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What Advice Would You Give an Earlier You?

paralysis Who wouldn’t love a do-over?

I’m sure a few of you navigated this shit perfectly right out of the starting gate, but most of us floundered in the most humiliating of ways.

If you could go back in time (and no, you don’t get to wish your whole relationship away, the time machine only allows this ONE encounter…) — what would you say to a younger you?

Would you give yourself a pep talk on D-Day? A master class in boundaries? Or no regrets, because this clusterfuck taught you a lot?

This is what I’d say to my D-Day self.

Dear Tracy,

You married an asshole. Cut your losses immediately.

I know you think you’re doomed, but your doom is with him. Life on the other side will, yes, be challenging. Single parenthood again, the ring of hell that is 50 Bad Coffee Dates, financial insecurity. Don’t let those fears overwhelm you. Wrestle those motherfuckers to the ground and get the hell away from this abuser.

He’ll try and punish you for leaving him. Expect that. Surround yourself with support and the law.

Don’t be afraid to sing like a bird. This isn’t your shame to wear.

You WILL be loved again. You WILL love again. He will NOT be the last person you’ll ever care for.

Someday soon you’ll reach meh. You won’t give a shit who he is or what he’s doing or with whom. He’ll be a storybook character. A cut-rate villain. An obstacle over which you triumphed.

Never forget this is your story — get out there and make a happier ending to it.

TGIF!

(And we’ll do a gratitude challenge next week — a bit closer to Thanksgiving!)

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.
  • Maintain your integrity. It may feel impossible to do right now but you’ll be so glad looking back that you didn’t behave in a way you regret.

    • I would be honest with myself and ask my self if I was really happy. Red flags are a great indicator to run, however, 4 years out I reflect that my needs weren’t being met for most of the 21 married years. I settled. That is on me for staying and allowing myself to be abused.
      STBEX cheating was heartbreaking but a get out of jail card. Sadly not free, 4 years in litegarion and not even a separation agreement. Not settling anymore. I know my worth.
      Oh ya, advice. File sooner and never type or speak a word to the fucker.

  • Many times young ladies ignore red flags and warning signs. As soon as you see them walk away then and save yourself years of pain and anguish.

    • Red flags: that is also my advice, Gentle.

      Red flags are warnings. Never, never ignore them. Don’t be lazy or spackle. Do your homework on those red flags. If you are color blind, get help.

      Sometimes I think a very thin line separates a chump and a fool, at least in my case there was a very thin one

    • Same. I would go back to the first red flags and tell myself – if he’s saying and doing evil things to others, he will soon enough start doing them to me too.
      I would not ignore the warnings. I would tell younger me it’s ok to come to conclusions about his character based on his actions and leave.

      • I relate to this: “ I would not ignore the warnings. I would tell younger me it’s ok to come to conclusions about his character based on his actions and leave.” I HATE it when I hear people say, “don’t be so judgmental!” Notice how the ones who say that are trying to manipulate?! I tell my kids: “use your judgment and trust yourself and judge people on their actions.”
        My narc cheater mom abused me for being “judgmental” so I was set up to ignore red flags.

        On the first date X told me he had intimidated and harassed a witness to an assault he was being sued for (drunken brawl he started by slam dancing at his fraternity when he was 19). He laughed about how freaked out and scared the witness was. Omg — why didn’t I run for the hills????!!!! 25 years with him and my mom before him —in a lot of ways I’m like a 3 year old, learning brand new life skills.

    • Yes! And yellow flags are likely future red flags, so resist the temptation to accept justification from your own mind as well as the other person’s mouth.

    • Same. Don’t ignore red flags. Listen to your gut. Pay attention to how their father treats their mother and how they treat their mother—that’s insight to how you will eventually be treated. Set boundaries and enforce them.

      • I agree with most of what CC says BUT my STBX treated his parents like gold. Everyone said what a great son he was to his parents; he’ll take care of you just like he did them. WRONG! He spent the last 3 years of his life putting his parents needs/health above our family needs. His dad died last Sept. and he quickly decided he’d honor them by moving into his parents house “because he loved them so much”.Walked away from me and our 3 kids. He got his inheritance, a huge house and moved his drinking buddy in with him – I got served with divorce papers after being married almost 25 years, and have 3 kids wondering what the hell happened that their dad decided his parents (dead) mean more than them!

        • While I was dating my X everyone told me what an amazing family guy he was. And yes, X has what he thinks is GREAT family relationship. In fact, he likes to tell me that my family is not normal.

          But what I learned was to pay attention to little details. I remember being out to dinner with X and his parents while we were dating and his mom was trying to participate in the conversation and his dad got annoyed, looked at her and told her to SHUT UP! I also have heard X and his brother repeatedly tell his mom to shut up, tell her she’s dumb or stupid, ignore when she calls them (and also complain about it).

          X’s dad stole X’s identity in college and then 10 years later defaulted on $20,000. So we were going to be on the hook for that money because X wasn’t willing to file charges. Then his dad had a heart attack and died. OH! He sacrificed himself to solve the problem (that he caused). Come to find out, X’s dad had defaulted on tons of bills, the house was in danger of foreclosure … in general he left his wife in bad shape. But everyone still thinks he was a great guy, even his widow. In reality, he was a liar and thief.

          The perception everyone had is that this family is there for one another, but it is completely dysfunctional.

          • Yes. Same here. My STBX has told me repeatedly how dysfunctional my family is (he is right on this) and how great his family is. However, I witnessed similar things where his mom is treated as if she was dumb, where everyone caters to the father, where no difficult things are discussed, lying is deemed appropriate not to upset someone, and everyone seems to have a very selective memory. Only remembering the good things.

            His sister became pregnant at 18. He himself sneaked out of the house at night very frequently, dealt with drugs, consumed drugs, drank a lot, had sex very early, stole…

            And then there are no real boundaries by his mom. She involves herself in everything that relates to her kids. When I was 29 and he was 30 and we moved in together, she send us informational material on contraception. When we wanted a small wedding with only very close friends and family, she insisted that we need to engage in a larger setting and cried when we did not want to adhere to her request, when we decided to not circumcise our son, we were told how disappointing this is…

            • OMG yes! I thought my ex was so close to his family. Maybe they were, in a cult like setting.

              Nobody in the family (except me) worked outside the family business. If you didn’t succumb, you were ostracized (me). It was a control freak issue from his mother. She paid all of the bills and the “salary “ was what was left. How did we know if we were being robbed? You really didn’t. His mother even did the income taxes, so I never really knew how much much my ex made. It was all very secretive; I think that is something a wife should know, how much money your husband made.

              As far as boundaries…there were NONE! His family certainly didn’t mind telling you what to do and their opinion on every subject.

              And they wonder why I cannot stand being around them.

            • Wow, I could have written this too! Uncanny. My ex hated my dysfunctional family. I used to call the ex’s family “The Waltons” because they had this faux paternalistic structure like something on TV. Everyone catered to Dad in that family too. Don’t say anything that might upset him kind of thing. But no one spoke about the younger sibling and her husband having an open marriage (found out when they did a temporary separation and her husband told me); or about the older sibling getting divorced and having a live in lover half her age who was never invited over my in laws! They wouldn’t even acknowledge this poor guys existence. LOL. Nope, everything was just perfect in that household, just ask them. And there was never any confrontation or questioning that might upset the whole faux structure. I used to feel sorry for them actually.

              Yeah, my family is dysfunctional but we all know it. If there is an issue, we bring it up, discuss, sometimes argue and then move on. No one holds grudges.

    • Hm this topic deserves it own Friday challenge. Red flags, indeed. I remember the exact moment I should have gotten out of the relationship, and it was very early on…

      • I’m with you on that one! 6 weeks out & there was a problem & I should have walked away. He must have sensed it because the love bombing started immediately afterwards x

      • Couldn’t agree more, Chinook and all you others who echo same thing. I discovered my X had been generally snogging / sleeping around while drunk with no less than four other girls with weeks of us starting to go out – he was 20 and I was 23. It shattered me. He pleaded ignorance and a bad example in his father (both true) and campaigned hard to win me over – with me, my family and any friends who’d listen. In the end after lots of heart to hearts I forgave him. Stupid, stupid me! 21 years later he had put me through ten tons of hell in so many ways – the one solace being we have two wonderful boys who are nearly grown up now. We are divorced after I finally tripped up over an affair, utterly by accident. Even the divorce has been a minefield. It has been a HARD journey and I have a lot of work to do on myself. I LOVE these posts – they are spot on. Anyway, so much I could say but you all say it so much better, all the time. Thank you, Chump Lady, for your awesome branch of sanity! Red flags – believe them above all else!

    • I truly believe that the ignoring of red flags is almost 100% about not wanting to give up the dream of the great guy he’s been pretending to be. Acknowledging a red flag and doing something about it means taking the chance that you’re wrong about your gut feelings and you’ll miss out on that great guy if you decide to take it seriously and leave.

    • If his natural cycle is to go from love it to hate it with everything else in his life he will eventually go through that cycle with you too. The fact that I lasted as long as I did says pretty good things about me. His cycle was usually a lot shorter.

      • The love it/hate it cycle reminds me of something I read about Cluster B personality traits…people who have narcissistic personality traits, to be exact. (Not saying that is what you are referring to), but I read that EVERYONE in a Narcissist’s life has an “EXPIRATION DATE”. That blew me away, because in my situation, looking back through my EX’s history, EVERYONE of his “friends”, employers, and co-workers had an expiration date and are no longer in his life. And, it basically comes down to a love it/hate it moment. Unbelievable…

        I wish I knew at the time, that these were red flags. Instead, I reasoned a lot of it away as an “independent”/ secure person that didn’t need others in his life. WRONG!

        • Oh, I knew my expiration date would come one day. He spent over 20 years constantly exulting over having removed another obstacle/person in his way. Not sure if it was just the thrill of winning or perhaps a measure of his never being happy, but it didn’t surprise me when my number came up.

    • So. Much. This! In the first 6 months there were many red flags I spackled over. He even told me, “You deserve the world, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to give it to you”. LISTEN when people TELL you who they are! Oy, that poor love-bombed woman who had no idea what she was getting into, and was already experiencing devaluing and triangulation.

      Eight years later, I’m finally rid of the abuser; picking apart our relationship, doing a lot of research, having so many “aha” moments, learning a ton and creating boundaries. I won’t allow this kind of person in my life again, I’ll run away like my hair’s on fire when the first red flag makes an appearance.

      All is not lost if you can learn from an experience.

    • Yes! When you see the first red flags- run! I had a few that I overlooked because I thought he was a good person and came from a good family. He started out lying about stupid stuff and escalated to lying about money and then cheating! He still claims it was an “emotional” affair. Once a liar always a liar!

      • I once found a pack of cigarettes in my husbands car even though he told me he didn’t smoke. I remember holding the pack of cigarettes in confusion. Why didn’t he just tell me? I confronted him and he took offense to the fact that I seemed upset.

