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Devastating Writing on Making Your Needs Small

Narcissist GoldfishWhoever this writer CJ Hauser is, she’s done an absolutely magnificent job of describing the chump condition. Go read her. Go buy her book.

A reader sent me Hauser’s recent essay in the Paris ReviewThe Crane Wife. It begins as Hauser has just canceled her wedding and goes ahead days later with a planned birdwatching trip.

The essay skips between whooping cranes and what brought her to this point — not how she left a cheater, but how she tolerated one.

In the year leading up to calling off my wedding, I often cried or yelled or reasoned or pleaded with my fiancé to tell me that he loved me. To be nice to me. To notice things about how I was living.

One particular time, I had put on a favorite red dress for a wedding. I exploded from the bathroom to show him. He stared at his phone. I wanted him to tell me I looked nice, so I shimmied and squeezed his shoulders and said, “You look nice! Tell me I look nice!” He said, “I told you that you looked nice when you wore that dress last summer. It’s reasonable to assume I still think you look nice in it now.”

The devaluing. The corrosive little acts of surrender. The bargaining. She gets it — and she’s got the guts to describe it.

What I learned to do, in my relationship with my fiancé, was to survive on less. At what should have been the breaking point but wasn’t, I learned that he had cheated on me. The woman he’d been sleeping with was a friend of his I’d initially wanted to be friends with, too, but who did not seem to like me, and who he’d gaslit me into being jealous of, and then gaslit me into feeling crazy for being jealous of.

The full course of the gaslighting took a year, so by the time I truly found out what had happened, the infidelity was already a year in the past.

It was new news to me but old news to my fiancé.

Logically, he said, it doesn’t matter anymore.

It had happened a year ago. Why was I getting worked up over ancient history?

I did the mental gymnastics required.

I convinced myself that I was a logical woman who could consider this information about having been cheated on, about his not wearing a condom, and I could separate it from the current reality of our life together.

Why did I need to know that we’d been monogamous? Why did I need to have and discuss inconvenient feelings about this ancient history?

I would not be a woman who needed these things, I decided.

I would need less. And less.

I got very good at this.

And that’s the humiliating part. Worse than the cheating, even before you know about that — what you tolerated to have a fuckwit in your life. Believing somehow you’ve no right to ask for more.

Hauser nails how by trying to not be needy, it results in the worst sort of neediness — keeping an abusive partner.

Even now I hear the words as shameful: Thirsty. Needy. The worst things a woman can be. Some days I still tell myself to take what is offered, because if it isn’t enough, it is I who wants too much. I am ashamed to be writing about this instead of writing about the whooping cranes, or literal famines, or any of the truer needs of the world.

But what I want to tell you is that I left my fiancé when it was almost too late. And I tell people the story of being cheated on because that story is simple. People know how it goes. But it’s harder to tell the story of how I convinced myself I didn’t need what was necessary to survive. How I convinced myself it was my lack of needs that made me worthy of love.

I can only wonder where Hauser’s ex is today, as she publishes in the Paris Review. As her new book, Family of Origin is a #1 best seller on Amazon. Is he offloading a hundred monogrammed cocktail napkins? Recycling his shitty engagement ring on his next victim? Swanning about with loads of unquestioned entitlement?

Chumps — see what happens when you know your worth?

Leave a cheater, gain a life. And maybe some literary awards.

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  • “I would need less. And less. I got very good at this.”

    Yup that was me. Thought it made me a great woman & mother to not need help from my spouse. Nope it made me feel lonely & tired. My needs were made smaller & smaller by ME! This is what I still have to come to grips with…that I accepted less & less! I still have a lot of work to do on me. 25 yrs of being around fuckedupness caused a lot of emotional & mental damage. The woman in the article was very brave to run before it got even worse.
    I learned to be brave later in life and it was a hard lesson learned. Having needs isn’t being “needy”. It is being human. Humans have needs.
    My needs are respect, honesty, reciprocity & monogamy if you can’t measure up GTFO.
    And he did…

    • Me too! The more I gave, the more she took. In hindsight, it seems I was little more than a resource for her selfish exploitation, and I allowed it. I acquiesced to her constant need while settling for less and less on my part. Over 17 years, I invested heavily in someone who, conversely, was not invested in me. And I allowed it, I enabled. Codependency is a bitch. I think that’s the reason the discard hurt to so much…and still haunts me 18 mos out.
      She’s to blame, in part, but ultimately it’s my fault. Because I allowed it.
      Lesson learned…the hard way.

      • While I acknowledge there are things I should have done – I do not think it “was ultimately my fault”. I should have paid closer attention and I should have stood up for myself more but if someone lies to you and starts to devalue little by little it is hard to see. Now people are coming out of the woodwork to speak about red flags; however, almost everyone agrees that this started about 6-7 years ago. Perhaps it is just when he started to show his real self but the man I married had flaws but he treated me decently. The man I am divorcing turned into someone who treated me like a pos. All I know is my son told me he had seriously thought about changing his last name as he no longer respects the name – speaks volumes. Blaming myself will do nothing for me – do I need to learns some lessons from it – I have and am (and they are the most painful, expensive lessons ever). My world has changed in every way and I am working on “gaining a life”.

      • Well said, Captain! I have felt the same way, especially about my last partner.

  • Like the contortionist at a circus, who fits his body into the small plexiglass box, you convince yourself that you need less and less. Attention, reciprocation and eventually space and air. Most of us doing this while juggling everything else, intensifying our “usefulness” like a tiger trainer, pirouetting on the back of a galloping horse – let’s not forget the trapeze act where you expect to be caught once you let go.
    Today’s Master Yoda; “Monkeys, I own them not. Circus, this is not mine.”

    • And THAT particular manipulator, that pathological liar, that victimizer, is like a tick hanging from a tree waiting for a deer to walk underneath, only to drop to its back at the perfect moment. That particularly toxic cheater has been patiently waiting for a mark, the person who has learned or can be taught to make their needs less, “for the children’s sake,” or “because after all marriage is built on compromise.”

      But maybe those of us who were chumped in that way, maybe it was something in our lives, maybe a childhood loss that made us especially fragile and the most delicious blood-feast for that tick. That tick that knows to lie and wait for the right host.

      • In my experience, the advice was “you have to choose your battles.”

      • Honestly I think many of us were taught this behavior as children, not to have needs, that compromise is always us giving in, that its better acquiesce than to fight about anything. Look back at how you were raised and what was asked of you and what was modeled.

        • That’s what happens in alcoholic and other dysfunctional homes, where kids are taught to lie and deny reality and that their job is to serve the parents’ need for image management.

          • Yes. When I was growing up, my alcoholic mom sacrificed all for image management. Nice house, boat, parties for themselves even if I didnt go to the dentist or get a haircut or have socks. One of the reasons I stayed with the Cheater is that for almost any day, life with him was still better than if I had ever gone back to my parents. By the time I realized how bad he was, I had 3 kids and worked nights as a nurse and never got past the fear of not knowing what to do.

            • “even if I didnt go to the dentist or get a haircut or have socks. ”

              Yup. Me too.

        • One word:


          My friends, my family, CL, CN and Al-Anon are saving my ass right now.

          The ‘ism’ in alcoholism is narcissism….Not drinking isn’t a cure for the ‘ism’ – its called ‘dry drunk’ kinda like covert narcissism – you have no idea what you are dealing with. Sobriety is
          is different; a world of difference between the two.

          To very loosely translate into CN speak with a horrible analogy; please forgive me those of you who are natural wordsmiths:

          A wet drunk or drug addict is like an overt/ malevolent narcissist
          A dry drunk is like a covert narcissist. (They can be overt too but the behavior isn’t as obvious.)

          • Thank you so much for this. I was told by our MC that Ex was a dry drunk. That was new to me confusing.

          • Oh my gosh elderly chump. My first husband was an alcoholic. The second a nracissist. At least poor alcoholic hit bottom and made rehab. He was so charming and beautiful and we were young. But the marriage did not survive. 10 years later i thought all the al anon i’d been through that i was “cured”. 20 years later and i finally understood why the wonderful second spouse ( who did not drink) manifested ALL the behaviours of the alcoholic plus a level of malevolence … phew. I was Not Co- dependent. I was independent. But i had learned how to cope with very strange behaviour. I was very accomodating having learned how not to take anyone else’ s inventory!!! I was so open minded my brains fell out!it has been a HUGE education for me. An alcoholic can get sober. A narcissist cannot. I wonder how many of us have had both experiences. Because i think addictions counsellors and shrinks ought to want to know how these behaviours manifest. Thanks for your honesty and insights.

            • I was ‘open minded’ too:)

              It is amazing how many people start out in Al-Anon and then leave thinking they are ‘over it’ and then come back in. The rooms are full of us. I too was ignorant and used inventory against myself – looking at my behavior and overlooking the X’s – Live and Let Live at its worst.

              I now am listening with new ears and see my interpretation was my fault. What I hear now is the loving stuff for us – not the recrimination. My take on working the steps has done a 180. I am experiencing that the scope of Al-anon is much larger that I had previously imagined.

              Drinking, drugs and sex issues abound. Knowing which you are dealing with makes a world of difference.

              Dealing with betrayal is very different from alcoholism because we are not co-dependent – ie we did not enable the behavior – or at least I did not because I didn’t know my X was cheating all of those years/decades vs someone who is living with active alcoholism and is enabling the drinking behavior by making excuses etc. for the alcoholic.

              In my opinion councilors that try to treat betrayed spouses like we are codependent are way off base. A distinction that I think is often overlooked and puts betrayed spouses at risk of more abuse and blame that belongs on the cheaters shoulders alone. I have heard countless stories of people going to counseling with their spouses who charm the unsuspecting therapists into believing that they are justified in their dalliances because of their spouses ‘short comings’. Therapists in the know treat us for PTSD.

              I ran into this thinking when doing the pick-me dance /RIC tactics. Once I finally found CL and CN my life and what had happened to me began to make so much more sense. The Etch-A-Sketch mind tangle in my brain is finally beginning to unravel itself and I have space/detachment from the blame I carried around unconsciously.

              Tracy is a lone voice ‘out there’ in terms of making the distinction of what cheating is truly about and is a remarkable voice for us chumps. I know others are speaking out too but I have found that she is the most comprehensive. Her blog provides a wealth of information not only from her personal experience but from those who post here as well.

              Thanks for your comment.

              • Thanks for continuing this conversation.I too am an “elederly” chump (63).
                I’ve recently returned to Al-Anon and currently reading “Beyond Addiction” because I currently am in yet ANOTHER family program as my dear son (of the NARCISSIST- and not the alcoholic!) is in an addictions program (he’s 24). A few months ago I was so very dismayed. At first.
                So, yeah- the culture as a whole, and the family culture when there’s narcissism and betrayal (and I include here the narcissism involved in having a primary realtionship with booze or drugs ) means children are awash in crazy self-harming junk. As much as I put the 12 steps to work in my own life, once again, I start to see everything quite differently than 35 years ago when I was in the program the last time!!! And I was in it for about 10 years. Which is why I thought I’d won the lottery when I ended up with a charming guy who didn’t drink!! Then 5 years later found myself going back to Al-Anon because I thought maybe he was a work addict. I could not for the life of me understand what the heck was going on. My support, and his successes brought the same selfish self-involved hubristic behaviours as an addict without a conscience- but no boze or drugs.
                It was another ten years before I read about a marriage breaking up due to narcissitic personality disorder. My heart was beating out of my chest. Finally I had a clue- in fact a big freaking two-by-four slam to the back of my poor little chumpy non-judgey brain.

                Anyhow- then Melanie Tonia Evans, Then chumplady. Phew. I feel SO lucky to finally be able to see and to know that I Am MIGHTY. We chumps are MIGHTY.
                What a wild ride. To enlightenment…? Not a sure thing, but I sure feel more enlightened!! ha-ha
                The struggle has been horrible. But knowing there is clarity and life on this side of it is immense.
                Thank you Elderly for your wisdom. ps. my son is doing fine!

              • Chumped Change – again no reply box beneath you…
                coincidence????? My 29 year old is in a hot mess right now – shows all the signs of anger/control/silent treatment and is living at home so I am on my knees and doing the first 3 steps and serenity prayer constantly. It sucks big time….its life and I am practicing gratitude too fake it until you make it:)

              • Hello again elderlychump. I’m sorry to hear your son is under the influence.
                I’m in Canada, and when an addict seeks help him or herself- there is lots of assistance through the national health.
                So I am in a family program as well as Al-Anon.
                In case you haven’t seen these resources- I have found them very helpful.
                Also Russell Brand is very cool

                I don’t know why there’s no REPLY box- maybe because I’ve been using my phone?
                I’ll be thinking of you

              • Still not reply box…

                .I put in a request at my library for the books….Mine has already done tx a few years ago and what I am experiencing is the ‘ism’….i.e. dry drunk episodes.

                Thanks for the links. I always like finding new sources and new approaches or ways to define behavior.

    • Ohhh. The truth! The pain.. the eventual hope!
      I would rather be a chump in truth than a liar with no where left to go!x

    • Contortionists – this reminds me of a picture I drew called “she bends over backwards” It was me, with my head to my knees (the back of my knees) holding a tray of food and drinks for this guy. He had two eyes, one on me and one going in the entirely opposite direction. I’m so glad I’m not doing that any more. For him, or anyone.

    • I was very good at the being the small-need contortionist in the plexiglass box doing all the adulting while the ex got all his needs met…paying no bills, sleeping around, spending money on multiple addictions and doing no chores.

      However, it turns out, this was a good exercise for me because once I kicked him to the curb and went no contact, I realized how strong and capable I am. There are days I feel like a crane. Those are the days, I spread my wings and fly.

