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When You Can’t Leave Because You Still “Love” Them

spackle_free_zoneAnyone else notice this phenomenon? On infidelity forums, you’ll read a thread describing a thousand horrors and humiliations and invariably it ends — “but I love him.”

But I love him.

King’s X.

“But I love him” (or her) means I can’t leave. As long as I feel love for this person, it cancels out any horrible behavior on their part. “Love” is the way chumps give themselves permission to stay immobilized.

And who can fault you for love? It’s so virtuous. Especially unconditional love. Isn’t that the gold standard? It’s what we promise children, it’s what’s lacking in every fucked up FOO issue. Poor thing, they didn’t get unconditional love.

When a chump says I cannot act in my own self interest because I love this person, I think several other things are going on. It could mean “I can’t imagine starting my life over.” Or “I miss the person I thought they were.” Or “I don’t want anyone to think I’m a failure, so I’m going to fashion myself as a crusader for Love Against All Odds.”

And I also think there is some real confusion going on about love.

Of course we love our cheaters. Most people leave these relationships while still retaining love for their spouses. Maybe they carry some of that love with them for the rest of their lives. It’s not like you wake up one day with a searing, moral clarity about this person that makes it so easy to leave them. No, you love and you leave in spite of.

Grown up love comes with conditions. You don’t get to abuse me. You may not endanger me. You may well love, but  that doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for removing yourself, or your children from harm.

When you take marriage vows, you make promises to behave a certain way — cherish, honor, provide, be faithful. It’s not a vow to accept whatthefuckever. Yes, in sickness and in health. But  sickness and health are seen to be quite outside our providence. No one asks for cancer. But what if you’re poisoning your own well? What if your cheater breaks the contract? Are we obligated to stay beholden to the terms of a broken contract?

You know who also stays stuck because they “love” the cheater? The affair partner. Isn’t that what they tell themselves? It doesn’t matter who I hurt — because I “love” this person it’s all okay. King’s X.

Healthy love doesn’t require accepting humiliation and abuse. Healthy love is reciprocal — it’s not toxically lopsided. More kibbles for me! None for you! Healthy love doesn’t demand the “pick me” dance. Healthy love doesn’t lie and obfuscate.

Some “love” is not good for us, and it’s not really love at all. Pedophiles “love” children. The addict “loves” their fix. When deciding to leave a cheater, chumps can borrow the language from addiction recovery — detach with love.

DETACH with love. But detach. Love, but do it from a distance. Love yourself more than to tolerate abuse and disrespect. Chumps hate to read “love yourself more.” Oh God, I don’t want to be the narcissist. I cannot be accused of selfishness!

You know what’s narcissistic? Thinking you can fix this. Thinking your love alone — your patience, your fortitude in the face of punishment — can change your cheater’s behavior. It’s just the opposite really. Your tolerance of that behavior reinforces to the cheater that they may treat you this way. You’re still there. Unconditionally. Taking it every day.

The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your cheater — is to leave. By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined.

And if it doesn’t matter? They never loved you. Not enough anyway.

This column ran previously.

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  • Took me more than 10yrs to give up all that love. I simply thought he would “come around”. It just got worse and went on to physical abuse. Run leave the love behind. It will never get better.
    They only love themselves.

    • Exactly I love this and exactly how I feel it took me 24 years to see the light I honoured my wedding vows and strangely enough I expected the same from my Narc husband, lol.

    • Same story here Lioness – so sorry that happened to you as well. I thought eventually he would calm down with the cheating and partying, but it got worse over the years and he became physically abusive several times in the last few of our 13 years together. He eventually slammed my head against the wall many times one night and gave me a serious concussion, which finally scared me straight and made me realize I needed to get out before ending up brain damaged or worse. Mental disorders are often degenerative and get worse with time. I wish I had the courage to leave much sooner, it would have been easier. But, better late than never. Long way from meh, but at least I’m safe and sane finally.

      • Mental disorders are degenerative…this.
        Chumps need to understand this. Once the brain starts to mis fire it keeps on that path. Neural pathways. Therefore we cannot love these people sane, nor to reciprocate our love. (Which by the way I wonder what we were really feeling. Was it love?)
        Love it wanting what is best for the other and sometimes what is best for them is us leaving them.
        In the words of Whitney Houston “ rather be alone than unhappy.”

  • There’s quite often a lot going on with cheaters – like “intermittent reinforcement” ….. That one crumb makes the shit sandwich easy to ignore – or just denial itself, which is the most powerful emotion.

    But CL is right – the best thing is to detach and get some distance. At some point you may (and in fact, probably will) realise you don’t “love” them so much when you’re no contact and are a happier person without the abuse.

    They may realise their loss and turn into a unicorn.

  • When I left ex narcopath on the 5th dday I thought I still loved him. I thought all the pain and anguish I felt proved the depths of my love. I thought the reason we couldn’t stay apart during all the Ddays was because of the DEPTH of our love for each other that on some level we were soul mates MEANT TO BE.


    Once I read up on narcissm, I discovered I was trauma bonded. Like a drug addict, I was addicted to the cycles of abuse. How ex acted was described in perfect detail in these books (read Psychopath Free). It took me a long time to even admit that I had been in an abusive relationship.

    I kept running in to people who would say “oh, ex is such a NICE Guy”, and in my depths of grief, this was agony to hear. It stood in stark contrast to how he treated me and his family.

    So, one day, I decided to sit down and make a list. Why did I even love this guy? What qualities and characterisitcs does he have that I even admire? (This happened when I was raging and humiliated at having to get tested for stds.)

    I write at the top of the list: What has ex ever done to show or prove his love to me THAT DID NOT BENEFIT HIM in some way?

    I was stumped. Anything I wanted to write was negated by the “did not benefit him in some way” clause. I was grasping at straws. Man, had I spackled. But, he made me a steak dinner! Yeah, But he was making steak for himself anyways. But, we took the kids boating! Yeah, at his suggestion because he wanted to go fishing. But, he talked about growing together as a family. Yeah, then he asked me to watch his kids for him during summer break while he was working. And it went on and on.

    It was the sex. He used the sex to evoke feelings of connection. Then he would drop little comments about sex he’d had with other people and I amped up the sex pick-me dance. He uses it as a weapon to keep me attached to him.

    Conclusion: I allowed myself to believe I was in love with a man that used and abused me and who in reality, has no redeemable qualities, character or integrity and who literally has never done one nice thing for me.

    I have also witnessed him execute this exact same play on 2 women since me and he did it to his ex wife before me.

    Eleven months post dday I do not feel the love. The trauma bond is resolving itself with time.

    I am working on loving myself and reiterating daily to myself that I deserve much better for my children and I and creating a new life surrounds by people who actually demonstrate they love me….

    And if I ever doubt who loves me, I just have to think back to my tribe of people who sat with me during my darkest hours. Who listened. Who cried with me. Who encouraged me. THAT is love.

    • You could be writing my exact story. I’ve tried to write that same exact list and also came up with nada. In fact, when I think back on our wedding day, I don’t think either one of us said we loved each other. I remember being so happy that day but he rarely said he loved me. I spackled that as him not being able to express it easily. But now I see it for what it was—he never loved me. I spent 10 years with him and when I was diagnosed with cancer he showed no care or concern. He asked zero questions about anything. Complete strangers cared more about my wellbeing than him. I can’t believe I married a person who cared so little for me.

      And still there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of him. That trauma bond is a b*tch. Like you I am now working on loving myself and creating a new life that includes people who demonstrate they love me. It’s hard work but I already have a happier, more authentic life without him.

      • CC, my ex rarely told me he loved me either. So I in turn never did either, although I loved him very deeply. I spackled thusly: “Actions speak louder than words.”

        These were his actions: he worked hard to support us (he worships money). He was “faithful” (I didn’t know he wasn’t). We saw eye to eye on things (I was always swayed to his viewpoint). He was a good father (he provided well). He occasionally gave me extravagant gifts—diamond earrings, a car, a trip to Asia (image management).

        So, his “love” for me was all in how I spun his actions to fit what I wanted to believe.

        Now that the scales have fallen from my eyes, I see clearly what his motivation was in everything he did: self interest and aggrandizement. I don’t love my ex at all any more either.

        Fortunately, there exists a man in the world who has all my ex’s good qualities, and none of the bad ones—our son. I can’t believe I finally learned how a good husband acts from my son. His wife is a very lucky woman, and she’s about to give birth to a baby boy who I’m sure will be just like his dad. Then I’ll have TWO wonderful men in my life!

        • this is exactly how my marriage worked. for 36 yrs. no words of love at all. “actions speak louder than words” Also no affection. Absolutely no touching. I no longer love him either but am trauma bonded. I also believe my identity is so built on our life toegether it is another trauma to tear away from that identity. It’s all Ive known since I was twenty years old. I am finding my anger and hate. looking for courage and strength. I fell in to the mindset of wanting to give my family the best chance possible to work this out. MISTAKE. it just makes it harder to leave.

          • Also, no pictures with me unless it was a family photo or too awkward to refuse. He would almost always stand apart from me. pretending to have a laugh or arm hug with someone else in the group.

    • Intermittent reinforcement and trauma bonding- yes to both! Until I stumbled on both in frantic Google search for why he behaves the way he does, I was caught in the vicious cycle. When I read about it I was stunned! I realized it was not just me, just him, or just us. It was the phenomenon that had been studied and well understood. And things started falling in places.

      And like you, I did the list. I heard the list suggestion from many but always resisted on doing it because I thought he had so many great qualities that pluses would outweigh minuses.

      I started with pluses. On number 6 or 7 I stumbled. The minus list is long and growing.

    • My ex would buy me presents, but they always had an emotional price…..I ‘owed’ him. He would suck up to me at times. But it felt fake, like pacification. At times he could be nice, but his word meant zero. Compulsive liar. It’s a sick way to live, always a doubt with every word out of his mouth. The stress affects us physically and mentally if we stay.

      These people often isolate us from friends and family. That makes it even harder to leave, much harder.

      Trauma bond, yes. Makes perfect sense. It was as if we had been thru many wars, but sadly he started almost every war and hardship. He was not my comrade, he was my opponent. I just didn’t know that.

      • My ex used to buy me expensive presents but more often than not they weren’t things I wanted, they were things he thought I should want. He bought me a $300 Gucci purse. I don’ t carry a purse. It was a very clear message at the time that he felt I should be carrying a purse because not carrying a purse was unfeminine. It also had to be an expensive purse because then people would know that I and by association he were superior people.

        • Ah, the expensive purse. Towards the very end he bought me a two overly expensive gifts (while we were in debt for 25K with two preschoolers, mind you). One was a $250 purse. I carry a $28 diaper bag/backpack and freely admit if an item can’t go through the washer, we are not meant to be together. It was a bizarre gift, though I tried to be grateful at the time. But I felt the directed shame of not being “that kind of woman”. After dday I realized Empty Sack o’ Human was just mirroring the AP, and I couldn’t even look at any of the “gifts”. So I donated them to ThredUp with the proceeds going to an organization that buys diapers for single parents living under the poverty line. That twisted symbol of his disdain for me got “magically” turned into cute baby poop catchers. This still makes me smile two years later. I no longer underestimate the healing power of symbolic transformation.

          • SomethingNew, I LOVE this so much. Brought tears to my eyes. I can relate in so many ways, my STBX wanting to buy me expensive gifts that were so not me, the shame of feeling both unappreciative and less than for not being that kind of person (not to mention the stress of knowing we couldn’t really afford such items). One of my conditions during wreckconciliation was no gifts. No more using material items to shortcut connection and intimacy. I didn’t want to be bought as cheaply as his massage parlor whores. A few months ago when I was still struggling with this concept of still loving him, did my leaving really harm the children etc. etc. etc. a postcard from a florist shop came to Husband Fakelastname (his favorite NBA star – oh yeah, one of his reasons for “acting out” was his disappointment that he didn’t make the NBA – despite quitting the basketball team his sophomore year of high school). Although he did give me overpriced gifts on special occasions, he never sent me flowers. That confirmed I definitely did the right thing.
            I love this idea of using that experience and stuff and transforming it into something good!

          • Something New, this sounds like a wonderful Friday challenge. How did you use the healing power of symbolic transformation. Along those lines, once my divorce is final, I plan to sell my engagement and wedding rings and donate the proceeds to a shelter for abused women.

          • My favorite post was a gift from the VKM. It has cats on it and has an expensive purse shape and neutral colors but ….cats. He got it on the internet and I guarantee it was under $50 because VKM goes for the thing he know I will love. And everyone comments on how cool it is. Started my cat purse trend. I also have cat-face shoes (Bob’s).

        • Yes, things he thought I should like or want.
          One time for Christmas he asked me what I wanted and I told him I wanted diamond stud earrings. He proceeded to get me another watch for my watch collection I never wanted to have. He justified it by informing me that he was going to give me what he wanted to give me because that’s what presents were. In other words, presents are what I want to give you not what you asked me for. So why ask, sane minds want to know? I got another watch for a watch collection I never wanted to have because he likes watches and likes to collect them. I wear 1 watch– the one I wear everyday and all the others sit in a drawer.
          I never got diamond stud earrings. (I did get cubic zirconia on white gold eventually.)

          • I got the expensive purse, too, with persistent explanations of why I should carry it. And clothes for cold-weather camping, even though I repeatedly told him that I HATED camping in the snow/extreme cold. I even joked that he should get a cold-weather girlfriend. (Joke was on me; I’m sure he had girlfriends for every season – shoulder seasons included.)

            I recently came to an interesting conclusion: He used to be obsessed with trying to make me have an orgasm, to the point where I would feel emotionally frustrated and physically raw. I thought that meant he cared so much about my pleasure! Nope, it meant that he only wanted to think of himself as being in masterful in bed. That came into clear focus one day when he wanted to know, at age 53, how he ranked in terms of my past lovers. I realized then that if I truly loved him, I would have done everything to make him feel like he was the best. But I was so disgusted with him, I just said, “Seriously? You want me to force-rank my lovers?”

            • Towards the end of my marriage my ex seemed to be obsessed with one of my previous lovers who hadn’t treated me very well. There were a number of things that ex seemed to think I had done for that guy that I wouldn’t do for him. He was wrong and at one time he knew better, but he remembered what he wanted to remember to feed his resentment of me. After DDay he said “I wish I hadn’t been so nice to you, maybe I would have gotten better out of you like so and so”. I was floored and very hurt and confused by that remark. Now it’s just a reminder of why he sucks.

              • That is so incredibly cold. He really spells out what his goal was for the relationship: “getting better (aka more) out of you” while giving as little back as possible. And his regret is that he could’ve likely gotten away with giving even less. Wow. Well, he’s telling you who he is, and who he is really sucks.

          • Our first years together I got diamond earrings or a necklace. I never mentioned wanting them. Then when we were married he started giving me gift certificates to an online jeweler I liked. After I had enough necklaces, I asked him politely one year to not get me another gift certificate to that jeweler. I never received another gift again. Nothing. Until the last year when he bought me a few items I had been wanting around the house for Christmas. Although one item was for “his” bathroom that he rarely let me use.

          • “He justified it by informing me that he was going to give me what he wanted to give me because that’s what presents were. In other words, presents are what I want to give you not what you asked me for. ”

            This is totally my cheater-ex. He would give such shitty, random gifts. Not just to me, but to his family/friends too. Books he bought on sale for himself, but decided he didn’t want to read, were pretty standard. It always struck me as one of his odd “quirks.” Now I know it’s a straight-up narcissistic trait.

        • My ex would buy me expensive jewelry and clothes and though I wanted a Toyota, he got me a Mercedes. I’m not saying I didn’t like the expensive gifts but each time I wore a new item to work, he would ask, “So what did Libby say about your new (necklace, bracelet, dress, etc.)?” I finally realized that he wasn’t giving me things out of love, he was doing it to hear the accolades about himself, about how lucky I was to be married to him.

        • It’s nice to know I am not the only woman out there who doesn’t carry a purse let alone an expensive one. 🙂

          • The expensive gifts are a trophy to themselves. “I’m such a good husband, look what I bought my wife!” I got 2 cars, neither of them I wanted and expensive jewelry. I am not a jewelry person. It’s all about them. They are trying to make themselves look good to everyone else. Who cares what the fuck you think as long as I look good!

