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What It Looked Like, What It Was

Today we’re doing to take a deep dive into spackle.

Chumps often put things in the best light — which can be a very nice quality. Take children’s art work, for example. While some may see a squashed vessel and guess “tumor” — you, the proud parent, see artistic potential, genius even. All the other children managed to make cylinder shapes, but your child wobbles to his own drummer. His is a unique vision, a post-modern take on pottery that is meta, beyond clay. It challenges the viewer to reject labels like “ashtray,” “vase” or “gift”….

See how I do that? Spackle super chump here.

So, your Fun Friday Challenge is to examine your spackle. What did you mistake it for, and what was it really — and for extra credit! How did you keep deluding yourself?


I mistook 22 years in a federal job as a mark of maturity, stability, and even dullness. What it really was? A chaotic man with a good job, who probably kept it thanks to federal worker protections.

Maybe your cheater was an Eagle scout, a National Merit Scholar, a church deacon — and you mistook this for good character.

Or maybe they were a tumor and you mistook them for art.

Anywho, tell me about your spackle today, and TGIF!

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I mistook sarcasm and scorn for wit and superior intellect. Turns out he was just a jerk. I thought his disdain for all dogs stemmed from an unfortunate childhood incident. Turns out it’s just a symptom of being a jerk. I took his all his work-related absences and travel as something he was doing for career and the good of the family. Turns out it was a schmoopie smorgasbord! I thought I would never survive my loss of status and mortification at being chumped so soundly. Turns out, I am badass, and LOVE MY CHEATER-FREE EXISTENCE, my new job, and living on my own terms!

    • Same here for sarcasm and scorn!
      I took his lack of close friends and family ties for strength, independence and endurance.
      I even admired him for it!
      oh boy…..

      • that is me right there. Lack of close friends and family ties. That is it exactly. Now he is doing the same thing with AP he did with me and his family and I get to stand back and laugh at them all for blaming me for him not having a relationship with them. nope he is just a shitty person.

        • THTBM, my Ex told me “you can have my family” when he was leaving! He GAVE them to me! I mean, what sort of sociopath says things like that???
          I moved for him to another country and left my family behind. That was 17 years ago and in the meantime this country became my home and his family became mine. He didn’t have to hand them over to me, I was the one that kept them together anyway.
          I’m still very close with them. He, not so much

      • Yes– lack of close friends and family ties! All my ex seems to have in his life now is the Owife. He has pushed away his family, and any friendships that he appears to have at the present moment are superficial ones that are likely approved by her. His family no longer talks to me, so I hope they’re enjoying the lack of relationship that they have with my three kids, which I always nurtured.

    • I thought ex’s dislike of cats was due to an unfortunate childhood incident. It turns out it was due to the fact that cat’s don’t love unconditionally the way dogs do.

      • My dog and his cat came to hate him. Toward the end they would leave the room when he came in. Just a few months after I kicked him out the pets became the calm and sweet loving creatures they still are today. Obviously they’re much better judges of character than me. And they don’t spackle.

    • “I mistook sarcasm and scorn for wit and superior intellect. Turns out he was just a jerk.”

      OMG, same.

      In hindsight, EVERYONE hated him except for his small circle of sycophants (hostages) who thought the sun shone out of his ass.

      He had no real understanding of language. He wielded it like a weapon to impress or bludgeon people, not communicate or express. His words were flowery, but there was no substance.

      Despite sounding like he’d inhaled an SAT study guide, he was shockingly dumb. He got rejected several years in a row from every Ph.D. program to which he applied until he finally gave up, then dropped out of the Master’s program he finally settled for. Burned tons of professional bridges. Failed multiple careers. His wife finally had to get him a job at her company.

      Hell yes, I spackled.

    • I mistook everything he was about assuming he had at one tenth as much character but I was wrong. I mistook his narcicisstic ways for self esteem and strength from going through tough times not realizing he was the one who always causes the chaos and makes life hard.

      I mistook his affection as something more than an attempt to hear how great he is through manipulation and his relationship with his parents as his loyalty to family instead of realizing they are simply his means to pay the bills or get his prescription so he isnt dope sick, see they enable him to be a spoiled drug addict and he has 6 kids at the age of 36, so it’s lots of mistaken shit I didnt realize going on there.

      I mistook his hundreds of apologies and tears as genuine instead of gaslighting. I mistook his little time spent with our 5 kids as meaning something to him when he really just needed kibble. I mistook his confusion and lies about why we failed as possible side effects from the drugs instead of the blaten blameshifting he does so well.

      I mistook his jealousy and ability to isolate me as caring so much and his fits of rage when I called him on bullshit as remorse instead of what it was which was irritation from being bothered maybe having to change passwords so I cant check his phone calls again.

      Really I mistook everything about him on my assumption that he was like me and meant what he said when I should have realized his actions dont match that description at all.

  • What she looked like: a calm, quiet woman profoundly well-adjusted to, and unshaken by, the ups and downs of life, a welcome contrast to the rage-prone, alcoholic, narcissistic parent who dominated my childhood.

    What she was: a sociopath with no empathy or moral compass, who rarely showed emotion because she rarely felt emotion, and then only because she felt sorry for herself. #IMarriedAZombie

    • That’s exactly it! I thought he was so well-adjusted and capable of handling life and CALM, when really he just didn’t give a shit about anything that didn’t immediately affect him. He was never passionate about anything outside himself: adding that to my red flag, anti-spackle list!

  • Spackle: “He’s fun! He doesn’t take himself or life too seriously!” Reality: He’s just really fucking immature. Spackle: “He’ll get a better job when the kids are older. When he can work another schedule. He’s a really hard worker!” Reality: He would rather coast through life with his easy go nowhere job than show any motivation or drive. Spackle: “He’s just in a bad mood.” Reality: He’s a contemptuous, resentful asshole.

    • Wow Adaira, I could have written this! It’s only now I see it – after 9 years. In some way I think the 7 years of parenting made it easier to delude myself. This was me the last couple of years: “There’s parenting stress! there’s work stress! Poor guy has always been so even keel and calm but the stress is too much and that’s why he’s acting like a hostile lunatic. I can take on more stress and just push through til we get past this.” After finding out just a few months ago about the cheating, he’s already living with the girlfriend who’s a million years younger than I am, and she’s present every second he sees our child which is very infrequently. I feel sort of resentful of hindsight right now. And I feel so angry that so many people go through this. Immature deceitful cowards! Spackle!

  • I sparkled our entire marriage. I speckled his lack of compassion to make him into something that had feelings. I sparkled his selfishness as he was hard worker and deserved his extras. I sparkled his image to hide his true self from others.

    I stopped doing all that because it was too hard to keep it up. I had outside pressures that also ate my energy and I just got tired. At that point, the discarding started because I was no longer of use.

    I sparkled his actions into love for me. I’m not sure anymore what was real and what wasn’t.

    • Stupid auto correct – speckled and sparkled should be sparkled, although sparkled does work.

      • I am sure you did sparkle your entire marriage. Too bad he had his blinders on and didn’t notice how lucky he was.

  • Always willing to help out!
    First person to offer when someone needed something!
    Such strong values and a good heart!

    All impression management…nothing behind that cardboard facade…

    • Oh yes!! The first to help out EVERYONE, except at home. The house was slowly aging but ANYTHING and ANYONE else took priority (built 37 years ago and still has original flooring (not hardwood) etc… Any money he earned helping went directly into his pocket and I was fine with that, I reasoned he worked hard for that extra money (which never covered all his time/expense) and I wanted him to be HAPPY, I loved making him happy. I’m such an idiot.
      He chose not to respond when I initiated conversations about how he felt, what he thought about us, about what he wanted in life. Stone cold silence. I reasoned he just struggled to find words, but he was withholding, purposefully.
      When we were out in public he would slowly maneuver our positions until I was eventually standing behind him. WHY DID I ACCEPT THIS BEHAVIOR?!
      He treated me like an object, grabbing at me and pinching after I would ask him to be gentle or just stop. Sometimes I wanted tenderness, a connection that considered us BOTH. I told myself he was just goofing off, but the disrespect is now perfectly clear.
      He ‘said’ he loved me… and I believed him – until I discovered the truth.

      • Yes, my cheater was so eager and willing to help anyone fix or do a project at their house. When it came to our own house I pretty much had to put a work order in and wait over six months to get it repaired. Now I realize he was screwing those damsels in distress. Silly me, I believed I was married to someone who was kind, helpful, and truly cared about others.

        • Yup, Snap, about waiting over six months. Actually, I’m thinking “only six months??? Lucky her!”

          He inevitably outlasted me at the waiting game… “How long can I delay until eirene snaps and just does it herself?”

          I am normally a peaceful, accommodating person, but if I ever hear the words “Remind me later,” I’m going to go ballistic.

      • I lived this also. Finally realized he was “dead” inside. Just a mechanical robot. Very one-sided relationship. I was the energetic/positive/peacekeeper in this marriage. Kids are adults now – 5 yrs. Out. They “get” it. Dad is and always was a self-centered asshole. He will dissolve in his own toxic wasteland. Good riddance, life’s too short to put up with that shit! Fuck that noise! Keep your head up and keep pushing.

    • Yep all hands to the deck when others were watching. Its so obvious after the event. I really didn’t see the act till after. Thats when the theatrics really kicked in. “Your mother doesn’t want me to live here anymore” booo hoo ….crocodile tears…. wtf he had just demanded a divorce out of the blue and rented an apartment . So much bullshit. He was still on target thinking his kids would buy the crap. He was wrong…

  • I took him reading the Bible once in awhile, going to church every week and being a leader of a young boys Christian group as him being a follower of Jesus Christ. Turns out, he’s a predator of women who’s been seeking out narcissistic supply (aka “attention” and “admiration”) from dozens and dozens of women since before we even got married. He’s a pathological liar and I can very easily say in all my 52 years on this earth, I’ve never met anyone who lies as much as him and is really good at it, which makes it even scarier. In the past, he’s f’d around with 100% naked strippers over ten times and in the not so distant past, he had/has a very active porn life. So besides all the lying, cheating, porn and strippers — he waged a lie-filled smear campaign behind my back while we were in counseling with our pastor. He set out to destroy me emotionally and psychologically, setting me up to look “crazy” and “unstable” for all his “friends”, co-workers and whore to see/hear — how nice of my “Christian” husband to voice record me on his iPhone when I was having a meltdown from all his mindfxcks. I can now see I spackled and denied heavily for over twenty years.

    And btw, Chump Lady. February 23, 2016, you told me in response to the email I sent you — “You get a pit bull lawyer. You fight hard. You make that part-time job a full-time job. You stop looking to him for answers. You build a new life. You get independent. And you trust that he sucks.” Well, I graduated from a nursing program a few months ago and have two job offers on the table!” 🙂 And I’ve trusted that he’s sucks EPICALLY since February 23, 2016!!! Thank you, Chump Lady, Chump Nation and Divorce Minister (and family and friends too!) for saving my life. Every day I’m one step closer to the Land of Meh. 🙂

  • This is a great exercise that I really need right now!

    I mistook his spontaneity as zest for life–in reality, he can’t plan ahead, has no idea who he is and what he actually wants, and is highly distracted by random shiny objects in the moment.

    I mistook his inability to pay his utilities, student loans, and other bills as him scraping by in his first job in an expensive city–in reality, he doesn’t care about planning, budgeting, or honoring debts and other obligations.

    I mistook his erratic attention as him being distracted by work and other worries–in reality, he just wasn’t that interested in me.

    I mistook him being late from work as being busy and needing to get more done–in reality, he was spending time setting up cheating/actually cheating.

    I mistook his mixture of love for and intense anxiety about his large family as a desire to please them and make them proud–in reality, he was worried they’d realize he was attracted to men and reject him.

    I mistook his disgust with his three brothers’ failed relationships and careers as sound judgement and awareness of bad family patterns–in reality, he was blowing up his own life the same exact way, and the only reason his career got back on track after losing so many jobs is because I (and my family) propped him up and helped him start over.

    I mistook his grappling with binge drinking as actually struggling with drinking–in reality, it was covering up his desire to have sex with men.

