Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Do Cheaters All Work from the Same Script?

 

Dear Chump Lady,

After faithfully reading this blog and thinking about all that we have been through I still have questions.

1.) How did all of these cheaters from all over the world basically learn the same script? I read everyone’s posts and I keep hearing the same dialogue that I had with my ex. In some cases, word for word. “I don’t believe you and I are over yet, I just need to do this”, “She is good for me”, “The kids want me to be happy”, “You just aren’t fun anymore”, “I love you, but it’s in a different way now.”

I don’t believe these words are something any parent teaches their child, so how did they all learn their script? Is there a “Narcissist for Dummies” handbook that chumps don’t know about in a secret room at Barnes and Noble?<

2.) What broke in them as children to cause them to be this way? The best that I can figure with mine was both parents were alcoholics (only one admitted and stopped drinking, forever). The father was not a believer in “time out’s” and used spankings, spankings with belts and groundings for punishment. My SIL told me that my ex was always a liar (probably so that he wouldn’t get hit or grounded). Is this the similar scenario in lives of other cheaters or am I just trying to find an excuse?

3.) How as parents can we keep from raising a new crop of narcissistic children? Perhaps it is my newfound perspective, but there seems to be a rise in entitled, non-empathic, self serving, self-promoting, lazy humans. What are we as parents doing wrong and how do we stop it? I don’t want either of my children to end up like my ex-husband or marry someone like him. Perhaps the damage is done, but if there is some magic mommy wand out there I want to use it.

So yes, after almost 30 years of studying this specimen I am still confused. I want to strengthen my picker and not repeat this crap again. And I want to make sure my kids work on theirs so they don’t end up with the same type of person or worse, become that person.

Staying Strong

Dear Staying Strong,

1.) At first dalliance, every cheater is issued a Stupid Shit manual. It’s delivered by turkey vulture, which alights on their bedpost and drops it gently on their pillow. Other Stupid Shit manuals are found under rotten cabbage leaves, and still others can be bought at circuses if you know the right sideshow freak.

This is how lies are born! Cheaters are generally delighted to discover these manuals, because they were wondering how they were going to explain their treachery, but it’s all laid out right there for them. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering — who writes the manual? How do they know who’s cheating?

Hobgoblins. They have headquarters in Waco, Texas, with large printing presses, and an international security apparatus that keeps tabs on the empathy challenged. (Who do you think started Ashley Madison?)

You have a better answer? How else to explain the eerie similarities between every cheater?

Seriously, there’s only so many ways to manipulate someone. (For a catalog of manipulation, check out Dr. Simon’s site.) Convince them to doubt their senses (gaslighting), punish them for truth-telling (rage, abuse), divert them with chaos, insist they take responsibility for their own oppression (blame-shifting).

These dynamics are universal to humankind. And it’s not just cheaters — it’s anyone in any system trying to gain unfair advantage over another. “You don’t deserve voting rights, you’re not ready yet.” The entitled will always seek excuses as to why their entitlement is Right and Proper.

Once you understand cheating as a toxic power dynamic, you understand why all the Stupid Shit Cheaters Say is so universal.

2). No answer. That’s untangling the skein of fuckupedness. Stop!

3). If anyone is handing out “Magic Mommy Wands” I want one to wave over my teenager so he stops using all the towels.

Staying Strong, we can only speculate on what makes people cheaters. If it’s personality disorder, well, there is some evidence that’s genetic. (If you want to read more on that, google “callous unemotional traits hereditary”.) If it’s basic entitlement, yes, I think as parents we can do a lot to not raise a spoiled brat. But consider your own family — don’t you know people raised by the same parents (good or toxic) who raised very different children? If only life came with guarantees!

One of my favorite parenting phrases, along with “Wherever you left it” and “Because I said so”, is “It’s not all about you.” Children constantly need to be reminded of other people’s needs and feelings. It’s Sally’s turn for a ride on the slide! No, the cookies are for SHARING! No, you CANNOT USE EVERY TOWEL IN THE HOUSE AND TAKE HOUR-LONG SHOWERS!

It’s Not All About YOU.

I do think that many cheaters have huge senses of entitlement that were fed as children. You’re a very special child, better than all the other children. They weren’t called out on their selfishness, instead their “superiority” was celebrated and encouraged.

>We do children a disservice when we don’t force them to take responsibility for their actions. Every parent knows how hard it is to not rescue or spackle for our kid. “Well, you failed that class because the teacher was a terrible teacher who couldn’t teach!” Instead of letting them learn from consequences — kid takes the failing grade and the humiliation that goes with it.

Will our children grow up to be cheaters? I sure hope not! But of course, part of that answer is US. It’s not just what we say to children, it’s what we DO, what we model, what we tolerate in our lives that teaches them how the world works. If children grow up in a cheater/chump household, who do you think they’re going to want to be? The powerful, “happy” person who gets all the kibbles and advantages, or the  sad, put upon chump, resentfully eating shit sandwiches to keep the peace?

You want to teach your kids to be mighty? Push the mean kid off the slide if he won’t take turns. Stand up for yourself. Don’t take crap — and your kids won’t either.

That’s my hope anyway.

This column ran previously. And we’re still untangling that skein….

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.
    • Chump Lady, You know exactly why and who is behind all the lies. This is a proof if ever you had one. You don’t just have one, you have millions my dear. Millions WORLD WIDE….all with the same script????? If there was ever a time to talk about the what, who, why, and how? NOW IS IT!!!!

