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Dear Chump Lady, How do I forgive myself?

Dear Chump Lady,

I stayed in a marriage with a serial cheater/sex addict. I know I should have been out of there thirty seconds after the first discovery but unfortunately I just emotionally shut down ten seconds after that first discovery. I stayed and ignored obvious incongruities and lies. I stayed and became immune (or total victim?) to manipulations and gas lighting because he was just such a great guy — he couldn’t possibly be what I imagined he was. I stayed and stayed and stayed. I was a long-time chump.

Until I left.

Now I am very slowly regaining the self that I lost. Trying to restore my life to one that honors the values that once meant so much to me — honesty, trust and respect. And I am getting so much closer to Meh about him and what he did.

So my question is — how will I ever forgive myself for staying, and spackling and trying to untangle the skein and all the other things I did as a chump? How do I own what I did to myself, stop beating myself up for it, and move on? Is there a proven process for that? Is there a way to attain Meh for me?


Looking for my own Meh

Dear Looking,

Great question. And it’s the right question. Instead of directing your focus at your cheater — how do I forgive him? You’re asking, how do I forgive myself? There’s so much pressure out there for chumps to forgive cheaters. That this forgiveness is ESSENTIAL. That we are failing our God if we don’t do it. It’s so often cast as this Selfless Thing We Do For Others. Forgiveness as taking the high ground. Who we are, the damage that was inflicted on us, is incidental. Oh, forgiving the cheater is good for us too? Whatever benefit conferred from forgiving a cheater is a byproduct. An afterthought. And we’re stuck in that same goddamn chump pattern we lived — What Is Important Here Is The Cheater. That they are forgiven.

If you forgive your cheater doesn’t interest me. I’ve written about this and I think forgiveness is simply acceptance. It’s meh. I don’t wish you dead. There, consider yourself forgiven. If chumps want to forgive in some higher altruistic sense and it helps them? More power to them. I would never presume to tell someone they MUST forgive. It’s a very personal decision.

The greater question, the one you posed, is how do we forgive ourselves for being chumps? For eating those shit sandwiches year after year? For not asserting our worth. How you get over THAT is the journey to Meh.

As a chump, this is a hard thing to write about, because I never want to come off blaming chumps for being cheated on. We get enough of that crap. We don’t compel people to cheat on us. Whatever the sins of being a trusting hopeful idiot, they pale next to the crimes of betraying someone you purport to love. There is no moral equivalence here.

But we must ask ourselves the hard questions of why we tolerated the intolerable, especially after infidelity was discovered. It’s one thing not to know — so many of us were in the dark for a long time. But we put up with the neglect, the verbal abuse, the gaslighting. We often did not assert ourselves as strongly as we should’ve. We set a very low price on our value. We chased. We pick me danced. Harder still, is coming to grips with why we stayed AFTER we knew about the cheating. We can dress it up a noble cause. That we stayed for our children, that we are loyal, we still loved this person who wasn’t behaving lovingly toward us and We Are the Better Person, that we were virtuous unicorns on the path to reconciliation.

We shy away from looking at the dark recesses of our soul. That we were afraid. Of judgement. Of losing status. Of being wrong. Of losing financial security. Of starting over. Fear made us cling, and fear made us reach for the hopium pipe.

Until you really start to unpack those issues, I don’t think you can get to Meh. It’s not enough to have the absence of the cheater. You need to take a good, unvarnished look at yourself and go — Christ, I’m not living like that again. I know my worth. I don’t miss that. What the fuck was I THINKING? Wake up from the chump spell.

I think that begins when you discount your cheater’s perception of you. Their judgments of your worth, and you start paying attention to your own true worth. I’m a loyal person. I’m kick ass at my career. I have a loving family. I raised three beautiful children. Whatever it is you love about yourself, you start nurturing that and you choke off supply to cheater thoughts. That you suck, that you weren’t enough, that your thighs are fat, and your head is bald, that you’re lovable, but Not That Loveable. Whatever they said — doesn’t matter. Shift your alliances away from that person and back to yourself.

I made mistakes. I directed my gifts to someone who did not appreciate them. I tried to control the uncontrollable — if this person would betray me again, if I could extract an apology, if I could please the un-pleasable. Catalog your sins, look at them, and then forgive yourself. You did the best you could and you’re not perfect. Now you know better. Be different next time.

Being cheated on sucks. The pain is a motherfucker. But it’s one hell of a growth opportunity.

This one ran previously. A pleasant meh! to you all. 

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  • I just wanted to say thank you chump lady. So much. Saved me from anymore of his bullshit. Blessings to all!

    And on this post, yes we should all follow this advice. If you just found this site and are lost, just keep reading. It will all be okay.

    • I second that, Tracy. You & CN have been the rock that steeled me when I decided “Me first”, even during an attempt at reconciliation. So much of that complex is about the partnership & cheater that there is a further loss of self in the process.
      I gave too many chances in my marriage, and even afterward with a boyfriend (some day I will write about that crazy train) who I left & returned several times (10 mos. No Contact now – yay!). I drew my lines but they eventually crossed them. Every. Time.

      It’s impossible to not regret those choices but here’s where I finally landed:. Don’t be ashamed of having the love & the heart to give second chances. The shame is on them for what they did with those chances.
      Let the experience be a lesson in self-worth & move forward. Set the bar higher & don’t consider anything or anyone that can’t jump it.

      • Seriously, I teared up. SO good, this stuff from Chumplady.

        Men are very bad about adopting fault for their wives affairs, and I appear to have done more of that than I thought. And yes, God wants us to forgive ourselves. Not doing so can ruin our lives, compared to how they might have been.

        She says an article has run before, and the disclaimer is fine. The truth is that likely all these articles would impact people in a fresh way. So apropos.

  • I stayed for 35 years and the worst part of this multidimensional shit sandwich, is the regret I feel about a wasted life.

    Oh I know I have 3 great kids, we had some very interesting experiences, lived well, etc. But I derailed a legal career supporting someone who was dishonest, unkind and ultimately very cruel to me and our kids. I did not attain the most important goal of my life: a happy family. I feel like a cancer doctor who spent her career on a cure that failed…

    I hate that feeling more than anything else, which is saying a lot.

    So I try hard to remind myself of this: “Life has given us a second chance. Let’s not waste it.”

    Sometimes it works.

    I needed this post today.

    • I am with you. I wanted to have the Norman Rockwell holidays and the perfect family that i never had…..I failed at that. But what I did not fail at was raising really great kids who value family and time more than a house and a “picture”. I raised strong, resilient kids who will go far in their lives and never be a victim. That is worth more to me than anything….any Norman Rockwell painting…..

    • Me too dr’s first wife—36 years. Sometimes I still cry at the waste but I just keep reminding myself I wouldn’t have my wonderful kids. Forgiveness isn’t for him( that’s between him and God), I forgave myself because I am a loyal and loving person. I just spackled for literally years. He did not care about me. Not even when my brother died and he called both of my sisters claiming he still “cares” about me. Yup I felt cared about while he was abusing me verbally mentally emotionally and physically including stalking. I felt really cared about when I discovered he spent our entire retirement savings on himself and stole my jewellery and vehicles. Yup that’s really showing the love. Starting over at 56 was fun but I’m doing well now—my own house and at least part time work and a lovely new boyfriend who dotes on me.. that’s my karma…

      • I can relate to that. We were together 32 years. The day my dad died after a horrible illness (I was caretaking and was there when it happened), instead of coming home to comfort me as I asked, the bastard claimed he couldn’t leave work, but immediately left to spend the rest of the workday in a bar with his howorker mistress. He never admitted it. I only found out years later by checking his google maps timeline after dday. It showed him going to their usual daily meeting spot, then going to a nearby address that was one of their favorite pubs. He still pointlessly claims that Google must be “wrong”, and that he doesn’t remember doing that. He also wouldn’t let me comfort him when his dad died, either, but went to his mistress for that. Of course there was a ton of emotional abuse, as well.
        I don’t know how you get over that deep and devastating a betrayal, but there has to be a way. I’m glad your life is so much better now. ☺ Hopefully mine will be too.

    • So do I Wife, so do I need this post so much today!

      Madkatie’s post yesterday triggered my auto-flagellation mode: I have called myself stupid 1000 times since reading her post.

      Madkatie gave up a TENURED position for an asshole!

      Actually I am lucky that I did not do the same: I moved to a different city for my career with sparkledick’s full support (and I have tenure). I used to feel proud about my supportive husband. But I now understand that, together with all the confusing blameshifting, this “support” was to keep the amusement park open 24/5 (he spent most weekends with me).

      One example of blameshifting: “it’s your fault that we are in debt because we have two households to keep up.” Not true, it was spending on flatterfucks that created the debts, I saw the credit card statements. Lying asshole.

      Tracy is right, as usual, at least in my case: in spite of all the red flags, I was “afraid. Of judgement. Of losing status. Of being wrong. Of losing financial security. Of starting over. Fear made me cling, and fear made me reach for the hopium pipe.”

      Accepting that you DID make mistakes makes it so much easier to forgive yourself! I just had this insight now! It feels as if the weight of the world is off my shoulders.

      My name is Clearwaters, I was a hopium adict. And Chump Lady and Chump nation are better than any NA meeting.

      Now I just worry about my sons who are smoking the hopium pipe themselves. I wish we could have some wisdom about that from CL: how adult children deal with the disappointment and contradictions of cheating parents.

      • My son is 20 and closer to his father even after father admitted to manipulating as well as subtly verbally and emotionally abusing us often for years! I can only hope that he doesn’t choose to do the same things when he has a family.

        • That’s terrible. Your son needs therapy to avoid becoming like his dad, since he clearly identifies with him. How sad for you.

          My eldest daughter prefers the cheater over me, even knowing he was planning to dump me shortly after having been abandoned by her own husband. She even knows he started cheating while on a trip during which he was visiting her, and smiled smugly in her face after just bareback banging his whore the night before. Sadly, she is narcissistic and will ally herself with whoever kisses her ass and doesn’t ever criticize her selfish, entitled behavior. I do blame myself for not seeing what he was. I didn’t even know covert narcs existed then. If I hadn’t been with him she might have turned out normal. Now I won’t get to see my two baby grandkids anymore, but the asshole who abused me will. ????

