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Is Pain a Choice?

Dear Chump Lady

As I try to heal in the most graceful way (suppressing my revenge fantasies) this is what I am struggling with…

Like many of you, I buy self-help books, read blogs, watch videos. One of the major shifts for me has been on a spiritual level (not religious — more like healing circles, meditation, reiki etc.) and it’s been really helpful. However, I found that the message that keeps coming up is about the ego.

“If you’re suffering, that’s your ego — you’re not really hurt” or “You’re creating your own pain, no one can actually hurt you unless you allow them to.” Or “If you truly love someone unconditionally, they don’t need to love you back.” Somehow, these concepts have made me question the validity of my feelings. Are they not warranted or allowed? I feel guilty that I feel sad, hurt and angry. Am I only doing it to myself? So wait, HE didn’t cause my pain — it’s my ego? What the hell?

Can you offer any insight into the belief that we create our own pain regardless of the actions of others? I’m really struggling with this one.


Dear Gia,

Ooh, that’s some tricky blameshifting there. Don’t blame the cheater — blame your own ego!

This is another It’s Not What I Did, It’s Your Reaction to It nugget of mindfuckery. I may have inflicted pain, but you are responsible for feeling it.

Bullshit. Psychological pain is real pain.

Did you know that recent neuroscience shows that social pain (rejection, exclusion, romantic break ups) activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain? If someone betrays you — it hurts like a motherfucker. Chumps all know this. And guess what? Your body knows it too. It feels PAIN because it is PAIN.

If you got mugged, and your attacker pistol whipped you, no thinking person would say “That pain you’re feeling is a choice. Are you feeling concussed? Well, you should choose not to feel that way. Change your thought patterns and let’s skip the trip to the ER.”

No. You’ve been attacked and injured and it HURTS.

Now then, how you recover from that assault is a matter of personal resiliency, and I think this is the point on which the New Agey crap gets confused. Pain is not a decision. Pain and suffering are facts of life. Injustice is a fact of life. How you get through those experiences are a matter of character and tenacity.

To say that we choose pain is to say we’re complicit in creating that pain. That is bullshit. That denies basic human frailty and vulnerability. It’s hubris to think we alone control all of life’s unpleasantries and if we just led our lives correctly we could avoid muggers in dark corners who want to assault us and steal our wallets. We do our best to protect ourselves and use common sense, but no one is immune from life’s calamities.

Remember, you only control YOURSELF, you don’t control other people. Superstition (ahem, some New Age shit) likes to sell the notion that you can control outcomes through witchcraft and ritual. For example, if I rub the magic unicorn horn seven times and never step on a sidewalk crack, I will never be mugged. Or if my chakras are aligned properly and I eat enough kale and forswear gluten, I will avoid cancer.

Now, when you’ve been attacked, you can respond a number of ways. This is where personal choice comes in (you’re controlling YOU). You can blame yourself. (I only rubbed the unicorn horn six times. Damn.) You can become agoraphophic and never leave the house for fear of muggers. Or you can say “Fuck YOU mugger! I will not let you rob anymore of my life or my sense of personal safety!”

If you take the Fuck You Mugger option, you have to face and wrestle with your fears, and live your life in spite of the pain. You don’t let the pain control you. You acknowledge the pain, but you don’t let it rule you. There is a life out there and it’s not all muggers. You intend to enjoy it. And maybe you’ll take a couple self-defense classes and learn how to kick people in the solar plexus for good measure.

So that’s the answer to the bullshit of “pain is a choice.” No, pain is not a choice. How you respond to pain is a choice. Pain is REAL. To deny its existence is to deny the injustice that created it. And to minimize the bravery that it takes to live your life in spite of pain.

Now to the unconditional love garbage. “If you truly love someone unconditionally, they don’t need to love you back.”

This is a moronic notion of love when applied to people. However, you can unconditionally love inanimate objects. I love cookies. They do not love me back. (Clearly, you should see my thighs.) You can love the Red Sox unconditionally. Doesn’t matter how many times they flub it, your love is unswerving. The Red Sox do not win pennants depending on your love. They are oblivious to it. But you can enjoy the glory of being part of Red Sox nation with all the other people engaging in this one-sided love affair.

When you love a narcissist, you are signing up for this inanimate object love. You can love this thing who doesn’t love you back. You can be one of a legion of adoring fans engaged in the one-sided love affair with the Great One. But most people do not find life as a satellite a satisfying, healthy sort of love.

Grown up love IS conditional love. Grown up love is reciprocal. Grown-up loves says if you abuse me, you’re out. Grown up love values itself and demonstrates its worth through conditions. Like respect and honesty. Narcissist love says “I’m okay with a lopsided investment. You love me and I’ll let you be in my orbit, deal?”

Healthy people NEED someone to love them back. Healthy people do not love into the void.

You want to “choose pain”? Love a narcissist. Tell your New Age gurus to put that in their hookahs and smoke it.

This one ran before. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Canada is useless in the dept of Adultery they don’t care and won’t help children so I’m done I have give up the courts are useless!????????????

    • I’m so sorry, Carol.

      May he get a never-before-seen STI that leads to his genitals and brain melting into a puddle of goo, leaving you beneficiary of all the money.

    • America is no better! If a child tells anyone they are being abused courts and CPS just says it’s their word against his and his is the one that counts. You get told don’t even think about keeping the children away from him or we will take your custody away and give them to him. Try not being able to protect your kids on and say the pain is all your fault.

      • So True! Saw Meme the Other Day:

        Victim: I was abused

        Everyone: We need 320 Photos, 93 videos & 74 Wittnesses

        Victim: Here is the evidence.

        Abuser: I didn’t do it!

        Everyone: Ok, then we believe you!

        (This is the Courts and Legal system)!

        • Carol,

          Keep your wits about you.

          Detach any way you can. (Al-Anon has lots to say on this subject.)

          Stop giving him centrality in your life.

          Minimize any contact with the fw.

          Lots of advice here on how to lawyer up to protect yourself legally, financially etc.

          Grey rock if children are involved.

          No contact if no children or they are grown.

          Sanity will come as the shock wears off so until then, ‘fake it until you make it’.

          Translates into act like an adult – non-pulsed at anything the fw may do.

          READ as much as you can here.

          Best advice I keep running into is, ‘do not fight back with them…. but fight like hell to protect yourself from him/her from here on out’.

          Translates to me as educate yourself as much as possible.

          Good Luck

        • Carol,

          I, too struggle with this. The day I had to hand my kids back to their abuser will haunt me forever.

          I don’t have an answer for you. Mine are 6 and 8. I try to validate their feelings at every turn in order to fight his gaslighting.

          I can’t say anything against him, so I use examples from the world around us. Much like if you heard a cuss word on TV you’d say “we don’t say that word in our house.” If I see a narcissist on tv, I’ll say “that man is telling that lady how she is supposed to feel, and that’s not right”.

          That’s pretty much the best we can do, along with living providing example through our own boundaries.

          I plan on fighting for more custody at some point, and I pray. A lot.

  • And in local news – may we survive not just the next few days, but the next four years. There are angry scary reactive heavily-armed people out there. Can’t keep the NG deployed forever…I don’t believe.

    May this MLK Day be as peaceful as possible.

    While learning how to punch a solar plexus, learn how to utilize the oblique and low side kicks.

  • Pain is equivalent to growth. Sometimes you need to embrace the pain to move forward in your beautiful life! We aren’t immune to pain, it does hurt but it also makes you stronger!

  • I left my cheating, dirtbag, abusive ex because it was like having my hand on a hot stove. All of the pain that I have suffered as a result of that decision to divorce him is welcome to me. It’s not great but it’s better than living with a cheater.

    I’m in therapy. I regularly attend Al-Anon meetings. I pray a lot. I’m in the group on Facebook the deals with being chumped.

    When it comes down to it I guess we choose our pain. I chose the pain of separating after a 24-year marriage rather than the pain of sleeping next to somebody that I knew had his mind on somebody else. I’m good with that.

    • Yes, you are absolutely correct that we choose our own pain.

      I too chose the pain of leaving a 34 year marriage.
      It’s painful but nothing like the suffocating, I can’t breathe kinda of pain I felt living with the horrible monster I realized my x-husband is.

      When I was in stealth mode, lining up my ducks, I tracked him via GPS. I watched him leave for work in the morning, double back and go to the neighbors for a 2 hour fuckfest and then go on to work, only to come home at the end of the day with his crappy, smug smile. I endured a summer of his multiple hook-ups in multiple places and that pain almost killed me.

      I am 3 months divorced, still living with the pain, but this is a pain that is much more tolerable. I can breathe through this, grow from this and get on with my life.