      PS: Take this for what its worth but in 2015, I found you. Ask ye shall receive, seek ye shall find, knock and it shall be open to you-Jesus sent me…..to find you. Ironic isn’t it?

      #WWG1WGA!

  • The greatest gift to me when I was in the middle of the chaos, was reading what other cheaters say. It made me realise it was him. Particularly the phrase: “You don’t listen”, which really meant “You don’t blindly do what I want you to do, have a mind of your own, and challenge me on my lies and entitlement”.

    It is such a relief to find out that there is a script, particularly when it comes to gaslighting. Also, no matter what they have been through, or how their childhood was, they are adults who made a choice. You can go to counselling, take up meditation, exercise, have honest conversations with your partner, or do what they do: lie, cheat, steal, abuse. There is no excuse.

    • For me it was realising that she was using the same playbook against our children as she used against me. If I disagreed with her or said “No” I was immediately accused of being a bully. When my son (then 18) challenged her about the whereabouts of some savings held in his name – but with her as the trustee until he turned 18 – she lit him up and called him a bully for daring to question her.

      Plot spoiler. She had helped herself to the money – because she could.

      Double plot spoiler – I bl**dy well made sure that he got his money back from her once the divorce was finalised.

      • Did she open up lines of credit using his social security number too? I am always thunderstruck by people who do that to their very young family members, or foster children in their care. I want them all charged, found guilty, forced to repay every penny and serving jail time for it too.

        • NSC – we had set a savings account up when he was little and I paid into it every month, with her acting as trustee until he was 18. She helped herself at some point after she left the kids and I. I could have gone down the legal route, but was advised not to by my legal team – for what were pretty sound reasons.

          The key thing is that my son got his money back eventually, and learned first hand that his mother was a liar and a thief.

        • Dong ding ding. I have that kind of mom. In fact I have had to put a lock on my credit because she tries it again every few years. And I wonder why I married a POS.

          • I wonder that too. What deficiency in me allowed me to not see the glaring red flags in our relationship? I journaled daily last summer. My mind took me back to many instances early in our relationship that should have screamed “Get Out!” I was too young to walk out, but what kept me in the marriage when I was 30, 40 or 50?

            I think we need a study of Chump’s family of origin issues. Codependency.

            • My counsellor actually does not subscribe much to “co-dependency” theory. She thinks that it’s become outdated by research on the impact of trauma on the human brain. She also believes that co-dependency theory can often resort to victim-blaming, which is not helpful to healing.

              My first counsellor got me into it. I read Melody Beattie’s books and did the exercises. In Co-Dependent No More, she identifies 11 (or 13) characteristics of co-dependency with a bunch of descriptors. It’s like a survey in which you can check off what you identify in yourself to determine what areas to work on your co-dependence. I checked off a number of examples in only two major areas: care-taking and control (a few random checkmarks in some other areas).

              I went to my current counsellor because she specializes in trauma – somatic therapy. When I insisted to her that I was co-dependent and presented my rationale why, her answer basically was “Good God, what person who is intelligent and talented, who succeeds despite growing up in a dysfunctional family and manages to be kind, isn’t going to be high-functioning and empathetic to others. But, you’ve been led to believe that your “high-functioning” is control, and your empathy for others is a detriment.”

              I still found value for myself in my reading of co-dependency. It brought greater awareness for me to ensure that I receive in my relationship as well and that I allow others to give to me in healthier reciprocal relationships.

              Understanding our own psyche is important. My counsellor has been working with me on something called “mind mapping” which is about rewiring the brain that has been injured by trauma to (i) increase your ability to “read” people more accurately, (ii) heal the trauma in our own mind that impairs your ability to map others, and (iii) train yourself to effectively deal with difficult people in your life. Based on the work of Dr. David Schnarch.

              Attachment theory has also been very enlightening for me.

              • Your counsellor sounds awesome!

                Thank you for the mapping reference. I think you wrote about it once before and I looked it up but didn’t find anything useful.

                I personally like transactional analysis. Have a look at Karpman’s drama triangle (also its opposite, triangle of autonomy). This really helped me to understand boundaries much better. Also healed a lot of my co-dependent behaviour.

    • The greatest gift to me when I was in the middle of the chaos, was reading what other cheaters say. It made me realise it was him. Particularly the phrase: “You don’t listen”, which really meant “You don’t blindly do what I want you to do, have a mind of your own, and challenge me on my lies and entitlement”

      OMG ^This was the go-to line from 2nd cheater pants. Thank you. I never put 2&2 together on this until now.

    • Omg I heard this ALL.THE.TIME 👆🏻👆🏻👆🏻👆🏻👆🏻

      So glad I am no long with that abusive cheater…. 26 years… never too late to leave and gain a life!

      • Same!! I didn’t realize until today that this is a common cheater line. I’m a psychologist and actually questioned my listening skills when exH would say it 😂

        • When he would start in, I would pipe back, “Ooh I heard you. I listened. And I don’t agree with what you fucking said!!

          • Mine turned into a raving know-it-all, (ramped up because of the affair and very good turn in his business) believing conspiracy b/s, boring our mutual friends with his obsession about Gold – Gold I tell ya – only way to go! It embarrassed me. Later, I told him he sounded like a broken record (and later asked myself if that was ‘ why’. lol

            He really went down quickly after that when all became public.

    • Wow, I got the “you never listen” big time. Even the OW that led to first DDAY knew about that weakness of mine…when we had a telephone confrontation she too admonished me for not having listened to the man who lied and lied.
      I guess I didn’t listen..to my own instincts.

