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Left a Cheater, Gained a Few Nightmares

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nightmareHi there Chump Lady,

I have been following chump lady for two years now and more than anything else your book helped me recover from the ending of my marriage. I was hoping to reach out to share my story and get your advice

My ex husband abruptly left for his much younger co-worker during the most challenging year of my professional and personal life, just as we began talking about having a family/planning for children.

Like a true sociopath, his AP tried to befriend me before I found out and I found out through a co worker, he adamently denied cheating to my face on his way out the door where he claimed he was ‘missing something ephemeral’). He immediately moved in with her, and the two of them posted photos on social media including our wedding gifts as soon as their secret was revealed.

He left me (a budding infectious disease doctor at the start of my career) right at the beginning of the pandemic. I took on 2020 terrified, alone, isolated from friends and family, and responsible for more lives than I could count. I cried in the bathroom in between seeing patients for months. A few months prior I was picking out baby names and had no idea there was anything wrong with my marriage…. On top of that, he had recently been accepting money from my parents to help us “start our family”. Needless to say, I survived the worst heartache and shock one could possibly imagine. We got Zoom divorced while he was on vacation with his affair partner’s family …. I never heard from him again.

My family and friends took my side and I distanced myself from those who wanted to remain neutral. Of note during our divorce, he told me he would pay my parents back (since it was a gift he wasn’t legally obliged) but never did… And now, it is two years later and in many ways I have moved on. I picked up new hobbies, devoted so much time to therapy/emotional work, my health, got an amazing new job, etc. I met someone new …. I am healthier than I have ever been and while I feel bitter about the financial exploitation, I am otherwise no longer preoccupied with the feelings of sadness, hurt, and confusion.

In short, I hardly think of him at all during the day… but I dream about him many nights. In my dreams I am pleading with him to hear me out, yelling at him for abandoning me, or I am running away from him because he shows up at a social function and I am terrified to run in to him, or he is just a mundane character who happens to be in the dream. I have dreams my current boyfriend and he have become best friends.

I am not someone who reads much into dreams but its really starting to bother me. How is it that I can be so moved on and healed and yet haunted almost every night by a man who probably hasn’t thought of me once since the moment he left?

I would love to know if you have any insights, personal experiences, or have others reached out to you with experiences with this… Will the nightmares stop?

Aztreonam

Dear Aztreonam,

What you’re experiencing is totally normal. In fact, it’s probably because you’ve moved on so well, so quickly, from this massive trauma that you’re getting nightmares now that you’re safe. The brain is weird that way.

And it’s probably no coincidence that now that you’re in a new relationship trying to establish trust, you’ve got some  night terrors. Vulnerability is scary, especially after the shit you’ve been through.

FWIW, I still get the occasional nightmare. And it’s completely random. Maybe it’s an undigested bit of crumpet. Dunno. But the theme is my ex is trying to kill me. He lives next door. He’s some lurking presence in what should be a safe place. I’m being chased. Each avenue for escape is full of ridiculous obstacles. (Does anyone else have airport dreams where you cannot get on the plane? Is passport control an entire genus of nightmare?)

When I was going through my actual nightmare, I didn’t get nightmares. I was probably too overwhelmed with everything else and living on pure adrenalin to do REM sleep. But funny thing, years out, when I was first married to Mr. CL — THEN I got nightmares.

Similar to your New Safe Guy situation. It’s like your brain signals the All Clear and starts to process.

As much as I’m about meh and gaining a life, I recognize that healing from trauma is a lifelong thing. It’s a scar. Sometimes it flares up, like an arthritic knee in winter. You can have an improved new life AND you may still carry a few nightmares into it. It’s okay.

Remind yourself that you survived. A pandemic AND a fraud. Your mightiness is real. Your nightmare is just a dream now.

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  • Ha. I get occasional nightmares that we’re still married. When I wake up, I’m SO relieved it was just a dream. 😈

  • Hi Aztreonam,

    You sound amazing for getting through 2020-21.

    I never remembered dreams in the 33 years of my marriage AT ALL but 6 months after D-day I began waking up remembering what I had dreamt (not nightmares). It has been really weird after all these years to experience this.

    Different to you, but still our body & mind processes things in such a different way than before our abuse.
    Take care

  • Tracy is 100 percent right. These nightmares are a necessary form of working through serious trauma. Your nightmares are a form of healing. They are painful, but they serve a good purpose.

    In the grand scheme of things, a few years is nothing after what happened to you. Many of us are decades from our d day and we are on this site. Betrayal of this magnitude is literally dangerous, as you know. Your mind is scanning the world for more unexpected danger. You didn’t see it coming, so you’re hyper aware.

    It does not mean you’re stuck, it just means you are in the right stage of healing for you. Please don’t blame yourself for any of this. You are a hero for working in the pandemic. Doing it while being in the open-wound stage of trauma is more than most people could handle. You are amazing.

    Let yourself back-slide if your mind and body need to. You are human.

    • Yes, totally agree that the nightmares, while annoying, are part of healing. A great book discusses this topic – Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. He’s discussing it in the lens of war veterans returning from Iraq & Afghanistan and how sleep & nightmares deal with the PTSD of war.

      You definitely dealt with trauma & PTSD in your dealings with a Cheater.

      Maybe also talk therapy may help, ala the forums, a therapist, etc? I do agree with others that it takes years and the nightmares still sometimes come after 6/7/8 years.

      • its both sad and reassuring to know that others may experience nightmares for 5+ years. i felt like it was a failure on my part to still be having dreams.

  • I think the nightmares were the last to go. My friend is still having them (our DDays we’re both about 13 years ago).

    It’s normal but SO horrible! Chumps desperately need restorative sleep and there is no predicting which night will result in a nightmare. Like adding an insult to the already horrific injury.

    I was one of those abandoned for a co-worker with no warning or post DDay answers. It made total sense to me that my nightmares were always about me trying to punch him underwater. No answers = no landing punches = insane frustration.

    Others may have better solutions but for me time was the only remedy. A long time. But one day, they stopped.

    A good, healthy diet and exercise will definitely help you. On the nights I exercised, I was less likely to have a nightmare. An evening drink with friends made the nightmare more likely.

    As a doctor, your stress level may also trigger the nightmares. Young doctors are often busier and more stressed so be mindful of the kind of day you’re having.

    I do recommend keeping a meditation app on your phone next to your bed. Trying to get back to sleep after a nightmare is hard. Turning on a guided meditation may help you refocus your brain and get you back to the precious sleep your heart and body needs.

    There is an end point even to this. Perhaps on a Tuesday night. Have patience.

      • Just to clarify, I’m talking one glass of wine with dinner.
        Other chumps here are more knowledgeable about heavy or frequent drinking.

    • Rebecca,
      Although I hate what you have gone/are going through, it’s nice to meet a fellow-abandoned-for-a co-worker-with-no-warning-or-post-DDay-answers. Finally someone who understand the circumstances that I’ve gone through! I have had the nightmares. Like yours, I’m never able to hit my abandoner or get any answers despite pleading in my dream. I wake frustrated. I swing to try to inflict hurt on him but my hand never makes contact. He is often as dead faced as he was the day he, out of the blue, gave me the ILYBINILWY. I still remember how suddenly sick I felt when he said that to me. I had to run to the bathroom for fear of throwing up. I’ll never forget that moment. And, to go through COVID alone, so suddenly after he left, has compounded my trauma.

      I trust that Karma will make amends. At least, I hope so. I just recently hit 5-years out from D-Day. And, I still reel with questions as to when, how, and why…and I now hate myself for marrying down for him.

      • Also abandoned – X finished his second degree (after I supported him for 13 years), took off, called me to tell me he cheated and didn’t want to see me for a year, changed his phone number, ghosted me and left me to pack up an apartment. I did not function and still have days four years out. I had to find out answers from his fourth OW but I will never really know the truth.

      • Hi. I was also abandoned for a younger coworker. He left and never came back, not even for his things. I never got an explanation, apology, or a reason. The little things I did get where because I asked and demanded and he admitted. I’m still having nightmares, sometimes it’s trying to tell him something he gives me that dead look as when he said ILYBINILWY and my heart clenches and I wake up literally aching. I’m 3+ years out and trying to get divorced. After a long time I realized closure as I thought it would not be coming and I would have to make my own closure.

        • your comment about realizing closure would not be coming and you would have to make your own really resonates. i waited for so long to get a real explanation and in person genuine apology … its been incredibly hard to let go of the hope that will ever happen.

  • I was talking about this the other week – but the other way round .

    I use to have terrible nightmares and night terrors where I was in a dream like state but awake but couldn’t move .

    I use to dream I lived in a high rise flat and it was small ( painted orange for some weird reason) and he was cheating on me . I kept trying to leave the flat but I was locked in and I couldn’t jump . I use to startle myself awake trying to open the door . I woke up covered in sweats or crying . I had this dream at least once a week .
    I use to cuddle in to him and say “ promise you’ll never leave me ? “ he use to say I promise it’s just a bad dream .

    I’ve never had that dream again . Once I got the mind movies over with I sleep like a log .
    I’m not dating so maybe that helps and it did take me about 18 months to get a full nights sleep but now I’m out like a light .

    Dreams are weird things

    • I too used to have nightmares when I was married. The dream always was some form of being all alone in the world. And I would always wakeup between 1:00 and 1:30am. When I woke-up from the dream, my heart would be racing, and I would feel paralyzed with fear. These dreams went on for a few years until D-day came. And how did D-day arrive? I woke-up at midnight with my heart racing, knowing something was terribly wrong. Husband came home from his drinks date with the newly divorced whore at 1:20am. Coincidence that the time he came home was around the time I would always wakeup from my nightmares? I think not. And I haven’t had that particular nightmare since D-day. I’m 100% convinced that my nightmares were trying to tell me that something was going on behind my back! He’s a serial cheater, so no doubt some form a cheating was going on all that time.

      • Martha,

        As I look back, I see the ‘signs’ too that my unconscious knew but I had no clue as to how to decipher the ‘weirdness’ I felt so, naturally, assumed that I was ‘defective’ and a new layer of shame would flood over me which presented to my conscious mind that ‘HE was wonderful and I was completely and totally inadequate and unworthy to be in his presence.’

        Mr. X was/is also a serial cheater and I keep getting these ‘ah-haa’ moments when I am wide awake. I recall moments when his past behavior was horrifically confusing because it was so out of character – he is a covert passive aggressive narcissist. (I am now seeing evidence on a regular basis that he was the ‘gift from hell’…..not me 🙂

        Now I am thinking those times were when he was either ‘on the make’ or literally on the way out of a fucking relationship. A pattern is emerging and it helps me grasp the reality I WAS living vs the fantasy I THOUGHT I was living – the ‘one happy family fantasy’.

        I remember one morning waking up and he was doing his morning routine getting ready for work. I feigned being asleep because……I was feeling fear which totally confused me. The fear didn’t leave until he was out the door.

        I truly thought something must be wrong with ME.

        NO, now I know something was RIGHT with me. My unconscious knew but how I reacted consciously was to turn it around and think something was wrong with me.

        We were together for over 30 years. Dday was almost 5 years ago. I am also convinced now that the feelings that I was having when I was awake were trying to tell me something but I was totally and absolutely clueless until I read LACGAL and found CL and CN.

        Such an awakening. Not what I ever expected 5 years ago but the beauty is in this Self discovery. A turning within and learning to trust myself above all else.

        It gets rocky at times because of patterns I have uncovered in my FOO that were the precursors to all of my relationships, including my relationship with myself, prior to finding and hooking up with Mr. Serial Cheater. Issues I thought I had dealt with before my marriage but those issues have now taken on new meaning in light of what has transpired in my life since dday.

        I have great respect for how my brain/mind/soul has protected me throughout my life and how, despite all the convoluted stuff I have lived through, helped me show up in my every day life looking like I had my ‘shit together’.

        I am also awakening to how traumatic relationships with covert passive aggressive narcissists are because the lies and deception have an extra diabolitical layer of deception thrown in with all the other crap.

        I have lived a double life yet I didn’t know it until just a few years ago. Integration is wondrous and terrifying experience.

        I know now we are whole and we do have precise instincts/insights/leanings towards what is not right if we just pay attention and understand and have the courage to go with the information we receive when we listen.

