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Are You Sure It’s Not My Fault?

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faultDear Chump Lady,

I stumbled upon your blog and subsequently your book after two D-days that unearthed three affairs over a six-year period. I’m currently in the process of separating from and ultimately divorcing my soon-to-be-ex-husband. We have 3 kids under 4 and he can be volatile so I have to approach divorce proceedings with a lot of wisdom.

We are still living together as i figure out how to go about this and line up my ducks…though that’s about it… this is essentially an in-house separation. We get along for the kids but don’t interact much outside of that.

Last week somehow a conversation about his Infidelities was initiated (I can’t remember how, I try as much as can not to engage him in this topic as this is as grey rock/NC I can be given our living arrangement and current situation) and he brought up the fact that I wasn’t/ hadn’t been a good wife.

This is true. We married young and I really didn’t know how to treat a man then. I didn’t respect him (and verbalized it on many occasions), turned him down sexually and isolated him. I was an asshole on many occasions.

Believe it or not I never meant to hurt him, as I’ve now come to see my wrongs and unearthed a plethora of emotional/ childhood issues and trauma that ultimately played a part in me behaving as I did. I’m working on healing from these and becoming a better, more compassionate human being. I own my behavior 100% however and won’t dump my actions on any issue or anyone.

I’ve read over and over that an affair isn’t the victim’s fault, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes what if I’d been different. What if I hadn’t been such a cold bitch at times? What if I’d respected and affirmed him? What if I’d been more available sexually (I was raised in a very strict religious denomination that promoted negative views on sex and never know how much they affected me until I got married). I grieve the marriage that could have been. I feel bad for having treated him that way. I hurt for my kids knowing my actions contributed to a less than ideal marriage.

He says he was looking for companionship and what was missing in our marriage. I can’t argue against that because he’s right, they were lacking in our marriage. Divorce is inevitable because I can’t trust him, yet I can’t help but feel the outcome and his choices might have been different had I been what he needed. Is this a mindfuck?

Yours,

Regretful Chump

****

Dear Regretful Chump,

Yes. This is a mindfuck.

You didn’t drive your husband to cheat on you. He had an entire decision tree of ethical choices available and he chose — multiple times (multiple D-Days?) to screw around on you, and risk your health, emotional well-being, and children’s home life. He conducted a double life. That makes him the asshole.

We married young and I really didn’t know how to treat a man then.

We aren’t born with training manuals. You learn by doing. Which invariably means screwing up. You have to assume mutuality, however. That your partner will be an honest broker and communicate with you. That you both care about not causing the other harm.

This isn’t a gender thing, it’s a human thing. This “how to treat a man” phrasing raises my hackles. What’s that supposed to mean? Bonnets and butter churning? Deference and dick sucking on command?

Is he rending his garments over how he treated YOU?

I didn’t respect him (and verbalized it on many occasions),

Did he earn your respect? Does he behave respectfully?

 turned him down sexually and isolated him.

You are allowed to turn down sex. You are not OBLIGATED to fuck anyone. There are no “wifely duties.” (Well, unless you live in a religious cult, or the 1950s. But you’re in luck, the Supreme Court might drag us back shortly.)

A great sex life is the happy sticky glue that holds many a relationship together. But it’s no guarantee of anything either. A thousand chumps here will raise their hands that they were rocking things in the bedroom, and they still got cheated on. And there are a bunch of companionable people who live together quite chastely by choice, or in frustration, who do not cheat. Cheating is a character issue.

Also, the Not Enough complaint is an ever-moving goal post. Oh, there was enough, but it was too vanilla? Or didn’t involve thirds, fourths, or quadratic equations?

I’m just saying, healthy relationships are about respect. You need to feel safe to get your freak on. Someone who is silently tallying up your deficiencies and fucking around elsewhere is NOT someone you can work with. It’s not healthy or safe.

I was an asshole on many occasions.

It’s laudable that you can own your issues and work to improve them. But, you didn’t drive him toward abusing you. That’s on him.

Apparently, you were such an asshole that he made three children with you in four years. You were so deficient he came back again and again to invest his life in yours. You were so awful he could not mention how awful you were, he could only express himself through fucking randos.

When you find yourself doing that post-D-Day calculus of Not Awful Enough to Divorce, But Just Awful Enough to Cheat On — you’ve been mindfucked. It’s blameshifting.

I’ve read over and over that an affair isn’t the victim’s fault, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes what if I’d been different.

Bargaining stage of grief. All the woulda coulda shoulda. It’s a comforting thought to think you could control outcomes. It’s much less terrible than vulnerability. We’ve all been there.

What if I hadn’t been such a cold bitch at times?

I don’t know. My grandmother elevated it to an art form and was married for 70 years.

What if I’d respected and affirmed him?

What if you had and he cheated anyway?

I was once a bouncy ball of affirmation — still chumped.

What if I’d been more available sexually (I was raised in a very strict religious denomination that promoted negative views on sex and never know how much they affected me until I got married).

What if you had a loving partner who worked through that with you instead of fucking around on you?

I grieve the marriage that could have been.

That’s normal. Don’t stay there. This is skein untangling.

I feel bad for having treated him that way. I hurt for my kids knowing my actions contributed to a less than ideal marriage.

Let’s reframe this to: I’m going to model good things to my children by not tolerating an abusive marriage. I will be the sane parent. I will treat my ex civilly and fairly for their benefit and because I am a civil, fair-minded person who behaves ethically.

Much more productive than having a sadz over a serial cheater.

RC, brush yourself off and get that divorce done. I think your head will clear with proper no contact. Until then, no more relationship autopsy discussions with a fuckwit, okay?

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • While it’s normal to question, it’s not useful to blame yourself for someone’s really horrible choices. I contorted myself emotionally and sexually for a fuckwit cheater who could never get enough. He now cheats on gf number four since our 31 years together. So that means they are all deficient? No. He is. Find your center, focus on the littles, get the hell away from mr volatile.

    • Same here. I did things sexually that I didn’t want to do that made me feel terrible and that I regret in order to be a “good wife.” It did not stop him from cheating. It just added to my humiliation. It’s not worth it.

      • Ugh, you aren’t alone in this; I have similar feelings. And wanna bet we are not the only ones?
        Just another thing I added to a whole long list that I’m going through with my therapist.
        Trying to forgive yourself for doing things that were against your values or violated your boundaries is a hard process.
        But I’m learning how to forgive myself and release my regrets.
        You can do it as well. It takes time, but so worth it in the end.
        Please take care of yourself. You didn’t deserve any of this.

        • I went through similar feelings too, thinking I had emasculated my ex-husband by focusing on my career, complaining about his lack of ambition (read: adulting), and turning him down for sex (because I had no respect for him, due to his immature behavior). We were married for 19 years. I forgave the ‘first’ affair I knew about (she made him feel special!), but then he drunkenly hit on my sister during a family vacation and there was no coming back from that.

          His therapist told him that he did those things because he received no affirmation from his parents when he was growing up, and no affirmation from me during our marriage.

          I stopped feeling guilty after that. I have no regrets.

      • Same here he had everything he wanted in the bedroom (and out of it) and he still cheated.
        He also told me his first wife was a cold angry bitch who denied him sex. I found out after he’d left that he cheated on her too. It was pretty clear the cold angry bitch only came out after the cheating was found out.
        He’s probably saying the same things about me.

      • Yes!!!
        He was changing the rules all the time and in my confused wTF is going on state of mind – I was trying to jump higher, better etc

        I was a great wife- interested in sex, friendly, supportive

        It MEANT NOTHING

        It’s 100% on a cheater, and using your flaws and insecurities as an excuse? Disgusting

      • I, too, was asked to do things sexually that I was not comfortable doing and when I refused was told, “if you really loved me, you’d want to do this for me.” Guess what, pal, I love myself more!! So glad to be rid of him!

    • Yup. I was told that he didn’t like it when I initiated sex but then he was upset if I turned him down. I turned him down rarely. Usually it was when he came home and then worked the whole night, distancing and neglecting me. I’d go to bed and he’d come up later and would try to have sex. I was falling asleep. Turns out he was sexting his AP and needed an outlet. Should have bought him a blow-up doll. It’s not about sex. It’s not about praise or attention. It’s solely character. Hugs to you. Once you are a little further through the trenches of hell, some things will have more clarity.

    • After our three-year-old daughter was killed in an accident, (she died in front of me), apparently I wasn’t “there for him” and “kissed like a wet fish”. He tolerated three years of that (which included two new babies, a coronial inquest, instigation by me of a public safety campaign and submission to a ministerial inquiry – which led to prevention of same type of death – also a civil case that required me to have six psych assessments), before setting up a double life of sex with random anonymous women and men.

      That went on for over ten years. I had no idea. After Dday, he explained to our eldest son (19 at the time) that it wasn’t “just about sex,” that he was “seeking things outside the marriage that he couldn’t find in it: validation, adventure, and a sense of feeling attractive”. Uh huh.

      Even as I write that, I can see how absurd it looks. (Evidently not though to formerly close friend, husband died of cancer, from “understanding”, and they hooked up less than a year after Dday. They’re getting married in a few months. But I digress.)

      I’m only joining in so you understand that cheaters ALWAYS make it your fault. Sure, you may be human and faulty, join the club, BUT you didn’t MAKE HIS COCK WANDER. You didn’t make him LIE. He made his own choices. They weren’t honourable, they weren’t kind, they weren’t ok.

  • Just think how convenient it is for that lying cheater if you take the blame for his choices. I am certain you didn’t force him to cheat on you. That is 100% on him. He did that. Did you schedule his cheating rendezvous? Did you unzip his pants and pull out his dick? Didn’t think so! He did that without your knowledge, or consent.

    He wants you to think you are a horrible wife with no discussion about his terrible lack of character and his immoral decisions. He is the horrible person here. Not you! Don’t take that on!

    Get some therapy and find your self esteem. You have been dealt a terrible blow. You will need support and help to get through this. Ask the therapist if they think infidelity is abuse. The answer should be YES! If it is some sort of It takes two to tango bullshit keep calling therapists.

    Stop talking to that cheater. He is not your friend. He sucks.

    I’m so glad you are freeing yourself from his toxicity. That takes real courage. You deserve better and so do the kids!

    • Great response 33!
      I also want to add, did he ever offer to talk these situations through with you, when you supposedly disrespected him or refused him?
      I used to beat myself up too, for my conversational faux pas, or my “frigidity” but XH never once tried to talk through these situations. CL was a game changer for me, 3 years ago when I read on this site that “he had an entire decision tree of ethical choices available and he chose — multiple times (multiple D-Days?) to screw around on you, and risk your health, emotional well-being, and children’s home life.”
      Thanks, CL !
      Keep on with your plan to divorce, Regretful. He isn’t worth it because he didn’t try when he could have. The truth of his abuse will continue to come ou over the next few years. Keep coming here for support.

      • You just reminded me of an exercise my counsellor had me do in which I listed all the actions I know I took to improve my marriage through the years. I listed the research I did and strategies I presented to my husband (weekly dates, daily touching, five love languages, leaving notes of appreciation, etc.), initiating conversations, suggesting marriage counselling for a few years, researching counsellors, booking appointments, etc. Then she asked me to identify what my ex did. I couldn’t recall a single time that he ever initiated a relationship conversation. He would blurt things out defensively when I would bring something up to deflect from the conversation. No suggestions of what to do. No spontaneous actions. The closest I could come up with was that he suggested Netflix shows for us to watch together.

