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When They Look Good on Paper

Today is part two of How Not to Get Chumped Again. Yesterday we discussed reciprocity, today we’re going to examine compatibility. I have to give my husband credit for this nugget o’ insight. He noticed the expression coming up again and again “Well, he looked good on paper…”

People fall into this trap all the time! he said. (Uh.. he fell for it, as he’ll tell you.) Chumps do a kind of mental shorthand that leads to drawing greater conclusions about someone’s character and compatibility. When really, what they look like “on paper” is just a list of random attributes that don’t say anything about how this person will treat you or if you can tolerate spending five minutes with them in a taxi queue.

For example, on paper my ex looked like someone you would want to date. I drew conclusions from his resume that were completely false. He worked 20 years for the government (stable! boring! financially secure! The truth? drama! chaos! debt-ridden!) He was well traveled. (He must be curious about life! Truth? He was a crashing bore.) He owned a lot of sporting equipment. (He must be outdoorsy! Truth? It collected dust in the garage.) He subscribed to the New Yorker. (He likes to read! He’s verbal and literary! Truth? Maybe it was a gift from an OW or a decoy to lure “arty chicks.” I never saw him read one, ever.)

But see, all these “clues” led me to construct this viable, wonderful partner for myself. He looks like the sort of person I see myself with. There is a vanity in this thinking that’s embarrassing to admit. The “paper” him looks enviable. And narcissists are very good at projecting holographic images of who you want them to be. They sparkle! They think they’re fabulous! Don’t you feel very lucky to be with them? Because, as they convey constantly, to feed such a personage ego kibbles is a privilege! You’re in the cool kids club!

The lesson here is:

Pay attention to who they really are. NOT what they look like “on paper.” Yes, this is just another way of saying, listen to their actions, and not the image they present.

The flip side of this is — know who YOU are and what kind of person you really jive with. Some self knowledge is required to choose well and EDIT well.

There are all sorts of people in this world we think we should be compatible with by virtue of shared history or interests, that we really don’t have jack shit in common with. I think this is a mistake we make especially when we’re younger. It doesn’t take much for someone to be our friend. We lived in the same dorm room with them. Our kids go to the same elementary school. Our cubicles are adjoined. For whatever reason, you think there is a bond there, when it’s just geography.

You spend enough time with someone, your spouse say, and you’ve invested in that history AND they “look good on paper” — it’s hard to back off and say to yourself “I can’t stand them.” But… you’re SUPPOSED to love them! Look at how much you have in common (on paper)! So many people would love to be YOU — married to the doctor/lawyer/trustafarian/chick with big tits. What’s WRONG with you?

Truth is — they suck. If they cheated on you, hey, they suck. You clearly don’t share the same values with this person. Bad fit. Don’t mistake accomplishments for good character. Good character is shown over time, through kindness and reciprocity and has nothing to do with SAT scores or how many unread New Yorkers are sitting on top of the toilet tank.

Chumps? You ARE the cool kid. And not everyone can be in your club. Be choosy. You’re worth it.

This column ran previously. 

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  • Thank you, Tracy, for this “look good on paper” insight. With my cheater, I knew him for only 2 months through work (he had a 2-months assignment in my country) and then we had two dates before he left “for good” I thought. I was devastated as I thought I had found that perfect one and now he had to leave. I wrote a lengthy email to my best friend literally idealizing him and granting him all sorts of great qualities while all he was at those dates was charming and attentive. Yes, well-read and well-travelled and an intellectual, and he does read a lot and is not boring and speaks a few languages. And very handsome and witty as well. But so what? He was a shitty partner from day one. Funny how my friend’s response to my word diarrhea was one word: RELAX! In the hindsight she was right. All I needed was to take a laxative and relax but intensive long-distance love bombing followed, 2 months later I was engaged and a year later married in an beautiful adventure wedding in the hard to get mountains (his crazy idea but totally my planning and implementation) and moved to his country. He speeded it up and I thought he loved me, this was why. And it felt oh so good to be loved by such a sparkly guy. So much vanity in it, you are right. So instead of taking time and evaluating actions (and they were plenty of red flags before the wedding) I spackled and kept my eyes on “the paper”.

    And you know what? While I lawyered up and moving forward with my divorce (no matter how many obstacles he puts forward) my picker is not yet fixed. 5 months ago I had to hire a team mate and I followed the same “paper” pattern. Looks great! Interview was perfect. He reads The Economist! Smart guy! He is well-reavelled so he understands the intricasies of our business. Served in the army! Speaks languages! wow! And I hired a snake.

    It took me many of his actions to realize that I just made exactly the same choice at work as I had in my personal life. He was a full of himself narc with no integrity, constantly interrupting everybody and peppering conversations with smart but useless expressions or questions just to stand out. Thankfully, my CL education kicked in and I was finally able to get rid of him. And guess what? I felt guilty for firing him! He also presented so much drama during the process, started breathing heavily, cried, apologised…the victim channel.

    So with this experience I think I will hold off from going to the market for a while. I want to fix my picker with regards to everybody else in life and then think of a life partner. Here is my test. I need to re-hire another one. Let’s see how my insights will be at the interviewing of other candidates. I should remember the “on paper” thing.

    • How mighty, LTC!

      By your modeling of good boundaries – it helps normalize this action for the rest of us Chumps. I’m much better at it now than I was, but it takes daily awareness and effort. There is nothing autonomic yet about my boundaries, so thank you for helping to reinforce this self-care.

    • I had similar experience with hiring nannies. The first one was pretty good. I was a new mother at the time and needed someone with more parenting experience than I had so I was really focused on the experience side of things. When she left four year and another kid later due to medical issues, I had to hire a replacement. I was still hung up on thinking I needed an experienced nanny. I hired a woman who was Mary Poppins on paper. I ignored the rather lukewarm reference. Well, Mary Poppins quit after less than a week because she got a better offer elsewhere. Silly me, I thought that when you accept a job that means you are done looking (kinda like when you get married you are supposed to be done looking). The good news is that I was able to fix my picker on hiring nannies. At that point I realized that I was an experienced mother who knew what she wanted and that my priorities needed to be someone who liked kids, was reliable, and good at following directions. Once I made those things a priority and started really grilling the references, I got what I wanted. My next two nannies were awesome, at least I thought they were. Ex, or course, still had plenty of complaints.

    • You need to let yourself off the hook. These people have been “in training” since they were children. They are so much better at conning you than you are at knowing it. We want people to be kind. We want them to be empathetic. They can “do” kindness and empathy until they don’t. I think the first red flag is the knot in the stomach. Are you uncomfortable whenever you have an interaction with them? Flip side. Too charming or too pitiful. Anyone who is too anything should be suspect. Who wants all that drama even if it is romantic.

    • I so relate to this, LongTimeChump! I fell into the trap again romantically with another narc after Honey abandoned us. Shared history was the draw. Once I spotted the magnanimous comments and the grandiosity and the self praise that was waaaay too frequent, I took CL’s advice and ran for the hills.
      He was going to be the next great lead rock guitarist. He never once played with a band, and could only play off-tune, 10 second-long nerve jangling guitar riffs. So I bought him professional guitar lessons as a birthday present, innocently thinking he’d be thrilled. He seemed offended that I’d suggest he needed practice. Hmmm.
      Then, I was having a weak moment about my attractiveness and asked him his opinion. He said ‘I could literally be with any woman on earth. But I choose to be with you.’ Hmmmmmm.
      Here’s me, with my old Chump heart thinking he’s so good on paper but my new Chump brain thinking…run. Run far. Run NOW. So I did.

      • Was this Van from your blog? I’ve been reading your writing since almost day one. How you write about your kiddos has helped me be a better mother.

        • Yes! It was Van, Susannah. It was so tragic, too, because mixed in with this amazing intelligence and sarcasm and wit was this dysfunctional, overcompensating wounded teenage boy. I heard all the amazing words and all of the borderline crazy proclamations, and I had to use a filter to sieve through it all to figure out which one was ‘really him’. My powers of discernment in this question came from THIS BLOG. Is there anything Chump Lady can’t do? I bet she even makes a mean omelette. Saving people from bad decisions and (probably) poaching fish perfectly since…forever.

          And may I just tell you that what you said about my blog just made my millennium? I am hugging you with my keyboard.

    • So many of these men are sparkly, arrogant and overly impressed with themselves. Instead of being repelled by this, many of us are oddly, and inexplicably attracted. In the moment, it’s hard to remember that there is a fine line between confident and arrogant. It is my belief that many of these types can recognize a woman who has self esteem issues a mile away. They are like moths to a light. They leave people with the impression that we are lucky they chose us, and we buy into it. If I could give my younger self advice, I would say SLOW DOWN. Time is not a benefit to these types. If the relationship is right, it will be revealed over time. Getting “swept off your feet” is only a good thing in Disney movies.

      • “Leave the impression theyre lucky to have us” this is word for word what an ex colleague of my ex fucktard said about him. He moped around the office when talking about the burden of his childrens demands (ie normal living expectations) and rolled his eyes when i called .. even after he’d texted me to call HIM. so everyone he worked with and apparently most others we knew came away with this craftily created notion that my poor ex was shouldering an ungrateful bunch of leeches sucking all the happiness out of him. Truely one of lifes victims. They have had alot of practice.

        • Ha! My ex lying cheating pervert……sounded exactly like his mother! A poor, put upon, overburdened by the constant demands of family.

          The goofy/mindless old bag used to invite us to dinner- then whine about how hard it was to make the dinner. Like mother ….like son!

          She had no idea she raised a voyeur/porn addict.

    • Can you get a mentor, someone more experienced than you, in a similar field, but different organisation? Someone you can trust to open up to about this stuff, and they support your personal and professional development?

      If you are hiring people, give yourself the support you need. It doesn’t have to be formal. I think awareness if the first step. Luckily you smartened up and fired that person, rather than allow them to dredge your business.

      Meanwhile, personally, we share similar stories. Stupid me met a guy before we both went overseas. Long-distance love-bombing, romantic visits to each others countries, plans to move to a new city together after our assignments.

      It was my own vanity that thought someone as “amazing” as him could love me. There were red flags, but I speckled. You know the drill. Mine looked exceptional on paper. Phd, great career, went to the gym, “good family” (i.e.: covert narc MIL!!). I projected values onto him that simply weren’t there – financially responsible, stable, rationale, kind.

      But that paper was just that, paper easily torn and destroyed. It meant nothing.

      I learnt the hard way. I still sometimes give shitty people too many chances, but nothing like I used too.

      Good luck with developing your hiring capabilities. You got this.

  • Being choosy now. Happy to be single if I don’t find a person who fits. Very liberating to be on my own again.

  • I was 15 when I started dating Cheater. He was 18. He was so charming – I was completely hooked. I overlooked sooo many things that I placed real value on and he didn’t. I just thought he was young and immature and would grow into being a man. He just didn’t. Ever. He is less of a man than our 13, 17 and 19 year old boys (and not just because he cheated)! He threw tantrums, he was lazy, he needed constant attention, he was selfish and self-absorbed. He remains a child. How I thought this was ok, I’ll never know.

    Hindsight (again)…we were NEVER really compatible and it was evident throughout the whole 22 years of marriage. I stayed because that’s what I believed in. In sickness and in health. Richer, poorer. Better, worse. All that. And then he blew it all up and cheated – line=crossed!

    (Yes, I know he may have been cheating the whole time.)

      • Yes! My 24 YO daughter said her 49 YO dad is living like he is 18. No furniture. His only possessions are one plate, a fork, a butter knife.

        Plus 8 guitars and 5 guns and 178 compact discs. And dozen concert t-shirts and 4 dashikis.

        His most recent brilliant act was to put some chicken in the oven at 400 degrees and then fall asleep for 5 hours. Mommy wasn’t there to take it out. I don’t feel bad wishing he would have died (this is the second stooopid move like this with kitchen hazards).

        My daughters are smarter than their father, and they know it. Sigh.

        • OMG, my ex totally did this ‘living like a student’ thing! He was 45 years old when he agreed to move out of the family home (otherwise I would have), then dragged his feet until I found him a small apartment and made him sign the lease and actually move.

          Furnishings; one mattress on floor, one inflatable mattress. Our young teens were expected to sleep one on the inflatable, the other with him. Table and chairs we had stored in our basement for a friend. A very few dishes and pieces of cutlery (not enough for he and the kids to all eat at the same time), a couple of pans, not enough towels for him and the kids either. Nothing for the kids, nada. They could watch videos on his computer, when he wasn’t working on it.

          I thought both the under-furnishing and the small apartment were very temporary, but he only bought more towels, dishes and a futon when I spoke to him about how uncomfortable the kids were at his place. He stayed in that little apartment for years, because his focus was on Schmoops and his life with her in HER city, a 5 hour drive away.

