Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Strategies to Protect Against Mentally Unstable OW?

Dear Chump Lady,

I recently found out that my husband of almost 21 years has been having an ongoing relationship with a woman for 11 years. He started having panic attacks and told me he wanted a divorce because he considered us ‘just friends’ and that it ‘had been fun’ but not fulfilling.

He’s a combat veteran who was deployed during the initial invasion of Iraq back in 2003. Because of all the hardships that brought, and a long military career that I have been supportive of since he enlisted, I had just chalked up his disassociation, hot temper, mental struggles and bouts of depression to PTSD and the various TBI’s he’s been diagnosed with. It turns out that they were woven into this secret life he had been carrying on with.

Before I found out about the affair, I had told him that we should do marriage counseling (something I’ve been pushing for 15 years anyway), work together to figure out what the issues are, and that I was willing to do anything that he thought was necessary to save the actual marriage. He was adamant that there was nothing left, he would never have sex with me again, and we were just friends. He insisted there was absolutely nothing that could be done.

And so I caved. I decided ok, if he wants a divorce to ‘figure everything out’, I would give it to him. I started moving forward with the logistics of it, inquiring about lawyers, how we would end up splitting community property, etc.

The thing is, he started acting weird. He would sneak into our bedroom, and I would hear the drawer of his nightstand slowly being opened, and then he would disappear into the bathroom for a minimum of an hour at a time. So of course, I decided to see what the hell was going on. I found my answer in the form of a hard drive hidden in his drawer.

Once plugged in I found 11 years worth — 308 to be precise — of photos and videos of him and one of my clients I’ve been tattooing on for — you guessed it — 11 years. Anywhere we got stationed around the country, she would fly out and spend the weekend with him fucking him in my house.

How did she accomplish this discreetly? She started to methodically integrate herself into my life — showing up at tattoo conventions to conveniently try to help. She followed my social media for when I wouldn’t be around as I’d be out working at other shops or conventions. She would introduce herself to my clients, my family and my friends. She dyed her hair similar to mine. She pretended to be me to my new neighbors and then would laugh about it since it was “so silly” since she and my husband were just “really good friends.” She told me what she would do if she was married to my husband. She caused an altercation between us because he confessed some really personal issues to her instead of me — his wife — and went on to brag about it after the fact.

Once I confronted him about it, I was told I was just a really jealous woman who couldn’t handle him having a really good friend who’s a woman. He got insanely angry during the confrontation which was done in front of my boss at the time and my long time good friends. It was very embarrassing. And he made me feel bad enough that I texted her an all out apology for jumping down his throat and thanking her for being his friend.

The mistress knew I liked Star Wars, and I introduced her to my passion for it and where it came from during a tattoo session. She started changing her story to match mine — that she got into Star Wars as a kid with her dad and loved it ever since. She started buying the same stuff that we have in our home. She started making all my friends, colleagues, other clients and family very uncomfortable with the things she would say to them. She came to the grand opening of my tattoo studio, and claimed she was my best friend from college when someone mistook her as that person.

I honestly am completely creeped out by everything that she has ever said to me, but took it as just her being some mentally unstable person who had latched onto us as a couple, and I would just continue to distance myself. There’s so much more — her getting tattooed and then wanting to go grab dinner and me feeling in my gut that something was wrong. But I would ask, and be told they were just friends.

The woman is mentally unstable. I am going to be divorced on December 13, 2022. My husband has admitted that he has a porn and sex addiction, and doesn’t even really like her that much. That it was just accessible all the time, and so he put himself into the easy thing of letting himself be with her instead of fixing the real problems.

We are both really close — we both are still very much in love with one another and as a former drug addict, I can understand some of it but not all of it of course. I’m going through with the divorce because a) he wanted it to begin with and after finding the hard drive, I realized that yes, he has a LOT to figure out and b) I can’t in good conscience keep a legal binding marriage contract with someone who has been with another woman for over half the marriage.

Things are amicable between the two of us as we try to get this all figured out, and I am open in the future (way in the future) of possibly being in a relationship with him if he goes and gets treatment and CONTINUES with treatment. But as I said this is WAY in the future, and not possible at this moment.

What I have been trying to do is get a restraining order on the mistress. Even a protection order. But due to the fact that she hasn’t sent anything threatening, my lawyer is saying she doesn’t think we CAN do that.

What advice or help or guidance do you think you could pass my way to help me feel safer on a personal level, protect my business, and be able to move forward mentally? It’s gotten so bad for me that I’m having trauma responses while tattooing. I get severe panic attacks, can’t put myself 100% there with my clients, start shaking, and just overall freaking the fuck out. I need some help. I’m in therapy — been there for 13 years now. She’s trying — but I need some sort of guidance from someone who might be able to help me when it comes to severely mental unstable affair partners. I feel like you’re my last chance.

TatChump

****

Dear TatChump,

There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with — of course you’re getting panic attacks. You just got sucker punched by a double betrayal — your husband and your freak client — and it’s incredibly traumatic. Nothing feels safe right now, certainly not your place of work. Give yourself HUGE credit for lawyering up. Wherever your heart is right now (more on that in a moment), your head is in charge and moving toward divorce. YEA YOU.

That’s no small feat. Most of us are paralyzed for ages. You took the reins to navigate yourself out of this clusterfuck.

So, while everything feels suspect and frightening right now, realize that you can trust yourself to protect yourself. You have boundaries and you know how to use them. You’re way ahead of the class. So much of chumpdom is stuck in the what-is-a-boundary? Don’t-I-have-to-eat-this-pain? stage of misery. Not you. You’ve got your head screwed on straight.

Maybe it was that 13 years of therapy, or getting sober. But the way forward with Ms. Freak is more of what you’ve been doing — being your own best friend. You’d protect your best friend without hesitation, right? So, shut down Schmoopie hard.

I’m sure CN will weigh in with their Mentally Unstable Schmoopie strategies. FWIW, I had one of these nutters too. The cheater ex said she was a “bipolar alcoholic,” but who knows? (Lying liars lie.) She was, however, a stalker. Would call, email me as “Samuel Clemens” (yes, she tried to ruin Mark Twain), signed me up for spam, dating sites, political garbage. Would let me know she had my personal information. Hell, she showed up on my credit report. Like a lot of these FWs, she aspired to be the big bogeyman. Central real estate in my head. And while I was in the thick of it, she succeeded.

Until she didn’t. Here’s what helped me.

1.) Cold, hard no contact. Don’t poke the freak. Clearly she craves drama, don’t give it to her. As I’ve said here many times, nothing says “fuck off” louder to a FW than silence. Block, block, BLOCK. Also consider that all contact with this person is ammunition for her — more fodder to copy, more ways into your head. Deny her. Treat her like the pathetic, insignificant mental midget that she is. Oh, and if you want to do some skein untangling, read about personality disorders and mirroring.

2.) A lawyer letter. My one exception to total silence is a letter from your attorney. Consider it a shot across the bow. The one my lawyer sent said it was a notice. Any further harassment would result in formal criminal charges. It was cc-ed to her place of employment and the local police department. As her employer opened her mail, and she was an attorney, trust me, it got her attention.

Talk to your lawyer again. Can you charge her now? Perhaps not. But you absolutely CAN document what she’s doing — and let her know you have lawyers and law enforcement watching.

3.) Realize cheaters are not a prizes and she’s a sicko. Let her win the turd. Let him win the psycho. They’ve both gotten off on abusing you, which they could only do with their secret triangle. Remove yourself. Zero pick me dancing. Now they have each other, or more likely, some new victim to focus on. Refuse to be their chump. They could only pull this shit because you were unaware, but now you KNOW. That’s Kryptonite to their double life.

Speaking of pulling back from freaks — if they get scary and do the rage channel, do not hesitate to call law enforcement. If they go full self-pity dial and threaten suicide? You call 911 and get them committed for an involuntary psych evaluation.

They never get YOU — they get a third-party professional. You are doing the hard no contact.

Speaking of no contact…

We are both really close — we both are still very much in love with one another

Bargaining stage of grief. I’m sorry to be the cold bucket of water — he doesn’t love you. People who love you don’t conspire against you for 11 years. He doesn’t fuck around because he’s a combat veteran, or has PTSD, or addiction — he does it because he CHOOSES to do it. Many people have similar challenges — heck, you have had challenges — who did you abuse? Oh, right. No one. That difference is character.

