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The Other Woman Is a Therapist

Dear Chump Lady/CN,

First of all, thank you for curating this resource; it’s been invaluable to feel less alone throughout this incredibly isolating experience!

FW and I had been dating each other since I was seventeen (I’m now twenty-five, and we recently separated this past summer after a miserable year of marriage).

I’ve suffered from depression and an eating disorder (EDNOS/OSFED) since puberty, but I’ve always been “functional” — I paid my way through two degrees with scholarships (while he barely graduated with constant funding from his parents), and I’ve finally found myself a rewarding job in academia (while it doesn’t pay much, I feel so optimistic about the future). With lots of effort, I’ve also maintained a healthy weight, and my savings were the reason we were able to buy a house together a few years back.

However, to hear him talk about me, you’d think I’m a CRAZY, deadbeat, frigid bitch who gets paid in hugs and loose cigarettes and cruelly refuses sex at every turn. I knew about his cheating for at least five years, but I stayed because he insisted no one could love someone as broken as me.

I know, with some level of objectivity, that he probably has narcissistic personality disorder, and that this was gaslighting/manipulation/emotional abuse.

I have accepted that he will probably always think I’m crazy.

However, what is driving me insane is that this “crazy, frigid bitch” persona is what’s being spread to his new flings, and to a horrid female friend of his (who is a licensed therapist!!!!) who has always egged on his cheating. I had found texts between them where she:

  • told him I was “acting out” by seeing someone new once we had separated (God forbid I try to find a sliver of happiness in a casual relationship after years of horrid, lonely sex with a narcissist);
  • informed him I must not have wanted sex with him because of my body image issues (and not because he cheated on me compulsively and refused any feedback on his boring sexual performances — sex with him involved me literally squeezing my eyes shut and reciting Hamilton lyrics in my head until he came)
  • generally encouraged him to be a piece of shit to someone who was emotionally vulnerable, despite herself being a MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL

This woman has been in my house. She babysat my cats during my wedding. She lives down the street from me. I don’t give a crap if FW thinks I’m insane, but to have a therapist seemingly affirm that I’m crazy? To know that there are people in my immediate neighborhood who think I’m suicidal, unstable, hysterical? I don’t know how to cope with that. I know I shouldn’t care. She doesn’t ever have to be in my life again. But, yet, I still care. How do I stop?

Sincerely,

ActuallyNotCrazy

****

Dear ActuallyNotCrazy,

Please stop caring. She thinks you’re crazy? Consider the source — a “friend” of your cheating STBX. She’s no greater arbiter of your sanity than I’m a tuna casserole.

Oh, right, she’s a Mental Health Professional. Who has never been your therapist.

whatever

Shrinks aren’t infallible like popes. (Actually, I don’t believe in the infallibility of popes or shrinks.) Unfortunately, some therapists are absolutely atrocious. Esther Perel case in point. See my archives for tales of the Reconciliation Industrial Complex.

But before I go on a tear about professional standards, victim-blaming, and strip-mall sex addiction therapy degrees, let’s take a closer look at your cat sitter.

Ten-to-one she’s a fuckbuddy. How do I know this? (Aside from reading a gazillion of these stories for years…) Well, your husband is a serial cheater. He’d screw anything with a pulse. At the very least he is having an emotional affair with this freak. Otherwise, what? She’s just a friendly neighborhood pro bono shrink? Who listens to his marriage woes for free? And throws in pet sitting?

No, someone that intimately in your space, conspiring about your “issues,” and egging him on in his abuse of you — that’s a side chick. Or someone pick-me dancing for the chance to be one.

I understand why you’re furious — she’s wrapping her abuse in a veneer of “professional opinion.” Trying to give it greater weight than the nonsense that it is.

Please take a big, cynical step back. History is replete with examples of abusive, blameshifting Mental Health Professionals. Schizophrenia is caused by cold mothers. Single, unwed mothers are mentally unfit and must have their children adopted out. Lobotomies.

Before I am besieged with comments, I’m not saying all therapy is worthless. I’m saying therapists are prone to cultural, institutional, and personal biases like the rest of us. And at the end of the day, the final arbiter of your worth is YOU.

ANC, you’re a functional adult who overcame an eating disorder. You saved money to buy a home. You worked hard to get scholarships. You got a great job. The cheese has not slipped off your cracker, okay?

Where you seem to struggle, IMO, is looking to other people to validate you.

I knew about his cheating for at least five years, but I stayed because he insisted no one could love someone as broken as me.

Oh fuck him. Why does he get to judge how lovable you are? Stop giving him the power to determine your worth. Same with Dr. FrankenFriend. Look at all you’ve accomplished! Stop internalizing “broken” and examine the evidence: BADASS.

A couple of garbage cheaters don’t like you?

Let it go!

Forgive the Taylor Swift-isms. I know it hurts like a mofo, and it’s been a waste of your young life thus far, but kid, you’re going places. Finalize that divorce and eject these people from your life (and headspace).

No tag backs, Dr. Twatwaffle. They can do it on her shrink sofa with boring repetition.

there are people in my immediate neighborhood who think I’m suicidal, unstable, hysterical? I don’t know how to cope with that.

See a pattern here? The neighbors’ validation of your worth doesn’t matter either.

You cope by continuing to exist as a sane, stable person going about your ordinary life. We don’t control what other people think. Anyone who believes their lies in the face of your evident character isn’t worth knowing.

Godspeed on the divorce, ANC. ((Hugs))

Ask Chump Lady

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  • And this is why Chump Lady is THE BEST.

    ActuallyNotCrazy – and all of us Chumps – hear the sense and compassion in the CL gospel and go live your best cheater-free, un-gaslit lives!