            • Don’t tell me! Hoarding hubby asked me if I wanted a breadmaker for Christmas. I categorically said NO. Hate the damp squidgy bread they produce, the house was cluttered enough as it is and I at least wanted clear kitchen surfaces… guess what I was given for Christmas

    • I too read your comments and see so much of myself. And yes to the crumbs – the day before he had a narcissistic rage and I asked him to leave finally, he was growing desperate watching me not engage in the pick-me dance. He told me I looked cute and gave me a hug thinking that was going to be the crumb that made me stay (because, hey, she’d accepted that little before!). I saw it for what it was and realized that even at that point, he couldn’t offer me anymore. I’m this close to six months out and find myself still a little foggy however there is a clarity now about how little he loved me. Fortunately or not, he still does something each week to reinforce his narcissistic personality so that there is no ambiguity at all for me now about who he is and who I was with him.

      • OMG I got the same thing, “you look cute”. Crumbs. I was desperate for them in the beginning after discard and the pick me dance but now if I have to see him and he says it, I know it’s meaningless. He could be saying, “clouds and cheese” and it’s that empty to me. Mostly he tries to manipulate and control me with those 3 channels-rage/charm/self pity. Nothing works anymore. He needs to finally sign the papers and be free to penetrate as many random holes as he wants.

        • Agreed I love it penetrates random holes that’s exactkg how I feel after he put our family in danger by penetrating a “DRUG” addict and not even protecting himself, GROSSE!

        • “and be free to penetrate as many random holes as he wants”

          This… what sad lives they have. My ex husband is now depressed because he now realises it isnt all that. Too bad he lost his wife and only daughter over it.

    • Yup. I have reflected that in the 28 years married, 31 years together, my X asshat said my actual name less than 10 times. One of those times was in the e-mail he sent announcing he had moved out while I was away on a business trip, with zero warning.

      The only times he said my name was when he had to introduce me to someone at a gathering. Usually if we went to a party or work event we would arrive and then he would ditch me to be alone at some point, ignoring me and making me find a little group to cling to while he held court with other groups.

      It is all very clear to me now, the withholding of affection was brutal. I hope Schmoops is totes enjoying that! Given that she is a 25YO that prolly aint sitting quite so well……

      • Judas would do that to me too. When at social gatherings, he would just go off and ditch me. I recall being at a summer ‘game’ party with around 12 couples. I remember seeing couples still sitting by each other when they weren’t playing at the time. My Exhole? He would be off hanging with others, he never sat with me. I recall him telling someone one time that he “Sees me everyday,” so he doesn’t need to be around me. I also remember another time when camping – Judas was sitting watching some people play bean bags. I brought my chair over and sat down next to him. Within probably 30 seconds he just got up and moved his chair to the other side of the sidewalk. If that didn’t make me feel like nothing. Geesh.
        That brings back some memories… I can think of other instances. I was an idiot to stay with such an asshole for as long as I did!

        • I got ditched at social.gatherimgs too, including our wedding. He needed to talk to everyone but me.

          What does King’s X mean?

          • I didn’t know either, not being a native speaker. But I found the definition in a dictionary:

            King’s X
            —used as a cry in children’s games to claim exemption from being tagged or caught or to call for a time out

            Learn something every day!

          • Me too sadly.
            Everywhere we went everyone was more fun than me. I was the proverbial ball and chain.
            It makes sense though when you think about it.
            He’s really a 4 year old running off to find fun and play and you’re the mommy who has to go find adult conversation.

          • Oh man, whenever we would go out to dinner he would scan the room and look for someone he knows or talk to someone next to him or the bartender if we went for a drink. He would always tell me, as he is in sales, he needs to talk to people since he is always looking for the next deal, the things we have didn’t just show up it takes money. He would get pissed if I was at work and didn’t answer phone when he called, but when I called him it was always I don’t have time for this chit chat. I remember the last time we went for a drink, he was so concerned his phone was dying he asked the bartender to plug it in. Then we went for a walk to pick something up and he just walked away crossed the street way ahead of me, I kept calling hey wait up. He had a look of total anger and disgust on his face to me. Was confused then but now realize he was in the final stages of leaving me for his 26 yo coworker…and it was her text messages he didn’t want to miss.

            • Ugh, yes. He always walked way ahead of me, half a block. I am 5’3” to his 6’4” and it was my fault for not running to catch up with his long stride.

              The ignoring, pouting passive aggressive behaviors, the witholding affection, so many bad memories. And from yesterday’s column, the reminder of how he screamed and raged at me that I was to blame for the destruction of the marriage. I can see now I was conditioned to accept his abuse, 3 decades of it, and spent so long wondering how I must have messed it all up.

              In his entitled, infantile mind, I think he does believe that I was the problem. But I realize he was a completely inadequate husband. You know those fidelity quizzes that warn you about how you might be causing an affair by not having respect, by withholding sex, by letting yourself go— that was my X but I was faithful until the godforsaken end. Him, not so much.

              Glad to be free.

              • I was the one walking ahead, he literally dawdled or was playing games on his phone. He was mindful of time when it suited his purposes.

                And instead of speaking to me about it he had Schmoopie grab my hand and race through crowds, causing me to nearly trip or offending the people around us.

              • mine Would walk ahead too. I am 5’2” . He’s 5’7” . Not that big a difference but he had to be a dick and stride off. I pointed it out once he gave some crap excuse. I mentioned it a second time, he slowed a bit and I sped up a bit. Then he did it a third time. I said feck it! I walked leisurely along and did a stop and stare. He realized later I was not behind him and stood waiting in a huff. I came along and acted like nothing happened.

                I hate having to run demonstrations to get an adult in a relationship to understand the need to be considerate. So after that I’d avoid going out with him. Bliss!

                I’m sure he knew that sooner or later I’d get rid of him. By his own admission he was not a good husband and I was good to him…of course Within days he wanted to kill me and screeched that I never loved him…then a few days after that he wanted to come home and have us work to fix things….then a few days after THAT he was praying for my mental health, because , you know ,I’m crazy (but the kids can stay living with crazy ole me)…then a few days after THAT he wants me to see the counselor with him cause he needs his wife by his side.

                He’s nuts and was probably hoping to send me nuts ! Lol! Epic fail.

                Over the weekend he managed to delete a text I sent informing him of arrangements for,our children in an effort to make it look as if I was not tardy in informing him of their activities. He copied the chat in part and emailed it to me. The part he omitted? The information that I had resent him which I copied from earlier in the text correspondence. And good thing too! When I looked back in the chat it was deleted. If I had not copy and pasted I’d have sworn it was never there. But he was at great pains to try to show I was tardy in sending the information so I knew he was up to no good. I’ve since changed my phone settings. These people cannot be trusted in any form.

          • I hate that! I am 4’10”. I am comfortably over 40, and being forced to fox trot to meet someone’s pace is a huge turn-off. I will never be with anyone who doesn’t want to walk beside me.
            I had a team recently for a software client, where the team was 6′ men, I was the shortest. They gave us a conference room with those high bar-stool type chairs, and I couldn’t get in the chairs. To tease me, the team selected a restaurant with high bar-stool type chairs (they are so hard to get into). I got back at them, though – I had quinoa for lunch and got the most terrible gas as a result….. > 🙂

      • Ohmy!! Same to the ditching at social things!! He would hang with the guys (friends, cousins, strangers) and maaaaaybe check in ocassionally and then sometimes tell me I ruin the event by being so unhappy. He actually did that one evening on our honeymoon with total strangers on Paris (maroccan pot dealers, it was so dumb), I was sitting bymyself on the steps of the Sacre Couer watching it and eventually started walking back to the hotel he then followed drunk and loud and pissed off. Think those guys might have robbed him if he had stayed. This was my most insane example of the ditching the others were just constant…

        One family trip, I felt a little jealous watching my SIL all the time lovingly held/ taken care off by her husband while mine was men talking with his cousins and the guides ALL THE TIME.

    • You nailed it. I need to make my list and recognize my trauma bonding to the man I “love”. I have definitely been on a diet of crumbs. I need some real food. Thank you.

    • Wow. I love that you wrote a list, just reading what you wrote was another a-ha moment for me. Mine never really did anything nice for me either, just tiny gestures that I would blow out of proportion to mean more than it really did. Oh he killed a bug for me! He must love me if he didn’t want me to have to endure killing a bug in my own kitchen! Yea…that was literally my thinking at that time. I was really grasping for any sign that he actually cared and I had been reduced to being excited about a man killing a bug in my kitchen as a form of affection.

    • Thank you for your insightful post, Chumpedincanada. It was just what I needed to read today.

    • ChumpinCanada – I’m right there with ya. Oddly for me, it was a question that X asked me that alerted me to the fact that I was mistaking “love” for “spackle.” He asked me, “What is it that I really do for you that you can’t do for yourself?” The answer to that question was absolutely, 100% nothing. But the more interesting part of that is that he didn’t even do the things I could do for myself for me. He WOULDN’T do those things. He didn’t have a kind bone in his body. If he did anything, it was because it was going to benefit him in some way.

      Your suggestion of taking an inventory of their good character traits is a really great way to be real with yourself about the person you’re investing in. Are they investing in you? I would say the majority of chumped individuals were dealing in a very lopsided relationship. The cheater doesn’t do anything for anyone unless it benefits them. They lack empathy which translates into thinking about someone else long enough to “do” for them. Reciprocation is at the heart of all of this. CL has great posts on all these points.

    • It was so hard to let go after 38 1/2 years. I loved who I thought my husband was. Turns out that it was all just an illusion. The pain they cause should be considered criminal. Our only child (our daughter) will be marrying this November. Thinking of seeing him at the rehearsal party and he and his family at the wedding makes me sick (OW is not allowed to attend although she wormed her way into my daughter’s graduation, THANK GOD I WAS ABLE TO AVOID ANY CONTACT!!!!!) Heard recently that he was rushed to the hospital with heart problems. At first I cried, but then I realized he didn’t have a heart so it really didn’t matter. I will always regret that I gave my daughter a horrible example of a husband!!!!!!!!!

      • Ihatehim, I loved who I thought ex narcopath was, too. When we met, he professed similar interests and the same values. He pretended to be a good dad and he engaged easily with my children. Unbuckled my toddler son from the car seat and that made me melt (my kids dad NEVER did car seats) and would put my toddler son up on his shoulders and carry him all around.

        But it was all an act. Around month 3 his mask was slipping and the monster underneath was peaking out. I just had no idea what I was witnessing. My cognitive dissonance was pretty high because I thought: he’s a family man! The reality was he is a super shitty father and a really bad step dad. He started picking on my son. He was jealous of him and my son was 3 years old! (He was not the bio dad).

        In some ways, I miss who he pretended to be during the love bombing phase. He could be really fun and silly and our connection was intense. But the reality of every day life living with him and watching how he treated the kids and his family and his ex wife and then finally me? That is who he is. He is a monster.

        It took me a long time to accept that he never really loved me. He professesd that he did. Said it all the time to me. I don’t think he knows what love is. The words are empty. And yes, he is heartless.

        And again, I’ve said this before, but he has groomed 2 new victims after me, and he has the same playbook with them that he had with me. Down to the same compliments, same vacations, same expectations with his kids (making their lunches, watching them while he works, etc) so that removes the happy memories I had of him, when I know he is executing the exact same memories with these new women. Who does that?

        I can’t find anything to even like about him anymore….

      • I’m so sorry, I feel your pain, you are right it is criminal. 40 years for me, and now I see I chose badly, all those red flags! But your daughter has your example of kindness and character. Mine told me, before we knew about the affairs, to divorce him, just on his behaviour to me. Hugs

        • I am relatively new here. At the moment I am reading in order to understand the total madness which was my life. I am out 1 year and sometimes it is very hard. I wish I found this site 8 yrs ago, when I met him, 6 yrs ago when I got married or one month after I got married which was my DD1. MonstersoontobeX once called specifically to tell me that he will stop telling me he loves me because it is not manly and what he does shows that he loves me but I can continue telling him that I love him because it is a woman and a good wifely thing…go figure. I asked him where was sense in that and I asked him if he can listen to what he is saying. A few days later he agreed it was a messed up thing to say. Based on my character, he introduced porn sneakily. I even started watching it in order to please him and felt really bad that I did not really like or enjoy it as much as he did. Along with him I wondered what was wrong with me. One day I was on medication which was making me throw up and feel nauseated. I had been lying down in our bedroom and decided to join him in the living room. He was watching porn and I was so disgusted with what was being played that I ran to the bathroom to throw up he threw a hissy fit. I was shocked at the intensity of his emotions. I could not understand why. Now I do. In my case he started asking for a divorce in our first year of marriage, packing his bag and disappear for days. He asked for divorce 2-3 times a year…his reason….waaaiiiit… I did not trust him and there is no marriage without trust. I would be left at home heartbroken and crying myself to sleep. I remember standing at the sink washing dishes and bending over crying due to pain. I lost so much weight he laughed saying that I am disappearing in front of eyes. It was painful to hear it especially the laugh and the way he said it. I would beg him to come back (barf) and would promise not to be suspicious and will do better at trusting him (more barf). Last year he threatened me 3 times and I finally threw in the towel in July. After over 15 divorce threats I was done, and I am going to put it into action and finalize it. He thought I will not do it. We filed 2 months ago. I am glad I found this site 3 months ago because I thought I was drowning and still wanting him back. The sites which was geared towards reconciliation made me feel like there was something wrong with me since my MonstersoontobeX was not remorseful nor apologetic. When I found CL and CN I felt like I was finally gulping huge breath of fresh air as I was drowning. I did not understand what I was dealing with but now I do. It was good to find people who wanted out or were forced out of their marriage and long term relationships. There is a special place in heaven for chumps. I am not minimizing anyone’s marriage but I have to say A HUGE HATS OFF to those who were married for 20, 30, 40+ years for having the courage to leave and start over. You make me stop complaining or feeling sorry for myself. This is brutal and I was married for 6 yrs only and I do not have children although I am in my early 40s. I refused to stay at home and have kids as my MonstersoontobeX had suggested. Let us hold hands and keep matching on. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

          • Oh lovely Chumped!! Your Mighty is showing xxx The stbxh was regretful about pain caused to me and the kids but no remorse about the EA or how he handled it. Your comment about expectations from RIC and how it made you feel has helped me, thank you! So glad you’re a citizen of Chump Nation and yes let’s hold hands and move on. Hugs to you today ❤

  • This is a theme I noticed over decades – and not just with me. I remember a young(ish) mother of four sitting in my office and sadly commenting, “I always thought the reason people divorced was because they really didn’t love each other in the first place.” In fact, people divorce people they love. That heartbreak was very common among my friends – who couldn’t stay married to the train wreck any longer. And because enough women did that in the latter part of the 20th century – women are no longer the social outcasts they used to be. That piece changed a bit. The rest is all horrible. The attorneys, the courts, the custody. And the loving. As gruesome as discovery is – technology has helped to out partners who in the past have gotten away with cheating – serial cheating. Discovering texts, e-mails, predatory ads was really the single greatest factor in helping me to truly detach. Eventually. There it is. Who they are. Read all about it. You are useful until you are not. That works both ways.

  • Kings X

    There’s a well known narcissist who makes money writing books about narcissism. He frames the victims of narcissistic abuse as volunteers. It really irks the shit out of me.

    No one signs up or knows what’s in store for themselves once they get involved with a predator. For many it takes years to uncover the lies, deception and cheating. Unfortunately, by this time many feel quite hopeless within the situation they are in and put their energies into fixing, giving more of themselves and fighting for the very person whose words have become all powerful.

    It’s no wonder actions are ignored. The game was rigged from the onset. What makes us believe? We’ve been conditioned for years believing we shared goals, children, a home, and that history, memories, and above all that WE mattered in the relationship.

    We weren’t volunteers, we believed and loved too much. Where does reconciling leave us? For me it striped me of my identity. I couldn’t see myself without my abuser despite having enough to support myself independently.

    As LAJ so wisely stated in another post it’s fear that keeps us there despite knowing the truth. Clinging to the life raft with a slow leak inevitably leads to discard and unbearable trauma. It’s a cycle of abuse and bond so powerful that seeing and knowing aren’t enough to detach and swim to the shoreline in the distance to save oneself.

    No one signs up for this. To be repeatedly humiliated, conned and devalued. Yet, being thst very person who clung to the raft still loving my abuser, I decided to fight for myself and face the pain.

    Now with clarity I see it wasn’t about detaching with love. It was detaching from a predator. A person who never cared about my health or well being. A manchild who was so selfish and evil that enjoyed the very pain he inflicted.

    • Exactly. I had no idea it(covert narcissism) was even a thing.
      It never occured to me and it never *would* have occured to me.
      Abusers like to say “you must have known”
      Its just more abuse. Translated it means its your fault for being so gullible.
      In reality abusers are incredibly broken. They hate the fact that *they* were victims at some point. They were gullible at some point. We all are.
      But that doesn’t make it ok and its no reason that we should be made to tolerate their abuse.

      • My ex used to say “nice guys finish last”. He thought he wasn’t where he wanted to be in life because he was too nice so he decided to stop being nice. Now he’s lost everything that really matters but I don’t think he realizes that.

