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Dear Chump Lady, “I still wish I could call him”

Hey CN,

I’m up super early to VOTE today. I hope you are too! (You better be, or I’m going to come throttle you. VOTE!!!!!) I don’t know if we share political views — and let’s keep it that way, shall we? — but I do know that democracies don’t work unless we USE them. (Sort of like that ab cruncher left in the basement… Do you want a flabby democracy?)

We live in some batshit crazy divisive times and I just want to say this about politics — the two people who hurt me most in this world (my exes) vote the same way I do. And several sterling people, one of whom thinks fluorinated water is a conspiracy and Obama is a socialist, were there for me in my worst days.

You might hate my politics, but I bet this place has helped you. And I’ve helped you. So hey, not all Sneetches are bad. What matters is being good stewards, paying it forward for the next generation, and exercising our voting rights. People died for them, like, literally chained themselves to stuff, so you could vote. So yes, I’m guilting you. GET OUT THERE. IN THE RAIN. PUT ON A JACKET. DO IT. VOTE TODAY.

Now then, a return to our regularly scheduled programming. A rerun on the important message to Never Call Your Ex.




Dear Chump Lady,

I have been living and following my resolution for three months now — “Chump no more.”

You have shown me the light, enabled me to make the changes that I needed to make, and move forward in a healthy and confident way. I have attracted some terrific people, a new job, and for the first time in two years I really feel great!

But, I still suffer occasional lapses of “if onlys” or “shoulda, couldas.”

When I was offered that new job…who did I want to call? It still brings tears to my eyes to think about that.

So lay it on me.  I need to shake this last nut out of my tree.

Dumped at 57 after 33 years of marriage

Dear Dumped,

Why are you writing to me? You’ve got this new life thing nailed. Terrific people, a new job, feeling great.

So your only problem is after something wonderful happens you want to call your ex? You’ve got Phantom Spouse Syndrome.

You know, like a phantom limb. Even though it’s not there, your brain thinks it’s there and you sometimes feel the pain of the absent limb. Not surprising after 33 years of marriage. It’s sort of like an emotional hallucination, except the pain is very real.

Writing this just got me googling about phantom limb pain, which is pretty interesting reading. One of the theories is that our bodies are made up of a “neuromatrix” and when an amputation occurs, the brain has to substantially reorganize itself. (Even more interesting is some emerging evidence that our brains are “hard-wired” to assume we have fully formed appendages. For example, a person born with four fingers who loses that hand will have phantom pain in five fingers.)

I think something similar occurs in our brains when we amputate a spouse. It takes awhile for our brains to reorganize. The coulda, woulda, shouldas are just you chewing over the problem, rewiring that brain, processing the injury.

One reason chumps get stuck on second guessing is we think at some level we could have controlled this outcome. It’s frightening to realize that we’re vulnerable. That someone could just run their own life, and our lives, off the rails. We replay it over and over checking for loopholes, for some evidence that it was our fault or we missed a spot, or if our ex had been busy that Wednesday he or she would never have met the affair partner.

There are infinite possibilities in the realm of woulda-coulda-shoulda, but those possibilities don’t change the reality — this person is gone from your life. That’s your reality and you have to deal with it. Process the injury by accepting it.

Here’s the thing about losing limbs — they can’t be replaced. You lose an arm, you can’t grow a new arm. Lose a cheating fuckwit? You can replace a cheating fuckwit with another cheating fuckwit (please don’t) — but you can also replace a cheater with something much better — a bionic new life.

In the place of that loss, you can grown a new life. It doesn’t have to be another spouse, it can be new friends, old friends, family, a loving tribe, a faithful Australian shepherd puppy. Frankly, a bag of rocks would be better company than a cheating fuckwit. In any case, the centrality of losing a fuckwit becomes peripheral in time.

My prognosis is that as you experience that new life, it will eclipse the old life, and you’ll grind away on the “whys” less and less. The new life will BE your life. You’re only three months in. I think you’ve got a ways to go, but stick with the awesomeness.


Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself sweetie. You are adjusting. Feelings and what you thought were a way of life don’t just disappear into thin air overnight. Over 30 years is a very long time and you are in the process of making a new life for yourself. It takes time honey. There is no magic bullet. Be sure to lean and share with your friends and family support system and here! Much support here. Chime in here on the threads and interact. Many people are here for you. You make plans right now to go out and celebrate your new job. Make sure you also have a great lawyer and get what you are entitled too.

    • It’s a habit to think about sharing with Exfuckwit. You do lose the habit. One day something good will happen and you won’t even think of them.

      My weirdest share-with-fuckwit habit moment came a year ago when after a blind date I wondered what fuckwit would think and say about the guy. Then I realized what I was doing. Me, myself and I had a good laugh.

      A 33 year habit is not an insignificant one to break.


    • GR, you are so compassionate always. I had an epiphany about the abuse triangle model. I agree everyone switches roles (forced maybe) but the real victim is the abuser, because the abuser makes victims of everybody including themselves. It is best to get mighty and build a new life abuser free cheater free a****** free b**** free whatever kind of free but free.

  • When you have an event in your life you want to share with a loved one call a family member, call a dear friend, call ghostbusters. That loser lost the privilege of knowing anything about your life. Fuck him and carry on.

  • Be kind to yourself, it is totally ok the wave of emotions, unfortunately you won’t gain anything contacting him you will only get hurt more.
    Go out with friends, write down your feelings, go to therapy, travel, do whatever you want but NO contact, eventually you will know why is best this way… don’t expect an apology neither, justblet it go, time will help you to heal.

    • Get busy in that new, wonderful, amazing life you are making.
      Trust me folks, if you keep getting out there, meeting new people and having a good time, the eclipse will happen!
      Keep moving forward everyone!

  • Dear Dumped, totally understand the feeling. Do you have a Trust The Suck list? I routenily feel like contacting my cheater but when I do (hello, every night) I go back to my list and concentrate really hard on all the crappy stuff he used to make me endure.

