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Love, The All-Purpose Spackle

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

But I love him.

King’s X.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Advice:
    Don’t confuse the love you feel for your children, family, concept of marriage, partnership with “love” for your cheater. These ideas tend to get intertwined over time. I was with XW for almost 20 years. It becomes hard to splice all the feelings apart initially. It takes time and going through the process of separation and no/minimal contact to begin to see that you love someone who isn’t there. You don’t have to give up love of family and the idea of marriage. You have to accept that you married someone who was a fake. They successfully scammed you. Accept it and move forward with your life- away from someone who isn’t capable of love- isn’t capable of being in a relationship.

    • OMG I hear you, bother. Took me the longest time to realize I was in love with a figment of my imagination……and I really did love that figment! I finally figured out I was a first-class dumbass and moved on to greener pastures, which surprisingly do exist.

    • LOVE IS A VERB.

      LOVE IS PATIENCE

      LOVE IS KINDNESS

      LOVE IS GENEROSITY

      LOVE IS HUMILITY

      LOVE IS COURTESY

      LOVE IS UNSELFISHNESS

      LOVE IS GOOD TEMPER

      LOVE IS GUILELESSNESS

      LOVE IS SINCERITY

      I don’t see lying, cheating, etc on the list….

      Goodbye, “Husband”…..

    • I dunno. In some ways, the love I have for my children (or anyone else) IS like the love I have for Ex. I love them but would never accept any of them, say, hitting me (not that they have or would… but I use it as an example). If any of them came home with a bike they had stolen (again, this is not who my kids are, but trying to make a point), I would march them back with it, make them pay, apologize, ground them, etc. In other words, even with people you’ll love to your dying day, there can and should be consequences for egregious behaviour.

      • But we should expect our children to make mistakes. We know kids must be taught good behavior. Being a parent means that in one form or another, you’ll be marching your kid to the neighbor’s to return the stolen bike, admit to breaking the window, apologize for spitting, etc. I did not sign up to teach a spouse these things (or their adult variants). For me, this is why love for kids may well be unconditional, but love for adults is conditional.

        • Exactly… kids have childhood to learn… husband is not a child- he makes his own choices.
          If he steals 1M from his company- no one would pet him on the head saying “ well, We know that you made this choice, you planned and executed it, but somehow, now you say sorry, so sure, no consequences for you”
          He would end up in jail.

          Somehow, we are in such a fog ( due to their actions and gaslighting, ripping out our innocence) that it’s impossible to see clearly, what is being done to us.

          The moment we are ready for CL- the fog is gone and we can see

  • ‘By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined.‘

    This is… exactly what I needed to hear today.

    • Someone said these words to me in my ‘bargaining’ stage of grief and it really sunk in. I am so thankful for the timing of that conversation.

    • I could not get my mind around the cruelty, lying and evil. He did such a good job of fucking with me. It was subtle, evil, sick and ugly. He played on every single insecurity. I had lots but they were not huge, just the normal insecurities that shift and change through life. But he took all the normal and used his covert narcissism to pervert it. Through 30+ years I lost my compass when it came to boundaries with him. I mistakenly thought that he had my back and I could let my guard down with him. Who goes into marriage with their guard up? Who assumes you’ll be fucked over with your spouse? Who thinks there will be a secret life of lies, unprotected sex, diverted money? Who assumes that!!!Who thinks the person you build a life with is truly evil? Who would imagine that 30 years down the road you would be alone and rebuilding from the mess? Who thinks that in 30 years you would hate and wish nothing but an ugly pain filled life on your spouse?

      Can I be at Tuesday (I have no desire to spend one second with him) and still be angry and hurt in more of an abstract way than it coming from him? Can I be just pissed off in general? Maybe I’m just at Monday.

      • Spoonriver, I could have written your post. Every single word. Married almost 29 years, together 34. The depth of cruelty and deception and betrayal, lying to my face, knowingly exposing me to an incurable STD (even through two pregnancies), hiding money, getting a polygraph (he wrote the questions so he would pass) then calling the counselor we were going to see, telling him he did not have an affair and I’m just crazy, is nothing short of evil.

        I’ve decided there are (at least) two levels of evil – the first is a person who knows what they are, that other people see it, but they don’t care, they’re out for themselves. The second also knows their behavior is wrong, that what they’re doing would destroy others, but they present as the nice guy, and are so good at it that no one would ever suspect – they think this guy is the perfect husband and family man, and he has people just where he wants them. That person takes evil to a whole new level. To be able to pull off what my STBX did for over three decades, destroy me, our marriage, our kids, and still only care about himself is beyond me. He fits the definition of a narcissistic sociopath.

        And now, trying to divorce him is hell all over again. My Tuesday will come the day this divorce is final.

        • Gosh, I could have written both of your stories. Evil and inhumane and just plain cruel. It’s hard to recover; I believe many of us suffer from PTSD as a result. We really are dealing with sociopaths.

          • I’m in this boat, too. I didn’t know a person like this could exist outside of the penal system. I couldn’t imagine that someone could lie next to me every night while his rancid double life swirled around us, invisible. He lied, cheated, and stole, and got away with it. And at the end, his diseased OW swooped in to make sure he didn’t have to experience a consequence.

            I’m lucky that antibiotics cleared up my souvenirs.

      • Gosh, do I understand this. I couldn’t accept the cruelty, lying and evil either. Still cannot. To answer your ‘Who’ questions, the simple answer would be ‘Nobody’, but as we found out ~ there are lots of ‘Who’s’ out there. I was one too.

        I read a Tupac comment that said something like ~ be careful for the one you may take a bullet for may be the one holding the gun…

        Oh, and I’m still pissed off too. I’m at Monday too. Halloween I will be divorced two years. Halloween, how fitting of a day to be divested of a monster.

      • Hi Spoonriver
        I would love to connect with you somehow. This is exactly what happened to me and he is still asking himself why I wished him ill will. What did you want me to wish you mofo? happily ever after? after destroying my life. I’m so angry and hurt that sometimes the only thing I think about is to end his life. Take that trash to the dumpter where he belongs, but then I think he’s not worth going to jail for.

        • Read the book Psychopath Free, I’m learning a lot from it and it helps to understand what he was doing to me. It may help you too.

      • Spoonriver hang in there honey, it actually does get better. It gets MUCH better. I live in France – come visit me!

        • Thanks Attie.. I do have really great days, some angry days , some sad. So funny you invited to visit. I am planning a trip to France next fall.

  • Hey, just a general announcement. I’m recording another podcast for Patreon on Nov. 5 and will be interviewing prominent family law attorney Regina DeMeo. https://reginademeo.com/blog/ We’ll be talking about how to tell if you’re in a divorce where you can mediate/collaborate, or when things require litigation. How infidelity doesn’t get much weight, but financial abuse does. About what to do legally if you’ve been abandoned and left financially vulnerable, and can’t afford legal help. And more!

    • What about when infidelity leaves you with an incurable STD? It seems like that should get some weight….

      • How do you estimate the cost of online meet ups and actual meet ups for sex (drinks, hotels, travel)? How would I estimate the time wasted waiting on him. Can I use that as a financial cost in divorce?

        Can I claim, assault if he did not hit me but had unprotected sex, reckless endangerment?

        • Jim:
          A friend of mine who is an attorney just told me that, even though my husband cheated, I could still end up paying HIM spousal support because I make more $ than he does since CA is a “no fault” divorce state. This hardly seems fair!

          • newyorkdoll – Yes, this is true! Unbelievable but true. I’m sure there are many on here who could tell you that, after their spouse cheated, they are paying alimony and split assets 50/50 and if you make more money than your spouse, well, you’re fucked.

            • Quite true. The Fucktard X knew that, so he took a voluntary leave of absence to make his substantially higher income disappear so he could both avoid paying me spousal support and ask for spousal support from me. He claimed that the stress of the divorce and my longterm abuse of him left him unable to work. In fact, he was working but not turning in his time cards throughout the divorce. Afterwards, he received an enormous check and laughed all the way to the bank.

              At least I didn’t have to pay the jerk. His long history as a high earner wasn’t the sort of record that would support his claim of sudden inability to work in any capacity.

              • Boy. Today this blog is especially depressing! Survivor, I am SO GLAD you did not have to pay this jackass. It would have ruined my day.

      • In my state, transmitting an STD is battery. He could be charged and arrested. I considered it but I wanted alimony and having him arrested would have cost him his job. But the first time he misses a payment…

    • A good attorney would recognise these factors and take appropriate measures. Mine did not. I am faced with seven grand in legal fees with only two years support, my x was four years younger and so in two years I will not benifit any boost to my SSD , because he will not be of age yet to collect SS. I was forced off the joint bank account and left in a roof leaking old house. Im recovering each day the trama of all, moving forward, but the lawyer did not do a very good job. I’ have piece of mind after removing myself of the toxicity, but in two years will have very little survival money, while he makes over 100,000. This was a 20 yr marriage.

