Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Dear Chump Lady, Am I the toxic one?

Dear Chump Lady:

I’m not sure it’s possible to get through this nightmare of truth-trickling and gaslighting without picking up a maladaptive strategy or two. But I am really really ready to put them down now.

From raking him about his movements to stalking his social media, I am starting to resemble the Eight Signs of Domestic Violence. Me. I don’t know how much of this will vanish when he finally does; but this is not anything like I am, and it is certainly not who I want to end up being.

I’ve scoured the Internet for pathways to get beyond these scary behaviors, but my dear friend Google has let me down. No matter how I phrase it, I still end up striking out.

Thanks, but I don’t need any distress tolerance building at the moment; I want to make sure that no one is distressed by me. Strike One. And my toxic tendencies are born of fear, not entitlement. So, while it’s excellent advice in general, being told to “Get out. Get out now!” is pointless; I can’t get away from me. Two. Well, maybe I am a toxic person? Huh, not even a little bit. And there goes the ballgame.

Abuse hurts, and I would never want to make someone suffer. No one who knows suffering ever could. So why is it so hard to find advice for someone who wants to and is capable of making it stop?

Tish, the Misguided Meanie-Bean


* Ex husband is on his way to be permanently out. *sigh* Yay for co-parenting!

* Have great mental health support: amazing therapist and med prescriber; even one-on-ones with kids’ provider. It’s just there are like 10,000 DBT work sheets and cycles of violence illustrations, but not this?

Dear Tish,

Hi. I would like to introduce you to this great big Wall Of Pain.

Please note that it looks sky-high and insurmountable. It’s made of reinforced concrete and when you run into it, you will concuss yourself. Become intimately familiar with this wall, because you’ll be running into it frequently. Get to know it. Understand its contours. It’s motherfucking illusion of permanence. The shadow it casts. Step into the shadow.

Put down that self-help book you’re reading “A Field Guide to Splendid Cheaters.” I know it’s riveting. You’re probably at chapter 12 by now, waiting for the pay off — AND THIS EXPLAINS EVERYTHING. But it never comes. Maybe if you buy the next volume set. That should keep you busy.

And that social media stalking habit. How could you possibly have time for the giant Wall Of Pain when you haven’t cracked the code to the OW’s Pinterest page yet. She posted a recipe for chicken broccoli casserole. What could it mean? He hates broccoli. Are they still an item? Is she passive-aggressive?

STOP IT. The Giant Wall Of Pain is waiting for you.

I don’t know what you’re talking about, Tracy. I’m absolutely miserable. What Wall Of Pain? There’s worse out there?

Yes. There’s crushing grief. Head butt it.

Everything you’re doing — engaging with him (trickle-truth? No, we call that “lying to your face”), stalking his social media, “raking him about his movements” — is you trying to control the uncontrollable — him. AND it’s you trying very desperately to avoid acceptance that he sucks. That this dream is dead. That there is a huge Wall Of Pain looming over you.

So you bargain with it. Demand explanations. Create rituals of hypervigilance (I’ll GPS his car!) to keep the terror at bay. You offer little sacrifices. Like your self-esteem and your needs. But still the Wall is waiting for you.

I’m asking you to fight the wall, and put him down. The wall only looks insurmountable. It’s not. I won’t lie, it’s a formidable opponent. Grief will drive you to your knees, but you will survive it. And after a few head butts (or 1700), the wall cracks, and eventually crumbles.

You’ll stand there in the ruins of your former life, covered in ash and dust and think “God, this place is a mess.” And you’ll step over into a sunnier field. No idea what’s ahead, but it’s not a ruin.

Your fuckwit may try to drag you back to Armageddon. Don’t you want to ask me some questions? He’ll miss your pick me dance and his centrality. He hates to see you in sunshine.

Keep walking.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Tish, if nothing else, you’re at least willing to look inward and be honest with yourself that you don’t feel right. You’re already miles ahead of your ex and the mistress.

    • I get your anger, hell, we all do. Anger is something that I have had to deal with my whole life. I’ve struggled so much with it, beating myself mentally into the ground over it. I’ve never understood why I have it and it makes me say stupid hurtful things. I’ve prayed for years over it-it’s not all the time, for the most part I try to treat others with kindness, decency, and respect. However, there are times… I recently received an answer and it came from the wierdest place as my experience with God goes. My son has a favorite Video game called god of war(won’t capitalize) and it tells a story of a Spartan who was tricked into a horrible destiny…anyhoo, he was teaching his son to hunt and the kid couldn’t focus on the shot and got mad and tried to strike his dad. He told him to not let anger seize you, rather know that anger is good. Anger keeps you remembering the unjust of what your dealing with so you won’t forget to do something about it. Judging it rightly so you don’t do something stupid like spray paint his car or bust the windshield.
      Vengeance is not anger and vengeance belongs to God the Father, not us. Knowing that you don’t get good or bad thoughts on your own it is easy to confuse anger with vengeance. You are feeling this because you are pissed the hell off. Funny, Christ says, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Think about that for a moment. You are obviously a good tree because you recognized this is going on with you and you want it to stop. So my point is simply, go to your knees. The answers you seek are there, in prayer.

      • Living, such a good point. Just as pain warns us that our bodies are damaged, anger warns us that we or others are being treated unjustly. Its acting on it especially without calm reflection that’s the problem.

      • Why do religious people do this? You don’t even know what her beliefs are and you’re advising prayer and quoting Jesus. I find it arrogant and insensitive. Please don’t do this unless you know for sure the person is a Christian. Would you appreciated advice that includes being told to perform religious rituals of a faith that is not your own? You’d most likely be annoyed at the person’s presumption that you share his or her beliefs. News flash; not everybody is a Christian or even believes in God.

        • Oh, I don’t mind. I’m a Wiccan and feel like love grounded in any faith is still reaching out in love. Except for maybe Jehovah witnesses. I keep a helpful pamphlet of MINE right by the door so that I may share too ^_^

          • Thanks for this Tish, I call myself a Deep Green Christian nowadays and wanted to comment before – any religious/spiritual person wants to share what has deeply touched and helped them, but I do get Chumparella’s point too, funnily enough I’ve had some very dear friends, wiccans and a priestess of Hekate, defending me from people who think my just declaring my faith is repressive!

      • I am so angry. That wall is so big right now. I’ve realized that what really fuels my anger is the sound of his voice. Everything he says is a lie. Our entire marriage, a lie. I’ve literally punched him in the face, twice. I’ve never hit anyone in my life. I’ve stopped tracking him, I’ve rerouted any emails to a sub folder I only check on Friday’s, and he is not allowed Th contact me by phone. That wall is coming down this year.

        • I’ve been there. I’ve never raised a hand to a living being in my whole adult life (well, except bugs of course. Lots and lots of bugs.)
          But six months in, in the middle of a tearful fight (I had Just discovered that he had stolen one of my favourite stuffies and gifted it to an AP) During the fight, I slapped him. He stormed out; I was too shocked to do anything.
          Eventually, I got my brain back and headed to the local mental health urgent care. I told a very nice counselor the whole story. Dude leaned back in his chair and said “He said THAT to you? I would have laid the bastard out.”
          We laughed, of course; but I felt so validated too.

      • Excellent, Living.

        That message is biblical and spot-on. I thought I was better off this morning, with this stuff, than I really am. I still had some processing to do, to get to the neighborhood of the perspective you display there.

        I will put my extreme anger, which I have had, in perspective. A significant chunk of it has been processed with my pain, which is easy to mix together for mental defense and is easy to Way overdo when one’s testosterone levels are higher than their estrogen levels (regardless of sex, interestingly).

        Protection of one’s future self is good.

        God will weigh and handle what happens to them, and just as Jesus basically said, “Persecution is coming, so if you don’t have a sword, get one ,” God wants us to defend and protect ourselves. It is your Cosmic Right, like expression that doesn’t step on someone else’s rights.

  • Good GOD I needed this today. How on earth are your articles so perfectly timed? Thank you CL. ????

      • Me three. Literally exactly this, today, right now.

        I have just come slap bang into contact with the Wall. I’ve stopped social media stalking, I will eventually stop speculating about what they’re doing. Accepting it and sitting with the pain. It’s good to know it’s going to be worth it.

        • I tell myself every day NOT to drive by her house to see if his truck is there. (So I can take a picture).

          I figure just accept he’s there. And just look at the LAST picture you took of his truck outside her house. It’s all the same thing.

          Everyday I don’t drive by I feel better. But it’s s beautiful day here in Texas and she had a pool. So I just imagine him skinny dipping there. Ya I’m pretty angry at them.

          • I was angry too right up until I realized that the best thing in his life was me (and our kids). Anybody who could walk away from what we had was seriously screwed up and I realized I wanted no part of it. At Dday, I took a good look at my marriage, hell my entire 28 year relationship with him and realized that 1) I was the only one who consistently valued “family” ie my actions over the years vs his 2)his priorities were screwed…his job, his extracurriculars, his needs, et al were all what mattered to him most, they all came before his relationship with me. Even our best years together were plagued by my not feeling good enough, but fundamentally knowing I was, it helps that his best friend told me so too ????????????. I was so unhappy with him because I felt something was missing and maybe that’s because when someone is living a lie you feel it.

