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A Puppy and a Middle-Aged Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday, and keeping with CN tradition, every year I run my 40th birthday story about the truckload of cow flop. This year (and ever year since) has been better and better. How much better? Golden retriever puppy better. Introducing our latest family member, Monty Dog (named after my favorite British gardner, Monty Don.) The pain is finite. LACGAL. New column tomorrow! — Tracy


Well, I try not to blog about myself too much, because God, how narcissistic and dull. (Mommy blogging anyone? Does anyone want to know about my son’s travails with geometry?) But I’m going to make an exception today, because today is my birthday. (Cue Leslie Gore… “It’s my birthday! And I’ll blog if I want to! Blog if I want to!”…)

I’m 46, if you’re curious. Fairly ancient. (Editor’s note — I wrote this 10 years ago! I’m 56.)

What does my descent into middle-aged decrepitude  have to do with infidelity? Well, my 46th birthday is a nice reminder of my fortieth birthday, which sucked epically. And I thought I’d tell you about it as a little example of how different life can be post-cheater.

When I turned 40, I had just moved to a new state with my then husband for his job. I’d been married four months. We bought a 100-year old fixer upper house (with my money) and it had been badly neglected. A widow had owned it and hadn’t done yard work since her husband had died years ago. But hey, you know what they say about codependents, right? Codependency is the addiction to the POTENTIAL of things. I was still a flaming codependent. I loved the potential of this ancient pile of house and I was resurrecting the garden single handedly.

It was the day of my fortieth birthday and I ordered myself a truck load of cow manure from a local farmer. He delivered it, dumped it in my yard and I spent the day ankle deep in shit, shoveling cow flop around.

At the time — swear to GOD — I thought “I’m ankle deep in shit on my fortieth birthday. This must be a METAPHOR for something!”

My metaphor called me about six weeks later. It was the Other Woman phoning to let me know she existed. Turns out — surprise! — my husband had a mistress spanning 20 years and three marriages. (It also turns out, I later discovered, that they had a grown child together.) No, I had NO IDEA. Remember, I’m a CHUMP. No clue. None. Zip. Zilch.

I had just moved to a no fault divorce state, financed a serial cheater’s career move, and bought a 100-year old fixer upper with this fucking sociopath.

How I got out of that mess is another story for another time (many miracles, many blessings, a lot of idiocy on my part — idiocy I share with you as trial-tested results of What Not To DO). The point was… my birthday.

My fortieth birthday sucked. I literally spread shit on my fortieth birthday. My cheater husband’s gift to me was a pen. (Admittedly a nicer gift than the tie-dye motif license plate cover he presented to me that Christmas). And during that weekend, unbeknownst to me at the time, he was off screwing his mistress. Cherry on top of the shit sundae.

What a difference six years makes. (Sixteen years!)

Today I am remarried to a great guy who is truly my better half. He’s nerdy and kind and super smart. Verbal. Bright. A mensch. A wonderful father to his kids and a rock to my son. He eats too much popcorn and loves polka music. His quirks fit my quirks. I marvel every day at my amazing fortune that this is my life and he is my husband… and I will shut up now before you choke on my treacly, heartfelt, love goop.

My husband has been pestering me for the last week about what I want for my birthday breakfast. He is a master at French toast, and tragically for him, I do not care for French toast. (“It’s JUST LIKE BREAD PUDDING! You love bread pudding!” No, it’s not the same. French toast is a pale substitute because it’s not drenched in Bourbon.) I got a sweet roll and coffee and roses for breakfast. Swoon.

He took me out on a date last weekend and gave me a ridiculously extravagant gift. He put a pressed shirt on, and the man hates to wear all things dry clean only. He opened my door. He bought the fancy dinner.

I’m not writing this to make you hate me. I am writing this to you to say  — YOU ALL DESERVE THIS. Everyone deserves to have someone in their life who delights in delighting them. Who gets honest to God pleasure from giving to them. Who  will go to whatever effort just to PLEASE you on your birthday.

You know what’s sexy? EFFORT. Effort is sexy.

I didn’t know this until I was 42 and met my husband. I spent a lifetime in my relationships shoveling shit to one degree or another. I’m not saying <sniff!> no one loved me, no one bought me a pretty present. I’m saying — I didn’t know what reciprocity felt like. What it was to love someone who loved me back just as hard, maybe harder. Who if I lobbed the ball to him, picked it up and lobbed it right back. Who threw it further into the green, past me, so that I had to run to catch it. Who (damn him) is ahead on this birthday celebration thing. But I have a few things planned… his turn is coming…

Betrayed folks — do not settle. Good people who make effort exist. Go find each other.

Going to go celebrate some more. I’ve got a sugar coma now, between my prose and the birthday cake… maybe I’ll go take a nap… Happy birthday to me!



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    • Sorry to crash in on your post MedusainMeh.

      Happy Birthday Tracy! ???? ????
      Monty is beyond adorable!!!

      Wanted the throw out that anyone who is grateful for Chump Lady’s dedication and for this group of chumps to please sign up as a Patron.

      Being a patron helps enormously with the crazy cost of running this lifesaving blog. I want to encourage all who can spare a bit each month to do so ❤️ (especially for those who cannot).

      At the top of Chump Lady’s page there is a red rectangular button to sign up.
      Levels start at $3 per month.

      Inflation definitely sucks but where would all of us be without this safe, supportive space? I know for sure I wouldn’t be sane or safe.

      Back to all the comments…

      • Rebecca, I can only upvote that once 🙁

        Chump Nation: reciprocate the wisdom, the therapy, the compassion, the wit. Patreon!

        ps thanks for a reminder of that line Tracy, “Effort is sexy.” I just flicked the fella I’ve been seeing for 2 1/2 years … he was all expectation, zero effort.

