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Dear Chump Lady, I left my perfect husband

Dear Chump Lady,

I love love. I am a published romance writer, I have loved the gooiest love stories since I could even understand them, and I had been in love with one man devotedly for 11 years before he cheated on me. And I’m only 28. We had four kids together right off the bat. Our honeymoon phase seemed to go on and on. I got a degree in marriage and family relations, and I knew how to work things out. We communicated well. We were so happy. SO GODDAMN HAPPY.

And then he just…threw it all away. It was so fast. He met up with his ex girlfriend, and within a month he cheated, told me right after, and left. Boom. Life destroyed.

Now, I am a chump in a big way, but I did leave right away. I took our kids, got custody right away, got child support, and moved 2000 miles away. I really went for it. Divorce was filed as soon as I was considered a resident of the new state. I know my worth, and I wasn’t about to beg.

Here’s the problem: He was perfect. He was selfless and loving, and even though I was a stay-at-home mom for eight years, he always helped with chores and the kids. He was very involved as a father, and we lived for each other. We didn’t have many friends outside our relationship, and mostly just wanted to be together every night. That’s all we ever wanted, and we were best friends and lovers since High School.

Per your advice, I have not tried too hard to untangle the skein, but I’m struggling with getting over him. He left the OW about a month ago, and has been very sad and remorseful. I know this is sadness over consequences and not empathy…I KNOW that…but I miss him. I can’t imagine anyone being as doting on me as he was. He practically worshipped me…until he suddenly didn’t. And now we’re both left looking back on a relationship that was so solid, so happy, and so blissful. Like two people looking through glass at a play they used to be the actors in. I know he misses it. I do too. I know I can’t go back, but it’s so infuriating that we just have to let that stay in the past.

I don’t know how to get over him. I miss him. And I hate myself for missing him.

I recently found myself beginning a new relationship (I know, pretty soon to be doing that when we’ve only been divorced a short time. It just kind of happened), and I keep comparing them. My ex was so good at being a life partner. What am I missing here? I have followed your advice very closely, and still I want him.

HALP.

Sincerely,

Eternally Besotted

Dear Besotted,

Yeah, I always move 2,000 miles away from perfect people.

What am I missing here?

Uh, that whole abandoning four children thing? The cheating? The letting you invest so deeply in him — and create four children — only to walk out on you all? For his ex-girlfriend?

He was perfect.

Define perfect. Because my take on the word is without blemish or fault. Divine. It takes a shit-ton of spackle to find this guy perfect. You THOUGHT he was perfect. You thought you were loved. You thought you were SAFE. And he pulled your world out from under you.

He was selfless and loving,

Selfless people don’t proceed with their ex-girlfriends. They don’t green flag the lunch, the Facebook messaging, the hotel hook-ups, and the fully executed plans to leave a wife and four kids. People who love you — who are invested — don’t just one day SWITCH-O-CHANGE-O! decide they don’t love you. Or that four kids don’t need their dad.

Besotted, he didn’t even STRUGGLE with this decision. Let the ice-ice-Lake-Michigan-in-February-COLDness of that sink in.

He did not hesitate. He did not spend years in counseling with you. He did not read a self-help book. He did not spend a single anguished night confessing his unhappiness to a priest, his mother, or a shopping mall psychic. Nope. He bailed.

That’s his character. That’s who he IS. A person who is capable of casual abandonment. And once you know it, you can never UN-know it.

You can spackle it, you can write a Harlequin romance about it and script a happier rom-com ending where he sees The Error of His Ways and joyfully reunites with you all (we’ll call it The Fuckwit Returns!) but you CANNOT change the TRUTH of what he did.

Look, I get happy endings. Every day I rewrite the ending I wish I had to my infidelity story. The one where no one does the pick me dance, where everyone is mighty, where no one is puking their guts out with grief, playing marriage police or cross-referencing the secret cell-phone bills. The whole point of this blog is — Don’t Do The Stupid Chump Shit I Did. Heck, I’ve even created a persona — Chump Lady — who is fiercer and wiser and funnier than my actual self. (Tracy, by contrast, that wobbly, pathetic creature, had four D-Days.)

Besotted, instead of using your imagination to create a perfect, sorrowful ex-husband — why not imagine yourself having a better life without him? Because you control those raw materials — YOU. You don’t control him. I can imagine Donald Trump is Justin Trudeau. Doesn’t make it so.

Every single chump here understands missing the lie. And we also understand the bargaining stage of grief where you measure all those “selfless”, seemingly invested family moments against the weight of One Mistake. Maybe he wasn’t that bad. Doesn’t all that PERFECT happiness count for something?

It does to you. It didn’t to him. He was not bonded to you the way you were bonded to him. I’m sorry. It hurts like a motherfucker.

He left the OW about a month ago, and has been very sad and remorseful… And now we’re both left looking back on a relationship that was so solid, so happy, and so blissful. Like two people looking through glass at a play they used to be the actors in. I know he misses it.

STOP TALKING TO HIM.

You know he “misses it”? HOW? He told you? Someone else told you, via him? SHUT THAT SHIT DOWN.

The reason you can’t move on, and worse, compare the abandoner to Mr. New, is because your ex IS STILL IN YOUR LIFE — and you’re welcoming him there. You’ve keep the portal open. You’ve been really mighty so far, and now you’re faltering. STAY NO CONTACT. (And don’t date people if you can’t give them your full attention. It’s not fair.)

Did your ex tell you he left the OW? Uh huh. Isn’t that special? Pick the shiny toy up, put the shiny toy down. Sniffs around for Plan B.

I know you want that break-up to be evidence of his deep regret for All He Has Lost. It isn’t. He’s still someone who left you cold and didn’t even flinch.

You can either live with that, or you can’t.

I suggest you don’t.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Dear Besotted,

    He wasn’t perfect. He was just *really* good at deception. And you miss what you thought you had. It *really* is that simple.

    It’s a big club. Welcome. You are mighty.

    • YES! It is not perfection, it’s deception. That cannot be emphasized enough.

      I had a “perfect” husband and a “perfect” relationship too. I thought we had such a great marriage. But when he suddenly changed I started to look back and see, it wasn’t so perfect, it was his acting plus my projection of perfection that made it “perfect”. His cover would have been blown sooner had I not had so much blind trust.

      Also, just because he treated you so well does not mean he wasn’t cheating all along the way. I think my X treated me well as sort of a secret penance for his cheating.

      • Nodancing,

        You wrote: “I think my X treated me well as sort of a secret penance for his cheating.”
        YES! This! Don’t get me wrong…my X treated me like absolute crap many, many times! But I always look back and think: It wasn’t ALL bad. Because of those “nice” moments. Moments I now wonder if they were actually true or not. But I guess it doesn’t really matter now, does it? (I have to stop replaying crap over in my head.)

      • Besotted, he may have been a perfect ACTOR, but as Chump Lady says, this site is full of stories just like yours. I also thought my cheater was “the perfect boyfriend.” My friends used to call him “The Prince” or “Princie” for short. How cute right? NOT EVEN CLOSE. You wrestle with the cognitive dissonance for a while, but eventually you have to wrestle with the two-faced demon who could do this to you. It’s terrible, but all those years, you were deeply in the relationship, and he was…not. I also agree with the posters above, that one of the tactics from the cheater handbook is to make everything look so perfect on the surface–the gifts! The love! The bragging to their friends about you! The treating you like a princess! Sadly, it’s all an act, because given the opportunity to drop you on your ass, he took it, no problems. It’s startling, it takes your breath away, it’s the worst thing ever. But it’s not worth revisiting. Move forward, Besotted! Because he’ll do it to you again. And under that cover of perfection, I bet there was lots you didn’t know about.

        • “…I bet there was lots you didn’t know about him.”

          I was close to MIL for over 26 years. Whenever a family member or friend was in the hospital everyone rallied around them. When I was hospitalized for my first breakdown no one was to be found (my parents are deceased & my brother lives 14 time zones away). A few coworkers & a very close friend visited me over my 5 day stay. The day I got home I was served with divorce papers – just 3 months after he fled after dday. The day after I was released MIL called to see if I was home. I told her that I was upset that no one in the family came by to see me. A reference libriarian for over 35 years, she said she didn’t know there was visiting hours.

          When I told her that I had received the divorce papers, her responce was “he never told me he filed.” I then told her there were many things he never told you & that he was a defective person but it took me 26 years to figure it out. Never heard from his family ever again.

          • Hurt1 – wow…that is harsh. My in-laws of 22 years also just abandoned me as well. It is just as painful as the ex leaving you. I am so sorry.

            But it really sheds a light on where your ex gets his behavior from.

            • So true, the origin of my fuckwit stbx’s disorder was glaring at mil’s deposition yesterday. I sat through it calmly but oh can you say hate her after that. When we took a break toward the end of the 3 hour ordeal, my lawyer took me into his office and the first words out of his mouth were she is a real hard ass.

              It was abundantly clear that she lets her fuckwit son do whatever the fuck he wants. She does the bookkeeping for his business and spends thousands per month on his company credit card for personal use no questions asked. Hotels, airline tickets for him and mistress, dinners out, concert tickets, race tickets but she knows nothing about that, he is the boss.

              My lawyer said her testimony totally hurt his case but she still made me angry. At one point the lawyer asked her why she stopped contacting me and she said because I filed for divorce. He said her husband committed adultery and abandoned her, what did you expect her to do? She replied- they have mouths, they could work it out. I wanted to say yes, I should have taken the $50 he was going to offer me, kissed his ass and walked away – I am such an ungrateful bitch.

              She also accused me of not allowing our children to speak to her and said she had stopped giving them gifts because she wasn’t going to buy their love.

              When asked what reason her son gave for leaving me, she replied he said feelingit was hard to live with and she was just nagging him all the time. My daughter told me “you would think you were married”. (Her delivery on that was perfect)

              That cemented things. They can rot in hell together and The whore will make it a great threesome

              • I hate it when people suggest that “can’t you just sit down in a conference room and work it out”? They have NO idea what we are dealing with. And your MIL is spackling like crazy for her son. She absolutely does not want to believe that he could be bad. Getting rid of her along with STBX is a good thing!

                On another note: My attorney finally scheduled my STBX and OW’s depositions. His attorney said that they do not plan on taking my deposition at this time. I thought that was odd unless they know that everything they would get from me would only hurt their case.

              • Getmefree, you are lucky if you don’t have to give a deposition. I am up right now because I can’t sleep as my mind is racing with things I should have said at my deposition. I may get another chance because they didn’t finish but it isn’t set yet. It is hard because they ask questions in ways that make it hard to say what you want plus I was nervous.

                I am happy though that my lawyer was so pleased with all the damaging stuff mil said. It was not good for her golden child.

                I feel bad for you having to sit through the torture of their depositions. I hope your lawyer kicks their sorry asses.

          • That’s horrible. But thank you for sharing. It’s something I haven’t seen talked about on here very much, the abandonment by the in-laws, but I found it very painful and one of the most hurtful things. I feel like I didn’t mean anything to them, I was just an accessory to my partner rather than a person in my own right. In my case, the weekend before the D-Day Monday, the MIL was visiting from abroad. We had the usual good time, it was all ‘oh, you’re my favourite-son-in-law’ (I’m you’re only son in law!), ‘my daughter is so lucky to have such a supportive and loving husband’, ‘you two are such a great couple’, etc.

            Two days later everything explodes. Haven’t heard from her since, or anyone on that side of the family. The only person I’ve heard from on that side isn’t even part of that family, they’re a partner of one of the in-laws.

      • I can tell you if you watch the Ted talk on liars and I apologise I can’t remember the woman’s name. You will get how they do the penance thing and leak guilt. So you’ll get a piece of the truth but not the whole story. Every time right before my Ex would meet up with his OW’s he would do something “nice”. But afterwards would be an even bigger jerk!! It put me into a complete state of confusion. Wasn’t until after D-Day that I began to see the pattern and then after 3 years of waiting and seeing if things worked out and pick me dancing and D-day number 2. Realised that there has been a pattern our entire 25 year marriage although he calls it only 1 mistake. I called Bulkshit, put on my dragon skin and kicked him out.
        He’s now broken up up with Peachtitties (and yes there is a great classy story to go with that). And all Sadz sending me memes (which I ignore) and when we have financial meetings (we are still business partners) or have to talk about our two image girls (one has a serious health issue) its all I made the biggest mistake of my life. Duh moron but i’m At Meh and wouldn’t touch him with a 10 foot pole. Thanks chump lady for all your great advice.
        Oh and I started the process of changing my name as the offical name change docs came through yah 😊

        • DragonLady, yes!

          This is what I got: I am being horrible to you and treating you this badly, because you are a terrible wife and I have had enough [fill in enough of my faults to make this believable]. I don’t want to be married to you any more/I don’t know what I want/ but don’t talk about divorce. We need to focus on what a terrible wife you are and how sad you have made me and what a terrible life I endure because of you.

          Cue the SuperDome of my Pick Me Dance as I worked hard on my faults and tried to become a better human being and a better partner.

          When I lost hope of anything ever changing, his disdain or discard and complete lack of affection in ANY way ever turning back to a relationship,

          he would do a random act of kindness/take me out to dinner,

          and my hopes would revive.

          The cruelty of that is breathtaking. He used to wear her gifts in front of me, shirts, ties, cufflinks – it must have been a buzz.

          Why did he do it? I was of use. Mothering, housekeeping, running his life, property management. He had another appliance to cater to the sex, passion and emotion side of him, and I never saw that again.

          It says a lot about my sense of self and self esteem that it took me five years to think ‘I have had ENOUGH of this mistreatement, complete strangers who are paid to do so are kinder to me’ – I found evidence OW within 5 minutes of looking. I think he had become careless.

      • I even have “proof” my marriage was perfect. (Lol) RonBurgundy gave an interview to the newspaper where he talked about how our relationship was”blessed by God” and talked about how perfect a wife I was. Less than 30 days after that interview was printed he was between InternWhore’s thighs and out the door. I mean, if it’s in the newspaper it MUST be true, right?

        • The blind trust – that’s the hardest thing to forgive myself for. If I would have believed who he was based on his actions at year 1, I wouldn’t have wasted another 11 married to a pathological lying cheater.

    • And here is how we know: if everything truly was perfect and he was actually happy, WTF was he doing hitting up his ex ?? So that leaves us with the other option, which is he turned to his ex because he was truly unhappy. Then we’ve got two problems there, because in that case he was deceiving you into thinking everything was peachy and he opted for the very destructive choice of breaking up his family, instead of working things out, at least trying to!
      So let’s say instead that he was quite happy with his family, but a part of him was saying well, I got married really young, had a lot of family responsabilities very soon in my life, what if I’m missing out on something, got dragged into a mechanism and was very weak to resist, forgot he had family members to be loyal to, took them a lot for granted and…you know where I’m going with this: he made a mistake. Let’s say for a moment we entertain that he is a unicorn who chose a very stupid path just once in his life. A mistake he regrets.
      Okay, if that’s so, he can prove it to you with his actions. Where’s his big remorse? Where are his amends? How does he intend to fix this? You said you KNOW what’s he showing you is empathy. Something made you move very far away from him. What’s that instinct say?

