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She Won’t Leave Her Cheater

HopiumDear Chump Lady,

My husband and I don’t know what to do, his sister (my SIL) is a chump of epic proportions.

She is 18 months out from D-day, her fuckwit led a full-on double life, cheating the entirety of their 16-year relationship and acted against her in a myriad of heinous ways (including cheating while she was in the hospital after a life threatening miscarriage).

Currently, she is deeply entrenched in reconciliation and will not even entertain any thoughts that she feels would deter her support for her Sex Addict Husband and his TREATMENT.

They are both seeing counselors and have all worked together to outline the criteria for his “self reporting” and the consequences he will suffer if he breaks the rules. She does say any more physical cheating is a dealbreaker. Their outlined treatment plan explains that he needs 1-3 years of therapy to heal and change him before they even get to the point of deciding if they will recommit to the marriage. Of course they will continue to live together and move forward as a married couple during those 1-3 years.

My SIL is completely against protecting herself in any way. She will not go see a lawyer or even entertain a post-nup. She doesn’t see how any of that would help her. She says if he cheats again then they “will divorce like normal people do every day.” She has declined our offer to pay for a forensic accountant and will not discuss the financial details, which we know are dire, as he lost his job and license due to the infidelity, and he is a gambling addict as well.

We had one confrontational conversation with her and she now knows without a doubt that we want nothing to do with the Fuckwit ever again, and that her brother (my husband) actively hates him and repeatedly called him a POS.

So now we are cut out of any information and interactions with her and her kids. All we see is the stupid Fuckwit winning, and it’s SO FRUSTRATING!

SIL is simply more isolated, steeped in denial and is keeping secrets to protect him as she strongly believes he is a “good man” who “loves her and the kids” meanwhile we look like the assholes for refusing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Their kids are 9 and 14 and know only a small portion of what is going on outside of what they hear pressing ears to closed doors. They know for sure that dad betrayed mom and that both parents are in group and individual counseling. I feel for the kids, especially the younger daughter. I had so much sympathy for my SIL at the beginning and now i just want to shake her and scream that she’s hurting her children, even though I know there isn’t much I can do and I worry that none of this is actually my business anyway.

I am writing you and Chump Nation for any advice on what we can do now as just waiting for the Fuckwit to die (he is 18 years older then SIL) doesn’t seem very proactive. However, she has definitely shown us that she isn’t interested in any opinions that point to LEAVE HIS ASS. Also, while we did an extensive internet background check on him we discovered what might be an illegitimate child from 30 years ago. My husband hasn’t said anything because there isn’t conclusive evidence, and he doesn’t want to completely ruin his relationship with his sister.

Should we tell her anything? Is any of this even my business???

Thank you for listening,

Leave A Cheater Believer


Dear Leave a Cheater Believer,

It’s really painful to watch people you care about behave self-destructively. And it’s exponentially worse when there are children involved.

I absolutely understand the desire to bolt her to a chair for the Red Flag TED talk. Or intern her at the Red Flag re-education camp indefinitely. But I’m not sure you could break her.

I mean, what torture could you devise that is worse than what she’s already enduring? This woman pours pain over her cornflakes.

I know, I know, you’re trying to show her the way OUT. To stop wasting her life on a serial cheating, broke-ass fuckwit. To move toward safety! Away from the pain!

Yes, but to do that means first she has to walk through an even greater wall of pain. And she can’t face it. Or doesn’t want to. She’d have to accept the truth of him.

And as every chump here can tell you, that is a tsunami of pain. To know that you were deliberately devalued. That you invested in a fraud. That you can’t get the years back, or any of the other sunk costs. And in this weakened, vulnerable state, you have to rebuild. Which feels completely impossible.

Especially when there’s this really powerful narcotic hopium on offer. Just escape.

All that pain has a purpose! A new and improved EVEN BETTER marriage! That’s the shit the Reconciliation Industrial Complex is peddling. You don’t have to lose this husband, he can be transformed! Just send us one-to-three years of your disposable income, and maybe you’ll get a unicorn. If you don’t? Well, it’s because you didn’t follow the Affair Proof Your Marriage recipe carefully enough. Sorry, no refunds.

The RIC is selling hope. And you are selling a shit ton of pain. Wrapped in 16-years worth of I-Told-You-Sos.

But as you can see, and CN can see, I can see (because I have read a bazillion of these stories) the fuckwit is going to keep being a fuckwit. Because it works for him. And because there are zero consequences. All he has to do for the price of his gambling and whoring is attempt contrition. Sit on the shrink sofa, or in the sad church basement with his fellow jizz “addicts.” And wear her down.

When it all blows up, he’ll blame her for not trying hard enough at his recovery. And so will the quack sex addiction therapists. (And if you don’t believe me, go down that whole RIC rat hole of victim-blaming “therapy.”)

They are both seeing counselors and have all worked together to outline the criteria for his “self reporting” and the consequences he will suffer if he breaks the rules.

Wow. However will he withstand the weight of such accountability? Self-reporting from a man who’s led a 16-year double life? How do these therapists get credentials?

She does say any more physical cheating is a dealbreaker.

And yet she won’t get a post-nup. I’m not seeing the boundaries.

I had so much sympathy for my SIL at the beginning and now I just want to shake her and scream that she’s hurting her children, even though I know there isn’t much I can do and I worry that none of this is actually my business anyway.

You don’t control her, but you do control yourself. You’re free to tell her that it pains you to see her put her children through this. You’re free to go no contact with her, but try to keep up with the kids. You’re free to say the fuckwit isn’t invited to your family gatherings. But you’ll reconsider it after that three years of fuckwit detox he’s in.

You have other options than to eat the shit sandwich that you approve of her choices and of him.

what we can do now as just waiting for the Fuckwit to die (he is 18 years older then SIL)

My doctor says these people live to ripe old ages. But everyone around them kicks off early from the stress.  Fuckwits themselves don’t stress. Why would they? Everyone around them is paying for things, rescuing them and making life quite comfortable. This is her medical opinion!

we did an extensive internet background check on him we discovered what might be an illegitimate child from 30 years ago.

I’m sure if you wanted to devote the energy to it (please don’t), you could find a long rap sheet of fuckwittery and hurt people. And it won’t matter to her, because he’s Different. And she’s Exceptional. And it will be different this time.

Until it isn’t. And she’s either going to break, or she’s going to endure in her shitty marriage.

People have a right to their shitty marriages. Many people — and I am as baffled as you are — prefer their shitty marriages to the taint of divorce.

I totally understand the desire to wake her up. Look, I created this blog exactly so I could yell from the sidelines: GET OUT OF YOUR SHITTY RELATIONSHIP! But I actually possess no power to make people do what I want them to. And neither do you.

Just try some boundaries yourself. Don’t untangle the skein. As long as those kids are not in imminent danger (drugs, sex predators, physical harm), don’t escalate this. Keep the door open as much as you can stand. Or shut, if you can’t stand it. (That’s completely valid.)

I hope some day soon she breaks. And when she does, we’re here for her. And I’m sure you will be too.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Sadly the only thing you can do is have your own boundaries. Protect yourself from the crazy. And let her know that you hope things work out but you’ll help if she ever needs it. I’ve had to cut myself off from people like that (that stay entrenched as chumps) but it’s harder with family.

  • Wow. Has nobody at CN heard of PTSD as a disability? That PTSD means you don’t have capacity to act? Psychologically injury isn’t acknowledged in this forum. I’m sorry cut someone off who’s in severe pain? What is the matter with people these days empathy levels at zero. Obviously it’s easy if you have a husband who isn’t a POS to sit there and criticize someone else but the writer here is getting into the recon industry and victim blaming as well. Her focus has shifted to the victim. One thing chump nation misses is ptsd is an actual disability and avoidance is part of it as is prolonged intense distress at reminders. So fault someone and cut them off for their disability? If you’re half decent people you’ll acknowledge this person is too weakened from abuse and doesn’t have capacity to do what you are asking. If you can report or do something to the man then do it. If you can’t then help strengthen this woman and stop tearing her down. If it all blows up help her through her divorce. People have limits on their capacity and the contempt this writer feels is seeping through she’s not loving she’s on a high horse. This writer sounds like a cold hearted monster tbh.

    • There is very often discussion about PTSD here. I personally have written about my experience with EMDR for PTSD along with being very public about my mental health, medications and genetic testing for psychotropic compatibility.

      I give the letter writer great credit for caring enough to write and ask questions. I don’t think her letter comes across as cold-hearted. It sounds like she is confused, frustrated and looking for guidance. That’s part of why CL exists – to educate and guide everyone impacted by cheating.

