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Debunking Why Happy People Cheat

I’m sure you’re all curious “Why Happy People Cheat.”

There are about a bazillion Why Happy People Cheat articles on the interwebs, from the Atlantic Monthly to Psychology Today to Esther Perel videos (avert your eyes lest you turn into a pillar of salt).

Either editors aren’t original or cheaters are just really, really that happy.

Let me suggest some other titles.

Why Happy People Burn Churches

Why Happy People Trade Kiddie Porn

Why Happy People Swipe Amazon Packages

Why Happy People Drown Kittens

Why Happy People Embezzle Pension Funds

Why Happy People Don’t Use Turn Signals

Why Happy People Hate Gluten

Why Happy People Get Handsy with The Interns

Why Happy People Poison Pensioners

Why Happy People Don’t Pick Up Their Dog Poop

Is this coming into focus?

If you do something unethical (cheat), your feelings about it (happy!) are completely irrelevant.

“Why Happy People Cheat” is a mindfuck.

Why is it a mindfuck?

1. ) It creates a false equivalency. That the harm done is equal to or less than the perpetrator’s feelings about it.

2.) It solidifies entitlement. That we should CARE about the unethical actor and his or her feelings about their unethical behavior.

Did I feel up an 18-year-old intern in the xerox room? Hey, her boobs made me really happy! And I haven’t touched young tits in a long time. God, the joy it brings me.

Traumatized intern who will trigger at Xerox machines for years to come? Whatevs. Bossman was HAPPY.

3.) It creates a corrosive narrative that hurting people is A-Okay if it brings joy. People are to be used, disposed of, the important thing here is my HAPPINESS.

4.) It confuses what the hurt is about. Well, you’re just hurt because I’m happy and you are not. NO. The Chump is unhappy because they were deceived, swindled, gaslighted, denied opportunities based on a false narrative. Those are tangibles that go beyond “hurt” feelings.

No, no Tracy. You are completely misreading this. They’re saying hey Chump, you didn’t make them cheat! I’m sure you were totally splendid (some room for improvement of course, work on the bitterness, but not a complete waste). It wasn’t unhappiness that drove them to randos, it was a quest for aliveness! Has nothing to do with you! Can’t you see they’re just nomads of desire in pursuit of Happiness?

5.) See items 1 through 4. The Pursuit of Happiness (or riches, or votes, or the packages left on your front step) does not trump ethics.

And if you think it does? I don’t want to live in your dystopian world.

Moreover, I think what Happy Cheater mindfuck purveyors are saying is they like the power. Should someone steal their money, dog, or Amazon package? They’d be pissed. But that never happens as they’ve created an entire propaganda machine to justify their entitlement and obfuscate the concerns of those they harmed.

Happy Cheater?

Unhappy Consequences. That’s the clickbait I want.


This one ran previously and has been tweaked. I’ve lost count of the “happy people cheat” articles since then.

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 never understood why Cheaters always seem to make their Chumps in some way responsible for their happiness and then use their apparent lack of happiness to justify their actions.

    I also never understood why it was acceptable to the Cheater for the Cheater’s happiness to come at a (usually excessive) cost to the Chump and their children (if there are any); usually by way of unilateral decisions taken by the Cheater and with no recourse for the Chump.

    There is much that I don’t understand about Cheater logic … but in a way I should probably be glad about that.


    • “I also never understood why it was acceptable to the Cheater for the Cheater’s happiness to come at a (usually excessive) cost to the Chump and their children (if there are any)”

      And outsiders can view this as proof of just how unhappy the cheater was in their previous circumstances and how much joy the affair brought them. The stakes were just so high so there must have been a good reason.

      • Limbo – I’ve had this thought many times, about others rationalizing that there must have been a good reason for Cheater to cheat bc the stakes were so high. It’s maddening. In my case, I was married to a Good Guy Cheater. Sent shockwaves through our community when it was discovered he had been fucking a family “friend” (no worries – everything’s back to normal for him, her and everyone else 🙄). So I’ve regularly had a similar thought – that people are rationalizing IT MUST HAVE BEEN JUNIPER – bc STBX was such a damn likeable guy. Like, there’s no way he would have ever cheated with Juniper’s friend, unless Juniper drove him to it. Yeah. Maddening.

        • It’s unfortunate that people would think it reflects more on the chump or the dyad of chump plus cheater than just the cheater alone. That’s why having chump advocates like CL trying to change the narrative is so important.

          One of my good friends thought FW was awful and abusive for cheating on me but also contemplated that maybe he had found someone better suited for him. She still believes that today but in a very unflattering way.

          • “maybe he had found someone better suited for him”

            My ex DID find someone better suited – she was just as gross, shallow, selfish, and unethical as he was. A match made in hell. It hurt really badly (and I lost a TON of friends who thought it was wonderful that he was finally “happy”), but I got to the point where I decided OW was welcome to him. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with someone like that. Once I finally accepted what he really was, I didn’t want anything to do with him anymore.

            But it does suck when our friends side with our abusers.

        • It is maddening. I was also married to a Good Guy Cheater. What did Brit do for him to leave? I wondered why he was spending more time cutting with our neighbors. He had been miserable and being the Chump I am I thought being social with our neighbors would cheer him up.

          I found out later he was confiding in who ever would listen that Brit was never happy, he couldn’t make Brit happy, poor guy didn’t know how much more he could take. Being. the great guy he is, he’s been seriously concerned for Brit’s mental well being. He was so concerned for my mental health he cheated…
          He told everyone leaving me was the best decision he ever made in his life and he has never been happier in his life.
          I don’t think they’re ever truly happy or ever will be.

          • “I found out later he was confiding in who ever would listen”

            I don’t have confirmation, but I’m pretty sure my ex said all those same things about me to whomever would listen to him. Not one “friend” of ours ever asked for my side of the story, or even checked on me to see if I was okay. They all welcomed OW with open arms, and started excluding me from social events. I’d known some of these people well over a decade, worked with them, had them to my home, etc. FW said a lot of these things to the courts, so I have no doubt he’d been grooming our friend group for a long time that I was the one with “issues” and he tried but just couldn’t anymore.

            I agree – I don’t think they can ever be happy. FW was just as miserable with OW as he had been with me, if not more so. Wherever you go, there you are. A new person doesn’t fix your issues.