    • Me too. I swear they want to push us off the edge, and then gloat.
      A few years away from this, but how well I remember the feeling.

      • I think it was about the kids. Who will he be exposing them to? Will she/they turn out to be another stalker like girl X? Girl Y seems Crazy determined to be last one standing; should I try to develop some kind of stepmother relationship with her?

        Oh my gosh, all of the crazy that has come (and) gone over the last two years. I’ve kind of gotten to this zen place of “Not my Circus, not my monkeys.” But I’m still feeling pretty scared of how I might be in another relationship; and how the hypervigilance still seems to go into overdrive if something seems strange. Maybe it’s not so much as controlling, abusive behavior as it PTSD. Still doesn’t excuse doing things that I know would scare or hurt me.

  • Don’t beat yourself up. Most of us played the marriage police at one point or other.

    I was desperately trying to make sense of my non reality. My husband said one thing and did another always changing the rules but not telling me what his rules were!!!

    It’s bound to make a girl feel a little crazy!!!

    The thing is – he is trying to name you out as the crazy one ( and yes it feels that way right now ).

    Step away from him and go as no contact as possible and you will find yourself again.

    You can not control him in any way – but you can control NC. Shut that shit down and go find out what’s on the other side of The Wall.

    I wasted 10 years of my life thinking my XH was having a Mid Life Crisis and it sure did make me crazy. As soon as I saw him for what he is ( raging Narc ), I started to heal.

    You will heal too. Big Hugs ????

    • “You can not control him in any way – but you can control NC. Shut that shit down and go find out what’s on the other side of The Wall.”

      I actually screenshotted this to put on my virtual wall ^_^

  • Hi —

    Something that will help is to look at CL’s cartoons. They contain little visual nuggets of truth settled in hilarious scenarios. Belly laughing heals. The tears of laughter rinse out the lies.

    Next, think on the phrases that CL has coined: trust that he sucks, don’t untangle the skein of fuckupedness, and many more. These phrases are so spot-on with helping a Chump face the reality that these assholes are not like us. They don’t love, and never did (I know it hurts, but remember what Jesus said about knowing the truth), they are entirely in to for what they can get out of the chump (yah, that hurts too, but again, remember the power of truth, which Cheaterpants does not have).

    So, look at the cartoons (my favorite today is the shark in a suit with a man mask — hilarious!!!) and read the quips. These are food for thought to fully inform you what you are in, and how to get out.

  • Awww. You are doing self reflection, self flagellation and feeling guilt. No way are you like those self absorbed, self indulgent, selfish shits.
    I’m sorry. You don’t fit the profile.

  • I think the facts that you are looking inward and have a therapist prove that you’re not the toxic one here. Cheaters don’t seek self help. They don’t think anything is wrong with them. Hang in. It gets way better.

  • Toward the end, after I decided on divorce vs pick-me dancing, I would often say “You don’t know you’re living under a cloud until you walk in the sunshine”.


  • I love that CL said you are trying to control the uncontrollable!! That is a perfect way to put it.

  • Tish,

    I too, turned into someone I didn’t know. I was desperately trying to control a situation that was out of my control and desperately trying to find awnsers, that would never come.
    I had a realization that I hated who I had become. I was hurting a person who yes, had chose to hurt me but that’s not who I am, I am better then him. I always was better then him and stooping to his level, was and is not me.
    He had chose to walk away and I had to accept, the life that I thought I loved was in fact, over. I had to accept I would never get apologizes, never get closure, and that I would never be the same but that didnt mean, I wasn’t still me. I look back on those moments and almost have a slight tinge of regret that I didnt handle things better. That I dont know who this person was. That I didnt just stop, breathe and focus solely on me, instead of feeding into something, that clearly was over.
    When I had enough of the BS I brought the woman back that I was. I needed her to assure me that I would get through this and that the situation was now, with him gone, in my control.
    Our actions are something that we can control, even in the face of hurt and diversity, we still can. You can, even though at times, it seems impossible.
    Stay away from social media if you can. Stay away from mental and emotional triggers and stay away from HIM. As long as he is in the picture, you will not be able to get the emotions under control. Draw boundaries and discuss only the kids, nothing else and stick to it. What he does now is no longer your concern and acting as if it is, is only giving him the satisfaction of thinking what he did was ok, because “look how crazy you are.” Dont give him that. Don’t let him see you as being weak because he loves it and in the end, it will not bring him back. He is gone and will stay gone.
    Step away from the crazy, hold your head high and take your life back. Become who you were even if she has changed. Use this moment in your life to become who you were meant to be. Strong, beautiful, loving, and confident!
    Good luck to you and bigs hugs sent your way.

    • Melissa… preach! I’m finding who I was before him… like years and years ago. I lost so much of myself trying to placate him in order to keep the peace. I was terrified of him leaving … always an empty threat. Until he had a year long (at least) affair with a mom from our son’s soccer team. Painful yes… she was my friend too. I am smack in the middle of the shit storm he made . But I will be damned if that narcissistic ass clown will make me feel inferior. I laughed LAUGHED in his face when he said he was going to “date” the OW… mind you we are still married. I said “ that’s cute you think I care, but I give zero fucks”. Cue jaw drop. Followed with … “ your HER dumpster fire now… so have fun with that”.

      I am doing more things now for myself than I ever have. Learning how to truly survive on my own. It’s
      Possible. It hurts like hell for a while .. but then you realize… I can do this .

    • Thanks, Kathleen. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that the only person I can control is myself. So I determined what my boundaries were/are, and have enforced them. That much I can do, I can control. I can stalk, I can be upset by his actions, be outraged by his blameshifting, or I can go No Contact and get on with my fuckwit-free life.

      One day at a time, my friend.

    • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This thread and all the feedback are good for my own aching soul. Timing is everything.

      • Thank you for these posts and affirmation that this hard, it hurts, and anger is ok if it moves you to put yourself and children first over these selfish twits.

  • Tish, you’re not toxic. You’re doing what virtually all of us did during discard, and probably blaming yourself for the breakup too? I hated myself for picking up his phone during that dreadful time, and the fact that I’m so inept with them that all I did was accidentally take a picture of my hand and then confess, is hilarious now! Trust that he sucks and trust your gut! Just being scared that you are toxic disqualifies you from BEING toxic, in my opinion. Hugs! X

      • Hahaha yes!! ???? And it makes me grin now, as I later found out that all the while I was agonising about invading his privacy, he was reading all my private emails to my wonderful supportive SIL to find out what I knew and what I thought about it! I was the Johnny English of the Marriage Police… ????

        • My stomach is seriously hurtin right now with a big old deep belly laugh.
          That’s really funny!

          • Isn’t it great to be able to laugh about it? I think I’ve finally scaled the high passes and sneaked over the border into the land of Meh. Love to Chump Nation today! ????

    • I placed my phone in our bedroom and recorded a conversation she was having with Sparkle Dick. At the end of the call she said “I love you!” plain as day. I played it back for her and she tried saying she said “Thank You”. I just stood there dumbfounded and called her a stupid cunt!

      • Hahaha see YOU know what to do with the darned things, ChumpTight! Yes – I also laugh to think of the barefaced lies and statements he made that were just so gobsmackingly dumbfounding that I stood there and said nothing:
        STBX (during wreckonciliation): I’m NC with her now like you asked (he wasn’t, that was a lie) but having adventures with her in the future is non-negotiable!
        Me: *mindblown* ……
        STBX: (Thinks) Hahaha Artist swallowed that one, this is so easy!

        It’s like the little kids at my work that come out with the most wonderfully improbable excuses thinking I’m bound to believe them. Just illustrates the immaturity and arrogance of the cheater.

  • When you are in the thick of being gaslighted, pushed around, abused, the maladaptive strategies that we use: social media stalking, hyper awareness, insomnia, rumination all swirl about and sometimes we begin to do and feel the unthinkable. We push our anxiety, angst, hurt, disgust out. We push this to the people we love, sometimes our kids (who definitely have enough going on). We cry, we yell, we are not kind. That behavior is not us. It is a by product of the toxic soup we are ingesting, breathing and swimming in. As you get further from the toxicity, when your stbx move out, when you practice grey rock and no contact, slowly your true self will re-emerge. You will find the laughter, you will be come better at keeping toxic emotions inside until its appropriate to let them out. you will become you again. I liken it to dung beetles, we roll big balls of shit and start pushing them up. We emerge victorious from shit. The toxic behaviors you describe will go by the wayside.

    • That is so hopeful! I am seven days NC, and already feeling surprisingly at peace. I just wish I had done it while he was love-bombing someone else, not me. We could have gotten away clean. Oh well, what was I going to do, wait? Hah!

