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How Do You Ask for a Divorce?

divorcegodDear Chump Lady,

What you think is the right way to ask for a divorce? Does there have to be a justifiable reason beyond just feeling incompatible? Is it okay to ask for a divorce if you feel yourself falling in love with someone else?

I often wonder how things might have been different for me emotionally had my ex just been upfront about his unhappiness in the marriage. We went through 2+ years of marriage therapy, but he lied throughout and the cheating was happening simultaneously without my knowledge.

At the time, I felt our marriage (or really any marriage) could be saved if we both were willing to put in the effort. In hindsight though, despite the cheating, I do see that we were incompatible in many respects and I contributed to the prolonging because of my strong belief that marriage should be fixable (other than mental illness, violence or substance abuse), was best for our three young children, and should be forever.

I often think that I would have been just have devastated had he just said he wanted to end the marriage ahead of the cheating given my prior beliefs. He did in fact say this a couple of times during his cheating, but then would take it back. The cheating gave me a reason to feel the end of the marriage wasn’t my fault, whereas I would have taken it as my fault had he left prior to the cheating. I do believe though that all the lying did prolong this process, deeply affect my sense of trust, and tested my sanity.

Despite this, now I feel neither one of us was “at fault” for the marriage ending as we were inherently incompatible and even if he hadn’t cheated, we should not have stayed together. I didn’t have the vision to think that I could be happier with someone else (or on my own) or that my children would be okay or even better. Now that I am on the other side, I think it would have been a terrible tragedy to have stayed in that marriage feeling lonely, misunderstood, and unappreciated. We both enjoy very different activities, we have different values, and we don’t share a common vision for our future.

What are your thoughts on what is the best way to exit a marriage when you discover that you may have made a mistake or no longer fit together? Society seems to continue to see divorce as a failure when in fact there are many benefits and the hope to find a more suitable partner when you are at a stage where you know yourself better.

Thank you,

Happy Again

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Dear Happy Again,

You raise an interesting issue. I think most chumps feel that we would have much rather our cheaters had given themselves an honest out than cheat on us. The issue gets muddled, however, with your question of who is at “fault” for a marriage ending. I think that creeps dangerously close to the blameshifting We All Brought Issues To the Marriage That Compelled the Cheater to Cheat narrative. Let’s untangle this.

There is a big difference between the upset of being romantically rejected and the upset of being chumped. Of course, both suck. And to be chumped is to be handed both shit sandwiches simultaneously — romantic rejection AND betrayal. Unfortunately, society conflates the two experiences into one experience and judges chumps for their grief.

Okay already! Get OVER IT. He chose someone else. It happens!

She doesn’t love you that way anymore. I guess you weren’t compatible. Stop hanging on! 

As if being chumped was an issue of sour grapes. Or we didn’t get asked to the prom. Like we lingered too long after the Loves Me timer went off, and it’s time to exit the stage already.

The grief and anger that comes from being chumped is about being deceived. It’s fury at the theft of our reality. At the humiliation and disrespect and endangerment. It’s horror at the wasted years and the sunk costs and the continued investment into what we thought was a secure, stable relationship. And chumps aren’t stupid to have assumed commitment — we were promised monogamy, either through marriage or mutual agreement.

Yes, it’s sad and terrible when a relationship ends. We grieve. But cheating is about NOT ending a relationship. To cheat is to eat cake — to perpetuate a situation of having BOTH the marriage and the fuckbuddy(s). Your husband let you go to marriage counseling for over two years, flailing about trying to find the cause of marital unhappiness and neglected to inform you of his cheating. TWO YEARS. He didn’t leave the marriage because it’s just so gosh darn hard to leave a marriage. He stuck around because of cake.

Anyone who is THAT miserable in a marriage can have an honest conversation, call a therapist, or call a divorce lawyer. He didn’t do those things — he cheated on you and feigned commitment — not just to you, but the fiction of “fixing” his marriage. Yes, you are fundamentally incompatible — he’s unethical and you aren’t.

What you think is the right way to ask for a divorce? Does there have to be a justifiable reason beyond just feeling incompatible?

Incompatible is such a useless term. Aren’t any two people incompatible at some level? I hate dry, ugly desert landscapes. My husband loves them. I love restaurants that serve locally sourced, artisanal root vegetables. He loves barbecue. When I wake up in the morning, I want to be left alone — at least until the coffee kicks in. My husband wakes up wanting to have intense philosophical discourses. Do we both want to smother the other with a pillow some days? Sure. But on the whole he’s awesome and I’m lucky to have him. I hope he feels the same — that my overall wonderfulness outweighs my more irritating qualities.

Most people set the bar for divorce pretty high — abuse, cheating, untreated mental illness, addiction. But think about it — those issues mean that your partner is not available for a relationship. Abusers don’t love you, they love power. Cheaters just love themselves (and purported fuckbuddies). Mental illness, if untreated, creates chaos. And addicts love substances. Bottles have no needs.

A penchant for artisanal root vegetables, on the other hand, is not a deal breaker. You can work around my beet love. If you want to divorce me because I like beets, okay. Then you’re probably pretty shallow. But I’d rather know this about you, because what if something really hard happens and you have no devotion to me? If you can’t handle BEETS for fuck’s sake, what about cancer? Please, leave already.

Happy Again — good people try and make relationships work. Wise people know if they have anything to work with. No one can hold up a relationship by themselves. I want to answer your question both ways — yes! divorce over any frivolous reason you want! and no! don’t divorce unless you have a damn good reason!

At the end of the day, if someone wants to divorce you? LET THEM. Anything else is the pick me dance, and I never want to love someone who doesn’t love me back ever again.

Is it okay to ask for a divorce if you feel yourself falling in love with someone else?

We don’t just “fall in love” with other people. You’re drinking the cheater Koolaid. To get to that point, you’ve made a thousand decisions to cross boundaries and “leave” your marriage. Attracted to other people? Sure. We aren’t dead. But in LOVE with a person? That’s intimacy. And if you have intimacy outside your marriage, then you’ve cheated, at least emotionally. But yes, ask for a divorce. The longer you eat cake, the worse of a cheater you are.

What are your thoughts on what is the best way to exit a marriage when you discover that you may have made a mistake or no longer fit together?

Exit honestly and with a fair or even generous settlement. (A nod to the fact that the break up was your idea.) If you don’t disrespect your partner with lies and infidelity, then I can believe in the conscious uncoupling that’s so in vogue these days. You can even stay friends in a superficial sort of way. (I mean, you just divorced me over root vegetables. If we’re not compatible for marriage, then why friendship? You didn’t cheat on me, but then again, neither did the kid who just bagged my groceries.)

Happy Again, the best way to exit — is to actually EXIT. Keeping the door open is cake. When you enter a new life, remember to shut the door behind you.

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This one ran previously.

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  • I mean I guess that you could argue that – in hindsight – Ex-Mrs LFTT and I were incompatible, what with me wanting a monogamous relationship with someone who didn’t lie to me and our children, steal from me and our children and manipulate me and our children, and where we both commit to making the marriage work, and her …… well, not so much. But I’m not buying that.

    And as regards the “how do you ask for a divorce?” question, I’m with CL; you do it with sensitivity, honesty and openness, and you offer a fair and generous settlement.

    I’d argue that the approach that you definitely shouldn’t take – but I’m guessing that there are others – is to deny having an affair and then say that we have to get a divorce because I lack the emotional maturity to make an open relationship – which she argued would be better for the children and would help maintain appearances – work …. and then double down by trashing our finances and demanding a settlement that would have bankrupted me. But that just my personal view.

    LFTT

    • Right. I should’ve added, if you’ve been chumped, you don’t need to *ask* for a divorce — just see a lawyer and do it. They didn’t ask your permission to cheat. But the OP here seemed to be wondering what the ethical way to leave a relationship is, if you aren’t feeling it any longer.

    • Yup! 12 years ago we had our fourth kiddo (lots of health issues), and were trying therapy. FW apparently suggested divorce one night at the dinner table and I didn’t react well. Ummmmmm honestly don’t even remember this, what with no sleep and four kids but whatever.
      Since I walked away crying, he decided he had to stay and started cheating soon after (believe him really) Like he felt he was doing me a favor by staying. He should have divorced me. For years he’s been passive aggressive, angry, bitter, collecting stds while TDY, blaming us, and drinking himself into a stupor.
      We were compatible when we married, but people do change.

      • ” FW apparently suggested divorce one night at the dinner table and I didn’t react well. Ummmmmm honestly don’t even remember this, what with no sleep and four kids but whatever.
        Since I walked away crying, he decided he had to stay and started cheating soon after…”

        I would bet good money the fucker never said it. The mind boggles that anyone would fail to remember such a thing, no matter how tired they were. As my late Queen said, “recollections may vary”.

        He was gaslighting you.😡 Hugs.xx

      • I think it’s typical for cheaters to either say they tried to communicate dissatisfaction (by, say, air writing it over a sleeping chump’s face? Scribbling it on a bar napkin and wiping their noses with it?) or that chumps “didn’t let” them communicate. But I think it’s because abusers– who are defined by lack of self-knowledge and self-reflection– simply can’t explain the shift from “love” to “unlove” or, better put, the semblance of love to the moment the mirage evaporates.

