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How Do I Fix My Picker?

Dear Chump Lady,

I have a question for the New Year — as we’re all thinking about new beginnings. It’s a simple question but I’m sure the answer is not so simple:

Do you have any advice on how to fix a broken picker?

I’m nowhere near ready to date yet. Not even close. But in all that I read, the message is very clear: chumps should go out, find a life, enjoy and grow ourselves. And this clearly will take some time. I’m okay with that. But what I’m not sure about is whether having a full life is enough to actually fix our bad bias when it comes to choosing a partner. I worry that no matter how happy I am with life, I’ll still avoid the good guys and be lured in by the enchanting dark temptation of the disordered.

I want to spend the new year finding my feet and fixing my picker. Any advice warmly welcomed. 


Dear Caroline,

This is a big topic, but I’ll hit the highlights and I hope Chump Nation will fill in with their experiences too. Fixing your picker really just comes down to fixing yourself and learning to have better boundaries.

Fact is, freaks are out there. I can’t give you a 100 percent guarantee that your life will never intersect with another disordered freak. You don’t control that, but what you do control is YOU. Where you were once a chump, now you’re mighty. Where you once ate shit sandwiches, now you know what a deal breaker is. Where you once spackled and tolerated abuse, now you know how to enforce a boundary — and what happens when you do not. (More abuse.)  Moreover, you know that you’ve survived infidelity. You stared that motherfucker down and you won.

This is powerful knowledge that you take forward with you.

So you want to “fix your picker”?

A) Start small. Forget finding the love of your life right now and dating. Look at your circle of friends. Are you being a chump with them too? Are you keeping Switzerland jerks in your life who are neutral about infidelity or your ex? Are you eating shit sandwiches of “shared history” and tolerating disrespect? Jettison crappy people from your life. Cherish the people who show up, who reciprocate, who get you, and bring out your best self. When you master friendship and keep healthy people in your life, and you know how to be a friend? Then I grant you permission to date.

The best relationships aren’t based on just lust or status, they’re based on shared values. Think of a relationship as a very long conversation. Can you sustain interest in this person and they in you? You want a partner you wouldn’t mind being trapped in a small room with for the next 30 years.

B) Know what you want. It’s okay to want the dream — a loving, committed partner who cherishes you. There is nothing wrong with you for wanting that. Not one damn thing. I swear we’re all afraid to own up to this, like it’s a flaw, like people will sniff the neediness out on us or something. I mean, WTF with the “hook up” generation? If you don’t want to be a friend with benefits, DON’T BE. No judgment on FWBs, a person needs to get laid sometimes, I get it. But never confuse this with a relationship. It’s okay to hold out for the real deal and dump people who don’t measure up.

If someone keeps you around as an option and you want their full attention? Quit wasting your time. DUMP.

If after ages and ages of dating, this person can’t “define the relationship” — let me define it for you — it’s dead. You’re kibbles. Go find a real monkey.

Healthy relationships build organically and slowly. (Only the disordered instantly Love you!) But they move in the direction of increasing intimacy and connection. If your relationship is going in circles and you’re getting mixed messages? Mixed messages are actually a message that say “DUMP ME.”

C) Know what you want, but don’t want it so bad that you’ll tolerate crap. It’s okay to want the dream — a loving, committed partner who cherishes you. It’s not okay to accept shit thinking your abject humility and unconditional understanding will make it happen.

If it’s not happening? Dream a new dream.

D) Look for reciprocity. The best indication I can give you that you’re in a healthy relationship is that the other person wants to DO for you. Effort is sexy. Good people remember what you said and care how you feel. If you do for them, they want to do for you. There is no scorecard, no begrudging attitude, and no snark about your vulnerabilities. Good people are open for relationships and they communicate that with interest and availability. Pay attention.

E) Avoid the sparkly. If you like Bad Boys and Girls, that’s on you. Other people do not confer sparkle status on you. They don’t complete you. Quit being a kibble dispenser and start being your own person. If you need the extra frisson of dangerous sparkles to be coupled, examine that. Do you like the adrenaline rush of the pick me dance? Do you thrill to the competition? Do you have a little latent narcissism yourself? (The sparkly person LIKES me! I am MAGNIFICENT to be in their circle!) Stand up for who you are. If you aren’t anyone and are just a inchoate blob of potential — go be something. Then real people will be attracted to you for YOU. Not for what you can do for them, buy them, or kibble dispense at them.

And chumps, that’s all you want really — real people, not fakes. When you’re authentic (a steady diet of chumpy shit sandwiches does not make you authentic, it makes you resentful and phony), then you’re ready to be a healthy partner and friend.

Get out there, Caroline! Happy New Beginnings.

This is a rerun, but wow, I totally forgot I wrote this in 2015. Someone linked to it and I thought… yes, it’s Picker Improvement Thursday. Any picker suggestions, CN?

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.
  • Oooo, this was my letter! And guess what, I went on my first ever post-cheater date yesterday! (Yes, it’s been a while- I take my own sweet time). I can’t believe how timely this is!

      • 3 years! Just the 3 years! Gosh I know. But I’ve got 2 young kids, and relocated to the other side of the country, settling in, settling the kids in, re-establishing & gaining my life etc. I know it’s a long time. Perhaps I shouldn’t have waited quite so long?!

        Date went well, I thought. I think my picker is in a much better place, but I can’t be sure until I get a few dates under my belt. Need to test it out a bit! I’m slightly concerned that I could get attached too easily / too quickly!

        Would love to hear some experiences from other chumps!

        • I’m a year and a half out and whether my picker was fixed or not wouldn’t even matter. I’m so busy with working full time and looking after my 3 boys full time (my cheater abandoned us to follow his knob and lives 2 states away, and not paying his child support etc. etc.) I don’t have a life of my own. Yes, I have some help from parents and friends but there is only so much they can do. While my ex is living up every day of his life, I don’t have ANY time at all.

          • I’m a year out of divorce, 2 years since he left and am in no hurry to date, nor do I have the time. I’ve dipped a toe in online dating and every time it has reaffirmed that I’m not ready, also I do not like online dating.

            I am working on defining who I am, what I like to do and building an awesome relationship with my daughter. Maybe someday someone will fit into that. Right now I’m more concerned about building a tribe of friends than I am finding a man.

            • That’s me too, CC. I’m only 9 months from when the whole storm started and fixing my picker is the least of my concerns. I’m much more interested in building my tribe and feeling connected with my community. That’s what makes my heart sing.

              • The problem for both of you is the “online” dating. That is, by and large, a pool of opportunistic wing nuts mostly looking for sex.”

                Find other ways to find dates. Trust me.

          • Your ex may be living it up now but he is losing his kids. You are solidifying your relationship with them and in the long run that will make you the winner. You may also run across a new love interest someday anyway when you least expect it and with any luck when you have time for it.

        • I waited 3 years as well, with a little toe-dipping here and there.

          All of CL’s guidelines are spot on, and I would add that practice is the final step. I still met disordered freaks, and mildly toxic men, and nice enough men who hadn’t done their own healing work, and men who simply weren’t a good fit.

          The difference was that this time I didn’t internalize their issues or make it my fault. I didn’t try to fix it or them. I didn’t tolerate even a hint of abusive or even “off” behavior. I recognized what didn’t align with what I wanted and got the eff out.

          I let my new healthy boundaries and self-concept lead. There were some wrong turns, for sure, but the more I fell in love with myself and my new life, the more open and joyful and attractive-to-sane-people I became.

          I am now happily loved by and in love with an amazing, thoughtful, healthy, kind man. We totally deserve each other.

          In the meantime, have fun loving YOU!

          • Awww MsMachete. <3 I just wanted to say this post totally made my morning!

        • Ex and I separated in 2012, I divorced him in 2015 and I’m still single with less than a handful of dates under my belt. No regrets. Of my three dates, one was terrible at communicating so Noped that one; one talked but didn’t listen so Noped that one too and the third one was way over the top needy after our second date so Noped him too. After that took a long break from online dating which continues to this day. I feel good about my picker because it knew enough to Nope those guys even though I was lonely and ready for some companionship. Now, I’ve come to cherish my independence and privacy and am not entirely sure if I want to give them up even for a loving partner. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m staying single unless the universe happens to toss my perfect partner across my path and I trip over him. Some of that is because I’m an introvert and dating is HARD and I hated it and also because I’m 56 (almost 57) and I’m just TIRED. 😀

          • 59 going on 60 here, D-day was seven years ago and I’ve been divorced for five. Had some desperate feelings the first year or two about ‘re-coupling,’ but knew I wasn’t ready to date and didn’t have any prospects anyway. I spent a lot of time clawing my way out of the emotional hole I was in and now that I’m nearly at ‘meh’ I just don’t feel inclined to give up my time, my space, my finances and my freedom of choice. I am also thankful that I can be available to my kids without distraction (17, 21 and nearly 26). The youngest will be on his way to college soon, the fuckwit ex has become more and more irrelevant and life is pretty good. Being chumped changed me….I’m content to be in my own company and be my own best friend. I think it has made me more tuned to red flags, but I just don’t have to the energy or inclination to go ‘shopping.’ As for sex and intimacy, it was such a ripoff in my case, that I am relieved to not have that demand in my life either.

            • Im with you PianoMom and Beth. Only fresh out of toxic marriage but heading in your direction ladies ????

        • I started dating just six months after Dday. I met a nice widower I like who shares most of my values and interests. I’m going to continue dating him and see what develops. No expectations, just easy and relaxed. Congratulations on getting your groove back.

          • I reconnected with an old boyfriend I had not seen since I met my STBX fifteen years before. For this old flame, I was the one that got away. He was chumped a year before me. His legal separation has been a brutal process. The ex’s OM moved in to the family home almost immediately, right into his home with his wife and kids. he hadn’t even had the opportunity to get all of his things out.

            We first met up about 7-8 months after my ex left. I wasn’t looking to date, and I still cringe at the idea of dating – getting out there and meeting strangers.

            But, I hook up with my old flame. It’s companionship. We’re friends with some benefits. Both of us talk about the lives we’re building, separately. My house, his house. My kids, his kids. My job, his business. When we have time, we get together and talk, do dinner and maybe back to someone’s place. We have very differing schedules so there is little opportunity to see each other. Our priority is our kids and our lives. We understand that we’re good friends who feel a lot of attraction and have a long history.

            No future thinking about relationships, just enjoy here and now. I think that it’s a rare find to be on the same page. We’ll see how it goes. No hurry at all.

            • I have something very similar going on with the exact type of guy you describe here–though we’re in a committed relationship at this point, albeit long distance. We’re both working through our stuff, both prioritizing ourselves and our immediate families, and both in no rush. In no way are we “healed” from our past traumas but it’s very nice to be on the same page with someone, without any pressure to progress the relationship or end it. Turns out, when you’re a middle aged chump, sometimes it’s ok to just “be.”

      • I waited 3.5 years at least. It was well worth it. I learnt so much about myself.
        I feel amazing!
        Lots of solo travel, new real friends and better relationships with my family. I don’t need validation from anyone. I learnt to live myself and other better. And most importantly what I want from myself and others.

      • Date went well, thank you! I thought he seemed lovely. Not sure if it will go anywhere, but in some respects it’s a milestone achieved for me – first date and it wasn’t a total disaster!

  • I had seven years of loneliness and isolation in a small town and fell for a sparkly dick who meant well. It was seemingly pure coincidence that our plans would tragically disintegrate when he was around. Nope. It was him, and we were together for ten years so I got to see how he got off on watching my face fall. To outsiders, he looked loving and doting. To insiders he was overbearing and condescending. My picker was pretty OK but he had mastered the art of plausible deniability. They can be very smooth….

    • They destroy trust with their effortless lies and smooth delivery. It was a lesson that smashed my innocence and belief system. Immoral amoral predators with degrees of severity. They walk among us. Both sexes. There’s a lot of fukked up people.

      Fix my picker? I have a new lens of discernment. It casts a harsh light.

      I’m learning I can do fake too.
      I’m cordial but no longer open and warm with strangers/ acquaintances.
      I am learning to adapt to the realization that it takes a long time to get to know what another person is about in love, friendships and relationships in general.

      Love relationship with another man? Time will tell.

  • Dealbreakers are precisely that – dealbreakers. If someone breaks them, you have the right to turf them. And if they act with condescension in response? It just proves your point that they are someone who is not worthy to be around.

    The word ‘no’ is a complete sentence. And it is not negotiable.

  • I didn’t realize the extent of the damage done to my trust till I started dating. I have so many wonderful men in my life I thought I would be fine on the trust front. Since I started dating, I am finding I doubt everything they say at first. If I start to like what they say, I then wonder what their angle is! It’s like that old ‘detective’ mode kicks in.

    Thanks so much F-Face Cheater for that gift that keeps on giving—-

    • I think a bit of caution is good- healthy, even. Cautious optimism.

      Even without what we’ve been through, we should expect trust to build slowly, over time.

      I fear that I’m the complete opposite- I’m still too trusting! But then, I’m the veteran of 1 date so far.

      Maybe it’s no bad thing you are so cautious?

    • And also the trust in our own instincts is shot. I’m a caretaker by nature, so if the person I’m dating has a problem, my instinct is to swoop in and help–especially if it’s something I have experience with. And generally, that’s a good thing to want to help. But, because my caretaker-y nature has caused me to be a chump, when I find myself doing that I immediately full stop and reassess the relationship. Like, WHY is he letting me swoop in? Even if it’s totally reasonable for him to accept my help, like with researching something or whatever. It’s complicated and I hope one day to be able to offer my caretaking in a safe space, but just not there yet.

      • Yes, NotANiceChump, that’s me, too. They damage your ability to trust your own perceptions. I tend to swing from ‘I’m too nice and being taken for a ride’ to ‘I’m being a ‘ballbuster’ and being totally unreasonable.’ Some days I give up all hope that I’ll actually feel like I have an accurate read on the situation of what is a reasonable expectation that they should have of me and I of them. I was bought up that way. My parents were experts at guilting and gaslighting so that I would discount my own needs and feelings as ‘selfishness’ and I totally mistrust my judgement. It’t totally crazy-making.

