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What Does Freedom Feels Like?

freedomWe talk a lot here about getting to the “other side” — so today’s Friday Challenge goes out to anyone who has left a cheater, to describe the moment of freedom. How did you leave and how did it feel? Did you collapse in a heap? Raise a glass with friends? Shoot off fireworks?

It can be any moment in the leave-a-cheater-gain-a-life march. Speaking for myself, there was first a bewildering absence of drama. The sensation of no contact. I could be alone in my head.

On actually leaving, I pulled off quite a heist. I packed a 3,500-square foot house in under 3 hours with the help of a moving company and a girlfriend and two teenagers. I had been plotting the escape for months with detailed spreadsheets. The day of, my neighbor was my sentry guard. I left “for work” (to pick up the rental truck) and the neighbor called with the all clear. Cheater was gone.

After the moving crew did their thing, I arrived at my new home giddy. My friend and I went to a local pub and raised a glass. It was exhilarating.

A few hours later, the cheater returned to a nearly empty house, with utility shut-off notices (they were in my name… chump). Neighbor said she could hear his screaming.

That’s a neat ending to a messy story. Because of course, it wasn’t all bravery. I was frightened at times. I wobbled. I didn’t know how the story would play out. These things are always acts of faith in yourself. But I do remember in that moment how proud I felt and how RELIEVED.

Your turn. Tell me how you did it. Encourage the newbies.

TGIF!

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I remember the first time I felt it.

    I had been going for a walk every day after work, after fw left. I was of course still grieving. I remember thinking and stressing that now he would be free, he had his freedom, he can do anything he wants, etc. The I literally stopped in my tracks and thought “wait a minute, I have my freedom too”. It was a real turn around for me. Oh I still had grief, and loss; but it was the moment I believe my healing really began.

    It was funny that I was so wrapped up in what he would get, that I didn’t even consider me.

    • I filed pro se($137)because he would not file, after all he “was not looking to divorce”.
      3 months later, I got the judges signature in the mail and I broke down and cried, with relief
      Packing up the house when he came over balling, “are we doing the right thing?”as he received his envelope too.
      Hell yes, at that point I didn’t really care what he was doing with whom
      It was the third of July, my freedom day!!
      Freedom is delicious!
      ❤️ LIS

  • I filled for divorce online, at the local library. I had to pull up the stories about the sex trafficking that goes on at rub and tug places, reread the message from the angry OW, in order to get the courage to hit file.

    I then drove to the church we had been married 18 years and 2 weeks prior, I recorded burning our marriage licenses while “our song” played on my radio. All very dramatic.

    It was not really the end, but the beginning of the end. I am now, for my sake, so very glad he is gone.

    A word of caution:
    Be careful how quickly you get involved again, 4 years later I am in the process of ending it with the cheater, I got together with 3 months after everything was final. No paperwork, no moving, but still sucks.

    • Not dramatic it’s therapy. I took my STBXW’s wedding dress and shredded it into a million bits. Then she was in tears and going on about how she wanted to remember our day and how much it meant to her, I simply reminded her that fucking 20 men and being on tinder was hardly an expression of love and that’s only the tip of the iceberg of what we caught her doing. So yes, fuck her wedding dress. Once the official divorce papers arrive I will be burning our marriage certificate.

    • A caution about burning your marriage license! At least wait until you get your REAL ID (the enhanced travel driver’s license identification card). If your name changed when you married you will need that to prove who you are when you file for the I.D.

      THEN you can burn it!

      • I still have to haul it out on occasion. Like when I applied for a job within the Sheriffs office a couple months ago.

  • Mine wouldn’t leave the house, even though I had filed for divorce and he actually owned another house he was renovating. He had moved into a guest bedroom, but that was as far as he would go. Finally, his brother and sister flew to Texas from their homes in Germany to visit. The first thing they did was pack his stuff and move him to his new home.

    As I watched them take his stuff out, I was so happy. It was finally happening, I would be free! I moved his remaining clothes out of our bedroom closet, filled it in with mine. When I finally dumped the last of his junk from the garage onto the street, literally pushed onto the street, so I could move my car into the garage, it was the final moment I knew he was gone. Nothing of him was left and I could breathe again.

    I think if I had to do it again, I should have taken the kids and left sooner, but I was scared. That kept me pinned in an abusive relationship too long. CL’s memory of moving out and setting herself free seems like the perfect way to get out quickly and with a final cut to the cord. I had to endure months of him slowly going through his junk in the garage until I was done with him and put it on the street.

    I sold the house and moved almost an hour away. No seeing him in the neighborhood or bumping into him at the grocery store, just total and complete freedom. It’s wonderful I thank God everyday that I’m out. It took over six years from the moment the counselor told me I was in an abusive relationship and I needed to leave. Six long years to pull myself together and make the move, but so worth it in the end.

    • Wish my counselor had told me back in 2012 after D-Day #1. But noooo… she was part of the reconciliation industry. She is dead now or I would have been calling her to say thanks for helping keep me imprisoned ro a monster. Three years later I had a child whom I love so much but keeps me from full NC for another 12 years. Ugh.

      Found out about his narcissism 18 months ago and realized quickly there was no fixing him. Went gray rock. Discovered CL and here I am, getting my ducks in a row. I feel a little less crazy in my planning now as I see CL had spreadsheets, too. hahaha I have everything – checklists, budget, etc. I keep searching to make sure I am not missing any good tips of things to square away.

      • I didn’t take the counselors advice and leave right away with my kids. I was so depressed I was barely standing up on my own. Instead, went to another counselor with the Xhole who promised to fix us, which worked for awhile. While seeing the other counselor, I found out the X was cheating. Well, I went back to original counselor, who told me to leave X years earlier because of the abuse, and started the process of getting myself strong enough to leave. He thought I had battered wives syndrome. I finally had to admit I had issues before I could fix them. That was the hardest part. Soooooo much happier and healthier now!

        • I think a lot of us suffer from trauma bonding. We’ve been abused for years, and a lot of counselors don’t recognize adultery, and all of its insidiousness, as abuse.
          My counselor gave me the book The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes.
          https://www.amazon.com/Betrayal-Bond-Breaking-Exploitive-Relationships/dp/1494555816
          It was a difficult read, I was livid and then bawling in parts, and some of the personal stories I totally disagree with the result. But, you could end up understanding yourself and the insanity of the situation better.

          • I should say – the insanity of why we are unable to terminate the relationship – when we are aware that we are being abused.

            • I actually didn’t know I was being abused. I had an inkling, but kept telling myself I was imagining things. He told me I was crazy! One day I was reading an article about the cycle of abuse. This is after I’ve become aware and I’m in therapy, but still don’t really believe it.

              I read the article at work and started shaking. I left and went home and physically shook for two hours. It was like my body finally accepted I was being abuse and shook me to my core. I know what that expression means now!

              • I didn’t know I was being abused, either. He told me I was crazy, that I was just overly dramatic, that I was punishing him for the things my exes had done.

                My first ex slept with co-workers, my boss, his boss’s wife, neighbors, the woman he rear-ended at a stop light, a few sopranos in the church choir (he was the organist — in more ways than one!), the nun who lead our pre-Cana classes and my sister. My second ex was abusive — so abusive that I didn’t need anyone to tell me he was abusive. He strangled me until I was unconscious and then dumped me on the highway. Attempted murder is abusive, isn’t it? It is, right?

                I knew I didn’t like how Max treated me, but there were no me-shaped dents in the drywall, he hadn’t thrown me down any flights of stairs or strangled me. So it wasn’t abuse, was it? I wasn’t happy with him, but it wasn’t like he was actually abusive; after all, he never hit me.

                And then one day, I realized it WAS abuse. It was abusive when he screamed insults at me, when he called me names, when he “lost his temper” three times a day and screamed and threw things. When he threw things at me, it was abusive. When he drove like a maniac with me in the car and I feared for my life; his road rage episodes were abusive. I read a book on verbal abuse (Patricia Evans) and one on physical abuse (Lundy Bancroft) and I started getting my financial ducks in a row to leave him.

                We were living on a sailboat, off the grid, cruising continuously with no fixed address. I had to wait until we came to a marina with Wifi before I could move money around, and we had to stay there long enough for various financial institutions to send me paperwork that had to be notarized and returned. It took five months to get everything ready, and then I rented a car too leave the following week, when he was at an appointment.

                Only Hurricane Irma happened.

                D-Day happened while the hurricane was making landfall not far from where our boat was moored to a floating dock and two of its neighbors with a total of 17 lines on it, the storm surge had the whole mess of docks and boats sitting eight feet above the shoreline and I didn’t know if our boat, our HOME was going to make it through the night.

                It took me five weeks after D-Day to finally leave — it took nearly that long for the flood waters to recede. Meanwhile, I kept telling myself “It’s not that bad. At least he hasn’t tried to kill me.”

                The woman two boats over sat me down while we were waiting for our laundry to dry and started a conversation about domestic violence. She had, it seems, heard some of Max’s tantrums. “He’s a Narcissist,” she said. “Run.” And for a wonder, I listened.

                I secretly rented a car and when he went to his weekly counseling appointment (required by Medicare to get his Prozac or Zoloft or whichever anti-depressant he was on then) I left with what I could carry and my dog. I drove a thousand miles away from the coast and I stopped when I got to my best friend’s house. I cried the whole thousand miles. I couldn’t believe that the man I considered the love of my life had turned into this nasty, controlling stranger. I couldn’t believe he would cheat on me. I hoped that my leaving would make him come to his senses, realize he loved me and how much he was hurting me. I thought I had a unicorn.

                It took me months to give up my marriage and my dream of sailing the world in my boat. I was a mess for a year, and then I slowly began to rebuild. The divorce is final, but I’m still awaiting nasty surprises from the IRS — he cheated on me, and he cheated on them. They aren’t forgiving at all. But I’m happy and I’m free and my life is peaceful. As for him — I saw him at the daughter’s wedding last year, and he looks and acts ridiculous. I cannot remember what I ever saw in him.

                I got into counseling right away, but it wasn’t for months that I allowed myself to give up on my marriage and my dream of sailing the world in our boat.

            • I have been putting up with what I failed for years to recognize as abuse. It’s a long story but over the last year he has been ratcheting up his mean treatment towards me. Dismissive, rude, I am not allowed to touch him and recently not allowed to even ride in the same car. I finally decided I needed to get out but yesterday after yelling at me about how he has been unhappy the whole thirty years we have been together I told him to leave. I have nothing else to say. That made him more mad and he said he was going to file for divorce. I said ok since you are going to do that and you are so unhappy and you want nothing to do with me you can leave. He refused to leave and kept wanting to talk about his last thirty unhappy years. As in since we met! I refused to go there. But I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I had consulted with an attorney already and am now finally ready to file. I felt a bit of relief. I know it will be a long slog through that tunnel to the other side but I am finally ready. Why did it take so long?

  • Wednesday, January 20th was the fifth anniversary of my divorce. In those five years, I have ignored several hoovering attempts, the deaths of both my parents, not having enough food for my kids, getting a better job, having a couple of surgeries that my kids nursed me through, and I went back to school to get my Master’s so I can get an even better job. I have gotten my kids (4 of them) through the divorce and they are stable and going to college/finding their “real” jobs after college. They are great kids and I take all the credit for that!

    So Wednesday I get home from a crappy day at my job (it doesn’t happen often, thank heaven!) and one of my kids has a surprise for me. She bought me a cake and wrote “happy divorciversary” on it. We had ourselves a little party! They are happy without him here and so am I. Life is good on this side of leaving a cheater. I HAVE gained a life, and it gets better all the time. If you are just starting this journey, it can be scary and hard work, but It. Is. Worth. It! It really is. hang in there.

    • Boudicca, I’m glad your daughter met you with cake. Your story prompts a fond memory for me—thank you.

      My now-deceased mother divorced my cheating father when I was a child. After their divorce she turned their anniversary date into a celebration: “New Dress Day!” As an adult, living far from her, each year I called her on that day and just asked, “How’s it look?” She would sigh heavily, perhaps remembering something, then we’d laugh together, and she’d fondly describe her new dress in detail.

      • Great idea! I just put NEW DRESS DAY in my iPhone calendar for my divorce date. and TREAT YOURSELF DAY on my calendar for DDay. With a yearly repeat. End date-never.

        I’ve been moping around a bit last few weeks. DDay comes up next week. Divorce date in February it will be one year. It just,,, I have a hard time reconciling the fact that he just didn’t care.

