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My Friend Is the Marriage Police

Dear Chump Lady,

Any advice about how to help or deal with my friend, Carolyn, who found out two years ago that her beloved husband, Sparkly Dick (not his real name) of 5 years was cheating on her, shortly before he dumped her to run off with his Cliche Younger OW?

Six months later, Sparkly Dick came crawling back, as things had not worked out with CYOW, who turned out to be very demanding and not as “sweet and nice” (his words) as Carolyn. She accepted him back and has scaled down her life considerably to ensure that he will never cheat again, as she has taken 50% of the blame for his behavior, as instructed by a Marriage Counsellor. Both C and Sparkly D are 50. It’s his second marriage. the first ended in infidelity with a much younger girl who subsequently dumped him.

Carolyn fell apart when she learned that Sparkly D was cheating on her. The affair had gone on — he said — for “just a month” but my guess is, it was a lot longer. Sparkly D told Carolyn in an email that she shared with me that he was “madly, passionately in love for the first time in his life” with CYOW, and that he felt “warm companionship only” with Carolyn. He wanted to “truly live” so he “took this chance at love, at life”.

When the chance failed, he told C. that he had made a mistake and that he was sorry, but that she had become a little distant and she was working too much which meant he was bored at home. Hence, he wandered. He was sad, depressed, and needed love so he sought it elsewhere…etc… you know the drill.

Carolyn has given up her job to be a stay at home wife, all the better to ensure that Sparkly D cannot cheat again (he works from home a lot so she can monitor him). He has to show her his phone to make sure he is not sending any cheating messages to any other OWs. He has to take Carolyn with him when he goes out of town on business trips — she tags along with him and makes him take her to any business lunches or dinners, so he can’t meet OWs there. He goes to a running club on Sundays and she tags along there too in case any OWs are hanging around to snag him.

You get the picture. Carolyn rarely comes out with me or our group of friends any more because she has to stay with Sparkly D. If she does come, she wants to bring him, but I cannot stand the sight of him, because I remember how Carolyn was when DDay happened.

I have tried to talk to her and tell her that her behavior is excessive and that if he is a cheater, then he is not worth it… she should dump him… but she will not accept this, she says she loves him and that marriage is sacred. I can’t believe he will not cheat again.

I don’t want to freeze her out of my life. How can I tell her that I don’t want to see SparklyD? That I am delighted to see her but I don’t want a rundown on who he emailed that week, or what he said to whom on the last business trip she tagged along on? Her life is now all about him and monitoring him…  Is our friendship over? I want to support her but I don’t know how.

Thanks

I Hate The Marriage Police

Dear I Hate The Marriage Police,

If I knew how to get people to stop doing stupid things and be the people we want them to be, do you think I’d be working two jobs? No. I’d be a Magic Fairy Godmother living in a cookie palace with a fleet of winged unicorns at my beck and call.

“Sparkleblaze! Gather yonder fuckwit! Tell him to stop snorting cocaine!”

SHAZAM! Fuckwit is transformed. Devotes himself to a life of Pilates and environmental clean-up.

Hate, I don’t have these powers. I’m like you — feeble and human. The best I can offer you is truth and boundaries.

Truth: “Carolyn, you deserve better than Sparkledick. It really pains me to see you hurt.”

Boundaries: “I’m not going to discuss Sparkledick with you.” (Change the subject to peonies or ice skating or something pleasant you both enjoy.)

Carolyn: “But you have to support my marriage! And treat Sparkledick like you did before!”

Boundary: “I can’t un-know this. I’m supporting our friendship by being truthful with you (when asked), and changing the subject when we disagree about something so fundamental — Sparkledick.”

Carolyn: “I found Sparkledick’s burner phone!” (sobbing)

Truth: “What are you going to do about that? You only control yourself. Is this relationship acceptable to you?”

Carolyn: “I WILL TETHER HIS DICK TO A BEDPOST! AND GEOLOCATE IT!”

Truth: “You are choosing this misery.”

Boundary: “How about that ice dance competition?”

Hate, you can see this way forward is pretty exhausting. Only you can decide how deeply you want to invest in someone who doesn’t share your values and opinions. Like, you think Carolyn is worth more than a Sparkledick and she disagrees.

You’re in the weeds in this relationship, you know a lot about their dumpster fire of dysfunction. I get it, it’s hard to look away and it’s excruciating to see people you love behave self-destructively. But as they say with addicts, detach with love.

If you stay in her life, just give her the gift of your presence (minus SparkleD — have a boundary there). Go to a movie, remind her of her best self, have a laugh, walk a dog, support the local high school musical… do a thousand things that aren’t Sparkledick-centric.

That’s the best I can offer. Of course, introduce her to CN too. But she’s got to decide this on her own.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • This hurts. But she is going to choose what she chooses. Fear makes us pretty dumb, pretty fast. It sucks. But just make sure she knows what is waiting for her when it all falls apart or she loosens the tether someday. She will needs you then, and maybe you’ll be thinking but not saying I told you so, but for her you will just help her find her balance again. The Hopium Addict, like all addicts, must hit rock bottom before they commit to recovery

    • Omg agreed I think she’s “CRAZY” your just giving him fuel. I got out almost immediately and filed for divorce!

    • Yep. It’s just like you said. I had to hit rock bottom as a Hopium Addict before I committed to recovery. And it was HARD to commit to recovery! I just wanted to die. It took courage to get out of bed everyday (thank God my body still needed to eat) else I may have laid in bed until I died. I hadn’t found Chumplady yet. But thank God that life forces you to continue living even though you just ‘know’ your life ended. With time and distance I was able to see that life was so much better.

