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Are Cheaters Timid Forest Creatures?

TimidCheaterAfter you’ve been cheated on, you’d think it’s a pretty simple decision tree — reconcile or divorce.

Choose divorce, it doesn’t matter if your cheater is sorry or not sorry, the infidelity is a deal breaker.

If you choose reconciliation, however, the matter of How Sorry Are They comes to the forefront of the decision. Not only How Sorry Are They, but What Exactly Do They Intend to Do About It? And that’s where chumps get tangled up in limbo land — trying to parse how remorseful the cheater is and weighing it against demonstrable acts of reconciliation, such as a post-nup, no contact with the affair partner, honesty, transparency, etc.

Remorse? Proceed. No remorse? Go directly to divorce — it seems pretty straightforward. Because, why would you waste one New York second with someone who isn’t sorry, right? I mean, you’d have to be a masochist.


…. There’s a work around.

The Reconciliation Industrial Complex has a wonderful loophole to the remorse question. I call it: Cheaters are Timid Forest Creatures (TFC).

Oh no, you can’t ask for transparency right now — you might frighten them away!

Don’t be angry and emotional! This is very difficult for them too! They’re grieving the affair partner.

Don’t take any immediate actions to protect yourself! You might intimidate your cheater away from reconciliation! They’re very undecided right now and the LAST thing you want to do is get all bossy and demanding with the consequences. Didn’t you read the memo on making the marriage a Good Place to Be? These ugly accountability requests are creating a dangerously bad vibe.

Beware their FOO issues! Didn’t you know your cheater is in the grip of TOXIC SHAME? There you are, being all loud and judge-y — it could trigger them into another bout of toxic shame, and THEN what? You know they don’t handle stress well! They may just be compelled to cheat again. So be patient and loving and ask them heart-felt questions about their subterranean shame issues. Hold their hands on this. The cheater is in as much pain as you are.

Yes, cheaters are Timid Forest Creatures. Very delicate, fragile, and skittish. Just one wrong move and… poof! They’ll scurry off into the underbrush and leave you. No one can make any decisions until the cheater stabilizes! They’re sad. Very, very sad. And broken. Would you break a broken person?

You? Oh sure, they’re sorry. It’s very unfortunate when Things Just Happen to splendid people. (Splendid people like them. Who are you again?)

When the narrative is TFC, who are you to ask for demonstrations of sorry? They need help! They have sex addiction or FOO issues or Borderline or depression… It makes them do things for which they’re not responsible. Not really. Hate the sin, love the sinner. Oh, here’s an idea! Why don’t you join a support group to help you HELP them?

Think of reconciliation as a soap bubble, and think of yourself as a raging rhinoceros. Do you want to crush the fragile surface tension of remorse with your clumsy demands? You realize if this all falls apart it’s your fault, don’t you? You weren’t there for them during this crisis.

How many of you bought this shit? How many of you waited before making a drastic decision of self protection like seeing a lawyer? Did you wait 6 months? A year to decide? Were you patient with your TFC?

How’d that work for you?

I think it’s better to keep the decision tree simple. You don’t see remorse? Don’t wait around for it to emerge from the fog. You don’t see it because it doesn’t exist. Don’t make this complicated. Don’t let your cheater or some quack therapist make this complicated. People who treat you like shit and don’t demonstrate one bit of sorry are not people you need in your life.

Are cheaters Timid Forest Creatures — or are they grifters?

Are they undecided — or are they eating cake at your expense?

Do things “just happen” to cheaters — or do they have agency?

Are cheaters compelled to Do Bad Things because of their FOO issues — or do they manage to hold it together for other people, like their friends or their boss?

Are cheaters really sad — or just sad for themselves?

Ask a Timid Forest Creature and find out!

Oops…. wait… it scurried under a tree root and is unavailable for comment.

This column ran previously. And those RIC woods are still full of timid forest creatures. 


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  • They are fucking mindfucks and will eat cake as long as they can. I waited many years just hoping that the more I loved him and tried to be patient things would work out. Unicorn! Once I stood up to him he just scurried away – timid forest creature! They have no guts!

    • YES! I waited . . . seven times cheating (that I know of) and almost 13 years. One week and one half hour from now, I’ll be in Court for the final hearing and it’ll be done. Then let the real healing begin (I hope!)

      • Hooray, AlmostFree! And then, you’ll have to change your name to AlreadyFree 😉 xo

    • yes, this.

      they will happily stay and eat cake, gaslighting and decieving all the way. This kept me chansing unicorns for 10 years. All it did was send me crazy so when the adultery was confessed I was in many ways relieved. Did not expect others to take up the fight for cheater to keep his cake but I got wise and walked. It was not easy but was worth it.

  • Yes indeed… I was told by cheater ex
    “ The way I treat you is directly tied into the way you treat me”… so of course I just had to be the total opposite of the wife I was before to get him to stay with me. Kicker? The bastard was actively cheating as he was feeding me that load of bull.

    • I go the whole “I am so unhappy” and tiptoed around – unaware that as he was feeding me that front. he was in the middle of his affair with schmoopie.

  • The one who’s in a fog is usually the Chump, not the cheater. A fog of trauma, grief, and desperation, amplified by the toxic theories pushed by the RIC, as CL has described them. The cheater? They’re usually very clear-eyed about their situation, as predators tend to be. They cheat because they choose to, and they leave because they choose to, as well.

    Frightened my ass. When I spoke with my cheating ex wife during our (thankfully brief) false reconciliation, I could literally see the wheels of calculation turning in her mind. #imarriedashark

    • Yasss. I have said that too. The only person in a fog after discovery is the betrayed because they’ve just suffered shock and trauma. The cheater, lol, nope.

      • They don’t feel sad, they’ve been fucking strange and have been having fun in a fuck high. How would they understand how you feel? You just unfortunately found out, and here comes the mindfuck!!!!

        • “Fuck high…” lol. That is why he spent two years dissipating assets and the next two (divorcing and dragging his heels) actively sabatoging the house and mortgage (like who cares about anything I loved) and get this, fucking his racquetball partner which like any disordered cheater says “just happened.” Looking at his face now still makes me sick to my stomach….

          • Perfect way to describe it…a ‘Fuck High’ for sure. Every time I think of the cheater’s smirking face whilst lying his ass off to me about the skank woman I want to bash something in. The prick never showed an ounce of remorse or regret. Both of them nanced around soooo smug and cocky loving every minute of rubbing my nose in their shit sandwich. I sure hope he saved some of his nasty behavior for her. Timid Forest Creature my ass.

    • Mine too the bastard knew exactly what he was doing, zero remorse!

    • The first time he ran off into the sunset, abandoning me and our 2 & 4 year old kids, sold the house, all for twice divorced howorker with a history of cheating on both her husbands. I let that Dr. Cheaterpants fucker come back, move into the house I had bought for the kids and I. The only thing I could figure that happened was a midlife crisis although we were in our early 30’s….

      The second time he ran off into the sunset, abandoning me and our 2 teenagers for DD14’s 20-something asst sports coach in our kids’ Catholic High School, I googled again. Came across the Affair Fog Theory and thought, my poor husband is on a ho high.

      Smelling the stink of him run around with his young schmoopie in front of our friends, family, teachers, kids classmates and teammates, like this was some legit twu wuv relationship between a 50 year old man and a 20-something bleach blonde bimbo. Taking her on a 2 week trip overseas, forcing this ‘relationship’ down our kids’ throats (how fucking embarrassing for them), I realized I married a fuckwit.

      Ho high my ass. I was waiting for him to come to his senses, meanwhile I came to mine. I mistook intelligence for character.

      • “I was waiting for him to come to his senses, meanwhile I came to mine” Beautiful! Love this!

      • “I mistook intelligence for character.” Yep. There are all kinds of things I need to re-evaluate before I trust someone again. I used to give trust juat to people I had fun with because I thought that meant we clicked on a deep level that both of us find rare and would appreciate. I’m now a little more clear on where to look for proof of character. How do they treat and talk about others? When do they volunteer to give to others? Does he have any long-term friendships with anyone decent? I ain’t got time for anything but the real thing now.

        • Love those questions to determine character Chumpwumla!

          No to all three for my X.

          You’ve given me a guide for future. Thanks ????

      • Ho high. That’s a good one. Mine was almost 50 running around with his 22 y.o. coworker in front of everyone. He brought her to our daughter’s school for her piano recitals. How do you bring your girlfriend to your daughter’s school…. No remorse, no shame, no soul. He’s drinking a lot and they are fighting a lot. Our daughter has blocked him as his turning her against me has backfired on him.

        And those are good points Chumpwumia – how do they talk about others – care for others…. I will also look at the family history – what is acceptable to them – was there lots of cheating and kids by different people? My stbx’s father left his 2nd wife for young girl and his wife took him back. My stbx always talked about it like he was so disgusted. And then he did the same thing. He also used to talk about how disgusted he was that his mom cheated. And then he did the same thing. He told me he got over it, so his daughter would have to ‘get over it.’ Well our daughter didn’t just get over it – she’s blocked him and refused to see him for the last 6 months. What a prize OW won. He’s probably already cheated on her. I feel sorry for their baby.

      • Omg —I also mistook intelligence for character! What a way to put it! ????

    • *Choose divorce, it doesn’t matter if your cheater is sorry or not sorry, the infidelity is a deal breaker.* No wiser words were ever spoken. After D-day, my cheater was “remorseful” and I played the RIC game for about 6 mos…….until she got pregnant by some other dude. Why, oh why didn’t I follow my first instincts and run like a wild man?

      • You probably read a RIC book or saw a RIC involved therapist or some moron ‘friend’ of yours convinced you it takes two people to fuck up. Shit happens, at least you didn’t dance for years.

      • I love it and I so agree infidelity is a deal breaker, what kind of a marriage do you have with a filthy cheat? Please grab some self respect!

    • At one point I asked her if she would ever cheat again. She looked down and said noooooooo. Totally not believable. A month later is when I found out she had been cheating for 6 months, not the one time accidental bad last minute decision that she had claimed to make.

  • It is THIS, exactly this – the crux of the matter.

    If I had my time again, I would have exited left at the first lie…

    • I regret not immediately filing for divorce upon discovery. But, I was just so turned upside down, my brain couldn’t comprehend it. I look back on who I was and what I took two and a half years ago and I don’t recognize her. I would love to go back in time and shake her and tell her to snap out of it and divorce.

      • I wish I left after DDay 1. But I was a newlywed and had just moved 400 miles. I bought his “reason” because I was frankly unable to handle the upheaval of moving back and explaining to everyone how it all went wrong.
        So I got to do that in spades years later. What a waste of my life.

        • I went from home to marriage. I should have left after the first year. But I could not conceive of life on my own. And I was too ashamed to return home to my parents. Plus the whole ‘you made your bed you lie in it’ stuff was still around.

          • Ah my friends, I bet we all could say we wished we left earlier. I wish I had left after that time I found him chatting to a woman on a sex site in the middle of the night while he was wearing women’s clothing and a cowboy hat…but I didnt. The cross dressing was a surprise, but it wasnt the problem….the problem was the chatting…and the secrecy. And i swept them out of my mind. When he left me for the Whore from Singapore I shouldn’t have been so shocked…I should have left earlier. But I was loyal and hopeful and trusting and so were you. You are good people to have those qualities. You were invested in your wedding vows. No shame for us!

    • I think I am going to journal this weekend on when (and each) I wish I would have left(s). We were together 25 years and even 2.5 years put, I am struck daily on the red flags, burning flags, and outright verbal violence I completely unrecognized. I have one already on day 30 of living together… sigh… I was young and so wanted to be loved

  • This is so spot on. “Can’t you see I’m hurting too?” was uttered hundreds of times in the two months I mistakenly tried RIC. The worst part is then cheaters are validated by a counselor, ie: The questions you ask and the marriage policing you do are only driving the cheater away. Why would a cheater want to open up when chumps are acting like this? It is all BS. Poor sad sausage!

