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Seconding Guessing Yourself About Leaving

HopiumDear Chump Lady,

My husband has cheated on me with two different women over the course of the last year and a half. I found out about one, moved to my mom’s and then came back to the family home to find out he was cheating with another one about 3 months later.

I have been trying to reconcile in spite of it all. I have basically put love first and turned a blind eye to all his behavior. I won’t say it was all for not, because it finally got me to the place I am now. I have finally put my foot down and told him enough is enough — I am moving out. (I asked him to leave and he said no).

A bit of background, over the last 2 years he has constantly told me that he doesn’t know why I am home, can’t you find anywhere to go, etc. As you can imagine, this is very hurtful especially since I’m the one that has been betrayed. I am the primary breadwinner and can make this move no problem financially or otherwise. He continues to work with his latest fling and the last straw was when he didn’t come home about a month ago and I saw them coming out of a hotel together on Monday morning when I was on my way to work. He said they didn’t sleep together…really?!?! Just reading that makes the hair on my neck stand-up.

Of course, after all the pain, hurt and lies he is NOW staying at home, not getting drunk all weekend, (he has a drinking problem), helping out a little around the house (he is a man child). Why now? Flowers delivered to my work…..why now?

I’m now slightly second guessing my move. I have always had faith in this man and maybe this is finally my chance? Maybe all my hard work and suffering over the last year is finally making a difference?

We have a young daughter and it pains me to think that she will not have a “family unit”. I know, don’t stay for the children but it is difficult.

Please help.

Dazed and Confused

Dear Dazed,

Let’s recap. You’re the breadwinner. You’re the responsible adult. He’s a serial cheater with a drinking problem. Just to round out the winning combination, he’s verbally abusive and yells at you and your small daughter for two full years on how he’d like to be rid of you. Oh, and he lies to you about his affairs and isn’t one bit remorseful.

And you’re second guessing yourself about dumping him because… of a bouquet of flowers?

Were they magic flowers?

Oh hang on — a bouquet of flowers AND a few household chores AND a weekend of sobriety.

Dazed, put the crack pipe down. It’s time to kick your hopium addiction. There is nothing to second guess here. This guy has serious, decades-of-therapy level problems and a colossal sense of entitlement. You can’t reconcile with that — and you shouldn’t subject your daughter to a chaotic, drinking, cheating father either. I promise you, two years of “get the hell away from me” rejection has fucked with her young head. Her first steps were probably to the “pick me” dance. For two years you’ve modeled to her how to respond to abusive behavior — stick around and try harder. “Turn a blind eye for love.”

But! But! He’s NICE for entire stretches of … what? Days? Hours? Fleeting moments?

Read up on the cycle of abuse, because I’m afraid you’re in it. He’s horrible to you, and when he senses consequences, like you leaving him, he ups his game, sends flowers, and it’s the honeymoon period. Tension builds, and there’s drama. He acts out, cheats, drinks, lies. Repeat.

The man who responded to your devastation from his first (discovered) affair with ANOTHER affair — that’s the real him. His sorry wasn’t a bouquet of flowers, it was another OW.

I know you want very badly for him to be sorry. And maybe at some level he is (I tend to doubt it with disordered types, but perhaps it is possible). The problem is — he cannot sustain it. He can’t wear his “good husband” mask for very long without indulging in more chaos — the drinking, cheating, and lying. You cling to those moments where he’s good, and give them far more weight than they deserve. You want to believe in that vision, when the overwhelming evidence points to his bad character.

Anyone who has ever been chumped understands second guessing. There’s a whole post about it at Five Things that Keep You Stuck with a Cheater. A shrink explained it to me this way — it’s a battle between your core values. Your heart and your head. You may think of yourself as someone who is not a quitter. You love unconditionally. You can rise above challenges. You are someone who gives others second chances. And then those values are in conflict with your head — which says — this person is not changing. These outcomes don’t look good. If I stay here, I will get hurt again. Heart says — oh, maybe not! Maybe there is hope! You’re not a quitter… and the values stay in conflict.

Shrink said — most people stay stuck like this. Locked in this battle. This is codependency. This is why people enable. Stay with drinkers, gamblers, children who steal their wallets for dope. The way out is to ACT. Listen to your head and love yourself more than this person who is hurting you.

Your impulse to say — enough is enough — I’m moving out — was a HEALTHY one. This is the voice you need to listen to and nurture. Pay no attention to the hobgoblins of hope.

On moving out — talk to a lawyer. There may be some legal ramifications if you’re homeowners. But I can’t see how any judge would fault you for getting you and your child away from that creep. Seeing a lawyer will give you a sense of agency, a road map for escape. You’ll feel so much better for it, so please lawyer up ASAP.

You’re a strong woman for surviving this crap. It gets easier when you leave him. I know it doesn’t feel that way now, but there is a good life waiting for you on the other side. You’re already so far ahead of other folks — you can support yourself, you don’t need him financially. The only thing holding you back is your hopes for him. Put those to rest. It’s okay to wish him well — but do it from a distance. Get on with your life. Model resilience to your daughter. Best of luck to you!

A good U.S. resource is — if you’re in the US, they have all the divorce laws in your state and every kind of domestic abuse explained. Also, if you’re in a domestic violence situation, there is a legal helpline staffed by law students. They also have a listing of every legal resource center in your state.

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  • I was in that cycle of abuse with my stbxh. Every time I caught him afterward he would improve his behavior. For a while. And then when he started again it would be more blatant and worse. And then he would be remorseful. And then it would be worse.

    This went on for t w e n t y – f o u r Y E A R S!

    Now let’s talk about those children. Two of them don’t want to have anything to do with him, those are my boys. My 17 year old daughter is in therapy, on antidepressants, and has decided to question a lot of things about her life. If I would have left when she was two, or four, would she have been better off? I’ll never know. But I know that staying has impacted her and it’s doubtful that she’s going to have a decent relationship with a man.

    You can do it on your own. You do not have to stay with a person who is a lying cheating manipulative jerk. Let that other woman have him. She gets the big prize. Just let that go.

    • My advice to all who have minor children and a cheating spouse: If you can, leave FOR the children.

      My adult children wish I’d left my ex when they were young.

      The abuse seemed subtle at the time, so subtle that I didn’t even recognize it as abuse. And, yes, there were flowers, dinners out, jewelry, and nice notes. I lived off of those breadcrumbs.

      The kids resent him, and they resent me, too, for staying. I’ve asked for their forgiveness. I’ve explained that I did my best. Ugh.

      I not only spackled over my ex’s behavior but also all the exit signs. I couldn’t find them anywhere. Only the revelation of infidelity snapped me out of my hopium-induced stupor. By then, I’d been married for 35 years. Don’t be me!

      • Aww Spinach35 asking the kids for forgiveness! A Chump can’t win, can we! I never ever ever told the kids. They know I am a good Mom, they know he is a self centered, always right,narc type , father, always has been, always will be.
        Don’t beat yourself up, you did your very best!
        You ARE a good Mom.
        We cannot be responsible for their character, but we carry the weight of it around on our shoulders, and in our heart, forever!

        Repeat after me, “ I am a good Mom. I did what I thought was best, for them.”
        ( I am so sorry, I understand, no matter how many times we say it, it still hurts.)

        • My 37 year old son actually stated “if he was so bad, why didn’t you leave him sooner”? Yes, my fault for staying, accepting the poor treatment for the sake of the family. Why, because I actually convinced myself that it really wasn’t that bad, maybe I am wrong and maybe I will be rewarded in heaven.

          I was wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels.

          Maybe if I had found Chump Lady sooner.

          • I think we just get caught up in the putting everyone else first. We go about caring for our family, we are the heart and soul of it. We block out the bad stuff, when things are bad we just push ourself to try harder. We can do it, we tell ourself, and then we just keep going, oblivious that we are drowning in quick sand. By the time we are up to our neck it is too late.
            Oh, yes, IF ONLY there had been a Chump Lady and I, we, had a chance to read all these encouraging posts!
            Poor Chump Lady was a tiny child then and no one was there to help her in her time of need.
            I wish I had been stronger, like Chump Lady!

            • I think that we went to believe that they care and any slight glimmer of them being decent is so easily blown up to: “They do love us! See! They came home! They took out the garbage! They took Billy to soccer practice!”
              When they aren’t an asshole for whole days or weeks or months we believe that they have “changed” but it’s exactly as Muthachumpa said, it’s the cycle of abuse, and the “good” behavior is a hook. We are desperate and traumatically bonded. We stay because it became normal to be abused. It’s comforting, even if it’s hell, the predictability of that cycle. And the inability to leave because we keep getting hooked back in with promises, and sporadic “good behavior” is part of the mindfuck of the cycle of abuse.
              Don’t beat yourselves up for being in survival mode. Every one of you is stronger than you realize only because you have faced such heartbreaking adversity and deception at the hands of someone who had promised to care for you. You still exist. And you still care. Would you WANT to be the person who WASN’T traumatized by this behavior? Then you’d be just like them.