    I mistook his sex addiction and cheating at porn shops for acting out against his dad’s abuse during his dad’s downward spiral to death–in reality, it was just that he wanted to have sex with men.

    I mistook his bragging about me at work functions as pride in my accomplishments–in reality, he was working extra hard to make sure people to noticed his beard.

    I mistook his desire to have lots of kids as caring about me and a family–in reality, he wanted to keep me busy so I wouldn’t question/pay attention to where he was.

    Looking at this–wow! I am a World Class Chump! Solidarity, Chumps! Never again!

    • Mine was the opposite. He was always meticulous about paying the bills and paying off his debts. He was reliable in so many things. He was so intent on being seen to following through on his commitments. I thought it was a sign of honor, integrity and responsibility. In reality it was image management. It was such a shock when I discovered that he wasn’t capable of keeping his promises to me when he seemed so intent on following through on his obligations to everyone else. I am the one who loved him most in the world and treated him better than anyone else and I am the one he chose to betray.

        • Ugh. I understand this so much. Mine was the same way too. Kept his promises and obligations to everyone else under the sun, moon and stars. Except he broke his promises to me, the one who was backing him up the whole way and loved him unconditionally. And our kids, they were just collateral damage to breaking his promises to me. I was too “exhausting” for him.

          Perfect image management. He also will give anything (including abandoning his family) to get to the top of the business world. I mistook it as driven, hard working and responsible. It was selfishness. And need for adoration and admiration. Lots of kibbles.


      • Chumpinrecovery:

        Same here. My XH looked like a model citizen, husband, father, son, sibling, boss, team player, soccer coach, neighbor, and friend. It was nothing but impression management, all done in an effort to divert attention away from his serial cheating and porn habit.

        • Same! Eagle Scout, scout leader, Sunday school teacher, civic volunteer, helpful neighbor, reliable employee, all to disguise a bdsm fetish, a truly sick Tumblr porn blog, dozens of one night stands and a 7 yr affair. I didn’t have a clue about any of it.

  • I spackled over when he told me he cheated on two high school girlfriends as him being immature then but now he’s a grown man. I spackled over conversations about coworkers and friends that he knew liked to cheat as his disgust for their behavior but it was actually envy and admiration. I spackled over when he talked about other women he was infatuated with and called it just telling me about people he knew. I spackled over a trip he took with his dad when they cheated together with other women. I spackled over the gifts he gave his secretary and how much he talked about her as him being a good boss. I spackled until one day I ran out of spackle and then I kicked him out, hired a brilliant lawyer, divorced him and got a brilliant settlement that’s allowed me to go back to school and train to do something I want to do and enjoy my beautiful life.

    Maya Angelou said,”do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Amen to that. I run everything through the horseshit meter now.

    • A father/son cheating vacation? Wow. Now I think I have heard it all. The level of family sickness that requires is terrifying. And sad.

  • I mistook his kindness toward his mother as a man who respects women. What it was: his mother was useful during her usefulness and when she saw the truth and she questioned him; he discarded her as hard as he discarded me after 20 years of marriage. Too bad it didn’t happen until after he discarded me.
    I mistook his eagerness to build a business with me as my being included and involved. What it was: HE NEEDED MY MONEY (Bc he had none) to begin working his dream. 13 years later and a $ Multi Million dollar valued business, 20 years of marriage and I get half Bc he’d rather have half my age schmoopsie and half parenting adulting time so he can party the other half.
    It’s ok. I’ll take half thank you.
    #NotSoMadAnymore #ShowMeThe$ #DidntThinkThisThroughDidYa? ????????????

    • This is a good time to request your next book, Tracy!

      “The Chump Lady’s Guide To Fixing Your Picker”

      Please please please.

      Thank you!


        • I thought being an educator, father of 3, elder/deacon of church for 20 years, well liked by others, fickle about own needs, sensitivity, and side business owner as hardworking, loving, God-fearing, family man and provider.

          Hm…the worst ever! He is a serial cheater, narcissitic, porn addict, strip club hopper, alcoholic, passive aggressive, and extremely deceptive old boy.

    • I was continually told if he is good to his mother he will be good to you. But she was just useful for money so he was good to her, it was the finest impression management to constantly tell all how much he did for her. Me? Not so much.

      When he worked for himself he was an entrepreneur. In reality he could not hold a regular job with benefits and steady pay because he is not responsible to other people, you know, no one is the boss of him.

      How did I delude myself for so long? Everyone always told me he was a nice guy and so good and he would take care of me. My mother was the best at it. She bought the impression management hook line and sinker, constantly spackling his BS and telling me how great he was.

      When your own mother isn’t on your side it’s hard to get out. Thank goodness for somewhat distant friends and strangers here.

      • I bought into the myth that the way a man treats his mother is a good indicator of how he’ll treat his wife as well. In my case, the myth failed because it wasn’t a broad enough lens. My EX still treats his mother well, and he has an angry, conflict-ridden relationship with his Dad. One parent justifies his errors and crimes, the other parent is willing to let him suffer the consequences of his behavior. Turns out, I’m more like his dad than his mom. And that turned out poorly for all of us.

        • YES! I also bought that if he treats his mother well, he will treat me well.
          Welllll, when I acted like his mother and was just thankful for the time and love that he DID give me, it worked out great. But when I needed some change (like 5 years later when I was always last on the totem pole of priorities or I started to expect that we COMMUNICATE through our problems) then I was discarded. See, I was trying for some accountability. It’s funny because cheater and I spoke a few weeks ago and he told me “yeah, my mom and I are all good”. OF COURSE she is all good with you. Because she bought your lies and image management and your thinly veiled “reason” that are basically just a bunch of selfish excuses. And she’s broke and she knows she needs you in order to retire. And everything is still great with cheater and mom. He’s her golden child. But if she had called him out and drawn a hard line, she would have been kicked to the curb too. He treats her with his superficial niceness that he treated me with. She cannot see through his bs. I couldn’t for a long time either. He really is a super sparkly turd.

    • Me too! I thought he adored his mother, and found out after he left that he had been telling people he was just beginning to understand how misunderstood his (cheating) father was. I also helped him build a business (significant financial contribution), and thought he valued our partnership. I was able to spackle over several incidents, but eyes were opened wide when he shredded most of my files as he was “testing out his new document scanner”. He had a crap load of his own stuff he could have shredded, but chose my files. I wouldn’t have been more offended if he had pissed all over my desk. We haven’t reached a financial settlement because I’m trying to figure out how to extract myself from the business.

  • I took arrogance as strength. I took condescension as knowledge… there’s much more, but trying to forget. It’s the lies that you don’t know about or don’t recognize that, as an honest person, you don’t even have on your radar screen to “spackle” in the first place.

    Have gotten past feeling the agonizing pain. Closer to real “meh” thanks to this site.

    But my ex is classic NPD with loads of family money so 1 year after divorce, dragged kids through custody battle after I gave up a lot of money just to keep kids in home and give him the divorce he wanted to be with schmoopie (who was a family friend and also married).

    Had nervous breakdown 1 year into custody battle now he has 1 of the kids. My son. 14. My daughter is 17. The lies he tells this boy… After spending literally every day with my kids, I haven’t seen my son for almost a year. Can’t tell you how hard that is. So there it is.

    Good luck to everyone else out there…

    • Omg, DML! that is so awful! losing a partner (or rather intact family) is one thing, it will likely turn out for the better in our case (i’m only 4 months out so not so sure yet 🙁 ) but losing a child in a aftermath…I have no words…
      your soon will be an adult soon, he will know the truth. hang in there!

    • I’m so sorry DML. 🙁 I can’t even imagine losing my kids. My ex tried hard to paint me as the unstable and unfit parent. He drove me to the brink of insanity with all his mind games and lies. And the kids were there to witness everything. And like you, I was always the parent who was there for everything and for them. I did close to 100% of the parenting since they were born, but of course I spackled his bad behavior, so they only saw him as a great dad. I hope your son sees the truth some day and comes back to you. Big hugs to you.

      • DML, you could have told my story other than I lost both my boys, 17 and 19. They have been lied to so much, if I told them the truth, they would not believe it.

        Yes, I got out of an abusive marriage, but at what cost?

        • It’s more about sanity and not living with a demon than it is cost. jmo It is a bitter pill to swallow. Oceans of tears. But my kids have free will and I have to accept their choices sadly.

        • Your boys are still young and developing their own values.
          Don’t give up!
          Don’t stop reaching out!
          Don’t stop telling your truth and repeating how much you love them!
          This is NOT when you go no contact.

          If they block your calls, text.
          If they block your texts, email.
          If they block your emails, use the post office.
          Send cards for holidays and for no reason other than to gently tell them you love them and miss them.
          No comments about your ex; keep it all abou you and them. Ask about their lives. Tell them about things you do and how you are building a life. Be a sane parent on paper. Just do NOT walk away quietly. At least you, and your sons, will always know you tried and never gave up loving them.
          It may not help but it may soften their hearts over time.
          Please don’t give up on the chance to be in their lives.

      • Actually, Martha, you made me realised something for a very first time. I too did spackle Ex’s behaviour towards kids ALL THE TIME!
        And I kept facilitating their relationship even after he left, being a chump that I am.

        • Yeah, it’s pretty amazing when our eyes get opened to what we’ve done (spackled) for years. I can only imagine how hard it was for my kids to accept that their dad wasn’t exactly who they thought he was. I was the one to push for family time their entire lives and tried very hard to get him to spend more time with his children. If I hadn’t done it, he wouldn’t have. I stopped all that as soon as he left me. His relationship with the kids is up to him. Lucky for my kids, their dad is VERY concerned about what people think of him, his kids included. So right away he started acting not anything like he did their entire lives — hovering over them at home, when in the past he pretty much ignored them all night after he got home from work. I KNOW THE TRUTH. That’s not the real him. That’s Disney Dad and Impression Management Man. He doesn’t fool me, but he has a heck of a lot of others fooled. Try your best, lamia, to not facilitate their relationship with their dad. That’s up to him now. It’s not your job anymore! 🙂

    • “I took arrogance as strength. I took condescension as knowledge”

      Yes. Nowdeadcheater was a sharp fellow but he underutilized his intellect to do good and overutilized it as an excuse to be an asshole

    • I lost my daughter for just over a year when she was 14 as well, a very impressionable age, in which kids will go for the one supports them being lazy, or pot heads, or whatever. I have gradually got back some relationship with her. Which I am grateful for. She still lives with him and he does everything he can to spoil and enable her. But she will continue to mature, as will you son.

    • DML, I lost my two youngest sons for a long while, too (my oldest one took his own life just a few weeks before DDay 1) though they did live with me a few days a week. They were just not there emotionally, and Two-Legged Rat took the opportunity to change their narrative even more.
      When years later I asked my youngest son (now 25) why they didn’t talk to me or visited for long periods of time, he replied, “you were in so much pain and so angry that we didn’t know how to help you”. I can understand today that they were overwhelmed and grieving the loss of their brother.
      Eventually they realized that I’d made a tremendous effort to rebuild my life and now they’re proud of me (they’ve told me so).
      They still love and respect TLR (“he was there when you weren’t”), which makes me mad, but at least he paid for their education even through graduate school. And my youngest son told me once, “Everytime I look at my dad I have doubts about him” and “I know you’ve shown me only the tip of the iceberg, but I have to deny to survive”.
      Hang in there, we’re here for you. (((((Hugs))))

    • Oh DML, I’m so sorry to hear that 🙁 You should try set up a Skype account, and have him do one too! (It’s an application that lets you videochat for free). Assuming you have his phone number, and you both have laptops with webcams (most come with them) you can both download it and register and then you will at least be able to talk face-to-face, despite being separated by a screen. Over time it will feel more natural and hopefully give you a bit of relief. But even if you can’t do that, you will be reunited eventually, please don’t lose hope. The bond between parent and child is unbreakable. Best wishes x

      • DML-

        I lost my daughter who’s now 19 for the past 2.5 years. I was the primary caretaker until she was 17.5. I’ve learned a lot since and have successfully protected my younger sons. So far.

        Does your Parenting Plan support this arrangement? If not, take him to court for contempt. (Cutting a kid off from one side of the family, in the absence of abuse, is not healthy and screams manipulation.) Look for resources at the courthouse that can help navigate the paperwork if you can’t afford a lawyer.