        Then, my counsellor asked me why I continue to blame myself for what he did to the marriage when he hadn’t really tried to save it in the first place. That woke me up.

        • OptionNoMore: how true is all that? I did the same “save the relationship” work…but he never did!

        • My daughter’s counselor described it as ‘two of you are in a row boat, but you are the only one rowing’ pertaining to her and her father’s relationship – or lack thereof. Basically him demanding that she accept his new wife and her struggling with his demand.

      • Do not start to feel guilty over the divorce. Certain groups can be quick to blame divorce for societal problems. It is not the “divorce.” Tell them that what caused the divorce is what is the problem! It was him having a secret life that endangered your health & your family’s security!!

        No one would blame “jail” on a family’s problems if one spouse committed a crime – they would blame the embezzlement or the DUI’s or the murder.

    • Yeah, adding to that “Did you schedule his cheating rendezvous? Did you unzip his pants and pull out his dick?” bit, I’d like to know how you “isolated him.” I mean, he had the time, means, and motivation to find multiple other women to fuck behind your back, so it seems to me he wasn’t that isolated. If he was, it was because he was spending all his free time and energy having affairs instead of finding and maintaining friendships. Think about it – can’t spend time with your friends if you’re spending all your free time skirt-chasing.

  • Celebrate the fact that you are a reflective person that is striving to be better. And, know at the end of the day there is absolutely nothing you did to cause him to cheat. People with character issues blame others for their behavior. Take the information and literally run with with it (away). Someone worthy of your integrity and values will consider himself very lucky some day.

  • Yes to everything CL stated. Also, you need to up your strength in how you see yourself, as post divorce, these “volatile Cheaters” get uglier & angrier in their comments. He’ll escalate the verbal comments to you & about you. Get that written into your divorce decree that he’s not allowed to criticize you either to you or to your kids. You are a badass in getting rid of a FW. Internalize and model that to your young kids. Not “oh, whoa is me, I was deficient”. He will use that to his advantage if you’re also dumping on yourself.

    Best of luck and come to CL often and let us know how you’re doing!

  • RC, get your lawyer lined up to leave that POS and get yourself a good therapist. You are not at fault. He’s the cheater. You have 3 kids so you obviously didn’t turn him down sexually. He’s trying to place the blame on you and make you doubt yourself and your self worth. Don’t let him do it. That is a classic move from the Cheaters handbook. After 24 years and 3 kids mine informed me that we drifted apart and he hadn’t been happy for years… News to me.. and my kids.. and our friends and family….Go no contact with that loser and take care of yourself. You need to be the sane parent to your children and you deserve a happy life. Good luck!

  • Dear RC, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you actually are a frigid bitch who is also an asshole. In that case, your husband could have chosen to divorce you. Or initiate couple’s counseling. Or even tell you your actions were hurtful to him and ask you to change. But he did none of those things. Instead, he stepped out on your marriage without your consent. You had no control over those choices he made, and his decision to cheat is not your fault.

    I said “for the sake of argument” because I suspect that you actually are a warm and kind and loving person and the bad things your husband tells you about yourself is more of his abuse of you and aren’t true at all. It’s taken me a long time to not believe the stuff my ex says about me. It’s still very hard, even 5 years out.

    • Agree. We all have room for improvement, but don’t take on what your ex is telling you about yourself. I recorded several conversations that I had with ex, not for evidence, but just to listen to later and better understand what was happening. It was life changing. I had always walked away from those conversations believing him that I was unclear and aggressive and hysterical. Nope. I’m emotional, in a normal kind of way, but I’m right on point and clear as day all the way through those conversations. It’s him that is spinning the conversation around. I still struggle with unpacking who I really am versus who I believed I am based on what he told me for 20 years.

      • I had this issue as well SS. Keep up the work on yourself as it is well worth it. At some point it dawned on me that I didn’t have these relationship problems with other people, just him. Listening to his perspective skewered by own. There is no winning with these types so please ignore him and lean into your support people, keep up the focus on yourself. It’s been well over a decade since my shitstorm and, in retrospect, the best thing I did was to spend time “dating myself”. It really helped me to discover who I was and, more importantly, who and what I wanted to become. That level of clarity was one of the best things to come out of my divorce but it took a long while. Enjoy the journey of “unpacking” – you are worth it!

    • Schrodinger’s Chump, I think about this all the time – how suddenly after he was outed my FW had a laundry list of complaints, which he could categorize, and some of which were even legitimate (eventually he got to one that was such literal complete bullshit, I called it out even in my dazed post-DDay state). Did he ever say one damn thing about how badly he needed me to improve, how he had such an overwhelming sadz, when he wasn’t in the hot seat? Nope.

      And funny that EVEN THEN, when he was listing out how bad I was and how it drove him to cheat, he was begging me not to divorce him. He was a huge fan of taking responsibility for his decision to cheat, as long as BOTH of us took responsibility for “our part in the marriage.”

      I spent months worrying about how bad a wife I was, and whether I was being fair to FW after DDay – it was ONLY one affair (that I knew of) – with my individual counselor smacking me upside the head telling me I didn’t owe him anything. She would actually point at me “this is him blaming you” and have me turn my own finger on myself “this is you blaming yourself.” Her point is that even if you believe the “two to tango” bullshit, as long as you’re internalizing his blameshifting, it’s still not an accurate picture of where responsibility lies. You’re just doubling down on someone else’s judgement without thinking about the important thing: what do YOU think you need for self-improvement?

      It took a while to get to this point, but by the time I decided to file for divorce I was WISHING he would pull out that list of my faults again so I could say “Wow, I’m pretty terrible. We’d better get divorced.”

  • I’m a big proponent of owning what is yours to own because it’s good for personal growth.

    His wandering dick is not yours to own. Nothing prevented him from leaving you if you made him unhappy, but no…..he knocked out 3 kids with you and was apparently quite happy to remain married while he fucked around on the side. So apparently you weren’t actually that horrible.

    Even if you had been different the fact is that you have a guy who addresses issues by fucking other women on the side. Where’s the line? Any time you don’t stroke his ego to his liking he can fuck someone else? Didn’t like thw dinner you made? Fuck someone else. You don’t feel well? Fuck someone else!

    That’s what you’re working with.

    Was he a good husband? I’d bet there were times he wasn’t…maybe some of your issues stemmed from him not being a good husband. Yet you didn’t fuck anyone else.

  • RC,

    If there’s one thing that Cheaters just love to do, it’s making unilateral decisions that impact others and then blaming those that they deliberately chose not to consult in the decision making process for their decisions and the associated consequences. You are not responsible for his choices and please do not let him (or indeed yourself) convince you that you are.

    It does get better.

    LFTT

    • My Cheater had this process down to a science. Sometimes he would as some obtuse question out of the blue that sounded like a wild hypothetical. Later, he would say “we discussed this and you said you wanted to____!” Fully blaming me for his unilateral decision. He managed to blame for everything.

      I do remember when the kids were little (and 2 days a week I worked night shifts instead of sleeping) sometimes 2 weeks went by without sex. If he had wanted more, the needed step was to help with the kids so I wasn’t so tired. Instead he fucked on business trips. Not my fault.

      • UNM,

        Ex-Mrs LFTT had a particularly speciality. When I asked her what she wanted she would either not tell me or say “I don’t know” …….. and then ream me out when I didn’t achieve it whatever it was that she had in mind but had refused to or was unable to articulate.

        A real “mindf*ck special” if ever there was one.

        LFTT

        • Those sorts of mindfucks leaving us to always be “wrong” were horribly manipulative and cruel.
          My cheater had a tactic where he would give a response with a very intentional tone of voice where it was absolutely impossible to discern if he was kidding or serious. He let the sitch play out and if his preference didn’t go well, he claimed he was joking (the fault was mine for not discerning properly) but if it went well, he would assure me he was serious and made the right decision.

          He was smart and clever so his sense of humor was keen… but he weaponized it when interacting with me.

          I know for so many people, they chose a spouse based on who makes them laugh. My whole attitude about humor is forever altered. My current husband and i dont share the same sense of humor and i dont find it bothersome because he doesn’t use humor as a tool to abuse me.

          • UNM,

            I coined the term “weaponised ambiguity” to describe Ex-Mrs LFTT’s approach. I think that it might apply to your Ex’s too.

            LFTT

    • Absolutely this … my x-wife was always the victim – I only understood that once I had enough distance when she moved out and I had time to reflect – throughout our marriage she would take unilateral decisions that impacted the family and then feel sorry for herself because she was driven to making these decisions …

  • i’m going to respond but not about the question of whether you’ve contributed to his choices–you have not. he made his own choices. rather, i’ll respond to a theme of shame in your letter. it seems to me that shame and religion are often friendly with one another but they aren’t real friends to us.

    RC, you’re young, really young. as a woman in my 50s, i’ve come to understand and really absorb the following: when we are young we are trying our best with what we know and we don’t know much. please be compassionate with yourself. we’ve all done things that we regret/feel ashamed about–ignored a friend at a high school reunion for no good reason, spoke harshly when breaking up with a high school BF, shoplifted on a dare, didn’t think to visit an aunt before she passed away because too self absorbed, ate half a pie and lied to mom about it, etc.etc.

    being compassionate with yourself is a major deal and, also, it feels so much better.

  • Plenty of marriages are just like yours and go on. They talk and adjust to keep it going. Maybe one partner doesn’t get enough sex and maybe the other doesn’t get enough quality time. That doesn’t ever, ever justify blowing up the marriage. The idea that men can’t help themselves is flawed too. Everyone makes choices every day. There are plenty of men who aren’t sleeping around who aren’t getting as much sex as they’d like. There are also women with high sex drives who aren’t getting enough too. And they aren’t cheating either.

    My ex held me in so much contempt when he left and all through separation. There frankly wasn’t an area of our lives that he didn’t find lacking after twenty-five years together. I finally got to the point where I grasped that we couldn’t reconcile unless he let go of his desire for perfection. One of our other problems was that he held a pre-marital girlfriend that he idolized. Whenever things got rocky between us, he’d talk about her. Why couldn’t I be like her? No matter how much I protested, she remained in the background. Yes, a woman that he dated a handful of months and broke up with. When he took off, he went to the area of the country where she was living, last I knew. Mmmm…

    Some marriages just have to end. Just have to.

    • Elsie, I relate to all of this so much.
      “There are also women with high sex drives who aren’t getting enough too. And they aren’t cheating either.”
      Damn, I was lonely. I didn’t cheat, and it’s not because there wasn’t opportunity.

      I also had the situation where they expect the perfect woman to exist, and for you to want to be that for them. I was on the pedestal, before he actually knew me and had to admit I was a separate person that didn’t exist to gratify him. He still married me, but oh, the resentment! He actually said (after DDay of course) that he married me expecting he could “change” me. FFS, if he had just told me this we could have saved a decade of unmet expectations. I would never have married him in the first place.

      • What I mean is “if he had just told me this we could have saved a decade of unmet expectations. *Not because I needed to be a better wife and meet his expectations, but because* I would never have married him in the first place.”

        • Yes, just NO WAY FORWARD. I had already tied myself in knots for years, trying to please him. I pointed out once that it would be nice to have a compliment now and again for something other than dinner and sex. He said that he didn’t believe in flattery. It felt like there was truly nothing about me that he liked in the end.