        • My husband wasn’t nice but an arrogant asshole. I’m pretty sure he has lost everything that matters for a twice married cheating w_____. How they downgrade is amazing!!!!Hope their lives include checking emails, text messages, any new employees at their work (he loved to cheat at work) and any social media everyday!!!! Not my problem anymore!!!!!!! Just wish I could get him out of my life forever!!!!!!!!!!

  • 5 years post divorce and 7 years of no contact, I do miss the man I thought he was.
    It’s sad and the loss is real.
    There’s no reason to reach out to the fake-facade of an ex because the man I thought he was isn’t there. That person only lived inside my head.

  • I do believe now that fuckwit is incapable of love. He only gives “pay for service” and seeks admiration.

    But, I also question my own ability to love and I have no idea how to answer that. I figure years of trying to please him so he would love me, shows that I do not know how to love. I wasn’t really feeling love either. I was only feeling “I did something right” if he were to reward me with any type of warmth.

    I don’t think I wanted to stay because I truly loved him but because I wanted to do the right thing. I didn’t want my children to have a divorced family.

    I still have a lot to learn. I hope I can.

    • A year or so before D day, I told one fo my few male friends that I did not think that males were capable of love…mind you I was using a sample of 2 (my narc dad and narc husband). I still hoped I was wrong but I was right that my thenhusband was incapable of love.

      It was a LONG time before resolution…the whole shit storm, him leaving, wreckonciliation, his death – then I found a worksheet he had done for an anger class where he wrote “I never loved my wife”

      Well there you go.

      Something I feared so deeply, I was convinced the earth would crack open and swallow me whole.

      and it didnt

      Im remarried and I love my husband…I believe its a healthy, intentional love, but if he ever abused me half as much as H1.0, I would leave.

      Other areas of love…well…my parents finally abused my love for them to death. I have marginal benevolent concern, but I don’t love them.

    • Feelingit, I am with you here doubting my own ability to love. Cheater tried consistently to convince me that I never loved him, what is love anyways, I only married him because ” I needed a sperm donor”. I think he was trying to get reassurances from me but I would mostly joke back.

      He never said he loved me so I did not say it in turn but I loved him or so I thought. I was so commited, so invested and pick-me-tapped to his ever changine tunes. I now realize he never treated me well and I am confused. When you see abuse you realise there cannot be love. Yet, I stayed for 12 years eating shit. Why?

      A million dollar question to figure out.
      That’s the reason I don’t want to have any relationship anymore. Not that I am against men but I am doubting my own ability and frankly scared of being burned again.

    • Just because your love was not honored, it does not mean you do not know how to love. I understand the doubts and the fears. I doubt I will ever date again and I am ok with that belief. At the same time, I know I am capable of love, perhaps not the storybook love that is based on fantasy, but real, genuine love.

      I am quite sure you you are a loving person. After all, your first thoughts were not for yourself. They were for your children. Does that not in itself show love?

      Do not believe that your cheater’s inability to love reflects poorly on anyone but him. To think otherwise is to buy the classic cheater lie the you are unlovable without him. You deserve more; never believe anything less about yourself.

  • When I look back on my 22 year marriage, I can’t believe that I thought that was love. Although I only know of the one affair that he left me for, there was so much lying and cheating in other forms. But I LOVED him and so I forgave him. Honestly, I should have seen that an affair would be the next logical step for him to take. Lesson learnt. Don’t forgive repeated lying and cheating in ANY form.

    I think I genuinely loved the idea of an intact family. But I still have that. Actually I have a MORE intact family than when he was here.????

    • I see those types of threads on well known infidelity forums every single day. The betrayed wives are just pitiful doormats.

      Sadly, even MORE pitiful are all the foolish members encouraging her to stay with the POS and send him to therapy, as though that’s the magic cure for everything that ails you.

      These types will always leave their pride and dignity at the door in order to stay with these worthless pieces of shit.

      • Counseling was an integral part of my 27 year relationship….he lied and cheated anyway….#moneytimewasted…..

  • ChumpLady,

    Your columns are so good, you could make a second book consisting of columns alone. I can see that it would be a huge bestseller at airport bookstores.

    You’re the best!

    Todays’ gem:
    “The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your cheater — is to leave. By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined.”

  • At the start of the month, my STBXW went dancing with a group of women on our 14th wedding anniversary. I ended up in crisis intervention and my counselor was ready to involuntarily hospitalize me for a suicide watch (but didn’t b/c I didn’t have a plan). I found out recently she organized the outing as a, “I’m getting divorced so let’s celebrate party.” Did she ever love me? I don’t think so. Did she ever love our family? I don’t know, a friend tells me she’s thrilled to be kid free every other week. Same friend says she’s telling everyone – rather convincingly it seems – how happy she is. Meanwhile, I started medication for depression and anxiety. Addicted to the abuse cycle? Longing for intermittent (GREAT) sex that I thought meant, deep down, she really loved me? Trauma bonded? Again, I don’t know. But this all sucks so incredibly much.

        • Crap. Hang tight…don’t shite.

          My cheater went about posing up a storm after he left. Went to great pains to appear ‘happy’. He’s not. Same miserable ass. But to these people image is alllll/ everything. They will do anything to look good but not anything to be good decent. Read the portrait of Dorian gray. Don’t be deceived.

          Of course I make sure I look happy and well cause I know it pisses him off royally that I’m not in a straight jacket. Would you believe he threatened to come back home! ( I call it a threat cause…really!) I think he figures he didn’t finish me off well enough!Lol! Fcuk you buddy! (Not you yessshesucks)

          As they say in French Caribbean creole “ sa zie pa wey ,tche pa vle “ ( what the eyes don’t see , the heart doesn’t want)
          Simply put avoid seeing her, hearing about her. No contact. You will think about her. Meh! Got to wait that out but you’ll think of her less and less then not at all.

          Also re sex….chumps report having better sex post cheaters! Who knew! Stick around to find out! Cheers! Here is too a future full of shitty days with increasing sunshine . You’re going to make it the whole way.

    • We took our boys to see our therapist today (probably a one time thing). I like our therapist who has worked well with mine to help me understand things. But I haven’t always agreed with her. Today she just fed into my STBXW’s impression mgt story. Still love. Will always love. Tried hard.

      How can I have loved someone who doesn’t have a strong sense of self? Is it love to be addicited to solving her problems and a cycle of abuse? Does someone love the one they abuse? I don’t think she loved me. I sure as hell don’t think she does now.

      Maybe she did try hard. I don’t think she wanted to hurt me (and she knows she did and regrets it as an unfortunate consequence of her seeking happiness). I think she tried hard to hide her character and shitty morals. Tried hard to hide the person she is. But that is a false equivalency to how I tired to build a life together. How I tried to be a supportive partner. I LOVED despite it all. She can’t truly love. And I am profoundly sad at my, and my boy’s, loss.

      • I’m so sorry you’re here, but I hope that you know that once she’s gone, that you will be much better off. We’ve all been where you are, insecure, believing we just didn’t do enough, that there’s something wrong with us else they would love us. But I really hope that you will listen when we ALL say, “Trust that they suck.” It’s not you, it was never you. It’s all about them and you just aren’t as useful anymore. We were just stepping stones till their next thrill. Stay strong. Take the rose-colored glasses off and really see her for who she is. And the most LOVING thing that you can do for her is to say, “No more.” When she’s gone to another person, do not compare yourself to her new fling. Take care and keep coming back here for support.

        • Thank you. I’m trying and don’t feel close to meh. But I’ve come along way in 16 months too. Everything ended when I stopped the pick me dancing 2 months ago. I’m having a very hard time with trusting she sucks (hence it as my screen name, maybe I’ll believe it someday) as I watch some people take her side and she gets what she wanted (freedom, in one word). It makes the loneliness worse, but I have built a good support group over the last 16 months too.

          • There are probably a lot more people out there who recognize that she sucks than you think. Most people recognize cheating on your spouse as abhorrent behavior but most people also don’t like to make a scene or confront people on their morally deviant behavior. They are still quietly thinking that she sucks, however, and most people who are friendly to her probably don’t really trust or respect her. Meanwhile, there are many who will recognize you as the strong one who is sticking around to be the sane parent to your son. You will be respected for that. Your son will grow to respect that as well. Although he may still love his mother, he will know that she is flawed and that you are the one who stuck around. You are the one he can depend on and that is huge. The corollary to “Trust that she sucks” is “Trust that you don’t suck” or better yet, “Trust in your own awesomeness”.

            • I’ve come to see there are some, and I’m trying to stick things out in our common circles. For the most part, she’s moved to a whole new group of people to make her feel good. Her impression mgt has worked with a few people and I’m having a hard time getting over it. Trying. Thank you for your support.

              • Oh yes. They find a whole new group of friends. People that suck find people that suck. They enable and feed off each other. Sickos. Just find a piece of shit that’s just like you and boom, your good. Asses. Mine had multiple versions of himself that played out depending on who he was around. Many found out he was cheating so he dumped those. The mask was removed and his true character was out. Yesshesucks I’m pulling for you. I am more and more grateful to be away from my cheater and I hope you get that too. It’s still hard sometimes and loneliness kicks in but that’s ok. Recognize that you’re going through hell on earth and tell yourself you’re ok and just keep going. You’ll get there. You are mighty and sane. Your marriage was truth and real love to you. That’s important. She did this. Not you.

          • Sounds like you still need to enter the stage where you are ANGRY and PISSED OFF at them, it helped me to get to no contact and see him for what he is. Its ok to miss/mourn who you thought she was, its ok you loved her. Its not ok what she does to you. Dont let her manipulate you.

            • I know. I know. I’m just not there. I really wanted to reach out last night (I was so lonely). I didn’t. She has our kids tonight (even more lonely, but I HATE her because I had to leave them). I’m not going to reach out, but I don’t know if I could turn her away. I guess, luckily (?) she’s still very much in a discard phase (and I do think it’s a final one). I guess there needs to be a lot of time for healing …

      • Yesshesucks, you wrote “I loved despite it all…”

        When I was in the dark depths of despair trying to rationalize that he never really loved me…one thought that kept me floating above water, and I think that CL wrote it in a column was :

        But I know how to love.
        I poured all my love and hope in to our blended family. I loved his boys and his parents. My children are everything. And I loved him very deeply. I thought he was my soulmate.


        Repeat that to yourself. You are capable if deep feelings towards another human being.

        They are shallow fucks for not appreciating what they had in us. They saw our willingness to give and they snatched it up with their greedy hands and USED IT AGAINST US.

        For you it was real. YOU KNOW HOW TO LOVE.

        • Oh, Chumpedincanada, this is something I’m trying desperately to believe as my “support team” keeps telling me it’s true. There are years of being told I don’t do love right. That I am broken, messed up. Her story is very much about waiting for me to figure it out, and be the man for her, before giving up and wrongly cheating on me. I have yet to fully accept the depths of her emotional manipulation and psychological abuse. I am hoping continued counseling, my first try with medication, and good friends can get me there and beyond. Your words here are so much appreciated as well.

          • I am so sorry to hear of what you are going through yesshesucks. I am glad you found CL and CN. It is good to read from a male chump and know there are good men who genuinely love and are faithful to their wives. My Cheater said that I am damaged within the first 6 months of our relationship. His reason, I was damaged by my previous relationships and could not handle such a good man that is why I was suspicious he was cheating on me. I was so shocked because I would never have called any human being damaged but now I can call him damaged. Deep down I knew I was not damaged because I knew who I was and I had only dated 2 other guys before him and none of them were abusive. DD1 was exactly one month after we got married. Everything my gut told me he was doing, He was doing it.

            I am almost 1 year out but I sometimes miss him terribly or maybe I miss the man I thought he was, I am not sure. 3 months ago he asked me to give us a chance and all I felt was fear in my heart. He was never physically abusive but his words cut like a knife. Just the thought of going back to him scared me so much I started physically shaking but calmed down when it dawned on me that I have a choice. I said No. It has been rough but I know I am doing the right thing for me. Keep looking ahead, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

      • You sound a lot like me. You are so understanding or at least always trying to. Stop it! People will make up their own excuses for shit. They don’t need help.

        You do not have to agree with your therapist at all. You don’t. You lived it. Not they.
        Mine wanted me to reconsider ending the marriage. Said that we were both selfish…cheater for cheating and me for studying (you see what therapist did there.?) yea…no. My therapist didn’t live my hell. I did and I was not going to pay him to encourage me to stay in it.

        Cheaters don’t love. They don’t love themselves, nor us, nor their children. They put a need for centrality first. They love attention…that’s about all they love. They seek attention at all cost. They will not sacrifice for the greater good. They will not put family first. They are destroyers of family life.

        See it for what it is. Clarity of thought is important. Try not to romanticize.
        You aren’t giving her what she wants…she doesn’t want love dammit! She wants to be worshiped, catered to, made to feel special 24/7 and never ever called out on her shit. ..and it’s not reciprocal. Not a sustainable scenario. But since you love her (and not the other way around) you can give it a try.

        Alternatively just Be the sane parent as we say here. Your children need one sane parent. Dig your heels in, put on those big boy boxer briefs with the polka dots and those boxer gloves and come out swinging.

        Get some of your steam off, write or whatever.

        Keep coming here , take CL/CN meds and you’ll be cured in no time.

    • “Addicted to the abuse cycle?”

      You’re not addicted to the abuse itself, but the chemical cocktail when you get some relief from your spiraling anxiety. Anxiety and excitement feel very similar. Glad you are getting the hell out of that mess and I’m so sorry you found yourself almost in the hospital.

      Despite it being written with women as the intended audience, and being rather dated, Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why Does He DO That?” will still ring a lot of familiar bells for you.

      She’s abusive and untrustworthy. That’s what you need to know. You may have to deal with joint custody for various reasons, but try not to doubt that you are a solid chocolate bunny and she’s hollow. Hang onto that whenever you feel the crazy despair trying to overwhelm you and kick your courage to make a change for the BETTER (you, your kid, who knows how many others who witness you getting out of the FOG [fear, obligation, guilt] zone).

      • Thank you for the recommendation. I’ll look into it. I’m one of those lucky chumps with a mental health training background that regularly thought, “No, it can’t be that …” Relearning, and better understating, some things and applying them to my life/our relationship is very humbling. My picker is very broken and I don’t trust my instincts because of a need to be liked. I put up with things, and try to make it work, because I don’t want to be alone. Now I have to get okay with being alone, and not worrying so much what people think. It seems very daunting. Maybe undoable. Right now I’m just trying for my boys.

        • Do you think you’re somewhat codependent? I know I am/was, and I’m hearing similarities. There are good books that help, I’m reading Codependent No More by Beattie. As for the caring so much what people think, look up Mark Manson. I like his blog, and while I haven’t read his book, it may be worth looking at, it is wonderfully titled: The Suble Art of Not Giving A F*ck. (He actually advocates saving your f*cks for what really matters and nurtures your life.)

          • I have more than a few co-dependent symptoms. My counselor has had to work really hard to get me to believe I’m not as messed up as she’s told me for years. I’m a caregiver for sure, with poor boundaries.

            Idk if I can read that book. A friend of ours swears by it saying it helped her recover from her narcissist ex. She sided with my STBXW (who my counselor and our therapist believes also has cluster B traits, at minimum) and her search for independence and freedom. I feel crazy everytime someone takes her side and doesn’t understand the years of abuse. Especially those who claim to have suffered similar abuse.

            • Denial of our realities always makes us feel crazy. Like screaming, jumping up and down, jabbering incoherently to ourselves and everyone nearby. However, what someone else thinks doesn’t change a damn thing about what actually happened in your life. People do weird stuff for all kinds of weird reasons all the time. You can’t control other people’s choices. But their choices can tell you a lot about who they are, and that lets you make a choice of how much you want to invest in them. That’s what you control in this life: your own choices. And one of the most empowering choices can be calling bs where you see it. So she sided with your wife on her…what did you call it “search for independence and freedom”? Puke. Sorry. Aren’t those some interesting euphamisms for purposefully screwing people over? She sided with someone who knowingly did things that would hurt the people she should try to protect above all else? Huh. They both sound awesome.

