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Dear Chump Lady, I’m still broken hearted

Dear Chump Lady,

It has been over 5 years since D-Day, and about 3-1/2 years since I have spoken or seen my fuckwad cheater. I just found a journal entry that I made at the time, and I realized that I am STILL BROKEN-HEARTED.

Although I have put my life back together to some extent, he really took everything from me. I gained a lot of weight after the break up and I still have it, but I did the best I could and re-started my old life.

He had left me after I quit a 6-figure job to relocate down south with him. We had the finances all worked out . . . or so I thought. He fucked me in every way. Left me in a new state by myself in an unlivable house. He drained my bank account and moved OW into MY OLD HOUSE that he was supposed to be closing up so he could come down and meet me while I got the new house ready.

It was a feat of miraculous strength that I was able to move back to my home state and re-start my career. I am still not where I was; and I am still broken. I don’t have any friends and my family thinks I should just “get over it already.” I want to!

I really don’t think about HIM anymore, but he destroyed my life and it still isn’t back to where it was before I met this fucking piece of shit. HE WAS NOT WORTH IT. I try to be “grateful” and look at the good parts of our relationship, but the bad outweighs the good so much that it is better for me just to put it in my rear view and not think about it.

But I don’t think I will ever be myself again, and I do not like this new me very much. I used to be happy and joyful and kind. Now I am a bitter, nasty, bitch who doesn’t want anyone close to me ever again. Really, I BARELY survived this. I was in bed for ALMOST A YEAR.

Any advice for those of us a few years out who are still having to deal with the life-fallout from the cheater’s affair?

LegalGaga

Dear LegalGaga,

Yes. Gain a life.

I’m not telling you “get over it, I-find-your-pain-exhausting” like your family. I’m saying Gain. A. Life. Embrace it. Fuck being “grateful” for whatever you had with a fuckwit — be grateful for a life without him. That means a mental sea change. It’s work you must do, it doesn’t just happen with time. Time helps, of course. But really it’s a big slog. It’s reframing the entire narrative and taking a hard look at your values.

Let’s break down your letter and start reframing this shit.

Although I have put my life back together to some extent, he really took everything from me.

No. He doesn’t own your soul. He doesn’t get one more piece of your heart or your mental headspace. You are GIVING that to him now. He is absent. How much of your future — your precious health, every day you have left on this planet — is yours. He can’t take that from you unless you LET him.

No one goes through this unscathed. We lose money, years, time with our children. These are real losses — and the grief work is intense. But unless he kills you — he did NOT take everything from you. You’re here and you’re still kicking.

And quit downplaying how strong you’ve been. “To some extent” you’ve put your life back? You GOT OUT. You’re rebuilding. You found a new job. You moved home. That’s all HUGE. Start telling yourself that you’re MIGHTY.

I gained a lot of weight after the break up and I still have it, but I did the best I could and re-started my old life.

Don’t apologize. You put on weight? You can take it off. Being fatter doesn’t make you unlovable or unworthy of respect. Being fat doesn’t prevent you from helping others, or being a friend, or making a friend. Maybe we take weight loss off the To Do list right now and shelf the self-loathing. Maybe start with something else on the Gain a Life agenda. But start recognizing your agency. Be kind to yourself. Begin there.

I am still not where I was;

You never will be. And that’s a good thing.

Quit measuring yourself against the dream of what you Thought It Would Be. Quit allowing those values (intact! coupled!  “normal”!) to define you. YOU set the price on your self worth. Stop measuring yourself against what you don’t have — a FUCKWIT. You lost a FUCK. WIT. A man so callous as to abandon you and move his Schmoopie into your home. You’re missing a wrecking ball.

and I am still broken.

You’re grieving. It’s work. Keep working and know that you have the power to build a better life free from abuse.

I don’t have any friends

There are a bazillion people on this planet who need a friend. Who are vulnerable. Who are lonely. Who are isolated. Who have it worse than you do, or I do, or CN does. Need a friend? Be a friend. Go sign up for Meals on Wheels — deliver food to someone who NEEDS to see your face today. Adopt an orphan. I’m not fucking kidding. Foster a child. Adopt a rescue dog.

GIVE love. Give GIVE GIVE.

I know what you’re saying. I’m a chump already, Tracy. Giving, giving, giving got me into this mess. No, choosing someone UNWORTHY of your gifts got you into this mess. There’s a giant world of worthy out there. But it might not take the form of Hallmark Christmas couples.

and my family thinks I should just “get over it already.” I want to!

Get online for support. They can’t be your chump tribe. They’re your family. It hurts that they don’t get it. But they can help in other ways. Recognize that this is beyond their ken. They don’t set the time table for your healing. That’s YOUR struggle. It’s sad that they don’t see how mighty you’re being, but just take the cue and find support from people who’ve lived this.

I really don’t think about HIM anymore, but he destroyed my life and it still isn’t back to where it was before I met this fucking piece of shit.

Our lives NEVER go back to where they were before we met these Fucking Pieces of Shit. I’m not 38 and 20 lbs thinner. I don’t have any fertility left. I don’t have the same potential, or years ahead, or money not spent on divorce lawyers. NONE of us get to go back. We can ONLY go forward. That’s the way linear time works (unless you’ve discovered some wormhole to another dimension).

There are LOSSES. Accept them. The injustice burns, but the world is full of terrible injustice. Focus on what you can control — how you’re going to spend your precious life, and who you’re going to gift with your love.

But I don’t think I will ever be myself again, and I do not like this new me very much. I used to be happy and joyful and kind. Now I am a bitter, nasty, bitch who doesn’t want anyone close to me ever again.

Not everyone fucked you over. Think about that. For the one fuckwit who broke your heart, there were probably hundreds of people — on this blog, on other places on the interwebs — who lifted you up. Who gave a kind word. Who cared and responded. The world is a shit place, but it’s also full of good people. Suffering and the OVERCOMING of suffering (to misquote Helen Keller).

I won’t fault you grieving — but you choose if you’re going to be a “bitter, nasty bitch.” You choose if you slop your pain on to innocents and make them pay the price some fuckwit should pay. That’s on you. It’s on all of us.

There’s being righteously angry at being fucked over — that’s not bitter. But if your channel is set on “nasty” — examine that.

You won’t be the old you again, and that’s OKAY. You’re a wiser, stronger person now. And you can be happy and joyful again. If you find yourself seriously stuck, talk to a doctor. Situational depression may have hardened into Depression depression and there’s medicine for that. And ZERO shame in accepting help. Make an appointment and get this checked out.

Any advice for those of us a few years out who are still having to deal with the life-fallout from the cheater’s affair?

Yes. Fight your way toward a new life. Build it. Do the mental work. Don’t miss fuckwits — be grateful they’re gone. Dream a new dream.

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.
    • Trauma therapy helped me. It has stopped me from looping all the thoughts about the fuckwit and what he did for 30 years through my brain over and over. My therapist says that the fight or flight part of your brain (the traumatized part) does not work well with your rational brain ( the part that knows he’s a fucker and you’re better off). So the trauma therapy helped me process the trauma so I could be happy in my rational brain. I feel better and stronger than I ever have. I have a good job and education. My smaller family. Good things …but I love me a pity party on occasion. I feel it’s good for the soul. I don’t have as many pity parties and I don’t stay at the party as long as I used to.Progress.
      Please be nice to yourself LegalGaga, honor yourself and all you have done.

      • Does it really work? I started EMDR but it’s had to get set back because I come in & just start weeping hysterically. I think they have me officially diagnosed with PTSD now on top of major depressive disorder and anxiety. I got triggered by someone grabbing me like my ex husband did once & I keep remembering things ever since. Things I kind of just forgot about. It feels like they happened yesterday. I’ve told them I can’t keep living like this—I have had passive suicidal ideation for years now and they know. This is my “normal”.—and they say I can get better but so can’t believe it. I don’t feel joy. I don’t really feel happy or even okay ever. I just get distracted or forget sometimes. I’m just waiting to die. I don’t want the rest of my life. It just hurts. It doesn’t stop. The meds & therapy don’t work. It’s costing the government & my parents more money to keep me alive than I could ever earn. If an animal hurt like this or cost someone this much they would put it down. And it’s always been like this except for the early years of my relationship with my ex and that was all a lie. I can’t believe I can feel any different or get any better. I’m still trying but I’m kind of just humoring everyone.

        • Hollow

          It does work. I would cry all the way there and cry all through it. I would have a couple bad days after then I notice relief. Relief one issue, trigger, event at a time. I feel joy, peace, happiness but also anger, loneliness, grief. The good feelings now far outweigh the bad.

          Meditation has really been good. I used an app called Headspace. I never thought I would be a meditation person (too impatient) but 10 to 30 minutes a day helped give me space in my brain to move my thinking from the rut it’s in and find another mental path. Please don’t give up ..one step at a time.

          I was like you I could not see my worth or my future. Now I can. Some days my future is the next hour sometimes the next day, week, year, decade. It will get better I promise. I kept listening to the other Chumps and had to believe it would be better and they were right. Have faith in yourself…reaching out to CN is a good step and you just took it. Love <<>>

        • Oh, Hollow. You absolutely can get better. But your brain is set in hyperalarm mode, and it is exhausting you all the time. Talk therapy, establishing a social support network, EMDR–all these things can help, but I suspect your brain needs a physiological re-set. If you haven’t already tried anti-depressants, please do. It doesn’t have to be permanent–just allow the neurons to relax and go back to their normal pattern. TBH, I have a perfectly sane friend who underwent shock treatments for persistent depression (and who, years later, is now one of the happiest and most positive people I know). Sending hugs!

          • It’s sometimes difficult to find the right anti-depressant, but if you have a great doctor, you can get there in time. Same with talk therapy. The right doctor makes a huge difference. If your family is helping you, perhaps the best help would be to help you find the right therapies, the right medication. The brain is a very strange thing. I hope you keep trying to find the best solution to get to happiness.

            • If you can, ask if any of your family take depression meds. It’s been proven that relatives resond well to the same family of anti-depressants. I asked my primary care doctor for the same meds my sister takes and it worked really well for me. I didn’t have to deal with side effects. I take the lowest dose possible but it made a huge difference for me.

              Please reach out and get some help. Read here. Post. You are worth it!

          • I’m on antidepressants, Wellbutrin on top of those, as well as a mood stabilizer and hypothyroid medication. And sleep/anxiety meds as needed. I’ve been in treatment since I was a teenager and I had a lot of issues as a kid. I don’t think I ever felt happy until I was with my ex husband and everyone who knew me said that he made me so much better. I was with him from the ages of like… 16-23? We got married when he was 21 and I 22. He divorced me almost 6 years ago after I figured out he was cheating (by this time it was insanely obvious & I think he was trying to do it in my face or get caught or something?) and he hit me for calling him out on it.

            This has just been a thing for me. I never had good relationships with people. I’ve always had really bad social skills and I fall apart over everything. I’ve never been able to hold down a job for very long. When we were married he didn’t want me to work so I just didn’t. I live off my parents now.

            I think at this point this is just who I am. I don’t even know if it’s actually PTSD because I’ve always had issues and it really looks like it’s my own fault. I don’t see how I can get better. I’m probably going to end up dying in prison or on the streets.

            • Dear Hollow,

              You are not better off dying. Seriously, your unique self adds to this world. Even this discussion, where you share your truth, helps others.

              I have major depression, too. My daughter has serious mental health issues and has made many suicide attempts. I have also attempted twice, a very long time ago. I have had suicidal thoughts continuously before I left my X and sometimes since.

              Here’s what I know as a parent of a suicidal person. Your parents would have their hearts torn out if you died. It would not be easier for them, as your brain chemistry makes you think. They care for you, since they are supporting you. Please stay alive and fighting.

              There is no shame in a hospital stay if you need it. There should be no shame in having this organic, brain chemistry illness.

              Maybe you have tried every medication option, but maybe there are different meds that can help. Maybe different therapists or a different approach might help. I still remember the day, after years of hopelessness when I felt happiness again after finding the right meds. It wasn’t a great crescendo of joy, just contentment that had been walled off behind depression for over a decade. I hope you find your way to a moment like that.

