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Infidelity Is Abuse: Discuss

Imagine you’re on a podcast with Esther Perel. Or it can be any smug Reconciliation Industrial Complex quack of your choosing. Or perhaps it’s an insensitive disc jockey. And you must muster your arguments on this provocative idea: infidelity is abuse.

Not an unfortunate thing that happens to unlovable, controlling, sexless people who brought it upon themselves. But a toxic power dynamic that creates deep trauma.

But, but! Happiness!

But, but cake!

Forgive! Now! Before you’ve even checked the cell phone records!

Take some nugget of the conventional narrative and shred it. If you prefer a cage fight to a podcast, okay. Let your imagination go wild. What does that conversation look like?

This is your TED talk moment.

Happy Friday Challenge!

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • When one has unprotected sex with multiple partners, and then has sex with one’s unsuspecting spouse, and gives that spouse an STD that then threatens subsequent pregnancies, I would call that abuse. Wouldn’t you?

    • That is exactly what happen ! It took me 25 years to comprehend that the STD he gave me 2 yrs after we we were married caused the infertility. I luckily did have my only daughter before the STD and now have 3 grandchildren by her. So, when he left me after 37 yrs of my sticking my head in the sand, I was not totally alone in this world. I now understand I was most definitely emotionally abused, but sadly I was too young, too stupid, too scared, all of the above, to comprehend what actually was happening! Today, almost 7 yrs later, Iam more then grateful that he is just part of my history. I’ve been set free! I like the new person that I had to reinvent. I can say I finally have arrived to my TUESDAY ????????????????

    • Infidelity is sexual assault. If someone is purposefully withholding information that would change their partner’s consent, they are committing a crime.

        • Lying is abusive, whether it’s lying by omission or commission, it’s dishonest and it’s abusive.

          Having to make choices when I lack the information ANYONE needs in order to make that choice, DENIES me of choice, and that’s abusive.

          When a spouse spends money or energy on or with someone else rather than their spouse, they are failing and abusing the spouse.

          It’s a very intense form of backstabbing disloyalty (even to our children, who saw thru it, fortunately) and it’s long term evil deceit.

          I can only hope the cognitive dissonance it must take to lie for SO LONG, costs them something, but I don’t know that. Might be easily shrugged off, which I suspect, or repressed like any self reflection or connecting dots between THEIR behaviors and THEIR shitty relationships is…

      • 100% this. I even openly said “I will not sleep with you if you are with her” and ex boldface lied to me on the spot to get sex from me. Once I realized what happened, I started to get hardcore PTSD symptoms nonstop for many years. I ended things with ex years ago but the PTSD symptoms still remain. It is hell. Cheating is 100% rape and abuse. No question.

        • I agree. I still get PTSD symptoms in dental exams and physical exams, something that never happened before the cheater. I had a lot of symptoms of someone who had been raped and sexually abused.

      • ^^^This! ^^^
        AND if my spouse is not asking me, “Honey, I’d like to spend $250 on a hooker near the airport when I come home on my late flight, is that ok?” and he hides it via lies of “oh I just needed the cash for tips and things” he is STEALING my money.

      • I have tried to explain to people why learning my husband was gay has created an overwhelming sense of sexual assault. He knew long before we married that he was gay and withheld this information from me intentionally. That is sex without consent. For decades.

        It does not help that he said—as I cut off intimacy with him—he said kind of whiny, like a creature with a different voice, really, and said it almost word for word the same, 3 weeks apart: “you are not a sex slave! You should not have to be a sex slave!!”


        There were many months when I traumatized almost constantly as I would remember different times I had sex with him and every memory was traumatic. Like an assault. Because I realized some things by then.

        • My husband knew he was gay (or as he called it, “bisexual”) and accidentally forgot to mention it to me, too. What I went through was abuse, plain and simple. And, what people don’t realize is, it takes a lot of mental and emotional energy for a man to hold that secret for decades, and all of that stress and rage gets directed at us. And we never have a clue about why we can’t ever do anything right.

      • Yep, this. The antics of Pick Me are humiliating and traumatizing. Attempting to resume intimacy and “reignite passion” felt wrong even when I believed my ex was no longer cheating (because he assured me this was the case and that he only ever loved me). When I later learned that he was cheating the whole time, I felt completely violated. Absolutely abuse, sexual and otherwise. Still turns my stomach to think about what I went through post-discovery, as do the stories I read about other chumps here.

        And then pre-discovery, what a nightmare. I still flash back to sitting there on the examination table at an annual check-up, asking my PCP about preparing for pregnancy (hopium!) and turning down STI tests. All while fighting back tears after lying on the questions of the mental health screening, because I was depressed and knew deep down something was off. Spackle only gets you so far.

        I am still so angry when I think about all of this. When I think about what that abusive POS felt entitled to put me through.

      • Yes, it is a crime, the crime of “rape by deception,” which is committed when the consent of your partner is obtained by fraud. Once another adult has promised me to be sexually monogamous with me (a standard aspect of marriage vows pretty easy to establish, because there were all those witnesses there when I was standing up there in the white dress), and then has sex with someone else, and then comes back and has sex with me without telling me, I have been raped by deception. I wouldn’t be touching this man with a ten-foot pole if I knew where he’d been. My consent is predicated on my believing I’m not exposing myself to sexual health risk by having sex with him. If that’s not true, I’m being raped.

        Rape by deception is a recognized crime in many states currently, but I’m not aware of prosecution for the specific factual scenario described above – currently. Cases successfully prosecuted in the United States for rape by deception include convictions in California of a man who told a woman that he was a doctor, she had an STD, and that she could either undergo a painful and expensive medical procedure to be cured of it, or receive his “donor” antibodies via sexual intercourse as a form of vaccine, and a man who snuck into the victim’s bedroom after her boyfriend left and began having sex with the woman while she was asleep. In Iowa, a man who created a fraudulent Facebook account and used it to lure a woman to have sex with him was convicted of rape by deception.

        Per an April 23, 2019 New York Times article “Is Sex by Deception a Form of Rape,” rounding up where we are on this issue: in Missouri, “Assent does not constitute consent if it is induced by force, duress or deception;” in Tennessee, rape is “sexual penetration … accomplished by fraud;” and in Alabama, it’s a misdemeanor, classified as “sexual misconduct,” if consent was obtained by the use of any fraud or artifice. And a major shout-out goes to the California legislature that a few days ago made “stealthing” (slipping off a condom during intercourse without the consent of your partner) a form of sexual battery.

        Other states are working to expand (or clarify) their laws. South Carolina Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell has introduced her own rape by fraud bill, under which a person could be charged with rape by fraud if the victim was unaware of the nature of the act due to the perpetrator’s deception. Colin Miller, a professor of law at the University of South Carolina School of Law, in Columbia, who helped draft the SC bill, explains this is simply treating rape similarly to how other crimes are treated.

        “Most states have ‘kidnapping by force’ and ‘kidnapping by fraud’ laws,” Miller said. “The former is abduction. Kidnapping by fraud is if I tell them a lie to get them to accompany me to a location. It’s the same thing with rape by deception. If someone is pretending to be someone’s boyfriend or spouse and they think they’re consenting to a sexual act with that person, that seems to be rape by fraud in the same way as kidnapping by fraud.”

        We’ve come a long way from defining rape as the “stranger in the dark alley” experience to including “date” rape and “drunk” rape (having sex with someone too drunk to consent is rape), or, as we call them now, simply, rape. Having sex with me that I didn’t consent to, because you are pretending to be a monogamous spouse when you aren’t, is the same thing.

        My proposal: To amend state criminal codes to include the following:
        “A married individual who has sexual intercourse with his/her spouse without informing the spouse that the married individual has had sex with another person at any time after marriage vows of exclusivity were exchanged is guilty of rape by deception.”

    • Yes mine gave me STD ‘a and I could not have children. I ended having to do invitro fertilization and at my cost financially. Do you know he actually ended up giving me another one while I was pregnant with my daughter? My daughter was my second invitro pregnancy. My children are 19 months apart in age. So In between my pregnancies he contracted another STD – even after knowing that was the reason I couldn’t have children. Yes this is abuse.

    • Would this not be a form a rape by deception? Someone who is lying about their situation to have sex with you?

    • I’d go further. It’s assault, akin to damaging someone’s birth control or otherwise covertly controlling their bodily integrity (removing condom during intercourse for example), or deliberately exposing someone to something like HIV. There have been court cases over this, successful ones. Of course this is not practically useful to you, but yes, it is assault and abuse of the most filthy, cowardly sort.

      • I know about the intentional pregnancy by deception. I know this experience and what it is like to figure it out. This is assault. But difficult to prove. And when you are married, almost too hard to prove. And what does that do to your child? And their siblings?

        Also for me, what is the worst of it it realizing how he did it to hurt me. How he was setting it up and fantasizing how painful it would be for me.

    • I was just thinking it was a form of rape. I certainly felt like I’d been picked up by the heels and dipped in a vat of sewage when my gyn gave me(also a gyn) the diagnosis. I basically lost my mind for 3 years – went through five different antidepressants and thought of suicide every single day. I will never be the same. He might just as well have thrown acid in my face. The me I thought I was has been effectively erased.

      • This is the absolute reality of infidelity for the person who didn’t choose it. I lost my family, my home, my community, my work – basically my entire identity. The person who took it was the person I entrusted my life with. He did it because he wasn’t “happy.” Why is his happiness more important than mine? Better yet, why is his happiness more important than my life?

        In what other context would we allow, tolerate, accept, and embrace someone traumatizing a member of their family simply because they weren’t happy?

        (I’m not suggesting anyone is 1950’s infantile with this analogy, but) imagine telling your child:

        I’m not happy with you anymore. Our relationship isn’t what I expected. You used to be so cute, but you’ve let yourself go. You used to be interested in my hobbies, but you don’t pay attention to me anymore. All you do is whine and nag at me to do things for you. Not to mention all the money you spend on stuff we don’t need.

        Look, we’ve grown apart. I didn’t want to tell you, but…

        I’ve found someone else. She’s so playful and sweet. You’d really like her. She makes me feel special, like a new parent all over again. The truth is I’ve been seeing her for a while and we love each other. We want to be together. It’s not that I don’t care *about* you. I just don’t want to care *for* you. I know it’s not easy cutting our bond – you’ll always have a special place in my heart – but I want something new and exciting. I want a child who makes me feel alive! It’s sad for me too, but it’s time for us to move on.

        Oh, and since you’re not my child anymore, my lawyer says you have 30 days to move out of the house. We’ll have to sell it, unless you want to buy me out. Regardless, 30 days should give you enough time to find a new place. Our legal date of separation will start then.

        I know you’ve spent all our years together being a go-to-school child, but you have lots of marketable skills. I’m sure you’ll get a job in no time. Don’t worry, you’ll get to keep your health insurance for a year. I heard Food Lion is looking for baggers.

        What’s that you say? I brought you into my life and promised to take care of you? To be your parent forever? Well, I have a right to be happy. After all, this is my life and I deserve the chance to fulfill my dreams. I can’t keep up this facade just to keep the family together. That’s a pretty selfish ask. Will you stop sobbing and begging already?! I can’t stand this craziness. This is what drove me away. The other child doesn’t act like this. She’s fun and lighthearted. You see, this is exactly why I can’t be your parent anymore! It’s your fault. You’re a batshit crazy kid, and I never really wanted you.

        Who in their right mind would advocate for this kind of cruelty?

        • Chump queen

          ???????????? I’m laughing reading that
          Now, for sane people- it’s so ridiculous it’s laughable…. The sad part is that they do it – to the spouses, children ….

          • Exactly what they do to children by the first marriage. The behaviour is disgusting. But heaven forbid that anyone judges them.

        • My STBX wasn’t “happy” either. So many of your words, ChumpQueen, were his words to me. I did cry and beg, but no more! It is four months since he moved out. I am on my way to peace and happiness. Cheaters leave so much trauma behind them. So horribly selfish!

        • Brilliant portrayal of the dysfunction they feel they have the right to create. The legal bond, the commitment, the responsibility-are well compared to those of parenthood.
          Reverberates with the selfish, mindless entitlement they bring to everything they touch.

        • OMG, ChumpQueen,
          You hit is spot on! This really shows the absurdity of “unhappy spouses” abandoning for sparkling new!

        • ChumpQueen

          As others have said, you hit the proverbial nail exactly dead center on its head.

          This is almost verbatim of what went on in my home following dday.

          Like so many have said here before – there must be a cheater’s handbook somewhere.

          It has been 4 years now and the losses/trauma keep coming to light.

          Biggie lately is the spiritual hit which I thought stood apart from everything else….wrong there too.

          My latest trauma is discovering that the Qur’an is full of the exact same stories, rules etc as the Bible….So, will the true religion, true God please stand up.

          Talk about duplicity and mindfuckery all rolled into one. It is like being tossed into a cement mixer running at top speed without a care in the world. “No problem here ma”.

          Yep, dday sent me into reading the entire Bible for myself, because I thought I must have missed something vital to be where I was/am, and now I am doing the same with the Qur’an because I found the Bible lacking in any specific answer to my dilemma. I figured a good cross reference might shed some light on my situation.

          Right off the bat what do if find but the story of Adam and Eve and the good old garden of Eden along with the idea of ‘specialness’ for those who believe – “You are my chosen ones so you can kill everyone who displeases you because they displease me too”.

          Then comes David and Goliath except David is a Muslim now. Okay how did that happen??

          In any event both books tout killing lots of people in the name of God because ‘you believe in me the way I want you to and they do not so out they go’.

          The ultimate discard and blaming of the victims.

          Both books saying, I am a loving God. I will not abandon you. I promise to take care of you forever but if you displease me you will go to a place where you will suffer horribly for eternity.

          ( sub-text added here, ” If you just love me they way I want you to so I can be happy and in complete control” which is done via explicit rules to follow to a ‘T’ or else you will burn in hell for eternity.)

          Reading between the lines I can’t help but wonder if what is being said is actually along the lines of, ‘I love you but am not in love with you anymore so I have a new group of people who I like better.’

          So I can’t help but wonder if these 2 books are the cheater’s handbook?

          They both go into divorce and adultery too although I might add most of that stuff favors males. Women are treated as objects to be used until they simply aren’t useful anymore.

          I kid you not. This is all in them IF you can decipher what has been written and translated over the years.

          No offense intended to Jewish people, Christians or Muslims reading here. I am just sharing where all of Mr. X’s disclosed confessions and behavior have taken me.

          I might add that it is all quite shocking to me too. Like to the core of me shocking.

          • I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes because I think it’s important to respect people’s beliefs.

            I just want to point out that what made it into the Bible was selected by a committee of men. There are more stories; they were just left out for some reason or another. So it makes me wonder. Who did the picking? And how did they decide which of “God’s words” could be ignored? Or maybe that wasn’t part of the criteria?

