I feel like I’m asking a stupid question, but at the same time, it’s like I don’t understand my own mind.
Some background — my asshole had an affair last year. I did not dump him on D-Day. I did stop sharing my life with him, full 180, but I am still in the same house. I will leave him soon (I have to move for a new job), and divorce him too, but for us that’s just paperwork.
I’m not accepting what he did, CL. I love him and I would dream of reconciliation, but this shit is not for me and that is why I am leaving. However, I wonder how will I know I am done? He sent me horrible emails two days ago — when I told him I was going to expose him and the whore to his family — when it’s time to say goodbye.
He went ballistic. That’s when he told me I pushed him to have an affair because he was so desperately feeling not wanted, that his low self-esteem feelings were my fault because I made him feel he was disgusting and a bad lover, that he needed to feel desired. (My sin? I never started sex, because of issues I have worked out now with my therapist. But I did all the crap he wanted, anytime he wanted it.) He thought I was going to be okay with his affair because our relationship was “beyond that” and that reaction was a matter of being constricted by my Catholic education. (Not that it matters, but I am not Catholic anymore.) Before that, his tune was that I did nothing wrong. Oh, boy, in his nasty emails he tells me we are doing what’s “expected from us”, and that he stopped doing that a few months ago, and he is now a better person, he has learned so much about himself and life.
After some thought, I can see what he is saying. Monogamy is not something he wants, it’s something expected of him. He went ballistic with me because he claims I will be slut shaming the whore by exposing her to their family. (However, as someone at Chump Nation said, I am not shaming her for her sexuality, but for her lack of humanity.) But he can slut shame me?!
Rationally, fuck that shit. I keep thinking that this is a chasm absolutely impossible to bridge. Actually, it’s not even the fact that he fucked someone else that’s keeping me obsessed. It’s this kind of behavior. Who the hell is this asshole I’ve been living with? For the record, I haven’t been able yet to see his entitlement or mistreatment of me before D-Day. But I do not subscribe to any fog theory. If anything, it’s smog: man made.
But I am not done, CL. Or I don’t think so. I just don’t know. How does it feel done? I am leaving. I am divorcing. I am planning my life without him. Probably I’ll never come back to this city. How will I know I’m done?
Bon Voyage Chump
It’s totally normal to not feel “done” in the beginning. After all, this guy is still your husband, you live with him, and you haven’t launched yourself into a new life yet. The important thing is to ACT done — the feelings will follow. It’s a classic case of listening to your head (which is rational and self-preserving) over your heart (a stupid bastard). With some time and no contact, your dimwitted heart will catch up with your head.
Leaving a cheater is a matter of deprogramming yourself. In fact, I could argue this entire blog is Chump Re-education Camp. The deprogramming process is why chumps need so much support, especially from fellow chumps — you’re rewiring your brain from caring to not caring, from believing the bullshit, to calling bullshit out as BULLSHIT, from focusing wholly on your cheater’s drama, to focusing wholly on your new life, from believing you’re a horrible failure, to believing you are MIGHTY and will survive this.
And Chump Lady is your friendly cult leader. Breaking the hardwired bonds of love is hard work. Unless, of course, you’re disordered, in which case it’s a big shrug. Swapping out a partner is like swapping out an air filter… Whatevers… But for chumpy hearts? It takes a lot to un-bond. For me it took four D-Days. Another kick in the teeth? Sure, don’t mind if I do!
The deprogramming process is also why people on the outside looking in don’t get it. She treats you like SHIT, why don’t you LEAVE?! Good question, except those outsiders aren’t bonded to the fuckwit. They didn’t have five children with the fuckwit, or pay off her student loans, or nurse her mother through gout. Those people have zero sunk costs. It’s easy to judge.
Same goes for the Unicorn brigade who demand reconciliation. They aren’t the ones getting their teeth kicked in. No, they’re on the sidelines snorting hopium and rebranding a kick in the teeth as Unconditional Love.
The point is, BVC, don’t expect to feel done. You haven’t mastered the deprogramming work yet. You get to decide what is and is not acceptable in your relationship — no one else.
Here’s the other reason you don’t feel “done” — he’s mindfucking you and part of you is falling for it. That smog is messing with your head. Let’s UBT some of this shit.
I will leave him soon (I have to move for a new job), and divorce him too, but for us that’s just paperwork.
Uh, whose line is “just paperwork”? Sounds like the sort of cake-y thing a cheater would say. Hey, it’s just paperwork, you’re still my favorite source of auxiliary kibbles, let’s stay friends! Friends let friends keep their 401Ks!
It’s not just paperwork. It’s a new life. Without him. See a lawyer and be highly suspicious of his “paperwork.”
I told him I was going to expose him and the whore to his family, when it’s time to say goodbye.
Rookie chump mistake. Don’t tell him ANYTHING you’re “going to” do. Not about the divorce. Not about exposure. Nada. You do you, and let him suffer his well-earned consequences. There is no achieving consensus with a cheater about their cheating. This is a stupid thing chumps do. “We’ll tell everyone this is your fault, okay?!” Expect that he’s already got his narrative out there (you’re batshit crazy, sexless, and deserved to be cheated on). Tell your truth to whomever you want to. (Although I’m in favor of pithy brevity to those who ask, over 4000-word email blasts to all of Christendom).
Oh, boy, in his nasty emails he tells me we are doing what’s “expected from us”, and that he stopped doing that a few months ago, and he is now a better person, he has learned so much about himself and life.
How nice that betraying you was a personal growth experience for him.
Monogamy is not something he wants, it’s something expected of him.
No, monogamy is something he AGREED to, and a rule he let you play by, but then he unilaterally changed the terms of the relationship agreement. That’s a character problem, not a monogamy problem.
BVC, you’re going to be just fine without this creep in your life. Focus on getting a fair divorce settlement, enjoying that new job, and getting far, far away from the mindfuckery. Your heart will catch up in time, I promise.
This one ran before.
Chump Lady GOLD
CL you have put into clear words, the crazy train he, spouts and
Every word is gold!
Something that each of us needs to internalize and live by.
Also, you cannot really be done until you’re out, divorced and no contact. THAT’S the start of being done.
I definitely agree on the no contact. I was divorced for almost 3 years before I finally ended things with him. Divorce is not always the “done.”
“(Although I’m in favor of pithy brevity to those who ask, over 4000-word email blasts to all of Christendom).” Haha. I love this.
To the OP: “That’s when he told me I pushed him to have an affair because he was so desperately feeling not wanted, that his low self-esteem feelings were my fault because I made him feel he was disgusting and a bad lover, that he needed to feel desired.” My ex said EXACTLY THE SAME THING. It’s bullshit. I see you try and explain yourself after this statement – STOP. You don’t need to justify yourself. If he was unhappy, he had the options of therapy, talking to you, or ending the marriage. It doesn’t excuse cheating.
As for when you’ll be “done” – It took me about 3 1/2 years. And the single most important thing that I did that finally worked was going no contact. Stop talking to him. If you don’t have kids, stop reading his emails and texts. Stop responding to anything that isn’t strictly logistical (like finances). Don’t tell him anything you plan to do. Get a good lawyer if you don’t already have one, and have the majority of your communications through that lawyer. And get out of that house (or get him out) as soon as you can. TIME and DISTANCE are the best ways to gain perspective and break the bond. It’s going to be hard if he is constantly around.
