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5 Things That Keep You Stuck with a Cheater

Are you on the fence about leaving a cheater? Is this not their first rodeo? Here are some common traps that keep you stuck with a cheater and prevent you from moving on.

1. Hope. Codependency has been described as the addiction to the POTENTIAL of things. Are you hooked on a cheater’s potential? Wow, she could be a great partner… if only? Or — I want the guy I thought I married back? Do you grasp at the smallest indication that this person gives a shit about you? You’ve got hope sickness.

It’s hard to be down on hope. It’s hard to fault people who have hope. It seems virtuous. But in cases of infidelity, it can keep you STUCK. Listen to me, chumps — hope is not your friend. You need to bludgeon hope with a fencepost and begin to operate with total lucidity.

Because hope is so strong, cheaters know exactly what a powerful manipulation tool this is. The goal of a cheater is cake. Your goal is to get them to come to their senses and be that sparkly person you fell in love with and commit to you. So they will use hope to keep you on the hook. They will feign remorse, cry, say they miss you. They may go to counseling. Admit, hey, they aren’t perfect or Mistakes Were Made. They may crack open a book (usually something like “When Splendid People Cheat.”) And you, desperate to save this mess — take it as a sign.

The only antidote to hope sickness is self knowledge. Know what you will and will not tolerate. What your values are. Where your boundaries are. Be unswerving in your loyalty to yourself, to your well-being and what sort of relationship YOU want. Hold out for that. Cheaters lie and they lie artfully. So it is essential to watch what your cheater DOES and pay zero attention to what they say.

This is very hard to do. Hope is like that siren song in Ulysses. You’re going to have to tie yourself to the mast and stuff cotton in your ears. But stay strong, because crazy hope that this person is going to fix this and stop hurting you — in the face of evidence to the contrary — is the number one reason why people stay stuck with cheaters.

2. Fear. It’s scary to leave someone. We humans are programmed to bond. There’s that famous study about baby monkeys — have you heard it? Some baby monkeys are put in a cage with real monkey mommies and some in a cage with barbed wire mommies, wrapped in a thin veneer of terry cloth. A pale mommy monkey substitute. But the babies with the barbed wire mommies try to bond with that thing. Even though they get pricked and are bleeding and the entire experience sucks. Inside their little baby monkey brains, they must be thinking… something better than this exists. But they haven’t experienced it. So they cling hard to the barbed wire monkey. Of course, the babies with the REAL mommies are thriving.

Moral of the story? Step out of the cage and go find some REAL monkeys to bond with. It’s scary to leave the barbed wire monkey — but if you find the courage to do it, you’ll experience true monkeys. You don’t know what you’ve been missing.

3. Denial. As coping mechanisms go, denial is pretty effective. When hope fails, there is denial. Just be oblivious about your situation and your feelings about it. Poof! It never happened! We spackle over our life messes, because we’re invested. It’s hard to walk away from an investment, even a bad one. In fact (there’s some law in economics about it), the MORE you invest, the harder it is to walk away, even when you know you’re losing! So, naturally you just pretend the investment isn’t really that bad. (See “Hope” above). If you want to get unstuck, you have to take a hard, unvarnished look at your reality.

4. Pride. It’s hard to admit to yourself and the world that you fucked up something as important as choosing a life partner. Being cheated on is humiliating. It’s natural to want to control the outcome, and put lipstick on that pig and reconcile. Either you don’t tell anyone (and suffer alone or on online forums or in your therapists office), or you tell people and spend the rest of your marriage either avoiding everyone who hates your cheating spouse or convincing them that your Marriage Is Stronger For It.

Remember — infidelity is not your failure to own. Do not borrow shame. It takes a lot of strength and character to navigate this shit. If you loved a lousy partner, okay, so what? You’re human. You picked from the barbed wire monkey pile. Explore that, fix it, and choose better next time.

5. Inertia. Infidelity is exhausting. Did you know the universe is conspiring to keep you stuck? Inertia is a basic law of physics —  “the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion.” Change is HARD. But staying stuck is PAINFUL. When the pain gets too great, you’ll make a plan and get unstuck. The problem is, a lot of us are endurance athletes when it comes to pain. We think it’s our lot, what we deserve. Expect better for yourself — and move toward it. Better is out there.

An oldie but a goodie today. Did I miss some other reasons for being stuck? Tell me in the comments!

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Staying in a burning house and trying to find out how the fire started only has one ending.

    Hope: Outside the burning house, here are many OTHER houses which aren’t on fire. Get out.
    Fear: Outside the burning house, there are many OTHER houses which aren’t on fire. Get out.
    Denial: Ignoring the smoke smells, the smoke alarm going on….. Don’t ignore. Get out.
    Inertia: Don’t freeze like a deer in the headlights. Get out.

    Call an abuse counselor hotline. Cheating is one form of emotional abuse.

  • I married a barbed wire husband. I spent 24 years trying to cozy up and getting poked and bleeding. For some people everything they touch is going to make others bleed.

    Would you believe that I prayed that God would send him somebody to take his attention off of me so that I could get away and then when that person came around I complained to God about it. I was reminded that it was an answer to prayer.

    Let somebody else have the barbed wire monkey.

    • Mum, I did the same thing: when my husband cheated on me and left me, I was a complete wreck. And then in the middle of the night one night, I remembered I had prayed that my husband would cheat on me and leave me so I could be free of the abuse.

      Speaking of, here’s a reason that’s not on CL’s list, though it’s just a reason for staying in an abusive relationship, not necessarily staying with a known cheater (mine exit-affaired me, and while there might have been others before, I never looked into it because yuck…): faux-religious piety. I’m a Christian, and let me say up front that I don’t think it’s God’s will for any woman to stay in an abusive relationship. But certain churches and the RIC will make it seem like it’s your duty to do so, and honestly, I used that bullshit as a cover for my own fear and pride (how would it look if I, the good Christian girl, divorced her husband who just seems so sparkly and nice to everyone? How could I ever make them see what went on behind closed doors?). I used to quote to myself (out of context, trust), “Blessed is she who swears to her own hurt and changes not” (Ps. 15:4), and I would grit my teeth and bear the name-calling, belittling, threats and rages. What bullshit! It is never God’s will for his beautiful daughter to be treated as any less than a daughter of the King. What God wanted me to do was to set firm boundaries in my relationship, and if my husband wouldn’t respect them, to leave. But I spackled using the Bible and stayed for 18 years until God had mercy on me and took my abuser out of my life, since I obviously didn’t have the good sense He gave me to leave a bad situation.

      • I think my mother’s pride and fear – and faux religious piety – kept her with my father after she discovered his four-year (at least) affair. I wonder if she would ever admit that, though. Marriage + children still confer a high degree of social status, especially for her generation. She didn’t want to look like a failure. She takes the concept of “turning the other cheek” quite literally.

        My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a couple of years ago in a big way. It all made me a little sad. And when my father was dying this past year, some of my mother’s anger about the affair, which happened nearly three decades ago, came out. (She did not get angry with him – but she talked to me about it.)

        Now whenever a couple brags about being together for so long, I merely think, “OK, cool.” The only thing you know about two people who’ve been married for a long time is that…they’ve been married a long time.

      • I also have this problem. I’m a Christian too. When I started going back to church, because he had told me that I couldn’t go to church in person unless it was a church that he approved of, one of the men there told me in the parking lot after I had asked for prayer about my situation, that divorce is not scriptural.

        I talked to the pastor afterwards and he said that once my husband had trashed our marital vows I was released from them as well. I know that I’m not the holy Spirit Junior. I’m not the one to get my husband right with God. But I am setting boundaries and there are consequences.

        One of the things that I did was to start going to Al-Anon. This helped me realize that I can’t control anybody else but I can control my reactions and myself. I stopped trying to negate natural consequences that my STBXH was going to have.

    • I hate admitting this but I thought about leaving. I loved him and didn’t want a divorce but it was clear he loathed me. I would never leave my kids though so by him doing it he’s the bad guy for breaking up the family made worse because there is a whore involved. I’m sad but I’m less sad than I was with him.

      • Yep. It hurt that he had seemingly hated me so much, but I did feel better about him filing. Though he wanted me to do it, so he could pin it on me. I used a bit of guilt on him to get him to do it.

        Honestly, thinking back, I think had he refused to file, I would have tried to bluff and say, then you won’t be getting a divorce. He may have realized that. Though that would have been dangerous to me, (financially) I likely wouldn’t have thought it in real time.

  • Commitment- you made a vow for better or worse. The vow did not change because they are cheaters. And being cheated on is “worse”. If you took the vow seriously, you stay and try to work things out.

      • Oh, I did not stay!! I was just adding this was one of the reasons you will try and work things out. It was a complete mind fuck. I eventually realized how one sided that was and packed my bags. This gem of advice came from family members.

      • The vow was to ‘love, honor, and cherish’. Cheating breaks all three. The cheater broke the covenant.

        Adultery is a sin and was to be punished by death in the biblical times and per the Bible. Death ends the marriage convenient…’till death do us part’. Today, we don’t stone people who commit adultery, but most biblical scholars still see adultery as scriptural grounds for divorce.

        • I think the vow also is something like ‘forsake all others’. This also clearly breaks all marriage vows and contract. Once a contract is broken by one of the parties, the contract is broken for all of them.

