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New Boyfriend Says She’s ‘Playing the Victim’

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mindfuckHi Chump Lady,

I was married for a decade, and for half of the time, my ex-husband was having an affair with a coworker. He began the affair while I was pregnant with our first child. In the cloud of new motherhood, I could not fathom leaving. I danced my best pick me dance and tried to do it all — super mom, superwoman.

It was never enough, but I understand that’s not my fault. In retrospect, it was embarrassing and exhausting. I’m not sure how I did it. There were so many more D-Days. Four years worth. He had a child with the OW, that I found out about later. As a salesman, he was a master manipulator so concerned with image control. I dealt with the gaslighting, the emotional abuse, the whole nine yards.

I broke away, eventually, during COVID. Finally. For that I feel so mighty. My walls sing. No contact is beautiful. I have reached a state of “meh”. Met another chump, and we have what feels like a solid relationship.

However — my question is — there are times when we talk about our pasts, and he tells me that I was an adult in the situation. who could have made choices and didn’t. That I am playing the victim, the only control that we have is over ourselves, and that I stayed too long, even though my ex did horrible, awful things. If only I had made decisions earlier, I could have left.

I believe that I didn’t leave because of the emotional abuse I was under. The fear that I had of leaving and losing my house and my kids and my life. Of not knowing what my life would look like on the other side of it. I froze. I didn’t make decisions. I did what was best minute-by-minute in consideration of my children and myself. It was a huge, scary thing that I felt like I was carefully riding out until the time was right.

My question is — is this a red flag? Is my picker somehow still wonky? Am I playing the victim here and he’s just saying it bluntly? Or does he not understand the effects of emotional trauma?

Thanks as always for your sage advice, CN

Tired Mama

Dear Tired Mama,

I think the proper response to “I got out of an abusive relationship during a global pandemic” is “Wow! Way to be mighty! I admire your strength.”

Chumps do enough second guessing without people from the sidelines Monday morning quarterbacking. Oh, well you could’ve left sooner.

Sure. If only I’d invented a cure for fuckwits. I’ll hop in my time machine and get on that, stat.

Sigh.

There’s a couple issues here that need untangling. The first issue is agency and the second is “playing the victim.” It sounds like your boyfriend is conflating these things and mindfucking you. (Sorry)

Yes, you’re an adult. Yes, you have agency. As I preach here over and over, you only control you. You’re not responsible for anyone’s abuse, but you do get to control how you respond. Like, you did not grind glass into his ice cream sundae as an act of revenge. You tried to reconcile.

As responses go, not my favorite reaction, but TOTALLY NORMAL. People bond and it’s very difficult to un-bond. In fact, there is an entire industry (not to mention cultural and religious norms) predicated on reconciliation. “I deserve better than an abusive jerk” is still a fringe opinion in many quarters.

So, okay, you might’ve left earlier. A few bazillion of us feel that way if my blog numbers are anything to go by. That’s why this place exists — to encourage safe passage to the Other Side.

Regrets, woulda-coulda-shoulda, is all part of the chump suck fest. And that’s completely different than “playing the victim.”

You were a victim. That’s just a basic fact. Cheating, emotional abuse — that was inflicted on you.

Being a victim means a perpetrator committed an offense against you, and there is ZERO consent. A bomb can fall on your neighborhood, and you’re a refugee — you’re not “playing the victim.” You didn’t ask for bombs. You can be mugged on a street corner, molested by a priest, have your pension fund stolen by some sociopathic billionaire…

Are you sure this guy was a chump? To say someone is “playing the victim” is a nod to his worldview. There are no authentic emotions — there’s just playacting. I fear that he playacts, so he projects that you must too. He’s essentially accusing you of trying to garner sympathy.

If he has a problem with vulnerability, perhaps he’s not the best choice for a relationship.

My best take on your new boyfriend is that he suffers from a common Both Sides delusion. Okay, so your ex was an asshole. But you bear equal responsibility for tolerating his asshole-ishness. You knew. You stayed.

Perhaps he hears your awful chump story and wishes he could fix it, so he offers “advice” for what you should’ve done and failed to do?

Enh. The important thing is that you left. That took guts. No one gets a decoder ring on how to navigate this shit. Moreover, you were cheated on as a new mother! At the most vulnerable time physically, emotionally, and economically in a woman’s life.

The fear that I had of leaving and losing my house and my kids and my life. Of not knowing what my life would look like on the other side of it. I froze. I didn’t make decisions. I did what was best minute-by-minute in consideration of my children and myself.

Of course. Anyone would be terrified of losing everything that’s important to them. One’s life investment. That’s why D-Days are devastating. What you thought was security is completely turned on its head. No one should ever be put in this position. Escaping an abusive relationship — protecting yourself, financing it, sheltering your children — is not a skillset you expect you’ll need. It’s a very steep learning curve.

Is my picker somehow still wonky?

It could be. You’re only, what, a year out? 18 months tops? Take it slooooooow.

Am I playing the victim here and he’s just saying it bluntly?

You’re not “playing” anything. You shared your story. Clearly you decided a cheating fuckwit was a terrible partner and learned from it, BECAUSE YOU LEFT. No need to defend yourself.

Or does he not understand the effects of emotional trauma?

That could be it. Or he understands it, but doesn’t think it’s a sufficient reason for staying stuck. Perhaps he can’t imagine that degree of vulnerability.

Or perhaps he thinks you’re talking about your ex-husband too much. Is the divorce final? Recent? Maybe he’s clumsily saying “All this trauma feels like you’re not emotionally available for a relationship with me.”

What’s his chump story?

All good talking points for a larger conversation.

TiredMom, I think you deserve someone who appreciates you. Leaving your ex took guts. The special someone in your life either admires that, or thinks you missed a spot.

Find someone who admires your tenacity and doesn’t fault you for the circumstances that lead to it.

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Ask Chump Lady

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  • Egads. Criticism of the abused. Demoralizing. Doesn’t sound like a healthy and “solid” relationship.

    Sounds like therapy is needed for your clarity of perspective.

    Unless the pros are 90% cons 10%, this relationship sounds like nothing I’d be interested in.

    • Indeed. It smacks a little of the “Well, look at how she was dressed; she should have expected something to happen” perspective.

      • Chumps are NOT all angels. 2 years after divorcing my covert cheating narc I really thought I won the lottery by finding an extremely handsome, empathic, chump (a fact that was corroborated by his ex-wife, sister, mom, dad, ex in law). Playing the victim is along the lines of something ‘odd’ this ex boyfriend would have said too. Turns out he was a chump, and an emotional abusers, and a bit of a psycho.

        • This! This unfortunately is a big taboo in the chump community, but needs to be said.
          Chumps can still be terrible people themselves, they just paired with someone worse and got chumped.

          Chumpdom is not a guarantee that someone is not an abuser and in fact, it might in some case even increase the odds, because a lot of abusers tend to get along with each other.

          I know it’s an uncomfortable thing to say, but when chumps rely on this for their feelings of protection, they can miss other important things in the picture.

          “I was cheated on” gives some the wrong men some great excuse to keep justifying their poor view of women and their mistreatment of them.

        • Long before Chump Lady was a thing, I divorced my cheating husband and moved a thousand miles away to start a new job. One of my new colleagues introduced me to a friend of hers, a nurse with whom she had graduated the year before. “You and he have a lot in common,” I was told. “His wife ran off with one of her patients; Tom was cheated on, too.”

          I was lonely and Tom, apparently, was as well. We dated for two years and then we married. It turns out that Tom was abusive and his first wife “ran off” because she was terrified of him. Not long after we married, he began threatening to “beat you to death without leaving a mark so no one will ever find out.” Or he’s storm out of the house screaming, “I’m going to go out and FUCK something.” I don’t know if his first wife cheated on him or not; I just know he was scary, abusive and he nearly killed me before I got away. Oh, and he was into men of the cloth, not so much woman.

          Whether or not Tom actually was chumped, it doesn’t really matter. He was a shitty person either way, scary and dangerous. Being chumped does not make someone a good person or even a safe person.

    • My cheater ex was cheated on by his ex-wife and I always thought he was a nice guy because he hated infidelity and showed values the same as me. But early in our relationship he showed exactly these red flags as the OP – he would not be very supportive, even was passive aggresive with the victim blaming etc. I ignored these red flags thinking he was just being blunt. But turns out he’s a covert narc and was probably cheating on me most of our 8 year relationship.

      Tired Mum, your boyfriend is exhibiting red flags – he is invalidating you and is showing signs of victim blaming and even gaslighting. HUGE red flags. You’re in the early stages of relationship, technicaly still in the “honeymood period” and already he’s being like this with you? RUN. What he’s saying is “it’s your fault you let your ex treat you like that” – a lot of cheaters think like this. My ex cheater had exactly this mindset. Just because he was chumped does not mean he’s a good person. That was a massive lesson for me to learn. Not all chumps are good people. Some don’t learn from their pain – narcs are like this, they don’t learn from their painful experiences.

    • Tired Mamma has been out of her marriage for at most 18 or 19 months — sadly, that’s how long the pandemic has been going on. I cannot emphasize enough how mighty of an accomplishment that is! Kudos to someone who can marshal their resources, get their shit together and organize a divorce and MOVING during a worldwide pandemic, especially with children in tow. Given that her marriage lasted a decade, though, I wonder if it’s too soon for her to be dating. Perhaps her picker is still a problem, because Boyfriend doesn’t sound like a good partner to me. I’m sure what we’re getting here is just the tip of the iceberg, just the one thing that is causing her the most difficulty wrapping her head around right now.

      Unless there are NO other flags — red, yellow, orange or whatever — Boyfriend sounds like he may not be worth keeping around. This does not sound like someone who is going to have your back when you need it. As someone else suggested, maybe some individual therapy to talk this out with someone qualified to see through the bullshit and help with sorting through the various flags and feelings would be helpful.

      I am in awe of Tired Mamma’s mighty. I would hate to see her get bogged down with another toxic man.

    • Yeah, my radar went off on the bf too. It’s screaming Narc or “guilty of something.”

      My thoughts in random order:

      –BF playing fellow chump may have been “mirroring.” Did he exaggerate or fabricate the “chump” story to create a point of bonding? Ask his ex whether she was the only one who cheated or even did cheat. Something’s off here.

      — You know who hates hearing former victims process trauma, get angry enough to start healing and begin to reject the perpetrator “DARVO gaslighting” perspective and start honing and calibrating their perp-detector radar? Perps. It’s like that scene in crime thrillers where the guilty party tries to intercept the faxed photo of himself before the lead detective sees it.

      –I hate gender Calvinists and racial Calvinists and money Calvinists etc., who ‘splain from their born-on-third-base perches why you– as a woman/minority/third world orphan, etc.– “are your own worst enemy.” These people generally believe that things go well for them because God loves them more and because they’re just doing it all right (my cousins are the worst offenders. It’s so embarrassing).

