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How Did You Mentally Survive Infidelity?

free your mindDear Chump Lady,

I have been thinking for a while about sending this email to you. So here goes, thank you, thank you, for your amazing and life-changing website. My D-day was many years ago now, but the shame and embarrassment still stayed with me in a quiet corner of my life. A bit like having a small room in one’s house that you know you should get around to cleaning out, but you just can’t face it. You know it’ll be dark, mouldy and full of crap, so you keep putting it off.

As I enter the last half of my life (because of course I’m going to live till 145…), I wanted to summon up the courage to confront that sad little “room” and clear it out for good. A quick Google search for “abusive cheater” brought me right into Chump Nation. I read almost every post for the last 5 years and every single comment. The commentariat here is so unbelievably rich in emotional intelligence, insight and even humour. I was blown away and everything from so long ago suddenly came into perspective.

I was born in the UK (Scotland) and met my American XFW when he was there on holiday one year. Looking back I can see he was a complete red flag franchise, but I swept all that aside and we were married in a big church wedding. Shortly afterwards we moved to the US, where I managed to get a well-paying job in my chosen speciality.

After that, everything changed and I now realise that I became the “wife appliance” (a great CL term). No need to actually work when someone else is doing all that. First signs were XFW coming in later and later, usually with The Smirk. Smelling of drink and heaven knows what. Then the declamatory statements such as “You can’t tell me what to do!” and “You aren’t the boss of me!”. I had thought over the years that somehow these were original utterances but post-CL, I realised that these were merely opening gambits in the standard cheater-script.

This was all well before the internet so there were no mobile phones or social media, so I really had no way to track what was going on. But I just knew anyway and he didn’t care that I knew. At the same time, XFW ramped up the devaluation mode. I was told I was fat (nope), ugly (nope) and that no-one would ever want me again (double nope). Emotional abuse soon escalated to physical violence and it was then I really learnt to use spackle (another great CL concept). That time he threw a full gallon paint tin at me? Well, at least he made sure the lid was hammered down first! The time he threw me out of the car on the highway? Well, at least he slowed the car down first! The time he grabbed my hair and slammed my head into the wall? Well, this was a spackle two-fer, since I used the actual spackle to repair the wall damage (and he slammed the back of my head so didn’t break my nose!).

It was after other similar incidents that I was struck with absolute blinding clarity that this was not the life I wanted or deserved. I was going to get out. It seems that somehow I short-circuited the process and arrived at the important CL question “Is this relationship acceptable to you?” A huge NO in my case. Going forward I had a tense few months where I kept my intentions hidden as I made arrangements to protect myself physically and financially and file for divorce. When XFW went to visit his parents (several 1000s miles away), I arranged to have him served with divorce papers there. I only ever had three phone calls from XFW after that, all pre-set to the MindFuck channel of Charm, Self-Pity and Rage. XFW never got a lawyer or responded at all and I got my divorce within 6 months (no property or children, so it was very straightforward).

I did all this completely on my own, I had no close friends living anywhere near (remember, no email or texts in those days), I couldn’t burden work colleagues with this, my family was thousands of miles away, his family dropped me like toxic waste and I never heard from them again. I never even thought of therapy, as I didn’t think it was for people in my situation. I sometimes feel as if I choked down a solo shit-buffet rather than just a shit-sandwich.

My life since then has been blessed. I later met and married my now-husband and we recently celebrated 35 years of genuinely happy marriage. Mother Nature was very kind and I had my first child at age 39 and my second at age 44.

My challenge question to CN would be, how did you mentally survive all this? Who did you confide in to help get you to the other side, the sunlit uplands? Did you have a close friend or friends? The support of your family? A trusted therapist? A good-quality punching bag? Pints of Haagen Daaz ice cream? I really could have used any of these at the time.

My now-husband is wonderful and understanding but I think I needed validation from others who had been through this. So, thanks to Chump Nation, when I finally looked in that sad shame-filled little “room”, I realised it was now completely empty (maybe I’ll make it into a sewing room?)




Dear MegaMeh,

Thank you for the challenge idea. I’m so sorry you had to go through that alone. I’d be curious to learn how you answer your own challenge question.

So CN, what was your mental script that shut down the devaluing, the gaslighting, and all the other mental crapola that goes with being chumped? How did you survive the head game of infidelity?

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Soon after everything fell apart, I was reading Altered Carbon. That quote by Quellcrist Falconer really resonated with me.

    “Face the facts. Then act on them. It’s the only mantra I know, the only doctrine I have to offer you, and it’s harder than you’d think, because I swear humans seem hardwired to do anything but. Face the facts. Don’t pray, don’t wish, don’t buy into centuries-old dogma and dead rhetoric. Don’t give in to your conditioning or your visions or your fucked-up sense of . . . whatever. Face the facts. Then act.”

    So I acted.

    • HC, what a remarkable statement. Have saved it.

      I’ll speak on behalf of my brother who was the chump.. He got so angry it sent him straight to a judge and he got full custody of his abandoned children. I found it so amazing that he had that kind of grit because he had always been the sweetest, least aggressive, person I knew. Somewhere inside him he got what he needed to do to get his children safe. That warrior was unleashed and he never let his protective self settle again.
      His second marriage was the kind everyone wants.

      • I forgot to add that my brother learn to say NO. NO is a complete sentence. No to gaslighting. No to sloppy, selfish behaviors. No to keeping secrets. No to waiting so long that you were finally abandoned because she found some fun somewhere. NO is a complete sentence.

    • Yeah. That’s what I did, I faced the facts. Including that I had been spackling over Sparkledick and that he and his family only liked what I did for them.

      Another thing that helped me was that I have a decent job, I was independent, and I love my work.

      Cheers for MegaMeh!

    • That’s what I did after much angst. Great quote.
      We were happy for 34 years. 2 years of his odd behavior, depression? pain? cheating? Gf howorker reveals herself, I find LACGAL( had consult with lawyer I was sure I wouldn’t need), I think I am still missing something. Find his drugs. That explained lot$$$ of missing money. Had intervention, he pretended to go to counseling and meetings. I speak with a pharmacist about late life addiction, he tells me the misery that lies ahead, FW rehires GF, I face facts and file.

      I had a lot of trouble with the sickness and in health Vow. But he wasn’t doing anything to help himself and if you know anything about addiction you can’t do it for somebody. Another part of facing facts.

      • Sandyfeet, don’t forget the first half of that vow, “to love and to cherish,” if they are not loving and cherishing you then they are the ones who have broken that vow, not you.

        • I used to get SO SAD when I saw the Bible passage that described love “Love is patient, love is kind…” as I read it, I would say to myself “no, no, no, never, no….” because he displayed none of those traits. My worst fear was that my husband did not love me. Cut to the chase, my then-husband did not love me. The world, however did not crack open and swallow me whole. I created a new life and if anything, his lack of love for me made living without him much easier.

          • OMG, same for me! And when I read the book Boundaries, and got to the part about if someone doesn’t take your “no” then they do not love you, I knew then that my husband did not love me. That was before I knew he was a cheater. But the Bible does not justify a divorce because your spouse does not love you, so I couldn’t do anything about it. However, mercifully, the Bible does justify divorcing a cheater, and that’s what I did once I found out he had in fact cheated. Even God knows you shouldn’t stay with a cheater.

    • So yes, Hopeful Cynic! My mantra became ‘It is what it is’. Face the reality, acknowledge that it sucks, act accordingly, move on.

      • same! added “it is what it is -it becomes what I make it” as a reminder to focus on the things I could do something about

      • My mantra is “so be it”.

        I added a new one recently, and it’s “make every day special”

    • Thanks HC! In my first ever posted comment I did thank you for your “Face the facts” quote! I love it, It’s a total “cut the crap” action plan manifesto!

    • Wow. Hopeful Cynic’s quote from Altered Carbon is great. I bet a lot of us at CN are on the same page as that, now.

      But I remember the early days (D-day to about 6-9 months after). Being a complete newbie to Chumpdom. When I was overwhelmed by the mindfuck performed on me. Finding the RIC online, and to a certain extent finding it in the psychologist counselor tight after D-day. At least he did say something similar to the Altered Carbon quote. He tried to get through to me that my FW XW was not likely to be coming back, based on her actions and words. That was very hard to accept after being together w/her for over 27 years, and almost 25 of them married.

      After D-day I was in complete shock, alternating between fighting back against what the FW XW had done to me and our family (I wanted REVENGE!!!) and playing the Pick-Me!-Dance. Oscillating between those two states, w/grief tearing me apart throughout. I got some revenge and still danced for her. It was a bizarre time.

      What got me through it or started getting me out of that was simple. At around the six month mark, I found CL and CN. I contacted CL directly, and told her my story. Tracy emailed me back quickly, telling me the FW XW was an idiot. I cannot express how good it felt to have an impartial but caring stranger tell me that. It solidified the part of me that said, as imperfect a husband as I had been, nobody deserved to be treated like that.

      The entire philosophy of CL and CN made sense to me, and resonated strongly w/me. I believed in psychology helping us in many areas of life, but I felt that it got it really wrong when it came to infidelity. It seemed to be overwhelmingly stacked towards the person committing infidelity, and not the chump.

      Tracy’s simple premise of, if you’re unhappy in your relationship, it’s up to you to try to make it better (you know, trying to work WITH your partner towards that end), or failing at that, break with your partner honestly, and as gently and humanely as you can. But w/honesty and w/as much integrity as possible. Then move on from there. That’s the adult way to handle a relationship.

      Infidelity is the opposite of that (or close to it). It’s immature. It shows a lack of respect for yourself as a person, which leads to a lack of respect and abuse of your partner, and extends to the greater family. It’s cowardice as well. Immaturity mixed w/cowardice is not a good place to start from, for anything.

      It took at least eighteen more months after those first six months of being in shock and absolute hell for me to get mentally strong enough to realize that for all my shortcomings as a husband and as a person, that the way my marriage ended reflected badly much more on my FW XW than it did on me.

      And yes, I had serious grief and crying bouts daily throughout those first two years post D-day about how my FW XW treated our love, our marriage, and our family by fucking us all over in fucking her rich, married boss behind my back for months, then exit-affairing me when I finally had to confront her about her coldness towards me. VH helped me w/that when she talked about having a mirage, not a marriage. That helped fortify my mental position on all this, too.

      I still need to work on being a better person, but that’s on me. The end of my almost 25 years of marriage, w/no adultery throughout on my end? That’s mainly on the fuckwit whore-slut that is my XW. That gives me the mental strength to go on, move on and thrive.

      In a strange way, the FW XW did me a favor. She helped me see relationships clearer. How to find better partners, how to better behave w/them, and how to better end relationships w/them, but only if needed, and only after seriously trying to work things out w/your partner, with as much dignity and respect for all involved. Including yourself.

      I don’t know that I’ll ever have a romantic relationship w/a woman again (I’m not interested in any other type), but I’m ok w/that. I’d rather be as happy as I can be w/out one than getting fucked over like my last one.

      In other words, I’m open to a new romantic relationship at this point. but if it doesn’t happen, I’m alright w/that too. I’m not chasing after one. That gives me mental strength too. It’s not inner peace exactly, but it’s good knowledge and understanding of where I’m at that soothes my soul.

      I hope the newbies to CN get something useful out of this. It’s not been an easy road, and I absolutely believe it’s a different path for everyone, but there are similarities between them all, and basic ideas that can help anyone.

      Respecting and loving yourself is probably number one. Just don’t go overboard. The world doesn’t need any more people that are more narcissistic than caring.

      Giving others the love, respect, and empathy you’d appreciate them giving you is probably number two. Care about other people. They’re as important as you are.

      Being thankful for every little thing you do have in life is a good number three (life can always be worse). This was something I had to work hard to flip my mind towards after D-day. I consciously realized I could let this conveyor belt of shit sandwiches that the FW XW gifted me drag me down going forward, or I could accept that that was only a part of my life, and that there were a whole lot of other things in my life to be thankful for and enjoy.

      And realizing that everyone else does not think or act the same as you do is maybe number four. It seems stupid to say (duh!), but I think we’re all guilty at times of thinking other people will think or act the same as we do, hopefully in a kind and giving manner. Unfortunately, many people don’t care to give, or at least give much. They prefer to take, or to take more often than give.

      Watch out for them and act appropriately. These are not people you want around you, but if you’re stuck w/them because of work or some other reason, be aware of them, and protect yourself. They do not have anyone’s best interest at heart but their own.

      Those are the major things I can think of right now that help me mentally every day. Hope this helps somebody. If nothing else, it helps me to write this stuff down, as it clarifies my thinking. Thanks for the opportunity to brain-drop on you all. Wishing CL and all of CN the best, and that we all find peace and Tuesday as soon as we can.

  • Megameh
    Just want to say that your eloquence, clever yet restrained snark, and brave insight is a total reflection of the whole Chump Nation as I’ve experienced it. Tone set by our brilliant Chump Lady. Put so well: “ The commentariat here is so unbelievably rich in emotional intelligence, insight and even humour.”

    So much fantastic humour.

    Ok, my answers, no particular order:
    Art, gardening, walking in the bush (as we say in Aus), swimming in the ocean, a LOT of Pilates (mind/body I have found is so much better than mind/mind ie therapy), music, kitchen dancing, my dog and her love, obligatory alcohol-self-medication – good for kitchen dance partying. (Sorry but it’s true.)

  • I survived by: going to Womens refuge, a great GP, friends and late night calls back home to my lovely mother. I drank a lot of wine, cried, and took my ex’s wedding suit and shred it with a knife. I kept it in its garment bag and when I needed a release I took it out and went to town slicing it to shreds. It was a sad time but I made it through the sheer strength of pure warrior’s work! Each day was an utter hell of being abandoned and left with no support. I started on two different antidepressants. I went on walks, took baths and cried and cried. I think I got by on my own fortitude and love for my child and wanting her to thrive. In the meantime he wouldn’t settle our property and it took two years of BS to finally get him to mediation. But then I bought my house and now live with my daughter in a blissfully FW free zone. I am dating a man who loves me and I have a big juicy job with a nice salary. Life without cheaters is so much better❤️

    • LOL. Shredding with a knife!

      A friend of mine literally smashed to bits all her wedding china and glassware when they separated. She recorded herself with her phone as a memory. It represented the future that she thought they would have together when she got married. I sold most of mine to buy groceries when we were really struggling. It just seemed right to me. I sold the dream for rice, beans, chicken, and vegetables. I still have a few pieces remaining on eBay that I really should discount and get rid of, but I recovered financially and have other priorities at present.

      • Sell! Sell! Sell! Klootzak doesn’t buy me gifts for birthday, holidays, etc. I am still making preparations to leave. So for my birthday I bought myself some REALLY nice things as birthday gifts and left them in their boxes with the intent to sell them all later when I need funds for who knows what. I unwrapped the things on my birthday in front of our child and said oh what a nice gift! Klootzak thought my mother sent them. Nobody asked so I put them away for a rainy day. Never know when I’ll be selling a high end bag for chicken!

  • Mega Meh and CL – What an important Friday challenge ! The cognitive dissonance of being chump is similar, but different from the grief explained in Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking. There are few settings in which to discuss or heal. It’s not just domestic abuse, nor just toxic narcissism. Cheating is a violation of a promise made between individuals and their families. It also violates a legal agreement. The mental healing starts with recognizing the cheater counts on the isolation of the chump. And, ironically, the remedy is No Contact with the chump.