        • I think the problem is that lots of us were somehow led to believe that just because one person breaks their vows, doesn’t mean that the other person is freed from his/her vows. I really struggled with the idea that my obligation was not changed by his behavior. I think a lot of us do. (And, heaven knows, plenty of cheaters try to convince their chumps that we are obligated to continue to forgive them, work with them, accept blame with them, etc. because of our vows.)

          • Yeah, this was me. I had made a vow to be good and true and faithful and all that, and my own integrity kept me there for too long afterwards. It didn’t matter to me that he hadn’t kept any of his promises; what mattered to me was keeping mine.

            I wouldn’t have called it hope then, and I still don’t because there was nothing hopeful about it, but I definitely had a rose-coloured assumption going on that he would come to his senses.

            Then there’s the classic not wanting to lose any time with my children. I had gone into parenthood determined to be 100% there for them, and giving up on the marriage seemed like not keeping that self-made vow either. The kids were very very young, and I had never seen evidence to believe he would be good at solo parenting them.

            I was basically being a martyr for my integrity and children, and I don’t know how long I would/could have kept it up except that a wonderful therapist helped pull those rose-coloured glasses off.

              • No doubt related to the reasons why he was a poor parent, it turned out that my ex didn’t want much time with the kids. As they got older and less care-intensive, he slowly showed more interest in them, and has worked his way up to every other weekend. I basically treated the situation like he had died, and I was now a completely single parent, who got a bit of a break now and then. I still feel bad for the kids when they to turn down an activity scheduled on their dad’s time because they don’t think he’ll bring them, but it’s nothing I can do anything about.

                Even on his time, I still consider myself 100% there for the children, because if something happened and they needed me, I’d be there as soon as I could. No different than if they were away from me at daycare or school or a sleepover.

                It was also very difficult to leave my kids with someone I had zero trust in. People would ask me if I thought he’d hurt them, and I’d have to honestly say I had no idea. Because if you’d asked me the day before D-Day if he’d cheat, I would have said no to that too. So the only truth I had was that I had no idea what he was capable of.

                Leaving is always worth it, as far as I’m concerned, with all the benefit of my hindsight. I’d much rather have to share my time with them than have them learn all the awful lessons they would have seen if I’d stayed. I am modeling my integrity and self-esteem for them every day. Had I stayed, I would have been modeling nothing but depression, and teaching them that cheaters win.

          • That’s a relationship without a level playing field, an asymmetric situation where one party is held to promises but the other can break them, over and over.

            That’s why CL talks about “reciprocity” as a hallmark of a healthy relationship.

            Even the Catholic Church recognizes that some people go into marriage with no intention of living up to their vows.

    • “Til death us do part” is what we tell ourselves when we’re living off hopium, in denial, spackling like crazy or pretending not to know what we do know. It’s not a good reason to stay in a bad marriage.

    • I’m not religious but the ideals of commitment/ family and ‘sunk costs’ got me stuck too. ‘I’ve invested so much, how can I quit now?’, ‘He’ll be so much better with Schmoopie, it’s not fair to let her win’ Etc etc. Such unhelpful thoughts that made him the star of the show. Now I remind myself to ‘trust that he sucks’.
      Thanks CL and CN, I’d still be stuck if it wasn’t for all your contributions.

  • Early on I think I had some awareness that I was denying, spackling, and filled with eternal hope that if I just behaved a certain way, he would be in a better mood. (By the way, I learned this behavior after years of living with my alcoholic father.)

    I was also afraid to admit I’d made a mistake. I was still unpacking the wedding crystal, after all!!! How embarrassing!

    As the years wore on, I found myself rooting for his favorite professional sports teams, knowing that a win would make him happier. Crazy shit like that.

    And then, as the decades passed, I didn’t even realize I was denying or spackling. That’s got to be Stage 4 denial.

  • The kids.

    I mistakenly thought I should hold it all together for them.

    I also imagined how horrible it would be for them to have to split time between him and me. I didn’t trust him to be alone with them. I thought they needed me to run interference.

      • I stayed. I didn’t split the time. I don’t know how things would have been had I left. I should have left. The kids now tell me they wish I had.

        It was only after he confessed to a multiyear after (after 35 years of marriage) that I left him. By then the kids were adults. We are divorced, and they’ve chosen to have nothing to do with him. Nothing, for which he blames me.

        • Kids make it so much more complicated.

          My son was grown and in the AF when my world crashed around me.

          Though he obviously suffered too, at least he wasn’t in the mix of it. Though his dad and schmoopie being who and what they are, they did hurt him terribly years down the line.

            • Thanks.

              Yes to me it is even worse than what he did to me. Intellectually I know it is just who he is, or what he became, either way. Still, I am having a hard time letting it go. Especially since my daughter in law, who I am very close to; is still dealing with the after effects.

        • I just want to clarify that I wasn’t aware of an affair earlier in our marriage when I thought about leaving him. It was this general sense that he was a jerk to me and the kids, that we were tiptoeing around him, that he was moody AF, that he was unstable, and that he wouldn’t get help. My youngest had an eating disorder 13 years ago, and when she cratered, he cratered with her. It was awful. Her psychiatrists asked me what was wrong with *him*. He seemed so unstable. I needed to protect my kids so kicked him out…

          But after 5 weeks, I took him back when he agreed to get therapy. [Note: he claims I broke our vows then so that he was free to break them later by committing adultery.] He did some major hoovering. I fell for it. I also didn’t want my eating-disordered daughter to feel that she was the cause of our marriage failing. It was compicated.

          If I’d found out he was cheating when the kids were still young, I don’t know what I would have done. I hope I would have left him and salute all of you who make (or have made) that decision. Indeed, it’s better for the kids to leave.

          These are my regrets.

          I try to tell myself that I did my best given the situation. Memories are tough.

          • Spinach, remember that *you* had PTSD from the abuse and gaslighting as well. You weren’t thinking as clearly then as you can now that you’re out of the situation. Be gentle with yourself. Your children have seen your loyalty to them the whole time: they know you love them, and they know what really was going on in that situation.

            • Spinach (& others who feel they stayed too long) –

              Like you, I stayed for 35 years and put the DOCTOR through the many, many unrelenting schooling/training/working years, raising our 3 kids as a single parent, etc.

              I derailed my legal career (which the DOCTOR now claims was “lazy” of me – never mind he was literally not home AT ALL 5 nights a week for YEARS & when he was home, he was usually exhausted or tense or he’s just an asshole with a great job and cover story). All this without a SINGLE word of gratitude from him.

              3 times the DOCTOR had moments of clarity and felt – dear God I swear -real remorse! I recall those moments and how they filled me with hopium. (Within months of those moments of clarity, which included tears, the remorse converted into shame and that converted into blame – )

              BUT at the time, I recall feeling such relief.

              SEE? HE GETS IT! HE DOES CARE!!! Things will improve and we will RESTORE our marriage….(happy face, THANKS, RIC, YOU WERE RIGHT!!!)

              When I look back at what I told myself and many others, it is with a humiliation I’ve rarely felt. Never have I been so wrong for so long.

              It’s Like finding out you were in a cult that you thought was a normal parish.

              I guess I thought that barbed monkeys were what everyone had…and if I could only wear better armor, THEN it wouldn’t hurt so much.

              Spinach, like you, my kids have told me they wish I had left earlier. Ugh. I certainly got that part wrong, too. But to be fair, who knows how it would have gone if Dr Narkles had fought for custody or played Disneyland Daddy or introduced them to the previous schmoopies when they were small? Maybe we just did the best we could with the LIMITED information available to our past selves.

              If I had known how utterly insignificant we all were – back then – I’d have cut him loose years ago.

              They do not change.

              IF IF IF they act better for the next schmoopie, that means almost nothing. Because, at best it would mean they learned to be better people, but that is NOT the same as thinking they’d have done that that for us. Nope. They faced consequences for their hideous choices and can’t afford to do that again.

              But in my case, my guess is that IF – IF – IF – THE DOCTOR treats his new schmoopie any better AND IF that lasts, (highly unlikely given what the one child he remains in touch with, says) but if so, it’s pure desparation on his part. He has not gotten a character transplant.

              FACT: like his dad in bis 4th marriage, he CANNOT BE ALONE.

              But oops, he’s discarded the 4 people who loved him the most. So he better cling tightly to her and HER child so he can pretend he has a “loving family” with people who never knew him before he was 60….

              Oh and now he has cancer…


              I fear this will never be painless for us. Also I struggle with knowing there are happy memories (I think) i’d like to keep.

              I was, after all, very devoted for decades and deeply committed to him and our family and future. So for now I’m going to stay proud of that piece. The hopium, the loyal to a fault, the behaviors I learned as a child of an alcoholic that also played a role, NOT so much pride there…

              I know only this: staying would have been so, SO much worse.

              • Doctor’sWifeandThreeKids,

                I think you and I could talk well into the evening….

                So many similarities.

                Quick question: It sounds as if one of your kids still communicates with your ex. But do you think (or has he indicated) that he ever considered that one of the consequences of cheating would be the loss of most of his family? Do cheaters more broadly even consider this, or are they so engrossed in their affair and needs that they don’t give it a second’s thought? I think mine was blindsided by the consequences. He’s always been clueless when it comes to emotions.

              • Spinach, I know for a fact that my STBX was blindsided that our kids want nothing to do with him. We are his second family. When he cheated on his first wife, their kids were so brainwashed by him that they believed it was 100% their mom’s fault. Now, he and his FOO are all baffled that our mature children want nothing to do with him. He didn’t just rob from the marriage, he robbed from the family. Due to his neglect, he had already lost his relationship with the kids before I decided to divorce him.