              Internet hugs, if you want them, dear ((((Hollow)))).

        • I am sorry to hear this hollow. I wonder how far out you are? This recovery certainly takes time and there are phases you cycle through. I agree with Spoonriver, it is really important to have a support group who will listen and be there. Please read my story below. As I said in there, it is important to celebrate successes and change perspective to give you some relief. Hugs.

          • I feel the same as Hollow. However, EMDR did help me, a lot. Yet, all the other life factors continue to drag me down (genetics, other illnesses, aging, gangs of mean girls at get-togethers). A lifetime of major depressive illness–I look back and think: No wonder! but my brain and its chemistry do what they do. I’ve thought about Ketamine Tx, but I can’t afford it and well, yadda yadda, I moved away from (major medical center) to (nowhere’s-ville), so there are no clinical trials.

            I don’t focus on, or even think much about, the exhole. But I worry like hell about my future and how I’ll survive: financially, socially, psychologically, and just in sheer mobility (trouble walking.)

            Sometimes the “getting over” of getting over a cheater just opens the door, or re-sets the controls to the original null state. Can’t imagine I’m alone in having that null state being, well, pretty null. I didn’t get to be cheater-bait by accident! so it’s a lifetime of fuckery to contend with. That shit is harder than just a cheating ex-partner (who is thus merely a heinous symptom.)

            You’d be surprised how hard it is to find even a volunteer gig when you don’t have much cash, and limited mobility (standing, walking, lifting). When you want to give, but nobody’s taking …

            Yup. just waiting for it all to be over. I take care of my dog.

            • Dogs are great. I wish I had one! Keep going. I let my sbtx get away with his fucked up shit more than I should have because no job and mobility issues with Rhuematoid Arthritis in hands and feet (fatigue) plus 2 kids 8 and 10. Since I told him to pack his things (as he choose not to leave overseas contracting job therefore whore co-worker) I am working part-time on a Ag Farm and instruct College students. As my head cleared from no contact so did a lot of my RA. It is still there – not as painful though – wrists hurt a lot at the moment. I have Norweigian genes – 43 naturally blonde blue eyes, extremely slim (divorce diet and 2 kids plus Methotrexate that makes me sick). My 10 year old daughter is same genetics and my cheater put us on a pedestal for it – then discovered he fucking his 24 year old Chinese co-worker for 2.5 years starting from when my son started fulltime school. I have qualifications in science and librarianship that I threw away to raise our kids to suit a fuckwit who slapped us in the face with abuse after final D-day (fake name in messenger) where whore co-worker applying for permanent residency in Australia (my home) and he promised her kids. No choice to keep going – I have found some good people who disrupt the loop in my head sometimes. I have no family near a 3 hour plane trip. Find a job/course doing data entry/scanning/cataloguing from home- whatever you can manage have a carer visit and set up social events.

              • I don’t have any excuses like that though. I’ve been given every opportunity to succeed and I just don’t. I live in one of the best states in one of the better countries in the world. I have unprecedented access to information and amenities. And I’m miserable. Everywhere I go. The common factor is me.

        • I slowly got away from the ‘loop’ of negative thoughts. It took over 5 years though. It comes and goes now, but not as deep or long lasting. And I recognize when I am in the loop. Lots of therapy and reading on recovery from abuse. And this site and the people on it.

          I have come to see him as a creep, like a Ted Bundy or a Jeffery Dahmer person. I am grateful for every day I don’t have to listen to his lies and phony spin on the crap he does. He truly sucks and being away from him is a blessing.

          Can you join a local MeetUp group? There are lots of them geared toward singles, to do activities, and many of the MeetUp’s are NOT for dating, just for socializing or for travel.

        • Hollow

          Time and the RIGHT therapist and if needed the RIGHT medication can do a world of wonders.

          If you’re in therapy and it’s not working for you, maybe it’s time to find a different therapist. Some therapists just straight up suck and do more harm than good. Others mean well, but they don’t have the background/experience to help people who have been traumatized (regardless of what their profile on Psychology Today states). At least, that was my experience.

          I went through six therapists until I found one who ‘got it’. She’s a trauma therapist at my local domestic violence center. My ex never hit me, but he ran me through an emotional and psychological wringer and that does constitute as abuse. I was a complete basket case when he finally abandoned me.

          I survived a violent childhood home, got entangled with more than one violent man, and a bunch of other crap BEFORE I met my ex. I felt the only way I could move forward was to unpack ALL of the baggage I’ve been dragging around and I couldn’t do it alone.

          That’s why I kept trying to find the right therapist for me. I couldn’t take living like that anymore and my brains were too scrambled to figure out what I needed to do on my own.

          It also took multiple tries to find the right anti-depressant. I was at a point where I was crying 24/7. Literally crying myself to sleep and then crying myself awake. I have no family or partner to fall back on and can’t afford to lose my job. I’m on the lowest dose so I can get out of bed, go to work, and get myself to my therapy sessions and support group. I want to work through my issues, but I also know I need to be stabilized so I can get out of bed and make it to my sessions.

          I still grieve (almost two years later) but when it does happen, it’s not as intense or as long. I actually have weeks between the times when the grief sneaks up and gives me a swift kick in the arse. The pain feels consuming, but I’ve learned it is transient. Grounding exercises and breathing techniques I’ve learned from my therapist help me get through really painful moments.

          For anyone who survived abuse and/or sexual trauma from your cheater (or anyone else) and is still struggling, I’d like to encourage you to contact your local domestic violence and/or rape crisis centers (You can also contact RAINN or the hotline.org They’re national organizations and can get you in touch with local centers.) The good ones are accredited by CARF International, which should mean they are trained in trauma informed care. Many centers accept health insurance for therapy services and/or have a sliding scale fees. (*Just a side note, when I went no contact with my ex I made a few 2 a.m. calls to the hotline.org and my local DV hotline asking for someone to talk me down from calling him and begging him to come back. They were more than willing to help.)

        • Perhaps a glimmer of hope lead you to make your post here. There IS hope for everyone here as we make our journeys together. We are not alone. BTW, EMDR helped my PTSD for a couple of specific traumas. I’ve also found Reiki therapy to be helpful. After a Reiki healing session I am more in touch with my positive feelings. Reiki/massage can help a person reach feelings of happiness, peace, and hope. Blessings and love.

        • Hollow, please be kind to yourself, look deep in your soul, the little girl inside of you needs you. We have forgotten to love ourselves because we gave our love to someone else. Praying and forgiveness had been working for me, I just want to move forward in my life. Listen to the song by Kenny Chestney “building a better boat” that’s what I’m doing. God bless.

  • LGG,

    My Dday was 13 years ago but I still come here to heal because in some ways Ive never fully healed and because my experience with my cheater was a 29 year one, I am sure there will be parts of me that will hurt in some manner forever.

    I know the “life is short, dont waste it” idea sounds trite…some throw away platitude, but ITS TRUE, please know it is true. I mustered up much of my badassery because I decided that he already took enough and Im not letting him take more.

    What you suffered was straight-up suck – none of us will argue. For all of us, though…at some you got what you got and that is the springboard to leap from. I know what this pain feels like and it hurt so bad I felt it in my body. There were days I wanted to die, but one say (for sure) I will hit my end and I dont want to say “why didnt I decide to start living in 2012?”

    If you were making 6 figures (something I will never do) then you probably got a good education back in the day. Today, I will take my last test of my undergrad career (art history and the test will be brutal) but my 50+ self finished and Im proud. I wont be here over the next few weeks as I have an adventure planned – one where I savor more of my life but I didnt even have a passport until I was 46.

    Its not too late – go get that life !!

    • Congratulations on finishing your undergrad UNM!! I admire you so much for your wisdom and courage. Chump Lady’s right (as usual) you’re an inspiration for how to rock a cheater-free life so I hope you’ll share your adventures here when you get back. Good luck on your test and have a great time adventuring!!

    • Congrats on your degree and your planned adventure. You have been an inspiration for me – your support, your determination – it’s give me hope for tomorrow.

    • Congrats, UNM!!!! Best of luck with your test and have a fab adventure!!!! Hopefully you’ll be using your passport. 🙂

    • Unicorn, you are an inspiration and a rockin’ badass. Congratulations on your degree, and have a fantastic time adventuring! You truly are mighty.

    • Congrats Unicorn!!! Go get that life! You are an inspiration and a force, and a shining example of the strength and resilience of the community of Chump Nation!!! xx

    • Yes, Unicorn! I was married to the cheater for 25 years and a stay-at-home mom for most of it. It’s been 9 1/2 years since I separated from him and I still have moments that are really bad. In fact, December is usually a terrible month because of the trauma from those days. Grieving is hard work and healing from trauma is hard work.

      But when the choices are healing or getting stuck you have to force yourself to do the hard work. I’ll certainly never again be the naive, skinny, cute, 23-year-old who married that guy. But I’d rather be fatter and grayer and smarter.

      LegalGaga, you have come farther than you know, and you can get better every day. For me “better” includes anti-depressants and being kind to myself when I have a bad day. Maybe those would work for you, too.

    • Congratulations Unicorn – you get it! I’ve been at this healing process for 18 years. I still have real bad days – but fewer and farther between. Tears forced my eyelids open every morning for the first 3 years. I would come out of my twilight and realize the nightmare was about to begin again, and would cry myself awake every day back then. I’ve come a long way.
      YES! – you get it. What it took me years to learn. That in order to take care of yourself – to nurture your own soul – to heal from such trauma – YOU MUST FIRST LOVE YOURSELF!!!! You know what you deserve. You know what you’ve been through. Narc stole years from you. Are you going to hand over the rest? NO! Treat yourself kindly. No friends, no time to make friends? Get a dog. No time to walk the dog? Get a cat. Safely sharing your unconditional love with another living thing is a wonderful boost to the healing process.

      • Thanks to everyone for your good wishes and kindness. The test was brutal but I had studied the right stuff and my 7 pages of essay answers are probs good to walk out with a 3.9 GPA.

        Im not sure if it is good or bad that my lingering sadness over a lifetime-betrayal manifests itself in frequent niggling skein-untangling sorts of thoughts rather than any real tear jerking moments of palpable pain. The thoughts arent that painful or bothersome, but they are steady and never far away.

        The day I found hotel receipts and military orders clearly PLANNING time with Schmoop (after he told me that their first trip/encounter was happenstance) something in me died…I had loved him right up to that moment and after reading those documents (which had been in my house all along) I dropped the crap on the floor and walked away. The day I was told that he had prior affairs, I didn’t eeked out a single tear.

        I wish I could bottle and sell the effect finding that crap had on me…I could sell it as “Love-Away…magic potion to dissipate all the last lingering sparkle of love that once was!!”

        Barring some unforseen disaster, the adventure I have planned will be lovely…part of it includes nights in a Medieval tower in the center of an amazing, ancient city. Im honored to carry the “Badass Healing Chump” flag around …but I don’t own it, Im happy to pass it along.

  • LegalGaga –
    My two cents as a Chump myself is to get some assistance to change your outlook to help you truly see and believe what ChumpLady is saying. How can you not have remorse and be angry and bitter but there is a mental shift that CAN happen. I’m coming up on 5 years next month and I find myself getting closer to MEH with the situation because I finally understand that life is messy. Families who are in-tact (my biggest envy) in my community have a lost a child to cancer – or the spouse is an alcoholic or are in a financial mess. You can’t undo that you met him in the first place but you can be a BAD ASS and have the next chapter play out without someone disrespecting you along the way. YOU GOT THIS! Get support, a therapist and Thank God not for what you had but for no longer having him!

  • ((((((LG)))))
    “Happy joyful and kind” is still within YOU.
    No matter what another person does to us, what they take from us, underneath each one of us is exactly what we are, what we were, before a cheater ripped out our heart piece by piece, until it can never be fully put back together again.
    I totally understand your pain. I live it everyday, but I don’t let it define me.
    CN taught me it was NEVER my fault, his shitty, cheater, narc like, qualities, these are all on him.

