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Fairy Dust Forgiveness

One of my most popular posts here is on the difference between real remorse and genuine imitation Naugahyde remorse. I thought we should have a post on the difference between true forgiveness and fairy dust forgiveness.

I like a good forgiveness story as much as the next person. I’m a preacher’s kid. I grew up believing it was really possible for people to just hand it over to Jesus and turn their lives around. I get misty during that scene in The Apostle (has everyone seen this Robert Duvall film? If you haven’t, check it out) where Billy Bob Thorton is this harassing thug who wants to bulldoze Robert Duvall’s scrappy, little chapel. But Robert Duvall stands up to him and embraces him. He doesn’t back down, but he holds a crying Billy Bob Thorton and says “I know you’re a good man.” And you come away from that scene thinking, because Robert Duvall believes it, it’s going to be so.

When I used to watch Frosty the Snowman as a kid I was so happy that the Magician saw the error of his ways for stealing Frosty’s hat and everybody ends up friends.

I like a powerful reconciliation story. I want to believe in that kind of forgiveness — that my goodness and fair-mindedness will win the bad guy over. If I just lead with humility and strength, they will recognize how powerful that is, and they will crumple like a repentant Kleenex.

But the way the world usually works is — the bad guy bulldozes the church. He builds some luxury condominiums with granite countertops and douchbags move in. The Magician keeps the hat and tells Frosty he doesn’t deserve to be a real, live snowman. He’s frozen vapor and that’s all he’ll ever be.

And now what? Now you’re supposed to forgive these bad guys who just stay bad?

Here is what Real Forgiveness looks like to me — you may have a different definition, but here’s my take — I accept it. I see it for what it is. And I stop giving it the power to hurt me. I give up vengeance. I don’t wish you dead. I disengage. I trust the Universe, or God, or whatever will sort it out through the natural laws of consequences. I don’t take your continued existence as a personal affront to my happiness.

That’s my forgiveness. And if you think I’m a bitter bunny, consider that I have set the bar lower for forgiveness than the grandmaster of forgiveness himself — South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He says about forgiveness:

To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.

However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person too.

But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offence.

My emphasis there. Forgiveness REQUIRES an acknowledgement of the offense.

How many of us even get that?

And yet how much crap do we read and hear of every day in RIC and in our lives that demands we “forgive” our cheaters? It is essential to our moving on.  Moreover, there is something wrong with us if we cannot muster up forgiveness. We, the chumps, have small, petty characters.

I take exception to this. I think feeling indifferent on the forgiveness issue in no way impedes your moving past infidelity. “I don’t forgive you!” does not necessarily make you a person who wants to hold on to your victimhood and not move forward. You may simply be saying: “I have nothing to work with here.”

I like how Archbishop Tutu says you can both be angry AND you can say “I accept this.” I unchain myself from this crap.

Fairy dust forgiveness is that kind of cheap forgiveness the Reconciliation Industrial Complex traffics in. Just forgive. Let it go. Be the bigger person. You can’t do that? You’re BITTER.

Fairy dust forgiveness is about magical thinking (of course, because fairies make it). That if I fairy dust forgive you, I can TRANSFORM you into a BETTER PERSON. FDF believes in causation. My nice behavior compels you to be nice. And my un-nice behavior makes you keep doing un-nice things. Why of course you had to keep cheating! I couldn’t forgive you. Yep, this one is on me.

Look, chumps. I could sprinkle fairy dust forgiveness all over the 240 pounds of serial cheater that is my ex. Wouldn’t do a damn thing. I could say “I forgive you! Let’s let bygones be bygones. Hope you’re well!” and he would still be a serial cheater. Because he likes it like that. My forgiveness could no more transform that man into a magic toadstool than a good person.

Oh right, but forgiveness is supposed to be for me. To that I say bullshit, RIC. Fairy dust forgiveness does not make the shit sandwich go down easier. You want me to forgive for YOU and your agenda. To keep this marriage together, regardless of how toxic it is.

Let’s talk REAL forgiveness. Acceptance is for me. So I stop living with false hope. So I stop being angry about people and things I do not control. Meh is for me. Because I have better things to do with my life than throw centrality at this person who hurt me. I own my choices and my values. I will not share my life with a cheater because we’re incompatible. I cannot hope and pray for a compatibility that demonstrably doesn’t exist. This person has shown me through their actions what their values are. I accept the reality of that.

I don’t wish them dead. I wish to disengage. I want peace in my life.

That is forgiveness to me and by my definition I have forgiven. And I remain unreconciled.

I think the RIC assumes that if you reconcile, you have forgiven. And that’s an erroneous assumption, because if you ask me, there are more bitter people staying married to cheaters than there are people divorced from them. The bitterness comes from not living out their values, from being disappointed that all their efforts at being magnanimous were not sufficiently appreciated. There is resentment. Why isn’t my magic fairy dust forgiveness WORKING?

Talk to the magical thinkers over at the RIC, maybe they can explain it to you.

This column ran previously. They start those fireworks LATE…

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I subscribe to the belief that forcing someone to rush to forgiveness is a form of abuse. In fact, anyone who tells you that you “have to” forgive another who has harmed you isn’t looking out for you. They are looking out for the abuser. Particularly if there is some sort of push to do it in their time frame.

    I also want those who ask for forgiveness to realize that if you don’t forgive them, then it’s self-serving to forgive yourself. If you don’t need to make real acts of contrition and be humble in order to receive forgiveness, then you’re setting yourself up as above all of that shit and why bother to hassle your victim (chump) in the first place?

    • I have watched other (covert) abusers become downright antsy when i talk about how i don’t forgive my x. They really need people to “forgive and forget”
      The abusers need it. Not us.
      No. We need to remember what these people are capable of.

    • I completely agree; being pressured to “forgive” adds another layer of mindfuckery to the original assault (which is how I think of infidelity). And notice how it is always foisted upon the victim, even before they’ve fully processed what happened to them.

      • I feel as though I’m vindicated. I’ve found my tribe. Forgiveness is so overrated, I feel. I have heard so many times, that if I don’t forgive, then I’m angry and bitter. Not so. I won’t forgive, I certainly won’t forget. I feel it makes me aware, helps keep my boundaries. But people don’t usually want to hear this.

    • I agree! What has happened to repentance? I understand the forgiveness but why is so much burden placed on the chump? What about the cheater and THEIR actions?

      I really would like to hear DivorceMinister’s thoughts about this…haven’t seen him here lately.

      • In my opinion the push for forgiveness is just a ploy to normalize abuse. We are “told” to “move on” and “forgive and forget”
        When someone tries to shame you into something beware. Abusers are experts at using shame to their advantage.

      • Yes! Repentance and remorse! Even GOD requires these things before forgiveness. The church maintains that in order for absolution to be given, the sinner must freely confess the entirety of their sins (leaving nothing out and glossing nothing over); they must not only express repentance and remorse but FEEL it; they must sincerely intend to no longer commit that sin; they must perform penance (sometimes this is prayers or apologies or other acts of contrition). If a person does not do all of this in a confession then they have made an insincere/bad confession and not only will they not be forgiven, but will have added the mortal sin of sacrilege to their list of black marks. You see, forgiveness is serious business. I doubt any of the cheaters discussed here would meet these standards. My priest told me that I was under no obligation to forgive my ex as he had refused to tell me the extent of the infidelity, expressed no sincere remorse, performed no penance. In short he said, “You can’t forgive someone who hasn’t asked for it and doesn’t want it. Most importantly, you can’t forgive someone who refuses to admit they did anything wrong!” I love that priest. He saved my life.

        • This.

          REPENTANCE is necessary for relationship with G*d. Why wouldn’t it be necessary for a relationship with another person who has sinned against you?!

          Everything hinges on repentance. Unfortunately, it also comes in the naugahyde version, which is why it needs to be tested over the long haul to make sure it’s not just a charm channel that’s going to flip back to self pity and anger.

      • He’s on vacation this week.

        Here’s what I notice in the Bible on forgiveness:

        “Watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him; and IF HE REPENTS, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).

        “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17).

        “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28)

        You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44).

        Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19).

        So, my take is that the adulterer HAS to repent in order to reestablish a relationship. Reconciling without repentance is enabling and it’s bad for the adulterer’s soul. However, Jesus instructs us to pray for our enemies, and not take vengeance on them or hate them. I would just set healthy boundaries (especially if you have kids and can’t go no contact), work toward meh and pray for God to discipline them and bring them to salvation through Jesus Christ. Learning to not hate them may take the Lord’s help, at least it does for me…

        • I’ve been telling others who claim to be Christians, tbat forgiveness is not possible without repentance from the one who sinned, for years. I’ve been universally attacked over that. False Christians hate this concept. Forgiveness is one of the most abused principles in ‘Christianity’.

          If repentance from the one who sinned against you (in this case the adulterer) is not present, then forgiveness is not even possible, because forgiveness is a two part process with two or more parties! The sinner/s and the sinned against. The sinner/s is required to genuinely repent for their to be forgiveness able to be granted. This is from Jesus own words!

          Love you enemy yes. In other words if you see them lying bleeding on the street, help them. Don’t take vengeance on them. But forgive them without their repentance….not even technically possible by the true definition of what God says forgiveness is.

          Also the most important point here is God does not reconcile himself to anyone that does not truly repent of their sins, and yet these sugary sweet false Christians who love to force false forgiveness down victims throats, think they are holier and wiser than God!!

  • No, I will never forgive. Total nonsense. You weren’t happy? Fine – there were more noble ways out. You didn’t take them. You had a beautiful family, house, supportive team behind you and you threw that into absolute turmoil. You daughter who you purport to love so much. She will be all right will she cause ‘kids adapt’. Your adage that ‘we will all be Ok flower’. Yes you will as you made sure you sorted that before you go out. Meh is a long way off and due to said child I suppose and on-going financial dependency right now grey rock is the nearest I can get to pulling away. But when you were finally rumbled after all the horrendous lies you didn’t just fess up you rubbished nearly all of our time together and were horrendously hurtful. I will never forget it and I will never forgive it. Hopefully with time it will hurt less and your continued prescence on this planet won’t make me see red and remind me totally of what you have taken from me. But my healing will not come with forgiveness. I am not bloody Mother Theresa and frankly, if there was a way to bump you off and take the insurance money right now I bloody would. Shame would be too obvious it was me and I am not a cold hearted killer – but believe me I bloody would. Just got to get to meh no matter how long that takes. But if you take any sucker punch along the way, if you have not said sorry for what you did I will be fricking laughing. But hopefully by the the time it happens I won’t even recognise you if I crossed you in the street. You nasty piece of work.

    • I’m with you. When the cheater continues to gaslight and emotionally abuse your children, forgiveness is as elusive as unicorns. The best I can do right now is to not wish him dead.


    • DUDDERSISACHUMP – Thank you SO MUCH for your comments! FINALLY, someone who feels like I do! I’ve been beating myself up & being shameful about feeling this way for years now. Reading your comments and knowing someone else feels the same just healed me a little bit I think.

