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‘How Do I Know Friends Won’t Betray Me?’

Dear Chump Lady,

I am a year and a half out from discovery and four months since divorce. I am strictly keeping no contact. I’m pretty happy for the most part.

One thing that I’m struggling with is inner conflict when making friends. During discovery, I found out that my husband had been cheating on me with one of my best friends. I felt betrayed from so many angles.

Now, when I make friends, I can’t help but wonder “Are you the type of person who pursues married people?” Of course, since I am neither married nor dating, there is no way to test them in this. However, it has created distance between me and potential new friends.

So my question is the following: I know in relationships and friendships there are no guarantees, but how can I make sure that the people I’m investing in aren’t people who are going to betray me?


In light of grief

Dear In Light of Grief,

Oh, I have just the product. For $399 I’ll send you the How To Affair-Proof Your Friendships toolkit, and if you order now I’ll throw in Batshit Spray! Does that new friend look suspiciously unstable? Batshit spray! It traps the crazy in a protective coating.

That was snark. Which is probably what your twitchy heart doesn’t want right now, but come on, Light. As you rightly prefaced, there are no guarantees in life. And I certainly don’t have one in my pocket. But rest assured not every person is a back-stabber.

Whenever you feel prone to Everyone Sucks gloom, remember — a couple cheating bastards screwed you over — but a bunch more lifted you up. For every one fuckwit leaving a trail of destruction, there’s more good souls doing clean up in aisle 6.

Think of every stranger on this site who takes the time to read and pen words of encouragement, or  share their own similar story so you don’t feel so alone. Doesn’t that count for something?

Yes, Tracy, but I don’t KNOW these people.

Know that they exist.

And YOU exist. And you’re presumably a good person.

Not everyone cheats, which is why we’re shocked when it happens. Because it’s not the normal order of things — it’s transgressive.

Paradoxically, some people think this site is gloomy and cynical (“Yonder, I see a unicorn!”), when really I think it’s righteous. I’m telling people to hold out for CHARACTER. It matters. Not everyone cheats, just like not everyone steals the pensions funds, or conspires with a foreign government to throw elections. (Yes, that was me being political. I can only silently scream for so long.)

You know who wants us to sink into cynicism that these things don’t matter and everyone does them, no harm, no foul? FUCKWITS.

Oh, did I sleep with your boyfriend? Get over that. Everyone does it. 

No. Not everyone does it. This person needs to be shunned. And left to their own terrible choices so karma can bite them in the ass. Good luck with that.

Yes, terrible people are out there. Too goddamn many of them, and far, far too many sheep who lack critical thinking skills. Our job is to have discernment and standards. And if someone in our life transgresses in ways that are unacceptable to us — like sleeping with your boyfriend — the courage to enforce consequences. Off you go! Off the social register! Buh-bye. You’ve been voted OFF the island.

Rebuilding a life after betrayal — in your case, a double betrayal — is fixing your picker and learning to trust your resilience.

We don’t control other people, but we absolutely control how we respond and what we will put up with.

When you know this about yourself, that you’re an awesome friend and someone should be glad to know you, and you don’t bestow your friendship (a gift!) on just anyone — in short, when you know your worth — you won’t be afraid to have boundaries.

Having good boundaries means you won’t attract users. Oh, they might sniff around, but they won’t get very far. However, if you stick around for lopsidedness, if you spackle over signs of bad character, if your own values are messed up (okay, she sleeps with everyone’s boyfriend, but her hair is so pretty!) then you’ll have users in your life.

But! But! How will I know? This means I have to invite them into my life and test them out!

Yes. Sorry, life is risk. It’s not fair to future potential friends to tar them with the fuckwit brush. Don’t do that to future dates and don’t do it to future friends. Heal yourself, take some time, and then put yourself out there. (Because remember, you’re AWESOME. Who wouldn’t want to be your friend?)

After being chumped, the end result should be MORE courage, not less. Because chumps have stared down that motherfucker Rejection and survived. What can the world throw at you after you’ve been sexually humiliated and conspired against?

What is asking that nice person out for coffee after that? What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? She says, “I’m sorry, you’re utterly repulsive and I wouldn’t have coffee with you if you were the last person on earth and there was a global coffee shortage.” You’ve invested 30 seconds in asking. That’s not a marriage or a mortgage. It’s 30 seconds. On an unworthy person. NEXT.

Discernment. Standards. Solid knowledge that good people are out there. Courage. Coffee dates.

Go get ’em.

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.
  • This is another great lesson from my divorce: relationships don’t always succeed, nor should they.

    I lost the f-wit, and good riddance to her. I’ve lost the Switzerland friends. I also cut really nice, caring people out for less.

    I’m not cruel, I miss them all and would happily take them back but on my terms.The divorce help me realize my value & that time is short. That friends with similar values are rarer than my chumpy brain thought and those relationships matter the most.

    Interestingly, I’m looking forward to meet new people explore the world with a new bravery. Thanks to that f-wit, I’m stronger and wiser and more powerful (electric guitar power chord here).

    You’re still reeling and healing. It’s going to get better; little by little. Trust. (Electric guitar power chord here).

    • I agree with Tall One. My value and time are short and, well, valuable.

      I listen now. Differently and carefully. I ask questions about their life stories and values in an effort to get to know each person.

      The red flags are out there and by gently listening and questioning I get to see them. And I follow my gut which has graduated from the school of hard knocks through this process of being chumped.

      Is my interest in them reciprocal? Do they ask questions about me? Do they meet me half way in the friendship? Too much one way or another is a red flag.

      I am careful. I fixed my picker and now pay attention. If I make a mistake, it is very early on and I either distance myself or proceed with great caution.

      In Light of Grief, you are in very early days. Be patient and kind to yourself. Make acquaintances for now. You have lots and lots of time to sift thru acquaintances and add the best to your friend pile.

      These techniques have worked for me over the past 10 years since DDay. When I needed my friends to help me get thru a child’s wedding, a grandchild’s bris and life issues, good and bad, my “squad” was with me every step of the way. Such a blessing!

  • It is understandable that your guard is up. And you do not know who to trust. You were betrayed by your husband and best friend. That is a lot to overcome. My ex cheated on me with my cousin. Cheaters suck.
    I am more selective who I spend my time with. I recently was introduced to a women who is in the same equestrian club. I found her a bit abrasive. But, I told myself not to be so judgemental and give her a chance. A few weeks after we met she introduced me to her husband. And she said I won him. He was married when we met and I worked hard to win him. Her bragging about being a homewrecker made me ill. And I wanted to smack the smug look off her husbands face. I excused myself and I never had contact with her again. Don’t rush yourself. You will find people who are worthy of your friendship.

      • I once met a woman with three kids who bragged that her husband was engaged to someone else when they met. I thought that seemed off, but that was many years before my own life exploded by my husband’s affair (while I was pregnant with our fifth child). I thought about her story often, and when I looked her up, sure enough he’s cheated on her multiple times and she’s single-momming it now.

        Go figure.

      • One of the pitfalls of being a sociopath devoid of empathy is that you don’t know how awful you sound to other people when you express your true thoughts.

        • Good point. We have a tendency to assume other people share our values, so fuckwits often reveal themselves because they think you will agree with them. (also a warning to chumps not to assume other people share our values so we can pay attention to those yellow flags.)

        • Haha yes, my mom has done this numerous times…including, but not limited to, a death in the family – when she loudly proclaimed “well, at least he lived a full life”, in a room full of mourning people, just FOUR HOURS after my cousin had died suddenly, collapsing to the ground from a heart attack at 40 years old, leaving a wife ans two kids.

          She’s an A-grade sociopath, the not-smart-enough-to-hide kind.

          I still remember the colorful lady who responded to that….

      • as a 59 year old divorced man who tried online dating for 8 years you’d be absolutely shocked what people will say on the first through the multiple dates. The hard part is paying attention to them so that you can pick up the nuances of the conversation and then knowing what to do when things feel “off.” Otherwise you get sucked in and before you realize it you’re in shit you didn’t even realize you were in. So, yes, your fixing the picker article and your consistent solid advice to everyone who writes you without any waffling or pandering has been the best advice I’ve read and “received” since my divorce. thank you! I think I’ll increase my patreon now 🙂

        • RVA..truth. I have tried online dating and it is bad. One guy on the second date (he must have felt very comfortable to reveal himself this way) told me how he ended a 25 year marriage to his wife because she got diagnosed with early onset dementia and took her for everything she had. She was the bread winner and he was a stay at home day of one kid all the time they were married. He actually bragged to me how he got the house and half her retirement. He told me she (of course) didn’t want the divorce but he was as mean as he could be to her so she would let him off the hook. What a prince, huh? I could not for the life of me figure out he thought that would impress me….how when his wife got sick he screwed her over every which way he could.