        I don’t think FW in my case “changed” over time so much as returned to factory setting after the “ideal guy costume” he wore for years at the beginning started getting too tight around the crotch and collar. In other words, he came that way. He’d always put up a pretty seamless front which only worked if no one got too close. I suspect people with certain personality disorders could make themselves appear compatible with geese or a bagel or Pol Pot because they’re pliant blobs who believe nothing very deeply and have no set character, just a lot of fragmented, projected faux selves wrapped around either a chaotic, infantile core of wounded, hysterical need or a burned out crater.

        I also suspect mirroring isn’t always consciously predatory but sometimes a “maladaptive” survival mechanism carried over from a traumatic childhood where cuddling up to dangerous adults for amnesty and parroting them– captor bonding/Stockholm syndrome in a nutshell– were necessary for safety (which is “adaptive”). Motivations for the behavior can shift over time from fear and a desperate need not to be rejected to seeking advantage and taking power over others (“maladaptive”) in the classic transition from child victim to adult perpetrator. It’s basically fossilized captor bonding.

        But captor bonding isn’t love– it’s actually a deep cover disguise for hate, a response to feeling endangered and under the control of another person. But that’s all abusers know. In their worlds, there are either victims or perps and nothing in between. I think the transition from mirroring out of fear to mirroring to control is predictable and built in in disordered individuals since, deep down and unconsciously, children hate their childhood abusers and captor bonding, as a hardwired survival strategy, is specifically geared to inspiring the captor’s mercy by burying and concealing hatred so deeply that none is visible even to the survivor themselves lest any hint of rebellion triggers the captor’s punitive rage. So I think it’s inevitable that former-victims-cum-adult-perps with fossilized patterns of captor bonding will continuously transition from groveling emulation of partners to eventual aggressive domination and hatred towards partners because intimate partners– merely because they have the theoretical power to reject and abandon the disordered person (regardless of whether the partner is callous or not)– had only ever represented proxies for the perpetrators’ adult abusers all along, the only model for intimacy they ever developed. Except for extreme cases of clinical sociopaths, most abusers approach intimate relationships fearfully and aiming to please. Many know that revealing this underlying neediness can be a turnoff and will mask it to appear more normal (called “masked dependency” in DV terminology) but that tendency to mirror/grovel belies a fundamental inability to trust which will eventually reveal aggression and hatred. In any event, as soon as the fear motive starts to fade– as it will when the partner is normal, safe and chumpy– aggression, resentment and rage emerge.

        In that light, affairs seem like just a case of these ciphers loosening their collars and unzipping their constrictive “normal pants” with other ciphers for an interlude. An affair partner who knows their target is married or otherwise committed is guaranteed to be a fellow cipher so being married/committed in itself is a great way to flush out the blobs. The sneakiness and shared enemy dynamic are the transient points of faux bonding since blobs don’t truly bond with anyone. They just mirror each other’s mirroring until their onion selves eventually unpeel completely. I was listening to a podcast by Dr. Ramala where she sort of humorously described relationships between narcissists and it sounded like those relationships tend to turn into the bistro scene from Being John Malkovich (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6Fuxkinhug). How do you continue to mirror a mirror or maintain being a copy of a copy?

        For another film analogy, I think these people are like Bruce Willis in Sixth Sense who doesn’t know he’s dead except narcissists don’t know they’re ciphers. They delude themselves they have actual selves. They’ll pursue chumps out of a subconscious need to have something solid to mirror until that gets too constrictive and then will ricochet from that to being with someone equally disordered they believe they can “be themselves” with until they run into evidence they never had a self to be to begin with. Rinse, repeat, Malkovich, Malkovich.

        • Your comments are always so insightful. I can see all of this in the FW I was married to, and his AP.

          And I”m laughing at “returned to factory settings”. So true. He did that with AP too. “Perfect” boyfriend for about 4 years, then back to being the abuser again (though I could see his covert abuse of AP all along; she could not and didn’t recognize it until it became overt).

          • While abuse of innocent people is more of a “biblical tragedy,” abuse of abusers is sort of “biblical irony.” It’s still not justifiable but it sort of fails to shock the conscience that much. For abuse enablers/APs, I can’t imagine how numbing and extra-humiliating it must be when their turn comes to eat the shit they once enthusiastically helped dish out. Another reason I’m glad I’m not them.

            I think there’s an aspect of ritualistic “reenacting” at play in cheating/abusing or playing side piece/abuse enabler– a thing where people compulsively reenact their own childhood traumas (sometimes on the very date of the original trauma which the individual might not consciously remember) but sometimes with victim/perp roles reversed. Researchers theorize that the behavior is intended (subconsciously) to try to master a situation that formerly destroyed the individual in the hopes of one day coming out on top and changing the original ending. So replaying events and playing the role of perp could suppositionally be an attempt to rewrite their own life histories by emerging as a powerful “victor” instead of the destroyed, helpless “loser” as they had been in the original trauma.

            Bear in mind that the above behavior is attributed to garden variety narcs as well a people convicted of domestic violence homicide and serial killers so it’s not a bid for amnesty for poor sad sausage abusers.

            • “For abuse enablers/APs, I can’t imagine how numbing and extra-humiliating it must be when their turn comes to eat the shit they once enthusiastically helped dish out. Another reason I’m glad I’m not them.” Yeah. AP had to eat humble pie and come to terms with the fact that she had been completely wrong about who the real victim was in my marriage (FW claimed I abused HIM). She sent me an apology (of sorts) and offered to be a witness in my divorce. I ignored both missives. I have no respect for someone who doesn’t believe victims until they themselves become a victim. She called me a liar, and joined forces with FW to abuse me and try and paint me as an unfit parent, etc. to the courts. She would scream at me, stalked me, a few times even pushing or shoving me. I’m glad she got her comeuppance, but I’m not sure she really learned empathy. She now paints herself on social media as an innocent victim and I am SO tempted to set the record straight (but haven’t). I feel sorry for her kids.

              “replaying events and playing the role of perp could suppositionally be an attempt to rewrite their own life histories by emerging as a powerful “victor” instead of the destroyed, helpless “loser” as they had been in the original trauma” – In my case, AP (claims she) was in an abusive marriage when FW met her. He was her “white knight” who rescued her from her awful husband. So maybe she was trying to be powerful, and maybe thought she and FW were both victims standing up for themselves. She certainly goaded FW into being even worse in the divorce than he might have been. But AP was an awful person. She used to tell stories about how she made her ex so mad he stormed out of a meeting (about the kids), and she would laugh. She badmouthed him to their kids. She also used to gloat about how much of his money she spent while he was overseas (in the military), and she made fun of his PTSD (he was on disability, and had physical problems because of his trauma, like not being allowed to drive due to having a fit once – I’m not sure you can “fake” that). She was so angry one time when she had to leave work to get her kids because her ex was in the hospital. She took pleasure in being self-righteous about it all. So I’m not sure she was the victim in her marriage either. Her ex certainly seemed a lot happier after she left him.

              Like you said – I’m glad I’m not her.

        • I agree that your comments and observations are really helpful HOAC, not only in my own life but in my work with DV clients. My brain is somewhat fried from the volume of stories I hear so I’m always grateful for someone else to do the deep thinking for me.

          I think a red flag is that the issue of control comes up early, but usually in the context of the would be perp feeling or behaving as if they are controlled by the target. As a young person, I didnt even think of relationships in terms of one person controlling another, but a disordered person does.

          My ex set the tone for this early, behaved like I was a controlling fishwife, stomping off like a little kid because I had an opinion on anything, but yet no one I have ever met has regarded me as anything other than an easy going person. Of course it was of strategic benefit for him because by the end of marriage he was doing SFA housework, childcare, and I’m pretty sure he did jackshit at work (in fact he admitted it) other than buy shares and take the office bike for a ride.

          So if your new partner is behaving as if you are controlling them, but the facts suggest otherwise, run for your life.

          • Like they say, every accusation by a narc is a confession. Ever notice how abusers weave strategies to disarm you of the ability to defend yourself right into their attacks? It’s like someone saying, “I hate people roll around on the ground and pour water on their heads” right before they set you on fire. It’s diabolical.

            I also used to work with survivors and pasted together most of what I think from reading and hearing survivor testimonies and reading the works of researchers like Canadian criminologist Donald Dutton, forensic social workers Anne Flitcraft and Evan Stark, psychotraumatologist Frank Ochberg, a bit of Gelles and Lenore Walker and recently Professor Jennifer Freyd. Actually deep research dives help offset burnout a bit because authors like this provide a lot of mind-blowing revelations that are energizing (to survivors as well. We had a buzzing online library) and apply even beyond intimate abuse.

            That’s probably why I’m always sharing the information like the DV data fairy– to democratize it because abusers and their MOs and tactics are the same no matter where they peddle their fuckery. For instance, I went on to work for an environmental health publication and the old newsman editor was impressed at how abuse analogies so seamlessly applied to toxic industrial cover up tactics. I actually found it terrifying how seamless the transition was and guessed early on that some of the watchdogs and scientific whistleblowers were going to find themselves being seriously harassed which is exactly what happened. It got so bad over the course of ten years. Speaking of flying monkeys, these companies keep armies of trolls, lawyers, academic mouth pieces, dirty journalists, etc. At this point I don’t know how anyone gets through life without trying to understand abuse dynamics, tactics and psychology because it taints everything and it seems like the key to maintaining sanity and any semblance of happiness is being able to recognize it.

