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‘I Didn’t See Any Red Flags’

Red flagHello Chump Lady,

My D-day was almost 3 months ago. It wasn’t a marriage but a 10-year relationship, since teen years. I am 27, she is 25.

On her summer vacation to the Canary Islands, she hooked up and fell in love with a guy (38-year-old surfing instructor/musician, WTF), proceeded to invite him to her next vacation in Barcelona (we were supposed to go to my friend’s wedding, but she asked if she could pass on it long before. Knowing how much she loves travelling, I chumpishly agreed).

Next two months she kept him a secret and kept seeing him, meanwhile she started getting distant on me. I picked up on it, thought she was unhappy and started busting even greater gears to make her happy. A big case of pick me dance without even knowing I was competing.

Eventually one evening I saw a message pop up on her iPad that was explicit. I went down the rabbit hole, asked her about it knowing the details, but she denied it all. She was distant and kept giving neutral answers “I don’t know”, “I am not sure what I want right now”, “I love you but differently”.

I went away and shattered. Next day I had such a schism from “person I love and trust is saying one thing, I read a different thing entirely” that I “hacked” into her account again and read the entire convo. Very explicit and very clear. I admitted this to her and was about to break up, but she beat me to it — used the breach of trust as “this helped me make up my mind.”

My issue is — this was a person with so many green flags and barely any red. I am not deluding myself here, the package you described in your husband, Mr. CL, was there for 10 years. Reciprocation, caring, open and honest, vocal about judgment on infidelity and the like, kept up what she promised.

Was this just an exit affair? How do I handle having to come down from cloud nine where I have been for 10 years? I am really struggling with suddenly losing that pitch perfect person I knew.


Chump with lost ideals

Dear Chump with lost ideals,

Forgive me, but you’re young. You don’t know much about your character until it’s tested. By committing during those years that many people are sowing their wild oats, the Dump and Be Dumped skillset isn’t formed. Your ex is a coward who behaved horribly.

I’m not excusing her because of youth, but I’m trying to give you some context on the red flag/green flag thing. You didn’t have any prior relationship history to survey here (unless you’re including middle school). I believe you, that while she was your girlfriend, she seemed all in. But at some point, she gave herself permission to cheat and to let you bust those keep-her-happy gears. That’s shitty character.

Exit affair? As I’ve said here before — Use your words, not your genitals. If she wanted to break up, she could’ve communicated that. But YOU did the breaking up — she was intent on cake and blameshifting. Again, that’s shitty character.

Consider the larger picture here — that’s before the hard stuff of adulthood. Her life sounds like jolly trips to the Canary Islands and Barcelona. (Her next vacation? When I was her age, I was living in a former crack house in DC working for lousy wages with $15 of disposable income between paychecks. And I walked to school in the snow, uphill, both ways…. end Old Person rant…)

My point: her life is pretty light on responsibility at 25. No babies vomiting in her hair, or aging parents, or unemployment, or mortgage payments, or tax audits. When life’s biggest challenge is to not fuck the surfing instructor… and she’s failing? This is not the sort of person you want to go the distance with.

Could she mature and become a less entitled, deceptive person? It’s possible, but life needs to kick her in the teeth some more. You don’t want to stick around for that social experiment. Your job is to learn from this. Do not lose your ideals — stick with being a good guy, the world needs you — but have boundaries. Yep, even with those you love, trust and with whom you have a decade of sunk costs.

meanwhile she started getting distant on me.

This is your cue to ask yourself: Is this relationship working for me? Am I getting what I need here?

Sure, you should ask her why she’s being distant. She’d probably lie. But you still need to bring it back to yourself — is this acceptable? If not, what am I going to do next? Speak up? End it? Mirror back the distance?

Rookie chump mistake — you chose Pick Me Dance.

I picked up on it, thought she was unhappy and started busting even greater gears to make her happy.

Her happiness isn’t your job. You sound like a loving, empathic person, but remember — her “unhappy” is her responsibility. She can speak up, advocate for herself, see a therapist, adopt a pet… Don’t go to the lopsided place. Where you’re tappity-tap-tapping to prove your worth. You matter and it’s up to you to act like it.

I went down the rabbit hole, asked her about it knowing the details, but she denied it all. She was distant and kept giving neutral answers “I don’t know”, “I am not sure what I want right now”, “I love you but differently”.

Okay, that’s enough information. You don’t have to hack into her accounts to find more. (Understandable when you’ve been gaslighted, #nosnoopshame.) This is actionable information.

She doesn’t know? She’s neutral? GAME OVER. Do you want to fight for the honor of someone’s ambivalence?

What she’s saying is “persuade me.” Pick me dance. Keep being of use. Let me enjoy the power seat a little longer.

Note what she is NOT saying: “I want to break up. I’m not in love with you any longer. I need to end this.”

Every weasel word leaves open the possibility she MIGHT change her mind. She doesn’t know “right now.” Oh, could that change? Tappitty-tap-tap.

Fuck. That. Shit.

I “hacked” into her account again and read the entire convo. Very explicit and very clear. I admitted this to her and was about to break up, but she beat me to it — used the breach of trust as “this helped me make up my mind.”

Classic It’s Not What I Did, It’s Your Reaction to It. Otherwise known as blameshifting. She made up her mind about your relationship when she pursued Mr. Surfing instructor and lied to you about it. You’re just now getting the memo.

How do I handle having to come down from cloud nine where I have been for 10 years? I am really struggling with suddenly losing that pitch perfect person I knew.

All love is risk. To be intimate, is to be vulnerable. You don’t want to be one of those shallow people fronting a fake life. Be glad you’re a person who loves with his whole heart. The good news is, you aren’t the only person on the planet who bonds. You don’t need to lose your ideals about love, you just need to trust your ability to stick up for yourself if things go pear-shaped.

That’s all we control — ourselves. We don’t control if people love us, keep their promises, or cherish our winsomeness. I know that’s scary, but it’s also liberating. You just control your side of the equation — bring your A game because that is who you ARE. When someone doesn’t love you back, know your worth and stop investing. You control that!

When you’re 27, ten years is more than a third of your life. I’m sure her rejection feels like a huge measure of your worth. It’s not. It’s ONE data point, from an immature person with lousy life skills.

I know you’re grieving now. But you won’t always. Dust yourself off and get back out there. You’re an ethical man who loves with his whole heart — that’s a stock that trades high. A two-timing girlfriend? Not so much.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Chump with lost ideals,

    If I can give you any advice here it’s to take your time now. You are very young. You have had one long relationship. Please don’t jump right in with someone else. Take a breath. Spend some time with yourself. Then date for a while when you’re ready.

    I look back in my past relationships thankful for the lessons learned. My failed one in my 20s still didn’t keep me from being a Chump… I ended up dating a friend I thought I knew well and trusted (but he turned out to be a covert narcissist —- I’d never heard of that before).

    So take your time. Loads of experiences ahead of you. You sound like an awesome guy. This will be completely her loss. Her surfer dude fun won’t last. Get ready for her to start hoovering at some point. Move upward and onward for your own sanity

  • Michelle Shocked is right.

    She’ll try to come back at some point – especially if you were the principal wage earner and the dude who paid for all the holidays because she loves traveling.

    Please prepare yourself to have boundaries of iron and also to run like your hair is on fire.

    • Yes Lola and yes Michelle. 100%.

      Chump Lady is always solid gold and seriously, she just gave you a wheelbarrow full of it. Keep coming back and read this again and again. And the comments. Don’t lose sight of the basics here.
      “Use your words, not your genitals”.
      “Do you want to fight for the honour of someone’s ambivalence?”

      If you ever find yourself dancing again: stop. Come back and read this again.

      All us middle aged ladies here telling you: learn now! I know I wish I had. Instead of 20+ yrs married, four kids and nearly vanishing into chumpy nothingness.

      Your Tuesday lies ahead and you will wonder what you ever saw in her!

      • Thank you MichelleShocked, Lola and MamaMeh – I had a frenzied attempt at getting back into dating (or maybe getting into it for the first time) and had to back out because… well, as you can imagine, I’m not ready for it. I’ll definitely be taking some time off and just focusing on basic life stuff – work, self-care and family/hobbies.

        She’s already prodded me after New Year. I didn’t do well with that. I didn’t use it to beg her back but I snapped back and told her off for writing to me. But best thing would probably be just to ignore her and keep her away with blocking. Next time, I guess.

        The blog has been helping me tide over the bad days for a while now – and now I can come back to these mantras and rely on them. I am glad that the internet allows us to be connected like this. Thank you for all the support and kind words!

        • If you search the site archives with the term ‘No Contact’, you will find some Jedi master-strokes.

          No Contact means exactly that – and it’s the path to the truth and the light.

            • Block her number on your phone and direct her emails to spam. Avoid places where you might bump into her. Keeping no contact is like learning a good habit. It’ll be effortless after a while.

        • Hello

          Hoping your ideals are not lost completely! That would be a shame…Sometimes we go through the worst- what feels like death- then come out much wiser. Centered. And full of wisdom. Your heart won’t change. You’ll be more careful possibly even understanding. We don’t all think or operate the same. If we don’t grow and change together- well we sometimes end up single. It stings really bad but please don’t think about what she’s doing. Who this guy is- because do you really think it’s HIS first rodeo at some dummy passing though in a bikini? I think NOT. They also have a different mentality. Not saying ALL but some seem like carnies from what I’ve experienced. She’s not smart. She gave you up for a temporary high who will dump her on her bare ass on that beach. You’ll see. I have! Shame on her but please know she will feel this one too. It’s better to stay away. I’ve lived in this for almost 2 years with a step child in the middle. Her parents cheated together. How’s that for a pile of shit?but Don’t think she’s giving or getting anything better or more or spectacular. Let her go. One day at a time, for now
          Don’t let it consume you.

  • She was a crappy partner, not the great partner that you idealized. That was an illusion. She cheated & blame-shifted, so that’s her character, right there..

    Yes, she once told you she thought cheating was wrong, but as CL pointed out, you had been in the relationship with her since teen years, so she probably had never even really been tempted when she said that. Going forward, her attitude about cheating (aka self-indulgence at the expense of deceptively harming others) will be more lenient: “Ah, I used to think life was black & white, but now I see it’s all shades of grey.”

    There were significant red flags in your relationship, even before she distanced herself from you. You’d been together for about 10 years & were not married or engaged. By your mid-twenties with the love of your life with whom you’ve been together for several years, marriage should be in the active mutual planning stage at least. Also, you were going on separate vacations. That’s another sign of distance in the relationship. Combined with the lack of an engagement at that stage in the relationship, it doesn’t sound like a very solid relationship that both partners were fully committed to, and it would look that way even without the cheating.

    You’re young, which will make finding someone new easier than it is for us older chumps Now that your potential future partners will have more life experience, listen carefully to the their opinions about cheating. Do they make comments about it being wrong but there sometimes being
    extenuating circumstances or shades of grey? If so, that’s a cheater mindset. And if you find Miss Right, and she wants to live together for years without getting officially engaged, then that means she’s just not that into you and it’s time to move on.

    • Thank you Jennifer – we discussed marriage. We agreed to deal with that after university. Then it was postponed when some years back (I was 23 and she was 21) she wanted to “settle the question of children.” Not as in have them right now, but agree what’s the plan. She wanted to have them after university as well.

