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The Mindfuckery of Reverse Victim Offender

There must be a bazillion “How To Tell If He/She’s Cheating” articles on the interwebs. You know, the usual — new cologne, sudden penchant for 9-hour Pilates classes, weird showering habits, furtive texting, requires cavity search to reveal cell phone… But here’s the real clue you’re dealing with a cheater, and it’s not lipstick on their collar — it’s anger and defensiveness.

And I’m not just talking after discovery or suspicion of cheating, I mean bizarro anger about little insignificant things. I TOLD YOU THE PROPER PASTA/SAUCE RATIO IS 3:1 ! WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS?!

Well maybe he’s just grumpy. Maybe she had a bad day at work. 

No, no, no. The big sign is FURY when questioned. Indignation.

It makes sense if you work from the supposition that cheating (and most bad behavior, really) comes from entitlement. Not only are they entitled to screw you over, they’re entitled to not be questioned about it. Who are YOU to stand in their way?

We’re all familiar with the mindfuck of It’s Not What I Did, It’s Your Reaction To It. Here are two other bits of mindfuckery — It’s Not What I Did, It’s How You Found Out About It — and It’s Not What I Did, It’s What You Did.

1.) It’s Not What I Did, It’s How You Found Out About It. The problem isn’t the cheating, the problem is that you looked at their cellphone. The problem isn’t the hooker habit, the problem is the “insecurity” that drove you to snoop. The problem isn’t the affair with the co-worker, the problem is you discovered the disciplinary action from HR.

See how that works? It’s called deflection.

Good people aren’t cocksure. They tend to second guess, give the benefit of the doubt, and want to believe the best about people they’ve invested in. When met with righteous indignation, the non-disordered person thinks, “Am I out of line here?”

Freaks have no such doubts. It Is Good To Be King. The problem isn’t their crimes and gargantuan sense of entitlement, the problem is that you KNOW. You saw past the mask.

Solution? Believe the evidence, people. Pay attention to the actions and pay ZERO attention to the spin. Good people are transparent. Good people willingly answer questions. Bad people are mindfucks.

2.) It’s Not What I Did, It’s What You Did. Otherwise known as “Whataboutism” or the false equivalency. Okay, so they have a hooker habit. You once spent too much on a leather sofa. You know, you’re not exactly perfect either. (Perfection being the standard you apparently hold everyone to.) Who are you to judge them, Ms. Profligate Spender on Soft Furnishings?

If you’re a chump, you’re going to take the bait and defend your sofa purchase. Or worse, you’re going to lead with vulnerability and fair-mindedness — “Yes, I once made a terrible decision about a sofa.”


Stay in the sane lane, chumps. Hooker habits are not equivalent to dubious sofa purchases. Do not get distracted from the point at hand — this person has endangered your health, your family, and your finances. You bought a sofa, this person bought a human being.

Abusers and autocrats have a distinctive MO — they victimize others and then claim victim status. Pedophile? That child came on to me. Dictator? The Rule of Law oppresses me, how dare you subject me to it! Cheater? I am misunderstood and you are controlling.

There’s only one appropriate response to this kind of malignant entitlement — consequences.

You control you. Don’t engage, go directly to actions. End the conversation, close the account, call the lawyer. Enforce that boundary.

Narcissists understand consequences. They don’t like them, but they understand them. Your pain though? Not so much.

This one ran before.

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  • Thank you for this! And for your site! I feel so validated and I needed it so much. I gave up on the mariage at first bruise last August, but the anger and shouting had been escalating to insane level for years. And I speak as a screamer/coleric myself. I have no clue/proof that he is a cheater, but with hindsight it is now evident that he checked out of the mariage quite early, and I have been an appliance all along. I wobble between relief and regret, and this post is further confirmation “regret” is not reasonable. I guess I should be happy to have left before discard. But that is not how it feels, four months after getting him out of the house and starting divorce proceedings. It feels sad, like a huge waste. Thank you for today’s reminder that there nothing to be sad about ????

    • I wish I had your strength to get out before he discarded me. You are pretty mighty.
      My marriage was the same. He checked out early. And then I was nothing but an appliance for at least 10 years. It felt absolutely unbearably awful. I wish you all the strength to move forward.

      • Inescapable thank you for your conforting words. I am so sorry you and so many commenters had to survive a discard. Yes my head knows I am lucky. A part of me nags that I don’t deserve to feel lucky, that I am not allowed to be mighty. It is a weird feeling, not a happy feeling. As if I didn’t know (yet) what to do with that freedom. I am getting away from the marriage, but I guess it resonates with some unresolved issues from my childhood that I’ll have to unpack. Sight. Thank you for the validation, much needed.

    • Alas rainy again: oh honey you absolutely need to be grateful you got out. Some of us( quite a few actually) stayed with our fuckwits for decades hoping against hope that they would turn into the men they pretended to be when we met.

      • Dear Newlady,
        As part of the Count by Decades Group it’s tough to deal with the Hopium regret and Appliance Phase recognition and look back at the increasingly out of touch FW. Four months out I’m breathing easier-so that’s a plus.

    • The undeniable fact is they steal a lot of our life from us, and use our very life for their own purposes.

      It stings like a bee as Ali would say.

      We can’t get that time back, and it leaves a scar. It gets better, and we make new lives but some scars remain. Just like with any other trauma.

    • Newlady15 thank you so much. Yes you are right I consider myself very lucky I got away early (in a way, as I might have prefered staying in a happy marriage ????). I have been reading this forum and the archive for three weeks, and I have been nauseated by the atrocious behaviors shared on the site. I was in the kiddie pond. Lots of love, and thank you for sharing

    • Dear Alas,
      Demotion to Appliance Status is hard to recognize since we are supposed to be trying to make him happy, accommodate to his moods, make home a great place to be. How would we know he’s withdrawn all the emotional investment from the feelings bank account and is living off the land he’s so entitled to enjoy, occupy and exploit.

  • I can vouch for this
    Before D Day my ex was snapping and shouting at me for no reason at all ( trust me I’ve gone over it a million times)
    I then said to him to stop shouting at me
    He then denied he was shouting at me tapping the side of his head saying I was mental and making things up and he knew what I was thinking . He always knew what I was thinking or about to say

    Then came the silent treatment and storming out in his car
    So instead of sitting another evening of that I went to the cinema after work

    He then said the night I went to the cinema broke him and that’s when he decided to ramp it up with her

    I have never been back to the cinema and never will

    • Exact same behaviour of my stbx before DDay. Was snapping at me for anything and silent treatment. So glad I’m getting away from that

      • Same here. I’m still traumatised. Therapy twice a week helps. I divorced him and I’m done. He tried a hoover. My solicitor told him I never wanted to see him again. That worked.

      • Same. And the contempt was oozing from him. I just didn’t understand where that viciousness was coming from. When I asked what was wrong he’d just say “work stuff.” Yeah, he was stuffing a co-worker.

        • My ex was irate on Mother’s Day when I caught my sandaled foot under the door and broke my big toe. I didn’t go to the doctor until later in the week when he was at work because I was so hurt and confused by 3 days of his anger. Months later I found out he had been screwing his subordinate whore.

        • Contempt is one look on her face I will never forget. The hatred in her eyes I witnessed towards me. She had no idea I had filed for divorce at that stage and it just reinforced I was doing the right thing. I’m so so angry at myself that I met her. If I had just stayed home that night, I’d had avoided 15 years of wasted life.

          • Oh yes the hatred in his eyes! I saw it a few times. I was shocked at how ugly it made him appear. Shudder. That was after the first confinement, when I started “rebelling”. Thank you for reminding me! I tend to lock away bad memories. I should write this down, so I have something to remind myself why I should not be sad of escaping. Somebody wrote about it on this forum. I am so grateful for all the support, and the conversations. Yes I was lucky. My head knows it.

            • That look is scary.

              The worst time I saw it was New Years Eve that he insisted on us doing, since we had already invited this couple. (it was after Dday, 25 Dec) We were playing a game and the other wife and I won. I just smiled an looked up at him and he was staring at me with those dead gray eyes.

              First of all I should have never agreed to keep that NYE plan. Second it was like he wanted me to see the hatred, to punish me. I looked away quickly. He moved out the next couple days.

              • Susie Lee I am sorry for your dday and what you shared in the archive. I am not sure they consciously show the hatred. I (currently) believe it is a sign that they realise that they lost control.
                One year before separation, I had temporarily left and been to a hotel because I could not stand the shouting anymore (abandonning the kids, I was THAT desperate). But I honored a previous engagement to a barbecue, I did not want him to isolate me further. So I expected some unhappiness from him. Still I was floored by his hatred when he saw me at our friends’ door! Yes his eyes appeared dead, and his whole face looked like a make up for a slasher movie.
                But I came back and stayed one more year. I thought he was burned out like me, or something of the kind (that was well before discovering Chump Lady!). I thought I needed to protect the kids. Now I know that his hatred was/is only towards independent me, not the kids (yet?).

              • The shark eyes. Blank and cold, with nothing behind them. I’ve seen them in Wasband. It makes your skin crawl.

    • Oh, I hope you are able to go back (once it’s safe). It’s really unfair that he would rob you of that pleasure too. I understand, though, how the taint associated with the cheater/cheating can become attached to things that don’t deserve it. As far as I can tell, only time helps. Maybe others here have more useful suggestions?

    • KarenB – just want you to know i appreciate your comments. Your experience is very similar to mine and our cheater actions align very closely.
      Even 3 years out i still have to work hard to keep the reality of wht happened clear and not berate myself. Reading your comments and knowing someone had a very similar exp really helps me feel valididated and more secure in the truth. So thx.

    • Karenb I think you should go to the cinema. I think you should reclaim that experience for yourself, and you should do it as an assertion that you were not wrong to do what you did, and that your going to the cinema was not what “made” him “ramp it up with her.” That claim of his is textbook DARVO. And I hope when you go to the cinema you go all out, and get yourself a treat at the concession stand even if you, like me, never do this because, as I’ve told myself, “it’s a wasteful extravagance,” when what it really is, is just another opportunity to deny that one is worth treating.

    • You could have gone to the grocery store or decided to fold socks after work and he would have said that is when he decided to ramp up the affair. They will use any lame ass excuse to justify their cheating.

      • Yep, t;he only excuse my fw could come up with was that I wasn’t a spit shiner house keeper. Mind you I was not a bad housekeeper. He never had to trip over stuff, or go without clean clothes, or use a dirty bathroom; but still I just wasn’t quite up to his standards. Oh and schmoopie (now his wife) according to my son is really bad, dirty bathroom and kitchens bad. I won’t lie, I enjoy knowing that.

        So there you are.

        Oh and now I am a pretty darn good house keeper, because I am retired, I have the time and am not exhausted all the time. My wonderful hubby (my keeper) gets to enjoy that. Plus my wonderful hubby bought me a big ass new filtration system when we got our new heating/cooling system that makes dusting almost obsolete.

        Reclaim those movies, or whatever else you want to do. Screw him and the whore he rode in on.

      • Cheater once told me that one evening, he went to each of our older kids rooms to engage them and neither wanted to talk to him so he went to our daughters room and I said I was getting her jammies on her and to wait just a minute. He said that day, he decided we didnt need/want him and he went deeper into the affair.

        • How dare you make him cheat by putting your child’s pj’s on? /sarcasm.
          That’s the most ridiculous justification I have ever heard.
          “You don’t need me anymore, just because you won’t drop everything and give me attention right away.”
          We have a saying for that: “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. Let’s all go eat worms!”
          He’s like a little kid, pouting because he got picked last in gym class. Gross.

    • It wasn’t the cinema that made him “ramp it up with her.” I was him. What he did there? That’s called looking for an excuse. He wanted to ramp things up, was going to anyway, probably already did, but he needed a reason to blame you and clearly did not have one. So he was grasping for straws, anything at all, he could find to pin it on you. You could have gone to the grocery store, taken 5 extra minutes to choose your coffee at the coffee shop, stopped to chat with a friend on the way home, ANYTHING, and he would say that was the reason.

      The ONLY reason, the only reason, ever, he cheated was because he chose to. That’s it.

      Notice it was okay for him to do whatever he wanted, all the time. Come home as late as he wanted. Go out with whom he wanted, whenever he felt like it. I guarantee you had he decided to go to the cinema after work, and you asked about it, it would have been “I had to ramp things up with her because you asked me about the cinema!”

      These assholes live by double standards. All double standards. One set of rules for them, another for you. You are not ever allowed to get angry, but he is. You are not ever allowed to go anywhere with your own time, he is. You are not allowed to spend money as you wish, he is. Etc. etc.

      It’s all double-standard garbage. And the cheating had absolutely nothing to do, at all, with the cinema itself.

    • Karenb6702, please, for the love of all things joyful, go to the cinema! He blamed you, but it was never your fault and the cinema is just his handy excuse. Its just like an abusive asshole to use what you love against you. He LOVES IT THAT HE RUINED THE CINEMA FOR YOU. I wouldn’t let him have that joy, he took enough.

    • to Karenb6702–Abusers who resort to the silent treatment go berserk when the victim finally decides to make constructive use of the interval of ostracism rather than suffering under it. He was punishing you for refusing to be manipulated by his sulking. Bugger that. When this pandemic is over, I hope you will take a group of your true friends to the cinema and celebrate your freedom from an abusive fuckwit.

      • Exactly. How dare you do anything that doesn’t focus on him 24/7!

        That’s another thing to throw on the list of DARVO tactics. How Dare You Ignore Me When I’m Ignoring You.

        When they silent treatment you, what they want you to do is start dancing like an organ grinder monkey for their attention, so they can revel in the pain it causes you. They like seeing you suffer in agony as they turn their backs. To them, you’re not supposed to actually do anything productive with that time. That’s the whole point of the silent treatment as punishment. It’s not punishment if they can’t see you hurt.

        My ex used to LOVE the silent treatment. It was probably his favorite way to mind fuck me. Sometimes he would say something that would raise alarm, like one time I told him me and a friend were going to go to a movie, and he replied with “You asked him before me? What the fuck!” and then went dark. He refused to respond to anything. I got increasingly more desperate all day trying to get him to answer me. I did everything. I panicked, I begged him to respond, I called, no answers, I even cancelled the plans with the friend and sent him screenshots showing the plans were cancelled. Nothing. My friend was asking what was going on and if my boyfriend usually acts like that (I lied and said no…I was scared. I should have told him the truth, that yes, he does that all the time. It’s like walking on eggshells.) My boyfriend said absolutely nothing to me all day, ignored everything. When he came home, I walked passed him in the kitchen and switched out my laundry in the hallway.

        Still. Not. A. Word.

        The silence was broken in one of the biggest, knock-down, drag out fights I’d ever had with him, because I couldn’t take the silent treatment anymore and I had an absolute breakdown. Which was exactly what he was waiting for. He accused me of secretly cheating with that friend, he called me crazy for the mental breakdown (that he caused) he called me ungrateful for not appreciating “everything I do for you,” and “You don’t care how hard I work all day!” he even went so far as to say my vagina looks like “chopped up meat.”