          My ex assured me that he would keep the divorce reasonable and quick because he LOOOVED me and always would LOOOVE me. Thankfully, I had truly low expectations and appropriately hired a superstar who got it done. It was so crazy that he said I’d get a whole chapter if he ever wrote the book he had been thinking about for years. Now he’s retired, so maybe someday.

    • I got compared to an ex as well, but it was about sex. He could tie her up and do all the demeaning things he lacked with me. I heard about it so much in the beginning of our relationship that it set me up for a whole 25 year marriage where I felt sexually inadequate. He knew I didn’t enjoy being demeaned and controlled, but he still wanted to get married to me. He said his ex was batshit crazy and yet, he really loved their sexual games which involved getting into fights about dumb things, her going crazy at him, then he could tie her down and hurt her sexually. It took me a long time to get the picture that this was what they actually did and what he really wanted. I could never stack up- to that! I blamed myself for not being up for that, I felt inadequate and bad that I want normal connected sex. My husband said I had “high school ideas about romance.” He made me feel so un-sexual that I did reject him. How could I feel safe knowing all that, plus being told my sexuality was juvenile? The mindfuck of blame is miserable and very hard to shake.

      • WTF? Your X sounds vile … if anyone his idea of sexuality is juvenile, sounds like it is fueled by porn …

    • My ex went all “scorched earth” policy on our marriage as well. It wasn’t bad enough that he was leaving to be with another woman, he had to set fire to the entire marriage. He spent the last six months or so criticizing absolutely everything about the life we had. Wow! He never loved me. He never got to do what he thought was important with the kids. He never felt our house was his home. We have absolutely nothing in common and never did (Really? We don’t have the experience of almost 15 years together in common?). He doesn’t even like my personality and wouldn’t be friends with someone like me.

      It was soul-crushing. So hurtful…and all a reflection of the monster inside of him.

  • “Deference and dick sucking on command?” has me laughing so hard. Because this is EXACTLY what FW wanted from me. And it’s exactly what the stupid girl he cheated on me with happily gave him. Good for her. Pity it didn’t work out for them [/sarcasm].

    I’m just glad she took him off my hands.

    • ISTL, I had the fuckwit say to me after an argument when I took the blame for it and I asked what I could do to help make things better for us, (in a public street in London, no less, with a 12 year old daughter along) said to me, “You can get down on your knees right here in the street and suck me off!”

      A guy nearby at an outdoor pub jumped over the railing to ask me if I needed any help, and he looked like he wanted to kill the fuckwit. I should have let him. He had ethics. The fuckwit has none and is now facing charges participating in a sex trafficking ring.

  • I remember feeling like this.

    If anyone else reading the comments feels like this, I did.

    I was told repeatedly during my marriage that if I only worked “harder” and being a better husband, things would get better. It came as constructive criticism.. “helpful”.

    [eyeroll]

    2 thoughts:
    1. she could have used her words and expressed her feelings, like an adult.
    2. all this is proof that our relationship was not healthy and not going to last as it is. Nor should it have.

  • I think it’s good you admit your contribution to a not great marriage. So work on yourself. Learn from the past. If he was so miserable, he could have not made you pregnant because the marriage wasn’t strong, worked on the marriage, or left. His path was to cheat. You will learn and grow from your mistakes. It’s up to him to learn and grow from his.

  • Two years out and I still fall into “coulda, woulda, shoulda” on some days. Thank you for the perfect dose of tough love this morning.

  • I’m so grateful to read this in black & white (although, my therapist said the same, I consider CL more the expert). I did not have a loving partner who wanted to work through marital issues… he just expected me to do this on my own. From what I know now, that’s a man who’s got one foot in & one foot out. That foot moves depending on the day & circumstance. I say just slam the door on that fucking foot!

    • Looking back, it is clear that he never really wanted to work on marital issues. I actually think he never wanted to be married. I believe that early on, he told himself “she wanted this, let her work for it”.

      I believe that being married was a dreaded social expectation he acquiesced to. He told our sons to never marry and they likely never will. Tragedy though… I wish he had told me he never wanted to marry, but he future-faked me into planning a future with him. He had at least one foot out the entire time… it was a doomed union.

      (As I typed that last sentence, I may have had an epiphany)

      • Unicorn NO More: I could have written exactly what you did. I have often wondered if my cheater married me because he thought that is what I wanted. Many times he said no, he wanted to marry me…..But a lot of the time he had one foot out the door and sometimes it seemed he was mentally gone. Also he future-faked me and did what he wanted to do, made decisions that affected me unilaterally….

        • In his covert narc mind, my cheater wanted a lot of things that were mutually exclusive.

          He wanted to spend money like a guy with a fab corporate salary but then wanted to start a business.

          He wanted to take trips that didn’t have to be planned.

          He wanted dogs that didn’t pee on stuff and a yard that needed no work and tax returns were a blight that I invented to torment him.

          He wanted to be a player but he also wanted home and heath with a gaggle of 7 children. (Literally berated me for not having 7 kids when he wasn’t doing well with 3)

          He insisted that our marriage (which he didn’t want) be blessed by the Catholic Church (which theoretically takes marriage rather seriously).

          I ticked off all the boxes for him… correct height, weight, coloring, profession, shape of my butt to his liking… but he didn’t want to MARRY me, but neither did he want someone else to get me.

          Nothing I did would have been enough unless I could have given him 3 lives to live with 3 different sets of opportunities and decisions.

          • Eek that sounds familiar. My ex just never seemed satisfied. He wanted excitement but all he did was play computer games. He wanted adventure but wouldn’t plan anything- he just slept in on the weekends instead of doing cool things. He wanted money but pissed all his employers off and didn’t work hard. He wanted a whorey sex life but wanted a classy wife who earned a good living and was a dedicated mother. He wanted children but didn’t like the rigors of parenting. He wanted a fancy house but didn’t want to out the money or sweat into it. So basically I felt like an all around fail! He just didn’t seem content with anything.

          • OMG! This is my Ex exactly! He wanted a bunch of incompatible things, and completely refused to see their incompatibility.

            They really are toddlers in adult bodies, in SO MANY WAYS.

      • When I was married to FW, I heard a pastor compare a good marriage to a tennis game. Sometimes one spouse is nearer the net, sometimes further away from the net. Sometimes you’re both at the net together being all lovey dovey.

        Right away it dawned on me:
        “He doesn’t even stay on the court!”

  • Dear Regretful, After researching what the psychological world +
    the biblical world reports about adultery, here’s my opinion: There’s conviction & there’s condemnation.
    Conviction is a message from God as in ~Go to the spiritual mirror to self examine, admit your fault (as your letter reveals) & daily work to change from inside out.
    Condemnation is a lie message from the enemy causing confusion,
    shame-based, blame-based belief. Condemnation removes grace.
    Grace = good spiritual nutrients:
    truth, faith, hope, love, forgiveness, wisdom…
    I don’t disagree with Chump Lady much or often. You definitely have legal + biblical grounds for a divorce (divorceminister.com).
    Sharing my personal conclusion for your consideration. There’s no sense or good that will come from self hate. A divorce requires that you be on your own side. Anger & action post betrayal isn’t any kind of wrong until/unless it becomes hate of ex. I pray grace for you.

  • The goalposts will forever be moved with cheaters. “I cheated because you gained weight!” Weight lost. “I cheated because you don’t like to do…sex act du jour” Suck it up and do sex act du jour. “I cheated because you don’t blah, blah, blah”. Cheaters are always (ALWAYS) the innocent victims in their own narrative, and there is nothing you can do to change that. You may be the nicest person in the world, the most devoted spouse, always available for sex, and they will still find a way to justify their cheating. “I’m polyamorous!” “I need a muse!” All of which only comes to light AFTER they have unilaterally chosen to risk your life with their philandry.

    No, they need a character transplant.

    There are plenty of people in sucky situations who, somehow, manage to not cheat. I’m watching friends dealing with the inevitability of being a caregiver to their spouse due to degenerative medical conditions who are doing what they can to take on that role in the most positive and loving way they can. Can you imagine how cheaters would react to this situation?

  • RC, I wish I could give you a big hug and some of my 55 years of wisdom. You definitely did not make him cheat. I don’t care how bad you think you are/were— he’s the one who chose to cheat and then cheated and lied innumerable times. Now he blames. That’s the tell that the problem is HIM. Labeling a woman as a “bitch” is misogyny. The word is used to try to control and use a woman— to shut her down and make her comply with someone else’s demands. If you don’t like something you’re thinking or doing, then change. But stop putting yourself down. You’re doing your best. You always have done your best because if you could have done better you would. Simply make a decision that you’re going to have your own back. Notice when you have critical thoughts and redirect to that decision to have your own back. Once you are divorced and building your career and doing what you want to do you’ll see that the cheater was the reason your marriage ended and you’ll be so glad you are free of his abuse.

  • No one gets a manual on how to be an adult, good spouse, decent person. We learn by observation, reading a variety of sources, and trial and error. Character develops over years of childhood experience, sometimes in spite of bad parenting. Many of the chumps of chump nation have provided background stories of being raised in dysfunctional environments, seeing examples of bad behavior rewarded, entitlement, even persecution. None of that made us deserve to be cheated on. My suspicion is the majority of the human population could use some good therapy and needs to learn some corrective and more productive behaviors. So, if you believe you need some help working on your personal problems, you should get some help. It does not provide him with an excuse to abuse you.

    In my experience people who blame others for their actions and find no fault in their own are delusional. I do not know one perfect person, including myself. I may understand some of the reasons my judgement or actions are faulty, but that does not excuse my mistakes. It makes me want to do the work on myself to reduce the number of mistakes I make.

    I am in a stressful family situation right now, dealing with the death of some family members, a ton of not making preparations that should have been made, and a lot of work which must be done before this situation can be corrected and what is left of the family can return to some version of normalcy. I find that everyone in the immediate and extended family has an opinion about what should be done, but when it comes time to do the actual work involved, or share responsibility, or cost, or even time — these opinionated people all disappear. I am doing the majority of the work because I feel it is the responsible thing to do. I could refuse, like everyone else, and say it’s not my place to do these unpleasant tasks, but it goes against my nature to do so. Being a single parent wasn’t fair, either. But it was in my nature to do the hard work needed to get the job done. You either have this component in your character, or not. If you do, stop looking for fairness. If someone wants to opine that you are not doing it right, offer them a task to complete. They will disappear quickly enough. It is in their nature to find fault instead of doing the work that needs doing. You cannot fix someone else, or please them all the time. That, actually, is not your job or responsibility.

    • Portia, well said. On your last point, I live in the same orbit where most things fall on my shoulders because I am responsible. That leads people to take advantage. I believe many of us here have weak boundaries. My psychiatrist stresses that we teach people how to treat us. FWs take advantage because they learn that Chumps will do the right thing and don’t set boundaries on how they should be treated. I have been working on setting boundaries but I is difficult learning how to watch stituations go off the rails and realize all the weight should not be carried by you. I have read the book Boundaries byCloud and Towsend and it was helpful.
      BTW Chumps are good people! We didn’t have a positive Tuesday story so I thought I would throw that in.

      • I set boundaries and still he transgressed. That’s what abusers do- they transgress boundaries.
        A person with character will not perpetrate harm, transgress boundaries, and hide the fact that he does that.