      What I suggest, Besotted, is that you try to re-read your history together, mindful of what abuse looks like in its most subtle forms. Look for entitlement. Look at his character (actions over words). Look for patterns of destructive behavior that you may just have accepted in the name of a family, no one’s perfect, he has quirks, etc. And look behind the scenes, too. Go dig up some truth. You may find this is not a one-off. You may find it is.
      I don’t mean untangle him. I mean revisit your reality with him. Then things are going to start to make more sense to you, you’ll either have more on that unicorn or you’ll get to see him for the jerk he very likely is.

  • I went through the ‘perfect husband’ phase and finally figured out – he was far from perfect. It was just that my expectations were lowered so much due to years of neglect that even the slightest things he did felt magical. I also read things into his behavior that just weren’t there. I fell in love with the potential that I saw in our relationship, not the relationship itself.

    • Oh yes, the potential, I’m right there with you breeze.

      You already know what your ex husband is capable of Besotted. Do you know what has real potential? Any other relationship with someone new.

        • I was reading his biography lately and I found it “amusing” that he was very frustrated that he couldn’t finish his law degree. He admitted he lacked an understanding of the subject and it irked him quite a bit. I think it shows his awareness on some level about missing the human chip for justice and empathy.

        • A great website on co-dependency and falling in love with and bending oneself into a pretzel for ‘potential’ is BaggageReclaim by Natalie Lue.

      • I get it.

        I was in love with and loyal to who my husband for 35 years. We once had a beautiful thing, but at some point it stopped being. beautiful.

        I stayed in the hopes he’d change back, i.e. his “potential” for being a good man and my best friend. I refuse to believe it was all a lie.

        I know you don’t want to go there either. And that’s okay. Maybe he was all in, for a long time. He changed, or you didn’t really know him, etc.

        Thing is, you’re stuck with what he did as who he is.

        Whereas I believe I once had a good marriage, it absolutely devolved into one in which MY needs were unmet for a very long, long time.

        I can spend the rest of my life wondering when he changed or what things I could have done differently.

        Or not. While I do NOT “need” a man in my life for fulfillment, it’s good to know that they exist.

        I’m 57 and yes – “even so”, I’ve met some very kind intelligent men.

        Yeah I’ve also met a freaking weirdo disguised as a fat rich guy, and a really needy baby man/child who wants to be taken care of, who adores the me he knew in high school…

        In any case, the hardest thing I have ever done is to face the reality that for *WHATEVER REASON* which I’ll never understand,

        the DOCTOR seems to believe the tundra schmoopie is a better fit for him, (= “love of his life”, which is a public shit sandwich I got served on FB)

        AND that her kids are more worthy of his attention and money, than our own.

        I know your marital history will never be repeated. You will (likely) never raise children with another man, and I know that hurts like a gut punch every day.

        But it is my reality. My challenge (& yours ) is to make the best of this and see it as the blessing it is.

        I’m not there ^ ^^ yet, but CL helps. And so does N/C.

    • Mine was so low maintenance that I mistook that for calm, peace and serenity in our couple.
      Turns out we were basically living parallel lives, given his big investment into the secret one.

    • “Even the slightest thing he did felt magical.”
      Yes, Breeze! So spot on. I remember whenever my STBX would say “I love you” unprompted (as I would do constantly), I felt so PRIVILEGED because it was such a rare occurrence. Tiny crumbs, but when you are so deprived of real love and engagement, they feel like towering, glamorous wedding cakes! “He said he loved me this month! I’m so lucky!” Meanwhile I’m showering him with praise and affection left and right. I still can’t believe I was so unaware of how unbalanced the scale was.
      Once I realized how little I had settled for, how little I had be trained to receive from him and still consider our marriage “wonderful”, I gained clarity on who he was, and what our marriage actually was. And, most importantly, clarity on what I DON’T ever want again in the future, from a romantic partner or anyone else.
      The truth is so painful, but it’s really the only thing that heals. I will never settle for crumbs again, and my life is already better for having decided that!

      • Yes this! I think it is one of the main reasons why the end of my marriage has been so difficult for me. I’ve placed more emphasis on word crumbs than actual acts.

        Last year at this time I was diagnosed with cancer. When I told my STBX he was out with co-workers celebrating his birthday and was planning on staying overnight because he didn’t want to risk driving home if he drank too much. I was upset that I had just been diagnosed THAT day. He didn’t call to see if I had heard any results, he called to tell me he wasn’t coming home. When I told him I had cancer he told me he loved me. I can count how many times the 11 years we were together that he told me that. I clung to them like it meant everything. But he was cheating on me during this time and offered me no support (physical or emotional) while I was going through chemo. His words were empty.

          • Me to 🙂

            But thankfully he has a new schmoopie, who has thought long and hard about whether she should get involved with a married man, to love him. *gross* But we are separated (for 6 months when they got together) so that makes her feel better. She also feels really bad about my situation. You know, being left during cancer. They SO deserve each other.

        • What a vile excuse for a human! My heart breaks for you; I’m so sorry you had to face such a scary life moment (essentially) alone. You must be incredibly strong and courageous.
          I hope you recognize that you deserve one thousand times better than empty words. A cheater’s words are frequently soulless.

      • Reeling from the range of stories here. Does true love even exist?

        Besotted, I’m 28 and I devoted the best part of my life to a guy that I loved, unconditionally. We were the Long Distance couple everyone rooted for.

        I admired, trusted and believed in him and supported him during the most difficult moment of his life, his PhD. I felt everything was perfect, even though he wasn’t very romantic. I would make every effort, and felt that he was trying his best too (and constantly felt I was asking too much) by making himself available for Skype calls etc.

        It bothered me that he would always keep me hanging; speaking about the future was taboo (let alone consider marriage). Once, I spent Christmas at his place and he casually mentioned ‘when we are married…’ – I thought my heart would burst with happiness, but then he rescinded what he said. I can’t help but feel that I made a mistake, that it was all my fault. I would constantly get the feeling that I wasn’t doing it right or that I wasn’t good enough. I also felt pathetic because when my parent died, I looked to him for support.

        Then, the next Christmas, he started speaking with his ex… which I discovered a few months ago. The explicit images and texts that I discovered on his phone will be forever imprinted in my mind, as will be the things he said – that the OW made him laugh, he found it too heavy to support me, he felt we fought all the time etc. I couldn’t believe how a friendship that was so perfect and rock-solid, and a love that felt so good, could have gone bad.

        But slowly, by reading this blog and doing some self-analysis, I am starting to put together the pieces:
        1. Crumbs: He would throw me crumbs occasionally, and I would treat them like god-given gifts. An ‘I love you’ here, or a happy moment there (usually of my own creation, he never took me on dates), and I felt like the happiest woman on earth.

        2. Efforts: I made SO much effort. This ex that I speak of… never supported him the way I did. She never believed in him or gave him as much love. But it was still her that he went back to. She is inferior to me in every way (she looks like the typical Russian mail order bride type though – Barbie doll figure and big t*ts.) But once he was done with his PhD, and it was his turn to help me through the grief of my parent, I became an option and he looked elsewhere for fun. I’m starting to realise that what they say doesn’t matter. Look at what they DO.

        3. Cause or consequence? My ex, when I confronted him on D-Day, argued that the cheating was the consequence rather than the cause (and here, dear Chump nation, please help me understand what was going on). He argued that he couldn’t understand why he did what he did; it was out of character and I felt like I made him so unhappy that I drove him to it. I still agonise about this. I don’t know if it’s worse if he isn’t with OW anymore (which means he just needed an excuse to get rid of me) or if he is indeed happily with her…

        4. Leaving: this said, I felt blindsided. I spent so much money going to see him all the time etc and I felt that the dignified thing for him to do, if he was unhappy, was to tell me that XYZ wasn’t working and he wanted out. Or to try to find a solution to XYZ together. A relationship is made of TWO people, not one (where only one makes efforts), not three (where a third party is invited where only two belong).

        5. Recycling: I realised that I was part of a recycling process. I had known him for seven years – seven of my best years! and then he dumped me for this OW. Then when I moved to the same city as him, we got back together (he later told me he dumped OW). Then, OW reappears in his life once he is settled in a big job and I have moved to another country (my plans to return to his city were delayed by my parent’s death). So he discards me and goes back to OW. Besotted, just make sure that this guy isn’t putting you through a recycling loop as well. Some people are so lazy that they don’t want to go through the hassle of ending a relationship properly then getting back on the dating scene and starting an entirely new one, so they simply recycle their relationships, discarding the ones they are bored of and picking them up again later when they feel so inclined.

        Chump Nation, I’m still waking up every day wondering what I could have done differently. I don’t think he acted on purpose to hurt me, but he definitely did act selfishly and in a shallow manner. I can SEE that he only threw me crumbs, but I wonder if he’s going to give the OW the things he didn’t give me – was I ever worth it?

        Advice needed: I now have the chance to spend a few months in his city for a professional opportunity but I’m scared. I’ve never dated anyone else and I’m scared I won’t love anyone as profoundly as I loved him. I also don’t know how to cope with the nagging thoughts that I wasn’t good enough or that I made him so unhappy that he suffocated in the relationship.

        • LDC its a nightmare we all live for awhile i promise you it gets better. You are good enough! You are mighty! You will get through! Come here often we are all here to help. He is a disordered fuckwad and not deserving of you! An empty shell! A pod. Take your time take care of you my advice would be right now dont worry about dating heal and get back to being you its gonna take a minute. And he may have taken some of your youngest years but not your best ones. Honey you are young the best is yet to come!! Big hugs to you! We are all here for you!

        • “it was out of character and I felt like I made him so unhappy that I drove him to it.”

          LDC, I was told the same thing. You didn’t drive him to do anything. He is an adult capable of making his own choices. He is blaming you because he refuses to take accountability for his actions and it is a disgusting form of emotional abuse.

        • “I can SEE that he only threw me crumbs, but I wonder if he’s going to give the OW the things he didn’t give me – was I ever worth it?”

          Long Distance Chump, ask yourself this question from a different angle. Is it ever ok for a person to evaluate their partner’s worth as “low” and treat them accordingly? To say to themselves (without letting their partner in on this) that their partner is only so-so and therefore they don’t have be a good partner / make real efforts?

          I think that a decent person tries to be a good partner because that is the right thing to do, and because they care about the other person. Or if a decent person realizes their partner does not have long-term potential, they break up with them.

          What a decent person doesn’t do: evaluate their partner as unworthy, coldbloodedly throw the partner enough crumbs to keep the benefits the relationship does offer, and keep looking for another partner who might have more bells and whistles from their shallow point of view.

          Do you really regret the loss of a person like that? He watched out for what he wanted, and did not care that his treatment of you hurt you.

        • You will love someone, someday even more profoundly than you loved your ex, because you have the chance now to find someone who feels Real Emotions and can love you back, meaningfully. Please do your personal work though. Don’t live with or marry the first person you date. Play the field. Learn to act on red flags immediately and ruthlessly. The world is your oyster.

        • After my ex, I was worried I would never find someone who also enjoyed, x, y and z activities. I thought it was such a rare combination to share those interests. Well, two years later, I started dating my now-boyfriend and, much to my surprise, we both enjoy those same things. AND I have realized what a mutually invested relationship looks like…what it feels like to be with someone who is actually in it for the long term, good and bad. My ex may have said he was in til death at the altar, but he bailed with a sudden and unconflicted abandonment of me for someone “shiny” he had just gotten to know. He proved he was never invested. My boyfriend, however, is proving (especially recently in a serious family health crisis on my side of the family) that he is here for me (and my family) even in the hard times. Night and day.

          Long Distance Chump, even if you are in your ex’s city, keep that distance between you and your ex LONG. And I totally believe you will later on find a relationship with someone with integrity that will show you the truth about the one you had with your ex and will offer you a much more profound love because you will be in an equally invested, mutual relationship. It’s so worth holding out for.

          Don’t settle for your ex. The profound love you felt? That was the love you had for him. He was not profound in his love. Profound love would have supported you in your hard times and not left when it got tough. His love was shallow, like my ex’s. But the good news is, since the profound love you experienced was the love you had for him, it all came from you, that means you are capable of loving someone else again, profoundly. And I suspect, once you love someone also capable of profound invested love, you will discover a deeper love than that which you felt for your ex.

          Hold strong. Don’t settle for your shallow, entitled ex. Hold out for the invested love that sticks around through the hard stuff.

  • Mr. Perfect Fluffy Bunny is a weapon of mass destruction that can detonate inexplicably at any moment for any reason?

    Gee. No thanks.

    If you want the bomb back in your life–even knowing that kind of destruction it can suddenly cause–then, nope, you do not yet know your own worth.

    Nice for him. Sucks for everyone else.

    • “Mr. Perfect Fluffy Bunny is a weapon of mass destruction that can detonate inexplicably at any moment for any reason?”

      ^^^^ THIS is perfect.

      • This made me laugh so much !

        It will never cease to amaze me how they mess up but you’re the one who has to treat them like they are made of glass so as not to hurt their feelings.

  • Your romantic heart has nothing on him! Why, he is so romantic that he looked, and found, his soul mate. It was such overpowering love that he forgot he had children. You know! The romance of the century. Soooooo why isn’t he still with this oh so wonderful person?

    Please pull away enough from your pain to look at Mister Perfect. Decent people don’t dump their families. No explanations, no excuses. They certainly aren’t trawling on social media. He stinks! You need to understand that he was pretending to be a good person. He isn’t one and never has been.

    Your story hits close to home. This exact thing happened to my brother and children. Years later she is still the same person. Once the mask is off there is not enough glue in the world to keep it on.

  • Sorry to say, it was perfect only because he was probably a very good liar, and because you probably always gave him the benefit of the doubt. We all do that and fully trust them. I know I did. That’s the way a relationship is supposed to work after all.

    Unfortunately with trust comes the opportunity for a really good liar to take full advantage of somebody. I don’t want to start untangling the skein, but what the heck do these people tell themselves while they’re setting their spouse up?

    • Agreed blindside! You seem to be viewing your marriage as this perfect romance novel. Real life is never that perfect because people are not perfect.

      It is unlikely that he was the most adoring, selfless husband who one day just snapped. They would have found the tumor by now or it would have killed him.

      I suggest you work on finding the red flags that you spackled over. Maybe a therapist could help if you can’t see them on your own. You need to find the anger to resist someone who could do something so callous.

      You have been mighty- more so than me. Stay there!

      Best wishes- it is a difficult road.

      • Goodness yes!
        I found a good therapist and spotted so many red flags I thought I was in China!

        It’s time to work on you Besotted. Invest in you! Change your life for the better.

        • Best advice. She is only 28 with four children, just out of a marriage and already in another relationship? I think that is a recipe for disaster because she hasn’t even had time to gain insight into why she though this relationship was “perfect.” Life is a long road. Don’t rush through the difficult parts, unless you want t repeat them.

          • already dating…

            age 28 with four kids.

            MY RECENT REVELATION – it’s been a year since I last saw the DOCTOR and filed for divorce. I’m NC but struggling.

            I have not “dated” but I have had lunch or dinner with a few men who wanted to, and here is what I learned about ME.

            The man I am actually interested in, (my age, btw), has a lot to offer. But I noticed I have projected onto him, MY needs. MY wants in a man.

            I assume things about him that MAY be true or may not be. AND **I imagine being in love with him and merely imagining it, makes me think I feel it.** Amazing scary experience.

            I’m 57 and pretty self aware and yet even I succumbed to this, for awhile. The guy IS a good guy and I am very fond of him, and we will probably have a relationship.