      • Sisu- this is how I experienced post marriage with my f******. Life didn’t change because I had always done everything- I had planned all the vacations, the weekend events with the family, most of the meals and most of the cleaning -whatever was needed I took care of it. so when he left there was a hole in my heart but there wasn’t a hole in things getting done. My sons have commented on on this -that Life didn’t really didn’t change much except the we felt really badly about how we were treated. hug

    • Click the link in this article that leads to Hausser’s story in the Paris Review “The Crane Wife” Her story has parallels to this ancient Japanese folktale. It is a beautiful heartfelt story that will help you understand deeply what being a chump is. The Crane Wife pulls out all her feathers for her husband. The Crane Wife is a Chump. This story is eloquent in describing this. Thank you Chump Lady for this story link. It is enlightening. This is because old habits die hard. I am a chump, I now know I’m a chump, I desire to change because I’m not happy pulling all my feathers out.

  • “The first thing Jeff said was, “We’ll head back to camp, but I hope you don’t mind we run by the liquor store first.” I felt more optimistic about my suitability for science.”

    We are released annually to go to SFN. We do our best to drink a town dry, schmooze, check out research, drink, schmooze, discuss papers, get the skinny on what lab you do/don’t want to work with, drink and argue.

    If more kids knew how much cursing goes on in science, they would be more interested in doing it!

    Her book is now on my wish list. Thank you for the recommendation.

    This resonates with me,

    “He said he wanted to be with me because I wasn’t annoying or needy. Because I liked beer. Because I was low-maintenance.

    I didn’t say anything. A little further down the road he added that he thought I’d make a good mother.”

    • Low maintenance. My ex essentially said this, by comparing me to women who were “high maintenance.”

      I’ve known for a long time that I was required to be less than I was, that that was what was expected of me. I was perfect prey because I met him 2 years after ending my first and very physically abusive marriage. I was SO ready to literally POUR my love and affection on someone… and there he was.

      God, I hate that asshole.

      • Exactly. Any evaluative description of another person as requiring a particular type of maintenance is an indicator that the speaker thinks other people are robots designed to serve him/her/them.

        That, my friends, is a big pile of crap with a red flag sticking out of the top of it.


      • Ditto. My ex frequently said he liked that I was “low maintenance.” I thought it was a compliment at the time. I cringe at the thought. He left for an extremely “high maintenance” co-worker.

          • I was ‘a cheap date’.
            He loved to tell everyone that.
            Because, well, I am / was.

            Now I treat myself pretty darn good going out.

        • I got this, too. He was good at ripping on high maintenance women. He would tell stories about the crap other men had to put up with. Just his way of letting me know I should nit be that way. In general, I am pretty low maintenance but after his comments, I tried to be more so to keep him happy. Makes me a little sick remembering…

          The really messed up part was how after he left, he claimed that I didn’t put enough in and how he didn’t feel needed. For years he told me to not be needy or take too much time, then he uses it as a reason he left.

          • Exactly, exactly. My ex used to tell people we met that I was low maintenance and I used to wear this compliment with pride. Over the years, I sacrificed more and more of myself to keep him approval as low maintenance, making myself opaque then as invisible as possible, then he started accusing me of being too needy. And all along, unbeknownst to me, he was having affairs with the high maintenance women his criticised. Thank goodness that life is over for me. And now I am working hard to learn and live that it is okay to have needs, and people will (I hope) love me anyway.

        • Same. My ex said he liked that I was low maintenance and could handle all the house and kid stuff solo while he worked long hours and traveled over half the time. Now he’s married to the howorker who, according to my younger son “gets really anxious when she has to spend more than a couple hours alone with the baby, “requires a lot of resources,” and “is really pretty needy.” To be fair, if I had my 4th child at 51 I’d probably be wiped after a couple hours of solo child care too. ????

          • I certainly don’t know the ‘new’ wife, but that appears to be a baby made to lock the cheater in, and of course the cheater is too high and mighty to help with the child! I hope the baby can get some therapy later on, he/she will probably need it.

    • The equivalent for me was him always praising me for my “resilience”.

      That would be because, as he actually put it, he knocked me down over and over again and I just got back up and dusted myself off and kept going. Oh, and forgave him of course! And made myself tinier … and tinier … and tinier … (maybe I thought a lower centre of gravity would keep me form being knocked down??)

      Two weeks after making a (surprising, because actually nice) speech at my 50th, commenting on being “the most resilient person I’ve ever known,” (which did strike me a odd), he made the late-night phone call to tell me of a decade of hookers and gay clubs.

      And was genuinely shocked how badly that turned out! Ah, it is SO GOOD to have stopped making myself tiny and to be making myself mightier by the month. Two years now.

  • I once made a comment to my now boyfriend about my cheating ex. “He wasn’t a bad husband other than the cheating, he never hit me or anything.” His response, ” So is that the bar? Your expectations were so low.” And he was right, at least he never hit me; I needed so little to stay.

    • I used to think that my Cheater figured that he was a “good enough” husband because he did not cheat or hit me. I later learned that he did cheat and during the worst discard, he told me “you deserve to be beaten” (in addition to the random reminders that he could snap my neck in an instant…at times, he was holding me in a neck hold at the time).

      and I still didnt realize that he sucked.

      My needs were very very small

      • WTF, you deserve to be beaten. What a POS. I recall some arguments with my X, We were arguing about money or something. He made a comment that of I would ever take his money or screw him out of his share he would have me offed. At that time I did not see what kind of person he really was.
        Yes, t these idiots our needs are very small.

      • Low expectations? In hindsight, I had NO expectations and took whatever he threw my way. I remember us attending a function with my co workers and my telling him to “act like he loved me”! Imagine me having to ask?

        • My bar was even lower…functions that were related to me or the children – I went alone.

          Bar got even lower….. I made excuses for him. ‘He has to work.’

          Lower still, I believed my own lies and felt honored that he let me go on my own with the kids.

          And finally after DDay #1 I am beneath ground by this time but, in true chump fashion, I kept right on going by telling him how his behavior had effected me over the years in a way I had been totally unconscious about. I was owning my part and not blaming him yet afterwards he melted into a puddle of self-pity, ‘you make me sound like an awful person’. No “gosh I am sorry. I never knew my actions effected you so much.” Just self pity and naturally, good chump that I was, I proceeded to comfort him.

          No wonder that I am struggling with acknowledging that I do indeed have feelings, needs and am worthy and allowed to have boundaries that don’t get stomped on, decimated or simply ignored.

          I thought I was noble and that there was going to be a special place in Heaven for me due to my Loooooong suffering. 3 decades worth. 🙂

          • Oh, this is me. This is me so much. I went solo to every event “we” were invited to for 13 years.

            He’d always say, “I’ll stay home with our son”. So I’d feel guilty the whole time I was out and inevitably come home early.

            He used that time to put my kid in front of the TV and juggle all his whores.

            I completely relate to your struggles. I beat myself up daily.

            • Phoenix Flame,

              Bar: The children always came with me everywhere I went ( I homeschooled all of them)…..For over 20 years he NEVER stayed at home alone with them except when I was in hospital for surgery.

              Lower bar: If he ever took a child with him – he took only one at a time so I always was home with someone.

              He also parked mine in front of the TV back in the days when I was able to go out.

              God only knows what he was doing while they were watching. I know one of mine told me that while on a trip together he frequently stayed back in the hotel room on his computer rather than exploring with her. Now I shudder wondering what he was doing. Luckily she was out of his presence.

              This stuff is so dark.

              I am so relieved that I didn’t know what he was up to all of those years or my life would have been a nightmare. Now, I am only relived that he is gone and that our children are gone so that I am not forced to communicate with him.

              Still the pain of betrayal and the loss of the person I thought he was so the emotions that come along with this stuff are very confusing to deal with. I never know what will hit me from one day to the next. Lately is has been anger.

              Love learning stuff here so I know his cheating had nothing to do with me and I have learned that ‘they suck’!

      • Unicorn, I heard the same words that “I deserve to be beaten” as he grabbed my neck then let me go saying “I wasn’t worth it”. I almost forgot to mention, this was after calling me a stupid, ugly, fucking bitch.
        Sadly, I excused him, I accepted his behavior, in my mind thinking he had just come back from visiting his sick mother and my asking how she was doing upset him. I accepted his behavior as “normal” when clearly it isn’t. I didn’t want to complain or be difficult, I would show him that I was an understanding wife without needs or deserving of respect.
        Thinking back, I couldn’t get through to him on his phone while he was at his “Mothers,” he said it was bad service where she lived. Never had trouble reaching him prior to this visit. I don’t believe he was visiting his Mother that weekend.

        • The fact that anyone would every suggest that anyone “deserves to be beaten” is deplorable. Saying it to someone inquiring about the health of his mother after he was really screwing with his whore all weekend is beyond sick and twisted.

          • That is just awful, Brit.

            I heard the comment in the time of the big discard when he was trying to get me to throw him out so that he could go on about his life without having to take accountability for his decisions. He was not willing to publicly be “that guy who left his wife for another woman” so he was a horrible cruel ass-bastard at home where no one else could hear or see him. He tried EVERYTHING to get me to throw him out, but I just refused.

            My story is so very strange. I was decent and kind to him to his very last breath.

    • With my first husband, mine was, “ He didn’t hit MY kids.” He’d lost custody of his 10 year old son when I was preggo with my 3rd, when he assaulted the boy in front of me. I was seriously that fucked up.

    • Yup. Mine was never physically abusive so I had nothing to complain about. Wasn’t I lucky.

    • This might sound really messed up, but I used to wish mine actually would hit me. At least then I’d have bruises and physical evidence of the abuse. He used to say “Lesser men would have left you by now” as I struggled with an eating disorder and my weight to cope with his mind-fucking ways.

      • I used to pray my ex wouls hit me, too. It would have been some kind of contact. He trained me using shaming tactics and humilation tp stop trying to initiate intimacy of any kind, emotional or physical. No kisses, no holding hands, no cuddling on the couch. (I was not allowed to sit on the same couch as him.) Definitely no sex.
        In the end I was reduced to begging for the occasional hug, grudgingly given, while he rolled his eyes and sighed with contempt. Yet he is an adulterer: I don’t know what he likes or does sexually, because he was doing none of it with me, his wife. For thirteen years.

        • You know…. i think this is pretty common …it is its own kind of mindgame …its done to undermine us i think ….but i d love to see a larger discussion on this

  • This hurt reading. She described perfectly what is so hard to explain and even harder to admit. It is not just their devaluing of you. It is even more the devaluing you did of yourself.

    • I still wake up occasionally thinking about how little I valued myself. I was so busy trying to make him value me, that my own value disappeared. I went out on the town with some people I barely knew, about a month after the discard. I got fairly pissed and text him repeatedly when I got home. I woke up the next morning and it finally dawned on me how he was probably loving how distraught I was. I text him to go fuck himself and blocked him everywhere. It was like I had stood on the first rung of the self respect ladder. All the things I did when I had no self respect used to make me cringe, but not anymore. They taught me a huge lesson, which I needed to learn. Sometimes only the hard way will do.

    • Yes, that’s exactly how I felt reading it, very sad for how I treated myself.

    • Exactly, how we devalue ourselves. I used to think about it as chewing off a limb, like an animal caught in a trap. I didn’t need that limb (self-esteem, boundaries, needs), they just got in the way.

  • What a thoughtful and well-written article! How accurately she portrays the devaluing and minimizing behavior of cheaters. I will definitely be purchasing her book.

    • I learned to have no needs at all and was just grateful for anything I was given. My mother would give me things. “You want this if not I am just going to throw it in the garbage.” She would say. She beat me because I “deserved it.” my father beat me because he” loved” me. I learned to accept garbage because I was garbage and love is supposed to hurt. It has taken me 49 years to figure out that is not true. I just realized that just now. Funny how those lightbulbs just suddenly come on light a stadium at a night game.

      • We are each one of us unique and perfect in our own way. I’m so sorry your dysfunctional parents hurt you! They had no right to violate you. Maybe they loved you, too. I had a confusing ‘upbringing’ like that. More like raised myself!
        It’s a opportunity to practice letting go, which is a valuable life skill. I try to grow, I don’t want to feel the same as my younger self, that was pretty lonely and painful! I heard once- If you’re the same person at 50, as you were at 20, you’ve wasted 30 years! It is too simplistic, but there’s a truth in there.
        Nobody2you, I’m glad you’re in this world, and you make it more beautiful!

      • It is appalling what people can do to other people! I´m so glad you survived and thrived. Your post made me cry. Please watch this moving post I just found yesterday. Stay strong and know your worth!

  • My dearly-departed MIL and I were talking over coffee. I complained about something that he hadn’t done and she nicely chided me saying that some people do the best they can. Instantly I felt horrible. Of course, he was doing the best he could. What an awful and inconsiderate wife I was to be so demanding! That event set up a marriage filled with keeping my expectations low. I learned to never ask too much because, well, he was doing the best he could. I did more and more and expected less and less. Looking back, I suspect my MIL knew exactly who he was.

    Me? He set me free and yes, I’m going birding in Costa Rica in October. But the best part, my bucket list trip to the Galápagos Islands in 2 weeks from today. Trips that would have been possible because my wishes were never important.

      • Miss Bailey
        Please post about your trip to the Galapagos! That’s on my bucket list. Travel has been the best side effect of my divorce

    • “I suspect my MIL knew exactly who he was”. Yes, she did, because she helped to create him into the shallow, vacuous monster that he was!!!! Take her words with a grain of salt . . . my ex MIL used to layer all kinds of bullshit on me, all to exert control and keep me in the abusive relationship with her son. This is the same woman that invited the OW over 2 days after he walked out on his children and I.

  • Well that essay struck a chord. A chord I’m guilty of.

    I feel a bit guilty on how I knew this and did nothing about it, like a dead fish going with the flow.


  • The biggest trap was wanting to be the “cool girl,” the one who didn’t put pressure on him. “I can take care of myself. I don’t NEED anything from you. I just want you.” And then to have him turn around during wreckonciliation and say “But you never let me take care of you!” So, yeah, you can’t win. If you want anything, it’s too much. If you don’t, it’s too little. They are determined to be unsatisfied, and it’s your job to be the source of that dissatisfaction. Until it’s not.

