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Fairy Dust Forgiveness

One of my most popular posts here is on the difference between real remorse and genuine imitation Naugahyde remorse. I thought we should have a post on the difference between true forgiveness and fairy dust forgiveness.

I like a good forgiveness story as much as the next person. I’m a preacher’s kid. I grew up believing it was really possible for people to just hand it over to Jesus and turn their lives around. I get misty during that scene in The Apostle (has everyone seen this Robert Duvall film? If you haven’t, check it out) where Billy Bob Thorton is this harassing thug who wants to bulldoze Robert Duvall’s scrappy, little chapel. But Robert Duvall stands up to him and embraces him. He doesn’t back down, but he holds a crying Billy Bob Thorton and says “I know you’re a good man.” And you come away from that scene thinking, because Robert Duvall believes it, it’s going to be so.

When I used to watch Frosty the Snowman as a kid I was so happy that the Magician saw the error of his ways for stealing Frosty’s hat and everybody ends up friends.

I like a powerful reconciliation story. I want to believe in that kind of forgiveness — that my goodness and fair-mindedness will win the bad guy over. If I just lead with humility and strength, they will recognize how powerful that is, and they will crumple like a repentant Kleenex.

But the way the world usually works is — the bad guy bulldozes the church. He builds some luxury condominiums with granite countertops and douchbags move in. The Magician keeps the hat and tells Frosty he doesn’t deserve to be a real, live snowman. He’s frozen vapor and that’s all he’ll ever be.

And now what? Now you’re supposed to forgive these bad guys who just stay bad?

Here is what Real Forgiveness looks like to me — you may have a different definition, but here’s my take — I accept it. I see it for what it is. And I stop giving it the power to hurt me. I give up vengeance. I don’t wish you dead. I disengage. I trust the Universe, or God, or whatever will sort it out through the natural laws of consequences. I don’t take your continued existence as a personal affront to my happiness.

That’s my forgiveness. And if you think I’m a bitter bunny, consider that I have set the bar lower for forgiveness than the grandmaster of forgiveness himself — South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He says about forgiveness:

To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.

However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person too.

But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offence.

My emphasis there. Forgiveness REQUIRES an acknowledgement of the offense.

How many of us even get that?

And yet how much crap do we read and hear of every day in RIC and in our lives that demands we “forgive” cheaters? It is essential to our moving on.  Moreover, there is something wrong with us if we cannot muster up forgiveness. We, the chumps, have small, petty characters.

I take exception to this. I think feeling indifferent on the forgiveness issue in no way impedes your moving past infidelity. “I don’t forgive you!” does not necessarily make you a person who wants to hold on to your victimhood and not move forward. You may simply be saying: “I have nothing to work with here.”

I like how Archbishop Tutu says you can both be angry AND you can say “I accept this.” I unchain myself from this crap.

Fairy dust forgiveness is that kind of cheap forgiveness the Reconciliation Industrial Complex traffics in. Just forgive. Let it go. Be the bigger person. You can’t do that? You’re BITTER.

Fairy dust forgiveness is about magical thinking (of course, because fairies make it). That if I fairy dust forgive you, I can TRANSFORM you into a BETTER PERSON. FDF believes in causation. My nice behavior compels you to be nice. And my un-nice behavior makes you keep doing un-nice things. Why of course you had to keep cheating! I couldn’t forgive you. Yep, this one is on me.

Look, chumps. I could sprinkle fairy dust forgiveness all over the 240 pounds of serial cheater that is my ex. Wouldn’t do a damn thing. I could say “I forgive you! Let’s let bygones be bygones. Hope you’re well!” and he would still be a serial cheater. Because he likes it like that. My forgiveness could no more transform that man into a magic toadstool than a good person.

Oh right, but forgiveness is supposed to be for me. To that I say bullshit, RIC. Fairy dust forgiveness does not make the shit sandwich go down easier. You want me to forgive for YOU and your agenda. To keep this marriage together, regardless of how toxic it is.

Let’s talk REAL forgiveness. Acceptance is for me. So I stop living with false hope. So I stop being angry about people and things I do not control. Meh is for me. Because I have better things to do with my life than throw centrality at this person who hurt me. I own my choices and my values. I could not share my life with a cheater because we’re incompatible. I cannot hope and pray for a compatibility that demonstrably doesn’t exist. This person has shown me through their actions what their values are. I accept the reality of that.

I don’t wish them dead. I wish to disengage. I want peace in my life.

That is forgiveness to me and by my definition I have forgiven. And I remain unreconciled.

I think the RIC assumes that if you reconcile, you have forgiven. And that’s an erroneous assumption, because if you ask me, there are more bitter people staying married to cheaters than there are people divorced from them. The bitterness comes from not living out their values, from being disappointed that all their efforts at being magnanimous were not sufficiently appreciated. There is resentment. Why isn’t my magic fairy dust forgiveness WORKING?

Talk to the magical thinkers over at the RIC, maybe they can explain it to you.

This column ran previously. Figured it was a good primer after yesterday’s post on the dying OW.

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  • Thank you for this Tracy. Exactly what I needed today. Happy New Year to you and your family!

  • “But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offence.”

    There’s the rub.

    My guess is every cheater who’s responsible for creating a member of Chump Nation will claim that he/she has provided said “acknowledgement.” What does that usually look/sound like?

    “I acknowledge . . .” some abstract, never-to-be-spoken-of-again action, or series of actions, because silence is critical and appearances are paramount.

    “I acknowledge . . .” a mistake, or series of mistakes, that should be sympathized with and overlooked, because everyone is human, and no human is perfect, and therefore I (cheater) are no better or worse than you — and more, importantly, you are no better or worse than me.

    “I acknowledge . . .” any transgressions only to my religious leader or directly to the deity I worship — any retribution I have coming will come from them, and not from you.

    “I acknowledge . . .” BUT. Just “but.” Because “but” is the magic word that legitimizes any action or series of actions that requires me to make an acknowledgement, thereby rendering it meaningless. Which is exactly what I (cheater) thinks it is.

    • Yes! They acknowledge, but … that word always shows up and somehow it was actually all your fault. Oh and the “made a mistake”like they broke your favorite china cup, not your trust and your heart. This is perfect!

    • Exactly!

      My cheater: I acknowledge that it is your fault I cheated and somehow this pained the children but my pain was much greater than theirs combined.

      Not really something that can be forgiven so I walk away as far as I can, trying not to get burned by the still spewing lava accepting that I can only control my own actions

      • If forgiveness is ‘for me’ then it’s my freakin business and I don’t need to check in with whomever thinks I should be forgiving of my ex. People tend to be know it alls about your marriage. I don’t wish my chump misery on anyone but I’ve taken many an I told you so pass when The fickle finger of unhappiness points their way.

    • UXworld, nailed it. FW acknowledged & apologized, BUT…

      “I am 100% responsible for the affair but only 50% responsible for the problems in the marriage, and you have to accept your 50%.” (My fave, the “ok, I’m bad, but so are you!” cop out, which really only works if you believe the marriage is responsible for FW being a FW)

      “you cannot punish me forever” (natural consequences are not punishment… Trust me, you don’t want to know the actual punishments I dreamed up after DDay)

      “I know you’re angry now, but eventually you have to see me as your moral equal” (? Um, no?)

      It’s like: Sure I’m sorry, and if you meet the following terms, you qualify for my apology. I don’t think that’s what the Bishop was talking about.

      Either way I haven’t begun to think about forgiveness. We’re not divorced yet, so he keeps racking up things to be forgiven for. I’d rather tally it up at the end and do it all at once ????

      • CallingSpades, my first therapist wanted to talk about my 50% in the marriage ….. I had to explain to her that somehow that % doesn’t quite cut it when somebody is lying to you, betraying you, withdrawing and gaslighting you.
        I got ‘I was selfish,’ which is along the lines of ‘I made a mistake’. Selfish to me is eating all the jujubes, not causing wreckage to everybody’s life.

        • “Selfish to me is eating all the jujubes, not causing wreckage to everybody’s life.”


          • Claire, lol spot on. I’ll accept that 50/50, or in my case closer to 60/40.

            FW cheating vs. me occasionally eating all the jujubes? Can you even assign numbers to that?

            Funny part is, even during the honeymoon phase FW had a jujubes incident(s). We used to get these gas station sandwiches in Germany that were way better than US gas station sandwiches, so would always let each other take a bite to try. He would take THE BIGGEST BITE possible of my sandwich, like to the point where you could see him trying hard to do it. Finally I was like, GD it, stop! If you need more food, buy 2 sandwiches. To his credit he was kinda sheepish and stopped, but I thought that was the end of it… not considering, who the hell feels entitled to do that in the first place?

    • I ran into the buzz saw of “I am sorry but…”, which is I am sorry NOT. I experienced the “I made many mistakes”, which I countered with you made many CHOICES. My XW also told me she didn’t have to tell me about her years long double life because God forgave her. She and a lot of people thought I was a bitter bunny for not forgiving (reconcile) her because she apologized. This is a good post.

      • Sirchumpalot. Had a similar experience…i got..” I went to confession and have been absolved….what goes on in the confessional is between me the priest and God!”

    • Yes!

      Here are the evolutionary stages of my ex’s apology:

      1. Pretend remorse mixed with blameshifting: “I acknowledge the harm I caused, BUT affairs don’t happen in happy marriages.” My chumpy self sent him an article to refute this. Note to newbies: Don’t do this.

      2. Whatever fake remorse he mustered quickly morphed into rage and attacks on my character: “You gave as good as you got.” This was followed by, “You’re blinded by your own self-righteousness.” And “If it had been a two-week affair or a two-year affair (it was nearly 3), you never would have forgiven me.” My fault! “I’m being overly punished,” he whined, “for merely falling in love because we bonded over taking care of sick patients. This is SO UNFAIR. God will punish me, but he’ll punish you and the kids more for what you’re doing to me (not communicating).”

      By the way, he never acknowledged the kids’ suffering: “This is between your mom and me.”

      3. Rage led to self-pity: “Yes, I was unfaithful, an ADULTERER (he seemed to like that word–so Don Draper!), but now I’m sad every day. I’m suffering so much.

      How do I forgive that? Sure, I can let go. I can make him less central. I can become less bitter and gain a life. I can even feel sorry for him.

      So, I guess the definition of forgiveness that works for me is “meh.” Letting go. Not caring if he’s dead or alive. Not imagining his new life crashing and burning.

      My friends think I’ve arrived at this blissful state because, honestly, I’ve virtually stopped talking about my ex. Instead, I come on this site and spew away!!! Thanks, CL and CN!

      • ” “I acknowledge the harm I caused, BUT affairs don’t happen in happy marriages.””

        Right? And of course you are the cause of the unhappy marriage, because he was a perfect spouse, just ask him.

        My FW said he had been unhappy for ten years, (didn’t tell me) In fact said quite the opposite. Then, he never loved me etc. Well if he never loved me, how was him being in a crappy marriage my fault, when he stood before God and everyone and pledge his undying love for me.

        Bottom line is they lie, they manipulate; and we will never know the full truth about them.

        • This hit post home for me.

          My ex had an affair with the same woman 25 years apart. In retrospect I’m fairly sure he was a serial cheater. I can only prove twice – that fact itself makes me feel like an idiot.

          When I asked him as he left the door for the last time why did he have a child with me, why did he stay, he told me it was because 25 years ago he was sick and he was scared and he needed someone to take care of him. I worked two jobs for 25 years, heck they were times in our life I worked three.

          Friends I had when we first met he didn’t like. I have work acquaintances which I’ve known for a long time but there’s no invitations for after hours activities. I have no friends. I don’t know how to reach meh – I want it, I don’t know how to get beyond him.

          I haven’t seen him since he walked out the door in October 2018. Ten days ago my mother-in-law passed away of lung cancer. My father-in-law passed away in June – also of lung cancer. The two of them were my rocks – super supportive, always in my life, never treated me any different.