            But what a lesson for me. Shows how the DOCTOR could say tundra Schmoopie is the love of his life, after a few weeks. And believe it.

            Shows how you can date so fast. You write romance so you imagine it, a lot. And you projected it onto your husband.

            Shows how you can spackle over the horrendous “mistake” your ex husband made by cheating AND leaving…

            (that’s ^^^^ 2 fat ass mistakes that took time to do. NOT a one night stand or caving into temptation.)

            The DOCTOR has not seen our kids (or me) in over a year and that is some seriously shitty behavior.

            He told my brother “the kids won’t talk to” him and he had the SADZ.

            Amazing…even now he cannot own the damage he created himself and then came to resent. Even now.

            And even now YOU imagine yourself to have had a ‘perfect marriage with a perfect husband” who was so selfless…

            if you had said you guys had issues in the marriage and then he left, I would have more respect and trust in him.

            But if he acted selfless and “all happy” and YET Pulled this shit, it’s actually worse to me.

            • Amen. The phenomenon you so eloquently describe is also called Limerence. “New Relationship Energy” is another pop culture term for it— kind of like puppy love. Only narcs mistake this for Twue Wuv.

        • Oh heck ya. I feel like every session with my therapist is just an entire hour of red flags continually smacking me in the face. Although I am still confused about how I didn’t/wouldn’t see them, recognizing those red flags sure does amazing things at whittling away at my “but I don’t understand how my loving husband could do this” narrative that was plaguing me in the early days after DDay.

      • P.s. you said you have been together with this loser since high school yet he instantly dumps you for an old girlfriend, from where? Junior High? Have they been in contact since? Shows quite possibly his arrested development that he thinks a childhood crush is reason to walk out on a wife and 4 kids.

      • This advice is spot on. There were red flags, you just didn’t recognize them. You need to be able to spot the red flags so you can proceed cautiously in your next relationship.

        • Agreed – loads of red flags with my manipulative X, but I was so beat down over a long time I just didn’t notice/realise it until D Day + CL woke me up.

    • I think that’s another important thing- Cheaters are A+++ liars, to a degree us chumps can’t even fathom. It’s so far beyond our radar. I consider myself to be of decent intelligence and I believed some of my cheater wife’s lies. She was so dedicated to the lies and so convincing it absolutely blows my mind now that I look back on it.

      • When I was berating myself for not being able to connect the liar’s dots with my X, a friend looked at me quizzically and said, “If a smart person wants to deceive you, they will.” I let myself off the hook (mostly) after that.

        • That’s a scary notion, though. Means there’s no escape.
          If I had one wish in life, it would be a lie detector.
          I’ve been saying this since for half of my life at this point.

          • There’s a good/creepy Netflix series called Mindhunter, about the early days of the FBI learning how to profile sociopathic serial killers. Incredible similarities to the kinds of lying and manipulation the killers do and what so many of the narcs we talk about here do— they are absolutely on the same spectrum. Gives me chills.

            • This is what has kept me successfully away from him. I realize most sociopaths are not killers, but all killers are sociopaths. There needs to be bloodlust in the mix and most socios are quite content with other kinds of less morbid or risky games…still, I’m not taking any chances there!!

            • When I started watching that show, I thought I was going crazy because the killers behavior reminded me of my STBXH. It turns out I was spot on

  • Honestly, my biggest concern is the kids. Kids are traumatized by abandonment. Even if he still manages to see them … he chose to walk out of their lives (whether they know of the OW or not … he walked out on his family without hesitation). This tells kids exactly what they mean to him (which is as close to “nothing” as a human can be).

    They will still likely love him and probably even want a relationship with him, but the FACT of what he did and the very real message it sent to them will forever be buried inside of them. Abandonment changes some fundamental perceptions children have about the world … stability, love, trust, family, etc. And not in a good way.

    So, even if you can spackle over what he did … should your kids have to try to do that? Is that remotely healthy for them to do? And, if he does come back, it’s not just YOU that will be subconsciously waiting for the next shoe to drop. I promise you — your kids will to (even if they don’t tell you that).

    Please know — my words are from experience (as a kid — I went through something similar), but they are also stated from a place of understanding. I was separated from my STBX about five years into our marriage. I let him come back. It took another eighteen years for me to realize that the asshole who doesn’t give a shit about me or our kids, the one he showed me early on, THAT is who he’s been the whole time. He is not the veneer of the nice, so-sorry, loving guy that he was fantastic at whipping out when it suited him. And, I can honestly (and with a broken heart) admit that my kids have paid far too high of a price for my mistake of taking him back when I did.

    • Good point. The main thing that made me hold off on allowing my Cheater to return when I thought we could perhaps reconcile was the thought of my son being over the moon happy Dad was home, and then to have him leave again, or worse, for me to have to kick him out. It would have been a different story than our peaceful life we have had in place of that. Cheater’s initial move out was already being smoothed over when he begged to come back, and my son did not need anymore confusion. In the end, I found out Mr. Cheater was still seeing Skank after all, and the reconciliation would have been a farce, and I would have probably had a few bad scenes of discovery with son there to witness, it would have been awful for him. — THANK YOU GOD there were people who warned me of how these Cheater’s are able to manipulate us.

    • Letter writer moved 2,000 miles away presumably with her 4 children. Not much contact under any circumstances is possible.

      • And, crucially, the father did not object to the move, nor did he follow them. He ghosted on those poor babies. He ghosted on their mother— and, most importantly, these are 4 very young kids if mom is only 28. Their whole ability to form attachments is at risk. This is precisely why the whole “I left you, not the kids” bullshit that cheaters so often say is a mindfucking. What he did is the very definition of bad fathering. Fuck him and every parent out their who is evil enough to ghost on their kids.

  • Ah, the “he must love me” fantasy… yep, I did that too. Here’s the thing, if you reflect on all the things he’s said, while taking your emotions out of the equation (really hard, but possible), you will hear a theme. It’s not about what he did, the pain he’s caused, or other lives that have been ruined; it’s about him, what he’s lost, what he wants, his pain, etc.

    You have to realize that if cheaters were all bad with Zero good qualities you wouldn’t miss them at all. He’ll you probably wouldn’t have been involved in the first place. As a chump I was trying to weigh out the inequality and make it balance… like having a giant imaginary scale. Putting all the good things (read: not special) normal people who care about each other do vs. the lying, betrayal, the risk and gambling of your life. We pile up all the good to try and cancel out the bad… but it doesn’t work! You can’t cancel out Infidelity. Many of us tried…but it doesn’t work. Someone capable of doing that to you doesn’t lose that capability, chumps just spackle over it. My STBX is as manipulative as they come, I KNOW this, and I still have to remind myself when he’s feigning concern, or being extra nice, that it’s not out of the goodness of his heart, there is a hidden agenda, and that agenda is himself and what he is trying to get. That is why it’s so important to stop communication.

    • Well said. Yes as far as it being all about him! In the begging to return speeches, there was never a mention of me. Never anything small or detailed that he missed about me, or even us together. And never a mention of any detail on what exactly he thought he hurt or ruined for myself or our son. Like a programmed robot trying to pretend it is human — Except when it came to his feelings of course.

    • I have given up on the “he must love me deep down” fantasy, but I still say “he should have loved me”. We should all remember that when we are temped by our exes. They should have loved us, they had every reason to love us, but they didn’t. That right there tells you something is wrong with them and we can do better. It sounds arrogant but it is the truth. I can so clearly see the beauty of what so many other chumps cheaters gave up in favor stinky sparkles. Why was it so hard for the cheaters?

  • “Here’s the problem: He was perfect”

    As time passes you will see the absurdity of this sentence. Time and NO CONTACT is what you need to see this man for who he really is: a selfish asshole who lies, betrays, and dumps his family.

    You never had a perfect marriage. You had an illusion. Stay Strong! Stay No Contact!

    • P.S. It’s not really fair to compare the guy you’re currently dating to a ‘perfect’ illusion. You may need more healing time before dating.

      • This. I think it’s one thing to have that post-divorce fling that tells you that you’re attractive to whatever gender you want to be attracted to. It’s another thing to move from a long-term relationship that ended in betrayal to a relationship that you consider as long-term. Second and third marriages end in divorce at a higher rate than first marriages. Part of that is that people haven’t done the work necessary to reflect on their values, their boundaries, and how to enforce those boundaries.

        • Exactly! Understand rebounds. Chumps often overestimate their readiness to date and have a fixed picker. To the point it should pretty much be a chump rule that you have to date at least one or two people before settling down with the next. And bear in mind, there are many underrated advantages to not remarrying! I know I’m glad to have certainty about my money, my home, my kids, and who I will and will not allow in my life. I hope never to be on the receiving end of a divorce summons ever again. Lol

      • I will go a little further. It’s not ‘not really fair’ to the person your dating- it’s NOT fair- AND it is going to cause psychological injury to the 4 kids you have. Your 4 children have just suffered the WORST. Abandonment by their ‘perfect’ Dad and watching their Mom abandoned. For you to start dating NOW has got to be scaring the shit out of them! Stop dating. Seriously…You need to focus on the kids for say the next four years. Get a good therapist and unpack your romantic projection and need for a relationship to be a happy and complete person. Sorry, if this seems harsh-but I am really concerned for your children.

        • You don’t know if the children are meeting anyone. It’s perfectly possible to date someone for months and have them never once meet your children — many people do it.

          • So what do the children think when they see Mom getting dressed up, putting on perfume to go see someone? They see their Mom interested in spending time away from them. The kids have to be confused enough. If their perfect Dad can flip a switch and abandon Mom and the family, then maybe their Mom will abandon them.

            • Whoa, context really matters here. HUGE difference between, say, a mom of very young kids having random guys sleep over when the kids are with her versus, say, a mom occasionally getting dressed up and going to a social/date or work function at night but coming home solo. In the latter hypothetical, the kids would be seeing a mom who actually values herself and is demonstrating good self-care by avoiding social isolation and/or furthering her careeer. So it really depends on the CONTEXT.

              There is definitely a double standard about moms and sex though, as @Hope49’s comment reflects. Family court judges often see it that way, too. Which is why if you read through the forums, you’ll notice the ones where the moms have to pay their cheater and give him a lot of the assets are often the same moms who shacked up with some man right away, and it did not sit well with the judge as to the mom’s sense of good judgment.

              • I wasn’t going to respond to the “how dare she date” comments, but I kind of feel like other chumps might need to hear this:

                I am not abusing my children by going out and having social interactions with adults. In fact I need that to stay healthy and whole. Unless you have ever tried to parent four very young children on your own with NO breaks, I’d advise you to dig around in your petrified, pessimistic soul and find some empathy to imagine that it’s a GOOD thing for me to form connections with people.

                Of course I don’t bring home men to sleep with me! My two year old literally sleeps in my bed. When I say I’m dating someone, I mean I’m cautiously forming bonds of friendship and understanding while yeah, snogging him in the parking lot because I’m young and attractive and that’s really rather fun. He’s well aware of my situation. We are both well aware that I’m emotionally in an odd place, and I’m doing my best to stay aware of it. I do love love, but I’m not psychotic. Actually I’m really rather a smart person. Did you miss the part where I got 3 books published in my 20’s while attending college and having kids all at the same time? Come on. I’m a chump, but I’m not a loser.

                I know I sound like a crazy fool, but you know what? My ex really was wonderful to me. Most of it turned out to be a dream but that doesn’t make the memories any less real. Or painful to leave behind.

                I’ll get over it in time with some great help from a lot of you (and thank you!) But what good is it doing to insert your own fantasy scenarios into my life and raise conjecture about my character when you don’t even have 1/100th of a sliver of who I really am? You wouldn’t dare say these things to my face in a support group.

                Other chump moms: if you ask me, you can date when you and your therapist deem you ready. My (yes older woman!) therapist felt I would regret not getting to know the kind man who befriended me and then asked me out, and I went for it. After this latest letter and panic, we have since revisited and think it might be best if I step away. But that was between ME and my therapist, and I don’t regret going out and getting to know someone who was kind and understanding, and a damn good kisser.

                It’s okay to live just a little bit.

              • Jo, I have to disagree with you about dismissing occasional dating and returning home at night as being insignificant. It IS significant. Those young kids were growing up in the ‘perfect marriage’ right? Dad probably read storybooks, helped with the homework and so they were spoon-fed the façade of safety, sanity and security. They didn’t see their Dad dating an OW or have any kind of warning that their Dad was on the prowl and a big, bad wolftress OW was essentially circling their home. There were NO clues. Bam! Sucker punched. Their world of safety, sanity and security falls apart. Her kids were traumatized. What those kids sadly learned is that a parent can be a wolf. Their mom or dad can lie and discard them at the drop of a hat. So… I say giving up dating for a few years is absolutely necessary. When a chump is fighting for finances, primary custody etc. she or he MUST be and present as Supermom or Superdad if you want to fare well in the division of property. As an attorney, I know and have experience seeing that those selfless qualities impress the hell out of the judge. BUT…if a judge sees both parents dating, lunching, spending time away from the kids? The judges just feel sorry for the kids. As such, applying the ‘best interests of the children’ standard they are LESS likely to give the betrayed spouse more money or a better division of property because both parents are NOT focused on the kids.

              • Hey @Besotted, I actually agree with your position — “it’s ok to live a little bit”— yes, and actually let’s live a LOT! Let’s “gain a life” like it says here on the proverbial tin, and push back against the bullshit double standards around moms and sex, while balancing that with having reasonable family-court parenting plan-typical kinds of boundaries around introducing new partners to children, no paramours sleeping over while children are present and the like. Of course you are not doing those things, and I apologize if anyone made that inference about you. My comments were and are in support of moms like you, and I would say that to your face, and I hope you can appreciate my feminist position despite the judgment others are heaping on you.

                @Hope49, where is this magical family court of which you write, as an attorney, where your judges conflate the best interests test with “Super-parenting”? Is it Marin County, CA, or somewhere like it that is very privileged and, from the sound of it, very institutionally sexist against working mothers? Under a regime like that, how would any mother support her family financially and still get a support award? Seems extreme, and rather like an outlier. Lunching by a mother is not in a child’s best interests, according to your local judges? Oh come now. On the rest of planet USA, joint custody and reasonable support is routinely given to “imperfect” parents like the rest of us— but if we move in with someone their income can count against the award. I see the point you are trying to make about protecting the emotional lives of children, but man, courts everywhere else do not give a rat’s ass about that.

  • No one who could abandon a wife and four kids just like that is “perfect.” You’ve got rose-colored glasses and he was good at lying, but at the end of the day, he didn’t love any of you enough to stay.

    • It’s important to recognize that this man is disordered and incapable of love. He doesn’t LOVE. You were of USE. These people don’t connect with others in meaningful, real life, intimate ways, they are imposters. They mirror behavior. They slog through life conning people and we make excuses for them. What happens is that, at some point, their small reptilian brains make a decision to destroy those closest to them, that family thing, a good spouse and kids are abandoned for blatant shallow kibbles ie Sex. That is who they are. We can not magically change them. Moving 2000 miles away is what you do when you recognize you will never have the fairy tale with that guy. Do your kids a favor and recognize they are your happy beginning, and get on with your life.

  • Bessotted, If I had to pick only two parts of sentences from this post to mix them together to say something to help you, they would be: “were so goddamn happy” + “person who is capable of casual abandonment.”