        Thanks for writing what you did today. It really helped me collect and connect more of my loose ends in an understandable way.

        • EC, I am an EC also and have derived so much help from CL and CN. Your words today are a map of what I have bern through, struggling to figure out what was being g hidden and what was true. I’m still realizing the high cost of living the lie you are being fed by a covert operator you think is your soul/mate. How he got me to hold the false hope i naturally craved, and working to cover over the cracks in the happy family facade I appreciate your putting this into words. I’m still trying to make sense of living that way for so long
          Yes, it’s a scar that acts up and creates waves of pain. Sometimes in dreams and sometimes just in navigating life. Your understanding helps me today.

          • Chumparella,

            I am glad that my rambling made sense to you and thank you for letting me know.

            That is the comfort I find here at CN. Knowing I am not alone in this. There are many of us out there putting the pieces back together as best we can.

        • Elderly Chump, I was married to a passive aggressive covert narc too. Quite possibly a sociopath, because he ticks those boxes too.

          I understand what you mean by, “I know now we are whole and we do have precise instincts/insights/leanings towards what is not right if we just pay attention and understand and have the courage to go with the information we receive when we listen.”

          I feel like this is my new Super Power. Or wisdom I didn’t have prior to the final D-day. Prior to D-day, I didn’t trust my gut or instinct. I doubted myself a lot. I don’t anymore and this has saved me from getting into bad situations or I was able to get out of a bad situation before it got worse! (((HUGS))) Elderly Chump. 🙂

          • Martha,

            Just reading ‘I understand’, a mere two words yet they contain volumes, and they have brought a bit of comfort to me today.

            A forgiveness of sorts, a defense of sorts to soothe my psych…..’I am not the only one. I am not crazy’.

            And yes, your giving this phenomena a name – Super Power, lends it a positive twist that does indeed fit. I like how it feels – solid and it does explain a lot in terms of how I find myself reacting more and more as time goes on. Thanks.

            (((HUGS))) back to you.

            • Elderly Chump, no, you are not crazy! It’s all these covert narc cheaters do to us and our world that make us feel like we are going crazy! Time, healing, and distance from these disordered freaks will eventually bring PEACE OF MIND.

              I copied and saved for future reference what Velvet Hammer wrote a few months back:

              “A person with a history of infidelity is a poor choice for a life partner, as is someone who screws around with people in committed relationships. This is also a consolation prize for the chump.
              The chump is the only player in the game who gets to achieve true peace of mind, which to me is the ultimate prize.”

              Peace of mind. Peace in our bodies. Peace in our hearts. Peaceful home. That is the ultimate prize when we get these lying cheaters out of our lives!

              (((HUGS))) 🙂

              • Martha,

                Thank you for the quoted words from VH.

                After reading what you just wrote I suddenly had a memory, yep – another unexpected ‘visitor’, of a conversation I had with Mr. X after dday wherein he told me about his disheveled/disloyal and secret past.

                I now know he was in full blown TFC mode during that ‘speech’.

                What astounds me though are my recollections of my reactions to his words and body language….yes, TFC mode has very distinctive body language.

                Instead of going into a rage or feeling heartbroken, I stood there thinking and feeling somehow that I was ‘special’ because he was finally confiding in me which, in and of itself, made me feel even more special.

                More shocking to me now was that my further thoughts were all about HIM and comforting HIM and fixing HIM like it was my job to stand there and be Ms Understanding, Ms Forgiving.

                Notes to Self:

                I only had access to RIC information at that time. In retrospect, I should have won the RIC Wife of The Year award for that scene….

                I only found CL and LACGAL about 1.5 -2 years after dday and several failed attempts at reconciliation. Never has failure felt so good. (I now know I didn’t fail. I won,)

                I was indeed the perfect Chump but I have to say it did pay off in the end because our divorce proceedings were really quite easy and went ahead quite swiftly with no unexpected twists or turns.

                (I was ‘legally and financially’ free of him in less than a year from dday. Which is a blessing because I know many here have been tied up for years in horiffic litigation battles.)

                Yes, I was in shock throughout it all but the ‘sane’ observer part of me knew what to do and how to proceed.

                My feelings have shown up since NC so I have been safe and protected from him.

                All very interesting.

                A lifetime of work for those of us who were in long term relationships with these cretans.

                (((HUGS))) back to you.

            • Dear EC-Again your description sends a shock of recegnitiin through me.
              Any grain of truthful sounding confession did make me feel special-like now here we are- he is confiding in me-my work to reach him and prove how much I care and understand is finally bearing grout. MAYBE now WE can start over and he will trust me.
              Rate as those moments were, the whole thing amounted to nothing. It didn’t result in forming constructive building blocks that we could add to.
              A few minutes later he was on to something else-while I clung to the magic of the special feeling.
              Hopium..!!??
              Does this suggest that I had a rescue fantasy-that I could make this lying Pinocchio Bad Boy- real st lady, and interested in a marriage like other grown ups?!?!
              Worrisome.

              • EC…Comforting him..?
                Oh that’s it more than anything …what a sense of connection, coming home, peace even…it gave me to comfort him. My delusion no doubt.
                It didn’t serve to make things better.
                It evaporated and then he was back to his v CB old, distant, gaslighting self.
                So sad, but you named it. It carried so much weight with me, and dosed the hopium drug I was on.

              • Chumparella,

                ‘Does this suggest that I had a rescue fantasy…’

                Just makes us Chumps. That reality hit me between the eyes when I found and read LACGAL. Tracy left no doubt in my mind that everything I was doing was classical chump behavior.

                I was not special. He was not special. Our situation was not special.

                It was ALL predictable.

                Alas, I didn’t find her book until about 2 years in/out. I didn’t need any convincing by that time. I had a lot of incredibly painful first hand experience to fall back on.

                Any time I second guess myself I have hard core evidence as to his total lack of character and I have witnesses.

    • Karmeh,

      I too had a recurring dream for years before it was revealed that my ex was living a double life. It was always the same, I was unloading my stuff from a car parked on a steep slope. It was raining and I was soaking wet. My ex gave the same line everytime “you will be fine” and then walked away. I must have had that dream for 10 years. I know now that his affair was most likely that long. I haven’t had the dream since he left….though after writing this, who knows….

  • When everything was happening, I didn’t sleep at all. The first year, I was up all night with lights on… texting friends in Australia (perfect time change for insomnia). I lost 25 pounds within a month… didn’t eat… didn’t sleep.

    But when the divorce was over, and I had moved out of our house into a rental with my 10 year old son, and then got into a nice relationship with my nice boyfriend… THEN I slept. And nightmares came. And they still happen here and there almost 7 years after DDay.

    I’ve made peace with it. And I still see a therapist. It’s part of the trauma. And I occasionally have to deal with FW because of our son… so an extra nightmare occasionally triggers. But now in my dreams, I’m aware he’s a douche. Now I’m different and stronger in (some — not all) of my dreams. So give it time. Be kind to yourself. And repeat to yourself “I am safe.”

  • I’ve had occasional bad dreams since divorcing my cheating ex, but the true nightmare was being married to her. The bad dreams last a few seconds, the nightmare lasted 22 years.

    As CL suggests, only survivors form scar tissue.

  • Aztreonam I’m sorry you have to go through this. The nightmares are so unsettling!

    A therapist told me that every time I wake up from a nightmare, “rewrite” it. Change the ending so that it’s the outcome I want. My nightmares have stopped, I don’t know if that’s why, but it can’t hurt to try it! At least it calmed me down when I woke up sweating and panicked.

    • I think your therapist’s advice to “rewrite” your dream is a good one. Thank you for posting it! Re-writing a dream ending is a form of “re-framing,” which is something CL and CN (and cognitive behavioral therapy) taught me, and which has been valuable, not just for what I went through with my now-ex, but also in my quest to de-chumpify myself in general and fix my picker (an unfinished task).

      One unforeseen result of my conscious attempts to re-frame events and thoughts in waking life is that I started doing a form of it not after my dreams, but IN my dreams. Some observing part of my brain sees where a dream was heading, and that observing part of my brain causes sleeping/dreaming me to think, “Oh, I don’t want that to happen,” or “Nope. Not going there!” and I not only change the trajectory of a dream in progress but know as I’m doing it that I am doing so. Then I wake up.

      I’m sure the neurological explanation is probably that when these episodes happen in which I can change the trajectory of a dream (it doesn’t happen with every bad dream, but often), I am probably rising up out of REM sleep and inhabiting a half-way state between waking and dreaming. But when I am dreaming of some confrontation or situation with my ex, and I perceive that something bad is going to happen, or he is going to do something to diminish me, to be able to change the outcome feels like a triumph. It also feels like healing.

  • My situation is reversed.

    DDay was OCT 2017.

    I don’t have dreams or nightmares about him. I look forward to bedtime because sleep is a peaceful and emotional pain-free zone.

    I have larger and larger blocks of time during the day where he/they/them are absent from my mind, but there is still popping up and processing going on. The nightmares are in my waking hours. I wish there was an alien mind wipe where I had the power to select what to delete on my mental hard drive, but no, I still have to do the manual cognitive work of taking out the trash. And as much as I’d like to be in control of the situation mentally and psychologically and emotionally, I am not, any more than I would be with a physical injury or illness. My power over this situation, like my power over a physical injury or illness, is in my response to it.

    • …..and while we were “miraged” (I tell people I had a MIRAGE, not a MARRIAGE) I had a periodic dream that he left. It was so out of character for the life I thought I had that I always had no problem completely dismissing it when I woke up. The last time I had the dream, I was away from home solo for the first time in eleven years, since our daughter was born. When I woke up, it was the middle of the night where I was and I texted him. I said, “I think you are glad I am gone, that you don’t love me, and I wonder if you love someone else.”

      Dead on bullseye. No response from him until later that morning, which was “we love you”. Which was bullshit because I have since realized that he does not love anyone. That word “love” has an actual definition which his actions do no reflect.

      I have not had that dream since that night. Or the recurring dreams where I find rooms in my house that I did not know were there….

      • I had two similar dreams while married – where I woke up angry and startled because he was having an affair!! I would tell him about the dream and how real it felt and he would joke about how silly I was, etc.

        I many times am still up during the night. D-Day was two years ago. Mostly I wake up with emotional pain that I am very, very alone. For the first time in my 63 years, I could die and no one would find the body for days. That type of alone.

        I’ve had one dream about him since he left. He was standing in the kitchen making a huge breakfast mess as he used to do when the kids or grandkids were around. I walked into the kitchen, there he was and my kids and grandkids were all acting like nothing had happened. I was furious! My kids were upset at me because, “See, he’s back! It’s all better now, Mom! This is what you wanted.” And I was ranting, “No, he can’t do that.”

        I was upset for several days afterwards. He is scum. He doesn’t get a do-over with me. And certainly him and the adult children do not get to decide that! I used to be very chumpy. I think this is what the dream points out. No. Now, I make the decisions about my life. Thus, I ruined the game. And so I am alone.

      • Velvet Hammer,

        The nightmares are in my waking hours, too!!! But, I guess for me they are not really nightmares. They are brief, terrifying replays of actual past events and feelings. They toss me back on my heels. Usually, it’s a sudden awareness of something from my past that my subconscious just figured out was not right or was in some way upsetting. I guess I’m still processing.

        And I, too, have a recurring dream about extra rooms in my house that I never knew existed. But I remember having that extra-room dream while still in my mirage.

        I can’t make sense of all this.

        What startles me is that I think my subconscious was trying to get through to me while we were married, and, for whatever reason, I ignored/dismissed it. Little bits of awareness that something wasn’t right would surface, like a pop-up ad. About two months before D-Day, I remember asking him, “Are we going to be ok?” I don’t know how/why I uttered those words. I really thought we were fine. He would later tell me that he should have responded, “No.”

        Looking back, I’m not sure how I could have thought we were fine. Affair aside, he was ignoring me, giving me the silent treatment, and being his usual moody/angry self, just worse. I was so deep into discard territory that I couldn’t see it, like standing with my nose up against an impressionist painting.

