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What Is the First Step?

Dear Chump Lady,

What would you do? My husband is very friendly with this woman at work. He talks about her which is why I looked in his phone and saw a series of texts of her needing “to vent” he’s all supportive and understanding… which triggers me. Then a little later he’s telling me another story about her and her husband trying to adopt a kid… Is it just me? Or is that extremely personal stuff to be talking to my husband about? I’m already paranoid as it is, what with the anxiety poo and all. Seems to me she has her own husband so fuck off and leave mine alone! Should I invite them to dinner? Should I go to his work and confront her. If I confront my husband, he’ll just go underground like he does. I don’t know what to do.

I’m exhausted. I want out. I’m trapped. I have three kids. Everybody’s heart breaks, mine doesn’t matter. I have no marketable skills. Still waiting for my green card aaaaand the border is closed. I feel like a caged animal. A pet cat that my he comes home to and pets to make himself feel good, you know like you do when you have a cat.

I can see the handwriting on the wall — I know what this is. I haven’t a single asset. I have nothing. I woke up one day and realized I’m trapped and I hate myself for pick me dancing. Why do I doubt myself? I know what he’s doing, I know nothing adds up. Talk about mindfuck. EVERYONE loves him — I’m the difficult one, I’m crunchy and fat. He’s super nice to me, except when you comment on his driving then he loses his SHIT.

I feel like I could just drop dead from the constant stress and tension — how can my body maintain this? Lately I’ve been feeling like if I don’t leave I’ll die, like have another heart attack but this time actually die. This can’t be good no matter how nice he is. What kind of fucked up tactic is that? All nice all the time and then off to work and develop another relationship with someone else — not for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, you have to confront him veeeery delicately or he loses his shit. So I never confront him. I’m an idiot.

What is the first step? — think I can take it from there if I can just get in my mind a first step.

The House Pet

Dear Pet,

The first step is to take stock of yourself. Forget what your husband is up to for a moment. You feel like this relationship is killing you. Honor that. The stress of whatever is going on is making you sick. You don’t feel safe in this relationship, so it’s time to find the exit hatch and take back control.

Break it down. You have no marketable skills? Really? Can you clean a house? Cook a meal? Babysit another child? You’ve got marketable skills. If you don’t have a green card (i.e., the ability to work in the country legally), there is working underground, or there is taking the time to go to school and get a skill that will pay you a living wage. Nursing, skilled trades, AC repair person, these are trades you can take anywhere that people need. You didn’t want to be an AC repair person or a nurse? Hey, that job is not getting out-sourced AND you also didn’t want to be a suicidal stay-at-home mom. So, pick your poison.

Yes, school costs money. There are grants, loans, scholarships — research every single avenue to making yourself employable  and educated. Invest in yourself. This is energy well-spent. You and your kids deserve your energy. A life-sucking marriage does not.

Anxiety is unfocused. It’s primal fear. FOCUS your fears into goals. Small, doable goals. You’re terrified because right now, because he is your ONLY plan. That needs to change, pronto. It will be a slog, but all independence campaigns are. Economic vulnerability is very scary, especially now during a pandemic. It is not, however, insurmountable. Many, many SAHMs here left cheaters and came out the other side, and I’m sure they’ll leave encouragement and tips in the comments.

Next step, call a lawyer. Many do first-hour consultations for free. You may feel a lot saner if you knew you had options and rights. Find out what you would be entitled to for support, alimony, health care with a divorce. He may have to even finance your schooling or job search. Right now, you don’t know any of these variables. You just have the action-canceling, self ruling that you are “trapped.” Get a legal opinion on that.

As for your husband, talking with a co-worker isn’t cheating. And sloppy boundaries may just be sloppy boundaries. You hint at knowing more, not his first time? (at cheating?) and that he’s very defensive — and those are bad signs. But the bottom line is, if you don’t FEEL safe in this relationship, you aren’t safe. It doesn’t matter if he’s cheating, what matters is — is this relationship acceptable to you? Do you trust this person enough to be utterly vulnerable with him — emotionally? financially? physically?

Only you can answer that. But I’m here to tell you there’s a path out. You’re not an idiot. You’re just tired and exhausted from waging the wrong campaign — pick me dancing to save the marriage. Wage a different campaign — saving YOURSELF. And see if your mood, and your resolve, don’t improve.

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.
  • He is already cheating on your relationship, he already broke your tangible agreement of TRUST!
    Same story happened to me on 2016.
    Leave him, meh…

  • Your husband’s behavior, as you describe it, does not indicate that he has left your marriage or family.

    But your anxiety is a symptom which needs to be addressed. Please speak to your doctor or your children’s doctor. Begin to build a support team which can also include a therapist, a lawyer, a walking partner. You mentioned leaving the country. Do you have family nearby?

    So many people are seeking and offering free support to get through this stressful time. If your husband actively blocks your efforts to seek help, please contact your local Domestic Abuse program.

    • I would trust your instincts about those texts. His talking to you about her is likely early stage triangulation. You are right she has her own husband and friends or THERAPIST she could be venting to. Pity plays on coworkers part, white knight emotional cheater on his part.

      Sounds like you walk on egg shells around him.

      • It’s a bit lose lose situation here, isn’t it. If he openly tells his wife he’s triangulating, if he says nothing he’s keeping secrets and potentially (emotionally) cheating.

      • This is how most office affairs start. The woman or man plays the victim to the potential AP. They start texting, going to lunch, having drinks after work and we all know the rest. Whether or not anything physical has happened this relationship is inappropriate.

        • I hate to break it to you, but the married woman or man does not “play victim to the potential AP”, they SEEK the potential AP.

          • The cheater will see if a potential AP will take the bait. S/he whinges about the inadequate-in-some-way spouse. If the potential co-conspirator doesn’t shut it down right away, s/he is willing. The only appropriate response is “I’m sorry to hear that. You should talk to your spouse about that.”

        • I am very late to this discussion. I wanted to share my experience if it might help someone who reads this in the archives going forward.

          I filed for divorce after 28 years of marriage. The divorce is not yet completed due to a complicated business situation and Covid.
          Here are “the first steps”.
          An attractive 35 yr old divorced, single mother of two, employee started missing meetings at my husband‘s company due to “ personal issues”
          He is CEO, she was many corporate layers below him in the accounting department. She was a minor player in whatever was being discussed in these meeting.
          She would then email him directly, not her direct report boss, and ask him for a “minute” of his time at the end of the day to catch up on what she had missed. She would go to his office at 6 o’clock at night, after almost everyone had left. She would talk about her ill mother, her daughter who is struggling in school etc. and her life story. He later told me he found her life story “fascinating” and her “bravery” commendable. Nothing compared to my life of not being brave or fascinating. Just loyal, honest and hardworking .