    As ALL of us at Chump Nation know so well, this is precisely THE PAIN we have all felt. We were ALL so goddamn happy… But with someone who did not exist.

    Besides your ex NOT being perfect, he is not even a good man. He is evil. I repeat: he is “capable of casual abandonment.”

    You did not describe even genuine naughahyde remorse, much less true remorse (read CL’s explanation about why true remorse is so goddman improbable).

    Bessotted, you seem to be VERY mighty: Moved 2000 miles! With FOUR kids! Custody! Filed immediately! Did not waste time pick-me-dancing! You are a PUBLISHED WRITER!
    So now work on “gaining a life”. Sometimes I think we overlook this gain-a-life thing.

    CL likes to remember Isak Dinesen’s solution to our sorrows: “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story”. You have got a story.

  • Can I help you write the real ending of this story if you glorify that cheater and think he learned his lesson? My now ex was under a lot of stress too. Surely that’s why he left me and his young kids for a howorker when we were in our early 30’s. Ex wouldn’t even come home if I wasn’t there and wanted my attention 24/7, would call me multiple times per day, he was all in as a father and husband….. Unit he wasn’t. I couldn’t understand it until I found out about schmoopie. And still I couldn’t really understand it. I researched what I could find in those days and came up with midlife crisis (even though we were relatively young). After we sold our house and the kids and I moved, our divorce was almost final, he came begging back. Turns out the grass wasn’t greener. I thought it meant he recognized what he was losing and my husband and the kids’ dad was back.

    I ate shit sandwiches for 12 years. I started really seeing him as self centered and entitled. If it was about him and something he wanted to do, he was all in and super sparkly. Those pesky band concerts or family reunions or school conferences or volunteering for school weren’t his thing. Volunteering to coach little league were his thing. He made sure he had the best kid on the team so he could get extra kibbles.

    Ultimately this almost 50 year old man ditched the old wife and kids again for our 14 year old daughter’s 20-something year old assistant sports coach. That’s who he is. She’s fun and sparkly and such a great kibble dispenser. And you know he is so entitled and self centered, he can justify to himself why the wife and kids should eat the shit sandwich so he can BE HAPPY.

    This is who he is. Trust that he sucks. I wish I had seen it clearly when I was your age. But sadly I blamed his issues on the howorker and his stress. I tried to lighten his load at home and do all the adulting because he was fragile. GULP. Don’t glorify him. He doesn’t deserve it. Time to move on with your life. But fix that picker first. Hold off on dating.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Examples like this help build confidence to move forward.

      Today’s writer resonated with me on a deep level – the idea of losing the perfect match and a wonderfully fulfilling life. The hopium is so seductive. My most empowering tools to get past it:

      1. He did this during what you describe as a blissful time. You were jiving, life was easy, no major tragedies. If you reconcile, you will forever live waiting for the other shoe to drop. What if you hit a rough patch financially or major illness? If he turned outside the marriage when life was good, how could you ever regain the confidence that he wouldn’t repeat that choice when life was hard?

      2. “Maybe we’ll get it right in the next lifetime”. I may change this perspective but right now it has given me a great source of peace and ability to let go. A lot of the words CL had about “not being able to unknow” relate to this concept. Even if all the fundamental ingredients were there, it is impossible to build a practical relationship. And that’s okay. You’re worth more and your kids are worth more.

      • YouDoYou – I agree with the “maybe we’ll get it right in the next lifetime.” Stepping back and gaining perspective. All I can control now is how I raise my daughter. To rear her to be nothing like her lying, cheating, narcissistic, quitting father.

        I’m still wroking towards “meh” but CN has been an absolute saviour.

    • Agree on the dating thing. When I read about people going through difficult divorces, I cringe when I read things like “I am two years out from my divorce, and engaged to a wonderful man.” GULP….You want to be ready, you think you are, but you are not even close. Use this time to help the kids adjust, help you to understand who you are and what you want to do with your life, and worry less about sliding someone into the position opening for spouse. That is a lose-lose…for you, for your kids, and yes, even for the unsuspecting new partner who believed you when you said you were recovered and ready to move on. You’re not….

  • …I have to believe that paying child support for four children might make reconciliation look quite attractive to the formerly perfect husband too. Heck! It might even have had something to do with the end of his new relationship. He’s learned a whole bunch of lessons that could make his roaming much harder to detect next time around. So Very Sorry for your lost dream – believe me, I know how it hurts.

    • ^^^^^^^THIS!
      Remorse covers a lot of bases: so sorry I got caught, sorry I’m not cake-earing anymore, sorry I don’t get the social respect that marriage can confer, sorry that my own fantasy (schmoopie) is just another human woman who menstruates, has moods, bills and problems of her own that she wamts to share with me (where did the kibbles go?), sorry that kibbles don’t fall from the sky, sorry I have to pay child support, sorry I’m not my kids’ hero anymore, sorry I can’t get a jolt out of lying to my wife anymore, sorry I don’t have my old recliner & 60″ plasma screen to fall asleep in front of…. Sure, they’re SORRY. But they aren’t necessarily talking about YOUR feelings and their wreckage or remorse. But, boy, are they SORRY!
      Yes. Yes, they are. “Sorry” is a description of them, NOT an amends or a bridge to true reconciliation.
      TRUST THAT THEY SUCK.
      You have projected your perfect, storybook images onto his blank screen. Your mission is to grieve the end of your ILLUSIONS. You can do it. CL & CN will help you.

      • Yup!!! In the end it’s always about there best interests. While my ex was crying to me about the end of our marriage- he didn’t want me to go through with the divorce- he said, “imagine for me, I’m going to forever be known as the guy who cheated on his wife and ruined the marriage”. Yup, even his tears were about image control. No “I’m sorry I hurt you so bad you feel you need to file for divorce”. Just sadness over what this could do to his reputation.

  • This is EXACTLY what I needed to read. I will never be fooled again. It is truly amazing how these cheaters are such good actors for so many years. Thank you for this post!

  • “And then he just…threw it all away. It was so fast. He met up with his ex girlfriend, and within a month he cheated, told me right after, and left. Boom. Life destroyed.”

    This is what HE DID to you and your family.

    I have said that I miss the person that I thought he was. He showed me that I was disillusioned. In reality he is an evil jerk. Yes, it’s hard to match the reality with our supposed memories.

  • Going no contact, was for me, the hardest thing to do. Now that I’ve finally managed it, it’s made a huge difference. Another commenter on this site on a separate post said they also went no contact with facebook. That’s helped me tremendously also.

  • I wish I could paste a picture here of a fish swimming around in a blender.

    Which is exactly what you feel like when you “reconcile” with a cheater. Despite how calm the waters are, you live with the knowledge that AT ANY MOMENT they’re going to pull the same stunt again and your whole life is going to be blown to smithereens once more. Except this time you’ll get the double shit sandwich of asking yourself Why Did I Put Myself in This Vulnerable Position AGAIN?!

    Some of us did this three, four, five, nine times before we finally gathered our little bit of mighty into a pile and Got Free. Leave the blender!!! Even the smallest fishbowl by yourself is better than waiting for DipShit to hit the button again.

    Love to you Mighty, Mighty Chumps. <3

      • Me too! Perfect image of what my life was like while waiting for Mr. Perfect to love me again. I got tired of being narcissistic supply.

          • Repeat wreckonciliation–with ex-husband and ex-boyfriend post separation! This is what happens when you pick-me-dance with liars who leave you.

    • Love love LOVE the fish in a blender imagery! Brilliant! And I need to add my little tadpoles to it, because it hurts them, too. Thank you. Perfect!

  • The high school bimbo is the one you KNOW about. Chances are pretty good he was cheating with others well before that. His immediate abandonment of you and your children is sociopathic. Y’all were no longer of use to him, therefore dead to him.

    Truth is very painful, but also cathartic and a catalyst for growth.

    You’ve got this!

  • “And then he just…threw it all away.”

    That one line of yours seems to tell you all you really need to know about him and about any potential future with him.

  • I have a female friend and she married the biggest loser. His breath smells all the time, he is overweight, he doesn’t work while she supports the family. Yet, in her eyes, her husband is perfect. It’s amazing the denial we can get into, just to keep an attachment to a flawed person. In order to stay married, my friend has convinced herself that her husband is perfect. And if this guy were perfect, he wouldn’t abandon his wife and dishonor his marriage vows and cheat. That is far from perfection if you ask me. You are mighty, and please keep reading the posts here, and you will start seeing the truth of how imperfect these cheaters are!

    • I recently dated a man whose breath was so putrid I gagged.

      He said: what is it …garlic? Coffee?

      I said: Garlic, coffee or even a bag of trash would be an improvement to your breath.

      Somethings are just superficial deal breakers but so it goes. 😣😕😉

  • Besotted, sounds like you’re having trouble letting go of the fairy tale romance. Did you get married at Disneyworld?

    The reality is your Prince Charming devalued and discarded you without remorse. If you reunite with him, he will eventually cheat again, because his need to feel “in love” and alive in the admiration of another’s eyes is stronger than his desire to love you as an action verb. A mature person who commits to marriage chooses to love and protect that love from all impediments, including looking up old flames on FaceBook and taking that where it leads.

    I suggest that you relegate your sweet idealism to the fantasy world of characters in your romance novels and live your actual life as a real person who can put the false narrative behind you. No new guy will have a chance with you until you do.

    By the way, this advice I give out of empathy from shared experience. I thought my STBX was the perfect love of my life in much the way you describe, and my idealism dragged me kicking and screaming in protest through 6DDays and 3 months of wreckonciliation before I could let go of my romantic hopes and admit that there was no hope for happiness with a man capable of carrying on a secret life of “emotional” affairs for several years, culminating in fucking my teenage niece in our dream house. Now I see him for what he is, an empty shell of a character wearing a Prince Charming mask. Well, no, it’s not completely an empty shell — the emptiness is stuffed with flaming dog turds.

    • Makes me think “romantic types”are probably magnates for these non-empathetic jerks who are mirroring them.

    • Mehtamorphosis, WOW he fucked a teenage girl and she was your niece on top of that and in your home!!! I got chills to the bone when I read this. This is so incredibly vile!!! I will need a shower after reading this. There really are some sick people out there! Big hugs to you. I’m so glad you’re no longer with this disgusting and twisted person. Cringe…

      • Kellia, as soon as I found incontrovertible evidence of the uncle-fucking, I sent my niece back home to my brother. We had brought her to live with us to help her with college. The worst part of it all is that after I left on my 4-month Road Trip to Meh (visiting family and friends from Maine to California), Woody went across the country to fetch Bazooka Jane back and moved her in with him before we had even agreed to file for divorce. Needless to say, I lawyered up the day I discovered that news. He couldn’t even wait until I returned to get my stuff in December! Yes, he is disgusting and twisted. Cringe…

    • Metamorphosis, he sounds like a predator. So glad you are free of him. These are the kinds of stories I want to point to when people say you should have compassion for the cheater, you should give them another chance and forgive them. So many times we forgive them and we just get kicked in the teeth for doing so.

  • After my divorce, a man I knew (a friend) told me that all through his life, he had been running toward every opportunity for big change and sweeping romance, and he was only now realizing that he had been running in the wrong direction. He said he was starting to see that the things that seemed to fulfill his wildest dreams looked that way because they were fantasies and fantasies could never last. He hadn’t been able stand to be with anyone with whom he encountered real problems, not grasping that healthy problems exist when things are real and the lack of healthy problems in a relationship was actually a red flag. Therefore, he had never made room in his life for a healthy relationship, he said.

    He said that he had come to a point where looking across the room and catching the eye of a beautiful woman and feeling the electric shock of attraction and the stirring of sexual arousal caused him to perceive danger rather than opportunity. He realized that any time he felt he was losing his ability to manage himself in a balanced and grounded way meant he was probably looking into the eyes of a person who was eventually going to harm him.

    At the time, I didn’t really understand him fully — I am still sinking through those layers — but it caught my attention and I started looking for what he had described in myself. I, too, grew to begin to realize that my attraction to people who made me swoon were actually knocking me off my foundation by “sweeping me off my feet.” I wasn’t able to enter those relationships with my own power intact. THAT was why I kept finding myself in the company of highly controlling and narcissistic people. THAT was how they always recognized me. THAT was the invisible target.

    My friend shared these thoughts with me over ten years ago and I am still learning about how that pivotal conversation can inform my daily relating, not just in love, but in friendship and business and even in interactions with strangers.

    Romance and fantasy are pretty while they distract from reality. For my part, I would rather embrace healthy connections, healthy problems and all. Thanks to my friend for offering me (and maybe some of you…) a new way to consider things so I could begin to release my dependence on fantasy and embrace a more authentic life with my personal power intact. I am still learning. I hope that’s always true.

        • Me, too, I’m a total narc magnet. “the lack of healthy problems in a relationship was actually a red flag.” I’m going to have to seriously ponder this idea with my therapist. It sounds true, but I have no idea still what a healthy problem in a relationship might look or feel like— and even though my narc has been gone for over a year, the fact that this piece is something I don’t grasp about healthy relationships tells me I am not ready to open myself up to the vulnerability of dating.

    • I love this, Ami. You have a wise friend. I’ve realized that this is part of real love- your partner will want your power to be intact! They are truly invested, so your power enhances their power.
      A fake and devious partner will find your power threatening.
      I hope for a true partner someday, but I hold onto the lessons I learn from each of the ones I walked away from. At least they gave something I can use!

    • Well said Ami. I’ve also gotten to that point where I know that the first person’s eye I catch in a room is exactly the wrong person for me. Just because we have this in us doesn’t mean we can’t choose differently. And these “romance” ideas have fucked a lot of us up for real connection; being swept off our feet is usually a danger sign, but one the entire culture seems to perpetuate. It’s so confusing! Congrats on your growth 🙂

  • The chumpiest of all chump qualities is the ability (compulsion, even) to project your values and perceptions onto others. You describe your love of love, gooey romantic inclinations, etc, and then him as a perfect husband, lover, and partner. It’s highly likely that you are projecting much of these qualities on to him. Look at his actions. Maintain No Contact so you can clear your head and breathe real air.

      • the projection of our wants and needs and OUR VALUES onto our spouses – is a huge part of why we are here.

        It’s the biggest reason for wreckoncilaiton.

        We PROJECT guilt and shame onto them and that they “now see the grass is not greener!” They learned their lesson!

        Besotted believes they are BOTH looking at a perfect play in which they were both the actors.

        (Well, it WAS just a play, turns out. And He’s a great actor! )

        Rewrite the new script with the antagonist gone, and a new version in which you are a single mighty mom with 4 kids learning to live on her own and eventually meeting new, healthy characters.

        Please listen to us. If he can leave when things are good – and ACT happy right before, you will spend the rest of your life not believing in the world around you

        and waiting and waiting and waiting…for the other shoe to drop. That is no way to live.

        Be your own prince charming. Rescue yourself. We all have to.

  • He mirrored you, Besotted. The kind of stone-cold cheater who abandons a beautifully laid-out life with a loving, devoted wife and four wonderful children does not have the character to be wonderful and loving and “perfect” on his own. He hid his true self by mirroring YOUR loving actions, YOUR devotion, YOUR A-Game.

    You know a person by their actions. Where is he? Has he uprooted his life, moved 2000 miles to your family, found gainful employment there, an apartment, and is seizing every opportunity to see his children? (Talking about that doesn’t count, btw.) And FYI, you should not factor into that at all. A kind, loving person loves his children and would do that without question, immediately and on his own.