    • I had a lot of trust issues with people I dated after my break-up, too. I was overly sensitive to anything they did that I thought might be a bit deceptive….in short, I was paranoid. I think it was PTSD damage from my previous relationship wreck that was messing with my brain. I never really relaxed and start dating properly (and being a proper date) for about 3 years after my break-up. I think the key to “fixing your picker”, to emphasize some of CL’s suggestions above, is to take it slow and take your time to get to know who you’re getting interested in. Don’t fall for love-bombing like I did the first time, and be wary of the overly horney types looking to quickly get laid. They can be enticing for the moment, but just remember, when you’re not around a few years from now, and they get lonely, they know what to do to relieve the urge. In other words, look for somebody with character who can discipline and control their urges because they value the relationship they have with you above all else.

  • This article is one of the best. The dating picker and the friend picker need to be examined. Being sucked into the vortex of whoa with people whose lives are constant drama just reinforces the bad picker thing. When hearing a tale of whoa from a friend I tend to think “well, I don’t have it that bad.” So I stop working on me. I’m hanging this one on my refridgerator!

  • My problem is fear. I know there are good men out there but ex convinced everyone he was a good guy, before cheating and abandoning me without any warning. I am thinking I won’t risk it again. Will be happy on my own.

    • Hi Georgie
      Yes! Well put!
      My goal for the immediate future is to know myself.
      During the 27 years I was married, it became too much about him, or the kids, or anyone else…. I became whatever was needed and didn’t grow as my own person.
      I’m working on discovering who I am, what I like and don’t, what I want my life to be about going forward.
      (((hugs))) to you, and wishing you strength on your journey forward.

      • I was married 30 years. I’m divorced 4 years now and I can tell you that for me, it has taken almost every month of those last 4 years to get my head on straight. I went on a journey to find and love myself and I believe I completed my journey back in November 2018. I wrote a letter to myself after I completed the journey and even labeled the 7 distinct steps: “What’s wrong with me?” “It was never me.” “What does forgiveness mean?” “Why did I allow it to happen?” “Not everything you love is good for you.” “I would rather live alone than go through such ugliness again.” and ” How do I love my enemy?” Boy was that journey and subsequent letter ever cleansing! I signed up for online dating 1 year post divorce only to realize that I wasn’t ready. So I pulled my profile. With a lot of very deep reflection since then, I realize now that I allowed a dick to be center in my life because I never really loved myself. I was looking for validation from someone else. No more! I finally came to love myself just the way I am, and if others don’t like me for who I am, then they’re not in my circle of friends. I don’t know how others can pick themselves up and get right back out there in less than a year, but I think I did great figuring myself out in only 4 years. I’ve yet to date, but I’m looking forward to the experience. (Especially kissing! My dick-ex couldn’t kiss worth crap. I’d loved to be kissed by a decent kisser again!)

        • Ditto on the kissing thing – both loving it and ex not being able to kiss worth crap. I think it must have something to do with their inability to do intimacy? Bad kissing would totally be a deal breaker for me now.

          • Same. Mine STBxH couldn’t kiss worth shit. It was painful. We eventually got to the point where there was no kissing even during sex. I look forward to finding somebody who knows how to kiss.

            • I was married to a man for 24 years sexless years who was a terrible kisser.

              Divorced and about a year later, POP (Predatory Opportunistic Parasite) came along. FINALLY, A MAN WHO KISSED ME THE WAY I WANTED TO BE KISSED!!! (and the sex was marathon monkey sex)

              The only problem was he was a chronic harem collecting cheating predatory opportunistic parasite.

              I sure would like to be kissed like that again but I don’t anticipate it happening 🙁

        • This level of self-awareness is so inspiring! Kudos!

          P.S. I love kissing too but never enjoyed it with my STBXH either!

          • OMG. The kissing thing! Before Fuckup, I loved to kiss (and am pretty sure I was okay at it). And for the first years of our relationship we used to kiss a lot, and it was fun. But then, and I can’t really remember when it started, Fuckup became critical of my kissing (claimed I was doing something that I am 100% sure I wasn’t doing) and it made me horribly self-conscious and hyper-aware of making sure not to do something he disliked. Now, after months away from him, I realize that he actually was kind of a shitty kisser–at least during the last years we were together.

            But, after 18 years, I don’t even know if I remember how I used to kiss before Fuckup’s weirdness. And it’s worrying. Is it like riding a bicycle? The guy I have a (harmless, long-distance, only-in-my-mind) crush on has beautiful lips, and I sometimes wonder what it would be like to kiss him (yes, I’m 15 years old!) but then my fun, crushy feelings get squelched by the thought: what if I really do suck at it? What if I forgot how? Not that I’m ever going to kiss this specific guy, but the loss of self-confidence in that department is just another shitty gift that keeps on giving.

        • Amazon Chump… I love this. I think I need to write a letter to myself. I did the same took the first person who came along in my life and settled. I then tried for 25 years to make it work and make him love me. Never happened. thanks for your insight

  • My final piece of advice on the excellent list in this post is: Don’t Date Too Soon.

    Dating too soon, when you should be healing, is not a good idea because your head is still spinning. There is still soul work to be done on YOU before you hang out the ‘Open All Hours’ sign for another person, and that work is best done alone.

    I know it’s hard being single. I know your married friends drop you like a hot potato. I know it’s lonely. Duh. But this season is for a reason.

    A lot of us paired off because we thought the Other Person Would Fix Everything, and we got badly burned. A lot of us paired off because we were lonely, or wanted to escape, or settled for less.

    Fixing your picker is, I think, an exercise best done in singleness. The first person you get to practise on is YOU.

    It’s an exercise in rediscovery of yourself: what you like, what you don’t like, who you really are underneath all those years of self-defence and gaslighting.

    Try picking yourself first for a while.

    • I never ‘dated’ per se, but I did have some male friends (only friends.) The good ones stuck around and let me talk it all out. They knew that ‘dating’ wasn’t going to happen and will not happen. They’re still my friends. The ones that wanted me to go further, well I dropped them. I agree with you: Don’t Date Too Soon. If you don’t figure yourself out, then you’ll probably screw it up again.

    • I have to disagree with you. I started talking/dating 6 days after my divorce. Although I was separated for a while before that. Each woman I have dated has helped heal me and I have helped heal them. I read here about all these “stuck” women who a sane man wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. Most on here are man haters and haven’t put in the work to heal. I started my healing process a few days after D-Day and filed for divorce 3 1/2 weeks after finding out the extent of my XW’s double life. I refused to date after the separation, I focused on my healing. I left my heart opened for the right woman to come into my life. I read that you are ready to date when you are willing to breakup with someone and to be broken up with by someone and your self-worth is still intact (both has happened to me). I educated myself from the get go about Narcissism and BPD (my XW) from the get go. I have narcissistic radar now. But I am an Idealist with a healthy dose of realism.

      • Sirchumpalot, not every woman here is a man-hating ‘stuck’ woman.

        ‘Stuck’ implies that we aren’t getting where we need to go. On the contrary, most of the women here HAVE worked out where they want to go, and are getting there, one step at a time. It’s just that this may not involve being with a man any time soon. That’s not stuck; that’s sensible and practical.

        It’s abusive of you to say that these women aren’t putting in the healing work, and that no sane man would touch them with a 10 foot pole. Did you think about that at all before you wrote it?

        You also might want to question your belief that your dating any woman has helped to heal her. I would really hesitate before making that claim for any person.

      • “ I read here about all these “stuck” women who a sane man wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. Most on here are man haters and haven’t put in the work to heal”

        Prior to healing this would have triggered the shit out of me. It reminds me of The Limited, a covert narcissist and his narrative.

        No, don’t need a man to heal.

        • I’ve been a member of CN for a couple of years, I don’t ever recall reading a Chump claiming to being a man hater. Understandably the Chumps here hate the person who betrayed them. These ladies are sensitive, caring, intelligent and funny. Any man in
          their “right mind” would feel honored to be in the company of any one of us.

          All these “stuck” woman a sane man wouldn’t touch with a one foot pole??
          Sounds like something my abusive cheater would say, wait.. actually he has.
          Stuck? not stuck, cautious, content, and taking care of themselves not to get involved with someone who takes credit for their healing. Unless you consider healing as walking away from someone who is toxic.

          • Have you really read their comments? Reread them from a male chumped view. They are not giving advise on how to fix their picker. I am not the only man on here getting the same feel from these women. Read down lower. They are man bashing. You don’t know what it is like as a man dating. These women are looking for a man to cater to them, etc. I am not bashing female chumps as a whole. A good man wants a equal partner, someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with. How some of these women talk about is what female narcissists do. They want a man to cater to them. It is very triggering to a lot of us men chumps. I hope you can see my (and other men’s) viewpoints.

            • So what are some examples of man-bashing that you see here?

              I see a lot of “This is a red flag for me, based on actual experience. A man doing x, y, and z makes me feel OFF and triggered and I’m cutting that guy off right away. Been there; done that.”

              I see bashing of Cheater Behavior.

              This post is about fixing your picker, not self-improvement. (Look to the Be Mighty posts for that.) Many of the women here – AND MEN – are chumps despite putting EVERYTHING into their Cheater’s success and wellbeing. Chumps are NOT catered to… that’s the point. Chumps put in TOO MUCH effort… there was little to no reciprocity. And so, of course, there’s talk about what a new partner might bring to the relationship table for a change, instead of investing themselves ENTIRELY into their partner and thinking that’s love… that that’s a good relationship.

              A lot of us married losers. Entitled moochers. Gaslighting narcissists. Many wives (because that’s just how it tends to be: mom stays home, not dad) gave up their careers to stay home not because they wanted to but because it was best for the family. Childcare cost more or as much as one of your incomes so someone had to stay home. And Cheaters aren’t good parents… they don’t have what it takes to nurture and teach and be patient without much appreciation, if any, from those they’re helping. There are also those people who, without working, would have nothing meaningful of their own… and they don’t know it but their spouse does. I was paid much more. I stayed home and we lived on Cheater’s pittance until I found him, and got him, better and better jobs. He NEEDED that. Our children needed a loving parent home with them. I took care of *everything* else… all he had to do was go to work: work that required fewer and fewer hours at much higher pay. I had all the stress of keeping us solvent, saving, household EVERYTHING, errands, goal-setting (he had none – NONE), finding homes, moving homes, all yardwork, all home repair and remodeling myself, changing brake pads and rotors, fixing up a Mercedes and figuring out how to change glow plugs, all homework with the kids, all activities with the kids, parenting, visiting his family, etc. And he worked nights and weekends by choice… play video games by day; work from 12 or 2 to 9 or 10pm. Open to close, weekends. No dates. Well, we went on maybe half a dozen in 10 years. So, I did “dates” at home and became a phenomenal cook. I can make any type of cuisine, from Thai to Arab to Slavic, and it’s better than any restaurant. I cleaned up his out-of-state debt and legal issues with his ex-wife, so we could buy a house. I was so nice and accommodating to the mothers and children of his previous two relationships – despite him being completely disinterested – that *I* paid his child support from my own fucking salary and asked for visitation. (As it turns out, they just liked to bitch that he didn’t his children… they didn’t actually WANT him to.) They each asked him to give up his rights so their husbands could adopt their children. No child support.

              Nice.and.tidy. All of his consequences neatly swept away.

              All he had to do was go to work. And again, I found him jobs, took the personality tests because he always failed them (“I’m just a bad test-taker”), and climbed his career ladder for him when promotional opportunities came up. I wrote his resumes and covers letters, created business plans, and staff letters. I advertised for him. I wrote Thank You notes to his clients. I took care of literally everything else… all he had to do was show up and be competent in person, which he could do because… instant ego kibbles. Guess what else gives instant kibbles? Fucking your colleagues or their girlfriends. Even better when those ho-workers drive to your house in the middle of the night, texting you to come outside and fuck them in the park where your children play, while your wife is tandem nursing Irish twins during a heat wave and the toddler wants to snuggle. The fan is blowing hard enough that wife won’t hear you leave and she’ll be too exhausted to get up and look for you. Tell her you had a horrible shit in the downstairs bathroom from her cooking (YAH RIGHT) and THAT’S why you were gone so long.

              So, you can bet your ass that the next time around? I’ll be looking for reciprocity. For an adult. For someone who needs no fixing. For someone with goals and motivation. I’ll be looking for a partner, not an entitled teenaged son. Wanting those things is NOT bizarre… is NOT wanting to be catered to… it’s basic self-respect. It’s asking for as much as I’m willing to put in. And on those dates? I’ll pay for my own meal, thank you, and bring a coupon. If it’s BOGO, we’ll split it. 😉

            • “How lucky you were, to be a stay-at-home mom!”

              Uh huh.

              “How dare women stay home for years, then expect to walk away with half of everything?!”

              Uh huh.

              I also cleaned houses while pregnant, as he played video games/made sure our young children didn’t die, so we could save money to buy a house. I worked from home doing various things. I got proper jobs, as the children went to school, making as much or more than he did (which properly pissed him off) even though I had no experience in those fields until then, and would end up having to quit because of some crisis or other he couldn’t handle or fabricated and our whole world would start crumbling apart. I’d have to stay home again and keep that going, putting out his fires and building it up again. My resume, as a result, looks WORSE for all the gaps… but I had to include it because that experience was crucial to getting the better jobs. Do you know how difficult it is to be justified in saying, “That was my husband’s fault” but knowing that saying that is wildly imprudent? You have to take the blame for what LOOKS like incompetence but isn’t, when it wasn’t your fault. When you can’t credit for REAL WORK you did because you were doing all the difficult parts of your husband’s job?

              The only reason he has what he has is because of me. That’s the honest truth. He did no more work than he did WITHOUT a wife and children. He went from being in serious legal trouble with an ex-wife, debts from their marriage, child support to two mothers, no car, no driver’s license, no relationship with his family, never been out of the country, ruined credit to the point they wouldn’t even give him a checking account, and making $350/week for 50 hours’ work to owning his own, updated home in the nicest suburb of our city, a wife and three bright, really fucking great children who go to an award-winning public school and win awards and whom everyone considers kind and polite and thoughtful, a driver’s license and two cars, no ex-wife or legal trouble, no babymama trouble or child support, no debt, a great relationship with his family, anniversary trip to Paris, and making $80K/year for 35-42 hours’ work.

              These man bashers are bashing the men they know exist. Their boundaries are for them… their sanity and their soul and their wallet and their future. They get to make boundaries that will help them avoid the bullshit they have ALREADY endured.

