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Is This Cheating?

I get a lot of letters that go something like this:

Shady thing.

Shady thing.

Transgressive OH NO THEY DIDN’T thing.

Shady thing.

I’m mortified to tell you this, I’m sure you’ve never heard this (editor’s note: Yes I have), humiliating thing.


Denial, denial, minimizing, gaslighting, denial, bible study, denial, just friends, missing/stained/new underwear, handholding, BFF you’ve never met, gaslighting, denial, cell phone bill…

And then the final question:

Chump Lady, Do you think they’re cheating on me?”

Let me just clean out my inbox today and say, YES. Yes, most likely YES they are.

Of course, I don’t know you, I’m not there, I don’t know your partner, but the odds are such that if you’re writing to a total stranger with a blog, and you can list a dozen shady things that keep you up at night, if you think this situation (or underwear) isn’t passing the sniff test — then, my friend, you have a problem. You don’t feel safe in this relationship. And that alone is a reason to end it.

Why don’t you feel safe? Most likely because you’re being played (see Shady Thing Recitation) or it could be that this person is not reassuring you with the proper compassion and understanding or it could be that you’re flinchy and have trust issues. All these things add up to — you shouldn’t be in that relationship.

I know that is disappointing and not the answer you were hoping to hear. Or maybe it was. Maybe you’re writing to me because your noggin is so gaslit you need a reality slap.

Your gut feelings MATTER. And shady piles of evidence matter too. Relationships are not Nuremberg Trials. You don’t need witnesses and fact statements and to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. You just need to convince yourself if the situation is acceptable.

Do you enjoy chaos? Drama? Feeling off balance? Wondering if you’re slowly going insane?

Ask yourself if you feel this way around your sister, your co-worker, your college friend, the guy who sits next to you at choir practice? Now think about this person you’re dating/married to. Does everyone give you the heebie-jeebies or just that person?

Well, it’s different Tracy! I’m intimate with That Person!

EXACTLY. It’s different. You should feel MORE safe, not LESS. I don’t expect the meter reader to hold me through the long dark night.

So, let me wrap this up — You know enough.

Now what are you going to do about it?

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.
  • Shady things:

    Posing in new Calvin boxers (only) and asking how they look. Umm….ok.

    Next: Should I shave my arms? Umm…if you want to.

    I’m downsizing, renting a studio; you can sleep there.

    I was approved for a mortgage; you need to sign.

    I decided to buy an investment property with DD since you won’t sign. Umm…ok.

    Shady things. Weeks before the announcement.

    I found someone; I want a divorce.

    Shady things; delicious.

  • I’ll tell you what I did. I listened to your advice. I got a therapist, she kicked my ass into action, I interviewed lawyers, I chose a pitbull of a lawyer. I used the money I’d saved over several years to pay this lawyer. I started collecting my documentation. I packed boxes. I packed a GO bag. I kept the car gassed up. I got a credit card in my name only. I packed and packed and packed my personal belongings. I took pictures of everything in the house. All my antiques, my books, my lovingly cared for home decorated with my own two hands. Then one day I decided I’d had enough. I couldn’t stand the abuse any longer and I filled my car with my most precious things which included a ninety pound dog who filled the backseat and I left. I called my lawyer, told him to file and I left.

    I called my oldest son and told him I’d left. He told me “I thought it would come to this.” I called my youngest son who said “Mom, what took you so long?” I didn’t call STBX. He didn’t call, text, e-mail or in any way attempt to communicate with me. STBX never once tried to see where I was or if I was even alive. I cried for about six months. I continued therapy over the telephone. I reread LACGAL.

    Here is what I didn’t do. I didn’t try to fix my marriage anymore. I didn’t look for one more piece of evidence. I didn’t speak to him. I blocked him. He can communicate through that pitbull of a lawyer.

    My only regret is that I stayed so long.

    • My one regret is that I didn’t get the pit bull lawyer. Actually I did get a good lawyer, just waited too long to do it, so I lost valuable ground before I finally had her onboard. Then a serious health issue arose with that lawyer and I had 10 days to find another one before our first mandated court mediation. The 2nd lawyer was over her head and way too inexperienced in the court room. So I got hardly anything from the 17 years we were married.

      BUT, everything else you did, so did I. I had packed and stacked and made the go bag. I even warned him I was going to leave. Still didn’t register with him. I think he really thought I wouldn’t do it, he seemed surprised that I had left. But never ONCE did he try to fix anything, apologize, ask me to stay, ask how I was. Nothing.