      Thank you CL and CN for helping me through the mindfuck of leaving a cheater and gaining a life ❤

      • Good for you. I understand that.
        30 year marriage here. One of our last convos he told me he “ had no regrets” for his cheating and would deliberately spend down our savings until the final divorce went thru to hurt me financially. I was an honest hard working spouse.
        We have our pain but we also have our futures free from these monsters.

        • Luckily our banker agreed to freeze our savings. So that we both had to agree with any withdrawals.

        • Meanwell, I’m so sorry he did that to you. A monster, indeed! You’re well rid of him.

          • Thank you, Spinach. I finally got him out of the house this week. He is currently staying at his Mom’s. He is 58 years old but needs space “to think”.
            Interesting, I was never good enough and the root of all his unhappiness, but I had to file the divorce and I had to use lawyers to get him out of the house. Business valuation and then mediation by Spring.

            Oh and if he can spend money, so I can I. I will get the lawyers if he starts taking money.

  • I appreciate the comment about emotional pain activating the same parts of the brain as physical pain. Along those lines, I read in a fairly recent book about the brain that they have found in a research study that taking Advil or some other kind of anti inflammatory/pain reliever actually reduces emotional pain. Something to try!

  • Totally agree with Chump Lady.

    I really, really
    *hate* all this bullshit New Agey mindfuckery *crap*. Just another way to blame Chumps for our natural and justified reactions to being *abused*.

    I wish these self righteous morons woul choke on their ‘chakras’. ????

    • Yes, I definitely agree. I loathe people saying that I just need to think positive. I really appreciate you addressing the victim blaming aspect of it. When you tell people to have positive thoughts, you are implying all the terrible things that happened, occurred because the victim didn’t think positively enough. Constructive thoughts are much better. I.e. taking a self defense course

      • My new age friend said somewhere deep inside of me I had an “inner knowing” that I was being cheated on and I was unwilling to face the truth.

        Funny thing is when I found out I totally bolted.

        • Does she sport a hat bedazzled with feng shui mirrors to deflect bad juju ? Oh brother

    • I recently had a family member alone in the hospital with covid who was scared that she was going to die. Everyone in the family was chiding her saying she had to “think positive” and “be positive.” No one acknowledged her feelings.

      I wasn’t sure how to counter their messages – I did my best and sent her notes daily saying I could only imagine how scared she is and that we are all cheering on from afar, wishing we could be there to witness her healing and getting her strength back.

      Toxic positivity is the flipside of flat out admonishment. Both send the message that you have no right to feel your feelings.

      Good news is my family member is on the mend and may be released soon.

      • >>Toxic positivity is the flipside of flat out admonishment.

        Great way to put it.

      • Great point. It’s lazy too, can’t be bothered with the nuances of human emotion, use that chin up attitude to discount their feelings and assuage your own discomfort.

  • the problem with cheaters is if you have kids you have to discuss kids their stuff whatever, people dont realise the pain you go through. cheaters trigger painful memories unfortunately eventually you realise the cheater didnt give a fuck about you whilst telling you they love you. my exs ow was seriously like something out of the exorcist. years later she asked me to feel sorry for her, like fuck off. now that is a sense of entitlement. cheaters always expect you to help them but will they help you will they fuck.
    the ow stood outside my house and made sex noises, years ago and wants me to feel sorry for her.
    threatened to throw acid in my face, burn the house down. ex is no help at all, police say she has to attack you first, ex says its not his problem. this problem is caused by him, he left 8 years ago, lives in his own place complains about paying bills.
    he calls her his friend according to him some of his friends have stis but not hiv who is he kidding

  • I’m sure lots of us chumps have been told by our cheaters that we’re not handling our pain “correctly.” It’s blameshifting, and it’s minimizing. My STBX (we are both women) does yoga, has a New Agey life coach, etc., and I have had a lot of these concepts weaponized against me over the years. I’m sure that, in her own pain of being a fuckwit, STBX really loves the idea that she could turn it all off and be a Zen master. But, the problem with being Zen about everything is a kind of detachment that doesn’t always feel good, either. STBX took my even-keeled approach to her drama (pre-D-Day #2) as “disconnection,” and then devalued me for years without telling me.

    So, the moral of the story is that we can’t win with disordered types. They will never know how to sit in the real pain of life, and they will make others’ pain worse in their desperate attempts to avoid their own.

    I have also found that fuckwits like STBX are completely flummoxed by nuanced therapeutic guidance. Like, the guidance that we need to pay attention to our feelings, but feelings aren’t facts. In other words, we need a compass to be able to determine whether our expectations (and resulting feelings) are realistic. But that’s sadly a tall order for a disordered person, who will likely need a trusted source (like a therapist) to help them evaluate their feelings. One of STBX’s main grievances against me in the years-long devaluation stage, I believe, is that I insisted on seeing reality instead of endorsing her magical thinking and fantasizing. The idea that feelings aren’t facts came as a revelation to STBX, but she still wants to make false equivalencies between her feelings and mine – and of course will likely never accept my own articulation of the pain and abuse I suffered at her hands. But fortunately, I don’t have to care what she thinks anymore! It’s SOOO much better to be out of that mindfuck blender. My only regret is what STBX might be conveying to our kids, but I just have to be the same parent and try to keep the lines of communication open. ????

  • This “Cheater-centric” narrative is warped. To state that “If you truly love someone unconditionally, they don’t need to love you back” is BS. It is not about “being loved back” … it is about not being taken advantage of, not being lied to and not being abused by those that we should be able to trust.

    And Chumps don’t “choose pain” any more that I chose to “hurt” when I was rear ended in my car by a driver who wasn’t paying attention about a year ago.


    • And I would add that the reason why it was easier to move on from the car crash was that the other driver was mortified, accepted responsibility and I was made whole by their insurers.

  • I suspect some of the current discussion around choosing pain come from the Buddhist concept of the “second arrow”.

    Sometimes it can be helpful to recognize which pain we hold on to if we continue to believe the cheater’s lies told at time of discard. It’s a slow, slow recognition which comes from telling our stories and protecting ourselves from further harm.

  • I think it was a chump who said, “the end of suffering comes at the end of wanting.” Oh, how I pine for the life I thought I had, the past & future I thought I had. Even the friends & family I thought I had. When I let that go there is a relief, a calmness, a sense of peace. The trick is how to not go down the road of wanting in the first place. I was such an normal person until the fucker fucked up everything!

    • Hurt1, I’m still struggling with the pain of losing the life I thought I had. His family was my family for 30+ years, now I’m the enemy. I catch myself talking about my past, just in everyday conversation, “when we moved here” and then I realize I’m talking about a “we” that doesn’t exist anymore—my history will now be told as an “I” not a “we”. For some reason, that destroyed me yesterday. I cried a lot. My life, and the lives of my young adult children, are forever changed. Stbx doesn’t care—he’s pursuing his happiness and doesn’t care at all what he did to a family. “Why can’t you just get over it; we’ll all be happier because of this”. No f*ckhead. Right now, he’ll be happier while we worry about how to pay for groceries.

      • What dick he is!

        Crying is good! Let the emotions out!

        The change of pronouns from “we” to “I” when discussing the past catches me every time as well. I say, “When I was in China….,” but we both went to China. I choose to eliminate him from that part of that narrative. I don’t know. Maybe in time, I’ll be able to say “we” and not have it upset me. The change to “I” upsets me, too, but it also feels somewhat empowering.

        • I trip up on the we-vs-I all the time as well.
          The divorce is over a year old and I still catch myself saying “my hu- I mean, their father will come pick them up.

          And my kitchen… I lost my beautiful kitchen!! That hurts far more than I thought it would. I’m struggling with another woman claiming it as her own.

          • That kitchen thing hurt like a mo.

            In my case we lived in a small older house in serious need of updating, even a little owuld have helped. I couldn’t even buy a new couch. Money was too tight.

            Then I found out how much he was spending on the whore. Then after we divorced, he bought her a nice house in another county. It wasn’t a fancy house, but much nicer than what I had. That hurt. We are human and dang it that hurt. Because in my mind he would buy a whore a house, but for me the woman who loved him and helped him in his career for 21 years, nada.

            They lost that house a few years later due to gambling debts, still he bought it for her. And she got new furniture, and the kitchen was updated. It was not a fancy house but it was nice.

            I know what it looked like, because my son bought it after they filed bankruptcy as they couldn’t’ afford the payments anymore. I think they live in it for about 6 or 7 years before they lost it.

            • I am sorry for your pain. I gotta admit though it feels nice that I’m not alone.

              He bought a house for her, ouch x1000. Is it weird to visit your son now?

              • Oh no. It wasn’t weird to visit during those years. I only saw him (the ex) there a couple times, he just looked like someone I once knew. Plus, I was with my now husband. (he and schmoopie were living in the attached apartment) They had to sell their house due to financial issues, and my son bought it.

