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Pain Shopping, Anyone?

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pain

A chump wrote to ask me what I thought about “pain shopping.” I had no idea what it was. So I asked her, “What’s pain shopping?” She wrote back, “Like when I ask my husband about his affair.”

Oh.

So I googled. Apparently, in unicorn circles, “pain shopping” is that chump habit of hyper-vigilance, you know, where you ask your cheating spouse over and over what they did, and with whom, and how often. You need to stop that, because it’s just “shopping for pain.”

Strange metaphor. I never had to shop for pain with my cheater — he was giving it away for free. The man was like a Blue Light Special of Pain. Aisle 6! We’ve got your secret cellphones! Aisle 12! Multiple dating profiles! And act right now and we’ll throw in HIDDEN DEBT!

Pain shopping, as I read about it here and here and elsewhere, is about dredging up sadness, it’s about choosing the unpleasantness over the work of forgiveness and getting on with life.

As you can imagine, I have a few problems with this concept.

It’s not that I want chumps to stay stuck in misery (I’m skeptical of reconciliation!), I am all about meh! And do forgive if you want to forgive (IMO it’s not mandatory). By all means get a life. But “pain shopping” still sounds like a euphemism for “eat the shit sandwich.”

The cheater would prefer that you not bring up the affair again? Don’t shop for pain! Eat the shit sandwich and stuff that natural impulse to catch them in a lie. Or be comforted. Or see remorse.

Shopping for pain seems to work from several faulty assumptions:

1) That the cheater is truly sorry, so you need to stop bringing it up.

2) That cheaters are Timid Forest Creatures and reconciliation is a fragile, endangered ecosystem that could be destroyed by your bad attitude.

3) That responsibility for this reconciliation is on you. It all depends on your emotional leadership. You’re pain shopping? You’re making a deliberate choice to STAY in pain.

How about THIS SHIT IS PAINFUL? And you’re in pain because you were betrayed, and it takes years to get past this crap. More I reckon if you stay married to the person who betrayed you. If it were as simple as tra-la-la focus on something pleasant instead there would not be a bazillion websites devoted to people obsessing over infidelity.

Let’s put some “pain shopping” through the Universal Bullshit Translator (UBT). These tidbits come from “The Betrayed Spouse’s Role After an Affair” at Marriage Advocates.

I developed a plan to let her see there was hope. My plan would NOT be to change her. It would be to try to motivate her to want to change.

Dude, that’s the same thing. Trying to motivate her to change is, YES, trying to change her.

Put down the codependency and walk away.

My anger and focusing on my pain and telling her about it? I had to stop that. I had to realize that my feelings were mine to contend with and work through. Work through, not ignore. She could help and support, but the feelings were mine. Without remorse and desire in her to help, I would feel all alone, but I wouldn’t later when she decided to try. For now, I had to show her I could and would face my own responsibilities and not make them hers, and I did.

This is fucked up on so many levels. If you hit me in the head with a threaded pipe, yes, the pain is mine. (You there with the pipe, you feel just peachy.) But the larger point is YOU HIT ME IN THE HEAD WITH A THREADED PIPE. The natural reaction to assault is pain.

Yes, I’ll have to work through my pain alone, but IMO part of working through that is avoiding people who want to assault me.

But no, you’re going to work with that, and even though she is “without remorse” — she might LATER try and feel sorry. So you’ll eat the pain on the small hope that she’ll be impressed with you taking your “own responsibilities and not make them hers.” YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HITTING YOURSELF WITH A THREADED PIPE. She hit you! She is responsible for your injury and ergo your pain.

And another thing — she’s NOT SORRY. You can wait around for sorry, but more likely, you’re in for another blow to the head, IMO.

Finally, I had to let her know – by showing her – that I was not going to punish her and make the affair a lifelong nightmare for her. She had every reason to believe and expect that I would. I accomplished this by promising to not do that and by demonstrating to her how I would control myself.

Sure, let the affair be a lifelong nightmare for you, but why hold someone responsible, who is in fact responsible? Yes, it’s all within your control. If you just control yourself, you’ll make her come around.

We don’t control other people through our self control or stuffing our pain or imagining them with unicorn horns.

It’s great you can control yourself. Now why not put that ability to a greater purpose, like say, giving up carbs for Lent.

I showed compassion for her feelings once she started to try. I knew she was going through withdrawal from the other man and did not abandon her to deal with it on her own. As would be expected, this was extremely hard for me, but it reinforced that we were a team. We were there to support each other, and this let her know I wasn’t going to punish her.

Let me get this straight, dude — you’ll wait on her “sorry” all alone, but you cannot “abandon” her while she grieves for her affair partner?

So fucked up.

Where she was at that moment clearly told me that she did not have that strength. My determination gave me that strength. I decided that my integrity and belief in my vows, “In better or worse and till death do us part,” should be my guide. I believed that marriage was partnership and that BOTH parties had to try hard to keep it going. Yet, she was unable to, so I had to be the rock and strength. I knew that failure was a possibility. I also knew the changes in me had to be permanent – not just to woo her back. I knew it wouldn’t work if I was making changes that were not me or that I would resent and regret later.

You think you can unilaterally change a marriage by yourself.

You put “BOTH” in all caps, although what you’re actually saying is that you’re in this alone because she’s “unable” right now.

Changes in YOU had to be permanent? So you’re saying the problem here is you? I’m sorry, who did you screw outside the marriage? You must woo her after she sucked some strange dick? Seriously?

Listen, if you want to reconcile, the unicorns have a point — you DO have to “let it go”. No one wants to stay locked in a marriage of the Martyr and the Fuck Up. But that’s the mental gymnastics you signed up for — suppressing the knowledge that this person betrayed you. Eating that shit sandwich in perpetuity.

Now, I would suggest you not eat it without a postnup and a ton of demonstrated remorse. You what demonstrates remorse? Answering the goddamn QUESTIONS! Taking the lead on repairing what you broke. Not asking chumps to stuff their pain.

If anyone is “shopping for pain,” it’s these crazy unicorns who don’t ask for one bit of accountability. Talk about a recipe for misery. Geez.

This column ran before and the RIC is still quacking.

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Dear Chump Lady, I agree 100% with the UBT’s output here!

    But when I recently learned of the term “pain shopping,” I took it to mean deliberately seeking out info about the cheater and affair partner. In other words, even though one has technically gone no contact, pain shopping would take the form of googling them, looking at what they’re up to on social media, asking through the grapevine, etc. I understood it to mean repeatedly seeking “contact” of some kind with them, whether it be virtual or through other people, instead of moving on with one’s own life (as much as possible–I know for parents “no contact” is often impossible).

    When I learned about the term under this definition, I actually found it helpful, and it stopped me from “shopping” online for news of them. It helped me to go one step further into “no contact,” and now if I find out about them, it’s just be accident.

    Has anyone else come across multiple definitions for this term?

    • Yeah, I think there’s a huge difference in pre- or post- divorce “shopping.” Before you’ve made the split final, yes, you need to know everything that could help you in the divorce, as well as have your eyes truly opened to what your partner did. However, after the divorce, they’re not your problem, so don’t go staring at their facebook page for pics of them on a beach with sand in their toes.

    • Yes that’s my understanding too. Pain shopping the way I understand it is like pulling the scab off when you are trying to heal by seeking information about the ex’s life.

      One thing that helped me avoid it was realizing how much my ex would enjoy the knowledge that I was weepy and pineing. Let him do the pain shopping seeing how easily I moved on (even if I was faking that part for a considerable amount of time).

    • The above is my understanding as well with the exception of “Divorce Hunting”.

      “Divorce Hunting” is not a sport for the faint of heart and requires laser focus, determination and is the best way to channel rage.

      “Divorce Hunting” is limited to what is necessary to achieve the maximum settlement, in the shortest amount of time and with the minimum of billable hours to your pit-bull lawyer.

      Take those sleepless nights and anger and make Google your second best friend (CL is your first best friend). Learn to use social media and the best Google search tips available on the web. Use that insanely painful information that only a private detective can dig up (clandestine photos hurt like a motherfucker).

      As soon as that settlement is signed or the Judge declares a verdict or the youngest turns 18, you must hang up your Olympic medals 🏅 in “Divorce Hunting” or it immediately turns into “Pain Shopping” 😩.

      Perhaps a Good Friday challenge would be to list your best tip for using Google, credit reports, social media or PI to successfully become a “Divorce Hunter”?

      • I think there’s a big difference between pain shopping and wanting to find out what happened in your marriage, even after it’s over.

