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Are There Cheaters Who Left No Clues?

Dear Chump Lady,

There is a lot of talk on this site and others about how — in retrospect — cheaters left clues that we can now see.  Some chumps realize that their ex broke a lot of dates, or were vague about their past, or forgot their birthday, or said really insensitive things. However, in my case I’ve done a pretty thorough post-mortem on our marriage and can’t really find ANY clues that my cheater would turn out to be one.

Up until his affair, my husband was always self-deprecating and seemed open to sharing his feelings. He worked hard, followed through on his commitments, and put me first in his life. It wasn’t until the affair started that he became withdrawn and moody, dropped most of his friends and social activities, and expressed frustration with our life together.

I’m a problem-solver and really struggle with the lack of prior evidence that should make all the pieces fall into place now that I know about the cheating and lying.  My friend says that regardless of the fact that we all thought he was of good character, my husband has now shown us who is really is… and since he’s nearly 50 we have to assume he’s set in his ways and can’t reform himself. I’m not so sure. I don’t know whether it’s possible for someone to hide their poor character for that long without SOME signs showing up.

Is it possible that there are guys who are not narcissists or liars but suddenly become so with the onslaught of mid-life crisis and/or an OW? What causes this?


Dear Suzanne,

I think you’ve got a classic case of untangling the skein of fuckupedness. You’re a problem solver, and if you could just pinpoint what causes this kind of infidelity, presumably you could Do Something Different to prevent this from happening the next time. Develop a vaccine.

Sorry, Suzanne, I have no such guarantees. We don’t control other people. And while that’s a realization that can make us feel vulnerable, the flip side of it is that we’re not responsible for other people’s choices. That’s the scary thing about love and trust. We can do our very best at marriage, and all it takes is one person to drive it into a ditch.

Yeah, but WHY? They weren’t swerving around the road, or driving drunk, until suddenly one day yep, there you are flipped over backwards in a sewage trench wondering what the heck happened.

You don’t say whether he ended the marriage and left for his affair partner, but it sounds like the marriage is over (i.e., “post-mortem”). Painful and definitive.

While not every cheater is a personality disorder, every affair is narcissistic. At some point, he gave himself permission to cheat on you. To break his commitment gutlessly with an affair. That is an issue of character. I believe good character is reinforced over time. But I also think there are people in this world who simply fail to appreciate their blessings. Who want to believe in their exceptionalism, especially as they age. Is this all there is, they might think? I’m a middle-aged insurance salesman with two kids in a small town? Because really, in my heart I’m a poet of sonnets. So I’m going to chuck my day job and find some starry-eyed English student 25 years my junior who will tell me, hey Bob, you’re a POET. Who won’t see me as a regular man, but as a guy with exceptional Potential and Talent.

My grandfather would’ve called a guy like this a bum. But for some reason in our culture Man Children and Women Children are celebrated, despite the fact that the odds of being a successful poet of sonnets after a career in insurance is .00000000001 percent to nil. Folks today don’t appreciate the enormous blessing of being ordinary person with an ordinary life. Instead, everyone today is an undiscovered celebrity! Being a regular Joe who earns a paycheck and raises a family isn’t enough, because you can’t sing an aria on the Voice or have your own reality TV show. I’m not saying your husband left you because he thought he was going to be a STAR, I’m saying whatever he had, he felt it wasn’t enough. He deserved MORE. And he didn’t have the guts to have that conversation with you, he just unmoored his boat for Fantasy Island and left.

The New York Times had an interesting article on a researcher of happiness. One of the traits of unhappy people is that they compare their lives to others a lot. If you need a reason for why he did this, midlife crisis, or whatever — I think a simpler explanation was he wasn’t a content person. He played compare and contrast and thought he could have more, at your expense. That’s not on you. That’s on him, his shitty character and inability to appreciate.

You can’t be 77 flavors of ice cream. You can just be you. I’m sorry he didn’t appreciate what he had. My guess is that he’s not going to find eternal satisfaction elsewhere. He’ll just keep playing musical chairs and find himself sitting on his ass alone some day. Or coupled and silently resenting, doing a play act of commitment. His unhappiness is his problem. You go build a good life without him. Just because HE can’t value a good woman, doesn’t mean someone else can’t. And most of all you can value yourself without him.

This column ran previously.

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  • I learned my ex-wife was cheating after 22 years of marriage. I had no idea. At first it appeared to have been going on a couple of years. I asked the psychologist I saw through my divorce what might have caused her to start cheating after so many years of (apparently happy) marriage, when our family situation seemed better than ever.

    My psychologist said, “It almost certainly isn’t new behavior. Character is developed by early adulthood, and the ability to carry on an affair over months or years (i.e., lead a double life) without collapsing from the guilt would have developed by age 20 or 25. It is extremely unlikely that she had that character and yet was faithful in your marriage for 20 years. It is much more likely that she has lived consistent with her character throughout her adult life, and you simply trusted her too much to figure out what she was doing.”

    Figured out subsequently that ex-wife’s cheating involved more men (likely 6 not 2) and many more years (likely 12, or possibly 22, not 2) than she’d admitted to.

    • It’s been a year ago yesterday since my ex left me for a coworker 15 years our junior. This weather and that fact has me reeling a bit, I’m ashamed to say.

      I really really needed to read those words today. Thank you. My cheater was the same. And I look back and wonder how deep it went. When I found out he had had a 9 month affair six months prior and I had exactly zero clue. This after a decade of (what I thought was) happy marriage. Your therapist was right. It undoubtedly wasn’t.

      • ‘It’s been a year ago yesterday since my ex left me for a coworker 15 years our junior.’
        Ditto Beans….almost a yr for me
        I’m dreading the Dday anniversary
        A long year…and it feels like such a waste
        And I despise him more than I did the 1st few months after Dday
        I don’t see forgiveness on the horizon

    • Roger that, Nomar—

      Wish I had known your psychologist back at my own DDay 1. My gut tells me people grow into themselves: 20 is, say, the eventual forty. Only more so?

      • My friend sobered me up when she said “Mandie101 people don’t change.”
        Ex was a deceitful person as a teen. I had persons say it was just a phase and as he grew older and with family commitments he’d come into his own. Nope! He got worse as a person and better at, as he called it, his double life.
        25 years later ànd he’s a nasty minded person but the plus is that I don’t have to deal with him.

    • My former in-laws commented several times throughout 10 years of dating/marriage to XW that she had always been a selfish child. Truer words. I think her character was set by the time she was 3 years old.

    • Yup,

      My therapist had said the same thing, with narcisists like my ex-wife, their character is formed in childhood and if it is not corrected, it is pretty much set in concrete. I had a 20 year marriage and through most of it thought I was a lucky man.

      Having a few years of time for it to sink in I’d say my ex was raised in a way that recognized academic and sports achievement and nothing else. It left a malformed and withered empathy zone in her brain.

      If you had asked me a couple of years before my discovery of her long-term affair, I could have gone on for awhile about her good character, hard work, etc.

      She was not a walking train wreck, she balanced checkbooks, was charming, volnteered tirelessly was healthy and worked hard to be a decent parent. But, she’s entitled, can be cruel (is it obliviousness or nastiness? well, who cares) can go on about herself, breaks all decent laws of civil conversation by monopolizing it and mind fucks one of my adult children who simply cannot get onboard with the narcissit narrative.

      The functional and charming narcisiits are just and dangerous and damaging, but hide under the radar of what our selfish society tolerates.

      • This description is so very similar to my ex narc but he’s male. Forced to do competitive swimming throughout his childhood and teenage years. It seems he had no life other than this. He’s never been able to maintain a normal relationship with a woman until me and our marriage lasted 7 months! Nice guy though everyone would say.

        The narc rage is still there though lying below the surface of these covert ones.

    • Nomar,

      Did your therapist have a measure for how much “too much” trusting is? My thought was that you just trust. It never occurred to me to sort of trust my husband until he started imploding our lives.

      • My psychologist never said I trusted more than was appropriate. Just that my trust explained the *invisibility* of her cheating.

        Who wants to be in a marriage with someone they don’t trust? Not me!

        • Not me either! I also wouldn’t want to be friends with anyone I can’t trust. This is why I’m perplexed by Switzerland friends. A cheater can’t be trusted. Without trust, how can there be a friendship?

          • Well, there’s different levels of friendships. I have some friends that I trust to show up at my house with a bottle of wine for dinner, but I don’t know that I’d give them power of attorney if I was going in for major surgery.

            My XW is a trustworthy person in the sense that as long as you don’t find yourself in opposition to her, you’ll be fine. “In opposition” does include “having a husband that she desires for herself”, but that’s not terribly likely to happen to any particular person. I can easily imagine her cheating with some of her friends’ husbands, but she has a pretty wide circle so while the cumulative risk is large, the risk to any particular person isn’t so great. Anyway, that’s what I tell myself so that I keep my mouth shut when I bump into mutual acquaintances and I feel the urge to tell them “you do know that you shouldn’t let your husband text her unsupervised, right?” welling up in me.

        • “…my trust explained the *invisibility* of her cheating” …mmmm…lightbulb! I just thought x was always working or at the gym…it wasn’t until Dday that I figured it out.

        • Exactly. You are supposed to trust. I have read account after account of folks on another forum who stay with the cheater and spend years checking up on them. No. Not healthy.

          I trusted my ex, and he abused and used it against me. That is his failure, not mine.

      • Same here. I just trusted him. I knew he wasn’t perfect, nor was I; but I just knew we could trust each other. That in the big things he would have my back, as I had his.

        • Agree 100% Susie. It has taken me 9 months to get over the “I thought he had my back, but he stabbed me in the back and he used my trust against me!” mind-loop (painful and fucking NON-stop for months!). This is why the betrayal is so damaging, because you openly loved and trusted – and got burned beyond comprehension.

          Happy to report that I am gaining an awesome improved life bit by bit everyday.

          • WiserChump that warms up my broken heart! So much waste, and then wisdom, and growing, and being free of abuse. It’s getting better bit by bit!

    • Nomar,

      Same here. A post mortem of my marriage and looking at the timeline, my ex most likely was cheating for the majority of our 26 year relationship. It made him a difficult man to live with. I spackled like a master. I agree with your therapist, it’s behavior that begins long before we as chumps are aware. Although in my case, I really should have seen it [sigh]. As a therapist I’m honest with clients about drug use, abuse, cheating etc. they are all behaviors that can be explained, but don’t have to be tolerated. As chumps we tolerate because we think we can “fix”. We can’t fix. But we can move on and thrive.