As tempting as it may be to expose the cheater and his whore, I would advise against it. Honestly, people either won’t care or they will side with the cheater. As CL rightly pointed out, it is likely your husband has already shared his version of events with his family, your mutual friends, etc. My ex was devaluing me, talking shit about me, spreading lies about me, FOR YEARS before he dumped me. Our “friends” were all so happy for him when he finally found someone who “appreciated him” and they welcomed AP with open arms, and excluded me from social events. No one asked me my side. No one even asked if I was okay. I’d known these people for 10-15 years. They’d known AP for less than 6 months. But they all bought my husband’s version of events (I was a cold, mercenary, unappreciative, mentally unstable, abusive bitch, even though he’d tried SO HARD to make things work – which was such projection, OMG). My ex was very charismatic, and had a great public persona, while I was quiet, reserved, and frankly had PTSD from his abuse, so people interpreted that as me being “weird”, “antisocial”, etc.
Focus on YOU. What kind of life do you want? What do YOU enjoy doing? What things were you unable to do while you were married because your husband didn’t really approve? Make your own life good, and and I promise, he will fade away from your thoughts. So will the AP. So will your anger/jealously/regret. Although if you’re angry – BE angry; it’s okay, and it doesn’t make you a bad or bitter person. You have every right to be angry. Feel the feelings – the anger, the sadness, the loss. Fume about it, rage about it, cry about it. And then go live your best life without him.
I know this is for the op but it’s exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you ISTL
This must have been so painful for you to learn he had devalued you so much to your mutual circle (I won’t say friends) that they welcomed her with open arms. My ex did the same. It hurt, and still hurts.
It did hurt. It was another betrayal. I never knew the details, but it was pretty obvious based on their behavior towards me. It really does make it clear who your real friends are. I cut every single mutual friend out of my life, and I’ve been better for it. I’d rather have a few real friends than dozens of so-called friends.
@ISTL…”his low self-esteem feelings were my fault because I made him feel he was disgusting”….yup, I got the exact same bullshit blameshifting. I wish I had those powers, because I would have “made him” feel loving and committed to our children and me!
I’ve since learned something simple yet revolutionary. No one “makes” anyone feel. Feelings come from our own thoughts. BOOM
I thought that there was nothing to work with so I felt determined and went no contact and got my divorce. 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻
Apparently my superpower wasn’t only devaluation, it was also “I wouldn’t have thought of HoWorker/Wife if you hadn’t suggested her.”
So apparently, not only am I able to make people feel small, I can also determine who their “soulmate” is. I need to go into business and rule the world………
It’s very rare these days, unfortunately, to have once mutual friends stand up to a charismatic cheater. Even if the charismatic cheater is a bullying jerk. Most people want to keep their social life status quo and stay on the good side of those that lead the pack. It’s not always so much that they believe the cheater’s narrative, it’s just easier to along with the program. I’m not excusing these people, in fact they disgust me. In any case weeding out a bunch of lily livered Casper Milquetoasts from your friend group is a plus.
“… and stay on the good side of those that lead the pack.” Ugh. Based on my own experience, it would seem you are correct. I don’t understand it at all. A bunch of my “lily-livered milquetoasts” (ha! love it) – the people I thought were my close friends – profess to follow Jesus too. I don’t know that they’re malicious in their milquetoastiness – more likely just ignorant to the pain they’ve caused – but it stings all the same.
My ex was a filmmaker (writer/director) and the majority of our friends were in the film community or were writers/artists/musicians/etc. (including OW, who has written a book [though it is TERRIBLE]). I had nothing to offer them, while he was a potential boost to their careers. They were using him for their own gains, and he was using them. They weren’t really friends, to him or to me. They were business associates. It was disappointing to realize they had only acted like they were my friends because I was his wife. But in the end, his “friends” weren’t friends to him either. When he was depressed and in despair, no one was there for him. OW dumped him. He ended up taking his own life, and apparently at least one or two of our friends knew he’d made the attempt already and said nothing to anyone. No one noticed he was missing except me – the person he had pushed away. I was the one who called the police and got them to his house, where they found his body. He’d been dead almost a week. I don’t need “friends” like that. In the end, it was no great loss. I saw a lot of them at his memorial service, and they were all like “we should get together sometime!” But it’s been over a year now, and not one of them ever contacted me. The few real friends I had are still around. I talk to my best friend at least once a week. My friends helped me move. They check on me to make sure I’m doing well. Those are the people I want in my life.
We are kindred spirits ISawthelight. My cheater also killed himself, and guess who got to clean up, me. Not all his OW’s, not his “friends”, not his family. It was me the person he abused that had to dismantle his house, work with the estate lawyers, cancel his electric, drive his shit to the Goodwill, sell his cars and motorcycles, close down his miserable life. Oh the irony. I remember my therapist telling me that when a sociopath kills themselves it is the ultimate “you’re not the boss of me”. And boy was she right. Hugs to you.
Yup. I had to do all the clean up. I worked with his family (to whom he had not been speaking, but I was) to plan and pay for his funeral. He was broke as shit, so I didn’t bother with the estate. My lawyer told me I wasn’t responsible for his taxes, bank accounts, or anything else if I didn’t want to be. We’d separated everything pretty much. The utilities at his rental house were in OW’s name, so I left her to deal with that. The car was in both our names, so I sold that, and went on vacation with the money. I had to handle all the life insurance and social security benefits for our kid. So at least now I get a monthly payment (when I never got child support from him) and my kid has a nice nest egg for college or whatever else he wants to do. And I had to tell my 9 year old his dad was dead and I’ll be dealing with the fall out of that for years to come.
My ex prefered to end it all rather than take any responsibility for the mess he’d made of things. He didn’t do one single thing to get his affairs in order before he completed. It felt like a last “fuck you” to me, and I was angry about it.
OP is rocking it!! I wish I had their conviction. It’s been 2 years (almost to the day) since d-day and I’m still on a roller coaster. I hope the OP posts how things turned out, with the new job and life. Need some inspiration right now.
@Btaw…. It takes what it takes. Coming here daily and posting in the forum (now FB group) and going grey rock (yes, no, maybe responses only) really helped. I couldn’t unring the bell. I was terrified (25 years married and 48 years of narcissistic abuse from sociopath mother) and had a ton of deconditioning to do. It’s been 8 years since Dday and 6 years since divorce. I never once regretted choosing myself and goodness over XH’s abuse. Not once. Oh, I was extremely disturbed by what XH did and refused to do (change) but I never once regretted getting away from who he really is. I acted “as if.” I called the lawyer. I opened the credit card and charged the retainer. I gathered the information. I gave the information to the lawyer. I answered lawyer’s questions. I signed papers. I answered more questions and gathered more papers. I worked and fed my kids and cleaned house and walked the dog and did laundry. Rinse and repeat. Days and months passed. I showed up for the depositions and answered questions. I listened. I showed up for the mediation. I listened and answered questions. I showed up for the trial and listened and answered questions. The judge issued his award and I listened and answered questions. I walked and ate and cried and slept. Time passed. I never once regretted how I chose life and freedom from abuse. Never. You’ve got this!
BTAW, it took me six months to make the decision to leave. Quitting abusive marriage therapy and having an excellent individual therapist helped immensely.
3.5 years later I’m out, and my work and family/friend relationships are all better. I am healthier mentally and getting there physically – people thought I was sick after DDay and through the divorce, but no one says that anymore. My kids see their dad more than they used to and are in a much better place. I’m in a committed reciprocal relationship ten months. I wish I could have left sooner and met my current partner. I do not miss the crazy and questioning of my relationship with FW at all. Life is not easier, but it is so much better. Hope that makes sense.
Wishing you all the best in your future, and the strength to get there.
BTAW, every experience is different but I understand that it takes a long while to feel better, a few years would not be an overstatement. This is a terrible trauma. Year 2 was still very tough for me (14 years of marriage, and we were one of those “still in-love” couples that everyone admired…) After figuring out everything, I became depressed for the first time. I was not doing well at all. (I had never felt like that before, as I have always been a cheerful person). Cheaters are not just liars. Liar is a small word compared to what they are. They cause such trauma that the betrayed is changed forever. Those first years from I turned into an empty and sad person because of him. The exact opposite of what I used to be.