    By poring out your heart to CL, CN, you can be well on the road to the best recovery possible.
    There are always two cups at this table, sit for a spell anytime, 24/7, others will give you advice and support.
    YOU are a beautiful person!
    CN is rooting for you all the way!
    Remember “happy joyful and kind, are a part of you that can never never be erased by another human being. Never!

    • LG. You’ll be happy, joyful and kind again. It’s still there. It’s ok to feel bitchy. It’s ok to have bad feelings. Hey, it would be weird not to be.
      I sometimes wonder what my prison haircut should be….. 😜
      And you’ll be able to add wise, stronger, resilient, mighty and eventually MEH to your list.
      Hang in there. X

  • Funnily enough, I was preaching on this earlier today (I’m a full time Christian minister, and we have a mid week service). I talked about how I spent years NOT putting up a Christmas tree, because it was in December 2000 that his affair took up so much of his time (he said it was working late and Christmas parties!).

    After several years of feeling down at Christmas, I decided to reach out to others. I now host foreign students in my home over Christmas. The first year I did this, in 2010, I decided it was time I bought a new tree and decorated. I started a new tradition of collecting Christmas decorations from my adventures abroad. So now, when I decorate the tree (and drink a wee dram of very nice single malt whisky), I’m reminded of all the travelling I’ve been able to do, the new memories I’ve gained.

    But above all, I now enjoy Christmas again, because I open my home to others.

    The scars remain. But, given time, perhaps we can find new ways to be in the world.

    • Really important point about how we need to reinvent our rituals for the holidays in order to take them back. I like your tree, Happily Single!

  • Excellent advice here! Listen to CL and celebrate what you HAVE done. It is truly amazing what you have overcome to get to this point!!! Practice gratitude…it is a spiritual discipline…especially when our lives are filled with loses. Focus on the people who HAVE blessed you! And be kind to yourself as you grieve…this is a long, hard process that each of us goes through in our own way and on our own timetable.

    • “Practice gratitude”. I agree with DM. If you see and appreciate each and every blessing, like the fact that you woke up in a bed under a roof that doesn’t leak, have a cup of coffee in your favorite chair, and realize that you can see, hear, walk, talk, etc., you’ll find out how blessed you really are. And when you live months without drama, and then get updated with all the drama affecting your ex’s life, all of a sudden you will realize how much peace you now have. You will realize that you are FORTUNATE it all happened as it did because you no longer are dealing with it. It will be another blessing. Every day is a gift. When you start looking at each day as another chance on earth to share with family and friends, instead of a life without the piece of crap that betrayed you, you will find happiness. It’s not fast. It takes a lot of self-learning, e.g., realizing that there was nothing wrong with you, that the piece of crap is just messed up, why you put up with that crap, that you will no longer put up with that crap even if it means being single the rest of your life, and where you’re going from now on, then you will finally be at peace. After you’re at peace, you will be happy. Don’t look to others for that happiness. That happiness is within you. Love yourself with all your greatness and imperfections. You’re beautiful just the way you are.

  • Legal Gaga,
    Your letter broke my heart. I can feel your pain. I have had many of the same feelings and issues (I’m also 5 years out from my cheating sociopath who abandoned me and our daughter with special needs). I still have a lot of rage and anger about what happened (my ex still tries to get to me through our daughter).

    Chump Lady’s advice is bang on! For me, talking to a therapist works. I can’t take antidepressants because of reactions to them. I exercise instead. Please know that you are not alone and that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU!!!

    I am so truly sorry for what this man did to you. You did NOT deserve it. I believe with all my heart you will get through this. Sometimes it takes some of us a little longer than others and that’s okay. Hang in there. You are truly loved!

  • LegalGaga-

    You definitely don’t want the life you had before because that life included a cheating, lying fuckwit who put your physical health in danger. Like CL says, “fuck being grateful for what you had with the fuckwit.” No need to be grateful for that. Be grateful for what you have now and focus on that.

    I’ve been divorced almost 5 years now and from a material standpoint, I don’t have all the “stuff” I had when I was married but I have what’s important. My family (who I’m closer to since I left cheater); new friends I’ve made from joining this wonderful nation of people; a warm place to live and a decent job and decent health.

    I’m also blissfully free of the anxiety that is inherent in living with a cheating fuckwit. I am no longer on the marriage police force and my pick me dancing shoes have been trashed for good! I am tremendously grateful for all of that too. Look, the timeline on everyone’s healing is different so you shouldn’t compare yourself to how others are doing but you can actively work on making things better for yourself. You are in the driver’s seat now so you get to control where your next destination is!

    I’m sure many more people will chime in with ideas. Keep coming here. Chump Nation has your back!

  • LegalGaga
    You are going to be ok. Small increments of positive actions will make a difference. There is no magic wand- it is the rollercoaster of sadness, anger and resentment. I found anger to be the tool for change- feel it, process it and let it go. Give yourself credit for any accomplishments, however small- they build into greater ones.
    Yes, they take from us, yes they break us down to a place we imagine we will never return from. But we can return and we do. You don’t need to go back to “your old life” you can make it a new life. You have been given the gift of truth, of knowing what is right and knowing what is wrong and most of all of knowing that for every person who finds themselves in this position there are so many more that have come through and are shining brighter than ever before.
    Shine bright LegalGaga. We got you stranger friend 🙏❤️

    • Just to support your comment Butterfly89 that anger can be a tool for change. The first 2 years after Dday, I was so shattered, it left me almost immobile. Then I got angry and that mobilized my energy to start to build a new life. The anger made me totally able to release any nostalgic feelings about my married life. After 2 years of venting, suddenly that was done. I had had enough of giving anything of me to someone who had never valued me. I reached “meh”. Now almost 8 years out, I have an amazing life. So, vent your anger, it’s okay. It will eventually pass and you will look in the mirror and be able to say “I am enough” and really believe it.

  • As I read your letter I realized so many of here at CN
    are still feeling the pain after years out. But what CL says is very true. It’s been 3 years out for me after a very long marriage & I’m still not close to “meh”.
    Rebuilding our life takes strength & courage while we
    remember the betrayal that was done to us.

    Try listening to out friends here at CN & know that your not alone. Love yourself. Be glad the selfish toxic person is someone else’s problem now. Your free. Gain a cheater free life. ((Hugs)) to you ❤️

  • People need human connection. It’s as nourishing as food and water, as necessary as shelter. During the cheating, while I was in the dark, but confused I ended up volunteering at a soup kitchen that served 3x day. I got more out of it than they did. Putting my hand on someone’s shoulder and asking them how they were or if they’d eaten today gave me human connection as well as purpose. I didn’t know I was missing it. No one ever asked them about them, most people avoid eye contact with the homeless. From there I would do the same on the street (we were in a huge city n of the USA border at the time) and before I knew it, I was feeling whole again and effective and human. I didn’t realize what I’d gotten out of the whole experience until long afterwards. I didn’t feel like a do gooder, I felt whole, with no gaping pit in my stomach. It was no accident that I ended up with needy people, I was needy too, just in a different way. I loved those crazy people and they loved crazy me. I’d even see them on the street and catch up. I don’t live in the city anymore, but it healed me.

    • Homeless shelters, elder care homes, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Animal Shelters….all socially useful ways of connecting.

      If you can, volunteer with a vulnerable or neglected population. If humans are too much, foster a dog or cat. If that’s too much, volunteer to help socialize animals at the shelter.

      I had a client who got through her divorce by being a dog-walker and assistant with the local dog rescue org.

      Having a living creature look at you with need and appreciation (both) is something we all need. It’s not something we all get.

      Physical contact is also essential.

      • I get a monthly massage (preceded by a schvitz) as that is all I can afford right now. I know some massage schools offer discount services to train their students.

      • Aveline, great suggestion: Animal Shelters, Court Advocates, etc.
        I had a unique situation arise right when I was going thru the worst of my divorce.
        A series of events led me to contact a local friend I had from 23 yrs earlier.
        She is 25 yrs older than me, so she’s currently 89.
        I found her a beautiful big black dog she rescued and life has been great ever since.
        Over these past 5 years, you could say I adopted her and she adopted me.
        We’ve been closer than bedbugs the past 3 years.

        I keep thinking, I’d never have had this terrific relationship with her if I was still married to my other life. This woman boosts my spirit and she says I boost hers. The timing was just….perfect.

  • It is where you place the pebble. There is an old adage that says if you hold a small pebble up to your ileye it is all you will see but if you put that pebble at arms length it is much more in proportion. This is what got me thru those rough years. I am furious that I will never get back the years or money or friends, but I am building a network of good people, serve my community and getting small promotions at work. Where’s your pebble? The pebble might always he there but it doesn’t have to dominate your view.

  • My biggest problem is when people that “chose” to divorce try to compare their situation to yours. i.e. Their marriages were failing, reconciliation attempts didn’t work, they grew apart, etc., etc. THESE people wee not married to a Sociopath. They were not blindsided by an at least four year affair with a howorker after a 35 year marriage. They were not lied to, stolen from and then slandered by their soon to be ex’s. I actually just made the comparison to my recently divorced coworker (who chose to divorce) that yes, it’s like being shot…some people are shot in the leg and some are shot in the heart. That’s how our divorces compare. A lot of people just do not understand.

    • I have some suggest that it is actually better to be left for someone because then at least you don’t feel like you were so terrible that your partner would prefer to be alone. I can’t really say if that is true or not as I haven’t tried it that way.

      I do feel that our attempt at marriage counseling might have been successful if he hadn’t cheated on me first although I probably would have been doing most of the self reflection, hard work and self improvement while he sat back and critiqued me even without a Schmoopie in the mix.

      • That’s a whack-a-doo view of relationships–that blames the chump straight on for what is a cheater choice and behavior. People who “leave one person for another” are really parasites who have exhausted a host’s benefits and when then move on to suck someone else dry.

      • Back when I was in denial (my wife refused to answer when I asked whether she was having an affair) I went back and forth over this question (“is it better to be left for someone or for no one”). I came to the conclusion that (A) it probably doesn’t matter because it doesn’t really change your circumstances, but also (B) they don’t leave you for a real person – they leave you for a fantasy – so even if there is someone waiting in the wings (as in my case) they didn’t really make a sober comparison between the real you and the real AP and decide against you. This was largely theoretical for me until a year later, when I finally talked to OBS and got a warts-and-all description of the AP. .

  • This is excellent advice. It’s pretty much exactly what my therapist told me yesterday.
    I completely understand what you are feeling, LegalGaga. It’s an every day battle. You sink and then you need to say NO!🤚 What the holy F am I going to do about it!? What am I doing this week to counteract the damage this Ass Toad did to me?!
    Sometimes I can’t think of anything and I lose that day. But it’s retraining your brain to think in terms of action rather than in helplessness. They want us to remain helpless and broken. We no longer give them what they want.

    I rescued a puppy. Puppies are fluffy balls of love. I needed a happy little love puff distraction. How can you think about evil bastards when a puppy is licking your face 🤗. And when my mind goes to the evil and I cry… I tell my therapist and then I go try to do something nice for myself. And hug my puppy. Baby steps. As my best friend always says “You are amazing! You got this!”

    • Don’t underestimate the healing power of a great dog.
      I sold my engagement ring after fuckwit left for his mistress and bought a Labrador puppy.
      I had enough money for the dog and everything he needed vet, food, and supply wise for the first two years.
      It was the single best thing I could of done for myself.
      He healed my heart.

      • I LOVE this!!!!!! 💕💕💕

        PS – thank you, chump lady. This is an article I’ve needed for a long time. It’s going on the fridge.

      • And a shelter dog or cat can cost very little. Most are spayed/neutered or you get a certificate to do that when they are older. They are usually wormed and free of ear mites, etc. And you give a creature in a cage a real home. That’s big stuff.

  • Your ex sounds like a sociopath. I have no idea if he is or he is not but he is something horrible. Your grief is for your dream and not for him. Believe it or not there are so many people taken advantage of this way. Chump Lady was one of them. I had a childhood friend who was not the most sophisticated person as far as emotions go even though she had a PhD. She had a very well-paying job, met a man who had two young children and he swept her off her feet. He stayed married to her until they were in their mid teens and then he dumped her. He point-blank told her that he married her so she would look after his children until they were old enough to look after themselves. He then remarried and never spoke to her again. It ruined her health. I mean on a permanent basis. Don’t let this piece of shit take one more minute of your day, of your memories, or your health. He is a thief and I so wish people like that could be put in jail.
    Please read every blog you can find written by Chumps of narcissists and sociopaths. You will find your story repeated over and over.