      Anyway, this bf is not sounding so great. The one red flag I had warning that a coworker was a psycho stalker was that he acted deeply offended by the film “Waiting to Exhale.” The film had been out for years and I’m not sure whether it was women standing up for themselves or WOC that bothered him so much. Anyway, the remark seemed significant later when he was charged by the DA.

  • Being a victim is a real thing when you’ve been victimized.

    “Victim”, if you look in the dictionary, is not a synonym for stupid or lazy. It does not mean you are unwilling to help yourself. It does not mean you are a con artist trying to exact sympathy, goods, and services from others or being all self-centered feeling sorry for yourself. I have a lot of trouble conjuring up compassion for myself and dammit Jim, I need to have compassion for myself.

    “Playing the victim” refers to someone who is not the victim co-opting the role of the victim.

    This very issue came up for me yesterday and it chaps my hide. Somewhere along the line recently, it’s become verboten to use the word. Like we’re supposed to be strong all the time and it’s a sin to admit something awful happened to you and it kicked your ass. Being cheated on totally kicked my ass. It has been a Herculean effort to get up off the mat and kick back.

    I am a victim of infidelity. And I am also victorious. When people tell victims they’re “playing the victim”, I hear that as someone else being uncomfortable dealing with my reality and telling me not to feel. Telling me how I should feel is a HUGE stop sign for me and I hit the launch codes.

    Telling someone who has been victimized that they’re “playing the victim” is mindfucking victim-blaming and re-traumatizing.

    IMHO.

    • PS…

      Lots of people love Rebecca Zung, the divorce attorney who posts YouTube videos about narcissism. I was done with her when I saw one of her videos where she criticized chumps for “playing the victim” and talking about what had happened to them.

      Further, I keep in mind that anyone can be cheated on. Being a victim does not mean the victim is free of character defects and issues that need to be addressed.

      Cheating is the wrong thing for anyone to do, and abusive people get cheated on too…

      • Yes, I stopped following her because of that issue. She turned me totally off.

        I interviewed five attorneys, and two of the five (both women) showed a bit of victim-blaming in the interview. One of those complained that she had to set her retainer so high ($20,000) because she said that most women have no clue how much a divorce is going to cost no matter how much she tells them. Ah, no thanks.

        I thoroughly appreciated the one I picked and the rest of the staff. They truly were professional and kind in every way. His associate did my documents and then took over for closeout. His personality was very similar to that of his mentor, no surprise.

  • Remember CL’s mantra: ‘is this acceptable to you?’ Is it acceptable to you that your partner tells you you were ‘playing the victim?’ Is it acceptable that your partner is not emotionally intelligent enough to understand the impacts of abuse, and the particular vulnerabilities of a new mother? Only you get to decide this – don’t spackle, ‘but he’s a chump too!’ ‘Maybe he’s right!’ ‘He’s nothing like my ex and we’re so compatible aside from this one thing!’ Just step away, and give yourself an honest answer. If the answer is ‘no, not acceptable’ you have two choices: end it now, discuss it. If you discuss and he still victim-blames, end it. If you aren’t ready to end unacceptable relationships, you probably aren’t ready to be in relationships. Good luck.x

    • The “is this acceptable to me” is such a straightforward way to put it; one that I think I’ve forgotten about in the sparks of something new. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

      • George Carlin has a comedy routine about how we play with language. He said soldiers that are badly damaged emotionally in war used to be called shellshocked. Now they have post traumatic stress disorder. His thinking is that we’ve made it sanitized sounding. That’s what your boyfriend is trying to do. He wants to clean it up so he doesn’t have to deal with it anymore. Well he needs to get over it or move on because you are shellshocked.

        • Letgo, this reminded me of something he once said to me during this discussion – “if he had so much power over you when you were in a relationship, what’s to stop him from exercising that power over you again?”

          To which I have replied – space, breathing room, reflection, and the sweetness of freedom. Yes, we still share custody of kids and speak as minimally as possible, but I see that my boyfriend still has fear of a bomb exploding on his life again, too.

          • Personally, as much as it’s nice to have someone in your life, to depend upon, to have fun with, I think you need to give yourself space from your boyfriend. Just let him know that you both have fears, and it’s not your job to assuage his fears. So until you both can be at peace with what you’ve gone through and the ‘fear’ of it happening again, you’re probably not ready to have anyone in your life right now. And you certainly can’t be trying to make a new boyfriend happy. That’s not your job nor will it ever be your job. Your job is to make yourself happy and to be at peace all alone (and with your child.) If it’s meant to be, your boyfriend will figure it all out and will be there down the road for you. But now really isn’t the time.

            • This is a REALLY great suggestions. Also – seeing how he handles boundaries will be extremely telling. Is he supportive and understanding ( though honest that it hurts) or raging or ghosts completely (or a little sampling of both)

            • No one should be okay with going on a ‘break’ and being expected to be picked up again months later… They’re either together or they’re not.

          • “if he had so much power over you when you were in a relationship, what’s to stop him from exercising that power over you again?”

            Sorry, but wtf? I would be tempted to say — I don’t owe you a defense, dude. Why is he asking you to justify yourself to him?

          • Yipe–so the “playing the victim” phrase was not a one-off. Forcing you to defend yourself. Amateur shrinkery and/or jealousy, possessiveness.

          • He sounds incredibly insecure – if he’s been cheated on and traumatized as we all have been I just can’t imagine talking to you in these terms, framing it like this.

            It seems like he’s putting you in the position to defend your feelings and actions and that is a massive red flag. He should also get it – if he’d been cheated on. Clearly whatever his story is, it’s not like yours or ours – as others have suggested he may also be a cheater. My ex talked about his former fiancé cheating on him well – turns out he cheated on her constantly. I still doubt she cheated as she was sick with MS, but if she did I’d bet it was a mad hatter situation.

            Super insecure men who are constantly scanning your words for signs you’re still hooked on ex, forcing you to explain why you aren’t and defend yourself are very likely to be covert narcs and cheaters in my experience.

            It’s really, really beyond invalidating to tell someone, who’s been through the horrors your ex put you through, that they’re “playing the victim” and you should have left sooner – with a newborn. Your ex had a child with his affair partner – you are the victim. You should be drooling in the fetal position – but you’re a mighty victim. I’d be very very careful.

        • This. I definitely have my reservations. He may have been chumped but he also probably still had his own job and was not in the aftermath of birthing a new being into the world and all the adjustments that entails with economic emotional and physical vulnerability (I was a post partum chump too and also stayed even as I found out the lovers expected me to leave and she could move into my house). There’s a particular cruelty in a cheater who does that to a new mother. You are so mighty. I have concerns that your new partners message sounds like ‘stop complaining about your pass trauma so you can focus on me and my needs’ which sounds pretty Narcy to me

          • I see your extra reply above, Your healing time-line is not for his convenience. He sounds possessive and insecure. He wants reassurance for his own issues. You don’t need anything but understanding and support. He may not be ready for a healthy relationship and you do t need additional complications to your healing.

    • Angry hump, you hit the nail right on the head. “Is this acceptable to you?” Is the first, the most important question to ask yourself. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Any long-term relationship is going to have some unhealthy aspects that deserve close inspection. It’s even possible that your marriage was below average on the “reciprocity and respect” meter. Probably you should do some serious thinking about what aspects of your personality contributed to this, to avoid a repeat in future relationships. But *your ex is not the person to do this with*. Get a therapist, hash it out with a friend who has spare emotional bandwidth, talk with your family. Your ex is not trustworthy as a person or as a narrator of your marriage.

    *If* your ex’s criticism have any validity (and I’m not saying they do) and you want to think about them (probably a good idea, since you’ve bought into them enough to write to CL), then you definitely should discuss them *with someone – anyone – who is not your ex*.

    Seriously – your ex has a vested interest in making you think that his abuse was your responsibility. He’s not a safe, neutral arbiter. Find someone else.

    • This comment seems to reflect significant misunderstanding of what Tired Mama wrote.

      She is neither in touch with the ex nor looking for advice on finding ways to blame the abuse she suffered on her own personality.

    • Oops. Misread the letter. Please disregard my post above; not false, but not applicable here.

  • Anyone that tries to twist my abuse into how they could have done it better has a serious lack of empathy… and to go further and say you’re playing the victim? As if its a bad thing? Damn straight you are a victim… you were abused. You, as a good person tried to fix it, tried to get back what you invested in… where is the empathy?

    Mannnn I’d toss this one to the curb. Sure you don’t want to be coddled, but this gives red flags. Perhaps he’s dealing with some of his own unhealed trauma and is projecting.

    • A lack of empathy is definitely a red flag. My FW had no empathy for other people’s situations and I spackled all over that flashing warning signal until I couldn’t see it anymore.

      • Agreed! Lack of empathy is THE red flag. The crux. If I ever get into another relationship (5 years post D-Day, still not even dating), I will pay very close attention for lack of empathy. It is the most tell-tale sign of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
        I am also not a fan of Victim Blaming and Victim Shaming. Quite honestly, if someone said those words to me, it would be a jumping off point. I have a firm no-abuse policy going forward and victim shaming is abuse in my books.

    • HUGE red flag, for me. IF he is truly a chump, he will understand the trauma, and will empathize with it. Instead, he sounds a bit like my XH who just wanted me to “get over it” after 2 months (30 year marriage – 7 year affair).

      Dr. Omar Minwalla talks about the impact of infidelity in his essay, “The Secret Sexual Basement”, (also “What They Don’t Know WILL Hurt Them”) and describes how people impacted by cheaters often display the symptoms of PTSD. “Playing the victim”? You ARE a victim. And you need empathy, not criticism. Any REAL chump would understand that, I think.

      My short-lived second marriage involved a narcissist who lied about everything from the beginning. He presented himself as a divorced chump, while HE was the one screwing around with ME. I had no idea. We lived on different coasts, I was in grad school, thought it was so wonderful that he would call me so I wouldn’t incur the costs of a long-distance call (yes, I am THAT old). He wasn’t even divorced when we got married, that is how good he was at deception. 35 years later, my stomach still gets in knots just writing about it.

      The trauma is REAL. Do not allow anybody to minimize what you have been through.

      I’m glad you met somebody, but you need to release this one back into the wild.

      • This one hits close to home. I tell my kids don’t let anyone, especially if they’re in an intimate relationship like significant other, sibling, parent, best friend, mentor, clergy, boss, ever tell you your feelings about your own experiences are wrong and if they do, be on the lookout for their motive. This guy sounds like he wants Tired Mama to doubt her own chump experience. My gut tells me he’s actually been the cheater and he’ll cheat on her too.

        • I have the same feeling. Klootzak pretended to be a chump when we met. A fellow chump would have had more empathy than that. I would move on and take more time and space on myself, my boundaries, and my picker. I couldn’t be with someone who thought I was “playing” the victim and, as a new mother, had the means and ability to just up and leave but just chose otherwise.

