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Love, The All-Purpose Spackle

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spackle_free_zoneAnyone else notice this phenomenon? On infidelity forums, you’ll read a thread describing a thousand horrors and humiliations and invariably it ends — “but I love him.”

But I love him.

King’s X.

“But I love him” (or her) means I can’t leave. As long as I feel love for this person, it cancels out any horrible behavior on their part. “Love” is the way chumps give themselves permission to stay immobilized.

And who can fault you for love? It’s so virtuous. Especially unconditional love. Isn’t that the gold standard? It’s what we promise children, it’s what’s lacking in every fucked up FOO issue. Poor thing, they didn’t get unconditional love.

When a chump says I cannot act in my own self interest because I love this person, I think several other things are going on. It could mean “I can’t imagine starting my life over.” Or “I miss the person I thought they were.” Or “I don’t want anyone to think I’m a failure, so I’m going to fashion myself as a crusader for Love Against All Odds.”

And I also think there is some real confusion going on about love.

Of course we love our partners. Most people leave these relationships while still retaining love. Maybe they carry some of that love with them for the rest of their lives. It’s not like you wake up one day with a searing, moral clarity about this person that makes it so easy to leave them. No, you love and you leave in spite of.

Grown up love comes with conditions. You don’t get to abuse me. You may not endanger me. You may well love, but  that doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for removing yourself, or your children from harm.

When you take marriage vows, you make promises to behave a certain way — cherish, honor, provide, be faithful. It’s not a vow to accept whatthefuckever. Yes, in sickness and in health. But  sickness and health are seen to be quite outside our providence. No one asks for cancer. But what if you’re poisoning your own well? What if your cheater breaks the contract? Are we obligated to stay beholden to the terms of a broken contract?

You know who also stays stuck because they “love” the cheater? The affair partner. Isn’t that what they tell themselves? It doesn’t matter who I hurt — because I “love” this person it’s all okay. King’s X.

Healthy love doesn’t require accepting humiliation and abuse. Healthy love is reciprocal — it’s not toxically lopsided. More kibbles for me! None for you! Healthy love doesn’t demand the “pick me” dance. Healthy love doesn’t lie and obfuscate.

Some “love” is not good for us, and it’s not really love at all. Pedophiles “love” children. The addict “loves” their fix. When deciding to leave a cheater, chumps can borrow the language from addiction recovery — detach with love.

DETACH with love. But detach. Love, but do it from a distance. Love yourself more than to tolerate abuse and disrespect. Chumps hate to read “love yourself more.” Oh God, I don’t want to be the narcissist. I cannot be accused of selfishness!

You know what’s narcissistic? Thinking you can fix this. Thinking your love alone — your patience, your fortitude in the face of punishment — can change your cheater’s behavior. It’s just the opposite really. Your tolerance of that behavior reinforces to the cheater that they may treat you this way. You’re still there. Unconditionally. Taking it every day.

The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your cheater — is to leave. By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined.

And if it doesn’t matter? They never loved you. Not enough anyway.

This one ran. Thought it might be a good pep talk to revive.

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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.
  • Leaving the asshole, filing first, walking away and not looking back has given me amazing clarity of thought. Now I see that I was an “appliance”. He never loved me. My deepest shame is staying with a man who did not love me.

    Now it is my job to figure out why I accepted his abuse. Hello “raised in a nest of narcissists”. Adultery is abuse. Adultery has nothing to do with love.

    • Hey, thirtythreeyearsachump! I can relate, and I can raise you two years because I am thirtyfiveyearsachump. Oy!

      It’s been 6 months since D-day. Yes to the “appliance” metaphor. I was an old stove. He replaced me with a new model. I suspect she’ll get discarded one day, or she might discard him. I have a feeling it’s crazytown in the house these two cheaters now share. Well, honestly, I hope it’s crazytown and that they are both miserable. I’m not at meh yet.

      Yes! Adultery is abuse. These people are narcissists who are incapable of love. Recognizing that he probably never loved me, despite his protestations to the contrary, is a tough pill to swallow.

      I, too, wonder why I accepted the abuse for so long. I do think I was the frog in the water. It was only little things early on, little “red flags” that I ignored. Looking back, now that I have the clarity of distance, I see that those red flags weren’t so little. I made molehills out of mountains. I didn’t even recognize that I was being abused.

      And I feel guilty that my kids were exposed to his emotional abuse, too. I often said to them as they were growing up, “He means well.” That’s got to be a spackle classic. What the hell was I thinking?

      In some ways, although I like to think of myself as a feminist, I was a mother of three who relied on him for his paycheck. And he was a military doc so we were far from family supports. Oh, and his two brothers committed suicide, which made walking on eggshells even more necessary (or so I thought).

      If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I spackled because the alternative–my living alone and raising three kids–terrified me. Kudos to those who get out sooner! And if you’re a younger person out there reading this, take note. Don’t wait 35 years.

      • Dear 33 & 35…yes to everything you both said although I use the metaphor of a toilet…you need a toilet but you dont treasure your toilet.

        I was afraid to raise my kids alone because my parents are worse than him…as shitty as he was , I managed to fine moments of solace in my life…if I had moved me and kids in with my parents, the solace would have been ZERO. I was a bedside nurse and all nurses start jobs as night shift and I couldnt figure out how I could leave him, move and work without severely endangering my kids.

