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Dear Chump Lady, Is he a narcissist?

narcissisticDear Chump Lady,

I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now and am learning tons about all the different kinds of fuckwits out there. For some reason I really need my cheater to be a narcissist. I’m stuck on the idea that if he isn’t a narcissist then maybe there was something wrong with our marriage. A lot of things point to him being on the narcissist spectrum, but then other things don’t fit the profile. I would love your diagnosis of our marriage history.

We met in college and dated for five years before we got married. We had what I thought was a great marriage. Lots of friends and family, financially secure, active sexlife, two kids. The sour note in our wedded bliss was me finding out about visits to porn sites and strip clubs. It was incredibly painful to discover that he would take his wedding ring off when visiting the strip clubs. It was very hurtful too that he didn’t seem very sorry about it. He kissed my butt for a little while, but otherwise seemed very annoyed that I was hurt. He supposedly stopped those activities, but I guess I don’t know for sure. We moved on from it. I felt very loved and I adored him and thought he was the best thing ever in spite of how he had hurt me.

Then one fall he started to get distant and mean. He lost weight and became preoccupied by his appearance. I remember saying to my friends, “If I didn’t know better I’d think he was having an affair.” Fast forward a couple months and I confront him with the big question. He denies an affair, but says he has lost feelings for me. I spend a month trying to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

Finally, I ask his best friend what’s up and he tells me the truth — that my husband has been having an affair for about five months. Our friends and I stage a confrontation to which he responds with violent anger. The next year was a time of limbo. I believed in unicorns and was pick me dancing like crazy. Throughout that year we went to counseling he was putting very little effort into our marriage, but was not ending it either. Just when I would feel like I had had enough, he would do something kind or initiate sex and I’d get my hopes up again that maybe the “affair fog” was lifting.

When his stash of love notes from her appeared in our bedroom, I kicked him out. He left, but then returned the next day humble and somewhat remorseful. He said he needed space. He needed some time to think things through. Then he intiated sex. Stupidly, I complied because I believed the unicorn was in sight. He leased an apartment a few miles away and he would come and have dinners with the kids and me. I gave him his space and continued the pick me dance. As his lease was ending, I asked him for his decision and he said he didn’t see us working out. I waited almost a year for him to file and he never did, until I finally told him I wasn’t going to file since it was his deal. Couple months later he did and now he and “Schmoopie” are getting married.

Is he your average cheater? Was it an exit affair? Is he a narcissist? Will you please give me Chump Lady’s diagnosis? I’m hoping it will help give me more closure on this painful chapter of my life.


Dear Andrea,

I diagnosis him as a cake-eating fuckwit.

Does it matter what flavor of crazy we diagnose him with? That’s untangling the skein of fuckupedness. Is he a narcissist? A pathetic guy having a “midlife crisis”? A pileated yellow-bellied nitwit? It doesn’t matter. What matters is — is the way he’s treating you acceptable to YOU?

That’s the ONLY person we need to untangle here — you. What are your deal breakers? What do you think is acceptable behavior in the marriage? Is he good enough for you?

For some reason I really need my cheater to be a narcissist.

I get it. If we give him a label (like “mid-life crisis” or “narcissist”) then we can explain the phenomenon of discarding people who love us. If he’s a victim of a stroke, or a brain tumor, or has an affliction like “sex addict” (it’s just a brain disease!) then all this crazy has meaning. And better yet, perhaps it can be FIXED!

Similarly, if it’s something immutable like a personality disorder — he’s just a narcissist and he was born that way and has no empathy synapses and he can’t change — then we’re off the hook. Nothing to be done! He’s a disordered fuckwit! It wasn’t me, it was HIM!

I’m stuck on the idea that if he isn’t a narcissist then maybe there was something wrong with our marriage.

There was something wrong with your marriage — he wouldn’t quit cheating on you. You had nothing to work with.

That’s either an acceptable situation to you — I’ll let him eat cake and keep devaluing me — or it is not — I’m getting a divorce.

You tried limbo. You chased. You let him eat cake for a LONG time, including dragging out a divorce, but in the end, this marriage was not sustainable with three people in it. He married the affair partner, now he needs a new hypotenuse. Please ensure it’s not you.

Andrea, I don’t argue that every cheater is a certifiable personality disorder. I’m not a shrink, I’m a chump. I argue that the act of cheating is narcissistic. You cannot cheat on someone without suppressing empathy for them. Lack of empathy is the hallmark of narcissists. Maybe they overflow with the milk of human kindness in the other parts of their lives, but cheaters lack connection and compassion for their chumps.

Moreover, you cannot cheat on someone without emotionally abusing them with lies, gaslighting, and blameshifting. It’s not what you think! I’m not having an affair! You’re crazy! To cheat on someone is to devalue them. Worse, cheaters turn it back on chumps and blame them for the abuse.

Cake eaters USE chumps. That’s not an “exit affair” (which I’m beginning to believe is a pretty rare unicorn too). To sustain cake eating (and yours sustained it for, what, a couple of years?) means the cheater is extracting value from the chump, using them for kibbles, and maintaining a position of privilege (all the attention on ME! Dance everyone! DANCE!) for their own advantage (AND PAY MY BILLS WHILE YOU’RE AT IT!).

Cheaters avoid responsibility and the consequences of their bad behavior. They act entitled. Yours flew into a “violent” rage when confronted.

Whatever you want to call these dynamics and the idiots who dish out this crap — it’s deeply messed up. Personally, I think to maintain a double life for any significant amount of time, to keep suppressing your empathy and using and abusing people, means you’re disordered and belong on Planet Narcissist.

It helps to learn about personality disorders and narcissists and sociopaths because it gives us a framework to understand that such people exist. They don’t play by the same rules. They’re wired differently. Chumps imagine that if they hurt their partners, they would be eaten up by guilt, or admit it, or accept consequences. We’re baffled when people don’t play by the rules of civilized conduct. (Which keeps us getting played. This gesture has MEANING! I got a KIBBLE! The FOG IS LIFTING!)

Dr. George Simon talks in terms of character and I think that’s more useful. Character is on a spectrum. Character can change, but it’s very difficult because authentic growth is hard and painful. You have to give up entitlement and exchange it for humility. You have accept consequences. You have to feel other’s pain, and why when there is a shiny new source of kibbles?

Your ex had lousy character. He treated you appallingly and devalued you. For quite awhile there you let him — that’s what you need to puzzle out — why? Not is he this or that kind of narcissist — maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But why were you the kind of chump who didn’t serve his ass.

I asked him for his decision and he said he didn’t see us working out.

It was never his decision — it was yours.

This column ran previously.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • I have done my fair share of untangling the skein of more than one asshole, having a perpetually busted picker. The last one, Mr Four Years Ago, was my worst case.

    I spent hours reading relationship blogs, trying to work out exactly what species of idiot I’d jagged this time, given that I was constantly on edge, unhappy, nervous, agitated and insecure around him. And why it was that I’d gone from a vibrant, happy, funny, clever woman to an insecure frump.

    But that was how I found ChumpLady, and that’s how everything changed for the better.

    The best part was finding out that he Just Wasn’t That Special. He was a common or garden cheater, with mommy issues and closet gay issues.

    Once I got rid of him, then I was free for the first time in my life to start untangling MY skein, which turned out to be a lot more interesting and a lot more fruitful.

    But I know how scary it is – to really have to face yourself for the first time, without the emotional crutch of Mr Centrality.

    Worth it, though.

    • I agree with the vast majority of this – what matters most is what is acceptable to YOU.

      But (having married a narc and then dated a borderline) I did find it helped with acceptanace to know (a) they have a mental illness, and (b) there’s a finite need for anger and for any feelings of longing – you’re being angry with a mental illness and longing for a thing that never existed …. really not much point to either. Once accepted, it’s easier to move on.

    • The first thing you need to do is “figure yourself out”
      1) Why do I keep attracting these ass hats into my life ?
      2) Sort out your boundaries (what you will and will not tolerate)
      3) Do you have FOO issues that are “pre programmed” into your personality
      4) Finally work out who you are and what you want out of life.

      It’s a hard road to travel, but worth it in the end.

    • Absolutely. The strange nearly unbearable tension that ruled our lives lifted miraculously when I split from my ex. And I set about getting my ass in a place where I teleported back in time and found myself, just sitting there, discarded on the side of life’s highway. Grabbed myself up, rediscovered all the things that were fun, adventurous and life affirming about that old gal and put her back into commission.
      I’m so happy I did that. If I’d stayed with my cheater I might never have found her again!

      • Good for you! I experienced the same weird time warp the day after I filed. I could almost physically feel my insides rearranging. The highlight reel of my 20 year relationship played in my head unbidden, all the way back, and I remembered incidents that foretold this end. Small things. They weren’t red enough flags, or waved often enough, to warrant ending the relationship then.

        And my attempts IN the marriage to be true to myself just caused conflict. It isn’t like I rolled over for this shit.

        But I still was stunned and surprised to find that girl sitting there, waiting for me to come back and take her hand and walk into the future. She was surprisingly whole, once I decided to value her above the inevitable losses of divorce.

