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Dear Chump Lady, Does it really get better?

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Dear Chump Lady,

Does it really get better, or is that just another lie that people tell chumps to cut down on the suicide stats?

My STBX was a Boy-Scout-leading, Sunday-school-teaching, neighbor-helping pillar of our community, right up until the day I walked in on him and his skank in my guest room. He lied and minimized for a month, but eventually I learned that over the course of our nearly 25 year marriage, my cheater had 8 one-night stands, 3 long-term online emotional connections, and a physical affair that lasted almost 7 years, featured heavy BDSM, and involved my children as a cover-up. My cheater even brought this woman to our home as a guest, and I never suspected a thing. Has there ever been a chumpier chump?

I am SO chumpy that I tried reconciliation for 6 months, believing his promise that — having seen how much it hurt me — he would never do it again. Feeling nauseous when he touched me and crying every day on my way home from work clued me in that reconciliation might not be good for me. So I saw a lawyer, got a “fair” separation agreement, had him move out, and am now a shell-shocked single mother waiting the 12 months that my state requires until I can file for divorce.

I have more debts than income. I will likely lose my home. My high school senior is failing most of his classes, and may not get accepted to college as a result. My younger ones cry themselves to sleep at night, and have chronic tummy aches. All of them are angry at ME for “making Daddy leave,” even though they know HE broke his marriage vows. I am 50+ with no retirement savings. In addition to being old and fat, I am now also emotionally and psychologically damaged, so future relationships are unlikely to say the least. But I can’t imagine ever trusting anyone ever again, so that’s a moot point.

And yet people keep telling me this is “better.” Better than active abuse, sure. But better than what I thought I had? Not in million years. I feel hopeless. I work, I feed my kids, I force myself through the daily drudgery, I take a pill to go to sleep, then I do it all again the next day. There is no color in my life anymore, just bleakness. It’s like endless February with no hope of summer vacation.

So DOES it get better than this? Does anyone ever TRULY make it back to where they were pre-cheater? Or do we just settle for the grim existence we have, and call it “better” because no one is currently kicking us down the stairs? I’ll survive this, I know. But if this is what survival looks like, I’m not sure I care.

Kristen

Dear Kristen,

Does it get better? That’s entirely up to you.

Yes, the hand you’ve been dealt sucks. Please stand in line with all the other chumps. Maybe compare notes. With the unemployed, the abandoned while pregnant, the ones with incurable STDs…

You’re not alone in this. You have a lot of competition if you’re vying for the Chump Crown.

I could offer you sympathy — and please know you have my sympathy. Recovering from knowledge of a 25-year double life is indescribably, painfully difficult. (I’ve had a front row seat — that’s my husband’s story of his first marriage.) But sympathy alone isn’t going to cut it. You need to know this shit is not insurmountable. You CAN have a better life on the other side. Read the stories of mightiness here — you aren’t alone in your struggles and dark days. But this shit CAN be overcome.

Because, Kristen, what is the alternative?

Are you going to spend the rest of your life lamenting that your choices suck? Is that what you think your children need right now?

You were married to a hologram. You thought you had a better life. That “security” was based on a lie. You miss the lie. Kristen, we’ve all missed the lie. And goddamn it, if reality isn’t there every morning smacking you in the face when you wake up.

You can face reality and start living in it, or you can curl up and die.

If you really believe that an authentic life, without abuse, isn’t better than living a lie, I can’t really help you.

Of course, the authentic life is NOT a fully formed new life yet, it’s just a start. And that’s where you are right now — you’re starting on the journey of a new life. So it’s one small, brave step, after the next, after the next, after the next. No one gets this shit handed to them on a plate.

The journey is humbling. There is no way around that. Very few people get through divorce financially unscathed. If you’re over 50 and you have ZERO assets that can be divided, I would suggest that is a problem outside the scope of infidelity. That is the result of many years of financial decisions that made you vulnerable today. If your husband was stealing assets from your estate to conduct his affairs, that is money you can ask for back in the divorce.

But here’s the thing, Kristen — you have CONTROL over the finances in your new life. You can downsize your home, you can go back to school and retrain, you can get out of debt. You control that. You aren’t shackled to a sinking ship of a cheating husband. You’re “ugly” and fat? You control that too. If you want to lose weight, lose weight. Yes, of course it’s hard. The most rewarding things are hard. And no one is “ugly” except on the inside. Don’t internalize your husband’s betrayal as some judgement on your worth or looks. “Ugly” people are loved every day.

And as long as we aren’t internalizing judgement — don’t take shit off your kids. You didn’t “make Daddy leave.” Daddy chose to betray you. The divorce is a consequence of daddy’s choices. Don’t get locked into a narrative battle of Who Is The Real Victim Here — just live your truth. You have NOTHING to be ashamed of, and you are keeping things together for the kids. You’re the parent who is THERE, doing the work, every day. Hold your head high.

Know that when you do that, however soul crushing it is some days, you are modeling mightiness to them. You’re showing them how to deal with adversity. You’re demonstrating good character. But you have to believe in yourself to project that authority to them, so start believing it. This is NOT your fault. You did NOT make Daddy leave. You are NOT the villain.

Please focus on what you do have — your health. A job. Healthy children. Practice self care. If you feel clinically depressed please get help. Talk to your doctor, exercise, join a support group, lean on family, find a therapist for you.

Kristen, I’m sorry you can’t have your old life back. To take your husband back would mean you have to learn to live with his cheating, lying, BDSM self. Not the Eagle Scout Pillar of the Community, but THAT guy, the real him — the thought of whom makes you sob in the car every day.

You can’t go back. So please go forward. It’s a battle some days, but every liberation campaign is. Don’t. Give. Up.

This column ran previously.

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Kristen, I’ve been there! My husband was a youth pastor. Just take it one day at a time and focus on God and those kids. Keep the blame where it lies, with your husband, and do it the right way here on out.
    JenGrice.com led me to CL’s blog here, and both have been very helpful to me. Jen has a lot on divorce recovery and healing your heart.

    CL, thank you so much, I’m new here, but I went back and read s lot of archives, and it has really helped me clear my head of s lot of his mind games. I built my own mental UBT, and the difference is amazing.

  • Kristin,
    It does get better. It takes hard work, but it does. I found out about the cheating when we were married for 22 years. It had been going on for two years at that point. There may have been others in the past, I don’t know. I have four kids and I was only working part time. There were weeks when it was hard to feed the kids. I couldn’t afford my house. I cried everyday on the way home from work, because I couldn’t let the kids see the weakness. By the time I got home I was strong for them.
    I am four years and change out from D-day and two from the divorce. Here are some of the things I’ve done to make things better.
    -got counselling from a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps therapist.
    -refinanced the house
    -added solar panels (my bill this month-$2.38)
    -applied for and got a full-time job where I was already working part-time.
    -lost weight. a lot. It was easier without the idiot around.
    -went back to school. I am 6 months out from earning my Master’s, which will get me a promotion and a big pay bump at work.

    I left and was strong for my kids. I didn’t want my girls to think what their father did was acceptable or normal for a marriage. I didn’t want my son to see his father get away with it and think someday he can too. Your kids’ lives are in just as much upheaval as yours right now. They will realize with some time and distance that their father isn’t that great, home is more peaceful without him there, and that you rock. Cause you do.
    Hang in there, I promise that things WILL get better. They will also be different, which can be GOOD! Just try to keep all the balls in the air, and when you drop one, forgive yourself, pick it up, and keep juggling.
    Oh, and one more thing, Youtube will save you. I have learned to fix many things around my house by watching those videos! This week end, my daughter and I reset a fence post that came down in a storm a few weeks ago!
    I still come to gather strength and wisdom here at Chump Nation everyday. It really helps. Stick with us and learn to be MIGHTY!

    • You tube yes, many plumbing and basic wiring jobs
      ( changing out switches) have been watched by me.

    • That is very good advice. Listen to it, girl.

      Me, I’m a guy who was chumped by a wife and girlfriend, from throughout our relationship.

      It’s horrible, right? What was? It was not. What you saw as real and loved? Illusionary. A con job.

      I was devastated. I thought I’d never get through, but I mostly have, I think.

      Psychology today had an article that told of the supporting substrates our brains form, in order to support our mental pathways. Those are PHYSICALLY THERE, in your brain. Those substrates “Hold” your brain’s view of Reality, even after the need for that thought or set of thoughts, is gone due to change , or in our case, of Revelation.

      I… obsessed a bunch after discovering I did NOT know what was real, specifically about determining Reality, no matter what it seemed to be. I accidentally discovered more about what happened to me.

      “But! But! It isn’t supposed to BE this way! It isn’t even supposed to be ABLE to be this way!!!”

      Right? That’s your thoughts And the physical support for those brain cells that “Knows, dammit!” that what is real is THIS way, not just any old way.

      It’s part of what moving, changing jobs, break-ups, and other big changes are, which then makes them more stressful than they seem like they should. People who cannot let go, and maybe stalk their ex, are people with problems, but some of those problems may come from SO strongly feeling their persistent Reality that no longer is, or was a misconception.

      I listen to a song or two that I like, a lot. I mean, like, I would look like an obsessive crazy person if people witnessed it all. I did it on automatic, at first, then I realized my brain was a little better.