    • And if they are happy cheaters, it might be expected that they would want willingly and readily to give a fair settlement to the chump and the children. But they don’t!

      • MW,

        Funny old thing that!

        Ex-Mrs LFTT denied having an affair, but stated that leaving the kids and I was her last chance of happiness and who was I to deny her that? Plot spoiler; rather than being reasonable, she demanded a settlement well in excess of what a Court in the UK would have granted her had the kids gone with her rather than staying with me. It cost me a fortune – although money well spent – to take her to Court so that a Judge could explain what “reasonable” looked like.

        I can only imagine that her current lack of happiness is because she didn’t get the settlement she was demanding, rather than it being that she is slowly working out that her AP is an alcoholic POS who, while happy to help her burn through the divorce settlement, has no long term prospects of his own.


        • LFTT, I had to fight tooth and nail and survived only by giving up my dream of working part time (I was 59 when I was dumped – affair also denied). I went back to work 6 days a week. I bought FW (6 years younger than me) who insisted he was ‘single’ out of the house. I have a huge mortgage in consequence, but it was worth it. The ex will always be miserable. My default setting is happy and he hasn’t been able to take that away from me.

    • I remember the texts when it was all an early mess, “why can’t everyone except that I’m happy “. Yes. he wrote except, or maybe she did, who cares.

    • Well, I can at least see one possibility as to why cheaters blame their victims. It’s another great dupe, that gives them a cheater high. Sure, you caught me doing a bad thing, but hey! It was actually your fault. It’s you who was ultimately responsible for my unethical behavior.

      Yeah. Fuck that.🤬

  • I’m with the band Little Big Town on this one. Their song “Happy People” is part of my WalkawayWoman Shit playlist (which I almost wore out in the couple of years after I dumped the Lying Cheating Loser).
    “Happy people don’t cheat,
    happy people don’t lie…”

    I haven’t read any “why happy people cheat” clickbait articles, because I ran out of brain bleach last week. But I think cheaters always take a too-narrow view of happy/unhappy. To a cheater, happiness = an abundance of kibbles. And we all know a chump can pretzelize themselves to keep their cheater happy (read: keep them in kibbles) and they will STILL cheat.

    I experience happiness more as a state of quiet contentment. When my choices are aligned with my values, and there’s a balance of give and take, of energy out and energy in. When I’m in control of myself.

    Cheaters are never truly happy, I think.

      • Paralyzed, if you are feeling stuck, focusing on the last comment by walkawaywoman may help get to contentment: “When my choices are aligned with my values, and there’s a balance of give and take, of energy out and energy in. When I’m in control of myself.” Are your choices (staying after Dday, subjecting yourself and your children, if any, to high risk of financial/emotional/physical (std) abuse aligned with your values? Are you experiencing the balance of reciprocity with your partner? Are you in control of your life? If the answers are no, then there’s really no other viable option but to leave and divorce. That was my conclusion, anyhow. The way XH really was (no hopieum) was not compatible with my values. I trusted he sucked. It was excruciatingly hard to leave— 26 years of sunk costs, 4 kids, threat of economic ruin, loss of housing, six figure divorce fees, loneliness….. etc etc etc…. But the answers to the questions above were still and always would be “no” if I stayed with XH and didn’t leave. Fast forward 5.5 years since divorce (8 since Dday) and I have no regrets about leaving and divorcing. XH continued to devolve, cheats on AP and his Bumble “girlfriends” (ahem, victims) lies 24/7 with no compunction….

    • I agree with this 100%. Contentment was anathema to my ex. He was always chasing the next thing, thinking THAT would finally make him happy. When it didn’t, he moved on to something else and/or blamed everyone but himself for his misery. He was never happy. I tried to tell him that even achieving all his dreams wouldn’t make him happy if he didn’t learn to be happy NOW, with what he had. If I dared to be content, he called it complacency or being lazy or lacking ambition.

  • Headlines nowadays are designed to make us click and categorically NOT designed to represent story content well.

    The real headline for such a story would be more like “Why Do People Who Cheat Pretend They’re Happy Being Monogamous?” or “Why Don’t People Who Cheat Just Be Honest And Polyamorous Instead?”

    No sexy, salacious clickbait in that, no.

    • Amiisfree — that could be a Friday challenge – truthful headlines.

      “Spoiler Alert: Cheaters Cheat Because They Lack Empathy and Are Selfish”

      “Cheating Has Nothing to Do With a Chump —- Cheaters Are Fucked Up”

      “Cheating is Abuse”

  • “The Pursuit of Happiness (or riches, or votes, or the packages left on your front step) does not trump ethics.”

    Wow. This is such a simple statement and yet it alluded me as I dealt with the fallout from my D-Day. Especially since we live in a society that seems to emphasize personal happiness above All Else.

    I knew what my cheater did was wrong. I knew it hurt several people. When my cheater would stomp his feet (literally) and cry, “I deserve to be happy!” I never really had a response to that other than it hurts people and you should have divorced me.

    Now I will look back on that memory and think about the number of times I’ve thought certain things would make me happy but I didn’t act upon them because it would break my morality code. More money would make me happy; I didn’t rob a bank or con people!

  • The idiot I was with gave various contorted, childlike reasons for what he did over the years (steal office supplies and equipment, pee in public, feel up bar patrons, take restaurant tips off tables, lie about a myriad of things, phony his resume, hack into his boss’ computer, look at porn, drink too much, insult me, and of course cheat with whomever was available.) I asked often if he was unhappy, because my reasoning was that must be the case if you’re doing bad shit. At first were many excuses, childlike at best, as I mentioned before. In a therapy session I prepped the therapist that I was going to ask him a tough question that he would most likely rage about—why did you do these things, and why cheat on me while I was having a very difficult miscarriage and health issues, when I really needed you? Answer: “I wanted to do those things and they made me FEEL GOOD.”

    No mere human, wife, friend, boss, police, child, or rules or religion or ethics, will stop these sociopathic feeders from whatever it is they want to do. Feeling good is all the motivation they need. I find this endlessly scary and frightening.

  • My cheater ex often said when we were poor struggling students that she deserved X or Y because of all the hardships she put up with. Then 15-20 years later, when we both had successful businesses and more money than we ever dreamed of, she said she deserved X or X because, hey, what was the point of success if it didn’t allow you to indulge your heart’s desire?