        All because I tried to go hang out with a friend while he was at work.

        But oh boy…if I had dared, DARED, to not answer his calls or texts when he demanded it, there was hell to pay. I don’t know what was worse, the tirades and yelling that inevitably always followed his silent treatments, or the wrath I incurred from not answering when he expected. Accusations of turning my phone off, accusations of whoring around to find guys to cheat with, he even did some crazy mental gymnastics accusing me of deleting his text messages so I could lie and say I never got them just to make him mad.

        Point is, there is no winning with these assholes. They want you focused on them. All. The. Time. Your world and everything in it must revolve around them and their attention and needs. If they’re ignoring you, they want you falling at their feet and begging them forgiveness. If you’re ignoring them, how DARE you do something that isn’t about them!! You’re supposed to be sitting at home preparing the house to attend to them whenever the hell they decide to walk in the door.

        The best thing to do? Sweep them out on the stoop with the rest of the dust in the pan.

        • My STBX would do the silent treatment thing. I still don’t know if it was intentional to punish me, but given how it affected me, what does it matter? It’s abusive. We were married with two kids and one evening I sent him a text that was ill received and he got pissed. It wasn’t even anything insulting to him. It was an over the top joke that I assumed he would take it as one and when he didn’t, I tried gently explaining that I was kidding. He didn’t come home until after midnight, after telling me and the kids he would be home for bedtime. Complete radio silence as I tried texting and calling to figure out if he was actually heading home or not. That was probably the most extreme instance of it and I should have left then, but there were other times he’d stonewall me and I’m hindsight were big red flags. I will never ever put up with that in another relationship again.

    • >>I have never been back to the cinema and never will

      What a terrible dark superpower to transform some innocent pleasure into something toxic and gross. Cinema was ruined for you, even though he was the evil one who blamed his evil on innocent cinema. Maybe it’s consoling to think that cinema is being displaced by streaming. It’s a fading pleasure for many anyway.

      I lost something good too. When people told me I was pretty I felt a sense of nausea & wincing for a long time. Isn’t that f**ked up? Pretty is such a happy thing for many people. But I eventually figured out that he wasn’t just being dramatic when he said (multiple times), “I’ll never find another girl as pretty as you.” Eventually I realized that he would have discarded me years earlier for not being sufficiently submissive & appreciative. Instead he stuck around for years destroying my social life, hobbies, and career, because he was just so put out. I kept trying to explain to him to stop kicking my emotions when I was down, and then he’d lie to pretend he understood me, and then it turned out he was just setting me up for punishment. Blech. He’s long gone, I’m just untangling more trauma.

      • Yes it is f**ked up! You have PTSD about your look! And few people will understand because “Hey you are pretty, so why are you complaining? You should be happy”. I am so sorry he did that to you. I don’t begin to imagine how you can untangle such a mindf**k. I hope you recover from your loss and get rid of that PTSD. I hope you’ll enjoy again the compliment (I hope you’ll be complimented then) Hugs ????

    • Hi,

      Please don’t let that P.O.S take the movies away from you. When you feel even a bit ready try even in tiny increments, even if you last only five minutes inside and need to leave. We all understand the mind warping these fuckers stoop to. We are all rooting for you. Fuck him. You deserve joy and don’t let the cinemas become a shrine to a dipshit.

    • Karen6702, I am impressed that you managed to talk quietly when he was shouting at you. That is mighty! Stbx also screamed for futilities. Unfortunately I would scream back, making me the unhinged one. He then would tell be to go see a doctor because I was crazy. And I would storm out and go to a movie alone. Or he would storm out and come back drunk. In both cases, I believed him that I was crazy! (my FOO primed me well). So I actually went to the doctor, was diagnosed a burn out, and sent to a therapist who helped me untangle the crazy. Took me nine months to start to realise maybe it wasn’t me that was the source of the crazy shouting. So I started couple therapy and we separated 18 months later. But it is still a weird feeling. I doubt myself. Am I really sane? Am I not deluding myself? Thank you for your validating comment!

      • I yelled “NO!” over and over again like a demented toddler when Nitwit had the nerve to ask me to leave the condo (whose bills I paid) so he and the OW could have sex in our marital bed. Anger is not necessarily a bad thing, although many women have been conditioned to think it is. Anger is the fuel that propels you away from your abuser. It’s only when you take offense at everything that it becomes a problem. Also, if you don’t take action and resolve what is making you angry it will boil over or just curdle into bitterness and resentment. Ever notice that the people who stay with their cheaters tend to be the real bitter ones?

        Habitual anger on either your side or his is your cue to cut your losses and move on.

    • Mine snapped at me probably for the first time ever what I now know to be about a week after he first stayed out with her. The shock was huge. He was never like this. Then dismissive, distant, avoidant and yeah eventually upon leaving vomited out how our relationship was soooo bad it was making him ill. Oh my gosh I wondered at that stage what I had ever done right. Just for clarity even though he said he was leaving he was trying to make out we would still be best friends and a loving mum and dad exactly up to the point I told I knew what had been going. And then that was it. God why doesn’t someone warn you about this, we all experiences it and it’s a shocker when you see it. This stuff was way way more damaging to me than him snagging someone else. If I were you I would get right back I there and reclaim the cinema. That’s some mad DARVO there.

      • As for warning, I think that is CLs mission.

        Fortunately today women/men can google when things start sounding weird. Not saying they all think of it in real time, I mean it is a scary time. But, her work and others work on getting this side of the story out hopefully will help some folks.

        I came upon CL not because of my cheater experience but because my ex FW had blown up his relationship with our son many years later. Between that and Covid I just for the heck of it started researching narcciccist’s and there CL was, and some other sites.

        What I did discover after some reading of the archives and comments is that I had actually been burying some anger at myself for being such a Chump (doormat).

        Oh not that I didn’t go on with my life and have happiness, I did. Worked hard at my job, did well, made new friends and remarried; quite frankly very few complaints, and I rarely ever thought of the fw, as we don’t live near each other; and even if we did we wouldn’t have been “friends”.

        But, I still needed to understand that I can not hold myself guilty for being a door mat, when I had no idea what was going down, and I was only doing what decent folks would do, and that is trust my spouse.

        So now, I have forgiven myself; I can even laugh at some of it. I can also talk to some really nice and smart folks. Maybe some of my story will help in some small way a newly minted Chump to understand they they are not the issue the cheater is.

    • I hope you one day find it in yourself to return to the cinema – relax in your seat, enjoy some popcorn, and bask in the glory of the movie. Hopefully in time you will be able to.

      I definitely agree with other comments that he did not “ramp it up” just because you went to the cinema. Don’t let him have that control over you still.

      My exH and I booked a long-awaited trip to Greece. Two days into the trip, I got word my beloved grandmother passed away. The funeral was delayed, so we stayed on the trip – but I was deeply depressed and sad. On DDay 9 months later, my exH said one of the reasons he cheated was because we were not as intimate as he would have liked on that trip. The “if only’s” ate at me for days. Then, I discovered his Tinder Plus account that had been activated for at least the last two years of our marriage (yes, long before that trip to Greece).

      My take home message – don’t believe the bullshit. Go back to the cinema and give a big mental fuck you to the cheater.

      • I hope Karen can do what you said. I think she will get there.

        The cinema issue reminds me of about a month after my fw left. I had never gone to a movie alone in my life. I just decided one day, hey I am alone now, so I might as well try it. I had just got a make over at a make up place, and bought some new make up. So I went, and War of the Roses was on. I watched it and laughed and laughed. It was just what I needed.

        Some of you are likely too young to remember but is was a movie with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas who were getting a divorce and destroyed their house trying to get back at each other. Not what I would recommend, but dang it was good to sit there and laugh. I also got some positive attention from a nice looking age appropriate guy, so that was nice too. Nothing came of it, as I wasn’t even legally separated yet, still a kick.

    • Oh Karen, don’t let him take enjoying a movie at the cinema away from you as well as everything else. I was unaware of ex’s affair and when he was no longer intetested in going away on a holiday I went away for a week with my daughter thinking he might feel he was missing out. I rang every day and a couple of times he wasn’t available. I now realise he was enjoying the week with ow. I still like travelling.

  • How very spot on about the anger and rage. My STBXW completely changed when her affairs were going on. The rage was insane. Everything I did was attacked with shouting and allegations. She would scream at me that I never loved her, I only want someone to cook and clean, I wanted a doormat, I was giving her dirty looks. Her other favourite was to yell and accuse me of having a girlfriend, of cheating, nope never in 15 years did I cheat on her. I did not know about projection, gaslighting and the other signs until last summer. She in my eyes let the mask slip and I seen her for who she really is.
    She now admits after consequences that I was a good husband and how she would come back to me. No chance in hell I would ever take her back.

    • That rage was a marked change in our situation. I can tell you almost to the day it started, about a year before Dday. Oh we had our fights, but he was never a rager, in fact he would pick and (likely gaslight) me, and cause me to get really upset (though I was never a screamer). Then he would laugh and we would make up etc. But, the raging was a definite red line of change.

      In hindsight of course I knew what prompted it, but in the midst of it I was scared to death. I didn’t know what the hell was happening, or how to handle it. It was like I could feel my life crashing in slow motion, and I was helpless to stop it.

  • There was a lot of this in my marriage. It was like a constant battle. The nice thing is now that we’ve been separated and I’ve moved out into my own beautiful little place, I never get that anymore. There is peace on the other side.

    He got home before me. He’d be waiting for me to scream at me about something. I really think that it didn’t even matter what it was, he was just furious all the time. So I would take my verbal beatings everyday. And I made my plan. And it took a while. And I’m paying the consequences for leaving that abuse. So much in the legal fees. So much just in mental abuse. All the kids are in therapy. And he goes on his merry way but I don’t care as long as he goes.

    • Muthachumper, thank you for sharing. Your story seems similar to mine. I am very sad for yoy and your children. I take confort in “there is peace on the other side”. I look forward to it ????

      • “there is peace on the other side”

        I’d like to confirm that! I too was accused of being angry and argumentative ‘all the time’. I am not meek nor lack opinions, so I considered this comment seriously. About a year after separation, I realized that I had not had an angry raging conversation with anyone after he left, and it really wasn’t me. I thought to myself, ‘maybe this is an anomaly?… so every year I mark that off (5 now) as another year of ‘I still haven’t argued with anyone’. I have had some firm and difficult conversations with people, to be sure, but never any of this flying-off-the-handle he used to do. Nobody’s throwing things, no furniture breaking… amazing that I ever put up with that behavior, I know! 😉 So sad that my kids (now grown) got to witness and at times tried to emulate that. DS (then a young adult) had one more go at me, and I spelled out and recognized exactly what was going on and we put that pattern to rest, together. It was an enlightening moment for both of us, and we are both better off for it.
        These cheater-toddlers spread their damage far and wide.

        @alas rainy again, run towards a better life.

  • This article is so spot on its scary. Exactly what I am going through now. Apparently my inability to make my husband happy and change is what is ending our marriage. Not his screwing anything that moves and the constant lying and mindfuckery.

    Initially I used to engage and defend myself. Now I just don’t waste my breath. The accusations have become so ridiculous and I really don’t care.

    They really all have the same playbook don’t they?

    • I’m sorry you’re going through this at the moment. Yes they do seem to use the same playbooks. Male or female cheaters seem to mirror each other. I too gave up arguing or questioning anything from my STBXW as she is a pathological liar. Lies about mundane everyday events. I’m no contact with her now. The pathological lying seems to be a common trait with them all.

    • Same here. I am not “nice” or “soft” enough, that’s why things won’t work out. It has nothing to do with the half his age side piece, who I’m sure is very “nice” considering she’s basically a child with nothing to worry about except screwing my husband.. I can’t imagine why I’m not feeling “nice” today. Oh the mysteries of life.

      I still catch myself trying to defend myself or convince him I’m “nice”, and it pisses me off every time I do it!

      • You said it better than I ever could. My partner started a months long affair after I found out I had heart failure and needed surgery. I caught him just two days after I got back from the hospital. It was devastating, but the most painful part was this “nice” bullshit. How my depression was unattractive to him. I’m sure his child bride has no problem being nice and happy…when you’re 22 and healthy, there are not many cares in the world.

  • ChumpedToMuch I too am guilty of defending myself, only for about a month post D-day, then I found CN went NC and haven’t looked back! Some days are difficult but I know I’m on my way to a better life!

    He gets divorce papers served this week and should be receiving his child support notice as well! I wish I could see his face! CONSEQUENCES fuckwit! He’s gonna be a sad sausage for sure, meanwhile I’ll be getting my hair done and have a great weekend planned with friends!

    This site is the best, gives me strength and courage to stay the course and leave the awful in the past where it belongs! With the support I get here I remember, I am limitless and ANYTHING is possible!

  • It’s not so much the mindfuckery that I endured, as I have come to understand this four years post divorce, but it’s the fact that this continues with my adult sons. Just last week I accidentally saw my ex at a mailbox in town. Yes, what are the chances that he and I would be at the same mailbox at the same time? I got out of there as fast as I could as I was so “triggered” just by the sight of him. The PTSD is real. Proud that I had the self-control to not run him over!

    Well the story to my son goes “I saw your mother today and was trying to wish her a Happy New Year… and then, you should call your mother.” Well, isn’t he just the greatest guy? I am so sad that my sons will never understand what I know about their father. The mindfuckery continues.

    • So true. I know exactly how you feel. It’s like taking crazy pills when they try to them themselves into the good guy. My friends keep saying that eventually my boys will see him for who he really is. I’m not sure I want that- that would hurt my boys to know their father is a douche bag. Then again- my narc ex and his dear mummy constantly try to sabotage my relationship with my oldest, who is more impressionable. I wonder if it will ever just end.

      • I too wanted my children to have a good father and I contributed to so much dysfunction by holding onto that lie (denial) and contorting myself and our family in order to keep that lie alive.
        So much better to know the truth, act with truth and get on with my life.
        The (adult) kids are sorting it out.
        Being an authentic person is the best way that I can live my life and be a mother to my children.

        I am not responsible for the fuckery that X perpetrates.

        • 100% this – I contorted myself to keep the facade up for the kids it is shameful- to the point where my kids told me that I should have defended them not him. Always “your father means well but…” they know everything now (I did not tell them, they snooped) and that peace is everything- well, it is a bright spot in this dark time for me. Kids are 18 and 14 and spend as little time as possible with him. So sad really

          • Yes to that! Your kids are mighty to have been able to tell you that you should defend them. And I admire you to have heard and acted accordingly! My mother was/is the enabler (sorry for the strong word) and I whish that teenager me had told her to defend me. Instead, I attempted to please a narcissic father. I currently NC both of them.