  • Keep going forward ANC, one day at a time and you will gain perspective. CL is right, you are more badass than many of us who have made it through to a healthy self image! I also had contact with bogus mental health folks, cheaters come in every package imaginable.

  • I think you are tuned into the newest OW’s shared delusion of your behavior and motivations because you were in a relationship with an emotionally abusive jerk for 7 years. You survived by learning his preferences to try and keep him from belittling you.

    The more time away from your ex husband you have, the easier learning how healthy adults interact will be.

    The awesome news is that the newest OW has no hold over you. She doesn’t live with you – and she’s clear that she prefers joining in a shared delusion with an abusive narcissist than running away from the red flag of “My ex is a crazy b—–.”

    You’ve got skills and resilience; you are well on your way to being happy and successful without the crazy abusers.

    • I only wish I had known that “My exes were all crazy b****es” was a red flag. I would have known to avoid klootzak. Also, all of the roommates he ever had were awful and impossible to live with because they didn’t meet his standards for taking care of things. Five different roommates and at least 3 ex-GFs or ex-fiancees. I feel stupid that I didn’t realize HE was the common denominator.

  • ANC,

    Do not judge your self worth based upon what FWs and their Flying Monkeys/Affair Partners say about you to others and, furthermore, be very aware that anyone who knows you and cares for you will see their BS for what it is.

    And I say that as someone whose Ex described him to all and sundry as “An arrogant and institutionalised weirdo, with no friends, no social skills and a drink problem …. because he [LFTT] doesn’t drink.” Funny old thing, but the people who matter to me know that this is my Ex projecting and no more.

    You are doing much better than you realise!

    LFTT

    • I agree, and I say this as someone who was described as mentally unstable, alcoholic, miserable woman. Cheater had been suffering all these years and just couldn’t take it any longer…, said while dabbing tears from his eyes.

  • ANC, What FWs and their side pieces (and, yes, the therapist is a side piece) think really should not concern you. Stop thinking that they can evaluate you or label you. I think that most chumps have been branded as crazy, insane, frigid, horrible monsters who mistreat poor sad sausages. I certainly was called these things and more by Ex FW. Spreading the crazy narrative is on page 4 of the Official Cheater’s Handbook (2nd edition). If people want to believe this about you then they can do so (these are not your friends).
    You can only be you. People who judge you by your actions and not the words of others can potentially be let into your safe zone. You have to evaluate and pick who you want t trust and this needs to be based on trust. Without trust and honesty there can be no friendship or relationship. As for those who believe the FW and Schmoopie, block them, don’t let them in. They are not safe people.
    It will take time to cull friends and potentials. It will also take time for you to realize you are a worthwhile person. Do not let a FW determine yourself worth. Just be the sane, healthy and trustworthy person that you are. Don’t allow anyone to bring you down. The people who are judging you are doing so on the words of a FW and not your actions.
    These are not the people you want in you circle anyway. You are mighty and you will get through this.

  • Living through some of the hard knocks life offers and coming out the other side a better stronger person, is one of the lessons I learned early.

    Due to my parents being teachers, and pursuing higher education degrees, I was often the “new girl” in school. Although the movie “Mean Girls” was humorous, for me it also represented many accurate situations about the treatment of an unknown entity when introduced to a new environment. People who do not know anything about you enjoy presuming they do, and gossip is evidently delicious. Although this was not a pleasant experience in my life, it did teach me not to care what other people think they know about you or think about you in general. I am not saying you should ignore all social conventions. Civility is one of the cornerstones of civilization. Who you are and what you believe is up to you. Finding a clear thought pattern about what your values are is important life work. Once you know and believe you are a person of value, you can build and enforce boundaries. The people who are mean spirited and gossipy will live outside of your boundaries, and one day you won’t care about them at all. It is about choosing to have no contact with the FW’s of the world.

    Experience tells me that you will find people of worth who will become your friends and allies. There may not be many of them, but their opinions will matter to you. If they are true friends, they will know the real you. They will know that no one is perfect, but if you live your core values you will certainly be worthy of admiration from your true peers.

    You cannot control what other people think. You can only control who you are.

  • I’m so impressed with your BADASSERY!! I hope my 18-year-old is able to save and buy a house by your age!!!! Remember NO CONTACT heals so much- don’t read texts don’t look at that evil therapist’s house- you walk by with your head in the air and pretend she doesn’t exist. Getting every last bit of your Ex and his flying monkeys (people that believe the bullshit he’s spreading about you) out of your life will help SO MUCH. Enjoy your badass life and don’t give those people any space in your head. We call reading texts or searching on social media “pain shopping” for a reason- only leads to pain. No contact for the win. And good luck in Academia!

  • ANC, the exgfOW life coach coaches Canadian women on how to be good mothers. She’s a woman empowerer! Who has been cheating on her husband and kids by having a long-standing, long distance affair with the ex (I refuse to tarnish my personal brand by calling him ‘my ex’ because he’s nothing to do with me and I don’t want him). She bolstered up his ego with supportive poems 4 days before my dad’s funeral (because obviously the ex was suffering more from my dad’s death than anyone else). She and the ex regularly laughed about how rubbish I am as a human being. I was their joke. It’s interesting to note that the ex and his family regularly laughed about exgfOW and observed how little fun she was to be around when I started a relationship with him. Disordered people have to do disorder because it’s all they know. Some people become life coaches and therapists because they think they have a special talent for telling other people what to do. Those people are often opinionated, poor listeners, with a myriad of issues on which they could more usefully spend some time working. My guess (from reading here) is that the only people who benefit from giving such types their hard-won cash are similar types who get told what they want to hear. Most of us can identify an ignorant life coach/therapist quickly and move on. I say this as a person about to have a session with the therapist of integrity who helped me, patiently and kindly, to turn my life around. Who cares what disordered people think about us. Their opinions are worthless. I value the opinion of those I respect, and people have to work hard to earn that respect nowadays. Just because you can call yourself a pilot, a surgeon, a lawyer, a teacher, a cat sitter doesn’t make you any good at the job or a decent human being. I notice that she wasn’t sufficiently high up the food chain to be invited to your wedding ie. she’s nothing, OW or mere busybody with an axe to grind.

