Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Be Free, Unfold the Swans

Origami swanDear Chump Lady,

When is a not-a-chump, a chump?

See, seven months ago, my partner of 21 years, husband of a mere 17 and a half, decided he didn’t want to be married any more. We’d been through and weathered a lot of shit, childlessness and miscarriages accounting for the greater part of the pile. Then around the 40th birthday mark, he began looking for a way out. A couple of years of being increasingly short-tempered and distracted (not taking his ADHD meds – apparently I was the only one with any problems) and he bowed out.

He wanted a ‘separation’ which I stupidly imagined was something a couple negotiated, might seek help to weigh up, and so on. I asked we see a therapist. Apparently a ‘separation’ actually meant he was ‘Done’ — as he announced determinedly five minutes after us meeting said therapist.

I read widely and waited for the inevitable: a Schmoopie to materialise some months down the line, but no. It would seem his other love is just him living like he’s 20 again, in his childhood bedroom. Yes, back home with his similarly Peter Pan-wannabe father. It would be funny if it wasn’t so bloody hurtful.

There really doesn’t seem to be an actual Schmoopie — though I don’t doubt he mentally put himself out there from day one. I think (whispers it) maybe he is his own Schmoopie? Like he’s in love with his new-found old self — fun, no ties, no pesky wife and pesky emotional, grown-up shit to deal with.

Does that make me a Chump?

By the way, your site saved me at a moment when the despair was all-encompassing. I’d been rejected, but for what? I picked myself apart and then, when I suspected there was perhaps an emotional affair going on at the very least, read this: Can I Leave for an Emotional Affair? (If he is his own Schmoopie, does that make him Narcissus?)

Anyway, days later I became the proud owner of an (unfolding) origami swan tattoo, as a reminder that I never should have been folding myself up into ever smaller pieces these two decades. Thank you.

‘Be free. Unfold the Swans.’

Love from
The Girl with the Origami Swan Tattoo

****

Dear The Girl with the Origami Swan Tattoo,

I could not think of a better way to start the New Year than to read you have an origami swan tattoo! I feel so honored!

To any newbies reading, I often describe the chump dynamic of folding yourself into tiny origami shapes and stuffing them into the recesses of your soul. Aka, making yourself small. Not mattering. A great part of un-chumping is reclaiming your rightful space. Remembering that you matter.

What an awesome image to tattoo on yourself. Please send us a picture!

As to whether you’re a chump, hey you have the tattoo and the abandonment. We’re here for support, Schmoopie or no Schmoopie.

(Although I must cynically point out that a lot of chumps thought there was no one else, and it came out much later.)

In any case, rejection sucks. But suddenly, life-altering abandonment perhaps sucks worst of all. What did I do? Was it something I said? How do you not take someone walking out of your life personally?

It’s a big subject, but I’d start with remembering where you begin and the other person ends, and come back to — is this acceptable to me? (There’s a tattoo… I say it often enough…)

Maybe there IS someone else. Maybe he DOES think you suck. Maybe he sees his 21 year investment as complete garbage and prefers to live alone with a bag of Doritos.

Now what? Do you want such a person? Why would you want to keep loving someone who doesn’t love you back? Besides habit.

It would seem his other love is just him living like he’s 20 again, in his childhood bedroom.

Okay, he’s made a unilateral decision to regress. Do you want that in a partner? The adolescence or the imperious decision making?

The only option here is to gain a life. Whether you want a new one, or not. To unfold the swans.

I’d been rejected, but for what?

It doesn’t matter. Figuring out why he rejected you is untangling the skein. Putting a lot of energy into his motivations and perceptions. What he values, how he perceives you. It’s still rejection. It’s what YOU do next that matters.

Let’s say this isn’t a matter of the heart, it’s a job promotion, and you didn’t get it. There may be valid reasons you didn’t get promoted (you’re not qualified). There may be invalid reasons (you’re a woman, they hate your haircut). At the end of the day — you didn’t get the job.

Instead of making yourself miserable second guessing yourself, and relying on their dubious explanations (if any are offered), shore yourself up and ask — was this a good fit? Or, more to the point — do you want to remain at an organization that doesn’t value you? 

If that happened, you probably wouldn’t hesitate to look for a new job. Sure, you would examine your strengths and weaknesses, as emotionally mature people do. But you wouldn’t slop over into self-recriminations. I made them reject me! New haircut stat! 

Now take that confidence and apply it to this marriage. This guy doesn’t value you. That’s important information. If he’s rejecting you because you can’t have babies — well, find someone who sees you as more than a uterus. Better yet, find yourself. Who are you without this guy’s opinion of your worth?

A guy living with his dad, surrounded by cold, greasy pizza boxes. That guy. Who bailed on you.

You’re not an ugly fuckling. You’re a swan.

Go be a swan.

Happy New Year.

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.
  • Two baseball teams on the world.

    Those who rescue kittens. Pick up litter. Communicate honestly. Honor commitments. Keep agreements. Have the backs of people they care about. Look for ways to contribute. Make amends (which means “to change”). Etc.

    I’m part Michigander, and have been following the news story of Elliot, the cat who was found frozen to the ground in the recent storm and was rescued. I was the one who found a kitten while on a walk next to the river in Port Huron and brought him home on the plane, not Traitor Ex. Traitor Ex adopted a kitten to bribe our daughter into coming over to his house. She and I pick up the slack where he fails to care for this cat. A VERY easy relationship compared to being in a committed romantic partnership or being a parent. His ineptitude in taking good care of the cat is not lost on her.

    The other team? Those that don’t give a flying F anyone or anything but themselves. Not a team I would call winners.

    We each get to decide which team we want to play for.

    And I’d bet my money this guy’s got a secret sexual double life. But Tracy is right about whether it matters. Do you really want to climb a mountain with a climbing partner who is willing to cut the rope at any moment?

    I don’t.

    That being said, lots of the untrustworthy can do the good deed for appearances, and do. Good con artists excel at the being the Nice Guy/ Gal. But it’s not consistent and sustainable. They always tip their hand at some point, and it’s important to be able to walk if you get the memo.

    • Velvet, I had a conversation with a gentleman chump not too long ago who described the work a good marriage requires as if tending to a rope bridge. He said you first have to recognize the fragility of the structure, and know it is the lifeline that keeps you from falling into the abyss. When there is a fray, or a rope loosens, you reinforce it and work every day to make sure it is secure. But when the other occupant of the bridge is taking a machete to it while you sleep, you have no other choice but to seek your own safety and refuge on one end or the other. Some of us return to where we stepped on, and hope or look for someone to help fix it, while others of us run to the other side, knowing it can never be repaired or traveled again. Wise words.

      • I like that analogy, TDMC, thanks for sharing. I will revisit that one.
        “ But when the other occupant of the bridge is taking a machete to it while you sleep, you have no other choice but to seek your own safety and refuge on one end or the other.”
        Exactly true, when someone devalues you, regardless of whether they have replaced you or not, it’s time to get to the other side of the bridge.
        Life is way too short to live with someone who keeps a machete under their pillow with the intent to hurt you, no matter their warped reason for doing so.

      • I was a climber back in the 90’s back in the 90’s. My therapist, still
        in my life today (I met her in 1985) was a climbing instructor. She urged me into the sport because of all the spiritual benefits and life lessons that came with it. I got on the wall and found out she was right. Climbing with Traitor Ex actually revealed his unaddressed control issues and disregard for me.

        She also told me that long term relationships are a skill and all have problems. She said I should look for someone I could work through problems with. I thought that was Traitor Ex. We went to counseling, with her and with my therapist today, on a regular basis our entire 27 years together. I went sincerely as preventive maintenance and as relationship school. I thought he was too. I now have no idea what his intentions were. Therapist and I could not tell he was lying. The money and time spent in counseling with him was not a total waste. Both of these incredible women have been invaluable living reality checks when he frequently attempts to re-write history.

        Part of my infidelity recovery is getting back on the wall. I got some new climbing shoes recently. I hear Yosemite calling. I can highly recommend it if you can get on a wall, inside a climbing gym or outside.

        One piece of climbing-as-life-lesson wisdom of hers I still use…..and is definitely useful for infidelity recovery……

        DO THE MOVE YOU’RE ON. The landscape and circumstances will be different above where you are, and you can’t make a decision or a move until you get there.