    “He left the OW about a month ago, and has been very sad and remorseful… And now we’re both left looking back on a relationship that was so solid, so happy, and so blissful. Like two people looking through glass at a play they used to be the actors in. I know he misses it.”

    More mirroring… this is how *you* see it. He’s volleying your own feelings back at you and getting credit for it, as he has always done.

    STOP. No contact. If there MUST be, because of the children, make it cold and factual. Erect solid boundaries. Do not respond at all to anything beyond basic facts.
    ***
    Example:

    Him- Good morning, Gorgeous! [Two paragraphs of love-bombing drivel.] I was wondering if we can get together the next time you’re here/I’m out there so I can at least see the children? [Love-bombing drivel about how much he wishes you could all be a happy family again.] Let me know!

    You: We’ll be in town sometime during the second week of December. You are welcome to take the children on an outing when they’re available, either on the 8th from 10am-2pm or the 9th from 4pm-8pm. I’ll need to know which time you’ve chosen by December 1st or I’ll make other plans for them. Thank you.
    ***
    Stone cold. Clear direction and expectations with written consequences for failure to act on your terms. No acknowledgement of anything emotional. That.is.IT. If he responds in a torrent of nastiness and anger, DO NOT RESPOND. Not even nicely.

    • Insistonhonesty; Brilliant. Took me almost 8 years to learn that one lesson. Brief. To the point. Follow up date. Period

      • Yep I learnt that one on CL. Have used it many times. The first was something like
        ‘Come and collect all your crap for the garage between 10 and 4 on Tuesday when I’m not here or it will go to the tip Wednesday!
        Works like a charm.

    • Be aware that when you do put up those boundaries you may very well be treated to the very real monster underneath the mask. Cutting off the kibble supply equals the rage channel.

    • This is so brilliant it’s hurting my eyes. Holy shit he was mirroring.

      Holy shit.

      Thank you. You don’t even know why yet, because there’s so much more to my story than I could put in one letter, but THIS IS IT. This is exactly it. Wow. Thank you.

  • Besotted – listen to Chumplady. I was you. Was with the douche since we were 16 & 17, and then at 38 & 39, he blew up our family and abandoned me and our child. But! But! EVERYONE he ever met would say how “nice” he was and funny and attentive. It was all bullshit. All of it. He is a serial cheating douche who – after I discovered his serial cheating – proved himself to be the lowest coward. Vanished overnight to be with a “new soulmate” who ended up cheating on him and dumping his dumb ass, too.

    And if you believe your dbag was 100% yours that whole time you were together, you’re spackling. He wasn’t. He was always looking and assessing options. The partnership you experienced was just enough action from him to keep you unworried and feeling safe. I had that to a lesser degree, too. I’m pretty certain of this because of your age, and the availability of smartphones the whole times you’ve been together. Consider the timeline, too. If he just left you after reconnecting with some random ex, you can add about 6 mos. to a year on top of when you think they started things up. He made daily decisions to destroy your marriage and investment, your children’s intact family, and put his children’s mother through hell.

    Don’t look back. And take it from me, another Chump who “grew up” with a cheater: take time now to invest in yourself. When you spend so much of your late teens and early adult developmental years with someone, and then you start a family so soon (I was a teen mom w/ my douche) we don’t truly have the time to develop identity outside of work, kids, family because it’s all happened so fast. I’ve been away from the x-dbag for about 4 years now. Divorced almost 3, and you know what?? Life on my terms is pretty awesome. I don’t worry if I’m being lied to. I know where my finances go. I don’t worry about why he always has “projects” at work that take up weekends and almost every week night. I also don’t worry about wasting another day on a liar. My home is now truly safe.

    I focus on my career. I volunteer. I spend time focused on God. I workout. I help my parents and brothers. I binge-watch what I feel like. I spend tons of my energy, time and love on my youngest who graduates this year, and on an angel grandchild the douche barely met from our oldest child (remember the teen mom thing?…). Life is really good. But…I’m taking all the time necessary to rebuild my life, invest in my family, and truly discover who I am and why I allowed so much in my life with that cheater. Dating and looking for a relationship just isn’t worth giving up this peace and security yet. Good luck.

    • Thank you for this, Kibble Free! Flippin’ Awesome!! Totally needed this right now. You are surely mighty 👍❤

  • HALP, it seems like every day I get farther away from meh and I think that if I had the chance I would go back with my exh. I think of how I would be a better wife, a better person and just be better. A better housekeeper, a better mother, I’d be better at doing the laundry, better at taking care of the lawn, better at making meals, better at handling money, better at speaking, better at taking care of his needs, better, better, better, better, better, better, better. BETTER, BETTER, BETTER!!!!! But I also know that he devastated me, gutted me and didn’t care. He fucked other women. I wouldn’t say we had a fairy tale. I would say that I thought we had something pretty solid, though.
    I’m feeling the pain of being discarded and destroyed but I at least realize I’m missing something I didn’t have. I also know I’m the only one feeling like this. He’s doing fine. He doesn’t miss me. He doesn’t feel remorse. He doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t care about what he did to me and how that continues to affect me. I’m the only one crying. He thinks I’m garbage.
    I’m not calling him perfect, but I want what I thought I had. You say your ex is perfect. No, he’s far from it. To want to be far away from these people but also want to be close to them is all wrong. Wrong can never be perfect.

    • He’ll miss you one day. One day he will remember what he had and messed up. The clock runs out on cheaters. I’m 5 months in and I just keep telling myself “get revenge by having a good life” when they see that then they will regret what they did. And you will have met better more interesting people. Get out and meet people who like to do the same things you enjoy. That’s what I’m trying. That’s my first step to building a new life.

    • (((((((Supreme)))))))

      …sweet girl…lay it all down and stomp the fucking shit out of it :)…do it to the beat of…ummm…your favorite music :)!!! Yeah!!! 🙂

      …here…read this and check back with us after you’ve had a nice long bubble bath and whatever you may enjoy and never got to (the whole time you were

    • Supreme Chump,
      Thank you for writing for those of us who ‘don’t feel good enough (i.e., perfect)’ and thus feel guilty, sad, etc. when we cannot save the world (or at least our relationships). Like you, though, I know that I did not put a gun to anyone’s head, saying ‘Repeatedly lie to me.’ The lying (and in some cases the cheating) was the partner’s doing.

  • First of all, dear friend, you are a published romance writer. This means you are skilled in the art of spinning beautiful tales out of thin air. Teach yourself to look at your beliefs ~ he doted on us! he was loving and selfless! he was the perfect husband! ~ as just that: beliefs… which, by definition, may or may not be true. Every time you find yourself thinking about what a dreamy guy your husband was, catch yourself and say, out loud!, “there goes one of those idealising thoughts, again.”

    Also meditate on the difference between nice and good. It’s not so difficult to be nice: plaster on a smile, help with the housework, laugh at everyone’s jokes. Nice is the oil that greases the machinery of human interactions: extremely pleasant but not always essential. Good, on the other hand, takes hard work. It’s not always pretty but it’s always right. Bringing up uncomfortable but necessary conversations with your partner; focusing and re-focusing on your wife and kids even when something shiny shimmers in the distance; turning down the opportunity to reconnect with a past girlfriend when you know, in your heart, there might be lingering feelings…. these are the actions of a good man. It’s possible that your new boyfriend has more good but less nice than your ex and this would be a POSITIVE thing.

    Finally, this letter is a great reminder ~ yet another one ~ to teach all our children the fact that marriages before the age of 25 have a MUCH higher failure rate that those made at a later age.

    • Thanks TorontoChump. Although I feel like I can talk the talk of mighty, sometimes I feel myself faultering at walking the walk. This post is a nugget that speaks to me! It’s so helpful to remind ourselves of the difference between nice and good. It feels like the old adage of what you do when no one is looking–that’s the good. My ex is so known as the ‘nice guy’ that everyone that’s superficial likes.

    • Sometimes I blame romantic movies/songs/books and even religion for perpetuating the lie that people can always get back together if the “bigger one” can forgive. Or pray hard enough. Or whatever. Those kinds of ideas kept me stuck in trying to make things work long after they had stopped working. It would be better to occasionally hear a story where the people have damaged their relationship beyond repair and can’t go back. But they go on to live and learn and grow some more. That’s not romance, but it’s reality.

    • Hey Torontochump
      A group of chumps are getting together this weekend. If you would like to join us, see the Forum for Meet ups in Toronto to get contact info.

      • There is SO much collective wisdom here, Eternally Besotted. THESE are the stories of real monstets vanquished and the value of self-love to make a foundation for mature (not always as sexy & dramatic) love stories of real partners.
        Welcome, sisterfriend. There is a lot to learn. Let’s rewrite love stories together!

  • Yeah, this sounds eerily similar to my own situation. Loving, devoted husband who was OBSESSED with me, still grabbed at me, sent me sweet “I love you texts” and calls throughout the day, etc. We had a single, wonderful son, and my ex regularly would sigh and exclaim how much he “loved our little family”. Until he didn’t. Just like you, 11 years together, dreams of having a happily ever after that I never thought possible as a child of divorce with a sociopathic father – blown to bits.

    And our marriage was good, and our friendship was real…I thought. But let me tell you something – I always *knew* what he was capable of. You know how? Because one year after we were married I felt the need to sneak into his MySpace messages while he was overseas, and found a note he’d written some woman he wanted to get to know. ONE YEAR in I was feeling uneasy with his behavior and felt the need to spy on him. 4 years later, when I was only a couple weeks pregnant, I felt it again. I snooped again and this time I found a conversation in his Gmail with an army buddy about how he’d “ended it” and he’d never had a “temptation” like that before and wished someone was there to tell him how “stupid” he was being. I was devastated. But I was also pregnant, and he was remorseful and had ended things and nothing ever happened! (I believed him because he secretly had told his friend that nothing ever happened, but who the fuck knows, these people lie to everyone!)

    So we went on our merry way with the marriage, with a million promises on his end that he WOULD NEVER HURT ME again. Throughout the years, I tried to let it go, I tried not to dwell, I didn’t want to bring it up, but sometimes I did – and he didn’t understand why I couldn’t get over it. I always felt like i had to watch him, like I HAD to snoop. We were happy, I thought, but why was I always on edge, why did I feel jealous whenever he had to spend time with other people at work or school, with other women?

    And then, less than a year after we bought our forever home, our big dog (that he always dreamed of), a new job for him and a new routine of homeschooling our son… BAM – he hits me with how he doesn’t know what he wants anymore, he doesn’t want to be married anymore, he wants to be our son’s father and that’s it. THAT’S IT?!?

    I kicked him the hell out of our house. I hired a PI and I had him followed. I found out who she was. I waited until I had evidence and I exposed his affair.

    Meanwhile I felt like I was dying. My son was confused about why we went from having dinner together every night and snuggling in bed and watching movies and playing outside with the dog as a family to having none of that. And he never looked back. He’s not even with the AP anymore, and he doesn’t care that he broke apart my life. He went from being totally “in love” with me to telling me he was never happy and claiming I was a bitch and basically that I ruined his life.

    Trust that they suck, because, my dear – they fucking do. He’s already destroyed your life once, don’t be like me and let him do it again. Because he will.

    • I’m so sorry, 12years. I know what you mean about that feeling that you always had to be on guard, always wondering what was really going on.

  • Besotted:

    Sigh, my husband was perfect, too… until DDay and I learned he’d had 14 affairs during our 40 years together. Yep, that’s 1 more than a baker’s dozen!

    The truth is, he was NEVER faithful; he was simply an expert at living a secret life, proficient at extinguishing all evidence of his activities, and really good at pretending he actually loved me.

    The truth is, he cheated while we were dating, while we were engaged, during our first year of marriage when he was working out of town, when I had my first miscarriage, when I had my second miscarriage, when I was pregnant with triplets and on total bedrest, while I was in the hospital having a total hysterectomy, while I supported him as he got his MBA, when my father died, and the list goes on. When I needed him the most, he was off serving himself.

    The truth is, I was so besotted with him and put myself so low on the priority list that I actually wanted to reconcile with him! I guess I thought it would be easier to live with the hell and humiliation that I knew rather than venture out alone into a world I hadn’t been part of since 1974.

    Thank goodness he didn’t give me a choice; he left me for good to be with AP #14 (whom he just married 3 weeks ago) and filed for divorce. It was the worst experience of my life but today, I’m actually grateful he forced the issue.

    Thanks to my going 100% Zero Contact, I have allowed the smoke to finally clear and what do you know? Life without him is beautiful!

    Please don’t do what I did and waste 4 decades of your life trying to patch a ceiling that really just wants to cave-in. Love yourself, love your children, go create a beautiful life without him!

  • Relationships in fiction are perfect because they’re not real. Your ex seemed perfect because he wasn’t real. He gave you a fictional version of himself, until the end when the cover came off and you saw what is *actually* in his book. He’s trying to put the cover back on his book and hand it to you in the hope that you’ll forget about the horrific chapters inside. Shiny cover = perfect husband, right? Wrong. Those chapters are still there, and they go all the way to the end because it’s WHO. HE. REALLY. IS.

    Authentic people are imperfect but strive to be better versions of themselves, and they don’t hide behind fake book covers. My cover has all kinds of rips and scratches, strike-throughs and annotations. My cover is a little messy but it shows exactly what is inside. “Perfect” people are an illusion. Their covers are perfect and sparkly clean but their insides aren’t.

    Chump Lady is right. STOP rehashing the past with your ex. You’re desperate to understand what they hell happened, I know. But you’re looking to the wrong source to figure it out. Cut him out except for kid business. There are no answers there, only more murk.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s terribly unfair, and you didn’t deserve it. I wish for you strong boundaries, authentic love, and eventual healing from your trauma.

  • I hope this isn’t a trolling comment. I love Chump Lady but generally find the comments too much to take- people are just still in the throws of pain, and want to tell their story. But this letter to me felt like it was from a woman completely in fantasyland, and also someone who has never fully grown up. How could she have. I mean, I understand. I was sort of similar- in growing up in a religious environment that really stressed marriage and family, and my guess that is this woman- you get married as a teenager and have four kids right usually inside that context. I could be wrong of course. But this environment puts marriage on such a pedestal, that you do get lost as a member of the family- as being a perfect wife, and having the perfect family, with cute little kids. And I am not sure that bubble has been burst- it seems like she misses her husband, and may just find another man to reenact this bubble, instead of really figuring out who she is outside that context. So, yes- again-I hope it isn’t trolling, but go no contact- and watch the clouds lift. And I hope you do take some time to see yourself outside of those family roles. You can be a strong woman- and that will last forever- way longer than being young and cute, and have little ones to keep you busy! You can be mighty- but a little less romance and a little more reality would do you good. I have a boyfriend, I am all for romance, but at the end of the day- it is about me as an individual.

    • ANNA

      your comment below is a stunningly valuable one.

      4 kids by 28, and 11 years of marriage… *this environment puts marriage on such a pedestal, that you do get lost as a member of the family- as being a perfect wife, and having the perfect family, with cute little kids. And I am not sure that bubble has been burst- it seems like she misses her husband, and may just find another man to reenact this bubble, instead of really figuring out who she is outside that context.*

      Amen!!^^^^^ I’m 57. I began dating the DOCTOR in my freshman year of college & married in college.