              When my dear friend – a man – came to me and said his wife was fucking her co-worker and in love with him, he followed that up with “Women are fucking crazy. I hate them all.” I know he doesn’t; he’s mad. But his experience – and with his first wife doing the same – gets to be said. He gets to be mad. He gets to declare that he’s never going to trust another woman again. That they’re liars. He gets to set boundaries, even though they’re temporary, like “I’m never going to date again. Women are bitches!” to protect his psyche for a little while.

              And so do women. It’ll change. Or it won’t. It’s not my problem. It’s theirs and they’re taking care of it in their own way. Don’t date women you don’t like for ANY reason. You think they’re moochers? You think she’s ugly? She has bangs just like your middle-school girlfriend who gave a BJ to your best friend? Don’t put any more effort into it. You get to stop the date for your reasons (even though she won’t like them) as much as she gets to stop the date for her own reasons (even though you won’t like them.) No one HAS to conform to the other’s expectations.

              I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T feel how you feel; I’m saying that everyone else gets to feel the way they do too. And have damn good reasons for it.

              If you’re not compatible with someone or, as it turns out, many someones? So fucking what? Move on. Be mighty!

  • Setting and enforcing boundaries applies to everyone in your life. Picking yourself first requires taking care of your own needs and loving yourself. It’s a painful adjustment letting go of being a fixer and rescuer to the needy ones in your life who too take advantage.

    My daughter says I’m too picky; that tells me I’m on the right track. I’d rather have a healthy relatiinship than a project.

    For me being alone shows strength. I’m committed to myself and that feel great.

    • Doing Me

      You said in two sentences what I tried to say in paragraphs! Thank you!

      I too was a rescuer and fixer with a life full of “projects”. It is exhaustng!

    • I was also told that I was too picky. That was a good thing! I see far too many women making excuses for men who are making them an option. It’s so sad to witness. Men will make an effort to see a woman that they are genuinely interested in; it’s in their DNA to do so. Yes, I was picky. And right now my fiancé is fixing me breakfast in my kitchen. ❤️

      • “Too picky”! I see the bar set so low in dating that people, especially women, tolerate the most absurd behavior. If anything, women as a whole need to get pickier.

        • Same for men. I see way to many men set the bar to low for women. So many women walk all over men, treat them horribly, and wonder why good men don’t want them. The cooking breakfast post pisses me off. A good relationship is a give/take. Not that man does ALL this good things for you. This whole post has turned into a man bashing fest. Woman are just as bad as men. Yikes.

          • I guess it just happens to be more women posters here but I agree, from what I have seen women are just as bad as men. From what I can tell of these posts, to be abandoned with little kids to support when you don’t have a good way to pull in money is just terrifying to the core. I know a man who was abandoned this way, but maybe it happens more with women? My daughter was 18 when I was ghosted so I am not so terrified, but I probably would have been had it happened when she was little. As far as dating, I tell my friends it is like asking someone with a broken arm to lift weights. Not happening yet. Sorry that it sounds like man-bashing, it happens both ways but this issue is a little harder than most of them to make gender neutral. Partly because it still is not that common for women to ask men out. They wait and wonder a lot. Much less control.

          • Um, not bashing men here. I don’t have experience dating women, so I can only speak from the perspective of seeing what women tolerate in relationships.

      • Woo hoo!! Good for you! I, too, have been told I’m too picky or that my bar is set too high. Oh well. I don’t see it being too picky to want someone that’s kind, courteous, respectful, honest, has integrity, and is sound financially. I think what others are saying when they say, “You’re too picky” is, “He’s a nice guy. Give him a chance. He has been legally separated for 7 years.” or… “So he’s in-between jobs. His wife was a mean person but he needs to live somewhere” (as he has been living with his parents for a year.) Maybe I’m too picky, but honestly, if someone is still married (even though legally separated for 7 years), something isn’t quite right and I’m not going to figure it out for them. Or if a full-grown man (my prospects are in their 50s) has moved into his parents’ house until he gets his life and finances back in order, then something’s wrong. Why would somebody in his 50s not have savings, a retirement account, a house? Their issues are their problems, not mine, and I’m not planning on being a nurse or a purse. My retirement savings are enough to sustain me throughout my old age, not another person, especially a full-grown man. Maybe I’m picky, but I want somebody who’s financially sound enough to have his own retirement and not count on me to sustain him. Not having a retirement account by the time you hit your late 50s (unless something extremely detrimental occurred) is an indication that you’re not very responsible. I’d rather be single.

        • You’re so right Amazon Chump! XH is 53 and moved in with his new GF a week after moving out of our house, he quit a good paying job, has no retirement and no house. He only had his vehicle that was paid for a shit-ton of music equipment and 3 bookshelves full of books. Red flags, anyone? Wonder if she’s questioning her decision to get involved with him yet. Obviously he needed her to supply housing for him, he couldn’t manage that himself.

          • Some of us lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the divorce that we did not request, went to grad school/worked in non-profit for a long time, and live in a super-expensive geographical area for custody reasons while raising our kids. Some of us who are in our fifties who do not own a home, believe or not, were/are frugal and even have a finance background.

    • Gosh this is true–but every person has problems, especially me. So, it’s challenging to understand the differences between normal life problems and a “project person.” Work in progress.

  • I am the chumpiest of chumps. Chumpy in love and chumpy in friendship.

    Post XH, and all the work on me I have done, I realize that some of my friends, and certainly my sociopath sister, are users of the first degree. I also realized the world is full of people wanting a free ride, emotionally and/ or financially.

    I jettisoned the bad friends and went 100% No Contact with my sister, although that has caused some upset in the family. It is the best thing I have done for myself since tossing the X out. I had no idea how her machinations and lies had affected my life! She can still manipulate and lie, but at least her lies are not colored in truth from close association.

    I am also careful and attentive with new friends (I certainly am not dating!). A good half the time I pick up on some twist, them wanting more than I am willing to give (loans, emotional support) or they do not share my core values. Jettisoned.

    My therapist taught me to ask myself this :”Are you practicing your NO?”. “No” was not in my vocabulary before…

    I am much better at sniffing out the disordered and the users.

    My life is so much happier and peaceful.

    • Amazon, I went on a couple of dates with a guy who lived with his Mom while in his 50’s. He didn’t mention it until after our first meeting and he tried to play it off as he was her caregiver but that story started to unravel when he mentioned her driving, going to work, etc. HUGE turnoff. Also, before we met for the first time in person, he asked me what I was having for dinner and when I said I made lasagna, he asked me to bring a piece to our first meeting. I thought he was kidding because who asks a stranger/potential date to bring him dinner?? Turns out he wasn’t kidding. He brought it up later that he went hungry that night because I didn’t bring him lasagna and he had been counting on that for his dinner. Needless to say, there were no more dates after that!

      • Nice Red Flag on that lasagna! How EVER did you figure it out so fast? 🙂 (That’s funny!)

        • I forgot to mention that the first meeting was at a park and he brought his dog along. I never did ask if I was supposed to bring the dog dinner too! Honestly, I would have rather fed the dog!! 😀

          • He was testing you out!
            Will you actually bring your lasagna for him?
            If you don’t, and he complains, will you apologize?
            If you had he would have immediately made you responsible for all his dinners.

            At least he isn’t smooth at all.

            • Beth I am willing to bet that this
              man-child’s Mom went on strike. She told him she’s not making him dinner anymore. So he got his dog and headed out to the park to start searching for a Mom replacement (in other words- wife appliance).
              The sad thing is that this move will eventually work on some poor chump. After all, my ex found a super chump. Someone will end up bringing him lasagna and giving up her own life.
              I’m recognizing that as hard as we chumps are trying to improve our own pickers, cheaters are throwing out “chump bait” trying to figure out who will put up with their behavior.

      • Oh Boo Hooooo, I went hungry that night (and it was your fault….)
        Too funny!
        And even worse if it was said as if it was a ‘funny’ joke. Now it’s passive-aggressive Narc speak. LOL!
        I think you can get dinner for yourself, mister! But nice try!

      • I have to say the first guy I dated led me to believe he was taking care of his mom. Come to find out on the second date it was the other way around.

        How I wish I had a healthy parent that was supportive. Again I think we have to determine if it is a reciprocal relationship and not one of use.

  • “lured in by the enchanting dark temptation of the disordered” Oh boy this sure is me. I needed to read this this morning, this is well-timed! I am very much aware of my problem being attracted to the disordered. And there is the other side of that, which is I worry I’ll never be really interested in a quality person. I still go for sparkly, but even sparkly doesn’t make me want to commit.

    I am living a contradiction, where I am very lonely and wishing for/missing a partner. But the idea of getting that close to anyone makes me want to full speed in the other direction. I think I’m going for Sparkly right now because sparkly doesn’t want to commit. (It’s OK to untangle my own skein, right?)

    • Struggling, I would say that untangling your own skein is part of the process of fixing your picker. So, yes it is ok.

  • Great article! I recommend making a list of what you want in your next partner. Because love is blind and many of us already have a track record of spackling over red flags…I have to say the hook up culture disturbs me quit a bit and makes me wonder if I will ever find a normal woman who didn’t go crazy in the dating scene after her divorce. But that’s ok, I rather stay single then be involved with the wrong person again

    • Don’t despair DD61999, we are out there. After my second cheater I was in despair too. I was horrified by the sexual expectations of men when I started dating again. Then I realized it was one way of weeding users out. No sex to be gained here? Many moved right along. Anyone doesn’t take my succinct statement about that calmly and respectfully but instaed tries to argue, “reason” with me, or chip away at the boundary? Next! If they pass that round and I explain that I feel that pornography, strippers, web cam girls, etc. have no place in a committed relationship as I don’t think committed partners should have sexual experiences outside of the relationship (and the sex industry degrades, humiliates, creates addicts, traffics underage girls and vulnerable populations) and they laugh, scoff, tell me I’m naive or stupid? Next! In short, I am allowed to have relationship dealbreakers around SEX. And so are you. It doesn’t make you hung up, prudish, old-fashioned or naive–no matter what they say. I always explained this calmly and without judgement, “I don’t do or tolerate these things. It’s fine if you do. We should each just go out and keep looking for the person we match up better with. No hard feelings; I wish you the best.” If they respond with scorn, ridicule, or anger? Congratulations you just avoided the disordered.

      Moving on to actual relationships: privacy is not secrecy. Privacy is closing the door when you poop. Acting like you are a CIA spook with your laptop or phone locking it, not letting me use or see it, acting like I murdered a puppy if I innocently ask “Who was that?” is secrecy. Secrecy has NO PLACE in my version of a committed relationship and is a sure-fire indicator of a secret second life. NEXT!

      And finally and most importantly: While the above are all good reasons to break up with someone, you DO NOT NEED A “GOOD” REASON. It is perfectly okay to break up with someone, just because something feels “off.” Even if they haven’t done anything “real” or “big enough” or you “have no proof” you can break up with someone. That is your gut screaming at you and you should listen. Politely say, “I have enjoyed our dates , but I don’t see us as long term partners. Good luck.” No further explanation. If they get angry or dramatic? Get up and walk off. Congratulations you have just avoided the disordered.

      • I’m going to save your comment and post on my refrigerator!! If I ever have someone that I let into my house and he chooses to read it, then I’ll say that it’s my mantra. Nice post!

      • this was why I didn’t break up with my ex, I didn’t have a ‘good’ reason. I realised afterwards his nice behaviour was all an act, and on some level I knew that, but he would have been angry about me breaking up with him.

      • Lol I need that on a t-shirt or embroidered on a pillow:
        “Congratulations, you have just avoided the disordered!”

      • JoJobee, great insightful post. Next!
        And I love that you gave examples of how many attempt to shift boundaries and how to disengage. Very classy and strong!

      • Thank you for articulating a lot of things I expect but could not have explained as well as you have.

  • Time and healing are essential to fixing your picker. My cheater first wife left me in July, and I met the next sparkly woman in September. Needless to say I hadn’t healed and was vulnerable. I had no idea what love bombing is. I believed that here is the woman who truly loves me. I was getting chumped again. That was a painful 30 year lesson. Chump Lady and the posts here are so right about making yourself a priority, taking time to heal, and setting boundaries. And remember that cheaters suck, we weren’t the ones to abuse or cheat. Ha, this message is for CN but in a way I’m giving myself a pep-talk. Thanks for listening.

    • I’m a sucker for the love-bombing. The Dickhead was so very good at making me feel special especially when your confidence is a bit low. That’s the biggest one that I really need to pay attention to. However, this woman is in no hurry to date.

      • You won’t like love bombing when you shift from needing someone to make you feel special to being confident in your own right.

  • I was extremely lucky in the fact I had a male friend I trusted, who was also a chump years ago said, I have a friend you should meet. We dated 3 years and now have been married almost 3. My now husband is not who I would have thought I would end up with. He is completely opposite of me, has a completely different job than me and was a chump also. It is soooo different and sooo good. I have basically found my Mr. CL.

    But I have to digress…I did have to fix my picker. I dated a few times, had a long term relationship after my divorce which ended. I ditched the “friends” who sided with the ex. They are probably sociopathic too!

    The number one thing I can advise you is: if his/her story doesn’t add up, the truth is usually not in the equation. If they get mad for you asking questions, they are likely lying or hiding the truth.

  • After the Twat left I was nagged by some friends to try internet dating. Oddly enough, since I work in Switzerland, it was called Swissfriends! Don’t laugh. But I had pretty nice experiences as there really are some nice guys out there. I met a couple of guys for drinks and/or dinner and dated 2 of them. One was a LOADED Spanish lawyer who was Mr. Testosterone Plus. Great fun for a while but then it ended as I couldn’t fit into his world and he couldn’t fit into mine. However once he realized I wasn’t with him for his money (he offered to pay off my mortgage) we became good friends. Then there was the 14 years younger engineer based in Berne. He was a sweetheart but I had serious misgivings about one so much younger than me. And guess what, we are still friends. He asked me to move to Berne and said he would take care of me! Nope, that’s not going to happen. Then a Dutch colleague started pestering the life out of me. I had known him 25 years at that point and in the end he wore me down. We dated for about 6 years but I ended it as I felt it was going nowhere. I still love him to bits, we see each other occasionally for drinks or the cinema and he will always be welcome at my house, but we are no longer a couple. So while I do miss his lovely hairy chest (and biting wit and intelligence) I’m alone – and perfectly fine with it. So I’m not even looking! If the heavens dropped a lovely hairy-chested man into my lap well that’s fine, but in the meantime, my life is great, I have no intention of putting up with another man just because I need a partner (I don’t) but if one comes along I will be open to it – as long as he keeps his own place! Otherwise, I’m just not interested and long may it last!