        • If SETTING boundaries worked, very few of us would be here, I bet. At some point we have to recognize that with cheaters, we have none of the influence we would have on a partner who actually cares about us, and of course, no power to MAKE anyone do anything they don’t decide to do, themselves. We have that setting and reinforcing boundaries doesn’t make a real difference.

          So we set the ultimate boundary; we walk away and refuse to participate in the relationship any longer.

  • Dear Regretful,
    Don’t fall for the blameshifting mindfuck. The truth is that your soon to be ex lied constantly and stole from you and your little ones. He stole essential resources from your family: emotional connection, lots of time, probably money. He hid the truth about your own life and marriage from you: that it didn’t involve 2 partners but multiple ones you had no knowledge of. Those were all his choices, not yours. Get away from him. When you’re divorced and NC you can think back about what you would do differently and learn from your mistakes, but not while in the same house as your abuser.

  • Oh gosh, there is just so much to say here. First, this is not your fault. You could have been perfect and done everything as he wanted and he still would have cheated. His issue was that he did not talk to you. He could have done the honest thing and talked it out or asked for a divorce but HE made the DECISION to CHEAT. You have three kids under four years old by God! That could cause anyone to be a bundle of nerves and constantly tired. Hell, one kid and a job had me exhausted!
    This is not your fault in any way shape or form. The bottom line is that you are like all of us here, you were trying to make him appear to be a better person and that was not within him. He has the character flaws. You did not cheat! Get that divorce and live your life. Show your kids that actions have consequences.

  • I think most chumps fall into this line of thinking soon after DDay. I went far too long churning over thoughts like “if I’d only picked up on her ‘hints'” or “read between the lines” I would have known that XW was unhappy. I blamed myself as a bad husband who was ’emotionally unavailable’ because I didn’t just know what she thinking or feeling. I finally realized that it’s bullshit to expect me to be a mind reader. Good spouses aren’t mind readers. Rather, they are people who speak up when they need something and listen in return when their spouse expresses their needs. Neither of these things happened in my marriage.

    Was I always a great husband? No! Who is? I was busy with grad school and doing most of the child rearing. Assholery and detachment go with the territory sometimes. I suspect your ‘wifely duties’, whatever that moving goalpost means to your ex, were impacted by mothering 3 kids under age 4 (sheesh, I bow down to you). What did your ex do to help? Did he plan anything so you could spend, and actually feel like spending, quality time together? I doubt it. Neither did my XW. The good thing that came out of all this is that I have tried to improve my own communication with my kids, and I now know quite a few dealbreakers in any future relationship. Don’t mire yourself in all of the if onlys. Instead, take the valid issues you’ve identified and transform them into qualities that make you an even better partner for a higher quality someone who deserves it.

    • Hmm, just re-read that last sentence. I’m not saying that RC should work on herself to please a new man. I just wanted to reiterate CL’s point that it’s ok to post mortem the marriage, own your issues and improve yourself. In fact, that type of introspection is further evidence that I suspect RC is a much better wife than she’s giving herself credit for in the post.

    • “I suspect your ‘wifely duties’, whatever that moving goalpost means to your ex, were impacted by mothering 3 kids under age 4 (sheesh, I bow down to you). What did your ex do to help? Did he plan anything so you could spend, and actually feel like spending, quality time together? I doubt it.”

      Yeah, funny how they whine that you didn’t give them this or do that while doing nothing to help free up your time and energy to do so.

    • Thanks C doo-da. Today I find myself with the sads mourning a woman I was with for 22 years. Reading what you wrote struck me like a slap in the face with Skin Bracer! I need to Move forward and occupy self with positive activities that help me and my son. As they said in the commercial ” thanks I needed that!”

  • None of us is perfect. We all had some fault in our marriages. There are lots of people in CN, and – purely based on probabilities – no doubt some of them were pretty shit partners. However,

    1. If you’re getting this idea of what a crappy wife you were from your cheating STBX, please take a long, skeptical look at the source. He has a vested interest in making you feel like it’s your fault (and absolving himself from blame), so he is NOT trustworthy on this. I’m sure you have some personality flaws, but he is NOT the person who is going to give you the hard truth about them. This is what friends and therapists are for, and he is neither.

    2. Maybe your behavior early in the relationship put some strain on the marriage that needed to be addressed between the two of you, possibly with the aid of a professional counselor. IMO, this just makes it doubly sad that his actions destroyed the trust that is required to mend a marriage. Maybe he was feeling some long-term resentment or anger towards you, but he chose pretty much *the* worst possible “solution” to his problem. And that’s on him, not you. Adultery is not a constructive response to marital tension.

    As you can see, one of my personality flaws is that I’m not good at cheerleading and reflexive support. I don’t know you, so I can’t just tell you “I’m sure you were the most wonderful wife ever!” even if that might be what you want to hear. It’s not in my skill set. On the other hand, if you’re ever in Atlanta I can make you a delicious osso buco.

  • Yes to all of this. I also left with 3 little ones. I was told he cheated because I was a terrible wife. No, he cheated because he’s a terrible person. Build a support system and get away from him. Life is so much better without a sociopathic cheater.

  • RC, you described your cheater as volatile, which usually means bad tempered and verbally abusive, if not physically. Did him being bad tempered and abusive cause you to cheat? No? Then how do you tell yourself that your flaws somehow made him cheat?
    Why should you respect somebody who is bad tempered and abusive? Why should you want sex with somebody like that? He gets to treat you any way he likes, but if you respond to mistreatment by going cold on him and losing respect for him, he gets to cheat?

    You need to clean the religious dogma about “how to treat a man” out of your head. This is how to treat a man, or a woman, or a non-binary, or whatever; the way you are treated by that person.
    You don’t owe anyone anything that you aren’t going to get in return. Full stop.
    Look, everybody is an asshole *at times.* But this guy was repeatedly, consistently an asshole in one of the worst ways you can be an asshole. So yeah, he’s the asshole.

    Get out from under the in house separation. You won’t be able to stop bargaining with yourself until you do. The man is a serial cheater. That’s a special breed of pathology. Rest assured you don’t even know how many times he actually cheated. It sounds like it could have been from early on, and you can’t twist cheating from the start of your marriage into an RC is at fault situation.

    Ask yourself this; if it was really companionship he wanted, why cycle through so many mistresses? Surely one of them must have been companionable. Yet he kept changing them. So it was novelty is he was looking for, and you couldn’t have been new no matter what you did.

  • “We aren’t born with training manuals. You learn by doing. Which invariably means screwing up. You have to assume mutuality, however.”

    This hits so close to home.

    I screwed up. It even appeared that I was the one who screwed up first (spoiler: I wasn’t).

    I had poor boundaries with an ex at some points in our relationship, yes, plural.

    I didn’t understand what I was doing, but eventually I reformed, whereas he went the opposite way. And it turns out he wasn’t the saint at all and had never been.

    Instead when he screwed up, he escalated, started lying, ended up abusing me, telling him his lies were something I was supposed to “endure”. He stopped making any sense and that’s where I drew the line.

    It always was morally complicated for me to navigate his cheating, because I hadn’t been irreprehensible.
    I wanted to extend the same compassion, but ultimately he proved very undeserving of it.
    I was repentant and he wasn’t, and that’s eventually where it split.

  • My FW wasn’t a great husband, whole bunch of stuff looking back that was not nice, did I run out and cheat? No. Why not? Because I am a good person. Don’t second guess yourself. Trust that they suck. Just take a step back and watch the s*** show that will be his life. It can be very entertaining to watch.

    • Many time one does not really realize how they have been used and abused, until it comes to a head. Even then it can take a while.

      I didn’t really admit to myself for years the abusive (emotionally, and financially) things he had done for quite a long time, possibly our entire marriage.

      No matter how much money he made, we were always broke. I was always saving and scrimping and never having any extra. There had to be a reason for that. I certainly wasn’t spending it.

    • Mindfuck example: After D day FW says because you weren’t expressive enough, didn’t make him feel wanted or needed. During Wreckonciliation acting expressive that you want him and need him. Then he’s annoyed you are too needy. You can Never win here, all an excuse to justify his entitlement.

  • Are You Sure It’s Not My Fault?

    Yes. You know how I know? Because no matter what the scenario, pretty much all cheaters find a reason to blame you. And that’s it.

    You can look like Christie Brinkley (see: still cheated on) … have his kids… make the money… clean the house… give him all and any of the sex he wants… be a master chef… every single scenario has been played out. As CL said “Cheating is a character issue.”

    • My therapist used to say ‘consider the source’. Since FWs are lying liars who lie —what comes out of their mouths means nothing. Literally nothing.

      When I read here people who still worry about what the ex said —especially about their role as a spouse or parent— it seems so clear that what the FWs SAY has no bearing on reality; it’s just noise. It is a convenient excuse to explain their shallow attachment and ridiculous behaviors and make a getaway. Also to hurt you back if you’ve inflicted a wound to their ego. They will literally say ANYTHING to justify/hurt —and they know that the Chumps will internalize and take responsibility and do all the chumpy things we do. They count on this to keep us busy spinning our mental wheels at the unfairness of it all. They don’t care about collateral damage: that’s chump and kids.

      It was my experience that ExFW would *say* whatever he needed to say to get what he wanted or get himself out of trouble. His opinions blew with the wind. He would contradict and reverse himself frequently. He was a man of zero substance and stood for nothing. It was confusing and frustrating (when I wanted to believe him) during the marriage. Now I understand that I must use his actions to gauge where his intentions lie. Since he doesn’t call or request visitation, I must assume he doesn’t care to see the kids. His actions speak volumes where the words are just deflection screens of misinformation.

      • Ugh, this reminded me of how one time post at least 1 DDay, I actually ASKED him how I could be a better wife!

    • MS,
      Not to take away from your point but Christie Brinkley cheated on Billy Joel. It came out after she was in a helicopter accident with that Taubman guy. She was still married to Joel when it happened

  • “Not Awful Enough to Divorce, But Just Awful Enough to Cheat On”

    Ugh, that one echoed in my head for months. I’d say it’s one of the worst mindfucks, but let’s be honest, they are all bad.

    You have to rewrite/reframe this for yourself several thousand times until you believe it…but it should say “My FW cheated on me because he/she took advantage of my trusting nature, and he/she doesn’t want to leave because I’m an awesome wife/husband appliance.” No matter how we treated them, they are incapable of treating us like anything other than a useful appliance. They use people, that’s who they are. You can’t project your ability to care about others onto them. “Caring” isn’t in their playbook – only pretending to care, and only when they’re something in it for them.

    • I was a chumpy idiot who didn’t see how much my FW sucked before. He talked about how he lost friends after he started making more money. More than likely he treated them less than with his selfishness and entitledness. He even complained about one of his old coworkers torpedoing his chances in a job interview because he had been selfish and rude to her before when she asked him for help with learning something. She is in a better job now and ensured he didn’t end up working there because unlike chumpy me, she saw through his awfulness.

      I have never had trouble keeping friends of any income class and my ex-coworkers have literally fought with their bosses to have me interview and work with them, from enjoying my company. I now see why me giving him the benefit of the doubt was me projecting my good character traits of selflessness to him.

  • Some gems I learned in therapy (in the 80’s) that I paid for and share here for free:

    1) relationships fail because one or both of the people in them do not have or are unwilling to learn the skills for success.

