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Dear Chump Lady, Ethical non-monogamy was a bust

Dear Chump Lady,

I was in a relationship for 15 years, married for the last five. I’m not wired to be jealous over sex — I like it when pretty people do things to each other. Sensing he wanted to wander, though, I’d negotiated three rules: he could do whatever as long as it was safe, I knew about it in advance, and I had the option to veto. He broke every rule. I stumbled into a pile of Craigslist-enabled sexual affairs and other, more troubling habits.

I was told that it’d been going on for about six months, but learned it began even before the supposed virgin and I got together. The more I searched for certain screen names, the more profiles I found. All very polished. He explained that sexual shame made him do it.

But I read books about ethical non-monogamy and conflict resolution. I snorted Thich Nhat Hanh. Had calm conversations and then tried yelling and threatening. Got him into therapy. Declared amnesties — you’ll never have a better opportunity to be truly seen and accepted, blah, blah, blah.

I tossed people in his direction, thinking it would sate him, but it just made him hungrier. The day after a hookup, he’d need a social event. And those weekends, he’d stay out until 6AM drinking and going to strip clubs. It never satisfied him — it’s as if giving him permission insulted him, but most guys tell me they’d kill for that kind of freedom within an otherwise-stable, long-term relationship with a decent spouse.

I know I have to go, but I’m still addicted. I don’t understand. Generally I’m disciplined, but this one guy is the key to my life and if I can’t have him I’m not even sure it’s worth living, and the cosmic order depends on redeeming this relationship. I don’t understand why I’m weak for someone who can’t even bring himself to admit that he enjoys sex with strangers.

So, why am I so chumpy? I can see everything so clearly, but on long, lonely nights I just want him back and am willing to sacrifice everything. What does that last step into freedom look like? What is missing here? Once you know the awful truth, that you’re not feeding someone’s stomach but tossing everything you value into a bonfire, what keeps you from living it out?

Sincerely,

barebearbearsbarebears

Dear Barebear…

You can live without him. Trust me. Although you don’t feel this way now, your world will not crumble without a deceitful, Craigslist-stranger-fucking asshole in it. You’ve got 15 years of sunk costs and it’s scary to face the unknown. But the unknown is a lot better than whatever’s in the Petri dish after his STD swab.

(Speaking of which, get yourself tested, pronto.)

Cheating is NOT a monogamy problem. So all the trendy books on ethical non-monogamy aren’t going to help you — you’re dealing with a cheater. A cheater is someone who breaks the terms of consensual agreements. One such agreement is monogamy, another such an agreement is an open relationship with boundaries. All it takes to be a cheater is to break the rules unilaterally without regard to your partner. Rules the cheater voluntarily (and deceptively) entered into. This is a character problem, not monogamy problem.

You did NOT consent to having your health risked. You were generous and open with him, then forgiving, and all this got you was more endangerment, more disrespect, and less kibble value in his eyes. Abort mission.

Got him into therapy. Declared amnesties — you’ll never have a better opportunity to be truly seen and accepted, blah, blah, blah.

Barebear, you need the acceptance work here, not him. He’s A-OKAY being a Craigslist-stranger-fucking asshole. Truly SEE who he is (a Craigslist-stranger-fucking asshole) and ACCEPT it. That’s what his actions are telling you. His mouth spouts a whole bunch of stupidity — virgin, toxic shame, WTFever — to keep himself in cake. (Your kibbles have some value. But one doesn’t restrain oneself for appliances.) Quit giving this fuckwit your power.

So, why am I so chumpy? I can see everything so clearly, but on long, lonely nights I just want him back and am willing to sacrifice everything.

You’ve already sacrificed everything — 15 years of your time, your dignity, your shared finances, your health — AND IT DOES NOT SATE HIM. Why would you give him one more minute?

When someone devalues you, it’s very human (but stupid) to look to that person for MORE validation. Hey, if I can win over this unappeasable person, I will be a kibble SUPERSTAR! We center our focus on fuckwits, instead of asking ourselves the obvious question — WHY?

Why are you chumpy? Well, because you bond. You’re normal. But if you stay chumpy, you probably have some issues to explore because that pleasing the un-pleasable power person dynamic feels comfortable. Any narcs and chumpy orbiting satellites in your family? Book a therapy appointment.

The important thing, Barebear, is to get OUT OF THERE and protect yourself IMMEDIATELY. You can do the emotional work later. Right now, free yourself and go no contact. The longer you stay no contact, the more the “I can’t live without him” spell will break.

You’ll later regret wasting another minute after the first D-Day. You have value. You matter. But the longer you stay, the more you debase yourself. Your love and commitment are precious gifts. He shat on your gifts, which is why he can’t have pretty things. So take your pretty self elsewhere.

((Hugs))

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • One of the books KK touted as being central to helping her “become the person I was always meant to be was ‘The Ethical Slut’ by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy. I’ve not read it, but it purports to discuss how to live an active life with multiple concurrent sexual relationships in a fair and honest way. It didn’t keep her from telling the Carrot Singer that I was hitting her.

    In line with what CL says above, cheaters by nature minimize or completely disregard the ‘ethical’ part because it indicates that they have some type of responsibility towards others, which they hate and flies completely in the face of the entitled “you’re not the boss of me” mindset.

    The irony of KK’s situation is that her deception and betrayal proved that she was, and always would be, the “person she was meant to be.”

    • “The Ethical Slut”? Does that include convincing the person you had previously promised fidelity to that he should let you fuck around after the fact (bait and switch). Does that include fucking other people’s spouses who know nothing about it (wasn’t at least one of KK’s APs also married)? Does it include lying and disrespecting boundaries? Doesn’t sound very ethical to me but maybe I am just an unenlightened prude.

      • That’s what the book is about; how to have a varied sex life, WITHOUT lying to anyone, deceiving anyone, or leading people on. WITHOUT a ‘bait and switch’ or breaking contractual agreements w/o letting the other person know.

        Cheaters LIKE the ‘cheating’ part. They like having a quality partner who would not stay with them if they knew the whole truth. They like the sneaking and lying and deceiving. And they don’t care who gets hurt. As a matter of fact, a lot of them like the drama that ensues when people get hurt, and they like seeing how very important they are to the betrayed partner. What better proof of their importance than people upset, crying, unable to let go of them despite being badly treated ….. Better yet if they can get 2 or 3 people begging them to stay! Narc orgasm!

        Sickos.

        • As much as I hate to think that this is true, I think you’re spot on. When the sense of self is so shallow and empty and vacant, ANYTHING that brings attention and puts one at center stage becomes the morphine that makes daily functioning possible.

          But I’ll amend one of your sentences for clarification: “And they don’t care *if anyone other than them* gets hurt.”

        • It’s a good insight, I think. Clearly, nobody wants an angry spouse, right? Being yelled at isn’t fun. I didn’t want to be weepy – I know it’s gross.

          Yet, if that’s the situation my spouse kept engineering, there has to be _some_ level of intention. I believed for the longest time that he did it because he misunderstood or because he hadn’t been given enough of an opportunity to do it in a safe, forgiving, calm way, but what I was asking wasn’t that difficult. If he kept pushing the DANGER button, eventually it had to be intentional.

          As an aside, “The Ethical Slut” was one of the books I read through. We listened to it as an audiobook on a cross-country drive. In retrospect, if you don’t understand “you jackass, everyone likes sex, so just admit liking sex,” then there’s nothing an audiobook will do either.

          • Your story of the audio book on the long drive stokes a nerve with me. I desperately wanted my cheating (now ex) wife to read RIC books together with me so we could work through “our problems” (aka HER cheating and lying). Bought multiple copies and audio CDs for her but she wouldn’t make the slightest effort.

            In retrospect, trying to build concensus with a narcisisst is a fool’s errand, like trying to reach an agreement with a snake that mice taste bad.

            • My marriage counselor gave us a copy of “fighting for your marriage,” after I asked for a book that has a good section on active listening. Ex never touched it. I gave it back to the marriage counselor, after. I told him that ex never opened it. The counselor said, “well. It has a self-limiting title.”

              • That was the book we were assigned in marriage counseling. That’s the point at which ex bailed on counseling and decided to run off with Schmoopie. It probably seemed like the easier choice at the time. Such a coward.

            • Hey nomar
              I also tried the counselling thing. He claimed he went because he was trying to help me get over “my problems.” Was late for most sessions and then would use whatever was said in the sessions against me.Counselling helped me as an individual but not us as a couple. He was never into healing cause he was just too perfect!

          • I believe my X, Mr Smarty Pants enjoyed thinking of himself as the sexual equivalent of Superman.
            Clark Kent in his suit and spectacles at home with me, and quick change into secret SuperSlutman roaming the sky for danger.

            • Born Free, Exactly what I experienced. X is Sparkley (like Ben Affleck), everybody loved him. Up until he ran off. Our community was shocked just as much as I was, even though small red flags had been surfacing for years. The night we wed he spent with our friends partying while I sat in our wedding suite looking after our infant daughter (eight years dating, slaps side of head). Some people are never going to grow up. If I had paid any attention to my gut I would have run off with the boy who professed his love. Instead I pursued what was familiar, a guy with a stable future all mapped out. Twenty years later, he blew it up. Cheaters are setting the charges way before then though. It starts with habits that are not so healthy and the need to be in the spotlight all the time. That and those sketchy 800 numbers (or time, an inordinate amount of it plugged in/not spending time at home. “Intention” is right.

        • It’s called being a narcissist. Narcissists need supply. Its a real thing research it. Learn about it.
          Another thing they do is gaslight you. Make you think your crazy. He didn’t say that. Yes he did, no he didn’t etc. Trying to make you crazy and not trust yourself or your instincts.
          The cheater has it made. Someone at home to cook, clean, service, and be there at the snap of the fingers. Meanwhile, able to peruse anything with 2 feet!
          And the other person just lays down and takes it. Why?
          Don’t be the narcissistic supply.
          Another one is triangulation. Always saying the person is better at this, or whatever to make you feel bad about yourself.
          Everyone should research this and learn. Good luck. Don’t be a door mat.

        • Yep, they LIKE the challenge of keeping it all secret from the spouse. They like it even more if, when they trot the AP out in front of their/your/combined friends, they can convince them not to tell you. It’s a high to them. Not only are they getting one over on you, they’re able to convince others to do it too!!

          Cheaters look down on chumps, think we’re idiots and that we deserve to be lied to.

          Which was interesting to me because I’m pretty sure my ex only married me because his friends told him I was too good for him. So in a “Nuh uh. She’s not too good for me.” snit, he proposed… sort of.

          • THIS > “They like it even more if, when they trot the AP out in front of their/your/combined friends, they can convince them not to tell you.”

            Unfortunately for ex, our mutual friends have conscience and revealed everything to me. Then things started to click together – my own observations and their stories. Ex’s seemingly harmless joke that he wants a baby with me vs. telling his friends that he should have impregnated me to triangulate the 3rd party. It opened up my eyes of who I am dealing with – a disordered person. That’s when I felt the undeniable urge to RUN.

      • EXACTLY! They get the high from getting away with “it.” It may be sex with others or shopping or anything, really. Chumps are the main tool in this game, and if you stop playing, they can no longer use you to carry out their pathology.

      • My ex said, “ you can’t put my dick you n your purse”
        Bye bye
        He’s in my rear view mirror, a ghost of the past
        Xo

  • CL is totally on point.