        Stay involved in your son’s life via school. Join the PTA. Get to know the teachers, volunteer during field trips and DO NOT spackle for your ex. . (e.g. If he doesn’t bring your kid to some event, tell the coaches/teachers. The more people who know the situation, the better off your son will be.) My ex was corrupting my son into skipping his swim team practice and sport banquets during his time with him. I told the coaches what was really going on and why he wasn’t showing up regularly. One of them took him under her wing – made him her assistant- it was subtle but effective. He’s there all the time now! Lesson learned – The village needs to know to help.)

        Don’t stop loving and supporting your son. Buy him those school supplies. Insist you know his medical records. Arrange for doctor appointments if needed. Go to parent teacher conferences. Communicate directly to his teachers on a regular basis. Go to sport events/extracurriculars. If he gets angry – who cares. Youre his Mom! Do it routinely and regularly so your presence is not a novelty.

        This part stinks and requires oodles of grace and fortitude. Years later, he can’t accuse you of not caring. You got this!


        The village

  • He opened the door for me. Carried my bags. Lent a helping hand to others. I mistook that for his kindness and generosity and being a gentleman. What he really wanted was a pat on the back and acknowledgement of what he’d done. He loved telling others of what he did and how awesome someone thought he was.

    Fuck shivelery. I’ll hold my own door open and carry my own bags.

    • It goes as much the other way. My first cheater REFUSED to open a door for me or carry anything heavy or pay more than half of anything (although he made 3 times as much) because: He didn’t want to insult me as his equal. These assholes can pervert any decent idea. See, it is neither chivalry nor egalitarianism that points to them being assholes–since both ideologies can be used to assholish advantage. It is WHY they do these things. That is harder to discern. My only advice is trust your gut. If you get a funny feeling about behavior as somehow innately “not right” even if you can’t immediately identify the logical flaw, trust the feeling. If someone passes through a door first and lets it slam in your face that isn’t egalitarianism–it’s rude. If someone carries something heavy and then makes fun of you for not being able to lift it, that isn’t chivalry–it’s rude.

      • Jojobee- totally agree – trust your gut from now on. Even if you get it wrong. The risk ain’t worth it

    • Just last night I cried to a friend, he would hold out his hand for me while going down bleachers at the kids’ sport events. I’m short and a little depth-challenged. I though he was cared, I thought he was sincere.

      Reality: It was all image management and about looking good to other women.

      Not of anything he did was about me other than keeping me where I was needed.

      • Ooh, Miss Bailey, this is another trigger for me. I am a stroke survivor with limited vision, absolutely no depth perception, and pretty severe balance issues. I HATE being in crowds, lingering in noisy environments, and attending sporting events.

        However, as a dutiful partner, for years I accompanied my exH to most of the local university volleyball games that routinely had at least 10,000 spectators. Spectators who stomped their feet, who stood and clapped so hard I feared the stands would collapse, and who swarmed down the bleachers at the end of the evening. And guess who hippity-hopped down there with them, leaving behind his half-blind wife to navigate alone? EVERY SINGLE TIME, with an “Oops, eirene, I forgot again.”

        When my daughter was no longer one of the ball girls for the team, I stopped attending games. However, I stayed home following the action on both the television and the radio, so I could be a supportive spouse sharing a mutual interest. Nope, I was NEVER interested in sports, and I am quite relieved to no longer live in a sports-crazed university town.

        We are both well-rid of them.

        • Oops, just googled the attendance figures at the volleyball venue:

          What it looked like: 10,000 rabid fans
          What it was: A measly 8,000 rabid fans

      • Oh miss Bailey

        It feels really bad to realize that the “special” moments and small things done in the marriage were anything but…
        For me- opening the door in the car. I enjoyed that thinking, oh, do nice to be treated like a lady…. he did it for all the hookers and prostitutes….
        I can’t stand a thought of all the “ gentleman-an “ behavior at this point…. it was all fake image management – to impress all the cheap hookers and women in distress… planning romantic evening at the lake, watching sunset, going to the house of the woman and fucking her, while I was at home, cooking an organic dinner and taking care of my newborn- because my husband was working so hard!!!!!

    • Oh yes. My ex had impeccable manners. I took that for a sign of begin a gentleman. In reality it was just a way to get kibbles when everybody commented on what good manners he had.

  • My sisters’ accusations that he was coming onto them – he said they got it wrong and misunderstood. I mistook it for him being a poor communicator. The truth was that’s he really was coming onto them and one was underage at the time. The future proves the past. He’s currently in an affair with a 22 year old who was 19 when it started. He’s now 51.

    • Yeah, Mr. Magoo propositioned my sisters too. Unfortunately as they were (at separate times) living with us and dependent on us for a place to live rent-free, neither one told me until the latest DDay. And of course he first denied, then said that they misinterpreted his words and actions, and then just gave up and said he “forgot”. Forgot that you were coming on to my SISTERS?! He always did have a thing for women in distress. Looking back at some of his long-term affair partners (at least the ones I know about), they had one thing in common: they were in precarious financial positions. Single mothers with no jobs, or under-employed. He got off on the imbalance of power. He could sweep in with his wallet and sweep them off their feet.

  • I mistook his silence at home as a sign of an introvert who was depleted from all the human interaction required throughout the work day and needed solitude to recharge. What it really was, was a man who chose to offer his conversation and companionship to strangers on the internet instead of to his wife and children in the evening.

    I mistook him for a man who worked long hours to provide for his family. He was really a man who goofed off a lot during work – playing games online and texting other women, which is probably why it took him longer than an average workday to get things done. He was really a man whose occasional really late nights at the office were really a man who stayed downtown in the evening to connect with other women.

    I mistook his wedding vows as sincere. He was actually dishonest from the start. With that in mind, I mistook his feelings for me as love, when they were really about not being alone and getting what I offered him without actually loving me with his actions.

    • I could of wrote everything what you wrote minus the video games. Years ago, when my ex started his new job, we went to the annual summer party hosted by his boss. One of his co-workers, who was high up in the company like my ex, said jokingly to me (us as ex was right next to me), “Assbrain spends most of his day at work walking around, socializing with all the women.” My ex just laughed and smirked like it was some kind of joke. Little did I know this “funny guy” was telling the TRUTH!

    • Recovering, that first paragraph of yours… The stbx used to come home, go straight to his den and not emerge until mealtime. I also thought it was a need for solitude. It was a big kitchen, but the one time he actually sat down and talked to me while I was cooking was during wreckonciliation…

      • Hey, Artist, my exH left for campus every morning around 8am, returned for dinner at 7pm, and then spent the entire evening (until at least midnight) downstairs in his study with the door firmly shut.

        He was working hard for US, for the FAMILY…

        I could never understand why a professor who taught six hours per week could be so very busy. I mean, just how much research/committee work could he possibly have had?

        If there is ever a next time with a new mate, I will certainly look at the actions, not the words.

        • Mine, too. And made out as if the job required it.
          Except this: I, too, was a professor. Same title, same rank, same education, same salary, same class load. And I left ever day at 4 or 4:30 to come home and make dinner. He did the dishes, so I spackled that we divided things equally. I should have done the math for time required to plan meals, shop, and cook, and figured in the psychic energy of thinking, in the morning, of what needed to be defrosted, going over the prep in my head, mentally checking I hadn’t forgotten anything, etc.
          And to top it all off, all that bs about the job requiring so much time, and his not so subtle implication that I, because I did not stay late, was a sorry excuse for a professor, while he, lauded for his teaching? (And who was it that led the charge to have him nominated for Professor of the Year? Yeah, me.) After I moved out, he started cutting out of work early every day.
          One small putty knife’s worth of the industrial sized vats of spackle I slathered on over the years.

          • Same, I thought I was being supportive of his demanding career by letting him sit on the couch every night ignoring my daughter and I because he just had so much email. I joked that his work wife got more from him than I did. Only to find that the work wife was actually his girlfriend. I spackled then, vats of spackle. Such an entitled asshole.

          • Mine was a professor too. Worked ridiculously long hours. He traveled so much all those years, I thought his distance was just from too much pressure at work. Little did I know he actually mentally “left” me years earlier for his married coworker, who traveled with him. Even his lawyer had to get onto him for pressuring me to “hurry up” and give him my list of assets after I was reeling from his sudden departure after a 36-year relationship. These people don’t have normal attachment mechanisms, or feelings. But they’re really good at acting like they care.

          • Mine would clam up when talking about emotions. Then, one day when he became more inebriated than he’d intended, he told the truth about himself and I was forced to see that he had even fewer emotions than the few I’d spackled onto him. That was the day he told me that in his past he’d “used” sex workers for 13 years while single. In what way was I chumped, you ask? Because when we began our relationship two years earlier, we’d had “the talk about our respective sexual pasts.” Except he’d phrased it as “our past sexual relationships,” and since the women he paid for sex (they have my sympathy) weren’t those he’d had “relationships” with, he had very conveniently given himself a loophole big enough to fit being a long-time john through! Note to self: when someone tells you they are emotionally numb, believe them–and then leave them alone to do the hard work of becoming fully human by themselves, if they even can.

    • “I mistook his silence at home as a sign of an introvert who was depleted from all the human interaction required throughout the work day and needed solitude to recharge.”

      Me too. In fact when we did try to interact with him, he would often complain and ask for us to leave him alone so he could relax. It bothered me, but he is a VP so I thought maybe he used all his energy at work. He would often be on the computer with spreadsheets and when I complained, he would say that he was working hard for the family.

      But he always had time for happy hours. Of course many of them were for networking. Funny, a couple of years ago I tracked his phone and randomly showed up at one of his happy hours (skipping the closing ceremony of camp for our daughter). He was sitting at the bar with a woman several years younger than me. I sat in between them and started chatting her up, much to his dissatisfaction. She said something I should have paid more attention to at the time “Wow! Who knew you are funner than he is?” At the time it made me feel good, but now I wonder what the heck he was telling people that even made her say such a thing.

      One year later he ended up impregnating her best friend.

    • Totally cc!! How we reframe the sincerity of motive! Silent treatment becomes introvert Reservation because of all the long hours
      .. i litterally had the line “i talk to people all day on the phone I’m worn out talking” ….. none left over for his own kids and wife. All spackled and avcounted for … 20 years later after many more reframes. …. rudeness and short temper …. stress at work frustration at employees. ….. can’t help with anything domestic. …does so much for us nothing left to give at weekends…reality… drinks after work….weekend s doing as he pleased and never any money for family because he spent it on image management (and an ego trip book publishing enterprise)
      What does it it take to see thtough the fucking bullshit??? When there is usually a plausible deniability.

  • He called himself an internal processor. Excellent ruse to avoid important conversation, enhancing his opportunities to succeed at getting away with deception.

    He told stories of his life, of terrible ways he was treated, and shed buckets of tears in the telling. I was every bit as empathetic as he knew I would be. This laid a powerful foundation for future self-pity scenarios. He exploited my empathy to leverage the power balance of the relationship toward easy deception. It was diabolical and effective.

    He was very good at appearing deeply empathetic. This coaxed me I to sharing my fears and weaknesses, which he used against me emotionally to maintain control and chip away at my self esteem.

    He was a monster. Now, I am free.

    • Amiisfree, mine did the same. He was very charming and very into the victim pity-me stories which I fell for, big time.

      He kept his mask on quite well at first with little slips, but the cognitive dissonance, when I witnessed them, helped me spackle over them as a blip and nothing to be worried about.

      Until he became comfortable and the mask slipped more and more often and when I would relate these incidents to work colleagues and family, their looks of horror and gasps, were the indicator that told me something was very wrong.

      Abuse becomes very normal after a period of time, because it’s very slow and insidious.

  • Ex was very good at his job, terrible with money, spent it on alcohol, drugs and prostitutes, and ow. Nice to other women rarely nice to me. Nice to other kids, never brought presents for kids, I had to do everything. He felt sorry for ow, who lied about being abused, I was abused did he give a fuck, no, well he’s gone 5 years, now cares about the kids.