Now, after a little over 3 years I feel like myself again. I removed him from my life completely. As CL often says, they do not want to go. They still need the betrayed’s attention.
It was very difficult to do things without him. I used to look forward to going home to talk with him. We would talk for hours about movies, music.. We would tell each other about any interesting thing right away. It took a long time to forget this habit. I carried on with little things that make me happy as I had no strength to do more (growing plants, painting, sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee). Sometimes just sitting and watching the rain or the clouds go by. During these times I talked to myself so much and I fought with him in my head for many months.
Then it stopped. He slowly diminished from my head. I started thinking about him less each day. Perhaps I was too tired and subconsciously decided that I had spent enough years. When I don’t take care of my garden and show love to my flowers they die. When I thought about him, I was feeling no love and no tranquillity anymore, so things died off in my head slowly. Of course I did not forget. I will never forgive him for what he did to our life. But I do not think about him all day and every day anymore. He occasionally engages my mind but I do not follow that thought.
I believe that things will get much better for you as well. Without no contact I couldn’t have done it. It was very difficult but I had to do it to feel alive again.
I could have written this almost word for word. Gardening was one way I dealt with my trauma, too. It’s so healing to be outdoors and helping things grow.
After the first D-Day with the Lying Cheating Loser, I was the one who proposed an open relationship, so that he would be able to “show up in the relationship as who he authentically is.” Silly me, thinking his payoff was having sex with other partners, when really it was lying, sneaking, and violating boundaries. It was a short-lived experiment.
I hung in there a whole 3.5 years after D-Day #1, and it was just as destructive and soul-crushing as every chump already knows.
My D-Days were legion. There was every manner of abuse. I became someone I hardly recognized: twitchy, hyper-vigilant (and at the same time distracted and preoccupied), volatile, violent and self-destructive. I came perilously close to letting my clouded judgment ruin my life and future.
During this time, I was a disengaged mom to my grown kids and a pretty selfish, crappy friend.
My entire life almost fell apart because I clung so desperately to one lying, cheating, mooching, unemployed or underemployed, cruel, disrespectful, lazy, shitty dad, selfish, abusive fuckwit.
But who can see these things clearly with their head in the mindfuck blender?
The trick is to leave anyway. Even though you don”t feel done. Even though you still love them.
Leaving the LCL was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Also the best thing. My life now is an absolute dream come true.
I agree, I knew when I saw someone I didn’t like in the mirror.
I became depressed and angry, I was short with my kids, I found myself raising my voice to my husband and sending profanity laden texts to him… sure, he deserved it all but that’s just NOT who I am or who I want to be.
It’s also not the kind of marriage I want.
I would rather be alone forever than live through torture like that ever again.
Yes! This! Exactly this.
I pretty much knew there was no return when I did not want to go home
I would stop on the way home and sit in the car after DDay.
Me too WW. In my case, I didn’t suggest the open relationship but rather agreed to it, for the reasons you state.
The ‘experiment’ lasted a few months in terms of the time it took to get from “let’s see if this can work” to “I’m not going to take this shit anymore,” but the lying, sneaking and boundary violations started almost immediately. (Actually, since her request came with an “I’ve already got something in mind” disclaimer, they all started before the request even came forth.)
Indeed, you cannot see things clearly when dealing with someone for whom betrayal is a growth experience.
Even when I had the plan in place and was actively working it, a small part of me kept hoping that somehow the man I thought I’d married would suddenly appear. That he would have an epiphany and come running after me realizing just what he was throwing away….nope. That was just a continuation of the 17 year fantasy of hoping for what never did, and never would exist.
I think it was around year 2 after I left that I finally completely accepted that our relationship was never authentic and was completely over.
So many chumps always wish for the person they married to appear or snap back to who they were…but the thing is the cheater is now showing the authentic self. The other person was just a facade.
“My entire life almost fell apart because I clung so desperately to one lying, cheating, mooching, unemployed or underemployed, cruel, disrespectful, lazy, shitty dad, selfish, abusive fuckwit.”
Life is SO MUCH BETTER without a FW.
Walkawaywoman – you have summarized everything into one short sentence: “Silly me, thinking his payoff was having sex with other partners, when really it was lying, sneaking, and violating boundaries.” This description is what makes cheating a character issue… there is no choice, no agreements, nothing of the sort because the thrill of lying, cheating and violating boundaries is the main objective and purpose of their existence
If BVC happens to read this, I’m sure we’d all love an update on how you’re doing.
I agree with every single word of CL’s advice. And this is the hardest part for many of us in the middle of the DDay trauma:
“With some time and no contact, your dimwitted heart will catch up with your head.”
You can’t rush it. You have to just get through it and hang tough. And you’ll make mistakes along the way. But I remember my therapist saying it takes a full year to really begin the process to break free… and that’s AFTER you’ve fully separated. If you’re not disordered, you grieve the loss. Your heart wants to fight to save it. You go through all the stages… bargaining… all of it. It’s sad and frightening. Then you finally break free and look back one day and see it so clearly.
And it’s even harder with kids. Because you can’t get the full no contact from a FW you need.
But for anyone still struggling at the beginning of this crazy fight … or even stuck in it years later… know that it takes the full leaving and divorce to truly be done. Then you can heal. Then you get clarity.
BVC, Get your head out of that blender!!!! If you don’t already have one, get an attorney. This is much more than paperwork. “Paperwork” smells of cheater BS. This is a divorce. It is a legal action, it is more than paperwork, it leads to your financial future. Get what is due to you.
Most of us have been through the fault finding and chumps are pretty darn good at taking blame and trying to see the other persons point of view. Stop that. It is not of value. My FW said the same thing about how unhappy he was for years, how awful I was and how he felt that he deserved to be happy. Happy of course meant having a side piece while keeping a wife appliance. Not that I don’t want him to be happy but he can be happy with his Schmoopie and no wife appliance. He could have been honest about his “unhappiness”. Of course, that did not happen because they want CAKE.
You need to determine that this is unacceptable to you and then take the actions needed to get the FW out of your life. I know you said you are getting ready to relocate but you seriously need to get away from FW to start any kind of healing. Getting out (even if you only take a temporary place and store your other stuff) will help you to get your head out of the blender. Going no contact will also help you on your way to being done. You cannot do this living in the same place and seeing that FW. The “paperwork” can go through attorneys, they are there to do the “paperwork” (and charge in six minute increments).
As for exposing Schmoopie, don’t do it. More than likely his family will side with him. He has had plenty of time to present his narrative to everyone so take the high road. Just remember Mr. Chump Lady who said “if it feels good, don’t do it”. Your goal is to not care. FW buys Schmoopie a car, you don’t care (the attorneys do so provide the info to them).
Even if you don’t want to call it fog or whatever, you have seen the mask drop. What you see now is who this Cheater is. Get out. Once you are out, you will feel so much better (ask the chumps here).
Looks like America will get a chance to hear the answer the question “How do I know when I’m done?”
We chumps know we gave it our best while the cheaters were doing what cheaters do. It takes skillful leaving followed by time and distance.
Well good for her! I hope she joins us.
You know you’re done when you think more of yourself than to allow another person to reign contempt, disrespect and destruction upon your life. Poof! They’re gone.
I feel the real problem is this search for some type of closure. You want to feel that you are doing the right thing and want to be validated by others. It is hard when your FOO trained you to “do what is expected of you” and you developed a dream of fairy tale marriage where you would live happily ever after. You don’t understand what happened, where the dream went, when you did all the “right” things. You grieve the life you expected.