            I was raised devout Catholic, and you never shake that kind of foundation, so I feel God deeply. What I don’t feel is the need to support a handful of men trying to use a sacred, mystical connection to manipulate and control the masses for political power.

            So I quit organized religion (much to my mother’s chagrin) the minute I started studying European history, postmodernism, and feminist theory. But, to be fair, that combo would probably knock the Catholic out of the Pope himself.

            Bottom line – I have God, freedom from arbitrary rules, *and* self-respect. That’s enough for me.

    • I would indeed. However, I would say any partner besides the spouse. I had sex several years with my husband, a lot of sex, not knowing he had another woman he was in a serious relationship with.

      She had been with many men before him, it was common knowledge. So he forced me to have sex with every one she had sex with. I am fairly sure she had sex with others while she was fucking him, and likely he also had other women.

      It is very doubtful either of them stayed faithful to each other. Folks with no morals just don’t stay faithful. And of course why would she stay faithful, he was sleeping with me, so I am sure it pissed her off and she got back at him.

      She can’t be stupid enough to think that for six years I lived with no sex with my husband. But then again I was stupid enough to think he was a faithful husband, so who knows.

    • And what is weird is that the very same people that would blow infidelity off as no big deal would advise any single folks who are sexually active to make sure they know the sexual history of their partners before engaging in unprotected sex.

      So if you are single you have a right to protect yourself and your partner has a moral obligation to inform you, but if you are a legal spouse, fuck you you are on your own.

    • Chump Lady

      Wishing you a happy birthday this weekend. As always, I am so grateful for this incredible resource that you provide for so many people. I am well past Tuesday but do continue to read the blog regularly. I feel very good about how far I have progressed following a very terrible, shattering experience. A bit earlier today, I logged in to Patreon to donate to your site to thank you for all that you do. I am so grateful for your efforts. I hope Mr. Chump Lady has a nice weekend in store for you. Happy birthday!

  • I’ve never been the person who could find the right words in the moment or even 11 years later!
    The ex never told a single word of his/our truth to this day.

    My big confrontation was with my “friend” the AP:
    How could you do this to me and the kids?
    Shoulder shrug
    You’ve know my kids their whole lives. How can you do this to them?
    If you told your kids, that’s your problem.
    (Kids were 18 and 24)
    I walked away
    No quick comebacks or smart words that could land like a knife in her heart.

    My last confrontation with the ex in the courtroom hallway after getting way more $ for way more years then I dreamed of:
    Did you really think I was that stupid?

    I’m going right for the cage match with both of them. 2 against 1 but I’m the only one armed. That I can do.

    Really though, living my great life everyday had been the best revenge EVER and know in my heart that my thriving drives them both crazy.

    • Rebecca, I like this. It gives me hope. I am about to embark on a court battle which scares the bejeezuz out of me. I am being forced to do this as FW only wants to give me crumbs!

      I needed to read this today. Thanks

      Hugs to everyone ❤️

  • Infidelity is the planned deception of another person who has promised to honor a partnership. In marriage, this life long, legal agreement adds financial exposure to the emotional binds of intimacy and child rearing. Infidelity robs the unknowing victim of the true story of their lives. It requires the victim to move forward with little support and, often, continued character assassination. It is the most pain which can be inflicted upon another person which doesn’t lead to a prison sentence.

    Imposters, currently showing on Netflix, is a dark comedy which conveys the sociopathic plan of betrayal for profit.

    • That’s my take on it too. Infidelity is theft of time, money, agency and opportunity.

      Is that abuse, though? I guess that depends on your definition of “abuse”. I think of abuse as the deliberate, intentional infliction of emotional or physical pain. My XW did not intend to cause me pain, though, because she literally did not and does not care how I (or the kids) are affected by her actions. XW never went out of her way to hurt me because, frankly, I don’t even rank high enough for her to bother. (To be clear, the second she perceives me as an obstacle in her life she attempts to brutalize me emotionally, financially, and legally – but that’s no different from how she treats anyone else who gets in her way. It isn’t personal.)

      Others here have it a loss worse. There are plenty of examples of infidelity as acts of deliberate malice (and thereby abuse), but I’m not sure it *has* to be that way. So maybe: infidelity can be, and often is, abuse – but intent matters.

      I don’t know. Maybe that’s naive. I mean, beating your wife is still abuse even if you were so drunk you didn’t know what you were doing, and therefore didn’t “intend” it. Still, it seems like there’s a difference between “I had an affair because I only care about myself and I don’t give a shit about how it affected you” and “I had an affair so that I could rub it in your face and destroy you”.

      • I don’t think it has to be intentional to be abuse. I believe I suffered emotional abuse from my ex but I don’t think he had any idea he was doing it (which just made it that much harder for me to recognize it myself). Many cheaters truly think their actions are justified.

        • I think this is extremely true. My ex falls into this category. He believes his own lies, because he can’t bear the fact that he has no integrity, no willpower, and no courage.

          He cheated (only once, of course) with OWife because we hadn’t had sex in a year, because I never called him, and because I didn’t take care of him while he was sick. And swimming in deep ocean water is not my thing.

          Never mind that we hadn’t had sex in a year because he was out of the country with the Army, the WhatsApp procedure he insisted on using for communication to save $$$ didn’t work on my end at all, and I had already told him this, and when he was sick, he had to talk me down from coming across the world to take care of him….he *insisted* that I didn’t need to come out. Somehow OWife knew to come over, of course.

          You can’t make this shit up. Five years and the unfairness still grates on me more than it should.

          • IG

            There are people who hit their spouses without planning it and so in their minds they “didn’t mean to hurt” the victim or they “just snapped” in the moment.

            Still abuse. Intent worsens it, it’s an aggravating factor.

            But I think the ACT of betrayal is intentional enough and it’s reasonably forseeable that we’d be hurt.

            But I take your point – I doubt I rate high enough on the “give a shit” meter to my EX for him to think out hurting me.

            Unless I’m in his way. After all, we were only married 35 years…

            • Not caring about us enough to “intend” harm (how weird is that thought?) is also hurtful. We mattered that little.

              Is it abuse? I think so. If I had a rat in a cage and neglected it by not giving it food and water, that would be abusive. I might not WANT to hurt the rat; I just might prefer to pay attention to the cute guinea pig in the other cage.

              The rat died? Ooops. My bad!

              • I agree that not all of them intend harm, or want to harm… I think many of them are so caught up in themselves they’re not thinking of their spouse one way or the other.
                But it’s irrelevant, harm is done. And then it goes on and the intent to lie gets bigger and bigger

      • Involuntary Georgian, neglect is always considered abuse when talking about children, and you can file lawsuits for negligence when someone was supposed to be caring for you.

        Also, she damn sure thought of you, if she deliberately deceived you – to keep you trapped, because you were of use, and so she could have all the benefits and none of the consequences. Even my stbx, who only had a short term affair while traveling (that I know of) and probably thought it was harmless – he was trying to get me to leave my job and move overseas when DDay hit and no joke, it felt like attempted kidnapping. Years later it still makes my stomach drop to think how trapped I would have been if DDay came only 2 months later.

        • She definitely deliberately deceived me. I spent half a year working full time and single-parenting three kids while preparing to move household, after she’d moved ahead for her career; as soon as the kids and I arrived she dropped her bombshell and moved out (2 months later for me too!). We hadn’t even finished unpacking. She’d been having an affair the whole time. If I’d known a couple of weeks earlier I’d have stayed behind in a house that I loved, a region that I loved, near my parents, with friends nearby … instead I was in a new town, in a new job, with literally zero local support. When I say zero, I mean it: I did not have a single acquaintance, much less a friend, within 500 miles of my new home.

          Heartless, manipulative, dishonest, yes. But she’s not gratuitously nasty to me: as long as I say “yes” to everything, she is perfectly pleasant. And she’s not a habitual liar: she only lies about things that are very important. I don’t like her. I don’t respect her. I certainly don’t trust her … but I’m not sure that makes her an “abuser”. Probably I just feel that that word should be reserved for the worst of the worst, and I don’t feel my XW ranks up there with the top tier cheaters I read about here. For instance, she never “accidentally” forwarded me her affair sexts (as her AP did to OBS).

          I’m so glad for you that you didn’t move overseas for your XW. Being isolated and friendless in a time of maximum confusion and vulnerability is really, really hard.

          • Abuse : treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty (willfully causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it.) or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.

            Maybe you dont think lying to you is cruel. Maybe you dont thing putting your health in jeopardy is cruel. Maybe you dont think causing emotional pain to your kids is cruel. But if you do, I hope some day you will recognize you that you were abused. You seem to have normalized her behavior to being “not so bad”.

            If a person who professed love to you decides to no longer cares if they hurt you, then does things that any person logically knows is hurtful, that is cruel. You don’t have to beat someone to be abusive.

            • I’m sorry to say that it sounds like IG is somewhat spackling.

              I’m not sure how one could say that a person making these steps (below) did not knowingly think, with each step, how this might impact their partner:

              – developing an emotional relationship with someone outside the marriage;
              – continuing to meet and grow the emotional relationship;
              – having secret, intimate relations with said ‘new’ partner;
              – hiding those relations from marriage-contract partner;
              – asking their marriage-contract partner to leave their home, pack their home, sell their home, and move to the new place with the spouse having the affair;
              – and, then, leaving said partner and children behind where they had no friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, family, connections, school, doctors, knowledge of the area, familiar places, etc…

              These steps definitely required the affair spouse to have many, many intermediate thoughts about how each of these actions would affect their partner. Yet, despite all those intermediate steps and thoughts, they continued with actions that KNEW would hurt their partner. THAT is abuse. Plain and simple.

              IG’s story sounds very similar to mine. I, too, was asked to move because my spouse wanted out of the city. I did not want to move. I loved my home near the city. But I moved for my spouse. He left me with nothing familiar and moved with his affair partner to….what?…a city…a big city.

              I know I was abused by my ex.

              • This isn’t a direct response to you, Duped, but I just wanted to add a general comment in that you can actually be well intentioned and it can still count as abuse – a general example from my training on elder abuse (years ago now, lol) included something like a person locking their spouse with dementia inside when going to the shop, in the belief it would be safer than if they were able to go out unsupervised while the spouse was gone. Considering how many accidents could also befall such a person on their own at home…

          • Wait, wut?! This sounds like abuse to me. She knew she was going to end things but put you through all that anyway? For shits and giggles? That IS gratuitously nasty in my book.

      • Same with my XW. To cause me (and our little children) pain was not her “intent.” But she sure as hell observed us suffering as a direct result of her actions. Yet she continued to commit those actions. I WANT to believe that she just didn’t–and to this day still doesn’t–“get it.” It would help in the same way that I do not believe seriously mentally impaired individuals should not be treated the same as other criminals. And she absolutely is personality disordered. But I just can’t deny that she damn well knew through observation and evidence that our pain was real, she was causing it, and she made a conscious adult DECISION to continue.

      • Sure, emotional pain and betrayal, while disgusting and morally repugnant is one thing. But hurting someone’s health directly is abuse. It seems akin to knowingly having unprotected sex whilst knowing one is HIV positive, of lying about it and obfuscating. There was a physical harm done and this is abuse.

      • Abuse is not determined by intent, it is determined by impact. Whether anyone meant it or not is entirely irrelevant.

        • I agree. I think it’s a mistake to focus on intent to cause harm. In doing so, you give away your power. You really can’t know how another person feels or thinks – especially when that person has repeatedly and intentionally deceived you. Determining whether or not you are experiencing abuse cannot hinge upon deciphering a person’s intentions towards you. (This is as futile as trying to establish whether a cheater “truly” loves you.) You have to decide for yourself. Cheaters repeatedly choose to knowingly harm their partners and families.

          What is acceptable to me? That’s what matters. Who knows or cares whether or not an abusive fuckwit enjoys hurting me. He knows he’s hurting me, and that’s never stopped him before and it’s not stopping him now. This issue of charter’s intent might distinguish a psychopath from a sociopath from a narcissist from a selfish jerk. Probably good to have some idea about what you are/have been dealing with, but I don’t want anything to do with any of it.

      • You could fast the same about serial killers though couldn’t you, it’s usually not that they hold a personal grudge against that person it’s that they are seeking their own thrills and and don’t have enough empathy to care that it’s you that is the target of whatever conscious or unconscious agenda they’re pursuing.

      • IG, not all abuse is physical. I first heard that from my XH’s shrink, who was trying to warn me about Nitwit’s sociopathy. My XH never hit me. He did not need to. Using psychological warfare and manipulation, he got me to walk on eggshells around him and to dread coming home to him the same as I would around a physical abuser. The psychological effect is the same, even if there are no bruises.

      • Yesterday, NYTimes published a guest essay by journalist and news producer Shelley Ross:
        “Chris Cuomo Sexually Harassed Me. I Hope He’ll Use His Power to Make Change.” In the essay, Ross tells her story of sexual harassment at the (literal) hands of Cuomo, and then she poses a question about accountability. (Sound familiar?) As you might imagine, Ross puts her mind (and her readers’ minds) in a blender as she attempts to make actual sense out of an entitled, abusive fuckwit’s words, actions and intents. The following paragraphs made me think about this comment thread:

        “If Mr. Cuomo and CNN management don’t think he crossed a serious line, one that warrants consequences, I know he crossed a line with me. At one point in his 2005 email to me, he referred to how ‘Christian Slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own).’ Mr. Slater was arrested after a woman reported that he had grabbed her buttocks as she walked down the street. Police charged him with third-degree sexual abuse. (The charges were dropped.) Mr. Cuomo, a former lawyer, appeared to use his short apology to legally differentiate the two incidents. He suggested Mr. Slater had ‘negative intent’ while he, Mr. Cuomo, did not. He seemed to have a keen understanding of what accountability might look like back then; today we have no clear idea if either he or CNN is interested in accountability.

        I never thought that Mr. Cuomo’s behavior was sexual in nature. Whether he understood it at the time or not, his form of sexual harassment was a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff.

        (Asked for comment, Mr. Cuomo said on Thursday night, ‘As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it.’)”

        While I have no doubt about the veracity of Ross’ claims (and would be surprised if the harassment wasn’t much worse than what she shared/her husband witnessed), I was left with more questions about her. I am ignorant of Ross’ writings and career and can only imagine the sexism, harassment and abuse she has faced. However, I was disappointed that she prefaced her assertion that Cuomo crossed a line with her (duh!) with list of her professional accomplishments, implying that he crossed a line because he harassed a woman with of her status. Does this detail matter, and to whom? And to answer her question: of course, Cuomo won’t hold himself accountable! Why not approach the issue head on, instead of writing a rambling mindfuck?

