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Why Does Everyone Assume Cheating Is the Chump’s Fault?

faultDear Chump Lady,

I’ve recently been pondering something that irks me, and would really appreciate your opinion.

In various conversations with some friends over the last couple of years, if a case of infidelity is ever discussed, usually the first thing people comment on, is their opinion of the chump.

For example:
A dear friend whose brother was cheated on by his wife several years ago, was telling me, that the man her ex sister-in-law had cheated with, was well known for serial cheating on his wife (a unicorn). My friend went on to comment that his (unicorn) wife was stunning! My friend had a look of confusion on her face. A moment later, she realised her own flawed thinking, and hastily added ‘not that anyone deserves to be cheated on’.

Last week, I had two friends over for the evening. They have a friend in common, who several years ago, cheated on her husband not long after having their third child. Think online hook up sites several times a week.
They both spoke of their confusion because her husband (now ex), had been a good-looking, really nice guy who adored his children. They decided the birth of the third child must have done something to her mind because before that, she and her husband were very happy together.

According to my friends, after he found out, and she became a single parent to three children, she sorted her head out, stopped the hook up sites, and worked every hour she could. They seemed to think this was an indication of good character. I saw it as an indication of a cheater who didn’t have a husband at home to leave her kids with while she went out screwing around. Plus financial struggles from being a single parent. But maybe I’ve grown cynical.

The only comment I made throughout the discussion, was that when an affair is brought to light, the first thing people seem to do, is scrutinise the person who was cheated on, when they should be looking at the cheater. I was met with blank stares.

But then, I think I too am guilty of this bizarre behaviour. Three years ago, I was married with a 6 month old, when I discovered my ex had been cheating on me with prostitutes since before we were married. Turned out he’d cheated on all his ex girlfriends too. When I first began to tell friends and family, I always told the bit about ‘since before we were married’ and how he’d been cheating all his adult life. To… what? Take the scrutiny off me? To let people know in an instant that it wasn’t my fault, and thus stopping them checking out my waistline/hair/face/attitude?
I know it wouldn’t have mattered/was not my fault, if it had only been the once and after we were married. Yet I still felt like I needed to defend myself in the telling of the horror story I’d found myself living in.

So what is it? Why does society first look to the victim of infidelity when trying to understand the cheater’s actions?

Yours sincerely,

LucyInTheSky

Dear Lucy,

So many reasons, but the first is that betrayal scares the bejeezus out of people. It’s hard to imagine what could make you feel more vulnerable than realizing that those closest to you were conspiring against you.

Don’t want to feel vulnerable? Can’t imagine yourself powerless? Suppress your empathy. Assign blame.

Well, surely there is something you did that compelled this person to abuse you.

But hang on, we can’t call it abuse. We have to minimize it first. It’s “an act of exuberant defiance” (thanks Esther Perel!), it’s just messing around, it’s What Men Do (so put up and shut up), it’s What Women Do (why didn’t you treat her special?), it’s No Big Deal, it’s monogam-ish, it’s the subject of farce and rom-coms and wink, wink, nudge, nudge, naughty, naughty!

It’s never feet in stirrups for STD check after years of presumed monogamy. It’s never paternity checking your children. It’s never Junior opening the laptop and seeing Dad’s multimedia sexting. It’s never the vomiting and raw grief. It’s never the discovery of stolen monies spent on affairs.

What it is? Your fault.

Look, on your last point — I did the same thing. My cheater, turns out, was a serial cheater going back his whole life. Through two other marriages. Throughout our ENTIRE relationship, he maintained a double life.

So, what did I do to make this man cheat on me? I have no idea. Apparently it wasn’t so awful that he didn’t pursue me and ask me to marry him. (Excuse me, Esther, “mate in captivity.”)

But it’s no excuse! You’re supposed to have KNOWN he was a serial cheater. You were supposed to have SUSSED OUT that he was a player. How could you be so stupid, Lucy?

Why do people believe this shit is all our fault? Why do WE believe it?

1.) Chumps assume the blame because it gives us a sense of control. If this is our fault, then we can FIX ourselves and stop these bad things from happening. Control is a very seductive commodity when you’ve been chumped. False hope sells. The RIC is predicated on it.

The truth is that we cannot compel other people to act. We only control OURSELVES.

2.) There is a therapy tradition that believes all problems are 50/50. On the face of it, it seems like the grown-up approach. Own your shit! We all contributed to the unhappiness. We all brought issues to the marriage. But it flies in the face of what we know about addiction, mental illness, and personality disorders. No, some people can behave utterly self-destructively and manipulatively. People lie to therapists, their spouses, and themselves. And whatever issues both sides contributed to the general dysfunction are eclipsed when there is abuse. Infidelity is abuse.

For more on personality disorders and therapy traditions — check out blog friend Dr. George Simon.

3.) Some people suck. Not everyone can walk into another person’s cracked open heart. Not everyone can be present when you’re in pain. That’s okay. It’s scary stuff. But it takes an asshole to blameshift. Were you frigid? Did you get fat? Can’t get it up anymore? Work too late? Neglect him for the children? 

And I would argue it also says something about another person’s values when they think looks should protect you from cheating. But, but! She was PRETTY! She got cheated on? (So what, is okay to cheat on the ugly? They deserve it?) He was a good father and she checked out on him? I wonder what he’s REALLY like? (Maybe he IS a good guy and she sucks.)

Sucky people do this to feel safe. So they can check the boxes and know it Won’t Happen to Them. I’m not frigid! Check! I’m nice to my wife! Check! Ergo I’m SAFE.

Lucy, I’m glad you’re speaking up and changing the narrative.

This one ran previously. 

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  • There certainly is an assumption that chumps are cheated on because we are lacking in some way…which is why I used to head people off at the pass by pointing out that x and I had a good sex life. #TMI 🤦🏻‍♀️

    • I did the same.
      Although, everyone that knew us as a couple would never suspect that there was any failing in me that would “cause” him to cheat. (I cringe at saying that, because the OP is correct in that we all feel blamed and defensive.) We were a good couple, and he knew that and said it and still cheated. We were still in the honeymoon phase. (After I dumped him, the RIC gave him the narrative that our relationship was dysfunctional, that I shared some of the blame. I did not accept that and told him why that was false.)

      My friend’s husband, who worked with him, said “Who would ever cheat on Patty?” I’ll tell ya, having someone say that really helped me a lot.

      But as has been said many times, even if you’re a bad partner, you don’t cause them to seek out sex somewhere else. Deception is the choice they make instead of leaving the relationship. Because FWs want cake, and feel entitled to do what they want.

      It’s our story to tell as we feel it’s best. I chose to tell people the truth. I didn’t blast it on social media, but told them in person. He actually told some people too – back when he was still distraught at having consequences.

      Since then he moved away from our small town where everyone knew both of us. He grew up here and he shamed himself here and now doesn’t feel welcome, and that’s another part of his consequences. I’ve only been here for 15 years but now it’s “my town” not his. And I’m thriving.

      • Yay you!!! So glad you’re doing well.

        Consequences are a bitch! I love stories where the chump thrives and the FW slithers away in shame.

      • My ex moved 1200 miles away with the Home Wrecker, All of her family who live here side with me. Though it is never said, She knows she is not welcome to any of the family events like the annual 4th of July party that her cousin has every year. When she visits her Mother she never brings the home wrecker with her because she knows he is not welcome. She has lost much of her family and the worst thing for her is that our Son wants nothing to do with her.

    • Spinach
      yeah I wear a tshirt that says “total hornbag”
      just in case I cross paths with the ex mother in law, ya know

    • Spinach
      yeah I wear a tshirt that says “total hornbag”
      just in case I cross paths with the ex mother in law, ya know

  • In my opinion people do this to assign blame to the chump because it gives them a feeling of security that their spouse won’t cheat on them because they are not like the chump. Chump was a bad cook? Oh thank heavens. I’m a fabulous cook so therefore my spouse won’t cheat on me like chumps did. It the equivalent as when you hear somewhat cancer. You think “oh well they smoked” or “they worked in that factory where they make weed killer. I don’t do those things so I should be ok. “. It gives the observer a sense of security. A false sense but a sense nonetheless.

    • It’s funny you used cancer as an example, it was my first thought. Years ago one of my moms friends died of lung cancer. She left behind three children. She went fast, from not knowing she had it to deceased in well under a year. When they heard the news, my paternal grandmother and one of my aunts immediately said “Well, did she smoke?” No sorry for your loss, no how sad for her children. Just, well, did she deserve it?

      My mom was pissed and called them out. But that’s how they lived their lives. When I got bullied at school they said I must have done something to cause it. Well, I was poor so guess I deserved it.