      I sure wish I had someone like the writer caring enough to reach out for help!

    • If the letter writer is cold-hearted, then I am too. Honestly, one of the hardest things I find IRL are people who ask advice, want a shoulder to cry on, and then do absolutely nothing to help themselves. I have wells of sympathy for chumps, and call it out as abuse. At the end of the day, only YOU can save yourself. Everyone around you can be supportive or total a-holes, but the decision to end it comes from the chump themselves. I think peer support is really important, that’s why I created this place, to get more — leave the abuser outcomes.

      That said, there is a difference between chumps and RIC volunteers. I think most people here had, or still have PTSD, and they did hard things. And protected themselves and their kids.

      • “That said, there is a difference between chumps and RIC volunteers. I think most people here had, or still have PTSD, and they did hard things. And protected themselves and their kids.”


      • I just saw my therapist yesterday…when I told him I was getting memories back.. I could never figure out how people remembered so much. I must have blocked…l got that far into my sentence and he said trauma does that. I never thought my life was that horribly awful but it was…and my brain is recovering. Chump Lady is right its terribly abusive and we are deeply Hurt mentally

        • You know what’s crazy? I had stopped dreaming when I was with my ex. Hadn’t had a dream in years while I slept. A few months after he left? I started dreaming again.

    • Maybe this is your first time here.

      If you haven’t seen PTSD discussed here, you haven’t been around very long or read many posts. I can’t count how many times I (who have it, along with everyone else here) have talked about psychological injury, CPTSD, PTSD, or seen others write about it. Over the past 4.5 years of being here and reading daily.

      Before you criticize and “yell” at us, please first review every complete post starting with January 1, 2018.

    • You’re painting with an overly broad brush (maybe because you are hyper sensitive as a result of your own trauma?). Many of us have had/have PTSD, and have written in about steps taken to heal (EMDR, etc). That cheating is domestic abuse is axiomatic here, and battered woman syndrome and other psychological effects are in fact discussed here. The letter writer is not cold hearted so much as she is distressed that she cannot help, and is looking for a way to manage her own distress at not having a way to support her sister and her children. Last, lots of posters are arguing for exactly what you’re suggesting: to retain contact with the SiL so as to help support her.

    • PTSD, I have compassion for you rn because I think you’ve been triggered here & not by the writer. I would explore why that is. Saying that, it’s really not cool to be unkind here as everyone should strive to be supportive even if we disagree or are triggered by what someone wrote. Communication is tricky too, sometimes the tone & context is misunderstood by the receiver. I hope you have a better day ❤️

    • Not one person — not the LW, not CL, not any commenter — wanted to cut someone off who is in severe pain. In fact, it was the wife. (chump) in the letter who cut off LW and LW’s husband when they offered concrete help. “So now we are cut out of any information and interactions with her and her kids.”

      Maybe you would like to re-read it.

      • I also think the Chump knows she has a brother and sister-in-law who will step into the void financially, emotionally and in every way. She has her back up whether she will admit it or not. Right now she is living in her own made up fool’s hopium because they are there.

    • This is an armchair diagnosis. The counsellor she is seeing would be in a much better position to recognize symptoms of PTSD if there were any, and refer her for treatment.

      • An ideal therapist is a good listener, observer & detective
        who digs deep, wants you well. Finding truth, coping with reality is the goal. They require clients to do their work outside office.
        Some therapists require payment after each session without requiring much work from themselves or from client.
        SELECT Therapist CAREFULLY is the message here. Not wise to assume they’re all that wise.

    • We know all too well the effects of PTSD. Many of us have lived it. The writer has every right to protect herself and her family from dealing with the toxicity of the FW drama and listening to RIC nonsense, so kindly stop making accusations and calling her names. I could detect no contempt, only concern, so I think you’re off base. Possibly you are puffing hopium yourself, looking to excuse it, and angry at anyone who challenges the chump’s inalienable right to self destruction? PTSD is very real, but is not an excuse to never change. At some point you have to summon up the courage do the work to get out of the situation that’s causing the trauma. Maybe one day she will. In the meantime, why should her relatives have to continue to endure her creep of a husband?

    • PTSD, I see what you’re trying to say, and agree that the Chump is clearly “shell-shocked” and immobilized. However PTSD stands for *Post* Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the Chump is still actively experiencing the Trauma.

      The letter writer is seeking to assist the Chump in getting herself from active trauma to safety; to remove herself from the RIC that is working to keep her in the situation where she is experiencing trauma, and in fact is likely retraumatizing her by asking her to accept responsibility for the trauma she is experiencing.

      Once she has gotten to safety and is no longer experiencing trauma, she likely will have PTSD.

      I was deployed twice. I don’t remember a lot of it today, it’s just flashes of memory and blanks, not like flashbacks but like snapshots. I do know I didn’t have my period after the first month or two of each deployment. I was experiencing trauma but I was functional. After I got back from each deployment, I experienced PTSD symptoms. I didn’t get blown up or anything, so I didn’t know it was PTSD until I started therapy after I was Chumped 11 years later. So yeah we do know what PTSD is, but this Chump doesn’t have PTSD. She is basically a frog in a pot of boiling trauma, she is me still deployed, and needs to remove herself before she can start healing from POST Traumatic Stress Disorder. So thanks to the letter writer for looking to CN for an alternative narrative to help the Chump get there.

      Oh yeah, no ‘thank you for your service’ needed. I wasn’t that great and it’s over now.

      • With young children, it can be a lot harder to get to the “post” part. Some FWs (like ChumpLady’s own ex, I think, apologies if I’m wrong) don’t want much to do with their kids, and abandon them (or at least, aren’t around much) after cheating. Others, like mine, are “good parents” (minus, you know, the part about destroying the other parent, humiliating them, and giving them PTSD.).

        For me, seeing and dealing with and talking with FW (even when it was just minor negotiations and handoff around our 1.5-year-old) was not different, in terms of destroying and triggering me, than being in a full “relationship” with him. The only way I think I would have felt better was getting far, far away from him and truly *never* seeing him again, which was not only not exactly legal, but I felt not right for our child (he has always been close to her.)

        I agree with much of what PTSD said, and for me, some of the responses can feel triggering and punishing. I had a lot of perfectly good qualities, but I’m not particularly resilient or mighty, and people’s solution of “just leave him, then you’ll magically get your life back!!!” didn’t resonate with me. The whole thing of family, friends, and especially my proud, formerly open-hearted and naturally happy-ish, romantic self knowing that the person I’d hitched my wagon to was a bad guy who didn’t love and respect me just became MORE humiliating and dispiriting when they (family, friends) or I added the layer of victim-blaming punishment, “why doesn’t she just leave and magically feel better?”

        I did have professionally diagnosed PTSD after what happened from FW. It can happen to people like me who haven’t fought in any wars, just like like you can break your leg as easily tripping over the curb as free-climbing El Capitan. (I had also had a pile-up of contributing other stressors at the time—which I think many chumps do—and I had a sensitive child who picked up on my distress and didn’t sleep, and I did not have much support from family, just sort of humiliation, though they were well-intentioned maybe.) It was pretty immobilizing, it hurt every area of my life and self, and I was not making okay decisions at the time.

        • “you can break your leg as easily tripping over the curb as free-climbing El Capitan”

          … and they might both hurt just as much, and take as long to heal. Good reminder not to minimize anyone’s pain because you don’t know what someone else is feeling.

          I’m not trying to minimize the letter writer’s SIL’s pain in any way, just saying that she won’t heal while she’s clinging in denial to the barbed wire monkey.

          SpackleCity, totally get the frustration of not being able to go NC. I also have young kids with FW but find grey rock to be an effective means of separating myself emotionally, if not entirely or physically. I have to interact, but no longer have to care what he thinks or does unless it affects the kids.

        • “I’m not particularly resilient or mighty, and people’s solution of “just leave him, then you’ll magically get your life back!!!” didn’t resonate with me.”

          Thar is not CL’s message, nor does anyone else here believe that. It takes hard work to get your life back after a devastating emotional experience. It is not magic or instant or easy. Only a fool would say so. I can assure you it has not been a breeze for any of us. Just read the stories. Of course seeing and talking to FW is horrible, but you can limit contact with the FW enough to heal. Using parenting software so you don’t have to talk to the FW works for a lot of chumps. Beware of thinking in absolutes such as doing the equivalent of running away to Timbuktu in order to feel the least bit better. It isn’t neccessary. With time and less contact, it will happen. I know it doesn’t feel like that now, so you will need to be patient and do a lot of self care.