To inflict this kind of harm on the person you purport to love, and to do it with someone so close to you, is someone who gets off on humiliating you. Who thrills to the power trip. That’s not love. It’s sick. This is not someone you can EVER feel safe around.

You did once feel safe out of habit. It was an illusion of security. Please, for your own health and sanity, live in reality. This man is NOT your friend and he doesn’t love you. His “love” is not healthy. Pedophiles “love” children. You’re his whipping post. The voodoo doll he takes his aggression out on. You’re his sicko fix.

I’m sorry. Everyone at CN has lived with the cognitive dissonance of this. Takes ages to work out. You can’t understand it because you’ve got a soul. Some people don’t.

((Big hugs)) to you.

So, CN, what are your Keep the Freak at Bay suggestions for TatChump?

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I’m so sorry you are going through this. I live in NJ and I had crazy schmoopie texting me from a different number once FW and I divorced.

    I went straight to my towns police department and filed a police report so at least I could document and start a paper trail. The officer at the time did tell me that because it’s my ex FW’s romantic interest – I could file a restraining order – my lawyer also confirmed the same.

    She contacted me because she wanted to make it known that she won the prize after our divorce and he was keeping her off balance hence the text. Because of no/low contact I didn’t speak to FW to let him know of schmoopie’s antics to not feed the fire/ego of these freaks – Funny enough – if it helps with little schaudenfraude – ex FW was texting me trying to get me back after our divorce and during the storm of her reaching out to me – I happened to see ex at neutral ground for our sons baseball photos – I didn’t speak to him at all but did observe his hands which were all scratched up and bleeding that he and OW must have gotten into a spat – maybe about me or another orifice(s) he fell into – who knows?

    I also noticed this OW is trying so hard to be you – the thing to relish is that you are unique and this individual is an empty vessel which she will mold/contort herself into whatever your ex-FW’s new flavor du jour will be – that sounds very expensive and exhausting.

    Sending you hugs

  • document everything, you have a stalker

    you wrote about things she did here and even things from the past will be helpful

    no contact with her and minimize contact as much as possible with FW, you didn’t mention if you have kids, but if you do, do custody hand offs at a police station

    keep yourself safe and take care of yourself, if she crosses the line file for a TRO asap

    i’m so sorry you are going through this, he isn’t worth another minute of your time and you can never trust him again

  • Tatchump, you should in no way entertain getting back together with this abusive loser after he is “fixed”. He’s unfixable. And even if a miracle happened and he turned into a unicorn, there is nothing that can make up for stealing at least eleven and counting years of your life and putting you through hell. You need to hard no contact them, take a vacation far away from these two psychos (no one should have a shaky tattoo artist!!), accelerate your divorce, and don’t look back.

    • I agree with you, threetimes. It appears he’s had some brain damage from his years being deployed. Do you remember the football player who murdered his friend and killed two guys just because they made him mad? When he was arrested and put in jail he killed himself. When they did an autopsy they found this horrible brain damage done by playing football. That same damage is seen in lots of soldiers who’ve been in combat, particularly when it’s long term and loud and explosive. I don’t know if this is what has happened to your husband but I would not be surprised. If it’s that case then you cannot fix him nor can he be fixed. It’s permanent brain damage

      • You’re referring to Aaron Fernandez and his post mortem diagnosis of CTE. Interesting case. But I also think there was a lot of narcissism and some shame associated with being gay in the NFL. Netflix has an excellent documentary on it.

      • I agree with CL:
        “He doesn’t fuck around because he’s a combat veteran, or has PTSD, or addiction — he does it because he CHOOSES to do it.”
        Any other “explanation” is dangerous.

        • My ex had PTSD as well, but our mutual therapist pointed out one time that disordered behavior is a CHOICE even if it’s an poor adaptation to tough things in your life.

          His PTSD led to my PTSD though. He became a brutal, cruel person. However, I didn’t take it out on anyone and got it handled.

        • Thanks. My dad was a disabled combat veteran who never cheated and supported my mother’s career. He also spoke for the NOW organization regarding gender equality in education when I was a kid. He was raised in a terrible state orphanage to boot.

          You know the old parable about two brothers raised by a monstrous father. The son who led a life of crime says, “With a father like that, how else could I have turned out?” The son who became an upstanding family man says, “With a father like that, how else could I have turned out?”

        • My stbxh and I both experienced the same traumatic event – he went on the cheat and I didn’t. Cheating is absolutely a choice and nothing more.

  • TatChump,

    The sooner that you realise that you are worth so much more than anything that your soon to be ex-husband has to offer, the better.

    Go “no contact” and, once the divorce is finalised, stay there.

    LFTT

  • Tat Chump – It may seem hard to believe, but your healing will proceed quickly following the divorce and no contact with FW, OW or Switzerland friends. There’s a bit of hopium still going on with you. Perhaps you are wishful because of the work you’ve done on yourself or seen with others in recovery. There’s no evidence that your cheater is pursing any honest living. You may find 12 step meetings and/or guided meditation helpful to help calm you and keep you in the present.

  • “Shot across the bow…” – this right here. My stalker was my ex-mil, she and her flying monkeys intervened in the divorce for over a year, so much so my lawyer was questioning my relationship with her (there was none…) so he also suggested if there was some way to get her to ‘cease and desist’ – [Here’s the thing: You need to look inside yourself and find the things that make them tick, and USE IT AGAINST THEM. You are sane and compassionate, most chumps are and normally dont want to do this, you dont want to inflict pain because you know pain and you dont want that but…] – I copied all the hotel and airplane ticket receipts with Ex and Schmoopie’s name on them and sent them to ex-mil, and some of the monkeys. Living proof mommy’s precious angel did in fact lie, cheat and steal (using corporate money for affair funds), she shut up and divorce proceeded and finally finalized. I understand the trauma responses, they are normal when you find out you have been betrayed so intimately for so long, mine was 25 years. I had CL’s book on audio and would often relisten to it and specific chapters daily when I needed support. Most of my family is passed away and I wasnt going to drag my young adult kids into this hell, they had their own to deal with. As chumps, we support, encourage, plan, entice, relate and all things loving into most everything we do; people, careers, community, and that is a beautiful characteristic of chumps, dont turn it off, turn it up. Schmoop comes at you and you “Glow Up” but never ever mention schmoop: “Grateful for (new clients name here)”, “Attended (fun event with actual friends name here)”, etc. and always afterwards. You get my meaning I hope. Since divorce I’ve experienced what could be generally called narcissistic abuse from others, sometimes we have to weed our garden, abusive behaviors can come from any ‘relationships” not just romantic and can often be just as hurtful. Chumps often become skilled observers and identifiers of this so hone your skills and be your own best friend first. Peace

  • Listen to chumplady – NO CONTACT NO CONTACT NO CONTACT. It’s the ONLY way. I had to get all the crazies (family friends plus FW) out of my life before I really started to see all the dysfunction and all the bullshit I had been putting up with my whole life. It unlocked a WHOLE lot of potential that I didn’t realize I had. It’s funny how hanging out with people that CONSTANTLY put you down for their own enjoyment can affect your self-esteem. Your statement “Things are amicable between the two of us as we try to get this all figured out, and I am open in the future (way in the future) of possibly being in a relationship with him if he goes and gets treatment and CONTINUES with treatment. But as I said this is WAY in the future, and not possible at this moment.” Says that you definitely need to practice that no contact because one day you’ll look back on that sentence and think “what the fuck was I thinking???” We have ALL been there. There is NO future relationship with someone that has abused you as this man has. Kudos for your quick lawyer action (took me 15 years to get there) and now get on the No contact train — it’s a fantastic place to be. I just finished my master’s and I am pursuing a new degree in a completely different field because now I realize I’m smart (FW constantly drilled into me that I wasn’t as smart as him- which is laughable because he’s an IDIOT). You just can’t see it till you’re out of it. No contact for the win!!!

  • The hardest thing to accept, for me, was that I never really knew the person I had married. The behavior and attitude before marriage was love-bombing. I didn’t know what that was. After marriage I saw the “love” morph into manipulative behaviors, pouting when he didn’t get his way, spending long periods of time on the computer, and/or away from home. My first did work and provided income for the family. My second never sustained employment and was always broke. Yes, second. I was apparently a slow learner. I thought I could “fix” them too, by providing love and a stable home. I learned you cannot “fix” someone who is not interested in helping himself.