      Fun fact though, grandma got lung cancer a few years after that. She wasn’t even a smoker. How weird. I guess her judgment didn’t protect her.

      • Remember Katie people that do these awful things are stunted emotionally just realize that “YOU” are the better person and they know that!👍🌷

    • Agree 200% and I was told by the Canadian RCMP that this shit is rampant today with dating sites available. D day was Dec. 4th, 2016 for me and now I see clearly God got me out of that hot mess for a reason. I won’t tolerate any abuse I know I’m worth a decent man and I will find one!🙏🌷

      • When we gain a life we realize how much better we are without them. Something we may have never realized with them.

        I’m not “grateful” for the cheating, but I am very happy I didn’t marry him. I thought he was forever and it turns out I am all I need for forever.

  • This morning my 8 year old said, “Daddy doesn’t get along with most adults. I bet that’s why you broke up with him.” So she sees it, at least.

    • Out of the mouths of babes!

      I love that most kids have an uncanny ability to sniff out the bad.

  • When I first suspected my x was cheating on me, I confided in a female coworker who suggested I read Esther Perel. I didn’t buy any of her books, but watched a Ted Talk. It was an awful experience and I did not understand why it made me feel so shitty until I came across Chump Lady.

    • I read Mating in Captivity at the behest of my first therapist shortly aster FW moved out. My main reaction was “what the hell did I just read?”. And of course I’m wondering why my therapist suggested I read it. I was confused about what love even was at that point, and that’s what she picked for me? I’m glad I borrowed it from the library.

      • I would never deface a library book, but I did return a RIC book to the library with sticky notes hidden near the margin shouting “This is utter bullshit, and you know it. You deserve better, your kids deserve better, the DOG deserves better – and you know it it. Read “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life” if you want advice that doesn’t diminish and demean you.”

        • As a librarian and a chump I would have loved to see this!

          I did see that the FW followed Esther Perl, Glennon Doyle, and Brene Brown on Instagram after I left him. I’ll bet he feels like he’s enlightened. And I’ll bet his fiance thinks he is too. Blech.

  • Regarding the assumption that attractive people don’t get cheated on, I don’t think that’s actually about believing less attractive people deserve to be cheated on, at least in most cases. I think most people assume cheating is about being swept away by lust for some gorgeous other person. It’s difficult to understand why cheaters do it otherwise. They can see at least some sense in a cheater being so into somebody sexually that they lose interest in their primary partner. They can’t understand cheaters trading down within that framework. So they are puzzled when cheaters betray an extremely attractive primary partner at all, let alone with somebody who is not as good looking. It’s about wanting to believe cheaters need a compelling reason, because non-cheaters can’t imagine them doing it without one. The truth is that cheaters actually need an extremely compelling reason *not* to cheat, but even if they have one they will probably still risk the consequences and do it.
    We, as normal people, find that mentality inexplicable. So we look for some reason that we can understand.
    I think we all thought that way before we went through it ourselves, found CL and began to understand the way cheaters operate. They aren’t like us. If you attempt to explain that to somebody who hasn’t been cheated on you will be confusing them with facts that don’t fit their understanding of human behavior.

    Marriage counselors do this too. They try to make it fit within a framework that convinces them they can help the marriage. If they were to believe that cheaters (as well as non-cheating emotional abusers) have an entirely different psychological operating system that they don’t understand, and that it’s most likely not fixable, they’re basically out of a job.
    Hence the popularity of the bogus addiction model for understanding cheating, and hence the blame the chump narrative. They are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. No pun intended. 😉

    • It goes both ways! Not only do we have a hard time understanding cheaters because we don’t think like them, their world view makes it so they cannot understand us. So many of us Chumps have been accused of cheating, stealing and and not being loving because that is how their twisted brains process. What really bewildered me was when XW would assign motivations to my actions that never crossed my mind. Much later I realized that this is how she thought- it was never about me.

      • Yes Bruno, I had the same happening to me. Maybe that’s ex’ way of thinking, or maybe it was intentional. Gaslighting. Or DARVO. Whatever. I’m out, and free 😁😁😁. Not untangling skeins. (Wishful thinking 🤞)

        • I can be DARVO to distract from their bad behavior— if you keep a chump busy chasing in circles they can dig too deep or examine too closely what their up too. Let the kibbles and pick me dance ensue.

          I think it is also projecting. Thinking others think and do like you think and do. A mistake for cheaters and chumps alike as we should let the facts of someone’s behavior inform our opinion of their character. Chumps tend to think the best of people and give benefits of doubt. Cheaters think we will do to them what they—in secret—are doing to us.

          My XH once said out of the blue, with such feeling—“I knew you were the only one I’d have children with.” We met in college and were exclusive the entire 30 years, at least I was. I said “oh really, well I better be the only one you are sleeping with!” I was confused at the lack of context but it was a huge red flag. One of many. If only I had paid attention. If only I knew he had been soliciting sex from any one who would pay him attention for the entire 30 year relationship.

      • Totally agree. The projection is strong because they cannot ever fathom that someone does not think like them. I find this to be a very self-centered way of thinking, not unlike a child. Also a very childish method of “blame sharing” so it’s not all on them. My daughter did this somewhat innocently when she was a toddler – I want a treat but it’s not yet dinner, but you have some too and then we’re both having treats before dinner (although this I would occasionally cave in to, haha).

      • I’m with George Simon in thinking the are aware, but do not care. I believe the things they accuse us are just an excuse for their abuse and a means to manipulate us.
        I think in most cases they know we are not like them. After all, how could they use and manipulate us they way they do if we were selfish and lacking in empathy like them? I think they very much count on that.

        My fw has stated a great many times that he knows I’m a caring, responsible, honest and ethical person, but when his back was against the wall, he would accuse me of things that are completely at odds with that.
        It’s just FW sophistry. They use whatever stupid arguments they think will give them a leg up, even things they are aware aren’t true.

        • It’s sad, but they use us.
          FW used to say all the time that ‘I was good for him.’
          I took that as a compliment- but I see now it wasn’t love. It was what I did for him.

          Then if someone else comes along who provides different or temporarily more kibbles,
          FW’s feel ENTITLED to it.

          • My FW used to say that I’d settled and he’d beg me not to leave him. I thought at the time he just had terrible self esteem, and always reassured him that I wasn’t going anywhere and I didn’t think I settled for him.

            Then one day he was telling his AP and me (we all worked together) that I made life easy for him, and that at least I put out. Good to know that’s all he saw me for – what I could offer him. FW’s aren’t capable of love. It’s all about what you can provide to them.

            At least now his new “victim” can make his life easy and put out for him.

            I feel sick thinking he ever actually loved me.

        • “My fw has stated a great many times that he knows I’m a caring, responsible, honest and ethical person, but when his back was against the wall, he would accuse me of things that are completely at odds with that.”

          I experienced precisely this, repeatedly. Also, you are full of wisdom today, OHFFS. Thanks for taking the time to share it.

      • When we were separated, my ex used to accused me of screwing every man that crossed my path. He told me I couldn’t POSSIBLY have gone X amount of time without sex. Funny, I made it 27 years before I married him. Four months or whatever isn’t going to kill me. What he was really telling me was HE couldn’t image being celibate that long. And of course, for all his protestations that she was “just a friend”, he wasn’t.

        • The FW was very jealous of a man friend of mine that lived across the country. We met through a rare disease forum and supported each other in that lonely journey. The FW assumed this guy was only friends with me because he wanted to screw me. Turns out that was all projection of his intentions.

          • My ex was jealous of one of our (male) friends who, like me, was interested in gardening. We were discussing plants. Apparently that was flirting to my ex. I had zero and no interest in the guy sexually or romantically. I just like talking about plants (my ex did nothing but demean and insult my hobbies, so it was a nice change, you know?).

            • In my experience, the projection holds hands with gaslighting: making you question your perception of social interactions. WAS I “flirting”? WAS he just being “social”? Was I “embarrasing”? WAS I acting “jealous”? Then they use it as a defense when their own behavior comes under scrutiny because your judgement clearly can’t be trusted! You don’t understand the nuances of business/ social hours/etc!! No WONDER he can’t take you anywhere!

      • Bruno, I’ve shared this story before here, but this seems like a good time to tell it again. It dovetails in w/your comments.

        A few years before D-day, I came home from a long day of work as a pharmacist (around 12.5 hours; this was prior to burning out as one). I don’t know exactly what set the FW XW off on this tack, but she started waving the local weekly (and extremely popular) paper in my face when I got to our bedroom, asking if it was me writing an anonymous request in the personals for a newer, more better partner (I assumed they meant female, for more sex and more varied sex), who described themselves as around my age, and who had a wife who didn’t want sex as much as he did (I did have a higher sex drive than the XW, but I was not going to ever toss her aside for the hope of more sex or more varied sex).