    • That is one great daughter.

      I remember having sparse food in the year of our separation. I could have afforded a little more, but I was desperate to save as much as I could for when the divorce became final. I basically made big soups, and ate soup and crackers a lot. It was either food or savings, couldn’t have much of either on a minimum wage salary. (please don’t get me wrong, I was still better off than many) but it was definitely a change in lifestyle.

      I was lucky to be able to take college classes tuition paid by my work. All I had to do was buy the books. Back then they weren’t as expensive, even allowing for inflation, as they are now.

      I found quite a few clothing options at thrift stores. Luckily with my 15 pound weight loss, I could find a lot more. I remember once finding a beautiful bed cover set, it was priced of course good because it was a thrift shop, but still I didn’t buy it because it was too much. I wish now I had splurged, likely would have done me some good.

      Anyway, you have done great, we all have, or will.

    • Wow – I am aware that anniversaries can bring up old feelings and wounds. Here I am, voicing that, telling friends, and telling myself that it will be one year since he discarded me and still I am wondering why I am in a terrible mood! Yes, I will take this advice and treat myself to something new and beautiful to wear! This is a good practice I have done for other milestones in my life – and this was a milestone because I HAD A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING in that horrible house with him. Yes, I will celebrate and congratulate myself because I GOT OUT. I am thinking… cashmere sweater? boots? ski jacket? Hmm…. the possibilities are great because I am no longer spending money and time on a useless endeavor!!!!! Thanks again, Chump Nation

  • My escape was planned in secret too. I secured a rental in a condo a block away from the family home. At night, while the STBX was “out” sleeping at his affair partner’s place, I moved my things in , 1 or 2 car loads at a time for a week. I left all the furniture, just things that would fit in the car. When my lawyers paperwork arrived to him, I was then safe -I could flee the house and sort out the details later.
    I’m so damn proud of myself. My parents helped buy me beds for our three kids. It’s almost been a year now. I come home from work and I am so grateful for my new life.

  • I remember when my boys and I first moved into our house that I bought when I filed for divorce from the cheater.

    We were being loud and laughing at each other and I realized that we no longer had to walk on egg shells for fear of offending his highness. Nothing beyond sports and the weather could be spoken of in his majesty’s presence and anything that was remotely uncomfortable was strictly off limits.

    • Yes! Freedom of offending his Royal Highness with such offenses such as breathing the wrong way, walking too close to him, not being fast enough at the grocery store.

      • Damn, I wasn’t fast enough doing the grocery shopping either. I could only do it on Saturdays so it meant going to the tip, the Chinese market, the outdoor market, the supermarket – it took time. BUT, because I was gone so long I was obviously having an affair. I couldn’t make sense of his logic if I tried. Thankfully I no longer have to!

        • I had to show receipts so he could check the times – to match up if I was where I said I was, and how long I was there. I constantly had to “prove” my fidelity and loyalty, and the whole time, he was having affairs….

    • THIS!!! My son and I relish being loud, dancing in the kitchen, laughing at farts. lol FW has a stick up his ass. Just being able to relax without FW being there looking down his nose… priceless!

      • I love this!! I too am very exited to dance and laugh at farts again, haha! That kind of behavior was not lady-like and was far too obnoxious for the king.

    • I feel like this I’m hopefully moving this week but my ex is at his affair partners house. I can wake up with our baby and sing and laugh without fear of him being grumpy or shouting at us. I can’t wait to be free.

      • I am still in the planning stage, also. Every moment of freedom is cherished. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. We will reach the other side. So many inspirational stories here!

  • I realized during a trip to the grocery store that I was no longer limited to buy his brand of tp or dryer sheets. A mundane story for sure, but I felt so light. I was still queasy afterward, but this was a good moment. It took a while, but life is so good now.

    • I’m only 4 months out from her leaving the home but I feel happinesses in making my own dinner choices. It use to annoy her that I did not know what I wanted for dinner a week in advance. Now I just make what I want at whatever time I want and I love that. I’m moving to my new home and I will be decorating exactly how I want. She said a 60 inch tv is far to big so I’m getting a 65 inch instead lol.

      • When I first separated from my ex wife I realized I didn’t know what kind of food I liked. If I wanted to go out to eat at a restaurant that served food I liked I would be screamed at that I was selfish. It was what she wanted 99% of the time. I remember the exhilaration of going and getting BBQ and not hearing bitching about the restaurant!

        • Sometimes it isn’t even the food. FW had complaints about lighting, seats, noise level, etc. Few places met his oh so high standards. We actually bought the house we did because he insisted we live in a very urban location surrounded by all these restaurants only for us to not go to them because he didn’t like them for one reason or another.

          • I’ve written about this before but there was one restaurant I liked that used to serve a free salad as soon as you sat down while you were choosing from the menu. They put sweet corn in the salad and fuckwit was horrified. Horrified I tell you. My solution was either pick the sweet corn out or refuse the FREE salad. His solution was that we should never set foot in that place ever again – and we didn’t. I go now of course – I should send him a photo next time!

    • After XW finally moved out of the house, I bought different clothes detergent. It wasn’t even because I had anything in particular against the kind she bought (except that the scent reminded me of her), but rather, it was because I could.

      Some other moments of freedom were

      -moving all of XWs clothes from our bedroom into the guest room while she was out banging OM one night.

      -the last time I had to use scissors to cut off all XW’s long hair that always got wrapped around the vacuum roller brush

      -the obsessive house cleaning to remove anything left of XW in the house (including the hair, haha)

      -a vacation alone to celebrate my 1 year divorceaversary where I did nothing but read East of Eden and drink cocktails on an empty beach.

      It’s been exactly 4 years since DDay and 3 years since the divorce was finalized. I don’t really even recognize the person I was during that year of in-house separation, but I do remember the hopelessness.

      • Thinking about laundry. When she left the house and it was my first time having to do my own laundry, I had to google how to use my washing machine and then watched YouTube video on how to use it and the kicker is I have a computer science degree 😂

    • I’ve been out of the house for 5 months now, divorce final two months ago. One day I got home from work, walked into the house, and just stood there when this moment of awareness hit me: I didn’t dread coming home from work anymore, wondering what kind of mood he was already in or what I would say (or how I would say it) that would “piss him off” so he’d have an excuse to leave. There’d be no fight about who was gonna do what chore (I’d end up doing everything anyways, but he’d pretend to use some effort until he got mad and left), or I wouldn’t be pissy that I was coming home from working a full time job, jump right into household duties, while his lazy butt was on the recliner on his phone. There was no more walking on eggshells, no more DRAMA that he said was always started by me. No more trying to see what his plans were on the weekends so I could plan something for the family to do all together, or if I needed to take the kids by myself. It was just PEACEFUL and it hit me all at once. The kids are happier away from all the tension….they were the reason I stayed miserable in the marriage for so long. To keep the family together for the kids. But they felt it, too, they could see and they knew. I have a long way to go to meh, but I’m so much further along than I thought I would be.

    • I was amazed at how much money I saved at the grocery store. I didn’t have to buy all the junk food he demanded. It was very freeing!

  • realising how people thought was great, cause he isnt. people still stick up for him. week before xmas told me some people have stis but no hiv, week later invited me for xmas dinner. thanks but no thanks. shop owner asks about him, i said why do you always act like hes nice, you know he has addictions. shut her up. flying monkeys try to wind you up. nevermind the ow she lives on another planet. i saw her on the bus wearing a face mask, shame she couldnt sort out the stis.

  • My biggest moment of freedom was the day he finally showed up for court or default. I filed after the coward who wanted the divorce failed to file.

    By this time he’d moved in with the disordered classless bar whore who had a lengthy arrest record from assaults on elderly as well as drug charges. She had sights on my pension and he decided to represent himself. That was my only real asset after he’d spent marital funds on OW for decades.

    As I waited for a copy of the settlement agreement he approached me and said, “I think about you all the time.” I did a happy dance and shouted, “I’m single!”

    I LOVE where he landed.

  • I would suggest that there is leaving physically and and there is leaving cognitively/emotionally.

    Ex-Mrs LFTT left the kids (then 11, 16 and 18) and I to be with her AP, so that was relatively easy. She did this just as I was about to start a new job, which necessitated moving house; it just meant that the kids and I had to move house without her help.

    The second was harder; putting an emotional distance between Ex-Mrs LFTT and the kids and I, so that it reduced our exposure to her toxicity and reduced her ability to manipulate as only a narcissist can. Fundamentally, it was about reducing her ability to make unilateral decisions that impacted on the kids and I without her bearing any responsibility for the fallout. This second one was harder and took longer.

    Freedom feels like: boundaries in place and enforced; engagements/communication with Ex-Mrs LFTT conducted on our (ie the kids and I) terms or not at all; me no longer being responsible for the consequences of her decisions (particularly her financial decisions) or having to pick up the pieces after she’d had yet another meltdown and; most importantly, that the kids know that it is OK to tell their mother “No, that does not work for me and will not happen.”

    LFTT

    • No longer being responsible for his endless HUGE financial f…k ups is such a relief. I feel lighter and I’m a million times richer now!

      • Attie,

        Absof*ckinglutely.

        Ex-Mrs LFTT drove a coach and horses through our finances while we were together. Her spending was out of control and I found out after she left that she’d been taking out loans which went into her account, but which were paid back from the joint account …. which only I paid into! I also found out that she’d been diverting funds from the joint account over a period of at least 10 years to accounts that only she could access, and that she emptied two of the children’s savings accounts too. Despite our household income reducing by 30% when she left …… I found that, once I’d shut her out of my finances, sorted out the divorce and got out of the debt she created, I didn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck any more.

        She is an utter financial liability; I am safe in the knowledge that when (not if) she runs out of money I cannot be held responsible. I sleep much more soundly as a result.

        LFTT

        • I can so related to this LFTT. While married to the Worm , who’s salary was over $100,000 a year, I could barely get the bills paid. He kept putting money in our savings account that was not allowed to be touched while taking out ridiculous loans. I had to manage the bills. I hate to think about it. Everything worked out in the end. He had to pay all of the debts and I got half of the savings.

  • Your picture at the top of the page was me when I walked out of the judge’s chambers after signing. I actually did a little skip (my lawyer burst out laughing). I was absolutely thrilled to be rid of that AH and no longer have to worry about what legal/financial problems I would have because of his numerous DUIs, but didn’t really believe it until I got the actual divorce papers from my lawyer some weeks later. Even better was a few years later when he skipped off back to the States with five days’ notice and I knew right then I was free. Free from ever accidentally bumping into him at the supermarket. Free from having him “show up for a chat”. Free from him thinking we could be friends. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world, even if I did end up having to empty the farmhouse he up and abandoned in his haste to be with latest Schmoopie (something I suspect he might be regretting but he’s too financially committed now). And even better AGAIN was when the French went after him for taxes because he had hung on to his French resident’s permit – he was horrified that they should chase him – the supreme being! What that did was have him give up his resident’s permit (so he would no longer be liable for taxes), and then I knew I was REALLY free from the thought of him ever moving back! I also know from his mom that he regrets leaving France but oh dear, never mind, how sad! Freedom is bliss!

  • This is huge, it took me a year, to have my brain think in terms of what I wanted. What food, movie, news or furniture arrangement. After 44 yrs, this was incredibly hard. Now, It feels exhilarating to choose my favorites. It’s been five yrs and I almost daily think “it’s mine, I’m free”. The only downside! How many years I lived unhappy.

  • We had reconciled once and the end came when he dropped a bomb on me days after a sibling’s funeral. So, in my case, I was destroyed at the end mostly because of the stacked up loss.

    Like, laying on the floor dried out from sobbing and only getting up to feed cats and pee, destroyed.

    Plus, when he moved, he wanted everything (of course) and I just let him take almost everything he wanted. Kept what was obviously mine plus a few odds and ends I needed for a household. Was sleeping on a pile of blankets. Truth.

    I say all that not to tell a sad story, but to set the stage for this:

    My life was SO MUCH BETTER without him in it, from day one. Even destroyed with grief, it was all easier without his constant attention-seeking, drama-creating, deception, entitlement, and nuanced contempt. His being gone was a relief I didn’t realize I craved until I lived it.

    Absolutely the right choice.

    (Don’t paint me as brave too soon, though. I was brave then because I had to be. The thing about lessons is, when the time comes again — because for most of us it usually does come again, at least once — what will I choose to be then?)