      • Yes amazing thought. I’ve never used Patreon before but this seems like a good way to start and a great bday gift for Tracy.

  • Happy birthday!! If you ever need a pup sitter I’m her for you. What a cutie

  • Happy Birthday CL! My ex gave good presents & dinners that makes my birthdays harder post-divorce. But I have to remind myself that it was all image management on his part before I go too far down that sentimental chumpy road! He loved to hear me tell people what he did for me. Congratulations on the new pupper, he’s adorable!

    • Same here. Mt ex would do roses, gifts, cards with mushy messages, and dinner. Grand image management.

      Bur he was still a nasty passive aggressive conflict avoider with a whore on the side for our entire relationship. When I left him whore was on marriage #5

      Ironically the birthday after I found out about whore he did nothing. He was going to show me his ass for refusing to rugsweep. But he underestimated how much I still wanted to be married to him, so when I filed he begged and pleaded.

      Good riddance.

  • My life is so good post disaster, I sometimes done even want to describe it in its fullness because results will vary and I dont want to contribute to anyones disappointment. I will share that I am a wee bit older than CL but like her, my 40th birthday was a stellar disaster that showed my life at the time to be a shit show (just not as literally as CL was on that fateful day).

    There are way too many used car lots in my city but the office of one of the really ugly ones used to be a really ugly Italian restaurant where my then spouse took me on my 40th birthday with as much resentment and reluctance as a person could muster while actually doing a thing. The kids sensed his display of the lack of importance of this day and joined in the anti-love fest. I dont remember any gifts from anyone.

    The fact that the staff brought us cold food one plate at a time so that we didnt even really eat together just sealed the day.

    Social media was replete with the wonderful fetes all my contemporaries got from their spouses and families to celebrate their 40th.

    Then things got much worse and then worse than that.

    For my 50th birthday, my handsome, tall, sweet, devoted, monogamous boyfriend with means took me on a yacht voyage (with a chef) to travel the islands of a foreign land, proposed on one knee and then we shopped for my diamond on 3 continents.

    It got better, much better.

    • Where on earth do you and ChumpLady and others find these amazing available men? I have been looking for years and I’ve only found the same fish everyone else threw back (for good reason)

  • Aww! I think that a golden retriever puppy life should be the new metaphor for all of us. Happiest of birthdays!

  • Ugh! You share a bday with my ex….. you gave me a whole new reason to celebrate. Happy birthday!!

  • Happy birthday Tracy! Love your new family addition. What a great present for the new house. I always enjoy your birthday rerun….it reminds me every year of how things were and how important it is to celebrate how great things are now.

  • Happy Birthday, dear Tracy!

    And because of you and this site, on the 17th I had the best birthday I have ever had (see email, check Mail Drop), something I did not think possible when Traitor X nuked our family.

    Because you and Chump Nation kept me going and showed me the way out of the Fire Swamp, the most miraculous birthday gift ever was given to me by Little Hammer. You are all the villagers and deserve credit for saving your assistance saving our lives.

    May you have many happy days of rambling around the garden with Monty Dog and Mr CL, and many happy evenings curled up on the sofa with Monty Dog and Mr CL watching Gardener’s World!

  • Happiest of birthdays to you Chump Lady!! Thank you for everything!! Much love and hugs!!

  • Celebrating you, ya walking gift! Have the best day ever snuggling that little cutie and loving life. ????????????????????????

  • Happy, Happy Birthday…….Celebrate Wonderful YOU and the priceless gift you are to so many of us here in CN !! Enjoy your adorable and oh so lucky puppy!!

  • Happy happy birthday to you!! ????????????
    Enjoy your new pup, he’s just adorable. Nothing immediately improves our world’s more than a puppy showing up!
    So happy for you that you were able to take the trash out 16 years ago and now your walls are singing with excited delight at how much 16 years can drastically improve.
    How blessed you’ve been, gifted both a wonderfully good man and a rowdy fluffy pup to fill up your cup!
    I just love that it’s your story, could not have happened to a person more deserving of the happy ending.
    You quite literally had to trudge through piles of shit loaded with shit encrusted losers to get out of there, but you are proof that it can be done and hope for countless chumps, chumping up to queue behind you.
    Woohoo for you!! ????????????????????
    Happy Birthday again, may your happy place always fill you with love and joys.
    You give so much to others, just feels a plate of satiating justice when one of the good guy’s wins big. Sure glad you were born, the world was waiting for you to show up!

  • ???? you would blog too if it happened to you ????

    . . . but no one could ever match CL’s snarky sense of humor and wisdom and awesome advice.

    Tracy, YOU are a gift. Happy Birthday! And happy puppy cuddling with Monty Dog!

  • I’ve already wished Tracy a very happy birthday, above.

    I’m guessing other chumps have similar gifts to Tracy’s.

    Fraudesco typically gave me gifts that were intended for himself, like a rower and other gym equipment I couldn’t use, and he inexplicably couldn’t return, but could set up and use himself.

    He told me HE didn’t like jewelry, so he didn’t give me any. I had to shop for and buy my own wedding band, and looking back, I doubt he ever paid for it. Day of the wedding, he decided that HE needed a wedding band, so I had to interrupt my own preparations to go shopping with him at several stores get one. Over the next thirty years, he “needed” a newer, better one approximately every ten years, whenever he wanted one, and not for anything special like an anniversary or birthday.