  • If someone loves you they wouldn’t cheat, there is no excuse. The cheater probably takes the cheated for granted, they have excuses for everything.
    The hardest thing is apparently your not entitled to the truth, but they expect you to help them.
    The ow asked me, to feel sorry for her, what self entitled piece of crap is that.

  • Tish, you are still immersed in the disorder. Being coated in it and unable to get out makes us a bit disordered too. There are no good ways to cope with it. You have to get out of it. It appears this is in the sites for you – yay!

    Now what you need to do is embrace no Contact, the path to the truth and the light. No Contact allows you to make a break from the disorder, to remove yourself from dealing with it and immersing in it. It’s so much easier to move forward once you are out of the disorder, no more gas lighting, lies and manipulation. It’s so much easier to heal and to head butt into that wall of pain. You can even climb that wall of pain and leave it behind you, but not while you are coated and dripping in the disorder.

    Until you can achieve No Contact, that path to the truth and the light you should be as low contact as possible, only talk about kids, what they need, where they need to be and how to get them what they need, nothing else, no other topics, no hi how are you, no where have you been, no telling them that they ruined your life. Nothing, nada, zip, leave it behind. Embrace no Contact, the path to the truth and the light.

    • What AllOutofKibble said. Times a thousand. And if he’s an EX-husband, why is he still “on his way to be permanently out,” instead of OUT. Punt that jackass out of your life.

      I think of “no contact” as coming in two layers. One is the decision not to engage with the cheater other than via email or scheduling software for the required only contact about kids. Not to talk about DD’s fight with her middle school friend or why DS had a tough day at soccer. Not the kind of talk that partners do.

      The other layer of no contact involves not allowing the cheater to be central to your thoughts. That is, breaking out of the tendency to ruminate about the past, about woulda/shoulda/coulda, about how things might have been, about who did what. Put it in the past. Put him in the past. Discipline yourself to focus on your own life. He doesn’t get to live in your house or your mind.

      We’ve all been through this struggle but it starts by deciding to let go. And that’s tough when you’ve lived with abuse. But it’s the only way.

      • Love this… I will read it everyday. I struggle with this part so much as I know we all do. Ty

        The other layer of no contact involves not allowing the cheater to be central to your thoughts. That is, breaking out of the tendency to ruminate about the past, about woulda/shoulda/coulda, about how things might have been, about who did what. Put it in the past. Put him in the past. Discipline yourself to focus on your own life. He doesn’t get to live in your house or your mind.

        • I loved this too. Since I was able to go complete no contact as we didn’t have kids, I find the second layer of no contact to be the harder one to accomplish. Every once in awhile, I find myself trying to untangle the skein, ruminating over things he did or said, and playing other head games with myself. When that happens, I need to remember to stop myself and focus on something more positive for my growth.

          • I did my share of pain shopping on social media. There’s nothing good to come of it.

  • Tish, Chumplady is right (what a surprise!) Haha. I’ve been in your spot and I know how you feel. I became someone I didn’t know. Angry, resentful, scared, crushed, confused and trying to untangle what simply cannot be untangled. Wasted so much time trying to uncover all of the lies and then confront her and hear how it was all my fault because I was micro-managing her life. Want to know something that I hope no one will do? I bought into the RIC (advise from family and well meaning Christian friends). I filed three times and withdrew three times. All based on alligator tears with “I’ll change”, “The kids will be crushed”, “Love always wins”, etc, etc, etc. I wish I had found this blog four years ago. It would have saved me so much time and heartache and money. I could write a novel based on the mental and sexual abuse I endured……. And for what?!!? I discovered the affair, she promised to change and work it out. We were in counseling for 4 months and she was still in the affair. Talk about a mindfuck. On top of that she had secret bank accounts, a secret cell phone, a P.O. Box, secret e-mail accounts, she took me to the edge of bankruptcy. And I was still trying to work it out for some illusion of a stronger marriage based on my unfaithful wife’s decision to go out and spread her legs for another man. I look back and think what a waste. The wall is there and the only way to get through it is start chipping away, bit by bit. It won’t feel like you’re making progress in the beginning, but you will get through. Time waits for no one – This is a life fact. I spent so much time as a PI discovering facts that I mistakenly thought would somehow help me solve an equation that is circular. Meaning; you can’t solve for x in this equation. Every discovery leads to more analysis, confrontation, anger, rage, beating yourself up for being so stupid. waking up at all hours of the night to try and solve what can’t be solved. There’s nothing wrong with the negative emotions. Use them to change your life and don’t waste anymore time trying to figure out what fucktwit is doing and who he’s doing it with.

    • “I spent so much time as a PI discovering facts that I mistakenly thought would somehow help me solve an equation that is circular.”

      This is profound- how well you put this time4change. We are looking for answers, we want it to work out or if not work out at least make sense. We are looking for the dead body to give us answers and closure. But there is none and that is the answer to this horrible riddle.

    • You can’t solve for x in this equation.

      So simple, yet so profound. Let’s call it Time4aChange’s Law. I think all of our Ddays will suffice for proofs.

      Stay mighty. You’ve made it into the sunlight.

      • The equation is actually dead easy to solve.
        Narcissistic entitlement minus love plus cruelty minus morality times desperate need for external validation equals cheater.

        That’s not what’s hard to figure out. Why we didn’t see them for who they really are sooner is the tough one. That’s why you go back over the past obsessively. You’re looking for those signs you either missed or misinterpreted and trying to figure out why, and for how long, you let yourself be fooled. You make it about untangling the cheater’s skein because facing the fact that you didn’t see the truth for so long is incredibly demoralizing. We need to untangle ourselves, while still keeping in mind it is *not our fault* that some asshole chose to lie to us and manipulate us. But we do have to own any spackling and figure out why we did that.

    • Thanks for the roadmap of what to expect from cheater. I’ve wasted so much energy in only two months ruminating and trying to solve the puzzle. It might be more like jeopardy where we have the answer “wife is a cheating piece of shit” and have to ask the right question. I know I’ll get more alligator tears but I’m still trying to find an exit plan that doesn’t ruin me financially or lose access to my daughter. For now it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I don’t know which one to convince to leave me and our daughter alone and move out.

      • The answer is to find a really good lawyer who has experience getting fathers custody of their children and let him/her advise you.

      • If you have something she wants, you have bargaining power. Maybe it’s money. You could offer her more than she’s legally entitled to in exchange for full custody. Maybe it’s embarassing information about her (which you already have some of, so no doubt there’s much more) that she wants kept quiet. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless. This is your precious daughter and she shouldn’t be raised by a disordered skank. Get a pitbull lawyer.

    • OMG… this was me…. trying desperately to solve the equation!! I’m a scientist and I knew I if I just spent enough time uncovering enough info it would all make sense! I was the queen of hypervigilance, up all night for weeks on end, gathering data. Sooo much data. I was positive I could solve it. Except that I didn’t. Six years later… I am finally divorced, in another state, and NC except for kids. I gave up the hypervigilance right after I left, but my brain is STILL trying to make sense of everything that went on. Most of the time I can just let it go, but sometimes I get a nice memory of our past ( 30 years…) and then its like someone reaches out and punches me, how could someone who I trusted, had fun with, had KIDS with, do something so incredibly horrible? I think the answer is he had those tendencies all along, I just ignored the warning signals, so then my brain beats me up, “you idiot, how could you not have seen his sense of entitlement and why on earth did that not raise huge red flags for you?” I’ve crashed the wall of pain, and I’m on the other side, but gosh, I would really like to let go of the how and why.

      • I am very analytical in nature and my job involves analyzing things and solving problems. I spent way too much time trying to analyze my ex and our relationship until I finally realized it was pointless because he was irrational and I had no control over that and there was no way to fix something he didn’t want fixed.

      • Same GrandeDameChump, same. I am also a scientist and solving equations and figuring stuff out is literally what I do. I was certain that with enough information, I could figure this out. I could make it make sense if I just did more research. I’m a data gathering pro, I do it every day for my job so I easily turned my data gathering skills to this and spent weeks poring over phone bills and emails, replaying every scenario in my head looking for all the red flags I had missed, and using every cyber ninja skill I had to stalk my ex and OW on every social media platform trying to piece it together to make it make sense. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t focus on anything but figuring this out. I wasted so much time trying to solve that equation. I started seeing a therapist and that dear woman said to me “I know you are desperate to understand how this happened, but you are wasting your time trying to make sense out of insane behavior. It does not compute. Don’t give him any more of your precious time or head space, he absolutely does not deserve it”. And for whatever reason, that was just what I needed to hear at that moment in time and I started to let it go. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. “You can’t make sense out of insane behavior” became my mantra and I when I felt myself being drawn down that rabbit hole again, I just kept repeating that to myself.
        I realized I can’t control the stupid shit he does, but I can control my reaction to it. And that’s where your power is.

        • Grande Dame Chump – ‘how could you not have seen his sense of entitlement and why on earth did that not raise huge red flags for you?” I’ve crashed the wall of pain, and I’m on the other side, but gosh, I would really like to let go of the how and why.’