        I was tired and worn out when she hit me w/this, but my immediate reaction was to laugh. Too late, I realized that only pissed her off more. I then tried to convince her that there was no way it was me, that I don’t act that way, and how I felt that even if I were inclined to act that way, having a family of three children, a wife and a demanding job left me w/little enough energy to get through most of my days. How the hell was I going to find more energy to have an affair?! I was trying to be semi-logical about it, and I did tell her I loved her and no one else, but it really bothered me that she would accuse me of this out of the blue (at least, it seemed like that to me).

        Years later, when she exit-affaired me w/her then boss, I ran after her at one point, and asked her what the hell was that night all about? I was hoping she would give me some insight (I know, silly me). She told me it was nothing, that she was simply being stupid. The stupid I now believe, but I don’t believe her claim it was just that and nothing else. I think that she knew how she would act if the situation was reversed, and assumed I would act like her. That is, w/no moral compass to guide me.

        They really don’t understand why we all don’t act like them. Which is their fucking problem. Thank God we’re out of it. Fuckwits are as fuckwits do. Go fly away, fuckwits. We’re living a better life without you.

        • TLR, what resonates with me is your ex’s eventual dismissal of what I assume was some pretty significant rage. Mine did this not only did this ALL THE TIME, but constantly held it up as a badge of honor: “Oh, you know how I am. I may get really worked up about things but I forget them almost immediately . . . unlike YOU, who holds on to and wants to revisit EVERYthing forEVER.”

          Only in hindsight (of course) do I see the fuckwit strategy: Explain away her own inconsistent and over-the-top behavior to keep me off-balance, use my desire to increase understanding and enhance marital bonding as a weapon to be used against me.

        • Thelongrun,
          My xh cheated on me our entire 12 yr relationship/9yrs married. After d-day 1, and about the same time the Petraeus cheating hit the news, I begged him not turn me into to a Holly Petraeus. The media was unfair and harsh towards her for not being as physically fit and as “pretty” as the younger mistress hoebag, pawla slutwell. Little did I know, 9 yrs later I would find myself reeling through d-day 2 and ashamed of how I also had judged Holly. I was also trying to complete my 3rd yr of pharmacy school. More of life intruded into my healing and I was burned out before being able to get licensed. The xh would criticize most of my strongest qualities, but because he was money hungry would pretend to support my dream of becoming a pharmacist, then guilt me for not staying in shape or spending more time in the beauty salons! Reading your story helps me understand nothing we chumps do would ever be enough and they will always find ways to DARVO.

      • As my Mom would say “they know their own tricks best.”

        A diversion technique. They know as a chump we will want to prove to them we’re not cheating, that we are loving, we will work on being a better spouse, wonder what we could have done to make them think that..,
        We forget they’re not perfect. We’re more accepting.
        There’s also the thought that if they accuse us of the things they’re doing then it justifies their cheating.
        If

    • Whoever thinks it’s about looks — Jennifer Aniston got cheated on. Halle Berry was cheated on. Eva Longoria got cheated on. Debbie Fisher was cheated on. Sandra Bullock’s husband cheated. Sienna Miller, Shania Twain, Emma Thompson, Jennifer Garner, Fergie, Gwen Stefani—there is no one so beautiful that a fuckwit won’t cheat on them.

    • Very well said.
      “It’s about wanting to believe cheaters need a compelling reason, because non-cheaters can’t imagine them doing it without one. The truth is that cheaters actually need an extremely compelling reason *not* to cheat, but even if they have one they will probably still risk the consequences and do it.”

      The FW cheated way down. And yes, that surprised me, as he was always ogling Instagram fitness models, thinking that was his ideal. The AP was not an athlete (I am), and his newest conquest isn’t either, and yet that has always been important to him.

      So the cheating wasn’t ever about finding a “better” partner, it was about getting his rocks off by sneaking around. It was about entitlement and seduction – the “secret sexual basement” – fulfilling his savior complex.

    • So true! We went to a MC that specialized in sex addiction and “partner” “treatment”- no trauma model, though. A complete money grab.
      The psychological tests dx’d XH as a narcissist with BPD and bi-polar II. They continued the “treatments” ahem, abuse of me! Nothing changed but my bank account. Fraud.

    • ‘ It’s about wanting to believe cheaters need a compelling reason, because non-cheaters can’t imagine them doing it without one. The truth is that cheaters actually need an extremely compelling reason *not* to cheat, but even if they have one they will probably still risk the consequences and do it.’

      Yes!
      Regular people are not like narc cheaters. They may seem like us on the outside… (although many of them are much more sparkly)…. But they are not like us on the inside. We project… Society projects

    • Yes you hit on a good point with the therapists, they want to label a chimp as codependent to show them as the defect , but chumps are broken trying to untangle all the BS while hopium is guiding them to do more and be better to save the relationship.

  • My mil and sisters IL blamed me for something I must have been doing wrong for the many heartbreaking miscarriages I had (as they had no such issues), so of course blamed me for breaking up with their abusive and cheating brother. The miscarriages were due to a DNA mismatch. And STIs I didn’t know I had. I did the pick me dance faster and harder. Until one by one each of their marriages crumbled apart, all due to infidelity, some on their parts. They were an empathy less bunch, full of narcs with multiple marriages, and I’m glad I’m permanently rid of them. My only daughter has made family of our close friends. These blame shifters are a henious bunch.

  • Image management by the chump (good guy) and the false narrative of the cheater (devaluation to others) play a role in false assumptions. And it’s important to know they trade down to their level. Without the image management of a stable home and family you can be assured they look foolish blaming a chump who lives better.

  • It must be the chump’s fault, because otherwise it can happen to anyone! (And as we all know, it can!!)
    Just sickening…

    • One of my best friends asked me if perhaps I “wasn’t enough for him” when she learned of my FW’s many, many infidelities. I told her she had to feel that way so she could protect herself. Certainly SHE was enough for her husband! Turns out, not long after that conversation, her husband hit on me. And guess who she blamed? Yup, me. Needless to say, we aren’t friends any more.

      • You were not enough for him, but that has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. He needs to gorge himself on pussy buffet. Them vomit it up and gorge again.

  • In the immediate days after my ex said he was leaving me, I begged him to speak with my brother-in-law, thinking that he’d be able to talk some sense into him. To this day, none of my family will tell me exactly what my ex said. I guess, because they think it will hurt me. What hurts is everyone having this secret except me – the person most involved! My sister (whose husband spoke to my ex) would take long walks with me after my ex left to keep my mind on something else. One walk, she began explaining to me how important sex is for men. She never inquired with me how much we had sex or how little or why we didn’t, if that was the case. She just insinuated that I was not having sex with him enough and that’s why he left. No one heard my side of the story – that I wanted sex – but my ex did not engage in proper hygiene so that sex with him was gross. No, it must have been my fault. Did I leave him for poor hygiene and lack of sex? Did I have an affair? No. Did I try to encourage him to take care of himself? Yes. Did he try? No. Should I have walked out on him? Probably.

    • I’m so sorry your family participated in abusing you. That wasn’t okay and you didn’t deserve it.

    • “No one heard my side of the story – that I wanted sex – but my ex did not engage in proper hygiene so that sex with him was gross.”

      I can’t help but snicker at his schmoopie dealing with that.
      Your ex obviously lied to your BIL and sister. I think you should tell them the truth. They can’t hear your side of the story if you don’t tell it.

      • Unfortunately, you cannot tell your side of the story (the truth), if no one ever asks. All of my ex-in-laws are just fine with his adultery and his side of the story!

    • I’m going to be frank, I think you either need to corner your sister and tell her how shitty it was to give you that sanctimonious little speech about how men like sex and demand an immediate apology or you just cut the bitch off.

      Do not tolerate family like this. She wants to keep little secrets with your ex? She can go be his fucking family then. I cut off my sister and I have zero regrets. She empathized with my ex so he can host her ass for the holidays and be her family. I’m out.

      My life has improved dramatically since I went zero tolerance. Don’t take that shit from your family. They get their shit together and support you and stop keeping your ex’s secrets or they screw off out of your life. There’s no middle ground when it comes to betrayal.

      • I agree with you KP. The sister was an asshole for doing that and her loyalty is clearly with FW.
        That crap about how men need sex is not only victim blaming, it’s sexist drivel. Nobody actually needs sex. Most people of both genders want it, but people can certainly get by without it. If sex was so important to cheaters, they would treat their partners well so that their partners would want it more often. Or, if the partner refused it unreasonably, they would get a divorce in order to find somebody with a matching sex drive. Cheating isn’t about sex in and of itself and anybody who says it is is either misinformed or is a cheater and lying as per usual.
        My FW tried to use this excuse-an unusually high sex drive which I could not match. The reality is he got much less sex from schmoopie than he did from me but still preferred her. They lie lie lie lie lie.
        Having sex with your spouse, even if it’s five times a day, is never going to be as satisfying to them as cheating and lying.

