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‘I Feel Trapped’

Dear Chump Lady,

I need to vent. I have no one to talk to and I feel trapped. I can’t talk to friends or family because he’s a decent father but not so much as a husband.

So…about 7 years ago I found out my husband went to those “happy ending” massage places for about 2 years. He got offended but he promised not to do it again. I was upset about the whole thing but mainly the lies and the cover ups, etc…but I sort of got over it. (You forgive but somehow it’s hard to forget.)

Last week, I found out he had/has (who knows) been texting a single girl for the past 2 months. I found out accidentally when I saw his phone with a girl named “Jo Work.” I asked him numerous time who is this Jo person. He adamantly said it’s a guy from work that he goes on bike rides with. But I asked him again and again and he finally admitted that it was a (single) girl he met at a bar. They went out a few times with other people that they are now created a club for it. I asked to look at his text that they have one on one but he (conveniently) deleted. He said she meant nothing but then then admitted that she texted first and asked how his day was and small “chit chat”. Then admitted she’s voluptuous and has sizable chest and curve.

There’s no remorse and he’s telling me that I’m stuck in this black hole and believe what I wanted to believe. He turned it all around and said he’s working for our family (I’m a stay at home mom). His work is stressful. He’s a good father, etc…but no remorse with what he did.

Obviously I’m hurt, really hurt and feeling trapped. We have 2 kids, young kids and I love them dearly. I feel trapped and now not trusting anyone anymore. I already feel insecure (who isn’t?), my confidence, self worth, etc…all gone. When I was younger I got my heart broken numerous times but nothing like this. I always told myself that when these guys hurt me they didn’t deserve my tears and me. But I love my husband, I gave it all, I put my wall down and I let myself feel loved and I told myself he’s different.

I thought our marriage is invincible. I thought he will love and respect me and will not hurt me…not like this. We’re better than this trash. And I’m now feeling like I’m stuck in this trash.


Dear Trapped,

I hope your husband falls off his “bike.”

Maybe you should remind him to wear a helmet next time he’s out. Christ on a cracker… how original. Bike club.

Anyway, I’m sorry you find yourself in the chump club. You’ve come to the right place. Lots of people have been similarly trapped and escaped. You can too. It’s just going to take a lot of mettle and a big rethink about what your relationship is. You’re going to grieve the future you thought you and your kids had, the future you invested heavily in — but you’re going to get a new future. And believe me, it’s going to be a LOT better than playing marriage police to a fuckwit.

That’s where you are now. I’m sure he’s expecting the same forgiveness you conferred on his little happy ending adventures. He’s balls deep in cake and loving it. Who are you to say no to his entitlement when you’ve got two small children and are economically dependent on him?

He turned it all around and said he’s working for our family (I’m a stay at home mom). His work is stressful. He’s a good father, etc…but no remorse with what he did.

Oh yeah, he’s a real hard worker, what with hanging out in bars and picking up women. Tote that bale! Lift that barge!

The poor peanut with his stressful job. Does he need some impoverished Asian immigrant to wank him off? Perhaps he should have a lie down. On a train track somewhere.


Trapped — he wants you trapped.

Think about that for a moment — all this despair and pain you’re feeling? It’s exactly where he wants you. Of course, he would’ve preferred it if you’d never found out, then his entitlement could go on unquestioned — but that STUCK thing? That’s working for him. It keeps him in cake. He gets his faithful devoted wife appliance, raising his children, giving him the facade of normalcy, and he gets single life — picking up “bikers” in bars. Oh, and when all that is just too much, he’s a john hiring hookers. (Let’s just call it what it is, okay? That’s a massage and I’m a jelly donut.)

He’s perfectly okay with YOUR utter and total investment in him, but his investment in you and in HIS CHILDREN, deserves EXTRA perks and privileges and expenses. Costs that he decides upon UNILATERALLY at great emotional, physical, and financial expense to YOU.

Are you okay with that? Is this relationship acceptable to you? Do you feel safe? Cherished? Respected?


Then what are YOU going to do about it?

I’m sorry. I know I’m leaving him out of this equation, but there is no HIM here to work with. We don’t control fuckwits. We only control how we respond to fuckwits. He’s not sorry (he’ll fake that after you get upppity, just watch.) All this ugly is WHO HE IS. I’m sorry you invested in it, and I’m sorry you love him. Your love is unrequited. People who love you don’t do this. They don’t trap you and trade on your vulnerability for orgasms.

So, here’s a plan. The rest of Chump Nation will chime in too.

1.) See a lawyer. Do not tell him, JUST DO IT. Find out exactly what escape looks like and what you’re entitled to in alimony and child support. Get all your financials together.

2.) Make an independence plan. Consider going back to school, retraining for a profession, picking up whatever profession you had before babies. I know this isn’t what you bargained for, single parenthood, but what you are living right now is far worse that what you imagine single parenthood is.

Fact is, he could abandon you at any time. You should see my mail. These fuckers walk out on SAHMs and children every day. Get in front of this. YOU call the tune. YOU captain your ship.

3.) Don’t get lost planning and analyzing. This is a CRISIS. Act like it. Do everything in your power to protect yourself NOW — STD check, see a lawyer, protect your money — emotional understanding will come later. Probably much later. The important thing now is to protect yourself from further harm.

4.) Don’t model this shit to your children. It’s not okay to treat people this way. Don’t accept it. Don’t model it. He’s not a “good father.” He’s a paycheck with a wandering dick. Good fathers exist, there are plenty of them on this board. Don’t confuse your investment and who you thought he was with ACTUAL good men. He’s not a good man. There’s a difference. Learn the difference.

5.) Get support. You haven’t told anyone. Change that. Get a therapist. Tell your BFF. Tell your family. The weight of this kind of secret and stress can kill a person. I’m not exaggerating. Please, for your mental health and your kids, get some help. I’m sending you a big long distance ((((HUG))).  You can DO THIS.

I’m glad you found us. You’re not trapped. You’re free, because now you know who he really is. You’re only trapped if you choose to stay trapped. Please escape.

This one ran previously.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Well, that Bike club isn’t such a big lie. It’s about riding (somebody, rather than something).

    Sorry, but when he’s riding and cycling around he isn’t spending precious time with his children, is he. Also, the money for happy endings didn’t go to the children.