        “Why are your so upset?”
        “Because if you will lie about this little thing you will lie about anything.”

        hahahahahhahahahah. Boy, was I right.

        • Yes, it’s true. If you find out your SO lies to their friends and/or loved ones like parents and siblings, you can bet they’re telling you whoppers too. I thought my fiancee was pretty clever in the way she deceptively handled her parent’s concerns until the day I found out I was also being “managed” by her deceitful manner. She’s long gone now, thank God!

    • The 80/20 Rule definitely applies to what I call the Red Flag / Green Flag Paradox.

      When you are just starting a relationship you see lots of Red and Green flags. The problem is that you assume that the Red Flags will be 20% of the time and the Green flags will be 80% of the time.

      I always tell young people getting into serious adult relationships that in my experience the Red Flags become 80% of your relationship and the Green Flags become 20%. Don’t bullshit yourself. You will regret it.

  • D-Day came after 4 decades of marriage. What I would say to my younger self? Patterns matter. His odd re-writing of even the most inconsequential of storylines. The outright lies. The behaviors you define as recurring depression that are just incorporated into the rhythm of your marriage. Your role as crisis manager. Your role as primary parent, even if you are ill. The glossing over of these behaviors by friends, families. Because men. Eyeroll. I would tell myself that, no, these are unreasonable patterns. You are not obligated by “vows” to stay married to a troubled person. Even if they are diagnosed with a mental illness – you are not obligated to stay, to manage his illness. I would tell myself to pay attention to that unease. That underlying fear. I wish someone had said all this to me . . .but the opposite happens. Catch them cheating . . and sure. You’ll get support. But it’s all the other stuff that has chipped away at you that you needed to pay attention to. Discovery sometimes never happens. You still have plenty of reason to leave their sick ass. But you get support for staying. Cheating is almost anti-climatic. Almost.

    • “His odd re-writing of even the most inconsequential of storylines.”
      Yes, how did I so easily overlook this, thank you for identifying this.

      • Mine did this too even when I knew the story. Toward the end, I started calling him out on it. He would just shake his head and keep on going without missing a beat.

        • Mine even had the audacity to tell me I was scared co in the head because my perception was so different to his! He was coming at me fists raised threatening to hit me & I defended myself & smacked him. Not proud of it but wasn’t going to let him attack me. He remembers it that I attacked him!! Unprovoked!! I sh*t you not!!

    • Exactly my situation. I should have left just from his psycho behavior years before I discovered infidelity. He was always whining about his FOO issues causing him to be depressed or moody or just plain disrespectful to me. I would go back and tell my younger self no one deserves to be treated like this and run! Your so right about how the cheating is anti-climatic. Years (45) of emotional abuse to then find out about the infidelity over many many years with many partners. I am at meh now and have married again to a wonderful loving kind man but when I look back it was the emotional abuse that hurt the most and that started very early on.

    • I always felt I couldn’t leave. Firstly I didn’t have the energy to sort all that out because of being deprived of sleep over years and years and years. But, when he was eventually diagnosed bipolar I thought I couldn’t leave him because he was ill. I excused so much on the grounds of his illness, but in the end, it was up to him to find and FOLLOW the damn treatment, and no, lithium does not mix with 24 beers and a bottle of whiskey. I would tell a younger Attie to save herself, thereby sparing her kids the hell that they also lived through.

  • Leave as soon as you see the red flags. You and your relationship aren’t different from everyone else and it’s not worth the wasted years.

    Listen to you gut and walk.

    • Unfortunately NO ONE is teaching young people how to spot the psycho, what are the red flags, how to established boundaries…. it should be mandatory class in middle and high school….
      Unfortunately, victims of a mindfuckery can come from any background, etc( we know now)

      Ugh….

  • Stop being nice to him, he didn’t appreciate one bit. Put yourself first he never did. His friends were more important. Decent people don’t put drug addicts or alcoholics first. He would tell you he loves you but really does his actions show it. I let his ow treat me like shit, I still maintain no contact with her and she hates it. What pisses me off us is Swedish friends, but their entitled to their opinions, I’ve given up expecting the truth, he always subtly sided with the ow. asking me to share him!

  • Recognise the red flags ARE red flags, don’t kid yourself with spackle.
    My example of this was me telling my husband to “go to that party”, “go for those drinks with your work mates, enjoy yourself” and him replying “no, there’s going to be a lot of single 30 somethings there, I don’t ever put myself in those precarious positions.” How stupid was I thinking this was a good sign??? What he meant was “no, I don’t trust myself with lots of single women, the temptation would be too great!” Hanging out 1:1 secretly with a female client in her house late at night on the other hand was just fine and dandy.

    • Same. And yeah…trying to be mature by asking him if he cheated or if we need to talk when the bumps show up, is NOT going to get him to confess.

      That temper tantrum he threw when you asked was bc he was caught. NOT bc you were “blaming him for your ex’s behavior.” Your imagination didnt make bumps. Or a condom wrapper. Or make your belongings disappear.

  • I don’t feel regret for what I did because I was in shock and I had been emotionally abused and gaslighted for years but here is what I should have done:

    Remembered and taken my mother’s advice from my teen years. If anyone ever abuses you, walk away immediately, they will not change!!!

    Instead, I apologized and attempted a futile pick me dance. Thanks to chump nation, I eventually did the right thing!

    Always remember cheating is abuse and have a zero tolerance policy. Leave and go grey rock, no contact. It is the ONLY way.

  • Dear Zell,

    This woman is a con artist and she has thoughts in her brain that you can not heal,fix, or even fully understand. You know she’s lying. Don’t be ashamed that you got tricked. Those feelings of embarrassment will fade. Your child will be ok and adjust to the new life of divorce.

    • By two times….you can’t cure someone who operates in their own world or give them a pass for every shitty thing and power trip they went on while disrespecting you for a long time ….

      I spackled and spackled and held it together a for the love of my little family and two kids. For childhood reasons this was really important to me. I know now I’d have marriage police’d my life away for the last two and a half years if she had made the decision to stay and gone through all the crappy stuff about letting her grieve (resent and hate me more like), still end up supporting her ass and being talked down to daily and stuffing that shit down for the kids. Some example.

      In hindsight though I’d get myself to write and take videos more on what she did to me for years (aside from the cheating) so I’d remember who she is when I miss being married and having an intact family…the weekends without the kids if I hang around the home is often very hard still for me. However when I find my old notes and all the shitty things (and on my own shit) I feel better at knowing it will be the right thing for me long term.

      I’d also have kept up exercising at a big level so I’d feel better about myself now that I’ve started making tentative steps to date….I’m 50 with kids and find it scary as hell so procrastinating….I’m not fat but not a model either…need to get confidence up.

      Incidently cash paid over yesterday so now legal agreement enacted so technically free. Can Divorce proper in eighteen months…..then truely free….

      • Hey Bannerman, I was anxious as hell about dating but I joined stuff doing what I like and I met someone awesome ( the polar opposite of my awful cheating ex who sounds like yours). Never been happier and still have 2 lovely kids who I can enjoy more now that shithead isn’t around to bum me out all the time. Hang on in there, you’ll be fine

        • Banner man, ditto! I am very interested in being healthy and living well into my years. I met my wonderful non-cheater boyfriend in a HIIT class at the YMCA. Our dates were runs along the waterfront trails, hikes to alpine lakes with friends, lifting together at the gym followers by coffee, paddleboarding. I have 4 kids and he has 2. We are 50/55 and stronger and WAY happier than we were in our 20+ year marriages. His X and mine are both narcissist alcoholics – he didn’t catch her cheating. He’s very appreciative of my good qualities and I am also appreciating a normal abuse-free romantic life.

  • If they break promises and agreements, leave the relationship! If they don’t stand up for you, leave the relationship!
    If you find hidden bankrolls in sock drawers, leave the relationship! But take the money with you!

    The one year anniversary of DDay is this coming Tuesday. Not the Tuesday we all look forward to around here. Wish me luck. It feels like the football is coming and I am Marcia Brady’s nose.

    • “If they don’t stand up for you leave the relationship.”

      THIS.
      Ex never stood up for me. Never. Not when his brother threw a bunch of my belongings into a drawer because he was angry I put them in “his” aka the main bathroom, not when a childhood friend who I had never met called me a c*nt, not when an employer berated me for the amount of times I pumped during the day. Never.
      In fact, his favorite thing to do was either ignore me during these times or kick me while I was down. Looking back on this now, I realized this man no only never loved me, he never liked me.

      • I also came to discern that he not only never loved me, he didnt like me either and his actions showed it, but when confronted, he weasled out an excuse. I would have told myself to pay more attention to that…it was real and spoke volumes.

      • Exactly. Mine never stood up for me either. The best example I have was in Europe. It was crowded and most people had to stand instead of sitting. Both my then husband and I were standing near the door next to each other. A guy came and yelled at me for not getting to the side (he yelled at just me, not my husband who was standing right next to me), he called me names completely ignoring that I did not really have anywhere else to go, because there were too many people around. The train had not even stopped.
        My husband did and said nothing. Like he did not even know me.

        When I later asked why, he just said “This guy was clearly an idiot, why should I bother. I was not sure what you did to provoke him. ”

        All he had to do was put an arm around my shoulder or anything. He preferred to do nothing.

        • Something that bothered me for a long time about my Dad was when I was hit by a woman driving a big pickup. She was screaming at me for calling the police, and my Dad thanked her for being so gracious. Which was bullshit, he knew how she had really been. This bothered me for a long time, and now I know why.

      • I should have done this. His mother was racist towards me – and he said nothing. I made him confront her when she called our infant child racial slurs and he did, but he was focused on his shame rather than the abusive treatment of me and our kid.

    • NOV 27 TH, My 55th birthday, one year anniversary of our divorce, and my father in law passing. Big day!! I should have listened to my gut
      And my oldest son. Stayed in Cali and NEVER let that FUCKTARD LYING CHEATING ASS HAT talk me into coming back to Vegas with him.
      I’d of saved myself so many tears, confusion, anxiety and a whole lot of miserable wasted years
      . He is 10 years younger than I, started having affair with engaged coworker. He left Oct 15, 2016 so he could make himself available to that whore when ever she could sneak away from her fiance.
      Oh well, I made both their wishes come true by sending that screenshot of the Porn they posted on the internet. She was out of his house And LIVING HAPPILY NOW WITH my Ex , our 19 yr old son and Her 15 year old son.
      They are thrilled to of accomplished what they set out to do.
      Steal MY LIFE AND MY FAMILY. turned my son against me.
      Now she is the SUPER MOM and Facebook friend with my son. While I get the middle finger from them all

      Least my life is mine now. Not used and abused by people that I once thought was the most important and valuable thing in the world
      .. More than

      • Yup, stick with the people who treat you right, whether they are related to you or not. Those that don’t can find their own way. And unfollow them all on FB, you don’t need that kind of negativity.