          I found out klootzak was cheating again when I was 7 months pregnant. I never considered reconciling but I knew I was in no position to leave. I thought maybe I could stick things out at least until I was working full time and the child in school. Then klootzak decided he wanted to discard while our child was in preschool and I had just gotten back to work part time. Less than a month later, the pandemic shut down the world. At this point, I’m not yet free. I was a victim and I’m stuck while I finish sorting the way out, but if anyone said I wasn’t a victim, I’d want to smack them upside the head. He exposed me to all the people he hooked up with unprotected. He future faked. He lied. He took control of every dime I earned. He locked me in the basement. He doesn’t permit me to call or text anyone where he doesn’t know who I am talking to. I’m not allowed to walk the dog further than the house next door when she needs to go out. He at one time had password locked the thermostat so I had no ability to turn the heat on in winter while he was 6 time zones away. If anyone, friend, boyfriend, or anyone else, thinks I made choices and was OK with that and more, they can go to hell. We all do the best we can with our circumstances. Appeasing the abuser while intending to get away doesn’t make you any less abused.

          I immediately read this and thought this guy is not a chump. That’s my $0.02.

      • My x also lied to me at the beginning of our relationship. He told me his 1st wife had been cheating on him with his best friend and she left the marriage and they were in the process of divorcing. He shared with me the years of cheating and lying he had endured, as well as her drug addiction and possible mental illness. I felt such sympathy for all he had gone through. DDay for me came after 20 years of marriage. During the divorce process, schmoopie dumped him and guess who he hooked up with next? His “psycho” 1st wife! I was shocked and that shock made me start questioning things. Why would he even speak to her let alone get back together with her??? Well…I did some digging into their divorce records and discovered that I was actually the other woman. They weren’t going through a divorce when we started dating…she filed for divorce after my x and I had been dating for about a month, and she believed I broke up their marriage. If I had known the truth, I would have never dated, let alone marry and have kids with him. I feel so disgusted….my whole marriage, my whole life, was a lie and I didn’t know.

          • He probably maintained the triangulation and pick me dancing from his wife from day one. If he told so many lies to Mighty, I’m sure he was spinning similar tales to exwife.

            They will do anything to “play the victim” which is why the original post is such a huge red flag!

    • I agree. I’d back off, tell him to find someone else, and say, “I’m not ready for you in my life.” For one, it’s a lack of empathy. Tired Mama was a victim. For this guy to say that she’s playing the victim is a red flag. It seems like he’s saying, “it’s all about me” and “you’re not giving me the attention that you should be giving me because you’re focused on you”. Tired Mama should be focused on herself. 18 months is really not a whole lot of time to give yourself before finding another. Tired Mama needs peace, love, and acceptance. It’s quite possible she hasn’t yet established boundaries and so she’s moving onto another that oversteps her not-yet-established boundaries. It has only been 18 months and Tired Mama is already insecure in her new relationship. “Insecurity” alone is a red flag.

      • “Insecurity alone is a red flag.”

        Yes! This is so important, and it doesn’t get pointed out enough. The problem with feeling insecure about your relationship is that, if you let it go on, you end up feeling insecure about yourself. And that’s a dark descent into all kinds of bad choices and therapy, if you’re lucky.

        My ex was separated from ex-wife #1 when we met, and he knows how to “play the victim.” He told me so many ridiculous stories about her, including that she cheated on him. I fell for every one of them.

        It wasn’t until I discovered the stories he was telling about me that I began to realize how messed up he is. There’s a huge difference between playing and being – one that I did not discern with him at the start. I’m not going to list all of the horrible things he did, just the most important one. He taught me all about narcissistic personality disorder.

        Anyone – and I do mean *anyone* – who knows this trauma has a heart and an ear for fellow chumps. It’s the people who haven’t gone through it that have no tolerance. Ignorance is bliss, and they display their bliss by bleating out variations of “get over it” and “move on” and “you’re so bitter” and “stop playing the victim.”

        In my experience, the only people who say that last phrase are the victimizers. They just hate it when people whine about all the abuse they dish out. They’re also the ones who use that role in order to snare new victims. Why? Because they know that someone who’s been a victim isn’t likely to question another victim. We’ll lend our heart and our ear. (And, eventually, if the player is lucky, our wallet, home, and labor.)

        Bottom line: Tired Mama’s new man is showing his hand. I say, read the tells – no empathy, projection, and victim blaming/ playing. It’s time to fold em and get out of that game. You’ve got a little angel watching everything you do so she can be just like you when she grows up. Teach her well, Mama.

    • Lots of good comments. CL and VH are spot on. Where is the EMPATHY??? If this person has not grown up enough or is not considerate enough to have and show empathy, he is a tosser for sure. People who have no empathy are very hard to work with. Also I have always hated victim blaming or shaming. Tired Mama, you did what you could bring yourself to do at the time and thankfully you did not spend longer than you did with the EX. It could be that BF is jealous of you mentioning your EX or thinking about him. Or maybe he does not want to share as much of his past with you that you are sharing. I think it is good if you are going into a serious relationship to be able to talk about the past since the past shapes so much of who we are IMO. It is not good IMO when someone is too closed mouth about what they have experienced. The best to you.

  • Tired Mama,

    I think the fact you have written to CL about the things the new boyfriend has been saying to you should be setting off very loud alarm bells on its own. Then there’s what he said. “You’re playing the victim” is one thing I never want to hear again from anyone. During a subsequent communication with my Fuckwit, after he locked me out of the house, he said “It’s always some else’s fault, isn’t it?” This has the same flavour; a really nasty one. It sounds as though you have been completely open about your experiences and that his response to your vulnerability was essentially a snide criticism. When I have shared my experiences with CN or any of my friends or relatives, not once has that phrase been uttered. From my perspective, saying that you are “playing the victim” is wrong because the reality is that you WERE the victim. Your ex took a shit on you from a great height. This phrase makes you doubt whether you really were. What’s it called when someone else makes you doubt your reality…?

    You can see where this is going, I hope. It may not be full-blown gaslighting, but it’s far too close to it for my liking. It’s a terrible response to someone sharing their story with you. Now, he may not have done this intentionally. If he is chump like you, then he may well have learned these responses from his ex Fuckwit and is now employing them unwittingly. There is definitely room for some considerable doubt as to his motivations, knowledge and whether or not he is a truly empathetic and considerate individual. I get the sense you haven’t told him that his response stinks. I think you have to make a couple of decisions. The first is whether or not you want to have a discussion with him about his response or whether you think that’s already enough of a red flag to get yourself out. If you want to talk to him about it, what would he need to do or say to reassure you?

    A caveat from me: I am nowhere near as far down the road as you are. It’s been a mere six months for me, so I may have set my threshold for this sort of stuff way too low. My instinct, if this were me, would be to call time on it. We shouldn’t let things like this slide anymore. It’s a slippery slope back into the toxic pit we’ve only just managed to extricate ourselves from.

    Wishing you the best.

    • For only being 6 months out, it sounds to me that you’ve made large strides away. You give good advice. “It’s a slippery slope back into the toxic pit we’ve only just managed to extricate ourselves from.”

  • “My best take on your new boyfriend is that he suffers from a common Both Sides delusion. Okay, so your ex was an asshole. But you bear equal responsibility for tolerating his asshole-ishness. You knew. You stayed”

    Boy, did I ever encounter that a lot out there in the real world. “It takes two to tango,” they’d say. “You share responsibility for this” was all just so uncomfortably close to “So, why did you drive him to cheat?”

    I worked on growing my backbone so that I could finally respond “I accept no responsibility for my FW’s affairs. None of this was my fault.”

    I even had to say this to my Rebound Guy. Rebound Guy was heaven-sent, brokenhearted about a recent relationship of his that had just ended, and I will forever be grateful for the short period of time that we were together after my divorce. I wish him all the blessings for his future.

    But, Tired Mama, he also really didn’t “get it” when it came to talking about my chumpy past. It’s not that I expected him to agree with me on all my viewpoints (because then he wouldn’t be his own person and I may as well be talking to a mirror), but I knew that if he couldn’t understand the basic fundamentals of what had happened to me that… well, I wasn’t going to feel very comfortable in confiding in him about it. New eggshells that I didn’t want to walk on began to form around him. For me, it was kindof a red flag, yes, but more than that, I knew that my short relationship with Rebound Guy wasn’t going to last long, because if I couldn’t feel comfortable confiding in him then what hope was there?

    After FW and after the brief encounter that was Rebound Guy, there was no one. Just me and my kids. I found partnering up disappointing, heartbreaking, and exhausting. I went out and sunk my energies into single life (family, career, pets) and felt so much better. No eggshells!

    I feel your pain, Tired Mama. My husband dropped the D Day bomb shortly after our second child was born. I had two babies in diapers and a marriage I was trying to hold together with tape and I didn’t leave. Of course I didn’t leave. I wanted to live with the father of my children–in an unbroken family. So he left. But then I took him back later because “Play it again, Sam.” I wanted my family together. A year after that, FW packed his suitcase and left me and the kids to live with the mistress he eventually married and I was on antidepressants with two kids underfoot. It was hard enough learning how to stand up straight again. Hearing judgements like “You bear responsibility for what happened” and “Well, it’s your fault for taking him back” certainly didn’t help; they matched my “this is all my fault” inner monologue.

    I’m years out now. And I *know* that it was not my fault. Don’t let anyone tell you that a cheater’s crappy, harmful choices are your fault, Tired Mama.

    • I think the “Both Sides” delusion is pretty close to what it is going on here – partially with worldview, partially fueled by therapy of “you make your own choices”, mixed in with some unhealed trauma from his own experiences. And I begin to think that as well – partnering up sure can be pretty disappointing.

      Chumped during the early days of new motherhood is a special type of cruelty.

      • TM, You are SO SO mighty, my hat is off to you! I too left an abusive jerk with two small children in tow, and jumped right into another relationship with the man who would become my second husband, now X-FW, Dr Cheaterpants. He was so psychologically abusive I was like the frog in the pot, I didn’t realize until I was boiling that I had to get out of there or I felt I would die, the anxiety/PTSD/panic attacks/migraines were that bad! He cheated 7/10 years we were married, and even though we didn’t have children together it still took me a long time to gather the courage to file and leave.

        I so wish I had gone by the “Is this acceptable to me” rule of thumb from the get go, or that relationship never would have made it out of the gate.

        TM, as your name suggests, you are tired. Of course you are! Please, take care of TM and her kids and take a break from relationships for awhile. Trauma bonding is a thing, please read up on it.

        PS – I love the line “my walls sing.” Brava!!

      • I always thought this phrase was stupid, even before chumped.
        It takes two to tango, but it only takes one to bludgeon you over the head.

      • It does take two to tango, and the two it takes are the cheater and their fuckbuddy. The one being duped is not part of the pas de deux.

        You need a snappy comeback for whomever dares to utter this idiocy.

        • From my younger, married sister, ‘you need to give yourself a slap’. 3 months after I was dumped after 26 years, one month after I discovered the 10 year + affair, and the first New Year alone. My mother sat across the table from her as they ganged up on me and said nothing. I was 59. I will never forget that comment or that scene. I was too shell shocked for any kind of reply. The comment was not acceptable to me. It changed the nature of my relationship with my sister and mother forever. And that was not a bad thing.

