Dear Chump Lady,
I was wondering about serial versus (presumably) one-off cheaters.
I know they both suck.
But it’s hard if your cheater only cheated (again, presumably… because they lie through their teeth to get one up on you) once. Versus the “bad guys” who cheated all the time.
Do you know what I mean?
Like, both types of cheaters suck — but I feel like Chump Lady could help clarify this for chumps like me.
When I was fresh out, it was like a huge head fuck — oh, he only cheated *ONCE*. It must have been my fault! They (cheater + shmoopie) truly do love each other! Etc.
Now I’m 2 years out and closer to meh every day.
I know you wrote a post on emotional affairs vs sexual ones, but maybe one on the serial vs one off cheaters would be great too.
When I first started this blog, I did a post called “A Spectrum of Cheaters.” Now, five years later, I think the taxonomy of cheaters doesn’t really matter. What matters is YOU — your deal breakers and what you’re willing to tolerate.
Some people try to reconcile with serial cheaters, some people walk after the first lie. While I give you handy tools here to determine cheater remorse — is it real remorse or genuine imitation remorse? — your cheater’s depth of sorry doesn’t really matter either. (Although it could help secure a fair settlement.) It always comes back to — is this an acceptable relationship to YOU?
The same goes for emotional affairs. The only argument I make there is that (if it’s TRULY an EA… and it often is not), there’s less physical harm to the chump — your health isn’t being risked. No one is getting pregnant or getting someone else pregnant. And depending on where you are in discovery, you may stand a better chance of walking this thing back and reconciling. (Which is why so many chumps cling to the minimization of “It was just an emotional affair!” after discovery. And cheaters cling to the “just friends” cliche.)
But affairs aren’t just about sex. It’s the constellation of behaviors around the affair, which constitute abuse, that make chumps leave. The gaslighting, the rages, the theft of joint assets, the secret debts, the in-your-face disrespect. Sure, the guy is just having an “emotional affair,” but he Facebook messages Schoompie on his phone at your mother’s funeral? Fuck that shit.
That’s the kind of everyday devaluing and mindfuckery that sends chumps over the edge. THAT is what you must weigh when you decide to stay or go. Can I ever trust this person again? How much of my personal safety did this person risk to fuck strange? How could they endanger our children’s intact family? Now what I know what the cheater is capable of, how do I know this all isn’t an act? I was snowed before.
Can you do the mental gymnastics required for staying? And if you’re truly honest with yourself, is this a relationship worth preserving? Even without the cheating, is the relationship toxically lopsided? Does this person have your back? Do they bring out the best in you?
Now back to your situation.
When I was fresh out, it was like a huge head fuck — oh, he only cheated *ONCE*. It must have been my fault! They (cheater + shmoopie) truly do love each other!
Oh, the magic fuck defense. And what an almighty fuck it was. One fuck and they’re IN LOVE. It was JUST ONCE! But suddenly in that perfect fucky moment he knew she was the ONE!
The affair probably went on for longer than you knew. Which brings us to — how do you define “just once”? Okay, it was ONE affair — but how many years did it go on? Was it just one sexual encounter? The old one-night stand excuse. (16 million page views, folks, hundreds of thousands of stories, I think I can count the one-night-stand affairs on one hand.)
If my blog numbers, and the Ashely Madison hack, have taught me anything, it’s that serial cheaters are way more common than we think. Cake is a preferred lifestyle for many. Most of the discourse around affairs is on the One Off Affair. The Wayward Who Strayed. When in fact cheaters like cake. They pursue cake, and having a main partner and a series of fuckbuddies is the actual normal with infidelity. If you want to believe the random sample of a blog with 16 million page views.
Which brings us back to you — odds are he wasn’t a one off cheater. And odds are he’s not going to find perfect bliss with Schmoopie. And guess what? It doesn’t matter. He destroyed your relationship and devalued you for the attentions of another woman. Because you’ve got self respect, that was NEVER going to be okay with you.
Quick untangling the skein of fuckupedness. Doesn’t matter what genus of species of cheater he was. Rock on with your new life.