        Kids can be bought, kids can be brainwashed. But we have only one life and have to try to make it as good as one as we can.

  • I’d have sat myself down and gently told my broken hearted being that divorcing in my 50’s was not cause for terror. I’d have reminded my trembling self that my age and experiences had prepared me to face the upcoming challenges. I’d have told myself that the projectile vomiting would end and said vomiting would just be an echo of an echo that would be mentioned in a lifesaving blog.

    • Paula: I divorced in my mid 50’s and at first it is terrifying, so I won’t lie about that. But you would be surprised at what you are capable of doing when you start picking up the pieces and moving on. I have done things in the past 4 years I didn’t think I could do alone. A lot took me out of my comfort zone and that was really terrifying, but now looking back on it all I can say is “What was I so afraid of?”. I’ve been there and can tell you it does get better than you can even imagine. So maybe I don’t have as much money as before. I have the respect of my kids and close relationship with all of them, that’s worth more than anything else to me. I moved 65 miles away and started over. Have made a lot of new friends (mostly through church). I love my new life and you will too.

  • Don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to say what you need. You were so beaten back by his words and lack of support that you never opened your mouth in fear that he would leave you. Guess what? He left you anyway.

    Set your boundaries, tell someone what you need in life and love, pay attention to the red flags (they are usually a clue to a much bigger problems), and never compromise your values. Above all, be kind to yourself and love who you are.

  • The main thing I would tell myself is…Respect yourself, you deserve to be treated with respect and consideration. Your feelings do matter. It’s ok if dysfunctional people don’t like you.

    • This is what I’d say too.

      Just remind myself that I have significant value. That I could not ever love her enough anyways, so hold to myself and who I am.

      High-five Tall One, you did your best, but the game was lost b/f it started, (and deep down you knew that)

    • And sometimes, there simply are no red flags at all — because the man is an extremely high IQ covert narc who hides his secret life so well that you find out only after he has stone cold abandoned you and your divorce lawyer tells you to hire a private eye.

      • THIS!!!^ I spent years after dissecting the behavior and life I saw with my second cheater. Even so, I cannot point to one even teensy thing that made me feel weird, or nervous, or go, “Hey something is off about that.” He was so very good at Secret Second Life I would never have known if the universe hadn’t accidentally revealed the truth. I had already had one asshole cheater. I was tuned into red flags. And I looked for them like it was my job. Nothing. That is what is frightening about character disorder. You can do everything right and still become a target.

        • JoJo – I was also dumbfounded but a funny thing happened on the way to the opera..

          When I turned 50, I was surprised (like fainting surprised) when I walked into my favorite restaurant and all my 50 family members were there to surprise me. All of them had to drive 800 miles one direction and many had toddlers. The effort was incredible and he had been planning it for months – with my sister.

          Now, I worked side by side with him – had access to all his computers, heard a lot of his phone calls and not once did I catch on in the 6 months he was planning it. I was floored after (the awesome b’day party) that he could have been that sneaky and I didn’t see it. I said to him and folks that planned it (laughing of course) that…geez, one day he’d have an affair and I’d never see it coming. And, 5 years later..

          What color of a flag is that?
          (he carried on 3 yrs before I caught em.)

  • Don’t panic: you are stronger than you know (and stronger than he is).

    Know your worth and expect others to see it as well. If they don’t, they aren’t your tribe.

    Yes, your world has been turned upside down in a day. That doesn’t mean it can be put back together in a day. Be patient. In a year, three years, five years, you won’t even remember the things that spun you out today. It will get better slowly, but surely.

    Don’t ever stop moving forward. The things you think are great about where you are pale compared to how they will be.

    And by the way, that’s the advice I wish I could give my younger self, but it’s advice I’m still living by now. Things are incomparably better, but I can see that my vision was too small, and I’m not even halfway to the new vision that Mr. Fantastic made possible with his crappy lying cheating manipulative self-absorbed ways.

  • The depression you feel is real and warrants gentle care. What you don’t know is 90% of that depression is due to him and a thing you can’t quite put your finger on. It is time to judge on actions and not words. Also Google narcissist. Read up. It’s the most freeing thing you can do.

    • This. SO MUCH THIS.
      After losing both of my parents and grandparents in a short span of time, I felt like my life turned into one big GRIEF party… like I just couldn’t shake the grieving and depression. I thought that there was something wrong with me that I was still feeling so isolated and “sad”, as I am a joyful/ outgoing person by nature.

      And, then… after D-DAY, I started to google things that he would say to me that just seemed so mean and callous… and Narcissist popped up. I realized then that my depression derived from HIM and the atmosphere that he created, not an extended grief party…
      I am currently reading Psychopath-Free and it has made SO MUCH SENSE! May we all continue on a brighter, lighter path!

  • When we started living together before we got engaged
    he wanted to go skiing with his buddy for the weekend.
    I couldn’t go for some reason, but I sent him off happily .when he returned Sunday afternoon he confessed to me that he had taken an old long time girl friend with him.
    He said he promised her & “nothing “ happened..
    I immediately threw him out of my apartment in rage.

    He begged to come back saying he was sorry & that taking her only proved to him I was the one he wanted to marry. I’m ashamed to say I forgave him bc I was so in love with him. How stupid was I?? Red flag number 1 & we set a date. I let my heart rule my head.
    If I could go back in time I would have thrown him
    to the curb & maybe have found a truthful decent man.
    I blame myself.. 😪

    • Oh, Kathleen, you were doing what you thought was kind and loving. He took advantage of your love and generosity of spirit. I get it though.

      I wrote a story to myself. I sometimes pass by a bench on daily lunch walks. It’s the same bench where 19 years ago, he brought me lunch and we sat there and talked and kissed. I was so happy and thought that this handsome young man was really into me. I wish I could go walk over to her, lean over her shoulder and tell her to run. Run fast, run far away and don’t look back. He will never completely love you and he will break your heart with no remorse.

      • Miss Bailey
        Thank you for the kind words . You too know the horrible feeling of being betrayed by one you loved. But we have to let go of the good memories & realize that who we loved never really loved us.

        I come here every day to read all the experiences our fellow chumps & understand we were never to blame. Even though sometimes I blame myself
        for not seeing the evil selfish person he really is,👿. Take care of yourself ❤️

    • From what I now know of narcissists, I’d say that he was actually grooming you. He wanted to test how far he could go and still keep you in the kibble/cake game. In his mind, if you would believe with/put up with this level of lie/infidelity that showed you’d be a great chump and put up with so much more.

    • Hi Kathleen, i so understand what u went through as I’m going through it this very minute. I’ve heard all the excuses in the book and still forgave him over and over.

      I got a shocker 4 days ago when I ran into him collecting his newborn and “her” from the hospital. I told him I’m finally done with his lies and of course he’s now playing the manipulation game. Trying to tell me that having a baby with a woman means nothing to him and she can’t keep him with a baby and that should prove to me that I’m special and I’m the one he will chose to be his wife! Hence why he’s having a kid with her!

      I think I’ve finally gotten past my years of stupidity and giving him second and third chances all because I loved who I thought or wished he was! I really did love him but now I have chosen to love myself more.

      Any tips on how to succeed with NC i would really appreciate hearing them because honestly I’m a bit scared to fail this time!

      • Kay Kay
        Little late on answering but I was married for 34 years & when I served him divorce papers ( he was spending the weekend with the whore) at her house, he said he’s been cheating on me for 20 years. Not with her but others. I loved him all those years but my mental & physical health was deteriorating. So I’m now divorced 3 years & still not close to meh.
        I cut all contact with him.. only my adult son sees him. Blocked him from my cell, my home etc I didn’t follow him, call him etc although he paraded
        the whore in my face. You have to totally cut him out from your life! You deserve a truthful honest man in your life. Stay strong 👍🏻

  • Emotional abuse is abuse. You have scars that only you can see. Leave the first time you catch him in a lie. Trust your instincts… as I always knew that something just wasn’t right about him, but, like I stated many times, I never knew anything about Sociopaths. Yes, the red flags.
    We all deserve to be loved and without trust, there is no love.

  • I need to ask everyone a question please. My hubby wants to remain friends with the affair partner on Facebook and because of that , she is free to private message him. My husbands new mantra is “ you focus on the 1 % bad I do and not the 99% good. “. He continues to iuse this mantra with me whenever I question anything. And it does stop me in my tracks. I literally can’t think of a thing to say back at this. Partly because it kind of is a true statement. I am hyper focused on this. Can someone tell me a comeback or an answer I can use ?

      • Mine used a similar line with me during the early days.

        I quickly replied that “Murders may only murder once in his life (<1% of his total life). Doesn't mean I should ignore that they ARE capable of murder. In fact…I'd argue that it is prudent I remember this. My safety could depend on it."

        True character doesn't have "days off". Hitler loved dogs, etc.

        Boundaries are needed not because he is bad all the time but because when he bad you get really hurt.

        I know I cannot let myself become complacent…because that is when I make myself vulnerable to abuse by him again.

        Fyi my ex was very taken aback (hurt) when I said all this. But he does respect my now rock hard boundaries.

      • He is manipulating & gaslighting without a doubt. He is successfully making you question & blame yourself. Pay attention to his actions not his words. He will not unfriend this woman even on FB. That action is your answer right there. He’s slapping you in the face with it. TAKE NOTICE!

        He’s giving you a form of, “What I did/do is not the problem. How you react to it is the problem.” That’s total bull shit. Recognize it for what it is. No matter what he tells you, this action alone shows you this man has no respect for you what-so-ever. He doesn’t care about your feelings. In fact, since he’s throwing it in your face, he probably gets off on your misery.

        This is not a small thing. He is showing you his true self & his lack of character. That’s not going to ever change. (Believe me, I know this all too well.) Someone who truly loved you wouldn’t be gaslighting you like this. You have nothing to work with here.

        Please don’t be like me & invest 16+ years of your life with a fuckwit. It will get worse over time. Sure, you may have some decent moments or days but overall, it’s a downward spiral. If you confront him & refuse to accept it, he will most likely just get better at hiding his misdeeds & covering his tracks.

        Get your ducks in a row (without telling him). See an attorney & find out your rights. Do what attorney says. Copy financials, etc. Prepare for life without him. You don’t even have to have the strength to be 100% sure right now. Do this anyway even if you don’t know if you can leave, in case he walks out on you. In any event, it will hurt nothing to be prepared just in case.

        One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is right now. That hard thing is accepting the situation you’re in. Accepting he’s not who you thought he was. Accepting he doesn’t have true love or empathy for you. Seriously, if he can’t even not befriend the ow on fb, accept the res no hope for him or for your relationship. SAVE YOURSELF BEFORE HE DESTROYS ALL OF YOU!!!

    • Your come back answer is silence …and to line up your ducks.

      He has you where he wants you… contemplating unacceptable shit. Carry on trying to think like he does at your own risk.