        I divorced Hannibal Lecher on the basis of his affair with gradwhore 8 years prior (took me 8 years to find out about because he is a highly deceptive bastard). Between filing and the actual divorce, I confirmed another affair. But I then continued to dig in order to know just how great his perfidy had been. Pretty great, it turns out–Ashley Madison & Adult Friend Finder accounts, numerous dalliances at conferences, etc. I even hired a P.I. even though I was many months divorced.

        The biggest find was that 3 days after D-day, when he knew his marriage was in trouble, he took his latest AP (now his live-in GF) to China with him. Ahh!!! That explained the horrible treatment the last year of the marriage leading up to gradwhore D-day–it was the devalue from yet another affair.

        All this information helped me (a) make sense of my marriage, including WHY he had treated me so badly at specific times; and (b) detach from him–my sentimentality about my marriage went to ZERO once I knew he had been a serial cheater.

        Some people might have construed my research as pain-shopping, but I need things to make sense or I am unsettled. Which is all to say–different people need different levels of information. Do whatever it takes to detach from these losers. Some chumps will only need enough details to divorce, some chumps (like me) need a completed puzzle.

        [However, I agree with the above posters that once you have that puzzle, don’t keep checking the cheater’s facebook page for information about their New, Sparkly Life with AP.]

        • Information is power. Cheaters get the upper hand because they withhold information from us, and thus alter our life’s trajectory. If many of us had had details of their affairs earlier, we’d have saved ourselves years of grief.

          Finding out about the breadth & depth of their cheating tips the power balance in our favor, because now we have information they tried to withhold.

          Which is all to say, there are sometimes legitimate reasons for “pain shopping,” and there are individual differences–what is painful to one person is illuminating to another.

          • Yes, dear Tempest.

            I found out enough to get a great settlement and to settle my mind about all those disturbing decades.

            I then went into a form of No Contact within myself. It is morbid the way people want to “fill you in”. I say, “ unless he is moving back to my town, or is Dead, I have no interest in your news” and cut it off. He has no real estate in my life. And that suits me fine.

            • This type of exploration, especially with the guidance of a good therapist, helped me learn how and why I ignored red flags and accepted bad behavior even before I got married.. Twice. If I’d done it after i dumped my first narcissist husband, I wouldn’t have gotten involved with Dr. Sociopath.

            • Putting the pieces together was necessary after years of abuse. The most painful truth was realizing he was a monster, was incapable of love, and enjoyed my pain.

              Much of the pain was subtle as he justified the harm he inflicted. After graduating and getting a job in my profession he went on a mission to make me feel small.

              Repeatedly reconciling and forgiving was the greatest shit sandwich.

              Never as long as I live will he ever have access, not a word.

          • “Finding out about the breadth & depth of their cheating tips the power balance in our favor, because now we have information they tried to withhold.”

            And they can’t pretend to have taken / taking the high road. Additionally, if they want to accuse you of not following high standards, you may also be able to point out that not everyone that he associates with follows his purported high standards anyway.

        • Pain shopping can be subjective. For me, now that I’m NC and divorced, it would be anything that I actively seek out whether it be social media, talking to a some Switzerland friends, or just looking for info online.

          In the early days, it’s all painful and anything new learned will be a stab in heart. Bu that early information is needed to understand what the hell just happened in your relationship, or to fully grasp that your partner is a complete slimeball and POS. I needed to find evidence of his cheating. I knew that something wasn’t right – that gut instinct was kicking in. Finding that evidence, confronting, seeing his reactions and hearing those words were a few of the most horrible moments in my life. However, I was finally able to see what a complete bastard he really is. That pain shopping has helped me see the truth. It’s that knowledge that will propel to have a better life.

          • I agree with you completely Tempest.
            Pain-shopping is the phrase used against wives and partners of men called sex addicts who are just trying to find out real information about their life in this marriage—information that helps them know the kind of risks he took with her life, her health, their family financial security, their family safety. In the sex addiction treatment industrial complex (SATIC) the wife is shamed for asking any questions about her husband’s activity and the accused of “pain-shopping”. When she’s usually trying to find out the story of her own life, and sometimes looking for legal leverage. Trust me, no scabs have formed at this stage. NONE.

            • Thank you Diane! When my ex said to be why do you keep poking and prodding, I just looked at him. I said the same things to him – I had a right to know what kind of life I was living, I had the right to know what the hell just happened to me and to our marriage. He expected me to follow his playbook and it peeved him that I was angry, asking questions, and even just showing emotions.

            • Exactly Diane. The “Sex Addiction” therapists join their clients in more gaslighting and trauma by labeling normal human behavior as detrimental. They know therapy dollars dry up when chumps are empowered,

        • Exactly, Tempest. I needed to know the truth, too. Most of my time on the marriage police force was gathering evidence that I could use to protect myself, and to see who I really married. It was horrible beyond my fear, but all the evidence hardened my resolve, and made me NEVER consider reconciliation. I am my own parole board now, he will never get out of no contact jail. I have the details of his lifelong subversive dysfunctional bull, and he will never change because he doesn’t want to. Just move on to the next chump. I needed the truth, not the pain, but I could stand the pain if that was the price for the truth.

          • Amen.
            Amen.

            After the shit hit the fan and I was still on my knees

            I went and visited with his ex-wife.

            Found out that’s how their marriage ended as well – he’s a serial

            Onward

        • Thanks, Tempest. I’m in the “information is power” camp.

          Since I’m not yet divorced and I’ve figured out that he always has and continues to get off on keeping secrets, I find it empowering that now *I* know things that he thinks I don’t know!

          Turning the tables – it feels really good. He’s not as “one up” on me as he thinks he is. My detective super powers have helped me to know about things before he deigns to inform or discuss with me. HA!

          I also wanted to find out how long I’d been duped and in how many ways. There’s been some pain involved in this endeavor, but I’m closer to meh and found the info was much more helpful to me in my healing process than it was hurtful.

          Like you said, I wanted a completed puzzle. A lot of things that were confusing now make (more) sense. It’s still bizarre, but in context it starts to make the whole picture clearer. Which makes it easier for me to move forward.

          • They more you know about their awful behavior, the less you’re willing to accept responsibility for it. That’s why the RIC and cheater desperately want to shut you down.

        • I divorced my XW from an affair that ended 14 years. It took me that long to get 100% proof that she couldn’t gaslight me over. A DNA test proved my oldest wasn’t mine (she knew it wasn’t mine). Anyway, she admitted to multiple “emotional” affairs that never was physical 🙄🙄🙄. I didn’t need to prove that they were physical or not. I knew she was a scary good liar. A covert narcissist and has BPD. I will never know the whole truth. I don’t need it. I know enough to move on with my life.

      • I like that Good Friday idea of tips to become an expert “Divorce Hunter” and let’s face it, some of us have got to a stage where we could easily change career into the secret services for all we’ve had to do

        But yeah also agreed with the comments here that post-divorce you just need to put that behind you as best you can

    • I’m all about the No Contact. So, yes, I wouldn’t “pain shop” in that sense, of social media stalking or whatever. But in the RIC sense, of put up and shut up? No.

    • Yes, that’s the way I’ve interpreted the expression as well. It’s the opposite of No Contact. I thought of it as not giving yourself to a chance to heal because you’re constantly looking at the cheater’s life as lived on social media, etc. which may not bear any resemblance to actual reality. To me, pain shopping is keeping your focus turned outward, towards the fuckwad cheater, instead of inward toward your own healing and mightiness. Maybe “comparison shopping” is a better phrase than “pain shopping”.

      Under the definition CL is using, she and the UBT are spot on as usual. That is just not how I have always interpreted the term.

    • Yeah, that’s what I thought as well.

      A close friend of mine recently broke up with her boyfriend. It was a huge reason to CELEBRATE. She is much, much, MUCH happier now. This guy was a black hole of negativity sucking her life. Dude actually got a legit diagnosis of NPD. Not even half kidding here. Like an in a psychologist’s office, took a test, diagnosed NPD.

      But I digress…

      Anyway he absolutely freaked out. Totally lost his mind. Text spammed her, and when she didn’t answer him, he sent his mom after her, and when she blocked his mom, he sent his friends atfter her, and she started blocking that too. He started showing up on campus where she teaches chemistry, security had to get rid of him. He started showing up in the same train car as her on her way to work, she made security reports about that too. Obviously she blocked him on social media (because he’s psycho…) and she wants nothing to do with him anymore.

