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Is Sexting Cheating?

sextingDear Chump Lady,

My life is a dumpster fire.

I have three children, ages 10, 3, and 1. I’ve been married to to my idiot husband for 10.5 years.

Three months ago, I discovered he had a Tinder account, in which he was communicating with many women. With further investigation, I discovered he also communicated with women on Facebook, another “hook up” app, and another messaging app.

This is just what I discovered. There were probably more. He had about 10 women’s phone numbers saved in his phone. All of the communication was totally sexual. Sexting, I suppose. He swears he never met anyone, and did not physically cheat on me. He didn’t stop when I first discovered his actions. He didn’t even stop when I busted him the second time. The third time, I’m not even sure he stopped then. Has he stopped now? I have no idea. I know his accounts are deleted, but I know these habits are hard to break.

I’ve really struggled with this. One hook up at a bar is a mistake. This was a choice he made daily. Even if he didn’t physically cheat on me, upon reading the messages he exchanged with these women, I could almost handle one fuck with a rando better than this.

Is this cheating? To me, it is. But is it actually cheating?

He’s currently on an apology tour. Being nice. Being involved with our children. He’s honestly being wonderful, but the trust in our relationship is gone.

(While all of this was happening, he was a real ass. Spent zero time with our kids, instead ran off to the garage to hide after dinner each night.)

Maybe I’m just dramatic, but I feel so betrayed. I am contemplating leaving. I am doing that thing, where I tell myself if I still feel this way in x amount of time, I will leave.

I need to know how other people feel about this sexting bullshit. Is it cheating? How am I supposed to feel about it? I don’t know for certain if he physically cheated on me or not. I only know what he told me, and I have already established that he is a liar. So can one only assume???

I desperately need some guidance. I’m really coming undone.

Molly

Dear Molly,

Let’s imagine you run a business. You work really hard at your business, and you go the extra mile. You sweep the front sidewalk. You sponsor the local softball league. You show up for the Chamber of Commerce events. And you invest your profits back into the business to improve it.

Meanwhile, you have a business partner, Fred. And he doesn’t sweep, or sponsor, or show. In fact, he’s shopping around for other business opportunities on the sly. And what profits he makes, he’s spending on new golf buddies, buying rounds, hoping to impress them to go into business with him. Now, he doesn’t want to quit your business, (hey, you’re working hard there, turning a profit), he just wants more opportunities to find business partners to exploit.

Should you continue to invest in this shared business with Fred?

Think about your marriage as a business. Take the sex, emotion, and shame out of the texting situation. Would you continue to invest in someone who doesn’t invest in you?

Oh, he does now? Now he’s nice?

Do you want to keep investing when you have to hold a gun to someone’s head to be engaged? (I’ll sue you, Fred, if you don’t stop blowing our money on your golf buddies. Oh, right Molly. You’re the one I really love.)

You’re really invested. Him, not so much. And he’s weaponized your investment in him, three children deep. He can fuck around sexting (or whatever he’s up to) because he’s confident you won’t leave.

He didn’t stop when I first discovered his actions. He didn’t even stop when I busted him the second time. The third time, I’m not even sure he stopped then. Has he stopped now? I have no idea.

Is this relationship acceptable to you? How does his constant shopping around for new partners make you feel? Safe or unsafe? His actions make a pretty clear statement: He’s going to keep doing it regardless of your feelings.

Is this cheating? To me, it is. But is it actually cheating?

Does it actually matter? What he’s doing is disrespectful, devaluing and destabilizing.

If I try to rob a bank, but the alarm goes off, and I didn’t actually succeed in robbing the bank, did I commit a crime? The law thinks so.

This “is it cheating” comes up with emotional affairs too. Forgive my frankness, but adults fuck. People who date want to hook up. Physical cheating is a different level of harm inflicted on a chump, because of the health and pregnancy risk. But the devaluing is all the same.

It’s not the fucking around that hurts so much — it’s the conspiring.

Being played. Lied to. Used. Left to all the work of what was supposed to be a shared life.

Your husband is on a power trip. And it’s not just you — he’s also fucking with the heads of people he’s attempting to hook up with, who think they’re talking to a single person. He’s conspiring against everyone. He gets to be the puppet master. No wonder you don’t trust him.

Maybe I’m just dramatic,

Maybe you’re just being lucid.

but I feel so betrayed.

You were betrayed. While you were raising three kids, he’s been checked out on Tinder, lying to your face every day.

I am contemplating leaving. I am doing that thing, where I tell myself if I still feel this way in x amount of time, I will leave.

You can never un-know that he’s capable of conspiring against you when you thought he was invested.

You can never un-know that when you asked him to stop, he persisted.

You can never know if he actually stops. There are a thousand work-arounds.

In short, he destroyed your trust in him. Can you endure this relationship? Sure. I don’t recommend the experience, however. You can also continue a business with someone who embezzled your pension fund. Why would you want to?

I need to know how other people feel about this sexting bullshit. Is it cheating? How am I supposed to feel about it?

THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT IT.

This is YOUR decision. YOU MATTER.

You’re asking for a chaser for that shit sandwich. I’m not the place that’s going to minimize his abuse. Tell you It’s Just What Men Do. There are narratives that will implore you to work with him. For The Children. Tell you the problem is you, that you’re too judgy or toxic shaming and he’s on a quest for aliveness.

Do you really want to abuse yourself with that nonsense? Trust your senses. Do you feel violated? He is weaponizing your investment in him. Conspiring against you. To do what? Fuck around on you? Replace you? Expose you to disease? And you ask him NOT TO, and he does it anyway.

It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks — this is YOUR life.

I’m really coming undone.

It should hurt him to hurt you.

You deserve peace. To have a partner that doesn’t drive you to despair. Who respects you.

Swipe left.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
    • RUN! My ex did the same thing, I caught him then got the apology tour. Two yrs later, he had an affair with my best friend.

      Bottom line: cheaters cheat to feed their fragile ego. They will never value your relationship more than their selfish needs. Aaand they only get better at hiding their bullshit.

      • There are numerous ways to decide if something is too far or an overreaction, etc. Sometimes you go with your gut.

        I wish I had applied MY standards to my ex. Because there is NO WAY I would do to him or our children, what the DOCTOR did. No way. NOTHING could make me lie, cheat and abandon our marriage and family.

        But the DOCTOR does not share my values. That’s now self evident.

        I submit you and your husband are in the same boat. HIS values – which you assumed you shared, are NOT shared.

        It’s very hard to face this but once you do, it’s somehow easier to let go of all the “WHY???”

        Move forward and perhaps you’ll be helped by what

        As Caroline Myss wrote —

        “God, help me let go of the need to know ‘why.’

        There is NO why. And endless questioning is endless suffering.”

        You have children to focus on, and a new life to create.

        We are all pulling for you.

      • Molly – the same thing just happened to me!!! he used onlyfans and spent almost $2000!!!! Earlier in our relationship I discovered he was having a affair with his ex over text message when I was pregnant with our first child… and then after that I found videos of girls walking down the street on his phone…I feel like we’re married to the same asshole! ugh. I left him a month and a half ago. It’s really hard (especially w kids – I have two, ages 4 &3) but I just knew I was done with his bullshit and I wanted and deserved better. Sending you love!

    • Molly, this is cheating. Not because he didn’t stop when you asked him (or the second, third time, etc.), but because as CL states, it is a conspiracy against you and a betrayal of your trust. Your instincts are screaming at you GET OUT! You will never not feel this way (as they say in the film Love Actually: “do you stay, knowing that life will always be a little bit worse?”). You will never trust him again. You will never respect him even underneath the current (aberrant) wonderfulness. And don’t think for a second that this behavior will ever stop; it will escalate, because he clearly has no respect for you. Is that what you want to model to your kids? It’s clear you have a good head on your shoulders because you know what you have to do, though the pain will be incredible and inertia is seductive. He already blew up your life and your heart.

      Divorce him. He is a cheater. Even if it had only been once. The behavior has blown his mask off and shown you who he is in that garage he fled to all those nights. I am so sorry. You are not alone. You can do this. we will be here. But since you asked, one more time for the cheap seats in the back — THIS IS CHEATING. Leave him, and gain a life. Hugs.

    • I know some openly polyamorous couples who had worked out agreements that they can see people other than their primary partner. But the primary partners had both agreed to that in advance and willingly, and had the same rights to see other people too, and both partners had the obligation to tell the other what they wanted to do, with whom, and what they actually did, and the other partner had veto power. And, both partners had to let the people they were interested in, know that they were not single.
      Your husband’s behavior would be considered cheating even in an open or polyamorous relationship because he broke the rules that you and he had already jointly agreed to, ie share your sexuality and/or romance only with eachother; also, he broke the rules without asking your permission or giving you the same freedoms, and he lied to you (and most likely to others) repeatedly. And he violated your boundaries repeatedly even when you made them clear repeatedly. So yes, he was unfaithful, he is unfaithful. And a liar. You are not being unreasonable or prudish–he has a big character defect. This might be a good time to pretend everything is OK but quietly consult a divorce lawyer, run a credit check to see where his money is going and whether he has hidden accounts or credit cards, make copies of his credit card expenditures, get a sense of what your financial options are. Don’t let him know what you are doing–he’ll cover his tracks even more.

  • It is cheating and you should use this time of his behaving to protect your finances and children. See a lawyer for the right steps to do now. Even if he is behaving, how do you know for sure that he isn’t being nice with the kids to protect his custody rights etc.

  • He’s lying to you. He’s sneaking around. He has secret women.

    It’s cheating.

    Get yourself tested for STDs at the doctor’s, just to be safe. I think I can speak for many chumps here (certainly
    for my own experience) when I that “he told me there was nothing physical going on and I believed him” was an outright lie. It wasn’t an “emotional affair.” They had met up; they gave me something that I had to go to the doctor’s to get medication for.

    Your health is important. Book a visit to the doctor’s.

    And expect his good mood, involvement with the kids, and apology tour to evaporate when he tires of it. Speaking from experience, that’s what mine did and as soon as he was comfortable with the situation he became miserable to live with again, went back to ignoring the kids, and apologized for nothing.

    I’d take this opportunity to start lining up your ducks without letting him know. Start talking to a lawyer and figure out your next moves and how you can protect yourself and your kids.

    I’m so sorry. No matter if you decide to move now and figure out your new life or if you decide to “hang in there” to see if he’ll change and if you can ever trust him again… you’re in for some rough, upcoming days. Please take really good care of yourself and start by seeing a doctor to get tested.

    • Definitely get the STD testing. Emotional or sexting usually has a hidden physical component so please protect yourself.

      I would think a good indication of what he’s up to would be to ask him to run a credit check together. Find out if he has other accounts or credit cards that he isn’t sharing. And do you get to see all his credit cards statements you do know about? If the answer to these are NO, then you nanowire you’ve only stumbled upon the tip of the iceberg. It is earth shattering and mind bending the depths these people will go to emotionally and physically deceive you.

      • I dunno. Is it a good idea to ask him to do anything together at this point?
        Running a credit check “together” will tip him off, and she needs him to think she is still chumping it out while she gets her ducks in a row.

        • I would say it’s a good time to get a post nup and if he won’t sign you have your answer. I wish I had done it. It would have saved me about 500k lost to his stealing and sneaking. And 4 years of wreckonciliation.

          • Newlady, I’ve heard postnup’s are not worth the paper they’re written on. After alll ” you’ve already shot the hostage’ you have no dealing power once you’re married. I’d like to hear from those who have dealt with this problem. Thanks for nay reply.

            • I insisted on a postnup after D-day, when he said he wanted to stay together. He was reeaaaall slow about signing, made every excuse in the book, but he eventually did. That meant that when he inevitably did cheat again, I didn’t have to waste my time and energy proving it in court. I live in VA and the postnup was ironclad. No further legal wrangling necessary. I just had to wait a year for separation and submit the document to the court.

              Consult your lawyer. If I had to do it over again, I would not have bothered with the reconciliation. My hopium was too strong to let go, but at least the postnup saved my money and my sanity.

              • Gorillapoop did you go through a lawyer to do your postnup? I live in VA too, one month post D-day 2 (random 1 night stand from a bar) and two years post D-day 1 (7 affairs- a mix of random women he met out and exes). I am preparing to put down the hopium. He has written up the postnup but very slow to get it signed. Thanks for sharing.

              • Thank you for your comment. A postnup has really been on my mind lately. He is wanting to stay together and prove himself to me, but I have zero trust for him now. For about 2 months I was in total shock and willing to do anything save our marriage, but now I really don’t feel much of anything. I guess the shock has worn off. I think this could just be the beginning of the end. I feel like I have some power now though, and I could get him to sign a postnup pretty easily. Does this make me a shitty person?

            • Not sure about legality of a postnup once you’re married. It’s better to have a separation agreement IMHO In my situation during my FW’s twu wuv Bliss with OW#1 (and he was willing to give away the farm to be with her), I drafted up a legal separation agreement with a reconciliation clause in it (which states the agreement survives even if we get back together and never divorce). FW just wanted out asap so he signed it thinking it would mean a cheap and quickie divorce). So when he came crawling back 2 months later I stupidly took him back the first time, he just figured the separation agreement was moot because we’re back together. I tucked my copy away like an insurance policy. Two years later, DDay & OW#2 came around I whipped out my copy of our separation agreement and lawyered up. He had forgotten all about it. He had signed his rights off to the house, my pension and 401k (I was the breadwinner). I was an emotional wreck after DDay#1, I picked me danced and apologized ‘for driving him away’ yada yada yada, but after DDay#2, I divorced his ass like a boss. Based on my experiences, chump lady is right I would never recommend wreckonciliation cause it rarely (rarely!) succeeds and chumps just lose more precious time from your life. But, if you’re not ready to break ur addiction from the hopium pipe, at least protect yourself. I promise you’re future self will thank you for it

          • I asked for post nupt. He was going to have attorney call me. Magically each time I was suppose to talk to this lawyer he’d have to leave unexpectedly. I’ve been divorced a few months now.