          • NotMyFault, I am surprised and saddened for you that your 37 year son did not see how bad you ex was. I have been lucky and my children did see it, they have also graciously accepted my apology for staying. I would have to believe that you spent years protecting your children and spackling to keep the peace. It is so easy to Monday morning quarterback the situation many of us long timers have been through but really, we don’t know how things would have turned out for our children if we had left. One of the reasons I stayed was that I looked at the divorces in exes family and how to a person his divorced sibs aided and abetted in one case by the matriarch of the family went out of their way to hurt the children. My ex promised me he would fight to the bitter end for full custody and even make sure that I lost custody of my oldest who was from my first marriage – from my experiences with him and his FOO, I had no reason not to believe him. That said, the custody agreement most likely would have been 50/50 time and whether or not that would have been better for the kids or not is really just speculation. On the one hand I would have modeled standing up for myself, on the other hand they would have spent 50% of their time with a man who was verbally abusive, selfish and neglectful – who is to say what the outcome of that situation would have been.

            • Just to be clear I am not suggesting that anyone stay in an abusive/cheating situation for the kids or otherwise; I am just saying that us long term chumps need to cut ourselves some slack when it comes to our decisions to hang in there with our FWs for and realize that we can’t know what the past would have been any better than we can predict the future.

              • Yeah. Having to spend half their time with their dad snuffed out any thoughts I ever had of leaving him.

                My oldest still talks about how she hated driving two hours with her dad to pick up our new puppy when she was 8. It takes a certain assholery to make picking up a new puppy a shitty experience.

                That’s the kind of dad he was. Even so, to this day, he insists, “I was a great dad!”

                I wonder if the OW has put two and two together yet. I mean, she must be hip to his shitty behavior by now and must think that maybe his kids don’t talk to him for a reason. Maybe it’s not that Spinach has “poisoned them.” One wonders. Oh well. When cares?

      • same as Spinach, married to a DOCTOR (I capitalize it to show its supreme importance) for 35 -THIRTY FIVE- years.

        I loved him and believed in him – so much so, that even in the face of evidence that he was NOT invested in our marriage and family the way I was, I held on.

        Call it faith/stupidity, sunk costs (definitely part of it), stubborness, shame, and or massive projection on my part (b/c I KNOW I did not believe he didn’t care about us. I really believed he was “Confused” or having a mid life crisis and I projected MY emotional investment onto him).

        I saw myself as a good wife and mother and our kids are awesome, so it made no sense to ME that he’d fail to see our value. I still think he once did. But no matter.

        He was rarely a generous person, so now, looking back, I think he “loved” me/our family as much as he could when it cost HIM NOTHING. But when he was asked or expected to sacrifice for US…

        IF it was something of value to HIM, giving it up for US…NEVER HAPPENED.

        I literally can only think of one example of something ANY FATHER/HUSBAND would have done AND he only delayed getting it (he did not give it up!)

        AND WORSE

        like your husband has or will, mine resented the hell out of sacrificing something HE WANTED (= deserved).

        Has your husband really, truly sacrificed anything HE values – for the family?? (Other than forsaking all others, I mean).

        In the DOCTOR’s case, it’s evident now in hindsight that his resentment grew along with his malignant sense of entitlement. He seethed internally (never disclosing it until it was far too late) and then would lash out at me or the kids and little did we know, HE WAS MAD AT US…for – expectations.

        You are not allowed to EXPECT something from your husband, in case you are not aware. You must gratefully accept and with fanfare, any crumbs he gives you WHICH ANY husband would do 10 times over and without having to first break your heart.

        You are crediting your husband with kindness when it’s all actions designed to compensate for wounding you. I don’t know what that is but it’s not kindness.

        Your husband – and I mean this literally – sickens me. Your description of his behavior and the faux remorse and presumption you’ll forgive him (or YOU’RE BITTER and wrong) is a real trigger. Been there, done that.

        Please for the love of God, learn from us.

        These are damn hard learned lessons. Let us hope our painfully gained wisdom was not obtained in vain.

        Leave him.

        You have nothing to work with and UNLIKE Most of us, you’re standard of living will ultimately improve without the fears and anxiety and cost of his affairs. (Cheating isn’t free to the chump).

        I can predict ONE thing and I’d literally bet a LOT of money on it. —


        And your daughter will suffere more for it, not less. What example do you set for her when you give him more than one second chance?

        Would you want HER to stay with a man who let her be the bread winner, while he under earned, drank too much and cheated on her?

        What would you tell her when she admits it was MORE THAN ONCE??

        Ifyou stay, You will have invested more time, money and life’s energy and when you become single –

        AND YOU WILL BE SINGLE AGAIN – whether you want to or not

        –because cheaters leave chumps plenty often AND When they don’t leave outright, they practically DARE the chump to file for divorce

        (or eat bigger shit sandwiches forever )

        So you will be single again REGARDLESS.

        If you stay, that means You’ll be older when you’re next single

        and YOU WILL probably have to pay alimony to your loser husband.

        (Ask a lawyer in your state – seriously. Knowledge is power and you don’t have to tell your FW, at least get some information)

        When I urge you to leave, it’s not because I’m mad at your husband, though I am.

        It’s because I want you AND your daughter to be happy and healthy. Those are impossible things to attain while in this marriage.

        Keep us posted. You are not alone.

        • Doctors wife, that’s it exactly. I have never been able to put it into words, that gave a description, I felt. Expectations are forbidden, met with anger and will never be realized. I really believed if I had cancer etc. he would be there for me, if I really needed him etc. Nope, I would be there for most people. He wouldn’t be there for me or anyone. I got multiple sclerosis, it was ok as long as I took care of myself, the kids, the house and most importantly, him. I wasted 42 years with him. He was never going to have the character I thought he had.

          • Oh Hcard,
            I’m sorry about your MS. That’s tough.

            I hope you have supportive people in your life. That cheating FW–like all of our cheating FWs–certainly was never going to be one of them.

            Adultery gives chumps a one-two punch: the first is the shock of the betrayal and associated recognition that someone you thought had character doesn’t; the second is the realization of the sunk costs. I’m with you in the multi-decades’ club!

        • Holy Shit – Doctors Wife – so well said, it actually warmed my heart. Because it’s very very true. It’s called Reality. The quicker you accept it, the better.
          Great post.

        • DOCTOR’s 1sWidw &3Kids,

          Love what you said. Thank you.

          I have to add that my mother was married to a DOCTOR so she was a first wife too…he went on to have 2 more wives after discarding her and all of my sisters and brother….

          She had no clue back then. (In the 60’s)

          Neither did we.

          I think of her often and what she had to endure. I ache for her because I was a horrific teen….I now understand why.

          Thanks for sharing.

      • He was applying operant conditioning. Abusers seem to know that the cycle of punishing and then rewarding is addictive, probably because it was used on them as kids or they saw one parent use it on another. They use an extreme variation of the same technique in state sponsored torture because it works. If anything, it’s even more effective when the pain is psychological rather than physical, because there’s no way of no denying you’re being deliberately tortured if somebody is waterboarding you or burning you with a blowtorch. If the abuse is purely emotional, you can tell yourself they didn’t mean to hurt you. They can tell you that and seem believable. The gifts, the attention, the apologies, the “I didn’t mean to” assertions are meant to keep you stuck, hooked on the reward part of the cycle.

        I think it’s great that you are that attuned to your kids to ask forgiveness. However, if they knew you were being tortured and had a variant of Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps they would understand and would not resent you. Maybe you could send them some material about emotional abuse, intermittent reward and trauma bonding to help them with it.

      • I was married for 35 years too. I thought he was a great dad. He said he was a Christian and went to church every Sunday. He helped around the house. He worked hard as a teacher. We went out often once the kids were older. He sometimes said he loved me.

        But, he was a porn addict who chose that over a real sex life. I felt unloved, disgusted and cheated.

        He started emotionally cheating soon after my brother and nephew were killed by a drunk driver. The kids were all into drugs. My youngest ran away. I was so busy grieving my family and trying to save my kids that I didn’t notice his affair for a year and a half. By then he and the AP were deeply in love and talking about leaving their spouses for one another. I stayed and his affair went underground until I found out again.

        I still stayed. I stayed through so much betrayal. I should mention this all happened while we were in marriage counseling.

        I would still be with him but he decided that he wanted to move on after meeting new women in a singles meet up group. He filed for divorce. He started dating. He is seen all around town with his 21 years younger girlfriend. He is 66. I found out about her when I was going for a walk. I introduced myself to her as his wife. I still question myself. I know its stupid. I just really believed marriage was forever.

      • In most cases, leaving for the children is the best move….but sometimes it’s not. I stayed for my children, even though they might resent me for it now. What they don’t know is that I believed they would be emotionally, physically and sexually abused if I wasn’t there the be the barrier between him and them. I believe…no…I KNOW that’s true. My x is a true sociopath, if not psychopath. I knew that if I left when the kids were young that he would abuse them, gaslight them, hurt them….if for no other reason than to keep me always in contact with him and all of us in turmoil and pain. I had to decide between the lesser of two evils, and for me it was to stay to protect them from the worst. As long as we were married, his rages and abuse were directed at me and he left the kids alone. Were there still negative consequences? Yes. But they are much less negative than they would have been. I know my situation is unique, and it’s much better to leave, but I’m hopeful my story is helpful to someone else who’s going through the same thing.