          • OMG, what an evil ass. I’m in a relationship seminar at present, and one of the attendees cheated on his wife after she was diagnosed with a progressive (and eventually fatal) illness. Part of his rationale? He was frustrated she didn’t want to use a walker because she wanted to be independent and so she’d fall and he’d have to take her to the hospital. Real empathetic fellow.

      • Quote: That’s nuts. Maybe she was kicked in the head by a horse? Who says that?

        OMG, laughed so hard I scared the dogs!

        ITA with the above posters that only the disordered say sh!t like this. I surely wouldn’t brag about being an AP, especially with someone I just met and was trying to form camaraderie with. Ew. Just Ew.

    • Oh my God. I didn’t need to read that so early—- That’s what I get for sneeking a peak at work! I guess these people still make me angry. That she would brag about it, what a vicious soul. And weirdo. And weird cheating new husband that is enjoying it? Poor horse that has to carry her on it’s back. Yuck. Interesting you were put off by her before you knew.

      • This same women also is on a Keto diet. She would run around and scold anyone who was eating sugar or carbs. She also would tell anyone she came across about how her step daughters are rude and nasty to her. At first I felt sorry for her. But, now I know why they treat her the way they do. She was/is very good at playing the victim.

        • I’m a piece of work myself, I guess, but I’m glad those stepdaughters were *not* *nice* to the OW. It chaps my hide that my stepkids are nice to my husband’s ex-wife’s OM (was that clear?). Of course, OM/ex-wife’s husband is a man-child himself, so I guess they have a lot in common (insert eye roll here).

        • I think Cuzchump should jump for joy that the nutty woman said that out loud. A friend used to say (about love relationships) “Bless the ones that leave you early.” And I feel the people to watch out for are the ones who DON’T ‘announce’ who they are. So the horse lady did you a big favor!

        • They are ALWAYS good at playing the victim. That itself is a red flag. (Which is not to say there aren’t real victims, but someone who makes a habit of playing the victim card is probably disordered.)

          • I feel it’s in the “how”, rather than the “how much”, they play the victim, though it surely goes hand in hand.
            But there are people who you could see take pleasure in highlighting their “poor me” status…it was always odd to me because…i could never lower myself like that, no matter how bad my life was (and i dont hold back from complaining).

            Same for those who brag constantly, they are the mirror image of the first ones, but easier to catch because they’re obviously obnoxious

        • I don’t understand scolding other people for eating sugar or carbs. I’m on a keto diet because my blood sugar was a little high but your food choices are your own food choices. Other people ain’t her kids and she ain’t their mama.

    • Cuzchump

      That horse’s ass woman bragging that she WON HIM, must be dealing with public shaming by spinning it.

      OR NO, she’s just that fucking clueless and warped.

      I’m not sure I could have muttered more than a WTF???

      I’m now going to screw my head into the ceiling…

      WTF ?????

      • CL is so right with boundaries and bravery.

        Since becoming a chump, I’ve become so much more vocal and brave.

        When I see or hear dishonesty, I’m quick with a piercing comment, that I would never had uttered before chumpdays.

        In this wife’s case, I would have said out loud “Oh. Wow. Poor ex-wife and children. That’s not an attitude I condone.” Then go help yourself to an appetizer while they suck on an that awkward lemon and make note in their little heads, “maybe we should practice more discretion”.

        its awful to be so dishonest, it’s doubly awful to brag about being a jerk.

        As to attracting friends, the more that people know what type of person you are, the more similar people will be attracted to you.

  • I personally use this with anyone new I add to my life, either friend or potential romantic interest. I look for the “WTF Event”. Once they get past the initial getting-to-know-you stage, that’s what I’m on the lookout for. A non-dealbreaker that doesn’t make sense, even after discussing it.

    One “WTF Event” is their freebie; there is no 3rd chance. If I can’t get sufficient closure or an explanation that makes sense, then I assume I’ve been manipulated, and cut them out of my life.

    I don’t need friends that cause that kind of instability in my life. This may not eliminate friends that would betray me, but it definitely helps.

    • Can you explain this more? An example? I don’t quite get it but having some check like those in place sounds… More comfortable to me as I venture out.

      • I can’t answer for SweetPotatoFlakes, but here’s an example from my life: I got to know a co-worker in another department. We had a few nice conversations at work and had a couple of interests in common. We went out for dinner. My partner didn’t like her but I enjoyed talking about work stuff. Several months later I invited the person to our home for a meal along with a couple of other friends. She showed up, asked for alcohol, which wasn’t being served to anyone else (one of my friends is in recovery and the rest of us aren’t big drinkers), served herself two large drinks, monopolized the conversation for the rest of the evening and was extremely rude to one of my friends, for example saying that my friend didn’t know anything about something my friend knows A LOT about. Was my co-worker nervous about meeting new people, or was there some other reasonable explanation for her obnoxious behavior? Perhaps. Earlier in life I would have made excuses and felt guilty because I had reached out to her, and made myself continue the relationship — spackling! It’s not just for cheaters! Not anymore though. Her behavior was unacceptable and I’m not interested in that level of drama and cluelessness. I only interacted with her a couple of times after that and I don’t think she even works here anymore. Bullet dodged.

        • That’s a perfect example! It’s usually extremely easy to spot and extremely easy to overlook or make excuses for. It’s a brief glimpse behind the mask.

      • Well, just out of the blue, odd behavior. I’m not saying generally grouchy because of a bad day. Something that literally makes you think WTF is going on; behavior that doesn’t make sense and is very out of character.

        An example I can think of is when a friend and her grandmother was visiting. Granny appeared very nice, the few times I met her.

        I made a cup of coffee in my Keurig. She had several cups earlier. She walks up to me holding her coffee cup and says “pour me half of your cup of coffee”. My brain hissed, but I remained polite and offered her the cup I just made. She looks at me like I’m stupid and says “No, I only want a half a cup”. Again I cringe, but keep my composure. I offer to make her another one and pour out half. This time she reacts like I just cursed at her and says “absolutely not! That’s wasting…just give me half of yours”.

        I didn’t want a half a cup or a cup and a half of coffee. So I start to pour half of mine in her cup and she just lit up and exclaimed “oh thank you”. Then I turned around and poured the rest down the sink. Then started making my own cup.

        The reaction she gave was like I had slapped her. Even after she settled down, she muttered under her breath for several hours after.

        My friend just shook her head and said that she gets like that sometimes.

      • I have an example.

        I once moved across the country for a new job. Here I am in a brand new city where I don’t know anybody. A colleague invites me to her house for a dinner party. There, I meet her boyfriend, who apparently works at my company. Small world, huh?

        Boyfriend proceeds to get drunk and spends the entire evening shit-talking every single one of his employees, right down to telling us confidential information like who’s getting fired.

        The girlfriend told me (not once, but twice!) the same weird story about how she could never mentor a younger woman because “young women make her jealous.” This was in response to my comment that I wished more younger women reached out to me for advice because I was hungry for someone to mentor! I believe strongly in giving back and especially wish to help younger women coming up the ladder, so to hear her rationale sent chills down my spine.

        I also thought it bizarre how neither of these people could read a room. The boyfriend insulted one of my coworkers right after I said what a lovely person this guy is. The girlfriend repeated her story about being catty and jealous even after I made it clear how important I thought it was for older women to mentor younger women coming up the ranks. Both of them came across as tone-deaf and self-centered.

        To hear these people talk made my hair stand on end. They came across as bitter, hateful assholes, and utterly untrustworthy. When your internal alarm system goes off, pay attention. I eventually excused myself early and went home.

        Usually, I follow up after a party to thank the host and make plans to see them again. But after that party, I never spoke to either of them again. I saw enough in a single evening to know there was something deeply wrong with them.

  • I’m going to channel on my favorite movies here, so bear with me . . .

    The premise of Albert Brooks’ “Defending Your Life” is that, since we humans only use 3-5% of our brains, most of our lives on earth are spent overcoming our fears, thereby getting smarter in the process. After we die, episodes of our life are reviewed and judged. If it’s determined we’ve overcome our fears, we get to move on to the next destination. If not, we’re sent back to earth to try again.

    Today’s letter reeks of fear — well-founded, but fear nonetheless. After being betrayed as we have, fear is natural and understandable. But facing it, not letting it rule us, staring it down and taking the risk — is what makes us learn about ourselves, grow, and get smarter over the long haul.