            • I’ve read most of those books, The Batterer at your suggestion, but your application of those theories to this type of abuse is unique. Other than CL of course.
              I wonder how pissed FW must have been coming home to shelves full of books about DV, NPD, misogyny, etc after a hard day out being a knob. And I’m reading it not even realizing the biggest threat to me is sitting next to me (Freyd refers to this in Blind to Betrayal).
              On a positive note, my daughter is an avid reader of feminist literature etc, I can barely get into her room without tripping on all the books. And she is wise to people’s tricks.

        • Holy shit, HOAC! Your writing contains some deep insights. I had to read it carefully twice and would like to do so again. I’d like to know more about your background. Are these your theories? do you have a recommended reading list for further study?

          I saw myself in some of what you wrote— I was raised by two narcissist with BPD – alcoholics and was abused and neglected since birth physically, emotionally, sexually. I’ve done a lot of healing and study to gain insight into these issues but some of what you wrote was brand new to me. Wow!

      • My Cheater used divorce as a threat with every single fight. I would call him on some ghastly thing he said or did and he would say “then lets divorce” and I would cry and tell him “no, I dont want a divorce” and he was off the hook for whatever he did. I jumped for that bait a hundred times. He could do it over and over because he didnt value the marriage, it was a win-win for him.

        Then, during a time when I think he was in a Cheater Fuckfest (grad school) he had a buddy who was dealing with a lot of consequences and told my Cheater “never get divorced”. I thought the conversation went like “nurture your marriage and never get divorced” but I think it was closer to “fuck whoever you want but never get divorced”

  • “The grief and anger that comes from being chumped is about being deceived. It’s fury at the theft of our reality. At the humiliation and disrespect and endangerment. It’s horror at the wasted years and the sunk costs and the continued investment into what we thought was a secure, stable relationship.”

    As usual, CL has perfectly nailed it. It’s not so much the sex, (though of course that hurts horribly). it’s the fact the person one most loved and trusted was prepared to look you in the face and lie, and lie, and lie. There’s no going back from that.

    And the betrayal is compounded by the knowledge that your most intimate conversations, everything about you, has been told to another person, *without your knowledge*, and sneered at and sniggered over. Betrayal upon betrayal.

    Re the incompatability: again, CL nails it.

    What is more important than superficial compatability, is *shared values*. It really doesn’t matter if two people both like doing the same things in terms of compatability – you can get that from people who belong to the same hiking club or whatever. That doesn’t mean those people are good people, just that they like the same things you do.

    What matters is the shared values – that another person agrees with your view of the world and what is important, like telling the truth, being honest, an abhorrence of manipulation and using others. If you don’t have that, you really have nothing.

    • This exactly, Chumpnomore6. ‘Everything about you has been told to another person and has been sneered at and sniggered at’

      This was the worst for me, I felt violated, burgled and raped

      I did not give permission for my innermost thoughts and secrets to be shared with another, hostile person

      That person was disturbed and had a diagnosed obsessive, mental condition

      Not just my thoughts but deeply personal things about my family that I would never have shared with a stranger. They were violated too

      If he was unhappy, he was free to leave, not try to destroy and trash me in the process to justify his actions

      • I totally understand about the betrayed of your most personal stuff. My Ex shared my medical history with the OW and she posted publicly about it. Made fun of me and said some very mean hurtful things about me.
        She posted things about my kids too.
        Took me over 3 years for a divorce because he dragged his feet. I did play the pic me dance and regret that. I just wanted to put my family back together exspessily for my granddaughter that we adopted. We adopted her after raising her for 8 years and he wanted to give her the life she deserved and not be from a broken home. She was 11 when we adopted her. A week later he said he couldn’t do it anymore and went to the OW. He wanted a open relationship and I said no.
        Him picking the OW speaks volumes on his character after the crap she did to me and my family.
        It has taking me years of therapy and still go to therapy because of all the PTSD.
        All the lies, gaslighting and manipulation is what hurts the most and having no respect or love for our family.
        Thank God I made it to Tuesday.
        It does feel like you have been raped.

        • I read articles about adultery being soul rape- I think it was Divorce Minister. Really hit home. Your soul is abused and beaten when your partner cheats.

        • During the media frenzy when we all learned that Tiger Woods was a nasty cheater, I was reading the news and (as Cheater walked by my office) I said “Tiger committed biohazards rape on his wife” and Cheater looked aghast and said “he didnt rape his wife”. I said “yes he did, she consented to sex believing that he was monogamous but he wasn’t he was risking her life with any nasty thing he could have picked up from his OWs, he inflicted that danger on her without her consent, which is rape”. and he got a horrible look on his face.

          and I was too clueless to connect the dots as to why his reaction was so strong (facepalm)

      • Sharing your most intimate thoughts and experiences with someone takes a lot of courage. You trusted him to keep your confidences. You thought it would help him to understand you. Unfortunately, he was NOT trustworthy. You learned a valuable lesson about being in a relationship with a FW. They have no boundaries and are not capable of being trustworthy. They may put on a good show, but it is all an act, designed for them to get something they want from you. They are users. No wonder you feel violated. You were violated!!!

    • Absolutely true.

      Especially that “the betrayal is compounded by the knowledge that your most intimate conversations, everything about you, has been told to another person, *without your knowledge*, and sneered at and sniggered over. Betrayal upon betrayal.”

      It INFURIATED me when I found out (during an “apology” from FW) that some of my most personal, sensitive, difficult medical issues had been discussed with AP. Things I didn’t really talk about to ANYONE, let alone a COWORKER whom we had only known for a couple of months. And even worse, they were discussed in the context of how hard they were for FW to deal with (!) (i.e. my issues made sex painful, so poor widdle FW wasn’t getting laid EVERY DAY like he “needed to”), not in a compassionate way about what I was suffering. And AP was happy to step in as the willing c*nt to make his dick feel appreciated. I’m sure they talked about many other things about me in a less-than-flattering way, but this one hurt the most.

      There’s no going back from the lies. The lying was far harder to wrap my head around than the affair itself. The knowledge that I had been lied to so he could continue to use me, when I gave him a clear out if he wanted it. AP lied to me too, even though it would have benefitted her to tell me the truth (I would have filed for divorce and she could have had FW all to herself, without the pesky wife in the picture). The two of them seemed to enjoy torturing me. Blatantly lying while at the same time rubbing my face in their “friendship”. I literally felt like I was going insane. I was falling apart, getting sick, losing a huge amount of weight, crying all the time. And they saw that and they enjoyed it. Further “proof” that I was “unstable”. It’s sickening. Far more sickening than the sex.

      If a relationship/marriage isn’t working for you, you have an honest discussion with your partner. You do it without demeaning them, with respect, kindness, and compassion. You try to minimize pain and harm (generous settlement, as CL pointed out, if it’s your idea). Had FW just told me he wanted to be with someone else, I would have walked away. Yes, it would have hurt, but I would have known I had nothing to work with. I TOLD him that was what I would do if “something had happened” between him and “she’s just a friend”. I gave him an out, a clear path to being with her. He didn’t take it. Instead he told me nothing had happened, cried as he told me he loved me and then strung me along for YEARS while become more and more angry and abusive, leaving me struggling to figure out why he seemed to hate me so much and blaming myself when it had nothing to do with me at all. Like the OP, I was one of those people who believed in working through issues in your marriage. So I stayed, and it nearly killed me. But you can’t expect honesty, kindness, or respect from an cake-eating abuser. I would 100% walk if I had to do it over again, on my first suspicion of the affair.

      • So sorry you went through that. I can relate 100 percent.
        I feel like your telling my story. I went through the same horror and if I could do it again I would of walked the minute I found out but instead I believed the lies. He was a master of manipulation.

      • “Blatantly lying while at the same time rubbing my face in their “friendship”

        Oh yes. Fuckwit and Willard were constantly banging on about how they were “just friends”. I was told there was something wrong with me, I was just jealous because his *best friend* was a woman, my anger at all the inappropriate interactions and gifts was all wrong, rat faced whore was “your friend too”, blah, blah, de bloody blah. GAH. Pair of evil fuckers.

    • So true, CNM66. My FW even told his AP things I had told him about my sex life before I met him. 🤮

      Yes, shared interests aren’t important, but shared values are everything. Unfortunately for us, FWs will mirror our values in order to get us to commit. Who knew anybody would do such an awful thing? Now we know, and the world is a scarier place because of that knowledge.

    • There were four realizations that kind of buffered the pain of being backstabbed to the AP/twatwaffle: 1) all the criticism was exaggerated bs which was taken out of context if not entirely fabricated; 2) if those things represented the absolute worst way to spin the absolute worst of what I’d done, I’m pretty much a saint; and 3) all of it was, in reality, geared for grooming and dog-training the AP out of expressing any needs, agency or individuality by using the AP’s competitive hubris to get her to scramble to prove she was the opposite of whatever I was being described as; and 4) anyone with half a brain and healthy self esteem never would have gobbled up and thrilled to the attacks on me the way the AP did.