            • Yeah, my name wasn’t on anything (I paid mortgage and invested years of time and money into his family land/home, and then into “our” house we were building). We never married, either, so my “post nup” was pathetically meek, in retrospect: my name on the deed, so that if (when!) he cheated or fucked up my life again, I at the very least would get half of the house’s value. He suggested this, in fact, but then he managed to pull every dirty trick in the book to avoid following through once I came back. I never saw a penny, after fifteen years of partnership (and mortgage payments and hard physical labor, etc., etc.). That was the game all along… commitment, kids, home, everything. It’s been a revelation! Nearly every “fight” was actually him being abusive: blame shifting, stonewalling and distracting whenever I tried to make progress in my life or our relationship. Nothing was simple, and he was never, ever straightforward about anything. So much gaslighting, so much projection. And forget about asking what I wanted/needed/felt. I think that is a “subtle” red flag you can tune into early on, even before the abuse and disorder begins to show up.

      • I definitely would run a credit check on him asap. I definitely would NOT ask or tell him. It’s your credit and money, too. You’re married. Time to look out for yourself and your children. You are not a (fantasy) team any longer.

      • I couldn’t agree more. My former spouse had opened a Capital One business card, lied when I asked (received a call from them, he said they were soliciting). He looked me in the eye & lied. In 45 days he put $10,000 on it.

        I think she should check for Craigslist hook ups while doing you her research.

    • Yes apology tours are short lived! I’ve experienced a few and the changes are not lasting. In my experience they last just long enough to get us complacent and then the abuse returns. Mine did that a few times with helping with children, being nice… I was baffled but it never lasted more than 6-8 weeks. It’s too much work for them.

  • If he’s gone to the trouble to save them on his phone, he’s doing more than sexting!!! Sadly, it’s probably with more than the women from the app, those are the only ones you actually found. This is a huge red flag for serial cheating/sex addiction. Time to bail sista!

    • I saw this and thought it would be helpful to share for Molly and others on CN because it’s a quick good description of what boundaries are and how to recognize if someone isn’t healthy. In Molly’s case, your husband isn’t being respectful of you, your kids, your physical (vagina) health, your finances (bc Tinder, those other dating apps and those dates cost money), you or your kids emotional health. He is unhealthy! Yet, you are confused and giving excuses to his behavior because you are desperately trying to safe your marriage and your life…..we get it! We’ve all been there/done that and you can read story upon nightmare story to fill in the blanks. I hate it for you and your kids Molly. It’s hard but it gets better! And, it gets better when you start protecting your boundaries. I highly recommend reading Boundaries by Henry Cloud and subscribing to his newsletter or checking out his website. Educating yourself by reading CL, staying in CN and using other tools like the book Boundaries helps break the cycle, regain your power and build a better life. Here is the link to the video. Hope it helps. https://www.boundaries.me/store/FwK8zpYH

  • “(While all of this was happening, he was a real ass. Spent zero time with our kids, instead ran off to the garage to hide after dinner each night.)”

    I conjecture that when most cheaters start down the road of cheating (first in their brains, then with their phones and eventually with their genitals) they likely tell themselves that what they are considering is somewhat OK because it won’t change how they treat their spouse and kids.

    And then they do…and they excuse it and blame us. If we weren’t so _____ then they wouldn’t have ____.

    I found a “smoking gun” of an email that didnt prove any sex but showed that he was deeply emotionally invested. I was bereft at this but even in that moment I would have sword on my children’s lives that if her were cheating, it was his first time. Not only did I learn it was a full penis-in-vagina affair but I learned that he had been cheating in its many forms for years. I am now in the “Whatever you found is the tip of the iceberg” camp of thinking.

    One of the biggest lessons I have learned in the last 2 decades is that we need to decide if we wish to continue in relationships (spouses, parents, friends) based on how they act RIGHT NOW. We skew our view and decision if we base that on how we wish they might behave in the future.

    He has already gone to the place of being shitty to his family in order to tickle this obsession. This is who he is. Decide accordingly.

    • Unicornnomore,

      What you said above.

      Mr. X went down to the basement.

      What I have been learning lately relates to your comment on relationships I am involved in RIGHT NOW. I am seeing how a lot of them in the past, and a few currently, were tolerated based on MY future expectations of where they would end up based on me being GOOD ENOUGH, PATIENT ENOUGH, TOLERANT ENOUGH, LOVING ENOUGH etc….Garbage I was taught as a female growing up in the ’50’s.

      How to disengage cleanly is a skill set I never acquired or saw demonstrated.

      What I am seeing is how I tolerate this from my grown children and how bound I am to hanging in with them because ‘I am their mother’. The pressure of societies dictates have me shackled but a couple of days ago I hit a wall when I saw one of my grown sons get mad at my dog when he came by for a visit.

      That did it for me.

      This son began devaluing me shortly after dday. ( I accepted that based on the circumstances, his age – early 20’s – and developmental stage he was going through, that we had always been close and he was the one who was here throughout the entire dday experience being very supportive of me – plus friends told me to be sympathetic so I was.)

      He began devaluing one of his siblings about a year later. I stayed out of that allowing them to work out their own relationship because both are grown ups.

      Now, 4 years later, the dog. That did it. Ripped the blinders right off of my hopium filled eyes. This dog that has done nothing but love him his entire life. This dog that would give his life up for this young man. This dog who was simply showing his excitement for seeing my son. This dog did not deserve the treatment he got from my son.

      I was left standing there as my denial was ripped away. The horror of seeing that this son is acting like his father – very charming, smart as all get out, charismatic and sadly mean and cold hearted underneath it all.

      Shit.

      Of course I never saw this about his father. On the rare occasions when he was outrightly mean, I instantly speckled it because he was so nice’….TFC – covert, passive aggressive narcissist.

      But my children saw his behavior all of their lives.

      Shit.

      So RIGHT NOW I am not wanting this child of mine around. OUCH.

      My perfect family of just 5 years ago, literally blown apart all because, after dday, like you, I learned ‘it’ had been going on for our whole marriage and probably before too. (30+ years) They have full memory of his behavior as well as mine. Out of ignorance, I allowed the abuse adn I devalued myself vs seeing the light.

      Now I am learning to value myself and to stand up for myself. It is scary but I have no choice because I have seen the light and can’t go back.

      Not sure how to proceed but I do trust I will be shown if I simply keep my eyes open and pay attention to my feelings.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment. It was very time appropriate for me.

      • An eyeopener for me as well.

        I recently noticed my adult son talks down to me with the same disrespect as his father.

        He’s my son but that doesn’t mean he has a pass to treat me with disrespect. I’m currently reevaluating our relationship.

        • Because of CL and CN I now have a label for that behavior, ‘weaponizing his intelligence’, hence I now see it for what it is when he does it.

          I now know it is deliberate

          I know to keep my boundaries because if I do any self-disclosure he may use that against me too in the future just as fws do if taken to therapy.

          He is very smart and when he is doing his thing, he is very emotionally cold and distant. A young master at DARVO which has taken me 4 years to see.

          I never expected it from him so it has been not only a devastating discovery but a heartbreaking one as well.

        • This is interesting from another perspective which has just struck me. I noticed that the ex spoke to his mother in a rude, dismissive, mocking, superior way. There was no respect there. He duly started talking to me in the same way. I challenged him with that. He said nothing in response. Looked a little crestfallen. But it continued. For younger readers, watch the way they treat and speak to their mothers. This may be a red flag. In fact watch the way they talk to and, importantly, about, women generally, in politics, at the workplace, socially, on TV etc.

          • I used to stick up for the ex MIL when this happened. She dumped me immediately he told his parents he was leaving me (but not why). 🤷‍♀️

          • Agreed, huge red flag, and one you can spot early on. Do NOT ignore or excuse. My ex was the same to his mom. She is narcissistic and codependent, and he was such a sad sausage, that I even felt sorry for him. Nicer to his older sister, but incredibly patronizing and critical with her as well. He started being disrespectful and controlling toward me early on, but it was subtle and snuck up on me. My dad was also awful to my mom and us kids, so I normalized it.

          • The first thing that made me wonder about Jackass (probably 2 months before the discard started) was how rudely and arrogantly he spoke to his mother. A few weeks later, he started using that on me. That comes from a place of deeply-rooted entitlement.

      • Elderly Chump, Hon! The worst thing about having procreated with a stone sociopath is having birthed children carrying his genes. My younger daughter; charming, bright, beautiful, talented and successful is also a heartless and amoral sociopath, just like her dad. To feed her thirst for drama and attention, she has created a chaos of divisiveness and anguish in our family that will never be resolved. My daughter and I haven’t spoken for almost two years and, as much as I love her, she evokes that old adage: ‘one who sups with the devil should have a long spoon’.
        I had desperately hoped that my example of empathy and decency would overcome her paternal genes but, alas, she is a clone of her nasty-ass father.

        • Calcified Chump
          Thank you for sharing your situation with your daughter. It helps a lot to know that I am not alone in this. I have friends in the same situation although some are married and having a ‘good’ spouse seems to help in sharing the fallout. An instant reality check when things go south. The gaslighting is harder to get away with.

          Sigh, I know the drill now:

          See it. Deal with it. Feel it. Let go.

    • ” I am now in the “Whatever you found is the tip of the iceberg” camp of thinking. ”

      It was a huge iceberg, as it turned out.

    • “And then they do…and they excuse it and blame us. If we weren’t so _____ then they wouldn’t have ____.”

      I saw this on Dr. Ramani on excuses:

      That didn’t happen.
      And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
      And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
      And if it is, that’s not my fault.
      And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
      And if I did…
      You deserved it!

    • “ I was bereft at this but even in that moment I would have sworn on my children’s lives that if he were cheating, it was his first time.”

      That’s a revealing example of what it is like at first. Absolute confusion and shock – and still so much trust! No kids here, but I can totally relate to your conviction. There was never any jealousy or “snooping” because I couldn’t have imagined, even n my worst nightmares, it was a possibility. Now I’m in the “tip of the iceberg camp,” too. I continue to be perplexed at how my brain was (wasn’t) functioning as this increasingly disturbing information was revealed.

    • I have such a hard time trusting that he sucks. I blame myself. I make excuses for him. Part of me knows he’s shit, but the other part of me is holding on so tightly to the man I wish he was.

  • My guess is it’s not “just” sexting. And if he hasn’t cheated physically, it’s probably only due to lack of opportunity. My ex swore he was not fucking his howorker. He was. The whole time. Every bit as long as I suspected. Which was three years before he admitted to it.

    My advice is to go with your gut, get your ducks in a row, and divorce him. Do you want to spend your life worrying that every time he “works late” or goes out with “the guys” that he’s actually with one of these online fuckbuddies? I talked myself out of thinking my ex was cheating because I couldn’t think of how he’d have the opportunity. He was always with me. But years later I put together all those times he stayed late at work and I’d see that OW was also staying late. I never took the step of matching the paychecks to the hours he was claiming to work. He took trips out of town. Who knows about how long it ACTUALLY took him to drive home. He lied about who he was with when he went out with “friends”. He also swore he’d keep “boundaries” with the OW and I was stupid enough to believe him. There were zero boundaries. There were hours of phone calls. Whole days spent with her. Constant texts. Does he hide his phone? Have passwords you don’t know? He’s cheating.

    I think you already know this isn’t the marriage you want. You already know you can’t trust him. So many of us wasted YEARS of our lives thinking these guys would change or shape up. They don’t. The kids will be fine. They’ll be better. You’ll model for them that they shouldn’t accept being disrespected in relationships. Your husband doesn’t respect you. He doesn’t care about your feelings. He doesn’t care about honesty. He’s not invested in his family. He’s demonstrated that to you repeatedly.

    You can have a good life without him. Being alone is better than being with someone who mistreats you. And you might also be missing out on a relationship with someone who WILL treat you with respect.

    Side note: don’t try and force him to have a relationship with the kids, if he makes no effort. If he can’t be bothered with his own children, they will be better off without him in their lives. You and your children can be a complete family without this fuckwit.

    Big hugs. It’s awful going through something like this. But you’ll be okay. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

    • ISTL, I also accepted denials of cheating because I could not see when he had the opportunity. The exgfOW was very long distance and a lot of the at least 10 years + affair was emotional affair, sexting, emails, with occasional meet ups. Ex took great duper’s delight in fooling this trusting chump. They cheat their employers too, or their employees if they own a business. Hours spent on the phone, zooming, texting, whatsapping when they should be working. Those are the hours that stoke the fire. This is why I would avoid employing a cheater. They have no integrity in any part of their life. This realisation makes it easier to move on for me. He didn’t only cheat on me, but on everyone, even his acolytes. It wasn’t personal to me. It is who he is. A person without integrity.

        • Molly, re-read that lucid understanding of cheating being a choice.

          Every time your husband typed a character on his phone while secretly texting women other than you is a choice he made to deceive and lie to you.

          If you need numbers (I did, sadly), then here’s the simple math: Estimate the number of your husband’s keystrokes while he sexted with women other than you. Add the number of times he stroked himself while secretly interacting with those women. Now you have a baseline of how many times your husband already cheated on you.

          If you’re still unsure how you feel about that number or what to do about it, then write that number on a post-it note and carry it with you everywhere, everyday—‘cause that’s what you’re doing already.

          • A series of mistakes, and a deeply creepy character. Is a mistake to project our feelings/values onto cheaters. When occasionally my brain still wanders to, “How could he have… ?” Or “Is he really that bad, or am I still exaggerating/imagining some of it?”, I just think of the number of minutes, hours, days and years my ex spent deceiving and neglecting me while fucking around with shitty near-strangers. Meanwhile I, the real and present person who actually loved him, was doing genuinely caring things for him and his family in real life. It’s more than a series… it’s a pattern.

            It’s pretty minor compared to mean, graphic truth I uncovered, yet this sample stands out to me: In one of the emails I found to a young AP, from when I was away, he wrote something about, “Yippee, the pillow is flat where your head slept beside mine last night. What a sweet reminder.” That was my pillow! And then he’d write me these sentimental letters. Before I left for the trip, we spent the week coloring the woods on skis together and working on house plans, cooking meals and being “happy.” He obviously never cared. Zero attachment or capacity for love. What a weird fucking human.

            • Oh wow bread&roses my experience exactly! The night before DDAY me and FW had sex and he said I love you during and it was so heartfelt. Then the next day he was out all day with OW and when he came home headed straight for the shower. I got suspicious and looked in his gym bag, found a card the OW had given him. He has spent the day with her, told me he was at the gym. Who spends 5 hours at the gym?? That’s why I got suspicious. Made me think about all the times we were having sex (yes it was regular sex because I thought we were trying for a baby!) and all that time he was also sleeping with OW. And he would always tell me he loved me, and he was so sincere about it. What a f***ing disordered human being. Who does that? And OW was there going on about how amazing he was and what a walking miracle etc. 🤮🤮🤮🤮 she knew we were married too because he introduced me to her.
              I can only think it must give him a high that he’s living a double life and playing off two women. Sicko. Glad I never bred with him

  • “One hook up at a bar is a mistake … I could almost handle one fuck with a rando better than this.”