      Well, at that time I didn’t know if I would want kids. To me it is a giant responsibility and I didn’t feel that “drive/need” to have them – so I thought promising them would be irresponsible. So I told her that. “Right now? No. But I know this changes for people and guys especially, later. Let’s just be together and we’ll get back to this when you actually want them.”
      So I also held off on proposing/getting married until we would finally settle that. (It would have been sometime this year, as she is about to finish her studies.)

      The separate vacations weren’t a rule – we went plenty of places together, but she enjoys travelling WAY more than I do. It didn’t excite me at all, I just enjoyed it with her. She, on the other hand, would prefer to be constantly somewhere. So I thought her travelling with just her friends sometimes is a nice compromise.

      I will definitely not stomach any grey areas or justification for cheating, from anyone, ever. I was usually the “this is not happening to me so I shouldn’t comment” about it, but now I am firmly in being judgmental about it (and rightly so.)

      • Someone who prefers to be ‘constantly somewhere’ is maybe not the right person to be talking babies and mortgages with.

        Those things are ‘somewhere’ as well, of course – but not the sparkly, glamorous somewhere that your ex seems to prefer.

        Her sense of entitlement came through very strongly in your original letter. Also not really someone to be talking babies and mortgages with.

      • CWLI, I know that what happened is still very painful, but I agree with everyone else – this is a blessing. You will look back one day and see this. It’s a gift of opportunity, to establish and maintain your own personal values on your own, learn more about yourself and what you want, and eventually find someone who is the right fit for you. I know that having a “history” with someone makes it hard, all those years where this person was in your life. I know this sounds like BS, but consider what you learned from the experience, silently express gratefulness for how it shaped you, close the door and lock it. I know it can be really hard to feel like there’s anything positive beyond this horrible situation, but there are great things, and it’s all way better than what’s happening here. This is a person who didn’t value your relationship on the same level that you did. Period. Evaluate who in your support system is loyal and cognizant of what really happened here, spend time with the people who want to truly help you, and who don’t have an alternative agenda for you. Break away from anyone who is aligned with the Swiss. At the end of hurtful breakups (actually maybe all breakups), Chumps typically hurt much more, and take a longer period of time to process than their ex partner, who scampered off to unicorn land before the curtain even came down. Consider that hurt you feel as a good thing, because it means you’re a genuine person capable of real love, and omg real love hurts. Even more of a reason why you can’t give it to people who don’t understand the reality of “love”.

      • Hi Chump With Lost Ideals,

        I know exactly how you feel. I was married to Mr. Wonderful for 32 years…he was fun and funny, romantic and caring…we held hands everywhere we went, watched TV with arms and legs intertwined, planned vacations away with just us two (we would set a sex cut-off date about a week before and tease each other mercilessly until we got to the hotel) He coached all our kids’ sports teams (we have 4 kids) and I was Team Mom. Our kids complained that they were going to need therapy because we were always mauling each other. He was the favourite uncle, MC at all the family weddings (on both sides), took my Mom flowers on Valentine’s Days after my Dad passed away “because she doesn’t have her Valentine.” Always proclaimed that there are only 3 things that break up a marriage: communication, money and sex…”and we’ve got all those covered!” Among many other cheesy (but sweet) lines that I ate up. ????‍♀️

        I saw ZERO red flags. When people found out, they didn’t say: What an asshole! They said: Take him to emergency! He might have a tumor!

        After D-Day, (and many mindfucks where he came back sobbing and begging me to take him back…which I did…FIVE TIMES. ????‍♀️ Don’t judge me…my mind was blown ????) it came out that he had been cheating with various people for decades.

        How the hell did he find the time??? ????‍♀️

        Don’t be hard on yourself. It’s easy to dupe people who are honest and not looking for flags. At some point I realized that he kept coming back and then being terrible in the hopes that I would end things so he could say that he tried but that I couldn’t forgive him. (I read an email to the OW…a RCC who introduces herself as a marriage counselor ????…she asked him why we were going to counseling and he replied that he was just going through the motions but wasn’t going to put any effort into saving the marriage…but going to counseling looks like a good cover!!)

        I decided I wasn’t going to give him an easy out. I said that if he wanted to leave…he would have to fucking man-up and leave…that he wasn’t going to get me to pull the trigger so he could look like the one who tried. Fuck. That. Shit.

        They aren’t worth it. They really aren’t. Hang in there. Be you. ❤️

        • “After D-Day, (and many mindfucks where he came back sobbing and begging me to take him back…which I did…FIVE TIMES. ????‍♀️ Don’t judge me…my mind was blown ????) it came out that he had been cheating with various people for decades.”

          Back in the day when I thought it was one affair and I wanted my intact family (and I believed his BS) I would likely have taken him back 5 times.

          “I decided I wasn’t going to give him an easy out. I said that if he wanted to leave…he would have to fucking man-up and leave…that he wasn’t going to get me to pull the trigger so he could look like the one who tried. Fuck. That. Shit.”

          Mine was exactly like yours in that he desperately wanted out but was pushing as hard as possible to get me to “throw him out”. He surely wanted me to do the dirty work. He told me just after D-day that he wanted someone to “steal me away” (meaning of course I would leave and people would all say “poor Major Cheaterpants, his wife ran off”.

          He had at least 2 schemes brewing (to create excuses to leave) at the time of his death. One of them was that he had announced to me that he would leave when I got my first grey body hair. Not sure how that would have played in the dating scene “yea, I HAD to leave the first wife, she got a grey pubic hair”.

          They other scheme involved making sure that our septic tank would fill and back up sewage into the house. He was likely going to tell everyone that it was All My Fault.

          Oddly, I did outwit him and never did pull that trigger. We were living in the same house in an awkward Wreckonciliation when he died. I will admit though…now, years later, I think my wisdom on that point was questionable.

          CL asks us “Is this acceptable to you?”

          Each of us has to figure out if and when we have finally had enough and we manifest the already existing brokenness with divorce papers.

          What I failed to do was to recognize that this cruel selfish person was the real him…the person who treated me as if I didnt matter because to him, I didnt matter.

          I chose to stay for all that abuse and it is now not a source of pride for me.

          • I think that is a fault many of us experienced – thinking we were winning by not being the one to throw the FW out or file for divorce. I have been the “good girl” my whole life. I feel intense guilt or shame for doing anything wrong. I remember as a child, if old I Love Lucy reruns came on TV, I rushed to turn it off because just seeing her get in trouble for her antics made me squirm. It is a hard thing to get over that mindset and stand up for yourself. To risk being “bad” by asserting yourself with boundaries. To say that this is not acceptable to me. When we don’t throw the louse out, we are sentencing ourselves to further misery.

            Why do we do this? We worry what other people might say or think. We care what others think so much that we continue to suffer a FW so we aren’t painted the troublemaker. And yet those who know and love us will stand by us. Switzerland friends aren’t worth keeping, anyway. And anyone who would believe FW’s lies… pffffft to them, too.

            Whether you are 25 or 75, life is too short to spend even a minute of it wasting energy on a relationship with a FW. The time is growing short for me to file, seek counseling for myself and my child, and start navigating the divorce process. Maybe FW will consider it a victory when I file. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.

            • It’s so true. Life is short!

              When I look back, I remember that when he was the one doing the leaving, I felt like it was out of my hands and I had done everything I could do to try to keep my family together. In a way, that gave me a shred of peace. And every time he came back, I thought…what if he really means it this time? What if we could have fixed this and made it work, but I gave up?

              I realize now that even if we had been able to ‘fix’ things, the rest of my life would have been hell. Every time he went out, every time he was a bit late, every day I would wonder.

              I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who makes me feel like I have to check his phone and email and track his vehicle. That isn’t a life. That is hell.

              • “I realize now that even if we had been able to ‘fix’ things, the rest of my life would have been hell. Every time he went out, every time he was a bit late, every day I would wonder.”

                This is a version of what my sweet dad would call me every night for a while. (he lived in another state). He would say Susie, you are strong, you are still young (40), you are great looking, you don’t need him and you will hurt the rest of your life if you stay with him. He even warned me that he would likely try to come back at some point.

                This was long before CL came to town. So it was the only help I had aside from my preacher at the time. I was not telling them all the crappy stuff he said and did; as I was so humiliated. But, I think they knew me well enough to know this was on him.

                I forcefully encourage any chump to tell what happened; tell someone who can help you exactly what happened; the good, the bad, the ugly. Don’t let him/her sad sausage it all over town. Give your story to enough folks to matter.

            • So many of us were raised in situations where we were overfunctioners and expected to be perfect with gobs of shame and punishment of we weren’t.

              I remember being like 12 or 13 and I saw my parents boat and it wasn’t properly maintained and I was deeply ashamed that I had not thought to take steps to fix it. (It was not my fucking responsibility). Your Lucy show example elicits familiar feelings.

              My mom was an alcoholic and my dad and bro both manifest serious Narcissistic behaviors. I was the baby of the family and shot flowed downhill. My brother used to scheme ways to humiliate, tease and torment me. Now in adulthood, he has zero self awareness over what he did.

              We were perfect targets.

              Im now in Life 2.0 and I am so glad that you arent taking as long as I did to come to the same conclusions. I now savor every day that I can live my authentic life shared by a person who doesnt use me as a scapegoat for whateverthefuck is wrong with them.

            • People see it as “winning” because they think they are in “competition” with the AP or the secret life. They don’t seem to realize that what they are competing for is the booby prize, and if they “win” (by keeping the cheater), they are actually LOSING.

          • Unicornomore…it is crazy how alike all these FW’s are!!! While I was reading LACGAL I kept saying (out loud! To myself! Lol) Yes!! He did that!! And that too!! And THAT!! ???? They really are not original at all.

            • Yes, LACGAL did not exist on my Day. Please forgive me if Im a little jealous that you have this resource…it would have been oddly comforting to not feel as alone in my pain. I tell myself that I could have/should have left or done something sooner, but I reality, I was who I was then and that version of myself was so scared and deluded by unrealistic hope.

              Seeing a pattern of behaviors amongst them was shocking at first, its uncanny how similar they are

            • I so wish I had more resources when it hit me.

              I did pretty well, but mostly because he gave me no choice. I did want him to file, and it was better for me legally that he did. But, when I called him I said “you need to file, because you are the one that wants the D” I then said we need to get our finances separated. I think that pushed him to file because he was thinking that as soon as he files, it would be all over in two months and he would have his money back.

              Lol, nope. Our legal separation lasted a year (six months of it was due to his delaying for whatever reason) But, the whole year he was paying all my expenses to pay me back for some of the money he gave to whore.

              The first few months I was devastated, (I even let him come back once for a week, before I kicked him out) but once my eyes began to open; I knew it was over and I was done with the asshole. I think I knew even then that I was the one who won. My sweet dad kept telling me to stand straight and never take him back, he was right.

        • Mine ordered hard drugs to our home 20 times (until he got caught) and secretly hoped I would find out and divorce him. This was after D-day and separation because he wanted to divorce me for schmoopie, and me taking him back when he supposedly regretted everything, and D-day two when I found out he was still in contact and pining after her, and forgiving him again, and then after having relative calm for a couple of years or so I found out about this, and that he was STILL pining after ho-ho..
          After that I moved out with our daughter. That was two years ago next month, and I will get a divorce with no waiting period. It will be finally over next month!