      • “There’s no middle ground when it comes to betrayal.”
        This. I cut out so many people. His family, mutual “friends”
        A brother in law I was very close to. Nope. No middle ground!

    • Bringing your BIL into your marriage issues was a boundary violation, and that’s on you.

      Your sister, BIL, and the rest of the family colluding to hide secrets from you is a boundary violation, and that is all on them. They aren’t withholding this information to protect you, they are doing it to maintain power over you.

      Please seek counseling to deal with your abusive family. I am from a super shitty family–grandfather was a pedophile–and this is totally something they would do.

      • I agree with you all! I brought my BIL in thinking that my ex was just temporarily deranged and needed a good slap of reality. Like many, he seemed so in love with me right up until leaving that I thought he had a brain tumor. What came out my BIL/ex interaction was just more pain and me looking like the fool to the rest of my family involved. When my sister mentioned that men need sex on our walk, I was quick to tell her that he had poor hygiene and, despite me asking, he never did anything about it. And, that I like sex, too! She told me how she doesn’t care about sex but does it to keep her husband happy. So…you can see where she’s coming from…if I give him sex, he won’t find it elsewhere. Believe me, I know that my sister (a social worker believe it or not!) is abusive. Even my other sister agrees that she gives more leeway to the drug/alcohol/abusive parents of the children she removes from homes than she gives to her own family. My ex carefully planned to move us (me) back to nearby my sisters (even though I clearly told him I did not want that). He planned to dump me on them and take off to Texas with his child bride. So, here I was, dumped in a new place, no friends, no job, no business contacts, no doctor or dentist, nothing – just a disfunctional family. So, instead of wanting to cut off that abusive sisterly relationship, I clung to it because I had nothing else. I still know she’s unhealthy and I need to develop other relationships. It astounds me that with all her psychological training, she has no concept of how controlling and abusive she is. Sorry, I’m just rambling now. But, so nice to get confirmation for what I thought and felt about my sister, from the family I have here!

  • My ex’s thing was money. First. Then “love.” So his target was a career woman with a house, plump pension and 401K and then they could live well. No baggage. No pesky college loans or mortgages in his name. He was also cheap – not frugal. Just cheap in mind, spirit and generosity. He just traded in his wife appliance for a richer model. He did his cost benefit analysis and the even giving me half put him ahead. So it’s real hard to set aside the emotional rejection and the pathetic reasons why you were dumped, but eventually I realized it was a new washer dryer with bells and whistles. Now I’m very happy enjoying my life. I’m busy, love my own home, travel and have lovely family and friends. I don’t care what his family thinks. I cut them off and haven’t missed them. He’s like a stranger that I cannot believe I wasted 33 yrs with. and omg is he boring. She wanted him. He wanted her $ and I’m out of all that. and it’s refreshing. But he does still blame me and honestly, I think it’s how he copes.

    • Wow! I could have written this myself. He was all about perceived lifestyle. I had been a flight attendant for 5 years when I met and married him. He is from a small town and everyone told him he married up. I left the airline when our twins were 8, as I was missing out on too much of their lives. Looking back, that’s when it all changed. I know now what a shallow man he was…I’m so glad to be free after 28 years with him.

  • I have been thinking about society’s view of cheating. Over three years out from D-day #3 and a year since finalized divorce, I am on some days MORE shocked by the depth of the betrayal.

    I shared the details of the cheating with only a handful of people and, eventually, the fact of the breakup with almost everyone who knew us a couple. FW didn’t even tell his own family.

    My chumpy “need for control” saved me. I moved out, I established healthy boundaries, I filed for divorce. No one in my life has any reason to doubt my honesty or loyalty. I am an excellent friend.

    I do call out any whiff of chump blaming when I smell it.

  • In some ways it’s the misogyny/sexism too. As soon as I was a Chump, I got an earful that I clearly wasn’t making my man happy… I must be frigid…I didn’t make him feel like a man… that I needed to use my “feminine wiles” to woo him back (that last one from FW’s grandmother — for real.). There’s a long standing belief that women must take care of their man and if they’re cheated on, then it’s because they didn’t do their “widely duties.”

    And my apologies to the chump men in this group… because there’s equally crappy sexism around their predicament. Chump men are also shit on by these bizarre long-standing societal norms… so much so that most men suffer in silence rather than reveal that their FW wives cheated on them and/or left.

    It’s going to take time and preaching the Chump Lady’s wisdom for us to hopefully shift the narrative.

    • I also got “What? She doesn’t know how to take care of her man. (Referring to me)” This was relayed to me during my pick me dancing days from EX-FW who manipulated me to give me commentary from his OW’s friends to make me dance harder. Mind you, these coming from a group of 19/20 year olds. Meanwhile, I was working FT, caring for our child, maintaining the house/social calendar, trying to be intimate and begging for a nice gesture from him and being nice as possible to make him stay. When I left him, I also got the “but you’re so pretty” comment from people – how could he cheat?. I now realize it has nothing to do with looks and it’s pure shittiness from these assholes.

      • When I first met XAss I was fit, healthy and pretty. We moved to a small remote community where he could control and isolate me. He warned me about “dressing too sexy” and wearing makeup. Be careful who you talk to you and what you say… He tried every tactic to make me hide my light. After 17 years of emotional abuse, subtle, insidious covert mental crap, I gained weight, lost my sparkle, quit exercising and was deeply depressed. About 18 months before I left, I started losing too much weight from stress, but I was exercising and starting to put myself first. It made him crazy that I was taking steps to reclaim my mental and physical health despite him (and he was in the health care field too).

        About a year after I had left I was at the local flight service to pick up my son. A few community members were also on that plane. I distinctly remember the surprised look on one woman’s face in particular when she caught sight of me. “Oh, you look so good!?” Yeah I do. It’s amazing how much improvement can be made to one’s physical appearance when you drop a ton of FuckWit weight off your back!

        • Ha! I got so many “you look great!”s from our “friends” at my ex’s funeral. As if they expected me to look like a hag. I hadn’t seen most of them in 3 or 4 years. I’m sure my ex and his schmoopie had all kinds of lovely things to say about me during that time. (And yes, I looked like a million bucks that day, even the cashier at my regular gas station remarked on it.)

    • The sad part is I am not sure if the narrative will shift too much. I am finding a lot of people telling me it’s be monogamy isn’t natural and ENM relationships are more evolved 🤦‍♀️.

      Yea, I know you can be cheated on in an ENM relationship but many people ignore that.

      I truly hope we can shift the narrative and I try but society seems really big on the you don’t owe anyone anything mentality. It’s sad!

      • I had a friend who had an open marriage and her (now ex) husband STILL cheated behind her back. Her one requirement was that he be honest with her about who he was with, and he couldn’t even manage that. (And yet said “friend” sided with ex and schmoopie. I was quite shocked, even though she was more his friend than mine. You’d think a chump would sympathize with another one.)

    • Yes, the male equivalent to “feminine wiles” and “wifely duties” are that men are responsible for “romantic gestures” to keep her interested, and if he’s cheated on, it’s because he was “emotionally unavailable.”

    • Chump men (such as myself) get our own criticism. It usually comes in the form of questioning our masculinity (unable to take care of/ control/satisfy etc) the cheater.It was also really great to hear “stop being so insecure, be a man” as you are being gaslit.

  • I think as chumps, we often are willing to take on blame. Guess it is something we are good at or at least get good at. The RIC will tell you that you have to share the blame for cheating. I could not get over that concept and did not last long in the RIC. Cheating is a choice a dishonest choice but it is something that was chosen. My FW could have ended the relationship honestly if he believed that I was as horrible and bad as he made me out to be. Instead he made a decision to cheat and get his thrills by abusing me.
    After DD-Day 2, I made the decision not to provide him with pick me dances and cake. I made the choice to serve him for divorce. Of course this made him worse but it will eventually be over. We are in a fault state and FW loaded pictures of his “activities” with Schmoopie on our son’s shared photo account. Even with all that, it is still a bitch to try to end an abusive marriage. I just hope it will end soon. He and his attorney are trying to delay as much as possible. You would think that the FW would want to be free so he could be with his Twu Wuv. Just will never figure these FWs out…….. (sigh)

    • “He and his attorney are trying to delay as much as possible. You would think that the FW would want to be free so he could be with his Twu Wuv. Just will never figure these FWs out…….. (sigh)”

      It’s all about power and control. A FW will use the legal system to dominate your life and mess with you. If you divorce them, they can no longer cheat, lie and degrade you, which is what they enjoy. So they drag the divorce out as an alternative abuse tactic. It was never about finding twu wuv or being unhappy with you. It never is.