    • I don’t think that describing this letter as “reek[ing] of fear” is very helpful. I reacted strongly to that shaming language, and the labeling of another’s experience. The letter writer is a year and a half out of betrayal, which is about where I am, and I can totally empathize with how they are feeling. The worst of the betrayal is over, wounds are healing, and they are now venturing out into the world to make new connections. But this is the stage at which we must risk putting ourselves out there, risk letting others in, and all the fears come rushing back.

      I was betrayed by my partner and a woman I worked with, and it has literally made me question every person in my life, and whether they are loyal to me–whether this is “rational” or not. I think it is normal–the brain has had to metabolize two betrayals, two losses.

      I think “double betrayals,” as CL describes them, are in a class of their own. They force us to reorganize every part of our lives that not one but two people have touched. So if you’ve moved on from the fear stage, I salute you, and envy you too. But I’m going to give a special shout-out to doubly betrayed chumps, and say that maybe we also need some more understanding as to how long healing from this kind of betrayal can take. My life felt like a scary hall of funhouse mirrors for months after I found out, and I couldn’t tell up from down. Two people I trusted betraying me at once is possibly the worst thing I have ever survived, and it’s not the fear that reeks, it’s the atrocious behavior of cheaters.

      Double hugs to you, Light of Grief. <3

      • Artemis,
        Thank you for your words, and I agree. It’s difficult to come up with words that don’t minimize the pain of those suffering a “single betrayal,” but the “double betrayal,” by not only a spouse but a friend, relative or work colleague/friend taints an additional circle of life, and leaves us with not only fewer resources when searching to put our lives back together, but additional parts of our lives in ruins.

        • And then there is the additional betrayal of mutual friends who either defend the AP (WTF?) or become Switzerland friends.

          • First, I want to say my heart goes out to you, light. I can’t imagine the pain of double betrayal. Equally to all chumps that have to endure the added betrayal of Switzerland friends.

            I also want to give some hope and say that a week after D-day I started going out every weekend or weekday that cheater had our daughter. I signed up on one of those international get-together apps. I mainly went for daytime events (walks, exhibitions, brunch, wine tasting etc). Anything but to sit at home, I thought. Within a few events I met so many wonderful people. Different age groups. Proper male friends who never hit on me. I have never had this kind of outtake from random groups before. I don’t think it’s coincidence.

            My therapist says that once you have removed a narcissist from your life, you will find that the energy around you also changes. Many good and sincere people may have been staying away due to the narcissist.

            I also went on a trip to a family hotel a month after- yes only families and me and my daughter for a fortnight! It had been booked with cheater on the booking.

            I was scared but I did have a good and healing time. I made friends with two moms who were very supportive and caring, since my daughter was emotionally overreacting due to the break-up. My daughter told many adults what had happened. During the kids disco some couples would just get me a drink and a thumps up. If you look around, I now believe there are many good and compassionate people around!

            As CL says, you will have to let them in first. For me the loose setting in the meet-ups worked very well and also is great to getting back into your interests.

      • Agree 100%. My husband had an affair with my next door neighbor, our friend. This was 4 and a half years ago. That kind of betrayal has changed me forever.
        I stayed with him.
        She went on to have more affairs, including one with a town cop. Turns out she had them before my husband. She has finally in the process of divorce and moved a town over.

        But not before she was PTO President and almost secured a seat on my town BOE until people squashed that.

        She was recently dating my friend’s ex husband, who was a horrible cheating dickhead. Perfect for each other.

        These people don’t change. It’s who they are at their core.

        I had fear of trusting for a long time. But now I just control what I can. I’ll never put my happiness in the hands of another. It’s mine to decide. Hugs to you!

      • When your cheating wife gaslights you and then gets your sister on her side because of your reactions to the gaslighting and then your sister helps her leave you behind you back and helps her get all your financial information, rents a storage space for her and helps her find her first rent house before she even moves out. It’s that double betrayal???lol.

        My sister didn’t know she was cheating on me but still. I told her but she didn’t believe me. WTF

        • Her sister did you a favour. I know it might not feel like that, but it’s what happened.

        • My sister, …what to say , someone I love but do not like. She is my ex’s mental doppelganger. She’s been married 3 times , and her third left her for another. She’s one of those “entitled” types. It’s always someone else’s fault. She is just as narcissistic as my ex. And it’s ironic that once you know what to look for , they seem to be everywhere…

    • Yeah… Mine was double too. With my wasband for 20 years. He had an affair with my very bestie, who was my maid of honor. Bestie for 23 years.

      It took me years to get my sea legs.

      I’m barely trusting people again, yet. 4 years since D-Day. I made a friend at work last year who turned out to be batshit after 9 months (she accused me of stealing her printing password off her phone… She forgot giving it to me on a post it note.). Most ridiculous thing to go batshit about, I mean completely ridiculous – if I’m going to steal something, it would be your printing password??!! And she kept maligning my integrity over it.

      This threw me back so far on my path of healing. I thought I had fixed my picker a bit. Would never have thought this could have happened with her.

      My therapist says that just because people can hide things from you doesn’t mean you’re not perceptive. There will always be people who can.

      So I’m going to have to venture forth and trust knowing there is risk. Be careful and know — always know — relationships are risk. But not connecting with people is worse. We are none of us a silo.

      I think the phrase reek with fear came off won’t, not the way ux world intended it. There is a lot of Tana and said-protection reflex in my life. I am scared. But… You know… Take a bath and out on some antiperspirant. Barrel forward.

    • I love Defending Your Life !! And even though I’m an atheist, I still hope that if there is an afterlife, it’s exactly like that. Thanks for reminding me of DYL: I’m going to go do something brave today.

  • You never know who you can trust, but you do know who loves and supports you because they let you tell you.

    I realized the X surrounds himself with people that worship him. That make excuses for his behavior. That cover up his lies and lie for him. That drive him to and from the airport for his extramarital rendezvous.

    Our couple friends, who know the truth about him, his abuse and cheating plus taking me for all he could get in the divorce, are still friends with him. My best friend who let me cry on her shoulder while my heart broke after his 3rd DDay, and encouraged me to leave him, still goes to visit him before she visits me when she comes to town.

    I get so triggered by my old couple friends who don’t like my new husband. He’s not as charming as the X, but the X was a liar who acted how he thought people wanted him to act, now how he really is. My new husband doesn’t put on airs and it’s clear they don’t like him. One of my our old couple friends even brings up the X while we’re together like he hasn’t moved on, but I have and hate mentioning him.

    I know I should say something or cut ties, but it seems like I am the one with the problem? I do have new friends who love me and my husband. So much easier to be around the ones who accept us both and understand the X was evil.

    • Do you ENJOY spending time with these “old couple-friends” though?

      You don’t *have to* visit with them. “Hey- we’re in town… want to get together?” You.are.busy. Yes, every day they’re visiting. Every time. Don’t offer why or details or times or suggest that next time might be better. They want info to tell Cheater and His Flavor of the Month. Don’t agree to possible dates in the future. Be vague and plain. You’re busy [Gray Rocking Lecherous Friends], sorry it won’t be possible [ever again]. “Is there a problem between us, ChumpToTheMax?!!,” they may boldly assert… you meet them where.they.are. “No.” Let it fall because these people are NOT your friends.

      • I agree, except I might be so bold as to say the reason I will not meet them. I think it’s hypocritical to gaslight them that nothing is wrong. Maybe it’s deliciously fun to dish it out for once, but it isn’t very in keeping with standing up for your morals.

        I have done this to my Switzerland friends. I simply told them that I am not comfortable continuing to hang out with them since they approved of the cheater’s behavior. I got the response back that they don’t approve of it, but don’t want to be in the middle. That’s when I quoted D. Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” And then I went gray rock.

        I’ve had one or two of the friends come back and say that they are no longer talking to him. I have allowed them back into my life as acquaintances. You know, go to lunch and chat about kids and work stuff. But they likely will not make it back to true friend status, where I share my vulnerabilities with them. My picker learned a thing or two and turns out that these are people that I probably would never have friended if I knew what I know now, back when I met them.

        • kharless73 True, I didn’t think of it that way. Actually what I am doing is selling myself short, just like I did married to an abusive cheater. I never could be myself or speak the truth with these couples and I still don’t. Good insight.

        • I’ve done it that way… they love being the cause of “your” drama. They’ll go on and tell stories about how sensitive you are. How you won’t meet them because “somehow, WE betrayed her too. ::rolling eyes::”

          Nope. It only needs to be the once. And done. No drama or stories to pass on… just done.

    • How can you continue to be friends with people who aided and abetted your ex’s cheating??? Seriously?

      • Persephone, our couple friends did not help him, but have accepted that he destroyed our marriage and are still friends with him. Those that helped him, they are worse than him in my book.

    • These are not your friends. They blatantly prefer your ex for whatever reason. Maybe they seek his approval, not an unusual dynamic for weak idiots and narcissists. Time to cut ties, if only out of respect for your husband.