      • If there is a moment in the future where I go to counselling and start talking about forgiveness and how I am released from the pain it will be because I have lost my marbles. I’m not spending the next two years wondering why I can’t forgive and why that makes me a bad person which I could easily do but what another bloody waste of time. xx

    • You’ll get to meh eventually. I don’t see how you could ever forgive someone who is not sorry.

    • I am right there with you, fuck forgiveness, why I am so thankful to CL & CN for showing me I don’t have to, until I ever feel the need to, if ever. It still bloody hurts, and today I’m pissed off about it.

  • When one gets cheated on & treated so badly how can one forgive? When you’ve given your spouse support, love , a home a loving family then they cruelty abandoned you.. it’s almost impossible to forgive.

    Never apologized. Never looked back after 35 years married. Maybe it would be a positive thing to forgive
    with some people but no me! The humiliation & horrendous way I was treated will forever keep me hating him. I wish I could move past that.. maybe one day but not soon. Evil narc ????

    • You will move past that. It won’t eat you up inside anymore. You will move forward. But you won’t forget it and I am here to tell you that’s OK.

    • Absolutely.

      Forgiveness? No fucking way. One has to admit to doing something wrong in order to be forgiven. He never apologized, never gave it a 2nd thought at how he had treated me.

      I have to see him in passing now (I live on a small island) but I look at the tag numbers on vehicles that look like his and if it is his tag number, I make sure I look away. Nothing to see here. Just a loser.

      • Jodi: I also live on a small island and have to pass him quite often on our one main road and I do the same exact thing. I can see the Broncos license plate on the front of his truck (which I bought for him) and I totally look away. Sometimes he rolls down his window and waves at me!!! I’ve thought about moving off the island but I won’t let him do that to me.

    • I don’t hate him. I don’t anything him but I definitely don’t forgive him stealing our family’s money or screwing his women in every bed his wife of 36 years slept in. I don’t forgive him for the massive abuse he inflicted. I hope karma runs him over and backs up over him but I’m living my cheater free life.,I guess I’m still angry…,meh is hard to reach

    • I’m with you 100% Kathleen, 100%, but as CL says, I will not let evil sparkledick occupy realestate in my mind and soul.

      • ClearWaters

        So true. I remember the dark cold eyes I saw when
        I caught him with the Owhore. It was someone I
        didn’t know.

        I try very hard to put him out of my mind but there are nights.. it’s just very difficult. Have to remember I didn’t cause it & couldn’t control it.
        Hopefully some Tuesday I’ll reach Meh ????

        Good luck to you ????

  • Forgiveness for Narkles the Clown, no can do. He still won’t admit to his affairs. (Please note I have a photograph sent of him in the act) how does one forgive someone who won’t admit to the wrong doing much less acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness? You dont’t. FIDO

    It (him or her)

    Move forward in your own life.
    When people ask if I forgive I ask them what they mean by that. Hardly anybody (one truly religious friend is the exception for me) can articulate what they mean by that. It’s a lot of “well…. “Or “you know…” Or they say to “not hold what he has done against him.” this is usually where Tracy’s mugger analogy comes into our conversation. Most folks tend to understand that. They may not enthusiastically embrace the lack of forgiveness but it’s that most people have not sat down and delved into what it means. They would be more comfortable if you “forgave” and that’s what they are really seeking.

    If foregiveness isn’t part of your journey that’s fine. I know a lot of us chumps blame ourselves for not knowing or for staying after we knew or for believing our lying spouse. This is where I tell you foregiveness should be part of your journey – foregiveness of you. You were deceived. Foregive yourself for that. You didn’t lie. You didn’t mindfuck. You didn’t manipulate. Foregive yourself. Most of us find that part extremely difficult. That’s where you need to put your energy.

    Oh, that truly religious friend who goes to church three times a week and tries very hard to understand Jesus so he can live like Jesus. We’ve known each over 20 years. His respouse when I said I would not be forgiving Narkles the Clown was this “if you said yes, I would think you hadn’t read the bible”

    • Thank you. I have been struggling with forgiveness, not caring, waiting for him to “get it”. Maybe I just need to work on forgiving myself for being deceived, lied to, and not asking for what I need. I want to believe that I didn’t fall in love and was married 25+ years to a bad person but good people don’t do this shit. Be an adult. Own your unhappiness. Communicate. There are ways to leave a marriage and having an affair is the weak, cruel, and selfish way.

      • He will never get it. Never. If he had the ability to empathize that deeply, or the willingness to follow societal rules, he could not have cheated in the first place.

        The first step in healing after infidelity, IMHO, is giving up the notion that the cheater is a normal, logical person who can be reasoned with. Once you accept that, the focus is on you and achieving a life of more integrity. Hugs.

        • Yes????????????????????????????????????????
          By definition, anyone who would do the heinous things X did and is still doing to the kids (I’m NC) is likely not capable of the type of introspection and humility necessary to make true amends.

        • Yep. He found a letter I had even forgotten I wrote and hidden, regarding how bad he hurt me and how awful of a person he is etc. He was upset that I thought these things (eye roll), he said it was hurtful. I told him it was what I was feeling when I wrote it, it doesn’t matter what I think, I’m doing me and you are doing you. (I felt close to meh until about a week later when I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking of what I would say to his home wrecking girlfriend if she ever talks to me) My point is I’m worrying about ME now. He can pissoff because he is nothing, certainly not worth any of my thoughts or emotions.

          • I have this problem too – the thinking about what I would say to my ex or his mother mainly. Though, at one point, I did think about what I would say if my ex’s ex-mistress ever talked to me.

      • Moveon-
        If he does get to the point where he “gets it”, it may be years. He’s created his own narrative: a narrative that justified his cheating. If you would/wouldn’t have done this or that, he wouldn’t have cheated. His version is that YOU caused him to cheat and that’s simply not true. Adults take responsibility for their decisions and own them.

        My ex blamed me for him running to homeslice. I will never take responsibility for that. Am I responsible for being a shitty wife at times, yes. I own that. I own the way I handled certain situations, how I withdrew when we fought, among other things.

        On our anniversary two years ago, ex sent me a long text apologizing for cheating, requiring me to get tested for STDs etc. then said marriage and forgiveness is about forgiving and forgetting. A week later he spent the weekend with her having sex then told me he was doing this out of fear and pain. I called bullshit and stopped playing the pick me dance from that point forward. He wanted a soft place to land— they are now married.

        Don’t trust what they say, but their actions. True remorse and repentance is accompanied with tears, sorrow, grief and sadness…. then walking in grace. Shame is when someone gets stuck in the first part.

        When I would talk to my best friend about something ex did or said and would say “who does that?”… her response is always “he does… that’s what self-serving ppl do”.

        Accept reality even though it doesn’t make sense. You weren’t compatible, you didn’t have the same set of morals or values. You cannot try to force someone to live morally or ethically. Instead, live your truth and when the healing is well underway, you will attract ppl like you- people that align with your same beliefs. And that is a safe place to be.

        • Thank you so much for these words. He is truly is living his own fantasy narrative. I’m learning to accept this reality one day at a time. I just wish it wouldn’t take so many days to accept:).

      • I hear you on all of this and totally agree. After 25+ years of accepting, giving second chances, learning to hide my feelings, turning a blind eye, lowering my expectations etc, I know I need to forgive myself but I am not there yet. And I also know that a good person does not act the way he did, hurting someone over and over without any regret, but in my heart I still see him as the gentle, loving person I married and it is easier to blame myself for everything that went wrong. The phrase “trust that they suck” is helping but I still have a long way to go. Forgiveness? I am a Jesus-follower but I cannot get my head around forgiveness of him at all.

    • That’s great AOK. Thanks for reminding us what the Bible actually says.

      I also like to remind folks that Jesus only had 2 cheeks.

  • When Cheater first told me that he wanted a divorce and before I knew about the cheating (prostitutes and his exit affair), he told me that he wanted to end amicably because by the time his first divorce was over, he hated his 1st wife. He didn’t want that for us. I told him that I’m not concerned with being his friend or whatever. I will probably never see you again (no kids) and the only thing that matters is how I process this divorce and my mental well-being. Not making sure that we stay friends. That went out the door when I discovered the cheating that he never wanted me to know about. Dipshit!!!!

    Forgiveness is about me being able to put one foot in front of the other and leaving the bad shit behind. It’s about being able to move on and doing it with thoughts of making a better life for me.

  • Chumplady you always have something for me when i need it
    Had a absolute awful day yesterday. Texted with my cheater early in the day about arrangments for our kids. Good convo in a string of hood ones no arguing and gave me a good feeling that after two years of absolute hell of anger resentment disrespect and ignoring we know each other in public it might be possible to move forward and forgive. Equal parts for the kids and yes sadly I miss her.
    But forward to the night. I go to pick up my kid at cheer class and who has showed up ? And who is still not looking at me? I mean i did not go say hi to her either but at least I could stare in her general direction but i might as well been a ghost. Looking anywhere but where i am . You know when you know someone knows you’re there but they’re doing everything they can NOT to show they know?Yeah…….
    Been burning out from work and a trip coming up so my brain hurts already and this same behaviour from her, the NERVE of this cheating asshole to still act like I did something wrong by actually not accept her shitty character and complete abandonment judt made me angry. Really angry. The thoughts we can be on some civil level .that I can look past it and whatever be ‘meh’ finally or ever went out the window.
    And i got mad at myself for not being over it already. That this tension has to stop and its to a point that I should be the better person and extend yet again another olive branch to her to probably ignore but maybe just maybe she’ll take it. If even for my own sanity and the hope that we can have something even if just a pleasent conversation in front of our children about how goid shes doing in her class. Instead of acting like we’re strangers. Worse than that. I’ll strike up a conversation with a stranger.
    This repost was right up my ally. I am being sane by not forgiving and not accepting shit behaviour. Because she to this day still had not accepted or owned what she did. She knows she did wrong but only I think to the point of she got caught and how it affected her life and if you judge thst on actions it didn’t much. She acts how she does because I still have the NERVE to be angry or not pretend like she imploded my life and hurt me on purpose. After all, like she pointed out a mere 6 months ago I ‘act like im the only person on the planet to ever be cheated on.’
    So i had a temporary bout of insanity investing thought and real emotion a
    Onto a person who as Desmond tutu pointed out has in no way still accepted the wrongdoing. So awkward tension it is. I might just need more sleep
    Thsnk you for being the voice of reason

    • If it’s any consolation, Mike, few people master being in the same room with their creepy exes. I think what helps remove the sting just a little bit is *accepting this is who they are*. It’s a Trust That They Suck problem. At some level you have the expectation that she could be civil, or put the kids first, or detach from you without open contempt…. and… that’s not gonna happen.

      So set the bar REALLY low. Expect her to be a jerk, because she IS a jerk. And if she’s not a jerk that day? Gravy.

      But so long as you’re expecting Reasonable Person and get served Jerk, you’re gonna feel broadsided and upset.

      It takes time. And of course, being around jerks is upsetting and never terribly pleasant. But you do get to a point of WTFever about it. I swear.

