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Am I the Jerk for Wanting to Leave?

Unicorn cageDear Chump Lady,

My husband cheated almost three years ago. Since that time he has been remorseful and been the husband that he was before cheating and more.

Three years in… I’m at a loss. I feel like I have wasted his time because I’m seriously thinking of leaving. Last time I had a bad nightmare the other day and he hugged me and apologized. Something snapped in me. Husbands and wives should apologize when they hurt each other, forget to fill the gas tank or forget a birthday. Infidelity is something that he should not have to apologize for because it should have never happened.

My question is am I an asshole for wanting to leave three years later?

Three long years

Dear Three,

No. You’re not an asshole for wanting to leave. He’s an asshole for cheating on you.

I’m sure it’s hard to feel that way if he has done All The Right Things. Good for him. I’m glad he’s done the hard work. I’m glad he’s strived to be a better partner, to have more empathy, to be the sort of person who will hold you and feel bad when you have a nightmare. It’s good that he’s trying.

But you don’t OWE him reconciliation. You never did. It was your choice and it’s not compulsory if he’s Good. If this is a deal breaker for you, it’s a deal breaker, even three years later. Even 30 years later. You tried hard, bravely, in the face of great pain to heal this and you have the choice to throw in the towel if you want to.

Your letter underscores some perennial problems with reconciliation. Even in a “successful” reconciliation, the trust is shattered. You can learn to live without it, I suppose. In that –oh, hey, anything can happen. People are shits. That’s human nature. I embrace the chaos — sort of lowering of expectations. But I don’t think it’s possible to live that way and be truly intimate with someone.

Or you can really let it go, assuming that is possible. Trust them again. Or try to. Eat the shit sandwich that this happened, and put your faith back in the person who betrayed you. There’s no doing this, IMO, without accepting the shit sandwich that he “gets away with it.” The “consequence” is his self-improvement kick, a set of qualities that frankly, he should’ve possessed all along. You let that go, you accept the “new and improved” spouse and live with the mental gymnastics that this person you trust is capable of intimately betraying you. It’s a lopsided trade. He keeps his marriage. You live with the gymnastics, and get to keep the marriage. And try not to resent him for it.

This may surprise CN, but I don’t think once a cheater, always a cheater. I think reform is possible, but not probable. However, infidelity destroys the relationship you’re in. He may go on to not fuck up future relationships. (Character change is slow and painful. Which is why I give it bad odds if someone is disposed to entitlement.) A lot of chumps hold on to this thought — shit! He’s all IMPROVED and now he’s going to go be PERFECT for someone else! Ack! He’s going to be perfect for the OW!

It doesn’t matter if he could go on to behave perfectly for someone else. Ask if this relationship is acceptable to YOU.

A lot of chumps have the virtue of stick-to-it-iveness. We’re not quitters. We go the extra mile. So to “give up” puts us in a real conflict with our core values about ourselves. But I think you need to give some of your other values greater weight. This is your life. You only get one. You don’t have to live with this heart sickness, this internal conflict forever. You can invest in a new life free of that.

You haven’t wasted his time. You’ve given him a gift of reconciliation, but perhaps one with term limits. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot about yourself and relationships in these three years, so it’s not been a waste. But you may be borrowing time from a different future you want more than this marriage.

It’s totally your choice what to do next. But you’re not, and you’ve never been, an asshole. I’m sorry you were put in this position.

This column ran previously. On vacation this week. New columns resume July 19.

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  • Definitely not the asshole! Amazing grace on Three’s part to give the cheater another chance but no chump owes it. It’s a choice to try and reconcile but if it’s not feeling right and this amount of time has passed? Conclusion: it’s just not right and new decisions must be made. Three’s feelings are all that matters here. She owes the cheater nothing.

  • Often overlooked point made by CL here is that years spent trying to reconcile are *stolen* from other, better futures. The cheater is stealing from the chump’s cheater-free future (with a faithful partner perhaps, or friends, nieces and nephews, pets, orphans, dream jobs, travel—whatever). But also the cheater is having a potential better future stolen from them, in future a relationship they haven’t shattered.

    Being partnered with someone who doesn’t respect you and never stops resenting you has to be a hell on earth for the cheater. And, I as a chump don’t want to be responsible for that, don’t want to be the agent of anyone else’s misery. Which is why reconciliation, though seemingly virtuous, is so often hurtful to everyone involved. Whether you hate a cheater, or want to love them, you usually do need to let them go.

    • “Being partnered with someone who doesn’t respect you and never stops resenting you has to be a hell on earth for the cheater.”

      True. But that’s exactly what cheaters do when they’re cheating on their partners. Which is why leaving is the best option. Otherwise, you’re on a relationship seesaw, where they resent & disrespect you while they’re cheating on you. Then you resent & disrespect them when you find out. Then they “have to” cheat on you again because you’re so resentful & disrespectful to them. Et cetera, ad nauseum.

      Unless you’re at Disney World, if you find yourself on a merry-go-round, seesaw, or rollercoaster with someone, get the hell off and start walking towards your destination.

    • The nutshell^^^^^^
      I left because I could not see myself ever respecting him again and that he would never change his entitlement.
      Especially after I found out that his first marriage had ended in infidelity also.
      One of his comments “You cant put my dick in your purse” sealed the deal for me.
      Freedom feels 😊.

    • “Often overlooked point made by CL here is that years spent trying to reconcile are *stolen* from other, better futures.”

      THIS^^^^

      I believe this is a lesson with wider application, too.

      This chump (and maybe some others of you, too) was trained to sacrifice my own interests for others, and throughout my life have been too willing to do that, while thinking “when I get get free of this obligation I will finally be able to focus on myself and my needs.”

      It’s been a hard lesson to learn that the problem wasn’t any particular obligation to any particular person, but my pattern of thought and action. *I* have been too willing to subordinate my life to the needs of others, and until I develop the self-respect and self-esteem not to do that, there will always be another person with another obligation in my life, and I will keep deferring to them, and postponing my own life. In fact, I often wonder whether I commit to serving someone else precisely because it enables me to avoid the hard work of going after what I want.

      At the moment, I’m facing another such situation. My mother, who is in assisted living in the town where she lived, but where none of her children live, would like me to move into her condo so I can be in town to help her out. I feel caught between my values–including feeling an obligation to my mother–and my own damaged psyche, which makes me feel that my value and worth derives from sacrificing my own self-interest to serve another’s need. It doesn’t help that I understand that another person with a different past and psychology could be able to reconcile self-interest and care for another (that the latter doesn’t have to subsume the former), but I am not that person (for which I castigate myself).

      Oversharing…but this is on my mind just now.

      • PS:
        I don’t mean that my mother would be “stealing” my future from me if I agreed to move in to her condo and be available to help her. But I do mean that in making my decision, I do need to think of the future I would be foregoing if I agree.

        And before anyone suggests it, my mother would not agree to move to a town where one of her children lives. We tried that, and she said no. So yes, she should be prepared for the consequences, but she is 95, and not in the best cognitive or physical condition.

        • I think your mother had every right to suggest a child move in to her condo to be more available. And each child had every right to say “no.” I applaud your growing ability to articulate decisions that are best for you. I hope, like your mother, you are also learning to ask for things that would be good for you. (A lot of us who are trained to be helpful are also trained not to ask for much).

          And, I hope both of you are learning to live with the fact that not all of our “best options” can be accommodated! I hope you both have many lovely visits together despite the fact you will continue to live at a distance from her.

        • Adalante: If you would enjoy living in your Mother’s town and there are benefits for you. O would move there. If you will be happier living elsewhere, I would live elsewhere. Would you only be living in her condo as long as she needs you and then have to move again? You can visit your mother whether you move into her condo or not (just maybe not as much or as conveniently). Is she wanting you to get her out of Assisted Living so she can live in the condo with you? Nice to do for her but it it is time to put yourself FIRST. If you do not, no one else will, unfortunately. Best of luck to you and your Mother.

          • Yes, I would be living in my mom’s condo, and yes, I would be there only as long as she needs me, and at some point the condo will be sold. No, she does not want to live in the condo with me; she just moved from the condo, her decision, because she can no longer manage the stairs.
            It really is a question of weighing the costs and benefits–on both sides. I appreciate your vote of “put yourself first…for a change.”

        • If she isn’t willing to compromise to make it easier for you, but expects you to uproot your whole life, you really have nothing to feel guilty about in refusing. If somebody, even your mother, wants such an enormous favor, she has to be willing to be reasonable and meet you partway.

          I suspended my life for my dying parents, and they made it as easy for me to do as they could. This is neccessary for such an arrangement to work.

          If your mom is so badly cognitively impaired that it prevents her from seeing the enormity of what she is asking and the good sense in what you are saying, perhaps you need to investigate legally taking over her affairs so you can move her closer. It’s something one hates to do, but is it any worse than leaving her as she is, so far removed from family?

          OTOH, if she’s not that impaired but just being stubborn and demanding, thinking you will cave, it’s okay to clearly lay it out for her that she either moves closer, or she stays there alone.

          I feel for you going through this, and am wishing you the best at this difficult time.

        • Adelante, if you want to move, then do it. If you don’t, then don’t. She’s 95 and not likely to last much longer. My dad just died at 93. You may have a very good and joyful relationship with your mother, so if your means allow you to visit and stay in your mother’s condo, then you might enjoy it. However, if you’re still working and have to reserve your retirement, then you may come to resent your mother. In my case, my dad was not someone I had a good relationship at all. In fact, I’d bet he helped make me the doormat that I was. But you might have feelings 180 degrees opposite for your mother than I did for my ‘dear ol’ dad’ and you may regret not doing it for the very few years that your mother has left on this earth. I suggest you get a piece of paper with two columns headed by “Pros” and “Cons” in regards to moving into your mother’s condo (or even just keeping your current residence and just visiting your mother’s condo.) Make sure to put your emotional benefits/concerns as well as financial benefits/concerns on the lists. Once you put it all on paper, it should become clear for you.

        • I chose to stay at my mother’s independent living apartment during one of her last hospitalizations. Not only did it save me a 100 mile round trip, it allowed me to do the enormous task of down-sizing her possessions before a move to a higher level of care.

          I don’t think that made me “chumpy”. But it has become one of those flash back memories where I wondered what my ex was doing while I was away that week.

        • Adelante, don’t apologize for over sharing! Your thoughts were very helpful to me. I admire your honesty and insight.

    • Nomad says:
      “Being partnered with someone who doesn’t respect you and never stops resenting you has to be a hell on earth for the cheater. And, I as a chump don’t want to be responsible for that, don’t want to be the agent of anyone else’s misery.”

      You must be a much better person than me.

      I don’t wish to be the agent of anyone else’s misery; that’s why I don’t cheat. I come from a long line of cheaters — my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father and all of his cousins, my sister and all but one of my cousins cheat. I don’t. The thing is, people who engage in affairs will also cheat their employer, their employees, their customers, business partners, they’ll cheat at school and the IRS. Maybe not every cheater cheats everyone, but they aren’t opposed to cheating if they believe they can get away with it.

      After being married to three cheaters, I find it difficult to work up much of a give a damn about the cheater’s better future being stolen from them. Being married to someone who doesn’t respect you, doesn’t love you and never stops resent you seems an awful lot like what reconciliation does to the chump. If it also happens to the cheater, well that’s karma. If that’s not the future they wanted, perhaps they should not have cheated.

