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Dear Chump Lady, Is all this pain worth it?

Dear Chump Lady

D-Day for me was Aug 12, 3 weeks after our 20th anniversary. He admitted, after I basically squeezed it out of him, that he had had 2 affairs, one with a work colleague — whom he says turned psycho and he no longer talks to — and one with a woman out of town. At one point, the two overlapped. While he swears he never had sex with the work colleague (just fooled around a few times) and that he only hooked up with the out-of-towner 4 times, these affairs went on for at least 3 to 4 years (he is fuzzy on when they started), although the texting and emotional component go farther back than that.

I wasn’t totally clueless, I told him several times that I wasn’t comfortable with the many “friendships” he had with women friends new and old, who I didn’t know and who weren’t our mutual friends.

He never made much of an effort to include me in most of these friendships and so I when I told him, repeatedly, that I wasn’t comfortable with them he always managed to flip this scenario around and make it about how I was insecure because both of my parents were cheaters too. Thus, he gaslighted me about the out-of-town affair when I tried to confront him about it many times.

This man has been in therapy for many years. His therapist told him to fess up but he never did — not until I told him, in couples therapy, that I would simply assume the worst if he wasn’t willing to be honest. I was furious and shattered when he finally admitted it. I truly think he was shocked by my response.

At first he was a little indignant and felt somewhat justified, as he was convinced that we were on the edge of divorce at the time and he wasn’t getting his emotional/ physical/ etc. needs met. But now, after 3 months, I can see he is truly sorry — even mortified by his own behavior — and trying to work on himself, on our relationship, and to rebuild trust.

We have a teenager at home and one in a freshman in college. I am staying and trying to work on our relationship because of the kids and the fact that for some reason I do still love him. But I am haunted by the years of lies, the gaslighting, the disregard for my feelings, the many women I knew he’d had friendships with that excluded me and maybe the ones I didn’t know about. I was broken for weeks, lost weight, barely got through the day. Now I am in therapy, on antidepressents, and pissed as hell.

Can a man like this truly change or am I totally deluding myself and wasting time? I’ll admit that I’m terrified to be on my own, as we have been together for more than half my life. But is all of this pain worth it?

Pissed Off in California

Dear Pissed,

Don’t ask yourself if he can change. Wrong question. Ask yourself if this relationship is acceptable to you. Theoretically, sure, people can change. By putting all the emphasis on the probability of that happening (we’ll discuss the odds in a moment), you’re giving him all your power. Naturally, that pisses you off, because that’s a very unsafe, scary place to be. This man has grievously betrayed you.

Instead, put your energies where they’ll be better spent — yourself.

Now, I know that feels shaky too — especially after you’ve been gaslighted. Can you trust your own perceptions of reality? Of him? But you’re a far more honest broker than he is. Decide what your values are. Decide what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t. Not just going forward — but in the relationship’s entirety.

For some reason, after infidelity, we’re supposed to have this tunnel vision about our options. Look ahead! Better character on that distant shore! I see a narwhale! 

No. Look at the WHOLE of the thing. (What you know of it anyway.) Could you ever trust this man again after so much mindfuckery? After years of devaluing?

The emphasis does NOT have to be on his Potential To Change. It can be No, This Is a Deal Breaker.

In fact, it’s an expression of grotesque entitlement that he’s there ASSUMING you must invest further in him. Where’s the contrition? Where’s his assumption that this SHOULD be a deal breaker?

Why did you have to play a cat-and-mouse game for YEARS for some trickle truth “confession”? While he was risking your health and family life? If he’s truly questioning his behavior, he’s not “mortified” —  and he’s certainly not blameshifting — he’d be DOING something. Signing a post-nup, a generous divorce settlement, telling the children what he’s done and not making you out to be crazy. Really, Pissed, anything quite other than wanly sniveling on a shrink’s sofa.

I’ll admit that I’m terrified to be on my own

That’s a problem you can work on. That’s a situation you can IMPROVE. THAT you control.

I am haunted by the years of lies, the gaslighting, the disregard for my feelings, the many women I knew he’d had friendships with that excluded me and maybe the ones I didn’t know about. I was broken for weeks, lost weight, barely got through the day. Now I am in therapy, on antidepressents, and pissed as hell.

That’s what staying looks like. That knowledge never goes away — that he’d hurt you like that to get his dick wet. He can’t undo it, and you can’t un-know it.

There’s invest in this further and hope (I’ve written about the odds here) — or cut your losses and leave.

I’m sorry, I know it feels like your choices suck.

One path puts you in the driver’s seat and the other path puts him in the driver’s seat. Who would you rather have behind the wheel?

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I struggle with powerless feelings because he makes a lot more money than I do and will be able to take me back to court many times to stir up drama with custody issues. I can’t help but feel powerless. The judge would not give me alimony even though he makes about $40k more a year than I do.

    • I am sorry that you have to worry about a jackass who uses custody to further manipulate you. My advice on this issue is two-fold. Adhere rigorously to the custody schedule and rules. And document everything. I kept a daily log for about three years that noted activities I took the kids to or picked them up from, school meetings I attended, doctor’s appointments, or shopping trips that supported the kids beyond food/standard clothing/shelter. So, if we needed to go buy cleats, that was in my notes. Groceries were not. If I baked cupcakes for a sports team or purchased a case of Gatorade, that was in my notes. I wrote down the time of all custodial pick-ups and drop-offs. And if my EX was late, I noted to the minute how much. If he called twice to say he’d be 15 minutes late, then 30 minutes late, then showed up 90 minutes late. I noted it. I did not note any explanation he gave. I kept all editorializing and emotion out of my notes.

      My lawyer drew from these notes on multiple occasions when we had to deal with custody issues.

      Your anxiety about being hauled back into court is probably unavoidable, but the odds are in your favor. Most people tire of that tactic pretty quickly if you are utterly responsible and do not react emotionally to any summons (or at least do not let him see you react–no outraged text, no losing it in front of the kids), because judges don’t like custody drama. So, if he shows up with complaints, and you drop 75 pages of documentation on the table, most judges will side with you. In my state, family cases stay with the same judge, so it only takes about two visits before the judge sees the pattern.

      Due to my EX’s shenanigans, I’ve spent way too much time in court (lots of days where he didn’t appear but I sat there for hours), and while I have no legal training, I watched a lot of stupid little battles over tiny amounts of money or demands for more custodial time when a parent wasn’t using what he/she already had, etc. In a lot of the cases, both parents seemed to be behaving poorly–they were still, very clearly, busy pushing each other’s buttons. In those cases, it was hard for me to see what would happen. But in the cases where one person was trying to wrestle control from the other parent with no clear need or reason and the other parent was the picture of organization and rule-following, the judge just sided with the calmer, rule-following party.

      One of the tough parts of this strategy, though, is that you have to follow the custody schedule even when you know it is harming the kids in some way. If the harm is great enough to warrant legal action, then you keep the kids and immediately contact your lawyer to get an emergency custody order. But there are not many situations that warrant such a response. Most of the harm that will befall them is temporary, and if your EX goads you into violating the custody order over smaller issues, you will be perceived in court as the irresponsible parent. A lot of the drama I saw came from a mother keeping the kids on Saturday for “extra time” because she hadn’t been able to use all of her time with them the previous week, etc. Or a Dad withholding support because he’d paid the dance class bill when he picked up his daughter from the ballet studio, because the instructor was insistent, but it wasn’t his responsibility. None of that flies. Follow the custodial plan. Period.

      The courts aren’t entirely reliable, but anyone who thinks he or she can go in and make a sweeping case that entirely benefits them (not the kids) is going to be due for a surprise. Lots of narcissists think they are Perry Mason, and the idea of speechifying in front of a judge feeds their fantasies of self-aggrandizing glory. Until they get there.

    • Babs, you have something you may be able to use to prevent that. You know things about him that he would not want to be public knowledge, right? If this asshole plans to use family court to fuck with you, I would use the court of public opinion to fuck with him. I’ll probably get a lot of people telling me it’s a bad strategy and will backfire, but all I can say is it’s certainly working for me. I have a Facebook page detailing all my cheater’s shenanigans and the evidence to back it up. It’s currently private, but can go public if he fails to deliver on what I’ve asked of him. Everything in there is absolutely and provably true, so he’d have no chance of winning a libel suit. Now, your cheater may not care that much about his reputation, so it might not work. In that case, you could start collecting new evidence on him for court. If you need to hire a P.I. , do it. Maybe when he has the kids, he leaves them with one of his skanks without your knowledge. Perhaps he drinks a lot or goes to prostitutes. Things like that may be helpful in a custody dispute. Money may be power but so is knowledge. Since the guy is a fuckwit, you know he’s not living a clean life. All you need to do is prove it and use it.

      • While I am glad that Chumperella’s investigation is serving her well. Although my husband repeatedly broke the law (perjury, prostitution, and much, much more) and some of these crimes came to light in court (we went through 16 hearings), my husband was never charged. I spent nearly one hundred thousand dollars, while my husband, who mostly represented himself although not a lawyer spent less than twenty thousand. Our first judges (all experienced male judges) did not like my husband, but our last, a new female judge) loved my husband. If I had it to do over again, I would have just written him a check for fifty thousand on the day the crook took me to court to file and falsely accuse me of felonies.

        • Yay! Glad to see you back, RockStarWife. Although I’m sorry that you had to be here in the first place. Hope you are doing okay.

  • Walk away!! Change sucks but you deserve more. Some people change but most don’t. You will never fully trust him again. Do you really want to live like that? So many years he deceived you. He is a jerk no matter how sorry you may think he is. His track record shows he is not capable of remorse. You deserve better. Kick him to the curb.

    • No need to reinvent the wheel.
      The ancient saw clearly what adultery really is and what it means.

      “He/She who commits adultery is devoid of sense; only one who would destroy himself/herself does such a thing. He/She will meet with disease and disgrace; his/her reproach will never be expunged. The fury of the spouse will be passionate; he/she will show no pity on his/her day of vengeance. He/She will not have regard for any ransom; he/she will refuse your bribe, however great.”

      – Proverbs 6:32-35

  • Many of us here have faced down that fear giant. It DOES get better sans cheater! The reality is pain is in both ways, and you have to choose from a buffet of bad options ( The difference between making a break now and staying is how CL points out the knowledge does not go away. It is hard to heal with constant reminders of the treachery living with you.

    • ❤️Divorce Minister!


      I just downloaded the 2017 App of the Year “Calm” app (no, I don’t work for them). It is an awesome resource for anxiety, especially at night.

      I am an addict/alcoholic with 33 years in recovery so I can’t take Xanax or Ativan or anything else for insomnia/anxiety, those fun PTSD symptoms.
      This has been a great tool for me.


      • Velvet

        Wow! Congrats on your life! I’m a SUD therapist and you are amazing! I also have my clients use the Calm app!

      • VH,

        33 years in recovery! That’s awesome. Way to go! And thanks for the resource.


        • Thank you….I have never experienced pain like trudging through infidelity stone cold sober. Probably the reason I feel so crummy. No anesthesia available. The silver lining is that there is so much that will never bother me ever again.

    • I wanted to thank you for the link in your reply. I am still struggling with the fact I divorced my Christian cheating husband. I stayed with him after he cheated several years ago, and I caught him again in 2017. He would quote Bible verses that gave him the “right” to cheat. He was spiritually abusive to the point I really did start to doubt myself. My divorce was final last month and I’m trying to move forward.

      • I so sorry you had an abusive Religious Cheater. Such a shame they delude themselves and then use so many hellish tactics to try to destroy their faithful spouse.