      Plan your new better future, which overcomes your current obstacles. That’s your new hope and your Reality to come. Be fanciful in places if you must to make a whole new story, at first. As you do this, you rewrite what you, And he, wrote on your brain.

      Listen to music you did not listen to while with him, some things that are new are good to use, but your best success will be in hearing music which you identified with happily, Before knowing him. Revive “prior you”, within your existing past-formed brain cells and substrates, to help “future you”, now.

      All of that rewrites your brain and makes it change the substrates of your brain cells faster. The good future is you, without betrayal people, making the best life for you.

      And please, with a measured calm “I responsibly know way more than you” adult demeanor about you, set your still-disillusioned children straight about the Reality you have all discovered to be real.

      • Beyoncé Me Myself and I was on constant loop 4 years ago this week when I was about to have my final straw broken.

  • Dear Kristen, sister…. IT DOES GET BETTER. once you decide that living a life where you are free of a person who treats you like you’re nothing… it gets infinitely better.

    I am almost 3 years post DDay. The last 2 years have been hell in part because of continuous litigation hanging over my head that involved my ex suing me for full custody (he lost) and continuous harassment via the sheriff’s office every time I looked at him cross eyed and finally stopped when they found him to be falsifying his “evidence” against me. I finally feel like I can breathe again.

    I’m 51 and divorced twice. First was a beater, second was a cheater. I’d like nothing more than for a good, decent man to love me, my kids and be the real deal.

    But I’m not waiting around for that. I’ve given up that that is in the cards for me and that is probably going to be okay. In the meantime, I make my own decisions, I take the credit or the blame and I leave Mr. Twatwaffles to his own life and try not to think too much of a few shit sandwhiches I still have to choke down, hoping that he’ll just die and leave us alone forever. He’ll probably live just to spite me. Whatevs.

    The next couple of years are probably going to hurt like a motherfucker…. but it WILL get better if you want it to. And, getting up, getting your kids up, going to work, going to bed, and doing it all over again, is MIGHTY!!! I do that too…. it sucks… but I DO IT… and that’s what counts right now.

    As far as my kids… they’re 8 and 10. They get upset too and cry, and all I can say is, “I didn’t make these choices, your dad decided he wanted a different life that I couldn’t be a part of. I’m sorry that happened, it sucks, but we’re going to be ok.” And then start doing some small rituals with them…establish and make memories around things that have never involved him. One thing my girls and I do is visit hot springs. Yup. I live in a pretty thermo-active state and there are little hole in the wall and resort type hot springs everywhere. We’ve made it a goal to visit everyone in our state. We went to one yesterday. I took my kid to the dentist in a town 150 miles away ( the best pediatric dentist EVER) and then we scooted up to a crappy hot spring afterward and then meandered across the Idaho border and took pictures of us under the Welcome to Idaho sign. The kids played in the pool and I relaxed in the warm water. We played hooky from work and school. It was wonderful. It cost me a tank of gas, some groceries for a packed up lunch and snacks, and $30 bucks in hot spring passes.

    Find something like that to do with them. Use this time to bond and really get to know your kids and build trust AWAY from their psycho craptastic daddy.

    It’s going to be okay.

    • “once you decide that living a life where you are free of a person who treats you like you’re nothing… it gets infinitely better.”

      I say Amen to that!

      It’s gets better for EVERYONE (including children).

      • Amen! It DOES get better, it just takes time.

        And yes, absolutely gets better for the kids, too. My kids are better off without him around. I bought all 3 of us new bicycles last weekend, we went for a big ride together. This is something we never did with him. Am making it our new thing we do on the weekends after playing our sports. We do many things together now that we never did before, and most of these things wouldn’t be possible if we were still with Mr Roaming Dick. Our lives feel fuller minus one fuckwit.

        It’s been 3 years since I left him, and I don’t look back. It’s been a tough 3 years, but I have learned a lot about life, and about myself. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than having stayed, and still being with him right now. I don’t even want to think about that nightmare! I just thank my stars that I found out about his double life and and got out when I did. One day you will look back and be happy you got away. Just give yourself time to work through it.

        • We went to a flower show last weekend- one daughter likes orchids, one likes fuchsias. Spent far too much on beautiful green things, all of which would have been totally inexplicable to my XH. I spent twenty years doing things that he liked to do, now I get to take a deep breath and fully enjoy the things that cause me joy, without having to apologise and minimise. You get so used to self editing that you don’t notice it, but it’s immensely freeing not to have to do it anymore.
          I can imagine the three of you setting off on your bikes for an adventure. Have a lovely time and make beautiful memories

          • Self-editing, so true. I bought Dunkin’ Donuts coffee the other day, because I like it! He would’ve given me endless grief because it’s not Peet’s or similar. I have taken over his home office at last. For so long I was almost afraid to go into the room because of the number of times he told me to get out. I’m changing the aura in the room from hateful to pleasant. Every time he comes over, he can’t stand how “me” I’ve made “his” room.

    • Your Hot spring adventures with your kids are THERAPY for the entire family! Soaking and playing in a hot spring? You ROCK. Seriously, that $30 is money well spent. It is like your kids are getting to go back to the womb. Be in a cozy, relaxing environment safe with mom! I love this! Better than having to pay $200 an hour or for a child therapist that may or may not help, right? 👏👏👏

    • “And then start doing some small rituals with them…establish and make memories around things that have never involved him.”

      Oh yeah. Great stuff. Totally do that. They’ll miss “pretend good dad” less and less, and it will happen quicker.

      P.S.- Along with that, this time would be perfect to use our TV show indoctrination (from Greek Empire ‘Morality Plays’) and go, “From all THIS, let’s see what we’re supposed to learn.”

      Sons and daughters can learn what NOT to do, very very well, from factual observation of a father or mother performing horribly. It’s one of the reasons I (okay, mostly) always strive to be a good husband as an adult. Mom told me as we went through my younger life, “Don’t ever be like this and stress out your wife for no good reason.” In different situations, I got good hows and whys, and I made it a point to NOT be an insensitive childish jerk, or worse, Because I knew already what the variables were, from Mom educating me.

      “If I only knew then what I know now…”
      As a younger pre-teen to full adult, I’d be watching out for the pitfalls that I Already knew were there. I was wiser up front, because I could watch myself starting to lean toward losing my temper. In an argument, I could feel myself about to say something mean.

      Listen to me now.

      Out in the World, as an adult man who is a husband, I can see where Suzie at work has been complimenting me and making me feel good.

      It can all fall into place for me, if at no time sooner than, when I notice she set things up where WE are doing that research project together, or something, and now we are alone in the back of the old file room no one uses, and she is between me and the door, saying something nicer than normal even, AND I AM ALARMED!!!

      She’s standing too close, smelling of sex pheromones, and showing way too much cleavage before bending over Way too far, and YOUR then-married son gets the chills. “OMG!!! See!? There it is! There is the danger!” “That bad thing that Dad did to Mom… here is someone trying to make ME do that to My wife.” Getting the chills properly overcomes being horny or angry, any day.

      He uses his leftover teen boy screw ups to remember how to totally ruin the moment, as if by unfortunate accident, and is safe.

      He doesn’t have to be a user dickhead or a serial cheater, and your daughter doesn’t have to seek after abusive users because she doesn’t get the underlying things that are happening. Thanks to you now, they could be seeing all that future stuff as it comes, as though through adult eyes.

      This awful stuff is opportunity as well. Listen to Yes “Changes” (“capitalize on this good fortune…”) and The Fixx “One Thing Leads To Another”.

  • Take one day at a time. It does get better. I used to cry in my car on the way home from work. My STBX affair with my skanky cousin broke me. Cheaters not only betray you. They steal your safety, your trust. It has been 2 years for me. I am cheater free and happy. I still have my bad days. But, I am thankful I do have to live with a man who lied and cheated with my cousin. It will get better.

    • My heart goes out to you. It breaks for you. Your pain makes sense to me. Your anger makes sense to me. And your fear makes sense to me.

      It does get better. You and your kids are grieving a devastating loss. It takes time, which is unbelievably maddening, I know, but it does get better. Grief doesn’t stay stuck at one level.

      Many people find that, for a while, the depth of the feelings stays the same, but more and more spaces between those feelings crack through and allow some happy moments, empowered times, and flashes of peace to shine through, however briefly. Then, as time continues on, those better times get a bit longer and the worst times get a bit shorter. Then after that, the intensity of the worst times begins to wane.

      The best actions you can take are those that make cracks in the grief where even just a moment of laughter can shine through. Even sarcastic, angry dark humor counts.

      I am so sorry, Friend. I send you peace.

      • My comment wasn’t supposed to “nest” under yours, CuzChump, but if it’s a message you need, then I am glad it did. (This site does that to me sometimes – nests comments in odd places.) Happy day to you!

        Also, I noticed after writing that this column ran previously. I wonder how our friend is feeling now. Better, I hope.

  • Don’t take your children’s anger personally. Know that they push back harder on the stable parent who is there for them. This is yet another shit sandwich. But knowing this helps you not participate in their anger.