      • “If it also happens to the cheater, well that’s karma. If that’s not the future they wanted, perhaps they should not have cheated.”

        Yep, all I care about is the chump. Fuck the cheater and the whore he/she rode in on.

        If the consequence’s of being a cheater who wants to reconcile is living the rest of his/her life in misery then I don’t care; as long as the chump is not miserable.

        I just think for the most part the chump will be miserable because the cheater will either bail or go underground.

      • This.

        I don’t give a damn about the cheater – any more than I give a damn about ANY abuser.

        I do however agree with the idea that staying with a cheater is more time stolen from the one and only true victim: the chump.

  • That last little bit is exactly why I will never stay with a cheater again, back when I was younger I did, 3 times, after the third time I realized a few things and one of those things is I can never forgive someone for cheating. The relationship will never be the same and I won’t ever feel for or treat the person the same again. I will make them miserable as well, and that’s because I’m miserable and I do not want to be miserable and in a miserable relationship. I am bi polar and have a whole slew of other mental issues, so adding on rebuilding trust and what not is something I will NEVER have the energy for. I say this to say to Three Long Years, it’s ok to leave. Staying is not making it better for everyone because YOU don’t feel comfortable, safe, right or anything in this relationship and therefore it’s never going to work, and that is not YOUR fault, it is HIS fault because he cheated. Everything he is doing now should’ve been done INSTEAD of the cheating. If he was having issues in the relationship or with himself he should’ve gotten professional help, not some strange on the side and that’s what he did and therefore HE messed up the relationship and if in 3 years YOU still do not feel safe and comfortable and everything else, then you have the right to end it and not feel guilty. HE is the only one that should feel guilty because HE caused all of this. Not you.

  • You owe him nothing. You are not a jerk nor wasted his time. He wasted alot of your time while he was lying and cheating. He stole that time from you. Cheaters steal our time, our love. They use that we are trusting giving people against us. They put our mental health and physical health at risk. All because they can and did not care. And blame the chump for their cheating.
    You owe him nothing. You owe yourself so much more.

  • During wreckonciliation, I PROMISED myself that if he ever did it again, I would be DONE FOR SURE. Trouble was, he had done it BEFORE, butI didn’t know.

    For me, wreckonciliation was shocking because none of the behaviors I hoped for and expected from him (Honesty, accountability, true remorse, commitment) well…they never came. He made excuses in the moment and lame promises for the future that he did not stay true to.

    He had been away for 18 months and when he returned and acted like nothing happened, I was re-traumatized. It hurt about 80% as bad as when he inflicted the pain in the first place (which was SO HUGE that a 90% double whammy was rather bad).

    I was at 7 years in when I decided that some of his current behaviors were deal breakers as well as the lingering misery from wreckociliation. In the moment, I regretted not leaving as soon as OW had married her long time fiancé. It would have served him right to be dumped right then.

    So no, were aren’t assholes for later deciding that staying is ill-advised or impossible.

  • https://www.chumplady.com/2018/02/fear-theyre-going-better-somebody-else/

    In CL’s referenced article, she writes, “Let’s say they change. Does it really change the 14,357 unspeakable things they did? I had to get to the point where I didn’t care anymore if he was Mr. Perfect for someone else. He wasn’t Mr. Perfect for ME. Those unspeakable things were deal breakers. I couldn’t trust him again. It was destroyed. I had to walk away from my investment.”

    This is my current challenge, to accept that he may be better for the OW, but it doesn’t matter to ME because he was cruel and abusive to me.

    Yes, he’s a liar, a man of low character (who poses as morally superior), and a disordered covert narc who destroyed (over years) not only his relationship with me but also with his own kids. Chances are he hasn’t morphed into Mr. Wonderful. But if he has, so be it. He was a shit to me, and that’s all the matters.

    I cleaned up my side of the street.

    • True that, Spinach. And that’s a good healthy place to be, but he ain’t Mr. Wonderful to anyone.

      Every shit thing he did and said to you, he’s now doing and saying to her. If he’s not yet, he’ll start soon enough.

      Knowing that FW will despise OW some day and wallow around in a misery he blames on her, gives me great joy and peace.

      It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s true nonetheless.

      • “Every shit thing he did and said to you, he’s now doing and saying to her. If he’s not yet, he’ll start soon enough.”

        Yes because it is how they build their power, and make no mistake no cheater is going to go into a new relationship and hand the power over to the other person. Sorry, just won’t happen.

        They will slowly or sometimes quickly regain that power imbalance.

        I have mentioned this before, but I think my ex was fine with cheating for years; but at about 17 years into our marriage, I had begun to question some financial choices that before I had just gone along with. Not illegal stuff, but the over buying of rental properties. Also about the time I started working full time, he stated that when he retires at age 52, he wants to sell out everything (including our shappy little marital house) and buy a big boat and live on the River.

        I threw him a big NO on that one. I told him, first of all I always want a land home, whether it was a house or small apartment. I also told him, I didn’t care if he bought a bigger boat and did some trips, and I could take vacations and join him; but it was my time to work and see what I could do and I wanted to take it. Three years later he dumped me for the whore; who had no ability to work long term, or really accomplish anything, as she was lazy and had difficulty getting along with management.

        She fixed the management issue by fucking her boss. So I give her credit for that. But, she got fired and aside for a few months at a retail store, never worked again. (back issues)

        • And to be clear, I think my ex was fine with that. I am sure in his mind, if she had to depend on him she then had to do as he said.

          • These disordered like their women to be dependent on them. My ex thought that by me having young children, and him having lots of money, I would stay tied to him through all of his nonsense. Little did he realize the kids would become the very reason I left. Once I realized how disordered he was I wouldn’t subject them to him a minute longer. Ex moved on to a healthcare worker who was on disability and had lost her license due to a drug addiction. Like all the women before, even she dumped him, moving out of the fancy house he’d bought to an apartment across the country. Last I heard she’s gotten her license reinstated and was working.

      • I have no doubt whatsoever that you’re right, Every shit thing he did and said, he’s now doing and saying to her. Maybe in a different way, but they’re being said. He’s a dick. My son has already said, “Trust me, Mom. Dad is miserable.” And I took glee from that. “It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s true nonetheless.”

        • They probably do paint us chumps as being crazy or how we did x,y and z. My ex wife lives with a boyfriend for about 4 years before I met her and she painted him as x,y and z. Though she cheated on him with multiple guys. I stupidly in early 20’s ignored that huge red flag. She will no doubt go on to paint me as a monster to the next victim. I see her ex boyfriend as the lucky escapee and I’m jealous he got the hell away from her.

    • Also (as I’ve said before), even if he cleaned up for his act for the new relationship, that doesn’t mean he was willing or able to do the same for you and your relationship. The new and better spouse wasn’t necessarily on offer to you. In a way it’s hurtful if they were capable of being a good partner, and just weren’t willing to put in the effort – but there are people like that.

      Even the best relationships suffer from a certain amount of ossification. Unhealthy habits and patterns, once established, are hard to break (and those of us who married early were particularly likely to start with some unfortunate habits). I am sure that my marriage would have improved with some therapy and work, but my XW was incapable of the kind of introspection, grace, and understanding that would have been required. I believe that, in some ways, her new marriage is better than our old one; I also believe that her new marriage will gradually accumulate problems and resentments (as our old one did) and that she will be as incapable of recognizing or addressing them as ever.

      • It took my XW 30 years to cheat on me. Only took 1 year for her to cheat on the OM. Nothing gradual about her. It seems once I said to the OM “you break it you buy it” the thrill was gone.

        • Yep, the cycles of idealization and devaluation speed up with each subsequent attempt. That’s why second marriages have such high failure rates, and thirds even higher.

      • They’re always better when in *new* relationships, because they have yet to show what failures they are at being genuine partners, so the new partner does not yet know. But as time goes on, and bit by bit, they do fail, and the partner witnesses it, the decay is inevitable.

        So I don’t believe they are ever capable of being betters partners long term. In the short term, while they still idealize the partner, they can put lipstick and mascara over their suckitude. Each time they do this, they convince themselves that the makeup will not wear off. But as the partner learns more about them, the devaluation is inevitable.

        • “But as the partner learns more about them, the devaluation is inevitable.”

          True, but I believe most times it isn’t what the partner learns about them, as they can stay hidden for quite a while, but as the shine begins to come off the new partner and they find out, gasp, that person has flaws, then they will begin to search again for that perfect thrill. And of course it will be the new partners fault.

          • Yeah, they both play into each other. Cheater starts to lose interest, the partner notices the devaluation and realizes the cheater is not what he/she thought, which enrages the cheater and hastens the discard.

      • It could also be that she met her match, meaning a bigger, more sociopathic cheater than her.

        Frankly, I’ve noticed this pattern is pretty consistent with many cheaters. Not much to untangle in that skein– the compulsion to reenact FOO betrayal one way or another.

        I keep thinking of the most extreme example of this– how Jeffrey Dahmer transformed from power-mad sadist to radical masochist once in prison. He started wearing pigtails, talking like a little girl and acting as a groveling sub to aggressive “dom” inmates. It’s how he ended up being killed.

        Anyway, sort of like that or at least on the spectrum of it.

        • Yeah, I was talking about this the other day- that the disordered can be predators or prey, abuser or abused, but they cannot do equality.

          My cheater’s OW was a bigger narc and far more experienced cheater. He was her slave. He also worshipped buddies who were bigger narcs, and what time and ass kissing he didn’t devote to OW went to them. He *only* hung out with other narcs.
          Otherwise known as the inverted form of covert narcissism.

  • I don’t think anyone should stay with a cheater, ever. That was my position before cheater ex cheated on me. But, when he confessed whoring around to me, there was something else that had never been a consideration before. A preschool child. I was scared and I was sad to lose time with her, so I stayed. I convinced myself I was in love. You can do that, you know.

    But it never goes away. Your feelings can never go back to right. And your marriage sure as fuck can never be stronger, better, happier, whatever. Never. It may appear that way outwardly sometimes but no, it’s not.

    My advice to my child will be NEVER stay with a cheater. And cheating starts at the moment of pursuit. First covert communication. First lie. They are always followed by more. Always.

    • 👍🏼 We all have reasons we contemplate staying. 34 years, good marriage, 2 years of something is off. Then finding out about his substance abuse disorder. Unsuccessful intervention, he rehired howorker, I was done. I think why was I willing to stay? I am finally divorced & that took 2 1/2 years due to lack of cooperation & COVID. He’s a mess, I’m getting better ❤️‍🩹

      • This is SO true! The pursuit is intention to fuck; some pursuits succeed, some don’t, but it’s definitely their goal and they are NOT committed partners from that point on.

        The devaluation (becoming newly nasty to me) coincided with his initial flirty text messages to AP #1. He was definitely a cheater from before he got her in bed.

    • I could not agree more. And I have done the same thing. I found out about his latest cheating when I was 7 months pregnant in a far away place with no job and no support system. If I left, he would have taken my child. I know because it happened in his family. He learned to go after the child. It’s leverage to crush the chump even more.

      Now that my child is school age, I’m prepared to lose half of that parent time. It’s my punishment for being chumped. My state pushes for 50/50 custody and klootzak still might fight for primary custody. He wants to hurt me the only way he knows how. I have to live with the fact that the courts want kids to have a wonderful relationship with both their parents, even when FWs like klootzak seek to undermine the other parent at every turn.