        What I didnt admit to myself was that staying endangered my kids. Cheater rage-drove in ways that were terribly dangerous.

        He also did insist (when confronted about bad behavior) that he loved me but my gut screamed at me. After he died, I found a document he wrote up for an anger management exercise where he wrote “I never loved my wife” …well there you go.

      • Wow, 4 years out and I’m still learning about myself and my own marriage. Married 42, together. 46 years. My choices were a housing project, my dangerous family or him. I honestly believed I was protecting them. I was spackling. I’m resourceful as hell and a very hard worker. I am positive I could have managed to survive until I could thrive. I too did the classic taking care of his feeling, frailty and FOO issues. I was working soo hard to keep it all going I was blind to the fact it all need to die. I was surprised to realize how controlling I was. It’s not my job to control anyone’s emotions but my own. If you see yourselves here. RUN. Your house is on fire. Don’t waste your lives on a narcissist.

      • Spinach@35, you beautiful thing. Thank you for sharing your story. The frog in the water metaphor was perfect. Man! That expresses what happened to me. And the making molehills out of mountains? I tried to convince myself that I was being kind and open minded and non-judgmental, but I was spackling so hard!! Thanks again for your story. I wish you joy.

      • SPINACH@35, 33YEARS, etc

        Yeah I was married 35 years to the DOCTOR and I’m mad that I still miss what I thought we had. It still hurts me deeply to know I loved him the whole time we were married but evidently, I matter not to him.

        I’m 3 years out and I know he’s bad news for ME = but just thinking that he might be happier without me HURTS. He’s also abandoned our 3 adult children.

        I fear I will never understand his choices and that failure to understand is a hurdle for me.

        I must learn to accept that I will NEVER understand his choices….and that’s just a eal stumbling block for me.

        How do i get there?

        • You don’t understand his choices because you’re not like him. You don’t have the capacity to hurt people deeply like he did, or use people like he did. Never being able to understand his choices is a positive thing, because you’re not built broken, like he is.

          All you need to know is that he was a terrible partner, and that should be enough to let you know that he’s not worthy of the time and thoughts that go into him. Forgive yourself for loving a fuckwit, but know that you did the best you could, and he never returned your love (and he isn’t capable of it – not then, not now, and certainly not for his future appliances).

          Big hugs!

      • Spinach35 and thirtythreeyears both of you say so many of the same things I feel. I’ve been married 33 years and am 3 months out from Dday. I discovered pornographic messages from my best friend/cousin that led me to discovering that they had been having a 22 year affair on top of the fact that he had been having random sex with prostitutes and random women he would pick up in his travels for 27 years. USNavy Retired and government emp. It’s probably worse but that’s the info I got in about a month of therapy with him. I was really going to try to make this work (spackle, spackle, spackle) because “I LOVE HIM!” When he reverted to his gaslighting self of “I know I was wrong but well you know you have to accept your part of the blame too…” I totally lost my shit and left. Before that, I was so chill, you could have frozen an ice cube on my ass-no drama. It was, “just tell me the truth and we will work this out.” What a CHUMP!
        Moved to a different state to stay with my daughter and just contacted a lawyer for legal separation yesterday. I feel like a total dumbass because I believed both of them!!! I lost my husband, best friend and family member in one fell swoop. My life as I know it has been destroyed! I know I put up with his narcissistic shit because of my FOO (narcissism and multiple extramarital affairs) but I truly feel as if I should have known better. I wish I could go radio silent but haven’t been able to do that yet. I’ll get there though. He is in therapy for sex addiction (our therapist dropped him because she felt as if she couldn’t help him) and is actually calling our 2 grown children 1x a week now which he has never done before and keeping contact with his sisters which he never did. Im actually happy about this because no matter if he is a sex addicted fuck nugget they don’t deserve to be penalized and they may not like what he did but they still love him.
        I’m in therapy and reading CLs book is what prompted me to call an attorney. He was actually hurt recently when I told him that I’d never have sex with him again – that it would be a hard pass on my part. He had visions of him working his program and me waiting on him. You know, so faithful, so reliable-that’s me. He is going to be beyond pissed that I’ve gotten an attorney. I’m still really hurt and angry about a lot of things but I am not confused about the fact that I will never go back to him!

    • I think I accepted the abuse because I believed I should stay married no matter what and because I believed the lies he was telling me that I deserved the abuse for whatever that day’s reason was.

  • This reminder came in perfect time this morning, thank you! “Love from a distance“ And live just “isn’t enough now”, are things Ive recently said to the husband. It hurt but felt good inside. My whole body hurts but I’ll get there. Keep writing!

    • “My whole body hurts but I’ll get there.” I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone, but I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone… Struggling to just get up and move around without feeling numb and dumbfounded.

  • What if…. I leave. He gets help. He gets better. And then someone else gets the relationship that was meant for me?

    I know. Spackle, spackle.

    But these are the things that cross my mind.

    My ex husband of 11 years and 4 kids cheated on me for years. Been divorced a year, he says he got help. He is in a new relationship where everything seems sunshine and rainbows. How can I not be jealous when someone else has the life I wanted? It is especially hard when I am struggling in life while he bounds along happily. I feel like I need a bitchslap of reality.