        • Also, how is grabbing a woman’s ass not sexual? And is the supposition that the harassment wasn’t sexual supposed to make it less egregious?

      • Of course it’s intentional. They are intentionally robbing us of the affection and attention that was promised to us and giving it to somebody else. They know that even if they aren’t caught, the neglect alone causes us pain. They know they could catch an STD and give it to us, but don’t care. That’s depraved indifference. It’s also rape by deception every time they have sex with us. They know their cheating could break up the family and hurt their children, too. They don’t care. It’s intentional harm because various types of harm are inherently either a certainty or a reasonable possibility in any cheating situation.

        Drunk drivers don’t literally intend to *kill* anybody, but know they could and do it anyway. They do intend to commit a dangerous, reckless act, and so we punish them for it.
        Remember you don’t have to be doing it *to* hurt somebody to have intent, you only need to know there’s a high probability you could hurt somebody and do it anyway.

      • that is what they do when you staff up for yourself… run it in your face and try to destroy you.

    • I am traumatized by almost everyone’s posts here today. This discussion of intent—I have come to understand the depths of my husband’s intentional, elaborate plans to hurt me just to hurt me. He will often hurt the kids to hurt me. It is planned and he fantasizes about it. And then he makes sure I know what he has done. If I do not react, he finds a way to let me know again. It is frightening.

      • Grumpy, I am sorry that you are going through this. My experience, without children, was the same. The ex, who did ultimately leave me for the AP, intentionally behaved in such a way. His aims were: (1) to force me to leave him at which point he would become the victim. He believed that I would do this because I left the first husband who was gay (2) when chumpy me failed to leave, to drive me to madness, and suicide. I was on anti-depressants for 3 years during the marriage, to help manage work stress (I was burnt out). In fact, through therapy post marriage carnage, I realise that I was depressed because of my home life. Work was manageable and I was thriving in the environment. My home life was full of cold, dismissive, callous, selfish, sexless behaviour from the man who I believed loved me (because that’s what he said and I gave his actions the benefit of the doubt continually). The marriage was the problem, the ex was the problem. I was the boiled frog, in the pot of slowly heating water for 26 years. Until I was dead. How did it happen? That’s the work of current therapy.

  • According to NIMH, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” Infidelity fits into all 3 categories. It is shocking to the affair victim(s) — partner, children, — whose security is threatened. It is scary because it is life-altering without a sense of the future. And it is dangerous to the health of the victims. One’s home, health, and lifelihood can be snatched within seconds.
    There is an identifiable threat — the unfaithful rat — all the more heart-wrenching because of their closeness to the victims. The victims must come to terms with really heart-breaking fact that they have been sleeping with the enemy.
    Infidelity is the sudden unexpected death of a contractual arrangement (marriage) that is more than a contract.


    • Infidelity is abuse!!! Along with the gaslighting, manipulation,DARVO, etc. Check out Betrayal Trauma Recovery at

    • YES!! It’s called PISD right? Sounds like pissed! I’ve got this. Military members get it from their experiences-an actual physical reaction to memories or triggers. The entire foundation of my life shattered on D-Day. My past became a lie. The present is unbearable and now my future that I worked for years to plan with a person I trusted ultimately is gone. Trust in people (which is necessary to an extent in life) is now unimaginable. Being in a constant state of fear, looking for the next attack, take a huge physical toll. Not the mention the mourning over a marriage you invested everything in. WTF!

      • Hey Esther, I’m sure you think you’re helping but all you’re doing is making excuses for abuse. Cheating is not the search for the lost self which if you didn’t know yet is not living in someone else’s genitals. Stop putting lipstick on a pig. Stop equating the need for passion with self entitled, pain inflicting selfishness. If you’ve ever seen the betrayed, 30 pounds lighter, gaunt from trauma, because they can’t eat or sleep, doing the dance for love that you would encourage them to do then you will know infidelity is abuse!!! If you saw Gabby Petito blaming herself for her boyfriends driving then you understand what abuse looks like. Cheating is NEVER an act of freeing your soul it is an act of complete disregard. Change your mind Esther. Join the movement to stop switching the blame to the betrayed because it’s starting to look like blaming a rape victim for wearing the wrong dress.

        • It absolutely already looks like that. And that’s what I equate it to. Blaming the rape victim – wrong dress, wrong place, etc. I do think we’ve made progress with this from decades ago – hopefully no therapist would ask a rape victim “what was your part in causing this?” But where infidelity comes in – many still blame the victim. It needs to change. Across the board and especially in the courts where financial reward is concerned and parenting time and rights are concerned. Why the victims (spouse and children) have to change their lives for the perpetrator is beyond me.

  • Cheaters routinely lie to their partners, telling them that their suspicions are just paranoia, making them doubt their mental health and their own competence as partners. In addition, they are engaging in behaviors that could damage their partner’s health. They often funnel the partner’s joint financial resources outside the partnership, as well.

    If these behaviors were targeted to anyone outside of the setting of a romantic relationship, there would be no debate about whether or not it was abuse. But because of the “all’s fair in love and war” mentality (plus how common cheating is), people try not to judge cheating despite the mental, emotional, financial and even physical damage that is inflicted upon the betrayed partner

    Domestic violence used to be treated as just an extreme form of arguing between partners. It took a lot of education for the authorities and the general public to begin to believe otherwise. It’s the same dynamic with cheating. People know it’s deeply hurtful, but don’t want to get involved in a drama, don’t want to have to judge a friend or relative, etc. So they say it’s just a personal issue between partners who are probably both mutually responsible for the situation. That’s easier for them to stomach than to acknowledge it as abuse.

  • I remember the pain.
    The sleepless nights.
    The lies .
    The betrayal .

    Now I carry scars . I have changed – nobody could hurt me like this anymore- but a part of me has died .

    She doesn’t know this .
    In her world , nobody else exist . Other people are merely ‘extras’ who entertain for a while , until all life is drained out of them.

    What else is this if not abuse ?

  • Every chump knows it’s abuse. If we got to pick from a list of all the horrible things our spouse could do to us, cheating would be on the bottom every time.

  • I didn’t realize it until DDay #3, but he was abusing me with his affairs and would use any excuse to justify his behavior, even the ridiculous excuse of not folding his underwear correctly. He enjoyed watching me suffer, he enjoyed the lies and deceit. It made him feel powerful, making me so small. He enjoyed going to therapy and playing the victim. It was all a sick game he played. We were in therapy almost our whole marriage, he played the therapist just like he played me. It was intentional abuse and mental cruelty and he got off on every bit of it.

    It’s not a “mistake” or an accident. It’s not like you can mend the broken trust and promises. Anyone who does this to someone they supposedly love, does not love anyone more than themselves, does not care, and will move on to the next victim before the dust settles because they need the attention and chaos. My two cents.

  • The narrative is that cheating was a mistake. Ex-ho said this and the betrayed hear it all the time. A mistake is turning left one road too early, or putting salt in coffee because you were sleepy eyed. Infidelity is millions of decisions made, almost minute by minute, to defraud the person you have pledged to love and protect. Death by a million knives to the back. Emotional, physical, psychological, financial and spiritual abuse. If a marriage were a business contract, which I argue in a way it is, the offender would be in jail.

    • ????”the person you have pledged to love and protect.” Well said.
      If infidelity isn’t abuse on every level by the one person you should have been able to trust with your life then what is?

    • “defraud the person you have pledged to love” … this. If you don’t love me anymore, leave me properly don’t take advantage of my trust.

      • And when you realize it was not that they changed their mind—but never meant it in the first place. My gay husband intentionally lied about this pledges in the first place. From the foundation.

    • I got lapse in judgement too. Fuck you, Buddy! It was a choice. Totally planned. It’s only when they are caught and want to squirm their way out of consequences that they start beating the whole mistake bullshit. The only mistake made was the one that I made by saying, “ yes I’ll marry you.”

    • Chumpman

      As a chump ( hookers, dating sites, random, Craigslist/ etc) I could see cheating as a “ mistake”
      Let’s say he goes to a party , gets drunk and makes a stupid decision to have sex with someone. He wakes up- sobers up- sees the fucked up action and what follows- he not only takes responsibility for that, but tries to prove that thst was a one time stupid mistake due to being intoxicated.

      Would that be a mistake. ? Yes
      Still horrible, but manageable

      I was exposed to gaslighting, cruelty, mind fuck, I was having unprotected sex with my h while pregnant, unknowingly putting my life and a life of my kids in danger.

      That was abusing.
      That was abuse

    • I learned a lot from Levine/Heller’s book “Attached”. A light went on! I’d been blaming my codependent issues for my martial issues / his EA and while I definitely have codependent tendencies I need to work on, realize the issues go SO much deeper. It’s all comingled.

      Has anyone done this (or other) workbook for their attachment style? It doesn’t seem like a bad investment.

      • An amazing book that has helped me is “boundaries.” It also has an associated workbook if you want.

        Now to preface the book, it is a book that adheres to a Christian faith orientation, however, if one is not of that direction and can glean human skill sets out of it I think it is an amazing book.

    • Just took the quiz. My ex would be so glad to know that my clingy, anxious attachment style was the problem all along – described as smothering in the results. (hard to smother when he was never home, came and went as he pleased and trained me from our early days to never question where he was or what he was doing – showed a lack of trust etc etc – but yeah smothering) Maybe the materials are different but the quiz results just produced a new level of self blame that I really could have done without.

      • I honestly quit the quiz in disgust on the third page of questions about my parents. I know I was an abused child. I’ve dealt with that in therapy and done a lot of work to get healthy. I’m sick of being labeled as broken forever over it.

  • Absolutely! In fact, I wrote about this topic in 2018 via my blog, and it garnered a ton of comments. The emotional manipulation, gaslighting and the breakdown of trust are nothing short of abuse. Despite the hurt and humiliation, cheaters still keep cheating, not caring about the end result. Hope you are well, and as always, we love your posts! Hugs, RO

  • The UTI’s, the shaming (looks like you’ve been beaten with a bag of nickels…when I weighed 130 and had a little bit of cellulite), withholding money (and taking my own person money) while yelling and screaming at me for buying $500 groceries for the month for us, two kids and two dogs but he could go on multiple expensive trips by himself and buy new cars, clothes, etc., the yelling and screaming behind closed doors, ghosting for months and not knowing if he is dead or alive all while I’m at home by myself taking care of two kids, the mindfuckery, intimidation, triangulation with other women or the dog, and then his frustration/hate towards me escalated into disgust and eventually evolved into him intimidating physical abuse….thankfully I finally had enough and left before he “missed” the door and found my face. What ensued was a hellacious battle over a period of years in the court system that his family, he and his sidepiece kept pumping money into to trying to character shame me, ridicule me, ruin me financially and tried to take the kids away from me. Finally, my saving grace was our guardian ad litum who specialized in narc abuse. Months and months of flooding him with evidence and thousands of dollars later….the verdict that saved me and my kids! I’m about $12,000 still in debt but that is my only debt. Looking back it was worth every penny. We are finally safe and he and his family can no longer try to destroy us. Everything he did was MOST DEFINITELY ABUSE!

    • I am so sorry. I am in the middle of a horrifying divorce where my husband has so much family money to spend. Legal system as a weapon. Extending the very thing you hoped to escape.

  • I’d throw out there that the vast majority of cheaters lose their shit if they think YOU are cheating

    That tells you right there what even they think of it.

    My piece of shit ex, who’d kept his trash ex gf around our entire relationship, had the fucking balls to ask if I was cheating on HIM.

    Mind you this was after I’d told him I wanted a divorce and was house shopping.

    But the one thing he was really good at was playing dumb and painting a phony smile on his face, so maybe he’d convinced himself that everything was great and I wasn’t going anywhere.

    • Mine was jealous of a male friend that I had. I met him on a rare disease forum and he helped me with some questions I had. We became friends beyond just having a scary condition. He lived many states away; we weren’t going to meet. Now I know why the FW was jealous: he projected his cheating actions on to this man’s intentions. I sadly pulled away from the friendship, and he passed unexpectedly, not knowing why I had been an absent friend.

      I am still formulating my “infidelity is abuse” argument.

    • Not necessarily. Shortly after ex chose to end reconciliation (he found out it wasn’t all about fixing me) and went back to seeing Schmoopie but before moving out he told me I should go on a dating app. That just made me hurt more because it showed that he really truly didn’t care about our relationship anymore. He wanted me to date to alleviate his obligation to feel guilty. It’s just sad that I continued to smoke the hopium for a few months after that.

      • You’re correct, which is why I said the majority.

        Having said that do think he really would have felt better if you dated? Or was it going to be another weapon to abuse you with and to deflect from his actions?

  • Systematic, diabolical, premeditated, calculated efforts to break down the person and relationship of an unknowing spouse is abuse anyway you look at it. Any cheater willing to waste a spouse and the welfare of his/her own children for personal gain is an abuser. A cheater hell-bent on maximizing their own takeaway, while minimizing that of partner and family is an abuser. Abuse does not always appear as physical injury; it takes many forms and is identified by the deception, motives and intentions of the acts perpetrated against another.

  • This is cheating a bit, but I think Tracy herself said it best here:

    The thing about cheating is that one trusting partner has no control over what the Cheater partner is doing… there are most often lies, gaslighting, secret keeping, discard, verbal abuse, trauma, codependency, blaming the victim… all the clear cut markers for abuse.

    Chumps are exposed to STDs. ****Trigger warning*** Many chumps (like me) were even raped by their partner as the cheater knows they are discarding and taking whatever they want before leaving — there’s a power imbalance. Children become pawns — emotionally abused and (in my case) physically abused by the newly discovered Cheater. There’s horrible financial abuse as well. Cheaters steal from the shared income to finance their side APs and sex workers.

    The bigger question is why in 2021 do we need to explain cheating is abuse or defend ourselves anymore?

    Thanks for coming to my TED Talk

  • Esther, if we knew our partners were having sex with other people, we would choose not have sex with them. Therefore the cheater has taken our right to informed consent away from us, so any sex that happens is non-consensual. Consent must be informed in order to be genuine. Sex with an unfaithful partner easily fits the definition of rape by deception.

    66% of cheaters use no protection at all. Naturally, this exposes the faithful partner to sexually transmitted diseases, some if which are deadly, like HIV and the carcinogenic strain of HPV. Others cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility and miscarriage.
    This constitutes reckless indifference to human life. If the faithful partner dies as a result of that recklessness, this fits the definition of manslaughter.

    What were you saying about the quest for aliveness, Esther? It sounds like a quest for death to me.

    Then there is the emotional abuse that always accompanies cheating. To lie to your partner about something so crucial to his/her ability to make choices about the direction of his/her life is inherently abusive. The cheater is doing the emotional equivalent of imprisoning the faithful partner in a sham of a marriage.