      • CWLI, it seems to me that being cheated on hasn’t diminished your ideals; if anything, quite the opposite:

        “I will definitely not stomach any grey areas or justification for cheating, from anyone, ever. I was usually the “this is not happening to me so I shouldn’t comment” about it, but now I am firmly in being judgmental about it (and rightly so.)”

        You have also gained wisdom that will help you in all relationships, romantic and otherwise:

        “I snapped back and told her off for writing to me. But best thing would probably be just to ignore her and keep her away with blocking. Next time, I guess.”

        I’m impressed with how quickly you’ve reached this conclusion. It took me much longer to learn the lesson of No Contact and to accept the futility of engaging with a cheater/liar/manipulator.

        I love everything about CL’s response today, and your introspective and earnest comments show that have empathy, integrity and a level head. Glad you’re taking care of yourself, and glad you found CL/CN. Some great advice today: take time to learn to be on your own, BEWARE THE HOOVER, and be nice to yourself and skip the Pick Me.

        • Thank you for the kind comment. I owe much of those responses/approaches to CL/CN. After D-Day, I went down the internet rabbit-hole of infidelity – browsed channel after channel, site after site. Some faux life-coaches focused on “getting your ex back!!!”, some mild reconcilliation channels, some purely “get yourself back up”. In the end, what really got me “stuck” here is the “Even if you manage to get the unicorn, it won’t be the same. You’ll spend all the time waiting for it to happen again.” And that just makes me sad because I can’t disagree so all that’s left to do is to move on.

      • The fact that she would prefer to always be traveling somewhere and constantly on the move is indicative of an escapist mindset. Cheating is escapism. I have responsibilities to my husband, family, job, and people in my community. Sometimes, it gets messy and annoying, but happiness isn’t always somewhere else or with someone else. To me, it’s seeing the blessings I have in front of me.

        To paraphrase Ron Swanson of “Parks and Recreation,” she sounds like the type of person who vacations in other people’s lives, and moves on. She wants stories. Everyone around her is a supporting character on her grand path to self-actualization. Leave Little Miss Eat-Pray-Love to her own devices. Better days will come.

      • “The separate vacations weren’t a rule – we went plenty of places together, but she enjoys travelling WAY more than I do. It didn’t excite me at all, I just enjoyed it with her. She, on the other hand, would prefer to be constantly somewhere. So I thought her traveling with just her friends sometimes is a nice compromise.”

        To veer off a bit from the cheating issue (obviously a deal breaker), you also have a mis-match here. Someone who LOVES traveling is probably not a good match for someone who “just enjoys” it occasionally and with the partner. There’s nothing wrong with one partner traveling with friends; I know one female friend group in their 40s that has been doing a reunion every year since college. Nobody is having sex with the surfing instructor.

        But what I’m saying is that a big mismatch in a crucial area (kids is another) is usually trouble down the road. For example, I don’t drink. My XH loved to hang out in bars. He’s now my ex because our lives kept getting further and further apart.

        CL is right. You got involved with a girl who was only 15 at the time. She was nowhere near a fully developed adult when you met her. Even 10 years later, she’s probably finishing brain development just as she finished college.

        I idealized my own high school “love” for years, only to find out years later than his alcoholism is even worse than my XH’s. I can really pick them, eh?

        This will be important time for you. You built your life around your teenage sweetheart. Chances are you may not fully know yourself yet. What kind of life do you want? Do you love your job/career/work? Do you like living where you live now? Have you developed strong adult friendships? What do you love to do in your spare time? Who are YOU, apart from a guy who dated one girl for 10 years?

        Spend a couple of years figuring out who you are and learning to judge a person’s character, now that you are an adult. Start by paying attention to the people around you. Read about character. Dr. George Simon’s website is a place to start. Read the archives here.

        As painful as this is, you XGF did you a favor and you were wise not to have kids because clearly, she’s not ready for that.

        • “ But what I’m saying is that a big mismatch in a crucial area (kids is another) is usually trouble down the road.”

          MY GOSH yes. People think “love conquers all” but it can’t paper over huge differences in values or lifestyles. It’s OK to break up just because you’ve grown up and realized that your goals no longer align.

          “CL is right. You got involved with a girl who was only 15 at the time. She was nowhere near a fully developed adult when you met her. Even 10 years later, she’s probably finishing brain development just as she finished college.”

          I actually gasped that anyone would expect a 15 year old to have already have the brain maturity to have partnered off for life at that age. NOOOOOOO! No wonder this relationship has ended- both people were kids in high school, and now they are adults.

          And neither one of them has enough relationship experience or the emotional maturity that is developed by being in multiple dating relationships, either to realize that their relationship was already long past it’s expiration date, or to know how to properly handle it. No wonder it imploded.

          OP, I’m deeply sorry you had to go through this!

      • Dude, you two have been together since you were 17 and she was 15. FIFTEEN! People do not have the capacity to make a lifelong commitment when they are 15…it is still a CHILD.

        You both grew up, and became different people than you were when you were *kids in high school*, and neither one of you has the relationship smarts or skills to properly deal with the fact that your relationship has long since come to its natural end.

        The idea that a good relationship will be lifelong or that marriages last forever is a fantasy, and does not reflect the reality that the people in them are human beings. Some relationships will last, and some won’t, and trying to hold it together past the point that it’s already expired is nothing but folly.

    • “You’d been together for about 10 years & were not married or engaged. By your mid-twenties with the love of your life with whom you’ve been together for several years, marriage should be in the active mutual planning stage at least. Also, you were going on separate vacations. That’s another sign of distance in the relationship.”

      Sorry, but I disagree. It entirely depends on your culture whether marriage should be the crown of a relationship or not. I also believe spending time apart can be very healthy. This couple has become adult together, so it seems pretty normal to me they need to discover who they are also seperate from each other. Now he seems mature and ready for marriage, but she clearly does not and handled that in a bad way. But I don’t think he was to blame for not seeing red flags. Perhaps he could have just acted upon the relationship not evolving towards settling down (if that’s even what he wants, he still has a lot of time!)

      • I spoke from experience and will leave it at that. Not only my own experience, but the experience of seeing many other people’s long term amorphously committed relationships implode.

        • Sure, but at that age isn’t it meant to implode anyway? Great for all the highschool sweathearts who do stay together, but I think your early twenties are key years for discovering who you are. So what if you marry and then get into an identity crisis? From what I’ve seen people who marry early, often divorce young, too.

          I’ve also seen highschool couples break up for a while only to get together afterwards in a more solid way. But it should be done on mutual agreement, not one of them cheating and trying to keep the relationship anyway.

          Anyway, the different experiences are also what make this blog a rich source and I’m sure CWLI will find the advice that directs him to a better future 🙂 He for sure seems much more mature than I was at that age!

          • Given that it used to be standard for couples to marry right after high school and college, no, I can’t agree that serious relationships you get into in your 20’s are “meant to implode”.

            People complete higher education, begin careers, & perform military service at that age. Not to mention that many people have kids at that age. They can certainly handle a committed relationship if they value commitment.

            Commitment is about values. It isn’t some mystifying skill that people can only learn in middle age. That attitude is pretty enabling of cheaters. #timidforestcreature

            • Yes, commitment is about values but also about being ready for it. We each have our path to get there, which is usually when we’ve figured out life and know who we are and where we stand. It can be okay to commit at 20 like it can be at 50.

            • Yep and many of those early age marriages endure, through better or worse as the vows say.

              I know many couple who married in the late sixties and early seventies and endured and are from all that I know solid and contented.

              Just because my fw couldn’t keep his pants on does not mean others are doomed.

              Heck I would have given him a chance had he made any effort. He was to worried about saving his ass at work to worry about me.

            • People do not need marriage to have a fully solid & committed relationship and the idea that they do is harmful.

              Marriage is a legal & business agreement that can be dissolved when it no longer suits the people in it…as it should be.

              My mother was born in the days when a woman was shamed for getting divorced, even when their husbands were abusive, and she ended up staying with an alcoholic who beat her & cheated on her for 14 years because she lived in an era that valued the outward “commitment” of marriage more than it did the well being of the people in it.

              (That was her 2nd husband, not my father, who loved her deeply and was an exemplary man/human being)

            • All of the women in my family that I grew up with were born before WWI & WWII, and I can tell you right now that “people getting married right after high school and college” was NOT the wonderful thing you think it is.

              People have romanticized that period of time so much that all they think of is “wow! All those marriages lasted because people valued committment!”, it meant that women stayed in HORRIBLE marriages because they had no way to get out- even if they COULD work & support their kids in a manner above the poverty level, they’d still have to bear the weight of the MASSIVE social stigma against divorce, which of course, only fell on the heads of women. No, it didn’t matter if your husband was abusive, an alcoholic, molested your kids- our moronic society considered the “shame” of divorce worse than any of that, and a ‘good wife’ was expected to just put up with it. And of course everyone outside thinks their marriages are “content”, because people did NOT “air their dirty laundry” by complaining that their husbands beat them.

              People who get together before their early 20s don’t even have brains that have fully matured to the point where they CAN decide to make a lifelong commitment to another person, making it an even worse idea to encourage them to marry quickly. They need yo know each other as ADULTS.

              And just because people DO have kids at that age, doesn’t mean that they SHOULD.

              • I think it’s on a case-by-case basis. My sister-in-law and her husband met when they were 14…he had a horrible childhood, hers was sketchy too (alcoholic parents, father cheated but they stayed together) but they committed to each other fully. They had 3 children who are all really great, solid humans in what appear to be happy, supportive relationships.

                When my sister-in-law passed away (10 years ago now), her husband was devastated. He will not ‘move on’ and find someone else…she was his person and he just can’t see himself being with anyone else. Ever.

                It can work out. But both people have to be honest and committed.

                I guess they might have been the exception.

        • Jennifer, LGBTQIA people could not legally marry in the US until just over 7 years ago, yet many still have long lasting, loving, committed relationships without that legal document.

    • I’m making an educated guess based on context clues that Lost Ideals and his ex girlfriend are from northern Europe. Being from Sweden myself (lived there until age 22, then moved to the U.S.) I can attest to the fact that marriage is not the sole determining factor of commitment level in a relationship. Couples often spend decades or a lifetime together, raising children, owning property etc. without being married.
      I’ve never really understood the North American hyperfocus on marriage as the be-all end-all. All this to say that if my guess is correct, for a couple in their mid 20s to not be married yet, even after 10 years together, is not necessarily a red flag in the social/cultural context of most northern European nations.

      • I was with my partner for fifteen years and we were not married, nor did we ever plan to. This was in part because of our respective political and personal ideals. Also, I truly didn’t care about having or a piece of paper to make my partnership official. I’ve pretty much always wanted a life companion and a family, but I never dreamed of a wedding dress and ceremony, or of being a Mrs. I’ve also seen many unhappy marriages, and many divorces, so I never believed that marriage was sacred or provided any guarantee stronger than two people’s private word.

        However, I now can see many red flags in our arrangement. I don’t think marriage is necessary – and I know couples who’ve been together for decades, unmarried, and seem to have a good thing – but I do think it’s important to have binding legal agreements (and straightforward conversations) about homeownership and assets, etc. On an emotional level, I also think it’s healthy to explicitly commit – and to proudly celebrate that commitment with each other and with friends and family. I wish I hadn’t been shy about this, and I wonder how much of my reticence grew out of my ex’s devaluation and gaslighting. Our relationship didn’t evolve the way an equal, reciprocal relationship should. By the time I realized this, I was already trapped.