    • Oh Yesshesucks, I can hear your heart being torn to pieces in your post. I’m so sorry, but I have to agree with you: Yes, she sucks. It does sound to me like you are still too emotionally invested in her, and looking for comfort from the person who has no problem stabbing you in the back, which I hope I don’t have to tell you is unhealthy. Did she ever love you? That answer only matters if you let her answer define your self-worth. I think you may agree with me that she certainly isn’t DOING love, and that’s what you have here. Now, and going forward. She is what she is, and you can’t “love” her into becoming anything else. From here out, you have a responsibility to care for yourself, because if you don’t, it becomes other people’s responsibility, e.g. your counselor’s. No one can do this job as well as you can, as you are with you 24/7 and know the in’s and out’s of your own life. (I know this is a weird framing, but it’s what got me to stop always putting myself and my needs at the bottom of the heap for fear of being “selfish”.) You need to detach, still having the input of “what she’s doing” is HURTING you. No contact really, really, really works. But you have to make the decision to no longer want to know what they’re up to, you have to take the jump off the drama/abuse carousel. Then you take all that energy you’ve been throwing down a well and invest it into yourself and building yourself a life you can be proud of. If that sounds overwhelming, know that this is a skill that builds on itself, each step forward makes the next ones a bit easier. Journey before destination 🙂

      • Thank you. Words I needed to hear. I’d be lying to say I’m not still deeply grieving. I really liked your framing of me needing to take care of myself so others don’t have to. I need those others now (I’m sure you know that), but I need to take care of me eventually. Thanks especially for that insight.

        • Actually, learning to let others care for you *is* part of caring for yourself. You are worth other people’s time and affection. Accept, appreciate and reciprocate their love. We are naturally social creatures, and building and reinforcing a healthy community builds strength and resiliency in us. But nobody can be there for you all the time everywhere you go, so you need to build yourself up to a place where you’ve got two good legs to stand on. For you, for your kids, for all the people who love you. When you choose to do things that hurt you, your pain is inadvertently hurting your loved ones, because they care. I’m not saying that to make you feel guilty (I’m sure you’re full up), I’m saying it because if you feel you don’t have the strength to go No Contact for you right now, maybe you can find it for others.

          • Somehow I found the strength to do some of this the last 16 months. Actually, two friends saw where this was going and (in hindsight) didn’t give me any other options. They’ve just been there while I pick me danced and tried to meet all her unrealistic expectations (while taking her abuse and always being ready to pleasure her). One or two more have stepped up in the aftermath. It’s a daily struggle to not feel like a burden. Again, reading your comments are validating and they help tremendously.

          • SomethingNew,
            What you said rang a bell with me. The narcissistic alcoholic was always commenting about how good it was that I could take care of myself. Looking back I can see that he was absolving himself of responsibility to do the adulting. My reward for being so self reliant was crumbs that rotated from “you’re so good for me (but not good enough for him to reciprocate)” to “you didn’t need to do that (clean up his nasty mess), I would have done it (eventually, maybe, or not)” to “you don’t respect me the way you should.”

            But doing something spontaneously helpful was beyond his ability. This man didn’t respect himself. Not ever. Thus it wasn’t possible for him to respect me, because he didn’t know how.

            As a result I closed myself off emotionally. I got so used to being gaslighted that I turned into an emotional brick wall to protect myself. I longed for love, but couldn’t trust anyone to love me.

            I had to get to meh with him before I could relax and trust people again.

    • I hear you, my ex who I keep in touch with because we share a child likes to tell me about all the wonderful times she’s having drinking and such, but then again shes utterly delusional and a big fat liar. I still feel very sad and weepy most days, but for me it’s a self esteem issue, where I think I can’t do better than a cheating slut. I do believe things will get better, and my child lives with me during the week, so I know I’m lucky.

      • That sounds awful. We have four boys and I had wanted a 75/25 split. She wouldn’t go for it, so we’re 50/50 right now. People say she’ll want them less eventually. I don’t think she wants them that much now, but: impression managment. Of course, I can’t see her giving up every other weekend free to party so when she’s ready to discard them I’m not sure what it’ll look like.

        Did she just agree to the custody agreement ya’ll have?

        • As soon as I found out about her cheating said our daughter is living with me, and she just agreed. It was my daughter who’s now 10 who asked to stay with her mum weekends. We only live a few minutes apart, and my ex has her in the mornings to take to school as I start work very early. I have had one instance of my kid ringing me one Sat night coz mum had disappeared, I raced around and found the ex in a car with some guy while our 10 year old was crying, alone in her house. Needless to say I was furious! The ex even tried to gaslight our child “I told you where I was”, which my kid said “I didn’t know where you were mum”.

          Far out, co parenting with a fuckwit. But I just continue to be sane, boring, stable, sober and honest, and it is paying off, my child is wonderful.

          I found out Nov 2016, finally left her April last year, and been disappointed so many times. Though I’m lucky my ex doesn’t want me back coz I’d be chumping coz yes, dammit, I still love her, but she’s awful, she’s a liar, she betrayed me, gaslighted me my entire marriage. You know the drill. It does get better, coz there are some horror stories here coupled with great survival stories.

    • Oh yes
      The sex got me hooked on xnbf after stbxh and I separated.
      He started strong in the early love bombing but the great sex was me – he was actually selfish and objectifying and in it for him.
      Zero contact has been the way to recovery. I thought I loved him but I didn’t really love him because I only loved what I thought he was. He sucks. I was played. He’s a degenerate. I’m embarrassed that I was involved with such a predator fraud.

      It’s not easy but when you start separating and start doing things for yourself and loving yourself it gets better.

      • Ugh, I lost my post I think. The short of it was she hooked me with sex right away (my first, and only, now 36). But she was often selfish. Before the final devaluation and discard we had an almost two month stretch burned into my mind. I miss the physical feelings, but I know I’m also reeling from the sense of validation I associated with being her lover. I feel grossly inadequate and can’t believe I’ll ever feel that good, or special, again.

    • More hugs to you. You sound compassionate, kind, and decent. All of us deserve so much better than what we got. Cheaters steal from chumps without a backward glance. Don’t let her steal anything else from you. I keep telling myself to stop letting him take up real estate in my head!!

  • It took a 3rd DDay, separating, trying to wreckoncile (that was a disaster), filing & going through with the divorce for me to realize that I had fallen out of love with Fucktard eight years earlier after DDay #2. I didn’t want my kids having divorced parents. I wanted my family together, even through good times & bad. Once I got out & went completely no contact, the blinders came off. I feel nothing for him. I don’t wish him well, but I don’t wish him harm. If he died tomorrow, I would feel bad for my kids losing their father, but that’s even pushing it as he hasn’t even been a very good one of those for them at all.

    • If my Exhole died tomorrow, I’d probably send my kids Congratulatory cards…. One can only dream. Sigh….

      • LadyStrange

        I feel you, one can only dream….

        I went for STD testing. I found out that I have Herpes 1 and 2. I wished I had syphilis or gonorrhea because it is curable. I told him I tested positive for 2 STDs but did not tell him which. I had a break out on my lip but did not know it was herpes but he did. My cheater went for his testing and came back happily telling me that his STD tests came back negative and even sent me a copy of the results saying I should think about what I did. I took a copy of his results to my doctor who said that he was not tested for herpes. I was tested for 7 STDs to his 3. His doctor performed 3 different tests for one STD so he thought he was tested for 5. I wrote back to him and told him there are diseases he is listing in his email which he was not tested for and he should not say he is negative. He has not said anything tome. I was so disappointed his tests came back negative, I was hoping he had AIDS or cancer of the throat….I actually felt guilty feeling that but what the heck, he does not care for anyone except himself. He has used and discarded women as if they are nothing.

        • My stbx met the OW on Craig’s list. Their big thing (the reason they’re soulmates…awww) is because they’re both into sex clubs, orgies, etc. He keeps telling me that he’s negative for everything. I’m thinking after reading your comment that I’m a fool if I don’t get tested for everything under the sun.

          I was a virgin when I married him. 27 years. Never ever thought I’d ever ever have to deal with this.

          • Cloud,

            You should get tested. It took me almost a year to gather the courage and get tested. During my annual physical 4 years ago I tested positive for HPV and I knew he gave it to me but it never really sunk how bad that was. Luckily it cleared and during the STDs testing it was not found. My cheater is working in S. Korea where I had joined him but after 7 months and 3 divorce threats just for 2017 I came back to the States and are filing for divorce.

            I refused to tell him what I am positive for because I want him to go through the humiliation of getting tested.

            I wish you all the best but get tested.

          • I am so sorry that you took care of yourself and decided to maintain faithfulness but he did not. You deserve better. You will get better.

          • Cloud, I just wanted to add the following:

            I am 43 yrs old. I became sexually active at the age of 30. I met my CheatertobeX when I was 35. I told him that I had wanted to wait until I got married but met someone I thought would be the one and gave in but the relationship lasted about 8 months. He wished I had waited for him and I honestly wished I had. I knew I have met the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. He was wistful and said, “I will never get virgin pussy” (barf) what a gentle(cough…barf)man. I later learned the reason he had hoped I was virgin when I met him was because his brother married his high school sweetheart who was a virgin. She has stood by his side through his drug addiction, going to jail because of selling drugs, being charged with indecent exposure for getting a blow job in his car, in a parking lot in broad daylight, he now has a 2 year old child with OW and he is turning 52 years old this November, numerous affairs, his wife getting a PO against him because he was selling household property to support his drug habit and the list goes on and on. She has a Masters degree and is the breadwinner. My CheatersoontobeX asked me why could he not find a woman like her, who stood by him no matter what. He was better than his brother because he has a good job and does not use drugs. He thought if I was a virgin I would have stood by him just like his brother’s wife. He once told me and I quote “I am a good man, I am a good provider, you know my weakness, why can’t you ignore it?” I lost it and asked him if I am the one sleeping around would he ignore it. He just stared at me and I said, “I thought so” and walked away. He did not realize that I would not have stood by him because I never stood by the first guy I was intimate with. There is as much as I could take and his cheating and emotional abuse was one of them.

            Get tested and protect yourself.

    • brandib:

      “Once I got out & went completely no contact, the blinders came off. I feel nothing for him. I don’t wish him well, but I don’t wish him harm. If he died tomorrow, I would feel bad for my kids losing their father.”

      This is EXACTLY how I feel! I give Zero Contact all the credit for opening my eyes to the truth.

    • My 10yo son asked me the other day if I would go to STBX’s funeral if he died. He is 49. I said I don’t know, why are you asking this, I may die before him. Son said, “I hope not, Mom!”

    • Currently just found out about the latest affairs (2 women, same time, unbeknownst to each other or me) and FINALLY taking some action and kicking him out so I can get some perspective. 14 years wasted. It’s only now that I’m learning about the trauma bond thing-I must have been conflating this with love.

      Oh, the love bombing is REAL. I’ve been so love-starved, in desperate need for attention, without even realizing the depths of how much pain I was in that I have been so susceptible, each time, to working things out. At DD 4 or 5 at this moment. Each time I think, “oh this is the man I married” as he’s love bombing the hell out of me and I forgive him —even though part of me has died each time. There’s no trust, because there SHOULDN’T be any trust. And my sick mind keeps thinking that he picks me over the AP’s every time so he must TRULY love me.

      I know that if I had a friend confide in me what I have been through I would tell her to run as fast as she could. I just need to get over my hangups of having divorced parents when I was young, what I’m giving up financially, and realize there is so much more to gain. I’ve had a constant low level anxiety most of my marriage thinking it was just “me” and not realizing that it’s just been my intuition all along warning me.

  • This is one of the best columns I have read here. Thank you Tracy for expressing this so well. We cannot love someone into changing their ways. I carried my hopium through affairs, alcoholism, financial abuse, emotional abuse and undeserving rages thinking he would see how much I cared. It showed him how much I would take. Ironically x always said our song was Good Hearted Woman by Waylon Jennnings. She’s a good hearted woman in love with a good timing man. She loves him in spite of his wicked ways she don’t understand. It’s a narcs dream and a chumps nightmare.

    • I thought it was my badge of honor to love him in spite of his wicked ways. Now my badge of honor was walking away and loving myself.

    • JAMF loves Waylon (not that I don’t). His band covered that song; no doubt XH identified with it.

  • “Oh God, I don’t want to be the narcissist. I cannot be accused of selfishness!”


    I was so afraid of coming across (and actually being) “selfish”. It took me a long time to realize that unconditional love has no place in romantic relationships. Our society values the concept of love to the point of Martyrdom. There seems to be this social exception for abuse if you “love” the person.

    There are so many parallels of hypocrisy between cheating and what the RIC/ civil system / church deems “healthy” responses. The level of social moral disengagement in response to cheating is astounding. The cognitive mechanisms are interrelated within a sociostructural context to promote inhumane conduct in people’s daily lives.

    Moral disengagement is a term from social psychology for the process of convincing the self that ethical standards do not apply to oneself in a particular context. This is done by separating moral reactions from inhumane conduct and disabling the mechanism of self-condemnation.[1] Thus, moral disengagement involves a process of cognitive re-construing or re-framing of destructive behavior as being morally acceptable without changing the behavior or the moral standards.

    Action gives rise to self-reactions through a judgmental function in which conduct is evaluated against internal standards and situational circumstances”

    Moral disengagement functions in the perpetration of inhumanities through:

    moral justification – portraying inhumane behavior as though it has a moral purpose (aka love)

    euphemistic labelling – to make injurious and harmful behavior respectable and reduce responsibility for it from the person.[2] With the help of intricate rephrasing, detrimental behaviour is made innocuous and acceptable, and people who are part of it are liberated from feeling sense of guilty.

    advantageous comparison – This process exploits the contrast principle, which follows the assumption that the perception of human conduct is influenced by what it is compared against. That is, individuals contrast their conduct with other examples of more immoral behavior and in doing this comparison their own behavior is trivialized. (aka – sure I cheated, but it was because he/she was so awful).

    displacing or diffusing responsibility – distorting the relationship between actions and the effects they cause. (aka – I cheated because you are so controlling, as opposed to, you are Hypervigilance because I cheat).

    disregarding or misrepresenting injurious consequences – occurs in a group of people, where with the increasing number of people, the level of diffusion increases. In this phenomenon, a person has lower inclination towards responsibility as they feel that others are also equally responsible in the group. (aka – sure I destroyed our family by cheating, but you saying it’s wrong is alienating my children, the court even says you can’t do that.)

    dehumanizing the victim – The victim is no longer viewed as a person with feelings, hopes and concerns, but objectified as a lesser sub-human. Dehumanization is identified as one of the mechanisms of moral disengagement, as it justifies treating others with less moral concern and empathy, and therefore validates violent or abusive treatment towards others. (Aka – yes I cheated, but it’s because they are crazy, controlling, bitter, angry, etc.)

    Cheaters seem to be masters at exploiting these mechanisms in social contexts, and the real victim becomes a sub-human, not worthy of expressing any negative emotion.

    • Excellent Got-a-Brain!

      That’s all we chumps really need to know when we are involved in ANY kind of relationship. This should be taught in High School…first for those who have a horrible family life so that they can find some answers and solid footing in their lives going forward…and second, for those who fancy themselves being “in love” and/or are picturing themselves entering into a marital relationship, yet are having occasional gut feelings that something just doesn’t feel “right” with someone they have interest in. Ditto for relationships with friends or co-workers, roommates ect.

      This explains why the moral fiber of our culture has been turned upside down.

    • ^^^ wow. Thank you for putting psychological words/ terms/ concepts to much of what cheaters do.

      Are there specific references to these terms somewhere? Articles?

    • Yes! I teach critical thinking classes and recognize some of these and have long thought they applied to STBX. To the list I’d add self-deception, which is when the cheater skews the situation so that he actually thinks he’s the good guy for cheating. Perhaps this is the same thing as euphemistic labeling? (My husband said his first affair of 10 yrs long kept our marriage healthy and happy. Ummmm no.)

      The one that resonates the most with me is the dehumanizing. Recently, I emailed him and asked him to please keep me informed about the divorce from his end and his job searching (he was laid off recently, which threw a loop into alimony discussion). “SEE ME” I said. “For once in your effing life, SEE ME. Don’t talk to your mistress about MY divorce. Do me the smallest of favors and talk to me first…” He apologized and said he’d do better. Said he would call. Said he would keep me updated. Of course, he hasn’t. I don’t know why I asked. He hasn’t seen me as a human being, never mind his wife, in years and years. In fact, I think that’s the worst part of all of this— the blatant dismissal of who I am. He hasn’t been emotionally abusive so much (save for a few incredibly scary temper tantrums) as he has just failed to acknowledge my presence and that I have feelings. Mid conversation he’d become distracted by his phone and start to text his mistress and then get angry if I protested because, after all, he was just trying to be honest and not hide his affairs anymore and why couldn’t I support that? It didn’t seem to occur to him that it actually might make me feel bad to hear him say “I love you too” to his mistress.

      I logically know it’s on him. But somehow his actions have left me gutted anyway. I feel hollow and fragile and worthless and mostly incapable. I didn’t used to be this. Alas.