          EXH never made it back to New York State before they died. Lots of excuses. I personally think he got caught driving without insurance and a license. I know he never took care of switching his license over to the new state. For part of it I think he couldn’t come, that said maybe I’m trying to make sense as to why he didn’t. He truly is a shit.

          Now my son is with him for a visit – first time he seen him since July 2019. I helped him navigate and encouraged him to do all the things that he needed to do to be able to see our son. Even found him a place to get an instant test once he got here and did the three days quarantine. Did it for my son.

          My question is why can’t I stop wondering what they’re doing? Why am I so fixated? I know I was a great wife appliance and I know I wasted my life. I really want to life, I want friends. This was his Christmas to have our son. That said I offered for him to have him for the two weeks he is here. My son wanted to see his dad. It’s good for him. He can go to school from home – no in person until the 11th.

          I’m beyond myself depression, can somebody tell me how to stop caring? How to get through and get to the other side? I really do need advice. I’m at my end of my rope and I really don’t know what to do. I have tried working on the house, I have tried concentrating on my son (which I would have done anyways), I have tried therapy (just started up again – was afraid for myself when I started having bad thoughts). I don’t know what to do – any advice from people who been through it and made it to the other-side would be great. thanks

          • It’s not easy Silver and don’t put pressure on yourself. These things take time – I know it sounds cliche but it is true. You sound like you are doing all the right things, please keep doing them. A good therapist can help, but again, it takes time. The one suggestion I might add is to find some physical activity, get yourself physically tired so you sleep well at night. Eat healthy food. Keep a gratitude journal, trite but effective. Treat yourself with the tenderest of care – like you might have treated those in-laws you cherished. Keep coming here. I promise that it does get better.

          • Silver, I feel for you. It’s been a year for me and I still cry daily ( when I let myself ruminate ) – although I am feeling better in general. What helps me besides time, is remembering that there are chumps everywhere and I’m not special. There’s suffering everywhere – worse kinds and I try to work on gratitude for what I have.
            I’ve heard that making a list of all the things you didn’t like about the Ex or didn’t like about your relationship can be helpful to look at whenever you start focussing on the loss.
            Exercise and getting in nature is very helpful – anything that will give you endorphins. Mine literally replaced me and replaced kid for kid… but I try not to imagine that his life is all wonderful now because intuitively I know that that just wouldn’t be possible.
            Being as wonderful to yourself as you can be and helping other people helps lift our spirits.
            Plan A was a bust, so we have to go to Plan B.
            When your son is older you won’t have to help coordinate these activities and that will be easier on you as well.
            I get it, because I did all kinds of that stuff for the benefit of my kids with their dad. But it kind of keeps you in the wife role and that’s not great for moving on. The least contact you have with him the better.

            • Silver, – this blog has a lot of tips as well – even if your husband wasn’t a one day to the next runaway husband like mine.
              I feel funny giving you tips because I think I was asking for tips last week! Some days are worse than others… but we will get through this.

          • I am assuming the divorce is final. If not hopefully it soon will be.

            From my own situation all I can say is, you have to start filling your life with other activities and thoughts. It is hard as hell to do when you are devastated.

            I concentrated on my job at first. It was not a high paying job, barely above minimum wage; but it was secure and there was opportunity for the advancement I would need. So that was where I started. I would go to work, totally concentrate on my job, I also started taking college classes, one at a time. Then I would come home, shut the door and collapse into tears. Cry a while, then get up shower, go for a walk and do it all over the next day. After a while, I started feeling stronger and I could start to think clearly again sometimes.

            If you can find a group therapy that you could joint, that can be helpful. I took a six week session, that was reasonable priced and it helped me a lot to get out of my deep pit and start to move forward. Mine was Christian based, but I am sure there are others. Even my Christian based one did not focus on religion, it was definitely kind of a launching pad for those mired in pain. The focus was not on the marriage or the ex, but on getting us the tools we needed to rebuild our lives.

            I also, got a part time job where I worked two nights a week doing the office close out of a Lowes Contractor store. It provided me with some savings and it filled my time. I also had a friend who was a local Christian Radio DJ, she invited me out on several occasions and I even got some air time, announcing music and contests.

            These are just ideas, and likely you can think of things in your own situation that would be available.

            Just try very hard (and it is excruciatingly hard) not to let a dirt bag who has shown no regard for you, take away your joy in life.

            Stay on CN, get her books, and if you are not divorced from him, try to get that done assuming you are not under a support agreement that you need right now.

            Let us know how it is going. I don’t know your age, but since my marriage was 21 years at the discard time, (I was 40) I assume you are in mid forties give or take.. I know that it is harder as we get older to recoup, but don’t let anything stop you from trying.

            There is life after a cheater, and usually really good life.

            Oh and if you don’t already exercise, even if it is just walking. There is nothing like exercise; and it doesn’t have to be killer exercise, just keep moving as best you can.

            • I’m 58. August 10 of 2018 was the day he asked for a divorce (told me and his son he was offered a six figure job in Missouri – a stretch considering he hardly worked. Was a easy to spot lie.). I pushed legal separation to be signed 14 days later, held off giving him the ‘moving money’ until he signed divorce papers the lawyer could file. Six weeks later we were divorced. I was able to do this because my lawyer was the best (papers ready to sign in 5 days) and at our first meeting told me about and the book. I must have read it 40 times the first few months, if I was in the car I was listening, if I was alone I was listening.

              I’m proud of how I started but feel like I’ve more than stumbled in trying to get to meh. I’m not in the best of shape and I guess walking is something I can try to do maybe just at least getting out of the house would be helpful. In honesty it’s hard to get moving right now especially as my son isn’t here. I have no mom duties.

              I just keep asking God for one good thing — which is an improvement.

              I think one of the things my EXH took from me is true confidence, I’m a successful professional woman which is not how I feel inside. He also told me how disgusting/ fat f*ck I was. Of my 30+ years there were two 10+ years where he didn’t touch me. Didn’t matter how much weight I lost.

              • I am so sorry you are going through this. But, I know you will get through. If your son will be back, maybe that will help too. I am not clear if he is emancipated or still under your care.

                But, the other thing that I thought of was, if you can try not to focus on the “meh/destination” but instead focus on each small thing you can do. The only way I could deal, was to fill my mind with other things as much as I could, after I took my initial time to fall apart. I was in shock for a while, that helped. Plus and others don’t like the idea, but I went o Prosac for about six months. I had never done that before, but it helped me to restart and get a hold of my focus.

                I am not in anyway trying to minimize your pain, we all here know how horrendous it is, or at least have some idea.

                I was lucky in that my son was emancipated before I found out all this, and before he discarded me. I can’t imagine having to co parent like that. Those personal insults are beyond the pale, that is all on him.

              • Silver, of course you’re not healed, you’ve been in an abusive relationship and were body shamed, neglected and cheated on Eventually you will be happy to be rid of that abusive prick.
                Like Susie said, if you need to go on meds consider them. I would talk to your doctor and find a good therapist or online group if you haven’t already.
                A friend used to text me every day and just tell me to do the next right thing. That’s all I could do, getting out for a walk was usually my priority for the day but I couldn’t even do that in the beginning.
                Do whatever you can do for your mental health right now, and walking especially walking in nature it will really help.
                Don’t focus on your weight. There are places in the world where bigger people are revered. If it wasn’t your weight he would’ve criticized you for something else. Take care of your mental health as best you can now – The weight thing will sort itself out eventually. hugs.

              • Zip is right about the weight thing. If it wasn’t that, it would be something else. And may I just say, calling anyone “disgusting” or a “fat f*ck” is truly disgusting language.

                If you’re not feeling super confident in your body at the moment, take it easy and just focus on getting some movement in every day, you will start to rediscover the fun in movement and improve your fitness and stamina. I’ve been running an online flexibility class for friends with no background in sports and a range of body types. It’s been wonderful seeing them going from struggling to touch their toes to getting into some amazing bridges and even attempting splits! They’ve enjoyed it so far (going 10 months now!) and it’s been a really good social outlet for all of us. Perhaps there’s an online yoga group you could try? There’ll be lots of new people starting in the New Year – there always are! – so you won’t be the only one. I do a lot of sports and the wonderful thing is how welcoming & encouraging adult classes are at all levels and abilities.

                Growth-related hobbies are also good for the soul. Maybe you can’t resolve all the sadness and existential dread that comes with being cheated on in one fell swoop, but at least you can make this thing, paint this picture, grow this vegetable, right now. I do crochet and I grow in my allotment. I loved making little animal ornaments/ toys for Christmas, and I’m excited to plan my vegetable garden for this year. I also love reading – it transports me into another world and widens my own horizons.

                You can do it, Silver!

          • Dear Silver, you’ve accepted more responsibilites in one lifetime than you probably ever expected to. Your ex is a shit. You are golden. You’ve sustained very heavy losses in a very short period of time.
            I have been there – lost everything after 22 years. When I confronted exdickwad with evidence of affair(s) and maniupulations extraordinaire he put his hand on his hip, puffed himself up in his really nice business attire , went all snake eyes on me ” you know what Barbara, you should take a page out of all those self-help books beside the bed and forgive me” That’s the apology I got before he went scorched earth.
            I never knew him. This is absolutely devastating tofind out. And then you start finding out other things too.
            What I mean to say is please take care of yourself, take your time, read everything here. Slowly find out who your friends are. You may want to cut the ex out of your life and your son’slife (you’re lucky in a way if you can) – no contact. Lie low and create your own narrative. Healing takes a long time.
            You might try to remember who you were before – what your interests were, what you’d like to do.
            I started a new career at 55. I swore I would be the best boss I ever had, and I am. Its been 7 years and my life is very different with strong friendships and newly developed ties with children and grandchildren. But I went through hell to get here and I know it is possible.
            The biggest thing is to prtoect yourself. Protect your health, Go easy and give yourself good things. Try to divest yourself of some of the feelings of responsibility you’ve carried and been forced to carry. Invest all your beautiful energies in yourself! You will flourish… you will!!
            A new year is coming!

          • I have made it to the other side, but it has been a while now since I started my journey. My FW walked out the door November 2014. I was divorced by February 2015 just before my 30-year anniversary. Those first two years after he left were devastating for me. I even contemplated ‘not being around’ and my sons were very worried about me. So rather than doing something with disastrous consequences, I prayed and prayed. I kept putting my faith in My Almighty Father to get me through it all. People say, “Time heals all wounds.” It could have been time, or it could have been prayers. I choose to say it was my prayers being answered. I prayed for the hate and anger to be removed from my heart. I was certainly bitter for a long, long time. I wanted the FW and his skank to HURT. It was burning up within me and I did NOT like myself at all. I turned to several sources over the first 2 to 3 years; however, I believe it was my faith that got me through it all. A priest told me that whenever I thought of my ex (and I could only think ugly thoughts) that I was to picture both my ex and myself at the foot of the cross with Jesus placing one hand on my shoulder and his other on my ex’s shoulder covering us both with His sacred blood, and then I was supposed to ask for mercy for both myself and my ex. Initially I performed this exercise every few minutes, then just every couple of hours, then once a day, then once a week, then only a couple of times per month… Eventually I stopped having ugly thoughts about the ex. I also looked up what it means to forgive. The Catholic church said that I was to trust that God would handle it in His way and in His time. The Catholic church said that forgiveness does NOT mean reconciliation. In fact, it said that reconciliation might even be dangerous especially when the person that caused you the harm is unremorseful and could very well cause further harm. The Catholic church just said to trust God to handle it and not seek any vengeance. At first, I didn’t want to pray. I kept thinking that God wasn’t going to be hard enough on the FW and the skank. I wanted God to make them pay and I just knew God would be too merciful. But I FORCED myself to ask for mercy for both me and the ex, and I FORCED myself to not seek vengeance. I also took four years to figure myself out and I found explanations for the following: “What’s wrong with me?” “It was never me.” “Did he ever love me?” “What does forgiveness mean?” “Why did I allow it to happen?” “Not everything you love is good for you.” “I would rather live alone than go through such ugliness again.” “How do I love my enemy?” And after I did all that, I was able to let it all go. Truly. I was at Meh. And then, my youngest son decided not to have anything to do with me and I was back to hurting yet again. I found myself falling back into self-blame (similar to how I was conditioned for the FW) and I wanted to fix my relationship with my son by apologizing for ‘whatever I did wrong’. And when I realized what I was doing, I stopped. I figured that no matter what I did or didn’t do, I did not cause my son to react to me as he did. It was all on him. I went on to live my life. In both cases, my son and the FW are each in charge of what they do or don’t do. I have absolutely no control over anybody else but me. And though it hurts not to be in my son’s life, it was his choice. Someday he may regret it. Maybe not. Who knows? I seriously doubt the FW regrets any of his choices. It’s all about ‘him’ and that may be the same for my son. He’s very self-indulgent. However, there’s nothing I can do about it and I give it all up to God and continue praying for me to be the best person that I can be. I now pray for everyone. I forgive people for the wrongs that they’ve done to me, I pray for them (and myself) to be the best persons that they can be, and I have found lots of peace. I suggest you also pray. Don’t worry about fixing the relationship between your child and the FW. It’s his choice. If you give it to God to deal with it, you pray for the FW to be the best person that he can be, and you focus on being the best person that you can be, then I believe that you will find the peace of mind that you’ve been waiting on.