      Another reason is having it settled means there is a firm financial agreement. They don’t want to pay what they owe.

      If you accept that they enjoy being abusive and they hate and try to avoid consequences, it’s all quite easy to understand.

      • Yup. Litigation abuse. It’s all about power and control. And the court system rewards the behavior. You can be gray rock in your day to day communications, but you can’t gray rock family court.The abuser gets a zing when they file something because you are legally compelled to respond to them, even if what they file has no merit and is filled with lies.

      • Yup. Same thing happened to me. Ex said he wanted a divorce, took 3 1/2 years to file, got angry when my attorney informed his that we were preparing to file (and so he jumped and filed first), then he dragged his feet on EVERYTHING (not submitting discovery, not responding to letters, etc.) and fought me every step of the way. My divorce cost me $50,000 and we never even got to trial because he died.

        My attorney speculated that my ex was actually using the slow divorce (which I’m SURE he blamed on me) to avoid committing to schmoopie. Plus my ex didn’t want to give me ANYTHING or pay child support. And he enjoyed making me suffer. He knew it was against my personal ethics to date while still legally married (he obviously had no such scruples). (Funny thing is, I didn’t and still don’t want to date.) Then my ex turned around and blamed ME for “draining him dry” by dragging out legal proceedings. Honestly, I think he just wanted me to agree to walk away with nothing, and I wasn’t about to do that.

  • There is another reason. Some people have cheated themselves and don’t want to see themselves in a bad light, so they blame-shift to keep the narrative going.

  • The cheated-on wife was not a “unicorn,” at least in the way I understand that term. A unicorn is a cheater who is genuinely remorseful and changes, i.e., someone who, like a unicorn, doesn’t exist.
    Not sure why the LW called the cheated-on wife a unicorn. Also, the friends in the second example don’t seem to be blaming the chump at all. So, not sure of the LW’s point here.

  • This is highly relevant. I just had a conversation with a friend I haven’t seen in awhile. We talked about the revelation of my FX’s decades long double life, which similarly proceeded me. She looked me dead in the eye and said ‘but you’re beautiful.’ Not only am I easy on the eyes, but I’m also generous, supportive, intelligent, creative, sexy and fun YET I was rejected for decades of my marriage in preference of serial affairs. Why? The problem IS WITH HIM. I didn’t take this stance initially. I asked him what I had done wrong or what would turn him on and I tried to ‘improve.’ I asked repeated therapists how I could improve. They looked at me with heap loads of surprise and pity telling me that I was not to blame. In fact, they straight up said – with caveats about not being able to diagnose blah blah – that FX sounded disordered. Now I’m not perfect. I should have said something. I should have had better boundaries (I didn’t even know what those were). I should NOT have accepted dismissive and even abusive behaviour. That is my sh!t and I own it. Did I deserve to be cheated on? Hell no. Was I insufficiently satisfying or fun or whatever? I mean no… and if the only thing that can really satisfy him is a pussy buffet then he knows where to find it. Just count me out.

  • Yep. I remember (in the late 80s’s before CL) when I was at a political event for our mayor, someone at the table said “there is a rumor that the mayor is cheating on his wife”. My mother in law said, but look at his wife she is gorgeous. (she was). I said to her, cheating has nothing to do with looks, but I don’t think the mayor is cheating on her. (I don’t know if the mayor was a cheater, but at the time I doubted he was cheating on his wife).

    Anyway when I said this to mil, I was sitting there in my smug marriage; having no clue he was an active cheater and that that within two years my world would be blown apart by my cheating husband, who was lying to me his mother, the mayor and pretty much everyone. Turns out my fw (her son) was the cheating lying bastard; not (by any evidence, the mayor). For a while I couldn’t figure out how he kept his whore quiet, then when I ran the financials I knew, of course she kept quiet; she knew if the beans were spilled before he got his promotions he would walk away and her money spigot would dry up quickly. They had quite the scam going on; unfortunately someone filed an ethics complaint against him, and all the card started to tumble.

    But at least I knew cheating had nothing to do with the betrayed’s looks, (or behavior) so hopefully I get credit for that. My best friend had recently been divorced from a serial cheater; and she was attractive and quite honestly one of the most loving and decent folks I have ever known, so likely that was in part my reason for defense of the betrayed.

    I was also aware of many police officers wives who were attractive, successful and by any measure kind and decent folks, yet they had been dumped for trollops half their age, so there was that.

    Many cheaters are just wire monkeys from the get go, and it is inevitable that they will swing to a “shinier” object at some point.

  • It seems to be a strange phenomen ‘blaming the chump’ and I am so glad CL and CN are here to change the narrative. It’s taken me quite sometime to accept that his infidelity had nothing to do with me and everything to do with his sense of entitlement. It was a long mirage (coined that term from VH) spanning just over 3 decades. I was a young girl when we met, not quite out of adolescence. We had fun together, same interests, laughed a lot, enjoyed each others company, great sex, etc…etc…etc. Life wasn’t perfect but it was pretty good or so I thought. Looking back now I see those big ole red flags flapping in the breeze. My adult children point out things to me. Clearly I was a super spackler and didn’t even know this until I read CL. There were 2 DDays within a year of each other 12 years before the final one – just friendships though, you know nothing more (big eye roll here). I have culled many friends. They can’t sit on the fence. They can’t be my friend and FW’s friend… absolutely not. I lost who I thought was and who pretended to be my very bestest friend so losing those friends who I wasn’t married to was easy. I may still smile and wave to them and to the odd casual acquaintance that we as a couple would have vaguely mingled with but I do not engage in chat. They can all fuck right off. I am brutal now with friendships. If you have no integrity, a shitty character and are OK with infidelity and show me this then it’s a definite bye bye from me.

    Katiepig wrote a perfect piece on here about friends who are ok with infidelity or who blame the chump…. It was brilliant.

    Life is sweeter now. More peaceful. Do I miss what I thought I had, do I regret giving my years to a sorry excuse of a man… yes, but I do see what was shown to me by the FW and I dwell there less and less.

    Hugs to you all ❤️

    • I need to look up Katie’s piece about friends who are ok with infidelity and reread it or maybe I was not reading that day. Thanks.

    • I don’t bother waving or even looking at Switzerland friends. I was in the grocery store one day when one came running up to me, calling my name, ready to give me a hug. I walked right past her..
      Fuck them.
      Cheater was confiding in my “friends” before Dday.., concerned for my mental health.
      Preparing everyone for his exit so he wouldn’t look bad.
      After Dday they were meeting cheater for breakfast, having cheater over for dinner, going out on weekends together.
      Before I realized what was going on they were telling me I needed to move on, they’d never seen cheater so happy. He”s a great guy.., you two weren’t getting along.. why haven’t you moved on? cheater has..
      I thought they were my friends…
      Fortunately soon afterwards I found CN and came to my senses.

  • Luckily for me, as an alcoholic with almost 36 years in recovery and continuous sobriety, when DDay hit I already had years of practice being on the receiving end of the stigma and myths and erroneous perceptions of the uneducated and inexperienced with their misinformed conventional ignorance and indoctrination.

    I say the same thing to chump-blamers that I’ve said to the alcoholism/addiction ignorant;

    “You’re very lucky. It sounds like this hasn’t happened to you. I have a lot of education and experience on the subject, so If it ever does, you’re welcome to call me. Otherwise, we probably shouldn’t discuss it.”

    I have no business being the company of victim-blamers or the ignorant.

    I try not to speak beyond my experience and education, and avoid getting into discussions with those who do.

    Being very careful with whom I discuss infidelity was a painful chump lesson for me.

      • Thank you, Spinach! And may all who are suffering be granted the same, and more…./

        • Me too VH. I have so much respect for those that maintain sobriety. It is not easy. We lost a son with three kids to alcohol, so this is personal. The church I am a member of in Napa has over three dozen 12-Step groups meet there on a weekly basis. Their struggles help make the campus a holy place.

  • Happy World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day fellow chumps ! There is a free online survivors’ empowerment conference that starts at 8 am Pacific standard time (US west coast). Dr. George Simon, Lundy Bancroft, Sandra Brown and Dr. Steve Hassan are some of the speakers.

  • My ex was actively planning my discard for at least six years so he was setting me up with the “You know how she is…” narrative. Everything was used against me. I saw one conversation where people were discussing how I orgasm too easily so having sex with me must not be any fun because there’s no “challenge” and no sense of accomplishment because I just stupidly have my effortless orgasms.

    Poor man having to endure an orgasmic wife. His life was such hell.