  • I know from experience it is very hard to leave the cheater. Because you love them and built a life with them. But, did they show love when they lied and snuck around with another women? I have come to realize that cheating is another form of abuse. In my 34 year marriage I was verbally abused and never realized that I was. I am now in a place where I know I am worth so much more. I did not deserve to be called names and be cheated on. Throwing my stbx out was the best thing I ever done.

    • I hear you Cuzchump!! I hear you loud and clear!

      In my case just change 34 years to 40, I am six years slower than you.

      Be strong!

  • Yup, you see A LOT of betrayed spouse’s foolishly proclaiming their love and dedication to complete pieces of crap who’ve been shitting on them for so long it’s not even funny. And equally sadly, you see the same screen names over and over that have been on these message boards forever – who claim to be happily reconciled – giving the same canned advice about how reconciliation IS possible to all these sad sacks, REGARDLESS of how atrocious their cheater has treated them.

    Apparently, as long as the cheater can fake a little remorse and get dragged to therapy, it will be bright skies ahead. What a bunch of clueless dumb-asses.

    • I have a good friend who I would love to send this message too but I doubt she would “hear” it. She has been invaluable to me but she can’t quite admit that she is in a hopeless marriage. I am sure she is like me with blaming herself and thinking it will get better… Like me it would take her husband leaving her to make a change and while he has threatened, she makes amazing cake so it is unlikely. She grew up spackling for an alcoholic mother and has a cheater brother for whom she is still spackling.

      Boundaries are a tough thing.

  • After a year of pick me dancing I finally decided to love myself more and gave him an ultimatum, to pick me or her. He moved out a few weeks later so that gave me my answer. Now he is a ghost, we don’t even know where he lives and the kids don’t even get a text that often.
    I have begun to heal so much since he left in August and I no longer see him and get wrapped up in his mind games. After 29yrs this was the hardest thing I have ever done and I still love him but I decided to love myself more, to create boundaries on what was acceptable to me, all thanks to CL!

    • People who abandon their children are so shitty there are not words in the English language bad enough to describe them. I hope your ex gets a terrible disease and his penis falls off.

    • First of all, all you Chumps who finally left after 29, 34, or 40 years – THANK YOU. I sometimes wonder if I’ve simply lived in this so long, it’s too late to leave. I used to think it had to be a physical affair in order to justify leaving. Thanks to CN, I realize it is the deception, lies, and selfish behavior that inflicts collateral damage to the spouse and the innocent children.

      28yr chump, I read your comment and felt your pain. I also felt the shock of my own ultimatum given to dh a few months after he admitted his emotional infidelity – skating on the line but not over it. It never turned physical. Not for lack of her trying, she just kept it subtle enough that he never saw her sweet, accidental undertones as invitations to take it to the next level. Then she moved out of state then out of the country with her husband. That, and that alone is the reason it did not turn physical. Not that it matters, I now see. I also reserve the right to keep my doubts that it didn’t.

      My point is that my ultimatum did not work. He lied to me. He lied to me for years. He lied the first time he told me about her. It was over. It was just a short fling and he no longer has feelings for her. He did. She did. Theirs turned into the unrequited love of yearning and longing and, of course, meaningful looks over the conference table. It was not over. Nor was it over when she moved. My ultimatum extended to never having contact with her again. Ever. Yet they continued a friendly and supposed innocent relationship via email for YEARS. I know because I found one 7 years after she left. She was in Japan, had popped out 3 kids and was still reaching out and he was responding. Both keeping their options open.

      I was 36 when it began. I smoked the Hopium pipe for 16 years. I will never know how long it went on. I will never know the true details. All I know is that I don’t have an STD. I also know that I am married to a coward that felt no guilt lying to my face, inflicting damage with trickle truths only after I found evidence of them. I only wish he had been man enough and honest enough accept the ultimatum and leave.

      To anyone who is still reading my rant, do not accept the justification that it was “only” an emotional affair. Trust has been compromised and, I promise you, trickle truths are forthcoming. The emotional abuse a spouse dishes out in order to justify any kind of affair is not acceptable. After the years of my hopium, his deceit, and trickle truths, here is what I learned:

      1. I am in love with the man I thought I married. He is a creation of my hopium pipe.
      2. I will never know what happened in his affair.
      3. He is capable of lying, justifying, being self serving at ANY cost. Our children are not safe from his selfish shrapnel.
      4. I am not too old nor incapable of continuing my life without him.
      5. He does a pretty good Pick Me dance. But this is not the marriage I want.

      • Thank you for sharing your experience. Finding evidence of an emotional affair that lasts years is the ultimate betrayal. My favorite is when confronted, they blame you and had to seek_________ to be fulfilled and happy. The affair partner can have him.

  • It is also important to note that the same mindset holds AFTER you leave.

    Those of us who are forced to deal with “that’s all in the past, we need to move forward” abusers have to live this lesson every day.

    Gray Rock and No Contact are other forms of healthy self love that pay benefits every day.

    • So true!

      The concept of “multiple truths” is imperative for chumps to understand. You can love your cheater and leave at the same time. They have hurt you more than anyone else ever will and yet you love them. But self-preservation and sanity must win out as you fight thru divorce, get a new life and struggle with the love in your heart.

      It may be the hardest thing you ever do in your whole life! Nothing I have experienced in my 60+ years has been as hard as this journey. Painful does not even begin to describe walking thru this fire.

      After a 30 year marriage, 8 years post-DDay and 5 years divorced, I know that part of me will always love the man I thought I married. I’m OK with that because it means I loved someone with a full, open, honest heart and I’m proud to be that kind of a person. I hate the person I wound up married to. Multiple truths.

      • Rebecca:
        This is such a poignant idea…multiple truths. It’s the one I’m struggling with the most. I married a kind, sweet, funny man who loved me more than anyone had ever loved me before. And today, I’m married to the kind of man who thought that starting up a relationship with his ex-girlfriend would actually “help” our marriage. Who can’t see past his own desires and needs to even give a sh*t that my heart has been kicked like a soccer ball. This is still so fresh and raw for me (just found out about 3 weeks ago about the affair). I wake up crying all the time, remembering the wonderful parts of our relationship. I am most definitely mourning the death of that man, that marriage.

        • Anastasia, I’m so very sorry. I hope you have hired a kick ass attorney and have gone no contact. I wish to God I had done so quickly because the abuse that followed DDay was WAY worse than the fact that X chose to stick his dick an another woman. The blameshifting, gaslighting, rage/self pity/charm channels that flipped in nanoseconds, the mindfucking, the playing marriage police, the going down the sex addict rabbit hole, the IRC sites, the IRC books. . . All of this nearly killed me and made my kids suffer excruciatingly — one almost died from self harm.

          Run like your life and the lives of your children depend on it. We are here for you.

        • Anastasia- You are is the acute trauma portion of this ordeal. Be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. It had been 2 years for me and, looking back, the first 6 months were a blur of misery, fighting for emotional survival every day. I would read Chump Lady daily and really not believe I could ever be like the strong, self- aware folks posting comments here.
          BUT, After about 6 months, I had more good days than bad. And it has been better every day since then.
          My xh had a long, secret, ongoing relationship with his high school girlfriend. When I found out, I was destroyed. He, on the other hand, was indignant, entitled and in no way had any interest in rectifying what he had done to my world, our world. There was no going back and I couldn’t un-know the truth.
          After the end of a 30 year marriage and a stressful divorce, I am happier than I could have imagined. You will be too. We will all be here to get you there.

        • Anastasia, your husband thinks bringing his ex into your marriage will help because he’s using triangulating you and his ex. He does this to draw you in, keep you under control, make himself look desirable and hopefully pit you against the ex, resulting in a pick me dance and lots of kibbles. My ex did this with me. He’d often say he still loved his ex wife, even though he told me she was abusive and had borderline personality disorder.

          I’m sure my ex is now doing this with his next target and using me as the woman he still “loves” but I’m “abusive and crazy”. I’m not playing that game. I’ve gone grey rock and am working on getting better at NC.

          Best of luck.

          • My ex-boyfriend (in his early 50s) did some bizarre triangulating, too, when it came to his ex-wife, whom he often described as alcoholic and paranoid.

            My ex-husband (we were married 18 years) had a girlfriend and I admitted that even though it made me a little jealous, I was glad he was happy – and frankly, leaving me alone.

            Cheating ex-boyfriend said about his ex-wife: ‘I don’t want her, but I don’t want anyone else to have her, either.’