          • Hi silver anniversary
            I feel for you going through this horrendous journey. I too thought it would never end, I have 2 beautiful girls 8 and 12, who have saved me, I’m still not fixed 3 and half years on but I’m nearly there, keep fighting each day reach out to people even if it’s just Hi in the supermarket, even though you won’t feel it know it will get better just keep doing what you are doing keep the fuck wit no contact, I wish you love and happiness for the year to come

          • Do the exercises in “Dark Side of the Inner Child” by Wolinsky. It helped me figure out the reason I kept attracting emotionally unavailable men who could never meet my needs. It helped me see my FW for who he really was instead of the person he convinced our mutual friends he was. That got me over him finally.

        • Maybe “affairs don’t happen in happy marriages” is true because affairs *make* marriages unhappy by definition :/

          • Yep, many here including me can remember almost to the day when he changed and started the discard. Oh I didn’t know it was a discard, but in hindsight it was clear he is the one that changed.

            And through all his horrible treatment, I didn’t have an affair; wonder why that didn’t trigger an affair for me.

      • Hi Spinach. It struck me while reading your post how similar and unoriginal our exes are.
        Here are two sentences written in emails by the Worm (Ex)
        This was written about 6 months after I filed;
        “You claim to love me, and then waste no time knocking me down and tearing me apart. You have done this for years and years. And you wonder how things end up this way.
        I will not allow you to upset me, distract me, or denigrate me any longer.”

        This was written after I remarried;
        “There are not adequate words to apologize for my conduct and collapse toward the end of the marriage. It was my fault, and my actions were to blame. You tried hard to make things work, on many occasions, and I let many underlying issues, bad choices and pressures knock me off course. Again, it was my fault, and I am to blame for the choices I made and the damage I caused to people I cared for. I hope that I merit forgiveness someday.”

        I used to wonder how this cognitive dissonance could exist, easy to see how he drove me up the wall.
        You and Chumplady are so right. The only way to arrive at meh is to stop talking to crazy..

      • Spinach, yours and mine are truly cut from the same cloth. Except mine was never sad. He told our 20 year old that he violated my trust, not my sons’. Promised them their lives wouldn’t change, he’d be just a few miles down the road, he’d pay all of their expenses—clothing, college tours, college trips with friends. Well, until he realized he’d have less money to spend on the hooker, with “common tastes” that he wanted to spoil beyond her wildest dreams—trips to Tokyo, a new BMW, her childcare (because her children do not factor into his fantasy life with the heart of gold prostitute who only trades in kindness for kindness—at $500 a pop).

    • Don’t overgeneralize! There are definitely some of us here that didn’t even get an acknowledgement.

      The funny thing is, I was actually kind of sympathetic to my XW about it for a couple of years. At first I figured she couldn’t admit to anything because we live in an at-fault state. Then her AP’s divorce dragged on for a year past ours, so I thought she was just trying to protect him. Now we are four years out and she still denies the affair happened. It was always just image management. It is putting a significant crimp in my ability to trust her, because I know she can and will lie if it serves her purposes.

      • Yep. My STBX has rewritten the narrative to say that he didn’t cheat. This after major confessions of at least 13 years of serial cheating. It’s so frustrating!

    • I got all kinds of stuff but here’s some gems

      “This needed to happen to know I wasn’t perfect” WTH?
      “I was hurting” (You’d think she was being beaten or treated terribly- she was not)
      “I’m an only child”
      “My dad…(insert daddy sob story)”
      “I made a mistake” (Mistake (singular) is used here to sum up at least two APs, 4 yrs of cheating)
      “I lied to protect you”
      “You paid too much attention to your phone”
      “I think it’s because I stopped getting to play music”

      Another gem that’s embedded in my brain
      “My divorce friends love it because they can actually get a break” – Apparently getting to spend every day with your little kids and a devoted spouse is a burden

      Every single action of hers was because I did something- blame shifting. When she got caught with her second AP, I didn’t even confront her. She just knew I had seen her so what did she do? Her AP got her to call the cops and then file an EPO (which she later dropped- the biggest betrayal I’ll never get over). This is despite not a single word being said to her. Imagine doing this to your spouse and then trying to come back five or six months later.

    • Ha! I got “I take full responsibility for my actions…but you drove me to it.”

  • “f you ask me, there are more bitter people staying married to cheaters than there are people divorced from them. The bitterness comes from not living out their values, from being disappointed that all their efforts at being magnanimous were not sufficiently appreciated. There is resentment. ”

    True this! I lived with anger and resentment for years, me trying to save a broken marriage and trying to fix him. It was killing me inside. The best thing I did for me was divorce him and go NC. I don’t want revenge. I want my life back. I also don’t want to waste one second more on him, I’ve given up enough o time and energy. So yes, people think I am unforgiving because I don’t want to be in the same room, but those people have no idea what I went through for 20 years. I’m okay with that.

    • My wife did that. Forgave her now XH many times for cheating and 4 DUI’s. She regrets it. Wasted many years being bitter. She told me “I should have divorced him the first time”.

      • Sir, I’ve yet to come across any betrayed spouse who has said they were glad they stuck it out after discovering an affair. What I’ve read and who I’ve heard from, it always goes the same way- they cheat again, so you’re just back to where you started except you’re now older.

        They do not change.

    • Right there with you.

      Five years out. I got my life back and I absolutely don’t think about him except when I need to in regards to our almost adult son.

      Michael Franti’s “Hey, hey, hey” became (still is) my song-mantra when I left him. I don’t waste a single day. Not any more.

      Hugs, and Happy New Year!

    • How many more years did you stay? I don’t think I could have got over it. I tried to save my marriage for three months post D-Day, we were separated and she would not stop lying and going with the AP so I filed for divorce and never looked back while she has repeatedly tried to come back when she’s rejected by her AP BF. I told her she couldn’t be trusted to even go to the grocery store because she’s a pathological liar and she said “You can put a tracker on my car.” LOL. Who would want to live like that?

      You can never feel safe again.

  • It’s not that different from what I was saying on the previous thread. Forgiveness is personal, it’s a process, it takes time, and you can go back and forth a lot.

    Unlike Archbishop Tutu, I don’t think it requires acknowledgement by the offender, because I will die of old age long before my offenders ever acknowledge anything.

    But there are people I have forgiven, according to the long and complicated Enright-Fitzgibbons model of forgiveness. It’s been really freeing.

    Fairy dust forgiveness, on the other hand, is absolutely for shit. Nothing could be further from real forgiveness. It’s about silencing you, not healing you.

  • Thank you Chump Lady! I discovered your site on Christmas Day and can’t imagine a better gift subscription for my first Christmas without STBXH. Your writing style is fantastic, and content is exactly what I needed to read. FOO was chump boot camp 101. I still have so much to untangle myself from, I am such a narc magnet. Your advice is quite applicable outside the realm of domestic affairs. Your non-nonsense posts are quite the vaccine, with superb références. I’ll come and get my regular boost on my way to forgiveness, aka meh ????????????

  • I have three friends who have stayed in their marriages after infidelity. I sadly have many more that did not.

    Of the three who stayed, none has what I want in a relationship. I don’t see forgiveness. I see festering wounds and my friends living with anxiety and depression, requiring big daily doses of denial, living anesthetized on some level. Fifteen years later, one cheater snaps at his wife to let it go whenever the wound acts up, instead of taking the opportunity to tell her how sorry he is, which to me would be the very least he could do upon arising every morning for the rest of his life.

    I think of the scene in Animal House when John Belushi smashes the guitar at the toga party and mutters an offhand apology. It works as a joke because it’s so obviously insincere. But it doesn’t work in real life, when infidelity is the weapon used against a betrothed, for the very same reason.

    The intentionality of everything associated with affairs is what makes continuing to live with a cheater absolutely impossible for me. I had a MIRAGE, not a marriage, and once denial is broken the only way to stay in the relationship (IMHO) is to try to go back into denial.

    As I said yesterday, I forgive like a bank forgives a loan. They let you keep the money, and they will never loan you any more.

    • Anger and hatred are the pain associated with this wound, like the physical pain that accompanies a physical injury. I recognize anger and hatred as Olympic level pain, fear, and frustration. Even Jesus got angry and I am a far lesser spiritually evolved human. Buddhist principles help me with those thoughts and feelings as well.

      The three year anniversary of DDay just passed, and waves of anger and hatred still come in.

      I breathe through it and use my spiritual program to help me stand down and let it pass through me. I also hate feeling hatred and am angry feeling angry. But I denied my feelings to stay in that relationship for 27 years….part of my recovery now is to accept those feelings and be with them…to learn how to embrace and express them. I was NOT ALLOWED to have those feelings growing up and IT HANDICAPPED ME and primed me for disastrous choices. I’ve noticed a wave lasts about twenty minutes. I say out loud I AM SO ANGRY. I HATE HIM. I HATE HER. That’s the TRUTH about how I feel and I am DONE with LYING about how I feel. And then, like a thunderstorm, it goes away.

      Years ago I was on a trip in the Eastern Sierras and was lying on a bench at the Bristlecone pine forest. At that elevation I noticed little clouds forming and then dissipating.
      (By the way, if Barbara Walters ever asks me what kind of tree I would be, it would be a bristlecone pine. They only grow under the harshest conditions….and are some of the hardiest and oldest trees on the planet….)

      I feel much less of that anger and hatred than I did in the beginning. I can laugh now. I can sing. (Billie Holiday said she couldn’t sing a note while she was in jail. Being able to sing is a sign of healing). “They” and what they did does not occupy my mind 24/7 anymore. I recognize my thoughts and feelings as symptoms of a massive traumatic injury and when symptoms present themselves it’s my signal that I need to respond with my emotional first aid kit.

      In my experience, trying to avoid and deny how I feel causes massive problems and all kinds of goofy sublimated sideways behavior…and that avoiding and denying how I felt is the very thing that led me to choose him and stay with him.

      I hope to avoid a repeat of what I am going through now, so acknowledging and accepting how I really feel and practicing responding appropriately, learning how to express those formerly denied and labeled as bad/unacceptable is key for me.

      • I’m really glad you made this comment. I see myself in it. This happens to me a lot on this site, for which I’m grateful. I just have to quote some fave bits here.

        >>I was NOT ALLOWED to have those feelings growing up and IT HANDICAPPED ME and primed me for disastrous choices.

        >>In my experience, trying to avoid and deny how I feel causes massive problems and all kinds of goofy sublimated sideways behavior…and that avoiding and denying how I felt is the very thing that led me to choose him and stay with him.

      • Velvet, what is your emotional first aid kit?
        I just read or heard or maybe it was even on this site – the angrier you get it’s based on the love that you felt – we cared.