  • I was YEARS past my Chumpdom when I finally had the realization that he likely gave most everyone the Cheaters version of “batshit crazy wife” to nearly everyone. While most military couples lived on base and socialized with each other, he seemed (from my point of view) to avoid his peers like the plague. I now believe he had given them the narrative and needed to keep me from them.

    Oddly, to his parents/siblings, he presented the “she is a stellar wife, I married well and we are successful” narrative as he wanted his facade to be admired by them.

    Every once is a while, I think back on that time and get a twinge of the “oh God, that person got the Batshit Crazy Wife story. It is annoying, but the fact that this tactic is so ubiquitous, it rather loses its power. You show the world who you are by being you…just go out and be you.

    So aside from just kicking a good life, what else helps get you through this particular Shit Sandwich? I have (in my old age) developed 2 tactics; Im not sure either of these would fit you now, but maybe keep in mind or they might help another Chump reading here…

    I have a handhold of people, oddly enough all women (mom alcoholic mom, Cheaters sister, and New Husbands ExW) who have long hated on me for not really valid reasons. I finally got to a place where I realized that I GENUINELY DID NOT CARE (Im seriously talking FULL MEH) on all of them. So much so, if they were to insult me to me face in the middle of the town square, my heart rate would not even rise and my response would be “I dont respect your opinion about anything, including your opinion of me”. Yes, it took a LONG time to get there, but its real.

    My next coping tool takes some cash and its not for everyone, but I enjoy it. I learned that Cheaters sister had a life dream of going to Paris…so I took her younger sister (who she doesnt like either) to Paris. My moms dream was always to go to Germany. Yup….4 trips and counting (genuinely love it). Husbands ExW, during their divorce told him that none of the trips he took her on (Hawaii, Europe) counted because (insert lame excuse). She has been super crappy to me for literally no reason. We took her daughter to London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, NY…I literally watched the lights of Rome twinkle in her eyes. Please know that I had simultaneous noble reasons to do these things, but the fact that I could also annoy my tormentors was a bonus (Im not a total bitch, really) but I ended up feeling like I triumphed in these awful experiences.

    • Please know that my difficulty with my mom isnt just alcoholism, she also had BPD so I have 50 + years of her meanness and selfishness, I was trying to be concise. Also, more recently, my tormentors have mostly self-destructed in ways and situations that have nothing to do with me and Ive backed away from any plotting to make things worse.

    • I absolutely love that you both did a kind thing and annoyed those cretins, Uni. Well done! No need to add the disclaimer that you aren’t a bitch. We know that. Wanting to annoy creepy people isn’t bitchy. Since you pulled it off so beautifully while doing good at the same time, that makes you a hero in my book.
      Btw, my FW also told his family I was a great wife while giving his loser pals and schmoopie the sob story about how I didn’t love him. Pfft! The people who really know you don’t believe such asinine claims and the people who don’t really know you can take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.

  • ANC – It’s hard to recover until you are fully no contact with your STBX and your divorce is finalized. Push through with the strength you’ve shown so often in your young life. Your neighbors are probably less interested in your marriage than you think and, if you otherwise like your community, there will be future opportunities to demonstrate your fine character. “Take care of this moment” Mahatma Ghandi.

  • Never has it been more important than right now to go grey rock with your ex. He doesn’t need to know what’s going on in your life or head that he can turn around and use as ammo. That therapist best not be spreading rumours in your neighborhood. If you’re sure, call her licensing bureau with a complaint. Consider moving if only to start with a clean slate out of disgust man’s orbit. Hugs and good luck.

  • Wow – thank you, CL, for this incredibly uplifting post. I’m going to bookmark it and return back to it each time I get down in the dumps about how things transpired. My words aren’t a sufficient enough gratitude, but truly – THANK YOU.

    To CN, I’m reading all of your comments as quickly as I can (and I hope to respond directly later today) – you’re all incredible, resilient people with so much to offer (and such good advice, holy cow).

    As CL mentioned, I definitely struggle with seeking external validation; I’m seeing someone new now during my legal separation (can’t quite file for divorce yet, unfortunately), and he is so incredibly kind and generous with his praise, but I know I have to be cautious to not project my hopes/fears onto him, and that I must be careful to exist as a whole person external to any guy, regardless of how nice he is.

    • “I’m seeing someone new now during my legal separation (can’t quite file for divorce yet, unfortunately), and he is so incredibly kind and generous with his praise…”

      Oh dear, flapping red flag.😱

      I’m sorry, sweetheart, but it’s *far* too soon for you to be seeing anyone, especially someone who sounds like a classic love bomber. You’re jumping from the frying pan into the fire. I totally understand why it’s attractive, especially since your sense of self worth has taken such a hit from the ghastly soon to be ex and the equally ghastly ‘therapist’, but for God’s sake, take a huge step back.

      Everything CL said is on point, especially about working on *your sense of self-worth* – that comes from a lot of long, hard work, and although you say “I must be careful to exist as a whole person external to any guy, regardless of how nice he is.”, I get the sense that’s a bit perfunctory, and you’re still looking to another person to validate you.