    • I got brutally and abruptly discarded after 18 years of marriage, so same thing. Wasn’t my choice, but still I remember about 3 days after he walked out, it felt like a giant steel plate lifted off my head, shoulders, and neck. I could see the sun shining. I could actually feel my future for the first time in years. And this was all while I was still not eating or sleeping and was crying like 13 hours a day. Still—I realized I felt better than I had in YEARS. The emotional poison had drained out of my system and he wasn’t there anymore to keep biting me and injecting me with it—like a snake or a spider. That’s the first time I felt free.

  • For me freedom was the moment when I asked all communication to go through the lawyer and that he wasn’t allowed to contact me directly. This was after a few years of rage via email, his obvious enjoyment in creating an agressive situation and huge anxiety every time I opened my inbox (he wouldn’t speak face to face or on the phone). We had no children, so when the instruction of no contact went out to him legally in 2018 I knew I would never have to deal directly with his BS again and I never have. Him and our so called marriage now all feels like some bad dream that you can blurrily remember when you wake up.

  • I remember the wonder of being able to sit down and hold a train of thought long enough to read a book. I remember that first night I slept better than I had in years, because I wasn’t listening for him.

  • I remember the day I left the marital home.

    I was driving up the road with my son in the seat beside me, and we were following the removals van.
    It was like breathing fresh air for the first time, in a long time.

    It was a sunny day and I couldn’t believe I’d done it….I’d survived the worst he could throw at me,.
    Here was I this brave woman who had got a mortgage, bought a HOUSE and was moving the whole kit and caboodle by herself.
    FIERCE!!

  • There were multiple steps for me.

    Originally I didn’t know anything other than she was “unhappy” and wanted to separate. She kept sleeping with me though and never made any movement towards actually separating so I was confused to say the least.

    The first bit of freedom was when I found out about the cheating. My original reaction was of elation because it finally made sense why after 26 year she was suddenly unhappy to the point of throwing it all away. It had nothing to do with me I realized, nor with her menopause or any other thing that I was trying to find and fix.

    Of course then I spiraled down more than a bit, lost 50 lbs in the course of a couple of months while toking the hopium and pick-me dancing my heart out.

    The second bit of freedom was when she finally moved out. She told me the night before that she needed to leave to “escape the noise”. I came home from work to an empty house and a feeling of loss but a feeling of the beginning of closure. I danced naked in the living room – easy to do because she took most of the furniture. I then closed the curtains 😀

    The third step was when I finally realized that none of my pick-me dancing was working and that she preferred her OM, I wrote her an email that rather coldly outlined the steps for proceeding to the divorce and separation of our lives. Even though she had been living in her apartment for over 6 months at that time, she still had access to joint accounts, used the common netflix etc. My state of mind was sad but resolute. I set timelines just as if it was a project that I was planning and as each (very generous) date passed, pulled the plug on each separate connection.

    The 4th step was when the separation agreement was completed and signed. As I told my lawyer – with tears in my eyes – that I never knew that I had been living under a cloud until I walked in the sunshine. It was like a load was lifted from me – chains that had been tying me to my ex had been released.

    The 5th step was when the final divorce paperwork came through. There was a feeling of satisfaction but in some ways it was anti-climactic.

    The final step – if there can be such a thing – is still 3 years out when I will send her the final alimony payment. These days, she’s just another bill to be paid. She and OM have bought a house in the next town over and appear to be living a quiet and low-key life.

    I’ve dated some – it’s not gone well – just getting out of the second failed relationship presently. But am living my life the best I can. The past 5 years have been bizarre, amazing, depressing and nothing at all like what I ever would have imagined.

    So – it’s a process, a journey, not an event but there are way-points along the path.

    BT

    • BT thanks for that, I remember your story as it is similar to mine. Things do get better the farther we get from them and the awful situation, but it definitely changes us. It’s really hard to trust again. I , too, am grateful that the ex chose to move in with AP in another town. He avoids our town even though he works mere minutes away. We just keep on keepin’ on.

    • Bow Tie,
      My experience was similar in that it took steps. I did not have a singular moment. Little-by-little the weight of living with my xw lifted.

      One thing I’ll share that might help you regarding dating. I was soon in a significant relationship as the divorce was wrapping up. And by measure, that new relationship felt like heaven. Certainly was lovely to be actually “liked”.

      BUT, it was soon after I realized that no relationship would work until I worked through my anger at XW. So I did the hard thing and broke it off. Was very hard, but necessary. Eventually, I did feel the most free and healthy ever.

      Since that hard break-up, I did lots of self-work. I dated and met a few lovely women. I had dry-spells too when it felt like I was not going to meet anyone else. I even tried to get back together with the first gal (glad it didn’t happen).

      Im in a really great relationship now, the best I’ve ever had. I try to remain aware of my boundaries and my ability to overlook red flags. We’ll see where it goes.

      But I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that work. Not saying you’ve got work to do, just to keep plugging away, trust the river of life to take you where you need to go.

  • Freedom from having an anxiety attack over where to park the car. No matter where I parked it was wrong. I begged to have my designated parking spot. That was not possible because “You should know where to park.” Every night he got mad and angrily re-parked my car. Now I park however I want too.

    Freedom to cook onions, green peppers and tomatoes. He hated those vegetables. Yet he ate jar after jar of salsa. Now I decide what I’m cooking as I chop up an onion. I cook and eat what I like.

    Freedom from the noise and blaring intrusion of a television. He had the TV on 24/7 and got mad if I turned it off when he left the house. I don’t even own a television. My house is quiet now, no screaming racket from him bellowing at a game on the television. No sound bar amplification vibrating the house.

    Freedom from his drunk and obnoxious friends and family. Uncle Pissy Pants and crew have made no effort to contact me. None of our former family friends or his family have even checked up on me. I am no longer their appliance.

    Freedom from financial abuse. I make my own financial decisions. I have an excellent credit score and manage to save a little each month in spite of legal fees. He mocked my frugality. He is in serious debt. I am living debt free.

    Freedom from desperately wanting to be loved and validated by that fuckwit. I love myself and I don’t need validation from others. I like it but I don’t need it!

    Thank you Chump Lady and Chump Nation, you’ve been an invaluable resource through this process.

    • “Freedom from desperately wanting to be loved and validated by that fuckwit”–
      Thirtythreeyearsachump, you put that so well!
      I could always feel that something was not right between me and my ex when we were together, even when we seemed closest. But I could not put my finger on exactly what was wrong. I kept having an anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach, despite his being the love-bombing type; he seemed blissfully attached and yet–very occasionally he would do something cold that seemed jarringly out of character, or there would be some weird omission or evasion that seemed to contradict his seemingly strong attachment and affection; and his explanations made no sense. I never felt completely at ease with him; always felt I had to run run run to keep up, to live up to him. Freedom for me was realizing at a gut level that he himself WAS the problem–that it was not a problem with my level of achievement or attractiveness or anything else. Freedom was realizing that I no longer had to put any effort into figuring out why things weren’t or had not been working. Freedom was knowing that he was no longer my problem, that both he and the relationship were no longer my responsibility at all. I guess finally trusting that he sucked, and that therefore his acts of betrayal were no reflection on me–once that finally happened, was freeing for me. My confidence is still somewhat shaken, but I turned a corner then.

  • There were two moments that come to mind. The first was when I was moving into my new flat – solo. It was almost 2 weeks after DDay. I was going to buy bed sheets at the store while my now exH was in our marriage home “working” while the movers were packing up my items . I remember feeling so strong and free when I was walking down the sidewalk – light as a feather. I later danced the evening away in my new living room. It felt like I was alive for the first time in my life (I met the exH when I was 15, and we were together for 19 years, married for 11). I wobbled LOTS after that, but I still remember that feelings of that day. It still makes me smile.

    The second moment was when I was on the phone talking with the exH (see wobble note above) about a month after I served him with divorce papers. He was using his typical bullying tactics to get me to do what he wanted me to do in terms of living arrangements (to make sure he “won” with the financial settlement of course). It was the usual raising his voice, repeating the same statements over and over to wear me down, and completely disregarding anything I was saying about how (and where) I wanted to live my life post-divorce. I was in the middle of stating what I wanted (again), when I just stopped and said, “You know what, it doesn’t matter. What you want just doesn’t matter to me anymore.” I just stopped engaging. He was furious and soon thereafter hung up the phone. #thetruthwillsetyoufree

    • That is similar to what happened with my ex fw. He called me at work stating the settlement he wanted to happen. I said all that has to go through the lawyer, he said if you don’t agree I will sell everything and make sure there is no money. I said “knock your self out big boy” and hung up on him.

      He called back about ten minutes later and apologized. Dude had trouble getting it in his head that he is not in control of the law, nor was he any longer in control of me.

      I really think he thought when it started that he would control it, just like he always controlled everything.

      • Yes, yes, yes, Susie Lee. Our exHs definitely had the same mindset when it came to the financial settlement. And what is with the hanging up and calling back a short time later (within minutes) to apologize? It’s like – bullying won’t work….rage….give me a few minutes to figure out what tactic is next….pity it is!

        • Yep I thought of that years later, when I discovered CL for the incident he pulled with our son.

          He never used pity, but he did alternate rage with apologies.

          If CL had been around during my experience, I could have at least had some laughs out of his behavior. Also, I likely wouldn’t have let him come back the one time I did.

  • I remember the day I got an email my divorce was final. I was in Florida for a conference, and it just so happened my kids came with me. I got the email between the time when our show closed down and our finale party was about to happen. So I went down, celebrated and a had a few drinks with my work friends. Then my kids joined us and the three of us walked over to the beach and watched the sun set together. It had been a crazy few years and it felt like as the sunset that evening, I was finally free.

  • D day anniversary is next Monday. Today is my last day in my apartment, as I am moving to a new city for my new great job in a warmer climate. I spoke to my stepson to let him know I was moving and, wouldn’t you know, my ex texted me yesterday “Will you please see me before you go?”

    As CL says, “OH HELL TO THE NO!”. I simply didn’t respond.

    How did I get here? With great effort taking it one step at a time working through the pain and fighting like hell to be the person I want to be. Taking a new job, now surrounding myself with new coworkers and the opportunities that await me in new city. Not every day is great, but but the good days and moments are starting to outweigh the bad moments.

    This is what freedom looks like

    • Godspeed and Good Luck Wiser! A new direction…adventures waiting…new memories to be made! As the saying goes….The BEST is yet to be!!

  • Yesterday I knew I needed a kick in the pants to get moving again! Thank you all for these posts!! My D-day of discovering my husband, of 37 years, was bisexual and had been hooking up with adult friend finder folks for 10 years was 5 months ago. I have screamed, cried and been slowly packing, knowing I am done despite his pleas to stay. Last week, my brother died alone in the hospital from covid. I am so heartbroken, grieving the loss of my brother and the marriage, I thought I had, I have trouble even getting out of bed. Thank you, CN, I know you are saving my life.

    • Kathy, I just want you to know that someone read your words and is listening. I am so sorry about your brother. Trying to deal with both of those losses sounds overwhelming, and I hope you are getting support. You may never stop missing your brother, but I can tell you that you WILL recover from the marriage. It gets much, much better after you get some distance.

    • Oh Kathy I am so sorry for your loss! I think LAJ was one of our frequent posters who has mentioned grief builds upon further grief so when you have multiple losses, they are amplified. Not sure if that just made sense but I just can’t imagine going through so much loss in a short time span. Please be patient with yourself and give yourself the love and care a good family member or friend would give you. You will make it through this and please post as often and as much as you need to–CN is here for you!

    • Kathy

      I lost my brother in April 20 to a heroin /fentanyl overdose.
      We knew it was coming but just not when.

      I feel your loss with you and just to let you know you’re not alone
      ❤️

    • Kathy that is an awful lot of loss to process. 5 months is just the beginning of letting go of a 37 year relationship. You have a long journey ahead and I can assure you there is much joy mixed in with the grief. Hopefully, you will find a new relationship with yourself and rediscover you. This is such a stressful time in our history and to lose your brother on top of everything else is tremendously sad. This pandemic sucks. Be gentle with yourself, treat yourself as you would a treasured friend and give yourself time to grieve whatever comes up. I lost my brother to suicide in the middle of my divorce and sometimes I cared more about one loss than the other and felt bad about that, as if my priorities were out of wack. I look back now and realize that was silly and just added to my sense of sadness. So please be good to you. Come here often, we get it. I promise life gets better – especially life without a FW.

