.

    I suspect there is always some level of suckiness, even early on. My ex and I met when we were young, but I was always suspicious of him. I let my guard down as our relationship deepened and turned a blind eye to red flags. The outright cheating came only at the end, but looking back, he was definitely slimy all along. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he was a great guy… just slimy and untrustworthy. I see it now.

    Still.. all those questions about whether it meant anything, they’ll linger a bit, even as you tell yourself not to care. But eventually, you’ll make it to meh, and you really won’t care.

    I’m at meh, and it’s awesome. Still, the questions percolate from time to time when a happy memory surfaces. Was it really happy for us both? Does he even know what happy feels like? But then I notice something else, like a butterfly go past the window, and I’m back to my good, present life. 🙂

  • Wow – Being a betrayed husband this resonated so much with me. It has been two years for me since DDAY and I should have filed for D – I will be soon …

    If you swapped out the number of years (to 1+ – as she only admitted affair was 14-months and that she admits to only one) and that she was fucking the owner of the antique store she was working at (in which my daughter worked there too and my son did his landscaping) – she was later fired by his wife (My Wife considered her a mother figure and best friend). I could have written the initial email. I constantly wonder what did I miss – when did she change. I realize know that it was slow, like the old analogy of cooking a frog – you put it in cold water and turn the heat up. If the water was hot it would jump out imeediately… But it is a long battle of control. For me looking back – I realize that I was so codependent and would bend over backwards to make her happy and give her space… My worst fear now is that I will get complacent and not D her… Since My kids were so close to wrapping up high school – I held off filing as I did not want to disrupt their world in what was supposed to be their ‘funnest’ years… My youngest just gradauted this past June and I waited to file until after wards – then my dad got sick and passed just this past week – I put that on the back burner so I could focus on family… Now with his illness and passing she has acted as the perfect wife (like early in the marriage – we have been married 24 years) – my therapist thinks she is after any inheritance… Anyways, now getting my daughter ready for college (out of state) and then I will continue the D process of filing. Then the cheater gets 1/2 of everything…

    • Cheater does NOT get half of your inheritance; when it comes, put it in a separate account and don’t touch it until after the divorce.

      While painful you’ll give up 1/2 of everything to a known cheater, it is well worth it to live a life of integrity (though it may take 2 years of freedom to fully convince you of it as your heart heals). Hugs!

      • No, she does not get half of your inheritance money.
        As Tempest said, it will take time, but it is so worthwhile to be free of a person who has absolutely no respect for you, who doesn’t appreciate you at all, and obviously doesn’t share your values, nor does she love you. Best of luck, and lots of strength. Do know that life gets better.

    • I’m sorry that’s the case….it shouldn’t be. I hate how cheaters basically walk away scot free with no consequence.

      Mr. Twatwaffles was lucky. Aside from the fact that he was purposely lazy and didn’t have a pot to piss in, there was nothing of his I wanted anyway. I provided the house, (my parents own it) and we never really bought anything of substance together in the whole 11 years we were married. All I wanted were the grave plots we bought when our son died, and the bitch’s name. I wouldn’t sign the papers unless I got them…and he gave it to me.

      He had “protected” Alpo so I wouldn’t stalk her on Facebook, but he threw her under the bus to get what he wanted.

      And our son’s remains/memory didn’t mean jack to him either. Neither did the day we laid him to rest, because that was the day he filed for the divorce.

      I’m so mad I was so duped.

      • He filed on the 10th anniversary of the day we laid him to rest….not right after the funeral.

        Although, nothing would surprise me now….

      • Sunflower 36,
        Our only child was diagnosed with cancer at age 15 and died at 20. A few years after he died one of my husband’s new co-workers approached him to talk because she had heard he had lost a son and she had a heroin addict son that she felt she could talk to the now ex about because our son had died. The grief bonding ensued. Apparently I was “selfish in my grief” and she was not. She’d recently lost everything to bankruptcy due to nothing other than living behind her means, is in her 50s, and had recently moved thousands of miles from her troubled children and was crashing at her sister’s house because she was, well, bankrupt. Ex mounted his big white stallion and moves her–free of charge–into our house. What a fucking hero, huh? I got a kick ass attorney and he is paying for a long time to come. When we divided assets, one thing he had to do was give me half of our son’s ashes. He left them for me to divide, because, according to his lawyer, it was just too “painful” for him to do. Poor misunderstood baby.