        • This was my experience as well. I never tried to control him or get in the way of his life goals. I bent where I could in order to make his life more comfortable. I did my best to please him, but I was never willing to give up pieces of my own soul to do so. I was always career oriented and I was not willing to give that up. Ex knew that when we married and had never said a word against it at the time. He tried to convince me to give up my career and be a stay at home mom when our oldest was born. I refused because I knew I would resent him and the kids if I did and that would resentment would be bad for the family and strain our marriage. He in turn resented me for not doing what he wanted. My career did take alot of my time and attention (degrees, studying for the EIT and PE exams so I could be licensed, etc.) and I guess that made him feel neglected, never mind that I gave him all of the time he needed and supported him getting his aviation license, then instrument rating and finally certified flying instructor. I also supported his career in banking and didn’t give up but did risk my career to follow him when he got transferred. In the end, however me following my own dreams and life goals, although not in direct opposition to his was more than he could take. There were other parts of my soul I wouldn’t give up either. I was a bit of a doormat, but I had some boundaries. The hardest part for me is recognizing that although a lesser person, Schmoopie may in fact be a better fit for him. She has no life of her own and so has nothing better to do than make him the center of her universe which seems to be exactly what he needs. I guess she makes a more willing and accommodating doormat.

          • I was responding to this quote specifically: “And my attempts IN the marriage to be true to myself just caused conflict”

            • Yeah, I get it. I stayed home for 10 years while he got promotions, certificates, traveled extensively while I raised three children. Then when youngest went to kinder I worked part time at shit jobs because I’d left my field. He wasn’t happy because I wasn’t “doing my share”. Got a full time job, three teenagers at home, he still travels, I’m killing myself to run our home and learn a new profession, complete with commute and demanding boss. He’s still not happy. Yours would have cheated if you stayed home, right? Yes, yes he would have.

              I am steeling myself for when he starts parading around young ciphers that grant him unqualified admiration. Hopefully by then I’ll be steeped in meh.

              • This is one of the best things about chump lady for me- if only I had… then he wouldn’t have cheated is a myth. I was a stay at home mom and I thought, if only I had had a career. No, there is someone from every walk of life on this site and all had cheaters.

                Thanks for sharing your stories. A cheater cheats regardless.

          • “In the end, however me following my own dreams and life goals, although not in direct opposition to his was more than he could take.”

            Chumpinrecovery, I know you know this but he would have cheated anyway. Please don’t put even that little bit on yourself. Everyone has the right to follow their dreams within the reasonable boundaries of a relationship and you sound more than reasonable. It doesn’t matter, he would have found something that, in his mind, warranted a license to cheat. You know – some major infraction like not doing the laundry the right way.

            • Don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that I regret not giving up my soul because nobody is worth that. I am merely suggesting that Schmoopie may in fact be a better fit for him due to her lack of ambition as well as her lack of morals.

              I also know that he may well have found some other excuse to cheat even if I had stayed home. I know many here did just that only to be told later that they weren’t contributing so wandering spouse had to cheat. I guess what all of these jerks really want is the independently wealthy spouse who inherits money and can contribute to the family coffers, afford housekeepers and full time nanny’s so that the house is spotless and they still have plenty of time to worship the otherwise would be wandering spouse. Of course they will still get cheated on for getting fat or alternatively spending too much time at the gym keeping in shape or being no fun because they skip dessert to stay slim. It will always be something. Maybe Schmoopie will have some failings after all. Tee hee.

          • I resonate with this, especially “In the end, however me following my own dreams and life goals, although not in direct opposition to his was more than he could take” (in my case, he did perceive my goals to be a threat to his and therefore to him).

      • Ugh no…that is a fantastic description of finding yourself again. I love it! Thankfully she was still intact by the roadside and hadn’t been rolled over by a truck!!

      • Yes. I kept discarding her by the romantic highway as well.

        Later in life, I found that she was my best friend, my cheer squad, my protector.

        She is MORE than enough.

    • Agreed although FINANCIALLY it’s brutally hard to leave but you must because for me I’m not willing to be treated like shit?Catol

  • It was never his decision. It was yours.

    All I can say is don’t waste a lifetime on these kinds of character disordered people.

  • Other big discovery: people like him don’t want to change. They think they’re just dandy the way they are.

    He was an expert at managing down my expectations.

    And there was me, blaming myself, getting him off to psych appointments to help with his chronic depression, reading all the self-help books, and getting the odd kibble for myself like, ‘You’re the best psychiatrist for me’, and ‘Only you understand me’.

    What a chump.

    Thank God he’s someone else’s problem now.

    • Lola – Hopefully one day we can look back and laugh at our chumpiness.

      • Honey, I do nothing but.

        I’m four years out, with only one relapse of just two short months with an unsuitable candidate for my heart. Who was, I should add, outed as a cheater with a harem, very quickly.

        Life is so good; I can hardly believe it. No desire to pair off at all; plenty to do, not enough money, but more than my fair share of laughs, definitely!

        • That’s awesome to hear. I’m about 2 years out. Shake my head a lot. Laugh at him. But heartbreak is still there. But people like you inspire me

          • ImAPhool

            It will come- I promise. I’m more than a decade out, went through this shitstorm before there was a Chumplady – in fact Tracy may have been shoveling shit on her 40th birthday while I was in the midst of it. I spent 5 years focused totally on myself and my kids, relying on a fabulous therapist, my family and reaching out to friends in a way I never had. I kept myself available to the kids whenever they needed me and “fixed my picker”.
            I do not regret one minute of that investment. The kids, now grown, and I are solidly connected in a way they never will be with their dad.
            But there came a day when it was no longer enough, when I began to feel whole again and ready to explore a love life and to share myself with someone else. That was another interesting transition to navigate. But I think by waiting to know what I wanted, what I was willing to compromise on I made a better choice of partner the next time.
            Am I heartbroken now? No I am glad it happened. But do I remember what it felt like then? Oh yes, it is not like the pain of childbirth. I remember and I’m sad for long ago Fern when I think back on those times – it is a very painful storm to weather.
            Get to know yourself and keep coming here. I do – even after reigning supreme in the land of meh I still come here – there is much wisdom to be learned, chump tendencies to stay aware of and snark. I love the snark.

            • Thanks Fern. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That came from badass people like you and so many here. Glad to know you all.

          • Imaphool im 2 years out too. Same here, shake my head a lot. I have memories of things he did or said as far back as 12 or so years ago that i am just now connecting to his cheater cheating lifestyle! Then i get mad at myself for not catching it at the time. And then I laugh and say to myself “you little shit!” Also have heart ache but can definitely see “meh” on the horizon.

    • Hi Lola – my X has Chronic/Clinical Depression. It was his meds or lack of meds that he blames for so much bad behavior. Medications don’t create character flaws. There were just so many layers of awful to comb through that at the end I didn’t care which of his many unpleasant traits ruined our marriage.

      The entire experience was just torture for me.

      Glad you’re out 4 yrs. 3 for me.

      • P.S. – There is NO ONE more narcissistic than a person with mental health issues. Add alcohol to it and you have the sun, the atom and Satan walking into a bar.

        • My ex RRR is so convincing in his lies that HE believes and defends them as truth! The projection and blame-shifting is nauseating, as well as the schizophrenic posturing on social media: “I am a rock and am mighty!” to “Poor sad sausage me; give me attention and pity as I’ve been done so wrong…”

          Not my circus anymore. Blocked, peeded on, grass scratched over it, and trotting away… with hope in my heart!

  • We all want a reason. Why did he do this? How could he do this? Was it me? Could I have done something different?

    But in the end as you say:
    “What matters is — is the way he’s treating you acceptable to YOU?“

    Usually cake eating fuckwits are not acceptable to us

  • I have a buddy I met on a RIC board ..we were all endeavoring to be unicorns and each of us took turns thinking were. She became a virtual expert on this…the reasons why they act like this…she spent as much time trying to understand her now XH as people do to go completely through medical school.

    After YEARS analyzing and untangling skeins of fuckedupness, she developed her theory:

    “The Whys don’t matter”

    So really CL is right…whatever caused him to abuse and betray you, it was what he chose and it destroyed your marriage. Most of us here were willing to eat shit sandwiches for a while in hopes there was a possibility that they would have remorse and be willing to rebuild.

    I saw a willingness to work it out and rebuild where there wasnt any. I let him return assuming he would make amends that never came. I learned later that his cheating was probs about 20x worse than I ever imagined.

    FWIW, in my case, I now believe that he was a “covert narc” but that label doesnt change anything. To me, he was mean and selfish and abusive and that is all I needed to know. In my case I didnt face reality while he was alive, I was too scared to…I only put the pieces together after he died.

    • That’s it exactly!! “The whys don’t matter”. What matters is US. How we feel about the behavior & how we are going to react to it. We spend so much time visiting their fucked up world, trying to figure them out, figure out what their behavior means. I did it too!! But that energy is much better spent looking at ourselves & seeing not what we did to cause their behavior (because that’s a whole ideology that is based in shit eating, and thankfully CL has addressed many times for us) but why we found their behavior acceptable, played the pick me dance, rationalized their abuse, gaslighting & abandonment. Take a look at yourself & figure out what is going on with you.
      My ex is a narc sociopath. So it’s helpful to read up on their MO, the hooks & hovering to understand what is going on & not fall into that trap. Aside from that, I don’t really care what he’s doing. Maybe that’s Meh? At least partially anyway!!!!