    • Mine did the preference for other kids, too. Very strange, and really hurt my kids. He went to few of their events, always critiqued or behaved badly when he did, and spent minimal overall time with them. But over the top for his best friend’s kids: every game, total presents and presence, never a bad word to or about them, and always intervened when their parents were angry with them. My kids still burn with resentment over that. The idiot was unfaithful to his kids! Actually, he was also unfaithful to the dog. Just pure evil.

  • My STBXH works with developmentally-disabled clients. I always admired his patience and ability to connect with this his clientele. I would often brag to others about how it takes such a special person like him to work with this challenging population. Until I heard him making fun of one of his clients to our 11 year old son! WTF?!!! Now I think he only stays there for Schmoopie.

  • Another one here who took the arrogance as strength and the sarcasm as wit. I thought I had my very own ‘Mr Darcy’ – strength of character, intelligence and an underlying passion. He would never let me down and would be the father to my kids I hadn’t had myself. What an idiot!

    So 23 years and a Schmoopie later I finally admitted I got a fake. A cold block of ice whose only passion was sport related. A robot with the emotion chip missing. A father who was present in our house but not really there. A coward who could walk away from his kids in the most cold calculated way (including arranging his living arrangements with his folks prior to leaving) because those feelings didn’t run that deep unless he had an audience.

    In truth I had known he didn’t feel anything for me, but I spackled about the kids. Turns out he didn’t care much for them either. Now he just doesn’t understand why they don’t care much for him either.

  • What it looked like was a man who loved me so much he called me thoughout the work day “just to talk,” and same for when I visited family. Or spent any night away ever.
    What it was: his need to know where I was and who I was with and what I was dong. All.The.Time.

    How did I keep deluding myself? Other women commenting on how much he loved me (I wish my husband cared that much). My mother’s sing-songy voice when she handed me the voice, “It’s your husband!” Smiles. His eyes lighting up with delight when I returned.

    The tantrums before I left? The sullen glares at my suitcase? The hostility when he overheard me making travel plans. Driving away shaken and distraught at the his departing angry words.

    Made no sense. Must not be significant. Fade into background.

    • Mine also called several times a day for 20 years… true love. It took a long time before I could see it for the abuse it was. It is scary how easy it is to fall into toxic behaviors and spackle them as love. I think the hardest thing I had ever done was detach from those phone calls, it was like detoxing from a drug.

      The last time we talked right after the divorce we actually spent 14 hours on the phone. I was a mess and he would say the worse things to me but I still sat there afraid to hang up. We finally did end the conversation (I was going into my second surgery for cancer and was scared when I called him), I told him I would never talk to him again, and he did not believe it but it has been 3 years no contact. It really dawned on me thru that conversation that I needed to be the one to fight for my life, and the quality of that life.

      I spackled enough to think he missed me to stay on the phone for that long. He loved the control and hearing my fear.

      • Oh, yes, the telephone calls all day. Because he cared. Especially at the end of my workday, just to see when I’d be home. What it really was: Keeping tabs on my whereabouts and making sure all the sluts were cleared out of the house before I arrived home. If I was still at work when he called, he wouldn’t have to rush that process.

    • Betterlatethan, exactly my 42 yrs married, 46 together. If I had a nickel for every time some said, he must really love you. He needs you to breathe. That wasn’t love, he owned me, needed his slave close by in case he wanted something. I spakled everyday, about everything. Now that I see it all clearly, I am shocked, at MY acceptance of crazy town for soo long.

  • I mistook his love for his female students and the fact that he kept taking young girls in the house saying they lacked a father figure as a sign of his good character and as a fantastic college professor. Then I found out he was having an affair with this 19 year old student at his university(he’s 50) whom he brought into our house, convinced our 15 year old son to befriend, and me to take in as an “adopted daughter” (as Jen told me), because she had no friends and did not get along with her peers, her family nor with her father. He also added I should not tell anyone at the university because they would be envious! And I believed it!!!!!

    • After spending years in academia, I cannot even begin to tell you the number of male academics who prey on teenage female students. It boggles the mind and sickens the soul.

      • Sometimes it goes the other way. My dad was a college professor who was propositioned on a few occasions by girls hoping to boost their grades. He was also a good looking man. He never went down that road but it sure made my mom uncomfortable knowing those women were out there. She trusted my dad though and in her case it was justified. My dad was smarter than that.

  • My spackle came in a gallon size can of “Third Time is the Charm.”

    I was the second wife, but the third woman with whom he had a child. I convinced myself that he would be a good partner because as he told me “he didn’t want to fail again at marriage and being a full-time Dad”.

    That gallon was empty long before he abandoned us for the final OW, but I was too tired/beaten down to do anything.

    Now, he sees our son every other weekend and one night during the week for dinner…even though he only lives 20 minutes away and could see him any time he wants. (He prefers to play the victim of my Xwife blocked me from 50/50 visitation – translation: I have to pay child support).

    His new GF didn’t have kids but does have two dogs. Guess what he bought her this year… a DOG. See a pattern? He’ll fight over custody of the dog when he leaves her, just because he can.

    Thank heavens for CL and CN… don’t know where I’d be now without you all.

  • I thought he was the strong silent type .Turned out he was the strong lying type . I mistook his wanting to help people as he was kind and decent , turned out it was all image management. I mistook his “I love you very much ” for the truth turned out he played me whilst getting his ducks in a row and sourcing his new victim (cough) partner. I mistook a marriage as being partners turned out it was only me in it and trying.

    • Haha strong silent type. ..lying type…exactly !! The less he admitted to the more he could deny. …by omission. When you think you are getting by and ok he was busy concocting and scheming.there was no hint he was planning and plotting…until he pulled the plug. Isnt that the best con job ?? I just cant believe it is something we overlook or spackle or sparkle even! !its normal human reaction to be kind to people who you trust and have had kids with…. not a stupid thing to think… thats what we’re left dealing with a completely selfish individual who will not stop till he’s won.

  • I shackled a lot:

    I took his wit and sarcasm for intelligence and cleverness.
    He was simply arrogant, felt superior, and acted smug.

    His jokes for a fun loving character.
    He just used jokes to distract conversations and put others down. Primarily me. But not exclusively.

    I took his travel and long work hours for an ambitious character with goals in life.
    He just liked to be away from us and enjoy a glamourous as an executive. Going on fancy trips, fancy hotels, fancy outing.

    His very limited set of friends (primarily from Highschool) that he never saw as having standards and other priorities. When we were young we used to see them often and then they vanished. I assumed it was them having kids and family and simply less time.
    What it was: My husband staying at the same maturity level and them growing up.

    I took never really being invited to these business dinners or after work beers as the company not mixing work and personal life.
    What it was: Him leading a hidden life with other people, enjoying sleezy bars, keeping me away from it, so I would not learn what a low standard he had with his “friends” and so I would not learn abou this horrifying locker room talk and flirting with random women he enjoyed.

    I took his meanness and coldness towards me as something I had done wrong. According to him, I was not nice enough, had a very questionable taste in furniture and decoration, and was bad in interacting with people.
    In reality, he just cooled off every time he had a OW around, he claimed I was not nice enough, so he could find excuses to not have me come along, and he generally acted as if my taste was questionable, because he simply wanted control over every purchase. Out of principle.

    Learning this was the biggest step towards healing. Still not fully recovered. But getting closer. One step and one breath at a time.

    • “I took never really being invited to these business dinners or after work beers as the company not mixing work and personal life.”

      My ex used to tell me that he didn’t friend people at work. .No one from his work was invited to our wedding. Spouses could not come to the annual awards banquet because tickets were too much money. Keep work and home separate. He actually said this to me in the last year after got a work colleague pregnant. To which I said “Oh? You just have sex with them huh?”

      Now I see it for what it was. Purposely keeping me from things so it was easier to lie and cheat.

  • He told me, early on, that he was “brutally honest” and that I needed to be okay with that. He let me know that my family and friends had been lying to me in order to spare my feelings over trivial things like what clothes were flattering. He loved me so much that he wouldn’t do that to me. He would always be honest, because that’s how he was raised—with values that I, apparently, did not have. I took that to mean that he wouldn’t ever lie and that maybe I just needed to help him learn some tact. Turns out that his “brutal honesty” was really just verbal and emotional brutality. There was nothing honest about it. He lied about all manner of things. He weaponized the phrase, “I’m just being honest.” There’s nothing honest about gaslighting it blameshifting. Or having dating profiles when you’re married.

    Years into our marriage he told me that he lied. A lot. I was flummoxed. All along, I had thought he was so honest. When I asked him why he lied, he said he didn’t know. It was just something he did. His mom and several siblings also lie all the time. Glad to be in the process of ridding myself of all of them.

  • I mistook his “working late” and working late. His “I don’t have the money” as the business wasn’t doing well. His “I need your social security number” so the family accountant could file our personal taxes, not I am going to commit identify theft and attach my wife to a multi million dollar loan for my failing family business.

    I spackled so much, I had it stuck under my fingernails. Only my immediate family and close friends knew what was going on by their observations, not by what I was telling them.

  • I mistook him always giving side hugs to females (friends and even my female family members) as a sign of respect towards me and even the female receiving the hug. I assumed that he didn’t want to have the hug mistaken for anything other than a hug…

    … little did I know his devious mind was just brewing with thoughts of hookers and the many other sluts he had been messaging on various websites. Its hard to think of the best lines to use on your newest conquests if your sister-in-laws boobies are pressed up against your chest. He has to keep the blood to his brain if he’s going to churn out some good material.

  • I mistook the comments others made about his “gift of gab” as compliments for his prowess in sales and overall gregarious manner when in actuality, those were indicative of his effortless ability to lie in a believable manner. “He can sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves”, etc. made me beam with pride over how fortunate I was to have such a talented conversationalist as a husband. In reality, he used the same techniques to manipulate me.

    • The ‘gift of gab’ and ‘selling snowballs to eskimos’ that his Mother and family attributed to him, actually meant, he lies so easily it’s second nature and can manipulate people for ‘sport’. I realize now that it was his only talent.
      …He was a con artist. Still is.

  • Mine was pretty simple really. I tended to minimize more than spackle. I also assumed, even before DDay that I must be somehow responsible for his poor behavior. When I was 8 months pregnant with our first child and expressed alarm at his speeding up towards a jaywalker who had the nerve to jaywalk in front of him, he kicked me out of the car and made me walk the last four blocks in 90+ heat. I told myself that he was just stressed at the prospect of becoming a new Dad and I was 8 months pregnant after all so I must have been grumpy myself these last few months and that was putting him on edge. A man can only take so much of his wife being snippy. Of course I couldn’t remember any specific incidences where I had been doing that, but I was pregnant and uncomfortable which must have been making me less than pleasant to be around so it must have been me making him act like a jerk.

    It was similar towards the end of our marriage when he was being a real dick to me. I couldn’t do anything right. Again I chalked it up to stress related to his career transition, the stress of being a SAHD and having moved half way across the country. Never mind that all of those things were things that he wanted and asked for, it was still stressful and I needed to be compassionate and understanding of the fact that he was going through such a difficult time. Clearly I wasn’t doing enough to lift him up and make him feel valued and manly. Of course it was hard to do that when I was putting so much focus and energy into fixing all of my many flaws that he was pointing out on a daily basis that made me feel inadequate. Really he was being a dick because he was fucking strange and same old same old just couldn’t measure up.

  • What it looked like….a man that I admired as driven, with an ability for sales that I thought you could only be born with. An ability to work a room, and know everyone by the time he left – fun, kind, with the same hopes and dreams we built together. What is was….a snake oil salesman, that after many years of being by his side at events, and hearing the same stories get more and more embellished, people trying to avoid talking to him that he wouldn’t even notice, and potential clients actually calling his boss to tell them to stop having this slick sales guy call me. What is was….his need to always hear himself talking, be the center of attention, be the guy in his group of friends who had the most money, best car and now youngest howorker girlfriend. Image management at its finest. And I started calling him on it, his bull shit – ever see war of the roses, yeah that guy with the phony laugh. He thought he was giving our kids a life lesson when he declared. ‘when you do something for someone else, you should expect something from them’ in front of a teacher, who was horrified. The kids are learning, watch his actions not his words. They see it, someday they will not be so in fear of his retaliation and call him out on it too.