    It does get better. One day you wake up and you notice the birds singing rather than being caught up in the story of how hard it all is. It happens. You’re grieving. It’s a process.

    • My daughter tells me often that she wants to live with her dad. She thinks her problems would be easier living with him and his new 2nd hand- pawn shop wife appliance. The reality is that she’s afraid if she doesn’t move in with him, then he will abandon her in a way that she will never see him again. He’s left her before, after all. ButI haven’t. I’m the one whose solid. It’s ok for her to say that to me, because I’M NEVER EVER LEAVING HER, no matter what… and she can be honest with me. She’s never said to her dad, “Please don’t tell Mom,” or “I hate living here!” She knows which parent has never told her to lie to the other one.

      I trust that will all shake out in the end. I’m playing the long game.

      • thank you so much Kintsugi. “The reality is that she’s afraid if she doesn’t move in with him, then he will abandon her in a way that she will never see him again.”
        My son did move in with his dad (at 17) after 6 months with me. He’s 24 now, and has had a succession of problems . It is heartbreaking. I try to be the snae stable one, but the narcissist got the house – and my son. He never loved the house (I did all the work on it). But my son loved it, and he knew how to keep hold on him (and thus on me).
        My son is at university and not coming “home” this time, and I really hope it helps turn him around. I miss him. But like everyone here says- it works when you work at it.
        And all the really importand things that matter are hard to do.
        I would say that EVERYTHING in my life is better. I’m just waiting for my son.

      • poor baby girl. i hate when that happens. .. good for you momma .. .you know your child is just scared of not seeing her dad which is probably closer to the truth then you’d like. my own boys went thru something similar. at first i was trying to hard to make sure my boys had their dad in their lives. i constantly was chasing him down and calling him to remind him of visitations and practically begging him to spend time or talk to his kids. .. .. only to be accused of not letting him go and to be abused by him AND HIS thing.. .. she loved to throw it in my face that HE IS HERS NOW.. and HE DOESNT WANT YOU… . i put up with so much disrespect and hate all for the sake of my boys having their dad in their lives.. on top of all that, wasband would try to make me look like the bad guy. when my youngest wanted to spend the night with his dad, his dad told him that “your mom would never let you spend the night with me”.. .. so when my son told me that (he was too little and too young to figure anything out yet) i told my son i had no problem with him sleeping over at his dad’s house (as i was dying inside) and had my son call his dad to come pick him up. of course as soon as son told dad mom said i could sleep over, dad came up with 10 different excuses why he couldnt. hardest thing in my life was to watch the light go out of my son’s eyes and knowing that there was nothing i could about it. .. . at least my son soon figured out that it was not MOM that was “keeping him from his dad” (as the ex keeps telling everyone) but that it really was dad himself. .. .. i explained to my kids that it was not my job now my responsibility to make their dad act like a dad. we had a long talk about choices and responsibilities and consequences and how you can NOT make another person do something or act someway. alternatively my boys also understand that they can not make another person happy or behave right. .. .. so by proxy they understand and know it is NOT my fault or their fault that dad is not around. hey never once blamed me for “making daddy leave” or “not letting daddy see/talk/visit” them.. .. .

        the reality is that once i stopped chasing him down, dad really did abandon them. they are lucky if they see their dad once a year. it was a lesson in life i wish my children never had to learn but it all works out in the end. my kids understand that i am doing the best that i can do and that my love for them is unconditional and strong. but they also know who is the parent that has been there for them.

    • These comments are an added bonus to CL’s response. It is a daily battle to ‘get your mind right’ (quotable line in Cool Hand Luke). I began an early morning habit of journaling out all the vitriol and pain, then wrote out everything I could think of that I had going for me. 32 journals and 4 years later, I’m a different person, but still working out the mind f$&k he did to me, and, as of yesterday, is still trying to do. It sucks to have to be ever alert to somebody else’s cray, but it’s self protection. I was so broken, I had to find the portal out of the dark pit I felt like I was in. A journey of self discovery and learning how to manage and heal the effects of emotional abuse has enriched and deepened my very being. If you make the decision to proceed, heal, and to love your magnificent self, he will gradually seem completely ridiculous to you. You’ll be living such a bigger life than his lying, cheating self could ever hope for. Liars and cheaters live a very low vibration existence. Living honesty and truth and integrity are what some call high vibration. In other words, you’ll attract people and things that are in closer alignment to who you are. I’ve seen it before my very eyes. Learn about yourself and human behavior. It helps the tricked mind regain some control over what was out of your control.

      • You will heal healthier if you go have therapy. The writing helps. I used to do it all the time thinking I could write something and the whole truth would come out but you are facing a brick wall. Therapy will help you get through that. You can not get past this yourself. My therapist told me this also after I started.

        • I started EDMR on March 4. I think it’s helping. I agree therapy can help, especially during a really traumatic period of time.

          • Excellent letter! You are so right, I am two years out from d day, and life is way better. I own my own property, and run my own business. Its tough, but the choices are all mine, and I live or die by decisions I make. I can be an example to my kids, and show them how to be strong, independent women. Kristen, you probably aren’t far enough out from d day to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, I still have days when I miss what I thought I had, and I can’t understand why he falls all over himself for the low rent slapper, but I also know I’m better off without him. I suspect he knows it as well! So hang in there, and take each day at a time. Attitude is everything! And chump lady is a genius. I read her posts daily, it has really helped me.

      • I appreciate your practical tips N&I. I am waking up enraged everyday. I take the dog for a jog/walk and feel only slightly better – and that’s the best part of my day. My dad suggested frequently praying, out loud, using Jesus’ name. I’m struggling because nothing is making the pain subside. Seeing the counselor is a huge hassle and has the same benefit as dumping this on a random coworker (which I’ve done more than enough of already).

        • Actually, talk therapy is only one approach… and it can take a long time to see results. Consider also that your friend, God bless her, isnt equipped like a therapist is.

          I resisted therapy for a long time. I’m skeptical about it, but I do think it’s helping. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass, but so is being pissed off all the time and feeling that horrible rage and waking up with it.

          I’ve been there. Some days, I’m still there, but I decided that my time is precious. My children are not getting any younger and neither am I. I don’t want to burn up anymore time enraged, because it gets me nothing good and alienates the people I care about. I’m tired of the heaviness I felt In my chest for so long and I wanted that to go away. I wanted to feel joy again. The pain has largely gone away and I am having more moments of happiness, or at least contentment. I deserve things that are a pain in the ass, but ultimately help me. I’m WORTH that…

    • My son loves his dad. He was 4 when his dad left. I never say anything derogatory about his dad. I make sure he knows that his dad loves him. But I felt that it was important that he knew (in an age appropriate way) that his dads actions and choices are the causes of our divorce. Why? Because it’s the truth and I am not accepting ownership for what ex did.

      I think when a chump tries to protect their kids by hiding what the other parent did it damages the kids. My ex MIL was a chump that never told my ex husband that his father left them for other women and came back. He thought his dad was out providing the whole time and that separate vacations were normal. She kept it a secret from him cause she thought that was the right thing to do. And look what he grew into ( a high functioning addict)

      I tell him “daddy left mommy, not you and you had nothing to do with it” and that “daddy was lying a lot to mommy” and that “daddy has problems but he still loves you and tries to be a good dad.” And that’s only when he asks me questions.

      I say be honest with your kids. I have read so many stories about narcissists that manipulate the kids against the chump parent. It’s really sad, so shut that down early on.

      • J.
        I totally agree. We sat our kids down ages 20, 16, 10, 7 to tell them we were divorcing. She tried to make shit up but I shut it down immediately. I told them straight out about her leaving me for sparkle dick. I told them I had to tell them the truth because I don’t want them growing up to be liars, to be cheaters, to be deceitful. I want them to grow into good human beings who can respect and be honest with others. I know it sucks but they needed to know the reason why dad is moving out and schmoopie and 4 of his kids are moving in. So after that the only one that is struggling with things is my 16 year old. But I’m guessing they are filling him with so much BS. The same goes for her boyfriends oldest boy, they are turning him against his ex wife as he wants nothing to do with her. But I still think honesty is best.
        Looking forward to tomorrow as it is scheduled to be my final court date!

  • Must be my exhole’s twin. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I was “ugly & fat” down 40# and have kept it off. New home new life, kids are happy, ex nowhere to be seen. Maybe he’s been left hanging somewhere by one of his BDSM partners in a dungeon somewhere. Now wouldn’t that be awesome!

  • Kristen- just the biggest virtual hug to you. I am so sorry. Yes, it is so hard and debilitating, for awhile. My story is so similar to yours. Keep moving forward. Keep going and know you’re not alone. What chumplady said is spot on. It will gets better if you choose for it to get better. My life pre d day was “perfect”. But lamenting the death of that life is like being sad that a perfectly beautiful iridescent bubble burst into a pile of suds. It wasn’t what i thought it was and more fragile than I could ever know. My life now is solid, grounded, and built on truths.
    Hugs. They suck so so much.