    Cheaters are abusive in other ways as well. They gaslight their partners, trying to convince them that the reality they are seeing is all in their heads. They accuse the partner of being crazy or unreasonably jealous when the faithful partner verbalizes any suspicion that something is wrong.

    They employ abuser tactics like stonewalling, withholding affection and respect from the partner, the silent treatment, and a great deal of crazy-making manipulation.

    Most cheaters are verbally abusive at least to some extent and use intimidation to keep the faithful partner under control. They show their contempt for the faithful partner in a number of ways.

    All of the above are heartbreaking for the faithful partner even if she/he does not know about the cheating. When he/she finds out, the shock is an acute trauma, often leading to a form of PTSD. Then the cheater will typically increase the traumatic effect by either abandonment, or by manipulating the faithful partner into staying. The cheater has no intention of being faithful, but will make false promises in order to keep using the faithful partner as a safe home base and image management tool.

    This is just a brief overview of the abuse cheaters inflict, Esther. It is serious and takes years to recover from, if ever. Some never recover. Perhaps you should learn some compassion for the suffering cheaters inflict instead of advising the betrayed to just get over it and painting cheating as a positive force in people’s lives.

    But that would require you to be perceptive, be able to reason intelligently, and be good, well-intentioned person. I suspect you have none of these qualities and cover for it by spewing pseudo-intellectual word salad. You have found a cozy niche as a cheater apologist, and you’re not about to let the truth interfere with your disgraceful, but lucrative, career.

    • Wow! Well argued, OHFFS!

      I would add one thing: fraud.

      In a non-intimate venue, I think even Esther would see quite clearly that when someone lies and cheats–which puts the person or entity that’s unaware of the lying and cheating at a disadvantage– that person commits a crime against the other.

      The FBI is quite clear about this: “Business fraud consists of dishonest and illegal activities perpetrated by individuals or companies in order to provide an advantageous financial outcome to those persons or establishments.”

      It’s not any different with someone lies and cheats to a partner, keeping him/her in the dark to gain an advantage.

      It’s criminal, and it’s abusive.

      • Great arguments, OHFSS, and I second what Spinach@35 adds about fraud. Maybe it’s coincidence, but I’ve met quite a few other chumps who had been subjected to financial infidelity in addition to the cheating. No surprise there – you can find plenty of examples of it on this blog (the cheater playbook must be an easy read). But it seems to me that these cheating add-ons, especially things like financial infidelity, really blow up the idea of “we drifted apart.”

        Ok, sure, love and relationships are kind of nebulous, so just maybe we’re both at fault. But, wait… you felt the need to go on a spending spree when I found out about your drug addict/dealer boyfriend? Was that because of our “lack of communication” or because we “focus too much on the kids?” Did you charge your hotel stays on our credit card because you” hate the way I clean up after you?” Or was that the reason you put those non-refundable deposits down on those personal cosmetic treatments? See, it’s hard to keep track of which reason goes with which offense when none of it follows any logic.

        I have a co-worker whose ex-wife probably blew through about $10k on clothes and other hard-to-track items before he lawyered up. I met a woman whose cheating ex-husband cashed out some of her retirement accounts without her knowing. It’s almost like once they cross that threshold into cheating, they fall off a cliff and figure they might as well do every other horrible thing they ever wanted but were holding back.

        My point is, these are shitty things they do in addition to cheating that can’t be explained away with the usual “he said/she said” touchy-feely bullshit. The simplest explanation for all the observed phenomena (Google “Occam’s razor”), both the cheating and the financial infidelity, is that cheaters are selfish and feel entitled to do these things. I guess that’s just a long-winded way of repeating what CL’s been saying for years.

        • Yeah, financial abuse seems to be the norm. Mind you, that exists even in divorces where there was no cheating.
          My fuckwit is not financially abusive, thankfully, but it seems most are and that the majority of divorces are viciously contentious whether there is cheating or not.
          It’s a pretty disgusting commentary on the state of humanity.

      • Great points. Let’s also not forget theft of shared money which is used on the AP, and theft of the months, years, or decades spent living a lie.

        So we have rape by deception, reckless endangerment, emotional abuse, fraud, and theft of both resources and time.

        • True!

          On a personal note re the theft of shared money, I couldn’t help by snort in disbelief when my ex estimated that he’d spent $2500 on the AP in almost 3 years of dating. He said this to me very casually. “I hardly spent anything. It came to about $2500.” Oh FFS!!! How stupid did he think I was that I would believe such a low-ball number?

          Very, apparently.

          And I can’t say that I blame him. After all, pre D-day his daily lies worked like a charm on chumpy me. I guess he figured he’d toss one more on the pyre, and I wouldn’t notice.

          But I did notice. And, more importantly, my lawyer noticed. In fact, he noticed everything, including the fraud, which is why my ex got the shit end of the stick in our divorce settlement in a no-fault state. ???? #getagoodlawyer

          The other day, my therapist asked me where my fury was. WELL, I JUST FOUND IT!!!????Fuck that fucking, fibbing fucker.

          Have a great weekend, everyone! I feel better now! ????

        • This! “Cheating is rape by deception, reckless endangerment, emotional abuse, fraud, and theft of both resources and time.” Often repeatedly, over years to someone they promised fidelity, love and care to.

          Just Imagine in the future if cheaters could be charged retrospectively for infidelity abuse

    • ????????????. That’s exactly right. When Esther is talking about cheating… it’s as if it happens in a vacuum and the spouse is not affected until they learn that their partner had sex with somebody else.
      This is not the case.
      When I watched Christian Slater’s performance in « Dirty John 2 »
      I was struck by how many similarities there were in my relationship.
      Although I was not financially abused, was not denied access to my children and my husband was seemingly a solid and loving partner prior to the affair…. I nevertheless suffered similar emotional pain once the affair started, and trauma when the affair was finally proved.
      We live with somebody who is either aggressive or very passive aggressive,
      oozing discontentment and dissatisfaction with us and our life but it’s all covert. Many of us develop depression or physical symptoms but we don’t know why.
      It’s easy to write a novel about what this covert abuse does to us.
      And that’s all before we actually find out about the betrayal. Then a whole other wave of suffering takes place. We are left alone to deal with severe trauma when we have already been broken down, but it was so insidious we just didn’t know it.
      And often there are children involved which is something that is very rarely spoken to. And who is left to take care of their suffering?
      And the salt in the wound, is how it’s played out in society by people like Esther Perel.

      • And I didn’t even mention intermittent reinforcement. Cheaters often act discontented, then act like they’re in love with us. So we never know what is going on. It makes it very hard for us to trust our instincts. There is tremendous manipulation that goes on with this « quest for aliveness. »

        • This…the intermittent reinforcement…it is what kept me captive. He became a master at knowing exactly what sort and amount of crumbs to throw at me to keep me hoping. He also did it seamlessly so I didnt discern it.

          • Same.


            Amazingly, I thought I had a good marriage or at least an ok marriage. My friends complained about their husbands. I assumed mine was no different.

            Looking back, I want to cry for my former self. Denial, hopium, fear, Stockholm Syndrome…whatever the hell it was, it kept me in that relationship for far too long. I accepted poor treatment. The revelation of cheating was, as others have said here, the 2 x 4 I needed to extricate myself. So, in that narrow sense, D-Day marked the start of my freedom.

    • This is really great. You laid it out very, very well. This is what I tried to get across to friends before I gave up and just dumped them. I sat across from one friend at a cafe and she asked me if it was really that big of a deal and what was he supposed to do?

      And I said, you mean what was he supposed to do to keep getting access to my vagina that I wouldn’t have given him if I’d known what he was doing. That’s what you mean. At what point do I get to be a person who has a right to make those decisions about my own body and health?

      And she had nothing the fuck to say to that. These were originally his friends but after 20 years of marriage, I thought they were my friends too. Nope. They’re all super liberal “woke” people, very pro choice, very always believe the woman, except for me. I’m not human to them and I had no right to say no and it was fine for him to lie to me to keep me cooking and cleaning for him and for him to keep getting access to my vagina. And I’m supposed to smile and nod and be ok with that.

      I should have dumped the husband and the entire friend group years ago when one of them explained to me that they, as middle class spoiled brats with entitlement issues, understand better what it’s like to be poor in America because they went to college whereas my actual experience growing up in poverty is merely anecdotal at best. One of them once called adopted children “garbage babies” and I was being dramatic for being upset by it. The signs were all there, I should have run. That’s my bad.

      • She had nothing to say because she knew she couldn’t argue against your point, not without looking completely deranged anyway. Also, as an adopted person myself (not a “garbage baby”; the vast majority of adopted people are given up or ‘rescued’ in order to potentially have a better life, not thrown away like unwanted items… I do wonder if people who think this way aren’t projecting insecurities with their own parental relationships…) I’m glad I never met your ex friends. I’d have been jailed for assault!

        • Me, too, Shintoga. I was adopted by family members because my mother was mentally unstable. I had never heard this ” garbage baby’ term, that’s just sick.

  • I remember in the weeks following D-day thinking I would have much preferred to by physically beaten to within an inch of my life than subjected to more than a decade of cheating. Not to minimize actual physical disabilities, but I even played a game with myself: how much physical loss would I accept to be able to go back in time and stop my then-wife from cheating and blowing up our family? One arm was a no brainer. Absolutely. I had two arms but only one family. One arm and one leg? Certainly. They have prosthetic legs but not prosthetic families. One arm and two legs? Yes. Many people get around amazingly well in wheelchairs. I drew the line (finally) at both arms and both legs. That was the only physical loss I could imagine being worse than what cheating put me through.

    I believe this is why God takes some things out of our hands.

    • Ooof. This is gut-wrenching, Nomar.

      If I ruled the world, cheaters would be forced to read this.

      I would make people about to get married read stories about the effects of cheating on the spouse–like the red-asphalt videos shown in driver’s ed classes. I would make the argument that cheating is abuse.

      Perhaps people inclined to cheat would think twice…

    • I’m so so sorry Nomar. That’s so sad.

      When I was with my narcissist EXH (not the cheater) the emotional abuse was so bad that I wanted to cut myself. To this day I completely understand why people cut.

      I told The FW, my ex-fiance, that I felt like a broken plate. I could glue myself together but I will always have scars. That actually touched a tiny spark of understanding of my pain.

      But Nomar, your emotional pain and loss translated to physical loss is truly heartbreaking. I hope you find peace.

    • The year of The Troubles, I named my fantasy baseball team “Domenic Santorro’ because I felt like I was being beaten to death by 3 thugs with aluminum bats. (See the movie Casino, not for the feint of heart)

    • Nomar, my mind went to this same place… In the worst of the extraordinarily intentional abuse to cause enough imbalance in me to benefit his betrayals, I thought “it would have hurt less to be beaten by thugs and left in a gutter, I didnt love and trust the thugs” (and again no disrespect to those actually beaten up).For me, with my value system, the death of our family was worse than any individual death would be.

      One day, I said to him “If me losing an arm would make you happy, I would do it – but it won’t”.

      One very dark night(before I knew of cheating but when I could tell he had nothing but distain for me) I begged of God: “please, other than suffering or death of my children, I would sacrifice anything in this world so that husband would love me”.

      Yes, I was THAT blinded by my commitment to him. Which makes the fact that Im sitting here intact and happy without him rather a miracle of a sort.

      Perhaps the biggest irony is that I believe that my cheater is in Purgatory and once he learned of the depth of my love and commitment to his sorry ass (and the years I prayed for his soul) he probably loves me (and I am at Meh – which I never ever thought possible).

      • Nomar’s comment that God takes some things out of our hands is very apt in my case.

        • Yes, I agree it’s better to have it out of our hands. For most of my 36 year marriage I wished for death by illness. I was in pain (emotional) and I had no idea why. Thank God my prayers were not answered. I am so glad I got to raise my kids while he was on his f***ing business trips. Or, on his business trips, f***ing!

    • Nomar you write for all of us. To this day, if God said “you can be stabbed to within an inch or your life (ICU etc)… or you can be intimately betrayed – to this day I would say “where’s the knife?”
      To this day, the needless destruction of our family, the loss and distress of our children, really hurts. I now have to bear and work through their anger at ME for my emotional [trauma] response. This is the gift that keeps on giving!
      Yet the children remember the tension and his coldness and cruelty towards me, so I am finding out that my hopes for their happy childhood was not really true. Either path is pain.

  • Khaled Hosseini; ‘The Kite Runner’
    There is only one sin – when you tell a lie; you rob someone’s right to the truth’

    Infidelity is absolutely emphatically abuse – loss of self determination, cost of opportunity, financial loss, psychological damage and massive deception.

  • Infidelity requires deception, often in more than one subject area: sexual health, money, personal health/safety, home security, technological security, child welfare… the list goes on.

    Deception in any one of these areas puts the deceived person at risk of harm at a minimum (its own form of harm), and frequently actually harms the deceived person and/or others they love (like their children).

    Deception requires intent — either intent to avoid truth telling (lying by omission, choosing to deny evident reality) or intentionally directly speaking falsehoods.

    When we intentionally commit acts that we are aware will harm others, that’s abuse.

    Deception is abuse. Infidelity requires intentional deception. Therefore, infidelity is abuse.

    (As soon as a person openly states intent to perform an act, the thing shifts from infidelity to chosen behavior. Once we know what behavior we can expect, we get to choose based on informed consent. That behavior may still be abusive, of course — and it may also violate prior agreements. Still, as long as we have what we need to exercise or revoke informed consent, we have the advance warning we need to begin to act to mitigate personal harm.)

    • Wow!. This is extremely well-argued. Thanks, Amiisfree!

      I vote for Amiisfree to be on a podcast with Esther or do a Ted talk.

      I’ll provide the popcorn.

      • Thanks!

        I’d probably do pretty well, solely because I do not give the slightest regard to what a person who has the ethical capacity of a snail like Perel thinks of me or my opinion. ????

  • My Ted Talk to argue infidelity is abuse-

    Me: welcome everyone, let me demonstrate that infidelity is in fact abuse.

    But first, I need every denialist, every Switzerland, to just pass me your wallets, your bank account info. Your health records. I need you to just trust me on this!

    I will then proceed to siphon off money as I proceed to gaslight them- that what they’re seeing is not what it appears to be! If they argue I will DARVO. I will berate and humiliate them. I will accuse them of complicity and attempt to divide them from their families

    And then I will return their money and health records because, I’m a chump.

    Finally, I step back and ponder out loud, was that abusive or was I just living exuberantly? What you experienced was 20 minutes of your life. Imagine if it were 20 years and walking off stage I turn to add: oh and Ester P. – go fork yourself”

    • Love this! So well said. I love the notion of placing cheater excuse-making into different circumstances in order to juxtapose how ludicrous those excuses would be in any other situation. On my blog, I’ve created a fictional character named Hutchins who tries to do this very thing. Enjoy the absurdity. Start with ‘Not Guilty by Reason of Awesomeness.’ He first tries to use cheater apologetics in criminal court..