      • I’m with you, Out West—

        for me explanations may be interesting; they may satisfy a curiosity or an itch (which maybe we scratch at risk of infection). Knowing a reason for a thing also does not make a thing okay.

        Fix is an interesting word:

        to fasten to, as if with a bolt or rivet; to repair; to beat physically; to settle on a solution for competing claims.

        To satisfy a craving, often for an opiate; to be located in a terrible and untenable situation, like a relationship with an entitled and resentful and cruel spouse poisoned by their own envy and blinded to those who love them and the everyday, extraordinary blessings all around us. Light, a warm mug of chocolate, good soup—

        What’s baked into the character of one’s cake—cowardice, entitlement, envy; courage, loyalty, kindness—it would seem permeates the body and rises inevitably to the surface. After awhile, like explanations, the recipes in and of themselves become a curiosity and a reminder to avoid toxic ingredients. And to celebrate what one loves.

    • Blimey, Nomar, was she dynamite or what! 6 men????? I won’t ask why, because that is a complete waste of time.
      WTF is wrong with these people

    • So close to what the psychologist told me Nomar. Really hard to get your head around, but there were many more men and covered many more years than she admitted.

    • It would have been so much easier to understand if I had had a psychologist like yours on Dday. Almost four years post divorce and I still cannot believe what he did and for how long, after 35 years of marriage.
      No one deserves this!

    • So spot on. The biggest gaslighting seemed to come in the form of him telling me how much he condemned his own father’s behavior and seemingly wanted to be nothing like him, as well as the questionable behaviors of others (friends, coworkers) he knew…and then turned out to be exactly like them, possibly worse. The only “clue” I got was the general sense of his disconnection from our life together. Not so easy to visit prostitutes and then come home to your wife and eventually baby, I guess. It basically bled through his otherwise well-covered ruse. Looking at it, he probably started this sneaking with his ex-girlfriend/fiancee as well as anyone else he roped into dating him. I have anecdotal evidence he continued to sneak around/do whatever he wanted/line up other gullible women as he plays whoever he needs to in order to feed off of them and provide fairly hollow substance in return. I guess that is the “working on himself” that he claimed to be doing going forward. These are most certainly behaviors developed over time (see: his father) and likely implemented earlier than we think in our relationships. Ultimately, does it even matter when they started? I think we think it does because if they didn’t start that long ago, *maybe* they will “snap out of it”. But once there is proof that something exists in their psyche that says it’s OK, that is all you need to know. Stop trying to figure out when/why/how, GET OUT, and don’t put one more ounce of energy into assessing any of it.

      • Granted…the cessation of assessment took me some time, as I’m sure it has/will for so many of us. This bullshit demands explanation, but rarely do we receive anything that makes sense.

  • Dear Suzanne,
    While it is true that the best path forward is no contact and not trying to untangle the skein, I realize that may be impossible for many chumps, myself included.
    I don’t know how long it’s been since you discovered the truth about your marriage and the mirage you were married to.
    Sometimes it takes a long time for little tiny things to hit you. One day you will be doing something normal or reading a book and a fact will hit you like a ton of bricks. Or something will turn up. Or someone will say something that makes you cringe. Narcissism can be very subtle and some are more devious and manipulative than others. So much that the clues are very well hidden.
    Be kind to yourself. You were living an honest marriage and weren’t looking for any clues.
    Try to let go of the post-mortem and focus on the life you’re building for yourself one day at a time.
    We are all with you in this journey none of us wanted!

    • “Sometimes it takes a long time for little tiny things to hit you.”

      I agree. I, too, was clueless. I mean, when he confessed to a multiyear affair, I was completely blindsided. I hadn’t noticed a thing!

      It’s only now, in retrospect, that I see the little signs. And when I’m hit with them, it hurts like a mofo. Sometimes I wonder if my subconscious brain didn’t allow me to see them earlier.

      I suspect that there were more infidelities over the course of our 35-year marriage. Nomar’s comment about character resonates. According to my psychiatrist, the ability to lead a double life for so many years without breaking down from the guilt also reveals a lack of conscience.

      It’s terrifying to know that I was with someone like that and didn’t realize it, that I was personally and financially vulnerable to a low-character, entitled bum, who, for whatever reason, felt he deserved more and took me for granted. Our kids were vulnerable, too, which gives me the shivers.

      That his AP also cheated on her husband makes me feel they are meant for each other. They wanted “more,” and they got it. Is “more” better? We’ll see. I tend to doubt it. Two peas in a putrid pod.

  • My cheater also left no clues. Happy family, happy life, made great money, pretty wife, two little kids, vacations, etc. Came home one day and was so “unhappy with his life”, filed for divorce, walked out the door. No glance backwards.

    Up until then, I was the love of his life, he did everything he said he would, he was transparent with me, blah blah blah.

    Having your family blown up sucks.

    • Mine played the happy life husband until about a year before Dday. Almost over night, he started getting mean. Yessing at me, picking me apart. He had gotten a promotion and he started going out a couploe nights a week to “ride around with one of the guys” (Police Officers) He was doing office work, so the cover story was that since he was not on the street anymore, he like to keep in touch. I bought it.

      I did question him a couple times about his treatment of me, and he apologized and said “job stress”

      Sex life stayed pretty steady until about four months before Dday, maybe even three months. Hard to remember now. I think in the beginning he was really enjoying the “two women” thing. I remember once day about mid summer before Dday which was 25 Dec; he came home and I met him at the back door in a cute sun dress. He picked me up and swung me around hugging and kissing and said in a very loving and fun tone “I love you”.

      It is so weird to figure out how we went from there to Legally separated within a few months. I will never know a lot, because when Dday hit, he was gone quickly and, aside from his blame shifting and telling me he never loved me, there was little communication after that.

      I assume he was still trying to hide his adultery from the folks at work during the summer, so he still needed to use me. Who knows.

      • Your post struck a similarity cord with me. The promotion, the police deceit, the normal, then the nothing. The “job stress”, the yelling at me and degrading me to our kids. “Don’t marry anyone like your mom….” Just blew-up my image to justify to the kids we weren’t “getting along anymore.” The kids and I just sat there and shook our heads to who he had become, out of no where. We had a great marriage and life, not perfect, but not bad, admirable to most. No debt, fun toys for the kids, vacation property. Covered all kid responsibilities so he could always connect with those that understood the “job stress” of his life. I NEVER SAID NO to him having parties, The guys over, stopping over there for “one”, NEVER.
        No other signs of unhappiness, just a big show to justify it to the kids. So sad. Blown up family, a beautiful family, for a secretary at the station. She blew up hers too………He used his uniform allowance to pay for her divorce. TREW WUV.

        • It is so sad.

          The only thing he didn’t so was trash me to our son (who was grown and in the AF) Son came to visit soon after he found out, he told me his dad started to say something about me, and he said “don’t even go there dad, I lived with you two for 18 years, I know how mom treated you” He said he shut up, and that was it.

          I think he had difficulty trashing me to even his buds. They knew me. They also knew him, as it turns out way better than I did.

          But to his whore and her friends, I am sure he had a field day; and they lapped it up.

    • @Unexpected chumpiness – I could have written your comment except we had 4 kids. 25 years of a lot of happiness, or so I thought, until Dday hit and XH rewrote our entire lives. Even told the kids he HATED every minute of their lives. That destroyed them. One almost succeeded in suicide— she was 15. Before Dday there were no clues of his likely numerous fuckbuddies. I’m a litigator and expert at investigations and cross examination. I had no idea whatsoever. XH was a master liar. Horrifying. ???? on him.

      • Many are good liars I am sure. I wonder if though if it isn’t that they aren’t such good liars, but we love them; and we need to be comfortable and trust them, so we just don’t get suspicious.

        I think for me there was a lot of that. I was working, a new stressful job, I was doing volunteer work for him, life was going good but I needed a safe place, and he seemed like the safe place. (and he should have been) I was certainly his safe place. I never not once betrayed him; emotionally, physically or financially. He knew that, but evidently didn’t value that. Heck it took me several years, before I would even let anyone say anything bad about him, because he was my sons father.

        I didn’t tell my own brother (who is my best friend) how he treated me the last year of our marriage, until after he recently blew up his relations ship with our 50 year old son. My husband knew, but he was the only one.

        • I believe they are VERY good liars!
          Mine fooled my experienced and excellent therapist, our mediator who is one of the most respected in the state and even his own high-profile lawyers.
          It was the judge who explained to me just how good a liar he is.

  • The problem with wanting to untangle the skein is that you are not the protagonist of a mystery and there will never be an exciting conclusion that will make your pain worthwhile.
    If you could untangle the skein you’d be able to justify to yourself how you ended up in a relationship with a fuckwad. “Aha! ‘Tis elementary, dear Watson! Now that I see the clues, I can solve the mystery of why my ex treated me like shit!”
    Well, my dear Watson, there is only one clue (“he sucks”) and there is only one conclusion (“he did it because he wanted to”).
    Yeah, don’t bother untangling that skein. That’s not a very interesting conclusion to your novel.
    Now you just need to gain a life and write a better ending for yourself.

  • Comparison, said TR, is the thief of joy.

    There’s a reason one is advised not to covet thy neighbor’s ass.

    Envy, its presence, is for me the most dangerous tell. It means a person will justify acts of harm to others—betrayal, treachery—to elevate the self.

    Not being mindful of all the good things? Lack of gratitude poisons the soul. An entitled person is missing real gratitude (daily bread, loved ones, the availability of sonnets at the library) because that person is deluded into believing hardship only befalls those deserving of it. Special people—the ungrateful, the envious and the entitled—are, well, special.

    One thing that puzzles me is this human obsession to be looked at by others. By strangers. Eric Fromm was addressing this narcissism pre-internet back in the fifties with The Art of Loving. It’s baked into our capitalism, the allegedly free market, which commodifies and monetizes the self. Life seems now for so many many to have become one insufferable Yelp review. The systems seem to encourage this endless self-promotion which feels to me at least toxic. And, of course, being looked at feeds the ego and not the soul.