        I think what I’ve written here is obvious to most people, even chumps, but I was incredibly naive to the point of idiocy. If I ever find someone I want to commit to, I honestly don’t know how I’ll navigate all this. Big IF…

  • CWLI,

    You’ve escaped. It could have been so much worse. I married my teenage soulmate and he was the only long term relationship I ever had. I thought he was perfect, absolutely perfect, and that I was the luckiest person in the world. We had two children and the world was my oyster.

    Until all the multiple affairs, heartbreak, sexually transmitted infections, gaslighting, etc, all came to light.

    It took me a long time–a long time!–to process all that. I thought he was perfect, compassionate, and loving. I thought he was “forever.” I thought we were end-game. And it seemed to me that he had “changed overnight” into a stranger using my partner’s body. A strange alien who was being unspeakably callous to me when all I did was chumpishly worship the ground he walked on.

    It’s taken time and No Contact but I can look at my relationship with him–my teenage soulmate, my first “everything”–and realize that he didn’t morph into someone new; he was *always* this person. I just spackled. Right from year one. Because I loved him like a teenager/young adult loves who thinks that they are one of the lucky ones who found their soulmate young. Oooooh boy, did I ever invest heavily into that dream.

    It ripped me apart when he walked off to live with GF#1, leaving me behind with two babies in diapers and no income. Somehow I got back onto my feet (I had babies to care for) and I got myself and my children a place to live and found myself a modest job. The kicker: after a couple of girlfriends, he came slinking back and asked for another chance. And I took him back because he was acting like my old partner! Like that sweet, compassionate young man I fell in love with when I was 17.

    Then he found GF#3/Wifetress, packed up his bags, and left me and the kids again.

    I look back over our young courtship years and realize that this cruel stranger who seems like a new person to me was always there. Yes, he hid it well but I also spackled over a lot of those red flags early on because I was 100% invested in him, in us, and in the dream of our long term relationship, white picket fences and all.

    These people don’t change overnight. But it sure seems like it, especially when it’s fresh and we’re not able to look at things clearly with the benefit of hindsight.

    As everyone else here notes, you are young. To this I also add, you are lucky. You didn’t invest in legal documents, marriage, joint mortgages, and children with this woman. You can, more or less, break cleanly from her. My cheating and remorseless XH will be in my life forever (but I do my best to minimize contact).

    I know you don’t feel lucky; you feel used and betrayed. But give it time. And don’t let her hoover you back in. I speak from experience.

    • I could have written this except I met my Mr Perfect in law school at age 23. Wee we’re married 25 years (I thought very happily) until Dday and the mask slipped and I saw the monster behind it. Literally horrifying. 7 years later and I’m still recovering.

      • Four leaf & Motherchumper99…me too on our shared nightmare. I’m 12yrs from dday & 10yrs divorce. Still processing & healing from 24yrs+ marriage to my everything who in a fingersnap became my nothing. And having a post-divorce boyfriend of several turn out to be a serial cheater hasn’t helped in my path forward either.

      • “I thought he was “forever.” I thought we were end-game. And it seemed to me that he had “changed overnight” into a stranger using my partner’s body. A strange alien who was being unspeakably callous to me when all I did was chumpishly worship the ground he walked on.”

        I could have written this about my relationship with my XW, Fourleaf and Motherchumper99, I felt the same.

        And yes, it is horrifying what we see behind the mask when it finally slips. We do not want to believe our own eyes.

        Deeply depressing to realize we devoted a significant part of our lives to someone who didn’t really exist. This is loneliness at its worst. It is like we too had not existed the way we thought we had, as if we got robbed of our own reality and it was nothing but a long lucid dream. Dreadful. I think only chumps can understand this kind of pain.

        • “Deeply depressing to realize we devoted a significant part of our lives to someone who didn’t really exist. This is loneliness at its worst. It is like we too had not existed the way we thought we had, as if we got robbed of our own reality and it was nothing but a long lucid dream. Dreadful. I think only chumps can understand this kind of pain.”

          Wow…this really hits home…that my happiness with who I thought was my soulmate wasn’t even real…an illusion because it was all a lie…it did not exist. So heart and soul wrenching.

          • Indeed, deeply depressing. I was on antidepressants for years.

            The silver lining, however, is realizing just how damn good it feels to live FW free. It’s like living in a polluted cloud your whole life and now, finally, you’re breathing fresh, clean air.

  • I think that once you are further removed emotionally from your ex, you’re going to recognize red flags that you didn’t even know were red flags at the time. It will be like someone who living in barn their whole lives and are so accustomed to the stench of manure that you think everything smells fine… until you breath fresh air for the first time.

    Similarly, your gf is too young, inexperienced, and immature to realize that she was lucky enough to find a rare and priceless gem as a teenager but threw it away because a worthless rock seemed shinier at the time. Girls like your ex are probably a dime a dozen for the man-child your ex has chosen; I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a girlfriend in every time zone.

    When or if this vacation romance burns out, you need to make sure that you are prepared for the possibility that she will come around again. She might portray herself as an innocent babe in the woods (or in this case, mangroves) who was “preyed upon” and “manipulated” by an older man. She will appeal to your love for her and your long shared history.

    I implore you to not spend another minute of your precious youth on this girl. She did you a huge favor by cutting you loose while you were young, unmarried, and not permanently attached by children. Do not risk squandering this opportunity for a fresh start.

  • Chump with lost ideals,

    It hurts to be where you are at now, but in time you will realise that you’ve dodged a massive bullet. Better to find out who she really is (as opposed to who you thought she was/she projected onto you) now that when you are married, have kids and a mortgage.

    And when it all blows up in her face, don’t let her circle back; she is clearly not worthy of you.


    • CWLI:

      Do not let her hoover back. Immature people, those who are not financially secure and a whole lot more tend to hoover back especially when they do not have someone in their lives to meet all their needs. Even if you let her come back, you know she is not coming back to stay. It is not love when someone can do thinks deliberately that they know are hurtful. Do not forget to be STI tested. Good luck to you.

  • Life is certainly going to give her kicks in the teeth if her idea of “happiness” is being with a surfing instructor who preys on tourists. If she thinks she’s the first and will be the last, she’s a dingbat. As she is only 25, maybe she’ll figure out how foolish and wrong she’s been at some point. Or maybe not.

    At any rate, it’s not your carnival, not your freak show. Some people can keep the mask of decency on for a long time, telling themselves it’s real, but then they get bored, an opportunity opens up, so a-fuckwitting they go. They suddenly (and seemingly inexplicably) want novelty and cheap thrills at any cost. It just takes time for some FWs to figure out that’s what they really want. Hell, mine took 30 years. Then there’s the other type of FW, who was screwing around the whole time. Yours sounds like the former type. Neither type is worth the steam from our piss, let alone a relationship.

    “I love you, but differently.” = ILYBINILWY, which = “Actually, I don’t love you, but I might have some use for you in the future, so I’m keeping the door open a crack by throwing you a bone.”
    My fuckwit had many versions of this one; “I love you, just not in a romantic way”, “I love you, but not like I should”, blah blah blah.
    When you hear shit like that, it’s buh-bye time.
    I know it’s awful, but you’ll recover, and coming here helps with that.

  • I love CLs advise. I especially love the part where she points out that your Cheater had a rather good run of things going well when her life became so inexplicably awful that she had to pursue SurferDude.

    Im with CL in the cranky old lady realm of “I was dealt some shit early on but it didnt make me cheat”. If she cant go on a nice trip without betraying you, she wouldn’t be a good mom if your kid got cancer.

    (I was about to list some of my hardships until I realized the specifics dont matter, the concept is the same)

    Re-read the part about this not reflecting your worth…that is important

  • I just want to join my voice to the others here who have warned you that she will probably be back. Don’t even answer her messages or open the door to her. If she forces a face to face confrontation, just be firm and polite and distant, and tell her she made her choice and you have moved on too.

    And you will move on. There’s someone out there who will be lucky to get you, and that girl will know how lucky she is. Have faith.

  • Dear CWLI, block that cheater right now. Don’t wait until a next time. Purge her from your contacts. Burn all the relationship memorabilia. Give her back anything she left at your place. Rid yourself of any reminders that she once was a part of your life. Get her gone. She will come sniffing around again. Establish boundaries so she can’t come a hoovering.

    Make her somebody that you used to know, just an ex. Then get to work making the best life you can during a Pamdemic. You’ve been given a reprieve. Grab it and go!

  • There’s a No Contact podcast “Love Chat” that seems to be aimed at younger people who have been “dumped” or “chumped”. It may fortify you during your healing and help you recognize your value. You are not Plan B.

  • When stabbed in the back, I don’t think it matters how big the knife was. Pain is pain, and infidelity caused pain that I never knew existed, that topped the list of pain I had experienced, and there is no visible physical injury as evidence. No timeline for healing like with a physical injury. No pain medication like with a physical injury.

    I spent a total of 27 years, half of my life, with Traitor X. The red flags emerged like invisible ink well after he blew up our family and left. Four years later, I can’t believe how powerful denial is. I could not be more grateful that I have been on my own, doing more work in counseling so I will learn as much as I can that will benefit me going forewarn.

    When my nose is was up against the wall, I could not see the writing on it. Only with time and distance after getting out have I become able to see more clearly what I could not see while I was in it.

    But back to knives. There is nothing to save when the person I trusted most, after what I had been through growing up, and had worked so hard to overcome, which he knew about, deliberately and intentionally chose the biggest, sharpest knife in the drawer and stuck it into my back, into my heart, into my mind, repeatedly, and handed it to whoever he was screwing around with to have a go.

    • VH i hear you on the invisible ink wearing off with the passage of time, and clues emerging in your memory. same thing happening with me. i’m one year out from THE END.

      therapy has been enlightening and difficult and mystifying. for example, in the past week i’ve done a series of worksheets looking back over my life and what emerges? my capacity to compartmentalize. i’ll fill out detailed questions and then at the end of the worksheet, a question:what are the things that bothered you most about this stage of your life? i quickly dash them off and there are 2 things in the list that i never even talked about in the worksheet. big things.

      i compartmentalize like a fucking champ.

      for me, the passage of time gives me clarity on my marriage as does understanding my lifelong habit of compartmentalizing difficult things.

      looking back, what do i see/question?
      1. little crushes
      2. patterns of employment (gets a new position and loves his boss then questions his boss then hates his boss then moves onward/upward and doesn’t talk to former bosses)
      3. mentors junior folks at work (all women) so they adore/worship him for helping them
      4. how come other men don’t like him? what’s that about?
      5. what about the time he stole the intellectual property from a think tank?

      it’s a lot of work sorting the situation and my self out but it’s worth it, for sure.

      as for knives, i’m currently writing a story and one of the characters gets knived and it’s fucking satisfying. coincidentally, the character shares the same name as my X.

        • Knifed, I think? I shared it on the New Year’s playlist thread, but Radiohead’s “Knives Out” is worth a post-chump listen. Definitely put me in the right frame of mind to leave – and stay gone.

      • OMG, Damnit…this is an EXACT copy of my experience with fuckwit:

        “1. little crushes
        2. patterns of employment (gets a new position and loves his boss then questions his boss then hates his boss then moves onward/upward and doesn’t talk to former bosses)
        3. mentors junior folks at work (all women) so they adore/worship him for helping them
        4. how come other men don’t like him? what’s that about?
        5. what about the time he stole the intellectual property from a think tank?