        You deserve so much better. Hugs.

      • Whoa! I think the 7th Commandment, you know, that one that says THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY sort of trumps any scripture the cheater can distort.

        Spiritual abuse for sure.

        I am so sorry this happened to you. ????

    • “That is why I believe God does not call divorce evil. It is an adult decision made in the face of the reality of sin. Like losing a limb, it is not pleasant nor ideal.” YES! Thank you Divorce Minister. I needed to hear this today. Isaiah 35:3-4 ????????

  • Hey Pissed,

    I was married for 24 years when I found out about the ex’s affair and stayed for three years after dday. In total I was married 27 years before I left so I understand the fear you are feeling. I also understand your anger towards your cheater. The longer I stayed, the more angry I got because living with the person who caused me egregious harm did not make me feel better. Living with a person who betrayed my trust and tried to blame the whole thing on me did not give me comfort. It was like living with a neon sign that reminded me every day of how little he cared about me. As it turns out, that relationship wasn’t acceptable to me and once I realized that I knew I had to leave.

    Was I scared? Hell yeah! It helped reading stories here about the folks who made it to the other side. Archives entitled “Tell me how you’re mighty” and “Your walls will sing again” helped me a great deal. After being married long term, the idea of divorce is like taking a leap into some wild, scary abyss. Everything is wide open in that abyss though. A chance to live cheater free. A chance to navigate your own journey without being tied down to someone who could lie to you for 4 years. Possibilities live in that abyss. You know what lives with a cheater.

    So like CL said. Ask yourself if this relationship is acceptable to you. It really is the only question that matters.

    • It really IS the only question isnt it and if you just let your honest heart answer….. FREEDOM!

    • I was married 21 years when I found out about his 2 1/2 year affair. Stay home mom, gave up my career so he could have a better one. (big mistake) It’s now 4 years later, he’s done a lot of work ie: new job, counseling, accepts blame, remorseful, ashamed, transparent with details (I’m sure there’s details he’s not telling me), closer with our children, my family, his family…all around the man I married and fell in love with. But my anger keeps growing and my love for him keeps fading. I know I’ll eventually divorce.

      • Then why stay now?

        Get on with your own life and release him so he can live his. Continuing on in this relationship is giving him the idea that your heart is in it and that’s just as dishonest as he is.

        You’re better than that.

        • Let me rephrase….I don’t mean to say you’re dishonest with him…you’re dishonest with yourself, with what you want and can do. You deserve better than investing in a relationship that simply does not work for you anymore.

          Get your ducks in a row, bite the bullet, and whatever other cliche’ you need to get moving. Don’t waste anymore of your precious time or anyone else’s (i.e. your children) when you know it’s over for you.

          • Thank you for this.

            and you’re right, I am being dishonest to me, to him, my children, family…

            Here’s to getting my ducks in a row

            • Dear Getting…the thing that stood out to me was that he had an affair for TWO AND A HALF YEARS. That’s a damn long time to look you in the face every day and lie his ass off. I’d never get over that one either, no matter how much ‘work’ he did. Pffttt.

      • Angry chump and pissed in California. This business about them being sorry and trying to work it out is probably not the truth. The real possibility is these guys are telling you that is either their friends, Co workers or lawyers have told them they have much money, pensions whatever to lose. It is cheaper to keep you. I know that sounds mean but it is the common reason a man will stay while continuing to cheat but being more careful. I personally know of two men who did this. Their wives are still with them to this day. Don’t be fooled. Go talk to lawyer and get your money in order.

      • My husband did the same thing the first time around. He was the epitome of atonement – I “forgave” and we moved on.
        It took 6 years for him to cheat again and hide it for another 4 and the last 2 1/2 have been complete hell. I wish I could turn back time and have left him all those years ago. The 2nd time around is horrible.
        Now I’m looking at 27 years spent dealing with his stupidity in some form.

      • AngryChump listen to your gut that is doubting his sincerity in the ‘transparency’ department. You do not trust him, unsurprisingly and something is telling you he is not being truthful with you. He concealed this affair from you for 2 1/2 years; that is a long time to live a lie and he obviously did it convincingly for it to go on for so long before discovery. Be careful to listen to your own instincts. Past behaviour is a very good guide to future behaviour. Keep calm and go see a lawyer.

      • I was married 20 years…full time parent for 11. I am extra glad I did that now that he has shown himself to have such loser character. My daughter has thousands of hours of being in my presence watching me do the right thing. We are divorcing…I don’t have the amnesia, anesthesia, tolerance, or ability to stay..he initiated the divorce and I am glad and I agree. Being a full time parent is just as much a career option as any other profession….don’t dismiss your choice. It’s just as valid as any other career choice. We will be OK. Chump Nation stories prove it.

    • Dear Pissed,

      That gnawing pain remains a strong long as you stay with him. Reading your post, I kept thinking, she has only touched the tip of the iceberg. There is SOOOO much more that he has done that you don’t even know about.

      It is scary and painful to end your marriage, but I ca can tell you that after 20 years of marriage, 3 kids, and now 3 years out from dday#2, my gut is no longer in knots and life is so much better better.

      He maybe displaying that he is sorry, but it is not for you or your children. He is sorry about having to deal with his consequences. There is HUGE difference.

      • THIS. Right on, GetMeFree! CN is on a roll today shoring up my resolve and pulling me out of the wishful thinking quicksand. ❤

    • Ditto here! Married for 23 years at time of Dday (4 years ago). I pick me danced out of terror, sunk costs, investment in our family, fear, terror, bewilderment, denial, etc. etc. etc. That lasted 18 harrowing weeks. X kept getting caught lying and contacting the OW. I finally put my foot down (for a second) and said: “its her or me — chose by 8 p.m. or get your shit out.” He left. I felt like I’d been run over by a bulldozer. More terror. 24/7 mindfuckery from X and the 3 narcissistic channels: charm, rage, self-pity. Blameshifting 24/7. I finally started to go NC and that helped tremendously. 2015 was a terrible year. I filed in 2016 and still he tried to charm/manipulate/bully me into compliance with what he wanted. 2016 was a terrible, fear filled year, but I pushed on. Nothing to work with in my marriage — he was living with OW, he tried to destroy me financially, other APs came out of the wood work going back 20 years! I was blindsided again. Was nothing real? How could I be so stupid? Why why why why why. . . clanged in my head. Still I pushed forward with the divorce. Copied papers, showed up, returned calls and emails from my lawyer. Paid the bills — with credit cards. . . .gulp gulp gulp. I tried to apply for a better job, I tried to care for my kids, I cooked, I cleaned, I picked up dog poop. I was a walking zombie. I studied for a new licensing credential. It was hell. I showed up, I did what I could. I passed. I survived mediation #1 (failure because of screaming narc X), I survived a summary judgment (X lost his bid to destroy me and remove our biggest asset from the marital estate), I survived having my deposition taken (I only broke down sobbing twice), I survived sitting through X’s deposition (tears streamed out my eyes hearing more of the horror and monsterous person he is). 2017 started hard but got oh so much better: I survived a week-long trial including being cross-examined for two days on the witness stand. I survived the reading of the award by the Judge where I got everything we had — I survived transferring our property to my name only, closing our 25+ year joint bank accounts, giving him our family car back, doing a refinance of the mortgage in my name only for the first time in my life and using equity to pay my lawyer his enormous fees. I went completely no contact. I got a better job, I made more money, I started an emergency fund. I practiced extreme self care, I got into trauma EMDR therapy, I fell in love with a friend and it was mutual. 2018 was oh so much better — I took some trips with my kids, continued our third year of new family traditions, I moved in mid-year with my sweetheart, I continued trauma counseling, I worked hard at my new job, I continued strict no contact. Life is good. It’s peaceful. I’m happy and useful to others most of the time. I feel mighty. I survived and am thriving. I will never forget what happened, but I’m definitely at meh.

      I hope this helps. Sending love and support.

      • Wow! What a story. The “I showed up” theme stood out a great deal. It shows your perseverance even when you were miserable and just functioning. I’m glad you showed up. To get to the better life that showed up for you!

      • THANK YOU MOTHER CHUMPER! I am in the first fear-filled year. I am copying your post to my notes.

    • California here- aka ZoeIsPissed – thank you for your honest words and for sharing your journey with me. So inspiring. All of it helps. The toughest thing about all of this is learning how to put my needs first- it’s been all about the family, and him. But now I have to figure it out for me and envision the future I will have with or without him and which one seems like the healthy and right one. Not a hard pick, but a tough road to get there.

  • Cheaters are skilled justifiers. It remains true that lying and sneaking and gleaning pleasure from getting away with lying and sneaking are cruel betrayals that show no regard for your well being and the health of the relationship.

    “Just fooling around” is no different from any other form of sexual betrayal or other betrayal. Same goes with emotional affairs, most porn and ESPECIALLY underage porn (which is nearly impossible to avoid if you view porn), secret spending, talking smack about you to others and ESPECIALLY to your kids… I could go on.

    Point is, don’t let these douches split hairs. If you have to lie and/or sneak to do a thing, it’s because you know it doesn’t work for your partner, and that alone means you are willing to harm your partner for cheap personal gratification. Those are not the choices a healthy person with your best interest in kind makes.

    Grasping that is a springboard to much of the rest of it.

    (Also, our writer definitely doesn’t know the whole story. The rest of the iceberg is still under the water. I speak with confidence because this is a universal experience.)

    • That’s it in a nutshell….they are willing to harm their partner for cheap personal gratification. And they will again while blaming you for making them want to. Even if you don’t know they’re cheating, as chumps, as soon as they show they’re unhappy we start doing the pick me dance. 2 2/1 years from discard and 9 months since divorce I am starting to get glimpses of the woman I was before 26 years of gaslighting and blameshifting. And financially… others have said…without their disorder you’ll do better than you think.

      • Hope, I’m getting me back too. The fun, adventurous young girl is returning (albeit in an older body). And don’t even get me started on money. I now have savings since I no longer have to fund his “toys” all the time. When we split I bought him out of the house and he took the camper which he later sold. Now? My house will be paid off in April 2019 and I’m retiring in two weeks. Him? Same mortgage as me, same start date, Schmoopie working too, double my income (I had the kids – no support from him) and he’s in the shit. Life just keeps on getting better.

    • If you have to lie and/or sneak to do a thing, it’s because you know it doesn’t work for your partner, and that alone means you are willing to harm your partner for cheap personal gratification. THIS THIS THIS!!! SO MUCH THIS!

      • Yes, THIS!!!

        “If you have to lie and/or sneak to do a thing, it’s because you know it doesn’t work for your partner, and that alone means you are willing to harm your partner for cheap personal gratification. Those are not the choices a healthy person with your best interest in [m]ind makes.”

        Thanks, Amiisfree!

    • Ami- California here (aka ZoeIsPissed)- I know you are right about this. I am certain he is leaving out many details about his 2 affairs and I suspect there was another one he still won’t admit to. It’s the lying, the years of lying, and gaslighting, and disrespect, that just blow me away. And as soon as he “confessed” he immediately tried to justify his actions with “we were practically divorced” and “I deserved it.” The entitlement was staggering. He is not a healthy person and I fear I am not either, but I can only change one of these outcomes. Thank you for your words of support!

  • I read the title “Is all this pain worth it?” and thought hell yeah. Kicking the cheater to the curb is SO worth it, opps then I read your letter

    So agree with CL. Is THIS what you want your life to be/look like? Is this who you want your life partner to be? Someone who has no regard for you at all?

