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The Walls in Your House Will Sing

This is the true story story of my aunt, who, when I was chumped, drove all the way from New York to pack up his crap and be there for me. I never knew her chump story until I started this blog and she shared it with me. She wrote it out to help others and I’m rerunning it by request. — Tracy

Ladies and Gentlemen (because men have cheating wives), life does get better after you get through the horrors of a cheating spouse. My second husband and I both had cheating first spouses though our stories are not exactly similar.

My first husband had a hardscrabble childhood with his dad’s early death, a mother who couldn’t cope, foster care for a while, living on the “wrong side of the tracks,” being told he was stupid and couldn’t go to college, then enlisting in the Navy before he would be drafted in 1953. The Navy changed his life because he did well, discovered he had a brain, and after four years in the service, put himself through college by working three jobs and carrying a full academic load. We met in science classes, married five days after my graduation (he was six years older than I), both worked a year, he decided to go to law school and began right after our first daughter was born.

Success followed in law school and in practice in Chicago. Because of health problems, his mother moved in with us and stayed until her death 7 years later. Initially, it wasn’t easy, but after a few months, we had a really good relationship and the girls adored her (second daughter was been born 6 years after the first). However, the lure of the fast-moving, big boat sailing crowd in the city in the early 1970s took hold with its ethos of drinking, bedding younger women, and partying (I know not everyone in the sailing world is like this…he just happened to find the group that was and enjoyed every minute).

He traveled constantly for the firm and after seeing him in action at sailing parties, I realized he was lying about his trips. I snooped in his briefcase one night after he had passed out — and found a return flight ticket from Savannah when he was supposed to have been in Washington. I confronted him, he had no reaction, just walked out.

A few months later he decided he didn’t want the suburban life, raising two daughters and having a wife. He moved out, bought a condo in the city, and went his merry way, sort of. Our girls were 14 and 7 when he left (freshman and second grade). They were devastated, but I was beyond devastated and asked all the same questions everyone does: What did I do wrong? Wasn’t I good enough? Did I not do all the right things? Should I get counseling? (I did, he wouldn’t, and it was the best thing I could have done to understand the dynamics of the marriage, such as it was at that point.) What will our friends think? (They all saw it coming and were thrilled for me because he was such a bastard the last couple of years.) How do I tell the family? (My brother and I, according to my sister-in-law, were not programmed to fail [she was correct] and I had failed in the most important relationship ever.) What could and should I do?

Well, let me tell you, I had been beaten down psychologically and emotionally but didn’t realize it. Over the years, my whole personality had changed. I definitely was an enabler for his drinking because I was afraid not to be. He wouldn’t have abused me physically because he wasn’t all that big, and I probably could have easily defended myself. Psychological and emotional abuse is just as destructive, in some ways worse because it is insidious and not obvious to outsiders. For 18 months I was completely afraid to hire a lawyer because I couldn’t gauge his potential reaction and I feared he’d stop supporting the girls and me. I was working part-time but didn’t earn nearly enough to keep the house and stay where we were. His lawyer was one of his partners. After 5 years of inaction or bogus but effective delays on his part, his lawyer finally said he’d have to give me the house and pay sufficient spousal and child support, or he’d drop the case and he’d have to start over. Ultimately, I gave up all claims on his pension, investments, boat, two condos, and future income so I could have the house and spousal/child support. To his credit, over the years he was always good about money and did put both girls through undergraduate college.

By the time it was over, I had regained my personality, strength, zest for life, and relationships with friends and family who were always supportive and “on my side.” I had started to date toward the end, after my lawyer said it would be OK. (OK for him to cheat and have women but I better not date.) I really didn’t want to date at first because I was too wrapped up in my own problems and wouldn’t do that to my girls, who still thought maybe this was a passing fancy on his part. Once I did start to date, turns out they were not big fans of the two men I dated at different times.

