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Everyone Tells Me He’s Not a Bad Person

maskDear Chump Lady,

I was chumped after 12 years of marriage, and a total of 16 years together. I was so blindsided, and devastated. I am a rational person rather than a romantic one. So, my rational mind was sure that this was truly a special connection. We often talked about our connection and how lucky we were. I am so confused, was it all lies?

I do not know why I was marathoning every Esther Perel video (I recently read that even Melinda Gates took a relationship class from her). My pain multipled with each talk I watched by her, so I stopped that maddness. Then I found your blog. I cannot thank you enough for this.

I unfortunately did every crazy thing you told us to avoid. Then I reread many of the posts and comments. I read your book many times until I memorised it. My first success was to finally make him move out. I was emotionally attached to him and it was very hard for me to do.

I talked to only a few very close friends about this. They all reacted with disbelief at first. Then I heard: but he loved you so much! A couple of them supported me unconditionally, but the rest said that he is not a bad person. “We understand your pain but he is not a bad person”. The worst of it I also believe that he is not. I never saw him hurting anyone physically or emotionally all these years. He supports friends in need. If someone needs a hand moving out he is the first one to show up with coffee and bagels. He drops you off at the airport without you even asking. He was always nice to his and my parents. But the same person carried a double life behind my back for one year with someone at work. I was gaslighted, confused and scared. I begged him to talk to me if there was something wrong, but he did not care. When I found out and lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks he did not care. He even told me he wished that I had not found it out.

He, of course, wants to be a cake eater (keeps texting me to say how much he misses me), but I want nothing to do with him so I do not respond to him.

Everyone here will understand how lost and confused I am. I do not know if my past was a lie. I asked him many times what went wrong. Was he bored, tired? All he says he does not know why this happened. He says that I trusted him unconditionally, but he hurt me more than anyone could.

How can he be so nice and cruel at the same time? I am really confused with that.

Looking for Answers


Dear Looking for Answers,

Don’t look for answers from him. First, it’s a power trip (kibbles!). Second, it just opens you up to more abuse. He’s either going to blameshift. Yes, you bore me. And outline all your faults, real and imagined. Or he’s going to shrug and say something deeply unsatisfying, which will only make you feel even more inconsequential.

He cheated because he wanted to. Because he valued fucking around over your well-being. And he did the cost benefit analysis (his dick vs. your pain) and unilaterally decided that his desires were more important. Of course he did this cost-benefit analysis (they all deny it) because he kept his cheating a secret.

Your continued trust worked for him. Deceit worked for him.

Now, is he a Bad Person?


Cheater apologists love this battlefield. You can’t know his heart! You can’t know the future! He may go on to cure gallbladder cancer! Just because he made this singular mistake doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you! This singular mistake will make your marriage stronger!

Reconciliation sounds like a terrible idea if you sell it as shackling yourself to a Bad Person.

So cheaters can never be Bad People. Just misunderstood.

So then the next mindfuck move is to divert you to that sad sausage misunderstanding. You have to tally up all those coffee and bagel gifts and trips to the airport. Acknowledge his better qualities. His singing voice and how perfectly he folds sweaters. (And think about this — why are chumps — who have been grievously devalued — set with the task of mustering a defense of the cheater’s good qualities?)

I describe this in my book as fishing the “good times” dumplings out of the shit stew, before realizing it is…. shit stew.

“Is he a bad person?” is the wrong question.

“Is this relationship acceptable to me?” is the right question.

You may still love him, (most of us usually do at the beginning of this meat grinder), and that works for him. Keeps you manipulatable for cake.

And you may still love him because you’ve got a big, universalist, loving heart and don’t believe in Bad People. And that’s okay too. You can still realize that this relationship isn’t working for you. And you can love him from a safe distance with no contact.

When we change the conversation away from cheaters to ourselves it cuts the Bad Person argument off at its knees.

“I don’t know why he’s doing this, but I won’t live this way.”

Now, let’s talk about those Switzerland friends of yours.

They all reacted with disbelief at first. Then I heard: but he loved you so much! A couple of them supported me unconditionally, but the rest said that he is not a bad person. “We understand your pain but he is not a bad person”.

Remember this the next time they get pistol-whipped. Hey, I’m really sorry you got mugged, but I’m sure that guy with your wallet isn’t a bad person.

He might not be! Maybe he fell in with the wrong crowd, and brought his ill-got earnings back to his sick grandmother. “Not a bad person!” is STILL A TOTALLY INSENSITIVE THING TO SAY.

They’re aligning with the perpetrator over you. They’re announcing their values, that they don’t think cheating on someone is That Bad.

Drowning kittens? Bad.

Genocide? Bad.

Esther Perel teaching a master class on relationships? Bad.

Cheating on you? Not so bad!

They may pretend to be above judgement, but they’re judging. Bad people exist, they just don’t think he’s one of them. Another favorite trope is “He did a bad thing, but he’s not a bad person.” Is he a good person? What’s a bad person if not for committing bad acts?

Anyway, you don’t need their opinion. You’re living this. They are not. Is this relationship acceptable to you? Being devalued, lied to, sexually humiliated, gaslighted… No. Forward march on that divorce.

Now then, an argument in favor of just declaring your cheater a Bad Person and moving on. You’re allowed your moral absolutes.

I am many, many years out from the infidelity nightmare. When I was in the thick of it, I was muddled on the Bad Person issue like you are. I untangled that skein on why he did this, and will he always be that way. It kept me stuck. The woulda, coulda, shouldas prevented me from moving forward with my own life. (Reconciliation is predicated on skein untangling.) With perspective, I’m willing to grant him all his better qualities. They’re also totally irrelevant.

Good people don’t abuse your trust.

Good people don’t risk your sexual health.

Good people end their commitments honestly.

Good people are accountable.

Good people clean up their messes.

He was not a good person.

Is your husband a bad person? He’s not a good one.

You brought authentic love to the table and you deserve a relationship with an equal. He’s not worthy.


Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I could have written this! So many parallels with me. Is he a bad person? He was to YOU, and that is really all that matters. There were thousands of cheating moments every single day, yet he would only admit to what I found out. When you look at the scale you realize how “bad” they really were to you.

    When people would say how great he is, I would always tell them then you should marry him. He may not be a bad person, but he was a bad husband.

    • “He may not be a bad person, but he was a bad husband.”
      This really is the bottom line, isn’t it?

    • chumpcity, he defends himself with “I am not a bad person” cliche. He says he has never done anything like this before, and of course, the other cliche is “this has nothing to do with you”. Now that I live alone, I retrospect and see how abusive he was for letting me suffer a whole year.

      • There are cliche things they say when caught. As much as mine lied, I dont think he relished it like some do…I think he only lied when needed. One thing he never said “I have never done anything like this before”

        Very telling, no?

      • Absolutely abusive! I found it pointless to quibble with my ex or myself about whether he was a “bad person.” It doesn’t really matter what label you place on it. He was bad to me, for a long while. And that’s what counts. A power much higher than I gets to decide one day if he’s a bad person. I just get to decide what is bad or good for me. And, unequivocally, anyone who would lie, cheat, and steal (family resources and time, at least) for an entire year (that you know about) is bad to you.

    • I can’t wait for the day when women feel empowered both emotionally and financially to divorce someone for any old reason.

      Right now the divorce bar seems to be set at physical abuse or cheating, and both of those things for some reason have to be egregious – and even then we are encouraged to give additional chances.

      Screw that. I spent waaaaay to long wondering if the things he did were “bad enough” – never stopping to consider that my own unhappiness has been “bad enough” to leave for 15 years.

      • Thanks for this. I STILL wonder is it bad enough? Well, do I feel the same now?
        No. It’s bad
        Cheating one of the WORST things you can do

        • Cheating is betrayal of your commitment to your partner. Cheating is also shows a lack of character and integrity.
          If they cheat on their spouse they’re likely to be dishonest in other aspects of their lives.
          They’re manipulative, self centered con artists, portraying themselves as a great/guy to outsiders.
          Great guys or girls don’t cheat on their spouses. As been mentioned there’s a series of dishonest acts that happen before they actually cheat. They’re not traits you would associate with a person of integrity.

    • You might want to amend one of your comments to read like thusly:

      ” I would always tell them then you should marry him and get back to me in twelve months.”

    • If charity begins at home, charitabity is defined by how one treats one family. So is “goodness” or “badness.” Someone can’t be good if they’re a shit to their partners and families.

    • Yep. I was just going to say, Hitler loved animals and the kids of his Nazi friends. Jeff Dahmer gave generously to his neighbors. Most of Peter Madsen’s colleagues never thought in a million years he could have done what he did (I just watched the excellent documentary “Into the Deep” on Netflix). Ted Bundy maintained long-term romantic and work relationships, although those started to break down as he became more prolific – and it’s usually true that the most disordered types can’t maintain long term relationships (another red flag).

      Nobody is all bad, all the time. They could not function if they were. We would not be in relationships with them if they were. A lot of their good acts might be impression management, some might be genuine. Who knows? Dividing people into “good” and “bad” is oversimplifying. Much better to look at their actions, across the board, and not just with people they can manipulate in short interactions.

      As CL rightly says, we have to Trust That Cheaters Suck *for us*. It was a major revelation to me that disordered types can be very reasonable to everyone except their spouses, who are there 24/7 and who end up bearing the brunt (because disordered types can’t sit in discomfort for any length of time and need to externalize anything wrong in their lives). And any friend who tries to tell us that our cheaters are “not bad people” is minimizing our pain, and even maybe trying to shift some of the blame onto us. If we have to explain to former friends why their sentiments are inappropriate, it might be time for a break (with or without any accompanying explanation – “no” is a complete sentence). A lot of us in CN have narrowed our friend groups down to those few people who “get it” enough. All best to all chumps!

      • I think you’re right that any defense of perpetrators implies blame shifting by default.

        You can see how bystanders can get sucked in though. The devil doesn’t wear horns. Life would be so simple if they did. Instead, various ill-doers tend to rationalize their actions so gymnastically that they manage to convince themselves they’re not bad and that victims had it coming because– neat parlor trick– all the “badness” is dementedly displaced to victims. Furthermore, the mental gymnastics lend to the appearance of relative “guiltlessness.” The abuser doesn’t feel that bad about what they do so they don’t appear furtive and shifty to others which is necessary to suck in future prey and sway bystanders. A memorable line from The Talented Mr. Ripley, “Well, whatever you do, however terrible, however hurtful, it all makes sense, doesn’t it? In your head. You never meet anybody that thinks they’re a bad person.”

  • LfA,

    Don’t fall for the “he’s not a bad person” BS. Anyone can run friends to the airport – or whatever – and he probably revels in the attention/kibbles that result; sidenote, Cheaters are big on image management, so this really plays into this space. I would argue that what defines you as a person is what you do when no-one is looking or you think that no-one will ever find out. He cheated as he didn’t think you would find out …… but you did.

    Since cheating is abuse, it’s fair to say that he’s a bad person, but don’t hold your breath waiting for your “friends” to agree with you; they are likely too invested in his “good guy” persona to see the real truth.

    You’ve got this.


    • “What you do when noone is looking or think that noone will find out. ”
      Well said, LFTT! This speaks to a character deficit that completely erases every good and positive act done by a fuckwit. I know without hesitation my ex believes he was and is a “good” person. And I could come up with many examples that would support his thinking as well as how he is perceived by others. But that secret and covert life he led over 4 plus decades is who he is at his core. And it is ugly, sick, and twisted.
      I have a pat answer memorized if I were to inadvertently run into a member of his “do good” community volunteer friends and asked about the divorce. (Luckily, it hasn’t and probably won’t happen, but I’m prepared none the less.) But to anyone who dares to suggests to me he is “such a nice guy”, I would just say: “yeah, I imagine the prostitutes he frequented would describe him the same way” and leave it at that. It’s probably for the best I’ve not been told that …

      • TDMC,

        I can’t take the credit for that saying, as it “belongs” – if that’s a thing – to someone that I used to work with.