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments / love alters not when it alteration finds—

    So many (k)nots—

    • This speaks to what my FW told me – the he “would be an advocate for me if I would just let him”. So much entitlement, so much need to be held up as the bestower of esteemed qualities only he can give after tearing me apart to family and friends to justify his ghastly behavior. Such is the mind of the compassionless. They have no capacity for love, they are only sponges, endlessly dry. When we throw away a dirty old dry sponge, we open the door for a fresh, new means to live that doesn’t entail constant wringing out of ourselves while the old sponge sits there smelling up the place.

    • Epictetus,

      I love your comment. It is beautifully put!

      After a gala we attended last year, my then-husband told me that his best friend’s wife was stopped in the parking lot by another physician (drunk) who marveled at her beauty. I’m the first to admit that she *is* stunning! She’s also very smart and kind.

      I really think my ex wants his parking-lot moment. He wants people to envy him the way he envied his friend. Sorry I’m not a 10. How my ex, who is two years older than I and in his 60s, thinks he looks great with a much-younger woman on his arm puzzles me. If anything, I would imagine he looks worse by comparison.

      It’s all so shallow.

      Perhaps it’s not healthy, but sometimes I allow myself to fantasize about how things are going with my ex. He wanted so much to parade around with this woman. But his best friend and that stunning wife are honorable people who’ve told me that they are disgusted by my ex’s behavior. I picture them refusing an invitation for a bbq at my ex’s new home. This would infuriate him (and, of course, please me).

      But I need to stop indulging in this speculation. It’s pointless. And it doesn’t help me move forward. I need to focus on that for which I am grateful because I believe, as Epictetus puts it, “lack of gratitude poisons the soul.”

    • The one red flag was my STBX’s penchant for posting pictures of himself looking adorable, sexy or cool on social media. Once I was trying to reach him for something time sensitive and he wasn’t responding to text or email. Later, I saw at the very time I was reaching out he was interacting with people on facebook over their adoring comments to a photo of himself he’d posted. He’s nearly 50 years old and he was living for social media likes. This disturbed me for a long time before dday and I couldn’t figure out why. I wished he had less need for ego strokes – little did I know it was just the tip of the iceberg.

      • Ego stroke, what a fitting description.

        It astounds the way our experiences are all so kin.

        I don’t use social media but I watched the way Facebook changed over years the pallor of my ex-spouse—that poisoned green hue.

        Facebook and Instagram and Twitter—their genius—sells purported connectivity—friends and loved ones, community—by appealing to human greed and vanity. In and of itself, it’s just a mirror—selling our likeness, our data, to satisfy their shareholders.

        For those mainlining on it? For those vulnerable to the dark triad? That promise of community morphs into something hideous: bullying, grandstanding, masquerading.

        Or so it often seems.

        Wrote Marcus Aurelius (to himself): Why do you care what those others think of you who so hate themselves?

  • I understand what Suzanne is saying. CN has a wide variety of situations, most of which involve long term seriously disordered cheaters of all genders and orientations. In my situation, as possibly Suzanne’s, my cheater legitimately was a stand-up guy until he wasn’t. When I confronted my ex I had no smoking gun, just evidence of how angry and withdrawn he was. He confessed immediately and left to be with AP, but has done everything he could to make sure the kids and I are financially stable (at his sacrifice) and thriving. Please, it’s the LEAST he could do. But unlike so much of what I read here, he has not interfered with my or our children’s recovery. In this respect I have a unicorn! Now, I still hurt deeply and have all the same internal issues as my fellow chumps. But I do feel like this affair and shitty entitled choice was more of a one off. And I do think my ex has real remorse, but accepts his sad sausage status as what he deserves. Which is true. I study autonomy in toddlers—which is similar to adolescent autonomy. (I work with a lot of adolescent moms.) I do believe that the mid-life crisis feels similar, but still no excuse to cheat and lie and destroy without consequences.

    • My ex was somewhat the same, except for the part where he immediately left, he had to stay around and fake reconciliation and mindfuck me for a few years. Then he cheated again and walked out. But he did literally walk, leaving me with everything including the furniture and all the retirement, the better paid off car, everything.

      Honestly it’s because they’re cowards. He was so damn terrified of me that he just wanted away, since I became more trouble than I was worth. Kinda pissed about his cheating you know.

      • @BigCityChump and Beans–same here, very stand up guy, so Nice, except fake reconciliation was months not years. Now I’m in a position that I’m trying to get the house ready for sale and I have all this old furniture and 20 years of mess to deal with and he packed up all he wanted and skipped off. And it is definitely because he is a coward and scared of me. Or rather the ‘me’ he has created and villainized in his mind because I’m nothing like who he portrays me to be which is mindfuk in itself. I’m really struggling today with it all; I know he’s a shithead for what he’s done but some days even 2 1/2 years out from dday 2 I still can’t believe this happened. That Mr. Great Guy could actually have done all this. And he’ll cling to whore and be Nice Guy to her because that’s all he has left; he can’t be alone and he can’t be wrong. So even knowing he’s a shithead, I’m…I’m feeling awful because I know for probably the next 25 years even if it’s an act he will treat her well. That stings.

        • Maybe he will treat her well.

          Both are capable of putting on a front. My ex FW has not treated schmoopie well at all. Per my daughter in law, who lived right next door to them; in fact only a thin wall seperated their living spaces, he was overheard plenty of times screaming at her. Only difference is, she screamed back; and sometimes threw things. He wouldn’t let her get cataract surgery when she needed it, as his cost after insurance was too much. Several incidents of bad treatment.

          Then of course he and schmoopie both treated DIL and my son like crap after they had lived in the mother in law house for a year or so, and felt pretty locked in. (they weren’t) Son and DIL sold the house and they had to find other accommodations.

        • “I’m feeling awful because I know for probably the next 25 years even if it’s an act he will treat her well. That stings.”

          I would not count on him treating her well. He may tell her what she wants to hear and fake being a nice guy but he’ll always be on the look out for someone else. He’ll always have one foot out the door. Owhore is well aware how they got together and will always have suspicion. Who wants to live like that?

          • Thanks for the reply! I hear what you’re saying, but I’m really not sure if he’ll have a roving eye or cheat again and not because it’s deep love necessarily. I think he can do this once and convince himself he’s still a good guy because it was a meant to be real love that one cannot deny lifetime movie bullshit. Twice? He would have to acknowledge to himself that he really isn’t a good guy and that would do some serious damage to him.

            Thing is, I know in my brain that overall it’s irrelevant. That I need to move forward and such and not give thought to him. And I was doing great until I lost my job, have been sick, he’s back in the area for a bit, yada yada so I’m spiraling a bit lately. I had framed it as ‘my husband died. I don’t know who this asshole (wow I just realized I’m quite sweary today) is that looks and sounds just like him but my husband died in February of 2018 and I mourned him’. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea because when I’m overwhelmed I miss ‘my’ husband.

            • I have had a similar experience where he’s known to be a poster good guy since childhood. I also think his emotional affair was one-off, but then I don’t know. He always had a thing with online relationships. He gave me what I asked for and the car. No kids, so no dramas. I saw no red flags in 13 yrs of marriage except he was exceptionally confident, corrected people, including me. We both avoided conflict, and he kept up resentments. After Dday, is when I spotted all the narcissistic traits, so I don’t know if he has NPD, or is just a selfish asshole now.

            • ThursdaysChild,

              I’m so sorry you’re having a bad day and dealing with so much shit (job loss, illness, etc). It really sucks.

              And he sucks. Even if he’s his best sparkly self for the OW, he’ll have to live with himself. I agree that if he had two affairs he would have a harder time convincing himself (and others) that he’s a good guy. But I would argue that even one affair tosses him in the bad-guy bucket. He can pretend all he wants and polish his turd every damn day, but he will know deep down that he did a terrible thing. I think a lot of these cheaters actually hate themselves.

              As CL put it, he may stay “coupled and silently resenting, doing a play act of commitment.”

              I just think these are garbage people who can’t be truly happy even if they make a show of it.

              I hope tomorrow is a better day for you ((hugs)). You’ll get through this.

              • “I think a lot of these cheaters actually hate themselves.”

                My brother and I had discussed that some time ago. After my FW and I were legally seperated, he went on what I call an apology tour to Texas where my brother and dad live. My brother said he was acting so weird. He really didn’t even want to let him in, but he figured he would hear him out. He did apologize for the way he treated me, but my brother said when he was ordering some spaghetti for dinner, he asked FW if he wanted sausage in his spaghetti. FW said no, I don’t like sausage. Brother said oh ok, I really like their sausage. (brother was just making conversation) He said FW screamed at him “I SAID I DON”T LIKE SAUSAGE” my brother said he was ready to kick his ass out, then looked at him and he was sitting there looking weird, and all calm, like nothing had happened. He said, he thinks he screwed up his life so bad that he hated himself, and he was mad at the world.

                That apology tour was weird. My dad was gracious to him, and accepted his apology; but told him he has to go forward and live his life as a better man, but he can’t go back to his previous life. Lol, poor dad was scared to death I would take him back.

                I was kind of glad my brother witnessed the screaming as that is how he did our last year together. Throw a screaming hissy fit over the stupidest shit, then ten minutes later, like it never happened. So weird.

              • @Spinich – THANK YOU! I so appreciate that – made my throat tighten and my eyes sting just a little a bit. Rough times lately and as it happens literally every one of my normal support people – and I have quite a few (6-7 in fact) has something major going on themselves and I’m trying to be a help and comfort and ear to them and keep my stuff to myself. I seriously appreciate your kindness more than I can express.

                As for ex; I don’t even know anymore. With the stuff I have going on…for over 25 years he was my go to for comfort and to get through it and now I haven’t seen his face or heard his voice in over a year. And the biggest of the bad stuff I’m trying to get through is Him and the mess he left. At times I still can’t even grasp it. I imagine he’s happy and being the ‘great guy’ over in Whoreville–he can be since he can tell whatever story he wants and there is literally not one person there who knows different, and I think he’ll be awesome with her for the next 15-20 years before any cracks show up. I do know it’s irrelevant, that in a few short weeks or so we’ll be permanently severed and more than likely I’ll never see him again. But in my low times and bad times I miss having someone here to shoulder the burdens.

                Thanks again for your thoughtful words, again I do appreciate it.

            • ThursdaysChild, also very sorry you’re having a bad day. Hugs to you

              “not because it’s deep love necessarily. I think he can do this once and convince himself he’s still a good guy because it was a meant to be real love that one cannot deny lifetime movie bullshit. Twice? He would have to acknowledge to himself that he really isn’t a good guy and that would do some serious damage to him.”