      • Another variation on this that I got all the time is ‘you don’t know how to communicate’ ….utter rubbish. Just a ploy to make me endlessly engage in his circular drivel.

    • The line I heard over and over after the divorce was “You’re not co-parenting.” In his special world, co-parenting means he tells me what to do and I do it. No contact helped a lot. His controlling demands were ignored or acknowledged with one word responses.

      • I get that line too. And here’s a few more:

        You’re not helping facilitate visitation.
        You don’t play with a straight bat.
        You’re not acting in good faith.
        You need help with communication.
        You have anger management issues.
        You owe me money.
        You are benefiting more than me.
        This is all your fault.
        We don’t need lawyers.
        You’re just trying to punish me.
        You don’t listen or understand my context.

        Anyone heard those gems before?

        • Almost all of the above. He still projects his failings as a father onto me. I’m glad you notice these gems, because for the longest time I wasn’t sure where the guilt is coming from. You’re smart and observant and self protective!

          • Thanks! I hear his voice in my head all the time. Part of the abuse was trying to distort my belief system so he could keep me off balance. He also said:

            You’re too sensitive
            You’re needy
            You have strange ideas about love
            You have no moral compass

            Fuck that

      • Wowza, i thought I was the only one who got “You’re not co-parenting”. I had to change my phone #, use a new email, and go hard no contact to get away from his BS.

      • Omg just got a big lecture this weekend on how I’m not being cooperative and a good co-parent. Because my sick child was begging me to pick him up from cheaters house and he wouldn’t let me.

  • My former teenager’s room is where all the towels went to die. It was how I knew the kid was home during breaks too. As a married adult, this has changed (I’ve been informed). There is hope on the horizon.

    I realize that your kid has started college, so maybe the towel-stealing and water-hogging will wind down.

    I think Word Press and WaPo share the same gremlins.

    • I had that same problem with all the towels being in my son’s room. I solved it by restricting him to one towel per week, and telling him that just because he had “blessed the towel with the water of his body” that didn’t mean it was dirty. He had hooks on his door for stuff (which he never used anyway) so he finally used them for his weekly towel.

  • Yep. Same playbook. That’s what we all say. But isn’t it also true that we chumps follow the same playbook, too?

    Does anyone else do the following?:

    *perseverate about your STBX or try to diagnose him by googling everything you can get your hands on about adulterers and narcissists (note: For mine, I’ve settled on covert malignant narcissist),

    *feel glib satisfaction when someone (like my lawyer) calls him a “lying scumbug” (so validating!),

    *go to sleep listening to online videos or books on narcissism (Leave a Cheater; Gain a Life, I’m talking about you!)

    *fantasize about the cheater and his AP being absolutely miserable together

    Do we all do similar things? I mean, to some degree I think the mind (or at least mine) needs to go through the process of answering the what-the-hell-just-happened question. And I’ve been doing this obsessively since D-Day, which was 8 months ago. But do we all do this? Is this OUR playbook?

    • I think what you’re doing is “untangling the skein”, which is normal. With me, I never obsessed over whether my ex was a narc. Just because someone is a cheater doesn’t necessarily make them a narc, just a shit human being. I definitely used to fantasize about him and his AP though. I used to love to imagine how she’d feel once he fucks her over. Now, eh, I don’t care.

      Your d-day was only 8 months ago. It’ll take some time for your brain to quiet down, but it will. Meh is peace.

    • I think that, just as there are only so many ways that you can manipulate someone, there are also only so many ways to cope with betrayal/grief. Some are more useful than others, and that’s one reason why therapy is so helpful for Chumps.

      Trying to diagnose your Cheater is another version of untangling the skein of fuckedupness. There are a couple of problems with trying to get that skein all unraveled. For one, it makes the Cheater central. For another, untangling the Cheater’s motives is symptomatic of an underlying desire to Fix Things. If you know what’s wrong, you can fix it! Yay! Unfortunately, though, you can never know what’s going on in someone’s head. You can see only behavior. Their behavior sucks. Their behavior is based on choice. No one forced them to cheat. They made sucky choices. Why? Because they suck.

      It’s natural to want to untangle that skein, but when you catch yourself doing so, remember to Trust that they suck. Internalizing this will help bring you peace.

      It’s also natural to feel some sort of satisfaction when someone else validates that yes, they do suck. I’ll admit that even now, 4 years after moving out of the marital home and 6 years after Dday, I’d probably feel somewhat satisfied if I ran into one of CheaterX’s former lodge brothers who confessed that CheaterX seemed like such a great guy until he started getting weirder and weirder and started losing his temper and boy! No wonder I divorced him! That said, I’d not initiate any conversation about CheaterX. I have no idea of what he’s doing and that’s okay.

      It’s fine going to sleep watching videos or reading books. You need a support system and those kinds of materials (and this blog and the /reddit forums) give you support. A therapist also helps. It’s easy to exhaust family members, but friends and family are great supports, too, but you have to be careful that you don’t make all your interactions with them about your cheater.

      It’s also natural to fantasize about how miserable your cheater will be with their Schmoopie. Part of this is a desire for karmic justice. They made your life miserable. Now it’s their turn. Part of this is a bit of a desire that they See the Light and realize that their Chump was The One after all. Both are natural.

      However, once you’ve achieved your divorce, it’s important for you to go No Contact so that you don’t remain caught up in your fantasies of karmic revenge or longing for your Cheater to realize that you were, in fact, the real thing. Fantasies keep your Cheater central. Part of your healing is to release Cheater from that central part of your life.