    But for several of my birthdays after we married, he gave me checks with “for your ring fund” on the memo line. The checks were already marked “void” by him, in big letters in bright red ink, so I couldn’t cash them. The first one was enough money to buy the modest sized ring I’d want, but he said he wanted to spend more. And no matter how many thousands of dollars he’d “given” me, he said I had to wait longer until there was “enough” to get an engagement ring. I never got one.

    One year, I made a big surprise birthday party for him, with about 50 guests. That was a mistake. After that, he expected to get similar large “surprise” birthday parties, with me doing all the prep work, making all the food and getting it to a surprise location. He loved being the center of attention.

    He, of course, could not be bothered to ever make a party for me, and his close friends also did nothing for their wives, other than maybe picking up a card and a grocery store cake at the last minute. Three of us had birthdays in the same month, and since out spouses didn’t make any effort, we decided to have our birthdays together at a restaurant. If one of us didn’t get the cake, there was none. Fraudcesco, of course, always wanted something elaborate, made and decorated specifically for him. A true cake eater.

    • Agh, I threw the surprise birthday party for him right smack in the middle of the affair. 40 people, his family (not mine), live music. I did it because he’d been crying about being dangerously depressed for a year. His words to me a few days afterwards, “I think you did it for yourself.” I said, “Really? I’ll be sure never to do that again.” He tried to double back and pretend he didn’t mean it. But I did. Unlike him, I keep promises.

      • Cheaters seem to be particularly bad at birthdays. Many of them cannot remember other people’s or be bothered to do anything more than pick up a card or a box of candy while refilling their gas tank, but they expect crowds and glitzy surprises for their own. My EX complained bitterly because I didn’t get him any of the three things he asked for on his 50th, all of which cost more than a third of my annual income (and he was unemployed at the time). He also angrily turned down a nice family vacation when his father offered one as a 50th birthday gift because it wasn’t “just for him.” Heaven forbid, the kids might have had fun on his birthday!

        • My birthday is also a national holiday, so my ex’s never forgotten them. He did well regarding celebrating til he was in discard phase. I giggle to myself now thinking that even though he’s with Lame-o he still knows when my birthday is…

    • Ugh, Goodfriend! What a loser your ex was! I’m glad you are rid of him & his future-faking a$&! You rock!

    • “… he gave me checks with ‘for your ring fund’ on the memo line. The checks were already marked ‘void’ by him, in big letters in bright red ink …”

      This is one of the most horrifyingly cruel things I’ve read on this site.

    • Wow, Goodfriend. Just…wow. Why? I guess the cruelty was the point.

      And his way out of getting you a gift.

    • Thats awful, voided checks.

      My fw never remembered my Bday except for the first couple years, where I would get a card and a peanut butter cup. And the last year where he sent me flowers exactly one month early. Still not sure why he did that.

      I mean maybe they were my consolation prize for my upcoming discard. That same year he got me a gold necklace for Christmas, he had never bought me jewelry except for my wedding set. For Christmas my traditional gift was a bath robe, once I got perfume. And I liked both those gifts, it was a special kind of robe and I loved them, but still no jewelry. So why when he was within two weeks of dumping me would he give me an expensive gold necklace? So weird. It was a gorgeous necklace, I gave it to my daughter in law.

      I could , but I still wouldn’t know for sure.

      • Susie: if I can hazard a guess: maybe he intended to give the OW the necklace & he got mad at her & gave it to you instead out of spite or maybe he had a sliver of guilt or maybe he was trying to make it look like you lost a good guy instead of a cheap one? It’s untangling the skein though & you’re unlikely to ever get a truthful answer because they are usually so fucked-up in their own heads that they either don’t know why they do what they do or they lie & see if it gets them anywhere. It was tainted with bad juju for you either way! Glad you gave it away!

    • The voided checks thing is so cruel, and the perfect metaphor for how he saw his commitment to you.

      My ex-FW’s one weird trick was setting up something that I would have to pay for at the last minute. The more impressive the spectacle, the greater the likelihood that I or someone else would end up footing the bill for his impression management.

  • Happy birthday! I love this story. And a new puppy makes it even better! Continued blessings to you & yours.

  • Happy birthday to you CL ! My grandma used to say that standing in shit brought you luck! I guess for you it did! Although your 40th was pretty crappy at least a better life was on the horizon for you! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day xx

    • N,
      your Grandma was Italian? because mine would say something similar. When good stuff happened she would say “I must have stepped in shit.” I to this day don’t know how the proximity to shit is lucky

      • When my aunt complained at my cousin because she was tracking horse manure into the house, my cousin told her, “But Mom, that’s CLEAN dirt!” And it does seem to me that having horse shit around is lucky, because it means you have a horse!

      • Dr Chump she was English, but I think for most countries /cultures it is a superstition with a favorable outcome.

  • Happy birthday, CL!!!

    I remember my 38th birthday. Klootzak took me to one of the best restaurants in town, oceanfront. The meal was exquisite. And as I returned from a trip to the ladies’ room, I saw him sitting at the table, texting someone with an unmistakable smile on his face. My gut told me what was going on. I wanted to throw up that wonderful meal. In a desire not to further ruin my birthday, I stuffed my feelings down and carried on.

    I never told him and never will how he ruined that and so many other days for me with his bullshit. It has been many years since I have had what one could say is a good birthday. Looking forward to having some great ones in the future but some of those rotten ones I wish I could erase from my memory.

  • Tracy,
    your making CN gold out of your pile of shit experiences is the best gift anyone ever gave the world.

    ???????????? Happy birthday to wonderful YOU! ????????
    Rock on in peace, love and puppy nibbles!