                I didn’t find CL until a couple years ago when the ex blew up his relationship with our son. I started searching narcissist’s and here was some insight to my long ago situation.

                My son sold that house a couple years ago, and is now living in an apartment. He and his wife are getting ready to move from IN to TX as soon as he retires this summer.

                My ex and schmoopie are living in FL. Unfortunately, my ex is now in the hospital and not expected to survive. I pray that he gets a few more good days. It isn’t my wish for anyone to be ill.

      • Hi Faithful Rage. Just got to love the “we’ll all be happier because of this.” I am assuming he was talking about you and your young adult children. I got a similar declaration from my ex. The lack of empathy and the massive sense of entitlement in that sort of statement is difficult for me to comprehend even 4 years later. Not sure how far out your are from dday, and it is very scary at first especially when your financials are wobbly but it does get a lot better, including the financials. Things will get better and the new normal comes with a peace that you would have never known as long as you were carrying the burden of a relationship with your STBX. I hope you have a good attorney who will help you get the support you are due.

      • Ah yes had that one too. Don’t worry flower, we’re all going to be all right. Yeah you made damn sure of that didn’t you as it turns out. And this faux concern for me and pushing on me that this really was the best this because we were a ‘flawed and slightly toxic mix’. He was furious when I was bawling my eyes out to people about what had happened, he couldn’t have that at all, when I was I going to face up to what got us here. How dare I be angry now.

        Of course he’s also sure it will have not adverse affect on our child because ‘kids are resilient’. I can’t look at photos of her from around this time, the upset is written all over her face and it breaks my heart.

    • @hurt, that was a painful phase, grieving the life I thought I had and future I thought I had as well. I think I also think during numerous devalue stages a small part of me saw the truth of my life, but before I could look around and figure it out more he would turn on the charm and I was sucked back in. When I finally honestly looked at how terrible our marriage has been, it felt like a relief to detach and let that go. A small part of my soul has been screaming, get out for a long time. I’m finally following through and setting myself free.

  • Male chump here who had an idiot therapist try the “unconditional love” mindfuckery on me for 9 months. According to him, the real problem was me because there were conditions on my love — don’t cheat, don’t lie — and true love is supposedly unconditional regardless of actions. We actually got into an argument about it, with me claiming that all adult relationships have conditions, and him claiming that because we all come from the same life force, unconditional love of others regardless of their actions is the same as loving ourselves and that I would be stuck in my pain forever until I realized this fact: that I should love all people regardless of what they do. And if I don’t, that actual means I am just as screwed up as the cheater. He actually said… You’re not ready emotionally for that truth, though (I guess I’m not among these enlightened elite). Thankfully, I have a new therapist who doesn’t try this crap on me now, but it truly was professional mindfuckery for a while. After already being mindfucked by my wife (typical gaslighting, blame-shifting, and minimization). It’s like abuse on top of abuse. Anyone who has a therapist that tries this, LEAVE.

    • I’m so sorry you got this mindfuck from a therapist, Layne. Lots of New Agey folks, Christians, and others totally conflate the idea of general love and respect for one’s fellow human beings – or unconditional love, which is parental – for love in a romantic and partnered sense. I wonder what that therapist thinks about the whole idea of healthy boundaries!

      I had the “unconditional love” conversation with my STBX, not with a therapist – though I suspect STBX was channeling her own individual therapist, who probably told her that some of her expectations of me were shaped by her own relationship with her narcissistic mother. (“Because you didn’t get unconditional love as a child, you have been seeking it from your partner…”) But, as I noted above, disordered people have a really hard time understanding nuanced concepts they might be getting from therapy, and just end up weaponizing individual soundbites in a superficial way.

      Fortunately, if “unconditional love” ever came up in therapy, the couples therapists (3 of them!) we consulted after D-Day #2 didn’t guilt me out for not expressing it. But they definitely minimized my trauma and spackled like crazy. So, MC #1 called me “mean” (because I kept talking calmly one time while STBX was upset and covered her face with her hands) and “contemptuous,” in the Gottman (TM) sense of the word. I should have refused to continue seeing her after that session, but was too exhausted to imagine switching tracks at that point. From MC #2, I heard, “you could probably imagine doing what STBX did – it would just take a couple of steps to get there, right?” No, I said, I could never do what STBX did. I literally could not deceive somebody like that and function in their presence. Needless to say, I refused to go back to that MC again. I was not the person with the empathy problem.

      The moral of the story is that therapists can suck. I have become convinced that most couples therapists/marriage counselors know where their bread is buttered: they have to appeal to the sane member of the couple, rather than to the demonstrably disordered person, if they want to have “success,” and keep the couple coming to paid sessions (even though therapists all pay lip service to the idea that ending the marriage is a valid outcome). That’s why most therapists are part of the RIC, and chumps should not get sucked into going to a couples therapist with their cheaters. The first question I would ask any individual therapist is, “do you agree that infidelity is emotional abuse?” (And maybe in your case, Layne: “Do you agree that it is healthy for me to end any relationship that I consider abusive?”)

      • Sorry that you’ve had some questionable therapist experiences as well. It’s really remarkable.

        In addition, I also had a terrible couples therapist who sided with my wife and tried to make sure I was “held accountable for what I did to contribute to this situation.”

        That lasted for 6 months or so, until it came out that my wife was lying to the therapist and to me all throughout therapy. She was actively engaging in an 18-month “emotional affair” with her boss while we were supposed to be in affair recovery with a couples therapist. She had even signed a full-disclosure affidavit before we started therapy saying that everything was out in the open, but this secret affair was going on the entire time.

        The therapist then basically booted us out once she found out my wife lied. But no apologies for treating me like garbage the entire time. We actually did a grounding exercise in therapy to help with my PTSD, where I sat with my wife and said…”I am safe right now. The affairs are in the past. I am safe.” Meanwhile, my wife was leaving couples therapy to secretly call her AP/boss, so I was anything but safe. So basically, I was abused and mindfucked by my therapist also. I brought this up in our final appointment where my wife admitted to lying the whole time, and all the therapist was stare at me when I said I now feel abused by her and wife both.

        You would think that when my wife admitted to 3 affairs at the outset and admitted to lying to me about them for 8 years, that would be an immediate red flag for a therapist that she might still be lying. But no, the therapist decided to focus on my “anger and resentment over the affairs, which is what is really killing this relationship.” Meanwhile, wife was actively engaged in affair number 4.

        How some of these people get a license, I’ll never know, and it’s a shame a lot of us had to tolerate this stuff from the people supposed to help us.

        • Horrible. So sorry
          I had a therapist turn to my husband who had been also lying about continuing an emotional affair, and ask him directly if I was abusive? My husband was abusive. And what was wrong with me? The therapist and asked me if I had any support in my life. I said no and he responded sarcastically. must be tough
          No idea what was going through this therapists
          ‘s head. He was very hostile. Wish we could start some sort of website and report these people.

    • My father the cheating narcissist tried the “I’ve always felt we love each other unconditionally” trope with me. I suppose it is more true for parents to love their kids unconditionally than it is for kids to reciprocate because abuse rolls downhill from the one in power to those not in power. I don’t have kids so I don’t know.

      But, ummmm, no. As CL wrote, if you abuse me, lay your hands on me, scream at me, manipulate me, lie to me, cheat on my mother numerous times, continuously abandon me, and neglect me, I cannot love you. The trauma bonding will make me codependent and feel stuck with you, but that is not the same thing as love.

      I’m sorry your therapist was like that. It is hard to find the right therapist. I had one who negated my feelings of gaslighting, which only made me feel more crazy. I get the “you choose how to respond” words, but until one has done a lot of healing, one needs to be heard, understood, allowed to express feelings of pain and rage, and whatever else comes up. I actually have two therapists now – one who does “somatic healing” which helps with the nervous system, and the other who does EMDR and mostly listens and really supports me. I value them both.

    • Layne Myer,
      Sorry your therapist didn’t even speak “Howard Cossel”.
      What a bunch of mumbo jumbo.
      I went to a therapist once after D day. all I got was the write the letter youll never send stuff.
      Open up communication etc…
      After I paused for 45 secs I wondered to myself it this person heard a GD word I said?
      1st and last therapy session for me, at least in the pool I have to choose from.
      I do believe in therapy but its expensive and very time consuming to find the right fit.

    • @ Layne, too bad you couldn’t get a Refund for the mindfuckery you paid for with that wack job! We have unconditional love for our children, not spouses. Good for you for recognizing that it was abusive. Some poor soul is still going to that therapist, confused as hell.

      • Therapists that blame the Chump seem to sadly be more common than one would think. I’ve finally found a good one through trial and error, and she’s been a life saver, but a lot of them are gaslighters themselves and it’s extremely painful and confusing in an already painful and confusing time.

