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Schadenfreude and the FW Whisperer

Dear Chump Lady,

I know by now you think you’ve heard it all, but I’m going way out on a limb and guessing you haven’t heard this one.

When I first met my FW, he would be the kind of guy you’d describe as an “absent-minded genius”. Brilliant in some aspects, and spectacularly clueless in others. But he didn’t seem to grasp simple things like “how to use a cordless phone” or “why you shouldn’t pour hot wax down the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink.” In most basic terms, you or I could see a row of dominoes and understand that knocking over the first one will cause the last one to fall. He just didn’t have that. He could be brilliant in other ways, and unbelievably charming … but dysfunctional on a very basic level.

There’s no big spoiler alert, since I’m here writing to Chump Lady. We know what happened: he was absent-minded not because he was thinking great thoughts, but because he was immersed in a sexual double-life.

In his case, he was gay (or as he insisted on calling it, “bisexual”). He needed me to be the Fuckwit Whisperer, but I never truly had a partner in my husband. I couldn’t have left him alone with a sick child, for example, because there was just no telling what he would do. I couldn’t depend on him for anything. He was great at getting jobs, but terrible at keeping them.

I never did the “pick me” dance. By the time I found out about the cheating, even before I found out how much he was cheating and how much of MY MONEY he was paying to cheat, I was done being his babysitter.

Our divorce was final last January, and I’m working my way to Tuesday.

After I left, he got a roommate (okay that’s odd for a 66-year-old, but remember, he really can’t survive on his own). Apparently the roommate had a pet snake (not that there’s anything wrong with that) which was fed dead rats (it’s the circle of life) which were kept frozen in the freezer (again, this man is no longer my problem – just wanted to get that out there while you go back and re-read). So remember: I am no longer The FW Whisperer, and I think what’s happening is that my adult daughter is being hoovered into the role. However, at the moment there is nobody to advise FW that the fridge needs to be cleaned out once in a while.

My daughter, who is staying with me over the holiday, told me last night that the roommate had moved out, but a short while ago FW called her. He’d decided he needed to cook something for dinner, and discovered an unidentified piece of something frozen in the freezer. FW wasn’t “sure” whether the mystery meat was a bit of chicken or not, so he tossed it in a skillet with some olive oil, well-seasoned with salt, pepper, and assorted spices. As it cooked, he tasted it to correct the seasonings. Also as it cooked, it gradually thawed and uncurled from the frozen lump it started out as.

Chump Lady, I know this sounds made-up, but it’s not. This is exactly how my daughter described it to me. He eventually realized he’d better throw it out – but not before he’d tasted it.

Is it “Tuesday” for me if I’m secretly delighted? Should I just sit tight and trust my daughter will know not to get sucked into the role of FW Whisperer? I know I shouldn’t click “send” but could I at least imagine what I WOULD say if I weren’t the bigger person here?

Best regards,


Dear Walkbymyself,

What would you say to him? Did you pair it with a Sauvignon blanc? There is no insult you could add to such stupidity. The man ate a rat. He is his own worst punishment.

Is it “Tuesday” for me if I’m secretly delighted?

Schadenfreude has no season. I think you’re asking me if you can feel meh (or Tuesday, “the day the pain stops“) and delight in his suffering simultaneously. Yes, you can have contradictory emotions about someone who harmed you. However, I do think as time passes and meh takes over, his idiocy won’t spark any feelings in you, other than confirmation that he is an idiot.

These are still pretty early days. First year out of a divorce. Ending your long career as the Fuckwit Whisperer.  Probably a natural curiosity to see how he’s getting on in the world (or if he’s failing spectacularly). And the anxiety that your daughter will fill your chaos janitor shoes.

Let’s tackle that last one. It’s a classic Bred-With-A-Fuckwit dilemma. You escaped, but your child still has to navigate this mess. You can tell her it’s not her job to manage her father, but she had 20+ years of watching you do exactly that. Cover for him, clean up after him, manage his life.

Which is an interesting dynamic. On first blush, how incompetent he is! Needing all this hand-holding. On closer inspection, however, how powerful he is to enlist all these underlings. Czars aren’t cooking their own dinners or dealing with sick children. That’s for the little people.

An “absent-minded” genius is still supposed to be considered a genius. Someone singular and superior. Is he actually forgetful, or have you spackled? Cue the Dr. Simon axiom, “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.” He probably knows it’s not a good idea to pour hot wax down a drain, but whatever happens next won’t be his problem. He disagrees he should be accountable. So, he can do any fool thing he wants. Clean up crew in aisle 6…

Actual absent-minded people (I live with a couple), compensate for their deficits with sticky notes and phone reminders. They might ask for help with Things That Baffle Them, but they push through uncomfortable frustrations. They don’t flop on a chaise lounge and ring for the maid.

I’m sure it comes as a rude awakening for your princeling ex to have to adult now. Perhaps the roommate left because he didn’t want the job. (He must’ve left quickly… he forgot his rats.) So now your ex is turning on the Sad Sausage self-pity channel to tell your daughter, I’m all alone, silly ol’ me, I ate a rat!

(Unsaid: “Come clean my refrigerator and cook my meals.”)

He’s ringing that service bell. Where is my Fuckwit Whisperer? Come at once! Before I do something really calamitous! (Dude, you set the bar at eating a rat. Get a med-alert bracelet.)

Should I just sit tight and trust my daughter will know not to get sucked into the role of FW Whisperer?

I’d have a conversation with her, but I’d avoid putting her in the position of having to defend her father. (Look, she knows he’s hopeless. She told you that story.) Make it about you, a subject you can speak of with authority.

“Daughter, that’s a funny (disturbing!) story. In the past, I probably would’ve stepped in and managed that crisis for your dad. But I learned (through therapy/painful experience/the warnings of a thousand Redditers) that’s not my job. And please know, it’s not your job either. Your father is a (nuclear physicist/master plumber/insurance adjuster), he’ll figure things out.”

It’s never too late to start modeling sane parenting. I have boundaries now! Watch and learn!

And then I permit you to have a private shiver of schadenfreude.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Oh my dear, there are lots of us FW Whisperers out there! My mother used to be one..not to this degree…to step-daddy, who feigned incompetence on the homefront, but brilliant above everyone else at work. When mom got out, he tried to get me to take over. When I didn’t, he blasted it on social media that he was disowning his stepdaughter. I haven’t responded to his declaration because I’m at meh. A previous co-worker widowed early twice (I think the poor men died because they were worn out) tried to turn me into her FW Whisperer. Another feigned incompetencer. I dumped that friend when she told her new beau in front of me, that she was more independent than me…more independent to manipulate people into serving her needs, is what she really meant.
    Say NO to FW Whispering! is the tshirt you need to get your daughter. Or at least a good convo like CL suggests. And toast the new year & your freedom with that sauvignon blanc & a giggle over poached mice!

  • #Sometimes — “A Rat Burger Once a Week is Good Therapy”

    There was an episode on Bones, where a “divorce” lawyer’s bill to his client was so large, to pay it off — The Chef would prepare a “Rat Burger” once a week. It was Hysterical!!

    Walkbymyself — I Just Had my UnHusband tell me about getting a “Real Job” with “Benefits” for me and my sons.

    Compared to the Job I have where I get to Leave everyday when school lets out!!

    Then he Yells about the Fact I am “Not Communicating”!!!

    I Laufed!!

    • It’s beyond asinine and childish to behave that way, he deserves to eat rat! I would often hear “I’m not good at ironing (or fill in vacuuming or laundry or crying babies or making beds or fixing things or lawn care or shopping….”. I bought that crappy excuse till I realized it was manipulation to get out of anything that wasn’t fun.
      One week away from official divorce- two years in court. Five years of him cheating.
      Waiting impatiently for Tuesday.

      • Congratulations on being so close to free and at least that much closer to meh.

        Ever notice how the memories of absurdity start pouring in thicker and thicker as you finalize your escape? Just in case you had any doubts that splitting was the right thing to do, there are your basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex serving up flashback reminders of strategic incompetence, screaming mimi manbaby tantrums, preventable disasters and precious things lost due to neglect/sabotage.

      • Exactly, and they somehow magically manage to figure out how to successfully cheat but they can’t handle the other stuff…..

  • Walkbymyself, thank you for providing CN enough laughs to last the whole of 2022.

    I wonder why room mate moved out?

    And I love your take on the chump dynamic: FW whisperer. That fit me like a glove. Even made me shiver.

    Your ex is not absent-minded or clueless. He is just entitled and spoiled.

    Yes, we must use these opportunites, not matter how hysterically funny, to parent. The other day my ex-FW sent a thousand dollars to a ‘friend in need’, but it was a scam. Son was so upset for his father I kept wondering about how much in debt he must be. I told son: “That’s what your father gets for being so damn stuck-up (or busy cheating, but I left this out) he can’t bring himself to read the news. I would never fall for that, so don’t worry about me.”

    • “Entitled and spoiled” combined with feigned incompetence is a good recipe for entanglement.
      Reeks a bit of the covert narcissist playback, doesn’t it.
      Last thing Cheating bastard ex put in an email during property settlement negotiations was “I would hope you will be open to helping with things”
      I think CL’s UBT machine would spit out “you are still going to be doing my bidding, right?”