      I don’t regret staying through the toddler years, though. Good memories were made and now kiddo can talk so I am less fearful of klootzak saying or doing something awful on his time. I have a good counselor and I’m ready to help kiddo deal with it all as best I can.

      And when kiddo is old enough, I will give the same advice. When you realize you are with a cheater, don’t hesitate to cut bait and run.

      • MWX, Thank you for this. I need to reach the place where I am not afraid of what happens to my kids at Wasband’s place. It tears me up inside every day.

  • One question to ask yourself, do you expect someone to stay with you if you cheated? I know if I cheat on my current spouse, he would leave in a heart beat no matter how sorry I was. I wouldn’t expect anything else, because I would have destroyed that bond.

    Why do cheaters always expect the wronged spouse to fix the marriage? They broke it! Like dropping a plate on the floor and it breaks. Sure you can glue it back together, but it will never be the same and one day, it will fall apart again.

    So, I don’t cheat because I love my husband and would never want to hurt him and also, I don’t want to lose him. Cheaters don’t think about the consequences or who they hurt, it’s all about them. If he expects you to stay, it’s still all about him and his pain, not yours.

    • Love the broken plate analogy. I have reglued a broken glass hummingbird feeder several times over the years. This year I said why bother & tossed it. 😪

  • “This may surprise CN, but I don’t think once a cheater, always a cheater. ”

    I would agree that a cheater can probably go on to be in a faithful relationship.

    That said, I think that someone who lies for years will probably continue to lie. And, even if the person turns over a new leaf and vows never to lie again, I’m not sure how a new partner (especially the person who participated in the infidelity abuse-aka AP) can ever fully trust that person.

    Maybe they work it out. I don’t know. It’s just so hard for me to imagine. Trust and honesty are important to me. I couldn’t live with someone I can’t trust. That’s my boundary.

    • The affair partners are crazy, that’s why. They’re disordered, too. They fall for the “He/she cheated cause they were in such a crappy marriage” line. Therefore, they are an exception and it won’t happen to them. They’re better than the spouse, they truly believe it.

      • Before reading the recent rash of studies on “mate poachers and the dark triad,” I already knew side dishes are disordered from personal encounters. At least the studies explain why and it was actually helpful in processing various event I experienced after college.

        I worked in a “creative” field where people are often really open in discussing their icky personal lives, thinking it makes them “groovy,” “progressive,” and “fascinating.” But there was nothing progressive about the male-dominated and top-down organization of the industry. It was more like a feudal fiefdom in that sense, where the feudal lords fuck the peasants at will.

        I noticed that the “peasants” (mostly women but also occasional manwhores) who were well adapted to that dynamic were invariably the biggest backstabbers, triangulators, kleptos, etc. , and could become psycho or even violent when thwarted, especially when they drank (they usually had substance issues). Genuine split personalities.

        I don’t include in this genuine victims of coercion and harassment, who sadly often quit and disappeared and usually were loath to tell anyone in case the scandal trailed them. The “capitulators” were also perpetual victims and it can’t have been a great way to live, but they differed by a landslide from hapless targets of abuse of power. Still, at first I really couldn’t tell the difference.

        Having been raised by feminist parents, when I was young and wanted to save the world, I suffered from a serious case of “rescuer hubris.” I would assume these (often older) women telling me about their shmoopie woes just needed self-esteem boosting and had feminism-deficits (lol). I would see them as purely victims of older, often married honchos.

        Poor damsels in distress. What a dumbass I was. I didn’t understand that the simpering, dependant-seeming personalities of this type were performative, not real– just masked aggression adapted to appeal to power-mongering creeps.

        No good deed goes unpunished– these women would always turn on me or other women like jackels or expose their own aggressive duality in some other way. One giveaway should have been the typical scathing attitudes towards the wives and partners of their married creeps. But, der, I chalked it up to “brainwashing,” not theur own inherent need to bully, betray and victimize.

        Anyway, live and learn. I became less inclined to try to rescue the town bicycles. I’m not so arrogant to think anyone that disordered is in my paygrade.

        • It sucks when the curtain falls; however, you’re not dealing with that carnival shit-show anymore. Congratulations for getting free of it. I think you’re right. There are a bunch of sociopaths, psychos out there and they love, love, love the drama. I don’t get it. Maybe that’s why I’m a chump. Right after my divorce, when the dick married his skank, I was so anguished whenever anybody said, “They deserve each other.” I could only think, “Why not me? What’s wrong with me?” Now…, without a doubt I’m the first to say, “They deserve each other!” They are a mess! Total mess and I think they revel in the drama. I’m so glad I’m free of it.

    • Agree.

      Some do appear to work it out. I know through my daughter in law and son (later on) that my ex fw cheated on schmoops no long after they married. I can’t remember now, but I want to say about a year or so into the marriage.

      She put on a show of leaving him, but went back. He I am sure took it further underground. I believe she settled for the meal ticket, and he needed a chump in place so it worked. A few years later by the time he retired. (he retired a couple years on an early retirement plan, with a reduced benefit) Not long after that his health took a bad turn and I assume by that time they were both resigned that this is as good as it gets.

      Did they love each other, well I would bet she did have some real affection for him, (likely mixed with fear of losing her meal ticket) as for him who knows. He was in bad shape, but he had already lost everything they had to gambling, (bankruptcy) and a year before he died saddled her with huge debt on an RV that costs over 100 thousand dollars. (who gives out these loans to people like that) Left her living in a run down trailer in Florida. My son asked him when he was buying it, how he was going to pay it off and he said “don’t care, I will be dead”. Doesn’t scream love to me. But everyone has their own definition I guess.

      I didn’t find out a lot of this until just before and right after he died, as my son talked to me a lot as he was going through his dad dying. My son told me “Mom, I love dad; but I don’t understand why he does the things he does”. Well of course, no rational person ever could.

    • I agree that I couldn’t live with someone I can’t trust. Unfortunately, I’m also discovering that it’s very hard to coparent with someone I don’t trust.

  • This has all helped me so much thank you all. I tried for over 3 years but just couldn’t keep going. He still wants the marriage. I don’t. I can’t trust him, I don’t feel safe with him, I don’t like the person he is and I don’t respect him. Not much of a basis for a relationship. Three, you didn’t choose this, none of us did. You have every right to choose what feels right for you and only you know. Trust that. As CL says you only get one life. I refuse to gift him whatever time I have left on this earth. Whatever you do with the rest of your time is your gift to yourself. Take care of YOU.

    • I am currently in battle Royale (divorce). I stayed after DDay #1, which FW was having an emotional affair (rolls eyes here). He completely lovebombed me begging me to stay. And was everything and more during this phase. At the time we’d been married for 20 years and had 3 teenage children. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and the treatment as everyone knows is harsh. At the time I wasn’t sure I’d survive and spackled like a goodun. After DDay #2, which was only a year later and apparently only a couple of suggestive texts and a bunch of flowers (eyes roll again), I stayed. FW again was everything and more to me. DDay #3 happened July 4th 2020 at this point we were just shy of celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary. I did not stay. I remained suspicious and hyper vigilant throughout the last 11 years of our mirage which was exhausting. Most of the time I didn’t understand why I felt the way I did. I understand now. If I could go back I would say to myself get your house in order, fondly known here as lining up your ducks, then get the fuck out. 😁

      You’ve wasted 3 years, don’t waste another minute.

      Hugs to everyone here

      • A lot of us stayed too long for various reasons that made sense at the time—money, kids, Stockholm syndrome etc. Cancer is one hell of a reason. No eye rolls from me!

        I hope you’re health has improved.

      • Hoping you are happier and healthier now. Good luck with the battle. I have a few more ducks to get in line, myself. 😉 Don’t regret those decisions. Kids and illness plus just being gaslit so you couldn’t see your way out of the situation clearly… I totally get it. Look forward to better times ahead!

    • Same, we tried for a few years after Dday. He very much wanted to stay married.

      I never looked at him the same way, I didn’t trust anything he told me, even simple things. I caught him in several minor lies about finances and I was devastated.

      He was too friendly with our children’s friend’s mothers and that would give me chest pain.

      We were never the same couple, the old us died. The ease, the intimacy, was mangled.

      NotWorth.It.

      • Mitz I do believe I am in your old shoes right now. It’s been since April 2020 and a struggle ever since. Sure we’ve had a few laughs. Even a couple nice trips.
        Intimacy has been stolen. It feels so different and awful at best. I don’t want it yet still need it. Or do I?
        The cheapain after witnessing him being overly friendly. God dont I know it. Just wanted to hug tou when I read that.
        And everyone here. Thanks for sharing and I am so I INCREDIBLY SORRY that we’re here however I do know and see it’s all about learning and growing. I am beside myself.
        Body hurts every day. Heavy chest. I’m doing all the inner work. I’ve got an arsenal of “tools” yet I haven’t fully followed my gut in fear of the deep dark days that will come♥️
        Hugs and peace to you ALL

        • Shann:

          You are young and I hope you will do what is best for you. My first Dday was in the 70’s and I thought I needed to give him a second chance; I did still love him. We had some great trips and fun over the years but also some times when I felt ignored and that he did not have my back. Over the years we both developed health problems, him more so now than me. Last year during covid I found out there was an EA in the 70’s with a serious X and another betrayal (not a sexual relationship). Now I feel like it is too late to start over and also I would be considered a real POS if I separated from someone seriously ill. My love and respect for him has seriously diminished but there are still feelings there. Bitterness has gone way up. Everyone thinks he is the best guy around. He is a good guy but just wasn’t what I was looking for. I thought and still do think I deserve someone that puts me first and someone who thinks I am the love of his life. I feel cheated that I spent 5 decades with someone who does not understand what I deserved. I can not leave him when he is unable to stay alone. We live in Independent Living and it would also be awkward as it would be beneficial to each of us to stay here. We have invested a lot of money in our apartment and we do not own it because of the type facility it is. One of us would have to do another “buy in” and it would be terribly awkward. There is not another facility that offers the long-term benefits, etc. that we both need. I know TMI. Sorry. I just mean it gets harder in a lot of cases the longer you go after a Dday(s). I certainly resent not knowing before we invested in current living situation what I found out last year. I feel like my best options were taken away from me including finding someone who would put me first. Best of luck to you.

      • “I caught him in several minor lies about finances and I was devastated.”

        You bring up another excellent point here. Cheaters are dishonest, and affairs are bad enough and 100% a dealbreaker – but their dishonesty spills over into every facet of their lives and that puts us in danger too.

        How can you ever feel safe with this person not knowing what they’ll do next? Drain all your bank accounts? Disappear one day? Get investigated by the feds?

        I’ve unfortunately known several cheaters, and the common thread was they were all shamelessly dishonest people. They had no loyalty to anyone and thought rules were for plebes. A few ended up in trouble with the authorities for fraud, tax evasion, and other criminal activity.

  • We are often so hard on ourselves, and stay because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do. But it’s time for you to be happy. Hugs and more hugs

  • I feel compelled to specifically say that when the cheater was faced with this sort of pain and challenging feeling about the marriage, the cheater’s choice was to cheat, yet as the chump now faces them, the chump is choosing to think it through, ask for perspective, and, if the chump ultimately decides to move on, the chump’s intent is to end it before moving on.

    This chump is already giving substantially more to the relationship, while in the midst of considering leaving it, than the cheater gave while claiming to be completely invested in it.