    My last Dday was the day after my 55th birthday. It was my 28th recovery anniversary. I was sitting in my womens meeting that night & told my creator I was ready for whatever the next chapter of my life would bring. Was I? I discovered hours later that XFW was cheating – again.
    Not the chapter I had imagined hours earlier. My brain balked at the thought of another RIC beating. Then, I found CHUMP LADY – the superheroine with wit, wisdom, snark and the gift of HOPE. I LACGALled and am loving my new home and life back in an area where autumn features golden leaves & cool breezes! (I had lived without autumn for 31 years).

    Tracy, my gratitude feels tiny compared with the enormity of what you have done for me. And so many others! You adeptly wove gold out of shit (flipping AMAZING), then paid that miracle forward times thousands.

    I am so happy you were born and that you stick with us Chumps until we find our own inner CL. THAT is truly a calling.

    I love you, Tracy. Enjoy your next trip around the Sun!

    • I can relate. I was 27 years sober in AA when I was blindsided by Dday with my beloved of 25 years. He had been lying about his own sobriety. It got a lot worse for the 18 weeks of fake reconciliation but once I found CL and CN I said GTFO, went no contact, I started recovering from the trauma. I use this experience as I help newcomers. Fast forward 8 years and X is getting progressively worse. He is more or less constantly intoxicated, falls a lot, has been hospitalized for concussions and overdosing at least 4 times in 12 months — those are the ones I know of.

  • XW had had it with our young dog. “Either he goes or I go!” Buddy had just chewed up another quilt and dragged it outside into the mud. My marriage was teetering. I found a rescue group for German Shorthaired Pointers and told her they would take him and find a new home. “That will just make me the bad guy. Forget it!”
    This was not really about the dog. She was cheating with co-workers. A few years later it all blew up and we were divorced. I kept Buddy.
    A couple years later, the dog in my dating profile caught the eye of another dog lover. Our dogs hit it off and two years later we were married. Over the years we have had five German Shorthaired Pointer dogs, almost always in pairs and rescues. During Covid we lost a great dog and wanted a replacement, we searched for a year, but all the rescue groups had been emptied out. “What about a puppy?” I asked my wife. I was retired and our other GSP seemed lonely. She agreed and we were fortunate to find a local breeder with an available litter. Addie fills our life with fun and adventure, and my wife takes the naughtiness in stride.
    Same kind of behavior, different outcome.
    Addie and Maggie:
    The rescue groups are full of Covid puppies now, as people go back to the office and lonely dogs chew up the furniture. If you have the means, please consider a rescue dog!

    • Bruno, sounds to me like you made the right decision as to who to keep!

      I am on my 4th rescue dog. My first small dog, purebred dog (Chihuahua), and male. I wouldn’t know what to do without my boy!

      (All of the previous dogs lived with me until they died.)

    • I have two rescue mutts, both with heart disease and in their final years, and I’m going to fall apart when they’re gone. They are my joy. I know I have given them a great life and the best of care, so that is some comfort. Previously I had a deaf rescue who died of canine dementia. That was hard. I’ll keep having rescue dogs until I’m no longer able to care for them, and I’m particularly drawn to the ones with special needs.

      Addie and Maggie are delightful! ❤ Rescue dogs 4ever.

    • I love the picture of Addie and Maggie. They look so happy. I have always adopted dogs too. After lockdown, I decided to start looking for a new job and high on the list was to work from home. I got a job working from home in May and they are my new work colleagues!

  • Happy Birthday Tracy ,and thank you for all the time and effort you put into this site, it is a true sanctuary of sanity! I love the name of your puppy, I work in a UK garden centre so I have to monitor Monty very closely to keep up with him!

  • Happy birthday! May your day be filled with love and peace.

    Your new puppy is so sweet. I love goldens- their hearts are the size of Texas.

    Speaking of golden retrievers, here’s a trust they suck anecdote. 6 years after Dday-4 years after divorce, my youngest was turning 16. With the help of an excellent counselor she has great boundaries with X. He’s as disordered as ever. He tried to bribe her with a new puppy since Dday (he walked out on our family dog and cat- never even inquired about them… but sociopath-paths use puppies to snare victims (ala Ted Bundy). She resisted but wanted a golden retriever puppy so bad. We had two older dogs and live in a rented home so I couldn’t give her a puppy. XH was caught cheating on AP, yet again, and my daughter learned that he bought AP a $5k golden mix puppy to appease her! WTF?! He sucks!!!! Daughter was devastated. So, XH bought daughter a $5k golden- flew her out from the Midwest— two puppies in two weeks. You can guess what happened? AP liked my daughter’s puppy better- was enraged and jealous that X bought his daughter a puppy. She tried to rename puppy. She threatened daughter that when she leaves X (they fight and break up every other week) she was going to take my daughter’s puppy with her. Daughter was enraged and scared. She spent several school nights at X’s where AP was so wasted she fell down and told my 16 year old she hated X and “never thought I’d end up with an old man when all my friends are getting married and having kids…!” Finally, after 3 weeks, XH gets tired of my daughter’s puppy and threatens to “re-home” her. WTF???!!! Trust they suck. Daughter becomes nearly suicidal. It’s a pandemic, she has no social life, stuck at home at 16, loves her new puppy and now this abuse?! I said no way! Went over to their house with daughter and picked up puppy for a play date. We never took her back and XH never once asked where puppy went. WTF?! trust they suck and always will.

    I adore puppy who I care for daily. My older dogs since passed and I cannot imagine life without her. She sleeps cuddled with my daughter every night and with me ever day … a happy ending.

    X is a sociopath…always was and always will be.

    • I hate that AP and your X.
      So glad you were able to get the puppy away and give your daughter peace of mind. Who does that shit?
      I hope the other puppy is ok with those lunatics.