    • Bravo! You are inspiration to us all. I am 32 years a chump and wonder why I didn’t see the shady writing on the wall. I am a pretty smart, intuitive woman, but for whatever reason, must have felt I deserved the hand I was dealt. Here’s the kicker, my husband was so insidious with his bad behaviors, that it took a swift kick in the ass from a friend who saw it all along. What?! My point is, the writing on the wall isn’t always that obvious to us chumps. Be kind to yourself, even if it took a few decades to “get it”. It’s been 8 months since I left him and I still mourn the loss sometimes. This whole process takes time to finally accept. Still working on that one…

  • I don’t feel safe in this relationship.

    You’re crazy/ bipolat/ in need of mental health evaluation!

    I know now I’m cheated on.

  • Years ago (1989) I told my boyfriend (of four months) that if he didn’t go to the batterer’s intervention program at the local domestic violence shelter I would leave the relationship

    He went and I spent the next six months in wait-and-see mode. He dropped out of the program and I dropped him. I was 26 and should have dropped him at that four month point, but I had not evolved sufficiently.

    I don’t think he learned anything, but I did. As a partner of a man in that program, I attended a class for partners. The most important thing I learned is that TRUST AND SAFETY ARE ESSENTIAL IN ORDER TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH ANYONE. Without trust and safety, I do not have a relationship; I have an ENTANGLEMENT.

    I started dating the husband whose behavior brought me here at the end of 1990. That axiom above is why I let go. I am still hurting and wounded. I was willing to try to repair for a
    very short time but that axiom kept sounding like a smoke alarm. I would never ever feel trust and safety ever again. And I don’t believe I ever had it. I just thought I did. It’s THE MAIN THING I want in a partnership and it’s the main reason to be in a partnership.

    The woman (women?) he had an affair with does not have it either. She’s not astute enough to know it. It’s important to remember that when I feel anger and hatred and jealousy thinking she got someone and something good that belongs to me.
    Wonderful people don’t screw around and don’t screw around with married people. She ran into a burning house for a play date with an arsonist. An untrustworthy, dangerous malignant narcissist putting on a Nice Guy con game. Good luck with that.

    I now see that I did NOT do enough work to extinguish my attraction to abusive men. It’s really important for me to be on my own. I need to heal, me and my daughter who got damaged as well, to learn to trust myself again. To do the post-Morten and see where my blind spots were with the help of my therapist, to fall in love with ME.

    I think it’s challenging to leave a cheater because of the ENTANGLEMENT element. Like being caught in a trap, a net, a snare. But it is essential that I get away.

    • TYPO……


      PS….that trust/safety thing applies to any and all relationships, not just romantic partnerships.
      My daughter trusts me and I thank my lucky stars that I realize that I must be trustworthy in order to warrant her trust, and that it is absolutely essential for her well-being. Zero trust and safety in my family of origin…I was the youngest picked on by all three above me….it really did some damage which still affects me to this day..

      • “Zero trust and safety in my family of origin…I was the youngest picked on by all three above me”

        Yes, this is me and it did influence some of my poor choices, but as I got stronger, I came to see it for what it was. I was the youngest in my family and never felt safe the way I knew I “should”. My mom was always the most toxic and hostile (while my bro was her fav) but when my bro got married, his wife eventually came to believe that he is a narc. So many things now make so much more sense – tragically.

        What is actually amazing is that Im not a complete lunatic after growing up in a setting where I was emotionally battered every single day. Im a walking/talking miracle and really proud of my survival.

        • You’re a mensch, and a strong survivor! It’s amazing that you devote yourself to others after what you’ve been through. My childhood was insane, too, but at least my Mom knew how to love, and that really saved me.

    • Really like that term “entanglement.” I cringe whenever I have to use the word “marriage” to describe what I had. I will now use Entanglement.

  • Shady things often go unnoticed as cheaters capitalize on your vulnerability. Or should I say during a major stressor your facing (caring for a parent, supporting a child with needs, illness, cancer, buying a home, pregnancy, working on your career).

    In my experience this was when he created chaos and threw me even more off balance.

    • My relationship was over before I was brave enough to look back and see that (on an hourly basis) he said things to throw my balance off… to worry and concern me. I now realize he likely had so much to hide that he set off emotional smoke bombs every day to assist in his treachery.