    • 100% Michigander here! I always enjoy your sage advice.

      In 2015, before DDay #2, Asshat “connived” with my daugher, then a freshman in college, to have her bring home two cats during Christmas break without my knowledge. They were to be hers, but not surprisingly, everything fell to me once she went back to school. Anyway, during divorce in 2016, Asshat emailed me about taking the cats (I was already taking another cat and the dog) claiming that if I didn’t, “he’d have to take them to the Humane Society”. It was the first time I realized what a manipulator he was and is. I finally had the clarity and strength needed to say NO. I found out later that he told the kids he had taken them to a “farm” outside of town.

      Asshat definitely on Team Loser.

      • Ah, Ginger_Superpowers, this tale resonated w/me. My FW XW, about a year to a year and a half after I fell into a deep depression

        [after leaving pharmacy as a profession (stressed out, which led to burnout) because I was not able to figure out or get a new job that supported our family at the level we were or at least SHE was accustomed to by that point (e.g., $350000 home w/an over $2000/month mortgage)],

        on her own and completely unbeknownst to me or the kids (foreshadowing her future unilateral move of exit-affairing me), got us two sister kittens thru a friend at work.

        She brought them home and showed them to the kids first while I was at my new lower-paying job. The kids were worried I was going to be angry w/their mother, as we had formerly agreed to take a 5 year hiatus from pets when we had lost our previous two cats and dog all in about a year‘s time, before I stopped working as a pharmacist. We did have three children, and I thought we were going to focus more on them as a result.

        But how can you get upset over two adorable kittens? So, I explained to the kids that no, I wasn’t angry w/their mother, because I LOVED their mother, and if these kittens made her and them happy, who was I to say no?

        Fast-forward to D-day. I find out she’s been seducing her boss (and/or vice-versa, most likely and) and despite me begging her to give our almost 25 yo marriage a second chance, she tells me she’s sorry, but she loves her fucking 15 years older, rich, 40 years married boss (and obviously loves fucking her boss, done on Saturdays when I was at my retail job, w/her claiming she needed to work extra on projects he’s given her [ha!], and leaving the kids to fend for themselves).

        She then moves out into a brand spanking new expensive apartment complex in our village after almost two weeks post D-day w/me (waiting on her asshole partner to tell his wife about his unilateral actions against her and their marriage
        and make arrangements for himself and my FW XW), LITERALLY A HALF MILE DOWN THE ROAD from what is to become MY house, that we downsized into to keep her political position in our village/town when things got tougher for us financially.

        And the cats? I house them and take care of them now. She told our oldest daughter shortly after D-day that like her therapist said to her (a therapist she never told me she was seeing until D-day), she was going to have to learn to limit her love (I guess mainly to her FW partner, and maybe the kids).

        So, to honestly empathize w/you over your Asshat’s pet manipulation, I’ll use (admittedly) a famous narcissist’s words: I feel your pain (or, for maximum mimicry, AH FEEL YO PAIN).

        My FW XW is on Team Loser, too. Really, all these fuckwits are, aren’t they? We’re so much better off w/out them. Best wishes to you and your kids in this New Year.😊

    • Good con artists excel at being the Nice Guy/Gal. …. it’s important to be able to walk if you get the memo.
      I was JUST talking about this concept, and re-framing the last 4yrs of my relationship with my X. If I had been able to see through the implications to the simple truth of, “I’ve been conning you for the last 2+decades, the gig is up because I want out.”, I would have done better in my divorce settlement.
      Of course, I did not see the situation for what it was. I went into panic mode. Basically begged him to keep conning me because I could not handle the discard. At the time I could not see the situation for the complex simplicity that it was (a con artist done with the con, well, almost done).

      Now I see it. The word “artist” is there for a reason.

      • So true. Veteran DV researcher and criminologist Donald Dutton cites studies showing that domestic abusers channel far more psychic energy into image management than normal. He also alludes to the tendency of abusers to “mirror” their prey by describing the strange alacrity that domestic abusers can have for absorbing and reading materials that help them understand their targets. In other words, a batterer is more likely read articles and books or watch films and documentaries featuring victims’ perspectives (for instance, no filmmaker was better at depicting the complex social and emotional traps that victims experience than serial rapist Roman Polanski). What this indicates is that even an abuser of average intelligence is going to be much better at conning, manipulating and flying under the radar than most people. Bystanders who assume that victims only get hoodwinked due to some deficiency in intellect or perceptions don’t know the first thing about how abusers operate.

    • Yes VH. Ex is a conman/nice guy. There were a few red flags but as he tried to be nice guy most of the time I dismissed the red flags as him being human. All the more of a shock when he left for OW. The betrayal and abandonment were devastating but with the help of CL and CN I’ve reached a happyish single state. I will never be in a romantic relationship again though as conman are so convincing.

    • VH, this is something I have been thinking about for a while. People close to me have had cheaters with remarkably similar personalities to my STBX. There are many superficial differences but the similarities – entitlement, selfishness, unwillingness to be accountable, emotional immaturity, lack of empathy, and laziness – go to the bone. And their bad behavior manifested in different ways – with one being primarily verbally and physically abusive, another more of a substance abuser, and another more financially abusive. There was lots of overlap in behaviors. In some cases the cheating played a relatively small part. Crap character was the fundamental issue.

  • Reading this NOW to my best friend. Her boy “friend” spent the whole holidays with his ex-wife and daughter (the other excuse being that he misses his beautiful house), ex who has done nothing useful for the last 25 year and lives off said boy friend and whom he has not divorced so he does not lose money

      • This exchange reminded me of my ex-FW who had his Schmoopie convinced at the beginning that he was single. He even went to Vegas and married her while we were still very much married. We were not separated or anything. I was totally clueless and even drove him to the airport for his trip “with the guys,” so he told me. I was so clueless that I even warned him, “Don’t do anything stupid while you’re there,” as kind of a joke because of Vegas’ reputation. Clearly, the joke was on me. I think ex-FW really did lose his mind for a while. He is a lawyer, too. What kind of person in his right mind, let alone a lawyer, commits bigamy (a felony in NV). Did he not know that the Vegas “marriage” was void from the get-go? I don’t think gold-digger Schmoopie would have ever knowingly entered a void marriage, so I do think she was clueless at that time. The point of my story is that it’s possible that a Schmoopie has no idea a FW is married. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case with ClearWaters’ friend? In my situation, Schmoopie definitely figured it out later and still pursued FW, and he pursued her. He paid her off in a lawsuit after the first marriage for “pain and suffering, deceit, fraud,” etc., but he didn’t learn. After wreckonciliation and our divorce, he married her again, having learned nothing apparently. I didn’t hear the whole story, but the second marriage blew up after only a few days, after she took him for money. Sad, really.

    • Clear Waters: I can’t believe you came on here judging a SAHM! WTF?! You actual believe the narrative your friend & her very-much married lothario are putting out there?! Have you learned nothing here???

      • Wow, she is not a sahm. She is plain lazy. I live in a country where upper middle class wives have servants. She wakes up at noon and has breakfast ready for her. She has cheated at least twice on my friend’s “friend”. More complicated than what transpires in my post, sorry.

        • ClearWaters: maybe the wife is depressed, ill or entitled, whatever. I just know that married cheaters paint a negative picture of their spouses & the OW/OM buy into that narrative because it lets them off the hook for boinking married people. I can’t believe anyone that has been chumped would actually believe the cheater’s narrative or defend why someone is being chumped. That AH can divorce his wife, he’s just letting greed stand in the way of doing so.

          • Could be greed, or he just doesn’t want a D.

            But yeah either way, there is no excuse for cheating. The ethical way is end the relationship before beginning another.

        • Of course she has. I’ve also cheated and abused my ex husband and he was such a victim and I’m just a lazy, evil bitch that he was forced to stay married to for so long. That’s cheater speak 101. Unreal that you and your whore friend fall for his shit. He’s a scumbag carrying on a second life.

          • Yep, I was a cold, controlling, sexless, verbally abusive monster. I also prevented him from going to college or having a career by being so unsupportive of his dreams.