        • I have the rare but recurring dreams of empty rooms but I LOVE them! They occur when I’m feeling stressed and maxed out IRL. The dreams are that guests are coming to stay and I feel like I don’t have enough room to house them but then I open some random door and discover a whole forgotten wing of the house and I’m so happy I’ll have enough space for everyone to fit comfortably! I can then apply that feeling to my waking life by saying, yes, this time is stressful but I have loads of reserves that I haven’t used/have forgotten about and I can expand into that unused space and comfortably thrive. We are far larger, more capable and more resilient than we imagine!

          • Yes, I had those wonderful dreams where I would find secret rooms in my house & they were filled with beautiful furniture & objects that now belonged to me! Haven’t had one for a while.
            But those house dreams would alternate with versions of the house from hell where we had bought a house with plywood walls & floors & leaking roofs, and we had no money for furniture or repairs.
            I had these dreams all my married life, 36 years. I used to think it was because I loved houses, played with a dollhouse when I was in grade school, collecting the furniture (still have it, never selling it!) built a new dollhouse for my daughters years ago. We moved a lot, had 7 houses in 13 years. I just thought those experiences were reflected in my dreams!

            • M- I like your interpretation of it!
              “ I have loads of reserves that I haven’t used/have forgotten about and I can expand into that unused space and comfortably thrive. “
              Thank you.

            • I love that you had secret, beautiful rooms in *your* house that “belonged to me” but *we* bought a scary, broken “house from hell.” Long may you dwell peacefully in your safe, wonderful house surrounded by beautiful furniture and objects!

          • Interesting. For me, I was both delighted to find extra rooms but also upset that I had missed a main part of my house.

            And that feeling that I could miss something so obvious really upset me.

            It’s not lost on me that I also missed any signs of an affair.🙄

            • You know now that you mention it, I remember having dreams where I went into our attic and found several fully furnished bedrooms. The dream was not scary or nightmarish; but just odd.

              May not even have been connected to what he did, but odd to think about now.

        • “The nightmares are in my waking hours, too!!! But, I guess for me they are not really nightmares. They are brief, terrifying replays of actual past events and feelings.”

          Same here. I wish they were actual nightmares instead of nightmarish reality that I can’t wake up from.

        • I remember when he conned me into buying the river property. I didn’t want to do it, as I thought we were in too deep with a couple rental properties. He threw a mini hissy fit and said “ok fine, I will just sit home and do nothing.

          Two things he never sat home and did nothing: 10 I sacrificed and scrimped and saved so he could have his boat and river side camp site and camper. We used them a lot. And we hung out with friends (his friends) whenever he wanted to. 2) By that time unknown to me he had been living a double life with whore for at least three years, maybe 6 or 7 years.

          He wasn’t going out at night to ride around with one of the guys, he was going out to ride the town bicycle.

          Anyway I bought the hissy fit, and said ok fine if you think we can swing it. I did say I have never made you sit home and do nothing, I love you. He said “I love me too (meaning himself” with a laugh and I took it as a joke, but within a couple weeks I noticed he was avoiding saying I love you. He did sometimes, but avoided it when he could. He was firmly in discard mode when he conned me into the property.

          I did tell my lawyer that, plus I had thee years of credit charges for women’s and kids items that were not mine or my sons. I think that might have helped me get him to assume all debt.

        • Spinach,
          I am going to save this note from you, to read when I get pop- up flashbacks. They flood me with sadness, regret, horror and anger at myself for not dealing with the signals that we weren’t going to “be fine” at all. His on/off behavior finally escalated to the place where I couldn’t ignore the signals even though he was keeping up the facade.
          Being on my own is hard but not
          morale-crushing like being with a mirage maker who keeps you confused and off balance and won’t be honest no matter what. Living in mental confusion is draining and puts your effort in all the
          wrong places.

        • I am going to save this note from you, to read when I get pop- up flashbacks. They flood me with sadness, regret, horror and anger at myself for not dealing with the signals that we weren’t going to “be fine” at all. His on/off behavior finally escalated to the place where I couldn’t ignore the signals even though he was keeping up the facade.
          Being on my own is hard but not
          morale-crushing like being with a mirage maker who keeps you confused and off balance and won’t be honest no matter what. Living in mental confusion is draining and puts your effort in all the
          wrong places.

    • Dday was Christmas 2017 for me.

      I still have occasional nightmares where I scream at FW while he looks through me. Sometimes, I just have bad dreams where we’re married and OW is lurking, or they’re married and I’m lurking, or he’s telling me how much he loves me. Those can sting.

      I had nightmares about FW cheating while we were still married. In a very silly, yet symbolic, spousal appliance nightmare, he planned and executed the replacement of our oven without telling me. I was so upset when I woke up that I made him promise he’d never do such a thing in real life. I remember the precision of his response: “I won’t replace the oven.”

      VH – Our ddays are so close that I feel a kind of bond knowing that we were going through this together but separately. I really just wanted to say that I mostly have daymares too. Whenever my brain isn’t occupied with work, the memories storm in, and I get so angry that I have those childish imaginary conversations where you get to tell off the bad person with some snappy badass lines instead of just standing there dumbfounded. Which will never happen.

      I swear I’m at Tuesday because I’m truly glad to be free of the old twisted toddler-man, and I feel pretty meh whenever my kids talk about him.

      Still, the memories keep dancing around and around in my brain like an evil ritual.
      Of all the things I wish for, the one I wish the most is for the happy couple to feel – first hand – how heavy and constant this burden is.

    • Dear VH, yes like you I find that the waking hours, especially alone, are times when anything can pop up and present more sad, angry, regretful feelings. Your formulation that these episodes require processing and mental work, like it’s a chore you have to attend to, that’s a good way to think of it. Sometimes these waking dreams can drag you down, it’s hard to wake up when you are not sleeping. But reframing it as work that needs to be done -that is right. Thank you.

  • I am six years out from DDay. He is remarried (but not, I presume, to one of the 100s of sex workers he slept with over two marriages — but hey, who knows??); I am single and not really meeting anyone — not even sure if I want to. However, I am posting today because I wanted to talk about the nightmares. Mine have finally disappeared just in the last year — yours will go away — it just takes time. It’s been years since I gave him much thought during the day, so the persistence of the nightmares was surprising to me. I think they are a part of the healing process.

  • I never had nightmares, but I did have times of not being able to stop thinking about a certain conversation or incident.

    Not anymore, but it took a while for that to stop.

    Now of course I remember things, but don’t really stress over them. More of a humm, I had forgotten that, or maybe something makes me see an old memory a different way. But, that is not restricted to betrayal, I do that with many things. I think my mind just does not stop much.

    I am doing a personal and family history and when I am working on that, lots of things come back to me.

    • i also obsessed over conversations, or reliving experiences in my head with the new information of the affair. months after i found out i remembered a fight we had on the way to a new years eve party and i couldnt understand why he was acting so weird, only to later realize he didnt want me and his affair partner to be at the same event and was picking a fight so I would want to go home. I must have relived that conversation 8,000,000 times

  • I have nightmares regularly after 2.5 years of a hideous DDay where I not only found out he was in a relationship with a client from our work, but I had to survive the rolling discovery of the extensive cheating he had done over at least the previous decade if not the entire 2.5 decades we were together. The trauma was profound. My nightmares involve either still being with him and we’re still in love (and I wake up in pain), or I’m being taunted and lied to by him and sometimes by the OW. I do that slow, molasses type punching at him but I can’t hurt him, or I scream and run around acting wild in front of him while he laughs at me and pretends not to understand why I’m upset. They’re freakishly torturous and I wake up in a pool of sweat and exhausted. My therapist said it’s just the old classic PTSD symptoms and it’ll wane over time.

    We’ve been abused and this is the fallout of abuse. It’s courageous work to heal from something like this. As my therapist always says, This is warrior’s work.

    Big hugs, the nightmares and hard but it’s perfectly normal and it’s just our brains processing the mind fuck if they’re lying.

    • This is spot on. Lies and long term deception create trauma because our whole world was not what we thought it was. Thanks for sharing.

    • Formalyknownas,
      I occasionally have similar nightmares. They’re horrible. He’s ignoring me, as I’m asking him why he cheated. I’m trying to convince him to stay and he’s acting as if he doesn’t hear me

      I wake up so upset, I have a difficult time going back to sleep.
      The next day I’m anxious, the feeling is hard to shake afterwards
      I hate even thinking about them.

  • I just had a nightmare about my ex & the OW! It’s been over 2 years now as well. I dreamt about my ex once before a year ago, but never the OW too! I was not happy when I woke up!! I was like WTH?! Why are these degenerates now coming up in my sleeps?! Maybe my brain is processing where it couldn’t go before & maybe it’s that weird telekinesis where you think of someone that’s thinking of you? I dunno. Either way, its disturbing to be so healed & then drawn back into the nightmare! I can only hope the FW & OW also experience some nightmares about me too 🤞

    • “Maybe my brain is processing where it couldn’t go before…” I think you’re on to something here. When my father committed suicide, almost 30 years ago now, when I was 40, it felt to me as if my brain were protecting me by allowing me to process only so much and no more, only what I could handle, before it would hand me the next stage. It was incremental, and took me a decade to close just one chapter of what his suicide unleashed in me (he abused me sexually when I was a child). And now it seems to me that the same process is at work in my processing and healing from the blow my now-ex dealt me after 32 years of being married to him. Someone above said her therapist said healing from trauma was “warrior’s work.” I so agree.

      • Hey, sorry, grammar mavens, for my misuse of the subjunctive’s principle of “contrary to fact”. It didn’t “feel to me as if my brain WERE protecting me” (meaning it felt like it but it wasn’t actually doing this). It WAS protecting me.

        • Adelante,

          I’m struck my the repeated trauma you’ve had in your life: the sexual abuse by a trusted parent and his subsequent suicide followed by the infidelity abuse by your x. It seems like too much for one person to handle. But you are handling it all.

          Also, your comment, which is echoed by others here, rings true. The brain does seem to allow us to process only what we can handle in the moment. I marvel that our brains are smarter than we are.

          Here’s to our collective mightiness! 💪

          p.s. Was v were! You’re impressive. 🤣 🤓 🧐

          • Spinach,

            Don’t be too impressed over was v were: I’m an English prof.

            As for abuse: it’s not the abuse Olympics but if it were (subjunctive used properly), I wouldn’t even make the team.

        • Adelante-
          Grammar mavens unite..!!!

          On the terrible matter of incestuous child sexual abuse, that is in a category by itself.
          However the abuse of deception snd betrayal within a marriage partakes of some of the perverse use of the trust and vulnerability. The total trust one gives in marriage is comparable to the trust of a child. The violation of our faith in being transformed into a couple- changing “we” into You the betrayer, and Me,the betrayed, is psychologically destructive at a core level. Witness all the dreams coming from the depths of unconscious feeling and identity.

      • Dear Adelante,
        You are so brave and so wise. Thank you for sharing and helping in thinking about the way
        memories and waves of remembrance come in bits and pieces. This work is so hard.The way it meshes with what has happened in the past
        makes it a long ongoing process.

  • When I was married, my then-husband rarely appeared in my dreams. And, if he did, there was no meaningful conversation or eye contact!

    I am three years out from leaving, one year divorced from a 30-year marriage.

    My current dreams/nightmares have continued with lifelong themes of “shelter in place” or “evacuate”. Of course, world events have probably contributed to that anxiety.

    I do occasionally (about twice a month) confront FW and the OW in my dreams with pointed accusations and ineffective attempts at face scratching. It’s the nightmare hangovers that I resent now.

  • A therapist told me that nightmares are a way for the brain to take out the trash. That’s a good image. I’d rather have nightmares than the real thing!

  • Bearing in mind I actually wanted – and asked for – a divorce many times because of his violence, I was surprised at the awful nightmares that started once I got rid of him to the skank. I would be being chased by monsters, trapped in a diamond mine covered in sludge, trying to climb over the alps through the snow – they were just awful. Or I would be trapped in a huge house or a maze trying to get away. I think it’s pretty obvious what that was about. Very often I would be struggling to carry a baby too (and it was ALWAYS my youngest son). Over time those dreams have more or less gone, but even now I still occasionally get a nightmare where he is in my home and I’m screaming at him to get out. It’s weird as I’ve been divorced 10 years! Still, if it’s a way for my body to process what happened I guess it can only be moving in the right direction right?

    • Yes, you’re able to protect yourself now.