    Leading a secret sexual double life, lying, cheating, and otherwise holding a partner hostage via other false pretexts guarantees failure of the relationship.
    It’s definitely dysfunctional.

    2) all relationships, all people, have issues. You want to partner with someone you can work through issues with.

    Leading a secret sexual double life, lying, cheating, and otherwise holding a partner hostage via deception and other false pretexts guarantees failure of the relationship. You can’t work through problems with a liar, and especially not with a liar committed to generating problems by lying and cheating. Dr. Frank Pittman, who my therapist studied with, told cheaters, “YOU are the problem with your marriage.”

    3) where there is deception, there is no relationship. If there is no trust or safety, it is not a relationship but an entanglement.

    I had a MIRAGE, not a marriage.

    4) affairs are inherently dysfunctional relationships. You can’t turn it into functional any more than you can get eggs out of the cake batter.

    5) we take our baggage and patterns with us into subsequent relationships until we do the work to change those patterns and deal with the baggage.

    Cheaters change people, not patterns.
    Traitor X is still cheating and lying, to the “sole mate”, and everyone else.

    The “ideal marriage” is one where both parties work on their own issues, and the
    problems that arise in the marriage and the family. There is trust and safety and loyalty.

    Let’s say you were truly the Wicked Witch of the West. An evil, ugly, horrible, mean person. He responded by……continuing to hang around and lie to you? Have children with you? Pretend to be Married Family Man? Yeah, that makes sense. Not.

    I don’t keep eating at a restaurant I hate.

    I don’t rent a movie I despise over and over again.

    I don’t keep doing ANYTHING unless there is a payoff for me. In psychology it’s called a “secondary gain”.

    He is full of shit. They want everything just the way they want it, and only bail when it becomes unsustainable for whatever reason.

    Cheating is about unhappy and spouses/partners like rape is about sex and mini-skirts.

    Cheating can only occur in the context of a committed relationship. That does not mean the committed relationship is the cause. Any more than keeping a found wallet full of money is the fault of the individual who lost it.

      • We all need each other around here….this whole site functions as my infidelity recovery sponsor….just come and read every day and when you feel weak and afraid and panicky….take what you like and leave the rest.

        So many here have helped me so much….I hope to do the same for someone else.

  • I share the concern of OHFFS about your use of the word “volatile.” It makes me wonder if you are also conditioned to tiptoe around your spouse in ways you have not yet recognized. I hope you will get counseling to help you plan strategies for when he responds after the divorce with volatility in regard to the kids or your independence. “Volatile” people use anger (physical and verbal) to exert control over others, and your soon-to-be-EX is likely to find himself upset a lot as the realities of custody, child support, and other divorce features emerge. He will also be “volatile” with the kids–even if it is only to rant at them about what a horrible woman you are. Managing this while being both strong and cool-headed takes support and practice.

    And, no, it is not your fault he cheated. You are only responsible for your own actions. If you called him names during your marriage, that is your fault. If you ignored polite requests for your attention, that is your fault. But the decisions that he made on his own are not your fault. All of us can be better people–every single day–but that doesn’t mean anyone has the right to lie to us and betray our trust.

    Finally, anyone with 3 kids under 4 simply cannot be described as an “asshole” all that often. You might have had your moments of asshole behavior, but a lot of the time you were probably exhausted rather than being an “asshole.”

    Your separation cannot come soon enough. Having the real asshole out of the house may help you see with more clarity both what you do want to change about yourself and how much doesn’t need to change.

    • I echo the ‘conditioning’ concept (posted something similar, below). But I also want to add that volatile people can also look different than what we consider to be classic domestic abusers. Yes, sometimes that volatility comes out in aggressive physical and verbal behaviors, but for me, the emotional volatility was much more insidious and damaging. And continues to be for the children.

      Emotional volatility might look like ‘breakdowns’, suicidal ideations, crying, desperation, begging or emotional neediness. These played heavily on the caretaker side of me and would instantly thrust me into ‘fix it’ mode. I would soften, feel bad for my (healthy) boundaries, and attempt to find stasis. It did nothing but dig us deeper into the cycle of blame shifting, DARVO and ultimately led me to believe that I was indeed the one with the problem.

      As the scales fell from my eyes and I looked around at all the healthy relationships I had in every other arena of my life, I realized I did indeed have a problem. And it was him. Once I started to stand up for myself (in a civil, kind way, for the children’s sake), I watched in horror as the ‘needy, emotional, sensitive’ FW became a monster. My lawyer told me that clearly this was who he was all along, I just compensated for his behavior during our marriage. No truer words could be said.

  • Yes, you married young. Did he? Was he a bit older than you? And three babies in four years? Was he trying to tie you down in pregnancy so you wouldn’t leave? And three affairs over six years – so he was messing around before you had a family? Look, I caught my husband smiling after he oh so casually picked a fight, pressing my hot buttons. Made me want to scream, yell and throw things. That’s what he wanted me to do. So that he could then walk out in a self righteous huff because I was so terrible to live with. But I turned and saw him smiling. And I called his name sharply, like a mother catching a naughty kid. He jumped a foot and looked sheepish and guilty. I shook my head and told me he wasn’t fooling me. And to just go off to her or whoever it was. He was simple and ate his fill like a shark. Nothing personal, just food. He wasn’t cheating so much to hurt, though he knew he did and it didn’t faze him a bit. It’s just that he operated with a mindset that meant he was hungry for (sex attention ego stroke etc) something so he ate. That’s their mindset. You weren’t bad enough to mate with or leave. But he believes he’s entitled to whatever. If he was a good guy, you wouldn’t be afraid to leave.

  • This post has me thinking of my ex best friend, who left her first husband for her current one, many years ago. She was unhappy in her marriage and would tell me about it (I was not happy in my relationship either). When she started the emotional affair that eventually led to their divorce (or, “provided the soft landing that meant that she actually did divorce”? as in, she may have never left if she didn’t have someone else to go to?), she would confide in me about trysts and longings and attempts to stay out of each other’s way in order to not fuel the fire of their attraction. This all seemed legit to me at the time. The narrative was that she was realizing she’d married the wrong person, now that she found someone more compatible, and that she eventually had to act on her true feelings. She definitely had a narrative around what a bad husband her first one was, even though she also expressed feeling bad about not valuing him or forgiving him enough.

    When she left, she waited a year for appearances, then got together with the AP. She told me they didn’t physically consummate until after she left.

    Meanwhile, I left my partner after years of my complaining / trying to change things. To be on my own. There was no one waiting in the wings.

    For SUCH a long time, I didn’t really question her version of events. That he sucked and she suffered. Many years later, I asked her if she ever told her first husband how unhappy she was. No, she said, I just tried to fix his mistakes / suck it up. She had a very strong martyr/good girl self-image and showed, throughout our friendship, contempt for people’s open expressions of being unhappy with their partners or relationship. I’m sure she thought of herself as being the big person for not mentioning her husband’s “many shortcomings.”

    But my friendship with her always suffered from the imbalance that comes when only one person voices wants/needs/things they want to work on. Eventually, as I began to push back and expect respect from her, things broke. I believed so much in her judgment of things, of people (she’s very efficient, has a big public service job, a new perfect family, etc). Always described herself as a “schemer” regarding networking to get into the most prestigious work circles. Honestly, I myself cannot live up to her values, and I guess her husband didn’t either. I now ask myself how much credibility I can give her description of her first husband. I now ask myself how secure her second husband can ever feel knowing how she started their relationship.

    In the end, I see that someone who can start a new relationship while they’re in a marriage is very good at rationalizing hiding things from people closest to them. I’m still working on the feelings of being “less than” that came from so intimately interacting with someone who felt that she was supporting/indulging my clueless awkward beta self and generously not mentioning my flaws.

    Now I see myself in our past friendship as cast (unknowingly) as a flying monkey, someone she could confess to and I’d just say, oh yeah, you’re totally justified in following your heart. All that to say, FWs are very good at convincing themselves, and convincing others, of their victimhood. I send my apologies out into the universe to that first husband, who has long since moved on and found a new partner.

  • My ex-fuckface never blamed me for his serial-cheating double life to my face, but I uncovered online posts where he complained about my “closed mindedness” in the bedroom. I guess because I wasn’t interested in swinging, threesomes, or fucking bisexual randoms?!

    I’m still early on in my healing journey and I get fleeting moments of “maybe I should’ve done this or that more”…but then I remember what CL says…”trust that he sucks”. It’s not ME…it’s 100% HIM.

  • I was with my FW for just a few years. We were both post-divorce after long marriages. We were still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. Frequent enjoyable and creative sex, great communication, we BOTH said we had it all. He called us the “power couple”.

    And yet he chose to cheat on me for over a year before I discovered it. His actions, his many decisions to cheat were completely on him. He got off on deceiving me. He got off thinking he could get away with it, that I was an unsuspecting chump. That even if I did find out, I loved him so much that I would forgive him. Ha! He was so wrong.

    Cheating is a character deficiency in the cheater, not in the chump. Thinking that you could turn back time and fix things is a superpower that you don’t have. Wanting to control the outcome is beyond what we can do. They have all the control in imploding the relationship. We don’t have any control over their actions, only how we respond.

    CL has a great response as usual.

  • Feeling this. I know I wasn’t always the easiest or nicest to live with. But he always had a choice. 8 years together, 6 years married, 5 moves, 1 child. Never once was it addressed and instead he covertly fucked prostitutes. There is no honor in the choices they make with their lies/denial/avoidance. They just go along to get along until they’re found out. Then someone needs to take (or share) the blame. I will admit I wasn’t always the nicest or easiest to live with, but I also never resorted to this kind of behavior despite being denied a fully committed partner (and yes, not “feeling safe enough to get my freak on” many days because something was up and I couldn’t put my finger on it). Oh it’s such a mindfuck. The point is, he had choices he could have made, and he did the most hurtful and damaging thing he could, lied about it, and continued along as if nothing was wrong. It’s not always easy to live with other people, but you know what’s really not easy to live with? Marital subterfuge.

  • RC you uncovered 3 affairs…more than likely there were others you didn’t uncover. The times you were a bitch to him and the times you turned him down for sex…could have been your subconscious screaming something isn’t right. Even if he hadn’t been a cheater when you were a bitch or turned him down…so what? We all have our moments. Also, the recent conversation he just had with you…could have easily taken place before he cheated. Why now?

  • It is never the chump’s fault that they were cheated on. You did not force your ex by gunpoint to screw another person. All marriages have problems. But, you work on those problems. One does not use the problems in the marriage as a license to cheat. Using the excuse that you did not have sex with him on a demand is just another form of gaslighting. My ex used that excuse too. I went through early menopause and sex was painful. My ex used that as an excuse why he cheated with my cousin. A cheater is a cheater and they will use any excuse to blame shift.

  • I was the most affirming, supportive, understanding, caring wife conceivably possible. I wasn’t bothered by small stuff, medium stuff I made a comment or said I didn’t like it and let it go, and big stuff I always brought up calmly. There was sometimes yelling later in those convos, but that was because I didn’t recognize DARVO and it made me I.N.S.A.N.E. (If ever you find yourself feeling like you need to record conversations with someone because they go off the rails so badly and so fast and so repeatedly … LEAVE!)