  • I’m so relieved that MegaMeh’s story has a happy ending, that it didn’t end with her suffering a debilitating head injury from a paint can, that she not only met another person and has been happily married but that she KNOWS that the XFW was wrong when he told her she was ugly, fat, and no one would want her. She didn’t internalize those lies from the cheater. For so many of us, those criticism have a way of slipping into the deepest grooves of our brains.

    Whenever I read about a physical abuse, I get angry. Infidelity is abuse, but the head-to-the-wall abuse is another level. Those people are felons and should be locked up.

    And I’m so impressed that she extricated herself with some of the typical supports.

    On the contrary, I had lots of people buttressing me: family, friends, a great therapist, and CN (including, of course, CL)! ????

    • Thanks so much for your comments S@35. The paint can incident was one of the main “I’ve got to get out of here moments” for me. The can did hit me but on the arm (I still have a small scar there). All I could think of was that I wouldn’t survive any escalated violence, like (as you say) being hit on the head. No, I never believed the insulting put-downs but it took a lot of internal fortitude and energy to mentally keep rebutting these. No wonder I was so exhausted all the time. Also, no wonder I felt so unbelievably light and free when the divorce was final. I lost 225lbs of life draining dark force in one day! Long hug!

  • MegaMeh, first – I’m sorry you went through all of that. How awful. Did you ever pursue therapy later in life just to help you unpack the trauma you endured? Because your writing (which is lovely btw) seems to imply that you continued to carry this alone even all these years later. I hope not.

    I think most of us are so thrown by all the gaslighting, abuse by a FW and then the big reveal of a traumatic DDay (s), that we go into a shock initially. For me, it was so unexpected and I was so thrown, I had all those thoughts of giving up on myself, running away, just crawling into a hole. It was my first experience with panic attacks and anxiety. I lost 25 pounds the first month and hardly slept for a year.

    But because I had a 9 year old boy, I was shaken awake quickly by my need to protect him. I immediately got a lawyer (who helped on some level, but also took advantage of me financially … I switched to a much better one later). The lawyer did point me to a great therapist… so that helped a LOT.

    I also told all my friends and family. I asked for help. I let my rabbi know. And I let everyone help me. Friends would come over and take long walks with me. Friends brought food for me and my son. I went to Friday night services nearly every week at my synagogue just to pray and get kindness from the community. My mom let me come over and I’d sleep in a chair and finally rest.

    On weekends when my son was with his father, I’d plan time for myself. I remember getting Deadpool as soon as it came out on DVD and watching it alone just to laugh.

    I messaged friends in Australia. I was awake all night in the US, but the time change was perfect for chatting with my Australian friends. I always had someone to talk to and vent.

    My sister was estranged from me (she’s not the healthiest person herself). But I reached out and at least was able to reconcile with her for a few years and get my son time with his cousins. She wouldn’t do much for me but she did help me find a better lawyer. (unfortunately she likes me broken, so once I started healing, she dumped me again)

    I focused on my son. I refused to let his childhood be ripped away by that FW. It was summer and I took him to the beach (already paid vacation from before FW left), to a friend’s house with a swimming pond, got us free Hershey Park tickets from a friend, and took him to Busch Gardens with cheap discount tickets. I did whatever I could to focus on him and do fun things with him even though we had no money during the divorce. But that helped me mentally too.

    So much of it was that I just leaned in and took whatever help I could get. A couple of friends and my mom offered a little money to help me with my lawyer too. I made the decision to take it and pay it all back when I sold my house. One year later, I paid back every debt.

    What I didn’t do? I was afraid to drink or take any meds. My fear was that I was so exhausted already that if my son needed me and I had been drinking, I wouldn’t be safe to drive or help him. And I didn’t want to take meds and have it brought up by FW during custody discussions. So that was hard. I’m sure some prescribed meds would have been helpful.

    Today I still go to therapy, 7 years later. I think it’s coming to an end though.

    I hope this helps somebody reading. Much love to all. Happy Friday

    • Thanks for your comments MS, I have read so many of yours here on CN that I feel like I know you. No, I never did pursue any formal therapy. I probably should have done but over the years, I just quietly worked through it all myself. I just kept reminding myself that I was a good person and that bad things had happened to me. But that didn’t make me a bad person. As I said in my first posted comment, I learned to become my own life preserver and my own oxygen mask. Love back to you!

      • MegaMeh – you read all my comments? That’s so nice! And I’ll apologize now that I repeat so much. I always feel like I should fill in any gaps for new readers… but it must be annoying for everyone else ????
        I think we all sort of know each other on here. We have a very good group people assembled by CL!

        • Always share your journey. You never know where someone is on theirs. To know there is light at the end of the tunnel is imperative knowledge for Chumps.

          Cheers to you.

    • I get it about medication & alcohol. I wanted to be able to go wherever or whenever I was invited by daughters with grands, whether to dinner or the playground.

  • I got through it by getting busy. I hated the evening and night and I would mostly scour the internet for resources on dealing with Narcissists/sociopaths. Before I got angry, I looked at reconciliation websites. I think I had found CN around this time, but I just wasn’t ready.

    I got busy as I was pregnant when the exFW left, so I had to get busy sorting out logistics for my son who was 7 and my daughter who was soon to arrive. Ex was not corresponding to any of my reasonable requests with childcare, so I contacted a lawyer and let him deal with it and sorted out child maintenance.

    I put everything into my work and I had an amazing manager, who supported me through it all. I am so thankful to her. I don’t think she knows how much I appreciated our chats.

    When my daughter arrived, I took a year off work and put my all into sorting out my house, looking after the kids, and making sure they were okay. I got my son and I into counselling.

    I had my sisters who were a great support and my ex’s family who supported me ????
    My mum had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and so I had to get her moved closer to me and my sisters. This all kept me busy until I returned to work a year later and things were calmer between ex and I.

    When I found CN again, I totally engaged with it and I’ve been reading ever since, but yes, I just got busy by default and got through it, but I did dread the evening and nights. I don’t think I slept properly for about 2 years.

    I am so thankful to be through it all. It’s been almost 7 years since it all happened now.

  • How do you mentally survive infidelity?, I’ll let you know when I make it. So far it has been through the patience and grace of friends who have been chumped. I have been blessed with a sub group of incredible friends who have unfortunately been through the same shitty experience. They understand.
    I hope somebody here one day uses this group for a psychological study. I am sure it will show Chumps have a higher than normal amount of integrity, trust, loyalty and compassion.
    Thanks CN. Have a great day

    • “a psychological study….will show Chumps have a higher than normal amount of integrity, trust, loyalty and compassion.”

      yep – could’na said it any better than that – – so glad that you did

  • Mega, I’m sorry you went through that alone and I’m so glad you found peace, love and happiness on the other side.

    Your challenge is a good but tough one for me because, well…..I was conditioned to accept abuse as a child (narc father and step mother….as far as my mother, she was a complete doormat accepting others abuse and then teaching her children to accept/ignore it bc it was “unladylike” to buck the system????‍????). Then add on I’m from the South and it’s very misogynistic and the good old boy system down here….yes, even the women are that way. If you are pretty, nice, kind, and smart – watch out! The women down here will rip you to shreds anyway they can. If people smell blood in the water, you are toast! So, for me I had to go the shit very much alone too except for 1 very important person and that was my sister❤️❤️❤️ She too was trying to figure out the shit as her ass of an ex husband abandoned her and their 2 kids for smoochie when their 2nd born was a week old. Between the 2 of us it was hard! We understood bits and pieces of the shit sandwich but it was very fragmented….she is older and more mature so she got things a lot quicker than I did and broke a lot of the patterns that I couldn’t seem to break. For example, even after D-day I continued to associate myself with toxic people in every area of my life unknowingly until it was too late and chaos would ensue bc they felt “normal” to me. (Fuck! It was awful!!!) She would try to help me understand what I was doing and it drove a rift between us because I was being toxic and it exhausted her by continuing to choose toxic people in my life and constantly needing emotional rescue.????. I genuinely didn’t understand what I was doing but I knew I had to figure it out. So, after my sister told me I was exhausting because a series of other toxic situations, I isolated myself and dove deep into Chump Lady, educating myself about narcissism, abuse, trauma bonds, and boundaries. I finally found a good therapist who helped me quickly put pieces together instead of the old dragging it out until the patient is “self-aware”….he was black and white because he could see I was struggling and others took advantage of my desensitization of abuse and trauma bonds as a child.

    Now, I have been divorced now for 9 years and narc free for 4. I distanced myself from toxic people, have a great job, amazing friends and my sister and I close but still not as close as we once were and that is ok. We love one another and have our boundaries. It’s healthy!

    • Southern, I too live in the south. But my experience was a far cry from what you described. Yes, misogyny runs rampant in our neck of the woods, but I found the men in my ‘tribe’, which consist mainly of the husbands of my gal pals and a network of over 50 gay men, remarkable in their efforts to circle the wagons around me and protect me in the immediate aftermath. Sure, I had to talk a couple of them out bringing loaded firearms to keep watch while my few belongings were being moved out of my marital home, but on the whole, these men stood up for me, comforted me, cooked out on the grill for me, and a few shed tears with me.
      The women? God knows, when I arrived late one night at the house I would be staying at until the divorce was final, a half dozen women were there waiting on me. My dear friend put out the call that a broken Divine was in route and needed support. Over the next four weeks, these women enveloped me with love and care and nursed me back to life.
      The best thing to come from all of it? I got angry … mad as a wet hen as we say. These genteel ladies of the ‘Sip brought out the warrior in me! It helped me fight and claw for mental clarity and healing. They weren’t about to lose me, and helped me realize I wasn’t about to lose myself either.

        • ???? I was wondering what you do for work that you know over fifty gay men! Fashion industry? After the next sentence my brain was envisioning a pride parade Oregon Trail of gay men with guns. Thanks for the chuckle!!????????

          • Me too! Haha. I was thinking “over 50 gay men? That’s a very specific number.” How odd!

  • MegaMeh’s story is what I would consider a post-infidelity success story. A strong marriage and 2 children; I’m so happy that she has had a wonderful second act.

    I’m not sure that “emptying the room” is possible for everyone…or maybe I’m just making myself feel better by thinking that. I’ve tried so hard and done so much work but am not sure I will ever empty that last room. Not filled with shame but instead with sadness and some question marks.

    I’ve done all the hard stuff: 2 psych hospitalizations, fighting for the proper meds (and helping other do the same), therapy and EMDR, strengthening the loving bonds between me and my children, making a new life, new career and having so many wonderful friends. But still…the sadness, the loss of innocence and still some anger exist.

    If you met me on the street, you’d never believe that this is how I feel inside that last little room. My spirit is infectious and I lead a very full, positive life.

    I’m only writing this because I want other chumps to understand that each of our goals look different. Some people can truly recover 100% and good for them. Tuesday looks different for every single chump. Some will never empty that last room and I truly think that’s OK. Being the best version of yourself should be the goal for each of us. Just my opinion.

    • I suppose I should also add that I survived the cheating by the proper medical care (see above comment), the best kids on the planet, amazing friends, a kick-ass lawyer to replace a lame one, a judge who taught me the word sociopath, a dream job, a great boss, my wonderful therapist and nurse practitioner, a tiny dog who walks with me for miles and my forever love for Chump Lady and Chump Nation

    • the loss of innocence is painful. i think my room is a lonely place because of it.

    • Good post Rebecca. I don’t know that anyone who has had substantial trauma ever truly recovers 100 percent though. I think it is more like you said; recovery looks different for everyone.

      I feel no shame, but yes some question marks and scars remain. Hasn’t stopped me from going on with my life and living and loving. But, it has made me really sensitive to others pain in these situations, and in any trauma pain.

    • Thank you for sharing that Rebecca. I don’t know how or why but before I had even read today’s entry I was thinking on my run this morning about the permanent shame and embarrassment this experienced caused me that I don’t know will ever go away. [I am 6 years out] It exists in that small last room.

      Like you Rebecca, I live a full and wonderful life now. Peaceful and filled with happiness. Yet, the small last room. Life is hard. We should all give ourselves the grace we give to so many others.

      • BB, I know don’t why either, about the fact that the shame and embarrassment seems to devolve back onto the chump. Mostly societal of course, that somehow it was “partly our fault”. One of the things that completely clamped me tight shut about revealing any of this (admittedly years ago) was, that any “advice” magazine I picked up had articles galore about “it takes two to end a marriage”. I now recognize this as the beginnings of the burgeoning (and lucrative) RIC / wreckconciliation behemoth. I knew that it didn’t take two people, it just took one. Please use the collective wisdom of CN to finally hose out that last little room… All the best.

  • I had CL and CN, to run to. I read everything, pertinent things to me , twice.I found CL not long after blog started. Being a good co-dependent, I had no idea what gaslighting, love bombing, spackling, DARVO, were. Everyone I knew wanted me to stay married to FW, they didn’t want their world upset. Sanity is wonderful. I love my life.

  • i felt really stupid for a while. i found a great therapist. one day she told me,

    ‘this is not about you. you are a good, trusting person who doesn’t lie to other people so you don’t expect someone will do something like this. this cheater took advantage of that. a person who lies so easily and so well has been doing it a long time and is very good at it.’

    hearing that helped me so much and made it easier to let go of beating myself up and move forward.

  • Such strong people here! I was going to write that my story of surviving infidelity/abandonment/financial abuse is measly; e.g., medication, therapy, distancing myself from my truly horrible family, yoga, meditation, slogging along day-to-day.

    However, I should also add that I have always done my best to be kind and to bring a smile to random strangers (marvelous mood-elevator), and I finally found a good therapist who helped me to realize how abnormal my FOO and spouse were. (Will never forget how her poker face/professional demeanor occasionally slipped slightly in shock at my casually mentioning something that I now realize was a deeply disturbing, abnormal sign that I had normalized some pretty damaging things).

    But CN has been a life saver for me. In the early days when I was hunched over, crying, not eating, not sleeping… just knowing that there were other people out there that had survived helped me to realize that I, too, would get through it and be better than ever. Thank you, all.

    • PS: Forgot to say that survival is an ongoing process. After experiencing a cheating high school boyfriend followed by two cheating husbands, I’m now practicing not immediately distrusting any man who shows an interest in me. Alas, that is probably going to be a lifelong exercise.

    • “just knowing that there were other people out there that had survived helped me to realize that I, too, would get through it and be better than ever.”

      My days of horror happened before CL, in fact before internet. I do however remember in the depths of despair; hey Susie you aren’t the first woman this has happened to and you won’t be the last. It was then that I remembered my Aunt Helen who I called, and she talked to me for a long time. How she moved forward, how she told me; “don’t let that piss ant ruin you”. Funny I hadn’t thought of that in years until I saw your post.

      • Susie, It’s interesting when you share with someone why you’ve lost weight, look tired etc. and they feel compelled to share. I told a 70 year old woman in my Pilates class (FW used to go too) she said DDay happened to her many years ago, her 5 year old daughter told her about somebody Daddy kept talking to. She stayed with him, her family hated him and she still questioned whether she had made right decision but lived with it.

  • What a horrific experience you had, MegaMeh. I’m so glad you came out on the other side to find love and happiness.

    I have a good friend who divorced twice. The first one cheated on her. She said it was so much harder to heal from the first marriage because when she looked back, she didn’t know what was real. There is so much gaslighting with cheating.

    For me, a good therapist with group therapy and this website helped me see what was really going on with the relationship and I stopped blaming myself and thinking I could change things. Four years later, I’m at meh most of the time, but there are still moments of disbelief and disappointment. I still have some things left in that extra room, I guess.

  • Here’s what I did after 30 year marriage, with no children of my own.