  • Last year I had a very brief dalliance with a very cute and interesting British ballroom dance instructor. We went out a few times and by all appearances after hearing some of my story, she seemed to get me and my situation as the single father of teenage girls (and all that goes with that).

    The night before I was to leave on a work-related trip, I came home to a small gift bag sitting at my front door. Immediately I thought “Oh please, let it not be from her.” But it was — a bag full of snacks and travel sized toiletries.

    Here’s the bigger problem: she’d never been to my house before. I may have mentioned the name of the town I lived in, but I wasn’t sure.

    After spending some time working out what to say, I called her and expressed how much I appreciated the gesture but, given my experiences with love bombing and such, was feeling a bit uncomfortable about it. And that in the interest of full transparency, I owed it to myself and to her to tell her that.

    She was taken aback, cried a little, and finally said: “I think what you need to do is accept gestures like this and just say thank you, instead of jumping the gun and assuming motivations that might not be true.”

    We stopped seeing each other shortly thereafter. Maybe the intent was harmless. Maybe she was just trying to be thoughtful to a new acquaintance. Maybe tracking down my address to deliver a gift isn’t as creepy as it seemed at the time.

    Here’s what matters: I paid attention to red flags, was tactfully honest with myself and with her about how it made me feel, and didn’t stand for being told what I “need” to do about such things going forward.

    Picker fixed.

    • Aahh Ux, it’s very difficult to know what the intention was there. My first thought would be that it was a kind gesture but who knows – we’ve all been burned. I used to make a small grocery shop when my lovely Dutchman came back from mission overseas and he loved it. I knew he wouldn’t have thought far enough in advance to make sure he had something in the fridge for when he came back and I loved taking care of him. OK maybe we had known each other long enough that I felt comfortable doing that but who knows. It came from the heart on my part. Oh well, I guess it’s too late now right.

      • Yeah, if somebody has never been to your home and doesn’t know where you live, that is too much, for sure! And then to be told it’s your problem, YOU need to just accept it and say thank you?


    • UX,
      Many years ago, before my bad marriage, I was friends with a nice man. No intimacy. We went out in public, parties, the club, bike rides. We visited each others houses and lived pretty close in a city neighborhood.

      On his birthday, I stopped by on the way to work and left a little bag on his door with a $6 CD he liked and had lost.

      I never heard from him again. I had obviously trespassed. It taught me to stay away from peoples front doors, uninvited. It was innocent, but a trespass.

      You are right. Creepy. Innocent or not.

      • I think that if you had wanted her to know where you live / you would have told her.
        But obviously you were not there yet … and she did over step a boundary.

        Please trust your gut. Always listen to it.

        It doesn’t matter if it was harmless / it bothered you. That is all you need to know 🙂

    • I’m with you UX. Yes, it is one thing to snoop and know your address or other background things for her own protection but she really blew it by letting you know she knew your address. I would never presume to do that with a person I was getting to know. Clearly she didn’t understand what you had been through and where the boundaries were (once the boundary was articulated she blamed you for having it).

      Yup, good one to get rid of. They never become less self-righteous and blame-y, only more so as they learn what you will put up with.

    • While the initial action may be up for debate, the response is what solidifies that you were right to feel uncomfortable.

      Let’s be honest, what if she had gone, “wow, I’m so sorry, I didn’t make you feel stalked. [reasonable explanation for why she had your address]. I just thought it would be more convenient to drop the stuff off – but I get it, now I can see why that came across as uncomfortable, my bad?”

      You probably would have been like “well, I’m still a little skittish about this, but ok.”

      Instead, she went “the problem isn’t me being a boundary-stepper, the problem is you not being ok with it. How dare you have instincts telling you this is a red flag – your instincts suck! Your problem is that you can’t deal with people being nice!”

      That right there is classic red-flag twirling.

      • Agreed! UX basically set a boundary, expressing his discomfort and why – but rather than caring about that, his date essentially invalidated his feelings and turned it into “it’s not what I did, it’s YOUR reaction to it” (on a relatively ‘small’ scale, sure, but with these kinds of things the tiny-seeming red flag early on ALWAYS means a huge red flag later if you proceed).

        Glad your picker’s been fixed, UX! Awesome example. And agree with everyone who’s pointing out your gut picks up on things for a reason.

      • Was thinking that too. She reacted with defensiveness and then tears. At best that’s a person with ego and communication/emotional issues. If someone who I was just getting to know said such a thing to me, I’d start by apologizing for making them feel uncomfortable, probably tell them I was embarrassed, and go from there.

    • “I think what you need to do is accept gestures like this and just say thank you, instead of jumping the gun and assuming motivations that might not be true.”

      My hackles went up reading this. She needs to accept other people’s boundaries and not dismiss their concerns or take them as a personal affront.

      It is CREEPY that she hunted down your address. That’s a violation. If I wanted to send a gift, I would ASK that person for their mailing address.

      Please don’t doubt yourself or think her intent was harmless. The very fact she dismissed your concern and guilted you about it affirms you did the right thing. Thank God you saw it early and jettisoned her. That’s the whole point of boundaries!

      Look, dating’s got a 99% failure rate. The whole point is finding that 1 special person. It’s about finding the right fit. There’s nothing wrong with saying no to bad fits, especially when they’re toxic. You did the right thing.

    • You did the right thing. Never apologize for having boundaries.

      It is BAD that she hunted down your address, then dismissed your concerns and tried to guilt you for feeling uncomfortable.

      Dating is about finding (hopefully) one good fit, which means a lot of duds who are never gonna go anywhere. That means saying no to a lot of other people, even good people. And especially to toxic nutjobs who stalk you to your home and then take it personally when you react like a normal person. Good riddance.

      • Dropping off gifts at the door was my X’s main love bombing tool. I was young and naive when we met, and had apparently watched way too many rom-coms, so I thought it was charming and sweet.

        Fast forward 25+ years later, a few weeks after I filed he began the gifts-at-the-door routine with his next target, who happened to be a neighbor of mine. We had mutual friends in common so it wasn’t long before she heard all about his shenanigans, but there was no need. She had already identified him as a stalker, and the gifts that began appearing at her doorstep each morning were her first clue.

        IMO, between this woman’s undercover mission to find your address and her response to your honest explanation about why it made you uncomfortable, you know all you need to know. You and your picker definitely dodged a bullet!

        • Grr…while my ex was preparing to leave me, he was working hard to get back in the OW good graces, including dropping off a basket at her front door filled with items that reminded him of all the things they had done together during the affair. He also had a gift delivered to her. All in the span of a couple of weeks.

          They had been emailing each other very regularly over a two month period, just after my STBXH swore that he was going to work on the marriage with me and had broken things off with her for good. Then, he created a new secret email account to keep in touch with her, regretting that he broke off with her, citing that every person in his life was against him leaving me so he gave in to that pressure, then explained to her that he was going to work himself out to return to her a completely free man. Thus, the distance love-bombing through gifts.

          I will always be very leery of gift-giving as a result of having learned this pattern. But, she was stupid enough to fall for it. He even gave her the same gift at Christmas (gift #3) as he gave to me before he left me for good last year.


          • Sigh….my x asshat actually regifted a birthday gift of mine to give to the OW, too lazy to just buy the same thing for her. He stole it from me to give to her.

            Of course he first denied he did it, but I had proof. Then minimized “it’s no big deal.” Then blamed me for having never liked the gift in the first place (not true). Classic narc bullshit.

            I am so tired.

    • If a man did this, he would be labelled a stalker. Just sayin’

    • I agree with you, UX. I dated a man very briefly who left roses on my door, and then hunted down the restaurant where I was studying, because he felt I shouldn’t study alone. I had already told him I wanted to be alone to study. I couldn’t explain the extreme discomfort and irritation I felt when I saw him walking to my table, but I understand it now – boundary crossed.

  • I think Chump Lady already covered it in letter B on the list, but I’d like to cover it again and say that you need to let go of all shame about your needs and be 100% honest about them. Hold firm and don’t be talked out of them by anyone. Don’t be convinced otherwise. Ever. Obviously this will probably eliminate a lot of options right from the start, but that’s okay because this time around, you’re not settling. You’re not going to sit by as some guy presents you with his list of wants and needs that you’re expected to provide while yours are glossed over and belittled. Be okay with having to wait a long time for it and be okay with actually sticking to it and jumping ship when the guy decides to step over a boundary to test the waters with what you’ll put up with. One toe over your lines and you disappear behind a puff of smoke and you won’t be lured back in with promises of never doing it again.

    And believe me, no matter how much they nod their heads in agreement when you tell them what you won’t put up with, you’ll almost certainly experience the game playing and the water testers but you’re prepared to take the chance that you’re “missing out” on a great guy who just “forgot” and slipped up once but will never do it again. Nope.

    • “Obviously this will probably eliminate a lot of options right from the start” – yup, that’s the point! Get rid of all the flakes and fuckwits before you invest too much time in them, plus make it easier to see who the REAL and stable and good options are.

  • I haven’t really dated since I was divorced. About 3 months after my divorce was final, I reconnected with someone from my past (he was a divorced chump too) and things took a sharp turn to serious way too fast. I wasn’t ready so it didn’t last very long. If I’m completely honest with myself I think that was more about being afraid to be alone than anything else. This also played a big role in why I got married to the ex as well.

    He was a love bomber, moved in with me after a month and started talking marriage immediately. He “dated” a lot before me so I felt special that I was the one who was special enough to land him. There were so many things (red flags) about him that made me uneasy but I ignored them for the sparkly crap. My mother had him pegged for entitled about 15 seconds after she met him.

    I figure the biggest element for me to fix my picker is to get comfortable with being alone which is what I’ve been doing for about 4 years now. I’ve also learned that being alone and being lonely are two entirely different things. I was more lonely in my marriage as it turns out. Someday I’ll need to get out and test my picker but for now, I’m okay with my life the way it is.

  • I’m in my first post D relationship. And I can report the following:
    -It’s already way better/important than my relationship to X, we just get along better.
    -I threw out the “love” faster than I thought, I think I was so desperate to hear it back. Now I’m committed to making decisions with love, most of which are easy
    -she’s very into me (I’m a catch!) but I’m moving very slow on opening my heart completely so this is a rub
    -I very skittish around her own life plans—watching for the slightest misstatements. I’m jumpy. I don’t share this with her, but notice Myself watching for lies. This could ruin the relationship
    -I’m learning a ton about myself
    -I’ve jettisoned the Switzerland friends in parallel to gaining others, like her so it doesn’t have to be so linear

    I’m committed today to this relationship. Tomorrow is another day, so we’ll see. This is likely to be a rebound, as every relationship is.

    No matter who my next partner is, it’s gonna be great.

  • I have come to believe that one critical aspect of picker-fixing is the patience it takes to give lots of time to relationahip-building. Looking back over my life, I realize that many times the most important things I have learned about a friend’s core character came up two to three years into the friendship, or more.

    I’m not saying we need to shut others out, but I think it’s wise to move slowly on the large steps. I no longer think a year is necessarily long enough to determine whether I can share a day-to-day life together, for example. Sharing a home is a huge deal and getting married is enormous. And, neither is necessary for all other aspects of the relationship to work well.

    A person who truly wants to be partnered with you long term (and, especially, for life) should be willing to wait for you to make commitments like this as long as your fidelity is clear in other areas of the relationship. Secure love doesn’t make boundary-violating demands. It also doesn’t peck away at persuading you to violate your core ethics.

    It is ok to decide you want to stay financially independent, pay your own way somewhere, keep your own home, maintain your hobbies and social connections, further your career, etc., even if others you know expect you to fulfill gender roles in they way they would. You get one life and you get to do it your way. A partner should fit WITH your desired life, not reshape it beyond recognition.

    • Nice post! And besides, at my age (58), there certainly isn’t a rush to get married. It’s not like I’m going to have anymore children. I think it’s a grand idea that he has his house and I have mine. When you get married, you should marry your best friend. Once the ‘lust’ wears off, then you will still love your friend into old age.

  • Timely post. It has been on my mind a lot lately. I have studied quite a lot and realize that my X asshat was a Passive Aggressive Covert Narcissist (thanks Debbie Mirza for writing it all down in one place). I realize how much I put up with for the 31 years I was with him, 28 married. I know he is making Schmoopie crazy right now and I hope they are both miserable. I believe I have tuned my picker in the virtual classroom but have exactly zero experience judging real life potential partners.

    I have poked a few places around for feedback, both in real life and here on the forum, and don’t see much hope that I will find a true partner any time soon. This Irish, be-dimpled, conservative, competent female engineer with a big girl executive job, her own wealth, adult children, only one lifetime lover and who now carries about 30 lbs of bosomy-and-bottomy weight is apparently not marketable in the dating world. I am socially isolated because the work dating pool is unavailable (been everyone’s boss at one time or another in a small office) and my hours and work travel limit my after-work energy. I don’t get out much right now.

    I am going to shake up my life and retire young at 50 this year and get out and find my tribe and hopefully that will change things up. Time to redefine and I simply won’t settle for what I had. I refuse to rescue nor mother someone. I refuse to allow someone to sit silently and ignore me year after year while I do all the work. No spackle.

    If I never partner again I will just have to deal with that and look forward to being a happy single WHOLE person. It is just not what I thought my life would be and is the worst thing that my X asshat stole from me.

    • Yeah. I’m 52, a few years and several pounds beyond that “marketable” place too. I’m a smart, financially stable woman parenting teenagers alone and managing a home and a more than a full time professional job. I can’t imagine where I’d find time to date even if it fell in my lap.

      I agree 100% that the worst thing my cheater (now living it up with his 26 year old girlfriend after completely abandoning our kids) took from me was the comfort of a loving relationship in my middle-age/senior years.

      I hope your bold early retirement brings you everything you dream of. You absolutely, totally, completely deserve it!