    • Break ups are hard even in the best of circumstances. Sometimes you were just involved with a cheater that was a selfish jerk, weak idiot or your average shit bum. However, a break up with a sociopath or narcissist is soul crushing and much harder to get over. Their indifference to your pain or their children’s pain is mind boggling. They just don’t cheat & leave, they inflict chaos and cruel behavior you never thought possible. They set out to destroy you before they dump you so in no way is it a “normal, run of the mill” parting of the ways. Some chumps reflect on what they could have done better or smarter not to have this happen. This thinking is not realistic and will hinder the healing/moving on process. There is nothing, absolutely nothing the chump could have done to stop the blow up. I think some chumps confuse being disoriented (& depressed), from having their lives blown up, with heart break. Not the same thing. Maybe if the chump starts to recognize the difference they may get to the really pissed off anger stage a lot quicker, (which I believe is totally healthy) and be able to move on to the healing stage.

    • I was married to a covert narcissist/Borderline Personality Disorder XW. Very few understand how horrible it is. The smear campaigns, using the kids to abuse you, the years long affair, etc. They say what a great person the XW is. How I am a horrible person for divorcing her. Totally get what you have gone through.

  • I agree with everyone here. I am 3 years out from separation, 1-1/2 years since the divorce. Some days I feel very meh other days I still mourn my intact family and old life but in the end I know I lost an evil sociopathic narc and that’s a good thing. I just broke up with a bf that wants a fully committed partner while he treats her like a buddy.. sorry just not good enough. I’m angry with myself for taking 2 years to really believe it( didn’t listen the first time). It’s an improvement over the 34 years I spent with the Wackjob but I know I have to do better. At 58 my chances of finding a suitable partner are not looking great but I am pretty sure I’ll be fine if I don’t. I’ll continue to work on this new life, the way is ahead not behind me…we are here for you, count on our experience to help you through..

    • Congratulations on leaving that evil narc. I keep hearing that there are women out there with good hearts and that I can still have a loving relationship at age 66. I’ll bet there are good men out there for a 58 year old woman too. Life is full of pleasant surprises.

  • Everyone of us enters a marriage with a vision and an expectation. We all dream about growing old together, having kids (or not), travel together, sit together on the couch together… whatever it is we are envisioning. We believe that when we enter marriage that this is what we will do for the rest of our lives: be together.

    All of us in a “good” marriage will experience ups and downs, make mistakes, and grow in our marriages. All of us are eventually missing the honeymoon phase, but are gladly accepting this for something else: true companionship and deeper love that is not butterflies but the knowledge that you can count on your partner.

    With a cheater that does not happen. Sometimes the chump knows that something is not quite right, sometimes she does not. Regardless… being abruptly out of an expected life trajectory is hard. It is like going on a pleasant bike ride and then all over sudden the road turns into a rollercoaster ride. You hold on for dear life. You have no time to think or react in any way, but screaming for this to stop.

    And it won’t stop until you consciously take the wheel and steer this chaotic ride towards something that you can live with. It will not be the same, but it can be better.

    I have not been happy with my cheater for a long time. I remember so often crying and wishing it was over already. I imagined a life as a crazy cat lady and it felt so much better to plan a life that way. I did not nothing. Like the definition of insanity, I tried to redirect my marriage by doing what I have done before: putting my cheater first. Even after DDay I just continued with the dance. I thought if I just did more of what he wanted and needed, he would fall back in love with me. And of course he did not. He does not share my values, he does not believe he needs to be in a partnership (he wants an emotional servant), and he would never consider that he himself could be wrong. After all his cheating was my fault. It is still amazing how he can argue his way into this is all my fault. The gist: I treated him so badly that I pushed him into a corner where the only way out for him was to cheat. Even though he admits cheating is wrong, he was not given a choice. It was pure self defense.

    I am at a point where I find the occasional moment, where I can laugh about this mind acrobatic.
    Not always.

    Mostly I hate him for destroying my vision.
    Sometimes, I think that it is good that showed his true ugly face, because now I can start over.
    My grandmother had to wait till her husband died at age 60. I am 44 and can start over while still being young enough to pursue my career and interests. The kids are old enough where they are sufficiently independent, but still young enough to need me and benefit from the improved me.

    It has been hard to admit for me: I have been emotionally abused. In my marriage I was not given a voice, nor treated with respect, nor accepted as an equal. My children witnessed this even if no one else did, because my cheater is the definition of charm and care to everyone else. And I hope that the “improved me” will reverse some of the damage the cheater instilled on us.

    Yes, our Xs ruined our life. However, they only ruined the old life.
    We need to rebuild and can rebuild.

    • “All of us in a “good” marriage will experience ups and downs, make mistakes, and grow in our marriages. All of us are eventually missing the honeymoon phase, but are gladly accepting this for something else: true companionship and deeper love that is not butterflies but the knowledge that you can count on your partner.”

      As with most of us chumps and the cheaters who spurn us, this is what I thought I had and was grateful to accept. I thought he felt the same. Turns out he wanted the butterflies.

  • This is it, exactly: “There are a bazillion people on this planet who need a friend. Who are vulnerable. Who are lonely. Who are isolated. Who have it worse than you do, or I do, or CN does. Need a friend? Be a friend. Go sign up for Meals on Wheels — deliver food to someone who NEEDS to see your face today. Adopt an orphan. I’m not fucking kidding. Foster a child. Adopt a rescue dog.

    GIVE love. Give GIVE GIVE.”

    You don’t have to be “grateful” and look at the good parts of [your] relationship.”Where did the idea come from that you have to be grateful, when you learned that you had bee conned by someone you trusted as a life partner? Don’t be grateful for that. If someone shot your dog, you wouldn’t look back in gratitude at your past friendship. In fact, when I look back at the relationship with Jackass, the gratitude I feel is about him being gone for good. I’m grateful that the horrendous experience of the discard and D-Day and beyond was the catalyst for me to wise up and see the importance of living my own life, instead of being desperate to be part of a couple. I’m grateful for the support system, including Chump Lady and her nation, that allowed me to learn about surviving betrayal, including the part where you have to do your autopsy of chumphood in order not to go down that same road.

    This morning, where I live the sun is shining. I’m on the verge of Christmas break. (Hallelujah, another semester is almost in the books). I learned three new things yesterday. I have a kitten and the two Big Girl Cats are coming around. I am re-reading a book I read years ago and I still love it. There was a woodpecker on the big oak in the center of the driveway. I get to go into work and help a couple of kids today. I am grateful for all of that and more.

    LegalGaga, you write, “I did the best I could and re-started my old life.” Now I’m sure that there are many new elements to the “re-start” of your “old life.” So I’m not talking details here. But how we formulate our thoughts into doesn’t lie. When you think of the life you have now, you think of it as “re-starting” your “old life.” But the truth is that your old life was based on some fairly faulty thoughts and perceptions. You picked a fuckwit. He was able to manipulate you into a terrible situation. And you are still dealing with the trauma. So while you’re reframing, follow CL’s advice and think about the “renewing” your life. You’ve done the outside work–got back home, got the good job.

    And you don’t want to be the “self” that got conned. What’s gone wrong is your thinking–that in order to be safe from that experience, you need to put barriers around your vulnerability, to keep people away. And so the weight gain. The lack of friends. The still-broken heart. That’s still being Fuckwit’s victim, to let him “destroy” you and your life, instead of seeing the betrayal as a door that slammed shut, with a number of paths in front of you. The next step is to become the woman you want to be. I went into my last round of therapy because I was so angry (about a lot of things) that I was pushing people away, both deliberately and specifically. It was righteous anger but it was spoiling my life. So I chose to get a handle on it. The experience with Jackass came later, but it was a major turning point in my life, where I finally got it that my job here on earth is self-development, not being the female lead in a Hallmark Christmas movie (thanks, CL!)

    You don’t mention divorce or marriage or kids with Fuckwit. If that’s the case, your whole job now is to become the woman you want to be. Yesterday, My3Chump mentioned Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in a forum post. Why not look into that? Start walking 1/2 an hour twice a day. Keep a gratitude journal that never ever mentions gratitude for being with a con man. Start dreaming a new life, as CL suggests. I used Pinterest for that, to keep track of the various strands I was working on, from fitness to appropriate vulnerability to kindness to my style of dress. There are lots of ways to do this. I’m in Year 5 past D-Day (right at the anniversary point) and I’m ready to use this upcoming break to re-set myself because lots of things outside of me have changed and I haven’t yet figured out the D-Day plus 5 me. Having a meaningful, mighty life takes work, commitment, reflection.

  • Time does not heal all wounds. We really need to heal the hurt and the pain caused by trauma. There are people who are in their 70s and still talk about their damaged and toxic childhood, it’s because they never healed the pain. You really need to get therapy so you can heal and feel vitality again. You seem really depressed and depression always has a root cause. It’s traumatic what happened to you, and it was out of your control if you were harmed, but healing is in your control. I recommend you see a therapist to help you heal, and if you’re already seeing one, it’s not working and I recommend you switch.

    • “We really need to heal the hurt and the pain caused by trauma.”

      You got it Kellia.

      I am learning how a part of the severity of my reaction to the abandonment in fact comes from other childhood trauma. So, I see my healing as an overhaul of my entire life experience, along with inter-generational trauma. I am determined to stop this here, with me, now so that my children do not inherit the legacy of this pain.

  • LegalGaga, big hugs from my corner of world! My bad days happened almost 8 months ago. I have a few really good days and then a day of tears.

    Cl is right – you have to make the effort to live. It’s your choice how you live your life from here (this is a gentle 2×4). First, if you haven’t been in awhile, make an appointment with your doctor. Get your blood work (make sure you aren’t hypothyroid) and talk to him/her about a possible depressant. As CL, there is no shame in trying to help yourself.

    Try looking for a walking club in your area, look for activities on Meet Up (doesn’t have to be dating), go to the library, volunteer (it’s good for the soul) , get a dog and go for walk, join Weight Watchers. I tend to be homebody. But, after my divorce, I’m eager to do things. The Dickhead was boring AF and never wanted to do anything. I’m ready to travel and meeting people!!

    It’s hard to not wallow in our own misery but it will do nothing for your psyche. It’s a trap that keeps in frozen in a time and place that is bad for you. Do something good for you! Learn to appreciate you and don’t hide yourself inside (literally and figuratively). Go to eat by yourself, go to the movies by yourself, go the zoo by yourself. I promise that if you get out of your head, life will be better. You are worth every effort.

    • I definitely recommend meetups that involve activities you enjoy. You can try several to see which ones really click and then stick with those. If nothing else, it gets you out of the house for something other than work.

      Also, take pride in your independence. You can get along just fine without a fuckwit in your life.

  • Wow, your cheater sounds extra despicable. I wouldn’t even focus on the fact that he had an affair with another person. You could substitute a wax doll for whatever pathetic loser he moved into your home. The worst things he did to you was not cheating, it was all the systematic destruction of your life *while* he also happened to be cheating. He sounds like pure evil. I’m so sorry for what you went through and I completely understand the loss you feel, not the loss of his sorry ass, but the loss of the life you had before he entered it and turned it upside down. It takes a long time to work through those feelings, but sadly, it’s so true that the only way out is through. Big hugs to you.

  • It’s been 8 years for me and I still come here every day for advice and support. Life isn’t easy, but life with a cheater is far worse.
    I miss not having a “family”….especially for my son. I hate the fact he saddled me with a $40,000 credit card bill because he couldn’t manage money. It’s gonna take me while to get that paid off. And I can’t get over the fact that I want him to suffer and pay for what he’s done to us.
    But being cheater free is way better than living with a piece of crap who never did a single thing for me.
    Our lives arent ruined, just different than before. Every day gets a little better.