        • The x in my life is a therapist. People covering for him were/are in the same profession. Break that word down into two words and it reads as:

          the rapist

          As Tracy says so often: THEY DO NOT CARE.

  • I was in the camp of “If he only understood how much pain he caused, he would stop”

    Of course I was terribly wrong, but one day, I tried my best to vividly explain how much pain his words and actions caused me.

    His response was “If one of our children died, you wouldnt handle it well”. The fact that he caused so much pain was ignored in an instant and I was declared unfit for struggling with industrial levels of pain.

    My pain then was excruciating and I felt it in my body.
    Please know that its over and I cant even fully remember what it felt like.

    • His response is horrible. Ugh. What a lack of remorse and empathy. He’s a jackass.

  • I had stage 4 cancer in 1990 and so people avoided me because I was already considered dead (a brother and a cousin had already died from the same cancer) and instead sent me self-help books. Sort of similar to how friends drop you when you’re divorcing.

    The one that really pissed me off was called “Love, Medicine and Miracles: Lessons Learned about Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients” by Dr. Bernie Siegel.

    The book had a Chapter about the ‘cancer personality’ — see, I was at fault for having cancer in the first place. I saw myself as a victim.

    Several Chapters about visualizing away the cancer. Seems reasonable.

    And then examples of patients who couldn’t rid themselves of their cancer personality or visualize away the cancer. They were at fault for not becoming exceptional.

    Classic blame the victim.

    • Emma:

      That you are here and mighty is what I’ll be celebrating today.

      Blaming cancer victims for their cancer is loathsome. By that same logic we would blame child abuse victims for the abuse they suffered. I had a New Age spiritual type ask me what I needed to learn from my cancer and that experience. I was too stunned to respond. My plan for if it ever happens again is to punch any person saying that in the mouth as hard as humanly possible. And more than once if I am fast enough. I am pretty sure Judge Judy will give me a pass.

    • Cancer treatment is very well researched and it is found that placebo treatment ALWAYS fails. This in contrasty to a lot of other treatments in medicine and psychiatry.
      That should say enough of how well you can treat it yourself by thinking you get better…

    • Kudos from one survivor to another, Emma C! I just celebrated the 25th anniversary of my stem cell transplant for stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I call it “Lemon Day,” because the doctor and social worker at the time told us that smelling fresh lemons would help me feel less nauseated during the procedure. My dad went out and bought a whole bag of lemons, cut them up, and placed them all around my hospital room. If it weren’t Covid time, I would have had a party over the weekend. Instead, my mom and I made lemon bars, and I delivered them (socially distanced) to various friends. 🙂

      Barbara Ehrenreich wrote eloquently about the cancer patients’ experience of being gaslit in the way you describe, in her book “Brightsided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.” My friend Anne Boyer dealt with the same theme in her memoir “The Undying” (which won a Pulitzer Prize last year), about her experience with breast cancer without financial resources to take time off, etc.

    • Ugh I hate this modern phenomenon. I mean I’m all for trying to remain hopeful but translating that into a cure, a panacea. You just didn’t want to get better enough. Like all the stories of the people who cured their cancer drinking carrot juice (oh not to mention the bucket loads of chemo).

      When my mum had cancer which was very sudden and she died very quickly she was bereft and one day we went to some treatment centre. She was very bad that day, really struggling but wanted to go. We got there and it was full of people drinking herbal tea and I am sure had or were going to have struggles of their own but my mum looked like she was dying (cause she was). It was like no one wanted her there. I can remember it so clearly.

  • Tell that to your young child or dog or cat when you bring a baby or another animal home.

    If anyone has ever done that and seen their existing child or fur family member exhibit anger and jealousy (aka pain, fear), you know this is a natural feeling and very real.

    Man’s capacity to “reason” is a handicap, IMHO. Animas don’t rationalize away their feelings or instincts. They just respond.

    My therapist prescribed Ross Rosenberg’s book, The Human Magnet: The Codependent Narcissist Trap. He calls
    “soul mates” CELL MATES. Oooooh I am loving this book! Knowledge is POWER. I am on my own doing my healing homework. I am willing to go to any lengths to do my best and all that is humanly possible to avoid landing in another BS “relationship”.

    (He has great videos on YouTube as well!)

    • PS…

      There is nothing nada zilch zip zero that is healthy about an affair. It is top tier dysfunction baked in, no matter what they believe or say.

      I don’t know if I have my shit together, but I do know I care about having my shit together and have put a lot of effort into it daily since October of 1985. As of today I am not facing federal charges while hawking my products and services as a recovery self love life coach, so I must be doing OK on some level.

      I did not make a commitment like that to myself and put all that work in to settle for someone who puts the same effort into living a secret sordid double life while pretending to be married to me, who is cool with INTENTIONALLY HURTING me, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically (I have herpes now…gee thanks MFs) and sexually.

      I am three years in deprogramming myself from the brainwashing and uninstalling the software from my f***ed up family of origin that programmed me for this crap on a cracker.

      • “There is nothing nada zilch zip zero that is healthy about an affair. It is top tier dysfunction baked in, no matter what they believe or say.”

        I 100000000000000% agree with you. But people “pooh pooh” the abuse victims feelings and push them aside and shame them for being hurt and angry and sad and secretly wishing for revenge of some sort. “Monogamy is not natural” or “be more sex positive” or “it is only sex (or porn or an emotional affair)” or any number of other things intended to shame the offended party. It is glorified in tv and movies – the mistress doesn’t get her due, doesn’t suffer any repercussions, and sometimes “gets the man”.

        It is all so fucked up. Perhaps I’m too puritanical. If you make a vow, you make a vow. Right? Otherwise, what’s the point? I guess people want their cake. And they want the fantasy or the illusion or the benefits (someone to cook, clean, do laundry, have sex with, show off at parties, etc) and their side piece too.

        I had to break up with a friend because she was cheating on her husband and I choose not to be friends with cheaters.

        • I second that agreement! An affair is by definition dysfunctional. As CL points out, cheating is a sign of low character and entitlement.

          But you wouldn’t know this by looking at popular culture–tv, movies, and romance novels.

          If you don’t know the pain of an affair, you watch a Netflix movie or read a novel and cheer on the cheater.

          I’ve changed so much since my own D-Day, but I’m quite sure I was guilty of doing some of that cheering. The spouse was always portrayed as somehow dumpy/frumpy. The OW/M is exciting; this was a love that was meant to be (or so the writers want you to believe).

          It’s this culture that screws chumps. I sense that many people who hear of our plight secretly (or not so secretly) wonder what we did to cause it and whether the cheater had found true love.

          It’s infuriating.

          • I agree with you, I sense that people secretly wonder what the chump did wrong. Sometimes it just a look or a snide remark. I had one tell me that sometimes they (cheaters) just want to move on but don’t want to hurt us… wth? So in an effort to not hurt me he has multiple affairs. That was just a stupid and hurtful comment.

            In our culture chumps are always portrayed terribly as a needy, frumpy, sexless spouse. While the affair is a hot and heated relationship between two that are destined to be together. It’s sickening, I wish the they’d show the truth! That the chumps are doing 100% of the work, trying to make life nice for the cheaters (managing the homes, kids, maybe even upping their game in pick me dance) meanwhile the cheater and ap sneak around lying to everyone. Then the triangulation games cheaters play, the ap is never fully reassured either.

            I’ve known a few female cheaters and once I learned about their true character could not be friends with them. Cheaters are evil people.

            • “I had one tell me that sometimes they (cheaters) just want to move on but don’t want to hurt us… wth? So in an effort to not hurt me he has multiple affairs. That was just a stupid and hurtful comment.”

              Yep, and as you went on to describe the situation, that is usually why they think that about the cheaters. They have no idea what you have done, the horror the cheater has heaped on you for months, maybe even years.

              They get the sanitized version from the cheater, the “we just grew apart” like you were being treated like a queen by him and he just couldn’t take your coldness anymore.

              And because we are so broken and horrified when Dday hits, many times we don’t even think to tell the whole story, sometimes even ashamed to have been treated so horribly.

              At least that was the case for me. I regret not telling everyone how he treated me in the last 1 – 1.5 year of our marriage. But, likely he would have lied about it, and some would have believed him.

              • I told how I was treated. Family and friends knew or suspected. I was so glad I stopped hiding the abuse. I received so many offers of support – a place to stay if my son and I needed. Referrals to attorneys. Advice. Friends to just listen.

                I tried to keep my needs to a minimum and didn’t overburden my friends with it. One of my neighbors always watched for me to walk the dog past her house and when she knew I was away from FW, she would text a quick “U OK?” just to check in. FW must have been suspicious of this somehow because he started to stand at the end of our driveway and stare me down as I walked the dog down the sidewalk and then would demand to know why I walked the dog that direction instead of the other way.