    I chose to stop drinking and attended a 12-Step program for the support on boundaries and doing the next right thing.
    I found an individual therapist and a women’s mindfulness group. I moved out of my marital house and found a lawyer. I volunteered with four different organizations with an emphasis on nature/the environment, which were active during the pandemic. I re-connected with my family, though they do not live nearby. I made several new friends and walk with them weekly.

    Long term? Try to change anxiety into curiosity. Do not blame yourself for being able to bond and share your gifts with those in need. Avoid toxic people and situations.

  • I am forever damaged goods (mentally) ! After a 30 year marriage in which I cherished my beautiful wife I lost my life and all I had hoped for. It’s been 14 years since her affair became public knowledge, and 12 years post divorce! I am now 67 with a hope that someday before I die we can get back together again! I want to sit on the couch and watch family videos together! Watch our multiple cruises, vacations, birthdays, and family gatherings! I do see a therapist weekly, but somehow I remain stuck! I’ve looked at dating sites but these women deserve someone without baggage, drama, or a man still in love with someone else!

    • Rich: Please fill your life and time with something other than watching the past on video and wishing to get back with your cheating X. Consider therapy, a divorce support group, walks outside weather permitting and something else to fill your mind. IMO you must begin to accept that your X is not coming back and you can not trust her if she does. She did things deliberately that she knew would hurt you immensely. Make the decision to focus on a future without her. What she did was abuse and not love. Focus first on yourself and then on doing things you enjoy or that have meaning to you going forward. What you have been doing is known as “pain shopping” IMO. I wish you the best in finding peace and not focusing so much on your X. She was not who you thought she was. (Ask me how I know!). Associate with people who have not abused you.

    • My grandfather married late and then had children late. He was an old man when I first knew him as a baby. It did not matter though, he lived till over 100. My grandmother I barely remember. I certainly remember my grandfather because he had the most joyous nature of anybody I’ve ever known. He never wanted to marry again and he certainly missed my grandmother but it never slowed him down one bit. He met friends for breakfast every morning, he gardened, he played golf and he loved his family. This is the kind of person he was….he would call me sometimes in the morning and say, “You need to go outside and look. It’s going to be a wonderful day,”. How’s that? That is someone who has the world on a string and loving every minute of it.

      • I don’t mean that your anguish is not real but you only have this one life. It is a gift. Give of yourself to others. Be a person like UX who pays it forward.
        If you are depressed, which I think you are, please seek help.

    • Rich, I recommend finding your perspective and healing in the present. Of course, the past hurts. Fill your life with friends and activities now that nurture you and bring you into a better place, and the rest will resolve itself. Therapy helps, but you need an emotionally healing lifestyle too.

      Sure, I sometimes look at pictures and remember, but it’s balanced now. I know that pictures from that part of life were in some ways an illusion. I accept that and enjoy life now for what it is.

  • Most importantly – I read Chump Lady every day and I am a patron, supporting the blog financially. It is lifesaving.

    • Me too — going on 4 years now. Short of actually meeting CN chumps in person and offering support however I can (which I’ve been fortunate enough to have done many times), it’s the most satisfying pay-it-forward AND pay-it-back thing I’ve ever done.

    • Me too! This site has been my lifesaver for the last 5 years. LACGAL helped me see that there was no hope and I needed to stop trying so I contribute via patron.

  • I joined a healthy 12-step group. I say healthy because there are some who support long-term victimhood and foster unhealthy connections. Mine is good and taught me all about denial, boundaries, and more. I’m on the leadership team now, and they continuously challenge me and give me hope. Frankly, it did more for me than therapy and more than my church, which provided practical help but didn’t quite know what to do with us in general.

  • This topic is like peeling the layers of an onion. It’s a stinky experience that brings up trash, tears, then finally fruit! Without peeling the onion though, we can never enjoy the sweet savor of what it ultimately adds to the recipe of life.

    Mental survival for me meant getting back into my own lane of life where known certainty has existed since the beginning of time. I had to learn that I do not possess power to change others, no matter my good intentions, motives or interests. Further, I had to re-learn that others have free moral agency, which can be both a force for good OR weaponized against others.

    Our natural world has established laws of certainty such as gravity, cause and effect, action and reaction, and that time waits for no one. Try challenging any one of these to see how far you’ll get.

    The divine world also has established laws of certainty such as reaping what is sown, consequences, what goes in must come out, seedtime and harvest, and that all living things exist with purpose. Try challenging any one of these to see how far you’ll get.

    The details surrounding infidelity exist in the people, places and things surrounding the event. The details are NOT the value of the lessons to be learned. The lesson is in building personal strengths of character, conscience, courage, morality and love. The lesson is in identifying personal weaknesses while reconciling them to known laws of certainty, so as to become a better person in order to withstand the test of time.

    It’s the work of a lifetime, but most often compelled by the hard knocks of life of which infidelity is one. Hard knocks can be either a great teacher or an unfortunate defeat.

    • This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read. Thank you, Latitude, for your well-written contribution!

    • I agree with everything, also: “The divine world also has established laws of certainty such as reaping what is sown, consequences, what goes in must come out, seedtime and harvest, and that all living things exist with purpose. Try challenging any one of these to see how far you’ll get.”

      I think this truth is of course a part of the divine world, but also a part of the natural world. You plant corn, you are going to harvest corn etc. And like you said try to challenge that one and see what you get. You will get exactly what you planted.

    • Golden words.

      Every day, we have a choice, better or bitter. All the blows can either knock us down or teach us.

      Sure, I have my moments, but the trajectory is up. I found unbelievable peace and healing through working it through.

  • Mentally, I would have not. I found Chump Lady, and that was the action part.
    I found Lundy Bancroft, and that was the psychological part.
    But I felt the crux of it was beyond still.

    And then I found Christ. And everything made sense to me spiritually. Christianity holds the answers to the big “Why do they do that?” Psychology would have only taken me so far.

    • I do think the faith part helped me a lot. I had a preacher that was very clear on adultery (sin) and the effects it has on innocent folks. He made no bones to cheater that he would either walk out of sin, or he would be taken over by it.

      I won’t make any faith judgements on how cheater lived out his life, I will only say; I am so thankful God gave me a path out of it.

    • The spiritual part of my journey likely looks bazaar to anyone looking in. My faith (and how I thought it taught me to stay committed even when all proof pointed to the marriage being a mess) both influenced my initial reasons to stay and supported me when I finally looked back with a clearer, more informed view of what my life was.

      I likely chose to stay with Cheater longer than the conventional wisdom here says one should but God didnt waste any of my suffering, He used it all as building blocks for the subsequent life that is so much better than I ever expected,

      Patsy is an occasional reader/commenter here…we knew each other from an old RIC board 17 years ago. A few years ago, we met up in person and shares our stories in more detail. At some point, she looked at me and said “God had you in the palm of His hand” and yes, He did.

      Im very cautious, though to not encourage any Chumps to try to replicate my experience…it was one persons journey with my specific circumstances and ought not be used as guideline for anything. I encourage others to ask God for guidance and to not be surprised if you hear Him say “RUN!!”

      • I was another who stayed at all costs and then felt solidly that God was telling me to RUN. It helped that my ex was the one who took off when I asked for a separation. I needed that to get my head straight at long last. Our church leadership encouraged me to hold out for a time, and then hire what one of them called a “badass attorney to get it done.”

        I did indeed hire Mr. Badass, partly because of his stellar reputation (all kinds of regional and national awards) and partly because I truly just liked him as a human being. At a Second Saturday, he was there as the managing partner but was bringing in chairs and handing out water bottles and Kleenex. He spoke to folks during the breaks but had the other attorneys do the presentations. I met his wife who was the firm’s business and marketing manager, and she was super kind. My phone interview with him later was both pleasant and informative. He checked my references and called me back to say that he would be honored to represent me. I was sold.

        Partway in when things weren’t going well, he shared that he and his wife prayed for his clients every night. He commented that he was thinking that wherever I was in my faith journey, he felt like we were dealing with outright evil and that he was reorienting appropriately. I was blown away by that.

        My original attorney is now happily retired and actually closed the firm the day after my divorce was final. His associate took my case to a new firm for closeout, and he had a very similar personality to his mentor, both solid and kind. He went to blows with my ex’s attorney who initially ignored him. In time, my ex’s attorney said that he respected the much younger attorney and expected that he would have a wonderful career in family law. I’ve been around enough since to know that those two guys were truly at the top of their game.

        Yes, I believe that God made a way.

        • I have wondered a thousand times how I would have reacted had I known what a big cheater he was when he was alive. I hope I would have run, but the decisions I made then were poorly informed. It is sobering that my sitch ended when he dropped dead. I think God did that for him more than me but GOd will not be mocked,

    • I became much more religious even though main priest blew me off for wife. Over the last 4 years I have had 4 life changing events. The last being Betrayal and divorce. I wondered why God would subject me to such pain. Mind you I wasn’t angry nor did I blame him. With the betrayal I wondered why would God take my sweet holy wife. Through prayer and reflection I have reframed this. FW was cheating since 2015. Perhaps my Cancer, job termination from cancer, death of dad and sudden death of friend where God trying to call her back to the marriage. At the same God was calling me back to him. I wish he used a different means but here I am broken but faithful

  • MegaMeh. I’m so sorry for all you experienced, and the fact you were so alone. I’m glad to read you are now meandering through the “sunlit uplands” (love this phrase). Many of my friends disappeared, but I’ve had a few stick by, and we’ve talked a LOT (thank you Voxer). Both of my parents have supported me, and I know this is a privilege that many don’t have. My trusted, beloved therapist dropped dead on his morning jog only a year after d-day, but I’m grateful for the years I had with his guidance, and have since found a couple others who have been helpful. No punching bag, but I’ve had it recommended and considered it several times 😉 Pints of ice cream? Hell yes.
    Also, I’ve been journaling since I was about 12yo. That private place to process my grief has been paramount in my recovery from my STBX’s, ex-friend’s, and faith community’s betrayals. Last night I was perusing some entries from the first two years after d-day. I had recorded some of my STBX’s behaviors and words in the aftermath of his betrayal (and our attempted reconciliation) and just, WOW. It was completely validating to read how shittily he behaved, now that I’m free of him. What I’m trying to say is – as awful as it was to experience – I’m glad I wrote down so many details of how coldly he behaved during “recovery”. Reading my words was a solid reminder of the heartache STBX precipitated. I’m free of that now. I’m free.

  • MegaMeh, I am glad you came out of that with a new and fabulous life. That last room is still something I am avoiding. I am almost done with the divorce and will be comfortable once it is over. I think part of what got me through this was CL and the CN! They helped me to see that I did not make him cheat. No matter how fat, ugly, horrible and whatever else FW could say about how bad I was, it was his decision to cheat rather than have the honest conversation. My parents and my son helped me through all of this in combination with a few good friends. My son is NC with his father. He is 26 now and it was his decision. Although, FW blames me for his lack of contact with our son. Nope, sorry, FW, that is all on you and your actions.
    Right now, I am focusing on getting back to healthy (lost too much weight after DDay), fixing up my new house, refinishing furniture (I just love older pieces and did not want to buy new), rocking my job and just being with friends and family. One day, I will get to that room and I suspect, it will not have too much in it but there may be dust and plenty of cobwebs to clear.

    • CFANM, I refinish old furniture too! It’s rewarding on so many levels. I scour the thrift stores for my next project and refer to it as “resale therapy.”

      • It does kind of remind me of being a Chump in recovery. First we were this great piece of furniture, then we became scuffed up and old, then thrown out but now we come back as something beautiful again and with a purpose. I scour the resale places and always wonder about the story behind some of the pieces. The whole act from finding a treasure to restoring or remaking it is therapy to me. I love your term resale therapy!!!!

  • No contact, pure and simple, was the healing force for me. I trusted that not only did cheating bastard ex suck, but he had spent years … no, decades! … playing Russian roulette with my well being. There will never be any good reason to have any contact with him whatsoever for the remainder of my now good and decent life.

  • I had a wonderful dad and brother. Also my preacher, but I had shut down and didn’t tell them what the last year was like. That didn’t come out until years later when fw attempted to blow up my sons family. (he didn’t succeed).

    I admit I had a bit of a relapse. So I would say I just slapped on my poker face and started walking forward. I don’t regret it because it was all I knew how to do at the time. I should have spilled my guts to the folks that mattered. How could they really help me if they didn’t know the horror.

    I still have had a blessed life, friends, love, work. I didn’t put my life on hold and I am glad I didn’t. I don’t think waiting until all is perfect to go on with life is healthy. So many wonderful things and people out there to enjoy.

    But my one piece of advice: talk, talk, talk. To several strategic folks.

    • “…talk, talk, talk. To several strategic folks.”

      Yes to talking and sharing! And it helps so much to be able to post here when you worry about over-burdening friends. Added benefit is that fellow chumps really “get it.”

  • I agree with many of the other posters; a great therapist is worth their weight in gold. I started with my employers EAP and second visit, she point blank said I was an abuse survivor. Nobody ever put that label on it. And yes, it was physical also. She referred me to another therapist once my visits were up to a therapist who specializes in DV. He was great! I point blank said “If we weren’t in this relationship, I could see us being friends.” And he agreed.
    The book “Why Does He Do That?” By Lundy Bancroft was eye opening. If you even suspect you may be in an abusive relationship, read it! It validates many of your feelings.

    • Im so glad that there are those who found good therapy. I hold myself out awkwardly as a total failure of whatever limited therapy I interfaced with. First, I was a sparkle Queen and I was forever the person who balanced the budget and therapy was so expensive, I never prioritized the cost and when I did eventually get to a few sessions, I had bad therapists and even a couple of possibly good ones pushed me too hard, too fast and I fled.

      I would encourage newbies to not do what I did. I likely caused myself untold extra difficulty BUT for those of us who failed therapy, perhaps Im proof that we can still win life.

      • This is so important. I, too, balanced the family budget which (interesting now, actually) never had a nickel extra after paying for the essentials. I looked for free counselors or very low cost and then I would only allow myself a few sessions. This was a pattern for probably 10 years.

        It is easy to see in hindsight that I needed much more support. When D-Day happened, I had read somewhere that if you could not afford counseling, could not find the right kind of counseling, etc. – one solution would be to go to the Emergency Room. They will sort it out for you if you walk into the E.R. It is sad for me to look back and see that I waited and ignored myself until I became an E.R. patient. But, that is what saved me. Kinda like waiting until you’re bleeding out before making a doctor’s appointment…….. but in the end, I got the help I needed.

      • Therapy fail here too. After much much much flailing around, I did finally find one who saved my sanity if not my life so there are good ones, but as in any profession true skill and expertise are rare.

      • Unicornnomore,

        “… for those of us who failed therapy…”

        This made me so sad.

        YOU did not fail therapy. Therapy failed YOU.

        Please forgive yourself for not making therapy a priority. You, like all of us, were staying afloat during crisis mode. This is a HUGE accomplishment, even though we see it as “simply our job”.

        After all, no one would blame you for skipping a pedicure when your pantlegs are on fire.

        Secondly, if someone you knew had a surgery and it didn’t fix their problem, would you say they failed at surgery?

        Be kind to yourself.