Then, about two months before I signed the final papers (on Halloween no less) I had a phone call from my mother. She and my dad had moved back to the town where I was raised after my dad retired. My high school sweetheart (M) and his wife had separated. We’d stayed in touch over the years, exchanging Christmas cards and photos of our children. She and I had been friends from the age of 8, long before I met my sweetheart in high school. We were all friends, ran in the same crowd during school; he and I dated exclusively after sophomore year until we broke up just before graduation. He and she began seeing each other and were married after college. According to my mother, his mother said M was the aggrieved party, she had been having an affair with the priest from her church, and wanted a divorce. Everyone in town was shocked because they were the quintessential perfect couple to the rest of the world. He had the house, the family’s summer cottage, and their two children, aged 14 and 16. Yes, she was leaving her husband and children for an alcoholic, cheating priest!

M was a wreck, according to his mom; my mom simply said to me, “Do with this information what you will.” Took me a while and right after I signed my own divorce papers, I wrote to M, expressing my concerns, I knew what it was like to be cheated on (he’d known for a while and despite her protestations that the affair had ended, it didn’t), to be left with all the responsibility because the cheater obviously didn’t want any of the issues of raising children, etc. My only words of advice were to avoid bad-mouthing her to the children. I tried not to do that with my ex to my girls because that can really totally disastrous. Children are far more perceptive than we realize; they figure it out eventually. I didn’t hear back from M right away but when I did, it was like we were 16 years old again.

Our high school reunion was scheduled for the next summer (this was now November) and he asked if I planned to come or would I be coming home before then. I was planning a trip with the girls to visit my parents that Christmas. I did visit, M and I saw each other and the 25 years melted away. I think we both knew at that point, we would eventually be together. He had to wait until the next fall for his divorce to be final, but in that time, we saw each other when we could despite the distance, my girls adored him right from the start, and we were married about a year after his divorce was final, when it was a good time for me to move my younger daughter after she finished 8th grade (older daughter was in college).

We bought a house, he moved to it in May, I moved in July, and we combined families, with children who were 14, 16, 18, and 21 when we married.

Our children are now all in their 40s, have children and we have a wonderful relationship with each other. We have never thought in terms of “step”; as far as we’re concerned we have 4 adult children and 7 wonderful grandchildren. They all get along, we have marvelous times together.

We still see his ex when she comes to see her children, we get along with her; her alcoholic priest husband never comes with her on these visits. The fact that we get along makes it so much easier for the children and grandchildren, no conflicts and actually, we all have a good time.

My cheating, ex-husband died of alcoholism nearly 20 years ago. He never remarried. After a heart attack and open-heart surgery, he would not stop drinking and drank himself to death. He was 60 and had several opportunities to get off the booze and reclaim his life. He couldn’t/didn’t and ultimately committed a slow form of suicide, which was very sad.

Yes, folks, life does return after a cheater is caught and either leaves or is thrown out. (I never had the courage to do that; in retrospect, the best thing he ever did was leave me, though I didn’t think so at the time). Have the strength and fortitude to rid yourself of a cheating spouse. It took me a long time to adjust to my situation, but when I did after 18 months, and finally took action, the relief was palpable. One friend said “the walls in your house sing again.”

I started moving ahead for my sake and for the sake of my daughters. They are well-adjusted women, who came to terms with their father, his actions, and especially his alcoholism, over the years. My husband’s children have done the same with their mother. Don’t give up hope because better days do follow the agony and tears, humiliation and hurt, stress and strain, and attempts to hold everything together. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

I realize not everyone hooks up with a former sweetheart, but decent men and women are out there, people who will respect and love you and who will honor the marriage vows. We’ve now been married 27 years, longer than either of us was the first time around. I like the old Sinatra song, “Love is better the second time around!” Yep, it is! Don’t rush into another relationship, give yourself a chance to adjust, figure out who you are and what you want. When the opportunity presents itself, you’ll know and you’ll know whether that person is the right one for you. Until then, smile through the tears…you can do it and good things will happen.