      Your past nightmares reminded me of drawings that I produced during the short time that I worked with an art therapist. I only had 4-5 sessions & it was over Zoom due to Covid. It felt hokey while I sketched & colored with pastels on huge newspaper pads. Then the therapist would remark on it & ask how I felt, or why I drew something or why I chose certain colors. They ended up being powerful sessions. Soon after, I felt ready to make the decision to file, I think coincidentally everything just came together for me: a place to live, assurance that I had enough money, and people I could trust.
      Maybe pictures help the mind heal, whether it’s guided by an art therapist, or produced while you’re sleeping.

      • Thanks for sharing your experiences with an art therapist. For me writing has been the most important part of my healing. It has literally saved me and allowed me to process and make sense of some of the horrid trauma I’ve been subjected to by FW and his ho-workers. I’ve also used art – including pastels – and that has also been very healing for me.

  • Not related to cheating…I am 61 years old and escaped from my violent, abusive father at age 17. Only after I got away safely did the nightmares start, and they were terrible, constant, frightening. It took many years before they became a bit less frequent and even now every so often I get one. I am not one to assign much meaning to dreams in general, but in this case I think I have spent my life working through this trauma. The wonderful (?) thing is that, starting around my mid-thirties, the dreams began to change. Instead of running away, hiding in terror as he tried to kill me, I began to turn and face him in my dreams, scream at him, shoot him, kick him and otherwise vanquish this enemy. It’s been therapeutic really. My inner abused child has become a warrior. I am sorry about your nightmares but I hope the nature of them will change over time for you and you will begin to feel mighty.

  • So sorry you had to go through this. I think trauma hits us all to degrees and differently but it sounds like your conscious state of mind is doing very well. Maybe mediation would help heal your inner subconscious self. Your mind is telling you there is still trauma.

    I had nightmarish dreams well before Dday. I’d have nightmares he was with a woman/women. REPEATEDLY. In the dream he was never himself but cold and had no feelings toward me. Opposite of devoted man of faith…what silly dreams right!? Sometimes Id wake up crying. He would hear me crying and say, ‘I guess you had another bad (name-husband) dream? That’s how common the dreams were. Only years later did I realize my subconscious knew a lot more than my waking mind did. I think God was speaking to me there a truth I couldn’t see in waking life.

  • Aztreonam, I am so sorry your waking nightmare has now become your sleep nightmare.

    Aztreonam, I’m two years post-divorce; three years since February 14, 2019 discovery of my ex’s affairs with multiple young women, all less than half his age. I’m also a therapist; I specialize in trauma recovery, grief work, and boundaries education with both dyads/couples, families and individuals. This is my 30+ year profession and still, Chumped.

    Similar to CL’s experience, I had no nightmares during the chaos and administrative management of the discovery and divorce process but once that period began to settle, the nightmares took center stage. They shattered my sleep–which I’d only just begun to get back (I love sleep! I could go pro!)–and started many of my days with what felt like fresh trauma.

    The critical thing I noticed about my own nightmare experience was that while I’d begun to find my voice, my preferences, my choices, my Self in my waking hours, I felt like the old me in my nightmares: powerless and voiceless. I began scripting my dream scenarios. Nothing lengthy or complex, just short statements or actions I envisioned saying or doing in my nightmares. Some of my own scripts are as short as, “NO!” or “Stop!” Some of the actions are as simple as envisioning myself closing a door, walking the other direction, or in one entirely-out-of-character-but-sometimes-I-need-to-stretch-a-bit scene, punching the perpetrator. Crazy, I know.

    Scripting my own power role in my dreams has helped about 90%. I still have the occasional dream but the two improvements are 1) I no longer experience them as nightmares because I feel in control and confident that I can keep myself safe, and 2) I awaken thinking, “oh, there’s that thing again,” rather than, “oh my goddess I am dying.”

    In short, consider ways you can experess your voice and power in your dreams, just as you have in your real life. And BTW, what a life you’ve built for yourself!

  • I have dreams where my ex and I are together are having a good time, he finally treat me with respect and decency and shows kindness.
    It’s like I’m still longing for the love bombing phase.

    I was married for almost 30 years. I don’t consider them nightmares. If I remember when I wake upI feel so sad.- I have to shake off that feeling. It’s a feeling of longing

    I don’t know if it’s healing or harmful

    • You just told my story! I’m 7 years out- 26 years together. I recently had a disturbing dream that I was with XH again as a couple and I felt such a welling of emotion that it makes me tear up thinking of it. It was a longing. Even in my dream I knew he was toxic and remembered the truth, but my dream self wanted to look the other way and pretend he was as I thought he was- my beloved mate, protector, best friend, co-parent to our children. When I awoke I remembered he wasn’t and will never be these to me again, and, worse, he probably never was. The disappointment and sadness writing this is here now.

      My father died traumatically when I was 15. This is very similar.

      The brain is interesting this way, although not comfortable. Must be normal.

      • Similar MCer
        I am better with the nightmares where I am angry or confronting him – to no avail, something always interrupts just as I am about to get him to answer: Why?

        But the WORST nightmare ever was when I dreamt that I missed him so much, that I went to the house that he moved into with the OW and I let myself in and slept on their couch just so I could be near him. I had a shirt of his, and I clung to it in the night. In my dream I woke to hearing their voices and I was terrified of being found, and I scrambled out of their house, running down the street trying to find my car.
        This dream made me heartsick for days, could not shake it. I hated that I felt longing and missing him. In my waking hours I did not feel that way, but that dream really messed with my head.
        This stuff never seems to end. To Stress Chump- I guess it’s just part of the shit sandwich as they say here. I hope your nightmares go away soon!

        • Oops, Stress Chump was yesterday !
          Even writing my dream down messed with my head.
          This was for today’s poster, but I’ll just write: Az… 🙂

    • Meanwell,
      No shame in longing. That too is embedded in the brain. Placed there in the love bombing phase. When longing is met with loving gestures and feelings it gets deeply implanted. That is why all of these dreams and daytime struggles are so hard- deep down there is a hope that it can all come true again as it was or seemed to be then. The punching through molasses and intermittent memories of abuse-all are in the context of having had what seemed like love in marriage.

      • C- rella, I am told it’s grief, and grief is a sign of the capability to love, therefore, what I go through is healthy healing.

        I really hope so, hurts like hell so I hope it serves a positive purpose for me.

        I thought he would be thrilled I divorced him. He wanted out so badly, but I also thought we could still maintain a cordial relationship for the sake of our children, even tho they are adults. He went no contact. Won’t talk to me except through attorneys. He is pissed at my settlement. Felt like I took advantage and my attorney rolled over his
        I try and accept that this exposes his ability to love, which is zero.

    • EC…Comforting him..?
      Oh that’s it more than anything …what a sense of connection, coming home, peace even…it gave me to comfort him. My delusion no doubt.
      It didn’t serve to make things better.
      It evaporated and then he was back to his v CB old, distant, gaslighting self.
      So sad, but you named it. It carried so much weight with me, and dosed the hopium drug I was on.

  • I agree with other posters that this is probably normal. But also review your med list if applicable; a not-rare side effect of SSRIs is nightmares. Congrats on your new life, and fist-bump for being an ID doc during this wild time, kind of like the ID faculty from the 80’s who can tell stories of when HIV hit.

  • I have this regular dream that I’m stuck living with ex and OW. I can’t leave. I’m just there witnessing all the mindfuckery and I am stuck, powerless to do anything.

    It drives me insane as I have to listen to all the mad gaslighting that my ex does, but I can’t do anything about it.

    It’s been 6 years and it’s only recently that I’ve started having these.

    • “I have this regular dream that I’m stuck living with ex and OW. I can’t leave. I’m just there witnessing all the mindfuckery and I am stuck, powerless to do anything.”

      This is what I remember feeling when fw left. I didn’t really think of whore or them together so much as I just remember just sitting there powerless. I would go to work and function as best I could; then come home and sit there powerless. That lasted oh maybe sixish weeks to varying degrees.

      I wonder if that is why the nightmares, reliving that mess. In that time we really are powerless for a while. Not in every thing, but in terms of what the fw is doing and the marriage imploding like a brick building.

      • I think you’re right Susie. It’s going back to that time when I just felt so powerless. I was pregnant and had this man I no longer recognised and this OW and ex were dictating to me about what I should do with my kids. I just felt I was constantly putting out fires and then something else would come up.

        When my daughter was born, the OW was desperate to take over. They’d make fake gestures of wanting to take the kids to ‘give me a break’. That wasn’t the reality. They wanted the control.

        I put up with my ex coming to the house to spend the day with my daughter so that she didn’t have to go to their house while they played happy families with my baby daughter. So, I said that when she was 12 months, then she’d be able to go, but not until then.

        So, I put up with this man coming to the house and sneaking upstairs to the bathroom to sit on calls with OW. It was shit sandwich! I guess, it takes me back to that time where I felt intertwined in the whole mindfuckery.

        • I just can’t even imagine the horror of having to deal with that and small children.

          It is bad enough that they go on their fuck fests and plot and scheme to plan out our destruction, but add in children. Just so much.

  • I still dream about my ex wife 4 1/2 years out from DDay. I use to have panic attacks at night if I dreamed about her. I had to take anxiety pills 💊 at night to sleep. Therapy helped a lot. I have since remarried. I occasionally still dream about my ex. In my dreams she is trying to reconcile with me or trying to kiss me or have sex with me. It is weird as I am past “meh”. I still have to parallel parent with her. The subconscious is a weird thing. It eventually gets better. EMDR has helped a lot also. You might want to try it as you might have some unresolved trauma?

    • Can you elaborate on how EMDR is used in addressing the trauma of infidelity? How many sessions? What were they like?

      • Do look into EMDR. It retrains your brain to see past events and remove the trauma attached to the memory. The number of sessions depends on the level of abuse and your brain’s willingness to let go of the memory. My son only needed a couple of months of EMDR. My daughter has had over a year focused on trauma. She was so certain that all men were out of control, raging sex-freaks that she could not leave our house. The EMDR therapist told her at her first session that EMDR is the kind of therapy that you quit, because you don’t need treatment any more. I got to see it happen when DD announced that she had dealt with all of her trauma and her therapist agreed. She is now doing Neurofeedback to heal her eating disorder. It’s also used to retrain the brain out of “mental ruts.”

        In EMDR, the therapist helps you identify a past trauma and then uses bilateral or flash techniques to lessen the stress surrounding the event. You can check out bilateral stimulation on the free app called “Sleep Restore.” Flash techniques involve watching a distracting video while the therapist instructs you to blink. The great thing is that EMDR is very effective over Zoom, in case your area is still limiting in person visits.

  • During the time of husband’s cheating, I had a dream that the diamond in my engagement ring shattered. I remember feeling so curious about why I would dream such a thing. I never questioned the notion that he cheating, and had already destroyed our relationship. So strange.

  • Most of my nightmares were between Dday 1 and 2. Once lawyered up and took my power back they started to go away. I am still in the midst of the process but now it is basically about the settlement so I only have these weird dreams about being lost now and not able to figure where I am. I think for me, once I decided to cut the cheater out of my life, I got hi out of my dreams. Who knows, it may come back after everything is finished but for right now, I can actually sleep decently. That has helped the healing process.

    • It is amazing how much retaining my lawyer helped me.

      Even after we legally separated, I did let him come back once and it only lasted a week. I don’t know why I let him, as I pretty much knew it would not work; but I did. If I had not already retained my lawyer and already been legally separated, I might have been more venerable to let the asshole stay longer and abuse me more.

  • I am 9 months out from final dday and 8 months divorced. I’ve had several dreams post-dday. The most marked is one where he was just standing in front of me and said calmly to my face, “I don’t love you.” Recently, I dreamt that our son had gotten into a little trouble and we discussed it and were on the same page regarding discipline. In my dream, I was thinking Thank God my ex and I can get along and agree on what’s best for our son. But then I woke up, and realized it was just a dream. I made a post that said “When you wake up from a dream and realize your real life is the actual nightmare…” Damn it.