          She is an immigrant from a country that is experiencing political violence. However, she was legal, she flew here with her entire extended family including her children, and her first husband, she is college educated, highly employable and speaks excellent English. Not to ever diminish anyone’s effort in relocating to another country but she had many more advantages than most.
          My husband decided he wanted to learn her native language, it would help him in business, they began going to lunch as “language lessons” He would meet her in the lobby so people wouldn’t see them leave together. He contacted HR and he contacted an employment lawyer to make sure he wouldn’t have any issue. I did not know this . It was very calculated.
          He was told as long as she was going voluntarily and she was not getting paid, this is all right.

          They started emailing each other long descriptions of their days, hers would be in English, he would respond to her in the native language. For practice.
          They began describing their dreams to each other. She began to complain that she wasn’t sleeping well and her bed was uncomfortable. He would email her to inquire after her sick daughter.
          Then, selfies from her started popping up on his phone back in the day when an entire picture would show up on screen. Her on the beach in a bikini her native country, him in a kayak or on the golf course on the weekends. Nice arms she would respond. .
          I saw these pictures, I knew he was attempting to learn this language and I didn’t know what to make of it. He’s a very conservative person with a background in finance and I just never thought he would do anything to risk embarrassment or his job
          One weekend I was supposed to go out of town for a conference and I canceled at the last minute. My husband seemed surprised, scared and upset. He normally never cared if I changed my plans or really what I did.
          I found out later he had planned to go to her house for dinner that night while I was out of town. He burst into tears, he confessed the whole thing. He told me he had developed very strong feelings for her. But that he would stop. But he couldn’t. He met her off property for lunch to tell her that he had to stop meeting her because his wife told him. She wouldn’t stop going up to his office
          I went to HR as the owners wife, and had a note put in her file saying she could not meet with him or email him directly. He was warned the Board of Directors would he contacted if he didn’t stop
          That put and end to it from what I was able to see. Though I never knew if any of his mood swings or any of his anger directed at me was because he saw her at the elevator, or a face in a meeting. She would occasionally try to approach him. And I had to step in once or twice and re contact HR so she could be warned
          I discovered these attempts on my own. He never told me. He was actually trying to give her assignments so he would be able to work with her.
          Our relationship never recovered.
          I never trusted him again and he was never able to put the genie back in the bottle in terms of flirting with women and a strange fixation with women of her nationality and language of origin. He has been texting and sexting women in this language ever since
          I told him I would file for divorce if he didn’t stop and he told me to do what I had to do.
          So, basically to my understanding ,he’s never had sex with anybody else. These women are thousands of miles away. But it ended my marriage and it absolutely indicated to me that his feelings for me we’re not strong enough for him to alter these behaviors.
          My therapist has labeled it a fetish and a process addiction, I don’t really care at this point. I understand your anxiety, having your husband emotionally attached to someone can be. devastating. The foundation for the worst pick me dance. Who did he tell good news to first etc. ? The gaslighting, is this legit, am I just too insecure, can’t he have a female friend?

          It really was as if there was someone else in my marriage. And his need for adoration was more important than his family.

          By the way, she eventually remarried and I believe it was someone she was dating at the same time she was flirting with my husband.
          I believe she knew he was married and felt that he would just be a big ticket to basically my life.
          She was deliberately attempting to build an emotional bond with him I believe to create a relationship with him behind my back.
          The point has been made here on CL that sometimes these OW’s do us a favor by revealing who our spouses really are.
          She was very deliberate in what she did, but he had to be receptive to it, and he was

  • Focus your brain, no matter how hard it tries to freeze. Make a list for a lawyer, green card, alimony, assets , kids. Make a list of steps to take to get get trained in a viable income source. Make a list of reasons to leave. A list of things you want become, have, like the freedom to speak, without him going off.
    Don’t let him or fear distract you. Each small step you accomplish, makes you just a little stronger.
    Mostly, start trying to love yourself, take care of yourself. Come back daily, you will find others who were in worse situations and now are thriving. I know, because I’m one of them. Hugs, you got this.

  • Dear Pet,

    CL’s advice is spot on.

    The only thing I disagree with is,
    “as for your husband, talking with a co-worker isn’t cheating. And sloppy boundaries may just be sloppy boundaries.”

    I too thought this, when ex fuckwit and the rat faced whore were constantly texting/chatting, and basically ignoring me, his wife. Turned out they were fucking. So I think your instincts/gut may be right on this.

    You don’t specifically say, but I get the impression this fucktard has cheated before, or at least behaved inappropriately for a married man. Whatever the case, the mantra is, “is this acceptable to *you*”, and it clearly isn’t, so do something about it. ????

    Having young children of course makes all this more difficult, but there are many chumps here who have children, but who nevertheless made the decision it was *not* acceptable, left, filed for divorce etc.

    CN is here for you. ((hugs)) xx

    • Her gut instinct may absolutely be spot on, but chumps often find themselves wasting precious time chasing down the rabbit hole of more evidence, more pick me dancing with a checked out spouse, time that could be better spent focusing on strengthening themselves.

      If you don’t feel SAFE, you don’t need proof of cheating, You. Don’t. Feel. Safe. To me, that’s a deal breaker. Whether it’s texts or rage driving or a full-blown affair.

      • Indeed.

        These many years later, I’ve reached a place where deception and bad boundaries fall under the category of ‘cheating’ in my mind.

        Or, perhaps more accurately, cheating is just one manifestation of deception and bad boundaries, and the deception and bad boundaries are unacceptable in an intimate partnership in my mind.

        This is just my personal perspective, but that’s how it is for me nowadays.

        If a person is willing to do things that are clearly hurtful and/or harmful to me, the intimate partner, that tells me how much the person values me as a person and how much the person values our relationship. Everyone is hurtful sometimes, and everyone omits details out of embarrassment sometimes. Still, I’m not WILLING to be hurtful, so I feel bad and make amends and take long term action to mitigate it’s recurrence when it happens. I may omit details about the price of the boots I just bought when I’m using my agreed upon budgeted dollars to buy them because I know I probably shouldn’t have spent that much, but I haven’t betrayed any agreements with my partner as long as I stick to my agreed budget and I spend it in a way that isn’t harmful to my partner or the relationship (boots, not an escort or hotel room).

        Boundaries and honesty.