    I was highly sexually available and enthusiastic, right from day one. Years later his moodiness and negativity undermined that enthusiasm, and then menopause caused a dip in my sex drive. That meant we were ONLY having sex 3x a week. Any vanilla periods were entirely on him.

    HE STILL CHEATED. And he STILL BLAMED ME.

    Ya know what I spent some time wishing I had done differently? I wondered if maybe I had been firmer, had made it clear that his moodiness and negativity and being so highly critical of everyone always were UNACCEPTABLE to me, maybe he would have shaped up. (Because the only times he did shape up about ANYTHING it was when I made it clear that there was a line in the sand and I wouldn’t stick around to watch him go past it. And btw, I consider it highly disrespectful to threaten to leave someone every second month. Oh, and I should mention, he behaved better when I set those kinds of limits, and sometimes came around to considering it normal, but sometimes not; he saved up resentment that I had set a boundary.) Maybe he would have been easier to live with, which would have made him happier, then maybe ….. So my regret, while it lasted, was that I was TOO NICE.

    But ya know what? I figured out that I didn’t want to live with someone I had to constantly set boundaries with, then enforce them. I didn’t want to make my life with someone who didn’t CARE that something he was doing was making my life harder and more unpleasant or hurt me or the kids, he’d only care if I said I’d leave him. I also didn’t want to be that kind of spouse! It’s so not me ….

    So yeah, LEARN from your mistakes, take what YOU feel is useful from them, so you can be a better person going forward. But those mistakes, however frequent or awful they may be, don’t justify anyone cheating. Leaving? Sure! Demanding change? Absolutely! Requiring couple counselling? Yes, for sure. But cheating? Nope.

  • I could have written your post word for word. Only I have four (slightly) older children, similar age gaps to yours. I am two years out from D-Day, divorce ongoing. I think CL is absolutely SPOT on with her advice to you.

    One thing that I would add is that you have been really well conditioned by FW over the years to think, believe and question everything the way that you are right now. Like a frog in a pot of slowly boiling water, all those micro actions he has taken over the years has ‘taught’ you the mindset you are in. It has taken me a long time to realize this within my own situation. Therapy was huge, but I also found so much wisdom in a book called Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist by Margalis Fjelstad. She does a really good job of explaining how we contribute to their current behavior (spoiler alert: it’s not because you didn’t sleep with him, or because you were cranky, or in any way not a good wife or person). It is because you have been conditioned by HIM to react to in very specific ways to maintain status quo/keep him on an even keel. But that’s not your job now, and frankly never was. I deeply empathize with the toll of having so many children so close together and the sheer force of survival it takes to just get through each day, so don’t blame yourself here either.

    Your comment about him being ‘volatile and needing to proceed with the divorce with wisdom’ was me. But in the end, nothing you do, whether kind and accommodating or firm and boundaried, will change him or the outcome. His opinion of you, and the opinion you have of your own actions in relationship to him are not good benchmarks with which to work on self-improvement. So silence that inner voice for now, get some time and distance between yourself and him and if you find yourself with the same ‘issues’ in a year or two or three, then you can examine ways to self-improve. Funny how all of those ‘flaws and faults’ my FW conditioned me to believe about myself disappeared when he did.

    Focus on your children, getting out of this marriage with the resources you need and taking care of your mental and physical self. Your mirror is distorted by the conditioning of FW, find a different mirror.

    • Yes, that book was a biggie for me. I had to read it several times during separation before I got that it was a sick dance that was making things the way they were. Also “Healing from a Narcissistic Relationship” by her. If I stepped away, he would never blame himself and would become dysregulated over losing control. That dysregulation went into the divorce which ramped up into a crazy fest.

      In the end, trying to appease him or somehow become what he thought he wanted was a waste of time. I gave up and refused to reconcile, and we divorced. I have zero doubts that it had to be. Zero!

  • RC, I would marry you ! Your letter reveals a thoughtful, mature, introspective, responsible and loyal person. Those are the qualities your husband lacks. The lack of those qualities led him to act on his impulses. You’re going through a stage of letting go of the marriage you hoped to have. Only you will choose to use your remaining energy to take care of your children instead of having sex with a series of unavailable men. That’s because you don’t cause or condone cheating.

  • I’m working hard not to blame myself anymore, but even knowing that it’s not my fault isn’t making the horror of it all go away. I feel so off kilter at every memory. I can’t figure out how to look at past-me and not feel anything but knocked down. I look at the confidence I used to have and I think, ‘your life wasn’t real’. Learning that the love given to me wasn’t real makes me feel like I wasn’t real, and I’m realizing now that a lot of my confidence came from the security I had in my family unit and, now, it’s like I’m completely shattered. I’m untangling my skein, I suppose. I’m not blaming myself for his 7 years of lying so well to me, but I do blame myself for allowing so much of my identity and confidence come from someone else. Does that make sense?

    Im feeling extra sorry for myself today. Ex took our 15 year old daughter and his 25 year old (also like my daughter) to visit his mother on the opposite coast for the weekend. They all met at our house pre flight this morning. They were excited to go and I faked being fine. I know meeting at my house before the flight should have been avoided, but such a big part of me wants to be the type of person who could handle it.

    For example:
    There are 2 realities here. Reality #1: it is ex’s mother’s birthday and she hasn’t seen her grandkids in a long time. She won’t live much longer, most likely. He didn’t realize it was Mother’s Day weekend. Reality #2: ex takes kids on a fun family vacation (last time he went to visit his mom he brought the OW with him so that’s feels fantastic!) where they feel at ease and relieved to be away from my sadness. It’s my first Mother’s Day since dday and I want my kid with me.
    Sooooo, obviously reality #2 is what I’m feeling, but at the same time I have to stop spiraling and reality #1 is not untrue. I need to stop doing damage to myself. So, bringing this back to BLAME, I am blaming myself for choices like this – spiraling in reality #2.

    Thanks for listening, Friends. I don’t even know if this makes sense but I’m submitting anyway. Yikes.

    • I feel for you Lost. It’s early days and it’s hard. There is something to be said about faking it til you make it. But it’s early days. Be kind to yourself. Also, there is only one reality, but maybe different points of view. Ex and kids are riding off into the sunrise in a fun adventure and you’re left behind— on Mother’s Day no less. Be kind to yourself and reframe this—time alone to reflect and do something super fun, relaxing and ONLY FOR YOU.

      Also, please realize your agency. You can say no. You can say please choose another weekend if you want caught to participate. You don’t have to be a martyr. Own your feelings; they are valid.

    • Yea, Lost…I get you. Im finally at a place where I no longer feel off kilter at every memory, but it took time. I was completely invested in my family unit, so I understand. Now, looking back, Im so astonished that I didnt realize all the times he was clearly telling me that he didnt want to be with me, but I would hear none of it, we had kids, we were a family and we would persevere.

      My 2 sons watched how he treated me and even though they are nicer, their absence of gracious gestures at things like Mothers Day and my birthday came from somewhere. Its totally OK to be hurt and disappointed when something like this trip happens….in reality, visiting dying old ladies is not fun..I hope you can find something nurturing to your soul…go find a lovely garden or an art museum…buy yourself a nice lunch and linger at what you want to look at.

      The last weekend before Cheater died, I invited him to go to an art museum and he refused and disparaged the idea, so I went alone and had a nice time. That was his very last chance and he threw it away…what a shame.

    • Dear Lost,

      First of all, HUGS, HUGS, HUGS, TO YOU.

      Next… there is a THIRD reality:

      Reality #3:

      A) FW *deliberately* set this event up to cause maximum kibbles for himself, and maximum pain for you.
      – The fact that FW’s mother probably won’t live much longer, and that she would love to see her grandaughters, and that they would love to see her, has *also* been true for … how many other days of how many other years besides this one? And will also be true for probably many days *after* this ONE PARTICULAR day THIS YEAR, that is all about *mothers and their children*, NOT *grandmothers and their grandchildren* ?
      – HE COULD HAVE ARRANGED THIS TRIP ON ANY OTHER DAY(S) ! If his mother’s mortality is such a concern, why didn’t he arrange this trip whenever this was first discovered, and once every month thereafter ? Why on earth was it *postponed* to coincide with Mother’s Day? If it could *wait* that long, it could have waited to start one day *after* Mother’s Day.
      – He was *completely oblivious* to “how special this day was”, until – I expect it was you! – *reminded* him of this day *devoted to mothers*, which has been a calendar event every single year since it was invented in ***1907***. Or, perhaps your FW was born 40 or 50 years before that, in the 1800’s, and just isn’t used to thinking about it? Or perhaps he wasn’t raised and hasn’t been living in a country that is abuzz about this day, weeks in advance, with ads and reminders and sales coupons and florist discounts, and restaurant bargains, all delivered by web page pop-ups, and TV commercials and news announcements, and radio, and newspaper, and spam email, and postal junk mail, *every single year*, just as it was *this* year? I suspect he was *well* aware Mother’s Day was coming, and didn’t intend to lift a finger about it, ***until you made it clear it was important to YOU***. At *that* point he realized he’d hit the kibble jackpot. He would look like a Prince to his mother, and bask in taking the credit given to him by her and by each of his daughters, for causing them such happiness ***while*** simultaneously setting you up to feel miserable and lonely AND to punish yourself for feeling selfish if you felt that way. How could you not cater to the wishes of a dear elderly woman who won’t live very long! How selfish of you! A lady who almost certainly did NOT, for one moment, think to herself, “Oh, if only my dear grandaughters would show up *specifically* on *Mother’s Day*, and deprive their own mothers of their love and companionship on that day, I would be *so happy* !”
      – If Mother’s Day were *actually* important to him, he would have honoured and respected *you* as the *mother* of *his daughter*, and done something nice for the two of *you* (ditto for “Almost-A-Daughter” and *her* mother, if her mother is living). Instead he has arranged to f*ck over *two different actual mothers* and separate them from their children, so *he* can hold a kibble parade for himself, with his *own* mother, and two children be is *not* the MOTHER of!

      B) Your 15 year old daughter is not a FW or a FW in training. She is by no means heartless. She *is*, however:
      – caught between a sane parent and a manipulative FW
      – loving and kind-hearted
      – someone that FW very certainly played the “she doesn’t have long to live” and the “this will make her so happy” cards with. Just like he played them with you.
      – too young to have her own funds or the agency or ability to plan and pay for a trip to see her grandmother on her own. She, of necessity, *must* be dependent on FW to make this happen. *He*, therefore, is totally in charge of the schedule.
      – If she even dared to try to push back on the Mother’s Day date, FW probably cycled through Rage, Pity, and Charm, as needed, to bully/guilt her into it. Probably, she had enough sense not to try and confront him, or thwart him in any way. She probably still loves him, and wants to please him (too. She *knows* she’s safe in *your* love, and that *you* don’t need to be “appeased” or “bought”. And that you will not fly into a volatile rage about things. It’s probably harder for her to identify that the “charm” and the “pity” behaviours are manipulations.)
      – she is sensible enough to recognize the reality of the fact that she lives with you all, or most, of the rest of the year, and that “Mother’s Day” is just one day, and she can, and does, express her love and appreciation for you all the days she’s with you.
      – FW probably used BOTH the arguments that “it’s Mother’s Day, it would mean so much to my *mother* if you were there” AND “Mother’s Day is just an arbitrary made up day, you live with your mother *all the time*. There’s no special reason you have to be with *her* on *that* day”, with your daughter (obviously not back to back, where the contradiction would be obvious).