            Lying liars lie, and their favorite lie is to blame other people so they can maintain their faux innocence while simultaneously evoking sympathy from the person they are lying to.

          • KatiePig– #MeToo. I’m an evil ogre and a parasite don’tcha know? The shit FW fed his idiot AP was epic– either fully fabricated or twisted half truths. It was all blame-shifting coupled with using me as a “head on a pike” warning in an attempt to groom the AP to accept shit sandwiches lest her complaints make her “contemptible” and “punishable” like me.

            Sample of what FW said to AP vs. the actual facts and then how the AP extrapolated the information in a way that rationalized her own behavior:

            –What FW said to the AP: “My wife doesn’t know how to get along with people.”

            –Reality: I’d prosecuted a workplace stalker in college and tended to view sexual predators with an unforgiving eye. I filed a civil rights claim against a public school for physically abusing my disabled son. I turned my back on extended family members who treated my disabled son like an embarrassing defective reject.

            –So the “grooming” subtext of FW’s message to AP was: “Don’t you go being a person with a sense of justice and fairness who puts children first and who objects to sexual aggression and makes perpetrators pay consequences. Just eat your bowl of shit, participate in destroying other people without conscience and, once you realize you’re just a bangmaid, say ‘Thank you, Sir, I’ll have another’ to avoid my contempt!”

            –Ways in which the AP extrapolated the message and showed herself to be garbage in her own right: She told her friends that my supposed social deficit proved my son’s disability was inherited from my side (never mind that the lit reports the condition is environmental and only genetically mediated by paternally inherited susceptibility) and then tried to get secretly pregnant.

            Thankfully the pregnancy scheme didn’t work out. Aside from the tragedy of any child born into those circumstances, maintaining my son’s health already costs a fortune and my kids needed a fetal alcohol syndrome half sibling like they need holes in their heads. Clearly the AP also used the information to externalize and project her own problems and social issues, such as her history of bulimia, alcoholism, unstable friendships and hookups with married college professors and other partnered geezers because she was unable to attract or maintain relationships with single men (according to two of her coworkers and a former high school classmate). She also projected her own part in embezzling. When she learned I’d quit my job to care for a disabled child, she called me a parasite… never mind the $40K of family assets she bilked (I saw the emails wheedling and begging for four star weekend vacations, top shelf booze and bistro grub).

            I thank God that, while dating, I’d always recognized the “hubris trap” and manipulation of accepting someone’s habitual trashing of an ex. Knee-jerk ex-trashing and the use of labels were the kinds of red flags my girl gang always talked about. For example, if a guy said his ex was “jealous,” it meant he was likely a cheater. If he said his ex was “crazy,” it meant he was likely a gaslighter. Etc., etc. If I’d bought into that crap when I was single I think that, once I was made a target of it, it would have hindered my understanding that abusers just make shit up to demonize their own victims. It helped keep FW’s DARVO nonsense from getting under my skin. In other words, it would have been like spitting in the wind to believe the garbage because, once I was subjected to it, I would have already given it credence. The punishment for buying into it is built right in.

        • ClearWaters: sorry that my response to you came out so strong. I was/still am being painted as a lazy/negative/sexless/fill-in-the-blank mom & wife by my ex & when the OW emailed me & accused me of those things, well…it was shocking & hurtful that it was coming from my own husband & the father of my children! Your post about the wife reminded me of that. I hope you reconsider that you may not know the whole story.

        • I live part of the year in the capital of a country where it’s common for upper middle class (or even middle class) families have underpaid maids and cooks. For whatever socioeconomic/sociopolitical reasons, places with steep class divisions that create this kind of servant caste also have terrible gender inequality and rampant domestic violence. Where there’s one kind of injustice, there’s every kind of injustice. From what I’ve seen it doesn’t look like much fun to be a trophy wife. I’m betting the closer to the center of power you get, the worse it gets. But it probably looks better relative to every woman’s terror of ending up broke because poverty has no bottom. I was so glad to see how huge and coordinated the women’s marches were in 2017.

      • Exactly Wow, I was painted as some sort of high maintenance, pretty princess type that took poor FWs money and lifestyle. The one OW coveted and partner poached

        The reality, I had my own home, a career and a degree when we met

        He was renting but yes, his career rose further while mine fell owing to having a child

        A few months before DDay, he said I could leave my stressful job to look after our child for a while. A joint decision. More fool me. Of course, I would never have done so if I had realised he was leading a double life. I trusted him!

        He paints the picture of a generous ex who paid all the bills for months, including the mortgage. I had no money for food or our child’s clothes though. He said I could use our child’s inheritance from a relative

        I had to use that to feed us and divorce the wanker. Guess who had to divorce him and pay for the privilege

        Bastard! He was living his best life meanwhile with holidays and new clothes

        They lie and lie and lie

        • Yep, I was pressured to quit my job when my son was diagnosed with a chronic medical condition and disability. Even when I was working I never felt like I had real emotional support to deal with all the nonsense that women in my field typically encounter, including harassment by a boss who was later accused of rape by 12 women.

          Over time it started making me feel like my work was introducing unneeded stress in the marriage rather than realizing that FW, as a narcissist, didn’t “do” other people’s crises, including those of his own children. And FW didn’t pick up much slack at home caring for three kids, at least not without complaint and he always did it with the attitude of someone on a hunger strike for an important cause. Once I was out of the workforce, FW put the family on a punishing budget. I never complained about wearing the same jeans and torn t-shirts for a decade, never visiting a salon and even foregoing dental visits because I thought we were scrimping for the kids. FW failed to mention when a secret investment panned out, preferring to spend it on an affair while still putting us in deep debt. Yet he led his flying monkeys and AP– whose epic bar tabs he always covered– to believe I was blowing money left and right.

          After D-Day I found a stray text that FW had forgotten to delete in which he complained about my “spending” to his lesbian work-wife/pimp/cover-up artist/drinking buddy. It was easy to compare the timing of the email with the request for money I’d made at the time: for a new stove because our oven completely died. Yep. I’m a parasite because I feed my kids.

  • Great letter and advice to start a new year! Thank you for this…
    Learning to value ourselves first can often feel counter-intuitive, especially to one who has been devalued to the point they no longer feel deserving of the bare minimum of being treated with kindness and decency.
    May we all unfold into “meh swans” on our fuckwit free journey forward!

  • Letter writer might not have been chumped. Perhaps the soon to be ex did the honorable thing and is ending the marriage without having an affair. It’s entirely possible. But if what you read here supports you and lifts you up, please keep coming back, chumped or not. You are working on the get a life part now. You are still trying to sort out if he is honorable or not. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Don’t overthink it. Build up your own life and keep unfolding!

    • What’s good is you are freed from a person who doesn’t value you.

      The new reality of opportunity.
      It’s a gift.

      Unfolding yourself into who you are. Beautiful analogy.

  • The Girl with the Origami Swan Tattoo,

    Whatever it is that your Ex has going on, it’s most definitely a “him problem” and not a “you problem.” And regardless of whether he is cheating or not, his self-appointed right to make unilateral decisions that impact both of you is more than enough for you to “nope-the-f*ck-out-of-there” with a clear conscience; his Dad is welcome to him.

    Best of luck; you’ve got this.

    LFTT

  • In my situation, I was a chump who didn’t realize they were a chump until well after the fact. Fortunately, I didn’t marry him. I went through the whole narcissistic cycle of idealize-devalue-discard. I realized later he was trying to goad me into the pick-me dance. I should dye my hair blonde; he preferred blonde hair (I didn’t dye my hair). I should be a teacher; that was the job I was supposed to be doing (I’m not a teacher and I have no plans to be one). I should be getting a doctorate (hell no).

    I discovered almost a year after he’d ghosted me with no explanation that he’d gotten married. To a teacher. With blonde hair. Who had an advanced degree. Oddly enough, her name was also Jennifer. Coincidence? Maybe. But it seems like the odds of it being a coincidence are about the same as having lizards crawl out of my ears. It’s more likely that he was trying to get me to play the pick-me dance, and never had any intention of building a real, lasting relationship. I was just a temporary diversion for him.

    Whatever the reason, he treated me like a chump and behaved like a faithless cheater. It was still a cruel rejection.