      • Me too and my friends thank God were gentle with me even though I’m sure they were like what the hell are you taking him back for AGAIN. (Lots of agains.). And when I finally did kick him out they didn’t say I told you so but said no one could say you didn’t try and now you know for sure.

  • Marriage is sacred – for him, the second time. Also,rather than looking for a second woman when he’s bored at home, I suggest he rather finds himself a second job to keep himself busy (and his dick idle).

    • You can get stuck in the “marriage is sacred” viewpoint. I know I was when I accepted his cheating to be 50% my fault and was also in the marriage police department for a while until he showed to me, again, that nothing was sacred for me. Thanking the providence for guiding me to CL and CN when I most needed it.

  • You can look at this from two sides. She is so grief stricken that it has literally made her mentally ill. Don’t discount that. It’s a very real thing.
    Or, she is determined to win at all costs regardless of the reality. You know, and she won’t accept, that he is a piece of shit. How can you help? By setting your own strong boundaries. When she calls she is allowed 10 minutes to unload. You will listen without comment. Then change the subject. She is so wound up in this thing right now that no daylight can get through. You’ve tried. Be kind but firm.
    Is she getting therapy? Insist on it. She needs a paid profession who can talk reality with her. Friends and relatives are too close to the issue for her to “get” what you suggest.

  • I think she blames herself for his behaviour, or he’s blame shifting.
    His first marriage ended like the second he hasn’t learnt anything.
    Its not good following him he will learn how to be more deceptive. She should have kept her job, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
    Ask your friend why she wants to stay with him, remind her of what happened in his first marriage.
    He sounds quite abusive.
    Cheating is abusive, we know that, but not everybody does.

  • This is her lesson and if the circumstances she’s been through haven’t taught her the lesson already then perhaps losing her friends will wake her up.

    I wouldn’t say to abandon the friendship entirely but a good distance (especially if you’re not the only friend choosing this path) might be just what she needs to realize her real priorities.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath though, she seems especially engulfed.

    • Robert, when I was stuck in that rat hole myself I credit my two friends for helping me out of there. They were mercilessly straightforward and used painful words I hated to hear but those words finally made their way to my brain. Some people (and I admire them) see BS in cheaterspeak right away and can parse through it. Some (I was in that camp) get stuck on self blame and accepting responsibility for stuff we did not do. It took a lot of self education, reading, and finding this community to get where I am now.

      • “I have tried to talk to her and tell her that her behavior is excessive and that if he is a cheater, then he is not worth it… she should dump him… but she will not accept this.”

        I’m not suggesting that people should instantaneously give up on friends without trying but according to her she has already tried to talk some sense to no avail. It sounds like you were at least open to listening to your friends, it doesn’t seem to me like that is the case in this scenario…

      • Longtimechump, yes, it was the Very few friends who manages to hang in with me while I acted out from a place of pain and delusion. I give them both credit because I was literally out of my mind during the discard/pick me phase.

  • Oh god – she gave up her JOB? Before you change the subject to ice dancing or how to use a tagine, bring up that she needs to pay very close attention to her financial future.

    Now that she isn’t employed, HE needs to PAY HER by fully funding her IRA. That is incredibly important because that is HER money for HER future. Regardless of what SparkleDick is doing, with whom, etc.

    The annual contribution limit for 2020 is $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older (same as 2019 limit). He has until April 2020 to fully fund her 2019 IRA and I am going to twirl MY magic baton, smash him on his head and insist he do it today.

    If she drags SparkleDick along, then make him pay mani/pedis (for THREE) and he has to have flowers with little sparkles on his fingernails. Nothing says, “He’s mine!” like making him wear nail polish with designs and sparkles if she feels she MUST have him. At least you will get a chuckle out of it.

    But in reality – ick. She needs solo therapy and a complete STD panel screen.

    • The financial vulnerability is indeed the most concerning. Abusers like to isolate their victims and to render them dependent. She can’t leave him if she can’t afford it, both now, when she’s without a job, and in the future, when she needs retirement funds.

    • Great point!
      Plus, who wants the job of watching a cheater???? So, she is still working, really hard, at a very thankless job. I’d distance myself from this lady, because it’s depressing to to be around all that. Maybe call sometimes to let her know you Would support her if she was to leave? Not sure, people make their choices, and she’s chosen him ☹️

    • IMO that’s just one more bit of reality she doesn’t want to hear. And you’ve got as much control over that as any of the other unpleasant realities she won’t face. Unleash the winged unicorns to make her see sense.

    • I agree – friend has NO control over the situation. But as a friend, I would bring up the IRA, the STD panel and the mani-pedi that SD is welcome to not only witness, but use a bonding opportunity with his wife.

      But yeah, when friend does see Carolyn there is going to be a lot of discussions about topics that don’t include SD.

      Although I do like the idea of him paying for them and getting nail polish AND glitter on his nails. It makes me smile and the situation clearly is nothing to smile about.

    • I have a friend who took her husband back but made him get a tattoo on his crotch that said, I BELONG TO XXYYY … I said to her. If i needed to stamp my man, then I am OUT. Him doing it tells me more than I need to know.

      • The book “Not Just Friends” promotes marriage policing. Although I found the book insightful about how he didn’t protect the marriage, I refused to play marriage police. We went to counseling, he gaslighted me and the MC.