    • Yes, I know I need to, but I am slow to let go. I stayed with an abusive liar and cheat for 20 years! None of my real friends would have helped the X or stayed friends with him.

      • I think it takes time, and we are able to do things in stages. I’m just about one year out from divorce, 18 months out of moving out. It took me 18 months before that to get my courage up and finally decide I had to leave. Not only did I have to leave the man I’d been married to for 35 years, I decided that for my sanity and safety I needed to retire early so I wouldn’t have to run into him at work (we worked in the same small academic department of a small liberal arts university). I lost the entire framework of my life in the space of a year.
        For some years I have part of a once a week pub group of retired colleagues. About the time of the pick-me dance, I urged my now ex, who had never come to this group, to start attending. He did. Then we split. The group chose to be Switzerland friends; I said I didn’t want to be there with him, so we have alternated weeks for about a year.
        I knew their dual loyalty was going to mean that eventually I would have to cut it off with them, one more sorrow and loss due to his actions, while he suffered not a consequence or lost friendship. But I had lost so much in such a short space of time that I needed even the compromised friendship they were offering.
        Now I’m in a new phase, moving forward; I’ve decided to move away to a new state. This will by necessity mean giving up these friends, and I’m finding that I’m actually relieved. That twice a month gathering with people who know what my ex did, consider themselves my friend, yet still maintain a friendship with him never sat well with me.
        We do what we are able to do as we are able to do it.

        • Adelante, that is very true, it’s in stages and it’s when you decide you deserve better.

    • You aren’t the one with the problem, they are. Really. They want to remain friends with a liar and a cheater, because he is sparkly? Real friends would drop him like hot dog sh*t.

      They bring him up? They go visit him? Guess what- they tell him things about you and your husband. They give him kibbles. Drop these people, they aren’t your friends.

      You have a better life now, with a better people in your life. It is good that your new friends like your new husband, because he is probably real with them, and not sparkly.

      Let these friendships go. *IF* any of them realize you are cutting them out, and ask you why, it is up to you if you want to tell them why.

    • Hi – I am not sure why you don’t shut it down when they bring up your ex when your husband is around. It is disrespectful. They lack drama in their own lives and feeding off yours. As to your friend who goes to the ex’s house first – I would cut her off in your shoes. These are pain or drama vampires.

  • One of the side effects of being utterly betrayed, finding CL and CN, and dealing with Not Feeling Safe was… learning was my deal breakers were, putting up boundaries, perfecting Gray Rocking All Narcissists, and fixing my picker.

    The most shocking thing was, it worked for EVERYONE. Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and bosses, clients… the Picker was fixed for EVERYONE. Manipulators and Sociopaths called me heartless behind my back but that stigma only lasts until they use up the goodwill of each person they told, who then see why I had/have the boundaries I do. Narcissists/Psychopaths find me boring. Truly evil people hate that I SEE them *for who they are,* despite the charm they’re known for, and stay very, very far away.

    It’s like the bad apples just fell away, once my picker reset.

    I find that trust isn’t a hugely beneficial thing in my life anymore. It’s an idea that only soothes when you believe in it but it doesn’t really exist. Everyone has a point – drastic though it may be – where they will pick themselves/the ones they care about over you. So do I. It’s easier to not rely on trust and just make more careful decisions.

    My friends are people I enjoy spending time with, have good boundaries themselves (or know when they’re struggling), are reciprocal, and blunt. I love bluntness; it’s honest.

    How do you know when people truly MEAN something? When they DO what they say, over and over… or even if they FAIL (because we’re human, after all), apologize for not doing what they said they’d do, and DO make it up… not just say they will.

    • “It’s easier to not rely on trust and just make more careful decisions.” I agree and am glad you were able to articulate what I was thinking as I was reading the different entries. My picker has been so fucked up that I had to shed everyone and start over. But starting over meant learning how to decide who was who before I got too invested and that has nothing to do with trusting anyone but myself. Like the baseball pitchers say: sometimes you just got to trust your stuff. It isn’t easy or fun but it beats being mind fucked or mind fucking yourself into thinking things are a certain way when the signs say they aren’t.

      • A new co-worker has been spanking us, in sales. He was too nice. Not too good-looking. Family guy. Tons of experience. Offering to get coffee.

        But would take off for an hour and half for lunch instead of 20 minutes. Has had some crazy stories for why he can’t come in for daaaays at a time but will come in and sell 4 times what anyone normally would with the same leads. Our agency owner is a Really Nice Guy. He’s also a rookie in this industry.

        New Guy made the mistake of selling a prospect who absolutely didn’t qualify… and I knew because she’d called in an hour earlier. She wouldn’t be able to sign up until her credit got better (ever so slightly) in the next quarter, or until 2021. She and I had discussed why. I told him, flat out, she didn’t qualify. He said that he ran her info and none of red-flags jumped at him. I said, simply, “Of course they did; this popped up and you removed it. That’s going to be a flat-cancel in a week,” and went back to my work. He said that it didn’t appear for him (everyone else gathered ’round and saw that activity was received but when you clicked on it, no activity was visible. lol) I told him, again flatly, that it had.

        Once I was done with my task, I walked into the owner’s office – in front of everyone – shut the door, and told the owner that New Guy’s latest huge sale would be cancelled within the week. The only way to do it was to add bits of fiction manually and remove reality manually. “New Guy wouldn’t do that… he has over a decade of experience and his sales are HUGE.” Yeah, Buddy- the sale is HIGH because the system knows the truth even though he’s removing it. He’s removing the truth to trick the system into taking her. When New Customer is cancelled next week, on paper, she’ll be mad about us having her down payment. I could have sold her in February and had a customer for life. Honestly.

        I was very plain about it. Owner had him in his office for damn near half an hour. New Guy has been trying to kiss my ass all week. Nope. I’m super normal and sarcastic as always. Share stories. I’m totally normal about it, like before… but he fucking knows that I KNOW him now, and he’s shitting himself. He’s sold less than a tenth what he did before. And the owner knows I have his back. I’m not stirring shit. We’ve still got the whole comaraderie thing going… but now, those soon-to-be chargeback sales aren’t busting from his computer anymore. New Guy is fucking flummoxed. He took only half an hour for lunch today.

        No drama. Pure fucking truth. I can deal with assholes. I can be NICE to assholes… I have my fucking PhD from Life on it. But as ballsy as they are with lies? I will be, to knock them back down in one, swift motion. You will not get away with 13 years of bullshitting experience, here. No fucking way.

    • “Narcs and psychopaths find me boring.” Oh wow how true. There’s no drama! Narcs love their drama. I love being drama-free.
      Also, I had 2 people accuse me of being paranoid thinking everyone is out to get me. Both of these people are liars and cheaters. One is my cheating cruel ex and the other along time friend who slept with my old boyfriend and then later cheated on her husband. When you see through them they will attack you. Good riddance. Our Switzerland friends were cheating on each other, too. I found that as I enforced boundaries it affected all areas as someone else mentioned.

  • You can see how friends behave, if they use excuses for their behaviour. Their opinions on subjects.
    If they use drugs or alcohol (excessively).
    I have a neighbour who thought my ex was wonderful, seriously he could do no wrong, I overheard her telling another neighbour I didn’t deserve him, because I was fat.
    Incidentally years later she couldn’t see why drug dealers were arrested!. She admitted she used drugs. I always wondered why she stuck up for my ex.
    She is obsessed with other peoples body’s, always commenting on them.
    You try and comment on hers, she actually comments on your stomach etc.what has it got to do with her.
    She’s not even good-looking and is overweight.
    I was severely overweight became ill and lost several stone, and became slimmer than her and she must hate it.

  • Yeah discernment, great… but sometimes that kicks into overdrive. I don’t think most people meet others wondering if they are a duplicitous piece of shit. I know I didn’t. I do now. That internal, eternal questioning makes connections difficult to come by to say the least. I find I do not trust my judge of character AT ALL. I’m three years out. Have had my moment of meh. But I am alone.

    • So with you and appreciate your honesty. I can turn Amy’s misstep into a rad banner now always assuming the worst and forget discerning a compliment from a love bomb.

      I don’t want to ever let my guard down.

  • Light: I am so sorry you are dealing with the DOUBLE betrayal! That is a tough one to overcome but evidently many Chumps here have done well working through that double version.

    One of the things I have learned so far with all of the dating I have been doing, (and remaining blissfully single), is you will learn so much from the stories they tell of others and themselves. The comments on things in passing. How they talk about other people etc. Eventually something pops up that just feels yucky. Looking back I realize I had THOUSANDS of those conversations with my ex my entire life.