    • You don’t need a comeback, you need a plan to leave. He is manipulating you to move your own goalposts of what is acceptable. You are supposed to be his first priority. He doesn’t want to honor that. He wants his cake. Don’t be cake.

    • He is indeed gaslighting you. It us unquestionably disrespectful to keep being online friends with your AP. If he cannot muster the little respect to block her, then there is more going on. There are things that people do in relationships that qualify as dealbreakers. Leaving socks on the floor is probably not one of them. However, cheating or staying friends with the OW most certainly is.
      You deserve better treatment. You deserve to be treated as the priority. If he cannot do this, you are better off without him.

      I mean, how does the equation look in his mind? I made you coffee, therefore I am allowed to kiss the OW? Because that is a zero sum game and therefore of no impact to you?
      If I do one nice thing, then I am allowed to do one bad thing?

      This is not how this works. You are not a mathematical equation.

      Btw. my STBX pulled the same … he considers his three year affair and continuing it even after DDay just as one mistake that is easily outweighed by everything good he ever did. He also refused to delete her contact info and block her. He said “Out of Principle”, because I was not the master of him. Later I learned that he simply continued the affair and had no reason to block her. He prioritized her over me.

      Don’t let him do this to you.

      • This is it exactly. They are prioritizing OW over wife. They don’t want to hurt OW’s feelings, they would rather hurt the wife’s feelings. As soon as someone else becomes the priority the marriage is over. He’s clearly made his choice and it isn’t the wife.

    • You are looking at it all wrong. He is wanting to stay in contact with her so he can fuck her again at some point. There is nothing you can “say” that will change that. There are no magic words or phrases that will transform him into a decent, faithful person. This is not about come-backs, this is a RED FLAG that people are talking about above. The red flag here is that he is fighting to stay in contact with the OW. That means that this supposed wreckonciliation is a farce. This needs actions, not words. Actions like serving him with divorce papers, tossing him out etc etc

    • If there’s a turd in the swimming pool, how big does it have to be before you decide to get out of the pool? 😉

      Sometimes 1% is more than enough bullshit to be a game changer.

    • A marriage is 100 % trust with someone you can depend on. You already know this isn’t what you have. He’s a cake eater. Really he’s selfish and entitled to have done it in the first place but to continue to do so when he knows how it makes you feel? Yep, he’s a fucker. You are posting here. You know how it makes you feel. This relationship is unacceptable to you.

      The bigger question isn’t whether you’re being unreasonable in his 1% BS. It’s what’s holding you back from leaving someone who isn’t marriage material and never will be for anyone? Definitely not her either. He’s using you both. He’s not all in for either person. But he may decide at some point he’ll cut his losses with you and leave. That’s what many of us have experienced. And it has cost us emotionally, financially, and years of our lives.

      That’s what this exercise is about today. What do you think it would’ve taken for you to realize your worth at the first sign of a turd?

    • Learn from me that if you have to explain to a person how to act decently, then you have already found disaster. “Friendship” with OP = ongoing betrayal and abuse…no other way to assess it.

      This is gaslighting and disrespectful abuse.

      If he beat you up once every 100 days, that is still 3+ beatings a year and one is too many.

    • Except it isn’t that 1% that’s bad and 99% good. If he had an affair at all that’s already 70% bad right there, at least. His obvious lack of remorse is another 10% bad. Now wanting to keep the affair partner as a Facebook friend is another 10% bad. Giving you a hard time for harping about that 90% bad is another 9% bad so really it is 99% bad and only 1% good. Whatever “good” he does for you is drowned out by his lack of concern for your feelings.

      The proper response is divorce papers.

    • CindyChump, don’t get focused on his 1% comment. You need to look at the big picture. I get it. I also got so wrapped up on any tiny little detail and completely overlooked the fact that if he really loved me and the affair was the “biggest mistake of his life,” any request I had should have been honored by him and discussed with patience. It wasn’t. I got the same…he told me I was paranoid, crazy, not the boss of him, etc. and I was but it’s because of the mindfuck of the situation. He continued to see her. I finally got away and with distance, I realized how emotionally abusive he was. He knew I was a chump even before I did. He completely knew what to say and do to manipulate me. You don’t deserve to be made to feel insignificant. You matter. Get your ducks lined up. Don’t tell him a thing.

    • He cheated on you and insists on staying “friends” on FB with affair partner. I fail to see how that adds up to 1% bad. You don’t need a pithy or snappy comeback you need a lawyer, like yesterday.

    • Let me be blunt. He is still fucking her. There is zero question in my mind about this. First of all, fucking someone else is not 1% of anything. It is everything. He had to tell you thousands of lies to make that happen. And he is still doing it. Furthermore, he can see that it is destroying you emotionally. And he is still doing it. Lastly, he is the one who lied, cheated (and he is till doing that) and now he is blaming you for it. This is classic “It’s not my lies, cheating, emotional abuse that’s the problem–it’s that for some silly reason it seems to bother you that’s the real problem.” This man DOES NOT love you. If he did, he’d do whatever it took for you to feel safe. He is telling you straight up that what you want and need, what you were promised before friends, family, government body, church, and God will never have value for him. Believe what he has shown you. THIS IS WHO HE IS. Get STD tested and go to a lawyer. While I was believing lies in reconciliation with my first husband he was draining accounts, hiding money, etc. Do not believe “he’d never do that” Uh, yes he would. He already did something much WORSE than that. Protect yourself and any children you have. Tell him nothing until you have made up your mind and have your ducks in a row.

    • Cindychump, this is standard cake-eating boundary-jumping narc BS. I got the same line, about how he wanted to remain friends with the MOW because she was a “good person” (riiiiiight), and she needed his support. He felt sorry for her and didn’t want to hurt her feelings, he needed time to wind things down, blah blah blah. So basically, her feelings were more important than mine, which told me all I needed to know. Any cheater who is serious about trying to reconcile knows that he can’t legitimately continue ANY kind of relationship with the AP and be successful. So ignore his hair-splitting 1% crap and run away.

    • I am sorry – he is lying to you. My Ex Ahole did the same thing (remained friends on Facebook with the OW). If he cared about your feelings he would be doing EVERYTHING (without being asked) to be considerate of your feelings and to make it up to you…. and he is not (pay attention to his actions, not his words). See a kick ass attorney ASAP and find out what your legal situation is…things are less scary when you have knowledge.

    • Say nothing.

      Never make someone a priority who just treats you like an option.

      He does not understand what marriage is. He’s giving you the proof of that. No good husband would ever think to expect this of a wife.

      Get out.

    • Cindychump,

      I’ve been there, done that. At the beginning during wreckonciliation, I found out he was still friends with her on FB. He made a new FB account with just her as his friend at the beginning of the affair (if this did not clue her in on him having something to hide, then she’s a stupid fuck).

      So I ask him why are they still friends etc. I forgot what he said, but basically he wants more “time” and “space”. These dolts will say the stupidest things to just continue their affair. Look. If they’re still connected in some ways, they’re still at it no matter what the fuck they say (and it’s all blameshifting, I assure you). Is this acceptable to you?

    • How about you tell him that he can decide whether he wants to eliminate the 1% or divorce and give you 50%? You didn’t agree to polygamy, so either the AP is gone or you are.

    • I’d answer ; “Aw, poor widdle baby. You’re a serial liar. So how do I even know you are doing the good things you claim to be doing? Moreover, why should I care after how much you’ve hurt me? Oh, did I happen to suggest you going and fucking yourself lately? If not, allow me to remedy that.”

      I wouldn’t let a cheater be FB friends with ANY woman not a relative, let alone one he cheated with. This entitled jerk needs to shut his whiny mouth. He doesn’t seem to get that he’s lucky you didn’t leave him and/or kick him in the balls. How dare he demand bitch cookies from you for supposed “good stuff” he’s allegedly doing.
      Honey, are you missing an outrage gene or something? Don’t let a whiny little cheating bitch complain about your completely rational suspicions of him EVER.

    • Red Flag number one for me during reconciliation was: #1 – He would not unfriend her on Facebook. And his cold comeback just says it all.

      That should have been enough for me to calmly see the lawyer and get those ducks in a row instead of waiting for the other Red flags and finally, realizing he was seeing her. That is an act of pure FU. Nope. He does not respect you. Sorry you are having to deal with this.

  • I would tell myself about chump lady and chump nation, so I wouldn’t have had to go through it all feeling so alone. Others who understand even a little bit is a powerful thing.

    • Right on! Just came from a massage treatment, and my therapist shared that she was at the beginning of things, just starting to process it all. And the first thing outta my mouth was a pithy-but-friendly command to buy CL’s book before sunset TODAY, and start reading the blog here! She will find her mighty much quicker than I did, I know!

  • I would have left the first time he cheated. But kudos to me for keeping my promise and making his life hell after he cheated.

    I’d also have saved the air in my lungs and not have spoken to him trying to ‘ talk things out’. When I told him that he had wasted 10 years of my life and I wasn’t going to waste a second more on him the shit was upset and gasped” 10 years! You think it was a waste?!”. This from the same shit who declared that we should have never gotten married.
    Go away pest!

    • Yep. D-Day #1 is where I should have drawn the line.

      I would say to myself “once a cheater, always a cheater” is not just a catchy saying – it’s TRUE!!

      • Oh yeah. And I’d tell myself don’t waste your money on all those Amazon books put out by the RIC!

        (I bet I spent $50. Waste of money; poor trees died for naught.)

  • After I discovered the affair, I would have not said a thing but gathered the documentation I needed and filed for divorce. I did some pick me dancing, begged and pleaded, so humiliating! In the end my boundary was divorce. Yes, it was scary financially. I just read something where George Simon the best thing is to cut all ties, including financial and after 32 years of marriage that is alimony for me. Wish I would have taken more assets in the beginning and not alimony. I hate being tied to him financially.

    There were red flags in the beginning – when we were dating – I ignored them all because he came from a “good” family.

    I do wish schools had classes on psychos – they are amongst us – disguised as empathic normal humans.

    I know better now.

  • Dear ld –

    That letter you wrote breaking up with him because you felt all he did was criticize you? You should have stuck to your guns. He begged you to take him back because YOU made him a better person. Instead 24 years later, he made you feel invisible and inadequate by slowly chipping away your self worth through his continued criticism.

    Trust your gut.

    58 year old you.

  • I would recognize the red flags. I would have divorced him even before the affair. Looking back I could kick my old self in the ass. For living with a man who verbally abused me most of our marriage. Blamed me for everything that went wrong. Hell, he even blamed me for him sneaking around with Skankella. Kept most of his paychecks to himself. I now realize made it easier to cheat. Cheating was just another form of abuse.

    • I would also tell the younger me to save money. Not to let my husband keep most of his pays to himself. I would tell her not to put up with verbal abuse. I would tell her that I am worth so much more and not to put myself last. It is never okay to cry alone and pretend that everything is okay. No man is worth wasting your life only to be betrayed.