    • The whys don’t matter
      That’s what I had to learn. CN helped speed up that process but it’s the bottom line.
      Untangling to the point of knowing he is a narc helped me understand it wasn’t me. I didn’t think I could fix it nor was I going to try but knowing it wasn’t me helped me. It helped me figure out that I am just fine, I have my own things to deal with but discarding and devaluing people isn’t one of them. I’m OK. He’s an asshat. But in the end, no you don’t need a diagnosis to figure out he doesn’t love you. You just need to trust that he sucks.

    • Exactly! As much as we believe knowing will somehow bring us clarity, the whys really DON’T matter. When we can acknowledge this truth and finally get out of these irreparably insane and destructive relationships, the key is to STAY OUT!

      For me, going Zero Contact was miraculous… it ensured I wouldn’t get sucked back into his gigantic swirling cesspool of fuckedupness; I am a very strong swimmer, but the undertow of gaslighting, character assassination, blatant disrespect, blameshifting, history reinvention, and unparalleled deceit was too much even for me. Once I discovered just how “secret” his secret double life had been, I couldn’t breath the same air for another minute… if I allowed myself to stay connected in even the smallest way, I’d end up at the bottom of Lake Superior like the Edmund Fitzgerald. With 3 grown children and now grandchildren, as well as his recent nuptials to also-married howorker/AP #14, navigating this self-imposed and very purposeful “separateness” has admittedly been complicated, but critically important for me to maintain. Initially, the hardest part was the setting aside of my own irrelevant argument of “But what about all the TIME I’ve invested in him and our marriage”? Yes, my sunk costs were enormous… 40 freaking years of my you-only-get-one life spent on what turned out to be a lie with someone who turned out to be an impostor. At 63, I may be alone, but at least now I’m eating real coconuts, drinking real water, and enjoying the cool shade under real palm trees instead of following a shimmering mirage.

      So dear friends, stop trying to untangle the skein, fruitlessly chasing after the “Why?”, and do what you gotta do to find freedom and peace!

      • Thank you My Red Sandals. Our stories are similar—I managed to get put by year 36 after 2 years of him screwing around with my lawyer, costing me many thousands on top of the 500k he stole before he left, but I have me back, and that is priceless.

      • Wow. Love the swimming analogy.

        RedSandals – you’re a badass for what you’ve overcome

  • Andreas story – is a carbon copy of my own …18 months out now and again I still ask why – more from sheer bewilderment than anything else I think . I cant understand how he flipped from loving and wonderful to …. a scumbag pos ball bag of pure evil . But …he did and I just have to accept that and try not to feel that Im less of a human being or not good enough, that other women get loving husbands and I got Cheaty McCheaterson. Its them marrying the AP immediately that fucks your head – did he want out because he didn’t want to be married – NOPE he wanted out because he did not want to be married to you ! While never discussing it or letting you know or having a “talk” until you discover their cheating ways then the rounds of denial, blameshift, rage , pain and everything else they inflict on us and our kids

    • He didn’t “flip” in the sense that you mean it. He just stopped showing you the “loving and wonderful” mask. He married the AP because for reasons he may not even know, he felt entitled to something new. It’s no more profound than the urgent need to trade a great 2-year old car for a newer, shinier one.

      CL says the ACT of cheating is NARCISSISTIC. That means the act serves only one person–the cheater. It means that the person you are dealing with is not in a relationship in the same way or for the same reasons that you were. It means that the cheater follows a predictable narcissistic course in relationships because there is no genuine attachment to other people:
      1. They start out over-valuing or lovebombing a target. Nobody ever “loved” you so much, or so it seems! You are soul mates!
      2. After that person is committed, the devaluation begins. That’s not to say that the cheating starts then, but that the process of destroying the pedestal he/she put you on has begun–internally devaluing you, criticizing, isolating, attempts to change you, etc. At some point, that process becomes obvious (one common example–“I love you but I’m not in love with you.” Your heart is broken and you work harder to win back that lovebombing…Thus begins the addictive cycle of intermittent reinforcement for many, when every little nice word gives you hope for the renewal of the overvaluation stage. Cheating is just one aspect of the devaluation common to all of us here.
      3. The discard. For some of us, this is literal. The cheater walks. Ghosts us. For others, they just refuse to stop cheating. You are still married, still picke-me dancing, but you have been discarded, a very abusive process.

      It’s behavior. It’s how they act, how they treat people. And if the Cheater has married the AP, all that means is that they are somewhere in the first two stages. The Cheater may never visibly discard the AP, but the devaluation is going on in that relationship. What might be different is that the AP is more compliant to the abuse or richer or provides some new kibble source.

      • This is step by step what happened to me. I broke up with him in college, he made me feel so important and loved I took him back. 15 yrs and 5 kids later, after 2 other “soulmates” (that I know of) I divorced him. I’m better off, but when I think about it I still get angry because I knew it from the start he wasn’t for me and I didn’t listen to my gut.

        • Me too, Fool Me Once. When Douchebag asked me to marry him more than 30 years ago, I said no. I was afraid of DB’s temper and rigid expectations, and I felt like he was trying to push me into marriage. DB said, “After everything I have done for you? You owe me!” I said, “Well I guess you’re right, OK.” (Boundaries anyone?) I imagine there was also love bombing but it was so long ago. I was still uncomfortable in the marriage, but I went to a lot of counseling (by myself) and learned about how love is a verb, and how to be an adult, to work on a marriage, to stand up for myself assertively despite his temper and to be happy. And I was. I don’t feel that time was wasted, but I do wish I would have known about the various Schmoopies sooner so I could have cut DB loose years ago and looked for a partner more worthy of my time and attention.

      • Lovedajackass thank you …most of the time I know, my heart knows and I know – I was better off the second I packed his shit. But as CL says – it hurts like a motherfucker ! I look at the destruction hes left in his wake and i just think wtf ??? What the actual f ??? Your kids, your wife, your friends, your job everything ripped to pieces – who died and made you God ASSHOLE that you get to walk away, unscathed, into sunset with your older uglier wife replacement and live a life of fun and NO BLOODY CONSEQUENCES.

        • DebbieChump…his loss. And the only reason he walks away unscathed and with no consequences is because he has a big hole where most of us keep our souls. Only somebody unable to form true emotional attachments could walk away.

    • I swear there are two reasons they (narcs) marry the AP. One is they hate being alone and the other is to inflict more pain on the chump. I’ll go out on a limb and state 99.9% of these marriages NEVER last. If they do last they are miserable.

      Can people just want out of a marriage? Sure and maybe most of the reasons are purely selfish. That doesn’t make them narcs. What makes them narcs or disordered is the sneaking around, lying, spending family money, etc. all the while treating you like crap.

      • I think they also marry the AP to ‘prove’ that they didn’t fuck up. As in see I wasn’t wrong, schmoopie was the right one for me, I married her. Then their carnival carousel keeps on turning.

      • They hate being alone. If it wasn’t this, then they would have left the marriage when they were unhappy without having a replacement already in their lives.

        • They do hate being alone but then they start hating (or become extremely annoyed) with the person they live with, doesn’t matter who it is……vicious cycle.

      • I look back on little breadcrumbs his friends tried to drop me. One, a nice man with only one leg, grabbed me by my arm and looked me dead in the eye and said: He doesn’t like to be alone. Ever.

        I said, Well, Bobby I have to work. I can’t babysit a grown man all day…..

        I remember I was waiting for reassurance such as -of course not or I didn’t mean it like that- but none came. He just looked at me with a type of sadness that I now recognize as kind pity.

        I wish I had *seen*.

  • I find it fascinating he didn’t rush, after that year was up, to file for divorce. I am in the same boat – my ex showed every sign of wanting out IMMEDIATELY. He told me we’re divorcing by telling me to change my name back and then promptly took our children to meet OW. But here we are almost 2 years later.

    If he doesn’t file by June, I think I will (I guess it is more expensive to be the filer). I don’t want to have to file taxes with him next year.

    • Yes, it costs a bit more, but it puts you in control and that is priceless. It’s a clear signal that you’re no longer taking any of his crap. I highly recommend filing first.

    • It doesn’t cost that much more to be the filer. Here it’s a single court fee to file the paperwork. Small, tiny, amount it he grand scheme of things to be free of a fuckwit. Do you at least have a lawyer? They should be able to tell you this cost difference off the top of their head. If not, what are you waiting for? You know it’s coming, be prepared.

      Also, look around this site and you will see. They don’t want divorce. They want all the benefits of marriage while being able to fuck around. That’s the bottom line. Divorce means consequences. They don’t want consequences.

      • AOok, isn’t that the truth about wanting all the benefits of marriage while being able to mess around. I wasn’t married to skankboy but together for 16 years. After I tossed his sorry ass out, he came back and wanted to live on the other side of the house while still banging his whore. REALLY? Wow, how on God’s green earth could I have turned down such a magnificent deal?

        • NMSB – Wow. That’s taking entitlement to the extreme. I hope you laughed in his face.

      • I know this is an older post, but it struck me. I think there has to be another reason why they don’t want to divorce. Control of some kind maybe?
        In my case, he lives 1000 miles away and ghosted me when I got cancer. He lives with OW (and I guess her kids part time) and I don’t even know his phone number. There are no kids, no property, no assets, no money, no insurance. Zero reason we should still be married after 3 years – especially since he was clearly so miserable in the marriage and desperate to get out, he had to cheat and move 1000 miles away. Yet here we are. He avoided me the whole time I was working with my lawyer. I was about to file and then got cancer and had to move.