        • My ex is true psychopath! I left and it has been a road of hell and back. The children have been emotionally, verbally and even slight physical abused, CPS involved “ he refused to co-operate so they closed case and did nothing. In court it the kids word against his and he tries to accuse you of stuff and frame you for things that never happened, kids included. ”I have been verbally abused, emotionally abused and physically threatened on a court ordered parenting app. But I am an ex “so that means nothing” ( words of Judges, Police and Lawyers). The children are battling Depression, low self esteem, suicidal thoughts, sensory processing disorder, eating disorders because of what they are living through. I have been spending all my extra money on counselors to help them through. I am having to just be strong and fight. I think everyone has to make a choice and accept that the choice they made was the best they could. I hope the kids and I are strong enough to endure the choice I made to leave. I almost stayed for the same reason you did. I am just validating what it would have been like if you left. A true living nightmare!

          • Finding Peace…I’m so sorry to hear about the hell you and your children are going through. It breaks my heart that sometimes there is no right choice for a mother to make when she is married to a monster. There were certain things in my marriage that made my decision more clear for me that might not be present for others. I never want to judge any mother for having to make such an agonizing decision. You did what was best for you in your circumstances and I hope that you and your children will truly find peace someday soon. I hope knowing that you aren’t alone helps. (((HUGS)))

  • Dazed

    It’s over.

    Your heart just hasn’t caught up with your head. You know what to do…you said yourself…enough is enough.

    Take your daughter and go. You can do it!! We are all behind you.

    Ditch the fuckwit.

  • Dear Dazed, are you out there living your best life? Are you happily remarried and living cheater free? Are you happily single enjoying family life with your daughter? I hope so.

    I’ve apologized to my children for staying with their father despite decades of abuse. Adultery is abuse. He neglected them too. He was never the family man I spackled into existence. They have forgiven me. Now I’m working on forgiving myself. Any newly chumps reading this, get out, run. Your life will improve once you are cheater free!

    • 33years

      I also apologized to my children and it was not an easy conversation. In fact, I invited them to “start a conversation” so that they could know it was not a one time thing.

      I did not expect forgiveness so much as I hoped for openess and honesty from them and boy, did I get it. They are grown and they had A LOT TO SAY.

      They saw things as abuse long long before I did. They did not spackle. And they were so frustrated at ME for my blindness and my enabling of their father’s shitty behavior. ( The DOCTOR was very effective in shaming me for perceived failings on my end. I shake my head now…)

      Anyhow, my kids made some tough but mostly fair points. We are pretty open with each other now (minus certain politics) and I feel good about that. Why?

      Because as painful and scary as it was to apologize and ask for forgiveness from them even though I was truly heartbroken, it was also brave and loving of me.

      We don’t let shame silence us now.

      And as for how I healed – I got certified to teach English and went to Europe for 2 years and had an amazing experience.

      All kids need at least one brave, loving parent. And mine have one in me.

      Let your daughter see what a woman of strength and dignity does in the face of repeated betrayal.

      For your daughter will face heartbreak and setbacks in life. Show her how we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and LIVE WELL.

  • I’m in the middle of this now, and it’s very confusing and painful.

    Yes, talking to a lawyer does make you feel better and empowered. They will design an exit strategy so your head has a beacon on light in the middle of all of the mixed emotions.

    And yes, they get more brazen and they go and since you are still there as an option, they will continue to play the triangulation game. Having no consequences for as long as they can is what they are doing.

    No, they don’t change.

  • I stayed for the children and now they are adults 25, 29, 31 and do not have a healthy relationship among them.

    It is truly tragic that the very things I hoped to PREVENT by staying were CAUSED by staying.

    My abuser knew EXCATLY how many (and what sort of) crumbs to throw at me after each and every abusive episode to keep me exactly where he wanted me.

    Run, run, run like your hair is on fire.

    • So true! When you stay with a cheater/abuser you are modeling what a relationship looks like. Chances are the kids will pick the same kind of relationships going forward.

    • I stayed for the children until I couldn’t stay any longer. At that point, the three oldest were 18+ and my younger two were 13 and 15. I am estranged from one of them. She is a lot like her father and enjoys the financial benefits of maintaining a relationship with him.

      The other four are not in relationships. My daughters don’t trust men. My sons don’t want to be that kind of man but don’t have a model for how to be a good man. None of them want to have children because they think they will be terrible parents. They have forgiven me for staying at long as I did.

      I wish I had left sooner.

      • These are all such excellent comments. I stayed too along also, but luckily got out while my daughter was still fairly young. Yes, when parents split there are a myriad of other issues to deal with, and we’ve done it all. Not the least of which is that, upon losing their chump, the disordered parent tends to start using their own kids as chumps. It’s heartbreaking and the lionshare of my work with my daughter is teaching her how to stand up to her own father and recognize gas lighting, cruelty, and other forms of emotional abuse.

        But, the benefits are there too. I can model resiliency and give stability to my daughter. I can be her emotional backstop 100% of the time that we’re together, even if it’s just 50% of her time, because I’m not dealing with her disordered father in the home. This has been key. She come back to our house and it is a place of solace, love, and support to counterbalance his chaos.

        Also a benefit is that I have been able to get into a good relationship with a good man, and now I can model what that looks like. What being with an emotionally supportive person looks like. She gets to see a functional, loving relationship…and that’s a gift I can give her having left her dad.

        I’ve known lots of people who waited until the kids were grown and gone to separate. In many of these cases, their adult children were so taken aback by the split that their relationships with one or both parents suffered and led to them battling the same or similar issues that they would have as children during a family split, but now they had to do it alone, as adults, without a decent support network. They also had to deal with a certain amount of guilt knowing that one of their parents stayed in a shitty relationship FOR THEM.

        I’ve seen this devastate young adults trying to start their lives, which is why I think it’s far better to end the dysfunctional marriage when kids are younger. At least then you can be there for them in a normal, supportive way. Try going to family therapy with your angry 20 year old. It ain’t awesome. And, at that age, many young people will lash out at the chump who stayed, and not the cheater, because, well, it’s just easier.

    • I posted further down, but it belonged here.

      I was in a marriage and was abandoned. No children.

      When I was a child my father and mother were accosted by this couple from hell.
      Because neither of my parents had boundaries due to their not knowing that they had been/were being abused by family (they both had gone the way of the narcissistic coping mechanism), said couple, providing marvellous supply came very close. Too close. As were also other people.
      My sibling and I were made to watch the ongoing humiliation of my parents, not being able to do anything to save them. Parents who kept wanting to be humiliated. And offering us children up for humiliation.
      It ended with the couple from hell completely subjugating my parents. My father cheated with the woman, her partner complicit and playing victim. The goal: getting the resources.
      Needless to say, there was a transfer of wealth. People watched our downfall with glee. We were the ones knowing the least because my parents kept things from us.
      For a long time I could not admit to myself that that the couple from hell, and other associated people, were instigating our desperation so that we became prostitutes. My sibling tried to commit suicide.
      We did not have protecting families. Generations of unprotected and parentified children asked to do life without love or support. Desperate for some appreciation from outside.

      • My parents themselves (covert narcs/borderlines), in collusion with the couple from hell, were instigating our desperation and demise. Triangulating and projecting into us all the darkness.

        Fairy tales beautifully illustrate these cases whose existence hardly anyone wants to acknowledge, and offer solutions and hope out of ages of wisdom.
        Haensel and Gretel: how to deal with two abusive parents. You are two little. So you deal with one parent first. And you keep living with the one which guarantees you more chances of survival.
        Cinderella: if you have a father that is dominated, you need to get out of that household because you will not be protected.
        Snow White: it is the narcissistic mother that wants you dead (it’s her real mother). The hunter and other creatures will treat you better than her.
        Red Riding Hood: Mother sends you out with a red cap. And granny is waiting for things being ill. Why would they want a girl to walk by herself with red cap on? Put you in danger.
        Whoever has had a narcissistic mother or grandmother knows what it is like.

        • Flower

          I LOVE fairy tales too. From all countries. The themes repeat themselves no matter what part of the world you live in. I wonder if the average person ‘gets it’?

          Just yesterday I was remembering how my father, after divorcing my mother and leaving her with young 5 children, would take us on weekends and essentially dump us/leave us on our own so he could ‘do his thing’, be it work or pleasure/fishing/hiking.

          If he was visiting hunting buddies we would be left with the wife of the host. I thought that was normal….until now.

          I remember entering someones house and being turned over to a stranger who was probably overwhelmed by all of us and my father would disappear into ‘the study’ to do his thing with all of the men.

          He was not a womanizer. His deal was social climbing so he insinuated himself into groups that he though would bring him status and social standing….He was one of those Ivy League guys. Charming, covert and completely self-centered.

          My poor mother never recovered from his abandonment, and since we were children and didn’t know any better, we didn’t want to be associated with a ‘looser’ either so we gave our mother hell as a result and, I for one, spent most of my growing up years and early 20’s striving to get my father’s attention. Didn’t know that pursuit was a lost cause until now. Luckily for me he died when I was in my early 20’s but the damage had been done. I ended up marrying someone very similar to him although I didn’t know it at the time. I had been on the look out for different ‘red flags’…

          Yes, fairy tales are TRUE.