        So I trusted again, he cheated again, stealing another 4 years of my life.
        Now I’m 4 years post DD#2 which has been an absolute shitshow, because of his ruthless lawyer (whom he consulted after DD#1 and decided he’d rather cheat than divide assets). The biggest heartache is how he has manipulated our daughter, with gifts (BMW X1 for her 16th birthday, trips to Costa Rica and Cabo) and attention she never got when he was living a double life.

        He is still with OW, who lives in a different state. So he brings her around for holidays and vacations, so daughter is exposed to her in ideal settings.

        It’s so much easier for her to be with him and his new life than to see Mom struggling to put her life back together. After all it’s coming up in 4 years. Shouldn’t I be over it by now?

        I’ll stop now, but the marriage police BS set me off. Although truthfully, I wish I had looked at the credit card bills without his knowledge. I could have saved a couple of years.

        Besides the pain of betrayal, it’s the time that haunts me. The 20 lost years that I can never get back. The career I gave up. The loving husband and family I could have had. FUCK!!

    • This is exactly what mine did. He removed me from any possibility of a career, my only choice was part-time, no benefit jobs. I couldn’t make enough $ to contribute to my tiny 401k. Yet he constantly berated me for not contributing more to pay house bills (while he made 3x’s as much as I did) and not contributing to my retirement. He gave me NO $ for anything, whether it be stuff for the house/kid, or my own personal use. Yet when we divorced he insisted on getting his half of my less than 10k retirement account and pitched a huge fit that he had to split his work retirement account with me.

      Being held financially hostage is a huge concern, and one that may be propelling her to majorly justify her actions to not break up the marriage. Becoming single again at 50 with no career path in place is seriously scary, but a choice I made because to stay would have been exponentially worse.

    • I agree that your friend is putting herself at risk financially. Quitting her job was spectacularly stupid. Taking him back should have been contingent on a post-nuptial agreement favoring her financially and on maintaining separate finances. And by isolating herself, she’s putting herself at terrible risk emotionally, and not just risking being cheated on again. She will have a much less robust support system the second time around with no jobs and frayed friendships.

      This is a conversation worth having with her: “It was up to you whether to take SD back or not. But I’m worried that you quit your job and if anything happens to him or to the marriage, you are going to be in real financial trouble. Protect your finances. No one at age 50 should be without income or resources.”

  • Great read…..Thanks CL!!!! I’ve been a Carolyn and a Hate. It’s so much better being a Hate with boundaries and truth than a Carolyn policing a fucktwit. Life is so much lighter, fun and free without a sparkly-D weighing you down and sucking the life out of you. And, to be honest, occasionally I fall back into being a Carolyn and become the sad/over controlling/over emotional/karma better strike them down now human….those Carolyn episodes last about a day now after a trigger. The next day I can see situations for what they are, set boundaries, and move on. I am so thankful that I’m at this stage now instead of letting the suck morph me into a Carolyn for days/weeks/months/years….it’s just such a pain in the ass energy drain and total life waster. I really feel for Carolyn and hope she figures it out – Truth and Boundaries are liberating! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    • Dear SouthernChump, I have also been a Carolyn and a Hate. I witnessed
      people in support groups try to forgive their cheating spouses only to be
      cheated on again and say things like: he won’t let me see his phone. He says it was only
      “emotional.” I spoke my truth but in the end, they have to decide themselves what to do.
      In my own situation, I had very dear friends tell me my (now ex-husband who cheated on
      me with the 23 year old nanny) was a cheater and a liar and didn’t deserve me. It’s hard
      to hear but it was the truth.

  • Once you try it, boundary setting isn’t too hard.

    I have a friend who is dating a man who cheated on his first wife. The man and I don’t share the same values. It irks me when he insists my friend put him above her children (she gave up full custody and the kids live in another state). He drinks a lot for my taste and we don’t share the same political views. he is verbally abusive to her. All to say he is t my favorite man or the person I would pick for her.

    I found out he had cheated on his first wife while my friend and this man were broken up. I made it quite clear what I thought about cheaters and that I could never be acquaintances with one.

    After they got back together, I also made it clear that I wished better for her and that I would never socialize with the two of them.

    While it has changed our friendship, we are still able to communicate about all the other thinks that exist in this world. Work, other family, kids, nature, activities, cooking, etc.

    As long as you make your boundaries known and tell her that you want to maintain your friendship but leave the creep out, it puts the choice in her hands. You can move in with boundaries and honesty or not.

    In either case, order CL’s book and gift it to her. At least you will feel like you did the best you could while maintaining your values.

    • Thank you for letting me know what could happen by insisting on boundaries. I’m glad you’re still able to be friends. She’s going to need you someday and you’re a good friend for keeping her in your life. I almost divorced my ex at the 26-point, I kept him around for another 4, and then divorced him at the 30-year point. Some ‘friends’ were not supportive of me. I was so bereft, but they didn’t want to hear me hash out my grief about the dick at all. They were rushing me to ‘get over it’. I understand how tiresome it can be to hear the same things over and over waiting for the chump to realize that she’s a chump and that she’s better off without the cheater in her life. But for this chump, it was lifesaving that there were friends that listened to me as I worked out my grief, anger, bitterness, and acceptance.

  • It’s my choice to listen, or not.
    To spend time with, or not.

    LOVE can be Letting Others Voluntarily Evolve.
    It doesn’t mean I volunteer as a bottomless garbage can/hostage for endless venting without solution if I feel my life force being sucked out of me.