    • Where I live, if you’re married, all assets are joint assets and all debt is joint debt. That means if he takes out a loan and defaults on it after you are divorced, the lender can still come after you for it. If a divorce is in process, that interrupts it, but in a gray area.

      I say this not to quibble about specifics, as every place has different laws, but to point out that staying legally married to any person you can’t trust to be honest can be rife with hidden cost that will far outweigh the filing fee.

      Also, cheaters that procrastinate divorce are often sneaking something else that they can best achieve by staying married. It may be a plan. They tend to be devious and harmful in general.

      I recommend disentangling your finances ASAP by filing ASAP.

      • Agree. You can probably file just the first petition using a low cost paralegal. My state website has lots of free resources.

        Then your date of separation will protect you from your cheater draining marital assets. Be careful with your own spending, however, because those will also be equalized in the final settlement.

        • The only reason to wait to file for divorce is if it benefits you. Sometimes military, social security or other retirement benefits vest on a specific date. Best to know that date prior to filing.

      • Completely agree. That first year out, my ex did all kinds of creative accounting with his business and spent a ton of money out of it to lower the value of it. File and get a date in place that will be used to determine asset division.

    • I think most of us feel better after exercising agency. Use marital money to file, and take back your life.

      Amiisfree is correct–he could bankrupt you with his behavior, whereas once you file, all assets are supposed to be frozen (and you could argue against any debts incurred by him from the time of filing).

      • Yes, I filed immediately using a paralegal. I was petrified he would kill someone while drunk driving and I would end up paying.

    • Being the initial filer really doesn’t cost much more (if at all) unless he’s going to go without an attorney – which would be a win for you. I’m an attorney and I always much prefer to be the plaintiff rather than the defendant – and I think any divorce attorney you speak with will tell you the same thing.

      I definitely wouldn’t wait to start a filing, because like many of us (including me), your spouse will just sit on his/her hands eating cake until you decide to move the needle.

    • Thanks, all. I know he’s not with that OW any more and it’s infinitely more expensive for him now. I’m not sure what marriage benefits he has anymore. I limit contact with him best I can. I’m not sure why besides $$ my lawyer wants him to file (or why he won’t).

      • At whatever astronomical hourly rate you are paying a lawyer, he should be laying out for you very clearly in plain English why your cheater needs to file first. You are paying him for strategy, not just paperwork.

        Please take advantage of the free consultations many lawyers have if this one isn’t working out. I know, I KNOW that none of us want to keep doing battle with the divorce boogeyman, but please consider what the strongest weapons are.

      • Your lawyer is a twit, and/or greedy. It does not benefit you in the slightest for your cheater to file first. Having been on this site for over 3 years, and read hundreds of stories, it is my considered belief that the chumps who file and take matters into their own hands, heal fastest. I wish that for you. Hugs.

        • Thank you. Yes, I have some issues with my current atty. I’d love to change but I feel uncomfortable doing it so far into the process. Once we are divorced, I may change for any subsequent issues.

          I will totally admit I have this fantasy of him filing so that he is the one to kill the marriage officially, since that is what he wanted. But why bother at this point. He dgaf.

          • If your attorney hasn’t filed, you are not far into the process. The process hasn’t even started yet. As a general matter, if you have an attorney who is dragging his or her feet, it’s not going to get any better. You could be months in the waiting with no results. All you have to do is look at the Bar disciplinary notices in your state to see that lawyer procrastination is a real problem.

            If an attorney does not act in a timely fashion, it could have real consequences for you; money and assets could disappear, debts could be incurred and you could lose what is rightfully yours. We chumps have a tendency to be too nice. Don’t get chumped a second time by a lawyer who takes your money but doesn’t do the work required!

    • Yep, they don’t want divorce because of the money consequences, usually. Plus, they’d lose their best excuse to Schmoopie about why they can’t marry THEM.

    • I think they don’t file for impression management. “I didn’t file, SHE did! I wanted to work things out! I’m a GOOD GUY! She is an unforgiving whatever who just didn’t give me the time I needed to deal with my issues. Oh, and she had issues, too! Piles of them! Which is why I cheated! Her fault!! And now she is filing!! Poor me!!”

      Either that or pure laziness. You know, they can’t be bothered to follow through.

  • Conveniently he’s getting married again, don’t be surprised if he’s says its true love, (its based on living a lie, so is the ow), you don’t know what happens behinds closed doors, watch what happens in his new marriage. Everything is probably not what you think. You probably don’t feel it, but you had a lucky escape. You need to read between the lines, not just what they portray.

  • Andrea,

    Have you ever been to a strip club? I enthusiastically recommend that you go. I think some women have an old fashioned romanticized version of a burlesque show – more risqué than a topless woman peeping out from behind a big feather fan but not by much.

    Nothing could be further from the reality of a strip club. To pare it down to its essence, the image that I have seen most often in strip clubs is a woman bending over, pulling apart her butt cheeks, and a man frantically smushing his face in a random ass crack. With the relish we think of someone attacking a plate of spaghetti or cannoli.

    It then usually progresses to a lap dance which is such a clean word for what is dry fucking. For a fee. Real time kibble dispensers! Like a human Pez.

    If you did a deep dive into how much money your husband spent at strip clubs- I believe you would have to take to your bed for a rest cure.

    The double slap of that is the absolute contempt that strippers hold for the men that handover their paychecks. Most strippers detest the men that come into the clubs with what I can only describe as homicidal rage.

    Therefore – your husband is lighting hundred dollar bills on fire to gift to women who hate him. Treasure that could go to protect you and your children from a cruel and harsh country that would allow someone to die of cancer because they do not have health insurance. In America, you better have some inherited money or somebody to help you or a good job, or you’re going to be living under an underpass. There is no social safety net in America just because your husband is a pathological liar and cheater. (But should be).

    * Overwhelmingly, it is the woman who always ends up in poverty after a divorce while the man slimes his way to financial stasis and stability.

    I understand your horror that someone could Deceive you ( with a capital D) on such a grand scale that you LOVED. I was there as well. To say I was despondent would be like saying that the Grand Canyon is a mud hole.

    But gather a group of trusted friends and go to a strip club and watch the men. It will become alarmingly and nauseatingly obvious to you that you never knew your husband at all.

    I am also certain it will ignite a fire of repulsion in you that will spur you to kick his ass. There will be time to stare at the ocean and ponder out why your husband did these things. We know it is untangling the skein and a waste of time but I do think a little bit is unavoidable.

    But right now I think you should put the armchair psychology in a drawer and get right royal pissed off about the money, about your children’s future, and about severing any and all ties with someone who treats you with such open contempt and hatred.

    • This eye opener is important. The painful truth often is. Thanks for sharing it.

      • Sigh. Thank you for this velvet covered 2 x 4.

        My stbx was into shibari, a Japanese bondage practice.

        He scolded me, as if I was a child, “it’s like yoga! it’s art! you don’t even know!”


        • I… I… I… No. No it is not. Your cheater is on planet froot loop.

          • The ex I have left behind is accumulating ‘partners’ that are into shibari, knife play, and ‘consensual non consensual’ gang bangs. Never would I ever have expected this. But when he asked for an open marriage to explore his authentic self, I trusted that he sucks, and said no to his shit sandwich (or was it a bitch cookie?, I get those confused)

            CN, do I get to legitimately call him a sociopath now, or is he still just a garden variety narc?

    • Most strippers are disordered, lets face facts. Narcs love to play with the disordered, especially borderlines.

      • I went to a strip club when my husband and I were separated. It was just about the most boring place I’ve ever been. Amazingly boring. And kinda sad. Since our $1 and $2 denominations are coins, watching the stripper after the show roll her little magnet over the stage for maybe $20-$30 dollars after letting guys toss a loonie in a shot glass that was in her butt was just….. So degrading. And not even sexy either.

    • ANDREA,

      Nothing could be further from the reality of a strip club. To pare it down to its essence, the image that I have seen most often in strip clubs is a woman bending over, pulling apart her butt cheeks, and a man frantically smushing his face in a random ass crack. With the relish we think of someone attacking a plate of spaghetti or cannoli.

      NOW i know why H often had these “ass/vaginal” smells on his face and breath .of course he always wanted to have sex with me ,(why?guilt?) so he could violate me with some bitches body fluids . once it happened as soon as he put his face next to mine i could smell the sex smell all over his face . i don’t know if i have the words to describe my feelings ,my sickened crushed heart , that stench screamed volumns about where he had just been , and he wanted me to know , how cruel , heartless , could he be to me ? i said to him , “OMG what is that smell”? (knowing in my heart and mind exactly what it was and what it meant ) he said “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOUR TALKING ABOUT”! IN HIS best narc calm voice . their cruel harmful intent continues to amaze me . their Malice is almost unbelievable, but yet everyday on CN i hear more and more malice described by chumps about their fuckwits .it breaks my heart , their are so many fuckwits out there willing to throw their beloved familys away over sex with strange , why ? what is wrong with these idiots ? (BTW he was fucking the skankwhore across the street, sneaking over there in the AM while i was asleep)

    • Strippers develop something called eroticized rage towards their customers

    • Ah yes, the strip clubs. It was here at Chump Nation that some kind soul from Canada (I live just over the Canadian border in the states) told me that my ex-husband did indeed touch the strippers in Canada when he got 100% naked lap dances way over ten times while I was at home pregnant and with a one-year-old child. I think the person said you could touch whatever you wanted. And for extra money, you could get a bj and the “works”. My ex said over and over, “No touching.” Just one of the thousands of lies he told me over the course of 24 years.