  • I get it. Our Daughter turns 18 tomorrow and I started wondering if the Ex (who beat her so we fled) would try to be in touch or send a surprise gift through channels (no contact). It was flimflam wishful thinking that he would acknowledge how awesome she turned out, but it’s not going to happen so I am working through those “we made this human, how is it that you want no part?!” schpeil.
    But the phone stays in my handbag today so that I am not as tempted to be stupid.
    He will not come close, his family who i tried to keep in touch with and who mocked me repeatedly for trying to stay in touch for the child’s sake (even though they are University Professors and such) will highly likely ignore the day and I am left with choosing joy of being in Missy’s life over grief of losing them.
    I choose joy, every poxy time.
    They can shove their puckered faces where the sun don’t shine.
    Upshot, I and you, have to be strong, realise that what we thought we had we didn’t actually have, and turn to our tribe and to ourselves to fill that gap.

    • I love this phrase, “flimflam wishful thinking”! It so perfectly captures my own tendency to ascribe rational worth to thoughts I have that are covers for something else. The concept of “Flimflam wishful thinking” reminds me of “sub-text” (what lies underneath what’s actually spoken) but what you’ve captured is that “sub-text of what’s felt or thought.” I’ll be using that phrase on myself, that’s for sure.

      • You’re right…. during chumpdom we miss the sub-text thinking what we see is what’s happening. That helps me a great deal today, thank you. x

    • YOU are the mighty mom, Cheryl. Model the behavior you would want from your daughter if she were in your shoes. Model mightiness. Show her that she doesn’t have time for people who won’t make time for her (even if she is biologically related).

      And take her someplace great for her 18th birthday.

      • Thanks so much for your encouraging words…. she is delighted with the bounty of gifts received today from loved ones in her life and has skipped off to school with no backward glance with cake and bacon sandwiches in her backpack, as is tradition 🙂 It’s a good day. x

      • I would not want her to waste a minute of her beautiful life on a Toad, so I shall model that mighty behaviour today. Thank you. x

  • He used to call me at certain points in the day. It was “our routine”. The early post D-day months, I really struggled with those empty places. It’s remarkable how differently I see those routines now-100% worth it to hold tight on the NC.
    Emotional detox-we got this.

    • Mine, too. I was trained like a dog awaiting a pat on the head (in the form of texts or phone calls) during all his breaks at work. And whenever he was bored. And if he was pooping. How he got any work done was a mystery….

      Anyways, I remember the anticipation of him coming home from work, and after the breakup, that was always the toughest time. The rest I could soldier through, but 430 was rough. After the breakup, I would have the kids settled with an activity, and I would be in the kitchen with the radio on, cooking dinner. The time would arrive and I would be doubled over, holding on to the counter, feeling like a punch in the chest, tears streaming down my face. It was awful. The minute I heard the kids stirring, dried my tears, suck it up and move forward. I refuse to let my kids see me cry over this idiot. (Not their dad).

      Now? I casually note the time, and laugh at what the next bitch has to go through.
      And enjoy my hard earned PEACE.

    • Oh, the bullshit phone calls. Been there. Mine used to call nearly every day right after having lunch with his ho (they lunched almost every weekday for over five years) even though he knows I’m a daysleeper and rarely answer the phone before two pm. He would call for no reason, just to “check in”. I suspect it was just too delicious for him to resist calling his wife after being with his mistress. When he was caught he tried to use the fact that I didn’t answer or return every pointless call as an excuse for cheating. It was proof that I didn’t love him, he whined. ????

    • The “regular” or “routine” phone calls sure sounds like a way to make sure he could know where YOU were so that he could feel confident that he wouldn’t run into you…along with Chumperella’s ex who called after ho-time. These disordered ones have an angle for everything. Chip away the spackle and consider the self-serving reasons for those calls/texts/hooks.
      Trust that they suck

  • Brit, here.

    We are living in interesting times. Americans are furious with each other, the Brits are furious with eachother.

    I am reading a book called ‘Signals’ by an economist Dr Pippa Lundgren.

    She says: this is all a result of cheap money, which encouraged governments to grossly overspend and over promise benefits to citizens. The problem is, debt has to be paid back.

    Governments pay debt back by: 1. raising taxes 2. cutting benefits 3. inflation. 4. defaulting (the final resort). But it has to happen.

    That means, the social contract gets broken. For tax payers, having to pay more taxes, for citizens relying on the state, losing benefits.

    Everyone gets angry and turns to other solutions. Thats why there is Brexit, Grexit, Trump, the far right, the far left, etc.

    Our poor kids.

    • Patsy, another Brit here. Yep time to pay the piper in so many ways isn’t it. I have to admit I hate this political roller coaster – just glad I don’t have a similar one going on with the Twat. And dear Dumped, stay mighty. You know it’s like that one bit of chocolate or glass of wine or whatever that breaks the diet – feels great in the moment and then you think “oh shit”! And congratulations on the new job! You go girl!

    • And a Brazilian here. Thanks, Patsy, for the tip on Signals” (Pippa Malmgren), it is just what I need to read these days. Talking about Brexit, Trump, and butchered journalists, Brazil just had elections. The candidate of two cousins with whom I have been friends for 53 years won: an ultra-right, ill-prepared demagogue.

      And I discovered a new version of Switzerland friends: chump here thought that since the cousins were well read (a Ph.D. in mathematics and an architect) it was worth debating with them; I wanted to understand how their candidate’s solutions worked … or to change their point of view (another breed of unicorn….).

      But cousins would always take the route of the ad hominem argument and call me “communist”, “go live in Venezuela” “I see your red shirt”. The final blow came when one of the cousins said “Well, you may have left a bad marriage, but a bad marriage never left you”. It knocked the wind out of me, my very own Kristallnacht.