    • My daughter was barely a toddler. He even wanted to have another. All while doing whatever HE wanted to do, his family be damned. Thinking about staying with that made me physically ill. Thinking about leaving and having our daughter split her time between us made me physically ill. This is why it’s abuse. They put us in the worst position possible. The thought of staying with that is what made me come to conclusion that I could not and splitting time would be the least of the evils he foisted upon us.

      • My son was 5, I had just finished a masters degree and settled back into a career after being a stay at home mom. I was already dealing with missing tile with my boy due to working and that separation all you mamas know all to well.

        I stayed and pick me danced and did all the other horrible make yourself small things just to keep as much time with my boy as possible.

        I also couldn’t bear to bring down his world by having him have to go back between houses and have a “broken” family.

    • That’s where I’m at. I wish I had the luxury to “run” and “thrive”. I have two small kids with s sociopath formally known as “my perfect hubbie and bff”. The most horrible stuff he does, it’s like my maternal instinct gets on Flight, Fight, Freeze and I want to be even more with him to protect my kids. But of course, I could give love another chance and be happy ever after. How is that working out for you, Shanaan Watts?

      • LonelyChump, I want to advocate for leaving. My daughter was 5yo and the little time he spent with her, he was awful and destructive. What you said about your maternal instincts really hits home with me.
        I was hypervigiliant for years protecting my baby from him and constantly doing the balancing of making things worse by interference for me or her.
        Let me tell you that you won’t be able to do it for years without expense at your health and sanity. If these things are going on in your home, your kids already know and learn to adjust to the dynamic.

        I’m one of the lucky ones as my cheater eventually halfway got his act together as a father after I kicked him out. I put parenting classes one-on-one with a child psychologist in the separation agreement. Of course, it’s all image management and changing the narrative to a new public persona. But after 1.5 years my daughter is doing great and has been teaching cheater that kids see through lame-ass attempts and distinguish real commitment. But then again my daughter is advanced for her age and able to communicate her emotions close to adult level. It also means she understood and suffered all the pain and hurt a mother and betrayed spouse could feel regardless of me limiting her exposure to it.

        That being said, I understand and feel for anyone with babies and smaller children. I had more than enough reasons to leave him when she was 1yo (no knowledge of cheating then) and was advised to do so by several Catholic counselors and stayed for all the reasons you gave above.

        Sending you love and strength.

        If you do stay,set a deadline based on your youngest child’s age. Mine was six. Glad I didn’t keep it up cause I would have been stuck with him in the pandemic if I’d done so.

        • This is a very difficult question. If a partner is destructive then staying exposes children to this destruction, however much a person shields the child. The longer the stay, the longer exposure to toxicity for a child.

          Shielding also always involves gaslighting. I was always told by my mother how my father did love me in his own way. No, he didn’t. My father first and foremost loved himself. I also have a long history of relationships with men who lived me in their own way. The thing is, they didn’t love me in a way I need to be loved and they first and foremost lived themselves.

          I believe it’d be healthier for me if they divorced when I was a child.

      • Shan’ann Watts was murdered along with her unborn child and two little girls because she STAYED with an abuser.

        Leaving a marriage is not about finding another man or woman to love but getting yourself and your kids out of a relationship that will damage you. Living with a sociopath is not good for your kids, whether you are there with him or you live separately. In fact, if you have a healthy and same home life, your kids at least get to see what normal looks like.

    • OMG so much of what you said sounds like me. I hated the weekends when his favorite sports team lost – for days afterwards I’d just keep myself and the kids out of the way. Try to make them play quietly. Talk about walking on eggshells. If the game was starting to go poorly I’d just leave the house with the kids. And I still convinced myself that I had a good marriage. It makes me so sad to think about. I’m so so so much happier now that I’m out.

      I was also worried about the kids being by themselves with him and it kept me stuck – they were only 2 and 6 when I finally kicked him out.

    • Kids also slowed me down – as you say wanting to run interference, and also provide.
      Spackling and making excuses for what I now understand was abuse.
      Also long before CL having a narrow definition of cheating – gave him waaay too much benefit of the doubt re flirting and worried about small lies but lacked proof of bigger transgressions. glad to be moved on and NC.

  • “It’s hard to walk away from an investment, even a bad one. In fact (there’s some law in economics about it), the MORE you invest, the harder it is to walk away, even when you know you’re losing!”

    I never had to make the choice to leave because he made it for me, but this was me when I could tell something was off with him and our relationship, but I kept telling myself that it was normal, everyone goes through cycles of happier moments and not so happy ones. I didn’t want to see. He did gaslight me when I asked, but I’m also aware that looking back now I ignored all the signs because we had been together since we were 21, we had grown up together as young adults, went through the whole penniless youngsters raising a baby and to a much more comfortable life, I had invested so many years on us and our lives together. I couldn’t imagine a future without us, because by the time he started cheating he had been a constant in my life for so long. Sometimes I read comments here, people who were married for 25, 30, 40 years and my heart breaks; how can you let go when it’s been so long?

    I have the most respect for those who choose to leave a cheater after that many years. It takes so much courage to let it all go.

    • “I kept telling myself it was normal.”


      It’s normal for my husband not to talk to me. After all, he’s a doctor. He must be so sad and preocuppied with thoughts of sick patients.

      It’s normal for me to take two cars to our kids’ ice hockey games so they don’t have to drive home with him and endure blistering criticism.

      It’s normal for me to shut off political podcasts when he walks into the room (it upsets him so).

      It’s normal for me to not go out with friends because he needs me and will sulk if I do.

      It’s normal for me to pretend I’m not with a friend so that I’m free to talk to him whenever he calls. (He once became furious that I was walking with my sister and couldn’t talk. I needed to always be available FOR HIM.)

      It’s normal for me to walk on eggshells, to tell the kids that Dad’s on call, so he might be angry. Hey kids, his sour mood is not a result of anything you’ve done.

      It’s normal for him to sulk, to get angry, to exhibit silent rage.

      It’s normal for me to do EVERYTHING around the house and to be cricitzed for doing things “half ass.” “You shoveled the entire roof in near freezing temps, but you missed a spot.”

      It’s normal for him to suddendly change his work schedule, going in earlier and coming back later. (Work must be really, really tough right now. Note: He was at a hotel or her house.)

      It’s normal for me to gobble up whatever little breadcrumbs (gifts, flowers, shows of concern) he tossed my way and to feel that because we had a good sex life, all was well.

      None of this was normal. I didn’t see it. I was the queen of spackle and denial.

      • Thank you soooo much for posting this! I don’t feel alone anymore because I have CN who understands what we went thru. No more walking on egg shells for me !xo sweet

      • Spinach, mine was a doctor too. It’s been 6 weeks since I had him served. He sounds so similar to my ex except mine was “too tired” to ever attend one of children’s events. He actually complained about high school graduation. All of my housework was ignored. He’d focus on the nights I cooked things he didn’t like— wouldn’t sit at the table with us because he was too stressed from his busy day, couldn’t talk because he’d been dictating and he was “talked out”. The prostitute, he justifies to our kids, was just something that happened—when the kids & I were out of town moving the older one home from college when covid hit. So yeah, mr germaphobe decides to bring a hooker into my house in the middle of a pandemic. He’s so arrogant, condescending and outright rude. I put in 30 years to our marriage.

        • Faithful Rage,

          He’s awful! The cheating is bad enough, but bringing a sex worker into your home during a pandemic puts everyone’s health at risk. He should know better. Well, he does know better but decided to do it anyway. So selfish and entitled!!

          Your kids must know what kind of man he is. And they must know that you’re the strong mom who’s there for them.

          My two daughters are also physicians, but they manage to be pleasant despite the stress of their jobs. When my oldest came home from work and started making dinner the other day, my jaw dropped. “Wait, you can cook after working all day as a physician? How is that possible?” I was so used to this male prima donna doc.

          Good luck with the divorce!

      • In my session with my therapist yesterday, we were discussing separating from toxic patterns that are not normal, but we thought were normal just because we’re used to them. I had started the session telling her I recently got a medical implant removed and discovered it had actually been giving me a minor bacterial infection. I started feeling better within a few hours of it being removed. I had grown used to low-grade, constant dull pain (caused by inflammation) and once it was gone, I was kind of shocked at how different I started feeling. Like “Oh…that’s NOT normal…wow.”

        I had also realized my partner has never interrupted, talked over, or mansplained to me. It was such a “…wait a second HOLY SHIT!” moment because I am used to partners who would never let me finish my thoughts, talked over me, or tried to explain my own jobs, passions, or areas of education to me.

        She said it’s good and bad. Good because I finally found someone who shows respect for me and my intelligence, bad because that’s how it SHOULD be, and I’ve never had that before.

        My best friend also just moved away from her abusive mother and is experiencing life out of that toxic space. She’s already happier not coming home to criticism every single night.

        It’s hard to understand what you live with isn’t normal when it’s been part of your life for so long. But familiarity isn’t necessarily good, or the same as happiness. It’s scary to step away from what you know. It’s kinda my theme for the week.

        • I will say that my marriage to XH the substance abuser ended because of the constant contempt, criticism, and lack of respect.

          • That’s pretty much what abuse is. Chronic disrespect, criticism, mistreatment, and lies.