      • Wow this describes my ex too. Narcissists so predictable and all the same really. Complete lack of empathy!!!! Reading about how narcissists are helps see them who they really are and helps fight the “love bombing” feelings they ignited that confuse us. there’s some really great YouTube videos I listen to about narcissists. Mine said Post-cheating to me: “you’re boring
        And you’re boring me. All I want to do is read twitter on my iPad.” But I left! I stood up for myself! I didn’t take this crap anymore! And he was floored. He actually said: “I didn’t think you’d actually ever really leave me”. So long!!!! And it felt good. I do get an occasional twinge of confusion because for 8 years we were mega in love (I thought anyways) and it confuses me for an instant for who he really is. My very good therapist made me do a timeline: a page for every year in our marriage and start filling it up with messed up things he did. She said it will fill up fast and you’ll be surprised what you will all remember and it will help u during the divorce. IF u have a moment like that where u feel sad, get it out and read it and get some sense back about who he really is!”

      • Your walls WILL sing again. You are doing terrific work empowering others, but don’t forget to water your own garden.

        Part of the process of recovering is rediscovering that kickass person you once were – funny, happy, desirable, with self worth. No Contact is the first step towards this.

        One commenter way back described her earlier self as the person who got dumped by the side of the highway while in pursuit of the cheater.

        So all you do is turn the car round, drive back, and find her again. PS You might like to apologise to her before you ask her to jump in the car with you again …

    • I am blown away by the wisdom and intelligence on these comments at CL. The quality of thought and writing demonstrates how the most intellectual women and men can be deceived against the backdrop of great judgment in other areas of life. I ask myself how I’ve achieved so much in other areas but am emotionally stunted in my relationship?

      Maybe it’s that I didn’t realize I was/am being abused. This kind of abuse is insidious. Mine didn’t come with a black eye. It fostered seeds of doubt in myself by never being able to quite put my finger on it. It was always never feeling like I was enough even though his WORDS to me were that he loved me so much.

      But then his WORDS to his AP were the SAME ones he used with me. She forwarded me texts, pictures of notes left for her, etc. I mean, he couldn’t even SAY something different? This *somehow* felt like more of a violation than the sex. Then after I confronted him, he tells me he didn’t mean it to her. My takeaway? Well either you didn’t mean it and led HER on (not that I give a rat’s arse about her but just the fact that he could so cooly do that to another human being) or didn’t mean it with ME. Then why the fuck is he in this relationship with me at all?

      I had so much life in front of me when we met. He made so many promises. I am mourning what I thought I had. I have an 8-year-old daughter that loves him more than life itself. It’s going to be devastating for her, but I know I can’t hold on to something that isn’t there. I know HE will be devastating her and I can’t control his actions. I have been smoking too much hopium for too long.

      Coming to Grips with Reality

  • I wonder how many of us had shitty parents? And stayed because we were used to mistreatment. We were shown so little love as children that we latched on to any demonstration of love and care.

    For another column some day hopefully….

    • I always said I had a great childhood. And I still feel like that. But my family’s model of love was tolerating crappy (including criminal) behavior.
      It took me a very long time to realize that someone looking me in the eyes and outright lying to me – even when they knew I knew they were lying!! – felt familiar to me – it felt like home.
      When you’re raised by career criminals, it’s very hard to explain to anyone why you took a beating (or worse) and didn’t call the cops. Probably one of the first lessons I ever learned was “you don’t lie to your parents – you lie to the cops!”

  • What great timing that this should be posted today!! I think it’s a sign!! This describes the last 43 years for me. Divorced 6 months; separated 4.5 years; married 29 years; been in my life 43 years – only man I’ve ever been with!
    My counsellor and I have worked together to conclude just this week that I ‘loved’ him unconditionally yet he never really cared; engaged. I was merely another of his dalliances but I was married to him. Gave him respectability – a lover, housekeeper, PA, mother to his kids etc
    Like a mistress! My reason for being was him!!
    At last after a lifetime, I can see why for the last 4.5 years I have been waiting for him to come back! It’s been habit; the way it’s always been.
    No more! Let’s get on with the life I have left to live! Trying not to live with regret – my boys, my house, my friends – Life is good!!

    • ‘I have been waiting for him to come back! It’s been habit; the way it’s always been.
      No more! Let’s get on with the life’

      You are mighty!! (((HUGS Sue)))

  • After 35 years married I was terrified of accepting that my husband was actually having a full blown affair with a low class widow. I saw red flags for almost 2 years. My love for him was my reason to ignore what was really happening.

    I knew how my life would be if I divorced. Like it is now financially, emotionally & very lonely. But I knew
    my mental & physical state was at risk . I developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome which 2 years divorced affects me every day. I’m also a breast cancer survivor
    losing a breast which my ex mentioned to me when I found out that “ her breasts were bigger than mine” . How could he say that to me? I quess my body now turned him off even tho I had reconstruction.

    By being with my fellow chumps here at CN I realize
    I loved.. he never did. I hope someday I can fully find
    closure in my mind & my heart. I’m almost at meh but doubt if I ever will. ????

    • I know a man whose wife had cancer. He told her not to worry about wearing wigs because she was just as beautiful without her hair, if not more. I am hoping for you, and all of us at CN, to find that kind of love. ❤️ to you.

      • I was diagnosed with breast cancer several years after my divorce from the cheating Fuckwit x. The current Mr. Survivor sat with me and held my hand during the long days of chemotherapy. He too told me I was beautiful with or without hair. I’d sworn I would never marry again after living through the shitstorm that was Fuckwit x, but after I recovered, I did.

        Feeling safe and supported is love. Being on the same team is love. Being forced to cater to demanding entitled lying users is not love. Chumps have been taught the wrong definition by the predators in their lives. If we redefine the term, it’s easier to see how little there is to miss when leaving a cheater.

    • What an asshole! Just so deliberately cruel. Do these people do it on purpose or are they really just that clueless? Either way he sucks, so does his Schmoops and more importantly you are awesome and he is the loser.

  • Love is a verb. Grab a copy of “The Greatest Thing In the World” by Henry Drummond. It takes 15-20 minutes to read. Read and practice daily. It spells out what love LOOKS like.
    Patience. Kindness. Generosity. Courtesy.
    Unselfishness. Good tenper. Guilelessness. Sincerity. I would also add “accountability”.
    Another gem is AA’s pamphlet “Emotional Maturity”. I see major emotional immaturity in cheaters. For the record, I am human with my shopping cart of issues, but I strive to deal with them and be accountable. I am breaking denial about my husband, the local legend Nice Guy, who in my experience is truly unkind. Hitler loved his dogs. Does that mean he is a Nice Guy I should hang out with or date or marry? When I was pregnant in 2006, my husband took me house shopping for the Dream House. The entire year we went back and forth with the sellers. I cried numerous times that year over that house. Then in December, the sellers got a new agent and dropped the price. My husband balked. “Who buys a house over Christmas?” Well, someone did. It went into escrow Christmas Eve and sold for 175K less than we offered. He told me only recently that “we were never in a position to buy that house”. And so you brought it the house to my attention, when I was pregnant, and we wrangled with the sellers, and I cried numerous times, for almost an entire year….because….?
    He has no answer. But it doesn’t look or feel like love to me. It’s painful when the blinders come off. I loved who I THOUGHT he was.

    • And to refer to CL’s previous column, I think my Wall of Fear says YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO LOVE. THAT’S WHY HE CHEATED.

    • Velvet Hammer
      Thank you for the inspirational message. I realize now
      that he never loved me but it still hurts deeply inside,

      I will look for the copy you mentioned. I bought The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout it’s an amazing book! Everyone here should read it. Very enlightening.

      ((HUGS)) to all on CN ❤️????????

  • CL, I’m going to remember that one.

    Dynamite words. Detach, Love ~ But Do It From A Distance

    Yes, I did love him but I can accept that he did not love me. No, I cannot just flip the Love switch off ~ but I can work on it.

    Thank you.

  • This reminds me of a smoker who insists he is not addicted to nicotine, he just likes smoking, and an alcoholic who insists her drinking is not an addiction, she just likes the taste.

    When we continue a relationship with something that is harmful to us because we like (or love) the thing, we are disguising our dependency as a choice in an effort to pretend we have power or agency that we lost or abandoned long ago. Sometimes we are even pretending that our continued “love” is admirable or sacrificial.

    When people make the stupid claim that both parties must be at fault if a marriage ends, etc., they aren’t always wrong. It’s just that the faults aren’t the same. One partner was addicted to extra-marital sex and the other was addicted to the fantasy of a happy marriage.

    I don’t miss my EX, but I am sometimes surprised at fleeting thoughts that streak through my brain like, what if we had a nice conversation about our kids at graduation, etc. I don’t think I am suffering the same way a former alcoholic does when she steps too close to the bar, but I think there is a slight similarity in the way brains get miswired–I know that jackass is bad for me (and to me), but my brain still has some lose wires that remember when things in the relationship felt good and want me to consider that they might feel good again.

  • I still struggle with the fact that i really did/do love my x.
    But realistically i know he is a cold fucking bastard. I know he never had a problem with abusing me.
    He just knew how to fix things just enough to keep me around.
    Fuck him.

    I am becoming more and more aware that by being with this freak i had not been modeling “love” for my kids. That is a real reason to get put and stay out.

    Its not our faults that we(kids included) were lied to and abused by these completely fake fuckers.
    But its up to us to let out kids know that shit is *not* love.

  • SOS Chump Nation!
    My Wall of Fear is yelling at me…
    “You don’t know how to love! She loved and appreciated him! You didn’t! That’s why he cheated!!”
    I found out in November my husband was having an affair. His “sole mate” (his spelling) is a woman from China that he shopped for on Craigslist in the Casual Sex listings. (He told me he had always been attracted to Asian women but had never acted on it because his parents wouldn’t have approved). He told me she doesn’t speak English very well. He told me she has a drinking problem. (We met in AA in the 80’s and have been sober over 30 years). I need help shutting this yelling down.

    • I see a more than a slippery slope for your husband. Chinese, little English, drinking problem!!! Sounds like a match made in heaven. How do you “love and appreciate” someone you met on the Casual Sex listings!!! Lordy, lordy, you are so well out of there. Him, on the other hand – I foresee not a slippery slope but something of a massive ski jump! My former brother-in-law met a Russian woman over the internet who “fell in love with him” without even meeting him. He managed to wangle her (and her bratty kids) over to his country for a couple of years where she was all “bendy” (doing loads of “sexy” things) – that is until she had wangled the money off him and back to her own country. Geez, these guys really do think with the wrong head!

    • pffft. this screams “he is totally off his rocker insane!”. Step away from the crazy and be free of it. As for Schmoopie, she “appreciates” his wallet and the opportunity for a green card and is willing to sell her body and her soul to get them.

    • I had to explain to the Stbxh that infidelity was not a symptom of unhappiness in a marriage. Symptoms of unhappiness in a marriage are loneliness, despair, sadness. Then the unhappy spouse of good character talks honestly, makes plain their unhappiness, makes sure communication is very very clear, because they love their partner and want to be vulnerable to them and heal the breach, OR they treat their partner with respect and end the marriage kindly.
      Infidelity is not a symptom of unhappiness in a marriage. It’s a symptom of the guilty spouse dehumanizing, disrespecting and discarding their partner without giving them a chance. Who was the unloving one here? Your Asian-obsessed husband. If he had loved you he’d have moved Heaven and Earth to make it work with you. It is impossible for you to make him cheat, Velvet. Trust that he sucks xxx

      • Thank you all so much. I know this all intellectually, but that drop into the heart is taking too long for me. I am copying your comments to read daily.
        ❤️ to you!!

        • I’ll add that I was talking to an old friend the other day and he said ‘I could see you (plural) were unhappy’. Actually I wasn’t unhappy, I was frustrated at strains in our marriage but I loved him and I assumed we would have time to resolve the strains. My stbxh’s red flags, I saw as coping strategies to get through the hard times. I didn’t doubt his commitment and he never spoke seriously and honestly to me about how he felt (he did that with the Dream Princess). I accused myself of making him horribly unhappy and that led to a near breakdown. BUT now the fog has cleared I know I’d be incapable of knowingly making him miserable because I’m a kind, compassionate person. I’m not a mind-reader and as SydneyChump says, his responsibility was to be open and honest with me.
          Very importantly – the last thing the naive, involuntary homewrecker Dream Princess said to me was “If I’d known you this never would have happened.” She judged me on what my stbxh said to her. That showed me his skewed vision. If HE had known me, this wouldn’t have happened either but he was too busy being miserable and blaming it on me.
          Trust that he sucks, lovely Red Velvet xxx

          • OMGosh thank you so much for my experience was IDENTICAL. His only problem, according to him, was an inability to speak up about my shipping container of issues. He had no trouble speaking up, via text, email, phone, or F2F with the Lower Companion. He had no trouble speaking up, LYING. I drove the counseling bus our entire relationship….not the behavior of someone who doesn’t care. Indeed, just prior to DDay when I sensed something wrong, when I said I think he should talk to someone, he said “I don’t have anything to say.” I said, “You seem angry.” His party line, “No, I’m not.” The whole time acting happy. Now if pressed, he has YEARS of resentments, which he talks about in alone in therapy, with other people…not ME, the person who could actually resolve things. Our therapist said to me “you can’t read minds nor should you have to”.
            (Decades in Al Anon recovery felt like they flew out the window on DDay….trauma activates codependence). She said
            “You can’t address a secret.” Nope. And years ago, we were told that switching partners to address problems is like switching deck chairs on the Titanic. You will have problems with anybody (except hookers, I guess)…the issue is, is this someone you can work through problems with? When I married him, it felt like a YES…it turned into NO who knows when, but I do know now why I felt so fucking frustrated. BOTH PEOPLE have to be in integrity when solving problems. Problems then typically resolve quickly. I had no idea he was Mr. Secrets and Lies.
            And I meant my wedding vows, so I keep speaking up, being in integrity, saying what I mean, being up front, here’s what’s going on with me, to Mr. Hyde (Hide), wasting time and money because I was a chump. who CARES.

            • Yes yes yes!!
              Some time before d-day, I and him and the Dream Princess were sitting around a table talking about sleeping positions. We slept back to back, another red flag apparently, but I said ‘ But I don’t think our marriage is in danger of ending!’ I still remember the intense laser stare the DP gave me. SHE knew but I hadn’t the slightest idea. I think they thought I was arrogant and controlling when in fact I was projecting my loyalty and commitment onto him.
              On d-day, when I said “She’s not your best friend, you’re actually in love with her” his response was to sit in total silence for over a minute and then say “I’ve spoiled everything.” At the time I interpreted that as ” Oh my God, I AM in love with her, what am I going to do?” but now I UBT it as “Oh my God, I gave myself away, how can I eat cake now??” And instead of screaming, swearing or throwing things as he maybe thought I would, I held his hand and hugged him when he cried. He asked me “Why are you being so nice to me?” and my reply was “Because I am nice, and I love you.” He still chose her even tho it turned out she didn’t want him…
              My point here is that even though the first 10 years of our marriage we were happy and in our friendship group we were the Couple Most Likely to Stay Together, the narrative he gradually built up about me which he shared with the DP was false because he was conflict avoidant (foo issues) and so never gave us a chance to address issues. He hero-worshipped her (a 25YO 18 years younger than him and with a very troubled past) and so when she said I must be some kind of ogre he took that on board and repeated it to me with such conviction that I ended up believing it myself and even questioning if I really loved my CHILDREN and whether they loved me. And he did it all, the big-hearted funny teddy-bear Mr Nice Guy of our circle, without a shred of empathy for me. But I’ve never been bitter or vengeful, just heartbroken or confused, because I am a good, loving, forgiving person and I’m not shy of saying that about myself because it’s been proved to me beyond a doubt by how I handled this whole sorry 2-year shitstorm.
              But then he called our sweet 15 year old boy a fucking cunt, and he was out on his ear the next day.
              Sorry for this long post – so good to see my experience helping you Velvet xxx hang in there sweetheart!