    Anyway, along the way I worked on fixing me. I learned many unpleasant things about dysfunctional personality types. I now believe that leaving, and low contact barriers helped me clear my head of the “dream” I had of marriage and family life. I now recognize love bombing and red flag behaviors. Once you become stronger, you will adopt a lifestyle which does not allow others to USE you. You have worth. Relationships should be reciprocal. Learn to value yourself and be patient when developing any new relationship. Watching people over a period of time gives you the information you need to determine whether or not they would be good for you or toxic for you.

    Search your basic beliefs and values and examine your FOO beliefs and values. Ask yourself, “Is this acceptable to me?” You will be amazed at what time and distance can do for YOU!

    As for the stalker/OW contact. Take legal action if necessary. She will never be your friend; her problems are not your problems. Do not waste your precious time worrying about things you have no control over.

    Life and freedom are precious. Your time is limited and valuable. Choose a life that is acceptable to you, and don’t waste your time on the malignant people in this world.

  • It’s my opinion that all affair partners are, on some degree of the spectrum, disordered or otherwise just downright “not right.” It takes a good heaping lack of empathy to knowingly swoop in and become a part of hellish, life-destroying equation.

    I agree with CL: cold, hard no contact. With both the cheater and his mistress. They’re both scary.

  • AP sent me a threatening text. Since she was my coworker, I took that straight to the EEO office. I also called corporate HR. Said I didn’t want to launch an investigation (I regret that now) but wanted a record of the incident in case it continued/escalated. AP also tried to get me fired, lying that I was stalking and harassing her. But fortunately my job didn’t buy that BS. They called us BOTH in (I was blindsided by it, but I think AP was too as she didn’t expect to be under scrutiny). They basically told us to keep our shit at home. I never saw anyone leave a room as quickly as AP did, with her head down and her tail between her legs. I stayed and chatted to everyone (hiring manager, my boss’ boss), and told them about the text (I thought that was the reason for the meeting, but neither knew). AP was also stalking my social media, lying her way into private divorce support groups to screenshot anything I posted and hand it over to FW. But I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed of anything I wrote, so FW’s attempts to blackmail me fell flat. AP was also dumb enough to leave her profile picture at the bottom of the screenshots, so I knew exactly who had taken them. I got her banned from the groups, and sent the images to my attorney. On one occasion I brought up to FW that he’d had AP stalk me (I think he was accusing ME of stalking HER – by looking at her PUBLIC social media). He said “why would you say that?” and when I told him that her picture had been on the screenshots, and I even described what she was wearing and her pose, he went REALLY quiet. These people think we are stupid. I have a feeling AP got a talking to about that one.

    AP was mentally unstable, absolutely. FW even agreed when I said she was volatile. I also told him it was a really foolish thing to get involved with her, but to no avail.

    AP copied me as well, morphing into me. It was bizarre, and unsettling. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. I doubt she ever tried to actually pass herself off as me, but she definitely tried to replicate me. Funny, because apparently FW hated me…

    Document, document, document. Keep detailed records with times/dates/etc. Keep photos. And if things get scary, call the police. A letter from your lawyer may do the trick, as others have said, even if you can’t technically get a restraining order. I would not necessarily believe your ex when he says that this relationship didn’t really mean anything, or that he is scared of her or whatever. That’s BS. 11 YEARS? That’s enough time to figure things out. He may be trying to frighten you into thinking she’s worse than she is, or playing the pity card so you feel sorry for him. Don’t trust it. And don’t discount the idea that AP looking and acting like you isn’t coming from your STBX’s influence/suggestion.

    Don’t believe for a second that this “man” loved you, or is in love with you. And what you’re feeling isn’t love either. It’s trauma. Time and distance should help with that. I too thought I was still in love with my husband, but I wasn’t. Literally write down all the awful things he’s done and read it over any time you feel those “love” feelings. A person who loved you wouldn’t treat you like that. Also, you say your stbx is “amicable”. Don’t get lulled into thinking he will treat you fairly in the divorce. FW’s sometimes play nice to get you to accept less or to make foolish decisions about assets. Stay on guard and listen to your attorney.

    • AMEN to every single thing ISTL said. Among the small things I did for myself was one thing ISTL mentioned. I wrote down all the bad/disrespectful things he’d done to me, and the one that hurt me the most was that he always walked about 6 feet behind me when we were in public. I’m a slow learner; I thought at the time that we just walked at different speeds, and although it bothered me, I let it go. Subconsciously, of course, it helped to lower my self-esteem. He did much worse things “on paper,” but the disrespect and disdain for me that he showed by that fairly small thing still lingers. Do all the above that ISTL suggests. And make your list for sure.

  • My ex had significant, documented mental health problems. For several decades together, I thought we’d somehow untangle it and go on. I went to therapy to “stay well” and kept hoping. Part of it was prescription drugs that affected his thinking and very likely did long-term damage. Nope. It got worse. We separated, then divorced. His very experienced attorney had fits with him and ended up blabbing everything to mine because he couldn’t figure out how to work with the disordered thinking and wild things that my ex was saying. They got it done though.

    I’m cynical about these sorts of things. I think once you chose a destructive path, it’s very unlikely that you will change. I’m a fan of therapy for people who want to change, but I think that most people who choose a destructive path don’t want to change. My close friends are people who have quirks and minor issues, and that’s that. No one with disordered thinking or destructive behavior is close to me. I also joined a twelve-step group when I couldn’t afford therapy anymore. It helped a lot.

  • TatChump, I would bet any amount of money that your “amicable” STBX is helping and enabling this wacko. You already know that he has shared your personal information with her and enabled her worming her way into your life. You already know that he enjoys lying to you about her. Why on earth do you think he ever STOPPED? Like CW said – he enjoys watching her do this to you, and he enables it.

    I get it – convincing yourself that he loves you and is turned around by the manipulative evil OW is how you are dealing with the betrayal, but you are putting yourself in danger. He loves the triangle and he loves you two pick-me dancing. Men like this are MOST dangerous when you are about to slip out of their control.

    You are about to be free of this man and his abuse of you. Go NC with him and take steps to protect yourself.

    • Yup. Best way to get rid of her is to get rid of him. You seriously believe him when he’s like “I don’t even like her that much?” Really? After 11 years? Really?

      Look, it’s entirely possible that he doesn’t care about her, because he only cares about himself, but he still kept her stalker ass around for ELEVEN YEARS. He is an equal participant in all the craziness she does. Play nice to get the divorce finalized, if that works, but you need to go hard NC as soon as you can.

        • Seconding this. I got one of those rare confessions from ex FW that he wasn’t sure he could love anyone (and stupid me took it to be just self-doubt/looking for reassurance). I think a lot of these users are incapable of truly caring for anyone and see other people as “useful”, which chumps mistake for genuine love because users will prime the pump (i.e. show attention, affection, etc.) to get what they need. It can be hard to see how hollow their actions and words truly are. Unfortunately a live and learn situation.

  • I like to let the lawyers and law enforcement and the courts talk to them.

    If the cheater and his accomplices listened to me and respected me, I would not be here.

    When someone needs a lawyer or law enforcement or the courts as a result of their bad behavior, that is the clearest proof they are not an emotionally mature adult with a working moral compass.

    As an aside, I am in my 37th year of recovery, continuously clean and sober since 8/15/86. (I don’t refer to myself as “former”, but as “recovering”.) IMHO, the status of my recovery is a major factor in relationship issues. There are a number of us in recovery here; you can certainly connect with me if you want to talk. Email Chump Lady for the how to’s.

    • PS

      It bears repeating, often, that this is not love.

      Love is a verb, and the actions you describe of the individuals you wrote in about are not even close to the definition.

      ❤️

      • Quite coincidentally I have been noodling about the meaning of “love” for some time. These 4 words nail it: “Love is a verb.”