  • Dear Legal Gaga:
    You went through unimaginable TRAUMA with someone who is probably a sociopath, malignant narcissist or a proud member of the Dark Tetrad group (please google this). You have a right to grieve for as long as you need, but I see that you already started to build your new and improved life. You are MIGHTY!
    My story in brief, in case it helps: a few weeks after my oldest son took his own life at 20, I found Two-Legged Rat having phone sex with his first cousin. That’s how I discovered decades of hookers, strippers, married subordinates at work, you name it. I tried to kill myself, spent three days in ICU.
    Almost three years of pick-me-dancing, new discoveries, depression, psychiatric hospitals until I kicked him out. For a couple of years I was terrified, alone – my lifetime “friends” left me for him, my two younger sons couldn’t cope with my pain and my anger.
    After a year in hell, I said goodbye to my old psychologist and psychiatrist (friends with TLR), got new therapists, got a diploma in Psychology (I got an A on my first test, cried in front of everyone), made new friends, got another diploma in Psychology, started corresponding with kids who were thinking about suicide, went to the US to learn about suicide intervention and gatekeeper training, started a suicide prevention foundation.
    Today I’m well known in the suicide field in my country, have been interviewed several times in major magazines, radio and TV, and I’m also making my own money with my training workshops. Was it easy? Hell, no! The fight with suicidal feelings was always there and recovering the self-confidence that malignant narcissist TLR had completely eroded took years. But this Saturday I’ll be teaching about suicide in a child abuse diploma program where I’m also a student. The other professors are top-notch, all with master’s degrees or PhD’s unlike me, and I’m super nervous but once I start talking I know I’ll connect with my students. It’s a talent I didn’t know I had (and the students don’t give shit that I’m fat).
    And the best? Not only did I get back my adult boys’ love and respect, but they come to me when they’re in trouble or hurting about something. TLR is there for financial support, soccer games and barbeques.
    I’ll be 64 next month. Getting back on my feet after 30 years of destructive emotional abuse took a long time, but as I said the other day in an interview, I like myself. You have it in you, Legal Gaga, go for it, we have your back.

  • You’ve gotten some great advice. None of us woke up one day all better and back to carefree. Every single one of us had to make a choice to actively start working on ourselves and our lives again. It was a decision. I can remember the exact moment that I made up my mind that I was done being miserable. I didn’t know how I was going to go about it, so it was baby steps…and I got knocked down a few times since. But every single time, I got back up and dusted myself off. I started with planting a garden. I’d never had my own garden. I cannot tell you how good it felt to see those veggies grow, and how much better it felt to make meals and salsa from veggies I’d grown. I went back to school. Had a set back so completely changed majors which meant an extra 3 years of school because nothing transferred over for my new degree. Today, I’m finally the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m no longer even sorry that I was with my cheater for over 10 years because going through the things I did made me the badass that I have chosen to be. You have agency. Get up, dust yourself off. Start moving forward. Don’t like your weight, start there. It can be baby steps. Start taking a walk early in the morning. After a month, add an evening walk. Decide to make one positive change a month. It could be as simple as just drinking 8 more ounces of water a day. You don’t have to take on the world, just one little thing a month.

  • Legal Gaga:

    I’m 6 years out from D-Day, 5 years out from going Zero Contact, and 3 years out from my divorce being finalized. Most days, I’m grateful that my XH of 40 years left me for the last whore in a very long line of APs (think baker’s dozen and then some). In doing so, he removed a malignant cancer (himself) from my life that I didn’t even realize I had but one that would’ve eventually robbed me of whatever dignity, self-respect and spirit remained.

    The recovery from this trauma has taken longer than I expected, but as they say, there is no timetable for grief and my healing journey isn’t going to look like anybody else’s. So I try to be kind to myself and remember just how far I’ve come from the horrifically dark and desperate days that followed discovery.

    As others here have stated, get busy and stay busy! In addition to owning a successful business, I have certain things that I do daily (make my bed, talk with 2 close friends, cook my meals from scratch, take a 15-minute walk, and learn something new), and that I do weekly (volunteer for 3 hours, take 3-4 yoga classes, and go to church). These activities, while not unique in any way, serve to provide me with a solid infrastructure that keeps my mind, my body, and my spirit actively engaged.

    LG, create your own infrastructure and then jump in. It will transform you!

    I wish I could say I had it all figured out, but I don’t. I’m still struggling to overcome some challenges… to believe that I deserve to be loved by a kind and faithful man… to lose the weight I gained after being dumped… to somehow find the courage to start dating. These struggles serve to keep me grounded and ever so humble. But I figure as long as I keep moving even a millimeter at a time in the right direction — that is, living an authentic life based on love — I am making progress.

    LG, don’t give up, your happy, joyful and kind self is still inside! Show her the way out!

  • Sending you great big hugs too.

    I get it, I really get it. I know what it’s like to rise from the ashes. I know what it’s like to try to rebuild your life from what seems like nothing. I know what that little voice is that whispers in your ear ” Why bother it’s all shit anyway.” That little voice is depression, and it’s a liar. And while it seems impossible to try to lift ourselves up by your bootstraps, that’s exactly what we have to do. But, we don’t have to do it ourselves and alone. There is a whole chump Nation here to help, and a good therapist and possibly medication can make a world of difference.

    First however, you have to decide you are worth it. You have to reject the idea that just because the cheater says that you’re not worth anything that that is the truth. It is not. You have to fight for yourself. Because, guess what, the cheater is a liar. And the old saying, that God/Goddess doesn’t make junk is absolute truth here. You matter. You matter simply because you exist. You have worth and value simply because you are yourself.

    In my case, cheater ex kidnapped and murdered my youngest son. 18 months later, his family paid someone to burn my house down. I lost everything. Right then and there I decided I was not going to give up. Cheater X wanted me to curl up and die, and so did his family. Well I’m just contrary enough to say fuck them. I rebuilt my house exactly way I wanted. I stayed there until I was good and ready to sell. Sold for tidy profit and bought myself a new place out in the country. I kept my career as a nurse, and found that helping others helped me.

    I will say, that the experience shook my life down to the foundations. It was like my life was a box of pick up sticks that a child carelessly scattered. I had to pick one at a time, out of the pile and decide what it meant, what I thought about it, and put it in place, or not. Those Pick Up Sticks where my previous ideas and knowledge about everything in my life. I had to reevaluate everything. And one thing i saw clearly, that I had lots of baggage from my childhood years that I had to deal with. That baggage made me vulnerable to users and personality disordered people, and it was time to get to work to change that. That’s where therapy comes in. It helped me further identify the things that were hurting me, the things I needed to evaluate and either keep or let go of. Here, it’s called fixing your picker. You become your own safety net.

    Today, I am content in my own skin. I like the person I see when I look in the mirror. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. I’m worth it. And so are you. Today, I don’t have as many friends but they’re true friends. Today I own my own life. I live my life as I choose. I have found many, many things to be grateful for. And I give thanks to Spirit for at least one blessing a day.

    There are times life certainly is not easy, but it is certainly worthwhile. There can be happiness and contentment after having your life devastated by a cheater, but it takes work, sometimes hard work.

    You know what? You are worth it, my friend.

    • Your story Tessie is always one I love hearing. What an inspiration of mighty, and love, and healing, and strength. You continue to help a new chumps each and every time you share.

      • No, he committed suicide with a buddy in another state while my son was still missing.

        My boy’s body was found about a week after cheater ex did his thing.

        • Tessie
          I’m so very sorry that you experienced the heart breaking time in your life. God bless you for your strength & faith to weather the storm.

          You are an inspiration to us here at CN. May you have a wonderful life ahead. Many ((HUGS)) to you. ❤️💜💙

    • I cannot even imagine the horror you felt. Every time I hear your story, my heart stops for a second and I can’t breathe. That fact that you are here and willing to share your story – I have no words. Thank you Tessie for sharing and for giving us hope that life does carry on. You can live or die – you chose to live.

    • “I know what that little voice is that whispers in your ear ” Why bother it’s all shit anyway.” That little voice is depression, and it’s a liar.”

      You got it!

      We had to live with a liar, our enemy. Do not let ourselves become our worst enemies and our minds become the greatest of all liars.

    • Oh Tessie,
      You write that you don’t have as many friends, but, sweet sweet lady you have a world full of friends.
      I love you, and I know that all of CN feels the same.

      Love to CN is Tessie!
      ❤️🌎❤️
      From my corner of the world to your’s!

    • @Tessie;
      This is the first time I’ve read your story. Thank you for sharing it. I especially like your analogy of putting your life back together being like a box of pick up sticks. Your determination to not just survive but to thrive is amazing. You give me hope. Thank you.

  • Exercise helped me so much. Just putting music on and going on the treadmill at the gym. Nothing to do with fitness or weight loss. It was my mental health work out.

    I also had a big hill nearby and would walk to the shop at the bottom everyday, then walk back up so it’s a bit like a treadmill.

    Gosh if I had the space, I’d put a tread mill in front of a tv and workout in my home.

    Do your mental health workout everyday!!

  • “I try to be “grateful” and look at the good parts of our relationship”

    Why are you trying to be grateful for any part of that relationship? It wasn’t a good relationship and that is why you need to be grateful you are free of it. I know that is easier said than done, but trying to find reasons to be grateful for any part of something that hurt you isn’t going to make you feel better. Instead, be grateful for having the bad parts out of your life. Remember those, and not just the big stuff, the little annoyances too. Then be glad you have the opportunity to go gain a life without all of that dragging you down.

  • Legal, day after tomorrow is nine years since the cheater announced he didn’t want to be married to me any longer over a cup of coffee in Starbucks. All those years ago, I truly thought I would not survive the pain, terror, grief, and bewilderment that was so overwhelming, I couldn’t sleep, shook constantly, lost 30 pounds in one month, couldn’t think. We were married for 20 years. He was the only man I had ever slept with, my first and only relationship at the time.

    But life went on. I totally get what you are saying, because I also still sometimes think about cheater and all the various ways he tried/succeeded in fucking me over. I waste much less time on such thoughts these days, but they are still there every once in a while, even though I’ve been remarried to a good man for two years now.

    What helped a lot was exercise, going back to school, seeing my handful of friends as much as possible, joining some MeetUp groups, doing volunteer work, going to a nontraditional church, focusing on my hobbies, doing my best to make a good life for my son, and journaling like crazy. I also went to therapy and took antidepressants for a couple of years.

    Today, I have a new career, a new husband, a new life. Does that mean all is perfect? Absolutely not. I’ve gotten fat, I worry about things, I take care of an elderly and extremely critical mother, I have health issues of my own. And I still feel angry and bitter at times about how the cheater not only fucked me over in every way possible, but he got away with it all. There was no karma, no consequences. He got to have fun doing whatever he wanted for years, and now he’s engaged to a wealthy woman with a beautiful home, and he’s gone back to his old job in the banking industry. That all burns, believe me.

    But reading here reminds me that I’m not alone in my experience. Many here suffered far, far worse than I did, and many here are far mightier than I could ever hope to be. But what we all share in common is that we suffered a huge blow, and to the best of our abilities, we rose up from the ashes. Legal, you are far stronger and far mightier than you realize. You moved across country. You work a good job. You survived. Your ONLY mistake is in thinking your life could or should go back to what it was before the cheater blew it all up. It’s never going back to that. And I hate to say it, but it’s unlikely karma will come around, or your sociopath will ever pay for what he’s done. But that’s okay. You are still standing, you are still here, you’ve made a good NEW life for yourself, and I know this sounds trite, but you can accomplish so much you don’t think you can. Just accept the broken parts of yourself, and keep on keeping on. There is truly no other solution.

  • Chump Lady gave great advice. Please do not let what your fuckwit of an ex did to you define you. He was the one who chose to betray you. Be kind to yourself. It would also benefit you to see counseling. I know how hard it is to pick yourself up after the one person who you thought would never hurt you does. You are stronger than you think. This is a new beginning for you.