          Wow – this really resonates with me – and the depressing thing is….I’m almost 6 yrs out from DD and 5 yrs from the divorce. I still waking up thinking about it – but glad other things are filling my thoughts to take over. I guess it’s the gift that will keep giving – I was in it for 36 yrs. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, and that’s okay too. I’m sure a lot smarter and wiser now.

      • *burts out laughing * Oh my god, I am an anthropologist (student still) and this makes so much sense!! I could not rest until I could see the whole picture.
        I’m still struggling a bit with “I have more than enough now. ”
        Solving that equation must be part of my desperation to control. “If I know, then I can predict. If I can predict, I can prepare for the outcome.” That is one heck of a rabbit hole.

        • I had to just keep telling myself ‘it doesn’t matter’ every time I was caught up in the circle of why, how, when etc. Because in the end, it really doesn’t change the outcome. He is still a liar, a cheat and not one bit sorry, so it doesn’t matter. I had to do this for quite a while but the amount of time I spent with it going around in my head eventually got less and less the more I just kept using it.

  • Tish… you are not alone. It took me about a year to get out of the pick-me-dance with Mr. Sparkles… you know what is toxic?… “dating” your husband on the days his OW isn’t available because she is with her kids and they haven’t gotten that far in their new twu luv relationship. Feeling toxic, you betcha.

    No contact is the way to truth and light and works like a trampoline for getting over that wall of pain. For me, the wall of pain was interacting with Mr. Sparkles as if he was a normal, rational person and not the personality disordered fuckwit that he is. And, yes I co-parent (via email and I haven’t had a verbal exchange with him since the day we divorced in December 2016. It can be done.

    CL wrote this above: “Your fuckwit may try to drag you back to Armageddon. Don’t you want to ask me some questions? He’ll miss your pick me dance and his centrality. He hates to see you in sunshine.” For me, this was how I got healthy… I got away from the TOXIC PERSON in my life making me toxic. Think of it like this… your X is a smoker… you are not… YET… if you continue to be around him the second-hand smoke could actually kill you before it kills him. Your only option… get away from the smoker. A cheater free life is a breath of fresh air!

  • This is such an insightful, beautiful piece of writing. Thank you, Tracy. I’ve made it to that sunny field, but I’m still shaking off the wall’s dust and debris and hoping the effects of the TBI aren’t permanent.

  • Try to think of yourself as the Phoenix. ‘The phoenix bird is a mythical bird from Greek mythology. It was a feathered creature of great size with talons and wings, its plumage radiant and beautiful. The phoenix lived for 500 years before it built its own funeral pyre, burst into flame, and died, consumed in its own fiery inferno. Soon after, the mythical creature rose out of the ashes, in a transformation from death to life.’ So you know he’s cheated and wrecked you and your family. The trust and faith are gone. But you’re still stuck with moving parts that don’t connect. In order to end it you needed to completely blow up those parts. It’s gonna get ugly before you can rise out of the debris. I dare say you are almost through the worst. Resist feeding his ego narrative. I needed to burn all his bridges because I was vulnerable to his wiles. I hate even admitting that. But I needed to keep him far away so I wouldn’t slide back. So accept you will have bad days. Embrace the wall. The pain. The pissed offlitness. Hugs

  • ‘You’ll stand there in the ruins of your former life, covered in ash and dust and think “God, this place is a mess.” And you’ll step over into a sunnier field. No idea what’s ahead, but it’s not a ruin.’
    Yes, a thousand times, this is it. My whole life collapsed round me. But that meant I wasn’t in prison any more. I’m two and a half years out from separation, divorced a year. The wall of pain is real. Still plumbing the depths of the trauma of a long term high conflict relationship but I am getting there, starting to find my feet and my self again. The freedom to live honestly and according to my beliefs is more precious than anything I lost.

  • The perfect reason for leaving is, you don’t like what you are becoming…..
    Leaving is a seriously hard mental exercise. You will go through withdrawal. You have to retrain your brain and get rid of those racing thoughts. It will take months, maybe years. Stick with it it gets better!
    You can do this and we’ve got your back!

    • So which is worse, being crazy or being the one who makes other people crazy. I You wouldn’t be crazy without him. Remove the source of the crazy making hard as that will be and things will get better.

  • We have to learn to not act on every impulse. Once we have been hurt to our very core this is very difficult. Some days it takes great self control and a lot of distraction and self soothing techniques to avoid engaging or lurking.

    If you have kids never put anything in writing that can be used against you later. Even if you don’t have kids with your stbx.

    I had a friend read his emails for the first year. She would tell me if there was anything I needed to know. Reading his lies and manipulation of the truth was more than I could bear. My tendency was to bite back and it would just go round and round. So I asked a friend to be my eyes.

    You will never have to worry about getting down to his level. You will find it hard to regulate your emotions for awhile. That is normal for recovery and will run it’s course. The fact that you even WORRY about this shows that you have a good moral compass.

  • During the middle of the troubles, my daughter looked at me and begged me to leave X, not because of X, but FOR me. She said,”Mom, you have always been the person I look up to. I do not like what you are becoming.” Her observations changed my entire perception.

    I had been angry, suspicious, bitter, and rightfully so. But, but, but, I was allowing two assholes to change my fundamental character. I have always been an optimist, someone who tries to see the best in everyone. To be so fundamentally betrayed after over 30 years together, tilted my moral axis and, for a time, I lost my damn mind.

    My daughter’s comments made me realize that X could only “win” if I was willing to play his game. So I didn’t. After spending all of my adult life putting X on an undeserved pedestal, I worked to understand that he is now “someone I used to know.”

    I was able to treat my divorce as the dissolution of a business. I no longer gave a damn about anything other than protecting my kid’s education and my retirement from an individual who viewed my hard work as a winning lottery ticket. All X’s mind fuck games no longer worked, and I made much wiser decisions as a result.

    AA refers to people, places, things in figuring out what and who to avoid. I followed this phrase, even when I didn’t emotionally accept it. I found that the more I put X/AP/public humiliation in the background, the quicker I healed. The process was not fast or easy. Just recognizing that I had been reactive instead of proactive, though, allowed me to return to the person I wanted my daughter to be proud of.

    Oh, and my daughter was in junior high at the time. She is about to be a senior in college and will be applying to graduate school to obtain a PhD in forensic psychology. She strongly believes the judicial system gives abusers a complete pass and wants to change the way children are treated as possessions in domestic violence/custody disputes. Now we are proud together!

    • Wow, Violet, I love your daughter! Now that’s one smart woman! So are you by listening to her. In fact anyone you is part of CN is smart.

      All the best for both of you!

    • I am an attorney who gave up my career for his, to my financial detriment. I love that our daughter has gone through this experience and wants to help others. I was perceived as the “crazy” ex-wife and he was the respectable doctor……

      Ha! Little did anyone know of the abuse I took from both of them.

      Anyway, I am now working on passing the bar in July (Two years from D-Day, both parents passed away, and I now feel I’m able to function) and want to help women in our small community keep their souls during this heinous process called divorce. I don’t want to “get even”–I just want them to receive their financial fair share and shield them from the BS. Unfortunately, my attorney left hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.

      This phoenix is beginning to rise from her ashes.

      • In my case I will have a crazy ex wife, or at least a disordered narc. It’s a shame there is no nuance or truth to these perceptions. Maybe you can help men and women during divorce due to betrayal. Being the breadwinner for the cheater sucks in divorce court too. I prefer the description of betrayed spouse. We’re all basically dealing with the same emotions even if the logistics are different. I hope you don’t get tricked by any lying cheaters, as my wife would surely lie to get what she wants. Cheaters have no shame.

        • Thanks for that perspective. I do not intend to represent any cheaters. I want the reputation in town that the clients and judge know that when I represent something in court, I’m presenting the truth and it’s fair.

          Cheaters have no shame–so true. It’s astonishing. But the lies they must tell themselves must equal lies they tell others. Such selfish human beings.

          • I got triggered when I remembered my wife playing poor victim in this fiasco. Lying to everyone with half truths and exaggerations and shit she just convinced herself was true. Please give all these cheating bastards hell and use your wisdom to freaking help us chumps!

    • “After spending all of my adult life putting X on an undeserved pedestal…”

      …I realize that people don’t belong on pedestals.
      …I realize he is a very flawed human being.
      –I realize he has poor character.
      –I realize that my decision to elevate him allowed him to manipulate me.
      –I realize that putting someone on a pedestal is a way of diminishing myself.
      –I realize that by doing so I gave a disordered person control of me.
      –I realize that I want a relationship between equals, not a marriage between a god and a worshipper.
      –I realize I not only need to fix my picker. I need to change my sense of what a relationship is.

      Keep filling in those blanks, everybody.

      • This is exactly what I did. I always felt he saved my life because of what he did for me when we first met. He helped me in a way no one had ever done. And gave me a new life.

        But I did put him on a pedestal and made it a master and servant type of relationship. He was always the savior and me the person who felt rescued.