      • Love it!

        Along the same vein I have often found myself thinking along these lines in an attempt to get people to open their eyes…

        Junior: Mom, who is that kid outside that keeps hanging around here lately?

        Mom: What kid?

        Junior: The one on the mountain bike that keeps riding right past the house like he is checking us out?

        Mom: I don’t see anyone.

        Junior: You were talking to him the other day. I saw you giving him lemonade and cookies.

        Mom: Oh, him. He’s nobody.

        Junior: So why does he keep coming by.

        Mom: Maybe he wants to be your friend. He told me he is lonely and wants a friend.

        Junior: Mom…

        Mom: Ok, well I didn’t want to tell you this but I think I am going to adopt him but I didn’t want you to know yet until I knew he was THE one for our family.

        You know we haven’t been getting along for a long time.

        Junior: Actually, no I didn’t know that so why now when I am 30 years old and not a child anymore.

        Mom: Well, when you are born you were the cutest thing on this earth and I fell head over heel in love with you.

        Junior: I know that. You have told me that story a million times.

        Mom: Well, what I did’t tell you, because I didn’t want to upset you, make you mad or not like me or turn me into social services, was that once you hit about 3 years old the shine was beginning to wear off. I did love you but not like I did when you were such a cuddly, snuggly newborn. You know what I mean?

        You turned into someone I didn’t really recognize anymore and you wouldn’t ever do what I wanted you to do. In other words, you began to make me look bad and I knew I had to do something.

        I began to look for a better child. One that would fulfill me and always love me no matter what. I really had to work hard – searching high and low to find the perfect match. Thank God the internet came along – it really helped my search.

        I tested a lot out along the way when you were busy at school or soccer practice. I had to be creative because I didn’t want anyone to see me. You know, that would have made me look bad and I have always been the best mom on our block and in our church and social circle. I had to protect my image.

        Anyway, long story short I have finally found a replacement for you. The child of my dreams. He makes me happier than I have ever been and he is the one I want as a son instead of you.

        You know what they say, you can pick your friends but not your family. I am breaking that rule because I don’t have to follow it and I don’t have to like you or be your parent until I die.

        Whoever made up that rule was pretty stupid. Liberation is what I deserve so that is what I am giving myself. You should be happy for me after all I have done for you even when I didn’t like you anymore. I gave you the best years of my life.

        We have had 30 years together but now I am done and ready to move on to a more fulfilling relationship with a son I really like.

        You wouldn’t mind drawing up a legal document stating that I am officially disowning you, would you?

        And while you are doing the legal stuff, I will draw up a bill for all of the money I have had to spend on you over the years. I expect to be reimbursed. Its really only fair, don’t you think?

        You should be happy for me.

        You are free to live your life and now I am too.

        Junior: Gee, thanks mom.

        Mom: No problem. Once you get to know him I am sure you will like him too.

        • So demented and so very accurate! The absurdity of being asked to accept that behavior in non-cheating conditions makes it so clear.

  • Or we can ask ourselves “Is this something that I would willingly (and secretively) do to someone who mattered to me, regardless of the likely consequences for them if and or when they find out about it?”

    We could also ask ourselves “If I did this and got found out, is it something that I would freely and willingly lie about to cover my own backside/self-image/public image, regardless of how distressing my partner would find it?”

    I happen to think that anyone who takes unilateral decisions with the potential to impact/damage an innocent party, and particularly someone who does so and then lies about it when found out is likely an abuser.

    Cheating is abuse.


  • Lying is abuse. It is the theft of someone’s reality. Cheating requires lying. Lots of it. Ergo, cheating is abuse.

    Fraud is abuse. Cheating requires defrauding someone. Lots of it. Ergo, cheating is abuse.

    One need look no further than the pain and damage it causes its victims as backup proof.

  • I was absolutely fine half an hour ago. Since reading all these comments about people’s experiences and their views I want to cry, my chest has gone tight and I feel incredibly anxious, I’m shaking a little.

    It’s been a year since I found out, and before then I’d never been “triggered” by anything.

    Sure, you go ahead and keep telling me that’s a normal reaction and what I suffered wasn’t abusive in any way ????????

  • As I’m looking through my phone for things that I saved to bolster my “infidelity is abuse” argument, I came across this funny tweet:

    “Internet friends are so weird, like I know your deepest trauma but I’ve never seen ur legs.”


  • The best most thorough description of the abuse and trauma of infidelity I’ve found is Minwalla’s Secret Sexual Basement. In this article, he describes the abuse that takes place before discovery, the trauma of Dday, and the abuse that takes place once infidelity is discovered. This is an excellent resource for chumps, therapists and anyone who cares to understand more about what we’ve endured. Thanks, CN for sharing this resource! I highly recommend!

  • To get us even more fired up this morning, here’s a quote from EP re infidelity:

    “This experience of infidelity is so ubiquitous, and so poorly understood that I don’t think it can be reduced to good and bad, victim and perpetrator. We need a conversation that embraces the complexity and that is more caring and compassionate for everybody involved. So yes, an affair always involves a breach of trust and it’s an act of betrayal. It involves lies, secrecy. But there are all kinds of things happening in the relationship, and betrayal sometimes comes in many forms.”

    She admits the breach of trust and betrayal part, but then adds that huge “but.”

    What the hell does she mean by “all kinds of things happening” and “betrayal sometimes comes in many forms”?

    So many of you here could have a field day poking holes in her argument.

    • @ Spinach@35: Yep fo’sho’ that “but” is absolutely HUGE and any ethical shrink will tell you that the use of the word “but” is very powerful. The effect on the subconscious mind is that we are then “programmed” (or at least an attempt is being made) to negate EVERYTHING mentioned before the use of the word “but” – so the “gaslighting” merry go round continues to spin. I refuse to see a therapist (completely useless and trying to prolong the agony for more $$$) and have gone directly to psychiatry because of what this has done to my mental health. Just was unable to articulate in ways that made sense to me and became aware that 2018 never happened the way I’m”supposed” (read controlled) to imagine it did. Good job I caught them and kept the “chat” between the creep and wife as evidence. Between postnup and choices thereafter, I shall have options along the lines of a win/win. It really has lifted my mood and helped to make sense of a lot of this. I no longer feel helpless. Thanks for this Spinach and all you kind people @ CN

    • She means that the cheater expected a perfect spouse and when they didn’t get a perfect spouse, they felt betrayed and so their betrayal through infidelity is justified. You weren’t perfect, you betrayed them by burning their toast, having your own life, being cranky, or whatever therefore they are just as betrayed as you are and you are just as bad as the person who betrayed you by cheating on you.

      Which is a load of total crap.

      • Sadder

        It really makes sense…. They feel betrayed by our “ imperfections “ ( in my case it was a never ending/ always changing carrot ???? stick) because they never signed for being with US.
        US= Individuals with their own hopes, dreams, wants and needs…
        They never cared enough to get to know us and since they were operating on the premise of
        “ having a certain wife/ partner appliance “ vs being with a human being….. of course they were pissed and entitled.

        If I buy a new blender and it doesn’t do the job of blending my smoothies- I’m pissed ????
        If I ask my child to make a smoothie and she screws up- I will hug her and laugh it off.

    • I read that as longhand for: “There are no false equivalencies. All mistakes, all lies, all betrayals are equal. Neither one of you is any more or less guilty than the other for the breakdown of the trust.”

  • Infidelity is deceit. Deceit is manipulation. Manipulation is control. Control is an uneven power dynamic and is meant to shift all benefit to one, to the detriment of another. It means that only one person in the relationship has access to the truth; the other person is kept in the dark. That is not love, it is not respect, it is not decency. And when the truth finally comes out and the other person has to face that years of their life were a lie, that they don’t even know the person they shared their life with, that their partner acted in ways toward them that can only be described as hateful…its a living hell. Infidelity is abuse, betrayal and trauma stuffed into a shit sandwich and forced onto an unsuspecting victim. The abuser often walks away into the sunset of their new life with a new partner, and leaves their victim alone to deal with all of the fallout, which may take years to unravel and process. How can anyone not see that infidelity is abuse?

    • Well said Mighty! ‘How can anyone not see that infidelity is abuse?’ I think as with any form of abuse, it makes people uncomfortable to witness. It throws down a gauntlet wherein they will have to take a side. It’s easier not to take a side, so making false equivalencies and being Switzerland friends lets them off the hook.

      People would rather just act like it’s not happening, like back in the 40’s and 50’s when people just sort of looked the other way when they saw people slapping their wife around. Or in old Hollywood when the casting couch was accepted as being a part of life, though the abusive power dynamic there is way more obvious to all now with the #metoo movement. And not to be overly dramatic, but it’s also how millions of European citizens chose to look away when they saw their government committing genocide against their neighbors. They had to disable self-condemnation about being a mute witness to that, and rationalize how it was somehow ok or justified, because the lopsided power dynamic there was as obvious as anything that’s ever existed. So I feel that infidelity is about to have its day. No more will people be able to equivocate and dodge the obvious. INFIDELITY IS ABUSE. It’s always been as plain as the nose on their face, but the day of reckoning where they can’t just sit by and remain a passive witness is coming. Thanks to groups like CN, it’s coming.

      • If you think the public are to blame for the actions of the government and you therefore pass judgment on “European citizens”, I wonder what you think of US citizens’ level of accountability for the repeated and ongoing absolute atrocities perpetrated by the American government both overseas and against its own people? Should the nation be in prison?

        You’d be wise to keep politics out of it, especially if you are biased and have a limited understanding of psychological and socioeconomic factors and drivers for group behaviour.

        • That was your take-away from what I said? It was only meant as part of the broader argument about people historically watching horrific abuses happening to others and doing nothing or even condoning it. I could get into specifics about those who supported Nazi behaviors, but I don’t feel the need to open the can any more than you just did. It was simply meant to be encouraging to new chumps that even if infidelity has been endorsed or excused by the people around them, this particular abuse won’t always be and to take heart.

          No reason to make it more than that, insult my intelligence, or call me ‘biased’ with ‘limited understanding’ – PUBLICLY. I’ve been commenting on this site for 7 years and I’ve never intentionally brought politics into anything. Just trying to be a support to other chumps, of which I believe you are also one or you wouldn’t be here. How about we don’t tear each other apart, man? Some of us are already in pieces.

  • Instead of trying to explain what should be obvious, why not flip the script and ask them to explain in detail how infidelity is NOT abuse. How is keeping secrets, lying, gaslighting, siphoning off marital funds, exposing an unknowing and unconsenting partner to disease NOT abuse? The only way a person can think any of this is okay is if they are so self-centered and entitled to think that treating another person as if they don’t matter is normal and understandable. I’ve had good luck asking people with different views a lot of questions in a non-judgemental way. You can learn a lot. Some people are self aware and start to reconsider their beliefs if you ask probing questions, some are too far gone and don’t even realize the awful things they admit to.

    • “The only way a person can think any of this is okay is if they are so self-centered and entitled to think that treating another person as if they don’t matter is normal and understandable.” Ding ding ding!!!! Cheaters *are* that self-centered and entitled.

      “Why do cheaters cheat? Greed, opportunity, and lack of caring. Cheaters cheat because they can. Because they value ego kibbles more than they value your well-being.” –LAC;GAL

      (Schrodinger’s Chump, I do like the approach of flipping the script, btw.)

    • I’m with you. Cheating is so obviously abuse. By definition. We chumps (or at least I) struggle with this challenge because I think we’re trying to explain in it to the cheating fuckwits who still (thanks to foo and years of gaslighting) reside in our minds. We go in circles, searching for the perfect way to explain this, using sound logic and personal examples, so the cheaters can understand, want to change, change, and somehow fix what they’ve done. Fix us. How did that work the first – or thousandth – time?

      • De George Simon”It’s not that they don’t see; they just disagree.”

        They need no explanation to see it. They already see it. Why do we imagine if we could just explain better then they would see it? They see the crying. They see everything. They just disagree that it matters.

        • They just don’t want us to see it! Because they know it’s wrong.
          Because it’s not the agreement we made. But they would like everything else to go along as usual as per the agreement both parties agreed on.
          Until. it no longer. works. for. them.
          then the Esther Perel sadz come out

          • I would like to see a SNL skit where a few unappealing men spew Esther Perel’s ‘reasoning’ re cheating with a straight face. I would also like to see some of our most popular Ted talk personalities and self-help authors lapping it up and calling them brilliant!

            • Zip, I love it! I don’t think it would be that hard to reveal the stereotypically appealing cheaters as the smarmy con artists they are, either. I’m picturing something along the lines of Chris Fleming’s satirical “Polyamorous”video (shared by another chump – you? – here), but for the different flavors of cheaters we come across here (Jesus, Mr. Nice Guy, BDSM, etc.)

              Your comment and this post also have me thinking about the idiocy of calling infidelity a “quest to be alive.” I’d love to see CN write about our own quests for aliveness, in contrast with our cheating partners’ parallel quests. (While I was… on a solo bike tour in a foreign country while giving my partner time and space to adjust to sobriety, working on myself, meeting new friends while remaining faithful, learning about supporting a partner in recovery – cheater was… fucking a young intern, taking advantage of workers comp, smoking like a chimney and recreationally (and secretly) popping pills, mooching off his mom, crying about how hard his life was, and behaving like a grouchy asshole.)

              • bread&roses,
                That’s hysterical! Yes I’d love to see the different ‘quest for aliveness.’
                One person decides to do charity work, one person fucks the colleague.
                You sound like you’ve been through a hell of a lot. You also sound like you rock. I don’t know why amazing people keep ending up with shitheads, but glad you’re away from that horrible person now.
                I didn’t send that other link but I’d love to see it for a laugh.
                And yeah I’ve said it before I think there should be a whole Netflix series on the lunacy that is cheating. But I’d take a Saturday night live skit making fun of the cheaters and the cheater apologists.
                And I have no problem with Polly or whatever… That’s definitely not my thing but as long as it’s consensual -whatever.
                I’m just all about honesty and not abusing people.

      • Agree with you. I can’t even do this challenge. I have spent so many years trying to argue and being thrown into word salad and told I’m wrong. He would “win” every discussion. I feel like I can’t even mentally form a rational argument. I love what everyone else has written but I don’t have it in me to form an argument or debate.

        Cheating is abuse. Res ipsa loquitur.

  • I’m so glad I found this site and Tracy’s book. I have found my people. Before finding out about ex FW’S affair, he suddenly changed and became cold and distant, finding constant fault

    Being in the UK, I turned to Andrew Marshall and felt soooo low, I almost contemplated suicide. His book advised me to make a ‘heartfelt’ apology, which I did in the form of a letter. One lady even apologised for her parent dying!