                I have such a wonderful team of people who care. It has given me a lot of strength. I refused to allow him the chance to say later that we “grew apart.” F that. He’s a liar who put his own desire for cake ahead of his marriage and family. My love would not have withered and died but for his selfishness and horrible treatment of me.

                Unconditional love has no place in marriage. Partners should not be expected to accept abuse. Period.

            • Or you get told if you don’t ‘do the work on yourself and look at why you tolerated this then it’s going to happen to you again’. You must have contributed towards this in some way. Then you pick up all the things you’ve done wrong over the years and blame yourself for all of them too.

              This isn’t to say I don’t think we should rake through the ashes to see what we can learn to avoid these situations and hindsight is often a wonderful thing but I am get mightily sick of being told that I need to heal and move on. Everyone thinks that as long as you pay your dollar over to a therapist they don’t have to talk to you about it and that’ll just be fine. We can all forget it then.

            • Oh and I had forgotten, my mother in law said to me early on: “you two married young, I think he just wants his freedom” My MIL and I were close, and I know she was hurting, so I didn’t deck her. But first of all, no he didn’t want his freedom, he married schmoops less than two months after the divorce was final. Second of all yes we married young (18) but as far as I know neither the marriage vows or the bible that we took our vows on provide the caveat of “unless you marry too young”.

              If he had just wanted his freedom there was certainly a less damaging way to do it then what he did. The good news is, he did way more long term damage to himself than he could have dreamed of doing to me. The schmoops helped with that, but he authored his own downfall.

              • Susie Lee,
                There were many times when I felt like I was completely invisible to the x when discard was in full swing and I was still in shock and grasping on RIC literature because I was clueless as to what was really going on and had been going on….the tip of the iceberg so to speak.

                One such time I remember we were standing in the kitchen and he said, as so many do, ‘I want my freedom.’ It was as though I didn’t exist and my immediate thought was, ‘what about me?’

                I never knew he felt bound since I had never constrained him in any way. I was the one home raising 3 children, taking care of all of the animals, the house, the bills etc…

                How could your MIL say this to you! You were married too! Didn’t that count for anything?

                The irony of my situation now is that I am free. I didn’t expect to feel this way because I had, in my mind, married for life and was with the man for over 30 years.

                I doubt he has found his freedom because his past and the wreckage he left in his wake is daunting.

                He gave me mine as did the OW who worked so hard to get what she wanted. Karma bus, I am thinking, will catch up to those two and it won’t be a pretty site….

      • Honestly elderly Chump, I think my mil was devastated. She was as I was trying to figure out a fuckwit. I don’t really hold that against her, but it is an example of stupid shit people say. Her husband had cheated on her early in their marriage, so she knew what it felt like. Likely in her head that sounded so much different than it came out.

        ” ‘I want my freedom.’ is the version my sweet husband got after 29 years of marriage. She just walked in and said “I don’t want to be married anymore” He knew they were having issues, as she was a heavy drinker, and it did bother him. But, he did think they were forever and they would just keep working on the issues. I know he still loved her, but divorce they did. At least she didn’t try to blame him, she even told me later that he was a sweetheart, always was. She was right, he is.

        I met him after the divorce, I do think she was surprised that he started dating someone. They were HS sweethearts alsom, and I think like my ex she thought he would pine for her forever. And he did for a while. As I did, but you get tired of that.

  • I totally agree that love between two adults has to be conditional. Most parents love their children unconditionally; they are dependent on us and no matter what they may do, we still love them. A healthy parent/child relationship has to be that way because it starts off so unequal; children are so much weaker, smaller and more vulnerable than their parents – unconditional love of their parents is hardwired to protect them (although it doesn’t always apply to all parents).
    Conversely, a healthy romantic relationship is not unconditional but has boundaries. If you do something to hurt me that crosses over a certain line – the healthy response is to leave.
    My ex was always complaining I didn’t give him unconditional love. I told him my unconditional love is reserved for my daughter.

  • Sometimes the new-agey crap drives me nuts. It can be a nice balm, as long as you recognize that the goal of most of this stuff is to monetize your pain. It keeps people stuck in a perpetual cycle of self-doubt, but if you keep buying it, eventually it will unlock “the secret”. The only way out is through it. Don’t let this stuff poison your vulnerable mind. Take what you need, and leave the rest.

  • I feel as if there’s a constant pain that I just try to live with. It’s always there, but I try, as CL puts it, to “live [my] life in spite of the pain.” I try not to let it control me.

    Others assume that when I laugh or carry on as I used to in the pre-D-Day days, I’m “over it.” One friend said, “You’re good now. Right?”

    I feel such an urge to tell them that they shouldn’t be fooled by outward appearances. I’m in pain every day. Some days are worse than others. Something catches me–some memory: a Jeep, his cereal, a comment he made–and I re-experience a horrible pain. I’m sure many of you suffer in the same way.

    I also wonder if I purposefully pain shop. I’m not sure. Shoving it down doesn’t seem healthy. My mind often drifts back to extremely unpleasant thoughts, and I let it. I think I need to process everything in order to move on.

    It doesn’t help that my ex still sits in my mind, criticizing everything. I need to evict that klootzak.

    • It is all part of judging by people who have no damn idea what they are talking about.

      If you are slow to move on, you are “holding on to pain”, if you go on with life and try to compartmentalize the pain, you are good to go and “you must not have been hurt that bad”

      Unfortunately, it seems the betrayed is the one holding the bag no matter what happens. The poor injured cheater goes on his/her merry way, until they self destruct again, or in some other manner. (and most of them will).

    • I’ve been working on just acknowledging the trigger/pain. I don’t try to suppress it. I don’t try to understand it. I don’t try to stop it, change it, heal it…. I just accept it is there, I feel it. Acknowledge it and move on with my day.

      This technique had really helped me.

      • That is how I handled it in real time. Once the numbness wore off, if I would start to feel hopeless, I would just focus on getting through the day at my job, then go home and have a good cry, take a walk sleep and start all over again.

        I didn’t want to numb the pain, because that would have led to likely overeating, or drinking on my part. Didn’t need to go there.

        I did go on prosac for about six months or so. It didn’t really numb the pain, but it helped with my focus on my job, which I really needed; since my job was my lifeline. This was many years ago, I don’t even know if they use prosac anymore.

      • Skunkcabbage,

        A friend gave me a similar formula which goes as follows;

        1- Accept/Acknowledge that it is happening. (the feeling be it physical or emotional)

        2- Detach from it. (Become the observer, “Oh yea, there it is.”)

        3- Make a plan. ( I am going to clean the bathroom toilets…..use your imagination.)

        4- Redirect your thinking.

        Simple and easy to repeat as many times in a day as you need to.

        I can’t control the thoughts that arise in my mind but I can control how I respond/react to them. It is all practice and when the pain gets bad enough one will start practicing….at least that is what I have found.

  • Gia – like they say in the 12 step rooms – you gotta feel it to heal it. When I was in the deep darkness of my marriage, it is safe to say I was on autopilot. I didn’t feel joy, I didn’t feel pain… I didn’t feel. This was my mind’s way of protecting me from the pain I would feel if I actually looked at how abusive my marriage was and how damaging it was to me (sexually, financially, emotionally, spiritually). When he discarded me for an OW, the bottom fell out of my world because I was feeling the pain of abandonment and that let loose the flood gates. And, as a survivor, I will offer this – there is a fine line between reading to understand and reading to justify… and the thing is, it can just be another way of trying to untangle the skein of fuckedupedness. Your pain is real, embrace that bitch… she’s going to help you get stronger… if you need to, she’s going to help you talk to a lawyer and get your exit strategy in place, feel that pain and let it propel you forward. For me, feeling that pain six years ago got me here… in a nice little house in MehTown with a great 15yo son, a great job, a retirement fund, and a rainbow of feelings on a daily basis because I’m living again.

    You’ll get there too.

  • I agree that chump pain is real, whether it is physical or mental, or a combination of both. Anyone who denies it is not the one feeling it. What we have to choose is how to deal with the pain.

    I have type 2 diabetes and I have chronic back pain. I did not choose either of these things, and I prepare for battle against them, everyday. I will deal with this for the rest of my life. I choose to fight. I watch what I eat, but that does not mean I never choose to eat something that may not be a wise choice. I understand my decisions have consequences. I take my medications, I try very hard to stay out of trouble, and I live with my choices. No blameshifting. Nothing would be accomplished by sitting around moping about my ancestors, or my genetic predisposition to this illness. That is a fact. What I do about it is my choice.

    For my back pain, I choose to stay away from opiates. I am reluctant to try surgery at this point. I always have Tylenol and Ice, and I pace myself for walking trips like going to the grocery store. I know I have to be prepared to deal with the physical pain, because it is always going to be there, and it is likely to get worse. I pray for new medical miracles. Maybe, someday, my pain will go away. I intend to live my best life as long as I can, until I don’t have any life left.