        In reality we saved each other and brought each other out of the depths we were in when we met. I’m beginning to see that we worked together to create the life that we once had before DDay. Now he’s taken it all from me. Everything we worked so hard for 28 years to create and to LIVE a better life.

        Now he is insinuating I’m crazy. And that’s why he couldn’t come to me when he felt he needed support. That’s why he turned to someone who would listen. Someone to understand him. I’m reading through posts here and it seems that lots of us chumps are being made out to be crazy. When we are not crazy. And why use the word crazy? That’s not a DSM classification.

        The cheater justifies straying to another by calling us crazy. Then telling the AP we are crazy and that makes the AP feel fine for fucking us over. Because after all we’re crazy. And the cheater needs help.

        Yes we are made out to be the toxic one. Mine actually said to me – this is a toxic relationship. Who the hell told him that? He’d never use that type of wording. Had to be the Schmoopie feeding him lines telling him I’m crazy. He had NEVER in his life told me I’m crazy. He had always respected me. And to be honest, if I had a mental disorder why didn’t he do something to help me? Weren’t we married through thick and thin? Wasn’t he supposed to love me? You just cheat and leave someone you love and supposedly needs mental help?

        I tell you none of it makes sense. It’s just all justification after the fact.

  • Ok Tish, here’s the difference between you and a domestic abuser.

    You are aware that what you’re doing is toxic to you, and if left unchecked, could be toxic to others. You have a sense of conscience, and you know you want it to stop.

    Domestic abusers don’t do things like stalk social media because they are in desperate pain after being cheated on and hurt. They do it for control over their victim. Your cheater isn’t a victim you’re targeting, he is someone who held great significance in your life that has betrayed you.

    I don’t like telling other people that I know how they feel, because I’m not in your headspace, I don’t live you experiences, and it is presumptuous for me to assume I know what you’re feeling. However, that said, I did similar things. The desperate dance of unspeakable pain. The social media (which just made the Wall of Pain bigger) the bargaining (“Well what if I…”) the begging (“Why can’t we talk about this!?!”) etc.

    I can say one thing is for sure: Google does not help. It just doesn’t. I Googled a number of things. How to get an ex back, how to make your FB look as good as possible to get your ex back, youtube videos, breakup blogs, self-titled relationship “experts.” Those supposed experts are mostly just full of shit who prey on the desperations of suffering people who want answers they can’t get. Seriously, youtube is full of these assholes who say they have the one tried and true method to get your ex back for good…IF you buy their $90 coaching session and $25 pdf file…no refunds and in the tiniest of print possible, results not guaranteed. And they love to say if you don’t listen and follow their precise steps, and your ex doesn’t come crawling back, well then it’s something YOU DID WRONG!! No, it’s bullshit. It is all bullshit. (Thankfully I stopped short of actually wasting my money on that. I considered it, but in the end realized it was all predatory bullshit and saved the cash.)

    The one thing you really need to do, which I finally did (not without a lot of crying, gut wrenching, and lack of sleep) was block my ex on social media. You have to do it. Searching his fb will make your pain worse. It will bring about more questions and dig you deeper into that skein that will never untangle (and believe me, the strings in that knot hurt. They cut your fingers and choke around your neck.) No amoung of social media sleuthing will give you the peace you need.

    Second, stop googling. It’s a rabbit hole. It too, will only bring more questions. The thing I was looking for, my bottom line, was trying to find something, anything, that would tell me when, and how, my pain would end. I was looking for that difinitive blog, video, book, app, whatever, that would tell me, with 100% guarantee, that I would be ok. will be ok. But you won’t find that on google, or Amazon, or Ebay. You will find it within yourself. It won’t come all at once. It’s slow. But one day, you will realize that you’re not feeling as much pain as you were a couple days, a week, a month ago. Might not necessarily be Meh, but it will be “Hey…this is getting better.”

    If you are already seeking help from a therapist, that’s good. Especially if it’s someone who truly understands and helps you. For me that took a couple tries. I did fire one therapist who told me, and I quote, “Nothing is going to make your pain stop.” So I said “Well why am I here then?” I did not go back. If you are seeing a therapist that makes you feel like the Wall of Pain gets a little shorter every week, good. Stick to it. If not, it’s ok to seek help elsewhere.

    Lastly, that Wall of Pain will, in fact, get shorter. It will get easier to climb, and eventually, you will be so far beyond it, you will look back, see it in the distance, and realize you got away from it with your own strength.

  • It’s totally normal to act in these ways when you’ve been discarded after years of narcissist abuse. The trauma bonds you have to the abuser are the reason for it. There are great blogs and books on trauma bonds — you’re looking for the wrong books.

    I think it is very unusual to NOT react in these baffling ways after the narcissist mask slips. It is the rare person here who, immediately upon discovery that their “beloved” husband or wife is fucking others, blameshifting, gaslighting, devaluing you and your family, feels no remorse, continues to act in ways that harm you etc etc etc says “get the fuck out and never contact me again!” And then hires a lawyer the next day, immediately accepts the facts that the partner is evil and feels relief that the marriage is over, and continues thinking rationally and “gets over” what happened quickly and with barely a hiccup in their life. I think THAT is abnormal.

    I lost my fucking mind after DDAY. I did all the things you mentioned and it takes years to start thinking and acting more rationally. Decades of covert abuse took their toll on me. It will take a long time to recover. No contact and finalizing the divorce really help. I was divorced 26 months ago and have been NC (4 kids) for 3 years. DDay 4.5 years ago. 25 years married.

    Give yourself time to heal. Don’t do anything illegal. Try to practice no contact every hour. You can do it! Things will get so much better. I promise!

    • Great post and you are a badass morherchumper! I only have 6 years on the books so it is wonderful to hear testimony and power from those in CN who really dug deep to gain a life and find mightiness on the other side of this.

  • It’s been over 1.5 years since I found out about my ex husband’s affair. Our divorce has been finalized for over a year. For some reason I still can’t let go of “snooping” I see what he looks at/buys on amazon. I check him and his mistress’s work calendars to see when they are taking off work together (which is almost every other week!) I became quite the PI after discovering the divorce and I believe I uncovered everything I could have at the time. I don’t want my ex back. I could never forgive him for all the lies and betrayal. Yet for some reason I still waste so much time and energy trying to find out about his relationship with OW. He denies they are together and says they are just “best friends” he admitted they used to have sex – right after he left me, of course nothing happened while he was with me he claims. He denies that they are still fooling around and says it’s just a deep friendship now. I don’t believe that for a second. I’m not sure if my compulsion to find out more about them is a need to prove they are still screwing each other or what it is?

    That does lead me to think I am the toxic person. I’m the one who can’t just let it go and move on. My ex didn’t play games or try to string me along much. Once he filed for divorce he pretty much acted as though our marriage never happened and we were never together. We have a toddler that we coparenting and exchange a couple times a week so we still talk and see each other regularly. He never asks me about my life and truly doesn’t care how I am. He has never started a fight with me (since leaving) and would love nothing more than to never talk about his cheating and abandonment again. It’s behind him, he never felt remorse or guilt. Yet I will still start fights with him over text about his relationship with OW. I will still bring up the past and remind him of how much he hurt me. I do feel toxic since I’m the one who can’t move on. I’ve been in therapy this whole time, I’ve tried several different antidepressants/anti anxiety meds, I’ve done DivorceCare and online support groups, I’ve read several books and articles – including CL which I read daily! I try to stay busy with friends and family but I’m still constantly depressed and hopeless. I see people post those motivational quotes about removing toxic people from your life and I think those quotes seem to discribe me more than they describe my ex.

    • Think of the checking like any other habit you want to quit (smoking, eating junk, wasting money on trivial things). Make a plan and work the plan. Try to go 7 days without snooping. Then give yourself a reward. Go 21 days. Reward. 90 days and you’ve changed how you live. Big reward.

      The other thing is to have an alternative thing to do. What do you want that you don’t have? Instead of snooping, go for a walk. Clean a closet. Make your own Pinterest boards to plan a refresh for your bedroom. Study for a new credential for work. Call a friend. Watch NCIS on Netflix. Whatever feels like a little indulgence OR a move to make your life better. Focus on you. And remember, by thinking so much about him, you are making him and the OW central, not you. You should be the center of your life. Not a cheater. He’s the past.

    • Get your therapist to MAKE you focus on changing this behaviours that REINFORCE how awful you feel. This is now like any other compulsive behavior, and most Cognitive Behavioural Therapists will know how to help you with this. If your therapist doesn’t, get a few weeks of consultation w/a more specialized one, just for this.

      Because stopping this will help you feel so much better, so much faster. It’s truly like an addiction, and it’s holding you back. People don’t stop addictions because they feel better; they feel better because they stop the addiction!

      BTW, since most of your stalking is of the cyber variety, there are great apps like Freedom and Self-Control that you can use to block your access to certain websites (get someone else to put in and keep the password). That can be a great help while you fight this. If you use a Mac, you can also remove any apps that you use to cyber stalk, and block your own access to the App store. Use the tech to fight the tech!