    • Oh my, he fell for the friend-suddenly-asking-for-money scam! Thousand bucks! Not in rat-eating stupid league but still… If only it had been the good old kidnapping scam, maybe we could pity him a little.

  • He’s practicing what’s called “strategic incompetence” and it’s extremely common (although cooking the rat is strategic incompetence at an Olympic level). If he’s that intelligent, he knows full well not to pour hot wax down the garbage disposal. It’s just the closest receptacle and he doesn’t give a fuck. He’s also not mystified by the cordless phone. He just didn’t want to make the phone call.

    Wife asks husband to load the dishwasher. Husband loads the dishwasher like an idiot. Wife asks husband to go to the store, and even sends him with a specific list. Husband returns with nothing on list, but manages to bring back five bags of Doritos and a twelve pack of PBR. Wife asks husband to do a load of laundry. He shrinks the clothes. Wife asks husband to do any basic household task that he deliberately asses up or just flat out refuses to do, with the result being that wife just does it herself to avoid the hassle, and husband keeps acting like a self-centered man-baby who expects someone else to clean up the messes and care for his needs.

  • I spent my married life as fuckwit’s Chaos Janitor (love that term) but it was even worse after we moved to French-speaking Europe because “you speak better French than I do”. He was entitled to free lessons, daily, and on work time. Lived here for around 25 years and still couldn’t string two sentences together. He’s back in the States now but I’m sure he’s fucking up just as much as he ever did here. Wonder how Schmoopie’s liking sorting his crap out in a country where he DOES speak the language and living just two miles from where he grew up! With any luck he will have eaten ratburger too! But I agree, this post will be hard to push off the number one spot in 2022. Thank you so much for the laugh so early on in the year!

  • My favorite term that I found on this site is “weaponized incompetence”. They all seem to have it. Mine could not fluff a pillow, fold a shirt or do any task well and to completion. I actually said to him that he screwed things up just so I would never ask him to do them again.

    He claimed to be good at interior painting, until I showed him all of the spatter on the woodwork. God forbid he did the necessary prep work or carry a wet rag!

    I too worried about ever leaving my young sons alone with him. He once took one son to a hockey tournament in New Hampshire and didn’t check that my son brought home his equipment or clothes!

    Another time, he had both sons (who were at an impressionable age, about to become drivers themselves) and he missed an exit on a highway. Rather than continue the additional 22 miles to the next exit, he made a UTurn. Well, the median actually swallowed the SUV and he caused $8000 in damage. Thank goodness the boys were okay.

    In hindsight, he was only good at cheating, lying and stealing!

  • Walkbymyself,

    In your shoes, I would have a chat with your daughter and explain to her – nicely – that she is not responsible for saving her father from himself; that is his problem and his problem alone.

    I’ve had similar conversations with my three (now adult) children about heir mother, whose “weaponised incompetence” is frequently of a financial nature. She has told all three of them that they will have to look after her in her old age, stating that she got “scr*wed in the Divorce.” Plot Spoiler: she didn’t get scr*wed, she just didn’t get what she demanded (ie a settlement in excess of what she’d have been entitled to if the kids had gone with her instead of staying with me) and then compounded the error by spanking the settlement with the help of her AP.

    I have told them that they have no legal obligation to do so and that they – and not she – get to decide the extent to which they are morally obliged. Ultimately the choice is theirs and not mine, but I doubt that they will look too benevolently upon a woman who couldn’t even be bothered to make arrangements to see them this Christmas despite her only living 50 miles away.


  • Walkbymyself: You seem hilarious and I bet your daughter is too. I wish we could be friends.

    Here is where my mind went: Did FW actually make this up as a way to gain sympathy from your poor daughter? I feel so bad that he’s trying to manipulate her. She deserves so much better. Why can’t the other woman teach him how to avoid consuming rats? Where did she go?

    FW seems like the absolute worst, but don’t feel bad. They really hide themselves very well, and I know the dynamic well. Congrats for getting out when you did.

    Hopefully your clueless FW will give everyone some well-deserved peace by absentmindedly walking off of a cliff. (Sorry, not sorry).

    • They hide themselves from the OW, too. Once we are out of the equation, and the true Fuckwit shows up, the OW runs away! Happened to my FW (although he did live in her basement for a couple of years ????) She made him leave.
      I can totally see my idiot frying up a rat, and then telling people about it. Gawd, they’re unbelievable.

    • I read all the comments to see whether anyone else thought that dumb narcissist didn’t eat a rat. What he did do was lie about eating a rat (for attention/sympathy/caretaking/manipulation/fun) which is somehow so much more pathetic.

      • If one of my shitty exes called me up to tell me they ate a rat out of carelessness I would be ROARING with laughter at what a dumbass they were and would have no problem telling them I thought they were a moron.

        I mean, they dated me, they should already KNOW I’m not gonna pat their ass and make noises of sympathy.

    • My FW is trying to get our 16 year old daughter to be my replacement for adulting (she told him no). I found myself wondering where the OW is? Why isn’t she taking care of him? They are still together 3 years later but they do not live together. My guess is she has no idea how inept he really is because he’s good at hiding it. He looks shiny and put together but he sucks at being an adult.

    • I just want to note that there doesn’t appear to have been an OW in this case, but OM(s). Just as a numbers game, it will likely be difficult for a 66-yo male FW to find a male life companion, if he didn’t have the Grace and Frankie (I hate that show) option of riding off into the sunset with his secret business partner/lover. Not that he *couldn’t* find such a companion, just that it’s way, way more unlikely than for heterosexual affairs.

  • How many have found that the schmoopies that your ex’s ended up leaving for are themselves “learned helpless” women?

    My daughter, who is 11, recently remarked that whenever they go over to the other woman’s house, it’s usually because daddy has to do something for her. Move something, put something together, hang something. She once was “daddy’s assistant” in putting together a new bed for OW and disgusted how the OW did nothing for her own bed.

    For a while, I maintained communication with the ex-husband of the OW (unknown to our cheating ex’s), and we would compare notes about what our kids shared. He told me how the OW would never attend the kid’s hockey games on her own, always brining her parents or a cousins. Then, it became my ex as the constant companion. There was my ex, who couldn’t care less about hockey, missing Father’s Day with his own kids but attending the games of some other woman’s kids. But, hey, he is saving the damsel in distress.

    Where was this guy during our marriage, getting things done, and being all knight in shining armour?

    There are definitely people who seem to have a knack at always finding others to do things for them. Whether it’s a man who finds that woman to mother him, or the woman who finds that man to rescue her.

    Wish I had a few drops of that “helplessness,” so that I could attract some guy to come and “rescue” me (ahem…do things for me). I got a kitchen that needs to be gutted and I need some electrical done (hehe).

    • Eh, you really don’t want to be with the kind of man who gallantly rides in to help the ‘poor, weak, helpless little wimminz’, because they value the idea of being a white knight more than the reality of treating a woman like a fully competent human being.

  • Oh, yes, I recognize the weaponized incompetence very well indeed. In fact the rat story reminded me of something my ex did that I did my best to forget while I was still married to him. I was out of the country with our oldest daughter who had just graduated from high school. He told our second daughter, who was probably 17 at time, that he brought home carrot cake and she could have a piece. Never mind that she’s deathly allergic to nuts and the damn cake had nuts on it. So, yeah, he nearly killed one of our kids because he’s a narcissistic idiot. There’s a reason that daughter has been no contact with him for years and years.

  • LOL all along the reading and can’t seem to stop any time soon; was at first curious about where CL’s cartoon would fit with the story but then… Ugh! ????

  • Ok that made me a bit gaggy. It is a real predicament when you need to earn your children their father comes with a warning sign. You think they’d seen enough to know better than to fall for the incompetence scam – but the parental bond is different. And even having seen all the the goofy stuff they still feel the need not to let their parent down. You walk a fine line but keep your warnings matter of fact. But be constant in issuing warnings. Because on top of all his disguises, he’s a liar and I wouldn’t be surprised if the eating rat story was just made up. This guy is a master at pulling heart strings and getting rescued. I mean, this is probably not a person who would ever really cook for himself if there’s a 7-11 within a ten mile radius.

  • Wow – I had pushed away memories of FW’s incompetence because I was grieving. I re-wrote the story into “we were each good at our own things, we complimented each other!” And I focused my angst on the replacement appliance/OW already located.

    But now I remember the stress and tension of knowing things would be lost, broken or forgotten. And, in some sort of premonition, deciding to not confront or shame him.

    I have lived on my own for several years and solved the (very few) life problems with careful planning, hiring professionals or learning new skills.

      • Yep. Every time. And especially if they were things with sentimental value that were given to me by friends or family and not him.

      • My ex is hasty and reckless and overconfident, so he screwed up his/our stuff plenty. When he made a mess of something (like the time he started a chimney fire by arrogantly putting a pizza box in the fireplace as my mom and I protested, costing my parents $5,000 – though my mom insisted I keep this a secret so he wouldn’t feel terrible), he’d cry and be “hard on himself,” usually resulting in me pitying and comforting him. Life happens. My pity turned to frustration at the end when I saw the pattern and grasped how he undermined my confidence and micromanaged and excluded me from anything significant (when in reality I was often better at things than he was).