              • Ditto ditto
                HIs serious FOO issues…running from whole time together…how did he stay so long with Recovery Queen (me)?
                Conflict avoidance…he is a major leaguer…I was possessed by the Virgin Mary the night of DDay…how I did not scream swear throw hit I do not know…I do know I was on the front deck primal screaming into a pillow BC the man I thought constitutionally incapable
                of infidelity vanished like the mirage he was…I too not vengeful
                or bitter….my Higher Power handles Karma so much better than I ever have…plus my dignity will not be taken from me…..I mistook hiding the affair meant he loved me…who knows now why he hid it?…the day before DDay I thought we had a real life marriage with deep bond and issues like everyone does….I had NO IDEA cheating was in his shopping cart. He is Local Legend Nice Guy….this still fucks with my head…like finding out Mr. Rogers is a pedophile….I am too handling the shit storm with other worldly grace I don’t know how…I demanded thanks recently because I reached for BOOKS instead of a gun….we met on the couch every morning with coffee for two months and TALKED…no crazy burning his stuff on the lawn…he gets no ammo from me to justify….I too forgave in the sense that I cut a dead stinking fish off my line…

            • Yes-this! Both people have to have integrity in solving problems! I too thought I had that when I first married. DD1 – I learned his “needs” weren’t getting met. Sex became painful with him and so I avoided it. Instead of talking about it, he went elsewhere. I blamed myself. I found out days before starting law school and told myself I wasn’t going to let him ruin my career so I found a way to get over it. DD2 – I had just started my new career as an attorney. I got pregnant. I was happy. Then, instead of pure joy, husband tells me he doesn’t want to have the baby! I was 30 and flabbergasted. In my mind, it was the perfect time for kids. We had been married 5 years at that point. It was weeks of stressful fighting and me trying to understand why he wouldn’t want our baby. I’ve blocked out the “how I found out” but turns out he was banging a secretary at work. A single mom! He wasn’t sure if he wanted to remain in the marriage. My pregnancy hormones were OUT OF CONTROL. I had to try and hold it together + learn my new job. Thank GOD for my then-new coworkers who provided real support and are still friends of mine to this day. Boy, did I get lucky there. It was the worst possible pregnancy emotionally and I still feel guilty about what my daughter went through in the womb. Months later, he decided he was an ass and we “worked things out.”

              A year after my daughter was born. I heard a ringing in the house. It didn’t sound like one before. Apparently fuckwit had a secret cell phone charging. I confronted him about it. He said that he just wanted to see if he “had any messages” and it was just “curiousity” from having it before. I was upset but took it at face value. He was so in love with our daughter and our family, that I thought there’s no way he would jeopardize that. Big mistake. When our daughter was around 3, I found what he thought were deleted messages on his phone. As I am typing this, I am having an epiphany. (More on that in a second.) It was clear that there were THREE women he was hooking up with at the time. My denial brain at least realized, “oh gee this is worse than a regular affair” this is a serious PROBLEM.” I confronted him and he was SO pathetically sorry. In my mind, I thought, “okay fuckface. I’m not leaving now, but I AM leaving the door open for someone else and getting myself together.” I started working out and being a little bit more of myself at the time. A year later, I met someone fantastic at work and had my own FU Affair. I was so proud of myself, even though that is NOT the person that I am. I went to a therapist to figure out if I should leave my marriage. Two months into that, I couldn’t live with myself. I told fuckwit about it. He told me he “deserved it” and loved me so much. It was a really trying time. I was confused with my “new” feelings while at the same time not wanting to walk out on my marriage. I ultimately STAYED with fuckwit. I THOUGHT I CURED HIM FROM CHEATING ON ME!

              One month ago I got a call AT WORK from bimbo AP wanting to know if we’re separating. I swear to you, SHE was more upset than I was. She thought he was cheating on her! She told me a helluva lot that I never otherwise would have known. 1.4 years they had been together. Then I learned there was another one at the same time.

              When I thought it couldn’t get worse, I found a notepad with a secret email address. Apparently, he used that one for cruising craigslist. The account was open 6 months before the affair with “I’m-so-sad-he’s-cheating-on-me-AP” started. Oh, and he already had a secret phone at that point. He didn’t buy it to hide the affair with Sadness, he was meeting up with Craigslist whores. Or prostitutes. Are there real women who go there for casual sex? I don’t actually know. I haven’t said a word about Craigslist.

              And so it goes. The Rabbit Hole keeps getting deeper. The Craigslist 2×4 tells me that he’s clearly a sex addict. I thought he was a serial relationshipper – wanting the newness and twu luvy feelings perpetually. The funny part is that he’s so boring in bed! It’s hard to imagine him as some Don Juan. Maybe it’s because that’s only how he is with ME because that’s how it’s “supposed” to be with your wife. I dunno. I don’t really care to untangle this skein.

              Haven’t seen him for a week. We’re supposed to have an “honest conversation” today about everything. I set him up and told him there’s no chance for us unless he comes clean about everything even the things I don’t know about. I think we all know there isn’t a shot in hell that this deceiver is going to insert “fucking random whores from the internet” into the convo. And I am going to do my damn best to not call him out on what I know. There’s no point at this stage. I am going to allow him to lie to me, pull the gray rock thing, and thank him for continuing to show me who he really is. A liar.

              I have been reading Betrayal Bonds. Thanks to whoever recommended it on this site. I forgot that I had it on my kindle but stopped reading it! I gave up on the exercises. Now I’m doing the work. And finding a therapist to deal with my codependency issues. I am trauma bonded for sure. I thought it was twu luv.

              CL and this site is EXACTLY. WHAT. I. NEED. Thanks to all of you out there for your insight.

  • When I struggled the first time, and subsequently went through wreckconciliation, I didn’t say, “But I love him.” I said, “Why do I love him!?” The wise response was, “Because that’s all you know.” When my counselor said that a light bulb clicked on for me. I came from a dysfunctional family with an abusive father. I knew that my husband didn’t physically abuse me, but I knew nothing of emotional abuse. That’s when I started getting my mighty. That’s when I said, “No more.” The dick saw the change in me and decided that he didn’t want to make a mistake; thus o decided to go through because I didn’t want to lose my family. Four years later he was crossing boundaries again and I was done. He didn’t even try to talk me out of it. I guess he “knew” that he wasn’t making a mistake. Well, he did, bit that’s not my problem anymore. Yes, I still love him, but I learned that not everything you love is good for you. He wasn’t good for me. Who knows, maybe he’ll be good for her. I have my doubts, but maybe they like all the constant drama of being on edge. I didn’t. I’m at peace.

    • Also, not everyone that you love will love you back. I don’t think my ex has the capacity to truly love. We’ve all found out that Love is what you give and not necessarily what you will receive in return no matter how much you wish it otherwise. As ChumpLady says, “The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your cheater — is to leave.”

      • I read something about narcissists shortly after DDay1 and it said simply, “Don’t love someone who can’t or won’t love you back.” It took me years to accept this. A therapist told me, “He’s not a loving person.” Now, I simply realize he never loved me because he is incapable of loving anyone. The person I loved was a mirage. Time to move on to a loving relationship.

      • It took me a long time to realize I was worthy of love, but not entitled to love. Some are uninterested in doing the work of loving (love is a verb), some are incapable. Doesn’t mean I am less worthy, though.

  • After Dday number 8 I fully realised he didn’t love me. Over the years his cheating behaviours had worn me down, I was a shell of my old self. Years of spackling, pick me dancing, policing the relationship and minimizing my own needs had cost me everything. Above ALL, my health.

    The difference on my final Dday with my cheater were that I had completed some very worthwhile personal therapy. Where I learned about boundaries, the drama triangle (Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor) V,s The Healthy triangle (Vulnerable,Caring,Assertive). Fully understood ~ this helped me see that my relationship was so toxic it was one I was better off without.

    I had tried Relationship counselling, but as Chunplady says almost immediately within the above article, “Love” is the way chumps give themselves permission to stay immobilized. That’s where I got STUCK, for YEARS. 25 in total. No children (I could just walk away), no marriage ( I COULD just walk away), but I didn’t I STAYED because I LOVED him. I eventually stopped whipping the dead horse, put down the stick and let the horse die. And I am here to tell you my story ~ I didn’t shrivel up and die without my Romeo, I DID survive the detox of my relationship, I let go of the HIGH COST to ME.

    I am out the other side of something I thought I could never live without. I am thankful, so very thankful of the truth that is CL and CN. Stick around, Do your own personal work, YOU CAN CHANGE things for the better. If I can do it anyone can

    For further info on the drama triangle –>


    • Thank you for this. I need to keep reminding myself that LOVE cannot be an excuse for staying put. I’m thinking it’s mostly fear masquerading as love. Love doesn’t lie, cheat, etc. Why should I keep doing a “pick me” dance for someone that I am MARRIED to. It’s so unhealthy. I guess Ive been doing the Pick Me Over Your Sex Addiction. No wonder he always leaves his AP for “me.” I continue to stay and he continues to have a cabal of fuckbuddies. It’s the perfect arrangement for him. Legitimacy. A successful, smart wife. A family.

      It’s hard for me to come to terms with the reality that he’s never really been IN this marriage. It’s easy to lie to myself and say that I don’t have the same problem all these other people do. My relationship is different and special. Oh, it sure is DIFFERENT.

  • So true. After almost 2 years of going through a hellish high conflict divorce after 26 years-no minor kids but he’s punishing me, and just won’t let it go and is trying to cause me financial damage on top of the emotional hell, well, he wrote me an email STILL trying to get me to change our marriage vows to be “monogamish” to have an open marriage, a relationship “without responsibilities” so he could basically be single but have all the benefits of being married to me. I said no from the beginning of his affair with his coworker, the “soulmate” after just a couple of weeks, (really just a narcissist like he is) but he won’t stop pushing his agenda. His mindfuckery and blameshifting and projection is relentless –I’m the one who’s morally rigid, it’s my fault that my children and grandchildren want nothing to do with him, if only I would change the way I am, everything would work out…the question is how could I have so little respect for myself? This really hit home today, Chump Lady. Thank you so much.

  • For so many of us it’s like being a horse in a burning barn: even if you get out alive, you’ll head back into the burning barn because that’s what you feel comfortable with.

  • “You know what’s narcissistic? Thinking you can fix this. Thinking your love alone — your patience, your fortitude in the face of punishment — can change your cheater’s behavior.”

    I agree with everything except the above statement. As a chump who has been blamed (verbally, not physically) for my ex needing to find someone who will care for him better than I do, I’ve been through a lot in the stages a lot of chumps go through, trying to fix what he said was wrong with me, dealing with the utter despair of rejection, analysing my own FOO issues, trying to recover from grief. I’ve recognized what I truly loved about him, and what I loved that was merely the “potential” of what I thought he could have been, or the “facade” of what he was pretending to be. I’ve seen, if he would only follow through on the “good” side of him (yes, he has one, I am lucky to not have experienced the rage and to have had relatively honest conversations subsequent), how it could have worked between us. In my mind, we both had a lot of growing to do, overcoming our own FOO issues, not just him, but myself as well.

    So from that, I’ve grown, I’ve seen what I was capable of achieving, and yes, I could have moved on to someone else, but I chose not to do that, I chose to get to know myself, and from that I know, absolutely know, that through the barriers I’ve broken down since Dday, and the grief I’ve (almost) overcome, I would have been the best for him, if he had chosen to take the experience and grown from it, too, with me.

    I don’t consider that narcissistic. I’ve thought a lot about it. I fully agree with this: “Chumps hate to read “love yourself more.” Oh God, I don’t want to be the narcissist. I cannot be accused of selfishness!” I’ve thought that, for sure… but I don’t agree that it’s narcissistic to think you’re the best for someone. I think it’s a reflection of the process you’ve gone through to build yourself up again from the rejection, I think it’s a reflection of the affection you still feel for your cheater, whether it’s justified or not, I think it’s a positive attribute in that you fight for something you think can work. (And yes, I know, eventually you have to recognize it either will or won’t … in your own space, time period, however long it takes). But I do not think it’s “narcissistic” for a chump to feel that they are the best person to fix what some of us perceive as a troubled soul. Narcissistic implies to me that you don’t care about others, you’re affecting others negatively by thinking your way is the best, … that you’re thinking your better, you’re full of yourself, you’re a dictator, you’re an asshole.

    Sure, I think I’m better than the Other Woman … I can live with that. But that’s not narcissism.

    • Champ – I feel the same way. I’ve reached a point where I feel proud and privileged to have loved another human being completely for years and through very hard circumstances. I know completely that if he could have stayed, the person I am now and have always been in potential could have been the best for him. He couldn’t stay because I told him to leave – despite me and our children loving him, he would have just continued destroying all of us. It was his responsibility as a man and a human to address his emotional damage and not inflict it on us but, like his Dad, he couldn’t do that. Champ, respect to you, and hard though it is to recognise, Chumpdom teaches us something as emotionally intelligent and loving humans that no other trauma could do.

  • “And who can fault you for love? It’s so virtuous. Especially unconditional love. Isn’t that the gold standard? It’s what we promise children, it’s what’s lacking in every fucked up FOO issue. Poor thing, they didn’t get unconditional love.”

    That idea, right there, is exactly why I stayed in my relationship with the ex-cheater for so long. Prior to DDay, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t perfect, so I had to accept his flaws as well. Thankfully, the cheating disabused me of that notion, and I ended our relationship. All the years prior, though, were a spacklefest. I think that because he wasn’t physically or verbally abusing me, it was okay to tolerate the other, more subtle ways in which he disrespected me or demonstrated selfishness.

    I think that’s why I haven’t bothered much with dating. I tried dating online for a few months, but since I’m no longer willing to spackle, I found that I wasn’t interested in anyone that I met. I thought about what it would be like to be in a relationship with them as they are, and since I’m no longer packing spackle, I knew we wouldn’t be a good fit. I hope that means that I’ve learned something from this whole cheating mess!

  • “…We are fairly well damaged by the legacy of the Romantic poets–that we think of love as this, you know, thing that is accompanied by strings and it’s a force for good, and if something bad happens then that’s not love. And the therapeutic tradition that I come from–I used to work in therapy–you know, also says that it’s not love if it feels bad. I don’t know so much about that. I don’t know that the Greeks weren’t right. I think they were–that love can eat a path through everything–that it will destroy a lot of things on the way to its own objective, which is just its expression of itself, you know. I mean, my stepfather loved his family, right? Now he mistreated us terribly quite often, but he loved us. And, you know, well, that to me is something worth commenting on in the hopes of undoing a lot of what I perceive as terrible damage in the way people talk about this–love is this benign, comfortable force. It’s not that. It’s wild, you know?” — John Darnielle, of the Mountain Goats, explaining his outstanding song, “Love, Love, Love”. This song, (and the explanation) helped me to reconcile love and bad behaviors. And gave me permission to walk away, even as I still loved.

    • Thank you for this post. I find this halting/eloquent quote compelling and apt.

      This is exactly the depth and richness CN brings to this table. We gather and offer our experience and perspective and thus, as a community, are healed.

  • I still love XH the substance abuser. I’ve loved him as friend and partner since I was barely out of college. And there are many things I admire about him. I know of many times he has been kind to others and to me.

    But by staying with him, I was enabling his addictions. I provided a mortgage and a lovely and well-tended home. He didn’t have to be alone. He had someone to rage it, to blame, and to keep him out of the abyss of loneliness. But he wouldn’tt unload the gun in his nightstand, although he went to bed drunk every night. And that is a metaphor for his relationship to me. He was a loaded gun pointed at my head and he was drunk all the time.

    I left to save myself. I left because he doesn’t get all that comes with me while being in love with his booze, his drugs, his male buddies, the bar he frequented, and God knows who else because there is always some wannabe GF in those places. I left because he doesn’t get to be mean and indifferent to me when I’m injured, sick, or grieving. I left because he missed my mother’s last birthday party to go to that bar. I left because when I needed a car to drive to work, he said he want interested in buying anything but a small cheap car HE could use to visit his adult kiddo and family. I left because he was stuck on the rage channel and kept the charm channel for everyone else. I left because I was sad and lonely and I wanted to be happy.

    The Great Commandment of Jesus says to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s a way of saying that if we don’t love ourselves, the one “wild and precious life” we have been given, we really can’t love others as we should. Love is not a form of self-destruction. Even love that sacrifices should be self-affirming.

    Years ago, there was a cat named Scarlett who carried her kittens one by one out of a burning building. Those kittens were too young to save themselves, so she risked her life and endured burns to do what she needed to do. But she got them, and herself out of the burning building. She saved herself, too. We must truly value our lives to make sacrifice and risk meaningful. None of us are perfect. Love and marriage involve risk and sacrifice. But love and marriage involves two people, equally committed to risk and sacrifice.

    Your marriage is not in the burning building. It IS the burning building. And your spoupse is not trapped in there, waiting for you to rescue him or her. He is outside that building. He set it on fire. He is the arsonist. Inside? Your kids. Your pets. Your healthy. Your financial security. Your self-esteeem and self-respect. Your kids’ understanding of what marriage is. YOU. And if you don’t save you, the rest will all be ashes. That’s what you save. It’s up to the cheater to save himself .

      • “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

        The alcoholic loved himself, but only in a twisted self-abusive way. He had no self respect.

        And yet, for years I thought that if I gave him love and respect and attention, he would return it to me. If I showed him that I cared, he would also care, even if it was just for my sake. That was my hope, and my pain, and eventually the cause of my bitterness.