      Still, all of this is a process. 8 months out is still pretty early.

      • Thanks. All great points. I guess 8 months out is still not that long. And this damn divorce drags on because my STBX keeps putting up roadblocks and racking up legal fees. Yet another reason to resent him!

        I do trust that he sucks!!!

        Do I want to fix things? I mean, not with him, but maybe my trying to figure things out is a way to control my thoughts about all this so they aren’t free-floating but rather in some sort of manageable cognitive compartment. I don’t know.

        I don’t really care if he thinks I was the real thing. I know I’m better off without him and that he wasn’t the real thing for ME.

        There’s a small part of me that is beginning to feel a tiny bit of compassion for him because he’s such a broken man. He’s lost his entire family–me, of course, but also all three adult children. All four of us have gone no contact with him. They made that decision on their own (not just because he can’t be trusted–an affair for 2 1/2 years proves that–but also because he emotionally abused them for years). It was my children who encouraged me to go no contact as well, which I was able to do after untangling finances and selling homes. I forward any emails from him now to my lawyer.

        • I fall asleep to online videos. For me, untangling the skein was and still is helpful. I now really understand what happened to me. Then came the healing and learning how to keep from repeating my mistakes. Plus, I find BPD and NPD fascinating.

          There’s a scene in the film, Capote, where Truman Capote says of Perry Smith, “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day, he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front.” This is how I feel about BPD/NPD and co-dependent empaths. They’re both (typically) born out of trauma, but one leaves out of the back door and the other goes out the front.

    • Mine’s a covert negligent narcissist. It’s like the criteria were written with him in mind. Thank you Dr Ramani!

    • Spinach@35

      I’m 2 years from divorce, and I only recently learned about the covert narcissist. Listening to their behavior reinforced that it wasn’t me, but THEM. It explained so much about a brutal divorce, as I couldn’t understand that if he was walking away with his “soulmate” why he wasn’t happy. Well………….

      I wish I had known this information during the divorce because I wouldn’t have kept telling myself and others that the last shitty thing he had done (is still doing) would be his last. No—-they don’t change. But now I’m prepared and no longer react, as that only feeds the dark empty hole where legos are instead of a heart.

      So for me it’s not untangling the skein as much as understanding that their play books are really all the same. Also, when I received an email from Asshat the day my mother died (2 1/2 from final divorce hearing) saying he had cut off my phone, my attorney finally said “what an ASS”. Yes–it was very validating.

      So use this information to propel you through the divorce. And as far as if they’re miserable, they are. They suck and they don’t change. Just don’t think about them anymore.

      Hugs to you during the divorce process. Keep your head down and focus on the $$$$$. And take care of you.

    • I came across this article a while back that made me feel like I wasn’t crazy in the re-hashing:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/opinion/sunday/great-betrayals.html?pagewanted=2&partner=rss&emc=rss&fbclid=IwAR1jp2jL7oG9s8OONxlcOzAdFMdsF5_Nqo3A2uJ3f24kQPktiiv6SxrVVJg

      We’re at a disadvantage when we’ve been chumped in that we don’t know the whole of our own lives. There are these blanks that we seek to fill so that we understand. Hence, the rumination, research, investigation, retelling.

      • This mentions the cheater CAN change and often do

        Well that’s great ! So they really can do what ever they want and change for the next person

        • Maybe for the short term there is a perceived change, but NO, they do not change in the long term. They revert to their crappy selves once the mask slips yet again.

    • Yes, I do the same thing. My therapist says it is processing and normal to try to make sense of it all, and to not feel ashamed. I am getting to the point after 18 months where it is not my central focus anymore. In fact, I now have a secret crush that I am trying not to obsess over.

      Things change….and it feels good to move on.

      • Geniebobeanie–I’m so happy for you!

        And thanks for the bit about normal processing.

        -Spinach

    • Spinach, I remember feeling tormented by the ongoing ruminating that went on for months after Dday. It felt like my brain needed to accept this new reality by repeatedly replaying scenes and conversations, but it got really exhausting and boring. What helped was every time I caught myself churning over the same angry thoughts or memories, I’d gently say to myself “this is understandable but it’s not helpful”, or “there are those unhappy memories about the separation again”, and I would deliberately do something else requiring focus, even if I had to do it again 5 minutes later.
      You’re still early in the process. Believe me, it gets better and easier with time. I’m 7 years on, an not bothered by seeing or talking to ex, and even greeted OW (his wife now) recently. That was accidental… I’m not that gracious!

    • Spinach, at some point, you have to choose to turn your mind to other things. Rumblekitty is right–I think most if not all of us do variations on the perseverating. Mine took some weird forms, like stalking MOW’s Pinterest page to see if there was trouble in cheater paradise. But you said something in a later comment that shows why untangling the skein is so dangerous: “There’s a small part of me that is beginning to feel a tiny bit of compassion for him because he’s such a broken man.”

      That’s not in your best interest. He only looks “broken” because you think he has to be, given what he’s lost. But you don’t know what he is feeling or experiencing. He’s not like you. And spending a lot of time thinking about what made him the way he is only makes him still central in your thoughts. That’s the real battle ahead of you: getting to the point where your life is about YOU and not about how he got screwed up or what he’s doing with Schmoopie.