      Then set up OFW, and BLOCK him on text and e-mail. he can still call if there’s an emergency. DO NOT pick up! Let him leave a message, and you can listen to the voice mail afterwards. Erase his contact info from your phone. And make yourself wait 24 hs before responding to ANYTHING, then re-read what you intended to send, and pare it down to the bare, practical necessities.

      You can do this, and you will feel so much better when you do!

    • Stop talking to your X; that is half the problem. It’s like trying to heal a wound with the scalpel still in. Have custody dropoffs/pickups done at the day care center. Communicate electronically only–Our Family Wizard, text, email. Seeing your X is a constant retrieval cue of all the bullshit he put you through. Short of taking an amnesic drug, that will not end until after you’ve gone nearly years without seeing him. Hugs.

      • I think texting is way too immediate and allows these jackasses to invade our headspace whenever. So better to use OFW or some other communication app. I use FB messenger with the VKM because I don’t use it for anyone else. It’s a dedicated channel.

        • I’m not sure what VKM is? I changed to text from FB Messenger because with the latter you can see if the other person is online. That little green dot you could actually see created a real-time, virtual connection between us that was uncomfortable for me.

      • Thank you, Tempest, I know, know, know this, too, but need to hear it and see it and be reminded of it again and again and again.

    • Get a buddy here. Agree to contact her everytine you want to contact him. It will help tremendously! One thought: no decent partner will want to be with someone still wrapped around the axle of an ex. You sound like a young woman with a long life ahead of you. Don’t prevent future happiness by staying stuck in the past. You control that.

    • I think all of this stems from never getting a proper apology. There’s just no closure in this shit show, especially for those of us that have to share little kids and can’t go full no contact.

      Just a comment, no solution as I too am still prone to peeking in on his great new life with the much younger model he traded me in for.

      • No apology, and even more importantly, no justice. If the cheater and schmoopie didn’t experience negative consequences for what they did, you will always feel that sense of injustice. You were terribly wronged and abused and the scum got off scott free. You, otoh, though you did nothing wrong, have to live in agony. It’s not fair and it’s totally normal to hate them for it and even to wish you could do harm to them.

  • This is why I love Chump Lady and Chump Nation. I thought I was alone when it happened and when I found this site (much later than I wished) I realized that I was not alone and that there were tons of people who felt what I felt and experienced what I experienced. It is sad really how many of us there are.

    I often find myself nodding my head at what everyone has written and expressed.

    Many people have been quite supportive of me but they can’t really understand and all of you really understand.

    This is not an experience I would ever want to have to go through but I have learned so much and become so much stronger. One of my biggest lessons is don’t listen to words watch actions. Never again will I gloss over shitty behaviour in a relationship.

    You are all mighty and strong (even if you don’t realize it yet).

  • Dear Tish, you are in good company.

    I wish I had found this blog not 3 years ago, but 40 years ago. Since it wasn’t there then, I had to deal with a 40 year thick and 4 decades high wall. But even so, CL and CN helped me give some very strong head butts.

    And 1700 head butts later I am in a sunnier field, free of abuse, confusion and worry. Yes, I lost a lot of references and still see my children suffer. But the “wall alternative” is so much worse. Seeing it crumble into the sun makes that crystal clear.

    Life isn’t perfect, but WE can make it better.

    Please do keep walking!

  • Talk to your therapist about anger being a secondary emotion. (*ducks*)… Seriously, there is always an emotion under the anger…you identified it as fear for you, but it could also be sadness, hopelessness, helplessness. Anger can feel empowering. (I personally scrub my bathroom when I get really angry) which is why we have that defense mechanism. Better than to feel helpless. But as posted above, embrace the fact that you can not control your ex. Is that your fear? Is it your fear of being judged (and by who?) for his actions? Fear of being alone? Fear of lack of direction in your life moving forward–if he was the planner. You are taking the right steps to take care of you. Perhaps you could try one more: stop judging yourself for an honest emotion. Maybe you’re not used to seeing honesty…hell, look at your ex, but it’s ok to be genuinely angry and fearful about what’s happening. Anyone who says differently is full of shit.
    Keep breathing and posting if you need to. This is a safe space.

    • Many therapists no longer think anger is a secondary emotion; certainly Emotion researchers have long considered it a basic emotion whose expression shows up in infancy. The foremost researcher, Paul Ekman identified six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise). the “secondary emotion” view of anger is borne of clinical psychology, and has very little evidence to back it up.

      I know for me, pain was a constant companion for 4-5 months after D-day and lasted even after I threw out my cheater a month after D-day. Then came the rage–the deep, dark cloud of anger that followed me around for months. It was not covering up pain, it was a raw, visceral reaction to having been disrespected (and distinct from the pain of losing my life partner).

      • I kept having fantasies of challenging him to a duel (to restore my honor).
        I sometimes think I would have if he knew any of the etiquette involved. *giggle * I wonder who our seconds would be, AP and Lawyer?

  • When D-day happened and the ex turned into some kind of subhuman, I spent hours on the internet and hours reading try to find answers to the questions, trying to find some kind of explanation that answered everything that happened.

    I discovered something I suspected – he’s a disordered creep. It helped me put into context our relationship, the marriage, why he acted like did, why I responded to a particular manner, why I stayed, why he stayed – and so on and so on.

    He’s fucked up. After 6-8 months, I stopped trying to understand him or untangling his skein. It’s not worth losing my mind over. It’s not worth losing my sanity or self-worth. The research I did was important but you come to a point where you have to throw it aside and concentrate on healing yourself.

    That’s where I am almost a year out from when it started, and that’s where you will be. You will get tired of spinning your wheels over his shit and realize that you have a life to live. It’s facing what happened and moving forward. It’s learning a new life perhaps. I’m 52 and just now enforcing boundaries that I should have been protecting all along.

    I’m also Zero Contact since last September. That’s means he’s blocked on my phone, on all social media, and I no longer search for him on the internet. I’ve also blocked some of his family members and Switzerland friends – it’s back to those boundaries. It’s also about protecting me and my mental health.

    You can do this. Find one thing that you can put down and walk away from. Pretty soon, you will put down another thing, and another, until you realize that you are free of him. Believe me – that’s a good feeling.

  • This post was perfect timing. I’m feeling the same way. You doubt your own emotions. My STBX is packing up and we are going through belongings and for the most part I try and stay gray rock but sometimes his comments or questions just trigger me. I react and he is “calm” and reminds me that he is “calm” pointing out that he doesn’t understand why I’m getting upset or why I’m snapping at him. Really? Make me out crazy? I told him just this morning when he wanted a “discussion” about things, basically asking if I was going to surprise him with some tactic, that if he doesn’t know why I’m upset he dumber then I thought and don’t EVER tell me again that I don’t have any reason to be upset when we are talking. He’s so worried about image management that he makes those that have actual emotions and reactions that are normal out to be crazy or irrational. He’s packing to set up his new life and is worried I’m going to screw him around while I’m left to pick up the pieces of the life he blew up and I shouldn’t be upset? I’d like to bang HIS head against that wall instead of mine.
    It will level out. Once they aren’t in our face daily it will get better. Stay off social media. I blocked mine and don’t look. I don’t care. It’s all bullshit for image anyway. You know the real him. Who wants to see the fake him? Focus on your and making amazing memories to post on your own social media!!
    You can do this. The anger and frustration is finite!!!

    • It is so frustrating to deal with someone who can appear so calm and rational but who we know also made deliberate decisions that were harmful to their families and have shown no remorse. It’s enough to make your skin crawl and/or behave a tad irrationally yourself. I mostly held it together after DDay but only because I looked at it a contest of who could appear to be more rational. He still probably won but most observers didn’t judge me too harshly because they knew I had good reason to completely lose it and go ape shit so the fact that I only lost it now and then made me look pretty good even to the ones who only knew that he had left me suddenly and unexpectedly. For those in the know about Schmoopie, his calm, rational, nothing out of the ordinary going on here demeanor is what made him appear to be somewhat unhinged.

  • I posted this the other day.

    I’ve done a lot of fixing of what was broken in myself, but I still feel like you do. A friend of mine sent this meme to me when I asked recently, “I feel like I’m the toxic one. Why?”

    “Why? Because some people are just terrible human beings, and terrible people do terrible things. If you’re racking your brain trying to understand it, it just means you’re not one of those terrible people.”

  • Cheaters are toxic. So, whether you are or are not toxic, you can’t possibly be “the toxic one”.

    Cheaters are toxic. Therefore, their opinions of us are not reliable. A toxic person’s opinion of you is not reliable.

    Toxic people don’t care who they hurt. If you care who you hurt, even if the person is toxic, you are not toxic.

    All the rest of it is just personal growth. Don’t like the ways you behave? All you can do is look at that honestly, keep doing the good work, learning new tools, and practicing to get better at using them, then using them.

    Mistakes along the way are not inherently toxic. They are human. Get good at apologizing authentically, keep doing your work and growing, and be proud of you for giving a shit and making progress.