    However, Aztreonam’s letter and everyone’s replies reminds me that during the entirety of my 15 year marriage/20 year relationship, I had a recurring nightmare that I was screaming for help as hard as I could, but my voice had no volume and sounded like a whisper. I actually woke FW up multiple times over the years “yelling” in my sleep. One time I woke myself up too and asked FW what was I doing and he said, “It sounded like you were practicing your opera!” We laughed about that for years. BUT, since FW has been gone, the recurring silent screaming nightmares have stopped! Coincidence? I think not. I was subconsciously screaming for help my entire 20 year relationship, but now that it’s over and I am safe, the screaming has stopped. Our bodies KNOW something isn’t right. And our bodies try to tell us! (I literally broke out in hives during our wedding ceremony!! It is documented in our wedding pictures!) We just don’t listen and/or we don’t understand.

    • I forgot about this one… I had a dream out of the blue that FW had been cheating with a girl in town and it was public knowledge. The dream was so real and disturbed me so much that I told FW about the dream, but did not tell him who the girl was. THE NEXT DAY he comes home with some wheels for the car I was driving at the time. I asked who he bought them from and it was THE GIRL FROM THE DREAM. I nearly fainted!! FW was pretty surprised too. Needless to say, those wheels did NOT go on my car. I told him to sell them to someone else. They were not going on MY car. This girl was nowhere on the radar, so I doubted there was anything to it at the time. But now, knowing what I know he is capable of now, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was secretly screwing her! She is married and lives 2 miles from me. I guess maybe time will tell if some fall out happens in the future due to him having an affair with her. Or maybe I’ll get a random FB message. Coincidence? Too soon to tell.

      I will add that I am a Christian and I believe that God speaks to people in dreams. There are numerous accounts of it in the Bible to validate that belief. So it is possible that our dreams are God speaking to us. The dream must align with other biblical truth first, but it is possible.

    • yeah, my dreams often include me screaming and no one can hear, or driving away from something scary but not being able to see or steer properly, running but feeling like you’re underwater or your legs are tied together or your stride is too slow.. ..

      i think my body knew something was wrong for a long time. i was anxious, not eating properly even before i found out about the cheating. i knew something was wrong but i couldnt put my finger on it. the somatic issues resolved once we got divorced, despite my grief

  • While I was engaged to my sociopath cheater I did have dreams of him cheating…of course he was cheating. I also had the frustrating dreams of him being indifferent to my agony. After we broke up I didn’t dream of him for at least 10 years, went on with my life, married, etc. However to this day when I am under stress, he pops up in my dreams and I can’t get away from him. Such a relief to wake up. I equate it with the going to school half naked dreams. Also a relief to wake up:)

  • A few months ago (D-Day was Oct 2019), I had a dream that disturbed me. In the dream (as in reality), X is married to wifetress; I call him up and flatter him by saying that I miss having sex with him. Because he’s a covert narc and self-described cheater/betrayer, I figure he’ll fall for the offer. I arrange for us to meet at a hotel. It’s all very detailed and calculated. Think Kill Bill!

    My goal is to inflict pain on both of them. My plan is to dump him after a few sessions (hopefully after getting him to re-invest in me emotionally) and to make sure she learns of the “affair.”

    Ugh. Not proud of this revenge dream, but here I am. And it’s just a dream/nightmare…

  • Ugh, me too, and it’s been years and years since we split. In mine, normally something is happening that forces us to work together on some task and he’s still playing Mr. Nice Guy and IN MY OWN DREAM I question whether I was right about him being a terrible person. I hate it. Maybe I’m traumatized by my own self doubt. Anyways, the dreams are always during times of stress. Sometimes I think it may be impossible to fully get over some emotional trauma. Like, you can definitely move on, but it’s still there, somewhere, waiting to haunt you during your most difficult times.

  • Over thirty years ago, I had a nightmare that my ex was cheating on me with THAT woman after he had gone to do a plumbing job at her condo (they were coworkers). She was single at the time. Fast forward to 2015 and yes, he is cheating with THAT woman! I like to tell everyone that I had such a wonderful husband that he actually made my nightmares come true!

  • “Does anyone else have airport dreams where you cannot get on the plane?”

    Funny you should mention it. Since I left the house, I’ve had many repeated variation on this dream: I’m in transit, I can’t get the bus, I’m struggling to get on the train, I get to the airport but I have no ID, whatever — the mode of transit will change from nightmare to nightmare but it’s always about me being lost and in transit.

    In the beginning, I would also be gathering up all my belongings, trying to remember what I was forgetting, I’d pick something up and immediately realize I’d dropped something else …

    Another variation: I keep ending up back at the house. I leave, I know the house now belongs to my ex, I’m not supposed to be there, I drive out and all the roads change and before I know what’s happened, I find myself pulling into the exact same garage. I’d just keep leaving and end up back where I started, back in the same house.

    It’s not hard to figure out what my brain has been trying to tell me.

  • 25 years post divorce the ex occasionally shows up in my film noir nightmares.

    Otherwise I don’t think of him at all.

      • I’ll make a guess: because the pain never really goes away when you are betrayed in this fashion. Maybe because, like me, Mrs. Morley is reading everything she can trying to understand what happened to her. Infidelity is like a brutal rape: you might recover but you never quite heal.

        • I am here years later too, but I didn’t find CL until years after we had D’d. I hadn’t really thought of fw for years, I had remarried and was quite blessed.

          Then FW blew up his relationshp with our son, I was just trying to understand, Covid was upon us and I was not going out much. It was helpful in dealing with what was gong on with my son, and it made me laugh and cry for others.

          Now I am here to try and help others in some small way.

          But you are also right that the pain never goes away totally. CL has helped me understand some things that were just so unexplainable in real time. Simple really but in real time and before CL, I never knew that basically these monsters are the same person, and live by a script.

          There is comfort in that.

      • I’m 13 years out from DDay and 1@ years post divorce.

        Many of us stay to read and help others who are new. We learned so many lessons along the way and want to share what we have learned.

        A lot of posts I just skim and don’t read the responses. But if it’s a topic that I can share my story, experiences and what it’s like being at my Tuesday, I will.

        And sometimes it does help us to read what others are going through. Cheating and cheaters change our lives forever! If you have kids then it never goes away – as soon as the kids are launched, 5 minutes later there are weddings and grandchildren to deal with

      • 17 years post Dday. Almost 10 years ago he died. I never left him, so most of my dreams with him in them are me trying to figure out how to leave. Im remarried and in some dreams, Im suddenly “with” Cheater again and trying to get back to my new husband.

        I come here to help newbies and to continue to process whateverthefuck it was that I experiences that I THOUGHT at the time was a marriage and now see more as hostage situation of some sort. There are few places to do that

        • Unicornnomore, we need your wisdom and advice. It is exactly things like this that no one who hasn’t been through it can understand: I too believed for a decade that I was in a loving devoted marriage but now see that I was instead in a hostage situation where I was living under false pretenses, subjected to lies, humiliation, diseases, and extorted socially, emotionally, financially, psychologically, and sexually with lies in order to get me to engage in things that I would NEVER have agreed to do had I been given the ability to make my own informed decisions by knowing the truth. And why did FW not tell me the truth? Because he knew I would have left him if I had known. The one and only true thing he ever said.

  • I had a dream two nights in a row while I was on vacation 8 time zones away (What I didn’t know was that I was being discarded and affair was beginning). I sat up from my bed with someone telling me in a very loud voice “you cannot be married to that man”. It was so loud I thought for sure someone was in my room. I later found phone records and it corresponds to hours long phone conversations Asshat has with HoWorker/Wife.

    So when I drift back (less and less as divorce final in 2018), I go to that voice to reassure me I’m on my correct path. I can’t quite place the voice, but it was a comforting sound. I often think it was my inner voice.

  • D-day was december 2020, so it’s early days for me but i have nightmares of shouting at my X, that’s about it. we’re in the midst of negotiating a separation agreement so it’s not a stretch that i’m shouting at him. god, i wish i could shout at him in person sometime but why bother?

    my dreams are made of fragments of images of him sneering, and looking at me with reptilian eyes, and his angry postures. they’re in colour but all the colours of my dreams are darker, like perpetual night. strangely, he doesn’t say anything.

    TBH i’m a little thankful when i dream these days because my sleep is interrupted, and i miss REM sleep most nights.

  • TW – description of graphic gore

    In the earliest days, my nightmares were incredibly graphic and violent. One of the worst was me attacking him, scratching the skin off his face with blood and flesh flying everywhere. I can still see the flecks of blood as they flew though the air. Terrifying even though it wasn’t real. Another would be if me sitting on top of him, just punching the hell out of his face, screaming at the top of my lungs. Woke myself up with that one many times. I was and still am extremely angry – not just because of the cheating but because of his basic and heinous violation of my daughter and the other child victims in his cp collection. My dreams clearly demonstrate that I want to tear off the false “simple good guy” mask that he wore so well to expose the monster underneath. I did not sleep for weeks after the cp discovery, and when I did, it was not good sleep. Unlike some of you, I had my worst nightmares during that period when things were so uncertain and unsafe, before he was arrested and after he made bail.
    Now we (the kids and I) are safe, we are 100% no contact except thru lawyers and I am sleeping reasonably well. He still shows up
    In my dreams, but the dreams themselves are not so violent and disturbing. Progress?

    • Yes, it’s progress. And your dreams were appropriate to your ex’s violation of others. I’m glad you did that to him–even if it was in a dream. He’s a monster.

  • Aztreonam,

    Although you’ve been successfully been treated with the appropriate species-specific agent (a combination of no contact, therapy, hobbies, and accepting support from friends and family), you likely remain colonized to some degree with this pathogen.
    Keep doing all the beneficial things you’re doing now and read the good advice here, and the bacterial burden (his presence) will soon fall well below 100,000 CFU/ml.
    You’ve handled this and had enough wherewithall left over to provided care to your patients during a pandemic –you are AWESOME !
    I have no doubt your biome will be restored to its normal, healthy flora.
    I hope it happens very soon.

  • I was suddenly left too. I used to have nightmares. They eventually abate.

    Now I have a recurring dream that we are married again and on the surface, everything is fine, we are smiling. But beneath the surface, I know who he really is, I am desperate to get away, and I want to go back to my life. The life I created without him.

    You will get there too.

    • Wow the we must have the same dream fairy visiting us at night. Mine are exactly the same. Or ill have one where he isn’t the meaning of the dream, but more of an oh-by-the-way side bar of the dream. We’ll still be married in the dream, but I’m with loyal friends and we’re wondering about doing this and that. When I wake up, I vaguely recall he was still my husband in the dream.

  • This is the absolute truth… Two days before D Day, I had a dream that my family was camping in the wilderness, and we had no food. I found him sitting on a lawn chair with two big plates of food, which he would not share. I asked him where he got the food, and he said, “My girlfriend gave it to me.” I had no idea at the time that he was a cheater, but I found out two days later. I guess my gut knew.

  • Well this article is crazy timing. Just had a ‘dream’ about Narcula last night. I woke up looking to the side like a confused spaniel and shaking my head with a wtf. Ironically, I have moved on and even with the pandemic I have found new friends and started living my life again. Good advice as usual Chump Lady.

  • Every time I read one of these accounts, I am struck with the worst kind of awe that such people are out there as the letter writer’s ex-husband. I mean, I cannot. How?

    But I digress. First of all, MASSIVE WELL DONE in doing literally everything correctly to weather this hateful, nightmarish, surreal reality into which you were thrust with no warning, having done nothing to deserve it in any way. As a specialist doctor, I’d guess you’re academic, have generally always achieved highly, were married to Mr Wonderful and thought entirely reasonably that your life was pretty nice, that all the hard work and studies and all of that stuff, all the good choices, were culminating in a joyful life with someone you could trust forever.

    And then.

    It’s totally normal – indeed, it would be very odd if you literally never had any further emotional fall-out, literally, it would be like waiting for the other shoe to drop – to be processing things in this way. You’ve done and are continuing to do the hard work, as you clearly always do, to bring your best and do the right thing, to behave with integrity and ethics. This is why you’re in a flaming snit with the sheer bloody effrontery in TAKING MONEY FROM YOUR PARENTS and not fucking well paying it back. I feel quite ragey about it too, though of course it’s just one sentence in one paragraph of the Essay of Misery in reality.

    Thing is though, you have in fact won, and now that you can truly relax and take stock, now that your adrenal glands aren’t working themselves into a state constantly, the poison must seep out somehow. It just must, bleurgh though it is.