      • Now IC and Getting there Slowly,
        You’re strong women who have their lives together! That is “marketable”. Many stable guys want and are looking for what you offer- not to be mothered.

        Now, I do not know where they are or how to find them! But I believe they are out there and you will find them or they will find you.

        I refuse to let myself believe what I lost (30 years of investment) defines the quality of my future. Half that time with an amazing man would great compared with the years I spent trying the make a narcissist happy.

        Like IC said, “Be a whole person and happy single first” They stole our dreams but those years are not your best years! The best is yet to come! Single or in a relationship!

      • Now I.C. ,

        Don’t give up hope on a committed relationship if that is what you want. I was single for YEARS after my cheater experiences. I went back to grad school, got a PhD, and became a professor I was single so long! I was in my late-ish 40s, had two teenagers (and was incapable of more children), was (at least!) 30 pounds over optimal with bosomy, bottomy weight, pale to the point of transparency, a devout Catholic, my friends told me I possessed impossible “Victorian” sexual standards, and have a reputation for being honest and straightforward to the point of bluntness. In other words, not exactly what the world tells women they should be to be attractive as a mate. It wasn’t easy. I was feeling like a dairy product whose “sell by” date was nearing. But, I was NOT desperate. This time (if it happened at all), I wanted to have the kind of relationship I DREAMED of. And now I do. And it was not whirlwind, or super romantic, or sparkly. But it was calm, cozy, loving, reciprocal, kind, and moral. And it has also turned out to be exciting and unexpected in ways I could not imagine. Love feels safe. You deserve that. Hold out for it.

        • Hell I’m overweight (thank you menopause) but I don’t pay any attention to it. As far as I’m concerned it’s all about personality (for the man as well as the woman) and any man who only wants to date physical beauty isn’t worth it any way. I’m fun because I have a wicked sense of humour and I still have real men coming on to me. As a colleague once said, “he would go away with his skinny Lizzy cheap screw for the weekend but afterwards he’d have to talk to her”! Don’t put yourselves down!

        • You give me hope that there’s someone out there for me. I want a friend first!

    • yes I am 53, post divorce 1.5 years. I have been on 3 dates in the last 6 months, all found on dating websites. I just took myself off all dating sites the other day. I was thinking I was ready to be vulnerable again, but when there is no reciprocation it just isn’t worth it. One of the dates just wanted to hook up, I hadn’t dated in 30 years. Just so naive! My 20 something daughters all told me that if a man wants you to come to his home on the first date and look at his cat that I should have run the other way. Lucky I got out of there with no harm. I cried all the way home in my car, I wanted to drive to ex’s house and punch him in the face for me having to date again.
      Going to take time and be single I would prefer to be alone even though I am so lonely some days. It’s better than being with fuckwit!!!

  • I didn’t date for 3 years. The first two were spent getting the difficult divorce from a very angry and ex and full time care of the kids and getting on my feet in every way. Year 3 was more peaceful and more focused on taking care of myself and getting emotionally very healthy. When I felt ready was when I wanted a man/relationship and did not NEED one! They are very different.

    In the last 2 years I had a couple of longer term relationships and each time I learned more about what I wanted from a relationship and how much I was willing to invest. I am holding out for the hallmarks that mean the most to me- to be cherished and reciprocity since I am a giver I don’t want it to be one sided again.

    I am picky and have dropped a guy fast for a deal and boundary breaker. One guy I liked a lot! When I got a “three inch” text with shouty caps for being unavailable to see him in his timing I said goodbye. He was shocked at my swift and complete reversal. I held firm.

    Healthy boundary enforcement feels great. That’s how I know my picker is fixed or almost fixed. I trust my intuition now and have a balance of hope, cautious optimism and patience in finding and working on a lifetime relationship with someone.

    Yes it is my dream but it’s not my only dream and that feels good! I love my life- and hope to enhance it with a great relationship. Until that day I love my life still and will continue to grow to be the best version of myself!

    I’m going on a second date tonight. Such a relevant topic and reread….I always need boundary enforcement reminders!

  • I’ve always had great picker for friends, yet manage to always have a sh*tty picker for my romantic relationships. I’m 2 years out from D-day and 1 year post-divorce, and I still don’t feel like putting myself out into the dating pool. I’m terrified I’ll never be attracted to someone who could love me and not just love what I do for him and his ego. My ex, the first time he even mentioned the “love” word wasn’t to say he loved me — he said he loved the way I loved him! Ugh, I didn’t see that glowing red flag for what it was.

    And then there’s the whole, how the heck do I meet nice men? All my male friends are married and I can’t help but wonder if a man in my age range is unmarried: what’s wrong with him and is he a cheater too?

    So I’m busy gaining a life in all other respects, but, damn, I can’t say I feel optimistic about dating even though I am having the occasional feeling of being lonely.

    • You’re not ready to date yet. Not until you are perfectly happy on your own.

      Loneliness is normal – you fix it with a pet, an outing, a friend, a phone call, a walk in the park with lots of other people and dogs.

      You don’t fix loneliness with a partner. Plenty of us have been very lonely in our marriages …

      And you might find that you end up being far happier on your own, and that’s not a bad thing either.

      • Oh, I’m already significantly happier on my own. And I don’t hate the idea that I may never be in another romantic relationship. I’ve traveled alone, enjoy going to the movies alone, like dining alone. I have a bunch of hobbies, sports and activities I’m involved in (with and without friends) and I’m in the process of renovating a house I bought after selling the marital home. I didn’t even realize how lonely I was in my marriage until the day he moved out and all I felt was relief. I actually like my own company.

        It would just be nice to be in a romantic relationship where I’m valued as much as I value him. I wasn’t trying to “fix” my occasional loneliness. :). I do, however, hope I do better choosing if or when I meet a man I might be interested in.

  • We also need to listen to our guts and trust our intuition when they’re trying to tell us something. I hate to admit it, but I had the feeling something was ‘off’ many times before getting married.

    We doubt ourselves so much but no, we’re not being “too picky”. We’re not being ‘this’ or ‘that’. We don’t need a reason to not like someone or a reason to not want to do something.

  • I’m going to heartily second the Picker-Fixing of non-romantic relationships before dating.

    With my family, the in-laws, extended family, friends, co-workers, employers, etc. There are an insane number of sociopaths who are good impressions of decent, healthy, kind people. But they are NOT those people. Reciprocity was and is my first means test. Good people, after being done a favor, are happily eager to return it. Good people are clear in their communication. Good people let you know when they’ve dropped the ball (due to whatever) and don’t try to reverse it back onto you. Good people know that your time and effort and compassion are valuable and treat you with consideration.

    My only problem now is HOLY SHIT – there are such an enormous amount of sociopathic business owners that I’ve had to start re-framing professional relationships based on reasonable expectations. I want to get paid. And so, I’ve had to go into work with the reset expectation of: This person is going to pay me for work. Although unspoken, what they want is an employee not only does their job but who eats shit and tells them that they like the taste of that shit. It doesn’t matter if you do your job well; if someone pretends to like eating their shit more, they’ll get your job… even if they do their job horribly. Do not give your opinion when asked for it anymore… they don’t want your actual opinion; they want you to tell them they’re great. The work is easy. It just tastes like shit. Pretending to like eating shit is what I need to do until I am my own boss. Eating shit will motivate me into finding a place for my value that does not entail shit-eating… this experience will help me create an environment, as an employer, that will not allow shit-eating, much less demand it.

    My goal is to find a happy spot between boundaries and shit-eating. Wish me luck! lol

    • Insist, I am impressed w/your goal of creating a healthy workplace! There’s more guidance on how to do that and why it’s important in a great book called ‘The No Asshole Rule’. It also gives great advice on surviving as well as you can, as long as you have to, in workplaces riddled w/assholes. In certain fields, there sure seem to be a lot of them …..

      • Sales.

        Very-competitive sales. Everything is, of course, but assholery is a given in active sales processes. If most customers have a broken picker, they’re going to hire the incompetent, pretends-to-like-eating-shit asshole who will never deliver. I need to LOOK like this sort of asshole in order to get paid… but because I’m me, I will actually deliver. I need to stay warm in comraderie but dry in opinion. I need to have good boundaries among those I deal with, who WANT my superior product, skill, and execution but don’t want to pay for it. Many SAY they want great service and timely delivery but don’t want to pay… they’re actually okay with being lied to, and expect it, as long as it’s cheap. That’s not what I’m selling.

        I wish there was a way to fix THEIR pickers without insulting them… like explaining how their cost-saving measures, in dealing with charming liars, actually costs them FAR more. I have yet to find a way to explain this without being insulting… like how new chumps are offended at being labeled as chumps, at first. Waiting for, and calling softly on, that business to turn around. They won’t come around unless I present it in a complimentary way. It’s complicated.

        Thanks for the recommendation; I’ll definitely check it out!

    • I’m an academic. When I was a program director and then department chair (ten long years!), I taped a small picture of a “honey pot” to my computer. It was code for a combination of my mother’s saying “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” and my own understanding that shit draws flies, and reminded to me to speak with a honeyed tongue when I had to deal with the shit coming down the pike from the administration. I found I had to eat less of their shit if I was (strategically) nice to the assholes and (genuinely) kind to the administrative staff, who were not to blame for their boss’s shit.

      • Good advice. 🙂

        (I set fly traps literally with vinegar, however. 😛 They love it. Set out a shallow glass or dish with vinegar, cover tightly with plastic wrap, poke holes in it with the tip of a sharp knife. It’ll be blackened with the bodies of flies before the end of the day. They crawl in but can’t manage to crawl out.)

  • I am impressed with the posters here showing all their mightiness. I have learned by getting burned, especially the last time after being discarded for the last time by pseudo-friend of 30 years, that it can take a LONG time to get to know somebody (beyond the exterior). As my last partner, Mr. Nice Guy/Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, married work subordinate he left me for approx. a year after he left me and seems to have a super sparkly life with young Superwoman and I often feel my life on almost all fronts is in shambles, I sometimes feel the urge to find someone to marry (keeping up with the Joneses?). I don’t have to practice saying, ‘No,’ like so many of the posters here as I haven’t had even one date in the last year and no sign of things changing. (In my fifties, just crickets.) I get tired of hearing people say, ‘When you’re not looking, the right one will come along’ (usually from people who are happily paired and found their partners young). I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to get a life, but I have really not been looking and the only guys I meet are gay, already attached, flaky/emotionally unavailable, freshly out of prison/rehab or scary (guys with severe Asperger’s? psychological disorders? who say things like, ‘I hate you!!!’ when asking me out on a date). Statistics show that a lot of older women, unfortunately, even those who would really like to have a long-term romantic partner, do not get to have one. Trying not to get depressed about being alone for the rest of my life and exhausted by parenting without a partner, never having had a healthy relationship. Trying to view celibate life as not worse than life with a long-term healthy relationship. I miss the illusion of a healthy relationship. Nearly 18 months since last discard, still wrestling with feeling of guilt for not being ‘good enough, independent enough, whatever enough’ for last partner to stay. Going to try to model for my kids a woman who, in spite of challenges, continues to try to take care of herself and others and find a secure job/jobs. Although I had envisioned retiring in my sixties, I have decided to embrace working into my eighties, as I financially now need to, as working might make me feel proud of showing stamina and-I hope-learning something new well into old age.

    • You are great!! I’m sending you a virtual hug:::

      Even though it’s been over a year – these events are traumatizing. You’re still blaming yourself for what happened, so you can look at the absence of a partner as continued time to embrace your mightiness and remember how amazing you are. The discard does not define you.

      I know you said you’re getting out, but when I was at a very low point, some of the gems here suggested I try meetup and it was great advice! That being said, the key has been social groups (opposed to singles groups) where the focus is on having fun, going for a hike, seeing a movie, etc. rather than romance. This socializing will help you get the people juices flowing. You’ll laugh with other people, heck, you may even make another person laugh (that is amazing). You meet people who don’t want anything from you. And the best part is – you don’t like it, you never need to interact with them again!!

      • Well said. Having genuine friends who share common interests, is far more rich than “dating” – which is usually just attention whoring under the guise of “doing random things with others”.

        • Hi Lania,

          I’m confused about dating being ‘attention whoring’ under the guise of ‘doing random things with others.’ Could you elaborate?

          As much as I appreciate friendship, I don’t know how to compare/contrast friendships with dating relationships. Seems a bit like comparing apples and oranges. By the way, one reason I was so excited about my last partner, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was he was my acquaintance, then friend, then boyfriend for over 30 years. For the first year we were a couple, I NEVER dreamed that he would betray and repeatedly hurt me the way he did.

          • What I mean is that you’re doing things that you normally would not do, in the course of your day to day life, to impress someone else. Far better to attract someone while doing your usual things, and by acting completely like yourself.

            I don’t “date” – nor have I ever done so (and nor will I ever do so, if my current relationship were ever to end). Every partner I have been in a relationship with, was in the course of my usual activities/hobbies.

            • (Pressed send before I finished)

              The “attention whoring” part is basically where some people act so far removed from their true selves, doing something they would never normally do, purely just to attempt to impress someone else. I find that abhorrent.

      • I like the idea of getting together with groups. I have joined some entrpreneurial and athletic groups–nice people–no dates, just good, friendly acquaintances.

  • On a cautionary note, beware of developing an ultra-picker. A friend was chumped brutally hard around age 30. Sadly she wasted her baby-making years “not settling” and is now in her mid 50’s and is miserable because she has no parents, no partner with whom to grow old and no children to pick out a nice nursing home.

    The problem is her list of deal breakers is longer than War and Peace. She’s dated a 100 guys and jettisoned every one for the most trivial reasons. He had a funny laugh, a twisted tooth, job wasn’t respectable enough, worked too much or not enough, was too close or not close enough to his mom, dressed funny, manhood was too small or too big, didn’t text back within 5 minutes…. You get the picture.

    Prince Charming himself couldn’t live up to her unattainable standards. Ironically she is not exactly a princess herself. I feel so sad for her and I’m afraid I may become too picky as well. Just remember, not everyone out there is your Ex.

    • You make good points. Some of her concerns go far beyond what I think of as picker-fixing – to me, the picker is about character, not about physical attributes and quirks.

      In fact, if a person perseverates about superficial concerns – like how fast I return a text and what size body parts I was born with – to me, that’s actually a deal breaker. ????