    Molly, these comments sound like you’re PRE-excusing him. A hook-up at a bar is not a “mistake,” and one fuck with a rando is not something you should handle. You’re trying to excuse him for the sexting, because he wants you to. Sexting is not a “habit.” It IS a betrayal.

    It’s scary with young children, but many people in CN have done it. But find a lawyer, get the financial papers, etc. in STEALTH mode. It won’t hurt anything just to get everything set up and to find out what your options are. But don’t tip your hand.

  • Is it cheating? Yes, to me, it is.

    Whether it is or isn’t to someone else, I know this: redirecting you to an unsolvable quibble about a subjective micro-definition of a single word is gaslighting and it’s a tactic to draw focus away from the problem — the reason cheating is a problem, the reason that will always be a problem in any relationship.

    Deception is abuse. That’s the problem. The deception is the problem, because the abuse is the problem.

    CL is right. Does it matter if it’s technically cheating? Is it truly valuable to split that hair?

    I say, no.

    I say, you don’t deserve deception.

    I say, you don’t deserve abuse.

    And I say, of the two of you, only one of you seems ethically constructed to be in relationship without being the perpetrator of abuse, and that one is clearly you.

    He will never be clear about it. It’s clearly not in his ethical construct. That’s clearly broken in him. He wants to want to do better, but he doesn’t personally want to do better.

    How do I know? I know because he didn’t do better. Adults choose between diverse desires all the time. The reason we don’t reach across the restaurant table and take our friend’s meal and eat it simply because we want that food is that we have matured into having ethics about sharing. If he had ethics about not lying to you and hurting you, he would have managed his behavior based on that.

    His ethics say it’s ok to lie to you and hurt you. The short-term act is just illusion to bait you back in, a play on the fact that you want the illusion to get you to go back to the old ways.

    You’re the only one who is going to stop the abuse. Your kids need to see your strength and boundaries in life in order to learn how to set theirs. You have to be the one, as soon as you’re ready, to do it.

    Use his certainty that you’re on board to get your ducks in a row quietly, even though you dislike being manipulative. It’s worth pressing that edge now to be able to parent as easily as possible later.

    I’m so sorry, Friend.

    • I don’t understand the need to bait me back in. Why does he want a wife and children if he wants to live the life of a single guy, sending dick pics, and having random tinder hookups? I understand this is cake eating, but I don’t understand the WHY. Wouldn’t it just be easier to tell me he wants a divorce so he can live his life the way he wants?

  • “And he’s weaponized your investment in him”

    This is it right here. What sort of person knowingly hurts another who is/because they are vulnerable?

    Mine used the kiddo, the idea of family that drove me, and the years I had invested in him as a sign I wouldn’t leave him (he was mostly right) to continuously lie and betray and generally abuse me. But then he crossed the line and fucked someone else and I caught him and that was my deal breaker. I don’t know if he didn’t think I had any deal breakers or what.

    I do wish I had moved that line up a bit and walked away from the lies, betrayal and maltreatment. It’s the one biggest regret I have with him.

    Pay attention when CL says “Is this relationship acceptable to you?”

    You don’t need to “prove” anything. If you don’t like the way you are being treated, that is reason enough. I don’t know why we Chumps get so stuck on this one issue – maybe because our fuckwits are always arguing with us about whatever we are asking for…minimizing, dismissing, gaslighting when we raise an issue so we end up stuck in this cycle of trying to prove their error or justify our feelings.

    How about “this is wrong for me”? Seems like a complete sentence to me.

  • Yes, it’s cheating. Disengaging from your spouse and children to hide out in the garage and sext strangers isn’t “forsaking all others.” There’s a world of difference between genuine sorrow and behavior modification. He can do a 180 for a while, but that will be hard for him to sustain for an extended length of time.

    I will also say that even if he deleted his accounts, it’s either a temporary state of affairs until he feels like a sufficient amount of time has passed that he can activate them again, or he just deleted the ones you know about and reopened them under another name.

    • In my experience they’ll cover tracks better. Likely using a burner phone and fake emails. You’ll never catch them the same way twice.. if you’re dealing with a narcissist with 1/2 a brain.

  • “Is this cheating? To me, it is.”

    There’s your answer.

    You know you need to end it. Now it’s just a matter of when you finally realize the time is now. Protect yourself. Protect your children.

    Trust that if your husband is sneaking around behind your back and you still have no idea what he’s really up to, you have every right to get free of that crazy. If you don’t, you’ll be unhappy and fearful every day.

    • Well said. Sexting is, in and of itself a sexual interaction between your spouse and another person who isn’t you. If you define that as cheating, then that is what it is.
      I remember very well my ex telling me, after he was arrested for solicitation of prostitution back in the late 90s, “I had no idea infidelity was a deal breaker”.
      Protect you and your children now…

  • Molly, I feel for you. I once had a boyfriend in college (I would have married him; I was hoping to marry him) who three times decided he wanted to break up with me. Every time he came back and said he decided he’d made a mistake. I took him back the first two times. The third time, I told him no. I said that I would never again trust that he wasn’t going to do the same thing again at some future date, and I wasn’t going to live waiting for that shoe to drop. It sounds to me as if you are feeling what I did, only you have more sunk costs in the form of ten years married and three children.

    If ever there were a person who could benefit from reading Omar Minwalla on the secret sexual basement it’s you.
    https://secureservercdn.net/72.167.241.180/226.c7e.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/The-Secret-Sexual-Basement_7_6_21.pdf?time=1625615316

  • Without TRUTH there can be no TRUST. Without TRUST there can be no LOVE. He’s trying to be “nice” because he got caught. Imagine all of the things that you don’t know. This is not how you want to live.

  • Molly: I’m sorry if this stings. Once the stinger is out you’ll relieve the toxicity in your life. This dude is relying on you as a prop to provide cover and appearances of a stable decent family guy. You’re his muse. Someone to inspire and remind him of what he could be (and won’t). You’re the soft place to land while he acts out his disorder and dysfunction with no one the wiser. There’s no potential here other than what you choose to wish, hope and pray for. You need a partner, not a project. A man, not a child. A future, not wishful thinking predicated on this dude’s lack of potential. You and your children deserve better. This is your opportunity to find it.

    • Thank you for your comment. It definitely stings. Although he says he’s changed, will leave his phone with me so I can see he’s no longer engaging in that kind of behavior, swears on everything I’m all he needs, it fucking stings. I don’t, and I’m not sure I can ever trust him again. I feel like I’ve always been a prop in his game, and the only difference now is I know it’s a game. I hope I can find the courage to do what I know I need to do.

  • People go on hook up apps with the intention of hooking up. If he hasn’t dipped his wick yet, he will. The sexting is either about getting there, or or he’s there already and he can’t even spend time at home without access to some kind of illicit sex at all times.
    This is disordered behavior.
    The refusing to stop when you expressed your feelings about it is emotional abuse.
    The apology tour is manipulation.
    You’re soliciting opinions, so IMO there’s nothing to work with here. He’s seeking sexual release from other women, therefore yes, it is cheating, no matter what form it takes.
    However, as CL says, the opinion that counts is yours. Do you feel betrayed? Then you were. Is this relationship really working for you, that is when he’s not trying to suck up to get back in your good graces? Are you prepared to tolerate him seeking sexual release from others and neglect you and your kids to do so?

    From what you say it seems you are aware that this behavior is habitual for him and that you don’t believe he will stop. You’re right. Follow your good instincts. Apology tours only last so long and abuse is typically cyclical. You’re just in the honeymoon part of the cycle now. It feels good, but it’s a set-up for what’s to come.

    If you do decide to stick it out, and nobody here will recommend that you do, do so only if he consistently goes to therapy, is making a real effort to change his ways, and with a solid post-nup in place that sees him lose a huge % of the money if there’s any kind of cheating, including sexting. So propose that to him. See how he reacts. I predict he will not be willing. You will then have your answer as to his intentions.

    • My instincts are good, but the courage to leave is just not there. I keep thinking, what if he just fucked up? What if he actually is sorry? What if I leave, and it’s a huge mistake that I regret forever?

      • Molly,

        Please heed our warnings to which I will add the following which mine.

        I had great friends who kept telling me to act quickly before his guilt wore off and turned into rage.

        I was torn as you are.

        I was reading RIC literature, I didn’t find LACGAL for about 2 years post dday, so I had read lots of stories wherein couples did divorce only to get married again later on.

        Remember, you have that option.

        My emotions were not reliable during the dday aftermath and all the hoovering that followed it.

        My suggestion is to ACT NOW, process your emotions later.

        This isn’t the time to try to figure him out – ‘untangling the skein’ – you have time for that later but, take it from all of us here, that will be a waste of time.

        I acted while in a state of total shock, we had been together for over 30 years and he was the ‘perfect husband and father’ (I have since learned about covert, passive aggressive narcissists and serial cheating.) and the divorce was completed within several months.

        It has been about 4 years now and, because of CL and CN I slowly ‘getting it’ and I am so grateful he is out of my life. (NC was not something I knew anything about and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.)

        I was fooled once, and then twice but by the third time I knew and did what I needed to do to take care of myself because the courts do not do things fairly for us older women who have been SAHs.. They simply do not care. The letter of the law is cold hearted.

  • Yes, it is cheating. And even if you are not sure about that … he certainly knows it because of the steps he takes to hide it. No one sneaks around and lies for no reason. And by the way, you actually have no idea the full story of his behaviors. We usually only discover the very tip of the iceberg. But the foundational shitty character will lead to more hurtful, disrepectful behavior over time, not less. You are sad to see 10 years flushed? How will you feel when you get to twenty years? Thirty? I am sadly a member of the 33 years flushed club … do yourself a kindness and leave now. Hugs.

    • “…he certainly knows it because of the steps he takes to hide it.”

      Exactly! XFW said he didn’t lie to me when I caught him talking to woman #4, because when I asked him who it was, he told me who it was. But he lied to me when he changed her contact in his phone from her name to a man’s name in order to hide it. He took that step to hide it. He seemed shocked at that reframe. Like he had never thought of it that way. Completely disordered individual, that man.

      • My STBX is a sec addict, and this sounds eerily familiar. I also convinced myself it was only online, nothing physical… but boy was I wrong. Once I began looking for the signs and proof, it was so easy to find. Receipts for condoms, text messages from a pimp, and even a whole 6 month affair (I spoke to the OW’s husband). It escalates, and even if it doesn’t, the level of disrespect and indifference they show to us and their family by these actions is just too much. Save yourself the heartache of wishing down the line that you’d done something sooner (trust me) and send him packing.

    • Over 36 years here. Until someone invents a time machine, we can’t reverse the decisions we made that kept us married to a disrespectful and abusive partner, but hopefully our experience will send some measure of strength and support to Molly.

  • Molly, at this moment it may seem easier sticking it out with your husband and hoping for the best. Divorce is chaotic, emotionally messy and expensive. However, if you choose to “work it out” this is what you have to look forward to…always waiting for the other shoe to drop, constantly checking up (policing) on your husband and then when your cheater hubby finds someone that is worth leaving you for, he will discard you like yesterday’s trash. Oh and don’t kid yourself he is looking and will continue to look although he’ll just be better at hiding his pursuits. So you have a choice, you can take control, divorce his cheating ass on your terms and get on with your new life now or you can waste precious years on your cheater and in the end he will find someone new, dump you and you will start your new life but it won’t be on your terms.

    • Hi Molly,
      I totally agree with KB22. You will notice each person who has replied to your letter today has a slightly different story to yours, but a common thread. Listen to Chump Lady and my advice is to get out now, as painful and horrendous as it is and will be. It will save you years of horror.
      My story -3 kids, now 19, 17 and 11. Separated now for 18 months and married for 24. My ex was sly and abusive with his on-line texting and carefully, deceitfully controlled his disclosures to me -slowly,painfully and manipulatively. He just revealed a little bit at a time then creating miniature discards and then hoovering me back. I walked on a thread for years -decades. Please read Dr Omar Minwalla’s work “Secret Sexual Basement”. I was flabbergasted as I read it, because it was the first time I saw someone actually getting what had happened to me. I didn’t even understand what had happened to me!
      Gather your family and friends around you and go for it. It will be awful but it will save you.

    • Molly, please take the advice of KB22, read and reread her spot on scenario. She knows. Divorce is like having open heart surgery without anesthetic and no guarantee all the piece will be put back in the right places. But that appears to be better than living a life of false hope, rigid fear, and eventually the possibility he will leave you. Chose the lesser pain although it may seem more immediate now in the long run you will be more at peace. God bless.

  • 99 percent of the time when they say it isn’t physical, it IS physical. That was certainly the case with my cheating ex-wife. Even with a guy with small kids who lived 2,500 miles away, and even though my wife was a mom of two kids in her 40s who supposedly worked full time. I would be shocked if this guy hasn’t physically had sex with someone outside the marriage. You cannot trust anything he says.

    • Also think of this energetically, This guy is like a perverted octopus with all his tentacles reaching out into cyberspace enmeshed with a ton of strange females having sex.

      There is no such thing as virtual sex. These interactions-his mind and energy are creating phsyical responses in him. It is truly a form physical cheating.

      Yoi deserve a faithful person. Someone who is worthy of your faith.

  • “It should hurt him to hurt you”

    ^^That statement is gold.^^

    If it doesn’t hurt him to hurt you about this, what else will he do? What kind of human being is he that he’s fine hurting someone that he claims to love?

    My ex swore up and down that he never physically cheated, but after 25 years of marriage I eventually figured out that he actually enjoyed hurting me. He got off on it.

    Don’t be me.

    • I love that line. This is a great one, too: “It’s not the fucking around that hurts so much — it’s the conspiring. Being played. Lied to. Used. Left to all the work of what was supposed to be a shared life.”

      Molly, I’m sorry you’re going through this. You seem smart and badass. You know what to do. I hope you have supportive family and friends to help you through. Lean heavily on them.

      Please don’t stay for the kids. l was married for 35 years before I left. In year 25 he told me that that he’d cheated when we were first married–a drunken, one-night stand.
      I forgave him.