      There’s a big difference between figuring out what happened to you and untangling the skein of his fuckedupedness. One of the biggest turning points for me was learning about the cycle of narcissistic relationships. But for me that wasn’t about Jackass or what he was or how he got to be that way. It was a picture of the relationship I had been in. It was about learning that what I had experienced was not love, but lovebombing. That with the kind of people who do relationship this way, the next step is the devaluation. And that cycle explained why one day he was in a relationship with me and literally the next day he was not.

      Once I saw that pattern, I understood what had happened to me. That was an amazing relief, since I thought for months I had done something wrong, until I learned about the MOW. And then I just felt like trash left on the side of the road. So learning about the cycle helped me see that I didn’t have what I think of as a relationship at all. And it helped me see the red flags I missed and the defects in his character. But most important, it helped me see that I had to learn the difference between love-bombing and love.

      It was also a big step for me to understand that it doesn’t matter what label I slap on Jackass. What matters is his behavior. The relationship cycle? He’s been through it 5 or 6 times that I know about, not counting MOW, who got discarded too. This is how he rolls. That is all I need to know. So if you were going to stop one thing, you might stop untangling the skein. By all means, learn how narcissistic people impact others. That’s what makes Dr. George Simon’s work so powerful.

      There are a lot of ways to stop the perseverating. My biggest problems were in the car and at night, so I used music and talk radio in the car (sports talk was very helpful) and binge watching police procedurals on TV. I swear that Donnie Wahlberg (on Blue Bloods) saved my sanity. But yoga and meditation and boxing and other activity helped too. You’ll get there. But no untangling the skein. A jackass is a jackass.

  • Well Spinach I’d have to say the chump tune used to be tolerance as in RIC. If you’ve skipped that chapter in your life it’s a blessing. Being aware of the similarities in cheaters let me know I wasn’t alone, recognize it as abuse and file for a divorce.

    Their playbook is one of power over; ours is to validate and motivate with supportive guidance. Yup, I’d follow that any day of the week.

  • For starters, Miss Manners writes great books that are the antithesis to those Secret He-Man She-Woman Chump Haters Club manuals. I have all of them. I read them. I study them. I practice them. I have not graduated yet. I am a perpetual student.
    Complacency and resting on laurels is not an option.

    Children learn by modeling. They do not listen to you. They copy you. First year psych major info.
    OK. That means I need to make sure I am a good role model and am around her doing a lot of good role modeling.

    My XH grew up in a seriously kooky family as did I. Violence, alcoholism, abuse. He had an extra layer of effed up as his father was Hitler Youth and a German solider. His parents grew up during WWII in Germany and both came from poverty.
    I’ll bet his dad was a cheater; he hit on me while he was drunk at a wedding we were all attending.

    The whole family lies and cheats and steals and evidently have their own etiquette books…actually a code of conduct where every decision is made based on how they can take advantage of the person they are interacting with. Gaining the upper hand is their sole motivation.

    I got into recovery and therapy in earnest at 22. I am responsible for lifelong attendance at the School of Good Personhood.

    He chose not to go to that school and is choosing to run his trip on everyone who crosses his path.
    That’s where you meet other screwed up people like cheating accomplices.

    I’d rather be me than either one of them and glad to be getting away, as painful as this mandatory prerequisite course in Gaining A Life is….

    • PS….I have no idea if I have my own shit together, but I can say for certain that I care if I do.

    • Velvet Hammer–

      “I am responsible for lifelong attendance at the School of Good Personhood.
      He chose not to go to that school and is choosing to run his trip on everyone who crosses his path.
      That’s where you meet other screwed up people like cheating accomplices.
      I’d rather be me than either one of them and glad to be getting away, as painful as this mandatory prerequisite course in Gaining A Life is….”

      ^^^^^^^^Hell to the yeah!!!!!

      You just nailed it for me today when my solution required a hammer. Gracias!!!!

    • “I am responsible for lifelong attendance at the School of Good Personhood.”

      I wonder if we were in the same class. In my actual Catholic elementary school, I won the “serviam award” three years in a road. Serviam means “I will serve.” Ugh. Groomed/doomed from the start.

      • Serving is a good thing. What we can’t do is lose ourselves along the way.

        My favorite bible verse, paraphrased, is: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

        Chumps forget about the second part. We must love ourselves, meaning that we act in our own best interest while at the same time wanting the same best interest for others. That doesn’t mean we never sacrifice; that means we take our own needs into account and insist on relationships with reciprocity.

  • I think cheaters are some how conditioned as children. I feel that some how they are taught to be entitled. Their bad behavior is rewarded. They realise that there seems to be no consequences to their behavior or poor choices.
    My in-laws raised cheaters. My ex cheated on me and my ex’s sister cheated on her first husband. She is now on her third marriage. Raising two cheaters is no coincidence. My sister and brother never cheated on their spouses. Both of them like myself always put our spouses first. Would do anything for them. My sister as far as I know was not cheated on. But, she was financially abused by her first husband and her current husband. Cheaters in my opinion seek out kind hearted loving people.

  • CL, I LOVED the Turkey Vulture reference, even more since I know their first line of defense is projectile vomiting whatever carcass they were just feeding on. Surely there is a metaphor in there somewhere. That Stupid Shit manual is barfed all over cheaters, and, believe me, it STINKS.

    At this point, since my picker is clearly busted, I would love a manual on “Red Flags”. I’m not convinced my bucket of spackle is dried up.

    • Read Lundy Bancrofts Why Does he do that. It a red flag manual. You can find it online as a pdf. If male just switch the pronouns.

