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Hopium and the ‘Power of Maybe’

You ever wonder why hopium is addictive?

Apparently, there is some interesting brain science on this.

You’d think, when you get a kibble (he went to therapy! she says she loves me!), you’d get a reward. (Or in brain science lingo, your neurotransmitters get a dopamine hit.) But this fellow, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, explains in the 15-minute video above, it is more complicated than that.

Kibble = reward. Ho-hum.

Kibble = anticipation of reward…. then kibble. Orgasms of joy!

Sapolsky argues that this heightened anticipation of joy keeps people waiting for pay-offs. Many of which never come. And we can sustain the wait, wait, wait, limbo for a verrrrrrrry long time, because that Maybe Kibble is so powerful and the anticipation itself is soothing. (I know it’s coming! She’ll come out of the fog and recommit to our marriage!)

“Dopamine is not about pleasure, it’s about the anticipation of pleasure,” says Sapolsky. “It’s about the pursuit of happiness.”

chasing unicorn

And we aren’t the only creatures that do this! Sapolsky tested this on monkeys.

Unlike monkeys however, humans “keep those dopamine levels up for decades and decades waiting for the reward.”

Yes, we’re gluttons for punishment.

I found this video going down a Twitter rabbit hole on political divisiveness. Disinformation is addictive, reality, not so much. It’s very unpleasant to wake up from a lizard overlord dream, or a unicorn one, and so people will hang on to their erroneous, harmful beliefs for a long time.

I find this all fascinating. And it could explain so much, including why the same ol’ same ol’ partner doesn’t give the same neurotransmitter bonanza as the Illicit Possibility of New Snatch. Of course, I think we are more than our neurotransmitters, character comes into play, but I think there’s brain science to the irrationality, beyond the immorality. How many chumps thought their cheater had a brain tumor?

It also explains why staying stuck feels oddly okay (HE WILL SEE THE LIGHT AND RECOMMIT TO ME!) even as your personal life burns down. Or why chumps cling to the flimsiest of crumbs of hope. (She sat next to me on the sofa!) And why we give so much weight to these stupid crumbs, and not as much to the unpleasantness of self-protection and lucidity.

It could also explain the whole appeal of the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. Stand for your marriage! I see the Great Pumpkin! He’s coming! Wait… wait….

Wait….

The Power of Maybe coming soon to a therapist’s office or pumpkin patch near you.

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  • Yes, during the awkward and painful State of Non-Divorce which I told myself was A Marriage. I told myself “Any day that my family is together is a good day” (wait for it to get better, it surely will!!)

    And all these years later, my 3 adult children dont have a healthy relationship among them.

    I modelled fuckedupness for them – and I deeply regret it.

    • Interestingly, my recovery has spilled over into healthier behavior in my adult children.

      Recovery is the journey back to myself and it is a continual unfolding.

      • Maybe because children either follow their parents’ example (like Unicorn’s) or they rebel against it (your case, and consequently have a healthy relationships, doing exactly opposite what they thought you were doing wrong). (Teenage) rebellion is an evolutionary necessity and driver of the progress of human societies. (OK, often pain in the bottom for the parents).

    • “Decades and decades waiting on the reward.”
      Thirty three years, eight months and 14 days before I gave up on the notion there was the reward of a loving and faithful husband in the marriage. I am so deeply grateful for the 2×4 of Truths in your book, Tracy. LACGAL saved my life.

      I am so relieved my earthbound angel of a therapist helped me see there were no rewards in an abusive marriage. I’m glad I fired therapists until I found one who didn’t blame me for the demise of my marriage. I didn’t do anything to make him cheat. That was his choice.

      Shout out to Chump Nation for sharing your truths. All these stories mirroring my experience with the abuse of adultery forced me to see there was no reward for staying married to LTC Fuckface.

      I’m so glad I’m done waiting on the great pumpkin. I no longer wait for an abusive man to see my worth.

      Any newly chumped reading this please know that you will be far better off without the toxicity of a cheater in your life. “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life”.

    • Yep, my biggest regret of being a chump is the relationships my children/ adults have. I modeled the crazy I grew up with.

      • I can understand the idea you cannot make up for it must be hard to swallow, but showing that you now understand to your children may already give them a lot of support.

        I wish my parents had your insight, but instead they are just ever more baffled why me and my sister have such difficulty finding good relationships to the point of being ashamed about it, without ever questioning where this pattern may come from. (This is both the narcissistic and the enabling parent.)

        • I thought that good mothering would make up for bad fathering (and all of the social dangers that threaten to derail kids). I must have thought that I was omnipotent.

          It was a challenge that while Cheater was sometime an ass to them, he focused most of his dysfunction on me, so the kids thought that (for the most part) that he was a great guy. The same dynamic (of kids thinking butthead dad was great) existed for his dad. One out of 5 has a good marriage

          • 1 out of 5, that’s a harsh reality. Perhaps it explains why I haven’t found a good partner since fw as of yet!

            My sister still thinks my mom (the narcissist) is a great – though difficult – person. No cheating involved there though, but it’s only as an adult + lots of therapy that I realised I grew up with quite a distorted version of “normal”.

            Don’t make yourself carry all the guilt though. As you say, there are zillions of people who have lived this and most do not even reach this insight.
            Hugs!

    • Yep the whole last year was like that. I will get better, it will get better, he is under stress, things will return to normal. Of course that is what he was telling me between bouts of screeching at me for running out of salt and other lame reasons.

      The previous at six years, maybe ten he had been fucking whore non stop; but he was still doing the happily family man façade to me and the community; but that last year wowzer, I can’t believe I made it through with any semblance of sanity.

      It altered my mind and life forever, I realize that.

      Don’t get me wrong, I went on to do fantastic in my work, met and married a wonderful man (still going strong) but it chances you.

      Sometimes I miss that sweet naive younger woman, then I think but maybe if I had not been so naive and sweet I would have picked up on his double life sooner. Who knows.

      • I’m happy to hear you’ve found your way💝 My husband (from what I know) cheated on me shortly after our wedding with his daughters mom. I found this out at the start of the covid pandemic. It’s been one thing after another ever since with some therapy sprinkled in… here we are half functioning because I cannot just pick up where we left off. I’m changed now. He’s changed. He’s the guy I waited for him to be previously. It’s such a mind blowing experience.
        I work afternoons I come home to nice dinners and clean house. I go to bed and start all over. We pay bills we talk about life and current events. I love and care for him and like him to just be there. just can’t seem to feel that special romantic feeling anymore. I worked on with and for his daughter. Took care of her more than her real mom. Just to find this out now.
        It was a six year gap. Between the cheating and my awareness. Terrible
        Just sometimes(EVERY-DAY) wondering what we’re even doing:(

    • I’m sorry your kids are still having difficulties Unicorn! I thought my kids were doomed too because of the f…d up home life they had BUT I have to say it improved for them when they got away from us BOTH and our toxic marriage and then when the divorce went through. But it improved for ALL of us when asshole moved back to the States and my kids would only ever have to tolerate him (max) one time a year – even less thanks to the pandemic. Oh I don’t doubt they still love him but he was just such a toxic asshole that we’re all glad to have an ocean between him and us! I now have both my kids living within 30 minutes of me and an adorable 6-month old grandson and we are happy – mainly thanks to the fact that the toxic f…cker move a long long way from us!

      • I admit it helped a lot that the fuckwit moved to another country, and then COVID intervened. He of course refused to adhere to any COVID protocols (apparently he has a special Narc shield impervious to COVID) plus there was no Covid in mexico…but I digress. Anyway, distance really helps. Just throwing that out there for any chumps who can finagle that. I thank my lucky stars.

    • Unicorn- I never post, but I wanted you to know that I’ve always found your comments and advice very helpful over the last few years. You and so many others gave me the comfort to make that scary leap to save my kids from behavior and patterns I feared would ruin their lives. Now I’ve got a tween and 2 teens, so I can’t say for sure (who can? They are surly but mercifully not libertarians. Sorry CL!) but I’m hoping that no longer having the fuckwit around will give my kids the space to be themselves and to see me model sane, responsible parenting. I hope. I pray. I know I’ve messed up a lot too, especially when I see some of their dad in them. It scares me for sure. I’m sending you good vibes so your kids come around. Time and perspective will hopefully work their magic. ❤️

      • LLU, Im glad that my encouragement has helped you.

        My kids lept over becoming libertarians and (the last time I checked) they claim to espouse anarchist views. (Fear not that you will see them on the news smashing windows, they seem to be pacifist anarchists.) I have no idea how much of their current belief system was influenced by their fathers tyranny. They seem to evolve into more reasonable people as they age.

        I believe that much of Cheaters destructive behaviors were a severely dysfunctional response to depression. I dont excuse any of it, though. He had other options for coping but he chose “Wife as scapegoat” with regular doses of OWs to give him the dopamine hits his brain craved. They have all inherited his depression but are all seemingly kinder in their manifestation of it than he was.

        My oldest was engaged to a lovely person but realized he lacked the skills and desire to be a good husband and broke it off. At the time, it looked awful to all of us but he did the kindest thing – he didnt trick her into a life full of abuse-laced-hopium.

        • Anarchists are extremely angry and channel their anger through fake outrage at whatever government or organization they are opposing. They never attempt to implement a positive change. It’s all about chaos and destruction. I hope your kids get therapy and take another route to deal with their anger because there is nothing sadder than an over the hill anarchist.

    • It’s the DOCTOR’s birthday today and I thought I should stop by here so I could make sure I didn’t do something idiotic.

      ANYHOW, the thing about hopium that bugs me the most, aside from the utter humiliation and face palming I do now, in retrospect —

      is the TIME WASTER it is.

      My biggest regret BY FAR is not leaving a decade earlier. Literally.

      And I can only hope and pray my kids will be fine in the long run. At least one of them can’t seem to be in a relationship for long and the other two are healing and NOW are in healthy relationships.