  • And it’s great – congratulations if you marry again or find that great partner but you don’t have to find someone or go look for someone – you can reach meh and have a wonderful life without a husband – ( I have 3 puppies) – you don’t have to be the Hallmark hero finding another man to make the circle complete . Society grinds us into these roles. When you’re trying your best to be a good honest partner and team player you’re called co-dependent – a terribly hurtful and misused term . I love my life – I don’t have to put up with in-laws or a man’s burbs and farts – I love my life – I turn down plenty of dates because I love my life the way it is – but make no mistake – I had zero support, zero family money, repeat zero family support – what I had was education education education and the ability to earn an income – the most important thing we can teach our daughters is to always have the ability to independently provide food, shelter and clothing for themselves – then read poetry 🙂 Maslow’s hierarchy. If you find love again great – but don’t make it the goal post of a happy life.

    • Honestly after being with my abusive/controlling XH for 15 years (married for 10) and then separated since 2018 – I am LOVING being single. My own bed! My own house! My own schedule! Not having to worry about someone else’s preferences. I have a 10 year old (full time single mum – ex died last year) and that is plenty of responsibility for me right now. My alone time is precious and I don’t feel like wasting it on dating. I have family, friends, hobbies. I can’t think what a partner would add to my life right now. I’m not anti-love/relationships, but I don’t need a romantic partner to be happy. I’ve turned down every date I’ve been offered.

      As you said – education and the ability to earn an income. I can support myself and my son without help (although I do have a supportive family, and my mom let me live with her for a couple of years during the divorce). I have a good job. I’m now debt free other than my car. I was able to get my own apartment once we sold the marital home. I went on a solo vacation to England and had a blast. Once I’ve paid off my attorney, I’m going to start saving to buy a little farm. I love my life, too.

    • Fantastic comment, Jo! I completely agree, and as someone who was once chumped at the same age & after a big move for my ex’s job just as CL was, but has decided to intentionally remain happily single for life — I just can’t thank you enough for your comment. ???? I am my own Gain A Life.

  • Happy (belated) Birthday!

    Love the puppy and remember that you do too when he’s chewed things he shouldn’t, pooped where he shouldn’t, discovers that running at full tilt and using the back of the sofa as a springboard is GREAT fun (double-points if he can do this while someone is sitting on the sofa and he just misses them) and generally tests your patience in new, creative puppy ways.

    Remember to take him to the vet’s office for no particular reason. To get on the scale, be loved by the staff and collect a few dog treats. That way, the vet’s office isn’t JUST for the humiliating temperature-taking and shots.

  • Anything nice a FW does can and will be used against a chump whether the effort becomes a “bitch cookie” or worse.

    About ten months into his affair, FW took me out to dinner and dancing on my 40th. Formerly all my birthdays had been spent at home with the kids and a cake– more a kid event than anything else. Fine with me. But I assume FW was suddenly making an “effort” because, earlier that year, he’d gone into a three day DARVO attack that had left me completely shattered. I hadn’t been right since.

    I remember I had nothing to wear for the event. My BMI had dropped to about 16.5, my clothes were falling off so, because we were supposedly scrimping and saving for the kids’ future, I went to an antique store and bought some modest vintage silk dress for $10 that someone had probably worn once to a funeral in 1962. Very fitting.

    During the dinner, he kept ordering more and more wine and I got uncharacteristically tipsy. That in itself was a red flag. We’d never consumed more than a few glasses of wine a year for the entire marriage. Unbeknownst to me he’d been boozing daily in secret starting at 11 AM during the affair and his capacity had gone way up though mine hadn’t. So during the next massive DARVO attack a while later, he howled that he couldn’t be an alcoholic because otherwise I wouldn’t have drunk wine with him. And any time I got upset he’d yell (in front of the kids), “Are you drunk?” though I’d had nothing to drink.

    Unfortunately for FW his attempts to turn the kids against mom backfired along with his blackmail of trying to cast me as a bad parent to get me under his thumb. My tween daughter even said, “I think Dad’s gaslighting you” and “I can always tell when he’s bullshitting.” She started hacking his devices.

    FW’s not-so-subtle attacks on my parental fitness, that one in particular stemming from my birthday, were so terrifying that I had serial nightmares for months. It was always a dream about him leaving me for dead in various scenarios and taking the children away. For some background I’d previously assisted a group of advocacy attorneys investigating cases of state child removal– some related to contentious divorce– on false grounds of medical neglect when parents refused to medicate their children with Ritalin, antidepressants or antipsychotics. The coerced drugging trend fortunately faded when the opioid crisis was investigated by Congress but the politics were still scary at the time this was happening. Learning how dependency court doesn’t follow the rule of law and how easily bad faith actors can influence proceedings put the fear of God in me. And FW *knew* this because I shared my concerns with him while I was doing this work. It didn’t matter if he didn’t have grounds to do such a thing, he’d proven himself perfectly capable of inventing grounds for anything and in my fraught state, I wasn’t sure if others would believe him. I became paralyzed and inert for several months afterwards. I even realized as it was happening that I was acting exactly like a battered woman but I didn’t know how to get out of the thumb trap. D-Day released me from that prison.

    After D-Day when FW reluctantly showed me the “secret affair credit card” bills, I pieced together a detailed timeline of events including tracking down liquor store bills, itemized booze orders from every bar and bistro (tip: establishments keep those itemized receipts for up to five years) FW took the AP to to figure out who drank what and how much, whether they drove to the location and back, who was driving drunk, etc. The paper trail contained proof they both drank massive quantities and were committing DUIs every week. I included on the timeline references to the lies FW texted me in the exact moments he was out boozing and screwing and squandering family assets– all self pitying “I’m working so hard I may have a stroke” kind of crap. Good luck playing for sympathy in court, dude. I found the AP’s emails offering FW discounts from a cannabis dispensary where she was a preferred customer. FW was also concealing assets and playing poor with his family, even discouraging expenditures related to kids’ healthcare like advanced allergy testing.