    • I will remember both you and your brother in my prayer intentions…..Many here at CN will give you the suport you need in order to deal with the sadness and loss…..Hugs.

    • Oh, Kathy, I’m so terribly sorry for your loss and all you are going through. Sending you much love and support. You are mighty as hell, and you’ve already shown that through all the steps you’re taking to walk this difficult road out. You will get through this. Please keep posting here whenever you need to. CN is here for you.

    • OMG Kathy, I am so sorry. That is so much loss and grief at once. Sending you huge (((HUGS))) of support. That’s terrible about your brother passing. How cruel to go through that and suffer that loss and when you should have the support of a partner, you’re having to deal with a complete sociopathic fraud. I pray you have people in your world to lean on now — you have us online — but please get out of that bed and lawyer up. Don’t tell him, do it. Let him think you’re reconciling, or laying in that bed, but you get those ducks in a row!

      More (((HUGS))).

      • sociopathic fraud is the perfect description. He is plugging along , doing house repairs to stay together…god only knows what he is doing on the side. I am quietly taking care of business and I do have the support of one friend, I confided in, probably 12 hours away, but she and her husband would be here in a quick minute if I asked. I am back on track, packing, preparing to leave. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you all!!

    • Oh my. I am so sorry for your loss. I just want you to know that YOU are in my thoughts and I am sending positive loving vibes to you. Xx

    • >>Thank you, CN, I know you are saving my life.

      I’m glad you’re here too Kathy. Sorry about all you’re dealing with.

  • As CL noted above… freedom is a million little steps that get you to your final destination… a cheater free life.

    Mine included:

    – Changing the locks about a month after he moved out so he couldn’t just walk in the house when he was coming over to pick up our son for visits.

    – Creating a divorce binder and gathering all the information in a single place (judge’s love paper)

    – Getting Mr. Sparkles to sign a notarized agreement on what financials he would continue to pay for the house/our son while we separated and until divorce was final (this was subsequently held up in court when he stopped paying and was then forced to)

    – When Mr. Sparkles rebuked my settlement offer, I envoked my pre-nup agreement and filed for divorce with an attorney (after trying to do it pro se)

    – Selling my engagement ring and taking my son to Hawaii (I had always dreamed of going – my wedding was even Hawaiian themed)

    – Finding Chump Nation and ChumpLady

    – Hearing the judge announce the divorce complete…

    I could go on and on… just pick your place to start (mine was changing the locks) and go from there… Freedom is sweet… truly.

  • I have these little Flashes of Freedom even now… 2 years after my divorce.

    Had one just yesterday. My friend called me:

    “What are you doing?”

    “Admiring the Christmas tree I still have up. You know why I still have it up?”

    🤔 “Ummmmm, no?”

    “BECAUSE I CAN!!” 🤣

    • Same! For the last three years, I use the “Christmas” dishes that my mother give me well into February. Because I can.

      • Love it! 😂 🎄 🍽 💪🏻

        At the end of the call last night I told my friend:

        “You know… I might leave this tree up until August. You know why?”

        She yelled into the phone: “BECAUSE YOU CAN!!”

        🤣

        Life is good. 🍾 🥂

  • Enjoying the sunrise while walking my dogs several weeks after severing all ties, then returning to a calm, content and welcoming home. It was a blissful experience.

    For the first time in years, I was able to experience tranquility and genuine pleasure in my daily life. Practicalities weren’t always easy at first, but already I was finding myself to be in a far happier and better place.

  • I stalled for nearly three years after DDay, certain that as soon as I was on my own, my life would crumble, that I was too incompetent to run a household on my own. I finally got so depressed and desperate that failing alone looked better than staying with him. The first night after he moved out, I remember feeling profound relief. I could breathe again!

    It’s been almost exactly three years since then. Last night, I was sitting at the dinner table with my three boys. We we having a lively conversation and it hit me: we don’t miss him. None of us. We are intact and thriving and fine. I left a cheater and gained a life.

    • Me too.
      Clinging to what is hurting us, out of fear of the unknown, is what keeps alcoholics drinking. I learned that when I got sober.

      People desperately avoid change.

      My kids and I are the same as you. A much healthier and happier family

      • “… fear of the unknown…”
        Those 4 words are a gold mine relative to my task avoidance when it comes to anything involving a repair.

        I should make a wood burning sign to remind me. I often say them to myself which turns me into a research machine before tackling the repair.

        Same applies to diagnosing a FW. KNOWLEDGE IS POWERFUL

  • For me, the process of leaving started with the realization I could not stay married to that man for the rest of my days, but I had to plan a transition to protect my assets and my children’s lives. It took me a long time to finalize the details, I think of it as a jail sentence. I suffered for many things during that time, but I was actively planning behind the scenes. My heart knew I would leave, my focus was on how. I could not sever the children from their father, but I could minimize his impact. Fortunately he traveled a great deal, and I handled most of the business of the marriage, anyway. I could make arrangements, and move some things to a safe place, and he would not even notice. I also planned to leave him the things he would need to take care of the children when he had them.

    We had already told the children about he divorce, and filed, near the end of a calendar year. My divorce was finalized on the first court day of the new year. The week before, he took the children on vacation. I worked like a trojan that week, cleaning and setting up two households, putting things into storage. I’m sure he learned many things during that first week with the children without me as a buffer to handle all the details. I am sure it was a shock to come home to a functional house that was no longer a home because I was gone. He was angry that I was able to pull it off, of course. He asked me why I had done it, and I explained I didn’t want the drama of arguing as a box was packed, or an item was loaded on the truck. I knew which possessions he prized, and I left them. He asked me “What if I want something you have decided is yours?” I said, tell me what it is, what specifically do you want? He couldn’t name anything but pictures of the children. I told him if he paid for the duplications, I would be happy to have that done. He never mentioned it again.

    The point is, he lost control, and he lost cake. He no longer got to count on me to make his life easier. I knew he had what he needed, what the children needed when they were there, but he did not have me. He had more days with the children than he ever used, legally. He discovered his girlfriends didn’t want to provide childcare, and the children didn’t want to be on his “dates.” He lost a wife, a business manager, a nanny, and someone to talk to that cared. He knew he had broken the covenant, and he had been warned, but he never believed I would actually carry though and deliver consequences. He learned he really didn’t know me, and he never had appreciated all that I did. My oldest son told me that his dad never found what he had lost, again. He had new replacement wife appliances, but none of them handled all of the things I did. That is what happens when you don’t appreciate what you have.

    My life got better, but I did not take the time I should have to heal. I became involved with another man, too soon. I was smart enough to protect myself financially, but not emotionally. I married and divorced, again, within 4 years. After that, I took the time to fix my picker, and work on my FOO issues, and examine my cultural foundation beliefs. I discovered I didn’t need to be married to be happy, or have a stable life. I could have a very happy and full life on my own. It was at this point I became free.

    There is nothing wrong with seeking a life companion. I congratulate all of you who have found someone who cares for you and appreciates you. I have not, but I am only retired, not dead yet. I have some good friends, and I have companions, but I do not have a life companion. Maybe I will find one, maybe not, but I am content, and I enjoy living a life without a FW telling me what to do. I make my choices, and I am happy. That is freedom for me!

    • So much this: “He learned he really didn’t know me”… because I stayed after so many D-days that he figured I would just keep waiting for him to come back even after he left. BOY… did he underestimate me on that front! He learned the hard way, he didn’t know me… or my strength.

  • Every single night when I sprawl across my canopy bed filled with stuffies my daughter gave me and revel in my lightness and independence.

    As for the leaving. He got caught when the family was on holiday. Upon return he was sent packing and never allowed back. Divorce was final about 10 months later. This is the basics, the reality included much apologizing, lying, paranoid depression from me, moving away (him) and another baby (him too).

    My 2 teens and I are the happiest and most well adjusted we have ever been. It is hard to understand the damage a narcissist is inflicting until they are gone. You just don’t see it.

    2 years from D day and better then meh. I am content.

  • I’m not sure what freedom feels like yet, but you are all such an inspiration to me! I’m standing on the precipice trying to get the courage to jump; and all of your stories are so helpful. I’m over a year and too many D days to count into this shit-show that has become my life. FW has been carrying on with a “child” less than half our age for over a year (20 to his 43, eew). In the last couple of months he has finally moved into our spare room and we basically have no relationship at all. If I even attempt to talk about anything with him, he storms out and “sleeps in his truck” (and no I know the asshole isn’t sleeping in his truck in the NE in January). According to him, I’m the one that needs to make changes. I’m not nice enough, I should be softer and more interested in what he does. He hates my entire family and does not speak to his son anymore because he wants nothing to do with him while the whore is still in his life. In fact, he pretty much hates everyone but the whore. The whole world is wrong, and they are right… I know that he is a bat-shit crazy narcissist (but he likes to call me one), and that none of this is my fault, but I still catch myself apologizing to him. We’ve been together for 30 years and I truly hate him at this point, and see no future together, but I can’t make myself take the final step.

    I did see an attorney, and I filed for divorce. I thought the right thing to do would be to give them to him myself and ask him to leave. I’ve been carrying them around in my car for two weeks now (I have 30 days to serve him). I pretty much know how it will end. He won’t sign the acceptance of service, and he’ll rage and go sleep in his truck. He is AWFUL, but for some reason I still care that it will be hard for him to find a place to go and to move all of his stuff. I’m worried about him being able to get his employees (one of which is the whore; I forgot to tell you that I get to actually pay her to fuck my husband) their W-2’s and file the business taxes for the year. For the record, the mortgage is solely in my name (he is on the deed though), and I have a good career and will have no issue supporting myself. In fact, I will probably be in a better place financially because I won’t have him out spending my money to sneak around and buy gifts for schmoopie.. What is wrong with me, why am I still being such a Chump??

    • I wrote this above.
      Fear keeps us clinging to what is, even if it is hurting us. I refused to quit drinking for years, thinking life would suck. Once I was brave enough to try sobriety a whole world op joy and possibility opened up. I never knew.

      Leaving a marriage is similar. You are familiar with him, and scared what is next might be worse.
      I can guarantee you, it will be better. You are living in unacceptable abuse and disrespect. Servicing him those papers and going no contact will be the most liberating experience of your life.

      Do it. Will not regret it. Take your life back and find joy.

      • Thank you for the kind words. And I couldn’t agree more. I’m terrified of the change, even though I know it’s going to be great on the other side!

        • LostMyNice

          the pain of staying is eternal because he will NOT change and things will NOT improve. (And the reward for your devotion? The likelihood HE will leave YOU for OW as you wait for magical change to somehow “happen” to him.) He will not choose to change.

          The only change you control is YOURS.

          I was married 35 years so I know it’s hard to turn that switch off. I now see it as a type of addiction/traum bonding. I met my ex in high school and it felt as if he was in my DNA. And I dearly loved him for decades…

          But you have to step back and realize that leaving him will only cause you pain **temporarily,** because in time OUR lives all get better without the daily emotional beating we got from lives with FWs.

          ** I mean, do not view your options as having EITHER a happy marriage with a “few issues to work out”, versus a leap into darkness.
          Those^^ are not YOUR choices…

          Aside from retaining your self respect, I’m telling you —1) that the least painful option you have OVER TIME, is leaving.

          2) Staying will not give you peace, it will not reward you, – your husband is abusing you and he will not get better, he will not “see the light”.

          And your happiness cannot hinge on waiting for him to wake up or give you the grand apology. Your happiness only hinges on one person – YOU.

          We are here for you. Been there, done that.

          • “The likelihood HE will leave YOU for OW as you wait for magical change to somehow “happen” to him.) ”

            So so true. After he moved out to “get his head on straight” I waited, blessedly for only about three weeks, before he came back and told me he was going to marry the whore. It was of course his intention all along, but he needed to keep me on hopium to get out of the house, and tie up some loose ends before the final dump.

            Oh how I wish I had said, no you won’t be coming back, I am done. In the end it caused me more pain. In my case it wasn’t long, thankfully; but still I let him control his exit, I should have done that.

            But, I was alone and had no counsel on how to be discarded. LMN will be ok too, but if she can stop the bleeding now; that would help her so much.