    Definitely not the jerk, or a jerk, or in any way out of line.

    If the cheater feels it’s at all feasible to forgive a cheater, then it absolutely follows that it’s also feasible to forgive the chump for ending their participation in the relationship in an honest way.

    It’s OK to feel done with a relationship. What’s not OK is to deliberately deceive the other person to deal with those feelings. THAT is what a jerk does.

    • Exactly.

      I went to therapy and talked to him.

      He went to Craigslist and massage parlors and God knows where else and talked about me.

      Of all the zillions of cuts he intentionally inflicted, any one of them are in and of themselves fatal.

      Signing papers is coming soon. I’ll be reading today’s blog the morning of.

      • Yes – the cheater talks ABOUT us and the marriage to other people and not TO US about the marriage and other people.

        The cheater knowingly removed our agency entirely in order to give the cheater the power advantage.

        We repay this grave injustice inflicted upon us and the family unit by refusing to reconcile, divorcing the cheater while also serving formal and final consequences like no contact. Simple really.

      • Velvet I’ve been reading your posts of wisdom for a very long time. A huge hug to you and thanks for always sharing your experiences♥️

  • All the signs were there, but I never knew for sure. My divorce attorney (in his late 60’s) said that he had never had or heard of a case of someone who took off like that who didn’t have an inkling to play around or someone waiting for them. I did know that he had shattered my trust by taking off after we decided to separate. People who truly want to work on things don’t do that. I was left to deal with the chaos including two very upset college students and shocked friends. I had been a SAHM mostly for twenty years, so my job prospects were shakey. He said he’d pay support but hinted at times that he might quit that. For what it’s worth, he had been talking divorce for over a decade, sometimes saying that he would make me homeless in the process. He even had his attorney picked out ahead of time.

    In the end, it was just too many blows and too many questions about what he was doing with his time and his level of commitment. His family thinks that I am a major jerk for refusing to reconcile and see him as the victim. I’m biding my time. I think the truth may eventually come out.

    • Elsie- what a HORRIBLE person your ex is! Would make you homeless? I feel like making him headless. We know he’s apparently moral-less and brainless.

  • What keeps bringing me back to center and grounds me in reality and reminds me how he will treat future romantic partners, is not how he treated me. It’s how he has treated our daughter, his own child. He blew up the bird nest. He left town and got a nice apartment, with all the amenities and a swimming pool, for himself and the Craigslist cockroach. His living arrangements did NOT include his own child. He did NOT get a place in town with a bedroom for our daughter. He became a scarce presence in his own daughter’s life and prioritized a lowlife woman who also does not care about our daughter being destroyed.

    It’s odd to me that this part of the story is what proves to me that he is the jerk more than what he did to me. That the Craigslist cockroach is the jerk, not me. I could not imagine having an affair, leaving town and leaving my family in my dust, and becoming an infrequent visitor in our daughter’s life, thinking what I did was OK and justifiable, and thinking a man who would cheat with me was a step up in life. Somehow it’s how he has treated our daughter that keeps me looking at this the right way, and keeps the JERK labels firmly attached to the traitor and his “Sole Mate”.

    I have no interest in dating a married or otherwise committed man, so there is no way I can stay married to a man who dates. The path is clear, and for that I am grateful.

    In my own future, I will never date someone who has a history of infidelity. If they’re up front about it, I will have to end the relationship. If they lied about it and I find out about it, that’s even more reason to use the launch codes. So the whole “better for someone else” thing is a completely moot point for me. The rap sheet does not get expunged no matter what he does in the future, and if some woman wants him with what did to his former family on his rap sheet, fine by me. I think people who are cool with cheating belong together and stay in their own lane.

    • Rather than “once a cheater always a cheater”, I say “once a cheater and you get blacklisted.”

      Maybe a murderer only murders once. But I think, as with cheating, once that line is crossed, even if they never cross that line again, their trustworthiness is forever in question. And it should be.

      I just watched Chris Rock in “Tamborine”, a recorded performance. Admitting to cheating, and dispensing relationship advice in the same show. I thought he was hilarious, in a way I am sure he had not intended.

      • I never watched CR, but I have always thought ex cheaters/and their whores dispensing marriage advice, or as in the case of my ex cheater going all in on religion was alternately laughable and cringe worthy.

        My ex even started going to school to become a preacher. I am betting he never disclosed his past to the new churches he went to. Lol.

        eventually he got run out of two different churches, so I am guessing they weren’t as gullible as he had hoped.

    • “I think people who are cool with cheating belong together and stay in their own lane.”

      Yep. Per my daughter in law schmoops kids both have treated women horribly. The oldest abandoned his first wife with a small child (barely walking). Schmoops accepted it, and was horrible to his first wife, after all her son didn’t want her; so I guess she assumed no one would.

      I think it was a surprise to her that my son never accepted her as a replacement mom for me. It is likely why she turned on them instead of acting like a decent whore and at least treating them with respect.

      In her diseased mind since my ex dumped me, well it stands to reason our son would choose her over me.

      It is a long story, but in short when the final blow up with my son came, whore made the comment that people should keep their commitments. What a joke coming from a whore. Anyway, my son said I never broke a commitment. She said your dad said you would take care of me (herself) if anything happened to him.

      My son asked his dad what the hell she was talking about, he said oh I just told her that to shut her up when she was complaining about losing our house.

      My son told them, she has sons she is their responsibility. I have my own mom, and as long as you (dad) are alive you won’t starve, but I never made any promise to take her on.

      FW did call him the next day and apologize for the fight, but the relationship had been ruined, and though my son did go on to help them if he could when they needed help, it was never the same again.

      My son had bought their house at market value, and when they went for the closing he found a loan that his dad tried to sneak into the deal. So my son walked away, and they had to redo the contract. That is the kind of person he either had become or always was. He would try to screw over his own son.

      My son confronted him and he just laughed and said, oh well I gave it a try.

      Had my son not been a broker, (though he didn’t handle the sale) he likely would have never noticed the small print.

      Just a note: I only found out about a lot of this, just recently; (starting about three years ago, when they were acting out against my son) so it was conversation without pain on my part; (other than pain for my son) as my life had gone on in a different and content/calm direction.

      So yeah, as the old adage goes “they deserved each other” and I am glad they ended up together.

        • Yep, and to be honest I was surprised. I mean I knew they were in desperate situation of their own making. My son was simply buying their house, and he was going to let them live in the attached apartment at low cost, so they could get on their feet. And the asshole still tried to screw him over.

          I knew he was a lying asshole, but his son? He would have been living in a tent somewhere had it not been for my son.

          Needless to say that arrangement didn’t last but a few years. FW and the whore got so nasty and disagreeable, my son pulled the plug, sold out and moved to an apartment.

          They fled to Florida to I assume try and set up a new con and bilk someone else.

          I never would have believed my ex would pull that shit. I mean I knew the whore would, from what I heard from other folks when it all happened to me, she was a con woman who had screwed several married men for “gifts”.

          But, I guess he was who he was and when he couldn’t con me anymore, he found his level.

    • It’s one thing if they treat us like crap, but if they treat our babies badly, they leapfrog over the run-of-the-mill cheater assholes.

      As time goes on, I’m less upset about the infidelity itself (although, well, less than the heat of a thousand suns is still a lot) and more upset/stunned at how treated me and our kids FOR YEARS.

      The kids were narcissistic extensions of him. If they did well, he basked in the glory. If they made even a minor mistake, he pounced. If they did too well, he got jealous. He was moody, mean, and surly. Occasionally, he was kind. Breadcrumbs! They now tell me they emotionally disengaged from him years ago, which is why it was so easy for them (as adults) to go NC after Dday.

      They are in therapy trying to process all this.

      I’m in therapy, too. Of course, I feel guilty that I didn’t better protect them. I’m working on self-compassion.

      • That is what I need to address in therapy. I have so much guilt that I agreed to have a child and brought a kid into this horrible situation with a klootzak for a father.

        I worry that our child will end up a mess because of learning this narcissistic craziness from his father. I wish I had a magical elixir to prevent him being fooled. All I can do is be authentic and get the counseling going.

        It’s sad that we can divorce and extricate them from our lives and yet there is so much fallout and recovery to address to get healthy.

  • Thank you for this. I have been dealing with so much guilt the past 4 months since DDay. I considered reconciliation for about 1 week as he minimized and soft pedaled like the best of ’em! I had to go into marriage police mode to get a version of the truth, and as it started coming out, I knew I was done. I’m still dealing with the guilt of leaving though. Someone said to me “Do you really want to give up 28 years of marriage for an affair that only lasted 3 months?” and I can’t get that out of my mind.

    • People have walked away from marriages where trust was destroyed by five minutes of sex with another person.

      I’m not sure there’s an agreed timeframe with a cut-off point, after which it’s okay to leave. If it was three months and one day, would that be better?

      Thing is:

      1) it was probably much longer than three months;
      2) there may have been other dodgy behaviors in your marriage that you were willing to let slide, but which now make much more sense;
      3) This is the only affair you know about/he’s admitted to;
      4) No one just wakes up one day and decides to have an affair, out of the blue. There’s been months and probably years of speculation, fantasy, and covert planning about what he’d do if the opportunity presented itself.

      I don’t know your situation, but potentially all of these actions on his part may have also weakened the strength of your marriage.

      • Thank you Lola! It’s hard to read your reply as this foolish Chump still loves him. But you are 100% correct. Even though I was blindsided, there were things that I spackled over, ignored, pushed to the back of my mind. I need to focus on that. Thanks again for replying.

        • You can love him till the day you die if you really want.

          But you don’t have to live with him or stay married to him

          You can forgive him as much as you want.

          But you don’t have to live with him or stay married to him.

          You can coparent with him amicably if you want, and if he’s reasonable.

          But you don’t have to live with him or stay married to him.

        • Do you still love him, or the person you thought you married?

          I thought I still loved him after D-Day #1. But as time went on, I realized I loved that “decent and trustworthy man who valued honesty” – someone who never existed. He played a role, and I loved the guy he pretended to be. Love the real him? No way. To hide just the first affair involved hundreds of lies (including lies by omission). The real him is not a man I could admire or respect or love ever again.

          • I could have written this word for word. No thanks. He put on a master performance and I feel Stoopid for believing for 40 years the act was real. But now I see the creep he really is.

      • 100% what my divorce solicitors and psychiatrist told me about adultery. It’s very very rare for a cheater to just wake up one morning and suddenly go from being faithful after X amount of years in a marriage to suddenly cheating. Working with my psychiatrist has identified many many red flags from my ex wife’s behaviour over our 15 years. Psychiatrist believes she may have a personality disorder.

        She was caught cheating with dozens as many here know but in 2009 she was sneaking out off the house at 1am etc and all the signs of her cheating where there. I was stuck in a foreign country as an immigrant reliant on her with no friends, family or support network so I was an easy chump to chump at the time. I was not able to get red got proof. It that situation had happened in the UK, she’d been divorced in 2009. Then flash forward to 2020 and she gets caught cheating with dozens at the same time and on tinder and the sheer level of her pathological lying. She did not just wake up at 15 years and suddenly become that way. She has always been a disordered pathological liar with a personality disorder. I was just so so stupid and naive I never seen it. Now via therapy and looking back over her messages etc, it’s completely unbelievable her much she lies. She lies about everything. Absolutely everything she lies about.