      From what I can discern, his fuckbuddies were work related…likely married women who had as much to lose as he did. He hated work related social functions where his 2 worlds collided (I never knew why but he acted like he was being forced to drink snake poison at work social gatherings)…

      Once he went into a wild, emotional violent rage driving me to an event…I was terrified for my life but (like a good chump/victim) I stayed absolutely silent. We got to the event and Major Cheater and I walked in and he saw some Lt Col gal and said (in the most uncharacteristic way) “oh she is here” (“she”??). I think the abuse that day was strategic….and it worked. He can explain that shit to Jesus all day.

      • My XW would invite her AP’s to sit at the table with us when I would go to her work to meet her for lunch. Her AP’s were married men. She got off of rubbing it in my face. Or we would to football games or parties at their houses. So messed up…

          • 100% this. He was screwing a “friend” (ie. slut) of ours who would come to the shop for “drinking” with the boys, and I went once in a while( I didn’t approve of the drinking then driving that I knew was going on and never stopped begging my ex to stop).

        • Cheater o’Mine suggested I take Miss Plastic Parts (theoretically a friend of mine) with me the next time I visited my family 1,000 miles away ‘because she would really enjoy seeing their mountain home.’ That smirk was the moment that stiffened my backbone.

        • That’s a real power trip Sir. My daughter was mortified that he went out with her and a few coworkers and danced with a woman he later called and dated while we were married. It’s evil plain and simple.

      • My military cheater did everything in his power to keep me away from any interaction with co-workers or their wives. It is very hard to sell the crazy/lazy/fat/ugly/sexless lies they tell if other officers and their wives meet you and interact with you or (God forbid!) become your friend. When I started dating again that was a major red flag. If someone tried to actively, or passively, avoid me interacting with their work associates–I was gone.

        • Once, we were getting dressed for the Marine Corps Ball and I had make up done, gown on, hair on hot curlers 10 minutes from leaving and kindergarten age child said she would miss us that evening. Cheater said “then mommy will stay home with you” he made a promise knowing that I never break promises to my kids. During that whole era, he acted like he hated being married to me but he was surely not willing to give up cake and wife appliance.

    • Definitely. I often wonder how much I spackled vs really not knowing what he was doing/thinking at all because hindsight makes you things in a new light. But the really shady things all happened at a very very difficult time for me (nursing parent through cancer and am only child) and obvs the day stuff like running a house cause he didn’t pick up the slack there of course.

      I agree DoingMe, they capitalise not just on your vulnerability but also on your trust and actually not expecting anyone to behave like this.

      Looking back my most STUPID moment was getting an anonymous email that he was having an affair (I suspect OW sent it now) and he looked shocked (he’s not that kind of person I was told) and I found a semi plausible way to explain it that of course he swiftly backed up.

      So I had hints of shady things but they only added up slowly and I was thrown off the scent by some things that pointed to him being as committed as ever and I was off balance due to situation with my dad.

      But boy were the shady things there. I’m kind of pleased I didn’t see them, shows that I am not suspicious by nature and a trusting person who thought he would be honest about his feelings but clearly hadn’t done that for years. Can’t make it up can you?

  • You have the right to expect honesty, faithfulness, loyalty and to feel safe and sane in a relationship.

    If you feel your partner is doing something dodgy, they are!

    Trust yourself that in those moments when something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t!

    They are pushing back against your reasonable boundaries and expectations. They are trying to make your boundaries feel unacceptable, stupid, crazy because they don’t want to meet them. That is enough to know you need to leave the relationship.

  • I think I got trapped in the spam filter. I wanted to share that there’s a chance that anyone behind in child support will not get the stimulus checks, that it will go to the person they owe.

    • Look like that’s a pretty done deal: if the withholding parent’s income qualifies them for a stimulus check, it looks like the U.S. Treasury will send it to the OAG, who will issue it to the custodial parent. I’m not sure this will apply to or work for the custodial parent who doesn’t receive support, but doesn’t get the OAG involved.

      My ex used to withhold constantly, but until the OAG got involved and began drafting his paycheck, there was nothing I could do to get what was owed. Now support payments drop into my checking account every other Thursday like clockwork, and I never have to ask, plead, or beg. It’s wonderful.

      Here’s an article about the stimulus and support in arrears:

      • How do I find out about the stimulus check for those of us that got divorced in 2019? If they are using the 2018 tax return, it’s about 4 times what I’m making now… I haven’t been able to file yet this year because my accountant is backed up. Where do I look for that info?
        (sorry for the hijack, I just can’t find this answer anywhere and figured some of you are wondering the same thing)

        • I’m in a similar boat. Court day November 9 2019, for all intents and purposes divorced at that time, but for tax purposes the judge didn’t sign until Jan 1, 2020. So we filed a joint tax return for 2018. My taxes are at the accountant’s now, done, but the office is closed so I’m waiting to pick them up, which means my 2019 taxes aren’t filed, and I’m worried the govt will send a check with my share to him. If they do, I hope it has both our names on it so I have to endorse it!