          Then he wondered why the kids didn’t want to spend any extra time there, beyond what we had agreed to, and didn’t want to ‘hang out’ there when he wasn’t home. Really? They had a REAL home a couple of blocks away …

          • Well, this “living like a student” is certainly more admirable than a 61 year old living with his mother (and his 55 year old brother is in the basement, waiting for his second divorce)! The whore actually lives two blocks away…so, who knows? My 34 year old son will not visit his grandmother to certify that his father has a room there. An entire family of losers. So glad to be free.

      • My kids are doing the same thing, Vastra. When I’ve vacillated even a little on whether to divorce, I could tell it messed with my kids more than going forward with divorce. My teenager said, “He brought it on himself” of STBX’s sadz performances. I trust that he sucks. Even moreso bc my kids’ instincts are sharper than mine are at 40 years older! I suspect that she knows/has seen more than she’s telling me, too. And I do trust her. My chumpy spackle-brain still likes to forget/deny horrible things (remnants of my childhoid abuse), so I forgot she caught him watching porn years ago. I should have left him then…that was enough. CL, thank you for your doses of daily sanity!

  • In hindsight he looked good on paper. He was a musician and played the drums. He’d sit for hours practicing and expanding on a massive drum set in the basement. He never once played out in a band in the years we were together.

    He owned his own business and bragged about how no one else was skilled enough to do what he did. Just as he never invested in the relationship the same was true about his business. After over thirty years his eleven year old truck finally died going into his busy season. More debt coming his way. He’s trying to sell it to his adult daughter to raise money.

    On paper he never made money or paid taxes. after u threw him out he no longer had my income to offset his ‘losses’ and had to take out a three year loan to pay the government.

    Not an ounce of fat on his body as he worked out daily. He modeled his new boxers after Dday. Yet he hated that I ate organic food and he ate shitty. The cupboard was full of his meds for all his health problems.

    The list goes on. However, passing that torch was the best thing I did for myself.
    It’s an eye-opener when given time and distance. He had no positive attributes at sixty. Glad I’m not her.

      • Laughing my ass off ! My narc father gifted me his mid-life crisis jalopy, an orange Dodge Omni, for my senior year at college in the cold northeast. My friends nicknamed it “Agent Orange”. Driving home after a break,the alternator broke and I had no headlights to drive through farmland. The guys and their pickup truck looked straight out of casting from the movie “Deliverance”. I was terrified during the drive back to campus. One of the pedals got stuck when I started it one below freezing morning. Fortunately, I hadn’t left the car in gear or I would have crashed into the garage of the on-campus where I worked as the resident adviser.

        His father generously paid for my four year liberal arts education and his contribution was a piece of shit vehicle that barely made it through the year.

  • Your timing with this post is perfect for me too Tracy.
    I have started to write an essay titled ” What I would tell my younger self ” and I realised that I totally fell for a list of attributes which appealed to me, without really getting to know the man beneath. Although there were red flags everywhere which my 22 year old self ignored.

    But more than this, I didn’t even know myself, I needed to think about what kind of man I would be compatible with and I didn’t ever consider that.
    I would therefore tell my younger self to really think about who I am first, what are my interests, what kind of people do I like to be with.
    Character is way more important than anything else.

    Roll on 40 years and now my poor choices have blown up in my face. It was inevitable I realise now, especially once the cheating stopped me spackling. Anyone can be perfect on paper, but a disaster as a lifelong companion.

    So sad that we don’t have women like you Tracy to drum it in to us when we are young, gullible pickers.

    • What happens when they not only look good on paper but happens to be quite charming in public. You know the type – the perfect person, real religious, great community person, real wonderful to your family members etc. Hey I consider it THE REAL FAKE PERFORMER!! Then the bomb drops. You are no longer together.
      Hmmm… I kept everything to myself never told a soul what was happening. Guess what happens. My own mother does not believe what a cruel person he is. That has hurt me more than anything. The comfort I have is that at least my adult daughter understands. How do you deal with family who doesn’t believe you ???
      The one thing I know that I will watch out for is when he appears too perfect. And when he is extra “nice” especially to waitresses leaving large tips so he can be “remembered.” Biggest red flag that I simply thought was him being “nice.”
      Mindfucks – how can we as chumps ever get past it? I still need to get out of my daze and find ways to cope on my own as a differently abled- person.
      Hugs to all.

      • How do you deal with a family member that does not believe you? You distance yourself from the person, that is how. Yes, it can be quite painful, but it can also be the healthiest thing you can do.

        My mother is the queen of narcs and guess who she talks to every single day? The X. Not only that, but she personally invited X to my father’s funeral and insisted that he sit with the family!(Actually right next to her so that she could hold his hand.) I am sure it was partly to “keep up appearances”, but it gave her the added thrill of hurting me.

        My mother groomed me to be a chump. Hell, I was her chump before X ever entered the picture. I was always trying to please her and falling short. I walked on eggshells my entire childhood. I learned from an early age that my needs did not matter. I was the perfect candidate to marry a narcissist. It was all I knew.

        While X looked good on paper, that is not what drew me to him. He was the first person who seemed to care about me. I was verbally and physically abused by my mom for much of my childhood. X took me away from that abuse. He protected me from a very vindictive person, who wold have loved nothing more than to see me fail.

        I will never forgive X for what he later did but, in the beginning of our relationship, he helped me break free from a very, very destructive home environment. Sadly, as he aged, his need for adoration became more important than our marriage and what we had created together was destroyed.

        I do wonder, though, how many of us “chumps” ate shit sandwiches because it was what we had been fed as children. Now that I am able to examine the full picture, I really do not give a damn whether or not my story is “believed.” It is my life and my story snd that is all that matters to me! Those who choose to discount it do not need to be a part of my new, improved path to peace.

        • Violet – Big hugs to you, as I can so relate to your story. My mother is a carbon copy to your mother and how she treated you. And it really doesn’t matter who believes us, so long as we believe it for ourselves. Our story is what matters to us! Well said. And I almost married a Narcissist, and thank God I called off the wedding 4 months prior as I couldn’t take how much he started crapping on me once we were engaged. There was no way I was going to relive my entire childhood all over again with torture and abuse with this guy, just like I did with my parents. And I agree, those who discount us, have no place and certainly do not belong in our lives.

        • I think some of us were fed shit sandwiches simply because the way society is geared. My parents are really great people, but there was no doubt some of the messages I got from them were a product of the decade I was growing up. (70’s, 80’s)

          They made mistakes without realizing they were mistakes. At their core, they were steady and always had my back, they just had some unhealthy idea about how things ought to be. They’ve mellowed in the old age and very little surprises them anymore.

        • Same experience of being my mother’s ‘chump’. I learned to dance to her moods and demands for my entire life. Not that I cared about the money, but when she died she left everything to my sister (who had moved to the other side of the world – probably to escape her). However what really hurt was that when I went into her house after the funeral I’d organised, I discovered that she had got rid of all of the family photos that included me.

          I suggest you dump your mother while she’s still alive.

          • It’s almost comforting that she went through the trouble, one last time, to tell you that you’re a piece of shit, am I right? My mom was a serial cheater, left my dad several times “but came back for us kids”. So every subsequent affair, including borrowing my lingerie to sleep with one of my friends, was somehow my fault. So much chaos, so little love, I ended up parenting my parents and sister before puberty. Only in retrospect did I realize that it’s more likely she hated doing her own housework and cooking her own meals, because Cinder-Chump chose to live with dad after the divorce. I have no doubt that when her will is read she will find a way to punish me for it again.

        • Wow. You could be telling my story: of being trained to be a narcissist’s chump by a narc mother. Eerily similar. Oh, and she had the entire family’s photographs by her bed – but none of me.
          If the people who cheat on us all speak from a similar script it seems like we do too, with our mirror-image family backgrounds.

        • “ Those who choose to discount it do not need to be a part of my new, improved path to peace.”

          I need to have that written on my palm Violet.

          Today stbx’s Mom called again trying to pressure me to go to stbx’s cousin’s wedding reception next weekend. She told me stbx inlaws were not coming. I already said no. When I asked if Stbx would be there, she said yes and I then said absolutely not, it was too awkward. She continued to push and said I think it would show you are strong kind of like saying fuck you. She said he is getting away with this because he can. I stuck with no and tried to nicely tell her it would ruin the event for others. She asked if the kids will still come and said think about it.

          I have now thought about it and think wtf? Why would you want to use your daughter’s wedding as a platform to say fuck you. There will only be 40 people so it is difficult to avoid each other. He hasn’t spoken to my kids in months. Does aunt really think it would be pleasant? She even said they didn’t know who to seat him with and think he only said yes because they came to his 50th birthday party last week.

          His unapologetic violation of me, takes away his privilege to socialize with me. I wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy myself so I am not going! I think aunt has good intentions but she just doesn’t get it. She is trying to hand me another shit sandwich.

        • Violet & KnittedRobin, Your posts really hit home how those FOO issues – grooming by Narc parents ultimately sets one up for Narc spouses. Another recurring theme not to be ignored. Spending my childhood telling myself I didn’t deserve things because of some weird compact I made with God to keep my family together during the tense times brought on by a father’s infidelity and and a mother’s drinking. How great to be love-bombed by a narc (unbeknownst to me) suitor? In retrospect it wasn’t really love-bombing, but thrown crumbs that seemed like a feast to my starving self-esteem.
          To better times!

        • Oh Violet…I was groomed to be a chump too. Mom wasnt a narc but has Borderline Personality Disorder and Alcoholism…and I was the less favored child. I have the same sorts of stories as you all, most are hurtful but some are so ridiculous that they border on funny.

          About the time my daughter was born, I finally flat out gave-up on mom. I am at Absolute Meh where she is concerned. She now wants me to care for her in her old age (no), give her money (no), take her on trips I do with my daughter (no). I did preplan her funeral for her. I do occasional nice things for my parents on my own terms, but Im not going to bust my ass for them.

        • Groomed from birth to serve my dangerous narc father and try to anticipate and respond to his every whim…

      • Yes Lioness. I never told anyone outside my immediate family – I wanted therapy to work and to spare my young kids the stigma and confusion that would inevitably come of making it public (there’s more to this). I deeply doubt the outside world’s ability to grasp the depth and subtly of her and her FOO’s disorders and their masking. Probably because I barely believed it myself even as I witnessed it – gaslighting, bald-faced lying, false assent, pity plays, rationalising, blame shifting, denial, addictions, suicidality, perversions, cheating, eating disorders, personality disorders, etc – from these people who could turn on a dime from sickness to calm charm and even “concern” for those whom they sought to destroy. All they are is their false front.

        I have read so many examples today and yesterday of those of us who face real actors, who present as a way of everyday all day life, not just the kind of things that would end up “on paper”. And they fool everyone. What a weird experience we share in having pealed back such masks to our horror.

        At least my family believes me. I feel sorry for you in that. I know exactly what you see and know but can’t or wouldn’t be able to get others to grasp. Don’t put too much stock in your mother’s opinion, if you think about it you may find she is at the root of why such things (red flags) were acceptable to you in the first place.

        And what a massive burden in facing life and others with such evil hidden. If it hasn’t already, it will make you isolated. I think you eventually need to tell but in your own time and way. I have not, but I think it is needed. I plan to keep it short and sweet and be clear that I don’t expect to be believed (or even understood because I wouldn’t have understood without experiencing it myself) and I don’t want or expect an alliance. I just want them to hear it and not condescendingly reply that they somehow know better. We all think we know what we know about others. Very few of us ever realize how much of it is simply projected by us onto others. It is indeed a shorthand, but everyone does it. People are mostly blank areas we fill in with our interpretations. We do it automatically. Usually we are right enough for it to be reliable, but then there are instances when it really isn’t. Only the disordereds and their victims ever really know this.

      • Lioness, my X presents himself as the all american guy, charming, funny, empathetic, when talking with someone who mentions an accident they had, or been treated unfairly. X will listen intently, pat them on the back, kind words of encouragement and sympathy.
        If an elderly person is about to enter a store or restaurant he jumps out of his chair to open the door for them. If there are babies in strollers, he smiles at them, says something funny to make them laugh. Says something complimentary about the child to it’s mother.
        One of his endless rants is about his integrity, and how disgusted he is with other people who aren’t a an of integrity like himself.
        That’s all bullshit. I’ve never met a more dishonest, manipulative, vindictive, wicked person.
        It’s frustrating and sad, there’s nothing you can do, and it can’t be fixed.

        People would tell me how lucky I was to be married to X. No one knew the extent of the verbal and emotional abuse I endured behind closed doors.
        X had carefully planned his exit, before he moved out. Almost everyone but me knew about his plans to move out of our home and that we weren’t getting along.
        He created an image of me as being an irrational monster and claiming to be a victim of my mental illness, and irrational behavior. It would have been nice if he had told me.

        Of all our friends, and family only two or three friends and three family members believed me, my mom, an aunt and a cousin. The others refused to believe X was anything but near perfect. It feels as if your whole world is imploding and you’re helpless.