    Friend, I am going to flesh out something you said from a fresh perspective:

    *** This guy is the key to the *current shape* of your *previously existing* life *plan*. ***

    He is what has been true, not what will be true. He is what he is, not the hopes and dreams you had about who he was or would be. He may be broken, but not in the way you have been perceiving it — it isn’t shame that motivates him, it’s control. It isn’t his heart that’s broken, it’s his connection to his own soul. You can’t solve that for anyone but yourself.

    As you look more closely, I will venture a guess that you’ll begin to discover that he has figured out a bunch of subtle ways to play on your fears of things like being alone and not being deeply loved again, so you now feel losing him is tantamount to losing life.

    That’s an illusion. How do I know? Because it is never true about anyone. Life can always go on, even beautifully, and even after profound grief. (Exhibit A is writing these words.)

    I believe you can (and will) take your fabulous and deeply compassionate self forward into a new life plan that will be much better — saner, calmer, sweeter, lighter, brighter, richer, and deeper.

    First you have to leave and grieve. I say, line up a support system, get an empowering counselor of your own, and start with baby steps.

    You can move a mountain all alone, gradually but completely, by carrying small stones.

    • Wow, Amiisfree, you are the bomb. Written so eloquently and compassionately.

      Barebear please please listen to the collective hardwon wisdom of CL and CN. We all know what the mind melting soul sucking fog that you are in right now is like. Get away from that cruel person and you will get your life – and your mojo – back.

    • I want to pile on here and say that this is excellent advice, Barebear. Allow yourself to acknowledge that what you thought he was (and what he is capable of being) are not reality. Accept that, and grieve. Treat it like a death because it is–it is the death of this relationship, and the death of your ability to hang on, hoping he will change. But Bare–this is a GOOD thing. This torturous, dysfunctional relationship HAS TO die and be put to rest. It will NEVER bring you happiness. And you don’t deserve it.

      It will be so hard to go no contact at first, but as time goes by, I promise you, it will be incredibly freeing. There are good, worthy people in this world looking for partners. When you are ready, go out and find them. You deserve a man who loves you and is true and honest with you. I’m sorry you have to go through this. I promise you, you can get through this! My heart and my thoughts are with you as you take these first steps!

    • “Life can always go on, even beautifully, and even after profound grief.” So true, and so beautifully put @amiisfree. Thank you for writing this!

    • “He may be broken, but not in the way you have been perceiving it”

      Thanks for this.

      “You can move a mountain all alone, gradually but completely, by carrying small stones.”

      This is one of the things I’m having to learn. A life isn’t made up of grand, dramatic gestures. Sometimes, fixing my life is doing the dishes or laundry. Or showering. Or deleting his contact info. A collection of small actions, each of which makes my day measurably better, even if I haven’t been able to fix my relationship.

      • You are mighty barebearbears! It doesn’t feel like it now but you are. You bonded and that is normal so what you are feeling is grief for a real loss. Just because he doesn’t connect the same way you did, doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t real and 100% valid. 15 years of sunk costs is huge and CL is right. The big scary, unknown is worse but once you get to the scary unknown you will realize that it is far better than wasting your time with someone who didn’t value you.

        You were willing to bend the rules, a lot further than I would have bent them myself and he still showed you no respect. That’s on him. Not on you. Keep being mighty! Chump Nation has your back.

        Hugs!!

  • Hi Barebear, So, you opened up your relationship for HIM. Was it open for you, too? Betting it wasn’t. I did the same after he admitted he was already on whore #5 and he NEEDED HER. That I was less than. Was so very desperate to hold my life as I knew it together that I completely debased myself. Funny thing was that I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I had spent years (25) being groomed to take the emotional abuse, that I didn’t even see it as abusive. Truthfully, by that point there was nothing of ME left. All I knew was that I just needed to try harder to please him.

    Know what that did? It ramped up the abuse. Now instead of just him and his family, his whore was now actively involved in emotionally and psychologically hurting me. It was a very, very dark place, causing me to self harm. Is that what you want? No? Then get the hell out. It will only get so much worse, I promise you.

    Once he left and I got myself into good therapy (marriage counseling was another mindfuck of epic proportions-he snowed her but good), I finally started seeing the big picture. Found myself again. You will, too. It takes getting away and letting the dark, dank cloud you’ve been under lift to see it. Life is so much better without them in it. Get out, lawyer up and get moving forward out of that hell.

    Hugs to you, Barebear.

    • Yes we are GROOMED to think of ourselves as there to serve their wants. I refuse to say “needs” because the things cheaters do are not needs. They are selfish wants/entitlements. They feel completely justified in using you up completely and never giving you anything back NEVER. It is like being in the Shel Silverstein book “The Giving Tree.” By the way never read that book to kids in an “isn’t that sweet” kind of way. It is like a chump/abuser training manual. The boy goes back to the tree over and over asking for every resource she has. She gives apples, and branches, her trunk until there is nothing left of her. She does this to make him happy. He never says thank you. He never gives anything back. He doesn’t even stick around for years at a time. Over and over as she gives the book says “and that made the tree happy.” Just once when she has given up everything it says also “but not really.” Then at the end when she has nothing but a stump he comes back and sits on her because he is old and tired. Again the tree is supposedly “happy” about this. But we already know this is a lie. All through the damned book the boy is described as wanting to pretend he’s a king, there are hearts carved on the tree with his and other people’s initials, he says he just wants money and to have fun etc. It is seriously the sickest expression of the cheater mentality our culture has. I hope Barebear decides he doesn’t have to be the tree…

      • I see that book in a whole different light now. I don’t think it was ever about generosity and kindness. I think it was always intended to tell the story of an abusive relationship and the costs involved. You can give everything you have and it won’t make someone love or value you. “The tree was happy….but not really” is so telling. Trying to make other people happy by giving up so much of yourself won’t really bring you happiness.

        • My ex always hated that book. The thing is, I think he must have thought he was the tree. Or maybe he thought he had to be the boy to avoid being the tree. Who knows.

        • I read that book once. It made me cry. I thought the boy was so mean and selfish. He always wanted more, never a thank you, and the tree loved him so much, she just gave him all of herself.

          • I have to say, my kids all saw instantly how fucked up and co-dependent (though we didn’t know that word) this story was. One of my sons cried when we read this book together! and he still (age 30 now) has a heart of gold.

      • The Rainbow Fish goes in the trash with Tje Giving Tree. Another codependent training manual.

      • The Plain White T’s did a song about The Giving Tree. In their version he was the tree which she cut down, made a boat and sailed away.

      • Excellent point Jojobee! I haven’t thought of that book in years. I know we had a copy growing up. Of course we did! Home is where I learned that I was less than and didn’t deserve to be happy.

        Take a look at your life barebear, really look at it. Was self reliance, self esteem and self efficacy modeled to you, not talked about in that “you can do anything” way, but actually modeled? Were healthy relationship modeled? We’re there moments in life where someone was being taken advantage of and simply said they weren’t going to take it anymore? Did they get out, move on and succeed?

        Save yourself! Exit this relationship where you do all the giving and grieve the loss. Then go back and ask yourself, “why was this relationship where I was used and taken advantage of acceptable to me for so long?” Find the answers, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Then make the necessary changes before you get into another relationship.

    • “So, you opened up your relationship for HIM. Was it open for you, too? Betting it wasn’t.”

      Heh. Well, I once tried. I told my spouse months in advance that I had my eye on someone I occasionally saw at conferences. And so, one day, I finally made my move. We sat downstairs in a hotel lobby and drank for hours, talking about everything from politics to the problems in his own relationship. Eventually I literally dragged him back to his room, fed him water, and left a note on his door hoping he’d avoid a hangover. Now we’re friends and laugh about it.

      But no, not really. So far, the score is like 0.5 me, 10+ him, and I’m aware that’s a low ball.

      I think I like the idea of non-monogamy in theory, but … in practice I don’t. The people who are awake at three in the morning to have no-strings-attached sex with strangers at the drop of a hat haven’t put me at ease. Maybe they’re decent people, but… well. One of his partners had posted to Craigslist twice daily for the past few months. I was able to laugh at that, after I got over the horror of what I’d exposed myself to.

      “It is like being in the Shel Silverstein book ‘The Giving Tree.'” I think I’ll go get a copy to read through again. Thank you for writing.

      • Being non-monogamous in no way means you need to accept waiting up for someone at three am while they go have a quickie with a stranger. In no way do polyamorous or open relationships require emotional abuse and coercion to function. Calling this abusive and dangerous behavior “non-monogamy”was a fig leave to give his awful behavior an air of sophistication and legitimacy. The entire concept of ethical non-monogamy hinges on consent of all parties involved, you did not consent to any of this. No matter what relationship model you choose in the future, do not confuse this behavior with ethical non-monogamy.

        I’t sounds like your husband gets off on degrading and humiliating you, or just simply doesn’t care. You deserve better.

      • BBBBB, I hurt for you….Down to my core

        Your comment: “The people who are awake at three in the morning to have no-strings-attached sex with strangers at the drop of a hat haven’t put me at ease. Maybe they’re decent people…..”

        Uh, just NO! You & I both know these freaks are NOT decent people. Not on any level / not in any area of life. How one conducts themselves in their intimate, private life (at 3am especially!) is how they conduct themselves in ALL areas of life—-ask me how I know! 🙂
        There can NEVER be ease with them! You want ease? Get away from the lies & deceit

        As Lost 220# Deadweight so profoundly stated: “Good hearts don’t cannibalize their kindred.”

        To me, that sums up the difference between the disordered and the genuine. You are genuine, BBBBB; your spouse is disordered. Please get away /stay away….Also, check out Dr George Simon’s work. He helps immensely in identifying & getting free of manipulative relationships and reclaiming one’s authentic self!

        ForgeOn, great Nation, ForgeOn!

  • One lesson learned from this infidelity journey: Always choose self-respect over a relationship. Always. And honesty over lies.

      • Right? Still amazed that I tolerated both individual instances of abuse, and the totality of Hannibal’s treatment. Yes, I fought back. Often. But I stayed.

        The maelstrom of abusive marriages are like being in the inner circle of a tornado–the illusion of calm inside, when really the world is reeling around you and all you can see are flying cows.

        • I think this is the key Tempest – it’s not sufficient to state your boundaries, but to enforce them. Why is this so very difficult to do? Because when faced with a narc/psychopath reality is totally turned on it’s head – you know that cows can’t fly, but look there are flying cows.

          Being trapped in a room with cheater and his lies for two hours yesterday – I was amazed at his ability to just tell really obvious lies, with a straight face. Even when calmly challenged with the reality (in this instance a bank statement utterly contradicting his version of who paid for what, or proof that a car he had been apparently driving for three years had been de-registerd and scrapped 4 years before, or video evidence that he wasn’t sleeping in a tin shed, but in a comfortable master bedroom, or or or), it didn’t matter one jot to him. Somehow the evidence was wrong, or forged, or someone had been able to manipulate government employees to tell lies on my behalf, or policeman were corrupt or…. on and on.

          I got the giggles in the end at the absurdity – but really not funny at all.

    • Amen. I’d rather liuve in a cardboard box under a bridge than with a man who doesn’t really think I’m worth having anyway.

    • Tempest, you are so right. This goes for marriage, even though there are people and religions who think the marriage is more important than the people in it.

      Self-respect over a relationship.

      Self-reliance and self-care over abuse.

  • Oh Barebear –

    I want to give you a great big hug. He does it because he’s an entitled asshole. For one reason or a million, you want to change your entitled asshole into a caring loving human being who appreciates the gifts you have given him of your heart, soul and body AND that he could go enjoy other bodies as long as he followed your VERY prudent rules.