      This man *may* be all you think he is, but there again, he may not be, and at the moment you’re not in a position to make sensible, self protective judgements about his behaviour. The very fact that you’re contemplating another relationship so soon on the heels of a disastrous one, screams “danger Will Robinson!” to me. I’m sorry that this probably isn’t what you want to hear, but I’m very concerned for you. *Please* concentrate on getting through this shite without immediately diving into another relationship which might eventually compound the hurt and damage you’ve already experienced, and concentrate on learning about *you*. If this bloke is truly worthwhile, he’ll step back and wait while you do this. Hugs, and I so hope everything goes well for you.xx

      • CNM6, I agree with you. It seems too soon.

        ANC, please check with your attorney about starting a relationship during separation. I know that in my state it is a definite no-no. Also, be sure you are not jumping into a relationship too soon. Be careful and be certain that you are watching the actions of this person rather than the words of praise.

        I know for certain that I am not ready for a relationship yet (Dday 19 months ago, divorce final in Nov 2022) and may never be. I am carefully working on myself and being sure I can truly judge actions and be able to trust and feel safe again.

        • CFANM – You’re exactly right about paying attention to actions (and results) rather than words. Maybe homeownership is too high a bar, but living independently, lack of debt or addiction, healthy relationship with FOO are starting points. A useful filter when fixing your picker.

      • Excellent point, CNM6. It is concerning that he sounds too good to be true. That usually means it’s a con. As you say, she isn’t at a place in her life where she can be objective enough to see through a faker.

      • I totally sympathize with you ActuallyNotCrazy. This is a difficult process you’re going through.
        However, as a separated woman who still has the entire legal process ahead of her, I would strongly recommend NOT dating. Too much, too soon.
        You need to give your full attention to your great job and to your divorce. Do not give your cheater any ammunition to hold against you.
        On a practical level, you need to consult with your attorney about your even dating, much less having sex with anyone. Whatever you think he doesn’t know about, it only takes a cheap PI with a camera to twist even an innocent date into something else. And, sadly, that happens a lot.
        On a personal level, you’re not ready to date even if you think you are. You’re not fully emotionally available. It isn’t fair to anyone you date and it isn’t fair to you. You need a clean mental plate in order to even know what you want or need.
        Please consider what we are saying about dating being a red flag. We are taking the time to write to you because we care about where you are and not to hurt your feelings. Many of us have been where you are and have read too many stories here to know that you need this time to focus on fixing you before any next relationship.
        Good luck, keep strong and get to be your best self with a long, bright future ahead.

    • Keep in mind the therapist is an unethical quack. As CL stated she is more than likely a fuck buddy or she is attempting to be his fb at the very least. Also keep in mind that your ex may circle back, especially if he sees you are doing well on your own.

      • Every single ex (boyfriend or husband) circled back to me. One of them actually had the audacity to say, “why didn’t you fight for me?” Like I would fight for somebody who said he didn’t want me.

        • Me too. If I sucked so much, that would not have happened.

          I had an epiphany one day not too long ago. I got ready to go out and glanced back in the mirror and thought “if you put Cheater in a room with me and 99 other women, he would choose me”. I was exactly to sort of spouse he wanted if he wanted to marry at all. He probs really never wanted to marry anyone. It was never about me.

    • ANC, to exist as a whole person external to any guy, you need to find out who you are when you’re not with a guy. Right now, you don’t know what that’s like. You’ve spent your entire adulthood partnered with FW. Give yourself some breathing room first. Find out who you are when you’re not half of a couple.

      I get it, he’s lovely and he praises you and it’s giving you the external validation you are conditioned to need, especially at a very emotionally tough time. But you gotta be unpartnered for a while, you just do.

      Also, the cold hard practical side of this – please make sure you are talking to an actual family-law attorney about what you have to do to end your marriage, AND whether dating during separation will put any roadblocks ijn that.

      • “ANC, to exist as a whole person external to any guy, you need to find out who you are when you’re not with a guy.”

        Spot on. 👏👏👏

        What really worries me is her description of him. Of course he might be a genuinely good person, but alas, as we all know, there are countless predators who circle the waters surrounding vulnerable chumps, smelling for blood. And ANC is very vulnerable right now. That’s like catnip for a cat to some horrible people.

        “You’ve spent your entire adulthood partnered with FW. Give yourself some breathing room first. Find out who you are when you’re not half of a couple.”

        Again, Spot on. Please, ANC, listen to Apidae’s wise advice.

    • Check the advice of chump Nation on dating too soon. You have to heal, and that takes time, and you have to fix your picker, and that takes time. Learn to be an independent person. If new person really cares, he’ll wait around. If he’s in a hurry. he’s thinking of his needs, not yours.

      No matter how good salve feels on a wound, it still takes time, and maybe stiches to heal. Ask me how I know. I was 45, just out of a 20-year marriage with 2 kids. I didn’t think I had time to date. Big mistake, more humiliating than the Ex. I had not fixed my picker and wanted to be loved and validated after years of living without that feeling. I was married 4 years to him — he was probably cheating all along — and I didn’t see it until it was too late. All the old wounds opened, and new ones too. Alot of emotional scars. Wouldn’t date anyone for several years, and even then I just couldn’t get back into trust mode. Learned to be very happy without a partner.

      You are young. Take your time. Heal, fix your picker. Learn to like yourself and know you have value. Then maybe you will be ready to trust and love again.

  • The main point though, this woman is not your therapist. She is also not your friend. Those things cancel out any speculation – and it’s only her speculation, not a professional opinion whatsoever – that she has of you. Your husband wasn’t protective of you, so you will have to be. Be very picky of who you should allow to weigh-in commentary of you or your life. You are amazing in what you’ve accomplished, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! If the people in our lives are not our cheerleaders, they shouldn’t be there.