          Tired Mama, you don’t need to settle for the unacceptable. If a boyfriend feels able to make pronouncements on what you should and should not have done in a past relationship which he knows nothing about as he was not there, keep him in the right box. The first, the paramount relationship must be with our only lifelong partner, ourselves. He’s your rebound relationship. Don’t put all your hopes and dreams, which will not have settled after the trauma of your marriage, into a man who can’t satisfy them. He was what you needed at the time, but he’s not what you need right now.

          • “The comment was not acceptable to me. It changed the nature of my relationship with my sister and mother forever.”

            Same, in the case of my friend. She hates FW, and she’s been there for me – in her own way. She was chumped hard, too, and is now with a boyfriend who “once” cheated on “someone else.” Sure. I still love her. We just see the world differently, and I haven’t spoken with her in months. (It wasn’t just the tango comment. She gave me Esther Perel’s books right after dday1, for context.) When we do speak, we don’t talk about anything real. What’s the point? I’ve let go, and I’m ok with it.

  • Tired Mama,
    When I read your question in your letter, “Is this a red flag?” I immediately said, out loud, “yes.” Yes, it’s a red flag.

    It’s a red flag for the following reasons: 1) it is, as CL says, another way to say “own your part”; 2) it’s another way to say “you’re a bitter bunny”; 3) it does not respect your assessment of your own life–it invalidates your experience and devalues your perspicacity; 4) it reveals a stunning lack of understanding of the context from which you were acting; and 5) rather than celebrating your mightiness, it casts you as faulty, which has the effect of placing you, in relation to your boyfriend, in the position of being lesser than.

    • You knocked it out of the park with this one, Adelante. This is exactly what I was thinking only you articulated it so much better than I could. All I could come up with after I finished the TM’s letter was “RUN!” This sort of devaluation from a partner is so triggering to me. My entire relationship with my ex was a decades long casting of me as “weak and lesser than” that I am still trying to turn around in my mind. The thought of another partner doing the same thing all over again is one of the many things that keeps me single.

      • I, too, was impressed by that very impressive ten dollar word.

        WordWeb is my favorite app. I used to read with a big fat giant dictionary parked next to me. What a cool thing a dictionary app is!

        Let’s find a way to use it, Ux!

    • Perspicacity: the quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.

      I had to Google it, and I LOVE when I learn new words by having to google.

      THANK YOU Adelante. You made my day.

      (Unfortunately I’ll likely never to be able to use it in everyday conversation.)

    • Great response, Adelante. I’ve distanced myself from from friends who share victim blaming attitudes and lack understanding. I almost interpret it as a lack of integrity. I wouldn’t get close to new people with this outlook, and I definitely wouldn’t get romantically attached to someone whose judgement felt off. I don’t want to be intimately bonded to someone who doesn’t share my values. I need someone I can respect and trust.

  • New guy is victim blaming and mindfucking. I would nope right out of there and get a therapist and work on fixing my picker for a couple of years before dating anyone.

    • This. ^^

      I would question if new guy really was a fellow chump. Maybe he’s just another salesman/manipulator. And that kind of guy feels comfortable because broken picker.

      If Tired Mama broke away from the ex and found this new guy during Covid that’s not a lot of time to fix her picker. And everything is so weird and awful right now.

      After my divorce I went to a couple of different divorce recovery groups. I met a lot of people getting a second divorce because they rushed into a second bad marriage. It takes time to get over a decade of emotional abuse.

      • “I met a lot of people getting a second divorce because they rushed into a second bad marriage. It takes time to get over a decade of emotional abuse.”

        This was/is me. My 1st marriage was rampant with verbal/emotional/mental abuse, neglect, cheating, etc. I remember telling my ex, a couple DECADES ago, “I won’t be in an emotionless marriage.” His response? “Then you won’t have one at all.”
        And yeah. I stayed. For FAR too long.

        STBX was nothing more than a friend from school when my divorce was finalized and I had zero interest in a relationship.
        He changed that. And I saw plenty of flags but, damn it! It was amazing to have someone paying attention to me after feeling like a ghost or roommate, and being lied to (about anything and everything) for so damn long. I ended up jumping in feet first and spackled so much I could’ve built a whole new house with the BS I was justifying in my head – while my GUT was telling me to run as fast as I could in the other direction. I blamed myself for not trying hard enough and continued to try. And try. And try.

        All I had to do was stick to my plan of being alone with my kiddos and I wouldn’t be where I am today. I was NOT ready. And I completely fucked myself.
        And my children.

        Currently? I have no interest in ever dating anyone ever again. No interest in sex. No interest in relationships of any kind. And definitely no interest in ever getting married EVER again.

  • TM,

    At the very (and most charitable) best, you boyfriend lacks empathy and has poor communication skills ….. and if I was less charitable, I’d say that something is distinctly off here.

    Take your time and be very careful; it’s not a big stretch from what he’s saying now to the point when he is outright denying you your reality.

    LFTT

  • “ Or does he not understand the effects of emotional trauma?

    That could be it. Or he understands it, but doesn’t think it’s a sufficient reason for staying stuck. Perhaps he can’t imagine that degree of vulnerability.”

    In hindsight this was a huge red flag I’d missed. Four years prior to the final Dday he conned an innocent woman into believing he was in the process of getting a divorce. After winning the pick me dance he stated how he couldn’t imagine what it would be like if I’d done this to him.

    Not understanding the degree of vulnerability in my experience contradicted the very actions of the abuser. As a skilled predator he zoned in on both my vulnerabilities as well as his victims.

  • Tired Mom:

    Four years of D-days is alot of tolerance for abuse. CL mentions in her reply that you knew, you stayed, and bear some responsibility. It sounds like you jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Red flags are waving but it all feels familiar.

    Consider taking a valuable time-out from relationships for YOU. Use this time to get to know yourself, reevaluate your values, set some precautionary boundaries, and grow strong in and of yourself. Build supports around you to achieve independence without a partner – for a time. If it’s financial help you need, consider a roommate. Lean into good friends temporarily. Family may be waiting for you to reach-out to help with your children. As you build an independent life structure make new friends and enjoy them. Explore new experiences to find yourself. Co-op with trusted parents to find occasional childcare to be with just yourself. This early in the process, don’t latch onto another romantic relationship before sorting how you found yourself where you are now.

    Time is your best friend. Use it wisely to better yourself and that of your children. The foundation you build now will either support you forward or crumble once again if not strong. Wishing you the best!

    • You are right – It *is* a lot of tolerance for abuse. I was so scared – still can be – of losing my kids; sometimes the kids feel like the only thing that my ex has over me as a pawn to still appear normal to his friends. Now, I understand that it is pretty unrealistic that I’d lose time with my kids, really. But I sometimes think that is what new boyfriend questions – my tolerance for that length of time, and the confusion over why I didn’t get out sooner – as he did in his chump timeline.

      • Hindsight is 20/20; recognizing abuse in a relationship has multiple layers. The breadth and depth rarely presents itself as cheating is the tip of the iceberg.

        You had enough and had the courage to leave. Anyone who questions your fear and tolerance of abuse has little knowledge of the hideous nature of an abusive partner. I’ve had others explain that I feared being alone. Incorrect. I was educated, could easily support myself and never grasped the lopsided power dynamic, covert narcissism, trauma bonding or the cycles of am abusive relationship.

        This nation as well as an amazing therapist helped me leave a serial cheater who never loved me. What’s important is that YOU left.

        Your boyfriend is waving red flags.

      • Tired Mama, why is your boyfriend questioning your decisions in this way? You did what you did. That part’s over. If you feel that you need therapy to explore that aspect, then that’s what you do. I have found therapy to be a lifesaver. Your boyfriend isn’t your therapist. Even if he happens to have the qualifications and is trained, that’s still not his role in your new relationship. With the greatest of respect to your tired self, you seem to know that what he is saying is wrong and to be giving him the benefit of the doubt as to his motives. Isn’t that one reason why us chumps got into the pickle we got into? The benefit of the doubt? Why not give the benefit of the doubt to yourself and say ‘this aspect of the relationship is causing me sufficient concern to have written to CL. Perhaps the relationship is serving me in other ways. But that service must not be allowed to fool me into turning a blind eye to the red flag causing me concern. I need to explore that aspect fully when deciding whether the relationship in its entirety works for me and my child’. I wish I had done that before starting the relationship with the ex 30 years ago.

  • I wonder if this is more a case of both of you jumping into a relationship too soon.

    Surviving trauma is an uneven journey and probably includes some projection – “I/you should have left sooner” “I/you should be more empathetic”.

    Take it slow. Don’t depend on this guy for money/food/shelter, etc. Be sensitive to your children’s needs as they untangle from their father.

  • Precious Tired Mama,

    ChumpLady, Velvet Hammer & angrychump all speak words of wisdom! Re-read their comments multiple times, then go No Contact with this nutter you are dating.(MHO, of course)

    ‘Playing The Victim” Seriously?! He said that?!

    I see major Red Flag

    For starters, once again IMHO, this is far too soon for you to be in another ‘romantic’ relationship. You are still reeling & dealing with the break-up of your marriage. And, you have little ones. Your ‘picker’ needs a major re-boot and ‘R&R’

    Next Point: One thing that is not often mentioned as to why one stays in the situations many of us did, way past the ‘expiration date’ (this applies to me): Untreated head injuries or other physical traumas

    Long after the fact, after FINALLY getting some proper education, understanding & treatment, I now know that much of my personal inability to make better decisions & leave sooner had to do with damage from several untreated (seemingly minor, as there were no broken bones or observable injuries) head injuries over my life-time. Long before I was married to cheater.

    I have educated myself & gotten treatment. The treatment that made a huge difference is passive neurofeedback. I had this done at a Neuroplasticity clinic. Once an EEG is performed, the clinician will recommend a type of therapy / treatment best suited to your specific injuries. In my case, I am self-pay & low-income. Clinic offered a ‘sliding scale’, so I could (almost) afford.

    This is not the only thing I have done to improve my function, but it was huge! If you have ‘bonked’ your head or worse, please look into BrainSave!, neurofeedback, post-concussion syndrome and so on. Many, like myself, do not fully realize they have sustained damage. Or the degree of damage…..

    Love to all, as we ForgeOn! together

    • I YouTubed BrainSAVE. Thank you so much. I walk around in a fog mostly and know I suffered many bonks as a youth. Again, thank you.

      • Chumpadellic……So pleased my comment helped you! {{{Hugs}}}

        I bought Dr Titus’ book and have learned so very much about why I was ‘paralyzed’ & lethargic most of my life, just getting by, minute to minute.

        I also learned much from the clinician / therapist that worked with me.

        BodyTalk is another amazing therapy I have experienced & that others here at CN have benefited from.

        Another thing: Although not all agree, I totally refuse to use any chemical / prescriptions meds for any of these issues.

        So glad I’ve stood my ground on that as I see friends & acquaintances go down that road in an attempt to deal with issues & never improve…….All while I enjoy a far better quality of life than they do & have experienced much improvement.