  • TatChump; your ex and this woman teamed up to conspire against you. And they enjoyed it. They both enjoyed tricking you and it gave them pleasure to keep doing it for 11 years.
    Make no excuses for either of them. Anyone that can lie to his wife’s face for over a decade has no moral fiber. A man is who he is at his core. Therapy does not cure liars and cons. He kept you around because it was financially convenient for him. Please respect yourself enough to move on.

    • “your ex and this woman teamed up to conspire against you. And they enjoyed it. ”

      Realizing this was a huge step in letting go of my relationship. The two of them watched me falling apart, and they enjoyed it. They rubbed my face in it while at the same time calling me crazy for thinking something was going on. Anyone who can do that has no love or respect for you.

    • Yes, I think this LW is under the illusion that she and FW are still bonded — against the crazy AP.

      TatChump, you are BELIEVING him when he says that she was just “around,” and so it was easy for him to just fall into her availability. As if he had no agency! “[H]e put himself into the easy thing of letting himself be with her.” Mercy, there’s an awful lot of passivity in that sentence.

      You sure you want to defend someone who hasn’t been on YOUR side for 11 years?

  • My thoughts:

    * The amicable nature of things right now is a strong position. Retain it until the divorce is final if you can. A smooth divorce is tough to attain and worth a lot.

    * When the divorce is final, if you can create a smooth path to letting this man have less and less of your time until it’s none of your time, do it. Be boring and gradually increasingly unavailable. No drama, no explanations, no sudden eye-catching moves. Let the you-shaped empty spot in his life slowly fill with other things (and let the him-shaped spot in your own do the same.)

    * If you start dating, no need to hide it, but don’t flaunt it. He won’t focus elsewhere if he refocuses on you. Remember, all internet is potentially permanent, in the end. Post sparingly in this whole topic area.

    * Maybe don’t start dating for a while. This shit will take some recovery.

    * Seems very likely you have full on PTSD, and possibly complex PTSD. Consider EMDR or Brainspotting as an addition to your regular therapy if your therapist isn’t trained in one of them.

    * Bear in mind that when we’re in the company of a manipulative person, it has usually been a slow boil, so we don’t really know how bad the situation is for us. It’s only when we get fully away from the person that we get a clear enough comparison perspective to grasp just how much better life is away from that person. It’s very likely that from that space, you won’t want to consider restarting this relationship. So, don’t make offers or promises now.

    When I was wearing amicable divorce shoes and he, at the final hour, wanted to back out of the divorce (sitting in front of the notary who was about to stamp and sign the papers I had self-prepared, because we were “amicable”), I realized I was in a critical moment. I looked at the ex and, as calmly as I could, I said (close as I can remember)…

    “I know this is really hard. It’s hard for me too. We can’t know what the future holds, and we can always get married again if that’s what’s right for us. But for now, we need to finish this process, for both of us. You need to be free to explore, and I need to be separate from you legally while you do that. You know it’s true. We both know it’s true.”

    So, though sobbing the big (crocodile) tears, he signed.

    I drove right to the courthouse and filed. Three days later I was divorced. He received the papers and called me, furious that it had happened so fast. He thought he would have more time to back out. I, having let it go to voicemail, was finally free to NOT answer his calls.

    And thus, the healing began.

  • I second the motion of the cease and desist letter from your lawyer. You’d be surprised how quickly even a whack like her may back off once it gets legal. My friends had a vicious cyber-stalker. This guy found out where they lived and posted all over the internet, claiming they were pedophiles and all sorts of things. Random people who saw his lies would vandalize their house and threaten them. This went on for the better part of a year. Fortunately, they were able to find out who he was and decided to get a lawyer friend to send a cease and desist letter. They’ve never had any trouble from him since.

    I know you think you and the cheater are in love, but he flat out told you he didn’t feel that way about you, that you were “just friends.” Once they friendzone you, it’s over. I don’t think PTSD or sex addiction (fake disorder) is the cause of his cheating. Having mental health struggles suck, but ultimately, he had choices, and he chose to treat you appallingly. He isn’t psychotic and unaware of the difference between right and wrong, and he was functional enough to hide his double life for a very long time. I very much doubt that getting therapy for PTSD is going to make the slightest difference to his character. Therapy isn’t a character transplant. My FW has had lots of therapy. The only effect it has had is now he can spout therapy gibberish to try to excuse his behavior. If anything, he’s an even bigger asshole. So please, don’t wait on this idiot to change and don’t hold out any hope for it. You’d be as likely to win a lottery jackpot as you would be for this guy to reform. Get on with your life. Pin your hopes on *you* changing, not him, because you will. You’ll get healthier and happier away from the clown show of him and his freaky bitch. Sit back and let them destroy each other, because without you to triangulate and harass, my sense is that schmoopie will be sulky and pissy with him. Without you as a stabilizing influence, FW will fall apart. Don’t feel sorry for them. Let them get just what they deserve- each other.

    Another thing; don’t expect the divorce to stay amicable. They almost always make it difficult for the chump. So be prepared. I suspect the amicability is about FW thinking he can just come back if things don’t work out. When he finds out that’s not going to happen, watch him flip to the rage channel.

  • Life is one long growth contiuum. These things happen when the gig is up and it’s time to become a better version of yourself. Not all couples growth through things together; more often one does and the other remains stuck and content.

    His long military career resulted in untreated and unmanaged soul wounds. You brought addiction to it. Both of you related together…until you couldn’t.

    You chose therapy and to work on yourself. You learned to cover yourself and him. Now, you’re seeing him use escape, avoid, and others to self-medicate. He’s not in control of himself or his life and direction. The last thing he has to offer is love. Not to himself, you or her.

    Please follow CL’s sage advise enumerated in numbers 1), 2), and 3) listed in her reply. Do it with determination, courage and follow it to the exit. Keep up that good work on yourself so that you come out of this intact while being patient with yourself. We can only control ourselves – not others.

  • Since you’re having panic attacks & you don’t want this sordid divorce & affair affecting your business (the AP is probably purposely doing this hoping you will tank your business. Don’t give her the satisfaction!! ), I recommend reading The Body Keeps the Score (healing from trauma), as well as, somatic therapies like physical exercise, yoga, acupuncture, etc. Your body is processing & trying to rid itself of stress & trauma & it needs more conscious help from you. This means staying healthily away from the source of the trauma: your soon to be ex husband.

  • I had a conversation with a woman a few decades younger than myself. She also divorced a lying cheatin’ child with a young son. She was trying to lay on the empathic ‘there’s a reason for the behavior’ excuse. Going into FOO issues, immaturity, etc. I shut her down with, “and sometimes they’re just assholes and that’s all you need to know.”

    • I grew up with a narcissistic alcoholic mother who serial cheated on a father with “control and anger issues”. My family of origin issues led me to take on adult responsibilities before puberty. I became the parent to a younger sibling that I wish I’d had – fun, engaged, caring, supportive, and loving. I grew up sober, anticipating others needs, hyper-alert to other’s emotions. I did a LOT of therapy to understand my FOO issues, heal what I could, and understand why I found things triggering.

      In other words, I have character that requires me to be a decent and kind person despite all the stuff in my past and present that I can’t control.

      All the sympathy and empathy for other people’s FOO issues were burned out of me by the takers in the world. Mutual respect and reciprocity or GTFO.

    • I like to tell a story from my own life. I was a very damaged active addict, codependent, ACA, abuse victim, on and on.

      At 19 years old, three years away from
      getting outside help, I went on a date with a man who I suspected partway into the evening was married.

      I was pissed off and asked him to take me home immediately, which he did.

      I’ve never cheated. I left relationships without someone in the wings in any way. I do remember looking around for someone to fill the boyfriend role in 1988 when I was dumped by the cheater I lived with. That was the last time that happened. I’ve been very much on my own these five years since Traitor Ex left and totally cool with it.

      I can’t listen to any FOO issue/ etc. abuse explanations other than evidently some people turn it inward on themselves (me) and some people act it outward on others. What the X factor is that determines which I have no idea.