      Knowing who he truly is, I would not be the least bit surprised he had sex with them too if they offered it to him. Finding out this about him, made him even more disgusting to me. He had the chance to tell me the whole truth and he still lied once again. He was never sorry. He was never sorry how much it hurt me and how violated I felt for the longest time. But I forgave him for what he did and tried my best to move on from it and truly I never really thought about it again after I healed from hearing about it. But finding out the real truth just reopened the wound and I had to heal all over again.

      My ex repeatedly broke his marriage vows and I was the chump who forgave just like Jesus said to forgive. Well, I was a stupid chump without boundaries and no relationship deal breakers. Not anymore! One deal breaker violated and I’m gone!

      As for being a narc. I think my ex is, but he’ll never going to a psychologist to get diagnosed, because he’s “perfect and special” like his mommy told him his entire life (and probably continues to and he’s almost 50). He’s not the problem. Me and my “trust issues” were the problem. LOL. I’ve read over the narc checklist and he’s got enough traits checked off to make him one. Plus our relationship followed the typical cycle. Plus the lack of empathy and no shame at all. For me, just finding out about NPD and how these types operate, validated my experience and made me not feel crazy anymore. There’s nothing scarier then feeling like you are losing your mind and the narc is doing things to provoke you into acting like a crazy person. To me these people are evil. The things this man did to me for over 24 years and then at the end — the out-of-the-blue discard — the whole thing was evil done by a man who goes to church each week and everyone thinks he’s this great Christian man. He’s an evil snake. A wolf is sheeps clothing hiding out in church. God has seen it all!

    • I actually agree with some of what your sentiments on the strip club stuff, but the “Overwhelmingly, it is the woman who always ends up in poverty after a divorce while the man slimes his way to financial stasis and stability” Is total bullshit!!!!

      Sometimes I find it hard coming here as a man to hear something like that!?! All I see is your ignorance and hatered for men and lacking in this experience. Guess what it’s like for men chumps who have children they love??? It’s way more scary . So fuck your money and financial safety

      • I have often thought what it must be like to be a man chump and to have to pay maintenance and lose connection with your children. Mine are grown up but I still resent my time is halved with them, if the children are still young I can’t imagine the pain that must cause. I’m sorry for your pain.

        • You’re right, king of pain, I hear you. with the help of chump nation I left my exh behind and am financially better off for it. But only because I trusted that he sucked and didn’t fight for full custody (which I now regret due to his newly discovered depravity). Women cheaters can take the kids and leave a man with only the clothes on his back. That’s what my ex’s sister did to her husband. He and I like to compete over whose ex is more terrible and I am currently winning because of the bondage pictures I found. But my ex sister-in-law moved to A foreign country with their daughter and enrolled her in a year-round school, just to keep him from seeing her, and it kills him on a daily basis. He was a young stay at home Dad and my ex’s whole family conspired to wrest custody from him and alienate him from his daughter. I hate them for it and do everything to support his fight.

      • Thank you ladies for the validation, it means a lot. I can easily go to a mgtow site and bitch about women and how fucked up they are,but that is too easy.

        I’m not divorced but I have my 11 year old daughter half of the time ( I miss her every minute she is gone) . But believe me . The fear of her mother taking that from me was horrible, and so much more real for men.

        I really don’t know what I did in my life to deserve this. I really love being a Dad

        I really appreciate what both of you have said

  • Ah, yes, the yellow bellied nitwit! There’s a species that I have encountered directly, both of the American and British varieties!

  • The last few paragraphs are short enough to look at every day:

    “Your ex had lousy character. He treated you appallingly and devalued you. For quite awhile there you let him — that’s what you need to puzzle out — why? Not is he this or that kind of narcissist — maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But why were you the kind of chump who didn’t serve his ass.

    I asked him for his decision and he said he didn’t see us working out.

    It was never his decision — it was yours.”

  • Whoa… I had an extreme WTF moment as I read today’s letter. There are so many parallels to my story that for a few seconds I thought I wrote the letter under a different name, sent it in and forgot about it. Other than the best friend telling her the truth part, most of Andrea’s story was my story after DDay #2 in August 2012. I hope Andrea is still around to tell us how she’s doing now. I always wonder when letters are re-run. In my case, I dropped the skein of fuckupedness; just let that ball of crazy go. He’s whatever flavor of disordered that he is. It doesn’t matter, I don’t want that taste in my mouth. It really is true, what all of us former Chumps happily residing in Meh tell you – once you accept that your Cheater didn’t value you or your life together and in fact doesn’t really have any values at all, you realize your only choice is to move on and live your own life with all the authenticity you possess and the cheaters never will.

    • “There are so many parallels to my story that for a few seconds I thought I wrote the letter”

      … Same

    • Yup. It’s takes a while but you realize he only values himself and your only choice is to move on from that fuckwit.

    • I am still around here gaining more strength, wisdom and truth. I’m doing much better and am so grateful for this blog!

      • But- did you leave?

        I think no. ????

        Don’t you know you are destined for greatness?

        When you are ready- you will rise like a phoenix.????????????

        Get ready.????

    • Hi Beth, Will you tell me what you had put in your parenting plan to address the strippers, prostitution, etc?

  • To anyone foolish enough (as I was) to attend MC during an affair, take CL’s words to heart;

    “There was something wrong with your marriage — he wouldn’t quit cheating on you. You had nothing to work with.”

    Step ONE in any reconciliation is total NC between the cheater and the AP. If anyone Ella you otherwise, they don’t know what they are talking about an/or have an active interest in seeing you used.

    And don’t get me started on the total red herring and junk science that is “affair fog.”

    • The first time Dr. Cheaterpants left for twice divorced howorker with history of cheating on both husbands, our kids were 2 & 4 years old, we sold our home we had just built, and all I could find on the internet was ‘midlife crisis’. It was confirmation bias from then on for me but we were in our early 30’s. Until the kids and I moved, he was at the house every evening when I got home from work with the kids. Sitting there while I cooked supper. He’d eat and play with the kids, then leave. It was such a mindfuck. I was so damned confused. And I can only imagine that schmoopie was thrilled with this set up? I didn’t realize I had a genuine cake eater on my hands.

      The second time Dr. Cheaterpants left for DD14’s 20-something asst sports coach in our kids’ Catholic High School, I came across the affair fog theory on the internet searches. I initially thought “my poor husband is on a ho high’. I came across Chump Lady and didn’t think that was MY cheater, he surely wasn’t that awful.

      He was every bit as awful and worse than I was willing to see. It’s hard to think you threw away 20 years with someone willing to discard the wife, kids, pets, home, family/friends for what seems like so little in trade.

      I filed for divorce ASAP and told him he should leave if he was going to behave this way and go on ‘dates’. He couldn’t high tail it out of there fast enough, but thought he was going to still come in and out of the house as he pleased. Imagine his surprise when I changed the locks. Fucker. No cake for you asshole.

      Affair fog, midlife crisis, brain tumor, alien abduction, whatever!!

  • Wow Tracy this is one of your best columns ever. “I argue that the act of cheating is narcissistic. You cannot cheat on someone without suppressing empathy for them” YES “Worse, cheaters turn it back on chumps and blame them for the abuse.” HELL YES “the cheater is maintaining a position of privilege” HELL TO THE YES

    Remember when Lebron James called a press conference on prime time television to announce what team he was going to play for? It was a half hour special, called “The Decision”? Well my ex dragged out making his decision for quite a while. “My decision my decision” like it was all about him. My brother couldn’t believe that this shmuck of a middle aged man thought so highly of himself. “He thinks he’s Lebron James, but without the basketball skills to back it up” lol

    Anyway, thanks to this blog, Tracy and all the wonderful chumps out there, I have come to understand that whatever problems there were in my marriage, whatever shortcomings I had as a wife, nothing, I mean NOTHING was ever going to overcome his incredibly shitty character.

    • Mine dragged his decision out too. I wish I could go back in time and dump him the moment he first mentioned divorce. You can’t decide if you want your wife who has had your back for 13 years and your 2 children? DUMPED.

      • Me too. I’d love to go back and kick him out and file day one. Hindsight is 20 20.

        • Got room for another “me too”? I stuck around for the “pick me” dance until I got my ass flattened right in the middle of the dance floor with the mother of all betrayals (MOAB), “I’m pregnant and it’s not yours”. If I had skedaddled at the first sign of infidelity, I would have saved myself a ton of grief.

  • Andrea- wow, I could have been reading about my own life. I met my husband in college, we dated for 7 years and married for 18. We had a happy, loving marriage. Two kids later, we still had a marriage that was strong. My husband finished his residency and became distant, started devaluing me. I discovered a a2 year affair with a comorker about a 1 year after it happened. We were in counseling for 1 year and at the end of the year he started affair number 2. There were times of remorse(24hours) and hours in therapy because he thought it was worth saving until he met his affair partner. After I discovered her- he told me that even though he enjoyed me and our good sex life- he had an emotional connection with her. I left. We are in the process of a horrible divorce. I have read every book and listened to every blog on narcissism. I am trying to grasp at what happened. I know it takes to two to make a relationship work or fail, but I after I consistently took him back I feel stupid and worthless. I blame myself…even though I know it’s HIS character. We have been physically separated for 8 weeks. He just bought a 1.4M dollar house with his affair partner and they are moving in this week. So – I feel your pain. I get it. Not that is helps, but I know how you are feeling

    • So… on the upside you know he’s gotta make sure you get a really great house too…. or money equivalent to that monstrous responsibility.

      and you’re not living with a cheater who uses you as an appliance.