  • This is very cruel, to be left just so. Would have killed me, had I not discovered later that indeed there was somebody, and that there had been an ongoing secret sexual life.
    Former spouse a withholder, I was completely gaslit/controlled.

    • “Former spouse a withholder.” So true of my ex too. Thanks for summing it up so neatly.

      Looking back, “withholder” describes him succinctly. He withheld his time, interest, affection, warmth, support, love and all the other components that go into a partnership.

  • Keep unfolding. I spend the past year thinking I had a unicorn and was doubting my decision to separate after learning on his affair. He started going to step programs and working on healing trauma. He was being attentive, supportive, helpful. He’s been working on becoming the best version of himself. . . . aaannnnddd sharing it with others–I found out he was dating lots of women after getting into some text messages. Turns out he’s still narcissistic and, not in fact a unicorn, but an ass with a carrot taped to his head. I’m meeting with an attorney this week and filing.

    • and to add–we hadn’t officially separated–he was spending a few days a week “housesitting” at his mother’s empty home. He was still enjoying the all the benefits of marriage. Effing cake-eater

  • I don’t believe you have to do something as dramatic as getting a tattoo to be free, but if that is what you want, do it. The entire point of freedom is that you realize you are a person of value, with choices. We do not “need” to be part of a couple to be fulfilled, or whole. I understand the yearning for a partner to help you shoulder the load of your world. It would be nice if someone truly had your back. But the truth is you are born alone, and you will die alone — metaphorically. If you have a caring parent, an efficient medical provider, a welcoming family to support you, dependable friends to love you — your quality of life will be better. If you are partnered with a petulant, selfish, immature freak, you carry an unnecessary burden.

    It took a long time for me to realize I did not have to change myself and my needs and desires for someone else. If I make changes, they are for me to live a better, happier life. Someone else can be a good companion, but they are not responsible for my happiness. I am.

    I have varied interests and interact with small groups of people who share those interests. I like some of them better than others. When we meet for events, I enjoy the event more if those people are there. But if they don’t show up my world does not end. Everyone has the choice to spend their time doing what is right for them. Companions increase the pleasure and help diminish the boredom and monotony of doing the necessary everyday details of living. But any companion you have is also a person of value with choices. Sometimes your interests will align, sometimes not. You are not responsible for their happiness. You are responsible for the choices you make which ultimately determines your own happiness. The trick is to choose wisely.

    It does not matter if there is another person involved in a relationship with someone you perceive to be your partner. What matters is whether your perception of the partnership is correct. Your partner can have other companions and other interests. Your partner should only share certain intimate bits of your relationship with you. If you don’t have an explicit understanding of the terms of your relationship, and the desire to be faithful to that agreement, then you really don’t have a partner. You have a sometimes companion. If that companion decides he wants to be an immature jerk and live a selfish non-reciprocal lifestyle, you are better off saying goodbye to that companion. It does not matter why he chooses to be a jerk. What matters is whether or not the choices that jerk makes are acceptable to you. How do you define your partnership? Do you have a mutual understanding? If not, move on, that person is not your partner.

    To borrow a line from an old song I love, the road goes on forever and the party never ends.

  • I had to decide to end my 30 year “mirage” to find the full extent of the horrible grab bag of lies and deceptions. I also experienced ten plus years of miscarriages and childlessness (and now have one daughter after a huge science project), and Velvet Hammer is correct-there are two teams. My XFW was cheating almost the entire time, was an entitled baby man who just wanted to “feel good” as he put it. While I almost bled out with an ectopic from the scarred fallopian tissue caused by his schmoopie’s chlamydia. Run, do not walk, away from him and towards your own self esteem.

  • OP, if your marriage was fraught and your husband decided he didn’t love you anymore and had no intention of working things out, then the kindest and most respectful thing that he could’ve done was leave. He didn’t string you along, wasting thousands of dollars and hundreds of dollars on counseling, and he didn’t stab you in the back with the help of an OW.

    • This was my reaction too.

      I dont ignore the amount of pain that would be caused by the person ending a long relationship which I still valued, but even though it took time and was initially couched in uncertainty, he eventually fessed to the reality that he was done and leaving. Part of the full Chump Experience is deceit and manipulation (sometimes for decades) with Cheaters simultaneously gaining what they wish to keep from the facade life they had with us and the cheater life with others. We are denied the information we need to make decisions with full agency.

      I still have nightmares of being married to my Cheater and my nightmare last night reminded me that he tried to cancel our wedding 2 weeks before explaining that he thought I still had feelings for an old boyfriend (I didnt). My Now-Self can see that he didn’t want to get married but was too cowardly to admit it. My Then-Self scurried around to reassure him that my love was real. I really do with that he had been honest with himself and me and ended it years before, but he did seem to enjoy the benefits I brought to his life.

      I have matured to a state of realizing that all humans should have the option to openly and honestly end relationships. If there are kids, really hard work needs to be invested to minimize damage to their ecosystems.

      I am glad for you that you may have possibly avoided the Full Chump Experience; time will tell. You are in pain and if being here helps you survive the experience then consider yourself welcome. Im sorry for your pain and I hope your efforts to build a new Swan Life are successful and bring you flourishing.

    • He did string her along for quite some time, growing increasingly meaner and refusing to take his ADHD meds, and blaming her for his problems. Obviously, he had wanted out for a while but said nothing. I don’t call that kind or respectful. Nor do I believe he didn’t chump her. There may not be an OW, but odds are he is into porn, cam girls, chicks on Onlyfans, and/or uses hookers. It goes hard in hand with his adolescent mentality.
      I’d be willing to bet a lot of money on it. But of course, OP will never know for sure, since he has moved out.

      • Yeah, he spent a couple years treating her like crap, that’s not kind nor is it respectful. My ex grew increasingly cruel to me and when I would try to talk to him about it, he’d cry and claim stress and make himself the victim. My first thought when reading it was also that he was one of those porn sick baby men. He sounds just like one. They all want to go live like Peter Pan and fuck Tinkerbell, as if Tinkerbell would actually want them.

      • I agree OHFFS, and I’ve lived both. Both types of abandonment are awful. Although it took many of us a while to realize that it was over – even with proof of being replaced, it’s traumatically disorientating in a different way when you think there’s no one else. It makes no sense, your life is blown up, your kids suffer, finances suffer and you are dumped for such innocent, minor acts of being human.
        You are living one reality, they are living another.
        And then you realize, the times/ years you felt devalued were real.
        They didn’t want you and strung you along for years because you served some purpose.
        And you can’t blame it on them being a cheater, because you think that’s not it- so you think you must really suck.

        It’s not a pain competition as CL says. Being devalued and having your family blown up suddenly is awful no matter how it comes about.

      • I think I may be in the minority here but given a long marriage with huge sunk costs (like in every long marriage), I don’t believe in “honorable” one-sided divorce after many years of marriage. I believe that past a certain point in a long relationship, you’re too far along to “honorably” walk away with half of everything like that’s “honorable.” It’s not. Just because you don’t cheat, that doesn’t mean you’re “honorable.” A promise was still broken, and it wasn’t some silly little promise that had no consequences. The other partner most likely altered their entire life based upon that promise, and they cannot get those years back. There should at least be an unequal division of assets to make up for the waste of so many years.

        I personally made many (mostly career) decisions in reliance upon being married (working the less stressful, less economically rewarding job that had a pension so as to maximize our retirement and be the primary parent, e.g.). Had I known FW was not in it for the long haul, whether he was going to cheat or not, I would have made different decisions. So, whether there was cheating or not, I was still deprived of agency. The playing field wasn’t level; he knew things that I did not. I know that’s not what this blog is about, and I was also cheated on — FW had a secret double life for years and cheated with multiple women, but for me, the idea that simply not cheating makes walking out on a marriage (especially a long marriage) “honorable” doesn’t sit well, at least not without “damages” to the other spouse for the detrimental reliance. I know I’m not doing a very good job of articulating my point, so if anyone understands what I’m trying to say — thank you for getting it. 🙂

        • You articulated it well, CBN, and I agree. When we marry, we promise to love and take care of one another forever. To make that promise if you’re not sure you can do it is a con. There is no honorable way to break such an important promise. If you’re honorable, you stick it out, as long as your partner is not abusive, a cheater, or otherwise breaks the commitment. If you’re honorable, you don’t allow your silly, trivial desire to live like a teenager to break somebody’s heart. You get some therapy, work on your shit and learn to grow up.
          This guy is not honorable.