      Cousin was referring to ex-H’s job at a government-sponsored think-tank that ill-informed cousin mistakenly thought was a creation of our corrupt Labor Party and that my marriage got me used to profiting from a pork-barrel. The sad thing is that I had always pleaded with sparkledick to leave his job at this bullshit factory and COUSINS KNEW THIS.


      • I’m praying for you guys in Brazil. I don’t know an awful lot about Brazilian politics but “extreme right”! Extreme anything actually. I get so, so mad I think “why don’t you go into politics” naively thinking that we just need to be fair. Yeah right, that would go a long way wouldn’t it. Play along gents, you’re not being fair! Share some of those ill-gotten gains with those starving people wouldn’t you nicely!

      • Cousins are ignorant, dishonest asswipes. Suggest you tell them so if you ever see them again. A fine education does not a fine person make.

    • True, and who in their right mind would care about higher taxes as long as it was the rich who bore the biggest tax burden? That’s the solution. People pepetuate this situation where the middle class bear it by electing scammers like Trump who give tax cuts to the rich. This is both supid and self destructive. There is no such thing as the alleged “trickle down” when the wealthy get tax breaks.

  • Such great advice from my fellow chumps. I was married 34 years & I know the feeling of wanting to
    talk to the ex. But he “murdered” our life together so
    what would I possibly say to an evil sociopath?
    It’ll take awhile to rid yourself of wanting to get in
    touch with him. Call a friend, clean your house, take a bath- just don’t do it. He’s not deserving of any part of your good life.
    He got what he wanted, but lost what he needed.
    Stay strong ????????????

    • I love this.

      Thank you for telling Kathleen this. It helped me too.

      Especially the part ~ He got what he wanted, but lost what he needed.

    • I say every time something good happens in your life, go ahead and express it to him, but don’t you dare call him or speak to him. Use sign language instead. The middle finger allows you to express your point very nicely. He does not need to be there to see it. He will figure that one out all on his own. Before long, that will be your go-to reaction for everything good that happens in your life, and you will not even think of calling him ever again.

      • Bwahaha!
        I intend to send photos of said middle finger to drive the point home, since The Asshole’s a trifle slow on the uptake.
        Also photos of my outfits laid out ready for dates I’m already in the process of lining up. I’m not going NC, I’m going AC, meaning annoying contact.

  • Coming from the country that was the first in the world to give women the right to vote, I agree with Chump Lady…. get out and cast your vote. Exercise that hard fought for privilege!

    As for the re-run letter, I hope that the original writer is in a better place now. The longer you are in a relationship, generally the harder it is to shake off that ghost limb. But shake you must. Get it gone. Acknowledge that its a HABIT – sit with it, figure out what you can do to change that habit. Change will come.

  • I will tell you CL that I have 2 teenage daughters (one old enough to vote) and I have never seen so many young women encouraging one another to vote. I guess that’s the one thing we can thank “The Donald” for.

    Phantom Spouse Syndrome …..hahahahahahahahaha! I Love That!

  • Hey, Liberated (because I won’t call you Dumped because the truth is that you got your authentic life back when the liar went away and that is good even though it is painful),

    Congrats on that job! May it remain awesome and may all those people who have entered your life celebrate that with you! May your life bring beautiful surprises and adventures and may you never be objectified by a liar again.

    And CL, you are so right about the vote. I have even filed ballots that are complete abstentions, simply to exercise my right to vote. It is so important, in my view, for us to do all we can to make it feasible for everyone to do so. May everyone who reads your words and who was thinking about skipping it get up the energy to go get it done.

  • The topic of my meeting Sunday morning was GRATITUDE. I am amazed that there are so many things on my gratitude list while I am Andy Dufresne crawling through the Shawshank Redemption Tunnel of Hell and Unbelievable Pain.

    Right now I am grateful that I DON’T feel like calling him and I haven’t since he left. I wish I could go totally NC but our child and business make that impossible right now. 27 years together…half my life….that I can never get back and who knows how much of it he ripped off with his lies. Holding me hostage without my knowledge, playing the field while making me think he was Mr. Monogamous Nice Guy Super Dad. I could have been playing the field and building an authentic life instead of a stupid sand castle that he blasted away with a firehose last October.

    I am building a mother effen STONE CASTLE ON BEDROCK now, with a drawbridge, a moat with hungry alligators, and a torture chamber for HIM and anyone else that thinks it’s a good idea to scale the walls and put my heart in a meat grinder.

  • Two days ago, the BBC reported that the World Health Organization has added Sex Addiction to their list of disorders and interviewed some addicts. While not every cheater is a sex addict, I think the serial cheaters the Chumps describe are most likely sex addicts.

    Your good behavior can’t change a sex addict any more than you can change a heroin or alcoholic or any other type of addict. In fact, your accepting their behavior, giving them kibbles of friendship, is likely aiding it. It’s co-dependent. If you really love the person, then for their sake too, “NO CONTACT”. Let them fall from their addiction. If you aren’t in the picture, they can’t blameshift their problems onto you. They have to face the fact that maybe they are the common denominator in their life’s mess. That their problem is bigger than you being too “controlling” or having 3 cats. Plus, it’s the one addiction that you could get a lot of diseases from too…. Yes, I get the wanting to call. But, you are hurting their “wake up” cycle too if you call. Put your accomplishments on Fa k e book. Lots of people will like it, and you’ll feel better. Then, go out with some girlfriends.

    • No, vast majority of serial cheaters aren’t sex addicts. Let’s don’t diagnose people too quickly. Serial cheaters are just crappy liars. They’re driven by entitlement and narcissism, not compulsion.

    • Sex addiction is a bit of a hot potato at Chump Nation. Too many of us had Cheaters who used this ‘diagnosis’ as a free pass, and another weapon with which to hit us: ‘I’m an ADDICT, not a BAD PERSON’!

      Therapy groups are also notorious for predation and hooking up, as you would expect in a room full of sexual addicts without iron-hard leadership, accountability, and integrity. Like AA, the quality of the group therapy depends a lot on the group dynamic and who’s leading it.