    • Perfect summation” They are determined to be unsatisfied, and it’s your job to be the source of that dissatisfaction” . This essay is a keeper because it speaks to the process we all go through as bit by bit we are devalued. Unfortunately, it is so gradual that it’s only later that we can look back at it and see it for what it was.

      • Yes exactly. It is hard to pick up on when it is happening because it starts as the occasional one off and then just gets worse and worse as you try harder and harder to please, always getting it wrong no matter how hard you try to behave based on past indicators that suddenly don’t seem to be valid anymore. You wonder if you just misunderstood or remembered wrong. “How could I have been so incompetent as to have misinterpreted that as the opposite of what he actually wanted” over and over again. You do the opposite next time and it’s still wrong.

        • It was somewhat freeing when I admitted to myself that my role in his life was to be wrong….about everything, every day. He wanted to be “right” so he needed a “wrong”. Everyt single thing was too this and not enough that. On a VERY rare occasion he would throw me a tiny kibble (normally when I had completed some HUGE task without him) setting me up for the next time I saw some huge thing I needed to do with no help.

          For me though, it has helped to stop the “but if I had only done ____” no…he would have found fault in THAT. Nothing would have been seen as right or good. Nothing.

          • Yes yes yes! He needs to be “good,” and I need to be “bad.” So no matter what he has done, there is a reason, and often, he makes that reason me.

    • I got this one! I always love it when the exact same words have come out of another mouth, maybe on the other side of the world….. I didn’t “need” him like she did. No, because I am a fully formed adult and she …. well ….

      • The sad fact of the matter is that some men “need to be needed.” Show too much capability and independence and they go find someone else to shower all their attention and other resources on.

        • After DDay mine said he hadn’t felt “needed”. The next day he accused me of being too “needy” and he had to do everything for me. When I asked him “when do you want to be needed and when do you not want to be needed” he didn’t have an answer.

          • They want us to need them in certain ways (mostly sexual, I would guess, or having to do with their own interests) and not in others (mostly logistical). Either way, it’s all about them.

          • At the moment, what I hate most about my ordeal of our 35 year marriage, is that I confused lessening my needs to almost nothing, with being a strong woman.

            It’s just the opposite, isn’t it?

            Face palm…

        • True… though then if you start acting like you need them they’ll cheat on you with a “cool girl” who’s perfected the act of pretending not to have needs.

          My partner was avoidant of me when I was patiently, politely persistent about needing him to do more in our relationship (emotional labor, sex, compliments, etc.). It stressed him out to be needed like that. I had to schedule some traveling for work, and I thought it would be good for us because it would give him some space and get me acting like my old independent self for a while. He couldn’t handle not being the center of attention while I was away, and cheated on me with the first random loser who complimented him. Maybe if I hadn’t gone out of town he wouldn’t have had an affair, but the relationship would have imploded anyway because he’s impossible to be in a relationship with.

          • Yes, even if you hadn’t gone out of town he would still be a person capable of cheating on you. His having the opportunity revealed that side of his character to you. Bullet dodged!

        • Not sure of that. If you ‘needed’ my ex he felt he had power over you and you would then turn a blind eye to his deviant acts toward others. If you didn’t need him you were an ‘alpha female ball buster’ and that was bad too. It’s a lose-lose situation with dysfunctional mates.

        • Yeah, no. Some people just need you to guess what they want, and then guess again when that totally changes.

          And whatever you are, that’s perfect for them when they are love bombing and infatuated. Then it’s the absolute worst, when they start to devalue and set you up for the discard.

    • That’s FUU. He flip-flops between “you were able to take care of yourself and did so” and “I want to be your hero and for you to need me sometimes!”

    • So much this! If I asked him to help, I was a pain, but by not deferring to his superior intellect, I wasn’t worshipping him enough.

      I also related to this: “I convinced myself it was my lack of needs that made me worthy of love.” My mother taught me to be invisible and that parlayed its way into the kind of wife I became.

    • yes this excerpt from “Gone Girl” is maybe the reason for the whole book. The cool girl … “Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them….. “

  • I used to think that my Cheater figured that he was a “good enough” husband because he did not cheat or hit me. I later learned that he did cheat and during the worst discard, he told me “you deserve to be beaten” (in addition to the random reminders that he could snap my neck in an instant…at times, he was holding me in a neck hold at the time).

    and I still didnt realize that he sucked.

    My needs were very very small

  • My computer in on massive drugs this morning, please excuse if this is a partial duplicate.

    I used to think that my Cheater figured that he was a “good enough” husband because he did not cheat or hit me. I later learned that he did cheat and during the worst discard, he told me “you deserve to be beaten” (in addition to the random reminders that he could snap my neck in an instant…at times, he was holding me in a neck hold at the time).

    I and I still didnt realize that he sucked.

    My needs were very very small

    The comment that I would make a good mother…yea, in the end, I knew he wanted to populate the world with little hims so he needed a gestator and it was me.

    I found this essay yesterday in the most unlikely place too

  • So good to know I am in such excellent company.

    Will get the book.

    I wonder if CJ had to hear her grown son tell her that “Dad can’t stand the sound of your voice, that’s why he’s been away for so long”.

    • My favorite thing about this piece was actually reading the commentary online about it. So many women sharing how they’d gone through the same thing. Many of them older women, widows and retirees who weathered the storm and stayed with their cheaters but say they’re determined to keep their daughters and granddaughters from making the same mistake.

  • What a well written article. She described the coldness of the cheater. It is a good thing she bailed before she married the ass. You can never win when it comes to a cheater. My ex refused to discuss his affair with skankella. He would roll his eyes and say”we already talked about this. Why do you got did dig up the past?” One comment he made was that he went away with her because he felt lonely and wanted someone to play pool with. I felt lonely, unloved and abused most of out marriage. And I did not choose to cheat.

    • While trying to understand what happened (no D-day) yet, I was trying to talk with the Dickhead as I was totally lost why he wanted a divorce or why he was acting like a stranger. I was full of questions and getting no answers. He said “we don’t need to go down memory lane”. Memory lane? I just wanted to know what happened. I didn’t realize that we couldn’t talk about anything that happened before today. Yep, it was all in past and no longer relevant. Damn him, it was still relevant to me but I didn’t count.

      • MIss Bailey,
        I can relate.
        I was a crumb snatcher in most of my relationships, especially the last one. I am appalled at me for what I tolerated over years.

      • Hi Miss Bailey

        That cold stare and his refusal to speak to me or answer questions was a colossal mind fuck. I still only know the tip of the iceberg and he told his teenagers he hadn’t wanted his “cookie cutter marriage” for 12 years. WTF – who does this? He basically told them he didn’t want the family life – what a dick. He thinks he is too good for all the responsibility. My kids know who has their back and who doesn’t.

        I wish he had been man enough to speak up and actually be honest – I would have started the divorce process much sooner. He used my time in the fog (as I stumbled around thinking I could “save” my 25 year marriage as I really didn’t know what was happening – he claimed to have just been texting a woman) to spend a lot more money and inflict more damage on the kids and I.

        My heart goes out to you Miss Bailey and everyone else here who has been lied to, stonewalled, gaslight, and emotionally abused (I would imagine this is most of CN).

        • Thank you Deee – big hugs to you too. Telling your children that stuff like that. Shame on him!!!! My stepkids are now 24 and 23. I know, with certainty, that Dickhead would tell a total stranger that he didn’t consent to having kids with his first wife. She tricked him, according to his tales of woe. For all these years, he’s used that to justify his bad actions and lack of action as a father and parent. He doesn’t care how it hurt his kids. I just realized (though many have told me) that I made him be a father, be a parent and show up. I made his ass look good as a supportive parent. I shiver to think of the alternative.

        • “I wish he had been man enough to speak up and actually be honest – I would have started the divorce process much sooner.”

          Yes, this…but he was such a coward.

          He tried to “postpone” our wedding 2 weeks before it was to take place claiming he was concerned that I had feelings for an old boyfriend. For reals he didnt want to get married and was too afraid of saying so.

        • Yes yes yes to being a coward for not speaking up. He wants out but wants cake. He wants a safe place. But does not want me. He wants the safe place so much that he avoids telling the truth. He has shut down conversations about the relationship from the start. And the truth is: I discovered a year ago, during a time of incredible emotional hostility from him for no apparent reason, that he has been looking regularly at gay porn and hookup sites. He then said he wanted to save the marriage. He said he had told me everything. Months later, I learned he had NOT told me everything, but he was angry with me for focusing on his past statements and suggesting these were a lie. And he pulled out his arsenal of how awful I am so I did not deserve to know, or I am too scary, or I do not care about him and he cannot trust me, etc. A coward for not telling me the real reasons he pushed me away for years, a coward for hiding the truth even when he said he wanted to save the relationship, a coward for suggesting it is my fault that he hid these things. Currently, I get the sense from the underthemes in what he says, that he is angry that I have not yet just ended the relationship. (Dear readers: I have to have a safe plan.) but he is a coward there too—he will not end the relationship and own his own desires, he tells me there is hope ( “is bi” he says), and meanwhile, behind the scenes, he is fed up with ME not being the kind of person who takes charge of her own happiness. Soon, sweetie. Soon.

  • My Ex’s favorite saying after doing something around the house in a half assed manner was “Well it is good enough for who it is for (ME)” If he was buying for him or doing something for him, cost and perfection was expected, but me…

    He told me once to explain his many affairs was that he was a Good enough husband who just wondered off the path a few times. Again Good enough for who it was for.

    I am 5 year past Dday as of yesterday, 4 years divorced and I have moved forward in so many ways but I hate that he is still there in my head explaining how I am too ugly to sleep with, crappy mother, harsh and critical. I know better but can not imagine what it would have been like to live 20 years with someone who thought I was beautiful. Can you imagine what that type of support and freedom would have been like for me and my sons.

    Last night my youngest son told me that he could not be completely himself with me because he was scared I would disappear too. He did not know what signs to look for, he did not see his father abandoning him coming so how would he know what to look for with me. My heart broke and I am lost on how to fix it for him. He was 15 when his father left and I thought I made him secure.

    Mine wanted me dead in the end like Unicornomore, I had made myself so small I was not even worth living in his eyes.

    • I’m so sorry about your son, do you think he would be open to counseling? maybe together even to help him feel more secure? These are the things I’m worried about in the future for my kids too.

      • for the first time he has agreed to counseling. I was so relived. They have not spoke with their father in 5 years, maybe it is time he does as an adult so he can see things from that perspective.

        • That is wonderful!! I’m sending you good thoughts and hugs!! You are so brave and strong!!

    • The Best Me–Thank you for your post. I hope that YOU can be the person who, for the next twenty years (or more) thinks that you are beautiful and amazing. Tell yourself that every day until you believe it–because you are.

  • Tiny, ( ity b i t y) needs! Both hands raised here.
    In the beginning, just after the pick me dance, I felt so grateful that he stayed, that we had our old life back, ( in a way comfortable to me anyway). To coast fairly happily along, but to come to a point years later when the actions I remember, the exact words I remember – that cut me to the core, but years later, it’s too late. Cheater says that was so long ago I didn’t say or do that, or he flatly denies. And, I am left with that famous Chumpy feeling of how the hell could he say those cutting words, ( so few, but feel like a billion) , how could he do that, for how long did he do that, what did she look like, what was her name, etc. etc.
    Little needs can never become big needs, well, I guess they can, to a Chump, but never never never to a cheater. To them they never excited in the first place, those pesky little needs of a Chump, ( that have the nerve to grow bigger), so how could they ever matter at any time later.

    Goldfish, I would like a green sweater!


    • Peacekeeper, mine “couldn’t remember” or openly denied stuff too. Must be chapter 3 of the cheater handbook!

      • ^^^Yes, yes it is: the chapter entitled “What’s Done Is Done, Time To Move On Already.” If I didn’t think that cheaters would actually consult such a handbook for their own nefarious purposes, I might find it useful to write it all down, as a resource for chumps. 🙁

        • Mine told me not to bring up things from the past that he did to upset me. However, he would bring up things I did that upset him. If it weren’t for double standards, my ex would have none!

    • yes, Peacekeeper. I became really frightened that he would command “our story” and my life/my feelings/ my perceptions would not even register in it. I would be completely “disappeared” as he re-wrote the history and the narrative. It became hugley important to me to have my voice heard. And felt. Because, very slowly my life was whittled down to nothing as his success and charisma grew. And I supported all his desires (actually he had more desires than I knew about). I was gold, and he mined it.

  • I remember, on more than one occasion, XH telling (really yelling at) me how “lucky” I was to have him as my husband. And I remember crying and saying “I know, I’m so lucky, I know”, trying to convince him that I really knew that. I think he wanted me to make my self so small that I would eventually disappear.

    After a year of having our life insurance policy, I remember him making a comment about how since we had the policy for a year, if either of us committed suicide, we would still get the pay out. It was more like he was talking to himself when he said it, and I remember thinking it was such a weird thing to say, but I think that was his original plan. Wear me down to that point and collect 1.6 million.

    This was the reason I had to put a lock on my bedroom door when he wouldn’t move out of the house.

    • I’ve been binge watching Forensic Files. I’m amazed at how many cheaters or other disordered people get large life insurance policies out on their spouses. Sometimes just a couple of month before they kill them!

      And yes, that’s a very creepy thing you XH said about still being able to collect even if there was a suicide. On the day my XH told me he wanted to divorce. He hid my FOUR tablets of prescribed sleeping pills and my antidepressants. He left me one pill. He said, “I hid all your pills so that you don’t kill yourself.” He then went onto emotionally and psychologically break me down for the next six months — lying, gaslighting, rewriting history — which all made me feel like I was going crazy. I have no doubt in my mind that he would have been happy if I killed myself. It would prove all the lies he was saying behind my back to his family, co-workers and whore.