          The truth about what you need to be prepared to do can certainly feel punishing when you are resisting facing it. This will be a triggering blog for a person who is not ready to accept it, because people here tend to tell the unvarnished truth.

          • To clarify, I didn’t mean that I think “just leave him, then you’ll magically get your life back!!!” is ChumpLady’s message at all—she gives tons of amazing and true and deep advice for navigating the difficulty of being in a crappy situation after tangling with a FW.

            That simplistic message that I found so punishing came from (well-meaning) family, friends and the culture at large. “Everybody” (through my lens of humiliation, clinical PTSD and exhaustion) seemed to think that breaking up with FW would solve the problems in my life that were caused by being entangled with him. It REALLY didn’t.

      • You remind me of a friend who was stationed as a translator at Guantanamo during Iraq. She cringes when people thank her for her service. My dad was a partly-disabled combat vet and felt the same. He learned that most people don’t want to hear about war unless the stories are tales of triumph and glory or are at least titillatingly grisly but with all the tragedy and sadness removed because the latter makes it a bummer. Not being truly supported for one’s real experience can be isolating and isolation can make PTSD worse. My dad spent the rest of his life living down what he saw and experienced. But God did he have insights to burn and so does my friend. So thank you for surviving your service.

    • The trouble is, ”not” pressing mute on this misery-fest is seriously upending the OP and her husband. I’d say they’re the opposite of cold-hearted. They are in fact over-invested in getting the chump out from under her cheater. I don’t buy that she’s got a disability to the extent that she is unable to make rational decisions: she’s come up with clever, long-term plans, organised counselling, done all sorts of things to show she’s quite able to understand what is happening, and yet is choosing to remain attached. Clearly PTSD is a very real and devastating thing, no argument there, but we have no way to know what’s keeping the chump rooted at all. She is of sound mind, apparently, she 100% has options and people who openly and vocally love her and want to help, but at a certain point, each of us must decide to stop banging our own heads against that brick wall, and this is what CL is advising. Simply don’t allow the chaos to wreck happiness and life generally. That’s not cold-hearted.

      The alternative? Just keep bashing head on wall? Why? To what end? Treating the chump as a rational, sensible person who has considered various options, is in treatment with various counsellors, as some disabled faun is actually unhelpful to all concerned.

      • I am incredibly grateful to the people in my life who spoke up to support me — even before ddays and 1.5 years of off/on wreckonciliation. While it wasn’t enough to get me to leave on the spot, it helped me validate my own values, feelings, intuitions and perspectives. I felt ashamed for staying, but I believed my ex was Special and we were Different; and I wished more than anything in the world that he could change and our life and relationship would finally live up to its potential (and that I wouldn’t lose my identity, home and almost everyone and everything I cared about overnight).

        I am a believer in being honest, especially with people you love. I still remember the time — at least a year before dday — I was out to coffee with a friend and was trying to figure out some FW-related issue. She looked at me and said, “b&r, that sounds abusive.” I was pretty surprised, but I didn’t get angry with her, and it got the gears moving. Her choice of language, specifically, helped make a chink in the spackle. Later on, when things were escalating and as I was deprogramming from the gaslighting, I held onto it as evidence that there were abusive dynamics all along. That it was him, not me or “us.”

        After the serial cheating came to light and I chose to stay anyway, I felt like I was betraying my friends and family by staying with FW, and that was one reason I withdrew from them. I wasn’t angry with them or defending him; I just didn’t feel it was right for them to suffer from my poor choices (I’d “made my bed…”), and I also didn’t feel good about who I was in those days, so I didn’t want anyone to witness it. I actually had respect for people who refused to spend time with FW, who told me they thought going back was a bad idea, or who made it clear that they were supporting me and would be there no matter what happened with FW. I knew they cared about ME, and I appreciated their conviction — and ability to see through BS.

        I wasn’t yet convinced — in fact, I was very scepticisme — that FW would change as promised and “make it up to me” by following through on his promises; I also didn’t know how I would feel, even if he did. So I remember thinking that I would just stick it out alone, in privacy. If it worked out and I felt good about bringing him back into my family’s and friend’s lives, then I would. If not, I could just leave and spare them the trouble and drama. Or at least this was the trauma logic that I used to rationalize returning. Of course, I thought I had way more control than I actually did, and this was a recipe for disaster that put me in an isolated home with an abusive cheater in a pandemic.

        And STILL, my sisters and close friends found ways to let me know they were there, and that they didn’t think the relationship I was in was safe. I knew deep down they were right (even though I was in denial) and I never, ever resented them for their honesty. I saw it as love.

        One sister told me point blank that I couldn’t trust that FW would never physically harm me because he had been leading a double life and had shocked us all and could be capable of anything. (He actually had been subtly physically for years, which I’d spackled, which is also crazy.) Her comment became an inner voice of reason for me over the next several months, and even now, when I remind myself that FW is a fucked up stranger who I never really knew. My other sister picked up on accumulating red flags and was the first person to ask me, point blank, whether FW had ever been physically abusive. I couldn’t lie to her (I’m a chump), so I had to say it out loud. There’s something to having to discuss this with a person who cares about you and your best interests — with someone who shared some of your values, or has knowledge about the cycle of abuse. It brings the issues out of your head and into the real world. When you’ve been consumed by gaslighting and the fog of abuse for years, and when you’re suffering from PTSD like many of us here have, it’s hard to know up from down. I couldn’t think straight, but it helped me to hear what people I trusted, who cared about what was best for me, thought. Of course, I wanted to decide for myself what was best for me, but there was a time when I didn’t feel capable and I knew I definitely couldn’t trust my ex.

        I appreciate CL’s post today, and all of the thoughtful comments from CN. I have several friends in similar positions, and it’s hard to know how to help them. Especially because of my own experiences around the social, emotional, physical and financial costs of staying with an abuser, and my clarity and relief after leaving.

    • we are not asking her to do anything except entertain the idea that she could protect herself in some way. not once have we actually told her we think she should leave him. what we see is the life being sucked out of her before our eyes!

    • Thanks for saying this agree the question was pretty shaming. Leaving is hard. Most abused women will try leaving a few times before it sticks. The best most loving thing to do for this woman is build her back up. Help when asked tell her she’s awesomebuild her self esteem back up until she’s strong enough to figure out on her own what happens next. She’s getting plenty of criticism and shaming at home the last thing she needs is more, in fact it’s going to make her weaker and less likely to leave. Kind of appalled at the lack of empathy in these responses frankly.

  • I hope you can reconnect with her because she is going to need you. Let her know that if she ever wants your help, the offer is still on the table, but as long as she doesn’t want it, you won’t be raising the issue again. Ask if you can have a relationship that is just about the two of you and the kids–marriage talk will be out of bounds so that you don’t upset each other anymore. People in denial need escape hatches, and that is what you are offering, but you can’t pull her to safety until she is ready to leave. You don’t need to see each other a lot, but a cheerful, occasional opportunity for her to see how other people live and value her is incredibly important.

    Before I married, a close friend wrote me a letter asking me to rethink my decision. She put our friendship on the line to be honest with me. I was surprised by her opinion of my soon-to-be-spouse and just dismissed it as the misunderstanding of a dedicated single person. Our friendship continued, even after I moved away with my new jackass two years later. At about 6 years into our marriage, I went to spend a long weekend with her and was stunned by how cheerful, peaceful, and relaxing her home was; I began to suspect something was wrong with how I was living. Thirteen years after I married, I called her in tears and hysterics after I had made the decision to divorce–I don’t know why she was one of my first calls. Maybe because I thought I owed her an apology as well as gratitude for always letting me know that I was worth more? Just because your sister-in-law can’t accept your insight today doesn’t mean it isn’t helping her move toward where she needs to go.

    If you can, put aside the money you generously offered to put toward a forensic accountant because she is going to need help with rent or car insurance or something else when the bottom finally drops out.

  • I agree with CL that your SIL’s marriage is doomed but your SIL isn’t. Yes, she may have to experience unbearable pain but perhaps you and your husband could be of help to her in other ways besides encouraging divorce.

    I don’t know from your letter if SIL works or what she does. Perhaps you could encourage her to upgrade her skills, get a degree or get some training in her field or another field? She will need to support herself in the future. Her kids are young enough to need rides and childcare; you could offer to help with the kids while she does this. That would give you time to be with your niece and nephew to support and love them.

    Or join her in a new hobby or type of exercise. Get her out and feeling better about herself. Self care is so important and rarely done when living in hell. In every city there are group walks or adult education programs in everything from woodworking to cake decorating!