    He doesn’t follow rules and he doesn’t appreciate your heart, soul or body.

    He’s selfish. He will have to work long and hard to manage to be shallow because he lacks the depth.

    You are addicted to him, to his drama, to his lapses and shortcomings. You need to detoxify. The first step is to get away from him, or get him away from you. It will suck. In the meantime, rally the reinforcement. You need your friends. You need a good therapist. You may want to look at NA or Alanon. Not because you state that either of you have a substance problem, but because your behavior is that of someone in love with an addict.

    Save yourself. The world is bigger than his little glimmer. YOU are bigger than this and with time, tears, lots of hard work, more tears and time, you can be much happier overall.

    You need a special ring tone for him. May I suggest becoming a patron and downloading “He sucks!”? If not, then make his ring tone silent. Or block him. Have someone else listen to his messages, preview his emails. He’s going to jerk you around still further and he will make it possible for you to debase yourself still further with the Pick-Me Dance.

    Don’t do it. You are the star of your life. He doesn’t deserve to share your stage.

    Please go find a terrifyingly good divorce lawyer. This is not the time to DIY or trust to the cheapest one. You need someone who has dealt with real smarmy creeps in the past and beaten them at their own game.

    Now I want to hug you, pour tea, serve cake and a box of Puffs Plus.

    • Ringtone silent. Great advice. This is what I did, eventually. Original mistake: giving my cheating Narc-ex-wife one of the ringtones that come with the phone. For months and years to come, this ringtone (sounding on other people’s phones) would trigger me. Do yourself a favor and put your Narc-ex on SILENT.

    • “May I suggest becoming a patron” Done!

      “and downloading “He sucks!”? Oh hell no, lol. I will forget to silence my phone and this will play during a meeting, I just know it. I’ve just blocked him.

      “pour tea” For some reason, tea is becoming a new hobby. I know a lot of tea drinkers, and this is how they go to bed rather than getting drunk every night. I don’t mind beer, but there’s a problem with alcohol in my community. Wonder if tea should be a part of recovery.

      Thank you for writing what you did.

      • Barebear,
        You sound like you are already on your way to meh! The road isn’t easy but worth it. You have to grieve the old future and look forward to your new one, or better yet live in the moment! I know there were days I had to live one minute at a time but it got easier! You are mighty!

      • May I suggest the easily downloaded .pdf file called, ‘This Naked Mind – by Annie Grace’.

        We are big tea drinkers here.
        (well, me and my dogs)

      • So glad you’re here BBBB. My plug for tea — I’m a bit obsessed with Tea Forte, the little tea triangles that come in assortment boxes. They’re pricey but soooooooo good. Be kind to yourself! Good tea counts. (And maybe some cookies too.)

  • I have read up on Separation Anxiety in adults. I do believe that it exists. I think there needs to be more research in this area. People can become fixated on another person and suffer when they break the ties (or the ties are broken for them).

    It does make a person wonder in the face of such blatant disrespect and relationship fraud. Why can some people walk away when they are treated like shit, and some cannot?

    • “Why can some people walk away when they are treated like shit, and some cannot?”

      A bit of nature, some nurture, then life experiences is my guess.

      I sometimes liken depression to a breaker box. If enough switches are flipped, anyone can become depressed. Some people only need a few, others need more. Sometimes the switches are flipped due to one’s own wiring, then there are outside circumstances.

      It’s still up to the individual to figure out how to deal with their breaker box. They may have support and assistance, but it’s still entirely up to them to DO it.

      An imperfect analogy, but it made sense to my FuckedUp Unicorn.

    • Food for thought here….why would I be anxious at the prospect of being on my own with ME (whom I trust implicitly?) as opposed to being married to someone who has clearly demonstrated they are unsafe and untrustworthy? Why doesn’t that scare the hell out of me? Why wouldn’t getting away make me feel relieved instead of fearful and anxious? I will be thinking about this on the way to my Super Lawyer today. My husband shopped for an Asian woman in the Casual Sex Craisglist ads….my Higher Power referred me to a Super Lawyer. She is my dear sponsor’s Lawyer, a Super Lawyer, and whaddaya know….she’s Asian! (karma Mack truck?).

    • I think it’s more simple than that. People are fixated on relationships in an unhealthy way in our culture. It’s as if being single is an indicator of failure. Therefore, some among us deny all of our needs to keep the image going. One need above all others. Or we go into nurse mode, thinking our love can fix some broken dumbass.

      The post yesterday about Chumpladys aunt set some of that off for me. The comments were basically all “we can find love again”. I dont knock that, but consider it: Why is love only found within the bounds of intimate relationships? People get fixated on them. I dunno, my son is autistic, so the likelihood I’ll be in another romantic relationship is 0%. Very few people want to work harder than they have to in life, thus I’m doomed. But does that really say anything about me? No. People have to stop looking at romantic relationships as an indicator of success. It’s easier to let go if you accept it may have nothing to do with anything you did or didn’t do. General you rather than specific, sorry lol.

      • I completely agree, DemHoez! The fixation on coupledom is so deeply embedded in our culture. The very clear message is that we are somehow incomplete if we are not part of a pair. Been there, done that, not interested.

      • For me, there was an element of “look at us!” in there. We were a long-term, stable, open and honest gay couple. We were together for a long time and – I thought – we were devoted. Yeah, I was proud of it. I wanted people to know that my kind didn’t have to be promiscuous, even if, especially if, the option was on the table.

        Losing that was a major blow to my ego, because I thought we were doing it right. I thought we’d be an image for the next generation of gay guys. There was, as you say, definitely an unhealthy fixation on the relationship as a thing to be seen. :-\

        • Barebear, sorry you’ve had to find your way to the club no one wants to join, but welcome!
          You say you wanted people to know your kind didn’t have to be promiscuous, and based on your record you are not, and you don’t want to be. So you stay with someone who is and wants to be…why? Whatever else you two share, you don’t share a fundamental value like this. Painful as it may be, this relationship is dead. You need to free yourself, heal, then you can find someone who shares the same principles and goals. And your cheater can do that too, far away from you.

        • I’m a bi cisgender femme, so all I can do is sympathize. True empathy is impossible when one has not lived the experience of an oppressed group. However, you can’t carry a cross for all gay men. You can’t wreck yourself trying to hold up an ideal. Save yourself, you can’t change a bigots heart no matter how hard you try. You owe those people nothing. Let them think whatever they want about a group. It’s not up to you to change that.

      • I agree completely, DemHoez, and I love, love, love your nom de chump. The world is full of people and animals who need love. it doesn’t all have to be romance.

        • Yes, I agree also.
          I sure don’t need a partner back in my every day life.
          No way – I LIKE being solo!

          However, I miss a good fuck.

          Sigh

          • I am enjoying having a live out boyfriend who I only see two-three times a week. We don’t have time to annoy each other.

            • I don’t even have time for that. Son is seven and I get no help from his father beyond the money he has to send every month. I know I’m doomed, so casual is all I do. Through a jimmy hat on a weak mark and never speak to them again. I’m cold, make it clear what it is from the start though. It only happens every three months when it gets unbearable and I can’t stop thinking about it. Otherwise, free time is spent with my son or web development projects.

              I’ve learned most humans are mediocre. All I can hope is that they stay out of my way. That was an arrogant statement, but I’m the smart girl. That’s what I got in life. Not pretty, not cool, not even overly agreeable – smart. Most people don’t seem to want that, add in my son’s challenges -it’s just too much. Some people are just not partner material and that’s me.

              I want to thank the void for practicing active listening.

    • I agree with you, Mitz. I’ve read a lot about attachment theory and believe my fear of abandonment stemmed from my fear of losing my mother as a child. It made me cling too tightly to people and value them more than myself. When my ex left, I felt like I was tied to him by a tether that I couldn’t seem to cut fast enough to keep from being drug all over the countryside as he galloped off into the sunset. It was brutal. It really took 5-6 years of no contact for that invisible bond to dissolve. I’m now attached to my Higher Power as well as myself. These days I protect myself from others instead of sacrificing myself for them. It’s a whole different way of life.

      • I totally second and third your attachment theory anecdote. I was adopted at two months old, in foster care for the first two months, very ill for most of my childhood raised by a borderline mother and a chump father. To say I have some abandonment issues would be an understatement. I have found, however, that I can survive even if someone close to me discards me. My a-Mom effectively did when my dad had a stroke. She cut me off and I thought i would die from the pain. I didn’t die, I survived. My husband is the only other person who incites these super clingy feelings in me. I’m moving closer to being okay with the idea that I might have to leave him over his dysfunctionality. If two Mothers abandoning me didn’t kill me, he sure as hell won’t. It’s a horrible life lesson, though

        • KT, I am so sorry to hear that you were adopted into such an uncaring family. I hope your chump father was able to love you, at least. And that your self-love leads you to live a life without dysfunction.

          Sending you cyber hugs!

      • Yes, we need to learn how to protect ourselves from others, you have it there in a nutshell.

        The dependency on them, our acceptance of poor treatment by them.

        As kids some of us never learned our own value.

        • This-I had no value to a narc mother and a peter pan father as a child. My dad has done his best since. I’ve finally gone NC with my mother (at 56!). I will not allow her to devalue my daughter as well.
          But I can see why I’ve allowed myself to accept shitty behaviour from others.

      • Add me to the list with fear of abandonment. I grew up in the fear of my mum committing suicide when I already didn’t have a dad. I’ve only understood how much it affected my adult life after the Traitor left.

        • I actually articulated my fear of abandonment to the cheater, I explained where it stemmed from.

          During discard he never failed to push that abandonment button when ever possible – proof you were dealing with a monster.

          • This-I had no value to a narc mother and a peter pan father as a child. My dad has done his best since. I’ve finally gone NC with my mother (at 56!). I will not allow her to devalue my daughter as well.
            But I can see why I’ve allowed myself to accept shitty behaviour from others.
            I got the “suicide” calls when I started demanding some really simple things. I live in a different country to my mother. Pfft😄

    • This one may be better. Sound or feel familiar whether from Cheater or from other people in your life?

      15 types of verbal abuse:

      Withholding (refusing to talk to or acknowledge the victim)
      Countering (always telling the victim that he or she is wrong)
      Discounting (not taking into account the victim’s perceptions)
      Verbal abuse disguised as a joke
      Blocking and diverting (thwarting the victim’s attempts at communication)
      Accusing and blaming
      Judging and criticizing
      Trivializing (telling the victim his or her concerns are inconsequential)
      Undermining (eroding the victim’s confidence)
      Threatening (implying physical harm through a fit of rage or though an unspoken threat, like punching the wall)
      Name calling
      Forgetting (regularly “forgetting” appointments, agreements, or incidents)
      Ordering and demanding
      Denial (denying all abusive behavior)
      Abusive anger (frightening the victim with repeated angry outbursts)

      • My ex was a master at verbal abuse – withholding, countering, discounting (this was a big one), blocking, trivializing (another big one) – made me feel that I was the something wrong in our marriage. Damn him to hell!!!

      • My ex did all these, except the name calling (I think it would have made the abuse too obvious), and the undermining didn’t work, although he tried really really hard at it! Thanks heavens I was 38 when I met him, and confident in my professional capacities, friendships, adulting abilities.

        My response was always to try to talk, to explain, to justify, to clear up the ‘misunderstandings’, to try harder to understand him and make allowances. Surely he simply didn’t understand! Surely if I could make him see how he was hurting me, the kids, himself ….!