      Someone who knows the mutually sent her screenshots of his texts after she blocked him off her facebook, and it was all him whining and crying about how he can’t even look at the memories anymore! She deleted the photos of them together, so there’s no “memories” for him to see. He was just stalking her.

      She told me about all this, and I said yes, he’s being a stalker, yes, narcissists do this when they lose control. And he’s not just stalking, he’s pain shopping. She asked me what that means. I said he’s looking you up online and wanting to see pictures of you etc, even though he knows these things are going to cause him pain. Being a stalker or no, looking at pictures of you together would do nothing for him. Looking at pictures of you alone will do nothing for him. It will make him upset, angry, entitled, whatever, but one way or another, it’s just pain at this point. Pain he’s trying to use to garner sympathy (which wasn’t really working and his friends even got sick of it) but still pain nonetheless. It’s not doing anyone any good.

      It’s one thing to have a D-day and want to know the truth. But, it’s quite another, after the breakup has happened, there’s no contact, and everything is over, to keep digging. Doesn’t matter if you’re the one who ended the relationship or you were the one who got dumped. You’re allowed to grieve, you’re allowed to hurt, you’re allowed to get angry, and you’re allowed to stay a few nights in the heartbreak hotel, but don’t unpack and live there. If you’re a narc asshole that got dumped by someone who got fed up with your shit, don’t keep pushing and clawing and hoovering. Let them leave. If you got chumped and you got through the mess of separation, let yourself go forward.

      I never saw pain shopping as a forced eating of a shit sandwich. Just something that really doesn’t help in the longrun.

    • yes – I have a different belief about pain shopping – and that is it not linked to the RIC / magical thinking. That Marriage Advocates chap is an excellent example of someone pain shopping – his thinking is so irrational it seems to be the only shopping he does.
      I have interpreted pain shopping as instead of choosing self-compassion and healing care, I choose wallowing and self-pity. I’ve been hit with the threaded pipe and am in pain. and then pick up the pipe and start hitting myself – like breaking NC cause I have some kind of desperation to hear him apologise – but of course, in reality, that won’t happen.
      I interpret it as the choices I make in looking after myself.

      • ^This!
        It’s abuse, so part of the trauma includes internalizing the abuser.
        NC is great for dealing with that sneaky abuse wheel- since the driver can often be ourselves.
        Self care > comparisons
        No drama triangles, no abuse wheels, if there’s any other visual examples out there, I don’t want to be on or in it.
        No more to fuckwits renting space in my head. I’ve got shit to do, with people who are real.

  • I had a really hard time reading this. Brings back some memories for the RIC drivel I was being spoon fed by MC and stuff I found on line.

    Basically it boils down to the Chump being the only responsible adult in the marriage and the enablement of the cheater to continue their bullshit into infinity.

    Speaking of pain shopping ( I truly don’t care ), but my kids let me know about my x’s wedding website recently. The word salad to explain their relationship over the years ( image management at it’s finest ) was mind blowing!

    He is marrying his AP that he has been dangling a carrot in front of for 10 years. Guess he’s done “ exploring his sexuality” 🤢

    • Image management is all.
      The revised narrative that my cheater now broadcasts is that we “split up” last July & that she has now met someone new
      (implying a post-split relationship) as “these things just happen” Complete denial & non-accountability for her actions.

      • My ex met his OW now wife on Craig’s List, he answered her ad about hooking up for a 3-some. On their wedding registry they had such a cute story about meeting at Starbucks. The story was they were in line together and they looked at each other, their eyes met and it was instant connection. No mention of the fact that he had a baby and wife at home.
        Reading it gave me a laugh. I imagine wondering what the wedding guests if they knew the real story!

    • My ex married his AP also after 18 years of keeping her dangling. I’m sure it was ‘TWU LUV’. They had to proved to everybody that their affair happened because they were meant to be together. I have to admit, it messed with my head a bit. It caused another bout of doubt about myself…, “Maybe it really was me.” But then I reminded myself how nice it is to live without drama, and spackle, and doubt. And though he may be happy with her, I was not happy with him. Though I wonder if Karma will ever manifest in drama in their relationship (it will get back to me through my sons), I realize that Karma really is all about me and being happy. Someday let us know if their relationship blows up and I’ll do the same.

      • OMG! 18 YEARS of if only sand maybes in front of her definitely sounds like punishment. I had a friend in Brazil who’s boyfriend did this to her. She was so relieved when they finally got married and had a huge wedding. Her relief lasted 1.5 months until he just took off in the middle of the night. I occationally saw him at samba clubs (he actually hit on me one night – I gave him a death stare – he laughed and said, Teresa’s girl). He found his way back to her plush condo in a few weeks and she get the rest of her life with him realizing that marriage …. is ….. different how, exactly?

    • Lucky,
      My ex (who left me….not because I didn’t know the deal but because I was a lifer, for better or for worse).
      In the months after he left he wanted me to “pick me” dance and I was only too happy to do it. I’m not proud.
      I got my shit together, got a pit bull atty and a good settlement and moved on.
      I’m now engaged to a lovely fellow chump, he’s with his AP raising her young kids and weeks after I got engaged, he got engaged.
      I don’t follow him on any social media but I occasionally get a pic from people that know the back story. The second I got engaged so did he, and now it’s like she’s planning the royal wedding. Her hair is cut exactly like mine…..it’s actually comical.
      Point?? Don’t even give a second of thought to his engagement or their wedding website, it’s all for the world to see, to give the impression that he’s not an asshole marrying his mistress.
      Laugh it off.
      Good screen name, you are lucky you don’t have to deal with that shit anymore.

      • Freaky on the hair etc. My sisters exes AP is copying my sisters and cheater’s previous life to a real creepy level. Moved back to the same neighborhood they raised their kids in, adopted two girls and a boy like my sis has, (now adults, Mr. late 60’s cheaters kids are all under 10) and the new adopted kids will be going to the same School of course —— (poor kids, don’t they have rules about adopting children out to Lying Cheating Freaks?).

    • The “how we met story”. I keep coming back to that. Our love story was epic (STBX and me) in every sense. I loved telling the story if how we met. Now what is he going to tell people about him and lumpy (AP)
      “Well ya see we met while working at the same dead end job. I was married and she was a divorcee with two kids she does not have primary custody of. It wasn’t love at first sight, I really had to pursue her like a lost puppy in order to convince her and myself that even at 46 I’ve still got “It”. We just connected over our misery on how crappy life has been to us, especially since we are such good people”
      Like that is what your gonna tell the grandkids. Oh wait who am I kidding, they will just lie some more.

      • Sounds like my ex. Two married work cheaters hooking up at conferences and hotels near the office for a couple hours in the middle of the day. What a sweet story to share.

      • Wow! So similar except my ex and his AP were having their affiar trysts while traveling together on the company dime…

        When I’m feeling fiesty I refer to her as his ex-mistress rather than his gf. It takes a moment for people to process it. It makes me sound bitter, but then again, I am!

        He’s still with the AP and I suspect he’s actually faithful and congratulating himself for doing so. But they live in different states and only see each other once or twice a month plus vacations. So easy to be in love in a long-distance relationship.

        At some point, he’ll be bored or drunk and take advantage of the “travel perks” again… Ain’t no way this guy is going to do the daily grind of a real relationship, especially with her two young kids.

        As far as the article goes, it’s dated 2012. I wonder if the guy is still married.

    • Lucky, I couldn’t read it either….I lived it too deeply.

      Now, all these years later, I am SO surprised at my attitude (If my 2005 self crawled into my 2119 brain, she would be shocked beyond belief at what she saw and felt) I now WISH that they had run off with each other. I wish that he had packed his bags on DDay and we would have ended it then.

      So you visited the wedding website then? What I wouldnt give to gander that that…

  • To me pain shopping will always be looking at social media to see what your ex and schmoopie are up to and comparing their fake facebook lives to yours and getting upset over it. I guess it’s the same concept but the difference is that it’s your ex and there is absolutely nothing to be gained by continuing to stalk their social media. It is the very definition of pain shopping.

    The unicorns are misinformed per usual. Continuing to monitor my ex’s emails and phone and looking at credit card bills helped me realize what an entitled jerk he really was and the possibility of him changing were about zip. I describe it as information gathering to help my wounded head and heart get on board with the idea of leaving.

