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Dear Chump Lady, What’s my ‘role’ in the break-up?

Dear Chump Lady,

I have started my divorce, working on the settlement, and I’m a few months after my D-Day with a spouse of 20+ years. The cheater is planning to marry the Other Woman. He told me a few months ago that we need to go our separate ways, etc. So I’m on the path, and definitely over it. I TRUST THAT HE SUCKS, and I trust that they suck together. (I read/carried your book with me daily to get to this point.)

I found support with a good counselor. I tried an RIC support group that went badly because the women were sticking around for years (yes, years) waiting for their cheaters to come around. Whereas, I am a few months in and ready to dump the cheater; so I quit that group. I am now in a divorce group, and that group is going better. But… I am getting handed continuing messages that: “I need to look at my role in the marriage. It takes two people for things to go wrong or right. I need to understand my areas for improvement, etc.”

So I know I am not at fault for the cheater’s behavior. I know that even happily married spouses will cheat. But I also have heard that “broken relationships should fail” and “happy relationships seldom fail.” These various things are leaving me confused. I agree that we had our problems, and there was some definite growing apart in the past 4-5 years, each of us changing, plus major stressors (major financial stuff, elderly parent issues, job loss/changes).

Every time I hear that I need to look at myself — it keeps reopening the wound, just as I start to feel stronger and ready to move on with my life. I know that I will be better in my next relationship, because I’m a changed person — forever. But how much do I need to revisit my role in everything? Do I share some responsibility for the breakup of the marriage, even while I know I wasn’t responsible for my cheater’s behavior?

Did you wrestle with this? I’d really like your take on it.



Dear MovingOnInMissouri,

You’re not responsible for someone cheating on you. You don’t have superpowers. And if you did, you’d choose something cool like x-ray vision — not rejection. We don’t make people cheat on us. We don’t drive them to drink, we don’t make them hit us, and we don’t compel them to cheat.

Linking a “bad marriage” with cheating is blameshifting. If you got mugged, and I said, “I’m sorry you were mugged, but let’s examine why you were walking down that street with $100 in your wallet” — you’d see the mindfuckery.

Intimacy makes us vulnerable. Intimacy is the cash in your wallet. You should be able to go about your business without being accosted and pistol-whipped.

If you got mugged, you would probably torture yourself with woulda-coulda-shouldas afterwards. If only I had walked on a different street. If only I looked more assertive. If only I hadn’t gone to that ATM.

Because that’s what victims do — we untangle skeins in an effort to understand Scary. Why we were vulnerable. If there’s anything we could’ve done differently. All the factors leading up to Scary Thing. We’re trying to avoid the central terror — powerlessness.

Victims do this mental loop — but the resources purported to help victims should not blame them.

Somehow a lot of the world has blinders on for transgressions that occur in a marriage. Think how long it took for the mindset to change around domestic abuse or marital rape.

You never caused your husband to deceive you, gaslight you, or risk your health. You did not consent to be cheated on.

Your flaws — real or perceived — are completely irrelevant to the conversation. Your marriage — your imperfect, human marriage — broke up because he cheated. End of story.

Self-improvement is laudable — and it’s also not relevant to this conversation. And I’ll tell your Divorce Care group that. Are you flawed? Sure. We’re all flawed. Should you examine your flaws and strive to improve yourself? Yes, because we should all try to be our best selves. But self-examination is the wrong tool in the “I Got Cheated On” recovery toolkit. Compassion is the right tool.

You shouldn’t be asked to own what isn’t yours to own. Your flaws and life’s stressors didn’t compel him to cheat — his shitty character did that.

No one gets through life without “major stressors.” Everybody ages (okay, unless you grew up on Mount Olympus and are immortal), has job challenges, health crises, money problems… And not everyone cheats. Your character determines how you respond to adversity — and that includes how you reject someone. Ideally, we hope our partners will stick with us through thick and thin.  But relationships can still end. If those challenges are too great — there is still an ethical way to end things — honestly, with a fair settlement.

Your ex didn’t leave honestly — he got engaged to another woman while he was married to you. He cheated. That’s on HIM. You can’t fix that, or woulda-coulda-shoulda it. Your mistake was investing in a guy who didn’t have the raw materials — character — to be a life partner. (The irony is not lost on me that he’s remarrying.)

I know that I will be better in my next relationship, because I’m a changed person — forever.

Here’s a perspective as a chump who moved on to that next relationship — it’s been 10 years, and my big revelation is — I’m not that changed as a person. I’m still flawed, but overall I’m a pretty great wife. I was always a pretty great wife. What changed is I got a quality partner who faces life’s challenges with me.

And that’s a freeing revelation — I didn’t suck as a partner. I was in a no-win situation.

I’m not saying that as a pass to ignore my obvious weaknesses — I have plenty of faults. I did a lot of wrong things in my past relationships (trial tested results of What Not To Do shared here). But I never had a fully invested partner before — and that’s the difference.

“broken relationships should fail” and “happy relationships seldom fail.”

Well, that’s just Monday morning quarterbacking, isn’t it? If it failed, it’s broken and if it’s together it must be happy. That’s trying to make causal links between unrelated things. Plenty of broken relationships endure. And “happiness” is transitory. So is failure.

Divorce Care isn’t the oracle of Delphi, okay?

Rock on with your new life, and leave the blameshifting at the door.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “I was always a pretty great wife.”

    Thank you for verbalizing something I know deep inside of me. I may never have the chance to be a pretty great wife again but that’s not the point.

    I WAS a pretty great wife and I didn’t deserve the horrific, callous, mean treatment from the ex.

    Your simple statement is an affirmation I can own. Anyone else’s opinion just doesn’t matter.

    • I really needed this today. I am over 2 years out of my relationship with cheater, and right after he “told me the truth” about cheating, he shortly appeared after our breakup with a baby and a different woman. I also have struggled a lot with trying to figure out my part on the road to Meh. But this is so true! There was no winning with someone who was out to pathologically deceive me. It still hurts. But I haven’t let that stop me from rebuilding the life that I deserve.

    • I’m a good person and a good man. I’m a great “Dad” to my stepdaughter (her words, not mine). And, on topic, I was a damn good husband! But that didn’t stop my (now ex) wife from pursuing a relationship outside our marriage and, ultimately, leaving for perceived greener pastures – “I want to be single. I don’t love you anymore. I want a divorce.”
      My mistake was, after 17 years together, failing to recognize/acknowledge 1) the deficits in her character, and 2) the fact that she wasn’t as invested as I was in our marriage.
      I’ve learned and I like to think that I’m now a stronger, wiser person. Time will tell, I guess.

      • Captain Chumpy Chumperton,
        I like and can relate to your #2 above…for some reason I really want my wife to own that fact, that she’s not invested in our marriage or in me as husband. I know I shouldn’t let it bother me, but it frustrates me to know end that she is now 18 months post D-day trying to say “we aren’t good together” and “the desire to make this work isn’t there for either of us”. Wrong!!! We aren’t good together because she cheated…she emotionally and mentally left me and the kids and never came back. I’ve tried to be a good husband and father and I deserve the respect of her to at least own WHY our marriage has failed.

        • Can I raise my hand and say “me too” to this? I got “I’m sorry we couldn’t make each other happy” – the obvious subtext in using “we” being it was 1) obviously a joint thing but hang on… 2) *I* thought I was happy (why not? As per the lady who’s wife left her for her boss who’s story was posted the other day, she was waxing lyrical as to how great we were and how lucky she was right up until she got caught), ergo the logical conclusion must be it was *me* making *her* unhappy – with my unhappiness resulting from the fact she is not willing to be, in her words, “emotionally blackmailed”.

          I wonder, going by the common ground between the three of us, if its more of a female cheater thing? Male cheaters tend to play the “not enough sex” or “feeling nagged” card but the whole Esther Perel “not meeting needs” thing crops up more in magazines and websites targeted to women. I know for a fact my ex was Googling and reading these like crazy when she cheated.

          • To add in my 2cents: It’s NOT just a female cheater thing. The narrative my STBX husband (still) try’s to spew is “WE weren’t happy” and “we have needs that weren’t being met.”

            That second one is true though I just didn’t know it at the time of cheating. My needs are a loyal, honest, moral partner. His are a porn habit, and a 20 year younger secretary willing to have threesomes and fetish sex. Ya know, needs.

            • Not a woman thing. I got the “We were not happy” thing, too. I told him that was news to me. I was plenty happy until he started messing with the 23-year-old howorker. The more I read, the more I learn i was married to a covert narcissist all this time. I was dealing with depression for a long time, but I had never associated it back to him. Lots of problems with returning bronchitis and sinusitis, too. Turns out the body knows before your mind that someone is not good for you. My health is much improved without him now (13 months since DDay), and it isn’t because I have changed anything. Note that I cried my eyes out over his leaving for 6 months. I still have sad days, yes, but I know I don’t want him back. It is getting adjusted to being single after 26 years that is hard. I am finding my way back to me.

              • My life is similar to yours. I cried for six months and then went through supporting my mom as she died from lung cancer. My Ex is now doting on my daughter instead of me and I see the manipulation.

                I happened upon a form she filled out for college recommendations. There was a question about any negative issues she faced and her answer was that her parents had a messy divorce as she started high school and that her mother struggles with menal health issues which results in an unstable home life.

                That tore me up. My councelor looked at me in disbelief? Mental Health issues? You were grieving your marriage and the death of your mother.

                Someday my daughter will understand. Trying to talk with her now will just result in her lecturing me since she is so wise from her 18 years of privledged life.

              • OMG!! My life as well! Had to deal with an abusive childhood=PTSD and depression, but never had to be hospitalized until I was married to him. (Married the Womanizer when I was 36 years old). Now I know it was his double life before and after we were married that pushed me over the edge. Now I see how my body was sick from the unseen deceptions and betrayals, how my mind struggled to reconcile the hidden betrayal he had with the lies he told me, especially turning it around on me being “paranoid “. I see the character flaw was him not wanting to fix anything between us, it was always me trying with romantic getaways, counseling, trying to talk to him and me doing the dancing all the time to make him happy. What an idiot I was! But no longer, dday was now 8 months. Thank you Chump lady and chump nation so much! Reading all the letters and responses give me understanding, strength, and the awesome will to carry on and know HE SUCKS! It has been just awful to know he pushed me into horrible depressions and it wasn’t my past that did it, it was dealing with a duplicitous cheater. I was blind for over 20 YEARS! And I am trying really hard to forgive myself for falling for his bullshit and mourning the lost time and having 2 wonderful kids that are now in the middle of this shitshow. I have good days and some terrible ones where the pain hurts down to my bones, something all you wonderful chumps know all too well. Now I just have to train myself to recognize those shitty narcissistic assholes and try to never get trapped like that again. Scary how my body knew for years…..

          • Nope it’s all across the board, depending on the narrative they think will stick and get them out of trouble, so they can continue with their whores.

            Mine said, “well I thought our marriage was pretty much over so I figured when you found out you would leave”. And just like the rest of us chumps, “wait, what? That’s the first I’ve heard that our marriage was in trouble”.

            So basically, I’ll keep fucking my skank and getting the best of both worlds, wife appliance and a slut, until I get caught and then blame you and our marriage.

            Doesn’t matter, man or woman, straight or gay…. they all read from the same playbook when it comes to narcissistic selfish behavior.

          • Yep, got that too. We’ll be sooo much happier apart. Whaaaaat? We will, will we?
            Yesterday you were telling me how much you loved me, we were dancing around the bathroom naked and you were telling me how hot I was and having really good sex but yet today you haven’t been happy for aaaages, you haven’t loved me for a year and I’m controlling ass who never pays you any attention and doesn’t meet your needs and you want a divorce and are leaving?
            You’re not staying in a loveless marriage because ‘I don’t meet your needs’ and ‘you don’t have to do what society dictates’?
            WTF – I was in shock for almost a year afterwards. Just absolutely unable to reconcile the prior with the current.
            Just about coming to the conclusion that I have to ‘trust that she sucks’ (other guys off)…. and THAT’S what ruined our marriage….
            I think it’s Monday 11.59pm or possibly even 12.01am on Tuesday….
            Didn’t want to be alive for a year – so close to ending at all at one stage….
            And yes I’d like her to own up to her actions as she blamed me for everything and it JUST DIDN’T MAKE SENSE!

          • I will also add that this is NOT just a female thing. I heard the same things, but worded differently. These are all the same lines from The Cheaters Handbook. You are Untangling the Skein of Fuckupedness. No judgement as I spent months doing it as I was so confused with all the things that he said to me that didn’t make sense due to our history together and also all the nice, positive and loving things he said to me prior to D-day. They will say ANYTHING to shift the blame onto you; their “unhappiness” or all the many other things we’ve heard from The Cheaters Handbook. It only takes a few blog posts and CN comments until you come across something that was said to you. Easier said then done, but every time your brain wants to rehash what she said to you and try to make sense of it — shut it down ASAP. I used to say, “STOP!” Or “He’s a known pathological liar and he’s LYING!”

            The XH said to my face, “You never took good care of me.” And he said it to me with anger and with a mean look on his face. I was taken aback. At the time I wish I would have said, “Name one thing that I didn’t do for you.” No doubt he would have come up with yet another lie, but it would have for sure had been something stupid like, “You didn’t cut my meat up on my plate like you used to do for our kids.” The fact is that he KNEW being the best wife and mom that I could be was important to me. He KNEW I valued my family above all else. He used what he KNEW about me as a WEAPON to take me out at the knees. Us Chumps always think we did something wrong or we didn’t do enough to make people “happy”, so of course I took what he said to heart. But now I know it was him and not me. I was a GREAT wife and mom. Imperfect? Yes, but I’m human and I spent our entire marriage trying to be better and improve myself (I got the Amazon Self-help pile off books to prove it!). While I was trying to be a better human being. The XH was learning how to be a better manipulator, liar and cheater. And when he said in The Divorce Letter that we didn’t “share the same values.” He was right. We don’t.