            My friend had to face that every day from her mother. She’s so happy to be away, she keeps asking me if this is how normal people live and she just texted me a picture of how much her acne has cleared up. The levels of stress she had around her mom was making her sick.

      • Spinach35 – same! All same! I convinced myself that not only was all that normal, I had a good thing! Wtf.

        Mine wasn’t a doctor, he was a a medical device salesman.

      • Wow Spinach, I could have written this list. I internalized all these things as normal to the point where I didn’t even realize it as abuse. I hardly ever went out so that I could be available in case he needed something. And if I did go out, he’d call several times, just to say hi and expect me to talk to him about nothing really. Sometimes, if I was having a rare girls night, he’d drop by and then hang out with us all evening. Once he didn’t talk to me for 3 days because I didn’t respond to his text to put the tires in the trunk for our appointment the next day in a timely manner. Also a physician.

        I can’t believe how much crap I put up with. I also stayed until my youngest hit 18. No way I was splitting time when he wouldn’t even feed them the dinner I made before I went out. I’d come home and the kids would be asleep in their school clothes, teeth not brushed, and dinner not fed. Plus, I had boys and couldn’t bear them thinking porn, prostitutes and poker was a healthy lifestyle choice.

        • Sometimes I think they do this as a way to ‘teach us a lesson’ as in ‘see I won’t take care of them – that’s your job’ type of deal. They always have a way of retaliation/manipulation. He knew you would notice that the kids were not taken care of and that you would then not leave him alone with them again.

      • Thank you Spinach – everything you listed is my life… not only didn’t I see that it isn’t normal, but didn’t KNOW it isn’t normal. I have a great therapist who is helping me understand it. When I confronted my FW about all the ongoing communication with the OW (who is his married employee), he claimed it was “work-related”. When I specifically mentioned a text he sent her one night at midnight, he said “well I texted you once at 11:00 pm and you didn’t answer me.” My bad…NOT! Gathering my courage to file for divorce.

      • Oh….Spinach…we clearly need a day to post about Dr. FWs! Once again, you hit the nail on the head – having to take two cars to games, check! Mine was because he just couldn’t stand being ON TIME. Imagine that.

  • My ex said and did all the right things after Dday. He totally seemed to be trying to change.

    The problem was twofold…1. He had done so much by the time ai found out. A full blown multi-month affair and a pill problem. 2. Even though he said and did the right things, whenever I wanted to talk about it or ask questions he’d get so so so pissed. He could cheat for months and probably years but he never could “remember” or talk about it more than once. Never could answer any real questions I had. Would trash the house or leave the house if I kept it up.

    My mind screamed this is abuse…this is designed to shut me up…but hey he was going to therapy and reading books and cooking and cleaning and buying me flowers and texting me sweet things every day. Look how hard he’s trying!

    Three years later my Dad died and he left me for a coworker three weeks later. They don’t change. They just don’t.

    • “He could cheat for months and probably years but he never could “remember””

      It’s funny how they are all the same, and suffer from amnesia every time you have questions. I don’t even get it tbh, once you’ve fessed up why not tell the whole truth? Instead we have to go through 84 different versions of the same thing and so many “I can’t remember”. Even when the truth is ugly it sets you free, so why can’t they just give us that?

      • Because it keeps them in control and it’s abusive. They know you what to know, that’s why they will never tell you or ‘trickle truth’ things to you so that you never get the whole picture and also so you keep coming back to them for information – that part is just another form of CAKE. You are paying attention to them. It’s just a maze of dysfunction but they know what they are doing.

    • X ‘can’t remember either’.

      Maybe it’s the constant percoset or the tramadol or the periodic surgeries in order to continue his supply of legal prescription painkillers or the excessive drinking of only crown royal or beer or margaritas or denial or the false narrative.

      Don’t care.

      I have my life to attend.

    • “He could cheat for months and probably years but he never could “remember.”

      Just as another illustration that cheating is abuse: According to clinical research of convicted domestic abusers, batterers often can’t remember details of the assaults they commit while victims can’t forget a millisecond of the same events. It has something to do with abusers’ state of “deindividuation”– a deliberately-sought return to an infantile state, much like the state sought by those who engage in mob violence. It’s engineered psychosis. Whether it’s shedding one’s selfhood, sense of individual responsibility and grasp of reality through an orgy of violence or a tranced-out orgy of orgy is beside the point.

      Then again cheaters also lie like they breathe. But it’s hardly reassuring if they honestly can’t recall anything. The latter places them in a rather disconcerting pathological category.

      • Mine just told me after 20 years that he owns me no explanation and he only talks about the kids. Like that. If this is not torture and abuse I don’t know what it is.

        • Silence is golden when all you can expect from a cheater is a torrent of DARVO-y swill. There’s a mountain of criminological research and pathology studies that will fill in cheater’s explanation gaps.

          You don’t owe him the right to define himself as you move on and polish up your picker.

    • They really don’t, not after they have heaped that much abuse.

      There is no way a person can coldly devalue, humiliate, and discard a spouse, then turn it around. I just don’t see first of all how they can, and second of all, how we could ever forget it.

      I think most betrayed spouses who live with a cheater after that treatment, live lives of quiet desperation. The cheater likely is just fine, and doing what they always do, just hiding it better.

  • about timely. I was just playing the why I stay game.

    This is cheater #2 Divorced from Cheater #1 because he left not because I kicked him out.

    I made a decision in January to continue with the relationship I was in, even after some shady shit happened. My BF had helped me through some tough times. I had also just walked away from a from a spiritual organization I had been part of for 25 years. As a result lost alot of friends.

    Then one of my only friends left moved out of state.

    Then Covid hit.

    In the last six months I have had 4 D-days with him. Each due to discovery not confession. Some occured during the pandemic, so double health jeopardy.

    He has been good for the last 3 months, but the behavior is starting again.

    We don’t live together, but there are days/weeks he is the only adult who I have contact with.

    It’s his shitty behavior or the black hole of nothing.

    I have every confidence once the world opens up I will be able to find new friends, but until then… he is better than nothing?

    • The COVID crisis could go on for another 18 months.

      Do you know the Greek myth of Persephone in hell? Persephone, the goddess of vegetation, is abducted to the underworld– the land of the dead– by Hades. As long as she doesn’t eat the food of the dead while there, she may eventually return to earth. But once, in despair, she accepts a few pomegranate seeds from the hand of Hades. Once she eats them the die is cast and she’s cursed to spend a third of the year in hell for eternity, during which time winter descends on the earth and nothing grows.

      You’re in despair but just trying to mediate how low that despair sinks. But think about all the things you might be motivated to do if he was not around and that you definitely won’t do if he is around– the recovery groups you might join, the virtual events you might participate in, even online meet-ups if not dating.

      Despite the drawbacks, in some ways the lockdowns are perfect for healing and recovering from abuse. They always ssy take it slow when energing from trauma. Well now the whole world is taking it slow. For one, gadzillions of people are lonely and reaching out like never before. Many people are also finding themselves becoming more real and serious about the quality of friendships they create with others. Lockdown has driven a lot of reflection and at few other points in history has there been such a collective longing for depth. There have also been tons of breakups in quarantine. Your future best friends in Edinburgh and Singapore and down the block and in East Lansing are just waiting to swap stories and have a cry and a laugh about it

      In other words, there’s a whole world out there of people who will “get” you except for the big cheating turd blocking access to it and holding out a fistful of rotting death berries.

      • This is genius. Very accurate as far as the times…Thank you!
        My husband cheated a while ago but I found out 6 months ago… I know in my soul it has to end it will never be the happy healthy thing I signed up for. The type of marriage I was offering
        And I also know now would’ve the best time. Not later when life starts “bustling” again. Fear is a mother…

    • Dump him! I did it during a pandemic. You are just moving the goal posts when you wait… there are groups on fb to join and meet new friends, call family when you want to talk to him, get a make over and new hairstyle to make yourself feel better. He is keeping you in a rock and hard place and he knows it. You deserve much much more than this! If I can do it, you can too! Be mighty, you can’t ever change him! He wants you to accept him this way and your gut says NO. Go with your gut! Xo sweet

    • BetterwAge,

      A cheater will never be more that a debit when considered on life’s balance sheet. Without him you do not have nothing; without him you still have you and you have Chump Nation, which both put you substantially in credit.


    • Have you left these organizations and friends because they are not for you? Or is the cheater boyfriend subtly poisoning you against them in order to cut you off and keep you dependent on him? One is ok, the other is a tried and true narc red flag. Please be careful.

    • No, he is far worse than nothing. I left Nitwit in the middle of the pandemic too and there is so much I can do now that I never could do when I was married to him, even with the restrictions. Like your cheater Nitwit just had to go out not only with the OW but his male friend/possible OM too. He did this knowing full well I visit my elderly parents every weekend and his irresponsibility puts their health at risk as well as mine. He literally doesn’t care if you are struck with a terrible disease. If he did he would curtail his “activities”.

      The fact that you are going through a good period means nothing because over time your definition of “good” becomes warped. I used to consider it a good day when Nitwit would demand that I drop what I was doing to cuddle with him, say he was “so horny”, then withhold sex. Because at least he wasn’t insulting me or with the OW at the moment. If you stay with him the good periods will get shorter and less frequent until they disappear entirely. Hold out for real monkey love. Dump the loser.

  • Kids. I am terrified of them being alone with him. He is physically and emotionally neglectful, and quick to rage when they’re just being kids. And I don’t think he earns the right to being rewarded with half their lives all to himself, and I should get punished further by losing that time with them.