  • Many years ago when I was in high school, my boyfriend (first real boyfriend) started acting flaky and then suddenly broke up with me. A good friend (not my best friend, but close friend), was advising me how to get him back. Well, within a week or so it came to light the reason for his weird behavior- he had began seeing and sleeping with the same friend who was advising me on how to get back together with him! She brushed off as no big deal, and that if I would have done this or that for him, he would not have run to her. After this our friend group split in half- half who thought that it was no big deal and that I should just get over it and be happy for them. The rest were behind me- these two both betrayed me and were both crappy people and not worthy of our group’s friendship.

    This was high school and many years ago, but was a valuable lesson for me. There are going to be people out there that you trust that are going to betray you, but there are also just as many that have your back. It hurt like hell, and I had trouble trusting people for a while, but eventually I moved past it. I have never had a friend betray me like that since then. As an interesting side note, the girl who did that, later shot and killed another boyfriend in a drug induced rage. She was acquitted of murder charges. Shitty person, all around.

  • My entire 30 years with ex, I guess not my entire life, just feels that way—-

  • In addition to fixing my picker, I have to also fix my WALKER/LEAVE-ER. Getting rock-solid on my own is the first and most important part of that.
    Also, when testing a canoe, stay close to shore. Don’t immediately head out for the middle of the lake.

  • Oh I struggle with this also. I found out my now ex husband was cheating with my supposed best friend. This bitch threw me a baby shower and everything. So I was discouraged to date and meet new friends. Years out! Still kinda am but getting better. My therapist told me I have to lower my drawbridge just a little (because I trust no one after this). She said I was like a castle with my drawbridge up, barb wire, enforced walls surrounded by a moat with alligators in it. She said that’s no way to live and I agree. Her advice was to not put everyone in the same bucket as my ex and ex best friend. She said everyone is not as awful as them so you have to put people in their own buckets and not treat everyone in the same betrayal. She said if someone shows you you can’t trust them ok fine but put them in a separate bucket. I hope that helped. It helped me when she explained it like that. Good luck in finding your new circle of good people. I’m working on mine also.

    • i disagree with your therapist. Everyone does not need access to my personal life and private details. i believe everyone is in the same bucket until someone proves to me they are not. since i treat everyone in the bucket the same.. … with kindness and politeness. it doesn’t interfere with my castle.

      i hold everyone i met at arms length. i do not trust ANYONE. i still have a few good friends that i trust and talk to and vent to. but 97% of everyone else i simple do not trust or talk about personal details. That does not mean that i dont have a good life. i talk to people, i talk about my children’s activities, i talk about work, i talk about sports and have great conversations .. .. i go dancing and to events. I enjoy pot lucks and activities.. … .. but i do not bare my soul to anyone except the 3%. and even of those 3 i do not tell everything. On the other hand, people love to tell me their secrets, and their problems. i am a good listener i am told often. i rarely allow anyone in my home (that is my and my childrens safe place) but i am willing to met you somewhere or go to your house. i have my drawbridge up, barb wire, enforced walls surrounded by a moat with alligators PLUS a heat seeking missile with video camera surveillance . .. … But i still live a good life. Then again, i have never understood the need for validation in other people. i can enjoy doing things with people without the need to tell them every little thing about myself. BUT then again, i have an amazing support group.

      i hope you find your people.

      • Mrs. Vain, thank you for this viewpoint. I live a very quiet and private life in much the same fashion. I do not trust my judgement. I am in the process of healing from horrendous betrayal and decades of abuse. I can’t take the risk of allowing toxicity into my home.

        I’ve reached out to make very superficial contact through my knitting club and my Ukelele club. I do not want more than that. It is nice to have my stance validated. I’m not a hermit. I get out of the house almost everyday. I have one friend, fellow club members and that is enough.

        Chump Nation has filled a void in my life. This support system has been invaluable to the process of repairing my fractured life. Every time I come on this site I meet like minded people who truly understand the pain and devastation of Adultery. Chump Nation is my support group. Thank You all so much. And today thank you, Mrs. Vain for understanding and endorsing my carefully vetted social group.

  • The AP in my situation was once described to me as someone who, in other circumstances, you would have been friends with. I think that was how she operated. Always just wanting to be friends with my ex whose ego was so needy, he fell for her And he was not healthy and let himself go til he was 100 lbs overweight. So she’s taking care of him now. But the irony of all this is that I am looked at with suspicion from women who, seeing me alone, think I’m going to steal their man and so cut me. Like I would ever EVER put another sister through that. But those guys. Cheaters really twist their partners up so we end up distanced and untrusting of everybody. So as I move forward I keep the attitude one of ‘trust but verify’. I’m wary of my picker and I’m not really looking to partner up. There is no one stop answer to this type of trust issue.

    • I have also found that the majority of married women I meet seem to view me as a threat. I am outgoing and extroverted, but have absolutely no problem being alone.
      I daresay that when others talk about having numerous friends, they really mean “acquaintances”.
      My #1 criteria for trusting is asking…”is this person dependable?”
      I have discovered that most people are not. If I say I will do something, by golly, I freaking do it, no matter how inconvenient. Because I am a dependable person. I have one dependable friend and a couple of dependable family members.
      I like to give others a chance. But if they are too busy, full of excuses…I move on. I like my own company.
      After being betrayed, we all have our own ways of navigating life.
      My time is too precious to be jerked around by flaky “friends”.

    • Trudy,
      When I’m single I’m treated as a threat by married women. Since remarrying (to my cheater STBX) my social life has exploded. All of these married folks, who I had a lot in common with and had hoped to socialize with, suddenly felt safe to invite me (along with my husband, of course) to dinner parties, sporting events, you name it. My dance card has no been so full as a married person.

      I’m dreading going back to being a persona non grata as a single woman. And, like you, I would never betray another woman. There is definitely something to the concept of “marriage privilege.”

  • I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that 2 of my newest good friends are fellow chumps. It is hard to relate to the shock, the PTSD feelings, and the depth of the betrayal, if you haven’t gone through it yourself.

    I think it’s natural for Light to feel anxious about new friends. Our nervous systems are wired to protect us from re-injury.

  • Light, sending support— I hope my words comfort you. I’m 5 years out from DDay —25 year marriage, I was completely blindsided. Turns out XH was a serial cheater. I had no idea whatsoever, none! He was a master manipulator and that’s all on him. I was invested in our relationship, our family, our shared history. He lied. He used me.

    After I came here and learned what was really going on (he sucks- no hope for a good life with him) went NC and divorced, I started looking at my own vulnerabilities— how I spackle, allow bad treatment from others as a trade-off for something I think I need (mom who abuses, blames, gaslights, uses me; siblings, ditto; some friends, ditto; co-workers who scream, blame, gaslight, etc.). I allow this in my life or I don’t. I get to walk/block/quit/ etc. if I don’t want to be subjected to this. I have the power of choice. It’s very empowering to have this world-view.

    I have very few in my inner-circle today but at the core I have me and I’m working hard now to listen to myself, my needs, and to follow through to protect myself when my gut feels off about anyone.

  • CL is right. You don’t know that they won’t betray you. I had my best friend of 25 years betray me by telling me he and his wife were choosing me as their friend because of my STBXW’s brutal discard of me and treatment of my kids after 17 years married. They ended up having STBXW and Sparkledick over to their house for drinks more than once in the following 6 months. When I met someone they treated her fairly crappy. They don’t invite “us”, only me to events and even then the invites were few and far between and usually at the last minute.

    This betrayal was almost as bad as my STBXW’s betrayal. How could my best friend do this? The reality is that there were smaller betrayals and conflicts with character all along that I spackled over. I did the same thing with my STBXW and other friends. I don’t think some of my friends understand why I’m so distant now but that’s OK because I’ve got new rules. People that are my friends don’t chum with the guy who fucked my wife when we were married and they don’t have parties with my STBXW because they have a real problem with how she treated me and my kids.

    The unfortunate part is now I’m fairly withdrawn compared to my former self. I have severe trust issues with even the closest people in my life because as CL says “it was the theft of my reality”. As loved a jackass said, fix your leave-er picker. Walk as soon as you seen red flags staking up with friends or partners.

  • I think that us really chumpy people are pretty good at being selectively blind to the faults of others. My X also cheated with a friend of mine, a long-time friend of my family in fact. After the fact I can see now that she was throwing up red flags all over the place. Number 1 red flag is that she had no boundaries. She also told many stories about her life that seemed far-fetched. I do not blame myself, far from it, she is very good at presenting a persona, as is my X, but, I work harder to be honest to myself about the people I meet and what their words and actions actually say about their character. Everyone reveals themselves, if you know how to look. I had a friend who would throw trash, like fast food bags after she ate, out of the window of her car, and act like it was perfectly reasonable to do so. I thought she was fun and I liked her but I came to realize that she was very selfish, and when our relationship failed she spread false rumors about me. So those little actions can add up to a lot of character issues.

