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Did You Spackle?

All relationships possess some spackle to one degree or another. Thinking the best of the other person, giving the benefit of doubt, and sometimes unquestioned allegiance, even if the reciprocity is spotty or nonexistent.

For any newbies out there, spackle is a term we use at CN, derived from actual spackle — the stuff you use to fill in the gaps to create a smooth surface from what was once an unsightly blemish. Add a little sanding and paint — and voila! A normal looking surface! It’s shorthand for the sort of impression management we willingly perform for the FWs in our life.

Until we don’t.

Spinach@35 had an interesting comment the other day:

After D-Day, I certainly saw x in a new light. It was as if all those layers of spackle turned to dust, laying bare the shitty qualities of x and our relationship. I think that when I married him, I actually thought he was a great guy. I don’t know. It wasn’t long after we married that he started to hurt me. That’s when the spackling began.

I think I spackled for a few reasons:
1. embarrassment that I’d probably made the biggest mistake of my life
2. commitment to make it work
3. confusion about what constitutes a good married relationship (FOO issues)
4. quick ability to feel sated after getting smaller and smaller breadcrumbs
5. crumbling self-esteem (I’m not worthy.)
6. mistaking sex for love (We have sex often, so all is well.)
7. wanting to keep my family together (Said to myself: “It’s not that bad.” Said to my kids: “He means well.”)

I could go on…

Just wondering what others experienced.

So, your Friday Challenge is to tell CN about your spackle.

Polishing with spackle isn’t all bad. I think it’s what loving partners do for each other. But it only works on solid surfaces. Check for rot. And TGIF!

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Oh I was the queen of spackle 1. Oh he works all the time just to support us… he is salaried now I left him he gets home early everyday he didn’t want to see me and the kids. 2. He only has screaming and yelling fits punching wall fits a couple times a year he is not abusive. 3. Our autistic kid does leave the lights in the garage on and it’s annoying I get why he is mad and screaming as he walks in the door 4. He is too busy to come to kids sporting events, school things, and IEP meetings. 5. I gained some weight I see why he is wanting an open marriage. 6. I am so boring I get why he sits in his office till 2am. Daily. I could go on and on and on.

    • I could have written this statement, only abusive once and awhile. My therapists asked me if a bank robber only robbed a bank once, would he not still be a bank robber…then it made sense. He’s an abuser, even if it is just once a year.

    • Oh my, as I was reading CL’s post today I was thinking “Holy Moly, I was Queen of Spackle…” only to find your post here, saying exactly the same!! Yup, yup, he was tired; he tries so hard to get a job; I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way; it must be so hard for him to see me in a well-paying job (not hard enough to stop him spending the money though…). One time he held my hair and slammed my head into a wall, enough to really dent the wall (which I repaired with lots of actual spackle). I had a goose egg sized bruise on the back of my head, but otherwise was physically OK but that was one of the last incidents before I decided that this relationship was indeed “unacceptable to me” and planned the rest of my life, free of FWs (and spackle)!

  • I spackled very efficiently by compartimentalizing.
    I treated each instance of disappointment, abuse or disrespect singularly, so I never noticed the heap of dust collecting under the rug, one small fuzzball at a time.

    The incidents were initially “small” enough to seem sweepable offenses (part of it was distortion and many of the other reasons listed by Spinach).

    But this mechanism was self-reinforcing, too, because each time I’d think “well, if I’ve let that go by, then I can let this”. It’s the “only one more chocolate” mentality that leads you to clear the box.

    When I left, I was still in the process of “measuring the dustballs”, trying to decide “is this offense great enough” or “is this behavior abusive enough”, etc. Then Im glad something pushed me over the line.

    I found my ENOUGH is ENOUGH and I left. But if I hadn’t found this particular evidence, I would have gone ahead and married him (after a spackle proposal after 10 years together) and that would have been a disaster.

    Im very grateful I was freed when I was.

    • I copied and saved this, along with Spinach’s post from yesterday, and others. And your “only one more chocolate mentality” really hit home.

    • I suffered from the “only one more chocolate mentality,” and if I ignore it, did it really happen? and if it did happen was it that bad?
      I’d avoid confrontation to avoid being told I was trying to start an argument then being accused of never being happy. The few months before Dday, he accused me of being unhappy more often. He added that he could never make me happy. I had no idea what he was talking about.
      Now that I know cheater speak, it was that he was never happy and I cold never make him happy since I lost the ability to give him butterflies in his stomach when I entered the room.
      We were in our 50’s, together over 20 years with a teenage son at the time. Not teenagers in the school lunchroom.

  • So many reasons to spackle, I didn’t think abuse was a reason to leave, I wanted to give him another chance, I was ashamed, I wanted to the kids to think everything was okay, he’s just stressed, etc. It worked until it didn’t, then I saw the real him, the pathetic loser who used me as an excuse for his bad behavior.

    • Yes! Many of us became the excuse for the fw’s bad behavior, the scapegoat.

      I was ashamed too. Somehow his meanness reflected on my bad choice. I couldn’t admit I had made such a huge mistake marrying the guy so I let incidents pile up.

      We were young and I thought he’d grow up, too.

      Also I loved him so very much but I see now that I ended up confusing trauma bonding/the abuse cycle for love. It felt like love when we “repaired”.

      • @Chumpita…. This for me as well: “We were young and I thought he’d grow up, too.

        Also I loved him so very much but I see now that I ended up confusing trauma bonding/the abuse cycle for love. It felt like love when we “repaired”.”

    • “It worked until it didn’t, then I saw the real him, the pathetic loser who used me as an excuse for his bad behavior.”

      THIS is the start of everything for me. Lately, I have started to realize that I have been spackling over my own crap as well. I have sometimes heard myself say, “Well, I am unlovable, so of course I won’t find anyone” and then i take actions to live as if it were true. This is an excuse that allows me to not take responsibility for my life. I chose to interpret his betrayal in a way that has given me the out from being vulnerable. I hope to learn to stop the behavior when I spackle for others and for myself. Truth is, yes, he is a pathetic loser AND I should leave it right there. I cannot use his faults to hold onto a story about me or I am still spackling.

      • I spackled my own crap too. I was trying to control the chaos by controlling our image and pretending that all was well. I learned that behavior as a child with a chaotic mother. Of course, I developed anxiety and projected that onto our children because my ex was so unpredictable and disordered. I stuffed every negative emotion too, trying to manage it all. I was also a religious fake.

        Thankfully, I got it together after he decided that being at the beach living like a single man was better than marriage and family. After a year of long-distance separation, I said no more. What seemed like a major explosion in our lives brought us to a much better place.

  • Master Spackler here… and fully agree with Spinach@35’s list.

    My primary reason for spackling was that my son was 3yo the first time I caught Mr. Sparkles meeting up with Craigslist hookers and doing live video chats on Adult Friend Finder. I couldn’t imagine giving up my son 50% of the time (because I know this fuckwit would go for custody). So I stayed… spackled… made the therapy appointments… spiced up the bedroom… worked full-time… paid for summer camps for my stepkids… cooked and cleaned… all so he could focus on NOT CHEATING.

    Flash forward six years and Mr. Sparkles walks out for an OW. Spackling fell apart and there was nothing I could do (except pick me dance for a year).

    Sometimes the truths (spackle) we tell ourselves are even more damaging than the cheater cheating… because we control the spackle… we have the power to change the narrative, walk away from the cheater. But it is hard, no doubt.

    I eventually fought Mr. Sparkles in court so he didn’t get 50/50… he got “visitation”. I was/am the sane parent. My son watched me navigate grief and remain present (a good life skill). He didn’t get the “intact” family I wanted for him, but he did get to grow up without having to watch his mom suffer abuse (gaslighting; cheating; financial abuse; etc). He got better than my spackling would’ve ever delivered.

    • ICSTMC, I’m glad you’re touching on our various underlying reasons for spackling.
      I’m big on untangling my own skein, determining my payoffs and my cherished outcomes.
      With the Lying Cheating Loser, my self-worth was all tangled up in whether the relationship lasted/succeeded. He was 15 years younger, reasonably attractive, intelligent, funny and charming in that sparkly sociopath way. If he was choosing me, I must be some kind of woman, right?
      My cherished outcome was a lifelong, happy, slightly unconventional, blended family relationship. It was supposed to be my reward for enduring a long, cold marriage to a disengaged, disrespectful man.
      So if it failed, that meant I wasn’t worthy.
      No wonder I spackled.
      Now, 4.5 years since I dumped the LCL, I am happily, purposely single. I’m not on any dating apps, and I seriously doubt that the comfortably chubby, mid-50s, working artist, homeowner and enthusiastic renovator, crazy cat- and plantlady that I have become will be partner material for somebody again.
      And that’s perfectly fine with me. Never again will I put the key to my happiness, fulfillment, and worth in someone else’s pocket.

      • “Never again will I put the key to my happiness, fulfillment, and worth in someone else’s pocket”

        I love that. Brilliant. 👌

        • Thank you, Chumpnomore6! I can’t take credit though – it’s a widely circulated meme on social media. (I did add the fulfillment and worth part.)

    • ” … all so he could focus on NOT CHEATING”. This is the at the base of the cover up and self-delusion. Cheaters persuade chumps that they have their own time management challenges, their own very full and very vague to-do list. It works to kick chumps into high gear and keep the whole operation moving forward. We found out what cheaters do with the extra time.

      • This – literally what they are doing with their time while we spackle. I spackled so my kids wouldn’t feel on the fact that their dad missed 3/3 Skype calls on an overseas trip. After all, he was on “12 hour shifts that quickly turn into 14 hour shifts!” I ran around keeping my little ones busy for two months straight. I scrambled to have 2 little kids ready to make those scheduled calls he didn’t have time for. But he did have time to bang someone else’s wife! Amazing!
        Of course if any of us had held their feet to the fire rather than spackling, we would be the crazy ungrateful bitches (or male equivalent). What a mindfuck.

    • You made the right move.
      Be proud of yourself.
      I did not do that.
      After all of the abuse, my beautiful daughter (who, yes, had mental health issues and was not equipped to deal with a sociopath such as the man I chose to spakle) committed suicide in our family home.
      I left him as soon as my long distance family could help which was 4 days later.
      Our children are our souls.
      And whenever we can come together as parents is when we make real change in this world.

      • GMAHTM, tears came to my eyes reading your post. I am so sorry you lost your beautiful daughter. What an awful man he is and was. I’m thankful that you were able to travel to your family so they could help you navigate through those dark days immediately after the loss of you daughter. You last two sentences really resonate with me. “Our children are our souls. And whenever we can come together as parents is when we make real change in this world.” Hugs to you from an internet stranger.

    • Would you say leaving when your son was three years old would have been the better option after all? I am divorcing my husband with hooker habit and we have 3 kids (youngest is just 1 year old). He will get 50/50 in co-parenting and I will miss them like crazy but I still feel like this is better than eroding my soul by staying with him. This is also harmful for children in the end, isn’t it? I am torn about what the better option is. Why did he choose what he chose? I don’t get these ‘sex addicted’ creeps. What is of value to them? How to ever exploit this to your children? Why did he not consider us? I am so so mad still! This anger has fueled me in getting through with the divorce. I feel a lot of sadness, but mainly relief when thinking about life without him.