        It was only when I found myself trying to explain to a 43 year old man, Ph.D. and MBA, why lying was a problem in any kind of relationship (and he was responding with contempt!), did my eyes finally open, and I understood that it wasn’t that he didn’t SEE, it was that he didn’t CARE.

        • Karen,
          I am a lot like you in terms of what you have described in your post above. It took me a few years to fully accept that it wasn’t a matter of him (my boyfriend) not seeing, it was a matter of him not caring.

  • “do not look for healing
    at the feet of those
    who broke you”

    ― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

    We always want to make the cheater SEE and FIX their problems and begin to TREAT US BETTER. Just no. Go elsewhere. You are getting more real support and understanding here among Chump Nation than you are getting from your spouse.

  • A decent spouse? There in lies the problem. He likes pretty people from Craig’s list and you’re not the boss of him.

    Not being the jealous type? You can’t control others. You can make all the rules you want however setting up a system of approval requires respect. What’s the point of being married? What did those vows sound like?

      • Exactly the point Jo. And he states he’s not wired to be jealous about sex.

        STD’S are transmittable regardless of how pretty the asshole is..

        So fuckimg strange is in fact OK with contingencies. I’m not getting something here. To me it’s about power and control on both ends.

      • Jojobee, well said! ‘I’d rather live in a cardboard box under a bridge than with a man who doesn’t really think I’m worth having anyway.’ THIS.

        This is the exact moment of truth for Chumps. When this sentence or its equivalent is uttered, the Chump is compelled to realize that the cost of staying versus the lure of the sunk costs has just reached its tipping point. It’s when they become empowered to realize that no matter what those sunk costs are (decades, real estate, life savings), they can’t hold a candle to getting away from someone content to abuse and take advantage of them.

        Long ago, I made an ‘I would rather’ list about Honey. It went a little something like this.

        I would rather my face be mauled by a deranged honey badger than feel Honey touch my face ever again.
        I would rather be lost in a cold forest at night with wolves closing in than ever be found by that man.
        I would rather have dinner with the clown from IT than ever make Honey a hot meal again.

        You get the picture. I think there may have been a Friday challenge about this too.

        Anyway, Barebear must find his own tipping point. It’s kind of like smoking. You may love it, but you know it’s going to kill you. But there isn’t a person on earth that can make you give it up until YOU are ready. And readiness often comes in the form of seeing pictures of cancer-riddled lungs, or someone smoking out of a stoma (ewww). That moment of realization that you’re giving up everything to love something bad for you is often achieved here on this blog. And when he (or any reader) realizes that despite the fact that the withdrawals are going to hurt like a MOFO, the pain of that now feels small compared against the ongoing agony of being with someone who doesn’t really think (or demonstrate) they’re worth having anyway.

        • Honey,
          Thank you very much for the statement regarding ‘the ongoing agony of being with someone who doesn’t really think..they’re worth having anyway.’ I spent tons of (too much) time pondering how, to my boyfriend, I wasn’t worth having. I should have spent more time and energy during the relationship thinking about how HE had not demonstrated that he was worth having–and then exiting this sorry excuse of a relationship, which I desperately wanted to believe was a wonderful fairy tale although it was a lopsided relationship in which I was occasionally thrown crumbs and often emotionally abused, gaslit, lied to, treated as a back up plan when things didn’t work out with other women and I took him back because I couldn’t imagine life without him, etc.

  • This isn’t a case of “pretty people do things to each other” This is a case of gross disgusting people doing gross disgusting things to each other. Get away from it. Ew. And please don’t try and hook him up with others. That isn’t a very nice thing to do to those people knowing what you know about him and his habits.

  • I was once in love with an illusion as well. I had to accept that my spouse was not who I made them out to be. Sure, he said all the right things; the things he knew I wanted to hear, and mixed that in with some empathy provoking sob stories.

    Manipulators know how to use your humanness against you. They know it is foreign to our nature to turn our backs on someone who is in emotional distress. That’s why we fall for the sad sausage stories. When that stops working and you demand accountability, you’ll see the shift to everything that is wrong with YOU. Let the gaslighting begin!

    Cheaters put you in a catch 22.
    They’re broken …you aren’t supportive enough.
    You demand accountability… you’re controlling.
    They “trip” and put their parts in someone else’s … you didn’t do enough to stop them from tripping.

    Cheaters have a whole host of ways to morally disengage, but they will be sure to make it your fault (justification). In order for betrayal to be okay, they have to make it socially acceptable, by attributing the cause as living outside themselves. Cheating is given different “appearances” depending on what names are given or attached to it; sex addiction, relational problems, seduction, etc.

    Cheaters exploit the contrast principle, which follows the assumption that human conduct is influenced by what it is compared against.. i.e., They Craigslist shop because you did or didn’t do x,y,z, effectively displacing responsibility. By distorting the relationship between actions and the effects they cause, cheaters effectively excuse their own lack of agency. They are then free from self-condemnation.

    If they aren’t responsible, the subject of cheating becomes a gray area. Gray areas are to chumps, as kryptonite is to Superman. Let’s be clear, there are no gray areas with cheating!

    • Got-a-brain, I love your posts!! I recently wrote a couple of blog posts about how cheaters would fare if they tried to use these hackneyed excuses and logical fallacies in other parts of life that I think you might like. I wrote one about how a man named Hutchins would do if he tried to use Ester Perel’s logic and arguments in a criminal courtroom after stealing a car, and another one about the same man trying to justify stealing a burrito out of someone’s hand in the park (entitled ‘hey, man, that’s my burrito.’)

      Gaslighting, moral disengagement, logical fallacies, deflection…all things that cheaters try to use on us don’t really work out so well when applied in different settings. It kind of sheds light on the absurdity of those excuses when they are used in a different context. 😊

    • Got a Brain, I love your posts!! I recently wrote a couple of blog posts about how cheaters would fare if they tried to use these hackneyed excuses and logical fallacies in other parts of life that I think you might like. I wrote one about how a man named Hutchins would do if he tried to use Ester Perel’s logic and arguments in a criminal courtroom after stealing a car (not guilty by reason of awesomeness), and another one about the same man trying to justify stealing a burrito out of someone’s hand in the park (entitled ‘hey, man, that’s my burrito.’)

      Gaslighting, moral disengagement, logical fallacies, deflection…all things that cheaters try to use on us that don’t really work out so well when applied in different settings. It kind of sheds light on the absurdity of those excuses when they are used in a different context. 😊

    • “lack of agency”

      Just to let you know, I hissed and threw things at the screen. This was his go-to. His life wasn’t his own. His actions weren’t his own. Life was something that happened to him, and every negative thing I did was an excuse for the next round.

      I did have enough sense to tell the guy that he was crafting his life, even while he was pretending others were making it for him. He was intent, if his actions were any indication, on being that skeevy guy in his 40s and 50s who hangs out in the bar on Tuesday nights, leering at younger men. It wasn’t his destiny – it was his plan.

      I guess people can be that guy. Somebody has to, apparently. But nobody’s forcing it. Thank you for your comment.

  • Barebear, we all have come to finally realize that for most of these jerks, it isn’t about sex. That was your mistake. It’s about that they like the lying, the deceiving, the control of getting one over on us. You thought if you gave him Sexual freedom he would be happy. What he wants is the power to do what he wants when and as soon as you slapped a “rule” on it then it became about getting around your rules and isn’t he clever. I realized when I finally knew the whole truth about my Cheaterturd and I looked back, that I could identify those moments he was lying to me all along and the smirk that was on his face every time he did it. He enjoyed feeling smarter than me, it isn’t abput SEX, it’s about POWER. Once you internalize that it makes it easier to walk away because you realize they will never be happy and as soon as you give on yet another thing they then move the goalposts again because “you’re not the boss of me” is their basic operating system.

    Run fast, run far.

    • This is absolutely true. Couldn’t have said it better. It’s about entitlement and centrality. Something inside of them is screaming for validation and attention. No single person can fill this void for them because they’re not at a point where they can see others as valuable in their own right. They’re forever stuck at the developmental age where everything is about them. They can’t truly reach outside themselves

    • It’s a good point. The lies have concerned more than just sex – money was in there too. Whenever I was feeling uncomfortable about our financial situation, I’d point him directly at my bank account. Here is the number. Simple, sweet.

      But I realize that, even a decade into the relationship, I was only ever able to get vague responses about his finances, and it was always “fine.” It wasn’t always fine, but that’s what I was told.

      I don’t understand what it must be to get something out of playing hide and seek like that, but … I guess I have to accept it. Phrasing it solely in terms of sex is a mistake – it just happened to be the gross straw that broke the camel’s back.

      • Oh shit. Run a credit check on yourself. He may have opened up lines of credit in your name, or using your SSN, and then trashed it.

        If so, gird your loins, file a police report and pursue your money & restoring your credit to his grave and beyond.

    • OMG. I got the same smirk. He enjoyed fooling me that is for sure. But, I got the last laugh. I left and am finally beginning to enjoy life again and I’m excited for everything new and beautiful that is ahead of me. The world is my oyster once again.

  • Thinking out loud here…
    Why does the thought of leaving someone who crystal-clearly demonstrated they are unsafe and untrustworthy cause me fear and anxiety? Why am I not fearful and anxious at the prospect of STAYING with them? My husband shopped on Craigslist in the Casual Sex ads for a Chinese woman to have sex with. They liked each other! They are “sole” mates! (His spelling) She is kind! (in my universe people who knowingly fuck married people are NOT kind). Well, maybe the karma Mack truck is headed in his direction today. My dear AA/Al Anon sponsor referred me to her lawyer. I am on my way to see her today for the first time (pray for me at 10am). She is a Super Lawyer. She happens to be Chinese.

  • A person who loves you would never hurt you in this way, so the first thing to accept is that. Then you have to let go of the idea that you can control him. It’s not possible as you’ve found out. There’s s reason it’s called “bonding” and unfortunately- like most all of us- you’ve pair bonded with a person who doesn’t bond well- if at all. Breaking bonds hurts like hell. You may feel like it’s impossible or you may feel like you will die from the pain when you do. Those are very common feelings many of us have shared. You are not alone in having those feelings. And right now it probably feels impossible to imagine surviving the suffering but you will. It is a terrible storm on an ocean of grief with miles high waves of terror and despair and you have no choice but to ride it out. But storms pass. The sky will clear. And this experience will become a part of your past. What you do with this lesson, how it teaches you about how to live your life is the critical choice you have right now and going forward.

    I believe that one of the greatest evils done in this world is when a person makes another person feel “less than”. To be diminished and devalued is inhuman. Another person is actively doing that to you. That will be your legacy and it will inform the rest of your life if you don’t break free. Your choices suck- that’s certain-but at least if you chose you, you correct one evil being perpetuated on this planet.

    • “That will be your legacy and it will inform the rest of your life if you don’t break free.” Well, that’s terrifying.

      “but at least if you chose you, you correct one evil being perpetuated on this planet.” This reminds me of somebody I’m reading these days, whose basic message is to try fixing one thing in your immediate environment that you can actually control. Maybe your life will still be awful, maybe the world becomes hellish, but you actually did something practical and identifiable to make the world better.

      Thank you for the comment.

    • Cleopatra,
      Beautifully said! Another thing that has helped me cope with the pain of simultaneously experiencing several major losses has been the thought that the experience will help me empathize with others who suffer. l also realize after several years of abuse that I have become more ‘conditioned’ (I have a thicker skin) to dealing with challenging people and situations. I think that I may be calmer now when dealing with difficult people, and I now am standing up for myself at work (with colleagues) and at home (with roommate). I don’t feel like tolerating crappy behavior any more.