    Incidentally, kids are also the best reason to leave, so…shit sandwiches all around.

    • “And I don’t think he earns the right to being rewarded with half their lives all to himself, and I should get punished further by losing that time with them.“

      THISall day long. He had already taken so much from me, now he was going to take the kids! I hate the courts of 2020. Why should the cheater automatically get 50/50? And the cheating isn’t even considered! No one cares that he brought our 6 year old out with his tart on 3 separate occasions that I know of just so he would have an alibi.

      Punished for his crimes.

    • Are you still with him? If so, start documenting the neglect and rages. Take pictures, record conversations, video incidents. If your kids are old enough for phones, start saving any texts or messages they send about his behavior.

      Custody disagreements are hard once you are separated because you may not have any actual evidence and your testimony is “he said/she said” hearsay.

      So build your case now. If you verbally tell a judge that your ex is neglectful, it is easy for a cheater to lie their way out of it. It is a lot harder for him if you can play an audio recording of him screaming and swearing at the children. Now that’s effective for court.

    • Hugs to you, Sable.
      Start documenting your spouse’s practices now, and keep documenting during separation/divorce. (Monday, 8:15am: Spouse forgets to do xyz for kids, Tuesday, 5:45pm: Spouse calls kid “stupid,” etc.) You might (eventually, at least) be able to file for primary custody. Find the best possible lawyer to represent you in this matter!

      • Has documenting this kind of stuff truly helped anyone? I hear mixed reviews, that some judges don’t even bother reading lists such as these. I have been keeping one for years, however.

        • Document for your own benefit, as a reminder of why the marriage had to end. Your children can read it when they’re adults if they want, in case of hoovering by the disordered parent in old age.

    • It’s been my experience that cheaters SAY they want equal time with the kids but once it’s time to be 100% responsible for the time they do have them, they will see them less & less.
      My ex moved away & saw the kids about 10 days per year.
      He would even fly in (for a friends’ 50th birthday, a bachelor party, etc) for the weekend, take his son to lunch, spend the rest of his time with his shitball friends but pat himself on the back for being a good dad.

      In short, they don’t really care about their kids.

  • EGO- I watched a great video about killing your ego. You know better now and are no longer him or her. You must kill that part of your EGO to move forward and continue loving yourself. There are a lot of very intelligent men and women here… you might know more about the EGO than I do xo sweet

  • I left my cheater husband and am now alone, working on meh and contentment at age 60. Meanwhile, my neighbor spends every weekend doing something fun with her husband and gushes about how happy she is with him. Ten years ago, she suddenly got HPV after 20 years of marriage, and she decided to believe that it had been “dormant” in him from his “wild days” before he met her. She believes that the right person can change any man for the better, and that’s what she did for him. It seems to me that he probably cheated on her, but she will not even consider such a possibility. I know she’s probably got her head in the sand, or is living in a bubble, but she is so happy with him that sometimes I wonder if it really is better to live her way! Would love to hear your thoughts. Also, it hurts to feel that in her view I’m wasn’t “right” enough for my marriage.

    • It’s not that you weren’t right enough in the marriage , it’s that you chose to see the truth and protect yourself. Your neighbor is living in her own denial and there is no way she will see it unless she chooses to do so. Honestly, only reason why we look over and see what is going on with other ppl is because we , ourselves, need DISTRACTION from our own hurt! I’ve been there. I am not judging. It takes time and pain to see what we have been thru and accept it to move forward in life. I distracted myself with other people’s choices and pain and denied myself for a long time. One motto I say daily is: I can only control myself, no one else! I wish for you calm, peace and love when you embark on this new journey! Much love xo sweet

      • “Also, it hurts to feel that in her view I’m wasn’t “right” enough for my marriage.”

        If she told you that, it’s so out of order.

        Sometimes I also wonder whether it’s better to live in ignorance, but then I think about the fact that I did live in ignorance for 3 years, and while my life continued, I think the body and mind knows something is wrong even when you don’t. It’s like, on the surface we looked happy and have tons of photos to ‘prove’ it. But underneath it all, something awful was growing inside me. My physical health was suffering, I couldn’t sleep, I was irritable very often, used to have awful nightmares of him leaving me. I wasted a lot of time living in that bubble, and eventually he left anyway. Now I wish I faced the truth earlier than I did. So no, I don’t think that living in denial is better. Your neighbour isn’t quite as lucky as she claims (or seems) to be.

        • vee, thank you for sharing this. I believe you’re right. In my weaker moments, I just envy my neighbor’s enjoyment of life with her husband— they are companions and do lots of weekend things together. I am still struggling to find a good peaceful place as a single person. I miss the built in company of being married. Before I knew what my husband was doing, we had bike trips, meals out, movies, etc.

          • Ali,
            I hear ya! I’m also 60 and alone for the first time. I, too, get a pang of jealousy when someone tells me about the fun stuff she and her husband did over the weekend. It’s only natural.

            In my case, I have to remind myself that being with him on the weekends had its downsides. We always had to do what *he* wanted to do (i.e., fly fish). I don’t miss that.

            He stomped around and was sullen and moody. I don’t miss that.

            As for dinners and movies, we can’t really do those now because of the pandemic. But I have to remind myself that that my ex was not a pleasant meal companion. He hardly talked. And he rarely wanted to go to the movies.

            In some ways I felt lonelier with him than I do now that I’m actually alone.

            But, yeah, the pangs of wanting are still there. As CL puts it in her response today, “Codependency has been described as the addiction to the POTENTIAL of things.” I think I’m to recover from that addiction.

          • I like to remember the Shakespearean phrase, “she doth protest too much.”
            In other words, anyone who’s routinely gushing about how much fun they’re having is probably overcompensating for not-so-great times under the surface. Like poor Shanann Watts’s social media posts. I mean, I get sharing some fun reflections with friends after a particularly enjoyable experience. But not all the time.

            And I second the notion of intuition. I have been tired all the time ever since my STBX’s first affair in 2004. I thought it was a long-term side effect of my cancer treatments, but now I suspect otherwise. (I now believe I experienced emotional trauma at that time, though I didn’t recognize the signs, and neither did any of the therapists we worked with afterward.) In between STBX’s two “hot” affairs in 2004 and 2018, she was engaging in a lot of “affair-lite” behaviors like intense friendships with people she was attracted to. She was definitely devaluing me, and I think my body knew it even before my intellect did.

            So, we’re definitely experiencing impacts after cheating, whether we know it consciously or not. If anyone chooses to stay with a cheater, I would at the very least STRONGLY advise working with a therapist who understands emotional abuse and trauma, and who never ever ever minimizes what the chump has been through.

            • Hey LezChump,

              Your post reminded me of this book that my therapist recommended: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

              Thought you might be interested.

              I hope things are getting better for you.

              • Thanks, I’ll check it out! Am still trying to find a decent therapist who can do EMDR with me. Not so easy to find in my area, sadly.

                Things are definitely getting better since the separation, but parallel parenting during Covid is a crap show when I am vulnerable due to medical history, and fuckwit is a fuckwit. I finally managed yesterday to get an agreement about our kid’s social distancing over the winter, or until I’m vaccinated. My workload also doubled with no help or additional compensation in August. While I’m grateful to have a job etc., I’m definitely still managing toxic stress most of the time. Am looking forward to making the walls sing one of these months….! (And doing self-care/sane parenting in the meantime.) All best to you!

              • Lezchump, during the pandemic- EMDR doesn’t have to be in your area. My kids have done EMDR online (zoom sessions) and have had 100% positive results. I am completely blown away at the change in them. Kids first, I am going to get treatment when they are done. I was super hesitant to “waste” money on not getting the “full” experience. I was wrong. So look for EDMR therapists ANYWHERE. They are all working from home and the process is 100% effective virtually.

    • Ali– I was willing to accept that maybe your neighbor had overcome some shit in her marriage… until you mentioned the judgey, shitty, smug remark she made about the dissolution of yours. “Happy” people don’t say things like that. People with a basic grasp of reality and social consciousness don’t say things like that to someone in your circumstance.

      What you went through was not about mere incompatibility. You were abused. Full stop. You win by being free of it, you may just not fully feel it yet. Stay away from crap-thinking neighbors in the meantime.

      • Thank you, Hell of a Chump! It has been hard with her. We are in a walking group, so I see her a lot, and I have struggled with whether or not I should stay in the group, even though the exercise and socializing is good for me. Also, after I left my husband, who cheated on me with prostitutes, instead of showing empathy, she said, “No one I know has been through anything like this…..”
        implying what, I’m not sure, but certainly not sympathetic.

        • Ali– Yikes, another example of something no genuinely happy, reality-grounded person would say.

          She’s comparing, placing you in a state of imagined social isolation and distancing from your fate a la “safe world” construct, also known by other names depending on application. The “safe world” knee-jerk is why jury consultants often advise prosecuters in rape trials to avoid packing juries with certain kinds of women who may feel so personally vulnerable to being raped themselves that they reflexively try to find fault with the victim and may even side with the accused.

          The safe world thinking goes something like this: “God is in his heaven and good things happen to good people. Ergo, if sonething bad happens to someone, they must be doing something wrong or are fundamentally bad, unlike me who will be spared their fate. So I must now figure out what arbitrary things the victim has done that I can claim *I* would never do to sustain my irrational sense of being exempt from the misfortune that I can virtually feel breathing down my neck. Never mind if wearing red on Sundays or having tea with lemon instead of milk has fuck-all to do with being targeted by sexual predators, I will cling violently and defensively to anything I think distingushes the victim from me and sets them apart even if I have to fabricate those differences. God loves me more! Yelp, shriek. No really!”