  • It’s ok to be alone. I was afraid of being alone when I was younger. I’m looking at lifetime of being single now and it’s really not bad at all. I’m much happier now than I was when I was married.

    • Living alone rules once you get used to it, says me. I am glad I have the life I have now, but I honestly wouldn’t mind having sole control of my sanctuary sometimes. 😀

  • I have two and I can’t choose. Here they are.

    #1, sobbing about “the worst mistake of my life” isn’t an indicator of character, it’s an indicator of entitlement. The same is true of all other self-pity, as well as for charm and rage. Good character is good choices. After-the-fact revisionist history is bad character.

    #2, a masterclass on owning my own sexuality and thoroughly understanding that all good sexual feelings I experience belong to me, regardless of who I choose to share in them. Great sex is about how I am experiencing it. No other person is “the only person who can make me feel that way”. No other person is the sole determiner of whether I am worthy of it, whether I am good enough at it, or who else will want me. It’s a big world. One other person is just a fragment in it. And any sex worth sharing is about intimacy and trust, anyway, so any person who treats it differently doesn’t deserve to share it with me in the first place.

  • Letter to myself.

    “Dear Inescapable —

    It is the summer of 2000. You just walked down the market place with your new boyfriend. You took his hand like you always do and he snapped at you loudly and angrily said through his teeth “It is too warm for that”.

    You think you have found the dream man. He loves all the things you do: he reads, he likes traveling, he makes future plans, he is not afraid to show his emotions, he loves your intelligence, and he loves to cook, and he loves the music you like. Do not fall for that. He is pretending… All he cares about is to manage his image. Even with you…

    What he meant by “it is too warm for that”, is in fact “do not dare to take advantage of me and do not control what I do”. When he later calls all your criticisms or suggestions attacks, he means that you have no right to have an individual opinion in the relationship. When he claims that you have an aggressive tone in your voice, that you are socially awkward or outright mean, he just wants to block you off from being part of his friendship circles. When he claims that the sexist and disgusting men are just acquaintances that he hangs out with but not friend, do not fall for that… He is just one of them. He just hides it better. Do not believe him when he says that your values and priorities are all wrong. That what you are feeling does not match the situation. That you get angry over nothing. Do not believe him.

    He will act like he is the loving and faithful husband and father to the outside. However, he will not compromise for you or take your side ever. You will just have to function to support him. He claims he is there for the kids, but will only do with them what he also likes. He will travel 30% of the time.
    He will devalue you more year after year. He will never become the loving husband again. Everything will be your fault. Even the three year affair that apparently you will have driven him to, because of all your flaws. He will continue lying even after discovery of the affair, because according to him, you are not giving him another choice. You will ask him to stop the affair, he will not want to, but promises just that. Just this difference in opinion will make him feel justified to lie further. Remember: you are not allowed to have an opinion different than his. Or you will be punished.

    Walk away. Walk out the door never look back.
    Cut your losses now.

    Yours Future-Inescapable”

    I should have left three months in. I stayed for 14 years instead.

    • Oh my goodness, I married the Dickhead in August of 2000. Bad year. I knew 4 months into our relationship that he was extremely selfish and his priorities were more important. Because, you know, he came from a poor family and was making up for his lost childhood. I cried the day before we were married because I needed help and emotional support and he had no desire to help me. I knew then that he would never be the support that I needed and, for a moment, I knew that I should have walked away.

      We were married almost 18 years.

    • OMG this!!!

      “When he claims that the sexist and disgusting men are just acquaintances that he hangs out with but not friend, do not fall for that… He is just one of them. He just hides it better.”

      I could never figure out what he saw in certain friends. Until I finally realized he was just like them. I was projecting my values onto him. He was not who I thought or I wanted him to be.

  • If I only had one moment to go back in time to give my Younger Me one message, it would be a bigger message about people’s character rather than a specific action based on a specific occurance. What that means is I would tell Younger Me to walk away once I see signs of character flaw or bad character. I would tell Younger Me that all this programming and brainwashing we get about “you have to work on relationships” and “for better or for worse” and “till death do us part” etc etc etc only applies to good, decent people with good character that are acting in good faith. Everything else sees your backside walking away. Now wisdom and experience and common sense will have to come into play in order to differentiate some of that. But a good guideline is if someone intentionally does something knowing that it will cause you (or anyone else) great pain and distress for their own gain, that means they have bad character. That is the lesson I would give Younger Me.

    • Yes!
      “All relationships take work,” “no one is perfect,” “we all made/make mistakes,” and the dreaded, “lets give him the benefit of the doubt,” were my prison.

      I spun it all down to, “He’s just immature, lazy and selfish…but he will grow out of it. He really loves me- though he isnt very good with showing it, and at least he isnt cheating.”

      I would say f*ck all that “advice” and constantly challenge it.
      He’s “just” immature, etc? How do you know? What other reasons could explain his behavior? What is the worst possible reason…and how do you know it isnt true?
      He loves you/at least he isnt cheating? How do you know this? What evidence do you have to support that? Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

      • I would ask my younger self, after the first D-day “Where is HIS pick me dance??!” he has cheated on YOU and yet you are the one dancing like a crazed maniac to save the marriage?”
        Seriously it took till D-Day #3 (8+ years later) till it even occurred to me that I should question the assumption that I was lucky to still have him around.
        I would ask my poor chumpy boundary-less self “If you had cheated, what would you do to save the marriage?” And seriously, listen to your answer. Is the cheater doing ANY of those things?
        A great example: How come this guy can find all the free porn on the internet but is incapable of connecting to Sex Addicts Anonymous or even a freaking wreckoncilation book from Amazon?

        • Also: you can’t avoid the pain of this, two miserable choices (stay or leave?). All you end up doing is delaying the inevitable. Mitigating the pain is only spreading out the misery for exponentially more years. You can’t control the cheater or his decisions -so stop trying. Put on your big girl panties, and bite the bullet. Just do it. Don’t think about it anymore. Just put one foot in front of another and trust your brain instead of your heart.

  • Exaggerating is the same as lying. Getting to a place where you just adjust in your head what he tells you, is spackling. “I hiked 5 miles into the wilderness during that camping trip.” (Kintsugi adjusts in her head that he hiked 1/2 a mile, on a dirt road with a slight incline.)

  • Hey Chump Lady,
    Can I just borrow yours? It’s brilliant! Especially the part where you tell yourself he’s not the last person you’ll ever care for.

    I would go back and tell myself that I will stop loving him. The pain will stop!

  • Thanks to all I have read on this and other forums I can say that my future self saved my present self from making the biggest mistake of my life which would have been going back to him one last time. Learning about psychopathia and covert narcissism is the biggest blessing of all. The covert narcopath is skilled in masking his true self and intentions which makes him super easy to romanticize – don’t. I almost walked back into a trap where I would have been destroyed in every way possible. Financially, mentally and legally. I won’t go into the details but KNOW that someone who is on the end spectrum toward being a psychopath wants one thing only: to see you down on your knees and bloodied. This is so they can crow over you and smile in duping delight that they are the superior one. These can be very dangerous individuals despite all the pleas, the ‘I love you forevers’, the hoovering etc.
    So I thank you all and my future self as well for helping me to put all the puzzle pieces together. I sigh in relief that I am no longer in harm’s way. I came within a hair’s breadth. The ‘nice narcissists’ are the worst.

    • Yes. Not knowing that these people existed outside of movies I believed the throes of remorse.
      He asked for a second chance. I didn’t bother to tell him that he was already having it.
      CL helped me see why I was right to stick to my guns.

  • Know your worth. Remember who u are a strong independent educated woman who does need a man to live and now to raise a child. Don’t do it chump. Ur above the pick-me-dance and for Gods sake stop smoking the Hopium pipe! Trust he sucks.

    U have all ur girls lawyer, divorce financial advisor counselor plus one man ur fitness trainer in ur corner to make u remember ur worth and who u are again!

  • Don’t ever excuse poor behavior and trust yourself to stand firm to your morals and values. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it probably is a duck. And yes, this person may decide to dump you if you question them. That’s called a HEALTHY relationship and it’s a good thing if they do. You, my friend, are worthy of a loving, reciprocal relationship.

    When his best friend told you he was teasing him because Dr. Cheaterpants didn’t know the first thing about you such as what you like to do, what’s your favorite movie, etc… THAT WAS A HUGE RED FLAG that should have thumped you upside the head. He could only say what it was you did for him that he liked…..

    Ugh. I spent over 20 years with him with multiple findings of sneaking to strip clubs, hidden porn use, 2 known schmoopie and 2 suspected ones over those years. To look and talk to that fucker, the average Joe would have absolutely no idea that’s who he is. Except now maybe, since that 50 year old bald headed, walks with a limp man is strutting around with a 20-something bleached blonde bimbo spending his money on her like a drunken sailor.

  • One of the other things I wish I could tell my younger self is that little voice deep inside ourselves that tell us that the relationship we are in is our one true love and soul mate and that if that relationship fails we miss our one chance at love and will die alone being eaten by our cats is all bullshit. I usually encourage people to trust their gut and listen to their little voice, but that is one area where our little voice is full of shit. The universe is very big and very free form. Our capacity to love be loved is boundless. When one door closes, another will open in time.

    Yes, there is pain and sadness and there will be a period of mourning when a relationship ends and there may even be some time of loneliness and frustration etc. But the world is big and is full of opportunities and options. There are people we are compatible with and get along well with and people we don’t. There is no one, all-encompassing soulmate. And even if there was, that person would not cheat on us or knowingly hurt us, so if they are a cheater, there are not a soulmate in the first place. So NEXT!

  • Dear Younger Bliss,

    You are right in your assessment that something is VERY, VERY wrong with him that he wants to spend the majority of your honeymoon alone. He wants to “get away” because of all the so-called stress of getting married. When all he had to do was pick up his tux. Yes, get that annulment. Things will not get better. He will always want to go off, avoid people, including you and the kids, act antisocial, and live his sick double life. There is a reason he has no friends (and he doesn’t for the next 30 years). He will always try to blame you, saying you talk too much, or expect too much, or are too needy, etc. He is already a skilled liar and as disordered as they come. Do it, Bliss!

    Two weeks in, and I felt in my gut I should get an annulment. I stayed almost 30 years, trying, with all my love and my strong commitment to my vows to keep our marriage together for better or worse. What a waste of time. The disordered cannot be changed with human love.

  • Thank you for this CL.