    • I can totally relate doctorsfirstwife. In our 2nd year of marriage, husband was doing a residency on the east coast. I was in my last stage of finishing up my PhD and I was on the west coast. As a wife and mother of a young baby, my husband called me one day and cried telling me our marriage would not work if we weren’t together. Being a good wife and mother I made the ultimate sacrifice and moved to the east coast to be with him. Unbeknownst to me he had already cheated on me. I’ve been married for 22 years with three beautiful children and thought I made the right choice. My goal too was to have a happy family. I wish 2 years ago when I found out my ‘great guy’ doctor husband had multiple affairs throughout our marriage that I would not have given him a chance to reconcile. Better yet, I wish all those years ago that I never gave up my PhD to move to the east coast to be with him. It’s hard not to feel that I wasted my life and failed at having a happy family.

      • Wow, there are a lot of us Dr’s wives. I was one too. Mine had an army obligation from medical school so we had to move around and I gladly did for him. I found 900 numbers on a telephone bill right before we got married. He said he was bored and promised to never do it again. When he was finishing residency, I was diagnosed with Breast cancer and the treatment was hard on our marriage especially since we were 33. After I came through it I found him calling other women late at night, he said he was stressed since I almost died and didn’t want to bother me. Again, I felt so bad for him. Meh…The first affair, someone notified me on facebook back in 2009 saying they’d slept with him. He denied that they had sex but had met this person. He was stressed because we had just suffered two miscarriages and I was pressuring him into regimented sex. I felt so bad again…how could I do this to my husband? We were married 14 years at this point. My gut told me something was wrong but I ignored it. I wanted a child and I loved him. Fast forward to June 2016 when my young son brought me his iPad with texts, thank God he couldn’t read yet, showing my husband had had sex with at least one person. I took a screenshot and sent it to him. He was mortified. Begged me to stay. We were in the process of moving, again, because he was never happy in one place or with one job..I was so angry. He promised counseling, etc once we got settled. The depression was horrible and I struggled to believe in our marriage. He told me numerous times he loved me but at this point, I was unable to sleep with him. I told him I needed to time. April 2017 I was still upset with him but feeling more hopeful. We still hadn’t tried counseling. He sat me down and asked for divorce. He told me he’d always had a crush on someone he’d worked with back from 2005-2010 and they were in love now. And he admitted to numerous affairs, even one as soon as we had arrived in Las Vegas to start our new life. I was in shock. And I was so pissed at myself too. I had purposely ignored the warning signs because??? Now two years later I’m definitely at Meh…Chump lady has helped so much. I read the book back in sept 2017 and I’m so glad I did because a few months later my ex was back trying to get back together and I said no. And I do believe in Karma, because the woman he left me for, they were together a year, then he proposed because she broke up with him. Then 5 months later dumped him and married someone else. So there is pay back. LOL

        • Your story really resonated with me. Your X was a master manipulator and a skilled liar. Mine was too. Their education and intelligence can create a clever cheater who is very unlikely to be caught – but if they do get caught they know exactly how to show fake remorse and twist things around so you actually feel sorry for them. They are so sorry; they weep and tell you everything you would want to hear – YOU feel like the unforgiving-family-destroyer to deny them the chance to make amends. And what they say does make a sort of sense (to a chump mindset). After education from CL and CN, you can see that what once made sense is now easily seen as total bullshit. It’s all the same script.
          Glad you broke free! And always love to hear a good karma story…:-)

        • Typical!
          You had cancer, you had miscarriages and you’re the one feeling sorry for his sorry fucking ass. What an utter asshole?!

        • Your story is all too common, sadly. Mine started cheating when I was sick, too. IMO, the ones who cheat on (and even worse, leave) sick or pregnant spouses are the lowest form of cheater. Mine was planning the leave a sick wife and daughter to fend for themselves, but now whines he wants us back. Not coincidentally, his mistress is out of the picture and he has nobody. What a tool.

        • Menopause…

          Your story is all too familiar…
          Looking back it’s so clear… we started our marriage with a notion of FAMILY FIRST.
          Unfortunately, the “ sacrifice “ and bending over was done only by me…. somehow, while
          Talking about “ family first” – my h was able to finish his PhD, change job 3 times ( yep, relocation for the whole family) and go on many business/sex trips during that period ….
          As you can imagine- it was me who supported all that, taking care of the family, children, and his longtime dream ????‍♀️????‍♀️????‍♀️Because… yes, family before career… so, at the end- I ended up with depression, PTSD and complete burnout… while my h was on the top of his game…

          During all those years I was gaslighted, blamed, and so alone…. yet, it was me trying to improve our marriage, do stuff etc.
          It seems that the more intelligent they are, the more covert and malicious they act….

          I just remember the guilt of not being enough and not doing enough… that was the message I was receiving all the time, while in fact I was doing an amazing job under so much stress and mindfuck…. that was an abuse…. ugh…

          • This is my story, too. The amount of abuse I have suffered by STBX leaves me breathless. Slowly trying to rebuild my life while providing stability for my children.

          • Margot- wow, so familiar…. I was saddled with the same, while Mr. Down Lo was flying high on life. The energy I expended trying to be more, do more, so that he would pay attention to me just makes me want to cry.


          My ex was also military. Moved countless times (I mean, I think I really have lost count. Geez…that’s literally true).

          ANYHOW, yeah, that sucks.

          So back to my new motto of taking the “worst thing that ever happened to me, and changing it to the best thing.”

          I changed careers (stopped trying to get back into the legal profession after being a SAHM and now teach English) and I changed countries, as I teach in Europe.

          I always hoped we would live overseas as that was ONE of the few upsides to being in the military. But ex changed his mind on that so WE did not ever do it.

          Now I am. And I can move wherever I want and not do an algebraic like equation to meet his long ever changing list of requirements, while hoping I might find something rewarding to do with MY life.

          Asshole tried to take “my turn” away and force yet another move on me (who knows what role Schmoopie had then??)

          What I do know is that it is FINALLY my turn and I’m taking it.

    • Another raised hand for “I wasted my life” and failing at the most important goal: happy family, life-time marriage, roots, 60th wedding anniversaries, decades of family traditions/holidays as a family with my husband by my side. Everything you said, Drs1stwife, I could have written, including that yes, I have my wonderful amazing kids, we had some great times, lived well etc…doesn’t change the fact that if I could go back and pick a better partner for myself, a better father for my children, I would do it. I am so angry with myself for picking that person, for believing he shared my values, just because he said he did. I took him at his word, believed I was choosing wisely, when the evidence-through-actions of his self-centeredness, entitlement, and capacity for cruelty were there from the beginning. And what’s worse is I put this person at the center of my universe. I let him, his job, his family, and his religion define my life. So when he said “too bad chump, not good enough, you failed to worship me properly” and left after the betrayal and cake-eating, I had to invent an entirely new human being from the ground up. I had to let go of these things I wanted my life to be, I wanted my family to be, because I can’t go back and do it all again. I can only go forward from here, build my new self, value myself, and enjoy my children and my time on this planet. I’ve made a lot of progress here; I moved, started a new life, got a new job, just got promoted, spend time with my family, etc. I do wish I’d stop spending so much time being angry with myself for wasting my life on that person, but it’s really hard… I too needed this post today… I need it a lot of days…

      • “You need to take a good, unvarnished look at yourself and go — Christ, I’m not living like that again. I know my worth. I don’t miss that. What the fuck was I THINKING? Wake up from the chump spell.” What the fuck was I thinking, indeed…

        “Shift your alliances away from that person and back to yourself.” YES

      • Struggling,
        When I told my mom after 2 years of keeping his secrets during wreconciliation, she said, “So your entire marriage was a fraud?) I told her that no, it wasn’t, he was a fraud, but I was not. I lived an honest life, I put my family first, I had fun and laughed. My life was real and the suffering of Dday and the years after it created personal growth that I doubt would have happened otherwise.
        We never have control how things will turn out, but we do have control over our actions. You sound like a woman with values and integrity and I bet you lived that way. So your life is the opposite of wasted.

        • Aw thank you so much for this… and you are so right about the personal growth… if things hadn’t happened the way they did, I wouldn’t be who I am now… and I am proud how I’ve grown and become happy with my independence instead of crippled by loneliness, how I’ve put myself on a path of being able to support myself…. it all feels really good! We recovering chumps do need to focus on our worth, our present and future, and quit giving energy to regrets of the past…

        • Kathleen K….right on!

          The Wasted Life trophy belongs to the cheaters… to defraud, hurting people, lying, stealing, being a traitor. Chumps who were acting in good faith, integrity, loyalty, trying to maintain a long term relationship? NO. WASTING REQUIRES INTENTION….and that puts “wasting my life” squarely on the cheater inventory.

          Did I waste my life with the cheater? No.
          I was putting everything I had into my marriage car while he was pouring sugar into the gas tank behind my back. I was ASSAULTED. I was ABUSED. I was RIPPED OFF. I was DEFRAUDED. I was BETRAYED. I HAD THE EMOTIONAL SHIT BEATEN OUT OF ME BY TWO JERKS (him AND her) and THEY BEAT THE EMOTIONAL SHIT out of my daughter.

          But I DID NOT waste my life. See below.

          Verb: waste
          Spend thoughtlessly; throw away • He wasted his inheritance on his insincere friends
          = blow, squander

          Use inefficiently or inappropriately

          Get rid of • We waste the dirty water by channeling it into the sewer

          Get rid of (someone who may be a threat) by killing • the double agent was wasted
          = do in, knock off, liquidate, neutralize

          Cause extensive destruction or ruin utterly • The enemy lay waste to the countryside after the invasion
          = desolate, devastate, lay waste, lay waste to, ravage, scourge

    • Yes, there are a lot of Doctor’s wives here and I was one.
      I believe that the power corrupts. I left after 26 years of marriage. I gave up my life, left my job, family and friends to follow him and help build his career only to find out that he had cheated early in our marriage and that he was on dating sites. Now I wonder if he cheated along the way at meetings and business trips- I gave him such trust. I was a good wife- unpaid department employee, full time parent, hostess, gardener, handyman and lover. He worked 100 hours in the hospital and I was working the same 100 hours at home. But I let the power balance tilt. I take full responsibility for letting my needs/self be forgotten. Had I know realtime that he had cheated, I would have left him. But I wanted an intact family for my children. I wanted to be the one in my original family to have an intact marriage. I wanted to win the marriage prize.
      I got the prize alright. A shitty piece of glass set in brass instead of the promised diamond in platinum.
      The shoe I wore was beautiful through the eyes of the world, but I was the only one who knew how much it hurt my foot. (Sorry I don’t remember where that thought came from, it is not mine).
      There is little I miss about my XH. I should have taken off those shoes long ago. My feet would not be so calloused and deformed. At least I can still walk!