      I forgave the porn (he needs the stimulation that I can’t provide because somehow I’m deficient; also, I didn’t want to appear to be a prude).

      I forgave the lap dances (after getting really, really angry).

      I forgave the moody behavior (begged him to go to therapy and consider meds, which he finally did).

      I forgave the silent treatment (he must be in deep thought).

      I did what he wanted to do (fly fishing). I catered to him. I walked on eggshells. I felt lonely and sad.

      But still, I stayed until he confessed to a long-term affair. It was, as others in CN have described it, the 2 x 4 I needed.

      Don’t wait for your 2 x 4.

      Oh, and about the kids–my now-adult kids wish I’d left their dad when they were young. CL is right that staying for the kids is a mistake.

      Good luck!

  • These are the facts: He’s lying to you. You both know it. He knows that you know he’s lying. You’ve reached a point in your relationship where you’re now fully notified of what he thinks of you, and he knows there are no real consequences for his lies, except that he occasionally has to *act* contrite to smooth things out with you.

    This is the way fuckwits work. He’s trained you. He’s made it clear what he thinks of you and he still gets to stay.

    There’s only one question you have to answer: Do you find this acceptable?

  • “Forgive my frankness, but adults fuck.”

    My Pastor told me this exact thing in 2015, but with non-four letter words. XFW said he never touched her then. He finally admitted after final DDay in May 2021 that he did in fact f*ck her. XFW lied. Pastor was right. Pastor could see through it. I could not. Should have listened to Pastor in 2015 and I would have been single at 35 rather than 40. I could have remarried and had another baby, but now that ship has sailed. (XFW cut me off at one child – he has two others)

    So for everyone thinking it’s just sexting or an emotional affair, place your bet on they’re f*cking.

  • Molly is in the justification, or as I like to call it…the bullshitting phase. She knows her husband is full of shit but doesn’t really want to leave just yet, so she’s trying to justify why it isn’t that bad. Or to put it another way…she’s bullshitting herself.

    It’s a common mistake we’ve all made. It’d important that we own our decisions and accept what that means. If Molly wants to stick around that means she accepts that her hb is a full of shit liar who is in full damage control mode right now but will go right back to being a prick once he’s comfortable she’s sticking around. Even now he’s probably just hiding things better.

    Once you decide that the marriage isn’t working for you justification isn’t necessary. So either accept who your hb is and stick around with your eyes open or make plans to go.

    Since I’ve divorced 2 husbands I know what I’d choose.

    • When I was in this stage and really not wanting to divorce, when people started out with “of course you must divorce, I threw up a wall. I told myself that they don’t know my situation… I believed in the exceptionalism of my marriage and I was so wrong.

      • When I first found the communications my ex had with his whore ex gf and realized that they spanned our entire relationship, even before we married, I knew in my gut the marriage was over as I’d never trust him again.

        But it took me 6 or 8 months to really come to terms with it. If my ex hadn’t been such a nasty, gaslighting prick it might have taken longer. And I didn’t have kids with him, though I get that too because when I left my kids father they were 5 and 2. But he was an abusive drunk so I wasn’t going to keep sticking around for that.

        Molly will likely get there….I just hope she doesn’t waste too much of her life doing it. But I understand that it takes time because inertia is high and blowing up your life is scary.

      • Unicornnomore,

        OMG, my beliefs exactly, “I believed in the exceptionalism of my marriage.”

        I did the pick me dance via RIC literature until I found LACGAL some 2 years after dday wherein the ‘specialness of our relationship’ was destroyed 🙂

        It has been a bumpy road but I do believe I am headed in the right direction now casting off used and useless baggage along my way to something better.

      • It’s hard to accept that your life is a cliche, isn’t it? I suppose hubris gets us all in the end.

        I really wanted my wife’s bizarre, out-of-the-blue renunciation of our marriage to be something grand and unique. It was quite disappointing to learn that it was just a run-of-the-mill “I’ve been fucking my coworker for years at conferences, and finally got him to leave his wife”. I was weirdly resentful at how trite it was, and yet how much it hurt.

        On the other hand, it’s so commonplace that it pops up a lot in literature and film, so in a strange way the universality of the experience makes for richer engagement. I often find myself reading something and thinking “oh, I remember that”, or “nah, that’s unrealistic”. Also, as a white guy, I can now go to blues clubs without feeling like a fraud.

        • i too hate that i’ve been made into a cliche. discarded for younger co-worker. couldn’t they have thought of something original?

        • “I often find myself reading something and thinking “oh, I remember that”, or “nah, that’s unrealistic”

          I think I know what you mean! Not just literature, but films, shows, even songs. I hear songs completely differently now. Just today I thought to myself, ‘Most sad love songs – unless they’re about death – are actually about emotional abuse, either written by a Sad Sausage/TFC or a still-chumpy/trapped chump’s perspective.’ I sometimes wonder, would this shift in perspective have come naturally with age and wisdom, if I was lucky enough to not experience abuse and betrayal and instead grew old beside a loving and loyal companion? What would I have seen and understood? And likewise, what am I missing, not having experienced reciprocal love from a partner, nor having experienced the bond of motherhood? There are things I just cannot understand, even if I can imagine.

        • @Involuntary Georgian
          “I can now go to blues clubs without feeling like a fraud.”

          🤣
          A healthy sense of humor helps us get through the inevitable down cycles.

    • Willful blindness. “This person loves me and therefore would not intentionally do unloving things to me. Except s/he just did and has been doing so for a really long time.” It is so confusing to balance those two thoughts. It is very painful to finally conclude the person does NOT love you. They might love that you love them (kibbles), all the things you do for them, etc. but they.do.not.love.you. If they did, they would never treat you this way in a million years. We are super confused as thus open to manipulation, gaslighting, and self deception. They are not the least bit confused despite pretending to be. Oh the irony.

  • Even though I am one of these people, it always amazes me the lengths people will go to in order not to believe the person they love has done them wrong. We try to blame the drugs, alcohol, other people’s bad influence, anything and everything but the obvious thing. We don’t want to believe who they are, we want them to be who we want them to be.

    One of my sons complained when he was a young boy that I always believed the teacher. I told him I did not always believe the teacher, but I believed the story which made the most sense. I knew him, and loved him, and I would always be his advocate, but when he was wrong, he needed to own up. He needed to stop believing he could “get away with it.” He needed to do the right thing, not the selfish thing. It took many repetitions of this before it sank in. I won’t say my son is perfect, but he now gets it right more often than not. Now he has employees who try this same stuff with him. If he does have children, it will be interesting to watch.

    One of the odd things about sex is how humans make it so complicated. The rules of relationships are not so different from the rules of any community trying to live a community life. You don’t get to be selfish and greedy. You work your share, you stay inside your own boundaries. The trouble always comes with selfishness and greed. For some reason some people never experience “enough.” They always want their share, and your share, and their children’s share, and the neighbors share. For these entitled folks, you deserve nothing because they want everything. They “escape to the garage” so they can watch porn, and sext, and shop online for new partners to fool. They cannot be bothered with actually participating in the “boring” parts of life. That menial labor is for everyone else, they are too busy seeking an enough they will never experience.

    You can never put out a fire and sleep safely in a home you share with an arsonist. Gather your children and as much evidence as you can, and flee the burning house. An arsonist will not become a firefighter, he will always have matches in his pocket, and be on the lookout for combustible materials. That is who he is.

    • Portia,

      I really appreciate how you put things in a way that I totally get it and I just thought I would mention it today because I don’t think I have in the past.

      You did it again today.

      Clear and simple.

      No space for argument.

      (I believe I do belong to the ‘Queen of Complicating Things’ crowd, thanks to my brain. I even confuse myself so Mr. X’s lying, cheating and gaslighting fit right in and felt like home 🙂

  • I am so sorry that this is going on. Based on my FW, the sexting is just the start. There will be different exchanges, pictures, video and so on and then there will be money spent on feeding this beast. This FW is not your friends, he wants to get physical. He wants to or is already actively cheating. If he respected you, he would talk to you and get any issues out in the open and then you could resolve them jointly as adults but he does not want to do this.
    Do not make excuses for him. He sucks. Protect yourself and your children. Get STD tested, get your finances in order and lawyer up. Even if he is not actively cheating, he will start soon. The FW brain will not resist.

    • Yeah. My STBX went from admitting that they’d shared selfies “once” to admitting that they’d shared multiple selfies, photos of each other’s children, AND videos. Oh, but they were just videos of both of them playing music. That’s all. HA. Because she’s an amazing piano player, apparently, and has a baby grand in her house. He told me this, KNOWING how I’d begged and begged my parents for piano lessons as a kid and never got them because my parents didn’t have the money. And he sat his ass right there and said all of this to my face, after having LIED FOR MONTHS, finally admitting he’d still been “talking “ to her that ENTIRE time. And sending videos. Because she’s such “a cool chick” and she’s “so talented.” All of this being said after he went on and on and on about how he needed me to know that “nothing sexual “ ever took place. Yet she asked him if he was jealous when she was going to a “romantic dinner” with the guy she’d been triangulating HIM with – as he was triangulating me and her. He admitted to obsessing over her. He admitted that when he told me he didn’t want me to leave last year- he was lying and actually wanted to be with her.

      There really is nothing to work with once you hit this point. My ducks are all lined up like good little fowl and I’ve been looking at apartments for me and my kids for the past 3 weeks. STBX’s birthday is in a couple weeks. Since he told me that all of his birthdays and Christmases have “sucked” since we’ve been together, I’m hoping a copy of my new lease will suffice in place of birthday card this year.
      Trust that they suck is a valid mantra. As is, He is NOT my friend.

  • A hookup at a bar is not a mistake – it’s a choice, just like sexting is a choice. Maybe, rephrase what you think cheating is. Cheating is betrayal. As for his sexting, I have a hard time buying that he sexted this long of a time with this many women and did not physically cheat. But, like CL points what, what is acceptable to YOU? The sexting, the fact that he has done it repeatedly despite knowing that it hurts you, the time spent sexting when he could have been giving that attention to you and your three children?

    Think about what you can and cannot live with. I lived with the suspicion that the ex husband was a cheater but no hard proof. It’s like a dark cloud that pervades every point of your life until it has sucked every aspect of your being leaving you a shell of person. I promise you – it’s hell and you don’t want it. Set boundaries, ask him to abide by those boundaries. If he cannot not, you know his intentions though, I hazard, you already do.

    • “It’s like a dark cloud that pervades every point of your life until it has sucked every aspect of your being leaving you a shell of person. I promise you – it’s hell and you don’t want it. “

      Agree.

  • This is just so sad because you are one of thousands if not millions of wives and husbands who have to deal with an addict. Addiction is addiction. It’s nearly impossible to give up sex addiction. This is a sex addiction. There is no other word for it other than cheating which he is of course doing.
    Suppose, instead of sexting, he was a peeping Tom. Maybe he would spend his evenings out looking in windows at women undressing instead of sitting in the garage sexting. He could claim he wasn’t cheating because he wasn’t touching those women but he was sure as hell doing something wrong. He is not a good husband and he most definitely is not a good father. Your children only have one childhood and if it’s spent with a father who is absent because he’s in the garage he’s not being a father. What he’s doing is basically paying rent/mortgage so he can use the garage.

  • He is cheating. You are not his priority. His children are not his priority. People who love you, don’t hurt you. Get out now. Is it going to suck? Yes. Will you survive it? Yes. (((Hugs)))

  • When confronted with an email that seemed like an affair, my Ex insisted she was just someone that he talked to. He denied any physical contact. He said it wasn’t like that. She just really listened and understood him. I felt betrayed and very suspicious. This went on for a couple weeks. I didn’t know what gaslighting was at the time, but I was being heavily gaslit. It reached a point where I needed answers and knew I wouldn’t get them from him. I searched every electronic device in the house for a clue and found his secret email account. Turns out he was posting and replying to CraigList casual encounter ads. This friend whom he claimed he was just talking to had responded to one of his ads. I found her reply. The subject line…”C*m in my mouth”. They were meeting in a public park on his lunch hour for hookups in his truck. I never tipped my hand to him about what I found. I filed.

    He’s likely doing more than just texting. Protect yourself and your kids.

  • Molly, I’m so sorry this is happening to you – but we all get it here.

    I didn’t even contemplate leaving my STBX after her first affair in 2004, because it was “just” an affair that lasted a few days while she was on a research trip. She did all the Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse (https://www.chumplady.com/2013/07/real-remorse-or-genuine-imitation-naugahyde-remorse/) things like ending the affair right away, booking a therapist, etc.

    So I stayed, and have never once felt fully rested since D-Day #1. I chalked up the fatigue to being a cancer survivor, but I now think it’s because I experienced 14 years of what I call “affair lite” behaviors – for example, my STBX had very intense friendships with people she was attracted to, even kissing one of them, but I was supposed to be okay with it, because she owned up to it. The real problem was that my disordered STBX pined after these “friends” so much that she devalued me and our marriage, but without actually talking to me about any of it. I now know that she was constantly unfavorably comparing, me, herself, and our life with others.

    This is NOT emotionally healthy behavior, and no marriage will thrive when one partner is doing these things. Even though I believe that STBX did not actively have an affair or exchange loving/sexting language with others during those 14 years, she was devaluing and disrespecting me while I spackled her behavior. STBX complained that I was distant, and she was right: I had been traumatized and was establishing boundaries to protect myself – now I can see that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Then came D-Day #2 in 2018.

    I know others have said it above, but please, please don’t be like us, Molly. You have all the information you need to show that your immature “spouse” doesn’t have your back. Once the trust is broken, the marriage is over. He will just use your healthy boundaries and emotional “distance” (read: consequence of trauma!) to justify his going outside the marriage to meet his “needs.” You will not be in a marriage, you will be in a hostage situation, as I was for 14 years.

    All best to you, ((Molly.)) We Can’t Control Other People – or, as they say in Al-Anon, DETACH (Don’t Even Think About Changing Him/Her).

    • “I had been traumatized and was establishing boundaries to protect myself – now I can see that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

      Then came D-Day #2 in 2018.

      I know others have said it above, but please, please don’t be like us, Molly. You have all the information you need to show that your immature “spouse” doesn’t have your back. Once the trust is broken, the marriage is over. “

      Same. I spent almost a year knowing, in my gut, that it wasn’t a matter of IF the other shoe would drop…..but WHEN.