      I think it was even especially tailored to what FW sensed were dangerous aspects of the AP’s personality, particularly since the affair began in the workplace between people of unequal status– like the risk that, if she didn’t get what she wanted, she might go all #MeToo and play the victim of a harassing manager. Consequently I had to be portrayed as “obsessively vengeful” to train Schmoops away from that potentiality (FW’s worries over this were apparently well-founded since she’d previously threatened to do this this after being dumped by another married, middle aged douche in the same office). Never mind that the flimsy grounds for the portrayal of me as “obsessively vengeful” were, say, the time I’d attempted to report the physical abuse of my tiny, disabled son by school staff to the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights or the time before I met FW when I’d prosecuted a violent workplace stalker. Basically, if you added back in the deleted context, FW was training the AP to be the opposite of a person (me) who would… fight back against attempted rape and protect children?

      That’s why I think that, for abusers, trashing chumps, like trashing exes, is primarily about dog-training the next target. A brilliant friend fully explained the hubris trap before we were even in college and it left me pretty much immune to the tactic from then on. She said to pay attention to what men are trashing former girlfriends for because it’s usually about defensive, self-protective and reactive things women do when they feel unsafe. The point is that abusive people will try to manipulate you into being a pliant puddle who won’t bite back if bitten and it’s basically a warning that this one bites.

      Of course I figured out there are exceptions and not everyone with complaints about former relationships is disingenuous and manipulative. I learned that not just women but men can be genuinely abused by partners and may need to talk about it with others. But there’s such a huge difference in how and when innocent chumps describe past ordeals as opposed to when abusers play victim.

      Unfortunately when I met him, FW didn’t give away that particular red flag since he’d been in so few previous relationships and I was his first “real” relationship. But because I understood the “dog training” principle, when I found out he’d trashed me behind my back to the AP, I immediately registered that he was a typical manipulative douche and she was a hostile, misogynist dumbass who based self worth on feeling better than other women.

      • “all of it was, in reality, geared for grooming and dog-training the AP out of expressing any needs, agency or individuality by using the AP’s competitive hubris to get her to scramble to prove she was the opposite of whatever I was being described as” – ABSOLUTELY. So that when he told her “jump” she simply said “how high?”. His biggest complaint about me was that I didn’t “appreciate” him, and AP’s letters to him are pages and pages of praise for him. SO over the top and ridiculous. If someone wrote me letters like that, I would run the other way. But he just ate it up.

        It was really interesting watching FW and AP’s relationship develop (unfortunately, since they were both my coworkers, I had a front row seat). Especially when I started to see so many (so many) parallels and repetitions of my relationship with him. I really helped me see that he had done the same things to me, I just wasn’t able to see it then (and AP didn’t see it either). The subtle manipulation and control to turn her into exactly what HE wanted, so much so that she ended up unrecogizable as the person she had been when I met her. It also helped me realize she wasn’t anything special, she was just someone who was easy to manipulate and “train” as you say, and that what he and I had had wasn’t special either. All “our” things were simply his MO. AP became me, but me 10 years earlier (i.e. exactly what FW liked, when I was more naive and eager to please). He took her to all the same places, did all the same things with her (like kissing at stoplights, showing her all the same movies, going to the same concerts, suggesting the same books), and flattered her so she would return the favor.

    • I agree re values. The difficulty is:
      ~ do you really know who you are and what you stand for when you are, say, 20.
      ~ knowing what the other person stands for requires them to know what they stand for and then honestly represen themselves to you.
      ~ abusers weaponise values ~ they mirror your values, take them from you, tell you that you dont have those values but they do, and so on.

      Abusers teach you about values, but not in a healthy way.

  • The part of CLs response that hit the nail on the head for me: the lying and gaslighting that sets cheating apart from other contributors for divorce. I think most of us are gutted by the incredible feats of lying by these FWs. In my case, despite the usual mix of compatibilities and incompatibilities, I was being cheated of truth. Trust in any relationship requires truth.

  • This immediately made me think of what my therapist said (the therapist I got after DDay because I was a hot mess from trauma and anxiety attacks). She said “I’m willing to bet that if he hadn’t left you, that you would have been tired of dragging his dead weight all these years and would have divorced him after your son graduated high school.” It gave me pause. I was so bored in our marriage. FW (I later discovered) is a covert narcissist. And throughout our marriage he was a useless sack of shit. I did everything. I’d say he was the bread winner while I was the SAHM but he was fired from jobs every year or 2 and mostly out of work. I later learned he was borrowing money from my dad (not his of course) behind my back. I was really holding it all together with zero support from him. And it became very clear when life was EASIER without him in it.

    But a divorce? I don’t know if I would have or not. Maybe. But if he had told me he was unhappy and didn’t want to be together it would have sucked, sure… But then it becomes a DISCUSSION. It gives you both an opportunity to be adults. There would be tears. There would be confusion. But as adults you discuss and figure it out. You work out coparenting. You come up with a fair settlement. Real people do this! I know I’m capable of it. I’ve had break ups and they weren’t insane. The only major difference here is that FW is incapable of this. He can’t have a discussion about anything. He’s childlike (or really, a neanderthal) with his emotions and lacks empathy. So there’s no reason for me to wonder “what if?”

    Separately, how do you ask for a divorce as a chump? I didn’t ask. FW blindsided me by leaving me on DDay and moving in with his coworker and mocking me that he wouldn’t pay me a dime and I was stuck for a year waiting out separation. So I got a lawyer, PI and served him 2 weeks later with adultery right in his office with AP. Because… fuck him. (The same therapist applauded this lol)

    • You are so mighty to take no crap or pick me dance. Hopefully you got what you deserved and he got a surprise and kicked in the teeth.

      • I can tell you that I didn’t feel mighty at the time. I was a broken mess. I didn’t have the option to pick me dance. I discovered the affair and he left on the spot and moved in with her and was clear he wanted a divorce and loved her and no longer loved me. I was discarded like trash.

        I didn’t even plan to serve him in the office but I’m was pretending he wasn’t at AP’s so the only place I knew he’d be was at work… and I wasn’t wasting money searching for him to be served.

        I feared for me and my son… FW was mocking and creepy and threatening our security (financially and I felt unsafe). So I lawyered up and fought back. Best day of my life was getting divorced from that piece of shit.

        • Your comments resonated with me MichelleShocked. In particular, I was holding everything together. Fucktard was out most nights at “work” (as it turns out he was seeing his work colleague- her husband also worked there too), he was never home doing the humdrum work of supporting the family. When the kids were young and beyond, he said he had to be part of the work social scene and then of course he also had his exercise to attend to and his weekly bloke sport commitment to go to. I look back on those many years and know now that I was sad, lost and felt unloved and unsupported. I just knew not to ask to have my needs met because he would crucify me.

          Would I have asked for a divorce? No. I think that I was so committed to marriage and the idea of family that my needs would never have surpassed the family unit. I had asked for counselling at one point and he was so full of contempt; he said to me that I could do it but he wasn’t going to.

          The other thing that you said MichelleShocked was that you didn’t engage in the pick me dance. Neither did I and that was a very difficult part of my abandonment and rejection I had to work through. When he moved out he was full of contempt and hatred. It was bewildering to me and I had no chance to talk to him, to understand why in a meaningful way. I was just dumped with his gaslighting and hatred. Even now as I write this, the pain and isolation in being discarded washes over me with such distress. I didn’t do a pick me dance because it was a unilateral decision. It was quite frankly terrifying.

          18 months later, after his affair had failed, he tried to come home. By that time I just knew I couldn’t appear to accept such repugnant behaviour for the sake of my children. The trauma they had experienced was deep and all encompassing. To add, Fucktard had no intention of doing any work on himself.

    • Good for you! I wish I could have served FW at his job, with AP there. But his lawyer ended up accepting service on his behalf. FW actually jumped in front of me and filed first when he found out my attorney was preparing the petition. So I counter filed, on the grounds of adultery and cruelty. Without the cheating, though, I doubt I would have considered divorce an option. So in a way I’m grateful it happened, because it got me out of hell. FW was extremely abusive, particularly verbally, and had crushed my spirit pretty badly by the time the affair happened (of course he blamed the affair on my depression and distance, which his abuse had caused in the first place).

      “I was really holding it all together with zero support from him. And it became very clear when life was EASIER without him in it.” THIS. Life was SO MUCH easier without FW. I couldn’t believe how much stress disappeared from my life. I had so much more time, more money, and far less work (both physical and emotional).

      FW was also laid off/greatly had his hours reduce while he was “supporting” us while I stayed at home with our baby, and during the three months I couldn’t work during an illness several years later. But he resented being the breadwinner and he made me feel it EVERY DAY. I was called lazy, useless, good for nothing, a ball and chain around his ankle, a waste of space, a dead weight, you name it.

      It was a huge step in my healing when I realized that *I* had made our life good, or at least kept all the balls in the air and kept us from drowning. So I turned my focus toward making MY life good. I decided to look reality in the face, went through my bills and collections accounts, made a bunch of phone calls, and made a plan. I ended up becoming debt free in a year, and started putting money away. I sold our house, got my own place, and made a beautiful and peaceful home for myself and my son.

      FW told me I “brought nothing to the marriage”, was a financial drain dragging him down, and was a shitty housekeeper. But once I walked away, FW ended up broke, up to his ears in debt, and living in a pigsty. He moved in with AP and her two kids, so he had three kids under 8 in the house. That house ended up just as filthy as ours had become without me (I guess AP couldn’t keep things nice either). They apparently fought all the time and were anything but happy (despite what they put on social media). She left him shortly after they moved in together. He spiraled down rapidly and ended up taking his own life.