    • I totally agree with you. My ex and I have been divorced for four years (share 2 kids so I try to grey rock as much as possible). And once or twice a year I have the rare impulse to check what he is up to on Facebook. Then I ask myself “what are you doing here Boudicca?” It’s pain shopping for sure.
      And I absolutely believe he is hoping and counting on me to look and see. He puts stuff up that will be intended to be a dagger for me. So even going on there? Pain shopping.
      If I do it to look for information to fight him in court (he takes me to court once a year) then it is kicking ass despite the pain.

      • It’s different when you have to monitor because you have minor children or because the jerk keeps pulling you back to court. That’s not pain shopping. It’s gathering information. I’m sure it sucks for the people who have to do that but it’s a necessary evil. I guess you can only hope you get enough ammunition to make it worth your while!

  • My pain shopping was asking my STBX about the affair. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know what was so special about her. I just wanted the truth. All I got was I answered those questions already. I told you we did not have sex. I told you she just liked to have fun. I never got the truth. I hacked into his Facebook account, and cell phone account. This is how I found out he was texting his ex girl friend from high school. And messaging women on Facebook. When I asked he of course denied. He even told me that he was texting his ex girlfriend. But, he thought it was me scamming him. I knew that he was never going to be faithful and was not sorry that he cheated. Showing him the door was the best thing I could do for myself.

    • Hi Cuzchump, same thing in my situation. I asked–I wanted to know all, and I was desperately trying to figure out what was so special about her. Was she prettier, smarter, more fun? All the way to the end, he claimed they were just friends who had never had sex.

      Oh, I found sex pictures? It was just the one time. Oh, the file of sex photos obviously showed several different locations? It was just those few times. What about that last scuba trip they took together over the Christmas before he came home? OF COURSE they didn’t have sex then. They were just friends!

      He insisted that they were just friends all the way through moving her into our home after I left for my parents, all the way until my final contact, which of course I later regretted. It was my incredulous email to him about their courthouse wedding, six months after our divorce.

      Like you, I finally realized that he was not sorry and that I had to take care of myself by cutting him out completely.

      • OK so what is that? The whole “we’re just friends” BS. Like dude you text her every day, you told me you would resent me if I made u not contact her. You left me because I didn’t want her at our child’s birthday party. Then you left me for good (my fault obviously 🙄) and I found the IM’s about you cuddled up with her and yet…you’re “just friends”
        MF’er tried to tell me he hadn’t banged her yet…nearly two months after he walked out on his family. At 3 months he now lives with her. But guys you should know that “they’re just friends” He abandoned his family because of me of course, not because he had a side piece he fished from the dumpster.
        And he is still committed to that lie, they were “just friends”, but with him being so torn up about how much of a worthless CNT I am that he had no choice but to trip and fall cock first into her gapping hole.

    • My ex actually seemed disappointed that I didn’t ask more questions and used that as an excuse to accuse me of not caring. I was trying to focus on getting him to love me again, not what might have gone on with Schmoopie. I also didn’t want him to focus on Schmoopie as a result of me bringing it up. I wanted both of us to forget about the affair and her existence. I wanted her to just go away. I didn’t even know what questions to ask and I didn’t think getting answers to those hypothetical questions was going to help us reconcile which is where my hopes and focus were at the time. And yes, I might also have been listening to the RIC as well and trying not to scare the timid forest creature. He still managed to use that against me as another thing I was doing wrong yet again. He never really wanted to reconcile, he just didn’t want to look like a jerk who hadn’t tried. As such, it really didn’t matter if I asked questions or not. Either way he was going to use it against me.

  • I only asked, Did you cheat on me? Response, of course was no, we’re “just friends.”

    I never asked any further details. I couldn’t bear it. I’d rather my imagination take me there than to know the real details. Not that he’d tell the truth anyway. I mean, he “never cheated on me”…..moved in with her 14 seconds after he walked out of our house and married her before the ink was dry on the divorce decree.

    • ^^^This I wholeheartedly believe will be in my very soon future. I got the same thing, we’re just friends, I didn’t cheat (pro tip: leaving your wife and not filling a separation and then moving in with your dumpster find is adultery FYI) “I left because of you.” Yeah because I was done being lied to and walked all over.
      The only good thing is that his motivation to put a ring on that sausage of a finger of her’s, will ensure that I get everything I want in our divorce.

  • It CL’s first patreon web chat (SUPPORT CL AND JOIN TODAY!)… I submitted a question similar to the concept of “pain shopping”. Of course, immediately after the discard and turning over binders filled with cheating evidence to my attorney which unequivocally showed that I was married to a bisexual whore, I still felt adrift in bewilderment and disbelief that Mr. Sparkles was this man. And, with the discard, he had me so gaslighted and mindfucked that I did actually believe on a very deep level that I was somehow responsible for his cheating and that with his new partner (the OW) he would once again become monogamous.

    About a year into the divorce process, I went “pain shopping” (as I define it)… I went looking for NEW PROOF that he was still a bisexual cheating whore. It took me less than TEN MINUTES to find his personal ad on Adult Friend Finder. I was beside myself… and when I tried to show it to all my friends they looked at me as if to say, “Well, what did you expect… he is a liar and a cheater.” THEY had already internalized what I had not. And so I continued to “pain shop” (to see that he was cheating on someone else caused me a new pain of “do I tell them and how?”… keeping the cheater central and keeping me miles away from Meh.

    CL said in the web chat that if you want to achieve MEH, it isn’t just about putting down the hopium pipe, but it is truly NO CONTACT… and for me this includes pain shopping. I’ll admit, I was doing a happy dance with the OW dumped him because of his cheating… but guess what, he had a new victim on the hook within WEEKS… and she just signed a $300K mortgage with him. SO, what did I do… I pain shopped again… and again… less than 10 minutes on Ashley Madison and there he was “MrGrey1968″… unfuckingbelievable… yet not.

    That was my breakthrough moment. Here I am thinking he is going to change, when over the course of the last four years… I was still stuck being the marriage police when I wasn’t even married to the fuckwit anymore. I stopped cold turkey.

    Meh is a choice. You have to want it more than you want to feel the pain to feel “alive”… more than you want your friends and family to acknowledge the horror you survived. You have to close that door, delete that website, stop googling for his/her profiles. Know in your heart… he/she hasn’t changed. For me, it was seeing how hard it was for ME to change and I’m working at every day. Imagine someone who isn’t doing anything… do you really think they’re going to change?

    Shop for a cheater free life – that is emotional money well spent.

    • Yes to this.
      My life deserves me ( all of me) in it.
      Not partially present trying to fix other unrepairable broken people.

    • I think that shopping for pain can be part of a process of recovering from what has happened. So I don’t think anyone who does it should feel stupid for that. I think you need that pain to adjust to what things are really like, to force you to see without spackle.

      I think it there was a wise part of you doing that, although you’ve grown beyond it now.

  • I think there are two different issues getting conflated here. Asking a partner for honest information that will help you make decisions about how to respond to infidelity (or any other kind of betrayal) is not pain shopping, it is information gathering–and it is a healthy, if painful, response. Seeking information after a decision has been reached is likely to be pain shopping, whether you ask your spouse for more details or go peeking at FB to see what the EX is up to these days.

    I almost understand the RIC point here–if I’ve decided to stay with my husband no matter what, then why do I want or need to hear about his misbehaviors any further? If I am asking to hear about them it is probably because on some level I am still evaluating my choices, checking to make sure his behavior was not so egregious that I backtrack and choose divorce after all. I am not just shopping for “pain,” I’m price checking to make sure I really got the best deal possible when I agreed to reconcile.

    It is hard for a lot of us to figure out when to stop investigating and start acting on our knowledge, but once we know what we must do and are simply delaying because it is painful to move forward, we risk slipping into pain shopping mode. We at least understand the kind of misery we suffer when we pain shop, but we fear the new kinds of pain that might occur when we end the marriage. What CL does so well is highlight the fact that leaving a painful relationship eventually means ENDING the pain–if you leave the cheater, you don’t need to shop in that lousy, over-priced mall ever again.

    • When I learned enough to know that he was an asshole from hell, I stopped looking. Between his reaction and what I found, he completely slipped into cold, cruel Dickhead and I never saw the “husband” again. I knew enough to figure out moments that had passed in the last few months. And I didn’t need to know more. He has deceived me, he blameshifted and gaslighted enough that I thought I was one that had serious issues. The whole time I was trying to be better, he was out fucking whores. The fact that he let me think that he was working on the marriage while banging other people – is a hurt that I will never get over.

      After that, I dropped his skein of fuckedupness and never picked it up again. He hurt me, he is a bastard with ice water running through his veins. That’s all I needed to mentally push myself away from him.