          Thanks you for posting!

    • And we chumps often think those crumbs they throw at us are signs that they are changing and finally seeing the light.

  • Just a general question to anyone, are your notifications working on this site? I am not getting any email updates.

    Have a great day all.

    • I just check the site when I want to see stuff. My spam filter would send anything from here to trash by the time a few posts flowed through.

  • When you take intro psych, they teach you about operant behaviour. Reinforced behaviour. And you learn- conditioning is far more effective when it’s sporadic. You can experiment the with rats, and … If a rat pushes the button and gets fed every 3 times, or gets fed random spurts of hunger for 7, then 2, then 20 then 1 then 30 then 6…. if you suddenly turn the feed off… the rat who is rewarded randomly will keep pushing the button for way longer than the one who had been rewarded regularly. It will keep trying to find the good, even if it’s hit that button 50 times and had no food. It will keep coming back. Maybe. Maybe there will be flowers.

    You’re not a rat. And you shouldn’t subject yourself to his conditioning. And he sounds like an asshole.

    You would never want your daughter to be with a loser like him. Why are you accepting of that?


    • Yes. The system of intermittent reward is the most powerful form of conditioning, keeping you rooted to the spot waiting for the crumbs.

      One day I woke up and realized I deserved to have a whole loaf of bread on a regular basis.

      I was a psych major before I dropped out of school and didn’t get my degree, but what I learned stuck in my brain and ended up helping me when I needed it.

      • I googled Intermittent Reward in Domestic Abuse and what a revelation. It was as if STBX used the article as his playbook. They don’t change, they won’t change and the only way to stop the cycle of abuse is to leave.

        • And that they won’t change has finally sunk it after months of my giving it lip service. My ex has always been a miserable human being. Sullen. Withholding. Passive-aggressive. Mocking. Selfish. There’s no way he’s changed. If anything, he’s no doubt even more bitter now that he’s lost more than half his money and is shunned by family and friends. #myfault

          The OW has truly won a turd. What a rude awakening to hop into bed with a fun-loving cheater only to open your eyes in the harsh light of day and realize that you blew up two families to be with a bitter, old, constipated (in every way) liar who needs Viagra and has a penchant for porn.

          Oh, and I do believe they’re stuck with each other. It would be hard to drop bombs on two families and then admit it was all a big whoopsie. KARMA!


          • Spinach@35, trust that they suck. I got out just before my 30-year anniversary. I have never heard of intermittent reward as a way to make you even more addicted to a painful abusive marriage, but I can now totally relate. My ex and his skank got married about 4 years ago. I also saw the ‘beautiful’ twu luv photo that his skank posted on FB right after he left my house (less than 2 weeks after I filed for divorce.) Twu luv! And all kinds of “I’m oh so happy for you!” from the skank’s friends. I wanted to comment that he was still married, but I didn’t want to admit that I was even looking. I’m glad I didn’t. 6 years post divorce and now one of my sons says, “Trust me, Mom. Dad is miserable.” And though I shouldn’t get glee from knowing it, I do. In any event, like you say, They’re miserable pieces of turds and they are stuck with each other. Their image is so important to them that they’d rather be miserable with each other (because that’s who they are, miserable people) than to ever admit to anyone that what they did was wrong. I don’t understand wanting to be miserable over asking for forgiveness, but again…, that’s who they are. This is what I’ve read on shame: “Shame is a tricky business. Shame is about our essential being, not just something we did that we now regret. The latter evokes guilt, an emotion comparatively easily faced in comparison to shame. Shame is about who we are, not just what we did. It is usually a profoundly destabilizing emotional, physical and spiritual state; we blush, feel sickened in stomach and spirit, are afraid and want to hide. Too much of it can stultify growth, creativity and relational availability to others. When shame cripples, we can no longer look ourselves or our communities in the eyes. We are alone.” I believe for them, they’re stuck in shame. It’s easier to pretend that all is wonderful to the world and in the mirror, than to look at what they’ve done. Because just like “The picture of Dorian Gray”, if they REALLY, REALLY looked in the mirror and contemplated all of their sins, they’d see an ugly soul. It’s easier just not to look. It’s easier just to put a facade for everyone to see how wonderfully happy they are now that they got rid of ‘the old bag’. I truly believe that people don’t change unless they have a true ‘come-to-Jesus’ meeting with a warning that they won’t like the consequences in the afterlife unless they ‘change’. So Spinach, just trust that they suck, and that you don’t. (By the way, I still have the dick’s phone number in my cell phone in the event that I ever have to reach out to him. But his picture is a ‘Dorian Gray’ picture that I pulled from the Internet – an ugly one, and his ‘name’ is ‘Lying Cheater’.)

            • Yes, Amazon Chump,
              Shame is crippling. The antidote is humility, getting in touch with one’s own human vulnerability. And that is hard. It requires a true “come-to-Jesus” meeting, as you say it.

              I speak also from my position of betrayed person, both by parents and in marriage. The only way to find peace for me is humility, to be in touch with my own human vulnerability, which in the narcissistic family system was viewed with contempt and disgust, owing to maintaining at all costs a stance of superiority.
              The discard has brought me to my knees. And now I find myself on this journey. There is no going back even if one wanted.

              • Flower, I also had experienced humility. I was so ashamed of going through divorce. I’m sure others thought, “Wow! It took you long enough!” But me, I felt a failure. In actually, I was humbled. And yet, that was the best experience that ever happened to me. But I didn’t realize it till many years later. I’m so, so at meh, and it’s wonderful!

              • How true your words. there’s just no going back once faced with the truths that we tried so hard to cope with. And avoid. This is my first post after 10 months of following.

          • Isn’t it funny that so many chumps get called “bitter” when it’s really the cheaters and the ones who stay with them because of the RIC who are bitter?

            I was on a political forum and there is this one woman who I am sure started her marriage as the OW. Every time the subject of family law comes up she bemoans how much her husband has to pay in child support and what a shrew the 1st wife is. Sometimes I wonder if she has ever met the 1st wife or if she is just regurgitating what her husband told her. And wanting to deprive the CHILDREN of child support disgusts me, even if the 1st wife really is as crazy as she claims.

            Reading between the lines I’d say she seduced him with the idea that once he left his wife she’d be set for life and would never have to work again. When he turned out to have obligations like child support and/or was not as good a provider as advertised she became incredibly bitter that she still has to work past retirement age. A cheater lying not only to his wife but to the OW as well, color me shocked.

            Meeting this “woman” has definitely hammered home the idea of “trust that they suck”.

  • Dazed you deserve way better. I think unfortunately every chump goes through this vicious cycle. I stayed for 18 months because I got the crying and begging and promises of change. My ex is very covert with the abuse. I had enough in December and left in Jan. His narcissistic rage has been delightful. They never change because they don’t think or love like us. It’s still hard most days but me and my kids are better off. Can’t wait till I’m at full meh.

    • I like the thought that there are levels of Meh! I cannot wait to be at Full Meh. I’m almost there. Twenty three months and five days of legal wrangling keep me from achieving that state. I’m at nearly Meh, I’ve gotten a Mental Divorce, buried the hopes of getting an apology and granted myself closure. Now I’m just waiting on the legal system to catch up! LTC (R) Asshat cannot force me to remain married to him. Come on Full Meh!!!!

    • So true.

      The worst for me was the last year or so. He would treat me like shit, then the lovey dovey, you are so beautiful shit. In hindsight the lovey dovey shit was when he needed me the appliance wife to attend a political/work function or do some of his volunteer work.

      Then back to treating me like shit, each cycle getting worse until Christmas day; when I discovered for sure he had a whore. (I had suspected it for about three months) but was still hoping I was wrong.

      • These asswipes always seem to ruin holidays, don’t they? Mine announced that he was leaving me on Christmas. I wasted 17 years of holidays on that POS. Now I’m free to enjoy life and celebrate the holidays without his scowling, miserly, lazy, petulance. I cannot believe I let my life devolve to that kind of low. Thank God I’m free at last!

      • “He would treat me like shit, then the lovey dovey, you are so beautiful shit. In hindsight the lovey dovey shit was when he needed me the appliance wife to attend a political/work function or do some of his volunteer work.”

        Susie Lee, this happened when my parents were going through their divorce last year (well, to be fair, FW father likely pulled this shit on my mother for decades…and when he felt guilty he’d give her gifts of jewelry which is just a stupid gift for her because she doesn’t really wear it).

        Mom had gone no contact and FWF hadn’t seen her or spoken to her in months. Then they did a Zoom settlement conference with their respective attorneys and the judge. At the end of the day, FWF texted my mother saying “you looked stunning today.” WTF?! Not that I don’t think my mom is beautiful, but I said to her, “I wonder if that was meant for you?” Like, it would have been entirely possible for him to have been texting a side-piece while also on a Zoom call with the attorneys. That is exactly something he’d do.

        A few weeks later I asked FWF’s assistant about that text and if FWF meant it for my mother or for someone else. He said FWF meant it for my mother.