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  • Postscript on my aunt. For the last 7 years my uncle has suffered from dementia, and my aunt has been his 24/7 caregiver. They’re up at the lake now, Matt’s happy place, and she reports he’s puttering around. I still see them as a great love story. They’ve been married 36 years now. (Update from the post…)

    • Beautiful story!! I keep reminding myself for the past couple of years that love comes softly….. after years of hurt and struggle there is a calm and peace on the other side ❤️ Xo sweet

    • This postscript reminds me of some good food for thought for new chumps:

      Is this the person you can trust to care for you lovingly and selflessly in the event you could no longer care for or make decisions for yourself? Can you rely on him or her to make choices in YOUR best interests and not their’s?

      • This is spot on! My STBex started seeing the BJ Queen when I had a series of oral surgeries. I guess I was too tired from my throbbing mouth, painkillers, and antibiotics for months, to be much fun. He was very insulted when I told him, “You couldn’t even stand by me through this relatively minor health problem, God forbid I get cancer!”
        Fast forward 2 years when I discovered that the affair never ended by overhearing him on the phone with her while I walked into his hospital room as he was recovering from his second stroke. An old friend told me , “Do you want to be a nursemaid for the rest of your life to a man who has no respect for you?”
        I stayed for years longer than I should have because I thought, “What kind of monster leaves a spouse who is disabled?” Before I filed, I made sure all his medical needs would be taken care of. (Of, course BJQ didn’t want him after he became partially paralyzed.)
        The sad thing is, if he had been faithful, I would’ve taken care of him forever. I’m sure he wouldn’t have done the same for me.

    • I LOVE this and so glad you reposted. I may read this again when feeling low and also concerned for my kids

    • He ended up with a woman who is truly there for him during difficult times. His first wife probably would not have supported him through dementia. That’s where the true romance is for me– this is the person who holds back your hair when you’re throwing up, holds you as you cry when you experience a loss (instead of wondering when you’re going to “get over it”), and sticks by you even when life is far from sexy and exciting. Thanks again for sharing their story.

  • Beautiful story!

    Your aunt’s journey is a reminder that the depth of despair after betrayal can be a measure of the capacity to love. However this is later expressed, the betrayed are the geese with the golden eggs.

  • I love this story! It brings joy to my heart every time I read it and a belief to the fact that there most definitely can be a happy ending.

    Prayers to your aunt as she takes care of your uncle. Dementia care is not easy. If its overwhelming for her, I suggest she look for a caregivers support group. My group has made a world of difference in my life and how I take care of my mom. Hugs to her.

  • I love your aunt’s story. Every time I read it I am filled with hope and strength. Our walls will sing again! Thank you ????

  • Dear Chump Lady,
    YOU are like your dear Aunt, so inspiring and full of hope.

    Your Aunt said it is a good thing when a cheater leaves.
    All Chumps reading today whose cheater left, please gain strength from CL’s wise Aunt.
    Go toward the light.

    Love to ALL of CN,
    Many dear friends dwell here!❤️

  • I never get tired of reading your aunt’s story. In fact I was thinking about my walls singing the other day as I cleaned up after an expansion of my new home, bought after my divorce was final.

    I don’t think I will find a new companion for the rest of my journey, but I love to see other chumps find contentment with fair, honest, good people.

    • I love to see other chumps find contentment, in whatever form it takes!

  • So close to my own story although the love of my life and I both were cheated on. He wanted to rekindle but I could not a’s I was faithfully married to a soon to be two time cheater, maybe more. I gave it all chance for repair to the 20 year marriage. My. Young love died of a heart attack at 57 and despite both of us being divorced from cheaters, we never had an opportunity to be back together.
    Life is to short to devote to a cheater who does not give back the same devotion and love. I wsated my time trying to repair the unreparable.

  • Love your Aunt’s and Uncle’s story and their strength after being cheated on is very inspiring. Im struck too by how cheaters are the same through history. Your Aunt’s XH’s bio reads eerily like my XH’s—there really is a playbook!

  • Beautiful story, so much hope. What a wonderful lady to come to your aid so quickly and so practically, CL. Relatives like that are such a blessing! I have 2 sisters who helped me tremendously through my separation and divorce ❤

  • Thank you. This was wonderful. Tracy, would you perhaps consider posting others’ stories from time to time? It’s a real booster – they don’t always have to have a happy ending, but just knowing that others have gone through abuse and survived or are trying to survive is very encouraging. God bless your aunt and uncle.