          Look out because people in these throes can take the hysterical distancing further and even cuddle up to your perp. It’s a typical way that irrational, denial-ridden bystanders have of grovling for amnesty before the gods of misfortune.

          Now you know how “hapoy” her marriage is. She’s basically confessed that she’s living on a precipice with these distancing cracks. Just be wary that this type can often spy for the other side and watch your back.

          • Thank you, Hell of a Chump. Very important thoughts. It’s funny, but as a very young woman I used to be guilty of thinking along the lines of: as long as I don’t do anything wrong, I will never be divorced! That divorce was for selfish people not willing to work hard at something. That infidelity happened when one person’s needs weren’t being met. Wow. Did I have a lot to learn!

            • Same here.

              Actually I remember about a year before he left me for schmoopie, I was thinking; (because he was stressed and he told me that it was his work, new promotion) that at least I wouldn’t have to worry about divorce because we were still solid in the bedroom, and he knew I would support him. HA, what a stupid idiot I was.

            • Ali– You and everyone else think that way until we learn the pitfalls of it or are taught about the pitfalls. This is why I think that the basics of victimology should be taught in secondary school. A lot of these thinking patterns are just typical human misapplication. The “safe world” view is one of those vital fallacies that allows average people to, say, get into their cars every day and take the freeway to work– on the belief that they will somehow evade accident statistics. Part of it’s useful just for functioning but the thinking has a definite downside, one of which is being lulled into a sort of irrational hubris and a tendency to blame the unfortunate for their own misfortunes. Doing it gives us an illusion of control or exemption but in the end can place us in greater danger, either because it drives people to cuddle up to perps or because they will be paralyzed with shame when, due to whatever random reasons, it becomes their turn to be victimized and all their former knee-jerk victim blaming comes home to roost.

              When I worked as an advocate for survivors of DV, one of the biggest problems to tackle was unburdening survivors of the shame over “why they didn’t leave sooner.” Uninformed first responders, therapists, social workers and state advocates are always laying that one on survivors which ironically only caused MORE paralyzing shame to the mountain of shame/blame that abusers had laid on survivors, and doing it exactly in a moment when victims need to be energized and mobilized to get all the way free. The “why didn’t you leave sooner” also comes from a safe world mentality that even professionals who deal with DV are prone to. There’s an excellent chapter on it in Posttraumatic Stress Therapy and the Victims of Violence edited by Frank Ochberg. Statistically this is not a successful approach, though it makes the person making the judgment feel momentarily “safer.”

              • I so agree with your reply. We need to teach young people about predatory people. I don’t know if cluster B disorders are on the rise but they certainly seem to be and these characters are so incredibly destructive. It should be part of sex education/dating/healthy relationship training.

                Also, blaming the victim extends to all of the discourse around partnering with all stripes of abusers. Even this notion of “fixing our pickers” makes me bristle and don’t even get me started on codependency. We aren’t broken – we are imperfect/normal humans who were conned by liars/cheaters/low-empathy assholes.

                The cognitive dissonance once paired up with these people is akin to putting your brain in a blender. I still can’t wrap my head around the crap my STBX did. It takes time to realize what it is and then work through all of the things that keep us stuck. Chump Lady should be writing courses for high schoolers!!

        • You are the other side of the coin for her and maybe what you are actually hearing from her is a twinge if jealousy and regret that she didn’t leave her cheater.

    • Actually, that is how some HPV infections work. It can take decades to turn into a cancer. I know this firsthand. My ex-wife infected me from cheating and many years later I’ve been treated for an HPV-caused cancer.

      • jimthzz. — I, too, received HPV from cheater ex. I’m really sorry to hear that you have, too. But does it take decades for the INFECTION to show up? She was HPV free for the first 20 years of their marriage, then suddenly had it. Women usually get checked for it every year during their ob/gyn visit. I don’t know the science, but it seems strange to me. But ultimately, not my concern and I need to let it go, I know! I hope you are doing well in your treatment!

        • No, infections aren’t dormant, cancers take time to develop. She got that infection from her husband and his infection wasn’t dormant. He got it from somebony.

    • Good question.

      I think I am glad it crashed on me (and him) because, other wise I would have never had a shot at a new life. My married life with him would have always been putting his needs first. When I started living on my own, it was such a rush to put me first. At first, it was difficult. I still had some difficulty in not thinking of what he would like. Before long though, I was sailing.

      My now husband is totally different than the ex. He has no issue considering my needs. I also consider his. We are well suited for each other. But we spent several years getting to know each other; physically, mentally, emotionally and financially before getting married.

    • This is weird and probably really unhealthy…but I honestly envy people who can do that. I’m a worrier, a thinker, a ruminator. It’s like being religious…I can’t suspend my disbelief, and I cannot EVER unknow anything once I know it. Some people totally can, and they seem happy? Ignorance is truly bliss.

    • I don’t think she is in denial simply because I don’t think she is that stupid and ignorant. Even if she were her doctor would have schooled her about some hard facts and realities about that.

      I do think she is neck deep in image management that rivals that of fuckwits worldwide. She HAS to pretend happy and pretend ignorance, because if she ever acknowledges the truth and the facts, medical facts no less, she’d have to leave him to save face and she is too afraid. She isn’t happy, she is living in hell, pretending really really hard that it’s heaven.

      No, no, no you do not not want to live in that kind of a nightmare. Remember that no matter how hard you spackle, no matter how much you pretend, the abuse you suffer behind closed doors is reality and only way out is to leave the abuser. This woman is spackling to kingdom come. No normal, sane, healthy couple is ever really so busy announcing to the world how “happy” they are. She is doing it because it’s a way to justify staying with a fuckwit. Do not buy her bs, pretty please. Save your sanity and step away from her and her image management madness.

    • Ali, she believes. I’d rather be in my sixties finding contentment. The evidence I had with a serial cheater was extensive.

      It took me years to gain confidence in myself after I divorced him. Going into year seven of freedom I know I never needed him. So I’ll add cognitive dissonance to CL’s list. To me it causes the inertia as well as fear.

    • Ali, I think your neighbour is abusive. She knows you are alone yet she gushes about her perfect marriage? She sucks as a person.

  • All this, yes.

    A few years before I officially discovered my husband was a Whore Fucker, we were going to take a bike ride to the beach. As we were filling the bike tires with air, his bike tipped over and a condom fell out of the bottle holder. Right there on the ground, with both of us staring at it. Ps- He had had a vasectomy, we never used condoms.

    I looked at him right in the face and said “why is there a condom in bike’s drink holder?” Defensive and said, “I don’t know, what, do you think I’m riding my bike to go have sex with someone?”

    Here’s the super fucked up part. I do not remember what happened after that. I know that we got past that, and I don’t think there was a giant blowup over it. I guess I must’ve just let it go, and not let my brain dwell on it, I don’t know.

    The fact that my brain worked like that (or DIDN’T work) back then amazes me now. Thank God those days are over.

    • They are insidious liars and gas lighters. We get conditioned like the proverbial frog in a pot.

      That is why (I think) we retain so much anger at ourselves and need to find a way to release it. I harbored that anger for over 20 years and didn’t even realize it, until FWs recent blow up with our son. Through research of narcissist’s, I started to release it. Also found this wonderful funny, and truthful site. Wish I had access to all this back in real time.

    • Givetimetime,

      I identify with this story.

      In the face of an obvious clue to his cheating, I just didn’t let it penetrate my consciousness. I mean, my brain seemed to protect me from the pain it knew I would feel if I acknowledged reality.

      To my knowledge, that has never happened to me before. It’s strange and unsettling. I like to think I have control over my mind.

    • My FW ex-boyfriend pulled this one too! Went out to the car to go to work after he had been on a weekend away “visiting friends” and there was a used condom in the console under the emergency brake. I was like WTF, and he said homeless people must have had sex in the car since he left it unlocked. And I was like, oh, OK, that must be it, gross, but whatever. What was wrong with my brain? A while later I stopped taking his crap and he bailed without a backward glance; but it still took me a number of years to add 2+2 and realize he’d been cheating on top of all his other character flaws.

      • I keep having these ‘realizations’ about what was really going on in my relationships when I read this site. In some ways it is freeing, because it ‘wasn’t me’ and then sometimes just jarring because the proof was right there and I never saw it. Makes me feel dumb to realize that and the numerous times that I was made to look ‘crazy’ to our friends because of my reaction to something he had done, when they knew different facts than I did. It’s hard to face that, but revealing also.

  • Ignorance-I had zero idea what he was doing. No clue. He was especially drunk and awful but this was his baseline. I just thought, he is having a bad month not knowing his schmoops had dumped him after learning he had slept with another co-worker. I was fortunate to read their texts (thanks to schmoops boyfriend that took pics of the texts) and immediately took off my ring and didn’t go back. The entire d-day was 600 d-days in wrapped into a little present for me to snap out of my ignorance.