    The takeaway was: she felt she deserved *whatever* she wanted *whenever* she wanted it. (Spoiler alert: “felt she deserved it” is another way of saying Entitlement). And the reasons she gave for taking what she wanted were flexible and meaningless. The desire justified the explanation. True with cars and clothes, but also affair partners.

  • I suppose that I was lucky in that the ex did not hesitate to tell me how unhappy he had been for a ‘very, very long time’. The ‘very, very long time’ was later defined as ‘10 years’. I do appreciate a round number and an attempt at being precise. My awfulness forced him to cheat with his exgf after 26 years with me. He never mentioned his profound unhappiness to me, although he did stop having sex with me because, I guess, I was so icky. He was useless in bed and at one level I didn’t really care. That was a red flag which I tried to discuss but he always looked sad and changed the subject. He didn’t mind spending my money or having my company at pleasurable activities, including his work events. Once I retired to start a portfolio career after being a law firm partner and then a CEO, my awfulness increased, and I was dumped less than 18 months later. The ex looked like a happy person, therefore he was a happy cheater, but he was in fact a happy cheater who was also an unhappy husband. Any way round it’s turned, he was and is a stupid FW.

    • “I suppose that I was lucky in that the ex did not hesitate to tell me how unhappy he had been for a ‘very, very long time’. ”

      Same here, but he didn’t tell me until the day he left. the kicker is though as you stated, they don’t tell you until after the fact. When the jig is up and someone has to be the fall guy, certainly won’t be them.

      I have no doubt my ex for quite a few years was deliriously happy. He had a clueless chump working her ass of to push his big ass up the ladder in the community and in politics. And, (here is the real thrill) he had a whore on the side who was willing to keep her mouth shut, I suspect mainly because she knew the money spigot would be turned off if it got out before he attained his goal.

      But to CLs point no he was likely never happy with himself, even his sister said that. I think he was constantly on the look out for the next big thrill to bring him that elusive happiness that other normal folks seemed to have. I was happy because I was giving a lot of my time and energy to help the man I loved, and who I thought loved me. I thought he loved me because that was the image he was portraying I assume to keep me in line.

    • Might Warrior

      What you write sounds rather familiar to me. When my ex dumped me he said, “you have no give left” which I interpreted as he realised he had sucked me dry of any goodwill and I my utility was therefore exhausted. He also withdrew sexual favours like your ex very early in the relationship. Like you I found it difficult to advocate for a resumption of sex because he was also useless in bed… I didn’t see the dead bedroom as a Red Flag (stupidly) but thought he was a very very dedicated onanist.

      He initially admitted that the failure of our marriage was all his fault, but then presumably as he explained the reasons of its failure to other people, the blame was allotted to me and the story morphed into amongst other failures my “inability to compromise”. I am the queen of compromise as l lived in a sexless marriage for twenty years with a compulsive liar, alcoholic and cheater (I found out he had cheated just before he left). He said this with a straight face!

      • Were you married to my STBX? Good Lord. These losers are all alike. And unfortunately we chumps tend to have a lot of very fine, but very exploitable, traits in common – trusting, generous, hard-working, willing to compromise (and really put up with much more than we should). Learning all this about cheaters and chumps — the incredible commonalities — has really helped me a lot. The collective wisdom of Chump Nation is just invaluable.

    • Wow, mighty warrior… remove one detail and I could have written this: I’m a law partner, married 25 years, after Dday XH screamed at me and the kids that he “had” to cheat because we made him “miserable” for 10 years! Our youngest was 10 and cried, “but daddy, that’s my whole life!” And that evil bastard responded, “I hated every minute of it!” I will NEVER forgive him for that. My teens became suicidal, one almost succeeded, and my youngest developed anxiety and panic attacks that caused her to feel like she couldn’t breathe. I wish I had kicked his ass to the curb on Dday without a word. Had a straightforward divorce. It would have spared our kids the trauma of the 18 weeks of hellish wreconciliation. I was not in my right mind— 26 years of abuse by a diagnosed narcissistic with BPD affected my ability to think and act rationally. “Fighting” for my marriage, unwittingly enlisting the kids in the pick me dance and marriage police is the biggest regret of my life. 😭😭😭. They’ve survived it, but I wish I’d been in a different frame of mind to protect them from that abuse.

      • He sounds like a monster. I am so sorry you and your children had to go through that. My heart breaks for all of you.

      • OMG, what an absolute monster. I hope you got your kids into therapy. The fallout from that sort of treatment from a parent can be quite serious (Abandonment Trauma).
        I’m glad you survived the hell, and I hope your xFW’s dick rots off.

      • Motherchumper – I’ve read this detail of your story before – your youngest child’s tearful reply to her father’s hateful words – and it messes me up every time. Maybe bc I have a child around the same age who has wept in my arms, trying to understand why her dad made the choices he did. So glad you’re free of that jackass, but so sorry for the hell you and your babies have endured.

      • My mother used to say that no one would be more dangerous than a two hundred pound two year old.

      • I am so sorry you and your children went through this. Give yourself some grace–you spent years in survival mode and it’s pretty hard to make rational decisions when your in the midst of complete irrationality. Thank god your kids have you and I hope you all continue on a path of healing.

    • I’m still trying to get my head around a similar move — sex largely went away for 10 years. I had to adjust to its removal from my life, and it really made me unhappy. But surprise! It wasn’t because she didn’t want sex, but because she wanted sex clubs, threesomes, polyamory, all sorts of sex that had nothing to with her husband’s boring take that intimacy has to do with, you know, love. Better to just skip that altogether. Of course, she just went after what she wanted in secret while signing me up for the monastery against my will.

      • Whilst good to know I’m not alone it makes me feel so sad that others, especially children, have had their hearts torn apart. There’s a special place in whatever hell we believe in for cheaters.

    • “He never mentioned his profound unhappiness to me, although he did stop having sex with me….” Same here, MW. I tried to discuss lack-of-sex w X as well but he always said everything was fine, that he simply had low libido. Twenty years of marriage at that point. He never once said anything about being unhappy.