  • All standard-and-stellar advice from CL.

    Realizing and accepting the fact that he doesn’t care about you or your feelings is the toughest part of all of this. Here’s the best way I know of to jumpstart the process:

    Reread your own letter as if it was sent to you by one of your children.
    Think about everything you would want for your child in this situation.
    Craft a response that emphasizes their dignity, value and self-worth and lays out what you’d want them to do.
    Then start living your own advice.

    • @UXworld

      Well put! This approach also allows for gradually implementing the mindset of being your own best friend, which is especially difficult for chumps because we’re givers by nature.

    • ????

      I was amazed at how much better I felt and did within a few days of our legal separation. I without really knowing the concept of NC back then, went NC because I just couldn’t stand the pain of seeing him, or knowing what he was doing.

      When he started circling back, I was much stronger.

      I was lucky.

    • UXWorld, Preeeeeeeeeeeeeecisely. I am not thankful for the pain. I give thanks to lessons and even then, I thank myself for being the one who had to learn each one. Turn the pain into something better than it would be if it just lingered inside.

  • This may sound a little aggressive (sorry) and not in the least bit “meh” …. but why do we allow the perpetuation of the “Cheater is a great mom/dad” narrative? If he/she is a cheater it will – like it or not – impact the kids; hence they are a lousy parent.

    – A great mom/dad does not consistently put their needs ahead of those of their spouses and their children.
    – A great mom/dad does not make unilateral decisions that impact the rest of the family and expect them to just suck it up.
    – A great mom/dad doesn’t secretly spend family money on their own (morally and likely legally dubious) pleasures.
    – A great mom/dad doesn’t risk their family’s entire future and wellbeing for their own selfish ends, and then lie and gaslight about when they get busted.
    – A great mom/dad does not abuse their spouse; cheating is abuse.

    I guess I have some pretty strong feelings about this.

    Trapped; please listen to (and act on) what CL says.

    • I agree.

      However, I did it for a while. It was before I really knew the depth of what he had done. When it kicked in for me is when I realized the money he had spend on his whore. Now our son was grown before the last whore. But, from his own mouth he had been doing this for years with others. So while I was struggling to get my son what he needed, and a few things he wanted; he was spending money on his “dates”.

      That is not a good father or mother. A good father or mother does not treat the mother/father of their child like shit and retain the title of good father/mother.

    • Exactly, LFFT. Which is why when the sane parent no longer props up the morally deficient parent, they often just drift away. Usually the kids don’t matter any more than the spouse applicance.

    • I hope that I have not detracted from Trapped story; she is the important one here ….. but I should have added that a great mom/dad does not attempt to use the children as leverage to get a better settlement in the divorce.

      Ex-Mrs LFTT (who was demanding a much bigger settlement than she would have been entitled to had the children gone with her) had her legal team state that “If Mr LFTT argues that he cannot afford to pay the settlement that Mrs LFTT believes she is entitled to, then we must revisit whether or not the children stay with him.” No-one on her side cared about what was best for the children (there was no doubt that they were better off with me), but they tried to force through a settlement that would have destroyed me financially and completely undermined my ability to look after the kids …. and they knew it.

      My legal team shut that sh*t down with an “off the record” chat. Her team may(cough) have been told that if she persisted, she was going to end up on the stand and have her lies (and they were many) exposed in open court …. and that members of her side of the family were prepared to testify that the children should, under no circumstances end up with her. The actual phrase that my team may have suggested might be used was from her own sister …… “I wouldn’t give that f*cking woman custody of a goldfish, let alone one of her own children.”

      Sorry again if I have diverted the thread.


    • Yes, so much agree with you here. My ex is also doing the “I am the best parent ever” dance. However, during the last years of my marriage, he essentially made himself very scarce. He was always late, traveling, or otherwise precommitted. But not available for us, his family.

      I just cannot tell you how much I hate the BS being thrown into the general directions of us chumps. It feels absolutely unfair that so many do not see the link between cheating and being a bad parent. Clearly, anyone who breaks up a marriage for somebody else prioritizes that newness over their own kids and family.

      Thank you for laying this out so clearly.

      • Yep, and spackle I did; until I had to face the reality of who he really was and had been for a long time.

    • Yes yes yes. I told FW that he was hurting the entire family and he got so offended. First off, his affair put his job in jeopardy. He knew this and he knew I depended on his income and basically told me it behooved me not to tell anyone at his workplace. Second, and more importantly he was just not physically present for most of the kids because he was “working late” and when he was home he was emotionally unavailable because the two assholes would be texting each other. It wasn’t like when he was here, he was really here. I sometimes look back at that time and think what a badass I was that I managed to care for the kids while working full time and dealing with all of that devastation.

      • 100%!!!! I can’t stand when anyone says “at least he’s a good dad.” I want to scream. And I never thought about the job risk- that’s my situation also and it impacted us for sure.

        • Amen
          I thought my ex was a good father. Until he wasn’t here anymore and I realized he was actually a black hole of selfishness. Our kids were 13 and 15 when he left, almost exactly 2 years ago today.

          Guess what? After the initial shock and distress, they thrived. They became who they wanted to be, but weren’t because we were all somewhat conceding to the asshole we thought was a good father.

          I’m a better mother AND father than he ever was. Neither kid communicate with him and he has a new baby to manage. He pays his child support and we live a beautiful life.

          It is very hard to let go of the “perfect family”. Unfortunately if he is cheating is all pretend anyway.

    • You’re absolutely right! And, as it turns out, my ex is a terrible father. He never engages in our child’s school, won’t pay child support or into her savings account as agreed, and is boring. It’s only upon reflecting back that I realize he was never a good father. Like the whole fantasy I had, I used to think he was, but for the reasons you spelled out, and others, he was shitty at parenthood. Being a parent is about not being self-centred. Enough said.

    • Lftt, spot on.

      I never had children with the ex fucktard, thank God, but your first post *exactly* describes his behaviour to his first wife and two daughters, whom he left high and dry for a blond bimbo who later cheated on him, and dumped him. ????

      I remember his sad sausage tales about how ” I read them stories! I took them places!” (bitch cookie). To illustrate to me what a great dad he was, and he couldn’t understand why they wanted nothing to do with him.