    As a chump, I had to keep moving because I had children who needed care, and I had to work to pay my bills. I had to plan a way of dealing with my mental pain, just like I plan my diet and Tylenol and ice. I forced myself to focus on something else. It was not easy, and yes I did have to seek help. I got through the worst of it, and unlike my other problems, it did slowly get better. The memory of that pain has not gone away. I still remember childbirth pain, but that memory started to fade after my sons were born. This chump pain lingers in my subconscious, and I don’t know if it will ever fade away. But choosing to live a peaceful, authentic life has helped me control the pain. Posting on chumplady helps me combat the pain. Knowing chump nation understands helps the pain.

    Whatever it takes, whatever method you choose, if it works for you, choose to feel better. It is not a magic healing. I have discovered that some of the insights learned by going through the painful experience actually were beneficial. Like a rainbow, after a violent storm, there may be storm damage to clean up, but there is something beautiful to enjoy while you do the cleanup. It is still work, but it is for your benefit.

    There are always snake oil sales people out there who promote their useless products or methods to cure what ails you. There is no shame in trying something new, and no shame in deciding the product is not for you. You are trying, and that choice is what is important. If other people do not want to recognize your pain, they are probably people you do not need to associate with. Losing them is another choice you make.

  • What they are talking about is infinite ego not zero ego. Feeling no pain at being discarded means the other persons criticism/abandonment doesn’t matter to you. And that only happens when deep down you know you’re perfect and the person is worthless compared to yourself.


    These are not well know books. I found aspects of myself that had always puzzled me within their pages just as I found myself when I read LACGAL. All part of a process of self discovery and freedom from the very dangerous and toxic nonsense society wants us to believe.

    Trust yourself or, as someone wrote here recently, give yourself permission to trust yourself.

  • Pain and suffering are parts of life, and having that pain delivered by the person you entered into a marriage with precisely in order to support each other through the inevitable pain and suffering life will deal out at some point or other is what makes the pain of intimate betrayal so intense.

    In addition to the character and tenacity that will determine how you respond, I’d add resilience. Unfortunately, one’s resilience can take a huge hit from both the betrayal and the devaluing, sometimes a years long assault, and the discard that follows the devaluing.

    For this reason, it’s important to grant oneself a little grace, to take the time needed to grieve and heal, and to care for oneself in order to rebuild resilience. Mighty can be reached in small steps, and the walls may have to hum a little before they can sing.

    • So much good stuff packed into your post. It took me about six months before I started to do much but go on auto pilot.

      At about the six month mark, I started to feel again and even realize I was still a woman. I began to notice that I was getting positive attention. Oh I didn’t act on it for a while, but it felt good to feel like a woman again.

      It took about a year for me to get that he and she had done me a tremendous service. Oh not the pain, he could have chosen to do it a whole different way, but that would have resulted in us divorcing about two years earlier, and that was not to his advantage; so of course he never would have done that.

      He needed to control the exit and the fall out, which of course he didn’t in the end; but they together still caused me to be released from that marriage which was so damaging to me. In ways I wouldn’t even find out, until I went through the divorce process.

      • “Oh not the pain, he could have chosen to do it a whole different way, but that would have resulted in us divorcing about two years earlier, and that was not to his advantage; so of course he never would have done that.”

        I had to deal with this as well. If my ex had been honest we would have split 4 years ago. I was 35 then so younger, I wouldn’t have to go through my retraining and education in the middle of a pandemic (these online lessons are a pain and not as useful), my child would have been 10 so I would have been able to move back to my home country (he’s 14 now and as most teenagers are, he’s very attached to his life here so moving away just isn’t an option anymore), I wouldn’t have 2 dogs (I love and I will always care for them, but it’s expensive and time consuming and one dog was enough, he pushed for the second one), I wouldn’t have spent so much on redecorating the house so I would have more money to start my new life etc. Instead, he tricked me for years. Allowed me to plan for a life he was pondering whether he wanted or not. He took his sweet time to decide what was best for him, while I was ignorant. He had to completely control the narrative to the extent that not even when he left he had the decency to come clean about his affairs, I had to find out for myself.

        But I love reading that in time you started to feel better about it. I’m working on that as well, and ngl I’m impatient. It will be 1 year in March since d-day, and 4 months since we’ve split. I know I have to take each day as it comes and that’s what I’ll do, but I can’t wait to write the same words you write.

        • I get where you’re coming from vee, I am also retraining in the middle of a pandemic (age 41) due to the long, slow car crash of havoc wreaked in my life by my ex con artist. My child is six, so it’s tonnes of fun trying to juggle single parenting and going back to uni. I don’t miss him or even think about him much (we split about four years ago but the consequences just kept on giving). Mine didn’t come clean either – he lives in a fantasy world where he is the wronged party – I had to work it out myself and he still wouldn’t admit it even after I left. Then I had a phone call from his supposed ex (who wasn’t his ex at all) which was at least vindication. I used to spend a lot of time thinking “if only I’d known sooner, then this wouldn’t have happened” but I’ve learned to (mostly) ignore those thoughts as they are very unhelpful. It isn’t easy though – only time and distance has allowed me to do it. I still have days when I feel angry but they are very rare. I’ve no doubt you will get there, just focus on putting one foot in front of the other for now.

        • It is awful being lied to and used, and making decisions based on a lie.

          I would have been 38 vs 40. I gave up a lucrative promotion because he didn’t want me working in a job where you had to travel. Also, I was still fairly young in terms of a career, but still; I made that decision based on his lies. I also signed for a river property based on his claims that it was a good investments, and we could use it to enjoy our future grandchildren. Yeah, he used it for his fuck parties with the whore.

          He hauled my ass down there to work on it for several weekends, to get it set up and a deck built etc. Yes, I hammered and lugged boards right beside him. As soon as we had it set up, the intense devaluation started and in about three months he moved out for the whore, and that became their weekend get away.

          Oh he is now suffering the consequences of a lot of bad decisions, but at the time he was flying high.

          I actually feel bad for him for his health issues, as I don’t wish bad health on anyone. As for his personal and financial collapse, that is all on him and schmoopie. My son said he is treating schmoopie like dirt. I don’t feel good or bad about that, it is the consequences of poor choices on her part. At least she had a choice and she knew who he was, I didn’t.

          I did eventually get more promotion opportunities that I took, with my now husbands blessings.

      • I have said and thought many times that had he come to me and said “Uni, I need you to know that I have decided that I do not want or intend to be in this marriage any longer. You are a decent partner and worthy of happiness but it wont be with me. Im leaving now and I will be fair with you in respect to our financial settlement” then packed his shit, left, and hired a lawyer.

        Had he done that, it would have hurt like a fucker in the moment and I would have tried to talk him out of it, but he had no need to inflict the pain and destruction of DARVO, manipulation, lies and cruelty on me that he did.

        For the LONGEST time I STILL didnt understand it…I did a “Why did he do that?” untangling for literally YEARS…until I FINALLY applied CL principles to it which clearly showed that it was CAKE and selfishness mixed with narcissism and lack of concern for the pain he inflicted.

        He chose to inflict a HELL of a lot of pain in order to spare himself the discomfort of living the reality of his decisions.

        Above, Spinach spoke of lingering pain and it did linger for a long time, but now years later, Im SO much better…it doesnt hurt anymore.

        • ????

          I am years out and the pain does subside a lot. I found CL for reasons unrelated to my discard. He had blown up his relationship with out son, and I was just trying to find out what the hell was wrong with him treating his son this way.

          In my case I have had a good life (hopefully more to come), I had not really given him much thought until the blow up with our son a couple years ago. He (my son) has gone above and beyond to keep connected.

          I got the call this am that my ex is likely with 24 hours of passing. It is a big mess. My son is in one state, ex is in the hospital in another state and schmoopie is in another state. She is afraid to fly, so he is alone. (she flew to Germany a few years ago)

          How they got in this mess is a whole messed up deal, that only he and schmoopie could pull off. My son tried to warn him when he came up with his latest plan, but he wouldn’t listen. People who make bad decisions, don’t really change unless there is a huge effort, and they just don’t generally do the work.

          My son is on the last legs of covid recovery, so even if he went he shouldn’t be with folks in a hospital. And if he went, his dad might not even still be alive when he gets there. So he is just talking to him as much as he can, and if he doesn’t make it he will drive to FL to help her with arrangements. Or if she wants to take him back to IN, he will do it from home. If he does pull through, he will wait for him to get back to FL, and then go there to see him at home.

          She is a helpless nutjob to be honest. I know my son will do his best to take care of his Dads final arrangements. I suspect once that is done he will never see her again.

          My heart hurts for my son, and even for the ex who for all his awful behavior, is now alone. I don’t wish that on anyone.