      That’s 5 years without solid footing post Dday and God knows how long before then.

      Do not pick up the pipe.

      When I get asked by otherwise healthy people NOW about “how to know IF their partner loves them”, I say if they are not damn sure they are loved by their partners,

      they are NOT loved enough. Not the way we all deserve.

      Don’t wait for anyone based on their POTENTIAL.

      life is so very short and it’s terrible when that fully sinks in

      • Yup. Hopium is as much a waste of life as housework. I wish I’d quit both 10 years sooner!

        My most bittersweet memory is when my kids were little (about 1 and 3). It was a Friday night and Fuckwit was working late (right), so I let the kids run around and make a mess and then gave them a bath together. They splashed water everywhere and made an even bigger mess, but I didn’t care. Normally, I would have been flustered and stressed, focused on keeping everything clean and tidy so Fuckwit wouldn’t be displeased when he walked in the door. But that night, I was relaxed. Fuckwit wasn’t coming home anytime soon, so I was having fun with my kids instead of cleaning up after them. That’s when I realized that being a mom would be so much easier without him stressing me out. Then I swatted the thought away and admonished myself for even having it. I wish I had listened. I wish to God I had left him then.

        He never got drunk or hit or yelled like my father, so I thought our marriage was pretty healthy. I never realized how low my bar was until the divorce. By that time, I’d wasted 14+ years of my life. I literally talked myself into believing that I wouldn’t be happy without him when I was never actually happy with him.

        • Your bath story reminds me so much of how I constantly feel. I love the moments when my son and I can actually relax and have fun without being stressed about is the house clean or is this in the schedule. I was actually happy and relaxed when my husband was away last month. What I didn’t know is that he was out cheating again. The first 5 women were because he “thought that would make him feel better.” This one he can’t explain and thinks he was drugged by someone in the bar, while on a boys trip after we agreed to no boys trips after D-day number 1, while not wearing his ring, after he texted to say that he made it in (of course not alone) but yes I’m supposed to think he was drugged. Anyway, thanks for sharing. I have to focus on having more of those moments with my son so I can finally get off the hopium. He is only 4 and I don’t want to wait until d-day #3 to find out about girl #7 to realize I missed my son’s child because I was too busy organizing the house and playing marriage police. Thank you.

    • Unicorn, it’s not too late for your kids to learn how to have healthy relationships. You keep showing them how!

    • That’s the hardest part I am having trouble to forgive myself, for modeling to my children as well. 2 narcissistic men. And the last 15 yrs with a serial cheater and no boundaries.

      My adult children are struggling as well. I am sad I put them and myself thru 30 yrs of hell because I didn’t make better choices. 53 yrs old and on my 2nd divorce. It’s hard not to dwell on the fuckedupness!!

  • 18th anniversary today. 3 years and a month since d-day. I’m incredibly depressed today, still huffing the hopium. Fuck me.

    • Dear David my brother in chump,
      You got this.
      18 years of life without your cheater is mighty!
      Today is another glorious day without that person.
      Rejoice!

        • I’m coming up 2 years since d-day and dragging through divorce after at least 5 years of crazy (regularly staying up all night waiting for XW to come home, trying to explain her behaviour to the kids) then finally finding that her group of friends had been running a book of men and enabling liaisons during kids sports etc. The discard was long and could have been going on for the entire marriage (15 years).
          XW didn’t want for anything, and it has taken a long time to understand how this plays into the hopium – no contact and clearing of Switzerlands has been the key to weaning me off.
          I’m not a cockney but since d-day the lyrics of ‘Ain’t no pleasing you’ have rung true with me.
          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Hkt8E2Ul-Xw

      • 3 years is a drop in the bucket. I know that sounds harsh but I want you to fully believe that peace WILL come.
        Invest in yourself. Give yourself the gift of time and patience.
        Not “fuck me”! Fuck the person who I hope is now an ex!
        I always tell newbies that the clock to a new life doesn’t even start until the divorce is final. You cannot even comprehend the next life until the old one is done. I’m guessing that your 3 years didn’t start at divorce. And anniversaries just suck.
        One day at a time and one foot in front of the other. That’s the best you can do. Come here and read everyday and continue to comment.
        You will get there. We have your back.

        • One anniversary doesn’t suck: the day I found Chump Lady’s website and Chump Nation. I wish I knew for sure what day that was, because I would celebrate the hell out of it!

    • I wish I had proper words of comfort for you David. Along with so many of here at CN, I stayed far too long. But what is said here is all too true – life DOES get better when you Leave a Cheater. You Gain a Life. Not the one you expected 18 years ago, but one that is exceedingly better than hoping/wishing your life could again be as you once thought. I pick me danced for 2.5 years. It took him holding a knife to my throat to get me off the Hopium and it was still hard. Fast forward 4 years, and it was the best decision I have ever made for me and my little tribe. Wishing you all the best. Life WILL get better.

    • Yeah.

      I get that.

      Very important for me in my healing to define for myself what my values are and what my life means to me. Doing that reduces the influence and emotional attachment of past experiences and sets me back on the right direction for me.

    • David, I hope you find a way to make today a better day. Therapy helped me so much. If you haven’t made that step I hope you can.

      What are you doing to move forward and away from the perceived reward of hopium? I hope you find a way because as a faithful man “your stock trades high”.

    • David,
      It took me three years minus one month after d(isclosure)-day to leave. I’m now coming up on three years moving out (six years total). It gets better. Divorce is the beginning of healing. No contact completes the process.

    • I don’t know the anniversary (don’t want to do the math) but today would have been wedding anniversary for me too. It’s a hard thing, letting that go and walking away from the life and memories and hopium of “maybe, maybe.” But when you do, sooner or later it’ll just become a day, and you’ll have other things to celebrate that won’t be riddled with pain or require a game of twister in your head just to make them “good.” You can get through it, David. You got this.

    • Yea, I get it. 4 d-days later, still hooked on the hookha. I told myself after the last d-day that I’d leave if I caught him again. I would just ‘enjoy’ the time we had together until he lapsed (again). I would heal myself while still in the marriage. I come to CL every day for inspiration and encouragement. I’m embarrassed to say I was deeply involved in the RIC, a leader at my church. At first, I just thought I had all the right prayers and could love him through it. Now, I just wonder at my ability to hope.

      • IamChump we’ve all been there. I was delusional (purposely blind) most of my marriage. When the truth could no longer be denied, I swallowed the hopium hook line and sinker. I did everything I could think of to save an un-salvageable relationship. I didn’t want to have any regrets. My X loved the game, while I chipped away at my self respect. After three years of groveling I was just a shell of my former self. The divorce was my way of saving what little I had left. The judge signed my divorce decree one week shy of our 36th year anniversary. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did for myself. I am happier than I ever imagined I could be. I got myself back, enjoyed my own company again, and forgave myself for allowing someone else to have such power over me. It’s a losing game that you and I played. You are responsible for your own happiness. Life is short and we don’t get a do over. A divorce doesn’t have to mean the end of our life. For most of us it’s just the beginning. Perhaps, instead of hoping for your old life, you can imagine what your new life could be.

    • Oh, David. I’m so sorry you feel so shitty. You’re not alone if there’s comfort in that.

      Yesterday, I was going down an internet rabbit hole and ended up on the Wikipedia page for Buddhism. This helped me a bit, so I thought I’d share it here:

      As long as there is attachment to things that are
      unstable, unreliable, changing and impermanent,
      there will be suffering –
      when they change, when they cease to be
      what we want them to be.
      (…)
      If craving is the cause of suffering, then the cessation
      of suffering will surely follow from ‘the complete
      fading away and ceasing of that very craving’:
      its abandoning, relinquishing, releasing, letting go.
      –Rupert Gethin on Four Noble Truths

    • David please take it from one who knows…hell we all know, it gets better, the shock and numbness will slowly recede. Once you fully see what you lost, you will see it’s not the sort of person you can live with. She does not have a proper moral compass. Trust is gone. All of the “firsts” are the most hideous! Now at 5 years out all I feel is thankful to have seen the light. My life is SO much better, but it takes time. Carry on, just kept putting 1 foot in front of the other.

    • Hello David,

      I am so sorry for you and I hope you find by this site from Chumplady strength to recover.
      Finaly I find peace in understanding ( after a 36 years marriage) and I also discover that I was not so smart as a Chimpanzee …so I had much to learn.
      This video shows a research from Frans de Waal, also an Dutch reseacher, and it made me laugh and gave me an Eyeopener…

      https://youtu.be/meiU6TxysCg

      • Oh so sorry: it was my first time I react on this platform and I sand the wrong video: this one’s didn’t gave a demonstration of the effects of hopium by monkeys.(other video’s from him do)
        I read and follow ChumpLady for years because in my country ( Holland) there is no such reliable ability for Chumps.
        So many woman, ( here in Holland) I informed about the excellent books, and work from Tracy and this supportgroup. She and this group are really lifesavers.
        Thank you all for your honest en personal lifestories and your courage to look for a better and healthier life… it’s helping so much.
        P.S. my English is not my native language but I hope you can in essential understand what I mean.
        A

    • David, today would have been my 24th Anniversary. I turned today into a “Freedom Day” for myself 4 years ago…. I really hope you do too! I go out and dress up and feel inspired to be my best self! It feels liberating to still be loving, laughing, caring and moving forward for yourself! Xoxo SweetChumpgirl I really hope you enjoy this day! Because you always deserved better!

    • Totally understand how you feel. I’m dreading next month, which would’ve been our 30th anniversary. We’ve been divorced since 12/18; most days I’m almost fine now, but I know that one’s gonna be so hard. Even now I still have the stray thought ‘If I’d only done or said XWZ, he would’ve stayed,’ which is absolutely untrue. I still need to remind myself that he was never going to stay, nor did I *want* him to by the end. Why would I want an emotionally abusive asshole who’d walk out on his disabled wife?

      Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are the worst. Distraction is key. Remembering why they suck is essential.