    • He says he “got help”. Translation; a few sessions with an ill-qualified “relationship coach” who told him it was his right to do whatever he needs to do to be happy and made no judgements upon him for fucking you over.
      That’s why he’s skipping happily. His narcissistic delusions were confirmed by an “expert”. If he had competent and sufficient help, he would understand the enormity if what he has done and he’d be remorseful, not smug and self-satisfied.
      He’s not going to change. She isn’t getting reformed guy.

    • I agree with ChumpUp – my comment was supposed to reply to your post Quenn but has ended up below!

    • Here’s your bitchslap of reality.

      It may SEEM as if his life is all sunshine and rainbows. This is the image he projects. But you can rest assured that seeming and reality are poles apart. Repeat the mantra: Trust that he sucks. Switch that phrase out for: They don’t change. If you need help believing them, look at all the examples of his behavior that prove this. You have no idea what he’s doing inside that new relationship, but you can rest assured that the qualities that enabled him to lie to you, to deceive you, to betray you, are still part of him, and they are still operating in that new relationship, even if they have been dampened during the honeymoon phase. You also don’t know what the OW is willing to put up with, or what price she may be extracting from him now that she’s “won” the pick-me dance.

      About the idea the “someone else gets the relationship meant for me.” One: we don’t “get” relationships, idealized ones, even, as gifts from the universe. We create them from our actions and our hard work. There is no Prince Charming (or Princess Beautiful), whose outward appearance and manners bespeak a comparable inner moral compass, who simply by appearing whisks us off to the magical world of happily ever after. (In your less vulnerable and more lucid moments you know this.) Two: your cheater has proven by his actions that he is incapable of what it takes to build, manage, and keep a healthy and loving relationship. He lied to you. He deceived you. He betrayed you. He did this over and over and over. He cheated on you for years, all the while you were making the most fundamental commitment to him of having children with him. He showed via his actions that he was willing to do these things to you for his own pleasure even as you provided evidence of your own commitment and love. If this is the kind of relationship that you “were meant” to have, be grateful you didn’t get it and are well out of it!

      • Exactly. Plus, even if the person was a rare cheater who did get many years of intensive therapy and engaged in character building acts like volunteering, and through all that became less selfish and dishonest, we were still irreparably hurt. Why would we forgive? So who cares if some other partner might eventually get an improved version of the cheater. The fuckwit has poisoned the well with us so it matters not a whit who they might possibly become. We won’t be there to see it.

        My cheater, for example, dumped the OW right after dday, admits he did a terrible wrong, and insists he is on the path of change. Even if he succeeds some day (which I doubt), he’ll always be the guy who broke my heart and destroyed my mental health. So good luck to him with that. Oh, and he can go to hell. That too.

        • Very valid points. And I’d like to believe there’s a special (extra hot, Lol) place in hell for cheaters.

    • Let’s say you two are “equal” with emotions and love. One the same level, so to speak.

      And if you both equally know “love”.. he should—in theory be in equal amount of pain, in some way.

      So.., now imagine starting a real relationship with your current state of emotions. It’s possible, sure, but I would argue he’s not that loving.

      He’s shallow. If he’s fixed this fast, he’s a kiddie pool to your Olympic dive pool.

      You don’t measure the same. Go find another Olympic dive pool partner when you’re ready.

      Besides, it doesn’t matter; stop untangling and keep going forward.

      • yes, I definitely need to stop thinking about the past and trying to figure out why it all happened. Like you say, it really doesn’t matter anymore anyway.

        • What IS important is working on you and understanding why you put up with his abuse. Hint…it’s more than likely due to your childhood. Untangle YOUR skein, don’t bother untangling his.

          • What Sisu says. I’m working on why this was acceptable to me, and why I put up with it. My ex is a POS dirtbag. He really is, by any standards. And I kept hoping he’d change. Hoping he’d get better. Spackling spackling spackling. Thinking I love him. He’s ROTTEN to the core. He might love the OW, but I think he loves drugs more. He just got out of jail. After 6 weeks clean of the drugs, his first thing was to go to a motel with the skank, which WILL involve drugs. She is getting the worst of him. They don’t have a happier shinier life. Homeless, lying, cheating unemployed and thieving addicts whose only thought for the day is the hustle involved in getting enough money to get high. Getting money by any means. So this entire blog today is really awesome for me to read today. Erase the “but I love him.” Our divorce was final while he was in jail. He can’t see or talk to or have the kids. No contact and intensive work on my own personal growth is necessary.

      • This definitely hit home. If it was equal love he would not possibly be able to move on to a loving relationship so fast. My STBXH told me that today that he had several women he was juggling and now he is only going to focus on the one he impregnated because I am the one pushing forward with the divorce instead of keeping things convenient for him when he needs a wife appliance. Imagine. This after a decade together. I nearly died inside of pain but I will not show him. The superwoman in me is putting on big girl panties and knowing that the only direction forward is one without him. What a shallow lowlife.

        • So.., Imagine you’re out dating and this “winner” drops that lovely thought off in the middle of a dinner.

          You’d be like:: “NOOOPE” and gone b/f dessert.

          what a gift he gave you.

        • Chumpedout, “If it we’re equal love he couldn’t possibly be able to move on so fast.”
          He also wouldn’t have been so horribly cruel and callous.
          I wonder how many years he despised me while telling me he was my best friend.
          Scary to have been married for 20 years and I never knew who he was.