            It made me cringe at the time, as we’d just started dating a couple months prior, but I now recognize it for the scarily possessive statement that it is. He often brought her up in strange ways to make me feel jealous. Even though he insisted that * he*divorced her. (Court records in that state are not easily accessed online.) He had showed me texts between the two of them and I now realize that she was totally doing ‘Grey Rock’ – before I knew what it was.

        • Anastasia – I also couldn’t believe that my stbxh had an affair. People still can’t believe it. No one would have pegged him as the type. I’ve sinced learned that the “emotional affair of a couple months” was really a full-blown sexual affair of about 19 months. There had been an emotional affair prior to her, and at least one one-night-stand in the last days between leaving me to be with her. So much for her being the love of his life.

          I’m in a support group for separated and divorced Catholics at my church, called Learning to Cope. I’ve written the entire story of my relationship (over 24 types pages single-spaced). Then, there have been parallel journals, such as writing out every thing you’ve ever been angry about sunce the beginning , everything you’ve been sorry about. I started to discover that the really good guy I knew wasn’t so great anymore. Not that he’s a monster in hiding, but suddenly signs are emerging. Situations I interpreted one way at the time that I now realize I spackled. He often misrepresented himself.

          I made him out to be more than what he was; had high expectations. He tried to live that out and couldn’t. I had no idea that he had tonwork so hard to he who I thought he was. Now he accuses me of emasculating him, never accepting him for who he is.

          The truth is I don’t know who he is. I’m not sure he really does either. But, this not through any fault of my own. I discovered emails between him and the OW, and I don’t recignize the man doing the writing, yet he claims to her that she’s the only person in his life he can be his real self with.

          I supported him through three years of university studies in the last years of our marriage, and I think that something about that experience tipped the balance so badly that he just lost it. But that’s enough skeining of him for now.

          What I am trying to relay to you is that you are not alone in your shock that none of this seems like your husband. That’s why it’s so easy to do the pick me dance, believing that he’s having a midlife crisis or is in an affair fog; that this is a phase that he’ll snap out of. Then, the real mindfuckery begins as you question everything you know to be true.

          Welcome to the denial stage of grief. You are going to need support. Surround yourself with people who love you and will help you feel safe. Get some counselling and legal advice. Something my counsellor said to me very firmly, “The husband you once knew is dead. He is gone. Mourn his loss and arm yourself against the man who looks like your husband but no longer is. This man is selfish and looking after his own interests. He will throw you under the bus. Protect your interests and your kids.”

          It was the snap that I needed to get myself unstuck from my analysis paralysis.

          Hugs.

          • After D-day 1, I went to see a lawyer. I’ll never forget what he asked me: “what are you going to do when it happens again?” That question didn’t convince me to end the marriage, but it did motivate me to get my cheating husband to sign a post-nup, “just in case.” We worked with a marriage counselor, to explore the reasons why he had the affair, I pick-me danced, and his psychologist even had him undergo an MRI to see if an old head injury had triggered this out-of-character behavior. I forgave eventually and we moved on. I thought we had learned from our mistakes and had a stronger relationship for it. The next dday was 3 years later, and that post-nup was a life-saver for me. I was just as stunned by his shocking behavior as the first time, but it didn’t cripple me like before. I already had a legal roadmap in place to separate from him, and I knew that all of my assets were protected, so I didn’t have to pile uncertainties and fear and the need to negotiate a settlement, on top of the grief and horror of being betrayed again. I realize now he was probably cheating all along, but I’ll never know and I don’t bother to investigate. I realize now I shouldn’t have given our marriage a second chance, because this is not a real human being I was dealing with, it was a pathetic monster. I am very lucky he didn’t give me any STDs. Just remember, when you’re making decisions about your marriage to someone who has betrayed you, it’s “when,” not “if” they’re going to blow up the marriage again.

    • Good point UX.
      I’m struggling with the post divorce navigation now. My ex wants to host our son’s birthday party at his house this year. I am faced with the choice of attending and being face to face with my abuser all afternoon showing the rest of the parents, what’s done is done and all is forgiven, or do what feels safer for me and not attending and disappointing/hurting my son’s feelings. I’m stuck.

      • What would happen if you had your own bday party for your son on another day, and invited your family and friends?

        • Iris, not sure how old your son is? Have you tried to explain on an age appropriate level? When my son was much younger, he had the same kind of requests that Mommy and Daddy do things together with him. Even when he was as young as 4 or 5, I could tell him that Daddy hurt Mommy’s feelings so badly that we’re no longer like other Mommies and Daddies or even friends. He could understand to a certain level.

          My vote (for what it’s worth) is that you don’t go. Tell son that you’ll celebrate with him later in a special way. All those Switzerland friends at the ersatz party can go to a very, very warm place.

      • Have your own celebration for your son. You don’t say how old he is, but its never too young to establish boundaries and set the example of what live will be like going forward. If you go to this shindig hosted by your ex, it will just affirm in his mind that certain things (‘big’ things, like his birthday) will continue as they have been to this point — Mom and Dad in it together. In my opinion, he would be well served by getting an indication that things are going to be different — not better, not worse, just different — from now on. (If he’s anywher close to being a ‘typical’ kid, he’ll come to appreciate the benefits of having 2 events planned around his birthday.)

        Under no circumstances should you put on the happy face and appear at whatever the ex has planned.

  • I am a fair way out from this – a few years, but i still return to read Chumplady’s amazing clarity and well-defined reasoning, it helps me in so many more ways than just my divorce… from an idiot.

    Going back to when I was in the middle of it, my husband walked out really unexpectedly, leaving me with my children and having no sleep, unable to eat and talking to myself. The thing I wanted the most was for him to come back, every time the door went, I would hope it was him, every stupid compliment he gave, I would take it as a sign and in the odd moment I fell asleep, I dreamt of he and I talking gently.

    He told me that he wanted to come back over and over but his actions were different, so even before I found the amazing chump lady, I still knew inside that there were things I was willing to accept and things that I would not. I had children watching me, there were limits to how much crap I would take.

    Even though it broke my heart (like literally, I experienced physical pain from how much it hurt, I had break downs, I did some destructive things) I still left, i still went to see the lawyers and I still protected myself, even if I did those things in-between the fits and the screaming and the bouts of apathy looking at the wall. My “Love” didn’t really have any bearing on the outcome.

    When someone has closed the door, you have to turn around and get on with it. you can’t batter the door down or mow down the house or bribe your way in. You can’t make someone treat you nicely, not genuinely anyway, they have to do that for themselves and that has been one of the biggest disappointments of my life but also one of my best life lessons.

    My auntie used to say “If someone doesn’t appreciate your company, go and hangout someone who does”

    • -MidlifeBlast-
      That’s very moving.

      I signed off on the summons my attorney drafted up this morning, but spent all of last night crying, wanting nothing more than to go home and be in the house to hand out Halloween candy (I used to love doing that).

      I don’t know if was the same for you, but did it feel like you were living parallel lives?

      • I’m 2 years separated, not divorced and it feels like a parallel life still. My love for stbx is still there but it’s for all the reasons we know: what it was supposed to be, 30 plus years of my identity in small community etc. I took my broken heart kicking and screaming off my ranch , bought a small but perfect home for me to be safe and heal . The sleepless nights and counseling and reading CL and CN pulling me through the black hole. My cheater is nice to me , wants our family back but the financial mess and what he did behind my back is just too much. He carried on with a crack whore employee half his age and fathered a secret child. Crack whore mom died in a crash and he claimed paternity and insisted we do this together. I just could not. I want to go home and hand out Halloween candy, host those summer ranch bbqs in the worst way but it’s just an illusion. The sharp pain is fuller but my heart still in pieces but I move on and get strength from CN and wean myself off the hopium pipe. To quote a Kenny chesny song, “I’m learning to build a better boat” you are not alone , it hurts like no other but you and I and countless others will show them our strength in due time . Soo I’m going with grandkids to trunk n treat and say screw you to the memory of my front door of 30 years .

    • “You can’t make someone treat you nicely, not genuinely anyway”

      Thank God I met Chump Lady and Nation early on and understood it would be a complete waste of my time making people (sparkledick AND his family) treat me decently.

  • Very timely.

    Last month I bluffed my dirtbag alcoholic husband into admitting that he’s been sleeping w/ hookers non-stop since before we started dating. Even brought them to MY apartment into MY bed before we moved in together when I’d be at work. And at night, he’d sneak out to go meet with them. Saw extra miles on the car and asked about it, “I couldn’t sleep so I went for a drive to clear my head”. I believed it. Trying to come onto him, he’s too tired lol.

    Said he ‘kissed’ a woman he was flirting with at the bar while we were on our first anniversary vacation. We’ve only been married 15 months! No kids!