        Cheating is more than touching the genitals of some non-partner outside a monogamous commitment. Cheating is violating intimate trust, changing the rules of the ‘game’ in secret to gain advantage, moving the goalposts to suit your own interests, having a double-standard that makes it ok when you do it but not when I do it.

        Those are all good reasons to leave a person who is bad for you. A relationship is not a court of law. There’s no burden of proof. It’s a relationship. If you don’t want to be in it, it’s reasonable to change your one and only (as far as we empirically know) life.

        This is all very simplified, though, because I’m talking about situations where options exist that won’t harm the person as much or more as staying put. Our writer has a highly complex set of actual circumstances, with residency and abuse issues laced throughout. So, I’m not meaning to imply that the realities are always simple. I’m only meaning to describe how I view “cheating” as going far beyond genitals and the choice to leave being reasonable whether or not there is any prescribed “proof” of some arbitrarily defined event that constitutes “cheating” — in support of Cal’s points.

      • Please tell her to go into flight. Freeze can seem like the smartest thing to those who are unsafe yet beat down.

        • * Pet – Please listen to that instinct which say go into Flight. The fear & self-doubt will try to shift you into Freeze, which might be deadly. Gift of Fear book

          • Agree 100%! My ex had a woman friend at work. He talked about her a little too much which seemed “unusual” to me. But I trusted him. I had for 29 years. Then, I started having dreams that he told me he did not love me anymore. I’d tell him those dreams and he’d say, “I would never leave you! Of course I love you!” Guess what happened? He left for the coworker. Always trust your gut. That is what I have learned from this. Always trust your gut!!!

            Set up your own personal bank account. Transfer enough money from your joint account to live on for a month or two. Find a lawyer. Find a therapist. Find a temporary place to live. Then, tell him you don’t feel comfortable with him anymore and you need to look out for yourself. Your lawyer will help you further with the funds you need and a place to live. They may even be able to help with the green card.

            I gave up a home that I loved and had invested so much effort and time in improving only to move to a new state for my ex. He meanwhile left me in the new state living in a rental with a lease due to expire the following month, with no home, no job, two dogs, and everything we owned in storage in the middle of winter. I lost everything I loved overnight.

            Don’t let that happen to you. Hit first!

            • One more thing…many men are still children. Don’t expect him to willingly give up his toy. Expect him to have a temper tantrum instead.

    • I agree 100%. The types of things they are talking about are personal and should be kept between the couple. I had the same situation where my cheater would discuss personal issues with a coworker constantly…coincidentally, the coworker and husband were going to adopt. She talked about her husband’s sperm count with my husband. I never found proof they were cheating but there was an emotional intimacy that made me see red. I caught him cheating for sure later with someone else, but I’m still convinced he had at least an EA with the confidant. That said, definitely follow CL’s advice and look out for yourself.

  • The trade schools for appliance repair are an excellent resource too. Plus there are community colleges that also teach some trades, have apprenticeship programs, etc. If you are at all mechanically inclined, elevator/escalator repair is lucrative and the need is high.

    If that is simply not possible at this time, look into it anyway. Then find out if there is someone in the neighborhood who is working from home that needs someone to mind THEIR kid so they can focus and will pay you. Under the table if necessary (shhhhh).

  • House Pet
    Because of your fear and stress your kids may be paying fir it. Your husband sounds like he has narcissistic tendencies and you should free yourself from him. He probably is having an affair or starting to enter it.
    Your mental health is very important so I would listen to CL regarding what you can to. There are many of us here at CN that have been where you are and have gotten to the other side. You are stronger than you think and your opinion of yourself is self defeating. I would see a lawyer to start your peaceful life and protect your kids.
    Take one day at a time and everything you want will be accomplished. Stay strong ???????? you are not alone.

  • Please please please do not let on that you want to leave. Men rape women financially ( ask me how I know). He can and will leave you destitute if he figures it out. Put your financial ducks in a row. Document everything. CL is right. Get a skill so you can support yourself and your babies but he will have to pay support and split assets

    • Agreed. And in the meantime, see if you can start creating an escape fund for yourself. No matter how small, you will be sooooo glad you have one if you need to leave suddenly.

      • The single largest regret I have is that I did not take care of myself financially enough when I found out he was unfaithful. I should have been rat holing money away, and I was not. But, he was…..

        Pet, take care of your financial needs. See a lawyer ASAP!!!! and hide the business card afterwards. Open up a safety deposit box, or have a friend do it for you, someone you trust. Start getting check cards at target, Walmart, TJ Maxx.

        Make your escape plan.

  • I am disabled. Felt trapped because she made 3x more then me, I was on her insurance, Stay at home father. I have severe anxiety, C-PTSD, plus a couple physical disabilities. My father offered to help me. I moved in with a friend. I had to sleep on the floor because the kids were in the bed. I divorced her and rebuilt my life. I have since remarried and bought a house again. It started with me meeting with a lawyer and him running a background check on her and seeing her having a whole double life set up. Listen to your gut…

  • If your gut wants out, get out. You don’t even need a reason. But you have reasons. You see an emotional affair at least, not for the first time. There are things you are afraid to say to him. This is enough.

    Talk to a domestic violence agency and see whether you qualify for their services because of emotional abuse. Even if you don’t, they can talk to you and help you understand your options. There are red flags in your story: things you can’t talk about or he “loses his shit” and becomes at least verbally abusive. Start telling trustworthy people about this.

    He’s involved with someone at work. Get involved with friends and helpers while he is at work. Find a church, a garden club, anything that he doesn’t participate in, and get to know trustworthy people. Then tell them what’s going on. You will find people who can help you. Find divorced women in the community. Some will recognize your story as theirs.

    Keep a record of his behavior, and keep it somewhere he doesn’t have access–a safe deposit box in a bank where he doesn’t have accounts, the house of a friend who is not his friend. Keep it for your future lawyer and your future self, in case you are tempted to denial. And keep looking for a way out. You will find it.

  • Mrs. Housepet,
    First, you’re not the equivalent of a “house pet.” Thousands of us Chumps on here thought we were unlovable and doomed to a life of poverty, and that didn’t happen :).
    Second, I’m going to agree with CL, and disagree with a few of the comments. What you see right now could simply be bad boundaries, as CL says. It could be that it’s a sign of cheating, it could also be a sign that they are moving towards cheating. However, right now, bad boundaries is all you can see. (For what it’s worth, I, too, saw the same kinds of bad boundaries, and they were actually signs of cheating, but let’s be fair.) Unfortunately, I think you do need to confront your husband about this. Gather all evidence on the phone that you can first, get your ducks in a row, then have a long direct talk with him.
    His reaction may give away what’s actually going on. If he’s secretive, doesn’t want to answer questions, doesn’t want to spend less time with her, or does “go underground,” then most likely you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. If he’s defensive, but doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, he has bad boundaries.