      • “I wanted to be the one in my original family to have an intact marriage. I wanted to win the marriage prize”. Omg me too!

        • Me three!
          I wanted SO very badly to be the one of the females in my family to do it ‘right’ as to have a long successful marriage: wait until married to have kids, wait until at least 5 years before having kids to ‘get to know each other’, wait until he finished getting (the first of many)degree, bought a house….thought I’d done great, felt I had done it the right way, that I KNEW him before making the leap…I thought I had a good guy, was told he was great, don’t let him go, was a ‘keeper’…I feel like the biggest dupe.

      • OCWoman everything you said resonates with me. As a doctors wife, I always felt bad for expressing a need or want because I believed he was spending all that time at the hospital “saving lives” and helping so many people. It’s sad to think of all the extra work I did to make his life easier & he used that to screw other women.

        • Snapoutofit,
          Exactly. How can you compete with a savior? Do you know what I asked for as gifts? That he come home one day a week at 6pm. Did he ever do it? No. He slept in on weekends. Did I? No. WTF was wrong with me. Ugh.


          as a fellow doctor’s wife (EX of course) I recall saying it’s hard to compete with heart attacks and brain tumors.

          We were never first and that was actually apparent BUT ALLOWED by our society! I bought into how crucially important HIS work was so that my needs and the kids, were supposed to be lower on the list.

          But I often think I was barely on the list. To be fair, there was a time early in our marriage I recall ex factoring in what was best for me AS I factored in what was best for HIM, at the same time. For awhile there was reciprocity and that seems real to me, even now.

          But medical school changed him (he was not a physician when we married. He BEGAN medical school when our first child was 8 weeks old. OMG I cannot believe I consented. What a fool).

          So, yeah, can’t compete with the “savior!”

    • Remember Doctor’s 1st wife…

      I had that feeling too, until recently.

      My #1 goal was also a happy family….and the factor out of my control in achieving that goal was the husband I chose. Goals that depend on the participation of other people are a gamble, and maybe are better defined as a risk or a hope or a desire rather than a goal.

      You didn’t fail in that goal. He did. And I am changing the definition of “happy family” to me and my daughter. We aren’t a family with two parents anymore, but we are still a complete family, just like if he died we would still be complete.

      I designed my wedding ring. We picked out the diamond together from a broker friend. Set in a ton of platinum. Loaded with symbolism and meaning that evaporated with the mirage of the marriage I had. I gave it back to him. I don’t want anything to do with what it now means or any money I could get for it.

      You can have your goal. Just redefine it.
      And HE failed. Not you.

      And speaking of symbolism, the cheating accomplice is a living breathing walking talking
      fucking dick-sucking symbol of what a top notch asshole that “husband” you had is, and will NEVER be otherwise.

  • Such an important article. I think it ranks in the list of classics and should be in the resources articles.

    Thank you CL. I missed this one first time, and it is so powerful.

    This is the hard work that sets us truly free, right here.

  • ????Long time chump here. I am loyal and a decent human being, but CL is right. I stayed because of fear.
    I’m slowly regaining self-respect and significant courage. And meh is great! It’s so much better than “forgiveness”.

  • You see long-time chumps over on SI every single day. They hold onto these serial cheaters and refuse to let go, no matter how many indignities are shoved down their throats. And years later they’re still pissing and moaning about how they’re finding suspicious stuff on his phone, or the GPS is saying he was at a massage parlor while he’s claiming he was at Home Depot, and on and on and on.

    For some chumps, it’s just a vicious cycle they continually ride because there must be some kind of payoff for them in doing so.

      • Surviving Infidelity, a website where chumps are frequently advised to turn into the marriage police.

      • Yes I stayed because of fear but I also stayed because I loved him with all my heart and I wanted to believe this cruel person in front of me was not the real person I married and I wanted to believe in redemption and I wanted to fight for the marriage I chose and the children I loved and I didn’t want to leave when I wasn’t ready because I knew I would just come back anyway. Do I regret the three years I stayed with him after Dday before he exploded our marriage again? Not really. I used that time to get financially independent and emotionally stronger and my kids to get a little older. Would I do it again? Hell no. After DDay 2 I discovered CL and it all suddenly made sense. I ordered her book and it did what my long term therapist and our marriage counselor couldn’t or wouldn’t; it deflated my hopium ballon with a Lucille-style baseball bat and empowered me with the truth about what I was living with.

        When I think of the thousands of dollars I spent on paying therapists to let me vent my feelings just enough to allow me to stay in that marriage and function in the real world, I feel cheated as well. The hundreds of times they have seen this story played out and they couldn’t have just cut to the chase and told me how this was the time for self-preservation, not pick-me dancing and forgiveness? Were those therapists deluded by hopium too? Or just cynically taking my money?

        It doesn’t matter any more. What’s done is done. I forgive myself for loving him and our marriage and wanting an intact family. I forgive myself for being too afraid and heartbroken to walk out. I could not fathom the level of suck and betrayal that I was dealing with. Once it was clear and confirmed I nope’d the fuck out of there and haven’t been tempted to go back.

        I am a bad ass who did the best I could with the information I had. I wish I had picked a better father like I wish I had picked a better school district. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and the people around me didn’t either. I forgive myself.

        • gorilla thank you so much for your comments. I am so glad I read it, I hope to get to this someday soon.

    • Totally. But at the same time, they’re saying delusional shit about how they know he can change, he really loves them but just has “sex addiction” or “FOO issues”. They do so because the con artists who run that site (among many other fraudsters) tell them they just need more of the expensive MC sessions, seminars, to buy more books, etc. It should be criminally prosecuted as the fraud it is.

    • I’m not sure of the payoff notion ChumoLadyFan. Let’s face it we too smoked the hopium pipe.

      I stayed because I loved my abuser. Not once did I consider him disrespectful or abusive. My bar for him was high compared to my abusive raging father. He was covert and professed his love constantly. He thanked me for saving him from his dark side. I believed, considered myself strong and resilient, never dependent.

      Once we had our first child I did much of the adulting. He got drunk, high and couldn’t sustain employment. I started his business and quit my full time job. I arrived him to a note and an emptied bank account stating he was going to California. He ended up in Atlantic City. In hindsight he was with someone. Never crossed my mind.

      Our dreams were never aligned. I wanted a home and bought one working multiple jobs. His cheating prior to the purchase should have been a red flag. I wanted a home for my children and planned on having another.

      He never shared my values. I was always off balance with the ground shifting. He stayed for the payoff. When I was completing my Master degree he gave up his business and decided we’d move to Florida. He left me with 2 kids and never sent money. I lost my home. It took another14 years before the final Dday.

      I couldn’t own my role until I saw a therapist and found CL. It was only then I understood why I stayed, realized the abusive cycle, divorced him and forgave myself.

  • When Chump Lady said, “Being cheated on sucks. The pain is a motherfucker. But it’s one hell of a growth opportunity.”

    I said well isn’t that the truth! My ex’s infidelity experience was probably the greatest wisdom I ever achieved in my life. It transpired beyond relationship skills. It taught me self worth, principles, what I truly value in life, maturity, a closer relationship with God, learned what true strength is. I’ve grown so much, people say I am a man of stone and not in a cold way.

    In a way, I probably owe my ex a big thank you! ….I guess that’s forgiveness right there

    • I feel the same way, Dd, though I am definitely still working through all of my crap and haven’t hit rock-solid status.

      When I was giving Mr. Justification his RIC-suggested 6 months to show me that he was willing to work on himself (spoiler alert: he wasn’t), I stumbled onto CL and devoured everything I read. One of the single most helpful things came in the comment section of an article, and I wish I could remember the poster, because she probably literally saved my life.

      She said, “I decided that I was going to make this the best thing that ever happened to me.”

      It was so powerful, it literally took my breath away, and completely reframed how I approached my relationship with myself. I imagined the affair as a bulldozer that scraped me down to my bedrock, and now I had the chance to build myself back up to the person I wanted to be.

      I wouldn’t wish infidelity on my worst enemy, but I hope that everyone has a moment like that in their lives, where they wash away the old patterns of thoughts and behavior and center on who they are and who they want to be.

      • Nottoday

        I like what you wrote…. I’m pushing myself to do similar… at this point, I’m capable of pushing myself out of bed.. started crawling…. painful as hell( since the only thing I want to do is fall asleep and not deal with my anxieties, PTSD and depression) but doable
        The positive? No matter how fucked up I feel suicide is never an option- I would never do that to my children.
        So hey, who knew that it will come a day, when not being on ab suicide watch, out of bed on all 4s will be a sign of huge success??

  • Chumps hold themselves to impossible standards. They expect better of THEMSELVES, if not outright perfection. So of course they tend to forgive others their faults.

    To love yourself enough to cut yourself some slack. For recognizing that no matter how awesome you are as an individual, you can’t inspire your Fuckwit to follow your lead. That even if you were the personification of perfection THAT would be thrown in your face as a “reason” for their horrible behavior.

    You did the best you could. You bestowed your love, your life, your time and your talents on someone who didn’t appreciate you and you FORGOT your own worth. You were so blinded by love/sunk costs/trauma that you shorted yourself.

    Please forgive yourself for not loving yourself enough to insist upon being treated with dignity and respect straightaway. Love yourself enough to learn how to do it now and in the future.

    ‘Cause chumps are mighty.