      • Martha/Waiting – your exes are pure evil. Yes they knew what they were doing. I’m so glad you both got out! Hugs to you both!

      • Some of them are so scary how disordered they are. Scary how similar the situations are too!! They truly are evil. I’m so happy I have found this site and all of you here. Thank you!

    • Which is stupid, because the cops always suspect the spouse first–and taking out a life insurance policy just leads them back to that supposition.

  • The very same Universe they are claiming as evidence that they should be together raised my credit rating to 824 and lowered his to the 600’s since we parted.

    Proof to me that she got no one of value. And that being with him literally devalues me.

    Two Wrongs (him and her) will never ever make a Mr and Mrs Right.

    • PS…I left out that for years he shamed judged and criticized and lorded over me his assumed financial superiority, and that the above mentioned credit rating shift was just one piece of information which proved that he is a liar and not the financially superior genius….so I mean no harm or offense to Chumps here, regardless of whatever your score is…..

      • Velvet, mine used to bang on the table screaming “I want to know where all the money is” because we were always broke despite big joint incomes. I always did my accounts on the back of an envelope but the bills were always paid. So Mr. “I just went out and bought myself a $60,000 car” moved back to the States on a massive pension. Schmoopie used to post about “yuck, it’s Monday, oh wait a minute, I’m retired”! Well she went back to work a couple of years ago and I just heard Mr. “Massive Pension” is training for a job as a school bus driver because they ain’t makin’ it! As for me, I paid off my 17 year mortgage in 7 years and retired 5 years early. So yeah, they REALLY are financially superior aren’t they (not)!

    • “The very same Universe they are claiming as evidence that they should be together raised my credit rating to 824 and lowered his to the 600’s since we parted.”

      Hahahahaha! Suh-weet!

  • I hope the ex-fiance and the fiance’s mom read her article! They do not come off very well – hope their friends read it too. Maybe they can explain their behavior to CJ!

    • This part stirred up some anxiety with me. Must be so difficult for a [former] chump to publish stuff about her ex’s mother like that. Because we’re so used to protecting other people from feeling hurt or exposed.

      • It was quite telling that she saw herself as an adventurous forest creature but her prospective mother in law wanted her to have a broom/dustpan.

  • After he abandoned me I tried to figure out how to cover for him so no one would find out and he could move back in without embarrassment that he cowardly dumped me by e-mail while I was out of town. I determined I would never speak when I was around him because I must have a serious problem since he thinks I am so angry, controlling, and judgmental and our daughters hate me. I would do whatever it took to be “better” and stop irritating him like I obviously do. I contemplated suicide.

    All of this was in my mind as I sat in my kitchen while he stood there screeching at me 3 days after the initial discard. He was brutal and completely crushed me as the worst person in the world and all I could think of was how to be smaller so that he might stay. The fact that he was screwing a chick half our age, that he had an affair 9 years earlier, and the fact he had ignored and abused me and our daughters were mere trivialities. He deserved to be happy. I was awful and everyone thinks so. He had to escape and it was 100% my fault.

    As Beth points out, there were 2 people in my marriage worried about his happiness and 0 people worried about mine. I see it was even less than 0 because I continued to offer up more of my dignity and soul for him to mistreat and declare inadequate. I lived for his benefit and he discarded me like used tissue.

    I was not enough for that entitled, narcissistic, passive aggressive pig. I put up with that for 31 years, 28 married. I know that no one will ever be enough and the 26YO sparkletwat is getting this abuse as well.

    Thank God he left me.

    • “…there were 2 people in my marriage worried about his happiness and 0 people worried about mine…”

      Spot on.

      I used to know this lady who had written a song that bubbles through my head sometimes with a lyric that boiled down to “riding in the car together, I’m with you, you’re with you, let me out”. Made me laugh hard at the time, because it was soooooooo true.

    • I am so sorry that this happened to you… and I am crying as I have experienced the same.
      I am in actual pain reading this as if someone had just poked my nose into my past.

      • Yes, and the low point was me literally on my knees on the kitchen floor begging him to try to save the marriage.

        “Nope,” was the cold slap. I felt my heart break with the shot of physical pain.

        • Hoo boy, I.C., your story is mine too. My MFSTBXH (the two first letters are expletives), was hooking up with multiple sluts via Tinder while my beloved mother was in hospice care in our bedroom, dying of newly-discovered cancer! And she was more of a mother to him than his own mother was. D-day was 18 days after she died. Thanks to the Cloud, his new cell phone had synced to my autistic son’s iPad, and the aides in his special-needs class told me some weird messages were coming through. Mortifying. I begged him to stay, I’m ashamed to say, because I couldn’t bear to lose my mom and him at the same time. I APOLOGIZED to HIM for everything I supposedly did to make him stray. Cringe! Four years later, we’re divorcing. And I’m even more ashamed to say it was his idea!! I’m trying very hard to grow a pair and never let myself become a doormat again. NC helps a LOT.

          • There’s no shame to be had here, in my opinion. Humans can only take so much. I begged him to at least be discreet if he couldn’t stop whoring around. In a year where I had to relearn how to walk and went to 3 funerals. You have to keep your head above water any way you can when the ship suddenly sinks without warning. Once you get your bearings, you can make better choices, but until then, you just need to survive.

    • Now I.C.,

      I am sorry for you! I don’t think that my last partner’s new wife is receiving the abuse I received, my ex-boyfriend reveres his new wife too much and is probably afraid to lose her.

      Now trying to become complete self-supporting and family-supporting as, in over a half century, I have never found a decent, emotionally healthy partner. Tired of meeting men who behave badly, are creepy, and seem to have Asperger’s. Not easy by a long shot, but ‘easier’ to be alone than to be tied to someone who will repeatedly figuratively and perhaps literally stab you in the back.

  • Oh, God.

    I had no idea I was slowly killing my self, so slowly and so insidiously. I just new I was dying inside.

    Thirty years later, Im trying to start all over again. Getting a job, moving across the country, that has been easy. Trying to get back to the Me who has been hacked to pieces over the years? Seems hopeless.

    This article means the world to me. THE WORLD. I never saw how meaningless I tried to make myself, just to keep the family together. In the end, I now see pieces of myself all over the floor. So thats why I hurt so much.

    • Rebecca I’ve cut and pasted your reply, as with a tiny tweak it two it is exactly how i feel. Your writing, plus Tracy’s (of course!) and the article author’s, have given me clarity in a way that I’ve struggled to find for so many years about “what really happened.” From now on I will watch and listen for when I have to make myself smaller to preserve a relationship with anybody, and not be riddled with self doubt as I decide to let that relationship go.

    • Rebecca,

      Me too. I have my good days and then days when something will trigger me and down the rabbit hole I go.

      Currently I am struggling big time with one of my grown kids who is angry as hell and who is taking it out on me pushing me to the limit – backing me into a corner. Earlier this week something in my snapped and I told him he had 2 weeks to move out. I guess this is all part of the process of reclaiming me although that innocent young woman has been slowly disappearing for 35 years and I know she has lived through too much to reappear as that innocence has disappeared. I just don’t know who is going to appear in her place. Figure she has to be Mighty because she has lived through a lot of really rough stuff.

      Thank you for sharing.

  • “I need you to know: I hated that I needed more than this from him. There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. Nothing that makes me hate myself more than being burdensome and less than self-sufficient. I did not want to feel like the kind of nagging woman who might exist in a sit-com.” The lessons I learned from my marriage: Never admit you need more or need anything for that matter; show the world a serene face no matter how conflicted you feel inside; never ask for reassurance or validation or love; be happy with whatever scraps you are given and never, ever act like you deserve more. I learned the hard way that no matter how painful it is to try to get by without asking for help, it is nothing compared to the pain of asking for help that is not given. It is so hard to break that belief. It is so hard to hope or trust but I need to figure out how to break this pattern because I think it is slowly killing me. I need to learn to care about myself and my needs the way I do for one of my children. I wouldn’t accept minimal amounts of care for them so why do I feel it is acceptable for me?

    To the reader who brought this essay to Tracy’s attention and to Tracy for bringing it to ours, my deepest thanks. I needed this.

    • “I learned the hard way that no matter how painful it is to try to get by without asking for help, it is nothing compared to the pain of asking for help that is not given.”

      This really strikes home with me. I am youngest of 4 children from a broken home with a co-dependent mother, a mostly absent but when around selfish & non-supporting father, and a malignant narcissist grandmother. I grew up making myself very small. Not calling attention to myself. Not asking for anything. And being extremely grateful for any scraps of attention thrown my way.

      I was determined to not get married unless I KNEW it would work. Yeah, nope. His “I need a tough, independent woman” which I undoubtedly was, became making my needs non-existent, because he sure wasn’t interested in helping out with that. In order for him to be happy I needed to smile, never express a differing opinion, and give him everything, (which was never enough) and never, ever ask, or expect, him to reciprocate in kind in any way. And be extremely grateful for any scraps of attention thrown my way.

      Wish I had gotten the courage to walk before the wedding, there were SO many red flags that I was digging a hole after being handed a shovel. Took me 19 years, the loss of my career, financial security, my home, and 1/2 custody of my son to gain my freedom and self-respect.

      • I grew up the same way, Skunkcabbage. I also believed I would get married only when I thought it would work. That still may be true as I never married my ex. We were together for 9 years, engaged and living together for 6.5, but after the narc experience I had with him, I don’t think I’ll ever marry.

    • “I learned the hard way that no matter how painful it is to try to get by without asking for help, it is nothing compared to the pain of asking for help that is not given. ”

      Hell to the yes here. If I didnt ask then I could delude myself into thinking that if I did, they would help (Cheater, my parents, my only sibling). On the rare occasions I asked for anything, they all said no and I was crushed.

  • Before we had kids I complained when my ex was going out with his friends on Friday nights and leaving me home alone. I didn’t think that was something you should do to your wife. His response? “you need to make more friends”. I complained about his wanting to go flying just after our second child was born and we also had a toddler. He flew into a rage because I used the word “abandon” and he wasn’t abandoning his family, just going off and leaving me to deal with them alone for a day in my exhausted post-partum condition. I complained about his late work hours. “I need to work late to keep up with everyone else who is working late so I can get big bonuses to support the family”. Eventually he trained me to never question it when he neglected us for any reason. Later, after DDay when I asked him “why the affairs?” he said I wasn’t giving him enough attention because I was spending too much time at my job and with the kids. He also didn’t think I would care because I let him go off with whoever he liked and didn’t question it. He also said he didn’t feel needed. Too needy or not needy enough, you really can’t ever win. Whatever you do, it will be perceived in the most negative way possible.

    What really pisses me off is how demanding Schmoopie is. He seems to like it when she’s demanding and needy. Sometimes I think I wasn’t demanding enough and that making my needs small was part of the turn off for him. Then I remember that he trained me to be that way. Whenever I did stick up for myself, he would turn it around and make me feel guilty for having done so and then later punished me for making my needs too small. Why the double standard for Schmoopie?

    • I’m curious about the double standard for Schmoopie too. Same thing, he trained me to be small, and not nag, and not be needy, and she is apparently very needy and naggy and demanding, and he seems to be doing everything she asks of him, I don’t understand it?!?!?!

      • My cheater said similar things. “She’s bossy and I like that”. Then she became “too bossy, but she’s really hot.”

        • These unfaithful jokers will change the narrative in order to suit their purpose and in an attempt to justify their actions. They like independent women, they don’t like independent women. They like tall blondes, they like brunettes with curves. You get the gist. You can’t take it personally but hard not to. Listen to the ridiculous, contradictory, self serving shit that they vomit out of their mouths.

    • Maybe the double standard is novelty? If she’s being idealised then she can do no wrong; once devalue begins he will point to how you didn’t make demands on him, he’ll triangulate schmoopie with memories of your former relationship.

      I’m not 100% sure why the inconsistency: but when I asked exhale why it was ok for OW to ask/do certain things that were verboten to me, he responded “that’s the relationship she and I have”. I honestly just felt that it was another way for him to punish me but perhaps it’s as simple as he has no consistent self, just does what he has to in order to ensnare prey.

      • “it’s as simple as he has no consistent self, just does what he has to in order to ensnare prey.”

        It’s this. Mine is also doing things I could never get him to do. Ever. But schmoopie has more money that me and she owns the house they live in…basically she is supporting him. So now he HAS to do everything she says. In the beginning, it was to show what a great guy he was and that everything I was saying was a lie.

        I think in time that mask will fall. And if it doesn’tI don’t care because he told her I was a bully but she bullies him far more than I ever dreamed of doing. So basically he gets what he deserves…a life where he has zero control.

    • Same deal here, I was told by my X that I never needed him which was one of my flaws and reason #76 why I was Just So Awful. But he never showed up in the first place so I adapted, then got punished for it with abandonment.

      I guarantee the double standard won’t last. This is who they are, they ignore and devalue and eventually he will declare her to be a major pain in the ass with all her neediness. They act like they want a damsel in distress but eventually all they have is a distressed damsel and that is a big drag on the sparkly cheater. So off to find another flower to buzz around.

      Trust that they suck.

      • Yep, I also was told that I never needed him and it also was because she never showed up for me, so I adapted.
        Sometimes I catch myself wondering if I hadn’t adapted, would that have saved my marriage. Then I realize what a chumpy thought that is.

    • “Whatever you do it will be perceived in the most negative manner.”

      Totally THIS.

      When I spoke he actively listened to be offended. Always looking from some crumb that could be misconstrued, turned around and used as “proof” how unreasonable I am. (Usually was me attempting to ask for a need).

      If he couldn’t find negative content, he’d critique my word choice saying I didn’t “use words correctly” and he couldn’t speak with me at that moment because I simply wasn’t being articulate enough for his standards of conversation.

      • Ooooohhh get him, Professor Henry Higgins! (Reference to My Fair Lady, in case you hadn’t guessed)!