    • Velvet Hammer – yes!!

      “I had a mirage, not a marriage”

      This. Nailed it.

  • Adult daughter stated, “He said you never forgave him for cheating.” The consequences catch up to them sooner or later and are in fact a reflection of how they lived. Still there’s an expectation that I should care about his poor health, financial losses, and loss of health insurance when I retire.

    Nope. Don’t care.

    • Good for you. Your daughter is welcome to care. That doesn’t oblige you to care as well. Walk out on the marriage, or violate the agreement that is the foundation of the relationship, lose the partner. That’s the reality, and it’s fair.

  • The following helps me, but it doesn’t help everyone, and it’s frequently unpopular as a result. I always add it when we talk about forgiveness, specifically because it’s my personal lifesaver and may help others. YMMV. If it doesn’t work for you, move on to what does.


    The cowardly liar admitted zero wrongdoing. Even if he had, it wouldn’t have been believable, because he is a cowardly liar.

    When a financial lender ‘forgives’ a debt, it stops trying to collect, but it also forever recognizes that the debt was never paid. It recognizes the borrower as a bad risk and doesn’t lend to that borrower again. It writes off the bad debt on the books and puts it in the historic record. It releases the obligation, stops requesting adherence to the original agreement, and refuses to join in any more agreements with a borrower that isn’t trustworthy. It doesn’t let the borrower pay years later and get their good standing back. It holds the borrower accountable and refuses a continued relationship on any terms.

    In the wake of some pivotal advice I received, the forgiveness I summoned to get to meh was this. “What you want is never coming, Amiisfree. Cut your losses, ask for nothing more, accept nothing more, believe nothing more, and move on. Remember this experience, always, and refuse to extend any more risk, any more giving, any more agreements. Cut the loss, walk away, permanently, always knowing the debt remains and will never be paid, and walk into the future with a better understanding of how to calculate risk in a scenario like this. You’ll recover and grow stronger with your attention off this debt and on better business. Move on, now.”

    Forgiveness, for me, isn’t about him at all. It isn’t about being emotionally ok with a shred of his shit behavior. It doesn’t even matter how he feels about it. Forgiveness, for me, is 100% about not asking for or accepting any further outreach or connection from a person I’ve decided is no longer worthy of interacting with me or being in my life. It’s the ultimate “meh”.

    I still have plenty of feelings about what happened, and I still feel strongly that his abuse is 100% unacceptable. I just feel it as my own life experience without giving him actual bandwidth. He’s irrelevant in my life now. To me, he’s more like the car that hit my car than like the driver who drove into my car. He’s the debt that wasn’t paid, not the debtor who didn’t pay it. An object that harmed me, not an entity who is in a position to hurt me.

    Something to try on, maybe, to see if any parts of it work for you.

    **(((Amiisfree squints and waits for someone to say she’s condoning bad behavior and letting the cheater off the hook, which is absolutely not what she believes is true)))**

    • Wow. This hit me really hard. It’s been three years and I’m still so angry I can’t co parent with him most days. This is something I need to really sit with and absorb. Thank you for sharing.

      • If any part of it helps, I’ll be glad of it! I often find that part of absorbing and processing can be disagreeing that leads me to a new option I hadn’t seen before.

        However it settles in your experience, I hope the outcome of the absorbing adds peace to your heart. ????????

      • Not sure if this helps, but have you heard of ‘parallel parenting’? The children basically learn there are two different sets of rules/ ways of being in each home and by the parents not attempting to co-parent it minimises their exposure to parental conflict.
        I’m only mentioning it because, at this stage, I’ve recognised my attempts to co-parent with my ex (and the now pregnant shmoopie) have generally been used as opportunities to denigrate, abuse and belittle me. I still communicate with him about my son’s needs, but it’s more a delivery of information than an attempt to work together.

        • I think a lot of us on this site have discovered co-parenting is impossible. I wouldn’t even describe my experience as parallel parenting. I parent. My EX dodges, weaves, brags, complains, abandons, ignores, and occasionally waxes faux nostalgic about how much he loves the kids.

          • “I parent, hold my child accountable and worry when he becomes a pothead and doesn’t apply himself at school. His Disney Dad/Uncle Dad co-signs for a motorcycle”
            One parent actually parents whilst the other bails and criticizes.

          • Haha yes! I love your ‘I parent’ statement. Cheaters lack the basic foundation of empathy to do any real parenting. None of their relationships are immune to their bs behaviours.

    • It works for me, Ami, and I like your comparison with the bank. To use the same, if your accountant was defrauding you for years or decades. perhaps spent most of your money and once discovered, cried and begged for forgiveness, would you still continue to have him/ her as your accountant? I hope nobody is that stupid even if I didn’t report the fraud to the police (forgave the accountant).

      I struggled with the question of forgiveness for a long time. I’m an atheist and for me there’s no God and afterlife who’ll take care of those who’ve wronged me. But recently, I’ve come to the important insight. I need to focus on myself, not other people. See, I wrote “focus”, not even “love” or “like”. I need to focus on what I like, dislike, need, don’t need, endure, want, wish, enjoy, love etc. As long as you’re angry/ really bitter about somebody, you’re still focusing on them, not yourself. They don’t deserve your time. They don’t deserve your attention. They don’t deserve this centrality. You deserve your own attention, focus, care, love, respect and so on. When you do, they become irrelevant and can do whatever they want, it’s no longer your business, they’re now in rear mirror. You have no more time to waste on others.

      I don’t give a shit for remorse or desire for forgiveness, even if they’re genuine. No words or tears can erase the past, hurt, pain, disappointment. Most of you have been cheated on for a long time. If they cared about your pain they wouldn’t have hurt you. They wouldn’t continue to lie and deceive for years and decades. How can any words or tears remedy lost time, money, feelings? I don’t want to spend any more of my time and attention on these shitty people, in whatever way they’re shitty. And I’ve started to feel that this is probably what they call forgiveness, and this is probably what they call “loving yourself”.

      • Persephone, I agree completely! Since D-day, 3 months ago, my husband has cried, begged, and said he is sorry about a million times. Once, he even said, ” what a nice weekend”, when I agreed, just to shut him the hell up, (as I am making plans to leave), he said he hoped it was good enough to make up for what he did!!??!! Dear god, one weekend to make up for 10 years of fucking me over.. Did you not believe me 12 years ago, when I gave you a second chance, but said never again? He actually said he was willing to risk it…. cheating on me repeatedly! I am so out of here and hoping for Tuesday!

    • That’s so useful Amiisfree! I’ve had a hard time with the concept of forgiveness and this makes great sense to me. In my despair and grief on DDay I begged my husband to apologize because he was being so cruel to me. Like, he kept saying “quit crying, the neighbors will hear you” and yelling “why are you vomiting you are so overly dramatic!”
      He finally said, “fine, I’m sorry you feel this way. But didn’t you notice our marriage was over? What did you think I was out there doing?” He was so hideous. Then, a few months later when we were at the bank he said, “this marriage break up is all on you. This is your fault. I tried to make things work and you didn’t.” I was so shocked I nearly fainted. This, after he’d previously confessed to 13 years of cheating. It was so awful and it shows you how strong the blame shifting has been. The Desmond Tutu part about accepting responsibility was not there and never will be for me! So, this story about writing off bad debt is good for people like me. Thanks ????

      • “It’s not what I have done – it’s your reaction to it that’s the real problem.”

        DARVO in five, four, three, two …

    • I really loved this the first time I saw it, and I still love it.

      It’s a great basic primer in reframing a situation that will otherwise engulf you.

      And it requires a really solid first painful step towards letting go.

    • Love this so much I too think of forgiveness the same way-thanks for putting it in words.

  • Forgiveness is yet another burden foisted onto the chump while the cheater sits back and waits for it to happen and chastises the chump when it’s not on the cheater’s terms. Par for the course when you’re in a relationship with a cheater.

    • Cheaters only want forgiveness to ease their burden and for their image. If you forgive, then it washes away everything they did in their mind. Nope.

  • The “Just get over it” stuff from some really chaps my hide. I get it if it’s been decades but it takes some gall to say that to someone a year or few out (or even less) considering this person turned your life upside down and altered the lives of your children and ultimately defrauded you. You better believe you should be mad. You don’t have to keep that pain (it often diminishes due to no contact and time) but this person is certainly an enemy to you.

    My ex likes to routinely say “It’s your choice to not forgive.” This is a popular statement she says when I reject her attempts at reconciliation. She thinks saying sorry and blame shifting me makes it all go away- never mind she never stopped the cheating (with at least two men over four years) and has been in an on again/off again dysfunctional relationship with the exit AP. Why would I forgive you when you keep doing the same sin over and over again? That’s not repentance. I begged this woman for three months to stop her affair (the one I knew about, didn’t know the one that started years before) and she could not have been more cruel or showed less concern for me or the family. So I show her the same empathy she showed me.

    I’d like to not give this person centrality in my life but she has been a nightmare throughout the discovery and divorce process- lying is like oxygen to her, and she doesn’t hesitate to manufacture hoaxes with kids or create drama. I’d simply like to move on with the new life I’m creating but she doesn’t want to relinquish her perceived control.

    • “It is your choice not to forgive.” God bless you, Mills, for not punching her in her sanctimonious face, multiple times.

    • Yes, it is your choice, and it’s absolutely the right one. Tell her that when she trots out that line.
      What an arrogant POS!

    • Sounds familiar. My STBX blames me for everything- including his serial cheating. He actually said it’s my fault he cheated with hookers because I don’t like to be chained up and whipped. I pointed out that the hookers are getting paid. He said that they do get paid but they love it-and I’m lame in bed because I don’t love it. You can’t make this shit up! During the DDay process I kept trying to find sneaky ways to audio record some of the hideous things he was saying. It was like the was possessed. He had blank eyes and he would just roll on with the blame, one thing after another. Now, 18 months later, I get letters from his lawyer with the same blaming tactics. You can’t reason with someone like that who has control over a sick narrative with strong magical thinking. It’s insanity!

      • No offense to anyone here but any time I see people into chains and whips, I just think of serial killers. Thankful that I am boring, apparently. LOL

        I’ve done the audio recording thing. I wish adultery was like a criminal case where you can present it like a criminal trial, power point, timelines, etc. It would be a hoot to show how deranged and how much they lie.

        But anyway, back to the last part- not being able to reason with them. Amen to that. You can’t reason with crazy and you can’t have an honest discussion with dishonest people. Negotiating with them is a nightmare. They’re entitled and nuts.

        What’s one of the oddest things though with my ex is the dragging the feet to divorce and not wanting to divorce. Keep in mind, she and the AP got together afterward and she was in no hurry to divorce despite the messages to him talking about wanting to have a baby with him and how much she loved him. Even before I started dating, I have been trying to get divorced and have kept trying to push it forward but between her and a worthless attorney I recently fired, it has dragged out. But if you’re so in love with your AP, why did you do nothing to hurry and end this crap? LOL

        Good riddance.

        • Mills, same here. My STBX is not participating in the separation at all. I’ve tried like hell to buy him and out get rid of him. If he wanted me gone, then why the hell won’t he end it? I’m assuming he just wants it all on his terms. It sucks

        • Mills,

          If you haven’t already, please check out

          It is Bill Eddy’s website. He is a lawyer who educates other lawyers and us regular folks about how to deal with high conflict personalities in a range of situations.

          Bill has books on Cluster B’s and divorce
          (narcissists, people with BPD, sociopaths etc)

          This will give insight and armour. And make sure your next lawyer has working knowledge of this material with strategic questions of your own.