    I would say to myself,
    Peacekeeper ( I believe I have always had to be a peacekeeper to survive).
    This person you really truly have loved, and still love, is not worth a grain of your devotion.
    He left evidence for you to find hoping this would lead you to agree to a divorce so he could live the dream with his new tru wuv. ( he said, he would need a divorce, it would not be fair to live with her, he would have to marry her).
    I need to go on to say, Peacekeeper, STOP dancing, it doesn’t look good on you.
    Kick his sorry ass out. Cuddle your tiny daughter, nourish and cherish the growing life inside your womb. He is not worthy of the gems he has in his life. He is blind to you and to them. BLIND.
    Peacekeeper, it doesn’t matter if you are dirt poor. You have riches in life that truly count, like integrity, love and kindness. Eventually you will thrive without him. People are attracted to your sharing spirit, your love of live, your sense of humour.
    Pick yourself up off the floor, get back to your OBS, ask him to test again for STDS, always put your precious babies first. He won’t even care if he ever sees them again. He only cares about himself. You will learn of new to you words ,like narcissist, mycinogist, so many other words.
    You will escape a man who can inhale with anger ,and exhale with blame shifting, all in one single breath.
    Years later if you stumble upon CL, CN you will feel such anguish reading of how Chumps are treated.
    You will tell them to leave a cheater, gain a life, run like their hair is on fire!

    That felt good to get out. I do think about this often.

    Thank you again, for this, dear CL.

    Love,
    peacekeeper

    • Xoxo

      And the children will be BETTER for not having him in their lives. I really tormented myself about loosing their intact family. But he was never really there without an audience anyway, and God knows I dont want them to be ANYTHING like him. Fortunately, he doesnt care, either, and leaves us alone. And the kids dont even notice he is gone.

  • Hey younger I.C.- See all that constant propping up you do for him? That cheerleading? That financing, supporting, making-possible-ing? Stop it. Just fucking stop it. You can’t polish him up to be a shiny penny, he will always be the dissatisfied, piggy and petulant little boy you first met when you were 16. He will always be tarnished. Stop right now when you can so clearly see how it is not your fault since he was that way when you found him–stop believing in his potential. It will cost you three decades of your life if you don’t STOP RIGHT NOW.

    That silent brooding is not the sign of a strong and silent “good” man. He is not a puzzle for you to riddle out for the next 31 years so you can feel like only you hold his true heart close. He will never let you in.

    When he shoves you away physically and emotionally, believe him and GTFO.

  • Dear GetMeFree,

    Set boundaries. Decide ahead of time what is not acceptable behavior and what action you will take if that line is crossed. Then be brave to carry it out.

    Listen to your gut. And realize that there are people willing to purposely deceive you, even someone who promised to love and cherish and be faithful. Don’t be naive or project your values onto them. Pay attention to actions and judge a person’s character by them.

    Don’t take the responsibility for someone else’s happiness. Consequences are a direct result of choices. Let them deal with their own consequences and stop trying to make everything better for them.

    Now, walk away and don’t let your fears make decisions for you. Life will be so much better and PEACEFUL without someone willing to treat you this way.

    Sincerely,
    A much wiser GetMeFree

  • The advice I would have given myself in 2007 when the emotional affair was ongoing and in its aftermath is “tell your husband you need marriage counseling and if he doesn’t agree go on your own”. I don’t know if it would have saved our marriage or not but it would likely have clarified where we stood and whether or not we should stay together. Maybe we would have worked out our differences and been happier together or maybe we would have come to the mutual conclusion that we needed to split. I don’t really know but I do feel that maybe things would at least have ended in a more respectful way. There was still time for that back then.

    Either that or I would say “divorce him before he spends all of your savings on buying, housing and maintaining the airplane. There is really nothing in it for you because it isn’t going to make him happy anyway and by the time he starts actually making money flying you will be divorced and won’t benefit.

  • Go ahead and send that snarky email that makes you sound so much stronger than you feel inside. Because you really are that strong even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. Also, it will shut this shit down immediately rather than have it drag on for 2 years. Yes, letting it drag on will feed your ego and help your self confidence but it’s not worth the trade off of having a fuckwit in your life for another two years. Trust that he sucks, that you don’t and that this wasn’t your fault. You will find happiness again.

    Send that email.

  • Uni,

    You have tried dozens and dozens of times to improve his behavior towards you by explaining to him how hurtful it is. If that were going to work, it would have by now…doubling down with the same plan wont fix it, now or ever.

    Deep in your soul, your worst fear is that your husband does not love you. This is made worse because your parents dont love you either. This will sound shocking, but you will learn that your worst fears are true…he does NOT love you. Yes, you were served up a shitty deal, but remaining where you arent loved is not the solution. As awful as that all sounds, the earth will not crack open and swallow you whole. They are only 3 people and its not that tragic that they dont love you – they dont even KNOW you.

    Dont beat yourself up…your 3 kids are amazing people and they exist for reasons and you wont regret them.

    Here is the really ironic thing…you know how your parents and spouse all want money more than anything when all you care about is Truth and Love and Decency? They will all die in debt and you will not only know love but you will have the resources to travel the world and enjoy your precious life in ways they never could. You will find ways to serve others that will change the way things are done on planet earth and people you never met will tell you that your work inspires them.

    That thing in the Bible about people who put themselves first ending up last and people who serve ending up first, well you will see it with your own eyes in your lifetime…the shitstorm you are in is real but temporary…be strong, it will get MUCH better.

    • Both your younger you and your new you are amazing. Keep on making the world a better place with your giftings and talents and hard work and love.

      Hugs.

  • Dear TC:

    Your whole life, you’ve read fairy tales, watched romantic comedies, seen commercials where the ideal is portrayed — always — as a loving romantic couple. This has trained you to believe, as too many other men and women do, that happiness can only be found as part of a romantic duo. Well, guess what? Simply. Not. True. Yes, the Harvard Study showed what we already knew; loving connections with others is the most important thing in life. But friendship, love of family, love of pets, love of god can absolutely bring you all the joy and support you need. In other words, don’t let the fear of “being alone” (defined, too narrowly, as being without a romantic partner) keep you in a lousy marriage year after year after year.

    It’s quite probable that you’ll never fall in romantic/sexual love again, if you leave him, and the way our society spins it, that would be the worst thing in the world. However, it’s okay (in fact, it’s better than okay) to have the bed all to yourself, to not have to share the remote control, to fall asleep after the satisfaction of a good book instead of semi-good sex. Don’t believe your friends who say, after your split, “don’t worry – you’re such a catch, you’ll find someone again in no time!” It won’t happen for you. But, more important, don’t believe the voice in your head telling you that life will never be worthwhile again if you leave the structure of a two-parent, he-tells-me-he-loves-me-even-though-he-doesn’t-act-like-it union. Life as a single person can be just as great as life in a couple.

    – Old TC

  • Personally, I’m proud of myself that I *didn’t* make a roaring bonfire of his all his shit in the OW’s front yard….and didn’t expose his infidelity to his employer (both of which I briefly considered doing…they would have felt good), or anything else that would have potentially landed me in jail. That internal pep talk did happen, thankfully.

    The pep talk I wish I had:
    – Run. Now. Really, now!
    – Tell everyone everything (not on social media, though) right away

  • I would tell myself to find mental health sooner. I still don’t have it and my life and the decisions I have made have suffered (quit jobs). It took me about a year and a half later to realize I likely had PTSD with my first sociopath. I was a high earning 6 figure independent woman and now I’m looking for hourly jobs. There is no doubt my depression related to being in 2 relationships with cheaters has affected my self-worth and drive.
    I just read Lady Gaga talked about the importance of mental health in an awards speech. I think she is spot on and I’m thankful she was brave and passionate about this subject to reveal her own struggles to the world and raise awareness. The mental abuse, gaslighting, discard and devaluation we endure from being with sociopaths have long lasting affects. I think mental health would have saved me from making some stupid mistakes with my career.

    • You are not the only Chump who has struggled with employment issues. My fear of failure and rejection, PTSD and (never before experienced) anxiety has significantly impacted my ability to succeed at work.

      I am sorry you have had career struggles. It’s a kicked when you are down feeling. The double whammy of relationship failure and failing at your job is horrible and embarrassing. It does a real number on you self esteem and belief in yourself.

      Bring it in girl, (((hug)))

  • Hey, Rally. Remember when you and he went to Vegas to get married and while waiting for the limo to arrive, you realized that everything felt wrong and you couldn’t go through with it because you knew in your gut that he was too immature to make a good life with? Yeah. That was a red flag the size of the MGM Grand. And then remember when you talked yourself into marrying him later because you thought life would mature him?

    Turns out it won’t. Don’t do that anymore.

    • Oh shoot! That really sucks! It made me smile because we just didn’t listen to our instincts or feel what our bodies were trying to tell us. I also had many red flags – MGM Grand size is huge. I think of the Rollercoaster there! What a ride you had after that!

  • I found CL early and quickly moved through the process crying and kicking all the way but moved anyway so that I am very glad about. BUT I would have had him come to the house and take ALL his stuff and sold the house immediately. I am now cleaning up his stuff cuz he only took what he wanted at that moment and left the rest to me then whined to my sons that he wanted more stuff after the divorce. I never let him back in the house. He uses that now to complain about me to my sons. They were not sympathetic but as the pain diminishes they are becoming more sympathetic. They feel sorry for him when he plays the poor me card even though he created this mess. 1.8 yes out, the process is still tough for me and sons especially moving out of family home. Living here thoughcwith daiky reminders of our life as a family is like finger nails on a chalk board (is that still a thing?). I’m strong but it chips away ar my heart. My advice-move our of shared home quickly and get rid of fucktarts stuff quickly! Took most of his crap to goodwill and old my wedding ring to s pawn shop-got peanuts but felt mighty!!!

    • Oh y ez i hear you thrive. The pity party they throw themselves after the fuck up they created. Its astounding how every bystander gets suckered in even though you and the kids are the ones hanging on by finger nails. I think the kids ev er n adult kids are blinded by history of what their dad represented. Only you got the final memo

  • To be honest, I don’t know what I would change.

    My first instinct is to want to go back and change ME, my reaction in the early years of my marriage, my approach to stress and frustration, still with the belief that it would have changed the course of what occurred; that in some way I could have prevented him having his affairs in those last two years, if I only x, y, z.

    My second instinct is to have heeded the yellow flags (I don’t think there were serious red flags at the start), but then I start to question how we all have yellow flags, and if we to jump on everyone for ways they aren’t perfect, we would never be able to trust anyone in relationship.

    My third instinct is to change for how long I did the Pick Me dance because I was so without the information of the extent of what he’d done and felt that I had every reason to believe that the marriage was salvageable. I probably wouldn’t have given him the final chance to come home last year in October to work on the marriage, as he was back in touch with the OW two weeks later and spent the next few months pretending to work on the marriage but really dismantling what was left of it. I think that was the final mindfuck that ultimately traumatized me.

    My advice to anyone whose cheating husband does a sudden 180, wanting to come back and fully commit because his “eyes now opened,” would be to proceed with great caution. Don’t let him come back to the house immediately, don’t start gearing up all sort of reconciliation plans. Start very small and let him do the work to show he is sincere. Take your time and set lots of boundaries. You don’t owe him a thing.

    • Last paragraph is golden. Don’t be the fallback after things go bad with Schmoopie! Or after he decides divorce would be too expensive, or would make him look bad, et bloody cetera.