      To each our own, I guess, but your point of being clear about what really matters seems spot on.

    • Agree with Amiisfree that what you’re describing are superficial demands – not a picker based on character- and reciprocity-based boundaries. From your description, QuantumChump, your friend kind of sounds like a narcissist. Being demanding, entitled, and high maintenance is a completely different thing than working on becoming a whole, happy person yourself and then upholding boundaries of good character and reciprocity for those you choose to allow into your life. Also – it’s not reasonable to expect what you’re not willing/able to give (and on the other hand it’s not healthy to be okay giving but not receiving back reciprocally).

    • Had your friend were to have given birth to children, would they have measured up to her high standards? Or would they have been found wanting? Too fat, not bright enough, not trying hard enough… Maybe there’s something wrong with your friend…

      • Yes, she is an example of extreme self absorption. Don’t think she will be happy with anyone and probably not made a great mom. To be fair, her Ex had sex with her best friend at their own wedding! She was traumatized but her reaction was to reject anyone who came her way and now she regrets being alone. Sad.

  • Are there picker-fixer books out there that anyone can recommend? I see a lot of these super creepy “dating skills” books that probably come with a coupon for a 1.5-liter bottle of Love Panther cologne…

    • Find a good boundaries book. Dating ones are often written by sociopaths themselves. Sick. Focus on boundaries in general; your picker will sooner and more efficiently be reshaped through your utter inability to accept any kind of bullshit. From anyone, much less a potential love interest. BONUS: You’ll also see where YOU can do better. “I should get together with so and so… thank them and see if there’s anything I can do for them.” It’s emotional/spiritual exercise. Hard at first but so good for you!

    • I actually liked ‘How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk’, by Van Epp. It’s mostly intended for younger adults, and has a religious side that doesn’t fit w/me, but it gave LOTS of food for thought, about identifying people’s actual values, about what needs to fit and what’s not important, and about HOW (as well as why) to take it slow.

      Discovered I did pretty much ALL of it wrong, w/my Ex. Well, I guess that explains the outcome …. Sigh.

      • How do you see through the people whose values aren’t what they seem? How do you see through the masks?

        • Great Question. I think you look for three things across the board-reciprocity, respect and kindness. And you keep in your chump mind that reciprocity isn’t taking turns, respect isn’t conditionally given and kindness isn’t the same thing as niceness. We chumps tend to get that last one really wrong. We overvalue nice. We think, “well he/she seems really nice” and then mistake it for kindness when we intuitively know there’s a huge difference. Nice is pleasant but kindness moves us. Nice is forgettable but kindness lasts in our memories. Remember, “That one may smile, and smile and be a villain.”

    • If you are Christian, Cloud and Townsend’s ‘Boundaries’ is a really helpful book.

  • I put myself in “quarantine” after moving out of the house in June 2018. Quarantine meant I would not entertain dating, FWB, or even thinking too much about what I would want in a partner someday. I decided the quarantine would go until end of 2018. (I thought the divorce would be final by end of 2018, but it drags on because someone won’t file his discovery documents.)

    In any case, I am so glad I did it because I needed to decompress from a 15-year marriage. Living with an unfaithful, alcoholic (in denial) covert narc is a mindf*ck, and I had no business using someone else to distract me from healing from that.

    So I am officially out of quarantine now, but I am not actively pursuing dating. I am not against it, but I am open to it in a passive sort of way. I am not going on dating apps, at least for the short term. For 15 years, I put a lot of myself on the back burner and there are a lots of things I want to catch up on. I feel like I’ve come up for air, so I’m just going to enjoy being single and doing as I please. I’m enjoying Mehtopia.

    Is my picker fixed? Time will tell. I am definitely more discerning, though, about all kinds of relationships in my life. Instead of asking, would I be a good partner for him and his needs, I ask if he would be a compatible partner for me.

  • “Know what you want. It’s okay to want the dream — a loving, committed partner who cherishes you. There is nothing wrong with you for wanting that. Not one damn thing. I swear we’re all afraid to own up to this, like it’s a flaw, like people will sniff the neediness out on us or something.”

    It was good for me to read this (probably again since I’m sure I must have read it in 2015). I actually tried online dating that year, and I hated it so much, I let my subscription lapse and haven’t returned to it. I also haven’t made any other attempts to start dating. However, I do want to be with someone, and I think that I do castigate myself for feeling that way. I think, “Why can’t I just embrace being single? Why am I still hoping that I will meet a decent man who will want to be my partner?”

    I think I need to be okay with the fact that I am single but that I also would prefer to be in a relationship. It’s kind of a weird place to be in my head at this stage in my life (in my 40s, divorced for almost six years). I would honestly prefer to be 100% thrilled with being single and completely uninterested in dating. But, I am who I am; I enjoy being in a relationship.

    I am living my life and not sitting at home, dreaming of Mr. Right, but I think that I what I need to learn to be okay with is that while I hope to find love some day again, I might not ever find it. I admit that I don’t like that idea at all. Fabulously single people, what’s your secret to embracing your single status and not having that sadness at being single always in the back of your mind? How do you keep your hope but not let it make you feel sad at times? Is that impossible?

    • For me it’s not about embracing being ‘single’, specifically. It’s about embracing having the time, energy, and freedom to shape my life however I want it and however suits me best. This then means I need to make the most of that ‘blank check’ to make it feel really rich and full and valuable to me. I’ve spent the last year focusing on discovering myself and re-making my entire life to actually suit me – location, career, friends, hobbies (literally everything). And because I’m making my life feel rich and full to me, I can enjoy it just as it is RIGHT NOW. Sure, it’d be nice to have a good partner to share it with – but regardless it’s rich and happy and full just the way it is (or at least that’s what I’m actively working toward).

      I’ll also mention that as a precursor to all this, it’s been very important to me to lay a foundation of emotional trauma recovery work that has helped me move through my fears of being alone and inadequate. I now genuinely believe I’m okay and enough on my own and just as I am – whereas I was always terrified previously I would never be ‘whole’ or ‘sufficient’ unless I was in a relationship (from a combination of childhood experiences and societal gender pressures) – which then of course led me to putting up with crap in relationships because ‘at least I wasn’t alone’. Ugh.

    • I’m not single, but when I was – I cultivated friendships with people with similar interests to me.

      My mantra was, and still is – “My life needs to be/is pretty awesome in itself – if I manage to find someone who I can share that with, that’s awesome. If I can’t? That’s fine as well – I don’t *need* someone to complete me”. The “need” is what attracts the disordered.

  • I didn’t date until 6 months post divorce (2.5 years after DDay). Dropped kiddo #1 (who was with me 100% of the time) off for freshman year at college. During my looooong drive home I acknowledged that I wasn’t going to meet anyone in my small town, and determined to try to make more female friends (joined book club), not sit at home by myself (volunteer at local theatre), and try online dating. I think part of what worked for me was doing three new activities, so I wasn’t focusing all on one thing. And as others have said, taking ownership of what I wanted and needed out of a relationship—no angry guys and no one that I had to pretend to be someone else for.

    I honestly had no idea what my first “first date” after 24 years would be like. Or my first kiss with someone else ????. I had a couple of learning experiences—nothing horrible, although one guy did ask what number date I would have sex on—and now I’ve been happily in a relationship for 15 months. He’s so wonderful, that when his ex sent him a crazy email, he showed it to me with a note that said “what would Chump Lady say about this?”

    Being single with 2 kiddos for 2.5 years was lonely, but I also was able to build such stronger relationships with my kids and have time with them while they were also dealing with the aftermath of their dad’s infidelity. And it made me much more self-reliant with crap around the house, etc.

    I do have to add that for my own safety, I googled the shit out of the guys I went out with—I found divorce dates, Facebook profiles, property records, previous addresses, arrest records. So when my guy said, “i used to live in XYZ,” I was like “oh, honey, I already knew that.” Fortunately he’s not creeped out by that & I do think leaving something at a house where you’d never been is a bit much.

    And he is also perfectly understanding and accepting of all my trust issues and relationship fears, especially since my DDay was completely out of the blue and I had no idea/never dreamed he was cheating/we just had a weekend getaway and date nights together.

    I say this to give hope. Divorced dating is different, but also empowering. Know what you want, what you don’t, who you are, and that you can be happy by yourself. But it’s also great to have someone to be with.

    • I love having the internet at my fingertips so I can do a little checking on a man I meet. Did he lie about his age ? If he’s single, why does he live in a four bedroom house ? A month ago, I met a man in the cafe of my local grocery store. He has an unusual name and no Facebook page but I followed some threads. He got married for the first time at age fifty-nine a few years ago. Oh well… Even before googling him I thought about our different reactions to a ten year old boy who was tearing up the cafe while his mother stood by and did nothing. I realized we didn’t share the same values and ideas of boundaries. This

    • That’s a little creepy! Divorced dating is certainly weird. I joined singles groups and it feels like a lot of women I meet are interrogating me from the get go. Within minutes they sniff out what town I live in (wealth indicator), what I do for a living, my education, the car I drive, (more wealth indicators) number and ages of my kids, the fact that they live with me, that my ex was the cheater (stability indicators), my hobbies and activities (fun and health indicators). It feels like a damn job interview, like I should carry around a “dating resume” to speed up the process. Geeez, can’t we just take a walk on the beach and enjoy a sunset?

      • It is a job interview, especially for women nearing the end of *good* fertile years. There’s not much point in pretending and wasting time. It’s like being a car salesman and asking why people can’t just relax and go for a nice drive in the countryside with a Porsche. Um, because maybe they can’t afford it. Maybe they’re suspicious of sports cars. Maybe the car you’re pushing doesn’t have any of the features they need. Maybe they think the salesman’s a little pushy or is minimizing their input. There’s nothing wrong with going for a nice drive; but they won’t enjoy a nice drive if it’s a waste of time and they’re not going to end up buying it anyway.

        PSA to Men, Chump or Cheater:

        Within 24 hours, if that, any potential date who has either your last name and/or your phone number knows where you live. Now that I think about it, that’s a wildly-long estimation. It’s probably more like half an hour. She knows your relatives names and roughly where they live. Maybe how often you see them based on social media posts that, while YOU may keep your posts private, are public via other posters tagging you in them. She or her bullshit-detecting friend have looked to see if you actually own a house or are just another liar. Looked for you in public records. Arrests, small-claims, divorces, bankruptcy, etc.

        And none of that is crazy. What’s crazy is wasting your evening going on a date with yet another psychopath who thinks you owe him a blowjob for buying dinner, even after you’ve tried to go Dutch. Or thinks you’re going to go *anywhere* private with him after an hour in a coffee shop. It’s easier to make sure that the guy is who he says is he is, via publicly-available info obtained from a simple online search, and NOT go on the date if he isn’t.

        Men, women generally check out who you are before they meet you. We don’t care how many of you think it’s crazy. We don’t usually tell you about it. But we do DO it.

      • Sorry but the way I see it, the older I get the less time I have to waste on what I call “Nowhere Men”. Unavailable (married or living with someone), unhealthy or users.

      • This puts your ‘too picky’ comment in more perspective.

        I think sometimes men believe the BS in the ‘Game’ and pick-up artist and red pill movements: that they are in prize position to choose from hordes of eligible and desperate semi-ovulating women out there, only to discover that those women interrogate them, and measure them up!

        Are you worried that the ladies out there are so picky that they won’t pick you at all? Maybe they won’t. Maybe you won’t suit any of them. Not all pots have a lid.

        The nice thing about Chump Nation is that it’s not about pairing off after divorce, it’s about gaining a life.

        So how have you been gaining a life? How have you made your life happier since you were Chumped and divorced? How is it better?

        The risk with some people is that they get Chumped, and then immediately dive back into the pool to try to find another partner to ‘heal’ their wounds. The usual result is that they choose poorly.

        Hence gaining a life first. Gaining a life can really help to fix your picker.

      • I wanted to come back to the interview part.

        It really is.

        When you’re young and first start, there isn’t much to put on a resume. You’ve not experienced much yet. Potential girlfriends are inexperienced in interviewing… they don’t have the life experience to know what to ask. You have the basics: Where are you from? You’re both in the same school so no questions about occupation there. Do you play sports/are you in clubs/let’s see/do your favorite things! It’s easy.

        A lot happens after school. That decade or several was filled up with events. It *matters* if you have an ex-wife, what kind of relationship you have with them (clingy, antagonistic, FWB, full-on hate?), how many and what kind of relationship you have with your children and how much time they spend with you, if you have no student-loan debt or $200K, if you’re able to support yourself and them, how you’re able to support yourself and them… it all lends to a bigger picture of: Will I (and my regular life) fit into this person’s life? Will he (and his regular life) fit into mine?

        She doesn’t WANT to become invested, emotionally, if the known factors are clearly opposed. So what… she’s supposed to go for a walk on the beach, have the most amazing chemistry and makeout session, get some ice cream, dream about possibilities all night… then be crushed when she finds out he has an ex-wife from hell, three daughters who are being trained to hate her, he can barely afford rent in his 2bd apt because of the alimony and child support (for another decade) and his $900/mo. student loan payments, etc. He’s a really nice guy… but that’s too much. That’s a lot to fix. And she WILL want to fix it, if she takes you on.

        Or, she calls up her friend the next day to tell her all about how amazing this guy is. He’s so busy and wonderful and he’s coming over to cook with her tomorrow night. She has her daughter this weekend (and PRAISE THE LORD, you have the same custody weekends!) so he can’t come over and NEXT weekend, he’s going out of town to his best friend’s wedding. And, being your best friend, she investigates. This guy told her, very casually and confidently, that he owned and managed an apartment complex. Had several, actually. He has a 4 yo daughter from a previous relationship and gets her every other weekend. He seemed normal… like he had his shit together. In 20 minutes, your BFF discovers that not only does he not own an apartment complex (or several) but that he owns no property at all. An address check shows he lives in one of them. Googling his name shows, in the newspaper, that he filed for bankruptcy last year (all auto and CC debt.) Googling his phone number pulls up 4 different dating sites, with “About” info wildly different. But wait – that number is also registered to a woman! So she googles the woman and finds a bridal registry. With a wedding website page! She is MARRYING your amazing date from last night in 13 days. There’s a [email protected] ticker! Their love story, their drug history and how he helped overcome it, pictures! He has TWO daughters and her fiance is the VERY BEST apartment-complex super in the history of supers! They’re having their HONEYMOON at that out-of-town place, where he said his best friend was getting married.