      • Hi Rosie. Good for you for getting away from this creep. Typically “sex addiction” is just one of the compulsive behaviors of a more deeply disordered person (think Cluster B). However, the RIC sex addiction therapists will never ever explore this. Labeling the perversion as an addiction keeps chumps stuck in “recovery” hopium while the CSATs rake in the therapy fees. The relief you feel when you imagine life without his crazy is your gut instinct coming back on line. Trust that that’s the best option for you and your kids.

      • Hi Rosie – There is no easy answer to your question. Divorce is hard on kids no matter when, why or how. The whole “kids are resilient” is insulting to their individual experience, but I think CL’s comments that if the kids have one sane parent they can navigate the changes and still have a good childhood.

        I had to participate in mediation regarding custody as Mr. Sparkles wanted 50/50 (mostly so he wouldn’t have to pay child support, not because he cared about our son)… I showed up to mediation with a manilla folder filled with copies of his emails to hookers; personal ads he had online; all the sordid details. At the end of the mandatory two hours, I give the folder to the mediator and told him I would fight for full custody in court if need be and Mr. Sparkles folded to “visitation”. Not every situation goes like this, but I’m grateful mine did.

        Best I can offer is get clear on what you need to be the best sane parent you can be. Put systems in place so the kids know they have support too and ways to keep in touch with you when not under your roof. Invest in child and family counseling as much as you need.

        Wish I had a crystal ball for you. We’re here.

  • He made so much money. I had a gorgeous house. My bills are paid, beautiful vacations are had, he takes me on all day dates. He looks me in the eyes and says, “I love only you.”

    He was spackling up a storm while cheating behind my back with call girls.

  • “At least he ended up choosing me over her.”
    “He didn’t actually cheat on the new improved version of me that I am today. He cheated on the old, flawed version of me, but that person is now dead.”

    “It’s not like I didn’t find other people attractive secretly. I just didn’t tell them about it or, like, you know, fuck them.”

    “It was just the booze, he didn’t really mean to cheat (for an entire year).”

    “Why should she get him after I supported his career for a decade while he struggled? Now that he’s successful, I deserve the rewards.”

    “He was only reliving the pain of his own father’s betrayal of his mother. It wasn’t about fucking a hotter girl”.

  • Cycle of abuse. I never realized what it was. Now in hindsight its obvious. The buildup, the blow up, the love bombing and remorse. It wasnt physical, it was yelling/ raging. It wasnt often, maybe 3-4 times a year. I dont see myself as a victim, Im used to people people behaving badly, so again I missed it. Making same exact excuses as everyone else here. He works long hours to support us, he has to commute to city, he has a demanding job and is stressed. Hes not that bad. Its better for the kids to be from an intact home.

    • Much of what Spinach said applies to my situation. I was ashamed, etc. I kept thinking it was a one time thing and then 11 years later found out there was an EA from years before but it was so long ago and we were doing well then so……Then many years later a big dust bomb hit me and I saw all of it combined instead of thinking of each thing separately. The lying to me was the worst part even though it all hurt. Hugs to all who have spackled and to those who did not.

    • My XH yelled and raged, too. I don’t even know if I would characterize my response as “spackle.” I accepted my role as his rage sponge. It never occurred to me that I could leave. Who would protect our children?

  • The key to fixing a terrible hole is fiberglass mesh, held in place with layers and layers of spackle and serious sanding in between.

    I know this from being handy but also pertains to my life with the ex.

    Of course someone can get crabs from a toilet seat
    I can’t have sex or touch you because I’m so depressed
    The bridge was closed for hours because of construction and you were stuck in a no cell zone (or it was pre cell phone days)
    You had to stay late to work on fill-in-the-blank
    The two of you needed the only double office and private bathroom in the whole firm because you need to always work together
    You must have eaten something rotten and threw up which is why you came home without a shirt under your suit
    Too much traffic to make the prom photos/awards assembly/sports game/holiday dinner
    You need an apartment in the city for all those nights you have to work so late or have early breakfast meetings
    You’d been sleeping on your office couch because your nephew was kicked out of his apartment and need to stay in the apartment in the city…

    Oh god, they don’t sell buckets of spackle big enough!!!
    🤷🏼‍♀️

  • I’ll spare the sorry detail of my story as they’re quite embarrassing, but the worst of it is, when you sign up for a RIC program, they promote spackling to spackle so you don’t engage in “push” behaviors that further alienate fuckwits. The idea is of course that they will eventually come out of the fog as “limerence” fades and have an epiphany as their good conscience overwhelms them.

    I bought that shit hook line and sinker. I spackled only to the point where it became so nonsensical and humiliating that I finally said enough. I realized I was only feeding her horrible sense of entitlement and giving her and her asshole homewrecking FW centrality they did not deserve. Chump Lady along with a pull-no-punches kick-ass therapist that specializes in narc abuse saved my fucking sanity and now I’ve found love with a woman that values me. Tuesday has arrived…finally!

    • They promote spackling to spackle so you don’t engage in push behaviors should just read: They promote spackling so you don’t engage in… too early

    • I’m gonna have to think about this some more. With the help of RIC, I also did that same spackling. Until now, I haven’t actually been aware. A lot of money and years. I’ll admit I liked it. There was so much more “positive” in my life than comes naturally to me. And I found CL and I fell right off the fence. I filed for divorce the next business day.

  • I’d say the most disorienting phase was right after disclosure, when I still had spackle on a trowel in my hand, but suddenly the wall was gone. Like my brain was trying to spackle over him going to hookers for all those years, but there was nowhere to hang the arguments. “Sure, he was insecure, having not had a job in 14 years, and my being well paid made him feel… go pay to see…. Bzzzzzt wtf?!?”

    • Yup. yuppers and yes. My FW was ‘in love’ with one my ex-best friends. I spackled the heck out of that. But there just seemed to be something odd about the wall the more I looked; paint peeling around the edges so to speak. I finally convinced him that really yes indeed I did want the truth and the wall vanished. He’d cheated on me ALWAYS. It wasn’t this super special person he just fell in love with. It was all an illusion. I didn’t know him because I only got one small curated version of himself. He cast me as mental health nurse maid whereas they got fabulous weekend F**k friend, deep conversation Bestie and all the other bits.

      • Dear CCC: “He cast me as mental health nurse maid.” O.M.G. What a total POS FW.
        I am sending you healing light and loving energies. May you be blessed with an abundance of “MEH” in all sorts of beautiful colors.

    • Exactly! The unexplainable and inexcusable is simply not spackable. Not at all. Hookers make it all the more soulless and cold. Who the hell did I give all my love, life and soul for? What a waste.

  • I’ve always looked for the good in others. As a chump I believed in him, trusted and loved. With the disordered the lies flow effortlessly. Always, there was a reason with him as the victim. Forgiving and believing was the greatest spackle and he worked it to lead a double life. Comparatively, the bad was the ever present chaos he created to keep me off balance. The game was rigged.

    • Ditto. The game was rigged.

      x cheats at cards too – with the adult children.

      Deals off the bottom. Looks at the bottom of the deck. Did I just see that???

  • My spackle:

    « I’m being abusive and controlling if I blame him for (or even question him about) his series of extremely close friendships with women that involve him spending evenings and late nights meeting up with them. It’s not normal to police your spouse’s friendships, so I need to stop trying to limit his relationships with other women»

    « It’s unfair to blame him for his constant lies and infidelities because he’s an active alcoholic (frequently in and out of rehab). Alcoholism is a disease and I wouldn’t be angry at him if he had cancer. Therefore, I’m being unfair and judgmental »

    WTF was I thinking?

    • Controlling if I complain about how much time he spends on the computer vs. I don’t love him enough to complain about how much time he spends on the computer. Since I can’t win either way, I choose to play a different game!

  • Lifelong spackler, now acting as an estate trustee, I am realizing all of my prior chumpdom was training for this. Now wielding a massive spackle scraper (to deal with a certain someone who gets no more benefit of the doubt from me, ever) like Michelle Yeoh.

    Screw spackle.

    Yes, I spackled. Always the conscience, the seeing it another’s way the benefit of the doubt, always in the front seat with my own needs rattling around on a flatbead trailer hoping they can hang on.

    Not anymore.

    Show me results if you want my validation. Intent and character are as behavior does. No good behavior given, no good intent or character assumed.

    The trick is to grow those boundaries without becoming what I abhor. To be firm and direct without letting my anger turn me into a vitriolic, abusive person. There are a thousand ways to express an idea. My hope is that I choose words that fit my intent and the character I want to embody.

    Sure, I can call a person an insulting name — that’s lazy. Plus it’s abuse, even when the message is technically accurate. Maybe you ARE an asshat, but if I call you one outright, I’m being an immature and abusive person. We learn that’s shit behavior in kindergarten (or, at least, we used to.)

    Conversely, I can use accurate, meaningful words to describe a person’s choice or behavior, then clearly state what they can expect in return. More challenging, sure, but also more effective. Plus, I get to feel good about my character and choice, and retain solid relationships with other good character humans, later. (And it never looks shitty in court.)

    I think maybe some of why we chumps spackle is a subtle awareness that if we don’t, we are likely to become angrily reactive and we don’t like those feelings. We’re aware (however subconsciously) that people target us for abuse, and we’re aware that we get pretty damaged and hurt and angry when they do — so we *want* to think the best of a person and stay sweet and keep things loving. At least, I’ve recognized that in myself.

    I believe that working on being better at dealing with and expressing anger and effectively setting boundaries has made me less conflict avoidant and therefore less prone to spackle. (YMMV.)

    • Great insights.. I’ll second those and add that for me, to get angry at abuse was terrifying— it’s likely after effects of abuse and neglect by my cheater-narcissist alcoholic parents. Say what’s really going on or resist? Watch out! The fists will fly. 😭🤬😭. There’s no wonder…..

    • “Yes, I spackled. Always the conscience, the seeing it another’s way the benefit of the doubt, always in the front seat with my own needs rattling around on a flatbead trailer hoping they can hang on.”

      This was me, too. When I think of the extent of my abject subordination of my own interests to my ex’s, especially in those months of horizontal pick me dancing, I am now horrified.

      One of the unexpected results of spending the last four months helping my mother in her final months–accepting what the hospice nurse called her “food disinterest” and then defending her from others who would push her to eat when she didn’t want to; doing for my mother all the things I said I would never do, including making end of life decisions–is that I acquired the strength and self-confidence to made hard but morally correct (and courageous) choices.

      • “When I think of the extent of my abject subordination of my own interests to my ex’s, especially in those months of horizontal pick me dancing, I am now horrified.” Yes to this and to Amiisfree’s great line about “needs rattling around on a flatbead trailer hoping they can hang on.” Such a great but sad image.

        In my own case, even though I could be badass and strong in many areas of my life (handling aging parents, kids, work), I somehow shape shifted to meet my x’s wants, moods, and needs. In the end (after 35 years), I’d lost touch with what I liked or wanted.

        After D-Day, my therapist asked me what I liked to do. No doubt she thought this was an easy question, but I was at a loss. Seriously. 😳

        The good news is that now, 3 years since D-Day, I’m back in touch with myself.