It is hard when you realize Prince Charming is not who you believed him to be. You were lied to, cheated on, and he stole some of your assets. He wasted your precious time with his deception. The rest of your present world, family and friends, probably saw him, and possibly you, in a much different light. They were not there! They did not live in the faux relationship! They are not hurt or disappointed! They just want a happy meal together on a holiday, not to consider whether the Prince of Lies has invited a Woman Willing to Date a Married Man, to be his guest.
I was raised in the traditional old school Christian tradition where people believed in a vengeful jealous God. They might profess to believe in Christ, or grateful to be blessed by grace, but they really don’t think about what His teaching really means. It is not easy to live the real-life Christ prescribed. It is much easier to be vengeful and jealous. I am not preaching religion here, and I cannot speak to other faiths. I am talking about philosophy and feeling good about who you are. You are experiencing a dramatic culture shift. There are many growing pains. You don’t actually feel “done”, but you do learn not to make this liar the central focus of your life. You learn to love yourself, and you learn to live happily with your own values. Other people can help you through the process, but you have to believe you are worth it. Then you will feel much better, and one day you will look back and wonder what you were thinking and why you made that choice. Then you will be ready to live your life. Not done.
I know that this is a rerun, but I think that the answer to your question lies in the perspective that you take. Being “done” isn’t about being able to fully visualise the detail of your post-cheater life and the path that you take to get there; it’s about knowing that the life that you visualise should you stay with your cheater would not be acceptable to you …. and reading your words, I think that you are there already.
And as regards exposing him and the OW publicly, I would advise patience; it is likely that your cheater (and the OW) won’t want that information out there, which gives you leverage to get a better settlement. I’m not saying “don’t do it” – although I subscribe to CL’s “if it feels good, then don’t mantra – rather, I’d suggest that this is something that you deploy selectively to gain advantage.
You’ve got this.
LFTT, great advice!
I did use exposing FW to my advantage to avoid going to court. After 2.5 years of avoidance & stalemate on an agreement, I put OW’s husband as a witness, and bam. FW signed the agreement and I didn’t have to take 2 days off work. He was afraid of his employer finding out. Family already knew why we were separated.
Using the information that you gain about the Cheater to gain a strategic advantage in the divorce settlement, rather than just using it to embarrass them is definitely the way to go.
Ex-Mrs LFTT maintained through our divorce that she hadn’t had an affair and that she wasn’t in a relationship with her AP. My lawyer used a screenshot from her FB public profile which stated that she was in a relationship with him and had been since before she left the kids and I to prove that she was a liar and that her statements in Court could not be believed just as she was trying to mislead the Judge on something else. It did not go well for her and, while embarrassing her in public might have been satisfying in the short run, it was much better to use the information to ensure that our divorce settlement went the way I wanted it to go.
Fraudster had an online affair with a scammer he planned to marry, which I discovered on D-Day. Months later, he was in an apartment and we were in court to discuss temporary financial orders. He was claiming high expense to live there, and my attorney read a news article I’d found about the apartment complex, quoting the builder describing it as tailored to high income single women in their 20s to 40s, with five star amenities including free wine 24/7. Fraudster, who was 65, emailed me, furious, and told me to direct my attorney to refrain from any comments that made him sound like an old man chasing younger women. Which is precisely what he continued to do.
It is truly worth it to hold back on exposing the AP, especially with a reaction like the letter writer got. Leverage for sure!
Once my lawyer mentioned deposing the AP, my ex was completely shaken! He did everything not to have her questioned by my attorneys because she would absolutely say way too much! It was great leverage.
Yep, that’s good strategy, Rebecca.
I so identify with just about everything in this letter. I hope BVC is still with us for an update!
I got the same excuses. I just want to say, none of us are perfect but FWs will say anything to make it your fault. Funny how he never brought up his issues with me/the marriage with the only person who could “fix” those issues (me), until there were consequences looming.
The only thing true in all that blame shifting is that it IS about FW and his fragile ego (oh sorry FW, “self esteem,” because that sounds valid). My FW’s first answer to “why cheat?” In a nutshell, she flattered him. Really? I couldn’t believe it. You blew up your family because she told you that you were pretty? Holy shit. That same statement BVC got was the beginning of my feeling “done.” I really lost a lot of respect for FW. And she’s right, it’s not about sex with someone else – it’s about realizing what a sad, selfish and mean (in both senses of the word) creature a FW is. You can’t love someone you don’t respect.
CL’s advice is spot on. Take the actions to be done and the feelings will follow. Physical separation and NC cures all things. 3.5 years from DDay and I’m still angry about how everything went down, but present-day FW is the last thing on my mind, I don’t feel anything for him despite still coparenting fairly peaceably with him and living a few blocks away, and I don’t miss him one bit.
You can’t be done while you are still engaging in angry exchanges, either verbal or written, with a FW. If you don’t have kids, just stop talking to the cheater. Block him on your phone. Use “Cool. Bummer. Wow” one-word responses if he speaks to you. I also like “Huh.” “Interesting.” “Really.” And if he’s issuing edicts or demanding something, “I’ll make a note of that.”
And if he’s issuing edicts or demanding something, “I’ll make a note of that.”
YES!! 1,000 times over: YES!!!
I used this response when he’d make horrible accusations about my parenting or about me. I made it even shorter: “Noted”.
I paid off my XW’s student loans. I do agree about not telling them what you are going to do. Also, they are NOT your friend.
Per the link from ICanSeeTuesday, above, country singer Jana Kramer is going to be on the Red Table Talk today to discuss her marriage to and divorce from her ex-husband, who cheated on her with more than a dozen women. She says she’s still triggered by celebrity disclosures of cheating. So why is she going to Jada Pinklett Smith, who’s notable for cheating?
Also, the husband claims he has as sex addiction problem. Why is it that nobody with a sex addiction problem says they have to have sex with randos, rather than with their own partner? It’s a euphemism for cheating, not for needing sex. Seems like it’s never an addiction until they’re caught publicly and are facing some sort of consequence.
I shared the link because it seems possible that a national audience will hear from a RIC/Sexual Addiction “therapy” survivor. I hope it balances the Esther Perel bullshit. Unfortunately, us real life chumps rarely have an opportunity to set the record straight.
Considering that he was most likely screwing around the entire time we were together, I never had a marriage in the first place. The contract was never honored. I had a MIRAGE. The mirage was “over” on DDay. There was nothing to be “done” with.
I am not an ex-wife. I am a former hostage. When you are in a relationship with someone who is leading a secret double life, you are in it under false pretenses and therefore you are being held hostage.
He is not an ex-husband. He is a former captor. “Husband” is a term reserved for a man who enters into marriage with sincerity and whose words and actions match and who keeps the agreements he made.
“Done” is not the most accurate word for me to use. I was being held hostage by someone professing to be married, professing to love me, professing to love our family, and secretly simultaneously acting like someone who is single. This alone belies an understanding of what love is, and an ability to express it, IMHO.
So for me, using the word “freed” is better than “done”, because I was involved with Traitor Ex without informed consent.
Recovery from infidelity is a battle of the
mind where using the right words make all the difference. Using the right words is an important first step for reprogramming my thinking.
Sometimes splitting hairs is a good thing….
“Sometimes splitting hairs is a good thing”
Traitor Ex played word games which messed with my thinking and feelings and perception. Victory means I need to be better at it than him in order to override it. I need to pay close attention to my thinking and my self-talk and choose believe myself, delete what he said, and practice disregarding him.
It’s distressing that I gave so much credence to what a liar/cheater/thief/traitor said, and so little to what I thought and believed. And that can be remedied.
Thank you, VH, for this as well as many other such insightful and clearly-stated comments.
well put. the problem I had was I just couldn’t believe my ex wife had a double life until the IRS letter showed up and the money in question dated back to 2 months after we got married.