        Speaking from experience don’t waste your time, it will only cause you more frustration.
        end your relationship with them, no contact. Anything you say or do will be told to your X. they’re like his little spies.
        Sorry this is happening to you. End these relationships go no contact.
        Yes, it will be uncomfortable especially at first, again it’s one of the many things that are about to change in your world.
        Remember divorce shows you who your true friends are, you don’t need or want the others in your life. They were never true friends.
        I had written more and accidentally deleted a paragraph. need to send this now before I accidentally delete more.
        I wish I had found CN as early as you have.. literally saved my life.

    • BTTY,
      You sound a lot like me! I appreciate what you said about not knowing yourself and who you woukd be compatible with. Thanks for sharing this. I was so young when i met him, too. Just 23 (these 31 years went by too fast!).
      We have NOW. And CL & CN. And a whole new future before us!

      • ChumpDiva
        You’re so right. The NOW is all we ever have really, so we have to let go, and appreciate the wonderful support and love that comes from all of us here, and knowing ourselves better than we ever did we can live our lives authentically from this moment.

    • Thank you for this. I’ve been talking with my daughter, 17, about taking the time to really get to know someone. I’ve told her that she has learned a lot, very quickly, because of her father, my STBX. It has become so obvious to her how he makes absolutely everything about himself. It’s so sad to see her cry because her father can’t apologize for hurting our family. He rationalizes everything and finds a way to blame me for the smallest things. Yesterday, he sent a text to me saying he remembers the time I traded in tiny diamond earrings for a bigger pair. I was a greedy bitch…. caused him to cheat. You still need a microscope to see the “big” diamonds. Not that it matters, it’s just fascinating to hear the things that caused the serial cheater to ruin lives. I obviously missed some major signals.
      As my daughter gets older and enters into serious relationships, she needs to get past what is “on paper” and really look for signals. Hear what he says, pay attention to his actions.
      Your essay to your younger self is an essay for young women everywhere. Thank you.

  • I was similarly impressed by my XH’s talents on paper and his feminist books. Fast forward several years – the man who had taken me to see Naomi Wolf on an early date was refusing to share cleaning duties yet fought against me hiring a cleaner when we both worked long hours, and yelled things like “just answer my questions with a yes or no!”. I cringe to think I tolerated him now!

    • Oh my goodness. The “just answer the question with a yes or no” – XH would say/yell that and write in post divorce emails! One I haven’t yet seen in all my time following CL!

      • Ditto

        Add to that – when he was ‘activated’, if I paused more than a second for a response to anything (even something as benign as, “What do you want for dinner?”), I’d get the, “Aha!!” (cue Jackie Gleason from The Honeymooners” reaction which somehow proved that he caught me lying.

        Jerk

        • Oh man, my 1st narc was exactly the opposite. He would get mad at me for answering “too fast” which indicated that I never was thoughtful about anything, He’d also get pissed when I pressed him for a “yes or no” answer after giving him hours, days, weeks to come up with a “thoughtful” answer. I got to the point of where I really just avoided asking, and then he was pissed that 1. I made a decision, 2. That I didn’t ask him about it or for permission.
          Then, once in awhile, he’d ask what I thought and then after I said he wouldn’t give it any consideration or do exactly the opposite. And, when it turned to shit, it was my fault.

          2nd just stayed stuck on the “pity me” channel whenever I asked him what he wanted, or thought, or whatever, and he’d answer with a “It don’t matter…”

          Fuck. There is just no winning with these narcs.

      • Truth in details that is a controlling tactic! I don’t specifically remember cheater doing that to me but after he left and I finally got mighty, we had text exchanges over bank accounts and credit cards where he would respond to my questions with questions trying to be evasive and distract me. I repeated the direct question 3 times and then just did what I wanted if he did not answer.

        Damn that felt good!

    • “Just answer my questions with a yes or no”

      “Listen to ME”
      (Anyone else get that)

      Puke!

      Vastra,
      YOU are mighty, YOU answered NO!

      • Haha, actually I gave him the same long-winded response every time, that I would answer him with as few or as many words as I chose, and with as much or little ambiguity as I felt appropriate.

    • Vastra,
      –> yelled things like “just answer my questions with a yes or no!”

      Oh wow!! I can’t say how many times my STBX yelled that at me!! Stupid thing was, is that most of his questions weren’t simple yes or no answers. There were variables involved, and he never cared to hear them.

      And years ago, if I started to speak too much info, or say anything that contradicted him, he would shout: “Pie-hole!” at me. Short for: Shut Your Pie-Hole! I cringe thinking about it.

      He moved out beginning of August, and I can’t say how HAPPY I am not having to walk on eggshells anymore, wondering what kind of mood he’d be in when he got home.

    • Sister in laws partner who seemed very straight laced, academic and well read and travelled. Open male who appeared to respect women. Turns out he liked a bit of web cam action with young women in the Philipines.
      Came as a total suprise to me.

  • Profession of faith is a big one. To say you ascribe to a fait is different than ACTUALLY ascribing. The profession might just be the path of least resistance for the cheater in their family circle.

    • My EX was just baptised for the second time (as a baby Catholic) and just two weeks ago with fiance and they posted on facebook that now all his past sins are forgiven. He is moving forward with a clean slate. The wife of 20 years and the two sons (has not talk to them in almost 3 years) do not exist at all in his past.

      Yep he looked good on paper, made it too easy to ignore the red flags for this chump.

      • Learning stbx was active in his church hooked me early on. He went to church every Sunday and participated in numerous church activities. I comverted to his faith.

        Now I realize this was a cultural social event for him. The signs were there but it looked good on paper. His narc mom did it for the image and he is an extension. There is no spirit of faith behind it. He doesn’t go at all now except for funerals.

        He makes comments that my religious beliefs are not genuine but I know the truth.

        • Hey Feelingit — my therapist tells me that narcs are drawn to believers. We are kind, empathetic, overlook faults. A church is just a free-for-all for the selfish. James Bond asked me about a dear sweet girl, “Is she an immoral girl?”

          • That’s fascinating – I was a church-goer when we met and he often expressed the wish I would “become religious” again. Ex left for a Jesus Cheater!

    • My STBX was baptized as an adult, when our kids were little. And after D-Day#2, he told me he ended his relationship with the whore when he got baptized, because “that’s when he decided to change his life around.” Funny that, because the videotape our daughter (12 at the time) found of him and the whore in the living room showed the walls painted yellow, which was AFTER his baptism (picture of that day shows walls were white).

      So yeah, I’m going with him not actually ascribing to faith.

  • I met my ex when he was a US marine posted here in Europe. He came over as fun and likable after my five years of being with a very decent, but staid guy I had not long broken up with. With him being a marine he had to live at the marine house,which meant we never spent a significant amount of time together. Not his fault of course but …… he was able to hide his EXPLOSIVE temper, which I discovered 2 weeks after we married and had moved to DC. He couldn’t get a job so I was the breadwinner, and he would spend as much as 3 hours a day on the phone chatting long distance to his mom. Of course he had to have a brand new car (using money cashed in from my pension) while I – you know the one who was working – had to walk, take the metro and the bus to get to work. Only the best was good enough for him, despite the fact that he wasn’t working. I gave up a fabulous job here in Europe to at least give it a go in the States. Got myself a job at the World Bank then the ex decided he didn’t like DC so we had to move again!!! Another fabulous job down the tubes. Eventually I was offered my old job back in Europe and we jumped at the chance to move back, but after about 15 years he wanted to “move to Montana and build a log cabin” (can you make that happen by the way Attie?). I said sure, why don’t I give up a third wonderful job so you can follow your dreams. Tell you what, YOU move to Montana, get the great job earning enough where I don’t have to work, enough that pays the kids education, our health insurance and then me and the kids will follow you out there. Needless to say that didn’t happen and he sure didn’t like it when I said it. I would add that we lived in the alps so building a log cabin was perfectly possible right here. Uuuurrrrgh. I realize pretty quickly that he always attached himself to my coat tails and was nowhere near what I thought he was on paper!

    • I saw his explosive temper twice when we were dating…why oh why did I spackle over those moments? One of those times he came up with a good excuse/story to cover what he did, I dont think it worked so well the second time, but I did not heed the red flag.

      We literally drove through Montana with him lecturing me about how we would live there except I refused to do it. I dont ever remember a workable pitch for making a home in Montana…I remember him buying more and more stuff in DC creating a situation where we couldnt leave that life if we wanted to.

      He bought what he wanted…car after car after car…house just a tweak more expensive than we could afford and I scrambled to pay all the bills but it was still my fault if we couldnt – on a whim – drop everything and move to Montana or NYC or the moon.

      He is in Montana for good now, at a Veterans Cemetery.

      • My X didn’t have an explosive temper, but he did have a nasty fighting style. During arguments, he would say mean things rather than make any attempt to resolve an issue. Once he realized I would leave him if he kept it up, his aggression became more covert

        Nasty fighting is a massive red flag. I’d now ditch anyone as even a friend who showed that behavior. Sad my younger self didn’t realize its significance.

        • Both the explosive temper and the nasty fighting are signs of attempted domination over another person, and domination is no basis for a healthy relationship.

          • The day he had his second temper outburst (narcissistic rage, I recognize now), throwing and shattering stuff, and I bolted out, then took him back I told myself “I am going to regret this”.
            Fatality has it that, after that second strike, he pulled himself together and never was violent in the same way again. So I gave him *credit* for being capable of growing up. Nope, just found a different way to abuse/dominate me… My chump mistake was not being educated about aggressiveness and cheating being linked by abuse/domination.

            I thought they were separate issues, because my previous pathological liar wasn’t an aggressive person.

            • In my case, it was the sulking, early on, and the nasty temper later.

              He stopped the sulking, and I saw it as him learning better ways to communicate, and growing up, and being capable of change when he saw it was important to our relationship.

              HAH! He stopped sulking because he saw it didn’t actually work on me. Moved on to nagging and raging.

              The first time he threatened to hit me, I called the police. That worked to keep his temper more under control for years. The second time, he actually grabbed me by the throat and had me up against the wall, screaming in my face. He’s 6’3′ and at the time was working out 3 times a week, huge! That time I took the kids and went to a shelter. (Stupid me came back, mostly because I knew the default custody arrangement here is time shared 50-50, unless the asshole had hit THE KIDS. And I also didn’t know that he wouldn’t even ask for 50% of the kids time when I did kick him out finally.) Funny, after that, he never threatened me again. That temper was completely controllable; he just needed to know he had to control it or he’d end up in jail.

              OMG, I was such a chump …..

              • He was HORRIBLE to fight with, he would rage or toxically blame or declare that we were divorcing.

                I could type about 5000 more words on this topic but I would rather not.

          • Amen to that!! I hated to argue with him. He always had to be right or prove his point, the arguments would always center around his ideas of philosophy about life, work, family, faith, etc… I always felt so stupid when I was fighting with him. I always had to show him facts to back up my rebuttal. After awhile I just stopped having any discussions with him. This is when I was getting my ducks in order to start my departure. I realized how brilliant he looked on paper also. He was intelligent, book smart (he had a photographic memory), was well liked by his friends and family, took every good care of his daughter, loved his mother and sister, loved to travel, etc… it wasn’t until I was dating him that I realized he was a very different person. He was different once you were intimate with him. The mask would drop and the real him came out. I had this idea that I knew deep down inside of him was a good person who had a good heart and soul. Now 17 years later I realized that I should have never speckled the crap that came out of his mouth. I am now divorcing the wing nut and going through the motions of trying to get both feet on the ground, fix my picker, move forward and learn from this experience. I always say “I’ll always have better”!!!! He deserves to eventually live his miserable, self serving and soon to be lonely existence. No one can fill his empty heart!!!!

        • I don’t have an explosive temper, but I do fight dirty with the ex. Thing is that when we were together, we rarely had even an argument. He never liked to “argue” which meant he wanted me to just agree with him with no presenting my desires/thoughts.

          In the end, that was the excuse he used to belly up to the can of Alp-Hos whore buffet….that I argued too much. He complained about it and then admitted he would say things on purpose just to see if I would argue/disagree. Eventually, while I didn’t realize he was actually doing it, I simply did not argue when it wasn’t important. I would say, “Oh” and “If that’s what you think.” and not take the bait. It didn’t matter that I was actively changing my behavior and laying down my actual need for accuracy, in order to try and appease his need for me to “not argue.” I was picking my battles.

          Anyway, what would you consider as “nasty fighting.” I don’t think I am overall, but I will go for the jugular when I am being personally attacked.

        • My STBX would quickly turn a conflict around on me. And from there it would turn into how I was a horrible person, my family liked him better than me, I have no friends, etc. But it was never explosive, he did it with a cool, calm demeanor.

          The only end to those fights was either me walking away because the original topic had gotten so lost or after he dumped all of that trash on me, he would stop talking and just stare at the tv. I would feel emotionally drained for a day or more. The next morning he would act like nothing happened.