    • He’s done it before. He gets aggressive. Not a good scenario for direct confrontation.

      Also he can then isolate and impoverish her further.

      I think CL has given excellent advice.

    • It isn’t safe to confront him. She’s already walking on eggshells because he loses his shit if she isn’t submissive.
      Abuse only worsens if you confront the abuser.

  • I have to put a plug here for Treehouse – we hired a couple people (one single mom) who were self taught from the site. You can learn the skills to get a Security auditor or cybersecurity certification at home, on your own time, and the field is so desperate for people (0% unemployment rate) that you’re likely to find something. And many jobs have some or all work from home which is great for single parents. It’s a great way to get very desired skills that pay well without leaving the house.

  • Your gut is telling your mind what it already knows but doesn’t want to confront. That this relationship is not acceptable to you. If you have to tread on eggshells to be open with him, then he’s shutting you out. There’s zero chance of emotional intimacy in this relationship. Is this what you want to model to your kids?

    I understand your fear of being able to make it on your own. I stayed for 13 years because I lacked the confidence to go. I suspect I also knew deep down what a shit storm he would unleash when he realised he could no longer manipulate me. I’ll never get those years back.

    Get an exit plan, and don’t share it with him under any circumstances.

    I’d advise you to gen up on Parental Alienation too as he sounds the type to try and pull that stunt on your children in order to punish you. He’s already manipulating you, and the longer he thinks you’re unaware of this fact the more you’ll be able to protect yourself. I’d also recommend learning more about the subtle forms of emotional abuse – Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” is excellent. Reading it helped me identify my ex’s behaviours rather than listen to what he was telling me.

  • I am so sorry this is happening I u detests do the trapped feeling. I pray. Hard. Traceys advice will give you the ass kicking you need! I also understand it’s easier said than find when they’re “nice” to you and treat you like a “pet”. Mine often rubs my back because it’s my favorite most relaxing thing. He cooks dinner because I work afternoons and tries to straight up here while “waiting” for me. This is all after admitting he cheated with his kids mom. The kid is being kept away from us held at random now by the mother. I am stressed it’s a shit show
    You aren’t an idiot don’t give up! Pay attention to your gut and live yourself and others I’d the best piece of advice. Ive always worked in warehouses factories and now, tsa
    Not the best paying most rewarding jobs but they’re jobs and there’s one for you waiting to put a little money in your pocket
    I understand the trapped feeling (everyone likes him) and blah blah but no one is living under your roof with him, but you
    I agree the texts may not be anything I texted a coworker twice and I’ve been held under the radar ever since
    Even though HES the cheater
    Ps: I could guess he doesn’t want you to be independent if fear of you seeing what’s out there and losing you
    I pray for your strength

  • Sending support. I echo CL’s advice— forget focusing on your H. Focus on building your marketable skills. Call both a lawyer and a community college or vocational school guidance counselor today and find out what short course you can take that will lead to employment. Your lawyer may tell you that he/she can go to Court and get an order that H has to pay for their fees and your training/education as well as childcare.

    Life after this horrid marriage will be so sweet. Do not give up on yourself! You matter!

  • Trust your instincts. If you feel this female friend is more than friends with your husband, she probably is. I had the exact same situation. He met her at work (they didn’t work together). She had a physically disabled husband at home, my ex claimed he was in a sexless marriage at the time. I figured that’s how they bonded, or they scratched an itch for each other, but he denies anything physical ever happened between them. After I came on the scene, he claimed he cut off contact. She’d show up where he thought he would be. She’d stalk his friends and whine about why he wasn’t calling her anymore. She’d tweet almost daily about how she missed her “best friend.”

    I hate saying this because I feel like it’s such an antiquated emotion, but I am not down with the best/super close opposite sex best friend. It sets you up from the start for triangulation or “pick me dances.” She’s taking the job title that was open because the one she wants is filled, and trust she will sabotage you until it is.

    Weeks after my ex and I separated, he was already not only twitter friends with her, but selling her disabled husband guitars for cash, only to allegedly buy the guitars back from him some day. SO glad to be out of that.

    • “she’s taking the job title that was open because the one she wants is filled, and trust she will sabotage you until it is.”


      This! *Exactly* what happened to me. She said “he’s my best mate”, he said, “she’s my best friend”. God, I was such a trusting, gullible *idiot*. ????????????

      • I was so trusting and innocent too.
        I should have really dug deeper when he started talking about what his ‘friend’ uses to fall asleep because it helps take away her anxiety.
        I thought they were talking about this at the water cooler ???? – nice lunches out didn’t occur to me.
        Ahhh now I see it was her anxiety over wanting a married man instead of her own H!
        Of course when I asked who this friend was, I got ‘so and so I’ve known her for years.’
        Not true- he had only known her for 1.5 yrs at DDay.

        • I was too. Or I don’t know, maybe just plain stupid.

          He “rode around” at night with one of the other officers when he couldn’t sleep. He would tell me of sexual escapades of “other guys” I did question him when he got pissed that his employee was hanging around a guy he didn’t like. I said “it is none of your business who she hangs around with” He said “she knows I don’t like Sam Smith” I felt a twinge there, but I did know he hated Sam, so I guess I spackled.

          She was likely also ephing Sam too, but he wouldn’t admit it to himself. He knew she was a whore, so I don’t know why he couldn’t figure it out.

          I wish I had the two years back that he was screwing with her.

  • If you feel that is wrong something is wrong, not ifs, no buts

    I wish I trusted my instincts and dealt with that when I had the chance, instead of pushing it at the back of my mind. Idk what the answer is for you, whether addressing issues on your marriage and work to change dynamics before an affair happens (if it hasn’t yet), or split from your husband, trust your guts and take steps to sort this problem out. Honestly, not a day goes by where I wish I had done that. Wouldn’t have wasted the past 3 years in a sham marriage. 3 years is ages.

    Keep in mind that if you address things with your husband there’s every chance he might lie to you, and you will find yourself back where you started, and that confuse you even more. Try to confront him with a clear head, I never did I was always lost and emotional (and in fairness I was lied to and gaslighted for a long time, my therapist says it really alters your perceptions) and I never managed to get anywhere.