    Hey, I hear you, I spent over half my life with “my” cheater too. Hard to believe that someone you’ve invested all that time with, thinks its ok to screw a couple of others huh? Do you not think you deserve MORE than that?

    Life on your own IS scary. Its also amazing and uplifting and inspiring and EMPOWERING. Ask me one day about my first solo trip to the garbage dump centre. So many times you think, I cant do this by myself and then you get off your butt and YOU DO IT with style.

    Do not let the thought of being alone scare you from making the right decision for yourself. Yep being alone can be horrible, scary and funnily enough lonely. But there is something to be said for being your own person, drawing your line in the sand. Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes.

    No the pain of a marriage built on cheating/lies/deception/disrespect/selfishness etc etc is NOT worth it.

    • I have hauled so much stuff to the dump by myself, the guy at the dump knows me. He comments on how big my load is every time. He always helps me unload. So freeing to get rid of the yard sale junk my cheater brought home. I’m still plenty pissed that he left me to deal with his crap.

      • When I requested that he clean up his mess, he replied “your house, your mess”. True, the house is mine, but all of this will always be HIS MESS!

      • Cheaters ALWAYS leave us to clean up their shit. Metaphorically and physically.
        I was left all alone to sweep up a million little broken pieces of our life whilst he nanced off into the sunset with schmoopie.

        • I have written before how the Twat simply abandoned his 3 bedroomed rental with all the furniture in it (and the dog). Didn’t even empty his clothes out the washing machine. He just pissed off back to the States because it was “normal” that I should clean up his shit right! There goes that narc entitlement again!

          • Abandoning the dog just put him on the lowest rung in Hell, closer to the flames…
            So despicable.

            • I couldn’t take the dog as I’m gone 12 hours a day with work/commute. I did keep checking up on him at the dog’s home though and he was adopted within a week. But if the Twat would dump a 26-year wife and 2 kids why would he feel any different about the dog?

        • I felt ZERO guilt leaving Snakeface (and his supportive family members, to whom I am honestly grateful) with most of the repair and maintenance work that had to be done to our house so we could finally sell it before our divorce. They were all the things that should have been done over the years, on weekends and in the summers he was spending away from home, in the sweat lodge, on the reservation, and Heaven only knows where else, because either I couldn’t do them at all, or couldn’t do them on my own.

          I saw how tired he was during an evening of painting, and I just didn’t care. He deserved it.

      • Love this!! Today is garbage day. Last night I collected a bunch of his shit that he couldnt br bothered to take when he left, and it all went in the bin last night. Getting crap out of MY house brings me soooo much joy.


      Leaving the cheater is only that way temporarily.

  • Pissed – sorry to say, you’ll be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life. I’m one of the Chumps that forgave TWICE after discovering Saddam’s cheating. The first time I was in my 20s, the 2nd time was in my early 30s.

    After the latest time, I was 42, and a therapist told me “if you stay with him, you’ll be doing this again in your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond, if you live that long, because the stress is probably going to kill you”. After the first time in my 20s, I never trusted him again. I was always playing some form of “marriage police”.

    Get out now. Any person capable of YEARS of a double life and deception cannot change. Oh, they can faux-change for a few months to look good, but someone is DEEPLY damaged to do YEARS of deception.

    • This is so,so true. The lies never stop. This behavior just keeps cycling back around. You may get a couple of “breaks” through the years, but then you are thrown back into the hell of someone else’s shitty choices.
      I have played and continue to play the marriage police – it is no way to live.

      • I feel for you, Ann. I did 6 weeks of “hardcore” marriage policing everynight for 4 hours nightly, checking all of his social media, financial accounts, email accounts, etc. I did this for 6 weeks after Dracula’s 3rd time (that I know of) cheating when I was 42 years old. It almost killed me physically. It’s not a way to live.

  • It’s hard to let go of what we’d hoped for.
    Are you ok with never knowing, when you two are getting frisky together, whether his pecker has been pecking other women thus potentially bringing home disease?
    Is that an ok thought to have in your head for the rest of your life with him?

    • Yes, Cheryl, that’s exactly the problem: “It’s hard to let go of what we’d hoped for.”

      Unfortunately, these skilled liars/manipulators led us to believe they were good people. They knew it would hook us. But in reality, it’s an ACT. An act which they’re very good at. What they’re NOT good at is BEING actual, true to life good people.

  • Velvet Hammer in California here..
    So many similarities, so little time. Two weeks after my weird cold non-event 20th wedding anniversary I found out he was having an affair and it’s safe to assume that there’s a lot of iceberg under the water. Only the tip of the iceberg was visible to the Titanic too.

    I too have spent half my life with my husband. I don’t want to gamble any more of it when so much damage has been intentionally done to me?

    I planned to live my entire life with two legs. I just found out one has gangrene. I don’t want to cut it off, I am sad and afraid and angry about cutting it off, but it can’t be undone or repaired and if I don’t cut it off I will die. This is how I feel about my “marriage”. No one wants to go through this; it is such extreme pain. But there i

    • …but there is an end to the pain if I leave and no end of I stay.

      He is sorry? Maybe. My husband is sorry too. Maybe. But he still intentionally drove the marriage car off the cliff and vaporized it.

      Your husband has been in therapy for years? Mine too. And this is what the results are?
      WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. So I should waste more time and money? And expect different results?

      Rebuild trust? When did we ever have any?
      You can’t build a Ferrari out of a junkyard jalopy.
      The extreme pain of infidelity drove me to consider anything to alleviate it. After a year it’s clear to me that staying is just signing up for more of it. There is nowhere to go but UP from leaving a cheater.

      • “Drove the marriage car off the cliff”…LOVE IT! CN contributors are so witty. August 13 was my Dday…one month before our 35th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I was not given a choice to make. He left me. What I have learned in the past 3.5 years is still hard to fathom.

        Being forced to create a whole new life is daunting, yet, you deserve to be loved, respected and not lied to. Time to turn your focus on to you.

        • He initially said he wanted to fix things (which I now doubt was true) and two months (of hell!) later asked for the divorce. I am glad he did so. The one thing he was right about in all this mess.

          • VH, we must be soul sisters. 23 years of marriage, and in August he said he “wasn’t happy” and wanted us to work on things. I broke my back planning trips and being there for him, and it was all a lie. He’d already been seeing someone (and admitted to other affairs), and he was just making me dance for his amusement for 2 months. It makes me so mad that I wasted so much time with this cruel, manipulative man.

            Some days it hurts so much just to breathe, but other days I feel like I’m building a strong foundation for myself. I will never let anyone treat me like this ever again.

      • Hi Velvet, California here (aka ZoeIsPissed). I too, had a weird, cold 20th anniversary and felt my husband, who didn’t manage to get anything more for me than a card, was spacey and distant. I was on to him and I think he knew his jig was about to be up. I also assume that there is so much I don’t know, including other women. You are so right- love shouldn’t be this painful. I did nothing to deserve to be lied to for so long. Thank you for your words of support. They mean so much!

  • Love yourself and trust yourself! He is unwilling and incapable of offering you that! He has repeatedly demonstrated that he will diminish you in any way necessary for a cheap ego boost.

    The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Please trust this. He has shown you who he is. Staying with him only shows your kids that it is acceptable to be treated like this. Please give them the gift and foundation of self respect. They are watching how you handle this.

    • PREACH!

      LOVE ISN’T PAINFUL LIKE THIS. So, no, it’s not worth it.

  • Oh California…. you’re not alone… at all.

    My whore fucking ex-husband knew perfectly well that my first love, my college boyfriend Tim, broke my heart in a million pieces by cheating on me constantly.

    During the 20 years of our marriage, anytime I questioned anything about the girls he was “friends” with he would say “I’m not Tim” which of course, worked for him exactly the way he wanted it to, I felt like the asshole for clearly projecting my old pain that Tim caused on him.

    D-Day came for me when I found out he had been screwing prostitutes during his lunch break for years. I will never forget the day, shortly after D-Day, when I said “You always told me you weren’t Tim. You’re WORSE than Tim.”

    He looked at me with his dead pissed off dark eyes, and with a hatred I had never seen in the man I loved half my life said, “Maybe Tim’s available.”

    That was a defining moment. I divorced him and haven’t looked back. Sometimes I read the RIC boards and my heart breaks for the women who stay with whorefuckers and spend their days as the marriage police. As much as I did love my husband, there’s no way I was going to live that life. The SA meetings, the email and phone checks, the justifications for living like that. No.

    Was the pain of leaving worth it? Hell, yeah. I was in pain already, so it’s not like I had a choice between pain or no pain. It was a choice between pain and one day not feeling (so much) pain. I think I chose wisely.

    He AND Tim can both kiss my ass.

    • Give,
      I am sorry that you ended up with two cruel men. Hope that your life is WAY better now!

    • You are mighty! I wish I had your strength. I think being with the Dickhead did a number on my psyche. I felt like I couldn’t exist without him. I have gotten so beat down (no literally) that my opinion of me was only what he thought of me, what he thought I was worth. I think I’ve been fighting that this whole time.

    • My ex said, “I’m nothing like your father (a cheater).” Well, you know what? He’s not! HE’S WORSE! He and the lying pastor blamed my “trust issues” on what my dad did to my mom and the family. Funny thing is that I never had “trust issues” with anyone else except for the pathological lying adulterer!! So the problem wasn’t me and my “trust issues”. It was him and his lying and cheating issues. Funny how they like to blam and turns things around on us. Sneaky snakes!

      • You know who has “trust issues?’ Those of us who are with people we have a gut feeling we can’t trust. Fact is, if you feel like something is going on–it almost certainly is. It might happen in movies that people are suspicious and it turns out to be all in their minds because their awesome spouse was really planning a surprise party—but in real life, EVERY SINGLE PERSON I have ever known who suspected their spouse was cheating on them turned out to be 100% correct. And 100% of them found out there were additional betrayals like financial infidelity, poisoning the children against them, absurd allegations against the victim, STDs, prostitutes, drugs, etc. Cheating isn’t only a problem, it is the single best predictor of really bad character in all areas of life.

        • Amen & co-sign, JoJo! We’ve talked on here that for many of us, the cheating was a “gift”, because it allowed us to get rid of a spouse that was generally horrible and abusive in every other area, but the cheating allowed us to finally kick them to the curb.

          (I use “gift” in quotes, as we all know it hurts like a motherfucker, but with time & distance, you’ll look back and realize that was the catalyst to boot them, finally)

          • My gut did a lot of talking over the 8ish years I was with my cheater. I spackled a lot. You’re right, the discovery of his affair was a no-brainer, immediate response of, “Get the fuck out of MY house!” It’s been three months now, and cheating is the gift that keeps on giving…I’ve subsequently discovered narc ex is also fond of cocaine, gambling and prostitutes! That explains why he couldn’t pay his share of the household bills for the last few years.

            My eyes are wide open now. Never again will I spackle a man or his behaviour, not even one time.

          • THIS^^^ I often think to myself how grateful I am to OW for giving me the opportunity to leave a lying cheating sociopath without violent recrimination.

        • You are so right Jojobee. For 30 years I thought I was just the jealous type. I didn’t understand that my gut was hollering to me. No longer!!! Im 5 years out from dday, pretty much meh and living an authentic life , and always believe my gut now. The gut knows! Believe it!