    • My first counselor did far more damage then help too.

      Gave the SOB ammo to be an abusive ass for years afterward.

  • As I recover from the trama of “fighting for my marriage” for a year, I find myself questioning if it was really worth it or if I regret it. He finally had the guts to leave just after Christmas. For a year, I played the Pick Me Dance in the face of the most ridiculous behaviour. I believed that if I was patient with his comings and goings, demonstrated understanding of his emotional turmoil, and continuously showed him the face of love, he would be swayed into believing that this is what genuine love is about, the kind that marriage is supposed to evolve into, the kind that is mature and lasting. He didn’t buy it. Instead, he moved on to the other woman, believing that the obsessive infatuation he feels for her (and makes him act like a pathetic teenager) is what love is really about. He believes now that he never really loved me at all. He believes that it is with this other woman that he is able to be his “real self” for the first time in his life.

    It’s all messed up. I spent a year slowly realizing just how messed up this is and struggling to make sense of it. There is no doubt that he’s facing an identity crisis. He even identified it himself several times during what I call “moments of truth” when I the man that I had known for 15 years would re-surface and speak in recognizable ways, only to eventually lose himself to the “alien that would take over his body”. Now it appears that he’s become the alien no one recognizes, not his family nor his friends.

    I see a psychotherapist. She recognizes the signs of his behaviour and has encouraged me to mourn the loss of my husband. He will no longer be who he was before as he does what he feels he has to do to figure out who he really is. She says that he really isn’t who he is now either, but that he’ll hopefully figure that out on his own. There was nothing I could have done about it. There was no “saving him from himself.” Who he really is lies somewhere in the middle. My best bet is to get out of the way, move on with my life and ensure that I protect my kids from his current state of irresponsibility as much as possible.

    Was the journey of the last year worth the trauma I suffer and work through now? Should I regret that I hung in there for all long as I did?

    Maybe these are the wrong questions to ask. I try to reframe by asking myself, “Did I remain true to myself by living out the commitment I made in my life and reflect my moral values?”

    YES I DID!

    1. I remembered that I made a sacramental vow in marriage to my husband in a church before God. In that Catholic Church, I understood that my vow was being made for life and that I entered a covenant that was sanctioned by God. Following that, I did not treat my marriage as disposable. He did.

    2. I have my own fixing to work through as there are ways that I contributed to the growing disconnection between us in the marriage. I know that it didn’t warrant being cheated on. I did not cause that to happen. What I demonstrated in that year was that I was someone who was willing to do the really hard work that is necessary to make a marriage successful. I am capable of owning up to my own faults and willing to work on them. I am someone who is capable of being humble in a relationship, sincerely apologizing, and willing to work through the issues.

    3. I learned that I can make sacrifices for the one that I love. Ultimately, I am able to put someone else’s needs above my own. I understand that “happiness” is not about immediate satisfaction. I lived out my vows of loving in sickness and health and in good times and bad.

    I learned these lessons about myself over the last year. Unfortunately, the hard lessons came by applying them to a person who became most unworthy of receiving my unconditional love. I treated him like a TFC because that is the benefit of the doubt that we ought to extend to the people we love and who we see appear to be confused and in pain. It’s called extending compassion.

    I can dwell in my pain (and at times I am as I heal) but I can also rise in mightiness from the ashes of the marriage that my husband burned to the ground with a nuclear bomb. That is all on him.

    As I move forward in my life, it is with confidence that I bring the following to the table in all my relationships:

    – integrity and respect
    – patience and foregiveness
    – a willingness to work hard
    – an open mind to solutions when issues arise
    – an understanding of the difference between mature love verses infatuation/limerance
    – commitment through the inevitable ebbs and flows of all long-term relationships
    – belief that God is the source of love and that real love is based on honesty

    There is a long process of sifting through what the end of my marriage means in my faith. Do I qualify for an anulment seeing as my husband claims to have never really loved me? That all will need to be worked through. In the meantime, the only love relationship I will pursue with with God as I will not commit adultery by finding another man until this gets worked out. What I know with confidence is that when I am open to a new relationship, what I bring to the table makes me a GREAT CATCH. There will be someone out there who is worthy, who will be a King who can handle that I am a Queen.

    I cannot care any longer about whatever my husband’s issues are. I will not continue co-dependent behaviour that I can fix him. He is not my problem anymore. My only responsibility now is to ensure that he treats the children well and hold him accountable with great vehemence whenever he might fall short in his duty. Otherwise, goodbye and good luck.

      • I agree, this is exactly me, how I feel and what I’m doing. Next step the annulment process, I feel comfortable either way it goes as I believe I was in it for better or for worse…he was never in it at all.

    • This is/was me. 100%.

      You are mighty in your self awareness and integrity. Your kids will see it and respect you mightily too.

    • So well said ONM. You’ve got the right mindset. It takes the heart a while longer to catch up to all of this (also known as meh). But you are on the right path and your Tuesday is coming.

      I thought my now ex husband was having a midlife crisis the first time he left me and the kids for a howorker. And I let him come back when he found the grass wasn’t greener almost a year later. Only for him to do the same thing all over again with a different schmoopie years later (but not without 2 suspicious secretaries in between the known ones). I knew I could never go through this again myself nor put my kids through this again. He’s texted a few times, I guess trying to test the waters. The kids say he’s grouchy and in his bad moods. That’s the man I know. Always searching for something to fill that void. Almost 50 year old man is in a bad mood when he’s got a 20-something schmoopie? Say it isn’t so!

      This is who they are. It’s in them. It’s not a ‘mistake’. They really do put themselves above all else. And when they think it’s not what they want, like a fickle child, they come back and want to try again. But none of that is about love. We are Catholic. He ran off into the sunset with DD14’s 20-something asst sports coach from our kids’ Catholic high school while he was volunteer coaching. Since he’s already had one midlife crisis (LOL), he doesn’t get to claim another one. He’s just an ass.

      • I know exactly this is mine 200% and in his 50s also I’m so DONE with the MLC and the MENTAL pause I filed for divorce a year ago! I want my life back now at age: 50 myself!

      • The email account that I discovered in which my husband continuously emailed the OW in the last few months of the year while he was “working on our marriage” reveals in his own writing some serious realities. He writes like an obsessed teenager. There is desperation. He refers repeatedly to how dull and dark his world was until this woman provided a shining star in his life (depression?). He explains to her feelings of always feeling unworthy in his life and that he didn’t ever measure up in his family and that he never felt he was enough for his “controlling” wife (projection?). Now with her he is finally able to be his real self (neediness?). My 40-something accountant husband starts writing about the cosmos and the stars with this woman (wtf?). It made more sense once I learned that she’s a new-agey woman who sees psychics regularly. But, I remember over the years the times that my husband would smirk at the idea of psychics because he was just too logical for that. The level of his cognitive dissonance is astounding.

        I know that he’s not okay mentally. I’m not claiming a mental illness, but definitely a crisis of some sort. Rather than recognize his issues and seek positive therapy, he is handing himself over to obsessive, even addictive, behaviour and scrambling to rationalize why what he is doing is justifiable.

        During a “moment of truth” in the summer, he admitted to me that this woman is like heroin. He said that he knew she wasn’t any good for him and that no good can come out of a relationship with her. He said that he knew that everyone would think he was a fool for choosing to be with her because they would all think that I was a better person than her, but the feeling of euphoria he feels around her is too hard for him to resist. He admitted that the feeling was so powerful that he was willing to risk anything to be around her more, and when he wasn’t with her, his thoughts were consumed by figuring out how to be with her again.

        I said to him that surely he must recognize that this isn’t a normal thought process and encouraged him to talk to someone. Even his own mother encouraged him to talk to a doctor. He response was to simply look so defeated. I realized then that I was dealing with addiction behaviour. This woman is his heroine and he is now overdosing to mask his own issues. I will not enable this behaviour anymore by demonstrating “patience and understanding”. Instead, I cut him off. He doesn’t get to have both of us meeting his immature needs anymore. He is HER problem now as they live out their days in perpetual emotional immaturity. I wonder what her psychic has to say about that?

        • “Rather than recognize his issues and seek positive therapy, he is handing himself over to obsessive, even addictive, behaviour and scrambling to rationalize why what he is doing is justifiable.”

          They don’t have issues in their mind. It’s everyone else. He blew up our family and then demanded my daughter and I seek therapy.

          They can only do infatuation. Anything deeper is impossible. Once the adrenaline rush wears off it’s off to find another ‘thrill.’ Or ho high, as so well put.

    • This description reflects my experience as well. Attempts at reconciliation can only be justified by what it teaches us about ourselves. One of the things it usually teaches us is that we have values (say, loyalty, compassion, empathy, honesty, perseverance, etc.) that make our cheating spouses very bad matches for us.

      • Many of us share similiar experiences with reconciliation and have, eventually, come to a similar conclusion. Sounds like a chapter from of the chump playbook.

      • Option No More, your experience resonates also with me. While I have no plans for a future relationship (mostly because I don’t trust myself to handle demands made upon me without a knee-jerk response related to 20-year experience with the ex), it was helpful to read your comments regarding your faith and focus on personal growth in ALL your relationships. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

        • Oooh! That’s what resonates! Thank you! Personal growth and reconnecting to my faith in God and MY core values. Frankly, my core values were so crystal clear once and they’ve faded to gray. I couple of nights ago I did an exercise where I wrote down My vision for myself. Not as a couple or a family, just for me. The words that continued to come up in my ramblings were “authenticity,” “honesty,” honor, commitment, family, God, expecting joy and a happy outcome, trust, friendship. THESE are me. These are goals that I want to reach and have nothing to do with partner. His issues require his attention by him but only if he decides he has a problem. And they have nothing to do with me.

          But I am working on my vision and it isn’t contingent on anybody but me.

      • Beautifully put.

        I had an easier time than you, because my attempt at reconciliation only lasted a couple of months before my XW moved out and on. I don’t think I would have survived a whole year. She refused RIC so I tried to fix the marriage according to my own sense of what was missing (emotional closeness, mainly) and maybe I did scare off my timid forest creature. Certainly she expected something else from me – perhaps an offer to move heaven and earth to make her happy, as opposed to a resolution to work on the (rather modest, all things considered) problems in our marriage. I’m glad that I tried, and I am glad that it only lasted the short time that it did. At the time I was just confused and fumbling, but I think by pure luck I stumbled on the appropriate course of action for me. When I found out about the affair (months later) it all made a lot more sense.

        Be true to yourself, even if that means sticking with your marriage for a time on your own terms. If that scares off your timid forest creature, so much the better.

    • Wow, I’d like to be your friend IRL @OptionNoMore. I, too, was married in the Catholic Church and that’s one reason why no matter how bad/disordered things got in my marriage, I was committed to working on the problem.

      It’s so horrible that those of us who know how to make that commitment end up being so horribly used/abused.

      • It’s always the way and the fact there are NO morals anymore in 2018 makes it that much worse. I truly loved my ex husband and was proud of his career but I refuse to be taken for a fool!

    • I urge you to talk to your priest about the annulment process. Research what qualifies one for an annulment. Once I did, I saw exactly how my ex had made sure our marriage was never the sacramental bond I thought it was. My priest saved my life and my sanity in this process. Also, please go through the process sooner rather than later when your memory is sharp. Even if you aren’t thinking about a relationship right now. You do not know what God holds for you in the future.

      Your conscience is clear. God knows how hard you tried.

    • You’ve put into words exactly how I feel.

      I would add one thing.

      Among all the things that I feel we’re stolen from me by my ex’s selfishness, was the ability to work out my faults with someone I could trust to be my sounding board and buffer when I got my ass kicked for being a person with faults. I don’t deny I have my issues, but when he broke his marriage vows, my faults didn’t matter… and neither did any opportunity I could have had to work those out in an element of safety. He stole from me that opportunity….andits among the things I resent the most.

      • Yes. And of course, mine expected ME to be the buffer/sounding board whenever he got HIS butt kicked. Got glassy-eyed and distracted or dismissive when I tried to share my issues with him. Now I can see he just didn’t have that capacity. Empty pod-person.