    • P.S. my X & OW paint me negatively too. Of course, they do. I knew when my youngest son’s new GF blurted out on Christmas Day “you’re so nice” in amazement that I knew they had tried to “warn” her about me. It feels great to show people otherwise! Try that on your neighbours (if you even care).

  • Actually Not Crazy,
    The AP I dealt with texted me at some point (early on) to “get therapy” and called me “crazy.” And you know what that did? It helped ensure I’d never be in contact with her again. And then I smiled… because she’s fucked. At some point the reality of who she’s with will bite her in the ass. And she had better not reach out to “crazy” me.

    Anyone can be any number of careers. Anyone can be anything and still turn out to be shitty at it or poorly matched. They might even be “successful” but that may be just a product of other things. (IE there’s a coparenting coordinator/therapist in my area that is well known for being a creepy narcissistic ass — he laughs when he finds out a parent has been chumped! He does nothing to support the kids. He excuses bad behavior by FWs. But he has continued his creepy operation and no one will get rid of him because it’s hard to do that — attorneys continue to hire that jackass. And he continues to do more damage.)

    My point is that disordered people are therapists too. It’s unfortunate. It sucks. But not all therapists are great. This “therapist” is making assumptions about you based on FW’s complaints — even though that likely goes against what she learned in order to be a therapist. She can lean on her “credentials” (whatever those are in her case) but that doesn’t make her right. Shake it off and stay no contact.

    And consider moving somewhere where she isn’t a neighbor anymore. Fresh start. Focus on you. And kick ass.

    • A bit of sobering history: The first book to thoroughly cover the infamous T4 program in Nazi Germany was researched and written by Benno Muller-Hill, a geneticist and historian from Cologne who– though he searched every archive and interviewed anyone still living– couldn’t find a single case of a psychiatrist or doctor being coerced to participate in the mass killing of the disabled. He couldn’t find a case of anyone being punished for refusal to participate. Even when Hitler halted the program due to public backlash, the killing certers continued to operate against orders. French psychiatrists had no orders under Vichy to mount similar programs in France but did anyway.

      Muller-Hill concluded that the T4 hadn’t been compelled by Nazi command or the public but was internally driven by a craze for eugenics theory in psychiatry and medicine at the time.

      Obviously there’s no comparison but I kept thinking of this while being dragged to five progressively more and more awful RIC therapists to keep a little perspective. I was thinking “Man, when you folks get it wrong, you get it really, really wrong.” So much harm has come from junk theories.

  • I am a huge proponent of therapy. It has quite literally saved my life. I’ve been blessed with some amazing therapists. Life changing help. Such a gift to me. The gratitude for that runs as deep as I go and presses my heart deeper as the years go by.

    I’ve also attempted to work with some therapists who were probably fine but not a good fit for me at the time.

    Then there’s the therapists I’ve left because they were legit terrible. Like the one who became so uncomfortable when I talked about my early family relationships that he would start asking me how to spell common unrelated words (and when I asked him if my stories were scaring him, he said “yes” and offered to refund my money as I walked out the door). Or the one who pointed out how my ex’s deception wouldn’t be considered a problem in all cultures and I could choose to change my perspective, I just needed to become willing. Or the one who validated the ex’s interest in underage porn as more common than most realize, and told us he can’t help liking what he likes, he just has to be careful how he “manages his urges”.

    So going back to the skilled and non-abusive therapists, one of them told me a thing about therapists that has been a great clarifier for me as I meet new therapists.

    She said people go into therapy as a profession for one of two reasons. They are drawn to the work either because:

    (A) They find it helpful to work through their own shit and conclude that they want to also help others do the same. (This is good because they’re in it for the right reasons — but also means it’s important to keep in mind that they may specialize in your shit because they are working on the same shit, and sometimes their own shit will come up in session, however briefly, because we are all human. Asking whether they seek their own ongoing care is often a good indicator of how enthusiastic they are about their own continued growth.)

    — or —

    (B) They see being a therapist as a way to wield mental power, to be all-knowing overseers of the thinking of vulnerable people, respected advisors who others turn to for direction on how to think and behave. (Toxic narcissistic abusers, in other words. These are the sort who do things like tell you deception is a reasonable way for another person to treat you under certain circumstances, smugly diagnose you from a distance based on another’s description of you, and “fall in love with” (screw) the cheater spouse who prompted your visits to the therapy couch.)

    We’re all human. No professional is a magic ubergenius. Anyone who acts like they are such a thing is a red flag with human body parts. Therapy is great, but only if your therapist is a good human AND a good fit for YOU.

    Remember, you’re a customer of a professional. It *feels* intimate, but it’s a business relationship. If it isn’t working well for you, you don’t owe the person anything. Depart with grace and find another person who is a better fit for you right now. (If your therapist is doing their own work, they’ll manage themselves through it fine. If they can’t do that, they weren’t right for you anyway.)

    • To the shrink who “pointed out how my ex’s deception wouldn’t be considered a problem in all cultures and I could choose to change my perspective, I just needed to become willing” — I hope you didn’t pay him. And then said not all cultures pay for advice, and he should just change his perspective on being stiffed.

      • Insurance foiled me on that one, but you can bet that person was never in my presence again after that. Even in my chumpiest times, “It’s OK to lie to your wife” pegged my BS meter at maximum instantaneously. I stared at the therapist in cold silence for several seconds, then said “did you just say it’s OK for my husband to lie to me?” That prompted much backpedaling, LOL!

  • I know a therapist who says that they should never diagnose, in any way, someone they are not treating.

    Water, and idiots, seek their own level. The fact that she is in your business says much more about her than you. If he is out in the neighborhood spreading trash about you kick him out and let him find another neighborhood…..or he can move in with her. That is when you get some popcorn, a recliner, and watch. Two screwed up people living together. It sounds delightful.