    • “The red flags emerged like invisible ink well after he blew up our family and left. Four years later, I can’t believe how powerful denial is.”

      I second this. It’s humbling for me to acknowledge that I got trapped in a relationship that should have been unacceptable to me.

      It’s not that I didn’t see his shitty behavior; it’s that I excused it.

      And over time, I became habituated to it.

      Here’s an example from early on in our marriage:

      I remember being perplexed that he wasn’t with me for a time while I was experiencing painful pitocin-enhanced contractions while laboring with our first child. I came up with this excuse for him (note: he worked in the hospital where I was giving birth): “Of course he’s not with my while I’m in labor. He’s busy taking care of patients. He can’t get away.”

      WTF??? I remember that when the OB saw that he wasn’t with me he said, “He’s an asshole.” I was shocked. I defended my then-husband. I was about to give birth. My relationship *had* to work. He couldn’t be an asshole. #vulnerable #sunkcostfallacy #spacklequeen. #Whatknife???

      p.s. Sometimes I think he used a dull knife for extra effect and because he didn’t care enough to sharpen the damn thing. ????

  • One red flag might be that she is traveling all over — devil-may-care — during a worldwide pandemic.

    I know a guy who keeps traveling — Puerto Rico, France, Utah — because he figures he’s young and healthy. It doesn’t even occur to him that the person he infects may NOT be young and healthy. He’s had covid twice now, and he has recovered fairly easily, but off he goes to Europe this month.

  • Hello Chump With Lost Ideals, I’m so sorry this happened. You’ve been so strong and handled it so well. Keep coming here. You’re going to be fine. I know you must be hurting so much but I promise, you will look back and think you had a really lucky escape, even though I’m sure it doesn’t feel like that right now. Keep going. You will eventually accept and understand that she wasn’t the pitch perfect person you knew. You’ll get there, you’re doing amazingly already. The pain ends. Listen to every word Chump Lady says. You were real, your love for her was real, even if hers wasn’t. Don’t change how you love. When you’re ready, love someone worthy and like the other posters have said that person will be so lucky. You take care of yourself.

  • The young lady in this story was not ready for a life long committment. She chose a very bad way to act that out.

    I don’t think it was about the character or actions of the young man.

  • Hugs. It’s hard to learn this lesson but great to learn it now rather than after a few kids are in the picture. I wish you happiness and healing.

    And to CL: #nosnoopshame – bwahahahaha. I also FOR THE FIRST TIME in my over four decades snooped in someone’s private affairs. I’m like notoriously incurious about what people don’t want to tell me which is probably part of the reason why I didn’t find out about my FWs cheating earlier. I did it because my intimate partner was defrauding me of reality.

    • CL had me at #nosnoopshame, too! With you in that whole paragraph of your comment, and I, too, ikely would have discovered something was up a few years prior, at least, if I’d been more engaged/curious about FW’s personal business and online activity. In the end, so glad I did eventually look when presented with the opportunity; would have been irresponsible NOT to.

      The policing game is the opposite of making yourself central. My disinterest in it helped me realize I was not cut out for the RIC. The comments from “betrayed spouses” horrified me, and I knew I couldn’t turn into one of them. The whole transition to transparency/trust but verify rigamarole was not only awkward and humiliating, but I genuinely didn’t care about reading someone else’s personal emails and social media messages. I don’t even have my own social media, so why would I want to wast my time in someone else’s? Also, who are chumps kidding when they think this will achieve anything?

    • Notoriously incurious…. lol. I was the one who told FW he needed to lock his phone then wasn’t aware of the moment he did. I just couldn’t be bothered. But when my suspicions were raised, I had less than zero qualms about snooping. That’s because I knew the stakes and knew myself to be “notoriously incurious” unless given real reasons to be otherwise.

      Getting rock solid proof of cheating matters in a fault divorce state. It also put me back in the driver’s seat of my own life and the kids’ futures, so I have no regrets.

  • Lost Ideals, you’ve got some great advice here. if i may add a piece of medical advice? get a complete STI panel including hepatitis. god knows how many partners a 38-year-old surf instructor in the canary islands comes into contact with each year. and his partners would come from all around the world.

    take care of yourself.

    • ☝????This.

      Reminds me of the crew at any Club Med/Club Bed back in the day. A veritable Petri dish of venereal diseases. I roomed with a guy who worked at one of CM’s ski resorts. He went to Brazil with some mates for a few weeks. A fellow American gal was phoning him in Paris, wondering who the hell I was. I guess her love affair fantasy with a Frenchman quickly fell apart. After I moved back to the States, I visited the Turks and Caicos resort. The GO (gentils organisateurs) were encouraged to approach any guests they were interested in hooking up with. That was also the first time I heard of women being roofied (sp?). Fellow guests were doing it and the staff didn’t care one iota.

      I know the heartbreak of your first love seems unbearable but you have to walk through that pain. One of life’s hard lessons. (((Hugs)))

      • Surfers, ski bums, those on the sailing circut–fun times for those that understand that. She’s not too bright if she’s hitching her star to that.

        • I have lived and traveled around the world, solo. I always remained faithful, and in fact, I appreciated the comfort having a partner gave me. I was able to open up to and appreciate everyone I met, and I wasn’t preoccupied with finding love. It was also a fantastic way to avoid unwanted attention – such as from 38-year-old surfers. Makes me think of Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused. (Actually, no qualifier needed; makes me think of Matthew McConaughey.)

          I have been hit on by plenty of guys exactly like the OP’s ex’s AP. These guys are EVERYWHERE. (And you, CWLI, clearly are not.) Even at twenty, I saw right through it and saw these dudes for the smarmy, phony man-whores they were. Anyone who falls for that is easy, available, and looking for kibble. Add a few other adjectives – dishonest, cowardly and cruel – and you have my definition of a fuckwit.

          • I know the type, I lived in Hawaii ten years, half of those years on North Shore up the hill from Pipeline, other half on a 45′ sailboat. Also did the world travel thing in my 20s with a good bit of time on the Riviera. None of those guys are in it with any chick for the longhaul, for sure. Most surf groupies know that–his ex sounds naive and immature.

  • The longer you stay no contact the more red flags you will retroactively see. This is why taking a good long break from dating is good advice. Wait till you recognize all the red flags that you may have missed. Wait till you’re angry about the way you were treated and know that you won’t accept that in future relationships. Most cheaters are great actors and the love-bombing phase seems like everything is wonderful. They occasionally let the mask slip and that’s what you need to watch out for. When you are an uneducated chump you miss the little blips of reality when they stop acting. Once you know to watch for these and recognize them for what they are you will be ready to date again.

  • It really hurts when someone you trusted and have spent years with revealed to be someone with no moral compass and a FW.

    That doesn’t reflect on YOU. That is 100% HERS to own.

    I am sorry and I am glad you have come to realize that maybe dating immediately isn’t the best idea. It takes some time to mourn what you had and what you thought you had with her. Be kind to yourself and patient too.

    Now block her phone number, email, get rid of any and all items that tug at your heartstrings (feel free to keep one photo to turn into a dart board if it helps) and remember that you did NOT “make her” cheat. She did that all on her own. Switzerland friends get the boot too.

    Again, while this hurts badly now – thank goodness there is no marriage to dissolve or children to co-parent for about two decades. Whew!

  • There’s an old fashion term the Peter Pan principle that defines people who don’t want to grow up. It was meant for men but it sounds very much like your girlfriend is that person. She just does not want to grow up. At 25 it’s about time she did.

    It sounds like you were the giver in your relationship and she was the taker. That doesn’t work out ever.

  • I’m not trying to invalidate your feelings, but at least you didn’t get legally bound and have children with this person. 10 years is a long time to extricate yourself from, but call in your other friends to help you pack and get out of there.

    And in 6-12 months later, if she comes back trying to seduce you, don’t fall for it (she may be pregnant with surfer dude or some other dude’s baby and wants your super nice, responsible self to take care of her.)

    Hang in there. No shame in getting some counseling if you feel you need it.

  • Good morning CWLI and welcome to CN.

    You dodged a bullet!
    Not to diminish your pain ( your ex is a monster ), but imagine if you were 20 years in, kids, mortgage and your ex was with the surf instructor, the guy who valeted her car once, the bartender, her dentist, six co-workers, the neighbor on the other side, all of her elementary school mates, and on and on. Do you see?
    First off. Who screws the surf instructor? Vapid people. The surf instructor cares about waves and if something tasty should happen by well he’ll just slide into that between sets. You are not that. You are better than that because you have character.
    Shut the door on that “ho” and never, ever go back because as CL says you have high trade value in the world because you have character and this lessen is not just about learning to deal with pain and rejection, but it’s about learning how to see value in others and how to cherish that.
    You got this— I guess the only solace is that your ex screwed a surfer ( as APs go they are the least offensive since you know your ex was one of many before her ), I mean my ex banged the gardener ( this dude couldn’t believe his luck )— talk about humiliation.
    Happy new year. Take care of you and don’t rush back in because you have high value for all the reasons CL states.

  • Sorry. At least you know now. Good on you checking!
    Take care of yourself and use this as a chance to learn about what you want in future relationships (reciprocity, integrity etc). Definitely a good idea to get STD testing.
    There’s lots of good advice in CL’s book and/or the archives. No contact really helps.
    PS Often cheaters do try to hoover back.

  • When I was reading this post a song started playing in my head. (This happens to me all the time, yes, I may be crazy, no, it’s not voices, I love music, it’s just part of who I am.)

    “The first cut is the deepest” by Cat Stephens, was a popular anthem when I was young. I feel it is apt, in this situation, because you don’t know what you know, until you know it. (Please forgive me this morning, Monday, and one cup of coffee are my only excuses.)

    We all forgive ourselves for early mistakes because we do not have the experience to protect ourselves from them, and all parental information is suspect when you are young. We remember “the first time” vividly because it is a transformative experience.

    When I was in college I “fell in love” with a young man who loved me, but not with the intensity I loved him. We broke up, and married other people, but his memory and the pain associated with loving him haunted me for years. When others hurt me, his memory would come calling, and hurt me again. Still, I got over others, and continued to love his memory. He was my first deep cut.

    I only “got over” all of it when I was in my 50’s and was going through an intense re-evaluation of my entire belief and value system. That was when I realized that in every instance of heart break in my life, I had actually been holding the knife, because I had been raised to believe in a whole system that was tragically flawed. It was my belief which made me so vulnerable. It is the essence of being a chump. It does not mean you were wrong for having values and character, but it does require that you recognize you have to fix your picker.

    A 38-year-old surfer/musician is not your problem. He hits on much younger women — he is his own biggest problem. She is cutting herself because she is unhappy about something that is not you. Put down your own knife, you’ve endured the first cut. You have the capacity to grow and heal and have a much better life. The fact that you wrote such an articulate post indicates you have tremendous potential.

    Pain is finite. Time heals. Fix your picker. Advice from old folks is not always suspect. Ask Chump Nation how we know!

    • Portia, you describe something that appears to be imprinting in teenagers. High school romances have some sort of draw as people age and think back to that time. It was full of euphoria and it was full of angst. You felt completely alive because you loved this person.