    Support her mind, body and kids and shelf the divorce pressure. You may be able to reach your goal by laying off of the judgement AND build better relationships with her and her kids without having any contact with the fuckwit.

    Good luck! She’s lucky to have family in her corner (although she may not feel that way). So many of us here had no one to worry or help.

  • You guys can go get some therapy of your own for YOU….how to be there for the kids, how to let go of getting her to leave, how to set boundaries around/disown the viper she is married to.

    Al Anon meetings? A very good place to learn tools to use for our pain caused by the destructive behavior of others. A lot of members go for reasons other than a loved one’s drinking.

    Your power lies in changing and practicing YOUR responses, and I use my trusty beloved very wise therapist for the Big Deals (your situation is a Big Deal) and the things I do not know how to handle.

    Telling the truth and not pretending everything is fine is a good place to start, and what that looks like would be the topic of my very first session, along with how to help the kids.

  • This hurts to read. It’s like people are under a “spell”. I have lived 2 years not exactly under this spell I’ve fought hard to keep my head out of it but being eaten away by the “virus” I call it. The stress Tracy mentions. Even if the cheating has stopped. There’s dragging of the feet on therapy, talking through triggers, and the step daughter still talking about how her mom is trying to control things. STILL? From afar. Yesterday was my ninth anniversary. I write him a letter from my bedroom. I asked him to know he will always be loved and that sometimes our decisions affect us for a lifetime. (And so on)
    When we got home from dinner(my mom step daughter and us) my step daughter said her mom is tired of not communicating with him and wants him to come to their therapy sessions. First of all he will be in a therapy session with his wife(me) after they pretty much ruined our marriage. By he being so stupid and dirty and her being a total whore:(
    Today: I am starting EMDR therapy. Pray for me CN I don’t want to die of this stress “virus”

    • Let me understand. He cheated with his ex-wife (mother of step-daughter?), and y’all are still married and in therapy? And he’s dragging his feet on the therapy?

      Big hug, Shann, but why tell him he will always be loved? You are talking about DYING from the stress. Are you sure you aren’t one of the ones also under a spell? This isn’t about prayers. I say this with love.

      • Yes. He cheated with the ex. He told me after supposedly six years had passed. And now since I’ve tried to step back and allow them to parent their daughter, it’s turned into less parenting by him and more of a friend… she’s becoming the mini wife she goes shopping and out to eat more than I ever have with him. She’s literally in his passenger seat not me.
        And yes it made me so sick to the stomach when I heard the ex was STILL thinking she has this type of control. And no, I probably don’t know the whole story. It does eat at me every day. Thank you all for lending an ear and providing feedback.
        I work and I go to school and I attend therapy and yes drag this uncomfortable issue around. Im not as dumb as I sound. And I don’t want to be in this whirlwind forever. I’m not sure other than some guilt or uncertainty of what to do next on why I don’t take the leap.

    • Why are you letting these people destroy you? Why are you writing him letters about how you’ll always love him no matter how much he continues to abuse you?

      You need a wake up call. Therapy is nice and all but maybe stop lighting yourself on fire first. You need out of this “marriage.”

      • I am so sad for her but this guy is not behaving like a unicorn. He has not clearly set boundaries with the OW and her daughter, which is exactly who these people are to you. You don’t feel comfortable enough to talk to him so you have to write a letter that your needs are not being met. You don’t have a unicorn, you have an ass with a crayon taped to its head. The only thing worse than living in this environment for 2 years is living in it for 2 years and one day. They are not winning if you leave, you are! I don’t know what else to say to help you see it. I am pretty sure this happened in my mirage too. I did not see it and now I regret not leaving sooner. If he is not leaving for this OW it will be for another. Please get an investigator to examine what is going on.

    • Shann, EMDR can’t help you much if you continue to be exposed to the source of your trauma. Imagine it this way; you’re in a war, taken as a POW and tortured, but are given the option to get therapy while continuing to be tortured. How could the therapy possibly work? The goal of therapy isn’t learning to live with ongoing trauma while doing nothing to get away from the source of it. The only way is getting out of the POW camp and then getting therapy to heal from what you experienced.

      Fuck what his ex wife wants. She isn’t family to you and certainly shouldn’t be to your husband, so her wants are irrelevant. Doing family therapy with just her and her daughter is her prerogative, but she does not get to demand that he attend and it would not be appropriate or helpful for him to do so unless he plans to divorce you and get back together with her. I guess that’s what she’s hoping for.
      What an entitled piece of work she is, but little does she know she’d inadvertently be doing you a favor if she “stole” the turd.

  • PTSD I agree with your statement. I to experienced where her sister in law is now and a few family members and friends
    told me to “get over it” years after I was divorced. I discovered that people who aren’t married to a cheating spouse feel safe when they compare your failing marriage to their relationship. IMO
    no one is 100% safe from finding out
    their spouse has another life without you knowing. I hope the writer stays by her SIL side and is there for her when she truly needs it.

    • “no one is 100% safe from finding out
      their spouse has another life without you knowing. ”

      I am a prime example. My best friend (we raised our kids together) was with an abusive (cheater) man for most of her marriage. I felt so bad for her, and helped her when I could. My husband who was her childhood friend, was disgusted by her husbands behavior (also his childhood friend).

      Fast forward thank God he finally left for good when her girls were young teens. Little did I know that about fourish years later, I would be blindsided with my husbands secret life. She was as blindsided as I was. She had made mention several times that I got one of the good ones. Lol. Turns out my cheater was just sneakier than mine. Though I am betting her cheater knew, at least in the last few years what my cheater was up to. They were both police officers, and in fact my cheater had helped her cheater get on the PD.

      But until it blew apart; I really thought that I was in a solid marriage. I always knew my fw was a bit selfish; but thought in the big things he was solid.

      He certainly made a fool of me.

      • “Until it blew apart; I really thought that I was in a solid marriage. I always knew my fw was a bit selfish; but thought in the big things he was solid.” Me too, Susie.

        • Same. I am still getting used to the reality that my husband (together for 20 years now) had always cheated on me with prostitutes (about 400 of them). I thought we were solid, and we even had our third baby last year. He always judged cheaters and looked down on people like Trump for being so sexist. But he went to prostitutes, preferably young and from abroad (ergo poor and abused). I stil cant believe anyone can be so far from any integrity, so hypocrite, so evil actually. Still in shock. However, we will divorce soon. I cant be healthy nor happy in such a relationship. I lost all respect for him, but also a little for myself, as I was fooled into believing this man was worth building a life together with.

          • Oh Rosie…so sorry. Power and peace to you as you simultaneously care for your babies and unravel your marriage.

            • Thank you. We are now on a holiday with the five of us like we are a normal family. It is confusing, but as long as we cant separate we will not tell the children (baby, 7 and 10 years old) about the upcoming divorce. Hopefully next year the divorce is final and he will find a New house for himself. When I concentrate on the kids, I can have quite ok or even pleasant days, but when they are asleep, I sometimes feel this deep hate for my fake husband that did nothing but lie and cheat all those years. Why dont we matter to him? He has the most lovable Sons, and I think I am not too bad as a wife either. He says his hooker habit has nothing to do with me, he says this to comfort me and to convince me that now he has sworn it off and is in therapy we can just continue to live happily ever after, but Why didn’t I matter? And why would you want hookers at all? And pay extra for unsafe sex while I was pregnant? Those facts cant be therapied always. I dont want a man that can do this, is capable to betray like this, like it is an innocent hobby of some sort. Sicko.

          • Oh I hope you can get out and divorced asap. What a nightmare. My FW went to prostitutes for 20 years that he admitted to. This was discovered 38 years into the marriage. Truly evil.

            • It is evil! I am so sorry for you. As much as I hate that this extra sordid kind of cheating happens to more chumps, I am still relieved that I am not alone living this particular nightmare. I thought I was when d-day juist happened (three weeks before giving birth). I am so glad to have this online support (and my mom, two friends and a therapist) to keep me sane and motivated to get out with a house and generous alimony. How long did IT take you to feel happy again? To Reach meh?

      • I totally feel this. My situation is a bit different though. My good friend of 17 years felt very secure in her marriage and very surprisingly to me, judged and blamed me for my FW’s infidelities. Cut to, her husband hitting on me after I separated from FW. I told her immediately. And she blamed me. I had literally done absolutely NOTHING and yet she still blamed me, blocked me and cut me from her life. Apparently it’s more important to her to save a sham of a marriage than a true friendship.