            • Martha, thanks for this. You reminded me that when I found out and confronted him. First he denied it. (of course) Then I told him I had the emails, and then in a loud voice stated accusingly “You’re a liar, and a cheater and a manipulator” and left the room. He followed me and did the snake-eyes weird smile thing, all puffed up, and told me with snark, one hand on his hip, … “You know, Barbara, you should take a page out of all those self-help books by the bed, … and forgive me” It still takes my breath away.

    • You are spot on!!! I loved Divorce Care but hated that part of it.
      My ex is a mega creepy narcissist. I am, still to this day, “damned if I do and damned if I don’t.” I could’ve been the perfect woman, and I still could never have done things right enough.
      Thanks again for your awesomeness. ????????

    • I loved this too. “I was always a great wife.”

      After 28 years of my husband blaming me for so many “failings”—including me touching him too much, me saying I love you too much, and him never feeling I loved him, because I never did enough well enough—including how he thought I would have been the kind of mother who did impressive thing X (yet I actually was a mother actually doing X)—I discovered stuff that caused me to get tested for STDs including HIV. Yep: gay everything. His reasons were multitude. But one that is bugging me lately, not just for its cruelty but also for its stupid logic: “I really AM attracted to you, except when you were fat, that wasn’t doin’ it for me.” Ummmmm—so you are definitely trying to woo back the woman you love? And, I had been thin for 4 years by then, and at this t8me I was looking good. So, does me being fat in the PAST explain why you were looking for men for sex this recent past month? Me being fat in the past meant I wasn’t doin it for you now, huh? And it wasn’t doin it SO MUCH that you wanted men and only men?

      And the mind mess continued for months—as he told me: You are such a black and white thinker! And I felt alienated from you! And I never got what I wanted in our marriage! I never get what I want! And We have communication issues! I just want to work on our communication issues!

      I think it is true that he never got what he wanted. And it is true that we had communication issues. I mean, he did not want a woman, and surprise! I am a woman. And communication issues? He would never tell me he was gay. So yeah, all my fault.

      But: I really was a wonderful wife. I wish he would have been honest and allowed me to be with someone who appreciated me, instead of constantly putting me down. What a sick sick man.

      Guess what? Now, he is furious with me that I want a divorce. “Look!” He snarl-sobbed, “I’m SORRY I wasn’t ENOUGH for you.”

      • Love that you got there and called his sh?t for what it was. Sure I have compassion for the oppressed homosexuals but all that goes out the window when blame shifting / cake eating comes into play. He is not a good person straight or gay.

  • …Linking a “bad marriage” with cheating is blameshifting. If you got mugged, and I said, “I’m sorry you were mugged, but let’s examine why you were walking down that street with $100 in your wallet” — you’d see the mindfuckery…

    …You shouldn’t be asked to own what isn’t yours to own. Your flaws and life’s stressors didn’t compel him to cheat — his shitty character did that…

    Listen to Tracy. Her words are gold!

    • My ex felt entitled to “open” his first marriage because he was the sole earner for an extended family and she didn’t save his favorite piece of chicken.

      He cheated on me, a career woman with no kids, because I used a “tone” that emasculated him when he didn’t get the dishes clean, failed to find a bonsai for his birthday, didn’t care enough to complain when he played video games too much, and that one time I took the bigger pork chop.

      Nowhere do I see his fingers pointing back at him for always putting himself first, his selfishness, his laziness, his entitlement.

      • ” and she didn’t save his favorite piece of chicken.” hahahahaha. This is hilarious. And also sadly true about the childish level of their resentments. The xhole once punished me wiht the silent reatment for three days because I had the audacity to laugh when he couldn’t find something he was looking for in the fridge, that was right in front of him. A common problem for all of us. But He could not be common -or find communality in what he considered to be “weakness” Tellibly un-funny! Oh dear- as it turns out, they are all the same anyway!

      • Yes, you took the bigger pork chop! Ha ha I got “You never go to get the take away.” Or “I paid for coffee more than you”(he earned more than me) and other little things on the list he compiled of my transgressions. None nearly as bad as his cheating for 4 years!

  • I might agree that it takes 2 to ruin a marriage- a cheater and an affair partner. In my case there were multiple ow.

    Did we have problems? Yes, but they all could have been worked out by reasonable adults. Turns out only one of us fit that description. And yes, when you don’t have all the information, that is a one sided relationship which is an oxymoron and more accurately an. Abusive relationship.

    • Right! Stating, “it takes two to ruin a marriage.” is like saying, “it takes two” for an embezzlement,” or “it takes two for an assault, or “it takes two” for a murder.

      It DOES take two: a perp and a victim.

  • CL nails it.

    My divorce presented an opportunity for self-reflection, and dating again brought more of that.

    And that self-reflection did examine my failed marriage.

    But it wasn’t about “my role” in the end of the marriage, because “my role” was to be treated like shit for 6 months, accept the reality of my situation, leave my wife, and file for divorce. Nothing to examine there.

    However, I did examine “my role” in the marriage before the cheating. And I saw things that I didn’t want to repeat with a new partner.

    I was too doting before…
    …too much “happy wife, happy life” mentality
    …too much bending over backwards to avoid making my wife upset
    …too many of the sacrifices in our short marriage were mine, not hers.

    So, yeah. I contributed to a relationship dynamic in which my (eventual) cheater thrived, because it was always all about her and her happiness, regardless of my sacrifice.

    But “my role” didn’t make her cheat; it didn’t make her retroactively request an open marriage. It didn’t make her lie about every single thing to everyone in our lives. If “my role” did ANYTHING, it forestalled those activities, allowing me to continue with my blinders on in the belief that my now-ex-wife’s selfishness and egoism was just a “small” issue, as opposed to a character-defining feature that made her unworthy of a spouse.

    “My role”? I was too kind. Too loving. Too understanding. Too accepting. Too calm. Too patient. Too humble.

    Not again. Never again. I’ve learned my lesson.

    Take that self-examination back to the RIC and tell them to shove it.

    • You nailed it, JC. That’s the thing about many chumps–we’re very giving. We are willing to have a relationship where we do most of the giving without expectation of getting something in return. That’s what you do when you “love” someone, right?

      We have to learn to expect more in a relationship. Reciprocity is a good thing.

      • Has ChumpLady or the UBT ever looked at (self-confessed cheater) Sandra Tsing-Loh? There’s an article from a couple of years back which includes a quote which, I think, epitomises the Narc mindset in relationships:

        “She mentions a scene in which her character and her new boyfriend, named Charlie in the play, go to couples therapy. Charlie reminds her that modern relationships are about mutual support. “And I go, ‘Honestly, that feels very unsexy. I don’t want mutual support. I want you to take care of me like I’m Jackie O. and you’re Maurice Tempelsman. Hold the umbrella for me when I get done with it. I guess I want more of a valet parker or a spa.”

        Philip Himberg, the producing artistic director of Sundance Theatre Lab, told her, “I really don’t like you in that scene.” She says she is still rewriting it.”

        There you go folks. Mutual support is “unsexy”. I think that tells you all you need to know.

        • Most interesting quote, DorsetGuy. Yes, it does tell us all we need to know. Mutual support requires WORK from both parties. ‘Work’ is a word that does not appear in a narcissist’s vocabulary, when it relates to them. It only applies to those unfortunates in the narcissist’s sphere – partners, spouses, siblings, neighbours, co-workers. These are the poor souls who do the heavy lifting in support of the narc – physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually. We are there to serve them. Never, but never expect reciprocity from a narc. You will be forever disappointed if you do.

        • I hate to admit that I wasted a couple of hours of my life (that I can’t take back !) reading that narc’s book. She’s just as unhappy with husband 2.0 as she was with her first husband.

    • Slow clap, JC. A great reflection. But I don’t think that being too kind, loving, understanding accepting, calm and humble is bad! I remarried a fellow chump after divorcing cheater-ex. My second husband is kind, loving, understanding, accepting, calm, patient and humble – all these lovely attributes and more. We have a healthy and happy long-standing marriage. I thank my lucky stars that cheater-ex showed me his true nasty character, so I could exit that stained marriage. His exit opened up my life to be able to enter into a new relationship with a very decent man of honourable character.

      • How wonderful! It must be refreshing to be around a man like that, I’m happy for you!

      • I feel the same. JC please continue to be kind, loving, understanding, accepting, and calm. There are plenty of honorable women with integrity that would cherish you for those qualities. You just have to fix your picker. Don’t settle.

    • This, JC. I was going to write a similar comment but you already nailed it. I came to exactly the same revelations, which helped me fix my picker and adjust my own behavior. So I’m glad I did a serious post-mortem with myself.

      I understand what @Chumpchange9 is trying to say in the comment above with “I don’t think that being too kind, loving, understanding accepting, calm and humble is bad!” But I disagree. I think being TOO all of those things is exactly what got me in the crap situation I was in with my ex. Those impulses come from a great place, but I could have and should have stood up for myself sooner. I could have avoided a lot more heartache and financial abuse if I had healthy boundaries in place. I’m remarried to an amazing person too, and as much as I can, I treat him with all of those good qualities that my ex stomped all over. But I’m not exactly the same person now. And he knows that (rightfully) if he ever starting treating me and our kids like a doormat, I’d show him the door regardless of how I feel about him romantically. Them’s the brakes, as my dad says.

    • I personally don’t think it’s possible to be too kind or too loving, but it is possible to confuse being codependent with being loving and do too much of that.

    • JC – your epiphanies are the same as mine. I gave too much of myself. I was too flexible and too loving. I will never put another partner above me (equal to me yes but not above). I just turned 50 and may never have another relationship (this is the cynical me after 3 weeks on a dating app) but I have promised myself that I will love myself and I will do everything in my power to have a happy and fulfilling life.

      • Deee, i was the same way, gave too much and put my partner above me. i’m 58 and have met some people on dating sites, and am taking things SLOW and letting friendships develop. friendships are about all i can handle right now. when i find myself wondering if these new male friends like me, what they think about me, do i look ok, etc. etc., i snap a mental rubber band and return the focus to myself and whether i like them, what do i think about them. it’s a hard habit to break!

    • My sentiments exactly. I think you can be to kind and loving. I would bend over backwards to make sure everything was taken care of the house, bills, kids,etc. I neglected myself at the expense of his happiness. Example we didn’t have insurance because we had to pay and maintain a farm that had no income that we couldn’t afford.(His only love besides himself) I had a hole in my tooth from the time our youngest child was born (child age 7 now) my tooth crumbled and I needed a cap. Paying the expenses on the farm always came first. I have been divorced 1 year and have already fixed my tooth.
      We are so kind that what they need, want always comes first. We neglect ourselves to keep them happy. Never Again !

    • This. You are so right. It’s the point I had to come to as well.

      In my state we have to take a class on how this all affects the kids before the judge will sign off on the divorce. The instructor commented that all of us needed to own our parts- even if our only part was letting it go too far, putting up with a bad spouse.
      He talked about how much more often second and third marriages fail and how bad it is for kids to be dragged through relationship after relationship.
      And he encouraged all of us to take a step back, learn from what happened, and determine not to let it happen again.

      My X got married a third time this past weekend. My kids have seen him get married twice now. I hope for their sakes the drama stops, but seriously, this isn’t a third time’s the charm thing. It’s a 3 strikes ya oughta be out thing. If vows don’t mean anything by now, they probably never will.

      • In a similar vein, I’ve noticed that everyone says that it’s important to take some time to yourself after a divorce, to figure out who you are, how you’ve changed, what you would do differently the next time. This is as close to universal advice as I’ve seen.

        So, while I was feeling a little antsy because I only took a year off before I started dating, thinking that maybe I rushed it a little, XW was getting engaged to and then marrying her affair partner. She actually had *negative* time between relationships. Even forgetting about the effect on the kids, I’m appalled that she didn’t take some time by herself just for her *own* good. I guess it just shows that her poor decision-making wasn’t restricted to our marriage, and (I trust) it will surface again in her next one.

        • @RadMomma, “And he encouraged all of us to take a step back, learn from what happened, and determine not to let it happen again”

          @InvoluntaryGeorgian, “In a similar vein, I’ve noticed that everyone says that it’s important to take some time to yourself after a divorce, to figure out who you are, how you’ve changed, what you would do differently the next time. This is as close to universal advice as I’ve seen.”

          Both of those things would define “introspection”. Introspection is not something cheating liars do very well, if ever! If they could have had the gift of introspection, they probably wouldn’t have had an affair in the first place. They could have thought through the action and damage it would cause, and chosen a different path. It seems asking for the impossible imho. Every time I ever asked the STBXDick an important, deep question, and allowed him time to think, the best he could come up with is “I don’t know”… smh

          At the end, I was told I was “too gorgeous, too strong, too independent”. WTF? If you take out the “too” these are all admirable qualities one would look for in a life partner of 30+ years, right?
          In his mind over the years, these became the criticisms that launched his secret life and girlfriends.
          I guess I’d better tone that shit down then …Nah.

        • These people NEVER take any time because they are so vapid they feel they are no one unless they are with someone. A parasite always needs to find a new host. My cheater XH went from my bed to hers within 24 hours and my fake fiancée was online nine minutes after we broke up trolling for another victim which he found within two weeks. It seems we are the only ones that take that kind of advice.