        • I was divorced in 2019 too. Because of the Python’s much higher income, the combined income for 2018 taxes was way higher than my own income.

          Partly because of the pandemic and partly because I wanted to make sure I get a stimulus check, I skipped going in for an appointment at H&R Block this year and got their online program so I could do my taxes myself. It took me 2.5 hours vs. the one hour appointment it used to involve. And I am self-employed so it’s a more complicated return than most.

          My refund may not be as high as the professional might have been able to get for me but the difference is certainly minuscule compared to the stimulus check (which will not be a check, but will be directly deposited into my checking account because that’s what the IRS now has on file for me).

          I’d encourage you to try to do it on your own unless you think you can’t even come close to what the accountant can get for you.

          And be aware that if the IRS has your ex’s checking account on file because that’s where last year’s refund went, your check will probably go there!

        • If your taxes are fairly simple and straightforward, use Turbo Tax. It will walk you through each step. It takes a couple of hours, but then your taxes are filed and a new bank account is on file with the IRS.

          My accounting firm is open, as they consider us to be essential, so maybe call to see if someone can meet you there so you can pick up your taxes.

      • My ex gets to claim my kids because he makes more money, but they live with me 100% out of the year. He does pay child support that gets taken out of his check but I doubt I will get a stimulus check for kids I think he will get it.

  • Trust your gut. I am learning to listen and acknowledge how my body responds to situations. What our gut tells us matters because these feelings reveal our values and boundaries.

    It’s taken me a long time to realize that when I felt unsafe, anxious, judged, sad it was my gut telling me that XH was crossing my boundaries. So glad to be free now. Sometimes I still grieve the loss of the illusion of who I thought he was. This pain is soothed by feelings of safety and calm knowing that I am enough and I am free from XH’s lies, games, and betrayal.

    Thank you CL and CN for providing support everyday.

  • If you have to hide ANYTHING from your partner then you are cheating . As I read once affairs don’t start in the bedroom they start with conversations.

  • Shady things(I did not realize at the time.
    Manscaping. His reason was that he just didn’t want all that dirty hair.
    He would ask if I loved him. Hecwpukd ask this question alot.
    His friend Bill. He was going away with Bill 4 nights a week. Even went to his cabin 3 hours away. I never met Bill. As soon as I found out about Skankella. Bill never called him again.
    Money. He would always make sure I paid for everything. While he stashed thousands of dollars in his parents safe. Keeping me broke gave him the upper hand.
    I could write a small book on all the shady crap he pulled. He knew exactly what he was doing. While I was struggling to pay bills. Keep myself from slipping deeper in depression. It freed him to lie and cheat.

      • Shady things~when out of nowhere he’d say, “I love you,” it was out of character for him,
        It would be awkward with me stopping to think, this is weird
        Looking back it was most likely said after one of his trysts. Thinking he’d say I love you to erase any doubts about him.

    • Yep….manscaping…and so obsessed with the manscaping. Doing it is one thing, but thinking about it, talking about it, worrying about it, the weirdest most vain thing. I have shaved my legs thousands of times….it never comes up in conversation( except now????).

      • Oh, God, the manscaping. He even shaved his balls. Then there was the obsession with “being fit”, and scorning any form of exercise (aka whatever I was doing) as sub-par and a waste of time. The preening in front of the mirror before the various hook-ups, I mean “conferences”, he attended. And PRIVACY. We mustn’t forget that “basic human RIGHT” as he called it.

        • They are so much alike, manscaping, telling me he’s not that kind of guy, obsessed with the gym, putting down any fitness routine I was doing, telling me it was a waste of time. Trips on the other side of the country to visit his “mom.” Phone service out at his moms house.
          Shopping for clothes by himself. Something he never did.

          • Shady things~when out of nowhere he’d say, “I love you,” it was out of character for him,
            It would be awkward with me stopping to think, this is weird
            Looking back it was most likely said after one of his trysts. Thinking he’d say I love you to gain my confidence in our relationship and erase any doubt I might have. Covering his tracks. He wouldn’t cheat, he just made a statement professing his love for me.
            It made me question his sanity and mine. I’d think, I must be hearing things.
            Just the day before he was telling me he was concerned for my mental well being and that I was bipolar…

  • “PS….that trust/safety thing applies to any and all relationships, not just romantic partnerships.”