  • “This one guy is the key to my life.”

    Here is the thing that show therapy of the right sort can help you. No one is the “key to [your] life.” No one. There are of course people you would mourn forever if they died. Usually those are people who aren’t abusers but many of us miss our abusive parents. But no one “is the key to my life”: Not my parents or beloved aunts or my siblings or my BFF or my young friends who have died in the past year. And even if I had kids–they aren’t the key to my life. My job would be to raise them to fly away, a maximal version of what I do ever 4-5 years when some beloved student flies the nest and I wave goodbye, usually forever. We love people and being mortal, part of that is letting people go.

    Here’s my definition of addiction: habitually using anything to alter your emotional balance, especially to function as a human or to fill the space where your love for yourself should be. That can be alcohol, cocaine, food, relationships, or a specific person. I don’t think I had the “he’s the key to my life” attachment to Jackass, but his discard of me forced me to look at the lifelong pattern of getting into relationships in order to feel complete and whole. The dominant example of this in my life was marrying the XH the substance abuser. I’ve known him over 40 years and he’s a very self-destructive person. He’s also mean. He tried for the first 5 years of the marriage to put the brakes on the meanness but he kept drinking and the abuse got worse. So I jumped out of that marriage and, unable or unwilling to be alone for long, started up a romance with Jackass, who had been a “friend” (so I thought) for years.

    In the end, they were all the same. Underneath it all, what attracted me was their narcissism and the chance to maybe, finally, get it right. “Pleasing the un-pleasable power person dynamic [felt] comfortable.”.That’s a fool’s errand. You can’t have a relationship with someone who has poor character, who is disordered. And your love is not enough to fix it.

    Get away. Impose 30 days of no contact. Do it one day at a time. Then when you hit day 30, give yourself a reward and start the next 30. Block his number for phone and text. Put “Do not call or text” as his name. Block him on social media. Don’t pain shop on Craig’s List, if that is still where his ilk goes. Tell the people who love you what is happening and enlist their support. Walk 1/2 an hour twice a day. Binge watch “Law & Order.” It’s on all the time.

    And figure out who you are, what you want from life, and once the worst is past, start to fix that picker. There are lots of people out there who value monogamy or ethical non-monogamy because they aren’t disordered, cheating, narcissistic jackasses.

  • Barebear, you mentioned feeling addicted to him and that is a good description. That is simply your mind playing tricks on you — having you believe that you will feel the despair of leaving him forever and always. You won’t. Is it intensely painful to leave? Hell yes but, the pain is finite.

    You have nothing to work with here. No NC and begin your list of everything he has done to you and all the ways in which he sucks. You can break the emotional bonds slowly slowly (but probably faster than you feel it will be). You can do this!

  • Pardon my French, but whattheactualfuck?? I guess everyone is different…so I am trying not to judge…but my obsession with my ex-husband was just as strong and I would have never-ever given him permission to fuck around. Its like handing a terrorist a bomb and telling him not to blow himself up. I was just as co-dependent and needy for my ex right after D-Day. Things will get better and you will find the strength within yourself to move on. I promise.

    • My Cheater Narc Ex’s previous long-term, committed, live-in girlfriend did, in desperation, give him permission to fuck around.

      This ended being so hard on her that she was finally able to walk away from that asshole.

      So when Cheater Narc started romancing a woman at his office, he actually told me he wanted to fuck her (exact terminology – SO romantic!). He expected me to agree to that. He thought that THIS was the way affairs would be handled.

      But of course the fact I did not agree to that, and was devastated, did not stop him from doing so anyway.

      And the fact I didn’t kick him out when I realized that, and did the whole wreckonciliation crap, just told him that THIS was the way affairs would be handled in our couple.

      He was quite shocked that I kicked him out as soon as I had confirmation of Affair #2, years later. He said he’d move out, then wouldn’t, Later, he thought I’d take him back, if he said a few of the ‘right’ words. He’s still very angry that I didn’t.

      Their heads don’t work like ours.

      • agreed. I guess I only know how to do monogamy and I hope I didn’t offend the poster of this letter. I just really do not understand how someone gives someone else permission to cheat and then is upset when they actually cheat.

        • The problem there is the wording, Rose. Cheating means LYING and doing something that was NOT agreed to by both parties. That’s why cheating on a test at school is called cheating, that’s why cheating on taxes is also cheating.

          What makes it cheating isn’t the sex – that’s why emotional affairs are also cheating, that’s why open marriages where the agreed-to rules are respected are not. It’s the deception.

    • What other people do is their business but I would never have given permission for that either because it seems inevitable that eventually the sexual encounters would lead to an emotional bond and that is what I feared. Alas, he didn’t bother to try and get permission first and sure enough he did develop an emotional bond with a selfish self centered home wrecking slut. Aside from the STD issue I might almost have preferred if he had just hired a damn prostitute to satisfy his sexual curiosity and kept it at a physical level. He never would have done that though because being able to seduce other woman was part of his need.

      • Chumpinrecovery,
        My wayward partners, including my husband (now ex-husband) have had sex with prostitutes and people who were not prostitutes. Both situations badly hurt me, albeit in different ways.

        • Agreed RSW,

          I never understand when people say “oh at least they weren’t attached to them.”

          That’s right. I was worth less than someone he wasn’t supposedly not attached to. I was worth less than whatever dollar amount he handed her.

  • You could lay yourself on a pyre and set yourself on fire for this guy and would still ask for more from you. These people are bottomless pits of need, the best thing to do is to walk, or run, away.

  • BareBear –

    Trauma bonding. Google it.

    Also ‘monogamish’.

    He AIN’T your Daddy. And he never will be. There is nothing to work with here.

    Why seek the living among the dead?

  • “So, why am I so chumpy? I can see everything so clearly, but on long, lonely nights I just want him back and am willing to sacrifice everything. What does that last step into freedom look like? What is missing here? Once you know the awful truth, that you’re not feeding someone’s stomach but tossing everything you value into a bonfire, what keeps you from living it out?”

    Honestly sometimes it is just a matter of finally hitting your limits. Initially we think the trouble lies with us and we just aren’t doing enough. When you have done all you can and things just get worse, however you eventually realize that it isn’t you. The key is to get angry. I’ve done so much for him and this is how he repays me? WTF! How dare he devalue me after everything I’ve done for him? And what has he ever done for me anyway? What’s in it for me in this relationship? When you hit the end of your rope and finally start reframing the situation, that’s when you finally get angry. That’s what finally makes it possible for you to act and get out. That’s when you rediscover your own self-worth and recognize that he’s the loser even if he doesn’t get it. In the long run you will be better off while he wallows in his own misery. You have to get to the point where you don’t care about that anymore because his problems are self-inflicted and you can’t fix them. It is easier to get to that point if you have people in your corner helping you to recognize your self-worth and telling you that you deserve better. Listen to those people. Listen to Chump Nation. You are worth more.

  • Someone on this site contributed this – I don’t remember who. It’s platinum. We should all have it memorized or embroidered on tea towels or something.

    A Narcissist’s Prayer:

    That didn’t happen.
    And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
    And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
    And if it is, that’s not my fault.
    And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
    And if I did,
    You deserved it.

    • It was me, but I got it from my daughter’s friend.

      When I saw that someone put those words down it felt like a solid nail in the coffin of the idea that it was all my fault! Such good stuff and we should share it everywhere!

  • I don’t mean to be harsh here but you are emotionally addicted to him. The highs and lows are messing with your head, confusing your thinking. Once you change the way you think about this relationship and how it is hurting you, you will be able to leave.

    Please find a professional who can help you accept that, as much as you may love your husband, you cannot be partnered with him. You have made him the center of your universe and so you think your world will implode without him. I promise you it won’t.

    I was married to a guy I loved very much. He was very successful, extremely charismatic, and we lived an exciting and comfortable life. Through the years, I also convinced myself I could not live without him. I did not believe I could be a whole person if he wasn’t by my side.

    You can imagine how difficult it was for me to leave him. It was as if I was leaving a part of myself behind. In many ways, I was. I had to be willing to leave a life I knew for a life I had never lived before. It was a very scary time. There were days I literally could not get out of bed. I got better, though, because I made a commitment to myself to “gain a life”.

    I think many cheaters share the same personality traits as my X. They can be very glib, charming, and fun to be around. Underneath it all, though, there is a void which can never be filled. No accomplishment is ever enough. There is always something bigger, better, brighter, and more alluring to them. As you run behind them, picking up the pieces of their latest betrayal, they are on to the next.

    Trying to “keep up” with cheaters is exhausting and debilitating. The chump is always going to be one step behind the cheater. That’s how they want it. They game is rigged in their favor and the only way to “win” is to walk away. Each day you stay with a cheater is another day you rob yourself of the life you could be living.

    Walk away from the rigged game. Surround yourself with people who want good for you, and who will give your hope and encouragement. Find the things you love to do and do them! Most of all, find the person you were before cheater hijacked your life. You are going to be surprised how much you like her.

    • “As you run behind them, picking up the pieces of their latest betrayal, they are on to the next”

      That is exactly how I felt. It wasn’t so much betrayals in the infidelity sense but he was making all kinds of radical changes in his life that affected the rest of the family and I was desperately trying to keep up and hold everything together because I thought his happiness was the key to the happiness of the family. First he cashed in retirement savings (term life insurance) to buy the airplane. Then he quit his high paying job (and kept the airplane that costs $15,000/yr to hanger and maintain when not flown) which required me to work more hours to support us. Then he moved us across the country at great financial, time and emotional expense so he could live in the state he wanted to live in (which required me to find a new job so we could do that). I felt like we were all being whipped around by his whims. The whole infidelity thing was just his latest whim (betrayal of family for personal gratification). It was devastating at first and I may still be sad sometimes but at least the kids and I are no longer in the center of his storm.

      • Wow, I was forever picking up the remnants left behind too. I gave up a good job in Switzerland to follow him to DC. He couldn’t get a decent job but I got a job at the WB. Then he wanted to move to PA to be near his family, so I give up the job at the WB. He still hates his job in PA but I managed to make a go of working from home with a new born. Then I’m offered a job back in Switzerland – he jumps because he now hates PA remember. So after about 15 years in Switzerland he wants to “move to Montana” to build a log cabin. We live in the frickin alps asshole – let’s build one here where we’ve both got good jobs! It goes on and on and as you (I) get older it ain’t gonna be so easy to keep finding good jobs to pay for his toys, his whims, his guitars, his fancy cars and his move to the “next place that will make him (but not me) happy”!

        • The goal posts are constantly moving. They love to see the chump jumping through hoops or tap dancing for love and attention.

          I’ve turned in my tap shoes and am cobbling a pair of “Goody Two Shoes”.

    • Violet that is so well put, thank you. My X was the same, charming, funny but oh so disturbed once you peeled back the layers. I would feel so alone without CN. I have fantastically supportive friends but nobody has been through infidelity in my inner circle and just don’t get the depth of trauma bonding and the fight to get out of it.

      Chumpinrecovery, Attie, Sucker Punched a heartfelt “me too!”. I spent fortunes trying to keep CheaterX happy, having him work part time (he was stressed out by work) pursuing his expensive hobbies whilst I kept slogging away full-time at the coal face trying to keep it all afloat. For my efforts, I was labelled “money-obsessed” and “unsupportive” of his interests since I was too busy with work. I thought I did it all for love. You cannot win this game, wise words indeed. Schmoopie is unemployed, half his age but obviously so much more supportive than me since he’s going faster at his ultra marathon and Ironman races. Walking away was one of the hardest things I’ve done – I thought the pain was going to kill me. But for the first time in years, I really, really like who I am. It has been hard fought.