    • JWH thank you for your comments. I was a long time chump of 25 years. 10 years into the marriage and I found out about DDay #1. So I “forgave” him because that’s what I thought a good church going person should do. I finally left 1.5 years ago the divorce was final. I stuggled immensely and spiraled into some dark places that I didn’t think was possible to come out of. I kept smoking hopium and did the pick me dance even after divorce. I somehow stumbled upon this website and finally went no contact in December of last year. I have a lot of anger and am now finally processing through it all thanks to the fog lifting after no contact. I have read CL book multiple times and I come here every day. Everyone is so helpful with there comments and it has saved my life.
      The forgiveness thing is something that really sets me off!! My church going people say I have to forgive and I say I don’t. But I finally realized I need to forgive my self for being such a chump for so long. I didn’t love myself and didn’t know my worth while being married. I took the emotional abuse and accepted it and was in such denial trying to survive and keep the family together.
      I am so working on me and loving me and I think if I learn anything from all of this shit sandwich this will be what will help me be happy again. I am trying to be nice to myself, my therapist tells me I chose to leave him and that is amazing. I will get to MEH and forgiving myself for the wasted years with a fuckwit.

    • JWH thanks for your comments. I too was a long time chump and so sad I stayed way to long. Married for 24 years and should have left 16 years ago. Divorce was final a year and a half ago. I continued to have contact and hung out with him. Doing the pick me Dance. I “forgave “ him after the first dday like I thought I should because of my religious beliefs. He took advantage of my niceness but I was just trying to survive and keep the family together.
      I did the best I could. I finally went no contact in December and the fog has lifted to let me know he sucks.
      I get so angry at the people in my church that say I need to forgive him. That will never happen.
      Thank goodness I stumbled upon CL and CN it saved my life literally.
      Learning my worth and learning to love myself again. Learning to forgive myself for being a chump for most of my marriage.
      I will get to MEH someday soon on a Tuesday and I will know my worth and he won’t have any more power over me

      • The Christian ideal is to wish everyone well. Baby steps. If you no longer wish he burns in hell, that’s progress. MEH = no more wasting precious mental energy on him.

        Forgiveness does not mean what he did is OK. He hurt you. Did he hurt you out of ignorance or indifference? Did he enjoy it? Is he evil, or just sick? God only knows. No more untangling the skein!

        End of mini-sermon. Disclaimer: I know MEH is easier said than done.

  • I totally agree, I hated myself when I stayed in my marriage after the multiple d-days. I thought he doesn’t respect me, so I don’t respect me. There was so much self hate. BUT when I finally left after another D-day I did some hard looking inward. I have had to learn self respect again.
    I think that is my forgiveness to myself. Realizing I deserve better, I am worthy. So are we all!!

    • A dear friend told me that my ex wasn’t worthy of me.
      It took a long time before that sunk in…many years passed before I realized that she was correct.
      We do deserve better & so much more than we received.
      Working on forgiving myself for not realizing my worth & honoring myself.
      No contact gives light to truths.

  • “I did not attain the most important goal of my life: a happy family.”

    This…and fear…both of those things kept me stuck for years.

    I am a person who values relationships yet my parents being Cluster B meant that those relationships were awful and growing up, I yearned to have a chance to make my OWN family…with a good man who loved me and WE would have a happy family.

    I did not see enough red flags before the first baby was born, and in my head, I was past The Point of No Return…I would make THIS family work and I was a CHRISTIAN wife and mother so I would pray for my husband.

    There is still some murkiness deep in me where I don’t now know what I knew and when I knew it with regard to his actual cheating, but I managed to minimize or deny or close myself off, but I knew he was mean. I thought I was being strong and noble to keep my family together and now I question all those decisions.

    I try to find solace in the fact that I did my best…I was a good wife even when he did not reciprocate and that is on him, not me….and here I find myself with the rest of you fine people working on forgiving myself.

    • I think many of us were “trained” to be chumps in childhood. At least I know I was. Raised by an extremely narcissistic mother, I viewed it as my goal in life to please others, to take care of others without complaint, to always put my needs last. Because of childhood lessons, I believed I could, and more importantly, should do everything in my power to keep my family together.

      Even now, I struggle to recognize my needs are at least as important as those of my adult children. I am fortunate because my kids are morally grounded, but I am also responsible for certain patterns of behavior they experienced as children. I did not understand that my constant refrain of “do your best” carried with it the implied message that they were lovable only if they were “succeeding.”

      I know better now. I know a person’s value is not based on profession, education, material accomplishments or other types of recognition. Instead of looking at those superficial characteristics, I now look at whether a person is a good person, is kind, is honest, is trustworthy, and treats others with understanding and respect.

      Unicornomore, your words have helped so many people in CN understand a better life is waiting for them, too, once they step away from the lies keeping them stuck. Thanks for your consistent message and support. You are one of the many reasons CL is the absolute best resource for anyone going through the emotional abuse of infidelity.

      • You are very kind…I relish being a beacon of hope for chumps…I was SO AFRAID but my new life showed up despite me. One of the oddest problems I have now is that my life is so good, I am currently in a spot where I have to hide details if it from people lest they get pissy with me…

        ….but if you will indulge me…

        I just returned from Paris 6 days ago…I took my daughter and my late husbands sister…I paid her whole way and we had a decent hotel 2 blocks from the Louvre. As soon as I got home, my husband and step daughter jumped me to get going on our plans for London in August.

        and I just now got 3 tickets to the London performance of Hamilton…SECOND ROW…Im jumping around like SpongeBob but I cant say anything on social media or anything lest I incite bitterness, so I will leave this secret here.

        I will add though…Cheater has another sister who was nasty to me from day 1… 30 years of vitriol from that woman. And her life’s dream was to go to Paris…hmmm pity we didnt want her along, but her younger sister, me and my daughter had a lovely time.

  • This is exactly what I needed to read today. I did not realize my own worth and sold myself short. I put up with so much that diminished my spirit. For years before the actual affair that ended our marriage, I was miserable over the “emotional affair” and other terrible behavior (gas lighting, casual lying, emotional distancing, lack of intimacy, etc.). Why did I put up with it all? Why was I so invested in the “happy intact family” fantasy that I kept making excuses and rationalizations? Why did I keep trying to make my own needs smaller and smaller, waiting for things to get better?

    Understanding & forgiving my own insecurities and fears so that can become mighty is the real work.

  • I woke this morning again at 3:30 am. I tried to remember what the dream or thoughts were. It’s a pure anger. Deep anger how the X has f*ed me over during the 25 and 364 days of our marriage. He skilled it that we would be divorced the day before our 26 wedding anniversary.

    I can go on and on on all the ways but the death of my child and I know he was behind it from all the needless crap he done to me. I trusted him. As a husband and father. 100%.

    The deep deep anger I awoke to this morning I have said no more. I’m putting energy to that anger in the fact I’m going forward.

    I have a business I will be opening in two weeks or less. I have a good handy man. I ordered new ceiling fans to update my home. New blinds. Ect..

    The fact is I was going to have it done this week and I haven’t called him yet. I saw the pattern my life has taken. The toxic anger and it’s just done me in.

    I see that I can never get justice for what he’s done. He won.

    The totals he’s done. The rotten sham marriage. The part he played in my fathers death and fixing it with my sister so I wouldn’t get any inheritance. Money that I needed and was rightfully mine from my father who had looked after all three daughters and four grandchildren. His will for all of us.

    Then to have my children doubt they can trust me. His divining us so he could fill in with his lies. Me. I drove my children to and from school everyday all their lives and even took neighbors kids with me and even stopped and picked up another of their friends so the grandmother didn’t have to make a special trip and I loved it. They were all sweet and laughing and talking all the time.
    He even turned those kids against me.
    Yeah. So I awoke with this anger and I said no to it.
    I am sitting at my counter now as I type this.
    I wrote out my to do list and I’m going to knock it out.
    I’m going to call my handyman and finish this so now my house will be prettier and no dated ceiling fans.

    I’m going to send the bedroom set off to charity when I make some money and get a beautiful not slept in fresh bed.

    I’m going to updo/redo body parts. The mommie makeover. Flabby upper arms gone.

    I’m going to save my money and put towards my retirement funds and make it solid. I’m going to find me a nice guy and pray I don’t get ahold of another sadistic black hole. I came up with this one this morning. They say name label your anger. Yes. That keeps me from ever trying to be dreamy about X.

    The fact too that August 31st 2013 was the last time I had sex. It was martial sex. The next day a inner voice told me to skip church and I listened to it. I walked by his phone lying on screened in porch table and when it pinged early morning Sunday I was curious and looked at it. The famous send me a naked picture of you to the neighbors wife whore. I think now she was pissed and sent that. I went to church every Sunday.

    It was on his birthday. All these years of special spoiling him and having parties and big deal this is how I’m repayed.

    There’s nothing to work with with these things that have eyes. Lies. Do you in any chance and in anyway.
    Walk away. I’m going to start “nesting” again. Have purpose in my daily life and finish up what kind of life I would have had had I been married. It doesn’t matter anymore. He’s sick. I’m not sitting with that anymore.
    I’m going to make my life to where I’m happy again when I wake up and have a good solid plan(s) for my life. I’ve outlined things I want to do and goals I want to achieve.
    I don’t need him.
    I also want to find a good man for me. I miss having a good relationship. It’s what makes it all worthwhile.

    • I am so sorry your malignant X has (so far) been able to brainwash your children. A dear friend of mine is experiencing the same situation with her teenaged son. She has worked to raise him with zero financial support (she was afraid X would kill her if she tried to enforce his financial obligations), while her evil X has been Disney dad, and has systematically filled her son’s head with lies. It is so very painful to watch. She can only hope that her son will come to recognize the truth one day. I hope the same for you!

      • I’m so sorry. I wish I knew how to separate this stuff. It’s so emotional when it’s your children. Both of mine began to act out from the divorce. Getting all these horrible tats. I know people like them but I’m not a fan and I felt they were too young to do that. They were getting them all over. Big ugly sleeve like tats. I was just horrified and tried to get X to tell them to stop.he ignored me and them.
        My daughter who killed herself had many many different friends. All walks of life. That’s ok if they are good people but these were troublemakers. Deep dark places and I tried to separate her from them and it’s hard with them texting and all.
        My surviving daughter won’t talk to me. She even called me trash. Really ? Where did that come from.
        We had a good peaceful life and that text and all the lies came up from past in and I realized he made his/our life around this whore next door and whore next door she wasn’t aware of. A wedding place. She has a place for weddings. She called my husband up and asking him to come get our dog who wondered over. Did this a couple of times. I thought she was a lady, respectable. I wondered about it. As I’ve said there’s no bottom low enough to for these men.