    • This is my interpretation:

      I read at some point -I believe it was Jung- that these type of men, often enough, despite their trying to go the opposite way, end up with a domineering woman.

      My father, I’ve learned now, had an avoidant attachment style. He ended up with a domineering mistress (BPD/Hystrionic) who had the need to control everyone in her sphere -inclusive us, from behind the scenes.

      Somewhere I also read that a narcissist is no match for a BPD.

      Also, there is domination as in “top from the bottom”.

      My paternal grandmother was a covert narcissist, a domineering woman that topped you from the bottom. By playing victim all the time. Poor thing that she was! By that tactic she dominated her husband (although he managed to maintain his integrity) and her sons completely. Her intergenational incestous ways! Yuck! She attempted to dominate me as well.

      My father was a poor me sad sausage type with us. But he was topped from the bottom by his poor-me-dominatrix. As much as he was repulsed by it, he also liked to be dominated. It was home for him.

      My backstabbing-ex is also the poor me sad sausage type, as it turns out. I have a sense that our relationship was not satisfactory to him because, in truth, despite his being controlling, he needs and likes to be dominated.

      They can live a relationship only in terms of power: one up or one down. Never on equal terms.
      Where there is power and control, there cannot be intimacy. Without intimacy there can only be a faux relationship.
      So sad.

      • ” truth, despite his being controlling, he needs and likes to be dominated.” I think you are on to something with this. It seems to fit my ex as well. I didn’t control him so he had to control me but he really prefers to be controlled because it is less work. The idea of nobody being in control is terrifying to him.

    • My guess is the double standard is actually love-bombing. He doesn’t really like it, he’s pretending he does. Once the love-bombing phase is done, his true self will start to show and he’ll let her know that he doesn’t like how demanding she is. This will have the added benefit of confusing the crap out of her as he always told her he liked it. Let the gaslighting games begin.

  • Yes, that’s the dynamic.
    In some cases though making one’s need smaller is about self-preservation, until the way and means are found to make the escape.
    Self-preservation first and foremost.

  • From the CJ essay, “I realized it was not that remarkable for a person to understand what another person needed.” This was profound. Thank you CL.

  • If I voiced my needs I was told I was never happy, he could never make me happy or I’m bitching again.
    In order to prove I was happy and a good wife that wouldn’t burden him with needs.

  • There are consequences, paid by your family and friends, of a chump making her needs small. She transmits panic and anxiety, because she carries her own and the cheater’s. She tacitly lies, pretending that everything is okay, and none of her people can then trust her, because she is not being honest. Her most vulnerable, it could be her sensitive child, absorbs that anxiety for dear mommy, and is then paralyzed with mood disruption, and worry for mommy, instead of a focus on her own childhood experiences and growing and learning.

    Mommy rationalizes: we all have to pay a price, sensitive child, me, the other children, because we are so needy and so helpless. The world is so cold and cruel, that we must stay here and be protected by Pervert. The lying, cheating bastard, who spends the family money on new and better houses, cars, suits and jewelry is the best we can do. Otherwise, we’ll be thrown to the wolves. (Uh? Mommy? We’re living with a wolf, he’s decimating us, and you’re our only hope and trust. Boy. This is muffed.)

    • One of the reasons XW left me is that I realized there was something amiss in our marriage and my reaction was to start to assert myself a little more. I told her I needed to make new friends and find new activities (we’d just moved to a new city), so I was going to ask her to cook and take care of the kids’ bedtimes one day a week, and I might ask her to pick them up from school on occasion as well! About a week later I got the ILYBINILWY speech that set the whole train rolling.

      I had asked less and less of XW over the years, in large part because I sensed that she wasn’t as committed to the marriage and was worried that if I pushed the issue she would just bail. It turns out that I was right that she’d leave, but wrong to think that her leaving was the end of the world.

      I’m surprised no one has talked about sex, though. I resigned myself to a lifetime of mediocre, infrequent sex because she refused to acknowledge or address any problems in our sex life. At one point she had me honestly convinced that there was something wrong with me because I wanted to have sex with my wife, to the point that I investigated libido-reducing drugs.

      • I actually settled for ZERO sex after our child was born. A few months after she was born I tried to be affectionate and he responded with “Oh NOW you like me?” Another time it was that I needed to treat him better. As a result I was constantly trying to earn that back. But nothing was ever good enough and he would not discuss anything. So I settled for nothing…for 8 years. some of the most mentally damaging years of my life.

      • That was happened to me. She called me a sex addict because I wanted it more then one a month or two. That I needed to have self control because I wanted to have sex with my WIFE. She hadn’t given me PERMISSION to even have those feelings. I learned to dismiss any needs to the point I didn’t know what foods I liked…

      • That was happened to me. She called me a sex addict because I wanted it more then one a month or two. That I needed to have self control because I wanted to have sex with my WIFE. She hadn’t given me PERMISSION to even have those feelings. I learned to dismiss any needs to the point I didn’t know what foods I liked…

        • My new husband told me some of the reasons he was given for no sex from the woman who ran off to find greener grass (that didnt exist). We are kind of old now but happily living a sexual renaissance in our loving newish marriage. There is a gal out there who will treasure you wonderful formerchump guys.

      • Oh man — a big ‘me too’ on this one.

        The Kunty Kibbler reeled me in with her adventurous, “always ready for a go” ways before the marriage. Never once a refusal or dismissal of trying anything new.

        The kids came, I never once pushed, always reassured her that I understood that kids can change things and that I was more than ready whenever she felt up to it. That started 10+ years of sex only when she wanted, and only how she wanted.

        – NEVER wanted foreplay: “I don’t need the bing and the bang — all I need is the boom.” Hands slapped away, mouth slapped away.
        – ALWAYS the same position — missionary — except maybe once a year.
        – For about 3 years straight, I got negative comments on my breath, even if I washed and rinsed immediately beforehand.
        – Constantly complained “I shouldn’t have to tell you what I want and when I want it. It means you never pay attention to me.”

        I accepted all of it and made my needs smaller and smaller, with only token attempts to bring up the topic because I knew how the conversation was going to go.

        So, after the discard, when she announced that she’d “found herself” through BDSM, choking, sex toys, every imaginable position and situation, etc. the first seeds of “I’ve been conned” started to bloom in my head.

        I’m afraid I wouldn’t know what a healthy sexual relationship would be if it hit me over the head with a sledgehammer.

        • So described my XW. Except for the BDSM. I have since remarried. I had a very hard time with intimacy. What a healthy sexual relationship is. I had to go to therapy to learn what a healthy sexual relationship is. I sometimes still have anxiety attacks when my wife and I have sex. They are evil in that way. They destroy your sexual side. She had no problem having multiple affairs. But things are improving.

        • I was over sexed too. apparently more than 4 times a year was ridiculous.

      • You want to talk about sex. Sure. We can talk about sex. Ex and I had an active sex life up until about a month before DDay (probably about two weeks or so after he started banging Schmoopie 2.0) after which he suddenly became very difficult to seduce. Before that it was still regular but less successful. I thought it was aging on his part or maybe on my part making me less attractive to him. Now I know it was because he was banging Schmoopie 1.0 and just didn’t have anything left for me.

        Throughout our marriage, however, I was constantly being accused of not liking sex. This was far from true, but he was convinced it was (his own insecurities coming to the fore). Every time we had sex it felt like a test for me to prove how much I loved it. Well, guess what, years of that kind of pressure can, in fact, make it less enjoyable but I kept trying to show my pleasure and did not avoid sex. Then he started insisting on positions I found painful but I had to prove how much I loved it so I trained myself to make it work. Then he would ask for sex at times when I was least likely to be interested (3:00am after being awakened from a deep sleep, five minutes before my alarm went off in the morning and I had to get up to get the kids ready for school or five minutes before I needed to be out the door for an appointment). If I failed to fully awaken or drop everything for him in an instant and/or failed to climax, it was more proof of my lack of interest in general. He also complained that I didn’t initiate enough. When I did try, however, he blew me off every time. Sometimes he wouldn’t even kiss me. When I pointed this out he said I wasn’t trying hard enough so still my lack of interest, of course. Silly me, I thought I was being courteous by not putting him under the same pressure he put me under. After DDay he acted as if we had no sex life and he had been starved for sex because of my low libido. I can’t tell you how much that hurt to think that our active sex life might as well have been no sex life as far as he was concerned. I thought I must have just really sucked as a lover.

        Thankfully, I have a boyfriend now and he seems to think I do just fine. It’s such a relief to be able to just enjoy myself without having to prove it.

        • Oh wow, except for the boyfriend part I could have written this, Chumpedinrecovery! It is eerily like my old life. Post divorce I had a no-strings-attached fling with a guy I went to Jr. High with for the sole purpose of making sure I did in fact like sex. I do. What I didn’t like was feeling like I had to have sex when he wanted it whether I was into it or not. What I didn’t like was having sex with someone who treated me like an available set of orifices and not as a human being with needs and desires of my own. What I didn’t like was having sex but never making love. Now that I know that sex isn’t the problem I’m going to hold out for a man who specifically wants to be intimate with me – the person who is me – and not just use my body to get off. Going back to the theme of making our needs small – that doesn’t seem to me (now) to be too much to ask for in a partner.

        • The cruelest thing I heard was from a fellow chump whose husband refused to have sex with her but would then go masturbate in the shower, and let her know this fact. Monstrous behavior !

          • Yep, me too! He had me so tied up with the fact that our lack of sex life was my fault sure I had a bigger sex drive than him but I was no good at it so he had to tell me NO when I ask.

            So the morning shower was his best friend, and he made sure I knew it.

      • That’s incredible! Libido-lowering drugs?
        My jerk was sexually demanding and the sex was without tenderness or closeness. I had to make my need for that very small indeed. Sometimes it was even coercive. It caused permanent physical damage due to having countless UTIs from too much sex. Sex has been painful to some degree ever since. I was on an antidepressant that tanked my libido and going through early menopause and a severe bout of pain during intercourse. I asked him to be patient while I worked on a solution. He went out and found another woman instead. The kicker is that she stopped having sex with him altogether after a few months. Yet still her preferred her for many sexless years, while still having sex with me. So it was never really about sex at all. It was about power. He let this other woman have all the power, and seemed to like it that way, but he needed to exert power over me sexually and would be enraged if he was refused, even though I had medical reasons for doing so. Somebody said that for disordered people, it’s always either dominance or submission. They can’t have an equal partnership. I found that to be true.

        • True. There is no equality. And it was so F’d because when he chose his whore. Was when I was at peak health and shape EVER in my life. It’s like…when I finally felt confident enough to not be insecure about certain things. And really start to feel myself sexually and enjoy it even more. Is when he felt the need to exert power over me by starting to belittle me, deny me, and humiliate me in bed. It is def one of the things that hurt the most because it was so brutal the way he would make me feel before, during and after. Or just take it away when he saw I wasn’t being tortured by it again. Jerks.

      • Glad you brought the sex issues to the forefront. Again I feel like I am in the right place because for me, he went anorexic early on in the relationship and I wasn’t ever allowed to initiate. No discussions about it at all so I did settle for less and I felt less too.

        In the final years of our 30 together were spent with no sex at all after he told me that he wasn’t going to touch me anymore…ouch…but I didn’t complain thinking he would eventually open up to me and talk about what he was going through.

        You all know where that ended up and how long I waited….and that is was ‘all my fault’.

        Yes, he was out there talking to all the women he was having sex with and probably complaining to them that I was the problem.

        Thank God I know better, way better, now and I can hold my head high because I did not cheat! I waited projecting my good onto him. Now I know it was a projection and that abstainance probably saved me from contracting numerous STD’s over the years.

        Thanks to all for sharing this intimate subject here. Another load off of my shoulders knowing I am not the only one. The shame pile is diminishing daily.

    • Love Airplane!! Perfect reference! Thank you for sharing. and yes, fucking hell!

  • This one is getting printed up and posted on the bathroom wall for daily reading.

    It’s devastating and infuriating to realize that you settled for less. But how many times are we told (or at least I was) to not set my expectations too high, to not demand too much from a man to cut him some slack? These people were often trying to give helpful advice because they witnessed a frustrating interaction. Let it go they said but what they didn’t realize was that it wasn’t a one-off. It was the 50 billionth time I had encountered that behavior.
    I was often told that I was difficult or always angry etc etc. Manipulation, all of it. An elaborate plan so he could get away with more and more and I would settle for less.

    Well I’m not settling for less any more because when you know better, you do better.

  • The actual cheating was far from the worst thing my ex did, and I think that’s true for almost all women in these relationships. I am ashamed of how small I made myself and how little I settled for.