  • Dear Old Me,

    He cheated on you the first year of marriage – Get out!
    He blamed everything on you and made you feel like you were wrong for wanting him home with you – Get out!
    His father and brother were both cheaters and alcoholics – Get out!
    He never respected what you did (taking care of the kids, cleaning, cooking, working) – Get out!
    He got a DWI – Get out!
    He made your son cry when he wouldn’t come home – Get out!
    He was always late – Get out!

    It wasn’t you Kim.. It was him! Love yourself enough to GET OUT!

  • * Love with your whole heart.
    * Your happiness is your responsibility.
    * Marry someone who has compatible values, is emotionally available, and is an effective communicator.
    * Always be truthful, even when it’s really hard.
    * Establish clear boundaries for acceptable behavior, and appropriate consequences for unacceptable behavior.
    * Maintain your dignity – never beg someone to love you!
    * Pay attention to red flags, no matter how insignificant they might seem.
    * Talk is cheap. A person’s actions tell you everything you need to know.
    * Trust your gut – it doesn’t lie.
    * Don’t let anyone hijack your life; it’s the only one you get.
    * Maintain your own identity; never become invisible or allow yourself to disappear.
    * Get a college education.
    * Have a full time career and earn your own money.
    * Pay the bills together – every time.
    * Always have a backup plan. Better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it.
    * Total dependence on another person sets you up for, at best, disappointment and unmet expectations, and at worst, to be used, abused, lied to, betrayed, minimized, discarded and scarred.

  • Quite simply, I’d tell my younger self to protect myself financially. And that no one was going to help me, so I better get busy helping myself.

    • Yes, this. If I had the chance to do it again I would finish college, and protect myself financially. Not be so intimidated by the POS that left a good life and on the way out crapped all over it.

  • I was married to a serial cheater who started her evil ways in our first year of marriage. I got my first inkling something was amiss after we’d been married all of 3 months, but D-day wasn’t for another 16 years. When I first got a hint there was way too much “smoke” for there not to be a fire, I convinced myself no woman would start cheating that soon after getting married. A few other little drips here and there followed: when I surprised her at work she was never wearing her wedding ring, she got defensive about questions I asked, not changing her name on the public masthead there, too many people not knowing she was married, etc. We moved away, and the same thing happened.

    I would tell myself back all those years ago to follow my intuition, not what conventional wisdom said. I would tell myself to spring for the PI, knowing it would cost most of our small savings. I would say to be brave and not worry about the humiliation and shame of getting divorced so quickly.

    • Ouch, I hear you on worrying about the shame of divorcing so quickly. I wanted to get my marriage annulled after our honeymoon. But what would people say? That I never gave it a chance? I thought the red flags were signs I could work hard to fix.

      That was probably the strongest gut feeling I had. After that, lying, gaslighting, and blame shifting take their toll.

      You kept trying because you loved. You wanted to think the best of her. You weren’t a quitter. And you were seriously lied to. You deserved so much better.

    • Traveling the World, I too married a serial cheater and had my first inkling that he cheated on me around 1 1/2 years into the marriage. We had lived apart (him east coast and me west coast) for 8 months near the beginning of our marriage because I was trying to finish grad school while he started his residency. I was busy with school and raising our baby. I moved out to the east coast when he cried over the phone and told me our marriage wouldn’t work if we weren’t together. I did what any wife and mother would do and moved to the east coast to be with him and keep our family intact. I moved into his apartment and I was cleaning the guest bathroom. It’s funny that I didn’t question him about the pair of black underwear that I found under the guest bathroom sink. Or how I never met the female friends he always talked about who he hung out with when we were thousands of miles apart. I guess I was in huge denial that my husband could already be cheating on me so early on in the marriage. Twenty years of marriage and he confessed to multiple affairs and those black underwear should have been my first and only warning to get out.

  • Dear Madam,
    When 25-year old him tells 24-year old you that he is not ready to get married, believe him! Say buh-bye and get a life of your own. Develop your badass self. Grow into a strong, independent woman. Do not accept the ring he reluctantly presents three months later. He loves your delicious kibbles, not you. You will spend the next 27 years appeasing the man-baby. It will blow up in spectacular disaster and your three children will cut off all contact with Mr. Tantrum and the whole Tantrum family.
    Your babies deserve better, Madam. Know your value.

  • Never excuse bad behavior because you ‘feel sorry’ for someone. Or don’t buy the excuse that they abuse people because they had a bad childhood. Having a bad childhood can make us more compassionate people. It’s not an excuse to do things that you know will devastate other people. Good people don’t do things that they know will hurt us. Adults can resist temptation.

    Once a person demonstrates that they are capable of cheating you know who they are. Someone who can justify lying and deception to themselves.

    Once the trust is gone, it is gone. You are flogging a dead horse.

  • Hey pal, it’s you from 5 years in the future. It all works out and you’ll thrive after this divorce is over. Better than good.

    BTW, what the f*** makes you think that you can have some sort of friendship with this piece of work? Just stop communicating with her, she takes more than she gives, she is a narcissist and accept that you may lose touch with some of the sane people in her family, those are the breaks and simply let go of worrying about what people think.

  • I wouldn’t tweak much. But this. When your MMA trained nephews offer to escort Cold Slab O’Meat out of the home their grandparents (married 45 years) left to you, take them up on it. The Sluterus is already pregnant. He’s already sent your stepdaughter to her mom’s with a shitty no explanation for his affair and she’ll never sleep in her own room again. He will have nowhere to go but her shitty apartment with until his daddy sends him money. The Great Starcrossed Loves can get started 17 days sooner on eventually hating each other without your interference.

    And all she is getting is all you ever had. A spouse who will lie right to your face. She’s not special enough to not be lied to either.

  • Hey Little Leftovers, pull up a chair. We got some real heavy shit to discuss. First of all, start reading about something called “codependency”. When you’ve read everything you can find about that term, ask yourself, “What am I not comfortable putting up with?” Make a list. Now tattoo that list on your arm like the dude from Memento and check it every time this woman does something completely off the wall selfish and destructive. Is that behavior on the list? It is? RUN. RUN AWAY. GET OUT NOW. SAVE YOURSELF.

  • Gentlechump, you are strong enough to get through all of this. You will cry and scream and rage at the injustice of it all, but that won’t change the reality.

    Don’t allow him to bully you into a parenting agreement that isn’t crystal clear with iron clad boundaries. Even though all you want to do is agree to get out and get away, be brave enough and resilient enough to fight for your daughter and yourself.

    You have depths of courage and stamina that you didn’t even know were there, and they surface right when you need them most.

    Most of all, the support system you didn’t even know was there comes through for you, over and over again. You are not alone so accept their love and help with gracious humility.

    Mama bears are gentle with their babies and a whole world of hell and hurt to those who threaten their babies. Be a mama bear.

  • The awful thing is that I might advise myself not to throw my husband out on the discovery of his affairs 4 years ago. I might say you just have to make this work.

    The absolute worst, worst thing is what this has done to my youngest son who still lives at home. He has turned into the most challenging, difficult unhappy child. And last year at the age of 14 he attempted suicide. Luckily I found him 18 hours after he had taken a massive overdose and run away. I went through several days of fear that he was going to have liver failure and then a couple of months of him being section in a mental health unit.

    Also I’m way too old to meet someone else and I am very lonely. I have a lovely home (now that I no longer live with a hoarder) but I’ve lost friends and companionship, so I’m in my lovely home all alone with a son who spends most of his time incarcerated in his bedroom. So I don’t know whether it might have been better to use the dramatic discovery as an opportunity to redraw the lines of our marriage but to keep our relationship going for the sake of our son.

    • SO sorry about your son. My daughter was totally miserable when I was with her father. She felt and knew that the marriage was in name only. Once we discover the lies and deceptions it is very hard to fake a happy marriage. Our minds are always whirling, wondering if they are telling the truth.

      Could you and your son travel ? Maybe a pact to see more of the world would help him? Some adventures with mom.

    • I like Mitz’s suggestion of traveling or going somewhere different for the holidays. You might consider volunteering as a family, maybe at the local animal shelter, or the library. I would be hesitant volunteering for a soup kitchen. The situation could be daunting for someone that depressed or it could uplifting to the soul knowing that you are helping other who might down on their luck. That’s a call for you to make.

      Sometimes, we all need help getting out of our head. Getting out of the house, planning an activity together, going for drive, might be helpful in the coming winter months.

      • Thank you for your replies. I’ve tried very hard to engage with my son. But the damage has been done. He would rather waste his life smoking dope with his poor choice of friends than spend time with me. I’m like Pollyanna with him, enthusiastically making suggestions for outings etc. He never really wants to do anything with me. It has become marginally better but to be honest I don’t think all of this would have happened if I hadn’t asked his cheating father to leave when the OWnumber 1 walked into the house and said she’d had an affair with my husband for 5 years and wanted me to know he’d embarked on another affair with OW number 2. Until the break up as far as my son was concerned we were to all intents and purposes in a long and relatively happy functioning family.

    • He’s probably as sad and lonely as you are. Do little things together. Then set up a small bucket list. Small things. Nothing to set off his suspicions. He’s clearly a sensitive and sensible boy. I’m sorry that he felt such despair that he wanted to die…but the break down is that he found out his father has no integrity and his mother is a sad mess( don’t imagine you are hiding it from him) and his family was a fake. You be true. You be the truth. Don’t let him think that you were a like too.

    • Lelibelle, friends aren’t like unicorns – the world is full of potential friends for you, and good companionship. Rebuilding after divorce is hard, but it’s well worth the effort to gain a life.

      You sound depressed and overwhelmed. The solution isn’t in staying married – you can’t go back to the Lie, even though you miss it (many of us miss The Lie sometimes).

      The way forward is unknown and scary. Get on the forums here and start getting some help locally if you can. There are a million ways to get a life now.

      You can do this. But you only have to do it one day at a time.

  • Oh – I would sit myself down and look myself right in the eye and say the following:

    1. Be very, very brave and very, very mighty.

    2. Look at his behaviour – not his words – nor promises and apologies.

    3. Know that most of the behaviours will be hidden. Hidden in the shadows. So shine a flashlight into the corners of your instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right.

    4. It’s okay to send him away and not take him back. You will survive. You will be sad but you will have a better life.

    5. If you’re concerned that he is a rare unicorn, put him through the test – separate, divorce, become independent. Unicorns will move heaven and earth to become better people. And hey, even if he is an actual unicorn, you might find you are just perfectly happy in life without mythical creatures.

  • Don’t be so desperate nor compromise your beliefs for love, affection, acceptance and safety.
    Don’t make excuses for people. A person that makes you cry and then shames you for it is not a good person.