  • It definitely does get better. I was 25 years married too. Now 18 years later I’m with someone kind and chumpy who loves me (and supports me financially!). Children went through some bad times – severe depressions – but now are mostly recovered, happy and successful. I kept the tumbledown house and it has taken me this long to mend it, but it has been healing doing that DIY. Working out at the gym makes me cheerful and keeps the fat at bay. It’s a long hard battle that is infinitely worthwhile.
    I still wouldn’t say I’m completely over it, but reading Chump Lady helps me.I still have a difficult relationship with my daughter, because she loved my (now dead) ex so much.
    I am so much happier than I was, though. Just wish I could go back in time and yell at him, and laugh in his face. I was such a doormat back then.

  • The Twat left me when I was 51 even though he really didn’t want the divorce that I instigated – that came through at 53. So at 53 I had to give him half of the house that I paid 85% for and take on a new mortgage and ended up paying 90% of the $250,000 debts he left me with. Oh and I’m not a high flying investment banker or anything. I earned a couple hundred $$$ more per month than him. We had damn good incomes between us though and I could have retired more than comfortably at age 55 – well that was pre-divorce. Anyway, I threw everything I could at that mortgage and oddly enough it was WAY easier without him and his constant spending on toys, cars, guitars and gadgets. I paid off my 17 year mortgage last Thursday in just 7 years. Who wudda thunk I could do all that on my own. Before I met him I was young and attractive with a decent job and a zest for life. He took all that away from me with his beatings, insults and cheating, to the point that even though I have a strong character I wasn’t sure I could bounce back from it. Well I did. I’m 60 now and regaining my joie de vivre. Sure I wish I’d never met his ugly ass but there’s not much I can do about the past is there. You WILL get over this and things will not only get better they will get HUMONGOUSLY better. As CL says, you’re not living without Mr. Scout Leader/Nice Guy, you’re living without a cheating perv! You can do this!

  • It is so hard to grieve the loss of a dream of a happy long term marriage and intact family, growing old together, etc. It was a beautiful dream, but my ex made that dream a nightmare. Realizing my entire marriage was a lie is sometimes brutally painful to process, but living a lie is even more soul crushing. Moving forward is the only way. Some days I feel stuck, or worse, like I have taken a step back, but grief and healing are not linear. I’m slowly learning to be gentle and compassionate with myself, to rest when I need to, and to trust that the journey towards an authentic life is one worth taking.

    • So true. Whenever anyone feels bad and has the crazy idea that their life would have been better if they had stayed and gone the RIC route, go over to SI and read the posts of the poor souls who STAYED and how “wonderful” their lives are being the constant marriage police and having Ddays 8 and 9.

  • I see that this is a re-run and I really and truly hope that Kristen’s life has gotten significantly better since she stumbled onto the truth that her life was built with a terrible person.

    Every day you get up is a victory.

  • Crying is not weakness. It is a normal and important human response to emotional or physical injury. You will be doing a LOT of it….I wondered how anyone could cry like I did and be alive. Lean into it….the tears are healing, and it will NOT last forever.

    My DDay was November of 2017. I was with my husband for 27 years and am sure there is a long secret history of my Mr. Community Nice Guy screwing around and pretending to be married. That has been the hardest hit; trying to reconcile who he IS (a stranger, and a very sick one) with who I THOUGHT he was (a person I loved who existed only in my mind).

    I didn’t have a MARRIAGE; I had a MIRAGE.

    I feel better, and feel a little better every day, but it has been the most painful and difficult experience of my life. I often think of that scene from the movie “Babel”….where the nanny is lost in the baking desert carrying the little girl and screaming for help. That is me.

    But help is HERE….please please stay here and read every day. Get therapy from someone awesome. Go to 12 Step meetings…Al Anon is awesome first aid for chumps, and it’s free.

    DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING
    ONE MOMENT AT A TIME
    JUST FOR TODAY

    We love you and are here for you.

  • Hey Kristen,

    Everything ChumpLady says is true. The catchphrases. The book. I love the cartoons — oh my goodness!! But especially this: No Contact is the remedy.

    He is a bad person, a piece of stuff. Going No Contact will day-by-day be better.

    Yes, I lost the dream, too. My x-hole was a “good” man, “believed” in God, “prayed”, “served” humanity.

    I am fat and pasty, and old. And now, after No Contact has worked its magic: not lonely, I’m calm, content, and soooo relieved to have his cheating, lying, blaming spirit out of my life. Yuck!

    • QueenMother – I’m fat (yep – was looking for something to wear to son no. 2’s wedding in 2 months – aaarrrrggggh), not pasty (just spent 4 days in Italy – see reference to “fat” – just call me Buddha) and old but FREEEEEEE! And I don’t mind being alone either. What a relief it was to get rid of him!

  • Hellen Keller once said, “although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” It’s so hard to suffer like you are and even harder to witness your children suffering, but you must trust that everything will eventually be okay. This is how you can really help your children because if you practice that trust then they can, too. It helped me tremendously to have people tell me that I was going to be okay and that I’d be happy again even when it seemed impossible to believe it. Clinging to that hope and taking those small steps forward as I trusted not myself but the love of those people who encouraged me was the beginning of a new life for me and my children. I’m very thankful to say my children recovered and we are now a very tight family. We are stronger and more capable even if we are poorer and look much less than perfect.

    Trust that you are going to be okay and trust that for your children, too. That is hard work but necessary because it is how you demonstrate strength to them.

  • it does get better!

    Your life post D’day is what you want to make it, and it may seem for a while that you are draging yourself through setting concrete most days but those days will pass.
    But here are some tips.
    If you are new here, hang around, there is a great amount of wisdom to be found.
    You are not alone, your cheater is not unique.
    If you think your situation is messsed up and no one could possibly relate to your story, you will find that all cheaters are messed up, some more so than others and you will see pretty quickly that others here have delt with similar. Trust me on this one.
    And every now and again Chump Lady will prompt you to tell the really weird shit and if you are lucky she will draw it for you.
    If you are struggling speak up, find someone to talk to, and if Chumplady is your only life line then please stay connected.
    I am five years post D’day and in the early months I learned more here about the disorded mind of a garden variety cheater than I ever thought was possible. But this site also helped me to see that there was more than just cheating going on in my marriage and it gave me the strength to want more out of life. To be willing to change me. It challenged me to really look at myself and make decisions about what I want out of life. So when the question is asked, does it really get better? I say yes, because I now live my life on my terms, terms I did not even realise I had the right to consider before coming here.

  • Without a doubt, my greatest fear when Mr. Sparkles walked out for the final OW was “how is this going to effect our son (who was in third grade at the time) and my stepkids who lived with us”.

    Here is what I learned – now almost five years out from the discard and three years out from the divorce:

    – The older children (my stepchildren) are more “damaged” from watching their Father abuse their mother and their stepmother (me). My stepdaughter (22) often remarks that she is afraid to date because she doesn’t want to end up with a man like her Dad. My stepson (24) and his girlfriend broke up and he’s confused because she left him – afterall, he only thought MEN left when they found someone better and he was faithful. SO – that is one impact result of staying in abusive relationships.

    – My son (now in 7th grade) is thriving. I did everything CL and CN and my therapist told me to… I grieved (in the shower or on visitation weekends)… I was honest and age appropriate with my son (married people shouldn’t get girlfriends/boyfriends, especially while on a family vacation)… you can CHOOSE to be a different version of yourself on any given (fake it until you make it)… I filed first… I demanded the custody arrangement I thought least interruptive for my son… I talked to his teachers and stayed engaged and positive in his life. I healed and he witnessed it and learned what strength and resilience and patience and self-caring look like. So, that’s a different outcome based on leaving a cheater and gaining a life.

    Was it a slog? Hell yes. Time is a motherfucker. But guess what, it passes regardless… so you choose… are you a VICTIM or a VICTOR? And what do you want for your children? Get clear on those two things and the rest will follow.

    To all the Kristens… it only sucks in the beginning… it gets better when you take back your power and give your kids a sane parent they can count on. It does.

    • ” I healed and he witnessed it and learned what strength and resilience and patience and self-caring look like. ” YES!!! You are definitely a VICTOR! As painful as it was in the beginning, I am absolutely sure my kids are better off without the fake role model their father gave them.

  • Last weekend I watched “A Quiet Place” and got only 1/3 into it before I was crying. I texted my oldest daughter, age 26, and apologized for choosing such a cowardly, lying wimp for her father. (Both adult daughters are NC with him and see he is a POS.) I was incredibly sad to think of what a completely inadequate husband he had been and how the person who was supposed to protect us had instead abandoned his family to chase chicks half our age.

    He is a completely inadequate man, a completely inadequate father. I knew this about him when he was 17 but figured that he would grow up, especially after creating 2 sweet daughters with me that he should have protected. Nope. He is a selfish, petulant child who was never up to the task. I miss what I thought I had but remind myself daily that it was fake. The person I thought I had is dead. He has serious character flaws and is a covert narc with a passive aggressive personality disorder.

    My daughter’s reply was that this is my story, but not the whole story. It isn’t over yet and I will write a much better second half. That is all we can do.

    • Yup, this exactly.

      Together since 17, I thought he would grow up eventually, having 2 kids, starting a business, but he since tells me he never wanted another kid and I discover he was using my money to set up the ‘family’ business with the other woman – the tenant in our old family home! Whilst also shagging a gullible 26 year old… He was 40!