  • As CL often says it comes down to character. Quality people don’t deceive their partners and children, they figure out a way to get their needs met without betrayal

    You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig

  • It’s crude downplaying, demoralizing, and desensitization of abuse. When the court appointed psychologist got involved in our years long custody battle he called me in for one “final” meeting. I was convinced that he was going to break the news to me that I had lost my kids to my abusive ex because that was the narrative that had been shoved down my throat by everyone (including lawyers and asshole therapist) if I “didn’t comply” and give my ex what he wanted. Instead, he sat me down and as I was trembling waiting to hear the results of his findings he instead talked to me about desensitization. If you aren’t familiar, here is the definition. Desensitization is a psychological process by which a response is repeatedly elicited in situations where the action tendency that arises out of the emotion proves to be irrelevant. In other words, you are fucking brainwashed to believe that another persons abuse is irrelevant so you continue to associate yourself with your abuser and other abusers similar to them. It promotes fucking Stockholm Syndrome!!!! And, what should piss everyone off in CN is it’s peddled everywhere. When the psychologist explained WTF was going on he went on to say that not only did want me to stay custodial parent but he insisted I call out and set boundaries around every abuser in my circle. That I should be enraged that they have used articles from the media to influence professional opinions that kept me stuck in 6 years of legal hell! I walked out of that office relieved and enraged that public opinions were used to continue the abuse….I also was relieved to learn that was an actual term for what the fuck was happening to me and a realization of who was toxic and who was safe. I’m free now of 4 yrs after lots of hard work on myself. But, for all you other chumps out there that may have a similar narrative you need to realize articles or opinions of others that peddle this shit is just another form of abuse.

  • Per Fraudster, his therapist told him to consider the damage a separation and divorce would have on me and our tween, so he calculated the damage and decided his potential happiness was worth the cost to us. He didn’t tell his therapist he wasn’t just thinking about an affair, he had already planned out his new life with his on-line AP.

    I haven’t read these articles and assumed cheaters’ narrative is that they were soooo unhappy with their partners, and that their unhappiness is what justifies cheating.

    If the articles or cheaters themselves are saying they were happy people BEFORE they cheated, then are they saying that greed (for kibbles, variety, whatever) justifies their cheating? Maybe they want to believe that happiness is a kind of moral or social high ground or achievement that entitles them to do what they want.

    Seems like more cheater justification that I don’t want to untangle.

    • “Maybe they want to believe that happiness is a kind of moral or social high ground or achievement that entitles them to do what they want.”
      I think that was exactly it in the case of my STBXFW. He would have feelings about other women and told me he “thought it meant something important” so he would act on his feelings. He also felt entitled to “relieve his stress” by getting lap dances and going to strip clubs and lying to me about it. He did these things for three decades behind my back. His “happiness” was more important to him than his wife and family. Now his 17 year old son no longer speaks to him and he is absolutely crushed. Guess those other women weren’t worth it after all!

  • During the early days while I was still a total mess, I made the mistake of sending x an article about how people who commit infidelity are often in happy marriages. Not sure what the hell I hoped to gain from that. I guess my devastated self wanted him to admit that he cheated not because he wasn’t happy with ME but because he felt entitled to a side dish. In so doing, I was putting him on a pedestal. “Just say you still like me. Your opinion of me really, really matters.”

    The entire article-sending exercise backfired on me. He wrote something back to me that stung. CL’s advice not to bother sending missives and articles stands.

    On D-Day, x said that he thought he’d be happier with the AP, adding, pathetically and hurtfully, “It’s young, untested love.” And “I think I’ll be happier with her.” He left a 35-year marriage for “untested love.”

    His happiness is paramount. If I ever mentioned anything about my own happiness, he would have a confused look on his face. It doesn’t compute. #empathychallenged #classiccheater

  • Ironically, I am happy that my ex was a miserable, angry sod the last few years of our marriage. It made it so much easier to decide to leave after DDay. It definitely reduced the mind fuckery for me.

    • Love this “flip the script” attitude. I’m stealing this and being happy my FW was an unhappy, frustrated, unemployed, angry man-child..😂 F. Him and the whore he rode in on.👏❤️

  • This whole why do some happy people cheat question is predicated on the idea that most people cheat because they are unhappy, usually because of something in their relationship with their spouse. Your feelings don’t make you cheat. I don’t have the quote handy, but the amazing Lundy Bancroft said something similar of abusers. Focusing on their emotions rather than actions is deleterious to improving themselves.

  • The clandestine power of control over their partner makes them quite happy. Unflattering characterization, but accurate.

    • I absolutely agree. I have no doubt my fw was on top of the world, until his house of cards began to crumble. He was having a full sexual relationship with at least two women. I remember clearly him walking around whistling and grinning. In hindsight I realize it was a Cheshire Cat grin, but oh he was happy.

      Add to that a recent promotion which was the result of years of work on his and my part (whore had no part in it, except for skimming money, and providing him illicit sex). She was biding her time, she knew that the moment he got her hired on as his direct report, she had seized control of their fuck fest.

  • I was laughing all day yesterday about The Seven Dollar Million Man. It just says so much about cheaters. I am sure he is filing appeals to avoid paying as I write this.

    I think cheaters are in the same category as shoplifters who have the money to pay for the things they steal. And all other criminals. Dishonesty manifests in myriad ways. Trigger + Behavior + Reward is the simple formula included in the neurology of “why”, as I understand it.

    Crime pays to a degree, or no one would ever engage in it. The Reward of being honest, the better feelings, the peace of mind, the true self-esteem, often involve delayed gratification, restraint, having to make choices and “do without”. My guess is that is why integrity is not as appealing to some. IMHO.

    Related, I think the experiment with the toddlers and the marshmallows is also analogous to cheaters. I don’t think we are born with emotional maturity, which is necessary to keep agreements when no one is looking. I think cheaters are developmentally stuck at the toddler level.

    Healthy people don’t cheat, and healthy people don’t screw around with people inicommitted relationships. That is where I stand on the subject. I don’t go near the “happy” fire swamp. There is no need.

    • “Healthy people don’t cheat, and healthy people don’t screw around with people in committed relationships. That is where I stand on the subject. I don’t go near the “happy” fire swamp.”

      I love this.

    • …..then there is the debate about what “happy” is. I define it differently than people who cheat on their partners and people who screw around with those in committed relationships.