    Velvet, spot on.

    When the last cheater wanted to be Friends, I realised that I didn’t need any more dodgy friends. I had enough already.

    This was a turning point for weeding out the bad friends and starting to put effort into making and keeping good friendships.

    I learned from Baggage Reclaim that Sparkles mean Narkles. Those tingly new people are disordered, and their disorder is like Velcro for the lint of my disorder and wounds.

    I’ve never been wrong yet, using this principle. I have only one friend in my circle who’s sparkly to me, and I maintain a cautious watching brief on him.

    All other people are safe people. How do I know? I trust my gut now.

  • AMEN! ????

    Preach it sista! That was like a powerful sermon at church. I got out of my seat throwing my hands up saying amen.

  • Reading this made me sad for myself. I catalogued years and years and years of my Ex’s shady conduct before I finally kicked him out. For years, I tried to make sense of, and find rational explanations for, his shady behavior. I did not trust him, and I lived my life on hyper-alert. It was no way to live. I am now blissfully free of him, but I mourn those lost years.

    I agree with Tracy. Trust your gut. You deserve better.

  • I was easy to cheat on because I gave every benefit of the doubt (Why was she out so late? Who is she texting? Did she really fly to Oregon to visit an old friend like she said?) to my spouse. I now know that, for me, no marriage is worth being in if I can’t always do that. And I don’t see how you can give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who has fundamentally betrayed you.

    • Or anyone who hasn’t, for that matter. When I entered that relationship, I had a different idea of the world. A different idea of cheating and abuse, I thought they were much more extreme, obvious and rare situations. The fact that they infiltrate pretty much anywhere has led me to revisit the game entirely.
      There are too few guarantees, not just of not “being emotionally hurt”, but of being robbed of dignity, time, energy, health, finances, etc. It’s crazy to me that we even entertain it at all, given the state of things.

      • “ There are too few guarantees, not just of not “being emotionally hurt”, but of being robbed of dignity, time, energy, health, finances, etc. It’s crazy to me that we even entertain it at all, given the state of things.”.

        THIS! 100%. This is why I don’t play the relationship game anymore. I’d rather be on my own and be blissfully happy. Lonely sometimes but oh, so happy.

    • I trusted my accountant XW with the financial part. Easy for her to spend money on her affairs without me knowing. I believed her when she said she was working OT or walking around a lake after work to deal with stress from work. Girl nights out (?) or going to movies by herself to get a break. Visiting “friends” if I was working OT. I was way to trusting. When my lawyer did a Colorado criminal background check and we discovered secret apartments, P.O. Boxes and bank accounts my lawyer said she was one of the most dishonest people he has every seen. So don’t be to hard on yourself… but I never trust her ever again.

  • I was in a similar situation.
    Except, I didn’t have this definition of cheating where it has to be sexual in order to qualify as cheating.

    Cheating is anything that is done behind your back and that the person would not feel comfortable doing in front of you. Period.

    It’s a betrayal of trust, not a betrayal of body orifice. That’s just a consequence.

    I never encountered evidence that he was intimate with anyone else and all the evidence pointed to the fact that he wasn’t particularly attached to any of his random office flirts. But the second I learned that he’d gone out with a co-worker, that was crossing the line. I wasn’t obviously okay with anything I’d discovered up to that point, but I was desperately trying to wrap my head around the WHY? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? WHY DOES HE DO THAT?. Once that line was crossed, all I could think was “that’s what he’s capable of”. And that did it for me. I found “this is unacceptable to me”. It went from being crazy, weird behavior I don’t understand to HE’S a CREEPY, WEIRD person. And after that, I stopped caring what else he’d done or hadn’t done. He’d done THAT, and the line was crossed.

    The point of all my snooping/marriage policing was to find that line. And the reason is that I didn’t feel justified in breaking the relationship for all of my own reasons. And there was the mistake.
    I should have mattered. Not the why’s, the what’s, the who’s of his shenenigans. The fact that I WAS BEING DISRESPECTED. And that should have been enough.

  • After 12 years together…

    “Do you get offended when I go to the toilet to spit it out after giving you a BJ?”

    Not that I was getting any! Asked after 12 years!

    I nearly got hopeful 🙂

  • this blog rings very true & the replies even more so. My good friend ( a social worker) gave me the same advice. Your gut knows. You should not feel crazy or emotionally battered. hearing “nothing is wrong”, but they are doing things that tell you something is wrong, is a very clear indication that you need to prepare & get. out.