  • Walkaway Woman is more than just my CN pseudonym, she’s like my alter ego (much like Tracy’s Chump Lady).
    Chumpy me stuck it out in a long, cold marriage where I was devalued and emotionally abused. Like MegaMeh, my ex-husband claimed I was fat and ugly, and also super lucky he hadn’t left me, since no one else would ever want me. But Walkaway Woman enrolled in an experience-based self-help training program called Pathways, and over the course of 6 months dealt with all her baggage, found her backbone and her voice. Took her power back.
    Still didn’t leave the marriage, because love and loyalty. That is, until I discovered ex-husband’s affair about a year after I completed the training. I told him he had to choose: her or me. (He wanted to stay married because if we divorced “the kids will lose more than we gain” and besides, AP was “just a friend.”) He chose his justafriend AP, and the Walkaway Woman walked away.
    It was hard and scary. I lived on the edge of destitution. I hung a little lamp in the kitchen window of my second-floor apartment, and kept it on day and night. That way, when I came home from work in the evening and parked my car, I could look up and see if I still had electricity.
    I stayed single for a few years, convinced that because of my training, my reading of, and my general pluckiness, there was a “happily ever after” awaiting me somewhere down the line.
    During this phase, I dated casually. It was before I discovered CL, and I had no idea (read, was stubbornly ignoring) that my picker was woefully broken.
    Enter the Lying Cheating Loser, and a few months of love bombing followed by four years of hell.
    At the end of four years, I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Fuckwit Studies from CN University, and the Walkaway Woman walked away. Again.
    This time was much harder. But, thanks to CL and CN, I was much smarter. I knew about trauma bonds. I knew about a broken picker and spackling. I loved the LCL like crazy (and I use that phrase intentionally) but I left anyway. Because the Walkaway Woman walks away from things that aren’t acceptable to her.
    I got a new little rental. Hung my same little lamp in the kitchen window, for the same reason. And just kept putting one foot in front of the other.
    In the Pathways training, people say, “it’s ONLY hard.” It means it’s only hard, not impossible. It’s only hard, it’s not the death of me.
    And this hard, this fuckwit-free, choose-my-own-destiny hard, is the right kind of hard.
    So how did I deal with the mental room full of chumpy baggage? My Pathways training got rid of all the big clunky pieces too heavy for one human to budge. CL and CN (and all the rest of my reading) helped me declutter and discard old maladaptive coping strategies. And whenever I need to, I can transform from regular (no longer chumpy) me into the Walkaway Woman. She always knows the next right step.

  • Good question. In some ways -even 5 yrs out-I am still in survival mode. I hired a life coach (tried counselor but didn’t want to do the looking in the rear bit) and we focused on moving forward..really helped with the visioning a different life. Steam rolled forward with separation agreement (after a few meltdowns) and divorced in 7 months (90 d waiting period). Leaned heavily on 3 dear friends who took my sobbing, angry, sad, depressing phone calls. I tried to rotate them so not one got all the gore all the time (they are all still talking to me-I’m claiming success ????), Journaled reams, read inspiring books, Meditation, yoga, hypnosis, exercise, hiked, ate well, massages, facials, sold 2 homes (including the beach house where the affair happened), moved out of family home and created a new space, chumplady, no contact, blocked FW. Hugs! It is a tough one yet can yield a new life.

    • Also taped these quotes to frig. And on my whiteboard at work:
      “just when the caterpillar thought the world would end, it became a butterfly.”
      “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer” Camus
      “Make life’s choices based on your hopes, not your fears.” Mandela.

  • First I floundered. I pined for what I thought I lost. I was barely functional because the discard came before D-Day and I had no idea what had happened and I blamed myself. I discovered the cheating as I was unraveling some of the life connections we had (e.g., my EasyPass was in his name).

    At that point I started to read about infidelity and began to learn how disordered people carry on relationships. I found Chump Lady. I learned about lovebombing and devaluation and what a discard really is.

    I crawled on the life-raft of “gain a life.” That involved journaling, lots of exercise, hot yoga, setting goals, making Pinterest boards as part of figuring out what I wanted for myself, who I was, and the shape of my new life.

    Therapy is where I learned that Jackass was a distraction from a life of stoically moving from one crisis to another without the hard work of figuring out my own dysfunctional patterns and where they came from. That’s where I decided to take a hiatus from not only relationships with men but the very idea I was nothing without one. I started looking at who I was as a young girl, what I gave up to be in romantic relationships, and what I wanted to recover.

    My best friend flew 2000 miles to spend 3 weeks with me right after D-Day. She saved my life.

    • I also listened to a lot of music and watched TV and movies when I couldn’t calm my mind.

  • I watched a story on the news this morning about a very successful person who survived childhood sexual abuse, and never told anyone. He carried that with him for years, shame and secrecy and FOO culture taught him to carry the burden alone. He finally released the experience, and it was life changing for him. It was the start of his finding an authentic life.

    I don’t know the accuracy, but somewhere along the way I heard 1 out of 3 people have been sexually abused, 1 out of 4 women have been raped (including date rape or childhood experience). If true, those numbers are staggering. Whatever the number/ratio, the fact is you are not alone in your experience, you are not being punished for something you “allowed” to happen. You are not responsible for the actions of another person who harmed you or took advantage of you.

    Drop the guilt and shame. Get on with the business of living your own authentic life. Tell someone else if it makes you feel better. You cannot change the past, but you don’t have to carry it with you and let that burden ruin your life. Find the values and lifestyle that is acceptable to you and live accordingly. Follow the rule of treating others as you wish to be treated. Living an authentic life is the best thing you can do for yourself.

  • Reading Chump Lady’s book, Vicki Stark’s books, & the online PDF of Lundy Bancroft’s book certainly helped me. I had a great therapist at the time who I saw at least 2x/month. I filed for divorce 4 days after learning of his infidelity & his refusal to seek counseling & stop seeing married howorker. I recommend acting as fast as possible because if your spouse has a morsel of guilt it will benefit you in the divorce process. Of course any morsel of guilt he/she feels disappears quickly so that’s why I think chumps should act quickly bc you have a 99% chance of not having the unicorn cheater. Friends & family were helpful too but try not to wear out any one individual – save a majority of talk for your therapist. Reading this blog quickly made me realize how cheaters are not original thinkers. Lots of DARVO, gaslighting, devaluation & they never trade up. Chumps are gold/timeless couture and they get replaced with affair partners that are basically fast fashion. Sure affair partner looks good now, but after a few washes & 1 year later they’re out of season & no one wants.

  • MegaMeh, you are da bomb! I love your writing – I hope you are a professional writer because you have the gift. Great question. I survived and thrived after 25+ years of escalating abuse and Ddays and 18 weeks of hell before I told him to GTFO by: finding CL & the Great Chump Nation and coming to realize that XH was a fraud, that I couldn’t change who he was, that none of what he really was was ok with me. I filed, I fought for my kids and my 1/2 of the assets. Then I slowly went no contact. I practiced all the self care. I let time pass. I chose life and peace over chaos and abuse. 8 years later life is wonderful!

    • ” I chose life and peace over chaos and abuse.”

      This is the life I always strove for. Honestly, I though fw was striving for it with me, (before the year of discard hit). We of course had our issues, but we led a peaceful life with lots of community and friend activities. Then it was like he turned on me, on a dime. Of course he had led a secret basement life and had actually turned on me years before; but…

      Now I do live a peaceful life, and my now husband and I have been living it for many years. I can of course see now the difference in how fw treated me and how my H treats me, but it took a while to see who fw really was.

    • Thank you MC99! No, I’m not a professional writer, but they always say to “write what you know…”. I wish I hadn’t had to write this, but once I started it just poured out. I also can echo your last few sentences about chosing life & peace over chaos & abuse. Hugs!

  • Married 21 years now divorced 6-1/2. I did EVERYTHING wrong during those dark times. I was a Hot Mess. The only thing that saved me was No Contact. I found CL about 1-1/2 years after my divorce and thats how I discovered No Contact. It took me that long. Now I don’t care if that Schmuck wins Publishers Clearing House Givaway, or gets run over by the Publishers Clearing House Givaway bus!

    • I might need to get on the fb or reddit group – I am on the 10th week after D-day. I’m trying to go no contact but my 15yo boy needs us to co-parent! FW now lives in an apartment in our town, so son can walk from place to place. (I have two sons, one just went to college.) Neither kid knows about the AP yet, they think we just “separated bc we are so different”.. Aaaaaah! Sigh. The truth WILL come out, I will not lie to the kids, but I think it’s sort of a “don’t ask don’t tell” situation at the moment. Any advice welcome. I so so so want to just go no contact, block his number, get him out of my head/life, but how? Just basic texting / info / nothing more? Ugh.

      • Oh no. I’m so sorry you’re in this situation, NewAtThis. CL has a great post on telling the kids.

        Here’s the link:

        …and here’s a brief passage from it: “I believe that knowledge about what happened (not all the gory details, but the basic why) is better than letting them live with the nebulous sense that “people fall out of love.” Like it’s a scary cloud that just descends upon your life willy nilly. No, people DO things that allow themselves to fall out of love with each other (they cheat). And we don’t get to control other people (I cannot not make him cheat) — we only control our reactions (I can divorce).”

        The kids probably already know. I’d tell them.

        Good luck,

      • Newatthis – You’re in early days so make sure your lawyer is focused on a good settlement. Then distance yourself so you can be a good, sane parent. Read through the archives, especially about grey rocking and parenting apps. Give your son the broad outlines of the situation so he knows the reason you’re stepping away from direct communication with his father.

      • New, if you must be in contact with FW for your son, practice grey rock. Keep it impersonal. However, I think at 15 your son is old enough to make his own arrangements to see his father. So the contact can be minimal and not face to face. Text or email should be enough.
        I think you should tell your son what really happened the next time the subject comes up. No doubt your STBX is filling his head with nonsense about ot being your fault, or if he’s not yet, he will. That’s what FW’s do. So you need to counter his narrative.

        At 10 weeks it the pain is very fresh. It will get better and you will, for the most part, get him out of your life and out of your head

  • Oh MegaMeh- thank you for sharing. The strength you found in yourself alone is incredible. The life you built after gives me hope and swells my heart.
    I’m still in the process of recovering mentally (and the rest.) I’m over him but not the trauma from what he did to me.
    But 6 months after DDay, I’m feeling stronger, calmer and more myself than I have for years.
    I discovered CL and CN on the night of DD- frantic googling brought me here. And thank fuck I did! You all help me on a daily basis- what a stroke of luck.
    Straight away I told my closest friends and family. I asked for help. I vented. I cried. I insisted that he tell his parents and we tell my daughter the truth (gently and age-appropriately for an 11-year-old). Because I have integrity- there’s no way I’d lie to her.
    I bypassed shame. Sure I was humiliated but bone deep, gut deep shame- no. Not for me. Nights of nightmares, days of sobbing on the bathroom floor, yes, but shame, NO. Not my shame, that belongs to him alone.
    I found out 2 days after starting a new job- so I worked. I told my boss after a few weeks as I was worried that turning up to Zoom calls red-eyed and lacking lustre would go against me. I was supported, listened to, cared for.
    I got furious. For the first time I felt personal rage and it propelled me forward. I’ve still got shit to do but I am moving.
    I cocooned my daughter. I walked my dog. I drank a lot of wine. In good moments I screamed or sang from my belly just to let it out.
    Then 1 by 1, 3 friends from my distant past reached out to me in their personal trauma. Though our situations are different I could meet them in their pain. We consoled, and counselled, and now we are able to laugh sometimes on log calls from different time zones.
    I may crumble still. But deep in me I feel love. For the first time in a long time it is live for myself.
    Wishing those who need it, the fury to move you forward, the support and love from those who get it and you, the freedom to let it out, and strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And FUCK the FWs who brought you here

    • Thank you for your comments GS, they are appreciated. I believe a lot of my inner strength came from having a very loving family upbringing, so I knew my own worth. That, and having had a faith-based (Catholic) upbringing & education which places a lot of emphasis on prayer, meditation and self evaluation. Sometimes “personal rage” can be a force for good! All the best going forward.

      • That’s interesting. “Prayer, meditation, and self evaluation.” I didn’t really get that in my own Catholic upbringing. I guess the self-evaluation part came when I had to come up with a list of sins for confession. Mostly I turned that into self-criticism.

        The nuns set me up to people please and serve.I actually won an award for selflessly serving others. I took to heart messages like these: “Lord, I’m not worthy to receive you,” “The meek shall inherit the earth” and “He who humbles himself shall be exalted.”

        For me, the messages of the church contributed to some self-esteem issues. Unlike yours, my FOO did their part, too, no doubt, but it’s hard to tease out what’s what in the jumble of childhood influences.

        It’s interesting that you and others had different experiences.

  • What finally set me free was seeing behind the lies my FW was weaving (a hidden voice activated recorder helped with that) and also finally believing that I didn’t have the power to save him. Nothing I could do could make him change. I could only control myself and I had to decide for myself what to do.

    • I wish I had access to a VAR during my real time. He used to sit in the living room late at night talking to one of the guys. (yeah sure). truth was he was talking to whore, then he would come running in the bedroom I assume with a flaming hard on and say “I am going to go out and ride around with one of they guys for awhile” (Police Officer).

      Yes I bought it for a while, but when I figured it, out I was still in the “fetal position” when he did it and I just remember laying there in bed in horror; but basically unable to act. Thank God someone dropped a dime and it all blew to hell, which ironically released me from hell.

  • The LACGAL book and this site helped me tremendously! It was a revelation and so validating to learn that I was not alone and my situation was, sadly, not so unique. I had been gaslighted and devalued for so long, I believed it was my fault he left. He had me believe everything wrong in the marriage was my fault. It was amazing to me how similar so many of these fuckwits are. It is like they have their own cheater manual. “Be A Cheater, Ruin A Life” I am so thankful I found the book fairly early in my chumphood. I read it cover to cover four times. It gave me the strength to finally throw his slimy ass out, lawyer up, and get the best settlement I could in a no-fault state. When I felt my resolve waver, I read it again. I also went through DivorceCare through a local church. That was very helpful and I made a great new friend there.

    I got the house. He was too busy blissfully shacking up with his massage girl schmoopie to bother hiring an attorney. I completely redecorated to suit my taste. Getting rid of the marital bed was especially satisfying. I had only been retired for two months before he left, so I had to go back to work. Throwing myself into the new job, where my experience and contributions were valued and appreciated, helped a great deal to take my mind off things and boosted my self-esteem.

    My divorce was final shortly before Covid hit. It was rough being so isolated during that time while I was getting used to living alone after 30 years. But when things started opening up, I joined some Meetup groups. I’ve done some fun activities and met some nice people. I’m going to lunch and a musical this Sunday with a group. ????

    Three years after D day and I feel I am getting closer to Tuesday.

  • Getting angry. Anger really helped me. Just mustering up enough anger to tell myself “This is NOT right, this is NOT fair, I do NOT deserve this, and I’ve had ENOUGH.” It’s sometimes really hard to get to that point, because cheaters and manipulators like to use your anger against you (“See, this is why I had to lie/cheat/leave, you’re too angry” or some other flip-the-script word salad about how it’s your fault they “had” to do what they did because of your *completely normal* reaction to their betrayal.)

    But really, that was it. I got angry enough to stand up for myself and my own mental health. With one cheater, who had told me I would never succeed in my career choice if I couldn’t handle being verbally assaulted (after I told him he says cruel things when we argue and he told me “That’s just how adults argue, get used to it.”) I decided, no, that’s NOT “just how adults argue” and you watch me, I will be successful in whatever I choose to do, and nobody will even know your damn NAME.