      He is still an inadequate child who has abandoned his children which breaks my heart for them but is actually a blessing as I think he abused my daughter but I can’t prove it and it would be just like him to try get away with something so heinous. After the suspected incident he threatened suicide. I ignored his messages.

      I’ve had to piece his many lies together. A jigsaw of lies and fabrications. As you the stupid chump in me feels pity for him and I wonder what made him like that? The fact his mother is two faced and I never seen them hug or show affection to each other with ease may have something to do with it.

      She also can’t communicate but goes straight for the jugular by threatening court to see her grandchildren more.

      My life is a film. I’m trying to view it with detachment and make the best of it all.

  • I really hope & Pray it gets better i just can’t see it yet .
    I am only 7 weeks past D day i feel so alone and i can’t think of one single thing to look forward to .

    I have no family of my own so his family were my family and now i don’t have that either .
    I honestly cant think of anything good .

    I am reading and reading the archives to try and think better . I am ok when i am at work but going home to an empty house every night just about kills me .

    • Do you have friends to call? I try to have one thing in the evening to do. I do yoga, drum lesson, Pilates. Sometimes I talk to the neighbor kids. Pets help. Find a therapist. 7 weeks is hard. I have days where I can’t find anything to look forward to. I try to breath through it. It sucks but the feeling goes away. You feel it less and less.

      • Hi
        Yes i have a couple of friends i see 2 evenings a week and another friend that calls me twice a week .
        I just can’t seem to concentrate on anything . I put the TV on but i don’t watch it . I try to read but i don’t take anything in .
        I have lost 38 lbs since he left as i cant seem to keep anything down . I am sleeping a tiny bit better i am now getting maybe 3 hours a night .

        I have not seen it but his niece ( my former niece ) is posting on face book of all the family on holiday and he is there with her with his arm round her . I paid for that bloody holiday & he is taking her !! She has been welcomed in to the family with open arms and i have not even been gone 2 months !
        We had so many plans for this year which i was so looking forward to but now i just feel i have nothing left .

        • i understand your pain.. .. and it does hurt so much.
          but let me try to help you by explaining that staying focused on him will only prolong the pain for you. You are stuck in thinking he was your only family and you have nothing to look forward to.

          stop focusing on him, stop thinking about him and the what if and the could haves. AND START THINKING ABOUT YOU!!! start thinking about what YOU like to do. start thinking about what YOU want out of life. .. you put so much energy into him that your own wants, needs and desires have been forgotten. i know because i did the same thing.

          i spend a year crying every single day. i was so broken. so hurt. it literally hurt to breathe.. . . i just could not believe what was happening. after that year, i spent another year wondering and blaming myself. i could have be better that one time he told me this. i should have done or said that instead. i did not try hard enough or i tried too hard. i would have, should have or could have… .. it all was a waste of time.

          so 2 years out, i finally just accepted that my life was NOT what i wanted it to be and that the man i loved was not a good man. i finally accepted that i would never know the hows, whens, whats or whys. and it is what it is . .. . and at THAT point i started to heal. i literally sat down i started writing a list of what i wanted for the rest of my life. how did i want my life in 5 years, 10 years .. .. i also wrote lists of what i LIKED AND ENJOYED because after spending 15 years with a selfish, toxic, hateful, cruel asshole of a husband. i had actually FORGOTTEN what it was that I LIKED to do. .. . nobody had asked me that in years… .. so i had to fight and struggle to remember who i was. .. .. making a list helped.

          i enjoy making things. being creative. .. .. so i work on how to achieve that
          i enjoy gardening, and growing plants… .. so i think of way to garden
          i enjoy spending time outside with my kids and grandkids.. … so i find ways to do that.
          i enjoy reading a good book.. .. so i go to libraries and look for good books.
          i like to paint.. … so i join classes and workshops in my area to paint

          before you realize it, when you are working on finding ways to do the things that make YOU happy.. .. you will find YOUR peace. this shit of “living better” or “life gets better” is over rated. .. .. life is dealing what the shit you have right in front of you. put your energy into the little things that make you happy, that will bring you some kind of joy in your life.

          i cant say “life is better” without wasband. i still struggle to pay bills. i am so super tired of things breaking down and having to deal with everything by myself (at least wasband helped very little with fixing things and helping deal with things even if he was lying to me and cheating).i still wish i had someone in my life that would just take care of me while i take care of everything else. someone who asks me HOW i am or does things for me.

          … .. . . .. being single SUCKS.. it is so hard in this world, to be single and live well .. .. BUT at least for me… .. finding things that make me happy. or bring me joy in life no matter how little it is … . is what LIFE is all about. everyone has bills. everyone struggles with something. everyone is tried of the toliet clogging and the washer breaking. everyone has to work. everyone has to fix things.. .. but not everyone finds their peace and joy in things… . and that makes me blessed.

          i have found my peace

          • Thanks Mrs. Vain. You put it so well.
            Me too- all those things about finding out how to do what you like doing, and then to like doing it!! Even though single. Even though chumped.
            Everything is better without an ahole in it.

        • That is so hard. I’m sorry you are in the middle of the shit storm! I know it doesn’t take the pain away, but as you keep reading you will find that you are not alone in the pain when you are here at CL.

          You and I had similar emotional responses to the betrayal. I too was so sick I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, felt helpless. At one point I started to imagine the world would be better off without me in it. My best advice to you is to start searching for a therapist that is on your side, and will help you figure out how to process this pain so that you can find peace again.

          For me, that included going on medication for depression and anxiety. The combination of this medication, finding CL, and my kids saved my life. I have no doubt about that.

          You are in the worst of it now, but you can do this.

    • Karen… I found reading to be really helpful… Joel Osteen’s “You Can, You Will” is exceptionally powerful for healing (for me)… I read blogs (CL, Karen E. Scott, PsychopathFree.com)… I listen(ed) to KLOVE radio (all upbeat and positive music and no romantic triggers)… I tried to remember who I was (and who I dreamed of being) BEFORE him… and focused on finding that person again. I joined groups on MeetUp for social outings. You have to get out of your head as much as possible… and give it time. I wasn’t feeling more me for at least a year… I just learned to fake it until it became second nature.

    • This is the hardest time after Dday and the enormity hits you and you feel like you have lost everything and are in a dark pit with no way out.

      BUT this does pass with time. I too “thought” that I was close to my Ex’s family and I had been very good to all of them over the years. Yet like you, almost all of them turned their backs on me without a second thought. Sadly, that tells you how they really felt about you and do you really want a relationship with people like that anyway ?

      I found that I had 2 coworkers who were true friends to me and I didn’t realize it before Dday. They along with some in my family helped along with my therapist.
      You have been through a horrendous traumatizing experience and a GOOD therapist would help. When trying to find a good therapist (a bad therapist will do more harm than good), before you even see them have them answer this question “is cheating abuse” ? If they answer no, get wishy washy or won’t answer, move on until you have one who says “Yes, absolutely”.

      Also, if you have no one close, join the CL forums and there are many there you who have gone through what you have and can give you helpful advice and/or just listen.

      It feels like you are in Hell now but I promise it DOES get much better in time.

    • Hey Karen, hugs to you lovely. That empty house is only empty in comparison. And before it just had him, an empty person, in it. Things will get better for you, hun xxx

  • “Does anyone ever TRULY make it back to where they were pre-cheater?” Dear Lord, I hope not!! I have no interest in making it back to where I was pre-cheater. Because that is going back, as in going BACKWARDS. Happiness is forward.

    25 year marriage here too. 30+ years as a couple. Also in my 50’s. Yes, the days from DDay until divorce are hard and stressful. Yes, there are many, many days when you are not really living you are simply trying to survive. But I swear to you it does get better. Like you, I had to make a lot of adjustments post divorce. After years as a SAHM I got myself a full time job. I downsized to a much smaller house. I got off the anti-depressants, got on hormone replacement, continue to see my therapist on a semi-regular basis. I take care of myself, look out for my kids and my dogs, and prioritize things that make me happy but don’t cost a lot of money like my garden or a good book from the library (have to say, it’s incredible how much discretionary spending money is available when half your income isn’t being stuck in a stripper’s coochie). I don’t focus on what I lost, I focus on what I’ve gained: peace of mind, self respect, dignity, financial stability, etc. My ‘happy’ marriage was a myth. I prefer to live in reality.

    While it’s true my life isn’t what I thought it would be at this point, it is also true that it’s BETTER. If I were given a choice between my life as it is right now and my life as it would have been if the cheating didn’t happen, I would choose my life right now without a single hesitation.

    • Beth, you’ve just described my life. I came off the anti-depressants (didn’t need them any more with him gone) and went on HRT. My God, it made me so horny, I felt like a 15 year old boy must feel hitting puberty. So horny as hell and my husband had just left me (actually that was the good bit – I eventually got to have sex with someone I actually liked!!). And yep, it’s amazing how much more disposable income I had after losing the husband!!!

      • Right??!! Oh my… The sex was so bad in my marriage I didn’t miss it at all until, like you said, I got off the anti-depressants and on HRT and then yeah, I described it to myself in exactly the same terms: “when the hell did I become a 15 year old boy??” Hahaha Eventually discovered I liked sex just fine, just not sex with my emotionally unavailable ex.