  • He was sarcastic and contemptuous and I spackled.

    He was verbally and emotionally abusive and I excused it.

    He crossed the line into physical abuse and it took me two weeks after the incident to connect the dots.

    He cheated on me, got caught and I left with what I could carry. I wished I’d left when it was just sarcasm and contempt. I wouldn’t have wasted nearly as much time, invested nearly as much money or lost so much time, money and precious family heirlooms. (And I might not have had so bladder and vaginal infections over the years.)

  • I agree with everyone saying the shady things don’t always look shady when you’re not ready to believe it. I had a text exchange staring me in the face so I couldn’t really deny anything. But then ALL the shady things that had bothered me sort of became clear. I wonder how things would have been different if I had written to CL with some of the tiny things that didn’t add up: planning renovations in our downstairs and then saying we should put them on hold for now offering up the reason “in case we don’t stay here” as the reason (when we had talked about growing old there), last minute business trips on holiday weekends, never having his itinerary for his many trips when once upon a time we had dropped him up and picked him up from the airport and I knew every detail of his work life (we’re in similar fields), checking out of all of our social group activities with our long-time friends, pass-coding his phone when once we answered each other’s phones, encouraging me to go places by myself when I am already a do-it-solo kind of gal for many things, randomly announcing we didn’t have the funds for certain activities then talking about how we had plenty of money other times, insisting on doing the bills because I do “everything else”…the list goes on. But strangely, they are all so subtle and we were intellectual equals; we had been partners in everything–seeing the writing on the wall is very hard if you are inclined to think people overreact to things or that, as I did, cheaters were a stereotype too cliche for my life. Yes, it can be hard to see those things when you are still inside it. Maybe if I’d gotten a letter like this one from CL back in the middle of it, I would have shaken myself awake before I made a flurry of sacrifices that I couldn’t undo. Maybe I’d have figured it out before I needed reading glasses to decipher the text exchange with OW. Maybe I’d have been the one to end before he was ready and had some sense of satisfaction. Or maybe I wouldn’t have listened. Who knows?

  • I don’t know what else to say but- Great Post! You should feel safe, that’s it. In this uncertain world, we really need that!
    Or, hang with your cat ❤️Not so bad, at least they purr and love you!

  • “You don’t need witnesses and fact statements and to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. You just need to convince yourself if the situation is acceptable.”

    Best nutshell ever.

    You, as an adult, don’t have to validate your decisions for your life with reasons that satisfy any other person, most especially one with whom you want to stop having a relationship because the relationship isn’t working for you.

    You get (so far as we know) one wild and precious life on this planet. You are the one and only person who is required to live the whole thing in your presence. All the choices are yours, and you don’t need permission to make them.

    It doesn’t matter if the person is “really cheating” or not.

    What matters is that the person is acting in a way that could be explained by cheating, and those behaviors are hurtful, including those that don’t involve genital contact that you’ve mutually agreed you won’t have outside your stated agreements.

    CL is, again, spot on.

  • After being Chumped and abandoned for whore by my now XH, I did several courses of therapy. I also read here daily for years.

    I’ve been trying to navigate the dating world via various sites and apps. I met a “nice” physician last year. He introduced me to his family (including teen kids) and his friends. Everyone loves this guy. I felt tremendous joy for the first time in nearly 7 years. Fast forward to 6 months. He never said “I love you” or “you’re special (or any kind adjective) to me” or even called me a term of endearment. But…he did take me on nice trips, we had wonderful dinners, and spent lots of time together…but…I didn’t feel right. Turns out he was on Tinder and Match after promising to take down his profiles. A friend called me and asked me if this was my guy online (minutes after I left him following a great evening).

    He tried the Cluster B tricks:
    Dr Evil: “Don’t tell me what I cannot look at!”
    Nope Dr Evil, I didn’t say you couldn’t look at the site. I said I’m not comfortable being with someone that looked at that site (especially insulting when I just left his house 15 minutes before).
    Dr Evil: “I was merely opening an email. I open political emails from candidates I do not support!”
    Dr Evil, the email you forwarded to me was titled: “For Dr. Evil’s Eyes Only – here are today’s matches!”
    You not only opened that email, you either clicked on a profile picture within that email or a link to go to the dating site to read about the match. It was not innocuous.
    Dr Evil: “I’m not communicating with anyone on there. I don’t swipe on profiles or respond to messages!”
    Nope, I don’t care Dr Evil. You knew that I didn’t want for you to have your profile up. You told me 3 months before that you were going to take it down and you didn’t. You told me that you weren’t on it, and you were. You’re on sites that are set up specifically for “single people to meet other single people”, not a site to share recipes.
    Dr Evil: “Don’t question my integrity!”
    Dr Evil, your actions do not inspire trust. You knew the removal of the dating profile was important to me. In fact, it was the one need I had of you in 6 months. Even if you weren’t looking for the “upgrade”, your dismissal of my one need was enough. Good bye Dr Evil.