    One thing to consider though, have you recently started taking or stopped taking any psychiatric meds or sleep aids? Those might have impacted your sleep in some way, though the content of your nightmares is hardly a shock!

    • I take antidepressants and blood pressure meds to help with trauma. And grateful for them too. At 67, I’m not as strong mentally or physically as I was in the past. Recovery will take time and patience, and a lot of self compassion. Anxiety is my constant companion so I’m working on what I need to look at in terms of changing my beliefs about what I am worthy of, whom I allow myself to be around. Basically letting how I FEEL point me in the right direction. My instinctive gut can be rehabilitated, along side my brain. Enduring multiple decades of deception can wreck one’s gut intuition. I focus on one thing each day that will help me gain some needed clarity. One day at a time and keeping things simple help get me out of the intellectual booby traps that were set up during trauma. No shame in admitting I need help. That’s what we on on this earth for. To be here for one another.

    • I also read these posts and think wtf how can people be like that? but then i think about my situation and realize that i really couldnt have known. my husband for the majority of our relationship was affectionate, kind, giving. I looked past some of his laziness/impulsiveness and poor past choices because he put me on a pedestal. I was so in love with him I really didnt take him for someone who would bail on his family, or walk away with the money they gave him to “start our family.” i think alot of people read stories about the horrible things people are capable and tell themselves “I could never marry someone like that, i would know” …. but…. here we are

  • I used to get horrible nightmares that I was still married and he wouldn’t let me go or leave me alone. After about 2 years, they STARTED to slow down. Now, 8 years out, I only get the occasional nightmare, maybe 1 or 2 a year. They also aren’t as terrifying. Most of the time now I can laugh at them upon awakening. It gets better. I chalk it up to some subconscious unresolved trauma that somehow gets triggered while awake.
    I’m not afraid of him anymore and I most certainly have no feelings one way or another for him anymore, but the mind can still be reminded of a time when you still had dreams and plans of a future, especially when you start making new plans with someone else. I do sometimes get reminded of what I thought I had and what I thought my future was going to be. It’s normal.

  • I had a recurring dream for years while married to x – I was driving around where I thought he worked and couldn’t find him; couldn’t find his house either.

    Post D-day, my dreams knew long before my waking brain caught on – he wasn’t ‘real’ and really wasn’t for me to ‘find.’

    I wish I could dream the winning lottery numbers

  • I take antidepressants and blood pressure meds to help with trauma. And grateful for them too. At 67, I’m not as strong mentally or physically as I was in the past. Recovery will take time and patience, and a lot of self compassion. Anxiety is my constant companion so I’m working on what I need to look at in terms of changing my beliefs about what I am worthy of, whom I allow myself to be around. Basically letting how I FEEL point me in the right direction. My instinctive gut can be rehabilitated, along side my brain. Enduring multiple decades of deception can wreck one’s gut intuition. I focus on one thing each day that will help me gain some needed clarity. One day at a time and keeping things simple help get me out of the intellectual booby traps that were set up during trauma. No shame in admitting I need help. That’s what we on on this earth for. To be here for one another.

  • I had nightmares before D-day. I don’t remember them all. Running, being scared, being left behind, stuff like that. It all stopped after D-day. Now if I have a nightmare, he might be in it somewhere but it isn’t about him at all. It will be where I am trying to save someone else. In the last week I had a nightmare about a small child going underwater. A bystander dove in and brought the child out and I was trying to get the water out and get the kid breathing. Just a standard nightmare not FW related (that I can tell). But I am always trying to save a child and it’s scary.

    A dear chump friend of mine just had her kids almost abducted by her FW STBX, so I am not sure if that has been in the back of my mind. I have always had some fear that klootzak might try to run with our child. So maybe these dreams are about that. I keep hoping someday I will have excellent sleep again.

    • That is terrifying. Are her kids okay? Yeah, that may have played into you having that dream. What an awful fear to have to live with. Is there a chance Klootzak might take your child?

      Immediately after I left FW I started sleeping through the night more or less regularly for the first time in about twenty years. Before that I always had insomnia and disturbed sleep. Coincidence? I think not. I also had anxiety and OCD throughout most of our marriage and was on meds to control it. Those disorders run in my family, which I assumed was the sole cause, but obviously being with FW was a trigger since I improved after leaving him. My subconscious was screaming at me the entire time that the guy was not safe.

      • The authorities caught up with them and the kids are back home safe. FW had told them that they were going on a long vacation and their mother would catch up with them as soon as she could get time off work. Insane.

        Klootzak has a lot of money and his family does, too. At least two of his APs are in foreign countries and his father has connections in Central America. He has lots of means to do it. I asked my friend how could one possibly prepare their children for the chance the other parent might abduct them? “If you and Daddy ever go on vacation, make sure to call me to tell me where you’re going. If Daddy won’t let you, you be sure to tell everyone you know you want to see your Mom.” I mean, how could one even prepare them to try to get help? Could he take our child and run? Absolutely. What are the odds? I have no idea. This creep has lived a double life. I put nothing past him. I have had the idea that I would deactivate the speaker on Air Tags and insert one in each of kiddo’s shoes somehow. A GPS watch would too easily be left behind.

        The risk will come when I file and I have no idea what to do about it.

        • My stbx lives in Saudi Arabia (he is not Saudi, just there for a job), and this was my biggest fear in starting to stand up to him, that he would somehow take off with our daughter. You put those passports in a bank safety deposit box obviously only in your name. It’s against the law to take a child out of the country without both parents’ permission, but you have to physically control the passports to make sure it doesn’t happen. And then you also get that written in to the divorce agreement. I talked to the police in my area too and they said no way would they ever force me to give up her passport to him. And I’ve told my 10 yo that if he tries to take her out of the country she has every right to make a scene at the airport and get security involved. She is not shy, thankfully!

  • Like many, after d-day I didn’t sleep for a long time.

    I rarely remember my dreams, lucky me. I don’t think I ever dreamed of FW.

    But I was able to get some closure. I got enough of the answers I needed, and I got to yell at him and say all the things.

    And now I’m living better than I ever did with him. So while the trauma is never completely gone, it doesn’t visit my dreams.

    I do have to say that after periods of extreme stress, when things are finally better, that’s when I’ve had major health issues arise. I think the adrenaline and cortisol protected my body during the stress. So when the stress was gone, the damage, in the form of chronic diseases, surfaced.

  • Agree with CL. Totally normal. I have lots of fuckwit dreams, but there’s a reoccurring one that really creeps me out. In it my ex is standing in my bedroom in the dark. He’s standing there not doing anything, but it’s the scariest dream I’ve ever had. The eerieness and palpable sense of menace makes me wake up, shaking all over and terrified. My daughter told me this dream is about staring into the abyss and I agree with this interpretation. Now that I know some of what fuckwit is capable of, what else is he capable of? It’s the not knowing what else is in the empty elevator shaft of of his soul that’s so scary.
    Last night I dreamed my kids were little again (they are grown and were when I was chumped) and I found out fuckwit had multiple homes stashing multiple whores.

  • Dear Aztreonam,

    I also had a series of nightmares before D-Day. One in particular continues to baffle me. In it I’m paddling water in a dank lagoon filled with the bloated corpses of dairy cows while FW stands with our three children at the back of a motor boat which is speeding away from me while he stares after me with disgust, contempt and disdain.

    What’s with the cows? Like a brood cow, I had outlived my usefulness? I think there was something about climate change in there because of news stories of mass livestock drownings following freak floods and hurricanes, but the relevant part seems to be “general disaster.” I had been mediating a family disaster when I was betrayed. And, in disaster, FW had a getaway “arc” for himself and maybe the kids but not for me. The latter fit with the assets that FW turned out to be hiding.

    Other than the nightmares, our stories are eerily similar except, A) I’d been married a lot longer and already had three kids; B) FW did not run off with the younger coworker in the end; C) I was not a heroic first responder at the launch of a global pandemic but was doing something I think counts as pretty selfless and incredibly stressful for the sake of a chronically ill child.

    I think it’s that latter overlap that was the “trigger” for the affair. In doing what I was doing, I wasn’t that available to FW, either physically or emotional and he responded to the post-promotion come-ons (he’s a passive, covert narc who’s terrified of harassment accusations and likes to feel pursued so no doubt subtly courted the approaches) by a series of three coworkers with the pity-ploy/alibi that he was “lonely”– i.e., “neglected.” For come-on #1 and 2, he made the mistake of providing a bit of a tragic back story which made even the fall-down-drunk married office doorknobs hinky about the optics. By #3 he figured out the formula that side pieces want to feel like they’re rescuers or winning against some evil spouse and, by leaving key details out of the story, it just looked like I was a neglectful bitch.

    The other possible overlapping trigger was that, by anyone’s estimation, what I was busy doing screamed of integrity. And to FWs in general, I think integrity in another person is like a standing accusation that FWs have none. I only took stock and tooted my own horn for having courage in the aftermath of the betrayal but, at the time, what probably made the affront worse to FW was that I was trying to put a good face on the stress and wasn’t whining about it. In any event, doing anything with integrity around a narcissist is like an act of war. They see you as winning a competition you didn’t know you were in. It makes all their faux stoicism and constant whining poses of “self sacrifice” look fake and flimsy. So they run out and find other gutless people (the best filter for that would be anyone willing to bang a married person) who, by comparison, don’t make them look so spineless.

    Anyway, I think there’s something to it that so many chumps are chumped in moments that seem impossible because, in those moments, they were probably more deserving of loyalty and consideration than at any other time in their lives– after giving birth, during cancer treatment, after a beloved parent dies, etc. And I can’t think of anything that would make a gutless wonder feel more gutless than being married to a front lines first responder at the most terrifying point of a worldwide epidemic. Since there have been more than a few chumped first responders telling their stories on this blog, I think the pandemic flushed out a horde of gutless FWs.

    To me, the nightmares are a reflection of a moral crisis. If we can be betrayed when we are at our bravest and most selfless and most deserving of love, does it mean there’s no love in the world at all? But over time we realize that that’s only true in “FW-land,” not the whole planet. It takes even more time to go over all the ways that FWs manage to play this psychological prank of making themselves appear to be representative of the whole world in the eyes of chumps. That might have something to do with FWs inherent competitiveness too– that there can be no god before them. I think the latter is evidence that cheaters are really classic abusers who do the same to their victims to the same devastating effect. Like battered women emerging from Stockholm syndrome, it takes time to recover from the “perspecticide” that abusers typically commit over time in order to reclaim our own more reality-based perspectives.

    • Great points and wholly accurate fuckwit psychology IMO. I too was chumped when our child was ill. At the time she was suicidal and I had to physically prevent her from killing herself multiple times and keep watch over her 24/7. Fuckwit let me deal with it mostly alone like the gutless blunder he is. That made him look bad, so fuckwit got angry. How dare I care about my own child and in so doing highlight the fact that he didn’t. So off he ran to the first schmoopie who flirted with him, someone who had no idea what an asshole he is. He could then play the poor misunderstood husband to her and ignore his family even more at a time when he was badly needed.
      My daughter, consequently, hates his guts.

      I agree that they are unnerved by displays of integrity and self sacrifice because it shows them to be failures as human beings.

    • Cows provide meat, milk, butter, cream, and yogurt. Cows are considered invaluable assets in most cultures (save India, where Hindus aren’t allowed to eat them.). Maybe because both my parent’s families raised cattle, I view them as monetary assets. In your dream, you were floating about aimlessly among the bloated carcasses of cattle, your ex and children on the shore. I think this may concern a financial mess from the breakup, as well as being stranded with the rotting animals to deal with on your own, meaning you were basically left “holding the bag.” Decaying animal carcasses are completely worthless, and must be gotten rid of. No small feat if the animals are large, as cattle are. There are a lot of metaphores, here. Our subconcious has trouble communicating to us in words, so uses symbols. Sometimes it takes days for me to figure out what my dreams mean.