    After finding out about the almost four year affair, I found this site and told him where to go. No tears in front of him and straight for legal advice

    I’m fighting for my divorce, my child and finding a job after he let me give up my 30 year career to focus on the family but at least I’ve stopped blaming myself and apologising for his abuse. You have given me strength. Go chumps!

    • I received such cruelty during the discard. My father died a slow and horrible death after the discard had started. The ex, with me for 26 years, had been conducting a secret affair for at least 10 years with his ex gf from school. Long distance as she moved to Canada (we are in the UK) with her husband to whom she got engaged suspiciously quickly after her second split from the ex in their mid twenties. I found out about the affair after he had left me. He has never admitted it to me. I apologised to him for inconveniencing him while my father was dying. I apologised to him for inconveniencing him by having to make funeral arrangements. I apologised to him for imposing the funeral on him. My belief was that he was stressed and depressed because of work issues. I was less available to him because my father was dying. He accepted my apologies with a smirk.

      For most of the 26 years together he hated me because I existed and because I was not the ex gf. I hated myself for being so loathsome. He used me financially. He used me to help him get on in his career (both lawyers but I have always been more successful – he is not a very good lawyer). The marriage was built on my love and trust and his abuse of that love and trust for his own ends. My therapist recognises that I was abused by the ex. She supports me in my work to limit the continuing impact of that abuse without denying that it happened. I was victimised by the ex over many years and by incremental steps. How did he abuse me? Let me count the ways. Yes, I have risen from the ashes. Yes, life is good now. But I am fundamentally changed, for good and ill. I did not know that I was capable of the level of hatred I felt for him. And still feel. That hatred does not define me but it is there. I struggle to admit it because hatred is such a strong emotion, with connotations of the bitter and twisted ex wife. I remain my kind, loving, funny self. But I will always hate and despise the ex for what he did to me without my informed consent. That’s abuse in my book.

      • Mighty, what you went through during discard is painful to read. I’m sorry. I understand your ambivalence around hatred – and many of the nuanced contradictions we now live and that you have articulated so well here. Thank you for sharing this. I have copied the description of the work you are doing in therapy, because it describes my goals, too.

  • Neglecting or abandoning a child is a form of child abuse.

    Neglecting or abandoning a spouse is a form of spousal abuse…

    And one cannot have an affair without neglecting and abandoning one’s spouse—no matter how skillfully one can compartmentalize and trick the unwitting spouse. And besides… robbing anyone of their informed consent is a form of abuse. And fraud, too.

  • I have a sober blog and this is what I wrote. Sorry it is a bit long.

    So, what am I going through…here is my analogy. If you have experienced this maybe it makes sense…
You and your spouse of many years are sitting side by side, marvelling at a sunrise. How beautiful. It’s a picture of perfect ease.
Without warning the spouse stabs you in the back with a knife. You are completely shocked and in pain. You cannot comprehend that your best friend, the person who has seen you at your best and your worst and still loves you, the father of your children, would do this. 
He immediately says it wasn’t him. It was a mistake. There’s no knife. Don’t be silly. Let me help you.
You, confused, unable to reconcile your spouse, whom you love and trust, with a person who would stab you, agree to let him help you and turn your back to him.
He pulls the knife out. Pauses. And stabs you again. Immediate saying it was a mistake, somehow your fault for moving. There is no knife….don’t be so dramatic…
In pain, you are getting a bit more aware. No matter who you thought this other person was, they are now hurting you. Some self preservation kicks in. You step away from them.
He falls to his knees saying he didn’t mean to hurt you. He was confused. He’s not even sure where the knife came from. He loves you, but he’s unable to control himself with the knife. It will never happen again. He swears.
So you let him pull the knife out and quickly turn to face him. You still trust him enough not to hurt you when he is actually looking you in the eye. You know you will never turn your back to him again. 
Suddenly he reaches out and slashes your arm. Again you are surprised. Then he slashed your other arm. And it dawns on you that you must move further away where he cannot cut you. It is very hard to do this. To leave your best friend, who you trust and love. You try to rationalize a reason for this behaviour. He is angry, he had a bad childhood, he is brainwashed, depressed, obsessed with knives. You watch him where he sits by himself, sharpening the knife, smiling at you. You wish you had thought to take the knife away after the first cut. 
Scared and shaken you move far away from this person who would stab you and cut you without any apparent remorse or regret. Over time your wounds heal. They leave scars, but that’s just part of life. You never understand what happened, and eventually you stop trying to. There’s way too much life still to live.
Sorry for making the stabber a he. It could easily be a she as well.
Thank you for reading. I hope you have a good day. I plan to. Stay sober! It makes everything manageable.
Stillness and peace

  • I understand this challenge, and I’m not going to add to what other’s have already so eloquently argued regarding infidelity as abuse. So many CN members could tear EP’s arguments, such as they are, to shreds.

    But I’d like to address the issue of recognizing infidelity as abuse. I mean, will it change anything?

    Shortly after D-day, my ex actually wrote to me that he knows that infidelity is abuse.

    Yet, in that acknowledgement, there was still his justification. It’s as if he were saying, “Yes, I abused you, BUT it was ok or unfortunate collateral damage for the greater good [i.e., his happiness or whatever].”

    So even if some of these cheaters see infidelity as abuse, they won’t give a shit.

    In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that, for some, abusing is part of the fun.

    • I learned the hard way that cheaters either don’t understand and/or don’t care that they’re abusive. Understanding that I was trapped in a holding pattern with an abuser did nothing to fix the relationship, but it is precisely what allowed me to leave. One woman’s story, in particular, helped open my eyes and was a turning point. Maybe our stories and ideas will help others free themselves. This challenge isn’t for the cheaters. (They’re lost souls, as far as I’m concerned.) Like this site, it is for the chumps – the victims of the abuse.

  • Two thoughts from Tracy’s book that I rely on when I get confused:

    1) He didn’t trip in the hallway and his penis fell into her vagina and OMG! what was he to do? That, in fact, was the first story he tried to sell me on D-Day. Tracy’s book made me think about the months if not years of secret messaging and meetups and lies, lies, exciting, titilating lies as they snuck around with their oh, no!oooops! “twu wuv” while I cooked and cleaned and paid bills.

    2) I love Tracy’s example of the business partner who feels entitled to a new boat. If a marriage is a partnership, the same as a business partnership, then damn it all…….. I passed up some mighty nice boats myself over the years because I was actively led to believe I was in a contractual agreement that clearly stated “no boats.”

  • From CA model jury instructions:

    1900.Intentional Misrepresentation

    [Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] made a false representation that harmed [him/her/nonbinary pronoun/it].
    To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following
    :1. That [name of defendant] represented to [name of plaintiff] that a fact was true;
    2. That [name of defendant]’s representation was false;
    3. That [name of defendant] knew that the representation was false when [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] made it, or that[he/she/nonbinary pronoun] made the representation recklessly andwithout regard for its truth;
    4. That [name of defendant] intended that [name of plaintiff] rely on the representation;
    5. That [name of plaintiff] reasonably relied on [name of defendant]’srepresentation;
    6. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
    7. That [name of plaintiff]’s reliance on [name of defendant]’s representation was a substantial factor in causing[his/her/nonbinary pronoun/it] harm.

    My XH did this to me THOUSANDS of times. I reasonably relied. I suffered physical, mental, and pecuniary damages as the result of XH’s fraud. BOOM.

  • You guys all did a great job of explaining the abuse of infidelity but I want to add a thicker layer of explanation for those of us who live(d) deeply woven in a faith community.

    There are faith traditions where marriage creates the parenchymal unit of functioning and there are very specific teachings about it. I think that a lot of the worlds religions have patriarchal foundations like this and this experience is likely common…I experienced this in the context of Catholicism but I can see people (mainly women although I think there is a guy chump version of this) from many traditions.

    I was a smart, capable, educated, employed woman who I married, I was not a Duggar wife sort. I did not HAVE to submit myself, but I CHOSE to make my husbands faith and career (US military which isa lifestyle choice, not just a job) primary as an act of devotion to him and our marriage.

    In this model, you cant have 2 equal bosses, someone has to be the decider and have some degree of primacy. I willingly allowed it to be him with the trust that he would sacrificially keep the interests of me (and eventual children) in the forefront of his mind when he made decisions.

    He became (in the first 18 years) a master of doing whateverthehell he wanted while pretending to take us into consideration. I look back now and know that cheating was going on and seeing how badly I was abused and manipulated, but after Dday, the spiritual abuse increased.

    Our Church teaches that a valid marriage is indisoluable to the point where a civil divorce still leaves ex spouses morally committed to a marriage with regard to sexual fidelity (I know that sounds barbaric and likely is, but it is the model I was living in).

    So one thing for me is that I was not Catholic when we were contemplating marriage, he was. HE insisted that if we married, it would be Catholic. HE insisted that any marriage was considered sacramental with all that went with it. Our wedding was in a Church with 2 priests and grandmas in chiffon and 180 people watching where he spoke vows calling upon God to seal us for the rest of our Earthly lives.

    If he didnt believe in this or intend to live it, why did he insist on it? I have zero problems with couples who enter civil marriages officiated by Elvis or Ru Paul or whoever but my Cheater chose this ostensibly sacred, permanent mechanism of marriage and in it, he gained power to control and manipulate me.

    As time went on, he became a fuckboy but most certainly demanded that I maintain all the expectations for the faithful, Catholic (loyal, committed, unquestioning, submissive) wife.

    Religion can be integrated into our sense of self to the point it feels woven into our DNA. Marriage is referred to as a “one flesh union” by many …that we become one entity in marriage…the mind fuck is strong.

    I read an article about a Mormon couple where they married young and the husband had a military career (so much like my life with her being depended upon to function highly in this milieu) but the husband who became a General with great power and influence became a wild fuckboy with a main OW but they went to orgy parties. He was found out and removed from his powerful position and his wife learned why. Her life as a faithful Mormon wife was made a sham by his betrayal. It was also public…that poor woman. I wish that I could have had coffee with her.

    Im not going to play pain olympics and claim this abuse is the worst…I didnt suffer much of the financial abuse or physical abuse others did…there are so many flavors of shit sandwich and abuse…I just wanted to take a microscope to this particular one. Were I speaking to a cluster of Catholics, I would argue vehemently that this behavior was grossly, intentionally abusive.

    • Unfortunately there’s plenty of ‘good Catholics’ for whom marital image management is actually their principal form of religion.

      It’s Omar Minwalla and the secret sexual basement all over again.

      I know you were widowed, and I’ve always thought that you were exactly right about your late husband and purgatory.

      But if you’d divorced, I think there would have been grounds for annulment because of his obvious intention to cheat from very early on in the marriage.

      I love your posts on this blog.

    • As someone who has almost completed the annulment process in the Catholic Church, I must say that the support I have received from the clergy has been tremendous. My ex-husband’s infidelity has not be excused at all, and at no point have I been made to feel that I did something to deserve this. I have been encouraged to protect myself and the kids.

      Though the clergy involved have been careful not to judge my ex-husband as irredeemable; they have spoken of him as someone who is broken, and they have also made it clear that it is not on me to fix or forgive him. It is between him, his conscience and God. The resources are there for him to engage should he express true contrition and desire transformation. But, these are not naive people. They know what they are dealing with.

    • Thank you so much for writing this. I am anglo-Catholic aka episcopalian because of Good King Henry!

      “Our Church teaches that a valid marriage is indisoluable to the point where a civil divorce still leaves ex spouses morally committed to a marriage with regard to sexual fidelity” …

      I am bound by this. I have no interest in developing another relationship, yes because of traumatic trust issues, but also because the person I married is still alive. I made vows that were a covenant with God, and it is really hard to explain why they still bind me, but they do.

  • He and his family believed that the only path forward for us was reconciliation. I was supposed to ignore everything that happened and the high probability that what happened before would happen again and give him yet another chance. He had been talking about divorce for over a decade and never handled conflict in a healthy way. The man seriously nearly broke me, which they said showed weakness and why I had to get back together with him. He loved me after all, and I needed him. I was a damaged person who needed him to make major decisions for my well-being. Love would fix everything. No one but them thought that was a good idea. Not mutual friends, not our church leadership, and not the mental health and addiction specialists I consulted.

    It took me a year of long-distance separation to get how truly crazy that was. Even after he initiated the divorce process, I had vague ideas that he might call it off and told my attorney that I was hoping for that in the initial interview. After my attorney read my ex’s self-written agreement, my attorney declared that we were dealing with a terrorist and had to take aggressive action. After a high conflict divorce and closeout, I knew the truth many times over. The man truly wanted to destroy me at his core.

    His attorney grasped that and called my ex on that and told my attorney that he wanted nothing to do with that approach and would do all he could to settle it. He and his staff weren’t liking my ex as a client at all and just wanted it over. We did settle out of court because of his attorney.

    I shudder to think what would have happened if I agreed to reconciliation. It would have been all the same and more. It was indeed abuse from an entitled, controlling man.

  • Marriage is a contract. Let’s say I book a caterer for an event and we sign a contract agreeing that food will be delivered at a certain time for my event. When the time of event comes and the caterer isn’t there with the food, let’s say because they booked another gig that made them feel “more alive”, no one seems to question that’s a problem. Could the caterer have notified me beforehand? Yes. Might there have been penalties, yes. That’s business. I persist that anyone has a right to end a relationship. Even if it seems fine or even “happy”. If you want out, get out. But inform the other party to the contract. They might react unpleasantly, there might be penalties. Yeah, that’s grown up stuff. Unilaterally, and secretly renegotiating a contract because you’re on a quest for exuberance or whatever that B.S. is would be fraud in any other instance. But once sex is involved people stop thinking rationally.

    • Exactly!

      They’re wanting CAKE and taking specific and well thought out actions to keep receiving CAKE. And because the rest of our culture just shrugs it’s collective shoulders when it’s about a marriage, then that caterer, as you compare it to, just keeps booking more events because he has proven he can do it with no consequences.

      Even if someone screams consequences at the center of downtown, everyone accepts the fact that there is no way to actually enforce any (if there were any to start with) so the screamer looks just crazy. And pays the bill for the contract.

  • Another component of infidelity, Esther, is the fact that the cheater thrusts consequences on the victim that they are not willing to endure themselves. They are not leaving an unhappy marriage to find their own solitary abode, seek therapy, untangle finances, co-parent and spend months or years of abstaining from an intimate relationship. They lie and fuck and lie and fuck.

    Cheaters are entitled cowards, Esther. They force innocents to endure painful life changes as a result of their secret decisions.

  • What about drunk driving, should the drunk driver who didn’t intend to hurt anyone, they just didn’t give a shit when they got behind the wheel, be let off because of lack of intent.