    I have a friend who is on a dangerous path with drinking and alienation from her son and a lovebombing relationship. She literally said I was a good friend and she trusted me to tell her if I thought she was on the wrong path. I said, “I think you’re on the wrong path.” She then defended the path. OK. I said it once. Now I keep my mouth shut unless asked and hang out/listen as I feel comfortable.

    BTW…same goes for the Traitor, with whom I must interact at a minimum. Same goes for OW’s.
    Or anyone else. Most people need to find out for themselves. If we’re lucky, we get the gift of learning from therapists and other people’s cautionary tales, which I got at 22. Thank God!

    “I am too upset about what Sparkly Dick did to you. I cannot be friends with him or talk with you about him anymore.”

    In my own case, I have a very large support group of friends to process the infidelity with so hopefully no one gets caregiver burnout talking with me. I also make an effort to stay off the subject so I can enjoy my friends and they won’t feel like they’re sitting too close to a bonfire being with me. I hope to send my therapist to the Golden Door for six months someday to recover from helping me! 🤪

  • This describes almost exactly a situation with someone in my life. The added problem is that by her quitting her job to watch over her husband, she has put her family in dire financial straits and other family members are having to support them, but their resources will soon dry up.

    As far as my part, I keep things cordial but distant. She has noticed and made many comments about feeling excluded from my life and wanting me to come visit, but I refuse to step foot in that house. Only time will tell where this lands.

  • I had a BFF who was chumped. I had the lowdown on this creep from another friend who knew him and his history. I talked to her, told her what I knew. She swore he wasn’t like that and she was all in. She lost her savings and her house to this asshole and later said she should have listened to me. Love is deaf, dumb, and blind. But I felt better that I told her. I avoided being with the two of them. We’re still friends, he’s gone

  • Hater of the MP, if you haven’t already. Get her a copy of Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life. You can’t control if she reads it but it’s there when she will need it, and there will come a time when she does. It’s almost a guaranty. He has a history and he’s predictable. People like him don’t change.

  • I saw a group of women on Oprah years ago. They were all married to wealthy men who were/had cheated on them. Oprah asked why they stayed. Several of them said ‘we stay for the lifestyle.”

    At least they were honest.

    I have also been told by therapists that many people stay with cheaters and abusers because the chumps have Dependent Personality Disorder. It’s a real thing…..

  • All you can do is speak the truth to her. She may not be ready to embrace it now but as she tires of the endless pick me dance and marriage policing, she will hopefully have it in the back of her mind. I’m supporting a friend right now who just got divorced after her now ex’s umpteenth affair. She has a counselor who was telling her he’s a self centered narc but also telling her to imagine being him and having to live with himself. This is what she heard and repeated back to me so I think the counselor was trying to tell her to look at who he is but what she heard was feel sorry for this poor soul cause he’s needy, can’t adult, and has to wake up being him every day.

    I think the message seeps in through small cracks and gets processed but it doesn’t get the interpretation it so glaringly needs. My friend kept feeling sorry for his sorry arse and kept making her needs smaller and smaller. Then when he told her he wanted a divorce after 25 years of marriage, she was finally done.

    All you can do is continue to be her friend (if you want to maintain the friendship) and set a strong boundary. It’s horrible to sit back and see the shit show and know how it’s going to end for her.

  • HTMP,

    Your letter just reminded me of how I was during false reconciliation. It was a mental disturbance. I was so terrified and had been suffering narcissistic abuse for so long (Mom, dad, first cheater husband, second cheater sociopath husband of 26 years) that I was not myself. Who I really am was literally beaten out of me since babyhood. Only no-contact, divorce, and the passage of five years has started to bring back a semblance of the real me. I read CL every day. I go to Al-Anon weekly. And yet I’m still not completely mentally well and I’m just now learning who I am, what I want in life.

    Be kind and tolerant. Keep sending her the morning CL posts. Keep yourself safe too. You have the opportunity to practice firm boundaries with her, which is great.

    Be kind to yourself too. It would be hard for me to have any contact with this situation. I have PTSD-like symptoms and it would likely be very triggering to see this up close. I’d have to step way back and limit contact with her while this is going on.

    Sending support😘

  • Thanks for sharing your story, Motherchumper. PTSD triggers are real, and I fear our culture has done a disservice by talking about “triggers” so much in an informal sense. I get that certain relationships might require a little sitting in discomfort, but we need to be aware of actual triggers, and care for ourselves.

  • Is it just me or, did anyone else get a little chuckle out of the poster making sure to clarify that “Sparkly Dick” is “(Not his real name)”. Lol

  • I have no shame to admit that I dream every day since he left that I can be Carolyn. I know he is a horrible person but I just hate being single at 48. I Miss my marriage like crazy because he was great to me while married. The only thing is that I would not have the same behavior as her. Now, I had a friend exactly like you, that used to judge me and say things for “my best”. She supported me through my separation for two years like no one else. Two months ago she told me she was leaving her husband that is the nicest man for another man she met a month before, broke the news right before Xmas and is filling for divorce. She told me that “he will be fine and kids too”. Oh and also stopped calling me and always have an excuse to not talk to me anymore. Shame maybe? Anyways, stay out of your friend’s life. It’s obvious that this won’t end well or maybe he will have an affair here and there but will never leave her again. This is what she wants for her life and wether it’s right or not is not for you to say it.