        • I concur. I am still waiting for my husband to show up. Like maybe I’ll find out he has a brain tumor or a frontal lobe infraction. Because holy crap who is the soulless void in front of me.
          It messes with my head, like was he always like this? (He wasn’t) How could I have been so gullible? How did I not know who i married and had a child with, and gave 13 years of my life to.
          The thing is though, he has to be like that. It is the only way he can mentally process and justify what he has done (he takes no responsibility BTW) I have to be the bad guy in his head because if I wasn’t then he would have to fully face how much of a POS he really is. And that is on him. I live in reality, he chooses delusion.

    • I completely agree Eilonwy! Information gathering to figure out what is the truth of your own life whether that is done pre or post divorce is very different from pain shopping which serves no useful purpose.

  • I dunno… Somehow that sounds like something a cheater made up to get their chump to stop asking questions that they didn’t want to answer and were tired of having to come up with lies for. See? I’m just trying to protect you!!!

  • I got an e-mail notice that “People are noticing you! Your Linked In views were up 200% last week!”

    It is the 25 YO foreign ho-worker sparkletwat. I saw earlier that someone in her section has been looking and suspected as much, but finally Linked In showed me exactly who was looking without having to do the premium level. It was the greasy cow. I guess SHE is pain shopping.

    My first reaction was nausea. And then I realized that all must not be ideal in Schmoopie-twu-luv land. Bummer for them. Does he keep her guessing? Talk of regrets? Just not able to commit? Huh. Who would have guessed that the 50 YO asshat was having twubbles coping with his choices. He is a leaky bucket who will never be satisfied and will blame others. Declarations of twu luv will be waived away at any time and she will be blamed for making him say it. He is a child.

    I have not heard from him in over a year. I don’t ever want him back. I DO want him to suffer and have a lot of pain and a ton of regret though. Even if I saw wedding announcements or other image management things I know better, I know him far too well and it will be misery for them. Pop the corn.

  • #4 Because your gut is telling you that you don’t have the full story and that the cheater is still lying and hiding things

    • But you will never have the full, real story.

      At some point, as others above have stated, when enough fact-finding makes one realize that this is unacceptable to them turns into simply looking for whatever – more validation of their betrayals, to feel something, to seek any signs that they are miserable like you want, etc. – is pain shopping.

      When you see enough to answer the question that this is NOT acceptable to you, there is no need to dig deeper.

  • Someone referred to the book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk the other day. It is a real eye opener about trauma. I am learning so much from it.

    It’s relevant here because there are legitimate reasons people repeat behaviors that lead to pain, and those reasons illuminate the path to healing when a person wants to heal or assist with the healing.

    Saying someone is shopping for pain is really invalidating and can be quite hurtful/harmful. It’s also an oversimplified perspective of a common trauma response.

    Many chumps were neglected in early life (and may not even realize it) and, as a result, have learned to be hyperaccommodating as a strategy to avoid abandonment. Sociopaths, narcissists, and other meanies recognize our traits and target us because we are vulnerable. They exploit our trauma to get what they want from us for one simple.reason — because it works.

    If you find yourself digging into the pain of your betrayal, consider the very real possibility that this is a PTSD symptom and, as a result, you can’t simply reason your way out of the behavior. Consider seeking help from someone trained in something like EMDR. It may be that there’s more to how stuck you feel than you’ve realized.

  • Huh. I thought pain shopping was deliberately seeking out information that you know is going to hurt you whether you are trying to reconcile or not. I thought it meant checking out the OW’s facebook page where you are likely to see pictures of her and your husband (or former husband) together in bliss. I thought it was reading his text messages and e-mails knowing you are likely to see the horrible things he is saying about you or the wonderful things he is saying to her. I supposed those things might be good and necessary if you are still smoking the hopium and need to break the habit, but once you decide to give up on the marriage and move on, perhaps it’s best not to focus on those things any longer. It is hard to get to meh when you go looking for the things that are going to tear your soul apart all over again.

    I also didn’t need to pain shop. Once DDay occurred, Schmoopie 2.0 was totally in my face. I didn’t go looking for Schmoopie 1.0, I discovered her by accident when I unwittingly confided to her about the existence of Schmoopie 2.0 and how devastated I was (I do get some satisfaction from realizing that I spilled the beans to her about Schmoopie 2.0). I was only looking through the credit card statements to try and get a handle on our finances as part of the divorce when I ran across the charges for those Valentine’s day flowers (and dinner and a show) that I helped pay for. He didn’t even try to hide it. I tried to get a family pool membership at a pool other than the one she was a member of and that was right across from her house but he convinced me I was being petty (why oh why did I listen? – perhaps I was still subconsciously pick me dancing and didn’t want to look bad). I spent the rest of the summer having to dodge her comings and goings to the pool and having to drive past her house (no way in or out of the parking lot without doing so) and seeing his car in her driveway. I wasn’t shopping for any of that pain but it found me anyway. Well no more. Now I have my own credit card and my own finances. Now I have a pool membership in a different part of town. Now I avoid situations where I might see the two of them together. Facebook is my refuge because ex isn’t on it. My ex thinks I am just being a petty, bitter, poor sport for refusing to make friends with Schmoopie or outwardly accept her in any way. No, I am just protecting myself by avoiding pain because even 2.5 years post DDay, 1.25 years post divorce and a new boyfriend later, it still hurts when she is in my face.

    • Your ex is something else in his expectations. You have a right to your emotions and he does not het to discount them for his convenience. A total frog.

  • The UBT, as usual, does a bang-up job of cutting to the chase. Pain shopping, as understood in the context of the RIC, is basically eating shit sandwiches.

    However, I’d like to comment on the sheer hubris expressed in “The Betrayed Spouse’s Role After an Affair.”

    It’s not merely about putting up with the crap. It’s about assuming that the Chump can manipulate the Cheater into being a faithful spouse.

    Treading softly around our cheater didn’t keep them from cheating, so why would it make them want to be faithful spouses? So many Chumps blame themselves for the affairs, thinking that if they’d only been not so pudgy, not so bald, not so busy working to enable their spouse to stay at home with the kids, not so…–well, their spouses wouldn’t have cheated.

    And then they go into therapy, where they learn that you control only you.

    A healthy marriage is a partnership of equals, each bringing something unique to the table. The RIC casts marriage as a parent/child relationship. The more mature Chump somehow has to guide the Cheater into making the right choices, just as a parent has to guide a child.

    No thanks.

  • When I frantically wanted answers from him regarding all his betrayals-

    He said and I quote: If you give me $7,000, I’ll answer anything you want.

        • No, we weren’t married. We lived together. I never gave him one dollar.

          He asked because he saw I was “wild” for the truth and he needed the money, due to his refusal to work a straight job and decadent lifestyle.

          That was the real him- mask ripped off. A predator. My pain, life changing and excruciating, did not register to him. He did not care a mite, a whit.

          If at dusk ( in the gloaming) or certain weak moments, I grow nostalgic for one or two moments with him that seemed happy- I just remember that punch in the gut.

          • That’s awful, Astrid. The POSs are all alike. My husband refused to answer any questions because “he didn’t want to go down memory lane”. Memory Lane? I just wanted answers or anything from the past few months. You realize just how little they actually care.

            • Mine only admitted to the cheating I told him I knew, even one I’d made up. I realized he’d had so many cheap back page whores, adult friend finder neighbors, Asian happy ending massages, pre surgery work hookups that he couldn’t even remember the truth. So I stopped asking, dumped the couples therapy and planned my exit. Knowledge IS power.

              • Geode

                Right?
                Mine was also “ confused” couldn’t remember a thing…. yeah, right.
                It was in hundreds in reality and probably more online …. 🤮
                All that while preaching about values… I just discovered term “ covert altruistic narc” – even the title of fucking with my mind… you know the type- super helpful, perfect image management, great guy, while truly abusive, mind fucking, cheater and liar. The covert one cares about his image so he will go way and beyond to make sure that everyone knows how great he is.
                Ugh…. during DDay with a smirk on his face he was telling me about his “ mistakes”
                If you haven’t known- you would think that he is discussing a summer vacation plans- absolutely no remorse, no pain, sadness or empathy for me. I saw pride.
                I was completely frozen and numb ( I anticipated such an outcome and emotionally got ready by completely numbing myself )

                Scary when the mask slips…. few more encounters during the marriage – cold, calculated, cruelty.