          • Yes- this exactly. He sometimes rages, but his go-to is turning it around on me with a calm demeanor. Then I’d get upset and emotional, which to him was proof that I was the crazy one.

            But the thing that still gets me- the waking up the next day and pretending nothing happened. So very bizarre. So very invalidating.

        • Yes and be careful because the temper and nastiness doesn’t need to be directed at you. Mine would be angry and direct his temper at people who maybe even seemed deserving. He was good at justifying. That same temper can turn on anyone, even his wife. Yes, I thought I was special too, schmoopie!

        • Nasty fighting should be takem very seriously. Nasty fighting doesn’t need to begin with your relationship, you will be the target eventually. While you’re dating watch for the nasty fighting with others. Listen closely to stories of his other relationships, including siblings, or neighbors find out how it was resolved or not, how does he feel about them now?
          One very important red flag I ignored is his sneakiness, sending anonymous letters to people he disagreed with ridiculing them. laughing when people he disagreed with suffered especially if he was responsible for hurting them. Making anonymous phone calls to report people he didn’t like such as calling the DMV if their vehicle wasn’t registered or didn’t have the new registration displayed. What was I thinking? How could I live with someone who could be so devious?

      • LOL…Mr. Twatwaffles moved here to Montana from Florida/Georgia because HE wanted the cabin. He’s been here since 1991 (save for a tour in Europe and one in South Korea.) and NO CABIN.

        I’m sure it’s my fault.

    • When mine wanted to move half way across the country I said “One of us needs to find a job there first”, so he found me a job there and we moved.

  • Oh CL,

    So true, thank you for this one. They look “good on paper” because we are usually staring at the mirror of ourselves. They are holding that mirror and directing any available light our way to blind us to the truth. Truth, it itself, is just a tool to be sprinkled about. Heck, just found out yesterday from MIL (we get on just fine and ex discarded her, too) that ex flying monkey was used in some kid commercials because he could cry on the spot.

  • Chump Pro Tip: being smart is not a proxy for good character. At 21, I was impressed that my now ex-wife was a national merit scholar. Thought anyone who could see deeper into issues would certainly choose the greatest good. Turns out she had no empathy and no impulse control and cheated for 10-20 years hundred of times with multiple partners. Never chose good if a secret benefit for her was to be had. Also turns out she wasn’t very smart, losing her her business, my income, and her comfortable lifestyle due to cheating.

    There is no proxy for good character, only a collection of actions exemplifying it over time.

  • After this article, I am assured that my girlfriend is a keeper. Not only is she genuine, loving, honest, and reciprocal…..she isn’t a Chick with Big Tits.

    • No worries, Ladies. Much like Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman”…….There is no greater paradise than snuggling up to tits. Big tits, little tits, any size tits.

  • This right here is the most terrifying part. My ex wasn’t flashy, didn’t love bomb me, took his time carefully building trust and demonstrating reciprocity, had his own friends, encouraged me to have my own as well. He had hobbies, (musician) loved animals, had a high paying job, split household chores and child care duties. He wasn’t perfect, admitted his faults and seemingly was with our family 24/7-
    So imagine my shock when I found out he was in love with someone he met on a private Facebook music group who looked like my Nana.
    The horror is that there is no full proof method for spotting a potential asshole and cheater. People are unknowable- and there are folks with all sorts of attributes who are faithful and those with perhaps identical traits who don’t cheat.
    It’s a total mindfuck trying to sort through these bins of human personality traits and figure out what is and isn’t dangerous anymore.
    I think I’ll go to the pool and hang with my friends instead.

    • That is scary, Ugh No. Some of us have more red flags than Pamplona during the running of the bulls (that would be me); others of us have a few red flags that were easy to recognize in hindsight. Your situation sounds like being hit by lightning–low probability cheater, painful nonetheless, and harder to wrap your head around.

    • I think if you know where to look, then it will be sort of obvious.
      If you scan your knowledge of him under the “entitlement” filter, a lot of things I’m sure will start to add up. Mine was similar, that’s why he was “good on paper”, but the entitled/abusive mentality was there all along. Keep in mind they choose their turf. They may not need to have control over the remote, but you’ll see that there’s no negotiating over the turf they select. Sometimes they begrudgingly compromise, but their first reaction is always telling.

      These are people that never back down first, in order not to hurt you. They go in for the kill, or at least stand their ground very forcefully in conflict, with no sign of caring for your feelings. It’s like they don’t care/concern themselves with the notion that their behavior may make you reject the relationship. They don’t fear threatening the relationship, directly or indirectly.

      Reading Lundy Bancroft really helped me apply the correct filter to my situation. I don’t mean to advertise, but it was the ultimate game-changer for me.

  • It was the perfect storm for me. Had been discarded by an overt narc first husband and picked myself up by my boot straps and finished my education so I would never NEED another man to makes ends meet. It took 6 years before I dated again because I was pining for a turd. Then dated another narc at my work in my new career because everyone thought we were the perfect couple. He just happened to be screwing several women there on the downlow-he was a physician, handsome, charismatic. I dumped him when I found out.

    When my now ex came along, I thought I had fixed that picker. He was super nerdy and everyone loved him at work. Yes another physician. My coworkers thought he was so nerdy, homely, goofy there would never be a spark between us. I’m shy by nature. Have been told I’m attractive. When we dated I thought I had found someone that looked great on paper, similar background and work ethic, family values, dedicated to our careers, and would truly love me. He had also divorced what sounded like an overt narc.

    What I ultimately got was someone who got his monthly porn delivered to his home, went to strip clubs when a loser friend would come into town and stay with him, was not reciprocal. The first shmoopie was a nurse in the unit where he worked–twice divorced and history of cheating on her husbands. Even her coworkers had nicknamed her ‘crazy’. Kids were 2 & 4 years old at the time, we sold our beautiful home we had just built a year earlier, kids and I moved to our smaller home and I no longer allowed him to come and go as he pleased living 2 lives. He came begging back.

    Through the next several years of our lives, nothing has been reciprocal. He’s self centered and entitled. Everything has been about what he wants to do and would be so sparkly and super fun when he was the center of attention. Heaven help us if he did anything he wasn’t in to. I stopped asking him to go to anything for my work and very limited with my family. He would pout and sheer misery on his face. Constantly nagging me or guilting me to leave it early if we went, guilting me to not go at all.

    Sure he volunteered to coach our kids sports teams, but I realized that was all about him too. He got some guy fired that had coached a little league team for 15 years. All so he could take it over. I actually bought into the rationale of why it needed to happen. Ex was the president of the booster club and ‘all in’. Until he wasn’t. Then he would drop it like a hot potatoe. No slow release or handing it over to another. Just drop it. I was always so embarrassed about this. This played out over and over and over again in our lives. With his work colleagues (I quit getting close to wives because I knew it would sour), hobbies, his family. We didn’t go to his sister’s wedding because it was inconvenient for us. Wow.

    Before the next Dday, I knew I wasn’t very happy. I felt guilty because I thought I should have everything I wanted in life. We had great income, yet we never bought anything I wanted, ever. He would tell me I was the one that was never satisfied and I really bought it. He would give away money to the 20-somethings that coached our daughter. Seriously. Give someone $2000 for working with her for a couple of months so we could ‘retain her’. And then I would hear ‘don’t spend any money, it’s a tight month’. He spent the last 5 years of our marriage ‘buying’ attention from these young kids while he was an assistant coach for our 14 year old daughter’s sports team. Then I found him screwing around with one of them. Nice. Take it into your kids’ school.

    It seemed like we had it all. Great careers with top 5% income bracket. Beautiful, smart, talented children. Nice home. Attended Catholic church, involved with Catholic school. But it was all a facade for him to do what he wanted to do. I don’t think he intended for me to find out this time. She’s pretty weak and meek. His life pattern is idealize, devalue, discard. I never recognized he was a narc because he wasn’t grandiose. Now I know I escaped. Young shmoopie can have his old grouchy ass.

    I’ve lost a cheater and working on gaining a life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Tracy and the nation. I don’t think I could have gone through this again without you all!!

  • As always, it’s a relief and a surprise to see how much the stories on CL sound like my life. I kicked him out for the last time three weeks ago. I had been alerted he was on a dating website, and finally took a look last night (because there was no OW, just young ladies he paid to dress up for him….). In addition to the fact that the photo is ridiculously out of date, he puts out there that he’s recently separated and perfectly ok with that. Gross. For a minute I was sad, how can he be perfectly ok with it? He always told me we had something special and that he loved me. Then it dawned on me, oh right, he’s lying. World class liar. And then my CL training kicked in, and I thought, that little phrase actually tells the whole world that he’s a psychopath. He didn’t care about his last relationship, ladies, and he won’t care about you. Just needs a mommy to care for him, and a whipping post to blame for all the crap his life is loaded with because he spends the majority of his time staring at porn.

    • Chumpster–congratulations on kicking him to the curb. You’re in a painful time, I’m sure, and headed for the roller coaster of emotions (roughly those first 6 months). I’m impressed at how strong you sound (but don’t hesitate to ask for help!). Hugs.

      • Thanks Tempest. I cried ALOT during the relationship. But now that it’s over, it feels like time to heal. Yes, it’s a bit of a roller coaster but I’m glad to be on it, and I’m so glad to have found this wonderful and helpful community.

  • Thank you for reposting.

    Asshole is good on paper which makes his deceit and abuse astounding to people who know him, excluding his nest of similar asshole-like family members.

    Dude looks great on paper, the master of mindfuck, gaslighting and facades. I’m not wasting my time wishing I had listened to my gut, vetted more closely or looksed at his family twisted dynamics. I have 4 great kids that I bred with the clusterfuckB pathological lying sociopath. I’m not going to go Blue Jasmine over his ability to compartmentalize is shittiness- I have two more kids to put through college and my own future to secure on his career.

    Yes. He used me to project an image of himself that doesn’t truly exist. Yes. He is a very jealous person and said so about my talents and skills, which I know were part of the love bombing. Yes. He is a parasite and has zero moral compass. My goal to is have my kids whole and healthy.

    I still do not know if I could successfully vet out another covert narc which means I have more work to do on myself. These people are soulless and diseased.

  • Besides looking good on paper remember too that Narcs are masters at image management. My Ex before we were married loved todo most of the things that I did. Even though we were from different backgrounds, she converted to my faith (because she loved it so not because I asked), read what I liked, liked sushi like I did, etc.
    when my friends and family said not to marry her, I didn’t listen because we were so happy and had do much in common (so I thought).

    After we were married awhile you know what happened. I had married a mirage and she was nothing like she had appeared to be. At the endI actually watched cooking shows (which I don’t like) so we would have something, anything to talk about besides her constant complaining about everything.

    So, watch for those red flags and beware image management!

    • Yup. In the early years I set up our dates/activities/vacations because he was happy to do anything as long as it was with me. In later years I let him set up the dates/activities/vacations because he never liked anything I suggested. Then, after DDay he complained that one of the reasons he was unhappy in our marriage was that he always had to set up the dates/activities/vacations. Schmoopie is more fun because she always comes up with fun things to do. Yeah, well just wait until you get bored of her ideas and see what happens then. These people have no sense of cause and effect.

  • As an emotional partner, the X was “all hat and no cattle,” as we say in Texas.

    Posh British accent–check
    Degree from Oxford–check
    high professional and financial success–check
    very intelligent–check
    snappy dresser–check
    runner (a shared interest)–check
    fun and entertaining (read: childish with no impulse control)–check
    good looking–check
    good taste in films–check

    Not only would a dating service have ranked him as A Catch, our many shared interests (especially academic interests) would have matched us up on eharmony.

    The reality:
    –only feigns empathy
    –HIGHLY critical (no one lives up to his tough standards)
    –unsupportive (drove myself home after two surgeries)
    –not interested in a family (I attended EVERY single prenatal appointment & ultrasound for 2 children alone)
    –had been a serial cheater in a former marriage (I know, I know–my stupid for marrying him)
    –poor impulse control in alcohol and public behavior
    –manipulative and a pathological liar

    After the divorce a friend asked, “Didn’t you know he was an asshole? The rest of us knew he was an asshole.” I replied, “But I thought he was my asshole.”

    • “But I thought he was my asshole.”

      I haven’t thought about it this way, but that was my reasoning as well (at the time)!!

      • Yes, when I used to think about his faults, I would say nobody’s perfect, we all have to settle and accept- I thought he felt the same.

        On paper working in a successful family business- reality entitled- everything handed to him.

        On paper cool, interesting hobbies- reality hobbies come first before wife and family on all counts.

        On paper- likes to travel and try new things- reality likes it if it is his idea and he is in control of everything.