            • My goal now is to raise them with 100% honesty and hope they heal and feel 100% loved by me. None of us know what he feels – as my son says, when I tell him his father does love him, “why does that even matter when he treats everyone like shit.” And it’s true. I like the peace in my house but still struggle with the trauma bonds

      • This is my biggest / only struggle at this point. My adult children know that my Ex cheated on me with his current Schmoopie, but that’s all they know. My Ex has spun his story about how he had been unhappy with me for many years, and now he has found love, blah blah blah. My children do not know that my Ex cheated on me for years and years with multiple women and lied to me 100 million times. They do not know that my Ex is only with his current Schmoopie because she’s the one I finally caught him with.

        There is a part of me that wants to tell my kids exactly who/what their father really is. But as noted above, the conventional wisdom seems to be that they will eventually figure it out on their own. Sometimes, though, it is really hard to exercise restraint.

        • My therapist and a good friend who went through a similar situation told me it was ok to tell your kids the facts or to wait until they ask and then be truthful- which is what I did. I try not to express how much of an ass he is, just stuck to the facts, which the kids already knew. And they already knew he is a mean person because that’s how he treated them. I don’t want my kids to repeat my mistakes- staying and spackling- and I want them to know how painful his behavior was to me. And there are consequences. So they don’t do this to someone or let it be done to them. Hopefully I can show them strength

        • I feel that if we do not give our adult children the facts / in a reasonable non-editorialized way we are sort of gaslighting them as well. If the cheaters story is not true or is full of half truths how can they even be expected to see the light and understand who they are dealing with. My adult children have asked me to please be honest – it helped them confirm what they were feeling and what they thought to be true.

          • If my kids ever ask me any questions about their father, I will tell them the truth. I suspect that they are not yet ready to ask and/or to hear the answers.

    • ‘Well, isn’t he just the greatest guy’ I despise it when my ex acts like a great guy even in emails. He seems to have two channels, either a FW ( and what came with that )
      or Mr. Wonderful that the world sees and that I mostly lived with before Dday.
      Comments in emails re wrapping up divorce like ‘I’m interested in your thoughts,’ ‘I appreciate everything you and the kids did to get to get the house ready to sell,’ ‘ thank you for working with me on this.’ Puke.
      I know some people only deal with fuckwit behaviour all the time and that’s awful. But this Mr. nice guy routine after destroying our life is ^_¥££~*&#.

      • Me too! I have a Mr. Wonderful also, it’s ridiculous, it’s very toxic, unsincere and damaging. Mindfuckery at its finest. Well, mr. Wonderful is an as hole and lying is his skill and he is so preocupied about his public image when in reality and worries about himself only… Because what GE wants, and HIS happiness are the only ones that count, right?

      • “Mr. nice guy routine after destroying our life is ^_¥££~*&#.”


        In my case the FW was into singing gospel music and praising God. I am a Christian and I have no issue with this, but please he was so fake and still is. Only now everyone knows he is a fake.

        • The Mr. Nice Guy routine is hard to stomach. Is is the last ditch effort to save face? Or a passive aggressive move to just get under our skin? Mine now has 3 channels sarcasm and Mr Nice Guy and lashing out.

          • For mine, the Mr. nice guy is really who he is on one level. It’s how he sees himself. It’s how others see him. It’s his whole identity. He never says the wrong thing, never lets out the wrong emotion, never shares a controversial opinion, never yells, never complains, makes people feel great ( unless you’re his spouse and he’s suddenly discarding you), never asks for anything, never returns bad food in a restaurant , is always gracious and helpful, doesn’t want conflict. He’s a professional and professional in his personal life too.
            He’s the last person in the world I would’ve thought would cheat because he’s an adult Boy Scout.
            This really made me blame myself for his suddenly dumping me for a married OW.
            When he started being passive aggressive, a little moody and distant – and in retrospect kind of stopped looking at me, he was still helpful and kind. If I would have stayed sad and destroyed instead of becoming angry – he would have helped me move etc. – anything to be the great guy.
            This is far from the profile of the average cheater from what I’ve read here, but the blame shifting, being in fantasy land, strange look and victim stance are very similar to other people’s stories.

  • Spot on about the anger and deflection. My ex would become angry over the oddest things. If I would forget to put the window cleaner away. He would say what moron left the windex out. Got angry at my son where he parked his car. As the affair with skankella went on. He became more verbally abusive and nasty. When I found out about the affair. He blamed me for reading his emails(he asked me to help him change his password). And for checking our cellphone records. He became angry when I called her number. How dare I call her number. She is going to think I was a nut. Only someone like me would call every number on the phone record. And even til today he denies having sex with her. They only went out as friends for 4 years.

    • Cuzachump,
      Everything you said! The denial over what’s so obvious ????
      Mine changed all his passwords too, and said it was due to my going through all his stuff. His mother actually told me that his father instructed him to do that.

  • THIS. All of this to a T. The rage escalated and I didn’t understand it. I went through years of not knowing what was going to set him off- and why he seemed to HATE me so much. I would have panic attacks (thinking I was actually dying) and he would appear bored with me. Then after finding out about other women he always said it was because of my insecurity. Cue the gaslighting. Back then I was weaker and questioned my sanity- and, everything I did wrong. Wondering if I deserved this- I even asked him. Of course he said “yes! What you did before we were married is exactly I cheated on you 13 years later!” Looking back- every single thing you mention: rage, entitlement, gaslighting, blame shifting- seems so obvious now. Thank you so much for validating that whole traumatic experience. It has helped my healing so much.

    • Aren’t they so talented at making us doubt our sanity?!? My story is similar to yours, minus the other women (as far as I know). Lots of hugs ????

    • I have had very few panic attacks in my life but one was right when he drove from our house to start a long road trip…he was SO ABUSIVE on trips…I was a captive who could not get away and he abusively RAGED at me…in front of the kids and he indulged in RAGE DRIVING until I was terrified.

      • I still have issues with long drives due to “rage driving” captive…. I didn’t realize it until I took a two hour trip with a now friend but then romantic interest. I could not get comfortable in my seat. I was waiting for the rage. It never came. I was so uncomfortable and couldn’t explain my complete change in demeaner. Which was noticed. We came upon a stop light on Highway road that lead to either this town or that town. Common in my area I literally grabbed the hand bar, unrolled window for air … braceing for the rage of a GD stoplight. Never came. I knew then I couldn’t do this “dating” yet. it’s been 10 years since divorce and the triggers are ingrained like a tattoo I cant wash off.

  • My ex husband changed to become an angry man too. I could tell by the sound of his footstep through the front door what sort of mood he was in. Nothing I did was right- the fridge food wasn’t sorted right, dinner was too early or too late, the food was making him fat (salad and chicken). The looks of pure hatred when he thought I wasn’t looking. I am just so sad after 33 years together that he cheated with many Prostitutes and was angry at me for looking at his phone when he was drunk! I love him and I hate him. I don’t want to be with him but I am empty. It was last August that I found out about his double life.

    • Paula, the longer you stay no contact with him the better it will get. The healing really accelerates once you are divorced. Practice extreme self care and read all the back issues of CL. We have a robust community on FB for real-time support too.

      You matter!

    • Paula, your comments about hating and loving him simultaneously are almost word for word what my thoughts about Nitwit were when I still lived with him. I moved out in August and my life is now so much more peaceful without his drama. There is joy and freedom on the other side. The emptiness is normal when you remove a constant, even a negative constant, from your life that has been there for 33 years. You were a complete person before you met him and you can be a complete person after you leave him.

  • Ah, now I understand! When we installed security doors in our flat we weren’t taking precautionary measures against a potential burglary, we were “insecure”. ????

  • My ex would walk in the door and I could see his eyes darting around looking for something to scream about.

    I have told this but the most humiliating one was the salt offense.

    He wanted salt for his pasta, for some heinous reason I had run out. He started screaming about how stupid and worthless I was. “what kind of idiot runs out of salt” “salt is a basic, no one ever runs out of salt” and on and on, then he said “Go to Marsh and buy ten boxes of salt, and I am going to count them” Said as he huffs out the door.

    And here is the humiliating part, I went to Marsh and bought ten boxes of salt.

    I was scared not to buy the salt. He never mentioned the salt again, but went on to scream at me on a regular basis, until Dday. When I moved out of the house, I left nine boxes of salt there for his mother (who was moving in) to find.

    God I wish I had thrown his ass out early on. Worthless piece of shit.

    I honestly wondered at the time (soon after he left) if he was not getting close to physical abuse had he not been outed by someone. I may owe my life/physical safety, to someone who I will never know. I mean I don’t think he would have, but it (the hostility) was getting bad folks. Bad enough that I was questioning his actions, and walking on egg shells.

    • Damn, that brings back a memory of my ex ranting and raving because he couldn’t find the “exact” pasta he wanted (maybe the large pasta shells, which are difficult to find here). I had about 10 different kinds of pasta in the cupboard but not the exact kind he wanted so he flew into a rage and pulled all of the pasta out of the cupboard and threw it all over the kitchen floor. For once I realized I had to leave him to it so I walked upstairs and put the TV on. Left him to clean the kitchen up a couple of days later!

    • This brings back horrible memories of being out of ice cream. Then everything else comes back, the time his computer crashed, he got our two sons out of bed to line us up and lecture us about using our spare time to be productive and learn computer skills.
      Throwing dinner plates full of food which splattered everywhere and screaming at us two clean it up. Two to three days of nasty remarks designed to get me to snap at him so he could blow up at me, followed by three days of not speaking to me.
      For those of you that are experiencing this, know that it gets worse and you will be fighting for your life one day. Leave now before the physical abuse takes hold……

      • Yes, absolutely get out when your children are screamed at and they become fearful.
        We adults are able to take abuse and eventually recover, but my adolescent daughter could not. She was bullied by her stepfather; she has anxiety and nerve damage now she is in her 30’s. Emotional trauma absolutely causes irreparable damage to the physical body.

    • Given your ex was in law enforcement, I’m really glad you got out when you did. It’s especially terrifying when someone with a badge abuses their power and the people around them.

      • Yep, I mean I don’t think he would have turned violent, but dang he was close.

        My now husband told me years ago that he was glad I got out when I did, as he even wondered if he was close to violence.

        I was starting to question things not long before he turned verbally abusive. I had wondered in times past if that was the beginning of my discard. I was getting too uppity, how dare I question if it was a good idea to buy another property, how dare I question why we can’t buy a new couch and chair since we are both making money now, etc. I assume I was getting too close to the real financial abuse.

        I requested a years worth of credit card history a couple days after he left me for the whore. Yep, there it was in black and white. I still can’t believe he didn’t intercept that from our mail box. I assume he was all wrapped up with schmoopie, his dick, and fixing up his new pad, and likely figured I was too stupid to do that.

        I would have liked to seen his face when he tried to use one of those credit cards that I had cancelled. I had also requested a credit report to make sure there were no more credit cards out there, other than the one I had requested in my name only.

  • Mine would engineer fights that would cause ME to rage. He would remain silently superior. I’m so angry that I took the bait.

    He punished with silence. He stomped. He was moody. He gave me the silent treatment (I thought he was deep in thought). When I said I wanted more intimacy in our relationship, he said, “I know” and then looked down at his computer, ignoring me.

    He backed into our daughter’s car and got angry that she wanted it fixed and for him to pay. Dr. High Horse gave her a lecture on valuing the wrong things.

    He yelled at me for asking a question about fishing (his sport). He claimed I was acting as if I’d never fished before. Disgusted, he stomped off ahead of me on the trail, leaving me to wonder if he was right. I wrote about it in my online journal. When I went to the outhouse (fishing cabin amenity), he typed in my password and saw that I complained about how I don’t even like fishing. In those lines, he found just cause to divorce me.

    Looking back, I can see that he was building his case against me. It’s like being on trial but not knowing. They create situations so that you’ll provide “evidence” for their case against you. It’s infuriating to think back on this.

    What a fucker!

    • The ‘being on trial’ without knowing is so true. That’s exactly how I felt for 2 years. I didn’t know about the affair until after he left. Together for 26 years and he left for childhood sweetheart. I found emails 2 months after he’d gone. The affair has never been admitted. The rage and cruelty before he left was brutal. I’m free now, but don’t know what to do with my freedom, because of the trauma (and lockdown).

      • I agree. I suspect that XW wanted our marriage to fail, but since I was actually a very good husband she kept the trial a secret from me so that I would be sure to fail. AP was naturally aware that XW was in the process of judging us against each other, so he was texting nonstop and sending her thousands of dollars of flowers, jewelry and clothes, which the two of them kept secret from their respective spouses. Meanwhile, I was busy single-parenting while holding down a full-time job and preparing to move with our three kids to join XW, who had gone ahead for her dream job, so I didn’t have a lot of time to attend to my wife.

        XW made sure to keep the fact that I was on trial for my marriage a secret so that AP would “win” in the contest between the two of us. I’m sure that in her mind the contrast between our behaviors (during this critical six months I was so busy with our family that I didn’t have much time for her, while AP was neglecting his wife and two kids to woo her full time) proves that she made the right decision.

        • And what exactly did AP win? A woman who thinks nothing of destroying her own kids and husband, a cheater, a liar. They are simply two home wreckers. Two families destroyed and for what? I’m sure two home wreckers will have such an amazing life until reality hits and they start cheating on each other. I will never understand why they do this.

        • I was on trial for 9 months without knowing it too. During that time I was also caring for Ex Asshat’s aging mother who he locked away in a nursing home as soon as he could, against the wishes of me and his family. His mothers friends would call me begging for her to be allowed to go home as she was losing all interest in life in the nursing home. I should’ve seen that as a sign I’d be next. Instead I so-called that he had so many responsibilities and I was less than for only working part time.

          • Women need to stop running themselves ragged taking care of their in-laws! Their husbands and any husbands’ siblings can set up a schedule or funds to look after their own parents/aunts/uncles etc. And that is not an invitation for the daughter/sister/niece to do all the work unless she wants to AND is getting remuneration.
            Rant over

        • She made the right decision: she granted you your freedom.
          Most of us would have been too loyal to leave.

      • Oh my goodness. Well, even with the lockdown, one can still go for a long walk in the woods or relaxing yoga in the living room. I remember one morning waking up early and taking the dog for a 45 minute walk. I wanted to start making time for myself to take a morning walk and get more activity. I returned home to get the third degree as if I were a teenager coming in late. Then I was told that walking isn’t good enough exercise and I needed to do whatever his latest fad workout was if I “really” wanted to get in shape because “(I) have a long way to go.) ???? I’m a healthy BMI but 15 pounds up from my high school weight, so I am just horribly fat and out of shape. My weight was always one of his favorite things to pick on. He liked to tell me I was weak.

        You take your freedom and enjoy some peaceful activities. Writing. Art. You name it. No judges.