    Everything about me was dissected and used to blame me for everything. He told people very personal things about me (like how I orgasm) and then he just made some shit up (like how I’m supposedly incestuous). And they all sat there and discussed it and determined I deserved to be used and abused and thrown away like garbage. People I spent holidays with. People I thought of as family. Shit, some of them literally were my blood family.

    I got no support. And now people are starting to go “why doesn’t she return my calls? Why first she talk to us?!” They’re contacting my son about it, two fucking years later. Like Jesus Christ, fuck you people. They took shits on me in my time of need. They’re all dead to me now.

    • Every time I read your posts, KatiePig, I am struck by how similar our stories are. I really don’t know any specifics about what was said about me to our “friends”, but I know there must have been quite a lot of it. Not ONE of our “friends” ever so much as sent me a Facebook message to ask how I was doing. I had known many of these people for 10 or 15 years. They’d come to our wedding, our baby shower, parties at my home. And yet every one of them embraced OW, invited HER to things, excluded me (and when I did show up to events that were public, they’d smile to my face and tell me it was nice to see me, all the while knowing I was being cheated on). They’d known her a matter of a few months.

      My ex definitely discussed inappropriately intimate topics with people. So I’m sure that things like that must’ve come up.

      At my ex’s funeral, a lot of them said things like “It’s so nice to see you again, we should get together!”. But I note that it has been 8 months and I haven’t received one communication from any of them. Honestly, I agree with you. I don’t want anything to do with any of them anyway. Many of them are still friends with OW. I cut them out of my life (unfriend, block, delete) years ago. Some of them were spying on my social media and reporting back to my ex. Not people I want to associate with. At least one of them knew my ex had tried to kill himself multiple times, and yet didn’t tell anyone who could have helped, let alone the other parent (me) in the situation. Like maybe I should have known my child was in a house with a man who was trying to die.

      I have lost a lot of faith in humanity. I am much more particular about my friends these days. I would rather have one or two true friends (and I do), than a hundred “friends” like those.

      • Oh yeah, we have similar stories. I completely relate to everything you said.

        Back before I cut my sister off she was making excuses for none of them even asking me if I was ok and I said something like “It just would have been nice to know they all hated me for 20 years so I could’ve spent my time and energy on people who don’t hate me. I didn’t need to spend holidays and vacations with them.”

        She said I was being dramatic. I said you have to hate someone to be ok with watching them be betrayed for decades and joining in on it. You literally have to hate someone to invest this much time into hurting them. If this happened to a coworker of mine I don’t like I would even ask if they were ok and if they wanted to get a drink. You have to really, really hate someone to not care at the level they’ve shown they don’t care.

        Shit, a couple of them used to tell me they didn’t really like my ex husband but tolerated him because they liked me. What’s the point of that lie? I never asked who they liked more. I always found it weird when they volunteered that info. It was just to help keep me tricked and blind.

        You’re so right, one or two good friends you can count on are better than a thousand of those degenerate psychos we used to think were our friends.

    • Boy, similar story.

      My ex harangued me for fifteen years that my issues were going to lead to divorce. He even had his attorney picked out (an unethical pit bull), and at times said he’d make me homeless. Ironically, he was a “God hates divorce” guy on the surface, but all of his complaints were entirely contrary to that viewpoint. They truly were not uncommon marital ups and downs, some because of difficult circumstances that he refused to own.

      I can relate to your comment about dissection though. During separation, he and his family literally tore apart every part of our relationship from beginning to end including our sex life. It was like they figuratively put me on a table and each took a scalpel. I don’t know how they ever thought that I’d want to be around them after that. Decades before, I had seen them do that sort of thing to people they all knew at family dinners, and it made my blood run cold. I would often sit there thinking how if I got out of my lane, they’d do it to me. They did.

      So I refused reconciliation, and he kicked off the divorce with the unethical pit bull in his corner. I had to agree that it was over. I picked a good match for his attorney who got flipped and settled.

      It’s sad, but life does go on.

    • It happens frequently how I read these posts and have the reflex to apologize for the shitty behaviour of other people. That sucks.

    • I’m so sorry there are so many A-holes that would make fun of your sexuality and that your ex divulged private information about yours ex life. Thank you for being vulnerable and snaring this. I’ve read your posts over the last few years and while I understand you like to be called KatiePig I really think you’re better called KatieAmazing. Why give a nod to anything he called you?

  • I know OW thought it was entirely my fault that my husband cheated on me. Obviously I didn’t appreciate him enough, didn’t love him enough, didn’t have sex with him enough (LOL), was mercenary and cold and frigid and dreadful.

    That narrative made her feel superior, like she was better than me and she “won” because SHE wasn’t like that. (Poor pathetic thing had no self-esteem and no dignity.)

    She didn’t believe he was abusive, and if he’d done anything (like scream at me or insult me or whatever) then I must have provoked him because he was a good person.

    She blamed me for my husband’s lack of success, his depression, his physical illnesses, his lack of financial stability, his alcohol addiction, his anger, the fact that our house was in disrepair. Everything. Because that was the narrative she got from him, and she bought it hook, line, and sinker. OW in particular can’t acknowledge that the chumped wife is a good, kind, loving, supportive person. Because that would make them (OW) face how disgustingly they are behaving. The truth was that everything he DID have (a house, two cars, computer, two feature films that he made, a child, credit, a good job) was because I helped make it happen for him. When I met him he was a broke waiter with a mountain of collection notices and terrible credit. She waltzed in to his pretty successful (though he didn’t think so because he wasn’t famous) life, decided she wanted it, and never thought what role I played in achieving it. The two of them were….broke, in debt, depressed, miserable, angry, sick, living in a pigsty.

    Joke’s on her. She eventually left my ex because he started overtly abusing her too. He’d been COVERTLY abusing her (manipulation and control) since the beginning, which I could see very clearly, but she couldn’t.

    Meanwhile, I’m happy, financially stable, debt-free, confident, etc. All it took was getting rid of the man who was draining the life from me. Once I emotionally let go of him and decided that she was more than welcome to him, I started healing and came out the other side so much better off. OW actually wrote me an “apology” (of sorts, though it was one of those “IF I did anything…”). I almost (almost) feel bad for her. It must hurt to eat that much humble pie. She still thinks I’m a horrible person, and probably blames me for his suicide, but I frankly don’t care what she thinks of me.

    • “The two of them were….broke, in debt, depressed, miserable, angry, sick, living in a pigsty.”

      Similar to my situation, she took him when he was at the top of his game, had his Captains bars, cushy office right next to the mayors office and a pillar in the community. I am sure she thought she would waltz in and slide into my place.

      Well she slid into my place, and before the year was up he had been demoted, put back out on street patrol; his cozy relationship with the mayor gone to hell. He retired early, took up gambling and gambled them into bankruptcy. Not to mention blowing up his relationship with our son.

      He had drug her out of the trailer park and to the trailer park she has now returned. Her time on easy street (created in part by another woman) didn’t last long after she took over the care and feeding of a cheater (yes he cheated on her). I didn’t find out a lot of this until several years later from my son and his wife.

  • True Confessions: I used to believe (and likely repeated) many of these horrible misconceptions…

    I thought that:
    – having sex with him just before he left on a work trip would affair-proof my marriage
    – he couldn’t possibly be cheater because HE insisted that we got married Catholic and HE brought up the issue of cheating (that he could never forgive it)
    – if he ever cheated, I would be able to sense a “Change” in him (surprise, there was no CHANGE because he never changed…he cheated from the start

    I was so smug that I thought to myself “I wonder which of the guys in (now dead)husband’s group will leave their wife for a new model” (what hubris…when the humbling reality was that my guy is the one who tried to pull this stunt!! Theonly reason I believe he didnt is that he was too weak to do ANYTHING unilaterally..it ruined his blame shifting tactic.

    When it all comes down to why, CL is right, we try to convince ourselves that we can control this and we can’t.

  • My FW has been in a long-term emotional affair with a colleague. After some pushing and questioning, he confessed. Of course, it was my fault for being emotionally unavailable and not responsive to his needs (that he never advocated for). We have 3 kids–one has special needs–she requires a lot of hands on and social-emotional care mostly done by me. Anyway, I’m a mental health therapist. When FW was defending his position and blame shifting, he said me “you of all people should know why I did what I did”. Unfortunately, I’m still in the same house as him. I’ve been Gray Rock for the past few months (but first I was on hopium and did the pick me dance). I keep plugging along to build financial independence to leave. Since D-Day occurred, I have made a professional and ethical commitment to NEVER participate in the Industrial Reconciliation Complex.