      I have never had the desire to cheat or get involved with a man as a cheating accomplice. Both feel like bonehead moves to me. The point of a healthy relationship is trust and safety, security, intimacy. All of that is unavailable in an illicit relationship.

      Sex is not intimacy, and lying definitely prevents it. Illicit relationships are made out sex and lying and hurting people. Not a prescription for happiness as I understand it.

      Lots of people look “happiness” outside themselves in harmful substances and behavior. Someone I love to read (Charlotte Kasl) calls it “counterfeit pleasure”. The appeal of cocaine before I got into recovery (OCT 1985) was the “love” and “well-being” and “happiness” and “self-esteem” I felt when under the influence. All chemically induced and fake. I had to learn how to have the genuine experience. What I learned, and continue to learn, is that it comes from being clean and sober, getting outside help working through past trauma, practicing rigorous honesty, helping others, making amends, continuing to take personal inventory, learning how to handle situations, speak up, learn what boundaries are, honor mine and the boundaries of others, sit through feelings I was taught to deny, etc.

      If I chose, I could feel like shit in an instant in using a host of substances and harmful behaviors. Beyond that repertoire, lying, cheating, stealing, and hurting other people is the fastest way I know how to feel like shit.

      I was slow to learn to disregard the opinions of cheaters and secret sidepieces on jus about anything.

    • Just guessing that a lot of cheaters don’t do delayed gratification or self-control very well. Mine certainly didn’t.

      • Yep. After D-Day, x said to me (with that shit-eating grin), “I’m impulsive.” It was said in the spirit of “my bad.”
        He also confessed to “making a mistake.”

        It’s not a mistake to lie to your wife every day for nearly 3 years and to arrange countless trysts with your AP. It’s abuse and one of the worst kinds of betrayals.

        A mistake is, say, forgetting to buy milk.

        Ah, cheaters love to minimize and create false equivalences.

      • Very true, both VH and ILC. That’s why we see so many common behaviors here – not just cheating, but substance abuse, whether alcohol or drugs, overeating, under- or un-employment, laziness, extravagant spending on themselves and APs – the list goes on and on. Entitled people aren’t fans of self-control or delayed gratification, and the lower-key rewards those bring – boooooring – and look instead for the external validation and quick “fun” of cheating, booze or drugs, crowds of usually drunk acquaintances, expensive toys. And those things all come with both serious downsides and expiration dates.

    • Another great Velvet Hammer quote is this: “A person with a history of infidelity is a poor choice for a life partner, as is someone who screws around with people in committed relationships. This is also a consolation prize for the chump. The chump is the only player in the game who gets to achieve true peace of mind, which to me is the ultimate prize.”

      My X FW (a serial cheater/adulterer) and his AP/Wifetress (screws around with people in committed relationships) deserve each other. Their character and values align. I have no doubt that she believes he only cheated with her, because he puts on the show of being a godly Christian man, AKA a Jesus Cheater. Her prize is knowing deep down what he’s capable of doing behind his wife’s back! And his prize is knowing that she’s capable of the same! My prize is peace of mind. A peaceful house. So much less work as it was exhausting taking care of him, kids, large home, dog, my job, landscaping, everything related to all holidays and birthdays, meals, shopping, appointments, vacation planning and probably more. As we all know, FW’s can’t be bothered with helping, because they are so fxcking busy with their “work”, AKA doing shady things with their harem members when they are supposed to be working.

      Tuesday came when I finally realized my life was peaceful. It was back to how it was before the first time the FW “turned into a different person” way back in 1992, you know, when they are either cheating or looking to cheat. It took me awhile to realize I had been walking on eggshells since that time, because I always thought I had done something wrong, or I wasn’t doing enough, and that’s why he turned into a cold, mean boyfriend/future husband. My big mistake was not running away from the FW when he “turned into a different person”. That constant feeling of not being good enough or not doing enough is GONE FOR GOOD! I worked tirelessly for 22 years to be a great girlfriend turned wife and mom. And in the end, he had the nerve to say to my face, “You never took good care of me.” I wish I would have said back to him, “Name one thing I didn’t do to take good care of you.” He would have had nothing to say back to me. Period. I have secured peace. Working on love, hope and joy!!!

      • Credit where credit is due…

        “A man with a history of infidelity is a poor choice for a life partner” came from Shirley Glass, author of Just Friends, one of the 40K books on infidelity I bought during my Amazon Chump Phase when I was hopium-smoking and marinating in denial and pain.

        This was the ONE USEFUL SENTENCE in that entire pre-LACGAL mini-library, ironically and weirdly in the chapter To The Affair Partner.


        JFC on a cracker.

        I tweaked the original sentence in the interest of clarity and sanity.

        • Thank you, Velvet Hammer, for sharing all your wisdom from your counseling sessions and the books you’ve read. It means a lot to me and I’m sure many others. You bless everyone every day and I thank you so much for it.

          • What I learned for XXX.00 per hour and sitting in meetings I am happy to share. You get to keep it by giving it away, and most of the time what comes out of my mouth is what I needed to be reminded of.


      • Martha! Your comment resonates so much with me.

        “Her prize is knowing deep down what he’s capable of doing behind his wife’s back! And his prize is knowing that she’s capable of the same! My prize is peace of mind. A peaceful house.” AMEN to that!!

        May they enjoy a lifetime of looking over their shoulders. And may you enjoy peace.

        Btw, I too was accused of not taking care of him. Before we were married, I let him stay in my apartment after he injured himself playing hockey SO THAT I COULD TAKE CARE OF HIM. He called me at work because he was looking for eggs, and I didn’t have any. He said, “You never do anything for me.”

        And I married him…

      • Did he really give you, “the I turned into a different person” line. Shit, they are as unoriginal as they are shady.

        • No, he never said that. He really did turn into a different person! Like one day he was my nice and loving boyfriend/husband. The next day he’d be mean and cold. Jekyll and Hyde.

      • Amen! My ex said the same – I never did anything for him and I ruined his life and roadblocked his success. Apparently expecting him to hold a job was unreasonable. He found someone whose values aligned with his – selfish, immature, unethical, willing to screw around while married. OW won the “prize” of an abusive, angry man. I was brokenhearted for awhile, until I realized how miserable I’d been for years and what an absolute hell I had been living in. So I got the prize of freedom. “That constant feeling of not being good enough or not doing enough is GONE FOR GOOD!”