          • Yep know the how that feels. A week after I threw him out he was contacting affair partners from 3 years ago & getting on dating sites. And yet he was ‘devoted’ to me & it would destroy him if we split. He was a needy creature & no one person was ever enough for him.

        • Yes, it will.
          I don’t think they have an identity of their own. They become who their partner needs them to be, and when they get tired of that, they shed that skin and try on another.

          My kids said there was dancing and partying into the night. He’s never danced a day in his life. I’ve known him since we were teens. He has no coordination beyond swaying. He will get bored with this one too eventually.

          By the way, I didn’t mean to be hard on anyone whose been married 3 times. By all means, if you’ve been wronged twice, get out of there and heal and find a good one! I was just referring to him moving about feeding off the women in his wake. That’s not counting the affair partners and other people he’s hurt along the way… and he has brought my kids along for the ride.

    • I don’t think we’re ‘too much’ of those good things, it’s the balance that’s lacking. Now I finally know to look for reciprocity, watch for it. If it doesn’t come spontaneously, especially after the first wave of infatuation calms down? The person doesn’t deserve what I have to give. Because now I expect to receive just as much.

      • This.

        The problem wasn’t that we were too much of those good things. Those are things you do for a loved one. The problem was about reciprocity, and pouring it onto someone who doesn’t deserve it. Also, when you’re with an abuser, there’s intermittent reinforcement at play that really screws with your brain, so you work harder to gain back the far and few in-between “good” times.

        The solution isn’t about withholding the good stuff in the next relationship, but to make sure that your next partner is deserving of it, and is able to reciprocate consistently, which can only be judged through time and observation.

        • myachump,

          ‘there’s intermittent reinforcement at play that really screws with your brain’

          And I totally missed it but now in hindsight I see it practically everywhere I look.

          Just the other day I was doing some cleaning out and ran across old cards he had given me and therein lay the promises/tidbits about his abounding love and appreciation for me that always had a promise attached…now I know to watch their actions not their words.

          So bloody blatant – how on earth did I miss it?!? Pure hopium and the thoughts, “See, he really does love me and someday he will show it openly like he did in the beginning.” (I now know the early days were all about love bombing and huge manipulation…..)

          In case you are wondering, yes, I did tear them all up into little pieces and threw the lot out. I was actually surprised by how good it felt to do that.

    • Just as a thought and not a rebuttal, but I too was the giver in my marriage. I certainly doted on the wrong undeserving person. Now I am in a new relationship with an amazing guy. I totally dote on him and he appreciates it and reciprocates!! Don’t stop doting … it is a wonderful way to express love. But DO expect and accept reciprocation. I am guessing it gave you much happiness to be loving … no need to change yourself. ❤️

    • I like this, it’s a good attitude; yes, each of us who is partnered up has a role in determining the general course of a relationship. Yes, there are ways we each might improve ourselves as part of that. It is irrelevant to cheating obviously, but there’s nothing wrong per se in quite clinically examining a now-defunct relationship and considering what one might have learnt (apart from spotting and booting out cheaters asap, obviously) to take forward into the future.

      My problem with ”let’s look at your role” is that it implies a level of blame for the deceit and betrayal that occurs… and that’s just a flat nope.

    • Formerly iwantmyfairytale- BECAUSE IM SICK OF THAT SHIT.

      I agree. Next time I’m not going to strive to be the cool wife. No more letting you do whatever you feel like and be mean and condescending. No more passive aggressive behavior disguised with a “it’s just a joke, I’m kidding” remark. I’m going to set boundaries and respect myself. Im going to be a bitch to you if step over the line and treat me any other way than I deserve to be treated. Like any human deserves to be treated.

      • Yes, boundaries! My wasband had way too much freedom. He went to see his favorite band play 4x last summer. 2x that was in a far away city so also throw in airfare & hotel. Yet, we had never taken the kids on a family vacation. I was all about putting the family first and planning family activities. He put himself first and then family could join in if a good fit for the event.

    • Yet to a fellow chump you are exactly what we are looking/hoping for. Don’t change who you are just because she didn’t appreciate you. One day you will find someone that will treat you the way you deserve!!

    • JC,

      Holy shit. If you change your “short marriage” for my almost 25 year marriage, I’d think you wrote a post for me as well! My FW XW even told the female MC (which she requested for our one marriage counseling session and that I agreed to back in the early months after D-day, when I was still playing the pick-me dance), that I had one of the biggest hearts of anybody she knew.

      Even at that time, but especially now, part of my mind was screaming, if I’m such a big hearted man, which implies I am a good man, why did you fuck me and our family over by breaking the trust the kids and I had in you by fucking your rich, older, married boss, who obviously is only interested in you as his latest conquest, i.e. a trophy bitch?!!”

      Oh, RIGHT. I hadn’t been earning the big money those last four years, nor supporting the lifestyle you felt you were entitled to now (as an upwardly mobile local politician w/dreams of the governorship and beyond). I was no longer allowing you to provide the appearance to the world of wonderfulness that you’re so driven to show you possess and deserve (which money and me being a nice, good man/husband helped make possible).

      No, instead I’d made the silly decision to choose my sanity versus making large amounts of money and possibly injuring or killing someone by making a mistake because of my stress level being off the charts on my job. I stupidly thought that after 15-20 years of providing well for you and our family, you’d be ok w/helping me/us get through this rough spot financially.

      I didn’t intend to immediately fall into the worst depression I’d ever had in my life, but I still managed to find a part-time job eventually, which led to a seasonal job, which led to a full-time job that almost unhinged my mind again, which finally led to the job I have now, which I’ve held by hook or by crook for five years now, despite your adultery rocking my and the kids’ worlds.

      It’s retail, I’m a mattress salesperson, which is a far cry from what I used to do and went to college for, but it allowed me to reduce my stress levels WAY down, which I desperately needed. It wasn’t perfect, but I was trying to find a path back to sustained sanity and out of depression, and I was contributing financially to the family, which I also desperately wanted to do.

      Then, when the FW XW told me she needed me to step up and get a better job w/better pay and better hours, I figured out that I would need to go back to school to get a job that would allow me to stay sane and meet her request. This was ok, I thought, as my wonderful wife (oh, how clueless I was) had a job as an administrative assistant in our state college system that provided not only a tuition waiver for the kids but for both of us as well, so long as we only took undergraduate classes (lost when FW was “let go” after the affair w/the chancellor of said system came out). [Kids, can you cough up a few hundred thousand dollars of your own for your college aspirations? You can’t? That’s strange. Well, it’s more important your mother does what she wants to do. After all, we’re really only here on earth for her.????]

      Thirteen days after I go w/her and our young son to one of the college’s open house programs, her boss tells her of his desire for her, and he begins ending his 40 year marriage while she starts down the road to end our almost 25 year marriage.

      Later, I was verbally given a laundry list of all the grievances she held against me that she could remember to pack into the first 45 minutes out of our hour, in that same marriage counseling session. But first, she had to tell the MC what a big heart I had. That made everything alright then, didn’t it?

      No. The reality was, as flawed as I was and am, I was truly in love w/her, and did my best to show her my lust, love and respect for her, always (and failed many times). I realized around the ten year mark in our marriage that I could hold a lot of resentment against her, or I could realize that I’m flawed too, and to just appreciate her for being my good (cough! hack!) wife. I chose the latter. She chose the resentment path when it came to me, and that’s HER problem. All I can do is continue to work on becoming a better man, and a better father for my children. She and her FW AP are on their own. It’s nice not having to deal w/as much of her bullshit anymore.

      Similar to what you said, JC, I was told by her through the years that I was more patient than her. I was more humble compared to her. I have always been the person that wants to believe in someone until their actions prove otherwise. You’re right, though. I don’t feel that’s served me so well now. In the future, I am going to be a lot more demanding of the people I let into my life, as well as the people who are currently in my life.

      I’m determining my boundaries, and if you cross them, you’re going to hear about it from me. I’m going to try to minimize my spackling abilities, even w/family. Because I don’t think it’s helping me to do this stuff anymore, or them. At the same time, I’ll try to balance things in my life better. I don’t want to go off the rails socially because of this horrible experience. I’ll try to let it inform my life in ultimately positive ways. Firm, but loving. Ready to fight for myself if need be, but peaceful in my pursuits.

      Here’s hoping we both find our way to a long, good life. Full of love and peace for ourselves and others, and meh for the FW’s. Be well, JC, and as always, that goes for all of CN. [Also, as I frequently say, sorry for the length of my post. This is my cheap form of therapy, since I’m w/out health insurance of any type right now. That’s going to be addressed when I get a new job, hopefully w/in a year.]

  • Listen to Chump Lady. It is not your job to take responsibility for his choice to cheat. He did that all on his own. It would not have mattered if you were a Stepford wife. He still would have cheated.

    As Chump Lady said she was always a pretty good wife. I am am sure you were to. I was a pretty good wife too. I would have done anything for him. I adored him. He chose to cheat with my cousin. She liked to have fun. And she was willing to cheat with a married man.

  • Missouri – You can address a problem if you were never made aware of it. He cheated. The only person who made him cheat is himself. Up to that point, sure, you both contributed to the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship. He cheated, so he torpedoed the marriage with you onboard while he was chugging away on a destroyer.

    I’m glad you didn’t go down with the ship. Every time someone says that when they know he lied and ran around BEHIND YOUR BACK what they are telling you is that they are saboteurs too. You don’t need them in your life.

  • Perfect answer. This is exactly what happened to me, except he also knocked up the mistress. I hate that my kids have to now live with that, I was hoping the cheating relationship would end so that person wouldn’t be step-mom. That does disgust me. I also hate that he’s the one that left, never truly asked forgiveness. But I now understand what a narcissist is. Him and the woman will get what they deserve and I’m the lucky one. You summed it up so perfect, I was also in a no win situation. I was so mad when the first thing a counselor said to us is that we had a bad marriage and the cheating was only the catalyst. She didn’t even know what the story was!

  • We did collaborative divorce with the help of a “coach”.

    At the initial meeting with all three of us, he looked at me and said, “You have your share of faults in this too.”

    That twisted me up. Did I? We moved on to the task at hand. But I’d love to see him again and correct that moment.

    I sure have faults. But, I. Didn’t. Break. The. Marriage.

    • This is what I saw coming and why I told him to stick his collaborative divorce up his butt. Our divorce wasnt collaborative as I was still in shock….and I feel pretty confident that all that “ho hum things happen, let’s make the best of it shall we” crap would have pushed me over the edge.
      I remember when ex and I watched Juno the first time and i was like…..what a DB this guy is to just bail on your marriage and have the nerve to nonchalantly push the collaborative divorce…..

      • Im not against the collaborative approach; my lawyer was really good and going that route cut the time/cost significantly. I had the support of a lawyer about the cost of the mediation approach.I live in a no-fault state and could only do so much anyways.

        The “coach” probably meant well – he stuck up for me at times with some pretty harsh comments to my X.

        Im of the mindset that scooting through the legal shit as clean as possible is helpful. No-fault is helpful; just leaves less emotional crap to be angry about.

    • Tell that ‘coach’ that this is bullshit! Send an email. We at least shouldn’t take bullshit lying down, once we know better.

      It’s perfectly possible to coach, mediate etc without ever getting into whose fault anything is. The important thing is to focus on a fair and reasonable outcome for both.

      Of course, narcs are terrible at ‘fair and reasonable’, but sometimes it works, if you go for it early, when they are rushing to be with the AP, and still have a tinge of guilt. But be fast, that super doesn’t last!

      • Yes! Strike while the iron is hot even if you feel sad, unsure, hopeful… better to use the aftermath tine to go for the moon. Their guilt doesn’t last. Also amass gift cards, things you want and need before exposing them. It’s hard to think strategically in the moment so just try like hell to listen to others in this site cause 50/50 is never fair in this situation. Wanting sone monetary amends is ok.

    • “You have your share of faults in this too.”

      Tall One, I am pissed off for you! That is just a horrendous thing to say.

      What a bunch of heartless ignorance, gall, and b.s.

  • Here is what I say to the it takes two tango no fault dipshits from switzerland. That is not true I knew when I was about 7 years old Mom was right and Dad was wrong and my parents were just a fairly typical level of dysfunction without infidelity and narcissism.

  • If you are in a partnership with anyone who cheats – there is one trait they have- that no partner can possibly do anything about.

    They get BORED really fast. With everything.

    And make it your fault.

    • Splinter, that is my diagnosis as well. In hindsight, I see that every time sparkledick was being extra sarcastic, critical, accusing (and confusing me about what *I* was doing wrong) about everything, he was really blameshifting about his latest affair that probably was not going too well.

      He loves being the center of all attraction. I was just a useful prop as long as my youth lasted. When that passed, then I made him look bad since he knows I am much better professionally than he is..

      • Clearwaters,

        I will probably spend a bit of the rest of my life wondering how many of my marital bad moments were caused by his adulterous moments going poorly. It was a tragic moment when I realized that because he was lying about the cause of his angst, all the fixing I ever tried to do was pointless. I now wonder if any of our (very difficult, expensive and fraught with sacrifice) cross country moves were triggered by some awkwardness at work with a howorker.

        • cross country moves (same here) AND debts…. No one cheats for free….

          And, Uni, don’t spend another second wondering: they were ALL caused by adulterous moments going poorly.

          And whatever your cheater did right, it was for the wrong reasons… I used to be content that he was handy around the house and did the dishes. I now hire repairs and have a dishwasher.