        Love to you as you continue to ForgeOn!, Chumpadellic

  • Tired Mama, I have to wonder if he is a real chump. The things he is saying are blaming YOU: You were an adult, you decided to stay too long, you had control over yourself and you could have left sooner. With new babies, during COVID? You were mighty, and it seems he should be praising you for getting out, not demeaning you for taking too long, according to his timtetable. You aren’t PLAYING a victim, you were a victim. If you told your story here and anyone blamed you or questioined your time line, they’d be shot down in a second.
    I could speculate and ask a lot of questions, like does he criticize himself in the same way, but that would be untangling HIS skien. It seems that a true chump or decent person would commiserate. It sounds like he is BLAMING YOU for not meeting his standards. That’s a huge red flag. Will he have the same standards for how you handle illness, or a job loss? Does he think that the way he handled his own cheater is the best and only way? He sounds like a critic, not a partner, or even a good friend.
    If he’s telling you he doesn’t want to hear your story, see your pain, or be supportive, those are red flags even if he wasn’t a fellow chump.
    Like CL, I think you deserve someone who appreciates you and supports you, and you should take it slooowww with this guy.

  • I’ll give new boyfriend the benefit of the doubt. He may believe it is best to move past and move on from the abusive relationship. Could be that is what worked for him and he may think it will work for you as well. I think the victim crack should be addressed, you aren’t playing the victim, you were a victim. New boyfriend may also be under the mistaken impression that by you bringing up the past relationship you may not be over your ex. In that case you could make clear you are well over ex but still traumatized by the abuse. Just to basically reiterate what CL said…take it slow and look at how new boyfriend behaves in other areas. If you find yourself making excuses for him that is always a good indicator to move on.

    • KB22, Thank you. I have been thinking about one of the previous comments – and checking in – do I spackle for him? Is this acceptable? Overall, he is a good man. Perhaps we both jumped in far too quickly. I think in my heart of hearts, he takes on his response to his unique situation, fears included, and applies it to my unique situation. It feels like a shallow sort of empathy – like, I can commisserate and *sort of understand* but, cannot fully put myself in your shoes and see it from your POV.

      • My wife thinks I am not over my ex because I go to therapy and am doing EMDR. I had to explain to her that I have NO romantic feelings for my ex but am dealing with 24 years of narcissistic abuse. Have a conversation with him and find out what he means by you being a victim. My wife and stepdad deal with the abuse in their former marriages by NEVER talking about the abuse and only focusing on the good things.

      • We are prisoners fear of hope.

        From my experience, we are usually staying because we have bonded with this person, we invested everything into our family, our children, our spouse, our lives together, etc. Most people have been trained to give people the benefit of the doubt, we encourage empathy, sympathy, pity, and a second chance (or 100th) especially with those that we are intimate with (the people who can hurt us most in our lives, whose decisions affect every facet of our existence). We aren’t staying because we don’t recognize that we are being abused, we are usually staying because we have acclimated to the abuse, and the abusers are incredibly manipulative. How many times did you hear “I’m sorry.” Or “I’ll never do it again.” Or “I love you, I love our family, I will do whatever it takes to make this right. ” (And then they do nothing, they keep hurting you, or they get better at hiding). Or “Im not cheating anymore, you’re being abusive by bringing this up.” (And they are, in fact, still cheating)
        They keep you tethered with promises of the life you were promised and rightly deserved. They keep you tethered with fear of the future.

        We are prisoners of fear and hope.

        You should not be ashamed at how long you stayed and how long you were invested in your relationship. You were manipulated. You were lied to. You didn’t have ALL of the information and never will. And, you don’t have the ability to see the future or read minds. You tried to keep your family together through extremely difficult and painful circumstances. It’s not your fault that FW wasn’t a unicorn. It’s not your fault that he lied. FWs deficiencies are not you fault, and his sins are not yours to bear.

      • ” I think in my heart of hearts, he takes on his response to his unique situation, fears included, and applies it to my unique situation.” That’s sparkling, right there. Its also untangling the skein, which is something else that Chumplady so wisely counsels us not to bother doing.

        It doesn’t and shouldn’t matter why he says these things. He could have the best of motivations, or the worst. Doesn’t matter. What matters is if it’s acceptable to you. Do you want to be on the receiving end of such comments? Do you want to be making excuses for someone else? Do you want to be second-guessing yourself and your partner? Do you want to be diverting your precious time and emotional energy from yourself and your children onto this person?

    • I disagree with giving him the benefit of the doubt. When people are in new relationships, they put their best foot forward and are on their best behavior. They want to win you, and that’s when they work the hardest. So this is the best this guy is going to/is able to give you: victim blaming and lack of empathy. He won’t magically start treating you better and he isn’t going to suddenly learn empathy. This might not make him a bad person, but is this someone you want to have in your life?

      • This^^^
        I have worked hard with my kids and myself to internalize that as a mantra for new relationships.

  • Two things spring to mind to me.

    1- Maybe he’s projecting. If he’s a chump he sees himself in you, and he’s just as critical of himself. Is he though?
    2- Some people are low in empathy, and if you don’t pick yourself up and dust yourself off the moment something awful happens to you then you’re wallowing in pain. I have this friend who recently broke up with her husband. I was with her when she was absolutely heartbroken. Two days after she tells she feels great, and she’s leaving it behind her. She’s obviously not, I can tell. But that’s who she is, she can’t stand that sadness and vulnerability because she has no patience for it, so she expects everyone herself included to move on from things and people at the speed of light.

    Regardless… This guy might not be for you. It’s a big deal to open to someone else (at least it is to me), the last thing you want to hear is someone pointing their finger at you for not doing better. You’re not there to fix him, you’re together because he enriches your life. So does he? And is his lack of understanding something you’re happy to live with?

    • Vee,

      He is super critical of himself- someone who says they like being pushed and called out in order to grow, someone. who is reflective, who has done the work in therapy after his situation. This was really refreshing to hear. HOWEVER – I now wonder, does he have low empathy? Like, will listen, check in, and then in the end decide his viewpoint was just right the whole time and make minor changes? Maybe that’s part of it. I do think in many ways he does enrich my life, and I his. However, again – it’s the “is this acceptable to me” – are our wounds just still too fresh?

      • If he is super critical of himself then he probably still has stuff he has to work through and shouldn’t be unloading on you. His situation is his situation, yours is yours. He should be able to approach it without judgment, especially if you did not ask for it.

        It could be low empathy and/or have problems with vulnerability both his and others. The way you describe it without me knowing him, is that he thinks he can take control of situations. That’s often true and it’s a good rule to live by, but it isn’t always realistic as well as being pointless criticism when it’s aimed at the past. What’s done is done. You can take that lesson without beating yourself or others up.

        But yeah it all boils down to what is acceptable to you. Your wounds being too fresh is very much a possibility, too. There’s no set time to start dating, however if you still have stuff to work through it might make it harder. I’m 1 year out, and leaving aside the fact we didn’t even start divorce proceedings yet, I would 100% be a massive drag to any potential partner. I can barely handle friends. So see how you feel, maybe it’s too early, maybe he’s not right for you, or maybe you can understand each other by talking. Hope it works out for you, but if it doesn’t don’t beat yourself up. You’ve been through a lot and came out of it, that’s something to be proud of.

      • Test him. Tell him how what he said made you feel. Tell him how being a new mom and enduring emotional abuse made you feel stuck and that being accused of playing the victim is actually victim blaming, that you legitimately were a victim. See how he responds. He says he likes to be called out, so call him out. If he doesn’t start to see it from your POV, then yeah, he doesn’t have much empathy. That isn’t good, TM, and it makes somebody a shitty partner. You can do better.

        • That is an excellent idea and it will absolutely tell you what you need to know about him. Post divorce from FW I found myself in a similar situation with someone I was dating- the conversation ended the relationship as he lost his shit over gently being called out but it was worth it as it confirmed my suspicions regarding red flags and MIA empathy. That situation marked the beginning of my learning to trust my gut. Now I don’t need to test things – I believe what I am feeling and go with it.

        • Yep. What OHFFS said. He ‘likes to be called out’?
          Then full steam ahead. Call him out and tell him how that made you feel. His reaction should tell you everything you need to know.

      • Tired Mama,

        My spidey sense is tingling with this one. I was married 11 years to a covert narc who used to tell me how he loved it when I called his BS. I came to learn that he was often saying the opposite of what he was thinking. What he meant was that he loved learning how to hide his BS better. The last year of our marriage he told me he didn’t feel right when prepping me for the final discard. I helped him find a therapist (on my health insurance of course) and he went a couple of times because, you know image management. He ended it saying that he felt the therapist enabled him to do bad things(!). He also learned how to fake real people feelings better and a fair amount of psycho babble. Beware of the covert narc, that shit is really insidious, but the damage is real.

      • “He is super critical of himself- someone who says they like being pushed and called out in order to grow” — OMG run away as fast as you can! I know this type, and pretty soon he’ll be pushing *you* to “grow” and you’ll never live up to the constant criticism to “improve” and “push your boundaries” (but only in way he thinks are important or valuable, never in ways you value). And it will all just be a weird control thing to ensure that you are constantly disappointing him, and not about mutual care and support at all.

        I mean, look at it: he’s already “disappointed” in how you handled your trauma. Ugh. Yeet that man into space, Tired Mama!

        • 👆👆👆👆
          That’s how it works. That’s how I ended up taking the bus with our babies, getting everything organic from the farmers market and cooking from scratch, line drying the laundry in the backyard while he drove his car and did nothing to help. Because saving the planet was important to him, more than the well being of a struggling new mom of 2 with a full time job.

  • I am sorry Tired Mama, this does not sound like a very good partner to me. This “playing the victim” comment would raise major red flags for me. Smacks of gaslighting. His whole take on what you went through shows a total lack of empathy. You were a victim, you got out, kudos to you. Anyone telling you otherwise (or just not listening and shutting the hell up for that matter) can just take a walk in my book.

    Your name says it all, you’re tired. It’s an exhausting experience. You need to recover, some me time, to focus on yourself, not explain and justify yourself.

    I am 4 years out and single with 2 kids and I love it. Still tired sometimes, but working on it.

  • Red flag. TRUST YOUR GUT. You wrote to Chump Lady to get her take on it- that alone should tell you all you need to know. Your gut is telling you he’s not to be trusted. That’s all you need to feel safe: to TRUST YOUR GUT, and the way you improve your instincts for the future is to ACT on the guidance you receive from your gut. When you don’t act on your instincts, you train them to get quieter and eventually shut up (why give you a warning if you don’t act on it, right?)Your future self will thank your current self that you a) recognized a problem, and b) took action on it. There is BETTER out there waiting for you – someone who doesn’t leave you feeling on edge. Good luck. (And PS, you ARE mighty indeed!)