        But to answer your question, Attie: yes! Also toward the end, I came to believe it was more than a coincidence when FW broke *my* things (pottery I’d made or loved, tools, clothing, etc). Sometimes he’d say the animals had done it, or he’d outright deny, but it was too weird and now I see his excuses were blatant gaslighting. Fucked up skein, for sure. The punitive BS – breaking things and worse psychological games that I now see were intentional and gave him pleasure – was gross to come to terms with, but it was part of seeing my ex for who he really was. Is. Probably a sociopath. These FWs are objectively no prize, which makes the Pick Me dance even more mind boggling!

  • No ones gonna mention the bi erasure? No? Alright.

    I was the daughter of a cheater that had to figure out how to take care of himself, and I had no inclination to do it for him. My favorite story was when he bought groceries for the first time and told me “look! The cheap steak sauce is just as good as the brand name, and costs $2 less! Your Mother always had to have the expensive brand!”

    I told him with glee “No, she bought the cheap stuff. She kept refilling the same A1 bottle for 12 years because you threw a temper tantrum about her getting the cheap stuff and you never noticed.”

    I never saw him to sheepish. I enjoyed that. The daughter will figure it out like I did.

    • It’s not bi erasure. You may not be aware that many closeted gay husbands use “I’m bi” as a ploy to keep their wives as beards/wife appliances when their secret lives come to light. A lot of women have lived through years–decades!–of being refused sex or conditioned by criticism not to expect it. (“I don’t want to have sex with you because you are no longer attractive because you’ve gained weight…you’re nursing a baby…[fill in the bagged salad excuse].)

      • So true. Mine had withheld sex from me for over two decades, and when I finally confronted him he responded “I have always known that I was bisexual.” As if (1) having a wife you don’t have sex with makes you bisexual; and (2) bisexuality is a perfectly good excuse for infidelity.

    • No, the “bi” thing was not overlooked; it’s just that the other behaviors were the main focus of her post.

      As a Straight Spouse, one who was married to a gay man in hiding (not denial) for decades, I can assure you that many use the bi label as an excuse for using you as a beard.

      Please don’t misconstrue anything I have said as being anti-gay. I’m just trying to get over being used and coming to grips with the fact that I put up with my narcissistic ex for so long.

      • I’m with you, SeenToo Much. My former spouse used to tell me stories about the orgies they’d have at Seminary. Of course, HE didn’t participate because he “wasn’t gay.” Our sex life was great — until we got married. Then the abuse started and the sex dwindled. I missed the cheating for a long time because I saw no evidence at all of other women. I wasn’t looking for “Father Steve,” our pastor to be Schmoopie. I am not anti-gay, either. But I do believe that someone who takes a vow of celibacy shouldn’t be cheating with your husband, and that a man who knows he is gay ought not to marry someone while pretending to be straight.

        • ????My first was a former Franciscan seminarian then I met my husband. We got married at 21. I thought he was almost as inexperienced as I was but now I know that he just wanted men.

        • Agree. I once met a Metropolitan Community Church pastor (that’s a Christian LGBT church denomination) who talked about how she did a lot of counseling with ex-wives of gay men who had married them for various reasons. While there were some men who had been through “conversion therapy” and thought they could change, and she felt that they and their wives were all victims, she also said there were some men who just wanted to have it all, the approval of their homophobic community and the chance to sleep with other men. For them I think it’s another form of cake.
          I’m not lacking in compassion for the difficulty of coming out but man, if I could do it in 1987 they can do it 30 years later.

  • Yes, many FW’s will try to put their daughter into the role of their confidant/helper

    And many play the ‘stumbling, bumbling fool’ to avoid accountability and garner sympathy

    They do lack a lot of common sense because they are so self absorbed

    It is WONDERFUL to NOT be a FW’s babysitter any longer

    • My cheating father used to complain to me that he “had to cheat” because my mother had gained weight and “Didn’t have time” for him. Dad was so helpless he even let Mother do his JOB for him — he was self employed. Mom was working full time, taking care of the house, the kids, the farm and her own job in addition to keeping an eye on his business and pitching in when things slid or got out of hand.

      When I grew up, I moved very far away. Dad continued to be helpless, and when Mother developed Alzheimer’s, my sister stepped in to save him. Glad I avoided that shit show.

      • I tell my daughter that every adult is responsible for their own life and their own happiness

        Not sure if it’s working or not

  • This is too funny! Yep, these FWs need an appliance to take care of the mundane stuff while they pursue living there best life. My STBX is one who cannot handle a lot of adult tasks like cleaning, home maintenance, resolving technical issues and so forth. Most likely a lot of that is a result of having to find new orifices to explore. This Chump is no longer here to support his incompetence and his 32 years younger Schmoopie has that job now. Hope she enjoys it.
    Personally, I think it is okay to get a bit of joy from the FW experiencing a bit of life’s many issues.enjoy the moment of a rat eating a rat. Kind of like you are what you eat.

  • Did anyone else flash on the Silence of the Lambs line about “I ate his liver with fava beans and a fine chianti”?

    The self-imposed helplessness is generational in Cheater #2’s family. He grew up with servants and he was used to someone coming after him to clean up. He was the king of do something halfway and the servants will finish it. However, when we were married, servant = Her Blondeness.

    C#2, unfortunately, passed this on to his own two kids. I once got into it with stepson when he played dumb about doing a household task. “Oh, I can’t find the squeegee!” was his pathetic way to try and weasel out of finishing cleaning the shower door. As I handed it to him, I looked him square in the eye and said, “Stepson, you are not that stupid nor blind. Here’s the squeegee, finish the glass and put it away.” Amazingly, he did all that but I got a dressing down from C#2 for “being mean”. Fast forward five years: stepson’s live in girlfriend is leaving, in part because she’s sick of going to school full time, working part time and being expected to do all the domestic work. Good work at passing on those adulting skills, C#2. /sarcasm

    • HB,

      Ex-Mrs LFTT left the kids with me when she b*ggered off to be with her AP about 5 1/2 years ago, but had done her best to pass on her “weaponised incompetence” tricks onto our youngest two. Ex-Mrs LFTT left us just as I had started a new job, which involved a house move of about 60 miles.

      I remember about a year after she left, my son (then aged about 17) tried to “pass” on my request that he unload the dishwasher on the grounds that he “didn’t know where any of the crockery went in our new house.” I gave him very short shrift; I pointed out that we’d now lived here for a year and that (1) everything in the dishwasher lived in the kitchen, (2) that the dishwasher was in the kitchen, that (3) if he looked in the cupboards in the kitchen he would see examples of everything that was in the dishwasher and that (4) if he put like with like he would not be far wrong. He figured it out eventually.

      He’s now 22, graduated last year and still lives with me, as his workplace is just up the road. I now consider him pretty well house trained!


    • HB: I didn’t flash on “Silence of the Lambs” but I did flash on “Interview with a Vampire”. But the pretentiousness of the fava beans and chianti is definitely in character.

  • WalkbyMyself, so much of what you describe fits my own former situation with my own closeted now-ex, who, like your ex, now has my child on the hook to fix the things he looked past for years, having trained me over the years to take on that job. One of the pleasures of having him buy me out of our house was knowing just how much work it needed and that he would now be in charge of doing it himself instead of serially ignoring the obvious, so I was quite unhappy to hear that for a Christmas present son had arranged for his own contractor landlord to replace an attic window through which rodents were making their way into the house. I told our son that his father was a competent adult, the house was his father’s responsibility, and that it wasn’t his (son’s) responsibility to take over now that I was gone. I so rue the years of poor example I set for our son!

    PS: Walkby–I’m assuming you are the same Walkby from the (former) SSN. I go by another name over there (OOHC), and am so glad you are out of that marriage and feeling so much freer to speak about your experience with your ex FW.

    • Of course! It’s easy to laugh, now, but it was hell on me for years. My D-day left me disoriented and traumatized, I’d been so conditioned to suppress my own instincts by then. Nobody would believe the things I’d tell about my marriage — he was “such a great guy”. Everyone thought we were the perfect couple. It’s so hard to be pleading, constantly, to be believed about these incredibly crazy incidents.

      • WOW. This story resonates. My ex GID had extreme attention deficit disorder, self diagnosed. Said he could not focus on projects. But there was focus when it came to hiding activity from me. In a lot of ways I crippled him by just doing it all myself. My perfectionism did not help matters. He worked constantly, home most nites, and never complained about it. But I refused to have two full time jobs: taking care of EVERYTHING at home and working full time too. Started my own garden coach and design business part time. My goal is to focus on my part in the 37 year dysfunction. How can I stop being the woman who has to be “ needed” to feel worthy. Depression and anxiety have been challenges my whole life. FOO issues for certain. And now at 67 I’m gonna need to work some to make ends meet. It’s been 6 months since DDAY, and it has gotten less shocking, my body does not shake as much. Grateful for the small progress made thus far. Support networks are essential. Thanks for posting all your stories and hope.

      • “It’s so hard to be pleading, constantly, to be believed about these incredibly crazy incidents.”