    • I am typically a lurker on this site (first post!), but I had the urge to reply because I have also been drawn in by this sunk cost fallacy. I have been with my cheater husband for 20+ years and recently signed a separation agreement. I wanted to reassure you and give you more confidence in your decision.

      To combat the thought that you would be wasting 28 years of investment, I would think of the marriage as a safety net. For 20+ years, I rightfully thought that it kept me aloft and safe. But for a time, my cheater tore at that safety net and frayed some of the rope. The safety net may hold me for another 20+ years. Maybe it will stand up to high winds and anything that shakes it. But can I really trust it to keep me safe again? Would my marriage really withstand the weight of any future troubles? Can I still trust it to keep me safe?

      I can’t. And it’s okay not to bet the rest of your life on something that has already failed once.

      • This makes so much sense to me EmotionalTsunami. I need to focus on the fact that I’m not giving up 28 years of marriage, he did! And you’re right, the safety net is frayed and I can’t trust it to keep me safe. Your feedback really helps. Thank you!

        • Exactly, ExWorkWife! It is not a matter of *you* giving up. The key thing to remember is that the cheater made a *deliberate* choice to weaken your marriage (your safety net).

      • i’m with you EmotionalTsunami on the sunk cost fallacy. 30 years in my case, and i’m 6 months into my next life. it’s hard to shake but when you present the safety net, i’m there with you, hanging by a thread.

        my h gave me the ILYBINILWY after my latest confrontation about his alcohol use–he’s a high-functioning alcoholic and executive at THE COMPANY. then he proceeded to flirt with/have dinner with/?? his direct hire at THE COMPANY. we’re separated now and working through the arrangements and i’m clear now on his lack of commitment to our marriage and our kids. but he’s committed to THE COMPANY.

        fuck that guy.

        • If you’re referring to the “company” I think you are, there sure are a lot of FW’s there. Also agree with EmotionalTsunami on the safety net analogy. I posted here years ago (different email at the time, CL) about my h’s emotional affair. I got amazing replies from CL and from all of you at CN, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave because of that safety net. I’m still in it and there’s no more infidelity, but the narcissistic abuse is fraying that safety net. Spinach@35 seems to have a similar situation to mine but she got out. Thank you for all the great reading, I just got back into this site a few months ago.

      • Not only is it ok to not bet the rest of your life on something that has already failed once, it is ok not to bet one more day or less on something that has failed and a marriage that is not safe for you. The cheating starts when the cheater first seriously considers cheating, not the day the cheater first acted on the thought. As others have pointed out, no one gets up one day and says I am going to start cheating today.

        Great posts Emotional Tsunami and Welcome to CN.

    • Well, you have no idea what went on for 28 years, for starters. Which I’m sure you know.

      The cheater had no trouble crapping all over 28 years of marriage for an affair that lasted three months (that you know of).

      Do we really want to sentence anyone to life in prison for one choice that might have lasted a few minutes of their entire life?

      Do you really want to throw out the whole pitcher of (insert your favorite beverage here) just because you found out your husband put arsenic in it?

      HE threw it away. Not you.

      You may not be able to get that out of your mind because your mind is trying to make sense of nonsense. It’s victim-blaming, IMHO.

      #faultylogic

      • If you owned the Mona Lisa for 28 years, and paid millions for it, and then found out it was a forgery, and could get your money back, with interest, what would you do?

        You were married for 28 years. You found out your marriage was a mirage, for how long you do not even know and will never know. You cannot get your time back. All that does not add up to “stay longer” for me. You won’t get your time back but you can have control and a say over the time you have left. Staying with cheater, you won’t.

        Cheating is abuse. Hold out for reciprocal love.

        • That is an excellent analogy.
          I had this thought…25 years….isn’t that past behaviour worth something?
          You and others here helped me see that those years are a sunk cost, and not lost.
          We had 25 pretty good years together and have 2 great kids. The compromises of that were worth it then.

          They were not worth it once I found out he was cheating.

          My ex and I split on d day and never reconciled. That was 2.5 years ago. I am more happy and free than I ever imagined. I don’t miss ex. He came and watched a hockey game here during my sons grad. He is like an old acquaintance, who I see for the flawed human he is. I am deeply thankful all you wise people helped me see he could be that AND I could still get divorced.

      • Thank you Velvet — you are so right. I do not know the truth and need to come to grips with that reality. I also need to remember that HE threw our marriage away, not me. I will get there… Appreciate you responding.

        • Infidelity recovery is a mind game and a very long one.

          The mindeffing we sustain goes deep, far, wide, high, and way back. It doesn’t help that outsiders jump in with their own mindeffing.

          Stay here and read daily…it’s where the deprogramming happens and it’s a process. I was in my mirage for 27 years and what I realize now, that I did not see, three years and nine months out, blows my
          mind.

          ❤️

    • “Do you really want to give up 28 years of marriage for an affair that only lasted 3 months?”

      In my opinion, the time involved is irrelevant. What *is* relevant is that the person you loved and trusted above all else, made the choice to lie to you, plot against you, gaslight you, and in my case, steal from me.

      The actual time span this took place within, matters nothing. The trust is broken, and as Tracy says, they can’t unring the bell, they can’t unfuck the whore. The lies, the betrayal, the knowledge they planned it all and didn’t give a fuck about you, so long as they got their dick wet, will always be there, and can’t be erased.

      Three months, three weeks, three days; it’s not the length of time that matters, it’s the deliberate deception.

      My ex fuckwit said something similar, “so you’re just going to throw 23 years down the drain?”

      Me: “No, I didn’t throw 23 years down the drain, you did, when you chose to fuck your rat faced whore.”

      ExWorkWife, please get that shite out of your mind. *He*chose to give up 28 years of marriage for some new tits and a new twat, not you.

      ((hugs)) 💕

      • I liken it to getting shot. It takes a fraction of an instant for the bullet to leave the gun, but the time it takes is irrelevant if I’m still ending up in the hospital.

    • The question of whether you really want to give up on 28 years of marriage is back-ass-wards. The question ought to be, “do you really want to give up the rest of your life to this fractured relationship?”

      If you bought a car with a lifetime warranty and then it both broke and you discovered there was no warranty, would you decide you needed to keep it as your only car forever just because it had been reliable for the first 28 years?

      Years ago, the advice columnist Ann Landers used to say the only question you needed to answer before getting a divorce is “Would you be happier with or without this partner?” If you are confident you will be happier alone (don’t assume a new partner), then move on. You don’t owe anything to a partner who has cheated on you.

      • Right. You don’t owe anything to a partner who cheats. And don’t let the cheater blame you. Many will try to argue that we are at fault for ending things because of our bad reactions: “It’s not what I did; it’s your reaction to it,” as CL explains in LAC;GAL.

        Gaslighting and blameshifting are particularly cruel manipulative tactics. While we’re reeling from news of the betrayal and trying to come to terms with what is real, our cheaters further distort our reality. Shame on them.

        I fell for it…until I found CL and my 💪.

      • I agree. I gave the dick a second chance and lost another 4 years of my life smoking the hopium pipe. My advice is to divorce immediately. If the cheater really wants to change his/her life, then let them. However, I don’t believe that a leopard can change its spots. We wouldn’t be chumps if we had married people with honor and integrity.

    • HE wanted to give up 28 years of marriage for an affair that only lasted 3 months. That’s why he said screw this 28 year marriage and went out and screwed someone else and lied to you about it. That’s what you have to remember and what you can tell people who say such stupid, insensitive things.

      I’ve heard the same crap. I don’t talk to any of those people anymore but towards the end of those “friendships” I started getting really snarky. “He thought it was worth blowing our marriage the fuck up for.” and a shrug.

  • You gave it a shot for 3 years but you can’t get over the betrayal and that is AOK. Yes, your husband is remorseful and has been doing all the right stuff, but he killed the marriage when he cheated.

  • THIS, this!!!!! This is the entire point of infidelity. Please, re-read Chump Lady’s entire post like 100 times, and then backwards, and then again very slowly. Every single word. I know this from trying to heal myself for over a decade.
    Judeo-Christian stories tell us from birth that everyone can change and be forgiven, but this idea is disjointed. Is your cheater a good person?! Why yes! Does he deserve love? Yes! Was his affair meaningless to him? Yes! No big deal to him. Did it utterly destroy your relationship with him forever?! Why, yes! Absolutely!! You can’t unbreak a marriage. Is it YOUR fault that it is not possible to re-griw a severed limb? No, it is not you fault. You tried your best to do it and it didn’t work. In desperation, you convinced your husband that you CAN re-grow your limb with the power of your hard work, your willpower, and your love for him, but it somehow did not work. We all THINK we can regrow severed limbs, but no one can. It is simply not possible. Move on with someone who didn’t irreparably destroy your relationship. It’s no one’s fault, after all is said and done. You can still love him if you need to, but you can’t be his wife anymore. There are no truer words than this: Just Because You Can technically survive infidelity does not mean you will ever be the same person, ever again. You will be broken and bitter like me. You will be in a prison. It’s no one’s fault in the end, Honestly.

    • I do think it is possible for a cheater to reform. But, it is rare; and even rarer for the original marriage to survive in a healthy way for the betrayed. Is it possible, I think so, but again very rare.

      I don’t think losing an arm or leg is a good comparison, because the leg or arm did not do this to you, it was an outside force, or at the most a disease which again was not a personal attack against you.

      You can not regrow a lost arm, but you can rebuild and learn to work around it and have a good life with what you have left. But, with someone who betrayed you, it is harder than that; because they intentionally caused this harm.

      So I guess what I am saying is living with a reformed cheater is harder than learning to live with a missing arm or leg. Doable, sure; but very hard and very rare.

      • Susie Lee, what I was trying to say is: ” but why even try?” What is the point of even trying to stay with the person who intentionally did this to you? Do you see what I mean by that? I was trying to say that the real question is not “is it possible to make the marriage work” but instead, “is it a good idea to TRY to be in a marriage with a person who would abuse you?” Why is reconciliation ever the ultimate goal? I mean, some people put fire sticks into their mouths, climb rock walls without ropes, and purposefully cut themselves, but is it a good idea to do so?

        • We agree on that.

          In the very beginning, all I wanted was for him to return and say; “oh Susie, I messed up, please forgive me”

          He did do that, or at leaset mouthed words to that effect. I let him come back, it lasted a little less than a week. It was horrible.

          I kicked him out, I don’t know for sure why he wanted to come back, though I am fairly certain I know.

          Down the line he circled back again, preacher in tow. I said no thanks. He had stayed at the fair too long, and I am so fortunate that he did.

          So yeah, my advice to a baby chump would be think long and hard before you let a snake back in your home, no matter what that snake says.

          • I refer to my ex as The Python. Tall and chubby and definitely a snake. Skilled at sweet talk and bullshitting in general.

            During in-house separation, a CN friend asked if I still had the couch infestation (he slept on my couch). After several miserable months the Python slithered out! The friend suggested I burn that couch. Hahaha!

            • Lol.

              Oh I don’t think I ever posted this on CN: He had a big mans chair that his mother had bought him. It was a nice chair. Anyway, we had been intimate many times in that chair through the years.

              After he left, I tugged that sucker out of the house and left it on the lawn with a sign that said. FREE.

              Someone picked it up almost immediately. I never saw who took it. He never mentioned that chair. I never thought of it, but it could have been him who got it. Anyway, I made my statement.