  • How about this — abuse of the chump’s reputation.

    Think about all of the outright lies, lies of omission, half-truths etc. that are told to shmoopie in order to garner attention, sympathy, and attraction. And think about how the chump is usually powerless to combat them to family, neighbors, friends, (god forbid) children if and when they escape the cozy confines of the cheater’s dalliances?

    I don’t know how far KK’s assertion (with false ‘proof’) that I was guilty of domestic assault ended up going, but I dare anyone to argue that it’s not abuse of my good name and character.

    • Mine is a (hopefully) extreme case of this. But unless our cheaters are capable of drawing some ethical line, I suspect we all fall victim to some degree of character assassination.

      • Ugh. I’m sorry UXworld. That’s awful. Add besmirching a spouse’s reputation to the abuse column.

        And you’re right that we all fall victim to it to some degree or another.

  • I have the right to give my consent to sharing my body and life.
    I have a right to not give my consent under false pretences.
    If I’m having sex with my husband it’s because I’m trusting him and our relationship. I have a right to not be having sex with someone who is also having sex with somebody else, or who is deeply involved in an emotional relationship with another.
    I have a right to not share my heart and soul with a spouse who is actually in a secret relationship with a cheating partner.
    I have a right to believe my reality. I have a right to believe what my spouse is saying to me when I am asking direct, simple questions and assuming honesty.
    I have a right to not be saving for our future, living simply and offering to pack his lunches when my husband is spending money on his cheating partner. I have a right to not further expose my children to someone who is acting like a loving and caring stepfather, but really is planning on swapping his adoring and trusting stepchildren out for his cheating partner’s children.
    I have a right to tell my children that we are leaving this situation because their stepfather was not who I thought he was (lying, cheating and manipulating). Instead, we were all discarded one day to the next after he got everything lined up. He got to control the narrative that he was “unhappy” – he was leaving me and there was no one else.
    I have a right not to waste years of my life giving to, listening to, caring for, investing in and all around loving somebody who is pretending to love me but really is deciding whether or not to discard me.
    I have a right to take care of my mental health without being forced to deal with the emotional and psychological abuse that was purposefully done to me (gaslighting, passive aggressive behavior, devaluing etc.). It takes a very very long time to heal from this type of abuse and to trust again. I have the right to not having my trust in people taken away from me.
    I have a right to not expect being traumatized by somebody who freely committed to loving and caring for me.
    I have a right to not be blamed for my husband’s ‘unhappiness’ – especially since no mention was made of this ‘unhappiness’ until discard day.
    I have a right to believe that going to work means going to work and not going to hotel rooms or taking a cheating partner out for lunch.
    I have a right to trust my marriage.
    If we are looking for signs and don’t trust we would be called suspicious or crazy. If we trust we are often blamed for not seeing the signs.
    I would like to think that there is knowledgeable support and care after being traumatized, forced to sell the family home, help children with their mental health because they too were traumatized and discarded….. I would like to think that there is a voice in society that acknowledges the pain, loss and suffering that was inflicted on us. I would like to think that people recognize that this is abuse, I was victimized and did not cause this.
    I would like to think that society can judge purposefully selfish, entitled and abusive actions.
    In reality, support was very hard to come by and there is a prevalent no judgement attitude about cheating….. because the facts aren’t out there.
    Instead… there are few consequences to the cheater and cheating partners, and the voice of Esther Perel is getting stronger and stronger. He simply wanted to be ‘happy’ and who doesn’t deserve ‘happiness’!
    As for the collateral damage… No TED talks are being given on our behalf. No one dares to judge a cheater publicly. Most psychologists and therapists are not trained to deal with this type of abuse and can do further damage.
    ChumpLady is the exception, the intelligent no-nonsense voice.❤️

    • Zip your words get to the heart of the pain cheating causes spouses and families!!! I have said and felt these things too. It is absolutely ABUSE of a most cruel nature. I am scared I may have to sell my home too. That is so wrong!!! They spend money on whores and we have to upset our hearts, finances and futures. I am sorry this happened to you and so many of us.

    • Zip,
      Wow! This is powerful and spot on! Thanks so much. #nailedit

      This bit isn’t the most important, but I want to address it: “In reality, support was very hard to come by and there is a prevalent no judgement attitude about cheating….. because the facts aren’t out there.”

      It infuriates me that so many people seem to shrug and say, “Well, he must have had his reasons. Who are we to judge?” They don’t see that we’re left for dead and bleeding. Our pain is not visible. The kids’ pain is ignored completely.

      My dumbass cheater said to them, “This is between your mom and me.” Clueless ass.

      • ‘They don’t see that we’re left for dead and bleeding. Our pain is not visible. The kids’ pain is ignored completely’
        Yet the cheaters « unhappiness »
        is front and central and we are blamed for their lack of healthy life skills.
        How ironic is that! The cheater takes no responsibility for their own unhappiness …. instead they blame their inner life on the easiest target – their spouse. Society blames us as well by justifying the cheater’s actions with the comments we’ve all referred to « the 50-50 marriage, you never know what goes on inside a marriage, he such a great guy, she must be difficult to live with…
        So his unhappiness is the wife’s fault. And then when the wife is brutally unhappy because of the betrayal, it’s also the wife’s fault.
        She should stop wallowing in it and get on with things. Her cheater made a life for himself and so should she.
        And gentleman chumps, I know this works both ways.
        What type of a modern day’guru’ gets away with letting people not accepting responsibility for their own shitty, hurtful choices and behavior?
        Framing cheating with her blah blah ‘quest for aliveness’ rhetoric does just that. In what other context where people are seriously harmed would that fly?

  • i haven’t read or listened to esther perel much but what i’ve heard of her origin story seems a classic example of a family surviving the catastrophe of the holocaust and the resultant cellular damage. trauma is passed along to the next generations, right? i suspect her fascination with the erotic charge of life is her way of pushing away/avoiding thoughts of death.

    i wouldn’t argue that you don’t need to push thoughts of death away, to some extent, it’s just asking yourself how much? there’s a continuum and esther falls on the extreme end of avoiding the whole death cloud.

    she’s not right-sized. and her theories aren’t right-sized. she needs to work on her ego and then her work will reflect a certain humility.

    PS i did listen to 25 minutes of the interview with brene and what stuck out for me was her relaying stories of holocaust survivors playing bridge together, avoiding their death clouds. i couldn’t wrap my head around it, you know?

  • My business partner and I decide to go into business together. We discuss the product or service that we will offer and make agreements based around this. We work hard growing our business. I work long hours and voluntarily take a small take-home so that I can plough money back into developing and marketing our product. Unbenownst to me, my partner is unhappy with our products and services, and forms another company with a competitor. They secretly work on expanding this rival company during office hours, and siphon funds from our business into product development and marketing strategies for the new company. I begin to work longer hours, puzzled as to why our company, which seemed so promising, doesn’t seem to be doing as well as expected with the effort and resources being put into it. My partner tells me I just don’t have a head for numbers, but also begins to blame me for our company’s poor results, and unfavourably compares my efforts and ideas to those of other products and companies on the market. I redouble my efforts, eager to prove that my instincts about the company and product were correct and that with enough hard work, we can make a success of things. I suggest we get in a business consultant, but in these meetings, my partner blames me for the problems in the company and suggest I am hard to work with and spends too much time focussed on our employees. One day I discover this other company, when my partner and his business company win an award, based on an idea that I had suggested but that my partner had poo-pooed and stolen. They tell me they are leaving the company and I discover that our accounts have been emptied and hidden and business assets sold behind my back. I am no longer able to operate day to day and am forced to liquidate the company. My ex business partner then lawyers up and demands half of any monies recovered from the sale of the plant and products, plus they offer our workers work at their company. I seek advice to contest this, but am advised by my legal counsel to be realistic and not waste money on what could be endless litigation because that company is financially well-resourced. I also have to put up with former customers raving about the new company, and articles in local newspapers singing the praises of ex’s company and innovative product. I am told by several people in the business community that sometimes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles and I shouldn’t let this experience put me off business and to let it go because bitterness just gets in the way of progress.

    Sorry to labour the point. I guess it’s two things: firstly, if it’s another kind of fraud (ie financial) people are more willing to see it as a more discrete set of deliberate decisions on the part of the fraudster to commit deception, theft etc and advise to get what’s yours in the form of legal compensation. And two, even though it is a different arena, there’s often people who will still say that we should just roll over and take it, even though we are the ones that have been clearly wronged. People just don’t really care enough unless they are immediately impacted or someone that they have a large emotional investment in is.

  • My business partner and I decide to go into business together. We discuss the product or service that we will offer and make agreements based around this. We work hard growing our business. I work long hours and voluntarily take a small take-home so that I can plough money back into developing and marketing our product. Unbenownst to me, my partner is unhappy with our products and services, and forms another company with a competitor. They secretly work on expanding this rival company during office hours, and siphon funds from our business into product development and marketing strategies for the new company. I begin to work longer hours, puzzled as to why our company, which seemed so promising, doesn’t seem to be doing as well as expected with the effort and resources being put into it. When I voice this concern, my partner tells me I just don’t have a head for numbers, but also begins to blame me for our company’s poor results, and unfavourably compares my efforts and ideas to those of other products and companies on the market. I redouble my efforts, eager to prove that my instincts about the company and product were correct and that with enough hard work, we can make a success of things. I suggest we get in a business consultant, but in these meetings, my partner blames me for the problems in the company and suggests that I am hard to work with and spend too much time focussed on our employees. One day I discover this other company, when my partner and his business company win an award, based on an idea that I had suggested but that my partner had poo-pooed and stolen. They tell me they are leaving the company and I discover that our accounts have been emptied and hidden and business assets sold behind my back. I am no longer able to operate day to day and am forced to liquidate the company. My ex business partner then lawyers up and demands half of any monies recovered from the sale of the plant and products, plus they offer our workers work at their company. I seek advice to contest this, but am advised by my legal counsel to be realistic and not waste money on what could be endless litigation because that company is financially well-resourced. I also have to put up with former customers raving about the new company, and articles in local newspapers singing the praises of ex’s company and innovative product. I am told by several people in the business community that sometimes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles and I shouldn’t let this experience put me off business and to let it go because bitterness just gets in the way of progress.

    Sorry to labour the point. I guess it’s two things: firstly, if it’s another kind of fraud (ie financial) sometimes people are more willing/able to see it as a more discrete set of deliberate decisions on the part of the fraudster to commit deception, theft etc, rather than just the nebulous miasma of emotions, and perhaps to advise to get what’s yours in the form of legal compensation.

    And two, even though it is a different arena, there’s often people whose answer to anything bad happening in life will still sbe that we should just roll over and take it, even though we are the ones that have been clearly wronged. People just don’t really care enough unless they are immediately impacted or someone that they have a large emotional investment in is.

    • Oh, come now.

      You can’t help who you embezzle with.

      No one knows what goes on in a business.

      Businesses grow apart.

      You started your business too young, of course this is what was going to happen.

      There must have been an arrangement that stealing products was OK with you.

      Sometimes businesses need to go through vibrant larceny to know they are truly alive.

      If only you had opened the business to some spicy theft now and then you could have kept your partner satisfied.

      Surely MY business would never be as poorly run as yours.


  • I have a disease that is fatal without treatment. 100% fatality rate. No one survives it. It doesn’t give a flying fuck how strong you are or how hard you fight. If you do not get treatment you die a horrible, painful death and many are insane by the time they die. It attacks your brain as well as every other system in your body. It’s pernicious anemia. It’s what Dracula’s affliction was based on. Treatment used to be drinking large quantities of blood daily, now we have shots thankfully. I was at the point where it was affecting my brain and I was having serious cognitive issues.

    My “lovely” ex husband was lying and using my illness to get away with his lies. Which meant my symptoms were being incorrectly reported to the doctors. And I didn’t know because I was having cognitive impairment and had to trust my husband’s reports of my symptoms and behavior. So I was misdiagnosed a a mentally ill and did not receive proper treatment for several more years.

    If that’s not abuse, I don’t know what the fuck is. He was watching me die for years and still manipulating my symptoms and lying. He wanted me dead. I was supposed to just die so he could be the grieving widower and get sympathy and my inheritance.

    And nobody in our lives understands how huge that is. My fucking idiot sister nearly two years after I started treatment noticed I mentioned that my disease is fatal and gasped at me, “oh my god, people can die from this?!” No, you idiot bitch, EVERYBODY fucking dies of this without treatment. Fucking everyone. I was literally fucking dying and I’m extremely lucky I’m still here and I’ve been telling you this for years now. But now you suddenly care? And I know I’ve told her because my memory works just fine now and I’m intelligent again but damn near everyone in my life, including her, spent a decade using my failing mental health against me for their own purposes and I desperately needed help during that time because I was dying.

    There’s no forgiveness. They are simply bad people and I will never trust them again or allow them to be in any position to harm me again. Because I know they will literally kill anyone for even the smallest benefit to themselves. They’re so, so offended by that fact but it’s fact. Now they want to pretend they’re just realizing it. What a fucking joke. They aren’t naïve morons, they are simply abusers.

    • ((KP)) your ex is a monster. My situation wasn’t nearly acute as yours, but my cheater ex printed out information about personality disorders and tried to persuade me to seek treatment for them, including medication. Because that would’ve made me even easier to manipulate.

      Many years out of that marriage, and mentally healthier than ever. Saw therapists to deal with the divorce and co parenting issues and never was told I was dealing with anything other than stress, trauma, and sleep deprivation. My ex is proud to have never sought mental health care, despite demonstrable evidence of addiction, compulsive behaviors, and lack of impulse control that has cost her a marriage, a business, and countless friends.

      It’s terrifying to think now about how my ex nearly subjected me to bogus medial treatment. And wondering how tying up a person’s arms and legs with rope is all that different from tying up a person’s brain with prescription meds. You are right in saying many of them would likely kill if they saw a clear benefit for themselves.

    • KP, damn that is a LOT. Im so sorry that your betrayer left you in such danger. That is a shitty, shitty thing to do. I hope that you triumph in whatever way is best for you. They VOW to care for and honor us. I really do believe that God holds people accountable for their behaviors and the vows they break.

      My cheaters risk to my physical self was his rage driving – often with the kids in the car. There were times I genuinely did not believe that I would get out of the car alive and I was so traumatized that I often could not function well after – which was part of his goal.

    • Katie Pig,
      Do you have Acute Intermittent Porphyria?

      If you do, I am so sorry. You mentioned Dracula’s disease and that disease is a type of Porphyria. There are several types.

      If you do have it, it’s a highly frustrating disease since it’s rare and since it’s impossible for people WITHOUT porphyria to understand the devastation. My grandma had it and it was caught early. She lived a healthy live until she was 96.

      I am so sorry your husband was using a medical illness to twist and lie.