  • As we are crawling through the beginning of hell we cannot even begin to imagine there is another world out there waiting for us. When I first came here and read that others made it to a good life, I truly did not believe them. What I did have was faith in their words. I had hope in their words. I took the old-timers suggestions, no contact, one foot in front of the other, somedays one minute at a time, self-care, therapy, antidepressants, joined meetups, took up hobbies. AND TIME! It takes time, self-love, patience. I promise you will come out of this to another world that YOU created! (hugs)

  • I would tell your kids the truth. That dad had girlfriends and that is not acceptable. No details, just the fact.

  • Kristen,

    My story is similar to yours, just a bit longer/bigger/deeper/wider. My XH was seen as the Nicest guy in the world! Would give you the shirt off his back! Generous to a fault! Friend to every man! Exemplary husband! Amazing hands-on Dad! I thought he hung the moon.

    Sadly, that man was nothing but paper mâché. If only I’d had a sharp pin and could have popped that inner balloon, I could have saved myself decades of time.

    Throughout our 40-year marriage, he lived a dark and ultra-secret life. He had at least 14 affair partners (including multiple married coworkers, our babysitter, Team Mom for our sons’ sports team, and friends we vacationed with; he was an equal opportunity cheater), told me he was “laid off“ at work but was actually fired for sexual harassment, nursed a raging porn addiction, diverted who-knows-how-much money from our family to support his bevy of whores, and so on. He stole my youth, my trust, and my entire identity out from under me when one day, he announced he was moving out and “needed time and space to determine the role our marriage would have in his life”. When I look back on it now, I think the stress of living two separate lives simply became too much for him to maintain, and rather than coming clean/getting help, it was way easier to just devalue/discard/divorce/deny me than to face reality and suffer the consequences.

    I won’t lie… the first few years Post D-Day were hellacious. I never expected to find myself divorced at age 60, with just half the retirement money. Lifestyle changes registering 10.0 on the Richter scale were the order of the day, including selling the beloved empty nest marital home, moving 3 times in 1 year, downsizing to a new house 1/3 the size, pushing out my retirement date by at least 10 years, revamping my entire financial structure, and the hardest change of all… coming to grips with the fact that I’d been a blue ribbon First Class Chump, and find a way to build a completely new life.

    But I did! I’m now 64, 4 years post-divorce, and my life is PDG (pretty damn good), all because I allowed myself to fully “embrace the suck”, and emotionally detached from the sick bastard I used to call Husband. I’ve shifted the time, energy and mental real estate I previously invested in trying to “untangle the skein of fuckupedness”, to investing in ME and what I can do each day to be happy, feel safe, and enjoy life once again.

    And you can, too, IF you’re willing to undergo a major mental shift. Only you can decide what you want more… to (A) Continue to drown in a cesspool of self-pity and defeat, or (B) Stand up, throw the shit sandwich you’ve been served down the garbage disposal, and morph into a Mama Beast for yourself and your kids.

    • MyRedSandals- you are my hero. Similar story, and I love the energy in your reply.
      I’m 62 and couldn’t see it coming (6 years out and it really messed with my head but life is soo much simpler, cleaner and delicious without an ahole in it.) Love the energy in your response!!

  • I really feel that it’s not just grieving the illusion of who he pretended to be or the life I “thought” I had.

    I WAS AUTHENTIC. I did participate fully. I was real. I couldn’t have lived more honestly or been more committed. I was being honest and building an honest life. My part was no an illusion.

    But…because he had a double life it now completely negates my honesty. It makes what I did and said a lie. Because I was living and making decisions based off of false information given to me.

    He made me a liar. He took my real.

    • CL has this article in her “Inspire Me” section of the website’s first page:

      https://www.chumplady.com/2013/10/standing-on-lies/

      Here’s and important quote I go back to because I too felt like my life was a lie:

      How did you piece it back together? For me, I had to simply conclude that I was real. (And in the end, that’s the only person I control, me.) I brought my A game. I committed. I tried to work it out. I was truly happy on my wedding day. I meant my vows. I enjoy the fine May weather. The love of my friends and family. I enjoyed the catering, the flowers, and the iTunes dance mix.

      That grinning chumpy woman you see in my wedding pix, who paid the bar tab for one of the OW, and assorted other wedding guests who knew of his cheating? In that moment, she was happy. That naive woman on her honeymoon in Paris? She enjoyed the trip. That’s who she was THEN. That is the story.
      When it was happening, with all the evidence she had before her — she had every reason to be hopeful and optimistic. What came months later — the truth of who he was — doesn’t change her.

      This is what I learned about that narrative — I don’t need his story to tell MY story. I’ll never know all of what was going on and with whom. I know enough to know it’s disordered and dreadful and has everything to do with him, and nothing to do with me. I wasn’t living a lie. HE was living a lie.

      The feelings, thoughts, and opinions you voiced were your truth and real. Because the underpinnings were false doesn’t mean you didn’t react authentically and truthfully to the information you thought to be true.

      • Well said, chump-pin. Especially, “HE was living a lie.”

        We were innocents. There were two sides to the story of our marriages, and we were just kept in the dark about the other side until many years into the story. We were honest and open and operating in good faith on our side; the cheaters lied and faked and made up stuff, so their side was all about facade.

        Please be kind to yourself, Fearful&loathing. Keep reminding yourself that, as you said, “I WAS AUTHENTIC.” We don’t need to beat ourselves up for not being suspicious when we loved deeply and made ourselves vulnerable to someone that we THOUGHT was deserving of our trust. We went all in for our marriages. We took a risk that this other person would be as honest with us as we were with them.

        It’s not our fault! Some of these people have been lying so long that they become uncannily expert at it. Really Academy Award level performance. SO believable. We were duped. That makes us victims of what in certain circumstances amounts to criminal behavior (usually when money is taken or someone is persuaded to give money under false pretenses). Please don’t conflate their dirty deeds with our innocent inability to see through their con job.

        Big chumpy hugs.

      • Thank you, Chump-in for pointing me toward these articles. I needed your message today.

  • Oh man, does it get better. Not right away, and it ain’t easy. You will drive yourself crazy. Your kids will drive you crazy. All of you will stumble and get up again. But one minute at a time IT DOES GET BETTER. The one day it’s two minutes, or 15 minutes, or a couple of hours until you can measure it in days. The kids heal and process at a different rate I’ve found, but after stormy seas comes a calm of sorts. The added bonus is that you are responsible for that calm and safety, and you alone own your life. No longer will you be lied to, deceived, abused, and treated like nobody. You are THE somebody in your life, and your kids will see that. You are so full of worth and wonder, and you will get there, I’m sure of it.

  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

    I’m not long out. Only four years but I find that it will be what you make it. Some of us will have greater investment and greater loss to overcome but the things to keep moving forward.

    I do what makes me happy. Not in a selfish way. Just in away that makes me content without harming anyone.

    Be kind to other people and do good things.

    I find the people who cope best with this trauma (I’m calling it what it is) are those who don’t deny it but who take steps to move ahead.

    The experience never leaves you. I dont see how it could. But you work it into the fabric of life.
    Psalm37 says not to fret about those who do évil because one day they will he no more. It advises those of us who experience injustice to do good.

    The last thing I felt like doing while I was up to my eyeballs in pain was to do good. But I kept chipping at it. It has done me the world of good by keeping my faith in humanity.

    I don’t trust like before. That part of me is gone. That is my scar but I’m 90better. I’ll never be 100.and I’m okay with that reality.

    Do good things with your children for your children and for your self an others. Be gentle with yourself.
    Doucement.

  • Your Hot spring adventures with your kids are THERAPY for the entire family! Soaking and playing in a hot spring? You ROCK. Seriously, that $30 is money well spent. It is like your kids are getting to go back to the womb. Be in a cozy, relaxing environment safe with mom! I love this! Better than having to pay $200 an hour for a child therapist that may or may not help, right? 👏👏👏

  • To answer your question: it DOES get better.
    All of us here know it seems impossible to fathom when in the throes of it.
    I am 7 years post DDay, 6 years post divorce finalization.
    My ex was also the “Golden Child” at our shared workplace. We were high school sweethearts. It took 2-3 years to truly feel better and not feel like I was stressed all the time.

    As painful as the end was, I am glad my ex was a lazy lying selfish coward– otherwise he would have waltzed out and I never would have known about the cheating.

    It has been a long haul for me. I kept the house, but when the youngest reaches 18 and child support ends, I will have to rent out a room or two.
    My eldest attempted suicide, but is now in college and seems better overall.
    My youngest has expressed suicidal ideation, but seems to have turned a corner.
    And not that it was necessary, but I found a Sweet Guy who is supportive and loves me. My youngest does not like him (what 15yo likes his mother dating?) but Sweet Guy still supports youngest in his activities and accepts that this is what the relationship will be for a couple more years.

    Life is what you make of it (one of my favorite lines from Silverado).
    Post divorce– the kids and I started special activities. I joined several email lists related to discount theater tickets. We spent 2 years visiting small community theaters watching murder mysteries. I found another show this summer, and the three of us are going when eldest is back from college.
    I took weekend trips with kids to state/natl parks in our state. My youngest liked to watch Murder She Wrote with me, so we took a trip to the town when the show was filmed for the first couple of years.