  • Three Long Years,

    Don’t beat yourself up. You didn’t waste 3 years of his life; rather you expended 3 years of your life trying to fix something that he – and he alone – broke.

    If it’s not working for you then walk away without a second thought and without a trace of guilt; he got 3 years of your life that he had no right to expect.

    LFTT

    • This is a great point. How/why do they expect ANYTHING.
      Why feel guilty if I’m now not the same.
      I often think “what the hell am I doing”…
      How is this going to go? Then I remember I will be the one to have to take action. For change

      • Shann,

        I’m a few years out from D Day (over 6 years ago) and the divorce being finalised (over 4 years ago) and so I think that I can be reasonably objective about this. From my perspective:

        – They expect everything because they are entitled assh*les. They don’t need a reason, it’s just what they do.
        – We feel guilty because we (the Chumps) have always been the ones who were expected to try and “fix” things; even if they were broken by others.

        Hope this helps.

        LFTT

  • I used to think my husband was an honorable man and I greatly respected him. After Dday you start the long process of finding out that the man you married was nothing like what he pretended to be. It is ultimately not cheating (for me) but character. At the end of the day, it is the weakness, the cowardice, the lack of any kind of empathy, the constant lying, the gaslighting, the manipulation, his resentment of me, his demonizing me to others, his rage, his insane moral equivalence attempts, his shallowness, his infantile need to always be the center of attention, his absolute lack of accountability, and so on. His penis sliding into an stranger’s vagina? Bad. But all the other things are worse and the ultimate reason for leaving. In retrospect I wish I knew that Dday would be the point of highest post-knowledge respect for him. Because as shocking as it was, what I found about his character after was worse.

    • Amen, PrincipledLife! My story would read very much the same…

      I used to think my wife was an honorable woman and I greatly respected her. After Dday, you start the long process of finding out that the woman you married was nothing like what she pretended to be. It is ultimately not cheating (for me) but character. At the end of the day, it is the weakness, the cowardice, the lack of any kind of empathy, the constant lying, the gaslighting, the manipulation, her resentment of me, her demonizing me to others, her rage, her insane moral equivalence attempts, her shallowness, her infantile need to always be the center of attention, her absolute lack of accountability, and so on. Her vagina willingly accepting another man’s penis? Bad. But all the other things are worse and the ultimate reason for leaving. In retrospect, I wish I knew that Dday would be the point of highest post-knowledge respect for her. Because as shocking as it was, what I found about her character after was worse.

    • PrincipledLife says:
      “It is ultimately not cheating but character.”

      Cheating is ample evidence of bad character. Those other things you list are also indicators of bad character, good enough reasons to leave someone, excellent reasons to not be tied to them legally. But cheating by itself is indicative of bad character. Cheating does not happen in a vacuum. It goes along with constant lying, gaslighting, manipulation, resentment, shallowness and lack of accountability because those things are required to maintain and hide an affair.

  • I think we should stop using the phrase “throwing away 20 years of marriage….” Nothing was lost. Technically you were married for that amount of time and it was probably worthwhile for some of that time. It was a life experience, and now it’s over and you are free to have other, better life experiences. Just become a marriage ends does not mean it was a failure. It should not be our goal to hold onto something unchanging. Just because something “stayed the same” it does not necessarily mean it was better than something that changed.

    • I agree! The X number of years stands; what we are doing is refusing MORE years of pain, suffering, spackling, gaslighting, financial abuse, emotional manipulation, disappointment, resentment, being stifled and controlled, robbed of joy. Whatever was good about the prior years STANDS as a testament to our strength, commitment, love, and resilience. What comes after is what WE MAKE OF IT.

  • I am happy Mrs CL shared this and hope you’re having a wonderful vacation💛
    I’ve not commented in a while due to work, trying to stay sane and the fact that my husband is still here (1.5 year since dday) and I feel sort of like the writer. After three years still feeling this way??? Two things:
    1. I am sorry yet happy there’s other people struggling and I am not the only one having mixed feelings (ie: if I leave NOW, am I the jerk?)
    Knowing I’m not but having to explain or even tell anyone may have me looking just as flaky as the cheater husband.
    2. If I could safely get out of this and experience a life without all this heavy pain physical AND mental- just imagine what it will be like.
    He just put money down for a big trip for us. A trip of a lifetime.
    More “guilt”
    Even though I shouldn’t feel that way. I’m just kind and forgiving but DEFINITELY not okay.
    I wanted the writer to know: I just had that same nightmare. He sleeps like a baby while I cry.
    Prayers that we all figure this out and find out true selves

    • That money is money you could be using to start your life of freedom. And, I can’t even tell you how amazing the freedom is,
      I am also sober, and leaving my ex was ALMOST as liberating as putting down the wine. That is HUGE.

      Consider what you want in life? Is it a lying and cheating partner who screwed other women and may still be? It is constant humiliation and embarrassment? Emotional abuse?

      No? Leave. Call the lawyer right now. Take the trip of a lifetime without him.

    • I hope you can step away from the concept of blame–the idea that other people have any valence in regard to judging your marriage and deciding who is the “jerk.”

      One of the things many of us have been frustrated with as we divorced was how much we were blamed. We get blamed for the cheating, for “breaking” up the family, for expecting an equitable financial settlement, for having boundaries about custody issues, etc. You will be portrayed as the “jerk” because getting a divorce ALWAYS results in negative judgments. There was no point where you could have divorced the cheater and avoided such judgments. If you had left right away, you would have been a “jerk” for not giving him a chance. There’s no winning on this issue.

      Do what is best for you.

      • All of this Eilonwy. Both you and PrincipledLife are hitting it solid for me today. Thank you!

        The insane amount of blame that came my way after my ex-cheater abandoned / ran away (and even though this was some time before actual DDay 1) was sky high. So much malice directed at me I thought I would die and I almost did. After DDay 1 though, the blaming, smearing, gaslighting, lying, (by everyone, not just CheaterX himself) went stratospheric. After Divorce, pretty sure it was inter-galactic! It went off the charts at that point. Judgement, rumours, lying, gossip. All the negative things in Pandora’s crazy box came flying out at me at Mach 10. Now, a little over 1 year after the Divorce that I initiated, things are amazingly calm. Whatever judgement or negative vibes are in the ether is just not my circus and absolutely not my monkeys. There is great peace in zero fucks given.

    • I’m so sorry, Shann. 1.5 years and you’re still crying yourself to sleep means that you need to get out of there. Make a break and get on with your life. It’s not worth it. Is he in angst? Or did he just pick up and carry on like it was just a ‘bump in the road’? And even if he is all repentant, you don’t have to stay anymore! You gave it your best shot. Don’t be hard on yourself. And if there’s even one little snag, like you ask, “Where were you when I tried to call and you didn’t answer?” If he gives you just a lame-ass response, he’s still lying through his teeth. He doesn’t respect you because if he did, he wouldn’t have done all the shit he did. You need to love yourself. You deserve respect. And it sounds that as long as he’s still in your life, you’re getting smaller and smaller. I’ll say a prayer for you, but my prayer will be for you to have the strength to leave.

    • One more thing. You don’t need to care if anyone thinks you’re jerk if you leave him. You don’t need to care about anybody but you. You matter, not others. You’re the one living with it. The others are not. Time to live your life for you. And your husband doesn’t get to have a say in it. He lost his ability to influence your decisions when he stuck his dick in someone else. He made a unilateral decision and now you can to. Start telling yourself this and keep repeating it. If you’re crying at night, you need to get out.

    • Shann that is so hard. But … Did he ask you was it convenient if he cheated?

      I too was in the deciding phase re to end or not to end my 25 year marriage to a lying abuser just when the plans for a big holiday were finalised. Part of my deciding was his entitled, selfish, generally craptacular behaviour while planning the trip. So bad even I, gold star champion chump, noticed it.

      Dear reader, I went on that trip, enjoyed it (years of working round his surliness), came back after the shared component (he stayed in France for 2 more months), planned my exit and left the day after he returned.

      His behaviour on the trip … well let me just observe that we take ourselves with us wherever we go.

      There is never a convenient time. The right time to leave is when you are ready.

      See a lawyer and line up your ducks.

  • I don’t believe in reconciliation.
    Yes, some people stay for financial reasons. Or because they have young children. Or religion. Maybe they even manage to hold things together and not hate their spouse.
    But it never becomes a partnership again. Why would anyone pick the person who humiliated and abused them over a stranger as a partner? No. Trust cannot be rebuilt. Plus, it is all too icky.

    My advised to anyone is to leave. Do whatever it takes to set yourself up for a future life without your ex. Life has way too much to offer to just endure. Being alone is a million times better than being in prison.

    If you are telling yourself any different you are in denial and lying to yourself. This will eventually make you ill.

  • Episode 2 of “Humans” on Netflix covers the heart. It’s a known fact that an emotional trauma such as cheating actually changes the structure of the heart and damages the cells although the damage, unlike a heart attack, is reversible. Who knew?! As I was being gaslit from all sides (XH, X-in laws, cheater-apologists) my heart was in takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Learning about this renewed my fury that XH did this to me.

    Leave a cheater and your heart will literally physically heal itself (back to the lovely shape it’s meant to be— not a sickened, narrow-neck, vase shape called a takotsubo).

    • I am currently wearing a heart monitor and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. My ultrasound showed no physical issues which caused it. Both cardiologists assigned to my case, after talking with me about what’s been going on, agree the cause is stress. Fight or flight floods the body with catecholamine. Sustained fight or flight, familiar to chumps, keeps that catecholamine coming, which my two
      cardiologists agree is the cause of onset. I’m on heart medication.

      Tell that to any idiot who invalidates your anger and calls you bitter. Fuck those fucking blameshifting fuckers.

  • “But you may be borrowing time from a different future you want more than this marriage.” I so wish I’d had the courage to boot my FW 10 years earlier when I was younger. When he was being lazy, not working, mooching and whining. It wasn’t borrowing time; it was losing time. Oh well spilt milk. Hugs all! To the newbies, move on as quickly as you can so you don’t lose more time with a loser! Cut your losses. If he is cheating, you are losing valuable time to create a better life!

    • Perfectly put! My current life partner, who is also a chump, and I talk sometimes about how much further along we’d be in our lives—financially, emotionally, experientially—if we had gotten together a decade sooner instead of spending those years trying to keep things together with our cheaters. We have our present and future, and are having a wonderful time together, but we’re still behind the curve. Ya can’t make more time! It is what it is.

      • True you can’t get more time, but as time goes on you will also have history.

        My H and I do. We have been married 26 years and together for a little over thirty years.

        Assuming neither one of us do something stupid, we have all that now. At the age of 71 and 81, I am pretty confident.

  • Being in the club nobody willingly joins, I’ve had people come to me for advice on leaving their spouses. Shockingly (especially to me) I find my initial reaction is for them to try to save the marriage. Especially if its the generic vapid “I’m not happy” excuse. I tell them Divorce SUCKS!

    Its a giant shit sandwich for the kids. Children having to choose which home to visit on Christmas morning. Separate “family” photos at graduations. Which table enemy parents sit at at their wedding? Who gets the first call at the birth of a baby? Which parent gets to move into the in-law apartment? Who gets the life insurance now? And on and on.

    BOTH spouses (and kids) live a lower standard of living than when married, forever. Previous lifestyle is unrecoverable for many.