        Adelante, I applaud you for what you are doing for your mom. I know it’s been a long haul, at least that’s my sense of things from reading your comments here. She’s lucky to have you and your morally correct and courageous choices. ((hugs))

    • I’m also pretty conflict avoidant. Whenever FW and I’d have a fight he run away before it was ever resolved (or at least to my satisfaction). The way I’d feel made me crave him coming back home and making up. Now I see he was likely at OW with another excuse for his behavior. Overall during our few years of actual living together, I never felt we became a “we” or that it was “our” life happening.

  • Oh yes.
    1. I spackled after I asked him to take a night feeding the first week our first child was born (and I was exhausted, bleeding and couldn’t stop crying) and he said, simply, no. I told myself he has to go to work and I don’t so I understood. It was my job anyway as a mom. And I didn’t really want to use formula, did I?
    2. I spackled after he screamed at me that I was rude, an embarrassment and an inconvenience because I told him I couldn’t make it to a formal event we had planned for that night. I had a fever and terrible sinus infection, but I was inconsiderate because he would feel awkward there alone and his senior partner would be offended that I didn’t show up to sit at his table.
    3. I spackled – each time – after he came home drunk and stumbled around the house trying to find corners, closets (or cribs!) to urinate in. I spackled when he punched me for trying to direct his drunk ass away from our baby and to the toilet. I spackled when he strangled me when I tried to direct him away from our friends’ guest room closet. I spackled when he destroyed our modem with urine — I even met the cable guy who came to replace it so he didn’t have to.
    4. I spackled over all the soccer games, hockey practices and birthday parties that he didn’t show up for or was late for . I told the kids he was working hard so they could enjoy all these things.
    I’m sad that things turned out the way they did, but I’m happy I don’t have to make excuses for him anymore.

  • I was an expert. I made excuses and enabled. I especially pretended that all was well on Sunday morning.

    No more. I asked for a separation, and he took off. That was the break I needed to see just how very messed up our entire family was. I stopped denying his documented mental health issues. I refused reconciliation. On the one-year anniversary of our separation, I joined a twelve-step group that helped me get my thinking back in line and gave me a group of wonderful friends. I’m now on the leadership team.

    The only spackle I have around is for patching holes in drywall now.

  • Oh I spackled so much
    …When he said to me once, that he got turned off so much from us kissing. I thought “maybe he is in a bad mood, work has been terrible recently.”
    …When he stopped saying I love you (for 2 years), I thought “I was always the more emotional one, the one more in-love. I don’t mind”
    …When he said he didn’t even miss me after returning from a 3 weeks trip from Australia, and said that it’s annoying how excited I am and do I really have to jump on him and hug him at the airport
    …When my sister visited us from across the pond and he couldn’t even bother to talk to her, take her out to show her the town, invite her for a drink (it was Christmas market season and we went to a mulled wine booth. He bought wine for himself, and not for my sister and I).
    …when I found out he was cheating on me. He admitted to a weekend excursion with an exgf (but nothing physical happened, we just talked and talked and talked).

    “I thought we can recover from this. it’s a proof that he loves me, that nothing physical happened”
    3 days later, that same sister called me from across the pond and gave me a stern dressing down about how I am deluding myself, how he loves no one other than himself, and how he needs to move out.
    He moved out. I had a short pick-me-dance phase again for 3 months. Then I had definite proof of cheating. Then we were done for good

    Writing all this stuff makes me so so sad. Just remembering how much I put up with. So much devaluation

    • “Writing all this stuff makes me so so sad. Just remembering how much I put up with. So much devaluation”

      Hugs and comfort to you, CLH. Strength, stability and stamina to you. Health, happiness and harmony to you. And here’s to the day when writing this no longer makes you feeel so sad, but instead makes you feel so G.D. angry. And then here’s to the day when sharing this makes you feel so G.D. triumphant and proud of yourself for what you have overcome and accomplished. And then here’s to the day when you feel “MEH” about it all, and can think about something else, like emptying the kitty litter box, with as much detachment.

  • I spackled until I didn’t. I was in the RIC for a short time and spackling is encouraged there. I did buy into it for a few weeks but then I got this crap and I couldn’t buy into these things
    1. Can you blame him? You always focused on your son. (Um yeah, I was the one who had all the fun with taking care of a baby, taking care of a sick kid, taking the kid to his events, helping him move to college). I was not over focused and worked a full time job but I was the parent who was there.
    2. You don’t five FW enough time. (Um, well even when our son was driving, in college and in the Navy, FW did never did housework or grocery shopping but expected meals to be prepared and the house to be clean as if that happned by magic).
    3. You are not “fun and exciting” (I am an adult with a job and responsibilities. I can’t dress in a French maid outfit to clean the house).
    4. You are always tired (yes, I come home from working all day and commuting and after dinner, I would just like to sit down and watch tv or read a book. Guess that is a sin)
    5. In 1995, you said (fill in the blank). (Wow, it is 2020 I don’t remember what I said 25 years ago).
    I got tired of the RIC because they buy into the cheater lines and support them. I really didn’t think I should take half the blame for his decision to cheat when I was not consulted. I don’t think I am to blame for his unhappiness at my awfulness when he never said anything to me about it. I am glad I am out of that and in just a couple of weeks, I will be free from FW.
    Newbies, please, don’t buy into the RIC logic. This is not your fault, you were not consulted about the cheating.

    • Exactly, ChumpedForANewerModel! I was not obviously not consulted about his cheating either although it involved me. The RIC conveniently helped spackle over what he did, which was a violation to my physical and mental health and wellbeing – and I did not give consent.

    • Chumped For—Your post resonates with me so much. While I didnt do RIC I was told, after a 30 year marriage, that “he came after the kids and the cats”, that “I didnt work full-time”……. I am a History Prof who taught 3 courses every semester while doing Honors Tutorials and Indept Studies but because its not an 8-5/5 day a week schedule it wasnt “Full-time”. During divorce process, at the age of 63, he and his lawyer hired an “Employment Expert” to interview me with the goal of ascertaining the feasibility of me “changing careers” with the end goal of a “full-time job”. The “expert” was a 27 year old girl—a former undergrad where I teach. I thought the STD panel at 60 years old was the most humiliating experience; this was a close second. So, of course MY attorney had to counter with her/our own expert….blah, blah, blah,………. A 30+ year teaching career, while maintaining a huge home, raising 2 fabulous and successful daughters, home-cooking and baking constantly because we are Italian, ya’ know, and I wanted to be a “good wife”…….One year post divorce and I am working on giving myself grace, every day, for being SO goddamned stupid….

      • pennstategirl, Yes! Also Italian family here. FW was not. He couldn’t understand the concept of family. The kids have to come first especially as an infant and then as a toddler where they can get into everything. Not being the center of attention at all times must have really bothered FW because he harbored those feeling for over 25 years (but said nothing). Of course, he now has the opportunity to be sparkly and worshiped by Schmoopie 24 by 7. Yeah, it still kind of bothers me but like you, I am trying to give myself some grace. On the positive side, I do have a great family (mom and dad are still around, a bit slower but still doing reasonably well) and a great son (now stationed only a six hour drive away). It sucks to have this happen later in life but I think we can still have a great life (and a life without a cheater and liar around is great). I am okay being the crazy pet lady who cooks and feeds a crowd of family and my son and any of his Navy buddies. The house is at least buzzing with happiness and laughter as opposed to everyone walking on eggshells so as not to anger a surly FW!
        By the way, raising kids and keeping a house is a full time job! In truth most of us had two full time jobs. That makes us MIGHTY!

        • Chumped….My FW is/was also Italian so I assumed that “family” and everything that goes with that would be paramount…..was I wrong. He imploded the fam 3 months before my….I no longer say ‘our’ as daughters havent spoken to him in 3 years….older daughters’ wedding. He put us through unmitigated hell. He married affair partner , whose sons do not speak to her. So much for ‘ La Famiglia ‘……BUT….I have my daughters’ unconditional love, respect, and support as Im sure you do your son’s. WE ARE MIGHTY INDEED

      • @pennstategirl… I went through very similar hell after Dday, false wreconciliation and I found CL and told XH to GTFO….. I had 4 kids, a multimillion dollar real estate investment company, volunteered for a law clinic weekly, was a Girl Scout leader, baseball and basketball league board member, PTSA president, maintained a beautiful home and remarkable gardens AND worked as a patent litigator making slightly over six figures BUT, because I worked a flex schedule (way less than normal 60-hour workweek) and had stepped down from partnership and taken “of counsel” role when babe #3 was a toddler, XH and his evil childless bitch lawyer claimed in the trial that I was voluntarily underemployed and I should have been able to earn 7x my salary (what XH did in another field doing no childbirth/extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping/child-rearing/cooking/cleaning/yard care/home care/volunteering for 25 years like I had)! We spent $$$ with experts on this topic at trial. Older male judge who made less than I did at my flex-time job, was outraged at XH and his attempt to steal our assets from me. He gave me 82% of everything and said that I still wasn’t getting my half because of XH’s actual earnings…. XH’s jaw dropping on the table could be heard for miles…. What evil bastards! Pure evil!

        • Mother……I have read your comments here and feel as if I know you! Sometimes I think that the post D-Day actions and behavior of our XHs was more devaluing than the actual infidelity itself. The money spent on experts, in my case, was SO unnecessary as XH was determined to prove a point that was not germane in the long run. He was fighting alimony and I was awarded it for 5 years due to marital misconduct. Evil bastards for sure but STUPID BASTARDS as well.

          • Agreed PSG. Though my heart was broken from his callus dumping, in the early days I still maintained somewhat of a relationship with the Douchecanoe because a part of me was actually relieved to be free of him. But after 9 years of post-decree nonsense litigation, which he lost every time but cost me almost $40k (on top of the $16k I spent on the divorce), it’s total no contact and he’s not allow anywhere on my property.

    • My years in the RIC made me believe I had control indirectly, of course. Add that I met real life women who had experienced cheating or dead marriages on the brink of divorce, who got past that. And so I kept FW in my life, coming over for Sunday dinner, phone calls and text. Telling me he loved me. So I thought I was trumping the mistress. Thank goodness I found LACGAL or I may have succumbed to his first true attempt asking me to come back “home”. I filed for divorce and he went straight to OW. This was after 7 plus years of pick me dancing.

  • I filled in the gaps in the story line, as each dusting of truth came to the surface. For the first twelve years of marriage, I felt I’d just married a man with a really low libido. When he was diagnosed with HIV, I believed he was a good man who had made one mistake. His unrelenting sanctimony and superiority was living proof that his moral reach exceeded his grasp, or at least that’s the explanation I came up with at the time. Four years later, when I found the gay porn, I rationalized my sexless marriage as being mutual; looking at porn was his way of managing his sexuality without cheating on me. I felt that if he was able to sacrifice pleasure for the sake of keeping the family together, then I was committed to do the same.

    It turns out I was the only one of us who was in a sexless marriage. I don’t think he even believed he was in a marriage at all, until he ended up pleading with me not to divorce him.

    That big old bag of sanctimony he hauled around all the time got bigger and bigger. All he ever had to do was let go of it and adopt a little humility, but he’s still too much in love with being better than everyone.

  • My ex is a very smart scientist and musician. I supported him through 10 years of graduate school. Then he got a job that required (so he said) very long hours, and my unconditional support to do every. I was so proud of him. I felt lucky to be with someone so smart and talented. Except he wasn’t working late. He wasn’t especially successful at his job, but he was certainly gone a lot. Turned out he was having affairs with coworkers. I did not imagine for a second that he was doing anything other than working hard for the family. Right until I returned home with the kids from a visit to family – which he skipped because he had to “work” to find that another woman had been living in our family home. Then the shit hit the fan.