    • I am 3 years out from ddays. My life is incredible. Break out and be yourself. It’s amazing!!
      Start by giving yourself 101 days…….

    • To add to Violet’s fabulous entry, each day you stay with a cheater/abuser you ‘encourage’ your partner to treat you worse. I hung onto my boyfriend until he discarded me the last time. He knew that I was hanging on for dear life. My devotion to him did not endear me to him or make him appreciate me more; I think it made him feel more contempt for and less respect of me! I know now that I did everything I could, especially in the last few months of our relationship, to convince my boyfriend to stay with me and make his life as pleasant as possible, but I wish I hadn’t stayed until the bitter end. I have that much more damage from which to recover.

    • Sorry, I should have said him. Either way, the point is the same. You are enough. You do not need another person to give you worth. In my marriage I was obsessed with us being a team, “in it together” and X always encouraged that way of thinking. It was how he kept me in my place.

      The references to The Giving Tree are so apt. The more we give, the more they take. No matter what we give, it is never enough. As with many others here, the circle began early in my childhood and, even at my age, I still fight against that way of thinking. I see myself doing that with my kids, which is something I need to change.

  • Not being in a same sex relationship I couldn’t well comment on the dynamics of same. I observe there are all the common elements of love, trust and dependence upon and in one’s chosen mate. “The Investment” as it were. You’d have to love someone an awful lot to allow voluntary straying and still be able to carve out some element of dedication to just you. I see that for what it is… an unworkable conflict of interest.

    I didn’t realize fully how ‘bonded’ I was to the sex side of my relationship with my xww. She accepted me until I found out she didn’t. Betrayal is rejection. I don’t know any other way to see it. What I realized after Dday,… and finding the burner phones, ,,,and the OM/WW gifts/trinkets, …and the anonymous ‘Thank You for the good time’ cards- was that I was no longer the apple of her eye and I hadn’t been for many years of our 13 year marriage. How many? Only one person knows and she ain’t talkin’.

    CL’s crash course in leaving a cheater was hard to swallow at first. But inherently, once I saw that Tracy had researched the real world nature of fuckwits and their common, base behaviors & character traits I could not deny that I was married to one of these deranged, disordered creatures. The hardest of the lessons was to accept the fact that I can’t logically understand her mind because I viewed her through the lens of my morality. That’s called self-deception.

    In the beginning of this Greek Tragedy, I did this for my own sanity and gladly held onto the hope for an overnight character transplant. Once I was clear headed enough to understand my role in the pick me dance, I was able to slowly (keyword) implement the counter-intelligence steps required to . When you dance with a gorilla, you can’t sit down when you want to.

    So Get the Fuck OUT OF INFIDELITY Bb. Or Be a Doormat. The choice is yours Dude.

    • You’re so right Marcus. Something a CN member once wrote really resonated with me. She commented “you’re either ok with being cheated on and lied to OR you’re not.” Those words really resonated with me. It boils down to what’s acceptable to you. All of the reasons and justifications for their shitty behavior doesn’t matter. Don’t get distracted with trying to figure it out. It’s not you, it’s them. Allow yourself time to grieve and know your worth. Everything about being with a cheater sucks. Gain an awesome life instead.

    • “The hardest of the lessons was to accept the fact that I can’t logically understand her mind because I viewed her through the lens of my morality. That’s called self-deception.”

      This is what I’m learning in this relationship and life in general. It’s bizarre to look at some people and realize that I can’t – no matter how hard I try – feel what it’s like to be them. For me it’s extremely easy to tell certain truths, and I cannot put myself in a mental state where that kind of honesty (with a spouse, anyway) isn’t just straightforward. I’ve tried.

      It’s difficult to simulate a person’s mind who believes that pulling one over me is worth his time, but apparently that’s common enough in love and business that I need to be wary of the possibility. I don’t see myself as worth tricking – there might be folks out there worth lying to, but I feel a lot like the family dog. Pretty straightforward. Mostly affable. Willing to believe you’re a good person simply for existing.

      I guess that’s it, though.

  • Most all of us can relate to longing for the very thing that was killing us. It’s like being addicted to poison. Nothing for it but to avoid the poison completely. Only after you do that will you begin to realize how messed up your current self-talk really is. Go NC and stay that way and you will be astonished that the guy craving his abuser this way was you. (You’ll also have deep compassion for and the ability to assist others in that situation, but that’s a little further down the road.)

    Some reading on toxic relationships of various sorts can help you understand what is happening, here, and get a firmer grip on the reality of who this guy is.

    Reality–an absolute clinging to truth–is the corrective for the mind games you are caught up in. Until you go no contact, reality won’t be fully available to you, because you will be dwelling in the land of his lies and manipulations.

    Just say no to the killing drama and confusion. No matter how attracted you are to this guy, you cannot fix him. See him wholly and truthfully, and decide if you can live with that indefinitely, or if the cost to you–your sanity, heart, soul, etc.–is too high.

    • “Reality–an absolute clinging to truth–is the corrective for the mind games you are caught up in.”

      A friend sent me a little bobble-head Spock doll with a similar comment that I didn’t understand until your response. Cheers.

  • I still loved my Cheater Narc so much when I kicked him out. I knew I would suffer and miss him, and also knew that many many things in my life would change.

    So I told myself; do what your head says, because it knows. Your heart will catch up.

    That catching up is long and painful (although it’s true that No Contact makes it happen faster!). But it absolutely does happen.

    So DO what your head knows you need to do. Your heart will catch up.

    • Listen to KarenE, she is very clued up. It’s been nine months since I cut off my CheaterX and although the path has been a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows, I am finally finding some equilibrium now.

  • Bear, take the romance and the sex out of it and change the dialogue. You have been in business with a man for 15 years. At the beginning you say we have a petty cash drawer that we can use for our own personal needs. We will not ask each other what we use that money for. Slowly you find out that not only has he been in the petty cash drawer he has started taking money from everything. He has started selling off parts of the business and all of a sudden after 15 years you are facing bankruptcy. There is no way to save the business. You are going to lose everything. Here’s the good news, you have a good business brain so you can start again and you know you will do well.
    It is so difficult when you are so beaten down by someone you love that you cannot see the forest for the trees. That’s what Tracy is so good about. She can let you see the forest. There is no way around grief you just have to keep going, you just have to keep going.

    • I meant to add that personalities, and the disorders that rule them, are on a continuum. Sociopaths might steal from everyone in the neighborhood but they will not hit anyone. Sociopaths might get in fistfights at bars but they will not rape women. Sociopaths might marry women after women after women and take all of their money but they never lay a hand on her. A sociopath might take an open, caring suggestion and run you over with it. It sounds very much like you’ve got yourself someone who does not care. You are a thing to him. So is everyone else. I have no idea if he meets the criteria for a sociopath but he is a bad man.

  • Dear BBBBB,

    I’m coming at you three years past separation, 2.5 years past divorce, after a 12-year marriage with kids and a 25-year relationship…

    Splitting up will hurt like a mofo for a *finite* amount of time. If my history is anything to go by, it took about 12-18 months post divorce.

    Sticking together *may* hurt somewhat less intensely short-term, but it will never really stop, ever.

    Meanwhile, hell is no place to live. But you must walk through some fire to escape hell. The way out is the way through. So, gird up and start walking. There’s a better place waiting for you… speaking of which, try visualizing what you want ‘better’ to be. Where would you live? What would you be doing? Is there a SO in the picture? And start making preparations and taking proactive steps to manifest those things in your life. (This is one of the best pieces of advice my therapist gave me. If the better place isn’t quite so nebulous and unknown, then it won’t be quite so scary, which can paralyze a person into remaining stuck.)

    You can do it. You sound like a great catch.

    • The honest truth is that I have difficulty imagining the future now, and that’s probably at least half of why I tried to salvage this thing. I’ll try, though.

      Can I tell you a secret? I don’t know if there will be SOs in the future. I’ve accomplished so much more when I’ve been on my own, and I actually like my job. That might sound like workaholism, but I’m actually good at something and get joy out of it. Somebody once told me recently that what I was doing was impressive, and maybe I’m just going to be an old college professor who’s done a lot of work in his field and had some friends and then went off on an ice floe to die, mostly content with his life.

      • Ok that sounds good but skip the hole ice floe think eh. If you really like your job just work until you die.

        • Or focus on your work until some other person (man, woman, child, friend, lover, fellow enthusiast of something not work related, social justice warrior) or interest comes into your life to begin to broaden your horizons. Date yourself for a while…..

          But please don’t close the door to any kind of love in the future. The best things can happen when you are not looking for them.

      • Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

        Reject the thoughts before you allow them to cause you to do it. Choose LIFE over temporary pain…tell yourself that “you can always do yourself in, that’s no problem…but today is not going to be the day”. Tell yourself this daily until put some distance between your spouse and the present pain. The man is NOT the end all to the value of your existence.

        Best Wishes

      • Bare, I’m alone by choice now and am perfectly happy that way. No more walking on eggshells, no more being lied to, no more having someone beat me up and spend his salary AND mine on himself. I guess if someone other than Santa came tumbling down my chimney into my lap I might re-think but until that happens I’m alone and loving it. I also LOVE solo travelling (travelling with other singles that I don’t know). I’m on my 9th trip coming up (to Sri Lanka). Frankly, this is the life. Shack up with someone else? Nah, I’ll very happily pass. If there’s room on that ice block move over – I haven’t been to Antarctica yet!

      • You don’t have to figure it out right now. Just move away from him.

        I don’t think you’re going to die alone on an ice flow.

        And focusing on work is GREAT. The return on your investment (kibbles!) is much better than energy directed at a narc. (No kibbles for you. They like it lopsided.)

  • Get yourelf into therapy. You deserve more and need to find out why your settling. This person does not deserve the time of day from you. You are worth so much more!!! BELIEVE IT!

  • Brilliant advice and insight. Some people are addicted to deceit, and they’re the most toxic partners of all.

  • Your whole situation and scenario? Almost every bit of it: same.

    I actually do believe that open/ethical non-monogamy/monogamish/poly/etc CAN work. I’ve seen it work. But here’s the thing: both people have to be ethical and both people have to follow the rules. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my own situation and reading numerous stories of other chumps on here: THE RULES NEVER APPLY TO THE CHEATERS.

    They’ll use every excuse and all three channels to deflect, control, and continue doing what they want. I’ve gone through so many “You can’t do X, Y, and Z anymore because that’s how you got in trouble with all of this last time.” So he doesn’t do X, Y, or Z, but suddenly finds a work around to meeting new people and new ways to hide what he’s doing that he thinks I’ll won’t figure out. (Anyone else’s cheater really sloppy about hiding it though? Like Dick Dastardly plotting in a Hanna Barbara cartoon ridiculously bad at hiding it.)

    The only way to stop him from cheating on you is to remove yourself from the equation. And that feels really hard (still trying to do that myself) because we’re not wired like they are and we keep trying to untangle the skein, even though we know better. We keep trying to apply logic (and ethics) to people who refuse logic (and ethics).

    • “Anyone else’s cheater really sloppy about hiding it though? Like Dick Dastardly plotting in a Hanna Barbara cartoon ridiculously bad at hiding it.”