          If my husband were in a hospital in another state dying, I would haul my ass on a plane and get to him, no matter how scared I was.

          All this to say that I think once you truly loved someone, it will always hurt a little, but you put it some place and it doesn’t rule your life.

    • “Mighty can be reached in small steps, and the walls may have to hum a little before they can sing.” Oh, I love this, Adelante!! Thanks!


  • I don’t think it’s meant to victim blame, but to give a sense of control to your pain. As in it only hurts you if you let it. Ofc, this is not one of the things I can relate with, as my therapist said I hurt because it was meaningful to me and if I didn’t it would have meant that my attachment to what I lost was merely shallow.

    Still, there are some good things to take away from various spiritual ideologies, for instance what helped me was seeing that forever isn’t a thing. My joy wasn’t forever, my pain isn’t forever, and my marriage wasn’t forever either (and that is why I will not marry again). I know that some people will view this as my cheater ex taking the idea of a loving relationship that can last forever away from me and damning myself to loneliness, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like I’m wide awake now, and it’s neither positive nor negative; it’s neutral. It just is, that all I can count on is the present and possibly the very near future.

    So digressing here, but indeed we never chose pain. Who in their right mind would do that? But we can choose how to live after the pain. And that’s the most important bit.

  • Being an adult is being able to cope with being misunderstood and maligned.

    You get a crash course in this when you separate from a creep.

  • Also, note that there’s a difference between processing pain and pain shopping. It can be easy to get caught in a self-pity loop where the moment you start to heal, you allow a trigger to spiral into a major pain episode. It’s a fine line between letting yourself feel the pain so you can work through it, and marinating in bad feelings and memories. It took me a minute to see the difference.

    • Not A Nice Chump

      Indeed a very fine line . Love these lines that I heard years ago and still use on a regular basis:




  • The only issue I have is the unconditional love part. I kinda think only your children deserve unconditional love, say, up until the age of 21. Then they have to own their decisions and feelings. You can still love them beyond the bounds of the known universe or at least as much as there are grains of sand here on earth. But there’s conditions that will test even the eternal font of motherhood. BUT. Marriage is a contract with conditions and norms. There’s not much that is unconditional in marriage no matter whether you love them to the moon and back. Times two. So no room for the meditational gobbledegook there.

    • I agree that marriage is not about unconditional love and that it’s different with children.

      I always thought I would love my kids unconditionally forever.

      What if they betrayed their spouses (or worse)? I can see loving the sinner but condemning the sin. I would have a very hard time ever embracing an OW/M. I just can’t imagine.

      Has anyone experienced this?

      • To me loving children unconditionally means I will always love my son, no matter what he does; that however; does not mean that he can stay in my life, if he abuses me or refuses to live decently. Or even that I can continue to help him. At some point they are adults and that is the line. Luckily I have a great son and hopefully will never have to test that.

        For a husband/wife who betrays at least in my mind; he can and did kill my love for him. My love for him was never unconditional. And anyone who betrays a spouse then spouts that they should love them unconditionally that is bull shit, for the purpose of them being able to use you if they need to.

        That is what the “lets me friends” is about. I might need somethi8ng from you, usually help in managing their image, so let “be friends” you know until I am sure I can’t extract anymore value from you.

  • “When you love a narcissist, you are signing up for this inanimate object love.”

    Inanimate object love is far superior to loving a narcissist because typically an inanimate object can’t abuse, threaten, rape, and attack you. I’ll take the inanimate object over my ex any day.

  • Cheating, gaslighting, blame shifting, being blindsided by unexpected outbursts of anger from a cheater over trivial things, and all the other shitty things that come along with a cheater is abuse. To most of us, D-Day is soul crushing and takes us to the darkest levels of our existence. It’s a scary place I wish on no-one, not even my enemies. I don’t believe infidelity pain is a choice. If there was a pill to cure us of the gut wrenching pain associated with infidelity, etc., we would all take it and move on with our lives. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Alas, there is no quick fix. We are left to repair ourselves, often alone, and this shit takes far too much time..for some of us years. Please know you are not choosing pain. You are just on a long f*cking journey to find peace and happiness again. Be proud of your efforts to get there because it doesn’t sound like you are trying to stay in pain by reading books, going to meditation and becoming more spiritual. (Some chumps don’t have the strength to even do what you have already done.) Acceptance of betrayal, and acceptance you didn’t sign up for the abuse is a good step in healing. Please take it one day at a time and have compassion for yourself. I found the best I could do after D-Day was just brush my teeth… it wasn’t much, but it was self love.


  • I know this one was run before but it’s my favorite topic right now. I spend hours and hours studying this and here is what I think. Pain is real but suffering is optional. Please hear me out before you crucify me. Lets say you’re at the store and you get triggered. You remember when you bought him that fiber supplement (true story) because you loved him and now you’ve been discarded for a whore. It’s replaying the story and your thoughts that cause the suffering. Feel the pain without the story. Put space around it. Where is it? Feel it. Take 3 deep breaths and work through it. It will hurt like hell to face the pain but it won’t kill you. Drop the story and focus on the pain itself. It’s taken me close to 2 years to be able to do this but I can do it now (most of the time). Don’t be afraid of pain use it to grow. Growth only comes from pain.

    I believe in love. Love for me. If I love me then I will respond appropriately to other people. Lets say I meet a new friend (true story) and I can tell that they just aren’t that into me. Meet another friend (true story) and they are kinda mean to me. Unconditional love is just dumb. Why would I love anyone at the cost of my own happiness? I cut both of these friends loose and I am much happier without them. I am happier without FW. I am in pain though…so much pain but I have faith that it will end eventually. Until then I’m choosing to use this pain to grow…I’m in pain already right? Might as well use it.

  • I think of love as a verb more than a feeling, so “unconditional love” for me means am going to speak and behave with grace and dignity no matter what someone else does, first and foremost to protect MY OWN self esteem and my own credibility.

    They are calling it “whataboutism” these days. If I keep my side of the street clean, I will not be handing anyone ammo with which to impugn or attack or disparage me, to use as justification for their abuse and unkindness, lack of boundaries, bad behavior.

    It does not mean I have feelings of love toward someone. I have NO feelings of love toward the traitor. But I get a lot of self esteem, peace of mind, and satisfaction depriving him and the hit woman of the ammo they desperately want from me to justify their sordid abusive affair which caused unimaginable pain to me and my daughter. It takes a lot to stand down and not validate the BS smack that was said about me, but I am always glad I wait out my vengeance spells.

    When I look in the mirror, I don’t want to have to lie to myself about liking what I see like they do. And how anyone can smile and laugh and go on play dates after intentionally fucking your family over royally is beyond the outermost bounds of my imagination.

  • “Grown up love IS conditional love. Grown up love is reciprocal. Grown-up loves says if you abuse me, you’re out. Grown up love values itself and demonstrates its worth through conditions. Like respect and honesty. Narcissist love says “I’m okay with a lopsided investment. You love me and I’ll let you be in my orbit, deal?”

    I so agree with this. But I despair that Western Culture is, increasingly, taking a different view. It’s not even as if people have an awareness of a lopsided investment. I just keep reading that reciprocity, in the words of Sandra Tsing-Loh (my ex read a lot of her articles just before we split) “feels very unsexy”. It’s all “YOLO” and “if I’m not happy, no-one’s happy” and “you should never settle”. I got told by my ex that my collapsing in floods of tears when I realised our family had been destroyed was “emotional blackmail”.

    I’m a big fan of the Buddha, but it does seem so much of the self-help New Age stuff only encourages this. I agree with “do not judge” in principle, however too many people use it to just act in ways that damage others and then act like victims if people get upset with them. They say they “had no choice”, they were being “authentic to themselves” or “living their truth”. Who are we to “judge”? And any insinuation of boundaries or respecting others or resisting temptation is met with accusations you want to tkae things back to the 1950s and have everyone be miserable martyrs.

    “Be free!” everyone says. “Be your wild, true self!” Where’s the place for boundaries or reciprocity in that?

    • Sandra Tsing-Lon, yet another narcissistic cheating writer. Like Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed etc

  • There’s actually a term for this new-agey dismissal of real pain and suffering. It’s called “Spiritual Bypassing.”

    From Psychology Today, referring to the psychologist John Welwood who coined the term,:

    “In his classic book, Toward a Psychology of Awakening…he defined spiritual bypassing as using “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks.”

    According to Welwood, Spiritual Bypassing basically a way to use spiritualism, religion, or philosophy to avoid dealing with the realities of pain and suffering. And people don’t always necessarily do it to themselves. Often, it’s used to dismiss and downplay the suffering of others. Like if you go to a friend and tell them about the struggles you’re experiencing with pain after D-Day, and they tell you that you’re “choosing pain” and you need to “think positive” and “not let negative energy bring you down” that’s spiritual bypassing. When cheaters give you a snobby word-salad from Esther Perel about being more evolved and open to connection and monogamy is just controlling and you need to free your mind from those ideas, that’s spiritual bypassing. It’s essentially appropriating real philosophical ideas and weaponizing them to deny real pain.