  • Good Lord,
    The letter that CL puts through the UBT was my thought process for almost all of 2017. It’s what resulted in my complete degradation and the trauma symptoms that I am still managing today.

    I deliberately refrained from “pain shopping” while I was in RIC. Blindly told my ex several times that I was not going to be tracking him or expecting that he show me things as a sign of the faith that I had in him. I really believed that this would touch him and help turn him towards me. What it did was inspire some feeling of guilt in him that he should give me a chance, but he would turn right back to the OW within weeks and continue the affair knowing that I wasn’t doing anything to track him. It was so manipulative. Whenever I would question him, he would claim high levels of anxiety and that he needed space. That would send me into a panic that I “pushed” him too hard and so I failed in my part to be patient and understanding. Boy, did he work this; he should have just physically whipped me.

    He increasingly claimed that being around me was stressing him out. That my presence was as unnerving as a stranger in his personal space. But, he also claimed that the OW was completely out of the picture, so I took that as a sign of reconciliation and that he just needed time to “heal” from the detachment of the OW. He even once equated her to heroine – he knew she was no good but the euphoria he felt around her kept him always seeking more. Even I recognized how messed up that was and told him he needed to talk to a professional – this is not normal thinking for a man in his mid-40s.

    I wish now that I had done all my “pain shopping” immediately. The sooner I knew the truth of the extent of his relationships with women, the pornography and how long the current OW was actually in the picture, the sooner I would have understood that I had nothing to work with. Dangerous games were being played. This weak-willed man was playing me in some sick game of resentment and spite.

    My best friends recently said to me that what they hate most about what my ex has done is that they saw that it made me question my own goodness as a person and made me feel that I am inadequate in relationships. Women who have known me for 30 years, through all my years of study, professional accomplishment, my work in the community, my international travels, and, I was blaming myself for having failed my marriage, for not being a good Catholic, for lacking relationship skills, for not being a good wife, etc. They have been so concerned about what this has done to the light within me.

    I have always been a determined person, a high achiever, a hard worker and a justice crusader. I grew up in a low-income, single parent family, living in government housing. My father was an abusive man who abandoned us (ended up in jail eventually for a period of time). My mother is an amazing woman who fought to provide us with stability and some measure of opportunity. Scholarships put me through university – three degrees worth. I pursued a career in social justice and education. Spent my 20s working in international development in developing countries. Returned to Canada to work with marginalized people in my community, teach in the Catholic school system and became a guidance counsellor in a high needs school. My faith is important, my life’s work is compassion for others, my familial relationships and friendships are paramount.

    But, this man ultimately made me feel like I was a fraud. I struggled in the years when the kids were babies to manage my life. Found it difficult to strike work-life balance. Felt that I needed to be all things to all people and got burnt out. I recognized that I often complained to my husband, bitched, and sometimes even criticized. I know that I started to feel increasing dissatisfaction in what I perceived was my husband’s lack of initiative, and I would push him to do more. I own that sometimes I was resentful because I felt that I was doing a grossly disproportionate amount of work in the family.

    It is because I recognized my own sins that I allowed this man to insidiously manipulate me. I felt responsible for his affairs. I saw it as my failure to meet his needs. I believed that I had been a horrible wife who clearly just didn’t know how to ever be happy so I drove my husband away. And, ultimately at my core, I wondered if something was really wrong with me if my father could have so easily abandoned me and now my husband did too.

    The forum that CL and CN provides has been pivotal in the process of turning my thinking around. It’s a different narrative that helps in the process of healing. Thank you.

    My ex left me to be with the OW just over one year ago. I know longer blame myself for what is ultimately his own short-comings. I did not do anything that deserved his lies and betrayal. I think the fact that I have had such an incredible support system rally around me (including every one of my in-laws) speaks volumes about my value and esteem to others. Once again, I believe I am a good person, gifted, worthy. I have a life filled with so many blessings and a great life lies ahead of me to live. And although my ex accused me of being too strong, too busy…that life with me was about too much responsibility and not enough fun…well, I say “thank you for the compliment.”

    It’s those very qualities that ensures that I am a woman who can support myself, that I remain a solid moral force in the life of my children, that I am able to care for my son with autism and my mother who is also ill. It’s how I help students everyday at my job who struggle to get through the day. It’s how I am being sought out for leadership opportunities within my school board. It’s these qualities that makes me someone who remained committed in my marriage to the bitter end, showed loyalty and a willingness to do better. Those qualities will carry forth in all my future relationships.

    It was simply wasted on him.

    Well, when me know better, we do better. As CL states, we cannot unilaterally change a marriage by ourselves.

    • “It is because I recognized my own sins that I allowed this man to insidiously manipulate me.” Yes me too.

      “I think the fact that I have had such an incredible support system rally around me (including every one of my in-laws) speaks volumes about my value and esteem to others. Once again, I believe I am a good person, gifted, worthy. I have a life filled with so many blessings and a great life lies ahead of me to live.” Also me too.

      Cheaters may all have a lot in common, but we chumps have a lot in common too. I am proud to be on the chump side rather than the cheater side.

    • You sound like you must be a strong role model for your kids.
      It’s very disturbing to realize our spouse is actually like our parent. I have suddenly come to the very same realization. My therapists reminds me that we look for what we know…it’s familiar.

  • I never set out to “pain shop”. I only needed an explanation for what just happened (as I was offered neither a reason/ nor explanation for his sudden moving out after 35 years married). Have to say, as much as I love “shopping”, these past three years have been the worst shopping experience of my life. Each new discovery was a knife in the back or kick in the gut.

  • Every post I read supports my decision to separate from my x. I cannot see reconciliation, even if he was to become a model, kind man, being a positive thing.

    He already betrayed me while things were good. What possible basis could I have for ever trusting him not to do it again?

    We continue to be civil as we have kids. He is trying, but I just don’t need anymore bullshit. I need to embrace finding me again. It could be exciting.

    Reconciliation appears to only add to the pain. I think I’d rather leave the pain with him and his shitty choices.

    This forum is amazing. Sometimes a person needs to hear the honest truth. Cheaters suck and chumps deserve better. So choose better.

    • Totally.

      In my case, the Cowardly Liar decided at the last minute that he wanted to reconcile. I pushed through by says ng that I don’t know what the future holds, I just know that right now I need this divorce, so please just sign and we can discuss the future separately. That got him to sign.

      I had no intention of any future review. I just needed to get him over the finish line.

      Not sure exactly why I am saying this, just had an intuition somebody would need it.

  • I’ve been wondering about pain shopping and perhaps “involuntary pain shopping” like the wife of Jeff Bezos who had to find out about her shit-husband cheating and his disgusting texts to his SKANK. That poor woman can’t run from finding out more because it is all over the news. I don’t care how much money she will get in a divorce settlement because his betrayal must still hurt. And money doesn’t buy happiness no matter how much she gets in the settlement – it might make her life easier, but I don’t think it cures heartache. My heart goes out to her just like any new CL reader…the shock of betrayal and the accompanying gut-wrenching feelings of discovery I wish upon no one ever except for another cheater.

    I’ve thought about boycotting Amazon. I’m a Prime member and I use it all the time for E-books, movie, shopping etc., so it will definitely inconvenience me, but I’m willing to go elsewhere. Has anyone else thought of boycotting Amazon, too?

  • Yes, don’t make the Narc feel bad, that’s their job to you! You get to eat the shit sandwich and don’t you dare bring up any mention of any kind of past mistakes, bad decisions. No, THEY get to do that to you on everything. YOU have to suck it up already, don’t rock the boat, and just be happy already! (Why can’t you be happy when I’ve done so much for you?!!)

    Pain Shopping for me has a very different definition – I go shopping to see HIS pain – the physical and mental gyrations of image management and sycophant cultivation through victim-hood. A quick surf through social media land – and there he is whining that he’s being persecuted and asking for prayers and support. Oh, a friend of a friend has sent you a FB post – he’s telling everyone how much fun he’s having with his girlfriend…no, not the one he screwed on around on you with (at least the one you know about), its the OTHER poor sucker that he schmoozed after the 1st one figured out the truth and fled.

    That is the kind of Pain Shopping I have to stop myself from doing. Gloating can only be so productive after a while.