          • “And, Uni, don’t spend another second wondering: they were ALL caused by adulterous moments going poorly.”

            That is where Im headed. I feel zero motivation to try to pull good memories out of the dross of abuse.

        • Looking back my EX was overly nasty when he was seeing my cousin. He would call me names. I would hear ” only a person like you would think that or do that.” He would bitch if I left a glass on the counter. Call me a liar and accuse me of cheating. He was so nasty that I would avoid going home. All that time he was cheating with Skankella. I know now he needed to make me the bad guy. To justify his cheating.

            • Me too Cuzchump! Stayed away from my own home because I dreaded how he would act when I arrived. I never knew what nasty evil thing awaited me.
              One year on my birthday, I was off work, but got dressed and left anyway. Spent the entire day at the mall as being around his rage/drinking/lying was too much for me. He never knew. Worst birthday ever.
              If I got off work early, I killed time at stores, park, library….wherever, until 5pm. There are only so many hours in a stretch one can spend in the presence of evil.

          • That happened to me too. His mistress was 5 months pregnant months before he told me. He was horrific to me during that time. His behaviour was truly shocking and my 12 year old daughter kept asking him if he loved me. He refused to answer. He would taunt and humiliate me. Threaten me with divorce, belittle me, tell me I no one liked me. When he confessed, he said he had to ask himself how he could do such a thing. The answer? I yelled at him. He didn’t love me and was not attracted to me. I pushed him away. I made him gourmet dinners and renovated a beautiful family home instead of boosting his ego. 100% unadulterated blame shifting. He played zero role in the affair (I didn’t yet know there was a 20-year history of them). Of course I apologised until I stumbled upon Chump Lady and got smart.

            • My Ex also said that no one likes me. He was being extra nasty one evening. He looked at me and said you know no one likes you not even your daughter. Those words hurt me. When I found out about Skankella. All I could think of was those words. I felt unlovable and actually believed that my daughter hated me. His words kept playing in my head. I took pills and drank a half of bottle of rum. I called my daughter crying and apologizing for being a bad mother. She immediately came down and sat with me. She told me I was not a bad mother. That she loved me. It was her father that was the bad person. That he wants me to feel this way to justify him betraying me and his family. I raised one smart beautiful daughter. These fuckwits really know how to crush your soul.

              • Cuzchup. Same here. He said my daughter was afraid of me. I asked her and she said no. She also said I did nothing wrong and that she didn’t have a good feeling about him.

                He also had a borderline inappropriate emotional relationship with a colleague. I am guessing she knew about the affair and the baby and that he slagged me off to get sympathy. Then we enlisted her to look after the house while we were away (before DD). I had never heard of her or met her but she came over and we talked an laughed and connected. Apparently she told him I was absolutely nothing like what he said. Surprise surprise.

            • Wombat, I read distress instead of mistress. But I guess your cheater was distressed indeed: how to keep the gourmet dinners and renovated beautiful family home (in my book those are loving ego boosters). I agree: 100% unadulterated blame shifting.

        • I got lucky and found out exactly what was going on during all my moments of frustration over the years that resulted in major fights. I found a treasure trove of emails over the course of our twenty year relationship that I could map onto all the major events in my/our life. For example, in 2003, I had the opportunity to take a job in Berlin or Bonn. I really wanted to take the Berlin job but my husband refused to move there. He said he preferred Bonn and could easily get a job nearby in no time. So I moved. 9 months later he had made no effort to get a job there. I tried repeatedly to understand why not, prod him, help him, etc to no avail. I finally lost it out of frustration about his lack of commitment and reluctance to discuss it. I “yelled at him” (what he says is my part in the affairs). He called me a poisonous dwarf.

          When I found the emails, I could see that a couple of weeks earlier, he was discussing a current mistress with a previous mistress. The current mistress was telling him she might be pregnant. The previous mistress was consoling him and helping him through the pregnancy scare. That was one of many stories I was able to explain. I no longer take any responsibility for his actions because I yelled at him. Of course I yelled at him. I was the only one working on and committed to the relationship. I had a very incomplete view of the situation. I was acting in good faith but he wasn’t. There was never any way to build a relationship in that scenario. It only lasted as long as it did because I excused his actions. I always said he was an asshole but didn’t mean to be one. My “part” was excusing his appalling behaviour because I loved him.

    • Yes Splinter. The ex was always chasing the next big thing! A new car, a different house, various volunteer positions (always authority things like auxilliary firefighter etc.). Never content.

      • Yes this. I’m so glad to read this. “Thank you, next” mentality. I excused it thinking he was ambitious in good ways. Let him direct our family towards his goals not OUR goals. Sneaky f*cks, aren’t they?

    • Truth.

      Strange how everything is a funhouse mirror for me, twisted. An advertisement for a certain brand of chocolates is running on TV right now and the jingle is something along the lines of “I would do anything to make you happy, I just want to make you happy” etc. Sweet song, but all I can think of is, “Yeah, good luck with that, Chumps.” I am sad that I am cynical about relationships now.

      We can’t make anyone else happy. It is not our fault that they are a bunch of leaky buckets who get bored and discard people. We become defective in their eyes the moment they no longer have a need for our services and have found our replacement. We can serve them and be there for them and put up with a mountain of their crap for years but still be declared as so completely inadequate the moment they choose to decide it is so.

      We don’t have a role in that other than by simply existing and having the misfortune to have made a bad bet on a fuckwit who lied their way into our heart.

    • Great topic, Splinter. It generated some very enlightened comments. Yep, my ex was always getting bored and wanted something new. He had 9 — count ’em — 9 new cars all by himself in the last 15 years of our marriage!! He always wanted to trade in our paid-off RV trailer for a motorhome. I refused. I told him that we didn’t use the trailer enough as it was. If we started using it more, I might consider a purchase of a motorhome. He wanted to buy a house 2 hours away up in the mountains so it could be used for getaways on the weekends. I refused. I said we could drive the trailer up for weekends. He would buy new sets of golf clubs. He bought kachina dolls and Native American pots (all very expensive.) And when we got divorced and he married the skank, he bought an absolutely GORGEOUS home to display all his things, traded in the paid-off trailer for a $160K motorhome, and bought a timeshare in Mexico. He also had to buy me out of our house that we had purchased 20+ years ago so his mom and dad would have a place to live. That was about 4.5 years ago. Earlier this year the skank’s parents needed a place to stay so they bought a mobile home in a retirement mobile home park. He retired last year. I just found out yesterday…, that he put up for sale his VERY GORGEOUS home and bought a mobile home in the same retirement mobile home park. My son said, “Mom. It’s right out of the 70s. Dad has absolutely no concept how much it’s going to cost him to do all the upgrades. Dad has never had a head for money.” I have absolutely nothing against mobile homes. I lived in a trailer and that was fine with me. My point is that it’s probably KILLING him that he can’t afford the style of living that he became accustomed to while he and I were married because I was paying half the expenses. Woo boy! I’m sure it’s about to get really, really interesting. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall during all the conversations that he and the skank are having now!

  • I needed this so much today.

    Thank you MovingOnInMissouri for your great question.
    Thank you Tracy for some of the wisest advice I have ever been given. It is being printed out and carried in my datebook (yes, I use one).

    I just got the “it takes two to tango” spiel from *my own grown sons*.
    It infuriates me. It is so frustrating!

    I too “was a pretty good wife”. And I too don’t think I have changed, except about never being smug again…. :>)

    I understand how disappointed my sons are in their father and how hard it is to accept that he is a mediocre jerk. But I think it is a DANGEROUS way to look at their parents’ failed 40 year marriage (and only God knows how many years of cheating; in hindsight this uber chump here says many years of cheating).

    I will have to send them all this post.

    • My heart goes out to your clearwaters. I cannot imagine having your own kids say that. I have two older teen boys and while they still have some contact with their Dad they don’t respect him. I am sure they realize I am not perfect but they know who was giving and loving and who snuck around and lied and cheated. I won’t tolerate the victimless crime bullshit – I was quiet the first time he cheated (thought it was a mid life crisis) and it just lead to way more heartbreak (so I now say it loud say it proud). I now tell everyone that cheating is a sign of shitty low moral character (yes I do judge those who try to emotionally abuse and manipulate people – just be honest).

    • If they were my grown kids I would look at them and say you are correct ” Your Dad and his affair partner” once they tango I am out! I hope this never happens to you and I hope your children react with compassion instead of blame shifting.

      • I told my grown son, “If your dad ever says, ‘Your mom and I just grew apart’, well he’s right!! Of course you’re going to grow apart when he has a skank on the side that he’s devoting all his attention to! The time he spent with his skank was the time he stole from me!” My son’s eyes just opened real wide and he didn’t say anything — which told me, that his dad had already said ‘your mom and I just grew apart’. I’m a REALLY big fan of telling the truth in an age-appropriate way.

        • If we don’t explain truth to our children we teach them that it’s acceptable behavior. I hope my daughters never accept that from a man. My ex has tried all of the blame shifting. My children are minors and we have standard custody orders. They know why we split- there father was very open about his cheating and throwing us out of house to move the whore in. Kids are smart, but don’t let the lies overshadowed the truth.

  • ” I didn’t suck as a partner. I was in a no-win situation.”

    Im with CL on this one. I was a pretty darn good wife and I have few regrets…perhaps one of the few is that I accepted too much shit from him. There were likely moments when he acted ghastly and I didnt respond and sometimes I beat myself up for that but then I remember that every time I tried to set a limit with him, there was always a steep price to pay…not only did he get away with his initial moment of cruelty, he would find a way to punish me for calling him on it.

    For years, in our dynamic, I pointed out that his dad was mean to his mom and he repeated this behavior. He said I was imagining things. We were at his parents for a visit and his dad did something so mean, I was internally triggered in a massive way and almost flipped out right there but held my shit together, looked at him and said “this, this cruelty is what I speak of”.

    He didnt react much then but much later in the day, he swung around and did/said something awful (I cant even remember what it was) but I looked at his face and could see that he was contented, he had punished me adequately for pointing out that he and his dad were both mean bastards.

    I once asked him if we could determine a level of decency that he would agree to not violate even if he was mad at me and he said “no”.

    There was no winning with him, he would not respect a boundary or be decent and I still beat myself up for “accepting” it when my only other option was leaving and I was too hopeful (see Hopium post down a day or 2).

    I was a very good wife and I am not responsible for him being a disinterested, abusive cheater.

    I do warn however, that when one exhausts one’s self with an abuser and then finds a worthy partner, you might possibly get a little lazy in the relationship and feel like its wonderful Karmic payback, but be careful to not get a complacent sense of entitlement with the good person because of past abuse. (I know, we tell ourselves we will never do that, so it is a shock if we do.) . Our new partner deserves (I actually hate that word so I must mean what Im saying to use it) our best which is one reason to wait and heal a bit. I started dating newhusband 7 months after Cheater died which seemed like a long time them but was actually kinds fast looking back.

    • unicornnomore: “He didnt react much then but much later in the day, he swung around and did/said something awful (I cant even remember what it was) but I looked at his face and could see that he was contented, he had punished me adequately for pointing out that he and his dad were both mean bastards.” You nail it perfectly here. The ex-hole loved to punish me for my humanity. The smug or contented look and air about him when he knew he had hurt me, was as destructive as the cruelty behind it.

      • He normally hid it better..that day was a slipping of the mask for me. His premeditated cruelty delivered specifically to inflict pain to punish me for speaking a truth he didn’t like.

        Sometimes he actually used the word “punished”.

  • The very simple truth is that whatever problems existed in the marriage cease to exist once a spouse decides to cheat. That becomes the main event that supersedes whatever else was going on before that. You can’t work on that together because it’s a one person character issue. The only person who can fix cheating is a cheater and they rarely want to do the kind of work it takes to fix that problem. It’s easier for them to blame cheating on you and it’s easy for you to want to accept the blame since that feels like something you can fix or that you can control. It’s a vicious cycle; a rigged game if you will and like War Games, the only winning move is not to play.

    You’ve already done that so there is no sense in trying to dig up the corpse and try to untangle the skein post mortem. You’ve already filed for divorce, he’s already engaged to be married again. Focus your energy on healing and moving forward. Nothing to see here anymore!

  • I truly wish marriage counselors saw things this way!! I tried to understand “my part” for months and could not. I thought maybe I was a narcissist and delusional. Because when asked what I would change in me, I really couldn’t think of anything. I did my best and supported and loved my ex. What would I change??? Maybe love him less stop cooking his dinner and doing his laundry??? I too was a pretty great wife. I now have a fully invested partner and he thinks I am a pretty great girlfriend.
    I needed this today!!

  • On the day our divorce was finalized (Feb 22, 2017), KK posted this meme on Facebook:

    “Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true, because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. It’s really that simple.”

    MOIM, this is the mindset of our fuckwits. They will always, ALWAYS be looking outward for any justification for their lack of character and shitty behavior. Flying the “you never owned your role in the destruction of our marriage” banner is just another manifestation of that.

    As CL so rightly notes points out, you were in a no-win situation.

    (POSTSCRIPT — that quote is attributed to Louis CK. So, consider the source, and make our judgements accordingly.)

    • That she would post that on FB Is more proof to me what a loser and marriage assassin KK is.

      I accidentally posted something on FB related to the cheating; it was destined for a private support group I belong to. I discovered the error an hour later and deleted the post. I was mortified!!! I want to confide in friends and allies of my choice, not publicly lambast him. Outing him on FB would be déclassé…..

      Even after what he did…..????