    • Sending ((hugs)). The pain is intolerable sometimes. No one knows how bad it is except fellow chumps.

      On the days when it was really bad, I would make lists of all the horrible things he did and said to me. The pain would leave, and the anger would take over. And I’ll take anger over pain any day of the week. Plus, it helped me to see what a totally abusive POS he was, which made me grateful he wasn’t around any longer.

      I hope you feel a little better tomorrow.

  • I googled endless on brain tumors in the early days after dday. Maybe it was a thyroid issue or lack of sleep due to his regular overseas travel. Nope. In the end it was just a shitty character that had emerged along with a shiny sense of entitlement..

    • Me too. I diagnosed Cheater #3 with Asperger’s and then Cushing’s disease.

      Nope. Just a stunted, selfish person who later admitted to managing down my expectations.

      • I thought mine had dementia. He was 61. 🙄

        Why else would he:
        1. back up into our daughter’s car?
        2. leave the grill on all night?
        3. forget to put water in the coffee maker?
        4. struggle so much at work (which supposedly explained returning home at 9 pm)?

        I could go on…..

        Btw, I was so kind and understanding even though, to be honest, he would have castigated me if I’d done any of the above. I think I thought I was setting an example for him. Talk about hopium!!! It never worked, of course.

        p.s. He refused to pay for the damage to our daughter’s car. #shittycharacter #consistent

        • Oh, and I forgot to mention that I think he made all these mistakes because maintaining a double life and keeping all those lies straight ain’t easy!

          Crap. I’m still so angry. I DIDN’T KNOW, and I was so damn understanding. Fuck him for abusing me like that. I hate that I was kept in the dark. It haunts me still.

          • I with you in every word of this last paragraph. If you ever figure out a way to move past it – please let me know!

          • Spinach

            I get mad all over again when I think of the shit he put me through. And mad at myself for not leaving the minute he did the first huge shitty thing.

            He is now blaming me (to MY own family) for “turning the kids against” him which is wrong, wildly inaccurate and – insane.

            And yet it bothers me to this day.

            Not sure how to let go of that. Or move past it. Truly.

            CL?? CN??

            • Right there with you, DOCTOR’1STWIFE&3KIDS. Mine, too, blames me for turning the kids against him (poisoning them, he says). It is galling (insulting to them and to me). And it’s 100% inaccurate. He never cultivated good relationships with them. He emotionally abused all of us. So he’s suffering the natural consequences of what he did FOR YEARS. It wasn’t just the affair that caused them to go NC. He doesn’t get that. Never will. In his mind, he’s being unfairly punished by evil, vindictive Spinach and the poor, poisoned kids. A covert narc, he’s suffering more than anyone else has suffered…EVER. And it’s so unfair!!! I’m sure he gets kibbles every day when he complains about this.

              I just made the mistake of looking at some old texts that I received two years ago today in the immediate aftermath of D-Day. What I noticed is that he’s all over the place in his thinking. Very disordered. Here are some of the head-spinning lines he wrote:

              1. I still love you. I think you can love two people at once.
              2. I love her. She said she had feelings for me 10 years ago. I was naive. She flirted.
              3. I made a big mistake.
              4. I wish I could turn back the clock.
              5. You and I had a bad dynamic.
              6. I should have left you in 2006 (btw, it was in 2006 that got my initials tattooed on his upper thigh, which is now facing the other thigh that sports a massive fish tattoo). If you saw him–bespectacled, aging doc–you wouldn’t expect that he was tatted up down there. Lol.)
              6. You were at fault, too.
              7. I own what I did, but you have to admit that we had a bad dynamic.

              So which is it? I mean, how can you wish we were still together but at the same time say that we had a bad dynamic and you wish you’d left me sooner?

              Ok, I’ll lift my head out of the blender now. Crazy shit. I know he’s disordered and just trying to justify his shitty behavior. Goddammit.

              Clearly, I, too, need advice on how to get past this.

              • Um, Spinach, I *know* you know this, but reading *old* messages from your ex is breaking “no contact” just as much as reading *new* messages from your ex.

                You already *know* the advice for getting past this. _You’ve_ given it to others.

                Go no contact, and *stay* no contact. Don’t read or listen to any message from him that is one picosecond old, 1 minute old, 1 hour old, one year old, one decade old, one century old,… How*old* they are is *irrelevant*.

                No Contact!

                And:

                Don’t try to untangle the skein.
                It won’t make sense because it is not coming from a sensible, rational person.

                You are playing Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football, expecting fairness and reason instead of toxic cruelty. *Nobody* understands why Lucy keeps yanking the football away, but everybody on the planet – including Charlie Brown – knows that she *will*. Charlie Brown is addicted to hopium. HE would never act that way, so he keeps thinking surely *she* won’t. Charlie Brown hates himself every time he chump-suckers into trying to kick the football again. Who *cares* WHY Lucy keeps doing that. But we can all trust that Lucy *sucks*.

                Happily, you are far more intelligent than Charlie Brown.

                Now forgive yourself for slipping up, and go back to *NO CONTACT*.

                If you still feel you need advice on how to get past this, then go re-read Chump Lady’s book starting on page one. It seems you need a distraction, and a reminder, and a reenforcenent of principles. Rereading Chump Lady’s book will accomplish all three.

              • Spinach,
                Your comment here, and Tengu’s reply, have been on mind since yesterday, and I woke up today (Tuesday, the 12th), thinking about them.
                I just want to say to you that it is my belief and my experience that there is a difference between untangling the skein to spackle for one’s spouse, in service to hopium, and untangling the skein in the service to your own development and healing, in service to fixing your picker (in the broader sense).
                Going through your ex’s old emails, after the very trying and triggering event of his remarriage, is not, to my mind, a lapse in “no contact” so much as it is an exercise in reminding yourself that you can trust that he sucks. All those contradictory statements of his are evidence that he says whatever serves him best–and that includes trying to manipulate you or rationalize his behavior–at the moment he says them. Which is to say that instead of looking for logic in them, or to them to see whether his accusations or characterization of you hold any merit, you should see them as proof only of his self-serving situational remarks, and are evidence that yes, he sucks.

                Excelsior!

        • Omg… my ex plowed into my daughter’s car just days before the final dday! Was still in such a hurry to go, he drove through the neighbors yard! I’d bet money today he was late for a BJ…

        • Oh God. Same. I even went with FW to his primary care doctor. I was so sure there was a brain tumor or dementia. He was 51 but forgot everything. Phone, keys, wallet, suitcases, passports, tickets, etc. He even got lost going home after we got gas from a gas station two miles from our house. I was the front passenger and I remember watching him figure out how to go home while mentally accepting that this is it, my husband is dying of early-onset dementia or some other terrible neuro disease. His primary doc found nothing wrong but just started him on an antidepressant. He constantly lied about taking it, telling our then-marriage counselor that his depression is better because “I’ve been taking it every day for 3 months.” Ummm….I order prescriptions and refills for our family and no, he has not finished one month of pills. No, he was never depressed.

          Found out much later that no..there is nothing medically wrong with him. His mind was just constantly elsewhere. Managing a double-life is a big mental load, I guess. He didn’t want to think about his normal above-ground life with a wife and 3 kids. All his thoughts were constantly in his underground life, escapades with AP, porn, stealing, fraud. It is all just a severe case of incurable shitty character.

        • Disgusting but not surprising, Spinach. It really does come down to character. Refusal to pay damages when you’ve caused harm demonstrates a major lack of integrity. Really, can you imagine?

          My ex’s jenky trailer hitch led a friend (sick with cancer) to lose his finger. After, FW commented that he was relieved he hadn’t been the one injured. I was shocked and disgusted. This was before dday, and I still couldn’t see the forest for the trees, but it was nevertheless one of many seeds that began to help me build a case for leaving a low character dirtbag. “When someone tells you who they are…” I gave my ex the benefit of the doubt and clung to the maybe, but I had serious misgivings for years. I gradually lost respect for FW and also knew that something needed to change or I needed to leave. (Again, long before d-day.) But maybe…

          I abandoned many of my possessions and years of investments when I left for good, but I had no other choice. My ex went scorched earth when I asked him to pay damages (to my person and property) – goes without saying that he didn’t offer on his own out of a sense of responsibility, like a decent human. He also refused to divide possessions or assets. He wouldn’t even have a conversation. Just was nasty and controlling and blame shifting, as always, then blocked me altogether. At first I fought because it was a matter of principle and because he stole so much from me; I gave up because it was a game to him, and it was driving me over the edge. In the process, he lost any shred of respect from any halfway decent mutual acquaintances. No need to cling to painful memories as proof and validation of his poor character, as reminders of the abuse and inequality in our relationship and why I needed to leave. This “resolution” speaks for itself.

    • I became more creative with my pick me dancing.., his unhappiness had to be my fault. I just knew if I was nicer, smiled more, cooked his favorite meals, kept a cleaner home, and placed no demands or question him he’d be happier and everything would be okay.

      Imagine my surprise after all my smiling and dancing when he went to work one day and never came home. It took me awhile to realize it wasn’t my poor dancing skills but his lack of character and integrity.
      I married an imposter, a coward, an arrogant bully, a condescending pathological liar.

      • Yes, I had myself all tied up in knots trying to make him happy. And he still blamed his unhappiness on me. His brother called him on that during separation, but it didn’t make any difference. It was all my fault, period.

        When he took off, it gave me the break I needed to figure out that he would never be happy with me, period. He spent hours and hours going over my flaws with his family, and it only made it worse because they ganged up on me too.

        Partway into the divorce process, my attorney started calling him “the boy.” I asked why that term because my ex was retired and not a young man at all. My attorney said because my ex was significantly lacking in maturity to “show up and own up.” After that, my attorney never once used my ex’s name or “your husband.” It was always “the boy.”

        Yes, he was lacking in character and a long-distance bully. The divorce had to be.

    • This! Couldn’t see the forest, for the trees , maybe because we are too close.