      I have much to learn about what I MYSELF am like and what I MYSELF enjoy and want. My kids are out of the house now and so is Dr Narkles.

      This is, in the end, about self discovery of who WE are on our own. Which is a part of growing up.

    • My letter and I assure you I’m not trolling. It’s difficult to portray what I mean without going into some kind of pointless, overly long back story. Suffice to say I’m a writer and I’m prone to hyperbole. 🙂

      Of course he wasn’t ACTUALLY perfect. My point was that he was everything I ever wanted. And when we had problems (which is course we did!) they were solved with love and communication. *or so I thought* It’s that caviat I struggle with. Wondering what was real and what was forced. Wondering what red flags I missed. I think the truth is that we got married very young, and people develop a lot in their 20’s. So what should have been red flags were just little pieces of flair I got used to slowly over time. Apparently my ex was a narcissist. And because I loved him, I spackled.

      Right now I’m in the process of unspackling. And it’s hard for me to see that oh, his sexual entitlement was narcissism, not a love language thing. Or, oh, his daddy cheating on his mommy makes him MORE likely to have that problem not less.

      No, he wasn’t perfect. But the way he made me feel for 11 years was. And that’s what I miss.

      • He gave you what he knew you wanted because that’s how they “win their game”.

        Problem is, loving people are satisfied with actually doing what is needed or asked or wanted by their partner, in a reciprocal way. If I decide to better myself and become the “perfect spouse”, that comes from a place of love and also reinforces my love for that person.

        But since those incapable of love have to resort to mimicking what normal looks like, to them every act is meaningless. They do that and then just skip off to their “other games” and nothing truly satisfies them. There’s no fear of hurting someone, because there’s no bond there to break. Only supply or no supply for them.

        So sorry for what you’re going through!
        I was a big romantic and lost my fairytale, too.

        • “I was a big romantic and lost my fairytale, too.” Yes. That right there. That’s what I lost as well. I used to call him my prince. Turns out he was really an enchanting frog.

      • Bravely done, Besotted. It’s really hard to face up to your mistakes in public. No one is blaming YOU, by the way – no one deserves this degree of betrayal. But it’s super-hard to realise you got played, big time.

        I think Anna does have something to offer you with her comment, even though it’s bitter medicine administered to someone who’s been on a meringue diet for a long time. She is trying to get you to wake up and STOP.

        You are being lured back into fantasyland by your ex, because his shiny dream turned out to have an abrupt awakening. STOP. Here be dragons. This is not where the happy ending is.

        You are dating already. STOP. Seriously, I mean it. You are not ready, and you will just pick Handsome Prince #2 and start spackling all over again.

        You are not Guinevere, torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool. You are, however, an ordinary woman who needs a good, independent, sensible and probably older female therapist. Start unpacking the family of origin stuff – YOURS, not his. The lie that you miss is a very powerful one, and it came from somewhere.

        Go No Contact, use parenting calendar software, and take your time to heal. HERE is the happy ending you are looking for. Maybe you need to stop measuring success by the presence of Handsome Princes and diamond rings, and start looking at new measures like courage, independence, integrity, and self-worth.

      • “No, he wasn’t perfect. But the way he made me feel for 11 years was. And that’s what I miss.”

        We have a short but pithy saying here at Chump Nation:

        You Miss The Lie.

        It also sounds like you really needed your husband to create fairyland for you. This puts you at a huge risk of faux-reconciliation, or hunting down Romantic Supply #2.

        This stuff is like a drug, and you need to be in rehab.

      • Besotted- How long has it been? You didn’t mention it specifically. I can tell you that I am almost three years from d-day, and still- every six months I feel even better. I thought my ex was a sex addict for the first year after d-day. I thought I had to move to be close to my parents- so glad I didn’t do that either. Were you mighty, or did you go home to Mom and Dad? The geographic cure usually doesn’t work, so I hope you had a good reason to move besides your ex leaving. Chump Lady would say things better than me, I don’t mean to be rude. I know I don’t know your whole story. My point is- I thought I was doing pretty good, and the fact was- every month I was making progress, but so much progress had to be made before my head was far enough out of my ass to see even remotely clear! Truly no contact, focusing on yourself and your future is the way to clarity. You will wonder how you would ever has settled for something so shallow. And don’t forget- it isn’t just about you reading self help books and going to therapy, but really trying to move your life forward. Do you have a job? Are you damn proud of yourself? Not just for being a good Mom, but for doing what is right for you? I am saying this as a mother of five kids. I am 36 myself- and did the young marriage thing too. We do have things in common.

  • Dear Besotted… Perfect is an illusion. Even the best marriage, made of the most honest and genuine people will have battle scars. That is called being human and human’s make mistakes.

    What your X did was equal to pushing you and your 4 kids out a window of a 25 story building, waving as you all fell, and hollering “good luck”.

    Fuck him. And respectfully, you need to start thinking like the Mom of FOUR KIDS who need someone who is lucid and not living in a romance novel. Stop talking to him… he walked out once… he has shown you who he is. Believe it and move on.

  • I’m not much of a jewelry expert so I can’t tell the difference between a diamond and cubic zirconia. I thought I had a diamond until I realized it was fake. My XH was never ever the wonderful guy I thought he was and loved unconditionally. He was just the shiny fake. Once you realize that, you notice the difference.

  • Besotted,

    I am going through some of your pain with my STBX having a five year affair with the OW and 4 months ago decided he wanted her instead of the marriage. He was my love and he broke my heart. I will never take him back because I will always think about the five year affair. You see the point we have in common is both are cheaters left the marriage to be with their shoompies. I know it is hard and believe me I am struggling, just as you are, but you need to understand their are consequences when someone makes a decision on their own without consulting you or having total disregard for your feelings. If you don’t show these cheaters their are consequences with their actions they will never respect you. After all they didn’t respect you when they decided to leave. In your case he left you and your 4 children. If you take him back what if he does it again. It will always be on your mind. Not to mention your anxiety will never go away. You need to be sane and strong for your kids and above all be their role model because their father is a walking cheater at the drop of a hat.

    Be strong and Mighty! Take one day at a time and start to focus on you ONLY!!!

  • I struggled over the loss of my “perfect” life too, even though I knew about the shit under the floorboards.

    But I see it as it actually was now.

    Physical distance is great. Time distance will reveal the cracks.

    You miss the facade you had, not the person who ruined it for you.

    • ..the shit under the floorboards.

      I giggled and then I was like WOW. It is amazing what us chumps spackle over for our “perfect” lives.

  • Of course he is “remorseful”! His OW dumped him and it just really hit him that he’s on the line for child support for FOUR kids for many years ahead, to say nothing of alimony. Believe me, once it really hits him that you aren’t coming back and he isn’t getting out of that support order so easily, his mask will drop and you’ll see the real him. Things won’t be so adoring and loving and devoted then, just you wait.

    In the meantime, don’t communicate with him any more than is required for custody/visitation issues.

  • You miss him because it was real for you and you invested in him and your family. The posters here are trying to show you the truth (and the truth hurts, I know) but what you had was only partly real. Clearly, if someone can leave you (with 4 kids) then you have to let them go FOREVER- they are not joined to you and not invested in you and clearly not worthy of your time and energy. That includes the energy it takes to reframe the history.

    CL says don’t untangle the skein- it saves time on both ends. Why waste time trying to untangle what you will never truly understand and uncover, AND, every moment going back is less energy on the present and future you want to rebuild.

    This takes time and in my case, sheer willpower at times. Even when I think I made progress and I do not hear from ex for a good long while, I can slip. Case in point, 30 years and 4 years together. 4 and a half years out and one of my kids wanted to watch home movies last week. Seeing and hearing Mr. Cheaterpants in those movies reminded me less of the “good ‘ol days” and more of what a jerk he was to build us up only to selfishly throw us away when we were less “shiny”. Also, it is funny that I noticed in home movies when he knew the camera was on- so were his super acting skills. Look at the great dad and husband!!

    Even in his “best time” when the kids were little, he was still a budding character disordered man who did not have true empathy and loyalty to make it for the long haul though he claimed to! It makes him look bad even in the glory days when he was likely secretly cheating.

    The point here is that I need constant remiders not to go back and rewrite a happy ending or even use happy times to prove my life was not a lie. It was not a lie- not becuase of what he did or did not bring to the marriage and family, but becuase of the honesty, commitment and true love that I did bring. I refuse to give a liar and cheater credit for moments I will always have to now question. “What was real, what was not?” is not a game I will let myself play. Shame on him for taking my life and authenticity. Now I get a new (cheater-free) lease on life!!

    You are mighty becuase you left on the truth of what he did to you. Do not water down your mightiness now by trying to look back at a “play” with rose colored glasses. Trust that he sucks and you will survive and thrive in time! Go No Contact NOW….Good luck to you (((hugs)))

  • I thought I had a near perfect wife for the first 4 years. And then once we had a baby everything began to decline. She wasn’t interested much in being a mom or a wife. She started to care more and more about her job and advancing and going out with her friends. 6 years of this later is when I first caught her sneaking phone calls to a man from our neighborhood and telling her girlfriends she wanted to get with him, kiss him, etc while his wife was deployed to Afghanistan… I confronted her but was never able to prove it went anywhere and we did marriage counseling and I stayed. Big mistake. 4 years later caught her communicating through Facebook with her ex boyfriend (who she had previously said was the most horrible abusive person ever)- must have been BS. 2 years after that is when she had a full blown sexual affair with her 24 year old massage therapist. My point is that we tend to believe what we want to believe. Chumps are good people. We try to repair and fix things. We give people second chances. We try to keep the family together. Cheaters have their own standards that are completely different. It takes awhile of pain to finally realize it and realize that cheaters will NEVER change and what they do is a form of abuse. I am realizing now that continuing to stay with my cheater wife would be just signing up for more pain and more heartache. It’s hard to do, but I still must do it- for me and my daughter.

    • True, Zell. We can’t imagine it because we couldn’t do it. When I realized my husband was “planting seeds” to break up his married coworker’s marriage and that he was ingratiating himself with her children, it was shocking. No way would I ever think about doing that to someone’s children. He said he “loved” her kids, but if he did, he wouldn’t have been trying to break up their family. It was sick. My husband was an upstanding man who was admired by many people and a leader in our community…well, I guess we see that same story played out on the news every day now, don’t we?

  • So much to say here, but the bottom line is even if my shit for brains STBX had a complete personality transplant and gave up his college girlfriend and wanted to come home, I wouldn’t welcome him back. He’s not who I thought he was, he’s not who he said he was, and he can never be trusted again. After his complete gutting of our children (which he refuses to acknowledge or take responsibility for – it’s all about him and how he feels) any reconciliation would further traumatize my children. At this point, it’s not about what I would prefer [the promised, yet elusive happily ever after] but what is best for my kids [NC on my part until the end of time; and contact with him on their part at their own pace].

    Being the sane parent is a tough row to hoe.

  • I feel like there are a few parts of the story that Besotted omitted including the reason she needed to move 2,000 miles away.

    Regardless, Besotted you are comparing your new relationship to your old relationship because you are not over your XH. Do yourself a favor and grieve properly. I know that offends your romance writer sensibilities, but real life is messy and sad and boring and sometimes traumatic and hard work. (Hello, that’s why we read romance novels.) You can also google chemical withdrawal after a break up to give you greater insight.

  • Besotted,
    I’m in the same boat. My H was the definition of perfect. He cooked and cleaned and made me feel like a queen. We were together 11 years…and then I found out he was having an affair with a hoeworker…and was in love with her.
    We have a 2 year old and are co-parenting so I have to see him all the time…. We got divorced in August but now he wants to be friends… I miss him terribly and seeing him every other day when he drops our son off kills me. I am friendly because I don’t want to hold on to the hate but letting him go is impossible this way. He tells me when he’s met people and even when they fight…. I don’t know how I got stuck in this hell but I am stuck.

    • It is very difficult when you have to coparent. Seeing my cheater wife (5 months out from Dday) brings up a lot feelings and I have had to train my brain to not look at her. I try to cast my eyes elsewhere- this does actually help to some degree. Just last night the two of us took our daughter trick o treating together. I wore a Halloween mask- I quietly cussed her out from behind that mask- it actually worked! made me feel better. She of course called me ‘babe’ and would try to get close to me to mess with my brain, but I did well, resisted, kept my brain focused, and was able to leave at the end of the evening in decent mental shape. Find some things that help you and work for you to deal with these nagging feelings that in the end just create more heartache for yourself. Cheaters don’t deserve to have this kind of power over you.

      • You both need to stop interacting with your exes like you’ve described. Some peaceful parallel parenting with zero contact outside of emails would be best, IMO. You should not be conversing with them in person regularly and certainly not about anything else besides health of your child or custody logistics.

        • I agree; you cannot heal from a wound when the scalpel is still stuck in it. While contact while coparenting might be unavoidable, it should be mostly by text or email, not in person. And definitely no conversation; it keeps you stuck.

          • How could Zell go trick-or-treating with his daughter if he insisted on not going with her mother? I can see that would be difficult for the child. Sometimes during family events we are stuck with the other person and have to play nice. It’s hell. I can certainly see not looking at your ex would help. I think Zell did the best he could in a difficult situation. Maybe others who have coparented have some ideas for handling events like trick-or-treating. My children were grown when we divorced, so events like weddings, etc. were difficult, but don’t happen that often.

            • Unfortunately, being divorced means doing things separately. My asshole ex and I are alternating the holiday. That means this year he was with me, and next year he will go with ex. Do I like that I will not get to see my son trick-or-treat every year? Fuck no. Next year, knowing I will not be able to see him the night of I will plan other activities where I can see him get candy in costume. There are plenty of events around the holiday where that is possible. I don’t think it’s healthy or appropriate to continue doing things as a family where there is disfunction and disrespect. It also does not facilitate healing. That’s my opinion.

              • That’s a good idea, 12Years. I’ve seen multiple events around Halloween where kids can dress up and get candy. I’ve gotten pretty good at celebrating Christmas on whatever day I see the kids now. On actual Christmas day, I’m usually with my elderly parents now and we go see a movie. It’s strange and sad but is getting better. I’m thankful to still have my parents around because so many people my age don’t.

            • He can’t. Divorce decrees usually specify alternating holidays for those with 50/50 custody. Sadly, I suspect it is better for children to learn to compartmentalize rather than insist on spending every holiday with both parents. What if the daughter insists that Christmas should be spent together? What if both Zell and his X remarry, and daughter has gotten used to spending holidays together, but now it will be for the foursome.

              There may be noble reasons to suck-it-up and play nice with the X on holidays, but it definitely, definitely, does not promote healing.

              • I guess that’s true. I hadn’t thought about how difficult it is to heal when you keep having to see your ex. I remember I used to think of my ex as kryptonite. I’d do pretty well until I saw him, then afterwards I’d be a blubbering mess. It sucks so much to have to alternate holidays or split them. That’s the hardest part for me, and my kids are grown. I can’t imagine what it would be like if they were still little. My heart goes out to everyone with small children trying to navigate this storm.

  • Maybe he was nearly perfect, maybe things were really, really good for you two and your family, Besotted.

    But his attachment to you and your family was SHALLOW. He pulled those roots up so easily. He was in love with you, until he wasn’t, and it was EASY for him to make that switch.