      C) The biggest and most important part of all… In spite of *all* the deliberate cruelty and planning your FW went through, to make you hurt, *YOU* are so kindhearted and generous, that you *do* recognize that, bottom line, his mother doesn’t have much longer to live; that a visit from her grandaughters on *any* day, will cheer her up and make her feel wonderful, and surround her with love; and that your daughter may not have many more chances to build memories with her grandmother. *YOU* have *very selflessly* put the happiness of that elderly woman, with less time to enjoy life, *and* the happiness of your daughter, with limited time to enjoy her grandmother, ahead of your own desire to spend a certain Sunday with your daughter.

      D) Guess what. Being loving, and kind-hearted, and thinking in long-range terms about what’s best for your daughter, and what makes her happy, and helping her to help others be happy, and being kind to others when you can, especially if they have a limited time to enjoy something that you have in plenty – even if sharing it makes you sad, and *demonstrating* all that for your daughter, that *that* is the way to live life, *THAT* is what a Good Mother does. You have arranged to give *several* people gifts this Mother’s Day (FW’s mother will think *he* finally remembered, and that will mean the world to her, too)… All while *demonstrating* how a *wonderful* mother handles things.

      E) You are, in all ways, being a Better Person about this.

      F) It’s totally understandable that you will miss your daughter that day. But… you know what ? She’s coming back. To *you*.

      G) When she gets back, plan your *own* special Mother/Daughter Day together (and maybe include Almost-A-Daughter ?), and enjoy it thoroughly. You *can* have your cake and eat it, too, in this particular case. Lots of people celebrate birthdays and other events on “more convenient” days, due to scheduling conflicts. You and your daughter could even start making plans for that *now*. Focus on the plans for *that* day.

      H) Also, when that arbitrary Sunday comes up that she’ll be gone, *you* are still a *Mother* – why not spend the day indulging *yourself* with whatever special things you might enjoy ? Maybe a big treat you wouldn’t normally allow in your budget… Go horseback riding, take a spa day, get your nails done or buy a bunch of crazy colours and do it yourself, order a fancy meal delivered and have a movie marathon, visit an arboraetum or plant nursery and buy yourself some plants, browse a used book store or the library, allow yourself X dollars to log into eBay or Etsy and buy *anything* you want (it’s fun just browsing the things that show up for the keywords you type!), take a sightseeing drive or nature hike, go to a museum, go to an arts and crafts fair, or a dog or cat show, start a new hobby, get together with a good friend, if you have a dog, teach your dog a new trick (if you don’t have a pet, and can afford one, consider visiting an animal shelter and adopting a cat/dog/other), log into Vistaprint and create your own design for a shirt/mug/hat/bag/mousepad/notebook/calendar/magnet/poster/etc. One of the *best* things you can do when you are sad, is to *learn* something. Is there anything you’d like to learn? How to ice skate, or canoe, or crochet, or play piano, or more about archaeology or philosophy or welding or Peruvian art or ? What was your favourite subject in school? Browse “Meetup.com” for interest groups near you – or start one! Reward yourself that day !!!

      You. Are. A. Wonderful. Loving. Generous. Mother.

      Let yourself take full credit for allowing that grandmother and her granddaughters to be so happy soon, while you make sure to allow yourself to be happy as well, and meanwhile, look forward to your own special Mother/Daughter(s) extravaganza when your daughter gets home!

      HUGS! HUGS! HUGS!

      • Thanks for the hugs, RT, and the 3rd reality. I will try to hold on to this through the weekend. I just wish I could let go of the resentment. It’s exhausting to be sad and angry from the moment I wake up until bedtime. Hell, even in my dreams! That’s why part of me wishes I could skip along in reality #1 with the rest of my family, who all seem to have successfully been able to compartmentalize the situation, accept it, and move on. It’s been 7 months since dday.
        Anyway, thank you! I wish there were a way to meet local chumps from CN. I feel like I could make many fast friends ❤️

        • “It’s exhausting to be sad and angry from the moment I wake up until bedtime” So true, I am now 10 months from Dday which was a shock. I will tell you that at 7 months I started to have some less sad days. This continues but it is a roller-coaster i am sure i will be riding for a couple of years. Do something nice for yourself this weekend you deserve it

  • Dear RC… hang tight, you will survive this and with time (and distance) will come further clarity.

    If it helps, here was my woulda coulda shoulda list from the bargaining stages of grief CL mentions (and yes, you are in them eyeballs deep)…

    1. Admired and supported him so much (even rewrote his resume and coached him on how to pitch his managers) he advanced two “levels” in his career and his salary went from mid 5-figures to 6-figures. YET – while on a business trip he fell victim to the temptation of a woman in the hotel bar whom he claims he only kissed because when they got to her room he just “couldn’t go through with it”… puhlease (see next one).

    2. Embraced his family of children and took on all responsibility for planning (and paying) for their summer-long visits from out of state. YET – when their Mom would come to pick them up, he apparently paid for her hotel AND they carried on a multi-year affair (which she confessed to me after my marriage ended… she thought he was going to go back to her, she didn’t know he was sleeping with other women beside her – oh, and I guess me, the wife.)

    3. On our first d-day (ugh, if I only had found CL and CN in 2009 and not 2014!)… I confronted him with a hotel room receipt… he first denied… then he blameshifted that all my attention was on our new baby and not him and he was lonely… then he said he did go, but he left the room before the hooker arrived. I bought sexy lingerie, thinking it was my fault and I needed to spice things up… KIBBLES for the monster that I thought I had caused to cheat… only to subsequently install spyware on his computer and find his dating personal ads on sites I didn’t even know existed.

    Did he ever come to me to tell me of his woeful unhappiness… nope. Did he blameshift his cheating on to me… yes. It’s a pattern with these fuckwits. Don’t buy in to it. You own your shit, but did you cheat? Nope, didn’t think so.

    Get a good settlement, get a fair custody agreement and child support, model better to your kids, go live a cheater free life. Heal yourself and build a better life.

  • And this is why about 4 years since D-Day I still check in to Chump Lady at least once a week. Because you just need these reminders to stop those ‘what if’, ‘perhaps I was a shit partner’ ‘what did I do to be having to live through this horror’ thoughts from creeping back in.

    What we all have in common is that we all seemingly had a million flaws that were never mentioned to us ever, until D-day at which point all these idiots ‘hadn’t been happy for years’ and we suddenly had all the mud flung at us and told why we are so bad. Of course, they are clever and will hone these reasons to make sure they pick on anything that you know you are insecure about or potentially has an ounce of truth in just to really make you feel bad and put you in your place and justify their shitty behaviour.

    And we’re the ones trying to ‘learn’ from the experience and seek to do better in future. We’re not the lying cheating nutbags in this scenario.

    • “Of course, they are clever and will hone these reasons to make sure they pick on anything that you know you are insecure about or potentially has an ounce of truth in just to really make you feel bad and put you in your place and justify their shitty behavior.”

      Yep, the night the fw left me the only real complaint he had against me was he looked around and said “this house” and shook his head, like he just couldn’t take it any more, so the obvious course of action was to fuck whores for ten years or more; while I worked my ass off at a job, and doing whatever volunteer work for him that would elevate him. That house was a run down piece of crap, that I tried hard to fix up; mostly on my own with what little resources I had. I was not a spit shiner, but I was a decent house keeper. But he knew that would be something I would take in.

      God they are evil.

  • Cheaters arent marching with a full backpack. They’re missing the tools of survival in relationships. Early development handicapped their ability to navigate emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual growth as adults. It takes strong desire and personal motivation to overcome this handicap as adults and many do. Those that don’t often take the easy road thinking, “I’m going to marry this person and they’ll make me a better person.”

    Cheaters choose a mate with attributes they admire and aspire to. Superficially the relationship moves along with the stable partner doing all the heavy lifting. Outward appearances are that marriage, children, family and career are filling the empty backpack. Once formidable challenges present, the cheater is once again facing a deficit of tools due to an empty backpack. Having relied on a stable spouse to make them a “better person” didn’t work. Self-work and growth is done individually before it can successfully exist with others. They chose not to do it; instead they chose you to do it for them.

    Cue the blame game, followed by self-destructive actions and behaviors, and marital demise.

    Cheater’s don’t leave for someone better than you. They leave for someone worse than themselves.

    We’re all far better off re-directing our interest in cheaters and their wayward lives to that of our children, families, selves, and future. Teach our children well, model functional choices and behaviors, love with respect and honor, and keep growing and blooming into a bouquet of a life well-lived. There is purpose in what we have all gone through.

    • Honestly your second paragraph makes so much sense in terms of my experience. I have had years to reflect. For years I never gave cheater or whore much of a thought once I recovered and D’d. I was working, going to school; met and married a decent man with a working sense of decency etc.

      Then fw and whore tore up my son and his families life. Though not for long because my son took it all in hand and ended the situation.

      At that point is when I did some research and kind of relapsed for a short while. Hurt me I can deal, hurt my kid I will rip you apart. That was when I learned of narcissist’s and personality disorders.

      I do believe in retrospect that my ex chose me for my values, and he did on the surface try to mirror them. But, as time went by and he began to get the things we both had worked for, he started living a double life. One of lust and greed, the other the happy successful family man.

      Once we divorced he never rose again. He had unfortunately found his own level. He had lost his promotion/his office and his place in the community and all he had to show for it was a “rat faced whore.” Thanks C6. 😉

      Among other things he cheated on whore (big surprise there). He tried to become a preacher and got kicked out of church, (long story)he got into gambling and racked up almost three hundred thousand in gambling debts.

      None of this was due to our D, it was all from his/her own choices. I never for a second wished for my son’s dad to end up like that; but once he fired me, there was nothing I could do about it. I did pray for his health situation a lot. But according to my son, he just would not do what the drs told him to do to manage his condition.