  • No contact with either one of them is the only way out. She wants to be you and scarily copies so much about you probably because of his triangulation of the two of you. He enjoys it.
    From my own experience, these freaks really get off on playing the two sides against one another. You can never be her and she can never be you and he adds to that madness whenever possible.
    My ex would tell me he would tell his mistresses that they could never be me ( his wife at the time) because I was completely unselfish and giving and they were all about themselves and cheating besides. He would have a happy smirk on his face talking about that, he loved how angry they became hearing that, so sick!
    He literally told me I wasn’t self centered enough and I was too good a person. Wow, what an obstacle to overcome!
    They create the angst of whoever they are with not ever be good enough for them.
    Get off that train! He does not love you or anyone at all, I’m sorry to tell you.
    He’s a damaged broken man, get thoughts out of your head of him ever changing enough for you to take him back, you are smoking the hopium pipe, and I totally understand you may need it right now, but it’s holding you back.
    He gets off on torturing you, that’s his release from all the internal pains of his life. You have become the scapegoat to his life’s miseries.
    You don’t want to be someone’s chopping block, the outlet for expressing all the pains they feel.
    He has no right to treat you like crap and you should not take that on. That’s not love, that’s abuse.
    You seem to be concentrating on the freak show he is screwing right now, as she is the one that turned him to the dark side. No, he found that place all on his own. He is one of them, the selfish damaged ppl of the world that are not capable of loving anyone. That’s who he has become.
    They will both continue to hurt you as long as you continue to engage. Become as cold as Antarctica and go solid no contact as you heal.
    I made a list of “ all the ways he hurt me” and to my complete astonishment it was 60 pages long!!
    It’s hard to look at, but occasionally I do revisit it to fortify myself against his wanting peace and friendship between us still. They are not our friends and they will harm us again if we let them in!
    She is just a character in the freak show he exists in. Leave him and she will drift out of sight too.
    That’s your ticket to a peaceful journey. Will take years, it’s a huge struggle to get there, but you are not alone on the voyage. Look around, the sea is swarming with chump boats drifting alongside you. There’s a better place to get to. Get there.

  • What are my “Keep the Freak at Bay suggestions for TatChump“?

    Go through your attorney!!

    My freak AP experience was a little different. AP and FW started being total shit to our son (from the time he was 10 – 14). That was apparently their favorite way to get to me… which is sicker than sick.

    My son is on the spectrum. But he’s a smart capable kid. AP would pick on him and complain about him to no end —- and then once she could get him dysregulated and freaking out, she would call the police on him. FW would do nothing to support his son — he’d agree with AP. And he would even lock his own son outside. At one point FW kicked and destroyed a fully built giant Lego set my son built. AP threw son’s things down the stairs when he didn’t want to talk to her while he was quietly playing by himself. They were horrific. But neither would allow the kid to go home to me.

    And when I pulled into the driveway to drop off or pick up, AP sent a letter to my work (that she had drafted with her own legalisms — she’s not a lawyer). Fact: I had no idea why this was an issue until the letter was sent… FW never asked me not to pull into the driveway and I stayed in the car. So I offered to meet halfway at a fire station (we’re only 2 miles apart). And FW flipped out because he didn’t like that and looovvvveeedd the drama … upsetting me, his son and AP—- cake!!!

    So I involved lawyers. I made abundantly clear that AP is not a coparent and if she’s flipping out in front of son, then we need to stay away from her house to “calm her down.” FW’s attorney agreed.

    AP also tried to get into our coparenting coordination — NOPE. So with my attorney, I got FW’s attorney to agree that that is crazy too. Basically I made sure that FW’s attorney forced FW’s crazy ass creepy abusive AP to stay the fuck away from me and our son.

    I still laugh that AP also threatened to call the police on me when I wished her a Merry Christmas while picking up son. Then FW put THAT in his complaint too LOL!!! I just looked at FW’s attorney and shrugged. At that point, AP completely proved herself a lunatic and FW equally stupid.

    Use your attorney. At any cost.

    • My son is on the spectrum too. You are a better person than I, because if AP had treated my son like that there would have been a murder.

      I actually think FW was better behaved towards our son when AP was around (still doing the “nice guy” routine), and she was trying to get on his good side and so was overly accommodating to my kid. For which I’m grateful, I guess (though it still pissed me off). FW did try and copy AP in on our correspondence with the custody evaluator and emails regarding the sale of our marital home, but I never acknowledged her and deliberately removed her email address from my replies. As you said, she’s not a coparent and has no business being involved. She had no business being involved in my divorce/home either. I told FW I didn’t want to see her during pick ups/drop offs. FW would bring her up constantly in an attempt to rattle me, but I made sure I never showed him if it did.

      Once AP left him, FW got harsher with our son (age 8 at the time). I confess I’m relieved that FW died. Once I went grey rock and didn’t let FW have any access to me, our son was the only connection he had to me and I shudder to think he may have started using him to hurt me. My son is so much happier now.

      That’s funny about your FW’s AP and her “legalisms”. I had a strong suspicion that AP “helped” FW draft a lot of his legal stuff or to put legal jargon in his emails to me. But it was all incorrect information, as my attorney pointed out. Like they just googled random stuff. FW’s attorney got so frustrated dealing with him that he essentially just sent out stuff FW had written without even trying to change it, and frankly it was embarrassing. My attorney said that if I had fought with her to send out documents like that, she would have dropped me as a client because she would never have put her name on something as bad as that.

      • “My son is on the spectrum too. You are a better person than I, because if AP had treated my son like that there would have been a murder.”

        ISawTheLigh – I had zero control over how AP treated my son and even less over the abuse from his father. However I reported it to the police (who wanted desperately to help) and tried to report it to CPS (they didn’t care unless son had “visible bruises or broken bones.”)

        I also surrounded my son with advocates — keeping the school fully aware of what was happening and getting help from friends and neighbors.

        Even FW’s own family witnessed how shitty AP and FW were to son… I’d get upset calls from 2 of the sisters in law (married to FW’s brothers). At least they were witnesses.

        My only option was to take it back repeatedly through lawyers. It cost me tens of thousands of dollars but worth every penny to give my son a voice and a way to get away from those asses. My state protected FWs “custodial rights” no matter how shitty he was.

        Murder was never an option… I would do my son no good in prison.

        • No, we have no control, and that is the worst part. The “murder” was hyperbole, of course. I could never do that, and as you said, it would do my son no good at all to be in prison.

          I also spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting for custody, and would have continued to fight for full custody had FW lived. I consider it worth every penny as well.

          I hope your son is safe now.

    • What you’re saying is so eerie because it’s apparently typical. I have a child with a chronic health condition who was LD at the time of the affair. He’s since largely recovered but, back then, he still had (very expensive) medical and behavior issues. During the awful DARVO stage before D-Day, I finally began reaching out to people for support. The first person I called was an special education attorney I’d gotten close to when we worked together on a report on abuse of disabled children in schools and institutions. She’s a national authority on the subject and what she said put the fear of God in me. The first thing she did when I reported FW’s accusations and DARVO nonsense against me was to start chuckling and saying, “Yeah, sure, that sounds just like you. What a crock of shit.” And then she said, “I’m sorry to break it to you but he’s cheating.” The third thing she said was to warn that APs who become OWives will commonly scheme and lobby to get FWs to take full custody of any disabled kids in the mix in order to avoid child support and, if this succeeds, immediately try to get the kids institutionalized on a state waiver. And– bingo– she described the go-to method as precisely what the AP in your situation did– antagonize the child into meltdowns and then repeatedly call the authorities to build a case that the child needs to be institutionalized in order to move things in that direction. The final thing she told me was absolutely sickening: that dependency courts often dismiss the testimony of disabled children due to the fact they’re disabled. If a child reports that stepmum is blatantly antagonizing them, it may carry no weight in that legal setting.

      How chilling is it that the above scenario is such a typical “thing” that disability lawyers will rattle it off as a cautionary tale? It scared the shit out of me. To this day I’m not sure if I agreed to the reconciliation fiasco as a way to delay grief or just to get FW to dump the AP in order to make the speculative threat to my son disappear. In any case, once Schmoops was solidly out of the picture and FW had repeatedly put in writing what an “amazing, devoted mother” I am, I woke up one day and realized I didn’t want to be tied to this asshole. 180, oops, fuck off.

  • Dear Tatchump: You need to go no contact with your husband for many reasons, but the salient one is that he’s using you both of you against each other. Kibble time! The hypotenuse of cake. Why do you think she’s mirroring you? Because he undermines her by praising you. He undermines you by maintaining a relationship with her. The three of you are in this destructive triangle, and the only way out of this is for you go NC. Also, he was so invested in her that he FLEW her out to join him so that they could fuck each other? This is seriously abusive. He doesn’t love you. He enjoys your cake. Stop feeding him.