    Attorney is drafting the paperwork. I swear, up until the yesterday I felt empowered, strong, and so sure of myself. Then Sunday came-I was crying all day. I’ve never felt this alone in my entire life and I have no idea what to do.

    I moved out and into my mom’s place-I’m so lucky that I have the option, but it’s incredibly far away from everything and she lives in another time zone. Due to a very transient childhood, I have no actual friendships apart from some work acquaintances, and i only casually know my extended family (mom was the black sheep and proud of it). It’s embarrassing. I feel like I need to join a MeetUp group or something but I don’t know how great of a friend I could be to anyone at the moment. I’m the one who needs.

    He’s got a ton of family and friends supporting him-his mom even moved in because his family “didn’t think he should be alone during this difficult time”. He won’t be alone to feel the sting of his actions. He’s being pampered.

    Me? Sitting the the parking lot of the grocery store for 30 mins to work up the nerve to ‘face people’, then walking around for an hour, leaving with nothing but foil and some creamer.
    We Chumps really do have to save ourselves, don’t we? Nobody else will do it. Sigh.

    I know 100% that I can’t be with this person. Is not safe to turn my back or close my eyes with him around. But… I keep feeling like I wanna go home. I miss normalcy.

    This post (and CN in general) is helping me realize that other people are struggling too. It’s not him that I miss, it’s the image. The feeling before I realized there was a one plunged into my back. I felt safe and loved, but I was in terrible danger.

    Thank you all for being so open. Coming here multiple times a day is saving my sanity.
    Sorry for being long winded!

    • It’s okay to not be okay! You’ve suffered a trauma!

      I don’t know if you know there is a private forum. Just create an account and sign in. Took me 2 years to realize that 😬… oops. I’m not very active in it, but I think they have meet up groups.

      Wish I could spend more time responding, but I’m walking out the door.

      Be kind to yourself! Baby steps!

      • Got-a-brain

        I did not know that! You’re a gem! I’m going to try to do that now.
        No worries about the short response- I appreciate it either way and it’s early morning over here too!

        Hope you have a good day.

        • Also look for meetup groups in your area that do things you might be interested in. You might not find instant besties there but you will find people with similar interest to hang with and it gets you out of the house and gives you something else on which to focus your thoughts.

        • It ain’t me, hugs to you. You do not deserve what you got! Meetup groups and this group will help you. You go, girl!

            • I would suggest to look for meetups for women only -since you are so vulnerable at this time. Once you are emotionally stronger and are able to set boundaries for yourself then you could check out meetups that include men. I’m speaking from my own experience as a former sahm. I too – had no one. He took my Foo family and switzerland friends. Fortunately for me, I was able to file for divorce and get my own place. I followed all the steps in chump lady’s book and went totally no contact with him and all of the fake people he fooled. I saw a therapist who specializes in empowering women and met with her once a week. I called up old friends who I knew before the narc and reconnected with them. No contact and chump nation saved my sanity. It’s been almost 3 years and I’m not divorced yet. He’s still dragging it out and my lawyer is probably loving the extra expense. I’ll get there and you will too. Go to the forums when you need support. I spent many sleepless nights there gaining strength to carry on. Trust that they suck and go/stay no contact. Oh and make sure you read chump lady’s book and then reread it again and again. I have it on my kindle and I access it all the time. It helps.

      • I still can access private forum… creating email, all is set and then I’m being send back to the home page with no forum in sight… foggy brain

    • @ItAintMe— we can be your friends! For four years this has been my lifeline — CN gets “it!” There is a cheater playbook — it’s astonishing. Normies don’t get “it” and in some ways thank God they don’t— but I don’t have time to teach others that I was horribly abused so it’s best to come here where everyone understands and empathizes. The meet ups page here on the forum will connect you to other Chump Nation members IRL and we are all over the world literally.

      You are MIGHTY for filing and moving out- I’m in awe. I also love how you escaped without having children with this POS who will abuse them too- ask me how I know. Keep on with no contact and come on the forum here for support 24/7.

      • @MotherChumper99
        The sadist was trying to convince me to start trying for a baby in Feb 2019. He wanted matching tattoos and we almost bought property together! I’m so lucky – I dodged bullet after bullet (hello Matrix!)

        You are sooo kind. I have a feeling about how you know so much and my heart goes out to you. I want to learn from the experiences of others and I am LISTENING to every pearl of wisdom I can collect.

        Already signed up on the forum. Thank you so much!

      • Actually, I have been surprised at how many “normies” actually do seem to get it. A lot of people were dumbfounded by ex’s behavior and pissed at him for it. They will obviously get over it faster than we will and won’t want to keep hearing about it years later, but some do at least understand that what they did was wrong and that it was a painful experience for us. This was helpful to me in the early days after dday. Hearing the outrage from people who had no real reason to empathize was validating for me. I also got compliments from my family and ex’s for how well I was handling such a difficult and hurtful situation even as I personally felt I was falling apart. Most of that outrage and compassion from others has faded now two years out, but I also no longer need it so much. Different people have different experiences, however. I may have just gotten lucky.

        There was of course one woman I confided to who didn’t seem to be very sympathetic. It turns out I was confiding about Schmoopie 2.0 to Schmoopie 1.0. I was terribly embarrassed when I found out. So yeah, be careful who you talk to about your troubles. If your STBX has been screwing around you might well end up confiding in one of his sidepieces.

    • It Ain’t Me,

      “Me? Sitting the the parking lot of the grocery store for 30 mins to work up the nerve to ‘face people’, then walking around for an hour, leaving with nothing but foil and some creamer.” used to torment me too!

      I was so humiliated I was ashamed to go to the damn SUPERMARKET. I stopped walking my dogs!

      You will survive!

        • ItAintMe, the first time I went to the grocery store (three weeks ago) after he moved out was hard. There were two Sisus. One who was just so lost, she was having a rough go at everything. The other was the strong Sisu who’d take over when lost Sisu would get stuck. At the grocery store, I stood in front of the cheese section for at least five minutes trying to figure what to buy. People were coming and going, making their cheese purchases with ease while I just stood there not able to do the sale math, and confused with all the choices (I’ve purchased cheese many times before, but somehow, that ability was lost to me this day). Strong Sisu finally said, “Effing A! Just get two sliced Swiss, a block of pepper jack, a block of colby jack and two bags of shredded.” So, lost Sisu starting grabbing those. Then I went to the frozen section to get some easy grab lunches. “Meals for One” is what the sign said near the Lean Cuisines and I started crying. I cried my way up and down many aisles, no one asked me if I was ok. Strong Sisu had to make many appearances that day, but I got through it. I went to the grocery store yesterday, no sadness, no confusion, and I make sure to buy myself a bouquet of flowers each time I go : )

          Best of luck to you. I’ve been reading the book Psychopath Free and it’s put a lot of pieces in place.

          • Oh my goodness – I’m reaching out and hugging that Sisu.

            My therapist told me that it’s like akin to small child needing an adult to be strong and take command of the ‘adult’ things that need to happen, like buying food. That helped put things into perspective a bit.

            You perfectly captured what it was like! The bouquet of flowers, how beautiful.

            Thank you for the kind words – I’m going to look into that book!

            • …a small child needing an adult to be strong…YES! Lost Sisu was a mess getting dressed that morning until Strong Sisu said, “For the love of God, just put some clothes on! I don’t care what you look like. Let’s go!”

              I moved to the state I live in for my ex, so I don’t have any good friends in the area. That makes all of this harder.

              • I have Normal Moominmamma, rather than Strong, and she has been a godsend of a technique. Normal Moominmamma opens the mail, knows how much is in her bank account,answers emails, all without hyperventilating.Normal does what her lawyers advise her, without angsting.Listen to Strong Sisu, it works

      • Oh, god. And the Musak that would play ‘our’ songs.

        Walking past the Wife and Husband greeting cards. Stab in the heart.

        It gets better. It just takes time and the desire to love yourself.

        • Yes – that and the seeing couples together. Wahh!

          I feel like poo about myself, I want to feel better though. I’m going to keep plowing on even though this part sucks.

          Thank you!

      • I was crying in So many isles in my local supermarket it is almost funny… advice – freezer isle is the best… opening the freezes and “ cooling down” helps puffy face look normal….after few times of that embarrassing behavior I was horrified to go back….
        Crying in the car, on the way to pick up my kids – regularly … blaming red eyes on my new contact lenses- standard

    • I know the feeling, It Ain’t Me. After I kicked Two-Legged Rat to the curb (30-year marriage), my two sons and my lifetime friends chose him, and I was left in the most profound loneliness. My own extended family thought he was the victim. It was so bad that I considered suicide several times. But I survived, got my children back, made a few good friends and rebuilt a fulfilling life on my own.
      What I remember clearly from that horrible time is that I had no one to hug me, so I’m sending you a million hugs (((((((((())))))))). We’re here for you!