        I too have a “pat answer” to anyone who tries to tell me what a great person Ex-Mrs LFTT is – “If you judge her by her ability to steal from and lie to her children, as well as stealing from, lying to and cheating on her husband, she’s one of the very best …… but as a human being, not so much.”

        I’ve only used it once.


    • LookingForwardstoTuesday, he loved attention/kibbles. But as you said, what matters is what we do when no one is looking. Now, I can never be sure if he was doing those good things only for attention or for really wanting to help.

    • Now you’ve given me the perfect response: “what defines you as a person is what you do when no-one is looking.” Thanks!

    • I have a ‘friend’ who was making weak passes at me recently and because he has been so helpful to me in other ways, I green lighted trying to take him up on the romantic interest. He has seemed a good guy, someone having difficulty sharing how he feels, etc., but I quickly realized this “difficulty” is a difficulty being honest that, while it seems charming when what they’re being indirect about is how much they like you, is basically a difficulty *being honest* and owning their feelings in a clear, upfront way. I quickly realized that the way he’d share his “real” feelings about coworkers, bosses, etc with me gave me a hint about how he might be sharing his “real” feelings about me with someone else.

      Whenever I’d ask about an inconsistency in a story he told, or why he behaved in a strangely dismissive way after lending me instruments and fixing things in my house, or why he’d say how much he liked me and then go and buy a specific amp for himself that he knew I had been about to buy, he’d just shrug, like “I dunno, why are you making me verbalize?” and he’d sigh and say “Oh, Magnolia. You know how much I like you” or “I have trouble finding words when you’re around.” The “I have trouble finding words” sounded like “I’m stumbling because of my crush” the first couple times I heard it. After a while, it sounded more lie a pat excuse for not responding to direct questions.

      The romantic green light turned yellow, then red, in under two weeks.

      Since then he has told me he loves me and continues with gifts and offers. I’m flying for a family funeral tomorrow. I literally just came home from telling him no thank you to his offer to give me a drive to the airport (offered a couple times, ignored, and then offered again by text yesterday) and opened up my computer to this on point blog post!

      I’m at the point where his offers to do things for me feel like subtly aggressive “I’m a good guy” gestures meant to distract me from shadiness. But it’s very hard for me to maintain that POV; I very quickly feel like I’m judging him harshly when he’s just trying to be nice. It’s like I get into a fog and suddenly the bad thing he did seems distant, not even the same person. It’s like I *forget* that he’s the same person who did both things. My therapist has asked me specifically to notice the forgetting, understand that it’s a trauma response, and I’m looking into why my entire body and mind seem to just forget that the same guy who is fixing my broken furniture also does shady shit one of our local venues to not be seen to be too “with” me.

      Cue me listening to my very tentative instincts, and preferring the peace of driving my own tired self to the airport for 4:30 am than say yes to the good guy stuff that feels fishy.

      • Yes. He’s testing and repeatedly violating your boundaries. This is how seduction works. Also grooming.

        Ambivalence is your enemy. It’s not charming; it’s suspicious.

        I’ve found that adopting this stance has helped me to identify dodgy people of all kinds much earlier. If they can’t say what they mean, and mean what they say, be careful.

        • I caved 🙁

          I went out; saw friends; the trip came up, someone else offered to pick me up if the first guy did the drop off. I really struggle when it feels like having boundaries will mean I have to do everything myself forever and always. I was not mighty.

          • Yes, it’s hard.

            But don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all made mistakes trying to set and maintain boundaries.

            I think that perhaps what you’re saying is that you’re scared of being single for a long time, or maybe a lifetime.

            Being single doesn’t mean being alone, or friendless, or having to do everything yourself.

            Do you struggle to make friends with other women? It’s a life skill worth developing.

  • Kunty Kibbler was an extraordinarily, breathtakingly bad person TO ME.

    By extension to the daughters we pledged to protect and set a good example for.

    End of discussion.

  • This is so spot on, I have little to add. Thank you CL.

    In my case, FW looked like a “nice guy” and “great dad.” They can be masters of disguise for their image management. That’s like the whole Bill Cosby issue — how could those women accuse “America’s Dad”… a “clean comic”… a well known philanthropist?? No one wanted to believe all of those women even though more and more kept coming forward.

    But sometimes when a FW’s mask falls off, no impression management can save them. They are so full of themselves and so certain no one will believe you that they mis-step. In my case, FW started becoming abusive verbally and physically with our young son. And police started getting involved. And it took me getting a call from FW screaming at me and then the police calling too for my book club to witness it and fully recognize that I wasn’t crazy or making shit up about that “nice guy.”

    But if you have “friends” that need that kind of proof to believe you and they don’t stop with the “he’s still a good person” shit… they may not be friends worth keeping.

    • MichelleShocked has a true nugget of wisdom here…”FW looked like a “nice guy” and “great dad.” They can be masters of disguise for their image management.”

      Often it is only after the initial shock wears off and you’re well into the discovery part of the divorce process that one finds out the story was much deeper and often longer than we initially believed.

      Mine was also the BEST GUY to everyone! Running to help everyone and save every kitten stuck up a tree.

      As I dug and dug to help my lawyers (no one knew my case better than me), credit card statements and phone logs showed the reality behind some of the times I believed he was helping someone move, providing free legal work for an organization or person in need, taking an unemployed friend out to work on their resume and, yes, even attend a friend’s parent’s funeral (doesn’t get much lower than that!).

      All I’m saying is the writer may find that her hopefully-soon-to-be-ex’s golden halo wasn’t all that it appeared.

      Impression management can be very, very impressive when a cheater wants it to be.

  • Chump Lady is 100% on the money. Good person or Bad Person, who cares? The mask dropped and you have seen the truth. By having him move out, you already decided that the relationship was not acceptable to you. That is the only thing that matters. You have to do what is right and healthy for you. What other people think about him does not matter, it is how he treated you.
    Sure, we all want a relationship that is reciprocal, but he did not give you that. He is incapable of giving you what you want, need and deserve. Game over. Don’t take the lies, abuse, gaslighting and Fuckwittery. Recognize that you matter and that you have value. Yes, it takes time but with time and no contact (and some therapy if you want) you will find yourself in a better place. Stop putting the focus on his nice guy image and start thinking about yourself. None of us wanted to be chumped but most of us realized that getting rid of abusers is key to our long-term health and happiness.
    Keep the “nice guy” friends at a distance and dump them if needed. Find friends who don’t think that others should be abused and who are authentic and care about you (hint: they don’t hold up the FWs nice guy image).

  • Looking for Answers- here’s one you’ve keyed in on in your words: “I never saw him hurting anyone physically or emotionally all these years.”

    That’s the whole game. Maybe he was (probably he was), or maybe there’s a slim chance he wasn’t. But a whole lot of cheaters, mine included, make whole lives of making sure no one sees them as “a bad person,” even if they’re taking sexual tours of entire baseball teams on the side.

    Sure, they’re putting their own needs ahead of everyone else’s, and sure, behind closed doors they’re manipulative gaslighters of extreme skill. But hey! Look how they say supportive stuff to people! Look how they join lots of clubs! Have you thanked them for it? Because you’d best be recognizing. It’s all part of the eternal, desperate attempt to not be seen.

    • I also think there’s a period after escaping an abuser when the smoke begins to clear and you start remembering all their little micro-abuses or not-so-micro-aggressions from a new perspective. It always makes me think of this over-the-top scene from Star Trek reruns where Captain Kirk is being held prisoner on a planet ruled by a giant, pulsating brain in a jar. While in proximity the disembodied brain, Kirk’s grip on reality becomes weaker and weaker as his thoughts are replaced by the brain blob. He does his Kirky dramatics of falling to his knees, reaching skyward and proclaiming, “Losing…myself… can’t… remember… who I am…” Then Scotty beams him up and he recovers his perspective. Kirk had to go NC.

  • You can hire a taxi to the airport, you can door dash a bagel. Cheating is much more then services you can pay for. We are known by our actions. If someone says , he is not a bad person. Grab their purse, phone and start to walk away. Then repeat, I’m not a bad person, I just did a bad thing. CL often talks image management, he uses his “nice guy” as a weapon, a shield. The Trust That He Sucks, sums it up.

  • One of my aunts was married to what we all perceived as a great guy. Helpful, upstanding, hands on father, blah blah blah. Until he had an affair and blew through all their savings and retirement funds. My aunt had to start over in her 50’s. Luckily she had siblings (plus nieces and nephews) that were very supportive because her 3 kids, all Ivy League graduates, never stepped up to help out.

  • “I never saw him hurting anyone physically or emotionally all these years.”

    “I never saw….” People can have different sides to them. We each see the facets that they choose to show us, at the time.

    “I never saw him hurting anyone…” Except yourself. Except yourself. Except yourself.

    That matters. You matter.

    Infidelity is abuse.

    Abuse is very bad.

    The judgments of others mean squat.

    I’m so very sorry.

    • This is so true. Why are we so cold to ourselves?
      Why can’t we see? It was US???
      Thank you so much. We matter

      • Because we were told for so long we didn’t matter, in not so many words. I had no idea how much I had taken my needs, wants, desires, dreams, goals, and joys and stuffed them like a sleeping bag into a compression sack during the last years of my marriage. I was so small because I was walking on the eggshells of what I perceived and what he told me would make him happier. After we separated (and took all his crap with him), I literally felt my soul expand.

  • Everyone thought my ex was a great guy. They still think that. He did volunteer charity work. He helped special needs kids and adults. He was witty and gregarious, the life of the party. He was talented and smart. Helpful.

    And when the doors closed, he turned into a monster. Demeaning, cruel, angry, abusive. He lied as easily as he breathed. He cheated and felt no remorse.

    Your “friends” will never see it. People like my ex are experts in image management, and they are very careful to cultivate supporters. The same way they seduce their APs, they seduce friends.

    CL is right – is this acceptable to YOU? Does he treat YOU the way you deserve to be treated? The rest is window dressing and completely irrelevant. Almost no abuser is abusive all of the time or to all people. But if he treats YOU badly, that is reason enough to end the relationship. It took me a long time to accept that. It’s easy to look only at the good things and think something is wrong with YOU that caused him to treat you like that. But I promise you, it isn’t you.

    • Hence the fact that I’ve been in therapy since dday. He tried once. Covid and shutdowns just started. What a time…

    • I’m honestly worried that he used charity work to abuse others. There are tons of stories about predators going into devastated areas under the auspices of charity where they could freely abuse.

      • He worked with autistic adults. I think he just liked feeling superior. Our son is autistic and so I thought he really cared. I discovered during all this that I am also autistic, and he used it as an insult (“you’re not autistic, you’re just an IDIOT”), which told me all I needed to know about his real attitude toward autistic people. He always wanted our son to appear as “normal” as possible, hid the autism diagnosis from everyone (and asked me to do the same) for about a year, got angry if my poor kid had meltdowns, or even just made noise (as toddlers do). Then he realized he could use our son’s autism for kibbles (“oh, you’re such an GOOD dad, so involved in the COMMUNITY, so SUPPORTIVE”). But I started to see that he only wanted to do the work when there was an audience, and he LOVED to drop the fact that he was on the board of directors of the charity to EVERYONE, especially the family court, thinking it gave him some kind of upper hand. OW started volunteering there as well, not because she cared about the people, but because it was a way to get “in” with my ex, and also a way to shut me out from being involved. She even co-opted my son’s team (which I had started) for the fundraiser walk. I wasn’t even told that the team was formed that year. Meanwhile, her own son had obvious developmental delays, and she didn’t get him any help. Just blamed her ex husband’s parenting.