I started reading a book that really helps—Soul Broken: A Guidebook for Your Journey Through Ambiguous Grief by Stephanie Sarazin. I’m about halfway through. The author is a chump, and although the book also talks about other kinds of ambiguous grief (such as losing a connection with a family member who is still alive), it’s especially informative and (I think) accurate about some of the reasons it’s so difficult to get to Tuesday, meh, and be Done with a FW. She talks about two different kinds of hope – – external hope, where you huff the pipe and your dreams for improvement in the future are hooked to the possibility that FW will change and you can “fix” things, and internal hope, the hope that recovery requires, where you pin your hopes on yourself and your own possibilities and only the things that you do you have power over. The author offers some exercises for getting into that kind of hope.
As a big hopium addict, with dad issues and anxious attachment, something about this framing has helped me see my desperate frantic hope with FW as connected to addiction/lack of health. The book’s also good on discussing the lingering grief that comes with betrayal trauma.
My FW is an absolute genius at DARVOing and blameshifting. He’s skilled at somehow reaching right past my intellect, my adult humanity, my basic logic and common sense, and my reliable intuition and speaking directly to the little two-year-old inside me who’s still hunched on a mattress somewhere, crying and begging my dad not to leave and to please come back. (And when he speaks directly to her, he’s like, “this is your fault because you don’t deserve to be loved.”) He “wins” arguments and keeps me hooked by doing this—if he didn’t ruthlessly hunt for my weak spots and activate my attachment disorder, he would probably “lose” those same arguments with me because he’s just so wrong by any standard of adult ethics or logic. The author of Soul Broken does a lot of work to start really imagining a happy life for herself that is not contingent on anything in particular happening (or not) with her FW—-this is also a hugely valuable part of ChumpLady’s message.
Yep, CL. Total yep.
These things are my opinions. YMMV.
– The thing we cling to that makes us feel not-done is a facade that looks like our hopes and dreams about the person, not the actual monstrous person. The moment we realize that — that it isn’t you I still love, it’s the person you pretended so effectively to be — and that the person you pretended to be has died and all that’s left standing here is you, who I do not want — the walking away gets much easier.
– The way most indoctrinating works is that the abuser (1) locates you, a smart person who has an emotional wound, (2) feeds the emotional wound (often regularly pointing out how no other person or group has ever made you feel so right/good and so much like you belong somewhere) while also complimenting how uniquely smart you are to be able to see a truth others can’t, (3) begins to point out perceived flaws in you while complimenting you for being smart and strong enough to work on them, (4) slowly distances you from those you know who aren’t indoctrinated by folding you deeper and deeper into the abuser’s inner circle, then (5) slowly ramps up the abuse, alternating it with kindness and sweetness, until before long the abuse is 90-100% of the interaction, and you feel like you can’t leave it, because (a) you’d feel so stupid if you admitted you were indoctrinated, and (b) what if you never really feel like you truly belong anywhere else, ever again?
The terrible irony is that it’s often high intelligence and a sad heart that craves belonging that makes us vulnerable to abuse, yet we feel so stupid for letting it happen. That’s by design. It’s part of the ruse.
You are NOT stupid for letting it happen.
You are NOT stuck with a choice of abuse or nothing.
This is a big world. Abusers use a long game to convince us we can only exist in one place (their space), and only a small subset of people will ever love us, and we’ll be eternally doomed if we stop letting them hurt us.
That’s impossible. It makes no sense when you settle in and think it through. Billions of people live their lives just dandy — and better than me the victim, in this place — without ever knowing this person or group. It’s unreasonable to conclude I have to stay in it.
As soon as I see that, I can deprogram.
Leaving an abuser and going no contact levels the field and re-empowers us. (That’s why the moment we really leave is the most dangerous, when the abuser is most filled with rage.)
1st paragraph is well said.
“Just paperwork??” No way. That is what people say when it suits them. I have a friend who lived with a man for 16 years…she ALWAYS wanted to get married but he constantly told her (and her children), “Marriage is just a piece of paper.” Then he kicked her out and within 6 months, he MARRIED another woman (who he’d likely been seeing on the side). So when anyone says, “It’s just a piece of paper,” I say, “So is money, but you don’t seem to be turning down dollar bills…” [By the way, I’m not saying that marriage would have kept them together–I’m on ChumpLady, after all!–but I am saying that anyone who says anything is ‘just a piece of paper’ is full of baloney.] (And as I typed this, I realized so is toilet paper ‘just a piece of paper’ but he didn’t stop using that!)
This one ran before, but still has alot of good advice for those new to Chumpdom. I wish I had known about this prior to D day. Unfortunately, when we are in crisis and dancing our hardest, its hard to think straight about our best strategy. I agree tell them nothing about your plans. Dont give anything away. Gather evidence. Go along with their narrative as best you can till you have all your ducks in a row. Then blindside them with divorce papers, kicking them out, changing locks, making an announcement, moving money from your account. Whatever you need to do. Then block them, only communicate through a lawyer. You can never win with them. They will never see your point of view, empathize with your feelings. They will always cast you as the villian in their messed up narrative. Its insane when you see they are all alike and say and do the same things. There are only so many ways to manipulate a person.
You are one hundred percent right about never empathizing with you. If they do suffer at all from the fall out, it is from losing something they want, which still isn’t remorse. They might not like not having access and benefits, but they won’t feel bad they hurt another person. A person with any heart for other people at all wouldn’t deceive someone into living a lie for their own benefit. Cheating should be looked at the same as physically beating someone to a pulp. Really irks me that so many people are encouraged to stick it out with a cheater like there is some excuse. People have excuses for beating their partner too but we don’t accept those and for good reason. Same with cheating, you’re dealing with an abuser and someone who does that is a complete monster.
I was waffling. I knew how hard it was going to be (spoiler: it was worse!). I wanted to hang on 2 more years for my high school son. Then college freshman daughter came home for Christmas break. She told me, “If you don’t file for divorce, I’m never coming home again.” That was an easy choice.
Yay being “done” in Vancouver! Frazey!
Thank you CL. I really needed this one. I feel so down when I think about all the time wasted on hopium, when I should have been focused on me. Live and learn, and look to CN for the occasional kick to the “trust he sucks” part of me. Thanks CN!!
Music helped me a lot too. Two favorites:
What has really helped me to feel closer to being “done” is discovering and accepting that Fuckface is a disordered evil sociopathic monster who will never change. He is someone I would never have or want in my life. Everything he is and everything he has done to me are completely the opposite of who I am. I realized that he is wholly undeserving and unworthy of me. And he can go fuck right off. I’m almost totally done. My heart has almost caught up to my mind…almost.
And his proof that he’s a better person and has learned so much? Nasty emails. 🙄
BVC, this shit is straight out of the cheater playbook. They immediately flip to the rage channel and get vicious about the truth being exposed. He is not a better person and has learned nothing. He’s an asshole through and through. Tell your story, but as CL says, just stick to the facts without getting emotional, if you can manage it. He cheated. He admitted it. Then he tried to blame you for it and became vicious. Tell them that’s why you are divorcing him.
CL’s advice is gold. You’ll make it through this.
“And his proof that he’s a better person and has learned so much? Nasty emails….They immediately flip to the rage channel and get vicious about the truth being exposed.”
My ex was oh-so reasonable as long as I didn’t push back either in divorce negotiations over resources or in disclosing the real reason we were divorcing to our son. As soon as I did, he raged. Throughout our 35 year marriage, I was never in fear of my physical safety until I said I wanted an honest relationship with our son and so he would have to know the truth behind our divorce.