        • Chumpedout, “If it we’re equal love he couldn’t possibly be able to move on so fast.”
          He also wouldn’t have been so horribly cruel and callous.
          I wonder how many years he despised me while telling me he was my best friend.
          Scary to have been married for 20 years and I never knew who he was.

    • It’s hard not to spackle, but it’s a habit you can break.

      Please remember that you are mighty and real. His rainbows and happy “best life” are an optical illusion. built on sand. He hasn’t and won’t change. He’s still himself, their relationship is founded on lies, and they deserve each other.

      The first steps are hard, and you might falter and stumble, but keep walking purposefully away. Remember your walk is powered by people power -Chump Nation is cheering you on.

    • SQ……for YEARS! What really changed is he traded DOWN! My, my, she’s getting everything you wanted? She got a cheater. Period.

      He’s changed = the grass wasn’t greener.
      Look at the scorched earth. That’s what keeps you safe, not a cheater.

      • Thank you for this. I’d like to think he traded down. But his new partner seems pretty great. Mich like myself, actually.

        But to your point. He took all we had and burned it to the ground. Then danced in the ashes.

    • SpackleQueen— credentialed therapists report that it is very rare and takes years of effort for narcissists/psychopaths to change their personality traits even a little. No way your X has changed enough to be a good partner. It’s all a con job on the new woman. Poor thing. You broke free… you’re the lucky one.

    • The key words are “he says he got help.”

      Short of a character transplant, he’s the same con man, now trying to con you into thinking he’s changed.

      No he hasn’t!! Don’t buy whatever he’s selling. It’s bullshit.

    • I worried/wondered about this too. “He’s going to be wonderful for her!” Whether he is or isn’t, he wasn’t for me. And he would have continued to be a dick to me. So I went out and got a life. And though he may be the most wonderful man in the world now, I’m so much better off. I’m at peace. Getting rid of the dick was the most wonderful thing that I did for me.

    • I’m sorry you’re having those real true thoughts and feelings about you ex. I get it. I had those for a couple of years prior to leaving. Those horrible “what if’s” He was out living as if he were single and I thought eventually he would think of his family, that turned into what is someone else is experiencing all the great parts that I taught were meant for their spouse that turned into what if I leave and someone else benefits from all the kind things I projected on him hoping it was real for him. Basically trying to teach him to adult and be a decent human.
      I’m no contact but can grantee he his the same person. I don’t want to be a teacher, marriage police, chaos janitor, a 2d figure to abuse, or mother to a husband. Thankfully, I processed who he is before I left. He may appear to be different with someone within a new relationship but it’s only a matter of time before the disorders rear their head. He’ll play with whatever will tolerate him.
      I got a crazy anonymous text about a year after I left saying they would give my attorney important info. Telling me he had been abusing her until she finally got a phone to call the police. He’s shown you who he is and you’ve shown him you won’t take the abuse. I’d stay away even if they became the Pope. Simply because I think years of conditioned patterns of abuse may be easy to fall back into over time because most of us long timers were conditioned. If you took the abuse years the first go round, how long can I get away with a second round is the thought.
      There goes living your true life.

    • SpackleQueen your ex has not changed. He’s the same jerk he was when he was married to you.
      First of all I am not knocking therapy, it can really help in certain areas, but I have yet to witness a complete transformation of a selfish, angry, disordered person. I’m of the belief that victims tend to benefit more from therapy than say perpetrators. I think it is easier to help a victim become stronger & happier than help an abuser to overcome being angry, selfish & unhappy. I’m sure there are some success stories but I think they are extremely rare.

    • They are phony masters of image control. You are only seeing the false front. We should know usually we participated in putting up the false front with spackle. Think of all crap you helped hide once that the average person had no idea about. I would think the Spackle Queen can spot spackle.

    • As Tracy says, “they don’t automatically get a personality transplant once the move in with someone new”

    • Spacklequeen I bet everyone thought your relationship looked good from the outside too. These people don’t change, and their new partners are just as good at spackling as we were, if not better. The cracks will be there, and they’ll be visible in time

    • I sometimes think AND say this to my husband. “That’s awesome, now someone can have the good version” of you. Then I think, even IF he never cheated again on anyone, he’s still a liar as needed. Normally hides things or tells half truths to avoid a “fight”. He doesn’t like me “yelling” or calling him an A-hole. So he just stopped telling me everything. Well, WHY are you with me I say??? You’re the most beautiful kind person I’ve ever met… totally confusing and contradictory, that is. He told me I am the only person he’s ever cheated on. Well I feel great that you waited to find someone you wanted “forever” To test the waters on! So I don’t think anyone’s getting anything better in fact it may be less. Nonetheless I think it’s a common or normal concern. Just adds to the pain. Maybe try thinking more like: it’s none of my damn business what you do or who gets what after we’re done.

  • I definitely needed this reminder to love myself more. I’m almost 3 years divorced, and I’ve gotten to a great point in my life. I realize I tolerated a lot of emotional abuse because “I loved him”. It was hard for me to do any self-care. I didn’t even realize how mentally refreshing a long bubble bath with candles and wine could be.
    I have a nice man in my life who encourages me. He’s a chump too. It helps that he understands and is patient.
    Thanks Chump Lady. Thanks Chump Nation. I do love myself more now thanks to you all.