        It really is. Even talking about it is incriminating! I was consumed by my desire to be understood and supported by my “friends” and community during/after the madness of ddays and finally leaving. When I finally opened up about some of what had been going on, I wanted people to believe and be horrified by the abuse (or at least the parts I felt comfortable sharing – nowhere near the ugly reality), and I wanted them to see that “just” infidelity is also abusive. I was disappointed and hurt by many. I think I was also pleading with myself to believe, and any validation helped. I was looking for proof that I wasn’t the crazy one.

        Then of course, when people actually do believe you (in spite of Nice Guy’s smear campaign and image management), you still look (and I feel) crazy for having put up with it for so long. For spackling and believing. I am mortified just writing some of it out here – anonymously, to other chumps. Of course, there is much more to abusive dynamics than the codependency models, yet some days I allow myself to be triggered by victim blaming – and I am often my own worst critic. Still finding it difficult to sort out what I am and am not responsible for – to figure out what I can want and expect for myself, and how to be accountable. So… thank you for the colorful (and revolting) example of where the crazy truly resides!

      • Walkby and Adelante I’ve been with the former SSN for the last year or so, under a different name (SL). You both give great support and advice there – helped me a lot while I was processing the crazy.

  • Walkbymyself, you are mighty! The absent-mindedness you write about, that was really your FW’s distraction from his secrets rings so true with me… Among MANY other hurtful and infuriating things my now-ex did was on our daughter’s 4th birthday… the whole family and friend group was outside, I had just set down the cake and went inside briefly to grab forks or something, and he lit the candles and led the group in song to our daughter— WHILE I WAS INSIDE. He claimed he “didn’t think” and “didn’t realize” and was “so sorry” but the whole time he had this shitty little smile on his face… he didn’t think because he was thinking about something else… his secret sexual basement crap, plus he got supply from getting upset. 14 years later, that episode still upsets me. But, like you, I am walking by myself! Walked out of that hellish “marriage” to an addict, walked away from his affair, walked away into my new life.

      • Wow, sadly my own father is like that–gets narcissistic supply from upsetting people in mean little ways, whenever he thinks he has plausible deniability. He’s not nearly as clever or subtle as he thinks, though–everyone can see exactly what he is doing so clumsily, and they all feel uncomfortable about it, even when it is not directed at them. But generally no one intervenes because they don’t want to become his target. Really there is nothing you can do except get away and stay away from such a person, give up contact. They have a streak of evil in them that gives them too much control over others, for them to be willing to give it up. When you do establish no-contact, you still have the pain of knowing that he will eventually choose a new target, probably some one dear to you who has decided to stay around him. But at least the new target will have your example of how to successfully end his hostile putdowns.

      • My FW would get supply from me getting upset about his incompetence. It was weird as he’d pride himself on being captain housewife yet couldn’t tell the difference between a white shirt and a red shirt. Time after time he’s ruin clothes by not washing white separately. I told him not to do the washing ever again and yet he still did it! After 10 years I realised it was on purpose. He wanted to be the sad sausage with an angry wife to complain about to his schmoopies and flying monkeys.
        So bizarre that they manufacture these incidents

  • I thought married Forrest Gump meets The Absent-Minded Professor. I found out I married Bernie Madoff meets The Absent-Minded Professor.

    He misspells his own middle name. A name which clearly features an “a” as the vowel on his birth certificate. Not a “u”. And in Germany, where his parents hail from, there is no such name as he spells it. It’s a common name which is spelled with an “a” and has been since the dawn of time.

    He thought it would be a good idea to quick-dry his damp blue jeans on the vintage wall heater, which has a pilot light. He used a can of Watco oil to anchor the jeans on the wall heater. Thankfully I was home and took down the MacGuyver dryer before he quick-dried the whole neighborhood.

    But he was Such a Nice Guy. Forrest Gump. Good-hearted, not so bright in certain areas. It’s OK. We all have our issues. But he’s a good guy.

    That all changed on DDay.

    Where it gets scary is that Dim Bulb flashed all the assets in front of the Craigslist cockroach, who was very likely trolling for a new source of funding for the lifestyle she wants and found an easy mark. Half of what she wants is mine, and what’s his now should be going to our daughter.

    She may no longer be around anymore, but I secured the assets as much as I could in the divorce so she will not be able to get her cockroach claws into anything.
    I chose him when we both had our average Joe and Jane working class paychecks. We built a successful business together, and I am pretty certain she wouldn’t have given the time of day if he was who he was when we met in our 20’s.

    There’s a lot more scary stupid I could write about today. Volumes. I wish they were tales of schadenfreudelicious idiocy I could laugh about. But I have very much enjoyed our writer’s story today.

    Your X has a twin brother.

      • VH you were young and make a decision with good intentions. try to forgive yourself. this is hard work–i know because i’m trying to forgive myself, too.

        • Yep. Well, all of us feel like dummies, I think.

          Hindsight and all that.

          Since D-Day, when I got the hell away from FW, I’ve been working hard with my therapist to process my own issues and figure out why I stayed. I realize that his learned incompetence paired well with my own desire to feel needed and competent. #codependent #neveragain

          • Spinach,
            I bet like me (and others here) you were trained by your FOO into that desire of yours “to feel needed and competent.” I know that I didn’t believe I had any worth of my own apart from my use to others; nor did I feel I was worthy of love without what I could do for others.

            It’s tough to examine that legacy, and tougher to free oneself from it, but by divorcing our FWs we made big strides in both.

        • It’s alright VH, we’ve all been there. At least we can learn! I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything, and at least I can teach them to learn from their mistakes now…

    • Last month former spouse assigned the mortgage he held since sale in October for what used to our paid off commercial property. Newly assigned to he (63) & whore (30). Balloon payment due in 10/2025 of $332,000. This conveniently happened after I get text from her stating she has found the life insurance booklet from office. (I am benefactor). He stiffs his 3 adult children (older than her) and 4 grandchildren. My friend says you know she rode him until he assigned it. He can’t get new life insurance. Hopefully the IRS will be taking 1/2 that balloon ???? payment.

    • “He thought it would be a good idea to quick-dry his damp blue jeans on the vintage wall heater, which has a pilot light. He used a can of Watco oil to anchor the jeans on the wall heater.”

      Wow. That is one of the best stupid fw stories I’ve ever heard.
      Here I was thinking mine was dumb for drilling into a wall right below a light switch without flipping off the breaker first. I stopped him just in time.
      Another time I had to stop him and a buddy from removing a beam from the garage ceiling which supported the entire upper story. It never occurred to him that the ceiling might fall on his empty head.

      • I only ever dated smart men. Geniuses, actually. One was a musical genius — once he’d heard a piece of music, he could play it perfectly on the piano. That’s the one who put a skillet full of grease on the stove and went to the bathroom with a newspaper. (LONG time ago.) I happened to come home from my night shift just in time to see the flames dancing on the stove and reaching for the wall . . . . The building didn’t burn down, but scrubbing greasy smoke off the walls is not a fun job. Guess whose fun job that turned out to be?

        Then there was the one who was so smart he “had to” smoke a lot of weed to slow his brain down so he could cope with the likes of us ordinary folks. He was probably baked when he decided to change the cord on the clothes dryer. He was telling me the story later . . . “and when I woke up,” he said, “I figured out I should have unplugged it first.” How was he not DEAD?

  • Thanks, Chump Lady, for allowing me to vent, and thanks all for teaching me the term “weaponized incompetence”.

    My FW is extremely pretentious, so I doubt that he made this one up. He believes his own narrative: that he’s so brilliant and superior that nobody else will ever appreciate how annoying it is to have to lower yourself to deal with the ordinary problems of mere mortals.

    But “weaponizing incompetence” is absolutely what he would do, all the time.

    • my EXH (not the cheater, that was the next guy) was a master of weaponized incompetence. Brilliant in a way, but paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection.

      I realized that his inability to unload the dishwasher AND put away the dishes was just his manipulating me to do the job when he wanted. My little kids could do it better than he could.
      My little kids knew my work schedule – they knew I worked every Tuesday evening. In the 7+ years that I had that same schedule, he never remembered that.

      After we were divorced he texted me from the grocery store “where’s the chicken?”. I ignored him. Now if there was a frozen rat section, I would’ve directed him there! Bahahaha!

      A FW eating a frozen rat is and appropriate shit sandwich revenge.

  • “He probably knows it’s not a good idea to pour hot wax down a drain, but whatever happens next won’t be his problem. He disagrees he should be accountable. So, he can do any fool thing he wants. Clean up crew in aisle 6…

    Actual absent-minded people (I live with a couple), compensate for their deficits with sticky notes and phone reminders”

    Did you all hear the sound of my jaw hitting the floor when I read this?
    Thank you so much for the insight of how I have been enabling my fw’s behavior. Literally over 50 reminders during the course of our 13 years of homeownership that it’s his job to change the furnace filter monthly and I still check on it and then remind him because he “forgets.”
    At least 10 conversations over the last 2 years about not putting greasy pizza boxes or his fast food containers in the recycling bin (some communities in our area have started to fine people if they don’t recycle the right materials) Still does it wrong at least once a month.
    I have dozens of other examples of this type of behavior. And it wasn’t until this moment that I realized he’s perfectly capable of maintaining, remembering, attending to everything he considers important to him.
    I can’t wait for our divorce to be final.