        • I agree with you. People basically screw over their spouse ( and kids) when they do that. It’s really tough if you go through that, because you want to tell your children to always think about their future, not put all their eggs in 1 basket (marriage), make sure they’re OK financially, not to count on their spouse’s career, not to be the stay at home parent… If you think your future with that person isn’t guaranteed, it really changes your perspective on how one should go about in the union for the sake of the team.
          My mom used to give me advice (re finances) when I was married, and I didn’t take it because I thought she was being negative. I had complete trust that our marriage would last.

    • Blue Ethan blue: as someone who got stabbed in the back with the help of an OW, I agree with you. I would rather deal with my ex moving on (although still hurtful & a blow to our self-esteem & how we imagined our future) than the OW trying to move in as mom & wife replacement faster than I could get to an attorney. Yes, the OP was likely chumped at some point. The husband likely had a brief affair, attempted an affair, or thought he could have one…and that started the wheels in motion to exit the marriage. Still hurts no matter how you slice it.

      • I will say though, in addition to what I just posted, having an OW parent your kids is a double shit sandwich.
        I suffered through many of his future girlfriends doing family things and trips with my kids when I was alone and it was awful. I was completely replaced. I can only imagine the devastation if it had been an OW.
        At least with FW H#2, my kids had no contact with their former stepdad or the OW.

  • My ex sister-in-law was the female version of your husband. She just wanted to party and my brother found out that there was not one other man there were several. I think she partied a good bit the next 10 or 15 years or so but he lost touch with her and I certainly did. The more I think about people like this the more I realize there is no there there.
    Living at dad‘s. Does he have a Blankey? Have they taken his training wheels off yet?

  • Yes, it hurts, but big strokes like this message the end of the relationship. I asked my ex for a separation, and he made it long-distance. I kept trying to make that something different than it was until I realized that he didn’t care a bit about the chaos he created and how he blew up several decades together. I eventually realized how foolish it was to have any relationship discussions after that. He had already telegraphed how very little we meant to him.

    My attorney said that what he called a “runner” either has someone on the other side or will eventually have a “social life” apart from their long-term commitments. He had never seen an exception in 40+ years in divorce law. He also noted that what you know in these situations is a fraction of what is. They will hide the truth from you as well as from themselves. In the end, his attorney blabbed to mine, and I knew. At that point, it didn’t matter.

    Either way, it’s a significant lack of maturity. And maturity is what you need for a good marriage.

  • My ex had both a real schmoopie in the form of an ex student with whom he had an emotional affair (it may not have been purely emotional, of course) as well as a fantasy schmoopie in the form of himself when cross-dressed with whom he made sweet, sweet masturbatory love, so I feel both empathy for this writer and a sense of validation for my feeling that my ex was the other woman (or one of them). He’d go out with the ex-student to “have fun again” and brought his other-woman self into our bed and ask me to make love to her.

    Based on the two years of my ex’s dalliance with his ex-student as he “explored” his woman persona before he declared his undying love of himself as a woman, I also think the writer’s ex may very well have had a schmoopie, emotional or otherwise, during the two years of devaluing that preceded his discard and abandonment. She attributes his attitude to not taking his ADHD medication, but it may very well have been a schmoopie–how many of us engaged in this kind of analysis, only to discover the real reason our spouses were acting as they did?

    She may discover he did have one; she may not. But her experience certainly suggests the possibility, and I’m glad CL’s answer was a generous one.

    May we all in this new year remember we matter, stop making ourselves small, “unfold” ourselves, reclaim our “rightful space,” and keep on gaining our lives.

  • I also feel honored because the letter I wrote CL and her response helped you. A bit more about my now XFW. He is living in a house next door to his parents. His parents built the house for our family, but when I moved out he turned it into a childish bachelor pad. My daughter walled me through the house–Magic The Gathering cards everywhere.

    My son’s old room was turned into a Magic the Gathering room–even more cards! My daughter had no place to sit on the couch because of all the cards.

    He put two cots in my daughter’s old room, so my two (opposite gender teenage) kids share a room when they visit. In reality they are rarely over there and mostly stay with his mom during his custody time.

    In addition toward the end of my marriage I learned that he would watch p0rn and get himself off for HOURS every day. Looking back I’ve come to terms with the fact that he loved himself way too much to ever really live me or his kids.

    He’s living his dream now with his card game, porn, and pining after OW. In this way, i can relate to your letter too.
    I was also discarded so he could live like a child, supported be his parents. Meanwhile I’m living a far happier life doing adult things! CL did an update post for me, showing my beautiful space in the house I bought after my divorce.

    I’ve learned that it was never about me not being good enough for him. It was always about me being too good for him.

    • >I’ve learned that it was never about me not being good enough for him. It was always about me being too good for him.

      So happy for you!

      Also, this is the tl;dr of every single Chump story, and it’s crazy how long it takes all of us to realize this.

  • This sounds quite familiar to me. My ex went through a period of disintegration before D-Day, when he called me to say he wasn’t coming home. At 48, he started to hang out with much younger friends, ramped up his drinking, and a week after he left that he moved in with the 20-year-old girl he was fucking during our marriage. His three-page Google Doc manifesto he sent me was a casing full of sad sausage, that he never fully realized he’d ever live to be 50, he hasn’t achieved any of his hopes and dreams (because as soon as he hit a tiny speed bump he was done with whichever dream was happening), and it was because I dragged him down (apparently by my paying 90% of the household expenses and my supporting him through all his moneymaking schemes, some of them pyramid), boo hoo hoo, blub blub blub.
    So he left to chase his youth. Schmoopie was a symptom, not the full disease (of course I’m going on my limited information; I’m betting this wasn’t the first time he cheated). He didn’t realize that the space-time continuum applied to him too, and that with each successive birthday the age number goes UP and does not stay the same or go down.

  • By your own admission, he’s selfish and immature and emotionally unavailable. Is he a cheater? Who knows, but I can tell you from experience, having dated a ton of these assholes, that they’re usually cheaters.

    They’re also an absolute nightmare to deal with, and utterly unqualified to be partners, as you’ve experienced. Adults run by id need a more capable adult to do everything for them, which is exhausting. Worse, they resent you for their own incompetence. They’re like children, except meaner.

    I got rejected and abandoned by so many of these losers, who of course acted like it was my fault and I was beneath them. It fucks with your head. With therapy though, I realized these manchildren did me a favor. They’re parasites who drag down everyone who tries to love them.

    The full details of why your husband left can be boiled down to “he’s unfit to be a husband.”

  • It’s a hard truth: NEVER chase after someone who is rejecting you. No good will ever come of it.
    I made excuses for my 1st H – and they seemed very valid to me; he had untreated mental health issues. I tried so hard for years. The damage done to my self-esteem and finances was huge. I should have been working on myself rather than always trying to get him help. Then, divorce with kids and yrs of worry because he still had untreated MH issues which continued to impact me, as we had kids.

    I’m grateful for my kids, but always wished I could have had a clean break- 0 contact. It was impossible in my circumstance. He got shared custody.

    H #2 was Mr Wonderful FW- a one day to the next situation.

    I’m sure your H thinks life will be easier/better without you. It might be for him. He might be happy living without having to deal with anything or anyone.
    Porn may have replaced a real person.
    He’s off your team. Work on getting as strong as you can.

    I feel like I may have stuck at that bad job thinking my new position will come next. Sometimes realistic is better than optimistic.

  • Sending support swan. Being devalued and discarded hurts no matter if he’s currently physically screwing strange or not. His sexual manifestation of his selfishness and lack of empathy may be online or with sex workers. It doesn’t really matter— the way he is isn’t husband quality. Now comes the new skill of learning to believe it and building a new life. Investing in yourself will be worth it. We are here for you!