    • OptionNoMore; Thank you so much for putting the words together to describe much of what has been rolling around in my head since the end of my 20 yr marriage to my cheating ex-wife (4yrs). It makes me feel good knowing that I’m not the only one thinking that way as I have many of the same questions regarding my Catholic faith and the promises I made.

      Wishing you continued strength to stay on your path of your moral values and integrity. Thanks again.

    • Thank you for this. My heart and yes my brain too are taking longer than I sometimes think they should to come around to what I fear is going to be the inevitable destruction of my family as I know it. But I have tried to see this in the light you describe. It’s a delicate balance between refusing to stick my head in the sand but also refusing to treat this marriage as a disposable, no big deal relationship like he is treating it. I don’t think there’s any way to deal perfectly with these situations (especially with shared children) so that you won’t look back and regret either wasting time trying or giving up too soon. But I am so very grateful for Tracy and CN…. I think if it takes me a year that will be at least 5 years shorter than it would have without CN. And a year is long enough for him to become a genuine unicorn if he is going to. So far it’s not looking good.

    • Except that I am not catholic and it was 25 years, I could have written all of that about a year ago. It does get better although I still ruminate over the demise of my marriage more than I should. The main difference is that once you realize (also with the help of a good therapist in my case) that you really have to let them go, you start to change your perspective. It is good to self reflect and improve yourself in ways that you feel you should improve for your own sake, but you will start to recognize more and more that those imperfections really had nothing to do with the problems in your marriage. You will start to see that most of the “distancing” that he wants you and you were once willing to share the blame for was really mostly him as well. Our primary fault lies in having faith and trust in someone who isn’t faithful or trust worthy. We want to believe that they are troubled when really they are broken, can’t be fixed and their brokenness has nothing to do with you. Your husband could have married anyone and his marriage would have been blown up in exactly the same way because of who he is.

      And I can certainly relate to thinking his mind must have been sucked out and replaced by aliens after DDay. I swear I thought mine was totally losing his mind in those few weeks post DDay. He was saying horrible things to me, contradicting himself at every turn, blameshifting, etc. He seems to have stabilized now, but that is just because the mask of rationality has be reaffixed and we are low contact now so it is easier for him to keep that mask in place. I now know he doesn’t love me, but I sometimes have to look back at those post DDay weeks to remind myself that he really isn’t rational either and I need to watch my back (and the kids backs too).

    • Thank you so much for this, it was so well said. I keep trying to remember that I can’t fix my husband or any of his issues, but it is so hard. It helps knowing that I’m not alone.

    • Bravo OptionNoMore.
      You are right on the money.
      You should be proud of your strength and clarity of thought.
      Your thoughts are so mature and calm and grounded and I know you will find a king who deserves you as his queen.
      You are mighty and I can only hope that I will live with your type of integrity.

    • Option, I would really encourage you to speak with your priest about annulment. It can be such a healing process to know that the Church says, no, this is not ok. This person did this and THEY broke the marriage. My husband had his first marriage annulled after his first wife went to eat cake. I thought the process was a paperwork hassle and I was shocked by the relief I felt when we received the letter from the Archdiocese (on Valentine’s Day no less) that the panel declared the marriage annulled. We are a society without ritual so it is so important to find ways to mark big life events, and this is one of them. For those of you who had bad experiences with the Church long ago, I’d encourage you to meet with a parish priest and give them another chance. It can be very healing to feel heard and validated.

      • I’m going through the annulment process with both of my exes. I didn’t have a Catholic marriage with either and I’m told that alone should speed up the process. I have, however, renewed my faith and gotten my 2 youngest children baptized.

      • And my sister went through the process after her husband cheated on her. It took about a year, but she was granted one.

    • Thank you for sharing this thoughtful, heartfelt, healthy perspective, OptionNoMore. I printed it out so I can re-read it when I feel like I’m losing my way.

    • Could have written this word for word (minus the God stuff). I’m glad I tried to piece together my marriage. I learned a lot about myself and him. However, I tried for more than 2 years…that was too long. That I regret. CL is right, without real remorse there is nothing to salvage. It’s identifying real remorse that’s the tricky part.

      • I let things go on way too long, but I’m ok with my attempt to reconcile the first time. I couldnt walk away until i knew i had tried my best. I made a vow and I took my commitment seriously (despite my relationship not being sanctioned by the Church). I paid dearly for it, but I believed in putting my family before my self, and Lady Liar took full advantage of that.

    • Thank you – this was what I realized I learned from the “pick me dance” era too. So I took that as my cue to leave – I had done the work, I had bettered myself (lost some weight, focused on improving my outlook, took an active interest in fostering our connection, etc.) and none of it “worked” for him. So I left with my integrity intact knowing I had done everything I could. That self-worth jolt only reinforced my belief that he had indeed traded down with the AP.

    • Adults don’t do unconditional love, and that’s not a bad thing. God does unconditional love, not people.

      There should be reciprocity and boundaries in adult love, and if you think this is ‘wrong’, then that’s usually a sign you need to think through who you are, and what love is.

      People with no boundaries always think they can love enough for two, or save someone theough love. Dangerous thinking, and deluded. It sets you up for repeated victimisation.

      • You’re so right Lola. I know I fell into the trap of believing that exercising unconditional love would turn my husband around. It is dangerous thinking. Mature love requires healthy boundaries that foster respect and honesty. We ought to be allowed to expect to be treated with dignity. And, when we feel that we are not being valued by our partner, we ought to be allowed to express our hurt and concern to a caring person who hopes to do better by the relationship.

    • I second talking to the priest. That was better than any therapy session for me, and a deep relief. I know I will be free in every respect.

    • Wow! Never in a million years did I think my post would illicit such a great outpouring of support and that it would resonate so widely with others. Thank you everyone for your kind words and advice. My first thought once I hit the “post comment” button was that I need to stop writing novel length posts. Too much.

      It is a wonder to encounter others who share such similar experiences of betrayal and pain, but ultimately, experiences of triumph. I pray for healing and peace for all of us. Grow in wisdom, love authentically, shine brightly. Be the change you wish to see in the world. God bless.

    • Agree with all responses to your comments ONM. I experienced a similar scenario and I appreciate how beautifully you expressed your feelings. Well said, well done and most importantly, you deserve a great rest of your life, we all do.

    • There are many similarities to me and my ex relationship with how you describe your values, your faults, ur worldview. Well said x

  • Raises hand sheepishly. I recall referring to Mme YogaPants on the divorce busting site as a “scared squirrel” because she refused to tell me if she was choosing OM over me or not.

    What I realize now is that was just a continuation of what she had always done in never answering hard questions or dealing with the adulting.

    PS – hope your trip to Oz is going smoothly Tracy presuming you are under way.


    • Soon! We leave Monday. (It takes two days to get there.) Trying to prep a week’s worth of columns here…

      • Much appreciated Tracy. As someone who has devoured everything on this site, I treasure the new stuff as much as the old. Thank you for using your powers for good!

      • As someone still processing the truth of the years with the timid firest creature, these posts are invaluable to me to untangle the skein of my own thinking.
        Tremendous progress made in the few months I have been reading and posting.
        Much appreciated.
        The term that really gave me clarity and pause and laughter – “sad sausage”.

  • “Think of reconciliation as a soap bubble, and think of yourself as a raging rhinoceros” Fucking hilarious, and so very true. I was flat-out scolded by the MC as well as by my cheater for upsetting him with my anger. I mean, how dare I? Look what I did now! I made him leave!

    Oh brother. At the time, I thought burying my needs and my pain at the center of the earth meant that I was strong. Lol, what in the world led me to that conclusion? Strength would have been “Get the fuck out you lying cheating self-centered asshole! I’d rather be alone than stay with someone this cruel!” But no, I ate up that the timid forest creature BS with a side of fries

    • During my one on one session with the MC he actually told me that I needed to stand up to ex more, make more demands, be stronger in my stand against contact with Schmoopie etc. At the time I was the timid forest creature who was afraid to make demands on ex because I knew he already had one foot out the door and I didn’t want him to bolt. I told the MC that if I was going to do that I would need him to back me up a bit . His response “Oh no, I need to treat him with kid gloves or he will bolt on me”. In the joint sessions the MC seemed to be favoring ex, telling me I was misinterpreting things when I clearly wasn’t. He didn’t want to risk losing a client after all. We both lost ex in the end anyway.

  • Funny. I have FOO issues and PTSD. I found it more useful to por myself into helping others and loving my family. Never occured to me to cheat!!!

    • THIS!!!!!!^^^^^^I am so sick of hearing about how their problems “MADE them do bad things.” Everyone faces something. My childhood was 10 times worse than his and it certainly never occurred to me that hiring prostitutes was the way to “fix” that! I mean would this fly with any other behavior?

    • I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in my early 20s.

      It really sucked. I read everything I could about it and there wasn’t a lot of happy news at the time. I tried my best in therapy etc.

      Who cheated? My husband.

  • I had to stop reading half way thru. The only thing these assholes suffer from is a slipping mask. They have to scurry away because that damn thing just wont stay put!
    When people hurt their own kids you know you really are dealing with an asshole. There is no excuse for that. How does the ric explain that away?

    • The cheater has their rationalizations and justifications. And everyone wants them to be happy! Kids are resilient and will thrive as long as everyone is happy!

      The now ex was screwing around with the kids’ 20-something asst sports coach on DD14’s team in their Catholic high school.

      They explain that they are miserable and they need to be ‘happy’. That right there tells you all you need to know. It starts with me, me, me, then ends with me, me, me! That’s who they are. That’s who mine has always been and for some reason I supported him through all of it until I found him screwing around, again.

      Once you see the bullshit and failed logic, once you are no longer spackling for them, you start seeing the cracks in the facade.

      • The cheaters rationalizations are mind-boggling! Upon learning of the affair and that XH was immediately moving 10 hours away to live with the OW, I’ll never forget hearing “DS12 will understand that I’m doing this because dad had to be happy. He’ll be happy because I’m happy! I’m not going to initiate contact with him once I’m gone, I want him to reach out to me. I want him to want to contact me and if he doesn’t, then that’s just something I’ll have to live with”.

        Through the utter shock and disbelief, all I could think was that what our son will understand is that his dad thinks his girlfriend is more important than his own son because he moved 10 hours away from him to be with her. And I couldn’t wrap my head around how an adult could put the burden of a relationship on a 12 year old child. I still struggle with the fuckedupedness of that mess!

        You are so right TwiceAChump–once you see the bullshit and failed logic, you can’t unsee it. Especially when you stop spackling for them, it’s so plainly obvious. I’m so glad to have this disordered freak out of my life!

        • Unfortunately that is exactly what your son will understand, because that is the truth.

          We can only helpour kids understand that this abandonment means nothing about them or their value. It tells a lot about their cheater parent and that parent’s values.

          This is the part that sucks the very worst.

          • ^^^This!^^^ How this has affected our son and XH’s complete and utter indifference regarding the damage he has done to him truly sucks the most.

            • Same–STBX virtually ghosted teen daughter for the young schmoops.

              That is a thing that cannot ever be undone.

      • Yes, mine told everyone how ‘unhappy’ he was. While telling me everything was fine and I was insecure for thinking he was cheating!

        I wasn’t ‘happy’ all the time either, but the thought of dumping my family and crushing my child in the process was never an option.

        I read an article recently about narcissists and the trauma and damage they suffered as a child. Well, I had a rough childhood and the thought of purposefully hurting others just doesn’t occur to me.

        My stbx is more of a child than our daughter. He whinned about how she hurt his feelings when she didn’t like his girlfriend and had a baby with her. I A married man throws a tantum at his 14 y.o. daughter, brings her home at 2 a.m. without her things, because she doesn’t like the fact that he’s married to her mom while he lives with a gf and had a baby. And he acts like he is the victim to his daughter. She says her dad can’t stop acting like a dick – it’s everyone elses fault but his, he’s an asshole.