      Because this romance started when you were both young son neither of you had the chance to date around, fool around or look around. It’s the agony and ecstasy of teenage years to fall in and out of love, hang out with your buddies, act a little stupid, and then gradually grow up. You were cheated of that because you and she had only one relationship. That is a very important time of maturing. From 15 to 25 is when you learn many of the skills you’re going to need as an adult. Her skills seem to be working with travel agencies to travel all over the world. She does not need to settle down with anyone because she can’t settle down. That’s my take away of your description of her. You have had her on a pedestal as perfect. Please be realistic, there is no such thing as a perfect person. She has shown you many times over the years some of her personality traits, not all of them lovable. You are a good man and it sounds like you are very forgiving. Someone somewhere is going to find you a perfect person for them.

      • Hmm, you may have a point about growth experiences but I’ve heard that “committed/married too young” excuse from countless cheaters (or provided to them by enablers), even those who were pushing or over thirty when they got together with their chumps. The rationalization itself “gets old.”

        I was 19 and a student when FW was 26 and beginning his career. But, when he was mid-forties, his fellow-functional-alcoholic lesbian work wife and beard/pimp– who was blatently hustling FW for career boosts and free booze paid for out of my kids’ college funds in exchange for putting FW together with the office doorknob and flattering his drunken ego– kept sending him podcasts on “Rumspringa” or narratives of people who committed to partners in high school or college “understandably” going polyamorous and cheating on LTR.
        I worked in a top-down, male dominated field where pimping and rationale-manufacturing for rapey cheater overlords was common. I laughed out loud when FW described his work wife as a “feminist” (of the Ghislaine Maxwell school apparently).

        Naturally the podcasts that work-wife/beard lady sent, like all the Esther Perel drivel, were sponsored by online dating companies and hosted by media empires cross-invested in porn. Cui bono as they say.

        Anyway, why wasn’t it me who cheated on FW? It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. It still just boils down to character or lack thereof.

  • I’ll bet your relationship made a notoriously bumpy road into adulthood go smoother because you had each other. It’s shocking sometimes to realize that change was going to come to your life this way. But it has. One thing you’ve got going on is choice. You don’t have other mouths to feed or the emotional well being of fragile little lives to take into consideration with every decision you make. So. Sure you could go looking for red flags at this point. Maybe those friends or even just one of her circle was just a little wilder than your ex. But your ex favored them as a travel companion because well, they were good to cut up with. My ex was surrounded by cheater buddies. I never put two and two together early on. But who you hang out with is an indicator. Now that it’s over you can be all grudgy about it. Or you can treasure the best parts of the last ten years and let the ending go with a lesson learned and you still running towards your sun. You sound pretty level-headed. Every time I’ve started over, despite being painful and a bit scary, has resulted in more personal satisfaction, a better landing and more inevitable fun than I ever expected. And for future love(s) please don’t make them pay for your ex’s transgressions. I can promise you that everything’s going to be ok. It really will be ok. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon. Hugs

  • Ohhh, this is so hard. Don’t blame yourself for not seeing the red flags when you were a teenager. I married a man I met when I was 18. Married him at 21. Wayyyy too young, and I also didn’t see the red flags. It wasn’t until I had moved across the country that his mask fell, but by then I was trapped. Or at least I felt trapped. If I could do it over again, I would have called my parents to come get me after the first time he was awful to me. But I didn’t. I stayed married to that guy and had a child.

    You have the gift of youth and time. Someday, when you’re ready, there’s a woman out there who will appreciate you for who you are. Take the time to get to know yourself and what’s important to you. A partner doesn’t have to be a 1:1 match for all your hobbies, but as you saw, if one person has wanderlust and the other person is a homebody, that’s a fundamental incompatibility. Same with wanting kids or how often to go out. People think of compatibility as “we laugh at the same jokes and have the same favorite bands”, but it’s more than that. That might be enough for a friendship or even a dating relationship in high school, but it’s not enough for an adult relationship.

  • Ah honey, I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but I agree with the others who have commented. First get tested for STIs. Even if your gf believes it, she is deluding herself that she is the only one for surfer dude in a long-distance relationship. And how cliché is that? Everyone knows the surfer dude/ski instructer/lead singer can have as many groupies as he wants. Believe me she WILL come crawling back when it’s winter, he isn’t working, that sun tan has worn off and he’s broke! Please block her and do NOT listen to her snivelling regrets/apologies. Your stock trades high hon, don’t ever forget that! Hugs to you!

  • Unicornno more summed it up right here:
    “If she cant go on a nice trip without betraying you, she wouldn’t be a good mom if your kid got cancer.(I was about to list some of my hardships until I realized the specifics dont matter, the concept is the same)”

    She met surferdude during her summer vacation in the Canary Islands, invited him on her next vacation in Barcelona, and kept seeing him? How did she keep seeing him? Who’s paying for all this travel? We have a global pandemic and she’s crossing the ocean multiple times a year for vacations?

    Please get tested for STIs. And get retested in a few months. She obviously does not care about infecting others with diseases.

    You never mention that she is working either during the school year or semester breaks. Is she an heiress who’s already colleced, or are you or her parents funding her lifestyle? I don’t know how she’d be able to hold down a job if she constantly wants to get away, unless she finds a job that keeps her traveling.

    I don’t know what you mean when you say she wants to be constantly somewhere. She IS constantly somewhere. Is she really sdaying she doesn’t want to be at home, with you? This may not be her first time cheating. She may find it easier to do it away from you.

    I’m also in the “I married my highsdchool sweetheart” club, and was with him for decades. Looking back at how much I spackled, I’m sorry I didn’t heed the red flags sooner. I didn’t discover he had stolen my assets until we were past the statute of limitations to geet them back–and he may have timed his planned getaway so he wouldn’t be liable.

    My ex, too, found reasons to travel solo, first allegedly for work although I would have loved to share his hotel while he worked, then allegedly for his attempts aas an entertainer. In retrospect, he probably wanted to cheat or at least flirt, since he was refused to allow us to make these trips into family vacations, unless he needed us as roadies (workers).

    You didn’t lose your ideals. You lost your idealized view of a person you loved.

    Keep coming back here, and you will find more of the truth about her and yourself. Take your time, keep her away, and find someone who shares your values.

    • “You didn’t lose your ideals. You lost your idealized view of a person you loved.”

      This is a crucial reframing of your situation,

  • CWLI,

    Is it possible the red flag was LACK of conflict?

    Both male and female chumps typically wake up to discover they have no idea who the person they’ve been involved with actually is because narcissists tend to mirror and mold themselves to the tastes and opinions of whomever they’re targeting.

    I think mirroring goes beyond conscious deviousness in many situations and reflects dysfunctional FOO issues of unhealthy conflict avoidance and shallow climberism. They can mirror so well because they don’t know who they are themselves. The ruse of hyper-adaptability can be on a cellular level, particularly if the punishments for stepping out of line or cage-rattling in the family of origin are harsh, risk rejection, silent treatment or outrught abuse.

    I’ve wondered if straight male chumps are particularly at risk to experience shock at a presto-chango cheating partner’s sudden turnaround because cultural gender roles tend to normalize that “go along to get along” vapidness more for women than for men. Both genders can hide shallowness behind shyness or fake stoicism but masculinity requires at least periodically standing ground (even if faking it or just following some bellowing trend of canned group opinion) on this or that subject while women can more acceptably hide gaping emptiness under “demure” or “fun” exteriors.

    There might be a generational difference too as my teenaged kids tell me with millennials and Z’ers growing up with streaming porn that’s molding sexuality and concepts of intimacy and mistaking brand loyalty and trends for identity. But my kids and their friends are aware of this so perhaps that awareness is spreading and generational divides are being catastrophized in the media as clickbait.

    But age-old narc mirroring and vapidness might still be harder to detect in the under-30 set because the age of “finding oneself” has expanded through the 20s. For younger chumps, fixing pickers might be more challenging for this reason. But regardless of how someone dresses or what music they listen to or what gender they are, having character hazards having actual opinions over more than baggy vs. skinny jeans or political parties, etc. One needs character and a soul to be loyal to principles and other people. Sometimes this causes conflict and healthy or even heated debate. It risks periods of loneliness for those who stick to carefully considered guns.

    That drifty “perpetual teen” thing started in my generation. It’s not just pushing-forty surfer dudes awkwardly trolling a fancy-free lifestyle and the younger accessory-porn-pets that go with it. Now it’s account managers and ER physicians and academics, etc.
    Point being is that it looks stupider the more wrinkly the developmentally-arrested individual becomes.

    The “wall” in that shallow world is about 23. And I have the feeling that living on Planet Narc is especially boozy, harsh and aging than in boring old reliable Regular Joe and Jane land. So once Old Man and the Sea explodes into balding crinkles and drooping jowels at the stroke of midnight of his 40th birthday and starts gawking at 18 year olds, you may get some hoovering from your ex if you leave any comminication channels open. But it likely won’t be from true remorse but just fear because there’s no learning curve on Planet Narc, just progressive scarring from the double-edged daggar of objectification and a world that feels colder and colder from contact with other shallow people.

    • Well said. I had similar thoughts about the particular challenges faced by the younger generation who grew up with porn and social media, but I agree, they are also aware of a lot of issues you highlighted. So that’s a beacon of hope that shines some light on the future.

      • I’m 43 with three teens and lurk on “whippersnapper” feminist sites for the laughs and so I can talk to my kids about dating and gender politics. I see a lot of things that give me hope, like young men humorously calling out crappy behavior by men and women separating themselves from “Pickme” (or as CL calls it, “Vichy women”) culture.

        I’m starting to think that a lot of the cheater apologism and kink promotion is wag-the-dog stuff pushed by media magnates for economic reasons and doesn’t necessarily reflect what all those young’uns are thinking. It doesn’t reflect what the public is thinking either according to Gallup polls. Views of adultery are worse than ever and furthermore apparently have nothing to do with religious morality since the same people equating adultery with human cloning were also pro-gay marriage.

        If you dig under the spin, things aren’t so bad out there.

        • “ Views of adultery are worse than ever and furthermore apparently have nothing to do with religious morality since the same people equating adultery with human cloning were also pro-gay marriage.”

          Well of course it has nothing to do with religious morality, because most people without religion still live moral, ethical lives.

          And many, MANY religious people do not, despite still acting holy & giving lip service to their particular beliefs.

  • DearChumpwithLostIdeals, you will recover from this pain and sadness. Try to take each day as it comes and do for YOURSELF what you would do for a best friend who might be facing the same situation. Self care, compassion for you, healthy distractions, a therapist during this rough patch. Know thyself. Be your own best friend and cheerleader. My marriage blew up last June when I discovered 37 years of cheating and lying. I was 32 years old when I married. Liars and cheaters usually have grave emotional and mental deficits. To be attracted to someone like this proved without a doubt in my case, that I too have some glaring issues to be addressed. Family of origin problems and low self esteem and codependency. Cheating or leaving never entered my mind, I was loyal beyond reason. You are NEVER too old to learn new behaviors and coping skills. My knowledge of what does not work for me is vast. Today I’m learning healthier ways to communicate, anticipate, and regulate my emotional world as it unfolds. I’m 67 years old and it’s hard work. And worth every step I take walking forward. Thank you ChumpNation. I rely on your support every day.

  • I see how hard this is. Even when your heart feels stable, your world still rocks. You no longer know what is real and can be relied on, and what is a veil. It feels like you don’t have your sea legs.