              This is more or less what my fuckwit actually told me on why next time would be different.

              Says he learnt now how bad it is to lie and cheat and he won’t lie to his next girlfriend. Tell her upfront about how he lost his marriage…
              Uhmm, yeah sure.

              About a week after this proclamation he tried to wiggle out of obligatory Covid testing after returning from high risk country with our daughter. Changing flights through neutral transit country. I had to force him to have my daughter tested.
              He didn’t have a reply when I asked him, whatever happened to ‘no-more-lies’

              Liars lie and cheaters cheat.
              Our cheaters will find a way of rationalizing crappy behaviour on the next one while still remaining the innocent little boy.

            • Thursday’s Child, I hear you and I’m so sorry you are having such a tough time. I’m just coming out of a similar spiral … 2.5 years is not a long time (I’m 3.5 years out). But, TC, I AM coming out of it. A good therapist and temporary unemployment giving me a lot of time to deeply process a lot of dross from the past has got me moving forward again.

              When things go pearshaped and are hard, and the future is not clear, its natural for the rose-coloured glasses to come out. However, I have spent my whole life putting a rose-coloured spin on shitty life situations (otherwise known as spackling).

              But what he is doing now doesn’t need a place in your head or heart … what YOU want and need has to replace him. This is hard when all we have thought about for years is what they want. Here’s my 2 cents worth before we leave him behind though – Your ex had at least 2 affairs while playing at stand-up guy with you. This says deceitful player and doesn’t indicate much potential for future faithful happiness with another woman.

              What has really helped me is No Contact for the last year. I have no clue what he is doing or who he is doing it with, and I don’t want to know. Because I’m working on the Gain a Life part now. But I had to consciously work on getting him out of my head to take back that space for myself and what I care about.

              Yes mine too was a stand-up guy for the first 10 years of our 25 year marriage. Then he didn’t get what he wanted (I said no to him for the first time ever) and the mask dropped. It took me the next 15 years to realise that he showed me completely who he was in 2002 and he wasn’t going to change back into that stand-up guy.

              True coloured truth tells me that the good things I lost were financial affluence and … financial affluence (I am financially secure now, but certainly not affluent). For the rest I lost – well, see above comments by others about abusive, dissatisfied, entitled, stunted, selfish, self-aggrandising menchildren, thwarted artists, authors and/or stars of some mythical stage, who blame we chumps for holding them back. Tick all of the above plus plus. I’m actually laughing as I write, its so ridiculous. Because I grew up.

              I’ve come to understand that Chumps can’t key into that mindset that says ‘its all about me all the time’. The skein is truly untangle-able. I eventually left, he didn’t try to woo me back or even apparently care, except about the money, we are divorced, end of story.

              I’ve just started to understand what Gain A Life means and that maybe I am starting to do it. So give yourself time, start with getting him out of your head and putting other stuff that matters to you in there instead, and you will get through. ((Hugs))

              Oh, and if you are talking about physical mess that he left, hire a big rubbish bin (we call them Skip bins in Australia, but you know what I mean) and chuck in everything you don’t want. Or have a bonfire. Very cathartic. I was fortunate to be able to walk out on the hoarder and leave him with his own mess. ((more hugs)) They never do clean up after themselves, emotionally or physically.

              • @NewChump – Thank You for your thoughtful and kind reply! And extra thanks for saying 2.5 years out is not a long time. I feel like I should be further down the road from this by now and, well, I’m not. And I do beat myself up for that right or wrong.

                I’m working through attorney paperwork now and should be divorced soon, so I believe that plus a few other things are what’s causing this awful spiral. Once that is done, my beloved house sold and my kids and I are in our own place I think things might start to feel better. Or when I get well and am able to get a job again.

                I believe he is on my mind lately because I’m not in a stable position and there is tons to do before I am, and while I do have many offers of help I don’t know where to start. When things used to go sideways, he’s the one who would hold me and take charge, take care of what he could for me. I guess…I think my mind is stuck in the first 15+ years and I’m remembering more of that time right now instead of the discard phase. My kids (23 and 21) and I all say ‘he was a good guy until he wasn’t’. When I was well and working I maybe thought of him in passing here and there, and I’ve been NC for well over a year now. The kids too-he would occasionally text them but since their Sept bdays and they didn’t reply to his gifts and texts he hasn’t tried again. And while that’s what we want, a part of me is also screaming “how could you not even TRY to truly apologize or make amends?? Stupid gifts and random texts? After decades?? Who ARE you?”

                And yet, I know it’s all irrelevant. His life is none of my business anymore, and vice versa. The kids and I are super close and he’s off being good guy to whore and her kids. My head understands and even agrees and is happy it’s coming to an end and I can work on being well and finding peace. My heart has some catching up to do. Again, thank you for your hugs and kindness and letting me vent a little in this reply–I appreciate it truly.

        • Beans, Thursday this was my sitch also. Two years between d-days almost to the day in fact. It was because he was a stand-up guy (I thought) that I agreed to take him back. BUT, thankfully I had protected myself in the separation agreement after d-day #1 where he gave me everything (house, 401k, pension) because he was in the middle of love bombing the OW and just wanted out as fast as possible. So when d-day #2 came around, guess who still had their copy of the Separation agreement that was still valid regardless of reconciliation attempt. Boy bye ????

        • Me too. My Fuckwit did everything to portray himself the perfect husband and never let his guard down for a second. Not even to me. Sure there were red flags but he’s sucked me in so fully that I refused to join the dots. But unlike others after the dots were joined it was war. He’s been his true evil self during the property settlement. I’m coming through it but it also stings knowing there’s another victim who’s lapping up the attention and being amazed at her good luck with all her friends telling her he’s a keeper. Obv he’s telling all and sundry that I’m an evil nutcase. Except that he’s had to make new friends as all my friends and some of his family members hate him

          • Yes, my ex’s AP and Schmoopie was telling everyone how lucky she is/was, too – five years ago when my divorce was finalized. At the end, I told her “he’s going to do to you what he did to me, except I was early 40s, and you’ll be in your 60s when it happens, and won’t be able to pick up the pieces, like I did”.
            Both my Ex & Schmoopie are 6 years older than I am.

            Sure enough, 6+ years has gone by, my ex is unemployed (before COVID), owes a ton of credit card debt and is now a Deadbeat for all of the child support he owes. He’s gained 50lbs, as has Schmoopie. They are both nearing 60, but Schmoopie has been rode hard, and put away wet, she can easily pass for almost 80.

            Not so lucky now!!!

            • They sound a lot like my FW/schnmoopie. Only they are 71 and 66. She has had a rough life and the rode hard and put up wet describes her to a T. Actually, it described her at age 35. FW was not her first married man rodeo.

              She looked older than me when they were um “dating”? I was stunned when I found out who it was. He wouldn’t tell me, so I found out from a friend. I guess it is why I never really went through a jealousy stage or real anger stage at her. I mean I was devastated by the FW, but she was just the current hole to me. Had she been ready for the run way, I might have felt different.

        • So let me tell you Chumps with nice guys a story….My ex was and is incredibly respected. Everyone thinks him the ideal man. He’s handsome, educated, cultured, fun to be with, exciting. He has a little weird side though – he likes fantasy quite a bit. And he likes to be naked more than he should. Like you, he walked out one day for a business trip and became unavailable. Finally in a phone call, he said he had been unhappy. He said he had been celibate for 5 years. He had a lot of issues there from early on, and I was starting to have some myself being in my 50s. Anyways, he wasn’t celibate for 5 years, but it wasn’t good. He was going to let me think that it was this tried and true reason he needed to let me know on a phone call our marriage was over. It wasn’t directly said, but I knew it. As I sat on the plane, I wrote out what I valued in my marriage, what I didn’t, and what I needed to go forward. On the value side was his honesty, integrity and kindness. I crossed all three of those off within 24 hours. As some have read, all of his emails had downloaded on a computer he left behind. And there it all was – the perfect ideal man had been doing some very strange things, complete with photos and a video or two, for our entire marriage. I had no idea and no one else did either. He’s a nice guy, mostly. I have gotten a decent deal. I earned it all and it doesn’t give me back my years and my choice. The nice guys ain’t so nice.

        • My story sounds similar. Even though during the DDay period where I got to learn about multi-years of cheating with hookers, then finding a solid girlfriend, my STBX changed from being rather business like about the whole thing to hating my guts (still does). When I told him he should move out, he actually said, “fair enough”. That’s it – 25 years of marriage, a business, a house, a daughter, a wife… DONE. He packed up a few things and left, quite cheerfully as he seemed to be looking forward to unencumbered time with the OW. He started out by taking care of our daughter half time, until he told her that he missed his girlfriend too much when she was there (given our daughter refused to meet her). He still blames me for that (seriously?). He stopped paying the mortgage, paid no bills, did nothing to help at the house, lost his job at our firm. He went from “business like” to absolutely hateful and terrible. He blamed me for everything. He said, “the loss of this marriage is all on you-it’s your fault” and he then said that I was trying to “punish him” because he had a girlfriend. For fuck sake man! By “punishing” him, he meant that I was asking for spousal maintenance, child support, and for a very quick property settlement so that I could move on. 16 months later and I’ve only had 4 child support payments and no other support. He treats me like SHIT and won’t even text me to confirm plans for our daughter (she’s 14). I’ve always wondered why, when he got exactly what he wanted (a new girlfriend he could have his kinky sex with), is he so mad at me? He was looking for someone else to be with for years – he found it. Does he have no respect for me at all? He does seem scared of me as well. I’ll never understand why he can’t be remotely civil to me – he truly got what he was searching for. I guess he just can’t fathom taking accountability for what he did. He lies, lies, lies to everyone (including his lawyer) about what he did. Maybe he just can’t face the reality. It’s even more maddening that everyone sees him around town and apparently he’s very happy and always seen out on the town with OW – he would never take me out. They really are assholes.

    • Yes, I think that happens a lot.

      In my case my cheater was always a bit selfish, and I do think he cheated a couple times in our past (hind sightings of red flags) but, it appeared to me that he straightened up and he was involved in church with me, and seem to be saying the right things. So who knows what lurks under that skein.