    • When they put us on trial (usually without telling us at the time)? That’s classic devaluation, part of the cycle of abuse. 1. Idealization/love bombing, 2. Devaluation when they realize we’re not perfect (at least for them), 3. Discard (whether actual or emotional).

      • This part was brutal. I remember twisting myself in knots and making myself so small so I wouldn’t anger him. I just wanted the seething contempt to stop. It’s a heartbreaking, classic abuse situation. The contempt is barely masking the real, pure rage they feel towards us. Scary to think about.

        • Ugh. I did the same. I became so small, someone without needs.

          And yet, when I was in the midst of it all, I considered myself a strong feminist. I actually felt I was the stronger partner. He was so quiet. I dominated in the home and in social situations. In reality, however, I catered to him to an unhealthy degree in order to keep from angering him.

      • This is so true. I didn’t know that I was on trial while sick with Covid and not being to breath or cook or make cookies for Christmas. Unfair trial that I didn’t even know I had.

    • “Looking back, I can see that he was building his case against me. It’s like being on trial but not knowing. They create situations so that you’ll provide “evidence” for their case against you”

      So true, this is exactly what they do!

    • Spinach, I got all kinds of subtle passive aggressive type anger as well. It’s so subtle that you feel like shit but you don’t really know why. Once affair started – distance, sarcasm, not really looking at me, i’m the only one making conversation or at least trying to , acting like I’m extremely controlling if I do something innocent like change a radio station I didn’t know he was listening to. When I apologized wholeheartedly if once in rare while I had a strong emotional reaction about something ( in retrospect, brought on by his lack of empathy) – I got the calm, non reactive ‘ it’s OK babe, I know that’s what you need to do.”

    • The picking fights for you to get angry and look “out of control” is such a covert narc tactic. Mine started to do this more towards the end and even now. Meanwhile he’ll stare blankly, it used to drive me nuts! How cou he just not care?! I also think he recorded some of those arguments and played them for the ow as proof, “see what I’m dealing with?” And in hindsight he set so much up and recorded it all building a case. And texts that I’ve reread recently and putting a negative spin on me. I was totally unaware.

  • Mine never really raged because he was terrified of conflict. But he was extremely passive aggressive and after I found out about his ex gf on the side he upped his passive aggressive game and started to withdraw the little efforts he was actually making. Example: he always got me flowers on my bday but that year he didn’t…..that’s conflict avoidant passive aggressive for fuck you. He stopped doing anything around the house because “nothing he did was enough”. Forget about the fact that I worked full time too and made more money….he was actually doing me a big fat favor by doing his share around the house. If I wasn’t going to rugsweep he wasn’t lifting a finger.

    He did get a little nasty the few times I showed weakness and got upset. As soon as I got in his face he backed down like a coward and went back to pa tactics.

    All this because I made baby uncomfortable by bringing up his whore. Ironically he claimed he didn’t know the last time he’d talked to her (he was having her call him at work) but as soon as i served him there were 25 texts and several phone calls per day (he hardly ever texted anyone). He was too dumb to realize that his phone was on my acct and I could see the activity. Granted once he’d been served he was free to do what he wanted, but it pretty much wrecked his claims that he hadn’t talked to her in ages.

    Whatever. She’s been divorced 5 times and carried on with my ex through at least the last marriage, and he is old, wears a shitty toupee, and has raging ED.

    They’re well suited for each other.

    Buy i doubt anyone knows about her because she was always a cheap piece that he kept secret. What would his friends, family, and church think if he was seen with an Asian?

    • My STBX also keeps her rage channel set to passive-aggression. Even now, when we are separated and headed for divorce, and I have reduced contact to the bare minimum I can do while sharing parenting during a pandemic, STBX still tries to slip little things in: on Yom Kipper this past year (Jewish day of atonement), she sent over a note when DD9 came over, saying “I won’t ask for forgiveness, but I hope someday you’ll forgive me.” Poor sad sausage. Needless to say, I didn’t respond, and try not to take the bait.

      • Ha ha ha….I state that i won’t ask for forgiveness, but then I ask for forgiveness.

        My family is Jewish too so my advice for her is to take her fast seriously and take it up with God.

        Geez….let’s use Yom Kipper to feign regret and then go right back to being a shitty person. Like God doesn’t see right through that.

        • Sorry for autocorrect – it’s usually spelled Yom Kippur. Yeah, I threw out STBX’s note right away, but maybe I should have written it down for posterity’s sake – you can’t make this shit up! I have plenty of other written evidence of STBX’s passive aggression, though. In summer 2020, she started dating someone in person without consulting me or my parents, who might be exposed to the virus because of her actions (since we share custody of DD9). I broke no contact to deal with this issue and gave STBX a piece of my mind about her thoughtlessness. At first she was defensive and couldn’t hear what I was saying at all, but a couple of weeks later her new “relationship” ended, and she semi-apologized, but always had to get a little dig in. Like, “I’m not responsible for your healing or your feelings.” I told her that she was weaponizing concepts she had learned in therapy, and even if those things might strictly be true, it’s continuing abuse to say them after hurting someone. (Because STBX likes to think of herself as woke, the example I gave is, “Imagine if the Minneapolis police chief said she wasn’t responsible for the healing or the feelings of George Floyd’s family.”) Then I went back to NC. It’s hard not to engage with these little passive-aggressive nuggets, but I’m working on it! All best to you, Kim.

          • “I’m not responsible for your feelings”
            Straight out of the narcissistic abuser playbook. I heard the exact same line

  • So so true… I can remember vividly the last episode like this. We were on our annual family vacation at the beach. We arrived on a Saturday and by Monday night Mr. Sparkles was acting like a caged animal. He was up on the third floor balcony blasting heavy metal music (Metallica, Judas Priest, etc.)… and he was stomping and pacing… my 20you stepdaughter looked at me from the second floor where we were and shrugged a WTF look… I had no answers for her, but I knew Mr. Sparkles was having tantrum… like a two year old baby might.

    The next morning he told us he had to go back home that night because he was needed to conduct a job interview the day after. So Tuesday night after dinner, he leaves… and the walls of the house sing… all his negativity and anger and general bitchiness left with him. He came back around midnight saying he got half way home but was too tired to drive so he pulled over to sleep, thus the six hours lost (note: we were a one hour drive from home)… and suddenly the job interview wasn’t happening.

    He left for the OW about a month later.

    THEN… two years later, he and the OW broke up because she caught him cheating on her. She wrote me a letter maybe six months afterward saying he did not come to see her that night at the beach (I had learned she was down the same time as us)… and she said she suspected he was meeting someone else that night because it wasn’t her.

    SO yeah… tantrums speak volumes.

    • Oh gosh, the things we put together in hindsight and in connection with the tantrums. So easy to see after the fact.

  • It was the COMPLETE LACK of anger and defensiveness that kept me hooked for so long and staying in the marriage. Surely if he were cheating, he’d be angry and defensive, so he must not be?

    No. And stop calling me Shirley.

    He was just an Olympic gold medalist at lying.

    And you can’t resolve ANYTHING with a table-turner. He is now 57 years old and nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing is ever his fault. When you try to bring up a problem, that Lazy Susan gets spun around at warp speed and you are transported immediately into the Universe of Alternative Facts and Reality.

    This is where LAWYERS come in handy.
    They are the hired messengers who are, to my extreme relief, are validating what I have been saying for 30 years.

    Pay close attention to how anyone in your life handles the situation if you reveal that you are upset. If they DARVO you, show them the DOOR.

    His mother thought that she had the right to come into our house whenever she felt like it, without asking. When I very politely said that this was uncomfortable for me, she accused me of trying to drive a wedge into the family and didn’t speak to me for three years. He did not stand up for me. One time during this time period her washing machine broke and she asked him if she could come over when I wasn’t home and use my washing machine. He asked me if it was OK.

    WTFFFFFFFFFFFF was I thinking?!!!!!

    I’ve been asking myself that a LOT this past three years.

    • I am currently reading The Human Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent Narcissist Trap.

      The inner work never ends. This situation has revealed to me that I have some major homework to do. It’s going to be a while before I even consider having a coffee date.

      (Unless I’m out on a hike and get transported through a magic circle of stones back to 18th century Scotland and find myself at Lallybroch).

        • s……I am unsure of when the next book is coming out; I havent read them. I was complaining to our departmental secretary one day about the frustrations of remote teaching and she said to me….You need some Jamie Fraser. I didnt know what the heck she was talking about. I proceeded to check out Outlander and Jamie. Need I say more??

      • Noooo my daughter claims Jamie is hers! We even had a trip to Scotland planned for last June to hike places in the show( cancelled of course) her husky’s name?? Yup… lol

        • New…..What an AWESOME trip!!! I hope you can make it happen this year or as soon as travel is allowed. As for your daughter….tell her this 62 year old lady will share…hahahaha…..I thought no one would EVER compare to Ryan O’Neil in Love Story….WRONG!!

        • I was in last in Scotland FEB 2019 and love it there. My friends lived in a house on the grounds of Mellerstain House outside of Edinburgh so I could play Outlander AND Downton Abbey.

          My crush is clearly about the character Jamie and not the real life Sam Heughan. For things to work out in real life, I’d have to have indoor plumbing and heating at Lallybroch, and live near the stones so I could go back and forth to have my teeth cleaned, get toilet paper at Target access modern medical care, and get takeout food from my favorite places…..

          But that “pledging fealty” thing and being protective of Claire is the ultimate in what makes him attractive IMHO.

          • Agree! I want the comforts of our time but the faithfulness of Jamie. Sam Heughan is gorgeous but I also like Murtagh. Although I loved the books, at times I wished the editors had cut some of the sex scenes. It was a little too much for me.
            But I love the story.
            I posted as “S” by mistake.

          • Okay lovely CN, I have not read the books or seen the Outlander series, but thank you for the suggestion!! I can highly recommend “The Bridgertons” on Netflix. I have an official crush on Lord Hastings.
            I’m in a ‘not-dating-ever’ mindset atm, but I’d make a quick exception in his case.

    • VH

      I was thinking the exact same thing when I read today’s blog. I was married to a TFC with all the tendencies you have described above so explicitly.

      But, he was defensive. In fact I remember a friend telling me early on to ‘expect defensiveness’ hence I assumed it was normal and proceeded as though it was. He was in AA so that was to be expected as well as anger and those of us in Al-Anon sat in our meetings all nodding our heads as we shared about our lives living with sober alcoholics. I learned early on to pick my battles and keep the focus on myself.

      Well, I did focus on my own behavior to a fault and his behavior became a way that I learned to look at myself – not him. He did not have to blame shift. I did that myself. The age old Al-Anon question is, ‘What is my part in this?’ and the good old self-destructive part in me was very good at coming up with an answer that exonerated him and left me with my own work to do.

      Since Dday I have discovered the ‘founder’ of AA was a fw and his sweet wife not only put up with it but supported him throughout his entire sober life – he never had another job once he sobered up.
      He had a slut on the side and his wife knew about it….and stayed…..

      I never knew that in all the years I was in Al-Anon so it came as quite a shock when I did discover it. Luckily the message in AL-Anon is changing and spouses are not ‘putting up’ with unacceptable behavior.

      Only problem is that for us who live or have lived with covert passive aggressive narcissists the signs are harder to see because it all looks so good on the outside although something doesn’t feel right on the inside. It is too easy for us to blame ourselves, or at least it was for me.

      There were a few sudden explosive angry outbursts in our over 30 years together but they were never discussed. They would come out of the blue and pass just as quickly.

      The only after-effect was his expressing shame – not for what he had said or done but to polish up his ‘good guy’ shield/ image management.

      I didn’t recognize that behavior and cover-up either until I found CL a couple of years after Dday following my lost years wandering around in the RIC….

      About a year ago an Al-Anon friend of mine began using the term ‘monkey world’ and she pointed out all the similarities we have with chimps and gorillas. My curiosity got piqued so I googled chimp behavior on youtube and in one of the clips I saw I met myself…..

      The particular film I watched showed the alpha male getting really pissed off – really pissed off and throwing a tantrum – running around smashing things screeching at the top of his lungs.

      From out of seemingly nowhere a female chimp rushed up to him and began frantically patting his back and offering herself up to him in an effort to calm him down….Those few seconds said it all in a way that words hadn’t yet.

      • ‘Only problem is that for us who live or have lived with covert passive aggressive narcissists the signs are harder to see because it all looks so good on the outside although something doesn’t feel right on the inside. It is too easy for us to blame ourselves, or at least it was for me.’
        And in my case it felt very very right until a subtle shift and then discard. But your brain gets stuck in that period when he was treating you very well – and he was still doing nice alongside the passive aggressive crap.
        Did I ever blame myself! – I had the – because he’s such a wonderful man, I must have really blown it mentality. And that thinking lasted a long long time.

      • I’ve been in Al Anon and AA for 35 years. I am not in the Tolerate BS camps and do not think we have a part in everything and that anger is a not OK. I arrived there under the guidance of a very savvy therapist who was also in recovery. It’s the real world, not Well People Anonymous for sure. It’s very easy for people to adopt harmful dogma in 12 step programs and that’s why my savvy therapists have always been in the top spots of my pit crew.

        I end any associations with people who think I “have a part” in abuse or think anger is a sign of not “working a program”

        I met my husband in recovery and was too dedicated and committed to a relationship where it became apparent after DDay that he was completely bullshitting about being sober and in recovery.

        Check out Many Roads One Journey by Charlotte Kasl. I LOVE her. She brings observations of sanity and common
        sense to the recovery conversation.
        Good info about not swallowing anything whole and makes valid critical observations that I think everyone in recovery should be aware of. I love all her work.


      • The term 13th stepping was coined because a lot of people in 12 step programs attend to prey on vulnerable people. They pretend to be working on themselves but they’re just looking for a new host to latch onto. Parasites.

        • This I did know. Just didn’t know that Bill was the original 13th stepper and that it was all covered up neatly by others in the early AA meetings so as to not tarnish AA’s reputation until someone told me….40+ years later…

          Back then we didn’t have the terms we do today to use to describe all the behavior exhibited by dry drunks. Just fell under the catch-all of ‘alcoholic behavior’ which, more or less, ‘normalized’ it within certain AA communities.

          Things have changed a lot since then but some things have not. People in program did cover up the x’s behavior for years….so much for working a program of ‘rigorous honesty’…..all depends upon whom is defining honesty and what that means to them individually. ‘I can be honest with myself and these people but NOT with my spouse or family etc….’

    • He WAS very critical and near the end was angry, and actually denied being angry when asked directly.

      But he never got defensive or angry on those occasions when I asked him if he was having an affair, and I really believed that if he was lying that response would not be possible.
      (I made a lot of the Kool Aid I drank….not all, but some for sure).