  • I was young, in highschool, and completely ignorant about Cluster B personality disorders. He gave me a REAL education. At the time we met I was confident, empathetic,loyal, competitive, smart, goal setting, on the reserved side but had a circle of friends that I hung with. I now know from the time I met him I began to make my needs smaller. He fucked with my head in so many ways. 33 years later I was an empty shell. There is no understanding that concept unless you have experienced this in my opinion. Toward the end with the abuse it was fear that kept me stuck.
    I’m close to five years out and approaching 3 years of divorce freedom. Iv’e made huge strides in accepting what happened is ALL on him. I’m getting stronger and more confident with making decisions because they paralyzed me for a couple of years also financial woes kept me in a constant state of anxiety until I got the point of focusing on things I can control.
    He will never recognize the worth of a female other than a possession. I now know my worth.
    I did not have the vocabulary at the time to describe disordered behavior but will let you in on a recent event. He began triangulating (learned voc) me with a girl in my circle in HS who is a narcissist (learned voc) like him. This was the beginning of my downfall and pick me dance (learned voc) and I was unaware. I have not spoken to her in 30 yrs. Well, my mom died recently and my friend said to me, ” you know he may show up.” I was like no way in hell would he do this since he frequently expressed how much he disliked her and verbally abused her several times privately after we left because he knows what hes doing is inappropriate and hes a coward.
    Someone noted that the girl commented on their facebook about my mom sending alarm bells. Then I received a card from her. Second alarm. Then I get one from the ex. Third alarm. He did not approach us but came to the funeral for image management i guess. (new voc) He did not come to my dads when we were going through the divorce nor did he tell us that his mom had died until a week after her funeral (disordered) leaving the kids really hurt and confused.
    Anyway, the girl was ALSO at my mom’s funeral BUT approached me fishing for info about the kids (one has NC and changed name) and my personal life.They came together. Luckily someone else wanted to speak with me but not before I stupidly gave” none of your business info”. He did exactly what Sandra Brown from Safe Relationship Magazine (great resource) stated what they do. He circled around to the familiar, keeping me in their triangle, coming in when he thought I was vulnerable, keeping himself prominent. She is successful and pretty. AND she is living with a long time partner cheating on him with the ex. They are both disordered. He is wealthy so I feel she may try to make it long term and stick with him for that. She even mentioned the size of her house (we live in a mobile home) which was so weird but I think she was telling me she is also in his big house. Actually it’s his dad’s house (laughing) because that’s where he lives just like HS. He will inherit it. I guess it is time travel for both of them because she went there with me then several times. This is one time I’m waiting to pass the popcorn or hear about a police report because there will be an explosion between two disordered people. My regret is not letting them go at each other in HS. Make your needs as big as they made theirs without any personal guilt.

    • “33 years later I was an empty shell.” Hugs – I know, I know.

      My sinister ex-SIL once said she was envious because I could speak on a variety of subjects with any type of person. That young, confident women is gone, replaced with a shell of person who doesn’t even have the confidence to start a conversation because I don’t what to talk about. I dumbed myself down for him because he’s not overly smart and I never wanted him to feel inferior. I don’t even know how to start a friendship because I’m not sure what I have to offer, that’s just how empty the shell became. My family has been supportive reminding me of things I have forgotten, how strong I am when feeling so defeated, or even reminding me that I have a kind heart.

      • So much this!! I’m still freshly in the beginnings of this mess. I started working a month before Dday…and I was/still feel very much a shell of the woman I worked hard to be. My coworkers described me as “charismatic” and many people compliment me on my personality etc. It hurts badly that the one person I wanted to hear this from the most. Who I gave so much too. Was the one gaslighting me that I WASNOT these things. I feel very much like a shell right now.

      • MissBailey,
        YOU are so respected on CN. You come here with so much love and respect, reaching out. You have taken the pain from your past and moulded it all into understanding and help for other Chumps.
        I would indeed call you MIGHTY, and I am sure CN agrees!
        It was always him, it was never you.
        Stay strong! Stay Mighty!

        • Oh, Peacekeeper, thank you. I have to admit – my keyboard is a little wet. I truly don’t know what I would have done without CN and all the comrades we have here. I was so in the dark in those awful days but here there’s is light and hope.

          We keep fighting the fight and bringing light to the injustice. It was always them, it was never us. You stay strong too!!

  • Can totally relate to being devalued. Have been working the same job for 22 years now. was faithful, loyal and loving. Provided well. Sold our home to get a larger house so her sickly mother could be close and cared for. For the longest time I worked 10 to 12 hour days including Saturdays for 12 years. I always earned more. not complaining about that. However it did allow her to not work for 3-4 years and be a
    SAHM which she really wanted. So did I. went through some lean times money wise, who doesn’t.
    but I always heard about it. when our son was 10 is when her mom moved in with us. that’s when the devaluing really began.
    My income had grown through the years. cars seemed to be purchased more frequently. More shopping days. More hair n nail days. Then out of the blue the tanning salon.
    I played golf early weekend mornings. Home at 1 or 2pm and then yard work or something around the house to fix.
    I talked myself into thinking this is how it is. this is what DAD and hubby does. Youre doing it right, not complaining or thinking of yourself.
    Perhaps one day down the road she will look back and understand how much I did without a complaint.
    Stupid me settled not only for less but almost nothing.
    I wasn’t demanding. Never complained when a frozen pizza or boiled hot dogs were for dinner. Hey, shes just as busy as anyone RIGHT!
    My! How history was rewritten when I discovered her affair and Rx pill abuse. Villified in Family Court! Whats funny? During a child support review. The lady from the state RAISED her eyebrows with curiosity when she found out how long I had been at my job and how much I earn in my position. She smelled bullshit as I’m sure she sees the real deal when it comes to deadbeat dads every day.

    • “My! How history was rewritten when I discovered her affair and Rx pill abuse. Villified in Family Court! Whats funny? During a child support review. The lady from the state RAISED her eyebrows with curiosity when she found out how long I had been at my job and how much I earn in my position. She smelled bullshit as I’m sure she sees the real deal when it comes to deadbeat dads every day.”

      My fingers are crossed for you and your son, Leonidis.

    • Leonidas, wow your story is similar to mine.
      With my Ex, nothing was EVER good enough !! I saved up one Christmas and bought her very expensive diamond earings and she bitched and complained about them and wanted me to return them and get ones that were twice the price !! Meanwhile she sat on her ass not working for most of our marriage (including years before we had kids but she always had an excuse).

      Now even though I have never missed a penny in alimony, child support or medical bills for the kids, she tells everyone that she is tight on money because I’m a “Deadbeat Dad”. Of course their having no money has nothing to do with the OM not being able to keep a job and both of them driving brand new $40,000 cars ??

      You will see when everything is over that you will be SO better off with her out of your life !

      • Too bad more “deadbeat dads” aren’t like you and Leonidas. I guess your ex and Schmoopie wanted the $50,000 cars.

    • I hope you don’t get screwed over too badly for having that good income and steady job. It seems like so many good dads get screwed over for not being deadbeat.

      I wish more husbands were as considerate and understanding as you. I was on the other end of the hotdog situation. No empathy from my ex in regards to my busy life (which he resented anyway). First he complained that we didn’t have meat with every meal so I made sure we had meat with every meal after that. He didn’t notice or thank me, however, because one night I made the mistake of serving hot dogs (all natural nitrate free) because I was running out of ideas and hey, the kids liked them. Boy did I get an earful “I can’t believe you served hot dogs for dinner. They aren’t a dinner food, they are a lunch food”. I felt like such a terrible wife and mother for having the nerve to serve hotdogs for dinner. How uncultured. Honestly, being a vegetarian myself since before we ever even met, he should have been thankful that I cooked meat for the family at all, let alone every night and the right kind. Of course he didn’t notice that I never did it again because he was too busy complaining about the next thing I was doing wrong. Now I occasionally do serve hot dogs (all natural nitrate free) for dinner because he is gone and because I can. The kids are happy to eat them.

      P.S. He served the frozen pizza a few times during his two year stint as SAHD

  • This really hits hard today. And I cannot understand how much I am still affected by the aftermath of this toxic and verbally abusive relationship I was in.
    Early on, he indicated that he loved that I was so low maintenance. Then he compared me to his ex girlfriend that he clearly loved and who was so independent.
    He clearly stated that she was so independent that they “forgot” to exchange contact information when she left after college to work in Seattle that they just accidentally lost contact. Otherwise he would just be with her still. Can you believe this stupid story and that I trusted this story to be true… lol.

    The point is. Whenever I wanted to talk about something he did not have a key interest in (meaning everything I was interested in or needed support with) he told me to call my friends or refused to participate in the conversation. He literally told me multiple times to shut up and not bother him with topics he has no opinion on.
    He also would abandon me in various ways: business trips when I had a new born, late work, business dinners, at parties where I was left in a corner to fend for my own even though I did not know anyone, emotionally, because he did not like talking about my worries or concerns… Eventually, I stopped involving him in anything.

    Then during the discard, I was told I did not need him and I did not tell him anything. And that made me a really bad wife. Sigh.

    • Thank you inescapable. “Whenever I wanted to talk about something he did not have a key interest in (meaning everything I was interested in or needed support with) he told me to call my friends or refused to participate in the conversation. He literally told me multiple times to shut up and not bother him with topics he has no opinion on.
      He also would abandon me in various ways: business trips when I had a new born, late work, business dinners, at parties where I was left in a corner to fend for my own even though I did not know anyone, emotionally, because he did not like talking about my worries or concerns… Eventually, I stopped involving him in anything.” In fact I ended up replacing his partner role with friendships, family, children, work, art- so I wouldn’t be “co-dependent” HA! I didn’t realize the only role he had left was only nominally “husband.” So, when it was finally over, I realized I actually never had a relationship.
      I think labels of “co-dependency” are another way to make women believe they need less, and encourage them to become even more “low maintenance.” Wouldn’t want to have any “demands” or be called a nag or need companionship….

      • Chumpedchange,
        Such ‘classic and predictable’ behavior because that is almost exactly what happened to me. When he was home he would disappear behind a screen – his computer or phone or iPad – you name it he had it and I ended up feeling like just an annoyance – someone who interrupted him in order to ‘get a chance’ to talk to him.

        The ‘coupe de ta’ was the blow he landed on me telling me ‘Yes, I did cheat BUT you left the relationship a long time ago.’

        I keep looking over my shoulder and wondering where on earth I went because I am a SAHM so I have always, I repeat always, been here and my children can verify that information.

        Thank God I did develop a strong support system over the years because those women saved my ass and continue to do so.

        Thanks for posting sister!

  • I was always confident and outgoing but yep that inadequate little man also managed to turn me into a shell of myself. The only saving grace is that even though he kept battering me down I kept springing back up like a f***g jack-in-the box and eventually it saved my life! One thing I vividly remember was I was 8 1/2 months pregnant and working in D.C. (The British Foreign Office used to class it as a “tropical posting” at one point – but then maybe anywhere it didn’t rain every day was classed as “tropical” to the Brits – but I digress!). I had 2 weeks to go till my due date and went in to work to do overtime, not for MY work but just to earn extra money because yet again we were always broke. Of course he got the brand new car paid for with my pension money and I got … a bus pass! Anyway, I walked, took the metro caught the bus and walked again in order to get home (took about 90 minutes). My feet and ankles were so swollen (it was August 30th so HOT) and when I got in he was sat on the sofa scratching his balls as usual and asked what was for dinner! He had been home all day but no “what’s for dinner”? I told him I had to sit for a while with a cold drink because I didn’t feel very well and he screamed at me not to “pull this pregnancy bullshit”! Now one thing I never did was “pull this pregnancy bullshit” because I had easy pregnancies but …. I went into labour that afternoon and had my son 7 hours later. But nah, you sit on the sofa and scratch your balls while I wait on you hand and foot you asshole! Never again will I make my needs small for anyone EVER!

    • Attie,

      Their true colors sure do come out when we are pregnant, hey?! I have never been the damsel in distress type and definitely a low maintenance girlfriend/wife. I really thought he’d pamper me a bit when I was pregnant. Nope! He did absolutely nothing. Eight months pregnant and I was hauling heavy mulch bags out of the car to do the landscaping by myself. You see, if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t have gotten done. I remember having a craving for a Peanut Buster Parfait from DQ. I told him this. Do you think he would have gone and gotten me one? Of course not. I went by myself and got something for myself and him. My second pregnancy, he was fucking one of his ho-workers and strippers in Canada. I was once again on my own, doing everything by myself and taking care of a one year old pretty much by myself. I still cannot believe how much I put up with. I could have been free of him way back in 2000. Advice for the newbies out there — if they cheat on you once, they’ll cheat on you again. Leave a cheater the first time and get a life free from abuse!

      • Oh my gosh, agree on all of this too! I had internalized all of this by the time I was pregnant with number 2 and I knew I would have to make my needs so small and take care of everything and act like it was fine and I wasn’t exhausted, and put on makeup every day while home on maternity leave, and light candles and make dinner and bake cookies to try to make him happy. It was never enough.

        One time I did ask him to get me an ice cream when we returned home, and I think the only reason he did it was because I asked him in front of the baby sitter and he didn’t want to look like a dick. It also probably gave him an opportunity to call his howorker and vent about how terrible I was to ask him to get me an ice cream while also super pregnant in the summer. I wish we could send all these crazies to an island somewhere!

        • Yep! We will never be enough for a chartered disordered person. A few years ago, I scratched my head thinking what more could I have done for this man? Your cookies comment got me as I baked each week and also baked for his ho-workers/co-workers. Huge spread of beautiful and delicious cookies for Christmas and also baked every. single. fucking. birthday cake when it was his turn to bring a cake for someone’s birthday at work. And it was from scratch! I gave and I gave and it was never was enough. He said to me post D-day, “You never took good care of me.” Well, that comment no longer makes me feel bad, because I know I took GREAT care of him and our children. He was PROJECTING himself onto me. Yes, it would be great if there was an island to send all the character disordered, but it won’t happen. It’s our job to fix our picker and work on ourselfeves.

          • Agreed!! He was definitely projecting himself onto you! You rock, Martha, and I’m glad you know it now!! I’m still working on the fix my picker part!!

            • You rock too, WaitingforTuesday! I hope all of us at CN get to Tuesday very soon with a finely tuned picker. (((Hugs))) 🙂

    • So horrible, hope all went well in the delivery. Regarding “what’s for dinner”… all our married life, I had dinner on the table at 5:30 (whether I was working full time, caring for two children under 3, etc. etc.) In 2014, he “retired” (as I later learned that he was getting fired.) I’m still working. I commented one day “why is it that I can never come home to dinner ready? His response…”don’t come home”! He sucks, always did suck and he will forever suck in my mind.

      • Wow, “don’t come home”! Well if that’s not telling you EXACTLY who he is I don’t know what it would take! Bastard!

    • D.C. in the summer is a “tropical posting” with that soupy humidity ! Love your posts Attie !

      • I know! It was many years ago but that’s how the British Foreign Office classed it. Either way, it was miserable and my feet grew so big I felt like a circus clown!

  • What a great article! So well-written and she gave my experience words that have always been hard to articulate.