      My ex went back and forth during our legal separation. I honestly think he got him self and his balls in a vice in part because she was his employee (direct report) and his job was affected. I mean he got busted, and put back out on street patrol. Lost his position as right hand man with the mayor etc, something was just weird about that whole mess. Add to it, that she was (I am not exxagerating) the town whore, and everyone knew it. He knew it. He had mentioned in the past the married men she had dated. She never seemed to date single men. She was not really attractive. She had a pleasant face, but was short and fat. So yeah, I don’t get it.

      I am not knocking fat folks. I was about 15 pounds past my ideal weight too, but I am just trying to put in all the elements that just don’t seem to fit, given our past. I always figured if a man was going to throw his life away, at least it would be for a hottie. Evidently, that only applies to rich men. Lol.

      I think she didn’t date single men because none of them wanted her. So she kept going with married men until she got the brass ring.

      But again, who the hell knows. Just pondering.

      I eventually did find my hottie, and he was single. I suppose that could blow up tomorrow, but we are going on 26 years in Nov, and he is 80 and I am 70, so I feel pretty confident with the life we have shared.

      I still hurt for those still going through this though, and if I can help; I will.

  • Wow Chump Lady. I have been reading your words of wisdom (& that of our fellow chumps) for about 4 years now.
    Thank you, today you hit the nail right on the head. Never a truer word said. Invaluable.

  • Mine insisted he was a lucky guy. But it wasn’t heartfelt and he was trying too hard to convince himself. He was an ingrate and an empty void that could never be filled. He was even envious of his very unhappily married, miserable alcoholic buddies because they got to go on a lot of vacations. Can you believe that shit? People like this are disturbingly common. They want anything they haven’t got and ignore what they have that’s far more valuable, but they wouldn’t know what has value.
    Perhaps he needs to be homeless and destitute to get over his whiny little first world problems.

  • I am like CL, WHY are man children and woman children celebrated in life?

    I highly suspect my ex married the OW either because 1)Mommy made him or 2)Trying to save face, probably because of #1. He is stuck in a marriage with an older low life trash Ho. And I know he is seething. When you see him, you can practically see the anger oozing out of his pores.

    He is her problem now!

  • Wow. This really hits home for me. My ex and I had worked really hard for 27 years to build a business and raise a family of 3 kids. We were finally getting to the point where we had a 2nd home in Florida that would be our retirement place….we were making great money….the business was growing and we were known in our community as a “power couple”. About 9 months before DDay, he started treating me and our youngest (the other 2 were grown and out of the home) like shit. He was constantly moody. Suddenly, everything I said or did irritated him. And then, one day, I got the ILYBINILWY line.

    We were all shocked and devastated. He said the exact things that CL says: “is this all there is? I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that I could have had better.” In my case, I think money and success ruined him. At work, everyone praised him constantly….people wanted to work with him….everything he touched “turned to gold.”

    I have a close friend who told me after he left that she had noticed that he was being an ass in general a few weeks before, and wasn’t sure she and her husband wanted to stay friends with him!

    Today, I am happy with a new partner, a new life, and half of his money. He is with the OW who is 10 years younger than me. He bought a house in our community about 1/2 mile away from me. He JUST bought a house up the street from me (I got the retirement home in the divorce) in Florida. Who the heck does that????

    • I am so glad you found happiness. I did too, and though I never thought it would at the time, it worked out well for me.

      He did blow up his relationship with our son recently, which hurt me; but that is another story, and how I found CL. (CL would have been immensely useful to me when my life was blown up).

      You mention success ruining him, I have wondered if that was in play, aside from his weak character. He and I worked to build his dream in our community, just when he had reached the pinnacle, and quite frankly was likely on the road to running for Mayor when he retired, he threw it all away.

      I think he had so much power that he thought he would just trade me out for Schmoopie and life would be grand. Yeah, didn’t work out that way.

      To be fair, he did apologize to me once in a letter and a couple times in person; but by then I was not interested in hearing it. He had been too awful to me for the last year to 1.5 year of our marriage. He put a whore above me, and there was no coming back from that.

      My life was painful for a while, but I recovered. But, his life crumbled before his very eyes, and he never recouped. He just stayed out of sight, worked to retirement age (52) and disappeared from the city he loved and served for many years. I can’t say if he and schmoopie are happy or not, I am not close to them; but I do know they have brought disaster on themselves a few times. They don’t seem to get that the only common denominator of their woes is them.

      • I agree, it’s just at the point when I started feeling reasonably settled and safe with him for our future, that he changed. Or I could say I saw a facet of him that I didn’t know existed. Sometimes, wealth brings out the true nature of people, sometimes hardship.

        • Yep, wealth and/or power. They usually come together, but not always. My ex was definitely not wealthy, but he was going up the ladder quickly as he hit 40, not without my help I might add. However, he crapped all over the ladder and the slippery fall happened pretty quickly.

    • I have heard of so many instances of this way too close for comfort house buying. Why? It scares me to death because I think it’s going to happen to me and it feels like it will be awful enough to make me move – and I love my house. Why do these cheaters do that?

      • My best friends H did it to her. He “came back home” wanted to buy her a new house, sold their house and since they had lived there a while got a good return on it. Bought a different house, no down payment (VA loan). He spent the money they made on the house, then less than a year later left her. she couldn’t afford to keep the house, so they sold it. Lost about a thousand bucks on it and she had to pay half of that. She had to go into a rental.

        Asshole, walked off and married a woman in her early 20s, he was late thirties. I saw a pic of them on FB about a year ago. He looks like an old man, and she has aged of course, but still the big blonde hair with her boobs hanging out front and center. Tons of make up. But, she is still 16 years younger, so I guess he likes it.

        However she met a man 10 years her senior, and they married and are still together. He is a contractor, and he already owned a house in the wealthy section of the area, so she is fine. she went to school and became quite the earner herself.

        She is likely attractive, (in her 50s now) but honestly the overblown make up and hair don’t do her justice. From what I remember, they never had kids. Don’t know if he got himself fixed or not.

  • Right after my ex left, I had the same kind of thoughts. We dated for about 3 years before getting married, and she started cheating on me about seven months after we got married (and no, I don’t think anything was going on before then). She then proceeded to have a number of different affair partners over the years (we lived in 3 different locales), and I was none the wiser.
    After I finally caught her with something, she abandoned me and our kids (though she eventually came back for the kids). I kept asking myself “How in the world did I not see her for what she truly was before we got married? Was there some kind of red flag that I just didn’t see?”
    The answers to those questions are: there weren’t any. The red flags I did see were about the fact that she didn’t seem to be able to keep a job for long, and that she jumped into our relationship way too deep to start. Those aren’t good, but neither of them signaled “narcissistic serial cheater.” Before we got married, there were no unexplained late nights, no suspicious male “friends” always hanging around, no unexplained fancy underwear, no weird phone calls. The sad truth is that, for whatever reason, once we got married she felt this huge desire to get away with something elicit, or exciting. As the CL says, she simply couldn’t stand having a “normal” life where she lived happily ever after with a regular spouse.

    You shouldn’t beat yourself up over not seeing a red flag beforehand. Even if you did, and didn’t think it mattered, it’s still not your fault. Your cheater still made a conscious choice to cheat, and you can’t control that.

    • Traveling, actually the ‘doesn’t keep any job for long’ and ‘jumped into our relationship way too deep to start’ ARE red flags. They are very common behaviours for narcissists. So there might not have been warnings specifically about cheating, but these were flags about shallowness, inconsistency, being difficult to get along with/frequently dissatisfied, and love bombing. And THOSE are the characteristics that go along with and permit cheating. As well as making them poor life partners in general, even if they never cheat.

  • My STBX expressed a lot of gratitude around our lives and privilege but he was hiding envy towards me, for my accomplishments and assets. That started to seep out later in our relationship. He once said he wanted to be me. Creepy shit in these cheater brains.

  • I believe many people are deluded by believing they are “special.” We are taught to believe in heroes, we are conditioned to believe in many myths, but statistics do not back up the hero mythology. Reality indicates that we can improve many aspects of our material lives, but we can’t always get satisfaction (as noted by The Rolling Stones).

    I admire many talented people, and enjoy their various talents, but I try not to look at their personal lives too closely, because they are not likely to be perfect. I think I was lucky to have changed schools many times when I was young, although I certainly did not think so at the time. But I was not conditioned by a group mentality to accept that the Captain of the Football team was a wonderful person, or my goal in life would be to become Head Cheerleader, or Homecoming Queen.
    There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but there is something wrong with the way “fans” become obsessed with those folks. It breeds discontent with being who you are, and being happy with your own life situation. You compare yourself to others who have talents different from yours, and you are unhappy with your own talents. You are unhappy because others do not see you the way you want to be seen. Thoreau observed “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation . . . But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”

    When you are young you might believe you are special and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. As you age, you become more realistic, and realize Superman was a comic book hero, and not realistic. Everyone cannot lead the lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and the wise thing is to realize those folks are not necessarily any happier than we are. As I age, I have realized I don’t really need many of the things I thought I needed when I was young. The things that make me truly happy are really very simple.

    My Ex’s left a blazing trail of clues, but I didn’t choose to see them until one day I did. Maybe other spouses don’t leave a trail, and live with their desperate unhappiness for their situation for years. I think that those of us who are content with who we are do not look for discontent in others. Then one day, we have to see it. We have to make changes in our lives.

    Those who break away from the life they have to seek the life they want, or feel entitled to, forget that where ever they go , THEY will still be there. No matter how much you want to be Superman, you cannot be. Then they have to live with the consequences of their disrupted lives. They might try to save face, control their public image, but I doubt they will ever be happy. They have to demonize their past or someone in their past to explain why they ran from their responsibilities.

    The best thing we can do for ourselves is to look at who we are and what our talents are in a realistic manner. Then, we need to work on becoming content with who we are We may have areas we can improve with work. We may not end up with the life we thought we would have. But that doesn’t mean we cannot be happy. Don’t compare yourself to other people, or try to please or impress them. Think about what you need to do to be pleased with your life choices. It is much healthier to accept who you are, and live your life according to your values. Consider yourself lucky that you do not live with a lying cheater anymore.

  • Sad as it is if they don’t want to be with your any longer, they don’t want to be with you any longer.

    And really, who wants someone with one foot in and one foot out? Is there ANYTHING more miserable in a relationship or a friendship? One day they want you, the next not so much.