    • I was ignorant too! You would think being drunk, verbally abusive, denying me love and empathy would have been enough to walk away… nope! I stayed and saw signs but replayed a story in my mind that he would NEVER hurt me like this. You are not alone! Xo sweet

  • This is fantastic and genius writing

    Thanks once again I’ve not seen this
    Constant reminders. Faith to take the leap it’s just what we need here

  • This is very well written and the best I’ve read encompassing “stuck”. I never thought about inertia and it is a big factor. It takes energy and action to make major changes. When you are reeling as I have been where I am physically tired from depression, mentally foggy, riddled with ptsd, and an effort to do just ordinary activities is challenging where I feel I’m moving in slow motion, it is that much harder to muster the inertia needed to leave.

  • Ilness can be another reason. My ex had a serious heart attack during the very long reveal. It added to the turmoil greatly. Or the chump’s poor health can also be a big factor.

    And the entire can of worms of not wanting their affair partner to be a step parent to your children.

  • When I found the first set of evidence, he denied the affair, and I just wanted to believe him. I was in denial that I could be cheated on with a baby. I was in denial that I would have to be a single mother. I searched in my mind for innocent explanations to what I had found. I was desperate for it to not be true.

    When I found the second set of evidence a few weeks later, I knew. It was too damning to explain away. He moved out and filed when I confronted him, so I never had to make a decision about the marriage.

    I was still in denial about the situation until he handed me the divorce papers. He cared so much about his image, so I did not believe he would actually file for divorce with a newborn baby because of how bad it would look to people. (how do you explain that!?)

    I was still in denial that he was truly evil until he drained our joint bank account while I was on unpaid maternity leave. That’s when I realized he was absolutely capable of hurting me in any way possible.

    For my Discovery responses, I was asked for any evidence I had about his affair, so I wrote a daily journal of everything that I had found. Putting together all the puzzle pieces and seeing the facts written down on paper made me realize exactly what happened. I remember feeling like my heart was turning to stone as I highlighted all the phone call logs.

    And then, getting his responses and finding the credit card payments for the trips he had booked with her, denial was destroyed forever.

    I know Chump Lady advises against spending too much time trying to figure out exactly what happened, but I found that gathering hard evidence was the only way to truly escape denial. It was heart breaking, but effective.

    • My husband left one day on a business trip and that’s the last time I saw him. Things weren’t fantastic between us, but we seemed pretty good – just returned from a wonderful vacation – plenty of smiling pictures. I found out on the phone that my marriage was over – not directly, but it seemed clear – he was still “thinking”. He was then planning to come back and tell me our marriage was over (I am pretty sure since he was planning a vacation with someone else right after!). I found hard evidence of deceit through out entire marriage. I catalogued it. It has been very helpful to me. It made me file for divorce immediately. It alleviated any wondering. It didn’t alleviate the absolutes and utter shock of being married to someone I didn’t know and realizing he would harm me to get what he wanted. It has been nearly 15 months since I found out in a 24 hour period my life had changed forever. Denial – that’s the one I have fought the most with – I didn’t have the option of being stuck with the cheater physically, but I still am mentally. I pull out my book – and yes it is a book, complete with horrible pornographic illustrations, and that helps me realize that what really happened, really happened. To say he fooled me, my family, friends is an understatement. So, keep that list of evidence handy! It’s good for keeping denial in check.

  • Suicide risk. That’s another one for me. My ex’s two siblings committed suicide. I worried he would, too. It’s just another thing–probably the biggest–that kept me stuck.

    I’m kind of fascinated that I didn’t think of this until now. It was huge, looming over everthing.

    After D-Day, he said he didn’t want to be with someone who worried he would kill himself. Oh FFS! Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Besides, he loved that he had that power over me. He used it to manipulate me.

  • Health insurance (a concern in the U.S.) kept me stuck.

    Which may have contributed to my taking up hopium smoking.

    I had been in a high stress, low paying (though meaningful) job for decades. I was suffering from burnout. I had financially subsidized ex for years. I worked far more hours than he did and of course did more housework too.

    I quit the job. Started working part time but now had no benefits; I switched to ex’s health insurance.

    Soon after that he cheated (at least, that was the first time I know of). I tried wreckonciliation for 4 years.

    I’m free now, but healthcare coverage is very expensive. Can’t wait til I’m on Medicare. The lack of universal healthcare in the U.S. probably keeps a lot of chumps (and people in other types of abusive marriages) stuck.

    • The US health insurance system is an expensive mess!

      I’m sure you’re not alone in staying in a marriage because you need the insurance.

      Glad you’re free now and can afford healthcare coverage. I hope you’re close to 65.

      You folks who aren’t in the US must be so bewildered by all this. It’s crazy.

  • One thing that is overlooked is financial/economic abuse and the brainwashing that you cannot survive without fuckwit. That you are not good enough, that nobody will ever hire you, that even if they do, you’ll get fired because you are too incompetent to get the job done, too unlikable, etc.

    The worst part about this is how insidious this is. A toxic drip drip drip that the victim is often completely unaware of. It just becomes the victim’s reality – I cannot leave the fuckwit because I cannot feed myself without them.

    This probably falls under fear, but it’s much more complex than just fear of the unknown. It’s the crippling belief that you cannot survive without the abuser because you’ve been slowly brainwashed to be believe that.

    • Foolish,

      Yeah. This is so true. It happens over time; it’s insidious.

      After D-Day, although my then-husband expressed remorse, he also texted, “Good luck getting a credit card with no income.” Asshole.

      “I had quit my job because we planned to retire together. Remember?!”

      Years ago I got a credit card in my own name to establish credit because I had heard of a woman who had been divorced and couldn’t get a credit card. I guess deep down I knew.

      • I was worried about credit to buy a car. Actually my ex offered to co sign for a loan because he wanted his Cadillac back.

        I wanted to get it on my own. I went to a Chev dealer in Indy, chose the car I wanted (used, good condition corolla) Actually a Nova, which was the same as a Corolla, just a Chevy with a Corolla engine. I told the dealer my situation. I had a job, but it was a low paying job. He said, by law you have the same credit rating as your husband as you were on all the loans he took out. So, I got my car on my own. Thank you Dan Young Chevrolet. I loved that little car, and it lasted me for many years. My brother had also offered to co sign, so had it been necessary, I would have gone with my brother.

        I had a friend who was good with cars, go with me and check it out to make sure it was in good condition.

        I had cancelled all our joint credit cards when he left. I also pulled some credit reports to make sure there was nothing I was unaware of. When I got those credit card statements, that was when I found all the charges where he had spent money on schmoops and her big azzed boys. I turned all that into my lawyer. I got the one property that was paid for, and he got the rest, but he also had to pay off all the debt, because the credit statements had him dead to rights.

        Several years later he and schmoops racked up massive gambling debts, so thank goodness (thank you schmoops) I was not involved in that mess. He and schmoops could have been well off, but I guess they went the gambling route, instead of the long term investment route.

        As someone here mentioned a couple days ago, he paid a huge price for schmoops, hope she was worth it. Lol.

    • I love reading here every day. It brings me back to reality. Ex was always telling me I’d never make it without him, even before we were separated. Even before I found out about the cheating. I was so scared to kick him out of what was a nightmare marriage to begin with, because I had internalized that message. I’d never make it. I’d be broke. The house would blow up. I’d lose my mind with the kids.

      In rational moments I realized that I WAS doing it ALL, even when he was still here. We were broke a lot because of his horrible money habits and drug addiction. Now that we’re divorced, I have more money than we ever had, even with two incomes. Hot water heater went? I called to replace it and had money to do so. Kid needs glasses? I made the appointment and paid for the glasses. He was around so infrequently because he was either out getting high, or laying around the house recovering from his latest jag, that I was doing 95% of the childcare and housework anyway.

      I did myself such a disservice by paying attention to his negativity. It was abusive. I’m glad I’m free of that mess. I just have to not beat myself up over it. Emotional abuse is real. I was like the frog in the pot, accepting each small slight as being “not too bad.” Until my life, if viewed through the lens of normality, was a total nightmare. It’s getting better now but it is such a slow process. Most of the anger I have now is realizing that it is going to take time to recover from it all. No magic wands, and I will always bear the scars.

  • I love this post and am so glad it is pinned! I also love the Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse post. I guess my reasons for trying to work things out for a while after D-Day #2 fall under the category of inertia – I was totally depleted after years of marriage to a fuckwit (D-Day #1 had been 14 years earlier). BUT, it was also the particular nature of my fuckwit.

    We are both women, and our older daughter was 2 years old at D-Day #1 in 2004. STBX’s first affair lasted only a few days while she was on a research trip, and I found out about it a few days later. STBX was very remorseful, was willing to end the affair right away and do all the therapy, etc. Neither I nor my therapists recognized the signs of post-traumatic stress afterward; I have never once felt completely rested since 2004, but chalked it up to long-term side effects of the cancer treatments I had had in my 20’s. STBX was happy to support that explanation, though she became increasingly dissatisfied with my fatigue, and we went back and forth for years about whether to have a second child. I have no evidence for “hot” affairs between 2004 and 2018, but STBX was still acting like a fuckwit in the meantime. She kissed her best friend once, and generally maintained intense friendships with people she was attracted to. I later learned that she was actively considering affairs the couple of years before she actually embarked on the second affair in 2018, though she later blamed affair #2 on the death of her mother a few weeks earlier. (So, that was another reason I extended empathy to her after D-Day #2. Later, I was better able to reason with myself that she couldn’t have it both ways: Affair #2 clearly was not just a reaction to her mother’s death. She had been devaluing me for some time before then.