        • My gut was hollering at me when Dickhead came home from work (years 5 of marriage) with his goatee smelling like sex and what looked to be claw marks on his back. He said it was sweat from work and scratches that happened when he was under equipment. The scratches looked pretty symmetrical with the typical claw-like pattern. I fucking know I was right. I suspect he just went into deeper undercover. At that point of our marriage, I just couldn’t or wouldn’t believe this could be happening. That was the only time his possible cheating was that overt.

  • “I am haunted by the years of lies, the gaslighting, the disregard for my feelings, the many women I knew he’d had friendships with that excluded me and maybe the ones I didn’t know about.”

    THIS is one reason you are “terrified to be on your own.” The systematic devaluing you’ve experienced for years has stripped you of your self-esteem and your confidence in yourself. Chump Lady says about your fear that you can work on it,” and you should listen to her.
    Once you see that one reason you worry you may be inadequate to the task of living alone is that you’ve been made to feel like a worthless human being you can begin to push back. You can learn to set boundaries, and the most important of those is “Is this situation acceptable to me and do I, given my husband’s past record and his minimizing of his actions, want to let myself in for more of the same while living in a state of apprehension and suspicion, waiting for the other shoe to drop?”
    I was married for 35 years when I moved out. I had known him for over 40 years. More than half my life. I, too, stayed–for three years–out of fear. What I came to understand was that although I was telling myself that I was afraid for concrete reasons–money, mostly–what I was really afraid of was that I was inadequate on my own. In attacking the concrete fears, marshaling my resources, researching places to live–I was also attacking my fear of inadequacy, and I was getting stronger.
    Take that anger and let it serve to help you over the hump of your fear.

    • THEY made us feel inadequate, the covert narcissists that they are. We are all more than capable of being on our own, as we were all made to be the adults all through our marriages. I actually find it easier to live without him and am in no hurry for a new relationship.

  • I was together with my “only love” for 30 years. I never strayed but he did. Does it hurt? Hell yeah, did I leave yes. I just couldn’t get over how he would say I love you and bring his girlfriend to our house while I was visiting my sons and his family. But as he said “I’m not such a bad guy”. He was in total denial. Was it worth it to leave his sorry ass, be in MY apartment, furnish it like I want to and to be free of his negative ass? YES. I go to bed feeling safe and secure but mostly just happy to be free. Believe us here. YOU are worth so much more than he can ever give. Claim your awesomeness!!

  • Leaving is scary for most of us. The difference is that I can manage my fear better now because I’m not trying to control another person’s behavior.

    I think a good question to ask is whether you are lonely in your marriage as it stands. I was afraid of being alone, but once I left I realized how utterly lonely I had been in my marriage. Being married to a jackass I was not only routinely abandoned in a variety of ways, but I was always “covering” for him, and so I couldn’t even admit to feeling lonely. Now, I am un-partnered but feel a lot less lonely. For example, this weekend I will decorate the Christmas tree alone–me and my music and my glass of wine. And while it isn’t my perfect scenario, it is not painful. Asking the EX, do you want to decorate the tree on Tuesday? Then will Saturday work for you? How about we do it after dinner on Sunday? Three rejections. And eventually, I’d do it alone while he was “out” or “not in the mood.” That did hurt.

    If you’ve already spent years uneasy or unhappy in your marriage, you may discover that leaving brings relief from a lot of pain you’ve become numb to.

    • Eilonwy this is a perfect description of where I have been and how I feel now 5 years after realising I didn’t any longer want to put up with a cheating ex to whom I’d been married for 29 and with him for 38 years. The fear, the pain, the uncertainty, the sense of failure, the loneliness! It’s taken me so long to come to terms with it all! But now, life does feel calmer. I’m not second guessing anyone; I’m no longer suspicious, doubtful and as you say, numb! I didn’t realise that I had been unhappy and uneasy but I don’t have to consider him any more and after much heart and soul searching I’m realising that this life I have now is actually better!
      Stay strong fellow Chumps! Be kind to yourself. Remember you deserve respect, love and peace x

    • Eilonwy,
      I’ll be putting up my tree this weekend, too! My first on my own. Not sure if I’ll be looking for company, or just want, for the first, time, to put up a tree myself for myself. But I know this: it’s going to be peaceful and I’m going to enjoy it, without stress. It was always like pulling taffy to get my ex to commit to a day to do the tree, and I always felt as if he agreed because he “had” to. I really do wonder if he’ll even bother this year, although he was insistent that he get “his” Xmas ornaments when we divorced.
      Now that I think about it, my father, who was bipolar, would always ruin the night we decorated the tree, too.

    • The ex would often abandon me on holidays, choosing to travel at those times when he knew I wasn’t able to due to work constraints. Now, if I spend a holiday alone, that’s MY choice. The abuse is finite, it’s over. Working through his abuse is painful, but I know I will get to meh one day and the pain he caused will gone.

    • Eilonwy, so true. Last year I bought everything and decorated for Christmas by myself with great joy as I was never allowed to participate in that activity. The Grinch hated Christmas but insisted on being boss of the tree every year. Apparently I was too disorganised with the way I put the decorations on the tree and got in everyone’s way. Nice. This year my youngest son who is with me alternate weeks wanted to join in. We put on records and had quiet together time and it was lovely. The constant devaluing and exclusion did make for a deeply lonely married life in the latter years, especially when your children start to devalue you too – or can’t leave home quick enough because they dislike what is going on.

  • Adelante
    Wonderful response to this horrible situation so many of us experienced! Bless you ❤️

  • Dearest Pissed, we’ve been in your shoes, we understand. We intimately know the heart-and-gut wrench of discovery, the “crash diet” of shock and grief and the sobbing pain of trying to make a very difficult choice between options that look like shit any which way. However, both from my personal experience, and what I hear repeated time and time again here: The ones who decided that their lives would be better without their cheating partner, MADE it happen. Your “partner” should have been the person you could trust the most, but instead enjoyed stabbing you in the back. I’m sorry to say it like that, but in the long run people invest their time and energy into doing what they enjoy. It’s just how people are, but it also tells you who they are. On the other hand, the people who stay with their cheater generally keep it all: the hurt every time you look at them, the anxiety of marriage policing, the doubt that gnaws away at your sanity…and all the other joys that come with maintaining a relationship with your betrayer. I knew I was done when I stood there, 10lbs down in maybe two weeks, waiting for my std results to come back so I would know if I needed to take the infant I was still breastfeeding to his pediatrician to be tested as well, shaking uncontrollably, (but trying not to so I wouldn’t upset him) while he finally deigned to allow me to look at his Gmail account (which he had aaaaaalmost completely cleaned out, but unfortunately for him he missed a spot)…and he just sat there, with this almost-smile on his face and the dead shark eyes we’ve all come to know. The entire picture became clear, a person COULD NOT DO ANY OF THIS to the people they claimed to love if they were capable of prioritizing anyone above themselves. Trying to live like I didn’t understand that fact would have broken me. Living long term with that rage and fear and doubt and self-doubt (because of course it was half my fault, just apparently my half was way bigger??) would have been insanity. I did not know how I was going to make it with two small kids, Pissed, but thankfully I found CL and CN early and they showed me the way. Two and a half years out and my life is SO much better than it ever was before!! He pays his fair share of CS (I made sure of it), and there’s relief in how much better off I am financially than when we were together (cheaters tend to waste money…dating is expensive you know). My relationships are with people I love and trust, and there’s relief in knowing I can count on them to have my back. My therapist has helped me root out a lot of why I stayed as long as I did (what he was doing to you during your whole relationship was abusive, let that sink in for a bit, and then take your time really figuring out why you accepted it), and there’s relief in knowing I am now modelling much more healthy behavior patterns to my kids, so that they have a much better chance of growing up developing healthy interpersonal relationships of their own. Do you see the pattern, Pissed? Actions I chose to better my and my kids’ lives led (with time and progress) to relief because our lives got better. Waiting there, expecting the cheater to “get it” or “come around” only led to more stress, grief, anxiety and disappointment. It’s been two and a half years and it still hurts to see his face (though him recently sporting the delightful 90’s hair curtain I had only seen in his HS photos sure helps), but that isn’t special to HIM, I would feel the same if anyone close to me hurt me like that. It’s not the pain of losing HIM, it’s the pain of betrayal. Now, my life is light years better than I could ever have imagined those few years ago. Now you couldn’t pay me enough to ever take him back!! He’s shown you who he is, Pissed, believe him. Then go dream a better dream and make it happen. You deserve better than to get lost in this misery, and your kids deserve a mom who can be there for them because she’s there for herself. This is in the end your decision, but please listen to all that CN has to say, because generally we can’t imagine things we haven’t yet experienced (in your case: leaving a cheater and gaining a life) so we can only learn from the experiences of others. Welcome to CN, I hope you stay awhile. Lots of hugs to you and yours.

    • Dear Pissed,
      Let me add my voice to the chorus of support you are getting.
      I am almost a year out from Dday (married for 25 years, together for 30 plus)
      I have almost the exact same story as SomethingNew and many others here.
      That’s the important point – they are all the same.
      you did nothing to deserve being treated like this.
      This was his decision and made for reasons which are not responsibility to figure out or to fix.

      The good news – once you get a little distance and the chance to think straight (no contact really is the path to salvation) you will realize that all that matters is what is acceptable to you.

      You will find stories here of not just survival after deciding to file for divorce but of triumph.
      If we can do it, you can too.

      Leave your cheater, gain a life

    • Hi New- thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration. And you are very right about the pain- it’s not about losing him- he was gone a while ago- it’s about the lies, the betrayal, the notion that I was SO played for so long. This really hit home for me and was something I just kept repeating to myself in the days after Dday “a person COULD NOT DO ANY OF THIS to the people they claimed to love if they were capable of prioritizing anyone above themselves.” I kept thinking- how could you do this if you loved me? Thank you so much for your story and support.

  • I’ve told this story here, before. I do know one cheater whom I believe is a Unicorn. He repented, went to counseling and ~ were I a betting woman (I’m not) ~ I’d wager an awful lot that he remained faithful to his wife ever since. The married couple is now retired: cheating happened more than 40 years ago. But the wife is STILL pissed, hurt, mistrustful. She STILL cries about it. She STILL has to leave the room when there’s a movie or song playing that depicts cheating as some romantic act of defiance. They “rebuilt” but really ~ for many of us ~ once the respect is lost and trust is broken, it can never return. And this couple is one of the incredibly rare “success stories” in which the cheater appears to have reformed. *shudder* Watching their “reconciliation and growth as a couple” through the years definitely helped convince me to divorce my cheater.

    • This is SO important. People spend so much time wondering if the cheater can change. They don’t stop to think about the fact that even if that miracle happened, the victim has still been shattered. The betrayed spouse is forever changed. The betrayed spouse has suffered a severe trauma and that does not just go away. You don’t get to choose to get over trauma. Even under the best of circumstances when people leave the traumatic environment behind they are still haunted by it. And if you stay with a cheater you never leave the unsafe environment behind. HE IS WHAT IS UNSAFE. He is the trauma. You cannot heal from combat if you never leave combat.

    • Great point, Toronto. We talk a lot about here about “the unicorn” – ergo, the Cheater that never cheats again. I’m sure that exists. *However*, I think we need to change what we think a unicorn is. I think the *real* unicorn is to have 1) Both a Cheater who never cheats again AND 2) A Chump who can truly forget the pain, not be looking over their shoulders for years after the betrayal, and fully trust their Cheater. Not have to run out of the movie theater if infidelity is depicted on the screen, not have to wonder why their Cheater said they were going to Home Depot and it’s taking 4 hours, not have to worry about Cheater taking a business trip and just trust the Cheater completely, as they did on their wedding day. To me, THAT is the unicorn.