      • Being in the same room? How do I cope with seeing him at our son’s wedding (and I am sure that the OW will be there)? How do I face an exMIL that traveled to Italy with the ex and OW while we were still married? How do I stand among my ex in laws that have ALL cut me off? You have no idea the feelings of dread that I have. I am only divorced one and one half years. Almost three years post DDay.

        • You just keep telling yourself that none of them are worthy of you. None of them. Traitors and bullies and creeps. You remind yourself that in 5 or 6 hours the wedding will be over. It is only one day, or half a day. Think of it as a root canal or hemrroidectomy… can get through this wedding for your son’s sake! I face the same thing in October. I will paste a fake smile on my face and grin and bear it. Then go home and have a few drinks lol.

        • Go in with your head high (buoyed by moral contempt for the lot of them), and picture CN behind you giving them all the evil eye. Ignore cheater & his family, or grey rock them when circumstances dictate. YOU behaved with integrity so you get to exhibit pride.

        • I sympathize that is one huge shit sandwich. I guess you know where he got his poor character from—the shitty MIL. Trust that they suck. I am truly dreading that day too but neither of my children are particularly interested in marriage( her I wonder why?)

        • Oh, I’m so sorry. That is going to be super hard. Do you have a friend who can spend the wedding looking out for you? Taking you to the bathroom when things get tense? Rolling their eyes to make you laugh when you need it?

          I say you look at exMIL and say “hello, how was Italy” with a smile on your face so she knows you know, and don’t speak to her again. (That probably just shows how little I understand their minds, she’d probably tell you stories about Tuscany, but if you walk away fast enough, you can imagine her feeling exposed and ugly ????)

          Just remember, your out-laws will be on full impression management. What the world sees, how the world reacts to them, etc., are not the truth, just their attempt to look good, and other people being stupid and not “taking sides” in your failed marriage (even though they should! It was his fault! He CHEATED!)

          Anyways, you’ve got this. You can put on a classy face and enjoy the day. Just realize that by bringing OW to the event, he is showing his cards, and lots of people will be judging him silently. You’ve got a sea of chumps pulling for you.

          • Thank you all CN. I will certainly make sure that absolutely NO ALCOHOL is consumed (by me) at the event. I am not a violent person, but, who can predict how I will react. I truly have difficulty with the fact that NO ONE knows the truth. It’s been his narrative all along. The son and his fiancee have NEVER told her parents that he committed adultery!

            • For certain if you act out they will say it ‘proves’ that you were the problem. hat you can count on. My kids know the truth and it has done nothing to sway their allegiance to the ex. They made excuses for him. Eventually you will tell them what happened, but now is not the time when they are in the pre wedding frenzy. Bide your time for son’s sake. jmo

        • I saw mine at my daughter’s wedding, I was genuinely polite and nothing more, had a great time and his snubs rolled off my back so easy because Nothing was going to interfere with my enjoyment of her wedding. He sure did test me too! Well, by theend of the night, he was glowering like he could kill me and myboyfriend and I laughed about it later!

        • MMargaret
          My son was married 2 months ago- married 36- 1 1/2yr from DD, pending trial in 10 days.
          I honestly thought I could not do it. It was a small wedding. I walked my son down the aisle.
          I wouldn’t allow ex to sit on my aisle and I did not take any pictures with him.
          Got through the ceremony, the meal, and spent the rest of the time dancing!
          I didn’t mingle much- just with my family and close friends.
          Longest 5 hours ever- went home and celebrated after!
          You can do it- you are mightly!

          • I have my daughter’s wedding coming up in Oct. Not sure how I will get through it. I’ve already told my self. “No Drinking” I don’t know how I am going to get through the wedding photos. How do the other chumps handle family photos for these events? As far as I’m concerned she destroyed our family so I don’t want don’t want her in any of the photos I’m in, pretending that we are still a family.

        • It’s the same amount of time for me pretty much and while my kids are young its the same. The situation isnt the issue . The shitty also in laws either, my ex MIL still likes and comments on my FB posts like nothing ever happened(Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree)
          Like otger posts you just focus on anything but them. It’s your kids day make it about them.
          But i feel you on how hard it is. It goes up and down and that day for me was down . I dread my kids wedding and shes only 9!
          Try to take CL advice and just accept not only that the ex is a jerk apparently the ex in laws are too and enjoy your kid your family and your friends. All those other people are distant relatives whos name you can barely remember and won’t be chatting with.
          Hang in there!

          • I gotta give you props for not unfriending your ex-MIL. But, it would be understandable if you did.

      • Thanks for the words. I understand my bar has to be low and normally im not so affected but i dont know……life is great now but bu2st and tiring in good ways but it’s tiring mentally. I think my normal ok-ness was not on point.
        I do trust she sucks. I do know it’ll be a long time if ever a simple ‘hello’ will be possible and I accept it as much as it sucks. Think we all can be forgiven – no pun intended- a step back here and there.
        Thank you again for doing what you do. Literally reading this made me snap out of my funk and shes bsck to sucking and I’m back to ‘ good luck with that asshole ‘

        • You know, it’s perfectly OK to sneer at one who has insulted you. Or administer the “Cut Direct”, which is to look at the offender with no expression and then turn away without acknowledging them at all. It is understood by all those who observe it, especially the offender. This has been a known response in polite society after dueling was outlawed. (But I can totally understand wanting to punch the offender)

          Hang in there, Dude.

          • Agree to all this. Shit thing is SHE acts exactmy like that to me! Lol at least I can look at her before looking away in disgust. She just doesn’t even aknowlege im in the room. Those who know us who hapoen to be around get whos at fault but she likes to keep it like shes been offended . Especially in public. She might tell me she fed our kids in private at drop off while i ignore her attempt to pretend all’s well but in public?……suppose she doesnt want people to see how iterally is so better to save face and appear to be equally offended

        • Mike, I have learned that when my disordered Ex is being “nice” to me to be on extra guard because she always has something up her sleeve !!
          You have to accept that the asshole that you see is who she REALLY is !! The sweet, kind and loving woman you married was just an act. That’s a bitter bill to swallow but sadly it’s the truth. Now that you are divorced, she doesn’t care about impression management with you and doesn’t bother to put on the “nice” mask and you see the real her.

          Trust that she sucks and do as I do, focus on your kids and take the high road even when it hurts. Things will get better for you and God/Karma will take care of your rotten Ex eventually.

          • Yeah her lifestyle I think definatley isnt what she thought it would be. Sure a new car and out on the town a lot with lots of attention.
            But now living in a shitty area in a top floor apartment hating working for people while im still working and getting the house and yard with privacy she wanted . We owned a business together and I still do and make my own hours.
            Her on and off bf is off finally I think and now she has to do the parenting thing on her own. Shes not a fan of that for sure.
            Little points of karma I guess. It since she loves things and attention only im not sure she sees it that way. But i do. And i dont imagine this is where she wanted to be .
            And yeah the hardest pill to swallow is knowing my wife was a lie and I fell for it for so long.. but i know it now

    • Hey mike power —

      From reading your first word of her behavior that evening, I thought: shame. Girlfriend is showing shame. She cannot look you in the face. You are such a decent person, you have been so gracious, responsible, trustworthy.

      She’s surrounded by losers (probably), who have no purpose in life, no vibrancy in their hearts, no interests. Just horrid. Stark contrast to you. She knows what she did, and she is ashamed. Just sayin, I could be wrong.

      • My cheater won’t look me in the face either. On some level, he knows that his behavior hurt me badly but he’s not willing to accept that responsibility. He wanted to just get a divorce without me knowing about the cheating.

      • Mike, i agree. Your x is doing everything possible to avoid shame. Shame is like kryptonite to a narcissistic. She knows she can not let herself feel it.
        I dont mean to veer into ric territory. And its *not* an excuse for shitty behavior. But i recognize that in my x.
        I still hate his fucking guts regardless for all the mean and horrible things he did. He is a monster.

        • I spent two years in the Recovery complex before my ex left with a text out of the blue. From the first marriage recovery retreat on, I struggled with that mandate that I, who was devastated, not eating, not sleeping, was responsible to protect my cheater from his well-earned shame!

          I believe it is abuse upon abuse to ask a victim to heal their abuser. I became more angry, not less, because now I felt shame for being angry at my wayward spouse!

          Anyways, “trust that he sucks” has helped me forgive him much more than the complex’s advice. Thank goodness my ex left (I can say that now). Staying married would have forced me to kill a piece of my soul to pretend it was ok, and that is not forgiveness or a marriage, that’s burying my feelings as deeply as my ex has buried his….

          • Getting there slowly, “protecting the cheater from feeling their well earned shame” that really is what its all about. No one should have that forced upon them. It is just more abuse.

          • GTS – Exactly!
            Although I’m glad I did the RIC for a year, “trust that he sucks” has been far more therapeutic in my healing.

            It is still galling that STBXH still adfs insult to injury by treating me like I am the one who wronged him, I grow stronger each day in my understanding that he remains perpetually stuck in doing wrong and thinking in a disordered manner because of it. That cannot be happiness.

            In six months I have come to realize the depth of the unhappiness I felt for so long in the marriage I fought to keep. How much my STBXH initially lovebombed me by taking on all the things I liked and wanted, only to grow in resentment of me and accuse me of controlling everything (when I believed that it was that we had so much in common). How I often felt that we were lacking the deep initimate connection that I felt should have evolved over the years as I was with a man who never wanted to address issues and would just withdraw himself from me passive aggressively rather than talk with me. How often he didn’t seem willing to stand for something because he would just chose the path of least resistance because “adulting” is just too hard.

            GTS – You nailed it when you recognized that staying would be to kill a part of your soul. It would require Herculean efforts to suppress your needs, and all for someone who didn’t really feel remorse. That is not what forgiveness is supposed to be.

      • I doubt very very much that it is shame. People who have shame behave better and take some responsibility for their actions.

        I realized this, from some comments from my ex. He didn’t look at me because he was FURIOUSLY ANGRY. I wasn’t buying his bullshit, I wasn’t bullying the kids into treating him better, hell, I didn’t take him back when he wanted to come back (because he didn’t like the consequences of his 2nd time cheating on me). I wasn’t acting like all was well and we were all friends, I wasn’t aiding his image management in any of the myriad ways he wanted me to do that ….. Oh, and he hated that I looked fine.

        I think a lot of the ‘toxic shame’ theories are either a) cheaters and other abusers justifying their bad behaviour and being timid forest creatures, or b) mental health professionals who haven’t grasped that fact that there are a lot more sociopaths and narcissists out there than they imagine, and it’s not that those character disordered people don’t understand, it’s that they don’t give a shit. or both, perhaps.

        It’s hard for people who have empathy and a conscience to recognize that some people really don’t.

        • @Karen E you hit it out of the park with this: it’s hard to trust that X really is different, that he really does not and probably never did bond, love, care about me or our four children. It was all projection on my part. That is very hard to wrap my head around and accept. But I know it must be true because otherwise he couldn’t have done this to us.

        • I agree that they are angry but I think the issue of shame comes in because in public, they are stuck between the private reality of what they’ve done and your own righteous anger and what the public image they try to protect. So snubbing you is a way to claim to be the argrieved party in front of other people. Sor them, “shame” is people knowing what they are, seeing behind the mask. It’s not about shame as a Chump would experience it.