  • As survivors of psychological abuse, it is SO HARD to listen to our gut feelings/intuition. We were conditioned to ignore those feelings of DANGER GET OUT. In some ways, doing that is what kept us safe while we were still in the relationship, as twisted as that is. Your gut is telling you that there is something off with your boyfriend’s reaction, and you know what? I think your gut is right on. Do you like being told that you are playing the victim? Does he make you feel safe and supported? As a positive example, when my husband and I had been together for a couple of months, things started going off the deep end with my ex. I kept it to myself for as long as I could, but I finally broke down and told him everything. He hugged me as I cried and asked why I hadn’t told him earlier and that as my boyfriend it was his job to support me and care for me. Not once has he told me that I’m playing the victim or trying to garner sympathy. So while your boyfriend’s reaction is sadly common, o matter why he’s reacting that way, he could do better. Go find someone who will be on Team You and won’t sit on the sidelines telling you that you should have played things differently.

  • Yeah, What’s his chump story?

    Did he leave as soon as he found out? Did he have children? Did he take them? Were they babies?

    I think the appropriate response is “I’m sorry that happened to you, I love you, I promise not to hurt you or at least be willing to listen and work on my behavior if I do. Lying, deception and the associated emotional abuse is a deal breaker for me and I won’t inflict that upon you.”

    Keep talking but pay attention.

  • Dear Tired Mama,

    This is a very RED flag for me. Someone with a lot of wisdom on CL once advised to vett boyfriends very rigorously and to disclose as little traumatic events/abuse as possible, as this information can be used against you.

    I believe this is the case or your current boyfriend is emotionally immature to a worrying degree.
    He seems to be displaying a lack of empathy.

    Of course it is hard to leave one’s partner, even post-D-Day. Chumps love and care and believe in loyalty/communicating things. This is a strength but it can also be used against you when dealing with cheaters.

    Please take care of yourself and your family, tread carefully and don’t internalize dangerous opinions about how “it’s your fault you stayed so long”. They are inaccurate and harmful.

    Good luck, Mighty TiredMamma!

  • A man who cheats right after his wife gives birth, doesn’t give a damm about her or the child. Instead of being sympathetic, they love the power they had over you. This new guy, has no more regards for your feelings then your first husband. I suspect he enjoys having power over you. Telling you how you should think and feel. He fully understands how that hurts you, just doesn’t care. Total loser to me, not worth your time.

  • I’m sorry, but I would close the door on that boyfriend. Minimizing when you were a victim is a red flag to me. He is telegraphing that he doesn’t think that you have a right to be upset about a significant wrong. Imagine what might happen if he wrongs you in a significant way. He might minimize and justify it away while you go away hurt and confused.

    The details aren’t important, but I had an interaction with someone on Sunday that I normally keep at arm’s length. What they said to me just confirmed yet again why I don’t want anything to do with them. As the saying goes, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

  • I have to tag along on CL – take it sloooow. Married for ten, left last year and have a boyfriend who may be throwing up red flags? This is a red flag to me.

    He seems to be invalidating your experience, with a simple toss of the hand. That’s someone who really doesn’t want to listen or help. It’s not his job to fix your issues but supporting you would be a nice start. This tells me something of his personality and raises a flag for me.

    Make sure you are emotionally ready to out in the dating world. It can be a rough place when you still have wounds that needs healed.

  • My ex wife told everyone that “I was playing the victim”. I have since remarried. But it hurts when my current wife has asked me why did I put up with the abuse and shady behavior by my ex. That she would have left if she experienced the abuse I did. In my current wife’s eyes 👀 it showed her that I was a pushover and had a lack of self respect. She does lack some empathy. Some people have a different view of things. At least he voiced his views before you married him, my wife didn’t until after we got married. I don’t know if it is a red flag 🚩 or not. Maybe he experienced some cheating and abuse and immediately left her and so doesn’t understand why you didn’t? My chump wife experienced multiple DDay’s and separated and reconciled a few times. I had one massive DDay and filed for divorce 2 1/2 weeks later. I don’t understand why she didn’t just divorce him the first time she caught him in their bed with another woman.

    • It’s so easy to *say* that she would have left. It shows a lack of understanding and empathy for victims of emotional abuse. You should talk to her about this. It might be based on a sexist presumption that men are not as vulnerable as women. She needs educating.

    • Hang on, your chump wife “experienced multiple DDay’s and separated and reconciled a few times”, but “she has asked me why did I put up with the abuse and shady behavior by my ex. That she would have left if she experienced the abuse I did. In my current wife’s eyes 👀 it showed her that I was a pushover and had a lack of self respect”. WTF??!!

      Christ on a bike. To put it at its least, that is someone who is seriously lacking not only in empathy, but basic *self knowledge*.

      I’d have turned that around straight back at her. How cruel and hurtful, I’m so sorry.

  • I think we can both own the fact that we tolerated these assholes and accept that we had our reasons for doing so.

    It’s been said many times here that once you know what you’re dealing with you’re a willing participant. I should’ve left my ex a lot sooner then I did but I had my reasons and most of them were unhealthy.

  • I got accused of this by the cheater himself. It infuriates me when a genuine victim is accused of just playing a role. This guy is either staggeringly ignorant about the effects of emotional abuse and your vulnerability as a mom or is callously dismissive of it. Either makes him bad news IMO. Do you want somebody who dismisses your pain and turns the blame on you? I’m with CL in wondering if this guy really was chumped. If he was, and yet he doesn’t get what hopium does and how hard it is to give up on someone you love, he’s painfully stupid. But being stupid is no excuse for opening up a wound like that. He sounds like an pompous asshat who likes to deliver lectures in which the underlying message is; “I would never have tolerated that, therefore I’m better than you.” Huge red flag for narcissism. You started dating too soon.

    • You almost have to expect this from the cheater.

      My ex told me “you just want to be miserable”. If I didn’t want to miserable I’d rugsweep and paint a phony smile on my face like him.

      We all know how cheaters feel about accountability.

  • To play devil’s advocate….

    One way of coping with trauma is reclaiming one’s power and accountability. Some people take that to the extreme and take accountability for literally EVERYTHING, but it’s not from a healthy place. Just a desperate, unbalanced approach at reclaiming their agency.

    If he’s this unforgiving to himself about his own situation…then you know he’s just in a ‘phase’ of overcoming his trauma.

    If he got out of his situation quickly and points to it as the shining example of what you should have done, that’s a red flag.

    Either way, I think I would pump my breaks pretty hard here.

  • When I joined AA, I learned the hard way that is was not Well People Anonymous, that it was still the Real World where I had to sharpen and use skills of discernment and that I should not automatically trust everyone just because they were in the room.

    I noticed a similar temptation with people who have been cheated on. While
    cheating on someone speaks volumes about their character, being a victim of infidelity does not. I know first hand that you can be cheated on and also be a toxic jerk.

    I think it’s a mistake to make assumptions or generalizations about the character of chumps and assign qualities and character traits just by virtue of having been cheated on.

    I need to be careful to not automatically confer character traits on anyone, even if they are a fellow chump. They are two separate things.

    • great answer, VH.

      conscious living is fucking hard work and includes friendships, relationships, work mates, community mates, etc.etc.

    • TYPO…

      To clarify:

      “While cheating on someone speaks volumes about the CHEATERS’ character, being cheated on says nothing about the character of the victim.”

      ❤️

  • Please go VERY SLOWLY in this relationship. Maybe he is processing his own trauma (poorly) or maybe he is an unempathetic jerk, but right now, he isn’t being a great partner. If you want to give him time to see how things progress, that’s fine, but do not deepen housing, financial, or legal ties to him.

    I also wonder if he has kids. Getting out of a marriage when kids are involved is different than getting out of one without them. For starters, those of us with kids know we will remain tethered in some ways to the EX indefinitely. Consequently, we have an additional incentive to work at the marriage, smoke the hopium, worry about the fallout of ending it, etc. This isn’t playing the victim, this is paying heed to the relationships children will have with both parents regardless of the quality of the marriage. If he cannot understand this, then that would be a big red flag for me.

  • When I read Chump Lady, I expect to hear stories about being chumped. I am prepared to listen, and understand, and learn, and sometimes feel that I might have pertinent advice. I come here knowing that everyone has to handle their trauma in their own way, and I suspect they are somewhere on the path to healing, because they are here. Chump Nation has many diverse experiences and viewpoints, but we generally agree that no one here started a relationship expecting to end up here.

    However, when I go to the grocery store, I do not expect to hear stories of family trauma from other shoppers. When I am in the new stages of friendship, I do not share my most intimate or painful experiences, nor do I want to hear theirs.. I have learned a painful lesson when testing the waters of a new relationship, it is best not to share deeply personal stories early.

    I have some long term, tried and true friends. We know each other’s life stories. I would drop what I am doing now and go to pick them up if they called and said “I need your help.” Because I know I can believe them, and because they would do this for me, I trust them. Sometimes, I will listen, for a short time, to a problem they have — BUT, if it is on a subject we have a fundamental difference of opinion on, I will shut down the topic, or suggest we talk about something else. I talked about one of these friends yesterday, on the subject of hopium. She already knows I believe she has a bad picker, and she stays in relationships she should not tolerate, because she chooses to do so. I cannot make up her mind for her. If she leaves, I will support her decision. If she chooses to stay, I will not listen to her repetitive woes or offer suggestions so she can play the game of “Yes, but…” I know, in my core, she cannot ever fix her spouse. She is the only one who can change her life. When she chooses not to do so, she is choosing misery, IMHO. Her belief/need to be “married” no matter how awful the situation, is beyond my understanding. Evidently, it is acceptable to her. But I do not have to hear the same stories, over and over, or waste my time offering solutions. If it is acceptable to her, she will stay.

    When you do decide to share your story, you cannot control the impact it will have on another person. It may begin the end of that relationship. They may truly not understand your perspective. You may have assumed you had opinions and empathy in common because you have been through a similar situation — but you may have made an error in judgement. I have found that many men do not grasp the woman’s perspective because they have never had the woman’s experience. They are men, and they don’t understand women any better than we understand men. We may be able to communicate, and come to an agreement, but it takes understanding on both sides. The worst experiences of my life have proven to be beyond the understanding of any man I have ever tried to explain them to. No matter how much they might “love” me, or how supportive they may be of me, otherwise, I have to accept that they will form their own opinion, and it may not be supportive of mine.

    Tired Mama may have cause for concern. She may want to address the “playing the victim” remark, and decide what to do from there. She does not need to provide reasons or excuses for him, he needs to vocalize what he meant by that remark. If she does not like his answer, then she needs to decide if his attitude is acceptable for her, and if not, what does she choose to do about that? She also needs to question her own motivation in providing details about a past experience that she had. What did she hope to gain by sharing the information? Was it a realistic expectation? Sharing the past cannot change what happened in the past. If you try to explain it to someone who was not there, and that person is not a trusted, trained, therapist, what is the reason for the share? This is the key question, in my mind. If you are using a friend as a sounding board, be prepared. They may not have the reaction you want, or expect.

    I have very few long term trusted friends. We do not agree on everything, but we respect each other’s right to that opinion. I love my sons, but I certainly do not agree with them, or expect them to agree with me, on everything. I expect respect, for myself, and my unique situation and experience, and opinions. That is what is acceptable for me. That is my most important boundary.