      Meanwhile I am looking at buying a little farm in the near future (knock on wood), with 5 figures in the bank and no debt besides my car, a really good job, and a happy, relaxed kid (he’d had TERRIBLE anxiety when he was being schlepped between two houses and having to deal with his narcissistic father, whose attention was more on AP than on our kid).

    • “So I got a lawyer, PI and served him 2 weeks later with adultery right in his office with AP. Because… fuck him”

      Oh brill. 😂👏👏😂

      I had to get fuckwit served because he refused to respond to anything sent him by my solicitor, and consistently denied the rat faced whore and he were having an affair. He was served on *Valentine’s Day* at his flat(😆) and the rat faced whore opened the door to the process server. The process server said he looked absolutely furious.😂

  • Marriage is for people that want it. Like exiting any situation where you don’t want to be, wanting to leave is enough of a reason.

    However, I didn’t have a marriage. I had a MIRAGE. I tell people that I was MIRAGED for a total of 24 years. I was married on a legal document only.

    I also despise the term “fall in love.” It’s not happenstance, like attraction. It’s the result of time and attention spent with another person, not like being struck by lightning while walking down the street minding your own business. It’s the result of watering a garden. Cheaters are watering the garden elsewhere. Of course the garden in their own yard dies. And in a committed relationship, both people need to be watering the garden.
    Did I feel attracted to other people over the course of 27 years? Yes. And what I did was stay away from that person and the attraction died. My beloved brilliant therapist said this would happen, and she said not to worry about it. A relationship is a commitment to not act on those attractions. Acting on attraction = watering the garden.

    (To be fair, it wasn’t hard to stay away from Jamie Fraser from Outlander.)

    I read this somewhere and saved it:

    “A friend and I were talking one day. He has been happily married to his high school sweetheart for over 20 years. He is a handsome, high-end, wedding photographer and sees rich beautiful brides and bridesmaids every weekend for the past 10 years. He travels all the time for his work. He has all the chances in the world to cheat and to trade “up”. I was young and naive and we were talking about marriage and commitment, I was asking him how you know if it’s the right one, and what if someone else better comes along, etc. He said “Someone better” will always come along. There will always be someone more beautiful, funnier, skinnier, or richer than your partner. But the point is to choose someone and love them for all that they are and not despise them for what they’re not. Marriage is a create, the two of you have to create your love every day, it never runs on automatic.”
    So, there will always be “someone better” that will come along, there are billions of people. The purpose of marriage is choosing ONE and loving THEM like you are supposed to. It’s a promise to SHUT THOSE OTHER OPTIONS DOWN. That’s why you make promises before God about “forsaking all others” and even sign a fucking contract.“

    People who cheat, and those who cheat with them, don’t think this way. Like all who are emotionally immature, they act on their feelings regardless of the impact on others and want to do whatever they want without interference or limits, and they ALWAYS justify their harmful behavior and lie. Like all criminals do.

    At the end of the day, I would have been more devastated had Traitor Ex actually been Mr. Nice Guy who left. That he is an abusive male is not in dispute, and that is what whoever hooks up with him gets. Cheating is a characteristic of someone untrustworthy. And I don’t think it’s wise to get involved with anyone who clearly shows you they are untrustworthy.

    There is no point in being married, or be in an exclusive relationship, with someone who does not want to honor the agreement.

    • Velvet 🔨, spot on. But I can’t stop giggling at “To be fair, it wasn’t hard to stay away from Jamie Fraser from Outlander.” Too good

    • Because we went to therapy (as relationship school) our entire relationship, and I participated sincerely and honestly with a positive constructive intent, I tend to think if he had done the same, neither divorce or cheating would have happened.

      When someone is intentionally sabotaging the relationship, of course the end is just a matter of time.

  • Wow – this is timely. I recently explained to a (male) friend why society should not expect an amicable divorce following cheating and found myself talking about the deceit, devaluing and re-writing of history. I asked him if he realized survivors of embezzlement or assault were allowed anger and hopefully offered emotional/legal support rather than open speculation about their role in their own trauma. He asked if I could ever trust another person and I told him my saddest discovery was how predictably crappy society is even if individuals are decent.

    I would have been heartbroken if FW had filed for divorce instead of having an affair. But he wasn’t capable of doing any honest emotional work on his own. That was the “third arrow” of chumpdom – leaving it to me to dismantle a 30 year marriage.

    • Great point, Almost Monday, about crime and punishment vs cheating and abuse. Many crime victims and litigants receive restitution and the offender receives time for the crime or punitive damages in recompense. Offenders may loose freedom in society; receive public notices published in media; a photograph while they take a perpetrator walk of shame; receive probation following a sentence; and still find consequences awaiting beyond all these.

      Meanwhile deception, outright lies, theft, premeditated shakedown of the marriage unknown to the spouse, dissipation of marital assets, diabolical scheming to defraud, and breaking of contract known as infidelity is seen as a casual and normal part of society with few repercussions muchless recompense.

      Part of the Chump anger is the injustice.

  • My ex and I were definitely incompatible and there were many reasons I was unhappy with him prior to finding out about his side whore. I see these as separate issues….one can be unhappy and not deal with it by cheating. I had way more chances then my ex’s old, shitty toupee wearing ass to cheat but I wouldn’t have felt good about myself.

    And now that I have a lovely bf I don’t have to either lie or admit I cheat like my ex.

    In hindsight I’m kind of glad I found the whore because otherwise I might still be there unhappy. My ex pretended to he a nice guy but in reality he was a conflict avoidant passive aggressive douchebag. I do think a lot of people struggle to force compatability….I know my parents did and it was miserable for us.

  • The ex fuckwit apparently enjoyed sharing my miscarriage tragedies and bleeding out stories with his fuck buddies, I later discovered. This was a very far cry from his first admitted I’m-just-not-happy-and-I-don’t-know-why sad sausage crap. I also wasted time in therapy. Poor him. Being dragged around watching his wife bleeding her guts out and almost dying from a ruptured fallopian tube caused by chlamydia. Yeah, we are incompatible. He’s a shitty human and I’m not.

  • I agree with Chump Lady 100%. Leaving a relationship honestly and having a conversation with your spouse is totally different than cheating. In my case and many others, the FW could have just had the honest conversation before getting involved with others. Heartbreaking? Yes but at least it would not have resulted in the countless lies and deceptions that come with affairs. The honest conversation allows both parties to be informed. Cheating (in general) is not consented to by one partner. In fact, keeping the partner in the dark about cheating is often part of the delight to cheaters.
    In this case, the cheater made a commitment to reconcile but did not keep it because he continued to cheat without the knowledge or consent of the partner. Sheer delight to the FW because he got kibbles, he got validation from the RIC, he was able to make the OP miserable by listing all her faults and how she was to blame for cheating and she was probably a solid gold pick me dancer at that time.
    The worst part of being a chump to me was finding out that I had been lied to and duped. I made decisions without facts. I had my power stripped from me and lost my agency. The cheater I was married to would have let this continue forever because he was getting kibble and thought he would never face consequences. After a brief time in the RIC, I decided that I was not to blame for his cheating. That was all on him through many countless decisions to risk my health and my future. After DDay #2, I felt I did not need to have an honest conversation with a FW (makes no sense to try to talk to a FW). I got my ducks in a row and filed for divorce. I owed him no explanation. He knew what he had done and continued to do. The only difference was that he began to face consequences. After almost 18 months of fighting for a divorce (hey, FWs HATE consequences) he finally had to cave and as a result FW had to give up more than what I was initially willing to settle for. He may have less now than he thought he would but he and Schmoopie can now skip into their new future (although I doubt it will last since they are not able to abuse a third party anymore so some of their thrill is gone).
    Over the course of these events, I find myself changing. I am more wary and less trusting than the chump I was. I have culled all Switzerland friends and now have a very small circle of people I know are safe and that I can trust. It is a different world but it feels safer and more secure.

    • Cheaters love to drag chumps to counselling. I can’t understand it

      My exFW dragged me when he was ‘unhappy’ but adamant there was no one else. I’ve no idea why

      He said he did it for our child but went there lying through his teeth and even said to me ‘I hope you’re not going to tell me you’re involved with some one else’

      Breathtaking. The counselling cost a bomb too

      It’s probably to say ‘look I tired everything but chump is just sooo impossible’. Followed by a sad sausage sigh 😔

        • Yep, I was in therapy for a LONG time with FW, first for an egregious misconduct on his part that I should have kicked him to the curb for instead (he posted photos of both of us on a hookup site soliciting 3somes without my consent and talked to and eventually sent naked photos and videos of me to strangers, along with my real first name and occupation, leading to me being stalked for months) and then for regular relationship maintenance after we reconciled and he quit drinking and seemingly had truly changed and was a model partner. Come to find out indeed he was carrying on an affair for minimum 6 months (probably more like years in an emotional fashion if not actually physical for a while) WHILE sitting in therapy with me weekly and never saying a word and allowing me to accept myself as the reason for non-ideal communication. Your post just lit a lightbulb for me with the notion that yeah, he probably was getting dupers delight that whole time getting one over on both me and the therapist!