      What I *didn’t* hear was that he was ever there for the illnesses, school poems etc, ie any of the boring, everyday stuff.

      As I later discovered, the reality was he initially totally abandoned them and his wife, leaving them in an army house , which the army evicted them from, and never replied to the letters the youngest sent him.

      And then it was all Woe is me, my daughters won’t speak to me. A Disney dad when it suits is *not* “a great dad”.

    • #Amen to your comments. Since the XW fought so hard in the courtroom to allow communication only through email, I laugh when she sends me email responses where she says we have to be good at “co-parenting the children,” as if she understands the concept.

      Us chumps are (sadly) consistently reminded by cheaters that they are “good mothers/fathers” who left because “they wanted to be happy”, regardless of the destructions they left behind like a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake.

      To the OP: from my POV, if there’s evidence, or even an inkling, that your spouse is cheating, the analogy of “when there’s smoke, there’s fire” sometimes rings true. Good luck to you.

  • Follow the plan suggested by CL and use indignancy/anger as your fuel. It’s normal to feel sad and overwhelmed but anger can be useful in helping you to action. And you must act – your husband has shown you exactly who he is (“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”).

  • I would move #5 up to #1, first thing you do is tell everyone, family, friends, the neighbors, the church, don’t hide this. Get it out in the open where everyone can it for what it really is.

    I used to hide my X’s affairs and abuse. It worked out great for him, not so much for me. The best thing I did was tell people. It made it less scary and I had loads of support and love.

    Protect yourself first. You may think he’s a good guy, but that’s the fantasy you’ve created. See him for who is really is, someone willing to break your heart and destroy your family. Cut him out of your life and confidence.

    You probably only know a small bit of the truth. The tip of the iceberg. Understand their’s a whole lot more craziness under the surface and get out while you can. YOU deserve so much better!

    • l ll have to disagree…quiet at first… to not tip him off…ducks in a row …do not blab all over ..

      • I come out in middle ground here. Chumps SHOULD tell at least one trusted person in real life what is really going on. For me, it was my BFF. She would never break any confidence, but it is an amazing relief to have someone in real life who is 100% on your side and who can keep you grounded as you move toward separation and divorce.

        It’s important to KNOW who you can trust to keep quiet and to help you stay stealthy as you line up ducks. It’s good to have a place to stash print copies of records or your cherished personal property.

        Finally, for someone like Trapped, it’s a step out of the isolation that abusers need to continue their abuse. So I say tell–but start with a very small circle and expand that as you go.

        • I should have told my Dad and my brothers and our preacher; right out of the gate. I didn’t for about three weeks after Dday; because he was telling me he thought things would work out, he just needed space to get his head on straight. BS translation “I need space to fuck schmoopie, and get our ducks in a row, unhindered by having to look you in the face every day”

          But, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

          • Yes! Mine was the same. One night my ex dropped the bombshell- ‘I’m really unhappy (in the relationship) but I guess I’ll give it time’. He didn’t give it time, nor did he make any attempt to help me, our relationship or our son. Three weeks later his affair was exposed, he’d moved in with shmoopie and we were fighting about how many nights our 3 year old could sleepover at theirs. In that 3 week gap he used our marital funds to shower her with gifts, buy furniture for her apartment and even meet with HR (they were ho-workers) to make sure there was no negative consequences for their relationship.
            Be kind to yourself, but please, ACT QUICKLY. These people are rash and thoughtless. This guy sounds like a user. Do what you can NOW to get you and your kids out and set up as best you can.

            • Oh this was years ago, I have been FW free for some time.

              I am here because when FW blew up his relationship with our son, I started researching narcissist’s and found this site. Sure wish I had CL back then. I did, ok; but I could have done so much better in the heat of the break up.

              I hang around for the humor, and to help those in the fire if I can.

              It is astounding how similar our stories are.

              Good news is there is good life to be enjoyed after a FW.

  • Trapped,

    And I would just add to CL’s great advice that you shouldn’t tip your hat to him that you’re making your escape plan. As she has pointed out before, this will only make him take things further underground. Be stealthy. Be clever. Play it cool. Let your anger propel you forward. Remember that you and your kids deserve a better husband and dad.

    Read CL’s book! It stiffened my spine.

    I hope you have some childcare options in your area. I know it’s hard with COVID. Can parents help? Siblings? Neighbors?

    Good luck. You’re not alone. You can do this. Find your inner badass. It’s in there. ????

    And know that you have the support of CN!

    • Agree! My ex’s betrayal shocked me to the core but it showed me who he is. I told absolutely no one except for my therapist (who saved me). All the plans I quietly put together allowed me to do what was best for my kids, and what was best for me financially. I used the element of surprise & stealthiness to work in my favor – all fueled by justified anger and mistrust.

  • Don’t get pregnant. It’s OK to sleep in another room and put a lock on the door. He knows you know. You don’t have to pretend.

    • Don’t get pregnant, don’t tip your hand, and get tested for STIs. He might have given you something symptomless so far, but that could cause cancer later, and take you from your children’s life too soon.

    • The separate bedrooms thing is also a way to stay UNDER the radar. It’s a consequence that the Cheater will figure he/she can get around in time. Meanwhile, the Chump is using that as just a first step.

  • I’ve always been the main breadwinner. I worked long hours at 2-3 jobs while my husband was Mister Mom. Guess what I didn’t do? Try to cheat or go to massage parlors. Guess what he did? Tried to cheat and go to massage parlors.

    Don’t buy this BS. Ethics and morals don’t conveniently change just because you have a job like every other grown up in the world.

    • Yep. The double standards of cheaters are amazing. A lot of people still buy into the narrative that being a stay at home parent is some how less work and more fun than holding down a paying job. Generally, these are the people who have never spent 100s of successive days with toddlers, laundry, cleaning, cooking, a pet or two, and a few other responsibilities. Then, they reward themselves for their 8 hours at the office (or the factory or the delivery truck or the hospital) with a trip to the bar and a soul mate.

    • I also was the main breadwinner. He started cheating when he returned to school full-time. For three years, I was the sole income earner while he earned a university degree full-time, and he was already in his early 40s getting a new lease on life at my expense.