    Grey dating is like shopping for a new car in a junk yard. Lots of miles, quite a few dents, and lurking damage that can’t be seen with the naked eye. About half the singles out there were the cheaters (and won’t admit that). We all know how undesirable they are. The other half are the chumps, and a lot of us are damaged goods in different ways. I think once your ability to trust has been destroyed, what hope do you have of trusting a new stranger?

    Admittedly I’m being hypocritical as I filed 5 weeks after D-Day, and would have been quicker, but she stole our marriage certificate (why do they do that?) so I had to order a new certified copy for the court filing.

    Divorce is no guarantee of a happily ever after. Each story is different. I know this is not the content people come to CL to read. I surprise myself sometimes.

    • I know every situation is different, but for me, virtually every aspect of my life was improved by divorce. My EX was not only cheating, but verbally and fiscally abusive. I definitively have a better standard of living than I did before because I am fiscally responsible and my EX was not. My kids have a better standard of living than they did when we were married. My EX spent his salary, my salary, and money we didn’t have. It took three years for me to get my feet on the ground after the divorce, but 10 years later, I am helping kids finance college, and he is living off of his parents.

      Nonetheless, I completely agree that divorce is unspeakably tough on kids, but I don’t regret for a minute that I am modeling healthy self-interest and responsible behavior for my children. If asked, I believe my kids would tell you both that they hated it when their parents divorced and that they completely understand why I chose the divorce. They wish they had a Norman Rockwell family. And so do I. But we didn’t get that, and pretending we did was worse than accepting the truth about what we did have.

      I wouldn’t council a friend to immediately choose divorce either, but I would ask them if the cheating was the only flaw in the marriage or simply a symptom of significant character problems in their spouse. I spackled so many things for years rather than admit my marriage was poor. His cheating gave me the courage to admit how horrible everything was–and, thus, to leave.

      It is wrong to suggest that divorce is a smooth road to joy, but I think it is also wrong to suggest it is any other absolute, like your claim that it leads to lower standards of living for everyone, “forever.”

      I hope you find a life that makes you happy (with or without a new partner).

      • Replace the word “cheating” with the word “hitting” in the post above and see whether the logic still works. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but cheating is straight-up abuse. Also, even the Norman Rockwell families live in at least some pain and disfunction. I’m not trying to be hurtful, but I think divorce is a very good option after infidelity.

        • Replace the word “cheating” with the word “hitting” (or “strangling” or “ripping off marital funds” or “attempting to murder”) and there are still some people for whom the logic still works. (Ask me how I know this.)

          Divorce may or may not lead to lower standards of living *financially* for everyone, and that may or may not be forever. But it usually leads to a better life for the chump and the children in every other way.

    • Well said.

      Had I been much older it would have been different.

      I wanted to say something like that, but couldn’t find the right words.

      Was staying the right thing for me? Absolutely not. I was devastated, but I was still relatively young (40) and in good health, and luckily for me, he was leaving me to marry schmoops; (she was his direct report and he had shit in the proverbial fish bowl) other wise I would have likely waisted the usual five year with him then bailed. While I did not have a high paying job, I had a secure job with lots of chances for advancement, assuming I was willing to relocate, which I was.

      My son was fully emancipated and in the AF states away from us.

      But, sometimes given the behavior of the cheater post Dday, and the situation of the betrayed and dependents staying may well be the best option. Or at least worth the effort to try to save the M.

      And who am I to say that some of them don’t end up with a good though not perfect marriage.

    • Peeing my pants with the grey dating description! Spot on, I appreciate your guts to describe it this way. BEST I’ve ever heard. Adultery is and has always been a deal breaker for me. No question. But I so enjoyed your vivid and entertaining writing. Thank you. Keep em coming’s!!!

  • Obviously each of us have our own unique circumstances that lead us to leave or stay. If you read carefully at the posts the longer you stay the harder it is to leave. Kids, homes, retirements, etc are all great losses in marriage. But keep perspective, He made this choice not you.

    If I had a do over, I wouldn’t have smoked “hopioum” for 30 years and the first Dday was been the deal breaker. I was so shocked at what he decided to share “didnt want to keep anything from me”. Oh my God so confess cheating early on in the marriage. I thought I could manage this damage done to my heart but honestly I couldn’t. After 30 years and god only knows who many there really were. He never changed, he just got better at lying. One day something snapped in my and knew I was done. Truthfully I think my shattered heart was done the first Dday. It was about 5 years into our marriage, but he admitted he had cheated early on. So was that 1, 2, 3, 4 years in and why did he feel entitled to continue on the path?
    Bottom line is he did ALL of this, not me. Character matters and sticking around for 30 + years only hurt me more. If you stay after the most sacred trust has been broken ……. as you have already experienced, then expect it will only feel worse. Divorce sucks either way. Stand up for yourself before you turn around and its 30 years later.

    You already know what you NEED to do.

    Peace

    • I just wanted to say that turning your back on a marriage can be a long process. In my case I stopped trying the conscious-uncoupling 3.5 years into the divorce.

    • I’m so happy you’re out. And I hope you’re finding peace now. Please enjoy your life. I was married for 30 years as well and 6 years later, I’m happier than I ever was when I was married. I took the time to figure out the shit show, figure out why I allowed it to happen (I had no boundaries), and what I’d do in the future. I took the time to heal and I learned to love who I am warts and all, and if somebody mistreats me, or isn’t respectful to me again, then I know without a doubt that I don’t need that person in my life. Since I’ve established boundaries, I can interpret behaviors of some of my work colleagues. Some are flippant. They sarcastically make fun of others. Well, if they’re doing that in front of a work colleague that they barely know, then I have no doubt that’s how they treat their spouse and children. Same for those flirting. If ‘he’s flirting with me’, he’s flirting with other people as well, and more than likely his spouse doesn’t know about the flirting. I’ll say this for what I went through, I’ve learned to see through people better than I before.

  • The belief and value system you were programed with as a child is what you have to examine and decide whether to keep, replace, or alter when you are an adult. It is very difficult, and I believe a true soul searching project.

    I was raised in a stand by your man, don’t quit, reconcile culture. I tried to live with that. It sounds strange, but it wasn’t really the sex with another person that ended my relationship(s). That was the instigating incident that made me finally realize that my cultural bias was not right for me. I really believe it was all the lies, and the theft of resources, and the disrespectful actions and entitlement that contributed to the death of the relationship. Sort of a death by a thousand little cuts, an indication of what the rest of my life would be that actually convinced me that divorce was my best option. Finding out about the cheating was more of a stab in the back, but it did wake me up, and it did make me think about what I wanted. It doesn’t mater how long I took to consider my options, ultimately I had to decide what I truly believed and valued. I had to accept that his behavior was not going to change, even if he could stop cheating (doubtful), and that was not acceptable to me. My EX’s both lied from the beginning, the lies enticed me to date, and then marry them, and continued throughout the marriage(s). The lies, and subsequent cheating and stealing, destroyed any chance of the marriage working.

    In addition, I don’t think you should worry about the dating pool available for a replacement until after you are done with the marriage. The availability of a good partner is another issue, entirely, and determining whether they are good or bad for you is part of the process of fixing your picker. You leave for your own good. If you want to date, or remarry, be sure to do so for your own good. If you feel they are a liar or a cheat, that indicates you probably should not be with that person. If you don’t trust prior to a marriage, why would you marry, and then trust?

    • Thank you Portia, you are so smart. People should leave if they need to leave, and look at everything else as a separate issue. Victims of physical abuse do not get the advice: “don’t leave your abuser because divorce is hard on your kids and your finances”. When a spouse is being abused they should simply leave.

      • Yes, they do get that advice. Even in 2021, believe it or not. They are told not to “break up the family” and “just stop provoking him.”

          • Now that is beyond the usual level of stupidity and guilt tripping battered spouses deal with. That’s flat out insane! Sorry that happened to you. How gut-wrenching that must have been, on top of surviving a murder attempt. I’m so glad you’re safe now, from the murderous fw, and presumably from people who think you should stay with murderous fws.

  • Mia, many victims of physical abuse DO get the advice not to leave their abusers. Stay, and work on the marriage. Fix whatever it is that YOU are doing that MAKES HIM HAVE to hit you. We get that advice even from trusted advisors — parents, pastors, your cousin the Methodist minister, and therapists. We are told it’s our fault he’s “that way,” or that we “knew he was that way, so we’ve made our bed and now we have to lie in it.” Leaving is then even more difficult because you wrongly blame yourself for the abuse you’ve suffered.

    I left when he tried to murder me while TELLING me he was going to “fix you for good.” It’s pretty difficult to mistake that. Yet my father still told me to stay in the marriage because I’d never find anyone better.

    This is my own shit, obviously, but whenever someone says victims of physical abuse don’t get advised not to leave, I get very, very angry. That is simply not true.

    • Damn straight!
      The abuse shelters will tell you to leave, doctors and therapists will tell you to leave, but family, friends and churches still give stupid, irresponsible advice, even now.

    • I am so sorry. I’m so glad you got out. My parents also thought I could do no better than my abusive spouse. I am so sorry for all you have been through. I remain surprised that people are so cruel in this day and age. I will try harder to remember that.

  • I wanted to save my marriage and I “chose” to believe a liar and a cheater in order to do it. I knew where his mouth had been and I chose to continue to kiss it. I knew who he fucked in my bed and in my sheets and I chose to just wash them and put them back on the bed. I chose to ignore all of the ugliness in order to save my marriage. I assure you, it can be done. To me, they were just material things. They weren’t tainted just because he had his skank in them (except perhaps his mouth). But not everyone, and possibly quite few, can really ‘choose’ to go forward with a liar and a cheater. And I truly, truly respect that. At first I couldn’t get over it, where his mouth had been, where he fucked her, etc. I knew he was a liar through and through. But I wanted to save my marriage (actually, my investment) and I knew that there was absolutely no chance whatsoever that my marriage would work unless I chose to believe that he could be trusted. It was a mindset. I’m glad that he blew it up again because he gave me my freedom. So now I choose to be happy — without anymore dicks in my life. I honestly don’t regret giving him that second chance because I would have always wondered if I had thrown in the towel too soon. Maybe there’s a unicorn out there, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If I know anyone that’s going through this, I’d say to divorce, and if you choose to remarry, then do so. But don’t ‘save’ your marriage; that task is not for the Chump.

  • My ex is likely playing the victim following our divorce. And I strongly suspect he mischaracterized me and our 30 year marriage. At 3 years post DD and six months after finalized divorce, I still need to process the “what ifs”. What if he wanted to reconcile?

    Bear with me here, fellow chumps. I believe that my response to the trauma of cheating still includes a “dissociative” state where I fantasize about his reaching out and then I grieve the loss of our marriage again and again. Less frequently now (once a week instead of hourly). I’ve had lots of therapy – though not trauma based- and practice mindfulness. I am pursing a new life with intention.

    I just think I would believe him if he reached out and I have no idea why.

    • You think you would believe him…, but I bet you’re stronger than you think. Deep down you know he’d just do it again. Love yourself. He’s a dick. It took me 4 years post divorce before I felt healed. It took me 5 years post divorce before I believed, without any doubt whatsoever, that I had married a dick. Add another year and even more memories pop up to reinforce that he is a dick through and through. Whenever anybody speaks of something in their marriage that reminds me of something that I went through in mine, I’m incredulous at the stuff he did and that I actually believed. Incredulous! I forgive myself for being so naive. You’ll get there too. Start believing that you’re a grand person and he’s a loser that you never want to stay involved with anyone like that again. Currently you meet people and you find out something not quite right with them, so you trust your instincts to not get any closer to them. Now put your ex in the same light. You just met him and found out something not so good about him. Would you want to associate with him? I bet not.