  • I have actually experienced a different kind of pain shopping. Post DDay and throughout the divorce process, I kept running across my stashes of letters, holiday cards, notes etc. from him. Many of them were still relatively current at the time, at least within the last 2-3 years although maybe not so much in the last year or so. They were all filled with loving notes telling me what a wonderful wife and mother I was and how lucky he was to have me in his life. Some were sappier than others, but they all had a similar message. Seeing these hurt too, especially the old Christmas tag that read “To Chumpinrecovery, from the man whose heart you will always have”. I burst into tears at that one and left it in his mail pile hoping it would stir something in him (of course not, he ignored it). There was another one, about two years old as of DDay where he compared being with me to a slice of heaven on earth. Seeing these hurt because it made me feel as if I had once had his love and lost it and now Schmoopie was getting those cards and notes and the feelings of being loved that go along with them. It hurt, a lot. I still continued to seek them out for a while, however, and I still have them although I never look at them anymore. Why? Because they are a reminder that I wasn’t stupid for having thought that I had a solid marriage. He wanted me to think he loved me. In the aftermath of DDay, hind sight became 20/20 and I was able to remember a lot of negative events that made me feel like I was a fool for not having seen this coming. How could I possibly have thought I had a good marriage in the face of XYZ that suddenly became much more significant and loomed large over our marriage. Apparently he had known for years that we had a lousy marriage. Maybe he was right and we were never happy and how could I have been so stupid as to have missed it. All of those sweet loving cards (and I found a few from me to him as well, although he tended not to keep them the way I did) were a reminder that, although there maybe should have been a few red flags, there were also the positive signs as well that lead me to believe I was in a good marriage. Maybe I was too focused on the positives and not the negatives, but that is what you are supposed to do when you are married. That is what “cherish” means. I did have reasons to think that my marriage was at least good if not great and I wasn’t a blind idiot fool after all. So I keep them as a reminder of the fact that I am not stupid, but I never look at them because it is too painful.

    • This, and other comments you’ve made (today and a few days ago)…you seem to think a lot like I do, or at least you’ve had similar experiences and similar ways of approaching them. Why does it feel like it was real love, for 10 years, and then it turns out it isn’t, or wasn’t? Ever, or just lately? Like, did something change or was it always that way? The nice notes, the acts of service, all of that. It boggles me that someone could play a game for that long.

      Is “I Suck Too” a kind of pain shopping? That’s what I do most. I read about narcs and I think, “But that could have been me.” After DDay I did my fair share of rage, charm, and self-pity. Cheaters do that when you cut off the kibble supply, right? So in a way, DDay was when SHE cut off MY kibble supply, and I’m the one who fought to keep it. Or is there something different underlying all of it? (Still emerging from the gaslighting, sorry.)

      Hope it’s not too far off topic but I need to gather as much CN wisdom as I can.

      • Yes, many of us chumps also cycle through charm/self-pity/rage trying to hang on to our marriages that we perceived as providing kibbles although the quality of those kibbles is typically questionable by the time DDay rolls around. The difference is that we were blindsided and betrayed. We were committed to the relationship as we promised to be in our marriage vows and we thought they were too. It doesn’t matter if they did love us and stopped or if they never did. Either way, they weren’t following through on their vows. They may have all kinds of excuses for blowing up our marriages in the way they did, but we were unaware of having done anything to deserve it because it was never communicated to us. In many cases, in fact, we did nothing wrong, cheater just found a flavor of kibbles they liked better and then had to come up with reasons why we sucked. In the case of a chump withholding kibbles from a cheater, it is consequences for specific behavior that most normal sane people would agree is wrong and the cheater knows darn well why it is happening. If we behaved badly enough to warrant consequences, there was no need to cheat. They could have just divorced us. If ex had just left without another woman getting involved, I would still have been devastated and still run through the charm channel, maybe a little self-pity and possibly rage but probably not much because it would not have involved the feelings of betrayal. I also would not have had to watch the kibbles that should have gone to me being doled out to someone else who didn’t deserve them (this is what elicited rage in me). Also, we were still giving them kibbles when we had ours taken away. Cheaters are reacting to having their kibbles taken away after they have already removed theirs from the family pot. Cheater takes kibbles away and gives them to someone else, chump reacts. Chump gives up says, “fine, ok, keep your moldy kibbles, but I will no longer be giving you any more of my gourmet ones”, cheater reacts. See the difference?

        • OK, I get it. As you can see I’m still stuck trying to get to Trust That I Don’t Suck. She has me completely gaslit, to the point that I don’t even trust that I’m accurate in saying that she did gaslight me. Like, gaslit the gaslighting. This shit is twisted.

        • One other question: the more I think about it, the more I start to see her game and what she’s doing. It’s almost like she thinks she’s so much smarter than me. She said she’s “so completely done” with OM and I never let on that I didn’t believe her. But RIC said “don’t talk about it.”

          Does it make a difference now if I flat out say to her, “I know what you’re up to and you suck”?

          • Don’t bother. It won’t do you any good and just opens the door for more opportunities to gaslight you. Just line up your ducks and get divorced. If she complains, tell her you are doing her a favor and letting her go because you will never be able to give her what she wants. Let her think you still respect her because it may make it easier to divorce without a big fight. You should be thinking “she sucks, I don’t” in the back of your mind, but don’t let on to her that you have figured this out. If it turns into a big fight anyway, let the lawyers handle it and go no contact.

            With my cheater, civility usually works best even when I really just want to rail at him. It makes life easier even if I have to fake it. Not all cheaters work this way. Hostility rarely gets you what you want, however, even if it makes you feel better in the moment. If civility doesn’t work, lawyers and no contact are the only way to go.

    • Yes. I have had this same experience. I have to believe that those years were real. He did love me. And now, although he says he still does, I canno longer love him.

      I’m going to burn everything at the full moon. I don’t need reminders. They screw with your head.

  • The Letter above being put through the UBT reminds me of my decades of RIC “be the better option”. I was bound and determined not to “let him lose me” although i can assure you he didn’t care to keep me at all. How sad and pathetic and what a complete waste of my love and caring. He left me when he had truly used up my usefulness and found a new source. My self esteem could not have gotten much lower.

    My pain shopping these days are when i happen upon his big new happy family photos on facebook that include my kids in the new big happy family. Its hard to remember sometimes that its just the highlight reel, and also to realize my own highlight reel looks pretty darn good.

  • In the beginning I tried to figure out how to save my marriage.
    And I was in shock that the general wisdom propagated assumed that the chump needs to make the majority of the changes. That you drove him to the cheating. That you simply were not enough. It felt so unfair. But in hindsight I know why. It is to sell and earn money. Who is more likely to spend money on books: the chump. Who actually cares about the relationship: the chump. Who has any vested interest in fixing things: the chump. When is the chump most likely to spend money: if there are repair methodologies offered and if they think they can be in control.

    And my cheater then told me exactly that. It was me that is the root cause of it all. I was in a horrible shock spell that felt like it lasted forever.
    I am only now gaining the actual realization that it cannot be upon me to fix it. That I cannot be held accountable for his cheating and lying. That the narrative that he was in so much unhappiness that he needed to find his relief elsewhere is just plain stupid.
    Would you excuse robbing a bank, just because someone was unhappy about the lack of money? Would you blame the bank?

    I did pain shopping… for me it meant actively searching the truth. It was stopping the spackling. It was stopping to blame myself and thinking I could fix things. It was looking at the raw data points and redrawing all past conclusions that I was an inherently flawed and insufficient person.
    That I indeed married an abuser.

    • This! Absolutely 120% spot on.

      It took me a long long time to realise this fact. Also notice how so many of the RIC sites are run by ex-cheaters? As though the whole of RIC is for cheaters, by cheaters. So as they’re lazy and nothing is ever their fault then just blame the chump, oh and get some money out of them too (notice too how so many of their useless e-books are all priced at the same $47).

    • Yes….they have the tumors but WE have cancer.

      No. No. No.

      “The bank vault was open so it was the bank’s fault that I stole the money.” (Logic of cheater and the cheating accomplices).

      “When I shut the front door and lightning flashes in the sky, it is related.”

      Cheater logic is a rich source of comic material after the pain subsides.

  • Don’t bring up the pain because then you’ll directly see just how little the cheater cares. “Without remorse and desire in her to help, I would feel all alone” and that lack of remorse will be hard to spackle over, so better to keep that lack of remorse hidden. And you keep it hidden by keeping your true emotions hidden. As an added bonus, you won’t “punish” her by making the affair a lifelong nightmare for her. Instead, you’ll make it a lifelong nightmare for you. Now go suck in those pesky emotions!