    • “In this case, the cheater made a commitment to reconcile but did not keep it because he continued to cheat without the knowledge or consent of the partner.” Exactly what happened to me. I moved back home because he said he wanted to work on things, but he NEVER had any intention of making things work. He refused to cut off contact with AP (at the time he claimed it was “only” an emotional affair, LOL). I honestly think he was testing AP’s loyalty, rather than wanting anything to do with me. Or to see whether I would put up with him continuing to have a side piece. AP passed her “loyalty” test with flying colors and I called him on the continued affair, so he kicked me out again.

      “The worst part of being a chump to me was finding out that I had been lied to and duped. I made decisions without facts. I had my power stripped from me and lost my agency.” This was, indeed, the worst part. I was denied the opportunity to make an INFORMED decision about how I wanted to live my own life. Had I had the facts, I would have made very different choices. Once I had confirmation, I was done with him.

      • I think once you lose the trust, there is really no going back. FW lured me into the RIC and after going for about 6 weeks, I couldn’t see why I was to blame for his cheating. He was the one who created lie upon lie. They just agree to counseling to get the chump to feel worse about themselves and start dancing harder. The RIC and DDay#2 just showed me that there was really nothing to work with. So to me the whole marriage counseling is worthless with a cheater. They just SUCK!

        • FW agreed to do six weeks of counseling, and then refused to go back after the first session. The therapist didn’t take his side.

        • I had three DDs over the course of 20 years —and left after the third— because I told him I would leave if he ever cheated again—after I forgave the second DD —at the expense of my own sanity and self respect. It became readily apparent that this was a pattern of behavior.

          It was also clear at that point that the FW did not expect to have to deal with any negative consequences for his behavior. He felt he should get a clean slate every time he majorly screwed up. He thought that we would just ‘start over’ BECAUSE HES SORRY AND HAD A SADZ. Tbh, that was even reasonable because I HAD given him a free pass the first two times. I finally wised up.

          I was wrong about so many things but I had good reasons. Now my standards are 1000% higher.

    • Yes. The Switzerland friends…. I culled too. It feels good to not hear ” I just want the two of you to be happy” ( about Fucktard and his new partner gained by cheating and lying to me) or, ” you are so angry” ( said to me by a ” friend” regarding the abuse of being cheated on 2 months after finding about the deception). I decided the group we belonged to was not my vibe. They didn’t have the same values and beliefs I had so I guess the group won him in the divorce.

      I was very sad to let the women friendships go ( wives of the group) but at the end of the day I had to heal and it would never work with him popping up everywhere.

  • When I first married, I did it because of cultural expectations. I was “in love” and “in lust” and I thought that meant “time to get married.” I did not think about long term goals and values, or how we each wanted to live our lives. Marriage was a complex knot of expectations and desires, and I was not ready to evaluate the whole thing. I also thought I could fix problems as they came along, and that my partner would act the way I expected him to act in any given situation.

    Over the years, I found out how wrong I was about so many things. I don’t believe there is any “fix” for needing time and experience to make important life decisions. Even then, you can make the wrong decision. If my marital problems had only been about incompatibility, I don’t know what I would have done. But the lying and cheating were deal breakers for me.

    I do believe you have to choose love, and communicate honestly, and BOTH partners have to have compatible meta-goals. You don’t have to love golf as much as he does — love the time away from him while he is playing golf to do something you want to do that he does not enjoy. He does not have to like your family and friends as much as you do. He can endure them for limited amounts of time, BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU. Sometimes I really dislike members of my family, but I am still related to them. I had to learn how to distance myself without totally cutting off contact with the ones who made me feel stabby. Some of my friends are quirky. I can meet them for lunch, or an activity, and my partner does not have to be there. It is ok to have an individual life, even when you are married. I never believed marriage meant we were joined at the hip and had to be together 24/7. What I am talking about is tolerance and finding a way to make it work. Marriage is a lifetime of work and compromise, and fun, and comfort, and getting on each other’s nerves . . . But through all the highs and lows, you choose to stay together and make it work.

    It is only fair to note I am not married now, and really don’t expect to marry again. I have an entirely different set of expectations that would need to be discussed and agreed upon if I ever met anyone who was interested in seeing if we were compatible. Any “dating” process would involve a lot of time and patience. That is why I do not expect to marry. The men of my generation that I have met do not seem to think the way I do, and they have different expectations and goals. So far, that makes me incompatible for any thought of marriage. The thing is, I have learned to love and value myself, and accept myself for who I am. I do not wish to “mold” myself into an acceptable marriage package for someone else to be happy. I want to be happy. If someone compatible finds a path to mutual happiness for “us”, great. But I do not have to be part of a couple to be whole. That is the most important thing I have learned over the years.

    I would advise someone who is married but feeling incompatible to have an honest conversation with their partner. Find out if he is happy or has merely accepted his status. If you cannot communicate honestly and you do not share a vision for how to live your life — then I believe the marriage is over. I don’t know about conscious uncoupling, but it might exist. Don’t live an unhappy life if you are truly incompatible and cannot find a way to be mutually happy any longer. Divorce is survivable. You might even find a way to thrive, alone. I can assure you, that is possible.

    • I agree with this 100%; I could have written it myself – “It is only fair to note I am not married now, and really don’t expect to marry again. I have an entirely different set of expectations that would need to be discussed and agreed upon if I ever met anyone who was interested in seeing if we were compatible. Any “dating” process would involve a lot of time and patience. That is why I do not expect to marry. The men of my generation that I have met do not seem to think the way I do, and they have different expectations and goals. So far, that makes me incompatible for any thought of marriage. The thing is, I have learned to love and value myself, and accept myself for who I am. I do not wish to “mold” myself into an acceptable marriage package for someone else to be happy. I want to be happy. If someone compatible finds a path to mutual happiness for “us”, great. But I do not have to be part of a couple to be whole. That is the most important thing I have learned over the years.”

      Truth is, I’m perfectly content being single, and don’t care if I never have another relationship. I am not against it, but like you, I feel no desire to change for someone else’s happiness. I did that for 15 years and it’s not worth it.

  • Tracy, this should be tattooed on my forehead:

    “The grief and anger that comes from being chumped is about being deceived. It’s fury at the theft of our reality. At the humiliation and disrespect and endangerment. It’s horror at the wasted years and the sunk costs and the continued investment into what we thought was a secure, stable relationship.”

    Okay, I won’t tattoo my own forehead, but still …

  • My ex always seems to imply that our marriage didn’t work because we didn’t communicate. I think that if we had communicated we would have gotten divorced sooner. The problem wasn’t that we didn’t communicate, the problem was that he wanted me to be a completely different person than I am and as much as I loved him, I wasn’t willing to give up my soul for him, at least not for reasons that I found frivolous. So yeah, we were never compatible. I have to admit, Shmoopie is a much better fit if for all of the wrong reasons. They certainly bring out the worst in each other and they seem to be proud of it. He did do me a favor by leaving after DDay instead of reconciling. I am much happier now that I am no longer trying to please someone I just can’t please. I am also really enjoying my independence. I didn’t realize how much of his baggage I was carrying around until he was gone.

    • I remember telling our first (of four) therapists that we needed help to work on our “bickering”. In retrospect, I understand those constant, small disagreements gave him an excuse to leave the house. Labeling what was happening as “bickering” also gave me shared blame. Needless to say, he never returned to therapy after his solo sessions where I assume he was told to come clean about the cheating.

    • My ex claimed the same, poor communication and having to “walk on eggshells” with me instead of discussing things because of my conflict style which is bs. Meanwhile turns out he was the one who failed to communicate literally one single thing in the relationship that bothered him. He made a SEVEN page list of his grievances after DDay, not one of which he ever brought up in YEARS of therapy (probably because they were bullshit justifications he came up with after being called out for cheating). He then spewed the most vile insulting and abusive things about me and while he “decided what he wanted” professed that well if we had been able to communicate like this before maybe he wouldn’t have cheated. So yeah, his idea of communicating well was apparently being able to be outwardly abusive and hostile, and maybe we could have saved the relationship with this new found communication. Wtf. Yeah… we are def NOT compatible! Schmoopie and him have “good communication” which apparently largely consists of their ability/her willingness to swing/fuck other people/be ENM and then go back and regale each other with their sexual exploits with others.

  • CL’s response really resonates with me today. My FW’s reasoning when giving me the “talk” was “that we were two very different people”. This came out of nowhere for me…yet made all the sense in the world when I discovered a 3 year secret life (shopping for engagment rings, going to open houses, cruelly mocking me in messages to AP) all while playing “happy family man, outstanding community member” etc. I now recognize that I never knew this man and that his claim of our shared values was all an act; he is a true narcissitic conman. I vividly remeber telling him on D day that “It didn’t have to be this way” – and that we could have divorced amicably. Ironically, he wants us to sit down over coffee and talk; my response is no response. You cannot trust a pathological liar and someone who disrespected the person who 100% gave their heart, commitment and life to.