        • Molly, she sounds like a horrid person and you’re well rid of her. She obviously wouldn’t know what true friendship is. She is too self absorbed to be capable of it.
          Her and her FW deserve each other.

        • MollyWobbles, Sorry for your loss of your friend, especially
          in her total rejection way after 17 years. After you lost your husband/marriage. Ouch. Friends can be as important
          as mates, I think.
          She blames you! It’s illogical. She can’t or won’t handle truth.
          Denial does more damage.
          Well, you have truth. Truth is
          a valuable friend.

        • I’d wager my life savings he threw you under the bus instead of cop to his behavior. I’m sure he smeared you as a liar – or as someone who ruined your own marriage and was out to wreck hers.

          I’d also wager that the reason she reacted so strangely to the end of your marriage, was because some part of her could feel it coming down the road for her. It’s scary to admit to ourselves that our spouses can destroy our lives just because they want to. It’s safer to think “that would never happen to me because my spouse is special and I am special,” and make you the bad guy.

          If you had a good friendship prior, I’d keep the door cracked open for her. The security she feels is fake, and the higher the harder the fall.

    • I don’t see where the writer is expressing an expectation that her SIL “just get over it.” What I am
      reading is that the writer is frustrated that her offers of help (which IMHO are ideally offered when asked) have been refused, the situation is dire, and they are asking for advice about how to detach.

      From what I’ve read here, most if not all on this site experience being told to “just get over it”, and are deeply hurt and offended by, and opposed to that kind of input from others.

      That being said, we are also here to help break the denial of people who have been affected by infidelity and want honest input and assistance from those who have had the experience. If you show up here, don’t expect sugarcoating or soft-pedaling.
      (I for one benefitted from the very polite and civil 2 x 4 of Truth I encountered here).

      Lots of DV in my own history, and in my family tree, on both sides, going back to the dawn of recorded history. I’ve been in recovery for that and many things related since 1985. I certainly understand that change takes time and support, and I have always felt that the overwhelming majority of people here do too.

      • “we are also here to help break the denial of people who have been affected by infidelity and want honest input and assistance from those who have had the experience. If you show up here, don’t expect sugarcoating or soft-pedaling.”

        Totally. A person still smoking hopium might experience that as harsh, but it actually is far kinder than enabling somebody to self destruct. Without facing difficult truths there can be no possibility of healing.

  • I’d want to remain in my SIL’s life, because the day will absolutely come where she will need a good friend. To keep things even, though, I’d offer a deal: I’ll withhold judgment and in return you agree not to seek my approval for things you know I couldn’t in good conscience agree to.

    We can talk about the weather, or politics, or sports, or our favorite rom-com. But we’re not going to talk about your husband doing things that would force me to break my end of the bargain.

    I’d want to remain in her life.

  • When my son was little, he was in a family daycare. The care provider was a wonderful person, a great caregiver, but she was one of those Marabel Morgan “The Total Women” believers, who would send her husband off to “conventions” in Las Vegas with sappy notes tucked in his baggage. Turns out he was cheating and had a gambling addiction; he even gambled away his children’t college funds. Would she leave him? Never. It was, she said, her “Christian duty” to stick with him. It was painful to watch, but I couldn’t do a damned thing. If it were my sister that feeling would be magnified.

    • Yeah the “I’m a Christian” excuse really annoys me. I think it’s because the statement isn’t so much Christian as it is “morale posturing”.

      • “I’m a Christian” might be “morale postering”. However, the christian part might be true.

        A real, practicing believer who’s a chump will most likely feel extreme & ongoing pressure
        to stay, to hope, to forgive,
        to keep the faith.
        No matter what.
        Or else.
        “” helps with mis-interpreted scripture &
        mis-applied theology. Some christians need more of the right kind of help than most
        to reform a belief.
        Breaking out of denial and
        Getting to truth is needed for ALL chumps (including the often misunderstood, unpopular christian chump).

        • Agree with this statement. Divorce Minister along with CL was the cold bucket of water I needed to realize the truth of the matter that it was soul rape and that I didn’t need to stay because it was my duty since I was given an out. I got stuck in the RIC to stick by your man and whirled in that vortex for some time but so happy I came upon these two.

  • I can easily put myself in the chump s-i-l’s position.
    I was in a cold, hard, lonely marriage for 18 years. Suffering emotional and verbal abuse, and constant neglect and devaluing. Over the years, things occurred that made me suspect he was cheating, but in my boiled-frog state I could not take any decisive action. I convinced myself I was supposed to stay, raise our three kids, work on myself and live as good a life as I could within the constrictions of my marriage.
    I built a career, nurtured friendships, and showed up for my kids. Or did I? Living this half-light existence where a significant portion of my energy was snuffed out by my bad marriage? It wasn’t my best life by a long shot, and it cheated my kids out of the mom they could have had.
    I finally left when the kids were teens, after discovering his 18-month affair with justafriend coworker AP.
    My point to Leave A Cheater Believer is that you can lead a chump to clarity but you can’t make them see. They come to clarity (hopefully) in their own way and on their own timeline. Be as supportive of your sister-in-law and especially her kids as you can, without compromising your boundaries.
    She’s been a boiled frog for 16 years. She’s deeply invested in the story she’s constructed around her marriage and family.
    I hope she leaves, or that her cheating husband does. But the process will take years. And she may never. The fear of the unknown future may trump the pain of the present moment.
    Nobody could have convinced me to leave my marriage until I arrived at that decision on my own. And once I did, nobody could have convinced me to stay.

    • Yes, I have lived this exactly. I remember looking at pages online where spouses of “sex addicts” would go for support. They were all saying to run like my hair was on fire to get a divorce. I didn’t want to hear it. But once I decided to leave, there is no turning back.

    • You describe me as well Walkaway. Except I stayed and stayed until he walked away.
      Joke’s on him as it was the best thing that could have happened to me. But it was so painful for me and deeply wounding to my children. Now I’m still a bit embarrassed at my own behavior by staying for so long but have learned to let go of the shame as I settled into the land of Meh. It’s easy to clear when the frog has jumped out of the pot but it’s a long and difficult process while it is going on.
      It’s hard to judge someone else’s decisions; I have lots of empathy for you, the LW and the SIL. This shit is not for sissies.

  • We can’t control other people. Not the FW. Not other Chumps. We can only control ourselves. Trying to get someone else to take action is an exercise in futility. Be there as a friend because she is going to need that.

  • I would offer to her to have the kids stay at your house while they go on their RIC retreats. I would suggest the kids get counseling because you can bet they are walking on eggshells, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Take the focus off the FW, who needs no more kibbles, and put it on help for the kids who are being affected by this train wreck.

    On another note, I’m sad to hear that FWs live long lives and kill everyone around them, but it makes sense. I remember years ago when I was in the RIC and anti-divorce, I would start and end each day with a prayer that G-d would smite klootzak sooner rather than later because I couldn’t endure the thought of tolerating the abuse until old age. Post-RIC, I figured out that G-d helps those who help themselves and divorce would be a very very good thing. Once I accepted divorce and started making plans for post-FW life, I have been so much happier.

    It’s hard for chumps stuck in RIC to accept that they did not cause their pain. That they did not contribute to it or deserve it somehow. The counselor is right there to remind them that they don’t communicate well enough and it caused their partner to fuck strange. And the counselor has a degree on the wall so you assume they know better. I have a law degree and I bought their BS. It can happen to anyone. It’s hard to turn the corner. Keep being there for her. The fall will come hard and she will want someone to talk to when it does.

  • One thing that is notable is that the husband is 18 years old than the SIL. This is a very large age difference and it is likely she married him when she was in her twenties and he was in his forties. Very large age differences frequently mean a large power differential has been present since day one. My guess is there is a lot more abuse in this relationship that what you know.

      • Additionally— is the older child a girl? It’s possible he has threatened to molest her if SIL leaves.

        While there is no direct evidence in the letter, this I the kind of thing a highly controlling man would do.

        We already know he prefers much younger women because of the age difference in the marriage.

        • And this is what the gaslighting does to victims ~ makes them contemplate the absolute worst case scenario, including pedophilia.

          I’ve been a dv lawyer for a long time now, and I’ve concluded that the “paranoid” victim is probably closer to the truth than the rest of us.

          I’ve also spent 18 months wondering the same thing about my ex.