          I have a theiroy that normal human emotions have a analog in Cheater World. That helps me not to project normality onto them.

      • You’re probably not. I know nothing of her life but from what i do this isn’t far off
        She’s admitted to shame. Just doesn’t really care to do much about it I guess. Again, good luck with that

        • Mine is big on the shame factor, too, but as far as I can see he calls shame in order to be let off the hook and so he can look remorseful and persecuted by his shame. It’s part of the sad sausage complex.

        • Mine will now admit that he ruined everything. But it only sounds like impression management to me. It rings false, almost like ‘there I admit it so shut up’. His deception happened over years. No one moral could lie and plot and scheme against their partner like that.

    • Hugs.
      My kids are grown and NC with their dad. I don’t have to be in a room with my ex ever again unless there’s a miracle. If there was, and my kids allowed him back into their lives, I believe I’m finally at a place to handle it.It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am that I currently am free of him.
      We do speak occasionally. I’m taking over the Mortgage on the marital home and I’m currently finishing a lease on a car in his name so there is minimal conversation. If he calls me from work….on his work phone, he tries to be pleasant and chatty…
      If I contact him for something and he’s home or around her, it’s like he’s completely another person. He’s rude and dismissive.
      I hope she’s listening because the last time he was a dick on the phone I said “ from here forward we should only speak when you can call me from work. We have much better conversations when you phone me from the station.”
      A leopard doesn’t change his spots. It just serves to remind me that he’s a fraud, he sucks. He’s willing to be whatever to whoever to get what he wants.
      No soul.

    • After almost 5 years it still makes my skin crawl to be anywhere near him. He threw away so much. He was so un-neccesarily cruel. But I do say hello to him. I can only control my own behavior. So I am polite and greet him. I set the example for the kids of civilized conduct.

    • Mike, years ago I had dealings with a person who was so obviously disordered that it was affecting my ability to do my job. I had to get a handle on it. One day driving home, yelling out my frustration, I had an epiphany. I would have good days and bad days but she will be a piece of shit 24 hours a day for the rest of her life. I got past all of it and got the job done and have never seen her again.

      • Yeah i have more pity ths6t she doesn’t seem to want to be happy. Not saying i was her happiness but she’s so.eone who just never us knows it but does nothing to be happy and in some cases obvioulsy self sabatouges any she has.
        I really just was already mentally burnt and seeing her and dealing with what is now normal life was too much for whatever reason. It usually nothing to me or not enough to care long. Just a bad day

    • Exes who are stuck on feeling ashamed are also exes who want people to feel sorry for them. They are permanently Sad Sausages because then they get all sorts of kibbles from others.

      “Mike Power won’t forgive you for fucking around on him? Mean, mean, Mike! Poor Sad Sausage. Here, I’ll stroke your “ego” and make you forget all about how bad Mike makes you feel.”


      Being REAL means truly feeling good sometimes and shitty at others. Not picking and choosing endlessly. She’s mimicking real and doing it badly for those that truly know her (you).

    • Irris commented on another thread:
      “I’ve heard once that in an abusive relationship it’s impossible to reconcile unless you take care of the hidden shame and guilt held by the abuser (cheater). After they are abusive they feel shame and guilt, but cannot own them. Instead they feel threatened and uneasy. Not knowing how to process these emotions – other than denial they become angry with the person, who elicits these emotions – their victim. Feeling angry they feel validated to hurt again. It’s a vicious cycle and without a good therapist very hard to unravel.”

      So interesting to realize that they feel shame — but cannot own it. Feeling it and owning it are worlds apart.

      • I agree with this 100%. Guilt and shame are unpleasant, but necessary emotions, that help us to learn and develop as a person when we have done something wrong. Normal people feel shame and resolve to be better. Narcissists just register that they are feeling something unpleasant. but because they see themselves as Splendid People that unpleasant feeling cannot possibly be because of their own actions. It must be someones else’s fault. Someone else is making them feel bad and that means that person is The Enemy.

    • You are already the better person and don’t forget that. She cheated, you didn’t. And do you think she is on any website trying to understand what happened and get some help? The cheaters are always the ones who seem to recover quickly and “move on” to their new life. And the chumps are left being sad and lonely. The cheaters are usually narcissists and just keep going after that cake wherever they can get it. But the chumps sit back and analyze, feel all the emotional pain, and take quite a long while to heal. But, in the end, I believe, the chumps will come out better. They have processed everything that has happened to them and will continue to come to grips with that. But, at some time, they will be healed enough to move forward. The cheaters just keep making the same miserable choices over and over again. Keep your chin up and be the best man you can be, for your children. You will come out shining in the end.

  • How about: “I don’t have to confess my sins before you, only before God, because only God can forgive.”

    • I was told the same. When I pressed for the truth, I was told “I have already confessed and been forgiven.” Like, why would I need to be redundant with you? He never admitted any affair – just gave cryptic answers.

      Like he was some kind of victim hero.

      • Same. CheaterPrick made it a point to tell me how very difficult it was for him too. Perhaps I shouldn’t be skeptical. Maybe it is really hard, I don’t know. I’ve never left work and gone to a bar and gotten shitfaced drunk and fucked the naked girl on stage who sells visual tours of her pussy for $1. Seriously???? I didn’t even know they had $1 strip joints.

        Even though he threw me away like a bottle of turned wine I cannot hate him. It’s not my style and distorts my vibration. When your mom is a pedophile and you are raised in a cult there exists a huge amount of shit ready to come tumbling down. Still, consequences. Integrity is a choice, make it.

        CheaterPrick wasn’t specific about just which part of it was hard for him (pun intended) although he later told me that he could not climax with her. According to him failure to orgasm was common for him in his relationships before me, which I think is maybe not surprising if your mom was your first sex partner circa age 6.

        I take solace and strength in knowing that I was only a cog in that wheel. It wasn’t me. He’s a guy who does that to women and he’ll do it to anyone. Whenever I start to beat myself up for being victimized I look around the room, and realize I’m in great company. Again, seriously???? Taylor Swift, Sandra Bullock, Maria Shriver, Eva Longoria, Blake Shelton and Jennifer Lopez. A bunch of decent human beings who learned something horrifically painful the hard way, and earned the FUCKING MIGHTY bragging rights that they never knew existed. Just like me.

    • The church (Catholic anyway) disagrees with your jerk husband. If you prefer biblical evidence rather than church canon James 5:16 should do. Only God can grant true forgiveness of sins, but we should not harm people further by refusing to humble ourselves to them. If the sin was COMPLETELY internal (say, he looked at a woman lustfully), then a confession is only really required to God. Very few sins are so. If the sin harmed that person in any way we should go to them, tell them, and try to make restitution/contrition. They however are not under any obligation to the sinner. Such a statement that he owes you nothing further compounds his sins and makes his confession to the priest insincere/bad and adds the mortal sin of sacrilege against his soul.

      • I agree with you and I’m not catholic (protestant now non-denominational). Zaccheus was willing to pay back four times as much if he stole anything. (Luke 19:8). There are many verses where God instructed the Israelites to make restitution. ( Clearly, restitution is important to God. And James 5:16 is a good point. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The Bible also instructs them to be reconciled with their brother (or sister) before offering a gift at the altar (Matthew 5:23-24). There’s no doubt in my mind that God expects people to try to make amends with those they’ve harmed.12 step programs like AA are wise to include making amends as one of the steps. The question is: has he read the Bible or talked with a pastor who could teach him from the Bible?

  • I told my Buddhist therapist early on how I was always bought this forgiveness line, that I was always the one who took the higher road, and I was struggling with even the *idea* of forgiveness down the road. He reminded me that in Buddhism, forgiveness is critical but so is justice, and they have to exist in balance. Justice comes in many forms. Right now for me, it’s my settlement moving forward, some positive male attention (PMA), and seeing my STBX finally really struggling with whatever demons caused him to blow up our lives. I finally read him the riot act about becoming a grown up and he sobbed and apologized and told me I was right – and this was NOT in any sort of reconciliation mode, rather me telling him I wasn’t going to hold his hand through the logistics of a divorce process that was his choice.

    Meh is closer, but I still cry on a regular intermittent basis. Forgiveness still seems a world away – but bitterness is receding into the background, except in a dark humor kind of way (teenage daughter said, I was helping dad pick out a new doormat; I asked permission to make a bad joke with her, and said, yep, he definitely needs a new doormat, cuz I left that job!).

    This is a great column. For anyone struggling with even hearing the word forgiveness, just remember that justice comes along with the package.

    • Robin, I felt so much better when my ex did the crying and admitting he’d done wrong. Especially because I thought it meant he actually was a decent person, somewhere inside – so much better for him. Plus I thought it meant he would treat the kids and I better, going forward.


      That moment of insight faded away really really quickly. He used it to add to his entitlement (he had apologized, so why wasn’t everyone forgiving him immediately and going straight back to treating him as if he had done nothing wrong ever!). He assumed it meant I’d get back into a relationship with him, even though I had said and done NOTHING to give that impression, just provided the compassion I would to a stranger. And his nastiness just kept increasing, after that little dip.

      Sigh. I hope your experience is better, but be prepared that it most likely won’t be.

    • I’m two years out and I still feel extreme sadness and anger much more often than I would like, but it’s getting better. I’m in the middle of litigation with him and his wife appliance and I’m sure that’s not helping, but once that’s over, I can walk away from their need to be central in my life. It will be easier if through both of those, I can finally get justice, but I’m worried that the Billy Bob Thorton Reality will simply doze my beloved little chapel of hopes for that… and bracing myself for that is exhausting.

  • The concept of “forgiveness” and laying my burden down has been critical. CN helps as does divorced friends who share their stories.

    For me forgiveness is about the growing gap of time in between my “hope you die of cancer” thoughts. It’s the calendar I use to check off dates- weeks now instead of single days.

    It helps my kids are older. I may never have to speak to my X again (email is quite a tool). I may never have to say “I forgive you”. Instead, I want a life that says, “I’m better without you”.

  • Forgiveness comes when the scales are balanced. In the meantime, Trust that They Suck, make your way to Mehtopia (I love that one and thank you to the person who coined the neologism) and if they ever ask for your forgiveness (without already having forgiven themselves) THEN you can think about what that process will look like.

    It’s like chasing after the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow otherwise.

    • Hey JWH —

      I’ve got a nice little list of actions that demonstrate remorse, that I would present if forgiveness were ever requested. (It involves money, accountability, legal documents and support from in-laws — yah, I didn’t think so, either).

      • Me too! Words are cheap, but actions are what divide the men from the boys. I have a 12 Step list of things that my X would have to be already doing for around 2yrs + in order for me to believe that he has indeed changed. I would never tell him (or anyone else who knows him) what is on my list…I’d have to find out (from afar) if he is living these things out daily…but for starters, part of me believing him would mean that large sums of money suddenly start appearing in my bank account…about $200K at least and without my saying a thing or asking for it.

        I do believe in “redemption”…but I also know what it would take for the few people who achieve it to get there, and it ain’t pretty.

        • Agreed! Repentance is action. For Christians, it’s demonstrated action in the Bible.