    If nothing else, this is what you need to keep in mind. He switched off, now wants to switch back on, and will always be able to flip that switch. THIS is who he is. And that kind of thing doesn’t change.

    Protect yourself and your kids, because your pain is deep!

  • Simply being capable of believing that another person is perfect….tells me that OP is also capable of believing in unicorns.

    All I can say is, inside your head, knock this guy off the pedestal you had him on. You were kidding yourself.

    I would have said my ex husband was perfect too, then I discovered he’d had an ex-girlfriend as his mistress throughout our marriage. Never would have guessed in a million years. I too mourned that perfection I thought we had, and likely so did he. We were long term partners, a team together with accomplished children, and plenty of success.

    It’s just that some people want more than just a faithful marriage, and they don’t bother to mention it. Stop talking to him about anything but the kids. And enjoy your single status.

  • We often remark on the similarities between cheaters. Unfortunately, there are many similarities among us chumps too. So many of us pick me dance, take them back, or long to take them back. So many of us try to rationalize their behavior both before and after DDay. We so want to believe that they aren’t really that bad and that the relationships we used to have meant something, that we meant something. I guess the good thing about us having so much in common is that it makes it easier for us to comfort each other and give advice. It is so easy to see why everyone else’s cheater is a horrible person to be avoided, but it is not so easy to see that for our own situations. At least we understand each other enough to know that is the case and why.

    • ChumpInRecovery,

      Well put and well stated. I rely on CN to get me through this horrific time in my life. It helps so much to feel there are so many others that have been affected by these narcissists and psychopaths. I wish I could take away every single Chumps pain.

  • Besotted,

    I love romance novels – I used to read them all the time. You say you write them, so I’m sure you use a “device” or a “formula” to tell the story. There is a meeting, a heady courtship of some sort, some event that occurs that creates danger, a break up or something that makes it appear that true love will be thwarted and then true love conquers all and the two lovers live happily ever after. It is the same formula for all romance novels, romcoms and every happily ever after fairy tale. But that’s all it is – a device or formula to keep the attention of an audience. It also sums up your Ex’s presence in your former marriage.

    I once asked the Ex why he didn’t treat me like a certain romance hero treated the woman in his life. His response to me was, “Because I have a job. That guy in that story? What else does he have to do but shower her with attention all the time?” While the real reason he really didn’t come close to treating me as well as a romantic hero treated the love interest in a romance novel was because the Ex was a lying, cheating, duplicitous asshole, there is real truth in his response. He was pointing out the reality of my wished-for fantasy. The word “lie” sits in the center of the word “belief” for a reason. Too often our beliefs are simply the comfortable lies we tell ourselves.

    It is fine to read and write fantasy; not so fine to live in it. Internalize that nothing your Ex says to you means anything. Everything he says is situational and self-serving. Nothing he does will ever be about you and your children – ever. He is totally motivated by his own self-interest All.The.Time. Ask me how I know. Don’t waste another second of this one life that you have been given thinking that this man will ever have an epiphany or that you will ever be able to trust him. He will keep you in his loop only to extract value FROM you, not to add anything of value to your life. As a husband and father he will never be anything more than a character in a book. He will not show up wearing that story line in reality. Close the book, wake up from the dream and move forward with your authentic life for your sake and the sake of your children.

    • This was such a nice way to say what needed to be said without soft pedaling things. Good, Good advice!

    • My ex was the opposite. He wanted me to treat him the way the romance heroine treats her man in spite of the job, kids, house to look after etc. and it’s not like I was getting that either.

  • “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

    Maya Angelou said that and truer words have never been spoken.
    Words are BS and mean little, it is actions that count !! I and most of us have been there–we found out that we lived a lie for YEARS (16 in my case). I thought that I had a great marriage and she had some “issues” from her childhood but overall everything was good and she would NEVER cheat on me !!

    Then one day my whole World came crashing down. I was disposed of like a used candy wrapper, devastated emotionally and financially and told by my Ex (who never was remorseful) to “just get over it”.

    You lived a lie and you desperately need to “fix your picker” as CL says. Once you do, you will see the massive red flags that you spackled over with this guy. Besides maybe getting back with him, you also need to make sure that you don’t hook up with another guy just like him who is “perfect”.

    • Preach it, my friend. I now watch the actions of everyone that I call friend. Sadly, one who has been a long time friend seems to have ghosted once I was no longer around to extract value from. It took a while to really see them and how lopsided the friendship had become, but I am choosing to believe actions rather than words these days. The ex friend is history. I get to choose who stays in my life now. There must be a healthy balance, or I’m not playing.

  • I too was guilty of thinking he was perfect and we were the perfect family. This is partly because everyone said so as he was such a great guy until he wasn’t. He said all the right things but ultimately his actions didn’t match his words.

    Your ex husband has shown that he is able to discard you

  • Your ex husband has shown he is able to discard you and 4 children with relative ease. He will do it again if you give him to chance. This is not a person who respects you or loves you. I still find it hard to get to grips with but I know that it’s true. I wish you every happiness with your children gaining a life free from a cheater.

  • My ex was “perfect” too in many ways. I think I knew there was something off about that, however, because I used to tell people that his only fault was that he was “nearly perfect” which meant that he couldn’t understand why the rest of the world wasn’t as perfect as he was. A part of me knew he didn’t think I was good enough for him, but I thought his being nearly “perfect” would keep him from ever cheating on me even when I started to worry (towards the end when he was really treating me like dirt) that he might divorce me someday. Even then I assumed he would try to work things out before leaving me. Wrong. It turns out he is less than perfect after all.

    Sometimes I miss the perfect things about him. His not being around means that he is actually nicer to me now than he was when he lived at home. I need to keep reminding myself of how lousy and inadequate he always made me feel when he was around.

    • Hi Besotted,

      Per your own description: “I can’t imagine anyone being as doting on me as he was. He practically worshipped me…until he suddenly didn’t.”

      This is all too familiar. The thing with these types, is they put on a big show in the beginning. They are so loving and perfect and so concerned over your every move. It feels amazing to have someone seemingly care so much, be almost obsessed with you, but sad fact is, it doesn’t mean the same thing to him. To you, that’s what it means, but to them, it’s something else entirely. He can’t keep up the act forever, and he has the ability to tear your life and heart to shreds. You know that now, because he already did! Think about it: would you ever have the ability to just wake up one day and decide to up and leave your husband and four small children? Then how, on god’s green earth, if he was this perfect person you describe, did he do it? It simply does not make sense.

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. I would chime in with the others and say it’s best to focus on you (and your kids) as much as you can.

      Good luck.

  • Hi everyone! Besotted here! Thank you so much for all the responses. I wish I had time to respond to the letter AND all your comments, but you know–single mom of 4.

    Thank you Tracy for your 2×4 I was honestly hoping for. I know on a logical level that he wasn’t truly perfect. (Well, no one is, but I use that word because I and many others referred to him as the perfect husband. Many lamented that their husbands weren’t as helpful or romantic or devoted as mine. HAH.) I think what’s hard, as you all have chimed in to say, is to let go of that illusion. My metaphor of a play was purposeful. We were actors in a grand scheme of happiness, and it was very real to me. To us. I am pretty sure he 100% believes his bull crap that he’s a devoted guy who made a one time mistake. And because he believes it so thoroughly, I do to. Probably because I want to.

    Because “he didn’t love you as much as you thought” is a much more bitter pill to swallow.

    The reason for my panic, and for my sudden longing for the illusion of my once perfect husband is two-fold: The holidays and my new relationship. Pretty obvious psychological Mumbai jumbo there.

    The holidays I think you can all understand. Those memories are painful and strong. And I have a hard time letting go of them.

    As for the relationship, I know many of you criticized my entering one when I still struggle with my feelings for my ex. My only defense is that I was no contact with ex and felt over him for several months. I thought I was. And my therapist did too. Told me to go for it. And here I am with a resurgence of feelings and panic. I might need to re-evaluate being in a relationship, but I am doing my best to stay healthy and aware of myself.

    I DO need to shut that shit back down though. It’s hard when you have to communicate with a jerk because you birthed four of his adorable spawn, but I will work harder at not entertaining his pity parties. Empathetic, confused duck wants to help all the loony dicks-er, ducks-too. Quack quack.

    I will end on this note: I left for my kids. Because when people abandon you, they don’t get to hurt you again. And I knew I needed to show them that love is not hurt. It’s not betrayal. It’s not what he did. I did it for them even as I sobbed and hugged my torso as I felt my happiness ripped away from me like the hairs on my head being agonizingly plucked little by little.

    Now I need to leave his mirage behind for good for my sake. Sometimes we moms know exactly what we need to do for our kids, but are a little slower to know what’s best for ourselves.

    Thank you everyone!

    • “I use that word because I and many others referred to him as the perfect husband. Many lamented that their husbands weren’t as helpful or romantic or devoted as mine. HAH.”

      It must have been very special and very ego-boosting to have the Perfect Husband everyone else envied. Kibbles can go both ways.

      You want to help your kids? Model independence, assertiveness, clear thinking, and self-respect that comes from within. This is called character, and it takes time to develop.

      You want to harm your kids? Model flip-flopping, helplessness, love addiction, and self-respect that is totally dependent upon you having a man – ANY man – in your life.

      • Besotted, are you hearing anything from these comments besides the untangling of his skien- Untangling the skien does nothing to move you forward, or very little. How are you different? What will you never settle for again? Are you okay knowing you might be single for quite awhile? These are things you have to deal with before you get in a relationship.

      • Well that was salty. Damn. I meant “hah” because he so clearly wasn’t that great. Jesus. Some people are so crusty.

        My character is pretty great. I left the sole breadwinner after being stay at home mom for 8 years. I took a job that I work while my kids sleep and I get an average of 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night so I can wake up at 3, work, and then be at home with my littles so their world doesn’t have to change completely. I left. I divorced him even when I struggled with what you read above. I’m a mother who has done nothing but try to navigate a shit storm I didnt ask for, and I think I’m doing pretty damn well. My kids have SEEN the following: Dad left, mommy kept her shit together, we left for a new adventure, daddy sends money and loves them from far away. They never saw us fight. They saw me sad but they saw me get a job and keep things going even when I was sad. They haven’t seen an ounce of indecision. Attack my romantic platitudes and emotional distress all you want, but I dare you to tell me to my face I’m not a goddamn super mom.

        I never said I was going to take him back. I said I’m struggling with letting go of the past. Call me human.

        Character development. right.

        • Besotted, when you’re missing the past, ask yourself if you’re missing being a SAHM and having a partner. Because single parenting four children is fucking exhausting. Single parenting ONE child is exhausting. Add sleep deprivation…

          It’s hard to be mighty. It’s easy to backslide, and imagine the what ifs.

          You are the hero here. While we’re warning you to not take him back, please be assured that your mightiness is astounding. Stay strong.

        • Yes Besotted. I know you feel attacked. I am not sure if I am even going to help- but when she was saying character, she wasn’t saying you were a slime ball- but that you needed time. And time not just saying you are super Mom or super wife or had the most amazing marriage. These are all roles that you played or were part of. You are an individual. Develop yourself as an individual. That is what she was saying in my opinion.

          • Yes, that’s what I was saying, but with saltiness. Like I said earlier, you didn’t do anything to make him cheat; this isn’t your fault at all.

            Some of the saltiness here may come from people who had partners who pursued Romance at the expense of their many years of marriage. Many of us here have learned that Romance is rather suspect currency, and has a way of evaporating when you least expect it. In fact, for some of us, Romance is a gateway drug to that other potent and highly addictive drug known here as hopium.

            And the awful thing is that you miss that, and you know you miss it, and to me that puts you at risk of going back. Don’t go back. Be mighty.

            I don’t think you’re a slimeball. I think you’re worth talking to like an adult. And I definitely think you’re worth being given an honest opinion.

        • Besotted,

          The comments are more direct than usual. I’m not sure why. You asked us to help you “trust that he sucks” and the thread is all about what YOU are doing wrong. I admire your determination so much.

          I had the family people were palpably jealous of. I felt blessed and lucky. As I face the end of my marriage (still in it, getting retraining), I look back on our history in awe: how could this have happened to us? To US? I believed we were meant to be, ordained by God, and part of an amazing love story. And I’m not a romantic novelist, nor do I read them.

          Here’s what helps me: The Velveteen Rabbit.

          The boy’s love made the rabbit REAL. Your love and devotion defined your life, and your family. It WAS real, because you made it so.

          As time goes by, I begin to remember small, tiny things that were portents of future misery. And because I still live with him, I now see daily the entitlement, immaturity, self-pity and manipulation. It only took… TWENTY YEARS.

          Please feel free to remember that chapter of your life as perfect. It was real. But your ex? Stuffing in place of a soul. You can’t unknow that kind of abandonment and impulsivity.

          In some ways, it doesn’t really matter who he was back then, when your dream was intact. What matters is what he DID to that dream. Please, dear friend, reserve all your empathy and compassion for yourself and your children. Sharing those feelings with him just continues to do emotional work for him. Tempting to care for someone you loved so deeply, I know, but ultimately prolongs the healing.

          You are mighty. Your children are blessed.

        • Besotted –

          MAGNIFICENT. That’s the first time I’ve heard you say anything that didn’t sound like it came out of a piping bag. I think a bit of healthy anger – even directed at the wrong person – is a step in the right direction.

          Anger is the emotional bucket of cold water that you probably need right now. It’s hard to think about watching beautiful plays through glass when you’re mad at someone.

          And if you can be mad at Prince Charming as well, then all the better!

    • Besotted, I thought I had the perfect husband. But perfect for me was ‘he is what I want’. He was somebody who was with me when I was in pain, and I was in a lot of pain because my endometriosis. He was somebody who took care of me. He was somebody who was interested in the same things I was. Somebody who understood how hard was to be a scientist/developer in such a machista environment. Somebody who never expected me to be a maid for him. Somebody I admired as a brilliant scientist. He knew so much about many things. He was always so compassionate and generous.

      But, you see? This man I loved was an illusion. For reasons I’m sure not related to me, many years ago he decided to play this character of the good man. Then he found me and he gave me what I wanted. I told him countless times, in many different ways, what was important to me. So he knew what to do and he played the character immaculately. Not a slip in 16 years (one of the few things he told me after DDay was that a couple of years ago he had a crisis about us dying. He could not sleep thinking about our deaths and probably had panic attacks at night. He hid 100% of that from me). I did not spackle. He did things I did not like, but they were stupid things, and I’m sure I did things that annoyed him as well. My wedding ring said ‘we are one, but we are not the same’, because I was always aware that there was no way we would agree on everything and I was willing to find the middle ground.

      But he was a hologram, even less than a ghost, because ghosts once were real. How do I know? Because he cheated on me. The man I loved would have told me he wanted a divorce because he needed things I could not give (as fuck as many holes as he can find). The man I loved was ethical. The person I’m married is not. The man I loved could have fallen in love with his first degree cousin. But that man would have known he was going to destroy me, and he would have done his best to spare me the horror. He would have never been cruel to me. He would not have tried to maim me with his words about our past.

      Do a list, Besotted. List every cruel thing he did and said. Those things cannot be undone. That’s your evidence that he wasn’t the man you saw and loved. That itself should give you pause: you don’t really know him, but you know he was willing to hurt you without thinking twice. Don’t let him do it again. And by this I’m not saying it’s impossible to go back to him. I’m saying know what he did to you and allow yourself to really see him under this light. Probably once you look, really look under the mask and convince yourself that this was not a mistake but thousands of intentional decisions where you did not matter, you are not going to want to go back.