  • I was fortunate to find a therapist who understood trauma bonding in relationships. It was as if he personally knew the Limited. It’s what made me listen and seek out information. A good part of believing the narcissist is centered on guilt, shame and repeated intermittent acts of kindness.

    Still I couldn’t see the characteristics of NPD until I listened to Richard Grannon describing a covert narcissist. Then finding CL saved my life.

  • The topic of a genetic basis for Callus Unemotional (CU) behavior or indeed any personality disorder has been one I have had a strong interest in for years. Most such alleged links are based upon a couple of famous “Twin Studies“. And virtually all of these have come under serious scrutiny for methodological problems (there just simply aren’t enough monozygotic twins actually “raised apart” where both will agree to participate in the study; when there are some, they self-select; mathematical models produced correlations which the raw data do not support; and so on).

    I only point out that as more research is done, the jury on genetics-based behavior is not only out, it’s shifting against the genetic-base theories. Those of you who believe there is clear accountable agency in the cheater regardless of genetics, need not worry. It is an entitlement problem as CL always says.

    Studies which test the twin study conclusions like this one (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3706442/ )
    from the National Institutes of Health show:
    “This first genome-wide association study of childhood CU (callous unemotional) in a community sample of 2,930 individuals found no associations that met stringent genomewide correction for multiple testing (p<5×10−8).” It goes on to say there is at best a 7% heritability influence on CU.

    And the current twin studies themselves tend to admit this now. In the largest one, TEDS, the leader of the study reports: “ Only a small proportion of the heritability of common disorders and complex traits has been accounted for despite enormous research efforts (Plomin, 2012).“ In other words, we can’t find a genetic basis. This study has looked into millions of potential gene pairings and combinations for correlations to the behaviors of over 10,000 twin pairs, and now over 25 years of tracking them. Nothing.

    • Ahh. The ‘ole nature vs nuture. Well, in my own personal story, my daughter’s bio dad was cheater pants #1 (look up malignant narc and you’d see his pic) who ditched us when she was 4yrs to move 2k away with schmoops. After the first summer, his interest being in her life quickly faded,. Which fortunately gave me the opportunity to be purposeful in how I wanted to raise her. Today at 22yrs, she is nothing like him on the inside, tho she favors his outward appearance more than mine. She is a smart, strong, empathetic, kind and loyal young woman, and I’d like to think I had a little to discuss with that. She has no relationship at all with her father, and often chides me on what the hell did I ever see in him anyway? 😂.

  • So, for the longest time I had all the same questions as Staying Strong…and actually discovering the similar script helped me not feel so critical of myself. It was somewhat reassuring knowing I was dealing with a type rather than being a type. But this current world crisis and my growing frustration with the way it has begun to divide people has highlighted some things in my personal life: 1) I let far too many people into my inner circle and cannot actually be close to people who share drastically different values from me (realizing that would have saved me a lot of pain). 2) Many people, including me, are mean when they are angry and frustrated and I can forgive them, and want to be forgiven, when they/I truly apologize. But while my cheater could be overtly mean, it was rare. He was covertly mean, as deception is. But someone losing their shit and yelling, or using a nasty tone and biting words when under attack (that’s my MO, unfortunately) … that I can take. The worst things that ever happened to me, at the hands of my cheater and also pain I have suffered at others’ hands, has always come wrapped in some fake politeness and left under a gaslight. 3) Finally, when my mean side comes out, there is always a reason. I’m always under attack of feel that way. That doesn’t make it right but it makes it understandable. I always want forgiveness to come with understanding and I always offer an explanation of why I said what I said. I cannot really accept apologies without an understanding of why someone said or did what they did. An explanation is not an excuse, it is information given to the other person to allow them to choose whether or not to forgive. Cheaters don’t understand this because they believe all their actions are justifiable reactions to the shortcomings of others. Apologies with explanations are non-apologies to them because they are not interested in forgiving. Apologies from them are simply excuses because they don’t want to be seen as flawed. They simply don’t understand the give and take of human interactions.

    • madkatie63,

      You made some interesting thought provoking points. I’m still struggling trying to understand these types of dynamics of my marriage. I haven’t been able to put them into words so they can begin to be sorted out & understood some as you did. Thank you!

      • Cheaters are the “Delores Umbridges” of our world – they act all “nice” on the outside so normal folks may let their guard down and then they work their evil “magic”

        At least with a dementor – you KNOW they are out to get you.

        • So funny! All my reading material I’m using to help fix my picker I store in a file labeled: defense against the dark arts!

    • “It was somewhat reassuring knowing I was dealing with a type rather than being a type.”

      This is such an important distinction. And it takes us out of obsessing about this one person as an individual. Once we see the cheater as a TYPE, many things fall into place.

  • I think we all try to figure out WHY when something bad happens to us, so that we can understand what it was, and learn to avoid it in the future. Some of us do have to overcome the desire to fix others (Guilty, but Reformed.)

    I also believe there are more dysfunctional families than we want to believe. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, and I can tell you my home life was not what I saw on television. In my house Father did not know Best, and Mother did not do housework in heels and pearls. It is hard to be normal when you do not know what that is. I have read many descriptions of feeling like you are on the outside, looking in, and wondering just what it is you are missing?

    We develop behavior patterns to blend in with our culture, and to try to avoid controversy and punishment. Not all cultural norms are healthy or moral, or even reasonable. Entitlement is hard to defend, but is rampant in certain segments of our culture. You have to work hard and struggle to be a decent person, to figure out who to trust and how to avoid the malignant ones. It is a lifelong learning process, you don’t pull into MEH one day and then get to relax and live your vacation lifestyle for the rest of your days. You still have to work at it, and be vigilant. Users are everywhere, all sexes, all colors, all religious beliefs, all organizations.