  • I mistook a 30 year military career as evidence that he was disciplined and responsible. What it really was: the perfect cover to hunt women–the uniform, the authority, the officer pay–all very attractive to a certain type of schmoopie wanting to make rank in the army. The frequent tdy, deployment, and required secrecy (need to know basis), made travel for expensive fetish prostitutes easy.

    • Same here, Jojobee. I mistook a military career for discipline and patriotism; I mistook being an Army pilot as further proof of the same. It was really the perfect place for him to feed his ego–constant adulation from other men for being a “badass,” constant adulation from women for being a “hero.” Because he believes himself impervious to danger, he can do this job without a sweat or worry and collect kibbles from all around him who actually believe he does it because he cares. And he can use his deployments and unaccompanied postings to troll for strange. As he has proven that he does.

      He is a thrill seeker and narcissist. Nothing more.

      • Yes! This exactly. When I think of the number of people who approached him in public and thanked him and went on and on about what a hero he was–it makes me sick. He LOVED it. He loved his rank. He loved that everywhere he went people HAD to salute and defer to him. The adoration. It is difficult to even think of another job that on a daily basis gives as many authority, deference, adoration, gratitude, and sexy kibbles as high ranking military officer. I used to be slightly amused when young women would flirt shamelessly with him in stores and what not. When I think of it now, I wish I could go back in time and scream at them “If he takes off that uniform, isn’t driving the car with the bronze star license plate and you just saw his 50 year old self in a polo and khakis farting while watching golf, you wouldn’t be so impressed. If you knew how many disease ridden whore’s holes he put that in, you’d never be competing for a chance at the same!”

        • Ha! You are so right. Mine was not nearly that high in the rank structure, but OMG the flirting, the thanks from strangers, the deference and salutes. Puke!

          I amuse myself by remembering that his dumb ass forgot to get his D.A. photo updated in time for the promotion board before we split, so no promotion for him, and he will likely be out at 20 years. Good luck in the civilian world, buddy boy–I wish I could be a fly on the wall when he has to deal with the real world.

          • OOoh, have fun watching the show. When they have to reenter the real world where they are not special–it eats them alive. They are petulant and permanently chip on the shoulder types. I mean don’t the girls at the bar SEE how special he is now? They do not even seem to realize that it was the uniform commanding respect and admiration–NOT THEM.

        • Yup, mine joined the army at age 50 for the attention as well. Wtf?
          Just after dday was promoted to Major
          He didn’t have one bit of trouble accepting that…

    • Military Officer cheater over here too. He always spoke so poorly of other Officer cheaters. You see, mine was “better” than those cheaters. He didn’t cheat on his wife and then come back home to her and act like he didn’t cheat. NOOOOOO he is better than that, he was always faithful to the OW. He cheated on his wife and then left for OW—poof. And then he cheated on the next wife and left for OW—-poof. But he’s not a “dirty cheater”, my Officer is just a mini cheater and a big time ABANDONER for strange.

      Reminds me of the book “How to Deal with Angry and Controlling Men” when he talks about abusive men and how they always compare themselves to the more abusive men.
      “I’m NOT abusive because I only smack her sometimes and I don’t leave bruises”
      “I’m NOT abusive because I’ve only beat her a few times and it was only when she deserved it”
      “I’m NOT abusive because after I beat her I always drive her to the hospital if she needs it”

      Yes, Marine Corps Officer. You’re still a cheater. And now you get a new fancy title: Abandoner (x2).

      They should get cheater and abandoner pins to go on their dress blues so everyone can acknowledge ALL their accomplishments.

      sigh Such a gentleman.

  • I mistook his lack of confidence as self-doubt, and constantly reassured him that he was a good man, a good husband, a good provider and a good father.

    Reality: It was a way to keep him feeling high, and provided loads and loads of kibbles.

    I mistook his ‘affection’ for one cat, Bailey, as love. He constantly said that he really didn’t care about the cat and I should have believed him. When he filed for divorce, not only did he toss me aside, but that cat, who adored the X for 13 years, was cast aside as well. No second glances for us.

  • I mistook 26 years with a military man as man who was responsible and well groomed. He retired and I discovered that it was the military and I who had created a facade. He was dirty, unshaven trash. He was selfish, no motivation only me me me. He retired and immediately started cheating. I was a huge chump.

    • God yes, the spell cast by the uniform and the job covers a multitude of poor character traits…

  • I mistook his being friendly to lonely women as kindness. In reality he was scamming them out of favors, gifts, and money.

    These weren’t the OW, they were another kind of supply. He kept different kinds of supply around for different uses. Everybody he chose to have in his life served a purpose and gave him something. Ego kibbles, social status, image enhancement, sex, money, gifts, favors, or whatever.

    I found out that he was targeting older, disabled, mentally ill, and socially rejected women without friends, family, church ties, or caregivers to look out for them. He was preying on the weak and vulnerable. He mindfucked them and let them spend money on him they should have been spending on themselves or saving.

    He’s apparently been doing it for decades. Before I cut all our mutual contacts out of my life I heard gossip about him trying his hand at finding a sugar mama. So he’s upped his game now. He’s a lifetime career scam artist.

  • I mistook his coming home at night and going straight to bed without spending time with the family as being tired from working so hard. In reality he had zero interest in me or the kids.
    I mistook his refusal to take vacations with us or even take time off when the older kids visited once a year as dedication to our business. He was self employed and could take time off anytime. In reality it was because he was fucking our best friends wife during the day when her husband was at work. He would leave work on an errand, he wouldn’t have an excuse if he was home with us. Didn’t take vacations with us because he didn’t want to be away from her. One of the vacations he did take with us he brought her along, I didn’t know they were having an affair at the time. Now the asshole takes month long vacations and doesn’t give a damn if the business is open.

  • He teaches classes on line (for personal interest-not college credit or anything like that). We had to organize the children’s birthday celebrations around his classes because he “had made a commitment and had to keep it.” I put up with it because I thought it meant he was a man who kept his word.

    Yeah, I was wrong. He was just selfish.

  • I mistook his lack of emotions for shyness. When in reality he didn’t have any real emotions. He was never connected to anything. He operated on the outside of our lives, if that makes sense. Kind of like he was an observer and not a real participant.

    • I totally understand that. In a way it worked for him. No involvement = no blame. Keeping himself emotionally distant = unlimited pick me dancing from wife and kids.

  • I was sadly the queen of spakle. I’m working on that.

    I thought X was high mate value because he got a 98% on his LSAT and was ambitious. But, in reality his high earning potential came at a the tremendous cost of 25 years of narcissistic abuse.

    I thought X was distant and angry and moody and unable to reciprocate because his corporate M&A job was “too stressful”. But in reality it was X manipulating me into doing way more of the labor of our marriage from Housework to child rearing to working my own very stressful litigation job.

    After DDay I thought X had a brain tumor or severe depression or that young OW had some special psychological hold on X because his behavior was unrecognizable to me. In reality X was feeling great on his power trip with me, the kids, the OW, and another earlier AP fighting for “him”—his actions kept me and the kids pick me dancing, and destroyed my soul and almost killed my kids as two (19 and 15) became suicidal.

    Immediately after DDay before the narc mask was ripped off, and I was reading RIC sites and hadn’t found CL, I thought that I could reason with X and our family would remain as I thought it was before DDay— I hosted two holiday dinners and although I was dying inside, I acted as normal as possible. In reality I was dying on the inside and shortly thereafter was falling apart, unable to sleep or eat or think of anything other than vivid images of X and the OW.

    Thank God I’m divorced 18 months now, completely and totally no contact, building a cheater-free life with a wonderful boyfriend of 3 years who has integrity and we moved in 6 months ago and have a loving caring peaceful home where our combined 6 kids feel safe and secure and supported and loved. No spackle necessary. Meh is beyond description.

  • I took all the sparkly things he did for me: arranging a surprise trip to Greece for my 40th birthday, planning a trip to the Bahamas and a vow renewal ceremony for our 10th anniversary, sending me flowers, etc., as signs of how much he loved me and valued our relationship. In reality, they were all showy gestures intended to impress the world with what a great husband he was while behind closed doors he never complimented me or did anything to nurture our relationship or make me feel good about myself as a person or his partner. It took me a looooong time to stop believing he was a great guy, terrific husband, awesome dad because of all those big gestures that impressed other people and led them to believe he was those things. I really had to take a hard look behind the curtain and see the little man who didn’t respect or love me or value his family at all. Once I saw the wizard was a con man, the rest was pretty easy.

    • All of this, Beth. I thought I mattered, I thought I was important to him. In reality, he only cared for me at a superficial level. He never supported me, he never made me or us a priority, and I was never a friend.

      My reality: I had a very lonely 19 years with a man that I thought loved me. All I did was spackle, spackle, spackle.

      • I hear you completely. Miss Bailey, I feel like what you write sums up my experiences, in this post and others. I wish I hadn’t spackled so long.

        • I’m only 4 month post D-day and I’m still being hit with memories and situations that I didn’t understand. Watching his mask come off was one of the scariest and heartbreaking moments I’ve ever endured. I can’t even put it all into words. Even looking as his family, specifically his sinister sister, has been an eye-opener. Except for his middle sister (who spent the 20 years in the Army and away from all of them), they were one fucked up bunch of people.

          Things will get better for us, CYM. We are no longer under their spell and we can live according to our truths.

      • I hear you, MissB! I came across an old journal I started three years into dating the ex. The very first entry talked about how lonely I was. THREE. YEARS. into. the. relationship. Red flag much? I was spackling from the very beginning of the relationship. I’m glad I have that old journal to refer to. Any time I’m feeling lonely now I go back and skim through it and see how many times over my 33 year relationship with ex I wrote about how lonely I felt. It is FAR easier to deal with loneliness when you are actually alone than when you are supposedly in a committed relationship.

        • This hits a chord. Lately I’ve taken to re-reading old journal entries to remind myself what a difficult husband he was so that I can finalize this divorce without giving up ground. When I first did it, I was shocked to see entries dating back to 2012 about being lonely and his bad behavior. It’s depressing to think how long I languished in that place. But so relived to be out now…awaiting divorce finalization and full meh!

    • Mine was always kind to me in his written correspondence. He wrote me the nicest love letters/notes in Christmas/Birthday/Valentine’s Day/Anniversary cards etc. When he gave me a book he would inscribe it with some sweet message. Even his holiday tags were written to make me feel loved and valued (“to Chumpinrecovery from the man whose heart you will always have”). He would also send me flowers. These things would always make me feel loved, valued and secure, but in person he was very different. In person he would be cold, distant and critical. I would read his card and feel all warm and fuzzy thinking “He really does love me” only to then be confused and hurt when I would go to kiss him and he blew me off or refused to come to bed because internet news was more important or whatever. I believed what he put in writing and used that to spackle the actual physical interactions that were so disappointing. Ex and daughter have always had a testy relationship. Now that she is away at college in a foreign country, he is texting, writing letters etc. and it is all sweetness. Some of his emotional affairs were mostly written correspondence. Our relationship started out as a long distance one and he won me over with his daily letters and e-mails. I think he is just better at written relationships than in person ones. He spends a lot of his time texting Schmoopie. No wonder she is still smitten with him.

  • I saw her ‘social butterfly’ behavior as strength. The fact that she could enter any party and have 20 new friends within half an hour as something good. And not as proof that she always aimed for external validation.

    I saw the fact that she could be impulsive, decide on one day that she would walk a marathon and go full pull into training.. then succeed with flying colors as proof that she was determined. The fact that she could start boxing and join the pro team within months as proof that she had strength of mind. What I didn’t see was that she saw everything as win/lose. And being the narc that she is she never wanted to lose.

    I saw her outgoing / impulsive urges.. and the fact that she talked about “changing our life completely.. moving to a different country” as a result of her character and openness.. instead of seeing it for what it really was.

    She runs.. From her life.. me.. the kids.. her responsibilities. And from herself.

    • OMG – I keep telling everything that the X is a runner, as in he runs from situations that are too stressful for him to coop with. He ran from situations that required empathy and compassion because he didn’t have the emotions to deal with them. I always picked up the slack and excused his lack of participation as stress. Nope, he really didn’t have the emotions to address situations that required caring and love.