  • Went down the RIC rabbit hole in the beginning. Looking back it was very damaging. I feel great sympathy for those of you in the beginning now dealing with this. RIC left me feeling self hatred. Felt like being trapped in a cycle of despair. Luckily a good marriage counselor and personal therapist told me to run and don’t look back. XW had already been given second chances and she would not be changing- just better at concealing and manipulating. Divorcing her was the best thing I ever did.

    I torched the RIC books as I didn’t want anyone else to have read that BS from those books ever again.

    • Zell, I can so relate to your comment. I fell for the Christian reconciliation rhetoric as I am married to a Jesus Cheater. I thought I could pray it all away. Like you, I threw away the hundreds of dollars reconciliation and you can save your marriage alone books so I wouldn’t be a part of contributing to that nonsense. My heart goes out to those who have so pinned their hopes and dreams on scum buckets doing the right thing. It’s a character disorder that can’t be changed.

      • So did I. Still have anger toward that Christian marriage guy. It was all on me – marriage police, X treated me terrible – swearing. I had to not bring it up and be encouraging. Build up the X so he felt good about himself. This while he was having cake. What a bunch of bullshit.

        • Livefortoday2,
          It is a money making business run by ex-cheating so called Christians. If you watch any of their videos on YouTube, the men are all cheaters and huge narcissists. They have figured out a way to make a lot of money off of dazed and confused chumps who desperately want to save their marriages that were a fantasy from the beginning. I started spackling on day two of my honeymoon and for the next 20+ years. They know how to pick us out of a crowd. Thankfully, OW came into our lives and freed me! He has met his match in her. Both lying cheating narcissists who deserve each other. She runs the church soundboard and is an elder, he is on the counseling board, they live together and we are still working on divorce, the pastor and his wife look the other way because my STBXH contributes thousands. He is a big fish in a little pond.

        • Wait what? How is it your sole responsibility to prop your spouse up after they pull this garbage? How is that a thing?
          So your spouse completely screws the pooch on holding up their end of the marriage and you have to “be encouraging” and “supportive”?
          Screw that! How about…my spouse ripped my heart out, danced on the pieces, made me question my worth as a human being and whether I have been living a lie for over a decade. If they want this to “work out” then there going to be some major concessions on their part and the only ego that needs boosting around here is mine…so hop to it.

          • When you’re sucked in by the “Sex Addiction” arm of the RIC it’s even worse. Not only do you need to support and encourage your timid forest creature, you need to devise the accountability mechanisms like routine polygraphs, gps monitoring their attendance at SAnon meetings and weekly disclosure of their inner and outer circle behaviors, you have to levy consequences while continuing to accept on their “slips.” It’s an all-consuming process that keeps the Chump smoking the hopium pipe under the illusion of progress and control over their disordered spouse to ensure a steady stream of therapy dollars for the CSATS.

            • That sounds ridiculous. Who the hell would live like that? Flipping photographs WTF? No relationship is worth that, especially if you weren’t the one that destroyed it in the first place.

  • When I read, and have re-read, this article, I ask myself: how much of her background during the affair period of her life do I want to dig deeper into? Some of us know all the details; some of us know some of it; and others know very little of it other than they ghosted you. Some of us will never get the closure of divorce other than what the legal system classifies us as, ie. separated, divorced, etc. Personally, after getting “stabbed in the back” for being a good husband to her and father to my kids, I feel I’m entitled for her to explain “why” she felt the need to cheat. But, we all live in reality, or at least I we do because we didn’t cheat and feel a need to have a “la-la land” lifestyle.

    Personally, I’d like to focus on moving on and showing my teen girls what a good parent I can be, and let them compare how I stack up against their cheating mom. I don’t want to give her the power or feeling that she still has influence over me.

  • I paid $5000 to The Surrendered Wife for “coaching” which was basically paying to have someone to cry to every time my remorseless acting out husband was doing something that caused me pain. I still remember one time telling her how I had stuck up for myself over something and she freaked out and said, “if you keep this up, he is going to have an affair and leave you.” She was right, he left me for his soul mate 2 months later. Thank goodness I don’t live under the crushing weight of suppressing my feelings during simultaneous gaslighting and mental abuse anymore.

    • PrettyBird, I am so sorry you were taken for so much money! Glad you are free and healing more each day. He left you, but not for his so called “soul mate”. He left you for a lying cheating woman who does not care how much pain they both inflict. I would call that soulless!

  • I feel like it takes so long to get over infidelity. It is such a long process. So many years. And if you are still with the person who betrayed you, it will take even more time.

    Additionally, I feel strongly that it’s never just about an isolated incident. It’s only right that you should want to know a lot of details. That you are overloaded with information and you forget certain things and have to question those things again. And why is there harm in asking about motives and who, what, where, when? This is how it goes. It’s also pertinent to add that it’s interesting to see how the story changes and/or stays the same over time. Do they reinvent history? Do they feel the same about the Other Person today as they used to? The problem with infidelity is that it’s almost like a living, breathing organism. You have to watch it, poke it, question it and see how it responds to pressure, time, distance, etc. Plus, did it actually end? Is there someone new?

    Honestly, really honestly, it’s just easier to dump everything down the drain. These people are not worth it. I stayed for 3 years after DDay 1. So not worth it. Even if they do the hard work to change, it’s better without you. You will be better without them. You will change – possibly even back into who you used to be – and you will find that life is better if you can just leave this whole thing in the rear view mirror.

  • //But the larger point is YOU HIT ME IN THE HEAD WITH A THREADED PIPE.
    YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HITTING YOURSELF WITH A THREADED PIPE. She hit you!
    she’s NOT SORRY. You can wait around for sorry, but more likely, you’re in for another blow to the head,//

    Recognized myself Laugh out loud. Sometimes it takes a nice cartel/mafia hyperbole to make a point. This one works. Nice!

  • No News Nick was out of stock of answers when i went pain shopping, through the 3 times i caught him out and stayed with him (plausible deniability and roof over my head won out) and the 4th time when i finally left 7 years later as well.

    Turns out he carried on with them all over those 7 years and picked up a 4th one. He had a near miss last year when i called him out that he was leaving me over a lie from a random stranger. So i waited, stopped pain shopping (yes even when he was showering shaving amd covering himself with aftershave for movie nights on his own!) And he fell into his own trap 6 months later. My waiting in silence and not pain shopping paid off though. I not only caught him cheating but was able to prove he’d lied to me solidly for the whole 15 years we were together. Ill call that happiness shopping and definitely got what i wanted from that decision – happiness, and no more pick me dancing, no more trying to work out his phone unlock code, and no more wondering why his glove box was always locked. Pain shopping sounds like a marathon shit sandwhich eating session, no thanks.

  • O.M.G. BRAVO!!!

    I spent YEARS (and TEARS) in a wreckonciliation in which I focused on personal growth. And while I won’t knock the personal growth – I did grow – I could have warped speed so much of if by just throwing the lying POS out of my life. A large part of that growth (which was really working on the marriage in disguise) was not needed because I WAS NEVER REALLY THE PROBLEM. Not before his affairs came to life…and not after in how I responded. And this has really been the crux of any genuine personal growth that I have had – learning how to stop thinking I am either the problem OR the answer. There is an art form in knowing when to just cut bait. Life gets immensely easier when you stop fishing in shallow pools.

  • I definitely did Pain shopping and I definitely thought to rise above the injustice, suck it up and be the ADULT…. I was 19 yrs old and it was pre our marriage. Fast forward 34yrs of marriage…. the doubts were always there re his faithfulness and eventually he & I split due to some serious disconnect on his part and my inability to maintain fake trust in him… & of course an AP in the background.

    Yep. Trust he sux. But didn’t know any better till 55yrs of age….. life as a single person is pretty damn good.

  • Chump lady you keep mentioning a post nup. Mine even offered a post nup (we had a strict pre-nup in which all assets and income are separate) in which I would get increasing access to his assets over time with NO INFIDELITY CLAUSE even if I divorce him just for any reason (infidelity clauses are not that enforceable) yet even after a long process of negotiating this I ended up saying NO to the whole thing. It took him too long to come around to agreeing to it and my gut just said I don’t want this anxiety & pain and lack of self respect around my neck all the time. Does a post nup really change anything? Mine offered the post nup, to go to marriage & individual therapy, and I am still saying no. My gut is saying he is a narcissist serial cheater and I am signing up for a world of paid to stay in this.

  • When in the name of God are we chumps going to step up to the plate and put a STOP to this bullshit? As women (mostly chumps) need to change the laws. Adultery is criminal, it would be whit any other contract on earth.

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