    I organized all of this in calendar form and delivered it to my lawyer who said (seriously), “Is it my birthday or something?” It made his job easier. FW never dared to make another crack about my fitness. My 41st birthday wasn’t anything particularly special but I made a cake for the kids, enjoyed their handmade arty gifts and wore a silk Vampire’s Wife dress (lol). Happy birthday to me. It was wonderful to finally be out from under the menacing shadow of doom.

  • Very Happy Birthday Tracy! My 30th birthday involved some interaction with rat traps (we lived in a very old country farm house at the time)… I always thought that was eerily appropriate looking back, but tons of cow manure has that beat! Monty Dog looks gorgeous and I love his name inspiration. My now-husband and I got through most of the pandemic by streaming all the BBC Gardeners World shows
    with the truly lovely Monty Don. His love for his wife and family (as well as his dogs) just shine through in all those shows. We absolutely love him!

  • I cried when I read this.
    “ YOU ALL DESERVE THIS. Everyone deserves to have someone in their life who delights in delighting them. Who gets honest to God pleasure from giving to them. Who will go to whatever effort just to PLEASE you on your birthday.”
    My birthday was last week and after 5 years of narcissists and f* boys, I’m not sure if it’s in the stars for me. I’m starting to feel cursed.

  • Happy Birthday, Chump Lady! May your day be filled with bliss and wet, sloppy Monty Dog kisses!

    On July 15, 2021, I purchased LACGAL and stayed up most of the night reading every word in one sitting. The following Monday, I filed for divorce and went NC the minute the all asset transfers hit my accounts 31 days later. Though I had read Omar Minwalla’s work prior to discovering you, (and that was a godsend in and of itself as well) your book gave me the strength in my darkest hours to do what needed to be done to put me on the road to healing and rescue myself. I am, and will remain forever grateful to you and the important work you do here.

    Now, for some good news from the Divine camp to share with the CL nation in honor of your special day! In the last three weeks, I have signed a publishing contract with a major multi-media platform, started dating an old acquaintance from my high school days who thinks I hung the moon and isn’t at all shy about saying so and backing up his words with actions, and have been informed by my therapist that I’m ready to transition to “maintenance mode” given the progress we’ve made over the past year. As I write this I am:
    enjoying the best and healthiest relationship with my adult children than ever before
    sixty pounds lighter
    riding my bike 40 to 50 miles a week if the weather permits
    rocking what my hairdresser calls ‘big sexy hair’
    getting mani-pedi’s regularly as a part of my self-love routine
    going to concerts, sporting events, social activities once or twice a week
    AND scheduled to spend part of the winter in a cottage on the beach in the Caribbean solo, unless of course this dating thing works out and he wants to visit while I’m there. 😉

    It is YOU, Tracy, and ALL the beautiful chumps who open their hearts here (and I wish I knew personally!) who help me every day be a better version of myself than the day before. Your words and experiences matter … I’m living proof of it.

  • Happy birthday, Tracy! My birthday was Saturday, and I celebrated with good people close to my heart. Thanks for all the wisdom and community you provide! xo

  • What do you do if your life isn’t better and you don’t see it getting better? Yes, life is better from the standpoint of no FW, but there are tangible realities that go along with getting chumped that don’t always improve, like your finances, your living situation, etc. Not everyone gets that happy ending of a wonderful husband, if you don’t want to be single. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave a FW – you should – and I am genuinely happy for those who have truly gained a life they love. But for me, personally, with the exception of losing the FW, my life is very objectively worse. There’s just no getting around it.

    Happy birthday, Chumplady. The work you do is amazing. It helps knowing we’re not alone, even if some of us have yet to gain a life.

    • CBN,
      I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way. It sucks. I don’t know how long it’s been since you’re on your own but time does help heal.

      Many of us here have felt the same way for a long, long time. You are not alone!

      A friend and I were discussing this the other night. We decided that there was no “getting over” being cheated on for us and we will probably never “move on”.
      But we do laugh and find ways to bring happiness into our lives. A beautiful day, a good book and even a good meal is cause for pausing to appreciate the little things in life.

      Will my life ever include a partner to love and who loves me? Most likely not. Do I worry about my finances or what type of life I will have going forward? Absolutely. At 65, I have many more years behind me that ahead. But I choose to find the small joys in life and hold on to them tightly. I think that’s all we can do – create the best mental state we can and try to find joy (or at least satisfaction) where possible. I force myself out to do and to experience whatever I can. Sometimes it’s hard but I hang on and never stop trying to better my life.

      I hope that you can also find whatever joy in your life that you can. No one person can do this for us. It’s our life and all we can do is keep trying.

      Sending hugs and healing thoughts your way.

      • Thanks, Rebecca, and to everyone else who responded to my post. I think it just hasn’t been enough time yet and I’m not grateful enough for what I do have. I’m 60, with FW 30 years, married for 27, divorced in 2019. I think I was spoiled by my former life situation and am comparing what I have now to what I used to have, including expectations of a blissful retirement with someone I thought loved me. I’m not in a “bad” situation at all, and I needed your wake-up calls (not that you were intending that) to snap out of my lack of gratitude for what I do have, rather than focusing on what I don’t. Thank you, truly. A friend once told me that comparison is the thief of joy, and I keep forgetting that.