        All of it was performative. It was disgusting. I helped my share of people, but I did it one-to-one (as well as handling EVERY aspect of my son’s diagnosis process, school selection, therapy, etc.). My husband got mad that I didn’t do more in public (so he could show me off and ride my “success”).

        I dared to call him a hypocrite at one point, based on how he treated me, and he got so furious. Fortunately, it was on the phone so he couldn’t actually hurt me.

        • My middle child developed a learning delay related to a chronic medical condition. That’s when I found out that secondary special education attracts only the best and the worst and very little in between. I had to pull my quiet, marshmallow son out of two schools in a row due to staff physical abuse and then witnessed the schools’ retaliatory cover ups of physical injuries.

          Though my son is largely recovered and could easily write a book about his experience, at the time it was clear that freaks on staff were counting on my son’s disability to get away with it. Their wormy, weak egos obviously got a boost from lording it over “defective” students. It reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s assessment of violent school masters in his day: “Men among boys and boys among men.” In any event, there’s statistical evidence that predators like to hide in “helping” professions and positions that give them power over the vulnerable. Earnest, decent people are also drawn to those professions for earnest, decent reasons but can get chased out if a particular workplace is glutted with shitheads which, unfortunately, can be the case in many helping professions.

    • I also was married to a great guy, personable, funny, smart, people would tell me how lucky I was to be married to him. He was a very different person behind closed doors. Angry, rude, critical, cruel and abusive.
      I was confused, I didn’t know what I was doing to make him so nasty. When I’d ask him, he’d say I get along with everyone but you, so it must be you.
      It took me along time to realize it wasn’t me.

  • “ How can he be so nice and cruel at the same time?”

    You’ve described a covert narcissist who uses others to maintain and sustain their image.

  • “Just because he made this singular mistake doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you! This singular mistake will make your marriage stronger!”

    They minimize the cheating. My ex once said something like this to me, “Everyone makes mistakes. I made a mistake.” One of the few times I got loud in my response, “Don’t you EVER call what you did a mistake again! You didn’t forget to cross your T’s or dot your i’s!”

    Cheating is a series of hundreds of decisions to deceive and betray. They love to call it “a mistake”.

    • Yup. Cheating is permitting yourself to have inapporpriate interactions many many times over. For a true unicorn to exhist, the cheater must walk back through those gates of permissions, every one, and set different boundaries for themselves. Waaaaaaay too much effort.

    • Thanks for calling this out, TwinsDad. Before I ever read CL, that “mistake” word enraged me. The cheating only lasted a few months in my case, but it was still hundreds if not thousands of lies, devaluing and generally shitty behavior to more than just me.

      To this day FW doesn’t understand my issue with the word. Thankfully it’s no longer my problem whether he understands.

    • After decades of cheating, he said “I had a bad moment”

      Moment. You order coffee in a moment. You dont screw your coworker on business trips all over the country

      • Thank you so much for posting the link. He very explicitly informed everyone that cheating is more than just one mistake. I will use his explanation as well.

  • Ah, the confusion of early days. Things will become more clear with no contact, healing will begin when the divorce is finalized. Please consider how many hundreds? thousands? of moments he planned and fantasized and lied about his infidelity. Even in your current pain, did you forget your own values and lie? Hopium makes us think a character or personality turnaround is possible. Cheaters (by definition) don’t work on themselves.

    • “…of moments he planned and fantasized and lied about his infidelity”

      Yes! I look back and realize that in the almost 3 years he was having the affair, he became even MORE quiet than usual, staring off into the distance and not engaging with me at all. This was on top of his usual punishment by silent treatment. He was with me physically but really not present emotionally. I see now that I was so incredibly lonely.

      In retrospect, I realize that he was probably thinking/fantasizing about her while he was with me. I feel robbed.

      • Just want to say that, yes, x belongs in the bad bucket. He will deny that, of course. Don’t they all? He was a doctor…SAVING people. What a great cover job for a selfish fuckwit!

        The AP is a bad person, too. She cheated on her own spouse. Also, she knew damn well she was fucking a married man. Heck, they had sex in our bed (her bed, too). I think back to how I had personal stuff on my nightstand that should could easily have seen. Had I known someone was going to sleep in my bed, I would have hid that stuff.

        Dammit. No consent. Such an intrusion on my privacy, on my…everything.

        Now those two are married. God that’s justice. Two bad people together. No integrity. No trust. A marriage founded on lies and deceit. Doubt it’s all puppies and rainbows.

        Meanwhile, I have a new life. I’m so much happier. It’s unbelievable.

        ((Hugs)) to all chumps, especially those in the early stages who are in so much pain. Please know that it gets better.

        • My WEDDING GOWN was hanging in the closet. Which was open, as ex never closed it. My pictures were everywhere. My things.

          Hell, she’d been in my house when I was there. Many times. Our kids played together.

          They had sex in my bed. A lot.

          When FW told me to get my stuff out of the house, I took that bed (it was mine before we got married). I took it straight to the dump.

          They were both disgusting, selfish people.

          They broke up. He’s dead now. She’s still an idiot.

          I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Dancing in my kitchen and delightfully FW-free.

          It does get better.

        • Spinach – I laughed a little at your comment that if you’d known the AP would be in your bed, you would have hid your stuff. Seriously. Same. One of the most terrible feelings I’ve had during the years since d-day is thinking about my ex-friend wandering my house or poking through my things when I wasn’t here. Makes me wanna break things, even now.

          I really hope it gets better.

  • i saw how my ex would be a totally different person outside our home, charismatic, funny, solid, etc

    in the home my ex was needy, pouting, blaming everyone else for everything, demanding, sad and fragile

    so knowing how other people would perceive my ex helped me understand why they thought he was a ‘good person’

    one person told me there was no way they could see us ever breaking up, we seemed so solid

    master manipulators manipulate everyone, don’t doubt yourself, he is not a ‘good person’ by any standard, don’t get sucked in to defending yourself with the doubters, protect yourself, you are worth it

  • Dear looking for answers

    I do this. I am not proud.
    Mrs CL(T)
    Thank you for sending friendly reminders that I need and providing all of us with the validation (in the sense that if you’re doing or have done this too) that the people who say “you can tell he loves you so much” or “it was a long time ago” don’t matter . I am living it.
    Looking for answers: maybe once time passes you’ll see more clearly that doing all those things are normal but cheating on you was not. It is hard for me to wrap my head around as well. My husband is so helpful to my parents and his family/ friends etc…but I’m carrying the flip side of this every day. I like coming here and am slowly but surely unpacking with you all.

    I am so relieved you have started to move forward

    • I am living this life… I actually was hoping in the beginning this man was a unicorn…. Though deep down I knew better… It literally boggles my mind how easily somebody can lie to my face.. I’m the one that feels humiliated over all of this but it’s really him that should be ashamed of himself for being such an asshole.

  • there’s different scales to how evil cheaters can be, that is for sure. I think my ex borders on monsterhood, but there are times when I don’t think he was so bad after reading some of the horror stories on CL. But let’s face it. Living with someone FOR YEARS and never suspecting they could be so lying, deceitful, sneaky, fake, phony, petty, etc. – well, that blows the mind. The whole stranger into strange in my bed thing. Worse, that you have children with them that may end up like the ex. Acceptance is part of the grief process. My regret was not accepting how things stood earlier on. My trying to fix the broke down just delayed my recovery and hurt my brain (gaslighting does a serious number on the brain, even when you are aware it’s happening). and trying to It doesn’t matter what friends think. Let them go to his side. It doesn’t matter. It only matters what you do. Get your fair share. Be pragmatic about sticking to your guns on getting your share. Don’t look back. Get out while you’re young and healthy. Start exercising. Go. Choose happy.

    • He was mean and raged at me…lists of awful things he did and said. To his credit, though…when high on hopium and devotion, I offered to give him my entire retirement fund to pay for his business and he refused. It is actually good for me to remember that…a tiny hint of decency after so much bad. He wanted to look good and every once in a while he did something decent. He was still a terrible husband

  • My ex professed to be the White Knight who rescued his grandson from abuse and was an all-around good guy. I was the one rescuing and doing the work, while he was all about the image, NOT about doing the actual work and support.

    Fraudster actually deviated from the norm, because he not only did the cost-benefit analysis, he admitted it. He told me that his therapist told him to calculate the cost of potentially leaving me (disabled by an on-the-job head injury) and the abused, traumatized grandson we were raising, versus pursuing his happiness as a single man free to find another partner. Fraudster told me that he thought it over carefully, weighed the cost, and decided his happiness was worth our pain. But instead of ending our marriage first, he went online, found a woman less than half his age, threw over 40K at her without ever meeting, and planned to marry her and start another family. . I found out when he left our bedroom computer open to the apartment he’d picked and his email inviting her to move in with him in TWO DAYS.

    Long story short, I proved it was a catfishing romance scam. We went to see his therapist together, and his therapist said HE felt personally and professionally betrayed, because ex never told him he was already involved with someone. And further, that he (therapist) taught teen girls about catfishing scams and could have proved it immediately, if Fraudster had confided in him.

    He became physically abusive and beat me unconscious, shoving aside grandson who tried to protect me. Therapists said that in order to see grandson again, he’d have to write a letter of admission and apology. THREE therapists helped him write the letter and it still took him FOUR months to write one they’d accept. He kept insisting that his only mistake was trusting someone he didn’t know after he tried to help her find a job and manage her money. He made himself sound like a social worker instead of what he was, a loser sending money to a woman while asking her for pornographic pictures. BTW, he said he thought she was mentally impaired/deficient, and therefore would look up to him and obey without question.

    In the first months after we married, he once told me that I didn’t know the real him and was in love with an idealized version. How sad, and how true.

    He called recently “to make sure I had his new phone number” and told me that there NEVER was another woman, he just fantasized about one. I have over a thousand pages of his emails to and from his fantasy, and documentation of the money, bank account and wire transfers he sent to this non-existent person. He introduced another woman to friends as his “life partner” and posted the same claim online. He introduced our grandson by phone video app to yet another woman he claimed was going to be his new mom. I know of at least one other mother and teen daughter that he pursued. Yet now he claims there was NEVER anyone else.

    BTW, he used my brain injury to portray himself as the noble spouse and as a way to devalue me, falsely claiming that it made me violent, paranoid and illogical.

    They are only as good as the sum of their actions, not just the sliver of image management they show to their audiences.

  • When I discovered and confronted my FW, he argued I should consider reconciliation based on his “overall body of work.” Building upon that weird framing/wording, I said, “If one of your team members was caught stealing from the company, would you expect them to get a pass because they’re ‘otherwise a great guy’ or ‘just going through a phase’?” He said it depended on how much they stole. OK then!

  • One friend I met in my Divorce and Recovery class husband used to drop her at the airport for her business trips or trips to see her kids, kiss her, tell her he loved her, see you soon then he’d drive back to atm, take out $100, go see a hooker. She discovered this after his arrest in a local sting operation.
    LFA’s hubby was probably giddy as he excited airport.

    • This is what mine did! Or drop off the kids at the grandparrents and off he went… and now he is a changed man, he says. If you can do this your entire adult life without any hesitation or guilt, the option of being a unicorn is out of the window.