    • Lost, there is nothing wrong with you except your heart is broken and you are at the same time trying to get free. You are in a crisis and I wonder if you may be a little fearful to serve him. I was and so had my lawyer take care of that. It might be worth hiring a server so you don’t have to. They know how to do that so it legally documents service. It sounds like you are still living together. Are you safe? You might consider getting him to sign a quit claim deed on the house, so his name can gone off the title -if he will. I’m guessing he is still responsible for half the mortgage. If his ow is an employee, can you fire her? hugs. Better days are coming!

      • I’m ready to move on from “heartbroken” to “pissed-off”, and some days I am there. I don’t fear any physical harm, but he’s become very un-predictable so I worry about things like him running off with my dog or causing damage to the house. The tricky part for me is that we do still live together and because of his business there is a ton of equipment on the property. I can’t just make a clean break. I’m also the only one on the mortgage, so I really don’t want to leave the house.

        As for the whore; I would love to fire her, but he won’t allow that to happen. He “needs” her. He’s actually told me that I should be grateful because she makes me money…

        I will likely go the process server route since I’m not doing a great job of getting it done myself! I just hope he leaves and doesn’t camp out in the guest room for an eternity!

    • >>What is wrong with me, why am I still being such a Chump??

      Because your abuser trained you to stay no matter what; try Googling “coercive control”. Like Pavlov’s dog you have been conditioned to an abuser’s control. In a million small punishments, you’ve been conditioned to focus on him and forget yourself, he has undermined your emotional independence in every way possible. Now there is a wall of pain, which negatively colors any vision of future away from him. Don’t blame yourself or judge yourself harshly (which would be his control conditioning).

      Author Don Hennessy has a great book on how to break free, “Steps to Freedom: Escaping Intimate Control”. He recommends small steps for a woman to rebuild confidence in herself and her independence, such as driving a different route to the grocery store. He focuses on mind tricks which reverse the abusers mind control (and false self-blame).

      • I really appreciate the insight. The funny thing is if you would have asked me 2 years ago what would happen if my husband cheated on me, I would have said “I’d throw his ass out and not think twice”. I’ve always thought of myself as a “strong woman”, so to speak. At work I run a division of the company, and lead a team of 15 people; and I do it with confidence. If you asked anyone who knows me in a professional capacity, they would tell you no way would I ever be in this situation. It’s like I’ve split into two very different people and I’m pretty ashamed of one of them.

        I will definitely check out that book. I do feel very out of control with him. I know he’s lying to me all the time, but I still go along with it and if I offend his highness by asking a question that “pokes” him, I grovel and apologize, it’s the craziest feeling.

    • Dear God woman, please LEAVE. The mighty you who filed for that divorce? Listen to her. Follow through.

      Where he sleeps after you serve him is where he’s been sleeping — his “truck.”

      Not your problem. Please lay the burden down.

      And in the interests of safety, and your own mental peace of mind, get a constable to serve him. It’s not that expensive and you really need the distance. Let a stranger drop the bomb.

      Big ((hugs)). It really gets better. You are SO CLOSE.

      • Thank you Chump Lady, I really think I needed to hear this from someone outside the situation. Over the years I’ve become pretty isolated. I’ve spent all my time being a mom to my wonderful 26 year old son (thankfully he is well adjusted and living on his own), helping the jackass build his business, and working on my own career. I have neglected friendships and family. He was my best friend since we were 13, and as time went on he decided he didn’t like my family, so like a fool I stopped spending a lot of time with them. I didn’t see this coming AT ALL, he was the classic Mr. Nice Guy. Finding this website and hearing stories that were so similar to mine is what gave me the courage to actually go file. I have given all our financial information to my attorney, changed life insurance beneficiaries and made a plan. I’ve just wobbled (A LOT) on the delivery. I know I need to do it though, I’m ready to start living again.

    • Dear LMN, regarding serving him, where I am (US) you are not allowed to legally serve papers. It has to be a third party, non-related and over 18. My STBX did not want to have me served by the sheriff, so he arranged for a mutual acquaintance to meet me at a local wine-bar and I signed and she served the (expected) papers. There was no drama. Perhaps you can find an alternative like this? You can tell him that it is happening and the papers need to be signed by ‘date’. Can you contact a mutual friend/aquaintance to do this? I really don’t think you should confront him yourself with the papers. You don’t know what kind of reaction you’ll get and it seems rather dangerous. If you do, please meet him in public somewhere, not alone, preferably with a friend/witness.

      Wishing you strength and resolve to do this. It will get the ball rolling and you can get unstuck. It seems the scariest thing ever, but in hindsight, it is best to just get it done. Getting divorced is a gift you can give to yourself, along with a brand-new life, doing what is best for YOU!!

      • My ex was the same way. He wanted me to file, but nope he wanted the D, he could file. He didn’t want to hurt me by having the sheriff serve me. Lol. Didn’t want to hurt me. I told him, ship has sailed on the hurt part, just do it.

        Ended up they were in my mail box. I have no idea who put them there.

        But in her case I would have a legal authority serve the papers.

    • So you should be entitled to value in his business if it was grown during your marriage. If it is worth a decent bit, throw your thoughts of a peaceful divorce out the window.

      Copy all the documents you have access to NOW! Get all the information used for the taxes.

      You can ask him for business documents in Discovery, but be ready for him to ignore that. Next step is to subpoena the business directly, and when he fights that, file a Motion to Compel. Then be prepared to prove that certain documents exist. It’ll suck, but you’ll be better prepared if you know what is coming…

    • It is hard to be the one to finally end the farce. I had to mail my papers to my lawyer, and his office was only a 15 minute drive away. I think our nervous system takes a while to catch up to our mind.

      We are so entangled with them finacially that it seems like a big mountain to climb. But, a man never changes at his core.

      Rip off the bandaid. It’s the only way to stop staying stuck in limbo hell

  • Little things.

    My whore fucking husband hated when I burned incense. For 20 years I didn’t burn any incense.

    I remember the first time, after kicking him out, when I remembered I liked burning incense. I burned some.

    I still burn it every night. Every time I light a stick, I remember who I am. I am me.

  • The day my divorce was finalized in court, I went to work. My attorney said I didn’t need to be there and I had an office full of patients depending on me.

    My moment of freedom has occurred numerous times. I adopted a dog and didn’t need to ask permission. I started music lessons, joined two bands and bought myself an expensive guitar with my own money without asking “permission”. I traded cars twice, what I wanted, and bought my son a car. All by myself.

  • The day I got out of court, I had a small divorce party with some friends who’d supported me throughout. A couple of my divorced friends had advised me to have some sort of recognition of closure, and this was a nice end to what amounted to an anticlimactic jouirney.

    However, I had to cohabitate with him for another 4.5 months. I had no money to move elsewhere while the settlement went through. My decree allowed me rights to the house during this time, and set a limit on my move for after I got the settlement.

    The first thing I noticed once I moved was that it was so quiet. I’d purposely moved into a more rural area, but it was quiet in the house. No longer was I greeted first thing in the morning with news of the impending apocalypse. I didn’t have to feel as if I were walking on eggshells to keep him from getting angry.

    It took a long time to decompress from the time I lived with him after Dday (I took time to line up my ducks and then, once I filed, he dragged his heels for nearly 18 months). But one night, when I took my dogs out, the sky was so clear and the stars were so bright, and I thought that yes! This was my freedom.

  • Mine was more gradual because he abandoned the marriage. For a year I pitifully tried to save a long-distance relationship that wasn’t mine to save. Then one day it finally sunk in. Why was I working so hard to save something that was already dead? I couldn’t imagine how long it would take to ever trust him again. He was highly secretive about how he spent his time, and I had reason to believe that he had found an old girlfriend. I don’t know the exact date, but I had recently emailed him that I didn’t trust him and wasn’t going to follow him. The house had been sold, and I was earning almost nothing myself. He was still paying support which covered my rent and nothing else. But I felt strangely free because had let go.

    I was out walking the dog, and my therapist called about an issue with my bill. I told her that I had given up. She was the first one to hear that, and it felt strange, indeed. Not long after that I joined a 12-step group that gave me a new group of been-there-done-that friends and a deeper understanding of my lack of boundaries, healthy relationships, and how to move forward.

    I didn’t act on my belief that it was over because of finances, and ultimately he kicked off what became a high conflict divorce. But I made it, and some months after it was final, got employment that covered my bills and began truly recovering. Closeout is dragging out at a snail’s pace because of COVID, but there really is no reason at all to interact with him now.

    Freedom feels like being real now. My close friends know that what I went through made me a better person, a more whole person. That’s a good place to be.

    • I believe from suffering comes grace. We don’t want it or choose it, but it is still true.
      I expect you were always a lovely person. Now you have an even bigger heart.

  • Mine was slow in coming. I was pick-me-dancing up until the very end – hoping beyond hope that at the last minute he would see the error of his ways and certainly pick me….RIC conditioning prior to finding and reading LACFAL.

    My relief came after I got the deed to my house in my name only. That took months and during that time I was on pins and needles terrified one of his discards would sue him – our separation and divorce took place when the shit was hitting the fan in Hollywood big time several years back and women were stepping forward in droves….Friends told me I was safe because all was signed and notarized etc. but that didn’t do much to settle my nerves.

    Seeing and having a copy of the deed is what finally did it. I still remember it was a clear beautiful day and the relief I felt was exhilarating. That is when I began to feel free and I began to see more and more what I had been putting up with for over 30 years.

    It has been a slow educational process since that day. Every time I read something that describes what I couldn’t see when I was in the ‘its all your fault’ mode frees me up a little bit more.

    Like others have said, I am soooo glad he is gone and that I have been no contact now for a couple of years….didn’t know such a thing existed until I read about it here. Thanks CN.

    The x was a TFC -covert passive aggressive narcissist so I was completely in the dark because he was so charming etc….I didn’t know about these types either so I was really confused because he wasn’t verbally or physically abusing me….just ignoring me and our children unless there was an audience interspersed with unexpected and, what I thought were, uncharacteristic outbursts of anger.

  • It took me a very long time (many years) to my sense of total peace.

    There were so many tiny achievements along the was…baby steps…
    Throwing my heart and soul into working to help my lawyers find every tiny detail to help me get the best settlement possible. Having all the lawyers on both sides say I was a good person who didn’t deserve what happened.
    Having a beyond-words fabulous therapist.
    Being willing to try genetic testing to get me on the right medications.
    Slowly building new traditions and even stronger relationships with my children.
    Strengthening friendships and losing anyone not in my camp.
    Volunteering and then being offered a new job more exciting than anything I could have dreamed of.
    Many moves until I found someplace that was right for me.

    What it finally took to reclaim my soul was deciding to go for my dream and buy a fixer-upper beach house with my own pool. Scary as hell but I love renovating. Moved to a town where I knew NO ONE!

    The mornings walking the beach in solitude, the sunset happy hours with the few friends I made, jumping fully clothed into my own pool as soon as it was ready (just because I could), gardening to have all the hydrangeas and flowers I wanted, morning coffee on the back steps. Small moments of healing.

    That is where the caterpillar finally became a butterfly. I needed self care, a safe cocoon, peace and time to finally emerge the person I am proud of today.

  • Sometimes I wish Tracy would start a subcategory – get dumped by a cheater and gain a life. /it’s a lot of letters though!

    • I agree.

      I mean as awful as it feel in real time, getting dumped can be freeing too. I initially got dumped, big time. It hurt like hell, but as I worked through the pain, I got so much stronger. I also recognized about a month after he moved out that though I was grieving the pain, I didn’t seem to miss him as much as I thought I would. Hmmmmm.

      I did get the chance down the road to reject him, and that was fun; but it would have never worked and I knew he didn’t want me for me, he had some ulterior motive. I suspect just destabilizing me. Still, I did get to say No Thanks. What I actually said was: “I think we are done here” and walked out of the preachers office, after thanking the preacher for his efforts of course.

      • Yea, I hear you. I just think getting the chance to reject the cheater might make you feel a little bit mightier than being dumped by the cheater (it should be our choice not the fuckwit’s choice!). We are left with all the crap of Dday & then trying to feel mighty only because you survived the abandonment.
        The rejection is so astronomical when you offer to work with the fuckwit and they simply say ‘no I’m choosing the OW.’
        The 1 advantage I can think of -it sounds so weird putting it that way/
        Is that at least you don’t suffer the pain of multiple Ddays as some chumps have unfortunately.
        It’s just sometimes I think of the name of this blog and I realize I never actually left a cheater, he left me.

        • I understand.