      When I finally started looking, he’d left digital trails everywhere. The same screennames and text in his profiles, almost as if he’d copy-pasted one from the other. If I’d bothered to look a decade ago, I would have found it a decade ago.

      Like, who saves porn videos in publicly-available lists? I can reconstruct the evolution of his fetishes by going through his xtube favorites And who _comments_ on porn? I can tell you the exact moment he got an itch for sticking his junk through holes in walls.

      In retrospect, I’m not sure he was hiding it well – I was just never looking for it. He left thorough documentation behind.

      “THE RULES NEVER APPLY TO THE CHEATERS.” Bleh, but thank you for the comment.

      • Definitely, I could have figured it out (and saved myself a lot of time) if I had looked for it a decade+ ago. But I didn’t really start finding it until after we lived together. And then it was EVERYWHERE.

        It would have all been a lot easier if they would just follow the rules. We had the same exact ones as you. It’s not like they’re even that hard to follow.

        https://i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/001/010/188/967.gif

      • BB,

        Who does that?

        Someone who does not give a bug’s ear about your well being. That’s who.

        You must accept that his agenda does not include any thought to your welfare.

        Dive deep into a man’s mind that works like this. The fun WAS the deception.

        If you had said: OK we can be with anyone except men who wear Wrangler jeans. It’s open season except me and anyone who wears Wranglers.

        The first place he would go would be the Walmart and he would be lurking around the wranglers. It’s the thrill of sneaking around and being scuzzy that gets them off. The people are fungible.

        We throw around the word disordered a lot on this site but I think you need to meditate on what that means and the impact 10 years out.

        This person is showing you that they have no regard for you. What if the worst happens and you get cancer or lose your wonderful job? Do you think he will be there getting ginger ale or taking a second job to keep you afloat?

        We don’t know what can happen -what lies ahead for us in this uncertain world. You are cataclysmically handicapping yourself by being bound to someone who is treacherous.

        I also felt like that my life would end when I could not be with the human pus bucket. That was a lie. A panic attack prolonged.

        …..The peace that comes from not being in the presence of one who is actively trying to make a fool of me – There is no amount of money you could pay me to go back to that stomach churning, vertigo inducing hellish lifestyle.

  • I’m so sorry that you have to go through this shitstorm, Barebear. I’m 3 months post-divorce announcement, 2 months post D-Day, 2 weeks post moving and 2 days from divorce date. And, I still love my ex though I’m slowly trying to take off the love glasses. I’m loved him so and spent 18 years taking care of him and all the household/insurance/bill stuff while working full-time and helping to raise his two kids. I never got a hug, a heart-felt thank you, or even an acknowledgement that he recognized and appreciated my efforts. However, I always told him that I was his #1 fan and thanked often for being a good provider, a good father, a good husband (which as it turns out is a total lie, even by his own admission). I was a fool so desperately in love with a dream that was never going to happen. He was never going to look at me with gratitude or even tell me how lucky he was to have me.
    This isn’t going to be easy. It’s pure hell. But, you need to get out of there. I spent 2 months sharing a house with ex, me on the main floor and him in the basement. We would go days without talking or seeing each other. The awkwardness and pain of sharing a space that I thought was filled with love was unbearable, stressful and spirit-killing. The best thing I’ve done is get my own place where I can finally get a somewhat restful night of sleep. Me, the dog and two cats have a nice quiet apartment until I can buy a house next year.

    We both deserve better – we deserve someone who will appreciate our hearts, our souls and our minds. We deserve someone who wants happy with us. Find yourself, find your strength, find your spirit – grab it all and don’t let go. Big hugs to you.

  • Hey, all.

    I was a little startled to read that CL had responded. I got a little drunk and wrote the letter in desperation, never thinking it’d get a response, much less these responses. I’m a little shell-shocked and a lot grateful. I’ll try to respond to individual threads where appropriate, but some general thoughts here.

    “He’s A-OKAY being a Craigslist-stranger-fucking asshole.” This really is at the core of it, isn’t it? It’s actually possible for people to be liars. They’re not confused. They don’t need to be taught or reasoned or bargained with. They’ve decided on a strategy. Now, I happen to think that strategy is destructive and awful, but apparently I’m not in telepathic control of the entire world.

    “You’ve already sacrificed everything — 15 years of your time, your dignity, your shared finances, your health — AND IT DOES NOT SATE HIM.” I genuinely don’t get this – he has to be different from me in some basic way. If I get some, it puts a smile on my face for months. I guess that’s another lesson here: it’s actually possible for people to be wired differently, and no amount of teaching or reasoning or pleading or sacrificing will forcibly change them.

    Basically, what I’m reading is: this is the reality, which I need to accept, but I’m trying to rewrite it as a drama in which I’m the giver who redeemed him. It’s convenient and comfortable (so I can be forgiven for putting out some effort to salvage it) and I’m a human who bonds (so I can be forgiven for not being able to walk away instantly), but this is also about me imposing my vision of the world on the world (which means I’m every naive idealist who’s ever lived).

    Swear to God, though, if I do ever get mutant powers, people will at least be able to say: hey, I really enjoy sex.

    I appreciate it, CL and others. I’ve got a lot to do.

    BBBBB,
    a long-time lurker,
    signing off for the moment.

    • BBBBB,

      Believe it or not – you’re going to be better than okay if you give yourself permission to do so. Without him. Journaling helps the journey. You also need a sherpa. Find a great therapist, you have a lot of ‘stuff’ that needs to get tossed.

      We got your back.

      If it helps, don’t forget this corollary:

      Liars cheat,
      Cheaters lie!

      Hugs to you.

    • “Do not try to redeem the unredeemable” said Martha Stout, PhD regarding sociopaths

    • BareBear, worthy of mention: Folks on the narcissism spectrum (which include the vast majority of cheaters) choose their partners wisely. They purposefully target giving, caring, talented people who bring lots to the table and don’t keep a ledger. It’s important to recognize that you haven’t been mistreated because you were lacking in some way. You’ve been mistreated precisely because you ticked all the right boxes.

      • I’m not sure that cheaters choose chumps based on talents or good traits or bringing anything to the table. I think they choose partners who they perceive to be naive and trusting, and not nearly as “smart” as the cheaters. Cheaters prefer free reign. You won’t get that if you marry someone who is independent, worldly and slightly cynical.

        • Well I guess my ex screwed up then because I am independent, worldly and slightly cynical (just not about him, I thought he was different from other men). Those were the things he resented most about me. My independence made him feel unloved.

    • Check out Dr. George Simon’s site http://www.manipulative-people.com and his book “In Sheep’s Clothing.” It pretty much drives home the entire “they’re wired differently” point.

      It’s not an insight problem, where you can “redeem” him. He LIKES the power imbalance.

      As GS says, “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.”

      It’s not that your ex doesn’t know he’s hurting you, it’s that he disagrees that he should stop it, because (fucked up reasons, you’re not the boss of him, deceit is a high, etc.)

      You can’t understand his fucked up because you’re not fucked up. That’s a GOOD thing.

      And if you do get off that ice flow and find a fellow human to connect with, you’ll be AMAZED at the difference. Some people do bond back. You deserve that. We all deserve that.

    • BareBear, I highly recommend reading “Stop Caretaking the Borderline/Narcissist” by Margalis Fjelstad. It really gives insight into why we end up with these freaks, and what to do about it. In a caring, compassionate way. I highly recommend the audiobook version, it’s so soothing.

      You can do this! As someone who once felt similarly about my cheater, I assure you, with No Contact, the spell is broken and you eventually see them for what they are. *Hugs*

  • Your whole house is on fire, you didn’t cause it, you only have a small bucket left to deal with it, you can’t control this fire. Do you stay in the burning house that is your relationship and believe the lies your spouse keeps telling you and keep harming yourself? Yes, this is you making the choice to stay in your burning house.

    Know that your stbx already left that burning house. He knows you are in there and expects his help, because he said he would. But he says the house is not on fire, it’s just your imagination, it’s not a big deal, it doesn’t really hurt you. He doesn’t care. He won’t ever rescue you. He’s already trying to charm the emergency personnel.

    Good luck.

  • Oh Barebear… my heart breaks for you.
    This man is not addicted to sex, he’s addicted to DECEIT and POWER.
    CL is spot on with the “comfortable dysfunctional dynamic” notion. My guess is that you know all the steps to this dance, so do the work with your therapist to free yourself of that pattern. There’s a whole new world waiting for you on the other side and it’s wonderful. I used to try to make people who are incapable of loving love me. I thought that if they loved me, then finally, FINALLY I could prove to myself that I was lovebale. It’s taken a lot of long, merciless self analysis to begin to wade through that crap, but it feels amazing to free yourself from that dynamic.
    And I totally get it… my ex was my whole world. I ADORED him. I felt like my life would be nothing without him. This is pretty textbook when it comes to dealing with the disordered. I promise you that with a little distance, you will wonder why you ever lowered yourself for this man. Get out now, minimize the regret, save yourself. You are being manipulated, but you CAN break free. There’s a lot of pain ahead of you, but it does end! It seems impossible, but you have already proven your strength with the number of times you’ve forgiven this person who disregards and dishonors you. It’s time to apply that strength elsewhere.

  • I put my foot down when my stbx said he wanted an open marriage. This was 10 yrs ago and after a handful of one night stands. He said ok— but then went underground with a long distant affair (emotional/physical). That lasted 8 years without me knowing. Then he “cheated” on her with a Craig’s List hook-up—and he and mistress #2 have decided they are soulmates because she wants an open marriage too. They’ve since moved in together. He arranges gang bangs for her and she sleeps with her ex when he’s out of town…etc etc And so the insanity continues. It’s incredibly toxic, and it’s poisoning everything around him.

    Get out and save yourself. I’m about 6 weeks into NC (though not 100% because we have kids and damn, I still miss him so yeah) but I’m trusting that life can be beautiful on the other side. Take the leap. The CN has your back, and you will NOT be alone.

  • Barebear – I’m sorry you are going through the mental anguish of hell. It’s not fun and it will never be fun. Someone mentioned above that you will never be happy if you stay in this relationship and I agree 100%. You are with a taker – someone who does not give to you, but takes from you repeatedly, and all with a great sense of entitlement. It’s not your happiness he is concerned with, it is his. He has demonstrated this time and time and time again. The truth sucks, right? The truth feels painful, right? Knowing the truth and leaving feels painful, right? Why? Well, because it is painful. Just like in exercise, “No pain. No gain.” I hope you can get to the place where you love yourself enough to put an end to this toxic relationship, go through the pain, and get to the other side.

    If you enjoy Buddhism, please give Pema Chodron’s “Living beautifully with uncertainty and change” a try. She is AMAZING; the book is an easy and enjoyable read filled with so much wisdom we can immediately apply to our lives. This book has changed my life and has given me peace when I did not think it was possible.

    Bear hugs to you. I know you got this!

  • Also, you might want to read up on sociopaths. You will learn a lot about individuals who lie repeatedly without remorse. Many cheaters are sociopaths. They are manipulative, calculating assholes who destroy others for their own gain and happiness. It’s not normal behavior and they prey on people who are good. In fact, they target us.

    I do believe finding a therapist might be useful to you as well. Going through a breakup and talking to someone skilled in this as well as PTSD would be a great benefit to you.

    Sending more bear hugs to you!

  • BBB, he is sick. That kind of behavior is not normal. What is really frightening is you say henough just can’t get enough and is like in a way of constant hungry. Very bad and you need to get out.

  • BBB, I so get you.