      • @Chumpiest
        I hate that you went through so much on your own, but it really does help to hear that it’s not just me. Yes, the absence of hugs is real. I just want a place to cry and be held. I’m accepting every one of those hugs you’re sending!

        Thank you!

    • Oh honey. It’s going to be ok! Eventually, I mean.
      Like Got-A-Brain just said, you have suffered a trauma and it’s going to affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s ok to not be ok. This type of thing shouldn’t have to be endured by any of us. And despite what cheaters and their supporters try to say, it IS A BIG DEAL.

      I am so glad you found this website. I am a year past signing divorce papers, and I still read here every day to save my own sanity. You will reach a point where slowly, minute by minute or day by day, you will start to feel better. The time between bouts of sobbing will get longer. The interest in new things, the clarity, and the thankfulness for being FREE will start to come. Slowly, but they will come.

      Hang in there, friend! You are strong! You are mighty! And you deserve better than that asshat.

      • Liz C.
        -You are very kind. Thank you for the thoughtful words.
        I’m actually feeling a lot better than I did when I left the house this morning. This place, full of people like you, is amazing. I really hope one day I can lift up others the way folks here have been propping me up.

        It’s beautiful.

    • I call that my dark time, in a dark place for sure. But you will get glimmers, little ones to keep you moving forward. I am a little over a year since the divorce was final. I still have crappy days, days where I wake up thinking about things he did and said, but I definitely have slot more better days. And I remember not being able to go to the grocery store, I was sure I could never listen to the radio again, every song hurt, almost physically. People with real hearts, not black holes filled with selfishness, actually take a long time to process what has happened.

      • You’re right – at least we’ve human enough to experience the full range of emotions, no matter how awful they feel.
        I feel you on the radio – I will be happy when I can shut off my brain enough to actually read again…I miss my books.

        What is it about these damn grocery stores? = )

        Thank you so much.

        • Make an effort to get back to your books. That will give you another thing to get your mind off things. My love of reading is another thing that helped me to get through difficult times. Reading a good book at night definitely helps me to sleep soundly.

          • Expanding on that, basically just doing anything you used to do that didn’t require fuckwit’s presence will help you to regain your sense of normalcy and remind you that you have a life outside of him and he doesn’t define you.

    • It Ain’t Me,
      First, I am so sorry about the horrible events that brought you here. The ones who screw hookers bring a special kind of mindfucking abuse for their victims/spouses. My second cheater was into specialist fetish prostitutes. All of their games, thousands of lies, etc. They live such screwed up secret second lives they could probably be spies. The emotional shit is hard, but right now, you have some very practical problems that need addressing. 1. Go get tested for all STI’s that it is possible to test for. Then get retested in three months because some of this stuff shows up later. DO NOT believe him if he swears he always used a condom. No he didn’t. He is a liar, remember. 2. Either hire a forensic accountant or become super sleuth financial checker yourself. Whores are VERY expensive and I guarantee that THOUSANDS of dollars of marital assets were dissipated in this way. 3. If you can get him to admit to using prostitutes in an email or text–great! If it is legal in your state for one party to record a conversation they are in, get his admission on tape. Check the state you are filing in to see if they are a fault or no fault state. Even if you are in a “no fault” state and they don’t consider the infidelity for grounds, they will consider the dissipation of marital assets and you are entitled to get that money back. Also, depending on where you are it may be considered for alimony. If he admits to being involved in illegal activities that put your life at risk that may be helpful to you. Also, he may have the kind of job that he would not like this info getting out. It can be leverage in getting a fair settlement or even just an ace in the whole to guarantee he goes “no contact” and stays no contact. Above all, you need to take action to protect yourself. Assume that everything he says is a lie, Assume he is continuing to lie to others about you. Gather your proof, sleuth out your finances. Never think, “oh he’d cheat–but he wouldn’t do that” because he will. He has no conscience and he does not love you. Take it in. Believe it. And treat him accordingly.

      • Thank you so much. I love your moxy!

        He swears he used protection, but he also swore to many other things and was lying to my face the whole time. He went down on them. I was like, what sort of pathetic pond scum PAYS to go down on somebody who is being dicked by masses?! Gaaaaag!

        In my state you need a 3rd party witness to prove adultery, even if he were to admit it himself. I had everything in text, but alas, no actual witness. At this point I just want the matter to be resolved so I can go my own way. I’m mentally over all of this. For some reason, the symbolism of being divorced is huge. I’m sure when it comes and goes I’ll be like, ‘that’s it?’ haha

        I went for my first checkup the instant I could be seen, I have my f/u in December. The look on my doctors face when I told her why I, a married woman, was there for a full battery of tests and a pelvic exam. Priceless.
        Thank you again – I hope to have a positive update for people soon!

        • 3rd party witness? That’s stupid. Maybe you can pay one of his whores to rat him out. But yeah, the most important thing is to just get out. Do you need a third party witness for the dissipation of funds aspect of hiring prostitutes?

        • Well, you may need it (witness) to prove adultery in court, but the police don’t need a witness to bring charges against illegal activity–and buying sex is an illegal activity in almost every state. Turn him in to the cops. A written confession might well be enough for them!

    • You are smart to realize that you aren’t in a good place to make friends . . . yet. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t ready to interact with people. Follow your instincts and sign-up for a MeetUp group. Don’t go looking for a friend, just go expecting a hike or whatever the activity is. Friendships will follow (albeit probably slower than you wish) simply because you develop the pattern of getting out and about.

      And pat yourself on the back for leaving the marriage before you invested too many months (or years) into it. A lot of us wish we’d had your backbone when we first suspected we’d made a bad choice.

      • Eilonwy

        Thank you! I’m going to check out some movie groups – I could really use dinner and a movie right now. What you say is true – I should just be trying to be around other people and do things – all the other stuff will come when it’s time.

        Many thanks!

        • If there is a divorced adults group in your area that could be helpful too for both the practical and emotional side of divorce. They won’t all have gone through adultery but some may have and they will still understand the pain of divorce in general.

          You might also look into getting a therapist who can help you to straighten out your jumbled thoughts and emotions. Just make sure it is one who understands that adultery is abusive and traumatic.

          • I have a great therapist – I was seeing her before all this blew up and it has been a huge help.

            I’m going to look into the divorced group as well – that’s a great suggestion!
            I know I’ve said it a bunch of times before, but I really do appreciate it!

    • A counselor told me that she has to remove children from horrible abusive families every week. And she said most of those children beg to be allowed to return home. They long for the familiar. Even when the familiar is abuse and neglect.

      Meet up groups are great, esp. the ones for women only.

      I filled up many journals after I left, just writing thoughts. I coloured in adult colouring books! They are great to lose yourself in. I downloaded mediation sessions from You tube. Took long walks. Read a lot of books on starting over. Hugs to you. It’s gets easier.

      • I have an active coloring book and some nice pencils that I haven’t even touched. I am 100% going to dig it out from whatever cobwebbed corner it’s hiding in.

        I’m accepting those hugs. Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Love is what kept me stuck for a very long time. I mourn those lost years but do my best to live my cheater free life. His love was an illusion and he used my love to abuse me every way possible. It left me devastated and almost empty. I had a long road back in filling myself up and loving myself. It’s not perfect.. I still get triggered and still have self esteem issues left over from my narcissistic mother and sociopathic husband of 36 years but I keep working on it. I love my children every moment of every day and am grateful for them.

  • I commented on some FB video that was toughting the unconditional love crap. The guy apparently studied most of his life to be a monk. I can’t believe the hundreds of people who were all on board with his ideas. Anyway, it was basically saying that if you really loved someone unconditionally, and they told you they found love elsewhere, you would be happy for them. You would embrace their choice and be happy that they were fulfilled. Really loving someone means doing so at your own expense. I think this idea of sacrificing yourself for love comes from the misinterpretation of religious teaching. Of course love comes with some sacrifices, ie. you can’t just pick up and tell your spouse you are moving the family to Siberia on a Saturday morning because you feel like it. Loving someone else requires sacrifing selfishness. The problem is, there are people who operate by selfishness. It’s the age old problem of behavior vs. response. This idea of unconditional love basically teaches the behavior doesn’t matter, but your response to it does (if you are loving someone the “right way”). It’s this concept of enlightenment being the absence of self-interest, complete sacrifice, and pure love without hurt. Esther Perel anyone? My religious cheater loved using bible teachings to ridicule my response to his behavior. My response was the measure that “I” wasn’t Christian like enough.

    Notice how that concept puts the responsibility on the person responding to the behavior? All the accountability for “loving unconditionally” falls on one person. It took me years and years to realize responding to selfishness with unconditional love didn’t work. Oh, and add to that that the fact that I wanted anything in return from my love was an indication of how I was failing to reach my “higher self” and meant I was selfish. The failure to have love returned must be an indication that I was doing it wrong.