  • Great advice, CL!

    Looking for Answers mentions first that she’s a rational person rather than a romantic one.

    Ever notice how the Chump is the rational person in the relationship while the Cheater is the tumbleweed skimming along the surface of relationships without a thought beyond their genitals? This forum is full of thoughtful Chumps sharing perceptive and rational ideas borne of living life with depth of character, conscience and courage.

    Cheaters need this rational stability in a partner to operate. The Chump is the cover used for impression management. Our character, conscience and courage isn’t what has value to the Cheater. It’s the cover they provide while Cheater’s skimming appears below the radar – until it is exposed.

    I’m sorry to say this speaks not one iota to the nature of love. Love is foreign to Cheaters and many go through life never knowing it. Most often they’re only seeking partners out of neediness, desperation and a desire to use others in ways that feed their empty souls. It’s a pitiful way to live without being able to give or receive love.

  • This one hits home. He was a bad person to you. Plus he did not even say he wished he had not done it. He wished you had not found out. A good person is honest especially with their spouse. They do not do things that they know will deeply hurt the person they have promised to love, etc. He made vows with you. Then he gaslighted you. I find it somewhat more offensive that one is pretending to so many people to be a good person, etc. when they are not. Helping others, etc. does not negate, etc. what he did to you! He should have been treating you better than others. He is not for you. This did not just happen. He thought about it, etc. and then did it regardless of the hurt it would bring to you. He blew up your world but got the sex, etc. he wanted from the AP. For a year! Best to you.

    • Lee Chump, thank you. What hurt me the most was that he turned into a robot during that time. It was scary. As I read somewhere before, it was as if he was abducted and replaced with a soulless replica. He was my best friend and I could have never imagined losing his trust. He consideres me as his best friend but he didn’t care about losing me. I couldn’t bear seeing him sad. But when I was crying my eyes out because of him, he was looking at me with empty eyes. I can’t ever understand what love means to him.

  • I don’t care for the term “bad person”. It’s too vague. There are many people who have little to no empathy. They are often great risk takers, brave and charismatic people who have a significant positive impact on the world. However, they don’t sacrifice anything they truly care about for others, and that makes them rotten people to be close to. They are useful people, but you want to keep them at arms length and understand their limitations, and realize that they are likely abusing those closest to them quite painfully. We’ve all had the misfortune of being close to someone like that.
    There’s a very strange logical fallacy that always seems to be applied to any sort of sexual abuse, whether it is Bill Cosby or a cheating spouse – “but he never tried it with *me*!”. As though someone who robs a house can’t be guilty because he hasn’t robbed EVERY house. I have never understood that.

  • Oh Yes, 7 years after D-Day and the divorce, I still experience this. While I have forgiven (for my own well-being), I do not invite him into my life. My sister and brother-in-law recently tried to help him out because he wanted to switch weekends with me and I already had plans. They offered TO HIM to keep my son. WTH!?!?! They didn’t inform me or consult me or even take my feelings into consideration. No one told my son either until his dad mentioned it to him on the phone and then he told me. That’s how *I* found out. When I expressed my anger to my sister over what they were doing, my sister actually told me that my son is their nephew and they want to spend time with him. Bullshit. They have NEVER offered to take my son for the weekend. It became a big headache for them because it wasn’t as easy, plans kept changing. It wasn’t as they thought. In the end, it didn’t happen because the ex ended up cancelling his plans. In that situation, they sided with him and not me….BECAUSE HE WANTED TO GO SEE A WOMAN HE WAS DATING IN ANOTHER STATE. There has been other instances, things said that make me believe that infidelity has happened in my sister’s marriage. But she has chosen to stay. I know there was a time when she kicked him out for a short time many years ago. I believe she has kept it a secret from me this whole time. It would explain a lot of the nasty things she has said to me over the years. She can’t stand next to me, in all my defiance, to not accept my ex’s behavior when she did.

    • “She can’t stand next to me, in all my defiance, to not accept my ex’s behavior when she did.”

      I’ve noticed this in one of my friends, too. And of course she’s the one who (therefore) thinks I am harsh. She made a different choice than I did, and stayed, and over the years has convinced herself that her marriage is even stronger now. What I see is evidence of an ongoing pick-me dance on her part, but I say nothing. I simply moved her to the outer circle of friendship.

  • “I suppose it’s possible he’s good for somebody, at least some of the time, but it’s crystal clear that he’s not good for me. A good person in your life isn’t deceptive about important things. A good person in your life doesn’t knowingly risk your health, financial stability, primary relationships, home, etc. He did those things, so in MY life, he isn’t a good person.”

    Variations on this theme are your constant internal mantra, and possibly, at times, your statement to others. It says to them “this is why he was bad for me, and why maybe he’s also bad for you, and also if you do the same things, you’re bad for me too, so now you’re informed.”

    Lots of heart for you, Friend. It’s so hard, but you can do it.

  • I have copied CL’s list of what “Good People…” do and posted on my fridge; I plan to memorize it and make it my mantra. Some days, no matter how far in our journey, we need reminders for ourselves. As long as we know what is acceptable to us, who cares what flying monkeys and Switzerland friends think; they may or may not ever see FW for what they are: sick, master manipulators, con-persons. Not my circus…not my monkeys.

  • My FW also played the family guy, jovial, easy going etc. To the public and to me until the last year of marriage.

    His trip us was he was stumping his direct report and had hidden it from the mayor and enough of them that they were blindsided as well as I was.

    Oh I am sure a few police officers knew what was going on, but most of those guys don’t spill unless it benefits them directly. Then boom one of them dropped a dime and all hell broke loose.

    His house of cards fell down around him in glorious shame and destruction of his career. Oh it was about a year later before he got busted as the admin had to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, but fall it did.

    Can’t say it didn’t put a spring in my step, at least for a day or so.

    • Also to be fair I do believe he was happy and jovial until our last year when he had to put the hammer down on me to get rid of me.

      After all for at least three years (likely more) he had me working my ass off to push his big lying ass up the ladder, while I worked full time and did all the domestic stuff including mowing the fucking lawn and painting the house etc. And he had a dependable side fuck who he knew would keep her mouth shut as long as the money and gifts flowed. Tell me a FW that wouldn’t be happy about that?

      Now I know why he was walking around grinning and whistling all the time. I thought it was me.

  • Gee sounds like the covert narc I was married to. He was in the health care industry (which he fell into pretty much by default, not by first choice) and everybody thought he had so much compassion and empathy. (he had little to none for anyone not him.) But he was the first person to ask a neighbor if he needs help, to give that ride, to bring over that food (that I made). No one saw his bad behavior to me behind closed doors. Such a hero! Such a SOAB.

  • Mine made it his speciality to save people he didn’t need to save. To talk with people about their problems, help them out monetarily, with errands etc… To have sex with them because they wanted to and poor them… Anyone who needed him. Except me of course. In fact he made it a point to help other families instead of his own because well it’s ordinary and expected to help your family and he’s clearly extraordinary and unexpected…

  • I used to believe that what I saw is what the person is. Nah, no more. I have quite a few close friends and a lovely life, but I’m a perpetual skeptic now. I have about a dozen friends in my inner circle now, a lot of people that are just outside, and more that are on the other side of the wall. I’m close to my adult kids. It took my breakup and divorce to learn that, but it’s a far healthier place to be.

    Among other things, I think that many people go with “he’s not a bad person” because they don’t want to admit that the world is a hard-to-navigate place. Particularly at church, they want to think that everyone is on the straight and narrow. As my situation proved, that is not at all the case. There was addiction and character disorder in our pew, and the fruit of that had been growing for years until the split.

    There are still a handful of people at that church who five years later ask how he’s doing. They are uneasy that I’m not in contact with him. It’s not worth discussing how the situation was on the edge of becoming dangerous and how very messy the divorce was. I’ve come to believe that those people have significant issues themselves, so I make a comment about closing the chapter and moving on.

  • This: “ Is this relationship acceptable to you (exactly as it is right now— not how it was or could be)?” This question changed everything. For me, being devalued, blamed, lied to, sexually humiliated, gaslighted… No fucking way. I never signed up for that and it nearly killed me. It didn’t matter that I had 26 years of sunk costs, 4 kids, 3 houses, 2 pets, a shared business, millions of memories…. XH was cheating, lying, blaming me, badmouthing me to his friends and family, using me, abusing me, abusing our children. NOT OK. I went no contact and filed and got the divorce. Built an entirely new life. I never wanted to have to do any of it, but there was nothing to work with. That’s who XH was based on his actions— not compatible as an intimate partner. I am so grateful I got away from his abuse. 5.5 years from divorce and life is really good. I’m more content at 55 than I ever have been. XH is a complete mess— still lying and cheating and scheming and utterly miserable as fuck. No integrity. Not my problem- thank god!

  • If someone is a liar/cheater/thief, they have just revealed that they are not a genuine Nice Guy/Gal, that they are a con artist.

    The intentions behind the behavior, not the behavior alone, is what makes someone a good person or not.

    It may look like a good watermelon on the outside, but you can only find out by cutting it open.

    Con artists and other criminals have employed the Nice Guy/Gal act as a disguise since the dawn of time. Traitor Ex puts a LOT of effort into his Nice Guy facade. If he was a good guy, he wouldn’t have lied, cheated, betrayed, hid money from me, etc. Dealing with a covert con artist is much worse than someone who is an obvious jerk, IMHO.

    My therapist, who prior to DDay was our family therapist and who knows him well, who fired him for what he did, said “good people are up front and tell you what’s going on with them.”

    I’ve seen that how they treat one person is how they treat everyone. But not everyone gets the memo on the same day, and everyone’s level of denial is different.

    No matter how many bagels and cups of coffee they bring or airport rides they give or condolence cards they send, if they were a good person they wouldn’t lie and cheat and steal and betray you.

    Honesty and integrity and loyalty and kindness and empathy are qualities of good people. Cheaters and their accomplices lack those qualities.

  • My ex likes the white-knight image. Ohhh, the kibbles he gets when he does something nice! You could see him practically levitating with a preening face after someone (he especially liked compliments from strangers) complimented him. He left us because he said that he was trying to save the OW from an abusive partner. That turned out to be a load of bull on her part, but she played him well (triangulating two men against each other).
    Attachment issues, covert narcissism & fragile or overblown ego….these deep issues often hide behind “nice guy” images. He was a nice guy to you, now he’s not. Simple, but also complex. You could choose to go down the rabbit hole figuring out what drives him or you could choose to blow off trying to psycho-analyze him (hint: it brings you to the same conclusion anyhow). My mom is very pragmatic & I’m trying to be more like that. I got the sentimental gene instead from my father. Useful for Christmas & other holidays, but not when it comes to cheating men. Mom is the type to chalk a cheater up to being an asshole (no analysis) & simply getting on with her life refusing to think anything good about them. Once you cross me, you’re dead to me type of Italian thinking lol

  • Looking for Answers, as a wiser person than me pointed out, someone like your ex is a “good person” in ways that are easy, low-effort, and make him look good. He is not a good person in ways that are difficult and don’t get him ego kibbles. Anybody can bring a friend bagels and coffee.

    • Same as the way they are great parents when it comes to having fun with the kids, or showing them off, but not so much when it comes to doctor appointments, cleaning up vomit, or shopping for school supplies. Or paying child support.