        I love my peaceful new home. And it was definitely less work once FW and I separated. I still do everything, but I don’t have to take care of him anymore, and he was a lot of work, emotional as well as physical. FW died a little over a year ago, and being a single mom is actually EASIER than “coparenting”. I don’t have to deal with him trying to fight me over everything or being criticized for everything I do. My kid is a lot less stressed too, without the constant back and forth between houses, or worrying about his very depressed and angry father. Our house is full of love and laughter. Peace and freedom are priceless.

    • He did appeal the trial court’s decision and lost. I read the appellate court’s decision (available online) and it is fascinating and an excellent analysis of postnup agreements.

  • My attorney was an old-school guy and treated me like a big brother in the office and on the phone. He had been married 40+ years, and his wife was the firm’s business manager. They are retired now. I told a friend of mine not long ago that I knew that I had the right one when I actually enjoyed seeing him despite all the mess and expense. He was a fighter with a tender heart toward his clients.

    Anyway, more than a few times he made comments about being “someone who owns up and shows up,” and that really stuck with me. I don’t know how you can possibly have a decent close relationship with anyone who isn’t willing to put it all on the table. You also have to accept ambiguity and imperfection as part of human relationships instead of blaming and perpetually looking for something better. That’s how families and societies are built.

    My adult daughter commented recently in another context that if you blow up your family, you can’t expect to be a part of it anymore without truly coming clean and years of rebuilding trust. I had to agree of course.

  • Yes I definitely went down the happiness rabbit hole. He told me he loved me, we had good sex at least 1 time a day, attentive to my needs in that way, took care of everything, brought me morning coffee, acted attentive. Because of his OCPD he is unable to be truly content and happy. You would never know because of his facade. It causes him to have a negative outlook and ruminate on things. When he was younger it was his dad who abandoned the family, then it was his commute, sometimes the kids, then the company takeover. I guess at some point it became ME! But I was too naive to realize it. I thought I was happy. Then DDay I realized that I wasnt happy for quite some time, but I dealt with it. Quite a revelation to me that my marriage was not what I thought it was. Quite a revelation that I was in the cycle of abuse. He never physically harmed me, but raging, breaking things occasionally. Then a long period of calm. Abusers dont abuse all the time. I never felt like a victim of domestic abuse. But looking at it now seems obvious. It took 30 years to realize he had OCPD then the phD psychologist for marriage counseling said NPD. It is truly messed up when you realize you are with a PD mentally ill spouse. It is an aha moment! Happiness is not a part of the equation because happiness is for normal people. Happiness is for us chumps. Cheaters will never know happiness, joy, contentment, love. They are unable to.

    • My ex was formally diagnosed with a tangle of NPD/BPD by our mutual, long-term therapist. She didn’t tell me until he made the separation long-distance and wanted the house sold, but I still was thinking somehow it would turn around. His attorney blabbed so much to mine that I had zero doubts when it was final. He tried to treat his pitbull attorney like he treated me, and that was a mess. Thankfully, the attorneys got it done though.

      Beat up but wiser, life is indeed better now.

  • I am still with my cheater. I’ve spent the past several months in hopium, spackling, and considered the marriage reconciliation complex. The cheater refuses to tell me how deep his affair went–all I know was that it lasted approximately 5 years and was long distance. When I asked for details, he replied “That was in the past and I wasn’t happy. That behavior was a symptom and the only way I could find happiness. I will only live in the present. If you want to go into the past then I have a whole list of resentments that I have about you, but I’m trying to move forward.” It feels like a control move; a “you shouldn’t be upset” move. He must be reading Esther Perel or some other horrible person. After that exchange, I’m back to anger and action. I so desperately want out of this marriage and am still only here because of financial issues

    • I hope you get out soon. There are lots of people here who can point you to resources, if you let us know what you need. If nothing else, this is a great support group to help you navigate the difficult emotions while you get your ducks in a row.

    • You are dealing with a form of PTSD. Mine was mad that I wasn’t over his 7 year affair within 2 months of disclosure. Dr. Minwalla talks , somewhat clinically, on the damage a Secret Sexual Basement does to a partner. This is not something you can just get over.

      Your FW wants to bring up his resentments of YOU if you dare to mention his past dick wandering?? What a complete ass. Your FW willingly exposed you to STDs that could have a lifetime impact. Mine blamed my not folding cereal boxes up neatly before putting them in the trash as full justification for his affair(s), rando hookups, and paid for prostitutes (who usually gave up on him after about a half hour of trying to get him off.) Oh, and I couldn’t do anal, not that I didn’t try.

      Do what you can to get your financial ducks in a row. Hide cash, $10 at a time, faster if you can. Other chumps have some really good suggestions, but that is a start.


    • Read some of the past articles on how to get out. Go stealth, get your ducks in a row, then walk. Read the book. We are here to help. Good luck! Set yourself free! Hugs!

    • I would like to add to the above great advice — stop engaging with your cheater. Don’t ask him anymore questions related to his cheating, his life, his whore, etc. Trust me, anything that comes out of his mouth will just add to your confusion. Look-up CL’s “blender” cartoon. “Talking to a cheater after discovery is like sticking your head in a blender.” Your brain has enough work to do already, so please don’t add more to it! (HUGS) to you! I hope you get out soon and lawyer up!

    • Oh, so he has a “list of resentments” he’s threatening to unleash unless you shut up and eat the shit sandwich. He’s a disgusting bully. Do whatever you have to do to get financially solvent enough to leave. Stop talking to that clown other than monosyllabic comments about practical matters. If he objects, feel free to remind him that he wanted you to keep quiet, but that you do have a much longer list of resentments (which are actually real instead of just lame excuses) if your silence does not suit his current wishes.

      Don’t sleep in the same bed with him and for goodness sake, do not have sex with him. He could claim this means you have forgiven his infidelity. Plus he could give you an STD.

    • Get as well informed as possible regarding finances. Cheaters think it’s all theirs. As we learn in Tracy’s book LACGAL, they can be lining up their ducks while you contemplate what to do. Consult a Family Law attorney to familiarize yourself with the rules in your state.