    Earlier this year, I actually bid goodbye to a partner of three years when he confessed to me he’d been sleeping with a coworker (an engaged coworker 12 years younger than him) and he was sooo HEARTBROKEN that she was moving away with her fiance and he would never see her again. Yes, I was extremely heartbroken and hurt to hear this myself, after three years together, but his audacity made me righteously FURIOUS. He was telling me he needed support because it was the lowest and most depressed he’d ever felt in his life. I said “Is this a joke? I’ve been in love with you for the last three years.” He told me I was making it about me, and began to whine to me about what falling in love feels like and how hard it is for him that she’s moving away.

    Maybe my past self would have cried and begged and tried to appease him, but no, not this time. I said he brought it on himself, he deserves all of this, it is his own fault for making these stupid choices, it’s ridiculous he would actually think I would feel sorry for him or any kind of empathy whatsoever, I don’t, and it is astounding the level of selfishness he’s showing right now. Two weeks after that call, he contacted me and tried to apologize. All I said was “Thanks. I don’t know what to tell you.” And that was it. No contact ever since. Took him off social media, changed his name in my phone to “NO” (to stop me from trying to talk to him.) And I let my anger propel me forward in my life.

    Anger said “You are NOT the one who screwed up here” because I’m not. Anger said “He is wrong and his obliviousness is not your fault.” Because it isn’t. And anger said “You don’t have to take any more of this shit.” Because I don’t. I’ve had enough cheaters and liars and manipulators in my life to know he won’t be any different two weeks, two months, two years later. And yes, it is painful and it sucks that three years of him is down the drain, but if that’s who he really is, then it’s not worth keeping him around anyway.

    Anger has its place. And it’s here.

    • “when he confessed to me he’d been sleeping with a coworker (an engaged coworker 12 years younger than him) and he was sooo HEARTBROKEN that she was moving away with her fiance and he would never see her again.”

      The gall these cheaters have is astounding.

      • Seriously. I don’t know what stunned me more, the fact he even said that or the fact he expected sympathy.

        • “He was telling me he needed support because it was the lowest and most depressed he’d ever felt in his life. I said “Is this a joke? I’ve been in love with you for the last three years.” He told me I was making it about me, and began to whine to me about what falling in love feels like and how hard it is for him that she’s moving away.”

          I’m so sorry. It seems unfathomable that they diminish our pain and loss on discovery. It happened to me too.

          After 37 years of marriage and 3 MONTHS emailing someone he met on a hookup website, Fraudster had the nerve to tell me that he needed to be comforted because he had lost his “sole mate” and the Iove of his life, after I showed him that she (or he) was a catfisher running a romance scam.

          He expected me to comfort him emotionally and physically right after I discovered he found an apartment and invited this person he had never met to move in with him. And despite knowing this was a fraud, he still wanted me to pick-me dance and convince him that he should stay with me and that I was as good as her. It didn’t matter that I been honored by numerous state and national organizations for my charitable work; she was the kindest, most charitable person he knew because she asked HIM to send money to people she knew, like her best friend’s sister’s daughter’s niece. Uh huh.

      • A chump once commented that the male cheaters have balls the size of church bells.

    • Kara, so sorry you wasted 3 years. But you healed from before. Yay you! Perfect responses. Because FW’s are going to be out there. We have to know how to shut ‘‘em down!

      • It is still painful to think about it because I did have some wonderful times and memories of him. But thinking about those good times hurts now because of who he turned out to be. But I have told myself, repeatedly, that I am not the one who messed this up and I will not take that on. My past self would have been plunged into a deep, self-depricating depression and internalized it all as “what did I do wrong that made him choose her?” Not my present self. I did nothing wrong. I did not do anything that made him choose to sleep with a coworker 12 years his junior with a fiance. I had nothing to do with that and he deserves no pity. I refuse to internalize his bad character.

        What also helped was a long-time friend of mine, and one of my best friends, was there for me. She was the first person I called, and the first person I let myself cry to about it. She was shocked, and she said she was utterly disappointed in him and told me I did not deserve that kind of treatment, and she told me I am too magical of a woman to put up with it. “Magical.” I loved that. She was a rock when I needed it.

        Then, as luck would have it, another long-time best friend that I’d known for many years came forward and confessed he’d had feelings for me for a long time, and he knows it was devastating what happened, and he knows I have a history of being hurt by cheaters. He said he may not be the guy of my dreams, but he has really liked getting to be close friends over the years, thinks that I’ve always been beautiful, driven, and “often cute,” and even if it’s not the right time, and I didn’t feel the same, he still enjoys spending time with me anyway, but he really would like to take me on a proper date.

        We just got back from a trip to Florida and my family LOVES him. My friends have been telling me that I look so happy, it’s like I’m glowing. …Well…it helps when you’re finally being treated the way you deserve by someone who has seen you at both your best and worst and fell in love with you through it.

    • Wow, I love what you wrote here. Anger can definitely be motivating, for setting boundaries and your own expectations for how you deserve need/want to be treated.

    • ANGER!!! Yes, this worked for me, too. My therapist urged me to listen to my anger and use it to propel me forward. Oh, and I’ve had to work on not immediately turning the anger on to myself. That’s something I did by default, it seems.

      I, too, got the “you’re-so -sensitive” comment when I’d react to something cruel that x had said. Crazymaking…and rich in double standards. This man couldn’t accept any criticism himself.

  • This was my story that was shown today. This is my first time posting in the comments but many of you already seem like old friends from all the past CL reading I’ve done! The very first comment from Hopeful Cynic in a way summed it up, “Face the Facts”. That’s what I did, I faced the facts. I truly believed (with the escalating violence) I would not have survived if I stayed. I had a wonderful upbringing with loving parents family and I know that’s what gave me the inner strength I needed. At my absolute core, I KNEW my worth and that’s what I clung to. I became my own life preserver and own oxygen mask. As I look back now through old photos, I see pictures of that beautiful young woman and I just want to give her a big hug and say “See, it all worked out!”. It’s not how I envisaged getting to this good place, but yes, it all worked out.

    • Mega, I’m happy you were brave enough to get out of that all by yourself. What an inspiration you are.

    • Megameh,

      I, too, look at photos.

      I have a portrait of myself on my wedding day (just head and shoulders). I found it somewhere amongst my stuff.

      One day I looked at it and said “what kind of monster would try to destroy this precious, trusting, hopeful, smart, kind young woman? What the heck is WRONG with that guy??”

      Looking at it objectively helps with perspective.

  • I’m so grateful to the individual therapist I found during that time (I had to try a couple before finding one that fit). To think, when I first started with her, I thought you couldn’t have boundaries in romantic relationships! Hah! The first time she told me they were super important, I didn’t understand! Thankfully, I understand now.

    I had a couple really supportive friends and family, and a great attorney (although we mostly settled via our mediator). I went to yoga, but also a kickboxing gym. That was so, so good. I needed to be able to hit something when I couldn’t hit my ex because I was so angry at the crap he was saying in mediation. I found this blog, and read a bit of self-help.

    The first book, which may sound a bit unusual, was She Comes First by Emily Nagoski. It was so validating! My need for connection, quality time, and time to disconnect from “mom mode” was totally normal! My likes and dislikes were normal! During the discard my ex loved to paint himself a victim that I wasn’t attracted to him enough because I needed time to relax and foreplay before I could get really aroused. Shocking! I didn’t behave like a pornstar that got wet at the site of him! That first book started a snowball of reading and talking to others about their expectations for healthy relationships, and that no I wasn’t “mean & controlling,” I had standards which included him being a thoughtful and responsible partner and father.

    I skimmed through Beattie’s Codependent No More, which was also helped drive the point home, that I only control myself. I’m so much better at boundaries now.

    I realized that some of my local friends (Switzerland friends, wives of ex’s college buddies) and I didn’t have much in common and have done my best during covid times to branch out socially. Joined meetups for Single Parents and the outdoor activities I was interested in but couldn’t find the time to try because I was so busy catering to FW ex.

    Best of all, I’ve thrown myself into parenting my daughter the way I want to on my parenting time. Lots of time outdoors, in nature. Enjoying being present with her. Modeling kindness and manners. Sharing my faith. I’m really very lucky we have such a special bond. Who knows what the teenage years will have in store, that’s a few years away yet, but I’m optimistic about the groundwork I’m laying now.

    I can’t believe I was so in love with my ex at one time. Now I see him for the entitled, irresponsible – but-charming man-child he is.

  • I coped via: the help of two long time “best” friends, one of whom lives far away so we “talked” daily by email, and one in town, who also worked with me (my ex also worked there); CL and CN; and, because my now ex also revealed he believed he was “a woman in a man’s body” at the same time he revealed he’d been “exploring” this new gender identity with a former student, with the help of other “straight spouses” on the Straight Spouse Network’s Open Forum.

    I don’t know if I’d call this “help in coping,” but I also just kept putting one foot in front of another. I really don’t know how I managed.

    After the dual D-day, it took me eighteen months of pick me dancing while simultaneously processing his trans delusion, worrying about my son’s reaction all the while, before I was ready to call it quits.

    After I decided I wanted out, it took an additional eighteen months before I could garner the strength and prepare to leave.

    Then, in the space of another eighteen months, I told him I wanted a divorce; moved out of our house where I’d lived for 25+ years (I chose to have him buy me out and moved into a rental so I could be available to help my aging mother), on the same day a test for colon cancer came back positive (it was a false positive, it turns out, but for a month before I could get a retest colonoscopy I lived with the fear I had cancer); did all the paperwork of the divorce (he didn’t get an attorney), negotiated a settlement with him, and attended (without him present) the court hearing that finalized the divorce (all while teaching); renegotiated my retirement date in order not to have to continue working with him; renegotiated it again when the university where I taught unexpectedly and suddenly offered a general buyout; cleared out and moved out of my faculty office two years before I’d planned to and in a very short period of time; traveled to help my then 93 year old mother who had had a debilitating stroke; retired, and then, five days after my retirement dinner, returned to again help my mother and agreed to temporarily move there to help my mother for nine months. I really don’t know how I survived that eighteen months of so much change. Necessity, I guess.

    My mother, for whom I provided additional extended periods of care beyond that initial six months, just died this week. I loved her, I cared for her, and was with her dally for five of the last six months of her life; she lived a full life, one I hope to emulate now that, for the first time since the dual D-day in March 2015, I can make choices with no one but me to consult or consider.

    • My condolences as well, Adelante. Just over six years have passed since I held Mom’s hand while she died, and as painful as it was, it was also very meaningful. My best to you.

    • You will miss her! I had a similar time line with a 33 yr marriage and caring for aging parents. My dad died the year after I left, 16, but the divorce wasn’t final. The hospice worker said that his regret was he wouldn’t be able to help and make sure we’d be safe. My mom died in 19. I
      I feel like an orphan sometimes. I was with the ex for years but he also had abandoned us years before we left so I was alone and independent.
      Now you get to take time to explore life and your wants and needs. Relax and enjoy cause you deserve it!

  • One great counselor and four true friends. And of course, music. Hours of rotations on spotify.

    How about this one? You can even snap your fingers along with it and practice an English accent.

    • I love this song. I used to listen to it after receiving really stupid letters from FW’s attorney full of ridiculous accusations and “requests”. It helped alot.

  • Above, I spoke about how my faith both helped and hurt me and how I failed therapy but I want to answer the original question in more detail.

    My disordered parents set me up for this type of marriage by their disordered patterns of dealing with me, so I started out behind – most of my bad life with Cheater was better than my normal life with them, so I didnt realize how bad it was.

    One really helpful thing is that despite criticism being heaped on me by parents, sibling and spouse 24 hours a day for decades, somewhere in my head, I didnt believe them. I knew I was a decent, smart, reasonably attractive person.

    I will admit to spending WAY WAY WAY WAY too much time in my head thinking of Cheater (long before I knew he was a cheater) trying to figure out ways to appease him and reeling from whatever the most recent nastiness he had just thrown my way. That said, deep in my mind, I found pockets of contentment where I would experience peace….15 minutes driving to pick kid up from activity….listen to music in car and reflect on whatever happiness I had. Day when Cheater was traveling…do a project and find real pride in it. When I was tormented by one asshole at home, I reflected that I was glad I only worked part-time where I would have been tormented by 6 assholes instead of one.

    My cup was half full….yard that Cheater didnt mow but I had a yard. He didnt give a fuck about anything I did but I saw that as a freedom to be left alone – I made most decisions about the house and kids unfettered by his opinions.

    My skills at seeing the positive help me cope with a much better but different life now. Husband who has bought 7 butter dishes in the course of our 9 year romance…I ignore most of his silliness but if things get serious, I am willing to have a “we have to talk” moment and I know our relationship will survive it.

    Im proud to be a part of CN where we coach each other through the worst and help each other enjoy real lives absent of abuse

  • I believed my friends – the ones who had demonstrated their love and loyalty to me over the years. Throughout my 2 months of reconciliation with my ex, they continually told me that I was better than this, that I deserved to be loved out loud, that I was worthy of monogamy and commitment. I had their voices in my ears and my ex’s. In the end, my friends’ prevailed because I knew they only wanted the best for me. Our history had proven it.

  • I will let you know when I get there. D-day is next Saturday. I started picking up on subtle changes and stupid lies. So I started digging and realized he’d been chumping me all over town for years. Once I had validation, I stopped pick-me dancing, started getting my ducks in a row, and I move next weekend. I am almost 20 years older than the howorker gf. As much as I want to put them on blast, I will follow the guidance of ChumpNation-if it feels good, don’t do it. And I am trying not to share the information that he’s selling narcotics prescribed to him or stealing controlled substances from the pharmacy he manages for his howorker. But man, it’s so tempting. I am half heartbroken and half furious, but I don’t think I am close to “meh” yet. It hurts.
    HC, I loved that quote, and saved it. Thank you.

    • NC, you can report him after you get a settlement. Something to look forward to. ????
      Please keep us updated on your story and how you are getting along. Being newly chumped is a nightmare, so whatever we can do to make it easier, just ask.

  • My XW was physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, and financially abusive.

    I already had a great support group in place because of having C-PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder and Panic Attacks. No surprise there as my now deceased father and my ex wife are narcissists/Sociopaths. They got me to realize my XW was a narcissist. My mother, some old and new friends, and my church elders helped me get out of a dangerous situation with my XW. Infidelity, Narcissist and NPE support groups helped out a lot. I have gotten a lot of help from this group! The Bible and God helped me out so much!

  • MegaMeh you’re a true warrior! Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Actions speak louder than words. Once I stopped listening to cheater’s words and looked at his actions the answer became obvious. I also came to the realization that love shouldn’t feel like this. Love doesn’t make you question your value and self-worth, love doesn’t make you question your sanity and leave you with a feeling of wondering what’s real, love doesn’t bully you or intimidate you or tell you you’re the problem or that you’re not enough. I hate the saying ‘you always hurt the ones you love’ because the reality is cheaters don’t love and chumps should never condition themselves to accept what a cheater gives as love.

    • “I hate the saying ‘you always hurt the ones you love’ because the reality is cheaters don’t love and chumps should never condition themselves to accept what a cheater gives as love.”

      Yep, to me the bible describes love perfectly: “1 Corinthians 13:4-5: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

      I think that can apply in the secular as well. A cheater does not love their betrayed partner, they obviously kept a record of wrongs to justify their behavior, they obviously dishonor the betrayed, they are obviously self seeking and proud, they are not kind and they are prone to envy.

    • Yeah, that saying is a total crock. My FW used it as one of his many lame excuses. I laughed in his face.
      I 100% agree with you on what love should not be like.