  • The statement I struggle with is, “My husband would never do that. We’ve been married umpteen years, have all of our children and grandchildren, we’ve been together forever,…” etc. Yep, yep, yep. And you’re not listening to me because I’m telling you that you COULD wake up one morning to find out it was all sham.

    I do get tired of the “it could never happen to me” response. But, then I have to remember that I probably would have said the exact same thing during the 40 years I was married. In fact, several times in the final few years I was asked, “why do you think you’re still together?” and my response was that he was the most honest and trustworthy person I knew……

    The joke was on me, obviously. Covert narc cheaters get off on this stuff – sadistic, slow torture while their victims writhe in pain but still fight to survive and rebuild over and over and over.

  • My FW actually had his therapist convinced I was bipolar since I seemed to “fly off the handle” cyclically. No, the problem was that the FW would test my boundaries cyclically, which, of course, he didn’t bother to tell the therapist. Somehow, he didn’t think that was important. So I got to tell the therapist MY side of the story, and will never forget the look the therapist shot my XH. I also got to tell the therapist I didn’t buy into the “own my part of FW’s infidelity”. I told him that one person is perfectly capable of destroying a marriage all by themselves. To his credit, the therapist agreed with me, and indicated that cheating is an entitlement issue for which the chump cannot be blamed.

    One of the most eye-opening, and sad, things that happened when I reached out to a few friends for support after DDay. One of them, who I considered one of my closest friends, dropped me like a hot potato. It was like I had cooties. Most people, including me, thought I had a strong and loving marriage. To find out otherwise was a shock, and, I imagine, caused some to think, “If it could happen in THAT marriage, it might happen in mine”.

    • “If it could happen in THAT marriage, it might happen in mine”.

      This totally resonates with me. Pretty much everyone said this to me upon hearing of his infidelity. I had life long friends suddenly stop contact. I later discover that they accepted howorker and welcomed her. It hurt. But there were also friends who ‘stepped up’ too. Ones that I didn’t expect who have been fantastic.

    • At the time of Dday, my daughter (then 9, now 26) and I had a set of mother daughter friends 2 houses away who I thought were true-blue friends. One day I broke down to the mom and cried telling her that I was preparing to be a single mother. There was a single day when I asked her to feed daughter dinner because I was juggling work/kids but otherwise didnt dump on her and she dropped me almost immediately and her daughter dropped mine shortly thereafter. I wonder if she thought I would try to steal her husband (no) and I lost several “good” friends in a wave after widowhood who likely think I was after there husbands too. (I will sheepishly admit that I previously thought that widows were likely husband-poachers too…ironic that I suffered on the losing side of that assumption too)

  • Lucy I was very lucky with mine his family was “OLD” school and he got fully blamed plus his parents came to apologize to my mother for his infedelities as my father had already passed! This was an excellent read, thank you!👍

  • A coworker just asked me if my x was going through a midlife crises. I had no idea how to answer that. I wanted to say, honestly I don’t care, but didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

  • I admit that what my family would think about me influenced my decision to stay longer (even years) even though my real mind totally knew I was leaving. I never fit the family mold it developed into more of a family narrative like “Oh, that’s Mary, she never stays in once place long, does she? And that includes marriage. Her kids are gonna be so screwed up.”

    I had an escape plan and not once did it include any family members.

    • omg, i so relate to this. i was the “flounderer”. I think the whole reason I married my ex after he had cheated on me repeatedly, was that I wanted to be part of their narrative of, ‘get married, have kids, buy a house, settle down’. I feared my Catholic parents reaction to divorce news. I actually didn’t even tell them. I thought, i’m a grown ass woman. I don’t need to tell them. I wasted so much time, but here on the other side, it’s absolutely freeing to not give a F what anyone thinks about how I choose to live my life and raise my kid.

    • My family consisting of people who would make my life a living hell if I sought any support or help in leaving Cheater were a major factor in staying. Most days, as awful as Cheater was, he as more manageable than my parents would have been had I tried to live with briefly post-split. Im a nurse who would have had to work night shifts in any new job I would have taken and I could never figure out how I could do that alone.

      Im now sheepishly embarrassed to see that Mighty Chumps in worse circumstances than I was in figured it out. I wish that I had not seen that as an insurmountable problem

  • Victim blaming in my experience happens just as much with sexual assault. And the victim blamers are vicious. I would take it as an indication of a massive red flag and reason to keep your distance from them.

    • Victim blaming is a thing in just about every sort of misfortune that can befall a person. The core reason is that if the victim did something wrong, why, I can just do that thing right and I’ll be safe.

      Admittedly victim blaming is particularly vicious and gendered when leveled against women. (She invited him in after the date, what did she expect. She’s obviously not putting out for her darling husband. If she’d kept an eye on the kid the lion would never have eaten him. Etc.)

  • When I found out that my ex was cheating with my oh so willing cousin. My ex blamed me. He said that I was not giving him enough attention. That I was not fun. That I did not go away with him that much. My cousin daughter called me and said that my ex told her Mom that I never cleaned or cooked. That I could not keep a job. That I always flipped out on him and we never had sex. What my ex failed to tell Skankella was that he was verbally abusive to me. That I paid all the bills and he only gave me $400 a month. I did all the cleaning and cooking and most of the yard work. Yes, I did flip out occasionally because he would push my buttons until I would yell at him. Then he would play the victim and call me a nut job. At first I blamed myself and tried to fit his mold. But, I realized that I did nothing wrong and he cheated because he wanted to. And was a coward.

  • I STILL blame myself (and sometimes, before I catch myself, other Chumps), even after all the therapy, and (re)reading ChumpLady every day, and my years of research about how poisonous cultural messages work, and getting familiar with Minwalla’s theory of Integrity Abuse Disorder, which helpfully calls cheater behavior out for what it is. I know it’s irrational and not even true—on bad days, I have a ruminating thought loop where I remind myself that FW was lying to my face from the day we first met, and had lied before, to the faces of other loyal, beautiful, kind women—but I believe it in some deep, painful way. It’s like either a) the Chump wasn’t attractive/successful/a good enough partner etc etc to “keep her man” from straying (my self blame is very conventionally gendered), so it’s her fault for not being good enough, and her FW cheater would have been faithful to a more wonderful partner, OR b) if the problem IS that the cheater is a fuckwit who sucks, then the Chump was too damaged/not psychologically healthy enough to (in my case) intuit that he was lying, read the red flags—she needs to “fix her picker.”

    As a second generation Chump who was abused by my serial cheater stepfather, that option B feels especially punishing. Like my “picker” got damaged by the abuse and early cheater exposure. Like maybe I was sending out some kind of liar-attracting pheromone.

    • SC, I hailed from the opposite side of things – my parents have been married for 45 years. I witnessed normal arguments and troubles resolved in a healthy way, and so was thinking that the personal issues that ex was having and the occasional friction between us was normal and could be figured out. Even after the grand reveal I thought we could heal…for a time, until it was very clear how entitled and not doing the hard work of healing he was doing. He expected me to continue to lift, because I saw my parents (BOTH of them) lifting in their own ways and so I was a “lifter”. Meanwhile, he was saying things but then secretly withdrawing money and visiting strip clubs, etc. on his business trips still. I think maybe the only difference is that because I saw eventually that this did not compute with the model of marriage with which I was familiar, my brain was yelling at me to bail. I could have stayed in for longer than several months, and can certainly see how that could happen when this is your model and there is longevity with that kind of dysfunction.

    • Spacklecity…I get you. I am able to quickly shut it down but occasionally my inner demon will say, yup you weren’t good enough ‘cuz look at you now 12 1/2 years from dday & almost 10 years to the day of divorce & you are still alone/unloved. Never ever would I even imagine ex was capable of the destructive path he made in his wake.

  • My mom bought the house next door to my husband and me 4 months after we bought our house. I was very opposed to her moving next door and several times before d-day #2 I begged him to let me sell our house and move because I was trying to put more distance between me and my family. I knew my mom only moved so close to thwart my efforts to break away and not be stuck doing family stuff every damned weekend of my life, but my ex-husband wanted to stay, insisted we stay, because “she can’t steal our dream of building a life here.” All of my neighbors have had some kind of run-in with my mom over the years, and agree she’s an overbearing, nosy piece of work (her nickname is Ms. Kravitz.) When we separated, my ex turned all the neighbors against me and the consensus from all of them was that they would have done the same thing “just to look for an out in marrying into such an enmeshed, overbearing family.” My brothers/sisters in Christ….HE WAS THE ONE WHO DIDN’T WANT TO MOVE AWAY FROM MY MOM! I would have been gone 6 months after she arrived if his name hadn’t been on the damned title! I am moving after the divorce is final though. FW moved into one of the neighbors’ mother in law studios across the street so now I need to escape him and my mother, and I plan to.