    Life does not offer guarantees. You do the best you can raising your children, and you hope it will be enough. If you do your best, what more can you do? Nothing. Accept that, and stop beating yourself up. You are not responsible for everything in the world.

  • Off topic, but had to post this somewhere:

    “My wife found out I was cheating on her after she found all the letters I was hiding.
    She was very mad, and says she’s never playing Scrabble with me again.”

  • When I first found CL I read a lot of people got the ILYBNILWY speech.

    I was strangely very jealous of this as I never got that I got laughed at ( yes he laughed in my face ) by him so proud that he had got away for it for so long and I never had a clue .

    He said it was basically my own fault as I broke him by going to the cinema and not coming home and making him meatloaf that he ramped up his affair ( note affair was going on way before I broke him him )

    I’ve now realised the ILYBNILWY speech is the same as I got – them admitting they are broken people . Its another form of manipulation

    • My XW gave me the ILYBINILWY speech (while denying there was an affair) literally the same week that her AP gave his wife (the OBS) the “I’m leaving you because I’m in love with someone else” speech. I don’t think it makes much of a difference in the end. The truth is that a lot of what they say is a lie, so the particular lie that they choose to tell us when ending the marriage doesn’t bear a lot on what is actually going on. I mean, it can affect your attitude in the first months (when you’re confused and searching for answers) but in the long run you’re living in the reality of the discard, regardless of what particular spin they put on it in during the initial phase.

  • To paraphrase something I saw and saved on Pinterest;

    They all simply suffer from Shitty Person Syndrome.

  • One thing I know is super important to not raising entitled brats; household chores. They don’t have to be many or big, but there has to be a consistent commitment to EVERYONE in the house doing some of the scut work.

    5 year olds can be responsible for clearing the table after family meals. 12 year olds can vacuum. 15 year olds can help set up for a social gathering (remember those???) and help clear up again afterwards.

    If you have a cleaning person (remember those???), children can still be responsible for picking up their rooms (with a parent’s help when they are small) for cleaning, and later with picking up the whole house. Taking out the garbage is a classic, as is pet care – they love having a kitty? They can clean the damned litter box!

    These don’t have to be dealt with in some strict, mean way. Matter-of-fact-ness is the absolute best, truly kids don’t need to do a lot of chores. They just have to know that this is normal and expected. That EVERYONE contributes to the running of the household, and no one is so special they don’t have to contribute.

    And everyone steps up their contributions when one person can’t/should do less; if they’re sick, if there’s a work or family crisis …. But then it goes back to normal again.

    Very important; chores should NOT be paid, and a child’s allowance or pocket money should NOT be dependent on doing their chores. This is NOT a paid job. Adults do all this stuff in their own homes w/o being paid; we do it because we take care of ourselves and our families.

    That and teaching empathy and fairness; a whole ‘nother topic.

    Even people who have genetic tendencies to low empathy can absolutely learn to behave well, and to have inner constraints that help them behave well. They may not grow up to be the most caring and sensitive (they won’t!), but they can be moral and honest people, who expect to participate reciprocally in relationships.

    • My parents were screwed up, but they did this right–although my mother was soft on my brother, to his detriment. Everyone had to do their part. And while we got a little allowance, it wasn’t payment for chores.

  • I have three sons all raised by me and the dick-ex. The two oldest have honor and integrity. But the youngest…, he doesn’t have anything to do with me, has dumped his girlfriend 6 times already (and she’ll probably be waiting in the wings for him when he’s ready to get laid again}, and has nearly written one of his older brothers off when he was asked why he hasn’t finished college yet. He actually sent a text to his brother, “That’s why I stopped talking to mom…” Apparently he doesn’t want anyone to question his bad behavior. I have racked my brains, “What did I do wrong?! I didn’t raise him this way!” And I didn’t. Yes, he is the baby (he’s 33), but I taught all three to be responsible for their actions and behavior from a very young age. I was a SAHM. While the dick-ex was in the military getting medals on his chest, I handled everything on the home front. All three sons are 1 year apart each, so really, they were all raised the same. I’ve come to the conclusion that just like physical traits, i.e., blue eyes, manner of walk, hair color, athletic ability, etc., we probably inherit the neural network from one of our parents as well. The youngest looks more like me than the dick-ex, but he certainly acts entitled like the dick-ex. The other two just say, “Mom, don’t worry about him. He’s just a dick.” I spent the first two years after being ostracized by my son, wondering what I did wrong. I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I had even sent him a letter asking him to forgive me for whatever I did. And then it dawned on me that I was doing the same thing for my son as I did the dick-ex. And that’s when I stopped. I decided to give it all up to the Lord to deal with it since I had just as much possibility of fixing the situation with my son as I did with the dick-ex, and that’s ZERO. I pray everyday, and people say, “Oh, he’ll come around eventually…”, but I don’t hold out anymore. Even though I love him, I can’t say I really like him. Geez! That sounds like the cheater-ex, “I love you but I’m not in love with you anymore.” Please don’t say I’m like the dick-ex.