      • I re-post chumplady columns to my facebook page sometimes (without comment)- is this a bad thing? Exhole is not on FB and very few of “our” old friends -who never contact me anyway. Plus it’s 6 years later. It’s a public service announcement, as I see it. Privately, a few women have thanked me for posting chumplady posts. I’m not embarassed by it, and my real friends certainly don’t mind. Is this outing him on FB? Should I care?

        • I have done the same, Chumpedchange and feel the same way as you do — a public service announcement. I somehow how found Chump Lady on Facebook when I wasn’t even looking or searching. I also used to posts lots of memes about narc’s. The other day my brother thanked me for “turning him onto” the subject of narcissism. It helped give him understanding into one of his difficult relationships. The only thing I wouldn’t do is “out” your X on Facebook.

      • I don’t agree at all. I say it’s a public duty to out these cretins. How else are we to warn others of their shitty character? Why should we stay quiet? If somebody in your circle had robbed or assaulted you, would you keep that quiet or would you want others to know what kind of person he really was?
        If we agree that cheating is abuse, what’s the problem with naming and shaming our abusers?

        • Without a lot of details, let’s say it’s best if I don’t hand him any ammo by posting about the infidelity in FB. If you’ve ever had a cheating partner who put you in the hospital with broken bones (I have, years ago) you might understand my point of view.

          Think carefully when you use social media.

          • I also think it’s best to not air marriage laundry in a forum that your kids and their friends will see. It puts the kids in a really painful position. And that’s probably my biggest gripe with what the ever-selfish KK did. But, of course, she’s always about whatever her current whim is, her kids be damned. That whole sexual liberation bullshit included. She’s a real piece of work–must have been a treat to be married to. Or exhausting. My money is on the latter.

    • I also appreciated CL’s comments on ““broken relationships should fail” and “happy relationships seldom fail.” I loved how she described it as Monday morning quarterbacking. I never thought this deep before and accepted that our marriage must not have been happy. What a total mindfuck. If I ever hear anyone ever say something so ludicrous again, I will immediately point out the fallacy. I remember the dick coming to me and saying, “You and I aren’t happy … and I don’t know if divorce is the answer.” I thought at the time that I didn’t realize that I was unhappy. But since it was my second time around with the dick, I decided to find out what was going on. And yep, there was evidence the skank was back in the picture. Exit stage left.

  • This is an absolute gem of a post. I kept getting traumatized again at Divorce Care to figure out “my part” and the leader would say things like “you had sex before marriage” or you “married too soon” and other untangle the skein similar lines. It is not a compassionate or kind approach. We are imperfect humans and life has stresses and often is not perfect – this should not result in cheating.

    So, have I changed? Yes, better boundaries, and recognizing bullshit and calling it out in a kind way and not worrying too much if I offend someone. And yes, I check myself more before I speak but I would say I am basically the same person too – just a better version of me. I adult way better and expect the same from those in my life.

    I am happy with myself and realize I do not want cheater back – EVER.

    Great post Tracy. A keeper. Thanks!

    • I went to Divorce Care too and I feel I was to blame!!! I went to a couple of different locations because I thought maybe I didn’t fit in at a particular location…well, it was practically the same. I left and didn’t go back!!! If any of you are looking towards the Bible for versus blaming you, there AREN’T any!!! It says Adultery is reason enough for divorce!!! God Himself says you don’t have to put up with that!!! So there, Divorce Care!!!!!!! Ughhhh

      • I went to Divore Care and led Divorce Care for 7 years.
        Don’t hate me.
        It was a life saver for me when I needed it, but over time I saw it had a lot of problems.
        The first is that it had mixed motives. Was it to help you through divorce or save your marriage for God? Was it for your personal benefit or to keep you or get you into church?
        Secondly it misapplied “What was your role in the divorce.” What they taught and what participants heard was a variation of “sin leveling”, a common trope for evangelicals. This goes way back to theological garbage about original sin. (We asked the question what caused you to be vulnerable to marital abuse. Frequently the answer is a loving prrson does not think like a cheater.)
        Thirdly it was stuck on a model of marriage relationship that is 2-3000 years old. Things have changed. Women have a less submissive role in marriage and society in general. DC has an undercurrent of getting back to the good old days.
        Over 7 years my wife and I adapted, edited and excised so much of the Divorce Care curriculum it was unrecognizeable. We gave up and moved on to a non faith based program.
        What was good about Divorce Care (beyond my wife’s weekly baked treats!) was developing a community in which to grieve and grow. Some of the participants formed on going friendships and we are still in touch with quite a few.
        This is very much like CN!

        • I am currently doing Divorce Care – have another meeting tonight and I really don’t like it (but there are some nice people there). It is way more religious than I thought it would be — “ask yourself what would Jesus do” repeated about 15 times last session. I think it really depends where you are – the videos are the same but the discussion is what could differ. I am not really sure I want to continue. There are a lot of chumps there.

          • I had a great Divorce Care group and leader and made some life long friends (and a fellow chump man).

            I’ve heard of some DC groups being too out of date or misapplying the goal of honest self reflection. Honest self reflection is mandatory for all of us and there are absolutely some things I’d do differently going forward.

            But our DC leader was clear that in her opinion, “95% of marriages end b/c ONE of the partners has wronged the other”

            and that very few divorces have equally flawed spouses or were “mutually agreed upon”.

            I never forgot that.

            You can try more than one DC group!!

    • I had trouble with Divorce Care too. I know the program means well, but it did not recognize at all the marriage I was in and what I was going through with the cheater. My XH had me thoroughly convinced that I was to blame for the demise of our marriage because of my “trust issues”. And DC seemed to reinforce those feelings. And my ex pastor did more of the same. My mind and heart were thoroughly scrambled ; I left after about four meetings. If they ever talked about adultery being the caused of the failed marriage; I didn’t ever see it. Thank God for Chump Lady!

  • I needed that post, these thoughts come back to me regularly, like a wave of guilt, like “what if, despite everything, it was all my fault anyway?”.

    Thank you!

  • I would love to read more and learn about being vulnerable again, being ok to walk down the street with a hundred dollars in my purse. I feel so vulnerable with today’s current affairs combined with my past, it spills over into intimacy, both physical and emotional.

  • Fcuk that noise!
    A relationship is not made up of two perfect perfectly happy people. It’s just made up of people. Ordinary people. This always happy shit gets me mad.
    Also it takes one to destroy. Not two. It takes one to leave.
    It takes two to make it work. If one is working and the other is pissing on the relationship, how can it be the fault of both?
    The only thing I will own in that I stayed too long!

  • So, so, so many stupid ass therapists like to mix up your “role in the cheating” with your “role in marriage”.


    • It always takes 2 people to make a marriage happy.

      It sometimes takes just 1 person to destroy it.

      The End.

  • Chump Lady you’re a LIFE SAVER!!! I’m giving the Readers Digest version here…. I loved to party when I was young and single. My girlfriends and I were out at the dance clubs a lot!! I live in a large city.
    Fast forward… I’m a self diagnosed Alcoholic and a smoker. Ughhhh. Okay, I met and married the (what I thought) was my Prince Charming!! I came with those aforementioned into the marriage! I quit smoking (I tried numerous ways, acupuncture, hypnotism, etc.) and drinking, went to AA and was even a leader at one point. My X was very supportive all during my challenges. I’m proud to say, smoke free (24 years, no alcohol 22 years)!! We were married 27 years, dated 2. No children. Not an issue. He was the more stable one here as I changed jobs a lot while we were married.
    I adored him, but I was a drama queen and had a temper. A lot to handle at times. None of my actions ran him off. I loved him and I do believe he loved me.
    Later on down the marriage road, I was trying to keep us from not getting bored. My last job and I’ve been here (13 years now) is a flight attendant and we can travel anywhere!! I was always trying to think of wonderful places we could go. We did do some traveling the US and Canada. New Zealand (our last vacation together 2016) but I noticed I had to light a fire under him to get him to go anywhere, but then he’d talk about it for months!!! He loves hunting and fishing. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in a deer stand with him!! All in the name of love. We went to church. He went on 14 mission trips with his men’s group. We also lead our Sunday school class when no one else wanted to. Oh and he always had the best of everything (hunting/fishing equipment and clothes). We weren’t rich, but we never wanted for anything. I thought we had a great life together.
    THEN… he started working 4 hours away from home 3 weeks outta the month and home for a week! I would travel to see him on my days off. Long story short, a Skanky Lumberjack, (from the North), married , with 4 college age children!!! Moved down to work in the same office as my husband!!!! He starts doing things with her! They were staying at the same extended stay hotel, riding to the office together (they each had their own vehicles) lunching together with various people at the office, etc. You get the picture!!! I didn’t take to kindly to all this “togetherness”! I demanded he stop all this with the Skanky Lumberjack!! He didn’t see anything wrong with the way he was doing! He EVEN asked a coworker what she thought! As me asking or telling him this was making me very uncomfortable!! I asked him if he’d like it if I was going to lunch, go to dinner with one of my pilots??? He answered that he wouldn’t like it!! Welllllll??? I can say our marriage was doomed from there. Every time he’d come home, he’d start verbally fighting with me. I let him have it right back. Finally, July 4, 2017 was D-Day and he busted in all hyper and told me he didn’t love me anymore and he wanted a divorce!!! A week later I filed and never looked back. Lawyered up and got my house, furniture, car, etc. No Contact. He Gaslighted me for a year too. Finally, admitted to his affair. I was devastated and heartbroken. Divorce finalized 8/2/18.
    Sorry this is so long. I needed your column today and every day. As I do the woulda, shoulda, etc. But, seems like many years later, after I got my act together, and stable is when he left???? Oh well, I’m rebuilding and trying to be as happy as I can be!! I know not all men are cheaters.

    • Goldilocks. Please know that it DOES get better. Forgive yourself for being gullible. It’s okay to be gullible with someone who doesn’t lie, with someone honorable and who has integrity. It’s okay to believe someone if they’re telling the truth. Take your time now to get to know who you are and to fix your picker. You’ll be glad you did. Don’t rush into another relationship until you learn to love yourself, exactly as you are, and that you are not willing to compromise your principles. I’d rather be lonely than ever have a dick in my life again. Hugs!

    • He likes drama. Once you were stable he got bored. Skanky Lumberjack is now providing the chaos he enjoys.
      My jerk needed me for security and stability, but wanted to have some drama on the side with an alcoholic, sociopathic serial adulterer.
      Drama junkies are cheap thrills seekers and will always cheat.

  • The whole ‘growing apart’ mindfuckery – it’s one big blameshift from the fuckwits. My mother went into alcoholic rehab in 2013 and by 2015, she was living in an assisted living facility. For the next 3 years, I would visit her on my way home from work at least once a week and usually twice a week. During the time, the Dickhead only saw my stress and concern for her as us ‘growing apart’. Hardly ever did I come home to dinner being made for me, I never heard him tell me that he was running errands or doing laundry. The emotional and mental support that I so needed from him was never going to come. All those 18 years that I took care of him, tended to his needs after surgeries, job changes, listened to his rant about crappy bosses, and my needs never mattered. I’m not perfect by any means but we should be able to rely on our spouses when we need help. The good ones do help – fuckwits do not.

  • Yes I was a terrible wife—I asked him to stop sticking his dick in other women( ie. our “friend”) and stop spending all of our family’s money on himself—what a crappy wife. He sucks I know it he knows it and a lot of other people know it too that why the rat stays away from our town now even though he works 4 miles away.. I’ll be a great wife to someone else or maybe just to myself!!

  • My “role(a) in the break-up?”

    1. I was a victim: examine why I failed to recognize the lack of reciprocity in my first marriage for more than two decades so I can avoid it happening again.

    2. I was arrogant: examine why I thought I could control and fix her after the cheating came to light so I can break the habit of codependency with others.

    3. I had boundaries: examine how I finally concluded that my only sane choice was to leave a cheater, so I can make better decisions in other areas of my life.

    • Yep, I was arrogant too. Never thought I would be cheated on – thought the loved me. Now, I realize anyone can be cheated on and many are without even realizing it. It is scary coming outta my bubble.

      • What’s scary is realizing that whether you’re cheated on depends not on you and your qualities (as a person or spouse), but on the qualities of the person you married. This means that nothing you do (or don’t do) can guarantee that your spouse won’t cheat on you, if that person is inclined to do so.

        This is why people want to believe that “it takes two to break a marriage”. They don’t want to believe that they’re just as vulnerable to being cheated on as anyone else, and that they have no ability to prevent it. People put themselves through all kinds of logical fallacies in order to believe they have absolute agency in their lives and relationships. It’s really hard to give that up, and acknowledge that you’re at the mercy of the other person.

  • It takes TWO PEOPLE to have a SUCCESSFUL relationship. ONE PERSON ACTING ALONE can kill it. And when it comes to infidelity, the two people who kill the marriage are the spouse who cheats and the outsider who cheats with them.

    ALL RELATIONSHIPS HAVE PROBLEMS. Years and years ago, my brilliant, trusted, beloved therapist taught me this. She said the secret to a successful marriage was choosing someone you can work through problems with. I thought I had done that. And maybe he did show up in that way for a while. But cheaters are NOT problem solvers; they are problem avoiders.

    RELATIONSHIPS ARE A LEARNED SKILL. Relationships fail because one or both people in the relationship do not have, or are unwilling to learn, the skills for success. Cheaters are definitely in the unable/unwilling category.

    I DO NOT CAUSE, CURE, OR CONTROL ANYONE’S CHEATING (or drinking, using drugs, robbing banks, murdering someone…)

    This logic that you had a part in the end of the marriage when infidelity is involved is like asking a murder victim what their part was in their own murder. Tell THAT to the next bonehead who tells you that you have a part in someone abusing you and lying to you.