        What a manipulative piece of shit! Keep your comments to yourself, fucker. Don’t try to make yourself look like the good guy by saying mom looks stunning. You lost any right to say anything about her after you cheated on her with multiple women, including family friends, brought whores to the house and in mom’s bed, and probably when you went to “stay in the city for the night” because you had an early meeting you were going to the airport hotel to have sex with actual prostitutes.

        Nope, fucker. Just nope. You think you can manipulate her? She is too smart for you – and besides, I am on her side and you will never win against me.

        My motto in life is “do not fuck with me because I will take you down!” And that applies to FWF just as equally as it does to anyone else!

  • I come here every morning and the first thing that comes to my mind after reading the opening letter from the chump is


    This is not what love looks like, acts like. I can’t imagine a bigger brighter red flag than cheating. Cheaters and their accomplices are tied for first place for Employee of the Month at the Red Flag Factory.

    The message I have given my daughter by word and action is if someone cheats on you, LEAVE. She was watching a movie yesterday and was incensed about a character who was married and was trying to pick up a woman in a bar. My daughter said, “I wonder if Dad did that.” I said, “Well, that’s what people who cheat do, so it’s possible.” What a surreal conversation to have. A conversation I never thought I would have and never wanted to have. But I am damned if I am going to lie to her and set her up to fall into a tiger trap.

    My interactions that are necessary with the traitor always confirm that divorce is 150% the right thing to do. The vows I took are very clear and simple, and if you can’t keep them, the contract is broken and so is the relationship.

    When I was a senior in high school, I had a boyfriend who was 23. He was awful to me after securing me with a serious lovebombing campaign. I almost passed out when he contacted me out the blue, EIGHT YEARS LATER, wanting to get back together with me?!!

    Cheating is a very clear symptom that a person is not healthy. It’s the only piece of information you need to pay attention to. All the other stuff….the “nice” behavior… just bait in a tiger trap best ignored.

    I have to practice loving MYSELF, and loving myself means I stay away from people who hurt me. That means cheaters.

    • Then there’s the Einstellung effect:

      “The Einstellung effect occurs where preexisting knowledge impedes one’s ability to reach an optimal solution. We become unable to consider other solutions when we think we already have a one, even though it may not be accurate or optimal. It leaves us cognitively incapable of differentiating previous experience with the current problem.”

      Cheaters are charming. Cheaters are extremely manipulative. All that sweet stuff they do, the preexisting knowledge, is actually sweet like antifreeze. It’s poison. It’s bait. It’s a monkey trap. It serves to confuse us and keep us stuck. But ignore that big glass of sweet antifreeze, which would kill you if you drank it, and keep your focus on the one thing they do that tells you who they really are…..cheating.

      Now when the traitor acts like Mr. Helpful and Concerned, I just say to myself, “That’s how he did it. That’s why I stayed.”


    • Thanks, Velvet – It’s like the NA pamphlet – “Another Look” – defining what addicion IS NOT in order to better understand and recognize what it is.
      Addiction is NOT FREEDOM. Addiction is NOT PERSONAL GROWTH, Addiciton is NOT GOODWILL, Addiction is NOT A WAY OF LIFE – I like to change that to: Addiction is not a HEALTHY or NURTURING way of life.
      Wow, the simmilarities between my shitty relationships and my addiciton are uncanny. I am SO GRATEFUL to be clean and fuckwit free!!!
      NA helped me get clean from drugs and Chump Nation helped me get fuckwit free!!!!

    • Darn straight, this is not love! My “aha” moment came when Nitwit, after negotiating an open marriage (don’t make this mistake new chumps!) on the condition that he would never bring the OW to our home, asked me to vacate the condo whose bills were paid with MY salary so he and the OW could use our bed. The scales fell from my eyes. In that moment I realized that this man did not love me, had never loved me, and would never love me. Because I knew that love didn’t look or feel like that. He then tried to spin it that I was a friendless loser because if I weren’t I wouldn’t mind staying at a friend’s place for the night. That remains one of the most effed up conversations I have had in my adult life and all I did was to keep yelling “NO!” until he got it through his thick head that I was still his legal wife and I was going nowhere.

  • Spinach@35 is right. Leave FOR the children. I tried far too long to have an “intact family unit”. Why keep an abuser handy?

    I have a close friend, younger than I am, who has gone through this cycle several times. Her desire to be married, and live a “godly” life overcomes her otherwise good sense. If I may be direct, she thinks she should be married to have sex, because otherwise, she would not be pure. Ok, I do not agree, and have told her so, but that is what her particular flavor of church believes. So she has divorced and stayed single as long as she could stand it, and then remarries, another abuser, to be obeying her concept of religious law. She works on fixing her picker while married to an abuser. She cannot discern the abuse prior to the marriage because 1) she’s not really fixed what is broken, and 2) her vision is clouded by her belief system. Her ex’s and her new husband all come from the church scene, they know how to work the system. One was even a pedophile, and abused her young daughter at the time. She was full of guilt, and the daughter has had lasting trauma. Still, her core upbringing controls her life. It is hard to reason with someone who has such deep beliefs in what they think is God’s will.

    My last appeal to her went as follows, after a lot of thought. If you can improve it, help me Chump Nation.
    As you grow up and learn how life is, you accumulate a lot of pain. Sometimes something happens which overwhelms you, and you cannot carry your own pain. So you seek a deep well to pour your pain in, and you put a cap on it to contain that pain, while you work on healing yourself. You think you are better, because you grow stronger. You think you’ve put the pain away. But the pain is still there, waiting for you. Luckily, the well contains restorative waters which will dilute the pain. So you go back to the well, and you pull up a bucket of the diluted pain, and you deal with it. One bucket at a time. Because you are never free from the pain until you confront it, and deal with it, and because you can do so one bucket at a time. You think you can hide, or run away. But you cannot ever be free, until you pull up every drop of the pain you poured in the well. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It matters that you do it. You can never escape the fact that you are the sum of your life experiences, both good and bad, and what always mattes is how you choose to act.

    I don’t know what she will do with this. I gave it to her last Saturday. She has remarried, again, a man who appears to be “turning his life around by following God’s way”. I don’t believe in unicorns. I think he sees a woman who owns her own home, works hard, has two jobs, no kids at home, and goes to church all the time and does daily devotions. She will not wander. But he had nothing but debt coming into the relationship, past broken marriages, and he drinks too much. He works, and appears to be committed, but he wants to be “the head of the household” and disapprove of her actions when she does not comply with his wishes. He wants her to “be sweet” and not to “act mean”. I see red flags.

    I have many problems with religious beliefs that tell women to be subservient. I do not belong to a church. This is one of the main reasons why. Are my own beliefs causing me to question her belief in redemption? I believe she is in the process of redeeming her life. She’s not perfect, but she is much farther along. Why should she look backward on the path to MEH to accept “directions” from someone who is not as evolved as she is?

    • I am finding a depth to this conversation that finally “reaches” me. I have been an interloper for a year. I am relating finally to an existential conversation that is not entirely “Christian” . And I am
      Christian and have been trying to reconcile all of this love \hate business?

    • I also am a Christian and drank the particular kool aid from the RIC until I found Divorce Minister’s blog/book whom I believe CL endorses. It completely changed my perspective about some of the language that is used to perpetuate staying in a marriage coupled with reading this blog. I would point your friend to this link: Cheated On: The Divorce Minister Guide for Surviving Infidelity and Keeping Your Faith

      There is a difference between being submissive as a wife and being treated like a doormat/wife appliance. I highly doubt God would want her to be treated like a doormat and if you want to point her to something – tell her she is supposed to be the head and not the tail. But if she doesn’t want to listen – don’t throw pearls swine. ????????‍♀️

  • Absolutely a cycle of abuse and the only way to get out is to GET OUT.

    Oh but let’s add on to this. The cheaters know the conflict you endure. Mine would use this to manipulate me further “you are giving up on me. You don’t believe that people can change!”

    He knew I did. Start cycle all over again. ????

    Just get out. These people aren’t capable of love.

  • Next month, I will be two years post D-Day and one and one-half years post divorce, after 42 years of marriage.

    My life is so much happier. I was also the primary breadwinner in my marriage, but I was terrified to go it alone. I had married young and never really lived alone. Things are so much better now. I kept my retirement and the paid off family home. I am doing fine financially, and am dating a great new guy. My relationship with my adult daughter is the best it has ever been.

    My kick-ass, highly recommended attorney, told me to offer my ex a one-time settlement that was attractive enough to get him to settle without contesting. It hurt ALOT to offer him our sweet apartment building (supposed to be a source of retirement income) but the thought of first being cheated on and then having to pay him alimony or half of my retirement was worse.

    As the primary breadwinner, Dazed needs to see an attorney first, before making a move. But she also needs to know that there is light and happiness on the other side. God is good.

  • “Cheating is a very clear symptom that a person is not healthy.”

    Yup, ALL I need to know to move forward after cheating ex husband of over 24 yrs & cheater ex boyfriend of over 7 yrs. I am angry that they both have wasted precious years of my life. On to the next victim they go as I spend the rest of my life licking the emotional wounds they have caused.