          Good luck

        • I concur on the lies. Since the mask slipped and I’ve seen my STBXW for what she really is, the lies are non stop and no doubt always were. I truly thought I was having early dementia in my 20’s and early 30’s due to her and what I now know is gaslighting. I’m in my 30’s and talking to friends about things that happened over twenty years ago I can remember words said and they agree I’ve a good memory. Yet somehow with her I was blasted with “I told you weeks ago”, “you don’t remember things how they really happened “, “you only hear what you want to hear”. Gaslighting 101.
          I remember full well the things she says and does and I have tons of her written words that suddenly become a different version of events. She slips up on her stories non stop now when I have to encounter her. Pathological liar is all she is. I called her a liar one day and she stated she is not a liar. Called her a whore after discovering the cheating with near 20 men and she stated she was not a whore. I’d love to know what her definition of a loose woman is as it don’t match that of 99% of other peoples.

          • That gaslighting is the worst, and as it reveals itself to you it gets worse and worse. My ex was a master. It started very early in our marriage, and I didn’t even realized it until we divorced. Then it hit me in waves.

            The woman my ex was committing adultery with was definitely a whore, even in the strictest definition of terms. She was getting money and gifts from him in exchange for sex. That is the very definition of a whore. And that made him a whore monger. He married his whore, and she drug him right down to her level. I assume he enjoyed the ride, but it was a clear free fall.

            Unfortunately I unwittingly helped pay for her gifts, rent etc.

          • Dude, don’t feel bad. I watched my now ex wife kiss another man. I saw it with my own eyes and she then put doubt in my mind and claiming she didn’t. She was good at lying. She got me to doubt my own eyes. LOL

            Yeah, my ex has called my new GF “disgusting s___” which is rich coming from someone who cheated on her husband with another married man and then with a high school flame who had a girlfriend. Like your ex, mine has no self awareness and lying is like oxygen to her.

          • Chumpy-on the dementia thing. Get this – I actually went to my doctor and asked her if she could evaluate me for early onset dementia. I was 49 at the time and I was convinced that something was really wrong with me. She’s a very experienced doctor and she actually asked me, “do you think your husband could be playing mind games with you?” I was outraged! She told me that I should pay closer attention, just in case that was happening. I felt like she blew me off that day. But, I did what she said and I started paying closer attention. Like, my husband’s favourite gaslighting was needing to leave the house last minute on a Friday or Saturday night when we had said we would stay home and watch a family movie or something. He’d be up in the bedroom getting dressed up to go out, I’d be in my lounge pants. I’d ask, “Where are you going? We’re watching a family movie tonight.” Then the hideous look would come on his face and he’d say, “You forgot. Again! I TOLD YOU I was going out. Oh my god. Something is wrong with you!” And then I’d feel bad, and worried that I had dementia. But, after the doctor said to pay attention, I started fighting back. I’d say, “No, you didn’t tell me.” And as the fight would go on I’d say, “I want you to tell me exactly when you told me, where I was standing, what time of day it was, what I was wearing and exactly what you said.” The more I pushed, the more enraged he became over time, and his gaslighting tactics got more clever. That was what my year preceding DDay was like. It was horrible and confusing and really abusive. My brains were scrambled. As if the cheating isn’t bad enough!

    • Mills – I am SOOO with you on this! I wish I could find a group of chumps near me so we could meet up, swap stories, and validate the hell out of each other. I love my friends, but no one wants to hear it anymore. It’s been 4 years since he left and 18 months since we divorced. But we were married for 17 years, together for 20 and had two kids. He never acknowledged a thing he did. But he’s sure spent a lot of time raging at what a terrible person I am. He spread lies about me even before he told me he was leaving. He hurt our children with lies and false promises, then blamed me for the fallout. He used his family’s money to hire the best lawyers and stopped depositing his pay into our account. I was a stay at home mom, supporting his career every step of the way. Now I can’t find a job and my future is uncertain. He makes 6 figures, and his AP is a millionaire trust-fund baby. They’re currently building a 5 bedroom mansion in a prestigious gated community. So…

      I hate his evil soul, and I will never, ever forgive him. He warrants my forgiveness like a serial killer does from his victims. If anyone else had done this to me, my anger and resentment would seem normal, even 4 years later. But because it was my husband, I’m supposed to accept and move on. What kind of ass backwards logic is that?

      • That’s a hard one to swallow. Maybe the peace of mind and not being tied to an evil POS is the prize. Maybe the karma bus hits down the road, at least in some capacity where you can take satisfaction.

        But seriously, it make look like they’re rolling cause of finances and honestly, that crap only goes so far. My ex has cost me thousands of dollars, likely thousands more, but you know what’s amazing? Not coming home to her every day and having to live in a pigsty cause she’s lazy as hell. I’ll take the peace over the money.

  • Speaking of Desmond Tutu – I am currently reading ‘The Book of Joy’ by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Although I’m becoming Self helped out, it’s a good read IMO.

    Mine did admit wrongdoing weeks after the initial BRUTAL sudden discard – but it was things like ‘I should’ve told you I was unhappy,’ “I should’ve told you I no longer felt the same way and we could’ve both decided what we wanted to do about that.’
    It felt like blame shifting and it felt very insulting – like he should’ve told me that he just wanted to swap me out for somebody else who just happens to be 15 or more years younger. Regardless of an affair, it feels emotionally violent if your partner all of the sudden chimes in with ‘I’m really not happy I want to leave you’ ( as he did shortly before Dday), if you’ve had nothing but positive feedback all along.
    So I got more of an apology than most, and a lot of what looked like true remorse – but he stayed with the OW and her kids – and my children and I were deeply scarred.
    It feels like sorry but not sorry …. if they stay with the cheating partner and don’t even attempt RIC ( which I’m learning through the site maybe in hindsight was a better thing for me long-term ).

    • “Regardless of an affair, it feels emotionally violent if your partner all of the sudden chimes in with ‘I’m really not happy I want to leave you’ ( as he did shortly before Dday), if you’ve had nothing but positive feedback all along.”

      Yep, it is never easy, but they spend a lot of time betraying you, then come up with a oops, my bad; then dump you anyway. Reality is they just want to try out their new life and make sure it is a comfy fit before they jump in with both feet. cheaters are notorious for needing a soft landing.

      While I was going through hell, looking around and trying to figure out what the hell happened, he was nestled softly in his new bed with the new warm body.

      I know it was better for you and me that they didn’t do the fake RIC thing; but it is still a blow to the psyche.

      • I feel you Susie Lee. Mine sort of seemed possibly interested in not really leaving (after he already left). But he had a list of reasons why he wasn’t “in love with” me anymore and another list of demands that he expected of me before he would discuss reconciling. (This was all before I understood that he was having a years-long affair. He still hasn’t admitted it, and we’ve been divorced for 18 months.) Anyhow, he never gave me the satisfaction of the truth, an apology, a real attempt at reconciling, or even a morsel of dignity, respect, or empathy. This from a man who, for 15 years, called me his princess, his best friend, and the greatest mother and wife in the world.

        The damage this does is indescribable. I have lived through physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. I know trauma and pain. And yet this was the worst thing I have ever experienced. It’s been 4 years, and I still can’t understand why he never even tried. I no longer wish I was dead, and I don’t cry all the time anymore, but there’s a sadness rooted so deep inside me that it weighs down even the very happiest moments of my life. ????

        You’re not alone.

  • “ It doesn’t let the borrower pay years later and get their good standing back. It holds the borrower accountable and refuses a continued relationship on any terms.”

    Very well put. Evidently, my considering retirement has triggered concern over a loss of health benefits for the Limited who isn’t doing well physically and I imagine mentally as well. He’s been putting off marriage to Nanthony now for almost 7 years using benefits as an excuse. He chose his landing and the consequences aren’t mine to own.

  • For me forgiveness requires someone to atone but my ex simply doesn’t care how much he hurt me . He doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong he simply fell in love with someone else while he was married to me and his reply would be well shit happens get over it .

    He doesn’t want nor will he ( or his OWife) get any forgiveness from me .
    Doesn’t mean to say I’m not working hard to get to Meh but that’s for me not them .

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I honest to god can’t see what consequences his cheating and ultimate abandonment has caused him.
    Yeah I know he doesn’t get me but that’s why he had an affair and abandoned me as he didn’t want me .
    All his shitty choices have left me with all the consequences and again I can’t forgive that.

    • “All his shitty choices have left me with all the consequences and again I can’t forgive that.”

      This! Really your entire post sums this gross insult to hideous injury up perfectly. Where are the consequences for the perpetrators of this offense?

    • I get it Karen. My cheating ex went to a younger woman, kept about 70% of our assets and stole jewellry etc. Our kids still have a relationship with him( reduced though it is he wouldn’t see it that way because it’s all image management to him). Very little in the way of consequences. It burns after 36 years of working together to get where we were. In the end I paid more than he should have gotten just to finally be rid of his toxic ass( I’m sure the story to his new host( as in a parasite needs a host) was very different. I still get angry but mostly it’s not my circus or my monkey.

  • I wish that all of us Chumps who wrestle with forgiveness, could first of all forgive ourselves. We are so trained to pour the balm of forgiveness on every needy person around us, but I think we need it first for ourselves. And that it takes some time to even recognize that.

    On Dday, or some time later, when the explosion was over, I jumped into action researching options to help my husband. I was so damaged, like the accident victim who doesn’t realize his leg is torn off, that I staggered along bleeding out and being helpful, just like the good folks in the RIC want you to do. Being fed a thousand lies by my husband, and when I caught him in them, hearing him tell me smugly that I left light on when I left a room and that was just as hurtful and disrepectful as his lies. Neither of us perfect, and all that. The therapist discussing my codependency while my husband watched with glittering eyes, like an assassin.

    I am working on my exit plan, and right now just enduring and working on forgiveness. For my mother, the daughter of the most malevolent person I ever knew, who survived her childhood by becoming a narcissist. For myself, for the overcompensating empathy that left a blood trail for a predator to track me down, for all the times I should have stood up for myself and didn’t, for being a patsy to a man with the heart of a shark, for not knowing. Forgivable? Don’t know yet.

    For the RIC, who knowingly built an empire on the backs of suffering women and children, there is no forgiveness. If Patrick Carnes crawled into my oasis with his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, I would say the name of the child who had to live with her rapist father because he engineered a mother-blaming reconciliation, and pour a glass of water into the sand in front of him. Not everything in this world deserves forgiveness. For my husband, I hope to one day have moved on so far that all this is just a memory. Forgiveness? Don’t know. And don’t care.

    • ????

      After about a year or so, I quit imagining him floating face down in the Ohio River. That is good enough for me. The person who still lives has no resemblance to the person who I thought I knew, or who likely only existed in my mind.

      • Exactly my thoughts too, Susie Lee. What lives on is not what I was married to. So it goes. This is why grieving this kind of pain is like dealing with the death of a loved one.

  • I love this line!! “(…) there are more bitter people staying married to cheaters than there are people divorced from them.”

  • Acknowledge that he did something wrong? That he did bad? That he was at fault? Bwahahahahaha!
    Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen.

    I feel no obligation to forgive XAss of the many many transgressions, known and unknown, he has made against his family. I do, however, feel an obligation to forgive myself for those bad choices I made, and for staying far longer than I ever should have. And I have done so.

    But as far as XAss, he is just no longer a consideration I need to make in order to maintain my personal peace.

  • You can feel it in your gut that cheaters don’t feel real remorse.

    Generally all they really want is for you to shut up about it, and never mention their betrayal ever again, AND treat them like a great man/woman.

    Not happening.

    Thanks CL for your excellent summary.

  • Forgiveness I have found to be therapeutic. After many years of hating and wishing that my cousin would suffer. I realized that holding on to the hate and bitterness was not good for my soul. I sent her a message from an old Facebook account. I told her that I forgave her not to make her feel better. But, for myself. I told her that I will never forget what she did. And said that I hope that she learned a hard lesson. And if any other married man asks her out she will think who she will be hurting. That dating a married man usually does not end well. I asked her not to contact me. And I promised her I would never contact her again. I did see that she read it and I deactivated the account. Let Karma come to her door. But, I still refer to her as Skankella LOL. She did not deserve my forgiveness.

  • Trying to forgive someone who is actively hurting you may be next to impossible. “It’s hard to forgive someone who is still standing on your foot.” (Unknown.) Accepting cheating as abuse helped me view my situation differently & then to act differently.