    • Good luck getting out Chumpbivalence. Your cheater sounds like a horrible person. Won’t answer your questions, minimizes what happened by saying it happened in the past, and speaks as if him finding happiness is the most important thing. (Nothing about your happiness). My X was the same. They talk like they are the hero of the story; “I don’t live in the past”, “I believe people can change”, “I’m entitled to be happy”.
      He said the same stuff to my adult children who have been no contact with him now for several years. My 23 year old son said it just took too much of an emotional toll to listen to his dad twisting the truth and manipulating the narrative to look like a good guy.
      You certainly are not alone in your experiences – keep reading and the time will be right for you to get out soon. (((Hugs)))

    • I understand ambivalence and staying because of financial issues. I wanted desperately to get out of the marriage, but was terrified because I was 62 and had no income. (After 46 years of working, I retired because he threatened to divorce me if I didn’t. He wanted to travel and said he would support me so I could travel with him.) As soon as I left my job, the abuse escalated. It still took me two years to leave. I couldn’t, ironically, leave because of the abuse; I could however leave because of the cheating. I’m still working on unraveling my own skein of fuckedupness.

      Anger and action will get you out of the mess and believe me, life is much more peaceful without the fuckwit in it.

    • And what are his resentments about you, pray tell? That you bought bagged salad instead of growing your own organic lettuce? (Look up the bagged salad post here on CN.)

      And wouldn’t you want to know? Don’t loving partners to want to know if their partner is upset so they can work things out?

      Even if he has some complaints, unless his complaint is that YOU had an affair, there’s no equivalent. Sounds like he didn’t mention these hidden complaints until you wanted to know the extent of how many STDs you were exposed to.

      Wishing you strength and indignation to help you get out.

      • The resentments are insane–we have 3 children–one has special needs and needs a lot of care and supervision. The biggest resentment: he said I am enmeshed with our disabled daughter and put her needs over his. Next resentment: My income dropped when I needed to change jobs to take care of our daughter. Other resentments: I never noticed when he was “suffering” (he never verbalized or advocated for his needs and quite honestly, I was exhausted from being the primary parent to 3 kids and working full time. He has a history of blaming for shit that I don’t even know I was doing wrong, and I have a history of apologizing for things I didn’t know I did. He is now doing group and individual therapy and has made a lot of positive changes. These things did draw me back in, but it doesn’t take much to fire up the feelings of trauma and betrayal that I feel. I’ve read the book and I do keep coming back to the question of: “was his behavior acceptable to me?” and the answer is always no. Nevertheless, I am finding it emotionally and financially very hard to get out.

        I am grateful for Chump Nation–and have read LACGAL, and re-read chapters. It helps to keep me grounded and focused on getting out

        • “The biggest resentment: he said I am enmeshed with our disabled daughter and put her needs over his. Next resentment: My income dropped when I needed to change jobs to take care of our daughter. Other resentments: I never noticed when he was “suffering” (he never verbalized or advocated for his needs and quite honestly, I was exhausted from being the primary parent to 3 kids and working full time. He has a history of blaming for shit that I don’t even know I was doing wrong, and I have a history of apologizing for things I didn’t know I did.”

          He sounds EXACTLY like my ex. If you can manage to get out, PLEASE do. My ex eventually escalated to physical violence. But honestly, the emotional wounds took far longer to heal. He absolutely crushed my self-esteem and verbally abused me to the point where I didn’t even know who *I* was anymore, since he required that he be the center of attention at all times. Our son is special needs as well, and FW hated that the baby took my attention away from him (even when our kid was a NEWBORN). FW blamed me for everything. He’d get angry and *I* would be the one to apologize for “making” him do awful things.

          If he’s getting therapy, good for him. That doesn’t mean you have to stay.

          I was in no way emotionally ready to leave, and it took several years to emotionally detach from him (I had the benefit of being kicked out so I didn’t have a choice). DISTANCE and no contact will free you emotionally. Financially is harder, but talk to a lawyer about support and options for you, such as temporary use and possession of your house, child support, alimony, etc. and look for any available resources to assist you in supporting your special needs child.

  • The underlying assumption is that only unhappily married people cheat, so it’s a paradox to these writers that happily married folks cheat too. The truth: people with personality disorders and character deficits cheat. End of story. It’s not about relative happiness. It’s about a lack of integrity. It’s either the victim’s fault or the institution of marriage’s fault – bc fault could never lie with the cheater.

    • “The truth: people with personality disorders and character deficits cheat. End of story. It’s not about relative happiness. It’s about a lack of integrity. It’s either the victim’s fault or the institution of marriage’s fault – bc fault could never lie with the cheater.”

  • What makes you happy? I can tell younger members of chump nation that the things and people I thought would make me happy when I was young did not do the trick. What makes me happy are very simple things like living a peaceful, free life. My life is so easy because I do not look to someone else to make me happy, or ownership of possessions to make me happy. I have obtainable goals. I don’t worry about what other people think about my music, or clothes, or car. I don’t discuss religion or politics with strangers. I don’t really give much of a flip about other people’s business.

    I don’t think my Ex’s were ever happy. They are dead now, so they can’t seethe about what others have that they don’t anymore. Rest in Whatever you have Earned by the way you Lived your Life. Best I can wish for those guys. Get what you deserve.

  • “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”
    A cheater will never be happy. The next best thing is always out on the horizon and they deserve to have it.
    They go through life bored, distracted, dissatisfied. It is always “never enough”, happiness will continually elude them for the very reason they pursue it as the ultimate goal.
    Takers search for the happy in life, givers search for the meaning. Meaning is a longer process, takers have no time for that. They don’t want anyone to tie them down by stress, worries, commitments, responsibilities, they see themselves as more worthy than that.
    Happiness to them is just always feeling good, at any cost to anyone at all, that deep entitlement is their life’s purpose.
    They will never know true intimacy.
    They will remain shallow and self absorbed and never appreciate the depth of a genuine loving bond, its value could never be greater to them than that next best thing out there.

    • “The next best thing is always out on the horizon and they deserve to have it.” yep.

      At our pre-marriage classes, my then fiancé told the group that he has trouble living in the moment because he’s always thinking of the next best thing. My 23-yo self thought he was profound and honest. Instead, he was foreshadowing cheater behavior. 🤦🏻‍♀️

      “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” –Maya Angelou

      • Gee, sounds familiar! Mine actually said he wasn’t sure he wanted monogamy and I said I did, so he said he was okay with that. Why didn’t I listen to that?