        • I’m so sorry your son got cancer and passed away. The grief for you on that is different than mine because you had a longer history than I did.

          My son died as an infant at 3 days old. He had a fatal heart condition (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome) that we didn’t know about until after the autopsy. He died in my arms on the way to the hospital.

          We bought two grave plots when he died. Mr Twatwaffles wanted his ashes buried next to our son. After what happened, there was no way I was letting that happen…and he quickly gave it up to finalize the divorce, which cut me to the core. I suppose it was a last ditch effort to stop him from leaving me. Didn’t work….thankfully.

          Eighteen months later, our daughter was born with another rare congenital defect called sacrococcygeal teratoma and there was concern we would end up doing chemo on a new babe. Fortunately, it was benign and 5 years post opt had no recurrence. I flew from Montana to Atlanta because no one here would touch us, and because I could shack up with HIS family while down there. I was in Atlanta for 38 days from August to September, while two hurricane systems came through, because I wanted them to be able too see their grandchild since our son died before they could meet him. I should have had her in Denver and skipped any consideration for them at all, because they haven’t said jack to me since this happened.

          Anyway, I hope you kept his ashes, because seriously, he doesn’t deserve them. I’d totally let him take me to court over it, because really, what judge is going to order them wrest from your hands?

          • I’m sorry about your son. It’s devastating to lose a child no matter what the circumstances. My in-laws circled their wagons around the ex–who knows what line of bull he’s fed them but I’m sure I’m the devil in that story line. I left him half the ashes in a ziploc baggie in a storage unit. Perhaps in his deep, misunderstood pain he actually got there and picked them up.

    • I have often wished the past 2 years that I could waive a magic want and make EVERY state an adultery at-fault state…

      I was so desperate to be done I chewed my financial right arm off to be done. He wouldn’t leave and I couldn’t afford to (Becuase of him I was a SAHM for 18 years because he couldn’t stand that I had a more successful career than him.) I knew if I didn’t get divorced immediately I wasn’t going to make it. I was going to die from the stress or he was going to do something to me. (I was forbidden to get a lawyer, was being tracked by him on my phone, financially cut off, I didn’t call the police and get the restraining order I could have easily gotten from the physical abuse and threats going on because I didn’t want my devastated teenagers having that tidbit to add to their already horrible story.) I didn’t even get 1/2 of our assets and I sure as hell didn’t recover any of what he spent whoring around for 25 years. I solidly believe EVERY adulterer should get only 10% of the assets.

    • Sorry to hear about your Dad. Thoughts and prayers are with you and the family. And sorry about your wife. I know it’s tough but you will be much better off w/o her!!!

  • I really enjoy reading these kinds of responses because CL does such a good job of putting into words things that I tended to suspect are true, but couldn’t put into words. I ask the same sort of questions about my ex.

    CL is absolutely right.

    And yes, it is also a very unsatisfying answer.

    What bothers me though, is that my inability to find the root of her monstrous turn makes the idea of ever bonding with and trusting someone again extremely difficult to fathom. The fact that I couldn’t see it coming, that even with tons of post-hoc analysis and trying to “untangle the skein” there don’t seem to have been any real warning signs that I could have heeded.

    All the scenarios, whether it’s the secret asshole scenario, or the good apple gone bad, they’re all equally horrifying. Either way, I know something that I can’t unknow, that you could do everything right when selecting a partner, and you could still turn out to be horribly, disastrously wrong.

    I haven’t really decided yet if that’s a risk worth taking again.

    • I so get that. One of the scary things for me is that if I did try to be close to somebody new I might get scared and end up hurting that person myself when he might not deserve it. I am so afraid that either I will get hurt or I will hurt somebody else. I don’t want either.

  • I don’t often comment, but here is my 2 cents worth.
    I am out a decade. Yep, 10 years ago – hard to believe, but there it is. Ten years since DDay #2, 7 years since the divorce. And I see it now, just as Tracy says. It really, really doesn’t matter.