      Hence the dislike of Patrick Carnes’ writing – personally I read his stuff on sex addiction and wasn’t too dismayed, and his book on trauma bonding is really valuable for Chumps, I think.

      Bottom line: sex CAN become a crutch, because orgasm gives you a massive shot of Happy Chemicals. Someone who’s using sex/seduction/porn (or alcohol, or violence, or drugs) all the time as their happy place has got a problem, mainly because they don’t have any OTHER happy places. A well adjusted person has multiple happy places.

      It also has the potential to fuck up your marriage and family really fast – as with alcohol, violence, and drugs.

      But it’s not a disease like cancer, or an illness like the flu. It’s something that starts as a habit, and then progresses to taking over your entire willpower, brain, and life. It’s hard to roll back, and takes a lifetime of work and consistency, and it’s common to fall off the wagon more than once.

      So sex addiction is parallel with cheating in lots of ways: it’s hidden, it’s a secret thrill, it destroys relationships, and if you want to walk back, it’s a VERY LONG WALK back, and almost no one makes it unscathed.

      Sex addiction is also probably one of the hardest things to recover from, because it’s always quite literally under your nose if you want a fix. I would say at a guess that there are more alcoholic unicorns and drug-addict unicorns than sex addict and Cheater unicorns.

      • I wouldn’t stay married to any addict. And it would stop the blame shifting cold if my partner said ‘I’m an addict..’. I’d say, ‘don’t blame’re the addict..’ The addict can try to say …’ on sickness and in health’ and is reply ‘love, honor and cherish’ and this isn’t any of those actions. alcoholism or drugs or sex or gambling may be a ‘disease’ per the doctors (but that’s so they can sell their treatment plans and have insurance pay for it). To me, it’s behavior and neuroscience of the addict. It’s not and can’t be then blameshifted to the chump. I’m not going to own anyone else’s addiction or affair.

        Those chumps who went through discovering prostitues. Thousands down on stop clubs, Craigslist and tinder ads, porn in excess/cheater stays up to all hours of the night, multiple hookups….sounds like sex addiction to me…. it’s above and beyond having a ‘same time, next year’ or ‘bridges of Madison county’ movie type romantic love affair.

        • My idiot tried the “sex addict” and “alcoholic” excuses. Epic fail. I pointed out that his alleged addictions miraculously cured themselves after he got caught. He stopped going to meetings after that. Nothing but a smokescreen. I suspect a fair number of cheaters try using the addictions excuse and that around 97% of them are completely full of shit.

  • Dear Dumped and to all of us suffering from Phantom Spouse Syndrome

    Treatment for Phantom Spouse Syndrome (and this really is a treatment for phantom limb): hold a mirror where the amputated spouse-limb was so it reflects the remaining, functional limb (you). Look at the reflection in the mirror while you wiggle your toes, bend your leg, stretch your foot. Do this as much as you can. This rewires the brain, it gets rid of the pain and other strange feelings and you can get on with your life. (You can read about this in the excellent book ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’, by Norman Doidge.)

    I cried reading Dumped’s letter. I know how she feels. I too was dumped, I mean D.U.M.P.E.D. at 64 after 39 years years of marriage. It then became clear to me the reason for the years of devaluing and complaints: it was classic blameshifting + mindfucking so sparkledick could coldly and calculatedly get away with cheating and still look good in the picture. But my tears were for Dumped, my brain does not cry anymore for my phantom spouse.

    It took me more than a year to get divorced because then sparkledick decided I wasn’t so bad after all (he can be good at math when his brain is not focused on strutting around and on pussy). But I realized the spouse-limb was gangrened and that all the antibiotics and transplants in the world would not heal it. Amputation was painful. I thought I looked awful, mutilated. The other day myself and a fellow chump here at CN mentioned that we were ashamed to even go out to the damn supermarket.

    But mirror therapy works. So look at YOU, Dumped, and wriggle YOUR toes!

    • Thank you for writing this, this resonates with me so much!
      In the process of rebuilding my life, one thing that helped me immensely was spending a lot of time checking my new silver hair in the mirror (I decided to stop dying it, a kind of freedom I never would have had with the cheater). I marveled at how it grew and sparkled and it made me feel tough that now my hair was becoming the color of iron 🙂 I, too, was trying to become as strong as metal!

      Looking back, that time and all the selfies lol, were really therapeutic. I remember the way I could hold my own gaze in the mirror, something I was uncomfortable doing in the past.
      I also remember how as a teenager I would spend a long time in front of the mirror, just learning about myself. I didn’t like everything I saw and I would sometimes complain, but my dad (a narcissist) was always very annoyed that I would be looking at myself.

      • Quetzal, I use to dye my hair dark brown, but stopped when I read that dark hair dye is associated with lymphoma, in fact this info is on the NIH website. It finally grew out to be a lovely silver (with ZERO work or expense). I love it, my friends love it, but sparkledick would complain no end. I now know he was ashamed of it.

        We NEED to look at ourselves, it is part of being honest.

        • I earned every strand of silver and I celebrate them. Same with the crow’s feet. Aging is inevitable. Seeing it as inherently negative is optional.

          I like liking me. I don’t scare what people with crappy character think of me or my positive self worth. They are not my role models.

          CL and CN are excellent role models for sure. ????

  • Phantom Spouse Syndrome, wow ~ finally a name for what I feel. Finally an explanation as to the ghostly, numbing pain I feel all the time. For you see he abandoned me and divorced me 8 months later with no explanation, no tears, no looking back. I was just poofed out of the picture after 30 years of friendship and 17 of those married to him.