  • Oh, I love this story. Thank you Tracy’s Chump Aunt for sharing!

    Shortly after I filed for divorce I went to my meditation group for the first time in months. I was still a complete wreck and the combination of seeing people who I loved and cared about plus sitting in silent meditation with my grief, just broke me down to tears. After our meditation session, our group gathers for tea and chatter.

    I started talking to one of the group’s founder, a highly revered woman in her 70s. She has a beautiful soul and a soothing presence. We sometimes met at her house, where she lived with her husband. I didn’t know her back story, but she shared her own chump story with me.

    It helped me feel less alone and see light at the end of my dark tunnel. If someone can be crumped, go through so much emotional abuse, leave, then remarry and develop into such a graceful and loving person in old age, then there was hope for me as well.

    It’s so important for the older generation to share their chump stories. You’ll are a living testimony, giving the newly chumped hope for a future wonderful life after divorce.

  • It’s a wonderful love story of hope and inspiration. It’s a reminder that our walls can and will sing.

    You’ve certainly changed the narrative in so many ways with a supportive environment reaching millions. It’s so important to recognize cheating and the emotional, psychological aspects as abuse. I’m forever grateful for the stories and support shared on this site.

    I’m giving a shout out for becoming a PATRON at the bottom of the page. Thank you Tracy.

  • I love happily ever afters – even though those roads to are the roughest. Honestly, I haven’t given up hope of finding a good man to partner with. Although, if I don’t, I’ll still be okay. I’m very happy on my own. Because guess what? My walls really do sing now! So your aunt is spot on about that. Hugs all.

  • I have always loved this story and it continues to give me hope and encouragement!!!!
    Even though I had the evidence, I didn’t throw exh2 out. I waited him out. He broke before I did, and moved out a month later.
    I may not like everything about my life five years later post D-Day, GTFO-day, divorce, but I’ll take any bad day I have now than the life I had with exh2.

  • I’m 5 years out from a 30 year marriage to a covert narcissist/sober alcoholic. I have trauma triggers but am recovering well—and this story brings me hope! It’s tough to learn that the whole 30 years was a farce, since NPDs are incapable of authentic love. Also found out from computer forensics & private eye work (during divorce) that he was a sex addict/13th stepper, and a serial adulterer.

    • I hate 13 steppers! They are everywhere In AA/NA. Its hard to be a young pretty woman in recovery without all these dudes trying to “help” I mean stick their penises in you!

  • What a wonderful story. I’m so grateful to your aunt for sharing it and being a support to you in your time of need. It is so encouraging to read other successful chump stories. What I love about the archives is that there are so many people that HAVE moved on and are no longer posting because they have gained a life! Also, I love seeing that there are people that have been posting for years, which is reassuring to see their progress and the wisdom that they have gained.

    I think something ought to be done to make sure CL the first website that pops up when anyone googles “affair” or “infidelity”. I read a lot of lame sites for months before I found CN. Until someone has walked this road, they have NO CLUE what it is like to live long term with narcissist abuse, followed by the discard, devalue, and blame shifting. Our walls are already “starting to sing” without the loser’s toxic, negative energy in our immediate lives.

    My kids and I are being told that we are wrong to “little gray rock” on our path to no contact. His family is not willing to acknowledge that replacing us is a form of abuse. CL was the first (only?) website that I have found that calls the cheater what he is – an abusive, selfish, self-centered leech. And the advice to anyone in an abusive relationship is to get as far away from your abuser as possible.

    I love your aunt for taking care of your uncle through his dementia. That is a painfully difficult journey, but THAT is what wedding vows are about! Your aunt and uncle look adorable and happy together.

    • If it isn’t abuse then I’d wonder what they call being discarded and replaced by a loved one? “Shit happens, get over it”? You know going grey rock is the right thing for you and your children, so who cares about their opinion on it?

  • Such a lovely story. I’m having a very difficult time so I’m crying despite being heavily medicated and lots of therapy. I hope to someday to see the light of freedom and singing walls. Thank you for your aunt’s story.