    • CBN, to answer that question we would have to know the specifics of why your life sucks.
      You mention problems with finances and your living situation. Are you unemployed, in a low paying job, or retired?
      Are you living in an area you dislike or in inadequate housing?
      There may be ways to improve the situation, so I wish I knew the details. I’m awfully sorry life is sucking for you and wish I could help.

  • My 40th birthday also sucked! It was the final day of a family trip to Colorado, that of course I planned. There was zero acknowledgement of my birthday from my spouse of 18 years, no present, no cake, no hug, nada. His response, “What do you expect, for me to look at the calendar while I’m on vacation?” It was just awful, a true low point for me. When I returned home, I bought Tracy’s book and kicked him to the curb months later. 4 years later, I have wonderful boyfriend who truly adores me. I sold the rundown family house and bought a new home for me and my kids. Like Chump Lady, I didn’t know what it was to be in a reciprocal relationship during my marriage. It’s so wonderful to feel validated and adored. Stick with it, it gets so much better.

  • I have a funny birthday moment to share. Embarrassing and funny, I didn’t realize how funny it was until a few years ago.
    One year, a few days before my birthday I was at the grocery store bakery ordering my birthday cake. The lady behind the counter asked what I wanted written on the cake. I told her “Happy Birthday Brit”, she paused for a moment, looked at me, and said, isn’t that you?

    Being a chump it didn’t occur to me that people don’t normally order their own birthday cakes when they have an able bodied husband at home. I can’t believe I accepted that as normal.

  • Happy b-day CL! My 50th was last year. I got an “oh yeah, It’s your b-day.” He made dinner, {It sucked} then spent the rest of the evening watching TV. This is what I got on most gift giving days. when he wasn’t getting me gifts that were more for him than me. example, I don’t mind Adel, I like one or two of her songs. So why get me 19, 21, ect? Wasn’t for me, He ended up listening to them more than I ever did. I am currently considering withdrawing from the whole bullshit idea that there is someone out there who would treat me any better. I think I am giving up. Any one want a slightly used life?

    • I am so sorry you are feeling blue. I don’t know if there is a someone out there who is worth your time, but at 56, I am enjoying life more alone than I did during all but the earliest days of my marriage. Occasionally lonely on my own beats nearly always lonely in the presence of a spouse who didn’t love or respect me. It has taken a few years, but my world has filled up with friends who make my life joyful and who appreciate what I can bring to their lives. I wish better days ahead for you.

      • Thanks, Eilonwy. My anniversary is coming up and I am somewhat overwhelmed right now. Trying to trust in the suck and kick the hopeium. One day at a time, they say.

    • Justme, why do you think it’s bullshit? As CL often says, you could swing a cat in a bar and find somebody better than the FW.
      Besides, one can be happily single. I’ve had a lifetime of taking care of kids, the FW and finally my parents, who have passed on now. I relish my freedom from caretaking a partner. I’m the kind of person needy people are drawn to, so relationships always seem to turn in that direction. Now I have more time for taking care of myself and pursuing my interests. You may get to a place where you find being single suits you, too.

      • I am wallowing, and know it. Anniversary coming up and I am trying to not care. But damn, I am tired.

  • Happy Birthday, Tracy! And congrats on being Monty’s mom! Life is good! And so much better when you’re fw-free.

  • But you didn’t explain about the puppy!!!

    My birthdays provide convenient memory-points as well.

    My 30th birthday, my first date with FW. We are exclusive for about six years, move in together for two more, and then get married.
    My 50th birthday, FW calls me from overseas to tell me he has tested positive, twice, for HIV … and the ONLY way he could have gotten it, according to him, was from being treated at a rural third-world clinic he’d been at when he was in college. Before he met me. Before we got married, successfully conceived our daughter, who was born by C-section and who was breastfed the first year of her life. Apparently all that time, he was HIV-positive.

    Of course, that was just a cover story. It was just apparently easier on him to allow me to believe that happened, and I believed it, only because he hated sex so much I couldn’t picture him getting HIV any other way. Happy Birthday to Me!

    I will never again as long as I live, have a “bad birthday” as bad as that one.

  • Happy Birthday, Tracy with gratitude for the life you given me and so many chumps!

    Although I haven’t found a new romantic partner, I spent the day gaining a life by shopping for a new (used) car. And you know what? I had the help of friends and a mechanic with whom I maintained decades long relationships. Because I’m not a dick like FW.

  • Happy birthday Tracy ! Looks like you’ll be having good trouble with puppy Monty !

  • Never say never and all that, but for a lot of reasons, I don’t think I will ever want to partner up again. So I am working on being the “someone” in my life who “delights in delighting me.” I was married for 35 years to a man who definitely did not care to care for me, so I have a lot of caring and delighting to make up for!

  • I’m in luuuurve with Monty Dog. What an absolute darling. Please post regular photos as he grows up. Pretty please?
    Happy birthday CL. You deserve all the blessings you have and more.

  • One thing I’ve noticed about narcs generally – their birthdays are so important they believe the occasion should be marked with a national holiday and perhaps a minute’s silence. Whilst meantime the victim/s’ birthday is invisible or an inconvenience. Interestingly over time I came onboard with this idea that the narc and the kids’ birthday were worth celebrating, and I put all my efforts into them, whilst mine was barely mentioned. I realised my kids really wanted to celebrate my birthday too, so in the dying throes of the marriage I started having a family weekend away to celebrate my birthday with the family camping. In hindsight, I dont think the narc was too impressed with this arrangement. He was quietly seething. Jealous idiots, all of them.