People who don’t do monogamy have no empathy, and they are very unlikely therefore to tell the other person they aren’t dong monogamy, because it’s nice for them to have each person they sleep with dedicated and exclusive to them. Polyamory is a myth, everyone can love more than one person. The only time people practice ‘ethical’ polyamory is if they actually don’t mind, or get off on, their partner sleeping with other people. The very nature of it is an all-about-myself attitude. I have loved more than one person in my life – most of us have. I dedicate myself to a man in a relationship to foster a safe environment where they are not pitted against other men because that destroys self worth and I would’t do that to THEM. It’s not because something about having more variety or more dates repulses me. It’s out of love and caring for someone else, putting myself in their shoes and agreeing mutually we won’t give each other competition and will embrace each other as we are and foster intimacy. The whole play that polyamory is ever okay is stupid, because if you weren’t gaslighting some sucker into a lopsided commitment you would be single and you wouldn’t try to market your singleness as some type of ‘relationship’. That’s just a total gaslight if someone is sleeping with someone other than you, they are single but want more from you. Make no mistake.
Yes, rerun or not, you make the break when the pain of staying is greater than the pain of leaving. For me, we had already been separated for a year, and I finally saw in black-and-white that I could never, ever reconcile with him. There were huge areas of uncertainty, but I knew it was time. What he did with my refusal to reconcile was up to him, but I was done with all relationship discussions, period. He pressed me hard, and I told him that I preferred divorce over reconciliation if that was the choice he wanted from me.
The divorce and closeout were dumpster fires themselves, but thankfully I knew exactly how to hire the perfect attorney for me from the hundreds in my metropolitan area. He was a superstar but like a big brother to me in the office and on the phone. He got me a good settlement, and then his associate fought through a crazy closeout and got it done despite pandemic shutdowns. I came out 100% convinced that the divorce had to be.
I have three friends in leadership with me for a local organization who have 40+ years of marriage each. I truly admire and honor them, but I’m truly happily divorced while they are truly happily married. We joke about it all the time.
I think doing a “180,” by definition, is when you leave or change the locks and have them served without personally explaining anything. It’s removing all kibble and contact (getting a parenting app if there are children in common) and ceasing to “JADE” (justify, argue, defend, explain). Anything else is “80” or “360.”
I also had to deal with that feeling of not being “done” but realized that, in situations of abuse, the abuser has put a dagger through your shoe via a systematic fostering of dependency that will only come out in sharp relief once you’re out of range and clear of the constant mindfucking. “Done” comes much later because that’s the spellbinding nature of abuse– to make you distrust your own survival instincts. Though it’s unlikely that any cheater “only” cheated and was otherwise a loving, supportive and wonderful partner who didn’t also engage in a pattern of destructive gaslighting and other forms of insidious emotional abuse, I think it would be theoretically easier to leave someone who’d been wholly positive and supportive up until the moment they betrayed than it is to leave an emotional abuser because emotional abuse is weakening and fosters doubt in oneself.
I was really struck by the OP’s statement that she couldn’t yet detect the past patterns/red flags that forewarned of her STBX’s ultimate betrayal and abuse. But, no matter how smart someone is, those clouds only typically clear once you’re in the actual POST-traumatic stress stage and not currently enveloped in *ongoing* traumatic stress and continuous mindfucking.
The mindfucking can take many forms but I think one standard tactic is what psychotherapist Susan Forward dubbed “FOG” or “fear, obligation, guilt.” If the boring details of my case can help someone else recognize patterns, here goes: In my situation, much of this was done through “gesture warfare” and what I call “rhapsodizing.” It started slowly and progressed over the course of the marriage until FW constantly and excessively dramatized even the tiniest inconvenience as though it were life threatening. He didn’t scream or punch walls while doing this which would have been more identifiable “domestic terrorism.” Mostly he hissed and murmured or periodically acted like he was on a hunger strike for an important cause. But he couldn’t just stub his toe while making coffee and say “ouch” like a normal person. It had to involve hissed curses and hopping around in a way that would fill the room with tension and undefinable dread. I ended up getting steeped in that “undefinable dread” for years to the point I couldn’t even identify the chronic sensation. It began to seem normal and there are always other things going on in life that might explain it– kids’ health and education, personal health issues, aging family elders or, I don’t know, vague gnostical jitters. In any event, I was frog-boiled. If he couldn’t do his share of housework because of a work deadline, this was never communicated neutrally and with promises to make up for it. Instead he was always on the verge of losing his job or about to keel over from sleep deprivation and the burden of work. If he was rudely abrupt with me or the kids, it was always because he was “held together by chewing gum” and on the verge of collapse. And when he wasn’t using words to describe his dire state, there were the gestures. He had a way of walking through the room with ominously furrowed brow as if going to put out a fire instead of just going to to the fridge for a snack. Or he’d suddenly pose in tragic pensiveness when he knew this would be seen.
At times when he’d be abrupt and callous with me and the kids and would rhapsodize the excuse that he was so stressed from trying to keep the family from drowning, I’d call him on it. Then would come the lovebombing or, better put, the “random reward” part of his “operant conditioning chamber” (Skinner box) to complete the cycle of the random punishments. There were promises to change, odes of love, temporary displays of earnest helpfulness, and– really mindbending– self effacing jokes about his own behavior. But he’d inevitably go back to factory setting and endlessly repeat the same pattern of behavior. In that way, it was like a low key version of the cycle of abuse: tension building, explosion, remorse and on and on and on until I was lying inert on the electrified Skinner box floor (“learned helplessness”) and too bamboozled to keep resisting.
Because FW’s mindfuckery got so much more extreme during the affair while the “lovebombing/remorse” became less and less frequent, I realized after D-Day that the rhapsodizing gesture warfare behavior was “unconsciously” (FW’s favorite alibi, yawn) to both “FOG” me– keep me constantly unsettled and sensing that I had some obligation to ease his terrible burden and some guilt in causing this– as well as (here’s the key) to convince *himself* how “hard” his life was and what a victim he was.
The process of falsely convincing oneself of one’s own innocence and entitlement has a name in criminology: “neutralization” or the way in which a range of offenders spellbind themselves into believing that they’re justified for committing various crimes and that their victims deserved it to the point that they feel no remorse (https://mdpi-res.com/d_attachment/societies/societies-09-00046/article_deploy/societies-09-00046.pdf?version=1560246670). “Neutralization” is short for “neutralization of guilt” or “neutralization of self punishment.” For each self-message that his life was hard and I was kind of/sort of the cause, it was as if FW dropped a little token into a blame bag until he “earned” enough tokens to cash them in on an epic betrayal and to do so with little remorse because– tada– he was the world’s biggest victim and was entitled. Whatever remnants of guilt hadn’t been successfully “neutralized” by his self-spellbinding inner narrative were squelched with buckets of booze. FW went from a few glasses of wine a year to drinking his lunch and, in a really short time, developed a massive secret drinking problem during his affair with a more practiced alcoholic. In domestic violence research, it’s thought that, rather than abusing because they drink, abusers drink so that they can abuse.
It wasn’t so easy for FW to squelch his guilt over what he was doing to the children because he couldn’t engineer it in his mind that they “had it coming.” So his solution was to start to falsely frame me as a bad parent to make his terrible parenting (which cheating is) look good in comparison. Doing this represented a sudden uptick in the emotional coercion and shook me out of my paralysis because I took this as a custody threat. It was so terrifying that I finally reached out to a lawyer friend for feedback. This is typical of abuse survivors: they usually think about leaving only when the danger of staying exceeds the statistically considerable danger of leaving. Around the same time, I got an anonymous email from two workplace whistleblowers who reported the affair. I secretly retained a lawyer and hired a PI to get admissible evidence.
FW made the mistake of coercion-overkill because the not-so-veiled threat against custody woke me up out of my daze. For another survivor, that activating “penny drop” moment that they’re in serious danger might come in another form. It could simply be the threat of socially isolating and socially destroying the victim via the abuser spreading their bs narrative about the relationship to others. The threat of being “pushed out of the tribe” spelled certain death back in the caveman days and some part of that visceral fear probably remains in the deeper regions of our lizard brains. It’s a potent underhanded way to shock a target into a state of frozen fear. Because I’d moved around a lot for work and had already rebuilt my life several times, the threat of social condemnation might not have been enough to paralyze me. I think this is why FW went the extra mile to play on what he knew to be my worst ever fear– loss of my children.