      And yes. Once the trust is broken-it’s over. Because there is no going back to that place where you knew your spouse would never do that to you. Your spouse DID do that to you and nothing will ever be okay in that relationship again.

      • Yes, all of this. Plus, once someone has begun devaluing you (often long before dday), it just gets worse over time – and your relationship and mental health disintegrate as a result. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You can look back and see this, once you get some distance. It doesn’t even matter if YOU find a way to forgive and forget. It’s not about you. After dday? Even when you’re pick me dancing to the cheater’s tune, their secret is out of the bag. They have to lie to manage their image, and they have to work harder to feel good about themselves when their misdeeds aren’t a secret, and they can’t manipulate you as easily, so their tactics get nastier. They also see how much they can get away with, and they stop even pretending to be nice. It goes downhill fast. It will never be what it was before you found out, and it will definitely never be what it was when you felt love and respect – and imagined you were loved by – your partner.

  • Molly,

    The very definition of cheating is “to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage”. So wether or not it became physical is irrelevant here…it’s still cheating. I wrote into CL back on February 8th of this year as I was dealing with the SAME EXACT THING. You can read her response to me under the archived article “Does social media encourage cheating”. I think it would be helpful for you to read it if you haven’t already. At the end of the day, I chose to end the relationship, go no contact and haven’t spoken to my sexting ex since. It was REALLY REALLY hard, but I did it…and you can to. Now I look back and think to myself wow, so glad I decided to leave because I would have never trusted him again and now…a year later…I’ve given myself the opportunity to find someone who actually respects me and would never betray my trust in that way. Get a lawyer and leave the fucker’s head spinning! You’ll sleep well knowing you’ll always be the one that got away 🙂 HUGS and blessings XOXO

  • Molly, not that it matters so much, but since you asked, I feel awful about how my beloved husband of 25 years, the father of my children, the man I invested my life with, was lying to me for YEARS, abusing my goodness, devaluing me, humiliating me, risking my health and the mental health and stability and happiness of our children. I felt enraged by this. Devastated at first. Terrified. Sickened. Disgusted. Horrified. Disbelief.

    It was not acceptable to me.

    I said no more. Laid boundaries and enforced them. Filed for and got a divorce. Built a new life.

    Fast forward 7 years. Life is wonderful without a lying cheating abuser as my life partner. No regrets.

  • Hi Molly.
    I have never read a letter on Chump Lady that so closely mirrored my own experience.
    My husband at that time of approximately 25 years began getting online on language learning websites. – -where people in different countries would exchange correspondence in an attempt to learn each others native language.
    These were not specific dating sites. However, I came to learn they are basically used that way. A lot of women in foreign countries looking to learn English in the United States.
    My husband also had an employee several levels beneath him who spoke the language he was interested in and they begin corresponding in emails- lengthy paragraphs describing their days to each other.
    Nothing sexual.
    He said I was holding back his intellectual development by not letting him learn another language.
    He said I should learn another language. why was I so unintellectually curious?
    Long story short, with the employee the relationship progressed to lunches and then dinners. He was taking his time to tell her about his day and his experiences in this language and she would correct him. Literally like a school assignment.

    He was sharing more with her than he was with me
    I found out about this when I canceled solo weekend plans at the last minute and he burst into tears telling me that he was going to go meet her at her home for dinner. She was going to prepare a meal of cuisine from her native country for him as part of his cultural learning.
    Since I was so I’m interested in learning née things
    It was cultural immersion
    She was a woman who had immigrated to the United States alone and built a life for herself. She was so interesting he loves learning about her life
    He was going to mentor her
    Isn’t that what we should all do ? you assist people who are looking to grow. Why was I so unambitious?
    Wasn’t he awesome.
    I was able to get a hold on that relationship and stop it but it was very difficult because she was in his workplace and she did keep approaching him.
    I actually had to go to HR person and have a memo put in her file that she could not approach him. He told her that he had to stop seeing her because I objected . That should’ve been a huge red flag he could not take responsibility

    He continued to text on non-specific
    But non-dating websites. And it increased and it snowballed. He would sit in the backyard after dinner with his phone and text and text. He began sticking his phone under his thigh when I would walk to the room. Under a table in a restaurant. Going to the bathroom and staying in there and texting.
    I knew what was going on
    I could see the texts.
    He would not stop.
    Eventually he would spend most of his time at home on these websites literally fishing for women. some of them bit, some of them didn’t
    at one point I think he had over a dozen active conversations.
    Some of them are more sexual than others. The older women intended to be more friendly, The younger women a bit more sexual. Theyd be in bars, there’s a lot of filters and cleavage and girlfriends jumping around holding large mixed drinks. He insisted he wasn’t cheating and he blamed me for not allowing him to explore his interests.
    My therapist described it as a “process addiction “similar to gambling or I guess porn.
    They never got particularly sexual. It was just compulsive. I couldn’t get him to participate in anything with me and what had already been a weak sex life completely disappeared.

    A lot of them knew he was married and he would use them as armchair psychologist and friends to discuss me and how he felt about my lack of curiosity and whether he should go or stay in the marriage.
    Of course none of them told him to get off the phone and go talk to me.
    I did everything I could to get him to stop and then I became obsessional
    I was getting up at two or three in the morning to go through his phone and see the latest correspondence and what was going on.
    my own individual development that I should’ve been doing at the time – just looking for a new job or exercising / was poured into policing and researching his activities. I was exhausted
    I now look back upon that as such an extraordinary waste of time and I am angry at myself for it.
    We had one child in the house who eventually left for college.
    He continued texting
    I think he was also doing this at work and his business suffered tremendously. I do not know if it’s employees noticed what he was doing. Or his investors.

    I eventually filed for divorce because he was cruel as well as obsessional. As Chump. lady said it should hurt him to hurt you. And I was begging him to stop.
    He told me he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong because there was no actual sex.
    And these women were thousands of miles away.
    But he never tried for the marriage.
    He decided there was a “void “and this was how he was filling it
    I just couldn’t compete with the thrill of what he was doing
    I finally filed for divorce and one of the first things he did was fly out of the country and hook up with one of these women sexually. He had the nerve to tell my children that the relationship started after I filed. That he didn’t actually cheat on me. I am trying not to drag My children into it too much explain all the details about that The timeline or his manipulations
    They are not particularly interested in hearing the gory details.

    what I realize now after the completion of my divorce this past summer, it didn’t matter if there was sex or not. He had emotionally left, physically checked out of the marriage the minute he began to text and sext.

    the more he stepped out the harder I tried to hold onto him. And then I just became exhausted from getting up in the middle of the night. And From the constant tension, he was literally leaving me in plain sight right in front of me
    So now we are divorced
    I am really going through the pain of losing the marriage and the separation now and he’s running all over town because what I realize is that he’s been out of the marriage for a decade. He was staying for the comfort of our home and my “housekeeping services” And the public appearance of a marriage. He may have been disordered enough to think that what he was doing was OK. But As stated so many times here it is what is acceptable to YOU
    He is ignoring your pain and he’s putting extraordinary effort into other women
    People have conveyed to me they thought he may have thought I would actually never file for divorce, which was very confusing
    I warned him I begged him
    If you don’t give them consequences they don’t know and if you do give them consequences then you’re the one who Has to end the marriage
    I believe he would’ve kept going until he picked up and left me one day when he was able to flip one of these relationships into something that he felt secure enough in. I am hoping that he’s lost the thrill of sneaking around on me. But I don’t know

    I understand how difficult this would be with children as young as yours.
    But your husband already left. Just not physically. My advice to you would be to prepare yourself
    start putting away money, get a job or get a job you would like if you were single.
    And build a support system as much as you can
    separate from him. I went to divorce support group before I filed and made a friend there who has been a rock for me during this process.
    I needed to wait until I was absolutely sure and I was comfortable that I had tried everything because he put everything in such a gray area.
    But it wasn’t gray. Texting is cheating and if they don’t understand that from an ethical standpoint and it is conveyed to them and they don’t stop they are already, gone. And honestly coward s for not having courage to tell you to your face

    • Meanwell,

      Normally I don’t read long responses, short on time with too much to do during the day, but today yours got to me so I put everything on hold and read.

      What you said – my life except my twist was that Mr. X was always involved with his 12th step buddies so I was always encouraging him to ‘work with others’ etc.

      Since dday, the truth has revealed itself and I see that I inadvertently had given him complete license to hook up whenever and wherever he wanted to and all the while I was in the dark as to what was really going on.

      For that I am thankful because I truly believed I had the perfect man who was doing the right thing by working so hard on himself so I was relatively happy and willing to do all that I did in order to be supportive….

      Well, after dday and thanks to the then current OW, I was slowly exposed to his accumulated fleet of women whom he had been calling and texting with for years…all under the guise of support

      and I speckled it with ‘oh, that’s not so bad, I can deal with that’.

      Today with your comment wherein you went to such great lengths to describe all you experienced , it hit me – not only about what he had done for over 30 years but how I had minimized, normalized and glossed over that part of his behavior until just now.

      How hard it still is for me to see how sick of a man he is and was and I didn’t see it.

      The harder part right now is seeing how his behavior impacted our children. On the outside, he was Mr. Wonderful so when my children were out and about with him, that was how he presented himself and how others reacted to him.

      At home he was dismissive, distant and unavailable to us all except when it suited him to be present and then he was MR. Wonderful.

      That psychological twist of intermittent reinforcement – kept us all hooked.

      Two of my children are still hooked into that cycle and I can’t do anything about that.

      OUCH.

      Anybody who says cheating isn’t abuse has no fucking clue to the damage it does. Damage that will never get undone in my case because it is so damn insidious.

      Took me over 60 decades to see the behavior in my father…too late for my children, I had already inflicted my part of the damage onto them before they were even born.

      All I have to offer, if they ask, is my truth – what I have learned here.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • EC
        Thank you for your response I did not mean to rattle on as I did. It was long
        My kids also were impacted by his behaviors. They are young adults now in their 20s neither are married. They are dealing slowly with the understanding that he didn’t care for them or me or family the way he should have. It is excruciating to watch. And my son in particular I think share some of my husbands in sensitivities and Devaluement of me,As some posters above mentioned. So here is my next mighty goal. To re-create my life the way it should have been and show my children who I really am. Every day I understand more that I never came close to achieving my potential with him and I am not young but I’m still here and I am going to do it
        You can we all Can too
        And thank you for listening. I’m glad my story was helpful

        • I love this: “Every day I understand more that I never came close to achieving my potential with him and I am not young but I’m still here and I am going to do it.”

        • Meanwell,

          Your words inspire me.

          Also, I am old but not ’60 decades’ worth of old.

          Typo – 6 decades. :*)

    • Meanwell,
      You very vividly describe the devaluation stage of a toxic relationship cycle. That stage can be LOOooOoNG… in my case, it lasted at least 14 years. Other chumps have posted great links to internet resources on this phenomenon – Velvet Hammer? Lovedajackass? Sorry I don’t have a specific link to share right now, but you can find a lot of info. Check out Dr. Ramani’s videos on YouTube.

      Basically, the toxic relationship cycle is Idealization (lovebombing), followed by Devaluation, followed by Discard. If somebody in a typical relationship feels devalued and brings it up, a healthy partner will respond in kind and show that they care. But if we feel perennially devalued/disrespected, it’s time to set hard boundaries, and it should be a dealbreaker for most of us – even without clear evidence of cheating. Cheating is just the ultimate expression of devaluation/discard – a symptom of the underlying disease, to use a medical metaphor. And if we are in the devaluation stage, discard is sure to follow at some point. (Discard can be emotional as well as literal. It sounds like your ex had emotionally left the marriage, Meanwell, even if he did not file for divorce.)

      Just a note: lots of websites associate the toxic relationship cycle with narcissism. But, like Dr. George Simon, I don’t think there needs to be a particular diagnosis to see that it fits. That’s why he (and Omar Minwalla of “Secret Sexual Basement”) don’t specify anything about narcissism per se. There are lots of flavors of disorder out there that might contribute to a toxic relationship cycle.

      You’re well rid of your ex, Meanwell. Way to be mighty!

      • ‘Cheating is just the ultimate expression of devaluation/discard’ Yes! Yes, I’ve had it with cheating and without cheating. Working on the picker problem .

      • LezChump
        Thank you.
        I LOVE Dr Ramani. Her generous info helps so much. Yes, I agree, sexting is the beginning of the discard. The leaving without actually leaving. It vacillates back and forth, but I believe once started, is not stoppable. Same with Omar Minwalla learned about on CL.
        Ex had other narcissistic traits, but over analysis led to part of my paralysis in leaving.
        if it hurts us and they won’t stop, there is our answer.

    • “He had emotionally left, physically checked out of the marriage the minute he began to text and sext.”

      This is the point. And it doesn’t matter if it’s sexting or drinking or playing golf every single day. If someone check out of the marriage, it’s over, even if you are hanging on to it.

      Marriage (a good one) requires an investment in time; a commitment to be someone’s emotional, sexual, and social partner; and reciprocity. If a spouse checks out, it’s time to file.

  • Anyone who starts going on Tinder or sexting with people is not going to stop at just that. It is just the nature of those activities and the people who do them.
    Even if that was all he was up to, it is too much.
    Sexting itself is cheating. Any engagement of an emotional, romantic or sexual nature with someone other than your partner without their knowledge is a violation of trust, and must be considered cheating in every sense of the word. But it is also solid evidence that a physical affair is or will be bound to happen.
    Someone who gets their thrills from doing that is not going to be satisfied with just dirty text messages and photos. They always need to take it up another level, to keep the interest and thrill level high enought to satisfy themselves, which means doing it with more people and eventually taking it further to a full-blown physical hook up. No one starts sexting thinking photos and messages will be the final destination, the lurid nature of the activity itself demands escalation.
    Has anyone in Chump Nation ever heard of a Tindering, sexting partner who got caught doing that and in the end that was all they were guilty of?
    When I was chumped, my first discovery was that my XW was texting her best friend’s husband. I so wanted to believe that it would end at that after I found out and confronted her about it, but that’s just not the way these things work unfortunately.

    Sorry Molly – the horse has already bolted. Welcome to the gang.

    • A married person orgasming with a stranger is cheating. Full stop.

      Smartphones and computers are used as an extension of the body. It is 100% physical cheating.

      It is in fact the laziest, most ratchet, and gluttonous of physical cheating. Abated by dumpster companies like Tinder and Ashley Madison or even regular dating sites.