    • “he’s perfectly capable of maintaining, remembering, attending to everything he considers important to him”


    • Yep. My ex husband used to “forget” to put his clothes away, put away food after breakfast, how to grocery shop, etc. But when I left, suddenly he figured it all out. Sent me pictures of the clean apartment to show how he would help around the house if I came back.

      All I said was “Good for you. You have a clean apartment now. Too bad you didn’t care while I was still living in it.”

      He was shocked I wasn’t coming back. Well if you only start to care about having a clean apartment when your wife is no longer there to clean up after you, no shit she’s not coming back…

      • This, exactly. And it really hurt. For years I had excused it as neuro-divergence because that was the only logical explanation but all of a sudden everything was anticipated and completed with no reminding and to a perfect standard. He just couldn’t be fucked when the hired help (me) took care of everything. I think that almost hurt more than the cheating, the realisation just how much of an appliance I was and how calculated and aware of it he was. Nothing had been accidental.

        • My ex actually is neurodivergent. There were a few things that could be explained by that, but not this. He’s definitely capable of cleaning up after himself. There are neurodivergents who are able to take care of themselves. He is one of them.

  • Weaponized incompetence. And the inability (nor the desire) to see the consequences of their actions. These are both descriptions of the asshat FW I dealt with.

    I used to say that FW could watch a child run into traffic and just watch without reaction … it would never occur to him what would happen next. Or he didn’t care. And then if the child were hit by a car, he’d genuinely be surprised. Why the fuck was I with such a dope?

    As for Walkbymyself’s FW… anyone stupid enough to make a frozen piece of mystery meat in a pan and taste it?? Huh? Rats are very clearly rats. They have the tails and the fur — even frozen. He sounds like he actually wanted to try it and was curious. There’s NO WAY to try that without knowing what it is. There would be no way to “season it” either. He sounds like there’s something more going on with this guy mentally.

    And thank you Tracy for this quotable that made me soit out my coffee LOL:

    “Schadenfreude has no season.”


    • Yeah, I’m suspicious of the story about tasting partially frozen mystery meat for seasoning. If something is too frozen to be recognizable, it would not be possible to pull off a portion to try it. My son has a snake and we also have frozen mice in the freezer (don’t judge, I think snakes are cool!) and it’s very obvious they are mice. They are flash frozen whole, so it’s not like it’s cuts of rodent meat. (Sorry for the image)

    • Honestly, I tried to figure that out, too. If I saw something frozen that I couldn’t identify, and I’m living alone in the house, I would just toss it. He apparently put it on the skillet still frozen and apparently it uncurled and became more recognizable. I’m not sure when he said he’d “tasted” whether he was just talking about the pan drippings or what. But, I thought the same thing at first, wouldn’t you notice the fur? But I wasn’t in on the original conversation, and I didn’t want to upset my daughter appearing to challenge or cross-examine her. The thing I will say: he wouldn’t just offer this up for sympathy. He’s much too much of a total snob. He’s embarassed by it. I didn’t want the letter to go on endlessly, but he’s also a hoarder and really resists throwing things out, so it wouldn’t actually be out of character to see something in the freezer, and know it MIGHT be a rat, but not knowing for sure try and cook it first. A normal functioning adult would opt to toss it.

  • “On first blush, how incompetent he is! Needing all this hand-holding. On closer inspection, however, how powerful he is to enlist all these underlings. Czars aren’t cooking their own dinners or dealing with sick children. That’s for the little people.”

    Yep. Little people here ????????‍♀️!

    My guess is that the wifetress has stepped into that role, scrubbing his dirty toilets and handling all the un-fun stuff. To her I’d like to say, “Tag! You’re it, bitch.”


  • I did so much rescuing of my ex over the course of our marriage. Catholic martyrdom? I gradually got pulled into taking care of him and the house and the kids with little contribution from him. He’d do a half assed job on house repairs. He wouldn’t do any of the housework. In the end I was working full time and he was unemployed because he couldn’t keep a job. He still didn’t help out. His reasons at the end for cheating were “you didn’t need me. You’re just like my mother. Blah blah blah blah. Between his mother and me he got bailed out of numerous scrapes. I’m so glad that I don’t have to do that any longer. Now I’m trying to get my two children out of his mindset of mom always doing all the chores. They’re old enough to contribute.

    He would eventually have tried getting our daughter to take care of him. Luckily she’s too smart for that and would have told him to shove off. He’s gone now. He died shortly after the divorce was final. While sad, he would still have been coming around trying to get help to bail him out of his latest stupidity. It is much quieter without him around. Less drama and chaos.

  • Hahaha….. my FW was exactly like this. Once dipped his finger in “chocolate” and ate some baby poop. They really are this stoooopid. Sayonara to them.

  • There are (at least) two problems with weaponized incompetence IMHO. The first is that the FW incompetent wastes everyone else’s time and resources by refusing to have enough self-respect to at least TRY to be somebody with worth. The second is that the Rescuers Among Us feel compelled to “fix” the person, or “save them” from their own incompetence. When the care and survival of your children becomes a part of the equation, it becomes even more of a dilemma

    I was conflicted because I wanted my children to have time with their father, and he was capable of being “fun” sometimes. However, he was never “safe.” He did not pay attention to anyone’s needs but his own. I always worried that he would become intoxicated, and still choose to drive with my children in the car, or he would leave them unsupervised for an extended period of time, while he had his “shared custody time”, but he had to “work”. He dropped them off at a mall one time and did not show up for pick up at the assigned time, or call. They were teenagers. They called a family friend (adult) who came to pick them up and left a voice mail for him. He eventually showed up and mumbled a “thanks”, but no explanation for his behavior. Any questioning of his choices was “an unreasonable intrusion” and he “did not have to answer either to me or his children.”

    Eventually the children started to come up with reasons not to see him, and let his calls go to voice mail, to screen his requests for attention. I know my children loved their dad, and tried to write off his behavior as eccentric, but I see it as selfish. Somewhere along the line, as a parent or a caretaker, you accept the role of keeping your children or family member, or friend, or patient out of harm’s way. But you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way, too. Don’t become an enabler. It is not healthy.

    My children both went through a period of time where they “milked” my goodwill and love for them into an extended adolescence. Perhaps I was also fueled by mamma bear divorce guilt? Whatever, I was raised by an enabler to be an enabler. It was a real struggle for me to learn that I could not and should not try to “fix” others. When I see other people “working” people like me to do their tasks for them, it makes me angry.

    I suppose that I don’t want to be clueless and let the Marie Antoinette declaration of “Let them eat cake” be replaced with “Let them eat rat.” However, it is not my adult responsibility to prevent another adult from having dietary indiscretions. Unless the adult is diagnosed with some disease or disorder which renders them incompetent, like my mother’s dementia, then adults are supposed to be a self-sufficient unit. Right?

    It is one thing, in a relationship, to have an agreement based on competencies, with regard to a distribution of labor. It would be unfortunate for anyone to count on my mechanical ability to fix a car, for instance. I am able to get the car to a mechanic and pay the bill. If I agree to make dinner and do the laundry, and my partner agrees to mow the yard and wash the car, that is an acceptable division of labor (to me). If my partner decides to lounge on the couch and drink beer while I do all that, because I “do such a good job and he doesn’t” that is not acceptable to me. He can find someone to hire, and pay for, these duties if he does not want to do them. I am not the cook, laundry queen, gardener, or car detailer in anyone’s life. I respect anyone who is willing to work, and I believe everyone should be compensated in some way for working. Lounging on the couch and drinking beer is not working.

    Do Not Be an Enabler. It is Not Healthy.

    • I am reading this message carefully today, Portia, because I have often found wisdom in your perspective. Today’s been a bad day. I keep thinking I am past the lingering strings of divorce, and I’m repeatedly wrong. An email from the EX today threatens the college plans of one of our kids. A tax filing decision on the EX’s part will make it impossible for the child to get instate tuition. This could cost my child thousands of dollars.

      Is the EX’s behavior legal? Maybe. Could I stop it with another round of court appearances? Maybe. Could the EX take a more competent and less selfish course of action and protect the child’s best interests? Yep. Is it time to tell our barely-adult child that they must take it up with dad themselves because I can’t fix things anymore? Probably. Your post makes me think so.

      The “mama bear divorce guilt” feels like the monster I’m fighting.

      For me the current struggle is not watching my EX do incompetent things without intervening (I’m past that!) but watching my kids get mired in that incompetence and not reaching out to fix things.

      • I would Mama Bear up and go to court if it would resolve an issue to financially help my child. The children may be legal adults, but FAFSA laws are designed to help them finish college if they are still dependent on a parent. The income tax parent who claims a dependent is not the same as the primary custodial parent for Financial Aid purposes, unless laws have changed since I worked in Financial Aid. If the child graduated from an in state high school and you provide the primary in-state home “home” of the student, for Financial Aid purposes it should not matter if your ex moves out of state.

        I want to emphasize this — I am not an expert, and I am retired. It should not cost you anything to receive advice from FAFSA or from an institution’s financial aid office. Tax laws and FAFSA laws change all the time. Get good advice, and if necessary, consult a lawyer.