    • It sounds like your friend is rather selfish; however, I’ll give her this much credit, she left rather than cheat on her husband behind his back. I think she has stopped calling you because she knows that what she did was wrong. It’s easier not to face anybody who knows the truth. I had a friend similar to yours. She supported me as I was going through all the crap with my cheater; but later, when she cheated on her husband, I told her that what she was doing was wrong. She eventually got divorced and was rather pissed that her ex got half of her retirement. (I was not sympathetic, but I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut.) But she was my ‘friend’ and I still wanted to talk with her. She was like your friend in that she didn’t have time for me. If I sent a text, she didn’t reply for hours or even days and said that she was just so busy. And yet I couldn’t help but notice that when I was with her that her phone was right next to her hand and every time she received a text, she immediately read it and responded. So I said, “You know…, I can’t help but notice that you always have your phone next to you and you read and reply to texts immediately. So when you don’t respond to mine I can only assume that I’m not important enough to you.” She immediately denied it and told me that I was very important. But as time went on and I learned to love myself and establish boundaries, I realized that she was just one of many people in my life that I allowed to take advantage of my good nature. I do not call her or text her anymore. I finally learned that I’d rather be lonely than have dicks in my life again. She was just another dick.

    • Linda, lots of us have gone through the ‘I Miss the Lie’ phase. We miss what we thought we had.

      But it wasn’t real. The best cure for it is gaining a life.

      If you start looking for things to do – and a 48 year old woman has a huge amount to give, in terms of life experience and talents – you will find your loneliness eases considerably.

      Our mental health is tied up with our relationships with other people – everyone around us.

      If there’s one thing I have noticed, it’s that Chumps tend to look for One Person To Be Everything. This is our weakness, and we invest heavily without reciprocation.

      Linda, now is your chance to hit the reset button. Get out there and get involved in your local community – but don’t date. Dating to cure loneliness is disastrous.

      Make good friends and do meaningful work, and your life will improve immensely.

      • Trust me, I’ve tried. My kids are rather young and my entire “support” system basically disappeared. I live in a place where most people are married and because of my looks, no woman wants me around. I’m just being realistic. My kids I are so lonely all the time it’s like we were shunned from the world. The thing is he wants out and there is nothing I can do. I know, pathetic. I know it’s pathetic, I feel pathetic but he made me completely dependant on him and I am really stuck and I can’t get out. That’s the biggest cruelty of all this. I wish I believed on this “life will be soooo much better and you will meet someone that will love you for real and for who you are” but the fact is, I probably know one or two people to whom that really happened.

        • I’m sorry you think that your looks keep other women from befriending you. Not everyone’s good at making friends naturally, and sometimes this is where therapy and coaching in social skills can really help. It takes time and practice.

          I get that you feel completely dependent on your ex, but you can change that. Again, you have to change what’s going on in your own head first. Again, this is where therapy can really help.

          “I wish I believed on this “life will be soooo much better and you will meet someone that will love you for real and for who you are” but the fact is, I probably know one or two people to whom that really happened.”

          Read Chump Lady, especially the archives. Especially the posts called ‘Tell Me How You’re Mighty’.

          Thousands of men and women right here who’ve left cheaters, been flattened, lost everything, and who have rebuilt their lives and are now 100% happier than they were in their marriages.

          Not all of them have re-partnered, either; there’s a sizeable bunch who are making it on their own with carefully-chosen, hard-won friends.

          I know you feel stuck, but you have the power to change all that. No one is going to rescue you – you will have to do it yourself. But if you can take those first steps, I think you will be encouraged by what you find.

        • Do you have a therapist? You are in shock and in mourning and understandably depressed. You need help processing this for your sake and the sake of your children. You are feeling shunned by the world because you have been shunned by your world – the cheater- very person who undoubtedly insisted that you to create a world in which he the center of it all – he was the sun and you and your kids revolved around him. I am saying this from experience – 20 years, 3 kids and chumped at 55 for a much younger married OW. Find someone who specializes in domestic abuse – cheating is most definitely abuse and unless your cheater is different than all others since the beginning of humanity, he has groomed you for a long time – you said yourself that he made you completely dependent on him – trust me that is abuse and mindfuckery at it’s finest. With appropriate guidance you will be able to navigate this situation and come out on the other side stronger and whole. Read Chumplady’s book and if it doesn’t sink in read it again. In your post you seem worried about finding another man – that is the last thing you need to do right now. I know it feels like a competition to find someone else but as cliche as it sound you really need to find yourself first. I cannot believe how much of myself I lost in my marriage to Mr. Chumpmaster 2000. I really didn’t even exist anymore – I was a shell of my old self. I am now rediscovering things that brought me joy but I gave up for him. Focus on you and your children, be the kind of person that you want them to become – even if you are not feeling it – they need you to be strong and positive. Be the sane parent and badass role model for your kids. It takes lots of time to heal but little by little you will realize that you can indeed “leave a cheater and find a life”.

        • The person who needs to love you is you. It may look to you like life revolves around couples but that’s not all there is in life. There are single people, and single parents with kids and older empty-nesters who are divorced, and so on. So long as you put being married or part of a couple as the only path to happiness (and your STBX as the only partner you can imagine), you can’t get yourself back.

          You write: “I feel pathetic but he made me completely dependent on him and I am really stuck and I can’t get out.” Let’s say he is the one who “made [you] completely dependent on him.” That, right there, is abuse. It’s what pimps do with the women they exploit. Anyone who wants you to be a dependent is not really a partner. A partner wants you to grow and thrive, to be strong and capable of doing mighty things in the world. Partners look ahead and makes sure you are prepared to navigate life on your own if anything happens to them. They make a savings plan, have files of paperwork available, have financial meetings so both parties are informed, buy insurance, and plan for the worst. They do that because they LOVe their spouse and their kids.