      Of course we had marital problems! As I said before, there is no such thing as a without issues. But by lying, cheating, hiding money, holding me hostage by masquerading as a married man, HE WAS the marital problem. There are many ways to respond to marital issues. I sat in a therapist’s office once a week, or twice a month, telling the truth about what I felt, what I thought, what I was doing, and who I was doing it with, FOR 27 YEARS, in an effort to avoid this very situation. And unbeknownst to me, he was lying and fucking Craigslist hookups and God knows what else the entire time. I could not have won and MY CONSCIENCE IS CLEAR.

      • ….and the irony of the Spectacularly Unqualified To Be In A Relationship cheater
        being in another relationship/marriage, not just immediately but OVERLAPPING, never fails to make me laugh….

        I told him that evidently the only relationship he had the skills for was one where you pay the other person by the hour…..

        • That’s funny!! I would have loved to have seen his face when you told him that!

    • “But cheaters are NOT problem solvers; they are problem avoiders.”

      This is one of the best takeaways today. I am a problem solver. I always assumed I could do the heavy lifting to fix any problem. I could make up for my husband’s deficits. Never again.

      Examples of him being a problem avoider include blaming me for him not finishing his PhD because I needed him every weekend so he couldn’t go back to Germany to get it done. I knew him all of two weeks when he said that. I didn’t even know he needed to finish his thesis.

      He lost his job when he impregnated the HR manager. He told his sister not to ask him about his job search. He would tell her once he found a job.

      We need to sort the finances for the divorce. He refuses to speak to me and avoids the issue when he texts. Our life is imploding and all he wants to do is text me about birds, ballet and cars he has rented.

      There are thousands of other examples. I was.arrogant to think I could solve all the marital problems with no effort on his part. Won’t happen again.

  • My ex-husband told me daily how happy he was. Our marriage was great, I was great, our sex life was great . . . it still didn’t stop him from cheating and blaming me for it. So when people used to tell me it “takes two” to ruin a marriage, I know it’s bullshit. The same thing happened to my current husband. He was married for almost 20 years and happy by all accounts until she decided to cheat on him with a guy with 3 dead marriages behind him.

    So, it only takes one to fuck it up . . . I came to the realization I didn’t have any issues to look at to “better” myself. My only fault was I married an asshole. I’m still me and the ex is still a cheating dirt-bag who is somebody else’s problem.

    I’m pretty happy in the land of Meh.

  • Great post. Thanks CL. After a couple years of consideration, my big takeaway on how to improve in relationships is to have better boundaries. If someone were to ask me what I would have done differently in my marriage or what my role was in its demise I’d say “put up with less of his bs earlier on.” If I had stood my ground earlier on, our relationship would have died sooner, which woulda been a good thing. Like CL says, you can’t save a marriage with these types. But you can get better at spotting the red flags and getting out sooner. To that end, another answer is “not pair with a fuckwit.”

    I too was a good wife and partner. And I should have done more to honor my goodness. Lesson learned. My current relationship is fantastic because I get to honor my goodness with a great and kind guy.

    • I so, so agree! I told my son that if I had stood up for myself sooner, my marriage would have ended sooner. I wouldn’t have saved it. I was married to a self-entitled dick. It took longer to disintegrate solely because I tried EVERYTHING in my power to make it work. I apologized over and over again for stuff that I should never have had to apologize for! If I had only known had to deal with the gaslighting and blameshifting, i.e., by confronting it and pointing out the discrepancies in his thinking, my marriage would have been over much sooner. It’s okay now. I’m done and I’m at Meh.

      • I think that was the hardest thing for me to get over. Once I got counseling on Narcissism and how to deal with it, I knew what I was dealing with. I had a lot of people ask me “Why did you put up with/do that/see that, etc.” The gaslighting, cognitive dissonance/blame shifting messes with you. When I started confronting it after DDay the separation and divorce came quickly. The ONLY way I could have saved the marriage was if I totally swept everything under the rug. People just don’t get it.

  • There are dozens of ways to address issues and problems in a marriage that don’t involve having sex with other people. Or leaving for other people.

    Only the unaware think that typical relationship issues cause cheating. The ability to lie, deceive, and be selfish causes cheating.

    IF a marriage is that ‘bad’ then by all means LEAVE. But don’t screw around behind your partners back.

    • Yep. Leave. Don’t screw around with someone else for 15 frickin’ years before you tell your wife that you’re not happy.

      • OMG yes. My X told my kids he hadn’t wanted his “cookie-cutter marriage for 12 years” to which I replied then your Dad has lied to all of us for at least 12 years (son was 18 and completely agreed). I personally believe they just use this excuse. If they truly were unhappy they would leave but they benefit from using up all our love, generosity, and kindness.

  • If you marry, you usually make a VOW (noun: a solemn promise; verb: solemnly promise to do a specified thing, or dedicate to someone/something), and it often includes words promising to “love, honor, cherish and protect” and “forsaking all others and holding only unto . . . forevermore.” It might also include ” to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part . . . and this is my solemn vow. ”

    If you have honored your vows – up to the point where you are betrayed – then you have done your part and no further dissection of any real or imagined ‘faults’ on your part is reasonable.

    We take what we’ve learned from each relationship – good or bad – and we move forward with it. Beating yourself up over things that can’t be changed is not a helpful way to spend your time. Especially not when we still have the cheater’s excuses, gaslighting and false accusations ringing in our ears.

  • I cooked and cleaned – what he would allow me to clean – he’s a horder. I never said anything about his female coworkers who would call him at home. I rarely asked him where he was, what he was doing, when I called him at night to talk to him when he was away traveling for work – and he was away a lot. I never told him “No” whether it was about somewhere he wanted to go, something he wanted to do, or sex. I never questioned his decision to keep his finances separate and hidden from me. I rarely, if ever, asked him for money for things I wanted. I rarely, if ever, questioned him spending ‘his’ money on buying all the stuff he buys and taking trips without me.

    I tried to be the happy, smiling, give no grief wife.

    Yet somehow it’s all my fault that he treated me like shit, and lied and cheated. If only I could have been….did….

    Took me a few years to get to Fuck This Shit. But I did. And then I walked. It hurt like hell to realize that everything he ever promised me, told me, was a lie. It hurt like hell to realize the lies he told to everyone else so I would have no support system and he could blame his lies on me.

    But I know the truth and so does he. 4 years out. He’s still unwillingly single, after chasing away the OW who he thought he’d replace me with the same behaviors he pulled on me, and unable to lure in another victim.

    I’m single too. But that’s o.k., ’cause I don’t have to second guess every moment of my existence anymore and worry if something I did or didn’t do is going to cause someone to do something shitty.

    • Skunkcabbage I find it amusing that they had good wives in us and totally didn’t appreciate us. Now they can’t find anyone who will put up with the crap that we did! It’s great!

      • Yep, I warned him that one day he would push me too far and I’d leave, then he’d find out just how good he had it and how hard I would be to replace. He scoffed at me at the time. He’s not laughing now.

  • Count me in, I got the blindside up and leave for the younger train wreck co-worker at 20 plus years.

    “If he was happy he never would have…” is a statement that presumes YOU are the source of his unhappiness, but that projects a normal well-adjusted inter-personal relationship style on people that may not be psychologically equipped to maintain long term, fair and reciprocal relationships.

    It’s well-known that unhealed people who grew-up in a dysfunctional family of origin often sabotage intimate relationships, it’s part of their programming. Emotional abandonment issues can do this, parental infidelity can do this, avoidant attachment style can be behind it, narcissistic traits can prompt the end of a marriage. In my case, ex met a sick lady with his problems if not more and together they re-enacted their childhood trauma. Freud calls this “repetition compulsion”.

    No question if I had married a man with different early beginnings who could appreciate what he had and expected to give what he received from a partner and had the same level of commitment, I would be happily married and my children’s lives would be enriched rather than in recovery.

    I would ask anyone that might accuse me of failing to be a decent-enough partner and attribute blame to me just how my children have also failed to elicit a better relationship with their father? Did they also “deserve” or play a part in their emotional and physical abandonment in the wake of Dad finding this “amazing” affair partner that demands ALL his time and attention? Boundaries to protect parent-child relationships, he’s not responsible for that either.

    The problem is him. He sucks at adulting and family relationships. He never evolved from the tragic template he was given. What I can own is the fact that I wildly underestimated that he could rise above his miserable past and nurture and support a happy family. He lacks the skills 100%. I was just naive, stupid, and overly-compassionate to a man that has a lot of deep issues.

    • Amen! That last paragraph really struck true for me too!

      I remember remarking to a friend soon after I realized that I would have to leave the marriage that, “I have confronted my past, and I believe have learned and grown from it. And I’m continuing to grow. He has not and will not.”

      • Yes! Amen! Severe FOO issues for X never resolved… which I found out about too late. And we dated 8 yrs!! I knew there was something hidden, but also underestimated his mental health. Overlooked a lot of red flags. As his rage and drinking and deceit and cheating intensified, I put the pieces together. No one in his family ever got help for things that happened. A messed-up family pretending to be happy and loving. There was no way for me to know. For X to talk about childhood trauma demonstrates he’s weak…so he became an evil monster.

  • This whole it take two thing. A friend casually said it a year or so back, and I was so hurt.

    Does anyone remember Arnold? Arnold absolutely nailed it for me and what I should have said had I not been tongue tied and hurt:

    Arnold said: “Why does nobody consider that the character requirements for cheating – selfishness, lack of empathy, deceit – are the very same characteristics that cause the marriage problems in the first place?”

    BOOM. Thank you Arnold. Those were my problems in the marriage. My bad wife moments (and I did have them) came from REACTING TO those problems. He was inhumanly selfish.

    ” I could have and should have stood up for myself sooner. I could have avoided a lot more heartache and financial abuse if I had healthy boundaries in place.” is absolutely the conclusion I came to, as well.

    As Unicornnomore said, the punishment for calling him out on it, just made confronting him not worth it.

    But as recommended by Dr Les Carter, not allowing him to get to me, not looking to him for any affirmation and saying ‘that’s your opinion but I am sticking to my decision’ – would have made me a much more effective wife.
    And we would have been wealthier, I had some good commercial instincts that he shot down in flames that I wasn’t brave enough to act on by myself.

    • I had a friend said cheating is “50/50”. I wanted to tell him that I wasn’t 50% responsible for 3 affairs and her getting pregnant (on purpose) with the MOM’s child. Ugh!!! Now I would, but back then I didn’t know how to stand up for myself.

  • This is the part of that still annoys me.

    One time she told me that “it takes two to tango.” I don’t even know if she understood what that meant.

    * I wasn’t part of the tango where she was texting and calling the OM.
    * I wasn’t part of the tango to blame me for small things that were her way of deflecting blame.
    * I wasn’t part of the tango of her making “business trips” or “girlfriend trips” to be w/the OM.
    * I wasn’t part of the tango to advise our teen girls not to “fall in love so soon in life.”
    * I wasn’t part of the tango to try and get our teen girls to accept the other guy as part of their lives now.

    So, to then also have our family therapist at the time suggest that “we both played a role in the divorce,” I call BS.

    There’s NOTHING any of us did to warrant the way we were treated. Short of physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally harming our ex, we did NOTHING to contribute to the separation or divorce.

    Don’t ever forget that, or put yourself to believe that.

    • If someone is cheating in the marriage, they are lying to their spouse, taking quality time away from spouse and family, and using marital assets for their cheating and lying. On top of that, the faithful spouse has to put up with mood swings, uncertainty, misunderstandings, and walking around on eggshells because he or she knows something is wrong but has no idea how to fix the ‘problem’. The faithful spouse may never learn of the breadth and scope of the cheating (I’m one of them) but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t suffer from the repercussions. I was clueless in my part and I refuse to take any blame for things that affected my marriage and were beyond my reach.

  • This post really gets me. My Dday was only a few months ago and my husband is still in my home. I can’t tell you how many conversations he has baited me into about my “role” in HIS CHEATING. I’ve only recently begun refusing to have these discussions, which infuriates him but too bad.

    I have no “role” in his cheating – NONE. Was I perfect? Nope, but I was pretty damned great – loving, supportive, generous, patient, etc. My crimes against humanity that “caused” him to cheat: I wasn’t affectionate enough, he didn’t feel like an equal because I had more assets going into the marriage, he resented my job, etc. Dumb shit in other words.

    He wants to know how I’m going to improve on these things – I’m not. I’m good enough as is.

    My role in his cheating – that I married a person capable of lying and cheating.

    • Yes, shut that down. I had to live with X for 10 months and it almost killed me. He didn’t try to get me to take ownership he just defiantly said that he was a better more evolved person and had a right to do what he wanted ( the delusion was strong in this one). You can’t really argue with crazy.

      • Oh yes! The delusion that lying, cheating, abandoning, preying, robbing… somehow brought enlightenment and they became such a better person.

    • ^^^^this is so true: My role in his cheating – that I married a person capable of lying and cheating.

  • I haven’t read an article in a while but this hit the sweet spot. Thank you chump lady for making my break up recovery that much easier. I was never cheated on but garsh darn the things they said are exact or so similar from what I’ve read here.

    ❤️ Happy hearts and whole healing everybody!

  • My experience with a Divorce Care group was not so great either. I’m not sure if it is the overall program, or just the people that were leading it, or the mix of us going it through it at the time. All the women except me had been physically abused and therefore all the focus was on that. I didn’t feel like I had much I could say in the meetings, they were not helpful to me, so I quit going.