      Tho immature fuckwits don’t have patience to wait for kibble like the victim, so they go with impulse and look elsewhere and they are never satisfied.

      • For me, the other side of the hopium coin was the notion of sunk costs. I had a lot invested in the relationship like 20 years of life and a good portion of my identity and self-esteem. Hopium plus sunk costs kept me dancing longer and harder than I ever should have.

        • Same… leaving a long term abusive relationship meant facing sunk costs and overwhelming losses. I was willing to try just about anything to avoid that, even after disclosure(s). Bargaining stage of grief.

          The hopium allowed me to spackle and invest in the potential (vs. see the reality). I guess that my naivety/chumpiness/lack of understanding of manipulation and disordered personalities meant that I chased the kibble of expectation by pouring myself into an abusive, broken relationship – whereas cheaters instead do the opposite and turn to cheating, no matter who it hurts.

    • I went with the whole depression, mid-life crisis bullshit, that he’d somehow snap out of once he saw how much damage he’d done to me and our marriage. Bwahahahaa. Nope. He didn’t care about anyone or anything besides what he thought he was ‘entitled’ to after 26 years of playing devoted husband. He actually said that to me. They’re all selfish asshats, not changed by head trauma.

    • My D-day was 40 years ago and I could not understand why she continued doing the AP thing knowing full well she was sacrificing everything. A physical brain anomaly had crossed my mind back then because I did not see that what she was doing was in any form , normal to any rational person.
      Fast forward 40 years , she’s in an assisted living facility with glioblastoma , as my son puts it , just waiting to die.

  • Good Morning CN!,

    My anticipation of getting through the weekend without CL paid off!

    At this point in the world, the word “scientist” gives me pause — and I come from a family of scientists, so I go to the “CL axiom on character”.

    My understanding from CL is that we chumps are hooked up to the freak’s metaphorical IV drip and the freak controls everything— what’s in it, how much to give and when to give, when to refill and when to stop completely. Sounds like some sick scientist in a horror movie.
    Not for me. I DO NOT want to be hooked up to that— talk about bad character.
    There is only one solution.
    No contact. Remember she sucks.
    Thanks CL.

  • Wow! That is interesting and explains why after 9 years of being out and seeing my ex for what he is (a narc), my brain will still think of positive outcomes with him if he acts nice toward me or the kids. Which as you can imagine, doesn’t happen which leads to massive disappointment on my and the kids end. So, to curb the bad brain habit I found that I have to either educate myself about narcissism (I have a couple of pages I follow for daily content) or go through a list of what my ex is vs. what he isn’t to remind myself EVERY-SINGLE-DAY so I stop going down that rabbit hole. I even educate my kids about this too so they can see him for what he is because he was doing a lot of psychological damage to them. After a lot of heartache, mindfucks and court battles I decided to take this every day approach to stop the hopium and me and my kids are much better for it. Hope that advice helps some of you!

  • “Decades and decades waiting on the reward.”
    Thirty three years, eight months and 14 days before I gave up on the notion there was the reward of a loving and faithful husband in the marriage. I am so deeply grateful for the 2×4 of Truths in your book, Tracy. LACGAL saved my life.

    I am so relieved my earthbound angel of a therapist helped me see there were no rewards in an abusive marriage. I’m glad I fired therapists until I found one who didn’t blame me for the demise of my marriage. I didn’t do anything to make him cheat. That was his choice.

    Shout out to Chump Nation for sharing your truths. All these stories mirroring my experience with the abuse of adultery forced me to see there was no reward for staying married to LTC Fuckface.

    I’m so glad I’m done waiting on the great pumpkin. I no longer wait for an abusive man to see my worth.

    Any newly chumped reading this please know that you will be far better off without the toxicity of a cheater in your life. “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life”.

    • Good thoughts. I asked a therapist if it meant anything that my then husband was nice at times, and surprised me with flowers or a cake.

      Her reply was ‘even wifebeaters bring roses.’

      That woke me up.

  • This is a great post. It also explains why so many men say that the most sexually exciting place to be is not actually having sex, but being ‘about to have sex’.

    Anticipation IS the reward, almost.

    And the principle of intermittent reward – kibble, unpredictable break, kibble – keeps gamblers addicted, and abused partners staying.

  • This lines up with the pleasure derived from planning and anticipation of a wonderful trip. Makes sense to me.

    I think that’s why finding LACGAL was so instrumental to me. Once I realized the cheaters all say the same things, how unlikely I’d get the life I thought I had back, the real damage that could be done and the whole hopium thing I was doing, I came to my senses.

  • Interesting angle! I always knew I was addicted to FW (I called it love) and felt like the forced parting from him really stirred up those cravings as I sucked back the hopium. It’s interesting to consider that I may have been addicted, brain-science wise, to the hopium itself. It would make sense as to why I was holding out for someone who treated me like I was gum underneath his shoe. I’d like to think that I *wouldn’t* be addicted to someone who treats me like old chewing gum and it’s easier to see how I’d be addicted to the maybe… to the hope that my white picket fence dreams might manifest.

    Darn you, brain! Why’d you work again me for so long.

    Joking aside… interesting science aside… something happened along the way and I was released from my hopium/maybe addiction. Or, as I think of it, I finally and *thankfully* fell out of love (which took long, hard work). I can’t imagine ever feeling those feelings for him ever again or thinking hopefully that “well, maybe if he just ___” ever again. There’s nothing but fear regarding his presence interspersed with the occasional bout of meh. No love, no like, no hope that maybe he’ll get better and be someone I’d want to be around even platonically.

    I have an alcoholic friend who struggled with that addiction for years. She described a similar shift in perception regarding the target of her addiction. For a long time, if alcohol was in the room, she’d really, really consider having some because she’d be in that hopeful state of mind: “Maybe I can have just a little this time and it will work out. I’ll handle it just fine.” And of course, it never worked out like that. She said over the course of time and hard work, her perception about booze being in the same room at her turned from “Well, maybe this time it will work out” to “I want that away from me. It won’t work out and I fear its presence. Please remove that.” She doesn’t ever look at nearby alcohol with those hopeful “maybe” eyes anymore.

    Maybe there’s something to be said about the healthy building of boundaries and their role in thwarting our brain’s addiction to the “maybe this time it’s going to pay off!” thrill.

    Good/interesting post. I’m walking away from it thinking more about how boundary building has saved my life and sanity. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone. Today, I am grateful for the walls I’ve built for good fences make for good neighbours, even if those neighbours are you and the you that kept thinking “Maybe this time…”

    Bless those boundaries! I always tell people that I didn’t erect those boundaries in order to angrily punish anyone; I set up those boundaries because I finally wanted to invest in myself.

    • Thank you for this reminder of what it is to be both an addict and addicted.

      My STBXH is both an addict (to the “thrill” of them all!!) and addicted to the next dopamine hit (“she was everything I wanted”, “this one gave me what I needed when you wouldn’t…”). In listening to this video, and having in doing my own research, the condition should be called “maybe-ism”. “Maybe this next affair will finally lead to my ‘x'”. “Maybe my husband will see that I am everything he wants and not have the next affair.” Hopium. Dopium. Maybeism. I concede I engaged in Pick-Me-Dancing for years, smoked the hopium and denied my needs (for human touch, companionship, someone else to pick up the groceries while I was hospitalized with pneumonia, again,…) to “keep the family together”. My hopium ran deep. (As I write this, I received a social media post from the time when affair #2 was in full effect; it is a pic of my kids and me on a beach when he had “to stay home for work”. What a fucking chump I was.) I know what it is; I just took a hit of the hopium over the weekend (maybe the thousands of dollars of therapy will let him have a good relationship with is kids) and bam!, reality hit and we’re back to boundary reinforcement. Thank you CN for the reminder of my human-ness. That the day of divorce is in sight leaves me hopeful, not hopiumed. But in this moment, I think I’m just gonna sit in my discomfort and sadness and remember that I have survived that which wasn’t about me.
      Be well all.

  • CL and all the posters here: every time I am on this site, I am astonished at how smart you all are. Have you all noticed that reading CL and the comments actually teaches you new things? I do.

    Why are you all such good writers and thinkers? Why is this the most intelligent and innovative site I can think of?

    Are chumps smart as a result of healing from abuse, or do smart people attract narcs?

    Am I the only one who is constantly surprised by how unbelievably well written these articles and comments are?

    • You are not the only one. I am also daily taught by the individual and collective insights and wisdom of Chump Lady and Chump Nation.

    • I have thought the same thing! Which makes me insecure about posting my own comments! I can’t possibly be as witty and well spoken as these seasoned chumps! In contrast, the FW I was married to can hardly complete a sentence. One of the MANY red flags early on that I spackled over.

    • I noticed that as an advocate for dv survivors. No one has as rapid a learning curve as someone in a trap and pushed to the limit trying to survive, particularly in circumstances where victims are commonly blamed for being mistreated.

      It seems like these conditions– being victimized and then socially marginalized– force survivors to question literally every socially conditioned belief. That’s when the mental fireworks begin. I saw people with high school educations suddenly able to recite and intelligently speculate on the neurofeedback loop involved in trauma as, say, an argumement for why drugging PTSD in general is statistically so ineffective and the common practice of automatically drugging battered women can be abusive and political. Advocates within the service were taking notes and assumptions were questioned. Cross references to civil rights history were often made. Survivors were steaming ahead and devouring books on everything from history to criminology to neuroscience to political analysis.

      I began to realize that what we think of as denseness or dumbness or lack of emotional intelligence is often really the effect of the “scales across our eyes”: misdirected social conditioning. When those scales or programmed collective delusions fall away, it’s stunning how smart our species can be when given the “right” and strong enough motivation to access specialized knowledge.

      Noam Chomsky writes about a particular human quirk that’s rapidly killing democracy: Chomsky describes how brilliant average people can be when factoring sports scores, though the same people will feel ill equipped to question political policies, as if the latter were too complicated and required special, inaccessible analytical abilities… rather then just being deliberately couched in obtuse language to discourage the plebes from participating in politics.