  • X was “grouchy”. We all accepted that and with the frog in a pot theory never realized how bad it got. After the divorce I was copying home videos to CD’s. Wow! X raging during the kids birthday party’s in front of their friends, screaming and then isolating himself in another room at family get togethers. Never involved in school events or competitions. I’m ashamed I tolerated that and exposed my kids to that. I never realized how much we all walked on eggshells constantly until he was gone.

  • “It only works on solid surfaces” truth!
    Dear CN I love you all. From T down to the newest newbie. I wish there wasn’t such a thing as infidelity. But since we’re human and people are who they are- this is where we are in existence. I’m grateful for each of you.
    Sometimes I don’t comment because I feel it may be unwarranted. Most of you have done the work of actually signing papers and walking out. Mine are sitting in a drawer while I decide if it’s worth it or not. Financially and mentally. It’s been a tough road the past 2 years and I thank you all for sharing your experiences. And again from Tracy on down- BIG HUGS to each of you.
    Despite my divorce papers being in my drawer-May I share what I’ve learned and ways I’ve speckled?
    Up until dday I was”ok” with:
    His self employment (feast or famine and no benefits)
    Lack of consideration or sense of time
    Lack of romance/ quality time
    Not being a top priority
    Being called crazy or negative
    When speaking of issues I’m experiencing with him and the relationship the responses were robotic like:
    “Hang on” “hang in there” “God takes care of us” “it will all work out” and most importantly and MOST shitty and only when I’m being REAL: “why are you always so negative” this I now know is considered toxic positivity and it does NOT help. Its only to “shut me up and down.
    the sparkling was that I excused ALL the shortcomings of him as a person as a dad as an “adult”. I excused his inability to fully commit to ME from day one where it was a complete misalignment between his WORDS and his actions and still is. He has come such a long way and has grown tremendously since meeting me. But so have I and I realize though he has a kind gentle loving heart deep down- I have allowed myself to not be loved the way God intends and the way I am capable of giving.
    So until dday- all these things were excusable. Anything was “workoutable”. Now it’s just a matter of time before the end of us and the (re) beginning of me happens

    • This resonates with me, Shann: Lack of consideration or sense of time. ExH was always late, in fact so late that the kids and I called it “dad time.” If he said 6pm, we knew that meant 7, 8 or even 9pm in “dad time.” Sheesh. For the “lack of consideration,” it was everywhere, every day. If I asked him to bring his dinner plate from the table to the kitchen, he would immediately have one of the kids do it instead. I often wonder how I considered this normal or acceptable.

      • Me too, I spackled over his inability to get anywhere on time, or to be reliable about getting up for work in the morning.
        He also wouldn’t answer questions or remember what he said he would think about. The kids learned that his “I’ll think about it” really meant “no” because he’d never think about it, and they’d have to come to me.

        It wasn’t difficult to be the sane parent.

        • I was repeatedly told: ‘I’ll think about it’ which did indeed mean ‘no’. I became a weird hybrid of a child and a mother over the 26 years together. I look back 3 years out and can’t believe that woman was really me. It was someone else, a changeling created by a disordered abusive toxic human being. Sometimes I pity his exgf. She knew what she was getting, the relationship had failed twice before he met me, and still she came willingly back for more.

      • Shann: Doubtful is right. A kind heart does not devalue, cheat, etc. A kind heart cares about more than themselves. Get out before it becomes a “gray divorce”. You could end up caring for someone that gets incapacitated, etc. Responsible for his bills, wrecks, etc. depending on whether he drinks and does foolish things, takes dangerous chances, etc. I always look forward to your posts. Glad that we all found CL and CN. God bless you and all the other chumps. Those who have devalued, cheated, etc. are POSs in the first degree!

  • I was the bloody Spackle Queen. Until I wasn’t.
    I should be humiliated.
    But I’m not.
    So glad I’m normal.

  • My son is mildly autistic. When he was just over a year old and already talking, his father was deployed overseas.

    My son stopped speaking for that entire year. Not a single word.

    So yeah, when things got bad, I spackled. Some of my shitty, now ex, friends brought up that if it had really been bad I would have left and I reminded them of my son’s silent year and then they got real silent too. Because, right, as a mother I was supposed to be like fuck that kid! Why would I give a flying fuck about my autistic child! Who cares what a divorce would do to him when a deployment set his speech back for years! It took YEARS to get him caught back up. And I was really supposed to shrug and lol about it and think a divorce would be no big deal for him? Plus I had zero support from my family, “friends”, my doctors any time I had an issue with something my ex husband was doing. I got treated like an irrational nut job right up until HE dumped ME, then it was suddenly well, HE wasn’t happy. But fuck me the whole time up to that point, right?

    So I was supposed to leave alone, with zero support, with my own health problems, and having no idea how much it would damage my son. Right. I look back on it now and I’m just like, of course I tried everything to make it work. I’m not a monster. But they are monsters. I’m glad to be rid of them.

    • You paint a really clear picture of a whole load of pain. I can’t say anything, but I wanted to acknowledge your post. I’m glad it’s over.

    • KatiePig, I applaud you for being the sane parent and spackling for the well-being of your child. I GET the fear and anxiety you felt when your child stopped speaking for a year. Spackling is NOT good for chumps but I do believe that our thinking of our kids’ health and welfare will reward us in the end with healthier children as they get older. Keep being the sane parent. Best regards to you. ❤️How is your son doing now?

      • Thank you so much. He’s a fully functioning adult with a job. He’s a little lost but he’s young yet and I’m hoping he finds his way soon.

        • As the mother of a 21yo daughter who’s also a little lost, I get it. The world has been tough on our kids and despite our own pain and challenges, we continued to show up, every damn time. Pat yourself on the back!

  • We were young (in college) when we started dating. There were a couple red flag, hurtful incidents back in that first year or two, but I spackled by excusing it as immaturity. Oh boy, did he cry the crocodile tears when I told him how hurtful his behavior was too. So when he said sorry, I believed him!

    I also spackled by projecting my own values onto him. I would never lie to him because I love him, therefore since he says he loves me, this excuse for this thing that doesn’t add up must be the truth.

    A few years into our marriage, I uncovered a big financial infidelity, gambling debts. I was pregnant at the time, and afraid of my daughter growing up without a dad. Remember those crocodile tears? Got a deluge of those, and more love-bombing too.

    I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was struggling w/some low self esteem too. Being married when my older, much much prettier sister wasn’t, was pretty validating, I just didn’t realize that was one of my motivations. Being “picked” by a man elevated my self worth in a way it shouldn’t have.

    Eventually I got sick of his lying, & he got sick of me getting upset about his lying. He left after setting up a soft landing with that “friend” we used to argue about.

  • I spackled over her behaviour towards myself and our kids; I now know that it was abusive, but at the time I though that the kids and I just weren’t treating carefully enough on the eggshells that she had us walking on 24/365.

    I spackled over how similar her behaviour was to her late father’s. Plot-spoiler: he was an abusive cheater who refused to apologise for his actions, made everything everyone elses’ fault and never took responsibility for his actions ….. I really shouldn’t have been surprised when I found out that I was married to an abusive cheater who refused to apologise for her actions, made everything everyone elses’ fault and never took responsibility for her actions.

    I spackled over her drinking and the effect that it was having on the kids and I ….. until she tried to pin an empty vodka bottle I found in the cupboard on our eldest daughter. She did not take it at all well when I pointed out to her that our then 18 year old daughter wouldn’t drink room temperature vodka straight out of the bottle, and that the lipstick colour on the neck of the bottle was hers and not our daughter’s. That’s when she accused me of having a drink problem because I very rarely drink.

    I could go on ….. 🙁

    LFTT

  • After Dday I excused the cheating with ‘he’s very stressed at work and I’ve been not my usual self as I had suffered a miscarriage and was feeling super sad’

    I sent him cute love poems via text every morning to cheer him up!!!

    How stupid was I!!

  • Yes. Guilty of years of spackling. It’s what I feel most guilty for in my family dynamics. It’s like, self-gaslighting and you drag your kids along into it. Then it’s a worse shock for all when it blows up. I think it’s one of the major factors of why kids get angry at you. We think we are protecting them and they think we are sucker blind dunces.

  • For 20 years! I told everyone how honest, hard working, kind, smart, sexy the FW was. When people asked what made me fall in love with her (alluding to the fact she wasn’t objectively attractive…no chin, excessive moles, large nose and horse teeth), I would say she was the most beautiful woman I knew because she had a beautiful soul. I always trumpeted her achievements, let her be center of attention, told our daughter she had the best mom ever (despite multiple times of finding her passed out in her own vomit from too much drinking). I loved her. I did. I was greatful for her. Then she lied, cheated, and betrayed me and took me for a financial devastating ride that I am still dealing with 3 years later. And worst of all, she has now convinced our 18 year old daughter it was my fault she cheated because I was boring, depressed, and never had any fun. Oh yes the spackle was real…buckets and buckets of it smeared on every inch of the lie that was our “family” and at least a foot deep. 💔

  • I’m still spackling for most of the reasons Spinach mentioned above soooo yeah….the reality that I was so easily disposable is just too hard

    • Anna ……. You are NOT so easily disposable……… The FW in your life is unable, for whatever dysfunctional reason, to see and appreciate your WORTH. Believe this!!!

  • My main reason for spackling was “well, poor thing, he could implode at anytime and be dead” given his medical issues..so I just picked up the slack and did EVERYTHING! He’s dead now, but in hindsight I was doing everything BEFORE the initial medical/surgical/D day episode..

    Never again. I’m fine being me, happy, employed, own house and cars and I have such serious trust issues that I haven’t dated in a few years.

  • When I first starting the CL journey, I joked about how the Dickhead had so much spackle, I was suprised he could even walk. The day I put down the bucket was the day I flung off the rose-colored glasses and admitted just how much of a POS he really was.

  • I’m pretty sure I spackled myself into the wall. I closed off from others in order to protect him and his “ministry.” It’s wonderful to have authentic friendships again.

  • Good Friday Challenge! I have a different spin. Obviously, I spackled for all of Spinach’s reasons plus some but what was different for me is that spackling almost cost me my kids in our terrible drawn out custody battle, my financial stability, and MY LIFE! Why???? Because no one believed the truth even when I had blatant evidence and was telling the truth. It was unbelievable!!!!

    Friends/Counselors/Pastor: Why is your arm in a sling and your neck is bruised?
    Me: Because he tried to choke me and break my collar bone. When he couldn’t do that he went for my arm and then my hand.
    Friends/Counselors/Pastor: Why would he do such a thing?
    Me: He’s abusive!!! See here are the text messages he sends to me, here are pictures of the holes in the walls where the throws me into them, etc.
    Friends/Counselors/Pastor: He can’t be THAT bad if you married him. He has ALWAYS been nice to me. You MUST have provoked him!!
    Me: WHAT???!!!?!?
    Friends/Counselors/Pastor: He is desperately worried about you and why you left. What’s your new number so I can share it with him and y’all can talk this out. (Pastor went on to demand I fight for my marriage and meet in his office with my ex EVEN when I said I had a restraining order on him and the police told me NO CONTACT).