  • SpackleQueen, read what you yourself just wrote. It’s a new relationship and he’s all sunshine and rainbows. Just like when YOU two first met. What kind of ‘help’ did he get? Is there a kind of help that can transform someone who lied, betrayed, devalued, schemed and deceived you for YEARS? I don’t believe there is, or not one that works after just one year.
    Crucially, SpackleQueen, he says he got help and is all better, but he has not COME BACK TO YOU. I imagine his ‘help’ just assisted him to justify his dishinesty and guilt. He hasn’t come back – so whatever kind of man he is now, he still doesn’t value your faithfulness and loyalty. Please, please stop paying any attention to this guy, for whom you are just a convenience and an afterthought.

    • He says he got help, but if he really had learned anything, his action would have been to apologize for his actions. “I’m sorry for what I did to you and to our children” (accompanied by actions like making sure to provide ample financial support for the children). Anyone who had really changed would know that throwing the “change” in the face of the betrayed spouse is not the action of a changed person.

      • The strange thing is, the new person (who is actually a man…. but thats a whole other ball of wax…) is like a male version of myself. Same interests, skills, mannerisms.

        It’s just a mind twist for me. I feel replaced, just with someone that has a penis.

        • It’s a mindfuck particular to that situation My ex decided after 32 years of marriage that he was “really” a woman, and wanted to play act women in bed–it was like being replaced, but my ex was both the man and the woman! He was interested in sex with me only to the degree that he could use my sexual response as a model for his play acting, and only to the degree I’d have sex with “her.” (He cheated with an actual person, too.)

          • Oh wow. That is super tough. To me it felt like a double betrayal in ways. Infidelity AND the change in sexuality. A double dupe. I’m so sorry for your pain. I get it.

        • It’s called mirroring. ‘I love all the same things you love! We have so much in common! We’re a perfect match!’ Soul mates, twin flames, et bloody cetera.

        • That the new person is a man and you’re not speaks to a whole different kind of scenario. Your ex is still a fuckwit. A person with a strong moral character would have come out to you and told you that he is gay, not fuck around on you.

          • You are correct. But in my opinion, it makes his cheating no more justifiable, nor does it make me feel any better about what happened.

            • It’s my opinion disordered people aren’t that discerning when it comes to an orgasm. They’ll have sex with whomever is willing, gender is not relevant. Keep in mind, people are tools and appliances for them; not humans with needs, emotions, genders, likes, dislikes, etc.

              • “It’s my opinion disordered people aren’t that discerning when it comes to an orgasm. They’ll have sex with whomever is willing, gender is not relevant.”

                Psychopaths are notorious for hooking up with either gender, depends on what they need or want at that moment.

  • ” It’s not like you wake up one day with a searing, moral clarity about this person that makes it so easy to leave them. No, you love and you leave in spite of.”
    I went to bed hurt and angry that he had come home yet again smelling of snatch. He had the gall and gross disrespect to kiss me hello as usual when he got home with her stench still on him. I could no longer spackle. I quite literally sat up from sleep, went downstairs, and quietly told him I did not deserve to be treated like that anymore.
    I am so grateful for Chump Lady and CN for the daily wisdom, humor, and reality bitchslaps.

  • I think he would come back if I’d lave him back. But I know it’s not the right thing to do. I know I deserve better.

    But yes, you are right. How could someone who lied, deceived, betrayed, and put my health at risk fore years actually love me? And if he does love me, it’s not a love I want. Right?

    All that said, I do miss *parts* of that life dreadfully. Maybe I just miss what I thought I had.

    • Of course he would come back! He had a great wife appliance and loads and loads of cake!
      His love is a shallow, muddy puddle. And no, you don’t want that.

    • Missing what you thought you had. Yup, I’ve been there. I just remind myself that what I thought I had was completely different than what I actually had. My past is his new victim’s future.

  • Mine told me that he married me because he thought I was the best he was ever going to do.

    No mention of love.

    I did love him though. He was 20 years older and while I loved him I never saw just how old he was…..after I found out about his skank ex gf that he’d carried on with our entire relationship my love was gone, and all of a sudden I could see just how old and pathetic he was.

    I see him from time to time because we don’t live far apart. He just looks like a pathetic old man.

    I would say I hope his skank enjoys her prize, but I don’t think he was ever more then kibbles for her.

    Ironically, when he was involved with her prior to meeting me he never told anyone about her. When he met me he paraded me around.

    He blew up his marriage over trash he didn’t even want anyone to know about. Of course he didn’t realize he was blowing up his marriage because he didn’t think I’d leave…..

    • Kim it seems like I can relate to you. Before getting married he cheated with his ex who was really skanky and the reason for their demise. Shocker right?? THEN after we got married he says they met up a few times which now turned into TWO. “It was six years ago I did what I did and never looked back. I’m so sorry for hurting you I know what I did was wrong, ok?” Why is it that the OK at the end of his schpeel makes me cringe?? NO not ok! Help.
      Having a really rough time. We’re in separate rooms it’s getting tough with not working much. I feel like I’m getting weak. Divorce papers are printed not filed. It’s been a month since dd#2.

      • Shan, that ‘Ok?’ worries me too, sounds like a passive-aggressive ‘You’re going to have to be ok with it’ and it’s minimising. get those papers filed. A month is a really long time to be together apart like that. get them filed before this becomes your new normal. At the moment i imagine you ARE ok with it and he’s got away with it. Good luck!