      • I think my dad might have been one of those rare unicorns. His affair happened nearly 30 years ago. My mom recently told me that yes, she made the choice to forgive him, but she forever ‘shut a part of herself off from him’ after that. It hurt to know she’s still hurting, after all these years. I admire her dignity.

        • Also, I like how you redefined the real unicorn, Chris W. My mom was clearly not one of those unicorns.

          • I don’t think it exists, PofT. Unless someone can invent a memory eraser stick (like in the Men of Black movies), no Chump can unknow, or unsee, or unhear the D-Day revelations and pain they’ve endured.

  • Pissed:
    I’m another long-timer here, putting in my two cents… I spent 40 years married to someone who turned out to be a deep undercover serial cheater and porn addict. Apparently, he kept trying on women until he found one who came close enough to me to justify discarding me. His systematic devaluing protocol ever so slowly (picture frog in boiling water) converted me from an independent, vivacious 19-year old college coed to a 1-dimensional 60-year old cardboard cutout of someone who used to be me. When he finally dumped me for Married Howorker (rich lawyer husband, 2 kids and 6 grandkids), and the truth came out (at least 14 APs, years of financial abuse, lies from here to Pluto), I was a total basketcase, to say the least. A 6-month attempt at wreckonciliation was, of course, pointless, because, (A) He wasn’t ever going to stop fucking other women and lying about it, and (B), I was so repulsed by him, I couldn’t even look at him, let alone live with him. When he figured out I wasn’t going to play along for one more minute (no trust = no relationship), he divorced me and as soon as Howorker’s own divorce was finalized, they got hitched. I’m zero contact for almost 5 years, and it’s the only thing that has saved my sanity. Life is SO much better today. So TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF and don’t EVER accept less than you deserve.

  • It’s hard to move on sometimes as a woman. Men go through this problem top, but there’s an added dimension one has as a woman that’s undeniable. Your status as a woman is often contingent upon your relationships. How often does one hear the refrain of “But where’s her man?” as a way to undercut a woman? Beyond being heteonormative, its incredibly sexist. Women have it in the back of their minds quite often in these situations. Not to mention sunk-costs and the fear of loneliness. There’s another insidious side to this: the expectation that women have to fix men. I sense some of that in this letter. It doesn’t matter how sorry he is, all that matters is what you want.

    There are upsides to divorce. It sounds unreal, but there is. I have ADHD and am a terrible housekeeper. Before my divorce, my house was a constant disaster. My finances were a mess and the bank account was overdrawn every week without fail. I had three to four panic attacks a week. Now, well, I still have ADHD and take medication. My house isnt Martha Stewart pretty, but it’s mostly clean. My bank account stays in the black and I have one panic attack a month when I’m on the tag. Honestly, there was a lot of resentment on my end because of was tired of having to mind an adult. I’m going to be alone for the rest of my days ,but at least I can finally have some peace during those days.

    • Congrats, DemHoez, for taking charge and moving on as a stronger, independent woman! We may be alone for the rest of our lives, but having peace going forward is a gift. Life with a lying cheater was painful and sad; the truth shall set you free.

      And I agree that it sucks for women in ways that it does not for men, especially as we get older. An older man who is abandoned by a cheater gets to go back to being a “bachelor”- an older woman who is abandoned gets to be a “spinster.”

  • The biggest lesson learned for me after DDay was that all sadness and regret my cheater showed was actually only focus on himself. He was sorry for being found out. He mourned the loss of his perfect image. He was worried about the future.

    There was no remorse directed toward me. None of the actions wanted to make things better for me. It was all about him.

    If someone has more than one slip up (e.g. drunk on a company outing and slept with a coworker), it is likely that they do not feel remorse. If there is any type of gaslighting or blameshifting going on, they no longer value you. Instead they feel like you deserve your treatment for some arbitrary thing you did or did not do, and they probably are congratulating themselves about how sneaky and clever they are.

    It is the hardest truth to face that you have to separate to give yourself another chance. But you will have to.
    It does not matter how old you are. I like to tell the story of my grandmother. Her abusive husband unexpectedly died at age 60. She was also 60. I saw her blossoming and laughing in her 60s the way I have never seen her before. She remarried when she was 80.

    There is hope and love out there. Staying is only an option under rare circumstances. Do not count on them applying to you.

    • “The biggest lesson learned for me after DDay was that all sadness and regret my cheater showed was actually only focus on himself. He was sorry for being found out. He mourned the loss of his perfect image.” Thank you for this. It explains why my ex had the response he did to me finding out about his affair with his married employee…hysterics, down on his knees, begging forgiveness. It was nuts, and I know it was all an act, but now it also makes sense.

    • Mine also eemed sorry when it was really only about him.

      He tricked me for a while. I learned later he was downloading the RIC books I had bought for my kindle. Perhaps learning what signs of “remorse” I was looking for?

      Only after shifting focus to myself did I notice the inconsistency in his behavior.

  • My ex is so ugly to me. It’s a hard thing to explain to my kids. No I don’t want to visit them when he is there. They think it’s that the ow is there. But no. I really can’t stand him. She isn’t a blip on my radar. While things have been scary and excruciating at times, I have never missed him. I miss my house, the home I created. Having an intact family. But not him. I just keep that distain for him from my kids. Even when they think I’m being difficult. But ahhh being free. Nothing tastes as good as being free of him is. Start stashing money to be ready to dump him when you’re ready.

  • Is the pain and uncertainty worth it? NO! Not in my experience.

    My story in short: I suspected my H was cheating in 1999, after less than 5 years of marraige. Acting a bit weird, etc etc. I confronted, he denied. We went into couples therapy, had a kid less than a year later.
    Fast forward to 2009– two kids now; H was a bit too friendly with female work colleagues (always had more female friends, etc), I joined FB to watch out.
    2010– acting like he did in 1999, but he wasn’t cheating then, so I chalked up to just unhappy, etc. 2011 still unhappy, but with work, etc, so I encouraged H to take a job in another state– his dream job.
    Throughout that time I felt unease, but nothing specific.
    March 2012– he came home one weekend and wanted to end the marriage, just like that, said no one else. I forced marital counseling again. It took 2.5 months, be he trick truthed the first affair (first I had emotions for her, then I loved her, then we had sex, but only once….)
    You see where this is going?
    2010 time– still says only a EA
    2012– feelings for a work colleague so he stopped socializing with her (but if not doing anything wrong, how do you get feelings?), then he loved her, but had never cheated. uh, huh.

    And I was still smoking the Hopium pipe, even after this, cuz how do you throw away 23 years together, 18 married?
    Caught him in a lie while we were still in therapy, and had not get yet decided to divorce. AP went with him on a work trip, when he claimed she was not on the team.

    That finally got me to pull the plug.
    Lazy, lying, selfish coward made me to all the work when I was still in love with him: found a mediator, filed for divroce, found him a decent place to live, etc.
    Swore he would do right by me— but got the MPW pregnant and tried to move her in when the kids did not even know she existed. even later I discovered he had hidden salary and I had to go to court to get more child support. Cost me $10k, and I lost probably $20k in support before I figured it out.

    But in hind sight, while I thought I was happy, etc., there was ALWAYS a niggle about his behavior with women, and I then chastised myself for being paranoid, jealous, etc,

    I am 6.5 years out from separation, and 5.5 years out from the divorce, and have truly gained a life. I can truly laugh from the heart and gut now– I had not done that for years.

    Pissed in CA– I am also in CA– you deserve so much more.

  • Probably others above have said some of this stuff. I didn’t read all the comments.

    First, don’t let him impregnate you. You control all birth control if you decide to allow him to have sex with you again.

    Second, make a plan as if you’re walking towards divorce. Talk someone (or several someones) about exit scenarios, someone who won’t or can’t share, about some options so you have basic things covered for yourself and your children. Revise it.

    It’s OK to stay for awhile, but you have to focus on yourself in order to support your children. Stbx is not thinking about the kids with the extent of his double life.

    If you decide to stay for awhile, get a written post nup agreement that sets up a savings account that stbx doesn’t get access to that has enough for you to set up a household, support the kids and yourself for a year, and pay for attorney divorce fees. You deserve a get out of jail free card if you give this guy a chance.

    If you decide to stay for awhile, start getting things done that will support you and the kids long term, make sure your car is in good condition, that all possible dental and optical and health care needs are taken care of, you and the kids always have a good wardrobe, shoes, coats. Make a new habit of keeping a copy of all financial, insurance and critical documents backed up somewhere off site. Change passwords on your electronic devices and change your habits to allow yourself privacy from this guy.

    Good luck.

  • Dear fellow Californian,

    I was also married for twenty years, teenage children, and absolutely terrified of a future alone. I also still “loved” him. I also gave him 100% of my power. He used that power against me.

    That was three years ago. I am now a fifty year old single kick-ass woman. I’ve moved near family, I have a great relationship with my pretty much grown kids, and I date a little for fun and some companionship, but I treasure my independence. I can’t remember the last time I was this happy with my life.

    What if I was still married to him? The thought makes me shudder. There could be an alternate-universe version of myself out there, still married, still feeling like shit for believing I didn’t deserve better than life with that cruel man, still being too afraid to stand on my own two feet.

    I understand where you are, PIC, I was there. I wish I could get you a time machine and show you your future self a few years down the road without him. Like the ghost of christmas future. Trust me, you would choose that future in a second…

  • More than likely you are deluding yourself and wasting time. I stayed for too long, so I get it, but he’s shown you his character for 20 years, why would you even believe he changed in months? I did the spackling, made excuses; you’ll know when you are ready to face reality and gain a life. I’m sorry you are suffering through this.

  • Pissed:
    Speaking from experience, the pain and hurt of betrayal NEVER goes away. What you feel for your husband at this point generally won’t ever fade. You’re pissed, and rightfully so. You deserve so much more from a partnership and unfortunately he can never be what you deserve. He has changed that forever. I tried for five years to reconcile with my cheating husband. He never really stopped cheating and I never stopped feeling unloved, unwanted and not good enough. I never felt the same about him EVER AGAIN.

    I was stuck in fear. I had never been on my own either. We had two teenage daughters and worried about them and their happiness. I worried about money. I worried about dating again. I felt trapped and stuck. And…..I hated myself for staying. I was miserable!!!!! I finally just insisted on a divorce and held on for dear life until it was over. My daughters have their mother back! And more importantly I have modeled for them what they should NOT accept for a life partner. I am their rock and they are my cheerleaders. I have never been happier!!!!

    Think about YOU!!!!!

  • “But now, after 3 months, I can see he is truly sorry — even mortified by his own behavior — and trying to work on himself, on our relationship, and to rebuild trust.”

    No, actually now, after 3 months of trying the “but really it’s your fault for making me cheat” tactic, he realized it wasn’t working, so he’s moved on to faking remorse. He’s also really sorry he was caught – I mean, it’s been 3 months and you’re *still* not over it!

    • Exactly, the poor man is grieving the perfect image and is worried about facing the consequences of his actions. A little face remorse and feeling sorry for himself goes a long way…
      My cheater does the same. Playing sad sausage. Cries so much that I am wondering if I accidentally cheated on him and dumped him. He is suffering so much more than I.

    • Very good point. If he’d felt remorse than he would have expressed that right off. He wouldn’t have made all these excuses about why he did it and how bad things were. He even had the nerve to tell me he wouldn’t have been so upset if the tables were turned. Too bad he’ll never get to find out what that feels like. I’m working on moving on.