    • You will.
      It takes time
      It will stay with you forever
      But your perspective will shift and you will be able to see the world in Completely new light…
      15 years in
      2 out

  • Thank you for repeating this inspiring story! The best message I have gotten from it is that whether I find another partner or not, I have learned to love myself again. The cheater is no longer stealing my joy. I am hopeful. And yes, support Chump Lady by donating to patreon. I have been reading almost daily for almost 8 years now and this site has saved my life and sanity. What a wonderful brain trust CN is!

  • Such a beautiful “real love story”. Singing Walls, what could be better than that! Thanks for the hope and inspiration that it will get better. <3

  • Thank, you for the re-share. Five years later I relate to this whole piece differently. I remember reading this shortly after I washed up on the shores of Chump Lady, a total wreck filled with rage. I remember reading this and thinking “well I guess it turns out nice for some people” because at the time I could not wrap my mind around ever dating, loving or even just having sex with someone else. If that’s where you are now, it’s ok to feel that and embrace it and live in it as you do the hard work of focusing on you, your children and your healing. I also want to make sure you give yourself permission to see, understand and know in your heart (and your bones) that it’s still possible to find a good person to share your life with. It might take a lot of work and fixing of your picker but it can happen. Your walls can sing again.

  • This sure is food for thought. Mine has said from his own lips that he doesn’t know if he could stay with me if I became infirm in some way, later to say that what he meant was he might be dead so he couldn’t say if he’d be there for me. I hope this pandemic ends sooner rather than later as it’s difficult to be here.

  • Tell your aunt we are all her nieces and nephews here at CN, because she has helped us, just as she helped you, and her story continues to inspire us, the people who need and appreciate it most. Peacekeeper is right–you and your aunt are birds of a feather. In my entire life I haven’t inspired and given hope to as many people as you and your aunt do in a single day. I’ve never even met her, but she pops into my head from time to time, often when I am tired and sad and ready to put myself on an ice floe and fade away. But you and she remind me of all the reasons to (in Mitz’ words) say Yes to life. Sometimes I say YES! and other times I just sigh yes, but I answer in the affirmative; and that is pretty much on you. Thank you both, so much.

  • I have a love story as good as this one and Im really appreciative of it. I found a financially secure man who was willing to date a woman his age (which is as rare as hens teeth) …I knew his age early on because like CLs aunt, I went to elem school with my new husband Col Greatguy (promoted from Col Goodguy when he agreed to go to the CL book launch a few years ago).

    As a society who loves happy endings, sometimes we like to thing good things are perfect and remember that people and relationships aren’t perfect. We still have hurt feelings, prefer different movies and I like fine mulch while he would throw logs into the flowerbeds given the chance.

    Please know that you can be a successful and mighty chump even if you never recouple. :::::whispering:::: If you do, though…find someone with a near OCD level of wanting to keep clothes clean…he does laundry every day

  • My neighbor commented to me after ex left us,

    “It does my heart good to hear you & the kids laughing all the way from across the street.”

    • That is beautiful. I had friends and family tell me I was a completely different person without X and my kids have said it too. Those moments with your kids just reinforce that you are on a better path.

  • One of the thing I love most about this story is how CL’s aunt (and uncle-to-be) take their time. She’s not in a hurry to date. She reaches out to him but doesn’t hear from him right away. If I read the story correctly, It took 8-9 months after they reconnected for his divorce to be final and another year before they married. They waited until it was “a good time to move” for the aunt’s younger daughter.

    And the “karma bus” as we often talk about it! Her XH ends up killing himself with alcohol. His XW ends up married to an alcoholic priest. I’m sure at times it looked liked her XH “won,” what with the boat and the condos and the big pension. But taking the long view, who had the best life? As hard as it is to care for a dementia patient, a wonderful life together means that is a labor of love. Life is never easy. But this woman has led a life well-lived.

  • Beautiful story and I’m glad they found each other through all the storms they had to weather.

    I have a hard time believing in love nowadays. I want to date but the world is literally burning right now. I’m lonely but I make due.