  • Drowning kittens, genicide and Ester Peril’s relationship Master Class occupying the same “bad” column?
    Yeah, that’s about right.
    The person that mugged someone at gun point in the park may have baked their mom a beautiful birthday cake the day before. Are they a bad person?
    I had a line I used in another Chump post about deciphering a FW’s very confusing character. You can’t save killer whales during the week and drown kittens on the weekend and be known as a good person.
    The lies, deceptions and abuse it takes to continually and consciously cheat on your spouse and risk their mental and physical health is not the same “ bad” as breaking six eggs out of a dozen unloading the car from the market. There are unfixable actions that cross a line of no return.
    Actions have consequences and the actions and choices we take and make will ultimately define who we are, who we want to be. We decide our character and it shapes our entire life, in a good or bad way.
    You can be the scientist who finds a cure for cancer, but if you are going home on your lunch hour and abusing your family on repeat, to me, you are not a good person. Do I get to decide that?
    Yes, I do get to decide that……..for me.
    You may have done a good act by curing cancer, but making people suffer daily on your lunch break, contaminated your goodness factor in my mind.
    We can’t scoop the turds out of that delicious organic chicken soup and still enjoy sipping the broth. The entire soup has been compromised.
    There are some actions taken in our lives that can’t be redeemed, no matter how many killer whales you’ve spent your time rescuing, the pile of dead kittens from the w/e matter. Character matters. ( last two words here are on my bathroom mirror)
    We know the mind boggling harm that was done to us by the FW’s that crossed our paths.
    Are they bad thru and thru for the rest of their lives? We don’t get to judge them on all life standards to decide whether the bad in them outweighs the good.
    We get to evaluate if their behavior has been beneficial or harmful to us and we get to decide if we should tolerate their abuse of us or our children, that we are obligated to protect.
    The good and bad in the person on the world stage is out of our jurisdiction to decide.
    Maybe the weight of their actions will itself define the good and bad in them. No longer our problem.
    We get to decide if it’s acceptable to our lives and get away when it is not.
    Feels unfair based on how deeply we were hurt, to not get to call this person as bad! bad! bad! from the mountaintops to the entire world!
    I get it. Would feel like a bit of justice for a little while, then we’d be right back to trying to heal our pains and regroup our lives.
    Yes, we were greatly and unjustly injured and it just can’t be fixed, it is a deeply disturbing knowledge.
    Feels pretty anticlimactic in the end when all we are left with is our ability to walk away and never look back.
    Where is that justice?! How can someone get away with such horrible horrible abuse and it be okay with the world?! How is that okay?!?
    We don’t get to control the unconscionable actions of other people and will never receive full compensation for the unwarranted abuses.
    We have to accept that and continue to move forward just the same. It’s a lot to take on.
    (I guess that’s why we blog every day for years!)
    Wanting to believe with all our hearts that Tuesday is a viable hope out there somewhere. Maybe even for us.

  • “Bad person and good person.” That’s tricky stuff. My FW was, as many have described if this own FWs, a master of white knight image management. He rescues kittens, he and the Wifetress are the public faces of a charity organization that gets good local press, he brings coworkers small gifts of coffee and treats… heck, he used to drop by my office (pre D-day #1) to drop off coffees to *my* co-workers, and our kids love him and have a good relationship with him. He’ll hold the door open for you. He’ll drive over to help you move a couch and ask nothing in return. He’s social, easy-going, charismatic, and extroverted (all things I am not).

    He does good things and, as long as he has a use for you, he is a very good person. Once he determines you have no use or purpose anymore (or, alternatively, that you a “bad person”), he drops you and loses no sleep over it.

    So, yes, he’s out there in the world doing good things and being a good person and, arguably, even making the world a better place. He was all those things to me and he treated me kindly until he kicked me to the curb. Until then, until he decided that I wasn’t useful anymore, he was a very good person to me. Until he wasn’t.

    I don’t struggle with this philosophical dilemma anymore: is my FW XH a good guy or is he Satan himself. It’s not that kind of binary opposition. All I know, as many others here have said, is that he is *not a good guy to me.* That he was quite cruel to me. I’m sure he has good guy value out there in the world with every kitten he rescues, every free coffee he delivers, and every charity he canvases for. Sure, why not. But he is not good to me. So, the question many of us struggle with in the early days: how can he be so kind and cruel at the same time? Because he can. He doesn’t have to bee 100% bad guy or 100% good guy all the time. He can compartmentalize and choose which direction to point the cruel towards and which direction to point the kind towards.

    • Forgive the autocorrect typos. That “if” and “bee” are really bugging me but I can’t go back and fix them.

  • We often don’t see what we aren’t looking for. If you assume your spouse or partner is a “good person,” you may not see the tendency toward selfishness or hear the cutting remark or take seriously the one-sidedness of aspects of the relationship. You might be momentarily shocked by how unkind they are to their mother on the phone, but you haul out the spackle and remind yourself the MiL is a pain in the butt so it’s her fault. And then D-Day hits and we’re “blindsided” by the selfishness and cruelty that had to be always there under the surface.

    A year-long double life is not a minor failing. Wanting you to take him back while he shows zero remorse or even human concern for the impact of his behavior on you–that’s not a good person. That’s a cake-eating jackass.

    These people you are talking to don’t see his character issues and his manipulative and his deep unkindest because they aren’t looking at his behavior. They’re looking at the mask he’s kept up for them for years, probably. He isn’t cheating on them or taking their money or peeing on their lawn. To them, he’s still that “nice guy” they know. What THAT reaction involves is both a lack of imagination and a lack of empathy. I’m sure they would be shocked if he had embezzled money from his employer and went to prison. Then they might feel betrayed and manipulated because he would be publicly revealed as a criminal–and they were his friend so that splashes back on them.

    Real friends just believe you. They believe that he did terrible things and hurt you. And they see that as bad behavior that changes their opinion of him for the worse. Sadly, being chumped is all about opening our eyes to what people are really like, especially when they are tested.

    Be very selective about choosing someone to share your story with. Better to take your pain to a therapist than to trust anyone other than proven “got your back” friends or relatives. Maybe 1 or 2 or 3 people, if that. (Now you can tell your hairdresser, doctor, plumber, personal trainer, etc. because they don’t know the cheater and will reliably be sympathetic. Most of us don’t have more than 1-2 really deep intimate friendships. And sadly we learn that lesson when we most needs stalwart support and don’t get it. For me, 2 people plus my sibling. That was it.

    • LovedAJackass, thank you. Everything you mentioned makes so much sense.
      “We often don’t see what we aren’t looking for. If you assume your spouse or partner is a “good person,” you may not see the tendency toward selfishness or hear the cutting remark or take seriously the one-sidedness of aspects of the relationship”.
      I never believed in this until I removed him out and started living alone. Now, all I can say is you are spot on!
      For years, I thought he was great in social events. But until now, I never paid attention to how less I was talking in the same events; he would dominate the conversation and would be impatient if I wanted to form longer than three sentences. At that time I thought he was fun, but now I see this as shelfishness.
      I admire people with strong values. I was upset how easy for some people to not react. The other day I was reading here about middle ground fallacy. It was a great reading.

  • It is deceptively easy to live in a black and white world of “good” and “bad.” The terms are too vague, and subject to different value interpretation. Even your own behavior, evaluated by you, could be good one day and bad the next.

    For me it is more helpful to say you have choices. One of my religious friends tells me to remember ALL of us are broken in some way. We have the choice to repent and sin no more, but we cannot just say that and not mean it, because our very soul is at stake. If a “confession” is manipulative, it is worthless. Just like an insincere apology.

    You have to decide on the big picture, for your own welfare. If the house is on fire, do you get out? Do you stand there and think of all your Happy Holidays? Do you think about the time he took out the trash without you having to ask? Or, do you run before your hair catches on fire?

    Also learn to cut your losses. Investments of time, money, and emotion are always risky. Don’t think about the years you lost, because you will never get them back. Chances are there are some moments you can salvage from the lost years after you are out and away from the pain. But what you thought you had was never actually there. Concentrate on that.

    This sounds too easy. It is not. It took me years of hard work on myself and evaluation of my core beliefs to sift through the wreckage and salvage the good parts. But I came out on the other side stronger and at peace. Peace is priceless.

  • LfA – I celebrate your progress:
    You stopped the Esther Perel videos!
    You are reading & rereading CL!

    Yes, you’re going to feel lost & confused. This guy hijacked your life. I used to feel like I was stuck on a high speed train & that jumping off would be dangerous. Or that I was on a burning, sinking ship, on a dry plank, & he was at the other end. The water was deep, cold, and treacherous.

    Slowly you will recover yourself, and begin to realize that YOU want what is good, and are good without him. It sucks to be the collateral damage from a con man, liar, cheat, whatever you choose to call him. Swear words came to my mind most often until I filed for divorce.

    You thought you had this life with him, witnessed & corroborated by others. That is your personal history in your mind, and now you find out you only knew half of it. It takes time to adjust to the new history. I like CL’s chapter about what was real & what was not. It pus your attention back on you, who you really do know, and not on the sneaky husband. You were real, you showed up, you did the work.

    I had to learn that confusion may be the first sign of abuse.

    When I tell people I am divorced & they ask about it, I say “I was not safe.” They don’t want the details!
    I was not safe financially, he spent money on hookers, Friend Finder & phone sex way before the internet; I suspect he lost jobs due to declining work performance. I was not safe physically- I have an STI from the EH. I was not safe sharing my hopes & dreams with him anymore. I didn’t have his respect.

    CL is right- the only question to ask is “Is this relationship acceptable to YOU?”

    • UpAndPut, thank you. It is very difficult to break old habits. Removing him from home felt like cutting a big piece from my body. Esther Perel did so much harm and no good. I continuously questioned myself, as by her logic, I must have pushed him into infidelity. She says, “that person was looking for himself”. Meaning I must have done something for him to lose himself in the relationship. I am so glad I found Chump Lady.
      He would never admit he was abusing me, because he is not physical and he is a very soft speaker. But how about all those lies and gaslighting? Letting me invest in him, watching my confusion and enjoying it without remorse? He knew I would be devastated but he did not care. Now, I cannot even watch movies or listen to music, as I start crying the moment I see/ hear sonething emotional. I will not let him traumatize me forever. I really hope to continue my life some day.

      • Yes, you have been traumatized. That will never go away but you can still heal. Like the trees in the forests, that have a big burl, but still grow tall & strong.
        And good work on going no contact!

    • Before I found out my husband cheated- he had ripped me apart over saying a guy was “nice looking” at work. Before I found out- he would lie and keep things from me that didnt even need to be kept(?) he talked to my family about the possibility of me “talking to a guy from work”(absolutely untrue)
      Before I even knew- he had a picture painted that maybe I was messing around. He hacked my emails, social media, and phone account. Once I bought a 4pk of concert tickets in my way into work and he accused me of making plans to take other people including the 25 year old from work that was “nice looking”.
      My journals weren’t even safe. We have no wedding photos in the house and I haven’t worn my ring in 2 years. I know this is not a reconciliation site and I appreciate each of you. Please continue to share your experiences and offer strength and encouragement it helps so much

  • I think you’re confusing “nice” with “kind.” He can do nice things. He is not kind, and we want kind people in our lives.

  • I had friends who were completely blindsided when I told them about the FW’s 7-year affair, etc. He was THAT good at impression management. They were stunned that a man who seemed to show so much love towards his wife could be that despicable.

    But it turned out to be an act, meant to throw not just me, but everybody, off the track. He would hug me, kiss me, tell me how lucky he was to be my husband…in the presence of my co-workers and friends. Meanwhile he was living a seedy double life, and brought me the gift of HPV.

    He willingly risked my health, both physical AND mental. For years my gut was screaming something was wrong, but when I asked him directly, “Are you having an affair?”, he would deny it. The same with porn usage. The same with online flirtations. The same with hookers. What was wrong with me??