    • Dear Velvet Hammer, Your story is familiar , ex NEVER showed any emotion. Like you say he was a Master Liar. Entitlement was his forte, cognitive dissonance, and arrogance was how he functioned. Like being struck by lightning one day I got a shocking thought, he’s having an affair. Nothing but instinct to me. No proof whatsoever. Of course he denied and denied for 26 years, but finally one day I trapped him into admitting the truth. Well, sort of it took me another 3 months to eek the real story (as far as I can tell) out of him. Even then after fully admitting to the most disgusting details he still turns the entire thing around. Says ” I don’t know why you’re even mad, she was just a friend, somebody I knew.” A tosser at the Bit’s say.

    • I just want to say in response to Velvet Hammer: the issue of dealing with people who come to us upset can be thorny. My STBX would probably say that she didn’t feel adequately validated by me when she tried to discuss being upset. I always tried to respond without defensiveness, and really consider whether there was something I could be doing differently. BUT, I frequently came to the conclusion that STBX has unrealistic expectations, and that there was not much I could do differently to avoid certain “hurts.” Like, I couldn’t read her mind…

      Sometimes I gently tried to discuss the issue of unrealistic expectations with STBX – but of course that didn’t go over well. My lack of total validation of her feelings wasn’t DARVO, because I wasn’t doing anything I knew would hurt her – i.e., my actions weren’t remotely close to her deceptions and other emotionally abusive choices. Quite likely, there was nothing short of full-on codependency on my part that would have made her feel heard when she came to me with grievances.

      So, I agree for myself that it’s good to look for reciprocity in all our relationships moving forward, but I’m also keenly aware that feelings aren’t facts, and it’s helpful to have some independent confirmation (like from a therapist) that our (and others’) expectations are realistic.

      • My former MIL was hurt that she could not just walk into my house like she lived there. I was upset that she felt like she could just walk into my house. Whose feelings were valid? Both.

        My response was to think very carefully about what to say over the course of a couple of days. I was polite. I said it made me uncomfortable. I acknowledged that I knew she was used to doing things differently. I set the boundary about please not walking into the house with the most perfectly crafted “I” message in the history of modern psychology and it didn’t matter. I had ignited WWIII.

        Her response was to tell me I was driving a wedge into the family, the silent treatment for three years, and a campaign of passive aggressive acts of revenge…not inviting me to events, broken unwrapped Christmas gifts, etc.

        Feelings aren’t facts but everyone’s feelings are valid and real to them, is what my therapist told me. Yes, hers too. I thought it was outrageous that my former MIL felt hurt that she couldn’t just walk into my house.

        But I responded with respect and validation. I didn’t get the same. I had no control over her resentment.
        My therapist told me I had to learn to let people “fly around and be mad”. She was right and I love that phrase to this day. My expectation was wanting her to be OK with the boundary….it wasn’t going to happen and I had to accept that.

        I am wondering if I am understanding what you wrote above…..

        • Ugh-your ex mother-in-law
          She didn’t live in your house so what made her think she had the right to walk in any time she pleased ? Somebody needs a lesson in boundaries.
          Even a landlord can’t enter a tenant’s place without 24 hour notice with just cause or an emergency (fire or burst pipe)
          She sounds like a snooper, a person I wouldn’t invite over.

  • I have never see this put in perspective. But this was a good validation of what I have seen. My ex displayed the weirdest and most absurd spouts of anger. He never admitted any fault. Never even questioned himself. He was always right and by default I was not. Ever. I handled garbage wrong. I did not cook right. I never put in the right amount of effort.
    He criticized me constantly. And when I reacted, got sad, or angry, he would blame me for having anger issues. I never understood that the displayed entitlement actually was a characteristic of a person who could and would cheat. I have no doubt that my ex was someone completely different than I thought he was. I do not even like him anymore. And I would urge everyone to be way more critical about he dissonance of words and actions in a relationship. If what they do does not match what they say, please get out. There does not need to be cheating to get out.

    For me, this constant being called out as a bad person with anger issues caused me to hold back. It caused me to withdraw emotionally. It caused me to accept that I did not matter. That I was a servant, but not one to be allowed to have needs. It made me really lonely after a while.

    Here is more to read about my journey:

    • I could have written this. I was never able to do anything correctly according to him. The trash was a big one! He would yell about how I put the bag in or what I put in or didn’t. The way I loaded the dishwasher, the way I cooked. He always gave me hell about my cooking, which I now realize is good he just a psychopath and enjoys being that petty. I felt like I could do nothing right. And you’re so right about not being able to have any needs. If I ever expressed any feelings or just saying hey I’m tired can you watch the kids? He was so offended. Now I realize it’s because a “king” is above such tasks.

      • Once, during dinner and in front of our kids, he accused me of doing everything “half-ass.” (I had done yard work but hadn’t coiled the hose fully. Shoot me!) My ex became enraged. My son (14 at the time) defended me and a scene ensued.

        Of course, it was a total lie that I did everything half-ass. But it worked to make me become even more of a perfectionist. I worked myself silly trying to please that man and do everything just right.

        [I’d like to note a glaring double standard here: He could leave out yard tools, and it wasn’t a problem. He could forget to turn off the grill–set to high heat–all night, and it wasn’t a big deal. He could forget to lock the house, and it wasn’t a problem. But my not coiling the frickin’ hose made me incompetent and not fit to live!]

        Of course, I need to examine why I internalized this criticism rather than acknowledge that he was fucking wrong.

        And he lives on in my brain, according to my therapist. Dammit! Call the exterminators!

        • Lordy, these fw are so much alike.

          I got that half assed comment. Asshole, rigged an sloppily did his home repair projects, let our fucking house almost be eaten up by termites (wouldn’t listen to me and our son) argued that the flying insects in the spring weren’t termites but carpenter ants. Even after I took a dead one and laid it beside termite in the dictionary. (that was in the day of physical book dictionaries) And yet I am the one who did things half assed. So many examples, don’t even get me started on plumbing, or electrical work.

          Then he tried to palm off that house on me. No thanks asshole, enjoy.

        • While self reflection is good I could spent hours thinking about why internalised his criticism just as you said. But honestly you were probably just like me trying to not escalate stuff and just trying to be reasonable. Trouble is that boundary gets pushed but so slowly you don’t even see it. If you are a non confrontational person it’s also quite confusing. We must not untangle the skein to get them from our heads. I hate how much of my brain it takes up. Proper trauma. Need a brain rinse. None of it is worth pondering over any more deeply but my mind doesn’t seem to agree.

        • OMG I got exactly the same comment. We would be working on some project together (we remodeled 3 of our houses doing most of the work ourselves), and I would suggest what seemed like a more efficient way to do something, and he would smirk and say, “Yes, I know how you like to half-ass things, but we’re going to do this the right way.” AKA, his way. But his constant criticism got to me to the point where if I had to back up the RV or do some home-repair thing while he wasn’t home, I would start shaking, worried that I would run into something or break something because I was so incompetent, after all…. The fear didn’t go away until nearly a year after the divorce. Asshole.

    • “It caused me to withdraw emotionally.”

      And when you did withdraw, likely that is what he focused on as his excuse. At least in my case that was what he did. Crapped all over me, then “oh we grew apart”

      They are insidious manipulators.

  • Can’t remember where I read this….

    “The Reality of Infidelity
    While the unfaithful partner may have a public reputation that is beyond reproach, the reality is that infidelity rarely happens in a vacuum. It is frequently associated with diminishing and devaluing a spouse (emotional and verbal abuse) which often occurs in the tension building phase of the cycle of abuse. The unfaithful partner might want an excuse to engage in extra-marital sexual activity and so they may repeatedly provoke, pick fights or set up their spouse in such a way as to actively create conflict, purposefully fostering conditions that allow themselves to feel justified in their unfaithfulness. Years of living through this level of continuous stress can create physical and emotional ill-health on the part of the faithful spouse.”

    • That is spot on and, to touch on a recent letter here, a reason why being friends with the ex isn’t a realistic possibility. It’s not just sex. It’s not just gushy notes to someone else. Both of those are bad enough, don’t get me wrong. But usually there is that extra abuse to devalue us.

      • “But usually there is that extra abuse to devalue us.”

        Yep, and usually no one but us sees it, at least for a while. I think others in public started to pick up on his treatment of me. But, it was too late.

    • This is what really chaps my hide about my ex’s behavior during the discard phase. All throughout our relationship, of course, he had used DARVO to deflect my complaints about his abusive behavior and avoid working on our relationship dynamics. But once he decided he was done with the marriage and started seriously hunting for his vaginal trap door, he started really ramping up the abuse—screaming and swearing at me, throwing things (not at me but near me), threatening to hit me. In hindsight, he was trying to get me to pull the trigger and leave him (like I had done once briefly years prior when I had had it up to my ears with the low-level poisonous drip of verbal and emotional abuse): after all, if his ploy worked, I would be the bad guy and he could shake his head sadly and saunter off into the sunset with his AP and his reputation as a gentleman who had tried so very hard for so very long to make a bad marriage work. But, his ploy didn’t work. I was so sick and worn down at that point that I didn’t have the strength to leave him. I basically just curled up in a ball and waited for him to either calm down or leave me—and he picked option B, while naturally citing my depression and decreased libido as the “reasons” he had “finally found someone else he was interested in.”

      It absolutely floored me when I realized what he had been doing to me those six months before discard. And so when Switzerland friends said things post-discard like, “Well, I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt you,” my blood sublimed in my veins. Of course he meant to hurt me: that was the whole point—to hurt me so badly I would do his dirty work for him and end the marriage. Whether he got to that point with charts and graphs or just felt his way to it using instinctive narc-jitsu doesn’t much matter to me. It was fucking diabolical.

      The thing is…I’m glad now that he did it. The truth is…I was never going to leave him no matter how horribly he treated me. He was going to abuse me into an early grave. And so I’m glad he lost his patience with his long DARVO con and discarded me. It was the only thing that was going to get me to wake up, grow up, and start loving myself instead of waiting for a man to love me enough that I could finally love myself.

      • Okupin,
        Thanks for this comment. It encapsulates my feelings, especially in the final paragraph. This is the sad, bittersweet truth for me as well:

        “It was the only thing that was going to get me to wake up, grow up, and start loving myself instead of waiting for a man to love me enough that I could finally love myself.”

  • WOW!! I could have written this myself!!! This whole post sounds so familiar!!! My Xwasband started to get SO ANGRY at me that it just shocked me!!! He had NEVER acted like this in the entire 25 years we were married!!! He BLEW UP one day when I was typing something in on our computer that he was telling me to enter!!! I said what’s wrong with you!!! He said, “I don’t know!!!” He DID know, I didn’t!!! At the time… He came totally unglued one evening when things started to go to hell… I said I wanted to talk about how we’d been getting along! HE BLEW A FUSE AND SPEWED SUCH HATRED TOWARDS ME!! I was in total shock!!! I knew right then and there the Devil had got hold of him. The guy I knew was liked by all family and friends!!! Had gone on many missions trips with our Church and we were very active!! He turned into someone I didn’t know!! His eyes and demeanor changed drastically!!! His eyes looked like soulless black holes and he turned VERY aggressive with me. Our neighbors even noticed all this!!!! Bottom line after a year, he finally admitted he was having an affair with a married coworker who had 4 college age children!! I divorced him immediately and it’s been 2 1/2 years. We didn’t have children, so no contact works for me!! I don’t have a clue as to what has happened since and really don’t give a Rat’s Ass!!!

    • I don’t want to be disrespectful to your beliefs, but you brought up something important that I wanted to address. Saying your cheater behaved as he did because he was possessed by the devil is in the same ballpark as blaming it on out of control sex addiction, a brain tumor, mental illness, alien pod people taking control of his body, whatever. The problem is that it gives him an excuse that makes him not responsible for his actions. CL emphasizes that the truth about cheaters is they don’t cheat, rage and discard us because they changed and turned into somebody else, it’s just that the image they were projecting (nice guy/gal, good Christian, upstanding citizen, loving spouse) was false all along. It’s so important for us to learn to look beneath the surface and carefully determine if people’s actions consistently match the impression they are trying to make. It’s tempting to want to believe that our mates, who we thought were good people, suddenly changed into these awful creatures, because it means we didn’t waste our lives with a person who was horrible inside the whole time. But alas, we did. There was a monster in there from day one and cheating just emboldened them and brought it to the surface. Sad but true.
      Sorry you had to go through that. As in yours and so many other cases, my STBX became verbally and emotionally abusive after he started cheating, but if I look back over the years before that, there were behavioral inconsistencies that were clues he wasn’t the nice guy he pretended to be. I failed to put them all together and see a pattern because he was an excellent liar and gave believable excuses for seemingly out of character behavior. They are good at that. At least now we know what to look out for.
      Btw, the souless black eyes (I call them shark eyes or the narc glare) you describe are definitely a thing with disordered cheaters. The general consensus is that that’s the mask coming off and the true hate-filled, malignant person coming to the surface. I bet if we did a poll it would turn out that most of the people here have seen that. It’s terrifying, so I feel your pain about that. Even my kids saw it, which was awful.

      • Just to second OHFFS comments above you might want to google

        HG Infidelity Help Group

        and do a search there for:

        PART 4

        ‘Affair Fog Theory: Character Change

        They concur with all OHFFS wrote.

        Shocking and liberating at the same time.

        Good Luck

          • I can’t find the original site where I found the article but here is something I found and you may be able to follow it to its origins. I am not tech knowledgable so I have no way of following the leads on this link.

            Articles I got I printed out shortly after divorce which was about 3 years ago so the site may be gone by the way side now.

            Sorry I can’t be of more help.


  • I thought these fits of rage were just apart of my stbx’s personality. He would eventually blame it on something like “I’m under a great deal of pressure at work” “I have a big presentation coming up, I’ll be better after that” “the financial pressure of our family falls to me, I’m stressed”. He’s always been “stressed” and I was the one he took it out on. I thought maybe he needed a mood stabilizer! But I’m hindsight, he was likely cheating all along. Now he blames his secrecy on me, “you steal things out of my truck” — the only truth to that is the extra cell phone and SIM card I found. Also, he says he keeps his phone locked because I go though all his stuff.
    This is the same game right?
    Just last night when I told him what a cheater he was he just kept saying “you’re wrong” and “shut up”. I need him to leave but he’s refusing due to failed negotiations. But he’s the victim?! He said I’m the one that filed the lawsuit and trying to ruin our family. I reminded him it was his cheating that caused me to do it. To which he just repainted with “you’re wrong, you’re making stuff up.” I cannot stand him.

    • The rages are part of his personality! They don’t abuse just because they are cheating, they cheat because they are, and always were, abusers. Sometimes the sadistic kick they get out of cheating brings the latent abuser out in them, but often they were abusive in other ways all along.

      • Yes! OHFFS!

        I believe this is true. They put on a false self, but, when the mask falls, we see them for who they truly are.

        When we look back, most of us can also see that some of that shitty, narc, low-character behavior bled through at other moments in our marriage, but we spackled over it. At least that is my experience.

  • YES.