  • I mistook his problems in the bedroom to be age and/or depression related. I thought that maybe I just wasn’t attractive enough as I am older too. I thought he was just too tired to perform. In reality, he was getting his rocks off elsewhere and just didn’t have anything left for me. 

  • I actually looked for “objective” signs of character while dating. Having been cheated on before, this time I was going to be so wise and look for things that couldn’t possibly be faked. I remember thinking I’d found it – a division one college athlete HAD to have character. How else could one push through all the necessary pain and sacrifice needed to excel? They must have character! I knew it from my own pursuits in a different sport. And you can’t fake years of prior effort. Man I’m such a super genius to figure this out. But I never once considered all the myriad examples of pro sports assholes out there. Nope. I had my insightful theory and I was sticking to it. And I did so through so many clear signs that it was totally wrong. Good lesson in the power of conclusion bias.

  • I mistook his constant lectures about humbleness, godliness, grace, etc. as a man striving to be godly. In reality, religion was the face he wore to look normal and hide his sexual deviance. It also served as a good gaslighting tactic when I started questioning. It was my lack of humbleness, godliness and grace that was the problem, because why else would I think such awful things about him?

    I mistook his verbal rejection of pornography as evidence that he believed in monogamy and that we were on the same sexual page. I believed the hundreds of emails invitations to “come see my web cam” were spam, because his “business email is listed everywhere, and spam bots troll for email addresses.” What it really was… a man with a horrible pornography habit that predated our relationship. He admitted in our YEARS of counseling that when he was a paperboy he was also a peeping Tom. Of course, as I stopped pick me dancing, all his porn, stripper, escort issues were “because he didn’t get enough sex.”

    I mistook his ability to compartmentalize as evidence that “he would never betray me financially during the divorce process, and put the mother of his children in a financial crisis.” In reality, anyone willing to betray you sexually will have no problem betraying you financially. What he was really doing was giving me a false sense of security so I wouldn’t protect myself.

  • OMG – I keep telling everything that the X is a runner, as in he runs from situations that are too stressful for him to coop with. He ran from situations that required empathy and compassion because he didn’t have the emotions to deal with them. I always picked up the slack and excused his lack of participation as stress. Nope, he really didn’t have the emotions to address situations that required caring and love.

  • I saw the credit card charge on his bill (I paid the bills), thought it was for a new computer program he and a co-worker set up at work. This was back in about 1990 when personal computers were still pretty new. Dummy me, when I questioned him about the charge, actually asked if it was a computer program charge, and he said yes. Funny, when he said yes, I thought it sounded false. I should have listened to my gut. Every month, the $25 charge came up, from Darien, CT. Fast forward 6-7 years, when I confronted him about D-Day, he finally was being honest about everything. That lasted 1 day. Anyway, I asked him what that charge REALLY was. He admitted it was a phone number to call porn sites and not be charged individually for the calls.

  • I mistook the fact that he was a “hardworking” cop to mean that he responsible, law abiding citizen.
    I mistook his sarcasm and degrading humor towards me for affection and caring.
    I spackled over the fact that we had no couple friends and that I was made to feel guilty about going out with my friends (who after a while all but disappeared) for “money/budget” issues, the fact we didn’t have a reliable babysitter and the heavy guilt of being a “bad mom”.
    I explained away the holidays we didn’t spend together and trip he took without us as his “reward for working hard”
    I excused and made excuses to every entity (doctors, dentists, schools, utilities, etc) that we owed money to as … “he are on a tight budget”….all while I worked full time and he pulled in 6 figures and he took fancy vacations with “the guys”
    I made excuses to my kids who needed new shoes and clothes and school supplies that “dad said we can’t afford it” while Super Cop wore brand new name brand (read expensive) every other week and had a personal relationship with the UPS/FEDEX drivers due to his extensive online shopping habit.
    Divorce after over 20 years was like ripping off a bandaid……of truth. Everything I thought I was imagining ….. was clarified. And now I am free!

    • Wow, I am so happy you are rid of that selfish toad! Fancy trips and clothes for him alone…..terrible

  • I mistook family dinners together every night, family board game nights, family movie nights, being together at almost all kiddo activities, and fun family vacations as the sign of a happy family with my husband of 20 years, whom I considered my best friend.

    What it really was:
    While he was at work during the day, he was posting and responding to ads on Craigslist, sexting, and having sex hookups in public parks on his lunch hour. He told me I never would have found out about it this time, but he fell in love.

    And for those that like a good story on the natural consequences of a cheater’s poor decision process, (and…who doesn’t!!!) and how a chump can start to gain a life, here’s an overview of events and where we’re at now:
    • Married 20 years and dated almost 5 years beforehand.
    • Two kiddos; a teen and a preteen
    • As mentioned above, I mistakenly thought we were a happy family and thought he was my best friend.
    • About a year ago, something seemed off in our relationship, but he attributed it to stress as he claimed he was so busy at work.
    • Several weeks later, I discovered his lovey-dovey emails with some woman and confronted him.
    • He admitted to an EA, but adamantly denied a PA. I was a total chump and believed him.
    • He told me he broke it off with her and wanted to work on our marriage. He was never transparent and did all of the normal blameshifting and gaslighting that cheaters do. I was a chump and didn’t understand….yet.
    • I was a vomiting, unable to eat, barely able to put one foot in front of the other mess. I was about 3 weeks out from DD#1. He would say that he wasn’t sure if he wanted me or someone else.
    • To save my last shred of sanity, I scoured all electronic devices and discovered his secret email account. Holy crap! EA my ass!! DD#2! As CL says…adults f*uck! I discovered his Craigslist activities, that he met her because she responded to his Craigslist ad, and that he was still in contact with her.
    • The evening of DD#2, I confronted him without ever tipping my hand as to what I knew. He chose his Craigslist schmoopie, whom he’d known for 3 months.
    • I filed for divorce immediately. I made him tell the kids it was because he didn’t choose me. He moved into an apartment. He moved the married Craigslist schoompie in with him.
    • He would never admit that she was living with him, but I had evidence. He would lie to my face while looking me straight in the eyes.
    • I had no job, no savings, no idea how the divorce process worked, no idea of what the future would hold for me and my kids, but I could not tolerate the current situation.
    • During the divorce process, he made a short attempt at hoovering when he and the Craigslist schmoopie had a falling out. I fell for the hopium for about a week but told him I needed complete transparency. He reconciled with schmoopie.
    • I pushed for the earliest mediation date possible. I spent time analyzing my future, what I needed financially out of a settlement, and what I wanted the parenting plan to look like. I had spreadsheets. I had lists. I also had a kick-ass divorce attorney.
    • I went back to work. I got a mediated settlement agreement and parenting plan that was more beneficial to me than I thought I could get. Divorce was final a few weeks after the mediation. From DD#1 to divorce final was about 4 1/2 months.
    • Marital home was sold quickly and I purchased a new home with 20% down; something cheater and I were never able to do in the expensive area where we live. Kiddos and I are doing well and continue to work through what happened. I still have pain and hurt and get triggered and wonder ‘why’…oh how I wonder ‘why’. But, I have many things for which to be grateful and know that in time I will be just fine.
    • Cheater lost his job just after mediation. He’s never admitted this to me or the kids. He’s obligated to maintain health insurance for the kids. Based on recent kiddo doctor appt, I know the insurance is COBRA. He still isn’t working. With what he kept in the mediated agreement, he’s in debt up to his eyeballs. He must be running out of money. So far, he still pays child support. There’s very little chance he had any hidden assets. He couldn’t afford to move from his apartment when the lease was up and is still there.
    • The Craiglist schmoopie is a chubby, homely, low income downgrade. Based on a note the kiddos found in his apartment, things seem rocky with her. She wants “fun” and he apparently hasn’t been fun enough lately.
    • Kiddos know he lies to them, they know what he did, and they don’t want much to do with him. They see him the bare minimum and don’t communicate much with him in between.
    • It’s still fairly early; not quite a year from DD#1. I’m often bewildered when I think about who I thought he was and the marriage I thought I had and what I know now. I’m working hard to heal and be strong for my kids. He seems to be in a downward spiral for which time will tell how it ultimately works out for him.

    • You are extremely, extremely mighty!! Good for you – you worked hard and it paid off. Just keep doing what you’re doing and you will be completely recovered and at Meh in no time at all.

    • Your story is so creepily similar that I wonder we are twins separated at birth….down to the time line (married 20/together 27/Feeling off year before DDay/DDay almost a year ago…..). Fuck Mr. Fake Family Man/ Nice Guy

      Craigslist congratulated all the happy couples they united when they took down their personal ad section….

      I cannot get over how gobsmackingly hoodwinked I was…at least the boyfriend who cheated on me 30 years ago was up front about being a jerk. Closet jerks really are the lowest life form.

  • What it looked like: He’s generous to help his father who is sick
    What it was: A source of kibbles
    Spackle: Poor Him!
    What it looked like: He’s a teacher- very noble and honest work
    What it was: A source of kibbles (power over young people- awful)
    Spackle: He’s helping people!
    The list goes on. It all fits on the drama triangle:
    Eff that effing triangle, CN!

  • I mistook that because he had AMAZING friends, that he too was amazing.

    TRUTH: He never kept up the relationship with those friends. Just occasional emails. I had to get him to attend every function with them. Now they no longer invite him, but I still get invited to things.

    I mistook that because he lived with his brother they had a close relationship.

    TRUTH: They rarely talk to one another even when under the same roof.

  • As a military spouse like Laura above, I will share with you that in this world, one of the worst insults you could land on a military spouse is that they werent supportive of their military members career…that you are unwilling to make sacrifices and that you would hound them if they worked a lot.

    I was told that he “was working” and it would have been considered gross selfishness to question him. One was required to move to where ever you were told on short notice and adapt your career accordingly.

    and I did

    and I spackled it all for God and country….and I knew at the end I would get a thank you certificate from the President (photocopied in some office in Oklahoma probs) and a bouquet of flowers and 20 seconds of clapping from the cluster of folks invited to his retirement ceremony.

    Oh it did all happen…8 weeks after the day he said he was divorcing me. His girlfriend brought a fake date and sat in the second row. Fuckers they were, selfish fuckers.

    I will never know how many times he left me with more than my fair share of responsibilities so he could leave early or return late and have time to fuck someone. Nope, I have no idea. I do know that he (and every other military cheater probs) held very low over our heads that we would be accused of being an “unsupportive spouse” if we questioned them. They abused us with our loyalty. He can answer to God for that.

  • I met a young lady who seemed to always shine. Happy, outgoing, never met a stranger. Someone who always was willing to help people out. What I missed was she was willing to help others but was hard on people in her house. Your not really sick get up! The outward personality was for image. She wanted everyone to like her! Her true lack of empathy showed at year 20. When every word was about herself. Her happiness. She deserved! What I thought was love was 20 years of me being a useful tool! As I was looking forward to no kids and travel, she was chasing exbf and 20 year olds!

  • I mistook intelligence for character. Dr. Cheaterpants was a porn addict and a serial cheater. I thought he was naïve around cray cray women that wanted to use him for money. Nope, our iClouds were linked after I had my phone upgraded without his knowledge and I saw him pursuing DD14’s 20-something asst sports coach in our kids Catholic high school. When I saw his victimhood of being with such an awful wife to his dumbsell in distress, I realized he’s not naïve at all–he’s a predator.

    Twenty years of marriage with my needs at a negative level and the kids and I orbiting his high maintenance ass and still getting a never happy, middle aged man who was a bottomless pit of need. I realized young schmoopie was a lucky, lucky girl 😛

  • What It Looked Like:
    When I unexpectantly got pregnant late in life, I thought he was just having a really hard time coming to terms with the change this would bring to our lives. We had 2 tweens and just started to have more freedom to do things as a couple. So when he went out drinking, skipped coming home for dinner, not showing up for kids’ games, I spackled that he needed some space to work through it.

    What It Was: He had been screwing the 23 year old girl who worked for him (and she was only one in a long line that I would later discover). And when his wife got pregnant, things got sticky because his claim that our marriage was essentially over was blown.