  • LegalGaga, I can relate – I’m also not back financially where I was (lower salary, position), and have far fewer friends than before. But I’m making progress slowly but surely. A few things:

    Definitely don’t try to find the ‘good’ in your past relationship with your ex….it’s glitter on a turd. Instead, reframe it like this: “*I* brought the good into the relationship…I brought my A-game, and I’m proud of that part.” Ex fucked it up royally, which is on him, not you. You can be proud of your loving, giving spirit (although unknowingly misplaced), and just look at him like the bully he is.

    I felt much the same way you’re describing (bitter, nasty toward people) for quite awhile. But then it started to change – time helped, some therapy, and only surrounding myself with the few people I did trusted, for awhile. After a few years, I felt like dating again and I was thrilled to find that my picker was indeed much better – I could spot narcs a million miles away. This empowerment was the best feeling ever! I bet you’ll find your picker has improved, too, not just for dating but beyond – dealing with toxic people at work, contractors, etc. That’s true growth and a valuable life skill. Since toxic people seem to get their moves from the same playbooks, being able to sniff them out is kind of like a new superpower that you may find you now have grown.

    For me, it helped to focus on the things I could do in my new life that I couldn’t do when with fuckwit. I had been walking on eggshells for so long. Kind of like the baby circus elephant that was tethered with just a rope and psychologically still believed that little rope to be strong even as the elephant grew to be an adult, not realizing it could break free. It took some time to realize I could actually do things without someone else’s approval. Big things and small things were no longer constantly nitpicked and criticized – which book I was going to read, what meal I would order, and if I would go out that evening or not. Getting out from under that mental cage was liberating in itself. I started to enjoy the small things again (and finally, enjoy the big things, too).

  • LGG, I have a theory about why some people can’t heal and move on. It’s because they did not get justice. The evildoer did not get the consequences he or she deserved. This sense of injustice is doubly compounded if your family trivializes your pain. They have also done you wrong. How about you stop taking their shit? Tell them exactly how you feel about the way they treat you. Then refuse to see them until it changes and they apologize. They might just be assholes who are beyond redemption, in which case it won’t work, but if they do care about you, it should work. It worked for me. My mother practically crawled on her hands and knees to apologize after I called her out and cut off contact. I am less than five months out of dday and was with my cheater for 32 years. So I am still at the stage where I think about suicide and it takes all my strength just to get out of bed, but I’m fighting like my life depends on it, because it does. I’m going to make it out of the darkness and so are you.

    As for justice against your slutty, sociopathic ex and his whore, that ship has sailed. The time to get it was when it happened. To do it now would only set you back in your goal of forgetting he even exists. But do know that such vile people will NEVER be happy. He will be in a hell of his own making no matter what life gives him because he is incapable of genuine love, as is the evil, homewrecking walking nightmare he replaced you with. You can’t attain happiness if it’s predicated on destroying another person. Knowing they will be lifelong losers is a form of justice. Don’t believe any stories you hear about his storybook new marriage or whatever. To be disordered enough do what he did to you guarantees that his inner life is one of chaos and misery.

    The other advice given here is excellent. Get outside of your own pain by involving yourself in others. Volunteer. Adopt a rescue animal. Give of yourself.
    It’s also well worth checking in with your physician about depression. Don’t be afraid to medicate it. Physical activity is also highly beneficial to depressed people and would help you shed the extra pounds. Taking care of your health is extremely important to healing. You have already come so far and have proven your might. You can do this.
    Finally, know that your fellow chumps are here to help. Let me know if you would be interested in corresponding by email for support.

  • Don’t discount that you are engaging in black/white all-or-nothing thinking and that can slow your ability to roll with what happens now and in the future.

    You married a turd. Oh, he rolled himself in confectioner’s sugar and passed himself off as Turkish Delight – but he was a turd. You know that now.

    What may have you ‘stuck’ is the fear that that you are doomed to choose more faux-Turkish Delight. You MAY but you may not. So start with small delights. A dog or cat if you are so inclined. Smiling at someone who looks down (without commenting that they should smile).

    You took a beating to your kneecaps by someone who wasn’t supposed to DO that to you. Ever. Of course you are reeling. But look at what you did. You got away from him without him continuing to claw at you from afar.

    That’s huge. It may not seem to be a huge accomplishment, but it is.

    You may also want to see your physician because stress can fuck up other systems in your body and that can make going forward extra-tough.

    Good luck!

  • Yes!!! Best advice–give, give, give. That’s exactly how I gained a life after Hannibal Lecher nearly decimated me psychologically with his emotional abuse & betrayal.

    It resulted in my having 5 dogs (rescue, rescue, rescue), 30 rescued fish, 1 rescued bird, tons of chump friends (we were all rescuing each other). My then-13 y.o. and I even looked at adopting a 17 year old who was about to age out of the system (but divorce wasn’t even final yet, so we thought adapting to our new circumstances should probably come first).

    Giving saved me.

    • I’ve volunteered for the AARP as a tax preparer, going on my 11th year. I just completed the Master Gardener class and will volunteering the food gardens where all (except what little we take home for oursevles) the produce is donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Giving is good – I enjoy helping others who need a boost or need an hand.

  • Get yourself to a trauma therapist. What you are describing is not heartbreak and grief, it is PTSD. I really struggled to accept that concept given that I envision PTSD as something that impacts people who have experienced “real” trauma, like combat veterans and assault victims. But the brain doesn’t really care how any of us classify PTSD, and it will process and lodge trauma in predictable ways irrespective of the perceived level of trauma. I suffered a similar experience to you and responded similarly for about 3 1/2 years until I was so mentally exhausted from dealing with it all that I took the advice of a friend and saw a trauma therapist. It was miraculous. Intellectually I understood everything Tracy describes here, but the trauma eclipsed my ability to make it so. It was only after the trauma therapist helped me re-wire the fight-or-flight response that lived constantly just under the surface that I was able to really dig into the “Gain A Life” thing and feel that I was once again in control, happy, and felt like my old self again.

    • Agreed. You sound like a PTSD survivor. The brain loops over and over on these issues, until it can jettison the trauma. Then you can process emotionally and “gain a life”.

      I myself saw a trauma specialist in therapy and it was life changing. EMDR is helpful. The field is growing and evolving. They understand there are levels of traumatic experience, and you don’t have to go through combat, or extreme physical violence to develop it. Also, if you have a history that includes physical or sexual assault earlier in life, often the underlying traumas (treated or untreated) can be reactivated.

      Cheating is form of emotional abuse and violence. It impacts chumps just as deeply as being backed into a corner and beaten.

      If you have access to resources that include therapy, look into it.

  • My Dday was 7 years ago this Christmas Eve, so I do have some perspective longer term that you are asking.

    First as CL said, GET A LIFE !! Do everything that you can to live your life. Second, you can work on getting back in shape but if not that isn’t the end of the World. There are plenty of men out there who like curvy women. Therapy can also help if you can find a good therapist that you like and trust (it helped me).
    You also have to realize that some wounds are so deep that they never totally heal. Betrayal on the magnitude that you and many of us experienced is soul crushing and like dealing with the death of a close loved one, you learn to cope and over time think less about it but you NEVER “get over it” !

    For example, except for kid issues I rarely think or deal with my Ex and I’m at Meh. However during Thanksgiving my family all got together and a relative is going through an ugly divorce and I was “triggered” and all of the bad memories and feelings came flooding back. Fairly quickly I pushed them back to the dust bin of my mind but it reminded me that that wound and the pain it caused will always deep down be with me.

    Just understand all of that and force yourself to get out and LIVE. I did and 4 years after Dday I was alone and living in a small apartment when I went to the local pizza place and sat down waiting for it to be ready. I started talking to a lovely lady sitting next to me and we were having such a nice conversation that we took our dinners and ate at a table. We pretty much have been together since now almost 3 years later. She was also chumped by her Ex husband and had been badly abused. Besides that we also have a ton in common, like doing the same things, fell in love, got married a year later and are very happy today.

    Right now with my wife is one of the happiest times of my life and I believe that like Job in the Book of Job in the Bible that I was greatly tested, lost what I thought was everything and yet because I persevered and took the high road, like Job regained everything I lost and gained even more.

    YOU CAN TOO !! The best years of your life can be ahead of you if you just Gain a life as CL says !!

    • I’m noticing the number of D-Day anniversaries–of course, it’s common knowledge that the big winter holidays are the breaking point for relationships under stress, for so many reasons.

      Do we need a Friday Challenge for Most Spectacularly Callous Christmas Dump? (Especially traumatic Thanksgivings included!)

      Hang mighty, Chump Nation!

      • Oh yes, what better Christmas present than finding out your spouse of 16 years has been cheating on you ?
        I suspect that the OM/OW get jealous during the Holidays in that you have the life that THEY want and pressure your fuckwit to leave you and be with them.

        I don’t know but it ruined Christmas (which is my favorite time of the year) for years for me. Luckily my wife now is lovely and has brought back the Christmas spirit for me.

  • LegalGaga, I know how you feel. My fuckwit took everything from me as well, but what wrecked me most is he took my dreams. My dream of what life was going to be. The thought of making new dreams pisses me off, but we have to do it. As for the depression, this shit will literally drive you insane. It’s so bad! For me, it has been on par with losing my baby years ago. One lady said her husband’s affair was more traumatizing then when a stranger brutally raped her. It’s so devastating. :'(
    My best advice is EXERCISE! I’m a psychologist and there are many studies showing that exercise is better at curing depression than meds. Our brains LOVE exercise. Go to the gym, get on the treadmill or elliptical and RUN to a new future.

    Best of luck and remember, you’re not alone.

    • I had my annual physical this week and my doctor called exercise (bc of increased blood flow to the brain) “your best insurance against Alzheimers”– something else to think about.

      I’ve been coming to terms with the reality of turning SIXTY last month. And I’m good with it!

    • YES! A good, sweaty workout saved not only my physical body but also my spirit. It has always been that one thing that can alter my mood from stressed out and on the verge of tears to a way more peaceful feeling of “Yeah, I got this. I’m ok.” Exercise is really the key to so much. Thx for writing this here!

    • Exercising, like on an exercise bike or something, seems daunting to me, but what doesn’t is dancing. You can just turn on some music and move, even if that movement is super lame like just snapping while trying to march in rhythm. Once I started crying while doing this, and I STILL felt better afterwards. FWIW.

    • I second, third? ninety ninth? (I lost count) the exercise recommendation. I would like to say that I too went all yogi zen at my split but the truth is I took up kick boxing and every kick and punch was delivered directly to cheaterpants dick in my mind. In fact I heard more than one guy at my gym comment “man she is not fooling around” when observing my workout routine. Gradually I sweat most of the sheer blinding white hot rage and breath stealing despair out of my system. These days when I find myself drifting into feeling low grade depressed I volunteer. I was too toxic to inflict on others at first but it works for me now. So give both of those a try. they really can help you. Hugs honey, don’t just survive – thrive – if for no other reason do it to spite that bastard.

  • I think that therapy would be useful. I speak as someone who’s not yet taken advantage of therapy, but I plan to do so because I’m coming to a point in my life where I want to be more open to dating. I need to be sure that I’ve fixed my picker. I didn’t have a lot of dating experience, and after nearly 20 years of marriage and over 25 years of being in an exclusive relationship with CheaterX, I would be really rusty.

    I agree with the advice you’ve received. You don’t get your old life back. You get a new one. In that sense, you want to live looking forward, not backwards. This isn’t to say that you have to “get over it.” Instead, you need to see your true reality. Yes, there were times in your marriage in which you felt truly happy. Those feelings were real. But it’s also real that it turned out that your assumptions about the foundations of your marriage were completely wrong. This doesn’t have a moral judgment on YOU. You were deceived! You can be angry about that!

    But while we can use anger as a tool, we also need to recognize that we need more than just anger in our lifeskill toolbox. We also need compassion. We need empathy. We need to be able to interact with others. We need self-forgiveness. If we are afraid to use one of these tools, or if we’ve forgotten how o when to use these tools, we need therapy.

    You are freaking mighty, but even mighty people need a bit of help.

    Good luck!