          You are right, the betrayed should get to choose. Also, had I taken him back, I have no doubt it would not have lasted, and he would have left again. I also know I would never have felt good about him again, just no respect left. I had posted before I actually did let himn come back early on, and it lasted a week and he was horrible, still don’t know what that was about for sure, though I have my idea. I should have never let him come back. But, it did show me for certain who he really was. As weird as that OW was, he could not seem to get away from her.

          In hindsight I think he tried to. But, she was his employee and his hiney was in a sling at work; so I don’t know how much that played into the whole sordid mess. But, they had an almost thirty year marriage, filled with family strife and huge financial problems; who knows maybe they were happy. He pretty much did what he wanted and she put up with it. 🤷‍♂️ At least according to my son and daughter in law.

  • I’ve been cheater free almost 5 years–yayyyy!! I don’t post much anymore but I do continue reading. Love you all!! When I found out Dr. Cheaterpants was back at it with our DD14’s 20-something asst sports coach in our kids’ Catholic school, it was a sense of despair and elation. A double-edged sword. I knew my kids’s lives would forever be changed but I was so excited I had a valid reason to leave the marriage. I always knew something was off, our marriage was not reciprocal, I had made my needs smaller and smaller, he was always controlling and angry but also very needy. Anyhow he is a full blown narcissist and I just didn’t know it. I remember thinking ‘she’s a lucky, lucky girl’. I went through the thoughts of what if he becomes better for her? And on the outside looking in he has: bought a huge 5000 sq ft house on an acre, tropical vacations a couple of times a year, lots of jewelry, new cars, every Apple product made. My DD19 and her friends refer to her as an ‘Apple whore’. DD says she’s lazy and doesn’t do anything around the house. That’s the most I know as I don’t care.

    What do I have now? I stayed in my home that I bought the first time he chumped me and we separated. The kids spend their time with me and we are a much more relaxed and happy family. They avoid him like the plague but do interact the bare minimum needed so he will continue to pay their monthly allowance and college tuition (he controls the college fund). I never realized just how shitty of a father he was too but now the kids’ will laugh and joke about how much of a pain in the arse he used to be and we all say ‘WE ARE FREE’!!!

    • I’m blissfully ignorant of his lifestyle now, but I knew that he was spending money like crazy during separation including taking money out of the retirement investments for his family. There was all kinds of gift-giving going on as well. Our “gift” was support, nothing else. I warned him once about the wisdom of his financial choices, noting that technically the retirement investments were marital property and that we both had to watch our money. Of course I got an explosion in response. Later he wanted a separation date some time after we actually separated to cover those withdrawals and more, but I refused. The separation date was the separation date, period. That caused an explosion too.

      What a relief to file taxes for the first time as “head of household” just as he had picked his attorney and was starting to throw divorce threats at me. He somehow thought that we should file joint that year, but I filed first on my tiny income and got a good tax refund that I turned around to retain my attorney. More explosions over filing first, but it was all good according to my tax professional. Then he insisted in the agreement on joint tax liability for the years we were together and a joint return that covered the first months of separation (before I wised up of course). My attorney said was a big red flag that made him uneasy and told me to contact my tax professional. I asked her about that (she’s an enrolled agent), and she said that she had successfully defended multiple clients against that for years leading up to and including separation/divorce as an “innocent spouse.” She said that she had a good tax attorney behind her if we needed that who said that the language in the agreement was bogus and would be ignored by the IRS who would divide any penalties as they saw fit per federal law. Thankfully enough time has passed now that an audit on the joint years is highly unlikely.

      A specialist we hired during closeout told my attorney about a back door to find out the withdrawals and balances on one retirement account that he was being cagy about, and that was illuminating of course. The situation was actually worse that I expected, but I got my due from him in the end. Now his money is his money, and mine is mine.

      Being free is wonderful!

      • Wish I knew what that back door was. Now I will be Googling like mad to find it! FW in my case has been obsessed with checking my retirement account balances which makes me worry he has done something with his. I have been worried sick about it because that is the mother lode of our marital assets to be split. I learned he could loan against it and my fear is that he has. His spending has been crazy.

  • after the settlement agreement was signed, I walked away from the courthouse sobbing all the way to my car parked blocks away. I set the boundaries but I didn’t feel the adrenaline of real resolve since he wouldn’t abide them and filed. he was one of the ones who love bombed almost til the end.
    i’m just starting to enjoy my freedom a year later… I can do early yoga in front of the tv, cook foods that will get eaten, and spend my money how I want.

  • There was a freedom moment that is indelibly etched in my memory and which I seek to experience again. I walked out of divorce court on a beautiful sunny November day – Monday after Thanksgiving which was the first available date after a required waiting period. While driving away I had this all-consuming overwhelming sense of pure joy. A burden had been forever lifted. I have felt lighter since that day both figuratively and literally -(lost 35ish pounds). That was 3 yrs ago, dday was almost 4 yrs ago. Time has flown, a lot has changed. I’ve learned a lot about boundary setting which is liberating. Most importantly I learned that my generosity which kept him with me (mooch extraordinaire) is how I show my love and it must have well considered limits. I give freely and if I start to feel I want something in return I don’t give -I stop until I figure out my why. This probably doesn’t make much sense to you but it is important for me. Be well, stay safe, do nice things for yourself! Hugs!

    • Most importantly I learned that my generosity which kept him with me (mooch extraordinaire) is how I show my love and it must have well considered limits. I give freely and if I start to feel I want something in return I don’t give -I stop until I figure out my why. This probably doesn’t make much sense to you but it is important for me.

      Thanks thrive for this illuminating comment. I have saved it for future reference as this is a lightning bolt revelation for me, my generosity has made me a target and convenient to hold on to.

    • “I give freely and if I start to feel I want something in return I don’t give -I stop until I figure out my why.”

      This is genius. Thank you for sharing that. It makes a lot of sense and I am really going to try to remember that!

  • The last time I left (yes, you read that right) also happened to be Liberation Day where I live.
    I found it fitting to my own “liberation campaign”. Then it was ALL uphill from there. All of it.

    But looking back, I can tell you I started to experience freedom much sooner than I would give it credit.
    If I’d been asked, I’d have said freedom was still far from me, but in reality it comes in little increments, as you progress ahead. And they all add up in the end!

    It starts with one small decision to leap.
    And it’s scary, but there’s comfort in knowing you’re doing the right thing.

    So here’s to our NEW and IMPROVED life!

  • While I was dumped by my cheater (he never came out and said it, just through (in)actions), I still believe that when I told myself I was through with him was when what matters happened — I dumped him. I let go of the irrational belief that I still wanted someone who viewed and treated me as less than the worms he trod upon. I let go of the insane hope that he would be struck by lightning and see reality and want me. I let go of him.

    I still have this eternal fire of hate and hurt burning within me, but after I said enough, like many others here, I did feel lighter and freer. I wanted to go out again — too bad COVID!! lol

    And hey, I still wish him as much pain and suffering as he put me through. I hope he dies alone and miserable, unmourned and soon forgotten. He deserves nothing less.

  • I have just finally found my freedom! After I left him, I was mired in court-cases for months. The court cases are all concluded. And now I realize that I don’t have any reason to talk to him anymore! Angels started singing. Suddenly, my whole life opened out in front of me. I can do whatever I want. I can go wherever I want. Nobody is stealing from me. Nobody is cheating on me.

    At this point, I can’t imagine ever wanting to get married ever again. I thought I’d be miserable alone. But I’m not alone at all. I have lots of friends, my kids, my pets…. And I’m not stressed out all the time with all the latest chaos the EX generates. Hallelujah!

  • My XW walked out on the kids and me. I rampaged through the house and stuffed everything of hers, clothes, shoes, photos, souvenirs, tampons, make up, hair products, any reminders of her, EVERYTHING into big trash bags and told her to remove them before I took them to the dump. I printed out big labels consisting of a single letter “A” in what color? Scarlet of course! She’s too stupid to get the reference, but her Dad is well read, I’m sure he got the message. LOL 😊

  • My freedom can be defined by the absence of things:

    *NOT walking on eggshells
    *NOT trying to please him
    *NOT worrying about him and his needs
    *NOT having to suffer through his silent treatments (It was abusive)
    *NOT having to watch him stomp around the house and wonder what I had done to cause this
    *NOT having to read his mind and anticipate his needs (Yes, I did this. Ugh. Like a trained animal.)
    *NOT having to hear his criticisms
    *NOT having to participate in his hobbies (frickin’ fly fishing…OMG. And even so, he said I “never went with him.” What? #nowinsituation)–selling the fly fishing equipment felt SO GOOD

    I could go on.
    The bottom line is that a weight has been lifted.
    I feel a lightness of being. I didn’t know how much he weighed down until he was out of my life.

    I’m not at the final stage of freedom (or meh) yet, but I’m getting there. Occasional leaps but mostly baby steps.

    Other chump stories here are so inspiring!

    • My list looks nearly identical, Spinach; just replace “fly-fishing” with “bicycling.” Same sh*t. Equally glad to be done with it.

    • Spinach mine include ‘not seeing him be snarky to our child when I displeased him’. That was the worst. He knew that was another way to hurt me. And he was right.

  • I remember when I thought about getting back with him (very very briefly), but then realized I would have to suck up being around his god awful family for decades if I did. And I was so happy I never had to pretend to have a good time at their f-ed up Thanksgivings ever again.

  • I’m not there yet, BUT I have had a few nuggets of freedom that I graciously take.

    1. I sleep great. No more worrying, it’s done.

    2. IDGF where is he at and what is he doing. I simply don’t care and have better things to use my time.

    3. I’m back running again.

    4. No more walking on eggshells. No more blaming myself. No more wondering why he pulls away. No more trying to apeace his royal highness.

    5. I don’t need him anymore. I don’t want him here. I rather not see him. This is a huge step after begging him for years, now I simply don’t want to.

    6. Out of sorrow and into anger. Now I have the fuel to do what I have to do.

    7. Better relationship with my kids!!! Now I actually have time to tend to the kids!!!! We are having fun!!

    8. I made new friends with a couple of lady chumps in town. Have had gatherings and entretained like I’ve always wanted. Kids running around giggling, while us ladies dance and sip some wine. Laughter in my house again.

    9. Less laundry!! Kid friendly meals that are fun and convenient so we can actually do something together!!

    10. I am swing me be me again. I am still in pain, but I can see the light. No more muddy waters. I am determined now.

    11. Freedom of mind, freedom from control, freedom from emotional abuse.

    12. My kids are happier. We see more people, we have more fun, we spend more time together, we have more friends. We have plans that don’t involve grumpy faces, tapping feet, being rushed out, or be given the silent treatment/)looking away. People actually talk to us, interact with us and look at us in the eye. We feel accepted even when sad.

  • Several weeks after I moved out, I just remember this feeling deep in my bones of contentment and safety. It was a feeling that I hadn’t had in years.

    Often we don’t realize how stressed and anxiety ridden we are until we pull out of it.

  • Damn! I’m sitting here talking to my mom about how long it’s been since I’ve been divorced and I’m having difficulty remembering the exact date. 29 June 2017 or 2018. I’d have to look it up. HA!!
    Never mind.

    When I started walking this mountainous road, it started surreal and ended about the same. The first leg of the trip is mostly uphill at first but when I reached the top the downhill part accelerated.

    I got what I wanted (in hindsight I should have pressed for more but didn’t ). Now…

    I own outright a paid-for 4 room cottage on 4+ acres with my own 3/4 acre pond. Fully stocked. Property taxes are like $600 a year.
    The beagles and I are in our element there when not staying with my 84 yo mother. I look after her and her needs. We’re awaiting her knee joint replacement (fucking Covid) so she can keep her mobility.

    She has been where we of CN have been. I saw adultery early when my alcoholic dad left us as children and Ma put on her big girl panties. Got a library science degree and became a librarian while working at the same time-and being an authentic mom to my brother and I. Any woman can birth a child but Not All can earn the title of “Mom”. Mine is Mighty. The gold standard of mighty. I love you mom. ❤️

    One of the ubiquitous questions we all ponder is “How Fucking Long Does this recovery last?” I’d read 2-5 years After Divorced was a reasonable median time frame for the walls to sing. I wanted “freedom” sooner.

    So that moment of clarity, the Eureka moment for me is materializing. It really depends on how much effort I put into it as to what I get in return. There is no (spoon) timetable.

    I didn’t loose myself overnight in my 12 year marriage so it’s reasonable to think I won’t magically be restored to the man I was before I met xw. It’s a process that gets us there with a ton of wisdom and discernment added in.