  • I really like this post today. To me, the abandonment happened during my marriage just as much as when he got caught cheating and then left. Each day I was an abandoned in the sense that he just wasn’t there for me and he wasn’t connected and didn’t feel anything. My friend said one day, “He didn’t leave you, he left himself.” Abandonment hurts like hell because we’re meant to bond. If this guy can’t bond to you, Swan, then let him go. You’re now free to find someone who can/will bond and be there. 🦢

  • You were abruptly discarded after being devalued for a few years. The ‘separation’ was exposed on the first therapy session as meaning he wanted a divorce. He’s a man child living in his parents basement.
    I’ve lived through these very cycles which were in fact dating sprees when he wanted to test the waters for someone he was interested in. When it didn’t work out he’d return promising (future faking) all those expectations of a REAL partner. And so it went back to the infatuation love bombing. Don’t get stuck on wondering, get a fair settlement and go no contact. Do get credit checks on your financials and get tested for STD’s. Do not get sucked back into his cycling. File.

  • I got cruelly dumped before I found out about the secret sexual life insanity. It’s just as painful. Honestly, finding out about the stuff with strangers made the dumping a little easier. It was the secrets with people I knew and cared about that really broke me. But finding out he was exposing me to high risks of disease from getting plowed in the butt by transgender prostitutes? That made me glad he was gone. Reading “my girlfriend just loves trannies!” (exact words from the emails) and finding out I knew the girlfriend he took with him to see these prostitutes and she was fine with me being exposed to this risk without my knowledge or consent? That she could come to Christmas at my house and smile at me and accept gifts from me and eat my food? That broke me a bit.

    But, the dumping is just as painful when it’s done cruelly, as he did to you. I’m sorry you’re dealing with it but I’m glad you found our boat. Hang in there. It gets better.

  • The man who is my companion chose to leave his marriage of 36 yrs. He told me he got to a point where his stomach would knot up when he walked into the house..that they hadn’t spoken to each other in 6 months. When he came home from work she went upstairs and he went to the kitchen to make dinner for himself. He had a conversation with her to tell her how he felt and that he was moving out. She just said, well I guess that is what you are doing. They divorced and now spend holidays with the children and grandkids. They are civil to each other. We both agree divorce sucks. She however is still quite bitter. I am learning how to be considerate of my ex around the family without feeling vindictive and nasty. It is not easy. He makes it easier cuz he is usually a no show which hurts my sons and makes me want to rip his lungs out of his body (oh gee-did that sound nasty?😎-I didn’t say I was completely there yet). It is a long recovery process for any divorce. Your experience feels just as bad to you as mine does to me. It hurts. It is not a competition whose rejection is worse. What we know is no contact outside finalizing divorce makes recovery easier. Lean on your friends to soothe your broken heart, get into therapy of some sort – personally I hired a life coach so I could focus on my future rather than my past, make your home your own, feel your feelings-don’t bury, rationalize them away or ignore them, eat well exercise-get healthy. Hugs!

  • If the abandoner doesn’t value loyalty, honesty, and companionship then that is their choice. As sad as it is. And our mission is to move on from such a person.

  • OP, I was in a very similar situation, as I’ve told on here before, but it may help you. I thought my ex and I had a wonderful life. We had just moved across the country for his “dream job,” bought a new house that he insisted was our forever home, settled in with a puppy he gave me, and had just come back from a vacation in Hawaii when he told me, 6 months after this move, he needed to “be alone.”

    He then moved into a college undergrad dorm, how I do not know because he was 34, and began going to college parties and the Waffle House all the time at 2am. He quickly blew through all of the money he took in the divorce on partying, eating late night eggs, and taking “independent study” classes.

    Whether he cheated or not (I don’t know with irrefutable evidence that mine did, but I have no real doubt, and in any event his porn habit took plenty away from our marriage, even if that’s “all” it was) you are so well away from someone who wants to regress to live like an adolescent. Good riddance!

    I picked myself up somehow and someway, refinanced and remodeled our former house into my own dream home, and met a wonderful man who is an actual functional adult and acts like one. I hope you jettison the dead weight and live a wonderful life.

  • I’ve often said that I wish my former husband had done the honorable thing and told me that he wanted out of the marriage BEFORE fooling around. So, in some ways, when I read this letter, I think that the OP got what I have insisted would have been better for me.

    I still think this is the case, but I also now recognize that had x told me that he wanted out of the marriage, I would have been left with questions. I would have wondered what I’d done. I would have suspected another woman. I would have begged him to stay.

    I also wouldn’t have believed that there wasn’t another woman. The man is incapable of being alone.

    The biggest shock in all this for me is that I never thought x was a liar. Now I know he lies as he breathes. It’s the lying that has rattled my world the most, I think. He told me he lied every day for nearly three years.

    You think you know someone, but then this.

    It’s incredibly destabilizing.

    • To clarify, my wish that he’d done the honorable thing only works if the person is trustworthy. If you’ve got a liar on your hands, then all bets are off.

      • Yes it would be SO much better if cheaters did the honorable thing, however when you’re dealing with a liar and manipulator, it’s never about them being respectful to the betrayed, but ensuring that HE/SHE exits the marriage looking like the victim to everyone else.

  • Ok – he didn’t want to work on his broke down relationship with you. But did he lie, steal, trick stuff? Many times, chumps will say ‘why did they do all this evil shit to us and our family? Why couldn’t he have ended our relationship civilly and honestly?” And it sounds like that’s what your ex did. You’re looking for subterfuge and all the myriad reasons he broke the marriage – but it may be as simple as he couldn’t shoulder adulting any more. He may have a ladybird somewhere or he may start dating again real soon. Now is the time to step back and realize what it feels like to be free of his 200 lbs of tiresome bullshit off your shoulder. I was chumped – the lies and sneaking etc but one day I did that step back and realized most of the pain of losing that gorilla off my back was such a relief (sort of like the pain/pleasure of relieving a full bladder – pardon the crude). I’ve often wondered why he didn’t just tell me the truth but I figure it’s that he wouldn’t get rid of good loyal wife mother of children good appliance so he could move on if he was nice – because I was his equivalent of gum on his shoe and he couldn’t handle the crying? I dunno. Or owning his shit? But lying is easier for him, I guess. Gosh knows he was good at it. So. Yeah don’t just get a life – grab it squeeze it laugh out loud hug it. Once you taste the freedom from him, you’ll wonder why you put up with it for so long. Go. Be free. Shoo.

    • “I’ve often wondered why he didn’t just tell me the truth but I figure it’s that he wouldn’t get rid of good loyal wife mother of children good appliance so he could move on if he was nice – because I was his equivalent of gum on his shoe”

      Part of my Cheater’s covert narcissism is that he refused to admit to himself that he couldn’t have all his Life’s Cakes and eat them too. He loved to create wonderful options for himself and bask in The Wonderful Options…he applied to and was accepted to great schools but resented having to choose one. When he bought a car, he basked in considering what he could buy but no matter what he did, he had buyers remorse. When choosing a job or a house, it was the same…bask in The Options.

      I was one of those options…marrying me meant other people (theoretically) were no longer options and he deeply resented it. He definitely liked the benefits of marriage but hated the limitations. Cheating was his way of having his cake…CLs metaphor of Cake is spot on.

  • I got tangled in the skein for too long, didn’t even realize it until CL pointed out this major pitfall for Chumps. And it is one that gives them (FW’s) control over your mind and emotions when you need to move on. Chumps naturally think they have done something wrong to deserve this substandard treatment, but this site helps you realize no one deserves this after investing years of their life in someone. Pick me dancing has got to be the rock bottom for self esteem experiences! Just say no to PMD!

  • There’s a tricky type of cheating apologist who will cynically and contemptuously say to chumps “How could you *not* have known?” Looking back on my own situation, my answer is “Easily.” In my case it was so important that I knew– emotionally, legally, financially and in terms of physical health– that I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten proof when I did. Maybe only if I knew then what I know now could I have taken action based on the hints alone. But I don’t have a time machine and had no way of knowing then what I know now.

    FW in my case was so thorough in covering his tracks that if an attorney friend hadn’t figured out and deciphered what was going on for me just from the stupid “DARVO” things FW was accusing me of, I don’t think I ever would have gotten proof of the affair. I never would have started sniffing around and stealthily asking questions among people with ties to FW’s profession, never would have encountered a couple of workplace whistleblowers, never would have hired a PI to get the admissible dirt, etc. I might have chalked up FW’s shifts in behavior to stress or a mental health crisis or whatever.