  • It was hell, because in the wake of Dday, not only did FW continue to lie, be mean and blame me, most of my family did not want me to leave him. They were unkind and unsympathetic to me because I wouldn’t handle it they way they wished I would. My one supporter was my daughter, and she was (and continues to be) amazing. I kept the worst of what FW did back from her because I didn’t want her to carry too heavy a burden and be traumatized further. So to this day there is nobody I have told the whole story to, not even a therapist. I did see one, but found talking about certain parts of the abuse too painful even in that environment. She was lovely and sympathetic, but speaking the horror aloud is not in me.
    So I’ve had to work on exorcizing those demons alone, in my own head. Coming here and listening to other chump’s stories definitely helps.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful & supportive comments. I can totally relate to you saying you couldn’t even say the words / story to a therapist. It’s only recently, when I actually wrote everything down that the overwhelming awfulness of it really hit me. I think if I’d tried to explain it verbally I would have tried (out of mis-placed shame) to deflect by words or actions.”Oh, I’m sure he didn’t mean to…” or “Maybe I overreacted…” etc. In a brief email exchange with CL before this was published, I commented that “This looked so much worse written down.” No, that’s exactly how it was!

      • I totally get that Megameh. It’s astounding that we carry so much shame about what they did to us and yet they, the perpetrators, carry none.
        That’s par for the course if they lack a conscience or, if they do have one, they’ve tucked it away somewhere where it can’t trouble them.

        It’s interesting that you found writing everything you went through down has helped you to face the reality of it, and I’m glad it did. I did try keeping a journal at first, but all I did in it was rant and say insulting things about FW, so I didn’t find it helpful. I wanted to stop thinking about FW and it just made me dwell on him more. What I found helpful was listening to other people’s stories and being supportive of them. It got me out of ruminating on my own trauma. So I joined some support groups for victims of abuse, and of course, CN was a Godsend. Just knowing that I can use this experience to help make somebody else’s load a little bit lighter makes me feel that what I went through was not a complete waste of my life. That gives me peace. Chumps need and deserve peace.

  • MegaMeh, congratulations to you for getting out early on & without the online resources we have today.
    I didn’t deal well with infidelity. I kept it to myself. I kept blaming it on myself. And for many years, I was aware of only “one’ time. He seemed remorseful, and he promised to never do it again. But that made me handle it worse: it must be my fault for not being sexy enough, pleasant enough, or for being to ugly and too shy and too irritable.
    After more years of FW using a super nice mask, more evidence came to me of his use of telephone sex (pre-internet) and strip clubs. Then another confession from him. Instead of telling other people, I again kept it to myself, felt worse about myself, because I clearly didn’t improve enough to keep him from “straying.”
    The real healing began after the 4th Dday when I reached out to other people. This was hard for me because I felt like I was betraying him!
    Many people had a poor response, the typical “you need to heat things up in the bedroom” or “it takes two to tango.” Eventually I found an SANON group. They at least seemed to share my experiences of the confusion & devastation, so I knew I wasn’t alone. A CSAT mentioned the “trauma” model & I started crying. Finally something made sense. I stuck with the SANON group & found myself drawn to the women who had left their spouses. These resources are NOT recommended by me, but they are the way it helped me start to talk to other people.
    I was preparing for my spouse to do a “disclosure” (but he was not ????) and came across ChumpLady, Omar Minwalla, George Simon, and Lundy Bancroft. All in the same year. Now there were 4 people supporting and publishing the idea that infidelity is chosen by the unfaithful person, & it is not because the tricked spouse is deficient. WOW.
    My mental script became a list of all the good things I did do, and eventually turned into “I am a person deserving of love.”
    My mental script about my spouse went from “he’s better than me” to “watch what he does, not what he says “ to “asshole,” to “what kind of a person DOES this for 33 years” to “he’s a monster” to “I have to get out & not be harmed anymore” to “I am out!!!!!” to “”I am safe” to “what a sad man.”

  • Besides my sobriety/recovery, my 12 step meetings, my trusted friends and associates who rallied around us, my trusted therapist, Chump Lady, and Chump Nation, the highest award for moral support goes to my daughter, whose spirits they (the cheaters) crushed under the heel of their selfish decisions. She was ten when they shot her down out of the sky. She was outgoing and confident and very social, and became the opposite overnight. She is now almost 16, and together we have been cleaning up their crime scene. On the good days, the one of us that was down would fluff the one who was up. On the bad days, we were both down and made it through.

    My birthday is tomorrow and she sent me two videos to show me how she feels about me. She also bought gifts for me and has been excited for weeks for me to open them, consulting about them with her therapist to see if she agrees that I will be thrilled, which was sweet. I won’t know what they are until tomorrow, which she wants to spend with me. I can share with you the videos she sent me, which she wanted me to watch which illustrate how she feels about me.

    She wants nothing to do with her father, which is a common and reasonable response to a parent and the side piece who end the innocence of your childhood, destroy your sense of security, nuke your nest, and emotionally psychologically mentally spiritually sexually beat the daylights out of your other parent.

    Cheaters are losers and idiots. It may take a very long time to feel it, but believe me, you won.

  • For any newbies following this thread, I’ll repeat my usual spiel. The nearly five years I spent advocating for survivors of domestic violence were probably my salvation in many ways. For one, the awareness of cultural victim blaming mythology and negative bystander dynamics I developed in that arena made me very sensitive to those attitudes in other people so, by the time I needed support myself, my group of close contacts had been pretty much pre-filtered to only those who don’t make excuses for abusers or knee-jerkedly look for fault in victims. Furthermore some of my friendships were forged through the writing I did on those issues so a few were not only not prone to victim-blaming but were particularly well informed, knew exactly what to say to someone in shock, what resources I needed, knew better than to be patronizing, etc.

    Like I learned in advocacy, the very first reactions that survivors get from others when first reaching out can make the difference between total emotional collapse or gathering strength. I was so lucky. When I finally opened up to a few contacts about FW’s increasing emotional abuse, one attorney friend gave me the same speech that I’d been trained to give survivors: “I can understand why you may not feel free to leave right now but here are a few ducks you can get in a row to lower your risks and prepare for the worst.” She also immediately guessed FW was cheating. Her response when I repeated some of the crap FW was accusing me of in the DARVO stage couldn’t have been more perfect: she just started chuckling uncontrollably and said sarcastically, “Oh yeah, sure, right, everyone’s going to believe THAT about you.” And by doing that she let the wind out of the most potent, unstated threat that FW’s behavior conveyed: that he would easily be able to character-assassinate me and thereby take my children away.

    My friend understood that I wasn’t paralyzed from heartbreak nor “addicted to abuse/codependent” but simply paralyzed from fear. The fact that these fears were being induced by the person who knew my fears best just made the trap more extreme. As a lawyer she knew the nature of the serious threats that were probably underlying abusers’ blame-shifting. She knew those fears are blinding to the person being subjected to them and that it didn’t make me pathetic or dumb that I couldn’t at that moment see the bigger picture. Because of this, there wasn’t even a whiff of patronizing disrespect in how she spoke to me. She acknowledged that I was “damned if I did and damned if I didn’t” leave at that exact moment. She knew that if I shored up resources to protect myself from those specific threats that the feeling of paralysis would likely fade on its own. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better magical fairy supporter who could successfully break through my frozen mental state and get me into a more predatory, defensive mindset.

    I found out first hand something I’d previously learned from books: that intellectual understanding of the dynamics of abuse won’t necessarily fully stop survivors from sinking into Stockholm syndrome and experiencing traumatic stress. Intelligence specialists who are captured by hostile forces and subjected to interrogation tactics go in fully aware of how captor bonding works, etc. That foreknowledge can help a bit with psychological resistance in captivity but not entirely. They know it really boils down to the tactics used by captors and that anyone– given the right stressors– will crack. That’s why intelligence operatives are never given whole parcels of state secrets and are automatically given deprogramming treatment on release from captivity. For me, that understanding helped reduce the natural shame someone feels as they find themselves weakening. Otherwise I think the extra shame of watching this happen to myself in spite of foreknowledge would have put me entirely under and made me even less able to resist.

    FW in my case wasn’t violent but only if you go deep into the rabbit hole of DV do you discover most survivors report that it’s the coercion, manipulation, emotional abuse, psychological abuse that are most effective in paralyzing victims, even more than overt physical violence in many cases. That’s not to minimize the effects of violence and violent threat but to suggest that the most effective abusers may not even need to resort to direct violence or death threats because their tactics are so devastating. Another thing you learn in the rabbit hole is that one devastating tactic used by virtually all abusers is cheating.

    But most DV victims learn never to talk about sexual betrayal to DA’s, therapists, courts, bystanders, etc., because it’s as if everyone’s already looking for a reason to discredit victims and drop the case or deny support. Assigning the motive of “jealousy” to victims provides bystanders with the alibi for abandonment and condemnation. So the fact that virtually all batterers cheat isn’t well understood even among specialized researchers. Either that or the DV researchers leave out that particular detail so that it’s not misconstrued by denialists. But I would even go so far as to say that battering itself is mostly centered on preventing victims from taking the same license to be “sexually free” as the abuser does. In other words, I suspect that’s the main underlying purpose of it. So when I was chumped and subjected to the usual blame-shifting and psychological abuse that comes in tow, I saw it in the framework of domestic violence. That’s the other thing that helped enormously. It’s what made me through RIC nonsense more quickly. Instead I sought resources for DV survivors. And I knew better than to tell my story to randos who would likely only flame me with victim-blaming drivel and drain me of even more blood. I only confided to my closest allies.

    Back when I was working in advocacy and would tell random people what I did, a typical response from bystanders was, “If it was ME in those circumstances I would just leave. I’d never put up with it.” I used to waste my breath arguing with those types about captor bonding, traumatic stress, how the tactics of abusers hogtie victims and how it can happen to anyone. I eventually stopped trying to make people understand this when I learned that the view is part of some functional lie or delusion of safety that people cling to in order to, say, drive on the freeway to work every day without being paralyzed by the risks. Many people wouldn’t be able to make the trip if they considered that the risk of not only crashing but of dying in the crash is a whopping 1:107 if calculating the number of people on the road, the number of accidents and other factors. So most people have gymnastic mental strategies to avoid thinking about the risk, one of which is imagining that all those other people who died in crashes must have done something wrong to increase their risks and that the individual themselves doesn’t engage in those dangerous behaviors so is therefore safe. As CL says, this thinking gives people the illusion of control. There a degree of truth in it: texting or imbibing substances while driving are dangerous behaviors but the problem with knee-jerk bystander thinking is that it just goes way to far and assumes bad things can never happen to good drivers. In that way, victim blaming is an essential part of how most people manage to go about their lives without being paralyzed. And they can get very testy if you try to divest them of this safety-spellbinding.

    But one part of fruitlessly trying to convince bystanders not to heap contempt on victims back in the day wasn’t a waste of time: by repeating it so often I seem to have gotten the message through to myself. Active counter-brainwashing is pretty much what it takes to resist internalizing persistent cultural myths. Nothing about it was easy when my turn came but at least I wasn’t burdened by the extra dose of shame that tend to drive victims back into paralysis and playing possum. I knew how abuse works and thankfully my supporters did as well.

    • “My friend understood that I wasn’t paralyzed from heartbreak nor “addicted to abuse/codependent” but simply paralyzed from fear.”

      Yes, I don’t like that co-dependent stuff being thrown around willy nilly. It is at best not likely accurate, and at worst just another way to blame the victim.

      Marriage of two folks is usually a union with the understanding of two becoming one in terms of trust, forsaking all others, having each others back against the world. To call a person who is having trouble letting go of that union co-dependent… Nope, not something I would do.

      • The codependency jargon ignores a lot of factors, particularly the fact that abuser tactics tend to be tailored to the resistance of the target. In effect it lets abusers off the hook. If someone gets really clobbered and flattened in a relationship it could be a measure of how high their self esteem was to start with that it took especially intense abuse and sabotage to bring them down. That should at least be considered as a factor but usually isn’t despite statistics supporting the idea (i.e., survivors statistically skew towards higher than average– not lower than average as was previously assumed– pre-abuse self esteem and more had careers than average).

        • “If someone gets really clobbered and flattened in a relationship it could be a measure of how high their self esteem was to start with that it took especially intense abuse and sabotage to bring them down.”

          This was me. I was a very confident, independent woman. I didn’t intend to get married at all. It took quite a lot and quite a long time for my abuser to get me to capitulate, and then for him to break me. The physical abuse only manifested at the very end, most of it after we separated (I wasn’t good with the no contact for awhile). I was decimated by the relationship and subsequent fallout and it took years to recover, and a lot of hard work. He completely obliterated my personality. I am amazed I survived, and even more amazed at where I am now. I found myself again, rebuilt, and regained my self-esteem and self confidence.

  • hmm. coping continues. i have a couple good, good friends, near and far, with whom i stay in close contact. and a therapist who has helped me through with EMDR techniques. my GP provided a lot of support, particularly in the early days, and i have the steady love of my kids.

    exercise and good food help, as does sleep. and then there’s yoga. i feel great when i practice yoga each evening, and i sleep better.

    i think the biggest moments for me, so far, have come with the realization that my X isn’t capable of love and intimacy, and the second realization that i deserve SO much better. i also understand that my family of origin issues are a big part of this scenario, so i’ve worked hard on understanding them better. this is a process, of course.

    for the first time in my life i understand that i am deserving of the love that my true friends and family offer. my early life was tense with a narcissistic mom and an ineffectual dad, further complicated by moving from town to town with dad’s work in the RCMP. i was forever trying to fit in.

    that should be my epithaph: forever trying to fit in. cue joke about a shoe horn and a coffin.

    in short, i’ve learned to love and accept myself like never before. but that doesn’t mean i’m not sad or lonely from the loss of innocence. i thought my X had my back and, in truth, he never did.

  • Great letter and question, Mega! I am still in survival mode almost one year post-divorce, 3 years post-Dday, but the acuteness of the pain has definitely subsided. I sought therapy. Went on meds for depression and anxiety (which I no longer need since the feelings of being trapped in a loveless marriage are gone). Sought solace in my Catholic faith…as others noted, when I went weeping to God in prayer when it all went down, I heard the message loud and clear to let it go. That sense of duty to my vows, my children…that ability to hope and dream of what could be possible if we were both really all in on building a life together kept me in place. So to hear the resounding refrain of “go, it’s ok, I’ve got you” was surprising, comforting, and fear-inducing all at once. This past summer I went through the process of applying for an annulment and it was truly cathartic. I am still waiting on the final decision from the Church on this, but if nothing else I have a better understanding of who I was when I got married (fixing the picker) and what I want the rest of my life to be.

    • Hugs to you Chumpy. I also was raised Catholic and married in the church. This is probably why I hung in for as long as I did. I took those vows seriously, he didn’t. It was armed with faith that I left. I absolutely knew ( unshakeably) that the situation I was leaving was not how my life was intended to be. That solid granite core of belief was one of the things that carried me through.

    • CMC I have been divorced since May, 11 months post DDay. It went quick because FW wanted out fast after it came out she was carrying with one of APs on church property. It also divided the church, FW was President of Women’s group, Lector and Eucharistic minister. She turned everyone against me until most, not all, saw the truth. I got the paperwork for annulment the day divorce was official but have not filled it out yet.
      I am or try to be a daily communicant and have thought plenty about the annulment process. Here are my thoughts about church and divorce.
      I am Catholic and enjoy Catholicism but in no way do I think it is the only way to God or the one true religion. The church on earth is controlled by humans. I don’t think a human, even the Pope can really speak for God.
      In situations such as ours where one cheated and betrayed I don’t think God would hold the Chump responsible.
      I pray you get your annulment but if not remember it is not God making that decision. Love God and continue to worship as you did before. I am still deciding if I will fill out paperwork. Pastor went all in on defending FW and now avoids me because I hammer him. Yes you can correct a priest.
      If you haven’t read Matthew Kelly’s The Big Lie. Look at it. It is short. God wants us happy

  • MegaMeh, congratulations for getting out back then! Hope your next 35 years are happy. And now even your littlest room is clean.