        On paper extended family and holidays with them important to him- reality only being there for his mom’s family is important for image management. The visits must be short on his time schedule. for necessary big holidays, weddings, milestone birthdays or anniversary. Feeling shouldn’t be emotionally close. As soon as feelingit wants to go and hang out, he is going late and rushing her out. He doesn’t want to gather with them if it is not an occasion or an activity for him. Go to the beach with them feeling it? That would be a drag. And feeling it’s family, forget it, Stbx is not going to sit around and twiddle his thumbs with them.

    • I don’t understand why people don’t give you a clue that they see it too. I’ve had people tell me since the divorce that they never liked my ex. I’m thinking that if somebody had said something years ago, it would have helped me get the divorce ball rolling a lot sooner. But they played nice, like they were buying his load of garbage fake personality he throws around.

      • Oh, 13yaC,
        Same here! Since I’ve put him out, I’ve had some people tell me they never understood why I was with someone who was so sullen & grumpy all the time. I think certain people have better instancts & can see through the narc’s smoke & mirrors better. Others bought his image: upstanding, churchgoing husband, father, Boy Scout Leader, business owner. On paper.

      • I agree. In my case, EVERYone in my social circle knew about his torrid affair with gradwhore. I sat across from those people at dinner parties for 8 years before I found out about her and kicked him out. Pretty humiliating. When I sobbed about it after D-day, his response was “Get over your humiliation kick.” Fucker.

      • 13 Years, but be honest — when you were spackling would you have listened if someone told you that your husband was an asshole and you should leave him ??
        Would you have said “you’re right” and file OR “how dare you speak about my husband like that” ? I have found that when you speak the truth to someone living deep in denial, they do not react well.
        Oh and I’m the guiltiest of all on this. During my 16 years with my Ex, I lived on the banks of the river Denial. Friends and family tried to tell me but I would get defensive and never listened. It took Dday to finally wake me up.

        • I would not have listened. “What are you talking about, I have a great marriage”

          Sometimes I think if we all accepted Schmoopie he wouldn’t be so attached to her. As it is, he feels the need to defend her and work towards winning everyone over (he still seems to want me to approve of her too- not gonna happen).

          • Yeah, I didn’t listen to the one person who told me I could do better before marriage, but maybe if a bunch had spoken up… so I guess it is a lesson to speak up – you might be the tipping point for someone else.

        • I listened, but we had kids and I knew that they would have been devastated if our family imploded. I spackled for years for the sake of the kids and I tried harder to make him happy. He didn’t lift a finger around the house and was treated like a king. It didn’t matter. He was controlling, arrogant and cruel. The more I did to make peace between us the worse things became. In retrospect, he probably read my actions as a sign of weakness which in turn made him more cruel. When I asked for a divorce he changed his behavior. I thought he finally realized the value of his family. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He spent the next few months planning how to screw me over with no regard for the kids’ mental or physical health. Narcs are soulless.

        • Yes, SoldierinOn, I think you’re right. I mean, how else did I require 3 ddays to pull my head outta my ass?
          Denial!
          < call me retiring from the denial squad!

  • The problem is that these cheaters are so good at what they do. They are so good at convincing you. My cheater wife seemed like a dream come true 17 years ago. We were both teachers, we both wanted to be married and have kids, we loved spending time with each other and doing things together. After we got married and had a baby everything changed. She didn’t like sharing my attention with the kid (side note: marriage therapist diagnosed her as Borderline Personality Disorder). Everything went downhill. But I never saw any of that coming- I don’t know anything about this sort of thing. I was so naive. My cheater wife is five years older than me- I’m the good, quiet, moral type and she must have seen me as an easy naive target because I fell hook, line and sinker. I realize now I was in way over my head. And now I feel like I’m drowning dealing with all of this 5 months in from Dday.

    • The first step is recognizing the problem. Now that you see it’s her issues that makes her entitled, selfish, and a cheater but your issues in needing to fix your picker, you can can do what you need to do. For me I always knew something was off, but I made excuses for poor behavior-over and over again. It was a double edged sword for me at Dday #2 with second shmoopie. I was relieved I didn’t have to live my life with a fuckwit anymore and there was a legitimate excuse to leave. I was devastated for the future of my family and my kids knowing their lives would never be the same again. I thought of his young shmoopie ‘she’s a lucky, lucky girl’. I won’t feel one bit bad for her when she realizes the turd prize she has won. I want to tell her ‘tag you’re it’ and ‘no take backs’. But that’s not very meh, so I’m working on gaining that life now that I’ve left a cheater.

    • Sorry, Zell, that you feel you’re drowning. Five months out is tough. But since you are the kind, moral type, you will likely use your good heart and soul to keep plugging along and getting yourself free of the cheater, because in this case it is the right thing to do. I hope you can feel the support and love of Chump Nation. We feel your pain, and are here for you.

    • Zell,
      Your marriage sounds very much like mine. (I used to dream that I was treading water in the ocean trying to keep my kids afloat.) After I realized that my now ex-husband has a variety of personality disorders, part of me felt horrified but part of me felt relieved. I realized that I hadn’t imagined some strange unhealthy behavior and my ‘gut knew’ that something was amiss but my conscious brain couldn’t identify what was wrong before we got married. Three years post-separation, I have had lots of practice dealing with someone who has numerous personality disorders and can handle ex much better now. (It’a almost like reading from a manual. ‘If X does Y, then I do Z.’ Following a protocol with the disordered will likely help alleviate that drowning sensation.

  • Mine looked great on paper a good Christian boy who appeared caring and kind. He said all the right things about how he had a difficult childhood and didn’t want to do that to his own children. I spackled over his competitiveness and needing to win at everything. I also sparkled over his lying and gambling because he promised me he wouldn’t do it again and we were getting married. I spackled over his failure to comit to hobbies, jobs, friendship when he wasn’t getting his own way. I believed because he sat next to me in church and said all the right things that he was really committed to me and the family we were creating. I now know to look at his actions and not just blindly trusting him because he says he loved me. I think I thought that because he was there next to me he must love me and be invested. I thought that if he was unhappy he would say and that he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me.

    • They are so greedy. They want the image of marriage, monogamy, family, happiness, etc…. but they also want their extracurricular leisure sport sex on the side. It’s next to impossible to spot this greedy trait at the beginning of a relationship- especially since they don’t want you to know about it. I didn’t find out about it until year 11 of my 17 year relationship. I caught cheater wife before she could cheat physically (I think), and I thought for sure after seeing how hurt I was finding out about what she was saying to her friends about another man that she would NEVER cheat in the future she did. I realize now I was spackling for 6 years.

      • Zell,
        Yes! They are greedy, selfish, entitled! They need us to maintain this image they have of themselves as upstanding people with character & values.
        I’m so sorry about your cheater. I thought mine was changed after I caught him in his 2 affairs early in our marriage. But our brief MC & some IC wasn’t enough to change who he was. He insists there were no other affairs before this last (supposed) EA, which would have been a gap of, say, 23 “faithful” years. But how could I possibly trust him that this was true? And even if it is, there’s still THIS 3-year twisted relationship with a ho-worker and all of its attendant betrayal & lies.
        I do trust that he sucks. His actions are the answer. His words? ALL LIES.

      • Ex had an emotional affair (I think) eight years before the physical one. I also thought that seeing how hurt I was would make a difference. In the meantime I spent eight years trying to be the perfect wife so he wouldn’t actually cheat on me. It didn’t work.

        • Worst way to spend your time – auditioning for the wife job you already have! I wish I could go back, and not try so damn hard to convince my husband I was worth something. Ugh

        • When your brain is ready (I’m getting there) you begin to think ‘what kind of person can see your anguish once, vow to NEVER cheat, and then go ahead and do it. What level of charade must they operate daily. It’s so bizarre and mind boggling. I’m currently worried she was actually a serial cheater during the entire 17 years and I was just too naive to catch it.

          • I only had one d-day and he was gone within half an hour of him telling me. Poof never to return again.

            He did however have to deal with his mother’s anguish when she found out about her husbands affair. I now understand it to be an emotional affair which he wanted to become physical but he swears it didn’t. He did travel 100’s of miles to meet the women but he says nothing happened. His mother forgave very quickly and swept it under the carpet as she does with everything. Ex on the other hand didn’t speak to his step dad for around 7 months, and refused to send gifts for Christmas and his birthday. He then thought it was acceptable to do exactly the same thing he saw his mother go through and seemed to despise to his wife. He heard his mum on the phone in tears and hurt and he still subjected me too that and much worse.

          • I agree with your reasoning! Humans make mistakes (like having inappropriate boundaries with the opposite sex, for instance), but when they go and do it again (and again), that’s a different brand of human and we call that evil!

      • My ex did the same. I caught him before he physically cheated (I’m pretty sure) the first two times. Rather than it being a watershed moment in which he realized his mistakes and the pain they caused me, he just dug in and resented me more for “cock blocking” him. He spiraled into “you’re not the boss of ME!” mode and I think it made him even more committed to cheating by the time he found a willing partner with an equally empty hole where her integrity should be. I even wonder if he might have never physically cheated had I not caught him toying with the idea, but I shudder to think about a lifetime with someone like that, and it’s a skein not worth untangling.

  • I literally made my husband look good on paper. I wrote his resume that landed him a high profile, well paid job as a director in a school system.

    Before that, when I married him 20 years ago, he was an humble, goofy, funny guy with great family and Christian values. Handsome, but didn’t know it. He had a business degree but worked as a supervisor in a blue collar job for the first ten years of our marriage. When he was overlooked several times for a promotion, I urged him to find another job where his skills would be valued. I built him up, because he was fairly depressed because of his job situation. I wrote his resume, and he shined on paper. Got the job, and was so thankful to me. Said I was his rock, and believed in him when no one else did.

    The director’s job either turned him into a narc monster, or revealed him to be a covert narc. In the school system, he was constantly surrounded by women. He dressed better than me and even the superintendent. Gallons of cologne. Buffed up, whitened his teeth. But I knew I was his rock and had nothing to worry about, because underneath it all he was still my goofy guy. His hair started turning white, which made him look even more dashing and he literally struts around. He is bossy and demanding to his family and his staff, but it slowly evolved so he still seemed charming… until he wasn’t. People said to me all the time how lucky I was to be married to him – he was SO nice, such a good guy. Women seemed so envious and it slowly dawned on me that he WAS nice, to everyone except me. Like I said it was slow. I was the proverbial frog boiling away in a pot of water.

    Then found out he had been having that he had been having a “friendship” with one of my good friends, a teacher, for over 15 months. She was “there for him when I wasn’t.” This was the same friend who sat on my porch sharing a glass of wine several years ago that said she admired my life, my children were beautiful, I was beautiful, my husband was the model husband, loved my home – that she envied and coveted my life. I guess she figured out that my husband’s ego needed stroking and she knew how to do it. She figured him out through me, asking the right questions and observing our marriage as only close friends could. Our marriage was happy I thought (although in hindsight I was busy spackling), but I trusted that this midlife season would change and he would relax and return to being my sweet guy.

    Never dreamed he would have an affair. Or continue the affair after I found out. Or pretend to reconcile, but moved out three times and back in when I let him. Moved out five months ago for good, to “see where their relationship goes”. **Yesterday’s post really spoke to me as well. Me and my two teenage kids were abandoned for this woman.

    My issue is that he still looks good on paper. I could get him fired, but we need his income. She was named Teacher of the Year. Perfect. She looks good on paper, too. Both are full of shit, and really believe they “found each other”, never mind the destruction of two families and five kids (my two, her three) in their path to be together.

    I think it’s way too far gone for he and I to ever make it work again, although he tells me I’d take him back in a heartbeat, and that I’ll never move on and have a life without him. He’s verbally and emotionally abused me for so long that I’m just now realizing the depth of it. My two kids don’t want him back in the house, although they still love him. (My son says he’ll move out if I let him back again).

    Help me fellow mighty chumps – please tell me that the truth will be evident even with the shiny facade of them both. Karma will catch up with them, right? I’m working on becoming MEH, but I still care and am angry and bitter (obviously) from the sheer betrayal.

    • CreativeLifer–we all want karma to catch up with the cheaters, but what we should want is for karma to catch up with US. You were a good, loyal, kind, supportive spouse and YOU deserve fabulous things in life. There is NO way to have that fabulous life while still attached to a pathological lying, empathy-challenged cheater (can’t cheat without being empathy-challenged).

      Right now you can’t see the forest for the horrible trees of anger, disgust, and pain right in front of your nose. It’s too early. What’s needed to see the wonderful forest (your life ahead) is to take a step back. Then another step back, and another, until you are fully disengaged. Not only will that clarify your vision as to what an impoverished life you have been leading with the jerk, it will bring relief that you have the choice to never be with him again.

      As you take steps back (because the initial stages of “gaining a life” are detaching and disengaging from the cheater & his/her drama), be sure to fill your sight with things that you want–a new hobby, starting (or increasing) your exercise schedule, joining a meetup group of people with similar interests, re-connecting with friends from the past… That “new life” is built little by little.