          You aren’t stuck. You are like a shipwreck survivor clinging to the wreckage. It’s time to start valuing yourself and that means letting go of the wreckage and grabbing the lifelines that others throw to you, including Chump Lady’s book, therapy, and putting the focus on building your OWN life. What I suggest is 2-3 years learning NOT to think about dating or going back to STBX or X bur rather figuring out who YOU want to be on your own and making that happen for yourself. If you don’t, whether he comes back (or not) or whether you fall into another relationship on the rebound, you are going to be stuck in this same place. As crazy as it sounds, the solution to your problem is to live on a different level from “I must be part of a couple.” Once you can live happily on your own, then you’re READY to choose a healthy partner.

  • Even if Sparkly Dick is a unicorn and NEVER looks at another woman ever again (highly unlikely I admit), wouldn’t you think he would get sick to death of her marriage policing him and want out? I know I would. And like the others said, what on earth was she thinking giving up her job!!!!

  • It’s wonderful that you want to be a good friend to your friend, but the sad truth, as CL says, is that you control only you. She has to come to her own realization that He Sucks.

    At this point, it sounds as if she’s very unhappy. If she were fine, she’d not be confiding the details of the marriage. She would not have quit her job to be a SAHM so she can ensure her husband doesn’t cheat. Down in her gut, she knows that This Is Not Acceptable, but until she can say it herself, there’s not really anything you can say or do that will help convince her logically that she should resign from the Marriage Police and get a life.

    Boundaries are important here. You aren’t her therapist. You’re her friend. It’s natural that she’ll want to unload, but before you talk with her, have your own boundaries in your head. In a way, you’re going a Gray Rock here. Let her talk, but don’t engage. Like a lot of Chumps, she needs to articulate what has happened in order to help her process it mentally and emotionally. She doesn’t need for you to press her or follow up with questions or insights. “Cool, bummer, wow” are adequate. Change the subject after a couple of minutes.

    If she does ask you a direct question about her situation, you can tell her the truth: that she has to decide whether this kind of marriage is acceptable to her, and that, at least at this time, she doesn’t seem to be happy. At that point, you’ve answered her question, but you’ve also turned it back on her. Only she is empowered to make things different. “Do you think Sparkle Dick could have a burner phone?” earns an “I think you’re in a better position to figure that out.” Then move the conversation away from Sparkle Dick and their marriage.

    If she mentions that things are tighter for them now that she’s a SAHM, mention that you hope she has a good post-nup with Sparkle Dick that includes his fully funding her IRA. If she indicates that there is no post-nup, then feign surprise and airly mention that you thought that all reconciliation involved a post-nup as a gesture of good faith. Then change the subject.

    She’s got a lot going on in her head, and I agree that a professional (an individual therapist, not a RIC marriage counselor) will help her work on that. As a friend, you can be sympathetic but detached. There is no need for you to chase that kind of crazy down the rabbit hole.

  • My heart goes out to Carolyn. How many of us were in her shoes. After a long, happy marriage it takes time to truly accept that the wonderful man you saw every day, who appears the same, is no longer that person. That’s a fucking hard thing to accept and it takes time.

    As a friend I would be very patient with her. Give her sound advice and leave it at that. We all know it’s not going to end well for her.

    Definitely give her Leave a Cheater Gain a Life. She will read it in her own time. We all hope she would come to her senses and kick that piece of shit to the curb like yesterday. But it’s her journey and no pressure from anyone is going to push her into something she’s not ready to do yet.

    • I does talk a long time to get over a marriage that you thought was a happy one even even they are as nasty as they can be and re write all history. You simply can not un-love someone.

      • Matt, you can love them for the rest of your life if you want.

        Just don’t live with them, and don’t build your future on them.

      • Matt, yes she says the marriage was always really happy and they never fought, that’s because she puts her needs behind his. I’m sure she loves him deeply, he is great at lovebombing people, he once told me he calls it “shining people up”, you can see why I don’t like him lol

  • I tried the Marriage Police thing for a whole week or two. My mom asked me “Do you really want to do that? Monitor her all the time? If you can’t trust her, why be married to her?” Maybe she needs to be reasoned with like I was?

  • I had a friend that had been cheated on by her ex (like myself) and he never paid any money in child support for their 4 kids. Many years later after her ex cheated on the second wife and my friend was talking about how she was thinking about getting back together with her lying, cheating ex. She was defending his actions. I could not believe what I was hearing and told her our friendship was over.

  • His next excuse for cheating will be that she was smothering him. And since she’s financially dependent on him and alienated from her friends, she might feel so lonely and despondent that she stays stuck.

    This woman needs serious professional help.

  • If she’s marriage policing she is also likely catering to his every desire, preference and specification. He’s in Narc heaven. She’s dishing up all kinds of attention at home and he’s still getting it on the side somewhere. The guy really knows how to dial up his cake game.

  • It is kind of you to be concerned about your friend and likely your concern is well-intentionedBUT.. Are you facilitating her obsession with her cheater? Are you being a “helicopter “ friend, a codependent? I had a “friend” during my betrayal who was overly involved in my process and I had to push her away because she just made the process more confusing. In recovery, we say don’t get in the way of someone on her way to her bottom. Are you doing that?