    For one, I didn’t grow up with cheating in my family and the concept of it was beyond my grasp. It took a friend with not only 14 years of professional experience doing marital autopsies but also proven integrity that I deeply respect (she’s been an ass-kicking pro-bono advocate for the disabled for years) to get me out of my comfort zone and making inquiries among people I barely knew about something so alien. Hiring a PI is something so “out there” for me that I needed a literal expert to normalize and greenlight it for me. Throw in the fact that first conceiving that a partner of 20 years would commit adultery– like imagining the death of a child– is so soul-destroying that it’s like trying to look straight at the sun. You risk going blind even trying. Every little thing I did to dig up the truth was done while in a state of crippling panic and nausea. I was way out of my depth.

    All this is to say that I can see how the evidence is easy to miss unless you accidentally trip over the smoking gun. Even to search through tens of thousands of FW’s emails across four separate professional accounts to find the few he’d forgotten to delete I had to have a name to start with. If it had been an emotional or online affair or, say, if he’d been forming demented parasocial relationships through some gamer activity or with teenage cam girls on OnlyFans I wonder if I ever would have found out.

    Bystanders can also imply that one should easily escape based on FWs’ shift into abusive behavior, never mind proof of cheating. But the bit they’re missing is that abusers are like spiders who inject their prey with numbing and paralyzing “fear/obligation/guilt” poison and patiently bind them up in coercive filaments before consuming the victim. Even as a former advocate for domestic violence survivors I didn’t have the data on the above to be able to decipher what was happening. Like a lot of people who worked in DV-related fields, my system for identifying abuse was too bluntly calibrated on punching walls, blocking exits, violent threats, etc., not stonewalling, fear/obligation/guilting and gaslighting. Adding to the overly-broad conception of what constitutes “abuse” is that most information on subtle coercion and frog-boiling abuse tactics have been taken over by the RIC pop-psych machine as a way of presenting subviolent abusive relationships as somehow “workable.” At the very least this information isn’t presented that credibly and, at worst, it’s actually designed to re-write abuse as “not abuse” and is actively misleading. It’s only in recent years that campaigners like forensic social worker and veteran DV researcher Evan Stark (author of “Coercive Control” and the conceptual force behind a lot of coercive control legislation around the world) have started to define this behavior as distinctly related to domestic violence (ergo NOT workable. Ergo, run like your pants are on fire. Ergo warning sign of potential violence to come).

    So at this point I’m all for assuming that cheating is happening based on certain behaviors. My attorney friend had spent years on that terrain and, sort of like a mining prospector who can tell there’s copper ore deep underground based on tasting a bit of topsoil, her interpretation could be accepted as fact (as it proved to be). Furthermore, since virtually all batterers cheat, it should also be accepted as fact that all cheaters should be viewed as potentially violent and certainly fit the clinical definition of “abuser,” full stop.

    That’s what I know now but what a journey it was getting here. Like CL all the other “mining prospectors” on CN, I can tell by the OP’s description that any combination of several options is going on:

    1) FW sees hookers.
    2) He’s either a pedophile or into S&M or both and started letting his freak flag fly at forty.
    3) He’s pretending to be some young dude on gamer sites and is grooming prey
    4) He’s secretly gay as well as being an abuser
    5) He’s been having affairs
    6) He’s certifiable and has formed parasocial, stalkery relationships with randos or celebrities.
    7) He’s dangerous.

    Normal, safe people don’t withdraw from relationships the way FW did in this case. And, as the saying goes, when you hear the sound of hooves on a dirt road in Nebraska, think “horse,” not “zebra.” There’s something weird and sexual going on for sure. I suppose there’s some small chance that the OP’s ex-FW is like “Bartelby the Scrivener” from the Herman Melville short story who just suicidally withdraws from life but then, at some point, this FW will be found dead of starvation in a doorway. But that would be a zebra and the FW in this situation sounds way too typical.

    • My FW was the one who said to me ‘you must have known’ on D Day

      I didn’t know because I trusted him and he was a superb liar

      He also felt he was some hero because he never hurt me physically

      Your posts are always so enlightening HOAC

      • FWs like that should put up monuments to Scott Peterson, OJ Simpson and Chris Watts in thanks for putting the bar hell so that those who only tormented but didn’t batter and kill can feel like upstanding cupcakes of purity in comparison.

  • I’d like to add one consideration, which would be nil and void if there has been an affair partner around.
    Chump lady’s advice is also still correct and I wouldn’t change anything of the OP’s path.
    The guy clearly doesn’t value her. However – he has got ADHD and is not taking his meds. That is a significant lack of insight on his behalf and the way the OP describes the 21 year relationship, she deserves a) that he takes his meds b) sees a psychiatrist and C) trusts her enough to be open about his mental health problems.
    ADHD can make you do pretty stupid shit – it is destructive to her and she should follow her path. But she may have not been chumped due to an affair, she may have been chumped because the guy didn’t recognize a mental health crisis and wasn’t open to getting help. Doesn’t make it any better of course, but there is a distinction.

  • Hello all,
    This will fall short of being the proper thank you I’d like it to be because I’m still in the process of re-reading all your comments and trying to absorb your collective wisdom. It means a hell of a lot that my story resonates with anyone, whatever the reason, because part of the struggle I’ve had for the last few months has been not simply ‘what just happened?’ but ‘did that really happen?’ I feel like I’ve existed in a vacuum since he left, but life carries on as normal around me… So, thank you, Chump Lady and the entire Chump Nation, just for getting that I feel like I’ve been utterly eviscerated.

    There are so many wonderful and insightful comments here, and I will come back to them, but in short:

    • yes, I’m still expecting that a Schmoopie could show up. He was indignant that I didn’t believe him on the score – classic, right?

    • Porn Schmoopie is an absolute certainty. He had already (in the months before leaving) admitted that his consumption of porn had affected his ability/our sex life. That sure did wonders for my confidence…

    • yes, I would rather he had bowed out than continue being unhappy forever. But, he didn’t do it like a grown up. Instead he was short-tempered, argumentative and lacking affection for a few years – probably trying to make me leave him first. (I was forever giving him the benefit of the doubt, because he would cite his ADHD as being responsible for his moods, his distraction.) And I just don’t think it’s decent to walk out on a two-decade partnership without doing some serious work on it.
    • We’d had a genuinely loving relationship for a long time. We still laughed a lot. That’s what hurt. I think those things count for something and he owed us both better in the end.

    He even acknowledged that a ‘midlife crisis’ and his own mortality played a big part in him not wanting to be married any more… He thinks the grass is greener on the other side, no doubt. Trouble is, he doesn’t like weeding. Or any of that routine, maintenance, grown-up stuff. Yawn.

    • I’m now painfully aware of some of my own failings towards him.* The trouble is, his grievances were aired as angry outbursts, which he’d later excuse. He didn’t address anything in a way that we could work on.
    *I only say this because for the majority of our time together, he really was decent, supportive, loving, kind. Until he wasn’t. Until it didn’t suit him.

    Yes, what kills is the rejection. That I gave two decades of my life to someone who threw it away. For seemingly so little. But with Chump Lady’s response and yours, I’m learning that *why* he did doesn’t matter. That’s not about me. And I’ll be ok with that, in time.

    Thank you ALL. Seriously.
    *Flaps wings* 🦢

    • “Midlife crisis” typically means cheating. Porn use is certainly part of the profile. Studies of the partners of people who use porn show that it definitely damages self esteem to feel compared to airbrushed or surgically-altered porn performers and that’s what porn use tends to induce: this instrumentalist, userist, dehumanizing, objectifying view that reduces people to body parts. It can give the user a sense of entitlement and expectation of total control over “sexual objects” that they may then demand from partners or which can trigger them to search for partners who will comply.

      I tend to agree with the subreddit Female Dating Strategy that porn use also “trains” the user to desensitize to emotional cues that many porn performers are living horrifying lives. By one estimate, a percentage of Pornhub users are wanking off to videos of performers who are already dead. Many performers had been trafficked and many die prematurely of violence, suicide, overdose and disease. Most “virtual rapes” depicted in porn are actual rapes because porn performers (often poor, addicted or single parents from third world countries) have no power over what happens on set and fear being blacklisted if they object. Many porn performers end up addicted to pain killers in order to tolerate performing the acts they’re directed to or forced to do. It’s no wonder chronic porn users tend to become progressively more empathy-impaired in real life or may even come to enjoy the cues of suffering they see in pornography. One very popular group on Reddit is called “Dead Eyes” in which users share outtakes or stills from porn showing the moment the performer is so overwhelmed by pain or humiliation that their eyes go dead.