    I spent years being stuck, on that terrible treadmill of trying to understand where and when it all went wrong, the whys of how could this possibly be true. I didn’t have this site available to help me see the forest for the trees. My biggest stumbling block, besides trying to understand what the fuck just happened (and why) was the whole forgiveness thing. I stumbled on CL sometime in 2012 I think, still locked in deep pain. Tracy gave me “permission” so to speak, to be comfortable with not forgiving that POS. I was buying into that whole RIC BS, being hard on myself for not being able to forgive the unforgivable.
    I had moved to a different city(best thing I ever did, besides leave my marriage of almost 32 years) after DDay#2, but really struggled and was totally stuck.
    Cognitive dissonance was my constant companion. My heart could not catch up with my head, and my brain couldn’t take in that my family had imploded – he cheated our entire relationship. It was unbelievable and yet, it had happened and I couldn’t process it as the truth.
    Ten years out, and I see it so clearly now. Biggest waste of energy trying to untangle the whys and wherefores ever. But it was a process I had to go through. I had to learn to focus on myself, my life and my future. Accepting that it happened and surrendering to it, focussing on my life, one day at a time, finally turned the pain into gratitude. I had to fake it many a day, but grateful I am that I didn’t spend another day with that lying, cheating bastard.
    I am through it and seldom, if ever, think of that POS unless my kids mention him or if he is late in paying my Spousal support.
    If one puts lipstick on a pig, the pig is still a pig. You can only control you and how you respond.
    If you told me at the time it would take me about 7-10 years to get here, at meh, I wouldn’t have been able to carry that horrendous pain I was in. I do know however, that I would have got there years earlier if I had the insight of Tracy and CN when it happened, of that I have not the slightest doubt. So fellow Chumps, it took me longer than it will take any of you because you have this site and CN. I did get to meh. It is possible. I am forever changed because of Mr. cheaterpants and the way my family dynamics will never be what I envisaged. However, my life is a whole lot better now that it is authentic.

    Tracy, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me get past this – for keeping this site going and the immeasurable aid you and CN give to us all. It is truly immeasurable.
    I recently reached out to some fellow chumps (not about cheater) and the loving support I received was unbelievable. Thank you – I am loathe to name you, even with your screen names, but you know who you are!!

    • Lynne – I am a new chump filing for divorce- threw him out on DDay 2. What you wrote really helped me! Thank you!!!! I too am very grateful to have this site! This has been the worst pain I have ever been in my life, but I know I am better off w/o him and my son and I will be ok. Thank you!

      • Mil23
        Glad this resonated with you and hope it comforts you to know that yes, it is really entirely possible to wake up in the morning and not be wracked with that goddamned awful pain. Going further, even to sleep peacefully without those dreams where we were together again, or dreams of him with someone else always haunted me – those dreams were bloody horrendous and would affect me for most of the day. The pain of it all slowly ebbed, rose and ebbed again and finally faded away.
        Yes, you ARE better off without him and you ARE going to be ok. That I do know for sure.
        Good luck and best wishes to you and your son.
        (((HUGS)))

  • I think one of the characteristics of being a chump is that we try to figure out whether or not someone has “potential” or can be “redeemed.” I want to be clear — I still catch myself doing this, and it was only when I decided that doing this caused me to endure more pain than I should ever endure and that I was much better off deciding whether or not the person treated me well enough to be a friend, or not, was the only thing that mattered. My opinion about the person didn’t have any effect on them at all. My misjudgement of their good qualities didn’t count. They did what they did whenever they wanted to, and generally had a very selfish ulterior motive. Whether they started that way or not, the bottom line was if they don’t act in a way that is good for me, then I don’t need to spend time with them. We cannot save another adult person — and I believe we can only marginally influence our own children. They have to decide whether to be “good” or “bad.” If they don’t care which type of person they are, you should not waste your time worrying about it. Once you know you have been lied to, cheated on, robbed, — whatever — it is your job to put as much distance as you can between you and the perpetrator.

    If you look at recent events in the news — you can see people arguing over who is wrong, whether all sides are wrong, as if trying to assess a level of blame can change anything that happens. It doesn’t matter if someone wants to justify a bad action by using a false equivalency. If you didn’t wash the dishes one night, when it was your turn, it did not cause your partner to cheat. The only thing we can do is stop listening to the people who waste our time spouting off this bullshit, don’t believe they might tell a truth because sometimes they don’t lie about something else. Just cut them as far out of your life as possible. If you have made an error, chalk it up to lesson learned, and stay away from that bad influence. If you want to get biblical — the Garden of Eden was a perfect place, and man was created in God’s image, and yet we no longer live in the Garden. Did it really matter if he started out good? Nope. We’re out here fighting off all manner of bad things, and doing the best we can. That’s the best you can do — make choices to do the best YOU can.