  • Dear MIL,
    You know what’s narcissistic? Thinking you can fix this. Thinking your love alone — your patience, your fortitude in the face of punishment — can change your son’s behavior. It’s just the opposite really. Your tolerance of that behavior reinforces to your cheating son hat they may treat you and their other “loved ones” this way. You’re still there. Unconditionally. Taking it every day.

    The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your son— is to detach. By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined…..and she did it for her own EX who modeled this lovely behavior for this children. She never realized she was a chump until her own son did the same thing. Think shes still in denial. Ugh.

  • Thanks to the RIC, I had taught myself to say frequently, “I love him and I’m happy.” One of my breakthroughs was realizing how miserable I felt when I said that. I started changing it when it came through my mind. “I don’t trust him and I’m not happy.” “I love him and I don’t want to live with him.” “I thought I loved who I thought he was, but I was miserable.” And so on. Every time the conditioned lie floated by on my stream of consciousness, I zapped it with reality. It really helped me get unstuck and ready to leave.

  • There’s love.

    Then there’s trauma bonding.

    Then there’s fear of being alone, poor, and/or single parenting.

    Then there’s fear of what your sister / Mom / snooty neighbour / dem bitches at book club will say.

    Then there’s fear of Hurting The Children.

    Seems to me there’s an awful lot of fear being called ‘love’.

    • There IS a ton of fear. They say there’s nothing to fear but fear itself… I don’t even know what that means right now. Some days are better than others. I’m in a fog currently. Painful weakening fog. Thinking about:
      Family get togethers, holidays, taking care of this house by myself, potentially selling it, by myself. What if the car breaks down, not being there for my step daughter (who needs more than my services at this point) fear of making a mistake by not believing that “he knows what he’s done and the pain he caused and it won’t happen again”
      I need to dig myself out of the rubble and make some decisions

      • I think a better motto is ‘Fear is a liar’. Yes it’s monumentally hard to separate your finances, social life, heart from a cheating ex. But it is so worth it to avoid the misery of marriage policing for years. Shan, he knows what he’s done but he may not know the pain he’s caused because he’s disordered, but he may also know the pain he’s caused, and he doesn’t care. And it will probably happen again, unicorns are not real. Please please read the archives here on unicorns, naugahyde remorse etc. 99% of your fellow chumps here will say it’s not worth you hanging on. I am sorry <3

        • Fear IS a liar thank you♥️ I’ve read so much today. This truly is a great site with real people in real situations. He doesn’t fully understand because I was good in the trust Dept. He even said he’s always felt safe. Well I do not. He wants to “make me feel safe now”. Can’t “unknow” that after our wedding, it still wasn’t enough to keep him from doing it. Just like I can’t unknow the past six years of our life I’ve been living struggling with his occasional white lies trying to sort through the strength of this whole union and if it was worth it. Then this
          Do you know I pulled away subconsciously about 6 months ago when I found he went behind my back to my brother with private info, I wasn’t ready to tell and since then he’s blamed me for him not feeling wanted and not getting the attention he wants
          Its exhausting
          I realize I need to take action

          • That realization is Mighty! If you want day to day help from old Chump Nation hands apply to join our private subreddit r/ChumpLadyNation , use the username you’re using here so the mods know who you are, I can tell them you may be applyng. Best wishes Shan!

  • I know I’m writing a lot today, but this one really hit me. The two ideas here, about love and about thinking you can fix things, were factors in why I stayed, and Chump Lady’s dose of reality helped make it possible for me to leave–and to go into the future with a far healthier understanding of the world and of myself.

    The romantic ideal of “love above all” and “all for love” and “love makes everything worth it” is so pervasive in our culture and has done so much damage. Hitching one’s wagon to that star lets one in for a world of hurt. Instead of bewailing but justifying one’s mistreatment and pain with “But I love him/her!” it’s far more salutary to examine one’s ideas about love, and to see how the way one thinks about love determines what we are willing to put up with. Once we’ve done that, we can see why we’ve done that–all those reasons that “but I love him” allows us not to act (and I’d include in CLs list “fear: fear that we are not enough or can’t make it on our own”).

    I was raised on the notion that I could by my actions “fix things.” Fixing things was my role in my FOO. In fact, I was once told by my mother that I could stop my father, who was out in the haybarn with a gun, threatening to kill himself, if only I’d go and ask him to put the gun down because he loved me enough to put the gun down. No wonder I stayed with my now-ex for years, thinking that by my actions I could fix his problems–his many, many problems. No wonder I stayed with my now-ex for years, thinking he would see, finally, that he “loved me enough” to stop his disordered behavior. No wonder I thought not that he didn’t love me enough, but that I must not be doing enough, or that I was unlovable. One of the most liberating moments in my life came when I realized that I could not fix my ex, I could not control the outcome, and that I was not obligated to or responsible for either. I wasn’t in control and could not be control, because the problem was not mine to fix, it was his and him. Finally understanding and incorporating this knowledge was the first step to establishing healthy boundaries.

    • Sometimes I think that me leaving may have taught him a lesson to appreciate, to be faithful, to be loving. Maybe things would be different because now he knows a life without me.

      Then I snap my chump self back to reality and realize it was all just smoke and mirrors.

      • Sadly, it’s far more likely that he thought, “I got caught, and now I know how to hide my dysfunction better next time.” All that shininess is just for show. I just remember the times his response to me was not, “I was wrong,” but “How did you find out?”

    • You are so right…the “all for love” idea has hurt so many people, including me.