      Get away from anyone who needs a panopoly of genitals to amuse themselves.

      • “A married person orgasming with a stranger is cheating. Full stop.”

        This bears repeating, because sexting is not just words. It’s mutual masturbation aided and abetted by words.

        My naked-pick-me dance began with sexting with my now ex. I had never done this, but it was clear from my now-ex’s behavior that he’d done a lot of it (I thought he’d “only” been watching porn, not engaging with others.)

        The pull of the high that even I felt in my brief experience with it told me it was dangerously addictive, and it was clear that it was as addictive to my now-ex as all the other addictions he’d fed over the course of our 32 year marriage (drugs, alcohol, food, sugar, excessive time at work, porn, etc).

        Molly, your husband is very far down the rabbit hole. Anyone who is active on four apps and has ten women’s phone numbers in his phone to sext with is not going to just put down his phone and walk away back to being a caring, loving partner and family man.

        • Adelante, your story reminds me of a thing.

          I dated a man briefly who I pretty quickly dumped because I couldn’t stand to see the values he was teaching his kids. Like, he’d brag to his boys about mouthing off to a supervisor. He’d tell his daughter, “Watch out; men lie.”

          One of the incidents that really turned me off happened while I was travelling and video calling him. I hadn’t fully realized how I’d feel about using video to connect sexually, and was experimenting with that. I would set aside time to be private, to connect with him during a call. Once I sent a flirty text to ask if he was around, and when he got on the call he was in his truck. I was like, wait, where are you? He was like, oh, I’m out at my kid’s thing — a show or performance. I said, oh, please, don’t let me keep you, we can do this when you’re free. He was like no, no, I’ve showed my face, they know I’m here. He wanted to spend that time wanking in his truck with me at the risk of potentially missing seeing his kid perform. That felt like an addiction impulse, not a grounded one.

          I soon realized that I didn’t like the way his face changed during those calls. It was a mix of dead eyes and urgent demand. I felt like I was turning myself into something consumable, participating in an exchange that was so much more about him getting something illicit than it was about sharing fun. I stopped the sexy time video chats.

          The whole thing had the addictive energy you speak of, Adelante, and I’m so glad to be away from it. I mean, I can be already addictively attached to my phone without even having my sex life be a part of the equation! But as I’ve written elsewhere, the pressure to procure/offer little hits of sex is so pervasive. It’s like cheap, chemical-ridden fast food sold with an image of a circle of good friends at a sunny party.

          Some people want good friends. Some people want to be seen as people who get to party. No amount of 99-cent deep fried chimichangas equals having built relationships you can count on.

    • THIS!!! With these cheater types, there is a small window of contrition where they’ll be agreeable to a reasonable settlement or maybe even one favorable to the chump. In my experience, once that window closes they make the process hell…for a long time.

  • i’m sorry, molly. your H is cheating. it’s tough, i know.

    one of the things i’ve been thinking of lately is the emotional disconnect that a lot of people have re: sharing feelings. i mean, we’re going through a life, a pedestrian life, full of chores and jobs and kids and, let’s face it, it can be a bit humdrum. an emotionally capable person says that out loud to their partner and explores it with them. a disordered person keeps it hidden and looks for alternate ways to feel excited–porn + on line shopping for a flirting/sex + chatting up their co-worker for a flirting/sex. god knows about his sexual basement. it’s immature and says more about them than you.

    it’s also disappointing because you’ve staked a life on a person you thought you knew, had kids with him, built a home with him. and you’re invested in that life. i can see why you’re bargaining with your self over the sexting but you know he’s disrespecting you and your kids. he really is. don’t let him have the power. you’re worth 100 of what he’s worth on a good day.

    you know your kids are watching you negotiate this situation and they’re learning, right?

    talk to a lawyer and get organized. build a binder with all your pertinent info and stash it away safely.

    i’m further along and have just built a divorce wall in my office–a map of all the pieces involved in my separation agreement. it’s a visual reminder that i’m rebuilding my life. i have a binder with tabs for all the pertinent sections–interim budget; pensions (assorted); investments (current + future); compensation package; shares; extras like adult child support; life insurance policies. that sort of thing.

    PS see your doc immediately for STI testing + support; seek counselling; find a divorced friend to spill your guts

    PPS fuck that guy

  • CL’s note that trying to rob a bank gets you in as much trouble even if you don’t succeed- it is even more basic than that. Going in with a toy gun and making noises that sound all robby will send you to jail just a as fast as if it was “real.” Yes, it is cheating.

    Your STBX is trying to get laid. He is spending hours trying to do it while being a complete ass to his family. This is who he really is. He wasn’t sorry when you didn’t know and now he is going to resent you for being so controlling and judgmental and all mommy-like. He will simply take his cheating underground and may decide to just abandon you one day because you are Just. So. Awful.

    I am sorry but you only have a brief time to take control. Line up your ducks before he walks out for his true soul mate, blaming you for it all. (hugs)

  • This was no mistake – it was fully intentional. He’s being wonderful now but soon that will turn into resentment that he’s having to be on good behavior, being “nice” (not to mention the actual work parenting kids). When my ex looked at me, it reminded him of what he had done, how I seemingly had one up on him and I somehow had power over him, and it made him angry. It’s difficult, but just surviving in your marriage is not acceptable – for you or your kids.

    • Yes!

      The problem with someone who behaves better because they are trying to avoid consequences FOR THEMSELVES is that they are constantly re-calculating that equation as conditions change.

      He will figure out a way to get back at you by leaving you and will amp up the search for your replacement.

  • I was quiet and ashamed when I first found out my x slept with someone (long story but he had to tell me because he violated a code of ethics). I didn’t find CL and thought it was a mid life crisis. It led to 5 more years of deceit, gaslighting, stonewalling, and even then I “believed” in family and trying (sunk costs). I finally went to a counsellor to “save my marriage “ and she said let’s talk about whether you want to. I completely identify with the hostage idea but I also kept myself there because I was projecting my values on him. We definitely don’t share the same values. Save yourself Molly.

    • The codependent chump in me completely identifies with this “projecting values” on FW idea. I made the mistake of staying in my marriage because I thought without my values my FW would be a jerk dad. It was a couple molette waste of time and energy on my part. I had to learn to let go of the idea that I had any influence on how much of a jerk he was. Now I am free to live by my values and he does by his.

  • Molly, your husband’s actions are cheating. Cheating is abuse.

    If you’re OK with being abused, then read CL’s book, and everyday read her posts here and the responses by people who previously experienced what you are now. Your future self will thank you.

    If you don’t want to be abused, and/or you want to model for your children how to protect oneself and them while still loving the world, then divorce your husband. They and your future self will thank you.

    You can do it. We encounter nothing in this world that we cannot handle

  • I was discarded after 11 years. I am sorry Molly. You are faced with the tough decision of continuing to invest in a broken lopsided relationship or cut your losses and move on with your head high.

    I ignored the red flags in my crappy marriage. My XH was neglectful, lying and hiding things and I ignored it because I was too busy taking care of our children by myself and holding things together. Maybe I didn’t want to see it, maybe I was hoping tomorrow would be better? In any case I let him neglect his family for years and in the end let him make the final decision. The final year of discard was brutal. I was a wreck and it made picking myself up for my kids and getting my ducks in a row so much harder. If I had a choice to do things over , I would have left when I first suspected something was up. Easy to say now of course, I am a different person than I was then after all these years of devaluation and gaslighting, but that’s the problem. It never gets better, only worse, and you get worse too. My advice would be get out while you can.

  • Yes, it’s cheating. But, even if you play the pretend game and continue assuming that all he did was sext (unlikely) and then convince yourself that it wasn’t actually cheating (it was) and then are able to look past how he devalued you and your kids during this time (you should not), you’re still going to be living in a semi-permanent state of chaos and paranoia where you’re wondering every day when it will happen again. What he did has made you feel horrible. It has upended your life and probably your sense of self. It has destabilized your family. And, it is likely to all happen again. Is this acceptable to you?

    People will have many differing opinions on whether what he did was cheating. But, that’s just a word. You need to decide if living on the edge of chaos indefinitely is acceptable to you. You don’t need anyone’s permission to divorce a guy who treats you and your kids this way. At a bare minimum, you and he do not share the same core values…and that alone is worth splitting over. And anyone who gives you anything shy of support needs to be booted from your life.

    • “You need to decide if living on the edge of chaos indefinitely is acceptable to you.”

      And this is it – RIGHT THERE. Living in the edge of chaos. I couldn’t have said it any better. Every day becomes a struggle and breaks you down more and more.

      “You don’t need anyone’s permission to divorce a guy who treats you and your kids this way.”

      Truth. I wish I’d walked years ago.

  • Long time reader, first time posting.
    My “husband” (hard to even write that word) unbeknownst to me, had many, many emotional affairs. Even before we married. All kept on the down low. I found my first evidence of them after we’d been married 2 years. I know they were not physical – all the recipients of his love bombing lived across country – the major one was a classmate from when he was 13! Rekindled on FB. They never met up, and when I discovered the 2 1/2 years of messaging – none of it was sexual – but way too familiar, sharing their emotions, writing: “I love you’s” missing you, sweet man, sweet woman, you’re so beautiful, you’re so talented… etc
    I was dumbstruck! His response when cornered?
    Gaslighting, denying, downplaying, making me doubt what I knew to be true. Inappropriate relationships! But I stayed. It was pure torture. I turned into a person I barely recognized- hyper vigilant, going over phone records with a yellow highlighter! Cracking his passwords, I became so stealth at forensic clues, I could have gotten a job with the FBI- looking for “evidence” for the next 6 years. I never trusted him again. And yet, because I never found evidence of sexual behaviors, I convinced myself it was ok.
    I guess my point is: whether or not your husband has or hasn’t had hook ups with his “friends” – the other behaviors- the deception, the sneakiness, the outright lies and gaslighting… will eventually make you crazy. Ask me how I know! Lucky for me, his last emotional affair was with a co worker.
    The weasel got caught in his own web. She was a powerhouse and when he started his emotional connection with her – she took it seriously and filed for divorce from her husband. I sat back and watched, I didn’t accuse, I didn’t ask about it, I didn’t care- I was done by then. I let her carry off the carcass of my “marriage.” When I told him he had to leave? He feigned a few tears and then he drove right over to her house and moved in with her the same night. I’m not saying it was easy. But I am back. It was complete torture living with someone like that. I hope you get out. When you’re in the midst of it, you can’t see how truly terrible it is. I cried every night with him next to me in bed, sleeping peacefully and snoring away!
    I feel like I know so many of you on here, and I thank you for your collective wisdom, empathy, humor and support.

    • Keep posting, CN needs more mighty, and you sound strong as hell to me… 🙂💪

      Laying in bed crying while they snore soundly is a soul killer, isn’t it? Far better to sleep alone, peacefully.

      • Thank you. I am glad I finally posted a little bit of my story. I too, felt my soul withering and I only got the “strength” to leave, when I was too weak to fight for the marriage anymore, by myself.
        That weasel was a real charmer.
        So true what CL says about the 3 channels:
        Charm, Rage, Self-Pity.
        So glad I changed the channel.

    • “It was complete torture living with someone like that. I hope you get out. When you’re in the midst of it, you can’t see how truly terrible it is. I cried every night with him next to me in bed, sleeping peacefully and snoring away!“

      Yes. Complete torture.

      And I’m also in the “I cried every night with him next to me in bed, sleeping peacefully” club. And IT. FUCKING. SUCKS.
      I’m pretty sure this relationship took multiple years off of my life.

      • Yes, true. Years. I feel the same way.
        When I look at pictures of myself during the last miserable year with him – I look at least 20 years older than I am. Somewhere between hollow and skeletal and the keeper of the crypt!

  • The husbad was only good to her and the kids after he got caught out.

    Everyone has to make their own decision.

    But living in doubt is not an easy life.

  • The details may be different, but it’s clear that so many of us experienced the same patterns of devaluation, disrespect, and then being discarded. So many of us tried to move past the “transgressions” (everything from porn use to strippers to so-called emotional affairs and physical affairs). So many of us attempted to “save” our marriages, believing that our spouses were sorry for the harm they caused, believing that they would value their partners and families.

    The common threads are that our cheaters were never truly sorry, and that things never actually got better. Instead, things always got worse. Our misplaced hopes, trust, faith in their “remorse” and “potential” never led to positive change; rather, every violation and betrayal of our trust seemed to lead to escalations of unacceptable behaviors.

    It is so hard to accept when you are in the middle of it and longing for hope and change, but it does NOT get better with a cheater. It is so incredibly painful to realize your “partner” was never as invested as you were. I only wish that had understood the devaluation sooner and trusted my gut, to avoid the additional pain, betrayal, and abuse leading up to the final discard.

  • A friend of mine caught her husband cheating on her. She said that after that she could not stomach his attempts at being ‘nice’ to her

    Because she saw it for what it was, manipulation

    She arranged to have the police escort him out

    • On the night that I later came to find out was probably the night his office emotional “entanglement” went physical, the weasel came home with three, count ‘em, three bouquets of flowers.
      I remember looking at them, at him, back at them, and all I could think was:
      “What have you done, now?”
      Yes, acting nice is just that. Acting.
      Dont put any worth or emphasis on it.

  • Molly… I’ve done some fucked up things in my many decades of life….no cheating no leading anyone on no hanky panky. I will tell you definitively that what your husband is doing is not only shitty and fucked up but clearly a choice. Don’t buy the obsession bullshit story. He’s basically entering a gateway path to something physical with someone else. He’s not disturbed he’s an asshole. Please seek some professional counsel either psychosocial or legal. You are worthy of so.much better

  • Molly:

    Does it FEEL acceptable? Then it is not. End of inquiry.

    Your feelings, perceptions, thoughts and boundaries exist for a reason. CL has recited this in my head more than I’d ever like to admit:

    “Is this relationship/behavior acceptable to you?”

    That’s it. To YOU. I see the pain in your words; you are already at the first stage after destruction of your (fantasy) life. I get it–little kids, money, self-worth, what the hell just happened to my life, the whole thing. But as many have shared above, they (your kids) learn what you teach them. If you teach them that betrayal, dehumanization, devaluing and tantrums are acceptable… In contrast, if you teach them that self-respect, boundaries and doing what is right rather than what is easy, is what is of value…your choice.