    My husband checked out of the marriage within days of being married and I stayed with him for 26 more years. My hopefulness and optimism were toxic beyond all understanding.

    He was a rageaholic all during our marriage but there were times when it was worse or better…now looking back Im seeing that more rage = cheating times.

    Just as he went into the “big” affair that tied him in knots, I had just started a new job where I had an office with my own phone. I had no idea that my work blocked out phone number for outgoing calls. One day I called him and was “hi, how are you?” and his response was “who is this?” (I thought that was funny at the time…oh God). During a rage about a week later, he shreiked “You call me from blocked numbers !!!”

    And I still stayed 7 years after that…I thought I was a unicorn

    • “More rage = cheating times” so so true! I was completely clueless, thinking I could help, maybe it was me.

      Those weird things that happened over the years make so much sense when applying the cheater lens.

      • In memory, my ex is a dead-eyed, lying, covert-narc cheater who cares only about himself and his needs. I can hardly remember anything good about him.

        Some might argue that this is a sign of an embittered spouse. I would counter that it’s the sign of someone who finally sees the truth. Once the mask falls and once we toss the spackle knife, we can’t unsee the awfulness of their characters.

  • “It’s not what I did; it’s how you found out about it.”

    Yes! After I discovered an email exchange between my Ex and one of his APs, I kicked him out of my house. My Ex subsequently told my daughter that if I hadn’t “invaded his privacy,” he and I would still be together.

    Even after 3 years, it’s still hard for me sometimes to wrap my mind around this crazy mindfu@$. In my Ex’s worldview, the problem wasn’t that he was cheating; the problem was that I “invaded his privacy” and found out about it. Do you know what’s even crazier? I think he honestly believes it, i.e., that his conduct wasn’t a problem but that mine was.

    Good riddance.

  • Omg, This post brings back such harsh memories.

    One time, when we livied in South Florida, my Whore-fucking ex-husband told me he decided he wanted to go visit his daughter in New Jersey for a week. I innocently asked why he would want to go to New Jersey in February. His utter rage from that question took me completely off guard. It was really an innocent question, totally based on shitty weather. I could not understand why that was a huge kickstart to him flying off the handle. Before I knew it, he was feeling clearly justified in his anger, and I was in tears, apologizing.

    D-day was shortly thereafter. That’s when I realized he had no intentions of visiting his daughter in New Jersey for a week. I don’t know what his intentions were, but I’m sure they were somehow prostitute related.

    This is one example of many. I’m so glad those days are behind me.

  • This is so eye-opening. My ex had always been rather controlling, but he only started to physically threaten me after he started the affair. And he had the cheek, when I finally told him to stop dropping around (after he’d moved out to join AP), to be angry at me and stated, ‘I can’t believe this, not when I’ve been so kind to you!’

  • I had a different experience when I confronted FW about cheating. He HAD been on-and-off resentful, neglectful and acting weird. But the first time I confronted he was sad and attentive and reassuring me there was nothing going on (though still lying of course). At that time he was already done actively cheating, unbeknownst to me, as OW had moved on to a different target.

    It was only after DDay, and increasingly once we were in marriage counseling, that he started DARVO and manipulative behaviors, insisting I take responsibility for “my 50% in the marriage” and that I stop punishing him and see him as my “moral equal” (whatever that is). I almost feel like the more he read and “did the work,” the more bad ideas the RIC gave him. He made a list of some valid and some overly dramatic complaints about the marriage, after reading something about how he was only 50% responsible for marriage problems (didn’t take long for him to latch onto that like a drowning man to a bit of driftwood). True, the entitlement was endemic to him, but the RIC gave him a road map and justification to execute it. In the end he had to see his failure as partially my fault. He will DARVO as much as necessary to relieve his guilt, but it wasn’t his immediate outward reaction.

    FW was never a shouting or reactive type of person. His anger was always covert and hard to identify. It made me crazy throughout the marriage trying to figure out why I felt so bad when he wasn’t being mean.

    Just a different experience & not so obvious indicators of the same attitudes CL is describing, FWIW. I’m grateful that I didn’t have to endure the plain unvarnished cruelty that others here have, but it was in the end just a prettier and more condescending brand of mindfuck.

    • Although I should amend this by saying that a few years earlier FW had a period of that crazy anger CL describes, and for his usual calm demeanor it was explosive. I never thought at the time to find out if he was cheating, but we were living apart due to work, so he easily could have been. It was insane and then it was over without any explanation when he came home. Only after DDay years later did I find a likely explanation for that episode.

    • Yep – my STBX has also weaponized a bunch of concepts she learned in therapy and while reading RIC stuff. Sadly, another reason not to go to counseling with our cheaters. If they don’t have an excellent therapist to help them see the light, there’s not much we or anyone else can do.

  • I never cease to be amazed at how textbook the cheaters really are. I dreaded going home the last year and a half before Dday. He has PTSD from years of military deployments to combat zones, so I thought it was his PTSD. I wanted out so bad because of the constant anger and ridiculous reasons he gave for treating me and youngest son so bad. But I thought I was being disloyal for leaving him in his time of need, so I stayed. Once I found out it wasn’t his PTSD but a side chick, I was furious at him for his stupid mind games/rage and me for putting up with it. Words cannot adequately describe how I flipped the script and became the furious one. I never understood pick me dancing. I went immediately to fury when I realized he was treating me so bad because he wanted to be with someone else. All that time he could have just left, but he chose to stay. Well I HELPED him pack his shit and tossed him out. Of course, it wasn’t long before he realized the grass wasn’t greener. But that’s his problem now. His justification for cheating? I didn’t play video games like she did…and I didn’t make his favorite foods often enough. Just typing out has me laughing and SMDH over his lunacy.

  • Thank you for these reminders, Chump Lady! I needed them today! Not dealing with my x, but a narcissistic co-worker who has chosen me to be the scapegoat and responsible party for their bad decisions. Ugh! She knows I’m on to her, and the blameshifting and DARVO are in full force. But…I am Mighty!

  • This I needed today. The issues my stbx used were I spent too much, “Monopoly money”, and that I was a SAHM, “lazy and stupid, an agoraphobic who was a waste of space”. At any possible point, the considerate doctor would bash my age, my hair and eye color (no longer attracted to women with mine)—so it was my fault he cheated with the hooker. His mother even told me if I’d just have greeted him with a smile when he came home, reeking of cheap perfume, vapes, and booze he wouldn’t be so unhappy and wouldn’t “stray”.

    • I was told ‘the magic money tree is drying up’ and with great glee. Apparently he had tried to talk to me about money but I shut him down. Boo fucking hoo.

  • His rage, contempt, disdain and irritability were initially directed not at me, but at our child. He wanted all the kibbles for himself, and resented the loss of my sole attention. Eventually, the hatred was directed at me, although he usually masked it. A few times, though, the mask slipped, and I caught him looking at me with that cold, dead hatred, which he denied when I asked what was wrong. After he left, he told our child he was punishing him in retaliation because he had to share my love and that meant less for him–even though at his insistence, most aspects of family life STILL revolved around him and what he wanted. He sees himself as the victim not just as a husband, but also as a parent, which are both roles he chose.

  • Wow…this rings so true!
    I found out just two months that my new husband (we’d only been married 6 months) had been having and affair with a woman who I befriended because he wanted me to. They had been friends in the military and she was married herself with a child! (And she had already cheated on her own husband with a different man right before she screwed my own husband.) I found out what was going on from my father in law. My husband had been gaslighting me for weeks claiming that he was just depressed and overwhelmed with going back to school. He would snap at me if I tried to talk about how he was feeling and encouraging him to go to therapy to feel better. I tried to fight for our marriage for the first 2 weeks after finding out. But the FW kept telling me “you will never look at me the same,” “everyone will only ever see me as the cheating husband.” So I made plans to get out. I took him off my car insurance, got an apartment, my father who was paying our phone bill disconnected his phone, and I talked to a lawyer. And guess what???!!! He started lashing out telling me “you’re not a loving wife.” “You took everything from me.” Also, in a fit of rage I cut up all the clothes that I bought him. He had the audacity to say “I don’t like how you cut up my clothes.” WELL I DONT LIKE HOW YOU LIED AND CHEATED!

  • The anger was actually one of the puzzle pieces that helped me figure out that FW was cheating. We didn’t fight much up until he started playing footsie with his coworker AP… then around the time he started with AP, he would start fights… and screaming matches. This went on for a couple of months. I thought at first it was the stress of business travel… he supposedly was going on trips a lot out of the blue. What I didn’t know was that they were together the whole time. And then he would come home and pick fights. He wanted me to lose it on him. At one point, I remember saying “What is going on with you? It’s like you are trying to make me quit on you and want a divorce or something.” He just smiled. They are creepy f**ks. When I finally figured it out and confronted him and he left, he told our 9 year old son that we had had a terrible marriage and fought all the time (gaslighting him). My son asked me (he was aware of AP ….ex moved right in with her and her sons! And she had him over for a BBQ the month before DDay). And I said “what do you remember? ” My son said “you guys hardly ever fought. But the last couple of months have been awful.” I said “exactly. Your memory is correct. Trust your own eyes and ears.” He started putting it all together then. Smart kid. But sad that he had to get thrown into FW’s disgusting selfish choices.

  • Way to many years of this.
    I thought this was about her depression and other mental health issues. She was seeing a therapist and psychiatrist, bad did not want me involved with her treatment.
    But it didn’t stop.
    She got so bad and so open with her derisive hostility that my 15 year old son wrote a letter to her about the mistreatment of me. She was furious over it. She gave it to me to read and told me he needs to be punished.
    It was so validating.
    He totally recognized the abuse she was committing and called her out on it. It was a watershed moment. I had internalized her abuse as meaning there was something deeply wrong with me. Now realized whatever faults I had, this was about something else.
    A year later she wants a divorce and I discover she had been having an affair/sex with co-workers that extended back years.
    This had been projection all along.

  • “If you want to work with me, O.K., first accept the fact that your view of your lover and your spouse are both skewed. Things always seem great with the lover, it’s always so romantic and sexy, special, sporadic and, most of all, new and exciting. But guess what? New gets old. I wish I had a nickel for everyone who married their lover and found they replicated what they had with their spouse, with the added poverty of a post-divorce lifestyle. After all, the person who is cheating is withdrawing energy from their marriage and has alleviated their guilt by bad-mouthing or bad-thinking their spouse. Another piece of advice I’d say is, lovers are often little more than the crowbar you needed to get out of your marriage, but you don’t need to marry the crowbar. That’s a mistake a lot of people make. They feel so guilty, they then marry the person they had the affair with.”

    I saved this a long time ago. One of the things that makes me feel better when I read it……

    • “They feel so guilty, they then marry the person they had the affair with.”

      Maybe, I don’t even think a lot of them do it out of guilt. I think they do it to prove they were right in how they treated their spouse, they don’t feel guilty; they just need to be right. I guess it could be a fine line.

      Honestly, I have often wondered why so many betrayed spouses don’t want their fw’s to marry the AP. To me it is the perfect consequences for the cheater. Two liars and abusers, it really is perfect. (aside from those rare unicorns)

      • Since I’m no where near meh, I don’t want FW to marry AP just because I don’t want my very young kids around that bitch. He has already brought them around her, literally the first week he moved out and I was beyond pissed. I do want them to date and be miserable and blow up each other’s lives though. I feel like they deserve each other. Just keep the kids out of it.

        • That makes total sense. I always forget that when dependent children are involved it makes a whole different situation.

          In my case, my son was grown and in fact out of state in the military. Unfortunately as an adult he has had to deal with a lot of their shit. But, to be honest, he would have had to anyway; because my ex was never going to be a decent person again, not even is pretense. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was schmoopie, or some other woman, and he would have always had to have a woman to control.

          I didn’t know that in real time, but years out I know how his life has evolved and he became eve more selfish and abusive. My guess is schmoopie has dealt with even more hostility than I could ever imagine.

          I understand now that as weird as it seems, I got the best of him, he only go worse and worse after we divorced. Honestly just one bad decision after another. I only know because my son and daughter in law has to have someone to talk to.

          Sometimes when I am feeling generous I give him credit for leaving and giving me a chance at a good life.

          She knew who he was when she got him of course, and I didn’t have that advantage. I guess that is the only difference.

          My son made the statement to me the other day: “mom I love dad, but I just don’t understand him”

          I don’t understand it either, so I couldn’t really explain it.

          • Sometimes it’s best that we don’t understand a fuckwit’s thought process, because if you do there may be something wrong with you.

      • I agree with you and don’t know how much guilt is involved either. It was just part of the quote so I left it.

        The cheaters I know are cheating on the person they cheated with, so it seems to me that whatever they get out of cheating is the high they’re after, so if they marry who they’re cheating with they need a new player for the game to work.

        • Same with my ex, if I remember right it was at about the two year mark that he cheated on the new Mrs. Fuckwit. (former schmoopie) Hell he had paid a high price for her, his dignity being only part of the cost. Dammed if he was going to just be stuck screwing her for the rest of his life. Those thrills had to continue.

          But, putting all that aside, don’t these idiots know that the thrill is temporary. I mean many do of course because they are serial cheaters and attempt to keep the Chump in place. Just all so weird, I think I am just to darn normal to figure them out.

          Having said all of that, I still think you are right, it is the high they are after. Like any drug it won’t last with long term usage, you have to up the ante. I only know what I read about recreational drugs, as I have never used one, same as I have never engaged in illicit sex.

          Just a fuddy duddy I guess.

  • X did this in a sneaky way. I tend to be more expressive of my emotion than he ever was, so if I got worked up over something, he would internalize that and use it to justify his paying for sex to mollify himself. He’s so passive aggressive and likes to make himself into the victim. No attack (at least not in an outwardly directed way), but went underground emotionally to do what he wanted. The mindfuck for me was feeling like something wasn’t quite right but not being able to put my finger on it, other than sensing he wasn’t connecting or engaging with the life we were supposedly building together, but then feeling like the ogre for getting upset. I questioned myself a lot. Was I an angry, unlovable person? No, he was just a weak, cowardly, self-centered narc who was directing his energy elsewhere for years.

    • Chumponit,

      You’re not alone! So many of us here seem to have the dreaded covert narc who uses passive-aggressiveness, the silent treatment, gaslighting and blameshifting to mindfuck his/her spouse. We don’t knwo what’s going on when we’re in the midst of it all.

      I, too, felt like an ogre when I would snap, especially when kept his cool and just looked at me with those dead eyes. Damn him!

      Yes, they are weak, entitled, self-centered cowards.

  • This is my ex Narcissustic husband 200% it’s unfuckingbelieveable and uses our two teens as a weapon, I’m soooooo done he’s being served yet again, now for parental alienation, the guy is bat shit crazy!????