    So, don’t crucify yourself for not seeing the truth, people who con are often very good at conning, but do be more honest with seeing people not as you wish them to be, but as they really are.

  • I read somewhere that a bird doesn’t worry whether the branch it’s on will break, because it knows it can fly.


    • Thanks for this.

      I love birds and have a lot around where I live so they will be a reminder of your words.

      They have given me a ‘goal’ to strive for in terms of learning how to let go of my wanting – freedom from an ‘old idea’.

  • Looking at this from the other side. I’m a single middle aged woman. I moved to this small community 4 years ago, and I love living here. I love my job. But I would also love to make new friends, have a group of like-minded woman to go and have adventures with, celebrate life and enjoy each other’s company.

    There are many women I’ve met here who I would really like to socialize with. But I seem to be a great threat to most of the partnered woman around me. If I am at a social event and I happen to be chatting with a man over the merits of the silent auction item, that man’s partner appears at his elbow and glares at me. I am never invited to do things with them, dinners, parties, etc. as I am a 5th wheel I guess.

    I can certainly understand their paranoia as I broke up from my marriage because of his lies and cheating. But it is discouraging. I have tended to be more introverted as I get older because of lack of social opportunities as a single, and because of encountering attitudes that I am some kind of rapacious man stealer. I mean how can a woman be happy ALONE??!! right??

    I don’t want to be as introverted as I have become. But it’s just easier, so much less drama. And less worrying that I’ve said or done something to offend someone. Give the wrong impression. I have been reminding myself a lot lately that I cannot control what other’s perceptions of me are. I just try to walk my path daily and do no harm, try to do a bit of good, and be as nice to everyone around me as I can. (While properly maintaining my boundaries.) And accept that this may very well be as good as it gets.

    • I know what you mean and encounter it often. I try to tell myself that I would not want to be friends with those women. When I have conversations with men, I always mention their wives( how’s soand so, etc…) my circle has gotten small. I don’t have any answers.

      • These women? Marriage police. They don’t trust themselves. They don’t trust their husbands.

        Look to see if there are Meet Up groups in your area. If not–start one. There are 15 for single women or singles in my area. 15. You can also look for interest groups and join up with them.

    • Women who play marriage police are a huge red flag. Either they are married to a fuckwit, or more likely, they are judging you by themselves. Meaning that if they had a chance or were single, they’d be hitting on anything in pants. Stay far away from people like that.

      Surely, there are singles in your area. Try, join some hobbies or clubs. Do not isolate yourself.
      Not everyone can be your bff, but developing some friendships is important even if they are more casually or just company to do this or that together.

    • I had the same experience and when I told my mother, she said, “well, given what you’ve told me about all the cheating going on out there, I’d suspect more than a few are second wives who’ve won the prize turd.” Later I found out she was right! Totally changed my perspective and I enjoy every single conversation now on more than one level! Another interesting thing that’s happened is that I’ve slowly found other chumps that are great who also introduced me to their chump friends which led me to my chump boyfriend! Chumps just need a stronger network-that’s why I’m not afraid to share my story!

    • All I know is this. IF these same women who have ignored my singleness ever become single themselves they better not look to me for friendship or ANY kind of companionship. I was so terribly lonely right after the discard. I cried every single day for almost two years. Not many people invited me places or checked on me. I rose up, I got well, I healed myself and I have a wonderful life now even though I don’t have a partner yet….I still have a fantastic life. I have an awesome job, a beautiful home, good friends again and I travel. If women want to be threatened by me, so be it. They have no idea how safe their husbands and boyfriends are with me, as though they are in God’s pocket. I wouldn’t dream of being a cheater. Ever.

    • Hi SK. Sorry about your situation. My former wife was incredibly jealous of my friendships and acquaintances, particularly female, but also males, single or couples. The best way for you in your situation in what seems to be a relatively small community with limited social opportunities, is to be open and honest about your situation related to the suspicion you face and the impediment it is to better friendships. Emphasise your moral boundaries. Maybe try this on a few people first.

  • I have no problem with meeting new people that are only going to be friends, but I am still sensitive to being rejected while dating. And I’ve been divorced for over 6 years. Being rejected by someone I’ve dated triggers those old feelings of worthlessness. I can tell myself the feelings aren’t correct, but it still takes a toll. I decided not to put effort into dating for the time being. Let the universe bring someone to me if it is meant to be.

    • It might help to tell yourself going in that dating works both ways.

      You might not be a good match for your date, for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with you.
      Your date may not be a good match for you, for all sorts of reason that have to do with you and your preferences, not him.

      You may ask yourself whether your “default” is that every date has the potential to be “the one.” That’s a dangerous position to operate from. Instead, treat dating as a sorting process for you. If someone isn’t interested, YOU WANT TO KNOW THAT ASAP, so you don’t waste your time. It’s actually a good sign that dating is working if you can accept that not everyone you date is marriage material (which is what it means if EITHER of you aren’t interested. That’s good information.

      And if by “dating” you mean “online dating,” I get you 100%. But if you meet someone in your normal routine and want to date, that also doesn’t mean the universe sent you him as a partner.

      • Thanks for the perspective, LovedaJackass. That is helpful. You’re right: I need to train myself that it’s not a rejection, it’s a mismatch of wants/needs. So hard to truly learn for this people-pleaser.

        I agree that not everyone the universe sends my way is meant to be a lifelong partner. I guess what I meant was that I was giving up on actively searching, online or otherwise, for a romantic partner. If someone comes along and that works out then great, but I’m not going to spend brain power actively searching this out.

        Again, I appreciate the feedback. 🙂

        • kharless73…at first I took the dating thing as a rejection too when I didn’t hear back from guys but I turned it around. Now I think things like, ‘they probably see that I have my nails done and that makes me high maintenance’ or ‘they know there isn’t any way in hell I’m going to be attracted to a loser like them.’ Or whatever, I never think it’s me anymore because I think I’m pretty great. Perhaps I give off signals that I won’t be with just anyone. It doesn’t matter, most of the time when I don’t hear back it’s a relief.

  • Light, I dumped a longtime friend because of her poor character. We were besties since high school. She didn’t cheat, AFAIK, but when we were in our twenties, she was dating a separated guy who had two young kids. He was separated because he cheated. She whined that her boyfriend didn’t have enough money to take her fancy places because he had to pay child support and went on about what a bitch his ex was. It was absolutely gross. That was strike one and I cooled on her from that, but still continued the friendship. She got rid of that boyfriend, so I felt better about her. When we were in our late twenties, she married and had a planned child with a man she 100% knew and admitted was was an ex-con and an abusive alcoholic with anger issues. That was strike two, but I gave her some leeway because of sexual abuse in her childhood. She didn’t seem to know better when it came to men. Then she divorced within two years. He had repeatedly physically abused her son and threatened her life. That was a good choice and I was happy she was getting away from him and taking her life back. Sadly, a year later she told me she was probably getting back together with him. At the time he was working as a driver for prostitutes and was considering getting back into auto theft as an occupation. She had also owed me money for a long time without pay me back.
    Strike three. You’re out. I knew the bitter divorce had messed her up, but there’s a limit to my patience with idiocy and lack of decent boundaries. You don’t go back to the kind of guy who abuses children. Ever.

    So Light, you might make a new friend who turns out to be a dud in the character department. You do what you’d do with a jerk boyfriend and dump her. At least you know she’s not going to bang your husband, because the cheating asshole is gone. Just be aware. Be watchful for red flags just as you would be with a guy you’re dating. There is no guarantee. Some people can put on a mask and fool you for a long time. Our cheaters certainly did. Mine was very good at mirroring my values until he went bonkers at middle age with a FOMO meltdown and decided to relive the adolescence he missed out on because he was working since age 16. Enter slutbag mistress. Enter drunken partying. I knew something was wrong, bit not what it was, because he lied constantly. I was too busy caring for a dying father, a mentally ill daughter and dealing with my own illness to play detective. He got caught after more than five years of hiding his disgusting double life. Enter dump truck. Exit trash.

    Fortunately, a girlfriend has less incentive than a husband to do keep what she’s up to from you. Some women do tend to think there’s a malignant girl code which says we cover for each other, just like some men do with their “bros before hoes” bullshit. Plus, women tend to confide in each other. If she’s confiding to stuff that is fuckwitty, you are allowed to tell her you expect better of her and are not willing to watch her screw other people over and ruin her own life. If she doesn’t shape up, you are allowed to be done with her.