        It may be more expensive for your ex to fight a legal battle with you than any tax advantage he may have. Plus, image management wise, he would look like an ASS.

        In addition, I will tell you this painful and true story. After being raised in a house where I was always told “when you go to college” instead of “if you go to college” and where I was promised financial support if I made good grades and attended college on a degree seeking track, my Father made the decision to financially abandon me after one semester of college. I was 18. I carried 18 hours and made straight A’s. I was not in any trouble. But I would not promise Not To Date.

        It would have been a lie, and I refused to lie. He was trying to control my life and make me beg. Legally I was an adult. FAFSA did not yet exist, and many scholarships available now did not exist then. I already had a student job. I did not have a car, nor any relatives who lived close to my college and would help me or let me live with them. I NEVER forgave my father for this, and it caused a permanent rift.

        I did go to my advisor, and the financial aid office, and the business office for help and advice. They helped me get student loans to go to school. They also spread the word on a small campus about my need, and I was called to babysit, and do odd jobs, I even cleaned one teacher’s apartment. I rode to the city with a carload of students to sell my blood, so that I could buy tampons and toothpaste. I worked 2 jobs during the summer break and bought an older reliable car. I worked both on campus and off campus jobs, and I carried 17 or 18 hours a term, continued to make good grades, participated in some on campus activities and clubs, and I still could date on occasion. I graduated Magna Cum Laude. I paid off my student loans for 10 years. My Father never apologized, never tried to make amends.

        It would have been easier to lie. However, I am proud my Father did not break me. Lord knows he tried. It was scary, and I don’t know how I did it, but it definitely made me stronger. My Father is dead now, but that memory will always stay with me. It is part of what made me a mamma bear. No One is Ever going to hurt my kids like that.

        One of my close friends told me I am who I am because no man in my life has ever truly loved me. I wanted to be loved and respected. I worked hard to be a good person and achieve my goals and take care of my responsibilities. But neither my father nor my husband’s ever saw me as anything other than useful to them. That dysfunctional cycle had to stop and the only person who could stop it was me.

        I have paid my dues and learned many lessons the hard way. For me, a person who would have children, and then put self-interest before the welfare of the children is not worth anything. Biological donation may determine parentage, but it does not make someone a good parent.

        Your children will probable survive having a FW parent, but they need to know what is going on. If they are old enough to go to college, they are old enough for the truth. Make sure they find out just what that truth is.

      • I don’t know the intricacies of your child’s situation, but I had this issue myself. I took it up w/the school, by-passing my father (whom I suspected was doing this on purpose). My winning argument was that *I* was a resident of the state, had gone to high school in that state, had my driver’s license in that state, and paid taxes in that state and as such was entitled to in-state tuition. It does not matter if the money to pay for college comes from out of state (lots of scholarships & grants are funded elsewhere); all that matters is the state residency of THE STUDENT.

        I hope this helps.

  • It took me many years before I figured out that X Ass’s inability to correctly wash a dish, clean his clothes, put something away in the right spot had NOTHING to do with his ability to correctly perform a chore, it was all planned failure. Because he knew that I was OCD about house cleanliness and he didn’t want to do the work. So he intentionally did something very crappily knowing I would have to come behind him and clean up after. He manipulated the situation perfectly. He got thrills watching me spin in circles and eventually when I gave up asking him to do his share, he didn’t have to do any house (or yard) work.

    Then he tried to extend this talent to ‘outside’ work that was his purview. For example, we had fuel oil tanks that needed to be filled. I am extremely sensitive to the OVC’s that fuel oil produces. Pumping fuel can make me very sick. So the day that he came in and bitched to me that I never help him with that I replied, “When you start cleaning the toilet and washing your underwear is the day I will help pump fuel.” He never asked me again. I guess there’s some things a man isn’t willing to trade off on…..

  • WOW-I didn’t realize how common these Narc/cheaters had this “Learned Helplessness ” in common!

    My ex had that too-allegedly brilliant at work (according to him) and couldn’t figure out how to pay bills online!

    I’ll add:

    When it came to decisions on ANYTHING that could have negative outcomes-he would ALWAYS ask me what to do-that way, if the decision I made resulted in a bad outcome-I was the one that got blamed!

    Anyone else have the same experience?

    • Mine did this. 3 years later and he is still screwing up his finances but he can’t blame me anymore although I’m sure he does.

      • Yes!!! Mine is currently trying to tell me that he is paying my electric bill (I have credits every month because I have solar). He thinks the credits are his payments being misapplied ????????????.

  • My dads a trained strategic incompetent…trained in part by my moms coddling to be that way. It’s the family joke at this point, but unlike the rat eater, my dads an honest loyal guy who reliably provided for his family.

    Like CL, I’m currently partners with a forgetful person. Also like CL, he’s an adult who likes to carry his weight in the household and relationship. So yea, notes, reminders, occasional do-overs and repairs, etc. but he manages it all. He runs his own rig. That’s what adults do. People like the letter writer have chosen to not be responsible for themselves.

    My daughters just a teenager but I’m already working with her on boundaries with her dad. These people will mooch off of anyone they can. They’ll sink their kids ships if they think it gets them a better seat on the deck of their ship. It’s disgusting.

    • NaNC….I doubt very much that your poor mother “trained” your father to be incompetent… sounds like classic weaponized incompetence/narcissistic abuse to me….. you dad chooses everything in his life just like all of us. Blameshifting to your mom and he got you to be his negative advocate. These types are all the same.

      • Well, those are her words. She was a homemaker for the bulk of my childhood in the 70s and 80s and has OCD and is a perfectionist, and actively stopped my dad from doing much of anything around the house out of her neuroses that he wouldn’t do it to her satisfaction (she likewise did the same for her kids…but that’s another issue entirely). He acquiesced to make her happy, and the entire scenario unfolded. Flash forward 50 years or so, and you would think my dad, a very educated and smart man, couldn’t make a basic household decision on his own. My mom, conversely, has gotten treatment for her issues and regrets the way she ran the household and wishes my dad would now carry more weight around the house. Let’s just say, in their retirement, they’re both learning to re-adjust to the new reality.

        You are correct though, my dad did choose to give my mom carte blanche to run the house as she saw fit and not challenge her. He’ll tell you now that he always thought she hung the moon and wanted to make her happy…not realizing at the time that she had mental health issues that she probably should have dealt with, obviously. He also currently chooses to act like a bit of a buffoon about housework, but he’s getting better. And she chose to let him earn the living (in as much as that was a “choice” women got to make in the 70s) and maintain complete control of the household, which was how she coped with her issues at that time. So, maybe its not as straightforward as you presumed.

  • I still marvel that my x, who seemed incompetent about so many things, managed to have a secret life.

    Turns out that having an affair takes a lot of mental energy. Distracted, x started making mistakes like forgetting water in the coffee maker or keeping the grill on all night. I thought he was developing dementia. I worried he might be making mistakes with patients. I thought he wanted to retire because he realized he was “slipping.”

    I’m almost (almost!) surprised he didn’t ask me to help him arrange the trysts. He would’ve if he could’ve.

    • Ugh – memory landmine: FW packed (twice) for his sudden weekends away without me seeing. This was a man who spent 4 + hours packing for our planned trips and we would still get a late start.

  • This letter made me laugh! ????. What a freaking dumb ass!
    I totally agree that you can delight in the misfortunes of someone who has treated you like garbage.
    Im now divorced over 5 years after 21 years of marriage, I care NOTHING of what my XH is doing or what is happening in his deceitful little world BUT…..
    If I heard something through the grapevine bad that happened to him
    I would take a very brief MEH pause, laugh my ass off!!!????????
    And then continue on with my own cheater free life!

  • They look for “fixers” someone who just gets it done. Mirrors you then slowly trains you into doing all the adult work. All the while telling you how intelligent they are! In their defense, they are smart enough to get a free slave. Entitlement to the extreme. He didn’t eat the rat, just typical pathological liar..

  • Soon after abandoning me my X Asshat stuck a whole chicken in his oven and promptly took a 5 hour nap, nearly burning down his new swinging bachelor pad.

    Within days of that he put a Pyrex pie plate on his stove top and turned on the burner. It exploded it into a thousands shards while he was standing nearby.

    He declared if he had been blinded in that incident I would be responsible for taking care of him the rest of his life. It never occurred to him that the half-his-age twatwaffle twu wuv ho-worker should take on that role since he brutally discarded the Wife Appliance just a couple weeks earlier. He simply presumed he could heap any amount of abuse upon me I and would still be there to wipe his debilitated ass for the rest of his life. Nope.

    • I got this for a while (my d-day came later). At first I volunteered to take care of him (pick me dancing) then I went NC. He then via the kids got me to do things like pet sit, wanted my recipes, what is the password to his credit card, what doctor I was using until I got angry. Why isn’t the ho-worker doing all this?? I started saying no and he got mad. Seriously??

      It really doesn’t dawn on them that the new ho-worker needs to do all this now. Mind boggling.

  • Ok um…I have a snake. I feed him rats as well. I also keep them frozen in the freezer.

    Now, unless his old roommate had a very small snake eating “pinkies” (baby mice so little their eyes aren’t even open and they have no fur)…rats, even frozen ones, do not look like chicken meat. …They look like rats.