        But your point on the children. I hope CL can do this one because the fallout of these nasty divorces scares children no matter what the age deeply. They are at serious high risk for suicide. Especially the doubletalk lies about mother to leave them wide open for any prediator out there.

        I had several of my Fb friends Pm me and tell me their kids were like that too. And they had to fight like hell to get them away from them.

        My X really f*ed everyone over while in shock. He come home from work and put new clothes on and even got a walking stick and made a bee line to whore next door door. The kids knew he was having an affair with her and he flounced it. Sick. But the thing is I wished I could have stood up and been in control but I was so crushed. A deep this can’t be happening shock. And the kids. He was even texting my daughters bragging about his dates with the other neighbor. That they were holding hands and all.

        And this other stupid thing he did. He started wearing the worlds greated dad t shirts and hats. He looked like an idiot. What’s his point.

        But now when I look back at it. I wish I hadn’t fallen for the noise. The look at me crap. Whore next door egged him on. It was a pitiful place to be in. I wish I had had someone who could have given me solid advice about what to do. I couldn’t stop crying and I was in a deep shock.

        My daughter who won’t talk to me now lives with the horrible sister who done my father in. So you see I don’t have any answers for you. I would like to have a relationship with my daughter again and have her get deep therapy and heal from all this. I don’t even know where to begin on getting her back. She won’t talk to me anymore.

        This daughter also had to be sent off because of her eating disorder for a month. The X lied to me about taking her to dr. And I could go check on her later. He had me fixed where I couldn’t contact her drs. “Controlling” it so I didn’t know what was happening with her and even the regular medical dr that was also my dr. For years. The X had that contact cut off and she wasn’t 18.

        I deeply think he sexually abused her. She used to complain of stomach pains when she was little and I took her to dr and she checked her out. The daughter who killed herself said she was throwing up in bags she kept in her closet and hid. I never knew any of this. You know I made my daughters aware of touching and all early on. Bad touches and all. To tell me. But I think this is part of the grooming process that they don’t tell.

        There’s so much here and all I don’t know. I’m horrified by him and my sister.

        • I wanted to add that my daughter who died was a sweet trusting kind of person. Both my daughters were but she had this inner glow about her that was really special. People were just floored amazed by her. She was a beautiful little girl.i remember I used to take them both to mothers morning out at church and one day a woman I grew up with said to me you’re *’s mom. I said yes. She was so amazing that people were hooked being around her. The deep deep kindness of her. It also scared me as a mom to be so trusting.

          She had many good friends who were also horrified by some of her friends she was taking up with. There were so many friends at her funeral. It was so sweet. Someone left like a pumpkin and some cobwebs on her tombstone at Halloween. It has hurt them all really badly. One of her friends committed suicide after her. It was a guy. A week or so after she died.

          • I’m so sorry Beetle, my heart goes out. Ex bribed our teenage son to live with him then alienated him from me with lies. My son and I were close while he was growing up. Ex had little to do with our son until Dday.
            My son suddenly transformed from an honors student, involved in school activities, with good friends to dropping out of after school activities, in danger of not graduating, dressing in all black and having questionable friends. I talked with ex about my concerns, ex laughed and claimed it was normal. I rarely see my son now and when I do its awkward.
            It breaks my heart, I don’t see our relationship improving.
            I hope that knowing you’re not alone in being alienated from your children helps you feel a little better. All we can do is set a good example by taking care of ourselves.

            • Two people I have been in contact with have had her son and the other best friend commit suicide. What are the odds of that. Any suicide is one too many. Young males.

          • I am so sorry Beetle. The loss of your daughter is horrific. These are the stories on CL’s blog that are the most upsetting to me – the suffering that you all have endured is… no words.
            ((((Beetle)))) (((((brit)))))

    • Beetle, I haven’t wrote on hear more than once. Over 15 years of my life gone. I left the devil after discovery of his affair. We have a two elementary school kids. The journey will be long. Everyday I tell myself no matter what lies he tells the kids or what happens that I saved myself and I was worth it. Please do the same. Realize no matter who believes him-You know the truth. Find value in the fact that you deserve better and they are not your tribe. Ultimately you WON! You can create anything you want. We all struggle with the loss of the perfect happy family ( my biggest sadness.) My parents have been together 40 years and still really love each other. My kids will never experience that. But they do have a strong mom who is never giving up on them. Everyone that believes the sadistic black hole, look at what they have a sadistic black hole. Move forward with your life your free.

      • I am. Writing this has made me tired. I might lay down for a minute. Rest my mind. One thing my physiatrist told me after the death of my daughter was to stay off the couch or you won’t get up. I get that.
        My daughter died 8 months exactly after my fathers death. Her one year anniversary is coming up in June. Her birthday in May right after Mother’s Day.
        That’s where all this stuff is stirred up again. So I stated a day or so ago, I felt like she had spoke through me in this feeling and thought that she’s in Heaven and loves it. So I’m going to make my peace with that.
        It’s just crushing in different ways. I’m doing things on my to do list that I make up daily and add more on to when I get the previous ones done.
        It’s what it’s all about to heal and move on. Finding a new peace.

    • Our kids make their choices in life. Yes they are manipulated and played. But at some point they choose.

      I always wondered if my kids were able to be ‘bought’ by the ex because ultimately they value things more than people.

      • Mine gave out lots of nice gifts and nice going out dinners with it. He had lots of money and a high level job. He is an Aerospace Engineer at Lockheed Martin.
        I tried to keep spending realistic with girls growing up because I hate how the materialistic things really ruins a child’s personally and intelligence.
        He married again and I guess everything was ok. She has two kids I think two daughters. Something turned before my daughters death. They all went to Mexico and stayed at a really expensive place like $800.00 per person per day. All the kids were there. It was after my daughter got back within two weeks of that trip she killed herself.he turned on both of them and cut them both off from school and other expenses. I remember how hurt my dead daughter was. He was paying her children’s way then. He was the Disney dad when he filed and dumped me. After the burial he cut off communication with surviving daughter.

  • I still go through the ‘I was so fucking stupid.’ I stayed because I loved him, I stayed because of hope, I stayed because I knew that he would eventually cycle back to me like he always did. He gave me just enough hope to live through the next discard and to wait for him on the other side.

    My commitment to seeing all of him and accepting his flaws diminished my worth to him. I gave him so much and got nothing back in return.

    I can’t do that again….for anyone.

  • Forgiving myself is truly the biggest hurdle. For being stupid, for loving him, for ignoring who he really was the first time he showed his ass. For thinking I deserved to be mistreated because he was somehow abetter person than me. For the amount of trust I had in him…. for believing that I was somehow special and different… for thinking he gave up so much to be with me, when it was really me….. there’s just so much that I truly hate myself for doing….

    And the time…. I’m so ANGRY that I wasted my time…. my prime years, with that fucking asshole. I’m most upset about that.

  • Well 38yrs invested and it all came tumbling down. Forgiveness of self and the grief .. hard work.

    Was it a wasted life? Was it a wasted 8yrs to rebuild and gain a sense of letting go? Actually “no”. It’s just my life – my journey. I guess I accept the story. My story & I marvel at its twists & turns.

    It’s certainly no happy ever after fairy tale but I now like me. I am not sure I did prior to leaving him.

    • To Arlo, & others who stayed far too long for whatever reason, (I was at 35 years…ugh)

      I think it hit me only today, that the more devalued I felt (even subconsciously), the lower my self esteem was, and there’s an inverse relationship between our self esteem and our fear.

      The worse I felt about myself, the more silent terror I felt – about losing the man I thought was the love of my life. He yanked the rug out from under me big time.

      I’m not fearless by any means, but I am damn brave. I can face my flaws and allow humility to be a strength, not a weakness. I am a lot stronger than I knew. I am NOT broken. I am the author of my life and I write how the story goes.

      I like the phrase (and CHOICE) to —

      **”Make the worst thing that ever happened to me, the best thing that ever happened to me.”**

      I believe/hope that will go hand in hand with self forgiveness.

      ((( love to all here )))

  • I stayed through 5 d-days over a five year period. I stayed for all of the reasons listed in CL’s reply and more. I stayed and lost myself. I was so depressed, so unhappy and I stayed until I didn’t like myself. I compromised myself and my beliefs because I didn’t feel like I was worth more. Infidelity is mental abuse and it wears you down if you stay and you if you let it.

    It all changed when I looked in the mirror and I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I looked in the mirror with disgust at what I saw. A woman who was willing to accept FAR less than what I knew I deserved. That morning, I looked at myself and said “that is enough! I can’t watch you do this to yourself anymore!”. That is the day I told him I was done!

    I am rocking a new life and I haven’t looked back!!!!!! I will NEVER do that again!

    • The last time my X and I talked at any length was in a therapy session in late 2017 when she was finishing rehab. She asked if there was a chance we could get back together. As hard as it was to say, because I was scared of the unknown, I knew one immutable fact, and I am glad I voiced it. I simply said, “If I were to ever go back to you, I would never be able to look myself in the mirror again.”

      This is the moment when I finally valued my own worth and the fact that she doesn’t deserve me in her life.

  • I was 62 when betrayal woke me out of the long dream that being part of a couple was necessary to life and happiness. That if I was single, I was more or less nothing. That I couldn’t run the riding mower or survive financially on my own.

    But I got here. Now I know. We’re here to learn and to love others. Sometimes the “love” part means refusing to be abused or to enable abuse or self-destruction. You loved that person 5 or 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, and now you love that person by levying the big consequence of letting them go. If you got a rough start with your FOO, it’s not surprising that the learning has taken a while. You just had a longer education. But being conscious of what has happened, being reflective, means that we can begin to live at a much higher level of awareness. We don’t attract jackasses any more. And maybe we are content to be in love with ourselves for a while.

  • I would be interested in exploring why some people need to forgive others AND to denounce those who do’t.