  • Pre DDay my FW was “having a midlife crisis” while whispering to our sons that he wanted to leave the marriage. Put them in a shitty spot. They kept encouraging their dad to “ talk to me”. They were devastated to learn about the affair. He would have moments of complete breakdown. Of course I was encouraging him to seek help, sympathizing with him trying to help, blah, blah, blah.

  • I agree. I never found out for sure, but there were questions just before and after he took off. For years he had been telling me that if he had an affair, it would be my fault because men who aren’t happy at home can’t help themselves. Really? I had a physical some months later, and my internist told me to get a full OB/GYN workup. I know that I looked shocked, but he said, “Trust me.” Thankfully nothing was found.

    Later, my divorce attorney commented that he had never had a case where a man went far away that didn’t have an affair partner on the other side. My ex was very vague about just how he spent his time throughout separation. Once the divorce process started, frankly I didn’t care any more. At one point I had strong suspicions that a P.I. was taking pictures of who came out of my house in the morning that was sometimes following me around town. I told my attorney about that too, and he said, “That could be projection, you know.” Yes, it could.

    Someone asked me not long ago why I never confronted him with my suspicions and really didn’t address with him the chaos that came from his departure. Part of it was that I had to work through my own junk, and part of it was that once he was gone, it was heading toward the end anyway.

    My attorney and I had discussions about the separation date because my ex claimed that he didn’t give up until much later than I did. My ex was angry that I said it was the date we separated. He said he hadn’t given up then. Cake and pick-me, anyone? However, I took actions soon after he left indicative of giving up. After he left I was splitting accounts, changing beneficiaries, changing emergency contacts, contacting a lawyer on some immediate issues, looking for additional work, selling things of mine to raise more money, etc. etc. My attorney also said that if it went to court, those actions would count far more than the thoughts going on in our brains. So the separation date was the separation date. Sorry, ex.

    Ultimately we settled out of court after unbelievable drama thanks to the two attorneys . Done.

  • Jackass raged when I confronted him about the MOW. He was probably still in the lovebombing stage and enjoying the chase. (He never lasts long in a relationship unless it has economic advantage for him. She had 3 kids and he has NO intention of taking that on). Then he went full Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.

    But before I figured it out, I only got flashes of his rage. I recall the first time he turned that anger on me verbally, thinking “This is how he talks to other people, not me.”

    The second thing I noticed was the “attack” was not always anger. There was also condescension and contempt, which in their way was work. He was suddenly smirking at me as he withheld affection, refused to help me with things he had promised to do, and refused to explain his silence and absence.

    These changes in behavior are signs of both devaluation (you aren’t worth the trouble of keeping their mask of feigned affection up) and the discard (having unplugged from the relationship, whether they still live in the house or not). What I learned that if someone is not treating me well, that’s a problem with them, not me. The minute anyone condescends to me or smirks at me, they’re history. That’s a major sign of entitlement.

    • And those things kind of sneak up on you. By the time he started physically rejecting me (about three months before Dday) I realized what the previous behavior was about, but it was too late to stop it, (not that I could have) But, they are sneaky bastards.

      This and only this is the reason I am glad when he hoovered, I got a chance to reject him. It didn’t change anything, but in real time; damn it felt good. Doesn’t matter what his reasons for hoovering were, I got to reject him. He wasn’t as irresistible to me as he thought he was. It doesn’t really matter now, but in real time it was a feel good moment.

      I think in his mind, I would spend the rest of my life pining for him. Lol, he got replaced by a huge upgrade pretty quickly. I took plenty of time to know he was an upgrade. Even if I had never remarried, my life would have been a huge upgrade. That is something we can only see with time though.

  • Oh my goodness, this is so accurate! Before I had the wisdom of CL, I named these times “the sky is blue day,” as in, “aw no, it’s a sky is blue day! Time to kiss his ass, walk one eggshells and be really, really good so we aren’t all miserable” It was named such in my mind because something so benign, or honest, or simple as the sky being blue would set him into a full rage.

    A favorite F-ed up example–Our 13 year old daughter is at the table drawing and utters out of the blue, “I’m not ever going to get a tattoo. I change my mind on my favorite color all the time.” Xhole completely freaks out screaming at her about how judgmental she is and that’s a nasty thing to say (Mind you she did NOT say tattoos are horrible things or tattooed people are bad, just that she didn’t want one.) Then he turns on me and screams that my bad parenting has caused her to be judgmental just like me. Continues with a full personality assessment of my faults and storms out. DD and I are reeling, both crying and shaking…. This is one of 100’s, probably 1000’s, of such occurrences over the years that I can now match up with the serial cheating.

    NOTE: He has no tattoos, has criticized them himself as tacky in the past. And aren’t most fathers thrilled that their young teens don’t want a tattoo?!

    A couple years later I learned that of course the current side fuck, ho-worker, much younger than him and who has a penchant for screwing her married bosses and superiors, has tattoos.

  • I do remember the time when he was angry. There was way too much pressure at work, a manager that enjoyed torturing me, and when I came home it was more of the same. No wonder I sunk into deep depression. Yet, it took me more years to realize something was wrong. Because no one believed that he could be a cheater. We separated eventually, so he could freely and fully develop his new womanizer personality.

    He died a few days ago, too young. He had only his elderly parents, and an ugly loudmouth sister that he rejected, 650 miles away. I had to help his mother, who had been adorable during so many years. This is the trap, people. We have the moral obligation to lend a hand. All people from his work joined the funeral. Alas, they knew his latest Russian “fiancée”, with whom it was “serious”. I felt so illegitimate, ridiculous almost.

    I have lost 4 days of vacation to clean shattered glass and dog piss. I have been accused of stealing a lamp by the sister at the end before she found it. I have discovered what it’s like when he REALLY loves a person by looking at photos and listening to people. Now it’s over, the chapter is closed, and I am sorry for myself. My name is on his external disk, in a folder, next to Svletana, Tatiana, Natasha, … Almost two decades that were worth no more than a fling.

    I hope Chump Lady will write a post about how to deal with having been all your life “the nice woman you string along before you find The One”, despite good looks and a career. Because it hurts.

    • ((Hugs)) to you. It’s not right that you had to deal with all that. You’re goodness in helping his mother is a reflection of how you did not lose important parts of yourself during a 20 year farce.

  • The ex’s only public tantrum was after I learned about the sex workers the rest he saved only for me. I could also tell what was coming by the way he moved within the house if he was home because all the eggshells we walked on had been broken and he was ready to unload his issues.
    The huge public display was because I naively said if this is going to work, you have to be part of this family and make an effort.
    For a number of years I had taken the kids to the beach. They went to day camp and I had a mini vacation alone never questioning why he didn’t go with us. I realize now he had basically moved out during those years and I didn’t want him around.
    He agreed to go with us but did everything he could to drive separately. One excuse was he wanted to visit a friend in the area. I said that’s not a problem. Just drop the kids off and be back in time to pick them up. Now I didn’t know anyone there but later looked at the phone bill and he definitely did but I never checked who it was.
    It was a really uptight ride. I actually took a Valium. We stopped for gas and HE put regular gas in the diesel truck. That boy went ballistic! Yelling that this was all my fault. He didn’t even want to be there. I’m a fucking bitch…. jumping around like a crazy troll with two kids who looked like a deer in headlights in the back seat. He was screaming it was the stations fault because the pumps were not marked correctly and had me take pictures of them. There was no issue.

    I had AAA because he no longer answered my calls and I wasn’t going to be stranded with the kids. I had to get a taxi and call AAA. I saved his ass a towing fee. Then he was yelling about how much shit we brought as we loaded the taxi.
    Checking in the condo we owed the second half of the fee. He was curt and angry with me in front of everyone because he claimed he thought it was paid. I explained I always pay a deposit to hold the rooms the the balance when I arrive. He jerked a wad of cash out and threw it on the counter, stormed out leaving me to get the keys.
    When I made it back out, he had tossed everything out on the sidewalk and was riding off in the taxi. The kids and I loaded the cart and went to the room. We were in shock. I had no money or cc on me. I had no idea where he went or if he was coming back and decided I would call my brothers to bring my car and loan me money if he didn’t show up by morning. Unfortunately he did come back and the only thing he wanted all week were blow jobs since the kids were at camp. I camped my ass on the beach all day. That was a miserable week and another miserable 2 yrs. our daughter vowed to never go anywhere with him again and she didn’t. She also changed her name after we left.
    His first tantrum was years ago in private. I know now that was the beginning of an affair that went on and off through the 26 yr marriage.
    I will say that every Christmas I get a euphoric feeling because I know I will not have to deal with his bullshit.
    He is seriously disordered and filed against me in 19 and we will hopefully end it with a trial in a few months. It’s a long haul with those nuts.

  • Today is our one year anniversary. Today I contacted an attorney to file for divorce. My STBXH was always sweet and loving… always, and still is. This is the scariest thing to me. How can he make me feel so loved, like the most beautiful, most precious thing to him and then cheat on me? Then do it again after we reconciled the first time (all while professing his undying love and promising to never do it again)…
    I’m mourning what I thought we had, the future that I thought we were planning, but I’m looking forward to better days without him and without this pain.

    • Congrats on getting out so quickly! My cheater started criticizing my clothes and my favorite foods on our honeymoon and still I stayed with the bastard for 3 miserable years. It does not get better. Just ask the folks on here who stayed for 20-30 years.

  • One of the mistakes I made when I was young was to make my husband’s life too easy. Since he made more money than I did, I made accommodations in an unequal distribution of work inside the home. The housekeeping was primarily my job (sometimes he carried out the trash, or transferred clothes to the dryer), I shopped for groceries and drugstore items, clothes, appliances, cars, you name it. I took the children to school and practices, and medical appointments. I planned vacations, and I budgeted for everything, so that we had no financial strain. He went to work, and came home.

    When there is always toilet paper, and toothpaste, and clean towels and underwear, those who do not participate in the planning process think these things magically appear. They do not value, or appreciate the thousand ways you make their life easier. They think a trained chimpanzee can probably do all that, and start to consider you as a subservient subordinate, who can be replaced at any time. They are special, you see, and unfamiliar with cleaning a toilet. Any wife appliance will be able to handle all those “insignificant” details, and he is essential, as the “head of the house.”

    I am an educated woman, with a MS degree, and I have always worked full time. I got up first in the morning, and went to bed last. I did this because I loved my husband and children, and because I was culturally programed to do these things. I wrote off his temper and lack of consideration as stress from his job. He always yelled when things did not go his way. He drank too much, and became even more sloppy when he was upset. When I had enough and yelled back, he told me that my behavior was not ladylike.

    It is hard to be a lady when you are married to an inconsiderate baboon. (I apologize to all breeds of the monkey family, everywhere.)

    I must say this, to be fair. I allowed this to happen. I enabled his behavior. It took me a long time, a lot of reading, and some helpful therapy to figure out that I did not have to live this way. It was wrong, and he was an ass. I never intend to live this way again.

    It is what he did. It had nothing to do with the way I found out about it. There are consequences, and I learned how to enforce them. I will never have another friend or lover who will receive the benefits of my friendship and love without being appreciative of it. If you find yourself with a Special Tyrant, the best thing to do is get rid of him. Let him find out just how magic and easy all those aspects of living are, let him find another appliance and see if she is as efficient as you were. Chances are, they don’t make wife appliances the way they used to, and he will no have the reliable service, and repairs will be very costly.

    • This! So.much this!! The same exact thing happened to me. Too good to him, sacrificed my career and everything else to support his. I did everything for him, paying bills, taxes, sports, PTO meetings, he did not participate or had any interest. He always came home to dinner, happy kids and ironed clothes, but he was not satisfied. He was irritated at me for no reason at all and couldn’t understand it. One if his ridiculous complaints”what kind of home doesn’t have a garlic press”? The real reason was that I wasn’t her.

    • I forget where I heard this story, but it was about a husband and wife who’d moved into a new home together. The kitchen sink had one of those built-in soap dispensers. Several years after buying this home, the husband said that he was amazed that there was still soap in the soap dispenser after all those years, completely clueless that his wife had refilled it every few months during their time in that house.

      I think a lot of our spouses are similarly clueless about the shit we do for them behind the scenes. I won’t speak for all of you, but I certainly enabled this thinking. I wanted to grease his wheels, to make life easier for him because he had a stressful job. Thus, he never saw how the sausage was made. I handled everything, including our finances.

      I wonder how it’s all going for him now. Taxes loom, and he’s never done them before. I take some pleasure in this.

      I will never be that subservient person again. Better to be alone…

  • Hi,

    Please don’t let that P.O.S take the movies away from you. When you feel even a bit ready try even in tiny increments, even if you last only five minutes inside and need to leave. We all understand the mind warping these fuckers stoop to. We are all rooting for you. Fuck him. You deserve joy and don’t let the cinemas become a shrine to a dipshit.

  • Some of their anger and rudeness comes when they feel they have snagged another person. No need being nice any more once the replacement is lined up.

    Having an affair requires that they ‘demonize’ their current partner.

  • I don’t call them “homewreckers.”

    I call them “family killers”.

    The damage is mind-boggling extensive and travels down through the generations, like the acid from the creature in Alien that eats through the metal hull of the space craft.

    A long-term relationship is difficult with the best of skills and the most devoted of partners. Cheaters think that an illicit relationship, which creates exponentially complicated, even more over their heads, out of their depth, and even more beyond their skill set totally awkward and painful dynamics is the solution. Putting all the families in a Cuisinart with the metal blade and pulsing until all the innocents are smoothies.

    Rather than change a flat tire, they push the car off the cliff and call Uber.

    • That is accurate. I really don’t understand how they think a new relationship that required the utter destruction of the old ones that may contain pissed off in-laws and minor children is going to be easier than just putting forth more effort into the primary family and fixing themselves, but I guess that’s why I’m not a cheater.

    • “Rather than change a flat tire, they push the car off the cliff and call Uber.”

      A keeper. You’re the analogy queen.

    • Family killers…. well said.

      I wonder if these cheaters realise the damage they do. It’s huge damage on many levels and it destroys everything it touches. It takes no prisoners.

  • Chump Lady,

    In the un-creepiest and most appropriate way this can be expressed on the internet to a person who has never met you, I would like to convey the following:

    Damn, I love you.

    • Is this the line to tell Tracy I love her? I do. In the most wholesome, respectful you-saved-my-life way, I love Chump Lady.

  • The worst was how my cheater ex would lose his temper with our daughter, when she would just try to play with him and get his attention. I can recall several specific incidences where I said to him later that night that he seemed to be overreacting, etc. Naturally, those conversations didn’t go down well. It still breaks my heart thinking about her sad face when he would snap at her for trying to put a silly dress-ups hat on him or something. : (

    • One of the saddest things I read was an entry in my late mother’s journal.

      My father was emotionally abusive (stonewalling and silent treatments) to my mother for years and blew up a couple of times, shoved and pushed her. As his pre teen daughter, I knew he was cheating as well. Sexual abuse is what I call it.