    (And yes, it still hurt like a muther. I went back to therapy with a new therapist. “NoKibble4U, you are just hyper-vigilant. It sounds like you didn’t communicate effectively.” Um, yeah – so, it’s my reaction to his bullshit that’s the problem? I found another therapist who applauded me for being brave.)

    Thank you Chumplady and ChumpNation.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience NoKibble; you should be so proud of yourself for your good judgement, watchful eye, and excellent boundaries. Perfect template for how to move forward in the dating world. I particularly like how you weren’t swayed by the therapist and found a different one. I too applaud you for being brave. You are my role model as I test the dating waters. (((Hugs)))

      • Thank you so much Kathleen! Your comment was so sweet – it made my day! Good luck to you with dating. It’s easy to get jaded, but I know there are good people out there. 🙂

    • Excellent boundary setting! At least it was 6 months and not 6 months and a day. Gives me some things to keep in mind once I start dating.

  • Shady things. They always become concrete at some point because cheaters slip up. Or they just quit caring to invest their effort in maintaining the game. Especially before discard. The spackle doesn’t stick to the surface and falls away.

    Deceit and lies are hard to manage over time. I was raised to believe that telling the truth was always the best thing to do because once a lie is told, it must be followed with more lies to appear legit. The law of diminishing returns sets in. The center does not hold at which point the scam falls apart. Cheaters missed the class on “Honesty is the best policy”. Some of them must have really good memories to be able to recall and recant a lie then add onto it. Gaslighting skills for sure.

    Reciprocity of Trust, Time, Money and effort are key green lights for me.

    Organic (boringly Long) relationship development timeframes have a ton of value and veritas.

    The users out there are the majority I fear.

    Personally I wouldn’t trust Anyone now that hadn’t been cheated on and was willing to divulge it and the pain they experienced. Words mean nothing. Actions mean everything.

    If I get played one ☝️ Time, I’m walking away. Period. I’m listening to my radar. No explanation required.

  • I would also point out that if you are at the point where you’ve hired a lawyer-you need to feel safe and have trust in them as well. I’d you don’t-find another lawyer.

    I wasted a year with my first lawyer. As that year went on-and I would ask her random legal questions-the answer I always got was, “Well-that’s not really in my wheel house” and that was when she bothered to even answer me after I sent her email after email.

    I see now that she wasn’t very motivated or knowledgeable-so I finally fired her and hired a lawyer who immediately went into action for me-and I feel much more confident now.

  • I hear all of this. It’s a lot easier to walk away from a relationship full of shady things if you DON’T have kids with the person. Since many of us were chumped by long-term partners and co-parents, it makes sense that we would have very different expectations of future relationships with people we are NOT co-parenting with. I myself am not planning to date for the foreseeable future, though! It would take a minor miracle to get me to give up my anticipated spousal maintenance from STBX, and my freedom.

    CL’s observations are interesting from a different perspective, too. Like many of my fellow chumps, after D-Day #2, I got the line: “I’ve been unhappy for a long time.” (Though STBX didn’t ever mention this deep-seated unhappiness before revealing Affair Deux!) The gut thing works both ways: if our fuckwits were really so unhappy with us – if they really felt that we were doing “shady things” by not fulfilling their every desire – then they needed to figure that out for themselves and TALK to us about it, not just stewing in their own juices until going off the rails. Now, I personally reject any false equivalency between what my STBX might have objected to in my behavior, vs. her obviously disrespectful treatment of me. The worst things I *ever* did were to sometimes stay up a little too late watching TV instead of going to bed with her, and dealing with her emotional volatility with cool detachment. But these things felt like emotional disengagement to her, so she needed to come to terms with that, and decide for herself whether the relationship was acceptable to her – BEFORE she gave herself permission to engage in affair #2.