    And dear fucking god and all that is holy I CANNOT STAND IT when this happens. I only recently discovered the term Spiritual Bypassing, but when I did, it made so much sense, and put a description to the kind of anger and frustration this kind of shit made me feel. Because it’s essentially emotional shaming. Hearing “you choose pain,” or “You’re allowing it to hurt you” or “You are choosing to react, you need to let go” just made me more and more angry every time I heard it. Because it was almost always coming from someone who either 1) Was responsible for CAUSING said pain. 2) Not listening at all and never let me finish a sentence anyway. or 3) Coming from one person in particular, was trying to manipulate me into sex without commitment by implying that I cared too much about connection and needed to let go, otherwise I was being too “codependent.”

    Welwood said this often leads to more frustration, emotional repression, and deeper-felt frustration and anger because it doesn’t acknowledge the real existence of suffering. The point of Buddhism wasn’t to pretend that suffering didn’t exist, and pretend it wasn’t happening. One of the main teachings of Buddhism is that suffering is a real, unavoidable, part of LIFE. One cannot live and die never having suffered at any point. The story goes he was a prince who lived with everything he ever wanted and never needed or wanted for anything. One day he went into the village outside his sheltered palace and saw sickness, death, and hunger. He was utterly shocked and left everything he had behind and lived without any of the luxuries he’d had as a prince. He almost died of starvation and illness. When he was nursed back to health by the kindness of others, he realized that nobody can live ONLY suffering, and nobody can live ONLY with happiness. That was the origin of the Middle Way.

    Point being, we will suffer. All of us. At some points in our lives. And that is real. We can’t pretend it isn’t and no amount of pseudo-spiritual word-salad bullshit is going to make it less real. Whether that suffering is caused by others or not. It’s real. But the good news is, it isn’t a permanent state of being. Suffering can, and does, come to an end. It doesn’t end by pretending it didn’t happen. It ends by coming to an understanding and acceptance of your feelings of pain. Accepting them doesn’t mean you have to be happy about them, it doesn’t mean the situation is fair, and it doesn’t mean the situation needed to have happened either. It means you can say “This happened. It really happened. And I feel horrible about it. It hurts, and that is the truth.” Accepting the reality of the situation and the pain it brings you is what helps you let go. (I.E. You TRUST THAT A CHEATER SUCKS, put down the hopium pipe, and take of your Pick Me dancing shoes.)

    I also think there is a big difference between Spiritual Bypassing, and choosing to stop doing things that we know will harm us further, I.E. “Pain Shopping.” Pain shopping is basically doing something that you know is only going to make you feel worse, like looking at your cheater’s facebook/instagram, or bothering the AP. Block the social media as much as is possible (having children with your cheater makes it a little harder, but there are still ways you can choose to deal with that. Like parenting schedule software.) As much as it killed me, I eventually blocked my cheater/abuser’s social media pages. Looking at them only made the pain worse, and eventually I had a terrible anxiety attack because I looked at his facebook and saw him gloating about how much he loved his schmoopie and the expensive gifts she bought him. It was doing me no good to keep looking. So I stopped pain shopping.

    • Thanks for speaking to this. I was discussing this recently with a social worker-in-training friend. I cited the example of the mass shooting in an Amish community. The news was so admiring of the community’s instant forgiveness of the murderer. Not healthy in my opinion. Skipping over healthy feelings of anger and sadness.

  • The most physically painful thing I have ever experienced was having a doctor realign the #4&5 metacarpals I broke in my right hand before he could cast my hand. #4 was a compound fracture, #5 a longitudinal fracture.

    Simply put, he manually snaps them back together and holds everything together until immobilized then cast. No pain meds were given. It brought immediate, excruciatingly cringing tears to my eyes. He hurt me to heal me. He told me, This is gonna hurt like a MF!! ( where have I heard that phrase before??????)

    Apparently my pain reaction was being observed as a normal reaction to bones being reassembled…like a quick crescendo then the dull ache for a few weeks. Pain pills Rx afterwards.
    1986 timeframe

    It occurs to me the Objectify Devalue Discard cycle is much like a broken bone repair however the pain occurs twice. Initially then protracted out. Did you know that your body actually rebuilds the bone matrix stronger after the break?

    I’ve experienced Unconditional Love. Only once…when my creator relieved me of the desire to drink alcohol and freed me from the bondage of self -for a minute. I can’t find words to adequately articulate what it feels like other than being immersed inside a force field that you never want to leave.

    I don’t believe homosapiens are capable of it. I know from balls to bones that it exists and got a taste of it. This is why I don’t fear death.

    Discernment comes from pain. Pain is really how we learn to survive from our mistakes, Yeh?
    Resilience. Today that word means that I love myself enough to continue my happy trudge to destiny.

    Peace. Love. Strength and Harmony.

  • I think western culture teaches us that if we feel pain it’s bad. If we are in pain we are doing something wrong. Feeling and having pain is human and normal. Knowing and acknowledging this is one step toward healing.

    I didn’t ask for a cheating lying fuckwit.

  • I went years in my marriage almost numb to the pain that I was in. I focused on my children, I was so determined to have the family I never had growing up, and I tried to see the good. I was also trauma bonded, manipulated, gaslighted to believe my life was great! When I was honest with myself, it didn’t feel great. I also tried to keep the peace with my husband by not saying much that may upset him, it really just made him worse. I slowly had little mini awakenings, d-day, played the pick me dance for 2 years, those 2 years were painful and awful. Finally the blinders fell off and it was the pain of it all that pushed me to action, particularly anger. The tears and sadness didn’t propel me forward like the anger. We can’t positively manipulate ourselves out of the pain, that’s not healthy. And I think to do so we miss important steps in healing. I’m not healed, I’m still in the mess, but I’m determined to come out stronger. That doesn’t happen with unconditional towards an abuser.

  • Growing up, I had two fears. Not being able to have children and my husband leaving me for someone else. Both of these happened and I survived.

    I can’t tell you how many people, his sister especially, said it’s the law of attraction. Apparently I chose this for myself.

    They don’t know about FOO issues. My mom struggled with infertility and conceived. My dad cheated on her phone with multiple people. My therapist and I are working through it, but she confirmed that I did not manifest him to cheat on me, nor do I secretly not want children.

    Maybe I was shown that even if the worst possible thing I imagined happened, I didn’t just survive it. I thrived. So there!

    • Wow, what an awful thing for your sil to say. Infertility is painful and a loss all in and of itself, no one manifests that to occur to them. People that fear cancer don’t become more likely to get it, just like your fears didn’t cause infertility or your partner to cheat. I think we just all get dealt a few shit cards. And a few resilient ones are able to thrive despite it all. Good for you!

  • Pain is a natural response of injury to body, mind, and emotions. People who can’t feel physical pain are in terrible danger from all sorts of things, from fire to sharp implements. People who are numb to emotional pain may stay in bad situations far too long.

    Lots of people write self-help books. Not all of them know what they are talking about. I’d say the same thing about any kind of spiritual advisor. The best advice about emotional pain I’ve seen is to pay attention to the pain and move through it. And as we do with physical pain, pay attention to whether the cure for it (such as opioids) is worse than the pain itself. Numbing ourselves with alcohol, drugs, food, and other relationships just pushes the pain underground, where it will stay until some “trigger” (oh hated word) bring is back up. But exercise, meditation, therapy, creative outlets, our pets, friends–all of these can take the edge off the waves of pain when they come.

    The good news is that most acute pain subsides with time, although the loss of a child, perhaps, or the witness of atrocity may test that hypothesis. My own therapist likens heartbreak to an injury on a tree, where the wound remains but our life goes on around it.

    So, no, we don’t create our own pain. But as CL says, we can create our own response, and it is, I think, most helpful for that response to be to acknowledge what and who hurt us, and to move through that pain with help as we need it.

  • Yeah I remember explaining to my mom my friends my ex — if someone hits you, you just can’t make yourself not feel pain. And so it was with adultery. Hurt like hell especially in my hands and legs, go figure. Like my skin was on fire. My friends were sympathetic. My ex was not.

  • Do you cringe when someone slips and falls? What about those shows where people are sliding into mud on their wedding days? If, instead, you feel their pain, embarrassment, humiliation you are a kind person. You don’t take joy in it. You are not standing apart from others. People who are disengaged, who think nothing of your agony, aren’t worth your time. And yes there is pain. Sometimes crippling pain.

    No man is an island………………….because I am involved in mankind. John Donne

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