        He told our daughter, “I feel like you are making me choose between (OW) and you!” Whaaaa

        She is wiser than he’ll ever be.

    • “The only thing these assholes suffer from is a slipping mask.” Exactly!

      They are frightened because they know that DDay means that their chump has solid evidence that can torpedo their sacro-saint image… Cheaters will go through great length to manage their reputation (although it is a hollow house of cards).

      When DDay happened, I did not rage, I started packing up and was moved out in a month, a custody plan drawn up and a divorce lawyer hired. I was managing the trauma as best as I could, and did not come across CL and CN for another 6 months.

      To this day, I am very proud not to have danced, and to have sang as a canary and let our kiddo know (in age appropriate terms) why I divorced her dad.

      I’m almost 4 years post-DDay (and this year will be three years post-divorce). I parallel parent, and when people ask me about trying to “fix things” with a cheater for the sake of the kids, I tell them to think about the following:

      Is a lying cheating coward ever a good choice as a life partner?
      When you learn that your spouse is a cheating liar that shows no remorse, the choice that will preserve your integrity and dignity is divorce.

      My kiddo is growing up, and is starting to witness and ask questions about his character limitations.
      I validate the feelings as much as possible and generally say something along the lines of “I hope he will be a better father to you than he was a spouse to me.” My kiddo is starting to get it, and hopefully will make a better choice in a partner than I did.

  • Let’s not forget what they have been telling the AP. It’s one hell of a sad sausage story. And while she’s waiting the excuses mount.

    What I missed was the fact he was holding all the power in the relationship. They knew and I didn’t. That’s a huge power differential.

    The indecision bubble bursts at some point. It’s usually when the chump is most vulnerable. Do I pick the spouse who is grieving a loss of a parent, carrying my child, or the one buying into my fantasy life? That decision tree is inevitable.

    The way to shift the power is to pick yourself instead. Unfortunately we do suffer the consequences of their actions. Often times we are left with doing all the work and suffer financially.

    It’s inevitable. Chose yourself. Hire a lawyer.

    • “What I missed was the fact he was holding all the power in the relationship. They knew and I didn’t. That’s a huge power differential.”

      This, exactly. How can one make a choice if one isn’t even aware of the OW? I was literally “dumped”, divorce filed by ex and NEVER told a reason why (after 35 years). It was only my sleuthing skills that unraveled the skein of long term deceit. Timid forest creatures? Ex acted more like King of the Forest!

      • Hey, me too.

        Dumped like a bag of trash at the curb after 30 years of friendship and 17 of those married to him.

        Wouldn’t think that someone who asked me to marry him 7 times would just up and leave with no words ~ other than I need space to embrace my ‘sober life’ after joining AA.

        Didn’t even give it a moment’s thought that he was fucking the leader of the AA group ~ thought they were there to help ~ not further fuck up an alcoholic’s head. Boy was I wrong.

        • Sadly, I’ve heard for years that AA is practically a dysfunctional dating site. They’re not supposed to hookup, but they do.

  • Wow, OptionNoMore. That was mightiness personified. Your takeaways are spot-on. Your clarity is crystal. Standing O for the Queen.

  • I read some of a ric book. And i literally threw it across the room. It infuriated me. Fuck. That. Shit.

    • One time during wreckonciliation my husband was so ignorant that I threw the relationship book across the room in frustration.

      Right after my husband claimed I was “throwing it AT him.”

      No, I didn’t.

      But it tells you everything you need to know about our relationship at the time.

  • Sitting here 3 years post Dday, happily divorced and enjoying life I occasionally facepalm ????‍♂️ myself that I didn’t divorce her the second I found out. The truth is I had worked incredibly hard in support of our shared life (including 2 teenage girls) and the thought of having to start again aged 49 was utterly overwhelming. Therefore I tried for a couple of months to see a glimmer of hope of reconciliation, whilst suffering from grief, feeling like I was living someone else’s life and just overwhelmed that someone I had trusted intimately had stabbed me in the back and what’s more wasn’t even sorry and said it was all my fault anyway. The lies and the bullshit and sidewinding continued until I finally realised that this stranger was who she really was and in fact always had been and then I knew I had no choice but to divorce. I think people try RIC stuff because they struggle with starting again. Being the man I knew it would also be me who lost out with time with the kids as divorce here in the U.K. is no fault and invariably seems to favour the non working partner. It’s a tough nettle to grasp so I understand why so many try

    • I know exactly also in Canada divorce is NO fault, the process a joke and very EXPENSIVE. It can run you about $25,000.00

      • Most divorces are pretty cheap in Canada, because they are completed w/mediation, or a kitchen table agreement that gets officialized. But there’s a very high correlation between divorcing someone w/a personality disorder and ending up in court, often for a long, drawn-ou, expensive, pointless battle.

        Yet another way they suck.

  • Exactly! If I hear one more time that he just “can’t” answer any of my questions as it causes him too much pain, or that OW is really sorry and has pain, or he is on a voyage of self-discovery as someone peed in his cornflakes when he was 11 and so on and so on… BS. Cheater by definition is all caught up in himself and unable to see that others have feelings too so the whole TFC plays right into that monologue. Don’t scare the poor man as he needs to think more about himself and his pain and his needs! I think it all comes down to Cheaters and OW (or OM) just think they are that special. I guess the rest of us go through life and never crave ego kibbles or think it would be nice to sneak away to a vacation where someone told us we were wonderful and special. No, only Cheater has those needs because he is so very special (spoiler alert: he is not special and personally, I am looking so forward to the day OW finds that out–I suspect it will be right after the $ runs out) Anyway, shame on the reconciliation complex that tells the injured spouse to suck it up and not scare away the Cheater by asking some hard questions and demanding he takes some responsibility for his actions. This so plays into CHeater’s belief that he is so very special and his pain so very great that it is sickening. As I pack up my house that I can no longer afford after 37 years of marriage to Cheater (he is off on another vacation with OW) I am struck by how it comes on down to character. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I did what Cheater and OW have done to my family but they apparently have no issue with it and this reconciliation complex sells lots of books reinforcing their already pretty strong belief that they are special. WTF? Like they need more reinforcement to treat others like dirt in the name of their own wonderful specialness?

    • Springfield 528 exactly!!! They need a great big dose of shame. Without it they just keep treating everyone like dirt. All they need is an excuse to ease their weary minds so they can keep on being seen as “good people.” i personally think it means so much to them that they would be more than willing to fund the ric. Maybe i sound like a conspiracy theorist,but these assholes have a lot riding on keeping up their facade. That is what people don’t understand.

  • ✋????Guilty. I treated him with kid gloves. Started saying please and thank you more. Actually started doing MORE for him! Apologizing for any anger or for when I answered a question with “fine”. Gave him space to try to figure things out.

    You know what was really crazy about all of that? I had cancer!!! At that time I was going to once a week chemo treatments, had lost all my hair, was SO tired and I actually started doing even more for him!!!! And what did he do? Continue to f#%* the OW. Then move on to another woman and get her pregnant.

    He never apologized for any of his behavior. No remorse. We were all just supposed to move on without saying another word about it. When the therapist wanted to focus on his cheating, that was when he was done. His cheating wasn’t the problem! My “issues” were. And after he left he said I deserved to be left during cancer.

    I’m mad that I wasted time and energy on that douchebag.

    • You “deserved to be left during cancer”???? That is right up there in the Top Ten Cruel Things Cheaters Say. However, his having said that makes remember “Trust That They Suck” a snap. What an a–hole.

    • Wow, you were married to the enemy Cancer Chump. I am wondering if he’s the cause of your cancer. When you associate with an asshole like this, who has no regard for you as a human being, your body turns against you and it manifests itself in illness. I don’t know him, but he is devoid of any empathy or caring. Total classic personality disordered F-wit. I’m sorry you were married to colossal asshole like this. Evil to the core.

      • I have no doubt that years of constant stress due to his behaviors was at the bare minimum a contributor to my cancer, if not the sole cause.

    • I’m so sorry cancer chump! These assholes really are complete scum! My brother has stage four cancer. Started out as colon had since spread all over. Most recent he had a tumor on his brain. He’s been fighting this for many years and is tough as nails! His POS now ex wife cheated on him, stole his pain medications and left him and my family to take care of their son who was around 1 at the time because she “couldn’t handle it” and ran off with some scum she met at rehab. She never sees her son and barely calls him. My brother is over that part of it since it was so long ago at this point but really people have no shame! Stay strong!

    • Omg that is horrible and I thought my ASSHOLE was bad! I’m so glad your out!????

    • I was also left with two teenagers and Cancer. Mine was nice enough to call after the second surgery and ask me what I was going to do with my share of “THE MONEY” when I die. If I left everything to him he would take care of the boys!! He never one time ask how the kids were handling it, how I was feeling and what he could do to help after 20 years of marriage.

      Three years later, I did not manage to die and make his life better and he has not seen, talk to or supported his sons with one penny.

      I firmly believe the cancer was because I was living with years of stress and lies. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease about 5 years before he left. Found out after DDay that he was having an affair at that time.

      I married him 20 years before as a strong, healthy, very active woman who loved life and was happy most of the time. Here I am now, weak, struggling and grateful for any kindness I receive. It is amazing how insidious their games are and the destruction they cause.

      By the way, that phone call about the money was when my heart quit loving him, that is when NO CONTACT was finally the only way to go. I still struggle with so much but not about him coming back into my life. We are done.

      • I have read that our bodies know before our minds do that we’re being subjected to hateful treatment; maybe that’s why there’s such a lot of cancer (in addition to all the hazardous chemicals being thrown at us.)

        Hope you’re doing better.

    • Cancer chump i am so sorry he said that to you!!! But its too bad you didn’t get it on tape. I am all about outing these beasts for what they are. That is what they are truly terrified of!

      • I don’t have cancer, though have HPV now as a result of his escapades, so get to have annual paps. However, I remember getting a horrible vaginal infection shortly after his affair started (turns out). It wasn’t an STD, but clearly homeostasis had been interrupted. I, of course, had no idea. I eventually got it under control. Shortly after THAT, though, I started having life-threatening anaphylaxis for the first time in my life, and eventually it was traced to a bizarre condition called “Mast Cell Activation Syndrome”. Stress is a HUGE factor in tipping one into anaphylaxis. As much as cheater tried to hide what he was doing, I knew something was up. For 7 years I knew. I asked, he lied. My body reacted. During the worst of it, when he was seeing hookers and Craiglist hookups, I used over 30 epi-pens.

        Right after DDay, he raced to beat me to the punch, “My affair(s) had NOTHING to do with your illness!! Don’t you dare try to blame me for that!!” I hadn’t even gone there, made the possible link.

        Now, 18 months later, he actually put his toe in the water and wondered out loud if, maybe, possibly, there was a connection.


        • I hope you’re kicking his sorry arse to the curb. Absolutely nothing to work with there. As long as their getting their jollies, they don’t care if it’s affecting the chump physically or emotionally.

    • So sorry, Cancer Chump. I have cancer too, and I feel your pain.

  • Once again Chump Lady you nailed it. When my stbx husband wanted to make things work. I thought ok why throw away a 34 year marriage. We agreed that we would go to counseling. Every appointment he suddenly had to work mandatory overtime. Every time I tried to talk to him about his cheating. And how it made me feel. I was told I have to work tomorrow I do not need the stress. Couldn’t bring it up on the weekend because he needed to relax. Excuse after excuse. I finally realized that he truly did not care if our marriage healed. He only cared about his own ass. After wasting more of my life on this man. I told him to leave. Now he won’t have to worry about being stressed out by me asking questions. Funny he sure had no problem slandering my name to my cousin.

    • I know exactly mine was slandering me to his horrible sister he knew we both detested each other. He was never close to his family throughout the marriage just used them at the end to gossip about me.

      • Same here carol. He is mommys special little monster now. He never gave her the time of day before. Its so slimy and gross.