  • The Dickhead filed for divorce which was probably good as I’m not sure I would have had the strength. Even after D-day, I was still a fool for him. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my husband had cheated. I was also starting to realize that he was more interested in protecting his new OW than protecting me.

    I will tell you – you will probably never get back that trust, that innocence of believing in the man that you love. I’m 7 month out from D-day and I’m still trying to move forward. I loved my husband very much, with every fiber of my body, and those feelings don’t disappear over night.

    But, this is what I know. I will never, never be able to trust him again. He hurt me too much, he lied to me, he treated me with disrespect and coldness, he was deliberately cruel and mean in his actions (non-physical).

    When I married him in 2000, I had told him that I loved him because I was secure in his love for me. It was a blanket that kept me secure, it protected me, it made me alive, it provided happiness and love. When he cheated, that blanket was pulled from me by him and I was left standing there exposed. He didn’t care if I was in pain,or hurt, or bewildered, or just looking at him for answers. He didn’t fucking care.

    With time, I’ve realized that moment was a breaking point for me. Even now when I think of him, I instinctively shirk back a little. I don’t trust him in action or words. He deliberately hurt me and I can never forgive him for the pain and anguish that he caused.

    People that respect their spouses, love their spouses – they don’t cheat. Do you really want to spend the rest of life wondering where he is, who is he talking to, why isn’t he home yet, what’s taking him so long – constantly looking over your shoulder. That’s a horrible way to live. You deserve better.

    • This is spot on!!! They don’t. And each time you trot out all the reasons you should reconcile..remind yourself that he does not love or respect you. Is THAT acceptable to you to remain?

  • I tried to stick it out. Made it 9 more years.
    Some days even felt like we were going to fine.

    But the relationship was over at DD1.
    At least the one I wanted.

  • But being on your own is so WONDERFUL! Really. You should try it. Not having to answer to anyone. Creating a space to live and a life JUST FOR YOU. Going where you wish, doing what you want…well, really, you should try it.

  • Just about the time i relaxed and thought we had really made it back to recovery and we were one of the “successes” – HE DID IT AGAIN. Same words, same excuses, same “i’m not happy, wah for me”.

    You think you are pissed now? Think how you will feel after you do all the hard work and he slips. “Oppsie”
    And it isn’t a slip – its a “I’ve NEVER been happy even a SINGLE day with you” rewrite.

    Get out. If he’s a unicorn, he can date you and win you back. I bet you already know he won’t, don’t you? I did.

    • This, This This!!!

      After 2.5 years of what i though was a really good marriage and lots of hard work after DDay#1 i got rewarded with DDay#2 by coming across texts between him and a new OW the morning of our 9 year anniversary. The pain wasn’t worth it at all

      The pain that was worth it? Filing for divorce, moving out on my own, doing the hard self-work in therapy, carving a life out with new friends, interests and learning to enjoy the “loneliness” of time without my kids due to split custody, dealing with STBX moving on instantaneously with AP.

      That pain has only been 4 months and every once is worth it. No looking over my shoulder, no checking phones, no worrying about what i offer people, no more deriving value from whether or not he was in the mood for me or not. No more meeting invisible-always changing goal posts. I am free and content in a way i had only dreamed of during our 14 years together.

  • One of the intended effects of someone manipulating, devaluing and abusing us is that our default becomes all about the cheater:
    What is Cheater thinking?
    What is Cheater feeling?
    What does Cheater want?
    When will Cheater come home?
    Is Cheater sincere?
    Will Cheater change for me? Will Cheaterchange for the AP?
    What is Cheater’s opinion of me? Of how I make mac & cheese? Of how I fold the towels?

    If you aren’t ready to leave, try this for 6 months.
    Put yourself first. That includes the kids. They have 2 parents. The Cheater can drive DD to dance practice while you get a pedicure.
    Putting yourself first doesn’t mean being selfish, but acting as they tell us to on airline flights: put on your own oxygen mask before trying to save the kiddo next to you. You have to have a LIFE apart from the Cheater. That means time to spend as you wish. That means nurturing your work or career. That means having pride in your appearance and your achievements. That means giving time to activities that nurture you and make you both deeper and happier as a human. That means lunch out with BFF. That means your preferences about the time to eat Christmas dinner or how much time you spend with your family–that matters.

    So maybe start out by re-thinking Christmas to make sure you are getting prime time with the people you love and to make sure that your holiday is joyful and meaningful, in spite of the marriage issues.

    And get your act together financially. Insist on a sit down where you review all finances. Affairs aren’t cheap. Find out how much money he spent on this stuff. Have a plan in place to monitor spending. Separate your paycheck and any money you have on your own from the “joint checking.” Have your paycheck deposited in an account in your name. Run a credit check to make sure he’s not diving into debt that you will have to pay off. Get a credit card in your name. Open credit union account.

    Investigate what your home is worth and consider what you would want to do if the marriage can’t be repaired. Don’t get any further into debt with fuckwit and if you have a lot of marital debt, sort out what is his (running up credit cards for Schmoopie meals) and what is truly joint debt (e.g., roof repairs).

    Think of it this way: all marital partners should be prepared to manage their financial lives in the even of death, disability, separation or divorce. So it’s time.

  • Hi Pissed,

    I don’t have time today to read all of CN’s replies, but CL is totally on target by what she said, “Is this relationship acceptable to you?” I was in the exact same type of relationship and you and a lot of what you wrote, I could have written. I was so beaten down by all the years of abuse (and it is abuse!), that I could no longer see that I was worthy of being treated so much better. I did not deserve all the years of lying, cheating, adultery, gaslighting, “friends”, etc. But I couldn’t see it when I was still with him. He had me convinced the problem was me and my “trust issues” and not being to understand his “healthy female friends”. I could go on and on. Anyway, if it’s hard for you to realize your worth. Ask yourself, “Would I want my children to stay in a marriage like this? Would I want my children to be treated like this? Would I tell my children to stay or run for your life?” The answer for me has always been, no I would never want my kids to stay with someone like this!! Never in a million years!!

    Pissed, I was with my ex for a total of 23 years, which includes dating time. That’s a long time just like you. He had “friends” all those 23 years. I know it’s scary leaving a long-term relationship like that. But if I can do it and so many others here at CN can do it, SO CAN YOU!!! I’m just over four years out since D-day and things are getting better every single day. Baby steps for sure, but I’m no longer taking antidepressants or on any other drugs that I needed to survive. If you stay, you will be taking antidepressants in order to survive and also playing marriage police. Would you want your kids to do that in a marriage in order to survive?

    I hope you read Chump Lady every day! Go back to the beginning of her posts if you have time and work your way through them. Read as much of CN’s posts too. This all helped me deprogram myself and also add laughter into my days. You are mighty inside, Pissed, and you can fight for yourself! Big (((((HUGS))))) to you! Keep us posted on what you decide to do.

    • Hi Martha- Pissed here (aka ZoeIsPissed)- wow- we must be doppelgangers. I have now been with my husband for 23 years as well and for all 23 he’s had loads of “friendships” which often did not include me. I do often wonder what kind of example I have set for my daughter (now a college freshman) and my 16 year old son. They know far more than they let on. I also am fairly certain he hasn’t even come clean to me about the whole thing. There is more water flowing under that bridge. Thank you for the words of support and the hugs. I’ll need all I can get to make it through this gauntlet but I know I will. At the moment, I have asked him to move out so I can have some space to think about things. It was a huge difficult first step but it’s made a lot of difference. It’s like the fog is beginning to lift and I am seeing things clearly for the first time in a very long time. Thank you again. You, and the whole community, are just awesome. I am so grateful to have found this place!

  • POC,

    I can relate to virtually everything you say.

    Regarding fear: With young children and without a job, I felt very afraid of ‘being alone’ when my husband left me–even though he routinely abused me for years! Perhaps ‘fortunately’ for me, the abuse got so frequent and frightening and my husband refused to permanently reconcile (I wasn’t as exciting as prostitutes and illicit male and female partners.) Thus, I did not have to go through the thought process of ‘Should I stay, or should I go?’ Four years later, I still feel some fear, anger, sadness, disappointment, envy (and jealousy related to my post-separation boyfriend, who I had thought was my friend for 30 years, leaving for younger work subordinate). I don’t miss my ex-husband at all. I feel sorry for all the people he simultaneously dates. Oddly, women ‘fight’ for him. It seems as though financially/professionally successful middle-aged men, no matter their character, have no trouble attracting women. (He’s probably had sex with hundreds of men and women.) However, I’ve learned that I, this late middle-aged mother CAN learn and do some things. Sometimes I don’t get around to doing things as I am busy, disorganized, and lethargic, and I haven’t tried everything (simple, minor home construction work) out of ‘fear’ of screwing up and not enough time to learn how to do everything I should/would like to learn. Nonetheless, the world keeps turning! Wish that I had EMBRACED the fear decades ago!

    Regarding your ‘partner’s’ treatment of you: I’ve ‘been there’ (for way too many decades). Your husband keeps figuratively poking you and literally poking others. I’ve written posts much like yours–documenting lying, gaslighting, outright insults, covert, chronic disregard. When I last saw my last boyfriend he lied to me so many times in such obvious ways that I was insulted–not just by the fact that he did not value me enough to tell me the truth but also by the fact that he thought I was idiotic enough to believe his lies. I was so repulsed that I felt like coldly saying, ‘Get out of my face.’ I didn’t. I just said, ‘You’re lying. What else have you lied to me about?’ He was miffed, tried to cover up his lies, make excuses for his lies, and lied some more. (This was the guy who I thought for years and was attracted to BECAUSE I thought he was Most Honest Guy on Earth. How wrong I was. Now I feel foolish and stupid–when we first started dating, he told me that he had manipulated other partners, acted as an OM to an ex-girlfriend who was engaged to her future husband, tried to hide from (jump behind some bushes) an ex-girlfriend he spotted in public years after they split (seems especially odd behavior for a very successful executive), got into an argument with a girlfriend a couple years after they started dating but only a month after she moved cross the U.S. to live with him, which led to them living together for three months without saying a word to each other, and had been in therapy for seven-eight years straight. I foolishly thought, ‘How refreshing that he’s honest and so psychologically health conscious that he will undergo weekly therapy for nearly a decade. He really is the honest, confident, successful yet modest Mr. Nice Guy that ‘everyone’ says he is.’ I should have thought, ‘Better investigate this situation and proceed very slowly and cautiously (or better yet RUN) as this guy has manipulated and maybe mistreated in various other ways his partners and others. Maybe he HASN’T significantly changed for the better over the years.’) I remember instinctively looking away from the guy I loved (and for whom I would have died in combat–we were military officers once–as I thought his life was more valuable than mine (I didn’t even realize how little I valued myself))–I realized that my automatically looking away was a sign that I could no longer deny nor stomach his lying. Traumatically bonded, I still ‘miss’ him (or the illusion of him or the ‘him’ he never gave me but now gives the young work subordinate (now wife?) he left me for), but I think that I am an extreme case. Most people heal much more quickly than I do. (Deaths of several relatives in the last couple of years and medical, professional, and financial challenges on top of issues directly related to divorce and discard by my last boyfriends, plus anger at self for letting people use me as a doormat have probably slowed my recovery.) I thank you and Chump Lady for helping me realize that even if my last boyfriend had stayed, I could never look at him or feel the same about him ever again. I would have been distrustful and unhappy while in a ‘relationship’ and maybe feel even more of a doormat than I already do (if that is even possible). As a late middle-aged divorced mother of pre-teens, I am lonely, but at least I trust those who share my apartment (my roommates and my kids). Although I think that my life sucks in a lot of ways and wish that I could do more for my family and deserving others, I know one thing–my life will always be an adventure. I’m not ‘mighty’ like many of the chumps on this site, but adversity has made me appreciate others in a way I could not have having not experienced a certain type of H–l. I can tell people that they are not alone in their struggles and, to at least some extent, I can empathize with them.