    STBX was *excellent* at playing sad sausage, and hardly ever uses the rage channel. I’d like to think I would have checked out sooner if she did rage, but I’m sure that would just provide different reasons to fear and spackle (as some other chumps have eloquently described above).

    So I would just warn new chumps: PLEASE read CL’s post on Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse. These fuckwits might *seem* really remorseful – and I believe my STBX really was wallowing in some terrible shame – but that won’t make them safe for you, unless they’re willing and able to do the work to put you first. And really, what evidence do any of us have that they can actually do that, for real – especially things are very difficult, and we chumps are traumatized, and they’re not getting the kibbles they want from us anymore?

  • We each have our own story to be told and heard …. the cheaters suppress that unless they are center stage. I thought I married a great guy. And I stayed 32 yrs only seeing glimpses of that. My x was in law enforcement and I gave up my career after we started our family and naturally supported him climb the ladder. I can relate so much to the eggshell walk. I attributed it to his job and the stress (homecides) so I stayed busy with my kids lives. Hindsite truly is 20/20 as I look back and see that he did keep an eye on me and yet it wasnt out of concern but more to make sure he was covering his tracks. Our youngest got T1-diabetes when he was 3 and 28 yrs ago the only method of controlling it was 3-5 injections a day. Plus my mothers heart was so broken for him. I was not able to return to my career due to caring for my son. I did stay for the insurance because I needed it. My X was anal and had a hard time relaxing. He drove all of us in the ground with keeping things how He liked them. Anything we did together was usually not that fun bc he found something to criticize. No matter how perfect his world was, it was never good enough. I can honestly say I didnt ever feel I wasnt good enough, but definately toward the end of our marriage I was wiped out. These were also his FOO issues so I attributed it to that. In my case it was discovering that he had had a lifetime of pornography addiction (well hidden) that was my final blow. WTF is someone looking at for 50 yrs? Thats when it all made sense to me …. the blank stares, the distance, ED, discontentment with lots of things. Anyway, I knew I couldn’t fix that one and when he tried to get help before the divorce (he didnt want) he did a half ass job at going to counceling. When I found out that all he was really doing was exchanging new ideas of hiding with other men, it all felt pointless. He HATED the mask that I forced off of him and treated me terrible during the divorce. My 3 grown kids were old enough to tell them why I was leaving. They have since told me I should have done it the first time I knew he cheated. Which oddly he made a confession to me about 5 yrs into our marriage. I was crushed but forgave him and “made excuses”. At 64 I am glad that I dont have to deal with his moods, his stubbornness, his constant need to be busy and his …….. limp dick. And Ill leave it at that.

    • Lot of similarities (also law enforcement).

      My ex was extremely controlling. Though it was projected as concern for my safety. Such as, he didn’t like me going out at night, no travel for work etc. I gave up a good promotion because there was travel involved. Things like that.

      Then on the one time we went to our preacher (at his request after he left me for the whore) he had the gall to say to the preacher that he had always tried to get me to be more self sufficient. LIE. Then in the next breath he admitted he has always been a controller. Now I ask you, do those two sentences go together? No of course they don’t. It was at that moment I looked at the preacher and said “I appreciate your time and efforts, but I think we are done here” and I walked out.

      He was still with the whore, my only thought is; he was trying to destabilize me, just to keep me available in case he could get away from the whore. She was his direct report employee, and quite frankly there was no way she was going to let him go. She was barely making her rent in a trailer park, and she needed the paycheck.

      I am just going to come right out and say it; I don’t believe there is any chance for a chump to be in a reconciled happy marriage once they have been devalued and dumped by the cheater. The only one that will be happy in the cheater. The chump will be walking on egg shells, and hurting for the rest of their life.

      Now for those whose cheaters, wake right up and grovel and beg, after a one night stand or a short tryst; there might be a chance. But not after they have been devalued, mistreated, stolen from etc for an extended amount of time.

    • Fireball, our stories are similar in just about every way. He was always checking up on me and gave me rides to work so he’d know he was free to cheat. He bragged after Dday that he liked single.

      Today I’m sorting through old paperwork an found this gem written early in our marriage after I had forgiven the monster.


      In your land with a fire Burns,
      I am there.
      You’ve taken me from searching for desire to live and care
      Fighting myself for some unseen glitter
      Only your love holding me together.
      Day by day, clearer by night.
      The battle has been won.
      Through the darkest clouds your love shines.
      Forever you are mine.
      Forever we are one.

      Love The Limited.

  • When I turned 60 I celebrated by sky diving, it was my way of taking back the control he had taken from me. I’ve been free of his cheating butt for almost 5 years. I do wish I had done it earlier, the sacrifice I made for the family was only for me. I’m especially glad Im not in quarantine with him during Covid. It does get better …. Good things take time!

  • You need to TAKE ACTION to break the hopium spell.

    Check out the testimonials on Ashley Madison.

    Go over to Reddit and do some light reading on the OW forums.

    Watch the documentary about Shanann Watts, The Family Next Door. Chase that with The Murder of Laci Peterson and Love Fraud. Cheater film festival.

    These are your spouse/partner’s people. I don’t want to live in that world. I want peace, freedom, and possibilities. Those things are impossible with a cheater.



    I just got off a three hour Zoom mediation session. I have to go collapse now…..

    • Mediation is supposed to work , but with narc, sociopaths it just muddies the water. I went to a total of 4 1/2 days of mediation and it was all nonsense. Hope you do well and can get some satisfaction.

      • I hear you, VH. I had an hour-long mediation session yesterday. Covid is making us butt heads way more than I intended to do in the divorce process. So awful – I hope you can rest over the weekend, and I hope you get whatever outcome you’re seeking!

  • You are right the only one that’s getting anything out of the so called marriage is the cheater I’m still with him Because of fear , not having a place to live except for our share home , No money is a. big one , He is the one that cheats , but he won’t leave , So we stay together like roommates , he has a life a job , He pays our household bills But does nothing for me , I don’t work because of a disability , He so selfish I walk around on eggshells not knowing what’s going to happen next lucky I have my own room , Iignore him as much as I can , he too thinks he keeps me around till he figured out if it’s going to work withOW But I stay cause I don’t have anywhere else to go , And where I live house or apartments aren’t cheap So Fear, , Money, and not knowing what’s going to happen . I know it’s crappy living with someone who doesn’t Love, or care , or appreciate u , no affection, but for now it’s where I am.

    • May, are there any counselling phone lines you could use, in your area?

      You sound like you need someone to talk to – and you might be able to access some resources.

  • Someone I’ve known for more than 20 years just kicked out her husband of 28 years … but only after about 20 harrowing years of his alcoholism, pornography use, suspected cheating, abuse etc etc (i only know the tip of the iceberg here too-theres a lot more). We became more distant after I called time on my abusive 25 year marriage and began being less supportive of her decision to stay with him … the damage to her and her children was alarming but it was just too hard. Is that acceptable to you? is a challenging question. What tipped her over the edge was finding him accessing ‘doing it with your sister/daughter’ porn while their anorexic 19 year old daughter did yoga in the next room and their son studied for final year school exams down the hall. Everyone’s tipping point is different. And the journey out is tough.

  • Many of us were raised under the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would like done to you. THAT pressure to be nice people backfired horrifically for us survivors.

  • Tracy asked for reasons you stayed. I think FOO issues is my reason. I lived with a dominant parent and associated with the subservient parent. I knew to walk on eggshells my entire childhood. So it felt normal in my marriage as well.

    So, I offer up the reason for saying isn’t hope, fear, denial, pride, or inertia: it’s preconditioning. It’s what I assumed was normal. I lived my entire childhood bowing to the emotional needs of my dominate parent. I watched that be my parent’s marriage dynamic. And I repeated it, but exponentially worse. Not only myself, my sibling was also EPICALLY cheated on. We were pre-conditioned for it.

  • My reason for staying is my kids. My daughter has anxiety and with the pandemic and all the craziness going on this world I don’t want to add anymore stress in their lives.

  • Could your daughter have anxiety because of your partner’s cheating behaviors?

    Does she know your partner is cheating?

  • Fear and denial have kept me in a horrible marriage 8 years longer than it should have. My soon to be ex has had two children outside of our marriage and she I pregnant again per facebook. Just found out this weekend. He is a horrible husband and a mediocre father. He has gambled himself into oblivion, owes tens of thousands in back child support but reckless enough to get the whore pregnant again. But it was the slap in the face (I know much too late) to make me file. I am meeting with lawyers this week. I have packed his clothes in garbage bags and when he gets here from working out of town, I am telling him hd is not welcome anymore. We have 6 children together. Oldest just turned 18. Have been married for 17 years.
    I threw my cheap little wedding band in the woods to make sure I didnt try to retrieve it. I regret spending time and energy on a worthless marriage. I deeply regret staying so long. There are so many times, hundreds that should have made me say no more! So much pain I could have avoided. So many wounds. I’m ashamed of the things I allowed by not leaving him. But no more. No freaking more!!!!! Were it not children, I wouldn’t care if I ever saw him again. I am done. Have been gathering documents and lowering my expenses this week. I will never allow myself to be treated so badly ever ever again..

    • My ex and schmoopie didn’t have kids, but they ran up massive gambling debts. They could only keep their car and house, and had to sell the house to get living money. He got most of the property in our settlement, sold it all and I guess just started gambling. Still don’t know if he was the major gambler or if it was her. Either way, I am sure it was someone else’s fault, not theirs.

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