    Either stay alone or find someone who is 100% committed, warts and all. Someone who will put up with your good moods, your down moods, your shitty hair days, and you the same with them. Who sees great value in a shared life and would not want to jeaporadize it!

    • Mitz, if Cheater Narc Ex hadn’t wanted to be with me any longer, that would have been FINE. Especially if he had been up front about it!

      But he was the cake eater extraordinaire! He LOVED the idea of two women both wanting him, pick-me dancing etc. He was in narc heaven! During Affair #1, which went on for months before I confronted him and months after, he actually told his mother not to worry, he had no intention of leaving me. SHE was the one to make clear to him that if he didn’t end the affair, I would leave him.

      And with Affair #2, he seemed happy to agree to leave, when I told him I was done. But then wouldn’t leave. When I finally got him out he clearly thought the separation would only be temporary. And within a few months of figuring out it wasn’t, he was hoovering BIG TIME. Tried again and again over a couple of years to get me back.

      He 100% wanted to be with me. AND 100% wanted to have a side piece who looked at him with those googly eyes. And he was PISSED when he figured out I wouldn’t let him have both, the second time around.

  • My ex, who shocked me and everyone else with his series of infidelities) though he never made me feel precious in our more than 20 years together, I thought he was a man of quiet character), gave me a crumb yesterday. Five years after leaving me and the kids with a text, I got a text from him during a coparenting (alone) conversation. (He moved to another state with his imported child bride and hasn’t seen the kids since Covid). His first cousin killed himself yesterday. That cousin’s brother had cheated on/left his wife and kids about the same time as my ex left us. Yesterday, after my ex told me the sad news by text, he wrote “there’s a lot of mental illness in the men of our family. Wish someone could have spared all you good women the pain of marrying us.” Closest I’ll ever come to an apology. Doesn’t mean a thing at this point, though I would have taken him back for that and loved him to “health” for it if given the chance 5 years ago.

    Untangling the skein is a natural response when someone you love hurts you. One day, I hope you’ll realize that if there’s a skein to untangle, it’s not the right relationship, and better left as a cat toy on the floor. All my life I’d been trained to be a chump by people who loved me. But on the downhill side of fifty I’ve learned it’s kind of peaceful with no drama. I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life than be with someone who would hurt me and walk away, for any reason. I’m still holding out hope someone sweet who likes chubby middle aged women who laugh a lot will come along. But I’m ok if they don’t, too.

    Hang in there. Meh is real, and it’s nice here for those of us who don’t meet special people right away too.

    • “Wish someone could have spared all you good women the pain of marrying us.” ”

      To me, that is huge. I get it doesn’t change anything, but as you get further out; I can’t help but think that is might help a little.

      I know hearing a couple kind concessions my ex said about me to my daughter in law, years after the fact; helped me.

      I am remarried, (divorced at 40) and I wouldn’t change any of it now. But, yes had he given me any kindness like that at all during the implosion, I would have given him a chance.

      My sweet husband was discarded after 29 years. Not for cheating, but simply because she didn’t want to be married anymore. she had a problem with alcohol abuse, and it cause a lot of tension between them. Broke his heart, and I know had she been willing he would have kept trying to make her happy, as he loved her; and marriage was a big deal to him. But, we did find each other.

      Like you though; I was ok being alone. In fact the H and I were together over four years before we married. Took plenty of time to really know each other.

    • Gettingthereslowly, my ex sent me an email in June, telling me his father had passed. It was expected, so it did not come as a surprise. But what he wanted from me was sympathy, to absorb his pain for him, and I responded that “We have not been a family for years, so if you are looking for synpathy, get it from the person you traveled to resort cities all over the continental North America with after you abandoned me. I am no longer your wife – I am not even your friend. I am sorry for your family’s loss.” Now, that may sound cold, but him emailing me to tell me he thought I should know, as if we were still family, and I was obligated to feel his pain for him still, was a bridge too far. They will use the death of a family member to try to lure you back in, because the thought that there is someone out there that loathes them is too much for their entitled brains to wrap around. Good for your for not falling for it.

      • Two years post divorce, XW emailed me to let me know her father was having surgery, but not to tell the kids because she didn’t want to worry them. I thought it was a little odd (because she could have simply not told me in the first place), but figured I would just keep it to myself and then I would have fulfilled my obligation.

        Three hours later I get a blistering followup email from her about what a horribly person I am that I hadn’t asked how she was doing and offered to support her. Because, you know, I did exactly what she asked me to do but failed to pass the secret test.

        Actually, now that I write it out I remember that there was a lot of that going on in the last year of my marriage, when I kept coming up short compared to the AP because I wasn’t aware that I was in a competition with him to “win” my wife. I’m convinced that my wife was more than happy to keep AP’s existence a secret so that I would repeatedly lose to him in her secret comparisons (because, you know, I was 1000 miles away single-parenting our three kids while working full time, so I didn’t have time and energy to continuously call, text, and send flowers, jewelry and clothing) and she would be justified, in her own mind, in dumping me.

        • Involuntary Georgian –
          Your ex sounds a lot like my STBX, as I think we might have noted in the past. All the same passive-aggressive BS, expecting their partners to be mind readers. Of course cheating comes in all genders, but I think there’s a particular thing about disordered women who have been socialized to expect sympathy at all times, from all people – even ones they have abused, and who are setting healthy boundaries around No Contact. I guarantee my STBX (we are both women) frequently feels put out that I am not offering more comfort around all her screwed-up family stuff, and of course now during Covid, etc. Even worse, this type of disordered woman has internalized the script that “sharing feelings” is always good, and that somehow we are behaving in toxic ways (“stonewalling” etc.) if we are employing some version of gray rock as a healthy boundary in the face of their emotional onslaughts. That’s some serious DARVO right there.

    • I’d be a little suspect of his text. All may not be well at home with import Bride and he is looking for a place to escape. I think the “mental illness” admission is an excuse for his bad behavior and to gain your sympathy. I don’t doubt that he has mental issues in light of his behavior but these types are never remorseful.

    • I’m right there with you GettinThereSlowly.

      I remember the night I was curled in the bottom of the bathtub with the shower running sobbing my heart out. That’s when I decided I’d rather be alone forever than spend one more day in that dysfunctional relationship.

      Frankly I’m a little nervous about spending time with a man. However, that’s been a mental exercise for 5 years now, with no prospects in sight to make it a reality. Oh well. I do enjoy having the whole bed, all my pillows and blankets to myself with no stinky, selfish cover/space stealing asshole in it. Even if I am somehow gifted with a boyfriend in the future, I still don’t know if I want to share my bed, my space with someone again. I relish my peace and quiet now!


    • Getting There Slowly, I’m so glad he didn’t try that one on you when you might have gone back to him. Because its not an apology, its an excuse. Mental illness doesn’t cause cheating, bad character does. Using the suicide of his cousin to give himself both centrality and an excuse for his bad character is pretty repulsive.

  • My partner was highly affectionate, thoughtful, generous, involved me with his friends and family, we shared lots of laughs and in-jokes, went on lots of holidays, meals and outings together.

    He always told me how much he loved me, how beautiful I was, how funny, clever and creative I was.

    He asked if I’d take his last name when we got married, where we would marry and what kind of ring, we bought a house together, spoke about where we would retire. He had an extremely good job and was not lazy, involved in addiction, etc, though he could binge drink the odd time.

    He helped me through cancer and financially supported me through my vocational retraining. I supported him when he changed company to advance his career.

    And he still abruptly left for someone else at work and utterly discarded me at the worst possible time. My friends and family were shocked, but not as shocked as me. He offered some longer term financial support, sure, but emotionally he was completely gone in a FLASH. The relationship seemed to mean nothing, and he rushed me out the door.

    Now I’m not saying there was never any remote sign he could be cold, or selfish, but what I’m saying is, people that cheat DO NOT have it written all over them. It’s NOT always the jobless, video game playing stoner who was neglectful for years stereotype. It’s NOT easy to spot and it’s NOT your fault if it happens.

    So never allow yourself the narrative of “I should have seen it coming”.

    • “So never allow yourself the narrative of “I should have seen it coming”.” Absolutely.

      I experience a lot of the stuff you mentioned. I knew he had a selfish streak, but he seemed to care for me, and he acted like a human being. Either he was excellent at hiding it, or he snapped, something. Doesn’t matter, except that the betrayed should not be thinking they should have seen it.

      We humans are imperfect. I know one of my bad habits was to sulk, when I got mad. Now I didn’t get mad much, and we didn’t fight much, but when I got hurt I did sulk.

      I even told my now husband before we married. Two things, when I get upset I get quiet, so just leave me to work through it, and also if you want a spit shiner for a house keeper; keep on walking. So he said, well we can hire someone to clean the house when needed. See, now that is how a non fuckwit thinks. He evidently saw more value in me than my lack of dusting skills. I keep a decent house, but not a perfect house.

      I mention the house keeping because that is really the only gripe my FW could lodge against me, aside from “we grew apart” I even suggested when we were together that I needed someone to come in and clean a couple times a month, but no; he didn’t want to waste the money. I assume he needed it for his dating purposes.

    • Hooboy this sounds familiar. And because of it I highly doubt I’ll ever be in another relationship. After 25+ years and I didn’t see it coming, couldn’t fathom HE would do that. And now I can’t trust myself to not end up in the same situation. It’s a non-issue right now anyway because I have too many other stressors to deal with but I can’t yet imagine being able to trust again.

    • Exactly
      My cheater’s biggest obvious flaw was that he was just too perfect -very selfless – very generous – very helpful – very romantic
      He gave a lot and never asked for anything ( and a little passive aggressive and enmeshed with FOO.
      That seemed a little off
      – but not cheating off.

  • “Or coupled and silently resenting, doing a play act of commitment. His unhappiness is his problem. ”

    This is so important for the betrayed to remember.

    With rare exceptions, this will be the life of the cheater. Doesn’t matter what front they put on. I have been “fortunate?” that I have seen the misery my FW and schnoopie have rained down on themselves. My guess is they are the norm of two adulterers marrying, not the exception. Also, I am betting in their new state (FL) and new church they have presented themselves as wonderful people who are happy as shit. But, others who they ran away from, know better. They know better.

    The reason I know is because FW blew up his relationship with our son, and our son and his wife needed someone to talk to. So they chose me, and I am glad. I do hate that they had to suffer this, as I would have rather have thought they (the fuckwits) lived in rainbow land, than for my son and his family to be hurt, much like I was.