      In the distant future, you will realize the universe has delivered good things to you (and well-deserved), and you will actually be glad cheater is still with OW because it means he leaves you alone (I know this sounds unlikely when you are in your current state of pain, but trust me, your main priority in the future will be to Keep.the.Fuckwit.Away.from.Me.)

      Our kids are often smarter than us–if your son says he’ll move out if you reconcile, think long and hard about who you want in your life now & in the future–a shallow, egotistical, pathological liar, or your lovely son? My youngest went NC with my X before I did, and oldest daughter is the one who said, “Just file already, Mom.” Wisdom of youth.

      • “What we should want is for Karma to catch up with us”.
        Thank you Tempest, that’s such a great and simple way of phrasing this, to put the focus on what we deserve, not what the cheaters deserve.

      • Tempest,
        You are a Godsend today (it’s my 21st anniversary). I’m actually okay. You are so right about the forest and the trees. I’m still sick thinking of a future where they are happy, and she gets to be around my kids … she wanted my life and almost HAS it. She’s diagnosed Bi-Polar, and has had more than one affair, but wears her Holy Roller persona like a cloak. So does my husband. I’m hoping that the closer I get to Meh, the less I will care what they’re doing. I know that any strong emotion (good or bad) = still invested. I’m trying really hard to get to indifference. I don’t want them to have that power over me anymore, and I’m the only one that can change it. Thanks for your thoughtful and kind response. You make a lot of sense, and this is practical, heartfelt advice.

        • I truly believe that people who are willing to throw their spouse and family overboard in search of reckless new beginnings aren’t truly capable of the kind of happiness you fear they will find. They won’t find it, because it’s not in them. They careen from mania to brooding throughout their lives and spend very little time in the stable, loving zone. They only pass through it on their way up or down. That’s not a way to live. If your ex and the OW seem happy, they’re only passing through. The capacity to truly connect to others and to experience lasting contentment for people like that only comes frim intensive and WILLING therapy (and even then it’s a gamble), not from diving into new body parts.

      • Tempest, this is such good advice. It is hard to flip from seeing one day, your best friend in whom you confide everything, who you are convinced has your back, with whom you have kids, family, friends, all kinds of inside jokes and sayings, shared memories, plans, who has failings to be sure just like everybody, and the next day – whoa, a truly cold cruel serial liar? It’s one of those horror movies where the nicest person winds up the villain. I took advice from CN and started a list of bad things in our marriage and STBX nasty behavior that I couldn’t explain away, to help “flip.” It started with random observations but has turned into a kind of lengthy journal, and it was therapeutic in many ways to put the horrific experiences into words on a page, then add details as I recalled them and polish it up. Thanks Tempest and CN for helping me with this difficult “flip” so I can work toward the good karma I deserve.

      • Yes . The line from your first born…. you dont want him back after what hes done to you… is enough to keep me on track.

    • You do not have to accept his assertions as truth. It took me a long time to wrap my head around this concept but it has been immensely helpful. “although he tells me I’d take him back in a heartbeat, and that I’ll never move on and have a life without him” Take a step back and examine this objectively. He may believe it’s true but YOU get to choose for yourself. My ex accused me of being controlling and bossy, a very sensitive area for me. After much reflecting I have recognized that this is not true. I clung to it for a long time as the “reason” for his affair but figured out that it ain’t me and this is not truth. Some may call it gaslighting or manipulation but I find it more empowering to recognize the action of choosing to accept or reject “truth” for myself.

    • Creative lifer, you didn’t just make him look good, you actually improved this guy, because you care and you love. No one can take that away from you, not him, not the backstabber ‘friend’.
      So, he turned out to suck on the INSIDE, and you have two kids, your awesome self, and your son has that rarest of qualities- common sense! Good job, Mom! I hope you can take all that great stuff, and escape the chaos he’s trying to serve you. We believe in you!

    • My friend, I guess I’d ask you to rethink not telling on those two assholes. I think you should report them, and get him fired. They are not fit to be educators. Teaching is largely about character development.

      • My wife was an E.D (emotional disturbed) teacher for 16 years, Didn’t stop her from lying and cheating on me, and abandoning me and my son for some guy she knew in the army reserves 25 years ago.

    • Good grief–the ego on that jerk! Of course you will have a life without him. And it can be an absolutely lovely one. It is far too early to tell what shape it will take, but it won’t include a jerk who uses your labor to prop him up while he kicks you in the shins. I know it is hard to see it now–as Tempest discusses–but once you have some distance (both in terms of space and time), you’ll recognize your own worth and value.

      I hope you have a lawyer and copies of all the documentation of your family’s financial records. Your husband sounds like the most typical of cheaters–the kind who both emotionally devalue a spouse and assume they can financially eviscerate the spouse as they skip toward a new partner. You can decide how to move forward when you are ready, in terms of serving divorce papers, etc., but collect all the information now so that you have it when you need it, and he cannot shift assets while you are still in such pain and are less likely to notice.

      Personally, I do think karma will catch up with them. It just may not look like a pinata exploding–the way we all kind of hope it will. You’ve made your husband’s life easy in a lot of ways. Odds are his cheating partner has a spouse at home managing appearances as well. Once you two are out of the picture–all the way out–it will get ugly and uncomfortable fast. They may keep posting selfies on FB of their “new life,” but the home front will be unpleasant in ways they don’t want to face. You, however, will find that you have more time, more energy, and more joy–maybe not this month or next month or even everyday next year . . . but bit by bit. I’m six years out. The kind of bribe you’d have to offer me to go back into that marriage defies possibility. There aren’t enough dollars. You’d have to prove to me that my sacrifice would cure cancer and reverse environmental degradation and include a new medication to prevent Alzheimer’s that also works best when delivered in a nightly slice of chocolate cake. Then. Maybe.

  • Speaking of on paper… I sent off my IRS identity fraud tax filing paperwork yesterday.

    Here’s the quick backstory: After STBX’s first affair I quit doing finances (keeping track of rental income/ expenses etc.) Note: In hindsight not something I would recommend, but alas, we chumps win the prize for hard lessons 😕. The result of that was, taxes haven’t been filed in over 5 years (legally with extensions of course). Again, hard lesson… this has worked to his advantage in the divorce process.

    Our account also happens to be a friend of ours from church years ago. (Yes I trust him). He also happens to be partner in the firm that does the forensic accounting for my attorney! He has been doing our taxes for 9 years, so he is aware of the snails pace at which STBX responds to anything. Well the IRS has a cap of 5 years on extensions, so accountant is constantly calling STBX alerting him of impeding deadlines.

    So when I got a letter from the IRS saying someone may have filed a tax return in OUR names, I immediately called my accountant. His response was, well I haven’t filed 2012 returns, I keep calling STBX and telling him I need this and that. Drop off a copy of the letter. And so I did.

    A few days later I was at my desk, looked up and noticed a letter I had gotten from the securities department in Jan. Of 2016 with a IP PIN to use during tax filings. Because of a data breach at my stock account firm, they offered a free year of credit monitoring and took the steps to protect my identity – thus the issues IP PIN. I thought, I should probably call the accountant and let him know. He was out of the office for a week, so I just left a voicemail.

    Low and behold, that same day I go to the mailbox and there is a large tax return check from the IRS. The rest is merely speculation …

    1) he filed joint taxes without my knowledge (as the check was made out to both of us)

    2) I assume he attempted to change the mailing address, but without his knowledge of my IP PIN, it was flagged for fraud.

    3) He did it through another firm to keep me in the dark because my accountant Had not filed returns.

    Want to know the shit sandwich? The IRS will only let you order copies of their records for the past five years up to the deadline date ! Which just passed (According to their website, I haven’t yet called). I’m going to assume he knew that, and waited till the last possible moment to file! So unless he provides them, I have no idea what the hell is going on.

    It’s worth noting that about 5 or 6 years ago I had some IRS agents knocking on my door looking for STBX. At first I thought I was on candid camera. They wouldn’t tell me what was going on (apparently confidentiality). STBX said it was regarding identity theaft in his name. I took him at his word.

    My sister says she sees the outcome of my marriage being a lifetime movie. At this point, nothing would surprise me!

    So the take way to new chumps… have a fraud alert put on your accounts. That way, if STBX is pulling bullshit, you’ll be alerted. Mine happened to be a fluke! I guess the only time in history I can say something good came out of a data breach!

    • Be careful Got-a-brain because “ignorance of the law is no excuse” and you are on the hook for his taxes.

      Here’s an idea to ask your accountant and attorney–could you file separately for those years so you were in the clear and not tied to him legally in regards to the IRS ??
      Tread carefully and listen to your accountant and lawyer–it sounds like he is being shady with the IRS and that will get you 5 to 10 in “Club Fed” and he could suck you down with him and besides jail they could seize your assets. Good Luck !!

      • That’s why I responded individually to that letter with only my information. I also included a copy of the IP PIN issuing letter and made a note that any future filings authorized by me would contain the IP PIN. I’m trying to cover my ass just in case he’s up to no good! The good news is, any taxes I have signed up to this point have been through my accountant, and I trust he wouldn’t do anything illegal. Now the last 5 years that may or may not have been filed, I have no clue!

        I took the check and the letters to my attorney and that prompted her to file a motion to compel taxes, which in that affidavit she stated the last year I signed tax returns was 2011. I’m hoping with all this evidence that would be enough for them to grant me innocent spouse relief if he’s done something shady!

        Two weeks ago the judge for our case finally compelled him to produce tax return. I guess 2.5 years of dragging it out must be the magic number to get a fire 🔥 under their asses.

  • CL is spot on, but how does one know if someone is as sparkly as they come off you may ask. The best advice I ever received was from m my former father-in-law. That man is amazing and kind, Nothing like his son. I was upset after the affair came to light and was awaiting the finalization of our divorce. He was my rock. I know this is unusual, but my in-laws are the exception, and fully supported me, unlike my own biscuit full of crazy mother who abused me my whole life.
    His advice when I was sobbing on the phone because my husband had actually done (actions not just sparkly props) all of the same things he was portraying himself to be. How could he change so much? He tricked me damnit. He told me that I won’t make the same mistake next time because I was going to keep my mouth shut. Best damn advice I’ve ever received.
    Don’t give away who I am because who I am is too precious to just go handing out. Let the man do the the talking and doing. Don’t tell him I love bikeriding. Don’t suggest we go bikeriding for a date. Let him pick the places to eat, the events. Watch and listen. Don’t tell him too much about who I am until I have ascertained exactly who he is. Don’t invite him to my place until I’ve gone to his place. If I go to his place and see his well-used, but well taken care of bike and cycling magazines, then I know it’s not contrived. If he suggests a cycling event for a date, that’s one box checked. Then watch for other things. Does he act humble, or does he brag? Is his mailbox or voicemail full of debt collectors? What about his integrity? Does he clock in and out on time every day, or does he cheat his job a few minutes, because “everybody does it”? If he cannot show integrity with the easy, simple things, he won’t have integrity when integrity is hard. The only real way to watch for integrity is to keep your eyes open and your mouth closed.
    I’ve followed this advice ever since with EVERYONE in my life.

    • Wow I love this advice. I need to print that out and nail it to my mirror in my room. Read it every day. Keep your mouth shut and listen, watch and notice.

    • Sugar Plum….
      Thank you. This is brilliant advice…and the opposite of how I’ve handled myself in the past…so, clearly, EXACTLY what I need to heed.
      Thank you! And your wise XFIL. Wiser is she who actually follows wise council.

    • Just screen shot saves this for my own use and for my Children’s use. My daughter is dating age and son will be in a few years. Great stuff. Your father in law is my hero!!

  • Zell,
    I’m just 4 months post Dday(#3), and it is a thick swamp to trudge through at times. Hang in there, you are worth it. I am stuck in divorce-filing limbo. Need to complete some paperwork, but keep procrastinating. I just want this nightmare to go away, but it won’t, and this type of thinking/denial has made this whole process worse. CL & CN & my therapist have helped me face forward when I just keep looking over my shoulder wondering if thrre is anything I missed. Turns out, there was a lot, but it doesn’t change where I am now. It will be helpful to look at before I even consider talking to another person!
    My näive self made a list & avoidant narc STBX hit nearly every mark:
    College educated? (Master’s degree!) ✔
    Attractive? ✔
    Beard? ✔
    Taller than me? ✔
    Likes same music? ✔
    Enjoys theatre? ✔
    Travels? ✔
    Enjoys nature/outdoor activities? ✔
    Drives a truck/jeep? ✔ (WTF was I thinking about here?)
    Likes pets? ✔
    Parties like me? ✔ (I am now in recovery, but this had been important then)
    Nope: no values in common. Nothing substantial at all. Add to this he was in a profession that I had romanticized (entertainment biz) and I was able to work with him, bingo!
    On paper, he looked good. But even after he told me his first marriage ended bc of his own affair, I just dismissed that and assumed “my love will change him.” UGH!
    Welcoming the (painful but necessary) opportunity to look at myself, my thinking, my priorities & my choices so I have a better chance in the future to avoid an emotional trainwreck of these proportions. Happily coupled again? That would be nice. But I’ll be content to live with myself without the horrors of the cheater-hell I’ve come to know too well.