    Either way, even if it’s terrifying and you don’t know where to start (I was also a sahm in a country that isn’t my own so trust me that I know exactly how you feel), give credit to your instinct and follow it. There’s no way you’ll regret it, no matter how it goes. If it goes well with your husband you might end up in a better marriage, if it doesn’t you won’t waste precious time with a cheater.

    I wish you all the best.

  • I wish I had just sucked it up and confronted my ex earlier on in the marriage. He too had overly close relationships with female co-workers. I just said nothing, and thought that it may be a sign he will leave me, and I better prepare myself. I got an education, I saved every nickel.

    Looking back I wish I had sat down with him and said look, I am concerned that you are getting overly close to these women, and it is going beyond workplace issues into their PERSONAL lives and problems.

    The people they need to discuss those problems with are in their own home, their own friends, and not with a male co-worker. You could mention to him that these women are violating boundaries, potentially screwing up his career, and he needs to tell them that it’s better for them to discuss business and not personal matters. Put it to him in a way that you show him that HE is at risk becasue they are violating workplace boundaries. You care about him, and his career.

    • Mitz–

      If we all had time machines. Consider the possibility that even if you’d said all that, it might have made no difference at all. With normal, humane, well-meaning people, it can help to review past interactions to see what we could have done better, but with FWs, trying to comb over your “contribution” or consider what you could have done better is just a way of blaming yourself for the heinous things they did.

      If someone is on a trajectory to be a cheater, there’s really nothing you can do to stop them. I married very young but already had more professional experience than FW. I had zero problems explaining the issue of personal and professional boundaries and what can happen if those boundaries blur. So he just took it underground like the author of today’s letter wrote.

      You can’t reason with a dedicated fuckwit bent on recreating whatever effed up history made them the way they are. To quote Andy Warhol (not exactly a role model but he saw a lot of people rise and fall) “You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.”

    • Just to let you know that you couldn’t have done anything else but leave them.
      I surely sat down, texted about resolving issues many many times, and was met with blatant l.i.e.s. So it doesn’t matter, what ifs, regrets. These kind of persons don’t respect. They use and abuse our trust (to start with). And they toy.
      The only thing possible, is to leave them. It’s always hard. And you did it when you could (same), so BIG kuddos here. ????

  • HP, I can honestly say I understand. I’m currently overwhelmed myself. Older SAHM, got a job then lost it earlier this year and haven’t found another one, and 10 other big things going on and I’m finishing up a divorce and have to repair and sell the house and and and. It’s all too much.

    I finally reached out to a friend the other day when I was at a bad point where I couldn’t take it anymore; she’s going almost the exact same thing. She said “Remember – how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I replied “If it was one elephant maybe but all this??” She replied “I know. You got more than a full plate. But still; one. bite. at. a. time.” I can’t say I was magically better but when I get to that point where my thoughts go bad I start thinking “one bite at a time” and try to do just one thing, anything, to get something done even if it’s little. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

  • Thanks so much everyone, I am deeply touched by all the support. I felt better the moment I sent Tracey that letter, because it was the first time I saw objectively what I was feeling, and it’s not acceptable. I slept a little better even. I’ve got some researching to do! It’s a lot less foggy.

    • HP– Just know that you’re in the thoughts of many. It may not feel like it in the moments you’re being vibed half to death by a narcissist, but being intuitive and sensitive to social cues can be a beautiful thing and a saving grace when you’re with like minds. Don’t let anyone desensitize that brilliant faculty. Many can relate to what you’ve written so thank you for writing it.

    • A few things you can do now. Make sure you take care of any dental needs and health appointments for you and the kids. How closely does he watch your money? Everytime you shop, add a gift card that you can hide and use later. Start squirreling away what you can. Get all your paperwork together and somewhere safe. They don’t play fair so don’t feel bad about it. It’s about survival.

  • Go to and look for a immigration lawyer. I am an attorney.

    There is a law called VAWA that helps women in your situation when you are the victim of extreme cruelty (emotional abuse etc) or physical violence. You will get access to a work permit and will also be on track for a green card. There are time limits to file if you get divorced. This is general legal information and not legal advice. Consult with an AILA attorney. To be an AILA member you have to meet certain criteria. Good luck.

  • My dental hygienist, older than me (I am 57) is from Persia.

    When she came to America, she was a full-time parent to three small children. She did not speak English. She couldn’t drive.

    She found out her husband was a lying cheating AH.

    She is now a dental hygienist, speaks English very well with a beautiful accent, drives, and tells patients with lying cheating AH husbands, “You need to get away from him!”

    If she can I can and you can and we all can.

    If there’s no safety and no trust we MUST.

  • If it were me I’d ask him and confront him. I regret not doing that with my STBX. I wish I would have asserted my feelings more. I know it wouldn’t have changed anything but I would have felt better that I tried in the early stages to push him a bit more about his behavior.

    • FKA– See the comment I wrote to Mitz above. I think what you’re saying is that you wish you’d exercised self assertion just so you could look back and know you’d done it which is different than thinking it would have made any difference.

      I work with a lot of lawyers and have heard more than once that I know how to sell an argument and that I probably missed my calling as a trial attorney or lobbyist for an important cause. I started out a bit awkward and tongue tied but eventually learned to be assertive and clear in relationships too. From that perspective, all I an say is that you’re right– it makes no difference. For my part I wish I hadn’t even bothered and had practiced silence.

      But at least you could have used FW as an audience so you could practice your debating skills and skill at making emotional appeals. Why not make use of them for something. In any case, you certainly know how to express yourself eloquently now. Plus you’re doing it with people who appreciate it instead of casting your wisdom and eloquence before swine.

    • I regret not pushing when I knew something was up. I should have gotten in his face and screamed right back at him when he verbally attacked and insulted me. But, I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and I did ask and he lied.

      It wouldn’t have changed a thing, except maybe he would have left sooner. That would have been a good thing. He was trying to time his departure to save his ass at work. I don’t know who outed him, but I am pretty sure he wasn’t ready yet; but had to make a move.

      Lordy he did some stupid stuff. It is embarrassing that I married that mess.

    • I confronted him about his inappropriate behavior at work CONSTANTLY. It honestly did not help.

      Please do not beat yourself up thinking it would be different, in all likelihood nothing would be different.

  • I also found messages of the ho-worker “needing to vent.” You are correct in sensing that a boundary has been crossed.