    I was with my ex since I was a senior in college – when I was 19 – having dated no one before. 24 years later, and then down one husband and my maid of honor in a flaming tornado of what used to be my life — at that point I had no idea what solid ground felt like, who to trust, or how I was ever able going to be able to trust anyone again.

    It’s been 8 years now, I’m still recovering, but I have learned so much about myself, and I have been able to recognize those red flags that I hadn’t noticed, in that first, long-term, and What I thought was “amazing relationship.” I was talking to my so called “best friend” about how much I loved my husband 3 days before I found them together. Gross. Literally saw no red flags.

    Trust is always going to be hard for me, and at the same time, that’s okay. It never had to be so easy. Now it’s less given and more earned, and maybe that’s better? The same thing won’t happen to you again because you’re not the same person you were when it first happened. But it takes time to really figure out what lessons you learned. I spent over a year, year and a half, convinced that he had completely hidden himself. But then I would have these flashbacks of things he had said and done over the years, and think, huh. If someone had said that to me and a relationship now, that wouldn’t have been okay. Slowly, and little things, but they add up and I realize, this is what a red flag looks like.

    Different bad things can happen. But over time, you will settle into these lessons you’ve learned about trust.


    Also if you weren’t so young, I’d give you my phone number. 🙂

  • Chump With Lost Ideals, your character comes through in your letter.
    The young women who date you in the future are very lucky.
    Stay true to you.

  • CWLI, I just want to offer you some encouragement. I married my ex when I was 22. I firmly believed in my vows, that we were committed to each other and would be together forever. I valued the fact that we were building a life together, from when we didn’t even have money to scrape together for a pizza to when I had graduated law school and we bought our first house.

    Six months after buying that house, and giving me a puppy, after I had moved across the country for his “dream job,” he told me he wanted a divorce. To say I was blindsided is an understatement. I was also 30, and thought my entire life was over.

    In the next two years where I still feel like I was sleepwalking through life, I casually dated a bunch of people. I was not ready for any relationship. One guy in particular just didn’t tick any boxes for me.

    Fast forward another year, something made me think of that guy, and literally a week later I ran into him. He asked me out again, and I agreed with some reluctance because I hadn’t been into him on our first date. But I’m glad I did, because everything just clicked. We’ve been together ever since and I’m so, so much happier than I was with my ex. In retrospect, everything was about my ex to him, his wants and his needs, never mine.

    Take your time, but I have no doubt someone is out there who will love you and be a better fit for you.

    • CheesyGrits, it’s so nice to read that you escaped, took your own time to rebuild your life, and met someone worthy. Because of the timeframe, I kind of see your story as a ghost ship of my own.

      I was 30 when I first tried to break up with my ex. He was a doting, eccentric and “charming” Nice Guy – who was also an immature, self-centered alcoholic (way worse than what I knew at the time, which was bad enough) with control issues and codependency with his narcissistic, widowed mother. As he grew increasingly grouchy and unhappy, my life with him was became increasingly difficult, and I often felt sad, lonely, burdened and unfulfilled. We didn’t love where we were living or what we were doing, and I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to settle somewhere, invest in a community, family, career and home – or at the very least, go in an adventure.

      Still, I loved my ex very much, and I believed he loved me. We’d been together five years already, and I thought we had something special and true. When he became a sad sausage and begged me not to leave him, I caved. Instead, I worked abroad for a year, and with the time/space, my resolve and good instincts faded. (Ex joined for part and had the time of his life – though was an entitled, drunken fool for much of it – and when we were apart, he wrote often and sweetly, though I now am suspicious). About a year after I returned, he started (???) cheating. Fast forward seven years… Dday one – he admitted to a “fling.” Another year and a half – final dday revealed a double life with multiple partners over many years. And more hidden substance abuse.

      The moral of this story is that sunk costs never resurface. The longer you stay with a cheater, the more you lose. In addition to sunk costs and opportunity costs, there are also the accumulated costs of emotional abuse. The difference between gaining a life and finding a partner at 40 vs. 30 is immense. If I’d stuck to my guns when I first decided the relationship wasn’t acceptable to me (nothing to do with cheating, at that point) I would likely be in a very different place right now. Ten years really is a long time; it’s the OP’s entire adult life, and then some. I hope he doesn’t let her hurt him anymore.

      • Thank you, bread&roses, and thank you for your story. As much as I so, so much did not want things to end with my ex, with the benefit of hindsight I am so much happier.

        The first time my friends who knew my ex met my boyfriend, they all immediately said, oh this makes sense – you need to be with someone kind. We all need that, really!

  • CWLI,

    So sorry for your pain.

    When I think of the relationships I had when I was younger, I sometimes now wish I had caught my exes in an egregious lie. In both the long-term live-in relationships I had in my 20s, I never did even really suspect they were lying, I just felt like things were off, and like they didn’t understand how to adult or didn’t understand how to communicate.

    But I then went on to even more destructive relationships as I kept searching for the one who was going to make everything feel okay. I know now that I was conditioned at home to get harshly shut down or punished for questioning the shady things that went on, and I learned, without realizing it, to not question certain things at all, while still searching for an elusive sense of what I now know was safety and trust.

    How could my family teach me how to do due diligence with people when their relationship was held together by looking the other way, minimizing, enabling?

    It’s impossible to say, but maybe if I had seen evidence with my own eyes of early partners cheating, I may have had to really grapple with the fact that some people lie, some people just use other people, and what it looks like and feels like. And I might have done that in time to find a partner to start a family. I didn’t. With all the earnestness in the world, I kept picking users until my baby-making time ran out.

    To this day, I never caught any partner in anything more than an emotional affair, and my real healing didn’t start until a co-worker friend lied to me last Christmas about COVID-related stuff. I finally knew for sure someone lied, knew it was health-threatening and they didn’t care, knew they were being selfish and mean and didn’t care, and it was (again) the person I was closest to.

    If through this experience you learn that users exist and what it feels like to be close to them, that charm and sweetness etc are a huge part of their arsenal, and that an image of being good is a huge part of their arsenal, you will be well equipped to choose a wonderful, fun person with good character when you are ready to commit again.

  • If there’s something I’ve realised (thank you CL & CN) it’s that this has Nothing to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with her. It hurts like a mother fucker. But the pain will ease and then cease… eventually!

    Count your blessings. You invested 10 years (kiss them bye bye) you didn’t ‘waste’ 34. You have youth on your side… Embrace that! Travel. Meet people. You have no solid commitment yet. Spread those mighty wings and just like the Phoenix… Rise!! And soar. Enjoy your life fuckwit free.

    Big hugs to you

  • Thank you everyone – for all the support, all the kind words and reaffirmation, for taking the time to read about my own mess. I’m from Europe so I only just got time to go through all of the comments.

    Like many of you mentioned – I realize that I’ve got an… easier? simpler? situation to deal with. No children or shared finances. The plate could be almost clean after I get rid of this shit-sandwich.
    But as you also mentioned, that doesn’t make it any less painful. But the CN does make it more bearable.

    I’ll do my best to avoid her in all ways, despite aching (for what she was?) Already f***ed that up once, so here’s to better results next time.

    I don’t think I need to check myself for STIs, since she didn’t sleep with me ever since coming back from the vacations. (A flag that I missed. I brought it up and she mentioned “not even feeling like touching herself.” So I chalked it up to stress from working and studying at the same time. Basically handed her an excuse, thinking I was being considerate.) Then again, an STI test won’t hurt anything so I will take that advice.

    Many of you mentioned the absurdity of her falling in love (in her own words) and hooking up with a surfing instructor 13 years her senior. That one still hurts. I know it does not and shouldn’t diminish me, but the insult of it still does. I gave my personal best – I had flaws and shortcomings but I also had a lot of advances over guys my age and I gave it my all.
    And I was still tossed aside for a small time musician and surfing instructor. Worst part? She knows how girls swirl around him. She knows he hooks up all around, he even hooked up with her classmate before. She stated so in their conversation. But she is “just happy for being with someone who will love her for her real self.” Initially I was hurt by this too – I loved her for the way she was, good and bad (within limits.) “The small things are part of the package – nobody is perfect.” I thought.
    Now I realise that’s not what that means – she is happy being a skank with a skank, I guess. Even now writing that hurts me, because I would never say that about someone I love(d).

    Also she told him very clearly several times she was done with me (and never told me that either. Cake, i guess?) “I know if I told him my issues, he would try and things would be nice for half a year. But I don’t wanna be just nice, I want a relationship I can be envious of!”
    That one also hurt but I guess it shouldn’t – that’s her vapid view of how being in a relationship is. She wants the constant sparkles.

    Phew, I think I am ranting out. Again, thank you everyone for the love and support and helping me. Let me also say you have my utmost respect, all of you – again, I “have it easier”. And although we are all Chumps, I have to give props to all of you taking care of your kids, handling divorces and financial issues on TOP OF HEARTBREAK. Just incredible, mighty heroes all of you (and hopefully me too, from now on.)

    • Anybody that wants others to be envious of them (their looks, accomplishments, life, etc.) is a narcissist at their core. You nailed it-“she wants the constant sparkles”. Or as Tracy named it “ego kibbles”.

    • I used to play back some of the things my ex said. I came to find out that he was someone who had used a lot of half-truths over the years, in addition to many outright lies.

      I didn’t know this until after I learned of his cheating. He was just so good at playing a part, saying whatever he needed to say to get me to believe he was an ethical person and wonderful partner; or later, saying whatever he felt like saying to blame-shift no matter how much it might hurt me. There was SO MUCH bullshit.

      Bottom line: don’t believe the things she says. It’s like improvisational theater. Stuff will come out of her mouth off the top of her head that is self-serving and all too often unrelated to truth. Don’t take it personally. She will bend and twist things to make herself feel good about her shitty behavior, without regard to your feelings.

    • One more thought. You do need to get checked for sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately no test for men for h.p.v., only treatment of warts that appear. H.p.v. increases one’s chance of contracting head/neck/throat cancer. Also there’s now more research linking some untreated s.t.d. to later risk for prostatitis and prostate cancer. Men can be asymptomatic carriers and infect future partners.

    • Get the STI test done anyway because this is the only instance of cheating you know about. Look at it this way, it provides you with peace of mind.

  • Dear Chump with Lost Ideals,

    please don’t give up your ideals, they seem sincere and healthy and the world could use more of it. You were deceived by an apparently near flawless partner, but that is more common than you think, just look around (I needed this site to realize that). Some people are just that great at concealing their true colors. Some of them get to camouflage for an incredibly long stretch of time, you would be surprised.