    I had a “red dress” experience too. Right before my 20th high school reunion, I decided I was going to get a beautiful dress and shoes. Professionally colored and highlighted hair. And a make-over with Clinique makeup. Manicure and pedicure. You see, I never did anything nice for myself. All my clothes came from either Target or Kohl’s and I didn’t have many clothes at all. I colored my own hair and only got it cut twice a year to “save money for our retirement”. I always bought cheap makeup. My first mani and pedi that I ever got was days before my reunion; I was 38 years old. I wanted to look nice not only for myself, but for my husband.

    While I was trying to get ready, he went and took a nap. That left me with two kids to take care of while trying to get ready on MY special day. I can now look back and see he did this same type of behavior many times over the years. He then didn’t wake up until the last minute, which made me anxious that we would be late. After I spent a few hours getting ready, I looked great! I felt beautiful! I walked up to my husband and he didn’t say one thing to me. I had to beg him for a compliment by asking, “How do I look?” He said, “You look nice.” That was it! He always did his best to make me feel insignificant and small when the occasion had to do with me. But if it had to do with him — get out the red carpet and make sure I boost his ego.

    At the reunion, I could tell his was jealous of the attention I was getting from my former male classmates. I was not flirting in any way, but just being friendly. It took me awhile to accept that he did this intentionally — he kept getting me drinks from the bar without me even asking for them. I do not have a well-functioning “off” switch when it comes to alcohol and he knew this. Thankfully I did not make a fool out of myself or do anything that I regretted. But I felt like crap the next day.

    The abuse is so subtle, so you don’t even know you are being abused. I never said anything to anyone, because I didn’t want to be a husband bashing wife. And also, it would just come across as being a nag or too needy; no one gets it unless they lived it! As someone above said — it’s 50 billion little things that was said or done to us. It accumulates, and we get smaller and are so thankful for the crumb to eat while they eat the entire cake.

    • Oh lord, yes, heaven forbid you have a need. I remember being in early labor and wanting to drive to my moms house to be close to the hospital for when it was time (we lived in the country). It was around midnight and instead of hopping-to, grabbing my hospital bag, and escorting me to my moms, he decided that I wasn’t that far along and he wanted to sleep more…so he did. Meanwhile, I stayed awake for the next 4 hours in labor by myself. Eventually, I reached a breaking point and told him that I was scared and either he drove me or I needed to call 911. So, he reluctantly got up, but needed to take a shower first and ONLY THEN would he drive me down the hill. Because…me giving birth wasn’t all about him, so why should he sacrifice?

      I think of it now and am so angry and appalled–at him, at me, etc. But at the time my genuine thought was “well, he needs his rest, he works hard.” lol. never again

      • I had a similar situation with my labors/deliveries. I was far more solicitous of my then-husband’s needs than mine. I told him to get some sleep when labor dragged. I told him to go home after the deliveries because I “didn’t need” him to stick around the hospital when he could be more comfortable at home. Don’t want to appear needy!

        It would have been nice to be married to a man who was super excited to meet his children and didn’t want to sleep or leave me there. Instead, he was more than happy to take advantage of my low-maintenance self so that he could leave a situation that he clearly wasn’t that excited about. So much for being the “cool” wife; I envy women with husbands who can’t wait to meet their babies.

        At least I got my kids. They are the only reason I wouldn’t ask for a do-over of the time my ex took from me.

        • Of course he probably tried to turn your courtesy against you too. “She told me to go home. She doesn’t want me there”.

        • OMG this is something I never even really realized was part of me making my needs small. I LITERALLY only asked that for my first son that no one eat in my room since I had to fast before induction. Nope. His mom brought her son something to eat cuz poor thing. Having to take care of and love his wife that day. Needed to eat right?! AND IN THE DAMN ROOM!!!

          After my second son was born. He went to the movies the next day with his brother. Then asked if I would be ok leaving that day because HE didn’t want to stay for another night. Never mind it would have been another night for me to rest and have the nursery help.


      • Ugh. My X Asshat disappeared at the critical moment of both deliveries. First daughter was 24 hours of tough labor and he decided he needed to go get breakfast right when it was time to start pushing. He had it so rough, you see, from sleeping through the 8 hours leading up to that point while I was in agony. The hospital had to page him 6 times to find him for the ultimate delivery.

        Similar situation with DD#2, he was just always a bit out of reach when shit got real with both daughters. I know now that this is classic narc passive aggressive behavior.

    • It’s true, unless you’ve been through it, it’s hard for someone else to understand it because the way the do it is so under the radar and can sound so menial if you just list a few of the things that they’ve done separately.

      That is how these crazies get away with it. When you look at individual instances, we are the ones that would sound crazy complaining about it! When you understand the motive and see the underlying current of how they carry this all out, when you can put all of that together, all those tiny pieces, that’s when you can finally see them for what they really are.

  • Yup. Humiliating describes it well. The constant erasing of self until the paper is thin and torn through, when wouldn’t it be so much more interesting to be a proud palimpsest, with old stories peeking through the layers of new ones?

    This fantastic piece reminds me of a NYTimes article I read yesterday — “The Ridiculous Fantasy of a ‘No Drama’ Relationship” ( and Darcy Steinke’s fantastic “Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life,” which I finished last week. Both rail against the immaturity of those who want life to be always easy, unchanging, uncomplicated.

    Will all these messages penetrate my thick skull and change my own behavior, though? 🙂 Remains to be seen… But thanks again, Chump Lady, for trying and the great reading recommendation!

  • I’m off for the day but wanted to reply @MissBailey that I dumbed myself down as well and not because I felt was better than him as he liked to say out of the blue. I accept and get along with virtually everyone. I would be horrified if I made someone feel inferior because I think of us as equals on our on path. I do have a degree in education. I loved my job and got numerous awards and higher responsibilities to go along with it. His HS diploma was never an issue for me. I could not celebrate my accomplishments or even hang my degree and awards. He hated that I loved reading etc. I would attend workshops and the ex later admitted toward the end of following me and told me I wasn’t where I said I would be. Sometimes the location would change. Projection? That confession creeped me the fuck out because things like that never crossed my mind. Unfortunately I trusted him.
    After required parenting class, I met and told him he needed to transfer all the bills to his name because they were in mine and I always paid them. He took my hand, looked at me and said, “you know, I never trusted you.” I did continue to pay homeowners insurance because, hey, I learned he was the untrustworthy one and I didn’t want him to not pay that then destroy the house. I got to go back for a video inventory with PI’s and it was like walking into a tomb. He arranged things really funky and had pictures of us on the mantle etc.and it was extremely dirty. He also left signs of a lot of female activity and loaded weapons on the bed. I knew I needed the PIs and at least it was recorded.
    @Inescapable I stopped sharing as well. He didn’t notice except when we left he said the kids and I planned things he knew nothing about. EVERYTHING we did was on a large laminated calendar on the kitchen door. Every appointment, assignment, trip and activity. The bills were always an the counter. I read an article by Leslie Vernick about remorse and staying back and watching their actions. I shut down and did just that. I guess it was in house gray rock. Even though it took me a few more years to get out safely, it gave me a clear vision of who is is, what he was doing and he was not going to change his repetitive behaviors.

    • Today’s post has really hit home for me. After I moved out and as the divorce was final last July, I was talking to family member and she asked “why did you stay?” Because I loved him. I foolishly hoped he would finally see me standing there just waiting to be his friend and always his wife. I just wanted to be acknowledged and appreciated. It was never going to happen.

      • Miss Bailey. He knew how much he devalued you. You didn’t. None of us did. Pretty messed up game to be playing.

  • Thank you for sharing the article. The end almost made me cry.
    I will be sharing.

  • In my case, it was ex who went and had my diplomas framed. It wasn’t to celebrate my accomplishments, however. It was another subtle dig at my inadequacy. He made a point of telling me how one of his fellow investment banker friends had seen those degrees and remarked “boy what I could accomplish with a couple of degrees like that”. His intent was to highlight how little I had accomplished with mine. Never mind my PE license and ability to obtain and keep jobs while simultaneously raising three children, I wasn’t CEO or owner of my own successful business. In his mind, I should either be a stay at home mom or successful in a super rich or prestigious way. Those were never my goals, however. My goal was simply to have a reasonably successful career in which I was useful to my employer and maybe doing some good in the world and be a good mother successfully raising my kids as well. I believe I achieved those goals pretty well. It was also my goal to be a good wife but evidently I failed at that one. I now know, however, that it is only because I picked the wrong husband. Oh well, two out of three isn’t bad.

  • This makes me recall the day when I revealed to cheater that I knew what was going on. I subsequently threw him out of the house and changed the locks. However, all relationship-ends, no matter how quickly they evolve, do seem to carry a period of grieving. In my ‘denial’ phase, I was of course begging him to stop the affair, and crying at the time. His reaction was to go down to the kitchen, take a 4” bladed knife from the drawer, and hand it to me, saying “if you are so unhappy, then just end it if you can’t live without me!” This made me angry, to the effect that he then turned the tables, held the knife to my throat and went on a self-glorifying rant that lasted about four hours (late at night).

    We were alone in the house, but fortunately when I thought I heard a car outside, I managed to let one blood curdling scream and our paramedic neighbour who was returning from a late shift, took it seriously and looked in the window. What he saw prompted him to call the police. Police came, but were unwilling to file charges, calling it a “domestic, we get this all the time”.

    That creep is long gone, and I feel gratitude every day that my pick me dance lasted about 30 minutes. Still almost cost me my life. I,would tell any chump…DO NOT CONFRONT THEM ALONE.

    • Oh my God Marci, how f… awful. But I know what you mean, I always thought he would NEVER go that far but when he pinned me to the bed holding a broken whiskey bottle to my face I realized yep, he really WOULD go that far. I’m so glad we’re both out of there!

  • “How I convinced myself it was my lack of needs that made me worthy of love.”

    Ugh. This is me. This is STILL me. I hate feeling needy. I hate asking for help. I don’t know how to change that, especially since I’m the head of the household and responsible for three minor children. I feel like I always have to be the one in charge, the one who cares for others. I value my independence, but is it to the point in my life where it’s detrimental?

    Couple these feelings with surviving a cheating ex, and it seems like there are far more reasons to remain single and not enough to be open to a relationship. That makes me feel sad, but I don’t know how to change (or if I need to change… my life is not terrible; it’s just lacking the partnership that I have always wanted). I know, though, that I have equated worthiness of love with lack of neediness. I’m not sure how one reconciles that.

    • I strongly identified with this passage from her essay as well:

      “I need you to know: I hated that I needed more than this from him. There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. Nothing that makes me hate myself more than being burdensome and less than self-sufficient. I did not want to feel like the kind of nagging woman who might exist in a sit-com.

      These were small things, and I told myself it was stupid to feel disappointed by them. I had arrived in my thirties believing that to need things from others made you weak. I think this is true for lots of people but I think it is especially true for women. When men desire things they are ‘passionate.’ When they feel they have not received something they need they are ‘deprived,’ or even ’emasculated,’ and given permission for all sorts of behavior. But when a woman needs she is needy. She is meant to contain within her own self everything necessary to be happy.”

    • This. As someone JUST like this who has started a new relationship, I can tell you the struggle is real. I have to do some tough mental and emotional work to ask for help or even share a hardship I’m having. It’s a work in progress, but it’s helpful to have paired with another chump who gets it and goes out of his way to inquire, press, and generally show me he is happy and enthusiastic to be my partner in these things. With my work and his persistence, I’m slowly starting to change a little. It takes SO MUCH to make such a small shift. I feel vulnerable a lot. But…the other day I was having a panic attack and I called him, and he helped calm me down. Normally I would have just laid down alone somewhere until it passed. And you know what, it was nice to have the assist. Of course I apologized about a dozen times for imposing on him lol, but it’s progress.

      So there’s hope for us “independent” types. Best of luck

    • Same here — that passage resonated with me. “I convinced myself it was my lack of needs that made me worthy of love.” AND “I tell people the story of being cheated on because that story is simple.”

      As a young adult I formulated the philosophy that I was more desirable in the dating game by being the easy-going, cool girl. I would never be that crazy, bitchy, drama queen that my guy friends complained about. But by doing so I flattened myself and made my needs non-existent.

      There were aspects of my last relationship that bothered me but I convinced myself it wasn’t worth causing a fuss. Furthermore, it wasn’t likely a lifetime relationship. Yet, I didn’t leave either because things were so easy with my soon-to-be-cheater. That’s the story I told myself. Why rock that boat (even if there was a drunk on board). I didn’t believe I deserved a better ship with a sober co-captain.

      After years of mental gymnastics wondering should I jump or should I stay on that boat, I finally had the ticket to leave. He cheated. Who could argue with that. The reality is that my carefree philosophy also shrunk my agency. I let him do the dirty work. It’s like waiting for a forest fire to burn down your house rather than making the decision to move.

      • Having come of age in the 90s, this “cool chick” goal was prevalent. A premium was put on being “low maintenance,” which basically means have very few needs. That was a great decade for music, shitty for female self esteem.