  • Wow! TFC approach applies to those in recovery for alcoholism…

    I got the abandoning cheater blindside while pandering to a viper cloaked in the Timid Forest Creature persona.

  • My foray into the RIC lasted through one session with the MC. I told him that the problem was cheater ex had a girlfriend. The MC looked at me and said that we weren’t talking about that now. Meanwhile cheater ex sat there smirking. Oh yeah, I thought, I am done with your sorry ass, when I saw that. I went home and redoubled my efforts to get my boys and I away from cheater ex. I just didn’t let him know that. Later he said that he was trying to save the marriage and I wasn’t, and that I was a sneaky, conniving bitch. I looked him straight in the eye, and told him, “You better believe it!”

    No smirk then, he just looked stunned.

  • The day after Dday, STBX wanted to ‘talk’. When he arrived, I gave him the floor. He looked at me with those shark eyes and complete contempt and said ‘I have nothing to say’. F*cking coward. He wouldn’t even admit the affair, he just wanted to know how I knew.

    The first time I saw him and married howorker in public together, STBX looked like a TFC. He didn’t see me. They were in a shop together and I walked in, saw them, and walked out. But I noticed him darting his eyes around the place like he was afraid to see someone he knew. It made me realize how much of a coward he was in everything.

    Good riddance!

    • I know exactly mine too I ran into the lying RAT at a shoppers drug mart here in Canada and talk about GUILTY! I knew he was ashamed!

      • When I walked into the bar where he and the skank hung out, she spotted me and dashed out. He didn’t spot me at first but when he finally looked up from his catawalling on his guitar I saw his balls shrivel up inside his body (and there wasn’t much there to begin with). Fucking cowards both of them!

  • So sad to hear stories as on if my own, I gave it a try for 7 months trying to make sense until I finally stood up to start a journey of my own.
    Identity Crisis?, Lost Soul?!, Didn’t know what I was doing?!,You don’t love me as I do?! and more… I wish him best but no turning back, he forgot his marriage vows, respect, honor,love,dignity,etc… doesn’t matter anymore.
    I am doing my best to survive this excruciating pain of betrayal, 2 years and still recovering.
    Good Luck to all and Yes, I agree with Tracy that it is best to Divorce, nothing will repair the TRUST again.

  • My ex’s reaction to getting caught would be to avoid me for a few days, and then cry about how messed up he was. I would almost always end up comforting him, which looking back now seems ridiculous. When I did seek out help from a therapist, all that was keep me from making the right decision and wasted more of my time. It’s almost like another manipulation by counselors to keep you and your $ coming back. I’m so glad I’m away from all of that madness.

    • Yup, it took my liar 6 months to tell me the truth. Talk about abusive.
      After day he sat on the back porch and dissociated for hours.
      Ugh, so glad he’s in the rear view mirror.

  • This is a great post! I’m glad you ran it again! I waited 18 months for my cheater to come out of the fog. I hospitalized and he managed to get away with $60,000.00. I wish I had been stronger right out of the gate.

    But I found Chump Lady and CN and my life is great now! Don’t wait newbies!! File!!!

    • Yes this. Mine managed to get 500k( “invested” in his failing business after many lies to get it). The financial abuse is almost as hard to get over as the total rejection by someone who you now realize never actually loved you.

  • One of the biggest of all the mindfucks comming from the RIC – you didn’t see the cheating, but somehow chumps contributed to it.

    Oh I did? How exactly?

    Did I talk in my sleep and tell assface to go boink sex workers?

    Maybe I had an evil pixie ????‍♂️ living under the bed, that lifted my hand during the night to draft notes telling ass face to sign up for hook-up sites.

    Chumps “should” have known… just wow! Would we tell that to the thousands who were scammed by Bernie Madoff?

    “Sorry, you chose this guy. What did you contribute to make him steal your money? Oh, you trusted an investment advisor to do the job of investing your money? He fooled you and you were stupid enough to fall for it? Gee sorry, you should have known! Maybe you should put aside your pride and give him more money, you don’t want to make any rush decisions here. Let’s see if you can work it out.

    Can you imagine if we ran business dealings the same way as the RIC try’s to run marriage reconciliation?

    In the world outside of romantic relationships people are expected to behave with agency. They are responsible for following the rules, and when they don’t, it’s on them. There’s none of this blame shifting crap! …. and for gods sake, can the RIC get rid of the loophole “did the parties ever discuss monogamy?” as a cheater apologist defense! I don’t specifically ask my financial advisor if he plans on stealing money from me, it is assumed he won’t, just like marriage and commitment is assumed to mean monogamy, unless agreed otherwise.

    • I made certain that “monogamy” was understood and part of our vows. We AGREED to it. We DEFINED it. I had been cheated on before, and wanted to make certain it wouldn’t happen again.

      It made no difference.

      What I have learned is that the only behavior I can control is my own. I can hope, I can cajole, I can threaten, I can beg….but ultimately I cannot control what he chooses to do. He admitted he broke his promise to me, which was actually a big step for a guy who is a pro at justification and blame-shifting.
      But I cannot force him to keep his promise.

      I can only enforce consequences, which, sadly, impact me as well.

  • Because I’m super chumpy, I had multiple rounds with the RIC. And to think that when discussing a serial cheater, none of these “experts” ever enlightened me on narcissism and how extremely unamenable to treatment it is really chafes my ass.

    Fuck the RIC and the timid forest creature narrative.

  • I am very new here: three months into this nightmare. My learning curve has been steep! My STBX, Mr. Thumbsucker, walked out one night after dinner and just never came home. Then all the lies, cheating and financial infidelity came out. He had two cell phones. He had secret credit cards and went through our life savings and the kid’s college funds.

    Looking back over the past twenty years, I can see all kinds of red flags but I was a dancing fool. The thumbsucker really did me a favor by running away. I will never again tiptoe around his extra sensitive special feelings or placate that cowardly fool.

    Timid forest creature indeed.

    • Mine had credit cards I didn’t know about. The bills were being sent to a PO box I didn’t know about. People have NO IDEA how far these freaks go to hide their secret double life. By the time it came out, he had accumulated $40,000 in debt to his sick lifestyle. Sack the 401K without my knowledge? Check!
      Second mortgage with my signature forged? Check! The more time you give them to conduct this ruse is the more time they have to financially ruin you. If there is one piece of RIC that is wrong it is this: Don’t make any important decision for 6 months to a year–give the marriage time to heal. BS! Protect yourself right NOW!

      • Thumbsucker had a P.O. box as well. Also drained the retirement. I don’t know where most of the money went but a chunk of it was spent on upgrading flights to first class (he travels for work) and going to baseball games. FFS!

      • That six month to a year thing kept me very stuck.

        Plus every fucking RIC counselor insisted we restart it because we kept having to switch.

  • I wanted to understand what my ex was feeling but didn’t really do any pick me dancing. I knew her for a long time before we dated and always felt i worked to win her heart and the though of having to do that again repulsed me. I wanted to give her the same chance I would want if I had cheated. But, i realized she just had no remorse, doesn’t feel what she did should be held against her. I feel she is having a midlife meltdown. I don’t think it will end. This is what she wants, a man/boy loser and a life where she is not a mother or wife. I wonder if one day she will realize what she lost, what she is missing out on. I feel sorry for her. I hope she never realizes, she just spends the rest of her life thinking she’s living her dream. I know that’s not the case, she’s not happy. But there is nothing to do about that. I filed after four months, not too bad considering one month was December and I had a huge work project ongoing. Been divorced almost three months now. about 17 months since D-Day. Life is improving. Im feeling better. future looks bright.

    • Good for you, B&C. It sounds like you’re well on your way to a beautiful, cheater-free future.

  • Oh poor cheater after D’day was so timid that he hid behind our church in the hope that they would be able to secure a reconciliation. At the begining I did not know that my remianing in a church I had served in for more than a decade would hing on my staying with a man who had cheated and had no concept of remorse for his 8 years of same sex encounters. D’day hit and a month later it was discovered our daughter had cancer. Not even the uncertainty of our daughters health was enough to make Cheater produce remorse. Instead he used the situation to fully engage in the discard phase sadly he had the ear of our entire church who he was very good at the remorse act with so their understanding of what was happening between cheater and I and what was really happening were two very different things………the problem was they did not feel they should have to check with me being a female in a misogynistic environment my word accounted for nothing. I under no circumstances was expected to divorce. They felt that they knew better and had the power to call all the shots, The paster and elders believed they would restore my Cheater and when instructed I would take him back on their say so, no questions asked. I got wise to this when the pastor raised his voice to me only days after my daughters diagnones, demanding I not tell people my marriage was over because how was I going to save face if they restored him and I had to take him back, if I had already told people our marriage was over….?????? save face? had to take him back? what topped this was I asked the pastor point blank “when can I say my marriage is over? and he responded ‘When I tell you” and it was this comment that made me realise that it was just expected that I would reconcile no matter how I felt about it. I dug my heals in and I was instantly enemy number one! it was all my fault, I was abusing my cheater because I was holding him to acount for his actions. How dare I do so? I left the chuch as they called the cheater back into fellowship without so much as a word to me and just expected that I would go to chuch with him there when able to get to chuch with our daughter. When I found another church to attend so I had brain space they did not contact me but met with the pastor of that church and insisted that he send me back because I had issues that only they could help me work through…..more like they could not apply the preasue they would need if I was not there. Thankfully I was not sent back but as a result they wiped their hands of me and would not even mediate between myself and cheater regarding the children because as the elder told me when I called for assistance “yes mediation would be a good idea but we cannot help you because you have removed yourself from under our authority”.

    This time was hard but if I can encourage anyone if they are new to CL, I found CN about two months after this when I began to google how to cope after your husband cheats……..and the messages and threads that have been up here over the past 4 years have litterly saved my life. Coming out of the crazy was made easier because even though people on this site are from all corners of the globe their stories validated my own in ways I never thought would be possible. Thanks CN it made the world of difference.
    Cheater still acts like a rabbid bunny in the headlights hiding behind the church. But I am MEH and most of the time it is Tuesday.

    • Jeez, I’m not religious so don’t belong to any church, but hell – you spend how many years with a narc cheater and then the frickin church thinks they are going to start running your life and giving orders. Well they know where they can shove their “counselling” as far as I’m concerned.

  • But no doubt if you had cried you would have been labled as manipulative.

    Seriously this country needs to have its couples counselling industry overhauled because I am so tired of hearing that if the wife gets angry and shows it she is responsible for the failings of the marriage but if a husband show anger she is questioned as to what she did to make him angry……….palm to forhead.

    Or the counsellor just recoils from the anger all together because they cannot cope and so shut it down which makes them unable to do the job properly………As a counsellor I will work with an angry spouse over a silent, smoke and mirrors remorse spouse, any day. If you have been through it you can spot a TFC from a mile away. You can’t lean this from a text book, sorry you just can’t.

    • This exactly!!! Our (male) MC was definitely intimidated by my anger. Meanwhile my normally boisterous spouse sat as quiet as a churchmouse. Timid forest creature, my ass.
      End result- me storming out after 2 sessions because apparently hubby’s alcohol, drug, and “strange” addictions were all MY fault.

  • Just to show that narcissists don’t change: I’m seeing news reports about Mehgan Markle’s dad, about why he won’t attend her wedding, and how a faction of his family is closing ranks and claiming that people need to have sympathy for him.

    His story keeps changing. Seems to me that his whole problem is that he just can’t stand not being the center of attention, and doesn’t know how to gracefully participate when someone else is the center of attention.

    I won’t repeat his stories here. He’s getting enough attention on CNN and in supermarket tabloids.

    Mehgan and her mom, on the other hand, are showing how mighty they are without him and his pitiful cries for attention.

    • Yeah talk about dysfunction with Meghan Markle’s family! Between the half siblings & her ridiculous father…..what a shit show. Very impressed with Meghan Markle and her mother not playing into their stupid crap. I guess they have had years of experience though.