    I sucked at getting through infidelity. It took 28 years. I think I had outdated, stereotypical scripts in my head, which predated 1960. I also think that when abuse is covert, similar to an embezzler secretly stealing money, it persists and causes more harm.

    These were my original scripts about myself: I’m not good enough, no one will want to marry me. I’m ugly. I have no boobs, I’m not sexy. I’m socially awkward. I’m too quiet. I’m irritated all the time. I can’t bring up anything for discussion in the right way. I deserve to be cheated on. But maybe I can be sexier. Maybe if I’m nicer all the time.

    These were my original scripts about my husband: He’s great. He’s so kind and generous. He is socially adept. He is honest. I’m so glad I married him. My family enjoys being around him more than me! He’s truly sorry. He said he wouldn’t do it again.

    What changed my scripts was being in pain for so long that I began counseling. I was directed to an SANON group. I do not recommend CSAT’s or SA/SANON, but at the time it helped me to understand that talking about my situation, in order to get help, was not betraying my husband. More resources came my way: ChumpLady, then George Simon, Omar Minwalla, and Lundy Bancroft.

    The scripts gradually changed to:
    I am a good person. I do good things. My faults are ordinary. I am as worthy of being loved as anyone else. I deserve more. (I still remember choking that one out in a counseling session.) I love myself. Is this relationship acceptable to me? I have been harmed. I need to be safe.

    The scripts running through my head about my spouse changed to: Watch what he does. Don’t believe what he says. He doesn’t tell the entire truth. He omits relevant details. If I am confused, that’s a danger signal. Asshole! Don’t trust him. Stop depending on him. Asshole! Don’t talk about important stuff, & wait to see if he ever brings anything up on his own. (He didn’t.) He’s not doing anything to be closer to me or to repair our marriage. What is he doing that I don’t know about? Who DOES this stuff for 33 years! (Sought attorney advice for protection in case he were to be arrested.) Get away from him. He’s a monster.

    That’s why I’m called UpAndOut. Not LimboChump anymore. After being safe for 1.5 years, I can get intense waves of sadness, thinking what a sad man he is. I shoo them away.

    • Ok this is my post
      MegaMeh, congratulations for getting out back then! Hope your next 35 years are happy. And now even your littlest room is clean.

      I sucked at getting through infidelity. It took 28 years. I think I had outdated, stereotypical scripts in my head which predated 1960. I also think that when abuse is covert, similar to an embezzler secretly stealing money, it persists and causes more harm.

      These were my original scripts about myself: I’m not good enough, no one will want to marry me. I’m ugly. I have no boobs, I’m not sexy. I’m socially awkward. I’m too quiet. I’m irritated all the time. I can’t bring up anything for discussion in the right way. I deserve to be cheated on. But maybe I can be sexier. Maybe if I’m nicer all the time.

      These were my original scripts about my husband: He’s great. He’s so kind and generous. He is socially adept. He is honest. My family enjoys being around him more than me! He’s truly sorry. He said he wouldn’t do it again.

      What changed my scripts was being in pain for so long that I began counseling. I was directed to an SANON group. I do not recommend CSAT’s or SA/SANON, but at the time it helped me to understand that talking about my situation, in order to get help, was not betraying my husband. More resources came my way: ChumpLady, then George Simon, Omar Minwalla, and Lundy Bancroft.

      The scripts gradually changed to:
      I am a good person. I do good things. My faults are ordinary. I am as worthy of being loved as anyone else. I deserve more. (I still remember choking that one out in a counseling session.) I love myself. Is this relationship acceptable to me? I have been harmed. I need to be safe.

      The scripts running through my head about my spouse changed to: Watch what he does. Don’t believe what he says. He doesn’t tell the entire truth. He omits relevant details. If I am confused, that’s a danger signal. Asshole! Don’t trust him. Stop depending on him. Asshole! Don’t talk about important stuff, & wait to see if he ever brings anything up on his own. (He didn’t.) He’s not doing anything to be closer to me or to repair our marriage. What is he doing that I don’t know about? Who DOES this stuff for 33 years! (Sought attorney advice for protection in case he were to be arrested.) Get away from him. He’s a monster.

      That’s why I’m called UpAndOut.

      • My test one showed up. The longer one didn’t. Sigh! I even got the message that it was received & waiting moderation. Maybe the whole word “a**h***” isn’t allowed?

  • How, indeed? 2 years post 2nd Day, heading to divorce after 39 years of being with this person I thought was my husband, my best boggles my mind, drives me crazy that it took me so long to see the person standing in front of me… the lying, serial cheating, gaslighting person that was comfortably living a double life. Thankfully, I found CL, CN, and support of my family and friends because, otherwise, I would have never made it through to the other side..I know tues is on the horizon!

  • I’m not looking at any other answers because if it wasn’t for this website I’d have never gotten past the initial pity party shit that was thrown at me. I recognized mind fuckery as it was happening and even said so. Even after several failed attempts to reconcile I did not tolerate the nonsense coming from her mouth because I saw it all coming! Being mad at myself for not stopping at the red flags I either ignored or pushed past at the beginning is where I am stuck right now. But as each day goes by it gets easier. The worst now is trying to ignore the news because everything going on with the former president reminds me of my ex-wife’s lying cheating and nonsense even when confronted with complete truth, pictures, phone records, and her own initial confessions.

  • Congratulations MegaMeh! You’re s heroine. Me? I had wonderful friends that would tell me over and over, “Do NOT compare yourself to her!” They listened and hugged. I am grateful. My biggest saving grace was realizing that I’m a child of God, and when no one else loves me, He does. I focused on all of my blessings, such as, I can walk, and see, and hear. I also had enough to eat and a roof over my head and running water at a sink. When I realized how blessed I am, the fuckwit started not having such a good on me anymore.

      • I think that moment when you realize that they just don’t matter as much as they did, ore even as much as we thought they did; it is an amazing feeling.

        I remember I was out walking about two months after Dday (he had left me for whore). I was thinking and crying a bit. I was thinking to myself “he can do anything he wants, now he is free”. Then it hit me and i stopped dead in my tracks (literally) I said to myself “wait a minute Susie, you are free too, you can do anything you want”. It was a breakthrough.

        The reality was he never was free, he married whore pretty much as soon as the D was final. I stayed single and took care of myself just fine for five more years after the D. I was actually the only one who got freedom out of the deal.

  • “It is not wrong to love and to trust. What is wrong is the person who wasted that love and trust.”

  • Music, lots of music.

    The other thing that got me through- picturing the life I wanted and the person I wanted to be. Fixing that image in my mind, lovingly imagining every detail of the space that would be mine when I was single, breathing in the feeling of peace and confidence. No fear, just new challenges. Imagining meeting those challenges (that a new single life brings) with confidence. Picturing my genuine smile because he isn’t there. What does it feel like, look like, sound like, taste like, to be completely free of him? The more detailed and the more real, the better. What kind of music do I listen to in my new life? Where do I live and work? It was my life goal, my heart’s desire, and I took time to myself every day for a year just focusing on that.
    A lot of it didn’t come true exactly, but it didn’t need to, because the reality was as good or better. I got away when no one thought I would be able to (not even my family). Every day the first month after I left him, I genuinely woke up with a huge smile. It was like having a near death experience and surviving. The world was sweeter.

  • For me it was the request for divorce first, then discovery.

    I got angry. Good and angry.
    It became my fuel.

    • SAME. The divorce was moving forward under the guise that we had “grown apart.” Then I discovered the current girlfriend and the long string of affairs in the past. Anger and lots of it.

  • I’m an action-oriented person, so I signed up for classes: one series for professional development, and a series of body-positivity burlesque classes for cardio and psychological exercise. In both sets of classes I learned new skills and made friends who had nothing to do with FW’s world. It was energizing to discuss ideas with intelligent people (FW’s friends were shallow trustafarians) and the dance classes helped me to realize that I was enough.
    FW didn’t care what I was doing as long as I left him to my own devices. Towards the end I said I was enrolled in an intensive course that required me to be in residence for 8 weeks. I left him a cake and some labeled prepared meals in the freezer. Fine with him. I spent that time getting my remaining ducks in a row. My new friends helped me pack.

    Can you tell the courses I signed up for were for certification as a project manager?

  • I watched just about every Sam Vaknin video, and then Richard Grannon. I started watching the Jesse Narc Chronicles on YT but he seemed to suggest a massive spliff would cure most ills, and his eyes were suspiciously red, so I moved on. Lately I’ve been following Robert Torbay on Quora and find his descriptions of narcs (let’s face it most cheaters fit some of the criteria) as clowns driving clown carts amusing and reassuring.

  • The best thing I ever did was tell people what was going on. And the most important person I told was my mother.
    I went through abusive discard and a long in house separation, with my ex sneaking out at night or just not bothering to come home sometimes. My mother was terrified for my safety. She emailed me every night, and if I didn’t answer she called. I knew if I didn’t answer the phone she would send the police.
    I found out later he had been wishing I would die for years. My mother always did have good instincts.
    She died unexpectedly this morning. Technically yesterday morning now, but when you don’t really sleep it feels like one day. I am completely gutted.

    • CC – I’m am sorry for your loss. Please care for yourself as your mother did. I believe instincts are hereditary.

      • Thank you. She was still emailing me almost every night. We talked about all the ongoing legal struggles as my ex violates the decree over and over and hurts and alienates the kids with inappropriate behavior. Somehow that makes losing her now, instead of some misty peaceful time in the future, even worse. She was worried about her grandchildren. She didn’t want to leave any of us.

    • CountryChumpkin, I am SO sorry for your loss.

      And oh my gosh, your mother had impeccable instincts. What an incredible lady. I’m glad you had each other and that she was able to protect you in your darkest moments. She sounds like an angel.

    • Oh no! My most heartfelt condolences to you, CC. I hope you have somebody in your life to lean on right now.

    • Hey CountryChumpkin, so sorry about your mom. My mom passed away very unexpectedly, too. That is a surreal experience. I can already see that your loving mom left you with the tools you need for an awesome future, including her caring spirit and those good instincts. Take good care of yourself, okay? Big virtual hugs to you.

  • Hi MegaMeh,

    Are you asking for validation that you’re not alone in what you experienced? Are you seeking to put this terrible memory to bed? I ask because I want to make sure I’m answering your question right.

    I’ll be honest, I’m never quite sure how to answer questions like these, frankly because I’m not quite sure what “normal” means. I was raised by sociopaths, dated sociopaths, worked for sociopaths, and got suckered into a doomsday cult run by a sociopath who was raping his followers and preaching the apocalypse was coming. (Yes, just like you see in the movies.)

    It’s taken me a lot of trauma therapy to admit all this. I thought for years that I was a whiner, that I was overreacting, but it turns out I wasn’t. Every therapist I saw was horrified. Most couldn’t handle it. More on that in a minute.

    My journey was a death by a thousand cuts, and so was the awakening.

    About a decade ago, I started feeling disgruntled. Maybe it was a lifetime of shit sandwiches, I don’t know. I started resenting the abusers and the abuse. I started thinking, “This is fucked up. This can’t be right. I think this person’s lying to me. Who is this asshole to speak to me this way?”

    Finally I hit a watershed moment and cleaned house of one asshole after another within months. I can’t point to one incident, it was a series of incidents where I got increasingly indignant and started seething (if only to myself), “I DON’T DESERVE THIS!!! WHO DOES THIS ASSHOLE THINK THEY ARE?”

    I escaped the cult. I dumped entire friend groups. I cut off multiple exes who thought they were still entitled to my time.

    I guess it’s no surprise given I grew up with parasites, but it’s astonishing to see how surrounded I was by these people in adulthood as well. Around this time, I chased my uncle out of my house and slammed the front door on him after he tried bullying me in my own home. I cut off my father’s entire disordered family.

    The other thing I did is I stopped holding terrible people’s terrible secrets. I told EVERYBODY. I blew the whistle on the cult which is now under investigation, and I can’t say more about that right now.

    I told all the family and friends who remained about the cheating ex. His boss fired him and ex has lost his social standing in the community. Everybody’s (rightly) calling him a rapist. Apparently he’s really upset about it. I couldn’t care less.

    Healing took years and sifting through a lot of therapists, most of whom weren’t qualified to treat trauma and I think honestly did more damage with their disbelief and shock. Most people don’t understand sociopaths exist.

    I had the good fortune to finally find a good therapist who realized she was out of her depth and referred me to a trauma specialist.

    Both of them said the same thing: “How are you so functional?” The referring specialist said she’d seen patients with my level of trauma before, and all of them were drug addicts who couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. She said she couldn’t figure out how I wasn’t on drugs or managed to hold down a job and have friends.

    It put my whole life in perspective. Nothing I’d experienced was normal. I grew up with unstable adults, so of course that colored my whole life. I had to grieve in therapy and recalibrate my picker.

    I think what saved me was, on some level, I always knew none of the abuse was my fault. Even as a kid, I remember feeling indignant, but I wasn’t allowed boundaries at the time. That changed as I went out into the world. In the end, the indignation saved me.

    Even then, it took me years in trauma counseling to internalize that the abuse wasn’t my fault and never was. Do you blame someone when they’re mauled by a tiger? No, of course not, it’s just what tigers do. It’s not personal. Some people out there are tigers, born without the empathy chip. They’re honestly pathetic people and incapable of creating anything themselves, and that’s why they leech off good people like us. They’re losers.

    Anyway, this is what helped me. Anger was my best friend for a long time. Anger helped me escape. Later, in quiet moments, I then got more validation by seeing the abuse wasn’t my fault … and with the help of trauma therapy, also seeing how impressively resilient and accomplished I am. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back not only for what you survived but the fact you rebuilt. It says a lot about you as a person.

    Hope this helps. Happy to speak more to any of this.

    • Cam, your persistence of fighting for your self and for healing is awe-inspiring. I hope those who harmed you see you for the formidable force you are to them, and they never dare to encroach on your life and light again

      • Thank you.

        Some of my abusers are dead, and I doubt the others ever think of me, to be honest, such is their narcissism.

        None of them have bothered me in years, however, so I think you’re right in that they know I’m not to be fucked with anymore. If they do, I’ll destroy them.

    • Cam, Thanks for this. Interesting that some people are serially abused by multiple people. Was a lack of boundaries as a result of initial trauma part of the pattern?

      • Ah, I think I understand your question. Did my poor boundaries have anything to do with the abuse?

        No, not at all. The cause were the predators themselves. There’s a lot of them out there. I would go so far as to say society hinges on abusive systems.

        I didn’t get a chance to delve into details in my original comment, but all the predators I met were part of abusive systems that supported each other, and many overlapped. For example, my abusive family of origin (abusive system #1) strong armed me into the cult (abusive system #2). Both were highly sophisticated networks of abusive people who supported and covered for each other. I never stood a chance.

        Respectfully, your question is kind of like asking someone who’s been repeatedly raped if their poor boundaries had anything to do with it. And I would give the same answer: No, the rapist was the only cause.