    • Exactly this.

      FW would compliment me in front of AP, and wouldn’t you know? She’d show up the next time in whatever item of clothing or with whatever hairstyle he had said I looked good in (funnily, it didn’t look good on her, as we have very different body types, faces, and hair).

      I stepped out of the triangle, eventually (yes, it took me too long to go grey rock). Once I did, their relationship didn’t last long. They need the triangulation and the “common enemy” (you) to sustain themselves.

  • I did not have a crazy OW to deal with. Thank God. The sicko FW was bad enough. I just want to reiterate what Tracy said…your husband does NOT love you. A normal person who can love another person would feel TERRIBLE about doing this to you. Anybody who can lead a double life for so many years is doing it because it’s fun. He enjoys it. He gets a thrill from lying to you and cheating on you. He DOES NOT love you. PTSD does NOT cause bad character.

    There were many moments in my terrible 25-year marriage that made me see that I needed to leave. One of those moments was one morning after a horrible fight. I woke up feeling worthless because of the things he had said. It was very early and as usual, I pretended to be asleep until he left for work. I realized that my husband was in a fabulous mood. He was humming and acting incredibly cheerful. He was in such a fabulous mood because he enjoyed making me feel worthless. He got off on it. It was fun for him.

    People who enjoy doing bad things to the person they supposedly “love” cannot love anyone. My husband did not love me. Your husband does not love you. He took up with a crazy woman because he LIKES crazy. Marrying you was his attempt to be “normal.” It didn’t work. Once this divorce is done please go no contact with your husband and his crazy side piece.

    • (My first post was a reply to another post and that post is gone now. So to clarify for those coming along later, that removed post was the intended recipient of the red flag.) 👍

  • tatchump, i think you are in a unique position here because of your job. as a tat artist, you hear people tell stories of why they’re getting tattoos and then you synthesize them into images that capture the essence. i wonder if you could create a tattoo out of your own story with FW and OW and draw it up, hang it up in your house and in your shop?

    i’d take your time creating it. i suspect that by the end of doing so, you’ll be done with the fake story your FW is spouting, and some of your own distorted thinking about this “love” of yours.

    the essence of this story is that your FW doesn’t love, never loved you, because he’s not capable of loving you. it’s as simple as that. of course, you wish it were different, but it’s not. #sorry

  • Chump lady should do a Friday challenge about psycho chicks who aided your cheater. Bonus points if they were your “friend”. There’s a special place in hell for women who aid in the abuse of other women.

  • No contact is of course the first and most important principle here. You have another week or so until the divorce is finalized. Don’t make any big changes until everything is finished because you don’t want the divorce held up, for many reasons. But from the day the divorce is final, no contact with your STBX husband may be very important to ending the stalking, as the two of them have created a triangle. If you step out of that triangle and leave the two of them alone to contemplate their shared dysfunction, she may pick up on some other target. Moreover, no contact with STBXH will be essential to you having a clearer picture of what has happened in the marriage; as a former addict, you should be aware that you can hook up to be codependent with someone and that’s as addictive in many ways as a chemical substance. This no contact is especially important if you still feel “love” for this person. You will need time and distance to get a clearer picture of him as a person apart from you. You won’t resolve the physical symptoms until you create a safe space for yourself that doesn’t include either of these people.

    Here is what I would suggest for your business:
    1. I like the idea of a very specific “cease and desist letter” from your lawyer. if she does anything further to disrupt your business or to stalk you. Make sure you have video security cameras on your business’s external doors and a camera at your reception area. A Simplisafe or Ring system is pretty cheap, but it will be well worth it if she comes into your business and makes a scene or spews some threats.
    2. If you have employees, make sure they know you want no contact with her and they should not make any appointments with her or allow her to hang out in the building. Tell them to call 911 if she makes a scene or won’t leave.
    3. Block STBX, the AP, and any of their flying monkey folks from all social media, business and personal. Do NOT add any new friends to FB. Monitor who can see what you post and keep alert for new accounts you don’t know. Keep all personal references off your social media. You can post a photo of a Christmas tree or a cute dog you saw in a window, etc., but don’t share your real life on social media. That’s a good rule to avoid stalkers of any kind. Also–CHANGE ALL YOUR PASSWORDS AND RUN A CREDIT CHECK.
    4. I would look into EMDR to try to get some physical relief from the shaking, etc. EMDR can work miracles in some cases.
    5. Remember that all of the mirroring and imitating and impersonating and boundary smashing she’s done in the past is IN THE PAST. It doesn’t help you to review what she did over the past 11 years. Consider that “how I learned AP is a nut job.” You task now is to protect yourself NOW and into the future. So good door locks. Shut down social media. Security cameras. Vary your routes to work or shopping or the gym. When possible, travel with or walk with a buddy who can provide both some safety in numbers as well as a witness to anything she does. Your goal should be to get her out of your physical and online life AND out of your head space.
    6. Read Gavin De Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear.” Trust your instincts.

    • This is all excellent advice.

      I stopped using all social media for about two years, because AP and FW were stalking me (or having “friends” do it for them). I deleted/blocked all mutuals, even people I liked, because I didn’t trust anyone. When I did start using social media again, I only used Twitter, and didn’t put my personal life on there (mostly conversations about books, or history, or pretty sunsets, that sort of thing), nor did I connect with people I knew in real life.

      Do protect yourself. And get some distance. You are addicted to FW and it is possible to break that, but you cannot do that and maintain any sort of contact. I promise, once the trauma bond is broken, you will wonder why you were ever “in love” with this person.

      • This: “You are addicted to FW and it is possible to break that, but you cannot do that and maintain any sort of contact. I promise, once the trauma bond is broken, you will wonder why you were ever “in love” with this person.” So true.

    • This is really good advice. Getting security cameras at your business and making it clear to anyone else who works in the shop that she is banned from the premises. She is not to enter the shop, make any appointments with any of the artists, or harass anyone who works there or any clients who come in. If she shows up and won’t leave, call police. It might help to put up a small sign where only employees can see that has her photo and says this person is not allowed in the shop. Kinda like some businesses do with people who are banned.

    • Tatchump, I like the operational suggestions LovedAJackass has made. I had the feeling from your message that you are concerned about physical harm. My FW admitted to wanting me to die, and I doubt divorce has changed that, so I have also had to consider physical security. In addition to the business measures, I would suggest security cameras on your house and car. Some newer cars already have cameras that record motion and incidents when the car is parked. You can buy a dashcam with front and rear views for an older car with a battery backup for parking mode. These measures help with peace of mind, and when obnoxious people realize they’re on camera they often don’t behave as badly. If they do anyway, you have evidence. Win/win.

  • I never had any direct contact with my FW XW’s schmoopie, thankfully. However, during the early days after DDay, when I was pick-me-dancing before CL’s guidance, I told the now XW FW that I was going to contact him and tell him to back off of our family. She got very defensive and said that he was just an innocent bystander. Also, she said him and his mom (he lives with mom, undoubtedly in the basement, lol) are very vengeful and psychotic and that he has guns. So, why the fuck would she hook up with someone like that in the first place?! These people!

  • Tatchump, please…

    Do not entertain the idea of getting back together with him, now, or EVER.

    Come ON…your husband of 21 years referred to you as “just a friend.” You are not “just a friend” you were his wife. Of 21. Years. That is NOT “just friends.”

    Then, THEN…you found out about his 11 year affair with creepy as fuck “just a friend.” Who is trying her hardest to basically be you.

    This is not a man you should be getting back together with ever. Period. EVER. CL is right, this is bargaining in grief. He won’t fix himself, you won’t fix him, psycho girl won’t fix him. You need to leave him in the past for good. And CL is also right that he does not love you. Men who love you do not cheat on you with stalkers for 11 years. He also told you in so many words that he doesn’t love you when he said he would never have sex with you again, he wanted a divorce, and you were “just friends.” Those are not words you should be hearing from your own husband. Those are not words a man who loves you will say. He does not love you, and he probably doesn’t love stalker weirdo either. He is firmly in the category of Completely Unavailable and Incapable of Having a Relationship. This is someone to leave in the past.

