Dear Chump Lady,
I’ve been separated about 8 months from my STBX cheater. We were married for 7 years when he began having an affair with his ho-worker. I went through the hell of false reconciliation several times and I finally said enough was enough, because I just couldn’t buy his bullshit anymore, and I just plain realized I CAN DO BETTER!
Prior to his affair, he was verbally abusive, threatened me physically, threw things (usually my stuff), and drank constantly — but poor baby blamed it on PTSD so I felt sorry for him. Fast forward to today — I’m Meh or pretty close and happy as a clam to have dropped his NPD abusive ass like yesterday’s trash. He’s in lala land with his ho-worker (who was cheating on her husband as well, a real winner). I’ve gone as no contact as I can with a 4 year old son and I’m trying to move on with my life.
But my question is: Why do cheaters feel the need to punish the chump?
I just want this loser out of my life. I’ve already got primary custody of our son, so I’m a happy camper. We have nothing as far as assets because he was also a spendaholic. So what does he do?
Drags me into court for child support and alimony, so I can’t file for an uncontested divorce. He sends payments late. Blames me for his bills. Screams at me when I pick up my son about how this is all my fault and i’m stealing all his money. He agreed not to introduce our son to the ho-worker until 6 months after the divorce, only to find out my kid’s already met her several time and had a sleepover at her house. Takes him out of state without my permission. Drinks in front of our son. He’s living with the ho-worker but refuses to admit it so we can update the custody agreement. All of which is violating court orders. And of course because he’s father of the year, he asked our 4-year-old to lie about everything, (which thankfully he didn’t). It’s all very “you’re not the boss of me!”
Thank God I’m an attorney and I have a good friend doing all my representation pro bono, while he has to pay top dollar while I let the justice system make him it’s bitch (karma!)
But why??? Why the hate emails telling me how shitty I am, how terrible a wife I was, how it’s all my fault and — my favorite — his claim that if I walked into a church I’d burst into flames. I get the gas lighting and blame shifting during the affair, but what the hell is he getting out of it now? Why not just go off an live happily ever after with his girlfriend and leave me the hell alone? WTF?!!!
Why does he feel the need to punish? Because he’s a special kind of fucked up. Not every ex does this — just the really toxic ones. Some cheaters are content to chase the sparkly rainbow to their next adventure and leave you alone, figuring they’ve exhausted your kibble supply. The “punishment” in that situation is being left with a great big mess of a former life to clean up, grieving and wondering why.
But you get a twofer! You get all THAT punishment, plus the continuing punishment of his abuse and obstructionism! Aren’t you a lucky girl?
So, what’s the point? Control. Divorced, together — doesn’t matter. If he’s an abuser, he still wants to control you. Go buy the “Why Does He Do That?” book by Lundy Bancroft. It’s the best resource out there for explaining this kind of asshole. Essentially, he feels entitled to punishing you. He derives a sense of purpose and power out of controlling you.
But you went and made it much more difficult for him. You divorced his ass! So, he’s going to have to settle for obstructionism, and if I were to guess, triangulating with your son. (Save for the therapy bills now). As I’ve said here before, breeding with a fuckwit is the gift that keeps on giving.
Why else does he punish you? Projection. He’s the doer of dark deeds who should burst into flames, but he’d rather go on believing he’s a splendid person whose been hard done by life’s circumstance. So — presto! change-o! he projects his misdeeds on to you. Someone has to take the blame for what a shitty person he is. You get that honor.
Also, I’m convinced part of this dynamic of demonizing the chump is keeping the sparks alive with the affair partner. They so badly need the “pick me” dance, the triangulation, the big, bad meanie who is thwarting their Twu Wuv. So long as you have to engage with him in any way, like say a protracted legal battle, you’re the common enemy he and the OW can unite around. He can idolize the OW, because he’s devaluing you. (Oh, her turn will come, don’t worry.) This is why no contact, and taking the emotion out of all communication is so important. Don’t feed the beast.
Of course, he can manufacture drama, and he’s doing a really good job of that. But you’re doing all the right things. You’re not taking his emotional bait. You’re imposing consequences. He might learn that the cost of fucking with you is too high. Never let up, ChumpyLawyer. He needs to feel the boot of the law on his neck. He’s found a new victim, the OW to abuse. He’s going to have to direct his rage and control there, because you’re out of reach.
The good news is you’re away from him. And while your son has to see him, you are the sane parent, modeling good things. You get to build a happy, abuser-free life. Interacting with him over your son — I won’t lie — it’s going to be a challenging next 14 years. Don’t expect him to cooperate or co-parent, or otherwise act like a grown up. But best you’ve learned this now, instead of getting broadsided and hurt that he’s not cooperating.
You know what he is, and you know how to deal with him — you document it, and you leave it to the legal system, and you get on with your life.
He’s a bully. I’m sorry he’s still trying to fuck with you. But he messed with the wrong woman. Don’t ever let him forget it.
This column ran previously.