    • He could no longer claim he had a sexless marriage and it was all your fault. I am surprised he didn’t just tell young Schmoopie it wasn’t his.

  • I thought he had high moral standards because he talked about hating liars, and he told me he was furious when he caught his ex-wife cheating on him.

    What it was: master level impression management. The Python was spot on when it came to figuring out what would impress me! I thought I had married an exceptionally honest man who couldn’t possibly cheat on me because of what he’d been through. I thought I had a best friend for life who would be always be open with me and NEVER, EVER cheat on me.

    After D-Day #1, I told myself the affair was due to his depression and PTSD (even though I’d read a LOT about depression and PTSD, and while those conditions can lead to many problematic behaviors, they don’t make a person lie OR cheat). I told myself this happened because he had decided on his own to wean himself off his antidepressant, and once he started taking it again, he’d be all right.

    Wreckonciliation. 4 years.

    Of course, he cheated again. And when I snooped, I was stunned at how much he had lied to me, about big and little things. Pathological liar and master manipulator. A narc-snake.

  • My entire marriage, I mistook what I thought looked like good intentions for well, just plain old bad behavior. My X never had good intentions. Spackle is real. I really just assumed that the majority of people were good at heart. I’ve learned since that these kind of people masquerade as good people and may even have a few good qualities, but that they are emotional and mental vampires. My X took and took and took until really, there was nothing left to take. So glad that’s in the rear view mirror! Woot!

    • Good intentions. Oh yes. We had that problem a lot. There were times when I would do what I thought were nice things for him only to discover later that he resented them because it wasn’t what he wanted after all. On other occasions I am pretty sure he was trying to be nice to me, but in a way that was contrary to what I wanted. When I recognized those times I would try to gently let him know “I know you are only doing XYZ because you are trying to be nice to me but you really don’t need to do that because I prefer ABC”. My intent was to not have him do something he didn’t want to do in order to please me when it wasn’t going to please me. Instead of being happy to be off the hook for doing something he didn’t really enjoy doing, he was resentful of me for not letting him follow through anyway and appreciating his sacrifice.

  • Drank an obscene amount= Getting the last of his youthful jollies out before settling down.
    Druggie friend who wanted to get in his pants= a kind heart
    Arrogant and rude= a leader who would be my knight and defend me from the mean ole world
    Stalking behavior to get a first date= a magical coincidence
    Bouncing a ball as hard as he could off of his sister’s head= sibling rivalry
    Showed me how he did his laundry on laundry day= sharing a vulnerable, intimate moment

  • Mistook his rage and cruel treatment of others as damage from an abusive father growing up (which he constantly brought up and detailed, none of which his brothers have any knowledge of).

    Mistook him as having a work ethic…..he had a government job and had so many medical restrictions in place that he hardly had to do anything.

    Mistook him as being loyal to me……when I spoke to a lawyer after the separation the lawyer said he couldn’t take my case because the ex had been to him (while we were still together and in counseling). The lawyer said that the ex was coldly calculating how much he would stand to lose financially if he left me. The lawyer said he was totally unnerved by the ex’s only economic interest.

    He would brag how good he was to his mother who was in a nursing home. In fact I did all the work to help her and paid for all her things out of my pocket. He seldom visited her. When he did go there he was busy talking her into cutting his brother out of her will. Which he succeeded in doing.

  • It looked like he was a human being with good values. He was a gob of silly putty taking the form of his victims. Always a liar, cheater, and imposter.

  • My ex- was a funeral director and I constantly admired the way he was able to comfort people. He was so caring, so personable. He understood your pain and could somehow manage to make you smile. What I learned was that he was/is merely feeding on everyone else’s pain. Pretending to help everyone just boosts him up. He is everyone’s savior. Who could not love him? And what kind of loser am I to divorce him? What could be– the nicest guy in the world– have done wrong. It must be all my fault. I should haves suspected he was having an affair– or maybe more than one. But hey, he’s the most considerate, thoughtful, loving man in the world. The fact that he had the affair with someone he was helping to make funeral arrangement for her father, was fitting. It hurt like hell to lose the love I thought I had. Now, as I understand it better, I am in a much better place. Thank you Chump Lady and Chump Nation!

  • What it looked like: A man who drinks alcohol on a daily basis because he “likes the taste”.

    What it was: A man who is most likely a high-functioning alcoholic who is mighty proud of his high tolerance for alcohol, is convinced that alcohol enhances his ability to play darts, and (in true narc fashion) blamed me for his drinking in the final discard stage.

  • I mistook his sudden interest in exercise and his emotional withdrawal to be him trying to combat the depression he claimed to have. He was actually cheating and trying to be an ‘ethical cheater’ by emotionally and physically detaching from me.

    I also mistook his quiet reservation and avoidance of conflict to be signs that he was comfortable with the results of our discussions. He was actually severely avoidant and just bottling his needs and concerns up, unwilling to discuss them even with his personal therapist and our couples therapists.

    • This^^^^^^

      The assumption that they agreed with us when they stayed quiet. I believe now that it is just another form of manipulation and control. By not sharing how they felt, about even little things like what color to paint the wall, or even a statement like “I am fine with whatever you pick out”, they were deceiving us and giving us a false sense of control and security.

      • Yes. This. My X later claimed, he only agreed to thinks becausevhevhad checked out emotionally.

    • Amen –> “I also mistook his quiet reservation and avoidance of conflict to be signs that he was comfortable with the results of our discussions.” My ex would give the impression that a resolution had been achieved. But with passive aggressive people who have no idea how to respectfully assert themselves and discuss something … ugh … they cowardly get back at you later for the crime of having the audacity to assert your own wants and needs directly through indirect and vindictive mindfucking that they relish. It’s the only way these weak people think they can experience power or control in their lives. They are pathetic and need to be left behind.

  • I mistook my ex for a moral decent man that I loved for 34 years. Not knowing for almost half of our married life he was cheating on me. He worked hard, was a decent father & everyone liked him. But when he met
    the OWHORE he changed towards me. I ignored the red flags because I was terrified of losing him. His exceptional good looks gave him opportunities most men his age didn’t receive.

    Now 2 1/2 years divorced & im still not at meh. The original OWhore died months ago & he quickly moved into another woman’s house. I now realize my marriage wasn’t what I thought it was… I was living
    with an evil cheating sociopath. Sorry I wasted my youth in him. ????

  • I glossed over all the little lies she told as proof that she was scared she would lose me…it was really a sign of really bad character.

    I took the fact that she went into the relationship with me so fast and hard as proof that she was really into me.
    What it really was…she was insecure, and jumped headlong into things without thinking.

    I took her devotion to writing and the arts as a sign she was deep…in reality, it was a way to avoid working more than a few hours a week. She spent more time napping and watching TV than actually working. It turns out it’s really hard to be a successful writer when you don’t actually write anything.

  • What it looked like: a loving couple, together for over 40 years.
    What it was: one person (two guesses as to who) pick-me dancing, spackling and picking up the slack for over 40 years.

    What it looked like: a man who thought highly of his wife and praised her to everyone who came into our house.
    What it was: a man who never said a tender word or praised his wife when no one else was there.

    What it looked like: a man whose sexual energy was declining with age.
    What it was: a man who had sex on a daily basis, just not with his wife.

    What it looked like: a guy who liked to go out with friends for drinks and golf.
    What it was: a guy who went out cruising bars alone to pick up random men and women for sex.

    What it looked like: a kind man who always made sure that the less fortunate were taken care of at Christmas.
    What it was: a cheating cheapskate who tricked his wife into spending her limited time, energy and resources to gift the OW and their families for the holidays.

    What it looked like: a man who “made one mistake” and swore it wouldn’t happen again after getting caught red-handed with the first long-term affair partner (that I knew of).
    What it was: a serial cheater who was making plans to get together with another woman on our wedding day. And never stopped cheating throughout our relationship.

    What it looked like: a guy who got a little worked up over things like sports, politics and bad drivers.
    What it was: a scary rageaholic who lost his shit whenever he felt like it, as long as no one he really cared about (wife and kids not included in this category) was present.

    What it looked like: a guy who worked so hard and with such long hours that he couldn’t help around the house or find time for the kids or me.
    What it was: his long hours weren’t on the clock, the time “at work” was actually spent in bed with various people. Very tiring.

    What it looked like: a sensitive person who just couldn’t cope with the stress of vacations, birthdays, holidays or family gatherings. Hence the ruining of every special occasion with angry words and temper tantrums.
    What it was: an entitled jerk who was “missing out” on his real life of fucking strange when he was stuck with his inconvenient family doing lame stuff like celebrating each other. Unless it was HIS celebration, in which case, we had to go all out with a big, expensive shindig.

    What it looked like: separate bedrooms because wife snored.
    What it was: wife didn’t really snore, it was just easier for him to sneak out at night from the back bedroom.

    What it looked like: abuse.
    What it was: abuse.

    • Oldcrone
      It’s such a horrific discovery, I know. Please take care
      of yourself. Bless you ????

    • I hope you took that motherfucker for everything and then some. OC, you described the Limited minus the golf and if his dick worked it wouldn’t have been a sexless marriage.

      Peace to you. Live your life.

  • Hey I think a nice addition to this might be a list of what I didn’t spackle over (not to change the subject, but…)–as in, I am glad to say that I did NOT mistake his suicide threats as evidence that he truly couldn’t live without me. Instead, I saw them for what they were: manipulation, harassment, emotional blackmail. I did NOT mistake his refusal to enter couples therapy unless I promised not to divorce him as a genuine interest in reconciliation. Instead, I saw it for what it was: an ultimatum designed to protect his lies and avoid accountability. I did NOT mistake his love-bombing in front of our son as an expression of authentic caring. Instead, I saw it for what it was: image management. So–HOORAY FOR THE SCALES DROPPING FROM THE EYES!

  • I mistook lack of communication for a generally introverted nature, not a cover-up of deep dark secrets. I mistook
    Reasonably intelligent conversation for reasonably good character. Shame on me.

  • The obvious first: I mistook him for a nice, funny, smart guy who would be FAITHFUL TO OUR WEDDING VOWS. What it really was: he neglected to tell me about his porn habit & the extent of his previous sexual relationships.. I kept deluding myself by thinking I was “frigid” or “inexperienced” or “not attractive.”

    PreD day: I mistook him for being honest when I was out of town visiting my parents with my firstborn baby & he called to say “I was just adjusting my pants & this woman thought I was exposing myself . She called the police, they arrested me. I got an attorney & took care of it.” What it really was: misdemeanor charges for indecent exposure. I kept deluding myself by being upset that he was the victim and being glad that he was responsible to take care of such a mistake!

    Dday1: I mistook him for being honest when he came home from a business trip and when I was nursing my 3rd infant son, he said “ I’m so sorry, I was unfaithful to you, I slept with another woman. It never happened before & I promise it won’t happen again.” What it really was: the tip of the iceberg that included call girls, video porn, (this was 1993), strip clubs, phone sex, pick ups in bars. I kept deluding myself by thinking ‘This is not him! He’s not even that interested in sex with me!” AND by believing him, I didn’t delve deeper. I didn’t even consider kicking him out! The pick me dance began: I got sexy negligees and became a better housewife and a more forgiving, less irritable spouse with fewer emotional needs.

    DDay 2: I mistook him for being honest when we were in the middle of moving because of a new job he took in another state. He called from his temporary apartment to tell me he had been with a prostitute, got an infection, went to a counselor because he was so appalled he did this. He said he found out when he was drinking he lost control. Going to AA would help. What it really was: more iceberg rising up. I also found the first evidence that I understood: credit card charges for phone sex. But I deluded myself: “he’s confessing to me! He’s honest! He’s sincerely remorseful! He went to a counselor! We have 4 children & practice natural family planning! He goes to all these Christian talks with me on how to raise children who will avoid pornography! My parents, brothers, friends, neighbors think he’s great! I’m always so crabby & mean. I look horrible too! Just an unattractive 40 year old. He says he will go to AA, never drink, and therefore never be unfaithful again.” His self-confessed activity was not in accord with the person I knew & that others knew. For the relationship pieces that were noticeable like a general forgetfulness or inattention to me & our kids “ he works such long hours, he travels, he’s tired.” When my parents were in town visiting, they’d say“You’re so lucky – he helps with everything!”