    So I guess the moral of the story is that healthy boundaries are necessarily all around. I’ve read many insightful statements here posted by CN, but one sticks out to me in this context: someone posted a few months ago that many spackling spouses are not necessarily clinically co-dependent. We have good reasons to try to make our relationships work: kids, enmeshed families, shared history, strongly-held values, financial constraints. I think relationship gurus are right to suggest that successful marriages involve rose-colored glasses on the part of both partners – a willingness to accommodate imperfections in one’s mate, and even to find them charming and authentically human. And by “imperfections,” I mean quirks like yodeling in the shower, or being overly enthusiastic about collecting spoons. Or doing one’s best to find therapy for treatable mental health issues. NOT cheating, lying, or any other form of fundamental disrespect.

    The fact that we chumps are trying our best to adult around the dysfunction of our mates speaks well of us and our abilities. But we run the risk of *becoming* clinically co-dependent if we spackle TOO much, for example by staying in wreckonciliation for too long with someone who quite clearly is not going to be a unicorn. One of the forms of gaslighting/blameshifting I have resisted the most from STBX is this notion that I am somehow a bitter, unforgiving person for not accepting that she’s “not perfect.” It’s the ugly flipside of the “rose-colored glasses” relationship advice above: if I can’t wear those glasses anymore, it must be MY fault. But I know better. It would be really hard for anyone to replace eyewear that’s been yanked from your face forcibly, and smashed on the ground. And I get to decide for myself whether it’s worth it to put on different glasses again, not just for STBX, but for anyone.

    • Lez, I define BITTER as Being In Totally Truthful Emotional Reality. So, yes I am BITTER. That’s Ms. BITTER, actually.

      It’s cold reality that we condemn murder, rape, theft. Cheating to get a child into a top college. But infidelity is defended in the name of love. And an affair, defined by betrayal and lying, is the antithesis of love and is evidence that the participants are incapable of it.

      And I forgive like a bank forgives a loan. You can keep the money, but you won’t get any more from me.


      • I love it, Velvet Hammer. So good to own the “BITTER,” turn it around. We Rainbow Chumps often reclaim the word “queer” in similar ways.

        And yes, I’m forgiving like a bank. STBX is human, I get it, but no more loans!

  • I (hopefully?!) will never ignore my gut feelings again. I did that for so long, thinking he was such a nice guy that he’d never cheat. I fell for the excuses and gaslighting. Turns out he was cheating our entire relationship, over 30 years. Yes, I most definitely felt like a fool, for quite a long time.

    My son, 23 at the time, said something that I thought was so interesting and insightful for a young person who had never been married. When we were talking about how his father cheated on me for so long and I didn’t listen to my gut instincts, he said “If I even have to ask the question, I’m done. If they’ve given me reason to suspect, something’s not right”.

    Wish I’d been as smart as he is.

    • You are smart, Survived. I think that’s where your lovely son came from. We can’t always detect a good con artist or an expert liar. We don’t take our commitments lightly; many of us would go to any lengths to keep our families intact. Like Bernie Madoff’s victims, we thought we were choosing wisely and making a good investment. We unhook when we unhook, and not a moment before.

    • Same here, didn’t know I was married to a narc sociopath until 22 years in when he discarded me for his married howorker and walked out on our 2 elementary school age kids. The devaluation started about 18 months prior and included trucking me into buying a 2nd home near his out of town job location. Whatever, at least our divorce is now final and his married mistress still hasn’t filed for divorce. I’m guessing he’ll grow tired of her and he’ll be on to his next victim.

  • Traci I love your comical people and the thong gonch on his head!????????????????????

  • There are few things more valuable to a person’s well-being than knowing this: “You don’t feel safe in this relationship. And that alone is a reason to end it.” If I had been raised by healthy people who modeled this for me, my entire life would have been so different. I am thankful that I (eventually) learned it through completing relevant classes, reading extensively, and going through high quality therapy, but, my god, I grieve the years I lost.

  • Add to shady things – disrespect, escalating emotional abuse (spackling because it was not physical abuse plus fear and sunk costs), love bomb, hopium, (spackling because not physical evidence just smoke (more came to light later). Remember those shady things are like the tip of the iceberg.
    Yeech – glad to be out now. Straw that broke the camels back? contradicting lies re ‘flirtations’ and growing stronger, and observing others mutually respectful relationships.

  • Chump Lady, you are so so funny. I wish you lived in Australia and we could be friends. Thank you for yet another laugh of the day ????

  • If you have to ask / 3 answers – YES , do you feel safe, and is the trust gone ? TRUST YOUR GUT !!

  • As my private investigator told me:
    “If you’ve got a strong enough feeling to call a private investigator…. 95% of the time that feeling is right.”

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