  • I was blindsided on D-Day, though the devaluing had started a few months prior.

    Some of our exes should have become professional actors because they were SO good at pretending to be someone they’re not.

    In retrospect, there were occasional, infrequent subtle clues going back many years but I chalked them up to PTSD (I was able to verify that his friend did get mortally wounded in front of him in Iraq, so that much was real).

    I think we untangle the skein because of the cognitive dissonance: we try to understand how we could have been duped like that. It LOOKED like a good marriage, we TRUSTED that they loved us, and yet they betrayed us and caused us such searing emotional pain. It’s hard not to turn that over in our heads for a time.

    But eventually (sometimes with help from CL – thanks Tracy!) we come around to trust that they suck.

    • ‘We TRUSTED that they loved us, and yet they betrayed us and caused us such searing emotional pain. It’s hard not to turn that over in our heads for a time.’
      Exactly – it’s having felt what you thought was love, acceptance, commitment, generosity and teamwork, only to be stabbed and have the knife turned again and again as you pick up the pieces after being discarded for the OW.
      Almost a yr- and I still dream about him most nights. Sometimes I dream about my former stepchildren.
      My contempt for him is still mixed with hurt and I’m definitely not Meh. I still find it a little surreal- it’s hard for me to just except “oh he’s a cheater” after he once was so invested in me. But because I’m so disgusted by him – I find in a strange way it helps me to feel better. But I’m still so stuck in conversations that I have in my head about the whole thing.
      There’s an extremely small part of me that still expects him to show up and tell me this was all a bad dream -this never happened – we were real.

      And the way some of us are just dumped by our in-laws – after we’ve invested so much time in them. It’s priceless!

      ‘But eventually (sometimes with help from CL – thanks Tracy!) we come around to trust that they suck.’ And that his sparkly parents suck too

  • Had a lovely Christmas with lots of thoughful gifts & a card that read, “Life gives you beautiful things…it gave me you.” Next day was dday, three weeks later he was gone & several months later he filed – we were approaching our 25th anniversary. My spinning heart & head were so blindsided I ended up having a nervous breakdown. Never had a warning. Did learn schmoopie didnt last & he went on to marry someone who wasn’t even born when we married.

    • That is awful.

      Mid supper, he had convinced me to co sign for our dream River Property for our retirement (we were 40) 25 Dec was Dday, he moved out the day after New Years Day, and he went silent. I called him a few weeks later and asked him to file, since he wanted the D. We were legally separated for a year, with him circling back a few times, but I only let him come back the first time. It lasted a week.

      I honestly think the only thing that kept me from a NB, was I was walking around in shock. I did finally go to a doc at my Dads insistence, and went on anti depressants for a few months, until I got stronger. I had a job, and that was what I concentrated on. I was scared to death of losing my job. So I guess it was my lifeline.

    • Sounds like he wanted a clean slate with someone too inexperienced with life and the right questions to ask, who will put up with his crap. Schmoopie must’ve got wise.

  • CL makes a key point when she writes, “While not every cheater is a personality disorder, every affair is narcissistic.” A person does not have to have a diagnosed Cluster B personality disorder to behave narcissistically. When I first learned about narcissistic behavior from reading here, the biggest eye-opener was the narcissistic cycle of relationship–1) Overvaluation and lovebombing; 2) Devaluation; 3) Discard.

    I’ve come to believe that every affair involves devaluation. How else can someone backstab a spouse or partner? First they have to come to see that supposed loved on as “less valued”. That’s why cheaters love to blame their infidelity on the chump–if only the chump weren’t too tall or left-handed; if only the chump loved Superman more than Batman. And the “discard” doesn’t require the Cheater to move. They can stay married but simply unplug emotionally and put their energy into the affair(s).

    One of my pet hypotheses is that some cheaters live lives in stages: they have their young persona (athlete, scholar, geek, artist, gamer, etc.) Then they have the “single and free” months or years until they decide to get into the “marriage and family” years. And at some point, when the kids are old enough, the cheating either starts or really ramps up so that the marriage is over as the nest empties. So someone who seems to be a family man/woman and then suddenly isn’t may be this type of cheater–the kind that figures she or he’s “done” with that phase of life and ready to move one to something else.

    My father discarded three wives and three sets of kids once the kid got old enough for high school. He’s kind of an extreme example and he kept re-doing the “wife and kids” stage so long as they kids were little enough for him to watch.

    I actually think this kid of cheater is particularly despicable, since they are so good at maintaining a facade of connection until they decide to drop the mask.

    • I agree that some chose to leave when the best is empty or near empty. Mine chose to start an affair with a casino prostitute when our oldest left for college, and DDay happened the day our youngest turned 18. Coincidence, I don’t think so. He was over being the family man, the respected doctor. He wanted a drug addict hooker who he felt was dangerous and exciting, that he could control with money. It is a sick power dynamic. The devaluing of me got worse in the last year of our marriage but in hindsight, I can see it had started a year or two before that. He just hadn’t chosen to leave yet.

    • Yes. My ex was a star high school athlete but injuries prevented him playing in college. So he was the life of the party in college and managed to graduate. Then it was city dwelling professional for a few years before becoming suburban family man. Well once the kids were in elementary school, he discarded us. Now he’s the career minded professional moving up the management ladder who gets to travel and hook up with various workers in different locations (don’t believe his married howorker can keep his attention for long). He really liked the movie & soundtrack to Shallow. The irony. Probably envisions himself as Bradley Cooper and he has the alcoholic part nailed.

  • “You can’t be 77 flavors of ice cream. You can just be you.”

    I love vanilla ice cream. Asshat always made fun of my “bland” choices in food. I’m not a spice loving person and we always laughed about ketchup being too spicy for me.

    Well, guess what? I like being vanilla. It’s an amazing flavor. Some days I even dip my vanilla in butterscotch or put sprinkles on. It’s a flavor that goes well with many different fruits. Vanilla doesn’t overpower other flavors; but rather, complements them. I’m just not a chocolate fan, another sin in Asshat’s world.

    I live in a town with a national recognized ice cream company. Ever since Dday 2017, DS21 has lived with me and comes to my house during the summer college recess. We would go on a daily dog walk, and then get our ice cream treat. Last summer, the company came up with a new flavor–vanilla ice cream with pickles. I thought I would try. Well guess what? Even their amazing ice cream couldn’t make vanilla and pickles taste good at all. That’s Asshat & I. No matter how hard I want to believe we had a future, he is the pickle to my amazing vanilla ice cream. He’s the bad tasting ingredient. So HoWife can have what he brings to her ice cream. I don’t have to taste it anymore and the bad taste memory is becoming less and less. Getting to meh.

    • Me too. I was constantly putting up with a ton of smelly things. I am glad I don’t have to anymore. But it’s not that easy to be on my own, I’m toughening up bit by bit.


    Expert liars are really good at lying, keeping secrets, and hiding stuff.

    Ask Bernie Madoff’s “best friends”.

    Just because you can’t find any other indicators doesn’t mean there are none. I’ve never seen a million dollars in cash. It exists.

    Maybe there were priors. Maybe there weren’t.
    Priors and indicators are a moot point. The terrifying important point is that when I discovered he was cheating, I also also discovered I COULD NEVER EVER BE CERTAIN OF WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW ABOUT HIM.

  • “Up until his affair, my husband was always self-deprecating and seemed open to sharing his feelings. He worked hard, followed through on his commitments, and put me first in his life. It wasn’t until the affair started that he became withdrawn and moody, dropped most of his friends and social activities, and expressed frustration with our life together.”

    There’s your clues. Self-deprecation isn’t a good personality trait. With cheaters and narcissists, it’s a pity ploy. If they include self-deprecation along with seemingly opening their emotions to you, they’re trying to soften your heart to them and soften their image in your eyes. They’re hoping you see them as this timid creature who just needs you and your love to feel good, and oh how wonderful it is that you understand him! It’s a hook. (I went on ONE date with a guy whom decided good conversation was to tell me, while counting on his fingers, everything he hated about himself. I decided “Hard pass” on that one. Later when I started dating a different person, guess what? Mr. Self-Deprication turned into Mr. Blows-Up-My-Phone-At-7-Am-When-I’m-On-The-Way-To-Work-About-Why-I’m-Not-Into-Him-Creep.)

    And anyone, narc or otherwise, who suddenly drops their friends, social activities, becomes withdrawn, moody, and frustrated seemingly out of nowhere has 1 of 2 possible issues: 1) They’re actually becoming depressed and may need help or 2) In your case, they’re cheating.

    That isn’t to say “how could you have missed these,” that is to say, he didn’t have a sudden and rapid 180 in his personality. The person above who quoted their psychologist that pointed out people do not change, that type of personality is usually set by the age of 25, and after that, true and real change is rare and very, very difficult (see CL’s differentiation between Real Remorse and Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse.) Your husband didn’t have a personality transplant or a mid-life crisis, this is who he always was, and he’s a good manipulator mindfucking you into believing he was genuine. Cheaters do that. The lot of ’em.

  • With columns that ran previously, I figure we’re not replying directly to the person who originally wrote in (who has hopefully graduated to blissful meh in the meantime), but what Hopeful wrote is a good question and I thought CL’s answer was great. It’s not “untangling” but “postmortem analysis.” We are pattern seeking creatures.

    The Yiddish word “nebbish” comes to mind for these types who show little to no warning before they suddenly go off the deep end. They’re not “nothing” because of the facts of their quiet lives or modest accomplishments but because they don’t value what they have as CL wrote. You’re only as nothing as you feel.

    I’ve seen this kind of switcheroo several times but it’s never an accident or out of the blue. In some cases they knew what they were all along, but I’d consider the possibility that, in other cases, their “true selves” were so buried under denial that their right hand didn’t know what their left would eventually do. Like Manchurian candidates, they were always programmed to explode in destructiveness given the right set of triggers. The trigger might be encountering the carbon copy of some destructive, manipulative authority figure from their childhoods. It could be closet addictions that start accentuating the darkness and eroding the mask. But I think the potential was always there.

    Perhaps the only tangible giveaway in some cases is general vagueness. I was reading a discussion thread about dealing with partners with personality disorders and the one common denominator among early red flags that many agreed on was that covert abusers seem “checked out” at various intervals. Spacey, dissociated, whatever, as if they sort of leave their earthly forms periodically. Then the question is, are they just daydreamy, hatching a new theory in physics or GONE?