      I think it’s the latter obtuse “meta-messaging” 8n media and by institutions is why some turn to David Ickean lizard overlord theories– the language is just more accessible. Never mind that Icke started the lizard alien bs as a prank, the spin represents what people instinctively recognize as true (oligopolies are usually run by .01 percenters who act as if they’re a different caste or race than “plebes”vtowards whom the elites temper empathy) and that we’re losing our democracy, just in “ghost story” form.

      • Every technical, highly specialized field has its jargon, which is impenetrable to people who haven’t devoted the time and energy to mastering it. This is just as true of sports as it is of politics; in fact, NPR often describes obscure, in-the-weeds political maneuvering as “inside baseball”. I am sure that “average people” are just as capable of understanding political policies as they are of understanding sports – it’s just a question of how much effort is put into each topic. If more people put their minds to understanding the effect of redistricting on majority representation rather than worrying about the effect of revenue sharing on small-market competitiveness in the NFL, our country would be a lot healthier.

        I’ve tried to explain both the electoral college and baseball to foreigners; baseball is harder.

    • Yeah, this is really a great point & one I think about a lot…obviously there is some self-selection bias, in that non-articulate chumps probably choose not to post…but I am also blown away by the wisdom, kindness and sheer quality of the prose here in the CL comments.

      Stay mighty, everyone!!

    • Totally, Mia, yes! I’m a writer for a living and I regularly read the comments on CL and am like, damn, that’s some fine thinking / writing / articulating [insert wisdom nugget here]!

      To me that suggests how many chumps there actually are out there if a blog, kind of by virtue of the genre, is a space people that tends to attract those who like to read to process. It’s also a testament to the quality of the space Tracy has built that it is somewhere for those who like to write things out and analyze them to return, regularly, in order to learn and discuss. There must be so many people who come to CL just to read, and even those are the people who are reading-oriented when it comes to solving their chumpiness! [waves to all lurkers]

      If your connections are anything like mine, the commenting-on-blogs trait is relatively rare. I am the only one in my nuclear family, and maybe one of 3 or 4 in an extended family of 40+ people, who really likes to read and write to work out my stuff. I have cousins far chumpier than me who would not pick up a book to deal with their problems. I don’t think that smart people attract more narcs or are chumpier, I just think there are so many chumps in the world that if you build a smart site, you’ll attract the blog readers and writers from the chump siblinghood and still find there are a whole heap of us!

      As an academic and person in the book world, though, I’m surrounded by smart, literate people and one thing this site has been wonderful for is tuning my ear for empathy. I have been a sucker for a strong argument most of my life, and I couldn’t discern amongst those who would use their argumentative skills to rationalize bad behaviour and those who didn’t. I’d always be giving people the benefit of the doubt if they seemed to have a decent argument, and I think we as chumps know that anyone wanting to tell themselves that what they are doing isn’t a problem will find a way to do it. I was raised by poor arguers and ended up getting way too close to intellectually brilliant people who would call it a win to “win” arguments in their personal lives as much as in a court room or a thesis defence.

      I feel so grateful to read the words of people who clearly know their way around a sentence and have been through verbal jousts with wordcrafty fuckwits. Hearing/reading chump tone and storytelling has taught me what empathetic intelligence sounds like. I learned that if I’m having to explain over and over again, something isn’t right and it’s not that I didn’t articulate myself properly; it’s taught me that smart fuckwits will use their language to disrupt you emotionally; also I learned that people will use language to “technically not lie” to you and tell themselves they’re therefore technically righteous.

      I’ve correlated articulate speaking and writing with “good” writing. For me, *good* writing connects people, works authentically, and doesn’t sensationalize or thrill at the expense of demonizing a particular group or identity. But for others, good writing is what tells a suspenseful, colourful lie, connects with the reader’s hopes and strings them along, and then delivers the cum shot big explosion fairy tale ending.

      One of my biggest smack-in-the-face brutal awakenings, though, came from one of my literary heroes who is winning awards for writing heart-tugging stories of Black resilience … who I was sure met the criteria for authenticity and integrity, because: that writing! … whose wife I know and like … then who at the retreat for writers of colour invited me back to their hotel room at midnight…

      • So, so fascinating. Thank you.

        (And the attempted seduction at the end by the married man: God, this world is a dark place. I have zero faith or hope, so I’ll keep my ultra-depressing thoughts to myself on that one.)

  • Might as well face it you’re addicted to love. – Robert Palmer

    No one should become addicted to love. Healthy love isn’t an addiction. It’s an unhealthy “fix” that moderates feelings one hasn’t learned to manage alone.

    Whether it’s the cheater or the chump using a “fix” to feel good about life and themselves, what goes up must come back down. The down stage is “withdrawal” peppered with depression. That is, until another “fix” appears and the addiction continues.

    Choose healthy love. First with and for yourself; then to share with others.

  • Such an interesting talk!
    Yes, I totally see this is what my brain was doing before DDay. Waiting, hoping, waiting, waiting for the reward…because it had to come, right?

    A few minutes into the talk I also realized this theory also explains how I got to meh!!!!!

    Years and years (10 for those chumps who want to know when Tuesday is coming) of thinking that if I can just survive the implosion of my world, one day at a time, I would reach mental peace. I trusted the words of the chumps who came before me that if I hung on long enough my reward of “walls that sing” would appear. The good hopium?

    Yes, I had grit, determination, the kick-ass lawyer of all time, an amazing therapist and, finally, the right combo of drugs. But that alone wouldn’t get me across the finish line. I needed to believe that if I got myself through each one of this dark days that there would be a reward at the end.

    I love this post CL!!!! Perhaps this type of hopium needs a new word. The dopamine that is there that keeps us going, coming here to read and share, that gets us through those truly dark days when we cannot take another step. Dopium???

    To be able to listen to this and have my brain go to a peaceful, happy place that explains how I got here is the best reward of all.

    I wish a bucket full of Dopium to get each of you to Tuesday.
    ❤️

  • This! For 37 years I hung my hat on the tiniest of acts, which in a healthy relationship would have been assumed as standard expected behaviors. Nevermind that 98% of the time he was a jerk, because 13 months ago he bought me a five pound bag of flour without me asking!! (Completely ignoring the fact he stops by the grocery store a couple of times a week to get his snacks without asking me if I want or need anything.)
    I think, at some point, you get so beaten down that you just stop expecting to be treated with the same kindness and regard he reserved for total strangers.
    Yes, it was a sucker punch when I discovered the years and years of sex workers, sexting, porn escalation, Webcam, internet hookups, etc… BUT, the shock to my system gave me immediate clarity. It gave me the superpower to recognize all the other crappy treatment was unacceptable abuse too.
    I immediately filed for divorce and never looked back. Full NC now, and damn, it feels so much better.

    • This – “you just stop expecting to be treated with the same kindness and regard he reserved for total strangers” – is actually exactly where I am today. My one and only goal with XW is to achieve the level of civility she would offer a supermarket cashier.

      • IG, I would hope your goal would be to stop hoping for pearls from swine

        She gets a charge of superiority from talking down to you

        My lying/cheating ex still sends me scathing texts that attempt to demean me, and boast of his current ‘winning.’ I do not reply. Because I don’t reply they are tapering off to once or twice a year now.

        • “My lying/cheating ex still sends me scathing texts that attempt to demean me, and boast of his current ‘winning.’ ”

          WTF??? That’s awful.

        • Well, I model the behavior I’m hoping to see (I am always civil, never escalate, no contact except for kid-related issues that require coordination), partly in the hope that she will adopt the same behaviors with me, but mainly because it’s the right thing to do. If I responded to her the same way she acts towards me, we’d probably be in litigation right now.

          I know that it’s commonplace to treat the people you love worse than acquaintances, for all types of relationships (parent/child, spouse, siblings). What bugs me is that XW has opted out of loving me (very publicly and explicitly) but she still treats me with the casual disrespect and anger of an intimate.

          Bah. On the scale of her historical hypocritical behavior, it’s pretty far down the list, but (as I have very little knowledge of what goes on in her and AP’s life, by design) it’s the one I still deal with regularly.

          • Gray Rock

            Hoping she will notice that you are civilized and follow suit? That would take a personality transplant on her part.

  • This is really interesting stuff. My own theory, I’m sure shared by many here, is that “character” isn’t so much the resistance to those illicit sexual kibbles as it is the presence of an additional neurological capacity to experience dopamine, oxytocin, etc. from something higher: deep human connection. We still experience all the same shallower rewards, and they may even tempt us in passing. But we additionally receive a deeper and more comforting and enduring reward from the experience of deep emotional and reliable relational bonds.

    You might even be able to adequately define “disordered” as the developmental failure to achieve this capacity during the phase of brain development wherein such necessary neurological connective tissue is normally laid down. Be it due to environmental deficits or whatever, they didn’t develop this network and never will experience it’s rewards. The remaining low-level reward system we all enjoy, is for them the only thing they can experience. They are left to conclude the rest (the higher rewards system) is just what everyone pretends to experience and so they play along all their lives becoming both good and completely comfortable with the duplicitous act. And since it’s the only relational reward system they can experience, it’s takes on an exaggerated central importance to them.

    It’s as though they only have taste sensation to experience Diet Coke, while we can experience that as well as everything up to and including Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1968. Stuck with Coke only, they have to try it here, there, in the car, at the office, anywhere anyhow it can be reformed or imagined to be “different”. We have no such need because we have no such limitation.