    When I looked at it as abuse, I then could imagine a child, being physically abused by a parent. Of course the child loves the parent, and is confused by the abuse, and wishes desperately for the abuse to stop. The child may learn to avoid the parent, thus trying to separate physically and emotionally from the parent. How could the child even be close to forgiving the abuser until the abuse stops? And then it would still take a lifetime to process those damaging events.

    The focus for me then became: “Am I safe? Am I safe financially? Am I safe physically? Am I safe emotionally?”

    Going to free attorney consultations to check how safe my financial situation is (should he be arrested!) & the options available to me. Then, WTF? Why am I at an attorney?

    Going to my GYN and asking for STD testing. Then, WTF? Why am I needing to ask for STD testing?

    Emotionally, beginning to realize that the cheater did not care about the things I cared about, oh, such as our disabled son’s medical appointments, college loans for the other almost adult children, helping them master the last jump into full, responsible adulthood. Then, WTF? Why am I spoon feeding all the important stuff to the cheater? Why doesn’t he participate and ask about it?

    And also, what else don’t I know about the cheater’s secret life? I learned bits & pieces through some trickle truth & some credit card statements. I had to accept there was so much I wouldn’t know. Then, WTF? This is like getting emotionally attached to a criminal (like those women who write to men in prison!) – I know enough to know that he did things that were directly opposed to monogamy and he HID them – but what else is there and why am I trying so hard to be a good friend and wife to him?

    The steps I had to take to be safe in my life meant that I had to separate from the cheater. I moved out. The divorce is in process. I honestly haven’t thought too much of forgiveness. I don’t wish him harm, but I sure don’t want to be connected to him anymore.

    I once read that a simple definition of love is to wish good for the other person. Right now I feel “fairy dust love” – very general good wishes for him, mainly because I would not want to see my children hurt or embarrassed to see him go downhill. Kind of the same good wishes I would have for the convenience store attendant or the neighbor 3 houses down, and easy for me to say as long as I am not called to actually act on it.

    The cheater had often told me that “I feel like you haven’t forgiven me.” I suspect cheaters have their own unique definition of forgiveness just like they seem to have a different type of conscience.

    • Congratulations – well done – keep putting one foot in front of the other.

      Just getting through the divorce is enough to be handling right now.

  • Perhaps it’s my pettiness…perhaps my flaws are too ingrained in my being
    ..perhaps the vileness of the offense is a constant reminder of how I let my guard down…perhaps it’s a lot of things. My unresolved emotional business won’t allow me, even 30 odd years later, to hand either of us the prize of forgiveness. When I get a trigger or when in my rare moments of solitude my mind rolls the film it created all that time ago or when I bump into the low life AP and no words exchange just a knowing and intentional smirk shoots my way , I feel why forgiveness is off the table
    Will I always feel like this? To some degree yes…. I wouldn’t offer anything to him
    .. I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire…he never stopped fucking vulnerable married women to this day he’s at it and pushing 70. I can barely forgive myself let alone a disgusting disgrace of a human. Sorry for the bitterness

    • Friend, This is the place where you can be bitter and you don’t have to apologize for it because we understand.

      • Thank you NewBeinnings. I re-read what I had written and sadly I focused too much on the AP and not the true culprit XW

          • Yep. I thought the other day when I was going through old pictures, I found on of the ex FW in his uniform. I remembered the day he got his promotion, and I pinned his bar on. I was given credit as well, and that was only right. I worked with him side by side for many year, not only in supporting him; but I also openly supported the mayor; and I did so because I thought he was the best choice.

            Then it struck me, well I was there for the promotion, as I helped him get there, I wonder if schmoops was there for the defrocking as she helped him get there. Like it or not she drug him right down to her level in many more ways than his promotion and standing in the community. Yes he eagerly went for the ride, but she was indeed a part of it.

            • Susie, they suck so much. I remember sarcastically asking my cheater if he and the 0W shed a tear when they got together to discuss the fact that I found out about their affair. They did. They. Fake. Cried. Together. Over. My. Pain. I can just imagine all the drama “I have to see you now, she found out that I’m not just leaving her because she folds her socks differently.”
              Then the two of them consoling each other saying how they never meant for this monumental ecstatic wuv to happen – at the expense of two families. But they don’t want to hurt anyone….blah blah blah
              Where is our CL sitcom?

  • Thank you for this post today, CL. It would have been the wedding anniversary with my exH, but the divorce was finalized in April.

    Last year, I made a big deal to self-soothe during this time by planning a solo trip, as I knew my exH was going to be spending the holidays (and our anniversary) with the exit OW in her home country. We were in the middle of divorce proceedings, and I definitely had not detached. (To be honest, I really had a total mindfu*ck at the thought of my husband spending our 12th wedding anniversary with another woman.) Anyhow, I decided to travel to Budapest and Vienna. It was my first solo travel ever, and I had the best time. What stuck out to me was my ability to explore and experience the cultures of these cities exactly the way I wanted without my grumpy exH complaining of the amount of walking, the inconvenience of public transportation, and insisting on sitting in the comfort of the hotel rather than exploring these beautiful locations – yes, these were his typical thoughts when we travelled. On the night of our anniversary, I went to dinner solo and embraced it all. Yes, I cried on the walk back to the hotel, but deep inside, I knew I was well on my healing journey.

    Today, I made no big plans. Partly due to Covid and partly due to not feeling the need to “escape.” I spent the morning planning goals for next year including the completion of my PhD and working on job applications to return to work back overseas next summer (when hopefully the vaccine has rolled out). Obviously it has crossed my mind about the date, but it currently seems just like any other day. I am safe. I am secure, and my future is bright. Perhaps this is forgiveness, as I feel much more disengaged and no longer feel defeated about my past circumstances? Perhaps “meh” and my Tuesday is just around the corner? I am not sure.

    I just wanted to send gentle encouragement to all of you. Your own definition of forgiveness will come.

  • This is the “apology” I recieved by way of email from my ex FW:

    I have been doing a lot of soul searching and I have asked myself if I have ever officially apologized to you. I don’t have a definite answer. I want to let you know that I am sincerely sorry for my actions and I take ownership. I could have handled things so differently. I apologize for all the hurt and embarrassment I have caused you and the children.
    I have had multiple therapy sessions and reality hurts. Again – in case I never told you – I am sorry.

    And with that, 20 years of cheating, gaslighting, physical and emotional abuse should melt away and all should be forgiven! To think that he even thought that this was apologizing sealed the deal with me that he at best sucks and at worst is the spawn of Satan. I still can’t wrap my head around his thoughts when he was writing this. After 20 years of catering to his every demand, I meant so little to him that he could not even remember if he apologized to me for all that he had put me and his children through. When he left, he told anyone who would listen that when he told me he wanted a divorce, I beat him up, threw him out and turned the kids against him. This was a complete and utter lie- my youngest daughter actually witnessed his departure I was in such shock I didn’t even try to stop him. He conveniently left out the true story of a pregnant AF who was married with 2 kids herself and 18 years his junior. – I found out about the pregnancy and termination from her husband – they are still together.

    Beyond that, he had sewed the seeds of me abusing him with his legion of flying monkeys for the entire marriage. He was so convincing with that one even I believed him. My children and a therapist who I went to so I could change my abusive ways helped me untangle that particular mindfuck.

    The dig about “handling things differently” pisses me off beyond belief. That was just his way of saying that he would have blown up our life anyway- just not with an exit affair that he rubbed in my face (along with other affairs) that he decided to admit to on DDay – New Years Eve – had to ruin the holidays in true Narc fashion.

    That he tied this up neatly with a parting line about his hurt – as if it is as relevant as the kids and mine is beyond unforgivable. When it comes to forgiveness – he just isn’t worth the effort.

    My forgiveness is for myself for not protecting myself and my children from this monster. I am very grateful that my children have found it in their hearts to forgive me!

    • “I have been doing a lot of soul searching and I have asked myself if I have ever officially apologized to you. I don’t have a definite answer.” –I agree with you. This is insulting. The bastard can’t remember.

      “I want to let you know that I am sincerely sorry for my actions and I take ownership.” This seems copied off of a website on how to apologize.

      “I could have handled things so differently.”–The results would have been the same, and the cheating was ok (nice in fact!), but, yeah, I could have crossed different ts in how I ended our marriage. Tomayto; tomahto!

      Oh Chumperella, he’s no prize. I took the liberty of BS translating this apology:

      “I apologize for all the hurt and embarrassment I have caused you and the children.”–That’s the I’m-sorry-you-felt-hurt-by-me non-apology.

      “I have had multiple therapy sessions and reality hurts.”–Good for me that I’m doing so much therapy and poor me because it’s not easy!!! You have no idea how much it hurts!

      “Again – in case I never told you – I am sorry.” –I still can’t remember if I told you. What’s your name again?

      Good riddance to him! Oh, and I, too, am grateful that my kiddos seem to forgive me. I genuinely apologized to them.

      • Oops. This sentence was supposed to be placed at the beginning of my comment. I apologize!!!

        “Oh Chumperella, he’s no prize. I took the liberty of BS translating this apology:”

        • Thanks for the translation Spinach – I love it and it made me laugh. You are absolutely right he is no prize but he certainly thinks he is lol!

          I know from the past posts that our ex’s and our situations are somewhat similar. The whole thing is quite the mindfuck for the entire family – glad that your kids are in your corner and have forgiven you as well 🙂

  • ‘So I stop being angry about people and things I do not control. Meh is for me. Because I have better things to do with my life than throw centrality at this person who hurt me. I own my choices and my values.’
    This is my goal. To move on with the new me. Forgiveness does not concern me one tiny little bit except for being easy on myself. At this point the idea of forgiveness actually scares me. It would keep me thinking he is actually a great guy but just a sad sausage. Then I would think our love was real and blah blah blah down that compassionate road to hell. Then if things don’t work out with the OW & he comes crawling back and I’ve forgiven him – yuck a slippery sloap.
    I also have to give up the idea of consequences. In reality lots of bad stuff happens and there’s often no consequences.
    Living my best life is really all I can do.

  • My definition of forgiveness is when you let go of anger and ill will towards the offender.
    I’m not there because the fuckwit continues to be abusive and actually ramped it up to making a threat against my life. It was an empty threat (he’s never been violent) which arose from a mental breakdown and he has apologized. However, I believe it was not sincere and that he will likely continue to be abusive because he has not yet faced or dealt with his mental illness. You can’t forgive somebody who is unrepentant and keeps commiting the same offense over and over, which is what almost all cheaters do IMO.

    That’s what forgiveness nazis expect us to do; repeatedly keep forgiving our spouses for abuses that never end. The consider it “being the bigger person” if we metaphorically give the offenders more bullets for the guns they are shooting us with. Eventually one of those shots will be fatal. I don’t believe true forgiveness is possible if the offense is, in the victim’s estimation, bad enough and the perpetrator is deemed not deserving for whatever reasons are important to the victim.
    Only the victim gets to decide whether forgiveness is warranted, not therapists, not bloggers and self help gurus who blither pious, pseudo-spiritual tripe, not your church, not your busybody Aunt Bertha who keeps telling you not to be bitter, certainly not the fuckwit or the AP, not even your kids. You can decide not to ever forgive and you’re still the bigger person by a ginormous margin.

    Btw, just so nobody worries, if he threatens me again I will demand he either be immediately hospitalized or he will face criminal charges.

      • That would mean facing hard truths, taking responsibility and doing work on themselves. It’s not in their makeup.

        My cheater actually has a therapist he sees once or twice a month in order to whine about his feelings. He then deliberately forgets whatever went on in the session, keeps on doing crazy shit, and considers himself a hero for putting up this patently obvious pretense. Oh, and he meditates once in a while. Pfft! Naturally, throughout several years of this bullshit he has made zero progress and has actually gotten worse. What he needs is a psychiatrist. He has agreed to see an MD about it since I threatened to press charges, but who knows if he’ll be honest with the doctor. He doesn’t think he’s sick.