    Turns out, nothing. I was spot on.

    Looking, your FW has abused you. Period. Dr. Minwalla has outlined the damage a Secret Sexual Basement has on the victims of infidelity, and describes the aftermath of discovery as very similar to PTSD.

    I am fortunate that the majority of my friends in whom I confided, though blind-sided, were firmly on my side after they got over their shock.

  • This one is a lot like my and has everything to do with a phony nice guy image. Sure he’ll pick people up and be nice, because he’s all about phony image management. But he has no empathy and no problem with fucking you over. He would’ve been perfectly happy to keep fucki

    • Sorry, I hit send before I was done.

      He would’ve been perfectly happy to keep you in the dark and waste years of your life while he projected a great guy image and fucked his whore behind your back.

      My ex was a phony nice guy all about image management while he carried on with his whore. Didn’t want me to find out, didn’t want a divorce, loved the family image he had. Zero empathy when I found out….just tantrums to bully me into rug sweeping while he kept his phony smile.

      He is a bad person. He’s a phony scumbag who projects an image to hide who he really is.

      Let his dumb bitch have him.

      • I always wondered what can anyone find in a lying cheating husband. I did not want to bother CL community with too many details but I had some health problems during that time, which are now resolved- it did not affect my life, I worked full time and lived my life as usual- What kind of a person he is if he treats her wife like this when she needs him the most? What makes those co-conspirators think that someone with these qualities are worth fighting for? How can anyone enjoy being part of this? He still tells me he never loved anyone like he loved me, he texts me to say no one is like me. At that time he told me things like he hated his life, he finds her boring.. (I never respond to his messages) I believe the co-conspirators do not care because they share the same low morals with the cheaters.

        • Send those messages to schmopie and he will end up with nobody- his worse nightmare.
          I believe these people trade on ego boost. They are selfish. They don’t care. They do what makes them happy and having another person blabbing a few nice remarks makes them feel good. Schmoopie probably felt some satisfaction getting his attention. Some people are sick like that. They are worthless and will never experience true hapiness.

  • I was married to a person who had many truly terrible qualities. Cheating on him was not an option on my radar.

    Cheaters can look their ‘loved one’ in the face and lie to them; that takes a special type of cold bloodedness and capacity for deceit


  • Of course he’s sorry you found out! He wanted to practice polygamy without the hassle of supporting and satisfying multiple wives! He IS a bad person and now you know. You also know which of your friends are nitwits, but that’s another story.

  • Thank you Chump Lady, thank you everyone for your support! Your comments help me greatly. I have so many questions. But these two things bother me constantly, how can I trust to people again? I was certain he loved me deeply. Everyone I know would agree with that. This is so unsettling. The other problem I have is, I do not trust my instincts anymore because I was totally blindsided. I trusted him unconditionally. Now I doubt every person I know and it is a horrible feeling.

    • I don’t know. It’s a good question. My sister does credit checks on anybody before she goes out on a single date with them. She also does background checks.
      But it still seems like a crap shoot.

    • I recently bought a used car. I did my homework, took a test drive and had my mechanic look at it first. The used car dealer was courteous and clear in his language. There are a lot of people better than FWs. Almost everybody.

    • Looking for Answers: Good to hear from you! Your follow-up questions are normal for what you’ve been through. You’re in a new stage of life, a phase, an opportunity for phenomenal growth that will serve you well in your future since having been chumped. It is, by no means, a permanent place you can’t and won’t work your way through and out of.

      The shortest explanation I can offer you in response to your two questions above is one answer: HE KNEW YOU BETTER THAN YOU KNEW YOURSELF. In addition, you projected your ideals and visions of the relationship onto him, assuming that he was going to deliver. Further, you’re allowing others (friends, relatives, etc.) to be instruments of measurement as to the temperature of the relationship. Only you can do that.

      KNOW YOURSELF well before mixing it up relationally with others. Determine your values as an initial foundation. Recognize that boundaries are to protect you, so know yours and abide by them. Cultivate good character that doesn’t budge. Listen to your conscience and learn to trust it; it’s your friend. Discover courage and use it with strength when it’s called for.

      These are lessons we all learn over a lifetime. Once you KNOW YOURSELF well, the glaring opposites and contrasts to your identity will light up like fireworks among others whose motives and intentions don’t align with your own. This will help you recognize who to let in closer as you allow time to reveal trusting relationships in the future. You’ll also trust your own instincts once you KNOW YOURSELF.

      Never allow someone else to know you better than you know yourself. Wishing you the very best!

      • Latitude, thank you. These are great reminders. I always considered myself as someone with strong values, but I was wrong. I did everything that I should not do after DD, from pick me dancing to walking on eggshells not to scare him away. I looked for support from a few close friends, some of which lectured me with he is not a bad person. Talking to them was similar to watching Esther Perel. I learned so much from this horrible betrayal that I never wanted to experience.

        • I’ve had / have the same questions. All I can come up with is: if it looks too good to be true it probably is
          – trust my instincts – history and communication matter-
          I’ll be ok no matter what and I’m not going to let FW’s stop me from loving-
          Also the bad / good person stuff is insulting. He is a person who may have done some great things.
          The FW who was in my life did many many amazing and wonderful things for me and other people.
          He also threw my children and I under a bus and the reversed and drove over us.
          The healing is long and hard, and I’m changed forever.

    • I’m with you on that LFA. I am wary of people and likely always will be. I hate the idea of being hypervigilant and anxious in another relationship so I choose to not even try to find somebody.

      Cheaters take so much from us. So do the enablers that tell us “h/she is a good person” and choose to ignore the fact that we have been abused. It’s easy to say we shouldn’t let them take our trust away, but I don’t think it is something you can control, because the truth is that the world is full of awful people hiding behind a facade of normalcy. The world is not a safe place, because if they are clever about hiding it, the scary thing is that you can’t tell who they are until they’ve hurt you. It would be self delusion to conclude there is anything we can do to guarantee we are safe from these predators.

      • I’m with you, OHFFS. I’ve decided it’s luck of the draw, sad as that is. Were there red flags in my case that I didn’t see properly? Yes. But will there always be some? Not necessarily. It’s like a suicide prevention training I went to that preached there will always, always be signs before an attempt. No, there won’t always be. I saw zero signs in my 12-year-old son who fortunately didn’t succeed. But I wouldn’t be unwilling to admit it if I did see some in hindsight. I have since talked to other mental health professionals who have said there will not always be signs. But back to cheaters, I’ve also decided that I probably will not take the risk of getting into another relationship again.

  • This BS happens all of the time. Acknowledging that someone they knew and trusted is an abuser means having to reevaluate their own perceptions and boundaries, and most of them aren’t interested in doing that.

    They can choose to continue to invest in and be misled by his facade. You’ve made a better choice for yourself.

    It reminds me of when one of our acquaintances said about fuckwit, “He seemed like a good guy.” Seemed being the operative word. The mask slipped further after I left him (resulting in an arrest and jail sentence), probably because I was no longer around to provide him effective cover and assist him in looking like a better person than what he was.

  • A cheater could have some good qualities. That does not make him a good person. I don’t like to trot out the old, overused Hitler liked dogs analogy, but it’s apt.

    Maybe cheater gives to charity.
    Cheater negates that by robbing the spouse.

    Maybe cheater is friendly and helpful with neighbors.
    Cheater negates that by being cruel and unhelpful to the spouse.

    Maybe cheater supports his/her family financially.
    Cheater negates that by destroying them emotionally.

    Maybe cheater brings home gifts, flowers and sweet sounding greeting cards.
    Cheater negates that by risking bringing home an STD.

    For every positive thing you can say about a cheater, there is a far greater negative which makes it irrelevant.

  • Please do yourself a favor and tear the bandaid completely off, divorce him, and move on with your life–it can be liberating! What you don’t want to do is talk yourself into reconciling, only to find yourself in the same place years from now, living with the knowledge he’ll continue to cheat but just try to hide it better.

    I would say that my ex isn’t a bad person if you add everything up (kindness to others, etc.)–but he was not a good husband. And that was the part that most affected me. My seeing him as basically a “good person” kept me tethered to him for too long and made me grieve the end of my marriage for too long. With the gift of time and distance, I now can see just how bad a husband he was, but it doesn’t hurt me anymore because of the new life I built for myself.

    My only regret is staying too long and grieving too long.

    • 20th Century Chump, the term pick me dance is one of the greatest things I learned here. I mastered it for many months, and figured that he had no intention to fix anything. He was living the best of his life. He almost find enjoyment in my suffering. He hated it when I brought up the affair. He needed time to leave it. He was always confused with my questions. He would look at the ceiling without saying a word. He said he had to figure out why he did these (while enjoying the affair). As I am retrospecting, I can see how selfish he was. He loved the attention from both people, I bet he felt like a king.
      I am in pain but I cannot reconcile with this person. I have no intention of living my life trying to trust someone I cannot. I prefer to live alone. I can never forget the things he did.
      But I am worried that as time goes by, I will be sucked into the friendship mode because of the long history we have. I need to built enough strength to not let this happen in the future.

      • LFA: If there’s always something there to remind you of FW, and you could use better friends now anyway, it might be helpful for you to change your routines. Change the settings and supporting players to keep yourself from getting the same old cues to play the same old script. You are newly in recovery, and we all hope you have a good therapist to help you in your journey to being the star of your own life.

        Are there places, activities, people, and/or foods you enjoyed before you met FW and quietly dropped to accommodate FW? If so, why not bring some of those people, places, and things back into your life? Are there opportunities or interests you would have liked to take up that you passed on to oblige FW’s disordered hunger for centrality in YOUR life? Then give some of those a whirl. You’ll have new experiences and interests to over-write your times with FW, and probably make new friends who are part of YOUR story. Not his. Whatever you do, find things that make your day delightful to YOU.

        If there are places or activities where you are too likely to encounter the FW or his hangers-on, are there alternatives you could go to instead for awhile? I shopped at different markets to avoid mine. It helped that we lived in different parts of town (and his sense of taste was impaired before COVID).

      • Yeah, my ex also hated when I brought up his cheating yet seemed unwilling to completely break contact with the OW. He HATED to think of himself as the bad guy–which I later came to realize was a combination of selfishness and cowardice. Unfortunately, CL and Chump Nation weren’t around in those days, and I really struggled to figure things out. Having grown up with a mother who didn’t seem to like me very much also translated into poor self-esteem that led me to blame myself for not being “enough” for him.

        I’m glad you don’t want to get sucked into friendship mode–that is not a good idea because it makes it harder to heal. I finally had to tell my ex when he was dating the woman who became wife #2 (someone he started dating after our divorce–not an affair partner) that it would be better for me to not hear from him for a good long while. It was essential for me to have that complete break.

        I haven’t seen him in person or had a phone conversation with him in years, and because of time and distance from that awful period in my life, it’s now possible for me to be in loose email contact with him without it making me feel the least bit bad. And that email contact is pleasant because it allows me to access some fond memories without my wanting to be with him in the least.