      • Also the I Ching hexagram 30, Clarity:
        “…The judgment says ‘care of a cow brings good fortune.’ Should you have the opportunity to care for a cow you learn about interdependency, a mindset of being docile, serving another, and the voluntary dependence you share with life. The more you feed the cow, the more the cow feeds you. If it stays healthy, you stay healthy thus ‘that which is bright rises twice.’ Li shows your interdependence with others in relationships and your interdependence with the Way. Life is what you make of it. Clarity and inspiration abound when receiving this hexagram…” From the I Ching online at Cafe au Soul.

        • M

          Thank you for bringing this here. A reminder of how ‘sane’ life works.

          I thought I was ‘caring for a cow/husband’ only to find out I was caring for a serial cheater void of any good thing. I was doing all of the feeding and getting nothing in return.

          I had thought we were voluntarily dependent upon each other. Now I know I was a mere object and that for 30+ years he was out there ravishing others who were more than willing to participate in and cover up his cheating ways.

          Having finally seen what was right under my nose I now I seek to surround myself with true cows. Those who are respecting life in all beings and all things. Those who contribute and where there is reciprocity. Feels a lot more saner.

          Must add I will probably never seek out another intimate relationship in the years I have left. I am older and, the wounds I am working on healing, run deep. The terrain is convoluted. Good days, bad days.

          And that is okay because the life I am creating for myself is indeed satisfactory. A blessing in so many ways.

      • Drowned animals are a specific symbol in some versions of dreamology. But, like you, I think dreams are pretty personalized. I’m just not sure what cows mean to me personally. These were all healthy animals killed and gone to waste in a disaster. Was it guilt because part of what got my son better was a carefully researched diet rich in organic meat and organic suet? My apologies to vegans but it worked. Poor kid was underweight and 95th percentile for height. Now he’s 6′ and still thin but strapping and all his labs are great at last. Did FW see all that effort as a waste? That might be the economic angle.

    • This was a really helpful comment… that “so many chumps are chumped in moments that seem impossible because, in those moments, they were probably more deserving of loyalty and consideration than at any other time in their lives– after giving birth, during cancer treatment, after a beloved parent dies, etc. ” resonates so much- I have read lots of peoples stories at this point and SO many of them are all the same- he left me when i was pregnant/scared/alone/got cancer/needed help. I needed him to be there for me like I was there for him over the years of our relationship…and instead he just walked out. its helpful in a way to know that this is typical for people like this…nothing about this behavior is special or unique

  • The nightmares happened during 2 times in my life. Before any Ddays I would often wake up from a dream in which I was married to a horrible man, often similar to old boyfriends, and I was stuck with him for the rest of my life. Then I’d see my real (now X) husband in bed with me & be relieved that I married him!
    The second time nightmares started were during this padt year, after I moved out. These continue now after the divorce. I wake up from a dream in which XH tries to enter my current home and sometimes it’s during a family gathering., sometimes not. In the dream I call the police.
    Too bad I couldn’t interpret my dreams early on in the marriage. The horrible man was the one beside me.
    The latest dreams I take as my mind is healing from the gaslighting and I can now protect myself.

  • Once before D-day, but when I strongly suspected he was cheating, I had a dream where we went on vacation and OW showed up at the same hotel. In the dream I confronted him after I found a card with a note she had written and he tearfully admitted to the affair. Ironic, that.

    When he discarded me, I didn’t really have the opportunity for nightmares as I barely slept for months. Disgustingly, the few times I slept well were the nights we hooked up (which happened a few times in the first year and half). He was denying the affair, or I would never have let him touch me.

    I haven’t really had nightmares since I found out about the affair. The knowledge gave me some closure. I detached emotionally. I’ve slept like a rock since. And it’s so much easier to sleep alone than it was with him next to me (he was restless, he snored, had sleep apnea and sometimes stopped breathing, and he’d get angry if I “disturbed” him at all so I never was able to fully relax).

  • I miss my dog. He would wake me before I started screaming from nightmares. Now I just scream myself awake. I’m so used to nightmares that I have a little routine. Flip on the lights, use the bathroom, bathe and change my pajamas if I’m a sweating mess, drink a cup of chamomile tea, look out all the windows to assure myself Fuckface is not there. Read until I fall back asleep. It is a rarity I remember the horror of the nightmare.

    Fuckface is usually the star of my nightmares. Most of the time the dreams are of the escape and evasion variety. The last one I remember was a real mind bender of simultaneously hiding from and seeking Fuckface. I woke screaming and remembered my little routine. I am able to comfort myself and eventually get to sleep.

    I hope you can find a way to comfort yourself and get back to sleep after a nightmare. It is just your brain sorting through all the trauma of betrayal. The next time I wake up screaming I’ll think about you and hope you are sleeping peacefully.

  • Azt,

    I had nightmares for years, also unfurling, as many have said, once I was safe. Before I found CL and CN, those dreams made me doubt my progress instead of affirming it.

    I am writing to let you know that other triggers in future years may result in nightmare remix, and they, too, will pass (therapy helps). Since you mentioned picking baby names with ex, be advised that if and when you do have a kid, that event may possibly be triggering in a weird way. That’s something I NEVER saw coming.

    I am so sorry this excruciating thing happened to you. Hugs. It gets much better.

  • It’s comforting to me, reading how so many of us start nightmares after the dust has settled. The analogy of “taking out the trash,” as mentioned above, really helps. And — if I may be so crude — like you don’t poop until AFTER you’ve finished digesting the meal. That’s what my nightmares are like for me.

    The nightmares are mostly me sitting his ass down and INFORMING HIM exaCTLY how hurt he made me, exACTLY how he deceived me, preCISELY how despicable his actions were. And the methorfeckur LISTENS. Then I wake up and have to listen to my Mighty songs to remind me that I’m still healing — and that I’m HEALING.

    The bad dreams are where we’re together, just as happy as (I thought) we were just before D-Day. One morning I was dreaming we were happily making love — then I awoke just barely enough to quickly replace the FW with Pedro Pascal. That helped! 🤣

  • Such a good subject, I am surprised it was never brought up !
    After 10 years of trouble, that saw successively my deep depression, high anxiety, lies, his broken leg abroad, discovery of his cheating and wedding plans, breakup, weird visits on weekends, his relocation, his heart stopped at 50yo. Now I have regular nightmares where I try to talk to him, but he is scared to be dead and flees, I try to find a way, some shortcut, to get to where he is, and I get lost.
    Other than that, I dreamt countless times of having to board a plane but my luggage is scattered and my ticket is never right. Or I have to take a shower and dress, but all the showers are broken, mixed with toilets, they don’t close, and my clothes are all over the place, nothing fits.
    I’ve been having so many nightmares that I wondered if I should see a therapist.

  • For several years I had nightmares when I knew he was in town. Trying to scream and wake in the night petrified ones in which I was trying to escape. Thankfully they have not reoccurred now I have moved.

  • Almost 7 yrs on and still get the night terrors.

    Emailed: We’re back in our house and wants to get back together, only for the AP to show up and to mock me for being a gullible idiot. Dreams of him kidnapping the cat we had together, only for him to abandon her like he did me. Seeing him in favorite places we went together and them both taunting me like I’m in school. Finding me in my new home and coaxing me back into his life.

    The night terrors have become much less in the last 18 months (2 or 3?) And I still wake up in tears. I just figure it’s my mind trying to heal itself and make sense of their actions.

    Its nice to know I’m not alone even though I’m happier and in a better place

    • You are definitely not alone. I’ve had similar dreams to every single one you describe. Agreed, today’s letter and posts are eye opening, like reading about other chumps’ insomnia, weight loss, avoidance, accidents and other betrayal trauma and abuse symptoms. In some ways reassuring, like – it’s real. The comments read like a Friday Challenge! Daunting, but I guess not surprising, that the dreams/nightmares continue for so long for so many. I like the idea that it’s just our brains doing their jobs. Makes sense that it comes up in some cases when we feel vulnerable and are working overtime to protect ourselves. Likewise, when we’re safe and finally have the bandwidth to process. I also think there’s something to the idea that rumination and dreams are our brains way if integrating these dramatically different realities and beliefs. Even when we’re chugging along on the surface, there’s an underlying need to make sense of our experiences and memories.

      • Agree with how reassuring it all is. But in addition to the nightmares I still have this sometimes uncontrollable rage. I am just so fucking angry about being tricked into a marriage I would never ever have stayed in had I known the truth of what FW was doing. I’m so sick of having this thrown in my face like this is evidence that I am somehow unstable. Thoughts please, BAR and CN? It feels like a different level of DARVO.

        • Omg yes!! The anger still simmers. I know ways to move the energy into better things but the anger still resurfaces from time to time. Ugh..

          • Of course we’re angry. Nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t feel good and I look forward to being mostly free of it, but my anger is what saved me, so I try not to blame myself for it and let it run its natural course. It is getting better – notably, since leaving a cheater, going NC and regaining safety and a sense of control over my life. My anger was quite literally out of my control when I treated an abusive fuckwit like a life partner. My nervous system/adrenaline is finally calming down, I’m sleeping better, and this has made a huge difference. Not “just” emotional, but physiological. Hopefully, you both have found/will find the same.

        • My thoughts: for victims of abuse and betrayal, rage is normal and healthy, so validate it and don’t add that guilt to everything else; go NC/as grey rock as humanly possible, or else you will continue to be hurt and knocked off balance; be patient and take care of yourself the best you can. My hope (and thus far my experience) is that the anger will ebb and I’ll return to feeling like myself. I’m still sometimes triggered, but the duration/intensity is SO much more manageable than it was even a year ago.

          I’m just muckling through and along for the same ride you are, TR4H. Hope this helps!

          • Thank you, B&R. It does help. It is horrible to be trapped in their crazy land where everything is unreliable and unstable and chaotic. I just hate that he tries to blame me for being angry about his truly horrific and disgusting words and actions. He has no boundaries and no bottom is too low for him. I need space and time and I need to feel my feelings of disgust, anger, and betrayal. I refuse to stuff them down for him and join in his chaos party, and to carry on as if it was just a mistake that AA has fixed.

            • Tuesday,

              ‘AA has fixed it.’

              IMO your anger is your friend.

              Mr. X was clean and sober our entire 30+ year relationship.

              He was/is a serial cheater and was picking up his fuck buddies at AA meetings which he attended on a regular basis so

              IMO

              I would say give that man a wide berth.

              AA is full of cheaters who then claim, ‘oh poor me, I am a sex addict.’ And then expect the slate to be wiped clean.

              My experience is that they just go more deeply underground.

              Beware.

              The saving grace for me has been no contact.

              • Thank you for this. FW is constantly telling me that he would have never done those things if he hadn’t been drunk. For a decade. Really? And now he is a sober from alcohol rage-blame-DARVO machine. I would have walked out and never looked back on D-day #1 if we didn’t have a young child together. He has decided that he is now dad of the year and I am a mess who can’t be trusted because I won’t just let it all go and accept his apology. “I SAID I WAS SORRY!!!!!” Sound familiar, anyone? I think AA is a way for FW narc cheaters to feel good about themselves and all of the carnage they have created. I cannot wait until this particular nightmare is over. Thanks for the advice and encouragement, EC.

              • I echo EC’s warning, TR4H. Your ex (?) is just gaslighting you by invalidating your feelings and experiences. He is no authority and furthermore, cannot be believed or trusted. He obviously hasn’t been “fixed,” based on what you describe. His bullying and DARVO prove that.

                My ex was an alcoholic for the first ten years of our relationship. His last year of drinking was evidently the year he started serial cheating (although I wouldn’t be shocked to learn he started cheating sooner). Whether drinking or sober, it was always ‘poor him’ when he wanted pity. But he also needed to be seen as in control and competent, and he could never actually apologize or admit fault or vulnerability. He’d seek comfort or forgiveness by crying, and then when he got it, he’d get defensive and prickly. He was always the expert, always in charge, even when he didn’t know shit about something.