    The cure for my constant failure to have a loving relationship wasn’t in how I was responding, it was in what I was expecting (another concept that can be twisted, but I won’t get into that rant). The cure to my failure at love was pretty simple… reciprocity and self-respect.

    • Got A Brain,

      Google “Buddha Idiot Compassion” for the antidote to this!

      Buddha does not advocate that we stand under the window if someone is dumping garbage onto us.

      • I unconditionally love my children and my parents although I will not tolerate bad behavior from any of them because of that love.

        On the other hand, my ex and I made vows to each other on our wedding day, making our love for each other conditional upon those vows being kept. They weren’t and he will never be welcome in my life again, even if he expressed remorse (which I seriously wouldn’t believe anyway).

    • G-A-B,

      I also saw that BS Facebook video about unconditionally loving the person who had left “because if you really truely loved them you would be so happy for them and their newfound happiness”.

      How about if you had committed to me and hadn’t left the door open for others then you would be showing me true love and respect and from that, happiness is BUILT? How about that? And no, I’m not “happy for you”, you cheating abandoning spouse.

      Sadly, it was only me and one other guy who was calling out the absolute absurdity of the whole thing.

      • I got that from Marriage Therapist….If you truly loved him you would want him happy. I have no idea what to do with that. That negates all the harm. He said he loved me. Did he want to see me happy?

    • This is kind of what the older women in my family pushed on me when I turned to them for support and advice. All of it was based on love being sacrifice. “If you really loved him you wouldn’t be thinking about bailing out because things got tough”. “True love sticks it out and works through the hard times”. “Real love means being able to forgive”.

      I thought it was all toxic and eventually rejected it and dumped him. Which to them means that I’m immature and selfish. Demanding honesty and fidelity apparently is fine as long as you don’t enforce it with consequences. There’s no “grace” in standing up for yourself in their minds. That’s what cold and emotionally rigid people do.

  • I had to make myself unlove Cold Slab O’Meat, and accept what he either had become or always was underneath the majority of our relationship.

    It was hard, because I wasn’t just letting go of his physical self. I was letting go of my entire perception of how he rest of my life would go, and that was devastating. I have abandonment issues and it ripped me to shreds to lose the little family we’d built together while he happily bopped along shredding and refashioning two more and raising an infidelity baby with an AP that all bystanders agreed was a mortifying down grade.

    The only solace I get is that his bid for ‘more friends’ which I never denied him and ‘freedom and peace and quiet’ I never took from him both resulted in him raising a toddler in his 50’s and being skint all the time just as his own health begins to crater.

    I’m mostly okay, but still rebuilding and afraid to take the leap from stoic endurance to really chasing my own happiness. I can smell to the moment when a prospective partner or friend tosses up a red flag or an indication they aren’t that into me. That’s hard knowledge to have.

    But it’s reality. One of the things that will always remind me that CSO’M never really loved me: the week of D-Day I pinned up some photos of myself and the kids on a bulletin board. A sort of ‘Reasons to Keep Going’ Thing. And he casually asked, pointing, ‘Who is that?’ About a kindergarten photo of ME. I realized in years supposed madly in love, he had never once asked to see childhood photos of me. He has slept next to someone for three years he couldn’t identify in a school photo!

    Who does that? A sociopath, that’s who! I had begged for and cooed over family photos of him. But partners were so interchangeable to him he couldn’t identify one aside from their current mode of appliance.

    Find you somebody who knows your kindergarten picture, or be healthy and single and sane.

    • Come to think of it, Luz, I knew what sparkledick looked like as a baby, toddler, boy. Had framed pictures of him and his siblings at these stages for our sons to see. Sparkles wasn’t interested in my pictures. Never asked any questions.

      One day (and I now know that on that day he was cheating at 100 mph) sparkledick carried every single photo album to the dining table and took every picture out and put them in boxes, all in complete disorder. I thought it was the strangest thing. His excuse was “I’m going to organize them better”. Which of course never happened.

      Ironically, my ex-MIL treated me as custodian of the family pictures, so now I have a trash bag full of them, stored next to cans of paint, the bag gets a beating by the afternoon sun. And taking up space. I am pondering over what to do. I feel cruel by letting them rot if I give the bag to the garbage man; to my sons it’s100% sure they will forget the bag somewhere or complain that they don’t have space and send it to their father; give it to sparkles, but I am 100% NC.

      • ClearWaters, my ex’s parents divorced when he was 2 and his dad died when ex was 10 so there are very few pictures that include his dad still around. When I came across some of the only surviving pictures of his dad from ex’s childhood, I had a huge dilemma. I’ve always been the family archivist/genealogist and ex hated all that stuff with a passion – wouldn’t let me talk about it in front of him even if it was about HIS family. Since there were so few pictures left of his dad I finally decided to scan them and keep digital copies so that my kids (who have almost no contact with their dad) could see them someday if they’re interested. I also added names to all the digital copies so they would know who was who in the group photos. Then I sent the originals back to ex. If he appreciates them or not, is up to him but my genealogist’s conscience is clear. 😀 If I had a trash bag full of pictures? Um… I probably pull out any that I thought might have value to my kids someday, scan them and then trash the whole lot of them. It’s a lot easier to store digital copies than it is the originals that no one seems interested in.

        • Thanks Beth, good idea!

          Too bad we can’t get away with telling our children we are parthenogenetic.

          I’m going with ‘pulling out any that might have value to my kids someday (and some for the few nieces and nephews who are really good to me), scan and then trash the whole lot of them

  • For us ladies(men) who were married 34 years or more
    we did Love. We thought we were past wondering if our marriage wouldn’t last. For decades of family, home, relatives & love we were accepting this is what our life will be until death do us part.
    Unfortunately it was all an illusion. I loved.. he didn’t..
    I’m angry at myself for ignoring the red flags while he was with the Owhore because I was terrified of losing him. But eventually the betrayal was in my face & I couldn’t ignore that. I felt pain that was so severe that I had to fight for my life. My breast cancer battle years before was tough but this was different. My heart felt
    shattered.. but again I knew I had to let him go as much as I loved him. I quess I’ll always love the man I thought he was. Not the evil sociopath who tried to kill me. 👿
    It doesn’t matter how long anyone was married & then cheated on. The pain is enough to love ourselves more.
    Bless all of us here at CN ❤️👍🏻

  • This is the lesson I learned (eventually), from being married to a smart, sexy, loving and adorable man, in my 20s. Who was also a big-time alcoholic.

    I stayed until the love died. That caused us both so much misery. The last 3 years of that 10 year relationship were one long soap opera. Believe me, living in a soap opera is not fun, glamorous, or romantic. And I knew, long before the end, how it was going to end. Still couldn’t get myself out because … love.

    BTW, although it’s not applicable to most cheaters, the reverse is also true. The fact you love this messed-up person doesn’t mean you should stay. But the fact they also really do love you also doesn’t mean you should stay, or keep trying. Not once it becomes clear that whatever their problem is, it’s causing them to treat you badly, and it’s not going away easily.

    At least I did learn from that. When Affair #2 rolled around, I kicked Cheater Narc out, despite loving him. I knew my head had to rule, and my heart would follow. It did. Took a lot of time and tears, but my heart caught up.

  • I quipped on Friday that I used so much spackle, I’m surprised the X could even walk. Count me in the camp that arrogantly, naively, stupidly (insert your adjective of choice) believed that my love would be enough to hold us together. It wasn’t and it was never going be enough. Eventually, my energy ran out. I had no kibbles to offer and he decided to leave rather than be a support to me.

    Eventually, that spackle started to crack. I had two choices – spackle back over the crack and hope that it holds for months down the road or put down the brush and the spackle fall where it may. I know I did both but toward the end, I couldn’t even lift my arm. It’s taken me a few months (and probably a few more) to accept that all the spackling in the world won’t be enough to cover up his ugliness.

    I’m coming to terms with the fact that I spent the last 20 years with someone that never completely loved me, that used me to his advantage, that was willing to let me lose myself in order to keep serving him cake. That’s not a good person – he never was and he never will be.

  • If you love the person, then you shouldn’t complain. Love means you accept them as they are. So whoever you love, you should NOT complain about and try to be happy anyway. Anything else is wasting everyone’s time with your complaints. A bit harsh, but I’m tired of listening people whine, use me as a therapist, only to stay in a toxic situation. If you love him, then you can tolerate the toxicity. No need to dump your toxic sludge on me so you can feel better.

    • That attitude, Kellia, is a great way to encourage people to stay in crap relationships. They need to understand that they can love their partner, and STILL need to leave them, forever. It can be super frustrating when people complain, the relationship is clearly toxic, but they stay anyway. And we’re not obliged to lend a sympathetic ear beyond our capacity.