        • “…but who knows if he’ll be honest with the doctor. He doesn’t think he’s sick.”

          And there’s the rub.

          I’m convinced my ex only goes to his therapist for validation. I doubt my ex shares negative stuff. because he has no access to that part of himself.

          I used to fantasize that a good therapist might see through his covert-narc schtick. Now I don’t know or care.

          • His therapist might see through his BS, but that won’t help if he’s as narcissist as he sounds. I suspect many therapists know that if they call such people out they will just lose a patient, so they let the narc ramble on while nodding and murmuring supportive words. Narcs don’t notice whether you’re really listening or not so the therapist basically collects a fee for just sitting there. The best therapists won’t even accept cluster b patients. Mine told me he does not know a single one whose work he respects who will take them on.

          • Mine acknowledges he’s sick and then just kinda mentally shrugs his shoulders. “It’s a comfortable misery” he’s in, he told me.
            Guess if you’re used to a broken leg you don’t see it as broken.

    • “My definition of forgiveness is when you let go of anger and ill will towards the offender.”

      Absolutely, and that holds true whether it is an abusive ex, or a neighbor that wronged you. There is not need to accept them back in your life, or give them another shot at you, unless that is something you want to happen. Even then I would caution folks to be wary, these cheaters have abused to the level that makes them dangerous; and most of them still get off on manipulating others. It is who they are.

      • Exactly. Victims of abuse can forgive if they like, but must always remain wary of that person. This is why genuine reconciliation does not exist, IMO. The trust can never return and I don’t care how many testimonials the RIC trots out from people who claim they’ve forgiven and regained trust. I think it’s all bullshit.

  • I utterly reject the idea of forgiveness in any form when it applies to either of my cheaters. One of them was 11 years ago and I still do not forgive his stupid ass. Never will. I will go to the grave having not forgiven him.

    Same with my abuser. I will die before that man gets any forgiveness from me. And anyone who says I need to forgive “for myself” can take a long walk off a short cliff.

    Not having either of these men in my life, full no contact for years, does not amount to forgiveness. To me, it’s the opposite. I am no contact with them because I DON’T forgive them. They are removed from my life because they do not deserve my forgiveness. And it’s the anger at what they did which propels me to stay in no contact permanently.

    I reserve forgiveness for people whom 1) Have actually apologized and 2) I want them in my life.

    These men have done neither, therefore they do not get forgiveness. And caveat to the first stipulation, it has to be an ACTUAL apology. No vague “sorry for any hurt I may have caused,” “Sorry IF I ever made you feel” non-apologies that neither name the offense, nor take responsibility. If they can’t name what they did, they’re not sorry. No apologies, real or fake, are forthcoming from these men, therefore no forgiveness is forthcoming.

    I also utterly reject the idea of “forgiving myself.” I have done nothing that needs forgiving. I did not cheat. I did not sexually assault anyone, I did not lie, manipulate, and abuse. I do not need to “forgive myself” for doing what I needed to do to survive until I was safe again. That isn’t something that needs forgiving, therefore, I do not need to forgive myself.

    I’ve had my fair share of spiritual-bypassers, word-salad-slingers, morally-arrogant snobs, and Esther-Perel Ass-kissers tell me I *need* to forgive to free myself from being trapped in anger, “FoRgIveNEsS is FoR YoU,” and I will never truly move on until I forgive. I’ve even had a particularly noxious and poisonous brand of spiritual-snobbery thrown at me saying “It’s so sad you are still locked in your world of anger and have not reached a level of peace where you are able to let go.” (To that person I said “It’s so annoying that you are locked in your world of moral superiority complexes that you have not yet reached a level of humility where you can shut the fuck up and go fuck yourself.”)

    The thing that helped me move on was ANGER and NOT forgiving. The only thing the bullshit idea of forgiving these people made me feel was worse. Like there was something wrong, broken, and ruined about me that I couldn’t “be the bigger person and forgive.” The more I tried to tamp down the anger and forgive, the worse I felt because I was denying my actual feelings. And the more I tried to deny my actual feelings, the more I felt like a terrible person.

    Forgiveness can go swallow a bucket of cat litter.

    • Right on! We do not need to forgive ourselves for being conned and abused by horrible people. That’s like expecting a rape victim to forgive herself for being in a position to be attacked.
      Fuck that victim blaming noise.

    • Kara,
      I appreciate your words regarding anger. and I totally relate to your contempt towards what I refer to as the mindless cult of forgiveness I had been trained from birth to not show anger. I was brain washed into fearing it – you take enough beatings (both physical and emotional) and anger is terrifying. On the occasion when I did it let it out, it would take the form of a volcanic eruption, followed by an avalanche of apologies (from me) and embarrassment on my part and shaming from my exhusband/tormenter and my FOO tormenter.
      Usually withing hours, my very valid issues that were causing me to be angry, would be safely bottled up again for months and eventually even years. Being abused, not being allowed to be angry about it or even acknowledge that it was happening and bottling it away was making me physically ill. and emotionally drained. For my ex, it was like a gift from the Narc gods. – my fear had the effect of erasing me as a human being not only to my abuser but to friends, family, his cult of flying monkeys and most importantly to myself. It was like I didn’t exist outside his definition of me.
      It has been 3 years since the divorce was final and I am still trying to get that myself back. In that time, I have come to realize that anger is a protective response. It is the red flag. It doesn’t need to be bottled up or spewed like lava and volcanic ash. It needs to be respected not feared, used to make rational decisions and used to make rational decisions in order to protect oneself from harm.

      I know

      • Yes!!! Fuck forgiveness! I may be a bitter old bitch, but as long as the fire of anger stays inside me, I stay safe. Forgiveness is a trap for chumps. Anger liberates us. It *is* a red flag – a sign that your boundaries are being disrespected. If you trade your anger for forgiveness, you’re gonna end up in the same damn place that got you here the first time.

  • From experience I can say that acknowledging the offence doesn’t change much.
    My ex signed an affidavit of adultery to get our divorce completed. He confessed to cheating when caught.
    And he said he didn’t know why he did it.

    It didn’t change anything. I was still hurt, it still happened.

    I do think it helped me get to acceptance and meh faster. At least I could see him for who he is.

    • Yup. Mine apologized profusely. He did things for me to try to make amends. He gave me whatever I wanted financially. It didn’t help a bit and even made it worse in a way, because it showed he was capable of kindness, yet chose to be cruel instead. That hurt so badly I thought I would die of it.

      I think it massively fucked him up as well because he couldn’t resolve the cognitive dissonance of thinking he was a good person but knowing he had chosen to do evil. He has since become so depressed he’s psychotic.

      • “because it showed he was capable of kindness, yet chose to be cruel instead.” THIS. Anything he showed you afterward was likely superficial as he did choose to be so cruel. It was a mindfuck for me when FW started to be more thoughtful. Could never digest the fact that he lied to me for YEARS while he fucked prostitutes and distanced himself from a real life together, which also mindfucked the hell out of me. It hurt – what he did do and the fact that he could just “stop” doing it like it was an asshole light switch that he chose to leave on rather than turn off. It became clear when I found financial evidence that he had no remorse and wanted to keep doing whatever he wanted to without consequences. He never turned that switch off.

  • This has been a valuable discussion on forgiveness and could be published stand alone. I also do not think remorse from the cheater is necessary for forgiveness. If it were many of us would be stuck. As I said yesterday, it is about me overcoming and releasing anger, bitterness and feelings of retribution. That is freedom. I have to ask myself when those feelings come up, how are they serving me. Why am I still hanging on to those feelings. The answer is usually that A small part of me want to feel victimized because it allows me to justify my intense anger. When I feel that my life is full or at least good enough if not better than if I were with him, I am satisfied even content. It is part of healing from grief process. And not getting stuck in the middle. Hugs!

  • This post made me ask myself for the first time what my EX would need to do for me to feel like deep forgiveness was really possible.

    I think my EX would have to write so many letters, call so many people, and have so many conversations with our kids and every other family member, that the idea is nearly unfathomable. I would want him not only to apologize for what he did to me in terms of destroying our marriage but to admit to all the people he lied to about me and to ask their forgiveness too. I suppose I fear that no matter how apparent my EX makes it that he is a complete jackass, I always fear that all his lies about me must still have had an impact. (In fact, I know they have made things much harder for our kids). Even if most people only believed 5% of what he said about me, I still resent that damage to my relationships.

    It isn’t going to happen, and I’m okay with the banking model of forgiveness–i.e. not pursuing him, but also never trusting him with anything of value again.

    • Yep, those lies to others are pretty much unsurmountable. Especially to the schmoopie about how awful the spouse is and the they never loved them. That would require them face schmoopie and tell them he/she lied to them.

      These fuckwits give away their past, and can no longer talk about their past because they have lied to others about it. But, the schmoopie gets to keep their own memories.

      For those of you who aren’t seeing the “karma” there is some karma you aren’t seeing. When schmoopie tells other ohe he was married for 20 years, but he never loved his wife. What is schmoopie telling people about the character of her prize. And he/she has to stand there and take it, because he did say it.

      • Mine actually did tell the OW he had lied about me. This was done at my request. He even wrote a public social media post admitting to a long history of emotional abuse and to having an affair, and he stated that I was a loving wife who did nothing to deserve his mistreatment. It didn’t help. I had so hoped it would.
        The reality is that nothing they say or do can unbreak your heart.

        • I am glad you got that, and I get that it didn’t unbreak the heart.

          I can’t say for sure if the ex ever told her he lied, my guess would be no; but I do know that, schmoopie told my daughter in law that he kept some stuff of mine in the top of his dresser and he wouldn’t let her touch it, and that he hates my husband. Lol, he doesn’t even know my husband, only saw him a couple times at grandchildren events.

          But, you are right it doesn’t change what they did.

        • I agree, nothing they say helps. And if they do anything that paints them as a good guy… Like a sincere apology and owning shit, it’s even more confusing because you think you see that good person again. And why did that good person choose to devastate me? Then it feels like the OW is getting that good person.
          And the apology with no change of action… Even if they are remorseful and it’s heartfelt – if they carry on and don’t even give you the chance to make decisions about your relationship what is that?
          It’s just all a total mindfuck.

          • “Even if they are remorseful and it’s heartfelt – if they carry on and don’t even give you the chance to make decisions about your relationship what is that?
            It’s just all a total mindfuck.”

            Right? If they are going on with what they are doing, then they aren’t sorry. They, or in my case he; shit all over me, then when he gets moved out and all settled in, THEN he wants to apologize in a letter, in vague terms of I don’t know why I acted like such a low life (because you are a low life) is what I would have said if I had bothered to respond. To try to clear his conscience? I doubt it I don’t think he has a working conscience. I think usually they just want to destabilize us. I am convinced that is why my ex wrote me an apology letter long after we were legally separated, he needed me to get back on the hopium ride. Likely just in case he decided he didn’t want to be with schmoopy, or if he figured out a way to get out of it. Who knows.

            I am sure he imagined that if we got back together, it would go back to normal, and I would be the stupid unsuspecting idiot I always was.

  • This post made me ask myself for the first time what my EX would need to do for me to feel like deep forgiveness was really possible.

    I think my EX would have to write so many letters, call so many people, and have so many conversations with our kids and every other family member, that the idea is nearly unfathomable. I would want him not only to apologize for what he did to me in terms of destroying our marriage but to admit to all the people he lied to about me and to ask their forgiveness too. I suppose I fear that no matter how apparent my EX makes it that he is a complete jackass, I always fear that all his lies about me must still have had an impact. (In fact, I know they have made things much harder for our kids). Even if most people only believed 5% of what he said about me, I still resent that damage to my relationships.

    It isn’t going to happen, and I’m okay with the banking model of forgiveness–i.e. not pursuing him, but also never trusting him with anything of value again.

  • So many true words. I never got a real apology or remorse. Whenever there was some trickle truth coming in it was accompanied with the sad sausage look. But only to point out how it was all my fault, because I made him so miserable.
    I never forgave him for what he did. He does not deserve forgiveness.