      I still did more of the housework. Looked after every detail with the kids – and my son has Autism. Cared for a sick mother.

      But I didn’t cheat. Didn’t go out to bars and get numbers. Didn’t meet men for bike rides. Didn’t book myself “massage” appointments.


  • Choose one friend or family member who can actually help you with child care or accompany you to appointments. It will be weeks until you can put any plans into action and you will be sorely tempted to use it to threaten your husband, rather than let it unfold for you and your children’s benefit.

    Read everything about “How to leave a Cheater” in the CL blog. Speak with a lawyer and consider closing joint accounts. Copy financials, take care of car and house maintenance. Move valuables under the guise of holiday donations or cleaning.

    If your husband is that rare unicorn who accepts responsibility for his misdeeds, he can do so after you are standing on firmer ground. The pandemic makes it both more difficult and more necessary to create your “safe pod”.

    That’s when you can share the news with those who need to know and you can count on. Very soon you will find that you’ve built a support team that can help you create the distance and space you deserve to consider your future.

    • I really wish I had figured out what was happening a lot earlier. I think I could have kept my cool, and done a lot of that. I mean I did it anyway; but the timeline was shorter. Wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but would have made me so much stronger out of the gate.

      To OP, try to do what CL is saying; it not only protects you and your children, it hones your skills, and makes you feel so much better to be in control.

  • I left the marriage with 3 small children. Cheater was the breadwinner. I worked outside the home but he made a lot more money than I did. Cheater attempted to maintain cake by delaying the legal process as much as possible. Get the STD testing, consult with at least 3 lawyers, and tell close family and friends. I remember feeling so alone in this, but truthfully there are many of us in a similar situation. My advice is to go in stealth mode, remain drama free on your end, don’t give him any ammunition, and follow your lawyer’s advice. Pretend every text, email, conversation is going to be presented in court. Cheaters tend to lose their minds when cake is gone and get themselves in trouble without any help from us.

    • This can be done easier than some think. That cheater is so wrapped up in themselves; they pay scant attention to the spouse. Especially if they think they have maintained the power.

      Unfortunately for many of us Chumps, we don’t figure that out quick enough.

      • It’s true.

        I left him, but he hit me hard and fast with a slimeball lawyer and a Scorched Earth policy. I didn’t put up too much of a fight; I was dumbfounded and terrified.

        I genuinely believe he is so wrapped up in himself that he forgot to carry out some of the financial details. He thinks it’s over and done and we can be BFF now.

        He thinks his initial attack has destroyed me. Truth is, I am silently gathering my forces and I will rise again.

        BLITZKRIEG, meet PHOENIX! shall be my battle cry.

        • I used guilt to convince my ex to file for divorce so we can get our finances separated. He wanted me to file, because you know he didn’t want to hurt me. What he didn’t know was I had a years worth of credit card and bank statements that proved he used a lot of money on his schmoops and her three big assed boys. Even in our no fault 50/50 state marital fraud is a no no.

          Right after he told me about the whore, which was about two weeks after he moved out, (while telling me to keep quiet he just needed to get his head on straight) I called and cancelled all our joint credit cards and ordered a years worth of history, I wish I had ordered two years. I also went to the bank and ran a history of our bank account, which I never really touched because he managed the finances. There were obvious withdrawals there too, that were for his whore. I also immediately took him off my work life insurance policy and put my son on it. He had no control over that. I had a separate bank account that I put my check in, his name was on it; but he never used it. I didn’t make much so we had decided to keep my salary separate as a savings. I couldn’t take his name off, so I withdrew all the money and put it into a new account at the same bank. I kept a history of that too. I didn’t spend any of it, so if I had to give half back to him, I could have. I didn’t have to, he waived it.

          He never said a word, I never looked but I imagine he did the same with our main account. Didn’t matter by then as I had all the histories. I had two thousand dollars in my account, unless he had money hidden in a different bank, we didn’t have much savings in our main savings account. He couldn’t have much really, as I know what our payments were and he was spending money hand over fist on the whore. That always was weird to me, I mean she would have fucked him for a big mac, she literally had screwed many married men before him, taking whatever she could get from them and everyone knew it. I don’t know why he thought he had to “win” her. My ex was a decent looking guy too, it wasn’t like he couldn’t have done better. I guess it was tru wuv, or maybe with all that practice she was really a good lay.

          He hired a lawyer who lived in the same trailer park as the whore. Then he called me wanting me to use his lawyer. Yeah, no thanks. I hired a kick ass lawyer from another city, and he got me a six month maintenance plan that not only paid for my lawyer; but afforded me time and ability to save a lot of money. Our divorcee took a year, (the ex delayed the last six months, so for a full year he was paying for my house payment, my car payment and the electric bill (we had full electricity). All I paid for was water and my phone bill.

          It was the best think I could have ever done. I was also terrified, I didn’t know how it would work out; but I couldn’t think and I needed someone to help me. He never harassed me about it, I figured it would really piss him off, but he didn’t say much, in fact he delayed the divorce for six months and kept paying. I have no idea why.

          Hang in there, and fight him back when the time is right. (I am assuming you are still with him, and he thinks he has won?)

  • I’ve reached a point after many years where I feel like it doesn’t ultimately matter whether cheating or any other behavior is verifiable. Whether or not a partner has committed a certain specific act isn’t as relevant as we often think it is. I’ve learned that from CL, and it rings true in my soul.

    Deceivers love to put the focus there, though — because if they can get the deceived to believe “nothing’s happening” or it’s all in the deceiver’s damaged thinking, or that whatever happened has no meaning to the deceiver, the deceiver gets two main benefits. One, the deceived gets hyperfocused on something the deceiver can control and everything else gets missed. Two, the deceiver gets to keep on enjoying the cake of the relationship AND whatever else they’re doing.

    If the relationship feels bad and you want to leave it, you don’t need some magical reason that you can justify. You can leave a relationship for any reason, anytime you want. You don’t even owe anyone an explanation, least of all a person who isn’t kind to you and who treats your feelings and fears like they aren’t worthy of kindness and nurturing and are worthy of contempt and derision.

    A person who cares about your heart will feel devastated if they believe they’ve hurt it and behave accordingly, including with accountability and self-motivation for real and lasting change. Wouldn’t you? That’s the proof.