    Similar scenarios played out with different people (even the fucking judges let him out early when he was arrested bc it was a “first offense”….that they were aware of).

    Now, I make sure I don’t spackle about anyone or anything. If you suck, I RUN and say exactly how I feel about that person or situation and I document evidence to back up my reasoning. I do my fucking due diligence like a mother fucker! People may not like it and I don’t care. It’s saved my ass so many times now.

  • In the beginning, I didn’t spackle. I called out those things I didn’t like. Before the first Dday, he would always admit that I was right and promise to do better. And he would for a while, but it always went back to the steady state that I didn’t like. Rinse and repeat. After the first Dday, the things I would call that would be different, but he would always have that same promise and some attempts to try and then fall back down again. But then he learned the therapy excuses of my callouts: they upset him and trigger him, he can’t respond when he’s dissociated, he’s depressed and can’t do anything extra, he will talk about it with his therapist, he will add it to his “plan,” etc.

    Being a good wife I wanted to support him, so I began to back off. I began to tell myself those exact same excuses when things came up that upset me. I began to not advocate for myself because I didn’t want to harm or delay his process. He realized he could get away with more. And I kept making his excuses for him to me and to my therapist who was pushing me to set boundaries and advocate for myself. He didn’t need to even show any attempts to be better. So I shrank.

    I put him, and our relationship, above me. To my detriment.

    And that’s my spackle.

    • YUP! This! Abuse never gets better. It will always escalate. Until the dissonance drives us insane or we do something about it.

  • I should have gone into construction after all. I started spackling soon after our son was born. I did not realize [until later] that his discard of me and our family started shortly before finding out I was pregnant. By the time 9months had gone by, he was done being anything but a constant pain in my life. Ignored me and our son. Yelled at me because our son was crying and HE needed his rest.{ I had not slept more than 2-3 hrs at a time by this point.] His verbal abuse was only out done by his emotional neglect of the rest of our family. Self centered, pathetic, sadz little sausage. Turns out the only thing he brought to our relationship was his almighty dick.

  • 1. embarrassment that I’d probably made the biggest mistake of my life – In hindsight, this loomed large in my spackling. I was a perfect student. Perfect daughter. But I didn’t date a lot (see, straight A student). I wasn’t experienced with FWs, for sure. When the truth about him started to come out, we were newly married and I stuck my head in the sand and became an investigator in turns. But admit that I had chosen so poorly? I was ashamed. I kept hoping he would be better and so I spackled away.
    2. commitment to make it work and 3. confusion about what constitutes a good married relationship (FOO issues) – My father died when I was very young, before I could see an example of a good relationship. Statistics show that girls whose fathers die when they are very young idolize the vision of a happy marriage and cling to marriage, working hard to keep it going. I had once thought that meant I was more likely to have a long, good marriage because I was so committed. I had assumed my spouse would be committed as well. Silly me.
    4. quick ability to feel sated after getting smaller and smaller breadcrumbs – Yes, and before we were married he had started here and there testing to see how much I would put up with and how little I would be satisfied by. And dumb me attributed it to us moving from early infatuation to being “real” with each other *spackle, spackle, spackle*
    5. crumbling self-esteem – Yes, as he went into full in criticism of everything I said and did. I went from being confused by his abuse in the beginning to just bearing it thinking I had it coming for upsetting him.

  • Well, yeah, I picked my screen name for a reason, but I guess it could just as easily have been HopiumHead. I spackled and spackled and spackled, then huffed on the hopium pipe and spackled some more. And unfortunately, I’m still doing that in so many ways.

    The huge irony of my screen name and my behavior is that I always thought the truthfulness and integrity were big core values of mine. Before meeting/breeding with FW, one of the ways I kept myself happy in life was by making a daily practice of self-honesty, even when it was hard, as well as practicing being honest with other people even about small things. It’s ironic that I got defrauded by somebody who was lying to my face when we first met.

    I appreciate ChumpLady pointing out the role of spackling in heathy, good relationships too. I think part of my huge addiction to spackling is that I love the idea of being a conscious creator of my life—love the idea of turning life (which, even for people not an active tragedy or betrayal trauma, is a mixed bag and can sometimes be chaotic and amorphous, and joy is possible but tidy perfection is not) into a story that’s more coherent than reality, making things as beautiful and exciting as possible— all of this coming from a place of love and creativity, without any lying, pathological or otherwise. Meanwhile FW is a huge liar, escapist, denier and compartmentalizer, but HATES consciously creating his life, talking things out, looking at things deeply, examining or changing the narrative— some of his lies didn’t even make sense. The truth would’ve been easier, and I think what appealed to him about lying wasn’t about the content, but about the process of lying itself.

    So I got entangled in this relationship with him, and I had some of my own issues too (many of which I still have), and I caught him in a really big important lie (where he went to school, which, I didn’t care where he had gone to school but I should’ve recognized the gravity of that kind of lie as a bigger red flag than it was— it came out while I was still nursing the baby we had just had together), and then D-Day happened, and then after D-day happened, the bad part started: the lying, stonewalling, gaslighting, trickle truth, lying some more, gaslighting some more. And then over the years of breaking up and (spacklingly, high on hopium) getting back together, the lying appeared to be about more minor things, like sneaking off to play his video game while pretending he was shopping, and I got really into the full-time spackling while he got really into blame-shifting, defensiveness, minimizing how incredibly disturbed he really is, framing me as disturbed, accusing me of unhealthily “pathologizing” him and framing it as my problem (isn’t his kind of behavior literally described in clinical definitions of pathological, though?)

    I didn’t want to be separated from my little child part time, or really even at all. I maintained a (yes, pathological— or an abuse response?,trauma bonding? Something wrong with me?) feeling of loving him and not wanting him to leave. I spent many hours over 9 years researching ways that he could change, and using all of my energetic resources that weren’t spent on our daughter (the ones that used to go to creative writing, scholarly research, and fun) doing my spackling and hopium huffing. He actually did try to be honest with me and tell me I wasn’t the one big love of his life, and every time he told me something like that I would find a tweaky, insane way not to hear it. I kept a nice home and worked hard to build a wonderful life and kept trying to invite him to love me and share it with me, as part of a double-barreled approach where I also tried to pressure or manipulate him into getting help – – And I told myself but once he just went to therapy for a long time everything would be fine and we would have this great life and beautiful family and everything would be OK and the horrible thing that had already happened to me would magically never happen. I told myself he had an insight problem, not a character problem, and in my life before FW I always felt like I was great at helping myself and others reach insights, and I thought if I just worked harder with the spackle spatula, I could get the room to look pretty, pretty like an architectural magazine.

    I still haven’t faced that it didn’t work. I try to make myself face it.

    • Don’t continue to waste your life pretending. You’ll do what you have to do, but you’ll be in agreement with yourself.

  • I also spackled because I remember being worried that if I left him when my kids were younger, he’d get 50% custody, and I didn’t trust him to take good care of the kids. I felt I always needed to be present to run interference, to block his verbal attacks or soften them if they happened. In addition to the spackling knife, I carried a shield. So that was my own crazy, I guess. I don’t know. I mean, to this day I feel I needed to protect those kids.

    My adult daughter insists now that he wouldn’t have received 50% custody, but why not? He was a successful MD, highly regarded in the community, a hockey coach. He was very mild-mannered and quiet. Patients seemed to adore him. He didn’t yell. He didn’t have to when he could quietly cut his victims with his words and torment them with the silent treatment. No one would’ve suspected that he was abusive at home. I doubt a judge would have believed me.

    Btw, the same daughter who now says I should’ve left him when she was in elementary school, blames me for having let her go alone with him when she was 7 to pick up a new puppy. A new puppy!!! She loves animals. She wanted this puppy in the worst possibly way. It was only a four-hour drive. It’s HER DAD for god’s sake. What could go wrong? Note: he didn’t physically abuse anyone (except for some minor incidents with me). But oh those words, his tone, his stomping, the silent treatment. It’s hard to describe how upsetting that behavior is to others who might not have experienced it. But if you have, you know!

    I think it’s easy for chumps to look back and wonder why the hell we did what he did. But these situations are complicated. I tell my kids I did my best. That’s all I can say.

    Thankfully, I continue to have a very close relationship with my kids. They may still wonder why I didn’t leave him sooner and why I needed evidence of infidelity to pull the plug, but we don’t talk about any of that now. x rarely comes up in conversations. It’s almost as if he he never existed. I guess we’re good at the silent treatment, too.

    • “Btw, the same daughter who now says I should’ve left him when she was in elementary school, blames me for having let her go alone with him when she was 7 to pick up a new puppy. A new puppy!!! She loves animals. She wanted this puppy in the worst possibly way. It was only a four-hour drive. It’s HER DAD for god’s sake. What could go wrong?”

      They can’t stand to see anyone happy. Your daughter was probably over the moon with excitement getting a new puppy and he had to ruin her moment. It’s what these bastards do. The way to get back at these bastards is not calling them out on how they ruined everything…that was the goal and calling them out on it means they succeeded. You act all happy, joyful, everything is wonderful and then be dismissive…better things to do than be on the phone or even think about celebrating a holiday or milestone with these defects. Trust me this pisses them off to no end.

  • My FWs abuse didn’t start until the week before we got married. I didn’t have to spackle until leading up to the wedding. And then I excused his lame behaviour for wedding jitters. After that, I excused it because I wanted to badly for my marriage to work. A couple years after, I was ready to end it but his smooth talking and promises and fear of the unknown had me dragging my feet on actually pulling the plug and then I got pregnant. After this, I spackled because I didn’t think I could raise children alone and I didn’t want them to grow up in a broken family, like I did.

    Never did I ever imagine the FW would become an abuser to the level he did. It literally took over a year of sexual assaults from him before I couldn’t spackle any more.

    These FWs are literally monsters, IMO.

  • I think so many of us spackled not only bad relationships but family members, friends and co-workers. I’d say only in the past 6 or 7 years I have truly listened to my gut. When someone makes you uneasy, uncomfortable with their actions or words but you make excuses, it may be time to sever the relationship. Of course we have to keep in mind none of us are perfect, we all have faults, but when you catch someone undermining you or being dismissive that is inexcusable.

    • Oh yes, I agree with this. I was always giving people the benefit of the doubt or feeling sorry for them for some reason when I should have cut and run. I even remember my ex FW telling me one woman I had a bad feeling about was “socially retarded” and she struggled to make friends so I’d feel sorry for her. They was fucking. So many ignored gut feelings. I’ve been listening to myself for almost two years now and life is so much better it’s almost unbelievable.

  • 1. re: family life. he didn’t have the greatest family life and doesn’t know how to be inside a family, but i can help him. uh, wrong. highly dysfunctional family and also, he avoids dealing with dysfunctional family patterns.
    2. re: intimacy. he doesn’t share his feelings because he’s private. nope, nope, nope. he’s incapable of intimacy.
    3. re: irritability. he’s working hard, his job places a lot of demands on him, he just needs to decompress. wrong. he’s a narcissist.
    4. re: spending $$ without discussion/sharing. he’s working hard, his job places a lot of demands on him, he deserves a little pick me up, etc. etc. again, wrong. he’s irresponsible and lies about his spending habits, hiding evidence but not smart enough to destroy the paper trail (receipts).

    i dunno. i feel like a dope this week. i really do. there are disclosures from the kids and it’s a lot sometimes. i mean, we’re talking and everyone goes to therapy but FUCK’S SAKE, it’s a lot.