    And the other chumps who are saying your lawyer can send a letter, cc’d to her employer and local law enforcement, that she is to leave you alone, and if she does not, criminal charges can be filed. There has to be a legal boundary for her to cross. Sending a cease and desist letter is creating that legal boundary. Knowing what she’s been doing the last 11 years, she will likely cross that, after which point you can file for a restraining order. Block her on every platform you can, document that you have, and block/document any other accounts she creates to keep following you. Set that legal boundary, then create a paper trail.

    Also, I would recommend making a copy of that hard drive if you haven’t already. That’s 11 years of proof.

  • Tat, this OW’s connection/obsession with you is fueled by your X who gets off on screwing with her head. She’s followed him every time he relocated. Divorce him, get a good settlement and move away from both of them. It will require no contact at all.

  • Tatchump, I’m so sorry for what you are going through. You’ve been offered excellent advice by Chumplady and Chump Nation. I can understand you still have feelings for husband, but those feelings are keeping you from the better life you deserve. The no contact strategy is the only way to go–zero for her (except the lawyer letter Chumplady mentioned), and as much as possible with your husband. Simply tell him you’re so stressed out now that you need to not see him at all for a while. (No need to say “for a while” really means not at all in the future.)

    You’ve got this–believe in yourself! Overcoming addiction is huge. You can overcome this and have a better life. Think of the OW as an annoying, buzzing insect in the background. A pest unworthy of your notice.

    • By “as much as possible with you husband”, I meant “no contact as much as possible.” I realize the way I wrote it was ambiguous.

      • I re-read your letter and just noticed your divorce will be final very shortly. So let me amend my comment and say that it’s in your best interest to tell your soon-to-be ex that you need time and distance, period. No need to specify a time frame. And the best time frame is likely never. Your feelings for him are making it tougher for you to achieve the closure you deserve, so if he contacts you, just reply “I need time and distance from you.” Rinse and repeat.

        It was only with time and distance that I could really appreciate that my ex–who needs to think of himself as a good person and thus never took responsibility for his cheating but made me feel as if it were my fault–did not treat me as well as I deserved. Today, he lives halfway across the country from me and we maintain an occasional friendly but distant email relationship. For me, it’s been mostly positive–I get to enjoy looking back on some of the good experiences we shared (we were married 13 years, together for 15, and there were some really wonderful times–it was my 20s and early 30s, so an important time in my life), but glimpses of things I really dislike about him come through in some of his emails and it’s like an inoculation against ever wanting to be with him again. Win-win!

  • It seems that you’re losing sight of the forest through the trees. Big picture–both your ex and this stalker need to be placed in your rear-view mirror, and as CL aptly instructs, that means going no-contact and documenting her stalker behavior. I like the idea of having your lawyer send a legal notice re stalking that includes the legal ramifications for her for stalking and harassment. I recommend you have your lawyer CC your ex on that one as well. HAVE YOUR LAWYER DO IT! You should not, ever again, be contacting your ex.

    I understand that you may still have love feelings toward your ex, but over time, as your confidence rebuilds and you start seeing more forest and fewer trees, those feelings will fade. This man is not in love with you. He used you for decades as his dutiful wife appliance and then said terrible things to you and weaponized your love for him against you, then shamefully hid behind legitimate mental health issues to justify his behavior. He will not see it this way, but the sooner you do, the better.

  • After D-Day and the eventual “cat’s out of the bag” confrontation with FW, FW unceremoniously dumped the AP and I shifted into a kind of double-mindedness where, on the one hand, I went along with the RIC fiasco but, on the other, I continued secretly getting ducks in a row, including communicating with the PI and attorney I’d hired on D-Day. Both sent me links to the AP’s social media and work pages, pointing out that the AP seemed to be doing a single-white-female transformation. The PI said he always kept an eye out for certain bunny-boiler red flags like this. It’s true the AP suddenly lost a suspicious amount of weight, started wearing her hair like mine, shed her usual fast fashion gear and began copying what I wore, probably from photos on FW’s social media.

    It was a pretty unsettling transformation and I didn’t know what to make of it. When I wondered aloud if my kids and I might be in danger, a friend in the UK hooked me up with an academic psychologist friend who’d written and lectured about sexuality and personality disorders and I asked the woman how often these situations turned violent. I felt like I’d found the wizard on magic mountain or had found my personal i-Ching because what the psychologist wrote during a week-long correspondence was eerily correct about everyone involved. I jokingly asked whether she had ESP but the psychologist wrote that, no, it’s just that these situations and characters are almost always the same. She said that, when she was still treating patients, she’d never encountered anyone who’d knowingly pursued or gotten involved with a partnered person who wasn’t psychopathic to some degree but it was hard to guess how this could manifest. She said that while women aren’t often overtly violent, female “mate poachers” tend to be aggressive and “male directed” in terms of personality traits so all bets were off. She said it wouldn’t hurt to be vigilant and install a security system but it would probably be more important to keep my guard up for when I eventually threw FW out for good because, for all his neglect and betrayal, he’d “go spare”-wouldn’t accept a final separation.

    The psychologist basically echoed what Velvet Hammer always says– that affairs are “three legged stools that fall over when the victim leg is removed.” The psychologist said that, usually unconsciously on the part of affair participants, “extradyadic” relationships are typically centered around the victim in the triangle, either to punish or compete with or to have an object on which to project the perpetrators’ past bogeymen. Having a mutual victim is key to the affair bond. She guessed correctly that FW had experienced the loss of an important relationship just prior to the affair (true) and that I’d probably become more independent and social prior to the affair (true) and asked if I’d experienced professional success or had formed important new friendships leading up to the affair (yes and yes). I’d had a cancer scare just prior and asked if this fit the bill and she said that a partner’s illness, to a narcissist, simply means potential loss of supply so can have the same effect as a partner leading a more independent life. She said that rather than facing and exposing his own dependence and fears of abandonment, FW found someone else with their own pathological axe to grind to triangulate with in order to reverse his perception of the dynamics– make himself the “abandoner” and make me the one fearing abandonment. If I dared go out and make friends for myself, he would find his own ally/bully partner. I said this sounded exactly like domestic violence and the psychologist said it”s often part of dv.

    She guessed that the AP resembled FW’s mother in key ways (true). She said that FW likely hated, feared and resented his mother (true) and that FW had some psychological resemblance to the AP’s father (both apparently alcoholic cheaters, so also true). She guessed that both the AP and FW were attempting to gain mastery over relationship disasters from the past by reenacting them but this time shifting between perp and victim roles. While emulating perpetrators, abusers tend to project their own past abusers’ traits onto victims in order to justify the punishment and play victim themselves. She guessed that FW had probably seemed to change personalities and likely spewed a lot of abuse at me during the affair and said that if the accusations didn’t make sense it’s because they were all “confessions”– a matter of “externalizing evil” onto me by displacing his own worst traits, those of his childhood abusers and likely the worst traits of his AP. She guessed that FW’s mother was sadistic and competitive towards me (true) and also a former victim herself (true). She guessed that both FW and the AP concealed their underlying aggression with periodic “maudlin displays of empathy and sentimentality.” True. FW cries at chick flicks and always sent money (regardless of whether we could afford it) to the poorer members of his family. The AP described herself on a work bio as an “empath.”

    In the final analysis, the psychologist said the affair for both cheating parties had always been about the person being betrayed and punished, so it was no surprise that the AP had begun to copy-cat me once she’d “lost” her one-sided competition. In cheating with a married man, the psychologist guessed the AP had been trying to emulate the women who “won” against the AP’s mother– whatever hookers and affair partners her father went to. She said it was one of the risks to children if a victim stays with an abuser– that children will, again, sometimes internalize the traits of the most abusive parent or caregiver from their pasts, including the abuser’s contempt for, blame and punishment towards the more victimized parent or caregiver. But when I– the designated “loser”– seemingly “won” the Pickme smackdown, this threw the game for the the AP who would naturally attempt to emulate the “winner” again. The psychologist also guessed the AP would suddenly find religion (the AP’s parents are fundy), throw herself into showy philanthropy and reinvent herself as wholesome for a time. The psychologist then guessed that the AP’s concept of self was likely defined by symbols of consumerism, brands and exaggerated gender roles and not much else and that both FW and the AP were perpetually shopping for identities. Finally, the psychologist suggested that the AP had looming health problems and a family history of early death from chronic disease, both of which turned out to be true.