        I was the BFF in this scenario. This all really happened. These kinds of wild lies happen FREQUENTLY.

        It’s not about finding a sugar daddy; it’s about avoiding chaos before getting invested to ANY degree.

        It IS – absolutely – an interview. That’s what dating is… a series of interviews. You learn, quickly, to do your own background test/bullshit detecting.

      • Quantumchump, it is creepy. To listen to these women on here talk. They want to interrogate men and hold them to a super high standard but they don’t want men to hold them to the same standard. It feels more like a business transaction. I have been asked my credit score, how much debt I have, income, about my kids, XW, etc. all within the first week of “dating”. It’s creepy. How would these women feel if they were interrogated the first week or first date? My mother is a 60’s feminist and doesn’t understand the women today. She thinks there is something wrong with them. That everything is a business transaction and not based on love. I want to get to know a woman first before going into the “business” side of things. There are NO perfect men out there. Men OR women shouldn’t just cater to you. I was chumped really bad. Worse then virtually all the women on here. But I don’t hate women, not all are bad. I educated myself and look for red flags. No wonder a lot of my male friends are done with women. They think they are crazy. You should hear the stories about women I hear. I have actually been told by women friends that they didn’t think women can be abusive, only men. It was an eyeopener to them when I told them my story. This isn’t a man/woman issue. But a person issue.

        • I’m glad you’re finding out what your boundaries and dealbreakers and relationship-parameters are. Don’t apologize for them; you’re right. They’re YOURS.

          Just don’t be pissed when women find that you’re not going to fit into their lives, for their own, equally-prudent reasons. On the first date. It happens. Frequently.

  • I didn’t date for a while after and now when I do, I’m very picky. All my girlfriends think I’m too picky and need to give people chances but uh NOPE. Not interested. Been there Done that, no more chances.

    I’m not renovating people anymore, I want move in ready (sorry for the bad housing metaphors ya’ll) people only. This chica has no time for BS anymore.

    • I think it’s very, very important not to date or get serious about people who don’t have their act together. If they don’t have a good job, demonstrate stability in work and residence, have a home (house or apartment, doesn’t matter), pay child support if they have kids, pay taxes, have friends who are not bar flies—pass.

  • One thing that helped me fix my picker was suggested to me by a counselor. He said to do a “relationship autopsy,” to go back to my first dating experiences and look for patterns that persisted to D-Day. On some level, I already knew what I would find, starting with my first serious boyfriend, who was the master of breaking up and hoovering back. But I also learned that I was into that pattern because I did not have ANY standards at all for how I was treated. It was just “please love me.” That’s not to say that I didn’t break up with guys, but even today I’m not sure why I walked from some relationships but stayed for some where I was in a daily pick-me dance.

    The relationship autopsy led me back to my childhood and how I came to have no standards for how people treated me. No need for details here; the point is that my picker was set up at age 5 or 6 and then reinforced in my teen years. So essentially, I was making adult decisions with the emotional intelligence of a little girl who had a mother who couldn’t be pleased and a workaholic, alcohol abusing father who was largely absent.

    The task for me was learn about healthy adult relationships and to start making choices based on being an adult who knew herself and was already happy and fulfilled in life. That took about two years of hard work. And then, after starting to date again, I was in a position to choose more wisely and also to recognize that at my age, I wanted companionship and affection but not cohabitation.

    • “I wanted companionship and affection but not cohabitation.” This is my mantra, LAJ. I simply can not imagine living with another man. When my mom was in her mid 70’s, a couple of years after my dad died, she started a really sweet relationship with a widower who lives across the cul de sac from her. All four of them, my mom and dad and her friend and his late wife, had known each other for years. The two of them spend time together, eat lots of their meals together but when my mom has had enough company her “close companion” as she calls him, walks back home to his house. To me that is the perfect relationship. They enjoy each other’s company but each has their own space as well.

      • That sounds like heaven to me too. Each have our own homes but have the companionship when we want it and the privacy when we need it! I will NEVER live with someone again.

      • I love it. I date a man who lives about 30 minutes across town. I think he thought about living together for a while but as he says, he hates being told what to do and I hate picking up after a man. There’s nothing I love more than coming home to a quiet house after work. But we have a lot of fun together.

    • Thank you for this post. I had gone through this exercise on a surface level but had not done a complete autopsy until reading your description. It didn’t take long for me to find a common theme and trace it back. For me, I believe it started with friends rather than family of origin. I grew up in a small town and I have an unusual personality/style/interests. It is so rare to find someone with whom I connect that I hang on for dear life and try to make it work even when the relationship has run its course or I’ve been treated poorly. The concepts of scarcity and acceptance factor in heavily.

      My D was final just a month ago and I made some very difficult choices in order to move to a larger community where I’m committed to being unabashedly okay with being the authentic me. I’m reaching out for interesting experiences, and I’ve already screwed up a bit. But I know that wasn’t the only opportunity I’ll get and I’m going to keep moving, reaching out, getting this inchoate blob of potential to gel.

      • I said this to someone tonight, apropos of playing team sports: We all have to be our authentic selves. I can remember when my therapist told me, straight out, that I would always have a narrow dating pool, not because there is anything wrong with me, but like you, who I am and what I want from life won’t match up well with most people. And recognizing that allows me to be a lot more careful. It’s way too easy to “settle.” but in the end, those kind of relationships never last. You’ve set out on a good path.

  • I have been out for 6 years, divorced 4 from a bat shit narcissistic sociopath. After about 2 years post divorce I decided to get back in the dating game – I was ready. Joined and I matched with the ex! Slightly used father of two is what he called himself and pics of our kids on he profile. I deleted my profile and quit right there!
    I don’t need a man. I’ve got good friends, a job I love, and financially stable (while the ex is a train wreck financially). I would be totally happy if I never met anyone else.

    • Raff, me too. Perfectly happy alone too. The ex has a really good pension and latest Schmoopie used to post on FB how she was now “retired”. A couple of years later and Schmoops is back at work “because she got bored” and the Twat is apparently looking for a part time job (to top up his pension) because he can’t make it on double my income. Not my problem any more but it does prove he will NEVER be financially stable! Enjoy that Schmoopie!

  • OH and as a general rule: Whenever you here a romantic partner desperately opining “Just let me explain!” Do not let them explain. Whatever is about to come out of their mouth is a straight-up lie, or an attempt at gaslighting/blame-shifting/boundary chipping.

  • 7 years out without dating or anything romantic at all. I do not trust my picker, doucheturd never came clean about important things so I can’t even test my intuitions.
    I believe I am permanently broken apparently because of serious FOO issues and am incapable of discerning shit from shinola. Therapist didn’t really provide guidance.
    He got hired recently where I work. I felt a wave of emotion when he appeared in my office door last week. After chatting a bit, I nicely told him I still want certain answers, which he had promised to ‘get back to me’ with, but hadn’t. He disappeared.

    • You were burned and abused and you don’t trust. But, you can find ways to enjoy your life that don’t involve dating/coupling.
      I don’t believe that a cheater and proven liar will ever give you truthful answers to your questions. Trust that he sucks and ignore Judas. None or very few of our doucheturds ever came truly clean. The very fact that they are doucheturds ensures that. I never believed a single word from my ex after Dday.

  • “Stand up for who you are. If you aren’t anyone and are just a inchoate blob of potential — go be something. Then real people will be attracted to you for YOU. Not for what you can do for them, buy them, or kibble dispense at them.

    And chumps, that’s all you want really — real people, not fakes. When you’re authentic (a steady diet of chumpy shit sandwiches does not make you authentic, it makes you resentful and phony), then you’re ready to be a healthy partner and friend.”

    Love these two paragraphs – so true

    • I love these paragraphs, too. And I’m pretty sure I’ve been an inchoate blob for at least the past decade. Thanks for calling me on it, CL!

  • I am 7+ years after Dday and divorce and very happily remarried.
    When I talk to friends who are divorcing, fixing their pickers is the #1 piece of advice that I give them. I have seen so many people jump from one bad relationship to the next over and over because they won’t fix their broken picker.
    All of the advice given so far is good and honestly therapy can help as well asking yourself why you were attracted and put up with a disordered person for so long.

    My advise:
    Looking out for yourself isn’t selfish rather it is self preservation — if you don’t look out for you and your best interests —who will ?

    Never ever mess yourself up again for someone else ! An example, you have a great career in a place you love–person comes along and wants to get married asap, quit his job, move and start a fishing business and you are expected to move, change jobs and support him doing it — HELL NO !

    Honesty and Openness is a requirement ! Most of us have been through such Hell with lies, deceptions and gas lighting that with someone is open and honest or GTFO.

    Be honest about your needs and they should be honest about theirs. This especially applies to the bedroom–never feel like you need to do anything that you don’t want to and you are either compatible sexually or you aren’t –if you aren’t — CYA.

    Being financially responsible is a MUST !! I don’t mean they make a lot of money rather that they don’t have a ton of debt, pay their bills on time, are stable in their work history, etc. Money issues are a top cause of divorce and will directly affect the life you lead, your stress levels and happiness. If someone is bad at money management–CYA.

    After initial dating period, if you want to continue the relationship always get a background check done. Will find out liars, guys already married, criminal history, etc.

    In my case, I waited until after the divorce was final and then started online dating. I met some really interesting people and even thought the relationships didn’t work out I still had fun and learned more about what I would and would not put up with. Some of the women I dated were; a published horror writer that I have remained friends with (she had some entitlement issues and weird ideas– I’m pretty open minded but wanting to throw fake blood on me during sex isn’t my thing). The next was so wonderful I could not understand why she was single. She was brilliant, gorgeous, fantastic body and had a great family — found out what “being a beard” means and that her female roommate was a lot more than her roommate. Next was a woman who tried to form a love triangle with a a kid 20 years younger than me who was looking to “kick my ass because I was with his girlfriend”. Umm no.

    After that last one I took a break from dating and one rainy night wanted pizza and as I waited for my pizza to be ready sat next to this funny and intelligent woman also waiting for her pizza. We started talking, ended up getting a table, kept talking until the restaurant closed. We then wen on an official lunch date the next day that lasted until 1am. We’re pretty much still on that date almost 3 years later. ????

    With my wife and I it was and is amazing how we immediately felt like we had known each other forever. I have dated a ton and was married for 16 years and had never experienced this before. We just snapped together and since we met can’t stand being away from each other for very long. What’s great is that besides that we also met each other’s mandatory check boxes (she’d been chumped as well and her Ex is an angry abusive drunk). We also met and spent a lot of time with each other’s families and close friends and asked all of them privately what they thought. Unlike with other people we dated and especially our Exes, everyone really liked who we were with and how we were together. After 6 months, my lease was up and we moved in together and 6 months after that got married.

    I say all of this to let you all know to live your life and you never know who you will meet. My wife and I are far from perfect but we are perfect for each other and that is all that matters along with we love each other and always treat each other with respect. We don’t agree on everything (especially politics) but we do respect each other’s opinion and will listen to why our spouse believes the way that they do and sometimes we see where they are coming from and just agree to disagree and move on.
    All of you have HOPE, fix your picker and get out in the World and meet people and who knows, your dreams may come true–they did for me.

    • Sigh… that is the most romantic story, LG. I really, really love that you found each other that way. Sitting in a pizza shop… I love a good true love (as opposed to twu luv) story!!

      • I know and honestly when I met her I like many of you had accepted that I would spend the rest of my life alone and was OK with that.

        Also I’m far from “Mr Hottie” these days. I’m late 40s, my hair is graying, I have a Dad bod with a pot belly and I’m not someone with great fashion sense. So, if it could happen to me it could happen to you !

  • Chiming in on the “Avoid the sparkly” wisdom. Some of us who were raised in homes with a lot of tension can be especially attracted to uber-charismatic, “life of the party” types. The excitement aligns with the charged atmosphere of our upbringing in a way that feels familiar and maybe even “right.”

    Also, growing up in a household that featured neglect can mean that the super-charged light that charismatic people can shine on you feels irresistible — like it could heal all your childhood wounds.

    What you might find out too late is that Mr. or Ms. Life of the Party can’t sustain adulting. Beware trying to make a life with this person. If you’re dating someone like this, take your time. See how this person handles ordinary and sometimes extraordinary events that are part of regular life for anybody over 18. Take note of the choices that person makes over, say, a year or longer.

    Some people who come across as larger than life are that way because life for them is mostly impression management. It’s show biz, and they aren’t inclined to let you see what happens behind the curtain. Makes it very difficult to have anything resembling real intimacy.

  • We chumps are twice as likely to end up in another cheating relationship as ‘normal’ people, so it pays to beware.

    My rules:
    1-Don’t date anyone who isn’t 2 years out from divorce (or separation & divorce). They haven’t had time to heal AND work on their relationship skills/crafting a new life.

    2-Pay attention to behaviors, not what they say. That includes talking the talk about having worked on their baggage, but not fully having done so.

    3-Is the person a perpetual victim; nothing is their fault or there were always extenuating circumstances when something goes wrong? They may not be disordered, but they are not healthy or adult-like.

    4-To chumps, vulnerability is appealing–I Can Help!!! No, no, no. If someone is in need of even moderate rescuing, by all means help them but don’t date them. Friend zone.

    5-Leave after the first lie, or after you have any indication that their investment is not reciprocal. This column (warning: salty language) has been posted before, but its mantra is spot on:

  • I had a long talk with my baby sister last night. I am 12 years older than she is, and she has found her way to almost the exact place I was when I was her age. There were 5 siblings in my family, none of us has had a successful marriage. My parents marriage was not happy, most of it due to my dad’s dysfunctional personality disorders. You might guess my parents were mules when you look at the strong streak of stubborn determination in each of us. We were going to FIX our problems. Right. We were delusional. We learned the hard way that we were lucky to figure out how to fix our own problems, and leave others to fix their own. You cannot fix another person.

    I am of the age I do not want a fixer upper. I want a full blown adult with a life of his own. One who can live without me, but who chooses to live with me. One who wants to put forth effort, because he realizes there is no relationship without effort. I have a whole list of desires, some make my girlfriends howl with laughter. What is so funny about wanting a partner who can read, and does? I read. I don’t care what he reads, I just want respect for my reading time and intelligent conversation. I think that comes from reading. I would not have said this was important at 20. But it is very important to me now.