  • No one can be responsible for choices another person makes. Chump Lady has said before that the questions you need to ask yourself are “Is that behavior acceptable to me?” and “Do I REALLY need to spackle?” She tells us to fix our picker before we get involved with anyone new.

    Everyone has faults. Some seem insignificant, and others seem huge. To live with yourself, or anyone else, you have to determine what you want. What needs changing? What will never change for you? You decide, and know your decision will not make another person love you. You decide to love yourself. If someone else falls in love with you, when you love yourself and are the person you choose to be, then great. I think people might need to love and be loved by others, but I am not convinced that you actually need the love you feel for another person to be a sexual mate type love. I actually enjoy many things about living alone, but I do have some dear friends when I need companionship. Maybe this is due to my age, but I am happier now than I ever was when I was younger and seeking love and validation from a spouse. My picker was broken. I fixed it, and me, by learning what was acceptable to me. If other folks make decisions I don’t think are good ones, I walk away, and I don’t feel compelled to fix that person. That was what I had to change to fix myself.

    • Portia, me too. I have much better boundaries than I ever have before, and this still feels odd and painful to me at times.

      I have to check: ‘Wow, did I cut that person off too hard from my life?’ or ‘Did this person deserve a second chance?’ It’s hard to navigate between boundaries and forgiveness sometimes.

      I am also not very good at the whole dating/romance thing any more, and I think this might actually be a relief for me to step out of it.

      Part of it is lack of practice – but I actually don’t WANT to get out there, on a very deep level. It doesn’t bring out my best self: I get nervous, edgy, and have a lot of abandonment anxiety (gee, I wonder why …)

      The other part of it is that the last three guys I have been introduced to, in the last ten years, in my faith-based extended circle – I’m an active Catholic – have all been heavily closeted same-sex attracted men, all around 40-ish, and all apparently single and ready to mingle with da ladies.

      Except that they weren’t. I am pretty sure two of them weren’t having any action with men OR women and never had, but the third I am pretty sure was having one-night stands of a sort with women. He admitted to his sexually active gay past when I asked him directly, which is something. The other two also told me about their issues, on around the second date, which again is something.

      My church is pretty straightforward about the limited options for same sex attracted people who want to be members of my church. I am also far enough along in my psychology course to know that for men, the gay attraction usually gets stronger as they get older (women’s sexual orientation is a lot more flexible; wowsa!)

      And I also know from reading and from real life that most ‘mis-marriages’ of straight and gay don’t work out unless the wife (and it’s usually the wife) makes a ton of compromises. I spent some time on the Straight Spouse Network recently, reading the stories. Everything from the shit-eating grin and pick-me dancing to women who divorced his sorry ass as soon as they found out.

      But even the SSN admits that when the wife comes to an ‘agreement’, this lasts about three years, and then they divorce anyway.

      So yeah, gay Catholic dude putting yourself out there to date and maybe marry straight Catholic woman? REALLY BAD IDEA.

      Can I just restate: REALLY REALLY REALLY BAD IDEA. Not just a bad idea for him, but a REALLY bad idea for her as well.

      This series of unfortunate incidents has done my remaining self-respect a bit more damage, but I suppose it’s helped me to realize I am my best self when I’m NOT dating. I’m busy, confident, happy, constructive, productive and engaged, with good relationships with both men and women.

  • There’s some truth in needing to work on yourself. When you’ve been abused by an NPD/ASPD FUCKWIT for 15 or so years and ignored all the red flags and put up with it for 7 years too long. But that’s it. When the red flags were flying loudly and you ignored them, yep, there’s work to do. So it’s doesn’t happen again.

    But he still chose to abuse. I thought that was what love looked like (thanks family of origin). But you get through it, you read some Lundy Bancroft and realise Chump Lady is right. They chose to abuse us. Cheating is abuse. And it’s minimised by society because it’s so damn common. That needs to end. It’s abuse. And it often comes with a whole lot of other abuse. Learning to recognise what abuse looks like is a good thing. But it’s still not your fault.

  • I’m crying my eyes out reading this and the wonderful replies as always from CN to the OP

    I have racked and racked my brain for months asking the same question what did I do ?
    What did I do to make him not happy ? If he wasn’t happy why didn’t he say ?
    What did I do to make him so unhappy that he thought the only way out was to cheat ?
    What was my role in him cheating ? Did we not have enough sex /etc .

    Argh !!! I can’t even think if I could have done anymore for him cause I know I couldn’t

    Thanks again OP for a great question and CL and CN for great answers ????

    • I have been asking the why for months too. I found a full body picture of schmoopie on Instagram the other day. Well it’s her to her knees. She is fat, ugly, short, looks older than me and with no style She looks like someone’s frumpy grandma, a transvestite truck driver, a pregnant Snuffelupaguss. (It would quite literally kill me if she is pregnant but she’s fat enough that she looks pregnant.). So I say, WTF? He left me for that? Just how bad of a person am I that he’d leave me for that? I must be a real bitch, unreasonable, bad in bed, someone he just cannot stand in order to find her more inviting that me. She looks like a kind person, smiling in the picture on Instagram. But I am also a kind person.

      We had fought a lot in the end. He told me after he left me that he could not stand the arguing any more. Hmm seems like he should have stopped raging at me in order to create a division between us so he could storm off to schmoopie.

      I’ll never understand the why. I wish I could. It will forever remain a mystery and that hurts. After 29 years with someone you would think there would be some reason besides “ we fought” that he’d walk out on our family and never look back. Instead of “we fought” he should have looked at himself. The raging entitled drunk, which had lost control of his life. I was making myself better by running and eating right, losing weight, getting fit, sewing, learning to play piano, volunteering making baby blankets. And that’s when he found her and left me. Maybe he fell off the pedestal. Maybe I stopped looking to him as God. Maybe he found someone who worshipped him like he needed. Worshipped him like a god like I used to.

      • “Maybe I stopped looking to him as God. Maybe he found someone who worshipped him like he needed. Worshipped him like a god like I used to.”

        is your answer, Rocket. Its not you.

        I was told in therapy: its not you. He would have cheated on anyone (because of his inner split)

        • Karen B and Rocketed,

          I have asked myself the question of, ‘What did I do wrong (or not right)?’ in trying to figure out why my last partner left me for his young work superwoman subordinate, now second wife. I doubt that I will ever find the answer. All I can do is try my hardest to be a good person, worker, mother, etc., not make excuses for my failings but also forgive myself when I do not do top-notch work/am not top-notch at something. It’s tough to feel ok and productive when one, especially a woman due to societal views, is ‘old’ and unemployed and has young kids to support.

  • Moving on……….

    I’m guessing that your soon to be ex has his faults as well (we all do) and you DIDN’T cheat on him. Faults and or difficulties within a marriage should not be reasons for cheating on your partner. PERIOD. Your spouse has shitty character. Same as mine. There is no explanation and I will not take blame. Neither should you. He did not treat you with respect and he made selfish decisions. He is right where he should be now………in your rear view mirror!

  • I love the analogy of being robbed and blaming yourself for daring to have money in your wallet.

    My counsellor had some challenges getting me to let go of my self-blame. I was so intent on trying to be “reasonable” about what happened, own up to my part in the marriage breakdown, fix my own fixings that she saw that it was symptomatic of the trauma I was experiencing. I was so stuck in the “pick me” dance that long after he left I was still second-guessing the quality of person that I was. She called it “spaghetti brain”.

    After many months of trauma therapy, I have had enough of my brain re-wired to be ready to tackle the issues of myself and how I am in relationships. I am able to do it now, most of the time, without reverting to self-blame for the cheating.

    Another analogy I think of is a woman being sexually-assaulted, who then blames herself for dressing a certain way, flirting or drinking too much or walking home alone. No one is raped because of the clothes they wear. No one is raped because they decided to flirt with someone. No one is raped because they drank too much or decided to walk home alone. It is all on the person who chose to commit the crime, has a disrespect for the dignity of a woman and felt entitled to violate her.

    None of what any of us did caused someone to cheat on us. Whatever our issues, we didn’t invite that or deserve it. We are victims of a person who chose to dishonour us. It is entirely on them.

    • “None of what any of us did caused someone to cheat on us. Whatever our issues, we didn’t invite that or deserve it. We are victims of a person who chose to dishonour us. It is entirely on them.”

      This has hit home for me. It’s left me s puddle on the floor. There is something about the word choice of dishonor. We did not deserve it. And mine certainly chose to dishonor me. It’s so sad. He just left on his merry way having the time of his life with schmoopie. When he raged at me for years before he left. I’m finding now that is the time he was reorganizing his mind and soul to her. He was displacing all honor he had for me and moving it to honor her. Therefore, all honor he had for his family just disappeared.

      It was not my fault. He did it on his own free will.

      • Rocketed,

        What you have stated above is what I keep coming to now too.

        When his behavior would become confusing – I was bewildered because it came out of seemingly nowhere. Now, like you, I am thinking that was when he was in the discard phase with me because he was justifying hooking up with someone ‘on the side’.

        I found out several months after Dday #1that he was/is a serial cheater so now I am putting two and two together and seeing a pattern taking shape over the years/decades which used to completely baffle me. His being more distant than usual and casually saying mean things in a way that wasn’t obvious – I will use CL term Pollyanna Blameshifting and then, probably when he was discarding a schmoopie, he would be present again….intermittent rewards keeping me hooked without me even knowing what was going on behind the scenes.

        I was just talking with a good friend this evening and we were commenting on how we can only see what we can see at the time but when the curtain is raised, so to speak, we see the insanity and then it seems to be everywhere.

        When we turn the tables on them, well the game and its rules change significantly. Complete double standard. I am enjoying reading Aesop’s Fables and last night’s fable was about the fox and the grapes. This stuff has indeed been around for thousands of years!!!

        Thanks for commenting.

  • Have said this before–if marriage is a car, both partners may put dents or scratches in it. No one is perfect. But cheating drives the car into a tree, then pushes it over the cliff. The dents and scratches didn’t do that, and the dents and scratches no longer matter once the car is totaled.

  • MOIM…
    I too am in MO. Thanks for this letter and all the posts! I have spent ample time on this subject too. I am not sure how todo this (I don’t post often) but I think we can connect elsewhere if interested. Today I am feeling very grateful for being away from WASband and realizing I was a pretty great, but not perfect, wife! About 9 mos out from final divorce.

  • My ex told me that he had been seeing a therapist because he was unhappy and drinking a lot. She told him that his drinking was a symptom and not really THE problem. So some time after that (or before who knows) he started to sleep with a neighbor/friend. so in his mind (thank you therapist) I was THE problem and she was THE solution. Whatthefuckever (5 years later), Im glad he’s outta my life. Yes I have learned a lot- about him- and that I can be who I am which is way better than trying to be pick-me-dancer extroardinaire for anyone. Only regret is 20 years that I’ll never get back and that I hafta share 2 beautiful kids with assface.

  • I’d been married before (to a lying cheating Narc) and my now ex had the audacity to say that since I’d been married before maybe it wasn’t him and my ex maybe it was me. Perhaps I’m the one that drove them to cheat and lie. I looked at him, picked my jaw up off the floor and said simply, “yes, it was me. I had shitty radar when it came to giving my heart to lying, cheating pieces of shit with no moral compass and full of entitlement.” He didn’t have a comeback after that.


    Happiness comes from within. If the cheater in your life is unhappy in the partnership, then it is incumbent upon him or her to figure that out, and to do so honorably. Cheating (lying, stealing) is not an option. Cheating is a THRILL to certain types of people; it is NOT HAPPINESS.

    Happiness is fulfillment in living a life in honor of your moral values.

    An unhappy or unfulfilled partner has every right to exit an unfulfilling partnership. But they don’t have a right to use the other partner, to subject them to abuse (financial, emotional, physical) for their own (NOT HAPPINESS) use. Abusing others does not make a sane person HAPPY.

    The fact that the other person cheated is all the evidence that you need that the other person is not a moral, honorable person who knows how to live a fulfilling, HAPPY life. It’s really all you need to know that you’re way better off without them. Even if you’re accustomed to being abused, a cheater gives you a chance to live a life without a person who uses you with so little regard, without love.

    You might have worked your tail off to satisfy your partner. Your efforts did NOT make them happy–EVER. If they are miserable, it’s because they’re miserable. A different partner is not going to make a miserable person happy, and this is particularly true if the miserable partner has shitty character (or lack thereof.) They might be thrilled in the beginning of a relationship–oh, the excitement! But they will never be happy. You may have been able to stave off a more acute or overt form of abuse by servicing their needs to the neglect of your own, but you did not make a cheater happy. Their needs are insatiable and unreciprocated except to dole out just enough hopium to keep you working for them.

    You will know this over time. If you’re fortunate you will have a partner who demonstrates this to you. Your partner will be happy to be with someone of like values and will be happy to reciprocate service, because that’s part of their value system. They are happy people in sync with fulfilling values. Your happiness will be confirmation of this–not insignificant to them.

    And, guess what? Lots of less-good partners are not cheated on. I, too, was a good partner in my marriage. I was cheated on by a self-centered, chronically unhappy coward. I now know what he is–the cheating only exposed everything I’d previously worked hard to filter and spackle. The downgrade may have temporarily made him feel smarter and more exciting, but all he has to do is look at me or remember what we had, to remember what he really is. Because being intelligent and a good person is not relative. Being an emotional vampire is not fulfilling. It never brings happiness and contentment. Running from the truth only begets despair.