                After he got “sober” (I later learned his ‘cold turkey’ for a time involved a prescription drug habit), he became colder, harder and more withdrawn, and he also dabbled in mindfulness and meditation. He put up walls and was smugly beyond reproach. I now see that this personality shift was probably a result of sobriety *and* cheating/devaluation. It was all a smokescreen. He could sob to me about how sorry he was about the same few drinking incidents he practically romanticized, but this was all about him, and about making himself feel special, feel better. He never *once* asked me how I felt, what I needed or how he could make it up to me. If I ever expressed my perspective or anything I was struggling with (which usually came up because it was significant to our present/future, not because I was dragging up the past), he grew reliably touchy and defensive. I became more aware of this towards the end, when I realized I’d been so supportive and forgiving during his drinking and his path to sobriety that I’d minimized and dismissed my own feelings and needs. He never showed genuine remorse, nor did he make amends, for all the ways he hurt me; I never asked him to, for that matter. He couldn’t acknowledge the negative effect his drinking had on my life, and he took for granted the enormous sacrifices I made, out of love for and belief in him. I expected little and asked practically nothing of him, but if I did, he distracted and DARVO’d. Our partnership and “love” was not reciprocal.

                FW’s patterns were strikingly similar after ddays and throughout “reconciliation.” I felt exactly the way TR4H describes: “It is horrible to be trapped in their crazy land where everything is unreliable and unstable and chaotic.” This will never change. HE will never change, TR4H. In fact, it escalates. That kind of mindfucking and abuse takes a toll, and you will eventually reach a breaking point when you realize you literally cannot survive sticking your head in the mind blender one more time, as awful and uncertain as the alternative -leaving and closing the door on the cheater and your “relationship” for good – feels. It is insanity to put up with this, as you describe and every chump here will corroborate, so DO NOT ENGAGE. It won’t stop until you cut contact, and then it will be a terrible withdrawal, but you will get through. As you say, he does not respect your boundaries, so he will never give you the space and time you need to feel and heal. You have to take that for yourself. Your nervous system will finally calm, your heart/mind will begin to integrate what you have learned, and you will have no desire to ever see or talk to that FW again. This may break your heart right now, but trust me: Just a year and a half out of a fifteen year relationship with an FW, I already think of him as a stranger and am disgusted at the thought of having a relationship with that loser. I cannot believe I put up with that unworthy POS all those years. Mind boggling.

          • Great resource – I also checked out his other videos. I have to admit it burns me to turn to a man to learn about all of this, but he does seem to get it.

            • TR4H

              I think this man ‘gets it’ because of his personal history and apparent subsequent recovery in Al-Anon combined with working with alcoholics. He has seen a lot of the behavior and, like with cheaters, all of it is predictable.

              The Al-Anon ‘piece’ is a much harder piece to get because there is no definitive overt action like there is when an alcoholic picks up an actual drink and proceeds to get drunk and act abusively etc.

              An analogy to put this in a more understandable way is saying that the Al-Anon piece can be likened to dealing with a covert passive aggressive narcissist whereas dealing with a drinking alcoholic is like dealing with an overt malignant narcissist.

              Hence, for an Al-Anon, their behavior patterns all stem from reactions to someone else’s behavior even when that other person and their behavior is long gone.

              Like he said, these feelings have been embedded in us.

              Those behaviors and thinking patterns are much better understood and recognized now compared to how things were 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Back then this stuff was mystifying.

              Al-Anon is dynamic in that it keeps changing as we gain more understanding.

              Another analogy:

              Al-Anon is to alcoholism as Chumps are to Cheaters.

              Many chumps are married to cheaters but not all chumps need Al-Anon.

              IMO:

              All Chumps need LACGAL and CN.

              End of Al-Anon/CL pitch.

              Sorry, I did get on a bit tangent here.

        • Trying to reply to B&R here. Thank you. You said so much so clearly and with such kindness. I will print this and put it in my journal to read again when I need the encouragement. It can be such a lonely and truly scary path getting free of narc depravity and its accompanying DARVO-land..

          • Trying to reply to B&R too – no ‘reply’ beneath your comment.

            B&R,

            Spot On

            You nailed their behavior.

            Clear and concise.

            So obvious now but not back when it was in full swing in my life.

            Agree that the withdrawal IS terrible – who would have ever thought that?!?!

            Furthermore, how does one ever explain it to someone who has not experience it.

            The contradiction – so relieved to be out of his orbit but the fantasy remains to tantalize long after the dust settles.

            The power of fantasy in action and how all encompassing it is.

            There is a Winnie Pooh saying that goes something to the effect that the best moment is right before you taste the honey….

            “Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

            ― A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

            • I love this Winnie the Pooh analogy.

              I also think what makes it so terrible and lonely and painful is that the person we loved and cared for and cultivated a life with did not in fact exist. I find it so confusing because there is no real person there to grieve, just the cardboard cutout I believed in. It’s like being left alone in the desert staring at cardboard and wondering what in the hell happened.

              • TR4H,

                Yep. You got it.

                Be gentle on yourself. We were completely conditioned to do what we did from birth.

                A question I ask myself now a lot is:

                ‘What is ACTUALLY happening.’

                The answer is generally simple along the grounds of ‘I am standing in line at the grocery store.’

                The surprise comes when I become aware of where my thinking has me – miles away somewhere thinking about something else which only exists in my mind.

                When I stop and do that, a new and vitally alive world opens up and I feel grounded.

                Alas, I have to practice that a lot because I lived in my head for so long thinking about him and our wonderful – not – life together and how I could facilitate its wonderfulness even more.

              • It is surreal, painful and isolating. We can’t hold a memorial service, celebrate the person we lost every year on their birthday, fondly reminisce with family and friends, visit a grave, or keep photos and mementos. In fact, we have to trust they suck and stoically do the opposite in order to LACGAL. And it’s not just a cheater we lose, but so much more. I think it is very hard for our human brains to manage this kind of loss and betrayal, especially when it involves cheaters leading double lives for years, which chumps shockingly at first learn about, and then slowly continue to reveal as additional details and memories surface – uninvited and for years afterwards.

                This, accompanied by the fact that we are victims of far-reaching crimes which are at once *legally and culturally minimized* and *made personally worse* because the perpetrators are our intimate partners – our spouses. (I hope that makes sense.)

                EC & TR4H, thanks for taking the time to comment in this thread. It’s so rare that I have the chance to actually “talk” to people who can relate, and I appreciate your kind and thoughtful responses.

              • Perfect way to say it, they never existed; how can you mourn something that never existed. I could only mourn the wasted years when I was loving a piece of cardboard, making decisions based on a carboard lie. He knew all along he was not in the marriage long term, only until he gained the status he wanted. He turned on me within days of his final promotion. Then started the year of discard.

                I was confused, scared, sad and didn’t know why. Then about half way through the year he turned mean and nasty.

                Then about a year later he wrote me a letter telling me he was sorry for how he treated me, he didn’t know why he acted like such a low life. I wish he had handed it to me in person rather than mailed it, so I could have shoved it up his ass.

              • B&R,

                Again I can’t respond beneath your most current response for some reason there is no reply box on yours or on mine now….

                I thank you for chiming in too and adding your profound insights. Like you I rarely feel like anyone really ‘gets’ what I am going through when I try to explain. A comment I frequently get it is, “Why are you bringing him up again? He is out of your life now.”

                I don’t want to give the impression that I constantly talk to him with others but….as you stated, the ‘crimes’ he perpetrated against me over the 30+ years we were together…or rather when I was in his orbit were not readily apparent to my consciousness on dday.

                Looking back now, it has been almost 5 years, on how it played out in my conscious mind it was as though ‘someone’ else had done ‘those terrible things’ and we were a team trying to overcome them. I was just terribly confused as to why he wasn’t as enthusiastic as I was to be on The Team 🙂

                This, I now know, is what ‘experiencing’ shock is and how it feels and what IT does.

                The experiencing of being at the mercy of my psyche which, I believe IS trying to protect me, can be equally confusing if you don’t know what is happening.

                It has been a process of revelation. What did strike me almost immediately was an overwhelmingly terrifying feeling of fear in regards to trust and history that came along with the realization of his betrayal.

                I was sitting down at a key kiosk, a good thing I was sitting, when two terrifying thoughts tumbled through my mind.

                They were:

                ‘If I can’t trust him, and I have, who and what then can I ever trust?’

                ‘ I thought my history was a solid lived ‘thing’ and now it has all completely changed.’

                Simple thoughts but they literally rocked my world and it felt as though the bottom had fallen out because I had trusted him so deeply and completely.

                Shock, I have read, is the shock absorber for our Souls.

                I agree.

                People’s comments are understandable because I am indeed dealing with ghosts. What they can’t understand is the unpredictable appearance of a new ghost.

                CL and CN have saved my sanity in this regard by naming and sharing how infidelity impacts its victims.

                Some days are easier than others.

                My progress in measured in how I am beginning to see things differently, in how I am beginning to trust myself and in how I am beginning to find new spiritual meaning in my life.

                Oh, and by the way, when my keys were made I thanked the man who had made them and walked away as though nothing at all had taken place. That stool that was holding me up is sitting over the gaping whole I left behind.

  • Letter writer Az. is doing so amazingly well (- the nightmares), she doesn’t need this video – but perhaps someone else might find it helpful?
    It’s refreshing to hear the rare professional speak to why cheating is never the chump’s fault. He reiterates many of CL’s message in different words.
    FYI, he does do some RIC work, but this video isn’t about that. It’s about knowing your worth, finding your light, not taking the blame and not accepting infidelity.
    Scroll down for video
    https://toddcreager.krtra.com/c/xTpv3ajIqAdT/zzGZ

  • I am 8 months post DDay and was blindsided. Never had a hint that STBXW could ever cheat (serial cheater going back to 2015).
    Funny that a year before DDay she started appearing in my dreams as my abusive mother. My STBXW was sweet and loving ( so I though) whereas my mother is an abusive miserable person. I also started having dreams where unknown women would show up and try to kiss me. I would wake from these alarmed because I was madly in love with my then wife. I now think my subconscious was picking up what I refused to see.

  • Dumped in September 2019. Two years today that I saw FW for the last time in the horrible flesh. Life has its difficult times but I’m getting better, healing, recovering. A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I was about to be executed, hanged. Preparations were being made. I ate my last meal, outside near to the gallows. I was conscious that I had to make it last because as soon as I finished that would start the execution. I was calm and accepting of my fate though. I woke myself up before the execution. I have had a lot of psychodynamic therapy since I was dumped. My therapist wondered whether the dream represented an emotion of having been ‘hung out to dry’. I was struck by how calm I felt. It seemed to me like my brain saying ‘you are strong, you can face hardship.’ I rarely remembered dreams while with the ex. It puzzled me that I had gone from a vivid dreamer to nothing. I put it down to being too tired for rem sleep. Now I wonder whether I shut down emotionally, mirroring the ex in my sleep. By the time he left I was a husk.

    • The “execution” may have meant that yourself in your old life would be dead. Eating food beforehand might mean you were still “eating it;” eating some of the crap from your old life. Waking up before the execution may be symbolic of things not quite being over, or it could mean starting a new life.

  • Hey Aztreonam,

    writing a bit late so I am not sure if you will see this. But I am also a medical doctor and I also got chumped right at the beginning of the pandemic. My FW went into the sunset to socially isolate with his OW while I had to go through the motions of working in the pandemic, at a time of no vaccinations. I still wonder how I did not catch covid and die, while watching the traumatic way people died in the first wave.

    I had no contact with my FW after the discard. I literally did not see him, hear his voice, talk to him or his family since that day. Everything was done via email.
    So I can understand where these nightmares are coming from. There is a part of you who is grieving the death of someone you loved and a previous life. Although I know our FWs turned out to be a completely different person and a total lie, the shock of your life getting swiped from under your feet in every way (discard, pandemic) is like a big cloud. Once it abates, it leaves room for grief. and I think you are healing and on the right way. the nightmares are your brain processing the grief.

    Hearing the stories of other people on CN, I am very happy that I did not breed with my FW. as ChumpLady always says, this is not the olympics of suffering. but there are different ways of pain. Seeing someone being repeatedly nasty to your face is not something I would wish on anyone. but also never seeing the FW ever again does not help to internalize that they are assholes. Trust that they suck! and I wish you all the best on your road to a happy life.
    Btw my FW also owed me a lot of money. I also chose to just let it go.

    • youre late… im like 6 days late to my own thread…. thanks for your message. im really sorry about your discard and relate so much…. good on you for making it through 2020.

  • The “execution” may have meant that yourself in your old life would be dead. Eating food beforehand might mean you were still “eating it;” eating some of the crap from your old life. Waking up before the execution may be symbolic of things not quite being over, or it could mean starting a new life.

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