    • I am in the same situation- limbo and procrastinating on paperwork. Why do we do this? What is the solution? Anyone out there with wisdom to share? I am driving myself nuts about this.

      • Trust the process as my councillor said. Takes time to process and it will come together naturally.
        Feel the emotions and ride the wave. I take action in fits and starts and if I feel like doing nothing, I’m ok with that and am gentle with myself.

        • Thank you for this encouragement, Lady b. Sometimes I feel a lot of time pressure: I am wasting my life, and maybe there is someone out there I need to meet before menopause. Or why stick around and pile up the hurt?

          But really, there is no huge hurry. I don’t think he knows what I am up to. On the other hand, how much more of the shit sandwich buffet can I take?

          My main concern is the kids. He has not hurt them physically, so he will get custody for sure. That scares me.

          If he doesn’t harm them with his mantrums (grown man tantrums) he almost certainly will with neglect/ poor judgement. I’ve talked here previously about him parking my disabled 5 year old to roast a marshmallow right in front of a campfire. One bend forward and she would have fallen face first into it.

          That still haunts me. My apologies for triggering anyone. I just triggered myself, actually.

  • Oh Lordy…reading this made me realize just how naive & dumb I really was 22 years ago because my X didn’t even look good on paper.

    He was younger than me, didn’t finish high school because his mom & stepdad didn’t care whether or not he got an education. He quit school & went to work. Granted, he was a hard worker, and he worked the entire 21 years that we were married…the man wasn’t lazy. I did help him get his GED for better job opportunities, so at least he’s got that now.

    When we met and began dating, he SAID all the right things. He was very respectful and attentive. When he did ask me to marry him, I actually said no at first because of the age difference (5 years). I told him that I wanted him to “sow his oats” then and not be tied down to a wife and eventual family & then wake up 20 something years down the road & resent me for taking his partying days away from him. He convinced me that he’d already been on his own away from his dysfunctional family & had lived the single man life. He loved me and wanted to settle down and raise a family & he wanted that with me. I fell for it hook, line & sinker.

    If only I could go back and talk to my younger self…

    • Great image–I can imagine a lot of very sincere conversations between us and our younger (and dumber) selves. I think I might need two–one during my college years where I’d tell myself to pay more attention to a few young men with good character and at least practice being in healthy relationships by dating them. Then, if that didn’t pan out, another one when I was 30 and met the jackass I eventually married. I hope I would have learned enough not to date him, but just in case . . . I’d want that follow up appointment.

      • I picked terrible men always who treated me badly. The one guy who was honest to god beautiful inside and out, had his life together and adored me, I left as it freaked me out that he respected me and treated me well. My Dad recently said he felt somewhat responsible for my bad picking because he wasn’t a good father to me. He was emotionally abusive and carried deep abondonment issues from childhood. His Mum died suddenly when he was 6 and the day after his sister sent him to school. He did his best with what limited resources he had and I’m ok with our current relationship. Him saying this was quite something and I can see that my esteem needs a lot of work as I am a freak magnet unfortunately.
        On the upside, all this pain has made me grow and my eyes are widening.
        Doing me and my boys, men shmen!

  • In my late twenties, I dated a gorgeous, athletic man with an amazing job, his own home, his own car, a shared airplane and looking to buy a lakefront cottage in an area I loved. He loved the outdoors, hiking and camping. I was smitten.

    Guess what? He was a cheapskate. He was selfish, and not just with doing things HE wanted to do. He was also incredibly selfish in bed.

    I remember telling my Mom after we broke up that I liked everything about him. I just didn’t like “HIM.”

    I wish I had remembered my own words as I found myself in my mid thirties, still desperate to be coupled and have a family. My fear of missing out on my dream made me think the man I married wasn’t a loser. He never looked as good on paper, but my options – or so I thought – were dwindling the older I got.

    I never thought being alone was an option. So I coupled with a man who treated me like shit. And ever since have paid dearly for that desperate, ill-fated decision.

    • Same. I thought my STBX was my last chance or as good as it was going to get for me. I wanted to get married and have a child. I think that is what makes it so hard for me to move on. Part of me (ok a lot of me) blames myself and thinks I deserve this due to my poor choice.

      At least I have a great kid though.

      • I should probably have this Chump Lady article tattooed to my arm!

        I ‘fell victim’ to the Last Chance Saloon mentality (no water for next 10,000 miles). I wanted to have a child and nearing 40, I was ready to become entwined with a personality-disordered guy who looked great on paper, was ready to create a baby with me one month into our relationship (I ignored the gigantic red flag), and seemed calm and humble.

        Lonely from years of neglect and other types of abuse from my husband and trying to choose much better post-separation, I got together with a fellow Chump who I had met decades earlier. He looked great on paper, seemed humble, and very quietly gregarious and popular. Everyone told me, ‘You’re lucky to have such a great guy. He wasn’t nearly as physically appealing as he had been in undergrad, was a bit socially awkward, and was physically and emotionally wimpier than I would have liked (should not have ignored this red flag as it indicated moral weakness), but I thought, ‘All these people can’t be wrong, ‘I want someone who is NOT flashy (my ex-husband is an overt flashy narcissist),’ ‘he’s financially doing well and is stable,’ seems psychologically ‘normal’ and healthy, he’s had seven years of weekly psychotherapy (should have asked more questions about that instead of just assuming that he just wanted to optimize himself and be a very self-aware guy). Sadly, again, I fell into that Last Chance Saloon mentality (‘Who will take this unemployed middle-aged mother of young kids–better jump now before this ship sails!) What a disastrous move on my part. History keeps repeating itself. Trying not to feel awful about myself and break these patterns that have plagued me for nearly half a century.

        I feel bad that my ex-boyfriend treated me the way he did (repeatedly lying, invalidating me, and disrespecting me), but I also feel awful that I may have ’caused’ the demise by crying about my challenges with my divorce and re-establishment of my career. Part of me feels as though I scared my partner into the arms and bed of his co-worker. Don’t believe that ex-boyfriend is a narc (although something about him seems psychologically unhealthy ima Jekyll-Hyde kind of way). Also want to acknowledge that he consistently helped me in many practical ways.

        Have stuck with No Contact (extremely difficult for me) for a few weeks but have been completely unproductive for two months and really jealous of new girlfriend (even though I realize that I often looked at my now ex-boyfriend through rose-colored glasses.

        I often question myself about how big a deal I made out of my ex-boyfriend habitually lying to me without ‘provocation,’ him fabricating stories, outright lying to me, gaslighting me, and telling me that he was doing all this to protect me, invalidating me, and disrespecting me. I almost feel ‘wrong’ for voicing disapproval as he probably did not cheat on me (just groomed the new girlfriend to take my place once he decided that he was done with me). Some people say that everybody lies (is this a relative of ‘Lot’s of people cheat?’). I don’t even know what my limits are on tolerance of what I consider morally acceptable! Feedback on boundaries is welcome!

        • No you did not cause your boyfriend to cheat or leave. Lying and gaslighting are not ok. Were you crying on his shoulder? Of course you were. Partners are supposed to be there for each other in difficult times. If he couldn’t handle that with you then he won’t be able to handle it with the next one either. He isn’t going to change for her. Trust that he sucks.

          • Thank you, Chumpinrecovery. I think that I cried on my then boyfriend’a shoulder more than the ideal amount over a couple of years (I apologized for doing so), but I also tried to be very upbeat, show/voice gratitude toward many, and consistently supported (ego-stroked, not in a toady type of way) my boyfriend. Even if I hadn’t done those nice things, I did not deserve to be repeatedly lied to, disrespected, and invalidated. And I definitely would NOT have lied about scoping out/grooming a replacement partner from work while still with my current partner. Maybe what ex-boyfriend did not technically ‘cheating,’ but it skirts the line. A couple times last summer he told me in front of others that he was a bad boyfriend. I thought that he was being hard on himself. Now, unfortunately, I completely agree with him–just not for the reasons he claimed that he was a bad boyfriend. We were in our relationship at a very bad time intro life, which led to some knowledge of him, me, and our relationship sooner than it would have had we entered at the cheeriest, easiet time of our lives. However, I have seen relatives and friends support partners and others through huge trauma (decade-long stays in political prison camp, protracted dying, etc.) I want THAT type of partner, not a self-serving (put myself in the lifeboat before women and children) one. In fact, on the last day now ex-boyfriend saw me (to drop off equipment), he indicated that my ex was too scary for him (boyfriend) to stick around. (Yep, chivalry is dead, hypocritically in those who wear a cloak of authority and bravery.) He tells me this after having know my ex for a dozen years. Yes, my ex is a giant pile of turd, but he never attempted to harm my now ex-boyfriend.

            As one Chump on this site said, ‘sometimes the trash takes itself out.’ Hope that someday soon I will believe this in my case and just feel relieved!

            • RSW–I’m sorry boyfriend turned out to be an ass. Sadly, I think he showed his colors during the first breakup, and then just doubled down.

              As warm and validating as it is to be in a relationship again after being chumped, we first have to get to a place where we are comfortable, nay, even happy, being by ourselves. That way, when someone reveals themselves to have less than optimum integrity, we can leave knowing the other option (being by ourselves) is still a good option.

              Reasons to exit– if the other person engages in significant lying, invalidating, being unfair during conflict resolutions, using manipulation to get their own way, or uses any form of emotional abuse. Game over. Not to say that a romantic partner or friend can’t make a mistake, but healthy people don’t do the things I listed.

              Chumps are people who form loving connections, so of course our first priority will always be to have a healthy romantic relationship, with being happy alone second. But there cannot be a 3rd option; unhealthy relationships should cause us to leave.

              • Tempest,

                Thank you for the thoughtful response. You’re right about my now ex-boyfriend ‘doubling down’ in the second ‘attempt’ at a relationship. I think that by reconciling with him after the first break up, he respected me less, even hated me more for loving him (WTF?), and showed his contempt in some despicable, hurtful ways.

                I really appreciate the feedback from CN (good fellow chumps) as it gets me to doubt myself less and stand firm in refusing to tolerate chronic dishonest behavior from others.

                Feedback from CN also helps me realize that if I try to reconcile with people who lack integrity and human decency, then I will return to what I know is just a shell of a relationship, which will leave me feeling tremendously emotionally malnourished and expose me to more and more severe mistreatment or even abuse. Will keep reminding myself that it’s great when the trash takes itself out!

          • Chumpinrecovery,
            In line with ‘leopards don’t change their spots,’ I agree with you that if my ‘down moments,’ drove him away, them he won’t be there long for current partner shows ‘down moments.’ Trust that liars suck.

            • RSW,

              You did not make him do anything. His choices and reactions are his alone.

              Keep coming back here. Read the stories of others. Take the wisdom and validation.

              I was where you are not too long ago. But CN has given me perspective that broke through the gas lighting.

              *Fistbump* You can do this.

              • Lionheart (love the name!)

                Thank for sharing and supporting me! It helps me to read what CN write as it helps ‘confirm’ that the gaslit statements I have heard from liars and cheaters were not ‘all in my head’ and then think/act accordingly.

                How far past D-Day (#1?) are you? How are you doing these days?

  • X looked like a great match for me on paper. Shared interests, we met in college, were both musicians, etc. The sad part is that I convinced myself that he also had good intentions. Codependency on a fantasy is what that was. I was loyal to who he “could” be. I just knew that it was all a farce and that somehow, someway he was going to turn into someone who I thought was a really great guy. I was heavily invested in spackle because I felt like I could change this raw material into some sort of diamond.

    The thing that gets me is me. I have to keep questioning my judgement and why I stayed in such an awful relationship for so long. It’s actually kind of frightening. I’ve tried to upgrade my “polyanna” mindset to something more realistic, yet I’m still a positive person. CL puts it so well – just because they look good on paper and it seems like they should be a good fit for you, doesn’t mean that they really are. If you lead with a little more logic and a little less emotion, I think it becomes easier to see when someone really isn’t a good match with you. I also say that if all else fails, ask those around you. My parents said 12 years ago that this guy was absolutely no good. One of my best friends from high school met him and said he was jerk from the beginning. Instead of dismissing those giant red flags, listen to them and consider what a relationship with a narc is going to do to the relationships that you already have.

  • Mine looked good on paper. He had a good job and a house. Also, he liked cats which is weirdly really important to me. He lived near his family and he had great friends.

    IRL he lived with his brother in that house and they never cleaned it. It was a disgusting bachelor pad. He inflated the value of the home to me and had an ARM mortgage, so after 10 years of owning the house, no part of the principal was paid down. And NO maintenance was done on the house. If anything broke, his dad would take care of it for him. And he was perpetually late on all of his bills.