    A person who hears your fears and goes right to invalidating and belittling is a person who doesn’t care how they’re hurting you. It doesn’t matter anymore where the person’s genitals do and don’t hang out if the person doesn’t even care that they’re hurting you — the greater evil is the willingness to harm you at all. (It matters, of course, if a partner is cheating — I’m just saying it’s just an awful but distracting side issue, not the main event. The cruelty, alone, itself, is the main event.)

    Outside of our children (and those for whom we are guardians as they grow up), we don’t owe people our energy, our time, our love, our bodies, our effort, or our care. Nobody is owed that. It is a gift, always, every time. It is ok to decide that a person who doesn’t reciprocate, completely, isn’t worthy of the gift. Stone cold fact.

    • ” The cruelty, alone, itself, is the main event.)”

      That is so true. I just don’t see how a betrayed spouse gets past that. If they can, kudos; but I don’t see it.

      Looking back at the screaming at me, stealing from me, lying, gaslighting etc; it was all horrible. The worst however, was that he just had no regard for me as a fellow human being that he could treat me so badly. His, letter of apology meant nothing to me. How could it?

      • Indeed. There was a time, later, when I was briefly in touch with my ex for a reason, and he asked how he could make up for what he had done. I told him, “You can’t. Some things you break can’t be fixed. You’ll live with it for the rest of your life and it will either motivate you to change, or it won’t.” That was… I guess, cleansing. I then rapidly concluded the piece of business we had and haven’t communicated with him since.

        That was MORE cleansing. ????

    • Amiisfree, that was a great comment. How I wish I had realized that long ago when my young husband sneered at me for crying about my possible infertility. He told me I was trying to manipulate him into having children before he wanted them. But my father was difficult man so I thought that was the way men were.

      There was no internet then and no talk shows that spoke to these issues. We also didn’t have enough money for therapy. Now I know that he was a typical covert narcissist and I suffered through the abuse cycle (not physical) for decades. I finally woke up and divorced him five years ago. Better late than never, I guess.

    • “What’s happening” can simply be diverting money, time, energy, and affection from the spouse and family to hookers, APs, Wannabes, and others.

      Extramarital sex is just one expression of devaluing the spouse. I’d also say that it is possible to be living with someone and still be “discarded” from the role of spouse, significant other, life partner.

      • “I’d also say that it is possible to be living with someone and still be “discarded” from the role of spouse, significant other, life partner.”

        Absolutely, in fact I was for at least a year, maybe more. I just didn’t know it at the time. Oh I knew there was something wrong; and I tried to talk to him; but he just put it off on “work stress” (oh what would they do without work stress). So I kept trying and loving and being treated like shit, hoping it would blow over.

        • Oh me too. The 9 months before Dday, I was treated like an invisible person. I kept trying to engage him in conversations, family events, tv shows. He is an addict and looking back, I can see the addict behavior. Living it, I was so stressed, confused, hurt. Did he care at all? No. Sags I was dead to him years ago.

          • I remember we went to a movie with friends a couple months before Dday. He acted pissed that I wanted to sit by him, he had tried to finagle putting the others between us, yet making it look random. Even lectured me when we got home about embarrassing him by “insisting” on sitting by him. (all I did was usher the others in and then sit down.

            Another time, he was working a lot and I walked out to the garage where he was working on something just to sit down and talk, and he blew up saying I was clinging and getting on his nerves. I left quickly, very hurt; but I didn’t say anything. I had through the years many times talked to him while he worked, so it was nothing out of the ordinary.

      • Absolutely LAJ.

        My role of spouse, life partner, the affection and attention and care that should have been directed at our marriage, was all subordinated to what his rat faced whore wanted, and what he wanted to give her, at *my* expense.

        • Same here. I had credit card histories that showed clothing he bought for her and her kids. I have no doubt he was helping her pay her rent, taking her to dinners, he even took her on a business trip, that I am certain now was not a business trip at all; but simply a get away for them.

          All the while, I was working and trying to save money for our future.

    • Amiisfree.


      So wish I’d internalised all that and acted on it before mad spackling in the face of overwhelming evidence he didn’t give a fuck about me.

      • You and me both. It pisses me off to this day. 🙂

        However, here is a little funny tidbit in the “Karma” vein.

        My son told me the other day that his dad who fled to FL and is living in a shabby trailer in a trailer park, bought another trailer in AZ in another trailer park; and didn’t tell schmoopie he bought it. Schmoopie is beside her self that he would make such a huge decision that affects her life without her consent. (Her kids grands kids are in FL). He now insists that they move to AZ.

        Hmmm, so schmoopie is upset that her husband who she fucked while he was married, and helped him for at least 1.5 years (likely more) steal from, lie to, and screw over his wife, is aghast that he would do this to HER. Gee, who could have seen that coming.

        Sorry, that got a big LOL from me. That is exactly what I said to my son: “Gee, who could have seen that coming”

        • Amazing how these defects can’t grasp irony or karma. Then they play the victim and are horrified to be the target of sneaky, cheating behavior.

    • Agree with all. There is always something wrong with a person willingly doing things that will hurt someone they “care” about or the parent of their children. I would always draw the line at massages with “happy endings”. These are not participated in with the best interest of one’s family. You know enough that you do not need proof. Good luck.

  • Dear Trapped,
    As this column ran before I hope you are in a different place now.
    CL’s Number 5, TELL, new Chumps TELL.
    What a burden, what a load to carry all by yourself, and at the same time ,many of us believe we love this cheater. He/she has been the love of our life. We thought we made vows to each other, that each one of us was the other half of “we” and “us”, until our part of that word fell apart, and we didn’t know it, until we did.
    Then, for those of us who faced it all alone, pick me danced, still believed in the ” love” word! Well, many stories here tell us how that ends.
    Trapped you came to CL, to CN. That was your first difficult step, to get it all out.
    I hope we hear from you and that you are in a much better place now after following the advice here.

    Your cheater deserves his voluptuous size and curve, hollow hearted,ow.
    He was inside of your heart when he ripped it open. You were the real thing, and he threw you away. It is impossible to put him back inside of your heart, try as you might, the pieces never fit together again.
    He deserves to lose the true gem that you are.
    Sending big hugs and love to you & your precious Children.