  • When my FW was deep in the trenches of his affair, he was completely over compensating in other areas. Even FWs, when they know what they are doing is totally wrong, want to believe they are “still a good person”. I’m diverting time, love, attention, and funds away from the family I created, and I’m making sex tapes with a co-worker when my wife thinks I’m on fishing expeditions, but hey, I found a dollar in the parking lot and brought it to the customer service desk at the store instead of keeping it. #goodperson

  • Ex was an all around good person – the shirt off his back, give you his last dollar kind of guy. And then he wasn’t.
    I had an aunt that I adored. She married my dad’s brother when I was a tween & I looked up to her like the big sister I never had. After dday she said the he’s not a bad person/just did a bad thing line. I was stunned. She also said that sometimes people just have had enough. WTF? It was a bucket of ice water on my fragile, crumbling self. I started to distance myself from her which was painful as I had little support to begin with (deceased parents & brother 14 time zones away). At one point she mentioned she received a Christmas card from my parents-in-law when I’d received pretty much nothing but silence from them.
    The kicker was when she spewed some anti-semtic remarks when I told her I was taking a history of Judaism class. A friend was interested & it at least got me out of bed & with others for a few Sunday evenings.
    So ex betrayed all that was good and sacred & aunt showed me who she really was.
    I look back all those years ago & wonder how I ever survived.

    • Reading about your aunt brought tears to my eyes. The betrayals by long-time friends/relatives in the aftermath of betrayal by a partner…it’s just too fucking much. Please tell me how you survived…

      • Juniper…I guess it was just the will to live. I was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown a few months after dday. Ex was pretty much a runaway – moved out 3 weeks after dday. Never saw it coming. Thought our 24 yrs of marriage was going strong. With out the emotional support so many chumps have I just fell apart. I did have a wonderful therapist for years until she retired. I found this site after I was already divorced but read daily for the wisdom, encouragement & snark.

  • No one wants to be judged by everyone based on the worst thing they’ve done, ever, *to anyone, anywhere*. I think this is why people are willing to say “it’s true he treated you like shit, but he’s kind to dogs so I’m not willing to cut him out of my life”. The world would be a pretty harsh place if your absolute lowest action followed you around for the rest of your life.

    Having said that, it is perfectly reasonable for *you* to judge him based on the worst thing he’s done *to you, in person*. You are allowed to judge him based on his actions towards you, your judgment may be different from others’ (whose perspective is different), and that doesn’t mean your judgment is “wrong” in any way. He can be a bad person to you even if he’s not a bad person to other people. (Note that I do mean “if”; I’m not saying they’re correct to give him a pass, just that you are perfectly justified to use standards that are different from theirs).

    • Hi Involuntary Georgian, that’s right, they do not want to cut him out for what he did to me. If I were them, would feel unsafe to have a friend who is capable of gaslighting and lying a loved one for one year in the most selfish way. It is big character flaw for me. He felt no remorse, and on the contrary, told me that he loved the excitement of the secret. He was “looking forward to it”. I should trust my friends, and I would not trust a person who is not hurt at all by hurting someone he called “soulmate” until the DD.

  • The OP seems to be essentially asking how her ex could appear to be such a nice guy to others while callously committing betrayal to the person closest to him. But researchers in criminology wouldn’t be surprised by the duality since that’s a typical profile for batterers and (though rarer) many serial killers.

    Regulars here know my usual spiel: With the exception of domestic violence victims getting drawn in by a “rescuer” to form another relationship in order to escape abuse (which can lead to entrapment with a subsequent abuser about 50% of the time… because many abusers specialize in playing rescuer. Also, it can be difficult to distinguish between genuine DV victims and abusers who pretend to be “victims of their own victims” since most abusers also feign the latter), I think cheating dynamics are identical to battering in terms of abusers’ MO, psychology and effects on victims. If anyone finds themselves driven to untangle skeins, I think it’s more helpful to go in that direction– to view cheating as part of the continuum of domestic violence and coercive control. Books like criminologist and researcher Donald Dutton’s “The Batterer” and forensic social worker Evan Stark’s groundbreaking “Coercive Control” are great resources.

    Untangling skeins according to drippy RIC or Perel approaches can lead to deeper entrapment within abuse. But viewing cheating as part of the DV spectrum (give or take broken bones and black eyes) can be like an inoculation against getting hoovered back into abuse. Once you see the overlaps between cheating and DV, you can’t unsee them.

    For instance, among many other overlaps, garden variety cheaters, like all domestic abusers, often play the role of rescuer in public as part of deep cover image management. It’s how they lay the trap to draw in victims, how they con bystanders and community into defending them (which can create a deeper trap for victims who can’t get social support in escaping) and how abusers even spellbind themselves into believing their own image management as “good eggs.”

    If the comparison to batterers isn’t inoculating enough, the “rescuer pose” is also typical among serial killers. From prison, serial killer Denis Rader contributed to researchers’ understanding of serial killers’ MO by describing how he managed to convince his community and family (and even himself) that he was an upstanding pillar of the community while, in secret, brutally torturing and murdering 10 people. Rader called his ability to switch from one personality to the next as “cubing.” DV researcher Donald Dutton also describes observing “partially” split personalities among batterers but, unlike individuals with full blown dissociative personality disorder whose fragmented “selves” may have no knowledge that others exist, Dutton concludes that batterers know full well that they’re trotting out different “faces” in order to get what they want in different circumstances. Yet the perpetrator can invest deeply enough in each different “face” they show to others that the perp themselves nearly believes the ruse to be true, at least while they’re in the midst of the ruse. This also helps perpetrators appear authentically “innocent” to bystanders the better to con and entrap others– because they’re not giving away furtive or guilt-ridden vibes and don’t set off others’ “danger” radars.

    Excerpts from the article The Serial Killer BTK and the Concept of Cubing (

    “It’s difficult to understand how a person can exist – especially for decades – balancing moral polarities that undermine personality unity and a consistent set of values. It’s a skill that starts with self-deception and eventually becomes part of the person’s identification. Narcissistic predators like Rader have no emotional investment in truth or integrity. Their commitment is to getting their own needs met, so they’ll play the part of whatever works to achieve this goal…

    “He developed what he called “cubing,” or “life frames” on a cube with multiple sides: a family man, a church leader, a burglar, a serial killer, etc. All were available on demand, and easy for him to slide into and out of. When he showed one side, the others, while still part of him, hovered beyond his awareness. They didn’t interrupt his performance. He used each as it was needed.

    “Prison psychologist Al Carlisle, who assessed Ted Bundy, conceived of such an approach as being like an actor who can adopt a variety of roles but let no role dominate. He thought this described Ted Bundy’s ability to seem normal, even likable, while also abducting, raping, and murdering multiple young women. Carlisle’s concept of compartmentalizing, which gives the impression of separate dimensions, is like Rader’s cubing except that cubing conveys a tighter association among life frames – a fuller integration of contradictions. Becoming attuned to each life frame as a temporary tool rather than as a foundation for identity, he was able to hone his mental dexterity. No one side of the cube rooted him in place.

    “Rader says his ability to “cube” kept reality separate from fantasy, with no need to acknowledge the inconsistency of values. He could tolerate the polarity of good and bad because each life frame had its own moral context. So, he could derive pleasure from a memory of murder while also raising children, loving his wife, and leading his church congregation. He can even do this today while expressing remorse for that very crime.”

    If you swap out the language in the above excerpts pertaining to serial murder and plug in terms relevant to cheating, the parallels become clear. Obviously not all cheaters will progress to violence and serial killing is still rare. But on the other hand, as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, I learned that virtually all batterers cheat and that those who “just cheat” to start with are statistically more prone to eventually commit violence. And that’s just the start of the overlaps: there are many more. To the extent that cheating typically involves other forms of coercive control and emotional abuse on top of the categorically abusive act of betrayal and risking a partner’s health (not to mention the financial abuse that often comes in tow), cheating itself is increasingly being categorized as a form of intimate partner violence or at least part of the pattern of control and subjugation.

    I’d recommend the above books and articles to anyone who feels paralyzed by confusion within an emotionally abusive relationship and wants to break the spell or to anyone who’s being badgered by bystanders into “forgiveness.” Then bear in mind that these dynamics– captor bonded paralysis and social entrapment by abusers’ fans and “flying monkeys”– are identical to the dynamics engineered by batterers.

    • Hell of a Chump, such important information and great suggestions. I will the books asap.

    • OMG, HOAC. What you wrote just hit me like a ton of bricks. I could never figure out how ex-FW managed to separate his two lives, to the extent that he lived them both simultaneously even when he didn’t have to. Example: he was ostensibly visiting his parents out of state when he was really visiting AP. He called me one day while he was there and we talked at length about buying a vacation home and he was sending me pictures of a home in real time as he was touring. Why do that? I wasn’t expecting a call from him, nor did I ask him to call me. He knew I had zero suspicion of his cheating at that time. I’m sure it wasn’t “duper’s delight” or intentional cruelty. It’s like he had a split personality where he had the ability to live in totally different worlds simultaneously so he just flipped a switch to husband mode and decided to call me and make future plans, etc. Wow. Maybe he was sicker than I thought!

  • I don’t think my ex-FW was a “bad person.” But at the end of the day, he chose himself over me, and that’s not ok in a marriage. As CL says, he sized up the situation, and he either didn’t think of me at all, or he did, but decided his desires were more important than mine. I have every reason to believe that ex-FW felt guilty, and bad for me, and even ashamed at what he was doing, but not enough to stop. He essentially did not treat me as his equal. In his mind, he was worth more than me. “Do unto others” did not apply to him. That’s incompatible with a marriage.

    • My experience was similar. In the end, what matters is if your spouse is a bad person TO YOU.

    • I think mine had me on a pedestal, and then over time I slowly started becoming less desirable to him, then enter the new fantasy partner. Or enter OW and then I didn’t shine as much!
      I’m quite sure he loved the fantasy me and never the real me.

      • This!

        He did put me on a pedestal. I was “perfect”, “amazing”, “a goddess”. I was going to solve all his problems and make him happy and successful. I turned out to be human – someone who had needs, got sick, made mistakes, gains weight, and didn’t have the power to magically make all his dreams come true. And so he discarded me for OW, whom he saw as the solution to all his problems (once again). She couldn’t do it either, and he started abusing her the same way he’d abused me until she left him.

        I believe it was Dr. Ramani who, in a video, said “they aren’t discarding YOU, they are discarding their projection of you”. That helps a lot with being able to take it less personally. I don’t think FW really knew me at all. He didn’t care who I actually was. I was just a vehicle for him. It became abundantly clear when he moved on to OW, who was pretty much everything he said he disliked in women. But she was easily manipulated (due to her low self esteem, immaturity, and lack of life experience) and so apt to his purpose. Over the next couple of years manipulated her into changing into someone unrecognizable from the person I’d first met (but remarkably like me 10 years before). As I saw him doing that to her, I realized he’d done much the same to me – erased my personality as much as he could and replaced it with what he wanted me to be. When he left me, I had no idea who I was, or what I liked, or anything outside of him. He’d made himself central in my life (there was no other option for me), and when he was gone I felt so lost.

        It took awhile to find “me” again. But it’s lovely. And I’ll never again change myself for someone else that way.

  • “If you knew FW, like I know FW, oh! Oh! Oh what a jerk!” Mine liked to do a little philanthropy as reputation management, too. {Sometimes with someone else’s money or property.} He had character references from a few people he’d cultivated as recipients of his charity, and of course he was always assiduous in paying court to anyone who might be useful to him.

    My ex-FW isn’t a good person. He lied to and cheated the state and federal government as well as me. He actually expected me to collude with him in a couple of fraudulent schemes in return for a share of the loot instead of divorcing him. All those years together and he never paid any attention to my core values or even what I do for a living. I’m a career government bureaucrat with fiduciary responsibilities, a career I chose because I felt that the financial sector was too unethical for me.

    People like your FW and mine must assume that everyone else is as self-centered and unethical as themselves, and just jiving about their principles and commitments. And not being Madoff or Milosevic doesn’t equal being a good person. Your FW was and is a jerk to YOU, so kick him to the curb and regain your own life and sense of self-worth.