Even after D-Day, I think it would have taken me much longer to shake off the “FOG” and figure out how FW had systematically emotionally hogtied me during the marriage except I’d previously trained as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and had some awareness of abuse cycles, abuser psychology and “captor bonding/learned helplessness/Stockholm syndrome.” Because, again, FW hadn’t been punching walls or threatening direct violence and, at least until he’d launched into his secret bangfest and the blame shifting became outrageous, had been mostly indirect and “hinty hinty” about blaming and shaming, I made the common mistake that forensic social worker and veteran DV advocate Evan Stark points out as a hazard in his book, “Coercive Control”: I set the bar for what constitutes “abuse” at extreme violence and missed the less technicolor forms of “coercion and control” which Stark describes as the most devastating and paralyzing aspects of DV. That’s why Stark wrote the book: most people make that mistake and miss the fact that “lesser” forms of abuse are still distinctly on the battering continuum and can result in all the things this association suggests: victim’s developing trauma related health problems and paralysis/Stockholm syndrome/captor bonding, etc. This is why Stark has also spearheaded the movement to add coercive control laws to existing domestic violence statutes: to enable victims to get orders of protection against “mere” emotional abusers, both because the impact of emotional abuse is “bad enough” to warrant it and because of the scarily elevated statistical risk that certain forms of emotional abuse may too often progress to violence. In Scotland, engaging in coercive control against a partner can get an offender up to 14 years in prison. In California and Hawaii, the pattern of behavior can lose the offender visitation rights of children. In the latter two states and Connecticut, victims can get orders of protection against offenders.
The combination of the affair and dissipation of assets (financial abuse/control), the text evidence of gaslighting and blame-shifting and the terrifying implied threats against my custody of my children might have technically met the legal standard of coercive control. Even in places where cheating itself isn’t criminalized, many of the behaviors that typically attend it and facilitate it may one day be universally viewed as criminal conduct. And even though my region hasn’t yet enacted those laws and even if there’s a huge variance in how these are presently enforced, it was sobering to realize that, at least in theory, FW was guilty of it and if, say, this had happened in Scotland or the UK, he might be in prison.
I think it helped me to get past the “not done” feeling to realize that my indecision was not so much out of love for FW but more insidious fear of him that had been carefully conditioned over years and years. Hello, Stockholm syndrome. He was on the batterer spectrum and I was on the battering victim spectrum and if I felt paralyzed and inert and dependent after years of this treatment, no bloody wonder. At first I felt foolish for not putting the pieces together right off the bat. After all, I’d been trained to be aware. But of course FW knew I’d been trained so, like most abusers (and viruses), he adapted his methods to suit the target. After D-Day and during the lamentable RIC stage, FW conceded that framing me as a bad parent was outrageous bs but he stopped short of admitting that he consciously did this as a terror tactic to keep me in my box: too afraid of the consequences of leaving him to escape and too blinded by confusion and fear to get in the way of his affair.
That’s a point for another discussion– that survivors should consider that *whatever* it is they’re doing– whether it’s hesitating to leave, socially isolating, giving up the activities they formerly loved, making their lives very small in order to focus 100% of their attention on the problem of the abuser, believing you’ll never find love again, etc.– that this reflects the agenda of the abuser. Whatever confusing thing you’re doing or feeling, it’s what they want you to do and feel and have been training you into from the beginning. Since many domestic abusers tend to mask their own dependency on victims (big long explanation of abuser psychology and shame over attachment to others borne in abusive childhoods, etc., etc.), they may not come out and say “quit your job, ditch your friends, stay where you are, give up your favorite things, view yourself as an unlovable drudge who’ll never attract another partner and focus all your attention on me 24/7,” this can be confusing for survivors who are still captive. But intimate abuse is much like punching one of those vintage Bobo dolls. Abuse and systematic attacks on a target’s self esteem are like the sand in the bottom of the blow up Bobo, weighting the victim down so they don’t fly away when punched. An abuser who masks their dependency on victims relies on having weighed the victim down so that, when the abuser pushes the victim away, the victim just bounces back up in place. That way they get to “push”– to say, in effect, “I don’t need you!” (cheating is one way in which abusers attempt to “dilute” dependence and convince themselves they don’t need their primary partners) while also ensuring that you’re not going anywhere. In reflecting on past abuse and how one came to be hesitant and paralyzed in an unacceptable relationship, think back for signs of the “Bobo” effect. How did they insinuate and hint that there might be ugly consequences if you leave while simultaneously seeming to do whatever it took to chase you away?
As far as this threatening and controlling behavior and “Bobo weighting” being “unconscious” on his part, I now see this as the cherry on top of FW’s giant self-serving cake: not only could he do these terrible things for his own selfish ends, he was so adept at neutralizing guilt that it had become an unconscious process. Another one of his signature gestures was the slightly-raised-eyebrow “Huh?” look of maligned innocence when confronted over behavior he’d previously and explicitly agreed to stop doing a thousand times. In other words, the “cherry” was that he could do all that and feel innocent of it to boot. Wow, cool trick. And his sense of his own entitled, justified innocence was part of what made the progressive abuse so incredibly spellbinding.
He believed his own bull. It made him look very authentic and sincere while in the middle of spewing bald-faced lies. And therein lay the added threat: his total commitment to his narrative would also potentially be spellbinding to other people and bystanders… like the judge in dependency court or family or friends or people I depended on to educate my children or my career network, etc. In effect his faux innocent act held the message that he could, if he felt like it, potentially take my kids, destroy me socially and professionally. And the lie of it was also a threat: if someone has the sheer gall to do this to another person– falsely frame them as a terrible person without cause– what’s to stop them from picking up a tire iron and taking the victim’s head off? Once someone’s dehumanized another person in one sense, what’s to stop them from taking the next logical step in the progression? Not that every abuser would have the stomach to do so but the risk of that would be enough to make the mind spin and induce paralyzing fear.
The OP wrote, “For the record, I haven’t been able yet to see his entitlement or mistreatment of me before D-Day.” If the frog-boiling process is gradual enough, most people would get so accustomed to dread that they’d no longer be able to identify it or the tactics that induced it. It becomes like the noise of the refrigerator. That’s why it’s only after getting away from the source of the fear is it even possible to take full stock and identify fear as fear. Then it’s another step to piece the past back together and understand the coercive tactics by which the fear was instilled.
And here’s the real kicker. I think each of us is endowed with gut instincts. Our brains process an estimated 100 billion bits of data every few seconds. There are ancient parts of our brains that are solely dedicated to calculating risk and analyzing behavior in others to assess our relative safety. Think of it as a kind of human geometry that factors every cue, expression, gesture, tone of voice, etc., and then compares it to other samples to put together a relative risk profile for each person in our midst. So, in the absence of clear memories of coercive things an abuser had been doing along to condition and brainwash, if you want proof that you were being conditioned by fear/coerced into a certain role long before whatever big, overt, terrible deed that someone else committed against you, just look at the nature of the big, overt, terrible deed. Consider that your inner “risk management faculty” had long been guessing that that other person was capable of delivering the punishment they ultimately did, that this was intimidating, that– without being able to name the fear– this might have caused you to try to stay on the abuser’s “good side” as a safety strategy. That’s one reason I really appreciate Stark’s campaign to get recognition for coercive control. Not only can it change laws, it can also warn individuals that captor bonding/Stockholm syndrome may by a lower threshold of abuse than previously believed.