  • You mean this C J Hauser? Clearly we should be reading more of her writings!
    Christina (CJ) Hauser
    Assistant Professor of English
    BA, Georgetown University, 2006
    MFA, Brooklyn College, 2009
    PhD, The Florida State University, 2016

    The From-Aways, a novel
    William Morrow/Harper Collins
    May 2014

    Tin House | “Blood: Twenty-Seven Love stories from Life”
    Winter Issue 2016 (creative non-fiction)

    Narrative | “Bangana”
    Fall 2014 Contest Winner (fiction)

    The Millions | “Just (Un)Like Me: On Our Favorite Characters”
    Winter 2014 (essay)

    Slice Magazine| “The Mechanicals”
    Winter 2014 (creative non-fiction)

    Tin House| “The Shapeshifter Principle”
    Fall 2012 (fiction)

    Third Coast | “Abandoned Cars”
    Winner of the 2012 Jaimy Gordon Prize in Fiction
    Judged by Jaimy Gordon

    Esquire | “Letters in War Time”
    Finalist for the Colum McCann and the Aspen Writers’ Foundation Short Fiction Contest

    The Laurel Review | “Throw In Your Coins”
    Winter 2011 (fiction)

    The Kenyon Review | “Buoys”
    Fall 2010 (fiction)

    The Brooklyn Review | “This Is About the Radio”
    Summer 2009 (fiction)

    The L Magazine | “Exactly Halfway Down”
    Summer 2009 (fiction)

    • Georgetown University did recognize her talent.


      for short fiction that demonstrates technical skill and promise in the art of the short story or narrative

      Christina Hauser, COL 2006

      “A Chelsea Eskimo in Time of Heat and Squalor”

  • O-m-g! Where in the hell was this a year and a half ago!? I could have used this information when I crying to the point of dehydration.

    That’s exactly it! She has hit the nail on the head. Surviving on less and always sacrificing until there is literally nothing left to give away, do without and lie to myself that I never needed it in the first place.

    It’s literally sitting here having to convince another human being to be nice to me. Shouldn’t that be by default?

  • The worst is the crazy-making back-and-forth of asserting yourself and making your needs heard, only to second guess yourself once in a better mood and wonder whether you’ve become domineering or verbally abusive. Hard to describe the frustration of examining yourself with so much brutal scrutiny and still being left unloved, while the person you’re trying to communicate with doesn’t care and hasn’t bothered to examine himself for even a moment.

    • Yes. Absolutely. I distinctly recall all of the self reflection I did after DDay wondering if I really had been neglecting him and not meeting his needs because maybe I was too focused on my own. and trying hard to consider how I could do better than I, in retrospect, already was. After two weeks of this he turned to me and said “have you done any self reflection at all?”. That’s when I realized it was hopeless. I would never be able to please him and he clearly hadn’t done any self reflection of his own to consider how he could do better.

  • Think back of all that you did for them and then what they did for you…..hmmm

    In 20 yrs I can look back and see so so much that I did not just for my ex but for her family too (who conveniently never had a spare cent to their name up to D-Day but have been fine & dandy since).

    Recently I did the same for her (and them too) and you know what, I still can’t really find anything of any significance that was ever done for me.

    Yep, we minimise our needs until we become almost invisible

  • Ok, this hit home and made me tear up: “How I convinced myself it was my lack of needs that made me worthy of love.” My needs could have fit on the head of a pin by the end of it, and I did think that made me worthy. Never again.

    • I cringe when I think back to the few days before he ran out of our lives for OW. It was the classic blindside for the younger secretary after a couple of decades…he was really moody for the few days building up to his departure. He was in recovery for alcoholism and I figured he was naturally having a rough few days and let’s face it, we were no strangers to walking on eggshells.

      Boy oh boy I danced around that miserable SOB’s mood in a way that makes me want to punch myself in the face thinking back on it, The best part was that one of those days was Mother’s Day! I was that proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water I accepted so much less little by little that it actually surprises me, I’m also embarrassed and disgusted.

      One day my counsellor and I discussed the phenomenon and when I called it “insidious” she asked me to repeat the word and sit with it for a while. It’s profound to come to understand the process of exploitation and control.

      Beware the silent, withholding, abuser.

  • I never even heard of gaslighting until the last week and this story sums it up. My husband did his discard with an exit affair after 20 years together and kept blaming me that OW puts him #1 and that my school & work prevented me from doing the same. So glad to be rid of him & his gaslighting especially during the last year in which he was carrying out his affair.

  • This article shows why it’s so important for chumps to take time alone after the full separation (for unmarrieds) or divorce is done. We have to learn what our needs are before we get into another relationship and we have to practice (with family, with friends, at work, on dates) asking for what we need.
    And not feeling guilty about that.

    • 100% LAJ! Iv’e been finished for three years and still have difficulty asking for what I need from anyone. If I actually ask, I feel I need to show that I am thankful 1000 % fold. If they help without my asking, I can’t rest until I have reciprocated in some way. In reverse, I would never expect anything for helping someone. It’s simply what a person does.
      My learned lesson is that with the disordered there is always a score card and the less you express your needs, their entitled needs and wants can be fulfilled. Those with high tolerance, loyalty, empathy etc. can provide a long comfortable life for these fuckwits.
      If abuse is involved, expressing needs is not an option.

    • Yes, and also knowing our relationship “deal breakers”. They need to be written down, so we know when to cut off ties and walk away from a relationship. And boundaries! You crossed my boundary and this is the xyz is the consequence. So much to learn and practice as a chump.

  • So glad to see CJ Hauser featured! I came to her from the podcast run by the owner of The Bookshelf, in Thomasville, GA. Their podcast is called From the Front Porch, it’s a staple in my podcast rotation and they recommended CJ’s first novel from a few years ago, The From Aways. I have her new novel waiting for me, just published last week, but it’s supposed to be great.

    Sad to say, but I think once you’ve been chumped, you can sympathize with so many more emotions and situations and feelings in literature and movies.

    • Yes, Chris, I think being chumped in many ways is a blessing. I sometimes wonder if it is worth having a crystal ball to navigate through life.

    • Thanks, Chris, for this. I love podcasts and will definitely check it out!

  • I vote this the best post ever for Chump Nation. “How I convinced myself it was my lack of needs that made me worthy of love.” 39 years of that kind of convincing. And now I feel so powerful, mighty, useful, trustworthy.

    I’m my own sailor now, I’m driving my boat and saving those cranes WITH feathers.

  • This made me cry. What a good story, and beautifully written.

    I relate so much to her. Thank you for sharing.

  • I had expectations, and I was continuously struggling to get him to meet them. I guess that’s what made me the “controlling, emasculating” wife he’s accused me of being.

    We had issues in our marriage. I desperately wanted to work things out, but I realize now that I was with someone who always wanted to keep his head buried in the sand. It was too hard for him to say anything; he preferred to stew in silent resentment. So, I tried things his way at times. I would go months saying nothing about anything, just losing myself in the busyness of life. I started to hold back (passive aggressively, I guess) or just do things the way I wanted them. He usually didn’t say anything. Never seemed to have anything to say other than, “This is just how things are at this stage of life. It’ll pass.”

    But, during those periods of time of silence, when I tried it his way, I was making myself small at home. That’s likely why I threw myself into my work, kids and other projects. Once he got home, I felt like I was just screaming in my head hysterically. Why don’t you talk to me? Why don’t you plan with me? Why don’t you compliment me? Why don’t you take me out, romance me? Why don’t you seduce me? Why don’t you connect with me? Then, I would reach a point of explosion and just roar my needs. His response was that I don’t know how to ever be happy.

    I picked me danced for the last year of my marriage, not just because I believed I loved my husband and felt my family was worth fighting for, but because I also felt guilty. For every time I exploded on him, I felt that he might be right that I am too controlling, never know how to be happy. I wanted to be better and felt that I needed to swallow my pride to do what it takes to save my marriage. I believed that I could turn him back to me. He would be amazed by me.

    I am not very good at being small when I am a “too much” woman, but I became very small. My group of best friends (over 25 years) recently told me that what they hate most about what my ex did was not the cheating, but the fact that he made me feel less than and afraid when I have always been a high-functioning, strong woman. A year and a half since he left, I am still putting my pieces together again. Having someone treat you without integrity, honour or dignity does that to you.

    • You are describing exactly what I went through. Now that I look back, I was always chasing his love, walking on eggshells not to upset him, and trying hard to make sure he saw how amazing I was. My friends also mentioned that I’m back to being myself.

      It’s funny how things changed the day I found him out. From me begging him to fight for our family, thinking it was only his alcohol problem I was fighting against, to him begging me not to throw him out of my life because I was the only person that ever cared for him without wanting anything in return. It’s been 6 months since DDay, 3 months with no contact…I’m making progress.

      • Neverknew19

        Al-Anon really helps with this stuff. The rooms are filled with people who are dealing with so many of the issues we are dealing with here. The issues don’t go away just because, or if, they stop drinking. Enter the ‘dry drunk’ dance. The X was sober but was screwing around behind my back. Lots of untreated sexual issues with alcoholics.

        Good Luck and hang in there.

  • That was an amazingly beautiful article. I loved the crane wife story she referenced and it really hit my heart. To be loved, the crab yanked each one of her feathers, the tools which gave flight, out one by one. Right in the heart.

    I also love how she mentioned that it really isnt remarkable for someone to know what another person needs. I feel like it’s not, it’s just something someone who lacks empathy can’t genuinely do. Only fake doing for a while, even if it’s a long while.

    The minimizing of needs also makes it easier for narcs and manipulative people to fake knowing what you need through placating you rather than actually knowing you or what needs you may have.

    I feel like I plucked most of my feathers in order to be with my STBXH. and in the end, the tipping point for him was that I refused to pluck those last few. Looking back, I think it’s because he knew inside I was strong enough to make those few feathers give me flight away from him.

    He was right. I feel cold and naked in so many ways. But at least I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not anymore just to be “loved”

  • “But it’s harder to tell the story of how I convinced myself I didn’t need what was necessary to survive. How I convinced myself it was my lack of needs that made me worthy of love.”

    This is so powerful.

  • When my ex had the emotional affair I thought the fact that he told me she was coming on to him meant that he wouldn’t ever actually cheat. There are a number of reasons why I don’t think he consummated that one but he was still spending time with her that should have gone to the family and he was doing it in my face. I don’t think he fucked her but he did kiss her because he supposedly felt sorry for her because her husband hadn’t kissed her in five years. Isn’t he such a kind hearted individual for caring about her pain? I was trying not to be the controlling wife but tried to get him to control himself by telling him I didn’t want him to have an affair and I trusted him to do the right thing. I was scared to death when I called him that night a couple of weeks later when he was at her house late. I was afraid he wouldn’t answer or would be angry as he had gotten upset with me in the past when he was blowing off me and the kids and I tried to get him to give us more of his attention. I called him and told him I believed that “nothing” was going on but that he was spending time with her that belonged to me and the kids and I wanted him to come home. That time he came home, held me close and apologized for neglecting me. He didn’t see her again.

    When all of that was going down and I knew about it, we had a tiff about something. During that argument he said something along the lines of “you had better be nice to me because I have other options.” It was a warning. I got the warning all right, but I completely misinterpreted it. I didn’t get that the universe was warning me that my husband was a selfish self-centered prick who didn’t care about me and my feelings. Instead I thought it was a warning that I wasn’t being a good wife and needed to do better. I spent the next eight years pick me dancing until he finally left me for his second physical affair partner (I didn’t find out about the first until several months after discovering the second). This time he didn’t come home when I called. No apologies. Evidently he regretted not having gone physical with the emotional affair partner all of those years ago and he wasn’t going to make that “mistake” again. I guess he also didn’t want to make the “mistake” of not throwing away his family for a skank either. What bothers me most is that he thinks he made good choices and has no regrets.

  • I wanted to be married. I wanted a baby. I wanted to be loved and to feel safe and taken care of…..normal everyday human needs. I didn’t ask for much.
    Instead I settled for not getting any of those things met in order to keep a selfish and immature drunk asshole whom I’d fooled myself into believing was the best thing that ever happened to me. That if I tried for better I might end up with worse or I’d never have the baby, and by extension, the family, I longed for myself.
    Here I am, 44 years old with no husband and worst of all no baby.
    I’m so angry that I did this to myself. I’m so angry that I denied what I wanted so very badly because he “loved” me and I’d be selfish to want from a person who loved me, what he didn’t want to give me.

    • Forgive yourself – having hope is not bad thing and you were doing what you thought was right at the time. There’s no crystal ball waiting to tell us the outcome. We go in with faith. It’s only later, sometimes much later, that we learned our hope, trust and respect were placed in the wrong hands. That’s not your fault. He convinced you that his needs were always great than yours and those very wants trumped anything you desired.

      To put in simple terms. I hated house cleaning. Dickhead hated house cleaning. Because he said it first (whatever the hell that means), he never had to do it and I had no right to expect him to change. And yes, it seemed that his dislike was more than mine so therefore he won. My whole marriage was based on this premise. Anything I wanted, needed, desired, or hoped for would always come in second.

  • Thank you MissBailey.
    You are always so kind and know just what to say.
    I read this post a day too late and I’m devastated.
    It’s so sad that I would spend my life trying to make someone like me understand how wonderful I think they are and I can look in the mirror and not be able to believe it.
    And still after all that’s happened I can still have hope for him and put myself on top of the pyre that he created like a sacrificial lamb when I’d be screaming at any one to not do this. Why can’t I protect myself like I would someone else?

  • good for her, she saw her self worth. Why TF would people stay with someone if they’re always chasing love?????? I don’t get it.. my first boyfriend treated me like a princess.. we didn’t work out, but I know that there are men out there who treat women right. Why anyone would settle for less is beyond me.

  • It’s the story of The Crane’s Wife that hit home. Six months post DDay, in my 60’s, looking back at a lifetime of plucking feathers… I’m finally alone and at the beginning of my real story and I don’t know who will emerge…
    CL and CN arrived in my life a few weeks ago… I’ve plundered the archive and am reeling from all the revelations, discoveries and insight…

    Thank you all, I’m immensely grateful x

  • whoshallisay,

    Welcome. I am relatively new here too; less than a year and in my late 60’s.
    You have expressed my sentiments exactly.
    By now you have probably figured out there are a lot of us ‘older chumps’ here.

    I never imagined that my life could change so drastically from where it was 2 years ago as I was plucking at warp speed trying to live up to the RIC standards of creating a ‘better than ever relationship’…..

    Well, no more plucking and I am indeed creating a ‘better than ever relationship’ BUT it is not with the wasband….what is unfolding is a new and exciting relationship with myself.

    Knowledge is power and a community who has lived and put into use that knowledge is healing and that is what I have found here.

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