    I repeated the claims of RIC therapists that anyone getting involved with a cheater/abuser must be “codependent” but the psychologist said abusers tend to mirror their way into trust with primary partners while affair partners know from the start they’re getting enmeshed with an abuser. I was pretty blown away by her accuracy but the psychologist shrugged it off saying “facts cluster around good theories” and that simply rejecting the traditional “addiction” model for intimate partner abuse and the “codependency” model for victims can lead to greater understanding.

  • Tat,
    First, big hugs! It takes a lot out on someone who has had to live with this kind of abuse. I’m a survivor and it took me years after my divorce to finally unload the shit off my shoulders and out of my head. Their unstable mental games are a whole other level of mindfuck so be gentle with yourself emotionally and mentally while being tough by setting MAJOR boundaries!
    Listen to CL on all of these points. They are very important for your well-being for the rest of your life. Not just in this moment. No contact from these fuckers needs to be your new mantra because you can bet she is more like “Single White Female” psychopath since she has literally already started becoming “YOU”. (NOTE: if you haven’t seen the movie be cautious if you do as it may be triggering). These special fucktwits are a whole other level of psycho….literally! They do their best to erase you to become you. They want everything you have. It’s not just your husband they want, it’s everything – your job, your house, your things, your KIDS…..EVERYTHING!!!! So, with that in mind, be extremely diligent about building a fortress of boundaries with these a-holes. That includes your husband. Face it, he got sucked in and he enjoys the drama, fuckery, and abuse. It gives him a high just like her. They get off on it. Abusing YOU is their drug of choice! How do I know that? They fuck around in your house, she got close to you on your social media/conventions/family, and he knows everything she does/has done and is ok with it. So, don’t buy into the whole “he loves me” and “we are friends” BS….he is saying that shit to keep you stuck so you will stick around for more abuse. That said, with abusers the same is true as substance abusers, when you take away their drug of choice (aka: you) they will become more irritable, irrational, and can even become violent/deadly. Tat, you need to flip the switch now that your STBX may need a restraining order just as much as psycho smoochie.

    That said, here are some things you can do to protect yourself and help with that restraining order.
    1. install recording devises/dash cameras in your car (front and back) to record who follows you and who approaches your car or vandalizes it. The more discrete the better. Based on their descriptions, I bet you will be shocked at the results.
    2. install recording devices at work (if you have a shop), in your booths when you go to conventions, and at home (inside, pointing outside like to the road so you can see who is driving by, and even in the mailbox). Clearly psycho smoochie is a stalker and she gets off on causing you pain. When you take away her drug (you) by setting boundaries, be prepared for psycho smoochie to do some crazy shit. Get it ALL on camera! Ring makes some good products.
    3. Do your due diligence on your State recording laws. For example, in the State of TN I know only one person (myself) can have knowledge of a recording device being used. The others don’t have to know. This has gotten me out of so much crazy off the wall shit….it even saved my dog when he bit an unannounced maintenance man that my landlord let in while I was in my apartment when they were instructed to call me so I could put the dog up. Needless to say, I cover my ass by recording theirs!
    4. When you go to an event when you know they will be there (say kids recital, game, family outing, etc.) ALWAYS have your phone on record! Psycho smoochies love to create drama at functions so they become front and center vs you or whoever the event is about.
    5. And, last but not least, you said something that worries me about your lawyer. You implied that they weren’t sure if they could get a restraining order on psycho smoochie. Please note, a lot of lawyers don’t like recording devices or any actual documentation revealing psycho smoochie is a stalker….why? Because, it’s a gray area and either they don’t know how to navigate that level of fuckery or consider to much of a pain in the ass to navigate. Let me explain, it’s a “gray area” because in order for psycho to truly be considered a major threat she needs to physically beat you or threaten you physically, like threaten to kill you. Due to the laws, they view all the other mindfuckery as she is just being an “asshole” and they can’t lock someone up for just being an asshole. (Yes, I know it’s unnerving….sumo psycho pants smoochie completely removed me from my children’s medical/dental records and put her as their mother along with a long list of other shit trying to eradicate me from my own life. My ex knew what she was doing and completely played dumb as if he had no idea. It took a court ordered forensic psychologist to get involved to unveil the truth of what was happening). With that in mind, leads me to this…..if your lawyer doesn’t have the balls or the wherewithal to stick up for you and go after a restraining order regardless of how much evidence you have, get another fucking lawyer and get one that is a known bulldog! Bulldogs don’t play those fucking games. In fact, they love to put people in their place so they like to navigate the “gray area” BS that most hate. By the time I learned that lesson, I was depleted of funds and at my wits end in our YEARS long custody battle in which my fucking lawyer was suggesting I cave and give crazy psycho pants smoochie and my ex full custody of my kids. I ripped my lawyer a new one in front of everyone giving examples of how he wasn’t following his oath as a lawyer to “uphold the health, safety, and welfare of his client” and how I intended to report him to the board. After my outburst, the court then decided to get the forensic psychologist involved (which I am STILL paying on today….best debt I ever incurred) and the rest is history….I remained custodial parent, saved my kids, and got a report that I use when needed to keep my ex in line. It’s like the most magical sheets of paper ever! I’ve never seen a narc tap dance so fast to justify his asshole behavior to an authoritative figure or professional until I’ve whipped that report out. It’s comical!

    Hope these help! Also, educating yourself about narcissism and narcissistic abuse is really important in these types of situations because these people obviously have a disorder of some kind. The rule of thumb is ALL disordered people have narcissistic traits but not all narcissist have a certain disorder (such as BPD, sociopath, psychopath, etc.). Based on your description I can say she sounds like she has more psychopathic tendencies and those type of people tend to lean on the more destructive and violent side of the narc spectrum. I promise you none of us in situations like these ever wanted to get an education in narcissism or disorders but in order to protect ourselves, it’s a critical piece of our healing and protection. There are some great pages/people on Instagram/You Tube that give great snippets of information that easy to process and understand in small doses so it doesn’t become overwhelming because I promise you, it can get overwhelming. Dr. Ramani is AWESOME! Check her out on both Insta and YouTube. “Myexisanarcisstandimadeitout”, “myexisapsychopath”, “understandingthenarc”, and “ingridckaytonphd”, “drhenrycloudifficial” are all amazing Instagram pages that I highly recommend. Also, the books “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud, “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” by George Simon, “Out of the Fog” by Dana Morningstar are three extremely helpful books when it comes to this dynamic. Last but not least, your body sounds as if it responding as if it has PTSD (which is common for narc survivors to get due to all the mindfuck trauma they’ve experienced). “Out of the fog” has a website outofthefog.website that has A LOT of helpful information and tools to use to regain your life from narc abuse.

  • There is no chance this FW will ever be worth reconciling with, not now, not in 20 years. Once turned FW you can’t turn back, it’s like uncooked I got an egg, it’s impossible.

    Sure, there are people who cheat that can be redeemed and never cheat again, then there are cheaters (FWs). This guy is a FW. People who can be redeemed tend to have remorse without getting caught and confess without being found out. If they’re only sorry once you catch them they’re not sorry at all. 11 years is a FW, it’s a double life, it cannot be redeemed, ever.

    For him to blame it on just sex that was available is bullshit. You were available too, but he didn’t choose you, he chose her. He humiliated you by taking her side in fights and let her make a fool of you. He liked her plenty. The hour in the bathroom with the hard drive isn’t someone who “doesn’t like her all that much.” He’s just worried he’s losing his backup plan. Don’t be that for him, you’re better than that.

  • It’s the husband who is the freak.
    She’s just a garden-variety unstable schmoopi who has been hanging around for years.
    Get the divorce and go no contact with both and move on with a non cheater fraud liar user. Let him deal with the shit show he started.
    Got nothing to work with.

  • OMG, an entire book is needed on this! 12 years after OW’s first obsession with then-spouse/now-FW. Now she lives less than a mile from my house and has access to my precious children 50% of the time. While FW remains unchanged, she also – unfortunately- remains the same software engineer who almost required a restraining order in the 3 years pre-divorce due to hacking attempts. I’m so tired.

  • >