    POC, please protect yourself, especially financially. Sadly, once you take back abusers/liars, the vast majority of abusers/liars seem to think that they have carte blanche to ramp up the abuse and lie even more outrageously. I stayed four months past D-Day #1 with husband, who physically, emotionally, financially abused me, covertly gradually cleaned out bank accounts, taking kids’ money for college and my money, took me to court, publicly accused me of committing felonies, had the police search me (while we were living together!), claiming that I stole his business license (why I would do that is beyond me), and tried to take our kids away from me by requesting a restraining order against me. Fortunately, our judges in the first phase of our three year long divorce didn’t believe my husband’s lies. I spent nearly $100k, which was a king’s ransom to me, an unemployed middle-aged mother of young children, in fighting for the right to be with my children in a divorce I did not request. Hindsight being 20/20, I probably would have been much better off if I had filed years earlier. (Until D-Day #1, I didn’t ‘know’ what Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders looked like–even though I lectured on Abnormal Psychology!) I probably also would have benefited from refraining from going back to my last boyfriend after the first time he discarded me. (I went back because I felt as though I couldn’t live without him. (Now I have to live without him as he lives with the women he discarded me for.) His treatment of me grew exponentially worse after I reconciled with him. If I had stayed away after his first discard of me, I would still have lost him, but I might have retained a bit of dignity and shred of self-esteem. (Not saying that I was perfect–I was often sad, angry at ex-husband for abusing kids and me, and probably often seemed ‘needy.’ However, I did not deserve the emotional abuse. Neither do you.)

    I wish you and your kids the best of luck and happiness.

    • Who can you be “needy” to if not your romantic partner. These guys all want someone who is always there for them and looking out for their needs, but if you have needs then you are just “needy”. I am glad that you are figuring out that X-whole2.0 is an asshole too and not some “nice” guy you pushed away because you had needs. He was a user. His new girl will probably get burned too, or maybe she will finally see through him and dump his ass first.

      In the meantime be proud of yourself for all you have accomplished in the face of adversity. You may not be living the life you wanted, but you have a lot to be proud of. You did fight back against the ex and you did keep your kids. You saved them. In spite of his money and fake persona, you prevailed. Be proud of that.

      • Chumpimrecovery,
        Thank you for your kind, thoughtful support. As much as I wring my hands as chumps here know, I think that I am very slowly ‘getting better’, becoming more confident about my ability to learn things, and building a stronger bond with my kids. Going to try to support true friends, relatives, and deserving others this year, my 53rd year.
        Wishing you well, ChumpInRecovery.

  • Two affairs plus friendships with women = serial cheater. Chances a serial cheater will change? About 1 in 1000. Chances he’ll change within a relationship with you? Zero. Once ensconced within a given relationship, behavioral patterns are hard to break.

    Is the pain worth it? Hell, yes. It will take two years before you breathe completely easily (though the pain does become more sporadic the second year), but then the full relief of being away from a gaslighting, emotionally abusive cheater is fantastic. Hugs!

  • Please know that any of you contemplating the current horror of your betrayal, that with time, if you put one foot in front of the other and stay calm, things will improve. My sister gave me that advice when I was torn apart emotionally. Give yourself time, be gentle with yourself, and LOVE yourself. Be selfish.

    When I left my marriage of 29 years, my whole identity was wrapped up in being the ‘wife of’ and mother to my boys. We had a Brady Bunch family by all outward appearances. Husband very successful, me too, but I always took the career hits to accommodate his upward corporate trajectory. We had all the luxuries, clubs, friends, trips, private schools, and home in an upscale neighborhood.

    I cannot describe how wrenching it was when I realised that he had been keeping his old GF on the side for the whole of our marriage. She was a single career woman, never married, no kids, but loved being able to meet up with him on his travels. He travelled extensively for business, so it was the perfect setup for them. I always ‘trusted’ him since he seemed like a died-in-the-wool family man.

    It took about two years of his gradually changing attitude as the boys began to leave home – I saw that he was either totally taking me for granted, or worse, preparing for a life with schmoopie. He didn’t bother doing anything special for my 50th. That was the final straw.

    When I confronted him, he replied without emotion that yes, his plan was to ‘move on’ with Mary Belle. He had mentioned her over the years, but I never did meet her. That is your number one clue of any old flames are still sniffing around.

    Anyway, I took the excuse of a temporary (six month) job in another country, just to sort my head. By the time that stint was over, I returned home, ready to pack up for good. He was such a turd. He hardly raised his head when I came in the door. Just calm and without emotion.

    Now, almost ten years later, much water under the bridge. Family home sold, boys out of university and working, grandkids starting to arrive. Me? I went through a complete transformation – from age 51 to 60. I tell anyone reading this that it IS POSSIBLE for you to make a new life. I don’t deny that there are lonely times, times of indecision and tears, unemployment, crazy situations, horrible dates with yucky men, but also lovely friends, other women mostly, who have BEEN THERE. When you open up to other women, it is amazing how common our experiences are.

    I was thinking the other night whether I would have rather stayed in the marriage (even if he was faithful) or whether I would rather have my experiences of the past ten years basically dating, being cheated on again (!), almost murdered, but a wonderful new career in a new country. I would take the latter. I have met people and done things I never imagined I could – back when I was a 50 year old wife anticipating her sons leaving home. I thought the best part of my life was over then….turns out I was wrong.

    I am still working, now in a job with huge responsibilities that I CHOSE FOR MYSELF. I will retire in five years and I have lots of plans for that. In the interim, I have made presentations to royalty, addressed national conferences, written policy, advised senior politicians, and travelled to amazing places. By the way, that is without a graduate degree or any fancy connections, just hard work.

    When I hear through the boys how their father is doing – I think – gawd I would be soooo depressed in that atmosphere! So glad the OW is getting old with him. I know they are no happier for their dishonesty – and i hope occasionally when she is holding MY grandchild that she wonders how I feel. She has befriended my daughter-in-law, who is a nice person, but whom I made sure knew the whole backstory. DIL keeps me up to date on how not-exciting their life is.

    Whenever I get discouraged, I go and visit the grave of an old friend just to remind myself every day counts.

    • This is really wrong. Keeping a old GF as mistress throughout a marriage. Unethical. At the end of one’s life, does one want to look back and see that one cheated a trusting person and was a faithless husband and dishonest? For the GF, how does it feel when one is old to have been party to cheating someone? Wow! It is one thing to be selfish but one thing to be completely unethical.

  • Another long relationship eventual escapee reporting it has been well worth getting out in this sort of situation.

    In addition to the excellent advice about self-care, consider making, nourishing supportive friends, (CN are wonderful!, are there meet ups near you?) could you start to confide the situation to carefully chosen potential supporters? What things can you do for your self-care? to nourish your spirit? Wishing you well for surviving, gathering your strength, and moving forward positively.

  • PS A perspective that helped me take back just a little power when things were crap (and I felt trapped and was scared about how to navigate a different future from what I had planned and hoped for ) was knowing I could leave right then if I chose, and that I had agency to choose when I would…

  • One path puts you in the driver’s seat and the other path puts him in the driver’s seat. Who would you rather have behind the wheel?

    THIS. Brilliant

  • Mine seemed sorry too. I decided to work two tracks independently: 1) can I be in a relationship with someone who has betrayed me so egregiously; 2) will he become a husband worth having.

    I knew #2 would take a long time to measure, so I focused on #1. My plan was to spend time shaking the fog of gaslighting so I could make a sound decision.

    As soon as I focused on #1, I began to see his “sorry” for what it was: self-preservation. Gaslighting fog be damned, I decided to finally trust my gut: divorce.

    Focus on #1. You’ll be less susceptible to manipulation. You can always check in on #2 later.

  • Dear Pissed, I also read this as a carefully crafted narrative from your cheater where he has left a lot out and admitted to only what he thinks you will accept without cutting him loose immediately. But you are like most of us – if he says he wants to try and work things out, that throws you into indecision. My suggestion is that you might want to Relationship Police for a limited period of time to see if he really is on the up and up. This is stressful, and many people at CN don’t recommend it, but going at it full-force for a short time helped point me quickly in the right direction so I could start very quietly getting my ducks in a row. All I needed was one or two of my suspicions validated, and I was off. Hire a P.I. Insist that Cheater’s car be titled in both of your names and then stealthily put an electronic tracking device on his car. You can buy them for between $50-100 on the internet. You have to pay to subscribe to a service so that you can get the information real-time on your phone, but my guess is you will only have to pay for one month’s worth. Hire an IT person to back up “all of the family’s electronic devices” to a cloud that you have access to. Have the IT person describe the plan with a lot of obtuse technical mumbo-jumbo that just causes cheater to shrug. Persuade cheater that the only reason for doing this is that we don’t lose our data. Look at the detailed phone bill. I know most of us wish we hadn’t spent time or energy on this, but when you obtain the information that we know you are going to get (i.e., he is still cheating and thinks you won’t find out), maybe you won’t continue to harbor so many doubts about the right choice. I also have to say that many people on this website have talked about their awesome cheater-free life, and I used to think they were just making all that up so that the rest of us wouldn’t feel so crappy about being abandoned for the AP. But I am almost two months post-final divorce decree, and I am really, really happy I made the choice I did. I was far more lonely married to a cheater than I am today.

    • Great advice, ITL. Referencing yesterday’s post, I’d like to add…
      If he has a Pinterest or Words With Friends account, check the chat function! (Learning every day here at CL!)

  • For the first thirteen years of my marriage I knew ex had female friends. I knew he was good at charming his female bosses. I wasn’t the slightest bit worried. I trusted him completely. I “knew” he wouldn’t cheat and I “knew” he was emotionally mature enough to handle being friends with women. I thought it was possible for people to be friends with the opposite sex. I wasn’t going to be one of those jealous untrusting wives constantly watching their husbands like a hawk. I don’t have time for that.

    Then, one day he told me that his married female flight instructor was coming on to him. I told him I didn’t want him to cheat but I trusted him to do the right thing. A couple of days later he told me he had kissed her because she told him her husband hadn’t kissed her in 5 years and he felt sorry for her. I was devastated but I tried to hide it and give him advice for how to get her to back off while letting him know that I would be hurt if he had an affair. They continued to get together. They had a lot in common including a love of flying and a love of Opera. They had spent a year at the same university many years before although they had never met at that time. To say I was anxious was an understatement. I did not have the backbone to just tell him to stop it, however, as when I had complained in the past about him going out with his guy friends without me his angry, annoyed response was “you need to make more friends”. Eventually one night I was home with the kids and I knew he was alone at her house. I couldn’t take it anymore, I called him and told him he had to come home and it wasn’t fair that he was there giving her his attention when he should be home giving me and his kids his attention. He came home immediately. He was apologetic and loving and he never saw her again although she continued to text him for months.