    • Yeah, they always change the narrative to suit their deceit. It’s such an asshole thing to do, but it’s not surprising, as they cannot be responsible or accountable for their own fucking decisions.

  • Yes, this is such a classic post. I made assumptions too when I observed others and then flipped it all on me when I told my ex that we needed to separate. He took that as a clue to make it long-distance, and I still held out a glimmer of hope while deep down knowing that it was over. His family and others blame-shifted. It took a while for me to get my head right.

    Then later in the divorce process, I asked my attorney to walk me through how a judge would determine the separation date because I was so conflicted, and yes, in black-and-white, documentable terms, it was the day we separated. By then I had also figured out that my feeble attempts to prevent the inevitable and taking the blame were indeed all about controlling something that was out of control. I had to bail and let the plane go down. As CL says, “Trust that they suck.” Sure I had issues. Realistically, they were not marriage killers though. His issues were marriage killers.

    And so it ended. My denial ended. And life on the other side is full of peace and love. Truly!

  • Ran into a lovely woman who used to work with ex. When I told her we were divorced she said she had heard it through the grapevine but was shocked when I said it was because of his cheating. She said she assumed I was the ” cause” because she said ex just adored me & she was secretly jealous. Hopefully she passed along the correct version of our demise.

  • Part of the problem is that it’s almost always portrayed in shows as being caused by a problem in the marriage or with the chump (I worked too much etc). The chump often blames themselves on screen and would do anything to get the amazing cheater back.

    Or – it’s portrayed as a lightening bolt of love and the cheater is the winner – the chump is a little pathetic.
    The grief and devastation/ unspeakable damage caused is rarely addressed.

    Spouse dies – empathy is 100%
    Spouse abandons you for cheating partner – empathy is 1%

  • Also, a lot of cheaters are likeable, charming people. I know FW was adored by many. People want to keep liking the charismatic cheater.
    They justify it by thinking the chump must have been awful.

    • There’s nothing like charm with base notes of menace to make bystanders go into a frantic boxer’s clinch with covert perps. I’ve never seen that kind of fanatical wagon circling and clusterfucking defense of wholly innocent people. Never.

    • I have no doubt that many folks would have still hung on to fw had the mayor not demoted him and kicked him out of his powerful position. Unfortunately for fw and whore after that happened, they became someone that folks would look the other way when they saw them coming.

      I kind of wish the fw had complained to me about that, it would have been so much fun to say “well play stupid games, win stupid prizes”. Or, if it had been post CL days “must hurt like a MF to be kicked in the gut by someone you were loyal to and trusted”.

    • XW was/is very much the sparkly turd. Everyone thought she was so cute and engaging. She can put on quite the show. But the people who have seen behind the curtains keep their distance. I incidentally had a mole inside her school district office that told me she was generally despised due to her sexual habits at work and huge HR problems they created. People who didn’t know her true self continue to be fooled.

  • Lucy in the Sky,

    If you’re in the market for “voices of clinical authority” to back up everything CL and CN are saying, the best reading I’ve ever come across on the subject of bystander knee-jerk “fault-finding of victims” or outright victim blaming is founding psychotraumatologist Frank M. Ochberg’s “Post-traumatic Stress Therapy and the Victims of Violence,” particularly the chapter on domestic violence authored by forensic psychologists Anne Flitcraft and Evan Stark.

    Everything you didn’t know you needed to know just to exist one day in this blame-reversing world is in that readable chapter. Its cited up the yin-yang.

    It will make so much sense from the chump perspective that you might get a brain freeze realizing that, hey, if bystanders and lousy therapists respond to chumps exactly the way bystanders and bad therapists respond to victims of violence, this may reflect some kind of collective unconscious recognition that cheating is categorically domestic abuse.

    If that idea grips you, then read criminologist Donald Dutton’s seminal “The Batterer” and marvel over more eerie overlaps between cheating and dv in terms of perpetrators’ coercive tactics and psychology. Dutton spent decades studying abusers like bugs in prison settings and the book gets very clinical. But I think it was written to bring Dutton’s case for stiffer penalties to the public so it’s also very readable. In arguing for stiff consequences for offenders, Dutton addresses and battles against some aspects of bystander mythology.

    Ochberg’s book can be hard to find for purchase and tends to be expensive but a local library can order it. Dutton’s work is sold on Amazon and most of his research is online.

    • thank you for this info, HOAC. This seems as if it will be chilling information. I always felt as if fuckwit’s cheating and his enjoyment thereof gave him a sinister kind of pleasure and he aways sat grinning at me when I was in pain and cried. Would taunt me when I was already hurting. That’s abusive. And don’t get me started on the lifelong STIs I have to deal with now. I’d like to sue him Johnny Depp style.

      • FWF– Evan Stark, co-author of the dv chapter in Ochberg’s book, also wrote the more recent book Coercive Control. It sounds like that book would apply to what you endured. In the introduction Stark makes the point that victims frquently count subviolent emotional and psychological abuse as the most paralyzing aspects of battering. Stark has successfully campaigned to criminalize coercive control in Connecticut.

  • This happened to me as well, Lucy. My guesses were they found it easier to pounce on a nice lady or blame the victim. I got caught up in untangling the skein of this issue. It wasn’t worth it. I cut off the friends/family who were on the side of an abusive cheater. Not interested in low caliber people anymore.

  • From my first therapist after DDay (that I didn’t go back to), he said “Well, sex is really important to people.” This was his response when he heard from me that not only did my husband strike up a relationship with a young woman at our work, but previous to that he’d been sleeping with prostitutes and random hook ups from exclusive sex clubs. I burst into tears and he proceeded to try and tell me that was husband was probably sleeping around because sex was really important to him. I don’t think victim blaming gets much worse than that!

    • Why do these assholes tell themselves that sex wasn’t going on in the marriage. I can see how a stupid, financially desperate whore could believe that. I mean they have to maintain some version of dignity for themselves, but a fucking licensed therapist?

      Up until the last three months of the year of discard, sex was still going strong between my fw and I. I was at that time unaware it was the year of discard.

      • Not to mention the fact that I know of a couple of happy long-term marriages where the women have told me that they really don’t have much sex anymore. But yet neither spouse is cheating. Marriages go through things.

      • Yeah, the therapist was a fucking asshole. Later I wanted to say to him, “sex is important to me too.” I actually thought my husband had a low sex drive! But no, he was just screwing everyone else so he didn’t need me. So, really it was me deprived of sex! I didn’t think to tell the therapist that because I was so traumatised and wounded by his statement I couldn’t think straight.

    • Oh ffs. That’s terrible.
      I’m sorry that happened to you.

      Even if we grant that the therapist is correct about the importance of sex, we can also claim that honor, honesty, and abiding by marriage vows are at least equally important (and arguably more important).

      Therefore, if someone thinks he needs more/different/better sex, we can accept that. But to be honorable, he simply has to divorce before screwing around. It ain’t complicated.

      So the therapist is wrong.

      • Yeah, totally. Or how about that he had a wife at home who wanted to have sex? He preferred cheating to a real relationship. And any therapist who says something like that is simply abusive as well.

    • Formerly known as, money is really important to me too, as it is to all people, so I’m just gonna steal it out of peoples wallets, purses, cash registers. It’s important so I’m gonna take it in spite of the fact that it’s wrong and hurts people and is traumatic. Cuz I want it.

      That therapist needs to lose their fucking license.

  • It is enough of a nightmare being cheated on without people blaming us for it. I was fortunate in that most people in my family and friendship group responded with disgust towards my x. But I did have a couple of uncomfortable responses. One from my brother who said” How could you not know?” And two acquaintance who said “Oh, well these things happen” and “There’s two sides to every story”. No one is perfect but blaming the victim is a very real thing not just in cheating.

    • That two sides shit enrages me and on the few times I have heard it said (not about me but in general) I have had trouble maintaining my composure. My responses differ depending on who it is.

    • Ugh ‘these things happen’

      I remember my mother telling my uncle about my sudden discard and she put it like this ‘he found a little friend at work’ 😂

  • If you like psychology, it’s the ‘just world fallacy’ or ‘just world theory’.

    We’re all on a spectrum of how fair we think life is, and how deeply we believe that ‘good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.’

    It’s worth noting that people who believe this deeply are also more prone to dishonest behaviour. And why not? It’s the roots of entitlement. ‘I am a good person, therefore I deserve good things, and if I don’t have them, then the universe must be corrected so that I now have them.’

    Victim-blamers are partly scared, and partly immersed in this way of thinking. It’s like Julie Andrews singing to Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music, but with slightly different lyrics: “You Must Have Done Something Bad.”

    Chump-blaming tells you a lot about the blamers, rather than about you as a Chump.

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