    • Darned if you didn’t just describe my ex to a T! A mile wide and a couple inches deep.
      Without my going too far into untangling the skein, I remember now when my best friend of 25 years died suddenly, a few years later he mentioned that I should try to find a new best friend. Ya know, like you find a new secretary or a new dentist.
      A – I mean, for God’s sake, I HAD friends! and
      B – this was during the first time he started thinking about leaving me, and he admitted later he was fishing around to see if I would have a support system, magnanimous person that he was 🙄 My response was, “So if you’re going to fuck my life, you wanted to be sure there was lube???” We made up and were together for 10 more years without incident. Then when he did decide to leave, he didn’t fish at all. Just dropped the bomb. Fuck him.

  • “… but I think there’s brain science to the irrationality, beyond the immorality. How many chumps thought their cheater had a brain tumor?”

    THIS. CL you really do get it.

    For those of us that can’t imagine being so immature and selfish as to just shit on our families — ignore our spouse and children to pursue whatever the fuck makes us giddy (morals, logic, maturity and others’ feelings be damned) — FW choices are FREAKY. They MUST have a brain tumor! Who does that as a grown ass adult?

    Then our own hopium takes over… “the husband I knew is returning! Look – he didn’t yell at me this morning!”

    I’m lucky FW left me on DDay never to return. It still took a while for my brain to catch up. I still thought it was a brain tumor at first. But it helped to force action from me to protect myself and my kid. There was no reconciliation to consider. The discard was embarrassing and hard, but it made the decision for me — I had no choice but to shatter the hopium pipe and move on right away.

  • Maybe the unifying principle is that in intermittent reinforcement the reward is only offered occasionally, so the “novelty” is the sometime yes / sometimes no nature of the reward. If the same signal + work yields the same reward every time, it becomes just habit – but if the reward is suddenly missing then you take notice. Sadly, I am trying to think of a consistent “reward” my XW provided during our marriage to gauge whether I reacted strongly when she withdrew it, but I’m coming up empty.

    It’s certainly the case that many of us here were punished for being consistent, dependable spouses who maintained efficient households and relationships (basically, operating way too far towards the “always” side of variable-reward strategy) – and were then deemed “boring” by comparison with the drama, uncertainty, risk, and upheaval of the affair. I do know that my XW has told our kids I didn’t really love her because I didn’t scream at her during arguments or jealously monitor her whereabouts when she traveled.

    • Yep. I think to him love was drama and fighting and breaking stuff. That’s how you showed people how much you cared.

      Sometimes the “reward” is just a short break from the nightmare.

      I think I completely disappeared for almost 10 years. I had no needs. I focused on earning money through 2-3 jobs at a time to provide for our child’s (who has multiple disabilities) future wellbeing. I focused on not upsetting him. I did what I did as a child, I focused on being invisible.

      I actually had a plan that once I saved a certain amount of money, did my will, pre-paid for my funeral, and my kid was over 18, I would kill myself. It used to make me happy looking at my “bucket list.”

      He was so good at making me think I was a part of the problem. It was only when I started getting close to checking off everything on my list and was thinking about “checking out early” that I found CL. I know with my whole heart that this site saves lives.

      I never lied, I never was violent, I never cheated. I paid the bills, I kept the wheels of life turning, I woke up each day and tried my best. I know now didn’t deserve a single day of the way he treated me.

      • This is interesting. The ex had been in a long-distance relationship with his ex-girlfriend throughout our relationship of 26 years, 18 years married at the time of the split. It has never been admitted. I believe that the relationship became a full blown emotional, then physical, affair 10 years before the end of the marriage. The rest of the time it was a secret close friendship. I also believe that the ex believed that I would accept a secret close friendship with him after the split. The ex gf would remain in Canada and I would be ‘available’ in the UK to fill the long gaps. He would have other relationships with ‘office wives’ on the side of both of us, as I now believe he did throughout his relationship with me/us. Those ‘all-nighters’ in the office were in fact brief affairs.

        The ex gf is well-known amongst people who knew them when they were previously together for her rages and tantrums. She was a stormer out of restaurants, a ruiner of parties, and a shrieking on trains sort of person. Perhaps she had good reason. The ex husband would often create rows with me, generally alcohol-fuelled. My parents had a very turbulent, volatile marriage with lots of rows (the marriage lasted 63 years until my father’s death just before the ex dumped me). I don’t row; I run away. I have no doubt that the lack of confrontation and passionate argument contributed to his increasing boredom with me. He often accused me of being uncompetitive and would say so to friends, emphasising how ‘annoying’ it was. Whilst I was told repeatedly that I was crazy, my stability was in itself a fault for him. I spoke my love sincerely in words and actions. That wasn’t good enough for him.

  • Addiction recovery, be it cheater or chump, takes time. Lots of time. In the same way the substance abuser learns to moderate feelings and behaviors based on substance use, the chump has learned to moderate their own equilibrium based on the need for favorable cheater response.

    In the same way addicts vary in potential recovery from substance abuse; cheaters and chumps do, too.
    Some do the time and work to become sober (functional in and of themselves independent of substance). Others never do; they choose to remain under the influence of mood altering substances to mask dysfunction.

    Healthy love isn’t choosing a partner as a substance, object, or focus to moderates feelings. Unfortunately this is all too common, which brings us all here today. We must get “sober” with ourselves first. Then we grow into fitness for healthy love with healthy partners.

  • Yup this is me literally for years while he destroyed our business and blew our life savings of hundreds of thousands in 4 short years and quit working to make sure I couldn’t get any spousal support. Definitely a glutton for punishment.

  • Well, this explains a lot.

    My ex got married just over a week ago, and I couldn’t figure out why I was so devastated. I mean, I know he sucks. I know my life is better without him. But learning of the marriage and (on top of that) that he adopted a dog sent me spiraling down.

    Why?

    Well, I think that a part of me enjoyed (got a dopamine rush from) the thought that he wasn’t doing well with schmoopie and that his life was crashing and burning without me. I liked the thought that he would regret that he left me and wish he could have me back. My own little kibble orgasm would be to have him beg to get back together with me. I would refuse him and watch him writhe in pain.

    I enjoyed fantasizing about this.

    I’m embarrassed to say that I would make up entire little scenarios of interactions between my ex and the OW. I would pretend that he would say something cruel and cutting to her (which is what he does) and she would react oh so terribly, which would result in one of them storming out of their house. Misery! Pain! Regret!! Karma!!! I got kibbles/rewards when I upped the ante and imagined that he would blame her for ruining his life. Then she would say that now she understands why his adult kids want nothing to do with him. And then he would slap her and she would cry and leave him!!!

    Pathetic on my part. I know.

    I thought I was pain shopping. But, in a weird way, I guess I was looking for a dopamine hit.

    So, they’re married, live in a nice house, and have a puppy together. That’s the reality. I guess I’m struggling because reality has disrupted this particular dopamine pathway.

    p.s. I never thought he had a brain tumor. I did, however, think he was in the early stages of dementia. I thought he retired because he couldn’t keep up at work. I thought he stayed late because he was struggling with EMR (electronic medical records).

    Silly me. He seemed demented because he was juggling two lives. He retired to purposefully impoverish himself in anticipation of divorce. He stayed late because he was fucking her at a hotel or her house (when her husband was away. Hey, he saved some marital funds doing that. Why don’t I give him some credit?).

    • there is research to indicate that revenge fantasies are good for a person with PTSD.

      Haen and Weber assert that “revenge fantasies often serve to calm the negative feelings of frustration, humiliation, and insult by virtually punishing the perpetrator…”

      my therapist says the same when i go in for my EMDR sessions and she’s good at her job, thank god. therapy is so fucking hard.

    • Thanks for your openness to share this. We all have revenge fantasies-mine are so vile I don’t want to admit them.😁

    • Spinach…I found out ex remarried 5 yrs after dday – not to schnoopie but to a woman who was not even born when we married & we were married over 24 yrs. I remember being at work when I heard the news & cried to a coworker, “there was nothing wrong with me.” Meaning why did he cheat & leave within weeks of dday. Of course we know everything was wrong WITH him.

      I can still tear up when I think about how broken I was even 5 yrs out. Matter of fact my wedding date will be 36yrs tomorrow. Always makes me a little sad with the leaves falling as our outdoor photos were full of the changing foliage. Asshat, I hate you!

      • Hurt1, my 20th wedding anniversary is 13 October. Even though I have largely got to meh with lots of therapy, I have been struggling with difficult emotions this last week. It has not helped that work and domestic life are a challenge (nothing is going right). There was unexpected contact after 18 months of silence from a Switzerland friend who had clearly been tasked by the ex with checking up on whether I had someone else in my life. And I had cause to see the ex’s ugly handwriting on a piece of redirected mail. I don’t feel hopium: I feel fear of slipping back to that very dark place that I was in for 8 months or so after the split (2 years out). There is a big part of me that feels that if I did slip back I would not have the strength to claw back up again. It sounds so dramatic to say that I will carry the badly healed scar of what happened in the marriage with me to the day I die. But I will, not because I want to, but because no matter what life holds (I’m over 60) I did not believe that a person I loved and who appeared to love me could behave in the way that he did. It was not the one definite affair that I knew about that causes the pain. It was the lies, the betrayal, the cruelty, the hatred displayed by him to me that caused the wound. And I was expected by him and his family to accept it. I was unreasonable because I had not just accepted it like his brothers’ ex-wives did when they were on the receiving end of exactly the same treatment. I ‘failed’ because I did not remain friends with him and his family while he paraded the ex girlfriend from his hometown around like the prize she isn’t. Right now I don’t know where any of this leaves me. I do know that feeling the pain of the betrayal is much harder than feeling hopium which makes it easy to understand why people get stuck there. When already in pain, hopium is a soothing balm. There are times when moving on from that feels like repeatedly sticking the already bleeding hand in the fire to cauterise the wound. It’s necessary but it really, really hurts. And not many people understand why it hurts.

        • Replying to myself. I believe that meh is an unrealistic ‘goal’, for me. I talk a good talk but I don’t feel meh. I’ve noticed that many people talk about having reached that goal when they have someone else in their life. I appreciate that they probably reached meh, then they were open to a new relationship.