  • Oh where to start. First congratulations on maintaining a healthy weight. Unbelievable monumental achievement. My daughter battled and has maintained two years. Second you are hilarious, Hamilton lyrics. Please keep moving forward and forget about those idiots. My husband had an affair with our Marriage Counselor, who now goes to book club across the street and has never left my personal space. She’s crazy. Said horrible untrue things about me in FIVE years of abuse disguised as Therapy. I struggle still but everyday I try to move forward. You are so young. You deserve to have a fulfilling relationship. You do not need to suffer. Good luck

      • FYI,
        We reported, they did absolutely nothing. She still practices in town and joins social things that I am in. Unfortunately it does not seem the state licensing boards fo a whole lot.

  • ANC, i think most people recognize that when a person is calling their X-wife “crazy” it’s wildly misogynistic. an old move from the playbook, a stereotypical move from the playbook. the old soft-shoe.

    you’re doing great. yes, your narc X is using your mental health challenges as ammunition against you. that’s what narc’s do–gather info to use as ammunition at a later date. you just gather all the financial info you need to file for your divorce and let your lawyer manage it.

    there’s no rush to re-partner–you’ve got a lot to do right now, principally taking good care of yourself.

  • Who cares whether that loser thinks you are crazy? He needs to think you’re crazy so he doesn’t have to admit to himself that he’s a loser.

    The truth is you’re a badass. You’re 25, have two degrees, a job in academia, and have already bought a house?!!! (All while dragging along that dead weight of a boyfriend/husband…)

    I’m betting you have the tendency to hold yourself to super high standards, to question yourself, and to discount your own successes and good qualities. Your ex weaponized those qualities for his own benefit, and to excuse his own failure to achieve and his failure as a person, and you internalized his criticisms.

    But here’s the thing about validation: needing to get it from others means you are always vulnerable to the one bad review, the one bad boyfriend, the one bad student evaluation. Understanding your own worth doesn’t mean you give up on all self-improvement now and forever and become an arrogant tool, but it does mean you don’t allow others to decide for you whether you are worthy and what you are worth. Especially not your cheating loser ex and his tagalong conniving therapist.

  • Young lady, you appear to have more self-awareness, personal drive, and motivation than most folks double your age!
    You started out having a rough time with your own issues while tethered to a mate with issues of his own. That worked…until it didn’t.

    Since then you’ve grown, changed and become a better person by leaps and bounds. One of the greatest risks we take when we couple with another is that the two don’t grow in sync, nor at the same rate, or even at all. You’ve jumped many a high hurdle and have lots to look forward to. Chalk this relationship up to ‘growing pains’, let it go, and set aside dreaming time for just you before you put yourself back out on the market. Best wishes; great work!!

  • For what it’s worth, at age nineteen I was a psych major at UC Santa Barbara. A very nice school, which accepted me, as opposed to a mail order degree. Here’s what happened:

    1) Major disillusion because I lived next door in a condominium complex to one of my professors, whose behavior with female students would land him in big disciplinary/legal trouble today. I previously naively assumed everyone in the helping professions had their own shot together.

    2) I recognized that my own shit was seriously not together, and I was on track to be the cliche therapist who became a therapist to avoid my own shit being seriously not together.

    3) I dropped out after one year and the next major life decision was seeking outside help to get my shit together. I had cleaned houses while I was in school, and continued to do that for a long time after dropping out. One of my clients was the head of the psych department at another major UC campus and I think he’s a total jerk and I wouldn’t want to catch what he has (or what his wife, a former student, has.)

    Just like the general population of the planet, there are good therapists and terrible ones, and the criteria is character, not the conferred credentials.

    The police officer who is the serial killer, the social worker who is the child abuser…there has always been, and will always be, individuals whose actions belie their professions, a sad reality of life on the planet.

    There will also always be people who ignore the bright red flags wrapped around the untrustworthy and the unsafe. The skill I want to hone is letting go and walking away, and staying away, as soon as I see that someone is untrustworthy and unsafe, and disregarding their outward appearances.

  • Oh, I so get this one. This was the hardest part for me to overcome. Like ok, he’s garbage, I get that, I accept it. But all these other people who joined in?! Why?! Why would anybody be that evil for no real benefit to themselves?!

    Because they are really that evil. That’s all you have to accept. This woman who was in your home, pretended to be a friend by cat sitting for you, etc. She was fucking your husband and the reason she came around you was because knowing she was hurting someone made her get off harder during it. That’s really all it is. They’re just really that evil.

    I can understand why a thief steals, they’re getting the thing they are stealing. I can logically understand that. I don’t condone it but I can get it. But these women? “Oh, I don’t really want him and the sex is bad but I’m going to fuck him and then I’m going to be around his wife and tell people she’s a nutcase because somehow that makes me superior to her!” That’s how they think. I can’t logically understand how debasing themselves and forcing another women to be exposed to their vaginal fluids without that woman’s consent makes them superior. To me, they’re just dirty rapist animals smearing their filth around to try to claim territory they don’t even want.

    You don’t have to understand it though, you just have to accept it as reality. If anyone is mentally ill past the point of help, it’s this therapist. I feel sorry for her clients. Once you accept how screwed up and pathetic she is, it gets easier to deal with.

    • Katie pig you are so correct. It is absolutely pure evil. This may or may not be a healthy habit, but I learned everything I needed to know from Reddit. The Adultery group. If you read the comments and posts you learn all you need to know about a part of the population that thrives on abuse and gaslighting. I learned so much that I never knew of how some people can be. It’s shocking and sickening. But it’s basically a place where criminals go to brag so it helped me understand the mindset I was dealing with which helped me tremendously. Large but extremely important learning curve.
      Our therapist broke me down over the course of many years and built my husband up. When I think of what I sat thru it makes me very sad. I listened and complied while they conspired behind my back. Learning the mentality has helped me be educated to hopefully never be fooled again.