    I joined two Meetups groups so I could get some adult time– one for hiking, another for a foreign language that I speak but never get to practice.

    No, life will not be the same, but it shouldn’t be.
    I know it sucks, but it does take time– therapy, self love, activities to keep you busy and your brain occupied.
    Good luck, and check in for support

  • I’m sorry for all that your going through, I have been a SAHM for many years , and I’m worried about taking care of myself, as u are , but if your married 10 years everything should be split , the state I live in frowns on adultery , it is a no fault state but I could have him arrested if wanted to , But that’s not what I want but can use that knowledge hopefully to get what I need , my husband is in a Just friends relationship where he says there just friends , but I think that stopped when he spent a weekend with her and now made the slip of telling me he has feelings for her He can make it really hard on me , But I’m at the point in my life I don’t care What he does anymore he doesn’t have anything to threaten me with He cheated we know it , I’m in the middle of getting a separation for now , Then a Divorce The thing I can’t figurer out is why would he think if it didn’t work out with the OW that he could come back and take up where he left off with me . One day at a time One thing that’s really helped me out, well two things Is CL and her book , which I have read many times , Stay around and read get the hope and knowledge u will need Good luck to us all

  • Does it get better? Hell yes. YOU will meet a person you haven’t seen in years, YOU. Resourceful, hopeful and ready to rock the world. Heal yourself. Make yourself a priority. Go no contact as much as possible with the Hologram. he’s a waste of space.

    I made it, even though financially I wasn’t always sure, but doing great. Have my own home, cut the cable, cheap cell service, no eating out, drove my 14 year old minivan while ex upgraded to a Lexus plus the other two cars of our he took.

    I am 5 years out. Got a new Highlander last year. Starting to travel. Solared my house.

    I took the dogs, glad I did.

    Pray daily. Learn to meditate.

    Don’t be too proud to reach out to friends and co workers. Alot of chumps out there who don’t talk about it. Lots of good people in the world who help. Reach out. Ask for help.

    YOu got this. Sending hugs and love.

  • “ You didn’t “make Daddy leave.” Daddy chose to betray you. The divorce is a consequence of daddy’s choices.” That’s the truth! I met a woman whose husband was abusive. Especially after he got caught and was escorted out of the house. He broke the protective order twice and wound up in jail twice. My friend always got mad when people said “you put him in jail?” She answered “no, he put himself in jail. He knowingly violated the protective order. He did that to himself.”

    • Just listened to “Fresh Air” on National Propaganda Radio here in the States and Terry’s interview of two guests, the author of “No Visible Bruises” as well as the director of a domestic violence shelter in Massachusetts. The director’s stepmother of 38 (!) years never talked about her own history of d.v. in her first marriage and childhood;she felt such shame.

      Tell your stories chumps and put the blame back where it belongs-on the abuser.

  • “But better than what I thought I had? ”

    That’s kind of the point: What you thought you had wasn’t, in fact, what you had. So you could find this out and start the rough road to recovery now, or you could start it two, five, ten years down the road when it inevitably came to light except that you were even older and more entrenched than you were at this point.

    Side note: Your kids need help. And they need a good hard talking-to. They are apparently old enough to have an adult-ish grasp of this, so if you’ve been holding out in the hopes it won’t torpedo their relationship with your almost-ex . . . don’t be vindictive but do be clear.

  • For anyone feeling like the letter writer (Kristen)…
    I’ll relay the short version of my own journey on this. It’s the choice between two “crap sandwiches” (substitute a different word for “crap” if you like).
    I used to just get so angry about how unfair all this was. “This isn’t what I signed up for.” “I was a good husband and father all along, and now I’m paying the price for her horrible character.”
    Like Kristen, I wondered if I could get back to “where I was before.” It was a good day when I realized that wasn’t the right way to think of it.
    On the one hand, I could stay apart from my serial cheater, have far less money, get less than half my retirement savings, see my kids part time, sell my big home. That was a crap sandwich, for sure. But I’d have the self-respect of not having to live with a cheater. I wouldn’t stay up at night wondering what the truth was about where she’d been or who she was with.
    On the other hand, I could take her back, and live with the horror of being married to a cheater. That was also a crap sandwich, and a much bigger one.
    So, I could either have a crap sandwich, or a bigger crap sandwich. Crap sandwiches were the only thing on the menu. So, I chose to eat the smaller one.

    I will add that things DO get better. After a few months out, you realize how much more important living with a cheater is to ANY material qualities. Plus, you learn to handle the other things that go with single parenting better.

    • Thanks. I’m staring at the exact same shit sandwich menu right now. Asking the waitress (cheater) what exactly is in each shit sandwich. I already know I need to get the divorce. The mechanics are so frightening and the stakes are so high though. It’s clear a shit sandwich needs to be eaten but man I’m not ready for it to get any worse before it gets better.

      • Whatever she takes in the divorce at least it will have some limit on it even if it still isn’t fair. If you don’t get a divorce there are no limits on what she can take from your wallet and your soul. Many have found that in spite of the huge financial hit they take during divorce, they end up ahead in the long run when the former spouse is no longer able to spend the income and assets they do manage to keep. Focus on what is most important to you. It sounds like that’s your daughter. You might have to trade $ to keep your daughter but it would likely be worth it in the long run. Don’t give up on keeping as much custody as you can. Be as involved as a father as you are able to be and document everything. These things could eventually tip things your way in that department. The break is going to cost you but what’s the price of freedom?

      • Chumpinrecovery is right. She will cost you more in the long run if you do not divorce her. Cheaters are self-indulgent with their spending as well as everything else. I used to wonder why we had no savings even though the cheater makes a good income. I found out it was because he was spending at least $10,000 a year just on dates with his bitch, toys for himself (electronic and computer stuff, bikes, bike gear), booze, boys trips with his buddies, and nights out with his buddies.
        Check your financials and you’ll probably find she has a pattern of self-indulgent spending.

        • Self indulgence indeed looks to be the root of this nightmare. Dare I say you have successfully untangled the skein?

  • Better. Better than what? Is my life now better than it was in the early years of my relationship with ex when I thought I had won the relationship lotto and was so lucky to have found him and married the best man ever? No. Is it better than the middle years of my marriage when things weren’t perfect all of the time but I thought we generally had a solid marriage and that he loved me and had my back and I was content? No. Is it better than the last few years of our marriage when he was devaluing me and I lived with constant criticism and feelings of inadequacy no matter how hard I tried to please him? Yes. Is it better than it would have been if he had chosen to come home and reconcile instead of running off with Schmoopie and I had spent the rest of my life pick me dancing in the hopes that he wouldn’t end up regretting that decision? Absolutely yes.

    I hate it every time I have to rewrite the ending of my life story. I had to do that three times in five years because of ex, once when he quit his high paying job (I guess we won’t retire early after all), once when he moved us half way across the country because he was homesick (sorry kids, you have to leave your best friends and life as you know it behind and there goes a big chunk of our savings to moving costs) and then again when he left me in favor of some skank who happened to be in the right place at the right time and willing to fuck somebody else’s husband and tear families apart. Well, now he is gone and I no longer have to rewrite the end of my life story because of his stupid choices. If I change the ending it will be because I want to change it. I now have more control over my life story and that is what makes it better.

    Well, ok, the kids could still make choices that impact my story, but historically they haven’t done that in negative ways, only positive ones.

    • Hi Kristin. My X was a model husband too!!! He went in on 14 mission trips with his men’s group. Wouldn’t miss a Thursday night men’s Bible study meeting and we also lead our Sunday school class when no one else wanted to do it!!! We both started traveling with our jobs, but I felt secure in our marriage that I wasn’t worried about infidelity!!! He started working out of town 3 weeks, then home for a week and I was also traveling in and out. Well, he hooked up with a married Skanky Lumberjack from Minnesota with 4 college age children!!! We have no children. Came home 4 months after our 25th wedding anniversary telling me he didn’t love me anymore and he wanted a divorce!!! I was heartbroken and devastated!!! Was so down that my friends and family were very worried about me. I was worried about me too!! A week later I filed for divorce!!! There IS life after divorce!!! It takes a lot of time to recover, but you can do it!!! As far as your kids are concerned, they’ll eventually see what a Scoundrel your X really is!!! God bless you!!!