  • Hi Legalgaga
    I know it’s hard, and I’m also a number of years out. Everyone is different and takes different amounts of time to cope and rebuild. But I can relate to you when you say you’re a bitter and nasty person. Things hit hard and we change but it doesn’t mean we can’t change again. For me, it was 12 months after I left him that I one day looked in the mirror and saw my face – it was perpetually scowling and frowning, I looked ugly with all the feelings I had inside showing on the outside. It gave me a hell of a shock, I just looked at me and thought, “This is the face my kids are seeing every day, my friends and work colleagues etc. Who would want to be near a person who looks like this and constantly whinges and cries and moans about her ex? I wouldn’t even want to be friends with me! ” My poor kids had no choice, they had to be near me but others didn’t and I suddenly realised that I was going to drive everyone who mattered away from me. So I made a decision that day to change my mindset. I purposefully started smiling, I talked less about me and my ex, and I went to a counsellor. She at least didn’t mind my crying ugly face 🙂
    Everyone’s different but I do think that in your case you can make a decision to start to leave things in the past and let it go a little more each day. Maybe see a therapist and practise a nice smiley expression on your face to wear outside when you go to work. I’m not saying it’s easy but I am saying it’s a decision you can make. Fake it, it’ll be real one day.
    Good luck xx

  • YES to everything Tracy has written here.

    I fell to the lowest place I ever hope to see/feel/BE during the 3 years following my x’s BS. Was absolutelu unsure if I’d escape and even set a date to end it all if my mentality hadn’t changed by that date. I forced myself to run or do yoga, forced myself to eat at least a protein shake daily, forced myself to shower and walk my dog for at least 30 min total each day – wore sunglasses b’c most days I was still a crying mess.

    It IS A TON OF WORK to get to higher ground. Slippery, muddy, steep embankments. But, climb, slip, climb, slip, climb… etc until you finally get yourself to higher ground. Now, around 4yrs out, I feel alive again and am joyful and actually excited about things to come and dreams to make real.

    You can do this.

  • I’m sorry to hear this LegalGaga….but I hear you. It’s been years since my cheating XH walked out the door and nothing has really been the same. I wish that I could tell you that my life has just been one big fantastic party with suitors lined up down the block but that’s not the reality of it. I’ve spent years alone and lonely. I’ve moved on. I have a great job, a lovely home, wonderful friends but the truth of the matter is, is that I will most likely spend the rest of my life alone whether I want to or not. I eat dinner by myself every night, I sleep alone, there are tons of things I don’t do because I don’t want to do them by myself. Meanwhile cheater XH and schmoopie seem to be just fine. My husband caused me irreparable harm and I will never be the same. It’s sad but it’s true and no amount of wishing or praying or trying as hard as I can has made it go away.This is my reality. I have a dear friend who is 64 and her husband is cheating on her. I’m having a hard time telling her that she will be ‘ just fine.’ If I’m not after this many years, I don’t know how she will be at this age. I’m so sorry for all of us in this boat.

        • Like Chumpto Pia, I have struggled for years with loneliness and sadness. I was abused for a few decades in various intimate relationships and bear the financial, emotional, and probably physical wounds. In a painful/numb fog for the last 1.5 years since my last partner brutally left me for his work subordinate, I still struggle to concentrate enough to satisfy my job, school, parenting, life requirements. I feel bad that I let others down due to consequences of chronic depression.

          Legal Gaga, you did not deserve what happened to you. You deserve to feel proud of what you have accomplished both before and after your cruel, disordered ex left. People like you serve as an inspiration to others by just continuing to out one foot in front of the other every day. I hope that you will routinely do nice things for yourself and invite others to join you in pleasant activity or just plain company. Meditation and guided imagery from YouTube or CDs might likely be comforting (I recommend Jack Kornfield, Abbess Chodron, and Michael Sealey.) I hope that you won’t let a couple of monsters destroy your whole life following their detonation. As Chumplady said, not everyone has betrayed/cruelly treated us. I realize that I tend to focus on the monumental jerks, maybe 2% of the people with whom I interact, instead of the other 98%. I am trying to escape this fog to enjoy the beauty of that 98% of people, animals, nature, show them appreciation, do a much better job fulfilling my obligations for the sake of my clients, colleagues, kids, etc. To healthfully cope with the pain, which at times has led me to contemplate suicide, I am trying to figuratively contain my pain (physical and emotional) in a box each day for a little while. I pretend that I feel wonderful about my life, that I have never experienced these painful events (deaths of relatives, disability, divorce, abuse, discard, poverty of my extended family and innocent others, etc.) and anger at others and me. Those few minutes of ‘pain in the box’, of putting down my incredibly heavy emotional load, gives me a bit of a reprieve. Another thing that has helped me is accepting the fact that justice is often not done. ‘Karma’ in its Western definition will not come. Now in my fifties, I have seen some of my abusuve exes go on to marry other women and live glorious, wealthy, comfortable lives while I struggle along with my kids, sleep in the living room of an apartment I share with a young dad and his toddler. I will likely never earn a six figure salary, which would be really helpful in the high rent region where I must live for several more years to retain custody of my kids. (I am afraid of my ex hurting our kids, so I don’t want to lose custody.) I quit trying to pursue justice or even happiness. I doubt that I will ever find an intimate partner who I love and who loves me enough to stick around for more than a few months or even a few minutes. Now I sometimes pursue purpose. I am not contributing nearly as much as I would like and as I could to the world when I was buoyed up by what I thought was the love of my partners, especially the first and last ones, who I met very early in life, but I am trying to make the rest of my life as honorable and beneficial to the world as possible. One positive thing I have discovered after being discarded and recently losing family members to death is a greater depth of compassion. I don’t run from death the way a lot of people do. I hope to volunteer in a local ICU to keep dying individuals company after my kids are grown (and I thus have more time) as well as continue caring for animals at my local animal shelter. Legal Gaga, I think that if you stay mindful (keep your eyes, ears, mind and heart open), you will discover some ways to help others and help you.

  • I spent a lot of time, effort and money trying to be “grateful”. It was very freeing when I finally allowed myself to admit that there is nothing about my marriage that I’m grateful for. He fucked me over everything. I am decades behind my peers.

    I am finally over the regret and working on building my new life and clawing my way to where I should be professionally and financially.

    I am “grateful” for the experience because it made me stronger and my life is a gazillilion times better than when I was with him. Yours will be too. Sometimes there is no good in a situation and that is ok.

  • Thank you Tracey. This grieving seems never ending and it lives just below the surface. It seems to show its face in the most inopportune moments. Right after I experienced DDAY, I hired a life coach. Like you she would take a situation and say “OK let’s flip the script on that shit” I learned thateverything that I do can be looked at with a different perspective and it will change my feelings if only for a moment. Those moments blend together and surprisingly there even hours and days where I feel better. Not saying it’s easy. And I still have moments when I feel devastated by what happened but I can look at my successes and see the progress. Five years ago my athletic son was hit by a truck when he was jogging. Hisrecovery from that was remarkable mostly because of his attitude and his health. He almost died and was in a hospital bed with external braces on both legs, collapsed lung-the lust is extensive. When he recovered, the doctor told him he would never run again, My son said OK I’ll golf and now he’s a scratch golfer. Such power and focus which just came from inside inspires me. So yes I’ve been emotionally hurt but I can recover and I Will not be able to do some things that I planned that but I will certainly do other things that I will love as much And learn about persevering in the face of difficulty. So hugs to you.. and FLIP the SCRIPT! 🦋😎.

    • You and your son sound like amazing people! His story is inspirational.
      I agree – told myself “flip the switch” often, still do, whenever things get rough. Not easy but definitely works, worth the effort for sure.

  • LegalGaga, I’m so sorry. Big-time hugs and good thoughts to you. My STBXH moved me across the country for his job in April – I left my family, my friends, my career network, my research, and the only teaching job I had been able to get. 3 months later, he told me he couldn’t “do it” anymore, and a couple of days after that, I found out he was having an affair with a co-worker and that he “wasn’t in love with me anymore” and wanted a divorce. I had to leave behind most of my stuff (things I had spent years accumulating to make a house) and a decent job offer to move back across the country to live with my parents for 2 months. I’m now in another part of the country, searching for another job and trying to move along the divorce process I didn’t want because my former spouse won’t reply to my attorney and has refused to pay the minimum amount of spousal support the state would require from him. The groups of friends we had built together have all fractured apart because of this, and I’m more alone now than I was when all this came out back in July. (People move on…pick sides…get busy, etc.)

    I’m not a sobbing mess every day, and I’m doing all the things I’m “supposed” to be doing – therapy, trying to connect with friends, searching for volunteering activities, reading, exercising, etc. But there’s this pervasive sense of dread that sits with me every moment of every day – and it’s that I’ll wind up alone, without having accomplished much besides functioning. It takes so much work to keep up with rebuilding, especially when you literally have to rebuild almost your entire life. It’s exhausting, and it’s discouraging. I don’t have any words of wisdom for you (I’m still in the early days), but I just wanted to let you know I see you and you’re not alone. I’m so sorry. *hugs*

    • WTF is it w/ cheaters uprooting the chump not long before the bomb drop? This happens so often! Across the country, across the ocean, to the other side of the planet. It’s like it’s in the playbook all cheaters have read and chumps have never heard of.

      • I don’t get it either. Cheating isn’t enough for the cheater, they want to destroy their spouse right down to the foundations. Just further proof (as if we needed it) that cheating is abuse.

      • Yes – I don’t understand this either. It is much easier on everyone if the cheater comes clean before a major move so the chump can decide to stay put and the cheater can move if he / she wants to. Instead the chump does all this work to move and then the shoe drops

        • Well, if I had known two months earlier I wouldn’t have moved down with our three kids. She wouldn’t have the kids (not to be sexist, but it would put a serious dent in her image as the woman scientist who has it all) and she wouldn’t have me as backstop when her career takes precedence over the kids. To be fair to her, I think discarding me was just the last stage of a full makeover (new job, new house, new boyfriend and finally new husband) that started with the move.

          If you just remember that they really, really don’t care about us as people (whether we want to move or not just doesn’t register), it makes sense to wring the last ounce of logistical support out of us (moving is a lot of work!) before dropping us.

            • I, too, was discarded (and taken to court on false allegations of felonies) by my husband when we moved. The police showed up at our new home, which I could not afford on my own (I was an unemployed mother of young kids), to ‘protect’ my husband, who was abusing the kids and me. I still remember the police sitting between columns of moving boxes while I buttered my kids’ pancakes, me taking my kids to school and then, in a sweatsuit and flip flops, driving to court to find out I was being served with divorce summons and had to fight for the right to see my kids at all. I will never forget the moment a lawyer asked me which days of the week I wanted to give up my kids. I took my kids to a safe house, that a very observant, smart friend had gotten for me that night. Thank you, first and second judges, for letting me retain majority physical custody and helping protect my kids and me.

      • Right? Like, it wasn’t enough to leave and cheat on me…he had to do it after I uprooted my whole world based on his promises and assurances he wanted us to be together, he loved me, we were in it together, etc. So thorough was his discard that I haven’t seen or spoken to him in 5 months and haven’t had any email correspondence since October. He literally could not care less if I dropped off the face of the planet tomorrow. It’s stunning how quickly he flipped from “I love you, I can’t imagine my life without you” to “Who are you? Do I know you?”

    • It’s still early days. It sounds like you’re navigating the shitstorm really well, all things considered. Speaking as a former chump who was moved to another state and had D-Day shortly thereafter. The isolation and the scrambling to start over in a new place, or move all over, just amplify the suckitude of it all. But it’s survivable. Promise.

      • Thanks, Tracy! I’m doing my best (Chump Nation helps so much), but I’ve been super discouraged since last week. My birthday was this past Saturday, and it was…not great. I feel acutely isolated and stuck, like I’m never going to get beyond this moment.

  • Fabulous Tracy and I agree Dday is TWO years now and I’m still angry but I have forgiven him through Gods grace. I’m s friendky person so that makes it easier for me to talk and make new friends. I also had the same BS he moved the new woman into my house. Although it’s all crashing down now, he cannot pay all the debts and the house is being sold at a LOSS, big LOSS! What goes around comes around! Yesterday was a wonderful day I was blessed by God and 4 good friends helped me with fresh groceries for a month!🌹🌹🌹🌹🇨🇦

  • Is there a time when the pain & sadness is no more?