    He lives about a mile away with his Circus Clown and is supposedly purchasing a little cottage from her that he is fixing up after Hurricane Harvey about a block away from me. I see the cottage and feel a stab to my heart ~ at first like a sadness that he is dead, then the second stab (much larger) takes over and tells me, no ~ not dead. He just walked away from you with no goodbyes, no letters, nothing. He is alive, he just doesn’t want to know you anymore. And look, he is building himself a home, a home where you never existed.

    Then I go about my day trying to forget that. I can’t change it, I can’t force him to want to be the husband I thought he was. I have to just walk away too. But what about those stabs of pain? Wow, now I have a name for them. Phantom Spouse Syndrome. Much like what people feel after the sudden loss of a limb, etc. I have a name for my pain. And surprisingly, that helps.

    Thank you.

    • Then move to a home where he never existed. Get the hell away from people who clearly want to be central in your life while stabbing you in the back doing the Sears pose.

      You deserve happiness without them in your peripheral.

    • Wow. I am so sorry. What an absolute waste of DNA that guy is. Move the hell away from there if you can, as far as you can get from that freak show. I wouldn’t even want to be in the same state with that POS.

  • I discussed this in therapy. She explained to me that we spent many formative years together and had many experiences that only we went through that others won’t understand on the same level. She said it’s natural to want to reach out to the only other person in the world who understands what I’m feeling.

    In a healthy relationship that ends for healthy reasons former couples reach out to each other during these occasions. In an abusive/disordered relationship it’s not possible to maintain this connection. It’s just another piece of shit those of us who were in these marriages have to deal with and it makes these breakups harder to process as you are walking away from everything.

    I reached out to my ex when someone we knew died in a very horrific, violent and public way. I found out about it when it was breaking news on a website I was browsing at the time, so a massive shock. I brought this up in therapy as I was upset that my first thought and action was to reach out to him even after all these years. I still get the urge to reach out over things. In many ways it’s easy and comfortable as I won’t have to explain the backstory etc but reaching out is never worth it. I always end up paying some kind of price and I’m always reminded what a fuck head loser he is.

    What you are feeling is natural and normal. Congrats on all your incredible accomplishments in your new life.

  • I get it.
    Three and a half years later, I still have moments when I think, “Oh, wait until The Evil One (exh2) hears about (Autistic daughter’s latest development or funny story)!” Then I think, “oh, fuck that. If he wanted to know about the daily ins and outs/ups and downs of our now-10-year-old autistic daughter, then he shouldn’t have fucking left.”
    Halloween just passed. Not once did he text or call asking about her Halloween, which was fabulous- she trick-or-treated for over an hour and cheerfully exclaimed, “TrickorTreat!!!” at every house we stopped at. And he missed it. Like everything else, he missed because he chose to lie, cheat, and steal. He sucks.
    The funny part is that Halloween 2015, after D-Day & divorce, he was clowning about me not even send him a pic. Then, 2016, he pissed on her costume saying that she looked better in the costume he got her for his house the weekend before. Last year, I let him have her for the night, and I had already taken her in her costume, so I didn’t even ask…
    You’ll get there. Time is your best friend healing and recovering.

    • Halloween landed on my night with the kids. The week before, I offered to split the evening with him. I would take the kids around the neighbourhood and then drop them off at his place (12-13 minutes away), and he could take them around his neighbourhood.

      I dropped them off at 7:22. He returned them at 7:56. What was that? A whole 20 minutes? Now I get the kids didn’t feel like going any further, but how about a few minutes in the house sorting the candy or having a nice chat? Nope. He even dropped them off with the candy they collected instead of hanging on to it.

      See, I dared to intrude into his other life where he lives with the OW and uses the townhouse he rents only on the days he has the kids. My offer required that he drag himself back to his own house away from schmoopsie. Oh the agony of being apart…

      • You offered to be nice. He didn’t have to say yes. He could have saved everybody some trouble if he had just said “Thank you for the kind offer but I have plans”.

      • It’s ridiculous how loyal they act to their OWs— blech. Can’t. Be. Away. From. Them. Ugh.
        2016 I offered him to walk around with us — he said I could walk with him and Mrs. Dumbass and her two. I declined laughingly. Nope.
        You were nice to offer. Too bad he didn’t appreciate the time with the kids. Dick.

    • Totally off subject I guess but I recently saw “morph piggy back” costumes and just loved them. It’s always easy to buy for the girls at Christmas but my boys? So I bought 3 costumes – one of Santa Claus “carrying me” (as that will be mine for when I open the door at Christmas) and then one each for my boys where they will be carried by ghouls/monsters. You know, you stick your legs in the costume and it looks like they are giving you a piggy back. I am 60 and that is how I will be having Christmas with my kids. I KNOW my boys will wear theirs (after they have opened them as gifts) so I will definitely post on FB to show the Twat what he is missing! He will HATE it – that’s why I do it! But contact him – no way!

      • Excellent!!!!
        Exh1 is on the road with OW#5, so I get time with the boys (who are now 19 and 25) all the time. Bliss.
        I post stuff of me and DD on Facebook all the time, if one of my friends shares them with him, oh well. Not going to worry about it anymore.
        I hope he sees pics of our life without him and feels like shit at how much better we are doing without him, but he’d never admit it
        I wish I could take pics of them on Sunday drop offs. One big happy family in his Fucker150- her kids, her all dolled up, and him puffing on his vape wearing his DILLIGAF shirt— oh, and their dog sitting on her lap. #perfectfamily hahahahaahaaaa

        • OW No. 5!!!! And yep they really did get the worst deal didn’t they. Mine posts all kinds of “Sears Catalogue” pictures of himself and Schmoopie on FB – all serious and sexy looking (they wish) – it is so funny, I hope he keeps it up. And my FB pictures will have me and the kids dressed as ghouls! Ha! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mr. Sears Catalogue!

  • One of my biggest supporters when everything blew up is someone who has very different political views than I do so I understand how that goes. We probably won’t be voting the same way today, but she is still a good friend and I am grateful to her for being there for me. Our mutual abhorrence of adultery is one view we share.