    • you hit the nail on the head. chump was in her 20’s when they married and he was almost 50. his last affair partner was a young mother in her 20’s, he is in his 60’s now. blantent power abuser but chump insists he has never controlled her. we do have fear of pedophila, as he lays with their younger child every night to help her fall asleep. do admitted sex addicts deserve the same levels of trust as regular parents?? we don’t think so, Grandma doesn’t think so either and threatened to call CPS

  • Those of us who endured marriage to a ‘sex addict’ will tell you trauma bonding completely obscures every ability to reason and think clearly and rationally. And any participation with the RIC only makes matters worse.
    The letter writer’s sister-in-law is in the exact place I was when cheating bastard ex was arrested for solicitation of prostitution some 25 years or so ago. And I will bet money that the 3 year recovery plan failed in the first 30 days, if not sooner. “Just a setback” is the garbage she is being told.
    At this juncture, she is being fed a steady diet of ‘shared accountability’, is in the throes of policing and pain shopping, and has probably ramped up hyper-sexual activity with her spouse to aid in keeping him from straying.
    It won’t be long before he plays the ‘if you try to leave or divorce me, I’ll not have anything to do with the kids’ blackmail card.
    It may be years and hundreds of women later before her hands are bloodied by prying open the escape hatch. It was for me.
    Be there to love and support her when she escapes this utter hell she is living through. She will be forever grateful you were there.

  • “Their outlined treatment plan explains that he needs 1-3 years of therapy to heal and change him before they even get to the point of deciding if they will recommit to the marriage. Of course they will continue to live together and move forward as a married couple during those 1-3 years.”
    She says that both spouses are seeing therapists, and they worked together with the marriage therapist on this plan. Are they in the same practice, or do they refer clients to each other? The plan they outlined (allowing two weeks off per year) is for 50 to 150 joint counseling sessions at an average cost of $150 per session, meaning each therapist gets a guaranteed income of, on average, $7500 to $22,500. Without insurance, the cost ranges from approx. $65 to $250 per session.
    I’ve never heard of a therapist upfront setting an expectation of one to three years for therapy. I suggest checking the state licensing database to find out if there are have been any grievances filed against these therapists, and also search the therapists’ names and “complaints” and “reviews” to see what other clients have said.
    That, “Of course, they will continue to live together for those 1 to 3 years” sounds a deafening warning bell. The therapists have set forth a clear expectation that the chump will live with the cheater despite the abuse, even if it continues. This is with a man whose behavior was severe enough to cause loss of license. And he’s a “gambling addict.” Are there any measures put in place to divide finances so he can’t take everything from the chump and children?
    Leave a Cheater Believer, that chump and those children are so lucky to have you in their corner. It’s frustrating for you and your partner to see this. I hope you can support the children emotionally and give them a safe space, and your SIL as well.

    • thank you for your comment, your outrage is very validating to me. yes the therapists know each other and refer clients to each other. his therapist is a Reformed Cheater, hers is a Betrayal Specialist. It seems in there shared best interest to keep the marriage going, it’s very frustrating to watch. we asked the chump to please PLEASE get her own bank account at the very least. the answer was a hard NO, because it shows a lack of trust…

  • She cut you off from seeing her kids? I’m sorry to have to be blunt, but that is an asshole move on her part. It’s unkind to her kids as well as to you. I don’t consider that good parenting. She is cutting them off from a loving connection just to protect herself from hearing hard truths. She sounds hopelessly in denial and not at all likely to change. The only thing you can do is try to work things out with her to establish contact with the kids again. You’ll probably have to grit your teeth and bear the FW coming to family events. You’re not obligated to be friendly with him, but do be civil so it isn’t awkward for the kids. If she demands you kiss FW’s ass and play along with her hopium fantasies in order to see the kids it may be too high a price to pay for you. You get to decide how much bullshit you can bear, so don’t let her guilt trip you about it.

    This is a tough situation. It’s hard to watch somebody you care about make choices that you know will result in destruction. Alas, there’s not a thing you can do to change her mind as she is not operating rationally.

  • One thing the letter writer could do, quietly, that might help her feel like she is supporting someone she loves – is to start a bank account. Tell no one except your husband. Chip in a few dollars at a time as you sit on the sidelines and watch for the explosion we all know is coming. Even when it happens, you will want to hold back and wait for the right opportunity to share that you have this little pool of money you want to give to her to help her start over. That first $2500 check to my attorney was very, very difficult to write. So final. So scary. So unknown. I was even afraid it would backfire on me since I wrote it out of the joint bank account. I wasn’t sure whether that check covered both of us, where he would get another $2500 if it didn’t (chumpy me!, worried about his best interests), and whether $2500 was only the beginning or if it would cover most of the legal fees.

    If her FW is successful, she will walk away in the end with nothing. No deposit for a rental or utilities in her own name, maybe no vehicle in her own name and if she does have a vehicle – the tires or battery will immediately die on her at the worst possible time. She probably won’t have a credit card she controls. She could likely incur some hefty medical bills with physical and mental health collapsing and be worried about her health insurance policy changing or being dropped because it is tied into his employer.

    Knowing what I know now, that’s what I would do for someone I love who isn’t aware of the dangerous path she is on.

    And wow – am I ever so jealous that she has you!

    • I thought the same thing. She is going to need financial help to get out of this. Even if she is working she may not have control of the accounts. I’m the victim of financial abuse. Putting money aside, hidden away for the retainer so I can file, has been a long, slow, painful slog. I can’t redirect anything from my paychecks. It has to be off the radar. If I am forced to leave the house (something I am working to avoid) I have no idea where I’ll come up with first/last month’s rent to get into a rental.

      In the US, you can gift up to $15,000 to a person in a year before you must report it. Surely they could set up and account that they keep and when she says she is ready to file, they could cut the attorney’s office a check to help her get the ball rolling. The cash is still a gift even if she doesn’t get it directly in her hands. (Heaven forbid she backslide and use the $ to pay FW’s gambling debts!). It sounds like they have 1-3 years to build that emergency fund. I really hope they do. Being financially trapped could keep the SIL stuck longer.

  • She won’t leave until she is DONE. Until she recognizes, believes, and understands that staying only hurts her, and her kids.
    Until she recognizes that, at this point, she is partly to blame for her continued pain by staying. I know that sounds like victim blaming, but, when a chump insists on staying with a cheater then continues to be abused by the cheater, the chump IS culpable. I know I was, and it wasn’t until I recognized that (thank you CN) that I was able to jettison him from my life. However, there is something called “Battered Woman Syndrome” which may be at play here:
    It is a form of PTSD, from which I know many of us chumps have suffered. She needs a therapist who specializes in PTSD, not somebody in the RIC.

    To me, the best thing you can do for her is to continually let her know you love her and her children. Let her know that if she ever needs a place to go, you are available for help. And if she brings up the cheater, gently tell her you refuse to talk about him unless it has to do with am imminent divorce. Set your own boundaries. If she brings him up, smile and ask her about the weather.

  • As someone who has gone through DV more than once, married to a sinister minister, and brought up with strict religious values that leaving any person behaving this badly is wrong, I can understand the challenges. It takes TIME to realize how disordered they are, and then, to find that few believe you and even fewer support your belief that they are disordered. Outsiders may tell you that the disordered person is wonderful, and you are awful – which hurts and confuses. People who complain at you getting into the situation – hurts and makes it worse. You’ve been controlled by a fuckwit, and now, others come in and try to control you as well, and take over the fuckwit’s place and tell you what to do and how to do it, while declaring you unfit – just like the fuckwit did. Add into that, each time you reach out to medical personnel, therapists, police, domestic violence shelters, church, etc., there is the added message that YOU are the problem, that no real help is possible, there is no safe place to go, that you will be left homeless and penniless. It ends up the only person who IS supporting you, albeit while attacking you, is the fuckwit. All those messages lead to confusion, and take TIME to resolve in the person’s head, of what is right and wrong, all the while being lied to and pressured both inside and outside of the relationship. Even so, even if you know in your heart that the person is a fuckwit, it often takes TIME to get away and get any resources to support yourself. That is why people leave only when things become dire or they are threatened with death; at least they have a roof or food or some idea someway to get medicine while trying to sort things out. If you want to truly help, you need to take a deep breath, relax, and be there for them – painful to do – and help them sort out a plan. And realize, they need to sort it out and take back the control they don’t have, the thoughts that have been scrambled, and start to feel that they can, possibly, do this. It takes time to reclaim reality and hold onto it, no matter what the fuckwits around you do, no matter how little support there is, no matter what is necessary. It is a journey back to reality and to self so that they CAN do what needs to be done.

  • Leave a Cheater Believer,

    Trying to help someone who is in denial is near impossible, and you risk driving yourself insane trying to explain to your SIL what you know to be true. All you can do is be patient and be there for her when (if?) she actually works out that what is happening is not acceptable to her.