    • Sharing with others is part of human bonding.

      I agree with you that you cannot control what others will think of it, but at that point you have the choice to see whether you and this person are truly compatible and can truly bond. You can definitely have differences in opinions with friends and romantic relationships, but if someone misunderstands my feelings about a major event in my life then I’m afraid it’s a deal breaker. We can never be close if we fundamentally don’t get each other. Our children or family, or even long term friends we met when we were young are a different matter imo. You don’t choose your family, so you have to learn to live with your differences. But a new partner is indeed a choice, someone you’re letting in the life you already have. If there are lightyears between you and them because you don’t get each other, maybe they’re just not the person for you. Not all personalities are meant to mesh well.

  • So this guy could be very imprecise with his words or what I fear is that he is a FW. My FW pretended to be a chump in all of his relationships. Everybody cheated on him. I never questioned his story- not even when he invented a boyfriend for me and told everyone that I was cheating. I just thought he was super jealous. When I found out he was cheating and cheated on all of his exes, it finally made sense.

    This could be what this guy is doing or he could just not be an acceptable choice for you.

  • This is a bit of a trigger for me. I met my fuckwit a few months after my father died (young) of cancer. After we were married he told me I talked a lot about my dad. At that point he had been gone a little over a year. It hurt and I stopped talking about him (no more grief processing). His father died ten years later. He never mentioned missing him, I never saw him cry or anything. I see the boyfriend’s response to her grief and sadness as a big red flag. As someone earlier said just because he was cheated on does not mean he is is empathetic. I’m seeing flaming narcissist.

  • TM, you’re tired and deserve to be cared for in your relationships, be it friendships, romantic relationships, work relationships, etc. etc. you deserve to be cared for.

    but you’re the one that has to set boundaries for each of these relationships and ask, “is this relationship providing me with care?” and if the answer is no then you know what you need to do.

    PS please find 10 minutes to do a bit of on-line yoga and repeat the mantra: “i am strong and i am worthy of love and caring.”

  • Hard to take in the question on the first pass of reading when I’m so enamored by the response. CL wades through the land minds and sorts out the debris with the acuity of an eagle locked in on a target. So masterfully done and the advice is the best it gets without having a collapsible crystal ball in your back pocket, which I don’t doubt the existence of.
    I completely concur with the brilliantly written analysis by Cl.
    Only thing I’ll add, is that it hurts a great deal when ppl we think should “ have our backs” and be able to see what we were dealing with. We want ppl we really care about to just “get it” without us having to defend our stance one. more. exhausting. time. Where’s the safe place to stand in life? There’s got to be somewhere we can place down our bags and just relax. We’ve got to get to that place.
    There’s a couple that were mutual friends to me and FW that I really would like to keep as friends but the husband said something to me early on in the trauma of discovery. My ex was leaving after 38 years to be with a younger woman he met day one in the parking lot of an apartment complex he was moving into on his last job stint before retirement. He commenced a 5 year affair with her while building a beach house with me and then chose which ending he liked best and jumped ship on his family.
    Well the mutual friend said to me that my ex “ just needed change in his life”. Really?!? That’s your take on this painful, mess of a situation?! He needed change?! That was three years ago, the FW skipped off into the sunset and married that mistress, who was one in a long line of them, but I guess he finally found THE ‘true love’. Those words spoken by my friend still plague me, as much as I’d like to chalk it up to, I had no idea what was going on, so why would I expect anyone else to get it? But words do matter and sticks and stones can break us, as well as the words.
    Accusing you of “ playing the victim” would for me feel like this person who should totally get it, sadly, does not. Maybe he is not letting himself off from imagined culpability in the relationship with his own abuser and feels he’s more manly if he takes some responsibility? The only problem is that doesn’t work when you are talking about abuse and infidelity is fully abuse. It changes the game and all the rules.
    Sounds like your boyfriend still needs to do a lot of personal healing and trying to bounce the idea of the victim card off of you, will only cause you further harm and frankly isn’t helping him much either if he is a legit chump. That all seems less than safe and you deserve, above all else, to feel safe in your life right now. To me it would feel like he’s implying I am weak for not leaving sooner, instead of being a warrior woman for getting out at all! How can he question any decision under the trauma and stress that was your life?!
    Find someone who knows you’re a bad ass warrior and let them fill you up with the kind of strength you deserve to be surrounded by. But maybe time alone to strengthen your own core could possibly be the best choice for you right now, heal further first. You deserve to be appreciated for looking out for yourself and kids, that’s a tremendous accomplishment. Defending your decisions and choices you made to someone who should already know how difficult it was, feels like judgement and it’s not obvious that he fully has your back, or his own for that matter.

  • I wonder–

    If he was a chump, admitting you are or were a chump, or a victim, requires a lot of vulnerability.

    And that may be too much for some people to admit and accept. Accept that something was done to them beyond their control. That is, he doesn’t want to consider himself vulnerable or a victim.

    But he doesn’t get to invalidate your feelings, experiences, or choices.

    For what it’s worth, both my current spouse and I were chumps. We tell our stories differently, but we accept each other and do not invalidate the other’s experiences.

    • Yes, the word “invalidation” is important here. If someone is invalidating you even after you object, that’s not healthy.

  • Letgo, this reminded me of something he once said to me during this discussion – “if he had so much power over you when you were in a relationship, what’s to stop him from exercising that power over you again?”

    To which I have replied – space, breathing room, reflection, and the sweetness of freedom. Yes, we still share custody of kids and speak as minimally as possible, but I see that my boyfriend still has fear of a bomb exploding on his life again, too.

    • Tired Mama, you are mighty! Revel in that, tell yourself that every day! Write down everyone’s positive comments in a journal and refer to it every day!
      I worry that you are using spackle and making excuses for bf while ignoring your own needs. This is a behavior that probably was learned in your marriage. Your comment shows thoughtfulness for him. Is it too much for him and too little for yourself?

    • It’s not your job to assuage his fears. At All. What is the rush? I suggest you back off, risk losing ‘the one’ and get on with your life. There will always be another ‘the one’. I don’t believe in soul mates. Perhaps you’re still too insecure and you feel the need to have someone validate you. Once you’ve reached Meh, and your Tuesday, you won’t need anybody to validate you, but you. Again, what’s the rush?

    • Oh boy, there’s more!?
      My UBT is nowhere as good as CL’s but here’s what mine just spewed out:

      “How can I, the insecure boyfriend, gain centrality if you are still preoccupied with the pain inflicted upon you by a superior brand of narcissist? Me me me me me, look at me, look at me!!”

      What I don’t hear, at all, in this is any word of love for you, how you’re amazing and how he is not worthy to kiss the ground that your feet have touched.

      Run away, seriously

      • This.. all day long. Great UBT – totally agree.
        Boyfriend is frustrated af that TiredMama is not “over it” enough yet, like he claims to be, which makes me suss that he is not a true chump either.
        So he is mansplaining her / covertly criticizing her instead of applauding and affirming for her escape. Rather, he is practically saying Bad tired mama for not leaving sooner or doing it better like Boyfriend did – what is this: competitive chumpdom? Good grief! Literally he is victim shaming her and elevating himself to be in his “better than” — classic Narc tactic.
        It’s not quite the same but his critique of her is dangerously close to the old “ Why doesn’t / didn’t she leave?” trope which is the ultimate minimizing victim shaming and victim blaming question. Boyfriend fails to comprehend the reality of intermittent reinforcement, the cycle of narcissistic abuse and sunk costs and kids and all the things that keep chumps stuck with a cheater as per the post a couple of days ago. He seems incredibly ignorant of even basic understanding as to why women can truly struggle to leave abusive relationships. Not to mention gaslighting, coercion. All the things. At a minimum Boyfriend seriously lacks empathy #1 sign for narcissism or sociopathy etc
        Conclusion: Boyfriend is no prince. At a minimum he is not supportive and very possibly at the worst is someone whose mask is on but it probably won’t be for long.
        And it seems possible he will one day be using the very same reasoning / faux questioning / shaming technique to destroy her confidence back at her for why TiredMama stays with boyfriend #prediction #abuse
        Danger is close TiredMama. Be careful.

        • One more thing – “playing the victim” is also likely a projection. Id be willing to bet that he the one really “playing” the victim – appropriating victim hood in other words – he could be telling you that he is a cheater not a chump. He could be playing you.

  • This new guy is all red flags of epic proportions. Run. Urgently run.

    The last thing you need is a victim blamer. Best case scenario: he is showing he is unable to support you emotionally and worse, blames you for the situation. Likely scenario: he is gearing up to victimize you and then victim blame you for it and claim you are “playing the victim” when you call him out on his actions.

    Seriously run. Not a good pick. Throw him back and find someone you can safely share your past and future with.

  • Haven’t read the whole thread, but I do agree with those I read, Tired Mama, that this *is* a red flag. His chump story seems suspect to me and there is often more than meets the eye; and, let’s face it, we all put our own spin on our personal stories. My own experience with this:

    I met Cheater #2 through a single parent group. He, too, had been chumped by his first wife. He told me how they took in a struggling, friend of a friend college student and she ended up boffing him on the couch while he (C#2) and their kids were asleep upstairs. Cringe worthy, right? Something to bond over and all that.

    What he neglected to tell me (until much, much later) was that he was having an online affair with some woman he had never met several states away. They had sent sexually suggestive texts, nudes, had racy online chats, all that. But never met in person. As far C#2 was concerned, it wasn’t an affair and he hadn’t done anything wrong since genitals had not touched genitals. He became C#2 when he repeated this behavior with a family friend. He STILL cannot understand why everyone is getting divorced, cuz, ya know, it wasn’t an affair and he did nothing wrong.

    My take on your boyfriend’s story is that maybe he was a cheater of sorts and maybe that’s why he is minimizing your feelings. Sorta that “everyone does it” attitude. Or he outright *was* the cheater and is lying to you.

    Could be my own cynicism speaking here, but just my 2 cents.

  • Your new guy saying this kinda triggered my own anxiety where I then continuously replay every possible mistake I ever made in my marriage. It takes awhile to get back to the key factor that my marriage and yours wasn’t a level playing field when you’re being duped by a liar cheater. The house was built on sand. Truth comes slow in bits and drips. Every decision is made in a vacuum. Look how new guy has got you tripped up again. My honest feeling is that new guy is not good for you. He’s feeling out how easy it is to get over on you. This undermines you on the regular. I would break up and go back to individual counseling. Yeah. You don’t want to feel this way anymore.

  • Tired Mama, I think that being questioned and criticized by someone you are going to for support is a terrible kick in the pants. My best friend of 20 years was so hurtful to me after my ex left I wound up cutting off contact with her. I was in crisis and she was blaming me when I desperately needed empathy and support. She said ” it seemed didnt want to do anything about the situation (being cheated on lied to financially and emotionally abused), you just wanted to complain about it”. No empathy for me or my kids. Just criticism. It was hard to lose her but in the end it was better not to have her in my life.
    My thought here is that you are still kind of in crisis and trying to heal. And this new guy is NOT helping. You don’t need an extra person in your life to gaslight you about the abuse you experienced.
    Tired Mama, I am also a tired mama. When my ex left 6 years ago i had 2 jobs and 3 kids in 3 different schools. But I surround myself with people who love and support me. So I do still get worn out, but not having my ex and my ex friend around questioning and criticizing my feelings, sadness, and trauma means that I am able to heal on my own. You deserve the same.