    • ‘We were two very different people’, I got this too, it’s straight out of the pages of Cheaters Weekly

      That and ‘we led separate lives’

      Total bullshit

      • I found out from a patient in my exercise class that FW was laying the groundwork. “Sandyfeet and I aren’t getting along.” I said to FW “why are we not getting along?, you don’t share that part”. FW says “because of all the lies”…..yep

    • “I now recognize that I never knew this man and that his claim of our shared values was all an act; he is a true narcissitic conman. ”

      So painful and so hard to wrap our head around.

    • Resonance here too. Judging by this comment thread I’d venture that this post might be in CL’s top 5 best!

      My ex is regularly trying (still) to net me into “meeting for coffee.” If there are any newbies reading, please don’t fall for this. These disordered manipulators present their overtures for connection as an emotionally mature and amicable, and desperate to believe them, we can easily fall for it. It’s just another ploy, and they win either way. If you agree to meet, they gain a foothold in your life and emotions, to fuck with you. If you block them/refuse contact they love that too, because then they can tell everyone how hard they’re trying and what a bitch you are.

      I wish I could send this whole thread out to all my friends and family, to help them see. But I won’t, because this is a safe space, and I don’t want any trolls visiting here.

      • So true Acta! After gunning for me in the divorce and wreaking untold damage to me and my child, he now is back to playing jolly fuckwit who wants to laugh and joke and make small talk

        ‘They can tell everyone how hard they are trying and what a bitch you are’

        This is exactly what I’m experiencing at the moment

        You’re right about not bothering to send the link, most people wouldn’t get it anyway, so I’ve stopped trying to explain

        I’m fortunate enough to have some amazing, very close friends who have been fully supportive but I failed miserably to explain to some lighter acquaintances. I got ‘oh maybe on some level, she gave him something you couldn’t and he’s happier now’

        If that’s the case, why were they both so vile during the divorce? Sending me pictures of themselves and messages from their ‘well wishers’, cyberstalking, head fucking, the works

        Why not slip away quietly with a fair settlement in their new ‘happiness’

        Yet none of them do this. They’re not sorry and they’re not ashamed and society shrugs, while APs gloat

      • Ps, why would they want to be friends with us dull chumps who drove them to cheat

        After all the crap they talk about us during discard and the character assassination and suddenly we’re all supposed to chit chat and have coffee

        Grrrrr, I’m fuming today

        • “Ps, why would they want to be friends with us dull chumps who drove them to cheat”

          They don’t really. They pretend they do because the chump might still be of use in some way; perhaps by providing a few kibbles if the supply’s getting low, or it’s a way of getting the whore to pick me dance, or impression management – see, we’re friends, what I did wasn’t so bad !

          I also think for the very worst of them it’s an opportunity to twist the knife a little harder, to gloat at the pain they’ve caused.

          For whatever fucked up reasons they have, the best response from the chump is *no response*. Walk away and never play their game. As Tracy says, nothing says I despise you better than no contact.

          • Yes, definitely Chumpnomore6, especially to impression management

            My idiot ex FW is all about that

            I’ve had weeks of blissful no contact and grey rock the shit out of child contact

            I got triggered horribly this week as he turned up to a school event, smarming all the teachers and then on my door step one day to collect our child. He normally calls our child when outside

            I shut the door firmly in his face but I notice the nightmares have started again. It’s almost like going back to square one

            I’ve invested in a Ring doorbell now, shields up

  • Okay, this ….
    “[The cheating did] deeply affect my sense of trust, and tested my sanity.”
    … is nowhere near
    “I feel neither one of us was ‘at fault’ for the marriage ending”

    It was in no way necessary for your spouse to wreck your sense of trust and make you question your sanity. How is that not a fault? (And why are you using scare quotes around “at fault” when that’s exactly what it was?)

  • “I never want to love someone who doesn’t love me back ever again.”

    So hard. Breaks you in half. Never again.

    • It is absolutely devastating.

      I have been with my H now for many years. Adore him and he has showered me with affection and loyalty, but I will never forget how that felt to have the person I trusted and loved look at me and say, I have been cheating for years and I never loved you.

      My H suffered much the same. In his case he does not think she was cheating, but she just didn’t want to be married anymore. Really hurt him. She had alcohol issues, and he kept trying to help her, but of course she really didn’t want the help; so I think in his case the “other” was the alcohol. Still had to be awfully painful.

  • My ex husband said he thought him and I were “fundamentally different” after I got angry at him when I’d found out he’d taken his schmoopie to group sex parties.

    • Ahhh I think you’re the first person I’ve seen on any betrayed sites who was also left for a schmoopie that would go along with nonmonogamy. It feels like a special brand of insult.

  • “I often think that I would have been just have devastated had he just said he wanted to end the marriage ahead of the cheating given my prior beliefs.”

    I doubt that. It would hurt, naturally, but as CL says, the deception and betrayal make it infinitely worse. The knowledge that you were so easily, thoughtlessly replaced with somebody else is devastating. It says you never really meant anything to your partner. If they break up with you honestly, you can chalk it up to the relationship just not working out as you’d hoped. When they choose somebody else over you, otoh, they are making a statement about your value to them, which is low to nothing. That can only be more painful.

    The bottom line is that to end a marriage kindly, you must end it honestly and without making any statement (overt or implied) about worth. Cheating is always a strong negative statement about your partner’s worth.

  • I was miserable in my 18-year marriage for the last 15 years. My then-husband found me fat and unattractive, neglected and ignored me, gave me the silent treatment, criticized my housekeeping, cooking, and parenting, and excluded me completely from his social life.
    I tried everything to fix the marriage: dragged us to counseling, got individual therapy, made attempts to rise to his (impossible) standards. As a last resort, I initiated a separation. I moved out. I told him I still loved him. That I was not going to be dating anyone (but wanted to date him and continue to be sexually exclusive with him) but was giving myself time and space to work on myself and hoped that he would do the same. The endgame was reconciliation and the rebirth of our marriage.
    After about 8 months I did move back “home” although signs pointed to nothing much had changed.
    Except it had.
    He was more distant than ever. Sat like a bump on a log on the date night dinners I insisted on, giving one-word responses to my conversation starters. Another 8 months into our wreckonciliation, I discovered his affair with the justafriend coworker.
    And all I felt was validation and relief. He had been gaslighting me, telling me we were fine, he wanted to be with me etc etc as I sank deeper and deeper into confusion and depression.
    D-Day made everything come into focus and make sense.
    After that, leaving was easy and I never looked back.

  • He took away my autonomy- my ability to make a decision for myself. You are unhappy and want to leave? By all means go, but by cheating, I wasn’t even given a say.

    But actually that’s how our entire relationship always was. I just didn’t realize until this time.

    • “He took away my autonomy- my ability to make a decision for myself.”

      Yep and they obviously do it on purpose. They don’t want exposure until they have decided what THEY want.

  • I’d also add that in a healthy relationship you both CHOOSE each other. Every day. Despite the rough edges and baggage we all have. You choose to love and commit to your partner. (My current husband got me a poem book that says “I choose you” and it’s so right).

    “Falling in love” outside the marriage requires looking around and trying to find something else.

    And for sure, you don’t have to “ask” for a divorce. You can state you want one for whatever reasons, with sensitivity and honesty and respect. After D-Day and 6 months of pick me dancing, I told my ex that I was filing for divorce. His response “but I haven’t decided I want a divorce yet! You can’t do that!” As if it was only up to him. 🙄

  • We started marriage counseling in 2014 after I learned FW had oral sex with a stripper at his bachelor party. I stupidly wrote it off as a one-time thing. He suggested we continued going to counseling for maintenance, which I thought was smart and we continued through 2021. Earlier this year, I learned he’d continued cheating at Tiger Woods levels. Never once brought up any of the “incompatibility” issues in therapy that he now squawks about.

    I am requesting payment records from our counselor and am going to ask for that money back in the divorce. Not sure if I’ll get it, but I certainly consider it a waste of assets.

  • “At the end of the day, if someone wants to divorce you, let them.”

    I count this as the one and only good thing cheating bastard ex did for me. I walked out, filed for divorce, and it was done in a little over a month with no objection or effort on his part to salvage the mirage, as Velvet has so succinctly described. At the time, I was sick at the thought of him not trying. Now, I am so grateful he didn’t. I knew without hesitation I needed to divorce, but a part of me wanted to see him grovel. Thank God for unanswered prayers!

  • I believed in marriage so much that I stayed in spite of not so great things. Such as, being lonely, not enough sex, not enough connection, attention or care. There was classic breadcrumbing at play- I just kept picking up and consuming the tiny bits I got from him. I used to wonder if we were “compatible” all the time. Like he was a gamer and sat there for 10 hours at the computer whilst I love nature and walks and adventure in the real world. He loved to eat out, I loved to cook and be healthy. He loved playing cards with his mates, I loved art galleries with mine. And still none of this bothered me too much because I always came to the conclusion that we had a strong thread that was our core beliefs and fundamental principles about life.

    Ha! Silly me. He didn’t even have values at all as it turns out. I think the problem with us chumps is that we have had our brains scrambled to the point where we’re searching for common decency and we find/found none. We’re forever wondering how “normal” people might handle something like feeling incompatible with their spouse. But when you’re married to someone who was void of character and morals, it turns into a minefield/mindfuck of what ifs. I think this connects to yesterday’s post. THEY SUCK. Nothing feels normal when your marital foundation was 50% suckitude. Cheating is a problem or character and it goes hand in hand with a lot of terrible behaviours that make a marriage difficult.