    DDay 3: I mistook him for being honest. Until I found a $1200 cash withdrawal. And found out he also withheld the truth about internet porn, prostitutes, & strip clubs from our MC.

    Someone who wants to cover up activities can come across as sincere and honest if they initiate a confession. Withholding information is a very subtle way of control as the other person cannot even begin to know what is missing. My spackle was believing that he is honest, conscientious, sincere, & caring.

    There were decades between Ddays. I am such a chump. Maybe not too much longer.

  • I mistook his not wanting to go out and be social as quirkyness and someone who just wasn’t real social. When actually he just hated everyone and didn’t want others to see him for who he really was. I mistook his loving way he talked me out of doing things with my friends as love, when actually it was just control. This is truly one of the worst mistakes I made in my 21 year marriage. I had lots of friends when we first got together and I always made time to do things with them. In a very short time span he managed to talk me out of spending time with them. I put all my friends on the back burner for over 15 years. When he walked out the door for the last time I felt so alone even though I had wonderful family support. I will never isolate myself like that afain. Lesson learned!

  • I spackled over his coming back to me after the first affair as legit…though he didn’t treat me any better. “He’s ashamed that’s why he never apologized” That was some high quality shit I got from the hardware store for that one.

  • I mistook the first 3 short term affairs in our marriage as mistakes (i used lots of mind spackle to convince myself of this, didn’t want to rock that boat!). What it really was was a major narcissist in action. I still sometimes wonder 2-1/2 years post divorce how many there actually were in that 21 years! Oh yeah, and at least 1 right before we got married. She was a co-worker of both of ours. That wasn’t awkward going to work after I should have listened to my intuition then!

  • I mistook [22] 42 years in a federal job as a mark of maturity, stability, and [even dullness] competence and enthusiasm. What it really was? A [chaotic] lazy, wheeler-dealer, self-satisfied, pretentious man with a good job, who probably kept it thanks to federal worker protections. And because a lot of people buy snake oil.

    I mistook the day he blamed ME for being a “failure” for being unhappy in his job. At least that day he had a rare moment of lucidity.

  • Mistook amazing ability to multitask, achieve and volunteer as an admirable, selfless, charming and gifted person.

    Actually was an uncanny ability to:
    – Compartmentalize (the double life was quite an achievement)
    – Not be slowed by petty traits like empathy
    – Feed off the notoriety of achieving, and realized (literally) the pronoun “I” was used when “we” should have been.

  • At the moment, I’d say it’s less about the spackle that attracted me to her as the spackle I still give the marriage.

    What I still lapse into seeing is a dynamic duo, two people who “got” each other and who forged through life as if it was Us against the World.

    The truth, as is being revealed, is a couple where one guy – who whilst not perfect – did a lot of heavy lifting and felt obliged to keep the other entertained and satisfied lest she feel neglected and dance off elsewhere. Never once did I consider: “so… why does she get to hold our relationship to ransom like this and not me?”

    Seriously, making sure her birthday experience was as perfect as possible was an absolute deal breaker. In contrast I had two in a row that were horrendous. Nothing to do with her directly – just unfortunate circumstances. I made a joke of it. But she’d shrug her shoulders and be like “get over it”. Funnily enough I never considered I should get out and be with someone else because of it. Funnily enough I never thought “if I don’t, why should she?”

  • I mistook lack of close friendships & close family ties as : ‘the poor misunderstood rebel’. Somehow that appealed to my: he needs help script & with my love he’ll be rescued from a fate worse than death & I’ll get the most faithful, loving partner of all.

    Wrong. Ding dong!

  • I mistook narcissistic grandiosity for self confidence. I mistook a bullying for strength. I mistook deviant hypersexuality for being really into me. And I used to refer to his narcissistic meltdown rages as his little anger management problem. I give myself credit, though, for drawing the line at the cheating. Kicked him out that very night. And after 8 months of mindfuckery I went full NC and that was 5 years ago.

  • I mistook 20 years in the military as him being an upstanding man who would put himself before others. Turns out he’s just an asshole who got by doing the bare minimum. He would be assigned tasks at his job and every single time he would either delegate them to people who ranked below him, or he would procrastinate so long that they would have to talk to him several times. He’s also chronically late to everything, to the point he was dropped as a patient from a doctor because he was always late or a no show.

    • I feel you, ShockedChump. Sometimes they wear that rank as a sham shield and we don’t even know about it.

  • I mistook the woman whose been on national TV post an abusive divorce and now gives public speeches advocating to end female abuse go after my partner right in front of me….she’s not an advocate for women, she is a skank who goes after men in relationships. She is just as abusive to women as her jailed ex-husband. There are just so many hippocrates in this world.

      • Thank you, SuperChump. Other people were witness to it as well. She earned her reputation as a skank not just by me, but by those who witnessed her skanky behavior as well. It just goes to show there are so many hippocrates in and narcissists this world. They both suck.

  • I mistook his lies for immaturity, something he would grow out of.

    I mistook his berating the kids as a result for not having a father figure growing up and having an absentee mother – I thought he didn’t parent well because he was never parented.

    I mistook his mean little jokes as him having a bad sense of humor.

    I mistook his pawing at me, forcing sex on me through guilt or just the admonition of ‘let me play’ as him having a higher sex drive or perhaps me not being a ‘real woman’.

    The reality was he was a chronic liar. He berated the kids because he liked the power trip plus the control it gave him. He told mean little jokes because he meant them, and it was a passive aggressive way to hurt me. He molested me.

    • My husband did the same. Coercion to get sex. ALL THE TIME. Sex was his currency for everything and if he didn’t get it, he raged, ignored me, went to the couch ,silent treatment. I always HAD to apologize or he would keep it up. Then he got what he wanted. A horrible cycle. I was his prostitute not a wife. He told me all men were like him and it was my fault not his. He had high testosterone and I had to deal with this. 32 years it got worse and worse.
      The truth. He was into porn for most of our marriage, he had emotional affairs, he was punishing and coerced sex, scared me with guns all over the house and in our bedroom. He gave me Infections and devalued me and the had more girl friends. He was a creep and I thought he was just a usual man

  • I mistook his keeping me away from his work functions and not inviting me to come share lunch with him or visit him when he had all-night duty as his disdain for his work colleagues. It was really that his AP was there.

    I mistook his late work hours for what he said they were – “They’re making me stay late to finish such-and-such.” He was really with AP.

    I mistook his lack of empathy for me for a symptom of his PTSD. It turns out that he just didn’t love me. (And he had empathy for others.)

    He actually came to me for advice on what to do about his AP without telling me she was his AP because she’s one of those “cutters” and he didn’t know how to help her… and I gave it to him. I offered to talk to her and be a strong woman role model for her. Fortunately, he didn’t take me up on it.

    Ugh, I hate him.

  • In the beginning she seemed like a woman who had her life together and knew what she wanted instead of playing little games. She wanted the same thing as me.
    In the middle she seemed like a weak person that needed help and strength and me to be the rock as our little family forged ahead.
    In the end- even on Dday- she was a victim- a victim of herself- needed me to be the strong one- to bear the weight of destruction- to bury my own dignity and rise up and warrior on for the sake of the family. The books and videos said it was possible.

    Turned out she was a scam artist who could cry on command to manipulate me. She got pleasure from my pain. She was truly evil rejoicing with her friends what she had done. Then she showed her true anger as I used all those years of strength to break away from her.

    • I’m so sorry to hear this Zell. I feel like I’ve heard more stories about female cheaters that derive please from their partner’s pain. Absolutely gross.

  • What it looked like: A caring father and community activist that was often too sick (in remission from cancer and current kidney failure dialysis patient) and too depressed to spend weekends helping around the house and going on family outings to wife’s sister’s farm and other family adventures.

    What it was: Used illness and depression excuses to stay home, then sneak out to girlfriends house in Windsor as soon as wife and kids were gone. Hanging out in their “office” on chat rooms flirting with women around the world.

    • Wow, funny how he wasn’t depressed to sneak out, go to girlfriend’s house, take off his clothes, get naked and pork her. It’s amazing how he had all that energy to put towards getting laid.

  • He was an expert in automotives. Certified as electrician. Knowledgeable about plumbing and carpentry. He was highly intelligent–an automotive geniusus–but had trouble working for people with bad management skills. Everyone wanted his help fixing everything! He built a whole addition to a home while others stood and watched! No one at his job every did any work! He failed out of college because he wanted to start a business!

    What it was: a puffed up narcissist who is such a jackass that he can’t hold a job. I’m still not sure WHY he hopped from some jobs. But it’s clear that his cover stories were lies. Something was gaining on him so he left. As for his forays into higher education, the bottom line is he doesn’t like to work hard and really can’t do it without someone standing over him.

  • I interpreted his high grades, competence with money, and musical talent for character. I spackled his hostile behaviors toward other people (road rage, complete with frightening tailgating; scorn for other musicians whom he deemed as less talented; quitting after telling off a manager over nothing at a summer job).

    I am the classic “not everyone is perfect, so take the good with the bad” chump. I figured that I had my negatives, so I shouldn’t expect my partner to be perfect. While I think that’s true, I also think that I should expect more from a partner. A “negative” should be that he left his dirty socks on the bedroom floor, not the fact that he got so angry with our printer, he threw it across the room (thankfully, he never turned that anger upon me).

    We all have our quirks, but I’ll be damned if I get into another relationship where I try to pretend that giant red flags are quirks.

  • My dad asked Cheater when he wants to start a family (we’d been going out for 4-5 years at that time).

    Cheater: “whenever emotional black hole is ready” – I thought he was being “respect for women”/”she’s in charge of her own body” nice. My dad got really angry and said “Look at this guy! He doesn’t want to take any responsibility!!”…

    Dad is always right.

  • When we were dating he read me cover to cover his sister in law’s autobiography. Her story of how God helped her heal from childhood sexual abuse, and also the story of how her godly husband stood by her, during times of her struggle and acting out. Her husband was amazing and so loving. He sounded like Prince Charming in the book. So my soon to be husband during and at the end of the reading of the book to me (which took a week or two), dramatically declared how he was also that man his brother was. And at the time I had no reason to disbelieve…I mean how could one of the most loving, amazing, sacrificial, patient men I had ever heard about, have an evil, con artist brother? It didn’t even cross my mind. He had me totally convinced he was the man his brother was. I was sold.

    Oh it was so far from the truth. But hey, why not use your sister in laws personal story of abuse and the love of her God and husband that saved her life, to suck a new mark in.

    Nothing is beneath these soulless creatures.

    • That is a new low, even for this blog. I am so sorry this happened to you. I hope you are free now.

    • This is a great example of how they KNOW they are soulless. They KNOW they have a cog missing. They appreciate in some sick way the people who have what they don’t, but instead of really genuinely learning something from them, they use and exploit connections with genuinely good people to cover up how creepy, cruel and unempathetic they truly are. It is so. fucking. creepy.

      • The X would joke about how his one feeling would get hurt. This started about a year before he filed for divorce.

        I’m not sure it was a joke. It’s very creepy.

  • I mistook his service to our country as a selfless act for others. What it was: time away from his wife and baby to hook up with random female soldiers.

  • Spackle: She went to the same church as me and thus had the same beliefs and values (including honesty and fidelity) and held me in high esteem. She was my soul-mate.
    Reality: She was always on the lookout for something better, in her estimation, and more exciting. I assume she kept me around as a fall-back position in case her clandestine adventures went awry.

  • So much spackle over 30 years… starting with “He’s taking an extra few years in college because his professors weren’t grading him fairly and ending with him being fired from his last job because “he was set up to fail”.
    UBT HERE- they expected me to work during the day instead of use my work laptop to cruise Craigslist, hookup with men in hotels, fake expense reports, and take videos of myself jerking off in my home office so I can post them on gay hookup sites, I mean really, it’s total crap and inconvenient for me”
    He was let go from every job he ever had as an adult. I always had a spin to put on it, and it didn’t occur to me until 3 years after I left that this was not normal. Sigh…

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