    • That’s really true. Sometimes the kindest thing is to let the person hit bottom and then be standing by to offer a hand up. But what about the friend who actually prefers to stay at the bottom and has no desire to get out of the misery? I have a friend who’s been at the bottom with a real bottom-feeder for a couple of years now and has rationalized that staying with him is a sign of her great and noble ability to love, no matter what. We all know people like that. They cannot be reasoned with. I’m still standing by, ready to assist should a miracle happen and she finally wants out. But I stand by at a distance.

  • The most telling part of this story for me is that the cheater’s first marriage ended in divorce due to his infidelity. It appears that the wife knew this situation and married him anyway. That means she has already made up her mind that cheating is not a deal breaker. IHtMP should keep her boundaries firm about being in the presence of cheater. It is not being disloyal to a friend to say that you can’t stand seeing her abuser.

  • As we have all learned with CL-we can’t control the actions of other people. This applies to friends that willingly join the Marriage Police Force. I was a member of the force for a solid 1.5 years of my 3 year wreckconciliation. I had to learn for myself that the only winning move in that game is not to play. No one was going to convince me otherwise.

    Fortunately my friends and sister were patient with me and their boundaries gently guided me in the direction of over loading them with information.

    As KB mentioned above, you can take the cool, bummer wow approach. It’s what I did with my kids after the ex and I first got divorced. I kept my responses to information they had about him to one word answers and eventually I would direct the conversation a different way. They got the hint. Your friend will too. I also only answered direct questions; never offered my opinion unless I was asked.

    Your friend needs to know you’ll still be there as a friend, but with boundaries. This almost never turns out well for the chump. Based on your letter, I’d say the only thing that aways your friend is another dday. Hopefully she will figure that out before it happens.

    • **Correction** Their boundaries gently guided me in the direction to NOT overload them with information…what a difference a word makes!

  • What a horrible way to live. I know, because I did it for five years. Even though I’m lonely at times now, and our divorce process has been grueling, at least I don’t have that constant anxiety weighing me down. My sister did the right thing. From D-day #1, she said you can’t trust him again, ever. And after hearing my tales of woe one too many times, she said firmly, accept or leave. Those are your only choices. I wish I’d chosen the latter a long time ago.

  • I dated a fellow for a short while after my divorce. He admitted to cheating on his ex wife, several times. I ended it right there. Nice guy, lots of fun and witty. But no thank you.

  • Once you hear, see or read something that confirms the adulterer’s actual nature, it becomes impossible to unlearn. Conversations with their AP(s) especially.

    My neighbor cheats on his wife who only last week separated and left. He now is getting a taste of his own medicine. He’s beside himself at the thought of loosing his wife who’s position is ‘she cannot do this anymore’.

    She is the bread winner, he’s disabled on disability. In his mind he believes he can find another alternative quickly. I don’t know if she cheats but she works several jobs to stay afloat. He told me she hides her spending and debt load despite very lucrative weekly paychecks. He does marriage policing.

    My boundaries for advice to him are limited to listening and replying when asked. He did the same for me after my dday. Basically boils down to ‘you do you’.

    I don’t agree with his standards of behavior and he’s disrespected me borrowing my tools for example which I have to chase down afterwards. I set boundaries for that and let him know in no uncertain terms of ‘Don’t Ask, you’re not dependable. Buy your own’.

    For some people brick 🧱 wall boundaries are mandatory. They will test them constantly and over time to see if you soften. Constantly enforcing them becomes exhausting and leads to NO!! What part of No do you not understand? NO is a complete sentence.

    AA tenet: “if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Shit, or get off the pot!” You decide.

    That pretty sums up my advice to anyone wallowing in their self-created Shit.

  • I think you should suggest that she get a post-up that’s to her financial advantage if he cheats again (or gets caught I suppose). If he TRULY is sorry (he isn’t) then he should be willing to put his / their money where his mouth is. OR it could be worded that whomever cheats gets bulk of the assets.

    You could spin it that you are worried since she quit working you are worried if he finds another “love of his life” you want her protected. If he is committed to their marriage / her forever and ever why would he not do it? (Yeah, right).

    And I assume iit will make the divorce easier when he cheats again – though I wouldn’t tell her that.

  • The writer of this letter seems odd and possibly flawed for taking this level of interest in the intimate doings of two non-her people. My fan theory here is that the writer of this letter holds a secret torch for Mr. Sparkle Dick.

    • You sound exactly like a dude, REIT Dude.

      Women are often much more involved with each other’s lives than men are, because it’s a women thing. It’s how we relate to each other a lot of the time, and it often does look weird to guys. (Note: not all women act this way, and not all of the time).

      It’s not really all that weird to be this involved, and it’s not weird at all to be this concerned about a female friend who you can see is digging her own emotional grave. Especially when you’re her principal go-to female friend who’s doing a lot of the listening.

      But I think CL’s advice to Hurt is spot on, because we do need to know when to pull back and let people work out their own shit.

      And no, I don’t think she wants Sparkle Dick at all. My vibe is that if she and Sparkle Dick were given some quiet time together in a locked room, Sparkle might come out with a lot less sparkle and no actual dick.