    After that things seemed to improve dramatically for a short while. I blamed myself for much of what had happened thinking that I just needed to be a more attentive wife. I tried. After those couple of years, however, the devalue began. I kept trying to please and he kept finding fault. He got prickly and that made me retreat. He started to have female friends again. Now that did make me anxious because I knew he was capable of being tempted and I knew he was bothered by my many “faults” and was negatively comparing me to others. When we moved cross country so we could live in the state where he wanted to live (me trying to please him again) he was corresponding with an old female friend from that state. I was very anxious about that one. They met one time that I know of. I have no idea if anything happened or not. She was also married but that means very little evidently. This time I was keeping an eye on things as much as I was able. That one fizzled after a few months, however. Meanwhile I got caught up in the new job trying to get ahead (after he complained that I didn’t make enough) and that is when he started carrying on with physical Schmoopie 1.0 that I know of. This one slipped completely under the radar. I had no idea other than that ex had ramped up his shitty, devaluing behavior towards me and the kids. He was also having problems in the bedroom that I blamed on aging. By the time Schmoopie 2.0 came along I was starting to suspect something was up but I was still blindsided by who it turned out to be. After about two months of an attempt to reconcile, he chose to leave me for her. Along the way he told me he later regretted not having gone physical with EA Schmoopie.

    This is how these things progress. Once they even allow themselves into a situation where they are tempted it is all over. The wife (husband) is never going to look good enough again and things will eventually devolve to the point of an affair. Your husband might beg you to take him back, but if you do, he will eventually come to resent you for it and wonder what might have been if he had pursued those greener pastures. Eventually he will feel the need to go find out with someone else, whether the original Schmoopie or some new one. I was devastated at the time, but I am managing just fine on my own now and I have the satisfaction of knowing that now I am the one who got away and some day Schmoopie will be the one he resents for the choices he made. Don’t be the consolation prize. Be the prize he lost through his foolish, selfish behavior.

    • So much disrespect for your feelings. I am glad you are free. Seems he has no ethics about how to treat people with respect.

    • Chumpinrecovery
      That is such an eloquent description of how they reel us in so gradually and make us think it’s our own inadequacies and jealousies that are wrong!

    • That was a great detailed description of the way they wander around, and expect us to just stay out of it! Total disrespect. I don’t think they can learn respect, it’s impossible.
      I think they look at the spouse like this- I’ve already read that book!
      It’s a crass way to look at a ‘relationship’, but it’s all they are capable of!

  • D day 1 came after 1 year. But he seemed so sorry and wanted us to go to counseling, I really believed he had changed. Surprise, 5 years later I learn that he was up to his old tricks and had been for years. I don’t think people change, they just go under deeper cover. I am so happy now that he is out of my life. The final D Day was 2 years ago and it took a long time to heal, but I am happy now.

  • “Now I am in therapy, on antidepressents, and pissed as hell.”….”That’s what staying looks like.”

    Girl, I feel you. Been there. It’s debilitating, but CL’s words above are 100%. Pissed may shift to sad, and back to pissed, and over to morose. Therapy may shift to excessive exercise or to binge eating. Antidepressants may shift to drinking or worse. BUT, some sad version of where you’re at is what staying looks life. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take that leap of faith that I can make it on my own then waste years of my life on some version of that. And I did, and I am, and so can you.

    Your’s is not a unicorn. He’s a compulsive liar and thief and abuser, staying with him is driving you to extreme behavior and away from any sort of contentment because staying with him is an afront to your values. So, honor those values, they’re good, and get the F out. Best of luck.

  • Dear Pissed Off,

    CL is right that asking if he will change is the wrong question. However, if all of her incredible wisdom and advice does not put your mind to rest, then I suggest you go back to the Dec. 4th posting and scroll down to find a really lengthy posting of mine written to the man who wrote in to Chump Lady.

    There I tell him all of the ways in which he needs to change. I bet that your husband fits the bill too.

    This is not about whether or not your husband will change. If he is ever capable of change from what seems to be a lifetime-established behaviour that he has always deemed acceptable, then the change has to come on his own with lots of help (professional, not yours) and lots of pain. Under no circumstances do you involve yourself in his “recovery,” if he at all professes to want it. You’ve been chumped and you’ve got your own healing to deal with. Do not hang on to the source of that pain or aid/enable it in any way. It is not for you.

    I dedicated a year of my life to doing everything under the sun to save my marriage from a man who only claimed to have known the woman for a couple of months. He claimed that they only ever talked and had shared one kiss just a couple of weeks before discovery. We were three weeks into marriage therapy (including individual sessions in which we had the opportunity to reveal to the therapist independently any hidden activity so that she could formulate a plan of action for us), and he had not thought to mention any of this.

    He left me a year ago to the with the OW. I learned that the extent of his activities included several years of regular porn (hugely psychologically damaging in marriage), an emotional affair two years prior with one of the mom’s at the kids’ school (he attempted to turn it physical and she flipped out and cut off the relationship), and the woman I discovered was in fact in relationship (including sexual) for more than a year-and-a-half. There is also one confirmed one-night stand.

    And, you know what? Not one of the things stated above were ever confessed to me by him, but learned from my own investigating and the honesty of some good people who let me know what they had observed. He has no idea the extent of the information I have learned. He has no idea that his family knows a lot of it and that is why they are disgusted with him and have made it clear that they will never accept this woman into their homes (even after a year, he hides the fact from them that he’s seeing her).

    Unlike your husband, mine did not have a history of cheating at all, not even a history of friendships with woman. Not even a flirt. The most straight-laced, accountant who attended church every Sunday and likes sports and hanging out with his buddies. Maybe smoked a couple of cigarettes or cigars playing poker on the weekends.

    Make no mistake, without a shadow of a doubt, what you think you know is just the very tip of a monstrous iceberg of what your husband has been up to.

    You need to arm yourself. You need to get him out. You do YOU. Put all your energy into you.

    If he wants “another chance,” it needs to come in the form of him going out on his own and doing the right things all by his pretty little self. You sticking around to “be there for him” will only provide him centrality and ego kibbles. Save yourself the heartache. He will need years to straighten out his shit, if ever. In the meantime, you are going to build yourself a fabulous life in those years, and likely, no longer give a shit about him if and when he ever actually does change.

    Read CL book now!!!

  • Pissed, you described the behavior of a serial cheater.

    His relationships overlapped.
    He was indignant.
    He blamed it in you!
    It was fuzzy.
    He ignored his therapist on being honest.
    The woman was a psycho.

    NO, he has no intention on changing. Speaking of pain; he enjoys yours; you’ve touched on the tip of the iceberg of duplicity, the lies, and the truth.

    You’ve spent half of your life with an asshole. You can either face the pain and your fears now or put more into a man who is incapable of being trusted. It will not get better.

    I’d suggest taking action. Gather documents, do credit checks, consult with an attorney, and hire someone to follow him. Get STD testing. Divorce him.

  • The discovery at DD1 was shattering, like everything I knew about the world had been thrown up into the air- but it was also a huge relief. I wasn’t crazy, or paranoid. I didn’t keep that moment of clarity though , I hung on, went to counselling- he didnt like the counsellor because she told him he was selfish-endured. My husband became cold and distant again, and after one particularly horrible night where i tried to get him to be intimate and was rebuffed, I tried to kill myself. One of the ” friends” he brought to my bedside turned out to be OW number 2. And then I found out about OW3, who had been lurking through our fifteen year relationship without me realising.Last Dday was 4 years ago, but financial untangling goes on. i will probably end up with nothing from our joint business. if I get to keep my house it will be a stretch. But I cannot imagine the nightmare of still being with him, and trying to maintain a life with a pod person.My current life is sooooo much less miserable than when I was trying to stuff all my needs- my very normal, justifiable needs, like love and trust- into some deep cavern so that they wouldn’t scare him away. I was so lonely, living with him. Lonely, tense, thinner than I have ever been, insomniac, on antidepressants. And for what? an empty shell of a man who doesn’t give a shit about me. I fought for my marriage with all my heart, but I’m so glad I didn’t succeed My marriage made me ill. And now I am free,that’s the be all and end all.Free, complete, and sufficient, drinking tea on my couch with a kitten on my shoulder, enjoying the morning before the heat sets in ( it’s hot in Adelaide today). Can you feel the serenity?(Australian movie reference, likely unknown to the rest of the world)That’s what is waiting on the other side. Serenity.You’ll get there.

  • Bin him. He is only mortified cause he got caught or knew his pathetic lies weren’t really going to wash. He will do it again once he thinks you are backing off.

    You will always smell the faint whiff of shit wherever he goes now, and it will only get worse.

    To me it’s the gaslighting is worse than the affair itself, trying to make other people feel bad (and boy does it work when done well) to justify your sordid action. It’s repehensible.

    Flee to the hills x

  • Chump lady this is one of your best and I agree don’t be afraid to be alone it’s so much better than being with that LOSER that lied, cheated, gaslighted you and put his dick into another woman it’s filthy. Your married to this POS and he made a commitment you deserve 1000 times better!????

  • Cut to the chase:this was my situation. I actually had private sessions with his therapist, and which the doc told me ” this man has true Remorse!!. ” Elaborating a little further, he Express such disappointment in himself. Bingo! This was not about his failure in his commitment to me. It was his failure as an officer and a gentleman, a moral man. A good man. All about him. Image management, damage control. I had a daughter in freshman college, and a high School junior. I stayed for their benefit. But when my son’s graduation came, I pulled the plug.
    Reconciliation had its moments. But it was too much work. Too much of me spoon-feeding what should have come naturally to anyone with true regret and remorse. Run. I wish I had. Took me 18 months to figure it out.

  • Pain is pain and will recede over time. Is it worth it? Doesn’t matter, it must be felt and managed. Please do what is best for you. I am now 2 years from DD and filing. I never saw remorse, only snake eyes and blame shifting. Rat bastard, could settle with me so easily, but would rather fight. Today he fired his attorney of 2 years and hired another one. More delays and frustration. Stay strong and just “do the next right thing” it will be worth it.

  • I’m 3.5 years post exh2.
    I’m in such a good place, I feel so much better since he left 3.5 years ago.
    For me, the pain and suffering I endured the first couple of years was worth it.
    I never confronted him with what I knew. I waited him out. Instinctively, I knew he would eventually get tired of trying to get me to throw him out, he finally caved and left. I was with him for 13 years and it felt like 1300
    I honestly believe that he was cheating on me the whole time.
    I honestly believe and accept that he never loved me.
    I honestly believe he attempted every avenue he could think of to antagonize me in those last couple of years in order to get me to throw him out with no real evidence (i.e. be the victim)
    I didn’t. I waited him out. I shut down. I stopped trying to prove myself to him. I stopped trying to convince others he was a good guy. I stopped fighting for us. I disconnected as best I could but still honored my wedding vows, unlike him
    Those years now feel like eons ago. Another lifetime. I don’t even remember the pain and anguish I felt all that time.
    I do still feel anger and regret about not kicking him out, for putting up with Jim as long as I did. For buying him that ficking $200 gas grill for his birthday/Father’s day months in advance for both— less than 3 weeks before D-Day (which was about two weeks after my birthday in which I got only a card)
    Ugh. So glad those days are over

  • I know it’s scary to leave but just hold your breath and jump off that cliff anyway. I left my asshole ex and became a single mom of 6 young kids with no job or help from my family. I was terrified but I “jumped” anyway. Today I’m three times the woman I was and much happier. Will your kid’s college get put on hold? Will x, y, and z happen, or a 1000 other scary things? I don’t know, most likely things will work out on their own but there is NOTHING that is worth staying with this creep. Once you’ve been free of him for some time you’ll wonder why you ever thought about giving him another chance. You’ll thank your lucky stars you left! Just make the leap.

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