  • Dear Tired Mom, when I read your letter, I was so *fucking angry*! For *you*.

    You navigated a divorce through Covid, protected and loved your children through one of the most devastating and hurtful experiences anyone can go through. That makes you *mighty*.

    How *dare* this fucking wanker suggest you are “playing the victim”!! 😡

    You *were* a victim, a victim of an entitled lying piece of shit, but you’re not one now. You got yourself and your children out, and that makes you a fucking mighty *survivor*.

    Please don’t let this arsehole mindfuck you and invalidate your experience.

    Anyone who says they were a chump too, and then kicks your feet out from under you, sneers at your experience? Fucking. Arsehole.

    Whew. OK. Got that off my chest.

    I think, as others have said, you wrote to CL because your gut is telling you, this is a red flag. In my opinion, a *huge* one. Trust your gut. No-one who purports to being in a loving, trusting relationship, should be saying shit like this to you. I agree with CL, anyone who says something so monumentally insensitive to someone who’s been through this hell ride is at the best a moronic arsehole, at the worst, a *player*.

    Maybe he is a chump, maybe he isn’t. If he is, he lacks empathy, do you really need someone like that in your, and your *children’s* lives? If he isn’t, he’s getting off on mindfucking you.

    As for that crap he’s feeding you, “if he had so much power over you” blah blah?

    Christ on a fucking bike, this is *blatant* mindfucking.

    I’m sorry, hun, but this man sounds to me like really bad news. Kick him to the kerb, and hold out for someone with empathy, commonsense, and who appreciates how mighty you actually are.

    You don’t say how you met him, I’m wondering if it was a dating app, which are full of predators who pretend to be chumps, who get off on hurting and undermining those who have already been hurt. Even if it wasn’t, in my opinion, putting it at its least, he’s a supercilious self-righteous shitbag, who’s getting off on making out he’s somehow superior to you.

    (((hugs))) 💕💖xx

  • Wow- this one triggered me to the moon! “Playing the victim” was the line my ex FW would love at me anytime I had the audacity to stand up for myself and call him on his abusive behavior. Tired Mama, it sounds like your new friend relates more to your ex than you. Very suspect in my book.

  • I am wondering if this guy was told the same thing at reconciliation counseling. When I was in divorce and recovery class, there was a speaker from the mediation department in the county. I asked how mediation works when you have been victimized financially. How are you expected to negotiate with someone that has proven himself to be less than trustworthy? She asked me why I still felt like a victim.

    Fortunately my attorney and his attorney negotiated a marriage settlement agreement and I did not have to go to mediation as many Florida divorces do.

    Caution at the very least with this guy.

  • The new boyfriend does not sound like a chump, or at least not a recovered one. Make sure you actually know his whole story and beware he is not yet another narcissist who is turning the story around and acting like a victim

  • I was able to confirm that my ex was cheated on by his previous wife. But he was still a skilled manipulator who lied to me about other important aspects of his past, which I didn’t find out about until after he cheated on me.

    TM, your boyfriend may truly be a chump but his victim-blaming is a serious red flag. Don’t assume that because someone was chumped that they are good partner material.

  • Huge, shiny red flag waving in your face! He is doing you a favor by waving this red flag early! And, when you tell him ‘don’t let the door hit you in your behind’, tell him he shouldn’t play the victim!

  • I’d date several men if I were TiredChump. No need to settle with this guy, who provokes insecurity THIS early on. Give it time and observe him further. There are plenty of men out there, don’t settle quickly.

    Your gut tells you that you don’t feel understood.

    I’d refrain from talking about your marriage with this new guy, and consider telling him you are not ready for an exclusive relationship.

    When someone tells you what your are feeling or thinking it is a red flag

    • Mitz, I absolutely agree with you. There are elements of gaslighting here along with victim blaming, and a heaping helping of an attempt to control, all topped off with a glaring lack of concern for your feelings Tired Momma. This is not a good man. This is FW territory and image control. Don’t listen to what he says, look at what he’s doing to you, undermining your sense of safety, your self esteem, and your accomplishments….covert abuse.

      Personally, Tired Momma, I would run like my hair was on fire. He does NOT have your back.

  • Playing the victim is an awful description what happens to us when we are the victim of cheating and emotional abuse.

    I was however, the victim in my mind for very long time. I wasn’t playing it though. Long after the divorce was settled, was I still a victim of her previous manipulation and abuse. It took me a while to shake off the victim role and become free. Reached Tuesday.
    To the outsider it may have looked that it took me a while to “move on “.
    But we are not here to please other people’s expectations . We are here to grow after emotional, financial and in some cases physical abuse.
    So, fuck them

  • The confusion around the word “victim” has become rampant – there’s being a victim and there’s playing the victim. There’s also the phrase “I refuse to be a victim!” that really raises my hackles. And I think that phrase conflates the two victims (being and playing).
    Somewhere along the line, saying that you are a victim or were victimized (just stating the fact), for some people, gets twisted into “playing the victim”. I believe it has become a somewhat commonly held belief that you either “play the victim” or “refuse to be a victim”.
    There’s no place for the truth of just being a plain old victim. Except maybe in a robbery or a homicide – then people feel comfortable calling the victim a victim.

    Sorry this is very rant-like, but it touches a nerve for me. I was victimized by my ex. period. (And, no I don’t get to refuse to be a victim).
    I have healed and grown and moved on. I am well. But I will never forget the feelings of being a victim to a lying cheater. And TM, how dare your boyfriend tell you that you are playing victim. How dare he? I know you say he is a good man, but I wonder at your definition. Good men don’t say that to people they care about.

  • TM – he devalued your experience and feelings. That lack of empathy is to me, unacceptable. What you did was mighty, and all he did was judge your timeline.

    You don’t need a partner that’s a chump. You need someone that respects you and your feelings.

    You deserve better. We all do.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t date. I jumped back into dating right after.

  • My ex’s first betrayal was to let a “friend” of mine who stopped by for a visit feeling all down and depressed kiss her while I was asleep . Me , having to go to work early the next morning , excused myself to go to bed. (I should have told him it was time to go , but beta me didn’t.) The next day I learned that he had kissed her. That upset me but the bigger concern was that SHE LET HIM. I brought this up to my EW and her response was that “I didn’t think you cared.” ….What???? I was upset and confused by that remark , but let it go. Well , that was a prelude for really ugly things to come. We lasted about another year till she involved herself in an affair and that’s all it took for me to show her the door. And , btw , I’ve never seen my “friend” since . I’d known him since the first grade and my EW destroyed him with guilt over what he had done. Trust that she sucks!!!

  • Virginia Satir writes with wisdom and eloquence about how to respond to the feelings of others with empathy, kindness, and validation. In particular, what she called “cheerleading” really stuck with me. It’s about how in our efforts to help someone we are actually invalidating their feelings. Like, “Don’t be sad! They are in a better place now!” Better, “You are really sad that XY died.” That kind of thing. I have to watch out for being cheerleader! I can be a total cheerleader.
    I have to be careful to ACKNOWLEDGE and LISTEN. Not ADVISE. It’s a daily practice…..

    I can forgive someone for not knowing, as I and so many of us grew up without learning that language, but I need to make sure the people in my life are people who care about getting it right. I learn new things about me and improving how I operate in relationships all the time. But at the foundation, I have an open mind and a heart that cares about doing things well, making amends if I don’t get it right.

    The best apology, and the most genuine apology, is changed behavior…..

  • Imagine if your tween did something bad, cheat on a test or steal a lipstick from the drugstore. You catch them and make them make it right (return the lipstick). Now you teach the kid agency by making them right it. But you don’t bring it up again and again. At their prom harp on it. At their graduation. Or wedding. Or 40 birthday. Parent see their kids growing and moving past their mistakes. If your boyfriend or you are living too much in the past, then that one isn’t ready for a new relationship. Relationships take looking through the windshield and not the rear view mirror.

  • Right, so there are 150-something comments already and I haven’t read them all yet, so this might already have been said.
    Cis men can have absolutely no fucking idea of how vulnerable you are when you’re pregnant and when you’ve not long given birth. Your body has been through real trauma, your hormones go haywire, and it’s a very real need to want to feel supported and protected. If that’s not actually happening it’s very hard to face (ask me how I know this haha).
    The problem is, it sounds like your boyfriend isn’t even trying to imagine. I don’t want to tell you what to do about that but do you want to be with someone who isn’t trying to put themselves in your shoes?
    Big hugs. You’re amazing and mighty and should be proud of yourself.

    • This is a very important point! Postpartum is probably the most vulnerable time in a woman’s life. Your body is not know your own, you’re trying to keep a young human alive, you’re physically weak, bleeding, exhausted, etc. Even if a man can’t understand, he should have the good sense to just accept that reality.

  • I tried dating a friend after spending a year getting my feet back on the ground. I got the same crap from him and realized that not only was he not a good partner for this reason, he was not a good friend. Just because the person can’t put themselves in your shoes (yours was a chump at least – mine, basically zero dating history) is no reason to label you as “playing a victim”. You WERE a victim. Someone perpetrating some pretty cruel and heartbreaking shit on you…and not just any someone, the person who was supposed to love and care for you the most. If someone can’t understand why that is whole lot of mess to work your way through and a good deal of time to recover from…I don’t think you need that person in your life. You need support and understanding…even if they see the dynamic differently or have never experienced it. That part is what boggles my mind. How could someone not even understand that much? Nope…not going to tote that around/feel bad about it. The kicker was that my friend/boyfriend had sexual dysfunction issues too…and I was willing to work with that! *I* was willing to be sympathetic and understanding, while he balked at my anger and hurt. Smacking my head about how chumpily I chumped along on that one. My reaction time from “this is OK” to “this is not OK” was a lot faster this time around though, and so that’s not nothing. You are free, Tired Mama. Don’t lock yourself up in a situation that is not acceptable to you again.

  • This is a red flag of, at least, the fact that you two do not share the same emotional values and that he cannot support you in the way you need. Of course I don’t know the details, but I envision a whole lot of criticism coming from him to you in the future. Just because someone was a chump too, does not make them a good person or, maybe more importantly, good for you. I’d get out of this relationship and spend another year working on yourself and your career/education and focusing on your kids. Then, after a year of personal work and family centrality, decide if dating is right for you. Best of luck.

  • Also, if in fact you are lingering too much on your past, the loving and supportive response from a partner is to help you work through that and help you look through the windshield and not the rear view mirror, as someone above stated (I love that expression and use it all the time). Maybe even help you get into therapy or whatever. The loving response does not involve victim shaming, criticizing, name calling, or any number of other micro or covert aggressions. Ditch this guy, fast.

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