    Oh, and my friend? She did get back together with the abusive criminal ex. What happened after that I do not know. I never spoke to her or saw her again and I’m not sorry. You won’t be either. Good luck and keep your boundaries firm with friends just as you would with boyfriends.

  • I have an easier answer.

    Learn to trust yourself.

    1. Develop good judgment about people, in general. Do some reading on “disordered people.” Dr. George Simon has a book and a website full of wisdom about “manipulative people.” You can learn to spot these people in the wild. Raise your standards–honesty, reliability, reciprocity, kindness, respect, sense of humor, unselfishness. What people do for a living or what they look like are way at the end of the line for me.
    2. Keep your circle of trust small. You can “like” people and “enjoy” their company without signing over your trust. Have high standards for trusting people with your stories and your loyalty and your friendship.
    3. Remember that it takes time to know someone. “Instant friends” are no better than “Instant SoulMateSchmoopies.”
    4. Pay attention to what people DO. That’s what reveals their values.
    5. Pay particular attention to whether words and deeds align.
    6. Remember that social acquaintances and “couple friends” do not necessarily belong in your circle of trust.
    7. Reciprocity, reciprocity, reciprocity. Don’t trust people who don’t give back.
    8. On the other hand, your friends aren’t “fixer uppers.” It’s not friendship if you are “fixing” their problems.
    9. Don’t trust anyone who gossips. That’s verbal triangulation.
    10. Have deal-breakers with both friends and relationship partners.
    11. Know that if someone violates your trust, you will survive it. You’re strong and resilient. You will hurt but you will go on. You don’t have to obsess about trust if you become a person who trusts her judgment.

  • Boy I can relate about seeing demons in every shadow and questioning myself and my own sanity regarding that. That said, it’s very much a normal part of calibrating so long as you don’t get stuck in it.

    It’s kind of like if you stick your hand in a fire and get badly burned, you should develop a healthy fear of fire and not sticking your hand in it. However, you also learn how to handle fire without burning yourself and that’s the part that takes some work. Just like you cannot avoid fire, you cannot completely socially isolate yourself. You simply have to learn how to discern what is and isn’t good for you and it’s a process.

    In terms of sorting out who is and isn’t a worthy friend, I simply sit back and observe. Do their words and actions match? How do they react when people behave badly or immorally around them? Most important is that I look for reciprocation, for caring. Do they call me just to check in or see how I’m doing even though they don’t need anything? There is a distinction here – someone calling out of self interest v. someone calling out of interest in your well being.

    Deep friendships do take time to build up and a lot of getting to know people, but it’s also important to have plenty of acquaintances and just in general, people you do things with, people you socialize with even if not too closely.

    Loneliness can lead to desperation and a sense of scarcity and that makes you vulnerable to narcs as they know exactly how to use charm and charisma to lure you in and then let the spackling begin as you value their companionship more than they value you. It can really blind you.

    What helped me personally is getting back to my hobbies (something fuckwit did a brilliant job of isolating me from because “we” needed to go here or do this and he filled up my time to the point where I had no life outside of him and his needs). Like minded people means easier time in developing connections and friendships. Of course, there are plenty of fuckwits everywhere, but there are plenty of good people as well. It just took some time, some caution, but…..I allowed myself to take all the time in the world. If I needed to keep a bit of arm’s length, that’s fine. Eventually I sorted out who is who.

    That said, I’m still hyper vigilant about reciprocity. If they aren’t willing to reciprocate, they will not be a part of my life in any way. The moment someone goes “me me me” they are out.

  • First thing is always remember that you were taught through this hardship about trust. I told my boys this as they were getting older and in High School. People get 3 strikes. When you meet someone new, give them every benefit of the doubt. They do not deserve to be compared to others, especially if you do not know them. If the first strike happens with in the first month to 3 months, okay, it happens but they came clean and people make mistakes. However, if 2nd strike happens with in a few weeks to 2 months(patterns with people start to take shape about this time) after the first strike, it is rest assured 3 will follow shortly after. So you will know if you trust yourself. Listening is so important- “Words are Silver but Silence is Golden.”

  • I’ve given myself permission not to worry about friendship.

    Every day, I work closely with numerous colleagues and students. I give lectures, run workshops, hold individual conferences, attend meetings. It’s busy, fun, challenging, and exhausting. When I get home and have free time, it’s lovely to buzz around caring for the house, to sit dreaming by a fire, to hang out with one or both of my grown children, to cuddle our big fluffy angel of a dog, to binge favorite podcasts, to run errands, or whatever.

    It’s a relief just to keep on focusing on life now. There’s time for healing, thinking, writing, and learning to live without being constantly braced for the next round of what I now fully recognize as abuse. Odd, I suppose, but not unexpected that not one of the former friends or extended family members ever reached out. Honestly pretty grateful for that, now, since I know it would only have spelled further drama and confusion.

    My kids and I have pulled closer than ever. Despite our very individual personalities, ideas, and experiences, we three can understand and empathize with each other as nobody else ever could, and we gradually fill in each other’s blanks, as well, discovering how the cheater routinely played us against one another while we were all unawares.

    Professional life pretty much satisfies my social needs. College teaching involves a lot of public performance and intimate one-on-one work, and since I lean towards introversion, I need plenty of private time and space for refueling. If anything, I still don’t ever get quite enough of that during the school year.

    Letting go of extrinsic expectations is freeing. Over the course of my lifetime, there have been many wonderful friends and a few special lovers. I’m grateful for them, not troubled at all by the impermanence, and quite content to be a bit of a remote island, right now, especially since the endless legal engagement continues, and the extent of the damage done to the kids still very gradually comes to light.

    This isn’t the life I thought I would have at 57. Being the only parent in my children’s lives—the only one willing or able to guide and support them through the healing—is a whole lot of work. I feel the pressure and the exhaustion of it even while being deeply appreciative of the love and trust we share.

    When I think about the future, I’m mostly focused on things like retirement and estate planning. The rest—friends, lovers, escapades of various sorts—will unfold as they will. No desire to attempt to steer that.

    Seems to me that it is okay and maybe pretty healthy—depending always on your own needs and goals—to let go of inventorying everything. There’s no correct number of friends. No critical number of social invitations one must reach. It’s perfectly fine to soak in a steamy bath or take yourself to a movie instead of worrying about that junk.

    Today I will take pleasure in vacuuming, doing laundry, and decorating for Thanksgiving. Might even have a go at setting my office in some sort of order. There are always endless things that need doing, and still more that I want to do.

    Living this life day by day is plenty.

    • You’ve captured my thoughts and feelings exactly. I too lean toward being a solitary person, and I’ve found much peace and joy being alone and doing whatever makes me smile when I’m not working or doing chores.

      Cheater left over a year ago, I’ve been no contact for a year now, and I’m enjoying getting to know and really love myself. Dday was one of the roughest days of my life, but it’s possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to me because it forced me to look at my original wound, get in touch with my inner child and start putting me first.

      Who knows what happens next, but I have a feeling it’s gonna be wonderful : )

    • Beautifully said Cashmere. I too, have found delight in being alone…something I thought I’d never find. I’m more of an extrovert but have become more introverted with time. Working full time is tiring enough and I don’t have a lot of time for much else except making me happy.

  • Not sure how to categorize the betrayals, my dad cheated on my mom with both women and men. My ex husband cheated on me with men, and one of my friends offered herself to him one night (not sure if he took her up on the offer). During this time, I found out that my only brother was also cheating on his wife with other men and women. So, for me, this must be how all men act. All men cheat. Whenever I meet a married couple, my first thought is, I wonder what stories he tells his wife…..I wonder who he is having sex with…..
    I am in a relationship now ( with someone who was there for me when I left my ex, and was incredibly supportive and held my hand as I navigated my divorce) but for the first year or so, I was hypervigilant, expending enormous energy trying to catch my partner in a lie. There were some questionable messages back and forth with women on a social media app, but nothing that screamed cheater (these women had sent pictures of themselves to him unsolicited, and he appreciated them, commented on how hot they were, and there was a few back and forth comments, but that’s it, he did not engage with them past that). I called him out and he said in hindsight it was a poor use of his time and he realizes that it would represent a betrayal to me and would stop it.
    I haven’t checked his phone in over a year, because on my end, it just confirmed that men can and will do whatever they think they can get away with and that I cannot trust anyone 100%. I’m still in the relationship, but I’m spending time and energy prioritizing me, making sure my expectations are clear, making sure I make time for things that are important to me, making sure I have an awesome and interesting life whether this person is in it or not. That’s the only protection that works. I can’t ever imagine letting myself be so vulnerable again as to be hurt so badly as I was by actions of my ex husband, my father, and my brother ( all no contact btw…)

  • I lost most of my real life friends, as soon as the first one blocked me, and the second one fed back my news and newsfeed to the ex like the flying monkey they are, it was a simple block block and block for the remaining 30 or 40 that had to go. Over the last year ive learned how some were in bed with him, some set him up with OWs, and some just thought we had an open relationship but didn’t think to bother checking that out with me.