  • It would’ve been nice if he had just talked to me and asked for a divorce rather than telling me how it was an embarrassment to be seen with me because people thought I was his mother, I was too fat to wear thong underwear, how he’d wanted to murder me for years, and how he had never loved me and had been planning to leave me for years while I made major decisions about career and finances based on thinking we had a real marriage. And THEN finding out about all the fucked up things he was doing behind my back. Just sitting down and asking for a divorce like a non psychotic human being without threatening my life? That would have been fucking awesome. We probably could have remained friends after getting through it all.

    A “normal” divorce is hard but it’s so much better than that nightmare. Occasionally my boyfriend will remind me that I did not have a normal divorce. Usually when someone says something insensitive and it bothers me. He’ll remind me that they had a normal divorce and I didn’t so they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. The way mine went down was not normal or sane. It helps so much when he says that. Everybody else (formerly) in my life acted like, “duh, sometimes relationships don’t work out Pollyanna, what’s your problem?!” as if it wasn’t all the horrible things said to me and done to me that were affecting me. No, I’m just a stupid child who can’t handle the reality that relationships can end. Ugh. It makes me sick.

    • They just don’t get it do they? I had the exact same thing this week and I’m still angry

      These FWs and their accomplices do unspeakable things and untold damage and the chumps are just painted as ‘bitter spoilsports’

      As others have said, it isn’t just the sex aspect, it’s the lying, the conspiracy, the theft, damage and all kinds of abuse 😡

  • I put up with a lot prior to the split and buried myself in trying to keep the homefront reasonably peaceful and comfortable as a mostly SAHM. He made it abundantly clear as the years when by that he had loads of contempt for me, even reminding me that he didn’t have to praise me because “I didn’t believe in flattery.” He used the threat of divorce for years when there was a major disagreement instead of being willing to look at his own role in how things went. I was perpetually called out as flawed and at fault. No wonder he once said, “You contributed nothing to my life.” I learned later that it was the classic power-over of abuse and that raw contempt breaks down relationships, period. I truly meant very little to him. Certainly, not enough to stay with him, and I refused to play “pick me.”

    I had several major “check boxes” that people cite as reasons for divorce, but the bottom line is that the contempt and power-over made it impossible to go on. Those were my “irreconcilable differences” which my attorney defined as “whatever you want” in the practice of divorce law.

  • Us chumps and our marriages never had a fighting chance. They are going to make up problems and blameshift. Its their go to. They crave control, using manipulation. It will never be a normal happy marriage. Why we dont see this is a whole different issue. Then we see happy normal relationships and say hugh? I guess some people have very low tolerance and break free sooner. But we chumps seem to have high tolerance for abuse and it ramps up over time.

    FW told me he did a personality test at work as a team building activity. It said he had NO empathy. I already knew he had little to no. I hope his howorkers were there for him to tell them too. Maybe he did, maybe they just dont care. CL said Dupers Delight at some point. This phrase was a real eye opener for me. Another other eye opener is realizing it is a Choice. And another eye opener is realizing they lie about ALOT.

    As CL says realize they suck. It is ALL their fault. You will never be able to jump high enough! He would never put in true effort to fix a marriage. Because he doent care. You are incompatible because you care and are a good person and he is a cheater and you dont want to accept him for who he really is, a cheater. Even if he were the same person who did not cheat, he would still be a self – centered abuser and liar with little to no empathy, some sort of mental illness sociopath, psychopath, Narcissist, Obsessive compulsive personality disorder. So if you dont want to accept his lying and abuse then yes you are not compatible.

    • When I told FW shortly after DDay that he had no empathy, he told me I was too trusting. Married 36 years when I filed a couple of months later thanks to LACGAL

  • Hindsight is 20/20. If your spouse/partner/boyfriend/girlfriend says they want a divorce or to end the relationship, LET THEM GO. They are telling you the truth. If you pick me dance, they might actually stay and rob you of the potential to have a relationship with someone who loves and respects you. If I had followed this advice, I wouldn’t have wasted 25 years on a cheater who never did and never could love me. Over the years, I halfheartedly tried to break things off with my ex, but it wasn’t until the final DDay that I admitted that I had nothing to work with. If I had had the courage to just be honest and tell him that the relationship wasn’t working for ME, I wouldn’t be sitting here, looking back with regret.

    • I agree. I so hoped my fw would “wake up”. I prayed. Nope, in my view God had a different plan for me. If God forbid anything had happened to the whore, or (laughingly said) she had dumped him, he likely would have came back and lied his ass off for another decade.

      I know I was fortunate that he was in a mess at work and he was desperately trying to save his position. She was living in poverty so she wasn’t going to walk away without a fight.

      I can honestly say they both ended up with the spouse they so richly deserved.

    • But even if you’d been clear on your wishes, and had told him, would the relationship have ended? Often the chump’s wishes are irrelevant to the FW because they have an agenda of control. They decide what the relationship is, and when it ends.

      When I suggested separation, because it was pretty obvious to me this relationship sucked, mine would look straight through me, act all flabbergasted, on one occasion set his mother on to me – whatever it took to manipulate me into staying, and feeling bad for even contemplating separation from this delightful gentleman. Cake eaters, like the good lady says.

      But how delightful to be free!

  • I agree with everything CL said to the letter. I think that humans are naturally incompatible, but you can choose to make a life with a person if you are devoted to it.

    Ive posted this before, but I asked myself what I would have preferred and looking back, I KNOW he wanted out of the marriage but he wanted to be blameless, he did not want to be that guy who dumped his wife and kids for a younger woman.

    I wanted my intact family for a lot of reasons that now look ill-advised. The irony is that I got my wish, we never divorced, he died.

    I wish that he had been honest and told me he never wanted to marry me but he knew I would be a great wife-appliance to someone and he couldn’t stand someone else gettin his toy, so he married me.

    I wish that he had said

    “I have decided that I am not going forward in this marriage. You are a good person and I wish you well but it wont be with me. My mind is made up, do not try to change my mind. I am leaving tomorrow and will file asap and will give you a fair settlement”.

    When he said he was leaving because I was a bad wife, it only cued the pick me dance and it was cruel beyond words.

  • I struggle with this question. Looking back I can see that FW and I never should have married. We were not truly in love and weren’t compatible in many ways. I think we both knew it, but the “timing was right.” For me, I was almost 30, wanted a family, etc. I chose to marry him knowing he wasn’t my “soul mate” and there was no “spark” because I respected him, he was smart, kind to people, well educated, etc. He married me, I think, for some of the same reasons, but also because we’d been living together and I gave an ultimatum. I think he just didn’t want to be alone and figured “what the heck, I’ll give it a shot, I can always get divorced.” But then he didn’t get a divorce, he cheated trying to find someone to jump ship with to get out of the marriage.

    For me, I’m mad that he cheated and lied and betrayed, but even if he hadn’t, he still broke his promise to me. My life and future that I spent 30 years building with him is still destroyed, whether he cheated or not. Breaking your promise may not be as bad as betrayal, but it’s a close second when you’ve spent 30 years building your life around that promise. I personally believe that whoever breaks the promise, absent good cause like abuse, mental illness, addiction, etc. should not be able to so easily say, “Oops, I changed my mind” after their partner has detrimentally relied upon that promise. There should at least be an unequal divorce settlement. As a practical matter, it would be hard to make this happen, but it should happen, IMO.

  • There’s a huge difference between being left and being left for someone else. When you are left for someone else, there’s a lot of BS ‘incompatible’ justification…..but it was cheating, and then looking for excuses because the cheater is son a high and wants to keep it that way. The chump is blamed!!!!!!!
    Leaving someone when there is no one else waiting for you, and your future is uncertain, and you’ve tried to make it work, is unfortunate- but it’s life.

  • Happy again..I just wonder about your feeling of incompatibiliy with your husband and how well you feel now. My husband cheated for years without me even being the least bit aware. When D day arrived I was in utter shock. But for years I could feel in my gut and soul that Something was wrong and if I ever got cancer my husband would be doing my caregiver. I knew he would dump me..so that was my gut. You may have been sensing incompatibility because his body was telling your body and mind that this man did not want you or love you
    That feels sickening to your soul and it pushes you away. I doubt he was cheating for just 2 years…maybe always…you didn’t know but your body may have kept score. He had to shift blame, he had to lie, he had to make you feel.less than him. So yourvmarriage was not healthy because he was not present for you. I’m just saying it was a blessing for you that your mind found out, but your body knew. That is exactly what happened to me. My husband was not present and my body knew. My heart ❤️ just dragged me through the empty places until I got it, finally. Thank you Jesus!

  • Also to consider when you speak of incompatibility…when someone is cheating on you for YEARS or even weeks, you are being compared and you are being used. The person who is comparing and using you, DOES NOT LOVE YOU. So why should they Even try to be an equal partner, you are like a Toaster, just do your job while I screw whomever I want to. Keep the warm toast popping and hey butter it for me while you’re at it. So OF COURSE what care is there for you? Why should he/ she knock themselves out for you? There is a whole world of partners out there. What I am saying is that someone who is into cake has options and they don’t have to put too much effort into a whiny spouse. So your marriage with a cheater might feel like you are not cared for and you are not compatible. You are not. You are being played for a fool. How is that a loving partnership?

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