      • Yes! I did the same thing! I read a ton of the adultery group to better understand them and yeah, they’re just evil. I think it’s healthy honestly, it helped me accept it. There are people who think like those monsters and enjoy abusing and my ex is one of them. Nothing to do with me, they’ll abuse anybody because it’s the abuse they enjoy. I think reading there sped up my healing. I hate that a therapist did that to you. I’m so sorry. I fully agree that learning about their mentality will help us identify and avoid them in the future.

        • Thank you. I see now how she enjoyed it. I could never wrap my head around it until I learned. She methodically ruined our relationship step by step. Told me to leave my career to better serve my family then kissed my husband during an alone session. It felt as if it purposeful so I was stuck. She didn’t really want him either it was all just a game to see how far she could get. So scary

  • ANC, your cheater is an emotionally and physically abusive (STDs?) a$$hole who knows YOU are the successful one, and his poor little ego can’t handle it. My first xFW knew I was well-liked/respected in my small community, and hated being known as “Ivy’s husband”. And so he belittled me at every opportunity. According to him:

    *I was too pale and needed to go to a tanning salon (nope)
    *My boobs were too small, so I should get a boob job (nope)
    *I dressed like my mother
    *I dressed like a whore
    *I wanted sex too much
    *I wasn’t “enthusiastic” enough during sex
    *I wasn’t a perfect housekeeper, no matter how often I deep cleaned

    Oh, and I didn’t paint my toenails.

    From this wonderful, healing website I have learned that FWs will find ridiculously petty things to justify their cheating. They are going to cheat no matter what. It has NOTHING to do with you.

    I learned that FWs will lie to therapists in an effort to get the therapist to validate their cheating. I mean, really, the FW HAD no choice but to cheat when his wife didn’t paint her toenails. A GOOD therapist can parse out liars and gaslighters and call them on their lies. It sounds like this “therapist” isn’t interested in your side of the story.

    Your side is that you are smart, you know how to save money, you have integrity. YOU have a brilliant future ahead of you, and time to look for somebody with the same values. Your FW, on the other hand, has to live with that dark, shriveled thing he calls a soul, living with the lies he tells other people to make himself feel good.

    I’m glad you are kicking him to the curb. You are mighty!

    • “Oh, and I didn’t paint my toenails.”

      😄 That’s right up there with the bagged salad as one the stupidest excuses a cheater ever used.
      Tanning salon is another dilly. Your FW is one stupid bastard.

    • (*I wasn’t a perfect housekeeper, no matter how often I deep cleaned)

      This was the only excuse he gave me on the day he left. Oh I wasn’t a bad housekeeper, just not spit shiny enough for him. Evidently dipping his wick into what ever damaged receptacle he could find soothed his weary soul.

      It didn’t matter that I worked full time, plus going to school at night so I could get promoted and make us even more money. In the early years I worked part time and spent most of my free time volunteering in the community and in politics because he wanted to be mayor someday and that would help him

      If I could have just given up those pesky hours I spent sleeping, well maybe he wouldn’t have had to screw every hole he could get ahold of.

      Funny thing was the whore he finally left me for made me look like Martha Stewart, according to my daughter in law and my son.

    • ivyleaguechump , how bizarre. I’ve been to I don’t know how many weddings, and I don’t remember anybody promising to paint their toenails. Your FW is such a jerk.

  • ANC, You are amazing. They suck.

    Stay no contact with those freaks and their apologists. Get that divorce- notice the thoughts that you are having that don’t serve you. Decide that you are worthy.

  • Early on after discard, I heard the words “run your own race”. It has been my mantra since that day (right up there with not my monkeys, not my circus). You sound like a person – who when running their own race – is MIGHTY. For you to heal and move forward you have to shut out the chatter/white noise. You do you. This is why No Contact and cutting out anyone who is not supportive of your healing is critical. You deserve it… and much more. Run your own race, the truth will out in time.

  • Ugh, what terrible circumstances. And I feel so terrible that you are dealing with this from all sides. First, I want to highlight that while your NPD ex is spinning this yarn, don’t think that everyone believes him. My exFW was a charming liar as well. I thought he had successfully painted me as a terrible human. After our divorce was finalized, there was a surprising line of people who wanted to tell me they knew he was a FW and wondered why it took me so long to divorce! You may not get the line of people, but trust me, he isn’t fooling as many people as he (or you) believe.
    Also, there are a LOT of crazy therapists out there. I know a few. Some that have slept with clients, engaged in DV, or are diagnosed as NPB or BPD themselves. It makes them more effective manipulators.

  • My FW used to call ALL of his previous exgf’s batshit crazy to me. I don’t doubt he and the OW are spreading that same tale to whoever will listen. But who is the common denominator in all of those relationships? I know his tricks now (page 3 of cheater handbook). Grey rocking and time (we are going on 2 1/2 years of divorce proceedings with no end in sight) have helped me get closer to meh. I like me; my friends and family like me. I’m so done with flying monkeys and trying to prove the “truth”. They will figure it out in time (as my FW’s life is a predictable pattern of use and abuse) and if they don’t that’s fine too; I don’t want anything to do with people who support or enable abuse because he “looks like a nice guy”. I have an inner satisfaction knowing that the OW will get a true taste of FW sooner or later…and a big smile as I know it’s finally not me having to deal with his crap.

  • You will get through this a better person, sounds like you’re putting in the work. You will find someone who values, I know it’s a hit to confidence and self esteem.