  • When I was a child my father and mother were accosted by this couple from hell.
    Because neither of my parents had boundaries due to their not knowing that they had been/were being abused by family (they both had gone the way of the narcissistic coping mechanism), said couple, providing marvellous supply came very close. Too close. As were also other people.
    My sibling and I were made to watch the ongoing humiliation of my parents, not being able to do anything to save them. Parents who kept wanting to be humiliated. And offering us children up for humiliation.
    It ended with the couple from hell completely subjugating my parents. My father cheated with the woman, her partner complicit and but playing victim. The goal: getting the resources.
    Needless to say, there was a transfer of wealth. People watched our downfall with glee. We were the ones knowing the least because my parents kept things from us.
    For a long time I could not admit to myself that that the couple from hell, and other associated people, were instigating our desperation so that we became prostitutes. My sibling tried to commit suicide.
    We did not have protecting families. Generations of unprotected and parentified children asked to do life without love or support. Desperate for some appreciation from outside.

    • Your story is heartbreaking! Hope your adulthood now filled with the peace that was so lacking in your childhood.

      • Thank you, BigCityChump, I appreciate. your words.
        I was in a marriage and was abandoned. Am now divorced.
        And am glad that I have finally figured out what happened in my life.

    • My parents themselves (covert narcs/borderlines), in collusion with the couple from hell, were instigating our desperation and demise. Triangulating and projecting into us all the darkness.

      Fairy tales beautifully illustrate these cases whose existence hardly anyone wants to acknowledge, and offer solutions and hope out of ages of wisdom.
      Haensel and Gretel: how to deal with two abusive parents. You are too little. So you deal with one parent first. And you keep living with the one which guarantees you more chances of survival.
      Cinderella: if you have a father that is dominated, you need to get out of that household because you will not be protected.
      Snow White: it is the narcissistic mother that wants you dead (it’s her real mother). The hunter and other creatures will treat you better than her.
      Red Riding Hood: Mother sends you out with a red cap. And granny is waiting for things being ill. Why would they want a girl to walk by herself with red cap on? Put her in danger. Whoever has had a narcissistic mother or grandmother knows what it is like.

  • Second… adults don’t have slumber parties. And if they do, why aren’t they just happening at the house where their spouse is? When kids have slumber parties their family knows where they are and who they are with. You knew because you saw him after he didn’t return home. You already called him a man child. But children have to abide by rules. Regardless- I just- uh… well. Adults don’t have slumber parties. Get tested. Get a lawyer, and get out, when you can. Flowers wilt. Herpes is forever.

  • I fail to see the upside to a “family unit” here. Your daughter should not go through life thinking this is the way families operate. He’s being “nice” right now because the reality of supporting himself in the manner to which he has become accustomed is scary. Let’s recap…he cheats on you, is never going to set the world on fire job/career wise and resents your presence at home. Oh and he has a problem laying off the sauce. Dazed, I really hope you spoke to an attorney, got your ducks in a row and filed. This guy is a bum with a capital “B”.

    • Yes, just what I want my daughter to see–a lazy drunk, allergic to work, who takes his APs to the local Ed’s Beds overnight on my dime.

      That’s not a family unit. That’s not love.

  • Hello Dazed and Confused,

    I’m sorry for the pain you’re experiencing because of your husband’s affairs. I feel sad that you’re in the middle of that situation.

    I’m visiting the blog as a kind of reinforcement because I dumped my boyfriend suddenly when I found out about him cultivating a relationship with another woman behind my back. I miss what we had, when it was at its best. I miss the potential of what we might have had. I miss kissing him.

    This post was particularly helpful for me!

    Good wishes for you, Dazed and Confused!

    • I have a friend- a fellow blogger- who ended up leaving her emotionally abusive relationship after several years where the man she married was just mean. He didn’t work to his fullest potential. He didn’t contribute equally in the home. He didn’t do the shopping. He was not loving. She had done a lot of planning to partner with someone who was supposed to be all those things and then he turned into a mean nasty man who was judgey and awful to her and used her for her gumption and wife appliance bits.

      Chump lady- despite being for betrayed folks, really helped her. Because- even if this man was not cheating on her, his behaviour became something she couldn’t find acceptable. ‘Is this relationship acceptable to you’ is the best question ever. And knowing your worth, and demanding to be valued appropriately is important.

      I’m so glad you have found strength. Even if boyfriend made you feel snuggled and happy sometimes- you set a good boundary. A relationship that’s edging toward not ok- it’s going to get there. SoGood for you in enforcing your line. That’s incredible and I’m proud you figured it out before you had more sunk costs!

      • Thank you for understanding! He was already on his second chance, and I recognized that ol’ pit in my stomach, and knew that I couldn’t live with the worry of what he might do next. While we were talking he was trying to become the victim, but I said, “No. Goodbye, and don’t ever call me again.” I still can’t believe I said it. That’s why I call myself the Goodbye Girl. But if I tell a girlfriend the story, she’ll say, “I hope you blocked him!” just like THAT! And – to date – it’s been unanimous. And I’m getting vicarious feedback here on the blog.

        I’ll be okay! It’s just a change of direction for all my thoughts, you know? It changes everything. In one swift move. OVER.

        And we weren’t even married. And this wasn’t even an affair. So thank you again for understanding!

        So many sad stories here, but they make me stronger. And Chump Lady’s advice is spot-on. Hopefully it’s helping to fix my picker! As it is, I’d like to get married (in theory) but who in the world could I trust?

        I’d love a post about how to spot a TRUE BLUE! What to look FOR instead of what NOT to look for! The 20/20 post was almost that, but most of it was during or after the affair. Smells, lipstick, STDs, etc. I’d like to be able to spot a man who would be unlikely to cheat. And know the signs that he has good values and sticks to them.

        What would THOSE signs be? A good track record. A good method of conflict resolution. Transparency. Family values. Hmmmm… I wonder what else to look for?

        • Honestly that sounds like an incredibly positive Friday challenge!!!! ‘What are the true blue signs’ this person isn’t full of flags and how to learn to trust. I can say- i am fantastically happy and in a really lovely relationship now- and boyfriend has been the most supportive and understanding man in every way. His blue streak sign? He is patient and soooooo open to when I feel unsafe. We started as people who met in a hostel- so randomly because neither of us intended to stay there, and both of us are older than the normal folks at backpack hostels…. and aside from a night of kissing and cuddling, we just started as friends who met travelling, and- we are long distance. I think it allowed me to put the risk of being hurt in a box, while I got to know him, because he was this man who was still far away. Lots of time and distance to ensure I had space to breath and freak out. And when I would freak out- he would just say- tell me what’s happening. And say- you’re safe. You’re ok. I’m not that man. You have a lot of baggage, but- put it down. Hug me instead.

          He never runs out of patience. He always has my back. He is just there. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t judge my recovery, my baggage, my nerves. He is happy to cuddle me. He is happy to call me. He never tries to guilt me.

          Really- I think the true blue signs are the amount of balance I feel. That I never ever go ‘gosh/ that was really good for him and really shitty for me’ . It’s fair. Balanced. Best for both of us. Insanely different than with the man I married

        • Unfortunately there is no guaranteed recipe for finding a “True Blue”. However, there are measures you can take to weed out the losers. Having a decent job history, being financially responsible & not having any substance abuse issues should be a prerequisite. Granted crappy things such as financial set backs can happen to the best of us, but a decent person rights themselves and carries on without help from someone they are dating. Red Flags: Someone that wants to move in together right away, wants to borrow money, always plays the victim, tries to make you feel less than, even jokingly and gets in a huff when you socialize with friends and they are not included. I’m talking girls or guys night out. The biggest red flag is when you feel the need to make excuses for their behavior.

          • Yeh- I think stability and perseverance and being very open are all things which fend off the flags. You’re absolutely right, there’s no precise way- at all. But that’s why going slow is your best friend. Once you’re love bombed, shacked up, cut off from friends in the first six weeks it could be a huge Flaggy parade and you won’t even see it. But going long haul helps, because you have time to open the closets and meet all the relatives and friends and learn the stories and figure out what’s pink what’s red what’s been dealt with…. it’s all risky. But it can be worth it

            • Right, I had forgot to add take it very slow. Even then though, after taking all the noted measures there are no guarantees but the odds are better.

        • Goodbye Girl – I am glad you found Chump Lady BEFORE and not AFTER. I was not married, either, and my most recent relationship was relatively short. Chump Lady and Chump Nation helped me to get out quickly and cleanly and now I am looking back at past relationship and my parents and family of origin – there are so many false narratives I was groomed into believing.
          I am glad you found your freedom and a new set of knowledge and tools to take with you into the rest of your life. You also get to spread this message to people in your lives and that will change the narrative.

            • I think a lot of my issues came from my family of origin, too. On the surface we had a good family, but my dad cheated on my mom, and I knew it, as much as a child can know such things. He didn’t go after me, but he was unfaithful to her, and all of his moves, when I encounter them in a guy, feel like home to me. Hoping for another try at love, and that it’ll be good this time around!

  • A therapist told me that even wife beaters bring their wives roses.

    It means nothing, just another form of manipulation.