    I forgave myself, though, for not leaving earlier…

    Here you can read more of my journey:

  • I have absolutely no judgement for anyone who chooses differently, but for me, I can’t forgive him for the intentional harm he did to me, our children and the extended family. I especially can’t forgive someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness or even apologized. And I’m ok with that; I’m not bitter or angry much anymore–maybe here and there, sure, since I’m the one that has to repair and sell my beloved house and then hopefully find a place to live on my alimony which isn’t going to be easy. I’m more sad and scared; I’m signing divorce papers right after I type this and a whole host of emotions are coming up. But the idea of ever being able to forgive him is not even on my radar. I keep thinking that’s part of what these cheaters do to move on with their lives, ‘forgive’ us chumps for all the imagined awful ways we behaved, pretty much without any wrongdoing on our part or at least having done anything to warrant being cheated on. And, for me, when I think of it like that I think of how arbitrary the idea can be.

    I’ve never forgiven (and he never apologized nor asked for it) my long term boyfriend that I was with for 10 years (before I met asshole) who lied and cheated and bounced me off a few walls before I left him and we both went on with our lives just fine. I didn’t stay angry or bitter. Eventually I came to a point of acceptance and then indifference with that relationship, and that’s what I’m shooting for here as well. The only forgiveness I intend to work on is forgiving myself for the absolute f*cking mess I got myself into here, and that is going to take quite some time.

  • This statement really resonates for me: “the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.”

    I was so angry and lost and hurt when Mr. Sparkles abandoned me and imploded our family for the sake of pursuing his new ‘twu wuv. I picked me danced for a year… a year! And, then, I still had to be the one to file… and that made me angriest most of all… he could wreak havoc across my life and the lives of our son and my stepchildren and I had to clean it up. I’d like the RIC to talk about that shit sandwich sometime.

    But my anger did teach me something I needed to know… that my love for Mr. Sparkles was real. My love for our family – as blended and simultaneously fractured as it was – was real. My love for my marriage vows and the sanctity of them was real. My anger and my love co-existed, deeply. And, so I put my focus on FORGIVING MYSELF. I started with me and my healing. And the more I did that, the more I honored No Contact and Grey Rock; the more I used scheduling software; the more I used only email for contact and only about our son or the divorce; the more I forgave myself for what I didn’t know (or chose to ignore, so many red flags), the more I forgave myself for staying after the first d-day, the more I forgave myself for pick me dancing and not filing immediately… the less I cared about Mr. Sparkles and the anger dissipated.

    So you see… forgiveness in healing is important, but you can choose where and who to give it to. I don’t need to forgive Mr. Sparkles – as CL says above, it won’t change him and it won’t undo all the pain and damage he has caused. But forgiving myself, that was the best investment I could make.

    Rock on Chump Nation.

  • I love the parsing of the concept of forgiveness. It really needs parsing. CL’s rendition of it has always been how it works for me — moving onto meh, avoiding even the emotional proximity it would require to wish ill on the culprit, able to run into them in public without my heart so much as fluttering–but I’ve never called that forgiveness. Reaching meh never seemed to require it, but maybe it’s just semantics. Maybe my understanding that shitty people do shitty things because they internalized abuser mentality from their own shitty childhoods IS a form of forgiveness. But I don’t need the word or the concept.

    Speaking of which, I always thought The Apostle was the perfect depiction of a classic batterer who evades consequences for his heinous acts (serially cheating on, beating and terrorizing his wife for years, then killing her new mate when she attempts to unleash consequences on him and move on), then reinventing himself under the “righteous rescuer” and “everyone’s favorite guy” mask as serial abusers tend to do. It’s a similar theme to Falling Down, another earlier film Duvall starred in about a perpetrator and batterer who deeply believes himself to be life’s victim.

    At first I thought Duvall was intentionally setting a sort of Brechtian trap for viewers– tricking viewers into sympathizing with an irredeemable character and then slapping viewers in the face with our own lax standards. Farrah Fawcett’s performance as the flinching, half-numb/half-hypervigilant long-term victim/hostage of violent abuse was so realistic that I assumed it was Duvall’s intentional message that the wife is justified in doing a political takedown of her preacher husband as the only means of getting free. Wow, I thought, Duvall really gets how stealthy victims have to be to escape and how batterers use political clout and community standing to entrap.

    But later I realized that Duvall did probably believe the preacher character is a mixed bag– “good and bad” as most reviewers put it– rather than simply the portrait of the sheer, internalized depths of criminal image management– so deep the criminals themselves believe their own ruses.

    I was unmoved by the protagonist’s “saving” of Billy Bob Thorton’s character for that reason. It just reminded me of how half my coworkers sided with a violent stalker who, out of the other side of his mouth, cried over orphaned puppies and played social justice warrior. To me those grand gestures fall under the same category as Ted Bundy wearing a fake cast and suckering victims with his helpless routine.

  • I never forgave cheater. I agree with chump lady that it was “I have nothing to work with here.” but for some reason I stayed with cheater for another 5 years and more D-Days than I can even begin to count. Somehow refusing to forgive felt like I was keeping part of myself safe even though I remained in a deeply unsafe situation.

    Now I am almost 3 years out, still have not forgiven, and I am very comfortable and happy with my refusal to forgive. I am moving on with my life just fine and feel no reason on this earth to ever forgive cheater for anything. In fact, I would even highly recommend non-forgiveness if it appeals to anyone.

    • “Now I am almost 3 years out, still have not forgiven, and I am very comfortable and happy with my refusal to forgive. I am moving on with my life just fine and feel no reason on this earth to ever forgive cheater for anything. In fact, I would even highly recommend non-forgiveness if it appeals to anyone.”

      I agree, it is so individual. My forgiveness is I stopped imagining him floating face down in the river. I managed to go on with life, eventually remarry and have been in that marriage for many years, so end in sight. I hadn’t even thought of him, other than an occasional, “how is your dad” deal. I have shared before what brought it back up was his treatment of our grown son just before Covid hit. I did some research on narcissists, and found CN.

      I don’t wish my ex any ill, nor would I do anything to cause him harm; but aside from any harm it does to my son, I don’t care what happens to him. I wish him well, mostly for my sons sake.

      We all have baggage from a life lived, I am not one to recommend forging life or relationships until we are totally “healed” or have totally “forgiven”. I doubt many of us ever get there. Regardless of the type of trauma we have experienced.

      It is hard now with Covid, but once that is resolved get out there and live and love. The hell with those who try to restrict us by our level of forgiveness or healing.

      For those that need the total forgiveness/healing; that is what they should do. Again, it is so individual.

  • I am still “up to my elbows” in divorce proceeding and not close to forgiving him.

    Today I went through the final boxes of personal papers which my lawyer had him deliver to her office. I’ve been grey rock/no contact for over a year, so opening the boxes seemed like an exhumation. The contents were so “intimate” – health and employment records, personal correspondence, travel plans, manuals from major purchases. I realized how clearly committed I was to this marriage.

    I can’t forgive the intentionality of his actions. The contrast between how I made my decisions about our life – honoring our vows – and how he abandoned me and the truth.

  • Premature forgiveness is what the RIC preaches. I refused to forgive the unforgivable. But I was ruminating and getting stuck in the support groups. Not moving ahead. So I read Complex PTSD by Pete Walker. I left the groups. I finally started to see light, and my own family of origin issues that normalised “trauma” and traumatising relationships for me. Then I read The Tao of Fully Feeling by same author. I read the whole damn book. I did all the work he suggested, and the book ended with forgiveness. And I made it. I worked out cheaters “extenuating circumstances”, why he was such a prick, and I forgave. It took 2 years, it was supplemented by your blog CL, but I made it. And the most important lesson I learned from that last book was exactly the same message you have. Don’t forgive because you are told to, don’t forgive or say you forgive when you haven’t. Really grieve. Really really work through the grief and hate and feel it, feel it all. It does work in the end, but it takes time. But don’t allow it space when you genuinely don’t feel it. Swap that out for grieving, and raging. It’s a vital part of the process and it’s ok to go through all that ugly crying and screaming and pillow smashing. You’ll get there. Trust that you will. BeCause you will.

  • I needed this. This is exactly how I see forgiveness, acceptance of reality. So many believe that forgiveness means reconciliation but it doesn’t. Constantly forgiving a cheater does not make them change their behavior towards you either.

  • 100% this post. Bunch of nutballs telling me to forgive the perpetrator who has never asked for forgiveness. Who am I to bestow my forgiveness on one who has never asked for it, may not want it or care if I forgive or not? My forgiveness is for me, for making the mistake of thinking he was an honorable man, for trying when I should have walked away, for being kind when I wanted to cry.

    Why would anyone think we need to forgive someone who doesn’t think they did anything wrong? It doesn’t even make sense.

    • “My forgiveness is for me, for making the mistake of thinking he was an honorable man, for trying when I should have walked away, for being kind when I wanted to cry.”


  • This discussion about cheater forgiveness reminds me of “The Scorpion and the Frog” fable. Here’s a brief synopsis I copied straight from Wikipedia:
    “A scorpion, which cannot swim, asks a frog to carry it across a river on the frog’s back. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: “I couldn’t help it. It’s my nature.”

    The point I’m making is that this is less about forgiveness and more about acknowledging the nature of the beast and gaining the wisdom to get away (and stay away) from them. You forgive a cheater the same way you forgive a vicious animal that attacked you. Understand it’s their nature. Nothing to work with here. Move on.

  • Over the years I have heard almost everything about forgiveness ever written, I think. People have told me not forgiving cheater ex was worse than his crimes. I have been told If I didn’t forgive I would be harming myself, my kids, the world itself it seems. That since I myself was a sinner, I had no right to judge anyone for anything…..on and on…. ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Lots of you poor thing, lots of paternalistic head patting, lots of moral superiority because bad things don’t happen to good people, don’t cha know.

    I would counter with asking them how they would handle having an abusive, cheating ex husband kidnap and murder your youngest son, dump his body in one state, drive to another state cross country and kill himself. Then, 18 months later his family pays someone to burn your house down, and because of the successful smear campaign they totally get away with it.

    By then they are doing a very good fish imitation. (Mouth open, incoherent gasping sounds.) I tell them if they could forgive that they are a better person than me.

    The only way possible for me to be able to live with that was to hand the whole thing over to Spirit. It was too much for me to carry and remain sane. If there was to be forgiveness, it would have to be from Spirit because there was no way I was able to forgive. Once I turned it over, I found peace. It was no longer my burden to carry. I could stop ruminating about the injustice and just live my life. It wasn’t my fight any longer. There was a sense of freedom from the day in day out pain and torment.

    Of course I do believe in karma. These people are their own karma. The weight of a lifetime of selfish motives and shitty choices catches up to them eventually. We don’t have to lift a finger, or even give them any thought. They bring about their own comeuppance.

  • I worked with a dear friend when I was still married, who joked more than once about “offing her husband” in our meetings. I found this so shocking and confusing. I asked others if they had noticed these “jokes” and wondered what on earth was going on.

    I found out much later, only when I told her about the demise of my completely fucked up marriage, that she had reconciled with her POS husband after he cheated TWICE—once before they married and again after they’d been together a while. UG!!! This woman is an incredibly badass successful business owner, horticulturalist, writer and artist who is funny and gorgeous as well. It still shocks me that she would stay with this pudgy cheating motherfucker. The manipulative charm these assholes wield is truly astonishing. Now I understand why she jokes about wanting to kill him. It’s heartbreaking. Reconciliation has got to be a nightmare.

    I’m so grateful that I found ChumpLady’s powerful advice at a critical moment, so I was able to escape the escalating levels of bullshit my X was dishing out daily.

    Dear chumps, you are in the right place! Please believe you’re on the right path. I promise you will get past this intense pain and you will build a life with genuine meaning, even if you must coparent with a shithead. Hang in there. You can do this.

    Love and healing to each of you.

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