          What repentance is:
          – Repentance is taking responsibility for personal actions (2 Samuel 12:13, Psalm 51:4).
          – Repentance is making amends/restitution (Luke 19:8 and many more passages).
          – Repentance is humbling yourself and taking steps to change harmful actions (Jonah 3).
          – Repentance is being accountable to others (James 5:16, Matthew 18:15-17).
          – Repentance does not deliver anyone from the consequences of their actions; however it may prevent them from experiencing greater consequences in the future (2 Samuel 12:10).
          – Repentance is looking out for other’s interests instead of just your own (Isaiah 58).

          What repentance is not:
          – Repentance is not tears and emotion alone (Malachi 2)
          – Repentance is not talk without any actions to back it up. (Hosea 14:2)
          – Repentance is not blameshifting. (Genesis 3:12).
          – Repentance is not looking out for number one only or acting self deprecating for show with no real change (Isaiah 58).

  • Fuck forgiveness. When somebody abuses me I learned that the best thing to do is cut them out of my life, avoid contact with them, and take steps to keep them away from me.

    I’ve been bullied by family for being bitter and not forgiving the cheater. But I feel that by rolling over and forgiving him in order to “let it go and move on” I relinquish my right to hold him accountable for being an abusive, disordered, predatory monster.

  • Some thoughts from Jeff Brown:

    “Forgiveness is not a concept. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s not a measure of someone’s spiritual health. It’s a PROCESS! And, if you choose not to forgive at the end of that process, you are not a bad human. Some of us actually heal and choose not to forgive. Imagine that.” Source:

    “I am firmly of the view that this societal fixation on forgiving other is just another way that we victim-blame, and bypass our own rightful anger, confusion, sense of loss. I do agree that we can’t forgive other until we self-honor, and that forgiveness is welcome if its organic, but I also believe that it may well be that there is no place for forgiving other in certain dynamics. Forgiveness is not a measure of our emotional health and well-being. Resolution is. That is, how we do come to a relatively resolved understanding of what we went through, how we do come to terms with what it was in a way that brings us to a deeper understanding and peace… Resolution of process, is where it’s at. And there is no reason to feel guilty if forgiveness does not arise within it. It’s enough to find peace.” Source:

    “Next time you have a terrible thing happen to you and someone says “You chose your every experience,” knock them unconscious :). When they come to, ask them to thank you for fulfilling their dream. And then, insist that they forgive you before they have even healed their head wound. Then tell them that “pain is an illusion- just be aware of it, witness it, and you will come into the Power of Now.” Then, remind them that there are no victims and that they just need to “turn around” their story of victimhood. When they try to get up, push them back down on the ground, and remind them that “everything you see and experience is a reflection of you.” That is, ”you must have had some issues that you needed to look at around violence. I gave you a gift. Be grateful.” Ask them for some money in exchange. Tell them to give you their pin number. When they begin to get angry, remind them that anger and judgments are substandard emotions and that there is never anyone to blame. If this doesn’t soften their edges, inform them that the ego is the enemy, and that the part of them that is perceiving this situation as unacceptable is merely misidentified… “You are trapped in the matrix, and seeing the world through that limited lens.” Tell them you are here to liberate them. And then, steal their wallet, so they can learn another valuable lesson about attachment and manifestation.

    p.s. Do not actually do this.” Source:

    • That last link …EXACTLY!

      Sure positivity can help you get “through” (moving in one side and out of the other side, continuing in time toward completion of a process or period) but… discounting the period of pain one must endure to come out the other side is so dehumanizing.

      This idea that our experiences (events or occurrences that leave an impression on someone) are driven “only” by how we interpret them is the most ridiculous new age psychobabble ever manifested.

      Our experiences are multidirectional. The way we experience something is not completely about how we interpret that event. Sure interpretation definitely plays a part, but the problem with assigning our “experiences” (not to be confused with behavior/ actions) as “totally” within our control is the loss of expectation for accountability in other people.

      Reasonable expectations of others is not the problem; especially if those expectations have been verbalized… as in, wedding vows and pledging monogamy. The belief that someone will or should behave a certain way (because you have an agreement between you) is not a fault or worthy of assignment of blame.

      New age psychobabble suggests that the failure of an agreement is not the problem. The problem is “having expectations.” When that expectation is not met, our pain comes from the interpretation of what the failure means, not from the actual failure.

      I don’t know at what point in our society the assignment of “blame” became synonymous with being bitter, vengeful, and immature, but it has created a culture of fuckwits that feel entitled to act like assholes without the consequences that come with acting like an asshole. My expectation that you not act like an asshole is not the problem, your acting like an asshole is the problem!

    • That last quote – I am ashamed to admit that I have wished that something like this would happen to Esther Perel and her Evolved attitude.

  • My Cheater betrayed our marriage vows, told malicious lies about me to anyone who would listen, including our son, imploded our son’s life, ruined me financially then had me evicted leaving me homeless, he is relentless in his quest to destroy me. Forgive? never.

    I refuse to let him take space in my head plotting revenge. He doesn’t have a conscious or integrity, I can’t change what he’s done or who he is. I can only change my feelings towards him and myself.
    Cheater isn’t the person I thought I beleived him to be 20+ years ago.
    Unfortunatlely I married an imposter, I regret meeting him

    Whenever he trys making my life more difficult, this quote comes to mind.
    “what do you expect from a pig but a grunt.”
    Acceptance, not forgiveness.

  • Whenever this topic comes up, I share what someone taught me because it was a positive game changer for me. It’s not for everyone, but it helped me on my journey to meh, big time, and there may be newbies out there who didn’t see it before, so here goes.

    Forgiving the Cowardly Lion was analagous to forgiving a debt. I realized I was not going to receive what he promised to give, and I let go of trying to get that from him because it cost more than it was worth to keep chasing after what was clearly a lost cause.

    I also permanently shut his “account” in my heart/life down with no option to open a new one.

    In a debt scenario, if a person is known to be a bad risk, the lender refuses the request. Terms vary, but in some cases, that condition is permanent. Such is the case with the ex — cancelled with no future options.

    So I sent him away and put him on the “not you, never again” list and moved on.

    I do not forget. I will always remember.

    I do not condone his betrayal/harmfulness. It will never be ok.

    I do not believe there is any excuse for his behavior as he didn’t do what he agreed to do in relationship with me and did do many things that violated our agreements. There was no clause in our agreement that allowed exception for causing egregious harm. There were many clauses in that agreent about behaving in non-harmful ways. He violated many of them. That’s a breach of the agreement, which nullified the agreement.

    This analogy simplified and structured the concept of forgiveness in a way that has worked much better for me in all of my life. Applying it helps me hear conversations about forgiveness in a re-framed way, which helps me hear things on the topic differently in general. This can be beneficial in it’s own right.

    If it helps you, too, great! If not, your own way will be great, too.

    • Oh, and also, the lender (in the analogy) generally changes all future agreements based on the lessons from the experience with the party that violated the agreement. So, part of forgiving the cheater’s debt is shoring up future agreement language and content to protect from the same violations later. We get to use what we learn to stop others from harming us the same thing later. It’s not jaded, it’s informed.

      • Amiisfree:

        This is precisely the approach that my fantastic therapist told me to take.

        He said, “In its most basic form, marriage is a contract. Once you remove the emotion, it’s nothing more than an agreement that two previously-unrelated parties have promised to respect and uphold. If one party doesn’t follow through on their commitment, they have violated the terms of the agreement and the contract has been breached. While the contract can always be renegotiated, the mere fact that the terms have been revised does not guarantee future compliance. It’s often best to sever ties and move on”.

        While I wholly embrace this concept now, it was really hard to do so right after my XH of 40 years unceremoniously dumped me for his married Howorker. Looking back, I didn’t (couldn’t) disengage from the emotional side of “the contract” nearly soon enough. This translated into many extra months of mindfuckery (i.e. asking “Why?”, Pick Me Dancing, expensive/futile marriage counseling, etc.) that could have been avoided.

        If I ever get into another relationship, I won’t make that mistake again. I absolutely will “Trust That They Suck” and proceed accordingly. Wait, you broke our contract? Buh-bye, we’re done!

    • I loaned money once to someone who didn’t pay it back. I was able to write it off because I had insisted they sign a promissory note.

      If the analogy works for others – that is great. For me, it wouldn’t. I can’t write off time wasted on Fuckwit.

      • I think that’s inherent in all things people share here. If it works for you, great. If not, there are bunches of other comments that might. Appreciate the respectful disagreement. ☺️

  • I’ve always been an acceptance kind of a gal. Even though I was raised Catholic, I’m not particularly religious but I do remember that to receive forgiveness, one must be contrite for their wrong doings. Of course to do that you’d actually have to acknowledge that you did something wrong and cheater ex never admitted to doing anything wrong without blaming me for why he did it first.

    So I accept what he did is in the past and is no longer happening to me. I accept that I don’t have any power over his actions or the actions of anyone else. I no longer hate him or wish for the protruding parts of his body to fall off because I feel pretty indifferent toward him. IMHO indifference (not hate) is the opposite of love. I haven’t seen ex cheater since the day we went to court and thanks to grown children and strict no contact I don’t hear from him via text, email, Skype or sky writing! No contact really is the path to the truth and the light AllOutOfKibble!

    The point is that acceptance is really about me, not the ex. The hate served its purpose in the beginning but sticking with it would have kept me stuck in the past and I don’t want to live there. I want to move forward with my new life because it really is better on the other side!

    • This is where I find myself these days. I went through DivorceCare and had an excellent counselor (who went through the same ordeal as I) that I don’t have to forgive just leave it up to God. Same with anger. It’s now 2 years from DDay and our final goodbye. He has never been able to have an actual voice conversation. My apology came via text. I found out through mutual friends that he had a detach retina and had to have surgery. Now living on a lake in Minnesota just like he wanted. Fixing up a money pit house. Funny thing was I don’t have any feelings for any of the news. I guess I’m getting close to MEH. It’s not my job to forgive as I certainly will never forget his betrayal and the fact that he never was a man about it. He has to live with his betrayal and so does his beloved.

      As they say Karma is a bitch.

    • cheaterssuck:

      I, too, am past the anger and now accept that I had no power over my XH’s actions then, and I have no power over his actions now… his choices were, and still are, his own. I bear no responsibility for them and I did nothing to cause them. No matter how illogical, irrational or cruel they may have been, whatever he did/said/thought is in the past; I’ve left that old baggage in the Lost & Found department because I don’t want to diminish my own joy or taint my future relationships.

      I owe my current state of healthy indifference to ferociously protecting my boundary of Zero Contact (still a point of major confusion for him); the only two breaches in the last 4 years were unavoidable (divorce court hearing and son’s wedding). It truly is the path to truth and light!

      • This is so true. My Tuesday came when my friend told me about this eye surgery. My old reaction would be to contact him and try to get any information on how he is doing. Funny thing Tuesday came and went. No fan fare, no great big Aha moment. Just a day when you realize that his news is nothing on me. As it’s stated here on this site “he’s just someone that I used to know”.