  • Your life will be very difficult, you have to leave behind old beliefs and dreams. It sucks, you don’t deserve any of this, but it happens, bad shit happens to people all the time. You cannot change what happened, no amount of grieving, moping, drinking, sleeping, crying can CHANGE WHAT HAPPENED.
    You have the power to change what happens moving forward. Be upfront with your kids, your divorce is 100% the result of his behavior and actions, which he CHOSE to engage in without your knowledge or consent. End of conversation. Want to be mad at someone, kids? Direct your anger to the appropriate parent because we got a family to run here. Get you and your kids into counseling. Give them the gift of good coping strategies for when life doesn’t work out the way you expected it to, goodness knows their father didn’t have those skills. The world will not end because your son isn’t able to get right into the college of his dreams. I was in your shoes a few years ago. 50 ish, devastated, my 401K drained keeping us afloat while Mr. DownLow was off jaunting around with his affair partners. I get it. I left Mr. DownLow, took my minor daughter with me to a new state. I hustled 3 adjunct jobs until I got a permanent job with benefits. My oldest withdrew from college and worked for a year while taking classes at a local university before transferring to a less selective school as a pre law student and receiving a half scholarship. He graduates next year. My middle son failed two classes his Senior year, so I had him work for a year and enroll in community college for two years while working. Did he like it? Not at first, but he worked hard and got good grades, grew up a bit, realized that sticking to something pays off. He went to school for free because of my income level and Mr. DownLow wasn’t (and still isn’t) contributing anything to his support. He got into a 4 yr State school as a transfer student in computational mathematics, He wouldn’t have made it into that school or program right out of high school, plus he was awarded nearly a half scholarship. My daughter had self harm issues but has learned excellent coping skills. She belongs to a county wide improv troupe that delivers performances related to domestic abuse, date rape and suicide that was just won a state wide crisis intervention team award. She will graduate next month and received a promising young artists award from her college and a foundational grant that covers half her tuition. I finish up my teacher certification next week and I have a job I really like (that could pay me more, but, I’m covering my bills and we all have benefits). It has taken 4 years but we turned our life around and we are all making it. I am throwing a party at a local restaurant to celebrate graduations, transfers, and completions. Relatives from all sides are coming, and I will savor the victory alone, no credit to Mr. DownLow because I HAVE DONE IT, WE MADE IT. I hope he is miserable the entire weekend. If I can do it you can too. One day at a time.

  • I see this ran previously and hope Kristen is doing better now.
    As a long term chump, yes it was unfair, I was real putting all my time and energy and care. X wasn’t. New life is financially less comfortable, but much more peaceful. Kids rarely see Disney Dad so each day, day-by-day as sane parent doing the heavy lifting I get to help them grow into decent people, showing not telling how to adult, treat people, be resilient and to appreciate your blessings. Appreciating the things you have agency over helps and choosing to do things that make your heart sing. (Mine are things like walking in nice outdoor places, catching up and sharing laughter with friends and family, being kind to pets, getting getting fresh fruit and veges & reading…)

  • Kristen: When you ‘re in the midst of the post-infidelity tornado, all you can see is dust and swirling cows. Four years out, my perspective is different.

    Here is my week:
    -entire paycheck went to house repairs so I can finally sell the moneypit of a house I got in the divorce settlement
    -busiest week of the entire semester (I’m in education), so I am looking at 5 hours sleep a night
    -all 5 of my dogs have, shall we say, gastrointestinal issues. All 5. Cleanup on Aisle 10, and 11, and 15, and…
    -daughter got her license this morning. She is not driving on her own for more than 5 seconds–I mean it, 5 seconds, before she takes the wing-mirror off the truck of repair people who were parked in the drive.
    -I’m applying for a second job today to help defray college costs for said daughter

    Is post-divorce life better than being married to a cheating fuckwit? HELL, YES.

  • CL’s response is so spot on. When I was in a very low place after separation and feeling very sorry for myself, my sister had me make a list of all the things that were going bad and then mark the ones that I could personally improve or eliminate. It was the majority of the list. And for the ones I couldn’t actually stop (like the way the ex dealt with me), I could mitigate for quite a bit. I guess the point is that I was trapping myself into a jail cell made for me by my ex but for which I owned the keys. I just had to unlock the door and walk out. So I did.

    For the record, my list was not so dissimilar to the writer’s. I’m now 2 years from the lowest point…and I am thriving. Things are not perfect, there are several things that are still “bad”…but nevertheless, life is quite good. Hang in there ya’ll…with some hard work and life changes, the good life awaits!

    • Also, my sister had me make a gratitude list as well and everyday for a long while would ask me what I was grateful for that day. It was a pain at first and I would get grumpy about it. But once I started taking it seriously, the “gratitude list” changed my life. And when things go dark I immediately turn to gratitude to bring myself back to center. So if you’re stuck…try it! It’s worth a shot and costs you nothing.

  • Just so you know, being attractive is highly overrated. After my CE’s suicide, I did all the prettying stuff: Invisalign, lost weight, got thousands shot into my face. And then I got on those dating sites.

    I thought it was all about the quantity, the swipes, the cover. What I found is that it’s about the inside. The inside I have yet to fully heal. My inside is still broken. Another man isn’t fixing me.

    I think healing requires a lot of time being truthful to yourself and what you want. I actually thought your question was my question that I recently submitted because it’s so similar to what I’m feeling at 52.

    You’re going to have bad days. You’re going to have good days. Everyone struggles (even those cute fashion influencers on Instagram). My mom always said, “There’s no such thing as happily ever after, only happy moments.”

    What were your happy moments today? Gratitude journal that long bath, sleeping without someone peeping next to you, or that you woke up today and get to try again for your beautiful children.

    It’s interesting to me that I sometimes think my very best years were in my 30’s. Yet, I was dumb and blind. Now my eyes are wide (with Botox) and I see that con man miles away. These years too, as I meander through my 50’s, are enlightening, interesting, and different. Change is hard, but it’s okay that things change.

    If you ever decide to coexist with another man (although I wonder why I myself would choose that as I’m capable and competent in meeting my own needs) it’s going to be someone genuine and grown up, and understanding. Someone who wants to share a life, not someone who wants you to look or be a Barbie. He may be found with a swipe, but most likely will not be. That’s way down the line though after much work on yourself. (And then you may be so absolutely giddy by yourself because you can focus on what YOU want.)

    Be proud you’re doing this. I feel like we all deserve big awards for not choosing an outcome someone foisted upon us. It’s simply unfair but life isn’t fair. Your children are feeling the same trauma. With trauma, we spiral. But then we put one foot out and stop the spin. Every step we move further away from the garbage. Yes, sometimes we are lured backwards or taken into a dungeon, but we can escape. You can do it. I am doing it.

  • Spotify is a little taken aback at my sudden interest in sea shanties and its kissing cousin, classical accordion.

    Yes. It’s a thing.

    “Welcome to heaven, here’s your harp. Welcome to hell, here’s your accordion.”

    I’m not ready to sing at work, but I am humming along.

  • Thank you CL. Your advice is honest, down to earth and inspiring. Creating a new life is hard but what is the alternative? I am just over two years out and feeling much better. I am in control of my life and beginning to enjoy it more and more. I don’t want another relationship but am starting to enjoy being on my own and enjoying the company of friends. We are all Chumpy chumps but that doesn’t have to define us.

  • The problem in not telling your children what their dad is really like, they dont understand your feelings, you don’t have to tell them anything inappropriate. Their only getting his version. This time is stressful for your children, but don’t make that an excuse for there schoolwork.
    Ask the school if they could help with extra tuition or classes.
    Maybe therapy, if he worked hard if probably could catch up.
    Is he making this an excuse for his poor work, he could be depressed, but life goes on, unfortunately.
    He has you. His dad has shown what he’s really like.
    I wish you good luck

  • It really does get better.

    It really, really does.

    Even on 30% of his income, I have more money in my pocket than when we had 50% access to everything.

    Because I am frugal and he spent ridiculous amounts on gadgets, the latest hobby (must have the best) and toys.

    I know it seems that life is coming to an end, and I never believe people when they said life was better without him. Until I discovered for myself, it was. No more cruelty. No more disdain. No more walking on eggshells. No more anxiety. Increased self confidence. More friends. I had no idea how much he isolated me and discouraged friendships.

  • It absolutely gets better! No lie! Gets even better than it was before but it takes alot of work. Please don’t give up!

  • Honestly NO D day was 2 1/2 years ago now I’m Canadian and it hasn’t gotten any better. Very difficult to access any kind of help and my ex Narc just keeps attacking through “FAKE” profiles!😩

  • You have to fight for your life. You have to find things that can still bring you joy. If you’re lucky your ex won’t give you difficulty but they usually do. They don’t stop being liars and scammers just because you divorce them (which is what I’m learning now with XW).

    You will smile again. You will find some joy again. You must redesign your life and take control of it.

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you, Chump Lady! And, to the letter writer…it does slowly get better. I promise!

  • “…..You were married to a hologram. You thought you had a better life. That “security” was based on a lie. You miss the lie. Kristen, we’ve all missed the lie. And goddamn it, if reality isn’t there every morning smacking you in the face when you wake up….”

    All of this!!!!

    Kristen,
    I hope you have read everyone’s posts and comments and find encouragement and hope for your future.

    Everything everyone here has said is so true: IT DOES GET BETTER.

    The process if grief is hard, but it is just that: a process. You got through it and find out that it was worth it.

    I’m four years out this month. The first year is the hardest, by far.
    Take comfort that we are all here and have been where you are, or right with you walking through with you as their process has just begun.
    You are mightier than you know.
    Find your people. Reach out for help. Pray, sleep, nurture your kids. Find a counselor or therapist. Fight for everything you are entitled to.
    One if the biggest quotes that got me through the hard times is from The Shawshank Redemption:
    Andy Dufrene, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.
    ♥️🙏♥️🙏♥️

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