    Cheaters are toxic. Out with ’em.

    • Great post! Cheaters are toxic for sure. No way is chump toxic under almost any circumstances. On the toxicity scale the adultery is so far from any chumping like snooping, it’s not even close. One activity blows up a family the other makes a selfish narc mad that you discovered their sick secrets. Cheater may make chump toxic temporarily but then chump finds mighty and detoxes. Meanwhile, Cheater remains toxic!

  • When one has been deprived of information for so long, it is natural to compensate by seeking information. Pain shopping can serve a useful purpose if it hammers home, “She/He (the cheater) SUCKS!!” that allows the chump to emotionally detach. Most of us are not convinced the cheater is AWFUL even when you’ve already filed for divorce. Truths that surface later will eventually lead to, “WTF was I thinking being married to that moral amoeba? Eww.” There are different paths to that realization, some of which involve social media stalking.

    Just taper off, Tish–your desire to know what your X is up to after having been deceived is NOT the same as domestic abuser stalking their victim. Hugs.

    • Exactly this. I needed to know it all, and finding it all out led me to a complete loss of respect for my ex which led to the relationship ending. All for a purpose. And it does end. I found out a week ago that my ex has a new shmoopie, and I genuinely forgot about it after a couple minutes until right now. I think that’s meh!

  • Be kind to yourself ❤ I was there many times, absolutely devastated & hating myself for all my imperfections. But you know what? CL & all of you & lots of prayer, helped me see light & truth 3 yrs ago just in time, when my divorce was finalized. I had gone”no contact” 4 yrs ago after doing the pick me dance for 5 yrs before that, begging, raging, crying, sick to my stomach, no sleep, couldn’t eat.
    Now, I can honestly say, my life is fantastic! I have male & female friends who are single from way back when we were in college., We go hiking, dancing, exploring, out to eat, parties, talk on the phone… it’s been so fun this past year! We love being around each other… no games, just great friendship! I’m almost 68, 2 hip replacements, back surgery & am told I need knee replacements but that doesn’t stop me – last weekend I danced for almost 3 hours straight! Never thought after all the pain, devastation, betrayal, gaslighting etc etc my life would turn out like this! There is indeed light, joy, peace, laughter, contentment & friendship afterwards. Break that wall down! You are mighty! Love you CL & CN ❤

  • Sometimes the only way to win is not to play.

    NC is the way – as other posts say above. Turn away from the chaos – and focus on and look ahead to the sunshine in your new cheater free life.

  • I woke up today and once again tasted the bitter reality that I am now aware is my life. My first thought was a wish that this was not the path I was walking and my next thought was that I will have to somehow face another day with as much dignity and resolve as I can muster. This article really helps. The wall of pain is real. Fog is real. I can’t wait for meh because I know “me” is going to be found again somewhere in there. Thanks, Chump Lady and Chump Nation.

    • Waking up with thoughts of the betrayal is the worst! For me it happens when the sun is shining, I got a good night’s sleep, I’m nice and happy, and then WHAM! When that happens I usually spend the whole day on Chumplady. Non chumps simply cannot understand how this shit takes over our lives whether we want it to or not.

  • The wall has big and sometimes you feel as though you’ve had a good ol’ go and knocking out a few bricks only to feel like it’s a few feet higher the next day. All cause of the teeniest thing. Example. Me today, just started new job, lovely people, great role, new mac air and iPhone to appease materialistic desires. Finally got keys back to house so no more him coming in and out to pick up stuff for our daughter. Doing exam tomorrow for upgrade on my qualifications I HAVE STUDIED FOR THROUGHOUT THE WORST MONTHS OF MY LIFE. Mighty or what! He only had to say the words ‘we’ in an email about what clubs we will sign our daughter up to about when he moves. Meaning of course him and OW and I felt about as vulnerable as a little mouse in a clearing with an owl flying over. So lots of wall head-butting and pain. I am still mighty though :).

    • MacBook Air and iPhone with the new gig? Sweet! Congratulations! Good luck with your exam. I would say good luck with your new job but you sound pretty damn mighty and no luck will be required. Chump Nation Rising!!!

    • Yeah, I feel fine pretty much all of the time now except when I get those little reminders about Schmoopie. My daughter was telling me today about how she and her brothers prefer New Guy to Schmoopie although that isn’t saying much as they can’t stand her. She was probably saying that to make me feel good but it really just serves as a reminder of her existence. The boys never mention her at all in any way good or bad and I prefer it that way. I never bring her up either and changed the subject when my daughter did.

  • This might be my very favorite post. Thank you so much, CL. I’m scared to death of the wall, but I just need to face it and get this shit over with. Let the head butting begin, there’s a mighty girl inside me (somewhere, I think) who is waiting to walk in the sunshine.

  • I am glad that many of the posters on CL feel much better now.

    Posters here often talk about No Contact as if it were the Holy Grail. While I understand that No Contact is useful in many ways, I have not found it a panacea. I don’t miss my abusive, adulterous ex-husband at all. (I had been unhappy with and violated by him for probably over a decade by the time he left.) However, over 1.5 years since I last saw my last boyfriend, who left for work subordinate he married last year and almost immediately blocked me from all contact with him, although I thought that we had been friends for 30 years, I still terribly miss him. No Contact has INCREASED, not decreased/eradicated, my longing for him and my feeling of angst, despair, hopelessness. I experience bad/sad dreams about my last boyfriend every night. And yes, I realized that I am obsessed and I have tried without success many types of treatment (to my own great expense) for the last few years to feel ok and to function ok. Although my last boyfriend often over years treated me inexcusably horribly, I still feel at least partly responsible for his departure. (I think that I was often too ‘needy’ and depressed, still recovering from the dramatic departure of and chronic harassment by my ex-husband.) Now in my fifties, having lost my retirement due to some tremendously unjust acts of government that strip away retirement from many of us who have worked in both private sector and public sector, unemployed, unable to return to school to finish unfinished doctorate, and partnerless (have not met any available guy who seems to be a healthy (‘normal’), who might love me and who I like or could love nearly as much as I loved my last boyfriend), I feel as though perhaps my exes were right–I am a loser who has nothing to offer anyone–can’t even support my family. I feel as though I have nothing left to live for and don’t want to physically and financially depend on my kids in their early/middle adulthood.

    I don’t believe that the Karma bus will hit my last boyfriend who seems to be living a tremendously splendid life with his new young, beautiful, brilliant, rich wife/work subordinate. As the Karma bus will not hit him or many other abusive exes many of us know, I hope that it will (accidentally) hit me, doing away with me quickly as soon as my youngest reaches majority in half a dozen years. I can’t wait for this painful period (decades) to end, even if dying is the only way out. I’ve even thought about picking up smoking to develop cancer to shorten my life. Too bad I don’t like cigarettes!

    • Rockstarwife. Please don’t feel bad for it making you feel just so down sometimes, it’s horrendous. We all try to lift one another up but we do understand that sometimes it just does NOT feel possible. We all go through days and nights where it seems endless and insurmountable and just have to remember our tiny victories and pleasure to help us get through it which might come down to ‘I had a really nice cup of tea today’.

      I am nowhere near it yet, like nowhere near but I look at eons and eons of history and what has gone before to know that all things must pass. Doesn’t lessen the pain some days but I do believe you get out of it. I mean, we were all in flaming nappies not that long ago crying about god alone knows what upset us then.

      Don’t ever feel bad for feeling bad either xxx

    • ((((RockStarWife))))

      What can you do right now to feel better? I too am struggling to imagine a better life, and am fearful of being alone with medical issues etc. But I can also imagine some things I could do, that I haven’t done in years, that might give me a healthy dose of hope and happiness. The financial stuff is scary, and I’m struggling with that too. But it would cost me next to nothing to go out and dance, or volunteer, or have friends over. I also get that it’s harder to trust that certain people suck than others. But as Tracy noted yesterday, it doesn’t matter whether people who have discarded us have other great qualities – they still discarded us, even though we were trying our best, with whatever resources we had.