  • This is so true:

    “It creates a false equivalency. That the harm done is equal to or less than the perpetrator’s feelings about it.”

    I tried so hard to articulate this, back in the day. My FW kept saying they meant “nothing” to him and that he never loved anyone but me … it was just doubling-down on the insult! Once you trade “item A” for “item B” then you are saying that “item B” is of equal or greater value to you than “item A” was. Your defense isn’t supposed to be “but item B means absolutely nothing to me!!!” You traded away your marriage for something that meant nothing to you? Then WHY MAKE THAT TRADE, ASSHOLE?

    You know in the story about Jack and the Beanstalk, it started out when he took the family cow to market and traded it for a handful of beans? And his mother was furious with him?

    • Yes, the “Schmoopie meant nothing to me” thing is no less hurtful than the “Schmoopie is my twu wuv” thing. Both relflect devaluation of the chump.

      • Mine said “OW is a person of poor character” 🤣 Wow no shit sherlock. Apparently she also had dicky hips which was a black mark against her name.

    • When pressed about affair FW said it was just suppose to be no big deal, then AP wanted more. Next he says “I’m not willing to lose 1/2 of everything I’ve worked for my whole life for a piece is ass” WOW. Wish I could say that was the moment I said GTFO. It was a couple of months later, after the drug use became apparent.

  • Good show Tracy. Why happy people drown kittens. Exactly there’s just too many narcissistic people who end up in the advice industry. I read once that a favoured career for psychopaths is psychiatry / psychology.

  • “but do we really think millions of people are pathological?”

    Dear Winifred Von Nothingburger,

    I don’t know about we, but I know they are.

    This is little more than an appeal to popularity. Cheating is a popular and common pastime, so that proves cheating is not pathological behaviour? Slavery used to be both popular and common too, Winifred Whosit, you offensively dense individual.

    If you had the ability to collect and store relevant information, you would have noticed that unethical acts that people can get away with are popular, then suddenly less so when they are no longer permitted. Are you getting a clue, Winifred Whatsherhead? Or does that clue avoid entering your mind for fear of loneliness, as it would be wouldn’t have brother and sister clues to play with?

    Winifred Whatsit, you have so little understanding of how statistics work that you think 80% of people who are *at a talk about infidelity* is the same as 80% of people in the gen pop. It’s called a skewed sample, Winifred. 80% of people in the population at large have not cheated. Even if they had, it could certainly still be pathological in nature. Like slavery. Like war.

    Learn to think critically. Then learn to write. Perhaps then you can find a better venue than the silly website that is hosting your article.


    • Excuse the typos. Being exposed to the printed offal of people that stupid gets me flustered.

  • On my first DDay Cheater Ex said “I was increasingly unhappy in the marriage” so I pick-me danced my heart out for four long years. On my last DDay Cheater Ex started to say “I was increasingly unhappy in the ” and I cut him off. I did everything he asked me to do and more to make him happy and it wasn’t enough. I knew it would never be enough so I stopped dancing and told him to leave. Ten years later and almost 7 years divorced and you know who is happy? Me! Is he happy? No idea but I doubt it.

  • I think those articles are trying to say that a cheater can be perfectly happy in a marriage or relationship and still cheat, i.e., there’s nothing the chump did to cause it. But they still go on to miss the point, searching for some mysterious reason why it happens, when it’s obvious. Of course cheaters can be happy and still cheat. It’s called entitlement! More for me, but not for you. Secrets for me, but not for you. I’m better than you are, so I get to cheat if I want, but you don’t. Wife/husband appliance for me, but not for you. Etc. Etc. It always goes back to selfishness/narcissism/entitlement. Just plain ol’ bad character. There doesn’t have to be something “wrong” with the chump in the cheater’s eyes. The cheater isn’t necessarily unhappy with the chump. To the cheater, the chump is simply “less than” as a person than the cheater is, so the chump doesn’t deserve any respect.

  • After Best Regards exit-affaired me, some of our Switzerland friends told me, “But he says he’s so much happier now.” And I said, “I genuinely hope that’s not true, for his sake. Because anyone who feels happy after doing the kinds of things he’s done to me is a sociopath.”

  • I’m super confused by the happiness thing. My ex only ever seemed really happy when he was playing video games. I’m serious. He seemed kind of happy when we were on holiday and he was trying new things. It was fleeting. He seemed happy when he was playing Magic cards with his mates. He was in his late 40s. He seemed mildly happy when he was mixing cocktails, or cooking the perfect steak, or Xmas morning. It didn’t last, nothing quite lasted for him. I’m an annoying little miss sunshine type. Happy for a sunny day, happy for the wind in my hair. Happy to have a kiss and cuddle. Happy to look at art, take a drive to the beach. But my husband just didn’t ever seem too happy for very long, and only in front of the computer screen. After he left, I read an old journal of his where he wrote about not being able to feel anything. He actually said in the journal that he loved me but that he didn’t feel anything. It sent chills up and down my spine. It explained it all #psychopath

    • It sounds like he was “happy” when he was doing what he wanted to do.

      Very much like my fw, and I suspect many of them. I know for a fact, because I lived in that house that he was flying high while he was committing adultery. I remember one time, about a year before he left, I met him at the back door, and he picked me up and swung me around proclaiming “I love you” and was all randy. Pft… That wasn’t me exciting him. He was still on a pussy high.

      His own mother said, I don’t understand he was always whistling and seemed happy. Um yeah he was happy, he was boinking at least two women (likely more) and was at the top of his career, which the wife appliance dedicated her life to helping him achieve.

    • Same. FW’s happiness was all external, and never lasted. He’d be “happy” when he watched movies, or ate something he liked, or whatever. But even when he got/did things he really, really wanted, it wouldn’t make him happy for long. The lack was inside of him, and he didn’t do anything to try and fix that. OW was just one more external that he thought would finally fill the void, and when she didn’t, he started abusing her too, she left, and he blamed her for everything the same way he’d blamed me (except she was “the one” and he was broken hearted – they hadn’t been together long enough for him to find a replacement for her).

  • Nooooo! Say it ain’t so! The Good Men Project is regurgitating Perel?
    I liked them for their “nice guy vs. good man” concept and some other related articles.
    I can’t believe this


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