        I understand why you ask, though. This stuff is hard to understand even for people with doctorates. None of the therapists I met had any clue how to deal with me until I found someone specialized in trauma and abuse. If experts don’t understand this stuff, what chance do us laypeople have?

        The truth is, I was set up to fail early. I was brutalized from childhood and lived under constant threat of emotional and physical violence. At points, I was financially controlled as well.

        I spent a lot of time in therapy browbeating myself for “allowing” myself to be abused repeatedly, until I was finally able to understand I had no control over any of it at any moment. It would’ve been like expecting someone to stand up and fight after they’d just been nearly beaten to death with brass knuckles. My therapist had to walk me through an explanation of PTSD (which she diagnosed me with) and what it does to you. She had to explain to me what happens to soldiers brainwashed in enemy captivity. It’s a diagnosable illness with profound effects on the body and brain. You can’t control it.

        I realized I had poor boundaries because I’d been abused, and all of the abusers were the sole cause. My boundaries had nothing to do with it. They were the effect, not the cause.

        Now, if you’re asking do abusers have a field day with poor boundaries? Absolutely. They also have an uncanny ability to pick wounded gazelle out of a crowd. I have no doubt all of my abusers could sense someone had hurt me before. For sure, it was a vulnerability they took full advantage of.

        I realize this is a nuanced conversation, but I think it’s worth having. There’s a fine line between taking responsibility for our escapes vs blaming ourselves for the abuse in the first place, but I get why we do it: Because it’s hard to internalize just how little control we had over our abuse.

        I tried to hold myself responsible for a long time because, in a way, it cushioned me from the full horror of what I experienced. It’s scary to admit you had absolutely no control over anything you experienced, that you were at the complete mercy of monsters.

        • “I would go so far as to say society hinges on abusive systems.”

          I agree, and it’s not going far at all.

          “There’s a fine line between taking responsibility for our escapes vs blaming ourselves for the abuse in the first place, but I get why we do it: Because it’s hard to internalize just how little control we had over our abuse.”

          Yes, it is terrifying when you face up to how powerless you are, that there is absolutely nothing you can do that will stop somebody from mistreating you. This must be faced in order to be free. Anybody who continues with self blame remain at increased vulnerablity to being hoodwinked by yet another abuser. Mind you, you can do all the right things and still be fooled. Some of them are Academy award quality actors when they are drawing a victim in.

          What an incredible story of bravery and survival, Cam. I salute you for going to the authorities to report the cult and for kicking the trash people out of you life. ????????????

        • The problem isnt boundaries, it’s bad people walking around doing bad things and everyone else turning a blind eye or justifying the abuse as the victim’s fault in some way (eg poor boundaries ~ CL covers this well). I’ve recently discovered “betrayal blindness” which is tied to attachment theory ~ victims dont or cant see the truth because it would be psychologically catastrophic to do so. How is a little kid responsible for being abused by a parent? I read your story and all I have is admiration and respect for a courageous person who has been let down by so many, including the community.

            • Cam ~ I did like your use of the socratic method to respond initially to the question ????. I just read an article about a man who stopped speaking in the 1970s because he realised he never listened in a conversation and was just working out what he was going to say next. We do as a community need to start listening to what victims of abuse are telling us.

          • Yes, infants, and children are totally dependent on their parents for survival.

          • This. Exactly. Abusive and manipulative people don’t care about boundaries. You set one down, and they will find a way to get around it, often without you realizing it. They’re cunning and sneaky like that. Suddenly you wake up one day and find yourself wondering what happened to your life and why your needs are so small.

        • This subtle distinction is coming up for me in my 12 step recovery program. So much of it has been helpful as I go through “withdrawal” from a thirty year marriage. But I cannot yet list or articulate the ways I contributed to harmful relationships. It has taken all I have to understand I did not cause the cheating and that I was a good (though not perfect) wife. I suspect that I would have benefited from trauma informed therapy, but I sought out a marriage counselor initially. Even though people in my fellowship can and do talk about their “bottom”, I share very few details about the end of my marriage. I’d rather just use the tools available for my own sober living than give my exFW anymore centrality.

          • I haven’t done 12 Steps, but you’re not the first person to tell me that 12 Steps was trying to get them to admit fault in an abusive relationship. One friend said the program was encouraging her to reach out to her (dangerous!) abusive ex to apologize for “her part” in the relationship. I told her not to do it, that her group was dangerously ignorant.

            I’m just an outsider, but 12 Steps doesn’t appear to understand abuse dynamics. Frankly, even the therapists I met were clueless until I found someone who was trauma informed. People don’t realize abusive relationships are more like hostage situations and the usual belief that “it takes two to tango” doesn’t apply.

            So, I’m not surprised you can’t think of any way you allegedly contributed to harmful relationships. You most likely didn’t. Don’t be surprised if 12 Steps doesn’t understand this. They’re not trained for it.

        • Thank you and I worried that question may be conceived as victim blaming. It wasn’t and sorry if it came across as that. I have been taken advantage of (abused) many times over the years and I just wonder if a lack of boundaries draws people to me who would do this. FW was a kind and decent person for 20 years and then flipped. It is just strange that this has been a recurrent theme.
          Thank you for your answer and I am glad for you healing

          • I’m so sorry you went through that horrible experience. And no worries, I didn’t take offense at all. Sincerely, I get why you asked it, because I asked myself the same question for years. Society as a whole still doesn’t understand abuse, doesn’t understand the effects of brainwashing, and still by and large doesn’t hold predators accountable. We ask ourselves if WE are the common denominator because we live in a system that blames us and hand waves perpetrators.

            I think it’s a societal defense mechanism. We want to believe we live in a just world, so if people keep hurting you, well, you must’ve done something to deserve it, right?

            And the truth is, no, you didn’t.

            A distinction that really helped me was: “Zebras do not attract lions. Lions are attracted to zebras.”

            It’s a subtle but critical distinction, one I read on a website about pseudopersonalities by a fellow named David McDermott in Dublin. I think he’s a medical doctor, not sure, but his material opened my eyes to the effects of abuse and brainwashing and helped me put the fault of the abuse where it belongs – on the perpetrators.

            These predators are out there in swarms and they hunt EVERYONE. It’s not personal. And if we’ve been wounded before by another predator, and perhaps are more vulnerable than the general population, that still doesn’t make us responsible for being attacked. The fault lies with the predator alone.

            Our only job is to get away and protect ourselves, including healing so we become impervious to future users.

            • Thank you for all of this. It helps and reenforces What my Psychiatrist tells me but I am new to therapy. It actually hit home more than he does.
              I had a mother who was a doll to my brothers but a physically, emotionally and psychologically abuser to me. I was middle child of 3 boys all a year apart. The fact that she was loving to my brothers led me to believe I was a bad person. Now I realize that toddler did nothing wrong. When I achieved in academics and athletics she tried to sabotage me. When I showed her that I ranked 3/330 as a freshman in high school her response was a sarcastic “big deal, what do you think you are smarter than your brother. ” BTW his rank was 50. When I graduated from Medical school she said “just because your a doctor doesn’t mean anything you are not that smart”

              Cam thank you.
              Stay healthy

              • DC your mother was/is a jealous old narc but as the family scapegoat you had a chance of escape. The chosen one, usually an inferior model, ends up enmeshed and usually turns into a narc themselves (albeit the covert variety). They lie, cheat and steal to stay relevant. People are messed up.

              • DrChump,

                I don’t know if it helps, but personally, realizing I had no control over the abuse was the turning point in my recovery. I didn’t cause it, I didn’t control it, I was 100% the victim.

                It was a tough revelation, and I rejected it repeatedly. My therapist had to keep bringing me back to it and explaining it to me in a myriad of ways and making it clear to me that no, I did nothing wrong. No, I didn’t deserve it. No, there was NOTHING I could’ve done to prevent any of it.

                Once I understood, I cried every day for a year. But after that, I felt a million times lighter and most of my PTSD symptoms disappeared within months. Suddenly every part of my life took off, including my relationships, and I was finally able to be (appropriately) vulnerable with people.

                I struggled to accept that I was a victim for the longest time, but it was 100% needed in order to move on from being a victim to being a survivor. But I needed a skilled trauma specialist to walk me through it.

    • “Healing took years and sifting through a lot of therapists, most of whom weren’t qualified to treat trauma and I think honestly did more damage with their disbelief and shock. Most people don’t understand sociopaths exist.” ???? FELT! I got tired of shocked therapists who could only say things like “wow…” and “how have you always gotten out of bed everyday and functioned so well?!?!” I relate more than you know, thank you for sharing your story.

      Ultimately, it was Sandra L. Brown, M.A. of the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction, and her trauma-informed Living Recovery Program that was both consistently and ferociously helpful to me. Hugs to all of us out here surviving.

    • Dear Cam, I know now that I was not alone, even if it felt like it at the time. Thank you for caring. I am calm, happy and content these days. Wishing you all the very very best as you continue forward. Lots of hugs.

  • I made “it will get better” my mantra. I also had a season where I embraced lotuses. (My friend had shared a quote with me about lotuses growing the mud.” I didn’t FEEL like it would get better, but I kept telling myself it would because logically it couldn’t stay THAT bad forever. And it did eventually get better. WAY better. (I also confided in friends and my parents and their support was essential. And I spoke with a therapist specialized in this a couple of times.)

    I’m now in another rebuilding season (not from a cheater this time) and again reminding myself that it will get better. It has already gotten better (10 months out almost exactly), and it will continue to get better. I think what I learned from Tracy and Chump Nation the first time around was extremely helpful this time around too, even though the circumstances were different.

  • I was so exhausted after a year of pick-me dancing but I had had enough and knew it had become too damaging to me.

    I wrote on my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker: I will not be diminished.

    I put a diary app on my phone and told myself I had to record something every day that I had done that was new, fun, different, replenishing or self-centered (I had completely subsumed myself to him and didn’t even know what I wanted to do but had to prioritize finding out). The first week’s entries are about getting Thai takeout, going by myself to see Oscar-nominated shorts, buying new coffee mugs that were not gray. Not major things – those would come later- but just trying to find my way toward a life of my own.

    • Oh my goodness, coffee cups that “were not grey”! This absolutely resonated with me. Heaven forbid I ever bought anything colourful for crockery or even (gasp!) with flowers on…

      • I also got a pink flocked Christmas tree that year, craziness…
        Here’s to lots of color in our lives!

  • I mentally survived by having my mom, my best friend, and my attorney. After trying a few different ones, I finally found an AMAZING therapist, who helped me understand just what a hell I had been living in, who validated my experiences, who BELIEVED my stories of abuse, who allowed me to express my anger (and told me I wasn’t a bad or bitter person for being angry), and who supported me through the divorce. She also validated my belief that FW was a narcissist (she used the word, I didn’t), and she spoke to the custody evaluator as well, to confirm what I had been through.

    At the beginning (after finally walking away from all the RIC websites I first went to), I spent HOURS watching YouTube videos on narcissistic abuse. They were so accurate to my experiences. Learning what sort of person I was dealing with, what to expect from him as things progressed, and realizing it wasn’t my fault helped so much. I was worried that I would live there forever, watching those videos. But over time I found I needed them less. I knew what I was dealing with. Reading Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?” was immensely helpful, as was the book “Psycopath Free”. Knowing what my ex’s reaction would likely be to, say, my not responding to an email or text, helped me take the inevitable temper tantrum/insults/threats/etc. less personally. I could say “there he goes again, just as I expected” made it easier, and eventually less scary.

    I found it extremely difficult to stop looking at my ex’s social media, and OW’s social media, and obsessing about them. Telling myself to stop didn’t work. What worked was instead filling my time with good things. Things I enjoyed that I had given up because FW didn’t like them, or because he made fun of me for them. Eventually I would find that I hadn’t checked FW’s facebook all day. Hadn’t even thought about him and OW. Cutting out all mutual “friends”, and basically shutting down my own social media helped as well.

    I made a new, good, happy life for myself. Time and distance made clear just how small, cramped, and unhappy I’d been in my marriage. How the “happiness” wasn’t real, was usually just a relief from pain (“we didn’t fight today!”, as if not fighting equaled a “good” day). I reveled in my freedom. My world opened up. The future started looking bright. When he tried to hoover, the thought of returning to my previous life no longer appealed.

    He died a year ago (by his own hand), and life has gotten even better, as I no longer deal with fear, PTSD, or the ongoing legal/financial abuse, nor am I embroiled in a custody battle, and my son is safe and away from those people (ex and OW) who were no good for him. I let go of feeling guilty that my ex’s death was a relief to me. He put me through so much shit while he was alive. I had nothing to do with his death. He just couldn’t handle the consequences of his own choices and behavior. He abused OW and she left. He had pushed away everyone who actually cared and ended up completely alone. So I no longer feel guilty or responsible for not seeing the signs. I am thankful my son and I made it out alive and relatively unharmed. In years to come, I expect my son will have to deal with some emotional fallout, but for the moment, his anxiety and depression have disappeared. He is a happy, healthy, well-adjusted ten year old. Our home is peaceful and full of love. He no longer has to worry about his depressed father. He no longer has to shuttle between homes. He is no longer in the care of abusive alcoholics (OW and FW were both alcoholics, and were angry, miserable people who fought all the time). He knows I’ll never abandon him. He has family who loves him.

    People told me things would get better. I didn’t believe them. But they were right. I am the happiest I’ve ever been.

  • Dear MegaMeh,
    Love your name!
    Late to reading here, have not read the comments, but had to jump right in to say how Mighty MIGHTY you are.
    I am so sorry for all you endured, but also feeling so proud and happy for all you have accomplished.
    Sadly, I, as you, had no internet, no CL, CN in my time either.
    I would have to say what kept me going, what gave me strength, was my tiny child and the child to be I was carrying at DDay time.
    I told no one, even to this day, especially my beautiful adult children.
    I was so busy in those early chump days, but years later it has all haunted me, and I deal with that the best I can, remembering always, it was never never never me( I was a loving, attentive, devoted wife & mother). It was all on him, to decide to have an affair and try to hid everything from me, and when addressed later, cheater chose to lie. Nope nothing like that ever happened. Nope.
    Inner peace, knowing the truth, day by day, that, wth my Children knowing me always, as the present, loving, parent, that will always sustain me.
    Big hugs and ❤️ to you.
    YOU are a HERO!

    • Hi Peacekeeper, thanks so much for the supportive post. It sounds like we went through this at about the same pre-digital time. As I wrote, I also told no-one and yes, it did haunt me a little. But after having found ChumpNation I find I’m truly on the other side of it. Inner peace and knowing my truth absolutely works for me. Hugs right back to you.

  • Initially, I didn’t. I was convinced I was horrible and it was all my fault because he had spent a lot of time water torturing me about my inferiority in suble and not subtle ways for so many years, and it really amped up at the end.

    I had to realize (with help) that I had been in a very abusive relationship and begin to understand how abusers think. Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That” was key, as was help from The Hotline (for domestic violence) and a lot of research on abuse and narcissism.

    It took me all of that, and therapy, to unspool the crazy-making BS he had spun.

    Abusers feel entitled and that you deserve it. They aren’t. And you don’t. Once I realized it wasn’t really about ME at all, that he would have done it to anyone and HAS started doing it to the new schmoopie, it really helped. I mean, look at ALL the gorgeous, strong, capable, amazing people who get cheated on and abused. It was never about ME or YOU. They have hole in their buckets and nobody will ever be “enough” for long.

    Everyone: domestic violence is much more than physical violence, and you can absolutely be experiencing DV even if they have never physically hit you. It always escalates. Get out, get help, and dont look back.

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