    • Gifts always came with strings attached, and kindness signaled manipulation and something bad to come. (Never mind that it was never what I actually asked for or needed, and never enough.) If I didn’t show appropriate gratitude or did not accept the breadcrumbs and bend to FWs exact will, he would guilt trip and punish me.

      With intermittent rewards, even good feels bad – or at least it did, to me. A friend likened the cycle to going down a slide and landing on your ass, time and again. I explained that I wasn’t climbing the ladder because I wanted to land on my ass; I kept at it because it feels good to go down a slide, and I wanted that experience, and I was determined to land on my feet. I could bear the pain and challenges seemed like part of life – wouldn’t it pay off? (To call this ‘resilience’ seems a stretch, but chumps do not suffer from a lack of strength, spine or determination; we just put our energy and dreams into the wrong people.)

      I understand and can relate to some aspects of “trauma bonding,” but I actually didn’t find the cycle of abuse comforting. I hated it. I was anxious and insecure for years, but hopium and some other factors kept me small and stuck (and the good I made in spite of FW made my life rich and worthy – at least “good enough to stay” – for awhile). I struggled with the unpredictability and I grew wary. I still am. This is one of those wounds that is going to take awhile to heal, regardless of my level of Meh.

  • “I have basically put love first and turned a blind eye to all his behavior.“ I think you’re half right, unless the love doesn’t include loving yourself. And it seems like it doesn’t.
    I get the feeling you were waiting around for him to appreciate your sacrifice. Now it seems like he’s appreciating you, but I think he’s only doing this because he’s seeing that his wife-appliance (read: paycheck) is leaving.
    I know a marriage can be work, but there’s a difference between work and torture.
    Please take you and your child far away from him.

  • This post could have been written by me when I was 25 years old. I witnessed with my own eyes my husband with his hands on another woman (a notorious slut) and I threw him out. My parents pressed me to forgive and forget, so after six months I took him back. If I had divorced him then, it would have hurt ONE CHILD. I went on to have four children with him, not realizing that he was cheating most of that time. Two months before my 48th anniversary my gyn told me I had high risk HPV. Six months after that, I had to have surgery. Then I had to have a breast biopsy. Did you know that HPV is found in 30% of breast biopsies? Just found that out myself. If I had divorced him the first time he put one toe over the line, I’d have hurt one child. If I divorce him now, I hurt four adult children and their spouses. Eight poeple that I love. I have wasted my entire life on this cheating sack of feces. Don’t be foolish; don’t be ME; leave him for the sake of your happiness and your health. PS. That oldest child? She married a man who does not work, keeps him sequestered on a farm distant from town without a car, and has refused to have children. YOU HURT YOUR CHILDREN WHEN YOU TOLERATE CHEATING. Learn from me. I am the archtypal bad example.

      • ANM: Yes, “THANKS FOR WRITING. IT WILL HELP OTHERS”! You probably have no idea how much.

        There is still time to get you out. You do not want to model the acceptance of putting up with disordered people for your grandchildren and great grands in the future. I am certainly not blaming you. But there is still time for some peace for you. Sorry about the cancer and that you have spent so many years with a disordered person. I wish you the only the best. Good luck. Keep reading this site. There is always help here.

        This makes me think of Portia’s post. Re your friend, Portia: I wonder if your friend has ever thought per any religion what would be the bigger sin: sex without marriage or the sin of a cheater manipulating someone because cheater knows he or she can use people’s religious beliefs against them by cheating and other abuse and knowing the betrayed spouse will stay and put up with such abuse because they want to be pure. IMO the cheater would be committing the bigger sin via indifelity, manipulation and abuse, etc.

        • The men she married that I know really love bombed and promised her the sun, moon, and stars — much of it due to her religious beliefs. But after the wedding, they start trying to control her by saying they should be the head of the house, and she should be obedient to their wishes. They do not like her going out with women friends, even to dinner. They want to control the money (she works hard for her money, and in the latest case, has more than he does). They want to approve trips ,purchases, and even her mood. This latest move — I like you better when you act sweet, this new job is making you mean — is a reaction to her working in a heavily male environment, and making more money than he does. She cannot see the abuse of the manipulation because it is disguised in terms of religion and concern for her welfare. Her last husband started breaking into the bathroom when she was in there, telling her she could not lock the door. He threatened that she would not be able to afford their home on her own, and would probably be impoverished if she left him. She didn’t see it until it got that bad. It is hard to understand abuse when it is taught as part of your cultural upbringing. She is a sweetheart, and wants a good marriage so bad, she just cannot understand what she is doing to attract these insecure men.

    • You won’t be hurting them by leaving. You will be acknowledging that change can happen and that you love yourself and them too much to tolerate the idiocy that is the man you married.

      I’m sorry you’re facing hpv stuff.

  • The affairs are what pushed Dazed to write to CL. But underneath all that is alcoholism. If Cheater is an alcoholic–he has two affair partners. One is the human Schmoopie. The other is alcohol, whether beer, whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila, wine or all of the above.

    Such a person is not available for relationship. His primary relationship is with the substance–planning to get it, getting it, consuming it with others like him, enjoying the altered emotional and psychological states that come with the drug.

    By the end of my marriage to XH the substance abuser, he spent almost every moment I was home from work drunk. He left early on weekend mornings, returned drunk later in the day and remained so until the next morning. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Week after week, month after month. Not one time did he ever invite me to join him for lunch in his bar. Not one time. I wasn’t welcome.

    Consider this: with some alcoholics, the affair is a natural progression of that disease. Drunks want to spend time with other drunks. Sober people are no fun for them. They want company in their addiction. Sober people make great enablers, which is why this particular DrunkCheater wants to hold on to poor Dazed. He needs someone to pay the bills, take care of the kiddo, pay for his substance, cook his meals, clean his clothes and generally make it possible for him to be a lying, cheating drunk. Dazed is NECESSARY for him to continue his addiction and to allowing him to enjoy the AP companions in that addiction.

    If a chump loves an addict, the first thing the chump should do is find a good lawyer and file for divorce. In this case, Dazed should first tell DrunkCheater to get a damn job so she doesn’t have to pay alimony. This is one case where the long view helps. Tell Drunk to get a job and then file. Either leave based on the lawyer’s advice or tell DrunkCheater to leave. Toss all the bottles and he’d leave soon enough. If you love a drunk, leave a drunk Stop enabling and get help for your own codependency. Leave a drunk cheater; gain a life.

    • Agree, agree, agree.

      As a matter of fact, I see affairs as just another symptom of underlying addictions.

      The longer I’m here and the more I read, the more convinced of it I become.

      • Velvet and Loved – I totally agree that the affairs are also an addiciton – it is often not the actual drug that is the real addiciton, but the lifestyle and drama associated with the drug – finding ways and means to get and use more. The sneaking around and deception cause real chemical reactions in the body that are simmilar to the chemicals created by drugs and alcohol.
        As an addict in recovery, I see how being with the cheater was a drug to me – and I was so willing to disregard his obvious drug use. His life was full of drama… I am seeing now that a part of me still craves drama. It is just a sick and unhealthy cycle. I am off of that roller coaster, for sure. Thanks CN

      • Velvet I have thought of tht in the past.

        My ex of course cheated on schmoops not long after they were married, guess her sparkle twat wasn’t providing the same tingle it once did, anyway a few years into their marriage (not sure how long) he starteed big time gambling, in fact he gambled up over a 250 thousand dollar debt. He lost everything. He got to keep his house and car, but he couldn’t afford his house; so he had to sell it.

        I wondered when I heard that if maybe that was what he was using cheating to take the place of gambling while we were married. As far as I can tell he did not do any significant gambling while we were married.

        By that I mean direct gambling, of course he gambled his reputation and marriage away by cheating, but I meant actual rolling the dice sort of gambling.

        From everything I know, which isn’t a lot, his big gambling didn’t start until after he retired from the police department. But he did cheat on schmoops while he was still a PO.

        Interesting thought.

      • I have a friend who worked for years as an addiction counsellor, and he’s said the same. The same underlying attitudes drive addictions, adultery, and partner abuse. Unless they deal with those deep attitudes/character, their relationships are truly going to be awful. It’s all pride, manipulation, and denial in a toxic mess.

        He continues to work in the mental health field and routinely tells folks like us to run and not look back. Just no way to make it work, so don’t.

    • LovedAJackass,

      Count me in.

      I would also direct her to an Al-Anon mtg…hard to do now with covid but lots of things available on line and the support is great.

      Mine was sober and never gave up the sex. Didn’t know that at the time…. I now know that he used meetings as a new pick-up place. And to think I was so happy to see him going to meetings…Drunk or sober don’t trust em…..

      As a friend likes to say. “My father told my alcoholic brother that if the booze didn’t get him the sex would.” How true.

      • Hi Elderly Chump – I am a recovering addict and am also a trustworthy chump. Not all of us are assholes with a sex addiction.

        • Correction – not all people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction are CHEATERS. Many of us are chumps and the nicest, most honest, and most generous people in the world.

        • Peregrine,

          I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to imply all alcoholics or people in recovery are sex addicts or have un-disclosed sex issues.

          Sometimes when I type I feel rushed and I also tend to be long-winded so I cut corners and what comes out isn’t what I mean to say.