      That’s the ultimate abuse. Hopefully you will divorce him and ditch everyone who was abusive. ????

  • Infidelity is abuse. Lies, deception, gaslighting. All designed to keep you in place and tied to them for whatever reason they see fit — wife appliance, child care, income, status.

    Mine robbed me of 20 years of my life that I will never get back. Time I could have invested in a real relationship, or to further my career or travel or whatever the fuck I chose to do with MY LIFE.

    That time is gone. That’s abuse.

  • When someone can sit in marriage counselling with you all the while they are planning a honeymoon with another person, that is abuse.

    Conning someone is emotional abuse

  • Abuse is defined as treating a person with cruelty, especially regularly or repeatedly and using something improperly. To cheat and lie and betray someone is most certainly cruelty to the person you pledged honesty and loyalty to. It is misusing the marriage. And, as we all know at CN, this betrayal and misuse happens repeatedly with hundreds of daily decisions over periods of time.

    So yea, it’s abuse. At a fundamental level.

  • Spinach and IG, I used to be a Court-appointed advocate for abused and neglected children. Before this experience, I thought that intentional abuse was the most traumatizing thing a kid could go through. I was so wrong.

    When the mother of a child sticks a needle full of heroin in her arm, her intent has nothing to do with her child. Her intent is to get high. If it comes at the expense of her child, then so be it. That’s what causes the trauma. The child is supposed to matter more than the heroin. The intent to cause pain is less painful than the lack of care.

    I think that’s what causes our chump trauma too.

    • When I was having a really hard time in life/my relationship with an alcoholic, someone told me that a relationship with a substance abuser is inherently abusive, for the reasons you describe here. I was shocked. I had never before considered this. My concern for my ex eclipsed my concern for myself.

      • i hear you bread&roses. my X is an active alcoholic and worrying about them for years on end just wear you down. concern for my X also eclipsed my concern for myself. Al-Anon helps.

        it takes a long time to process the extent to which active alcoholism seeps into the fabric of intimate relationships, family relationships, friend relationships.

  • You all know my story. I challenge Esther what’s-her-name or any other cheater apologist to try and convince anyone that was not abuse.

    Nuff said.

  • The gaslighting and blame shifting were abusive. If he just told me he did not want me, I could have left and possibly lived a good life with a person who had the same values and the same desire for a meaningful life.

    At least fifteen years were wasted. My autonomy was stolen.

    • I am sorry OC.

      It was about ten years for me. Could have been more I am betting he was never faithful.

      But, he zeroed in on the exit whore for the last at least six years, maybe the whole ten. If he had had just been honest, I could have at least done things differently. Even if I had decided to stay because of my son, I would have gone to work full time sooner. I would have spent more time and money on myself vs my husband because he certainly wasn’t spending more time or money with me.

      I have always wondered how he squared me scrimping and saving while he was blowing money on women. The fact that he never remembered my birthday really bothered me., Bet he remembered her birthday.

      It didn’t occur to me until way later, here was a man who was an obsessive controller; he used a calendar to track everything he did every day. (this was before phone calendars) How hard would it have been to simply write down my birthday. He didn’t forget my birthday he ignored my birthday; it was a power play.

      “My autonomy was stolen.” This kills me, for all of us.

      • Funny you should mention the birthday thing.

        My ex remembered everything…..the day we met, the day we got engaged…..everything. He’d send me flowers for my bday every year.

        Except the year I found out about his whore ex gf, who he’d kept on the side our entire relationship. Being the conflict avoidant coward he was baby was uncomfortable having it brought up. When I brought it up ONE WEEK after finding out he declared that he “didn’t have to listen to this” and stomped off, then painted a phony smile on his face and played dumb (he was also a passive aggressive prick). Even threatened ME with divorce because I “just wanted to be miserable”.

        When my bday rolled around a couple of months later….no flowers. That’s passive aggressive prick for fuck you. He thought I wanted the marriage so he was got to show me who was in charge.

        After giving it some thought and realizing he wasn’t a very good deal I told him I wanted a divorce. He proceeded to send flowers multiple times and acted butt hurt when I didn’t acknowledge them.

        We’ve been divorced for 3 years and my only regret, beyond marrying him in the first place, was not divorcing him sooner.

    • I feel the same, OC. The theft of autonomy and the mixed messages are insidious. CL recently said something along the lines of, “if there are mixed messages – run. It’s abuse.” Our couples counselor used to call it “push/pull.” What an innocuous and misleading term. I realized the “push/pull” had been going on for most of our relationship – whether I was happy and confident or secure, or a traumatized, insecure wreck (of course I wasn’t “securely attached”’post dday!). Now, I can call the longterm “push/pull” what is was: abuse. It ramped up once I learned about the cheating, at which point I simultaneously gained more knowledge but less control. The paradox of Pick Me and PTSD (and I think why we need to get away to regain our minds before we can make sense of what we’ve learned; too hard when in shock, overwhelmed by loss and uncertainty, and being gaslighted).

      One example of “Push/Pull”: After I left my longterm partner when I learned he had been cheating on me for many years, the cheater managed to convince me to give him another chance. (At first I thought this was a dealbreaker, Esther, but then I found you and learned that things could be better than ever after the infidelity.) He promised to treat me with the love and respect I’d always deserved. He said he’d taken me for granted and regretted how he’d abused me for years. He’d changed. All he wanted was to prove his love and for me to be happy. For us to grow old together. He promised to finally put my name on the deed to our house, after fifteen years of partnership (“I wanted to bring it with me today for you to sign, but I thought you’d be angry with me”) and shared that he really wanted to have children (“I picture them running around our house; don’t go on birth control.”). He finally understood what commitment meant and wanted to get right to work rebuilding our life and making up for lost time. I was beautiful, and he wished he’d told me that more. The others had been mistakes, and he’d only ever loved me. If he could go back in time, he would. He couldn’t believe how he’d destroyed his life. I ignored him for months, and then – I caved.

      The day after I returned, I learned he was still hiding things – and he angrily freaked out at me when I learned this and wouldn’t “let me” be hurt or angry. I also discovered he hadn’t deleted any old emails and had kept all of the correspondances and mementos from his APs (they were inconsequential, yet he couldn’t bring himself to throw away his personal history). He put a padlock on the room where he kept this crap, as well as on the door to his office, which contained his password-protected computer and several guns. I went straight back to work on the house and property, but he never presented me with the deed and found ways to start fights and blame shift whenever I tried to bring it up. Same thing whenever the subject of children arose. We had an agreement. He made promises, and they were the reason I’d returned. He broke them all, and I was devastated and trapped. It was the onset of the pandemic, I’d left my job, and I had nowhere to go. When I moved out of the room I’d been renting from my childhood best friend to move back in with fuckwit, she told me she didn’t support my decision and I couldn’t come back. My family was worried, too, so I was afraid to share what was happening. I didn’t want to disappoint or scare them. I’d obviously made a mistake, but I felt like I’d taken the risk, so I was on my own to deal with the consequences of my poor decisions. I was ashamed and isolated. Things got a lot worse than this and became increasingly physically and emotionally abusive. It was relentless.

      Does this sound like a journey of reconciliation, Esther? A quest for aliveness? No. It sounds like abuse – because it is. Crazy, confusing cycles conducted by a manipulative liar – always the same partner: that’s abuse. It made me want to die. Seriously, death felt like the only way I would ever escape or find relief. Some days, it still does. I was traumatized and then I lost almost everything. Did I deserve it because I’m pathetic and weak and naive? Did reconciliation fail because I’m such a loser? My experiences sound extreme, but reading here, I’ve learned that this what “normal” reconciliation after infidelity looks like. It NEVER works. Cheaters are abusive. Many chumps have it worse, and many go through more rounds than I did, but we all wind up in the same place.

  • abuse (v.)

    early 15c., “to misuse, misapply” (power, money, etc.), from Old French abuser “deceive, abuse, misuse” (14c.), from Vulgar Latin *abusare, from Latin abusus “an abusing; a using up,” past participle of abuti “use up, consume” (from

    Also, “to violate”.

    I have to think about ‘abuse’ literally, or I get lost. Abuse exists within an imbalanced power dynamic; and while abuse occurs in a cycle, it is one-directional. (‘Mutual abuse’ is an oxymoron, and the term ‘reactive abuse’ is highly problematic. Call it what it is: survival instinct and self defense.) A relationship between two people is abusive when one person controls the other through an abuse of power. Power imbalances are exacerbated and perpetuated by institutional, structural and societal inequalities. Gender, race and socioeconomics absolutely contribute to abusive dynamics.

    Often (always?), the abuser has come by his/her power dishonestly and unfairly. And, for some reason, he/she feels entitled to it. In the case of infidelity, the cheater makes “improper use” of someone’s trust, which he himself has coercively cultivated through deception. At a minimum, infidelity relies upon intentional patterns of deception; blatant disregard of consent and agency; repeated violations of boundaries; manipulation and gaslighting; coercion; lack of empathy or concern for others’ wellbeing; selfishness and entitlement; evasion of consequences; cruelty and dishonesty; cowardice. Obviously, these are abusive behaviors. It’s impossible to separate the two. But is infidelity its own category of abuse, or is it a pattern of behaviors and characteristics that fall under the larger umbrella of abuse? I guess I think of infidelity as a manifestation of abuse. Naming and describing categories of abuse – emotional, physical, financial, sexual, etc. – can help people identify and respond to the abuse they are experiencing, but it starts to get fuzzy, fast, particularly when the abuser is a skilled manipulator and the victim has been conditioned by years of gaslighting. I was a victim of emotional, physical and financial abuse for years, yet I felt alienated and confused by the majority of literature about abuse.

    CL, thank you for following up your post (and the ensuing comments) about Gabby Petito with this challenge. Her victimization – and ultimately, murder – at the hands of an abusive partner and an abusive system struck a chord with CN for a reason. (It was too close to home and upsetting for me to respond to at the time, and I spent the day feeling enraged at the world and lost in memories of feeling desperate, helpless, guilty and crazy.) That Petito’s disappearance made international headlines, while disproportionately high numbers of BIPOC women are abused and murdered and forgotten, does not diminish the tragedy. At the same time, I don’t understand how anyone can deny that this imbalance in coverage reflects deep social injustice and systemic racism (see the Center For Institutional Courage and ‘institutional betrayal’) – let alone take offense to this uncomfortable truth. Seems like DARVO.

    Likewise, I don’t understand why any chump – male or otherwise – would deny that the patriarchy exists and is relevant to infidelity and abuse. Again, just watch the interactions in the Petito video. Society grooms girls to people please and to accept abuse, and the consequences are dire. I was “strong” and even “feminist,” yet I accepted harassment and abuse from a young age, in part because I didn’t want to be ostracized or get anyone in trouble. I honestly didn’t even know how to stand up for myself; no one explained or modeled this, and acceptance really was the norm. I didn’t believe speaking up was possible or would get me anywhere, and I was afraid of how I’d be judged and treated if I did. Fast forward, I was – am – afraid to report or out my abusive ex, even though he deserves it and I have every right to.

    … and I think that’s all we have time for! Sorry for the manifesto – definitely not a TED Talk (not even a TED-X).

  • On a Christmas eve decades ago, my cheating ex failed to return home, having spent the night with his paramour, the town pump. By Christmas morning at 11.00 AM, with my ex still gone astray, I decided to finally allow my two little girls to open their gifts. Just as well, since my drunken ex did not stagger in until after our daughters had gone to bed. His behavior on that day rang the death knell for our marriage. He compounded this feat, a month later, by fucking my best friend (in her car, in the driveway of our home, at 3.00 AM), while I was baby-sitting her children. Unable to accept the initial evidence of my own eyes, I walked back to the window for another look and yep; still fucking.
    The following day, my 3 brothers arrived with a moving van, intending to shepherd me back to the family home. They were spoiling for a fight but my cowardly ex had, wisely, removed himself from the premises. The oldest brother, my favorite sib, finally managed to catch up with the ex and, according to a reliable witness, “Slapped the shit out of that asshole!” Unfortunately, the incident took place before the now ubiquitous cell phone so I was denied the satisfaction of watching sissy-boy ex gain his comeuppance. In my imagination, the fracas replicated the fight between Sonny Corleone and his wife-beating BIL, Carlos. Yeah!

    • Thanks, Nanny! That cheating scumbag is now a lonely, sad old man; in terrible health, deserted by his third wife and despised by his daughters. Calcified, however, is married to a kind, handsome, solvent, generous and adoring husband. What bliss!

  • Had I known my ex wife was gay I wouldn’t have dated her. Had I known my ex was cheating on me with one of my lesbian friends while we were dating I wouldn’t have married my ex. Had I known my ex was cheating on me with a female coworker I wouldn’t have moved away from my family halfway across the country. Had I known my ex was looking for a new beard and she wasn’t “laid off” from her job, but fired for making a phony sexual harassment complaint I would have moved back home right away. Had I known my ex was lying about her new “friend” during a marriage counseling session I wouldn’t have waited two more years to file for divorce.
    My life would have been quite different if it wasn’t for my ex’s lying, cheating, and manipulation. All I can do now is live my best life and get over her abuse.

  • One of the many things that keeps coming to my mind is that I was in love with, married to and completely trusted a man who was essentially a sexual predator for 30+ years of my life.

    Prior to marriage he had his ‘fuck buddies’ and that was okay because he was single and, back then, it was considered that males could have as many sexual partners as they wanted. (Hummm….but a woman was not allowed this same ‘smorgasbord’ and if a woman’s behavior was similar to a man’s behavior she was labeled a slut and was certainly ‘not the kind of woman you would want to marry.)

    I was also taught to believe that that behavior should be ignored and not held against a man because it was to be expected/normal and would stop once’ the knot was tied’.

    Well, guess what, as most of you know here that behavior did not stop so I what I was married to was a sexual predator which also translates to his being a serial cheater….

    So, on top of his leaving abruptly following dday, I have had my past totally upended which has upended my present as well as what I thought my future would be with this man.

    I should add that my adult male children, who were in their 20’s at the time, don’t think there was anything wrong with his behavior so we DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT which means I am essentially w/o family as I knew it. NO trauma there, right?

    And, while I am at it, I should mention that I gave up my career to be a SAHM and I also homeschooled all of my children….Yes, I was deeply invested – think stock market crash of the 30’s when it was common for people to jump out of windows over that one. But for me, a mere abandoned wife appliance there should be NO trauma there either, right?

    To Ms. Perel the following:

    So, please, pray tell, explain to me how on this earth I am to blame for HIS ABERRANT BEHAVIOR.

    Oooops, how could I be so callous Perel would ask because, “can’t you see that Mr. X is a actually a tormented ‘sex addict’ and needs empathy and compassion from you?”

    My response, “AAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHH”

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