  • I live in a community where my Fkwit is not only considered a good person, he’s publicly considered an incredible philanthropist, professor, beloved by the masses for his professional services…. To me he’s a philanderer and selfish narcissist who hid his whoring for 30 years because he felt entitled and said “ I’d never find out”. And I probably wouldn’t have because I trusted him – I only found out because the last whore was extorting him and he ran to me for help. Me…. he ran to me like a rotten little kid. What helped me move on the most was reading LACGAL and in place of saying “ starting over” I considered it moving on, moving forward. The term starting over felt so exhausting – as though I had failed so I was trying again. I didn’t fail – he did. ❤️

  • The good guy cheaters are so very awful. It confuses the situation and makes you think it must be you.
    Everyone loved FW in my case, he was a real giver….
    So much so that he gave it really good to the OW apparently!
    I’ve come to realize that everything kind that he did, he ultimately did for kibbles and not out of the goodness of his heart. Or because he was a people pleaser?
    It doesn’t matter – I spent a lot of time untangling, and it didn’t serve me.
    It’s much easier to move on when someone has asshole status all around.
    I feel for you, I went through the same thing. It’s hard to wrap your head around it when your partner kept saying how lucky he was to be with you.
    CL gave spot on advice as usual.

    • Same situation here. He played the totally devoted and loving husband. Until I found out about his cheating and lying for 9 of the 12 years we were married.
      It’s a totally mindfuck when they have the perfect husband persona and a hidden life underneath.
      Luckily all my friends were horrified and stuck by me.
      But I don’t think I’ll ever recover from the horror of living with a wolf in sheeps clothing. For me I lost the love of my life, my name, my past and my future as well as my home. I don’t feel that I have a home anymore. I live in a house but it’s not home. I have a life but it’s not living.

      • ❤️some of the stuff Vikki stark has written on her blog (of Runaway Husbands) has helped me a little…even if it wasn’t a runaway, it may apply.
        I know how hard it can be…hugs

    • Thank you Zip. I now doubt myself because of him. As you mentioned he was one of those partners who kept saying how lucky he was to be with me. We know them for who they are. Perhaps this is one of the reasons -other than their horrible values- for them not to do any work to fix things. They do not want to do the work, and they cannot stand to be with us as we remind them who they really are.

      • “they cannot stand to be with us as we remind them who they really are”. My ex actually said this to me, or essentially this. That he couldn’t be with me because “too much had happened” between us, he didn’t like who he was around me, and I couldn’t ever look at him the way I used to again. He said he needed a “fresh start”, i.e. schmoopie, who looked at him with stars in her eyes and told him he was wonderful. Because he hadn’t treated her like trash (YET – he ended up doing just that). We, who have seen their true face, can never compete with wide-eyed innocence. Even though I told him I still loved him (at the time, I did) in spite of all that had happened. It was just too much work for him to restore my trust in him. It was so much easier to move on to a fresh victim.

    • “The good guy cheaters are so very awful. It confuses the situation and makes you think it must be you.” Yep. I’ve really really struggled with this. And thinking about how former friends/acquaintances are thinking the same…”Juniper’s husband is SUCH a good guy – it had to have been Juniper who brought all this on”.
      “It’s hard to wrap your head around it when your partner kept saying how lucky he was to be with you.” Yep.

      • CL should do a whole thing on MR perfect pants cheater.
        The guy who’s great to your mom, selfless and brings you coffee. He never forgets a special occasion and gives great
        gifts. He does his share or more of the work. He’s charming, successful and aims to please in every way. And he’s screwing his younger, married coworker/underling, because she saw all these amazing qualities and thought he was better than her ‘regular’ husband.
        Then everyone scratches their head and says ‘but he’s such a GREAT guy.’ She must have had problems…..or whatever they think?

        • Or with his ex girlfriend from school or, in a friend’s case, his ex wife. But everyone thinks that he is wonderful. And you buy into the ‘you are so lucky to have him’ story. You believe that story. But why are you lucky? Isn’t it the other way round when you look at the facts objectively once you are free? Weren’t you doing all the work in the relationship, giving yourself tirelessly? And he did little bits and pieces, often when there was an audience, or when he wanted something, or when he wanted you to tell everyone how wonderful he is. While behind the scenes he was telling the OW how awful you are, how controlling, how mean, how useless in bed, how fat, how ugly, how stupid, how you are a terrible mother and useless at work, or lazy. And they bonded over that and laughed about it together, and she coached him on how to get free of you. Or is all of this just me!

          • “But why are you lucky? Isn’t it the other way round when you look at the facts objectively once you are free? Weren’t you doing all the work in the relationship, giving yourself tirelessly? And he did little bits and pieces, often when there was an audience, or when he wanted something, or when he wanted you to tell everyone how wonderful he is”.
            Mighty Warrior this is aabsolutely true, word to word.

  • He is a very very very bad person. He’s a bad person. Your friends have no morals or empathy either. Coffee and Bagels? I am sure Ted Bundy did similar things. Doing cheap easy stuff when you feel like it doesn’t mean anything. One reason to do it is so everyone thinks you’re a great person while you betray, deceive, manipulate, gaslight and dismiss innocent people who love you. Bringing people bagels and coffee also provides kibbles and for a few measly dollars. Covert narcissist anyone? Good people never cheat. End of story. It takes a special kind of horridness to live a lie to get what you want. There’s a superiority someone has to feel above other human beings in order to even be able to do that. As for love, it’s clear your friends and this guy see love as infatuation. A selfish person does not love because love cannot be separated from dedication and commitment which is something you DO not something you FEEL. Love and selfishness are mutually exclusive. Here’s what non cheaters do – they end things before they start something new up. If someone doesn’t have the basic human decency to do that, and then to lie, then they are going to see two people. He didn’t want to break up with you that’s why he didn’t. People who are okay with living double lives cheat. Anyone else does not. I’m so sorry because it’s psychopathic honest, but yes he is a piece of trash and a bad person and your friends suck too not gonna lie. Even if it’s two people and takes 3 years to find – ban anyone without empathy from your life.

    • Half the Cake I love everything you said, thank you for your support. I was hesitant to speak up before, I thought it was me who caused this- thanks to Esther Perel videos- It is great to hear that people here know how annoying Switzerland friends are. They call themself modern and humaniterian! I reread these comments, each and every one of them is so valuable.

  • The “not a bad guy” actions you attribute to your ex are “nice.” Maybe he’s a “nice guy” because he brings bagels to moving day and takes people to the Airport. But nice and good are not the same thing. Nice is surface stuff–like bagels and general pleasantry with in laws–good is core stuff like honesty and accountability. Many a person who is just nice have convinced themselves that they’re good, but in their hearts, they are not.

  • I gained a lot of clarity when I compared his cheating to Munchausen by Proxy. Is a mother that brings her sick child chicken noodle soup – that actually contains the poison! – a bad person? How many hairs do we want to split?
    It’s one thing when you abuse others just because you just can. It’s an entirely different level when it’s the trust and depth of the relationship that provides you the actual means. Isn’t all the “good things” he did really just the *chicken soup*?
    Seeing this aspect was where I finally found my freedom.

  • Ted Bundy, the sadistic sociopath serial killer convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering 20 women, 30 confessed, and suspected of killing another 36+ during his reign of terror in the mid-1970’s. The woman who lived with him during this time, Elizabeth Kloepfer, was his girlfriend for 5 years. Ted played a doting father-figure to her young daughter. He was described by many as “charming” and “magnetic.”

    In her book about her life with Ted, she confessed, “I still have moments where I get confused. In the book there are a lot of pictures of me and Molly and Ted. I look at those and I remember how in love I was, and how I thought this was it—my life with my [future] husband and all this fantasy that I’d whipped up. It does come back in little, tiny slivers from time to time—but I just put the kibosh on that. In fact, it’s been one of the best things about participating in this docuseries and doing the book. It gives me perspective about how much I’ve changed. It also gives me perspective about how hard it was to make those changes, because to admit that he wasn’t who I thought he was was just devastating.”

    Elizabeth believed in his innocence and defended him until his execution in 1989. Apparently Elizabeth believed one of the most notorious serial killers in recent history was a “good person.”

    People can get it very wrong. Very, very wrong. As it was discovered, Ted was indeed a “bad person.”

  • Looking, you asked re the OW, I couldn’t respond below – the site is being wonky for me, but
    I think among other things, they are deeply caught up in FANTASY, so much so that they tell themselves their cheating partner is only cheating because their union is undeniably special, they themselves are special, wife is ordinary or less-
    not that he’s a lying, cheating, pathetic, awful husband

  • Looking for Answers:

    Yes, he is a bad guy. He betrayed you and when you were drowning he (yawn) had no interest in helping you. After Dday, when I sobbed like a braying donkey, begging for the truth, the honorable man that was my husband smirked at me. He used to hold me in bed and whisper that I was safe in his arms. When braying donkey girl brayed out: “EEEE-awww, You (SOB!) told me EEEE-yaaaw (SOB! ) I was safe! (SOB!) he laughed and told me that he meant I was safe from falling out of bed.

    I wish I could give you a hug and then drag you away from this wretched man. I am a very rational person also, and you can waste years (I did) trying to figure out why they behave the way they do. But there is no rational answer.

    That man you loved: he is dead and gone. Your husband is a stranger who is abusing you. He is a bad man. These men do not change: he will never be a good man. The only winning move is to walk away. It takes years to comprehend a betrayal of this magnitude, but eventually it will become clear. No, he doesn’t really “love” you in any way a normal person understands love, in the way you understand love. No, he’s not especially sorry for causing you pain. No, he does not have much insight into what he’s done, and he never will.

    • PrincipledLife thank you. I am also very sorry for what you went through- and everyone else here- I will try not to look for answers for why he did these. It does not help us at all dig for answers. Cheaters are not worried about their empty souls.They are perfectly happy with themselves.

  • Define good person. Here’s a quote from a psych website, “Psychopaths tend to be more manipulative, can be seen by others as more charming, lead a semblance of a normal life, and minimize risk in criminal activities.” Seems like a nice guy, a good person, do you really ever know what is in one’s mind? People said Ted Bundy was a nice guy! Once you start to delve deep and think about things, you realize cheaters all manipulate, control, abuse, have low or no empathy, no remorse, blame shift, use you, don’t care about you. They get us on the hook and others with their charm, nice guy persona, mirroring, love bombing. Manipulations. Unless you experience it for yourself you just don’t get it. They pick us wisely. To everyone else they portray a great person. We know better. They think they are a good person too. Why? Because their subconscious protects them and they act on instinct. Most of them have no idea. They honestly believe they are good people and just don’t get it when we don’t want to associate with them. Now the ones who realize what they are, plan and plot and strategize, are the truly dangerous ones. Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths all cut from the same cloth. Once you see them you don’t unsee, and it makes us paranoid about everyone. Because you just can’t tell if someone is disordered by looking at them. But you start to get good at picking up on them after a few encounters. At least I hope we do.

  • “why are chumps — who have been grievously devalued — set with the task of mustering a defense of the cheater’s good qualities?” This one really hit home for me.

  • Ex framed his secret relationship as an act of kindness towards the OW. She needed help with an aging parent – rides to doctors appointments etc. Had been hanging out with her (“helping her”) for over a year and never mentioned that she even existed (much less that his “helping” her included much more than the rides). It makes me sick to my stomach. I had been bending over backwards the entire time trying to help him with his work/business and figure out and solve what it was he was going through that made him suddenly act so strangely towards me after our nearly 2-decade relationship. What a nice guy.

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