        He proved that he was incapable of respecting himself, or me, or anyone else. He was also incapable of learning. He just Did. Not. Care.

        Eventually I just didn’t care either, not about him, and that’s when I really started caring about myself again. If I no longer cared about his wants, he couldn’t push me to feel guilty for not dancing to those wants.

        I finally reached meh, most of the time. What used to be painful is now just a distant detached disappointment, that someone who had such apparent potential couldn’t be bothered to follow through. But I’m free to live and achieve and enjoy, without bitterly coddling to his self-neglect.

    • Lovedjackass, very well stated!

      Your last paragraph perfectly described my INFERNO of a marriage & despite the fire alarm (ME) yelling and screaming loudly for years for him to realize our house (MARRIAGE) was burning down, even after seperating and giving him second chances, he continued on with his cheating/lies/double life/abuse and watched our 20yr marriage IMPLODE and did absolutely NOTHING, while I on the other hand relentlessly rescued me, my children and all my belongings and painfully walked away & filed for divorce, only for him to now claim victim “look at what she did to me – she left and gave up on our marriage.” I went complete no contact and we have not seen or heard from him in almost two years (he immediately jumped into a serious relationship as he lost his Wife and family that truly loved him WTH”, who does that?). The more I hear of his immature destructive behavior, it helps me realize that even though he robbed me of an honest and authentic marriage (I was beyond devastated), leaving him (a full blown NPD) was the BEST thing that I could have done for the safety & sanity of myself and my children.

    • This really hit home!

      I am going through DD 5, currently, and just stumbled upon emails responding to craigslist(!) hookups! Just today I found a pad with an email and password on it and lo and behold-more truth. I am beyond disgusted. It’s worse than I thought. Guess this is what I needed to know to stop smoking the hopium pipe.

      • Groundhog Day

        I am so sorry that you have gone through this for such a long time. You need to protect yourself. I just found out that I have Herpes 1 and 2. When the doctor told me, I broke down. It is painful and humiliating to go through the testing and buying medicine to stock up in case I get breakouts. I had HPV in 2015 which has cleared now. I actually wished I had gonorrhea or syphilis because it is curable. Life is not like that, we do not get to choose what disease to get. I am lucky I do not have HIV. I do not know if I will ever find someone to love me because I have incurable STDs. You need to get out and get tested.

        My DD1 was exactly one month after getting married 6 years ago. We were together 8 years, the worst were after DDl, it was hell with crumbs here and there to keep me hooked. I did not know how bad it was until I stopped caring too much and decided to start detaching in 2015. I pick-me danced because he asked for divorce between 2-3 times ever year from DD1, even as newlyweds and then he would pack a bag and be gone for days. His reason for asking for divorce was because I did not trust him and there is no marriage without trust. How fucked up is that? I would beg for him to come back and promise to be better and to work on my trust issues. I am very imaginative and I would never have come up with this type of mindfuckery. I still miss him or what I thought we would have had. He was an illusion and I found out who he really is.

        I am almost 1 year out and it is still rough sometimes but it is more peaceful and less stressful. I miss him sometimes, he asked me to go back to him 3 months ago (he works overseas, S. Korea) and the thought of going back to him put a deep fear in my heart, I started to physically shake and calmed down when it dawned on me that it was my choice. He is far, and I have the strength to say what I wanted and needed to say, No. He was never physically abusive but he was emotionally and verbally abusive which sometimes felt as if he put a sharp double-edged knife through my soul, heart and being.

        You can do this, You are strong and might. You deserve the best. I wish you all the best.

        • Thank you, Chumped. I am so sorry you are still dealing with the physical effects from an asshole cheater. Horrified for you. There are so many repercussions from their actions-and at least for my husband, none of them seem to matter. Close friends and family have said to me that they think the consequences were never “bad enough” for him when I found out about previous infidelities. I’ve pondered that but now think they too would not have mattered. No matter how scared or “punished” he should have been, it wasn’t fear of a consequence that has EVER caused him to self-modify his behavior. I’m not owning that bullshit.

          Now I’m dealing with the “but I love you so much and I’m going to therapy now to figure out what’s wrong with me” emotional rollercoaster. Mindfuckery at its greatest.

  • Sorry for the typos. My laptop is doing it’s “it takes 5 minutes for characters to show up and not all of them make it” WordPress dance.

  • Reading this column was like reinjuring an old wound; sadly, my name was written all over it, and yes, it hurts! I wasted not months, not years, but decades of my life inadvertently propping open the door for my XH to bend the rules again and again, and eventually, to entirely bail out of our marriage “contract”.

    No, I’m *not* shouldering the blame for his serial cheating, lying, gaslighting, projecting, deflecting, or financial and emotional abuse – that’s all on him!

    But I *am* accepting responsibility for not trusting my usually-keen intuition, for not having faith in my own abilities to succeed without him, for not loving myself enough to protect my heart, for not respecting myself enough to stop the Pick Me Dance a lot earlier than I did, and most of all, for settling for far less than I deserve! Even if I have to spend the rest of my life alone, I will never shortchange myself again!

    • Neither will I short change myself again. I hope by now that you have also forgiven yourself for being so trusting and so altruistic. It was okay that you were. You just learned from it. Congratulations for being so mighty.

      • AmazonChump:

        Thank you for your question and affirmation. Yes, I have forgiven myself… I’ve been Zero Contact for 4 years now, and that physical and emotional distance has given me immense clarity; I just wish I’d had it a lot earlier. But I did the best I could with the tools (read: knowledge) I had at the time. As Maya Angelou famously said, “When you know better, you do better!”

  • I believe in second chances. I don’t think there is any shame (although there may be some danger) in giving someone you love a second chance when they screw up, but 3rd, 4th, 5th chances? At some point you have to recognize when someone is a lost cause and it is time to move on and protect yourself from harm.

    • I gave him 2 second chances. He got cancer in there somewhere. What I did not know until recently was that he had hundreds of hook ups during our marriage. I stayed too long. I went from being puzzled but confident in my relationship to totally addicted and messed up. It happens if you stay too long. My reasoning was that I would not walk away until I tried all I could. Instead I was ejected from my life and left a crazy suicidal mess. Something happened somewhere. I lost my way and ability to get out.

      I remember thinking “What a putz–I’m done with him” Next thing I know I’m a mess doing the pick me dance. MC was probably the worse thing I could have done. The bad, counter intuitive, irresponsible, horrendous advice was devastating. MC had me doubting myself…It was professional gaslighting. It will take me years to repair that damage. I’m tired and angry all at the same time.

      • Yup, MC told ‘us’ that he was the positive one and I was the problem. . There are sooooooo many bad MC’s. All they do is make it much worse.

      • Spoonriver, you are might and deserve better. You will get there, a step at a time, one day at a time.

        Thank you for your post. I thought a MC would solve our issues and I would have killed to get my CheatersoontobeX. We saw a counselor who shouted me down and said “I do not care about the hair you found on the floor.” when I was explaining about a hair I found on the floor which turned out I was right he was cheating. I was shocked because I thought she was neutral. I wished I said something back to her. After two sessions CheatersoontobeX decided he was good and we should now move to what would make us happy. I said I still needed to get some things off my chest. He decided he will not go but I should since it is me who needed to talk. I told him I would like him to be there but he refused. He later said he is done because he is tired of waiting to be happy and he has no time. I am almost one year out and it is getting better. I am not at meh yet and I am not sure I will ever get there. I am glad to know that MC are not the solution and make it worse. I thought it was mine only who was a BITCH. Mine bought into his charm and eloquence.

        For sometime I disliked her but I am getting over it.

        • I meant, some MC make the situation worse. They cause more damage than offer solution. I would have killed to get my husband to go with me to see one.

  • Thank you for this. I was literally in my lawyer’s office this very morning as she tried to tell me these same exact things, especially in regard to what kind of marriage has been modeled for our children. She was whacking me with 2x4s the whole meeting. I know she is right and so are you, it is just so so so painful because I don’t want to give up and I do still love him. But I haven’t made a list of reasons why, because I’m afraid I won’t come up with much. And for 8 months he has been torturing me with repeated discoveries , swearing he’ll stop , and starting up again with her within a few weeks, most recently over Father’s Day weekend. He is the adult besides myself in my life that I talk to the most and I can’t imagine not being able to do that anymore, etc. it’s all so painful for me. The only pain I think he’s feeling is fear of financial losses for him if we divorce , which at this point , I don’t see any other option really.

    • Except, littleghost, that he’s NOT an adult. Oh his body is all grown up, but his mind is still that of an adolescent.

      Adults who are genuine don’t treat people that way, not when they’ve made the commitment to behave with love and respect.

      You’re not talking to HIM. You’re talking to the adult you wish he was, and will never be.

      Perhaps it’s time to get a dog instead. You’ll get less mindfuckery and a lot more loyalty.

    • Yes…he is not an adult! Hindsight is 20/20…it will probably take talking to some genuine emotionally mature adults to be able to look back and not miss “talking” to him. I think a wall would be a better conversation partner than your husband. I miss the illusion of who I thought my husband was. ????

  • It was my dental hygienist, whom I just met, that told me to leave my husband. But I love him I said, you can still love him from afar she told me. That clicked for me and I filed shortly after and was free 6 months later. I didn’t even know about the cheating then. He was truly a monster that I was still hanging onto and in love with. I don’t think I love him anymore but I can’t really tell. I’m healthy and healing and doing so much better. I think I won’t know unless he dies right in front of me, does that pain bring me down to my knees in sorrow or do I run out and buy that used Lexus I have my eye on. Meh. Too busy with gaining that life to tell if I still love him. It still hurts sometimes and yeah I get sad but a cheater free life is so worth living. I’m getting there.

  • This is exactly what I needed to see today. I unfortunately went “pain shopping” and got a few more details about my STBXH affair. Emailing with him today made me realize I just don’t even know who he is anymore. His love is toxic to me and will eventually be hurtful to his affair partner. I can love him from afar for what he once was, but I will never allow him to hurt and disrespect me again.

    • HopiumQueen ~ Congratulations on setting yourself a boundary, ‘ I will never allow him to hurt and disrespect me again.’ ~ Self love right there. F him.

      “pain shopping” ~ A costly, futile exercise, which sucked the very heart & soul out of me in early Ddays.

  • Co-dependency runs rampant amongst chumps. And don’t forget the loss of identity many chumps suffer. Years of spackling, being conditioned to believe the universe revolves around the cheater only, you no longer know who you are.

    • Loss of identity has been huge for me. Unfortunately, STBXH has a somewhat prestigious position, and I made a big mistake of looking at myself as “the dean’s wife.” And at my core that isn’t who I am, but I’m not sure who I am anymore. What blossoms next out of this pain is sure as hell going to be stronger and better. I will never again be the backup plan. Having my world destroyed with DDays every 10 years is not a life I want. And I certainly can’t model that for my daughter.

      • Me too. Wife of Well respected academic physician who is also very active in our national organization. “He’s so nice!” People say when they find out he’s my husband. If they only knew .

        • My husband is Local Legend Nice Guy.
          I know that mindfuck. And for the record,
          I don’t respect your husband. I respect Mr. Rogers and I know they aren’t in the same league.

          • This!!

            I am so sick of hearing how great my husband is (so nice, so great with everyones’ kids-women WISH their husbands were like mine!). If they only freaking knew. He’s so nice that he’ll help you out of your clothes too! He’ll help you to bed!

            Fuck! I’m so angry!

      • A lot of us were ‘livin the dream’. Nice home, wonderful kids, careers. On paper we looked to have it all.

      • Me too, wife of an accomplished workaholic professor who had tons of accolades next to his name. The more successful he grew, the less important I became. I was discarded altogether when our kids married and moved away. For a couple of years, I walked around with the strangest feeling of being “lost.” I couldn’t describe it to others very well, it was something I’d never felt before. Sort of like I didn’t belong anywhere.

      • same here….cheater ex was well respected, financially and professionally successful, accomplished in his field, and all-around “nice guy.” Friends used to tell me how “lucky” I was to have him….problem was, he was a serial cheater throughout our entire 25-plus year marriage. After I discovered his secret double life, on the heels of his last affair, one friend said, “wow….for all the success he achieved in his professional life, he sure screwed up his personal life.” Sure wish I would have caught on sooner, but he was/is a very effective liar and manipulator.

  • Everyone (lurking for a couple of months) has been such a big help to me. STBXH told me on 4/24 that he wanted a divorce. Our 18th anniversary would have been August 5. Our divorce is final on July 10. A few days later, found out that he’s been unhappy for 5 years (remember reading something about the 5-year increments). At first he said 10 years and when I questioned him, he said he spoke incorrectly, it was only 5 (eye roll). My D-Day came on 5/17 when I went through phone records and discovered that he was visiting escorts from February-April. During that time I was doing a pick me dance but I didn’t know it. We had some issues and he suggested MC and working on ourselves. Because if we were individually happier, then somehow “we” would be happier. WTF? I was concentrating on being nicer and happier while he was concentrating on his penis.

    I also have since discovered that he met his exit affair in April and is still in a relationship with her. He denies her existence but I have evidence that says contrary. I’m getting the point of whatever.

    I still struggle with the love. I know that he used to love me – I could feel it and see it. It’s very hard to reconcile what I knew for 19 years with what I see and hear today. The man I know today is a complete stranger and not someone I even like. I’m trying hard to take off those love glasses and I’m moving out in 5 days. I will be going NC except for the few times that we will need to communicate about the sale of our house.

    I’m a little afraid of what lies ahead. My mother passed away just this last Friday and we had so many plans together once I moved closer to her. I will miss her terribly.

    A close acquaintance recently said you have a shit show – yes, yes, I do.

    • I’m so sorry you lost your mom, especially as you were just about to spend more time with her. Glad to hear however that you are pushing forward so well, both mentally and physically (moving out, going NC). Times of tumultuous, uncertain change that are forced upon us are always a shit show, they are chaos, but in time you will find your footing and, hopefully, your peace.

    • I am sorry for your loss. I’m glad you found us. Please keep posting for support. (((HUGS)))

    • Hello Miss Bailey,

      I cannot tell you how sorry I am for the loss of your mother. It would not matter if you were happily married or not. Some are lucky enough to have moms who walk beside them when it hits the fan. It’s easy to tell that your mom was taking that walk along side you to ease your pain. The only piece of advice I can give you on the emotional side of things is look at that love your mom had for you. Now look at how your H treated you. I assume if you and your mom had fun plans, she was the kind of person who reflected your worth back to you. So remember all that love your mom has for you during this time. (Sorry for using present tense but I have had some experiences that showed me the essence of whatever we are exists regardless of a human body or not). But, even if that were not true, the love created between parent and child stands on its own. Take that love your mom had or has for you and use it to sustain you.

      I know you say your husband showed you he loved you in the past and has turned into something else. I have a theory on why this happens, but don’t know your husband so cannot say for sure. The actions hint of Cluster B. If he said 10 years, I would take that as the number of years ago when he first started doing things behind your back. But let me explain or translate. When he says he was unhappy that meant he hit a point where he could no longer draw whatever feeling it was from you to fill his inherent emptiness. He gives me the impression that he is a little hollow on the inside, sees his needs and only his needs, and uses people to have a feeling of “not so hollow” for a little while until the feeling of hollow comes back and he is onto the next. These people may feign love, but I believe they are takers who were hiding it until they could no longer hide it. A normal person like you knows love is a two way street and so the assumption is that he is actively engaged in creating love between both of you.

      I will tell you I felt really loved by my ex until the day he told me it was over and that I needed to move out of my house. (So she could move in). But he denied there was no “She” except me and swore on the Bible there was no one else. It’s funny that he introduced her to 30 mutual acquaintances and told them she had moved in several days after he very intentionally broke me (committed an act that was illegal) just to get pesky me out of my house. Unless thirty totally sane and rational people witnessed a group hallucination, there was a “she” other than me.

      By the way, that showed me who he truly was and I believed him even though the pain was overwhelming. Still, I got a lawyer who told him there would no contact. All communication went through lawyer. The house was placed up for sale. If he stayed, he paid the mortgage and taxes in full. I was too busy surviving to even bother trying to get him to leave because then I would have put renters in the house anyways. (A mistake on my part, but he did pay the mortgage and my attorney made sure that happened each month until it sold). I got a great therapist. I told all my friends and family what happened and asked for help. I asked a good friend to help me resist the temptation to break no contact when he would send one of his flying monkeys to tell me that “she mislead him. He thought she was a nice person who just fell in love with a taken man. He is so shocked that she is not a nice person like you!” You think? I told his flying monkeys that was his problem and there are no second chances after what he did — which was too horrible to get into. And I called my lawyer and told my lawyer to tell him to stop having his buddies approach me to test the waters. His so called swimming rights in the metaphorical waters were permanently revoked.