    • Ugh. Yeah. I’m sorry damnitfeelsbadtobeachumpster. Totally sucks. And the kids’ disclosures? ugh

      FWIW, I relate to all of your points. Re: #2. x was quiet and wouldn’t share his thoughts unless he wanted to. I just didn’t feel he could have a normal, intimate give-and-take conversation.

      In the early days, I was comforted by corny idioms. I remember thinking: “Still waters run deep” and asking, “Penny for your thoughts?” 🤦🏻‍♀️ …until I gave up.

      He loved that I would want to know what he was thinking. It’s a power move for a sick, covert narcissist.

  • Thinking back to how much I spackled , I want to cry.

    I believed that he had to travel for work and that he “had” to travel that much. I believed that he wanted to be at home with us and not travel as much. I KNOW he said that to me multiple times.

    Then I believed that his stress level was high because of all the travel, leading to being backed up at work, and leading to me putting my frustrations on him for being tired of 24/7 care for 4 little kids.

    I also believed that we didn’t have much money, because “kids were expensive.” I failed to get babysitters to give me relief during his weekly travel. I failed to get nice clothes for myself. I scrimped and saved. He got upset if I didn’t use coupons for food!

    OK, so years later I found out that he did have control over the majority of his travel, including the times and days of air travel , and how often he’d visit hotel properties. He was the one who told me what a “boondoggle” was. I found out that he used our money for his excessive alcohol use, his in room movie use, and his hooker/stripclub habit. I found out that his stress was from drinking too much (worried about DUI’s), whether his coworkers noticed, and due to the missed work he could have been doing but chose to drink instead. And I think some of the stress was from continuing to cheat and not get found out.

    A legal definition of fraud is “all multifarious means which human ingenuity can devise, and which are resorted to by one individual to get an advantage over another by false suggestions or suppression of the truth.”
    Sigh. My family thought the best of him. I rarely complained. Someone said a few days ago that others found it hard to believe that the cheater did anything wrong, because she had done such a good job spackling. Me too.

  • Spackling went hand in hand with “future faking.” I’m pretty vocal about expectations and boundaries so if FW seemed to be lowering my expectations or crossing boundaries, I’d speak up. If these things didn’t change, there would be a confrontation of some sort at which point he’d future fake. He’d work on it, he’d get it done, he’d change his habits, he understood, interesting-philosophical-conversation-about-generational-evolution-in-gender-equality, blah blah. Some noticeable things improved like distribution of housework. Because these concessions made him look better than the husbands of a lot of people I knew, his minor improvements were prime spackle material to patch up the fault lines. That brings up how much social context can also drive spackling. I was always hearing from bystanders– particularly fawning old ladies– how egalitarian FW was. He cooked! He cleaned! He deigned to burp and diaper babies! What a man! I felt under pressure to over-appreciate things that I naturally expected as basic fairness. But I didn’t realize he viewed normal fairness as “submission” and was tossing those blame chips in a bag until he saved enough to cash them in for rando office twat.

    It took him twenty years of future faking, inconsistent improvements and saving up blame chips, maybe occasionally spending some chips on some flirting, gawking, porn and a few pervy fixations from afar (an office receptionist who didn’t know he existed) before he had enough saved for the big humpapallooza and hidden two year drinking bender that turned into raging addiction. This all came out in “full disclosure” during the short-lived RIC phase and was backed up by three polygraphs. Only one affair! The idiot RIC therapists acted like he should get a medal for it.

    A friend joked that maybe because he had so little to blame me for that he could only save up enough resentment chips to afford bargain basement budget acne-scarred back-fat chick. She said if only I’d been meaner he might have been able to get himself someone with a full head of hair and boobs. Speaking of spackling, no one had anything on the AP. She got herself into the sad trap of competing with my terrible, awful feminism to be the most un-feminist, self-abasing bangmaid who ever trod the earth! She was going for the gold. From having his will regularly indulged, FW was finally able to let his slobbish, mansplaining freak-flag fly and became Mr. Misogyny-Monster at home.

    That’s when I realized that I’d fallen for the future faking all those years only to have him double down on all his worst red flag behaviors. The joke was on me. The fact that he was going into serious alcohol withdrawal every weekend he was home made the shift extreme and all the resentments he’d saved up over two decades exploded out of his mouth. He couldn’t remember anything specific that I’d done that had caused his ire so he summed it up by bellowing that I, er, didn’t let him watch Survivor! And I didn’t let him be himself! And he wasn’t an alcoholic! He was basically blaming me for the fact he was a fraud who’d mirrored me, image managed and faked fairness for twenty years. Just like the chump quoted in the post said, at that point all the spackle turned to dust and I was staring at the cracked facade of my marriage.

  • Here is what I hate the most about spackling: I served as an example to my sons about how to do it!

    I learned the same way. My Mother was a Master Spackler. She made up excuses for every weird thing my dad did, and the weird parenting choices they both made. She was also a teacher who taught me to “look for the potential in everything and everyone.”

    What I had to learn on my own was how to evaluate the true cost of your investment in spackling, and how to cut my losses. My parents were Depression babies. They didn’t throw anything away. We accumulated a lot of trash. They both became hoarders as they aged. Now, my siblings and I are dealing with the cost of throwing out trash. Literally.

    My son’s try to see potential, and they are learning about the cost. Potential is not a bad thing, but evaluation of progress made, or time lost, has to be a part of the process. Without growth and development of reciprocity, cut your losses. It took me a long time to see how my pain and my losses were worth something. I hope my sons figure it out faster than I did.

    • Well said, Portia! I, too, hate that I spent so much effort in building up Cheating Bastard Ex so his daughters would believe they had a caring, loving father. (I blew right past spackle … I was a one-woman construction crew, creating the version of a man that didn’t exist!)
      I was convinced it was my job to lift him up in their eyes and protect them from the real him. When they were children, I never left them alone with him as I didn’t want them walking in on him watching porn, which was a multiple times a day thing. I’d explain away his inability to hug them or say I love you to them as, “your father shows his affection for you in other ways.” I could go on and on, but I will say my oldest never bought in to my image management, and thank God for that. She has little to do with him now. My youngest is still very conflicted and has moved across the country which now gives her the space to work out her feelings about her dad in a healthy way.
      Both of my daughters have healthy, long-term relationships with men who are the polar opposite of their father, in spite of it all. If anything, living with and watching my experience certainly gave them a good set of boundaries and a template of what not to accept in their adult relationships.
      Still, it pains me to think about how much their hearts have hurt for me.

  • when we first met, second date, she told me about her mental health issues and past problems with drugs. She swore she was in counseling, the drug use was behind her, and she was taking care of herself. When she ran away I thought she had a mental health breakdown. Then the drug use came out. Then the lying. The lying. The lying. Then the divorce. Then the IRS. I gave her every benefit of the doubt because she told me about her mental health issues. I thought she was being honest with me. Now it is thoroughly clear to me that she is a flawed character with no moral compass or ability to make any good decisions. All of her problems are if her own doing. But I spackled over everything because she told me upfront about her mental health problems and I thought she was being honest with me. What a huge mistake on my part.

    • Having known some great people who’d been in AA for years and years, I think it’s empathic and understanding to give the benefit of the doubt to a former addict. But there are different reasons why people get hooked on substances. Some– for instance intimate abuse survivors or people who endured catastrophic loss– aren’t necessarily being “self destructive” and might simply want to stop the internal pain. But others want to forget not only the trauma they endured but also– the big clue– the way they *internalized* the worst of what was done to them, emulate their abusers and abuse and exploit others.

      I haven’t really figured out the perfect system for determining which is which except for a few green flags: If you get to really know people who are genuinely on the long road of discovery, they tell very cohesive and painfully honest stories about their pasts but without blubbering or getting puppy-eyed about it because, if they’ve been to tons of meetings, they’ve told this story many times in front of crowds who wouldn’t put up with pity parties. They’re reserved about being “charming” since this behavior is often called out in addiction recovery. By the same token, they can be a little shruggy about compliments– again so as not to fall into the trap of conning others or themselves. They also tend to be very sensitive to other people displaying self-deception or dishonesty. If something needs to be done about it, they’ll react calmly but with unusually brave directness about it, even when this isn’t politically advisable (like telling a boss or influential person what’s what). They tend to have extraordinary insights into other people’s behavior that are empathic yet firm. If they’ve been in recovery long enough, they may criticize some of the flaws and limits of 12 step recovery programs– sort of a tough love stance towards it rather than acting like a cult member who spouts slogans and AA cliches all the time. They don’t put up with bullshit. They make a point of stepping up and helping others out when no one else will. They also can also quickly spot people who aren’t walking the walk regarding addiction recovery.

  • I was married to a narc for 25 years and I used to be so frustrated that it ‘seemed like’ he never thought of us unless we were in the room with him, that he would fly off the handle at the slightest criticism, etc etc. Classic narcissist stuff but I didn’t know what that was back then so I would just cry with the frustration of trying to explain it to friends/family – to whom he was so charming. I was SO relieved when I learned about narcissism – like I wasn’t crazy. But I still spackled that it was his childhood that caused it. Until I didn’t.

    5 years after Divorce I started dating someone I THOUGHT was completely different. And HOLY SHIT did I spackle!
    – He’s NOT a narc b/c he puts himself down (I didn’t know even then what I know now about different kinds of narcs…), oh the poor guy has no self esteem
    – He doesn’t want to introduce me to his kids b/c they’re still traumatized by his divorce, oh poor him that his kids are angry at him
    – Sometimes he’s emotionally unavailable because of his childhood abuse, oh the poor poor thing, plus look at allll the love-bombing after the distances! He must realllly love me.
    – He asks me to do sexual things I’m uncomfortable with because of his childhood abuse, oh the poor thing
    – He isn’t involved with other women – they just chase him b/c he has money, oh the poor thing
    Then my Dad died and he complained that I wasn’t paying enough attention to him while my sisters and I were dealing with the memorial, estate etc. And somehow that shattered the rose-colored glasses and I saw 2 years of lies.
    Turns out – he wasn’t even divorced but he was involved with like 6 women (which is why his kids were mad at him).

    I feel enough self-anger at staying with Ex-FW Narc for 25 years… but the fact that I turned around and believed everything ANOTHER narc told me makes me nauseous and embarrassed and deeply doubting my ability to make a smart choice. Sigh.

    • You aren’t alone.
      Fukked up narcs – overt, covert and other poor sad sausages and bpd etc have honed their game and we didn’t even know it WAS a game .
      I know better now to keep my eye out for disordered and other skilled abusers who prey on the naïve.
      Not naïve about that anymore.

  • This is a red flag that I know now about spackling:
    I could never say to myself “Oh well, he forgot to take out the trash….but at least he remembers to ask how my day went and he really listens.”

    For me there was NEVER any “but at least….”

  • I placed too much importance on the physical act of cheating, and whether or not it had happened.

    I did not place enough importance on

    breaking agreements and promises
    lying, directly or by omission, small or
    larger things
    making excuses
    justifying
    rationalizing
    deflecting/attacking
    defensiveness, especially the “no one is perfect” defense
    blaming
    control
    double standards
    hypocrisy
    making false equivalents
    lack of accountability or responsibility
    (I remember saying often, “Is anything EVER your fault?!”)
    Ignoring what I said
    disrespect when sharing grievances

    (I guess this goes along with whether a cheater can change? I’d look for these things, over a long period of time, when considering whether someone had changed.)