    I took a certification exam recently. I was tempted to talk to ex, looking for support before the exam as I was somewhat anxious about it. I refrained, however and instead talked to daughter, coworkers and friends about it. After I passed I posted it on Facebook (ex isn’t on Facebook) and told friends and relatives but didn’t tell ex. He found out anyway through the kids and congratulated me, but at least he didn’t hear it from me. For him I just kind of brushed it off as no big deal.

    I imagine that losing a limb is similar to losing a spouse. If that happened to me I would probably be desperately wishing I could go back in time to when I still had the limb, replaying the loss of the limb in my head, berating myself for whatever I might have done to contribute to the situation that caused the limb to be lost and wishing I could rewrite history so that events happened differently in a way that would have prevented the limb from being lost. It would probably take as long to get over that loss as it is taking to get over the loss of the spouse. Maybe longer. I hope I never find out which is worse.

  • I love the analogy of the Phantom Spouse. Interestingly, I haven’t felt the need to reach out to spouse for anything regarding my own life. However, I do feel the strong urge to reach out to him in matters regarding the children. That is because I had a vision in my mind of how we could co-parent. In my vision, we were capable of sharing stories of the kids, call each other to discuss matters of child-rearing, maintain consistency between households, celebrate and commiserate about the triumphs and challenges our kids face.

    When he provided three weeks notice that he was leaving during the Christmas season last year, I let him go and went into co-parenting mode. My priority was the kids and how we were going to stay united in parenting. I got children’s books from the library about separated families and creating a new family dynamic. I made visuals to be kept in each household about how our family looked before in one house and how our family will look now. I brought up a bunch of parenting issues to discuss with my STBXH, such as parent communication log to go back and forth, a monthly family activity so the kids can see that we can interact well, etc. I just wanted to make the best of a shitty situation for my kids.

    Of course, like everything else in our marriage, he nodded his head in appearance of agreement of everything. Then, basically went on to not give a fig about consistency (hours and hours of video games and tv for our son with autism – great!). I hosted the first family dinner in January and he was miserable; he never followed up the next month with a family outing, so I let it go. Now I am very lucky if he even responds to my texts or emails, which I only keep to matters regarding the kids. Said he was going to tutor our daughter in math over the summer, nothing. I just got her a tutor. Says to our son’s ABA therapist that he’ll follow all her suggestions with our son, aimed to establish consistency between households, which our son needs; she sees that he’s not doing it. Ask him to inform me of son’s sleep routine each night he’s there in order to assess the impact of his new medication. In five weeks, he hasn’t said a peep.

    So, I’ve had to learn how to let go of that expectation too. I have a Phantom Co-Parent. In August, I sent him a video of our daughter riding a two-wheeler for the first time, no thank you reply. On the first day of school, I sent him pics of the kids (taken annually with a sign of their current likes and height/weight); no reply.

    I get hurt because I still carry expectations of my Phantom Co-Parent. I’m starting to let that go too. The challenge is that I still feel the need to share in these moments about my children with their father, but then I think I should just stop. Screw him. However, it’s just not in my nature.

    My support group helped me come to a conclusion. I am nice. I am kind. I am a person that shares pictures and videos that highlight my children with their father. In letting go of the expectation of something in return, I decided that I will continue to do this for two reasons. One, because it is in my nature. And, two, because my children benefit from it. My daughter benefits from her father saying, “Wow! You did so well when you rode your bike. You’ll need to show me yourself now.”

    Yeah, he gets off looking like a better father with my aid, and I get no credit for it. But I’m okay with that. My kids are young. Let them have the illusion for a little while longer. It is likely that in a couple of years, I’ll stop doing this because the kids will be old enough to communicate their achievements better with their father.

    I am becoming less and less upset about the misalignment in the parenting relationship. I do what is right. If he responds with a higher grade of parenting (even temporarily), then great. If he does not, I made an attempt and life goes on. I document. Document every email he does not respond to, every text. What I don’t do is go out of my way to inform him what is going on in school or what is going on with our son’s therapies. He has the phone numbers. He can call and get updates himself. Or, he can email me for an update. As far as I know, he does nothing. Again, I document.

    Although I miss Phantom Co-Parent, I find myself caring less and I grow in confidence that I am enough for my kids. That I am positioned to give them what they need to become happy, confident and well-rounded, moral adults. Perhaps, Phantom Co-Parent will actually make an appearance and be decent to his children’s mother…yeah, whatever. Document and move on.

    • @ OptionNoMore – great post! I struggle with this a lot. I understand your need to share the details of your kids lives. It’s who we are as a person. I still want to do this but I can’t bring myself to share my kindness any longer with a man that put my health at risk and did horrible things to me and to the family I thought we created equally.
      I share now only the basic details of doctors appointments, school updates like good/bad reports, or sports schedules. I don’t include the more intimate details of parenting like when my 2 year old does something for the first time, holidays/celebrations that he misses, or when the 9 yr old tells me a great experience. If ex wanted to be a true father then he would not have moved several states away and do the minimum parenting. I don’t need to adult for him any longer.
      I did recently remind the EX of the football schedule (mind you he already had it) and that he wasn’t going to see any games if he didn’t get off his ass and make the trip in. To his credit he showed and it was a great weekend for my son who misses him the most (2 year old still learning). It made my son happy beyond belief to have his dad there. I don’t regret making that suggestion but I also don’t regret not doing ALL of the adulting for two people. There is so much more that man could be doing for his kiddos. Seeing how little he really does is reminder of why it will be ok.

      • So sad NAD.

        Sometimes, I don’t bother and sometimes I do. I think what’s key for me is that when I do, I do it without expectations. I feel good I shared because it’s “the right thing to do.” Basically, he doesn’t get to ever accuse me of not sharing or being open with the kids because I have documented all the ways I tried and he didn’t use the opportunity given or respond in kind. And, more importantly, the kids benefit from him being more tuned in.