    Look, CL talks much about the entitlement virus that sweeps through a person when they choose to betray their spouse. Your feeling of betrayal at his abuse (YES, yes, it is), is appropriate and self-preserving. If you want the playbook of what comes next, by CL book. To wit,

    1. Trust that he sucks. Because he does. Whether Tab A went into Slot B (and C, and D….), isn’t the measure. Your willingness to tolerate and affirm this as acceptable is the only metric that matters.

    2. Take care of yourself. Take a break from this shit-show. Put your kids in the car, drive to a hotel for a weekend and watch them play in the pool, eat chicken nuggets while watching gobs of TV and take yourself out of the “home”. I know it is financially tight, but this step out of your reality may be exactly what you need. (When DD#3 arrived, I got in my car and wandered for HOURS then I picked up my kids from school and went to a hotel. I put it on a credit card. I watched my kids and came upon the realization that I wanted my life to be like my hotel stay–relaxed, calm, full of laughter, and yes, without FW. Easiest tough decision I’ve ever made. He and I did RIC for about 24 more months while I got my finances, brain and parenting plan in order. Maybe he cheated more, maybe not. Does not matter. I used the time to fix myself and prepare as much as I could. I served him and he fucking flipped out. Now we work with a court ordered parenting coordinator–who we pay–to address his issues with “my communication” while I sing “GR is the way to be, lalalalalalalaleeeeeeeeee…….” the whole time (on the inside, obvi). I resolved to be peaceable because I want it for myself and my kids. FW hates that I no longer engage, defend and/or react to his baloney. I follow the court’s order to the letter. I give when I feel is is appropriate and require all communication through the parenting app. No more engagement. No more “you said…..”. Just space and peace and that hotel-y feeling on the regular.

    You can do all of the things you need to do. You owe it to yourself to cut the tie that binds. He’s a big boy who knows how to navigate a life without you. So let him.

    • This is great! I’m on the verge of getting a parenting coordinator because I can no longer communicate even the most basic of child-related stuff with my ex. He flies off the handle, hangs up, then accuses me of being a “bully,” and then literally cries to our daughter’s therapist at how “alone” he feels. Boo fricken hoo. The consequence for being a d-bag is that you now have to deal with a court-appointed go-between that you help pay for. It is what it is.

    • Oh how i wish you were my friend back in 2006. I so needed this advice in my life. You would have saved me the additional 11 years I lost after realizing the first 6 were a joke.

  • Molly, first of all, I am so sorry you are going through this. No one deserves this. Obsessing over whether he’s “cheating “ or not is a poor way to live. I’ve been there, 36 years, now thankfully out.
    Think of your safety. Are you sexually safe? I thought I was, but I did get tested & found out I had HPV. It has caused health issues, and for years I never once considered that I could have had it. Are your kids safe? They could accidentally see his device & you can’t erase pictures from their minds.
    Are you financially safe? Do you know where all your money is? Is all the money from paychecks accounted for, really? Is he in the habit of taking cash out? Do you go through credit card statements line by line? My X fooled me for a long time. I trusted him. Then I became an account scouring fiend. I didn’t like that I had to do that. I also didn’t like what I found. He had only told me a tiny bit.
    You can do a credit check on him yourself because you’re married. That gives you every right to see what lines of credit are open on both of you.
    If you begin to visit with attorneys, they will hope that you know your financial situation.
    To sum it up: he’s f**king around, and not helping. This only escalates over time. If he’s in the garage at home, is he in his office or the men’s room at work? Does he have porn downloaded on his work computer? My husband was asked to leave 2 positions. I’ll never really know why. But at one time his behavior seemed so erratic that I sought advice from an attorney on what I would be liable for IF he were to be arrested. Yikes! That told me that I was not safe, and my my kids were not safe either.
    Take responsibility for your own safety, and the safety of your kids. Get yourself tested for STD’s. Get yourself financially aware. It’s not being deceptive for you to seek safety! Although it may feel that way. Don’t confide your confusion or fears to your husband – he’s the one who has done the stuff to put you into this situation.

  • Molly,

    I wish to goddess I’d left the first time I caught my EX “only” sexting. 18 months later I found out about countless physical encounters, attempted hook ups, etc etc. CL speaks the truth. Adults have sex. It’s rarely ever “just” sexting and even if it were – that’s creepy and gross af and a total betrayal. He knows how much this hurts you and continues. He’s got a beautiful family and he’d rather be in a dusty garage spinning goofy fantasies to strangers.

    Keep your eyes open. Know it will never be the same if you choose to stay and don’t trick yourself into believing he’s stopped or will never do it again. He’s shown you what he’s capable of.

    The thing I realize now is that I don’t want a partner who’s capable of sexting women, let alone fucking them, behind my back. It’s an unacceptable lack of character and integrity.

  • How touching.

    I am touched reading your letter. In a very sad way.

    I feel like touching your husband. On his face. With my fist.

    Touching is not just physical. We touch other people with our words and attention. With our behavior toward them even if we don’t physically touch them. Is the way he is touching other women with his words and attention and behavior OK with you? Did he ask how you felt about it?

    Yes. It is cheating.

    Did he ask you if any of this was cool with you? Nope.

    Are you cool with it? Nope.

    Secrets. Lies. Engaging in a sexual way with lots of other women. Without your knowledge or informed consent.

    I own a company. I have fired employees for sexual harassment. It did not include physical contact. Sexual conduct does not have to include physical contact to qualify as sexual conduct. It does not have to include physical contact to qualify as cheating. Or harassment. Or abuse.

    Innocent people don’t lie and keep secrets.

    The new rule in my world, and the one I taught my daughter, is

    AT THE FIRST LIE, SAY BYE BYE.

    Lying PREVENTS intimacy. Who cares who he actually touched? Which I am sure is a very large club. I don’t have a marriage if I am married to a liar. I have a MIRAGE.

    Only you can decide if this is acceptable to you. But you’ve been shown who he really is. Someone who does not care if he hurts you and your children. And everyone else whose life he touches.

    I am holding out for people, who when I talk about, think about how they touched me, touched my life, do so in a positive, kind, loving, respectful, honorific way.

    • At the first lie, say bye bye.

      Oh, how I wish. I got the classic:
      “We are just friends.”
      Oh yeah, then why did you hide her from me for 2 1/2 years?!
      Shoulda said : Bye – Bye right then and there.

      • I didn’t know better when I caught him in a lie for the first time.

        “We are just study partners. No, I am not attracted to her. We have to be study partners because there are no other guys in the class.”

        Then I got a phone call (wall phone era). From another guy in the class. Who wanted to borrow his notes.

        Later, he admitted he had been attracted to her.

        I believe now, all these years later, that he was screwing around with her.

        I never got past it. It always bothered me. I always wondered.

        Had I left then, I would not have my daughter.

        I know better now. I can’t get back the years I spent with him but I hope my daughter will learn from and benefit from my experience, and I will not have gone through this in vain. Love is a VERB and I am unwilling to model staying with or chasing after a partner who lies and cheats.

        • VH, I am so sorry. I, too, would not have my daughter if I had listened to the voices in my own head and heart. It’s a horrible emotional struggle. I always wondered, doubted, disbelieved. Until it became crystal clear and the only satisfaction I got was a split second of knowing my instincts were totally correct and that I had not failed myself. I try to keep this as my mantra now.

  • Molly,
    Listen to CN and read these comments over and over. There is a collective wisdom that is invaluable for new chumps.
    The one thing I would add is something I think I read here:

    “They always hate the ones they betray”

    When they start the secret life, the cheater slowly comes to realize that the only person they have to hide it from, the only person they have to worry about, is the un-knowing spouse. And slowly slowly the spouse becomes the enemy. The spouse is the same person they always have been, but somehow in the cheaters mind, he/she is the mean boss and the mean mother rolled into one. The spouse is the only thing standing in the cheater’s way of fun and excitement. The spouse could be the nicest, most loyal, most forgiving person, but the cheater will never see it this way. Cheaters exist in an alternate reality where they are good and you are bad. You have nothing to work with here.

    • This is exactly how it feels. It’s mind boggling bc we are still the same and love our spouse, yet feel such hatred coming out way. It’s hard to understand and process at the time. The pathology with these cheaters is so deep and so similar. Im years past d-day and have been fighting like hell for a separation. Some flavors is these cheaters don’t divorce/separation easily. Another mind binder, but it’s all power/control for them.

  • Here’s one from Dr. Frank Pittman I agree with.

    Good people, innocent people, don’t lie.

    Trust and safety are requirements for any kind of relationships to be successful, intimate or otherwise.

    “In lying, one is identifying the other as one’s opponent, even one’s enemy. In marriage intimacy is developed through confessions, explanations, and soul searchings. But of course intimacy involves equality, and people who are telling lies are not seeking any aspect of intimacy, especially equality. Liars are hoping for advantage, which will be produced by disorienting and distracting the other person. The liar is stepping outside the relationship. The lie may be a greater betrayal of the relationship than the misdeed being lied about. It takes very little misinformation to disorient and destroy a relationship. I often point out to people that if I gave them detailed instructions on how to go from Atlanta to New York City, and threw in only one left turn that was a lie, they would end up in Oklahoma.”
    -Dr. Frank Pittman
    Private Lies
    (p. 59)

  • I’m sorry you find yourself in this situation. He’s cheating and you’re right to want to leave. I’d say it’s not likely he’s on hookup apps for sexting. The rabbit hole is generally deeper than what we discover. My stbx also would hide in the garage while I was cleaning up dinner, doing baths and bedtime routine. Unfortunately there is a whole dark world out there of easy hookups with just an app. It doesn’t get better, you cannot trust this man. Get all your ducks in a row, all the proof before you say anything else. Save your strength, divorcing a cluster b is a cluster fuck.

  • Consider that he just might leave you. If you decide you can live with his serial lying there is no guarantee he will stay. That he devalues you, his children, his community, and your marriage has been proven. My ex also weaponized my integrity against me. His words, when I asked him how he could do this (serial cheating) ” I knew you would never do anything that would hurt our children, and you were Catholic so I knew you would never get a divorce.” Yeah, there was his fatal mistake. Children are very good recorders and very poor interpreters so be aware of your example.

  • Cheating is never a “mistake” It involves many many small decisions deceptions & lies before we get to the actual cheating behavior. When he is lusting after other women/men he is not respecting or choosing you and his children. This is why not only the spouse is betrayed but the children also. People who minimize the impact of sexting hookups and masturbating to porn are living in a fantasy world of ignorance (until the betrayal happens to them)

  • Molly, he was physically cheating on you. Phones have cameras. That’s why he went in the garage. If he was just sending texts, he didn’t need to hide from you to do that. He needed privacy so he could engage in sex acts over video.

    And he was being an ass because you and the kids, in his mind, were obstacles to the fun times he deserved. How dare you be a boring drag on his virtual flings so that he had to go hide in the garage! How annoying that he had to deal with kid drudgery and a wife who wasn’t an undemanding new fling!

  • ‘What he’s doing is disrespectful, devaluing and destabilizing.’
    In my experience, once you are devalued to such an extent- regardless of whether there’s cheating…it’s time to leave.
    In the case of glaring disregard and emotional abuse, we shouldn’t have to ‘teach’ our spouses what it means to be respectful and to value us. It’s not that they don’t understand the concept – they don’t care.
    It’s so hard to break up a marriage when you have young children, but in my experience this will not get any better – and it will be worse for you and probably for the kids if you carry on living with such a fuckwit.

    • YES!!

      Having to “teach” our spouses what it means to be respectful is stepping on the crazy train.

      DO NOT STEP ON THE CRAZY TRAIN!

  • I knew about the emotional affairs way before I knew he was having sex with them, because they were real-live co-workers, housemates, women who I liked okay as acquaintances but weren’t really friend material for me, even before I knew the full story. There was *so much* heartache with just all the drama he created around them, comparing me to them, flirting with them in front of me, doing couple’s counseling but then blaming me for all sorts of things.

    So actually when he finally said “I cheated” I knew exact people, times, locations, just because of the emotions I was feeling through the years. At one point when I saw him talking on the phone to one of them, I seriously thought “I would rather kill myself than have this continue in my life”. But I didn’t leave until I knew “it was cheating”. But the minute I learned I had been right all along, I didn’t hesitate to kick him out.

    I had a small child, but it wasn’t an okay relationship. The kicker was that I found it hard to break up with him because *he said* he did all these things because I wasn’t loving enough (so to break up was to would have “proven” to him that I didn’t love him.) It was a total mindfuck.
    But who was physically cheating months before he started with that narrative that I was unloving? Him. SO the truth was super validating, and I can understand needing the full truth before being sure.

    I think in the future though, if a partner starts devaluing me in comparison to other women, I’ll know there’s nothing to work with.

  • “One hookup at a bar is a mistake.”

    Oh dear! You may be so mentally abused you are not thinking clearly. One hookup at a bar is not a mistake – it is a choice and the choice wasn’t you.

    Nothing to work with here. You husband is a dirtbag.

  • He’s getting off on sexting, or more specifically on sneaking around behind your back to sext.

    What happens when that thrill wears off? What’s the next thrill?

    The next thrill is meeting up with someone. That’s a bigger thrill, because it’s harder to arrange.

    What’s the next thrill after that? Actual sex.

    An app may be removed from his phone but it doesn’t mean that hos profile is deleted.

    How long do you want to be the phone police?

    • And he doesn’t need the apps anymore, he already has 10 numbers saved in his phone. He won’t need new ones for a while, it’ll take him a bit to get tired of the 10. He can look like he learned a lesson, delete the apps for show, work through the 10, and sign back up on the sly when the phone police get tired of checking.

      • Once caught cheaters get sneakier. You can delete apps from your phone and they can be saved in i-cloud. It’s takes nothing to reinstall, use them temporarily, and then hide them again. There are endless ways to be sneaky with hiding phone numbers. I’m not going to list them here because I don’t want cheaters who read this blog to have any new tools in their tool belts. Thing is Molly, once a cheater is caught and you reveal all that you know, they will undoubtedly become even more sneakier. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole and waste time and energy looking to see if your cheater is up to his old tricks. It’s your choice if you want to do this. I went down the rabbit hole and I regret it. Such precious time I could have spent enjoying life, smelling the flowers, but instead I got sucked into really, really negative energy. I think back about those days of my life and it makes me cry, and I’m not the crying type.