    What does it really matter if someone cheats if all these things are going on? The things I should have been giving more weight to. The literal cheating was only the biggest loudest most tangible incarnation of all those things.

    I have plenty of my own issues. The work continues to this day. But doing something deliberately I know will hurt someone, no matter what they did, has never been on my inventory. Maybe because I was the baby of the family, abused by everyone but our family cat, who was my best friend, my savior, and the only family member I ever had growing up that was safe and trustworthy. (I didn’t kick the cat. I hugged the cat and hung on for dear life)

    All I hoped for was someone clean and sober, honest, willing, and open-minded, not perfect. Of course no is perfect. But the criminal justice system does not regard all violations as equivalent, and neither should anyone else.

    I stayed way beyond him showing me he was not that, because he wasn’t physically violent, didn’t put me in the ER like two of my previous boyfriends, didn’t swear at me, and I didn’t literally catch him cheating.

    I think the ones who pretend to be nice to you while secretly stabbing you in the back are far worse than the ones who are up front about it.

    • Another big one I left off the list. He was into covert SCOREKEEPING and GETTING EVEN, as opposed to speaking up, being direct and up front, and problem-solving. He did not speak up, talk to me. VERY passive aggressive (which I mistook for mild-mannered, laid-back and easygoing).

      The Nice Guy Who Went To Therapy With Me, lying about being in recovery, had me wondering what was wrong with me, and kept me blinded and in denial. Covert abuse has been far more difficult than overt abuse for me to deal with.

      • “Another big one I left off the list. He was into covert SCOREKEEPING and GETTING EVEN, as opposed to speaking up, being direct and up front, and problem-solving. He did not speak up, talk to me. VERY passive aggressive (which I mistook for mild-mannered, laid-back and easygoing)”

        Me too. FW confused the matter by actually being seemingly genuinely mild- mannered and easygoing most of the time. But when not getting his bogus entitlements met pissed him off, he was a different person. Out would come the vengeful silent treatments and the disturbing simmering rage, which had no rational justification. This would pass, so I didn’t understand that this was who he really was underneath the image he creates for *himself*. He truly believes he is that “nice” person.
        FW also got more entitled and amoral as time wore on. He degenerated slowly enough that it was not noticeable until he started cheating, when his abusive behavior became much more overt.

      • A flip side to that scorekeeping, is that I felt bad when I noticed how much more I was doing for him, for the family than he was. I felt like I was “scorekeeping,” and ashamed of myself. In actuality, I was noticing the lack of reciprocity and his double-standards for himself vs. everyone else.

  • I spackled like this:

    -Well at least he’s a good provider. Sure he’s not around much and he’s distracted but that’s because he had a hard childhood and he didn’t learn how to be with a family unit. Poor guy! So what I’ll do is be the best wife ever. I’ll love him gently, take care of him and make him feel loved.
    -It’s okay that he’s a bit weird, he’s my kind of weird and I love him.
    -No one’s perfect and I’ve done things wrong too.
    -He’ll grow up one day and stop wanting to play games and instead he’ll come for walks with me. He’s a bit delayed because of his hard childhood.

    And the worst one…
    – Well maybe I’ll be okay with him going to sex workers once and awhile because he’s right- I don’t like being whipped and hurt during sex so if he just has an outlet for it, then he’ll be happier with me and our sex life.

    Yep, he even manipulated me to let me think that his needs weren’t being met so he “wanted an open relationship”. I was pretty much to the point of agreement and then I found out he’d been cheating all along. It’s that last spackle that made me so angry- ultimately he used that against me. Essentially he believed he had permission to cheat, and then when I found out and got upset, he was dismayed and blamed me for going back on my word. Um no. That was getting me to sign a contact for something that was already done, without my knowledge. He really, really sucks.

  • I was once talking about wanting to do Peace Corps, after the kids were out of the house/when I could, etc. Not wanting him to, just thinking out loud. He said, “I don’t know why anyone would want to do peace corps.” Not, I don’t want to do peace corps. No, I don’t think that would fit into your/our other life goals. Not, I think that would be hard.

    Just NO IDEA WHY anyone would want to help others like that. Why ANYONE would want to.

    I heard it as, “I wouldn’t want to.”

    Because I wasn’t married to someone who wouldn’t understand charity and compassion, right? I couldn’t possibly be married to someone like that.

  • I spackled. After I found out he had lost $400000 gambling (note- the coward did not tell me this, the loan broker he engaged to ‘refinance our loan for a better interest rate’ broke the news) I told myself there is no way he would do that again and he has learnt his lesson and will be a better husband. He was for about 3 months. Then he gambled again. Then he cheated and ran away.

    • I keep thinking, there must be an extra “0” in there. FFS. How could he do that without them requiring your signature too?! Horrible. Have you considered going after that bank?

    • Oh yeah, the ‘he messed up but he’s learned from this’ spackle! I did this one too, after Affair #1. I’d forgotten that one …. Sigh. We all deserved better, Iwanna!

  • FB memories don’t lie! Unlike ex-husbands. The week before our 20th I posted a wedding photo & how grateful I was for an honest, loyal man. My first d-day was a month earlier & he had made no plans for the anniversary. I stopped spackling and started tackling 2 years later, divorced in 6. Meh is mine!

  • Yup! I echo everything that Spinach says. I was 21 when I met my then 33 year-old husband. The sex was good from the beginning throughout our marriage and I confused that for love. I overlooked so many red flags on other more basic and essential ingredients for a good marriage.

  • I would like to add another spackle reason–admiration of Cheater’s actual accomplishments/good qualities, self-doubt about my own by comparison. Cheater was respectful and loving in person, and was so accomplished and well-respected and liked professionally, and he seemed so enlightened morally and philosophically. So when Cheater went on business trips and didn’t call at all the whole time, or when he let slip suspect details about his past relationships and attitudes, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, or assumed he had grown from the past incidents he described. I think that is something that makes some cheaters so corrupting of the people around them, including the Chump. He seemed so enlightened and accomplished in comparison to me, that even after D-Day I found myself wondering if maybe he was right and I was wrong–that if some one as amazing as him was a two-timer, that maybe cheating wasn’t abusive or exploitive–maybe I should be doing it too?. Looking at how confused I was by that aspect of my internal dialogue–“how can this very good person be doing such a bad thing? maybe I am wrong and the bad thing isn’t bad afterall?” , I can see how followers of religious cults can get sucked in by a charismatic but immoral leader. In fact, after D-Day, I found it really helpful to read the web logs of people who had pulled themselves out of cults who were analyzing the factors that had drawn them in and kept them in, and how they liberated their minds and bodies eventually. A charismatic cheater uses a lot of the techniques cult leaders do, to keep everyone enthralled.

  • Funnily enough, I found that others would also spackle for me. For example my ex used to go out drinking after playing his sport on a Saturday afternoon and despite saying he’d be home for dinner, he’d disappear off the radar for the next 24 hours. I was miserable, we had a newborn, and when I spoke to a good friend about it, she spackled the situation saying all couples go through hard patches, especially when a baby comes along etc. I remember feeling guilty, like I wasn’t trying hard enough or being as understanding as I should be.
    So the result of that was that I didn’t spackle the situation to myself but I did to others, maybe fearing they’d judge me?

  • “Polishing with spackle isn’t all bad. I think it’s what loving partners do for each other. But it only works on solid surfaces.”

    So well said CL. Thank you

  • “I can tell he doesn’t love me, but that’s ok. LTRs change over time, everybody knows that. It doesn’t matter because he loves our Family and he would always do what’s in his kids’ best interest. And even if he didn’t, he’s all about his own excellence and being a good person with Integrity, and I can at least always respect him for that.”

    Note, the particular way he chose to cheat was high-risk for his career (that not just I but the kids had sacrificed for over years), our financial security and free health insurance and his kid’s college fund (the GI Bill, literally free college) and his pension. He didn’t just sleep with someone random and no one cares because everyone in the military fucked around. He knew he had high ranking enemies and he still did who and what he wanted where he wanted and literally did not give one thought to the massive consequences for his family if someone spoke up and General FW-Hater caught wind of it.

  • Oh y’all. I am capable of building a house with nothing but spackle and stupid. 1 year into our marriage he gave me trich. I did not understand the dx, I was fixated on how mad the doctor was being with my ex, thinking it was so rude. It’s like I didn’t really hear it. But the doctor, who out ranked my ex, pulled him out and all I could hear was yelling. I believed my ex when he told me it wasn’t always an std and the internet was new then, so no googling.

    Then I forgave the insults, after all, he had a rough job, he was tired, I didn’t work, he was a hero. The biggest spackle job? He had ptsd so that weapon he put to my head and the shot through my bathroom mirror was just a cry for help, not an attempt to kill me. It’s embarrassing to even type it. Plus he told me over and over no one would want a pudgy person with a special needs daughter and anyway, if I try to leave he will ruin me (spoiler alert, he did).

    Do you know it took him calling me from the road to tell me his travel buddy was, in fact, my “best” friend, not his, someone I thought was as close as a sister, for me to tell him just keep driving!?! And he was so mad when he came back to find out I was serious this time he tried to punch me while holding my special needs daughter. She still remembers that because we left without our shoes on. He threatened me every day of our 3 year divorce where he abused by proxy through the courts. I will always live in some amount of fear.

    I now own a barre based workout facility and am in better shape than I have been since my late 20s, lost all that pudgy and have actual abs. But more importantly I feel better mentally than I ever have. He is married to my ex best friend. May the Lord bless them with all they deserve in life.

  • I’ve heard “benefit of the doubt” used a few times today. My therapist said something about it this week that stuck with me.

    She said giving someone the benefit of the doubt is only really for strangers. A coworker is a little snippy one day, give them the benefit of the doubt, who knows what they are dealing with. A car runs a red light, shake it off, they could be rushing to an emergency.

    The whole thing falls apart if you try to apply it to your spouse. You can’t excuse behavior you know is uncalled for. You know what they are dealing with. And even if they are in a rough patch in life, that’s still no reason to treat you badly.

    It helped me re-frame things – I think I conflated being a doormat with love. I’m just starting to learn that having boundaries doesn’t make me mean.

  • Spackle cracks. We chumps plastered over a rotten surface that was gonna come tumbling down.
    I have too many ‘spackles’ to mention but the one good thing about things crumbling or more exactly, exploding, was that from the rubble he created I have built myself anew and it is so good to hear others doing the same !

  • Quick thought: I’m curious if there’s a correlation between Chumps being rather private by nature (during the relationship) and how helpful that is to the Cheater/abuser as they set the stage for destruction.

    By private by nature, I mean one who prefers to mind their own business, not feed into other’s chaos, doesn’t share everything going on with everyone, shows restraint, keeps personal business to oneself, etc. This privacy is not to be confused with fear or hiding information out of fear, but rather that your business is not everyone else’s business.

    Food for thought. A Cheater/abuser can get alot of mileage out of a partner that is private. It may be one of the most valuable traits sought by an abuser in a partner because it sustains dysfunction within the unit. Being private by nature isn’t the problem. Pairing with one who uses it against you to achieve goals is the problem.