    • When disaster strikes, even long after the possibility for finding survivors has passed, loved ones hold onto hope. When I was a little girl and my cat disappeared, I imagined that she was out roaming and alive, and one day might return. When we’re at rock bottom and have lost more than we ever could have imagined, we cling to impossible hopes. We want more than anything for it all to have been a bad dream. We want redemption and we want the person we lovee to be a person we can still love – not a barbed wire monkey. We want our lives back.

      It’s good you’re aware of this in yourself. It means you’re not safe yet. Keep reading here; even after I left, I had the mindset you describe and was still vulnerable. My therapist asked, “How will you know when you’ve really closed the door?” And I knew I hadn’t just by the feeling in my gut. A friend asked, “Where’s your red line?” That scared me, because I couldn’t answer. No contact, moving states away, and reading Chump Lady are what finally made all the truths I knew harden in my core. When you know, you know – and I am out of the cycle with my ex forever, no matter what he says or does.

      And it is sheer relief. You can do it, Almost Monday. Post here if you’re ever tempted to break NC, or if your ex reaches out to you.

    • Good thing he’s not reaching out then! He’s a dirtbag. Your mind and heart will align on this eventually.

  • It’s a tricky one. I would nowadays always recommend separation and divorce.
    I have heard the story the other way around too:
    A friend of mine cheated. I have seen him trying to regain his wife’s trust for 5 years. But of course he failed – she never trusted him again and there was always a level of distance between the two.
    In the end, it was him who had to initiate the divorce and even then , she was the one who could not decide.
    Let me be very clear – I do not condone what he has done. From the outsider’s perspective, it appeared to me that he tried – but only really two people really now how that went.
    I am fully on the wife’s side. Such trust can not be regained.
    But she was not doing anyone a favor.
    Herself – what must have her life be like for 5 years?
    Him – he tried and whilst he was not entitled to reconciliation, I think he was entitled to a decision. Maybe not immediately, but after a couple of years, yes, I think she should have declared that she had too many doubts to ever return to a trusting marriage.
    The kids – They must have felt this invisible barrier.

    Mental health needs clarity in decisions. They are divorced now, have split up reasonable amicable . Mediation instead of court. Both putting the kids first.
    It’s not great. But both can rebuild now.

    • It is tricky.

      Maybe she wasn’t sure and “experts” say it takes 2 to 5 years for Reconciliation and to regain trust.

      So maybe she gave it her best, but he couldn’t go the distance, or maybe she was just in limbo.

      • I can only go by what he told me , I can’t comment on her side of the story.
        I think he tried . And I think she was in limbo . There is an individual tolerance how long one can put up with this.

        It was a bad affair – he is well known , the affair partner blackmailed him.
        He came clean.
        He paid significant consequences.
        But it made it into the headlines of the city where they are living.
        How can I be friends with him ?
        He knows my stance on cheating and how I have been a victim .
        We had many discussions where I pointed out my point of view . Like I said , I saw that he tried very hard .
        And also when they finally went to divorce, it was ok.
        It’s interesting because he has completely changed. He used to be larger than life , always 3 or 4 business projects on the side.
        Often invited as a guest on tv for his opinion.
        Now quite , lives very modestly , doesn’t drink alcohol.
        Looks after his children well.
        I have lost contact with her, who is the real victim here of course , so I can’t comment how she is going .

        But he is different to my ex who has never shown any remorse and to so many other stories published here .

        • That’s great that the cheater seems to want to be a better person now. Honestly. But as far as the former marriage goes, what he does now is irrelevant. Both parties should move on and live their best lives apart.

  • Years ago when I was first involved with the batterer’s intervention program taught by the local Center for Domestic Peace, I learned that TRUST and SAFETY are ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP OF ANY KIND. Without those elements, you do NOT have a relationship. You have an ENTANGLEMENT. Which for me really explains why I felt so confused after DDay. I was snared in a game, in a trap, entangled. Not a true authentic marriage. I had been living in a MIRAGE. The Matrix has nothing on my marriage.

    Very simply, cheating reveals there is NO trust or safety. It’s not accidental. It’s intentional, and involves many many intentional decisions to deceive and harm. That someone jumps into a scene with your spouse or committed partner is a testament to their idiocy, crap character, missing moral compass, and deep, serious issues. There are plenty of low- or no-standard humans taking up space and oxygen and valuable resources on the planet. I don’t want to be like them.

    Were it not for the affair, I would have hung in there. I was as serious as Jon Snow at the Wall when I said my wedding vows. In three years and eight months since, I have learned how much denial I was in and seen how his infidelity was not the so much the problem but a visible symptom of his very serious and deep problems. Cheating is also a testament to his unwillingness to look at those problems. He actually said it would be easier to start over with a clean slate?! I said, “You don’t have a clean slate. I do. You have a rap sheet.”

    Affairs also cost way more than the participants are worth. I have the intelligence to not overpay in my life for organic produce at the freakin farmer’s
    market. If I were a cheater, me and anyone who would jump in with me wouldn’t be worth anything IMHO. Survival of the fittest also refers to EMOTIONALLY MENTALLY PSYCHOLOGICALLY FIT. Be a smart shopper when it comes to partners. Leave the cheaters in the markdown bin where they belong.

    Take away someone’s wealth if you want to see how much they’re worth. A person who betrays his family is radioactive Krytptonite, toxic pond scum. A walking talking breathing fucking dick-sucking SuperFund dysfunctional duo. Worthless to me. Trappings and toys are not the measure of a decent human. What’s left when all that is taken away is.

    He took away a very large sum of money that he offered to me after six months of building subsequent agreements on top of it. Typical cheater move. My attorney wanted to start taking away things too. I said no. I left my agreements alone. I will be able to say that I keep my word. He just demonstrated, once again, why our marriage ended and that his word is crap. Whatever money he put back in his pocket, he is still a poor man. I do not want to be married to a man whose word is worthless. That’s the most valuable thing about anyone and cheaters throw it away with both hands. I’d rather be a dignified woman of integrity than have 250K more in my bank account any day of the week.

  • I reconciled but he continued down the porn rabbit hole and I gave up. Then he did it again and blamed it on my distance. YCWWFW’s

    (You can’t win with f^^k wits)

  • I remember thinking like this, not too long ago.

    In an effort to be transparent when I agreed to come back and attempt reconciliation with my cheater ex, I made it very clear that I didn’t know if I would want to stay. Our agreement was that he needed to follow through on his promises, help me heal, treat me with respect and work on himself and the relationship – and even then, it might not be ok for me and I could leave at any moment. I couldn’t possibly know beforehand how I’d feel, and I knew it would take time to know if I could trust and feel safe and happy again. Forgiveness felt possible, but I didn’t know if after everything I’d been through, I’d continue to feel haunted, angry, hypervigilant, insecure, guarded, sad, small, etc. – and I was determined not to waste more of my life in an unfulfilling, unhappy relationship. I wanted trust and intimacy, not punishment and mistrust. For both of our sakes. Drinking the Perel kool aid had me dreaming that our relationship would be better than ever. My ex said, “Of course! I’m going to prove my love! I am so lucky you are giving me another chance!” And so on.

    Well, I never had a chance to test it out – to settle in and be treated wonderfully, as promised. He returned to himself instantly, the very day I returned and gave him back my power. If I’m honest, I saw red flags as soon as I began to consider returning.

    I think this is one of the sickest lies coming out of the RIC. It’s what got me to come back, and it set me up for a devastating crash – after I’d already been through too much and was extremely vulnerable and hurting.

    • Bread and Roses, the same thing happened to me. I believe that the very ATTEMPT at reconciliation itself (by its very nature) is traumatizing. People who have never been chumped like to say “why not give him another chance? What do you have to lose?”. Well it turns out I had a lot to lose in the years following d day. My losses have become more deep each year I stayed with him. My self esteem is lower. I am physically worse than I was during the year right after d day. The only “positive” that has come from his affair is that I am numb to pain now. I honestly no longer care what he does now. I’m no longer worried about his health and safety the way I was before the affair. I used to think I would die if anything ever happened to him. That’s how much I loved him before he cheated on me. What a joke.

  • After reconciling, I find that it feels like I’m living a lie and presenting a lie to the world and to myself and my children—that everything is ok. It feels like Im saying I am okay with everything, Im not angry, etc. To the people who know that he cheateted, that we are ok and it is past us and he gets away with it. To people who don’t know us, that he is a great husband and we are the perfect happy family. It’s stressful to suppress, it’s stressful to not be able to reconcile your choices with your feelings, it’s stressful to lie when you value the truth more than most and justice and fairness because you are aiding in the injustice and unfairness because he gets away with it. I’m on the same page, Three Long Years, but I’m sticking around as long as I can tolerate. If I had a crystal ball, I would have never even looked in my husband’s direction. He’s misery in a hand basket even when he’s treating me as well as one can be treated because of the affair and that fucking Marfan syndrome delusional bitch.

  • I think it’s best for a chump’s self-esteem and general health if s/he pulls the plug on a relationship that is circling the drain.

    A couple of years ago, the first of my female college classmates died unexpectedly, leaving behind her husband and two young teens. I watched the WASPy memorial service in Connecticut on YouTube. Quite a glib performance with a couple of jokes about her husband’s drinking. His love of beer and her playing the multitasking hostess at large family gatherings, topping off his vodka/cranberry juice whilst talking to various guests. I don’t know what she died of-heart attack, suicide, exhaustion from dealing with a man baby. Her parents divorced when she and her younger sister were preteens and her mother mate poached when mother was in her seventies.

    A longtime family friend chose to stay with her cheating husband Howard the Whoremonger. They were married for over fifty years, he died of pancreatic cancer and she’s been suffering with dementia for ten years. None of their three children are married and only the daughter (who fled across the country after her father’s death) has an adopted child.

    Leave,if you can,for your own sake and to encourage better relationships for any children you may have.

  • Seeing your question made me think back. I struggled with leaving/not leaving a lot of times. There would be an incident, then ‘sincere’ apology accompanied by behavior change and my feeling like a shit for wanting to leave.
    I always thought it was ironic that I made the break during one of the extended times of good behavior on his part. Now I think it wasn’t ironic but the extended break of decent behavior had allowed my stress to drop enough that I could actually be thoughtful about ME, the KIDS, and the REALITY.
    It’s not surprising and it isn’t crazy to do it after 3 years.

  • To me, this comes down to the issue of respect. Once you learn the terrible things someone is capable of—someone who is supposed to love and cherish and protect you—it’s incredibly difficult to respect them anymore, at least not enough to be their spouse. Some things you cannot unknow or unfeel. Even if they’re unicorns. Some things you must just escape to be able to live a harmonious life. As CL reminds us, we only get one of these things. Live it on your terms, honor your moral compass. Live an authentic life.

    • “this comes down to the issue of respect. ”

      This. Once I got through the initial shock and grief, and started to move on, I saw him with different eyes.

      Once the D was final, and I saw him at a few (very few) family events; he just looked different to me. Like a large rat. I am sure it was in part because he wouldn’t look me in the eye, and he would scurry away as fast as he could. Honestly, the whore appeared to have more self respect than he did.

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