    As an aside, their children too are 9 and 14 now, but may reach out to you independently in the near future or, more likely, when they become adults. If my experience of children in circumstances like this is correct, then they will have a much clearer understanding of what is going on (and much stronger views about what is going on) that their parents – but particularly the Cheater – think they have. I was very lucky in that my SIL (Ex-Mrs LFTT’s half sister) is very close to our children, and there have been a number of occasions when they reached out to her for help and told me about it after the event.

    If nothing else, be there for your SIL’s children and try and preserve your own sanity so that you can be there for your SIL if/when then penny drops.


    • thank you LFTT, you are so right! we need to focus on staying in the kids life so they can turn to us in the future if they need.

  • PTSD:

    Oh, how I wish I’d had someone just like Letter Writer in my life to show me the light (and the exit door) during my 40-year marriage to a deep underground covert serial cheater.

    My own parents divorced when I was 4 years old, and I subconsciously took an oath at that time to never let “that“ and the ensuing hatred and vitriol I witnessed between them to happen to me. So while my intuition was quietly beeping that something in my marriage was “just not right”, there was no hard evidence to prove FW was being unfaithful to me. He was home every night for dinner, spent every weekend with me (taking care of our 3 children, going to sporting events as a family and doing things around the house), he was always at his desk no matter what time I called him at work, and he always used a common computer in our home which was out in the open. It certainly appeared that FW had no time or opportunity to cheat and I assumed these unsettled feelings I had were just insecurities from my own childhood coming through. I didn’t want to even discuss the possibility that FW was probably being unfaithful to me; facing that would mean I’d be following in my parents’ footsteps and I’d failed at my marriage, not to mention that I’d be breaking up my family, taking my children’s father away from them, and facing future financial instability. If I didn’t have any evidence, then it couldn’t be true, right?

    When I confronted FW, he predictably launched a massive campaign of gaslighting, deflection, projection and blameshifting to make me believe I was crazy, had no reason to suspect foul play, and he was the most devoted and loyal husband and father in the history of the world. Mindfuckery at its best! So I hung in there, I doubled down, I told myself everything was fine, I worked harder and longer, I did everything I could to make FW happy.

    And then, 4 decades later, after the terrible truth finally came out — that he’d been continuously cheating on me since our dating days in college, and I was nothing but a full-blown, Guinness-world-record-class chump — *I* was the one who was embarrassed, humiliated and ashamed. I naively agreed to add insult to injury by undergoing the torture of the RIC because if there was even the slightest chance of saving my marriage, I wanted to try. I was so deep in my denial and so desperate to keep my family intact that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me. And I didn’t have anybody in my life like Letter Writer who was able or willing to put everything out there, shine a spotlight on it, and call it what it was.

    Looking back, I would do just about everything differently. Obviously, I can’t change anything that’s already happened, but what I can do is share my testimony and hard-won wisdom to potentially help someone else who might be in a similar state of overwhelming trauma, denial, confusion and fear. There are so many powerful teachers in this community… loving people willing to put everything out there, shine a spotlight on it, and call it what it is… all in an attempt to try and help someone else see what’s right in front of them, and to show them the way out.

    I hope that SIL can one day embrace the truth of her terrible situation, be brave enough to step into her fear, and run for the exit with children in tow. In the meantime, I believe she’s extremely fortunate to have two people in her life who care enough to fight for her and say uncomfortable and difficult things in order to protect her and her children.

      • KADawn

        Aww, thank you! ❤️

        Now that I’m a few years down the road in this journey, everything is so incredibly clear and it’s funny (in a sad way) that I previously didn’t see what was right in front of me. If I had, I could’ve invested the best years of my youth in a real partner, not a papier-mâché poser. But you know what, when you know better, you do better, right? That’s where I’m at today. Life is good!

  • I think some read my response as cold. Not at all. SIL is rejecting any help and becoming more estranged by the pressure. SIL is digging deeper into trying to save this awful marriage. And the writer and her husband are agonizing over trying to help her.

    SIL is not ready for help. Just as you can’t make alcoholics stop drinking, you can’t force SIL to quit the hopium. You can try an intervention. But in the end, only the alcoholic can take the first step and admit they have a problem.

    Velvet Hammer is spot on with the Al Anon comparison.

    The only option is to offer kindness and help when she’s ready. But in the meantime, you don’t need to be stuck in the crazy. Boundaries are necessary so that you also don’t get hurt by her FW and all the drama. You have to step away enough to protect yourself too.

    Always remember to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.

  • The best thing a friend ever said to me when I was beginning to think about divorce is “You are the only one who can make this decision, and I will love you either way.”

  • Writing as a chump who’s still smoking the hopium pipe (less so than before but a sad part of me is still hoping), I can say that my true friends are here for me no matter what. I can tell them what I’m going through even though it is so embarrassing and they can tell me their opinion (I deserve better) and that they love me. We talk about trauma bonding and ptsd. I wish it were that simple – ‘oh, I’m trauma bonding! I’m doing anything to stop the pain!’ Now I understand and I can just stop!’, but it’s not. Your sil can’t face it. She probably knows deep down it’s doomed , but she believes she’s picking the less painful path. Let her confide in you and tell her your opinion, but let her know you love her as often as possible.

    • I appreciate what you’re saying, and I agree. I would also like to add that it is ***painful*** for others to watch this and listen to it. The LW has been the SIL’s confidante for 18 months, that we know of. I have listened to friends talk about being abused for months (years!) on end, and I can tell you that it is exhausting. Really exhausting. And painful. The people on the other side of the support are human too; like the LW they have limits to how much they can take. It’s hard to watch someone beat their head against the wall, it really is.

      Sometimes supporters need to back off for their own sanity.

  • I’ve been divorced 6 years after a 21 year marriage to a serial cheater. I currently have 3 friends in this situation. One is a man who divorced his cheating wife almost a year ago and is still the go between for XW and 30 year old daughter. He knows he can talk to me about the awful journey he is on anytime. When he told me he was still the go between all I said was “It’s hard to move on if you keep the XW in your life”. I can’t control what he does. I also have 2 friends married to mentally abusive husbands. I offer my love and friendship. I asked both of them if the situation is acceptable to them. Of course they both said no. I offered help if they ever need it. They know I am there for them and I know I can’t make them leave their awful relationships. I learned through my journey that you can’t control what anyone else does

  • Believer, this may seem counterintuitive, but telling her to DTMFA is just going to make her cling to him harder.

    Stop discussing FW with her. Put the emotional responsibility for this man back onto her, instead of being the Voice of Doubt on her behalf (a voice she can safely dismiss when she’s running for a hit of hopium). Distance yourself from the whole drama while making it clear to her that you support her. And be there for her kids.

    This is about a boyfriend rather than a cheater, but it’s still very useful advice:

  • All you can do is be there. Maybe it won’t last, and maybe it will implode later instead of sooner. But these patterns don’t change. We all hope for a unicorn, but they are extremely rare.

    I have a friend in her late 30’s with little kids (youngest is 18 mo.). Her straying husband seems to be on the straight-and-narrow now. She’s overjoyed. I’m not a therapist, but in my eyes, it seems to me that her husband is taking a “wait-and-see” approach which isn’t going to work long-term. He’s giving it all a try without being truly committed. I fear for her, but yes, I just wait.

  • Well into the separation from my FW and following a wreckinciliation trip, I finally gave all the facts to my SIL. I combined it with a request that she and my husband’s brother help with his end of the divorce paperwork. I didn’t know the expression “shit sandwich”, but I was correct in anticipating I’d have to manage the filing while trying to stay no contact.

    As I hugged my SIL of 30 years goodbye, I asked her to not share the details of the cheating with my BIL. I think I knew that I would never be forgiven for telling the truth. That the marriage would truly be over when HIS family knew what was going on and still supported him.

    Denial is a strange thing but the gaslighting had created fertile ground.

  • One more thought is that SIL may be having her ear bent by many of FW’s flying monkeys about what a great guy he is and how she should give him more chances.

    True story… I attended a dinner last weekend with acquaintances. One of them is one of FW’s flying monkeys. He looked me in the eye and told me that klootzak is the most authentic person he ever met in his career. AUTHENTIC! Who uses that word randomly about someone? It is the LAST word I would use about klootzak. I thought he would say he’s so smart or helpful (they once worked together) but “authentic?” What a set up. It was the only adjective he used about him. And I wasn’t asking.

    The second part was flying monkey asked me if I plan to stay in the city I live in. Now, damn if I am not in the situation where klootzak has eyes on moving hours away to the other end of the state. I said where I live now is home; I have no reason to leave. Which is true. Then monkey boy’s wife chimes in and said my city is lovely and she could understand why I love living here. I was able to change the subject and eventually get away but it wasn’t easy!