      When my mother died, I cleaned out the suburban house she lived in for over thirty years, read every scrap of paper. Turns out what I witnessed was just the tip of the iceberg.

      When my older brother was a toddler, my mother had to prompt my father to go outside and play catch with his son. Bro was trying to play catch with himself. Heartbreaking.

  • About six months into FW’s creepy affair with an underling at work, FW went into the classic DARVO rage. I think back on it as proof of what a stellar human being I must be because the only DARVO fodder he could dredge up was– get this– that I wanted the kids to learn a second musical instrument after they’d all begun to quickly master a first instrument in record time.

    Turned out all three had perfect pitch, could read music like they read comic books and were at university level within a year and a half of starting. Plus they liked it, loved their brilliant teacher, it seemed to be helping their other studies and it kept them off gadgets. The kids’ classically trained tutor thought a second instrument would be a cinch and could probably ensure future college scholarships. Yay.

    I brought this idea up to FW on a trip to a children’s museum. I thought FW would be thrilled and relieved. He was always “working” (cough) so pronouncing the tutor’s official verdict that the kids were all certifiable prodigies and that this could even solve the looming terror of future college tuition was meant as a happy surprise.

    By FW’s reaction, you’d have thought I’d just suggested that we sell the kids online. FW began barking at me like a junkyard dog in front of the kids and a crowd of museum-goers. His verbal attack was so out of the blue that it was paralyzing. Something about it– I don’t know, the sheer lovelessness of his expression– struck terror in me that I’d never experienced before and haven’t gotten over. Still, I hadn’t yet been completely beaten down so I said OMGFU, gathered up the kids and left FW standing there in mid-bark.

    His charge against me was nonsensical– that the kids had enough on their plates with piano and composition. But how the hell would he know? He was never home. He also shouted that he was killing himself at work just to pay for piano classes and we weren’t going to throw away more money.

    I learned later that FW narc-illy bragged to the AP about the kids’ musical prodigy status, prompting the AP to pronounce that she just had to have a very expensive violin because she’d once took lessons in seventh grade. FW handed her a wad of cash without an envelop for her birthday to get the instrument but apparently the violin never materialized. My guess is she just wanted proof she came before even FW’s own children. I think she got that proof. She also got a trip to Europe with her friends.

    On the day of the first DARVO explosion when FW got back home, I asked him point blank if he was on drugs or having an affair. I don’t know where the latter idea came from. It just flew out of my mouth. I didn’t consciously think that could be the case but my subconscience apparently did. FW blustered but faced with the two options, FW ultimately chose “A” and admitted to covert binge drinking, spinning a sad sausage tale of overwork and economic stress and his heroic efforts to “keep to himself” the “great burden” of supporting a family with “no help.” He said he thought I’d leave him if I knew he was drinking.

    I was relieved that the loveless monster face he’d shown earlier seemed to be gone but still recognized the mindfuck in what he said, reminding him that he’d pressured me to stop working to focus on the kids. This happened after our middle son developed a life-threatening chronic medical condition and *long story*… In short, he was afraid I’d die if I rashly tried to juggle it all! And then what would become of him?? I always took on too much and blah blah guilt, obligation.

    Anyway, I called bullshit on FW’s insinuation that his drinking was caused by my being a deadbeat and gave him an ultimatum– get in therapy and join AA or get out.

    Pretending to go to AA meetings just afforded FW more excuses to get home late. If I’d been in my right mind I would have recognized the abuse had no excuse– not drinking, not alien body snatching, nothing. But naturally he chose the moment when I was over a barrel to strike. Since I never saw him drunk or even smelling of booze, I assumed (hopium’ed) he was doing the program. He found an old FW Freudian therapist who helped FW justify the affair at my expense.

    When the next DARVO attack came, it was honed and polished with the help of a professional misogynist and so surgically vicious that it pretty much drained every drop of blood I had left. I stopped sleeping, began fainting at random moments and lost so much weight I was ineligible to give blood. FW declared me an unfit parent for “not taking care of my health.”

    The insinuation was that I had an eating disorder. It later turned out this was an externalization of the AP’s history of bulimia but of course I didn’t know this. I started to be gripped with fear FW would somehow get me declared mad and would take custody of the kids. I began to have serial nightmares on that theme and lost even more weight.

    FW admitted later that he’d assured the AP that he wasn’t attracted to me anymore because I was too thin when she sniveled that he wasn’t ending the marriage. But being too thin never sounds like a bad thing to someone with an eating disorder so the AP began frantically trying to lose weight and purging again, then ended up gaining more weight than ever. Pickme dancing can be bad for the thyroid.

    Our family doctor was so alarmed by the weight loss that she declared me perilously underweight. When I tried to explain that I was eating like a lumberjack but kept burning it all off, she put me through a battery of diagnostic tests. Other than sky-high cortisol, nothing meaningful turned up so she started asking how things were at home. When I explained FW’s problem drinking and erratic behavior, she was restrained by HIPAA from voicing certain suspicions but apparently started refusing to fill FW’s prescription for Viagra that I hadn’t yet discovered. It forced FW to scrounge online for the drug to manage his porn and booze-induced ED and keep pretending to be Mr. Priaptic Sparkle-Dick for 20-something Shmoops.

    Hitting an all-time low drove me to finally tell a friend what was going on. I had already become socially isolated from constant kid crises by the time the fuckery began and it had just gotten worse. I gradually withdrew from everyone. After seeing a picture of me with the kids on social media, an attorney friend who also has a son with the same condition as my son reached out demanding to know why I looked so skrawny and what was going on. I told her some of what FW was saying to me and she started chuckling, saying things like “Oh YEAH, you’re a TERRIBLE mother. Yeah, you’ve always been such a negative, rotten person. Sure, right…” Then she stopped laughing, saying, “You know this is all a fucking crock. He’s CHEATING.” She said that when I was ready, she’d tell me exactly what to do to protect myself and the kids and in the meantime I needed to start secretly transferring funds.

    I hadn’t slept in 11 months but followed my friend’s instructions robotically. In some kind of harmonic convergence, I received anonymous emails shortly after this conversation from a whistleblower reporting FW’s 18 month workplace affair. Within 24 hours, my attorney friend set me up with a PI and divorce lawyer. I went to my doctor and asked for the full STD panel and she said she’d been hoping I would ask. I didn’t exactly feel it at the time but I was blessed. People really helped.

    Because the anonymous whistleblower also shared a credible rumor that the AP, a histrionic blabbermouth, had become frustrated that FW wasn’t dumping his family and had drunkenly hinted to another bigmouth that she was trying to get pregnant to force FW’s hand, the attorney I retained agreed I should probably confront FW before my kids ended up with an expensive half sibling with fetal alcohol syndrome.

    I chose a public place to confront FW on the attorney’s advice and secretly taped the exchange. I wasn’t dramatic about it and barely spoke above a whisper. FW immediately went into shock and admitted everything. He offered to break it off by phone on the spot, to get counseling, etc. He balked at first when I demanded access to the secret credit account but gave in when I said I’d get it all in discovery anyway. I told FW I wanted to save on legal fees which he’d be paying in the end anyway. Marriage of 20 years, loyal wife out of the workforce to care for sick child in a fault state– he was fucked.

    The affair bill was staggering– $40,000 or so, mostly in bar tabs. FW swore he didn’t love the AP and I thought “well, no shit.” Nothing says “true love” like a mutual descent into liver cirrhosis and regularly driving each other around stone drunk on the freeway at night. They both looked like bloodshot, bloated turds.

    But just as my attorney feared, the confrontation gave FW a chance to worm his way back in. From the all-caps fits that the AP threw over email, it was clear that FW had actually dumped her as stated. She wanted closure! He blocked her so she began writing from office email. She switched tacts, feigned casual, wrote that she’d seen him around and he didn’t need to keep avoiding her. He copied me to his blistering reply and she finally buggered off.

    The whistleblower sent me a copied and pasted group message thread in which the AP trashed FW, me and our “mutant spawn.” I showed FW the copied thread. He hadn’t known she’d snooped through his stuff all along and had found his Viagra scrip. She called him “Viagra dick.” Her friends found this hilarious. ROTFL LOLOL.

    Over the next months of useless visits to crap marriage therapists, FW had a few more flares of shouting entitlement that leaked through his hangdog contrition. I had started geting a little stringer and told him he was more batterer than cheater (since finding CL I think these are the same thing). I demanded he move out. He then sent a really bizarre, rambling email that could only end with one punchline– serve and gray rock.

    I should probably submit that email to the UBT but he eventually went line by line and retracted all of it with little notes in red about the “stinking thinking” that fueled the original message.

    He continued to cling to the language of addiction (“stinking thinking”– AA term) as an alibi but that just made him seem more irredeemable to me. Abusers use in order to abuse, not the other way around. Cheating is just a less athletic form of battering. They just bonk strange rather than weilding fists and breaking bones, but the rest if it — and there’s so much more to it– is really identical.

    One of the hardest things I had to contend with through all of this is that I was a basically battered. Only perpetrators “play” victim or arm wrestle for victim status. Actual victims would rather be anything else in the world but that.

    • Damn…I’m sorry you went through all of that.

      I discovered the affair pretty early on so I didn’t live in that horrible state of feeling like something was wrong without being quite being aware of what, but the month that I was I dropped down to my middle school track and field weight and was barely sleeping. It is difficult to believe that the man who asked me to marry him and promised to lose and cherish me let me start to waste away while he bonked his coworker.

      • LC–“It is difficult to believe that the man who asked me to marry him and promised to lose and cherish me let me start to waste away while he bonked his coworker.”

        Chilling to think anyone’s capable of that level of callousness.

    • Oh Hell of a Chump,

      What a story! Kudos to you for how you handled that nightmarish situation! And thank God for that good friend who saw through your ex’s BS and offered much-needed advice and support.

      I hope you are doing better physically. The losing-weight thing happened to me, too. D-Day trauma did a number on my appetite. It also caused a lot of hair to fall out. Fortunately, I’ve gained much of the weight back and feel healthy! No more hair loss!

      This abuse affects our minds AND our bodies (an understatement).


      • Oh God, fists-full of hair every time I got in the shower. It’s definitely a thing. So glad you’re fully recovered, at least physically.

        I bounced back for the most part. I still laugh when people joke about losing that final 180 LBs or so.

      • Is t it all so crazy! I wondered why he was so short with me and unhelpful. After D day when we were supposed to be trying to work it out I made a negative comment about the AP and he got mad and told me I was not a nice person…that cut like a knife. We, Or I stuck it out for a year after D day but then that was it.
        When this all came out and again when we split he asked me what part I felt like I had in this (his cheating). I said I never cheated on you. I was raising our children and working and cheating never crossed my mind,

        • C16– what part you felt you had in it?

          Innocent valiant heroine who gets in touch with her inner badass and saves the world from a demented cyborg? I saw that movie. You were great in it. ????

    • Holy crap. I am so glad you are no longer with him and I hope you’ve mostly recovered.

      Oh, I don’t know – submit that letter anyway. And his redactions/corrections so the newly chumped can see that yes, they do know what they are doing is wrong but can somehow spin it into their victimhood.

      • NSC–

        I have a theory which is my theory which is mine (Monty Python lol):

        You know the scene in the film “Being John Malkovich” when Malkovich goes through his own mind portal and ends up in a nightmare dimension where everyone is him?

        That’s kind of what I imagine it’s like to be that kind of narc. They can’t really see others because they interact with projections of themselves. It’s demented yet I don’t think their negative effects are accidental because they tend to precisely dish out abuse they were once subjected to.

        They know exactly what it’s like on the receiving end in other words. Abuse and betrayal are just pathological reenactments of their own twisted childhoods with the chump cast in the role of “vulnerable former victim self”–a side of themselves they hate to the degree they’ve internalize their own childhood abusers.

        It helps me to see the “disorder” this way. They’re too dangerous and deliberate to feel sorry for but too demented to take personally. Covers the meh bases. Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich.

        • I love the Malkovich analogy. Only thing is… the movie is deep. My ex FW covert narc is too shallow to bother thinking about. ????

  • CLs first part of the post made me laugh and remember —- I was once screamed at Defoe an hour that I didn’t have enough kitty litter in the house. To my shame I just kept apologizing……crazy when you think back.

    I also agree with others – my EXH was incredibly aggressive if I ever tried to talk about anything I needed from him. He would go back years, his arguments were always the same.

    I am lucky to be away from the crazy. Life isn’t easy, far less than perfect but at least I don’t deal with the cazy.

  • I can’t find the Narcissist’s Prayer that goes hand in hand with DARVO (deny, attack, reverse victim and offender)

  • hi my exs ow asked me to feel sorry for her unfortunately she called me a cunt for 13 years, she did expect me to feel sorry for her. i dont know why i took crap from her. obvoiusly i know that behaviour is inexcusable. my ex said she was always nice to him. even he asked me to feel sorry for her. not a fan of the truth, she lied about being abused as a child. i was abused as a child. she even said her dad was in prison it was all a lie.maybe chump lady could do a question how crap is your ex and the ow/om i never engaged with the ow which probably pissed her off. ex said what is your problem with her,
    ex admitted next month some women had stis but not hiv, week after said are you having xmas lunch with us i said no.

  • Should chumps be requesting cortisol level testing in addition to STD panels?

    Is there a remedy (in addition to gaining a new life) for the stress to the physical body?

  • This was very triggering for me. My XW is the queen of DARVO. I don’t cry often. But this brought tears to my eyes. She was so cruel especially while cheating. I wonder why it got even worse after her affairs ended? I eventually divorced her and has since remarried to a great woman. The rage over little things is true. I will give one example. My XW wanted a new pillow. I bought her a very nice one. She actually screamed at me that I bought her the wrong one and that I was an idiot. She then threw it out of the bedroom into our daughters room.

  • Ehhh… my ex wasn’t a screamer or blame. He would listen to me, agree with me, promise to work on it, and then maybe he would, maybe he wouldn’t. Never consistent or persistent. Rinse and repeat. Just infuriating.
    Not sure if you need another category!

  • This is so spot on. I don’t particularly like onions, although I do cook with them. My partner and I had been together for 6 years so this was no surprise to him. One day we were making dinner and he was chopping a bunch of onions for himself and I jokingly said “ewww gross!” He turned to me and SCREAMED how I need to just let him live his life and that he likes onions and that I make him feel disgusting. Yup. This was suuuurely about “onions” and nothing else. Should’ve known right then and there his conscience couldn’t take all the guilt.

  • I can relate, besides being cold all of sudden he would spend long periods of time in the bathroom with his phone and when I would knock on the door and ask if he was ok he would get mad, when he told me he was working late at 11:00 pm and drove over there and found out he wasn’t there he yelled that I was too nosey and controlling, criticizing me about my makeup and what I was wearing which he never did before and yelling at me for no reason and driving off. My kids even asked me why Dad seemed so mad at me. I had nightmares about the way he treated me.

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