  • I never completely bought into reconciliation, but my only support network were a group of women in my immediate and extended family who made perfectly clear that they were only there for me if I did the “right thing” and tried to save the relationship.

    So I gave the cheater his chance to earn reconciliation. On my terms. I laid out a list of RIC mandated “hard work” tasks he would undertake, and RIC approved relationship policing tactics he would agree to live under and actually made him sign a contract.

    He managed to go underground with violating it for almost a year before I started to get suspicious and busted him. But by that point I was only waiting for him to mess up and get busted so that I could dump him with a clear conscience.

    The “timid forest creature” had been crying to some woman online about how he was trapped in a controlling and abusive relationship. And she became his domestic violence victim advocate. The RIC mandated relationship policing tactics and being ordered to “do the hard work” were considered domestic abuse.

    Apparently, consequences and accountability are abusive to these timid forest creatures. Their fragile selves can’t cope. It hurts their widdle fee-feez to be distrusted and scrutinized. They’re suffering too, and we’re kicking them while they’re down.

    And people buy into the timid forest creature thing without thinking how much mental fortitude it takes to be a cheater. Keeping lies straight, engaging in risky and sometimes predatory behavior, living under constant threat of discovery, managing and hiding a secret life. Mindfucking. There’s nothing timid and fragile about any of that.

    • Damn straight! Looking back, the web X wove was huge. He went to great lengths to live his double life, and I was largely unaware he was fucking someone else until Dday smacked me in the face.

  • I was doing my best to be patient and understanding. I gave him the gift of an opportunity to reconcile with me willing to at last take half of the responsibility for problems in the marriage before he went off chasing strange. The problem is that he assumed I would eventually get around to taking him to task for his poor behavior because I just couldn’t understand what he was going through. It was so much easier to just run off with Schmoopie and not have to worry about doing the work of reconciliation or possibly having to eventually take responsibility for what he had done to our marriage. They aren’t timid forest creatures, they are cowards.

  • Cheaters only use reconciliation time to maneuver chumps and assets into a better settlement position. 100% that’s what they want. They get stay at home moms off to work, homeschooled kids off to public school, move valuables and bank accounts and run smear campaigns in the background to alienate the chump from every support possible. Once you know your spouse is duplicitous, you get a lawyer (in secret!), line up all the ducks, and strike.

    • Yes, and states’ waiting periods help them to do this. The family court system benefits those earning the money, the power lies there. If possible line up the financial advisor before getting a lawyer. It’s difficult to address dissipated community assets when you are dealing with an entitled asshole.

  • The Reconciliation Industrial Complex almost killed me. WTF! Their advice felt wrong but I was so wounded. Nothing like going to therapy for my therapy. Fuck them and the couch the road in on.

  • I appreciate Chump Lady mentioning the point of the RIC saying that cheaters (liaras, abusers?) hurt their intimate partners because they (adulteress) are hurt, but oftentimes you don’t observe them mistreating their friends nor their bosses. If they were truly hurt, so hurt that they had no agency, then they would lash out at everybody in their vicinity, not just their intimate partners over and over and over again, right? My ex-boyfriends’ friends and colleagues think he’s the best thing since sliced bread, probably even in spite of him dating (marrying?) his work subordinate.

    • This 100%. Cheaters have agency. They just choose not to exercise it with us chumps. They maintain a mask for others, and sadly those others normally lap it up (like we did before D-Day sigh).

    • rockstarwife – my stbx is a tyrant at work. He would get into arguments with his boss. One time he told me he cussed him out! I took a break a work to drive to his work to make sure everything was ok and he acted like everything was fine. But then they made him a foreman! Just another normal day to the tantrum loving, drama making man-child. I happened upon the Yelp reviews for his work. Over 900 reviews for one star. I’m reading these reviews and people were saying how dishonest and unprofessional they are. Several reviews were about his gf (they’ve lived together for 2 years. Their baby’s birthday party is today) and how she was rude and lied to the customer… My MIL says her son is drinking he and gf are fighting all the time. Sounds like dysfunction at home and at work, too. I’m so glad our daughter hasn’t wanted to go to her dads for months now. I’ve seen this comment on here befoe – but he reminds me of Anthony from the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Wonderful Life” where the kid wishes people into the cornfield if they aren’t bending over being nice to him. Everyone is afraid of him. His family has to be ‘nice’ or he won’t let them see their grandchild. They are not timid. They are cowardly, cruel, selfish monsters.

  • After catching the cheating ex & OWhore at her house I
    knew my long marriage was over. Never an apology or remorse for destroying the family’s life.

    He was a timid forest creature that didn’t have the courage to let me know I was fighting a losing battle to keep us together. Cruelty & humiliation was all he gave me.

    2 years out.. hoping to reach meh some day. ????

  • I fell for this hook, line, and sinker. To the point where when howorker turned up pregnant, I promised to be a loving stepparent. Then when howorker aborted the baby and he was devastated, I did everything I could to comfort him through his grief. Of course, it didn’t matter because he was “broken,” and besides, he knew I was relieved by her decision. He couldn’t get over the fact that “the greatest tragedy of his life” was something I wanted to happen.
    I look back at that and I want to simultaneously give that poor, desperate chump a big hug and a punch in the neck.
    exhole is now married to the woman who aborted his baby.

    • I compare your ex to gangrene of the leg. You know if you do nothing the damn thing is eventually going to rot off and kill you in the process or you can amputate, heal and move on. You might not be the whole person you were but you are alive and not dragging that sick, dead weight around.

  • “You don’t see remorse? Don’t wait around for it to emerge from the fog. You don’t see it because it doesn’t exist.”


  • I didn’t just wait the proverbial “6 months.” I waited 3 years. I lived by this Timid Forest Creature idea. I worked so hard to make the marriage a great place to be. I was so worried that yes, if I made ANY demands he would run. This kind of garbage that the RIC feeds us is so toxic and it makes me so angry because I bought into it for so long.

    Those 3 years were some of the worst of my life. I waited and I waited for things to get better. I would tell myself that I could feel things were going to get better, “it’s just around this next corner.” It never got better until I filed for divorce and he left.

    It’s better to live by one of the first propositions in this post – that infidelity is a deal breaker. Don’t wait around for the Sorry. Ultimately the Sorry ends up being hollow anyway, if indeed they ever say it. My X did say sorry after about 2 1/2 years after DDay but by that point, it meant nothing. It was more of a manipulation tactic to get me to stay and keep working my guts out to give my Timid Forest Creature more accolades and no consequences.

    I firmly believe that with infidelity, the only way is out.

  • Let’s see…within a month after I moved out and moved into my own place, after D-Day, he expressed “remorse” and wanted to reconcile. So I asked if he got rid of A.P. to which he replied that he told her he needed a friend and not an intimate relationship. I told him that I let them be friends and they proved they couldn’t, (I let them go on a road trip together.) That’s when I knew I had to move on.
    I gave him the me-or-her ultimatum, and he told me to move on. He didn’t like it when I did and started dating someone 2 months later,( that was a disaster,) so he dragged out the divorce and guise of wanting to reconcile for another 2 years, while he lived with her. I ended the relationship I was in, and went complete no contact, 6 months before our divorce was finalized. 3 weeks before the court date, is when he “ended” his, saying he missed his family. I told him I needed 2 years alone before I would even consider reconciliation, because I felt we both needed time to grieve the loss of our relationships and I didn’t want it to be another rebound. I needed distance to see if we were genuinely compatible.
    I found continued evidence of his continued contact with her. When I finally told him to fuck off, he said he was sorry about me finding the texts and loosing his family; but he never said he was sorry about the actual affair itself, falling in love with A.P. the lying, the sneaking around, yada yada…I told him that the problem was not necessarily that he didn’t tell me about his texting her, but that the texts existed in the first place….oh, and the dozen roses he brought to her work on her birthday….”but it was only contact….nothing else!” he says.
    I realize he is just sorry he got caught, and sorry he had to pay consequences! I don’t know how many times I actually embraced the RIC to give him chance after chance, but even the RIC tells cheaters that they must go no contact with the A.P. in order to give the marriage an honest chance. Apparently my ex didn’t understand that. He didn’t seem to understand that when you’re trying to gain your wife’s trust back, you have to be transparent. I’m laughing now, because he sent me some b.s. text a couple weeks ago, grieving where he thought he went wrong during reconciliation; mind you, he’s remarried to A.P. a year into my 2 year commitment to singledom. He said something about him believing the all is fair in love and war quote. SMH. That makes sense….he basically believed he was entitled to keep his A.P. and he tried to obliterate me as a parent, and my character, during custody mediation, with outright lies. And he wonders why I’ll always hate him….but it’s ok, because he prays to Jesus every day, that I’ll stop hating him. Almost at meh.
    Cheaters reveal so much of themselves through what they say… if you listen closely, you can hear the flatulence coming from their mouths, as they speak.

  • I often questioned myself for not doing what the RIC suggests. I thought maybe because I didn’t pick me dance or beg him, I had given up too early. He had effectively left for schmoopie but he hasn’t done anything about filing for divorce. D-day was in Jan and I filed in March. I am thankful I found CL and was told what I did was mighty. I don’t know what I would have done if he had wanted to stay though. I think he knew he wouldn’t be able to have both of us, he toon the easy way out because he was a coward. He needed to attention which he knew he wouldn’t get was a new baby and a toodler to care for.

  • OptionNoMore: I can’t explain how close our situations resemble. I unknowingly married someone I think suffers from narcissist personality disorder. He was very charming initially, then once he knew I was committed he became controlling. Even simple things were tough. He always wanted to be the good guy. He wasn’t flashy and he didn’t want to be the center of attention. But he wanted to be liked. He bought favors with paying the check at dinner or doing tasks for someone. He learned that if he did something for other people, they wouldn’t look at him too closely. He is a storyteller. He learned how to blend believable fiction in with reality. The reasons offered up for anything were airtight backed by evidence. He learned that by crafting an impossible-to-disprove lie, he was safe from unwanted questioning and examination. He learned that manipulation could be minor but still effective especially when used on a trusting wife. There were no direct strikes but shoves or pushes. He belittled, yelled and said lines designed to hurt and I in return would defend and say things back but I was the mean one. Hmmm… He was not the same man in public as he was behind closed doors. His main manipulation took the form of gaslighting. He took it a step further by killing my character through lies told behind my back to those around us. He painted a picture of a horrible wife, a wronged husband and a marriage in shambles. Were we having issues, yes but in my opinion fixable but not alone. He simply walked away with another woman who fell for his lies of me being the non-supportive evil wife. So, she must play the role of the woman who will take care of him better.
    After I initially confronted him in July 2017 after finding an app that issues a digital cell number to call or text, I asked him to leave but he asked to come back not once but three different times. Again, in October and a third time in January 2018. I sobbed like a baby each time. I was in denial. I could not believe the man that I vowed my life to could have changed so drastically to begin cheating January 31, 2017. I needed to understand what happened. I needed to know why after everything. I grieved the death of my marriage. I grieved the death of my family. With a human death, there is definiteness, with the death of a marriage there isn’t. You are forced to continue to deal with that person. I am still grieving. When my husband left January 18, 2018, I felt like Forrest Gump and just wanted to run. Literally one day we are on a family vacation and the next I find out my 42-year-old husband is having an affair with a 28-year-old. I was trying to fix something that ultimately, I had little or no control over. This isn’t to say that I was perfect in the marriage. It’s not the bad marriage causing the infidelity, (even if the unfaithful mate is blaming for their infidelity). Blaming the mate not only pushes away any guilt, but it allows the offender to become a faultless victim driven to hurtful actions out of need. By placing the blame on others their actions not only become excusable but they now feel justified in the process. We’re all responsible for our own actions. I felt like I had failed, that it was all my fault, that if I was enough it wouldn’t have happened. I was so ashamed even though he was the one that did it. How he could lie over and over to me and not feel any guilt? Why he would have risked everything for her?
    Still crying I would tell my kids we are going to be okay. How were they supposed to be okay if I’m not okay? I wasn’t happy with the turn of events in my life. In fact, not happy didn’t begin to describe my emotional free fall. Devastated. Petrified. Paralyzed. Lost. Angry. Disbelief. Even somewhat irrational. Life still moves on. I still cry. Like a tornado warning, you take cover and hope for the best. I’m losing my husband, my in laws and my dream. After a while, I’ve analyzed all the reasons of why I’m still crying. I couldn’t accept reality. I couldn’t accept my dream was gone. So far, I can do all things but forget that I Love him and forget that he no longer loves me.