    There are moments I break down in tears because I feel robbed of the promises the Ex and I made to each other (he just took our future away like it was nothing). I know I’m better off alone though than with him.

    I try to imagine what my future self would say to me right now. Maybe, “it’s going to be ok, just wait and see”?

    I push myself everyday to keep letting him go, and to fake it till I make it.

  • One of my favorite stories Chump Lady! In the beginning of 2013 I found this website while still struggling through an abysmal reconciliation attempt. I started reading all the archives; having one CL inspired lightbulb moment after another. Most of those posts addressed all the unease I felt and why I was feeling it. Your Aunt’s post was different though.

    Her story gave me hope that my walls would sing again. Her story helped me see possibilities for my own life after divorce. When those possibilities became visible to me, they eventually led to action on my part. The first year after divorce sucked but every year got a little bit better and I reached many goals along the way. I’m grateful every day for all of life’s blessings. And boy oh boy am I grateful beyond measure that I didn’t need to be quarantined with a fuckwit!!

    I took her advice and took my time to heal before I even contemplated dating. I realized I had a lot of work to do to figure out why I didn’t trust my gut when I thought things were off, or why my picker was so broken. It’s a work in progress which is fine because a global pandemic doesn’t really lend to “getting yourself out there!”

    Take heart new chumps for your walls will really sing again! Many thanks to you CL and to your Aunt!

  • This is such a calming post. I especially likethe stories of from the older generations of Chumps. I also saved all the posts and interviews from Muriel Schnierow, first wife of Art Ortenberg, who used to post on Chump Lady long ago. Lots of wisdom there.

  • Lovely story and makes me keep on looking forward. Three years since BD, no interest in dating yet…but the dream of meeting someone my own age is always there. Will be 59 in a few weeks. Lost my dream future with my Ex, but dreaming on… always. Best revenge is living a good life…x

  • Oh god this made me sob, quite unexpectedly. I had to go and hide in the bathroom from my kids (because I’m currently alone with them as my husband is at the moment visiting his lover at her house while her daughter is with her dad – it’s a weekly arrangement to which I’ve been somewhat forced into agreeing with).

    Chump Lady, I’ve been secretly reading your posts for several months now. I’ve been trapped with my cheating husband and coerced/threatened into complying with an “open relationship” for 18 months now (since I discovered their affair). I’m stuck. I need help, desperately, but I’m too terrified to act. I’m slowly (very slowly) gaining the strength I’ll need to finally kick him out of my life. But for now I remain stuck because of our two special needs children who need him, and also because of his extremely manipulative, toxic and abusive ways…and because I still love and care for him immensely (dammit!). I’m desperate for help, change, support, a lifeline, something, ANYTHING. I literally feel like I’m dying from this pain, abuse, anxiety, fear and grief that I’m daily drowning in. I can’t find my way out.

    Anyways. All that to say, please PLEASE will you tell your aunt how meaningful reading her story was to me? It opened up something in my heart, something that almost…might be…close to…hope? Courage? Strength? I don’t know, but it caused an internal shift, and I think it’s a good one. So grateful for her sharing her story. In tears. ❤️

  • I read this story in the early stages of my divorce and have thought of it often. I was married for 20 years and was cheated on for years while dealing with the sudden deaths of both of my parents and a tween with health issues.
    Happily, I can now relate to the idea of a second chance as I have spent the last 3 years with a wonderful man (a grown up who demonstrates love and respect every day!). Had I stayed married to he who shall remain nameless, today would have been my 25th anniversary which no doubt would have been as disappointing as the cheater years leading up to it.
    For those at the beginning of their journeys – who may even be hesitant to leave a cheater – you can do this! Better days are ahead and are not dependent on finding another partner. The better days start when you find yourself again.

  • I cant hold back tears every time I read this story <3 <3 So much hope for all of us here. I will live to tell my story too, the walls in my house will surely Sing

  • I have been reading this blog since the inception, and this is absolutely my favorite story ❤️
    It’s been three years alone for me, and I continue to be disinterested in dating again (20 years married). Although I continue to believe there are no genuinely good people in the world anymore, the story is a great reminder that perhaps I am mistaken.

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