    • “A Cheater/abuser can get a lot of mileage out of a partner that is private.”

      Also trustworthy by nature. FW knew without a doubt that whatever he told me in confidence I would not repeat to anyone. So when he complained that the mayor was working him so hard etc; he knew that I would never say anything to anyone including the mayor; so that was his built in ability to lie to me with abandon. He could trust me to be discreet, therefore he could flat out like to me and he wouldn’t be outed. At least not by me.

  • My ex is/was in the same profession as me. For years I thought – spackled – that he was great at his job. Sure he was sloppy about things but I thought (and so many clients and colleagues think this) “well gee I’m not sure how he does it because he seems so disorganized but somehow he always gets the project done in the end and the clients are usually happy.” Usually. Not always though and I now suspect that those unhappy clients were not necessarily jerks (as ex would claim) so much as the few that saw through his handsome-mr.friendly-facade and actually had standards. Anyway, fast forward to present day (post D-day) when we are stuck working on the same project together (ugh). I no longer have any patience (or spackle) left and it’s blatantly obvious to me now that he has NO EFFING clue what he is doing and gets by on other people’s work and his charming personality. It’s astonishing to me that no one realizes how bad he is at his job. Even more astonishing for me that I did the same for years (nearly 2 decades) and covered up his lack of professionalism, lack of expertise and zero effort with my own work to make him look good.

    • I can’t past the part where you say you had to work on the same project post D-day! Yikes!

      It’s interesting that you now realize he’s actually not that good at his job. When the mask falls, we see more clearly.

      After D-Day, I said to one of his co-workers (another doc who was herself a chump and 100% on my “side”), “Well, at least he’s a good doctor. Right?” She paused and said, “He’s ok.” lol

      • Again, when I was in ruins after D-day, I was telling someone who worked in the same area with the lawyer ex how intelligent he is and how I felt quite stupid around him. The male former colleague said ‘really, we all thought he was a bit slow’. It was an eye opener.

  • I can absolutely relate to the comments of Spinach@35, especially the embarrassment and shame of realizing (quite early on after the wedding) that I (too) had made the biggest mistake of my life. This is why I spackled so hard, and for some years (thankfully not decades).

    My XFW really hated it when I got sick, and he would storm out the house saying “I can’t bear to be around sick people…” I think I spackled that one down to him “too sensitive”. However, when HE got sick, or even just cut himself shaving, then it was a code-red emergency and I was expected to go into full Florence Nightingale mode. Once when I was very sick with a bad flu and just wanted some tea and a loving cold wash cloth on my forehead, he refused to leave the couch where he was watching TV. I ended up sobbing “Can’t you just be nice to me?”. How pathetic was that, I just wanted him to be “nice” to me? Spoiler alert; he wasn’t. Just another brick in my wall, so that by the time the divorce came through it felt like being released from prison!

    • FWs man flu 😱😱😱😱 mine was just like yours. I remember putting a glass of OJ down and he whined and carried on when he couldn’t reach it “I’m so sick, help me”, it was in arms reach, he just had to sit up 😐 Nightmare times. Of course when I was unwell he expected the chores done and for me to look after myself.

    • Wow, the ‘can’t bear to be around sick people comment’. I heard a variation of that so many times: ‘I can’t stand sick people’. And if he stubbed his toe, and I didn’t say something sympathetic immediately, I would get told off and he would sulk. How did I cope with that for 26 years!

  • Oh my god, soooooooo much spackle! My spackle was mostly in a very specific colour; the ‘poor guy never had a chance to learn’ flavour. His FOO was/is MASSIVELY messed up, although I thought his mother was OK (turns out that being constantly the victim of others can be another flavour of narcissism, who knew?). After the first blush wore off, I thought I could explain/support/coach and just plain LOVE him into being what he SAID he wanted to be (mirroring and future faking, it turns out). He was a smart guy, who loved me and very much wanted kids and would therefore love them too, and who had good intentions! How could it go wrong????

    I spackled over his apparently not understanding how to be a decent partner, although Affair #1 7 years in, and mostly how he dealt with its aftermath, eventually cured me of that.
    I spackled and coached and set limits and accommodated and spackled some more, so he could seem like a semi-decent father. Man, that illusion wore off for everyone super fast once I kicked him out when he had Affair #2. Heartbreaking.
    I spackled and made all the efforts, so he could look like a man capable of holding down a job for more than a year or two (well, look like it long enough to GET the job, at least), capable of having friendships, capable of having a relationship with his parents and siblings. So much my doing stuff that made him look better, and my coaching him as to how to do stuff that he SAID he wanted to do!

    The spackling was greatly assisted by his actually making efforts to do better, and actually doing better. Took me a long while to realize that those efforts occurred ONLY;
    – when he knew he had gone WAY too far, and especially when he knew I was ready to leave him over something
    – temporarily, until I settled down again
    (- plus he would often later resent having done what he did in order to placate me).

    Sigh.

    Eventually I figured out that it wasn’t that he didn’t understand, it wasn’t that he didn’t know how to do better, it wasn’t that he couldn’t predict how his behaviour impacted the people he (supposedly) cared about, it wasn’t that he couldn’t imagine how doing better would make his own life better …… It was that he didn’t give a fuck.

    And that he wasn’t half as smart as he seemed.

  • I spackeled a fair bit. Thinking of examples the bulk can be divided into ‘intimacy effort & money’.

    He would guilt trip me over a large grocery shop (buying all the stupidest sh*t he would complain about if I didn’t buy it) yet without discussion buy a car, or a mower or a new toy. I would spackle, keep the peace, “he is the breadwinner so he is allowed to use his money” etc etc.

    **TMI Ahead**He would be selfish in bed, just lay back like a starfish and would expect oral before I got on top. I would have to fake it because he would finish fast and would actually argue “what’s wrong with you?” If I didn’t. Zero conversions or interest about my desires and if I raised the issue he would scold me for being inappropriate. He just stopped putting the effort in to caring about my sexual needs. I spackled that so often “he is stressed” or “he loves me” or “he cares for me and shows me in other ways” or “this will pass”… ugh! So much spackle.

    • “…just lay back like a star fish”. You’re too kind, Foghorn. My stbx was also selfish in bed, but I’d say he was more like a “pig on a blanket.”

      • 🤣 !… well NOW I’m going to use ‘pig on blanket’, I just wasn’t creative enough hahaha awesome, thank you ☺️ I’ll never see the finger food I never the same light, probably give me a chuckle every time now.

  • I was the queen of spackle with ‘Le Grand Bambino’ (LGB – a male friend’s nickname for him). I’m embarrassed that I spackled as much as I did, even after I’d been horribly dumped without knowing why. I’m proud that I stopped as soon as I discovered the affair. During the discard I broke my knee in a skiing accident. Shrove Tuesday, he comes home from work. I’m literally hopping round the kitchen in a leg brace, on crutches, making pancakes from scratch. To keep him happy. He smirked and went to get changed, leaving me hopping around like a crazy thing. This was peaky bonkers spackling! I was in pain. My stomach was covered in holes and bruises from having to self-inject heparin for 6 weeks (he couldn’t do the injections because, you know, squeamish!). Just a few weeks later my dad was dying in hospital. LGB couldn’t come to hospital until he had got his hair cut! Yet again, I’m hopping around trying to support family while I’m supporting myself on a crutch! And I’m doing it on my own. While LGB gets preened. As others have said, his selfishness was enough on its own for me to have kicked him in to touch. I could not see that. I spackled that he was stressed at work. I was CEO of an organisation. He was an employed lawyer. And I was giving him the benefit of the doubt repeatedly that he was stressed at work! My therapist keeps stopping me every time I say the words ‘to be fair’ as I make an excuse for someone’s bad behaviour. Always making excuses, always being reasonable, always making allowances. It’s sad and makes me very vulnerable to users, like LBG.

  • Here’s just one slap of spackle…my STBX seemed ho-hum about sex, and he rarely initiated. I asked him dozens of times throughout the first half of our marriage if he was gay. Eventually I started thinking he found me unattractive but was too much of a coward to admit it. It was so confusing. I grew up in a culture and with a mother who told me my husband wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off me, so to be married to someone who was so shruggy about sex messed with my head, my worth. I prayed for God to give me peace with our lackluster sex life – that STBX kept telling me was “fine” even though I didn’t feel fine with it – because there were so many other good things about our marriage. I rationalized in my mind and journal that “no one gets everything they want”.

    • One of my saddest moments in our ill fated two session (or was it three) couples therapy was that I had just figured that sex and intimacy were for other people, not for me. Turns out they were for him and not for me… jerk.

  • I’m currently in a unique position of witnessing my spackling while being confronted with the truth. I’m getting my ducks in a row. FW has no idea that the blinders are starting to come off, he’s away on an extended work trip. I’ve recently booted up his old phone and am tracking him on “find my iphone” I also have a PI following him.

    Here are a few of the takeaways from this week. He’s talking to me from the airport while saying he’s at the office. It was so casual “I’m just having lunch” his flight was in 40 minutes. The PI has been sending pic in real time so I can see when he’s walked away from the table with the OW to text me about how much he misses us. He was “so tired” and headed to bed but was actually at a seedy strip club (so cringe the PI drew a line and wouldn’t go in) . He called me as if things were normal from the OW’s house. The penny dropped when he said he was eating at a 4 star bistro alone at he bar (he wasn’t) How many times over the past 15 years has he said he was eating alone at a bar (he’s a foodie) and I’m a spackler.

    It’s difficult to believe even with all the evidence. My mind is completely fucked these days, thinking I’ll need a few years of no contact to regain my brain space.

    I’m starting to think he’s a sociopath, I have no idea who I’ve been married to all these years, living in crisis mode, can’t eat, sleep etc. from pretending for the past 6 weeks, yet he does it full time. Hoping I can put an end to this in two weeks, attorney thinks everything should be in place by then.

    I’d love to hear if anyone has advice on how to prepare my daughter ages 13 & 9.

    • Baby Chump – I’m so sorry. Your comment about how your pretending for the past six weeks is disrupting your appetite, sleep, and so on “yet he does it full time” resonates with me. I don’t know how people lead double lives. How?? Seems it would be crazy making. Just the idea of “pretending” makes me break into a cold sweat.

      Keep it simple and straightforward with your girls. No pretending! They are old enough to hear the truth (without the gory details). Something like, “Dad and I agreed to always tell each other the truth when we married. I’ve discovered he’s been lying to me for a long time, and it’s not possible for me to remain married to someone who lies.”

    • I’m so sorry for this nightmare you are living. Sadly I know how you feel, as I discovered my husband’s sex addicted double life last year. We still live together, but next week we will be divorced and I get everything. He is a covert narc and is so so afraid people will learn what a fw/traitor/sleeze he really is that he now does everything I want from him. I have not yet told my children and I am losing sleep over this. I dont want them to feel as lost as I did when I discovered but I also dont want to lie to them. Why did he put us in this position? I wish you strengh and wisdom, and do not forget: he only had his own self interest as a priority. You should make yours and your girls yours. You cant trust him, no matter what he says after discovery.

  • i think fw erode your self worth, like water on a stone, makes it smooth over time.
    i thought because he said it was my own fault i was abused as a child, i stupidly believed him.
    he was fucked up because i had a stillborn baby, no he was always fucked up.
    and all the crappy rest

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