      You’re still new to this. But it gets better.

      As you say- it takes 2. You were all in. He walked away. He wasn’t ever in, or he left. Without notice without trying and those counselling sessions etc were just for show. He pretended to do the work to maintain his supply. Once you were hip to his game and not up for him abusing you through cheating, he knew the jig was up. You wouldn’t accept 3,4,11 people in the marriage? Then he wasn’t game. He had to go build a facade somewhere else.

      You know what a million dollar house means? Lots of rooms to hide in from each other, so he can troll dating sites for new supply and she can clean all the bathrooms and redo the second lounge to fill her hole where her heart should be and pretend that she will be ‘good enough’ and … it will also fail. Make sure your assets and alimony etc are not affected by additional financial responsibilities. Once he gets onto wife 4 or 5 he will realize he needs to stop flaunting his money since lots of it won’t belong to him.

      • My ex brother-in-law was a very well-compensated surgeon, but he was constantly broke for the very reasons you list in your comment. Married 3 times and engaged probably ten. Bought engagement rings so frequently he had his jeweler on speed dial. He met the last woman he lived with (cause he was too “smart” to marry her) at a wet t-shirt contest. She somehow convinced him to put his house and new Mercedes in joint names. She left him because she caught him cheating with his nurse-big surprise-but not before breaking his nose in a knock down fight. He didn’t prosecute because it he thought the publicity would damage his non-existent reputation. After he paid her almost 100k to sign over her “share” of the house he had paid for, she came back in the middle of the night and took the car. Not a damn thing he could do about it because his high priced lawyer forgot to take her name off the title… Karma’s a bitch!

    • Chump2018, I’m so sorry for your pain. You’re so new to this. Right now all you can do is trust us long timers that it does get better. A lot better. I did want to correct one thing you said. You said “I know it takes to two to make a relationship work or fail” but that’s only half true. It takes two to make a marriage work but it only takes one to make it fail. You are only responsible for you. You tried to make it work, your cheater didn’t. Concentrate on healing yourself – I recommend getting yourself a good therapist who understands the trauma you’ve been through, and let blaming yourself go. Onwards and upwards.

      • Beth, absolutely! What I learned through all of this was that I was too good for him and just didn’t know it at the time. NOW I do and life is so much better now wiping that dingle berry off of my ass!

      • Yep. That’s a better way of saying it. I haven’t had coffee yet. Beth you’re a star. It only takes one to bust it up.

    • He had an emotional connection with her because he is shallow. Dr. Cheaterpants has had a thang with a howorker (twice divorced, history of cheating on both husbands, nicknamed ‘crazy’ by her fellow nurses). He ditched the kids and I when they were little for that, but came begging back when the grass wasn’t greener.

      Two suspicious secretaries with gift exchanges, high end lunches out at expensive restaraunts ‘so they know I appreciate all they do’, one decorated his office with oriental rug/lamps/faux plants, one I kept her from getting fired (I work in nursing administration) because she had to have this job because her husband is awful and she has to raise their teenagers on her money. I got a pit in my stomach about the last one and figured he was thinking about hooking up with her.

      But nope, he was volunteer coaching DD14’s sport in kids’ Catholic High School and ran off into the twu wuv sunset with her 20-something asst sports coach. They both got fired from coaching but they still show up at our kids’ school like they are a legit couple. 50 year old man with MD at the end of his name and his 20-something bleach blonde ho.

      I thought he was naiive to these women seeking him out because he was a physician. Now I know he’s a predator seeking out these underlings so they will look up to him and tell him how awesome he is. He’s bought a 5000 sq ft home on 1 acre and he and young schmoopie are taking my kids to Hawaii this summer. It’s such a mindfuck, but you have to trust that they suck. He will always suck!

      • What is scary is how they honestly think there is nothing creepy about their relationship or how it started. I feel for your kids. That shit is embarrassing.

    • I nearly instantaneously combusted when I saw my ex looking at pricey real estate with his affair partner too. But I’ve got to tell you- I shared a million dollar house with that soul sucking killjoy and I’d rather build a yurt out of fallen tree branches and sewage than co habitate with that sniveling man baby ever again. I got a small but affordable place in a neighborhood my kids love. I painted it the way I wanted and light it up like Clark Griswold on speed during the holidays. It’s a good house, they can have the granite counter tops and poached fixer upper decor- they can stare at it and contemplate their life choices while I enjoy being untethered to stress and insanity.

      • And I would share that yurt with you.Mine is building a new house on a property with Miss 1999, in a semi rural area in the hills. He isn’t interested in nature, or gardening, or the work that will have to be done to protect it from bushfires in bad summers.She is supposed to have a serious long term illness, ( I think she’s faking), but if she does, well, he won’t be picking up the slack. He will be playing videogames, and watching movies with the blinds drawn.

      • After a long day at work I got home to read comments, and yours has me rolling on the floor–and it’s not only funny but so wise! Thank you!

      • Great post Ugh No, agree on the yurt thing. My ex idiot has totally blown it on a home to impress. I will be thrilled to have any home without him in it. ????????

  • Ugh.

    Someone posted a few weeks ago a response saying ‘get divorced first and then if they do the work fill your boots, you can get remarried’ … this guy isn’t even trying and poor Andrea is all caught up in the why and the sad.

    I wish there was sparkly turd repellant that would make us immune to turds facade and make the turd invisible.

    That’s all I got today.

    • I actually said this to my ex at divorce signing time. He was sitting there, pen in hand, implying that we could still save it. I said “I don’t know what the future holds, I just know that right now I need to be divorced. We’re here to sign these papers. Please just sign.” He did, and I drove them to the courthouse 15 minutes later. Boom.

      • Amiisfree – I am going to screen shot this reply, because I keep hearing this from my STBX – “we can save our marriage, I want you back, the grass isn’t greener on the other side, I made some bad choices, I was mentally sick,” blah, blah, blah. I’ve told him several times already that we are done and I am not interested. I will save this and use it next time for sure.

        Many thanks

  • I could have penned this article. This is exactly the same thing that I went through. Tracy you are genius, I’m going to save this post and put it in the mirror for my every morning read. I stll thought some how it was me. Chumpy me!

    And there are so many of us out there. Thank you for your insight.

  • They all probably have a narc issue somewhere. They definitely care about their outward image, and crapping all over us is a part of boosting them up (at least in their mind).

    They also have a fear of being alone – and sort of like monkeys – they never let go of the first branch until they have (or at least think they have) a firm grip on the next one.

    • Oh, yes, working their way along ho branch by ho branch (I’m not even a American BTW but I’m enjoying using ho as part of my recovery vocabulary). They are scared to let go until they have secured supply. It’s pathetic. Can’t stand on their own two feet. Morally retarded primates that they are…. We may be the chumps but they are the chimps in little boys dungarees……

  • Untangling my own skein….

    To tell the truth, this is really resonating with me today. Honestly, I’ve spent so much time u tangling the skein if my significant others, that I haven’t thought about my own.

    Today, I finally wondered about why I have been so okay with being disrespected. I think it because I’ve always believed respect is not owed, but earned. At best, courtesy is owed, but respect is earned.

    By extension, if I wasn’t respected, then I hadn’t earned it, and if I hadn’t earned it, then it was understandable to be treated badly.

    It finally dawned on me today, that the mere act of marrying someone, demands respect and therefore is owed to your spouse, regardless.

    I respected my spouse(s). They never respected me. And I found that acceptable because somewhere, I did not feel worthy of respect.

    This is actually a pretty revolutionary thought for me right now.

    • And…. I was trying to win the respect of fuckwits.

      What a futile waste of time.

      Only took me 50 years to figure it out.


      • Hey Sunflower – I’m hitting the double nickel this year and you just helped me figure it out! Thanks

  • Though not specifically stated here, from my own experience, I think part of trying to figure out the cheater is about answering the question of intent. Determining intent is essentially trying to deduce what is in someone else’s mind. Personally I believe living with the disordered conditions chumps to a constant level of “intent hoop jumping”, but that’s just my opinion.

    Did they mean to hurt me?
    Was it on purpose?
    Was it with malice?
    Would a reasonable person have foreseen a probability that they exposed me to the risk of injury?

    A person intends a consequence when they
    1) foresee that it will happen if their given series of acts or omissions continue, and
    2) desire it to happen. (By asking if this was an exit affair, you clearly desire to understand the intent).

    Has anyone in the history of cheaters heard that they intended or foresaw the result of their actions? No, they deny intent by claiming they thought they would avoid the natural and probable consequence of cheating, i.e. “what they don’t know won’t hurt them. It just happened!” Etc.

    By the very act of hiding cheating, they prove they have foresight into the result of their actions. Does it really matter at that point if it was done with malice?