        Cheaters blindside us and destroy parts of our lives. The pain can be temporary or it can last a long time depending on when we decide to cut the cord and separate from the cheater.

        I’m sorry you have to go through this.

  • Molly,

    I don’t know when or how my ex-FW started cheating. What I do know is that I shouldn’t have waited for some definitive, proven transgression to start leaving him. I was 3 months pregnant with our 2nd child when I turned 40. He “forgot” that it was my birthday and did absolutely nothing. I forgave him, but I should have left him – not for being “absent-minded,” or however else he excused himself. I should have left him because that was his first betrayal. He betrayed me by treating me like a “forgotten” chore. This kind of disregard is the first step cheaters take towards making and justifying their later transgressions.

    Search your memories, Molly, and find the first betrayal, the first time he treated you like a chore he was trying to dodge. I’ll bet it was several years back. I’ll bet you spackled it over, forgave him, moved on for the sake of keeping the peace and not rocking the boat. This is how cheaters start grooming chumps to accept the unacceptable.

    You gave him the benefit of the doubt, looked the other way, and offered 2nd and 3rd chances. This was the first little chunk of self-esteem he carved out of you. If you stay on this track, you will have nothing of yourself left in a few years. He will have whittled you down to the point that you’ll blame yourself when he does leave you. That’s how the RIC gets so many clients.

    Molly, this man has taken you and your children for granted for quite some time. It takes time and effort to build up all those “sexting” contacts, and as he’s been building this techno-harem, he’s been giving you and your children less and less of his time and effort.

    If you stay with him, he will never be as nice as he is now. In fact, he’ll resent you later for having to be so nice now. It won’t be long before his entitlement convinces him that you are the reason for his unhappiness. When that happens, he will grind you into the mud with his cruelties. He will claim that he’s your victim. He’ll say you drove him to cheat because you’re a sexless, emotionally unstable nag. Then he’ll step over your crumpled body on his way to the other woman.

    Don’t let him do this. Plan a new future, along with a preemptive strike, while you still have some strength and self-esteem left.

  • Someone above mentioned an addiction. To a certain extent I believe that using online apps or websites from porn and sexting does get addictive. It is what the person wants, how he wants it, and when he wants it. He doesn’t have to deal with a real person’s response. The fantasy on the other end is being paid to give him exactly what he dreams about.
    But don’t fall for the lie that this addiction can be successfully treated. It could possibly be, but it won’t be on a timeline that you would be happy with. In the past, I’ve been in individual therapy and different types of women’s groups for “partners of the sexually addicted.” I was only hopeful when hearing the stories of the women who decided to leave their spouse. They seemed healthier. The women who stayed had heartache after heartache, and were obsessed about their spouse’s behaviors (often one addiction seemed to clear up but others surfaced). The devaluing part of the spouse’s behavior never went away. And, many women began to believe in false equivalencies, quoting the phrase “if I’m pointing a finger at him, I have 3 more pointing at me.” This meant, if he had “a slip” and was CAUGHT sexting, the wife talked herself into how she wasn’t perfect either, because she forgot to buy his favorite brand of peanut butter, she didn’t run to the door to kiss him when he got home from work, and she slept late on weekends. Barf!
    The confusion does not clear up when you stay married and choose therapy for a sexual addiction. It’s like a roller coaster of hope mixed with trauma and despair. The only way to stop it is to choose to get off the ride.

    • Agree. The sexting is just the start. You know something is going on, when they get all excited that you touch his phone because you need the GPS or whatever. When you walk into the room they quickly hide the phone. They start the whole conversation about how things are private or they need some privacy. Personally, I think I should be able to walk into any room I want. Yes, you need privacy for taking a dump, I get that but there is a line between privacy and secrecy. You don’t keep secrets in a loving relationship. I don’t want to tiptoe around and be uncomfortable in my own home.
      After two DDays (about a month apart), and time pick me dancing and trying the RIC, I listened to CL and CN and decided to get a FW free life. I got the ducks lined up as well as I could, I avoided contact and any type of engagement with the FW and then I filed. Cheater just moved out. The first step to being FW free has been great. Yes there are still times when I miss what I thought we had but it beats walking around on eggshells in you own home. Yeah, I know the remainder of the divorce journey will not be fun but it will get me to a state of being free from a lying, cheating FW. He made deliberate choices and I hope one day all of his pics and videos he sent to various Schmoopie’s make their way across the internet so more people can get a good laugh.
      Molly, get you mighty on and get rid of an abuser before it wears you and your kids down.

    • UpAndOut,

      I lived the false equivalences for 30 years as per my interpretation of part of the 12 steps. I was so eager in my own program to ‘get better’ that I gladly shined the light on myself ALL OF THE TIME.

      It wasn’t until after dday that I could finally see that the description of the alcoholic’s behavior and the alcoholic wasn’t about me but I had made it about me. At last I saw it was describing him through and through.

      Initially I didn’t react to his disclosures because I believed the crap that it was all dismissible because he was a ‘sex addict’ which somehow made it all okay because it wasn’t his fault…..Yep, I did believe that.

      I have progressed in the last 4 years thanks to flunking out of the RIC after 2 years followed by discovery of LACGAL, CL and CN combined with NC.

      I have entered a new dimension. As though everything about narcissists, cheating, lying etc was downloaded into my brain at top speed leaving my head spinning.

      The spin is slowing and stuff is sinking in and I am aghast at what was going on right in front of me all of the time.

      NC is what made the difference. Until I saw that way out, it was as though I did have my head in a blender 24/7.

      • I agree about NC, Elderly Chump. A physical separation really helped me at first. When I decided to divorce, I moved out. This was the best for me in my situation.
        Since the divorce is now final & almost all the financial items are taken care of, I am 95% no contact, 5% grey rock. Being totally out of his orbit & putting a shield around myself has helped more than I ever thought it would. It’s so much easier to see the craziness when you’re out of it.

  • If he valued you, your family, loved you, your family, appreciated you, your family, you wouldn’t even be here in the first place.

    We teach people how to treat us. And children learn by modeling.

    Period.

  • “My life is a dumpster fire” There ya go!!! You’ve acknowledged it……..hard to do I know. You already found the reason to be mighty. I’m also very sorry that this doesn’t make it any better, at least not yet. Tinder accounts…….trust broken….snapchat and facebook are one thing…..Tinder was designed for one purpose….Oh there’s tinder plus too for the people over 40……I found that charge on my credit card when I finally decided to sleuth a bit. Whether they did physically cheat or didn’t which I find highly unlikely, the truth is that they looked outside of the relationship for something they felt they needed instead of asking the person they supposedly love and trust most. Not a mistake……not a lapse of judgement. A conscience decision that their needs were more important than you, you’re children or anything else they pretend to hold dear in their lives for the fleeting moments that they do. I’m sorry you have to be here but also very happy for you because this place can help you find the life you deserve. Pro tip, it’s not with someone who has tinder accounts.

  • Molly I just want you to get in front of this. Romantic or sexual infidelity and financial infidelity go hand in hand. Do not confide in this person that cannot be trusted.

  • My ex had the audacity to say to my face ” I wanted to see if I could get somebody better than you.” Who could be ” better ” than the mother of his children?Case closed.

    • Completely agreeAuntBea619. Shopping on the internet for a better life/romantic escape is a horrific violation of the organic sense of belonging you build with your partner over time and raising children is a huge part of that. How sick and commoditised a view of relationships to think you can just click your way to something better. And not destroy the people who depend on you.
      I now shudder to think of all the time he spent on the internet, in plain sight, now I know what he was up to. That is time and energy he stole from the family.

  • Molly, they only ever confess to whatever they know they’ve been caught at. If you ONLY caught him sexting, that’s all he’s going to acknowledge.

    A marriage can only exist on a foundation of trust. And, forcing yourself to become gullible just to save the marriage, isn’t good enough. Whether you consider sexting “cheating” (I do, but that’s just me), and whether he’ll acknowledge sexting as “cheating” (he won’t), diverts your attention into arguing the dictionary, instead of looking at the facts on the ground.

    If he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong, he wouldn’t have lied about it and hidden it. So make up a new word, if you don’t thing “cheating” is the correct word, but what matters is you have a guy who can’t be trusted.

  • Btw, nobody’s pussy tastes like candy, FFS. What a massive douche with his cliché ridden, self-absorbed drivel. I bet he thinks he’s an amazing writer, too.

    Notice he says nothing about either of these women as people, nothing about their personalities, he just describes sex with them in a gross, objectifying porn style he probably considers “erotica”. Notice also the double standard in that he looks down on his buddy’s GF for doing anal, but it’s okay for his “brah” to do it. When he and his buddy discuss the women in their lives, it’s all about what sex they are getting.
    Women aren’t people to them, they’re just blow up sex dolls with a pulse.

    I so want to punch this misogynistic shitbucket right in his smug face.

    “You think your life sucks now, brah? Try this!” Then BAM! Right in the mouth.

      • OHFFS,

        ‘Some of us are sicker than others.’ 🙂 (Quoted from the big book of AA – a guide for the misguided.)

        You are only off 1 day. I have years I have lost 🙂

  • He’s cheating. My story started with ex looking at porn. He was also looking up local escorts- I found a tab open to an escort page. I asked him WTF he was doing. He said he was jerking off to the photo on that website. Why? I asked, would he do that when he had access to hard core porn. He argued until he was blue in the face that he was just fantasizing, he wasn’t going to escorts. He was really lovely to me. So I believed him. Then I found lube in the car a few years later. Long story short he convinced me the lube was for me. Insert eye roll here. I believed him. When DDay finally hit, all the memories came flooding back like the ones I just outlined here. Things that made no sense at the time became clear. So I asked him if he lied about all those times in the past, all the times I was suspicious and asked if he was cheating then. You know what he did? He laughed and said “of course I was cheating! What the hell did you think I was doing?. He thought this was quite hilarious that he’d gotten away with it and I was such a stooge for believing him all those years. He had no empathy for my devastation. Don’t be a stooge like me! GTFO while you’re still in tact.

    • Oooooh, I got that same reaction. My husband cut me off sexually, and moved heaven and earth to keep his cheating a secret. Then, when I finally sat him down to tell him what I’d found, he said “Did you think I was celibate?” without even a trace of shame. I answered “Yes” and (in case you think he couldn’t actually make matters worse) he responded “But how would that have been fair to MEEEE?” I was stunned by that, and I said “But I had to go without sex, and I never cheated on you.” to which he replied (in case you think he still can’t make matters even worse, read on) “I never said you couldn’t.” So yeah.

  • People this deep into sexting and romantic text relationships (flirting without sexual component) is cheating their spouses out of intimacy, companionship, support, and social partnership. These folks stay in the relationship as long as they perceive it’s in their best interest because they like the second income, do not want to divide assets, or don’t want to pay child support.

    It’s not that they value the marriage. The marriage is an ASSET, not a relationship.

    Run the credit check, collect the financial information, and file.

  • You will never find out how many times he has fucked around. He will always lie about it. Always. Until he dies. You will never get a straight answer. You will drive yourself CRAZY if you spend time worrying about the details. Just forget about it and GET OUT. And tell everyone the truth about why you left. Your life will be better. You won’t have any of that worry that is constantly gnawing away at you now. Lies = death of a relationship. It’s already dead. His fault, not yours. Say goodbye.

  • Hey. I’m late to this thread but I hope you read my response. I am 99.5% certain my husband’s emotional affair did not turn sexual. Yet. I fought the idea that he would have actually consummated it but I know more now. I know that Chump Lady speaks truth. Trickle truth and time taught me that she fully expected it to turn physical and made herself available whenever he wanted to take it to the next level. He says he never would have. I believe he believes this but I believe he is lying to himself. Had it continued, it would have turned sexual but I find that that detail is only important in the context that I could have contracted diseases via sex. It still hurt like hell. I was held prisoner in an abusive relationship, heavily invested to the tune of three kids deep with options I did not choose nor want. I gave him ultimatums. He ignored them. Cut off contact. He couldn’t because they worked together (she was a subordinate). Transfer or get her transferred. He couldn’t. It might hurt his or her career. When she moved, I insisted he cut all contact. Seven years later I found they were still friendly emailing. I read one that I found. It was benign and said nothing about their previous feelings. But it wasn’t really benign because there was still contact even after he claimed no contact.

    Here’s the truly suckie suck part. What you discovered about your husband is really who he is. There is no brain fog and there is no going back. He’s a liar and plays games that has him driving on the edge of right and wrong. I promise you that this is wrong. I also promise you that it only gets worse. That prison I told you about? I have been so angry at him for creating it but the truth is that every single door is unlocked. What he created was a reality I wanted for the first ten years. Then he pulled it down so I could see what I was really married to. A liar with a sex addiction (different story) with many, many secrets and an affinity for having a loose relationship with truth and right and wrong. What you believed was true of him and your life together is gone. It never really existed to him. It was real to you but he was only playing the part you expected of him.

    I stayed. 30 years and I think I may have a unicorn. It took two decades. He’s apologized. He’s been in treatment for his addiction for four years. He came clean with our religious leaders. I have been through the depths of hell, deep in depression, high anxiety, broken and put back together again. But he’s better! We made it until he changed his ways. Unless he’s lying.

    It. Was. Not. Worth. It.

    Maybe I have a unicorn. I thought I wanted a unicorn. Turns out I didn’t want unicorn. I thought I did and I fought really, really hard to get that unicorn. In return for a unicorn I get resentment, contempt, and a marriage devoid of trust but full of apathy. My kids got a high strung mother that was so broken when they were children, she can hardly remember their childhoods. And they did not come out unscathed. The facade fell when I was 36. I could either give them a home with both parents and a dysfunctional marriage or I could give them a broken home but possibly an example of a healthy marriage. They don’t know what a healthy marriage looks like.

    I didn’t really want a unicorn. Unicorns do not erase the damage. Unicorns are a crappy consolation prize. I wanted a marriage where I was valued. With the history we have and the lies and secrets he kept, and the years and years of being devalued and embezzled out of the marriage I wanted, there is no happy ending within this marriage.

    There is no happy ending in your marriage. You’re not crazy. Listen to your inner voice. Listen to me. It isn’t worth it. I should know.

  • Also late to this thread, but wanted to just add the following:

    1. How is it *not* cheating?

    2. Best advice given about this situation in the above comments, repeatedly–there is nothing to work with here.

    Wishing you strength and support to move on from this. You may not know it yet, but you are mighty!

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