    Vertical Horizon has a song called Finding Me which is very appropro to the healing process.

    I’m reminded in this commentary that
    Freedom Is Not Free. However, the truth will set us free to continue growing and adjusting.

    ML. OUT.

  • Freedom feels like a lack of confusion! And having the mental energy to do what I have to do without feeling unduly burdened or resentful. That is the best way for me to describe it.

    I moved out 5 weeks ago, into a smaller rental home. My path was 10 years in the making, and it speeded up after finding CL 2.5 years ago. I separated emotionally first, years ago, along with separate bedrooms (that was heavenly). Klootzak worked out of town quite often which probably kept me stuck longer since there was most of each week without him. I tried to become more independent as I learned more & sought advice about my finances. I began visiting my out of state adult children and my out of state parents & brothers without Klootzak. I realized as I visited my dad 2 weeks ago that I have more than 5 years of good, Klootzak-free memories for these visits and vacations!

    For at least 2 years I began to secretly get my ducks in a row, seeing attorneys, a good counselor, opeing up to my brothers, and a few good friends. Then I found a domestic abuse ministry that helped with a financial advisor and an attorney. That’s when things really fell into place, so that I could finally make the decision to leave and feel it wouldn’t destroy me & the not quite yet independent 22 year old & my 27 year old who has a disability. After I made the decision to move, the relief was amazing. I felt like the biggest boulder was off my shoulders. I then told my adult children, who were all supportive. Only then did I tell Klootzak. Two weeks later I was out the door with the movers.

    I wasn’t expecting the lightness that would come when I get home from work, living with only my disabled, adult son. He has dinner ready & I do the dishes. I no longer seethe with resentment cleaning up the kitchen. I scrub the stove happily, because it is for me and my son!

    The best part is no longer trying to keep tabs on STBXH. He wasn’t outright mean or critical. He was the opposite. But he was so non-participatory in life that I realize now that I kept tabs on his whereabouts & activities in the home. If he didn’t do what he agreed to do (and he would do so little unless I asked him), I was resentful & in a state of confusion over how I should remind him, or why I can’t hold him accountable. Then the whole infidelity/not safe to sleep with him thing was always in my distant mind. Reading CL & George Simon over the past 2 years helped me understand to accept that these type of people exist, & to not unravel the skein, but NOT BEING FACE TO FACE with the Klootzak brings total relief! At lunchtime, I sometimes forget to even check CL because I no longer have this constant nagging feeling of “what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to get out of this relationship.”

    I am free! I feel saved! I feel safe. It opens up that energy to be used on the usual difficulties that are coming up because of my age & situation: more medical appointments, finding a new life insurance policy, contacting SSA for things that come up with my son, finding a place to get the tires inflated – I did all these and have energy to spare!

  • My ex was a tech guy and took care of selecting and maintaining our phones, computers, and wifi – along with all of the home maintenance as well. I’d never made a decision or dealt with anything like this before. Shortly after he moved out, my laptop died. I did some research, went to Best Buy, and selected my new device. I was feeling so emboldened that I also bought a new printer and tablet. The sales clerk asked if I wanted to sign up for home installation service on the printer, but I said that I could probably figure it out on my own. He said, “That’s what I thought – you seem like a very capable person!” As I walked across the parking lot with my new purchases I felt like I was walking on air. I didn’t need my ex for this stuff after all. It was so empowering that – with a little help from WikiHow – I now have no hesitation about undertaking home and auto repairs on my own as well.

  • I went out and bought ketchup and mayonnaise to put in my fridge.

    Because I wasn’t allowed to have them in the house because “they are gross”.

    I don’t really even use them. But it was a sign he was truly GONE.

    • Wow, those are some very specific ‘rules’. Ketchup and mayo are so… pedestrian. Who’d have thought these were things to argue over? I personally despise mayo, but had no qualms about it living in my refrigerator, lol. So glad you have condiment freedom now PhoenisxFlame!!

      • Oh, there were so many “rules”. Only certain brands of items, had to keep other items fully stocked.

        Being vague here, but let’s just say he had a favorite, oh, coffee creamer.

        Not only was it the only kind allowed, but there would be hell to pay if there wasn’t any (or enough in the bottle to use). Mind you, I didn’t use it. And he wouldn’t tell me he was out. I was expected to keep tabs on it and always have a spare on hand. If not, things thrown, screamed at, silent treatment for days.

        • Ugh. I was supposed to keep track of his cereal boxes. Running low (or out!!!!) was punishable by death. I exaggerate, but it was a misdemeanor.

          If I bought coffee in the wrong decaf to caf ratio, that too was an offense as were raspberries that were less than perfect. For months after D-Day, I couldn’t buy raspberries; it paralyzed me. He freaked out once when I forgot limes for his gin and tonics….. My daughter had shopped with me that day and endured his unreasonable disgust at our ineptitude. He didn’t really yell; he didn’t have to. He made clear his complete disappointment and stomped off. I think I returned to the store (chump).

          To this day my adult daughter talks about the limes. It’s a bit of a joke: “Don’t forget the limes.”

          Now I’m examining why my former self put up with his shit. I know I tried to keep the peace, but damn…

          My hope is that by gaining self-awareness and a true understanding of what the hell makes me tick I can experience true freedom. My therapist is my partner in this. Worth every penny (I hope).

          • Correction (and not that it matters, but I can’t help myself): I wrote: “For months after D-Day, I couldn’t buy raspberries; it paralyzed me.”

            The paralysis came while we were still married. I would stare at the raspberries, afraid of buying the wrong ones. Pathetic, I know.

            After D-Day, I could no longer buy raspberries. To this day, I avoid them.

  • For me it’s been 5 1/2 years and while everything is not perfect and I still have extreme side eye with relationships, EVERY damn day I feel free!

    As I have quipped recently on FB with Chump Friends, no more heels or buttfloss undies!

    I have probably shed every cell he ever touched!

    My kitchen is remodeled all white farmhouse with my own Hobbit Hands and bursting with vintage cookware and dishes in shades of Red, Orange and Yellow! As god is my witness I’ll never have poop brown dishes or cabinets again!

    The ugly dark blue towels he left behind are now shop rags. Nothing that touched his ass touches mine!

    New bed, new mattress, NEW LIFE!

    • And just the other day, someone inquired if Cold Slab of Meat and the Sluterus were still together and happy. Well, they were always fighting so who knows if they were ever happy? But I had to answer that I genuinely didn’t know and genuinely didn’t care. What matters is that I removed myself from a narrative where NOBODY cared what happenned to me and where I had no agency.

  • Nothing can compare to the day my son turned 18.

    It’s been over 4 years of zero contact and it’s still so, so sweet. We are a very happy little family of two in my peaceful apartment. So glad it’s not us quarantining with that abusive asshole.

  • Fortunately I had discovered Chump Lady and so I took the advice of Tracy and others to wait to get my plan in place before confronting him about his cheating. It was a difficult few weeks living with the knowledge that he was a toxic liar and a cheat, but in the end I got my revenge by outwitting him at his own game. On a Friday I confronted him about the affair and in his shock at my discovery he agreed to pack his bags and leave the house for a few days while things “cooled down.” While he was packing I went down to the garage and removed the garage door opener from his car. As he was backing out I saw him reach to the visor and then realize that I was holding it and closing the garage door for him. After that I changed the locks and served him with the divorce papers that Monday. It felt sooooo mighty! On my first night alone in the house I blasted music and danced – and after the divorce was final my friends came over for a champagne toast. They all confessed to never liking him. Freedom from such a selfish and narcissistic man feels so good.

    • And I will add that after explaining to my son (who was 16y at the time) the reason for his father’s absence, the first words out of his mouth: “Can we finally get a dog?” We took advantage of that freedom right away to adopt a rescue dog, who has been a huge upgrade

      • This is so super mighty!! I got a dog for me and the kids the first time cheater chumped me!!

        You are the picture of how to leave a cheater!!

  • I was a unicorn …wreckonciled for 7 years to a mean cheater .

    I never left, but I had saved $ to go and I could sense he was going back to a dark place. He had mentioned moving away again. I didnt know then that the first 2 years of our wreckonciliation he was probs living with OW in the apt he moved to “for work” (yes, I WAS that blind).

    He died very suddenly and with his death went my hopium…all the things I hoped and prayed for would never be. A few weeks before he died, I was praying and said “God, if there is a place where he could be happy, then he can go, I give up” I genuinely thought I was speaking of California, not purgatory.

    My initial grief was very real but 2-3 months after he died, I had a problem…cant remember what it was but I sat myself in my room (adult kids downstairs discussing whatever problem). I suddenly reslized that that was the moment when I expected him to storm into the room and abusively tell me why the problem was ALL MY FAULT.

    Everything was all my fault and I was expected to solve all problems since they were all my fault…so in all circumstances, I had to solve the problem and deal with his abuse…

    Sitting there, in that moment, I suddenly realized that all I had to do was solve the problem.

    wow. freedom

  • I’m not divorced yet but I have been 100% no contact for 16 months. We watch cartoons, reality tv and (gasp) rated R movies. My teens can openly play music that isn’t the clean version. We are loud, messy and we laugh. We cuss, make off color jokes and can openly discuss opinions. FW is offended by everything and is about as much fun as watching paint dry. We sat around and made small talk as if we were sitting in a full waiting room. We could only watch hgtv, car shows or the news. We were married 28 years and he rarely laughed. I wonder if he’s more fun now with the OW but the kids say he’s still a grouch.

    My physical health is better. I sleep through the night without pills, no longer have headaches, no painful knots in my back, my gums don’t bleed (weird I know), my balance is back (also weird), that strange cough I had is gone, I haven’t had so much as a sniffle in almost 2 years and my skin is clearer.

    I no longer spend several hours a week juggling the money to pay for a life we couldn’t afford. I’m not wasting money on expensive coffee, booze, special food, eating out or expensive clothes. He talked me into selling our house before abandoning me but the plus is I’m debt free. I save and buy things with cash while he financed his appliances (I bought refurbished ones) and had to pay his taxes with a credit card. I’m both sad and happier at the same time which completely surprised me.

  • Freedom is making choices about remodeling/repairing *without having to explain, beg or feel bad for being the homeowner who actually took care of the house and kids. Nothing was worse than repairing an issue, labor being done by yours, truly, only to be told I “didn’t need to do it”, “It was wrong” or “You spend all the money”.
    He sat on his behind watching me do all the work. I have absolutely no idea today what I was trying to prove.
    Freedom is choosing to live the way you want, without being critiqued constantly for it.

    • Yeah, I was the same. Once I painted the entire basement and did some fairly involved (for me) carpentry. After the job was complete, my ex took a tiny brush and touched up the spots I had missed. I think he did this to declare that we BOTH had painted and remodeled the basement.

      He tried to take even this small bit of glory from me.

      And he never said, “This looks great.”

      I think I was looking for an “atta girl” from him. That was my mistake. From now on, I will not look for this kind of praise from anyone.

      • Oh Spinach, I know…..I never got credit either … but he loved getting praise – even when things were my idea.

    • So typical! I suspect he knew damn that he’s a loser. That’s why they resent us- for being being more efficient, industrious and better people in general than them and therefore making them look bad. It never occurs to them to up their game so they don’t look so shitty. No, it’s just easier to hate on us.

      Mine insisted we move, claiming his commute was stressing him out. So we had to do some renovations to both our old house to sell it and our new house to make it suitable for our needs. He promised to do most of it himself, but was incredibly lazy about doing the work, to the point where I did myself physical harm doing heavy work he was supposed to do. He bitched, sometimes to the point of near hysteria, about the way I did things. It was ludicrous as I was clearly more competent and a much faster worker than him, which I’m sure he knew and resented. He held things up so much that the whole process took three years and cost us at least $50,000.
      So after D day I found out that the real reason he wanted to move was to be closer to drinking holes and dating opportunities, and that he was slow not just because he’s lazy and inept, but because half of the time when he was supposed to be renovating he was really with the OW. I remember that even the contractors we had helping us kept wondering why things he was supposed to do didn’t seem to be getting done, which I had chalked up to his inefficiency. So all told, his cheating cost us a minimum of fifty grand in holding costs and contractor fees, plus probably another $35,000 for partying and dating costs for the years (that’s just a minimum, as I no longer had the records to prove anything further back) of his cheating. To add to that, he insisted we take a lowball offer on our old house, hiding the fact that it was because we were in debt up to our eyeballs from his foolishness. So I lost money there, too. If I hadn’t caught his dumb ass money would have kept draining out indefinitely.
      Grrr! I could have killed the bastard when I realized how he had used my love and compassion to dupe me into leaving my beloved home, where I had so many memories of my kids, and then and defrauded me. It still enrages me even though I demanded the money back and he handed all assets over to me. As our stories prove over and over, cheaters are chaos personified and everything they touch turns to shit. Except us. We left the shit farmers behind. Hallelujah!