    • You say that you know to trust that he sucks. But maybe you don’t really feel that way and are secretly afraid that they will find happiness and ride off into the sunset leaving you to pick up the pieces. I know I felt that way for a long time. I just wanted them to hurt as much as I was hurting. That is a normal reaction as long as you are not taking any action on it. He really does suck! Mine could be the epitome of a loving caring great guy all the while he was lying and cheating. He was really good at it too and I believed for so long because for many years I thought we were really happy. It felt the the OW was trying to steal my life when I found out. And I did more than just fantasize I confronted her and told her that she would never be more than the whore that broke up my marriage and all about the love that we had shared for so many years and how she could never have with him what I had. I had alot of time invested in him told her all about how he was still lying to me and to her. You may not get to know about what goes on in their relationship but if the scenarios you were imagining were ones you yourself experienced with him then he is or will do it to her. When I got done with her she was bawling. I shouldn’t have done that. He just felt sorry for her and it appealed to his shining white knight complex to rescue the damsel in distress. Ultimately she ended up cheating on him. I shouldve known one of them would do that eventually. If he was a shit head with you then chances are pretty high that he will do the same with her. She won the turd! She gets to eat his shit sandwiches. You don’t have to deal with that crap anymore and you don’t have the burden of having to support his no job no supporting ass. These idiots don’t change their methods like leopards don’t change their spots. Even though it may not appear that there isnt anything wrong she is probably being chumped herself or maybe she is chumping him? Maybe the puppy will grow up into an asshole like them and bite them both. You may not get to witness any of it but it will happen so don’t give it another thought. You are the winner here . You get your life a real life back!

    • Thankyou Spinach! I am working on revenge fantasies. I hate that we are pushed towards ” forgiveness ” and “letting it go”… you are a model of FUN revenge fantasies! I’n smiling now… and i know this does me good

  • Tracy,
    Thank you for posts like this! While others use snake oil and ludicrous theories (see Esther Perel and the entire RIC) to push their self-serving agendas to line their pockets with the money of desperate chumps, you show a clear path forward based on actionable science, facts and logic. Where emotions keep us chained to FWs, intelligence and clear thinking free us from years of abuse I’ve patterns. Bless you, Chumplady!

  • People stay for various reasons:

    1. The faithful partner wants to keep up the social or financial advantage of an intact family

    2 The classic staying for the kids, the spectre of not being with your young child every day

    3. Low self esteem in the faithful partner, generally from not feeling valued as a child

    4. Stark fear of retribution from an abusive cheater if you end the relationship

    5. Dependent personality disorder

    6. And certainly Hopium … that cheater will mature, see the light, finally appreciate what they have

  • Yes, the power of maybe kept me hoping that just maybe it would turn around. He would decide that being with us meant something to him, he’d be trustworthy with my heart, and he’d truly be there for our college kids and me.

    The whole story doesn’t need to be related here, but it was basically over when he took off the second time and chose to move far away. I thought somehow we might reconcile long-distance, but it was a blame game for him. I “made” him take off, you know.

    Early in the divorce he initiated (I had to agree) after being apart for over a year, my attorney and I were trying to figure out a separation date. I was so very conflicted even then, so my attorney ran me through the questions that a judge would want to be answered in determining a disputed separation date. It ended up being earlier than my ex wanted. My attorney said that we had to take an evidence-based approach to that, but I found that it helped me psychologically. Mine discussed that with his attorney on the phone, and his attorney agreed.

    Initially, the college kids had issues after he left that I weathered with them alone. Of course, he decided to focus on his new life whatever that was and became an absent father. Thankfully they have largely worked through that and are making good choices now. They want nothing to do with him.

    I battle feeling very cynical about romantic relationships, but I have a number of solid friendships and stay busy. Life on the other side is good.

  • After 38 years, 29 of them married, numerous d-days where I should have walked, now almost 8 years since I realised I’d had enough and 4 years after the divorce – Today’s article rang so many bells! I’d been smoking the Hopium pipe at a level of addiction! I remember reading back in 2014 when I was in real pain over the marriage loss that it might take 1 year for every 5 together to get over it! In spite of my disbelief at the time, it was true. He always came back and he would again!! I’d come to expect nothing more for myself so I waited! Turned my head inside out knowing that it would happen and what would I do! No contact and interestingly after his early vague attempts, he didn’t try very hard. I waited. I hoped. On reflection, I can see the anticipation kept me stuck! In spite of his terrible behaviour over the years both in and out of the marriage, I thought it was all I had!! Hope!!
    It’s taken all of the nearly 8 years to come through it all. I now live in truth and in honesty. I trust myself and know I deserve better than any of that. I was blessed with 2 amazing sons who as adults seem to be good men in their relationships. He though is a sad little man with few friends and probably a number of women all hoping he’ll deign to spend time with them while he continues to please himself. Karma will get him in the end.
    Hope is now what I have for my future.

  • Thanks for this! I spent my 30 year marriage expecting and hoping for my FW to be happy, to find himself, to find his place of happiness and I supported every attempt he made while working my ass off to pay the bills and support the family. He went in an out of jobs and activities trying to find himself and be happy. Finally he found another woman and that seem to make him happy. What I didn’t realize until then that there’s no way he could have made himself happy because he just had such tremendous low self-esteem and there’s nothing that I could’ve done to make that better. Of course I too felt low self-worth coming from a dysfunctional family. My worth was wrapped up in creating A wonderful family life for my children and my husband and having a career that made me feel valued. I would be with him still if he hadn’t had an affair because I just don’t give up on things as my friends say I grab that tiger by the tail and whip it around. I used to laugh at that but now I realize how sadly true that is that I just don’t give up. Even when it is detrimental to myself and everyone around me to just hold on. I guess I am addicted to dopamine rush of anticipating success-love based on achievement was my youth. I’ve learned a lot from this experience -lessons that I’d rather not have learned but having gone through it I understand myself and others better. I strive to show love separate from achievement. Hugs to all!

  • This is why it is said that the cheater and chump are on a parallel journey.

    It has to be apart; not together. One has bottomed to the level of dysfunction. The other is picking up the pieces from the impact. Sometimes both partners bottom-out before change happens for the better – for one or the other. If addictive personalities commingle (even if unknown to one party or both) in the name of love, it’s only a matter of time before the relationship shows tension as one or both depend on the other to get their needs met, regulate moods, fill emptiness, or develop into a parent-child dynamic. These are the symptoms that create further friction and cause the demise of the relationship. By this time there is often well-developed addiction to each other, hence the push/pull, come/go, love/hate, etc. The healthier of the two persons grasps at loyalty, commitment, vows, raising the children and salvaging the family as the be-all, end-all value above all else. What really has to happen is for two people to outgrow an unhealthy attachment to one another so that they may find meaningful love and contentment in an interpersonal relationship.

    Will it happen together? Not likely. We cannot change others; we can only change ourselves. While it all began as a parallel healing journey due to unhealthy relationships, there is no guarantee either partner will choose to grow from and out of it. Addictions are insidious and tenacious. Once we understand them, it’s fuel for positive change.

    Meh is realizing this awareness and acting upon it. For me, this was my growth curve to Meh.

  • It’s so interesting to know the brain tumor hypothesis is so common!

    I wondered about this too, but I don’t know that I can credit hopium so much as the fact that right after D-Day, my mom recommended I start binging Grey’s Anatomy as a way to distract my brain from going to dark places. (She knows my brain and how it works. <3) It definitely helped! And of course in Grey's Anatomy the answer is always brain tumor 😄

  • I really wonder how long I would have smoked the hopium if only I had known the truth about his sexual activity.
    I would not have been happy with his use of porn: it was hidden from me.
    I would not have been happy with his sexual use of other women when he was on business trips. He never told me until 9 years into our marriage and I was at my most dependent upon him and most vulnerable, 3 months after childbirth. He still told me only a particle of truth.
    I would not have been happy about his not using a condom, if I had ever been told that, IF I had stuck around after him telling me the above. All hypothetical at this point.
    I would not have been happy about his use of money on sexual activity that happened between him & other women. He hid it very well. To have found it sooner than I did, I’d have to have been deliberately looking for financial misdeeds.
    The point is, would I have fallen for the hopium IF I had known the full truth about his behavior? God, I hope not!

  • The intermitted reward of the FW being his best self kept me in this dead marriage for a long time. I even remember becoming aware that I was waiting for the “good times” because when they were good they were great. I just wanted that guy to remain, yet he never did. That guy wasn’t even real. Even though we are still in the same house (ugh) and trying to reach a settlement (it feels like I am trying to reach a settlement and he is just trying to see how many ways he can stall and block progress) I no longer see any hope with him. It’s weird how the mind can shift and eventually see the truth, when off hopium, the unicorn turns to a pig. It can be a struggle to remain clear and off hopium. I will be a single mom, with a complex and messy life, but I already feel it is simpler not being emotionally attached to a cheater. I’ll take the door to the life with unknown, but full of possibility. Life with this man is a dead end, full of abuse, depression and sadness. I watched an video of CL and a family law attorney and CL said don’t let a cheater be the last thing you love or invest in, they are as deep as a puddle (or something to that effect). Its so true, they really aren’t worth the time, energy or investment.

  • @ Involuntary Georgian

    “Maybe the unifying principle is that in intermittent reinforcement the reward is only offered occasionally, so the “novelty” is the sometime yes / sometimes no nature of the reward. If the same signal + work yields the same reward every time, it becomes just habit – but if the reward is suddenly missing then you take notice.”

    It’s not “novelty” versus “habit”, it is *literally* a trained response performed for a *highly desired* reward.

    The key is *the high desirability of the reward”, in combination with the eagerness/fear about whether there will ever be a next reward.

    How often did you use to buy toilet paper or hand sanitizer, and how much did you buy at a time, *before* the pandemic? How frequently did you try to find toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and how much did you buy, when it looked like you couldn’t just get as much as you wanted whenever you wanted?