    • I am so sorry you are going through this Betteroffhopefully. It may be hard to believe right now but you are definitely better off. Why doesn’t matter, just know that he sucks. Anytime you doubt that, make a list of all of the things he did to you and read it( mine is a covert toxic narc/sociopath, so they sound similar). My ex also did things covertly and was the “good guy”. He was always doing for friends but then ignoring or treating his family badly behind closed doors. I basically raised the kids alone since he was ‘working” every night “building his business”. I now wonder just how many APs there were he certainly had plenty of opportunity since he was never home and he had money because cash as a car dealer… He discarded me horribly after reconciliation after a one year affair with a friend of ours, soiling our beds with her etc, etc. Keep on keeping on, do extreme self care and go completely grey rock, no contact except about the kids. Come here it saved my life.. I was married for 36 years, I know how hard it is to let go of the dream that your ex is a good person, he is not, because someone who loves you could do that to you. (((Hugs)))

      • Thanks Newlady15!!! He destroyed me. My heart is in pieces. We signed the settlement May 1st so I didn’t have to go to court. I felt it would be unnecessary money spent in a no-fault state with unnecessary extra time wasted on someone who clearly didn’t care for me. CN as well as the book has been so helpful. Thanks for your kind words. I too am sorry that we all have had to deal with a selfish actions of losers.

        • Better Off,

          Your husband sounds a lot like my ex-boyfriend. Both of them sound like covert/closet narcissists. Thank for reminding me that my ex-boyfriend was unnecessarily controlling in very strange ways. especially in the last few months of our relafiomship. Thus memory reminds me that he was not a good partner (to me at least). Good to remember this when I start really missing him, or his facade, yet again.

          I’m sending you a virtual hug and hoping that your family’s lives improve.

    • I’m glad you poured out your heart and soul here. The grief and pain are so great. I used to wake up crying. Literally crying in my sleep. Over time the feelings of loss, anger and disbelief give way to a realization — that now you can at least breathe easier than you could ‘back then’ when he was taking his shame and guilt out on you and making *you* pay for his choices.

      • Pay for his choices exactly. Even as of yesterday he stated in a text, “While we are on it also you can stop talking about me and how bad I am or talk about yourself as to your contributions in our marriage. FB can help though if needed.” Blame-shifting at his finest. I have not mentioned one thing on Facebook other than ask for prayers. It is humiliating enough not to spell it out for the world. All he seems to care about is him and his tarnished reputation. Nice…

        • Grrrrrr! Tell him he is welcome to give direction to Schmoopie. You are now free to think and behave as you wish!

  • Timid forest creature, my ass. Idiot of The Valley had no problem with me earning money, cooking, cleaning, taking care of his asshole mother doing the pick me dance without even knowing he was cheating. I thought it was just stress the way that nadless wonder treated me. When I found out about the cheating, he was one and done.
    I walked into the den to get the rest of his crap out of my home. There he sat crying, boo fucking hoo for you! I had absolutely no sympathy for the Summer’s Eve! What I felt was, “stop your friggin’ crying and lets hurry this packing shit up!” I just closed the door and went into another room grabbing his crap and throwing it into garbage bags! Idiot!

  • Wow…this is EXACTLY what happend the first time…the second time I immediately said we are getting a divorce. Thank God I found Tracy’s book to keep me strong with that decision! I only wish we didn’t have 5 kids together so I could go legit no contact.

    • It took me three Ddays. I thought I could fix things. One can’t fix things alone. Tracy’s book as well CN has more than helped me. So thankful I’m not alone.

  • Ultimately I think cheaters get treated like TFCs because it’s the sad-but-true law that the person closest to the door controls the relationship. That is de facto cheaters, because it is confirmed they are stepping out. In order to get empowered, chumps need to make it clear we’re not sure WE want to stay in the relationship. So long as cheaters know you want it more than they do, they’re the ones holding the puppet strings, and we’re the ones dancing so as not to scare them off. A fucked dynamic, to be sure, and one I never intend to participate in again, for any reason.

    • Truth. When power in the relationship is uneven, and not shared, this is a red flag. When you are invested, engaged, and supportive of your partner’s dreams, work, and hobbies, and there is little reciprocity (yet your partner just “shows up” occasionally to bask in the accolades) that, too, is a red flag. My belief is that cons look for competence (and most Chumps can do it all????), so they can pretend they are normal. Chameleons, they can mask their disorder. Some are very good at deceiving others, evidence is our many long term marriages. It works because we trust and we are competent. I do realize now that Fucktard is unable to bond so what looks like “happily ever after” is still a big illusion (like the wizard of Oz). Once their lies are discovered though, the game is up, and it’s why so many of them have another waiting in the wings. Grieve the dream, but reality is that leaving a Cheater brings you a better life (leaky roof and all!).

  • Before I read through others comments, I’m posting some mumbo gumbo pulled from a northern New Jersey therapist’s page in regards to the “timid forest creatures”.

    “Unresolved childhood, adolescent issues and traumas are a direct reason for a person to cheat on their partner. With insight,patience, compassion and guidance I help clients move through their pain and find peace and healing.”

    No dumb bitch-people cheat because they are selfish and entitled. ‘Nough said. Don’t be left in limbo while they “heal”.

    • Cheaters can never find ‘peace and healing.’ They don’t want it! Lol They love the drama and chaos! That therapist needs therapy. What a dummy.

  • Timid Forrest Creatures—A Ballet in Four Acts

    Act I: The morning after a stormy argument between Chump and WayWard, in which Chump accuses WayWard of acts of infidelity, Chump awakens to find WayWard missing. In WayWard’s place is a small creature who, when Chump looks at it clearly, jumps out of the bed and out the open window, scurrying to the nearby forest.

    Chump is confused. Where is WayWard? The realization hits that WayWard is none other than the small creature! Desperate to save WayWard, Chump leaps out of bed and follows WayWard’s trail into the woods. There, Chump calls out to WayWard to reveal themselves. The more Chump calls, the closer Chump gets to WayWard’s hiding place, the deeper WayWard goes into the forest.

    In grief and exhaustion, Chump finally collapses, signaling the end of Act I, whose Discovery Dance is a major tour-de-force.

    Act II: Chump awakens to a fleeting glimpse of WayWard, peeking through the bushes. In a flash, Chump leaps up to follow, calling after WayWard to come back. On following WayWard’s path, Chump comes across a Wise Counselor. The Wise Counselor consoles Chump, and explains that WayWard is now a forest creature, small, timid, and in danger of becoming very, very lost in the forest. Calling after WayWard, begging WayWard to return—all of these terrify WayWard into going deeper into the woods.
    Wise Counselor suggests that Chump stop asking WayWard to come back. Instead, Chump should become quietly alluring. By being meek and quiet and by making demonstrations of devotioin, Chump will be able to lure WayWard back. Chump follows this advice, making the discover that while Chump is quiet, Chump will see WayWard creep back, sometimes within full view. But every time Chump calls out to WayWard, WayWard goes back into hiding.

    Chump finally pulls out the stops in the poignant pas de deux “Pick Me.”

    Act III: Chump is joyful that WayWard is found, but unfortunately, WayWard is still in the body of a small forest creature. The Wise Counselor explains that WayWard is cursed, and that the only cure is for Chump to take WayWard back to the house and treat WayWard as if nothing has happened. If Chump shows true devotion, WayWard’s curse will be broken and they will live together as if all of this were a bad dream.

    Chump carefully embraces WayWard and returns to the house, where Chump attends to all of WayWard’s needs, as the transformed WayWard cannot feed or clothe or clean after themself. Still, Chump is happy because WayWard is back. Wise Counselor comes in to say that Chump is doing very well, and that WayWard’s curse is sure to be lifted.

    Act IV: A grateful Chump kisses WayWard goodnight, goes to sleep, and wakes up to see WayWard frolicking in the bedroom. Chump’s joy is so great that Chump almost misses seeing that another forest creature scurrying out of the bedroom window.

    At this point, Chump realizes the truth. It isn’t that WayWard was magically transformed into a forest creature. Rather, WayWard was always a creature of the dark forest, but was transformed into a human!
    Suddenly WayWard once more appears human, but this time, Chump’s eyes have been opened to reality, so while Chump can see WayWard’s human form, Chump also sees the real WayWard, and WayWard is no longer small and timid, but dark and threatening. Chump, now attuned to the truth, chases Chump out of the house, returning in triumphant rendition of “Trust that they suck.”

    The curtain falls one final time.

    • Great way of explaining that, “…they suck”. Thanks for sharing!

    • I love this! Cleverly done! Applause! ????????????????????????

    • This is great writing! Find someone (if you don’t draw, too) to illustrate this for you and publish! I love CL’s single panel work, but I think we also need a “comic” strip! We have plenty of material here!

  • I always tell my kids that if they need help making a difficult choice, the right thing to do is almost always ‘the hard thing.’ When you weigh your choices, it’s the one that you want to run away from. It’s the one that the secret agent in your head says ‘anything but that.’

    The right thing is the choice that takes you out of your comfort zone; the choice that means you have to be honest with yourself; the choice that feels, smells and tastes like torture; the choice that requires personal growth.

    One day, as I sat thinking about the end of my marriage, I wondered, what was the right thing? Staying in the marriage or ending the marriage?

    During the reconciliation period, my TFC-STBXH used to listen to me express my pain and grief — up to a point, and then we would blow up, yelling that he ‘COULD ONLY TAKE SO MUCH!’ Looking back, I realized that he had to leave. Staying would mean truly facing his shame and guilt every day. Way too hard! His life would be so much easier with also-cheating Schmooplanta. When he looked in her eyes, he would see approval and acceptance. He didn’t have to do any work, make any amends, come to any painful self-truths or make any changes at all. She loved him and accepted him ‘AS IS!”

    The hard thing for him to do was to stay and rebuild himself and his life. The TFC didn’t choose her so much as he chose the easy path over the hard path.

    I held on to the marriage fiercely because I believed that marriages were worth sacrifice and the hard work of self-awareness and self-growth. Accepting that my marriage failed was the hardest thing in the world for me. It seemed like I was being force marched through my own death.

    The hard thing for me? To leave the marriage. To opt-in. To let go. To be accountable for rebuilding myself and my life.

    The hard thing for the TFC? To do the work to rebuild the marriage.

    Realizing that it was wrong for him to leave but at the same time wrong for me to stay helped me move forward. The walk to acceptance became less of a death march.

    Thank you for this post CL. Now I can tell my kids, don’t be a TFC, do the hard thing — it’s the right thing! And now, every time I think of STBXH, I will picture him with a little chipmunk head.

    • Oh Chumplanta, what sound advice! I love your thoughts here. Yes, most times the right thing to do is the hard thing. I wanted to work to rebuild the marriage because I really, truly believed it was the right thing to do. The hardest thing I have ever done was divorce and that’s saying a lot because everything that preceded that divorce was so incredibly hard. I’m surprised I lived through it.

      I had the same experience with my X with reconciliation and expressing my pain and grief. He said the same words your STBX did. In fact it was a veiled threat because he kept telling me that there was going to come a time when he could no longer talk about his cheating anymore.

      CL and CN are and were lifesavers. Otherwise I would still be stuck in the same dead end marriage with a remorseless TFC. Yay for gaining that life thing!

      • Ugg! Sorry you had to endure the same weak chipmunk treatment, Your words make me feel less alone.