  • ” Then admitted she’s voluptuous and has sizable chest and curve. ” As if she was flat chested, or not so pretty by someone’s standards would make a difference. And comparing the sadness of loosing the cheating father of her children to the sadness of break-ups before marriage, thinking it is an “I love him more” problem, as opposed to a broken marriage commitment with children involved.

    Now with a few years of hindsight, I am always amazed at how chumps focus on everything but the real problem right in front of us, that being our cheater not being what we believed them to be. It shows how delusional we were at the time to even care one iota about something like the physical aspects of who they cheat with, or thinking that “love” is what is being lost, as opposed to being entangled with a marital sociopath.

    I think 99% of us do it though. Just human nature protecting us from the awful, worse truth. Big chest is easier to take than charlatan fake spouse.

    • “Now with a few years of hindsight, I am always amazed at how chumps focus on everything but the real problem right in front of us, that being our cheater not being what we believed them to be. It shows how delusional we were at the time to even care one iota about something like the physical aspects of who they cheat with, or thinking that “love” is what is being lost, as opposed to being entangled with a marital sociopath.”

      This is perfect.

      • Yes it is perfect. And they get off on the tell. It took me many years and OW to know he took great pleasure in my pain. To them it’s powerful to believe you’re trapped. Fuck that shit. Listen to CL and you’ll actually have a future free from an asshole.

  • I continue to be amazed at the wisdom of this group. Wisdom born of pain. but wisdom none the less.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  • First, good fathers spend time with their kids and don’t spend free time with girlfriends. Second, get to a lawyer and third, let your family and close friends in on Mr. Cheater and make sure to tell the Town Crier of your friend group (we all have one) about your husband’s cheating and new girlfriend. Your husband’s indifference to your pain should speak volumes. He’s scum and you have nothing to work with here.


    I would add:
    1) Only confide in SAFE people! That means do not share any of your plans with anyone who is friendly, supports or has sympathy for him (including family members).
    2) If you need help finding the right resources call your local YWCA (especially if he starts threatening you or if you feel unsafe). **It is very common for abusive men to trap their victims. He is showing signs of being financially, emotionally, and mentally abusive. Most people think the first sign of abuse is physical (it’s not….that is often the last sign after all of these other types of abuse). That said, BE VERY CAREFUL! As his normal family facade starts to crumble it shows he is loosing control and therefore he will want to try to control you more which could mean he may go to physical abuse. This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to NOT say anything to him about a lawyer, your going to see a therapist, etc. Go incognito and gather evidence for as long as you possibly can. That includes in social media too!
    3) Have an emergency back up plan if things do get escalated and you can flee. That means: have a stash of clothes for you and your kids at a safe place (like your trustworthy best friends home) along with cash and a copy of the evidence you have against him.
    4) If your fucktwit is picking up side pieces at bars do not discount him from doing that to female “friends” that have been close to you or live next to you. If someone comes across as overly concerned or you have reason to suspect they have been too friendly in the past cut them out immediately. A genuine friend will understand boundaries between a married man! Genuine side pieces, do not!

    Hope that helps and best of luck Trapped! Big hugs to you????. We’ve all been there. It’s hard but it’s better on the other side. Promise!

    • I missed that this one ran previously! Duh… Hope trapped is in a better place now. None the less, the extra add-ins helped save my life and hope it helps another. Happy Thanksgiving CN!

      • It’s good advice, nonetheless. Some new “Trapped” person is reading what you posted right now.

        • I was thinking the same thing. Thousands of people who may be in the same situation can benefit from comments.

    • Southern chump, excellent advice, female “friends” that are close to you or neighbors who become overly concerned or reason to believe they’ve been too friendly in the past, cut them out immediately.

      I wish I had listened to my gut. I went through exactly this with “friends” and neighbors.

  • Trapped, please give us an update and let us know how you are doing.

    Many of us felt trapped, I know I did: 25 year marriage, 4 kids, a decade as a SAHM, a very covert narcissist/sociopath(?) serial cheating husband. He fought me for every penny— tried to impoverish me when I told him to GTFO when he wouldn’t stop cheating. Judge set that straight. These types are pure evil behind the mask… it’s chilling.

    I thank God every day that I broke free. My worst day today is better than the subjugated fake life I had with X.

  • “He’s perfectly okay with YOUR utter and total investment in him, but his investment in you and in HIS CHILDREN, deserves EXTRA perks and privileges and expenses. Costs that he decides upon UNILATERALLY at great emotional, physical, and financial expense to YOU.”

    THIS! Once I understood this and accepted it, all the rest fell into place and his behaviors started to make sense. And then it was easier to undertake the steps I needed to get out.

    • Skunk, that’s a really good way to look at it. I had no grasp of just how entitled my husband was behaving until about a year after he left. I just got used to it.

  • Two additional suggestions:

    SEE YOUR PHYSICIAN and get tested for ALL the STIs and possibly some anti-depressants

    SEE YOUR DENTIST because you may be grinding and/or develop dry mouth and develop cavities

    • Posttraumatic stress does not always respond well or as expected to psychotropics. No drug is without risk and SSRIs have more than their share of caveats coming out in reports in the past several years, like increased risk of suicide and radical personality change for some individuals, often regardless of previous mental state (i.e., people with no mental health issues or criminal history becoming suddenly violent from taking a drug due to pharmacy mistake).

      For some the drugs help, for others they’re a disaster. No one knows why so there’s no way to pre-screen. There are particular warnings for victims of abuse who may need their anger as fuel and their instincts sharp for sheer survival. In any event, the old view that these drugs are like “insulin for diabetes” has been overturned in the past decade. They’re emotional painkillers, sleep aids or behavioral modifiers which have their uses but should be approached with caution and always under careful medical oversight.

      No, I’m not a Scientologist, lol. Or an Appliantologist for that matter. I edit an environmental children’s health publication. We get all the scary data first.