      He may have always had a dark side but, for whatever reason, crossed over more fully in recent years to the point that his “nice guy” mask started to feel constricting. It’s sort of sobering that the best explanation for the “compartmentalization” of people who manage to sustain and lead double lives for decades comes from studies of serial killers. Click “download” for a free read of a paper on something called “neutralization” for an explanation of why abusers become so negative and critical towards their victims: https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4698/9/2/46. And here’s an explanation for radical personality change in abusers: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/202201/the-serial-killer-btk-and-the-concept-cubing

      In any case, you should hesitate to take any of his criticisms of you to heart until you’ve fully explored the possibility that he’s really attacking you for doing many of the typical things that abuse survivors do *in response to* abuse and gaslighting. We all have gut instincts and I don’t believe it’s possible to even be in the same room with a duplicitous person without getting body signals that something’s off. Of course abusers are especially geared to distracting others from interpreting those body signals correctly which is why they tend to throw out a lot of fear/obligation/guilt cues to gradually make the people around them start to feel intangibly responsible for the abuser’s woes and suffering. It can help to start writing down memories of events in order to start to see contingency more clearly.

      You made a great point that even if you had a few actual flaws, rather than approaching you in a loving way to ask for change as a normal person would, he attacked. That’s a dead giveaway for a chronic manipulator. Abusers have no interest in achieving actual parity and peace in a relationship but tend to leap on partners’ minor flaws with a “gotcha” howl of victory because any flaw is then stored up like tokens in a blame-bag to be cashed in later on justifying betrayal, deception and abuse.

      • I remember a horrific story shared on Reddit by a woman who nearly got recruited by a porn company to be a “set mom” – someone a little older than the performers who could comfort these girls (all in their late teens) because the company (run by men, of course) was getting sick of the girls having panic attacks after being gang raped for the camera.

        Porn is 100% abusive. It’s sex trafficking.

  • For months I saw the grumpiness that sometimes escalated to nastiness, but had NO CLUE he was cheating.

    Until the other woman found out he was lying to HER, claiming he was divorced. So she ratted on him, coming to my house when he was on a business trip.

    Some con artists are just that good at lying and deception.

    But the bottom line: if someone doesn’t want to be in a committed relationship with you, despite the vows they made, there is no real marriage there. One devoted partner does not a marriage make.

  • Self proclaimed “nice guys” are expert manipulators. Men usually don’t leave a relationship unless they have someone waiting in the wings.
    They’re experts at hiding the truth and presenting themselves as just a nice guy. I’d be surprised if the ex does’t have an AP.
    Even though the evidence was glaring for a long time I refused to believe ex would cheat. The man I married was a man of integrity. I trusted my nice guy so much that he had me convinced that I was the reason he was leaving.
    He laundry listed all my shortcomings going back to 1994.
    It wasn’t until I found CN that I realized my “faults” were excuses and his behavior clearly was that of a cheater.

    My story wasn’t unique. I was reading stories on CN that could have been written by me.
    I was a Chump.
    Nice guy cheater turned out to be the most dishonest, evil person I’ve ever known.

    • ‘My story wasn’t unique’ and ‘nice guy cheater turned out to be the most dishonest, evil person I’ve ever known’

      Same for me. Seeing him now literally makes my skin crawl. When they seem like ‘nice guys’ for years, the head fuck is immense

      I thought at the beginning, if he ever left, he’d do so kindly and thoughtfully

      How wrong I was

    • My ‘nice guy’ behaved in exactly the same way, Brit. He dumped me after 26 years following a savage discard during my father’s final illness and death. The list of my faults was long. I blamed myself because he was so ‘lovely, reasonable, rational, intelligent’ etc. Six weeks later I stumbled across the emails with exgfOW which evidenced the long-standing, long distance affair. He consistently denied the affair, lying to everyone about its existence. Many people believed him because of his ‘nice guy’ image but some saw right through him. And I learnt not to care. It does not matter how ‘nice’ he appears to be, he’s a vacuous shell of a man who was never good enough for me. I settled for a shapeshifter and that’s where the focus of my therapy lies. Why did I do that?

    • This was exactly my experience. I even had friends who told me he was likely cheating, based on his criticism of me and his angry outburts, and I DEFENDED HIM. I said he would never do that.

      LOL.

      He’d been the super “nice guy”. Other people envied me.

      He turned out to be abusive and nearly killed me. He would bring up things I’d done ten years ago and cite them as the reason he was treating me the way he did. His abuse was at first emotional (coercive control), then viciously verbal, and finally physical. It happened so slowly, and with so much gaslighting, that I didn’t recognize it. I thought it was my fault. It got worse after our son was born. It escalated rapidly when the affair started five years later. But when he dumped me (after ten years of marriage and nearly 15 years together), he said there was no one else. FW was a consummate liar. It took me a long time to see through it. Once I did, though, it became so obvious and I never trusted him again on ANYTHING. He clearly conned schmoopie, since she knew he was married, she even knew ME, and yet she bought every lie he fed her and turned on me to fight along with him and abuse me too. She found out the hard way that I wasn’t making up the stories of abuse. Most of our “friends” still think he was a great guy.

  • Chumps may become chumps because they are loving, trusting people to a fault. They believe the best in others, and seek it out where it’s become hard to find. They are quick to blame themselves for not bringing out the best in people. In my case that comes in large part from my FOO: highly critical, judgemental parents who blamed their children for their personal and marital difficulties and life crises. Whilst some may attribute bad behaviour in their life partner to an affair immediately (which probably isn’t healthy either), others will invest in finding out what’s troubling their partner to cause the behaviour. And nowadays stress at work, mental health issues, financial pressures, family pressures, jump quickly to mind. Cheaters use those reasons, often supplied as suggestions by the chump, to hide the affair. I wrote to the ex after discovering the affair, regarding resolution of financial matters, including the phrase: ‘we can end the marriage well or we can end it badly, I want to end it well’. He did not respond. He later said that he had not received the letter (once he had gone down the ‘ending the marriage badly’ route). He sent me an email after our last physical meeting, which said nothing except ‘you do believe that I didn’t receive your letter, don’t you?’. I knew then without any doubt that he was a liar, not to be trusted on anything. On the face of it, his question was reasonable. Except that it isn’t! Out of all that we had to untangle and sort, what was uppermost in this man’s mind was whether I believed his lie about a past event which had no bearing on the mess. But for him it did matter, because it was a measure of how gullible I remained, how trusting, how ready to accept the ‘nice guy’ image in spite of what his behaviour had done to me. I played along and said ‘of course’, knowing that I was dealing with a liar. That knowledge broke my heart again, but it had to be faced. The lovely, nice guy I married was an accomplished liar. There was no future to be had with him.

  • “folding yourself into tiny origami shapes and stuffing them into the recesses of your soul. Aka, making yourself small. Not mattering. A great part of un-chumping is reclaiming your rightful space. Remembering that you matter.”

    And this is the biggest lesson I learned from the whole debacle. I will NEVER do that for anyone again.

  • An apple does not fall far from the tree.
    Cheater living with similar Peter Pan wannabe Dad is so telling.
    THIS IS WHO THEY ARE.

    Xhole’s Dad was 2x abandoner. His big bro was serial womanizer cheater. His sister bailed on her solid guy husband of 20 years to flake off with some dude she met in a pub. The other big sister was busted for dealing Cocaine. The Mom did time for embezzlement.
    Now you may be thinking… weren’t those major red flags? Indeed they are now but none of those flags were revealed willingly. It took 21 years and post-abandonment digging to discover them.

    Schmoopies often lay low for an allotted time period (6 months is classic) then pop up like a ground hog checking to see it’s shadow. They are often busy creating an exit from an unsuspecting spouse.

    Glad you got away from Peter Pan.

    Beautiful Swan. You deserve so much better.

  • >