    • My bet is that they love to feel superior. It can also be a way to justify their own acceptance of disrespect. And to cling to hopium.

      What’s interesting to me is that they are often forgiving people who HAVEN’T ASKED FOR FORGIVENESS, people often believe they’ve done nothing requiring forgiveness. People who have shown no genuine remorse, and who continue to hurt others. To me, that’s just delusional.

  • When I look back at every guy I was ever attracted to, at my exes, the red flags nearly block the view. ALL were narcissistic. ALL had huge entitlement streaks. ALL were cheaters.

    My punch-in-the-face realization is that I need to work on my picker. The good news, is that the work is paying off, slowly. Men I have been attracted to in the past, and would probably still be attracted to if not for CL and CN, no longer have any appeal to me. None. I know what they are, ’nuff said.

    IF I ever get involved again, I will know my worth, and will be looking for somebody similarly valuable.

  • Fear.

    Fear that after waiting so long to marry (in my mid 30’s), as a child of divorce caused by a serial cheating father, that I had made a mistake. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to survive financially. Fear that divorcing and leaving would harm my kid more than staying. Fear that I would be alone for the rest of my life.

    What made me finally leave? When I realized that all that I feared was happening right then and there while I was still in the marriage. My husband was withholding finances from me while demanding I contribute more, while living in a place where that was virtually impossible. Realizing that if I got sick or majorly hurt, he WOULDN’T be there to support and help me. Realizing my kid was being harmed by watching how I was being treated, how my mental health was suffering as a result and therefore couldn’t be the best Mom I could be. And as I crouched in the bottom of the shower tub crying my eyes out for the umpteenth time, that I was more alone then I had ever been in my life.

    Almost 4 years out and I’ve reached Meh pretty much. Still have worries about financial stability. But my kid sees how happy I am now. My money is my money and I don’t have to wonder about it. And I may be alone, but I am not lonely. And that’s a million times better than where I was in 2015.

  • @Looking for my own Meh….

    You don’t have to forgive yourself. You didn’t wrong anyone. You did your best in a difficult situation. I stayed with XW because my child was still small and I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from her. A lot of people make sacrifices for their kids. I also thought I could police XW and keep her from doing something bad- we all now know that’s not possible.

    Focus on finding peace with your new life. Happiness follows in small doses of the new reality. In time begin to focus on why you may have ignored any red flags at the beginning of the relationship in order to not repeat history.

  • I want to know how to forgive myself for the pain serial cheater brought on other people. Serial cheater is a straight up predator and I know, firsthand and otherwise, that serial cheater raped and sexually assaulted a number of other people. I have reason to believe that serial cheater may have committed sexual assault of some sort on at least one minor while i was in the relationship. And I stood by them, coming off to serial cheater’s victims as if I supported these crimes against them. (I of course never did, but my being with this person I’m sure looked that way to serial cheater’s victims.) I don’t know how to forgive myself for bringing serial cheater into the lives of my friends and family and putting their safety at risk like that! I don’t know how to forgive myself as some of them have children and I brought this predator into their homes. I feel so.. distressed about this so often.. I may have put my friends and family in a safety risk when I then finally left my dangerous cheater…

    • Can you reach out for professional support on this? Call the cops? It might not be too late to help. You can’t turn back time, but you can be a witness going forward and maybe help someone else along the way.

      • Thank you so much for commenting on this! I have talked to my therapist about it to work through it for myself, so there is that… I am trying to contend with it as best as I can. Two of her victims are my friends and I think I might just make their lives a living hell if I reported on their behalf. But I have offered to both of them that if they ever wanted to come forward, I would support them and tell my own experiences with this predator on the bench as further evidence. I also told them that if they ever felt like they were in a place to come forward, I could reach out to other known victims to let them know should they also want to come forward. It’s a hard place because I know what predator has done and could continue to do in the future, but I also know how the police and the legal system are towards victims of rape and sexual assault and I would never want to place my friends into that position without their consent. But in the meantime, I am working on reminding myself that the predator’s actions were their own fault, not mine, and at least I am now no longer seeming to support this creep and I know what to look out for moving forward. Thank you for addressing this general topic with this letter and for all your support and advice!

  • I think it comes down to what Maya Angelo said: “When you know better, you do better.”

    My late mom always asked me why I would allow my husband to continue to permit his mother to treat me horribly. She tried to instill that I was a great wife and partner to my husband and that his mother shouldn’t treat me so poorly (XMIL told me to fuck off twice, always commented on my spending. If we were on vacation, she would try to review our hotel bill, to determine if I used more of the resort credit than XH, and then tried to give him cash if I did. She asked if I was a virgin when I married her son. I’m no slacker, I out-earned XH with a full time job and still managed to cook for him nightly. We had no debt and investments). XH failed to protect me and our marriage. He left me for his schmoopie 6 days after we scattered my mom’s cremains following her sudden and untimely death.

    Through a lot of IC and reading here daily, I have now been able to internalize what my mom was trying to teach. I deserved to be treated better by XH and his insufferable bitch of mother. They are shitty people. XH failed to establish boundaries in his life with mom and then whore.

    I forgive myself for tolerating and accepting so little for so long. Never again.

    • I lost my mom a month after D-day last year. She made me promise that there is ever another man in my life, he must like animals.”If he isn’t nice to animals, he won’t be nice to people”. Yes, momma, I promise.

      Moms are wise.

      • Oh Miss Bailey, I’m so sorry for the loss of your mom so shortly after D-day. How wise she was in regards to animals. I’ve come across that issue last year with someone I was dating. He told me I should crate my darling mutt when he came over (my pup is a lover). I dumped the guy and kept my free-range fur baby.

  • I don’t forgive him and I wish him dead. My eldest daughter also wishes him dead, she is going through the emotional cycle has caused on about a six months delay. Youngest daughter has had him on mute for a long time and is angry though I don’t thinks she wants him dead. Fortunately neither daughter feels guilt themselves though and neither is want for self-forgiveness.

    For myself, I try to take comfort in that I was faithful. I put up with a massive amount of shit and he still told me I was worthless. I know that others will not put up with his crap and since that is the only type of relationship he knows he will bounce from one to another wondering why they are all so ‘difficult’ and not as easy going as I was. I was a great punching bag for him and he threw me away.

    I won’t ever let anyone else do that to me but honestly I can’t imagine a relationship that is reciprocal. Never had one. Ever. My co-dependency always has me doing well more than half and expecting zero in return. That is what I need to work on and it would be nice to have even a single small relationship to try my wings (2 years post d-day now). Feeling unwanted and unworthy.

  • I have a Q, mostly directed at CL, however I would love to hear from anyone on this. It pertains to the psychological and sociological standards that makes CHUMPS feel compelled to stay in abusive relationships. Of course we choose as best we can with the person we share our vows with. We may simply think our picker is working just fine with our choice. Of course I completely understand that when children are involved it also carries a tremendous amount of weight in future decision making about family dynamic.
    I see and read stories of both men and women in bad relationships and marriages. Take for instance Chris Hardwick whose ex GF Tweeted that he was abusive in their relationship. Stated he was controlling among other things but wasn’t unfaithful or abusive physically. The man almost lost his career over it. Basically it amounted to him simply being a BAD BF which she could have just simply left the relationship. BTW, she claimed this behavior started after he discovered she was unfaithful. Coin flip, he could have left the relationship just as easily upon discovering he abusive behavior. I see both at fault. Infidelity for me has always been a deal breaker. So at what point is any husband or wife at fault for STAYING in an abusive relationship, not exclusive to marriage, and kidding ourselves that we have the ability to love someone enough to change them. I know or me if I had the ability to change people I would do something very different with my life. LOL. This is all predicated on discovery of abusive behavior and those who try to hang on and fix their marriages. RIC seems to talk out of both sides of their mouths in every column and blog out there. Either hang on and fix the issues that caused abused and or change or wait for change in the abuser. At what point do we hold ourselves accountable for the decisions we make to allow it to continue. I see SO many posts here with 2, 3, 4 DDays. If WE don’t suck? And they do?

    • It’s a complicated question, and I think part of the answer is changing the huge RIC narrative, that ASSUMES reconciliation.

      Until I started this blog, that was the only message with 99.9 percent of the infidelity resources.

      So why do people stay with a cheater? Because it’s the assumed outcome. Because there’s still a lot of shame around being chumped. Because there are social, economic, religious, cultural forces that argue for staying. Because single mothers are vilified. (Read David Fucking Brooks.)

      I could go on. That said, YES, we MUST own our choices. If we didn’t enforce boundaries or made ourselves smaller, if we accepted lopsidedness and another’s entitlement as Right and Proper, we fucked up.

      But it’s really not equivalent IMO to the sins of using and abusing someone. To cake-eating. To lying and extracting value from someone who is trying hard to save a family/marriage. To weaponize people’s decency.

      I understand the forces that keep people stuck, because I made these mistakes myself.

      I hope by creating this site, and this community (that creates itself) that there is SUPPORT so chumps can make better choices. It’s hard to be brave when you’re alone.

      • CHUMP LADY

        2 quick comments (and a generic but sincere THANK YOU for this site).

        1) yes there is shame in being chumped. We have to change that narrative from within. It adds insult to injury and some of it is self inflicted.

        2) the single mom issue annoys the shit out of me in that there are so MANY fatherless households out there, that it’s not even commented upon anymore!

        For instance, just look at two horrific mass shootings, where the single mother of the killer is examined.

        In Sandy Hook, the parents of the killer divorced and the father left the unstable “problem son” with his ex. She was the first murder victim. I have never heard a word about the father’s absence but I have heard a lot about the mother being to blame. (It’s not as if she can defend herself now either). Why was there no information about the father? Why are our expectations so low and imbalanced?

        In the Thousand Oaks shootings, there was (tragically) a veteran involved. His mother HAD called the police a few months before to report her son’s deteriorating behavior, but a mental health worker deemed the son to be well enough…

        No one has ever remarked on his absentee father either. It’s as if it’s a given that men leave the upbringing to the mother so they can, you know, “move on…”

        We must raise our sons to be better fathers, and our daughters to accept no less in their coparents.

        PS My ex has not seen 2/3 of our children at all since D day in 2016, and he spent a single afternoon with the youngest.