      And I bet people don’t whine to you twice; sounds like you’re pretty judgemental about their difficulties.

        • Yes, I agree.. sometimes hearing it out loud helps..
          Love doesn’t mean that we will sacrifice ourselves, because we came across an asshole.
          Love is good. Cheating etc is not

          I had no idea about the extracurricular activities my husband was involved in… I would have never ever married him, knowing what I know now.

          The problem is – he was a great liar, he gaslighted me( and everyone around) with such a mastery, that I still shaking my head thinking about it…

          I would never advise anyone “ your relationship is toxic but u say u love that person, so take it as it is and don’t complain”

    • Kellia – if you are sick of feeling that people are using you as a therapist, look at your boundaries and do some work on them. This may actually be about you allowing yourself to be chumped again.

      The other thing is that yes, people often don’t take our advice. If you read ‘Why Does He Do That?’, there is a section on how to help a person who is trying to leave an abusive relationship. It outlines the need for a lot of patience, because some people really spin their wheels.

      You don’t have to be involved in anyone’s process, unless you have volunteered for that job.

    • Kellia.
      I think your thinking is wrong.. especially on this site.
      If you love a husband who continually cheats on you your suppose to not whine? Just “tolerate “ it ?
      Whining is a cold word to use here. Love them anyway?? We’re hear to learn to love ourselves & gain self respect.
      You sound bitter yourself. You’re giving people reasons to stay with toxic cheating spouses.

  • Yes, I spackled over verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical abuse. Married 23 years, with him 24.

    Loving him kept me stuck, amid temper tantrums, horrendous verbal abuse, etc. Plus to be honest, sunk costs.

    When I found out he was being unfaithful it was the last straw, the deal breaker. So in a way, I’m glad I found out, it was the catalyst that kicked me in the arse, and said, no, just no. I will not accept this.

    By the way, what does King’s X mean ?

    • I understood it as King’s X woud be his signature, so, “by royal decree,” not arguable and to question it is treason…

    • I put up with a lot of crap too… triangulation with his ex-wife and others, financial abuse, emotional abuse, his laziness, etc. I knew it wasn’t a good relationship 8 years down the road, HELL, 2 years down the road, if I’m truly honest with myself. But like you, it took the discovery of an affair to kick him to the curb. He did me a huge favor, because now I’m free.

  • Occasionally I will still jump on a well-known (around these parts) pro-reconciliation site.

    My visits are infrequent because I am often scolded. Typically, I get scolded for the same two reasons.
    First, I always ask those folks who say they will never trust their partners again, why the hell they stay. Seriously, you want to remain in a relationship with someone you will doubt for the rest of your life?? Boy, people get so pissed when I ask this!!

    But when I really unleash their collective wrath is when they wrap up their agony in “I love him/her so much”. My response is always – what are they doing that is even remotely lovable? What behavior are they exhibiting that is deserving of your valuable love?

    I was married 25 years to a man I adored. But when I learned the truth about his multiyear affair – just like our sweet Luz – I had to unlove him. Nothing in his actions was lovable so it was my only option. It took great resolve because loving him was so natural but with great deliberation I was able to stop. It was what opened the door into my new and lovely life.

    • “My response is always – what are they doing that is even remotely lovable? What behavior are they exhibiting that is deserving of your valuable love?”

      This was really helpful to read this morning. I don’t get pangs of “But I love him!” too often anymore, but when I do, I will refer back to this.

      To be honest, I am hard pressed to remember what was lovable in the years leading up to cheating. Comfortable? Acceptable? Tolerable? Sure. But lovable? Eh.

    • This is awesome. The same thought occurred to me, when crying into my pillow one night. What characteristics does ex narcopath have that I admire? What is loveable about him?

      I could not think of ONE thing.

      Why did I believe I loved him? Because he paid enormous amounts of attention to me (in the beginning) and our chemistry was dynamite.

      Was he a good partner? No.
      Was he a good father and stepfather? No.
      Was he a good employee? Nope.
      ….good son? No.
      ….good pet owner? No

      I could not think of one genuinely kind, GOOD thing about him.

      A coworker asked me a few weeks ago, “if there is nothing to love about him, why did you date him?”

      My answer: he was very, very charming and paid attention to me. Then used sex to make me feel good. Until he used sex as a weapon and turned the charm on other women. Oh, how I settled.

  • Nailed it….it’s not impossible to love from a distance , but keep the distance . It’s not impossible to continue to care , but the cheater will only use it to try to keep you hanging . Better to just pity them , they knew what they were doing and they didn’t care. Perhaps by denying a cheater a second chance , they will find appreciation for what they had and move on with a life lesson hard learned . Your actions possibly made them a better person and that , my friend , is what love really is.

  • We chumps love. We have compassion. We can empathize in spades. It is what we DO. Which leaves us vulnerable to narcissists who simply love the adoration. Until our adoration just isn’t enough, or becomes boring, or they want to see if they are still “adorable” to other people. Oh, just “data-collecting”.

  • Love spackle-I has some great (not) mentors for this as a young woman. Thanks Disney. I mean come on, isn’t Patriarchy a corporate sponsor of spackle?
    Example: Love means the other person will keep us emotionally safe, right?
    Not exactly, Chumptastic. Enforcing my healthy emotional boundaries keeps me safe. Not their “annotated” (mindfucked) version, mine.
    Some walls have layers of old spackle that runs too deep. Maybe we knew about it. Maybe that fresh coat of paint kept it all hidden. Regardless, it’s okay to demo and start again.
    That’s a definition of love- that I am proud to show my daughter, and everyone else.

  • I thought that showing my X what REAL Christian character looked like would somehow reach his conscience. Nope. He knew the Bible inside out and taught weekly Bible study groups for years in our home. All of this was just his design to keep myself and everyone else “in line” while he went around doing whatever he please behind the scenes.

    This chiseled away at my love for him…once his mask started slipping and his character defects started being discovered during the first year of marriage, the love and esteem that I once had for him started disappearing systematically until there was nothing but contempt left. Meanwhile, I started forging a plan to escape because part of his lowlife character was that he spent money so fast that it put us into Bankruptcy. So I opened my own business in my adult son’s name, squirrels away money, and nurtured that business until I could afford to live on my own AND to buy him out of our house. By then, I could not stand the sight of him, but somehow managed to play “nice” all the way to the bitter end. I viewed him as the spiritual enemy combatant that he was, and kept my cards very close to my chest. This took TEN YEARS out of a total of 11yr marriage to implement…but implement it I did.

    When he finally left (after I caught him with a live OW rather than “just porn”), I felt as if a Spring rain had swept through my house and life. Not a tear shed…not a prayer for his return. Total ghosting on both of our parts sure helped too. I got rid of every trace of him…from pictures, to his choices of household furnishings. This was the final icing on MY cake. We are both in our mid sixties…I will never again be fooled again because the rest of my life will be spent being free from thinking that I HAVE to be part of a couple to be happy/fulfilled. I already am…so why rock the boat and take a chance of dealing with another sneaky loser/liar/thief/whore who comes off disguised as a Christian.

  • And how about the kids? How many chumps stay to keep their family intact because they love the kids?

    It wasn’t until I had gone no contact and my head cleared before I realized staying in those conditions wasn’t helping the kids. It was modeling dysfunction and lack of boundaries.

    • This exactly. Staying for the kids is not good for the kids or yourself. I regret staying after x rejected our son as an infant. Son was 23 by the time I left–too many years of his father treating him like the reject. I am having a hard time forgiving myself for that. I put the blinders firmly in place for YEARS. I love my kids the best I can but both carry scars from that life, my daughter displays some narcissistic character traits–fleas is all I hope, as she is also empathic. Regular exposure to her dad doesn’t help but I have to bite my tongue as she is an adult. Son has little to do with his dad, rightly so….

      • that should say by the time he left–maybe a freudian slip since I had already left in my heart, but he did the actual leaving.

  • Chumped but Good has a post on the forum about how puppies are a lot of work–but when you go home in tears after a tough day, a puppy will lick your tears. My cats will cuddle up with me or just “hang out” and stay close. We don’t think twice about that; we know that’s how our pets show love for us.

    Meanwhile, someone like my STBX can see me scrubbing a floor on my hands and knees and simply step over me, saying nothing, as if I were no more than an object on the floor. It doesn’t matter if a partner is a cheater or an addict, a domestic abuser, or all three—if there isn’t reciprocity, emotional connection, a level playing field of effort, leave. Just leave. If you love your spouse and that spouse gets their act together and shows, over time, by word or deed, you can start dating again to see if something can be salvaged. But meanwhile, you can begin to fix your picker, raise your standards and take care of yourself, you kids, your pets.