    My dad used to comment on certain people saying it was like you could put your hand right through them. They weren’t really there to begin with. As a kid I didn’t know what he was talking about but have since had experiences that associate trauma with certain vibes that people give off. But without those personal experiences to “inform” what that vibe signifies, some could be read as simply “benign.”

    Some people mirror the best models they could find for how to think, feel, say, what to believe in, etc., but hold no strong organic convictions of their own or know to keep those selfish convictions quiet. Stanley Milgram, who conducted the notorious shock experiment, called these types “agentic” personalities. Philosopher and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt observed that many Nazi higher-ups simply lacked any personality at all and didn’t “know how to think.” This could sound dismissive or minimizing but, from Arendt, this was the ultimate condemnation. Those who observed several high placed Nazis in prison at Nuremberg found these types could not even use the toilet without being instructed by guards to do so. “Nothing” can be shades darker than we imagine it to be.

    I think a lot has been learned about the development of personality disorders since Nuremberg and I don’t really believe these “agentic” people- those who seem dull or normal or benign but are suddenly capable of committing terrible things– had perfectly normal upbringings. Prying into the pasts of these types might turn up a few well hidden clues if they even remember what happened to them to turn them into dangerous ciphers. That’s the thing though– they may not remember themselves. So we just have to trust it was something and that the end result– an entirely untrustworthy, inconstant character– is not normal or acceptable.

    • Hell of a Chump,

      Fascinating post! I appreciate your insight.

      My ex used to say he had his “demons.” Perhaps that demon was his “true self,” one that he managed to keep largely hidden for years. We saw bits of it in his instability, moodiness, passive-aggressive behavior, and punishing silence. But overall he kept it together, at least on the surface. I think his career as a physician and his loving family gave him cover. And if he had other affairs, he managed to hide them.

      Although two of his siblings committed suicide, he always claimed to have only happy childhood memories. I can only assume that he blocked the bad ones. I mean, I know his parents–one narc mother and one stern (preacher-wannabe) father. Between the two of them, there was no empathy. Feelings were not validated. This I witnessed. This I experienced.

      When he gave himself permission to have an affair with a co-worker (nurse) who, he says, came on to him, I feel as if he let the demon out of the cage; he figured he had one last chance to have this amazing life experience, and he just said “F**k it! I’m going in! Damn the torpedoes!”

      This man, who always characterized himself as beyond reproach, lied to me every day for almost 3 years. No guilt. No conscience. I think he’s never been a man of good character, but a combination of his hiding his demon and my spackling kept the act going, at least on the surface, for 35 years.

      • My physician husband actually kept a diary of his feelings to each of her texts: he said if the prostitute unblocked him (and how pathetic is it when a prostitute blocks you), he’d take this chance to live the life he wanted “I’d be gone. I’d be off fucking her, doing drugs”. He did try, at age 27 to have an affair with a nurse (who worked part time as a stripper). She was dating his friend. She turned him down. He told me on our 4th wedding anniversary. I should have run then. Instead, I stuck it out for 26 more years. Who knows how many affairs happened in that time frame?

  • There are always clues to be found in the post mortem, which I do believe is valuable to do because it can help us understand what to avoid in the future. In my mind, post-mortem review is different than untangling because you are not necessarily looking for the WHY.

    I think people struggle to find viable clues because we’ve, in essence, been brainwashed by a certain type of permissive and excusive culture. And, “clues” aren’t just found in obvious bad behavior. It’s a bunch of tiny little things that add up. For example, maybe what you saw as “supportive” was actually just your ex avoiding conflict and hiding his true feelings. Or maybe you saw your ex as “putting you first” but really, it was that he had no real friends because he can’t keep friendships because he’s disordered. And on and on.

    I was shocked at how many little clues I found, after the fact.

    • ‘maybe what you saw as “supportive” was actually just your ex avoiding conflict and hiding his true feelings’
      Exactly – there are many signs now that he was somebody who avoided conflict at all costs and was an extreme people pleaser. I didn’t however know that those were signs that he would cheat on me. And extreme impression management.
      Many of us are unhealthy in all kinds of different ways… but we don’t all cheat…. so it’s really hard to figure it out – even though you see some signs of unhealthy behaviour

      • Agreed. I think I’ve learned to better spot disorders in others (and myself!) and be curious about then in a very different way than I was before. Like, hmmmm, his inability to handle conflict is strange…I wonder where that can lead?! But normally, I do believe there are even stronger signs that we mostly ignore because we are trained in a thousand little ways to just “go along.” As in, it’s not just that my ex wanted to avoid conflict, if I didn’t acquiesce to his way of thinking, he would basically shut down and stonewall me for days.

      • Exactly, I mean I know I had some insecurities that led back to my childhood (not because of bad parents), but I never thought about cheating, (and yes I had opportunities) and I doubt my ex thought I ever cheated. So why would I think that some of his faults would mean he would cheat. Cheating wasn’t in my wheelhouse, so I extended that to him. I trusted him despite his faults, as loving spouses should.

  • ‘my husband was always self-deprecating and seemed open to sharing his feelings. He worked hard, followed through on his commitments, and put me first in his life. It wasn’t until the affair started that he became withdrawn’ exactly the same for me .
    Mine went above and beyond… everybody thought he was the most wonderful person on the planet.
    I think I’ve pretty much given up untangling ….. but it is scary….

    The one sign I know of is that he was ridiculously romantic and really enjoyed that experience of being
    ‘In love’….. but I don’t even know if that’s a sign?
    There must be some people who are over the top affectionate, prolific card writers, send flowers to your work, take you out for beautiful dinners and nice vacations and don’t cheat ????
    All I know is that I was the worlds best thing… until I was replaced .

  • Because I was so trusting. Because I didn’t look. Because I beleived every word out of his mouth – I hadn’t a clue – until. Until he started to project his behavior on me. Until every conversation/encounter was a struggle. Until he treated me with disdain, disregard and distrust. THEN I started to get a clue, even though I was tap dancing my butt off trying to prove my innocence and investment.

    But I didn’t really KNOW until months after I left. 5 years later, I’m still discovering some of the shit he has pulled over a 18 year relationship.

    So glad I walked. So glad I never looked back. So glad I wiped that smug smirk off his face that I couldn’t figure out why it was there in the first place. Yes, I was a 1st Class Chump. But now I’m free and he is still right were I left him 5 years ago.

  • I remember years ago, being new here, thinking somehow she was different. She was not. Divorcing her cost me literally every material thing I’d aquired over 19 years. That’s not hyperbole.
    And it was worth it. I do not think about her fondly. She may be one of the worst people I’ve ever met. I don’t think about our past any more than you think about trash you throw into the garbage.
    The problem, that no one can prepare you for, is that piece of trash picking up a bat and smashing your head in while you’re trying to go about your day and a bureaucratic system that enables it to do so. In the 2 years I’ve been divorced, I’ve been to court 4 times. I’ve had my passport taken (even though I am current on all my payments), I speak with my lawyer daily as he attempts to remedy this. She refuses to work (shocker) and I support her my children and when there is anything left after I pay my lawyer, me. This is sport for her and you will learn agreements are only as good as the people that make them.
    I am saying this because I wish someone told me. If you are here, you are probably going to divorce. Depending on your state, you may very well get very screwed. Prepare. Do not trust anyone but yourself.
    The good news is your past with the animal attacking you will not mean anything to you anymore. You will be completely indifferent to them if they left you alone. So they won’t. So you will probably hate them anyway for the continued abuse they heep on you when you just want to move on. Good luck

  • I read and related to so many of these posts. Dang, it pisses me off to think how many cheaters PICK us to be their shields so they can do what they do!! I was almost 30 when I got married and “thought” I had waited and picked a good one!!! Boy did I.

    I stayed married for over 3 decades, made a life, family, loved, planned for retirement, and basically 5 years ago I cut him loose. He was one of the “walk on water” good guys. Also a PO as Ive seen a few others with those cop type who have lots of opportunity and at the same time MOST ppl love them. If he was a sheriff now …. not so much (IMO) Anyway there was absolutley NOTHING that made me think he would betray me like he did. I was a professional when he “picked” me and I was over the moon. He was raised in a christian home with his parents being ministers. The very first Dday I remember talking to a pastor friend who told me his problem was that his parents “expected” too much from him and held the fear of God over him. I wasn’t raised that way so I bought into it. But after several other random ddays (he was the one who admitted his shit to me so NOTHING would be between us! I have no words for how cruel and evil he is to literally do what he did all the while enjoying the benefit of a beautiful wife, kids, success etc…. Entiltlement off the chart! I wasted no time “taking out the trash ” 6 years ago. Been divorced now 5 years and have done alot of self care to move forward. These people are deranged and I have No empathy and hope that anyone reading CL & CN will take what we share to heart. Its really FU what they do. No Mercy here …

  • Some measure of untangling the skein is a part of the healing journey. It forces us to do some research, better our understanding of psychology, make sense of our lives. However, we have to come to a place when we realize that there is no more research to be done, every angle has been examined, greater understanding has been obtained BUT not all questions can get answered.

    The trick is that there eventually has to be an “acceptance” in this journey of healing (grieving). An acceptance that there will always be things we don’t know. An acceptance that we were abandoned.

    One of my turning points in acceptance was an article I came across in Psychology Today that addressed the issue of ruminating thoughts of “why?”. It recommended creating a list of all the “why’s”. Why didn’t he ever tell me he was unhappy? Why did he think it was okay to cheat? Why did he blame me? Why does he continue to be cruel to me? Etc.

    Then, turn the why’s into statements. He never told me he was unhappy. He thought it was okay to cheat. He then blamed me. He continues to be cruel to me.

    Suddently, those statements became the answers to the “whys,” and I found it satisfactory is accepting what was and what it.

    This alone wasn’t the solution to all my ruminating, but it went part in parcel with building my own life, making decisions based on whether or not it contributes to the life I’m trying to build, therapy for post-traumatic stress symptoms, and time. Switching your reading to focus on you helps CL brilliantly emphasizes the need to shift the focus on to you and creating your best life free of the toxicity of a cheating partner. Read more stuff that focuses on you and being your best self. When that shift happens in your mind, you know you are at a pivotal turning point.

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