    Now imagine flying monkeys working on that beleaguered SIL. I mean, I have presence of mind to laugh (I bit my tongue so hard at the word authentic) and deflect and escape but SIL is not in that position. FW might have a chorus telling her FW is great, she should stay, do what he wants, make him happy. If I were still in a weak state, I may have nodded in agreement with the monkey and said that home is where klootzak leads us.

    I suspect klootzak put that person up to saying and asking those things. I’m sure he got a full report on my responses. In hindsight, maybe I should have held my cards closer to my chest and said, “Oh, I don’t know.” But I wasn’t in the mood to play games.

    SIL may not really understand how she is being played because lots of voices are telling her she is doing the right thing. Be the voice she turns to when she decides to leave the echo chamber.

  • Don’t give up on her. This was me. Finally my mom showed me the cycle of abuse and said you will die from stress (I was diagnosed right after Dday with cancer and stayed for 2 more years of Ddays) and your children will have no sane parent left. I realized I had stayed so long I couldn’t even make a tiny decision by myself but i did promise my mom that day that the next time (which would be #7 Dday) I would be done. She had made me earlier with the help of a very loyal friend get a good attorney “just in case”. I am so so grateful for my friends and family sticking by me during that time. No one could have convinced me to leave- it had to be when I hit rock bottom. Now that I am divorced and out of the constant abuse I look back and think how did my family and friends not just throw up their hands or shake me and yell at me. It had to be so so frustrating from them to watch but I am very grateful that I never lost them through it all.

    • thank you for your comment, we will not give up on her! the hardest part of waiting for this to play out is that we can see it sucking the life out of her, from our perspective it seems like it’s killing her.

  • She’s been brainwashed for 16 years, probably her whole life. It will take more than a jolly good talking to for her to exit his fantasy world. And once she does, the truth is pretty exhausting to deal with ~ seeing everything through the prism of control, past, present and future. It’s better out than in but still it’s hard.

  • walking through the giant wall of pain is so true. It’s giant. That’s why some of you deserve the title mighty. I haven’t really found anything better on this side of it except my financial independence from him. Facing yet another wall of pain from yet another cheater. Have so much empathy. I think it gets harder everyone of them to dump.

  • Laughed at the “self reporting.” Yeah mine said he would tell me too about any additional infidelities! And at the time I truly believed he would. After a few D days in which there was no self reporting, you finally understand who they are. Thats a hard shit sandwich to swallow. It is difficult to believe that they chose to lie or omit the truth. They made a decision to cheat. I also believed the “sex addict” BS. Its amazing that we as chumps all have a similar narrative.

  • setting boundaries is a kindness to one self and other people. i think that there are ways to let a chump know you’ll be there when they’re ready.

    but it’s hard to watch someone dangling by a rope. and it’s hard to be the one dangling. i know i spent a few months dangling by a rope of my hair. it’s cringeworthy looking back, but i forgive myself because coming to my senses takes time. and i can give myself the luxury of time. i deserve it.

  • I wanted to add that my phd psychologist kept going on and on about me having PTSD. I poopooed it. I did not see myself as a victim at the time. He also diagnosed my FW as a narcissist. I poopooed that at the time as well. After researching NPD I see that he not only has OCPD (textbook case) , but has narc traits too. Both are all about control and both are abusive, although OCPD they seem less likely to discard. I get a lot of valuable info from NPD because although OCPD is the most common Personality Disorder, no one seems to know about it and there is not alot of information on it. So after researching, I admit now yes I am a victim of abuse, yes I do have PTSD and yes my FW is Narci. I view myself as a strong person who can handle my problems so saying I am a victim doesnt sit right with me.

    But for all of us non victims I recommend reading:

    Heartbroken, on the best seller list. All about the physical and psychological aspects of being heartbroken. Woman wrote it whose husband was a cheater.

    The Body Knows the Score, a classic. About trauma and the effect it has on our minds and bodies.

    These were very helpful to me. Especially since after D day I now am startled easily. As in I jump and scream at almost any little thing. It’s embarrassing and I can’t control it!

  • Unfortunately I think your SIL will have to come round in her own time. Meanwhile maybe just tell her you love her and will help her and the kids any time she’s ready. In my case I had a husband who was so good at faking it that few saw it. With one major exception- a woman from our work (I worked with the ex). She had suffered abuse as a child. Spending not too much time around the fuckwit, she soon recognized his abuse of me. She didn’t handle it well-she took me to lunch and said “you’re an abused woman and you don’t know it yet. I can’t be your friend for now” and she walked out. I was livid! How dare she insult my husband? Months later when I found myself being referred to Womens refuge by my therapist, I rang my ex friend. She apologized for the way she handled it and we cried and I learned how she just couldn’t handle seeing me living my fake life. Fair call. Abuse is shitty and tricky and I don’t think there’s any right way. Just be there for her and be her soft place to land ❤️

  • When I left my ex, I went through what felt like massive withdrawal and fully believe in the trauma bonding that happens in these chaotic relationships. It feels like death to leave. But I was determined to go no contact and dragged myself through the detaching process. This is just one brick in that wall of pain that CL talks about.

  • Sounds to me like your SIL is trauma bonded. I’m sure I was too and it’s almost impossible to pull away on your own. It’s only in retrospect you can truly see and become aware of what was happening.
    I’d probably still be married to my ex if he didn’t take off with one of his many mistresses. I would not have had the strength to leave on my own.
    I’d keep the support up for your SIL and the kids and try not to add anymore stress to her pain by trying to pressure her into leaving.
    No contact with the SOB spouse is a good plan though. It might make her gradually more aware and conscious as to what’s happening to her.
    You’ll be there whenever she finally needs you, and she will need you.
    We can’t save anyone not wanting to me saved, as others have also said.

  • I’m tired of all the disparaging remarks about sex addiction counselors. They are not all evil, “Industrial complex” pushers. My partner-of-a-sex-addict counselor is very good. (And addictions of all sorts exist also. The chemical response in the brain is all the sam, just the path to the high is different!) She said she would support me in whatever I want to do – she has a history of having been through the same thing, and she was clear in what would likely happen. She laid out the likely scenarios, and I chose to give it a try for a few more years. Oops. It didn’t work, big surprise. (And for an addict to actually hit rock bottom where it hurts more to continue in the addiction versus sincerely trying to get better takes a lot longer than 3 yrs, the study said it takes about 7yrs.)

    But it’s not my counselor’s fault. (Or mine for that matter.) She was not my ex’s counselor. She was mine. And he was extremely good at manipulation and deceit. She was able to catch a few of his lies, however, and called him out on them. But you can’t help those who don’t want it.
    Unfortunately we all made him better at lying and manipulating 🙁 But i’m free of that mess and he’s stuck in misery for probably the rest of his life. I’m working on fixing my picker. I’m finding there’s a lot of duds out there especially as I get older!

  • All the comments are spot on. You can’t help someone who refuses to be helped.

    Maybe the LW’s SIL will eventually come to her senses, maybe she won’t – and it’s more than possible she won’t; CL did a post a few years ago about a Chump writing in the Guardian about how the fuckwit she was married to had cheated on her throughout the marriage, but she was glad she’d hung on and believed she now had a faithful, loving husband. One could read between the lines and see the determined choice to live in total denial, the hyper twitchiness, the underlying misery. ???? Sigh.

    So my concern here would be the *children*. The SIL is an adult, and can’t be helped until she wants it, but the children are vulnerable, they are the ones involuntarily eating the shit sandwich, and being taught that abuse is acceptable, with all the ramifications that will bring as they get older.

    I would suggest, as many others have said, the LW keeps the door open, for the sake of the innocent children, who will need a couple of sane role models.

  • This situation described in the writer’s letter so reminds me of my best friend’s situation. Her own father (a marine) was physically abusive not only towards her mother but towards the kids. She left the home situation as early as she could by winning college scholarships. Her brothers’ became FBI agents.
    Her mother refused to leave the father, but she let her mother know if she did get up the nerve to leave that she could provide a home. She tolerated being around her father to get her mother as much support as she could in the situation.
    Her mother stayed with her abuser until his death. Her mother died within 18 months, moaning and sad over the death of her soul mate. My friend has yet to figure out why his death didn’t bring a sense of freedom.

  • hello everyone, i was out of cell range yesterday and am now pouring over everyone’s responses. thank you to everyone who commented, and thank you CL for running my letter.

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