  • One of the moments Im least proud of is when (during a time Cheater was more-or-less claiming that we were in a fragile wreckonciliation and he was claiming he was broken up with OW) I tried to hold him accountable for some of his WRETCHED behavior, he got all forest-creaturish and said

    “Dont tempt me, Uni!!!” UBT: Dont try to make me the LEAST bit uncomfortable or else I will run to OW faster than you can say “fuckwit”!!

    and I totally backed down

    If holding them responsible for what they did and said is totally unacceptable to them, you have NOTHING to work with.

    The mindfuck was accentuated in that he held me hyper-accountable for everything I did or said, ever, under all circumstances. He cut me NO slack, ever. He gave NO forgiveness, ever.

  • Remorse? Yes, he felt it to his very core. But, this is very important to differentiate, his remorse was never for WHAT HE DID. He felt bad that he got caught. He felt bad that he had to share some of his secret, special details about his fantasy relationship with coworker which tainted that part of it.

    Just so you know, Chumps, what you believe is guilt, shame, and remorse is really only a projection of what you want to believe is there. Your cheater feels those things but not for what he/she did to you. And full disclosure? You have not and will NEVER get FULL disclosure. Why? Because the secrets are tintillating. Secrets are their first language. Lies are their second. Poor boundaries is their third. Do they have FOO issues? Probably. Does that matter? Not one little bit. To you. You have your boundaries. You’ve been authentic. You’ve shared all of you. You committed. You kept your vows. S/he didn’t.

    Therapy? Absolutely encouraged. But find a therapist that specializes in Betrayal Trauma. The first hint they give that you are responsible, in any way, for what your partner did, STAND UP AND WALK OUT. Therapy is for YOUR healing. You can’t fix him or her. He came to you with those issues. Don’t take ANY responsibility for his issues. Because if you do, he won’t. It’s not your problem. Go take care of yourself and take whatever steps you need to take to protect yourself from his selfishness.

    I should know. I’m the one that listened to RIC. I’m the one who stayed. For years. Guess, what, Chumps? He hasn’t changed. He hasn’t taken ownership. He hasn’t given full disclosure. He still lies and keeps secrets. He still has poor boundaries. Save yourself. Save your life from years or decades of the circular thinking. Get out. Go heal. Don’t try to fix him. You can’t.

    God speed.

    • During reconciliation it became so obvious that he wanted to keep all the special details secret. At one point he yelled, “This was MINE!” I’m glad he revealed his inner thoughts like that. It was a moment of clarity for me.

      He wanted, for the rest of his life, to hold the memory of the relationship in his little chipmunk paws and gaze at it like a snow globe, rubbing the round dome, intoning ‘My Precious.’

      He lives in the precious snow globe now. I can’t tell you how much I would enjoy it if the giant hand of Fate gave that snow globe a hearty shake and then tossed it into the giveaway bin, where it was dropped off at Goodwill, where it sat on a shelf next to outdated tacky Christmas decorations before it finally landed in the hands of a destructive kid who smashed it for fun to see what would happen.

      • Just wait and watch. Karma strikes when you just don’t care, anymore. But it’s still kind of fun to see.

        • Thanks TOWS! I think you are probably right. Maybe Karma knows what she is doing.

  • XH checked out emotionally immediately after we were married.No pick me dance, I withdrewin response. But yes, I did think he was a TFC, and would cut and run if I held him to task. I caught him cheating after a ridiculous number of clues, finally, a Bucky, and scratch marks down his back. RIC MC told me, “He’s hurting too!” Oh OK! When the kid’s and I were eating Beanie Weenies for dinner and he was claiming he was working late but actually wining and dining the whore, and I was SO LONLEY! Oh yeah, it’s painful to fall in love with Schmoopie, go out for a lovely dinner and then get a killer blow job! I no longer bought into the TFC narritive. Went ballistick!

  • Theone, I absolutely agree. I will never have closure. He’s still keeping his delicious, titalating secrets. I will never know all of it. I left him 20 years ago, mostly because I never got full disclosure. Just a lot of toxic. gaslighting. I think that sucked more than the cheating!

    • Who He Is=His Actions. So many of our cheaters were able to hide who they were because we believed otherwise.

  • Before we even married, I told my ex that if he ever cheated on me that I would be out of the marriage. I even added “so fast that your head will spin”. At the time, I had no reason to think he’d ever cheat on me, but I let him know my position on the matter.

    When he got caught cheating years later, there was nothing to discuss. He begged and pleaded and I told him that he knew what my position on this was and did you think I was kidding? I wasn’t kidding.

    He carried on like he couldn’t believe I wouldn’t give him another chance. His pity party was pathetic. I felt sorry for me, as I had believed in him and trusted him and I had worked, was the primary breadwinner, did his laundry, cooked for him, did all the housework myself, and treated him with much love while was out cheating on me and taking advantage of me.

    This was no little deal to me. The cheating was an absolute deal-breaker. His betrayal completely destroyed my trust in him as well as any respect I ever had for him. It could never be the same. I was done.

    From D day on, my only focus was on legally getting out the marriage, selling the house, finding my own home and never speaking to him again. I managed to accomplish all of those things within four months of D day. And he tried to get in my face every single day along my journey.

    I didn’t even think about feeling mighty, and I never really have. I just wanted to survive and I was desperate to feel peace and serenity in my life again. I knew I deserved that and I found it.

  • If not for the RIC I’d have been divorced quickly while the exasshole was still enamored of his OW. Never read a book, go with your gut. UGGG, a short wreckonciliation period made things so much worse. I wish I never read a book but of course with his coming and begging I may have relented anyway. The worst IMO was how I believed the RIC bullshit & exasshole learned therapy speak so damn well. 3 MC sessions and all I heard was how he didn’t ‘feel safe’ and everything was 50% my fault and on and on and on. He was by then telling everyone I had abused him for 17 years. It was insane. By then I was done but his rages got very scary and eventually there was him threatening me with a gun. So for new people who are dealing with someone who is a rager or scary in any way that you’ve shrugged off. Pay attention when you are ready to leave, cos they escalate, sometimes they escalate you into hell. Jedi Hugs!

    • I was married to a peace officer. He started dumping assets about two years before Dday—that ILYBINILWY speech and “I wanna divorce” day where I finally realized he was fucking someone new—and began acting more like someone I didn’t know. (Truth here though he had been in the devalue/discard/gaslight stage for a while, even his best friend tried to warn me….In the two years it took us to divorce X threatened to leave me penniless and let me know he was going after our finances and began to behave more…irrationally. He had picked up a job working in our local family court and was rubbing elbows with the very people who would be hearing our dissolution case, so this, combined with other things, had me worried. After he walked out, he cut off financial support, even for community responsibilities (mortgage, property taxes, insurance and registration on the vehicles, and expenses related to support for our adolescents who were in/headed to college), rarely met with our kids, and started living large, flying out of state every weekend to meet up with Schmoopie, etc., while I scrambled to pay the bills I could and still support my kids. I was also more aware of his hostility towards me so grey rock was a life saver. I do believe you need to cut off all contact with the disordered. I paid attention to my gut and didn’t engage in his craziness. Those years I felt threatened I kept a low profile in our community. I didn’t hide the truth but I took care to be safe and spoke to those I trusted. People less stable have done awful things to spouses they no longer “love.”

  • I didn’t know I was in a pick me dance until it was too late, I was told “you were supposed to be winning me back”. What a Nark. I do remember the day I threw the “It takes one to tango book” in the dustbin! “Trash” to those across the pond (did you know that is an old English word you Brits, so don’t complain about it!!)
    Trash, Garbage, Rubbish all the same, RIC doesn’t make any sense and that is where the books belong!!

  • What screwed me up (besides the cheating) was that I bought into the mindset on a website called Surviving Infidelity. There I learned that if I changed, I could fix us. That he was in a fog. That most men don’t actually want to leave their wives. So. Much. Bullshit.

    That kept me stuck for a solid year.

    • Me too, the first time. The RIC racket writes compelling copy – they want the customer to know what’s in it for them right when they read the first paragraph. Don’t feel too bad – it happened to a lot of us on this site and its happening for lots of lurkers right now who are reading Tracy’s work and our comments. It’s tough to stomach that you’ve been chumped by your partner and then thumped by RIC – it made me feel like a huge idiot, for sure. I bought into it for 8 more years!

      Looking back with clarity now- I’m so much healthier living in truth. Before, when I was doing the whole RIC and the MC I had a host of all these crazy physical issues going on with my body – I had a mysterious pain in my breast right over my heart that frightened me so much I had it checked out over and over again, I had twitching in my hands and feet, irritable bowel syndrome, body aches, skin problems- I was a complete wreck. The day I kicked my ex out was the worst day of my life and the pain was like nothing I’d ever felt. Couldn’t sleep or eat. Lost 25 pounds in a month. I looked like death eating a cracker. I stabilized at 3 months post Dday #2. I was still in pain for over a year past that day, but one day, about 3 months in, I woke up and I blinked and I realized I was standing on solid ground for a minute and every single one of those problems I’d been having with my body were gone. I knew the next emotional wave would crash into me very soon and I’d be back in that painful place, but it gave me great hope to stand in the calm for a moment. I think the real hope I felt in that moment cured me. It had been YEARS since I’d actually felt the feeling of real hope. It had been so long that I had forgotten what real hope felt like. I thought I had felt hope during RIC and MC but I realized I’d only been experiencing false hope which is sort of like eating pretend ice cream.

      Tracy is absolutely and completely right when she writes that the cheaters are the bad things happening in the world. We don’t need to watch the rear view mirror of our lives and take notice of their lives moving forward – we need to look forward through our own windshield. The view ahead of us is much more interesting if we drive towards what we need and away from what we know hurts us. I think my very wise 93 year-old grandmother said it best when it comes to the story of cheaters – “A bad beginning never makes for a good ending.” That’s really all I need to know.

  • When I told my cheater that I wanted a divorce, he scurried off to a one-time session with a therapist in a last ditch effort to convince me of his remorse (again) and that he would really change. Guess what the analogy was that the therapist used to describe MY behavior to him? A timid forest creature! Therapist literally told him I was like a timid fox who had retreated to its den and needed coaxed back out… That he needed to show me he was not going to harm me. I laughed out loud at the absurdity – there was nothing timid at all about me filing for divorce! I think that was a pretty damn confident action! I can only imagine what he told the therapist about our marriage and I am sure nothing was mentioned about his habitual lies, verbal abuse, alcohol and porn habits, and numerous dalliances with other women!

    He then proceeded to tell me that therapist said we BOTH needed to make changes in order for our marriage to mend and be better than before! WTeverlivingF?! (Hello…my reactions were directly related to his behaviors and treatment of me – he wanted me to change and be a better wife how? Become the party-animal pornstar of his dreams? Hold his hand and encourage him to be an adult? Be compassionate and forgive him when he slipped again? The man who believes he is king and the world is there to serve him!)

    I recommended that at his next session that they focus on solving HIS issues rather than try to analyze me. I also told him that I was continuing with the divorce and if he truly wanted a relationship with me in the future he should continue working on himself as I planned to do the same, but not as a married couple. We could maybe revisit that scenario again after time apart. That was the proof I wanted that he meant what he said. Upon hearing that, all of his “care” and “coaxing” suddenly disappeared into the mist never to be seen or heard of again and what emerged was an angry beast. A prime example of Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse.

    I truly believe it never crossed his mind that I would want out of the marriage. It was a crushing blow to his ginormous ego when I did. D-Day#1 was right around 20 years together. Found out he was a serial cheater. I gave him a chance to redeem himself. He couldn’t – just bumped up his covert skills. Unfortunately for him, I was on to his game and bumped up my detective skills. D-Day#2 was a deal-breaker for me. Our 10 month long divorce was final after 23 yrs. He hasn’t changed and I don’t regret my decision one bit. My mistake was giving him a chance after D-Day#1. He remarried about a year after our divorce. He groomed his second wife to replace me and her adult kids call him “Dad” – our adult kids think that’s weird. I do, too, but, Hallelujah, it’s not my circus!!!

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