    They have fur, they have tails. They might get some ice on those tails and noses, but the ice generally doesn’t cover the fur to the point where you can’t tell it’s a rat. Unless it’s been soaked in water and refrozen…more than once. Which if his old roommate is a responsible snake owner he shouldn’t be doing that.

    So I’m going to say your ex is a grade-A IDIOT. Not an absent minded genius, just a run-of-the-mill, garden variety MORON. No genius here. Flat out idiot.

    I’ve had my snake for almost 7 years and not once have I, nor anyone else, ever mistaken his food for chicken or any other kind of meat, other than what it is. Rats. Your FW isn’t a secret genius, his just a FW to the core.

    • Exactly! I was about to post that frozen rats (1) look like rats and (2) if they’re in the original packaging, it says RATS.

      I don’t think he’s an idiot though. I think he’s a liar who made up the whole thing to get the daughter to feel sorry for him and swoop in with the caretaking of poor-incompetent-dad.

      • Learned incompetence is bad enough.
        Lying about incompetence to manipulate your own daughter is worse.

        Either way, this guy sucks, and the daughter should be forewarned.

      • I thought this too. He made the story up to get his daughter to make dinner for him. Either that or he just ate a rat for the fun of it to get attention and gross people out. I have a narcissist brother who would definitely do something like that.

      • Yep. The packaging they come in says the size of the rat…and that it is a rat. The ones I get usually say “1 medium rat” and has a damn picture of a rat on it. Or a snake.

        When I order in bulk, they come in large, clear bags. …Bags full of rats.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if he did make that story up. That’s entirely plausible because I did wonder a little bit myself if this letter was made up, but I would definitely believe that the ex FW made this up to get the daughter to pity him.

        I would not put it past a cheating narcissist to feign incompetence to get their little “servants” to come running.

      • I agree 100% he is just a LIAR looking to do what works for him. Remember cheaters lie and liars cheat. Or say he is telling the truth and tasted the rat, how many people would tell such a thing. Not me for sure but I am smart enough not to cook and taste things that are unknown. He was just being the liar he is trying to get an applicance in line to take care of him.

      • Haha, right?!

        It gets so much easier to spot the lies once you realize that narcissists will indeed lie straight to your face about anything.

        I’ve had a couple of incidents lately where the drop-off for my younger son is changed or derailed because The Entitled One’s plan is to have me drop off Son in our town’s shopping area and have him wander around while The Entitled One has a business meeting. On a Friday evening. In a bar.

        A few years ago, I’d have actually believed that.

      • Oh god I don’t want to think what that would smell like. It’s gross enough when they’re thawed let alone cooking in a pan.

  • Wow, I didn’t realize that being such a general dimwit was such a characteristic of cheaters. The EX was a nightmare of ineptitude–or so I thought. He couldn’t ever seem to fill out paperwork at all. If he had to, he’d call me and ask me about every item on it. He seemed hopeless with money–like he couldn’t figure out where it came from or where it went. He seemed completely incapable of cleaning anything. I honestly thought he couldn’t be cheating because he was too dumb to get away with anything.

    Imagine my surprise to uncover a whole double life–including financial fraud that required him filing lots of false paperwork, including forging signatures. He laughed in my face about how complicated all his schemes were–that he was “so smart and no one would ever figure it out.” The whole time he was faking being stupid just because he really thought the everyday living stuff was my job, not his. He wasn’t calling me because he couldn’t do those things. He was calling because he was too lazy to bother.

  • a rat narrative. attractive.

    that’s the thing with these folks–creating stories to entertain/explain themselves. there are better ways to spend time. living. sharing. not creating rat narratives to elicit sympathy? to shock their new partners? to spice up their dull lives?

    • This is my ex, 100%. These rat narratives (retold endlessly) and their predictable (and disgusting) eccentricities grow tiring and downright boring. Maybe it was cool to be Kramer in high school…

    • This needs to be a new CL term. “The Rat Narrative.”

      A wild/unbelievable/crazy story created by a cheater/narcissist to illicit sympathy, avoid adult responsibilities, or guilt someone into caretaking for them.

  • Eeeew! And lol. And your rat is magnificent, CL. I’m surprised the FW told anyone, but it must be a save me story. And I’m guessing the flatemate slept in the same bed. I have the same dilemma, I know the house will probably fall apart around him and I know my not yet tween daughter will have a long road ahead of living in the chaos or taking it on herself.

  • My FW used weaponized incompetence too for all household chores that were too mundane/ boring and overall beneath him. He would do things he thought were fun like baking bread or making fancy meals for his friends and left all the cleaning up to me for example.

    He was also a master at losing his keys/wallet/ID etc and have me look for them, calling me home from work, for hours on end. It was to the point I got him electronic trackers to attach to everything when I realized I’d wasted entire days of my life looking for his stuff during our 11 years of marriage.

    In spite of that he was great at keeping 2 parallel lives and hiding his AP for years. He also though he was a genius at multitasking and super efficient at work, but somehow couldn’t pick up a pair of dirty socks. The genius also managed to injure himself through carelessness multiple times, because he always had someone to pick up the slacks for him, like a spouse taking care of the kids and putting food on the table or employees to do the actual work. The list goes on… Anyway, not my problem anymore.

    • Yes, it odd that they could never do the mundane tasks. The appliance gets stuck with and the FW has plenty of time to lead a secret life. The great thing about them leaving is that everything stays neat and clean once they leave. Also I have not run out of things, never found the roll of toilet paper empty, etc. I also can keep up with the maintenance tasks because I have more time.
      FW on the other hand cannot keep it together.thankfully that is for Schmoopie to do. He tried this appliance but this wife appliance unplugged and went no contact. He tried my son but he is no contact and is stationed too far away to really help. FW is on his own because Schmoopie lives too far away as well. Guess he needs to learn or find a local Schmoopie.

  • I’m wondering if our mistake is thinking these moron’s are in some way brilliant. I doubt it. This is part of their entitled lying. They really are moron’s in all ways. Look around sometime, see the ” soul mates ” of some of these beautiful, accomplished, intelligent women. Ick factor is obvious. Bill Gates, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton, Jeff Bezos , Tiger Woods, none of these ” handsome gents ” compare in any way to their wives. Come on, man! The large lump in their back pocket is their one and only appeal. And unfortunately or maybe fortunately even that doesn’t usually make it to the finish line. Maybe we need to consider our own worth when we decide to look for a mate.

    • Jeez – I wonder if this incompetence is a “male” trait (societal role) issue and cheating/narcissism is a subset.

      The yuck factor is that they managed to keep the cheating a secret.

    • Your comment reminds me of CL’s recent “wallet in a turtleneck” description.

      It adds insult to injury. Not only were we chumped, but we were chumped by such fuckwits!

  • I have a different take on the incompetence of fuckwits.

    CL once posted about narcissists’ relative lack of gray matter in the left anterior insula (part of the brain).

    In medical terms, they’re a few bricks short of a load.

  • Oh Walk… thank you… 2022 is off to a brilliant start 🙂

    While Mr. Sparkles doesn’t eat rats, he’s equally clueless and lack the ability to be alone. He moved from marriage to marriage to always dating to moving in after six months… and he is now engaged to be married for the third time.

    For me, Meh was hearing this news and thinking “wow, I feel sorry for Future Chump”… and then nothing else… except maybe thinking I should repaint my ceilings. Hmph.

    Moral of my story… I can’t/couldn’t change Mr. Sparkles… I can only be grateful I got away and got out of the way. I can’t save the other women either… but I can leave a FW free life and be the sane parent.


  • I wondered what happened to Templeton.

    Now we know a fuckwit used him as a ploy to Hoover the daughter into to thinking the poor and alone old queen can’t make his own meals and must have it done for him.

    We should call this The Templeton Technique where even a frozen rat can be used in a campaign of helplessness designed to suck decent minded people into a cycle of absurdity to serve a perfectly capable but manipulative personality.

    It’s pretty diabolical, actually.

    I’d call elder services before lifting a finger to “help” him. Have him committed and see if he pulls that shit again.

    • ????I love that strategy????.

      The thing about cooking a rat to get help is that it cost nothing at all. Whether it is real or not, it was zero effort for FW. Really efficient either way.

  • I think a little schadenfreude is allowable even in a state of Meh!
    I am no-contact with my cheater, but he is rather a public figure and so is his AP, so it is hard not to hear and see news about them from time to time.
    At first that was extremely painful, as it seemed like they had the perfect life! The swankiest apartment in the best area of their new city, the high-paying fascinating jobs, the jet-setting conferences attended together, the constant stream of congratulatory or obsequious twitters from people who worked for them.
    Before he left, my cheater had explained to me that it was his duty to dump me for schmoopie because she was a very influential figure in his profession–that he needed her good will in order to financially support his kids from his previous marriage. Unspoken but front and center: that I wasn’t successful enough for him. Ouch.
    Well, shortly after he married her, she was fired from her job. Despite all her supposed high-powered connections, he ended up having to support her financially for almost two years before she landed a rather horrible short term job that involved firing a lot of people. I believe that he made her so miserable that she gained what looked like more than 100 lbs; and he is a skinny little guy, which created an interesting Kermit/miss Piggy look in their photos together, which he then stopped posting or posing for. And, I found out that she was the original AP that had helped break up his original marriage while he had two small children, long before he met me.
    He has now taken a job across the country from her again, which makes me think that he wore out his welcome professionally; and it looks like he has moved on to more AP’s; but he looks a lot older and more dissipated.
    I don’t think about either of them often, except in the context of trying to heal the parts of my personality, confidence, and life energy that the cheater damaged–I am still working hard on that and making some progress.
    But, I feel quite cheerful about their present situation when reminded of it.