  • Thank you! Thank you, CL! Once again you’ve helped me out. I’m 2.6 years post divorce and I’m STILL learning/gleaning vital information. I didn’t realize that I was still unraveling the skein until you explained what this guy was doing. I had bought and read your book as soon as it came out, but I guess I wasn’t ready to hear exactly what you meant by ‘unraveling the skein of fuckedupness’. I’m sure I was still immersed in self doubt. But today I heard an audible ‘ding – ding – ding’ in my head reading your response to Tremont10! “It doesn’t matter.” The signs of my ex’s self-entitlement were there prior to our marriage, but I was too insecure to recognize them for what they were because I had no boundaries. I do now!! Thanks!

  • “All the scenarios, whether it’s the secret asshole scenario, or the good apple gone bad, they’re all equally horrifying. Either way, I know something that I can’t unknow, that you could do everything right when selecting a partner, and you could still turn out to be horribly, disastrously wrong.

    I haven’t really decided yet if that’s a risk worth taking again.”

    Mike B:
    Right there with you, brother. While I’m progressing to the point of beginning to desire female companionship again, the mental hurdles I now have about trust and my obvious inability to decipher intentions & motivations keep me in a kind of self-imposed quarantine. I feel I need to have more knowledge about what makes me susceptible before potentially exposing myself to that pathogen again.

    • I get that way too. I start to think that it might be nice to have a man in my life again, but if I start to really imagine what that would be like, I feel this sense of panic and think “I can’t do it”. Then I get resentful of STBX all over gain for throwing me to the wolves so to speak. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. All of the stresses of dating, the “am I good enough?”, “is he good enough?”, “will he treat me right?” was supposed to end when I married the one I thought was genuine.

      When I married STBX I thought he wore his heart on his sleeve and I loved him for it because I was so tired of playing the “he loves me, he loves me not” games I got from others. It was so heartbreaking for our marriage to end up in exactly that spot in the end.

  • Here’s the deal. What about just plain ‘ol divorce? You know, 1 decides that things are working… isn’t interested in the marriage with the person to whom he/she is married? You know, they’re just tired. Don’t get along. Want to re-invent their life? The tired mom. Whatever. Does that mean they are just not committed enough to you? Doesn’t the action of a general divorce just say the exact same thing .. don’t really care about keeping a relationship intact ‘for the kids’ or ‘it will hurt my spouse’… … sans cheating?

  • I am on the same timeline as CL and agree with her sage advice.

    I recall my state the first 10 months post DD2. I was still in shock, hurting and probably dealing with PTSD. I also had major trust issues since most of our friends/family disclosed that they were aware of EX’s lies and double-life. Listen, it is going to take time to heal and figure out what/why it happened. And that is OK. Just don’t get stuck by focusing on trying to solve the mystery of the ‘Sphinx’.

    There are two horrible truths that I had to accept:
    1. I always ‘had my EX’s back’. My EX never ‘had my back’.
    2. Never in a million years would I ever treat my EX the way he treated me. Never.

  • Tremont10, I’ve asked myself this question too, countless times. While I have an academic and professional interest also in why certain people seem to lack empathy even for their partners in children, I realized that I’ll never truly know the answers to why my particular scumbag cheater did all this. I do know that the more I found out about him, the more I revealed similar behavior in his past. I actually believe mine to be a non-violent psychopath, but that is neither here nor there. Having a narrative about “why this happened” only comes with time and almost by accident; what you’re doing mentally is very natural. However, CL is right in that it doesn’t matter, because NOTHING justifies this behavior. As a therapist I became very good at untangling the skein, but honestly it made my personal life worse because I was TOO understanding of people’s backgrounds, etc. Today, it just doesn’t matter. That behavior is unacceptable to me. Period. And ultimately the person responsible for that behavior was my cheater. However, I will say that doing some reading on narcissism and other personality disorders did help me to understand what a common pattern that “180” you refer to actually is. Probably it was there all along, she just concealed it until the kibbles became too hard to pass up (narcissists don’t bond very deeply and tend to devalue those closest to them more than those with less actual connection, which is about the opposite of how normal folks bond.)

  • I’ll admit that, deep down, I knew that my X was a complete jerk. He had all the makings of the exact kind of person that you should not marry, not even be friends with. Maybe I was just too young, but I really did naively think that I could help him change. There were so many instances of abuse even before we married. Sure I can recall those things now, but then, I had serious blinders up. I KNEW I could work with this raw material. He just needed to be loved. He just needed to be taken care of. He needed to see examples of kindness and empathy. That could change him. I just knew it. I did all of the work of pursuing him, knowing that he was the one! He did nothing and that continued throughout our marriage. What CL says about reciprocity is true. He was not only OK with never giving anything, he expected it in the end.