    8 yrs on and the struggle with the grief & loss has lessened but I get so annoyed when a trigger sends me diving at the speed of gravity to my despair yet again… thiings like my cat died, Christmas time, crossing paths with X on a roundabout, even his Birthday!

    And yes the weight gain, the nasty lump on my nose that may be cancerous…

    But while I draw breath, I WILL NOT regret the day I stood up and said no more to the abuse.

    The ok and even good times far outweigh my step backs. And yes, family seem to want you “over it”.. moved on. And you want it too but lose faith in the process when that all too familiar set back occurs.

    Tired? Yes. Sad? Yes. Lonely? Yes. Loss of Hope? Sometimes.

    Then, it’s a new day. And it could be a whole lot worse.

    I love the new me. Don’t like my slip backs, but it’s the inevitable process of life.

    Here’s to my journey. A mighty one at that. ..
    Here’s to every other person on the road to recovery after your world has tumbled…

    And the show must go on… Might as well be with acceptance and appreciation for the good things I do have and the opportunities that lay ahead.

    Merry Christmas to all at CN. You rock in your triumphs and sorry. As do I.

  • Legal Gaga,

    I am 7 years out. Voldemort is long gone. I just bought my first home, all on my own, no cosigner, on my very own money and excellent credit. I have dated, fell in love again, restarted a career as a chef, run my own business, and am a loving, thriving woman who hopes to run cafe and start a family. I have dreamed impossible dreams, and achieved them, even while feeling like crap, dealing with mental illness, and the burning down of my former life.

    Meh is a state of mind you can achieve. However, grief is the major road to travel getting there. It sounds as though you have not allowed yourself to fully grieve. Please try therapy, EMDR, meditation, exercise (try walking), or whatever you need to evict this asshole from free head rent. Seriously.

    You are not grieving him, you are grieving the loss of a trajectory, a dream, an expectation, and a planned life. You still are alive. So, go get a new life. Dream a new dream. No one survives loss without transformation. You survived, you got out, you gained enormous life experience.

    So now, you have to do that big push on grief work, and Let. That. Shit. GO. Your hands are full of the past, and until you let that old stuff go, you can’t grab onto the new gifts of the present.

    I still grieve about things. Grief does pop up occasionally in Meh. Its an old friend telling me about loss and unfufilled needs, dreams, and desires. For a while, i was neck deep in grief. It seemed endless. It wasn’t. Sometimes we have a brief chat now. It passes. I let more shit go.

    We are not defined by other people’s actions. We are defined by our responses to life, and our own actions.

    New life is right in front of you. Its birth pangs come on the waves of grief. Girlfriend, you got this. GET IT.

    Love, ChefBella

  • LegalGaga,

    I am nearly at 2 years post DDay and nearly 1-1/2 years post divorce. I, too, still mourn the life I thought I had and am baffled, and truly disillusioned, at how I was played a fool by the man who promised to love me forever and called me his soul mate. I still have times of intense anger and sorrow over how I was left to suffer while he danced off into the sunset with a woman who was not even born when we were already in college dating. We were married for 24 years and we dated 5 years before we were married.

    Your post resounded with me because I, too, was left in the middle of a move. Like you, my ex picked up my world, shook it like a snow globe, and dropped it as he walked away. Like you, my ex systemically disassembled my life just to leave me. He left me after I had single-handedly packed a house that I did not want to leave (for his dream to move to a more quieter way of life, or so I thought). He left me in a rental home, since the home we were building, with our retirement in mind, was not yet finished. He left me two days after Valentine’s Day in the middle of a brutal winter. He left me with our two dogs, with no job, with no home, in a rental with a lease due to expire the following month. He left me with all our belongings in two large storage units. All for a woman (girl really) who was not even a twinkle in her father’s eye when we had been dating for two years.

    He left and never looked back. He refused to help me find a place to live (even financially until lawyers were involved). He refused to help with our dogs. He refused to help me clean the rental property we lived in, and set all the furniture back to its original location, before I finally had to move out. He refused to come get the things he left behind at the rental that were his. He refused to help me go through our belongings at our storage unit to separate his and mine. In fact, he wanted nearly nothing of his old life except for his work computer and some clothes. Twenty-nine years together – a seemingly strong and happy marriage – disintegrated in an instant and me left wondering where the bomb came from.

    It is hard to process. It is infuriating. It is maddening to deal with the new man he has become. It’s crazy-making. It’s terribly, terribly sad.

    But, I went to therapy. And my therapist just kept beating into my head that this was not my fault and that there is something wrong with him. I found a good lawyer to get me a good settlement. I read, and read, and read books on these loser ass-wipes and how disordered they are. I found Chump Lady! Thank God for Chump Lady! And, I had to find a place to live, and a job, and a petsitter for my dogs, and then another, better job. And, ass-wipe came along trying to be my friend again. He sucked me in and then abruptly hurt me some more and I said, “That’s it!” He is evil. And, I will not let him bring me down! He is not worth hurting myself over!

    Yes, I still have down times. I still rely on this blog to keep myself going – to know that I am in the right – and he is in the wrongest of wrongs! The good times, though, are beginning to outweigh the bad. Looking forward is starting to trump looking back.

    We are victims and what they did to us is just downright horrible! But we can not and must not let them win!!!

    You can do this!!!

    • Duped – you just wrote my story only I was left with 4 dogs – 2 big males who didn’t get along. (Well, I wouldn’t exactly let him take them but he refused to support them)
      He never looked back – didn’t want anything from the house, no photos of 36 yrs together. Not one of the (show) dogs. It’s still baffling to me. I didn’t want anything from the house either because it gave me bad memories so I gave most of the shit away. It was all shit. He also left most of his clothes I’d packed up in decent clothes-hanging boxes…with his fancy shoes and he even left all that behind. I was furious he didn’t take it all so I had to get rid of it. (yeah…be a good, little STBXW and take care of that will ya?)

      5 yrs almost to the day since Dday. I still have a lot of memories that keep popping up of when he deceived me – the sheer number of times keeps spinning through my head.

      His deceit was audatious!

      He’s now in hiding with her in a remote spot and just married her.

      I’m out enjoying my little fishing village where we lived, I have lots of friends, and I’m about to start travelling ! I heard something today (of all people, DLaura) and she said, take those burdens out of your head…think of it as dandruff. Slowly let it fall off your head and onto your shoulder. Let it sit there awhile…and, sit back, take your opposite hand and slowly brush the dandruff away onto the floor. Do it as many times as you need.

      Well, I did it, and it actually works!

      • I like that dandruff analogy…dead skin to shed.

        Mine ex, too, is in hiding. But you can only hide so long before you have to buy a property or register a car…and your profile shows up on the internet. True to form, he is 49 years old, living in a city he always told me he hated, with a 28 year old girl who doesn’t even have a job and has gone back to school. He’s put her and himself up in a luxury apartment in the city he hates with a monthly rent $200 more per month than our last mortgage. WHAT could they possibly have in common? WHERE did his mind go? HOW could he never look back? After he left, he said, “Yea, we had some good times,” as if we had been casually dating for a couple months – not together for 29 years of our lives! I stood by his family when his mother got sick once, twice, and ultimately left this earth. That family who also knew me for 29 years has not once asked how I am or asked my version of events. My ‘lovely’ (sarcasm) sister-in-law just told me, “you’ve got to move on,” two months after he left – again like we were just dating. Then, they disappeared into the miasma of a past life overnight. Not so much as a holiday card.

        The betrayal replays in your head at those times when you’re weak. And I can honestly say I can still feel the sickness of that initial gut punch when I replay that time. I obviously never knew his true character. But now I do and I am beyond disappointed in the weak character that I attached my life cart to nearly 30 years ago. Some day, that 28 year old girl will realize the recycled trash she got, too. God help her!

    • Duped,
      I am sorry that this happened to you. My husband, now ex-husband, also did not help me clean the apartment we were leaving. He demanded that I go to our new place to set it up although I was busy and tired cleaning the old home. Why was he so eager to have me come set up the new place that weekend morning? Because he had called the police to search me. (I have never used drugs, committed heinous crimes, etc.) As an abused doormat, after a whole Night of cleaning and taking a Mai in a concrete floor alone, I went to the new home and started lining cupboards, I heard a knock on the door and ‘police!’ I opened the door with a roll of shel liner and then saw the cop and a minute later my husband standing behind him. My husband had tried to frame me. The policeman stayed with my husband while he packed a duffel bag and then made me on my own search our unpacked new home for my husband’s business license that I was accused of stealing (but hadn’t). My husband used to spend hours at a time abusing me (and sometimes our kids I later learned) in bizarre, sociopathic ways. I often feel ‘dissociated’ when I describe these eras of my life. I still have a hard time believing that they are true. When I start doubting, I look at legal documents–after 16 hearings, there are many.

  • C/L “That means a mental sea change. It’s work you must do, it doesn’t just happen with time. Time helps, of course. But really it’s a big slog. It’s reframing the entire narrative and taking a hard look at your values.”

    ^^^^^
    This right here is pretty much the most important advice you may want to hear.

    THIS is why this blog matters.
    Thanks, Tracy.

  • RockStarWife, this post made me think of you. I am a ruminator as well, and it’s actually really helpful to hear other people whose emotional wheels tend to spin internally. I know that pain so well.

    There’s good trauma work that gets the person standing up and feeling what’s going on in their body, and EMDR type interventions, or even just counting the number of blue items in a room, can help me to get off the hamster wheel.

    I think the best advice in the post today was GIVE LOVE. GIVE LOVE to safe people. It’s hugely healing and it takes you out of the padded cell that is your own mind. At first you just get out for short breaks, but in time the breaks get longer and you find you enjoy life on the outside.

    I was reading a psychology paper this morning about traumatic re-enactment, and it pointed out that hyperarousal paralyses a person’s (and an animal’s) ability to be curious about other people and to seek new things. The state of low arousal is best for that – so perhaps that’s the state next door to Meh.

    I’ve been working this year on maintaining low emotional arousal as much as I can. It’s not worked all the time; I’ve had some meltdowns, but I think I’m learning to like and enjoy a low arousal state, instead of being addicted to drama.

    • Lola Granola,
      Thank you for sharing detailed feedback and glad to hear from you.
      Yes, I have been stuck in a hyper-aroused (jumpy) state interspersed with a numb, almost catatonic state. I wonder how animal species who are preyed upon stay sane.

  • >I gained a lot of weight after the break up and I still have it, but I did the best I could and re-started my old life.

    Dear LegalGaga,

    I can’t improve on what Chumplady told you, but I would like to add this: If you were to make some kind of sport or fitness activity the center of your social life, and take it seriously, you could kill a lot of birds with one stone: You’d get fit, you’d make friends, and you’d get out of your current rut (you might get stuck in the fitness-nut rut, but at least you’ll feel good about yourself).

    We are all rooting for you, because we know exactly what it’s like.

    Good luck!

  • I can’t recommend volunteering with rescue animals enough! Actually adopting isn’t an option for everyone due to money, housing, or time constraints but anyone can volunteer to walk a shelter dog. I’ve been doing this for years and it has helped me in so many ways. First of all, exercise is a good thing. Also, simply doing a good deed feels good. Most importantly for me, I see myself in those shelter dogs. Someone let them down, treated them callously, discarded them just as I was treated. I especially like to walk the big ones, the scary ones, the traumatized ones. It’s amazing the bond that can develop in a short period of time. I see them soften when I arrive, get excited, feel and accept affection. I can’t express how healing this experience is. When they find a permanent home I am so thrilled to see their fresh start and new lease on life. When I help them, I help me. My phone is full of pictures of all of these beautiful souls. When I’m feeling down I scroll through and revisit all my old friends and feel peace immediately.

    • pbs,
      Beautiful, caring, kind, full of love, post.
      Reading it I smiled, imagining all the beautiful dogs, the look in their eyes, the wag of their tail when you arrive to take them for a walk. A simple, yet a giant, of an act, to each one of them.
      (Your cheater lost a gem in you).
      YOU are Mighty!

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