    • I bought a house for $150,000. Put about $27,000 + labor into it, bank appraised $250,000 for a refinance 4 months later.
      I’ve added more, but kept costs bargain basement low (Sale/repurposed materials). I still imagine I’d clear over $135,000 in equity if I sold it today.
      My quarantine project was a 420 sq/ft deck. I dismantled, dug holes, hauled posts/concrete and built the ^$#%#$@ thing – 85% without help. My costs $5,400. Estimate = $24,000 to remove old/build what I have.
      At 80% (deck recoup) I’m still wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy ahead of the game.

      Having extra lights added to the detached garage. TREATING myself having a handyman run them for me. Winter here, let him freeze his kiester off. Yes, I learned electrical, too. Really glad it is all done.

        • You don’t even realize long term stability risk staying with a cheater. Sure we both had excellent jobs, but his position fueled his entitlement and put MY future at a very high risk. The OW LOVED the boost in the company being married “to an exec” gave her.
          The fallout was immediate, brutal, cruel and devastating. Lost everything. Only thing left was a retirement to split.
          AND a huge attorney fee, >Damn devil.
          Five years out I have a comparable 403B contribution equity in a home I LOVE that I get to choose where I’m putting my money.
          Guess what?
          There is no lying, cheating SOB who can take any of it away from me ever again. Punch me in the bank account, lost my home, fought 18 months for NO REASON except spite. I had no agency to make any choices for myself upfront. I had NO idea.
          It was unfair and dirty. The way he loved too fight.
          Even if I partner up in the future – this wealth I have says on this side of the street.

          Freedom feels like knowing your future is solid.

  • I found out (from friends) while away (taking care of an ill parent) he had been cheating on me for months, after ten years of marriage. I decided to fly back on our 10 year wedding anniversary to confront him. He was shocked with what I knew but asked ‘when should we separate?’ I replied ‘how’s today? It’s our wedding anniversary, so it’s a n easy date to remember.’ The look on his face was priceless. I agreed he should move out and asked, ‘When, like in a few weeks? I said ‘nothing like the present, how’s tomorrow? Maybe go stay with her.’ He had no idea I was shaking inside (hoping he wouldn’t see that) but I did file that day. The clerk at the court was shocked but said ‘I had balls’ to file on our wedding day. Had friends come over and help pack up his things and leave them outside, while I assume, he was at her place.

  • I knew I was going to be much happier with out him, when I realized that I didn’t have to jump up and clean the kitchen before he got home from work!I was an anxious mess! Normally he was irate because the kitchen was messy. I realize I had PTSD from his controlling behavior!

    • Funny thing was that was the only complaint my husbandj could lodge against me. I was a good enough house keeper for him. I was never a spit shiner, but I was a decent house keeper. Mostly just a little clutter around work areas. The fact that I did all his laundry, cooked for him, ironed his shirts, kept the batroom spotless (we only had one bathroom) kept the kitchen spotless wasn’t good enough. Oh plus working full time and doing all the volunteer work he signed me up for. (to help him in his career). His dream was to be mayor and quite frankly, he was well on his way. I have no doubt had we stayed married and his activities stayed quiet, he would have been elected mayor the first election after he retired from the PD.

      Then he detonated our marriage with schmoopie. He got busted, (she was his direct report) Canoodling with the help evidently didn’t amuse the mayor. He got put back out on the street patrol, lost his private office right next to the mayor, and finished his PD to early retirement and slunk away. He went from the guy the folks in the city loved to well nothing.

      But, I know my son was really embarrassed by it and hurt, so that part stung. But, son went on to make his own way just fine, did well and is getting ready to retire now.

      Oh and I was amazed at how easy keeping up my little house was when it was just me. And of course I wasn’t doing all his laundry, cooking and volunteer work. Evidently schmoopie didn’t like work, so… She never went back to work once she secured her meal ticket.

      • Oh and schmoops, per my daughter in law and son, she makes me look like a spit shiner. I did get quite the kick out of that.

        Now he had been sneaking over to her trailer for at least a year, so he had to know, but to me the point was, that was all he could look me in they eye and complain about.

        • Susie it is impossible to understand why somebody would make the decisions he made. It hurts my head. At least he suffered obvious consequences. I just don’t get it. What could he have possibly hoped to gain by making the choices he made? I wonder if most of these cheaters would have a redo if they could?

          • I think many of them fall into what you are saying. Would they take a redo, likely.

            Heck I would even take a redo, not over the divorce; but6 in the way I let him tr4eat me.

            It is possible he was madly in love, of course at least I hope he was; it would be a shame if he destroyed his life for any other reason. The other possiblility is he was in a situation where if he didn’t marry her the city would get a lawsuit if he dropped her. I do find it interesting that he didn’t get busted until we were legally separated and it was clear the marriage was over.

            Just less than two months before our divorce was final, he called and asked about a possible meet up to talk about “trying again” Um, no thanks.

            Honestly, sometimes I wish that I had petitioned for more time legalloy separated, not to reconcile as I was past that by then; but to give him some more time to get out of the situation he was in. If he had asked me for more time, I would have granted it; as long as he was still paying my house payment. Might have benefitted us both.

            I won’t lie, the crap fest that became their life, helped me in that I saw the “reap what you sow” in action. My guess is soon after they were married, she got an inkling that maybe just maybe I wasn’t the problem after all, but that is her problem.

            But, on the other hand because of my son, I would have liked to see him become a better man, or at least the man I thought I knew. But, that was never going to happen with schmoops; she simply was in it for the meal ticket; and she was not going to all of a sudden become a better person. Nor evidently was he. He took a road that had a down hill slope and he couldn’t or wouldn’t try to fix himself.

            I think most of these guys (I don’t know about cheating women) but in my own experience and the experience of the many women I know who have been treated awful, the men just have not fared well after the divorce. Maybe it is just a police officers thing, who knows.

            But yes, short answer; I think a lot of these guys would gladly take a do over, but they would still be a bad risk for any good woman.

  • I guess this constitutes as ‘freedom”. Ex-person would get annoyed if I did not answer his calls on the first or second ring. God forbid I missed the call completely. I would be accused of all sorts of things…deflection much!

    It is so odd how I became conditioned to run to my mobile phone every time it rang (and I literally mean run)

    Once I was speaking to my neighbours over the garden fence. He walked past me (ignoring the neighbours which he also knew) and mumbled something about him waiting for me in the car and was then in a mood. The irony was the neighbour was only wishing me a Happy 40th Birthday. The sad part was I ended up apologising for taking too long with my conversation.

    Now I stop and talk to whomever I want for as long as I want!

  • Freedom is not having to walk on eggshells ever again, or fearing to bring up a difficult subject, because I was afraid of his mood swings, and his manipulative blame-shifting.

    Freedom is doing what I want, whenever I want, without caring if he would like it or not. He would say mean, dismissive things about the things I like, and was impatient with me and my pets.

    Freedom means not being lonely, because whenever I was around him, I was lonely. Even in my own company, I never felt lonely.

    Freedom means not having to listen to him go on and on about his stupid “creative” ideas, and about his work, or his cars; while he doesn’t care to even ask me about my day. It’s being released from this “obligation” of having to be his sounding board, because he would not even make even the slightest effort to care about me, or be there for me.

    Freedom meant being able to make decisions without him, because before, it was all about him, with no consideration to what I wanted or how I felt.

    Freedom tastes very, very sweet, and I could never, ever go back to being that person again.

    • Freedom means not being lonely…exactly myachump.

      Some of my loneliest moments were when he was physically next to me. It felt like a huge gap between us even though were sitting in direct contact with each other.

      My last miscarriage, I miscarriaged alone at home. Went to hospital alone, caught an Uber home alone. It’s so odd that throughout that entire experience, I never felt as alone as I did at times when I was with him.

      I too was reluctant to raise any topics that pertained to me or my feelings as I knew they would be dismissed (oh, let’s talk about that later…..later never came).

      His ideas had to be met with immediate attention.

      Once COVID lifts, I will be looking at fertility treatments using a sperm donor. He was not a fan of going down the IVF route (made all sorts of excuses). Well now we know why!

  • When I first found the messages he’d sent another woman, I felt numb and I was shaking and feeling like I wanted to throw up, but I also remember feeling a growing sense of relief. I knew something had been very wrong for a while even though he’d denied there was a problem/blamed it on work stress because he was just so utterly miserable to be around. We used to have fun just cuddling in bed or having a coffee together – but in the last few months of the relationship no matter what we did (even trips out) he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself at all. And I realized I didn’t have to put up with his unexplained moodiness ever again. I could just enjoy what I was doing without worrying if someone who was constantly dissatisfied was enjoying themselves. It was liberating.

  • I was immediately delivered peace the day he walked out, packed his things in his car, and drove 10 minutes down the street to her apartment (the apartment she secured 6 months earlier for their eventual future together). I didn’t realize it at the time. It was entirely obscured by trauma and profound grief and a sense of deep loss. That oppressive pain almost buried me the last 2.5 years, but during COVID, I have had a lot of time on my hands to ruminate, process, and arrive at an understanding of what happened and why, and where I stand now.

    What the future holds, honestly, I really don’t know. Right now, I sit on my couch on a cold, sunny, Sunday Winter afternoon, working on some work docs, with the fire going, a sauce on the stove for dinner, the kids upstairs in their rooms either doing schoolwork or gaming or talking with friends, just got home from a walk with my 17 year old daughter out through the woods with my dog and will do a little laundry tonight, and get organized for the work week ahead.

    I’ll sleep a full night’s sleep. I likely won’t ruminate, read articles on infidelity through the night, drive by their new condo they just purchased and moved into yesterday, spend hours on the phone with my mom crying or with a friend untangling endless skeins, or try to in vain find backroads into their social media accounts to try to learn about them more or their enabling shitty network of friends, musicians, and associates who supported them then and still do now.

    At bedtime, I’ll pull down my clean flannel sheets on my clean bed, in my clean bedroom, and shut the lights in a kitchen where the dishes are washed, the counters are cleaned, the pets are fed, the laundry is folded and the house is relatively decluttered. It was never that way when he was here. It was chaos, clutter, every light on in the house, laundry piled to the ceiling, food on the counters, dozens of coke cans in the trash and overflowing, rotting food from leftovers weeks earlier he never cleaned up out of the fridge, tasks and errands consistently forgotten, burdens for housekeeping, breadwinning, cleaning, academics, social calendars, house maintenance, financing, yard work, and everything else piled on top of me with 16 years of failed expectations sitting on my shoulders. Separate bedrooms, no sex, cold silence, resentment, bitterness, affairs lingering in the background that I suspected. Nights out drinking with denial in the morning (until he sobered up in 2010)

    The clouds have parted and the peace that was delivered July 21, 2018 is now viewable in all its amazing bright, beautiful glory.

    That, Dear Current and Future Chump, is what awaits you. XOXO

  • After he removed his last item from what was now my house (I bought his share in the divorce), I stayed up all night rearranging and cleaning everything that remained, changing out wall art, painting some walls, throwing out bags of anything that felt old or too much like him. The next day I hired a company to steam clean EVERYTHING, then, that night, I lit a fire, made a salad, and drank a great bottle of wine. And for the first time in what seemed like ages, was alone with my thoughts and feelings. It felt miraculous. It felt triumphant. The next day, my daughter came home from her strategic stay at my parents house and we went shopping at target for a few cheap items to fill in some empty spaces in our refreshed house and watched our favorite movie in bed, eating chocolate chips and popcorn—the exact kind of thing my ex would get upset over. And just like that, she and I were free, finally, to live the life we wanted, without his control and judgement. We’ve been ‘being ourselves’ ever since, and it’s wonderful.

  • When I finally got to the other side – it felt like nothing. And what I mean by that is no stress, no cares, no sadness, no nothing. Free of all the drama and the pain. It’s an amazing place to be and you will get there.

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