    I know it was naive and silly – that was my problem in the relationship. Did it warrant what he did to me? No way! But now I know. I KNOW that you cannot change people, especially in all of these narcissistic ways that CL lists here nearly everyday.

    I do want to try dating again. I would like to marry again if a good person, the right person for me came along. I am interested in watching behaviors, hearing certain kinds of platitudes, getting to really know someone before I consider marriage with them. Sure I’m terrified that I’ll pick wrong again, but I also know that I’ll be OK even if I do. I know now that I have the power and resiliency to fight back and get out. I’m wiser about what’s out there, watching for the red flags, and even what I want and don’t want.

    • Marriage detective this is also my experience. I was aware of some aspects that weren’t at normal standards, sometimes I felt as if he had attention deficiencies or cultural lacks from his upbringing. I would never imagine he was a serial cheater, a financial parasite or a liar though.
      I naively thought he would have appreciated those things missing in his childhood. I put so much effort in building a cheerful good family, a house full of love, caring and warmth. He always mistreated me and I protected the children from his rages. Really he never participated to a happy lifestyle project, he only staged a performance to keep a good image on the outside. Above al, he used badly his freedom of time and money to go to prostitutes and blame me for not being suspicious, he said I believed him so easily that this meant that I wasn’t bothered about infidelity.

  • I have thought long and hard about this one.

    I personally believe that people who can engage in the kinds of manipulative, hurtful crap that many of our partners have done, were not/are just not good people.

    Does that mean they have no redeeming qualities?
    Of course not. We likely chose them for those very qualities, in most cases. And yes, we probably spackled the hell out of some of the red flags (raising hand here!) and saw them in the best possible light. Which, I’m guessing, was an endeavor they were all too happy to assist.

    The problem is that although they *seemed* to be “nice”, and they did some of the things that indicated they were the type of partner we were looking for, that vein of goodness just didn’t run very deep.

    I still have difficulty believing that someone with deeply held values, true character, a moral compass; someone who is a compassionate, loving person, that this type of individual is capable of deceiving the people they supposedly hold dear for a a thrill or diversion.

    Not to say that people don’t stop loving each other at times, or have problems which drive them apart. Or that sometimes attractions to others don’t develop, or temptations don’t present themselves.
    The important issue is how those issues are dealt with.

    Are they dealt with honesty, caring, and consideration?

    Most of the time here, the answer is NO.

    How can a “good” person lie to their partner’s face for months/years, take money out of their family’s coffers, work to convince their partner that they are unstable and imagining things, disrespect them to their APs and friends, sneak around, cheat and hide, all to further their own desires?

    Does a “good” person magically get swayed by getting into the wrong company?
    Like a Svengali–does that make them simply forget that they’re partnered with someone else? Does it make them unable to remember (or care) that their partner has feelings and rights?
    Does it make their conscience shrivel up and die?
    I don’t think so. People don’t generally do things completely out of character, they’re of a piece.

    (This is barring drug addiction/brain disease/etc. that actually clouds someone’s thinking.)

    No. I don’t think it’s possible.
    I know that I couldn’t do it. It would tear me up. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t look at his face. I would hate myself.

    I think these apples were bad from the start. We just weren’t savvy enough to see it; either because we were loving and trusting and wanted to believe that what was presented to us was real, or we were in the hands of some seriously manipulative folks who never had our best interests at heart.

    All we can do now is move forward and learn from our experience.

  • Oh, mine was a consummate liar. And like you, I expected to be immune from it. What a chump I was! And all my friends and family knew what a bastard he was, but I spackled like heck to get them to see he really was a good guy – he just had a severely damaged soul and he needed my love! Good grief. TOTAL CHUMP.

    When my family found out he’d cheated on me, they weren’t very surprised, either. I can’t believe I was such a fool for so long. NO MORE.

  • CL’s best advice ever: “Don’t look back and try to pinpoint where it all went bad. Don’t waste time wondering what motivates someone to cheat.”