    This has perhaps been the hardest part of the ordeal. The loss of so many people i thought were friends but were actually just toxic enablers. Turns out its also the best part of the whole ordeal. No more fuckwits in my life. Winning.

    I made friends with 2 seperate ladies. I saw red flags pretty quickly. One has become a problem, and my new found healthy boundary making skills are a delight to behold. Im kindly telling her i dont feel like engaging in her negative energy and to leave me alone. Rinse. Repeat. Its magic.

    Im sure there’ll be more like this too. My picker is a piece of shit (thanks family of origin, who are also causing me problems, but incoming healthy boundaries are working there too). Its about reprogramming and reframing, understanding what good looks like (it looks like us!) And being confident enough to say no and walk away. It takes time, practice, therapy, and a lot of hours spent reading and attending CODA meetings in my case. But its working. My picker is coming along nicely, slowly progressing from the Toyota it was the the Tesla its going to be. Practice, reprogramme, reframe,

  • In year one post divorce, I must have unfriended a good 200 FB friends. Anyone who was Team Voldemort, an ex-relative, or Switzerland friends. I thought I was being way too ruthless, but you can NEVER edit enough.

    I will explain.

    I went to a friend’s reunion dinner recently; I so happened to run into one of my [former] Switzerland friends. She got kinda wasted and asked me to drop her off at the train station; I wanted to find out what was going on with my oldest daughter since we don’t have contact anymore, so I drove her home instead. [Voldemort had had inappropriate physical contact with my daughter (late 30s) during the marriage and to add insult to injury, she picked the ex; this ex-friend and daughter remained close.]

    What I witnessed the brief rest of that evening was sad, shallow, and pathetic. I saw them for what they really were. Constantly pretending to themselves and others. Always putting up a carefully constructed front. And drinking heavily to cope with the utter pointlessness of it all.

    I was *so glad* to drive away, secure in the knowledge I’d never have to go back there ever again. I miss my daughter sometimes, but if she feels more comfortable living the rest of her life in that social cesspool, there’s nothing further I can do to help. I’m OK with that; I have closure. I know I did my best.

    And with my new improved picker and reinforced moral framework [cheating is NEVER OK!] I’m sure they were just as uncomfortable around me, LOL 😀

  • I wanted to add one more thing here. If I am ever with a man again that I have to worry about him screwing one of my ‘friends’ then I’m not going to be with him. After that last go around I honestly don’t think anyone can break my heart that hard again. I’ve had a couple of weirdo friends hit on my men over the years and they told me about it. And so called friend got dumped fast.

  • Its not absolutely foolproof, but there are red flags that indicate a possible cheater/cheater partner (AP)

    1) Past behavior- they were involved in an affair in the past, they have zero remorse, they have done nothing to change themselves and don’t think they need to. While there are a few unicorns out there, where the affair was a one time event that (because of therapy and hard work) the affair partner will never do again, most cheaters do not change.

    2) They never take responsibility for anything. They blame everyone else for their problems. Nothing is ever their fault. They got fired because their boss is an ass, not because they were late all the time and never met a deadline. Their mother is controlling and that is why they need to cheat or can’t handle life, even though they are in their 40s. The car accident wasn’t their fault because nobody ever actually STOPS first when they turn right on red and anyway the other driver should have known THEY were turning, even though they didn’t use a turn signal. And when confronted with evidence that they are wrong, that it was their fault, they continue to argue and/or become unhinged. Cheaters don’t take responsibility for their part in the demise of their relationship, and OM/OWs don’t take responsibility for their part in the destruction of a family. They both blame the spouse entirely.

    3) They justify questionable life choices, endlessly. Normal people make mistakes and then own up to them. Affair partners never admit mistakes or make efforts to correct them.

    4) They lie about stupid things and when caught, they continue to lie and make up elaborate stories, and when they are backed into a corner, they blameshift. For example, you asked them to take out the garbage. A little while later, you notice the garbage is still there. You ask them why they didn’t take out the garbage. A normal person says “Oh I forgot. I’ll take it out now. and then they do what they said they were going to do.”
    A disordered person’s response is usually something like this ” I did take the garbage out” when confronted with the garbage “Oh THAT garbage. I thought you meant the other garbage”. Or, “That garbage is new. I took the old garbage out.” Get it?

    5) All of their exes are crazy, and they don’t know why they can’t seem to make a relationship last.

    If anyone ever does any of those things, run. Run like the wind and your hair is on fire. Don’t question it, just run. This person may not ever be involved in an affair, but they are definitely not someone you want in your life.

    • 5) All of their exes are crazy, and they don’t know why they can’t seem to make a relationship last.

      BINGO! I still remember my ex telling me about all the exes. They were either psychos or bitches or psychobitches. My naive young self felt bad for him. I wonder which one of the three I am now. LOL. If it’s not #3, maybe I was too nice and should have tried harder…

  • I know it’s hard, but yes, as everyone else has said, it’s about red flags and boundaries. Don’t spackle, if there’s strange behaviour, get them to Please Explain. Once might be a mistake, twice might be bad luck, but three times is a PATTERN. So implement the three strikes you’re out. I’ve had a person I’ve worked with closely in a volunteer organisation, and she has no personality to speak of unless she has a lot to drink, otherwise she is surly and gives one word answers. She comes across as sarcastic in emails, but I have always given her the benefit of the doubt because i know her social skills were not her strength, although she is extremely good at getting the job done in other areas. I felt like I bent over backwards to include her and give her oportunities to fulfil her goals. Now that our tenure is over and we have stepped down she has suddenly become pally with the new person in our position and seems as sweet as pie to her, but I am still getting the snark. I feel very let down, putting down this person’s poor social graces to more benign causes, but now I have to admit they have chosen to act this way and may simply be an asshole I’ve wasted my time trying to befriend. Looking back, I should have trusted my instincts and just stepped back from them and looked for reciprocity, rather than fill in the blanks with my good will.
    I guess my point is we often give bad people the benefit of the doubt, or say well if I acted like that, it would be because I had a bad day, or felt insecure or whatever that assumed that she had a valid, emotional reason. But that’s just projecting, and sometimes they act that way because they can and they think they’re entitled to. Let go of the rope sooner rather than later if there is ongoing bad behavior, with or without a reasonable explanation. Because if people really are that fucked up that they can’t control themselves then they need help that is best left to a trained professional.

  • My last intimate partner, who I met 30 years before we became a couple (after my abusive, adulterous husband left), was my dearest, most trusted friend for 30 years, until he discarded me the last time and I realized that, along with insulting me several times, he had lied to me several times 🙁 I still have good friends but not many. My last partner is extremely popular, and we had long-term friends in common. Now my last partner’s second wife gets him (24/7 as she got together with him while he was her boss and he’s still at that company) and all his (our) friends. Makes me really sad. Unemployment for months and ‘datelessness’ (I get ghosted by guys I’ve met online) for years exacerbate the loneliness and hopelessness. Computers and textbooks have become my ‘friends.’ Isn’t that pathetic? Back to focusing on the search for a family-sustaining job/jobs.

    • RockStarWife,
      Remember it’s ok for now to just have the computer and books for friends. Nothing lasts forever. One day, a Tuesday! you will realize just how healing those books and computer really was. There are days when I get home I think of it as “my cave” where I can escape from the eyes of the world. Nobody is perfect yet we must do whatever keeps us sane. And please do not be so hard on yourself. There is no timeline for healing. You have been badly hurt!
      I’m two and a half years out and my Mom still gives my f -wit Ex info about me and my daughter putting our lives at risk. If I can’t even trust her who can I trust?? I deal with that by never letting her know our whereabouts. I still care deeply about her but she thinks a woman cannot live without a man at her side. After all she in my Mom at the age of 78 what can I ever explain to her????

  • I still keep my circle exceedingly small, and have had to assert to those Switzerland friends and relatives that their continued acceptance of, and relationship with him and his girlfriend does not mean Ihave to accept it, or be friendly with them. It IS hard to trust people. I see wolves everywhere. It takes time, and is absolutely imperative that you heal, heal, heal – before letting people into your inner circle. Friends, and lovers. Avoid dubious relatives while you’re at it. From experience, I have learned that healing takes much longer than we think it should, and you must be patient with and kind to yourself. Give yourself lots of time. ((Hugs))

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