    The key is in ACCEPTANCE – of who he really is. Its hard, because the wiring is not normal. Normal people do not behave this way, and anyone else would treat you the way you wish. All this crazy just wouldn’t be happening.

    Except, they are this way. They are. 14 YEARS LATER as we unravel our properties, I am staggered at the lengths he goes to to demonstrate his disdain disregard and discard, in ways that are just ‘not normal’.

    Meh. It is what it is.

    GET AWAY FROM HIM, BBB. That way lies sanity. Get away. Surround yourself by people 90 years and younger, all genders, who treat you normally. You will only get your balance back this way.

    Trust us on this one. I hope you got the ’14 years’ time span? They NEVER change. GET AWAY FROM HIM. Do not speak, engage or be in his proximity, it is the only way to detoxify

  • BearBear I have been where you are, my Ex was less promiscuous but still the same, I could have written your letter. Same time span, same thing, I did all the work, he did all the fucking including the off the books screwing that I was not permitted to know about (but found out about through external sources).

    He is lying to you because for them it is part of the THRILL, he doesn’t want ethical non-monogamy, he wants to cheat, and lie and get his thrills in the dirtiest way possible.

    I know that you have invested 15 years, and you are used to him, to the way he lies next to you in bed and that weird little quirk he has when he wanders around the house, he is like your favourite teddy bear growing up. I GET that. But sometimes you have to break out of your comfort zone in order to be healthy and sane and happy. Because this isn’t making you happy. He is deliberately hurting you. Because you have given him an out, you have provided him a way to get his “needs” met without hurting you… yet he KEEPS being an asshole.

    It took my Ex dumping me for me to walk away, I kept up the pick me dance and eventually he got sick of managing me so that I wouldn’t throw another “tantrum” over another affair and he ended it. It about broke me. I am STILL recovering 3 years later because his abuse didn’t stop there, it only ramped up because now he doesn’t have to pretend to care. BUT honestly? The last 3 years have also been magnificent. The last 3 years have brought changes I couldn’t even imagine when I left. Taking that step outside of your comfort zone is so hard, but so so worth it.

  • BBBBB,

    A former partner of mine cheated on me in an open/ethically nonmonogamous relationship. Cheating is always about unilateral decisions, broken agreements, and unfair power dynamics. It is not about inherent problems with relationship models. As Chump Lady put it “Its not a monogamy problem”. Its also not a problem with swinging, polyamory, open marriage, or sexual orientation.

    We call infidelity “cheating” because they break the agreements (rules) of a relationship model. If relationship models were board games, it doesn’t matter if you are playing Monopoly, checkers, chess, or Dungeons and Dragons, cheating is cheating.

    I am also a member of the LBGTQ community, and i understand the marginalization, the lack of societal acceptance, and the community’s openness to alternative lifestyles, BDSM, kink, etc. I have practiced both open and monogamous relationships. I am also a bi cisgender woman, who is relatively femme. So, this is to say, i get where you are coming from within the perspectives of marginalized communities, wanting your marriage to your husband to be a good model of stable, open, sex-positive, gay marriage.

    Here is what ChefBella has to say:
    1. Your husband is an asshole risking your health. Big time. Get tested and stop fucking that piece of shit ASAP.

    2. Entitlement is a bitch to be married to. Cheaters often are underfunctioning all around. Are your needs being met in this relationship? Cheating is probably symptomatic of a selfish, self-absorbed, manipulative partner. Looking back, the relationship with Voldemort was ALL ABOUT HIM. Life is so much better 6 years later without moldy, old, Voldy McFuckbag.

    3. Cheating is lying, deception, and betrayal. These are choices about character. Yes, we do not live in a queer friendly, sex positive culture. Bi femme ChefBella knows all about this. We can still make good choices not to betray and hurt people. Your husband makes shitty choices that hurt people.

    4. Whatever your husband’s issues are, let him go pay a therapist $150 an hour to resolve them on his own time/dime. You don’t need to put emotional energy into resolving his skein of fuckedupness. Let a therapist discover whatever his DSM-5 diagnosis is. What you need to know is that he is a damaging, abusive person and you need to get the hell away from him. Go no contact, get an attorney and divorce.

    After going no contact with my cheating partner, moving away to an address he had no access to, and reestablishing life, i could then go to therapy. I untangled my own skein, grieved, dealt with my pain, and healed. I no longer care what variety of manipulative, nasty person he is. Whether my former partner is a narcissist, addict, whatever Cluster B personality disorder, or just a fucked up manchild, he sucks, and he will always suck in how he treated me. He enacted dealbreakers, i enacted consequences. #byefelipe

    6 years later, i understand my FOO much more deeply. Realizing that my father is a clinical cluster B personality disorder, i understand what set me up to find and bond to a shitty partner. However, i have dated a lot, had a few relationships, practiced polyamory, and found there are really nice people to have relationships with. My former partner is something i am at “Meh” with. It is part of my history, but we have had no contact for 5 years.

    I wish you success in all the stages of leaving an abusive partner and healing. This is a great forum to find support.

    Best, ChefBella

  • Dear Barebear,
    What a frustrating and painful situation! As a fellow gay chump (a “gump”?) I know the terrible feeling of isolation this can create. Unfortunately (and please excuse the stereotype here, I know not every gay male couple is like this), open relationships and sexual “sophistication” are the norm, especially in large urban areas. There is INTENSE cultural pressure to not seem like a prude, and too often our worth is measured by how freaky we can get – squares need not apply. After I was cheated on in a supposedly monogamous relationship, a disturbing number of my friends just shrugged their shoulders, or worse, rolled their eyes at me for being so “dramatic”. They could not see that it was an issue of honesty and trust, and I was terrified of being judged a puritan.

    Through a combination of therapy, Al-Anon, and reading LOTS of ChumpLady, I have learned the following:
    1. I am my own best advocate. I am the one who MUST be in my own corner.
    2. The only person who decides where my boundaries are, is ME.
    3. I do not need other people to validate my boundaries – even if no one else agrees with me
    4. Getting into other people’s heads and figuring out their reasoning is, 9 times out of 10, a fool’s errand and not my business.

    I wish you the best, and know that you will find a way through this.

    • Malibu Bearbie,

      You are spot on. There is INTENSE social pressure within the gay community in large urban areas to have open relationships and be sexually “sophisticated”.

      Boundaries keep you safe and sane. Monogamy is not any more or less of a relational model. There is a discussion of “toxic monogamy” culture, which i believe is important. Distilled, it is just saying that heteronormative monogamy should not be proscriptive to members of society, but rather an option among many different relationship models that can meet the needs of those who are forming intimate, sexual, romantic, and familial relationships. Monogamy is simply one of many historically valid options and practices in human history.

      I have also found it hard to discuss within the LGBTQ, kink,and various ethical non monogamous lifestyles things like trust, respect, honesty, and emotional consent vs. Emotional violence/abuse. Its weird, you can be viewed as conservative, puritanical, square, etc. There is nothing wrong with good boundaries. In the midst of the furor of this current wave of the sexual revolution, i hope we begin to discuss healthy relationships with the same fervor as healthy sexuality.

      The community of men having sex with men has provided me with some of the best examples of healthy masculinity in a culture of toxic masculinity. Thanks for your post.
      I wish you the best, MB!

  • I agree with ChefBella & Malibu Bearbie re non monogamy.

    In my community I knew a woman having an affair with a man in an open marriage. She told me his wife would be ok with it but she would make him tell his girlfriend, who would not be ok. So he kept it a secret from both.

    I haven’t met many people who were non monogamous and both partners benefited. There’s a lot of being comfortable with the benefits all going one way a.k.a. cake eating.

    • Pecan,

      I spent a lot of time gazing at my navel and contemplating this question. My conclusion is that its not a problem with relationship models. It is a problem with being human, and the human ego.

      Humans seem to have problems across cultures, and across historical time periods with being ego-driven buttheads.

      Different cultures deal with the sense of identity and self differently. Some have more effective tools to deal with the human ego and its wants and needs. Some, such as ours, are driven by the ego, and not much wisdom.

      I remember a swinger guy named OldShirt who tried to talk about different mentalities in sexual cultures. Someone asked if folks participated in ethical nonmonogamy because they didn’t want to be cherished. Sadly, listening to many chumps on here, not too many of them felt cherished by their partners in monogamous situations either, before or after DDay.

      Our culture does not value love and relationships. We value money, power, objectification, and being dominant. These things show up in many different conflicts. Riane Eisler, a fantastic cultural and historical scholar, talks about dominator and partnership cultural values which exist on a spectrum. Our culture has elements of both. We experienced a cultural revolution in the 1960s. We are again in a momentous cultural crisis/revolution where we are hashing out dominator/partnership values.

      It is my hope that by having these conversations, ethics and character conversations become culturally important again. For a long time, character was a byword from Victorian didactic novels, and the principal’s office lectures. Whatever models of intimate relationships people choose, we do better at them when ethical behaviors are at the heart of human institutions.

  • I have recently noticed your web site pulled up after ive turn my phone on or computer. My boyfriend has been looking at your site and honestly i think he’s categorizing himself in this abused state. We have had problems. Me being the one that ultimately made the mistake of contacting an ex lover while vacationing in mexico without him. It was a conversation lasting over 3 days, and very little chit chat was happening. I was curious if he was getting married or not because I’d heard he was. I apparently in my drunken state asked him to come to cabo. I don’t rectalect this but I said it twice with no response. He lives in New York and hardly would if he even could, drop everything for me. I’m suprised I asked even. Non the less, on the third day of small cjit chat he ased if he could share something. I said sure. He reflected on a intimate time, sexual in nature Im guessing, (cause i couldn’t read it) and I cut correspondence off after that. Went back home and never mentioned it to my bf. Days pass and he finally asks me about it. I have. Been caught and i was ashamed of what ive done. Since then its been a multitude of issues, one right after another. Unable to get passed the betrayal regardless of the desire to do so, from both of us. Its gone through this perpetual circle of caos where resolution never seems to come. He demands i folliw a program that he doesnt follow. Wants me to constantly talk about it and is relentless. Ive stonewalled and been defensive only to find our arguments becoming more escalated and emotionally charged. He’s told me every other day that we are over. Locking me out of iur place leaving me to sleep in my car. I cant go to friends or families homes because they would ask quesrions and then i have deceived him again for talking about it. I have an avoidance issue, yes. Its how i have been conditioned in the past. Unhealthy, yes. It’s how i got through his infidelity on me early on. Sure he sat down and we read all the fwd text messages he had sent his babys mama up to the infidelity with her. But i didnt make him feel bad about it. Even though it took 3 months for me to find out about it from her.. Not him. I didnt bring it up and shaming him for his mistakes. I didnt call him names or threaten to leave him. I never kicked him out or locked him out. I never really raised my voice or degrade him verbally. I never layed my hands on him. However he has done all of these things to me and justifies it because its been a year and he is still hurting. I don’t know what he is after.. What he wants to get past this but nothing is ever resolved and he never has any progress. Its me, and my defensiveness and avoidance. Yet ill sit through 10 hours of him chewing me out and belittling me in every dirty, below the belt opprotunity. What kills me is he believes I’m so rotten to him. He says cause i never bring it up. How can i when its already on the topic of conversation. He says i forget about it because i can still go to work. He wont help me with anything and he is rude about it. Im left trying to wing it and I’m failing my responibilities. I’m the only one bringing in an income yet he eats and lives without wants or needs. But im cruel fir not mentioning it. Now he’s reading sites like this and he finds himself in what he reads. I see myself. I’m so confused. Help me help us.

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