    Operant conditioning has 4 variations of when to reward a behaviour based on the combination of these 4 things:

    1) BEHAVIOUR FREQUENCY
    (how many correct behaviours before getting a reward)
    or
    2) TIME
    (how long after the last correct behaviour, before the next correct behaviour gets rewarded).

    The schedule can be either:
    A) “FIXED”
    -FIXED, based on BEHAVIOUR FREQUENCY
    (e.g., reward after every 2 correct behaviours)
    -FIXED, based on TIME
    (e.g., reward for every next correct behaviour after a 2 minute wait period from the last correct behaviour)

    B) “VARIABLE”
    -VARIABLE, based on BEHAVIOUR FREQUENCY
    (e.g., the rewards AVERAGE showing up after every 2 correct behaviours… so… sometimes the reward shows up after 1 correct behavior, sometimes after 3 correct behaviours)
    -VARIABLE, based on TIME
    (e.g., the rewards for every next correct behaviour AVERAGE showing up after a 2 minute wait period from the last correct behaviour… so… sometimes the reward shows up if the desired behaviour is performed after only 1 minute since the last correct behaviour, and sometimes the reward doesn’t show up until the desired behaviour is performed after it’s been 3 minutes since the last correct behaviour)

    *Variable* reenforcenent causes the strongest consistent trained response.

    Say a person wants to train a rat to push a lever as frequently as physically possible.

    Think of it from the test rat’s perspective:

    A “Fixed” (steady, set, predictable) schedule of reenforcement:
    Rat’s perspective:
    “[Every time I push that lever] or [every time it’s been 2 minutes and I push that lever], I get food.
    I get it. This is predictable and reliable. I will I only push that lever when I am hungry.”

    Result: Bare minimum lever pushes.

    A “Variable” schedule of reenforcement (this will be optimized by the scientist/trainer to average out to a frequency that makes lever-pushing get rewarded frequently enough that it feels “worth doing”, but this schedule will SEEM to be COMPLETELY RANDOM to the uninformed test subject):

    Rat’s perspective:
    “Oh my gosh, SOMETIMES I get food when I push this lever. But I never know when it will happen! I had better pick-me dance, I mean, push this lever, over and I over, night and day, as fast and as hard as I can, whether I’m hungry or not, because who knows when this magic food appearance will stop, and I might starve to death !!!”

    Result: maximum physically possible lever pushes.

    Variable reward schedules are what *addiction* is based on, like gambling and on-line games (which have *finely* tuned their reward algorithms).

    If the reward is not considered *highly desirable*, their will be *no* desired behaviours performed, no matter *what* the schedule is. A rat is not going to push a lever if all that happens is a piece of gravel falls into the cage. The “novelty” of it will be of no interest. The “habit” of pushing the lever can only be trained if the rat gives a patootie about the reward.

    Extra Credit Info:

    “Extinguishing” a behaviour occurs when you *stop rewarding it*.

    A rat that was previously trained to feverishly push a lever, will slowly *stop* pushing the lever, if the food rewards completely stop. There is a very precise pattern to this. The lever-pushing slowly peters out, and *just before it stops completely*, there is an “extinction burst”, meaning there is a sudden mad flurry of intense lever-pushing… which – *if it is absolutely not rewarded* – results in the rat never pushing the lever again.

    This is why going “grey rock” makes the ex’s manipulative, abusive, contacts slowly reduce in number. They are no longer getting rewarded.

    This is why there is usually one final flurry of grandstand contact attempts before silence.

    This is why *any” response to an ex’s contact, guarantees more contacts, especially a response to that extinction-burst grand gesture (you were SOOOO CLOSE to breaking his behaviour pattern!).

    When the contacts from the ex are no longer rewarding to you (you’ve reached “meh”), you stop rewarding the ex with *your* response, and now your *ex* is the one no longer getting rewarded for a behaviour, so *they* stop.

    If contact *must* continue (e.g. child visitation schedules), this is why handling the interactions in a way that is not perceived as “rewarding” to the ex, changes the frequency and the content of the contacts.

    If you want more details, a good writeup is here
    http://www.educateautism.com/applied-behaviour-analysis/schedules-of-reinforcement.html

    • This is a wonderful analysis of Intermittent rewards. Knowing about it changes the schema. It seems as though narcissists/ cheaters have an intrinsic understanding of how this works. And they get their jollies from our addiction to their crumbs

  • “How many chumps thought their cheater had a brain tumor?”

    Raises hand in embarrassment.
    I also seriously considered demonic possession as an explanation.

    • I tried to diagnose him for months. It had to be a genetic disorder that runs in the family. Perhaps it was depression. He lost his parents at a young age, that must be the reason, or maybe FOO issues?
      Because there was no way I could explain his sudden change of character into a liar, deceiver, cheater, selfish, disrespectful person.

      • I did all of that, too, NFV. My ex’s battle with alcoholism and his difficult relationship with his ailing and widowed mother factored in, too. You know what’s nice? No longer caring about a cheater or attempting to unravel his fucked up skein. He’s not out of my head, and the consequences of this are significant and ongoing, but he’s not central in the same way he was all those years. His needs are no longer more important than mine. In fact, they’re not even important.

  • I find this very interesting. “Anticipation of pleasure” is also extremely familiar. The liar, so-called “spouse” had told me over and over again that the excitement was mostly about the anticipation of secret meetings, anticipation of showing off and getting overspoiled. Once the anticipation was over, it would all feel ordinary.

    When I was doing my best dance for him to remember “us”, his excitement level for those secret meetings was at peak.

    Now that I am out of the picture, it detracted from the joy of deceiving me so cowardly. Consequently, his anticipations became ordinary.

    But I feel too good to care about these anymore.

  • The power of maybe had a powerful hold on me. Even when I all but trusted my ex sucked and that our relationship was irredeemable, I still had this idea that I could “leave the door open,” just in case he did the work, was genuine in his love and learned to respect my boundaries and be a good partner. (That’s all! Sooo funny I ever considered any of this possible.) I was too scared to let go and possibly miss the chance at a happy ending, as improbable as it was. What harm was there in this? Turns out, a great deal. It prevented me from moving on and left me vulnerable to Hoovering. I wasn’t truly safe until I mentally “closed the door,” which I could ONLY do after my head cleared – thanks to No Contact and CL.

    Anyway, this dilemma made me think of the burden of proof when it comes to demonstrating evidence of absence. I think my own faulty reasoning around this contributed to the allure of maybe. The philosopher Stephen Hales argues that if you can’t prove the non-existence of something, then you can’t prove its existence, either. Yet, it’s a lot easier to show someone “evidence” of a ghost than it is to show “evidence” that ghosts don’t exist (to grossly oversimplify). I didn’t want to accept the evidence of non-existence of love and honesty from my ex; I preferred to think of it as an absence of evidence. The truth is, there was an abundance of proof to support this negative claim.

    I’m no philosopher and am sure I’m butchering all of this, but what I’m getting at is that it’s dangerous to take the “wait and see” approach. “Maybe” might seem like a good stop gap, but as today’s post from CL explains (and many of us here can attest), that just keeps chumps hooked on hopium.

    • IMO, wait and see should be a few weeks after D-day, tops. If the fw hasn’t got his head out of his ass by then he probably never will.

      I can’t prove non-existence, but I can sure as hell be confident that it’s more likely Bigfoot will move into my neighborhood and invite me over for tea than that a narcissistic cheater will change into a loving, unselfish partner.

  • How’s this for irony? My cheater is the one huffing the hopium pipe. He actually thinks we can be traveling companions some day, after I have made it crystal clear to him that we are not friends, I’ll never forgive him, and I can’t stand him.
    I guess I’m getting closer to meh, because him being the one on hopium doesn’t do anything for my self esteem. I just think it’s funny how cluelessly narcissistic he is. He must think his “charm” will eventually win me over.
    Smoke on you crazy fuckwit.

  • Yes, I remember wondering if there was a brain tumor, or some psycho illness. Even she thought that might be the case as she went to a psychiatrist on her own.

    Hopium is real. I went through that phase, then woke up and changed my life for the better.

    Hopium is global now, people thinking the shotcallers are going to allow the world to go back to “what it was”. Never going to happen. They are the same as any cheater. I hope people abandon their global Hopium before they get to experience it in a FEMA camp. Look at Australia, NZ, Canada.

  • The brain tumor theory is a very good one. However, my cousin and I maintain that Cheater #1 was actually abducted by aliens and a pod person left in his place. I am convinced that he is somewhere in the Universe, flying on the mothership, being their fix-it handyman like he was in the first years of our marriage. Some day, the mothership will return to Earth and drop him off. I can anticipate the scene where he comes to the front door of our family home and exclaims, “My God! You’re so old! And who is this strapping young man towering over you!” Yeah, excuse me while wake from this daydream to adjust my tinfoil hat.

    Seriously, C#1 has not changed. Because that aforementioned strapping young man is an adult now, I am no contact. But my son does occasionally tell a story about his father’s outrageous behavior and I am confident in CL’s assertion that they *Do Not* get a character transplant and eventually become someone else’s problem. Furthermore, every issue, problem, obstacle they encounter is firmly *Not Their Fault*. Thank all the higher powers I am out of that endless, hopeless loop.

  • Wow, just went down the rabbit hole with you, and the quote on Twitter about the addiction to seeking out “even grander delusions”, that’s chilling. Both politically, existentially as a species that may not survive it, but also in relationships.

    Derrick Jensen hit the nail on the head years ago in Culture of Make Believe, in no small part because his abusive family of origin taught him all about human nature. Tracy if you haven’t read Jensen yet, you’ll want to.

    Depressingly, what I’ve learned about human nature through this recovery process is that very few people have the strength (safety? stability? experience?) to recognize a delusion when it’s staring them in the face.
    Part of my grey rock with my ex is to not speak with him in person because even I’m not sure (without some distance) if I can I see a delusional narrative spinning it’s web before me in real time.

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