  • The other side of the coin is that you believe that THEY love you !!
    Before Dday I thought that my Ex was messed up due to FOO issues but deep down really loved me and I thought that I loved her.

    After Dday I realized that she is a narcisstic sociopath who abused me for years and is incapable of love.
    My “love” for her ?? I was honestly relieved once the divorce was final and I have never missed her once.
    Years later after all of that I met my true love of my life who is my partner and I know what real love is. What I had (and all of those living with a disordered spouse) with my Ex wasn’t love rather it was an Abuser- Enabler relationship !!

    • I would often look at other couples and wonder why they always seemed at ease with each. It’s an ease between two people who love each, who trust each other, who support one another. The X and I didn’t have that. Yes, we had good times and lots of happy memories but that peace that comes with knowing that your spouse has your back 100% was missing.

      Right after the X filed, I kept saying that he loved me. I could feel it and see it in his eyes. Now, I’m not so sure. Knowing how self-centered and selfish he, along with seeing sides of his cruelty, makes me wonder how much love he had for me.

      It’s been a very slow walk to realizing that what he is doesn’t really matter other than looking at how I might heal from all this. When I look back at all that he never did for me, it’s getting easier to accept that he never had back, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that he really did.

  • Very timely post for me, Chump Lady, but not because of a cheater or a partner relationship. What you wrote applies to virtually ANY close adult relationships we have. In my case, I have been struggling with the platonic friendship of a man I have known since high school. The friendship has become very unbalanced with me always being there for him but the reverse not being true. Even after I told him he has been treating my friendship with carelessness and a growing level is disrespect, nothing has changed. Mainly because he chose not to read the email where I spelled it out for him. Therein lies the problem. It’s time (probably past time) for me to, as you said, detach with love. For a former chump like me, it can be difficult even now to assert my worthiness to be treated with respect and appreciation. But if I can’t do it within the context of a friendship, how will I learn to do it within the context of a partner relationship? I need to start applying all the good lessons I’ve learned here to all my relationships.

    • THIS ^^^^^^^^

      Disprespect feels comfortable and familiar to us.

      Assertion feels wrong, or bad, or unfeminine, or unChristian.

      How deep is the conditioning …

  • I think this is one of your best posts yet, CL. Beautifully written. I was a total spackler. I was using gallons of it on my then-husband and my doormat personality every day. It’s liberating to not have to give excuses, both to myself and to other people, for my ex’s selfish behavior.

    By the way, my hot chocolate and coffee both taste so much better in my Spackle-Free Zone mug. 😉

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

    I needed to see this today, as we had our first contact with the divorce mediator. I was worried that I would lose my shit and cry uncontrollably, but I read this all first thing in the morning and it just reinforced that by loving him unconditionally he felt that he could treat me like a wife appliance. He doesn’t deserve me or my love, and I think I’m close to finally letting go of the the husband I thought I had. If he loved me he wouldn’t do this twice, the first time 12 years ago when I was pregnant and now again when our daughter is having problems. I took him back all those years ago because I loved him. I will never love a partner unconditionally again. Tough lesson to learn, but I’ve learned it. I will love again, fiercely, but I value myself so much more now.

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

    Well said.

    //What if your cheater breaks the contract? Are we obligated to stay beholden to the terms of a broken contract?//

    I will admit that the gist of these two questions is the sticking point for me. The advice here is compelling and empowering,…it resonates with me. Why pine away after someone who gutted you? It can’t be more in-your-face than that. With all due respect however, being a pk, you know marriage isn’t a contract. The questions wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny by the UBT. Marriage is a covenant, confirmed by an oath and ratified by a ceremony. None of us made an oath that included “I’ll keep my vows if she keeps hers.” What the other spouse does, or doesn’t do, doesn’t change the vow we made. Today’s insight is helpful. Thank you.

    • Well then they broke the covenant. What’s a covenant, other than a promise? They broke the promise to you that they’d be faithful. Once that promise is broken, there is nothing holding the other party to the covenant at that point. Staying with someone after they’ve broken that promise just sets you up for abuse. It’s toxically one sided.

      And no, I suppose that what one person does shouldn’t change your vows, but I was married in the Catholic Church and nowhere in my vows did I promise to stay through abuse. Good times and bad is a rather broad definition to include abuse, don’t you think?. I honored my vows to stay faithful, and remain during sickness, health, good and bad times. I would argue that any other chump that divorced honored their vows as well.

      • //Well then they broke the covenant.//
        A covenant ends with the death of one of the parties to the covenant. One doesn’t need die to end a contract. A covenant can certainly be violated, but doesn’t end with a violation. The cheater (abuser, thief, etc) violated the covenant by not keeping the various parts of the oath they made. With regard to cheating, for instance, they said “forsaking all others until death parts us.” Our vows (oath) to them was that we would “love and honor them for better or worse, in sickness and in health,” etc. As noted, ours didn’t include “if they keep their part.” What they did or didn’t do doesn’t change what we vowed to do. This thread’s title refers to that type of vowed love as The “all-purpose-spackle.”

        //nowhere in my vows did I promise to stay through abuse.//
        And, No, one shouldn’t stay in a home where there is abuse (or cheating, stealing, lying, etc.).

        //I would argue that any other chump that divorced honored their vows as well.//
        That is fair to argue. A divorce may be deemed by an attorney and a judge as a severing of the marriage as recognized by the state. However, it doesn’t end the bond of a covenant marriage. A covenant marriage mixes two colors of paint together to form a new color. A judge has neither the capacity, nor the authority, to unmix the paint into its original colors.

        • After D-day 1, I went to see a lawyer. I’ll never forget what he asked me: “what are you going to do when it happens again?” That question didn’t convince me to end the marriage, but it did motivate me to get my cheating husband to sign a post-nup, “just in case.” We worked with a marriage counselor, to explore the reasons why he had the affair, I pick-me danced, and his psychologist even had him undergo an MRI to see if an old head injury had triggered this out-of-character behavior. I forgave eventually and we moved on. I thought we had learned from our mistakes and had a stronger relationship for it. The next dday was 3 years later, and that post-nup was a life-saver for me. I was just as stunned by his shocking behavior as the first time, but it didn’t cripple me like before. I already had a legal roadmap in place to separate from him, and I knew that all of my assets were protected, so I didn’t have to pile uncertainties and fear and the need to negotiate a settlement, on top of the grief and horror of being betrayed again. I realize now he was probably cheating all along, but I’ll never know and I don’t bother to investigate. I realize now I shouldn’t have given our marriage a second chance, because this is not a real human being I was dealing with, it was a pathetic monster. I am very lucky he didn’t give me any STDs. Just remember, when you’re making decisions about your marriage to someone who has betrayed you, it’s “when,” not “if” they’re going to blow up the marriage again.

          • Hi Gp. I just want to acknowledge your kindness by sharing your story, and let you know I appreciate your insights. I don’t disagree with your assessment. I am in agreement with the topic of this thread…if one is going to continue to love as one has vowed to love, learn to do it from a distance, and for the very reason you stated.

  • I have learnt more about love in the past 10 years than I ever did in the preceding decades.

    I discovered that pretty much everything I believed was wrong, and that real love – the solid, enduring, most nourishing and sustaining variety – had zip to do with romance or even feelings.

    Real love is actions, and it’s a way of living. It’s both generous and sustainable, because it can release an unloving or abusive person and move past them. It gets bigger and happier, not more painful. Pain is not a measure of love.

    And it’s everywhere. You can love very widely and very well without ever taking your clothes off. You just have to find your tribe, which may be a very mixed crowd. And know your worth, so that you can move past the vampires.

    Yes,it takes time – and false starts. But plenty of Chumps here have done it, and are doing it.

    • Yes Lola! Real love is generous. That’s the lesson right there. Love needs to be generous in order to be genuine. Thank you for that wise thought.

    • Karen, if you are asking about my comment (which you may not be?! 🙂 )

      Real love, not co-dependence, or spackle, or being a doormat. There’s a huge amount of real love out there for the taking, but you have to de-clutter your mind of all the other junk in there that’s clogging up your understanding of love.

  • The infidelity forums are what opened my eyes to reality. When my ex kept walking out on our marriage. I was filled with so much hope from all these “great” books and authors who can show you how to save your marriage. But when I jumped on their forums, it was one dark story after another. There were hardly, if any stories of marriages being rebuilt. At first I thought maybe members of the forums didn’t come back after they saved their marriages. But then I realized that infidelity is one of the top most painful experiences you could ever have in life. If these people’s marriages were saved. Just like amazon reviews, these people would come back and post their testimonials on how the program saved them….the fact that these testimonials don’t exists…speaks volumes on the reality of infidelity…..my love and prayers are with all the chumps out there. Hold tight, life does get better!

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