    He still looks good on paper. He is now a VP at his company. Still owns the house I live in (for now). And he knows a lot of people, although I don’t think any of them can really be called his friends.

    And those great friends? They’re mine now 🙂

  • Boy, can I relate to this… I used to use very same words to describe my ex, soon after I’d met him, and it was to express my doubts about feeling lukewarm about him. Which I interpreted as MY inability to fully appreciate his awesomeness…

    • Yep. My “fear of commitment” was actually my gut screaming at me to look closer at this guy. Ended up marrying him because I thought it was all my dysfunction, none of his.

  • I don’t think it is “on paper” exactly where ex looks good. In his case it is the façade that looks good. He is good looking, has good grooming and good manners. His manners are a fake, however. Yes, they win over a lot of people who think he is great, but he doesn’t really mean them. He is very careful about what he says in front of other people, but once out of ear shot, he makes his true feelings known. There are so many people out there that he doesn’t really like who think he’s great. It bothers me to think that I may have been one of them. He also wins people over by being ever so helpful, especially to the damsels in distress. I used to think it was good that he helped the neighbor shut off her water when the water main broke. I thought it was good that he helped out that female co-worker who had just moved to town when she got in that fender bender. Now I know that all of that was just image management and the fact that those things fed his hero complex and the thanks and praise fed him kibbles. Meanwhile, he has no sympathy for single disadvantaged mothers because they are just a drain on society who are responsible for him having to pay taxes and they caused their own situations anyway. I guess he hasn’t considered that if he always made a fuss about the whole condom thing, other men might do the same and still put pressure on the girls for sex. That would require empathy or at least sympathy, however, and nothing in it for him.

    Now I am getting the “nice” and the good manners and I have to keep reminding myself about the façade thing. I just have to remind myself that as soon as he leaves he’s going straight to Schmoopie and who knows what he is saying to her about me behind my back.

  • Oh goodness, yes. Fake sincerity.
    My xh cheated abandoned and stole resources from me and our children. Tried to report me to the police because he was afraid I would expose his affair. He was told to go pound sand by the department, thankfully.
    After 18 months of threatening to DESTROY me and leave me impoverished,
    – he actually promised me I would be handed a huge negative equity bill for the house- because he would force a “fire sale” and leave us upside down in mortgage IF I DID NOT sign the title off cleanly to him THAT BOMB DROP DAY…
    He spent tens of thousands in legal bills over nonsense….. Thankfully, my guy wrote off many of them.

    >shudder, – eye twitch- shudder..<….

    Now when xh sends an email note, about once a year, he always starts with a chipper, "Hello! Hope you are doing well!"

    Soulless shit bag.

      • My abusive, law-breaking ex-husband of one week, who made me incur $100k in legal fees, mostly to retain the right to see our children, and severe trauma (he would pretend to try to run over me for fun after I was nice to him!), an hour after we left court last week, told me, ‘Now that the three-year long divorce is over we can be friends!’ I give myself a gold medal for restraining myself, merely responding, ‘Being friends is not an appropriate goal; being civil might be an appropriate goal.’ Although we share still fairly young children (I spawned with the Devil), I hope to limit our interaction to no more than three syllables for the rest of my life!

  • STBX started out when he was young cleaning toilets for a living and worked his way over the years to very high level company executive. Always mentoring young women along the way. I was so proud of him and how he was helping females be successful in the workplace until I stumbled onto the years-long pattern of lying and cheating. Every move cleverly hidden. Because he is that smart. Yeah, good on paper.

  • The good news is that once you’ve graduated from chump bootcamp, you can spot the crazies from a great distance.

    The bad news is is that there is a zombie horde of crazies out there populating the dating world.

    Us evolved sane chump graduates are like the uninfected people in The Walking Dead., a rare commodity and surrounded on all sides by multitudes of zombie narcs

  • When I got back into the dating pool after a five-year absence I dated a number of what I would call Linda Blair’s

    They were cute and bubbly and looked good on paper, but in short order I found out they were possessed by demons.

  • The Traitor looked good on paper too, at least to me and compared with previous partners. I checked him out more than I checked any other man before, because I had been burned. He was on the local council, and that was easy to verify, his numerous local community involvements checked. He said he got on ok with his last ex (the Whore), and that checked out. I met her, everything seemed ok. He got on well with her family, and I thought this proved he was a good guy who had behaved well because they still liked him after their break up. He was very attentive and helpful for the first year. I remember telling my friends he was too good to be true…smh. My friends cautioned me about someone who had been twice “divorced” with children, and the chance of a third relationship lasting.
    He didn’t trash his first wife at first, that came out about a year later after he had long moved in with me. Instead I got the “we grew apart, we got married young and evolved differently” line.
    Yes, he didn’t have a job, but he was retraining to be a school teacher so he would have a job which gave him holidays when his kids were on holidays too, so dedicated dad, check.
    With all of this and his willingness to commit really fast (red flag!!!), I thought I had hit the jackpot.
    Early red flags that I overlooked: He had no contact with his own family. He changed his tune fairly quickly about 2nd ex, from they were friends to “I swear she’s trying to destroy me”, but then friends again, then “She killed my dog”…But I was already hooked. Within a couple of months of dating he had to borrow $300 off me to pay his phone bill, but he paid me back within 2 weeks. I believe that was a test, would I cough up, then a trick to make himself trustworthy: he borrows and pays back quickly. His way of conditioning me.
    Over time he became more and more hateful when talking about his first wife, said he suspected she had cheated (while he was away studying, boarding with 2nd ex’s – the Whore – grandmother). Laying the groundwork to make me very hostile to his first wife while keeping his very close relationship with 2nd.
    About 2 years into the relationship, we were already engaged, I met his first wife and she managed to talk to me alone for 2 minutes. She used the 2 minutes to ask me to get him to give her a divorce!!!!! First time I heard that he wasn’t even divorced from his first wife. But he had a good excuse, he had refused to divorce because he feared she would take the kids to England…
    About 5 years later a conversation about his first wife went like this: she was “lazy because she didn’t want to keep her part time cleaning job” (while he was 300kms away studying and she was alone with 2 kids, one not yet in school). Hhmmh…It’s a hard life being a student boarding with an old lady, living the student life and hanging out with the grand daughter, already or soon to be mistress…
    I was very very gullible in all this, but he was good at building the story: sad divorced dad who lost the custody battle to his mean wife, the court system is biased against fathers, etc. It was until last year when I read Lundy Bancroft that I saw every line he used on me in that book (Why Does He Do That). Hook, line and sinker, I fell for it.

    Would I trust someone who trashes his ex now? No
    Would I trust someone who says they grew apart? No
    Would I trust someone who said (like me) that their ex cheated with his ex and lied for 9 years? No

    Who can you trust?

    • You can trust yourself and the stories that weren’t adding up. He kept changing how he viewed his exes, and that is a huge red flag. When I talk about someone, the story doesn’t change on how I perceive them, unless these people do something to change my perception. Also, his first wife said they were still married, so this guy was still married to his first wife, therefore committed to second wife illegally. And then he wanted to marry a 3rd wife. I swear he’s a psychopath. I dated a guy like this and his stories didn’t add up, then I found out he was still married with kids, but oh, he was the poor victim, poor chap, who’s story about his (supposed ex) wife kept changing. I caught him in a lie and that was it! I had had enough of his inconsistent stories. I’m sure my ex was a psychopath too and would have married me (illegally), had I continued the relationship. I dumped him so fast his head spun. I blocked him from all contact, he was creeped me out so much! I’m so glad you are no longer with him. And in the end, I learned to trust myself, and if something doesn’t make sense to me now, the RED FLAGS automatically go up! No excuses!

      • You’re right Kellia. By the time the lies and contradictions built up I was already very invested in him and his kids. He moved really quickly with me, was committed within 3 months of dating, and told me he wanted to grow old in my arms… I did fall in love and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have met such a man. On top of that he said he wanted us to have a baby, I was 41 and had resigned myself to being childless. I think that’s why I was so swept off my feet. Over the next couple of years we had 4 miscarriages, and as the evidence of his lies built up, I guess I was too invested in the relationship and the desperate quest for a successful pregnancy. Then we had 2 more miscarriages. Lots of sunk costs. Clearly text book stuff now that I know. Love bombing, moving in quickly, then pushing for us to move and start a new life on the farm. The worst traits didn’t show until very shortly after we moved on to the farm and I had left my job in town. He turned nasty almost immediately but there were also good times still, and making up and the constant future faking on his part. Textbook.
        Thank goodness for CL, CN and my education about personality disorders.

  • When I was young I had to be the new girl at school many times. My parents were teachers, and I either attended the school system my mother was teaching for, or I attended the school system in the university town where they were working on their advanced degrees. In those days they could take a year of leave after so many years of service, so I was in and out of the university town school system several times. I got used to putting forth the effort to “make” friends. I looked for things we might have in common. I learned to look for “potential” and I learned how to be agreeable, and to accommodate. If I didn’t “spackle” I would have been very lonely. I may have become more independent because of this experience, but I also learned that I needed to do the majority of the work to have a relationship. I didn’t have anyone I had known since nursery school. I didn’t have anyone who had my back because I had theirs — I wasn’t around long enough to catch them if they fell! So I made friends quickly, on the basis of initial impressions, and this habit did not serve me well when I was old enough to start dating. I probably looked for friendship and love a little too hard, because I was alone much of the time.

    Habits learned early are the hardest to break. Dealing with the pain of being lied to and cheated on was tough, but changing the way I dealt with people was tougher. I had to change the way I saw people — looking good on paper was not good enough. I have to see results, I cannot live on promises that are not kept. Whenever I meet anyone now, my first priority in evaluating friendship potential is whether or not the person keeps his/her word. Do they show up on time? Do they offer to help others? I’m not impressed with glitter or sparkle, I am impressed with honesty and hard work.

    I know many people at work now who “look good on paper.” They may have the education necessary to do the job, but if they are not willing to look beyond the requirements of their job, or help out a co-worker, or take the time to listen to a student and try to decipher what the student’s actual problem is — I have no use for them, no matter what their qualifications are. If they don’t do what they say they will do or can do, they are worthless in my eyes.

  • This one is soooo hard. I got chumped by the person who looked the best on paper, and it really did cause me to overlook things I knew were wrong and felt wrong. Narcs are so good at projecting these images, but they don’t hold up to much scrutiny. In dating since my chumped experience I’ve learned to ask much harder questions and to just trust myself…if it feels off, if I feel terrible and anxious with this person, it is not right. I recently had to dump someone because I felt terrible with him, stressed out, pressured, and not listened to, even though he looked amazing on paper. It was so hard to do, he was even offering me children and financial security on top of everything, but I was proud of myself for saying no. I’ve learned how much a choice of partner, if it’s wrong, can completely blow up your life. (This one wasn’t a cheater, but the compatibility isn’t there, because he made me intensely stressed rather than relaxed and happy.)

  • The Ex looked good on paper. Advanced degree, some great life experience, turned around a bad adolescence, said he wanted a nice home and a bunch of kids.

    I overlooked some serious red flags, but I think I know where I really went wrong. I assumed that all people were basically decent and that achievement meant a willingness to try hard to do the right thing. I knew that marriage wasn’t always a bed of roses, but that if we stuck together–because we had the same goals in life (values?)–that we could work anything out. We’d be partners for life!

    Yeah, well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all of this, it’s that some people’s personalities, or souls, or characters, are deeply pathological, and that my starting assumptions were WRONG. And that you have to look at how people TREAT you and treat their responsibilities and their relationships.

    Oh, and when they reject you the first time? Believe them–they don’t love you. A second time? RUN! Moody all the time? Lazy AF? Turn around and walk the other way. Grumpy to their seemingly decent parents? Nope. Can’t seem to bond to other people of their own sex nor make friends easily? Yikes. You might have a covert narc on your hands! Get out while you can!

    Honestly, it wasn’t fun picking up all the pieces, and I have no regrets. I have great kids and great insurance. I have some good memories and was basically safe and able to take good care of my family. Unfortunately, the ex couldn’t keep it together, but it’s worked out well in spite of him. He looked good on paper, but a closer look at the real deal would have shown some serious flaws. I would do it all again to be where I am today, though.

    Meh.

  • He didn’t look good on paper but I saw potential and thought having two children would mature him, wrong.
    No more project fixer uppers for me, ran me in circles for years with his crazy making bullshit games.

  • I got chumped on paper. My ex pervert presented himself as a well spoken, clean cut, decent, hard working, intelligent man. Turned out he was thrown out of the US Navy for dealing drugs……stole from several employers…..used drugs……and had he ability to lie straight faced.

    So….my nice middle class, clean cut suburbanite- turned out to be a petty criminal with strong voyeuristic tendencies. Didn’t find this out ….until AFTER I married the monster. The pattern continued during the course of my miserable marriage to this creep.

    He goes to church now. So….be careful about who you sit near in Indianapolis churches. It could be him….on paper again.

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