    I’m sorry for how overwhelmed you feel. Put one foot in front of the other in walking towards the healthy life you need. Talking to a good lawyer and maybe getting an immigration consultation would be a good first step. Create a feasible timeline for yourself for standing on your own two feet. You have mighty in you, even if you feel worn down by his mental games right now. You also have us for support and understanding.

  • You say he “goes underground” when pressed for answers about extramarital social enmeshments? Bad, bad sign. “Underground”= compartmentalization= passive aggressively casting you as an ogre and himself as persecuted princess in a tower = secret case building against you by way of justifying past, present or future betrayal= possible personality disorder.

    So is finding yourself drowning in your own intuition– bad sign. So is his scary rage if you question his driving– particularly if he doesn’t adjust his driving to your “maternal/personal risk tolerance level” and you feel that you and the kids are not safe with him at the wheel.

    That latter thing was one of the red flags I saw years before the cheating began that, in retrospect, I associate with “cheating potential.”

    But, but, but….he’d “never had an accident.” Neverthe less, I was white knuckling it when he tailgated too close behind other cars on the freeway and my “brake foot” kept twitching madly from the passenger seat. That’s unacceptable. My body was telling me he took unnecessary risks and the fear this caused was an offense in itself. My intuition also told me there was something terribly wrong with someone who had fits of temper because they viewed their own driving as if it were some kind of deeply held, non-negotiable personal conviction or spiritual trait. How shallow does someone have to be for their driving to be a measure of the depth of their very soul?? Blow me.

    Little did I know this was a preview of when he later rawdogged the drunken tattooed doorknob from work and put me at risk of contracting God knows what.

    But, but, but… he’d dragged her carcass to a lab and had her tested like a stray dog that bit him! Never mind the grotesque betrayal, just to make a parallel to the risky driving, this is not a risk I would have taken myself but, like with his driving, the right to decide on risks I was willing to take had been robbed from me.

    In that time before you have concrete evidence of betrayal, it’s very hard making life-changing decisions based on seemingly nebulous actions by another person- i.e., red flags. One of the best bits of advice I’ve read is to pay attention to your own physical sensations and reactions to someone else’s attitudes, actions, gestures and behaviors. Those reactions are real, not nebulous, but those with “cheating/abuse potential” or all-out cheaters/abusers send out so many weird, brain-scrambling signals–many of which can seem unrelated to direct betrayal– that it’s like playing wack-a-mole to determine which specific behaviors are sending your nervous system into orbit.

    That in itself is a red flag– if, around this individual, you have such generalized anxiety that you can hardly pinpoint what they’re doing that’s causing it. That feeling can come years before a fuckwit concretely acts out. It can be the sum of a million daily micro-manipulations and micro-betrayals or just that eerie sense that person is not really responsive to you nor truly intimately engaged, us “numb” to the effect they have on you and the vibe they stir up. Those are all red flags.

    If you’ve ever seen videos of the “still face experiment” ( ) when babies pick up on that eerie feeling of detachment in adults they depend on, they wail like they’re being stabbed. They try to communicate distress. They dance for attention, then they finally go quasi catatonic. You can see the damage settling in instantly and it’s gut-wrenching. As healthy adults we obviously don’t require the same level of attentiveness that babies do and can understand when adults we’re close to are distracted or busy. But we still require that sense of overall connection and intimacy with partners and can feel it acutely when it’s missing. Unfortunately we learn to reason away our own reactions to eerie “red flag” detachment, not wanting to be babyish about it. But this ignores the fact that the need for this overall assurance is also the root of our own ability to empathize with others. It’s hardwired. You can’t keep giving if you’re put on a starvation diet of connectedness. Especially as a parent, it’s not a radar or faculty you want to have numbed and dulled. And that’s what many covert abusers do first and foremost– batter that faculty and then fail ti respond to adult communication about it A “red flag” can simply be when an otherwise sensible adult starts feeling like the baby in the video.

    (Sorry for any typos).

    • The driving thing! Yes! It’s so weird, but if you think about it, it’s the epitome of NPD: 1. Fixation on their own desires/agenda without regard to societal rules or norms. 2. Inability to empathize with anyone who may be feeling differently about the situation. 3. Infantile rage (and DARVO, etc.) when anyone counters or challenges their will (or hell, simply expresses fear/pain in response to the narc’s abusive behaviors).

      Driving with my ex was literally like being in the car with a 3-year-old at the wheel; it was terrifying. And, even though my driving record was *much* better than his, that didn’t stop him from berating me in the few instances in which he allowed me to drive us. The weirdest thing was when he would shout at me for just expressing fear, like grabbing on to the door handle. He would yell, “Stop being so dramatic! Nothing’s wrong,” or “Stop that—you scared me!” I told him once he was the only person I knew who yelled at people for being scared. Didn’t even make a dent.

      The most amazing thing was that when we were in the car with other people, and he was driving recklessly, I would ask him to slow down or whatever, and he would (because he couldn’t yell at me with people in the car—image management…). But then two minutes later he’d be right back to doing whatever he had been doing before. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but this was some pretty clear evidence that he was psychologically incapable of representing someone else’s boundaries to himself and moderating his behavior in response to those for any length of time….

      Like I said, the driving thing kind of encapsulated the whole problem of trying to have an intimate, committed relationship with someone with NPD. I just wish I had, like you said, Hell of a Chump, trusted my own instincts and gotten out of that car a hell of a lot sooner.

      • “… the epitome of NPD: 1. Fixation on their own desires/agenda without regard to societal rules or norms. 2. Inability to empathize with anyone who may be feeling differently about the situation. 3. Infantile rage (and DARVO, etc.) when anyone counters or challenges their will (or hell, simply expresses fear/pain in response to the narc’s abusive behaviors)

        Spot on. Especially no. 3 for me. So many examples of that I remember. Thank God I’m free of all that shite.

        • A lot of that becomes clear as they get closer to the discard. I have no respect or regard for my ex whatsoever, God revealed him to me in full force. So I am so glad I got out as relatively fast as I did.

          I still think something happened to force his hand in the discard; because he was acting like a hooker in the front pew most of the last few weeks. Plus getting hostile almost to the point of violence. I will never know what pushed it, but I suspect it was to my benefit that it happened. I think he had intended to stay with me another year; and suck more money from me, while he and schmoopie spent their weekends at our just acquired river front property.

          All I know is he made sure I found out, he stayed for a week after Christmas then started moving his shit out the day after New Years Day. I found out from another source that he was in hot water with the city counsel for petitioning for his whore to get a raise in the new year. They evidently found out she was his fuckbuddy and were non too pleased.

          I have even eerily wondered if he intended to off me. I hate to think it, but dang it was bad.