    My story has some similarities with yours, and I will say a few words about them that I wish someone told me or that I paid attention to.

    a) Being entangled with someone from the teen years on – check

    We are too inexperienced at this point of our lives to make accurate character assessments. It is not your fault you didn’t see red flags, you just grew accustomed to them, the fish doesn’t see the water. In fact, you were growing up together and getting molded by your mutual demands into compromise versions of yourselves. Only some people don’t do compromise. They hold onto the relationship while underhandedly beating you into submission by neglect, deception and emotional and sexual withholding. They train us into thinking we need them (even to validate our ideals), and of course this is not true. But I get the feeling and this is something you will figure out for yourself in due time. You’re being still young is a great advantage.

    b) unknowingly pick-me-dancing – check

    Been there, done that. A lot. Upped my game constantly during my 20 years marriage aiming at my partner’s never achieved satisfaction, up to the point of losing not only my ideals, but the very notion of who I am and what I want (I am currently working on that). Now, with hindsight, I wonder how many of the chaotic situations I lived through involved infidelity on her side. But that never crossed my mind before, and that leads me to the next point.

    c) our partner looks flawless – check (not exactly)

    Mine was the complete opposite of your: stern, emotionally and sexually withholding and openly critical of me. I took that as aspects of her solid morals, grounded on religious foundations (she is a Jesus cheater). She had no time or inclination for soft emotions. Life is hard. I remember being a little weepy one occasion I had to leave her and my small children to work at another city for a somewhat long stretch of time and she scolding me in front of the kids for that “weakness”. She is strong. But not the kind of strong we would like to be ourselves. She showed the same kind of “strength” when I was weeping, devastated by her betrayal and she just patted my shoulder and said something to the effect of “cut it out!” Yesterday I was reading comments on this site about giving and receiving back rubs. I couldn’t count how many full body massages I gave my XW because she was soooo tired. Guess how many back rubs I’ve got in 20 years of marriage. You probably guessed it right. But I digress. What I am trying to say is that a cheater’s uncompromising attitude gets often interpreted by us chumps as a token of their perfection. And they do invest a significant ammount of work and craft onto their magnificent facades. Don’t beat yourself up too much for falling for that. But learn to take people too shiny or “perfect” with a grain of salt from now on.

    d) “I am not sure what I want right now” – check

    Run to the hills. She is playing with you. You are plan B and she is biding her time to see if the thing with the surfing instructor has any future. Cheaters are delusional, but usually not to the extent of disregarding their own best interest altogether for the sake of a fantasy. You were her safety net.

    Please don’t let her hoover you back. No contact seems to be feasible in your case and is the best tool you have (I wish I could go NC).

    Take your time to grieve, heal and then go back to dating with your new, painfully acquired relationship and character assessment skills.

    Wishing lots of strength and healing for you in this rough patch of life. But I bet you will be okay on the other side of this very, very soon.

    • This hurts like hell and will take time to overcome, it’s not at all meant to be dismissive to make mention of your age or life stage.

      She was your first love and 10 years is a long relationship, but if this is who she is, you really are fortunate (in a horrible way), that you still have amazing life experiences ahead of you that she won’t be destroying the memory of another 10 or 20 years down the road.

      If you take your time to work through this, a much more rewarding partnership awaits you. I was 46 and had spent half my life with my ex before he up and left for someone else. It took 3.5 years for me to actually start living again…at 50. Financially ruined, with two kids that were devastated…it hurt that the person who shared the fondest memories of my children growing up, loved ones that another partner could never meet because they have passed, a first house, pets, a second house, trips, special events, all of those precious experiences were shared with the wrong person.

      I’m sorry that you are going through this, but I’m glad you will not have to wrestle with so much water under the bridge and still have the chance to share life with someone who will cherish their journey with you.

  • I wish my ex had dumped me for another person when I was 25, not 47

    Two adult children now live in the misery of his continued selfishness and spite

    But at any age it hurts like hell. The person you assumed had your back ….. did not

    • Yep, the sooner you part with a liar/cheater the better. The sunk costs increase each year or decade or whatever. There is absolutely no integrity in being a cheater and a liar. You are a person of integrity and deserve a good partner. No matter how hard this is, you will be better off with someone with integrity in the long run. People with integrity do not lie and cheat. They have their partner’s back. Even if you could forgive this and move on with her, you may only know a fraction of what happened and decades later you will not have forgotten this. I also think that a cheating X should leave the person they betrayed alone after the breakup. No hoovering; it is definitely not good for you and is actually an insult when they start calling and coming around. Why would the betrayer think it is appropriate to twist the knife in the betrayed’s back. The betrayers are just looking for Plan B until the next sparkly thing catches their eye.

    • “But at any age it hurts like hell. The person you assumed had your back ….. did not”

      Yep sooner would have been better for me, even if he had dumped me right after my son graduated from HS that would have been better. At least I would have had almost three more years of making decisions on truth. There was a good promotion I turned down because he didn’t want me to have to travel.

      I do believe that his initial plan was to drop kick me as soon as son graduated, however in the spring of my sons junior year of HS, fw got embroiled in an election to oust the sitting mayor, he needed me and the clean family image to get that done. The new guy running for mayor really liked me, and I did a lot of work for his campaign as requested by fw.

      Then once that was done he needed to hang on to me for a couple more years to secure his promotions. He started the year of discard almost immediately after his promotion to captain.

      The last year we were together he was living it up and ignoring me except when he needed me to show up at an event. In hindsight it was all so clear. While in it, I was just desperately trying to figure out why he was being such an ass.

      I was able to laugh about it a bit after we had been legally separated for about 8 months, whore had her engagement ring and she was getting ready to step in and reap the rewards of what I had helped him build. He got busted, put back out on the street. Mayor wanted nothing to do with him.

      That transition from whore to wife wasn’t quite as seamless and they had anticipated. No I don’t think of it as Karma, just the result of really bad decisions made by a lying con man. and his co-conspirator. It was good enough for me.

      Still I was 40 when he finally got exposed, and I am grateful for that. I was still young enough to build a great career.

  • I didn’t get to read through all the comments but I did see that this couple did not have a meeting of the minds on whether or not to have children. Klootzak dangled the prospect of children before me and strung me along for years. I wanted children and he was “unsure” and “didn’t have time to think about it” every time I asked. Had he been honest early on, I could have found someone else and moved on. But he teased me with it (“This next car we buy should be bigger than our current roadster in case we need room for a baby stroller!” And then he would continue to say he wasn’t sure and I needed to continue birth control, even though doing so was creating a lot of medical problems for me.) By my late 30s, I gave up on becoming a mother. I grieved. I told myself to just be grateful to have a husband and let go of my dreams of having a child.

    Now, when I gave up on my hopes of motherhood, I decided that if I would not be a mother, that I should live it up. In hindsight, I was filling the hole I felt in my life with everything else. I did all the things I knew I couldn’t have done had I been tied down as a mother. I worked long hours. I traveled every chance I got. I took classes and learned to scuba dive to please FW. I wanted very much to be a mother but I was told no.

    I say all this because I did see multiple comments that the FW OP dealt with was not stable or not mother material because she loves to travel. Well, I don’t hold the travel against her. She was in a long term relationship with someone who wasn’t so sure about kids. She was living it up because just maybe she was doing it while she could (before settling down and having kids) or had given up on being a mom and said to herself that if she couldn’t have that she would have this.

    Obviously, she handled it like a FW by picking up a surf instructor. She could have been mature enough to end her relationship with OP. She could have talked to him about seeing a counselor. Exit affair? Yeah, maybe, but still the action of a FW. Immature and wrong.

    When I was in this position of traveling, I went with married girlfriends to Las Vegas or to a spa. I wasn’t trolling for guys. Klootzak decided a few months before I turned 40 that he was ready to be a father. I moved heaven and earth to schedule IF treatment and was fully ready to be a mother. I was more than happy to stop traveling and be the mother I had dreamed of being. I finally felt like things in my life were going right when I was pregnant and had seen no red flags that klootzak had been cheating since my last D-day 2.5 years before when we went to counseling with the RIC. And then when I was 7 months pregnant with my dream come true pregnancy, I learned it was all a lie and klootzak had continued cheating the whole time.

    I realize I went down the path of unraveling OP’s FW’s skein, but I hated to see the desire to travel a lot as an indicator someone is not stable wife and mother material. When I was 25, I flew off to London for 2 weeks and stayed in youth hostels to afford it. Travel is a pleasure to enjoy if you can afford it and I’m not jealous of anyone who takes the opportunity to go every chance they get. Someone who enjoys travel a lot is not a red flag that someone isn’t good spouse and parent material. Her awkwardness, lies, and fucking strange were the problem.

    • Oh wow MrWonderful’sEx, I think I’ve often read your comments but never the full story. That is very painful. I hope you’re enjoying your motherhood nonetheless. (I am 39 btw, in midst of grieving about not becoming a mother.)

      Yes I agree it can be healthy to travel when you’re young. Life kind of made me do it, as I had bad relationships and stayed single a lot. But I think it was also me not being emotionally ready to settle down. We each have our paths. Not wanting to settle down at 25 is understandable, yet not an excuse to fuck a surf instructor behind the back of a stable and loving partner.

      • I agree completely. With my FW it’s a confusing mix however. All these years she presented the “I definitely want to settle down after uni and getting a job, have children.” I was afraid to promise her something I wasn’t 100% confident I could hold up to in the future. 3 years ago we even broke up and separated, amicably, due to this. “Right now, no. But I love you and I know these things change for people and especially for men. But right now I can’t promise you that.” was my take.

        Half a year later she came back and wanted to get back together because she missed me. I was hesitant “but the situation hasn’t changed”. She said I was right and there was no need to force it right away, before she even wants to have kids in the near future anyway.

        This year she again asked me about it, we had a fight that I didn’t handle well (I felt pressured and afraid again.) When she came back from her vacation and I started noticing the distance, I realized how much I valued her and realized that is a valid enough reason too – to have children as a common life project with somebody you love. So I told her I made up my mind and want kids with her. She brushed it off as unlikely that I changed my mind really, after this long.

        She was wrong but at that point it was a moot point anyway – she had already chosen to discard me, so it was just inconvenient to her. That added a whole level of difficult for me – to have this huge question and long-time insecurity resolved only for it to not matter. At least I know now – it’s just a matter of hopefully building that love with somebody new, some day.

        The real absurdity? Does she think she has better “settling down and having kids” expectations, with a guy like that? Maybe.
        Maybe not. Maybe things changed for her and now she just wants a life of hoeing around like that. (She did start hanging out a lot more with uni classmates and friends who have that lifestyle. Looking back, that could have been a red flag. But to me it wasn’t – I have great friends who drink like CRAZY and yet I don’t drink – so to my mind it was simple “You can hang out with people without mirroring them”.)

        It doesn’t really matter what her mind is like atm (besides a great mystery and curse). Your messages just got me to vent this out too, so thank you for giving me the space.

        • Hi CWLI, thank you for your comment. That’s an interesting swirl to the story. The question to have children or not is a very big one that can cause a lot of pressure (if by chance you happened to see some of my comments in previous posts – this also was central between me and my fw – in my late 30s/his early 40s, mind you!).

          Perhaps your ex was holding grudges and went on a self distruction tour? But would that change things for you? No matter all the advice that is given here with the best intentions, only you will know what is best to do. I do think taking distance and going no contact is a healthy choice though. It will allow you to take your life back on track and see things more clearly. In my case, deep down I new fw was not a good person for me, but I was emotionally attached and really needed to cut ties and work on myself. Give yourself some time, too.

          Once again, you’re lucky because you’re still very young. I’m sure there will be wonderful women who will be very happy to settle down with you, is that’s what you want. Good luck!

  • I had no red flags either, Chump with Lost Ideals. I made it well into my 40s as well as 20 years of marriage – and three children – with zero red flags. Finding out the husband I adored was boinking my friend in the back of his Civic on the weekly was a complete shock. He was a genuinely good guy (or so I thought). Everyone loved him. Everyone. I’m three years out from discovery and it’s still hard to comprehend. So sorry for your pain, young friend. Hang in there.

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