          I was writing in response to the fact that despite being sober he never owned up to his sex addiction and that he cheated right off of the bat and then proceeded to lead a double life.

          ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater’ is the saying that I now have had to give a lot of thought to whereas before, I truly believed his 2 ‘flings’ early on in our marriage were a done deal and behind him. I trusted him because he was in recovery and he was going to meetings….and he told me he had it ‘out of his system’. (RED FLAG)

          It wasn’t until 30 years later and after dday that I realized that he was using meetings as a pick-up place and it wasn’t until after dday that I learned that the meetings he was attending were known for that kind of behavior.

          I was totally ignorant.

          I now suspect that if anyone owns up to having cheated on a spouse that that admission is only the tip of the iceberg. And that is based on my experience only because that is what happened to me. He fessed up to 2 and then proceeded to rack up the numbers for decades, all the while I was blissfully unaware and thought I was married to a ‘perfect person in recovery working his program with rigorous honesty.’

          In other words, I was extremely grateful to be married to a sober alcoholic and I felt secure in what I thought was the truth of his commitment to sobriety, AA and our marriage. There were so many women in Al-Anon struggling with drinking spouses and the havoc that causes that it never dawned on me to look very closely to what was happening right under my nose. He is a covert, passive aggressive narcissist which I had no clue about because he was ‘such a nice guy’ and ‘a great husband’ in comparison.

          So I don’t trust cheaters….be they sober, actively drinking or people who have never picked up a drink in their lives.

          Truth be known, I don’t trust people in general right now 🙂

          Thanks for bringing my attention to what I wrote.

          • Elderly Chump – no apology necessary! Thank you so much for sharing your story. The main theme here is your TRUST in him. That resonates with me, too. I trusted my ex – and others. That’s what hurts the most – and that is also our greatest strength and gift to the world – we trust.

        • Peregrine,

          P.S. To what my first reply to your first reply so this is my second reply to your second reply….

          Me too. I have been in recovery for over 40 years.

          All of my friends were and are in long term committed relationships. All were shocked when dday came.

          People who knew him for years always raved about him, “He is such a great guy.” “He saved my life.”

          It is as thought they worshiped the ground he walked on because he sponsored a lot of people and he worked in a treatment center of high standing too. He was a program ‘Golden Boy’.

          Had us all fooled.

          By the way, we all still are in shock and miss the man we thought he was.

          Anyway, I know there are lots of wonderful people in program and I have had the privilege to know hundreds of them. My life has been saved by people in program many times over and continues to be saved by the ones who still remain.

          • Elderly Chump -thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. It is always a few who will spoil the bunch – the ones who use the program to make themselves “good” when they are not and the people who use the program to prove that they are clean when they are still using.
            I trust you have more peace in your life. I’m in your corner, too.

        • A good point, Peregrine. Substance abusers can be in recovery, and mood disorders can be medicated. Unfortunately, there’s no clear treatment for personality disorder. While of course there would be a different set of problems if my STBX were alcoholic, I have often thought that at least all of us (including the kids and me) would have more support, including models for recovery. But none of the several individual and couples therapists STBX and I have consulted since D-Day #2 have been able to offer any clear diagnosis, let alone a model for recovery and accountability.

          Best wishes in your own journey.

          • LezChump,

            Thank you for commenting here.

            This is all still so new to me. And confusing because there are so many parts but you opened another window when you added the bit about personality disordered people – Cluster B’s. That is a much better description of what I was attempting to say.

            To clarify further….I now think that the x is personality disordered who just happens to be an addict and alcoholic too


            I do not trust personality disordered people be they sober, clean or anything else….

            The challenge remains for me in recognition. How to spot ’em before the damage is done.

            I was fooled for decades and all fingers pointed at me being the problem and, somewhere along the line, I bought into that narrative.

  • Separate, then assess. Get away, then see what is different.

    Actual sorry will proactively do the work without being asked, or guided, and stay with it even when it does not get what it wants and even when a lot of time passes.

    Not actually sorry will give up fast, make all actions conditional then easily view conditions as problematic, and blame others for every action.

    If the relationship would live through living together, it would live through loving apart. Get yourself separate, let the dust settle, and see how you feel then in situations like this, says me.

    You just might find life is a lot better without an asshat living in your house.

  • Dazed,


    I say that from personal experience.

    First episode of cheating happened within the first 1-2 years of our marriage according to him. (I now question wether it was only one episode that since I have learned that THEY LIE.)

    I was naive. I didn’t know about hopium.

    I was hopeful.

    Went to therapy and worked out a routine for better communication.

    I was the one to initiate the communication sessions…..always.

    He blew out of therapy within a few months time and denied having ever agreeing to it in the first place. (My first experience with gaslighting which I didn’t know about either. The impact was immediate and profound.)

    We had another ‘love child’.

    Somewhere along the line he turned me into his mother/roommate……

    My hopium drug years turned into decades.

    I loved the x with all I had and didn’t realize all of the red flags being set out in my front lawn for all to see but me. (I didn’t know about covert passive aggressive narcissists.)

    Fast forward 30 years later and dday that resulted in his hot pursuit of the woman of his dreams known hereabouts as twu luv.

    Hopium drove me to the RIC literature. I wasn’t about to loose ‘my man’ to a woman he had know for less that a year.

    Two years later….LACGAL somehow entered my life and I found myself in a whole new world that made my world make absolute sense. CL and CN has been my daily companions ever since – about 2 years now.

    Divorced and NC and slowly healing.

    Please come back here.

    Hopium is a horrible addiction. So tempting to slip back into the familiar…

    CL speaks the truth. Even when you don’t want to know it.

    Sorry for your pain but at least you have a group of people who ‘get it’ and won’t judge you. We will talk plainly to you but I haven’t felt judged my anyone here.

    • P..S..

      I forgot to add.

      He stopped therapy all of those years ago but he didn’t stop cheating.

      He just got better at going underground and I did not suspect a thing.

      Another thing I didn’t know about – serial cheating….

      My horizons are ever widening 🙂

      • It really is wild to learn about a double life. I spackled plenty, but I genuinely had NO idea about the cheating: multiple OWs and blatant deceptions and coercion. Everyone (except FW’s longtime accomplices) was shocked, and many people still can’t believe it. Or they know but won’t accept that all this means he’s a selfish, phony coward who doesn’t give a shit about me and never has. “Two sides to every story…” Yes, and you’re choosing to give my “side” equal weight to the contradictory words of a man who led a double life for at least seven years. Betrayal blindness is real.

        • Bread&Roses

          ‘It is really wild to learn about a double life.’

          Might I add terrifying to that description?

          I remember clearly where I was standing/pacing in my backyard while listening to the absolute risky behavior my then husband was engaging in and he was clueless that it was risky or that it was ‘not normal’ or that he was putting me and his own children in danger. WTF???

          The man who had always been ‘steady Eddy’ coming home at night, looking like the committed family man making huge sacrifices for his family by working so hard to take care of us all was behaving totally out of character. It suddenly became blatantly obvious to me that he was totally out of control.

          Terrifying because I knew that the OW could turn on him in an instant. Or her x could too. It was the summer of the rising of the ‘Me Too’ movement – the Hollywood/Weinstein story/case was all that was in the news at the time.

          I was beyond terrified coupled with heartbroken and tied up in heavy daily doses of RIC rhetoric.

          Might I add I was a bit of a mess 🙂

          Love your term ‘betrayal blindness’. Yes, it is real as is denial.

  • Yes, I was not a quitter. I was committed. However, when you commit too long to a sinking ship, you drown. When he finally took off, I truly could not see any path forward but divorce. We played at reconciling, but I knew I couldn’t be with him any longer in my heart-of-hearts. I had to heal though to fully grasp that.

    Then all the manipulation and games of the divorce. Both attorneys decided that they were doing me a favor. His attorney told mine that my ex was “morally reprehensible’ and the worst client he had ever had. In some ways even changed sides.

    Going through that spoke to me of what I would have gone through if we had reconciled and if I had truly stayed. Shudder!

  • Velvet I have thought of tht in the past.

    My ex of course cheated on schmoops not long after they were married, guess her sparkle twat wasn’t providing the same tingle it once did, anyway a few years into their marriage (not sure how long) he starteed big time gambling, in fact he gambled up over a 250 thousand dollar debt. He lost everything. He got to keep his house and car, but he couldn’t afford his house; so he had to sell it.

    I wondered when I heard that if maybe that was what he was using cheating to take the place of gambling while we were married. As far as I can tell he did not do any significant gambling while we were married.

    By that I mean direct gambling, of course he gambled his reputation and marriage away by cheating, but I meant actual rolling the dice sort of gambling.

    From everything I know, which isn’t a lot, his big gambling didn’t start until after he retired from the police department. But he did cheat on schmoops while he was still a PO.

    Interesting thought.

  • Is there a chump in all of Chump Nation who has truly escaped the cycle and wishes he/she/they hadn’t left? Or who wishes to go back? For all my the grief and longing and regret, and as difficult and lonely as my new life is, I would never, ever go back to that cheating abuser. It’s not an option.

    • I left a model-gorgeous man and a 2 bedroom condo for the single life renting one room. I still would never go back to the loser.

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