        Whenever, this becomes a chore for me, I’m not doing it anymore. He doesn’t deserve it.

  • Quetzal, I use to dye my hair dark brown, but stopped when I read that dark hair dye is associated with lymphoma, in fact this info is on the NIH website. It finally grew out to be a lovely silver (with ZERO work or expense). I love it, my friends love it, but sparkledick would complain no end. I now know he was ashamed of it.

    We NEED to look at ourselves, it is part of being honest.

  • Every time I have ever been back in contact with my sociopath ex I am set back enormously, like can’t get out of bed, uncontrollable tears and very dark thoughts. It is not worth it.

    Finding a good therapist and mental health is a challenge. So many don’t take insurance and they are ridiculously expensive. I can’t afford it help. And my social network sucks.

    Reaching out to the one who abused you for comfort is like trying to save yourself from drowning by the one who threw you overboard in the first place.

    • Yup. Every time I reached out I was triggered. Like when his mom died, I gave him my sympathies. Only to hear him go on about how he is going to sue the nursing home. He had no grounds to sue. But that triggered me and hurt me more. To see that his own mother’s death was seen by him as an opportunity to make some free money. Trust that they suck and any desire on our part to interact with them is hopium and a temporary suspension of our judgment due to nostalgia.

  • Story of my most recent call to Two-Legged Rat (30 years of marriage, I dumped him after several DDays, almost 11 years separated, mostly NC for the last seven years).
    Following an avalanche of sexual abuse accusations against the catholic church in my country, I find out that my oldest son, who took his own life at 20, 13 years ago, was attending elementary school at the same time an accused priest was working there. I work with kids who have attempted suicide and know more than half suffered child sex abuse. Day in, day out, I listen to their stories of 24/7 torture, self-blame, shame, loss of hope.
    In a second I go batshit crazy, just imagining that my baby could have gone through that. What do I do? Totally out of control, I call TLR. He minimizes everything, speaks in an evil cold voice and at the end tells me, in the most condescending tone ever, that he’ll let me do whatever I want. And right then the new and improved me decides to show up and tells him: “You got it all wrong; I’m not asking for your permission, I’m only informing you because you’re the father of my baby. Just so you know, there’s a stellar team of criminal lawyers where I work, so I just need to open my mouth and Lawyer of the Year XY and Prosecutor of the Year YZ will be happy to take my case pro bono (true, they do it all the time). Plus, there’s a fantastic group of victim advocates who’ll have my back (also true).
    For weeks I felt like the most stupid woman on Earth; how could I have called this monster only to be abused again? But two great things came out of it. One, I had renewed evidence that there’s no such thing as a character transplant (thank you again, CL). Two (and most important for my future divorce), I innocently let him know that he has no idea who I am anymore, that I’m strong, fearsome and not afraid of him.
    Not that I’m recommending calling cheaters, particularly narcs, but I just wanted to reassure newbies that it’s normal to want to share significant events with them. And by the way, I think Phantom Spouse Syndrome should be included in DSM 6!!!!

  • It is my experience (and experiences are highly individual) that what I was actually grieving was the dream. It wasn’t the cowardly liar that I missed, it was what I wanted the marriage to be. I didn’t want him back, exactly, I wanted the thing I had previously believed he was back. Since he was the mannequin that had looked like what I thought he was, it seemed like I missed him – his face, our history, etc. – but I found that once I stopped identifying him as one and the same with the partner I had truly lost (the one my mind thought I had), the nuance of my grief changed.

    Soon I stopped yearning for him and started yearning for my own life, my new life, and grieving the loss of me from that time instead of the loss of the him I thought I knew.

    I don’t know that my experience is actually analagous to the phantom spouse, but it’s a close cousin.

  • You know, I don’t consider myself particularly mighty, but one thing I AM good at is No Contact. I have never done it to punish my ex-partner, but, rather, to heal myself.

    People who were busy mind-fucking you will rarely be happy to hear any of your good news. They don’t want to hear you are moving on with your life, thank you very much. And if you share your good news, don’t expect congratulations on a job well done.

    Share your good news with people who LOVE you, not people who use and abuse you.

    • I agree, NC is about healing me and keeping me sane. Blocking him on social media was about not seeing his life and what was happening in in. Too much pain shopping. Going NC is probably the best thing I did for me.

  • Back in May, 2 days after D-Day and 3 weeks after the Dickhead filed for divorce, I got to add a great bird to my lifelist. A white-tailed kite had traveled to northern Indiana from its usual habitat in southern Texas or southern Florida. I’ve been a birder since my early 20s and the DH would sorta share in my enthusiasm. On that particular day, I was pissed at him and yet so wanted to send him a picture so he could share in my excitement.

    For 19 years, I oohed and aahed over all his accomplishments, I was truly happy for him when good things happened for him, and I was always there to lend a hand or give a hug when things were bad. Yet, I would barely get a “well, good for you”. The truth and reality – he was never there for me, not in spirit, not in the ways that matter to the soul.

    • Fellow birder, Miss Bailey! And that is quite a bird! Our Mississippi Kites have migrated, and I always look forward to their return. The first juncos have arrived, along with white-crowned sparrows. I love the winter visitors, and keep food out for them.

      • The birds have been the bright spot in my life. I’ve been going on more planned Audubon trips within my state. Keeps me connected to the birds and people.

        I love the little juncos even if they are a harbinger of winter. We’ve been experiencing a high number of red-breasted nuthatches which always bring a smile to my face.

        • We only rarely get red-breasted nuthatches, but I hear this year they are heading south in greater numbers. So, maybe? On my Big Day, last May, a red-breasted nuthatch was my final bird. Still hoping for, and have yet to see, a Snowy owl.

  • And, ChumpLady, I am so thankful for your website, for the forums you have created. You turned your personal horrible situation into a beautiful community of support. And you have shown us that it is possible to come through the fire refined, strong, and able to love again.