  • Cluster B cheaters are masters of deception and psychological manipulation. When they are lovebombing, they are mirroring you and presenting their false self, which is the direct opposite of their true self. You believe that you have found someone just like you who really likes or even loves you. First impressions are lasting; generally we form impressions of others immediately based on their walk, talk and dress. When the chinks in the armor inevitably appear, we write them off as aberrations. These “aberrations” reflect the true character of the Cluster B cheater. When the Cluster B cheater is able to get away with their reprehensible behavior with no questions asked, no consequences and a loving, giving spouse acquiescing to all their demands, the deception is working and they feel that they are winning. They may be easy to get along with at that point and play the role of the “good spouse.” The Cluster B cheater is a “fair weather friend”; as long as their partner keeps the unconditional love, naivete and money flowing, the cheater may appear to behave. However, if the spouse of the Cluster B cheater asks to have a heart-to-heart about the disengagement they are feeling in the marriage, or if the spouse questions the truth of the Cluster B’s statements, then watch out! If money becomes tight in the marriage, then watch out! You are about to see the “true self” make an appearance. Once they are not easily “getting away with it”, they will be angry and the anger will be taken out on the spouse. They have always been this way. It might look like they just turned this way, but they are really just showing their anger at being found out, or exposed. This is why whoever they just got cheating with is their soulmate or great love of their life, when realistically that person is just one in a long list of people they have cheated with and the one they were with when caught.

  • Dear Tremont, you’re not the one who spoiled her.
    You didn’t suggest threesoms or swapping partners. She was likely to do it anyway. You couldn’t prevent her from meeting new people. She was supposed to recognize good people. That kind of people is incompatible with maintaining healthy relationships. Or did she tell you in advance she had a tendency for “adventure”?
    These questions come to people who are brainwashed by narcissists who think they are entitled to let themselves go and carelessly transform family members in doormats with a smile. They may say to people that “it just happened” or “he/she made me do it”. Like in kindergarten. Nobody told her she wasn’t in kindergarten anymore!
    How come you didn’t get involved with happy gang of female soccer coaches?
    That’s what disordered people do: they bring chaos.

  • My situation was just as unbelievably jacked! After all my research I figured he’d been cheating for 20+ years, and I had only had a few minor suspicions over that time, which I wrote off as normal. Things were crazy; I’m talking abortions, money to foreign countries, multiple girlfriends at a time etc… Yeah, he did a LOT of shitty things. I tried in vain to figure him out. I’ve been on my own 2 years now. Lots of reading, retreats, soul-searching has led me to realizing I can’t change him. I can’t change other people. I can only change myself, and enforce my healthy boundaries.

    The one aspect that I’m still trying to figure out is how it all happened without my knowing. Where was my head?! What was I thinking that he got it all past me?! I know now I spent my whole life projecting my values onto him. He actually shared very few of my values, but that didn’t stop me from projecting! So now, I’m working on NOT projecting… identifying when I am projecting my views or values onto other people. I’m mostly doing that by paying attention to whether the actions and words of others are in alignment. It’s something I work on every day; understanding that everybody is on their own journey in life, and not imposing my values on them; addressing things as they are now, not as I wish them to be.

    I wish you the best on your journey. It sucks for sure, but there is a lot that we can learn along the way.

  • I use to ask myself this same question. For 18 years was always a great mom and typical marital fights. Around year 18, I started seeing a change in behaviors. Hanging out with groups of people that were related to her travel. Usually younger. Then at year 20, she started conversations wife ex bf from high school. Then she met a 20 something year old…. she became what can only be described as evil! For then next 4 years I jumped through hoops etc…. till I found out the truth. So no she did not change. What I missed or dismissed were the nagging signs along the way something was wrong with her. She covered it pretty well while raising kids, but as their need for her diminished, she started searching for other ways to fill that dark hole in what little heart she really has. No they don’t change, they just become what they really are! Biggest sign I blew off was the old saying “the apple doesn’t fall to far from the tree”. Yes she did not become her mom, she was always like her mom. Selfish, entity cheater!

  • This post is GOLD and exactly what I needed to help me through the “how could he do this to me/us”? The sting of that is unbearable and I desperately need to find a way to release that pain. I need an antidote! There is none, but the way CL framed in here has helped me a lot. I’m now making progress towards letting go of that burn and need to validate the decades I spent building a life together with him, to validate that I meant anything, that our family meant anything. That pain and anguish really is all-consuming, a soul crusher. Thank you CL for laying it out like this, it’s helping me come to terms with the nonsense of being abandoned by a seemingly “loving and dedicated” man I spent far too long investing in. Coming to terms with the crap of it all.

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