        This^^^ is beyond my comprehension. In a way, I hope it always is.

        • Doctor’s 1st Wife,

          I wondered the same thing about the father of the Sandy Hook shooter. I remember the news reported that he lived an hour away (“Why ?” I asked) and it seemed he had virtually no relationship with his autistic son. Was that why,because parenting can be extra challenging with a special needs child ? Did he just give up ? Did the mother,who had firearms in the house, and father have conflicts on what was appropriate for their son ? I’m not a gun owner (yet) but I found it very troubling that she would take her autistic son to the gun range. And look what happened-he killed his mother in addition to all those little kids. But I also tire of the ole “blame the mother” if a child struggles in life or becomes a criminal.

          It boggles the mind how a parent can be so cavalier about a relationship with their kids. But then all I have to do is look up NPD.

  • this is a great subject. ive struggled with forgiveness these past Few months . It seems to be the topic of every Sermon I go to, every book I read, Every blog I read. I finally come to The Realization That forgiveness is all about me. it’s all about me being OK with who I am and what happened. It’s acceptance as CL says. Someone on this blog said to me, forgiveness is like a bad debt that you know you’ll never collect on- you just have to forget about it. Forgiving myself for putting up with his b******* has been harder. I am a proud woman, I’m very happy with my accomplishments, I’m very proud of my family . Actually looking at myself and seeing what a sucker I have been has really slammed my self Image, my opinion of of who I am. So stripping away the pride And just looking at the raw I do think that I have tried very hard to be a Good Wife, to live up to my Commitments to my husband. if he hadn’t cheated on me I never would have left him. irrespective of how Our relationship was. and by the time I learned of his cheating our relationship was really crappy . We didn’t talk, we spent little time together, We were just going through the motions of living together, we were bad roommates. So 2 years out I can say That I’m actually starting to feel glad that he is gone . I’m actually starting to feel Glad that he did something That was intolerable to me. I would never would have left him for any other reason than being cheated on . And given that, I think I can be kind to myself And I can say “you did the best you could You were on honorable And if he wasn’t able to honor that in return that’s on him. Sending loves and hugs 2 fellow travelers on this Journey

  • I stayed because I wanted to be with my kids full time. I could not conceive of allowing him to be with them on his own when they were little.

    Also I had a narc mother, who trained me well to tolerate bullshit.

    I stayed because no one was divorced among our family and friends. I had no positive example. Only one aunt was divorced and she was lonely as hell.

    He spun many tales of his childhood abuse. I bought into this ‘broken man’ scenario for a long time.

    Research reveals that if a woman has children with a man the odds of reconciliation are 75% after he cheats. So the majority of us with kids try again. The majority of us.

    It’s not a light task to end a marriage. No matter how necessary.

    Credit due to those who try. There is no shame in being sure.

    • I am right there with you, I know I absolutely would have stayed if my kids were small. 100% for the reason you describe, that I couldn’t imagine him with them alone and I also would not tolerate an OW playing mommy for them. I would put up with anything to avoid that.

      • That’s where I’m at now. My boy just turned 7. SEVEN.

        Cheater was having an affair when our kid was 5 and 6. He got the affair vacation while I was left adulting raising our son and maintaining my own full time employment.

        The idea of not seeing my son everyday and some other woman playing mom to him makes it near impossible for me to see a way out. I didn’t do anything wrong but I have to loose my baby.

        I don’t know how to do this.

        • Could you be a stay at home mom? For at least a year. Then when you split hopefully you will get Monday to Fridays with your child. And your ex will get every other weekend?

          Idk. Every state is different. I was the main bread winner so I was really in a bind.

          I took it till the youngest was 14. Then my health went and it was all over. I am still glad not to be with him. Despite all the grief and heartache he caused during and after the marriage. I would not go back. At some point our sanity becomes the issue. So we end it.

  • I stayed too long because I’m not a quitter and not a failure. I’d sunk a lot of years and effort into building the life I thought I had. I hated the idea of starting over.

    I’ve forgiven myself. I’ve built a better life for myself, on my own terms. My home is a peaceful, cooperative place. I’ve steered my career in a less stressful direction. I’m planning for retirement. I’ve settled down with a prenup and a solid life partner who enhances rather than depletes me. I’ve got a big yellow dog who sleeps under my desk while I work. I think if I hadn’t seen such darkness, I wouldn’t fully appreciate these gifts.

    If I could meet the me who hadn’t left yet, I’d give her a hug and tell her not only that she could do better, but that she would definitely most certainly no question about it do better. All she needs is distance and time and attitude.

  • Forgiving myself for making bad choices (like ignoring emotionally and sexually abusive behaviors, spackling for many, many years and staying with my ex through two DDays four years apart) is just one aspect of the “What If” game I play far too often. “What if I had confronted my ex the first time I suspected he was cheating?” “What if I had pulled my kids out of the middle school I suspected was terrible for them academically and mentally?” “What if I had dated that boy in high school who was so interested in me?” I could easily “what if” almost every decision I ever made and probably have “what if’d” most of them at one time or another. It gets me nowhere. At some point I realized that in order to move on with my life it was necessary to stop dwelling on the what ifs. Yes, the woman I was when I was married to my ex made some choices that the woman I am now thinks are incredibly stupid and weak. But the choices I made at the time were based on who I was then and the conditions I was living under. That poor woman did the best she could with what she had which wasn’t much in the way of resources or support. Support and resources came AFTER DDay #2 (lucky for me, very quickly after).

    When I look at who I was objectively, as if the person I was is a friend of mine who is telling me her story, I feel sympathy, empathy and a protective anger for that poor woman. She did the best she could! When I look at myself like that, I can easily forgive myself. But forgiving isn’t forgetting, even when it’s applied to myself. I don’t ever want to be the woman I was then again. Hopefully I will never forget all these hard fought lessons. If I do? That I will have a hard time forgiving myself for.

  • Thank you for this,
    I immediately ended my marriage upon discovery of infidelity. The divorce is in progress.

    But I often wonder if I was too judgemental. If I would have given him a chance. If I’m being unforgiving.

    This post reassures me I am only protecting and choosing me. And that is ok.

  • What an excellent response CL. It is so important to take yourself back – reclaim the greatness within you.

    Last night, in the program on self-esteem that I am doing through my church – program for Separating and Divorced Catholics, we completed an activity that was very insightful for me.

    We first completed a checklist of all the strength that we felt we possessed from a list of words (ie: committed, adventurous, organized, etc). We then completed a checklist of all the roles that we feel we are in our lives (ie: parent, leader, storyteller, etc). Then, we were given cue cards to create as many sentences as we could that paired our strengths with our roles. One of mine was “I am an expressive, loving, humourous mom.”

    We were invited to share any that we felt comfortable with sharing. I had created eight cards. I realized again how every strength that I identified in every role that I have had been criticized by my STBXH during his devalue (affair period) and discard (leaving for good) of me. He took every good thing about me and turned it into a negative. The result was making me believe that I was too much to be endured as a spouse, that I had managed to drive a husband away, that something is wrong with me.

    I’ve understood before that he criticized a lot of things about me that was just plain ridiculous, but it really hit me the depth of his criticism. He came to hate the very essence of who I am as a person and was desperate to leave it behind for a low-value woman that he thought would be easier. That’s a mindfuck for sure.

    But, I took myself back last night. I ended up reading every card with conviction and the support of the men and women in my group. All of whom were appalled when they learned a bit of how much my STBXH benefited over the years from my strengths (I supported him through two lay-offs and three years of university to earn a degree, I provided the majority care for our son with autism, I ran most of the household, even though I always outearned him). I did not emasculate my husband…he emasculated himself.

    Looking – It is time to take yourself back. Life needs to be about you, seeking your own peace, forgiving yourself, gaining in wisdom. You are a kind and loving person who believed that your love, patience and understanding would turn someone back to you in a committed marriage. Those are the qualities that creates enduring marriages, when they are with the right people. A person of good character would have recognized that, never cheated in the first place and appreciated the wonderful wife he had. Some good counselling on betrayal blindness (also know as adaptive blindness) can help you learn how to remap your memories to better recognize abuse in your life in the future and arm yourself against it. That’s what I’ve been working on, and it’s done wonders.

    Tremendous hugs and many blessings

  • This is a question every chump who stayed in the marriage has asked. It appears to be a chump trait that our standards for ourselves are very high. It took me almost two years to come to the point where I am at.Forgiving myself was the hardest thing I ever did. It forced me to take a good look at myself. It’s OK to make mistakes, it’s human. Nothing to do with being stupid or smart. I stopped being “uber”responsible.
    I stopped regretting the years spent with the cheater. Personal growth comes at a price and the years made me into what I am now. Apparently I wasn’t ready to let go of the illusion of a partner, but better late than never.
    Now I am just determined to live the best life I can, and I no longer think I am stupid and that everyone in the room is much smarter than I am. Eventually you will get over it, certainly not an easy journey, but doable.

  • I tried so hard for so long to keep it all together. I found my grand mothers marriage certificate and my mothers ripped up in a shoe box. 20 years later mine joined them too. The last 6 years I have been building my life. This is not a dress rehersal. What ever days I have left, they are mine. For the first time in my life I’m taking care of me. Not putting all my energy into making other peoples lives better. Just wish I had woken up earlier. A big thank you to Chump lady and Cump nation xxx

    • I don’t have to forgive myself for I know everything I did during my 34 year marriage was intended with love
      I tried making my husband happy, bring the best mom I could be. But after giving him my youth & love he threw me away like a old rag. I did ignore the red flags but like so many of us chumps here I was terrified of leaving & being alone the rest of my life.
      Now divorced 3 years I am lonely, financially strapped but at least I’m not being cheated on. My adult son sees his father but I can’t control that nor do I want to. He’s still his dad. I’m not at meh, still dreaming of him & I feel I’ll never be the same. I just hope that one day I can accept that the man I lived with was a fake. He turned on a dime & cruelly discarded me after meeting the Owhore. BTW. . She passed away last year & he quickly moved into another woman’s home. Told my son he doesn’t want to be alone. “Any old port… in a Storm “. Hugs to all ????