      I was also taught by my FOO to take responsibility for things that I was most certainly NOT responsible for. This grates me right now because Im making HUGE sacrifices to move my parents out of their house and doing all the work because mom drank herself into dementia and cant do it herself…but this task is finite.

      I did love my cheater so much and I hope that in some supernatural way, God will mindmeld him during his time in Purgatory how much I loved him and how bad he hurt me.

      We had a very old-fashioned marriage where he held a great deal of decisional power which I chose to allow him (from whatever degree of power may have rightly been mine) because I trusted him to consider me and the kids when he made decisions. I allotted that power before I realized he was terrible at decisions and was very selfish.

      In Wreckonsillyation, I took back much of my power and he hated it and railed at me. I would calmly tell him his actions caused the change.

  • I adored my husband absolutely adored him . I thought he adored me too but to him love is just a word

    I never knew what red flags were but now I do I can look back on my 19 years with him and realise it was all one big con on his side . He used me from day 1 . I sparkled so hard if I could just do this for him and buy him this then he’d love me

    I never thought it possible that the man I loved and who loved me could abandon me without a word or a look back .

    I love me more though and with months of therapy I can now say that . He’s not the man he protests he is but I am the woman I say I am

    • Karen,
      I have been reading your comments all year and I can really see how far you have come. You may not think you are at Meh yet but it must be very close.

      My journey is about 1.5 years ahead of yours and I clearly remember the heartbreak of my first year.

      I just want to say that you should celebrate because I see that you have cleared the hardest hurdles.

      Best Wishes!

    • Yesterday you wondered if your spouse could really change, since he married the OW shortly after your divorce. The speed of the marriage may have been her immediate pregnancy? There was also a big age difference between the OW and your ex. He claimed he had changed.

      He just changed his address, not his character. He changed his wife appliance, he moved to a younger version who did not know the history you know from a long term marriage. She knew he was married, she knew he was much older than she was. She got pregnant right away to seal the deal.

      Neither of these two are making good decisions. In my opinion, neither are likely to change. They live in the moment, and they both search for the cake that tastes good now. Who knows what will taste good later?

      In the meantime, you are recovering from living with an illusion. He was never the man you thought he was, he has not changed into that man now. I am sure you had some good times as well as some bad times in 19 years, and you cannot change the past. Just don’t try to live in the past, and don’t speculate about his future. Concentrate on your future, and your development. Chances are you will soon be grateful you are living an authentic life without an illusion. Who really cares what he will be doing? He will probably be on to the next bad decision, but it doesn’t matter. You will be in a better place.

    • karenb6702….these cheaters/narcs are bottomless pits. It is fascinating (to me) how we will keep on trying to fill the bottomless pit. Your ex is not a changed man and the woman he is now with will find that out soon enough or she’ll keep trying to fill the pit too, but to no avail. I feel sorry for the baby.

  • My ex-wife left me 4 years ago for the attorney she works for. They had a two year affair before the attorney’s wife caught them. I was completely blindsided and devastated. The affair was also very humiliating for me. I was literally and proverbially the last person to know and that hurt in so many different ways. We were married for 17 years and have 3 young children. I loved my exw very much and I pick-me danced for about a month after the affair broke. It was so difficult to fathom how someone I was married to, loved, had children with for 17 years turned evil, hateful, and horrid in just one day. I pick me danced for about a month, but one day something in me just snapped. (This may be a silly analogy, but have you ever seen the cartoon “Lambert the Sheepish Lion?” I was Lambert for a little while. Sad, lost, helpless, confused, and completely cowardly. Then something in me just snapped and I realized I was a champion!) I detached, went no contact, began to rebuild my life, love and take care of my children like I never had, wrote a book, focused on my work, focused on my healing. The hardest thing to realize and to fathom is that the person you married, the person you thought they were, really isn’t them at all…and never was. After going no contact I never looked back. It’s been almost 5 years. It was hard at first, but grew easier and easier and easier with each passing month. In the beginning I longed for a text from her. Now, when my phone dings and it’s my exw I just feel blah. Nothing. Being cheated on and left was by far the hardest, most devastating thing I have ever been through and I’ve been through some horrific things!! My advice is that Tuesday WILL come!!! The sooner you detach and begin healing and working on YOU, the sooner you will wake up and be there. The odd thing is (and I’ve read it here a lot) is that once you fully heal and move on, your life will become more amazing than it has ever been. You will be happier and more content than you have ever been. Think of Andy Dufresne in the move “Shawshank Redemption.” In order to escape the prison and hell of being cheated on and getting to the other side, you need to crawl through that 500 yards of “shit-smelling foulness I can’t even imagine” as Morgan Freeman said. But when you get out the other side you will look up to the sky as the cleansing rain pours down on you! You are free!!! Free forever! And in the best of ways your life will never be the same.

  • “A vow to accept whatthefuckever”. Love that. That seems to be the vow that I took and stayed for 36 years.

  • What i am getting out of todays letter is continuing to think about and “untangle the skein” leaves me stuck in that marriage. Fuckwit did not do anything to me, he made shitty choices that resulted in our family breaking up and our marriage ending in divorce. even though in my angry moments i still silently wish harm on him, those moments keep me “involved” with him. I am not the same person who was in that marriage. being in recovery from betrayal and divorce has changed me. I cant say I am happier what I can say is I am freer. My whole focus was on my husband and my family. Now I am learning to focus on me and it is not easy. Learning to live with myself and make myself happy is a journey. I grew up learning to take care of everyone else first. The anger that rises in me now is often at myself for letting others take advantage of my generosity. Learning to balance my generosity with being a doormat or using generosity to control others is a daily exercise in becoming my best self. Hugs to all!