    • Besotted, I was with my husband for 36 years, from the time I was 16. He left abruptly when I was 54. I started dating again in the spring after my divorce was final. It was scary as hell! I’d never been with another person, had no idea how people dated at this age, etc. etc. Anxiety attacks came and went for the first year of my new relationship and I struggled with balancing feelings for my ex and for the new man. My counselor once looked at me and said, “It is okay to feel love for two people at the same time.” I guess she was giving me permission to move forward and try a different kind of relationship while I still had residual feelings for my ex. I still struggle with anxiety about where my new relationship is going from time to time. I think it’s normal. Personally, I don’t see me getting married again, but I do enjoy his companionship.

    • I do believe that new relationships can heal…I’m forever grateful to the man who came into my life when I needed him most. His marriage also ended as a result of betrayal and our relationship served in a way to sever our attachment to our ex’s. We were honest about our needs and expectations and it was a wonderful experience.

      My ex was also seemingly “perfect” and I admit that even after a year and half out I still have fleeting moments where I wish I didn’t find out about his other life. There are memories and some; I’ve resigned myself to that, but I don’t love him and I’m convinced he got off on duping me and everyone else by being so “perfect”. At times I felt badly for him because he was under significant stress from work, family etc, but his way of dealing with it was an in-call over a long lunch break. And then rating and bragging about it on escort review boards. I’m sure he cared for me, but the relationship was nothing but a perfect lie. Thinking that it was anything but, is called “idealizing”.

  • Wow, talk about Illusion of Perfection. I’m 62 and only now seeing my first love without rose-coloured glasses. We were almost engaged. I gave him my virginity and he rewarded my trust by criticizing me for the next two months and dumped me. He wasn’t a cad if I failed as a girlfriend eh? Guess what? He wanted me back after I started spending time with another guy and he handled it like a love triangle – and made me choose. I thought I’d agreed to talk things over, not listen to his terms. He was confident in my loyalty too. Boy was he surprised at my answer! I now give myself credit for being mighty!

  • Besotted,
    The hardest thing that I’ve ever had to come to terms with was the fact I had a fake marriage and a fake life with a fake husband. My CXH was also the ‘perfect’ husband. Completely devoted to me. We were attached at the hip. My friends were envious of me because I had such a great guy and marriage. He insisted we renew our vows on our wedding anniversary. Four months later he was fucking schmoopie in cheap motel rooms.
    My perfect ex- husband is perfectly evil.

  • They’re extra nice when they are getting side sex. Cake makes them happy. Having a spouse take care of them while they get sex from several sources is them living their dream. Even the old cliche of the cheating husband bringing his wife flowers after banging his Secretary was born from truth.

    If you’re ok with knowing he’s getting sex elsewhere and/or constantly on the prowl for it, then that’s a choice you have to make for yourself.

  • Well the grass isn’t greener for a chump. Considering the financial devastation, having to share children with two cheaters, being exposed to STD,S, having the divorce dragged out, all the while being demeaned by the toxic waste, it’s scorched earth.

    On the other hand it’s all worth it because you get to live an authentic life. Staying guaranteed more of the same. It’s not worth the sacrifice.

    Facing the pain is inevitable. Why wait?

  • Yikes, no. Too bleak.

    Life with poison, no matter how familiar, is horrifying. Your soul will die by excruciatingly slow and painful degrees, as above.

    Away from the poison, balance, hopefulness, normalcy, and an ability to savor the good in people and the joy in life return to healthy levels.

    That, to me, seems far and away the better choice.

    • Me too, cashmere.

      It’s ok to have bad days, and shit on the liver from time to time. But that’s the signal to do something about your mood!

  • We could do an entire Friday challenge on, “They would have been the perfect partner IF THEY JUST hadn’t/didn’t/weren’t… [insert core problem here]. Ask yourself CL’s basic question — What is okay with YOU? That is, could someone who cheated on you EVER be the perfect partner even if they were/did 99 out of 100 things that you wanted in a partner? And if you’re still considering wreckonciliation, ask yourself, What lesson am I teaching my children about relationships if I do this?

  • FYI, I deleted the “echo chamber” comment from 2manytimestknback — the IP checks out as a proxy/dynamic IP that matches a persistent troll here.

    Stir up shit with a proxy here, and buh bye.

  • I, unfortunately, am on the other end of the spectrum with this topic: my meeting him, relationship, and then marriage within 14 months (we were living together within a month of meeting) was all drama, trauma, drama… 13 years wasted (except my DD)…

    There was *always* some bullshit going on with him — the biggest issue was he couldn’t keep a job, and when he did he was *very* secretive about his paycheck amount, never really being transparent with me about money, but was always in the know about mine…

    I never saw our marriage as perfect, or more importantly, him being perfect. I would go back in time to the early years when he stayed. Silly me, I thought he had stayed because he loved me and was committed to me.
    Looking back know, I realize just how much of a lying, cheating scumbag he was and still is.

    Ironically, my exh1 has told me that I need to forgive myself. That’s where I am, trying to forgive myself…

    I would love to sit here and post that I haven’t longed for him at times. That I haven’t missed him. Then, I snap back to reality when I see him in his DILLIGAF shirts, puffing on his vape, with his OWife by his side with his then Shit-erado, now Fucker-150, her two kids in the back, them all playing happy little family and I just out my bitch hat on and keep on moving… Fuck him and fuck all that “perfect” bullshit

    As far as no contact, I stay in that lane with him. I am grey rock when I have to see him for DD exchanges, and in between, I am no contact.

    He’s tried to engage me in conversation lately through texts, and at exchanges. I don’t bite. I keep it moving. If it’s about DD, fine, but I always keep it short and terse. I try not to react, but my facial expressions give my thoughts away.

    I just don’t care anymore.

    One thought I do have about the idea of “perfect”: I don’t believe there is a “perfect” man, but I do believe there is a man that’s perfect for me. That’s what I strive for, that’s I long for.

  • Besotted,
    I want to give you a piece of advice to consider with all the other wonderful things you have been told by champ lady and champ nation (intentional typo).

    Let’s play the devils advocate and pretend that he truly lost his mind and abandoned his family, in some type of brain Fugue or mental breakdown, Brain parasite or early onset dementia.

    If a man wants to be with you, he will go through a wall to do it. I don’t care if you were on the Aleutian Islands, he’s going to find a way to come after you and those four children.

    This is a tremendous burden off your shoulders. The ball is entirely in his court. If he wants to crawl over crushed glass, send you a dozen roses every day, enroll in intensive therapy, lock himself in a closet and do penance for his sins in a hair shirt- then you can evaluate at that time.

    And I hope he does. But I would not trust a hope. As champ lady said, this is a person who is capable of casual abandonment. You need to write those two words on a large piece of posterboard and look at them every day when you call him perfect.

    The pressure is off of you. It’s all on him. I do not think you should date right now. I think you should sit down with a pot of tea and a plate of biscuits, a beautiful journal and a new pen.

    What would you like your life to be like? What would you like for your four children? This is your focus.

    Please stop analyzing him. Too much analysis lead to paralysis. It must be physics but the more joy you pack into your life the smaller the cheater becomes – the less large they loom.

    In about one year, you will begin to see the absurdity of believing this person was a trust worthy man for your heart.

  • Perfect people don’t exist. Simple as that.
    And if someone is projecting as that don’t believe it. Scratch the surface, check the expiry date, do some homework. If it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t true.
    I prefer a “real” not-perfect but good person any day.

  • huh… my husband was by no means perfect… (neither was yours pssoibly you just didnt know), but he did destroy a perfect life of wealth and love in paradise, cheated during my pregnancy, dscarded me (but asked if “later” we could get back together *maybe* and then few months later did want to get back together LOL). I MOVED 9000 kilometers away!!!!! left it all behind

    still cant grasp the discard
    still havent accepted living in a place where i fel kinda dead beacause i lived in paradise…
    slowly rebuilding, it will take years, they heartache over your ex will heal, because he sucks, but the heartache about losing your dream life may never…

    BUT my little girl is awesome and you have 4 kids, THAT is precious, enjoy the little moments of happiness and dont try to be happy all the time, its ok to feel like shit, is what a wise chump told me on here.

    PS your husband as probably a cheat all along.=, be prepared for more discoveries and ah ha! moments over time

  • Whew, this one hits close to home. I felt much the same way about my wife. I still doubt I will ever meet anyone I click with like that again, everything just felt so easy and natural.

    “He practically worshipped me…until he suddenly didn’t. And now we’re both left looking back on a relationship that was so solid, so happy, and so blissful. Like two people looking through glass at a play they used to be the actors in. I know he misses it. I do too. I know I can’t go back, but it’s so infuriating that we just have to let that stay in the past.”

    Swap in ‘she’ for ‘he’ and this is something I could have easily written myself. I wouldn’t be surprised if, like me, you feel that the ‘narc sociopath’ thing that is common here doesn’t quite match up (I know my ex feels guilty as sin, it just doesn’t make a practical difference to our situation).

    Would love to write more, but it’s a busy morning in the office 🙂

    What I will say for now is that the best way I can think of to make our particular kind of cheating partner really regret what they did is to take it away. We can’t spare them the consequences. It will hurt them more than it hurts us.

  • Dear Besotted,

    have you ever heard the phrase:

    A woman can fake an orgasm. A man can fake an entire relationship. ???

    It is the hardest thing, to fully accept what you THOUGHT HE IS, against WHAT HE REALLY IS. That is your titanic struggle.

    Because someone capable of that kind of discard (here one minute, gone the next), that kind of deceit (did he ever tell you about his inner struggle? Appeal to you for understanding? Tell you of his unhappiness and what he was really thinking?), that kind of CRUELTY ….

    is someone who is faking a role, and is not attached. The other is just an appliance.

    Don’t have anything to do with him, trust. I wasted 5 years and Unicornnomore 7 years trying to fix what we could not fix, because it was never about us anyway.

    I was told in therapy ‘Patsy, he is so split that it didn’t matter who he was married to, he would have cheated on them’.

    We just have to live with the hurt, but not act in the hope it will go away.

    PS – please please don’t use your new date for your gratification. Just don’t. Only date when you are good and ready. That is when you are truly happy to be alone and to live on your own.

  • I know it’s been called out already, to a degree, but I’m shaking my head at so many people’s bitterness and character attack on Besotted. Really, you’re going to guilt her for having romantics standards and values and believing she was actually living a life she liked??? No, people, just no.

    Her innocence is already broken and I don’t like the insinuation on some level that she was “stupid” for believing her life was perfect. That’s called gratefulness! It’s not her fault it wasn’t real and somehow it’s being suggested it is. That she spun it around to match her romance-novel-writing-values. That she basked in the kibble glory of parading a perfect husband. Calling her a Disney princess?? Some of you are twisting her words and it’s sickening!

    • I don’t think it’s bitterness. I think it’s reality.

      I think many of us – and yes, mostly women – feel that Besotted is at risk of going back to a man who cheated on her because she misses the lie.

      So the response is to remind her that it’s a lie.

      And yes, plenty of women here were once very in love with romantic ideals and romantic people, and I think that’s why we are coming on so strong. We know that particular riptide – that siren song – intimately.

    • I don’t think she was stupid at all. Quite the contrary. But I think the idea that a person or marriage is “perfect” is dangerous. Many of us probably have that in common with Besotted, that idea that somewhere back in relationship history, the Cheater seemed “perfect.” Knowing what I know now, I see that as the “mask” worn by a disordered person. And one of the big learning experiences of being chumped is learning the difference between good character and “the mask.”

  • “I can’t imagine anyone being as doting on me as he was. He practically worshipped me…”

    Well, that’s years of gaslighting and love bombing there. He “practically worshipped” you–until he didn’t.

    The question I have is why you need someone to “dote” on you or “worship” you? How about respect? How about reciprocity? Trust? Kindness? If you have a real marriage, and one not based on “doting” and “worship” on either side, you will have lots of times where shit gets real. Where you struggle as a couple to come to a decision or confront how one person’s work has put the marriage out of balance or—in the case of your CheaterX–one of you senses a threat to the family unit (the old GF reaching out, the groovy boss who is too flirty, the FB crush) and turn BACK to the marriage to solidify it.

    I’m not sure what you are missing about someone who betrayed you and dumped you with 4 kids for something that he says didn’t last a hot minute. But he’s shown that he is capable of breathtaking cruelty. I wouldn’t miss that. And I wouldn’t be listening to his sad sausage story. You are Plan B. But you kept the door for more kibbles and a long-distance pick-me dance open. And he’s walked back in. You are thinking you won the prize–a CHEATER! Or his “love”. Do some reading on narcissistic discard. Shut down the kibble factory. You’ve got to gain a life without him or you will indeed go back. And he will indeed discard you again. Only you will be older, poorer, and less able to recover next time.

    • That “real marriage” comment is unduly harsh. I mean “a marriage based on knowing a person who is not perfect.” Because no one is.

      • And I wonder how much of Cheaterpants’s remorse was triggered by learning that Besotted is seeing someone else. They can dish it out but they hate to see a Chump really move on.

    • Yes – I think it is those types of words is why this letter got such push back. Words like “doting”, “worship”, my “friends were jealous”. These are not words most people look upon as good things- and not even close to “perfect”. I married a total ass, and I still don’t think I have ever been “jealous” of a friend’s man or marriage.

  • I also note how young both of you are, really. Not that youth is an excuse for creating 4 kids and dumping them and their mother. But science says that 25 is the age where full brain development, especially the judgment center, becomes complete. But, dear Besotted, you’ve spent most of your 20s in your marriage “dream” and in being a SAHM to 4 kids. It’s important for you to turn you focus away from relationships, period, and toward your own development as a woman and an individual person, outside of marriage and to some degree, apart from your social roles, including “mother.” This is very important work–and work that I failed to do in my 20s and into my 30s, with disastrous results. You can spend your whole life chasing romance (someone to dote on you, someone to be besotted over) or you can become the strong, independent woman you are already showing you are capable of becoming. No doubt you can work and take care of the kids. That’s very mighty. But you must also take care of you and your emotional and psychological development as a separate person. You’ve got lots on your plate. Stay away from men for a while. I’d say 2 years, minimum and work on figuring out who you are on your own. Get comfortable in your new life. If your XH is truly “sorry,” maybe he’ll pony up enough money that you can work in the day time and be with the kids at night. What will you do with “your one wild and precious life”?

  • As far as I know “selfless” people don’t look up old flames- screw them- and then run off with them. I’d say he’s quite the opposite : Selfish.

    Tracking that old girlfriend down, sneaking around with her, banging her- and they finally running off with her took time, money, effort and planning. It wasn’t a “random” one time accident. The cheater invested a lot in cheating. Not in you and the kids.

  • A while back, someone posted a link to a reddit cheater group. They gave out ideas to other cheats on how to dupe their wives/husbands and not be caught. Its been awhile (I don’t want to ever reread that trash) but heres what I remember. One guy was like, I take out the trash, do the dishes without being asked. Another one saidx he read the same books as his wife, discussed them, exercised daily with her. You get the gist. These people would do anything to look good and not look suspicious to their partners. They gave each other tips on how to cheat. Disgusting and eye opening. Besotted, you were duped. He was a whole other level of cheater.

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