    Intent does not change the outcome that resulted from their actions. If you killed someone, whether through intent or not, that person is still dead. In legal terms, all intent proves is the level of culpability and punishment assigned to those actions. Sure, there are those chumps who can compartmentalize the cheaters actions from who they believe them to be; invite the cheaters and smoopsie over for cake, vacation together and access their “higher selves,” because it’s “better for the children.” But here I am getting off on a tangent.

    Here is the unfortunate reality of the civil system… they do not govern, nor punish the intent of moral behavior. There is no such thing as moral justice in civil law (in my opinion anyway). Personally I think that’s why it’s so unfortunate that most states do not even account for infidelity in divorce.

    Trusting that they suck frees you from all the mental gymnastics. Figuring out motives only wastes precious energy that would be better invested in yourself. Trust that they suck Is simple, to the point, and allows you to put the focus on yourself. All you need to know is you deserve better!

    • How about the idea that the cheater didn’t put ANY thought into what they did? They did it because they could and wanted to and didn’t care why?

      Entitlement and self serving motives.

      Nothing more, nothing less.

      • Oh they absolutely put thought into it, every-step-of-the-way! Here is what they thought: “I no longer want to be with my spouse. So let me have sex with someone else. Why am I going to tell my spouse I no longer want them, they’ll try to work it out and have me work on things, which will be so annoying. I don’t want reconcile with her/him and don’t want to work on the marriage. So I’m not going to inform my partner, but I’ll just keep getting my sexual needs met. It’s all about me, me, ME!! Why ruin a cushy arrangement I have. The solidity of a home and getting sex where I want. Best of both worlds (Cake).”

        So there is a lot of thought that goes into cheating. It’s all these selfish thoughts that go into pursuing the AP, being covert, hiding things, being deceptive, taking your clothes off, porking them. So a lot of thought goes into their actions, but yes, they didn’t put ANY thought towards their spouse. When they’re having sex with the AP, there certainly aren’t thinking of the spouse. So that I agree with the cheater didn’t put any thought INTO THE SPOUSE. Yes that is true. Not once did the spouse’s wellbeing come into any consideration in all this.

        • That’s what I’m saying. I’m not denying that there’s effort to continue their eating cake.

          There’s no effort to consider their spouse beyond their use.

        • Kellia – to add to your summary of a cheater’s thoughts and intent:

          “I don’t want to stay married to this person. They haven’t met my needs in years. In fact, I don’t think I ever loved him/her. I’m so sick of the griping and complaining that I’m not doing enough. I’m so sick of conversations and existence being about responsibilities and kids and issues. But, I’m not sure what I’m going to do next.

          I really like this other man/woman. S/he is amazing. I love talking to him/her. S/he gets me. I finally get to be my real self. S/he is so much fun. God, I miss having fun. I’ve lost my identity and now I’ve finally found it. It was this spouse that sucked my identity out of me. I don’t owe him/her anything. They’ve just made me feel worthless. In fact, I’m meeting up with the love of my life again tonight, and my spouse doesn’t even know about it. So much for being so smart and knowing it all as s/he has been controlling my life all these years. I’ll show her/him. See how I’m getting away with this.

          Not sure if I want to leave yet. Gotta make sure that this other one is going to work out. Wanna make sure she isn’t going to just leave me if I leave my family. Don’t want things to get too messy. Gotta make sure it’s worth it. My God, there is my wife/husband complaining again about how I’m not doing anything. I’m so sick of being criticized and made to feel worthless. Maybe if I was in love with him/her, I would do it, but I just am not in love with them. Actually, I feel nothing but anxiety around him/her. They make my skin crawl. I don’t know how I was ever attracted to him/her. I don’t think I ever really was.

          Now this new person. Wow! Now that’s attraction. It’s like heroine. It’s probably not any good for me, but I just can’t help it. Can’t get him/her out of my mind. The things he/she does! The things I want to do! I’ve never felt this level of passion. It’s intoxicating. It’s amazing to finally have someone laugh at everything I say and be up for anything that I suggest. No judgments. No issues. Just accepting me for who I am – the real me. This is the most fun I’ve ever had in years. S/he is my soul mate. This is the only person in my life that really really gets me. I’m not letting him/her go for anybody.

          Now the kids are going to be fine. Kids are resilient. Don’t half of families break up these days anyways. The kids have so many students in their classes that are from split families, they’ll fit right in. They’ll adjust fine. Marriage vows, made before God, well I don’t really know what I believe about that. That’s for my family, not for me. It’s good for society but I don’t really know how it really relates to me.

          My spouse? Oh, s/he is going to be just fine. It’s not like I feel like they ever really loved me anyways. If s/he loved me, they would accept me the way that I am. They would stop criticizing. I don’t even feel like s/he has been my friend in years. S/he can’t really believe that ending this marriage is any real loss. What would be their problem? Sure, ending things will be sad, and I know that s/he won’t like that I’m leaving for another person, but hey, I need to be happy. I’m so sick of putting my happiness on hold for everyone. I gotta do something for myself for a change. I deserve to be happy, dammit!”

          • @OptionNoMore: W-O-W. I know this is an old post and probably futile to post here but I just had to say….damn! It’s like you cracked his skull open and sucked out his thoughts. I can 100% completely see him thinking EXACTLY this train of thought, in fact I believe he said some of the same things. Only exception is I was his ‘best friend’ and isn’t that terrifying. Seriously, it’s eerie how spot on this is.

      • Agreed.

        The point being , debating intent is futile, because it doesn’t really matter what the intent was, it doesn’t undo the deception, humiliation, betrayal, etc.

        I just remind myself I don’t want to live inside the mind of a cheater, because that’s a f-ed up place to be.

      • Sunflower36-
        My husband told me that he decided that he was going to have an affair so he did.

    • Accepting the rules and going by established standards indicates a respect to society, others and yourself.

      There are consequences to violating standards of behavior.

      Entitled people and narcissists and those who “don’t think things through” experience consequences as they should.

      I prevented the cheater from his consequences.
      That’s my chumpiness.
      But that’s over with now.
      I trust that he sucks.
      And now balance is being established.

  • When I filed for divorce 2 1/2 years after DDay, someone asked me “How does he feel about it”? My answer “Who cares?” He didn’t care while he was banding his whore in our marital bed when I went to work…lying about his affair for YEARS. Why should I care what he thinks about now?

    I’m now 1 year past my divorce and although not a meh yet, inching there every day. And even though he is still with the whore he rode out on, I hear things are not so great in paradise. He took all the pics he had of her off Instagram the other day (I don’t keep tabs just heard it through the grapevine) the devaluation has begun.

    But I’m free!

  • These “we met in college, got married and are now getting divorced” are becoming so common. I have so many friends this happened to. It’s like these cheaters get married young and got bored, so they just dump their faithful spouse and move onto a newer person, a shinier object. This has happened to so many of my friends, and I’ve noticed it happens when the kids are in college and the husband tells their wife, I did my duty, I raised our children, I’m outta here. No upholding the vows they made, no morals or values. Just cheating to get out of a marriage that has lost its newness. Just last week I heard of an exact same situation, except the wife cheated on the husband and they were college sweethearts. Just like that, the wife left the husband for the gardener she was having sex with. Threw away her entire marriage… I will never understand this.

  • As Dr. Simon says (and CL and CN reinforce daily)… these people are CHARACTER deficient. Call it by any other name, but realize that you can’t fixed someone else’s brokenness with love. They need to do the work (and likely, it will takes years of intensive therapy and behavioral modification… YEARS.) Do you really think they can do that – nope, that is “how” they can roll on into the arms of someone new… again and again.

    Mr. Sparkles left me for the OW after I stayed with him through 4 d-days. She caught him cheating on her within 18 months. He had a new girlfriend within days. And now, after only 18 months of dating, they have bought a house together. In the midst of all that, has he done the intrinsic work of addressing his character issues. Nope. Do I think he’s still a narcissist and cheater. Yup.

    Trust that they suck You do you (and likely, the kids).

  • “Why did they cheat? Because they could. Because they gave themselves permission to do it. They didn’t care about how it would hurt you. Not enough. Ouch. There’s your closure.” -Chump Lady

    This quote from CL, when it finally sank in, saved my life. I realized it didn’t matter if his mama yelled at him, his boss didn’t appreciate him, his kids quit putting him on a pedestal, or his balding head made him feel less, etc…he cheated because he could and he did. The why doesn’t matter.

    I wouldn’t have believed it in the beginning because I HAD to have an answer to throwing away 30 years of a pretty damn good marriage. But no answer will ever explain his lack of respect, his lack of conscience, and his lack of morals to cheat. He cheated because he could. No other explanation needed.

  • As chump lady says it doesn’t really matter what is making them so screwed up, they are still screwed up and causing harm and the only thing you can really do about it is to get away from it as difficult as that can be. My therapist said he had “narcissistic tendencies” so that I would understand that he was basically being a jerk without having to be fully convinced that he was a full blown narcissist. That helped me to fully comprehend the abuse I had suffered, move forward and give up my reconciliation fantasies (although now I am dealing with anger issues instead).

  • There’s also Borderline Personality Disorder and in some cases Bipolar (manic depressive). These may be a better fit for some cheaters. Bipolar is the one that actually has some treatment options. BPD or NPD are pretty much hopeless. Character problems can only be fixed in people who actually want to change, and most people with bad character don’t think they have a problem and so have no desire to change. That’s the conundrum.