  • Definitely figure out a way to consult with an attorney or three. I saw three. Mine all charged their hourly rates but I’ve heard from people in other cities that they were able to do it for a reduced rate. If you don’t have your own separate bank account/credit card, etc that can make this tricky to do. First step should be increasing your access to money. If you’re responsible with credit, get a new credit card while you can use household income. Start seeding your own savings/checking account. This isn’t money you can hide in the divorce, but will both keep him from spending it and allow you to spend it without his oversight. If you need to make any large purchases for the kids or yourself, make them now with marital funds. Once you get to the actually divorcing, don’t go down any routes that don’t have him signing a financial affidavit. He clearly lords his money over you and I would not be shocked if he has been stashing money away that you don’t know about or spending more on women than you realize. Some advice is going to be dependent on if you’re a community property state vs equitable, fault vs no fault. Tell a good friend. Don’t tell everyone until the ink is dry on the settlement, and only then if you want to. Good luck and hang in there. Try to take care of yourself as best as possible. It can be difficult to eat and sleep. See your physician if necessary.

    • I had no money because my ex was financially abusive as well- to keep me trapped. There really is no such thing as an entirely “free consultation” with a lawyer (at least here in America).
      BUT there are lawyers who will charge you a sliding fee (I paid $30 that I scraped together for an hour consultation). That lawyer was very sensitive about contacting me in a way that was safe while I was still with my husband. If you can find a lawyer who works with abusive family situations, even better, but these lawyers frequently have wait lists going out for years. I was unable to see one and essentially was my own lawyer for the divorce. I did my homework and did very well in court (considering how horrific the situation was). It can be done.

  • Me too a wife appliance until my son aged: 9 at the time told me the bad news! I was working graveyard shift trying to make extra money for the family as he was complaining he wanted a second income the kids were getting older! Next thing I knew he was having an affair in our home the neighbour!????

  • Mine was a John too – for the same sort of exploitive services.

    It will only get worse. You probably are only aware of a fraction of his doings.

    If you have no resources for a lawyer, check with your local domestic shelters. They are wonderful resources that are used to dealing with vulnerable women.

  • The feedback being given here is stellar. For what it’s worth, here’s a partial list of safety strategies adapted from domestic violence precautions, particularly for stay-at-home parents dealing with abuse:

    1) Get the full STD panel. Make sure to ask for HPV test on top of pap. Go to a clinic that is not your usual doctor in the case your husband knows clinic staff or you live in a small community (nurses gossip). You do not yet want your husband to know you are on “divorce footing” and gathering evidence and resources because he could do any number of things to entrap you further or abandon you and the kids without a penny. You must act like a battered woman planning an escape because cheaters, like batterers, are dangerously lacking in empathy and tend to focus all their mental energy on protecting and defending their images. He may be capable of nearly anything– including scheming to take your children away as retaliation (and even sudden violence, as many escaping chumps have attested)– so act accordingly.

    2) Quietly open your own bank account in a different bank than the one your husband uses. Quietly start moving money into it. Hide your tracks like a secret agent (many abusers snoop and sleuth more than victims) until you’re ready to file, at which point you can move larger sums– if you have access– quickly to this account.

    3) Get a list of the best divorce attorneys in your area and schedule an initial consult (mostly free) with all of them. Even if you can’t yet afford to retain one, by talking with these lawyers– at least in the US– you have ensured that FW won’t be able to engage their services to use against you. It’s called “conflicting out” attorneys (more info here: If you don’t do this, most FWs certainly will so it can help to preempt.

    4) Quietly gather proof of infidelity, any illegal activity and any “dissipation of marital assets” (spending on secret credit cards for prostitutes or affairs, etc.) If you can, stealthily scrape up funds to hire a private investigator (who can also help dig for proof of secret spending or hiding of assets). If not, try to secretly get passwords to phones, email, bank accounts, etc., and email yourself evidence or use your phone to photograph his location history, etc. See if you can access GPS locations for his car.
    In some states, divorce settlements can be affected by cheating. In most states, settlements can be affected by dissipation of assets. Evidence of cheating and financial abuse don’t always ensure full custody of children goes to the victim, but having the evidence could impede a FW’s attempt to take custody away from a victim as a typical form of punishment and control. Getting proof before he hides his trail again could make your legal bills smaller. Furthermore, image conscious cheaters can be motivated to make more equitable settlements and not play vicious stalling games during divorce if they know their victim has a cache of evidence.

    5) As you gather evidence, guard your own privacy like a member of the underground resistance battling a deadly regime. Cheaters are practiced sneaks and sneaks are paranoid and controlling. If you consult with lawyers, do not list their names in phone contacts. Wipe your internet searches from your phone and computer. Change your email passwords and open secret Skype and email accounts to communicate with lawyers, investigators, etc. Hide your private banking information. Also gather up copies of all important documents for you and the children and keep them in a secure location that FW does not have access to.

    6) If you’re in the US, find out if your state allows secretly recording another person without their knowledge (search here for US: If you’re not in the US, search recording laws in your country. Then, if it’s legal to do so, secretly record conversations in which he lies about extramarital sexual activity (or confesses it) or is abusive towards you in any other way. Try not to sound like you’re setting him up because, again, many abusers are paranoid and might sense you’re setting a trap. You can also plant recording devices– some as tiny as thumb drives– in cars and backpacks, but this is extremely risky and better left to a professional investigator.
    Even in states where it is not legal to record another person without consent, courts may admit taped evidence of a crime being committed or if recorded evidence is “in the public interest,” so always– if possible–record any incidents of physical violence or threats of violence (both are illegal). Better to have this evidence and not use it than to need it and not have it in the case you need an order of protection. Police response to domestic abuse can suck and proof can force authorities to act.

    7) Be very careful who you talk to about doing any of this because, when you’re already under emotional duress, further betrayals from your social context can pile up and sink you and also give the abuser traction. There are people who, on learning that someone else is being abused in a relationship, will suddenly shift into inexplicable loyalty to the abuser and dramatically betray the victim, even one who’s a close friend of family member of the victim and even if the traitor formerly claimed to dislike the abuser. It’s shocking but not uncommon. In domestic violence advocacy, we called these types “Manchurian candidates.” They are invariably survivors of childhood trauma, often having been witnesses to domestic abuse between adult caregivers and/or were abused themselves, then repressed these memories. When triggered by witnessing an abuse situation as adults, their childhood programming to “side with the most dangerous party” as a safety strategy may kick in quite suddenly, almost beyond their control. This is why, in choosing confidants, it’s best to only talk to people who have already expressed explicit disapproval of the type of abuse you’re experiencing and who clearly don’t victim-blame or coddle perpetrators. Many abusers will aggressively try to turn all their victim’s allies against the victim. Vet your confidants.