  • Hi All,

    I am struggling with a similar theme. My EX had been an alcoholic and has since dried up for the past three weeks and is sounding like she has finally started on recovery path after MANY years. She has had another man appear during a time we were living apart, and apparently being exclusive. It is likely the original affair partner. I too had the, wow, she is getting to be her best self and I wasn’t able to be the man I needed to be. So depressing

    • 3 weeks is a very short time in a long journey. Now is your chance to look after you and what sort of people and activities you’d like to spend your time on.

    • woodland lost –

      Are you 100% sure she hasn’t had a drink in 3 weeks?

      Are you 100% sure she’s (“apparently”) exclusive with new man?

      If you aren’t 100% sure, please don’t believe that either of these things is “true.”

      You are, however, 100% sure that she lied to you (hundreds? thousands of times?) and cheated on you. Don’t gloss over the FACTS, and don’t be so inclined to believe the hype about a supposedly (“apparently”) new and improved version.

    • The failure rate is like 90 something percent for alcoholics staying sober. It’s only been 3 weeks. I would say get out while you can as most partners of sober alcoholics are always on alert for them falling off the wagon. No way to live.

    • If she’s only been sober for 3 weeks, she isn’t sober. I’m in recovery. I’ve got 6.5 years under my belt. Unless she’s working some type of support program, it’s only window dressing and not likely to last.

      My recently now ex was in jail when our divorce was entered. I broke no contact and talked to him over the weekend. He was sorry. He was glad he was clean. Wanted to work a program. Not with the skank anymore. He was going to stay with his mom and work on recovery. Actual story: his mom texts me this morning that he got out last night. Didn’t go to her place, and went to a motel with skank. They gotta want it.

      So, don’t be depressed. She’s not “better” for anyone. Not him. Not you. Not even herself.

  • Did not want OW1 to ‘win’. After DD2 with a different OW when I finally grew braver and left ‘separated’ X got a new partner moved in within a few months and cheated on her within the year, moved in that OW who turned out to be dishonest and broke the law. Who’d have thought? Believe the drama continues

  • I never thought my ex would change for someone else. However, I thought he would change for me. I stayed for 25 years with someone I should have never gotten involved with in the first place. I was simultaneously too proud to admit defeat, and too ashamed to let my family know the extent of the mess I was in. I kept making excuses for his behavior because of his FOO issues. I thought if I modeled faithfulness to him, he would want to be faithful to me. I thought I could cure his addictions if I just loved him more and made his life as easy as possible. Because he didn’t physically abuse me, I thought I had to stay with him. Even though we weren’t married, I felt like I had made a marriage equivalent commitment. To me, this meant till death do us part. I’ll thank my own FOO issues for making me feel ashamed of living with someone and not being married. I thought I had to stay with him to prove that our relationship was just as valid as a legal marriage and not “sinful.”

    EX and OW are both parasites. I think they will find with time that neither of them is a very good kibble dispenser. They’ll have to look elsewhere for more suitable hosts to latch on to and bleed dry.

  • Yah. My STBX is OK. She’ll be even better when the divorce is final, if we can ever get a court date. We’re thisclose to agreeing on a settlement. I love her an an “I remember some fun times in the sack” kind of way, a “why in hell did I marry her?” kind of love.

  • 6 months out from D Day I had my psychic tell me I needed to work on my own narcissism. Not that I was disordered like the ex (full blown NPD ASPD BPD and HPD) but just my narcissism. A year later and I’ve made it. It was totally my own narcissism (codependence by another name, inverted narcissism by another) that was making me bitter, humiliated, having regular debilitating emotional flashbacks and wishing he would just disappear or die. I’m at meh, and I admitted that the love I knew wasn’t love at all, and I’ve never had it, ever. It’s so freeing though. To put me at the centre of my pain instead of him. I had to leave all the infidelity support groups, where toxic cheaters remain centred in poor chumps minds and spirits. It’s a measure of success we all should aim for, not needing those online support groups anymore. The toxic really festers in there. This is the last remaining place I come, because it centres us, makes us ask “what do we want in life” and shoot for it, with healthy ambivalence (snark). Find a new definition of love. Love yourself. It really works.

    • Spot on! Codependence does come with a bit of a self inflicted martyrs narcissism. Chumplady said it. It narcissisic thinking your the one who can fix it.

    • Same as “cross my heart and hope to die”, know that one? Basically, swearing sthing is true

  • People used to ask me “but, do you love her?” My response: “Love doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
    On my end, I could “love” all I wanted, but it wasn’t enough to keep a cheater from doing what cheaters do.

  • This may be my favorite CL column ever.

    “The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your cheater — is to leave. By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined.” And this goes double when the cheater is addicted to any substance. The most loving thing we can do is levy a real consequence for totally unacceptable behavior.

  • Cheateraholic keeps saying “I love you” Finally told him “Don’t love me anymore. 15 years you’ve “loved me” and cheated on me. Don’t
    I dont love him anymore. Been there done that. Still sucks!!

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