  • Do not buy the narrative he wants you to own.
    You are not responsibility for his lack of morals or integrity.
    Infidelity is abuse and abuse is not your fault, regardless of all the ways you felt you could have been different in the marriage. Everyone feels that way, anyone that really cares about their marriage does. We all have room for improvement, none of that warrants abuse.
    Agree with Cl, we aren’t given a manual on life, we all stumble through, but with ppl who actually love you, you don’t get tossed and replaced, you get to reset together and do better next time.
    This man made a choice to abuse you, multiply times in fact. Cheating takes a great deal of planning, lying, scheming, robbing great swaths of emotional connection and time from your family to give to another.
    He is choosing over and over to do that to you, cheating holds more value to him than any love for his family.
    You can’t fix that level of brokenness.
    My serial cheating ex could somehow make me reflect internally on ways that I could make our relationship stronger so he wouldn’t have to cheat on me. (Onus was on me, cause fault was somehow mine.)
    Why should they change?
    They don’t need to, they just have to get us to think the fault lies within us, and they are pretty masterful convincers, at least for a bit of time.
    They have groomed someone who will twist through the most impossible hoops, desperately wanting to be the one that matters to them. They get to just kick back, enjoy the show and eat all the cake they want. No one else matters but them.
    The first DDay, I was married 7 years, no kids yet and just devastated to think he would have an affair.
    I was so in love, I never considered it a remote possibility. (Doesn’t he love me like I love him? I was so confused by it all. )
    His excuse then was that he worked so hard to get in good shape weight lifting and that I didn’t make a big enough fuss over how he looked. (so he cheated on me?!)
    He was sailing 2 mos on/ 2 mos off on ships at the time. ( cheated with some engineer onboard)
    He was lonely he would say, but I was stronger and could be by myself for much longer periods, according to him.( we lived in another state from family and friends, a red flag I didn’t see then) and I had absolutely no one from my past life living within 1000 miles of me.
    I, quite miraculously, didn’t need to cheat to feel worth and love though. (I could tough it out, but he was just weaker and had to cheat to get by, that’s a compliment to me in some way I’m to think?
    I wrote to him every single day while he sailed and the letters just dripped with love and admiration.( impossible for me to read them now, they make me sick how I was played a fool)
    He could not have had more of my love and focus, complete unwavering attention, narcissistic nirvana.
    And it’s possible to get that with more than one person at the same time?! Sign them up for that windfall all day long!
    But, I bought it, because I trusted no one more, and looked for even more ways I could make him feel loved, so he didn’t need to shop around elsewhere. 😵‍💫
    The second DDay I was told I was too good a mother to my three babies ( all under 3) and he admitted to feeling jealous of them and guilty for that, wanting and needing more of my attention and not being able to compete with them.
    Wow! ( again, I’m unconscious still, will be for years yet to come,the fuckedupedness runs deep in this man)
    I tried to self reflect and understand how you could be jealous of your own children?! ( red flag a flyin! 🚩)
    But then pretzeled myself once more to mold and comply, so he didn’t have to feel so shorted of my time and love. (My deficiency causing him to cheat of course.)
    Aren’t these your kids too?! Would think you’d be thrilled I love them so much, but I only drifted briefly out of the fog, then he was able to manipulate me back in it again. It’s like being a member of a cult, you are conditioned by the puppeteer and also unknowingly abused by them.
    The next DDay, I was told I had been too down and depressed over my mom’s nightmarish death spiral from breast cancer.
    But, thank God his mistress was available to ‘save our marriage’, having lost her own mother at a young age, so could help him understand this difficult transition in life and how it affects ppl. ( I should have gotten a thank you card off, but those 3 kids prob got in the way once again!)
    It wasn’t till years later I knew about this ‘ helpful’ mistress, when there was yet another one in his sites ( always a queue in the works, need that backup plan!) when the kids were in HS, who just “really got” him, something I was not capable of. (Again, my lacking ineptitude pops up once more.)
    I often wonder now who got me through all those many times and years in life? It sure as hell wasn’t him!
    I did feel guilt for being so sad over my mom’s bc and that maybe I needed to mask that sadness more from the person who should care what I’m feeling? ( so my husband wouldn’t have to search elsewhere for HIS emotional support and attention, that he surely deserves?!)
    It’s all shocking to me now how warped my world view was, it bothers me that I tried so damn hard to save my marriage as he flitted non troubled from flower to flower through the YEARS of my life happily watching me squirm with his triangulation and devaluation moves on me.
    What they show to you is a continually moving target you aren’t even meant to be able to hit, but they let you imagine it may have the slightest possible chance of being achieved, so you never give up on what you do deeply value and they can give a rat’s ass about it. Everyone is replaceable to them. It’s so sick, dark and cruel.
    The hidden secret is you will NEVER be what they need, no one will.
    There’s always a shiny bauble that’s got their attention that’s better than the one in their hand, they are never present in your life, there is someone continually more worthy of their priceless time, all the time.
    You can get pretty damn close to the target though, graze it maybe from time to time, almost believing you’ve finally been successful.
    But without warning or reason, the tide will inevitably change ( constant boredom for them) and they will find you lacking some critical component that forever remains Lord Voldemort status, it just cannot be named.
    They have absolutely no need for improvement whatsoever, but you, maaannnnn, it’s so easy to find and list all your many shortcomings. (We will draw up the lists for them if they want it!)
    Don’t wait 38 years for the fog to clear as I did. Get yourself one of those massive floor fans with the 747 deafening motor, and blow all that fog out of the way.
    You will never get to see or know the full extent and levels of betrayal, and maybe that’s even a blessing. But, you already know enough to leave, and that’s enough to know.
    Don’t “what if” yourself to death about how you maybe could have changed it up, the ball was never on your side of the court, he manipulates it all.
    You never had the ability to change the outcome.
    I’m glad you are escaping from that hell, it can destroy your belief in everything if you stay long enough.
    Let him continue down his fated and disordered road, which he will def do.
    You are not the last person he will hurt in his life, you can’t change that either.
    But you and your kids can get on a road that’s growing and blooming, full of life and many joys to take in together, and it will feel so refreshingly genuine, so safe and solid after a time. Like you can take an unobstructed breath for the first time in forever.
    Love those babies and yourself. Trust that he sucks. ( he does!)
    You deserve to feel safe, special and wanted. You didn’t deserve to be cheated on, no one ever does. I’m sorry you are in the club of chumps, I’m sorry we all are. 🌷

  • Regretful Chump…I was completely where you are now when my ex left to be with his AP four years ago. I hope I can find the right words to help you more quickly than I was helped. When I started counselling, I was a bag of self-blame, with a list of all the ways I should have been better. It really started during marriage counselling, when I had some “a-ha!” moments about myself and sought individual counselling on the side to start working on those issues.

    After he left, it was identified that I was actually presenting symptoms of trauma and referred to a psychotherapist that specializes in that. The first thing she did was have me completely shelf the self-blame talk. Completely!!! I wasn’t in the right head space for it. To continue down that path would compound the trauma. The trauma had to be dealt with first. It took almost two years to manage the PTS of the affair and all the childhood trauma that was revealed as the layers were peeling back. With time, I was able to separate dealing with the trauma and dealing with my own relationship fixings as two different matters. To do it at the start only resulted in me shaming myself and that is trauma at play.

    First, work on your grieving and your trauma. As CL explains very clearly, your husband is at fault for his own choices, not you. No matter the circumstance, there is no justification for cheating and all the abuses it entails. FULL STOP!! You were not happy in your own marriage either. Did you cheat? No! Exactly! Were you a woman with her own issues who took on pregnancy and childrearing three kids in four years, while trying to maintain a home and a marriage? Yes. There is no way that these were circumstances that would set you up to be the Stepford Wife you think you should have been to keep your husband from cheating. You have already started to identify the wounds you have sustained in your life that have influenced who you are. Focus on that. Heal.

    Second, protect yourself and your kids. Your husband was not caring about your well-being when he was cheating. Do not expect that he will suddenly have your best interests at the forefront. He may talk a good game (and even think he means it), but that is neither here nor there. You take care of you so that you can be solid for your kids. If he is sincere, then he will do right by your kids, but you cannot not depend on him for yourself. You need to surround yourself with your people and make choices that set you and your children up for the best possible life.

    Third, only after some time, once you are through the better part of grieving and re-wiring your trauma-informed brain, you will be able to more objectively look at your relationship fixings. You will find that a lot of it will have already worked itself out through the grieving and trauma work (as that’s what is at the root anyways). But, you will also have done the work of fully understanding all the ways that your husband lacked as well and what rests with him. At that point, you will be much clearer in recognizing, “Yes, I did this or didn’t do this,” but your brain will not jump to shame anymore. It will recognize what led to that and that it didn’t make you cheat because “x,y,z” (you have values, respect for vows, etc.). You will learn the strategies to manage those challenges differently in future and be a better version of you.

    On this forum, I once had someone say to me that it’s important to recognize when we are in a situation that doesn’t allow us to be our best selves. That helped a lot. You have had so much life-altering changes in your life with the swift arrival of each child that completely changes the dynamics of things. You were doing your best to respond to that with the tools you had. Sure, you shut down, acted out, whatever. BUT YOU DID NOT BETRAY YOUR HUSBAND. He did that to you. That’s how he chose to respond in “hard times.” CL laid out examples of the better choices your husband could have made but didn’t. What he did is disordered, emotionally immature, dishonourable. There is a lot you need to free yourself from, start with the cheating husband and move into losing your shame. Best wishes on your journey.

  • RC – My cat poops on the bathroom floor right after I’ve finished cleaning it. He climbs up on my bookshelves and knocks handmade pottery off.

    My daughter borrows my jewelry and then loses it. She puts in her ear buds and ignores me on 5-hour car trips until she needs to pee.

    My son texts me from college when he needs money but then forgets about me for months. When he visits, he eats my favorite ice cream and leaves his bedroom a mess.

    My best friend sometimes doesn’t text me back. She’s hurt my feelings more than once in 40 years, and she even broke an important promise once.

    Do I throw my cat out in the street? Let my daughter walk the 300 miles? Tell my son he’s not welcome in my house? Drop my best friend for being a bitch? Or do I accept their shortcomings because people (and pets) are flawed, and I love them?

    Doing any of the above would make me a first-class POS. Because you don’t throw people away when they don’t please you.

    Your husband is a first-class POS, and he deserves a lot worse than your cold shoulder.

    Practice self compassion, and ignore him so hard that he questions his own existence.

  • Probably everybody who visits this site has asked themselves a set of similar questions to the ones which are currently troubling you. I know I certainly have.

    However, the whole thing can be distilled into a very simple sentence: There is no excuse for cheating in a relationship.

    It’s as simple as that. If a relationship is not working for one or more of the individuals involved there are a plethora of alternative routes that can be travelled which do not involve abusing anyone. And infidelity is abuse. One of the worst forms of abuse actually.

    So beat yourself up over this if you want to. We all do from time to time. But then lick your wounds and let those bruises fade.

  • Let’s reframe this to: I’m going to model good things to my children by not tolerating an abusive marriage. I will be the sane parent. I will treat my ex civilly and fairly for their benefit and because I am a civil, fair-minded person who behaves ethically.

    This – Golden

  • You thought you were in a marriage, but your husband secretly voided the entire contract. He told you that you two were in a marriage, but this was not true. You didn’t know that. So, by definition, you literally could not have been a good “wife” to your “husband” because he wasn’t your husband. He broke the contract the first time he cheated.

    If you entered a relay race with him, but you had to wear a blind fold, and you couldn’t see that he was carrying the opposing team’s baton for half of the race, then you can’t be held responsible for losing the race, no matter how slowly you ran. There was no real race to begin with.

  • “… he can be volatile so I have to approach divorce proceedings with a lot of wisdom”

    Word of unsolicited advice here: until you are in a position to move out of this house, do NOT discuss matters relevant to the divorce with him. Anything he says to you is intended to manipulate you in some way — so make this rule very clear to him: all divorce matters go through the lawyers, full stop.

    Stick to that rule. Anything about property division? Spousal support? Custody? It has to go through your lawyer.

    And, while it’s lovely to see the two of you finding areas of agreement in this awful situation, it’s a little “off” that the thing you both agree on is that YOU are at fault here.

    If I’m reading your letter correctly, he knows very well that you were the perfect wife for him. Always not quite up to snuff, always falling short, always trying and therefore never with the moral or ethical upper hand. You never saw yourself in a position to make demands of him, because you saw yourself as being so flawed.

  • Nothing you did MADE him cheat. I wasn’t always a good husband but didn’t deserve what my ex wife did. She said the same thing. “I don’t respect you and your issues equal to my double betrayal and years of cheating and abuse”

    I did/do look at areas I needed to improve in and have made a lot of changes.

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