      • oh LOLA GRANOLA… I laughed out loud for a good five minute hilarity break at this one :
        “And no, I don’t think she wants Sparkle Dick at all. My vibe is that if she and Sparkle Dick were given some quiet time together in a locked room, Sparkle might come out with a lot less sparkle and no actual dick.”
        THANK YOU! and my daughters name is LOLA xx

  • Poor Carolyn… One day (hopefully), she’ll wake up to see that all of that policing was completely worthless and she mortgaged her future when she should have jettisoned her sad sausage of a cheating fuckwit and actually gotten herself a real life. 😕

  • This is an abusive relationship she is in, and it is deep and internalized. If she is saying “sacred,” there is some kind of spiritual abuse here too, Carolyn needs you. In what form I cannot say. And obviously you have to protect your own boundaries in some way. But she needs you because she needs your reality to help her as she works through this. If she is open to it, suggest the book, “Shoukd I Stay or Shoukd I Go?” By Lundy Bancroft. I am in the process of getting divorced. I will forever be grateful to my good friend who continued to help me connect with myself as I worked through (and am still working through) my trauma.

  • If you have to step back, please tell her, “I’ll be here when you decide to leave him. Call me when you want to talk about how to escape this abusive situation and I’ll do anything to help you get free.”

  • I am the LW. Thank you Chump Lady for taking the time to reply to my letter.

    I will try what you suggest about boundaries, the added bonus is I don’t want to talk about Sparkle D with her. He is a classic narc, IMO, he really loves himself. Yes he is in narc heaven with Carolyn, she is at his beck and call. He says she puts him on a pedestal and he likes it. It’s her choice.

    To the commenter who suggested that I am over involved and secretly holding a torch for Mr D, most definitely not the latter, narcissist serial cheaters aren’t my thing, sorry. Carolyn is really a nice person, she puts others first all the time, and does have a bit of codependency going on. We were pretty close before the affair, it was really upsetting to see her so distraught, she was literally in tears all the time for a couple of weeks, couldn’t eat, dropped a dress size…Mr D was her entire life, she had their wedding photos all over the house, it was the happiest day of her life (according to her), she thinks he is a superstar and she’s lucky he chose her. It’s hard to lose a friend especially to a jerk.

    She does not have money issues AFAIK because when D Day happened her elderly parents gave her money to buy out her half of their shared house, so she has a house, it’s hers alone now. He moved back into it after they reconciled. Her parents were not happy about it…

    So I will step back with boundaries and see how it goes, she is an intelligent adult and you are right, I can’t make choices for her, nor should I try.

    “If she’s marriage policing she is also likely catering to his every desire, preference and specification. He’s in Narc heaven. She’s dishing up all kinds of attention at home and he’s still getting it on the side somewhere. The guy really knows how to dial up his cake game.” — that commenter is spot on, she cooks, makes the house nice since she’s a homemaker now, though I don’t know if he is cheating now.

    • Good luck with her evicting her narc squatter !

      I loved Queen Latifah’s advice, probably given to her by financial advisors. “Don’t ever let somebody into your home that doesn’t have something lose.” I would extend that one’s car as well.

    • “She thinks he is a superstar and she’s lucky he chose her.

      That’s a giant red flag. Much healthier to think you’re a match at to values and self-worth.

    • “She does not have money issues AFAIK because when D Day happened her elderly parents gave her money to buy out her half of their shared house, so she has a house, it’s hers alone now. He moved back into it after they reconciled. Her parents were not happy about it…”

      I hope to hell she has his name off the deed and never puts his name back on it. I don’t blame her parents one little bit for being upset.

      The money issues may appear later when she doesn’t have enough cash to pay the property taxes or insurance on the home, plus maintaining it. I bet he doesn’t view it as necessary that he contribute to it.

      So glad you’re stepping back but still tossing her a line. She may grab it later.

  • It’s tough to see a friend be cheated on and they are at the start of a process that we are far beyond. Or their process is taking longer than our own did.

    We also know that there are spouses who fight for their marriages for a milieu of reasons. Many of here were once those spouses. We can list all the reasons why we did it in hindsight. Most of us are not dependent personality disordered, or severe co-dependents, or financial dependents.

    We were simply very loyal and trusting spouses who hoped.

    Hoped for too long. Hoped in the face of seemingly obvious evidence that the people we invested our hope in weren’t deserving. Hoped that things would get better.

    However, painful (and even aggravating) it is to see a friend suffer through this process, it is her process. We cannot control it. As CL says, we lovingly tell our friend that we love them and want what is best for them. Tell them we are concerned about what this situation is doing to them. Set boundaries about how much we can listen to them without it disturbing our own peace. And, be there when they fall, or direct them to who can be there when they fall. Perhaps, be there when they get back up.

    My friends endured 13 months of me rationalizing my pick-me dance before my STBXH left for good to be with the OW. They have endured two years of me “getting over it”. And only in the last couple of months have my friends been saying to me that they are so happy to see that “I am back” – that I look like I am me again. They have told me that they missed me.

    I missed me too. I didn’t know I was lost. But I have found me again, built up my self-esteem again, regained solid footing under me, grasped my reality, rebuilt, and am starting to feel MIGHTY. I am me again.

    Hopefully your friend will find her way through the fog.

  • You know what this story reminds me of? Me. Well, my 18 mo attempt at Reconciliation. Not that my ex left me for strippers and whores, but the resulting policing was the same.
    Here’s the thing ; my ex offered up all this accountability stuff. Stopped traveling for work, included me in his all-male trivia nites, went to gym together, and last but not least: handed over his Viagra to me for safekeeping.
    Know what all this up-front mea culpa transparency turned into at the end of the day? ME CONTROLLING HIM. That’s right folks, agreeing to work on the marriage and regain trust by taking him up in his offers ultimately only gave him more ammunition.
    You just can’t win with this scenario.

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