      Please take care of yourself! Let me say, as a cancer survivor myself, I wouldn’t pick that way to get over the Wall of Pain. But I can understand the impulse. The irony, of course, is that the grass is often greener on the other side. Your post-diagnosis self might well have a different perspective on life. The question is, how can we get to that perspective without having to deal with illness? I’m working on that one, too…

    • I really do hope that by the time your youngest reaches majority things will be looking up and all of this will be a distant memory from a dark period in your life. I can’t offer much more than that other that a few hugs and best wishes. Sometimes life just sucks, but sometimes it gets better too. In the meantime we all talk a lot about keeping a list of all of the reasons why our ex’s suck to review when we start to forget. Maybe you need a list of all of the good things about you that you can review daily and add to whenever you think of something new. You have those good qualities. I know you do even if they won’t make your current troubles dissapear. (((((RockStarWife)))))

  • Tish-you have stumbled into the Internet Gaslight District! The cheating, deceptive type of narcissist that renders us chumps is not the outwardly abusive psychopath that is prone to bursts of anger or the rabbit boiling stalker such as is depicted in so many of these psychology today BS blogs. The deceptive cheater that ambushes you with a divorce and you uncover a long-term affair that explains the numerous work trips and meetings that interrupted family events….that cheater is calm and passionless. He (or she) can gaslight you and leave you thinking that it was your fault or that the marriage broke up mutually or that he (or she) is changed or whatever–and can do it without raising the volume of his/her voice or letting a bit of anger creep in. Because the cheater is not angry about cheating or the marriage ending. You are-and legitimately so. And he has no interest in finding out what you were doing all those many nights he was out banging schmoopie because he knows you were at home taking care of the family. And he was disinterested and selfish enough to be out banging schmoopie in the first place-he doesn’t care what you’re posting or where you’re checking in or with whom. He doesn’t care who you’re calling. HE. DOESN’T. CARE. So he’s not showing grace and restraint by not getting angry and not going back through phone bills and credit cards, or reading your texts or checking out the facebook page of who you’re dating. He’s showing what we already know about him-that he is an emotionally bereft self-absorbed fuckwit. Anger at being deceived, pain over the end of a marriage and a need to know what happened and why is normal and shows you are a caring and thoughtful person who wants to understand what broke down the most important relationship in your life. Not caring is the toxic thing. Because cheaters use ‘not caring’ as a weapon- an emotionally lethal weapon. Not caring about your spouse. Cheating on your spouse. Deceiving your spouse. Leaving your spouse. That’s toxic. You are merely dealing. And the Internet Gaslight District has his back-folding traumas like we chumps suffer through in with marriages that mutually dissolve and criticizing the natural response to pain as “not dealing with the divorce well.” That stereotype of the crazy ex, the rabbit boiler, that threatens the nice man who did nothing more than just cheat on his wife, or the control freak that stalks the ex because of some pathologic obsession, doesn’t fit. You aren’t someone who had a one night stand with a married man and then obsessed on his family, eventually tracking them down and boiling their rabbit on their stove. You are Ann Archer in that story-not Glen Close-the wife who was cheated on and wants to know who this rabbit boiling bitch is. You aren’t handling this poorly because you are a toxic, obsessed woman who needs to get over this nice guy who, god bless his weak little soul, just wants to have sex with the woman he lied about to you for years, and isn’t beholden -according to all the psychology today articles you’ll find in the Internet Gaslight District- to any kind of remorse or respect. He likes his clean slate. Why are you so mad at him now that he doesn’t have to feel guilty about being with his partner in narcissism? Seriously it’s soooo toxic to his new life. What-fucking-ever! Stay away from the Internet Gaslight District. And trust me, I’ve been there. Found schmoopie. Found Schoopie’s husband and told him she was fucking my husband. Went through phone bills and lined up phone calls with missed recitals and arguments and various things that happened. Went through credit card bills. Put some icy hot on his underwear. It sucked for me. I felt like crap. But now I know to stay clear of it -not because it means I’m crazy or toxic but because it triggers me just like he did. Once again-YOU ARE NOT TOXIC!

    • They are all calm and collected because they have nothing to be upset about. They are the ones who did the harm, not the other way around.

    • Bravo! Perfectly stated.

      Icy Hot on his underwear? ????

      I threw a pitcher of cold water on him when he was sleeping. Then I threw on some salt and told him to relax, that he was just dreaming about being at that beach in Florida he had been planning to take a trip with the OW to.
      Sure, I was crazy with rage and pain, but it was still funny as hell.

  • Just tonight someone said to me ‘when I first met you, you were so anxious’.

    Similar to what a man said last year – ‘you were fun, but you seemed very on edge. Him? He was always a chop’.

    That is getting past the wall of pain (which is, accept him for who he is, and then you hit the GRIEF).

    It is so much better on this side.

    • Thanks for teaching me a new phrase, Patsy! I had to look up “he’s a chop” – sounds like maybe it’s a South African insult? Always good to learn new descriptors. 🙂

  • I am glad you shared this letter, and I am sorry for what you are going through.

    I almost let myself feel like an abuser, ya know, for asking for his whereabouts after DD1&2, and I felt even worse about myself when I went to COSA meetings.

    I kept along no contact, divorced in August, and still wonder if, and only if, I seek into self pity and try to find what he is up to online- if I’m the evil one.

    Not the case. I’m not an abuser and neither are you. We were wronged terribly by someone we trusted and loved. My MO is that when I’m pain shopping, I’m only doing a disservice to myself. <- took that from ChumpLady. She’s right. I’m not an abuser. I’m trying to ignore this GIANT wall of sadness.

    Some weeks are better than others. Please keep your perspective while you can. Even if you are away from him, even if you’re no longer married to him- as long as you don’t reach out trying to find answers he can never give…. you’re not abusing anyone. You’re only abusing yourself. But, that’s part of the Wall. It will get better.

  • Oh my gosh I hit this wall today. I’m glad to have a name for it now. I’ve been busying myself, absorbing hours and hours of books, articles, etc. Preparing for child support hearing. No contact unless about the kids once a week. Have a strong support system, friends checking in on me online. Heck I even took myself out to the symphony last weekend all by myself because I had ALWAYS wanted to go to one and Fiddleplayer never did find the time to take me.

    And today felt so sad and upsetting. I felt confused. I’m doing all the right things right? So why? The wall of pain. Ah!!! It feels so good to know what it is. Perfect timing. I better get some Advil on standby ????

    • I give myself “kindness days” when the feelings are overwhelming. Favorite take out food, old comfortable movies to watch, shades drawn, long bath, etc. Allowing myself a complete life break when I need it (although my to do list is crazy long) has been therapeutic.

  • CL This was just what I needed today.
    “You’ll stand there in the ruins of your former life, covered in ash and dust and think “God, this place is a mess.” And you’ll step over into a sunnier field. No idea what’s ahead, but it’s not a ruin.”
    The final hearing for my dissolution is Friday. (Which is 37 years after our first date.) It has been 2 years since dday. I have been running into that wall of pain so often recently as I deal with the anticipation anxiety for Friday. I have taken two steps back and need to start moving forward again.
    Thanks for reminding me that there is a better future ahead and helping me smile again. ????

  • Thank you, Tempest, I know, know, know this, too, but need to hear it and see it and be reminded of it again and again and again.

  • Tish, I felt the same way, more than once.

    I learnt that for me it’s a sign that I am off balance, being undermined, and being messed with. And that I am possibly involved with a disordered person.

    A lot of Chumps struggle to accept the Lola Doctrine because we routinely assume everything is our fault, and that we are probably the abuser.

    Not so. Trust your gut. Trust that they suck.

    But Chumplady is right – the flipside of all that self-blame is an unacknowledged control issue. The very best cure is the cold turkey that is No Contact.

    No Contact is the shortest way over or under the Wall of Pain.

  • My wall is down. I know the pain. I see him for what he is and what he’s done. But he keeps coming back and back. We have kids. He broke his foot. Lost his job. When he takes kids to activities I find him laying w them on my couch, napping….hanging out for hours. He chose this! BUT I get sad. I feel things. I end up upset in the end.

    • If you change your narrative to “I keep letting him come back and back…I keep letting him nap on my couch for hours…” then you can better see your agency and a way out of bad feelings: stop letting him do these things. You’ve been wired to see him as a victim worthy of your help and pity. It takes time to rewire and can only really be done through no contact.

      Ask me how I know. ; )

  • I’ll add to the end of the wall. You WILL get through this. We all have days of regression, googling, doing things we shouldn’t. But they do get less and less and of a slower pace than we would like! But it is there, in the horizon: the land of meh. Behind the wall, just remember, should you get a peek over the top, you can see Meh. Someday you’ll swim to Meh.

  • This letter reminded me that I asked two therapists to diagnose ME after I found out about the 40+ years of betrayal.
    Was I a narcissist, was I a borderline personality, a sociopath; just what the hell was wrong with me that he felt justified his double life and abuse? I thought that I was a good wife and mother, but maybe I was fooling myself. Maybe I was terrible.
    And did I listen when they assured me that it wasn’t me? No, of course not. Because if I didn’t drive him to do all the absolutely horrible things that he did, then it had to be him. And I wasn’t ready for that at the time. Cause if it was me, then I could “fix” it.
    Sure, I’m definitely NOT perfect. I get impatient; I can be boring when I try to explain the plot of a 3,500 page trilogy; I am afraid of the dark; I listen to music a little too loudly; I procrastinate (but never miss a deadline); I tend to believe that I am almost always right and am a bit of a buttinsky. There’s more, a lot more.
    But he is one of the most depraved, callous and selfish people I’ve ever met.
    But it took multiple DDays, STDS, financial, emotional, sexual and physical abuse, etc., etc., before I stopped blaming myself for his behavior.
    And I still do beat myself up over how long it took me to finally open my eyes and see what he was. I am working on forgiving myself; I will never forgive him.

  • >