      By the way— my way was not perfect. Not implying it was. And everyone has their own way of recovering and their own timeline and what they do is what they need to do. And it’s all ok. This is really just a long version of: “if people show you their true colors, believe them the first time.”

      It’s kind of like this.

      If a malevolent red tube of paint intentionally puts the color green on its label to mislead artists, someone will believe it is green until the paint tube gets squeezed. Then all this red paint spills out onto the paper. The label said green. The artist had this tube of paint in the green section of paints. But one day it got squeezed (a metaphor for stress, boredom, narcissism) or any trigger that causes the paint tube to show the artist it was never green. Paint tubes are not alive or malevolent, thank Goodness. Anyhow, that is what it is like when someone we thought we knew so well does things that are seemingly not part of their character.

      Note: I believe if someone does something without any kind of reason, it’s part of their character. For example, let’s imagine a woman is non violent and she has never hit anyone in her life. She has never used physical acts to get her way or to intimidate people because it’s not part of her character. Then one day she is walking in the woods with her kids and comes across an angry bear. If the bear starts to attack her children, she will fight like a real warrior to save them. But normally she runs away from bears in the forest. She does everything to avoid physical touch that is NOT based in love. She walks away from fights. She doesn’t use force to solve situations because using brute force solves nothing. However if a bear is trying to kill her children, she will protect her children by doing anything she needs to do to get it to go away. If she kicks the bear to make it stop attacking so they run for safety, this is not a character trait. It’s a response to a life and death situation that she did not choose to be in.

      Cheaters are not provoked or in life or death situations. Cheaters are the aggressor. They are like the bear in the woods finding you so it can tear you limb from limb even though you are just sitting under a tree reading Chump Lady’s book and trying to mind your own business. But along comes the bear (cheater) unprovoked to tear everything you know to pieces. If the ‘cheater bear’ could talk it would give a million reasons about why you caused it to come and tear you limb from limb. But really the forest is big and the ‘cheater bear’ chose to do that of it’s own volition. It could have easily made the choice to eat huckleberries on its side of the forest and leave you alone to read your book in peace.

      Remember this. We cannot make someone cheat and we also cannot make them un-cheat. If they cheat it’s because of a character flaw. Please believe them. After all, there are so many of us who manage to have long term marriages without even entertaining the idea of cheating. We don’t cheat. Even when life gets difficult we don’t cheat. We realize there are a million different responses to life’s issues and that cheating would make them worse.

      So people who cheat have a character flaw that is in some cases as deep as the Grand Canyon. It’s terrible when we invest years in them because we believe we have a real (aka monogamous) relationship with someone who knows love is a two way street. Also, if someone has a character flaw the size of the Grand Canyon, going to marriage counseling is like taking a dump truck and dumping one load of dirt into the Grand Canyon. There are not enough life times to fill up the Grand Canyon to pretend like it’s not such a big hole. And why would we anyways. We have better things to do.

      Cheaters live life looking to find ways to fill the hole through using others. It’s not fun to be them, but we need to worry about ourselves and our sanity.

      I have a non-blood relative who married in my husband’s family. Despite this non-blood relative having a degree and a job most people would be grateful for, she metaphorically continues to tie a rope to a brick, tie the rope to her ankle, and jump off a metaphorical bridge. She convinces her husband to hold her hand while she does this. And he holds her hand. And there are consequences. And then that family member calls my husband and says he has to fix it. Say what? This family member is not our child or his. This is a family member on his side who he has no relationship to that would in any way imply that he could be called when it hits the fan. And this family member rants on and on about why his wife was justified in getting herself into this insane situation and why he enables her to keep doing it. Then all hits the fan and my husband, who doesn’t even have a relationship with these folks gets a call and is told to fix it. The brick lady has not cheated yet. But I am sure she will.

      Anyhow, cheaters are like the brick lady. If you enable them by going along with their agenda in any way, you are holding the hand of someone who will drag you to the bottom of the sea.

      I am sorry for this long comment but these are the things I wish someone told me when I was reeling from the pain of the affair and losing everything I thought was my life. I hope it is able to help you in some way.
      Best wishes,

    • Oh, so sorry you lost your mother! And now of all times! My father was in palliative care with bone cancer when it all hit the fan for me. It makes for a painful recovery.

      I like to think that the ex and I did love each other for years. They say narc’s can’t love. Well I don’t buy that. I think some of them can, and do. But they tend to be rainbow chasers and don’t appreciate the value and worth of constancy. They see it as a bore for some reason. They have that fatal flaw.

    • Miss Bailey, so sad to hear about your Mum. But glad she saw your mighty before she passed and had holes of a better future for you. Much love to you today x

  • It’s called “trauma bonding”. Took me a while to work through that one. But my therapist helped me. “The betrayal bond” by Patrick cranes- must read for us chumps that stay through unimaginable things- and helps you understand that bond and break it! Read it! It helped me be free and free or worry and stress!!

  • I hate auto-correct sometimes:

    It’s called “trauma bonding”. Took me a while to work through that one. But my therapist helped me. “The betrayal bond” by Patrick Carnes- must read for us chumps that stay through unimaginable things- and helps you understand that bond and break it! Read it! It helped me be free and free of worry and stress!!

  • I loved, and still grieve for, the fake persona that love bombed me in the early years. But when I look at the Python now, I see someone I don’t know. The character, the fictional man that he created and portrayed (Academy Award level performance), is now dead as far as I’m concerned. What’s left is the actor, and he turned out to be a lousy lying cheating asshole. Not someone I could ever love!

    The performance was good for several years, and I still miss that (pretend) guy. But he died on D-Day.

  • I love him still, but at the end of the day I don’t want someone who doesn’t want me. He may say otherwise but it’s important to look at actions, not words.

  • Hello Tracy,

    Great post and absolutely, positively, totally agree.


    PS- Saw some mentions of trauma bonds. They are hard and abusers intentionally set their victim up for a trauma bond because the abuser knows the bond is strong. It’s Double-stuffed evil with expired whipped cream and a dried up cherry on top.

    But don’t ever lose sight of the idea that you deserve to be treated with respect and love. Love is not painful. If someone treats you terribly it is NOT because you deserve it or did anything in the past to deserve it.

  • I cannot thank this website enough for saving my life. If it wasn’t for this website, I could’ve committed suicide. I am 33 but I have given up on love.

    DD1 occurred when she confessed to having an affair with a married man with 2 young kids. I forgave her and took her back offering her help to forget OM. I did the expected pick me up dance and she used the ILYBIMNILWU asking for some space in the relationship. I moved out of the country to give her enough space to think about our relationship as we were supposed to get married in 3 months.

    I flew with a promise that she will come to see me in 3 months. My father passed away a week after I went to my home country. Whilst I was grieving my loss, Cindrella planned a beach trip with her Charming C**t having sex with him within 4 days of my loss. 3 weeks passed and she messaged me that she was pregnant with my baby and did not wish to keep it. Inspite of my family needing me, I flew to be by her side during the abortion. I took care of her while she resting in her bed recuperating from the after-effects of medicines. I went back to my family with a promise that she will take a sabbatical from work and join me in my home country and we will fly back to Europe after we married. I felt something was wrong when I spoke we spoke on the phone but she insisted that she is not in touch with him. I accessed her phone bills and found out that she has been speaking with the twat the whole time. they exchanged 200+ messages and spoke for hours the day I flew back to my country after her abortion. I was left with no other choice than to expose the affair to the OM’s wife and his family(in-laws, cousins, siblings etc.). Cindrella broke up with me citing I hurt her immensely and she is scared to be with me.

    I am angry at her for betraying my trust repeatedly and robbing me of a beautiful picture we tried to paint of our future. I still think about our aborted baby. I miss my unborn child

    • Wow, just wow Desi. I’m so happy you are away from this poor excuse for a person. There are monsters around us, and they pretend to be humans. She would have corrupted any child, but I am sure you miss the baby that could have been. What a horrible life you would have had if you had stayed with her.

      • Thanks Mitz! I am grateful to CN for showing me the true picture of Narcs. I met Cinderella while I was going through a divorce from an earlier marriage. Ex-wife had a history of cheating and drinking problems which later on become the reason for our divorce. Whilst ex-wife wanted to clean my bank account, I met Cinderella who became my confidante and support. I came back to my home country to fight the divorce case(stupid law in my country!). After working for 10 years in a reputed organisation, I gave up my career, liquidated all my savings and took admission to a Masters degree in Cinderella’s home country for us to be together.

        While I was studying full time and working part-time flipping burgers, packing boxes(Foreign students cannot work more than 20 hours in Europe) to support us in whichever way I could, she was travelling for ‘work related’ trips in London. I would remind myself every-day that ‘This too shall pass..’ and I will go back to working full time in my industry and have a happy life at home, I have double masters degree with more than 10 years of work experience in Information Technology and here I was flipping burgers(No offence to anyone, I am aware of the hard-work behind the counter) to be with the love of my life. While I negotiated my life savings in maintenance for a quick divorce to be with Cinderella, she chooses to have an affair with a married man with two children(2 yo & 5 yo). When I exposed the affair, OM’s wife said that he had cheated on her twice while they were dating and yet she married him. Now she has 2 kids and feels helpless. She took him back after I exposed his affair and wanted him to work on their marriage for the sake of kids. I wish I could direct her to this website.

        We had almost crossed the finish line by finalising my divorce date and involving our family and friends in our wedding plan. Now I am back in my own country with severe anxiety and panic attacks, no job, no savings, grieving loss of my father and an unborn baby(we even thought about a name for our children 2 years ago). I have a fantastic support system in CN, my friends and my family who repeatedly tell me – She sucks!

        PS: I am a non-native English speaker

  • I think most of the ideas that people have about love are wrong, based on what they see and hear and read, I know mine sure were. Nobody really told me what to look for, so I ended up with the losers I got.

  • I always find the newbies who say “But I love him” offensive. Just because i am divorced does NOT mean i did not love “hard enough” or what ever the hell it implies. (and possibly i’m projecting, lol)

    I remember being up late at night googling “how to divorce someone you love”.

    Just because you love him doesn’t make you special and magical. We all did. AND STILL IT FAILED.

    Sorry, Pet peeve. 😉

  • I was fortune that after a bad relationship years before my marriage, I went to therapy and had done some work on myself. After that relationship, I had said “but I still love him” and the therapist asked me “why do you feel love towards someone who abuses you?” That has always stuck with me. Something inside of me wasn’t healthy and it caused me to love only people who abused and manipulated me.

    Unfortunately, I was still blindsided by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But when I found out he was cheating, my first thought wasn’t how can I fix HIM, it was how can I fix ME. And that’s not blaming me for his cheating. An abuser is always the wrong one. It was me looking toward the future so it doesn’t happen again.

    • “It was me looking toward the future so it doesn’t happen again.” I like this Auntie Mame (great movie BTW). I don’t wan tot give up love or relationships but I know that my STBX is like my father in many ways. I tend gravitate toward that type and they always brought me heartache. I want to work on a stronger and healthier me.

    • I keep looking at my husband and thinking, “who ARE you?” when I really need to be asking, “WHO AM I??”

      Point taken. Thank you.

      • Yes…keep switching the channel back to
        “What do I want?” My first answer was
        “I want the affair to never have happened and for him to be who I thought he was.”
        Well, that’s impossible. So, what do I want NOW? Right now, I want to focus on my daughter and my healing. And I am so thankful to know I am nowhere near ready to be in a relationship. Isn’t it interesting how the cheaters think they are? Proof of who the sane one is….

  • Imagine knowing EVERYTHING about the affair, like you had been an invisible presence behind the eyes of the cheater.
    Imagine if you saw every text, email, photo. Imagine if you heard every phone call. Imagine if you were an invisible presence every time they were together or the cheater was spending energy in the Lower Companions direction (buying gifts, etc). Imagine if you knew everything the cheater was thinking. How would you feel? There is SO MUCH ROOM for denial when we only know the teeny tip of the iceberg of the affair. And that’s all we are ever going to know. It makes spackling easy! All the external checking and monitoring is never going to reveal what’s in the cheater’s mind and heart. CHEATING reveals what’s in their mind and heart!! See it and believe it!! LOVE?!!! Love has NOTHING to do with hurting someone. Cheating is not a paper cut, accidentally leaving the milk on the counter or stepping on someone’s toe. It is the Black Dahlia murder of another person’s soul. I could not believe my ears when my husband told me the Lower Companion is KIND. That proved his insanity. I told him that KINDNESS DOESN’T HURT PEOPLE. And believe me when I say they don’t love the Lower Companion either. I loved WHO I THOUGHT my husband was. Any civility or courtesy I show now is about maintaining my dignity and not validating anything negative he may have said or thought that he used to justify stepping out of the marriage. I am on the high road no matter what for that reason alone, and for my daughter’s sake. But love? That was for the facade he presented, not for whoever this stranger is.

    • I certainly don’t know everything; however I did find out a lot from looking at all the messages/photos/etc. that were sent by Tutu Timing to her new extended network of enablers (as her Neanderthal isn’t the most communicative of species). I did this for 4 months after I discovered her long-distance affair had started back up again. My excuse (and yes it’s an excuse not a reason) was to keep our family business together long enough to avoid bankruptcy.

      What did I see/read? Insanity quite frankly. A total obsession with the Neanderthal. Utterly oblivious to anything or anyone else, including her children. For our cheaters we simply don’t exist. I don’t believe they hate us. We just don’t register on their radar unless they need something and then we’re quickly forgotten again. That’s why I agree NC is the only way. Not to ‘punish’ them but to heal ourselves. Ignore everything they say and judge them only by their actions. The lies I saw given to others about me were incredulous; but I do have it all documented as well as all her financial infidelity, which I’ll be using in our upcoming divorce after the summer.

      Good for you Velvet Hammer for taking the High Road. It’s our only choice and the one our children will respect, maybe not now but certainly in the future.

      • Thank you…the high road is for my sanity and healing. Tough motherDucler to trudge.

  • I think the hardest part is that STBX just doesn’t SEE me anymore. I am not on his radar. He’s moved in with OW in another state, three hours away by plane. And while I can tell myself that me being invisible is actually a good thing in terms of disentangling myself from him (married 27 years), it’s killing me to watch him so quickly discard our five kids, four of whom are still at home. He seldom visits, he almost never calls, he doesn’t even return their texts, he just doesn’t care. He’s far too consumed with the OW. He keeps pushing her on them in the name of living “honestly.” She’s driving the divorce and when she speaks, he obeys. (Like when OW demanded that he spend our daughter’s birthday with OW instead of our daughter, he abdicated.) The younger kids are baffled, the older kids heartbroken and resigned. I want them to be happy and healthy. How in the world do I mitigate the tremendous damage he’s done/doing to them?

  • loud, I am praying right now for you all and my Higher Power is a black belt Ninja Jedi Warrior.
    PETER LEVINE…foremost trauma expert…grab his books. He facilitates trauma healing courses at the Meadows in Arizona. It’s not what happens to us as much as HOW IT’S HANDLED. Affairs are based on LYING and DECEPTION, worst forms of abuse because they mess with someone’s reality. The antidote and healing come from TRUTH. Those kids thankfully have YOU (I think Mother Nature required two humans to reproduce so kids would have a back-up parent in case something happened to one). So think, speak, respond with TRUTH, INTEGRITY, LOVE, HONOR, DIGNITY and GRACE. It’s a special category of evil
    when trauma originates from within a family, the one place in the world where you should be safe. Gather your safe tribe, encircle those kids with TRUTH AND LOVE. I have the Safe Coping Skills poster on my wall here at home….Lisa Najavits PTSD work…one of my favorite tools.
    available at

  • I was in love with this guy. I am also a man. We had a “I am ashamed to call it” relationship. He cheated on me constantly and accusing me for this. I tried to leave many times. But I was unable to. 3 months ago we separated, it was his decision, the next day I heard he started an affair with another man while communicating also with a past lover. That was his thing. Him accusing me to forcing him to do it. Men from his past who he never stopped talking to. 3 months no contact I recently called him to tell him that my mother passed away, big mistake, he said that he would like us to be together again, maybe, but after me starting psychotherapy and him going on a summer trip with a past lover(with sex) just for fun nsa, after which he might consider it. I wasn’t the one to propose this scenario. Then he took it back or best he let linger. Now I am more sad I really can’t believe how twisted this was and is. Me who he broke up with and cheated and mourning my mother to wait for him to return from another lover to maybe consider the possibility of us being together!!!!! WTF!!!!!! Is this the twilight zone? Plz forgive my English I am from greece

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