    8) Get any medical and dental care you and the children need now. Plan ahead for school clothes and gear (for when things open up entirely). Get yourself “court/job-hunting clothes” on Ebay (good prices and you can pay with Paypal to avoid questions).

    9) Stress and trauma can kill so try to make sure you’re eating optimally and getting exercise.
    Because your cortisol levels are likely through the roof due to stress, look into taking “anti-cancer” doses of vitamin D3 (1000 IU per 10 LB body weight according to some experts), high dose C, magnesium, daily calcium, a probiotic and a good multi with methylcobalamin (natural B12), not cyanocobalamin (cheap, toxic B12).
    High cortisol can expedite bone loss, trigger depression, reduce natural progesterone/cause hormone imbalance (which can cause odd effects seemingly unrelated to hormones such as joint inflammation, insomnia and depression), disrupt sleep architecture, increase risk of diabetes, depress immune response and increase risk of cancer according to many sources. Supplementing nutrition is often recommended to counteract the effects of trauma. The need for protein and healthy fat increases in trauma. Sugar and high glycemic foods can worsen negative effects of trauma on health.

    10)While being aware that accessing mental health resources can sometimes be used against you (especially if you go on medication) in custody disputes, therapy can help but only as long as the therapist does not minimize betrayal trauma or normalize cheating. Couples therapy is unethical in cases of active abuse (cheating is abuse). If money is an obstacle to seeking professional support, there may be free support groups in your area and some may meet by Zoom during COVID. Every time you hang around safe people, even if it’s just in cyber space, you’re changing your body chemistry and improving your health.

    • Oh, and 11) Most chumps are not as practiced at stealth mode as abusers, not by a long shot. So fabricating a diversionary drama to explain why you may be acting “different” can serve as mission cover. Saying in a trusting tone, as if FW would actually give a shit, “Oh it’s not you. I’ve been sleeping badly and having the weirdest dreams lately,” probably isn’t too far from the truth. Or “God, I’m going through major caffeine withdrawals” could work.

    • Great post. I would also like to add that while engaging in this undercover gathering of evidence, planning an exit strategy and having to be a poker faced actor, how good it is for the Chump’s mental health. The Chump may feel as though they are barely in survival mode but they are finally taking action and complete control of their lives. They are also “playing” the cheater that played them for months or even years. Getting the jump on someone that used and abused you is so satisfying. Would love to hear feedback from chumps that secretly got their ducks in a row and had a surprise attack (coup de main?) against cheater.

      • KB22– I became friends with my PI, a former police detective. We had coffee before COVID and still chat– never about cheating but about kids, education, psychology, pets, health food and politics.

        I agree that it can be very restorative to get the jump and turn the tables. I could hear Mission Impossible music playing in my head as I turned the collar up on my black trench and ducked out of the house to talk to my attorney haha.

        • I could have never hired a PI. My ex was a police officer, and he knew everyone. They would have likely joined with my ex and screwed me over.

      • Hadn’t thought of it that way but yes, setting up my defense was huge for me. I split money in our account and set up two separate accounts so he couldn’t wipe us out. One for paying lawyer and counseling bills and the other savings. He didnt have access to either. I had my first counseling session the first week. He didnt hire a lawyer and left it to me. At one point my lawyer told me to give him money (he didn’t work) so he wouldn’t hire a lawyer-great advice. He said he would have to get a divorce to get money from me. He thought he was playing me.probably still does but I got both houses and gave him a chunk of money and was divorced 7 months after DDay with a 3 mo. Waiting period figured in. So yes-working behind the scenes paid off. He just signed away cuz he “trusted” me. I was fair but not generous because I didn’t want our sons thinking I screwed their dad over. Oh well! 3 yrs Friday since divorce. Hard to believe.

  • 5.) Get support. You haven’t told anyone. Change that. Get a therapist. Tell your BFF. Tell your family. The weight of this kind of secret and stress can kill a person. I’m not exaggerating.

    Chump lady is right! This shit can kill you! It almost killed me. Insomnia, obesity, diabetes and cancer — all related to circulating catecholamines from stress. My blood pressure and blood sugar dropped significantly in the first few months after I left him. I went back to get some of my stuff, and my BP shot through the roof as did my blood sugar. I’m fuckwit free for three years now, but I’ll always have diabetes and cancer on my medical chart. Don’t be me!

  • I know this is a slippery slope, but some investigating into his activities and evidence-gathering to prove the affair might be helpful, particularly if you are surrounded by people who would never believe that he could do this. He’ll prey on that. Get the evidence to control the narrative first.

    Mine left the marriage so convinced that he could sell everyone on the narrative the the OW was just a friend who was a good listener. At the end, I discovered the secret email account and printed a binder full of emails that revealed a 21 month relationship with overnight trips, dates, gifts, even going to her parent’s cottage with her kids and parents while still with me (thought he was away for a guy’s weekend). I shared with my family, his family and some close friends. Everyone knows the truth. Never told him what I knew.

    Three years out and he still doesn’t know that everyone knows the truth, so he’s very resentful that no one accepts the OW. She doesn’t get talked about with the family and she has never met them (or any of the close friends whose wives I’m still friends with).

    Without the evidence, I don’t think that everyone would have held out this long with such confidence. He would have succeeded in convincing more people of his false narrative. Knowing what I know has also helped me so much in understanding better when he lies. I’ve now been able to study his tells and predict his excuses. He’s very frustrated by that.

  • Great advice by CL as always. And, further evidence of the importance for people to maintain their economic independence, especially women. You wanna be a SAHM? Sure, fine. But be sure you have, at least, the ability and skills to provide for yourself should it all go to shit. Either go into with a career waiting for you or build one while you’re at home with the kids.

    America is tough…we don’t have a robust social safety net like other countries, everyone needs a skill that can pay the bills. Let there be zero confusion about that.

  • GREAT ADVICE!!! Wish I had this before my ex left. Stay strong. Chump Nation is Awesome for anyone experiencing this type of situation. Hugs. Hang in there.

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