  • The best part is when they respond to your picking up the slack by bitching about how controlling you are.

    “Do you think you’re my MOTHER???”

    Well …

    • Exactly. I heard “stop treating me like a CHILD” followed by assertions that he “can’t” fold clothing, cook anything, pay bills, go to school, have a job, fix anything around the house, or generally adult in any way.

      Ya know, like a child.

  • One of my kids used to have a pet snake that ate those frozen rats. They come in a box that has NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION stamped on it prominently. If this FW ate a rat, he didn’t do it by accident.

  • Ugh, today’s posts are like the uncomfortable look in the rear view mirror…so glad it’s behind me now.
    The FW was too much about impression management to want to be seen as totally incompetent but he didn’t mind being lazy if he had a good excuse. He was NEVER ACCOUNTABLE to anyone. All kinds of people stepped in to help when he “forgot.” He had the perfect cover: multiple business trips each month “My bad! So sorry! Jet lag!”
    I wasn’t raised by an enabler but found myself being one by the end of our 35 years together. It was easier to do the job myself and avoid embarrassment or the kids’ disappointment, or to cause actual harm by allowing bills to go unpaid or the kids not enrolled in school. It didn’t stop my worries about why he didn’t actually do what he said he would do or the constant thinking about how to get him to remember to do it. I want Botox for those lines between my eyebrows!
    One example: way back when we were first married, I did the house cleaning & he took out the trash & did the yard work. Every Friday morning he’d wake up to the sound of the garbage truck coming down our street & that would be the trigger to him to get the trash out. Very cute for the first few years when he seemed to regard that as his responsibility & he’d go running down the driveway shirtless.
    Fast forward 25 years, past the kids being taught by me to get the trash out the night before, past unfruitful conversations with husband about the division of chores since I was back at work. Past years of stonewalling on any uncomfortable discussions. And back to trash & yard work as his only responsibilities. Until he didn’t do them. During one of these stretches of “forgetfulness” I let the trash build up. After 3 weeks of placing the kitchen trash bags in the garage where he parked his car, he finally began taking it out again. It took immeasurable self control on my part to not remind him, and I had to stifle my natural embarrassment that we had a garage full of garbage that stunk. I’m telling this as one example of the bafflement that sneaks up on a chump. I was actually lucky that this was one “win” for me. He somehow recognized that I wasn’t going to add garbage day to my growing list of chores. Another time I let the grass grow to 10” and did nothing. Thank God the city didn’t fine me! Yay! 2 “wins” in 35 years!
    I found CL and George Simon & the pieces started falling into place. I don’t have to suffer embarrassment trying not to be an enabler, I don’t have to be used as a wife appliance, and I can acknowledge my own mistakes and sometimes laziness. I am not entangled with someone who has charming lies. I had Christmas with the responsible, adult children. FW’s big loss.

  • Tell him that’s *exactly* how you make ratatouille, and see if you can get him to do it again.


  • They really ARE all the same! Who knew?! They should teach a class on avoiding narcissists in school. My XH of 25 years was a very successful attorney in a complex field but claimed he couldn’t (really, he WOULDN’T) do the following: yard work, any type of child-related care (we had 4 kids), making any non-work appointments, booking travel, cooking, cleaning, laundry, home maintenance, finding directions, laundry, pet care, entertaining, volunteering, choosing insurance/doctors/dentists, shopping (except for stuff for himself). . . The list is endless. He definitely NEVER took on any of the emotional labor (e.g. anticipating and planning) in our family life. I believed in “staying together for kids’ sake” before Dday so chose to stay with him and work full time as an attorney, run our real estate investment co, and took care of all family related tasks. No one can believe he’s capable of success at work – but even there he’s developed a team of competent scared workers who do the actual work. He’s the “fun” partying rainmaker. He moved one of the young APs in and she’s less willing to do life’s drudgery tasks than him…. The kids say it’s a disgusting nightmare of chaos in their home! Too bad so sad, NOT!

    I’m so glad I’m free of his abuse! My fiancé is very competent and reciprocal. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to walk. Been there done that— never again!

    Silver lining.

      • Yes! Happy New Years, Spinach35! I’m spending it laying on the beach in Mx. heavenly relief from winter yay home! Life is good!

  • I was so sucked into being the chaos janitor that I worried how would he survive if I left. He faked incompetence brilliantly. I came to the realization he did anything his heart and penis wanted to do and left the heavy lifting and the shit he didn’t want to deal with for me. Bills, kids, house
    DD is no contact so of course he has never helped her with anything. This was the first year in a couple he sent her a card. Wrote merry Christmas but didn’t sign it. The caveat was an added sticky note stating his dad was getting older and asking her to visit him and adding I love you.
    His dad maybe spoke 3 sentences to me over 33 yrs and always addressed her as “girl”. I forgot that but she was right when she said he probably didn’t know her name.
    The ex moved in with his parents after we left. He’s exactly where I found him.
    The point is that I knew he was actually asking her to come take care of his dad so he could go back zero responsibilities. She realized that too. I am so thankful I’m not stuck in that bottom because I would be the abused caretaker.
    I learned about the card from the trash where she threw it. DS is in contact and welcomes the loads of money he gets.

  • Nah. Frozen rats are distinctive and don’t look like a random chunk of meat. They look like a furry animal. If they aren’t adult rats, the story is even less likely. The packaging is pretty distinctive. If it was in the freezer, it was probably in rat packaging. If it was in the fridge, the roommate was thawing it out intentionally and would have fed it to the snake.

    He’s just baiting.

  • Hmmmm…I smell a rat. I think he made up this story to play sad sausage to DD and get her to come rescue him. A frozen rat still looks like a rat, not an amorphous lump, so I’m calling ratshit on this guy’s story.

  • Walkbymyself – If feeling good about bad karma or whatever biting FW in the ass means not being at meh, then I might never be at meh. I will go little (we have a young child) and then no contact. I won’t care of he takes up with someone new. I will never care what he thinks of me and will do all I can to keep my life my own. I won’t walk around with hatred and anger for all my days… BUT… I will always be gleeful if I somehow find out that the karma bus backs over the FW. It’s terrible of me, but I don’t care if it means I never achieve zen meh perfection. Don’t feel bad for feeling good. If the FW in my life had eaten rat, I would have laughed until my sides split and my cheeks were covered in tears. Meh is great but ya gotta enjoy a story like that, IMHO.

  • Walkbymyself,

    What a crazy, crazy story. I will remember this forever. Hats off to you for divorcing this guy. I’m sure he’s done so much similar stuff when you were married and you survived. This really takes the cake.

    I was struck by your use of “absent-minded genius”–my ex is the exact same. In fact, his elderly mother to this day calls him an “absent-minded professor.” He’s been this way since he was a child. All throughout our marriage, he was constantly forgetting stuff and making odd decisions–he once lost his glasses (he is blind without them) and still wanted to drive us for 4 hours to Canada. His explanation was “you don’t need actually need vision for highway driving, just perception of light and dark.” When my kids were babies and I had to work on weekends without a babysitter available, I dreaded leaving the babies with him. He would forget to feed them, change their diapers, etc. BASIC stuff. I’m not talking about going on a walk or playing with them. That would be insanity. I mean just making formula or cleaning their bottoms–he just did not do it and was always confused when I asked him about it. He’s a physician. He can do hard things. But things that require nurturing or empathy, nope. It’s impossible. Fast forward to this day-our kids are teens and he did not greet them for Christmas, did not call, text, or give presents. He did not pick up my son who he was supposed to have for 2 weeks. But he was forwarding them random videos on the Avengers. We are all collectively scratching our heads.

    I have untangled this skein to death. I know now that my ex is a full-blown sociopath (no empathy and no conscience) and an idiot. It looks like narcissism, ADHD, attachment disorder, impulse disorder, sex addiction, etc. But in the end, it’s all sociopathy. There is no cure. That is why no contact is the only way forward. I understand the whole idea of intentional weaponized incompetence which I’m sure he did a lot. But there is also this profound, inexplicable cluelessness that the rat story captures.

  • Dear Walkbymyself,
    I was a FW whisper, I am now eight years out and trust me when I say Meh does come. My Ex is also gay though has never and probably will never admit to it. The whole Christian thing of, what you confess with your mouth you confess with your heart also has him bound to the fuckery he lives out every day. He has moved on to victim number two and did so pretty quickly. In court documents during our divorce he listed having 23 jobs during our marriage we were together 20yrs. Could not repair a single thing in our home and would damage things and act like he didn’t have a clue how it happened. But I don’t think he ever ate a rat out of the freezer. That is Karma!
    The brain space I got back once my FW was gone was amazing, I actually managed to go and complete a degree post separation. CL is correct, your ex is his own worst enemy.

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