    It is possible, however. I think it happened to me as a kid. From about age 8-12 I was not a nice person. I hated boys and was always picking on boys, getting in fights with boys, etc. I felt justified because boys were stupid and sexist. I had reasons for thinking this way, but I saw all boys as the enemy and picked on some who really didn’t deserve it. Somewhere around age 12, however, I took a good look at my behavior and didn’t like what I saw. I realized I wasn’t a very nice person and I wanted to be a nice person. At that point, I made a major transformation. I stopped picking on anybody and started being nice to everybody whether they deserved it or not. I don’t regret that. In my case, however I was a kid and it was easier to change. I wasn’t too far gone and my personality was still evolving. Puberty may have also played a role. Adults tend not to have those kinds of epiphanies, very often.

    • I am back untangling the skein a bit because I’m wondering about bipolar. My oldest is struggling with mood swings and has brought up the possibility of bipolar, the rapid cycling in particular. I remembered a book on the subject I purchased a couple of years ago on the subject and pulled it out. Sure enough, I had highlighted all the parts on rapid cycling bipolar. Given more recent information (divorce, impulsive actions) I’m back to wondering. He slips into cruelty pretty easily though, so “trust that he sucks” still applies.

      Just want to know enough to help oldest accurately complete medical history.

      • From what I read recently, the rapid cycling is more BPD. The longer duration mood swings are Bipolar (manic), but I am not an authority, that’s just what I read on the web. The two are often confused, but one is a chemical imbalance that can be treated and the other isn’t.

        • Oh my goodness, you must know my ex. He is diagnosed bipolar II and invalided out of his job 8 years ago. But I just read a book on stopping caretaking the narcissist/BPD and he also ticks every box for bpd. I am actually stunned but the thought that he is 99% bpd actually explains as much as the bipolar for me.

  • My STBX had/is having an exit affair (the divorce is in process). He ate cake for three months and said he was planning to tell me he was leaving me in therapy–with the therapist who later criticized me for being angry and emphasized that fuckwit had been more “empathic with me than anyone in his life”–the day after DDay. There were signs now, looking back, that suggest this may well have been his intent (wretchedly timed, mindless of our child, but a planned exit nonetheless). What does this mean for/about me as a Chump and him as a fuckwit? It is, for me, the most painful aspect of the betrayal.


    • He is a fuckwit. He betrayed you. If he was truly unhappy in his marriage he had a right to divorce you, but he had no right to go searching for your replacement first. He totally betrayed and disrespected you and he sucks. So does any therapist who suggested he was showing empathy towards you. If he had empathy, he wouldn’t have cheated even if he felt the need to end the marriage.

      That being said, his vows also gave him an obligation to try and work out any issues in your marriage before leaving even without the affair.

      • Thanks, Chumpinrecovery. I totally agree and wish the fact of the replacement-in-advance didn’t mess with my mind and self-worth. This therapist also didn’t put any pressure on fuckwit for having lied in our sessions for months, for showing zero remorse, or for the sexist, racist way he wielded power in our marriage or the dissolution of our marriage (and she supposedly was hip to all things social justice).

        • Your STBX could have planned his exit without having an affair. The fact that he couldn’t do that shows he is just a coward who is afraid of being alone. He is also a cruel and NOT empathetic (I am really, really pissed at your MC on your behalf in case you can’t tell), if he is willing to thrust you into the very situation, against your will, that he didn’t have the balls to face himself. I hope you have a kick ass lawyer who is truly on your side and will get you the maximum possible in your divorce.

          • Thank you for your support and your anger! <3 I have a good lawyer, but maybe not kick ass. One lovely aspect of all this is that I was the primary (sometimes the sole) breadwinner while fuckwit was underemployed (other jobs/fields were "beneath" him) and pursuing vanity projects, so I effectively paid for his affair and he will be seeking spousal support from me. Did I mention he's from a super rich family that routinely cuts him $30K checks and my immigrant parents are selling their heirlooms to pay my lawyer?

            • Oh, that makes my blood boil for you! My cheater threatened me with alimony. We weren’t married, but maybe common law? I had to pay him a substantial amount to leave rather than risk my retirement. Can you show that he had income from his family? So wrong when chumps end up supporting cheaters post split.

        • PS. He sucks, the MC sucks, you don’t suck. You are awesome and were probably a near perfect wife that he failed to appreciate. Don’t let your self worth be decided by people who suck. The MC is probably an affair partner want to be if she isn’t already. How do these people even get a license to practice.

  • This column resonated with me. I actually entertained my ex’s reconciliation – a/k/a continued cake eating and delayed consequences- plan while he remained halfway around the world. He later told me that I left him alone too much and when he was alone he did bad things. CL made me realize that I had poor boundaries due to my FOO issues. So I was very susceptible to someone who would do something nice after they’d done something wrong. My first instinct was to divorce him and it took me another year for me to file. I reached a favorable settlement agreement and he just ignores it. Let’s face it, it IS hard to be the responsible one who tries to keep job, house, pets, health and bills together, while the ex travels the world with Schmoopie, evading the IRS. We are on this site because there is inadequate justice for these actions, which really do amount to fraud, breach of contract, assault and all of the attendant damages. No one tells a business person who was defrauded – or a victim of an attack – to get over it.

    • This whole get over it thing. People seem to put the same value on marriage and/or long term relationships that they put on middle school romance. Getting over being dumped by your middle school boyfriend of two weeks is much easier than getting over a long term marriage with someone who conned you for years into thinking you were loved when you were not.

      • Well put, CRI. “Get over it” stems from the current culture of “whatever I feel like doing that relates to sex should be praised or excused and not criticized.” We don’t get a pass on cheating on taxes or at sports or if we steal our neighbor’s car. Yet cheaters in marriage are treated as winners. And those who follow the rules are sad and are only praised if they ignore what happened and find someone else. Being faithful in marriage does not mean you are a loser. You likely had opportunities to cheat and refused to do so.

  • When the relationship you thought was going to be “forever” is in the end stages, I agree with Chump Nation — the why doesn’t matter as much as getting out and getting safe. However, I was always a thinker, and a fixer. I could accept that I had made a bad decision to become involved with someone who was not what he seemed to be. But I needed to study the “why’s” to fix my picker, and to figure out how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

    I believe we all know we are not perfect, and we expect to make mistakes, especially when we are young. We may have an unrealistic expectation that our partner will be better than he can be, or better than he actually is. I do believe many of our problems start when we are very young, and reflect issues in our Family of Origin. I believe the same thing happens with those who turn into cheaters. Some where along the way, and maybe they are just hardwired that way, they decide that their happiness is the only thing that is important. It doesn’t matter if it is fleeting happiness. They learn to evaluate others as useful or not, and if they perceive someone can be useful to them, they start their cycle with that person until they get what they want, and then discard. Some of us were in long term relationships — we were fooled, and fooled ourselves for a long time. We did not understand just how useful we were, until it was too late. We could not imagine someone who thought that way — perfect chumps! When the cake is good, the cheater doesn’t want to waste it, so he is careful to hide the truth, until he gets tired of the same ole cake, and he finds a new variety which may be better than, or perhaps merely different than, the cake he has become accustomed to. That’s when we are discarded. I believe they are only interested in reconciliation when they find the new cake is not as tasty as they thought it was, or when they figure out a way to keep all the cakes. It is a lot of work to be that duplicit.

    Anyway, I don’t believe all cheaters are the same, or all chumps are the same. They may have some common characteristics, because after all they are lying and cheating. I would imagine these behaviors require a lot of practice and honing several key skills to become good at them. I think the idea of a continuum is the easiest way to understand it. Some of them are very bad at lying and cheating, and they trip themselves up. Others are very adept. Some of us are more gullible than others. We have many things in common with other chumps, they have many things in common with other cheaters. The more we understand the characteristics to watch for, the easier it is to choose corrective actions to protect our selves, and hopefully to avoid the most egregious offenders in the future.
    You cannot spend all your time untangling the skein — you need to learn how to have fun and how to choose friends that have similar values to yours. Whether you have a common garden variety cheater or a flaming narcissist, it hurts. Their behavior is not acceptable to you. Learn to identify the red flags, and learn how to get away from them. That will be the best present you will ever give yourself.

  • “Dear Chumplady: Is he a narcissist?”

    He’s an asshole. That’s all you need to know

    • I don’t believe there are as many unhappy couples as this article implies. It is only the cluster Bs who live in an idolize, devalue, discard cycle who are so desperately unhappy in their marriages and hide that fact from their “happy” spouses so they won’t get left before they can find a replacement. And having an intimate chat with half of another couple about unhappiness in one’s marriage is a definitely recipe for adultery. Bad idea. It is easier to resist temptation if one avoids it. Alas, cheaters will actively seek it out.

  • I don’t think the OP’s question is really “is my former husband a narcissist”. I think it’s “Did he ever love me?” FYI, after YEARS in therapy dealing with a narcissistic parent, which consequently had me dating several narcissists, I have had to wrap my mind around the fact that people with NPD can’t love. They can not connect with the other. Please note I am not a shrink, so I’m not saying your ex has NPD. He could just be narcissistic, in which case may he did love you, but not in a way that did YOU any good.

    Please Please Please get some therapy for yourself to understand why you were attracted to this man, beyond the superficial ‘narcissists are usually charming’ stuff. Understanding your own emotional history will help you to ensure this doesn’t happen to you again. Take care.

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