          Now if I had gotten mad and thrown him out, he would have been happy, because he could have (in his mind) kept her hidden; then well Susie dumped me, poor me; I am so hurt and schmoopie is licking my wounds. (among other things)

          Somehow he got outed, and it wasn’t me, because though I knew on Christmas Day he was cheating, I had no idea who it was. That sad sack whore never crossed my mind. It was actually a blow to my ego when I found out it was her.

      • I’m sort of new here so I’ve been mulling on the questions CL asks like “what were your red flags.” I had to really think and the driving issue came to mind. As I was writing, I realized it’s probably a “thing” that other chumps and abuse survivors would recognize.

        He actually did have a better driving record than me and probably had faster reflexes but this didn’t justify the insensitivity or the fact he was taking bone-headed risks. Is it really necessary to accelerate on black ice? Is it really necessary to rawdog the office doorknob? Will the mysteries never cease?

        The interesting thing is that, during the affair, the AP did 98% or the driving. Apparently I wasn’t enough of a control freak, lol. Furthermore he willingly got into the passenger seat after they’d both been binge drinking. So it really was a qualitative thing– his risk tolerance verged on suicidal. His lack of previous accidents had just been dumb luck. No wonder my stomach was in my throat when he drove.

        • I think they get off on the fear they generate from the reckless driving. I’ve worn a hole in the carpet on my side of the car where the break should be. I take an ativan before we go driving anywhere. He’s said he likes to watch people squirm.

          • House Pet–

            “I’ve worn a hole in the carpet on my side of the car where the break should be.” You put it so well.

            And man he must be threatened by your verbal acuity and sense of humor. Best to terrorize you out of accessing those advantages by hacking your nervous system with panic and fear at regular intervals. FWs are nothing if not resourceful. Being regularly flooded with panic chemicals certainly blurs perceptions.

            I’ve read that can be a thing with personality-disordered people: they only know they exist if they can get a rise out of another person. Plus there’s the useful fear-hacking tactic.

            I think my FW just had a toddler reaction to his primal impulses being questioned. Driving was a chance to reinforce his weak male mojo, exercise impulsiveness.

            He was also confusingly nice and banal a lot of the time– until he wasn’t. The he’d turn into a rage monkey. It was discombobulating, like did I imagine that Señor Buttercup just started channeling Jack Nicholson from The Shining for a minute but without the axe or baseball bat? And would anyone believe me that he did?? Mindfuck-o-rama.

            Two faced people come with a built-in social blackmail element because you can imagine how easily they can turn the social context against you. This feels particularly threatening when you’ve already been systematically isolated and have begun to doubt your ability to survive alone.

    • OMG, Hell of a Chump, what you wrote resonated with every cell in my body. That sense of anxiety about something being wrong being a manifestation of the micro-manipulation that we are subject to every day, along with the lack of attunement and true intimacy. True, that. In the baby video, the Mom and baby are engaged in that beautiful mother-child dance, and it never occurred to me that there is also a dance of intimacy between partners. But there is. In my case, my husband was a recent widower when we met, and I attributed the off-ness in that area to his still having love and feelings for her, and the awkwardness of being with a new partner after years of marriage. But that totally wasn’t it. I wish I had listened to my gut that he wasn’t good for me, instead of rationalizing and excusing it all, it would have saved me years of pain and trauma. (And ditto on the driving: he tailgates, speeds, swerves out of his lane, stops in the middle of the road, and in general it is like he is the only one on the road who matters.) Your post put a lot of things together for me that I hadn’t connected before. Thank you!

      • PrincipledLife–

        Getting into the turn lane 10 feet from the crosswalk? Cramps in your brake foot?

        That video haunts me. I got tired of all the “inner child” stuff a while back when I sensed it was being used to infantilize victims of abuse who might be better off getting in touch with their inner beasts until they’re safe. But at the same time, I know thar baby represents perfect receptivity and what was originally intended by “inner child.”

        If you add reciprocation, responsibility and full sentences, that’s adult trust and love at it’s best– maybe with a little less drooling. And betrayal feels exactly like what that baby goes through to anyone who ever loved. You can feel it when the dance changes, doesn’t progress or it’s just one person hopping around and twirling.

        • Hell of a Chump:

          Barreling towards a curb, yelling at me for clutching the door and gasping, then hitting the curb and becoming enraged at the curb for being there. Just one of many examples, of course. No one understands what it like to live this way except other Chumps.

          It is a kind of emotional starvation to live like that deprived baby. I’ve been hopping and twirling for years and I am tired. He has a therapist who is trying to teach him empathy, but it is like something done by a robot or a trained seal, no real feeling behind it. So in a way it is worse than not responding at all.

          “If you add reciprocation, responsibility and full sentences, that’s adult love and trust at it’s best–maybe with a little less drooling.” That made me laugh. You are so witty, HOAC. I hope you now have someone who is worthy of you. And I hope I have that one day too.

    • I had to look up rawdogging 😀 Everytime I have an anxiety poo I remember a nature show I watched where a big snake caught a mouse and as it was chomping down on the mouse the mouse shat. I always remember that image it disturbed me, it was such a sad desperate thing. I push away that thought every time. WHY do I push away the only reasonable part of my mind? To hell with spackle.

      • House Pet–

        I know why it’s hard to own those perceptions. If you’re getting all “deep,” there’s a risk of being socially orphaned.

        It’s not even about putting on a Percy Shelley pose of tragically misunderstood originality. Just thinking for yourself in the most modest ways can ruffle feathers. Personally I’d rather be hung for a sheep, so fuck it, I’ll chase profundity once in awhile if I feel like it. 🙂

        The reasonable part of our minds, like intuition, are sort of a gift-curse even in a larger social and political sense. The more in touch you are with your own perceptions and perspective, the more naked emperors you see all around you on every level. Then you’re in deadly danger of becoming a rugged individualist. Oh dear.

        The rewards are great, the company (when you can find it) is awesome, but sometimes it sucks not automatically fitting into every social scene like a pleasantly Stepfordy greased cog in the gears.

        I have a friend who fully acts out the “coffee scene” from Stepford Wives as an illustration. Cracks me up every time:

        Read the Wiki entry for “positive disintegration,” a theory by 20th century rebel psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski. He really got it.

  • Ya strange about venting to husband. I would think coworker would befriend the wife here and vent to her or both. But not directly or in secret to the husband. Assuming the venting had to be with either of these 2 and not her own family and friends. Fishy AF.