The above is not the same as saying that someone “ignored red flags” at their own peril (out of “codependence” or being a “glutton for punishment” or whatever) because it puts the onus for the confused reaction on the deceptive tactics of the abuser. Abusers live and die by their ability to cross the wires of their targets. Some get very good at it if not much else.
Typos again. Gah.
“I think doing a “180,” by definition, is when you leave or change the locks and have them served without personally explaining anything. ”
I agree. I have read of a “soft” 180, but from what I read that is just another version of the pick me dance. Maybe a minuet pick-me waltz.
A soft 180 is 60, 70, 90 or 120. 180 is an about face. Blindsiding the perpetrator isn’t the main point but if done right, that’s what happens. Even if it’s not the point, blindsiding has some benefits, like giving the abuser less time and leisure to hide or abscond with joint assets or polish a character assassination campaign against their victim.
There is an awful lot of accuracy in the above and I thank you for it.
I really like your description and find a lot of similarities with my story… what i dont understand is what do they gain with their attitudes. In the end my FW will end up with no family (nobody likes him his family. They all have been waiting to proof he is a failure), friends (he doesnt have a single real friend) …
His family will rejoice on him being a failure and he is clinging onto the kids as the only thing he has in life. I feel he is just so empty useless and total lack of space and i also feel that he feels the same about himself. I just don’t understand how these people chose to be wreckers when they dont have anything to gain with that. Like they are
committing suicide without really doing it physically but worse is they take along the only persons that truly cared about them in the 1st place… i will never understand
“what i dont understand is what do they gain with their attitudes.”
We never will, because we’re not like them.
In my case FW also ended up with no family (he wasn’t speaking to his family), no friends (his so called friends stopped communicating with him becuase he pushed them away or burned too many bridges), no OW (she left becuase he started abusing her and it scared her), and was facing the very real possibility of losing custody of our son because of all the domestic violend.
So my ex actually did get the point where he felt so empty that he DID commit suicide. I think if pressed hard enough by circumstance, they do realize who and what they are. Or at least where they ended up. In my ex’s very (VERY) long suicide “note”, he still accepted no responsibility and painted himself as the victim.
And no, you will never understand him, because you are nothing like him. Realizing that was my closure. I gave up trying to understand because I never will. It is enough to know that his way of thinking and acting is absolutely foreign to me.
Really interesting post HOAC, and a lot of it parallels my own experience. Thank you. My ex fuckwit was physically abusive, to me, as well as throwing things, punching things, *as well as* the behaviours you describe so well.
Married 24 years, 5 years out from D-day, and 3 years finally divorced. And I’m now 70 years old. Do I feel done? In one sense, yes, in others no.
Done in the sense I filed immediately, went NC immediately, and haven’t exchanged a word with fuckwit since. I don’t miss *him*, but I still do sometimes miss what I thought I had. I know it was a mirage (TM Velvet Hammer) but still.
I’ve done my best to make what I have left of my life good, but there are still days when I am so damned *angry* at what was done to me, and I wonder if I’ll go to my grave feeling that, and if that’s normal. Some days I feel like I’ve achieved ‘meh’, others, the anger; at him and the rat faced whore mostly, but some of it towards myself, for being so gullible and trusting.
Will I ever achieve total meh, and not have fuckwit cross my mind ever again? I so wish for that.
Ay di mi. Part of it is, of course, the knowledge I wasted 24 years of my life on that fucker, and at 70 I’m nearing the end of it, and have learned so much too late. Plus it’s been raining here for 3 days non-stop, so there’s that. ☔😕
Sorry for the self-pitying wail. A bas tristesse! 🙏😬
Something I’ve been meaning to ask you, HOAC, given your expertise and experience in the field of domestic violence.
Once, in the fairly early days, (before he’d started using me as a punching bag) fuckwit was throwing a screaming tantrum about something trivial, ( fishing bait I think) literally frothing at the mouth, throwing/kicking things, verbally abusing me and blaming *me*.
I got angry, and said something like, “I’m sick of this! Stop blaming me for every stupid little thing that goes wrong!”
He immediately calmed down, and said he was afraid it was just him, “it’s the way I am”, and he lashed out at me because, “who else can I lash out to, if not you? You’re always here for me.” And then smiled at me sweetly and gently, and kissed me.
And I actually felt pleased and *proud*. That I was ‘special’ because he could be himself with me, and I would understand. I writhe to remember it now, of course, but there’s no denying that’s what I felt at the time.
I just wondered if this was a reaction you’ve come across before.
This is AMAZING. Your insights are so good and so well expressed, HoaC. This describes my ex and my situation EXACTLY.
“That’s a point for another discussion– that survivors should consider that *whatever* it is they’re doing– whether it’s hesitating to leave, socially isolating, giving up the activities they formerly loved, making their lives very small in order to focus 100% of their attention on the problem of the abuser, believing you’ll never find love again, etc.– that this reflects the agenda of the abuser. Whatever confusing thing you’re doing or feeling, it’s what they want you to do and feel and have been training you into from the beginning. Since many domestic abusers tend to mask their own dependency on victims (big long explanation of abuser psychology and shame over attachment to others borne in abusive childhoods, etc., etc.), they may not come out and say ‘quit your job, ditch your friends, stay where you are, give up your favorite things, view yourself as an unlovable drudge who’ll never attract another partner and focus all your attention on me 24/7’, this can be confusing for survivors who are still captive… An abuser who masks their dependency on victims relies on having weighed the victim down so that, when the abuser pushes the victim away, the victim just bounces back up in place. That way they get to ‘push’– to say, in effect, ‘I don’t need you!’ (cheating is one way in which abusers attempt to ‘dilute’ dependence and convince themselves they don’t need their primary partners) while also ensuring that you’re not going anywhere. In reflecting on past abuse and how one came to be hesitant and paralyzed in an unacceptable relationship, think back for signs of the ‘Bobo’ effect. How did they insinuate and hint that there might be ugly consequences if you leave while simultaneously seeming to do whatever it took to chase you away?” MY LIFE.
“FW constantly and excessively dramatized even the tiniest inconvenience as though it were life threatening.” YES. He “would rhapsodize the excuse that he was so stressed from trying to keep the family from drowning” – my ex used those same words constantly. “For each self-message that his life was hard and I was kind of/sort of the cause, it was as if FW dropped a little token into a blame bag until he “earned” enough tokens to cash them in on an epic betrayal and to do so with little remorse because– tada– he was the world’s biggest victim and was entitled.” YUP. He had NO guilt about the affair because I had apparently done enough “bad” things that he felt justified in it. My ex was also the alcoholic who got worse and worse after the affair started. He’d blame being drunk whenever he was violent, promise to stop and reform, apologize. And then do it all again.
“He believed his own bull. It made him look very authentic and sincere while in the middle of spewing bald-faced lies. And therein lay the added threat: his total commitment to his narrative would also potentially be spellbinding to other people and bystanders… like the judge in dependency court or family or friends or people I depended on to educate my children or my career network, etc. In effect his faux innocent act held the message that he could, if he felt like it, potentially take my kids, destroy me socially and professionally”. I was absolutely terrified about this. Fortunately, at least for me, the custody evaluator saw through him, and believed my reports of abuse.
“I think this is why FW went the extra mile to play on what he knew to be my worst ever fear– loss of my children.” The straw that broke the camel’s back for me and finally got me ready to actually file for divorce was when he prevented me from speaking to my child on the phone, started taking his anger with me out on our kid by refusing to talk to him (7 years old), and then finally when he threatened to take custody by lying to the courts that I was a child abuser. After that I was done.
If you don’t mind, I’m going to save this for myself because it explains what happened to me so well.
I moved out, filed, and said I’m done multiple times only to take it back later because I do not feel ready to be done yet. I think the most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. This shit is not easy! *virtual hugs*