  • My cheater has been dead for almost two years. I still don’t forgive him. I am at peace with my life. Does that make me a bitter person, no, and for those that tell me I should forgive him I simply say forgiveness is between him and God. In order to obtain my forgiveness he would have had to show true understanding and remorse for what he knowingly did to me for over a decade. I never got that from him, not even a morsel of it, he was a lying user until literally the day he died.

  • BOOM!!



    Spot on Tracy. Exceptional insight and resonance.

    Reading that makes me feel like I just had one of the best T-bone steaks in my life. I swear when I eat one, I can FEEL the red blood cells getting primo iron and nutrition.

    That’s what this post feels like for me today.

    Thank you.

  • Not my quote but I like this definition “forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” That said, I would be happy to attend exassholes funeral.

  • As a scientist I’m always searching for balance and answers, forgiveness can help with that. We all suffer, without suffering we’d never know happiness. My cheater was suffering, and instead of facing that suffering he ran from it. He hid from his pain. That is my forgiveness..My understanding of him running to hide cause he’s selfish is my forgiveness. It’s not my fault, it’s him. What he did was horrible, that’s on him. I hold space for him to be better, but that does doesn’t mean I will be his vessel for abuse. I know my boundaries, I’m set myself free.

  • I have heard the forgiveness tripe many times through the years. Oh, No. Some things are unforgivable.

    In a nutshell cheater X kidnapped my youngest son and murdered him. He then went on to kill himself. And for an encore, his family had my house burned down. I lost my child, my pets, and everything else. No, I do not have to forgive the unforgivable.

    That being said, the whole big ball of pain surrounding both these things was too much for me to carry. I had to give it over to Spirit. It is now between them and Spirit. Karma. That is all the justice I am going to get.

    Meanwhile, now I am free to go build a better life. I can let go of all of that and put my hands and my eyes on the now. While I will forever mourn my the loss of my child. I can live fully today with serenity.

    He did not succeed in destroying me. I consider that a victory.

    • You have experienced the worst atrocity that is known to mankind. I know of one other woman whose son was beaten to death with a hammer when he was accused of stealing some tools while working landscaping a property (he did not). The killer took it upon himself in a split second to be accuser, prosecutor, judge and executioner. Processing this takes years and no one has the right to tell you how, when or if you should do it. In the end, you did the only thing that we humans can do to get some form of relief for OURSELVES…give it over to Spirit and leave the Justice there.

      This is where the rubber meets the long long road. Knowing what we can and cannot do on our own to regain a sense of sanity and balance enough to go forward. Forgiving has nothing to do with reconciliation…and reconciliation has nothing to do with continuing a relationship with the perpetraitor.

      None of us should hold our breath waiting for this to happen…chances are it won’t…nothing to work with there.

      I don’t ask Spirit to “get him”…I only ask Spirit to teach him…for his sake. Time and method is of no essence to me because I have moved on from it.

      If I were to forgive an egregious wrong that was never humbly acknowledged with remorse and restitution by a perpetraitor, I would be going against what the Bible says to do…which is, WHEN the perpetraitor comes to you humbly and contrite of heart asking for forgiveness, THEN to find it in our hearts to forgive them…but even then, it still does not mean to carry on with the relationship…that part is optional and not “required”. Fooled me once, shame on you…fooled me twice, shame on me.

      My X has NOT acknowledged his deep sins…but strangely, I do not need him to for ME…this is what he should do for himself. Eternity is a long long time.

    • (((Hugs))))

      I do believe that this life is not all there is. We will see the ones we love again.

  • How do you forgive a personality disorder?? You may learn to ‘understand’ it, or accept it. Their abuse will continue on, because that is who they are. You can only avoid them whenever possible.

    To me forgiveness means not seeking retribution. Saying ‘farewell and fuck off’.

    • Exactly. Do you forgive cancer? Do you forgive hurricanes? Forgiving a destructive force is stoopit. What’s the point?

  • all this applies to the victims of sex abusers of children-all of it. sadly. crazy making people are supposed to be forgiven by the people they made crazy-a switched flipped that can never be flipped back? That’s crazy.

  • I struggle with this. Do I forgive my X? I absolutely do not want to hold on to toxic anger, nor do I want to give my X and what he did any power in my life going forward. That being said, my X, with whom I must co-parent, continues his awful behavior, and I do have to interact with him regarding decisions about our son. And our son is devoted to his dad, even though he’s seen (and is old enough at 17 to understand) his dad’s disordered and selfish behavior.

    My very unrealistic wish (in times of despair) is that X would just go away, quietly vanish, so that my son could move forward and disengage with disordered dad.

  • Such a good point, huge difference when someone has a personality disorder. My dad was a complete narcissist, and I never got to a place of forgiveness with him. There was no point, because there was no possibility for self-reflection on his part. He’s gone 1.5 years now, and I am no longer angry. Sometimes I think about things he said or did that were funny or hinted at the part of his personality that might have been healthier had it been given the chance to grow (I suspect his childhood f’ed him up, but we’ll never know).

    My STBX has the possibility for self-reflection, and seems to be going in that direction (he has sincerely thanked me plenty for what I’ve given over the years, but hasn’t really come out with a good apology yet). He has big narcissistic traits, but he’s not a PD. Seeing his quest for “passion and romance” so he can “be happy” utterly fail in short order has certainly made things easier in the past weeks.

    So, no, you can’t forgive a PD. That’s a completely different conversation. Lots of books out there on how to deal with the narcissists in your life at every stage.

  • Forgiveness – I do not treat her poorly – never called her a name… Am I angry Yes, probably. AM I hurt – yes… I just want piece – to live my life and not have the shadow of her four-year affair haunting me. It destroyed me and destroyed my belief in love. She had a four-year affair with a very close family friend – his wife was like a mother to my wife and he is a senior citizen (17-years older than my 52-year old wife). My wife has always been stubborn and proud (and was a very conservative Christian) – she says she is sorry for hurting me, what she did was mortally wrong – but that she IS NOT Sorry for the affair… She says they were in Love and happy… She says I made her cheat – drove her to it as we grew apart as I spent too much time with our three children. My wife worked weekends (couple nights in the evening) and holidays at an antique store – it was her out from being a stay at home mom dealing with three teenage kids (about 13-months apart each – now oldest is 22 and youngest is 19) – so I thought working at the antique store was a great and healthy out from her to have adult company and I spent the weekend on going adventures with the kids. So she blames me for growing apart from her – I don’t get it as she chose to work the weekends… Something she wanted to do – the money she made went into her “fun account”… She worked there 10-years and had an affair for 4 of those years with one of the owners (the other owner was his wife – who adored my wife)… My wife says I cannot forgive… Because she sees me cry once in a while or if I have a nightmare or trigger and I am angry. She thinks I cannot forgive because I ask her to go to therapy and she wont. Or If I don’t wear my wedding band because I tell her everything it represented is broken or a lie… We are still together – am I happy no… DO I feel Safe – No… But just when I get ready to leave – she acts so kind and sweet and engaging… DDAY was 2.5 years ago…

    • “We are still together – am I happy no… DO I feel Safe – No… But just when I get ready to leave – she acts so kind and sweet and engaging… DDAY was 2.5 years ago…”

      Trust your gut. She can tell when you’re at the end of your tether and she reels you in again by pretending to be loving. She is using you.

      I wouldn’t put it past her to be having an affair. Probably not with the same guy. Have you been tested for STDs? Please do so.

  • It’s been more than 7 years since my divorce was final, and I HAVE come to a point of acceptance that is as close to forgiveness as I’ll ever get. The children are all grown. I’ve had to sit through a couple of graduations and a wedding with him. The unmarried children are all no contact with their father, so I don’t expect to have any more “required” family events with the man.

    For me, forgiveness means that I no longer carry that anger for the way he treated me. I don’t wish him dead. He’s just somebody that I used to know.

    It probably helps that he did not marry the woman he had the affair with.

    I know that my ex had a miserable childhood and it made him into a miserable person. That’s no excuse but it is a contributing factor.

    He sent me a letter at Christmas this year. I read about 2 sentences and quit because he was blaming me for the divorce. Again. He contacted me via Facebook so I blocked him. Remaining no contact is the only way I can maintain this kind of forgiveness. If I had to talk to him on a regular basis I know the anger would come back.

    • 7 years later and he contacted you to blame you again! Makes you wonder what goes on in their heads.

      • Exactly. Why are they still holding on? Centrality and entitlement – ugh, now that I have seen it in my own life, I see it everywhere. It’s like a plague.

  • I will never know even half of what that guy did–affairs, strippers, porn, financial malfeasance, lies to me, lies about me, and who knows what all else–and much of what I do know required legal discovery.

    So, I’m getting pretty philosophical about the absurdity of it all.

    I’m supposed simultaneously to accept blame *and* offer forgiveness for things I knew not of, and never will?

    I don’t feel bad at all that the people who think that should happen might think ill of me for declining.

    Kind of a useful measure, really–could never be very close with anyone who thinks a person can or ought to conjure up that sort of forgiveness.

    I’m choosing a life that does not center around shallow, dinner part politeness. Deep gratitude sincerely expressed and lived over perfunctory thank you’s. Real and spontaneous smiles and laughs over the posed grins and flattering angles meant for image management. Long-term concern and checking in when sorrow comes over flowers and a sympathy card. Reflection and deliberation over knee-jerk platitudes. Authenticity over impression.

    Not looking to waste any more time on empty things, and what people often mean by “forgiveness” turns out to be a very empty thing, indeed.

    • cashmere:

      I love this…

      “I’m choosing a life that does not center around shallow, dinner part politeness. Deep gratitude sincerely expressed and lived over perfunctory thank you’s. Real and spontaneous smiles and laughs over the posed grins and flattering angles meant for image management. Long-term concern and checking in when sorrow comes over flowers and a sympathy card. Reflection and deliberation over knee-jerk platitudes. Authenticity over impression.”

      Yes Yes Yes!

      • I’m supposed simultaneously to accept blame *and* offer forgiveness for things I knew not of, and never will?

        Always insightful Cashmere.

  • My x was just plain mean. He has a mean spirit. He always has and i have to assume he always will.
    I have watched him *embrace* his mean spirit. It really is hard to watch. But my forgiveness that i immediately offered after d-day did nothing to slow his decline into pure evil. If anything it put a target on me. He used it against me. He even tried to use it against me in court. You really do have to let these monsters go. They have to delve into the depths of their own darkness. I am fortunate to be away from him. I have to remind myself of the painful reality of my situation. I have to remind myself of who he really is.

  • “Why of course you had to keep cheating! I couldn’t forgive you. Yep, this one is on me.”


    After I filed for divorce and fuckwit was living in the basement, I had a noise activated voice recorder placed in my bedroom, because I’ll be damned I was going to be chumped in my own room. Anyway, he never brought a smoopsie in my room. He did however make a phone call from my room to our lawnmowing guy. His words

    “Got-a-brain and I are getting a divorce. This certainly isn’t what I wanted, but she is unwilling to work on our marriage.”

    Uh… he forgot to mention the part where I “forgave” his cheating with a stripper 4 years prior, and I filed for divorce the day after I found his text negotiating the hourly rate with an escort (and the play-by-play of her on her way to his hotel).