    • oh yes, and I forgot that after we separated, and I continued the tradition of the family camping trip on my birthday, minus the ex, he found out about it, turned up as we were packing the car and parked my car in so we couldnt leave – he pretended to rummage around in the garage for a nail he urgently needed (perhaps for his own coffin – one can only hope) or perhaps one of his burner phones

    • ” their birthdays are so important they believe the occasion should be marked with a national holiday and perhaps a minute’s silence. Whilst meantime the victim/s’ birthday is invisible or an inconvenience. ”

      This is so on the mark in my case. I always made a big deal out of fw’s birthday, and of course my son’s Bday. FW always forgot mine, or at least pretended to forget. Quite frankly I don’t think he forgot it, but actually deliberately ignored it. Same with valentines day.

      When our son was younger, I would actually remind my son of my birthday, because I knew he would want to do something. He would make me a card, and usually get me some Tab or Reese Cup. I didn’t care about the gifts, but just wanted him to know it was important to acknowledge.

      I would say in 21 years I could count on one hand how many times fw remembered my Bday. And those times were in the very early years, plus the year of discard. The year of discard he sent me flowers at work, exactly one month before my actual birthday. Not sure what that was about. Likely so he could stubbornly have his streak of ignoring my actual Bday.

  • Oh I love this birthday post! Yay for Monty too. The lame gift reminds me of the birthday present I got, three months before DDay. I was turning 50 and my husband went back to our home town (we live overseas) for a family wedding without me because we both couldn’t afford to go home. Anyway as if that wasn’t bad enough he bought me the ugliest, cheapest watch from an outlet store that he left in the outlet mall bag and didn’t even bother to wrap. He kind of handed it to me as he was unpacking his suitcase. The bag was partially crumpled. I was so hurt. I asked him to take me out to dinner and he was so distracted and disinterested it was depressing me. I asked what was wrong and he claimed work stress and jet lag were the culprits. Many months later after he moved out with the OW, I found evidence on our home computer that he was hooking up with women back in our home town on that trip AND he was with the OW back here. Does that mean he was cheating on her too?? Anyway that was my bad birthday story. No cow shit but there might as well have been.

  • Happy Belated Birthday, Tracy! That puppy looks awfully cute. I hope you enjoy him or her very much. You deserve him or her. I also hope the house-breaking-in-period is as short as possible for you and the family.

    I’m afraid your birthday is the same day as my former wedding anniversary (it would have been 30 years), and I didn’t look at the post until this morning (early on 9/27). So again, sorry for wishing you happy birthday late.

    On the plus side (for me), yesterday I didn’t get dragged down w/sadness like I have in the past. The FW XW and her equally shitty partner have gone off to Italy for their first anniversary. She had to tell me via email exactly where she was going, since in her nasty mind/soul, she had to get in a dig at me. And yes, the fact that they were taking the trip during what would have been our anniversary did not escape me.

    My response to her email was similar to when she told me last year she was getting married to the FW AP, her rich, former boss. I simply sent back, “Viewed.”

    I’m pretty much at who the fuck cares at roughly five and a half years out following D-day, and three and a half years after the final divorce date. Not that I can’t say I wouldn’t be happy if something ugly happens to them on their trip, but it’s not my main concern in life.

    Instead, I had dinner w/my son at a restaurant. Which was ok, as he’s full into teenagerhood at almost 17 years old (his birthday is early next month), and somewhat hard to talk to anymore. It didn’t help he feels he can’t spare an upcoming weekend because of his studies to visit his only remaining grandmother, my mom.

    None of my kids unfortunately want much to do w/her, as in her old age (she became 87 years old this summer), she has turned from being just a devout Catholic into a highly right-wing/conservative, ultra-Catholic (Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi aren’t real Catholics in her opinion, and are ruining the country). And my kids and I are fairly liberal, as is their fuckwit mother.

    And as my kids, like I think many others of their generation are behaving, can’t abide w/anyone who isn’t in lock-step w/their beliefs, they don’t want to engage w/their remaining grandmother anymore. Which makes me sad.

    My siblings and I aren’t thrilled w/mother’s opinions or actions many times either, but we love her, and know that’s what matters (she loves us too, and her grandkids, but is also a big narcissist as well. So, two strikes against her).

    Hard to get my kids to listen when I have nobody else they will listen to in my family, let alone me, after the fallout of their mother’s adultery. I think they think we’re all too bitter regarding their mother, and therefore overly biased against her.

    My two oldest siblings have no love for their mother, but don’t shove it in my kids’ faces (usually). But it still makes things hard. It’s their mom, and I don’t think they want to think ill of her. Unfortunately, they do tend to listen more to their mother and her family, as I think they tell them more what they want to hear.

    Also, I suspect the counselors they all saw post D-day to help them navigate the bombshell their mother handed us all didn’t help to make them sympathetic or empathetic to our dim view of their mother or her adulterous actions. So, it is what it is.

    Ok, back to my son. He wants to go to MIT. I’m trying to subtly warn him that it’s not likely to happen as he’s a good student (B’s to A’s), but not a great student. I’m happy he’s a good student, as that’s good enough for me. But he’s determined to try, so I sit back and watch, as he knows all right now, and Dad knows little, if anything.

    Now I have to try to leave this on a positive note, as I feel I may have got off course from doing that. Very sorry about that.????

    I hope your puppy, your husband, your son, and most importantly YOU had a great day yesterday. You absolutely deserve it. I’m wishing you all the best for your next year of life, and thanking you for all you’ve done for me and CN. You’re the best. Lots of love to you and your family.

  • Happy Birthday!!!!! Thank you for being a gift to all of us during the hardest time.
    Have the best day 🙂

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