    • You are NOT like dick-ex.
      True love is a choice – you choose to sacrifice for them and put their needs in front of your own and they do the same for you. In a good healthy marriage/relationship, it is reciprocal. You communicate so that you both get your needs met, maybe not all the time or at the same time, but over time, it evens out.
      Being ‘in love’ is a chemical attraction/infatuation. Being ‘in love’ is temporary. If you are committed, you choose to love the person through the ups and downs of being ‘in love’.
      ILYBINILWY – is the cheater version of love. I am only ‘in love’ with people who give me what I want. You no longer or can no longer give me what I want, so I’m not ‘in love’ with you. I will find that kind of adulation/cheap thrill elsewhere. You are too much work.

      When it comes to our kids, the sacrifice of love never ends. We are biologically wired to provide for their needs while they are small and growing. However, just because we love them, does not always mean we like the person they have become. Liking and friendship are reserved for people who share interests/goals and who reciprocate our friendship. If your adult child does not share your interests and/or goals and does not act like someone who cares about you, it is hard, maybe impossible to like them. Nor should you.

      IMHO

      • Thank you so much for this response!! I’ve been struggling with this, i.e., not liking the things that my son is doing. I’ve been struggling with how much I should extend myself, and that’s when I realized that I was (essentially) chumping myself for my child as I did for the dick-ex but in a different way. Thank you so much on the explanation of “love” and that’s it’s a choice and not a feeling. I’ve had the idea in my head but your explanation is succinct and easily understandable. And I like your explanation of “Liking and friendship” being “reserved for people who share interests/goals and who reciprocate our friendship.” I get so much of my thoughts verbalized here on CN and it helps. Thanks again!!

  • This is as far as I am willing to untangle the skein. My ex went to one long counselling session on his own, and ultimately this is what the counsellor said to him.

    “You grew up in a controlling family in which you felt you couldn’t express contrary opinions and had to do what the family expected. You did not learn appropriate communication and relationship skills. Then, you married a very strong woman and you were not capable of expressing your needs and having them met. You are immature in how you handle yourself, and so you go underground with your reactions. Lie. Cheat. If you don’t want to be in this marriage, then leave it.”

    Unfortunately, my ex did not take away from this that he has a lot of issues to work out. He took it as permission from a counsellor that he should leave the marriage to have his needs met elsewhere with someone who isn’t so strong.

    My own counsellor has said similar about my ex. So has my priest. So has his own parents. He is “emotionally immature” and has handled himself unethically.

    In the case of understanding my ex, that’s enough for me. I am not really dealing with a man who is in his mid-40s. I am dealing with a 20 year-old mindset playing at being a grown up.

    I’m a high school guidance counsellor, so I listen to my fair share of teenage angst and rationalizations and self-centredness. In them, I can be understanding. They are doing what they are supposed to be doing at their age. What really haunts me is when I hear teenagers say things that I heard my husband say to justify his behaviour and choices. It’s one things when a 16 year old says it, but another when it’s someone in their 30s, 40s, etc.

    He isn’t really capable of fully adulting which is why life with me – which he defined as nothing more than “responsibility and busyness” gets thrown out for the life of “fun”. It’s immaturity at play when you read in an email to an affair partner that “you’re the first person in my life that I have ever been able to be my real self with.” Really? You don’t think that acknowledging that you have never been your real self is a serious problem that isn’t going to be fixed by this woman?

    How to avoid this with kids? There are no guarantees, but I would say start by ensuring that your kids work on fully forming their identities at the appropriate times of development. Because there is nothing more pathetic than watching a person, who appears to have it all, suddenly have an existential crisis that compels him to throw away his whole family life to chase a schmoopsie. Grow the F-*$# up!!!

    • Your comment really hits home with me. I was very turned off by the emotional immaturity before I even knew about the cheating. His development was stunted in many ways. Such a turn off . . . Realizing I was married to a child – there’s no coming back from that.

  • I used to wonder where our cheaters got the Cheater Handbook. Through the years, I think movies and TV shows have glorified cheating. Movies like Bob & Carol, Ted& Alice (1969) told the story of carefree adultery, everybody’s doing it, actors like Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, and Dyan Cannon starred and brought a lot of glamour to cheating. 4 Academy Award nominations! And the movie ended with a well-liked version of “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love.” Yeah, WTF, right?!

    A few years later, in 1978, Hollywood brought us “Same Time Next Year” about a couple who keep getting together every year to have their affair, even though they are both married to someone else and have six children between them. Starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.

    These movies did so well at the box office that it led to more movies and TV shows dealing with wife swapping and infidelity. America was buying this and cheaters were getting the script!

    Sure, bunny boilers, and other consequences of cheating were alluded to, but overall, cheating became something everyone was entitled to LOL. My XH grew up near Hollywood and his long-term girlfriend was the daughter of a very successful producer that everyone knew had numerous mistresses. No problem- his soap opera star wife had her own dalliances! My XH had the nerve to tell me he wanted to live that life. No thanks, that’s not the marriage I signed up for.

    I’ve also recognized that cheaters tend to have cheater friends. They share the dialog of what works and what doesn’t work well. They support and reinforce each other. That’s why all the lines we cringe about hearing have become cliches.

    We have to earn our kids’ respect every single day. They see first hand the consequences of adultery. We must be the strong parent who models honesty, loyalty and faithfulness every single day, across all relationships.

  • Meg ^^,

    Good points. I too have realized that cheaters ten to have cheater friends. My xh’s cheater friends came out of the woodwork to support him and I suppose give him extra tips in the divorce from hell. My 3 adult children definately have seen first hand the consequences of adultery. Ive had to remind them and a few others that cheater X did all this damage 100% himself.

  • >