    I have not dated, by choice, for a long time. I have not closed the door, but I don’t open it without a good faith show of personal character, and a review of expectations. I do not want someone who wants me just for sex, or cooking, or cleaning, or doing laundry, or my resources. All those things are part of a package deal. Without character and patience and humor and intelligence and kindness, there will be no deal negotiations. There is nothing wrong with that.

    My baby sister is afraid of spending the rest of her life alone, that she will not have time to find someone to love who loves her. I told her a worse fate would be to spend the rest of her life in a bad relationship. Alone is not necessarily lonely. There are other paths to joy. Figure out what brings you joy, seek that, and put back anything that does not help you find your joy. You can be very happy without a partner, if need be. Enjoy a good partner if you find one, enjoy your freedom if you don’t. You don’t have to apologize to anyone for that.

    • Picture the orgasm in the diner scene in “When Harry Met Sally”, that’s my reaction to your post, Portia.

      • I love your sense of humor, and I loved the scene you chose from “When Harry Met Sally.” When you come across a message that is so true, it is orgasmic, even if it is created in your own imagination, and acted out for your own amusement. If you think about what Sally was trying to tell Harry, it is appropriate, too. Whatever the woman is doing by having an orgasm, faking an orgasm, or acting out an orgasm to make her partner think he is the greatest thing since sliced bread, her motivation comes from within. She knows that he may think it is all about him, but at that moment, it is decidedly all about her. She may not have been interested, she may want to go to sleep, she may want him to feel good about his own performance, and that is a way to give him a good feeling. Whatever, she knows what an orgasm is really like, and he believes what he believes. It looks good, it looks fun, and it looks like appreciation. It is what it really is. Yes, Yes, YES!!!

    • Portia, “What is so funny about wanting a partner who can read, and does? I read. I don’t care what he reads, I just want respect for my reading time and intelligent conversation. ”

      I second this. What is it with people making fun of reading? Of all the men I dated, they all seemed especially proud that they did not read “books”, said with a sneer. I was always baffled by this attitude, and disappointed. I love reading. What an escape! And the things you learn!

      I remember after breaking up with ex narcopath, my mom would always ask me in exasperation: “what did you even talk to him about?” And it took me a while to remember: we talked about HIM. All. The. Time.

      And he hated that I read. All the men hated that I read, because it took time away from them.

      Super weird.

      And I will make sure to add “reading” to my list of things I would like in a new partner, when I am ready to date again.

      • Exactly. Even if another person has an entirely different interest, if they are passionate about it and read about it, they generally can have animated conversation about it. I have learned things from people who read, that I never would have researched. Their enthusiasm makes it interesting. I can strike up a conversation with almost anyone if they read. They tend to think in complete, cogent thoughts If you ask questions about their interests, you can learn a great deal about a person who is new to you. It is amazing what you can learn if you ask, “have you read anything interesting lately?”

        You will also learn things if you ask “Have you seen a good movie, or play lately?” Or, “Where did you go on your last vacation?” Or, ” How did you get interested in your career? If they can talk about their choice, and why they made it, they can tell you a lot about what is important to them. If they think to ask you about your interests or experiences, they may actually find someone other than themselves interesting. It is the essence of true reciprocal conversation. To me, the ability to communicate is the essence of civilization. We don’t always have to agree to get along. We do have to agree to disagree and maintain civility to get along. If we don’t find a way to do this simple thing, I have little hope for our future.

  • I have my first FWB and it’s great because we’re very honest about what this is/isn’t. I think the reason I fell so hard and quickly for my cheating ex-boyfriend, after my divorce, is because I hadn’t had sex for 20 months. That made me vulnerable. My picker definitely sucked.

    Having a FWB serves that need for physical closeness so I am free to take things VERY slowly if I do meet someone who could be a trusted, loving, committed partner. (At which point I would cut it off with FWB. Or if he meets someone first, he’ll cut it off with me. Which will sting a little bit, but I’ve gone into this with eyes wide open.)

  • Sooo timely! My picker wasn’t fixed but I did apply the red flags and didn’t see too many in my bf( except the giant one of”strong women pay for their own dates” sheesh.. I stayed with him for 2 years getting more and more unhappy as the red flags showed up one by one. I spackled like crazy, breaking up with him twice before finally giving up. He is selfish and self centred, doesn’t reflect and is disfuncionally attached to his daughter ( treats her more like a wife than the girlfriend he claimed to love and want to build a life with) he lacks empathy. So many more but you get the point. My picker still needs work but at least he taught me what boundaries I need. I’m 58 so may end up alone and I have to work on that being ok.

  • How do you fix your picker? Turn it around and point it to you.

    If you find yourself thinking that somehow YOU can make someone a better person, you need to find a project at home to work on. Being a better person comes from within, not from without.

    Instead of saving lost souls, I finally looked in the mirror and started saving myself. My FOO guilt made me feel like a failure if I didn’t succeed in showing disordered individuals see how wonderful life really is. I bit narcissistic on my part.


    Since “failing” my last relationship (Thank you God) I embarked on many adventures and freedom from my own bullshit thinking I needed a jerk in my life to be “right” with the world.

    Some adventures successful, some not. I started trying the things I admired in the men I chose without the personality that goes along with it. Music, flying, boating, camping. Lo and behold, I no longer looked outside myself to feel alive and whole. It was within me the whole time. I may stumble, I may fall, but I get back up very fast.

    Strangely enough, I am doing what I wanted to do at nineteen, before I married my first liar, cheater, faker at “yikes” 20.

    I am now 62. I LOVE 62. I feel more alive than EVER! It is an attitude. There is no age limit for curiosity or personal improvement.

    I started sailing last year. I have seen breaching whales and dolphins. Windy days and islands. Meeting new people. I AM IN HEAVEN.

    The world is your oyster. Point your picker at YOU and the rest will follow.

    I am a Chump. It has been 4 3/4 years since my last cheater.

    • You’re my shero-Jane. I loved every word of your post. I hope to be your powerful 62, at my current 40.

      About three months ago, I saw this beautiful sofa in the window of an artisan furniture store, while driving home from work. Thought hmmm- I would like that sofa.
      So I went home, and busted out the tape measure, and drew a quick sketch with the recorded measurements.
      Then later, I did some research: checked a variety of places to get a sense of the cost for new sofas. Was delivery included, warranties. Could I swing it financially without the need for credit, if I was patient.
      Then, I checked Yelp reviews- was the furniture store solid? The reviews were stellar- and genuine.
      The sofa was delivered today. Paid in full. Fits perfectly and makes the room feel complete.

      New picker: Patience, diligence, time, awareness, self-respect.
      Old picker: Would have charged it on a credit card impulsively, zero research so no delivery or warranty included, and realized too late that it was a piece of garbage that didn’t even fit in my living room. All because it was in the showroom window, with sparkly lights.

  • Reciprocity and mutuality
    Favoring shared values over common interests
    Being prepared to dump and be dumped
    Stating my needs and boundaries clearly. If the person knowingly and willfully chooses to ignore and violate them, it’s quittin’ time

  • The counselor at the battered women’s shelter said ‘feel free to date, but do not live with anyone until you know them at least two years.’ I liked her advice. Because she understood human nature. People who have been cheated on and betrayed sometimes feel a need to get out and date and have some fun.

    That said some people are happy not having to bother with relationships. Each to their own.

  • At 1 year from D-Day, 6 months from leaving him and 4 months from divorce, I know I am in no way shape or form ready to date anyone. And I may never want to. At 56, my kids are grown and on their own and I’m using this time to discover the full potential of “me-ness” if that makes sense. I have friends to go out with occasionally, my daughter and I go out to dinner once a month. I am working, paying my bills, taking yoga classes and just generally doing whatever the heck I want for the first time in my life. It’s nice.

    I might not ever find or even find a need to have another romantic relationship. Right now, I’m good.

  • I have not read all of the comments so apologize if this has already been addressed. I am working on fixing my picker and I am realizing that a lot of that is about learning to set boundaries. Here is my question. Recently Douchebag and Schmoopie really tested the boundaries of my 19 yr old daughter. I talked about it in the forums. (Fora?) Anyway, I actually shared some of the Chump Nation responses to her particular dilemma with my daughter, talked the whole thing over with her and tried to order her a book about boundaries. But the book I got from Amazon has all kinds of religious doctrine in it. I am a Christian, not anti-religious but would sure appreciate if anyone knows of a book that can be used to help teach teens and young adults about establishing boundaries, without infusing quite so much religious doctrine.

    • One of Pia Mellody’s books lists what healthy boundaries are (physical,sexual,talking and listening,others) and how to enforce them

  • I am 1 1/2 years out from DD5. After all that went down and I focused on my healing, it’s like I woke up from a dream, and found myself surrounded by assholes. I cut loose two female friends, went NC with my Dad and brother, and have rebuilt my tribe with strong females whose actions match their words.

    As for fixing my picker, I have attempted dating, and for me, it was too soon. The one date that I attempted, I dubbed: “the date from hell”, and was able, in 1 hour of having coffee with this gentleman, to determine he was nuts. Seriously sparkly, woman hating, good-looking guy, who raised every red flag in the universe. And I saw it all, silently acknowledged it, and got the heck outta there.
    No longer actively looking for a romantic partner, but open to it, should I meet him in some random plot twist of my life….

    Now, the good news is, that I have fixed my picker with my friends. And to me, that’s more important than dating. Men come and go, but a good friend stays by your side through the years. I have two very close female friends who are both chumps, who are both at different stages of their healing journey, and whom both cheer me on, wipe my tears and kick ass on the daily.

    Fixing my picker, for me, is also about cleaning up my thoughts. Continuing to ruminate about situations I cannot change, just attracts more crappy situations. I hate those intrusive thoughts. After about a year of them, I stopped welcoming them into my mind and would actively redirect. I sought activities that would help me refocus: yoga, walking, kayaking, gardening. Hardest thing to do, train my mind to shift thoughts. But it’s worth the hard work. Takes a while. Is an active process.

    When I left after DD5, I prayed and prayed for peace in my life. Only now, 1 1/2 years out, can I actually APPRECIATE that I have it. And it’s good.

    Today, I was going through some old computer files, and come across some journal entries fresh from after DDAY. It was really hard to stomach reading some of them, and that time in my life seems so very far away. I am not really interested in trying to remember the pain of that time, it’s fuzzy and distant. And that is a good thing!

    I guess my point is, that fixing your picker is something that takes time, and practice and focus and can’t be rushed, no matter how bad you want it fixed. It’s not just fixing your picker when it comes to finding a romantic partner, but about everyone in your life and about your headspace.

    The Universe, or God, will test you over and over, to strengthen you, even though at the time it can feel like a setback, the lesson is really there to fortify you. Build you to something better than before. Welcome those trials and recognize and celebrate them.

    And welcome to anyone new to Chump Lady…. this is your first step on fixing your picker: educating yourself!

  • I think if I could offer only one piece of advice, it would be to take your time. When I hear of a chump becoming engaged to the “love of my life” two years out from D Day, I do not feel happy, I feel sad. I wish I could say that it varies from person to person, and that it is not always a bad idea, but the fact is, that is simply untrue. The chump experience is traumatic and wrenching. Despite the fact that chumps don’t cause infidelity, they do in fact exhibit many of the same unhealthy emotional behaviors. Until those are addressed and fixed, they are ultimately doomed to repeat the past. When you are hurting, you want it to stop. Similar to someone crossing a dessert, who has not had a drink in weeks, when you are offered water, it seems like the best water ever. It is easier to numb the pain in whatever way works, but sadly the only way to deal with the pain is to go through it… not over it, or around it.

  • Queen, I agree wholeheartedly! I made that mistake. Was married 20 years, cheated on. Within a year, met skankboy. Same players, different costumes, same tragic ending! That said, it has been over 3 1/2 years since Dday! Tossed his skanky ass out that day and have not been in a relationship then! I love living alone, finding out who *I* am, what *I* want, what *I* need for a change. Not sure if I will ever be in another romantic relationship. Doesn’t matter, for the first time in my life I am in a true, loving, caring relationship with MYSELF!

  • At that time, I needed outside validation, etc. Fast forward….oh hell to the *** no! I validate myself, tyvm. I must admit it took several years to get it, counseling, CL and CN and for that I am eternally grateful!

  • Late to the party here but a good bit of advice is listen to your friends. Their opinions on your partners will matter.

    This summer I was seeing a guy, and it seemed like things were going pretty well.
    One of my closest, most trusted and valued friends (also probably the most loyal person I have ever met) told me the guy I was dating “scares the shit out of him.” I asked why. He told me “You need someone who will stand by you. I don’t think he will. I don’t like seeing you invest in people who hurt you.” We talked a little about it, and my friend told me he has seen me give so much care to people who don’t invest in their own futures, let alone one with me. He hates seeing me get hurt by these people who don’t deserve the care I give.

    This friend of mine has been in my life since before my divorce. He was there for me when I was going through that mess. He has been there for me more times than I can count, and I’ve seen him through his own share of crap. He is one of the most loyal people I have ever met. The one time I can recall us having an argument (after spending a whole day just hanging out) we were chatting over text again a couple hours later. I even spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with him and his family. So considering all the things he’s seen, the shit we’ve been through together, I trust him.

    The guy I was seeing? Well…

    I happen to have ptsd from a previous abusive relationship. (Actually sat in a therapist’s office, diagnosed…whole nine yards.) And that means I have a few behaviors that set me off into panics, that can sometimes last for days (the longest steady state of panic I had was a week.)

    The guy ended up doing some things that set off my triggers.

    My friend saw the flags before I did. Sometimes that happens. I don’t know if you watch BoJack Horseman, but a good thing to keep in mind is “When you look at someone through rose colored glasses, all the red flags look like flags.” Sometimes it takes someone who’s not wearing those rose tinted lenses to look at the red flags for you.

    • (That’s a quote from the show Bojack Horseman…read that back and realized I didn’t really connect those thoughts there.)

  • Scared to death to date someone. Still dealing with all the damage from XW. I don’t think I could give someone a fair chance- I wouldn’t be able to trust someone.

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