    Please tell me again how it’s this bitter-bunnies fault that our marriage failed. Exactly how many times should one forgive the same behavior? As the old saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!”

    My lack of forgiveness isn’t the problem, the behavior is the problem….I chose to get rid of the problem. That doesn’t make me bitter or vengeful, that makes me a problem solver.

  • Once I found CL, I was able to see the Jackass is disordered. Learning about the patterns that disordered people in relationships was a huge lightbulb moment. It took a lot longer to stop ruminating on what he did and how much I resented MOW for her part in what he did. But knowledge was the first step toward Meh. But I got there. And “Jackass” came to be on one hand, a person I had made up in my head, based on incomplete information, and on the other, a type of person I had to learn to recognize and avoid. Once I understood what he is, I was able to totally disengage. He chose to physically disengage; I was able to mentally and emotionally disengage. What he is to me now is a case study of a type of person I don’t want in my life.

    But one of the totally unexpected side benefits of being Chumped and learning about personality disorder is that I was able to “forgive” my mother, who has been dead for a long while and can’t really ask for forgiveness. But learning to recognize Jackass helped me to understand what SHE was as well. And I have a lot more knowledge about how she came to be disordered, based on my truly horrific grandparents. And one day I realized I was no longer “chained to the perpetrator,” that I was no longer “locked into a state of victimhood.” In a sense, I realized that what happened to me as a child and teenager could be put in the past. That I could acknowledge that justice in my anger and hurt at what happened to me without blaming myself for not figuring out how to please someone whose pain had nothing to do with me. Knowing she had a personality and/or character disorder allowed me, in a surprising way, to see that I couldn’t fix her, that there was nothing I could have done to help her. And once I was able to accept the whole ball of wax—what she was, the things she did and their impact on me, how I got codependent as a kid, and how I could change myself as an adult, I was free to love her as she was. It’s the craziest thing—I was able to miss her, the person who tried to give me what her parents failed to give her. I was able to see that she never had the tools she needed to do that—and that trying to do so was a fool’s errand anyway. And because death is the ultimate “no contact,” I could get clear on both what she was and see that I don’t need to spend the rest of my life controlled by thoughts and emotions about those experiences.

    I don’t think I’ve explained this well. But I granted my mother “fairy dust forgiveness” up until my father died (and her behavior under THAT stress was like D-Day). After that, I was locked into victimhood and my childhood FOO issues kept me looking for that elusive person who would make me feel loved. But getting clear about Jackass helped me get clear about the original disordered person in my life—and to move on beyond the FOO stuff.

        • LJA,
          Your comment is amazing and really resonates with me . It wasn’t until my abusive Narc father told me I contributed to my ex putting his hands on my and that if I left him it wouid be my biggest regret because I had nothing to offer anyone …

          It was in that moment when I ended the call with my father I had decided I wouid never speak to him or see him again .

          Don’t know why it hit me so hard as my father has done / said so much worse than making that comment to me but when the call ended I knew 100 percent my own father did not care about me . In fact , now I accept he has always had contempt for me . My father is very shallow , arrogant , mean spirited and the master of mindfuckery . I remember being about 20 and telling him “ I feel like you mess with my head”

          While he will never know , his comments and my realization he didn’t care about me made it so much easier to leave the ex .

          Interestingly , I’ve had horrible nausea most of my life . For no reason . Not connected with my illnesses ….I’ve been that way since I was a small child . Always nauseous. Since I’ve gotten ridden of both my father and ex , I’ve only experienced nausea on maybe 3 occasions and it was when I was very stressed .

  • After abandoning his granddaughter for years he showed up her finsl family therapy appointment. Not once did he or her mother own one ounce of the trauma they caused this beautiful 15 year old. Instead the Limited and mom expected a clean slate as if nothing happened. His actual statement was indeed , I don’t know what hppened. For the love of God if they couldn’t humble themselves enough to ask for forgiveness from this child Given the opportunity, they aren’t worthy of her time.

  • I think the most important thing (what we worked on with Dr IC) is ACCEPTANCE. This really is who he is. All his behaviour is in keeping with who he is.

    Therefore, with every action that confirms he is who he is …. indignation, outrage, hurt etc – is DENIAL. It is HOPING he is something other than who he is. It is NOT ACCEPTING who he REALLY IS.

    That helped me a lot. Yes, he goes to huge lengths to show his disdain, by not lowering himself to treat me with respect and regard. The cell phone contract gets cut off without notice. He fails to mention important information – except what is required by my SHL (good lawyers are worth their weight in gold)

    And??? That is who he is. It does not define me at all. It is temporarily inconvenient, but once I have my own cell phone contract, I feel much better. The less I have to do with him, the more control I have over my life, the better for me. Its what I want and need, now.

    So thank you Dr IC, for listening to years of screaming and wailing, sighing

    “When is this self pity going to STOP?”

    and “Why are you surprised? What would be surprising was if he behaved differently from this”

    and “He is acting exactly as he always does, why do you expect a different outcome?”

    and “You seem to futilely wish he was different”.

    for me to finally GET IT!

  • Forgiveness does not require an admission of guilt by the perpetrator. Forgiveness isn’t for the perpetrator, it’s for you.

    A lot of people think forgiveness = forgetting but that’s not true. Forgiveness is cancelling a debt that won’t/can’t be paid back so you can move on. That’s it. Has nothing to do with forgetting.

    Reconciliation requires forgiveness and an admission of guilt. If you don’t forgive, you can’t reconcile and if you don’t admit what you did wrong, you can’t reconcile.

    It’s like this: if you took out a loan at the bank and did not/would not pay it back, the bank may eventually forgive the debt. Forgiving that debt may benefit you but it’s not for you, it’s so the bank can clear their books and have a clean slate.

    If the bank forgave your debt and closed the books on your account, but you went to that same bank to borrow some more money, the bank will likely say no, because you didn’t pay back the first debt. The bank forgiving the original debt doesn’t mean they forgot you didn’t pay it back.

    This is where people get messed up in the game. They think because someone forgave them, everything is forgotten and they can do it again, and because you forgave them everything is alright so what’s the problem?

    The bank didn’t forget that you didn’t pay them back. But that bank will probably not loan you any more money; you’ve got to go somewhere else. If you do try to borrow from them again, they probably wouldn’t even consider taking your application until years had passed from the original defaulted loan.

    But let’s say you still want to borrow money from that bank and the loan officer agrees to hear you out. You’re going to have to explain why you didn’t pay that money back. You’re not going to be able to have a funky attitude with the loan officer and expect them to approve the loan. And if you do get the loan, the bank is going to require stricter terms on you than they would for somebody with good credit who’s always paid their loan back on time.

    If you want the loan from the same bank you defaulted on in the first place and they agree to loan you the money again, you’re going to have to accept the bank’s terms. If you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else.

    Forgiveness & reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness is mainly so you can move on with a clean slate. Has nothing to do with forgetting or reconciling.

  • I agree with CL about detaching yourself from the toxic feelings for your own good. I am about a year from D-Day, and I probably won’t ever tell Douchebag I forgive him for living a double life for who knows how many years. But I will eventually detach from the hatred because I refuse to give DB that centrality any more. I guess this is part of getting to the Land of Meh. It helped me to listen to Dr. Fred Luskin, “Forgive For Good” on Youtube. Someone here on CN talked about him not too long ago. When I started listening to him, I was angry — how dare this so-called forgiveness expert be so cavalier about the depths of betrayal that someone like me had experienced. But after I gave myself some time to think it over, now I am trying to put his advice into practice about gratitude for the many good things in my cheater-free life, and it has already made a world of difference in my mental and physical health.

  • Chump Lady,
    I would just like bashfully to point out that your quoting Desmond Tutu belies your claim that your master’s degree in African Studies (I can’t remember the exact name of your degree) was “worthless.”

  • Spot on, once again Chump Lady!!!
    I take the stance of “I am not Jesus nor do I have Alzheimer’s.”
    When I cut off all contact with my narcisstic mother, I made it very plain that I did not wish her any ill will, nor did I want any contact with her ever again. I also told her that I did not like her a person, nor did I agree with nor like any of her life choices she’s made. I was very clear with her about why I was cutting ties with her.
    That was 8 years ago and I was still then married to now-exh2 the evil one. He helped me write the email, lol.
    Ironically, 5 years later, I’d write him the same email after D-Day abandonment, but never sent it.
    Peace out, fucker. Deuces.

  • Chump Lady amen to that!! I accept learn and work on moving on but forgiveness to help me heal? Forgive for causing my children pain and putting their beloved 16 year old dog to sleep without telling them? I say bullshit to that! I will work on meh instead.

  • To those that presume to tell me what to feel by demanding I forgive Cheater #1 (“He’s the father of your only child!!!11!!!! after all!!!), or Cheater #2 or SkinnySkank (yes, I’m looking at *you*, SIL), I usually just answer with, “Tell me how you feel about forgiveness after it happens to you.”

    • Bingo. It must be demonstrated without demanding it, restitution must come without asking for it, a change in heart must be seen long term by new choices observed. This takes TIME to know if it is real. Meanwhile, it is best to remove yourself from further damages.

  • This might have been one of the most surprising life lessons (at age 50) I got from being a chump. I read that Tutu quote early on and it really changed my brain. I would have loved a heartfelt apology from my ex and the ability to give the forgiveness, but nothing was offered, and now 5 years out I really don’t care about giving forgiveness because I simply do not need to.

    When I do read things about people who had far more terrible things done to them and they say they have forgiven the monster, I want to correct them and say they have NOT forgiven, they have decided to disconnect and move on. They do not have enough understanding or information from the perpetrator to give it, you simply cannot give it in a vacuum. A rather presumptuous thing for me to think.

  • Warning: Nerd rant ahead (LAJ emboldened me with hers yesterday)

    -Synonyms for forgiveness include:
    pardon, absolution, exoneration, remission, dispensation, indulgence, clemency, mercy; reprieve, amnesty

    Do I pardon Hannibal Lecher for his infidelity? No

    Grant him absolution? Hell, no, he still hasn’t accepted responsibility for the fatal damage he inflicted on the marriage or family.

    Exonerate him? Nope, he’s guilty as hell.

    Remission? Well, he is a cancer on the face of humanity, but he’s still up and walking around. Sadly, he’s not even in remission in my life as we have two daughters together.

    Dispensation? Indulgence? Clemency? No, no, and no

    Mercy? No, my communique with him range from grey-rock-civil to contemptuous. Given half a chance, I’d still push him off his balcony.

    Reprieve? Possibly; I expect nothing more from him (especially integrity)

    Amnesty? No official pardons will be granted.

    Ergo, I must conclude Hannibal Lecher will not obtain forgiveness from me.
    “Forgive” includes the following:
    1-stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for (an offense, flaw, or mistake)

    Nope, still angry 3 years out (though the emotions themselves have dulled, the anger maintains a cognitive component of “how dare you have done that to me”)

    2-to cancel a debt

    This one intrigues me, as a few chumps above have mentioned it. So let’s assume that the gargantuan offense cheaters inflicted on us incurred a “debt.” First, there is no way to pay off that debt–what would “equal” the offense? Frankly, not even watching my X willingly impale himself on a sword would cancel the pain he inflicted from infidelity & gaslighting.