    • Stephanie I so agree you. I used to hear all the time how I made him miserable and after awhile it eats at your self esteem. Now I know nothing could have made him happy. He wanted everything his way and it was all about his dreams no matter how unrealistic they were. If I disagreed I was labeled negative and not supportive. To the outside world he seemed like so much fun but behind closed doors I knew the truth. That was my biggest mindfuck.

    • Stephanie,

      Thanks for this. Very clearly and aptly stated. In my opinion, you nailed it.

      • Stephanie,
        Thanks for writing your post. I think that what you say may be true in many cases, but I think that my last (emotionally abusive) partner, my (only) boyfriend after my abusive husband left, although miserable with me, although I loved him more than any man in the world, is extremely happy with the young work subordinate for who he left me to marry. My last partner also has a ton of long-standing friends. I would know–I was one of his friends for 30 years until he quickly threw me out the last time as he couldn’t wait to marry second wife. I trusted and worshiped him although he was definitely not perfect, but I guess that I was just a speed bump in his life…Oftentimes, I feel like roadkill, some critter that got run over by self-serving and, in some cases, vicious men.

    • Stephanie,

      You and Ironbutterfly reminded me of something regarding the FW XW, and I wondered if anybody else encountered this. Frequently, when I expressed an opinion about something, if it could be taken in a bad way, or just a wrong way, she’d do it, and get upset w/me. And then I’d feel bad, and awkwardly try to explain that that WASN’T what I meant when I expressed myself. I frequently felt that no matter what I said or did, it would be taken the wrong way, or that I would be told I wasn’t being good enough in my thinking or my deeds.

      I’m pretty sure that like most other people, that type of repeated reaction and criticism over time took its toll on me (24+ years of it). I began to feel like it was better to avoid speaking up about things because it just got me into more trouble. Please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I was a shining example of everything a husband should be. I was a regular husband. I cared about her deeply, but I could be petty. [And I did speak up and stand up to her, when it was really important to me. But for a lot of things, it just didn’t seem worth it. I was striving for harmony in our relationship. Funny, when she left me, she said maybe if we had had more fights about things, we wouldn’t be in the situation we were in. Is it me, or is that some blame shift going on there?]

      On the flip side, I’d pick up and bring her lunch at her work, just to show her I still cared, and this was right before and during her affair w/her POS former boss who’s still her POS partner now (who saw me fairly frequently at their work before she left me and our family for him). I did a lot of things to show her I cared and respected her; this was just one example. It seems I just wasn’t doing the things she wanted, like becoming a super breadwinner again, or getting her a vacation home like she always wanted.

      I was just wondering if anyone else experienced something like this w/their former partner/spouse. I have had depression issues most of my adult life, but I always considered myself a pessimistic optimist (ask what that means to me!????). W/her, it began to feel like I could never live up to what she wanted. And still I loved her, lusted after her, and tried my best to show respect for her.

      Most of my coworkers, when they found out about her leaving me and our family after having an affair w/her boss, commented how they always thought I was pussy-whipped (both men and women expressed this to me), because they frequently heard me asking for this or that or time off to allow my FW XW to do things she wanted to do. My work schedule literally revolved around me having set days off so she could do her local politician meetings with me handling the kids during our last few years together (mainly our youngest at this point). This was w/me in the midst of a major clinical depression, and struggling to go back to school part-time while working to make her (and me, to a slightly lesser extent) happy in order to get a better job, w/better hours and pay, as FW requested.

      In my mind, I was trying NOT to be the shitty husband who expects his wife to revolve her life solely around him. It was my way of trying to show her that we were partners, as I knew she couldn’t have been thrilled w/the way things worked out for me job-wise in the last few years, not to mention my ongoing depression. I wasn’t happy w/the way my life was playing out either, but I didn’t want her to feel that I was just going to expect her to suck it up while I figured out my life and next career move.

      As I write this, I am now realizing I was trying to show her reciprocity in our relationship. I knew she was dealing w/a depressed husband who was also heading into diabetes, who wasn’t much help around the house or paying the bills (literally) because of the lack of energy I felt due to the depression and the onset of diabetes. So, w/what energy I could manage to scrounge up, I tried to show her that I still loved, cared, and respected her, and was thankful for all she was doing for me and our family.

      As always, thanks for putting up w/my long expositions. To you both, may peace, love and meh be yours. And to CN, as well.

      • One of the things I have read is that how your health starts going downhill while giving everything to these energy vampires. My is depression was symptomatic of what was lacking from him in the marriage: reciprocity of love and caring. It will likely go away after the trauma of being left does.

        • MedusalnMeh,

          My physical health began to improve immediately once he was physically out the door.

          My emotional health began to improve immediately once I was able to go NC.

          Yes, energy vampires and it can indeed be felt once the ‘problem’ has disappeared from our daily lives. I am living proof of that.

  • Be careful in divorce groups- liars and predators have infiltrated some of those groups. They push the BS about “your role in the marriage” stuff. Stick to infidelity support groups. Your “role” is that you put up with someone that was abusing you and possibly not being able to notice red flags. Work on that aspect.

    I was in a divorce group as well, BUT it was for ALL people going through a divorce and that included cheaters. The group played a significant role for me early on in giving me something to go to and be part of at a time when I really needed that. I met some nice people there. But there were also lots of cheaters looking for sympathy and a new person to scam to take care of them. I became disgusted by it and got out (the same time discovering ChumpLady’s book and getting my brain right) and started up with an infidelity support group- it’s much better to be around like minded people.

    • Yeah, inherently treacherous, like a rape therapy group that includes victims and rapists.

  • I consider myself fortunate in that my Divorce Care group was led by 2 older men, which I was wary of at first since I was not too trusting of men running a group on marriage – thinking it would be about blaming me/wives and that I would be lectured on working on my part in it all…if I would just change…be patient…etc…

    I was way off in my judgment which I found out as the group progressed and more of the leader’s stories were revealed. Both had been cheated on so I was essentially in a group for chumps led by chumps which I didn’t know because I didn’t find LACFAL until mid-group. After I read LACFAL two of the other three regular attendees read it too.

    Our leaders were also well seasoned in running divorce groups. The head leader has been doing for at least 20 years – non-stop! The videos took a second seat to the discussions which was the way our meeting began each week. We got to check in and vent as needed so it was a wonderful experience. Information from the group centered on survival tools – budgeting issues, emotional issues and legal issues were included. I now know how fortunate I was.

    A second break through for me in regards to not blaming myself for his behavior came when a friend lent me the book, ‘Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous’. All I had to do was read the author’s story at the beginning and my x’s behavior all of a sudden fell into place. Things that had baffled me for years/decades
    became crystal clear as to how he had manipulated me from the get go.

    Any self-blame dissolved almost instantly but I still have to read here a lot to reinforce what I learned – to allow it really sink in to become an unwavering truth for me. How can I put that more clearly….

    I saw the truth instantly but have had to reinforce it with a lot more words wrapped around it since my conditioning took decades to take root. Not only was my conditioning reinforced by him and his lies but by our culture too.

    I know I am not at 100% yet, it has only been about 1.5 years, but I can feel the difference and the wonderful side effect is that other things that I had taken ownership for have dropped away too. I really see now that so much of what I had taken personally in the past, not only with him but with other family members and friends, wasn’t about me at all. The acronym ‘Q-TIP’ (Quit Taking It Personally) has a wide reach.

    Good Luck to you and READ, READ, READ.

  • I was an EXCELLENT WIFE. In fact, I was the best wife he’ll ever have because he so married up with me. But apparently I didn’t medal in ‘Porn Star’ as did Miss Scratch-and-Sniff Pornography. Eh, I can live with that. As it turns out, I live best without him.

    I lead a DivorceCare group and have found it helpful for me, but I haven’t sipped the Kool-Aid. I stop videos and say–“that’s manure” when I smell piles of blame-shiting–I mean shifting.

  • I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, “She must have provoked him,” or, “Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.

    I recommend this… by Sir Patrick Stewart:

  • I dated my Husband for 1.5 years before marrying. After 9 months of marriage, when I was 36 weeks pregnant, he came back in the night from an overseas trip and told me he slept with an online Friend that he had been talking behind my back for 2 months. He said he was unhappy in the marriage, mortgage, emotional and physical distance from me (I was pregnant and working my ass off doing extra shifts because he was unemployed for 1.5 months) and my parents expectations of him.

    I also found out he blew 50k of money which he obtained from me under false pretenses on online gambling. I tried to reconcile with him, was really emotional since I was in the final stages of pregnancy but he refused. He has also gone overseas to see the girl every weekend since i’ve delivered. He threatened to sell the furniture and our house to pay his credit card debt.

    Part of me wants to reconcile mainly because I was really happy with him during the marriage, although he lied to me like crazy (gambling, even used his Father as an excuse to obtain money from me) and for the sake of the child. His Mother has come to help me with breastfeeding and etc etc and although she has told me multiple times that he cannot use the other issues in the marriage as an excuse for cheating, I feel that she pampers him a lot. She says that he’s just using the cheating as a way to obtain singleness again.

    He has told me a lot of nonsense on Whatsapp incl giving up the child for adoption etc. We are undergoing separation now mainly because of his threat to sell the house. He has refused to pay child maintenance and even wanted me to pay him spousal maintenance as my salary is 5x his.

    I’m so angry with him for betraying my trust. But in the night I cry myself to sleep over what I’ve lost and the dreams that won’t be fulfilled. I’m still hoping that we can reconcile since divorce will only happen in 3 years time due to the laws.

    • Yun, it took me 4 years to get divorced. I pick me danced for 2. He just got worse. Financial abuse, emotional abuse, threats, hurting the kids… worse and worse.
      It may be a hard 3 years, but after that you’ll be free to do what’s best for you and your baby. You don’t want to keep trying 3 years, then realize now it’ll be 3 more years to go because it didn’t work.
      He has proven himself untrustworthy. When someone acts like this, treats you like an option, and uses you, believe their actions, which scream that they do not love or even care about you.
      Save yourself.
      Save your baby.
      Move on.

      • Yun,
        Your husband sounds a lot like my ex-husband. I have tried a million times to win back my abusive exes (ex-husband and several ex-boyfriends). Now in my fifties, I really wish that I had given up as soon as they showed me who they were (that they did not love me but would hang onto me until they found someone that they really wanted (loved) who they deemed worthy of commitment). If I had ‘realized my worth’ back in my teens or twenties, I probably would have done much better professionally and financially and maybe even romantically! (I am unemployed and partnerless now, which is distressing as I have young kids.) I hung on to my partners, including my adulterous, tremendously abusive ex-husband because I thought that I could not make it on my own. I am still not making it on my own–but I probably would have been closer to making it on my own if I had realized that my ‘romantic’ relationships were lost causes and immediately started using whatever resources I had to become independent. I should have poured ALL of my money, energy, and time into trying to create a better life for my kids and deserving others, not men who treated me like trash. I am guessing as you have a baby that you are significantly younger than me. You can not go wrong by honoring YOU. If you want to increase the probability of reconciling with your ex (who treats you horrendously), then I am virtually 100% certain that you will get closer to your goal by advocating and working on behalf of YOU. I believe that I was a doormat for decades, and I think that my partners liked and respected me LESS because I consistently tolerated the garbage (outright lies, gaslighting, insults, financial abuse, physical abuse, etc.) they dished out. You don’t have to be me. You can do better (than I have)! I hope that you will nurture YOU, to at least partly compensate for the love you have not been getting from your husband. I wish you happiness.

  • Chump Lady is so right. My good qualities are actually what allowed the Turd to cheat on me. Trusting, trust worthy, hardworking, loyal. Under the RIC logic, I should have been cheating on HIM. He was the half ass one, contributing nothing.

  • I had a few weeks of these discussions and cheater even tried them at court mediation.
    I came up with another example/picture which has worked at times to shut them up – I know there are many doctor’s spouses here:
    Our marriage was like a coma patient on life support due to the deficiencies solely caused by your cheating (insert how they take time, affection etc.) and I was the one keeping the patient alive, one-sided and with no support.
    Was I perfect? Of course not! If I had been perfect I would have walked away to seek a seemingly perfect other half. Why would a perfect wife be with you?

    May I add that I’m posting this from a beach in the African sun having a perfectly relaxed and reciprocal down time with my boyfriend.
    Cheater never stopped complaining on every single holiday.

  • “But… I am getting handed continuing messages that: “I need to look at my role in the marriage. It takes two people for things to go wrong or right. I need to understand my areas for improvement, etc.””

    That is classic victim blaming! Does it take two for one person to decide to abuse/rape/murder/etc. the other person? NO! The perpetrator (your cheater) made a decision to victimize you!

    If that is the accepted narrative in that divorce group, they are pro-abuse as far as I’m concerned. Time to drop them and run.

  • trigger warning: rape

    My mom loved to inform me when I was a teenager being raped and abused every day by a classmate that “it takes two to tango.”

    She wanted to blame me because it was easier to blame and abuse her teenage kid than to actually do anything to help or protect me. She in the end helped my rapist.

    Victim blamers are on about the same level as perpetrators in my opinion. Dump the phony “support group.”

    • marissachump, my heart goes out to you. Your bravery and honesty are heroic and beautiful, and terrible (in the biblical awe-inspiring sense) and honourable. I wish I could hug you. Thank you for your comments always.

    • Marissa Chump,
      I am sorry that you experienced trauma from multiple sources.

  • I was married twice to men who were terribly flawed. They both cheated. They both made me unhappy for years. These two marriages spanned 31 years. Despite their imperfections, abuse, infidelity, it NEVER occured to me to cheat. Period.

    A marriage should stand or fall on its own merits. If you want another person, then divorce first. Cheating is not an entitlement for anyone. Ever.

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