  • I think it’s ok to have the initial reaction of calling your “go to” person. I had a best friend that in my youth, the habit of first calling her when something happened. She’d be the first person I’d announce things to, like if something good happened to me or if I met a cute guy I liked. She was my “go to” person and a habit to call her when things happened in my life. Then we had a falling out and it took me a while to stop having that knee jerk reaction or habit of turning to her to announce things. It’s not a bad thing to want to call that person, it’s a habit that has formed in your brain for years. It’s just biology. We can feel bad about it, but it’s just our human biology playing itself out. Cheating is bad enough, no need to feel bad about it on top of all the trauma.

    • I meant cheating is bad enough, no need to feel bad about a habitual reaction of turning to our “go to” person on top of all the trauma.

  • Just stopping in with a note about ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ thinking. We are mostly wired to replay scenarios with some way in which our action/words made everything better. The truth is there are many ways different actions would have made things worse. When you find yourself in that mindset, switch it up. That different action could in fact have made things much, much worse, go down that path and it will help you lay the ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ beast to rest.

    • One of the things that helped me heal was when I realized that it really didn’t matter what I did or could have done differently. Whatever I did was always going to be wrong one way or another. Once I realized I couldn’t win that also helped me to end the pick me dance.

  • Hugs to the writer of the letter! Wanting to contact your cheater is a horrible feeling!
    I pray you’ll Soo. Reach the they that even a random thought of them makes you roll your eyes and keep moving.

  • Kind of off topic…but yesterday my sweet coworker who is newly in love was waxing on about her new boyfriend and how he just fixed her car and put snow tires on it for winter. I told her how I was a sucker for a nice guy who did nice things for me and then recounted a story about about how my husband (cheater XH) did something really nice for me when we first met. She said ‘I hope my love doesn’t do to me what yours did to you.’ I went to my office and closed the door and cried. I realized that I need to STFU, I have no sweet stories to tell about ‘love.’ *sigh*

    • Hug! Lol! You have funny stories to tell though. Yeah. We are all jaded and smell BS everywhere. Or maybe the BS odour was always there but we never noticed. Off the bat it sounds like a love bombing. These types are given to excess…even excessive ‘acts’ of kindness.
      But yeah…you put away that pin. Stop bursting the bubbles!
      More hugs! Too cute!lol!

  • Chumptopia,

    That’s the hard part. I had favorite sweet stories I told about fuckwit. Now none of them are valid because they are all based on lies and misinformation. I have nothing to say on the subject anymore. It’s sad sometimes.

  • It doesn’t help that many disordered people love to play the ‘knight in shining armour’ role to us. My ex loved coming to my rescue, and I mistook that for love and loyalty. He portrayed the person who would move heaven and earth for me. But it was just that, an image. I came to rely on him too much.

    He started cheating….. then my hero was not willing to help me, and it was a shock to the system. All of a sudden he is too busy to pick me up at the train station, or help with the housework, or kid’s homework. Or to drop me off at the door of the store, suddenly it was ok that I walk through 6 inches of slush in my shoes.

    I missed my fake hero for a long time. Now I think of him as the creep that he really is.

    It’s like waking up from being brainwashed.

    • That’s what mine did. He was my hero until he found a new damsel in need of rescue. Then helping me out was just a bother. The thing is, he isn’t the hero in this story, he is the villain.

      • This really resonated with me. I like to say my STBX was my enemy and my hero. Now he’s just my enemy. I relied on him not really for anything around the house, as I did everything including washing the car (even while pregnant), doing 99% of the housework, handling the bills, filing our taxes, even helping him with job applications. But what I relied on him for was to validate me (which was always a double edged sword), to talk to about everything, to keep me company, and to just be there when I needed to vent. The horrible thing about relying on him for this was that he eventually began to see me as a pest and no longer wanted to be there for me. Now he’s with someone else and being there for her and it kills me. But I know deep down he’s an abusive cheater and like CL says, he didn’t get a character transplant so that person is still there. It’s just a matter of time until he shows who he really is to the new girl.

  • I wouldn’t contact your x-hole.

    My experience of contact after no contact is that he had become even more of a monster, and hurt me even more, unimaginably so. I lost so much in terms of relationships and job opportunities. I became a hag. My heart hurt so bad. I cried huge tears. I sobbed. Again!! After I had been sailing along with no contact.

    Here’s my understanding of the extra harm from contact after no contact: the evil in his heart had surged, and my peaceful oasis was the perfect antidote. He got my peace, and I got his hell.

  • I am a year out from my cheater leaving after 23 years and he never looked back. There was no pick me dance on my part but also no closure either. I am so much better off and my life is blessed but I find myself doing the coulda shoulda woulda thinking and how could I not have known beating myself up. Sometimes I can still hear his voice criticizing something I am doing and I have to give myself a mental shake. I am so ready for meh!

    • In our last correspondence, rhe Dickhead wrote that I had to look at things I did that helped cause the breakdown of the marriage. The problem? Not once has he given me the respect or courtesy of sitting down with me and being honest. I’m not even sure where I failed him, if I did. Nope, he told me that I wasn’t to blame and I’m going with that. While I did the woulda, coulda, shoulda list, I’ve also realized that our marriage was doomed. He was never going to do all that was needed for our marriage survive. Damn narc.

      • “In our last correspondence, rhe Dickhead wrote that I had to look at things I did that helped cause the breakdown of the marriage.”

        Fuck that shit. The only thing you did to help the breakdown was to marry him in the first place.

      • Suggest you respond thusly;
        “Dear lying, cheating, ethically-challenged Dickhead,
        You need to look at this;”
        (attach a photo of your upraised middle finger here)

        ‘Nuff said.

  • Shel Silverstein had a poem that comes to mind.

    All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
    Layin’ in the sun,
    Talkin’ bout the things
    They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
    But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
    All ran away and hid
    From one little did.

    You did amazing, and the Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda ran away because that’s what they do.

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