  • I would tell her it’s okay to cut toxic people out of your life even if they are family.. actions truly are more important than words..just because he isn’t beating you with his fist doesnt mean he isn’t abusing you. Dont sacrifice yourself for anyone but your kids. Stay in the army till you retire…20 years is not eternity and you are only 22 so no you dont know it all yet…! Its okay to quit, to fail, to lose as long as you know you gave it your very best. Live a life of kindness compassion honor and integrity because your kids are going to need a good role model…stop drinking so much quit smoking and you might want to do something about that ADHD thing everyone is talking about cause your going to give it to both your kids…be prepared😁

  • My younger self believed she was loved and respected and regardless of actions, forgave without consequences.

    I’d tell her to set boundaries and have higher expectations in relationships. I’d tell her to take care of her mental health, finances, and be confident enough to know her self worth.

    Most of all I’d want her to give to herself and be strong enough to say no without second guessing her values.

    I’d tell her she wasn’t codependent, just the opposite. Abusive people attach themselves to selfless individuals. Be a bit more selfish with your time and energy.

  • Dear younger me,

    Liars lie. Over and over again. NEVER take back a cheater. Sad sausages are still liars.

    However, the divorce diet does wonders for one’s appearance.

  • If I could go back and redo D-Day, I would quietly pack my things, leave for my parents home in NC, hold my head high, change my cell phone number and never communicate with him except through attorney until divorce was finalized, and never look back. I wish I could of realized that I deserved better.

  • Dear moominmamma to be,
    You know when his friend Ursula, who you had never met but had heard a lot about, rang to find out if you were just his housemate, because that’s what he had been telling her? And you said ” We’ve been going out for three years” and she said “Oh my God I am so sorry.” and hung up?
    Yeah, that. Don’t let him talk, he’s really good at talking. Just pack up all his tabletop miniatures and move the fuck on. That funny little house you own, the one he doesn’t like and encourages you to sell? it’s going to go up in value BY MORE THAN 10 TIMES if you wait. Can you say Melbourne housing prices?
    I really regret that house!

  • Remember the time he called and you didn’t want to go out with him, making an excuse about having to wash your hair??? Hang up the phone and go wash your hair.

  • ‘Run for the hills and never look back…’
    If that doesn’t convince you, listen to ‘Walk Away’ by The Cast: quite an iconic record. My Tuesday came and so will yours. Have faith in yourself always x

  • Dear me,
    Those childish outbursts. That ‘chaste’ affair (“we only talked on the phone”). That not realizing that you need to work for the things you want, and getting pissed off when things aren’t just handed to him. Those are all red flags. Don’t think because you sunk 5 years into this relationship you owe it to him to try and fix him. It won’t work unless he’s willing to see the problem (it doesn’t matter WHY he’s doing it, if he doesn’t see the problem, there’s no fixing it), and the only thing worse than 5 years sunk, is 6…or 15

  • Dear younger me.
    Your gut feeling really is a super power!
    Listen to it. If something feels even a little off, or doesn’t add up, question it.
    He has lied to you and your children thousands of times. Cheated on you emotionally, physically and financially. You will probably never know the full truth of it all, but you don’t need to. Enough is enough. Trust that he sucks.
    Get. Out. Now.
    Hold your own.
    You can do this.
    He is a master manipulator, that’s why he is so successful in business. But
    those close to you realise that he could never have been so successful without your support. Even though he was the front man, you were heavily involved in all his business decision making, and you have learnt far more about business and people management than you realise…he was in charge of hundreds of staff, but for 7 years he hid from his work that he was unable to use a computer, as you were his personal assistant working unpaid from home, before and after hours, after you came home from long days running your own busy and successful business.
    Try to look at it all from the outside.
    See that he controls and manipulates you by belittling and gaslighting you and making you doubt your sanity and your own abilities.
    Together you are not a team. He is a pseudo team member. He is not a team player. You don’t realise it, but YOU are the team. You already do all the heavy lifting in your life. You can do it all alone.
    Girl, it will be hard. He is one of those that will not go quietly. He will rage, rant and threaten whenever he feels he is losing control. Then he will swing to sheer misery, then around to charming.
    He will beg for YEARS to come home (even while he has 3 girlfriends at once, including original Schmoopie).
    He will hoover and circle back.
    Believe none of it. Go as minimum contact as having 3 kids will allow.
    Don’t worry about the kids. They got their smarts from their mum. Trust you have given them a real working moral compass. They are big enough to make their own judgements on his behaviour, and brave and strong enough to call him out on it. Life will be hard, and he will make it so. But you’ve got this girl!
    You and your kids are all infinitely stronger than you realise. It’s a phase in time and you will all get through it in your own ways. You will get stronger the more you read Chump Lady. Remember your gut. Listen to it.
    Life will be beautiful again.
    Move on and embrace it!

    • ((((Superpower))))
      Wow, you really are an amazing person, and a wonderful mother.
      I hope things are better for you now.

      Isn’t it something how some cheaters can zip through so many channels, charm, rage, blameshifting etc.! horrifying really.
      My cheater can rage on inhalation and blameshift on exhalation, all in one breathe.

  • Dear CurlyChump,
    Remember what your favorite uncle told you when you were 13 and you confided in him that your father was a violent man and that you and your mother were afraid all of the time: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. YOU CANNOT SAVE THEM AND YOUR WORTH DOES NOT DEPEND ON SACRIFICING YOURSELF TO TRY AND DO SO.

  • I would tell myself that my gut instincts are 80% correct when it comes to boundaries and emotions. That I should not dismiss my concerns or fears just because other sugarcoat them or was being nice to me at that moment in time.

    I remember 13 years ago during D-Day #1 while I was just dating the fuckwit, and found out he had an emotional affair. I told him that I would have left him anyway without the affair because he was being a fucking jerk. I look at where I am now, and realise that hey, it’s the same thing. The cheating was just the cherry on top of a shit sundae I’ve been eating for the past 5-10 years when the devaluation began.

    I should have not gone back, and should have stayed gone; especially when my someone repeatedly rams my boundaries.

  • In retrospect, I would have made D-Day GTFO Day. It was obvious he had told me a million lies in order to live a double life. This action would have saved me from being the marriage police, fake marriage counseling and dancing.

    And, I would have spoken MY truth and story. It took me a while to find my voice. Now, a simple “Asshat was a serial cheater and liar…” pretty much sums it up.

  • When your therapist calls you out on accepting his bad behavior, don’t stop going to her. Start listening to the hard truths and let her help you make a smart exit plan. Taking it for another eleven years will kill your spirit.

  • What advice I would give my 20-year old self:

    Don’t get married until you have established a career and figured out who you are.
    Learn to be happy on your own before you commit to a partner.
    You are capable of taking care of yourself.
    You don’t need a man to be happy or complete.
    Develop your own life. Follow your interests, your passions, your instincts.
    Go slow with all relationships.
    Maintain your own bank accounts. Keep your own car in your name. And never, ever, let a man who doesn’t have his own career and finances in order live in your house.
    And don’t sniff around after sparkly guys, elusive guys, drinkers, men who withhold affection, men who are allergic to hard work or who are chronically unhappy.
    Look at the guy who is your best friend, who is kind and honest, who is loyal to friends and family. And you.
    And get into therapy. You were heroic as a child and HS kiddo, developing coping strategies that got your through. But those coping strategies will ruin your adult life. So get help. Learn.

    • This is SO True!!! One of my daughters has a childhood friend who get engaged in her sophomore year of college, and married in her junior year. She graduated from college, thank God!! But I was floored…her mother was thrilled.. all “isn’t this great?” My daughter..as well as most everyone else was surprised to put it mildly. I was not thrilled for her at all…quite the opposite. I expressed to my daughter that I thought our society had gotten done condoning and encouraging girls to get engaged at 20. My daughter said she thought it was crazy. My mature twenty year old looked at me and said “your twenties is a time to figure out who you are, not to get engaged and married before you even know who you are.” Then she deadpanned… Did you know that the brain is not fully developed until age 23, so what does that say when you are engaged at 20? All I can say is…slow down, slow down, slow down. Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Plan accordingly.

  • Run with the kids then when you find your new digs, file for divorce. Mine has used parental alienation nearly two years now. We go to trial Feb. 28, 2019! Very expensive lawyers in Canada!🇨🇦

  • I think what I would try very hard to explain is that there is 1. Attachment, 2. Love, 3. Character. Do not confuse attachment for love. Even if you are very much in love with some examine their character – do they keep their word, meet their deadlines etc. 4. If they have an ugly breakup in their past, this should make you pause. How did they behave during the break up? 5. Distingusih between potential and actually getting things done and achievement (does not have to be earth shattering; just making sure to earn one’s living etc.)

  • I would most definitely ‘leave after the first lie’. Clearly being a liar was who he had been most of his life, and I just didn’t recognize it. He hid behind MY character bc his sucked, he knew it too but it didn’t matter. He still wanted to ‘fit in’ to the world through me and my character. Duping your faithful, innocent spouse, breaking their heart. mind, body & soul is UNACCEPTABLE.ALWAYS.

    Don’t try to fix something that can’t be fixed. I had to leave in order to heal. Land of Meh …. Breathe!

  • When I was seriously considering walking out on my husband a couple of years before I actually did, I secretly applied for an apartment lease for just myself. I then went and just sat in my car, contemplating. I wish my future self could have made an appearance right then to tell me, “No, things are not going to get better”.

  • I actually do not regret trying to save my marriage. I think I would have regretted not trying even more, and I would not want to wonder if it would have been possible to save us. I know for sure that I did what I could for my family. Now I have peace about leaving.

  • I know you are young. I know you’re navigating your boundaries and enjoy the grand adventures with this man. He can be fun, I know. But trust me when I tell you that last week, when he yelled at you for getting the wrong type of beer, in front of his friends- that was a preview of what’s to come. Stop trying because you can never please him. He’ll break you down until you’re just a shadow of yourself. You’ll spend too much time being angry. You’ll cry a lot. You’ll eventually be diagnosed with complex PTSD. He’ll leave you at your most vulnerable, and treat you like shit unless he wants sex. Which will basically make you feel like an appliance. One with only a single purpose. He’ll treat you like he can’t stand you. Others will take note of this and urge you to leave, but by then, you’ll be clueless as to how to do it. He’ll have taken your autonomy, your self esteem, security and any access to finances. You will learn that not all prisons have bars.

  • So let me say, I don’t have the patience to read through all the previous responses, as worthy as I know them to be. Let me speak from the perspective of someone who spackled for years, who was the “great-ex” who didn’t blame or excoriate the ex or their new (sometimes the AP-partner/spouse).
    I have no advice to give.
    Radical, I know.
    If I had LACGAL like many of you now immediately, I would not have the 3 spectacularly amazing bio-kids, 2 step-kids I have right now. And THEIR kids. immediately
    So, there is something to be said for waiting.

  • My younger self. Be patient, you are worth loving. You are smart funny and kind. Don’t spend 36 years framing a life for Limp dick! Values-he had none. Honesty even less! He was never going to love you and never going to let you showcase what you could really do! Run; study medicine as you were going to and live your life in your own quirky individual fashion! Don’t compromise- you are worth more than that! And lastly find joy in your life because there has been none in this one!

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