    Second, cheaters rarely ask for the “debt” to be cancelled. Instead, their infidelity “debt” always goes to collections. And collection agencies don’t really “cancel” the debt so much as resign themselves that it will never be paid off. I guess if a chump actively decides to write off the cheater’s debt, this definition fits, but I suspect most of us simply resign ourselves to knowing the debt can’t be paid off.
    As for the definition of “forgiveness” sometimes used (including by my therapist), that you simply let an offense go for your own sake, should the definition of forgiveness be expanded to include “letting go?” It is akin to “cancel a debt” above, but not entirely–this new definition sounds more like “moving on” and I am reluctant to call it “forgiveness.” My therapist and I had multiple debates about this (yes, I was a pain in the ass as a client).

    The “moving on/letting go” definition strikes me as a societally acceptable way for victims to claim that we have “forgiven,” when really we haven’t. I’d prefer to tackle society’s edict that Victims Must Forgive head-on: Victims do not owe their oppressors forgiveness, they should not be pressured to grant forgiveness, and healing does not require forgiving the person who injured you. Just my view.

    • But what about CL’s acceptance? It’s something I subscribe to and I don’t feel like I’ve forgiven cheater ex or that anyone in society can claim I have forgiven him. I simply accept (forget the debt?) that what was done is not happening anymore so it has no more power over me.

      I absolutely don’t believe in forgiveness when it comes to cheaters who take zero responsibility for their actions (pretty much all of them) but I do think that the anger outlives its usefulness after a while. The only way I could let that go was to gain acceptance.

      That said, I understand that the anger is harder to let go when you have minor children involved. By virtue of co/parallel parenting some sort of contact is necessary and I’m sure I’d still be seeing red if I had to have regular contact with the ex.

      Overall I don’t think the goal of acceptance is a bad thing.

      • True, we have to accept what happened to us, and that it cannot be rectified. I just don’t want to call acceptance a form of forgiveness (or “forgiveness” as a term loses its meaning).

        As for anger–with any emotion, there is a cognitive and an emotional component. My anger toward my X is more of a moral judgment at this point, devoid of the tension it used to cause me earlier on.

  • We do not need to forgive, it at all. As Shari Shreiber states: “Forgiveness is not necessary. Over time, your anger just turns into indifference if, you’re working to build a life you’re content with.” The only forgiving is towards myself and for my decisions made when I didn’t know better at the time.

  • At the time when I discovered cheaterpants XH having an affair with skank woman I told him that I would never forgive him in a million years and I meant it. I will NEVER forgive him for what he did to me. The level of betrayal and deceit was unfathomable. I don’t believe he ever loved me for one minute. It was ALL bullshit.

  • Love, love. love this post, CL!

    “I don’t wish them dead. I wish to disengage. I want peace in my life.” -CL

    I hope 2 out of 3 isn’t bad…I have disengaged and have peace. Chump Nation, can figure out which one is my struggle.

    In seriousness, I view forgiveness as something you give when someone has made a mistake and seeks to make amends. NOTHING the xhole did was a mistake (he knew what he was doing and continued unabated) and he has never sought to make amends.

    So forgiveness, no. Not wishing him dead…working on it.

    • Sounds familiar!

      I’ve heard “I don’t regret it” several times now from STBXW and how the affair “woke her up” like some kind of spiritual awakening.

      One of my mantras prior to D-Day was “I don’t forget and I never forgive”. That went straight out the window after D-Day but almost a year on now I’m (getting) back to where I used to be. Yep ‘ole Bishop Des is spot on with his last sentence, our cheaters must take responsibility for their bad choices in life and take actual real action to make amends, before we can even begin to think about forgiveness.

  • I read an interesting article this weekend on NYT about forgiveness. A man that had left his ex wife for his therapist when the ex wife got out of chemo. Reached out to the ex to ask for forgiveness. It was interesting they seemed to reach a real place of presence with each other (this was many years after the events).
    He said something in the end – that he realized that cheating has long term effects and second order effects. That their friends were hurt by his betrayal. That their families were hurt. And also – that people who had heard about it would have felt less secure in their own relationships.

    My ex bf told me a lot about his infidelities – came out when the relationship was over. And it did a number on me. I just felt so sad that there are relationships like he had. That people can go through them, be unhappy, and continue to cheat or excuse their behavior or say marriage is for traditional people only or whatever. I knew people cheat. I’m sure people I know have cheated (actually my father did but then very shortly after died and my parents marriage had no closure). I knew people cheat. But to hear it talked about so dispassionately from someone whose marriage had failed because they were both cheating – and him still wanting to keep the door always open to multiple partners… almost as a matter of principle like oh evolved am I. it just somewhere was a damaging thing for me to learn just shook my overall trust. I just realized that this breakup which was months ago has taken away my hope in relationships.

  • Initially I was willing to forgive Clusterfuck when he was spinning the story as he was unhappy for years and just fell in wuv with Schmoopie. I even told him that. Little did I know she was at least OW#3, a fact I discovered accidentally 8 months after I gave him an ultimatum (her or me and he chose her). That was when I realized he was a serial cheater, a practiced and skilled liar, con man, and basically had been just using me for 16 years. It helped me turn ninja on his ass legally and get him off the deed to our house for a pittance. Now, 5 years later, I don’t need to forgive him because he was never sorry, ghosted me and my children (NC for 5 full years), and I’m 95% Meh. Acceptance, yes. I accept that I was fooled by a very skilled sociopath. Forgiveness, for myself only. I deeply and truly forgive myself finally.

  • Less than 24 hours after I learned about my ex’s cheating, he and I were sitting on some rocks, looking at the ocean. We were on vacation. I remember saying, “I can forgive you for what you did, but I’ll never look at our relationship the same way ever again.” And then I immediately noticed this cloud formation that looked like vertebra – a strong, ginormous backbone. My first thought: The universe is telling me to get a spine.

    I wonder now, how could I have even *thought* about forgiveness less than 24 hours after being punched in the gut? Because I was taught that “forgiving” made me the better, stronger person, and that forgiveness was somehow automatically owed to people who hurt me. (That, and I was stuck in Europe for two weeks at the time with his family.)

    This is among the many reasons I now call myself a ‘recovering Baptist.’

  • I’m not wasting my emotional energy on forgiving Lady Liar. She repeatedly and intentionally lied, used me, and compromised our daughters’ futures for her own gain. I’m letting the Universe deal with her now. It wasn’t my job to save her and it’s not my job to absolve her.

    • CurlyChump that is exactly how I feel. They made choices and they knew consequences…so why should they or we care about forgiving them ? I forgive me for not leaving his ass sooner, I forgive me for trying again after DDAY 1 I forgive me for my heartbreaking after DDay2 . With THAT forgiveness I can work towards inner piece . He does not get anymore from me

  • I will NEVER forgive, because he is looking for that very thing to make himself feel better. For him, forgiveness equals permission.He knows he’s evil and cruel: if I forgive that gives him licence to feel better…”see it wasn’t that bad, she forgave me”. My forgiveness comes in the form of accepting and moving on. It won’t be my hell not to forgive, but it will be his hell for never getting a pass from me.

  • It’s hard for me to understand everyone’s individual concept of forgiveness. I cannot forgive someone who continues to try to abuse me and our kids.

    As W.R.R. wrote, “…It is my view that no survivor of any sort of abuse “must” forgive the abusers, and I’ve read articles by psychiatrists and psychologists that support me on that. I’ve also, thankfully, had good people who happen to be Christian tell me that I don’t “have to” forgive unless I wish to, and feel I can.”

    That, along with Archbishop Tutu’s definition are the closest to my definition of forgiveness. You can move forward in life without bestowing it on someone who deliberately hurt you.

  • The conclusion I have come to is that forgiveness is defined as ‘not seeking vengeance’. I think of it as the opposite of the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality.

    When a person is hurt, there is a natural response which is to hit back. The reason is that hitting back – getting revenge – makes you feel better (in the short term). It makes you feel in control again and like you have your power back. It’s very tempting.

    Forgiving is a choice not to go there.

    The interesting thing is that in the short term, choosing forgiveness is likely to make you feel worse, not better. People sometimes mistakenly think that ongoing feelings of anger and pain are evidence you haven’t forgiven. Not so! They may be actually evidence that you have. That you’ve chosen the higher path to work through your pain in a non-violent way. Luckily, in the longer term, things do work out much better if you forgive (defined strictly as ‘choose non-vengeance’), so it’s definitely worth it. But it’s not a short cut through pain.

    Also, vengeance and justice are not at all the same thing. Choosing forgiveness is not the same as choosing not to pursue justice. Justice is separate. As an example, it was completely just for me to divorce my husband and use the full force of English law to get my half of our joint savings back that he swiped from the joint account. However, if I had chosen to e.g. pour cheap paint all over his beloved car or smash up his beloved Apple computer, that would have really been revenge, not justice. Of course, there would have been a certain short term satisfaction (I won’t lie!) but it would have brought a world of trouble on my head in the longer term.

    People sometimes think forgiveness means ‘acting like nothing happened’. I don’t think so. That’s just unachievable and ridiculous.

    Anyway, that’s my take on it……..

  • Forgiveness? What is that? Like seriously what is that?

    I understand repentance and retribution or restoration. I understand the offending party acknowledging their wrong and seeking to make amends.

    I don’t understand a blithe ‘ whoops I’m sorry !would ya clean up that mess I made? I’m outta here!’

    The ‘forgiveness is for you chump’ line I don’t get either. What am I forgiving them NOT repenting and restoring? What manner of mindfuck is that?

    When people screw me over and leave me in the lurch…I don’t think to forgive them. It doesn’t arise in that scenario. I think how I can never have anything to do with that person again as they have shown they are capable of treachery. I effectively cut them out of my life and they never reenter it.

    Forgiveness… without repentance and restoration? Nope.

  • I just don’t want to have anything to do with XW. Let her wallow in her disgusting world- just keep me and my daughter out of it.

    I wan’t ‘meh’. But I think ‘forgiveness’ means fuckwit gets off the hook which so many of these narcs and BPDs want. They don’t want consequence or the feeling of consequence. When they tell people the absolute truth about why the divorce came about then I might consider forgiveness. But I know she will never tell people the truth, so she can go get fucking lost for all I care.

  • I have a difficult time forgiving the wrongs … but I do want to live my life disengaged and in peace. That is a beautiful way of putting it in perspective. I have been wishing certain people dead just lately and it feels awful to admit to it but I don’t see why I should just say that I ‘forgive them’ when I most certainly do not and never will. I don’t want to keep allowing the ‘living rent free in my head’ syndrome to continue either, I am TIRED of being angry about people and events over which I have zero control. I want to get to MEH but every time I start to get close, up pops the perp and the anger cycle starts over. I could get to where I want to be but, unfortunately, the perp will not admit to the continuous wrong doing and escalating abuse that I put up with for a good 10 years. That’s the part that sticks in my craw.

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