  • I’m years past being cheated on by my ex with my cousin. I was a single Dad in the home with the kids for years. I Experienced all the cheater tricks, however I stuck to my guns, worked on myself, and life became excellent post cheater!

    I only deal with the ex by text for financial issues with our youngest son, who lives with me.

    Getting cheated on was the best thing that ever happened to me, it made me into absolutely kick ass version of myself.

    It all this time, I have never crossed paths with my cousin who now live together. I have to admit that despite it all, I would probably kick his ass. I doubt I could stop myself and frankly would enjoy it. And it’s not because I would ever take my ex back. He’s was family and chose to bang my wife while I was married to her.

  • I stayed two years. I flat out asked my best friend why I was staying when my now ex was living with the OW and vacationing with her to the Caribbean!!! She said, without hesitation, “It’s because you’re afraid.” She nailed it. I was terrified of being alone. (27 year marriage) Abd as it turns out, the things I was afraid of came true. It sucks having ALL the responsibility of raising our 5 kids in my shoulders, supporting us financially, taking care of the house (I learned to use an electric drill just yesterday), etc etc never mind just being so damn lonely…

    But here’s the kicker in all of this: This is one million times better than living with a cheater. I wish I could go back and tell myself on Dday to kick him him out that very day!!! It would have saved me two years of absolute hell.

  • I totally feel your pain. And admire your selflessness, looking inward at your own actions. Still–it’s not your fault someone deceived you. I was on here yesterday with my letter and my guy was also a sex addict and I also gave everything up even though I had caught him cheating before. Hindsight is 20/10 right? There were red flags lining my life for the past few years and I blithely ran past them. I guess we gaslight ourselves as well as being gaslit. And sure we can beat ourselves up for being fooled twice. For ignoring the obvious signs. But the flip side of that trait your are trying to forgive yourself for is an ingenuousness and loyalty and willingness to see the good in people that is a GOOD TRAIT. So credit yourself for that while your looking for away to forgive yourself. It’s probably one of the things the sex addicted fuckwit loved about you, to whatever extent a fuckwit is capable of love.

    • Must correct above–“You’re looking”-god I hate that predictive text finishes words for you but doesn’t understand homonyms or grammar.

  • Right after Dday and the divorce I was so angry and my therapist made me realize that the anger was directed more at myself than the Ex and all of the horrible things that she did.

    I was angry because I married the cheater even after my friends and family begged me not to marry her– she fooled me into thinking that she really loved me. She pretended to be someone she wasn’t and did not drop her “nice girl” mask for several years into the marriage.
    She manipulated me into spakling over all of the red flags over the years. She beat my spirit down so much over the years that I became someone who was not really me. Finally she cheated, we had Dday and SHE filed for the divorce to hook up with OM#3 (although I was done with her at the time).

    I realized that if I did not forgive me, it would destroy me. I really forgave myself and so began my long climb out of that deep dark hole that I was in to the beautiful sunlight that I am in now.

    My sister said a few years ago that “the thing I hated most about cheater was what she did to you — she beat you down into someone I did not recognize and now you are your old self again”.

    Everyone, forgive yourself !!! You were doing the best that you could at the time, hindsight is always 20/20 and NEVER discount the evil influence and manipulations you were under from your cheater !!

  • Some people learn how to ride a bike (without training wheels) in a snap. For others, it takes several tries.

    Some of us got out soon after D-Day #1. Others of us (myself included) were slower learners.

    Being “emotionally shut down,” fear, deep emotional bonds with the cheater, the manner in which we generally arrive at big decisions, and various other factors contribute to the speed or slowness of our finally “getting it” and knowing it’s time to call the relationship dead.

    Maybe it’s just semantics, but I’m not sure it’s so much a matter of “forgiving” ourselves as it is recognizing that we learn what we learn when we learn it, and no two people learn in exactly the same way.

    Do we need to “forgive” a kid who takes longer to learn how to ride a bike?

    No, I think we need to be understanding and kind. And we need to be understanding and kind with ourselves too!

    You can beat yourself up for not being quicker to learn, but that doesn’t make sense to me! You got it when you got it.

    As Tracy said, we do need to examine ourselves to understand better why we lingered (and/or why we were candidates for chumpdom in the first place). This helps us get to meh, and helps us to navigate better in a world that seems to have a shit ton of narcissists and sociopaths!

    But most important, I think we need to be more UNDERSTANDING and KINDER with ourselves.

    BIG CHUMPY HUGS to all chumps who feel they need to forgive themselves!

    • Never beat yourself up. You were trying to survive. You didn’t have the tool of Chumplady. You get the right tool, and you learned a better way to survive.

  • Couple of notes on the way to forgiving yourself.

    When we ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda’ ourselves we always imagine a better outcome. Try thinking of how it could have been worse if you’d done those things, it’s easy in hindsight to determine what you should have done and imagine the much better result, reality is, the result could have been way worse. Who you are is shaped by your experiences and sometimes recognizing you are who you are due to what happened can help too.

    In many instances we were with people who didn’t throw up huge red flags and some of us dealt with assholes who were patient and careful. The people who do micro boundary crossings over many years and you don’t realize a major boundary has been obliterated because it happened so slowly and you love them… Then one day you find out about the cheating and all of that hits you hard and you start that woulda, shoulda, coulda crap but you didn’t see it as it happened. It was slow, gradual erosion of your boundaries that wasn’t obvious until it was. Forgive yourself for loving someone and not realizing the slow slippery slope they took you down. Congratulate yourself when the big boundary crossing occurred that you acted and defended yourself.

    Jedi hugs!

  • I have struggled too with forgiving myself. I have never been a fan of forgiving the cheater. Screw that shit! To me it’s like saying you are okay with lying cheating and stealing. I did not know about the cheating until after d day but the signs were there and I spackled right over them. I would put my hopes in a little scrap of decency and hope again things would change. Of course they never did and I wasted over 15 precious years of my life believing all the shit he said to me and putting up with being treated like crap. It’s taken me a long time to get myself back. I almost forgot who that was! Every day is a step closer to meh ????

  • We are all fighting the old training that begins in our infancy: boys are better than girls. They are entitled to more/better/everything. We don’t count. Our only reason for living is to have children and support unconditionally our husband.

    It’s really hard to resist, as a child. Even harder as an adult.

    RESIST. Do not teach your children this harmful ideology, either boys or girls.

  • I find it helps to re-frame the whole thing: NO time is wasted. Ever. In your whole life.

    When you think it was ‘wasted’, it’s because you’re comparing it to some imaginary perfect life, with better opportunities, and a perfect partner, and more money, and less illness, and all of that. The Life You Should Have Had.

    Thing is: how do you know that the alternative, non-wasted life wouldn’t have been even more full of illness, heartbreak, death, loss and pain?

    YOU DON’T. It’s your imagination playing tricks on you.

    No time in your life has been wasted if you have learned even one thing from it. And I think all Chumps have learned plenty.

    That bad marriage all those years, while awful, may actually have been protecting you from exposure to BIGGER cheaters and destroyers during that time – until you were ready to leave and be strong on your own.

    Chumps are many things, but they’re not time-wasters. It’s what you make of it that counts.

  • Honestly, after a while, you won’t care and will only occasionally even think of your cheater, and when you do you will only think about how glad you don’t have to put up with all their crap anymore, and the next thought will be something more important like “Don’t forget to buy paper towels on the way home”.

  • I am less than 5 months post-D-Day and still in full-fledged “my life is a lie, WTF is even real?” mode, slowly realizing that every time my “sex addict” husband said he was just exhausted or stressed out about work he was really gaslighting me. Because I have been with him all my adult life (HS sweethearts) and adore(d) him, every time something was bad in our relationship I blamed it on my anxiety and depression making it bad, which put me on a downward spiral of “knowing” everything bad was my fault and never second guessing him and never thinking he was responsible for any of our problems. I felt like I was the emotionally/mentally unstable one so it was all on me. Now this whole secondary secret life comes to light. And he gets diagnosed with mental issues as well. If he had half the honesty and integrity and love for me that I thought he had we could have sought medical and therapeutic help for both of us decades ago. I don’t know. Supposedly his issues predate our relationship but I still can’t help but beat myself up for never seeing ANY OF THIS SH*T! I mean, I’m an educated, loving, decent human being. He and our kids are my only family though, so I feel hopelessly entangled and confused.

    Anyway… have been listening to “Leave a Cheater…” on repeat as an audiobook. Every time CL says “what was real? YOU were real” I burst out crying in my car. Trying to burn that into my brain. I was real. My children are real. I meant it. I was there for it. I am guilty only of being a trusting, loving, decent person with low self esteem.

    • DogMom, I am so sorry this is happening to you. You are in the right place here. Reading the archives from this site is excellent therapy.

      You don’t mention what you are doing about protecting yourself financially from this man. If he is screwing you over emotionally, he will be doing it financially. Get a good lawyer.

  • Best way to forgive yourself, is to help others not make the same decision. Hopefully by hearing your story, everyone who has ever been cheated on, while get out before losing their youth on a seemingly “wonderful” man. Puke. You can help them to see past their cheating husbands tears and begging for forgiveness when they get caught. Share your story to help others in the same situation.

  • I’m not a doctor’s wife but I was married to an international airline pilot for 40 years. Talk about unfettered opportunities to cheat. He had it made. 3rd world disadvantaged women were his specialty and how would I ever know? They were too dumb, desperate, or just plain into the little bit of money he bestowed on them to bother googling him (and their English wasn’t too good). He masqueraded as a divorced guy all over the world. I had 4 d-days before I finally left complete with videos, pictures, emails, and chats. Like everyone else I wanted the family and we had two kids. They’ve had problems but are doing ok now. So now, at 62, I get to look at the wreckage of my future and start over. Thankfully I’ve always had a good job. And now I’ll be working for the rest of my life since half my retirement is leaving with him. Nonetheless I’ve FINALLY seen him for the disordered, disgusting fuckwit that he is. This is a great article! Forgiving myself for being so STUPID is the hardest thing along with the very real fear of being alone in the world. Right now I just hate him but I’m working hard on meh. 12 step groups, therapists, and life coaches haven’t helped. Just taken my money. I think the only way to do this is get off the floor and build a new life—cheater free. I see a lot of intelligent, accomplished people here. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

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