    • My ex had an affair with his co-worker and it sounded just like this. I raised the inappropriate boundaries (texting night and day), he insisted they were ‘just friends’ and then left me for her a few months later.
      I don’t think the texts necessarily mean that your husband is cheating, but if you tell him the intimacy makes you feel uncomfortable and he doesn’t change his behaviour, see it as a giant red flag. I always think it helps to ask them, ‘if I was texting another man about this stuff how would you feel?’
      Regardless, you sound miserable in this relationship and you should not have to be spending so much energy to feel valued, heard and appreciated. Cheating aside, maybe get curious about why you’re staying when you’re so unhappy. If it’s the logistics tell your husband you’d like to get part time work/studyand some therapy. Set yourself up a little more whilst your figuring out what YOU want to do:

  • You mention you don’t have a greencard, which tells me you’re not a US citizen, but living in the US. The US will NOT let you relocate back to your home country with your children without a court order and if your home country is also a member of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, you will be extradited back to the US. (Or vice versa–I’m a US citizen stuck in Switzerland for the same reason.)

    The US can force your children to stay, but they aren’t obligated to give you a green card and/or the right to work. Which can mean you’re completely destitute, can’t go home, and reliant on an ex husband who is a jerk.

    This is a reality that many many of us Expats face. Your first priority needs to be that greencard so you can work. Then get out of the marriage. can help you figureout what you need to do!

  • Hi Pet,

    I’m late to the conversation here… but lots of industries will hire you and train you right now… food service, nursing homes, home care agencies, hospitals… the healthcare industry alone is struggling to find folks for the entry level care delivery roles that are vital all the time!

    And yes – talk to a lawyer… get your footing on your green card issue, that is paramount… then get your footing on your options… stay at home mom’s are entitled to support, even if you file first.

    Don’t let this fuckwit take another minute from your life. Model strength and resilience for your kids, show them what courage looks like… feel the fear, make that bitch your best friend, and do the hard thing anyway. You are not alone. We are all here because we’ve been where you are… and our stories are consistent… it is better leaving a cheater… start your journey today.

  • You feel anxious because he is deliberately causing you anxiety. He talks about her to you and lets you see the “vent” texts because he knows you worry about him cheating. That’s an emotional abuse tactic. You can’t discuss things openly without him “losing his shit”. That’s a control tactic. He’s using fear to keep you in line.
    You have a controlling, abusive husband. Abuse only gets worse over time. He may become physically abusive if you ever rebel, and there is a possibility of that happening when you leave. So do it in secret. Do NOT give him any warning.
    Whether he’s cheating or not doesn’t matter, because he hurts you even if he’s not. He’s only “nice” to you so long as you stay submissive and don’t question or criticize him.
    I suggest you contact domestic abuse resources in your area and tell them you are living in fear of your husband’s temper, because you are. They can assist you in getting out of this situation. Take CL’s advice, too.
    Please give us an update on your progress. We care.

  • House Pet,

    I’m sorry you feel this way. I think many stay at home parents struggle with their dependence on their partner. Being independent is important for security.

    Maybe your lack of independence makes you extra vulnerable and suspicious. Knowing nothing more, having a work friend of a different sex isn’t cheating. But it can be a step. And your being neurotic or nervous isn’t a good sign for the health of the relationship.

    I suggest you find ways to work on your self esteem and independence. As you feel less vulnerable, you will be giving your children a better mom, a saber mom.

    Your husband could cheat for many reasons. Husbands cheat on beautiful wives with fabulous careers. It has nothing to do with you, but with them. Unhappy husbands with character communicate their unhappiness with their wife. They don’t cheat. They divorce without cheating if the issue is a true dealbreaker.

    Give yourself the gift of confidence. However you achieve it. Do it for you.

    • Wow, is this ever tone deaf. She’s “neurotic” for being nervous that her controlling, emotionally abusive husband might be cheating?
      She has no green card in order to get a job, but her problem according to you, is low self esteem and neurosis? Her self esteem is not an issue. She clearly sees him for the jerk he is and she knows she doesn’t deserve his temper tantrums and triangulation with coworkers. What she lacks is options, not self esteem. She needs a lawyer, not a shrink.

  • Something odd here. IDK. I did not father my renters baby 8 years after my vasectomy. Delusional jealousy? Week boundaries? If your waiting on your green card it is coming no problems. Did he sign an affidavit of support to get your visa to come here? Not enough details to draw conclusions??????

    • Hi Jeff, you are correct there are a lot of details I have chosen not to include. Delusional jealousy? How bout perfume smell on him? I don’t wear perfume. Scratch marks on his back? Random ling black hair in the bathtub? my hair is red and short. Hiding knives all around the house? Not to mention the guns. How about withholding sex from me? Is that enough detail? How about porn slamming the computer when I come into the room? and asking other women at other jobs out for “lunch”? I may have been in denial a long time but I am hardly delusional. And BTW this is my life torn to shreds, this is my children’s peace of mind completely shattered – nothing to do with your personal situation.

      • House Pet,

        All these other details are important context for everything else you wrote. The perfume, scratch marks and hair are all details that suggest you are or have been worried about more than an emotional affair. The asking multiple women out for lunch is a boundary issue.

        The knives and guns are a whole other level of unsafety in your environment.

        Hiding a porn habit suggests there’s a lot that you as a couple are not communicating about regarding sex; there’s potential conflict of values there.

        I never did ascertain that my ex did anything “wrong,” but his actions with other women felt covert and left me feeling uneasy. Whenever I was upfront about a man showing me attention, or that I had interacted with an ex, he would get annoyed. When I asked how he’d feel about me going out one-on-one with other guys, he said he wouldn’t care. I know it’s supposed to be good when your partner isn’t possessive, but it always felt like he was setting the standard for how indifferent I was supposed to be to his behaviour.

  • Having to approach Major Cheaterpants veeeeerrrrryyyyy carefully lest he totally lose his shit at me was a huge sign of abuse…one that I ignored because somewhere in my guts, if I had aver admitted it to myself then I would have had to make a decision I was not ready to make.

    Rage driving is a giant red flag of abuse…I dont knowif it simply showed his lack of interest in controlling himself around us, a desire to manipulate us with rage or a real desire to kill us all in a ball of minivan flames, but it was horribly abusive. No matter how careful I was, something would eventually set him off and left me TERRIFIED. Looking back, that was enough of a reason to leave but I was still too scared.

    Start TODAY to work your way towards independence …like CL said…get a job skill, learn of resources, ANYTHING that gets you millimeters closer to leaving than you were yesterday.

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