    No contact works well, I only maintain contact if it involves my children. I have had to set firm boundaries, she didn’t listen for awhile, but then I started to tell her some truths she didn’t want to hear, it finally sank in. Just sit back and enjoy the fireworks, they will come. They like drama, my goal is to protect my kids and myself when they go off.

    It’s refreshing to know my ex does not know a damn thing about my life anymore. She doesn’t have many friends and she will start to chat with me about her life, and I really don’t care. Sad.

  • This is a step in the process of losing a cheater that we all go through – getting twisted into a pretzel over the flying monkeys and the smear campaign. With time you’ll no longer give a crap what these losers think. It’s big world with lots of people who don’t know either one of them and others who know them and see right through the bs. Even if every neighbor thinks you’re nuts it’s not going to change the trajectory of your very promising future. Hold your head of high and move forward – none of this will matter soon.

  • Dear ANC,

    I got involved with this guy’s twin in college. I can’t call it dating, because we never dated – it was just years of hot/cold mind games and “You’re fabulous, I want you … oops, you’re batshit crazy, ghosting you now lol … oh hey, I’m back! What’d I miss?? BTW, I have more women to triangulate you against.” Think Mr. Big on steroids.

    Listen, there are a ton of garbage therapists in the world, with minimal certification and no social intelligence. You’d be shocked how varied the training is. I had to comb through a lot of therapists before I found a good one. I met many who had good intentions but were mediocre, and too many who desperately needed therapy themselves.

    So let’s just say I am utterly unsurprised this idiot is a therapist.

    Stop listening to anything she says. She doesn’t know you, she was never YOUR therapist, she’s unqualified to diagnose you with anything. She’s an enabler addicted to the drama triangle with your abuser.

    What’s she going to do? Gossip to your neighbors about how crazy you are? Unfortunately, yes, it’s what narcissists do. Fortunately, most people see through it and will recognize she’s the problem.

    Hang in there.

    • Yes, I completely agree. I have had therapist who were horrible (one HATED me and never missed a chance to tell me that! I was pretty sick back then and so allowed this to happen). I have also had others who were well meaning but useless. And thank God, I had two that ‘got’ me. Just because someone is licensed does not mean he/she is qualified (or even ‘normal’!). Thank you.

    • This reminds me of what a neighbor of mine said when confronted with gossip by another neighbor at a gathering. Neighbor 1 was trying to convey to Neighbor 2 some local gossip. I was a part of the overall conversation but wasn’t really participating much. When Neighbor 1 took a breath and paused, Neighbor 2 said, in the nicest way possible with the friendliest tone and smile, “oh, we don’t do that.” “Do what?” asked Neighbor 1.” “Gossip. Life’s too short for all that.” Then she gently patted Neighbor 1 on the arm and went to go refresh her drink.

      I’ve used that line many times since when confronted with someone spreading toxic negativity. Simple, honest, direct.

  • Mental health professionals are not supposed to diagnose someone they don’t see in person in a clinical setting. This puts the Schmoopie’s Flying Monkey friend in a quite a different position than some random women that calls you crazy. The former is malpractice while the latter is your basic mean- girdling. If you can capture a copy of her text on catch her on video calling her crazy I would send a copy to the state licensing board and file a complaint.

  • Having an affair with a client violates professional standards and is cause to lose a license. Anyone who has a complaint can file a grievance. Look up, online, your state name and “professional licenses.” You should be able to find the place to contact, whether it’s your state’s Board of Licenses for that professional category, that specific profession’s accreditation body, or both.

    You can also search any licensed professional and see if there have been any disciplinary actions or formal grievances.

    For anyone divorcing, I would not file e a complaint until you consult with your attorney, who may recommend that you wait until your divorce is final.

  • The OW in my case was not a MH professional but she was advising my husband like she was. I found emails where she was “concerned” about my behaviour (based on info from him only). She was being “solution focused” by suggesting what he should do with me, mainly that I needed to be sectioned voluntarily and have 24 hour lock down care for my “issues”. My issues were extreme anger, debilitating depression and weight loss from finding out I was lied to for 25 years. When I tried to defend myself by things like closing a bank account, that was seen as me being a nut job. The thing is- FWs collude and invent narratives. ANC my advice would be to stay away from them. In my case I saw the abuse that comes with people trying to tell you you’re crazy- it suits their narrative and when I ended up at Womens refuge for support, I learned this is a very fun and dangerous game for abusers. Please keep yourself safe and find a new community 💕

  • The therapist gives him a kind of credibility he wouldn’t have otherwise. Ex-dickhead is also with a “therapist”- and it drives me crazy HA! Although after several years- she no longer spends Christmas with him and I think she’d like to dump him. He never wanted anyone to “get in his head” so I am pretty sure this is all part of his pretend malarky. Especially when he ended up on the psyche ward twice, after I confronted him with evidence of his double life. She can unwind that skein. Not my role anymore. Rock on with your great after-life!

  • Just want to add my slam to the slamming of therapists. Haven’t counted how many I’ve consulted in my life–probably more than 25. (Yeah, I’m well and truly screwed up.) ONE- count ’em, ONE–was actually helpful. A handful of them were downright destructive.

    Remember that half of all therapists graduated in the bottom 50% of their programs. Read up on The Wounded Healer. BE CAREFUL. As a survivor of infidelity, your intuitions are likely to be spot on. Drop them the second anything about them feels even a little bit off.

    • This. I’ve been searching for a decent therapist for my teenager. Sadly, given the crop, “decent” is the best I can aspire to. And even with that low criteria, we’ve been through 6 and have yet to find one that can actually relate to a teenager in a way that doesn’t make them feel like a baby. It feels impossible. I think that’s why so many of my adult friends have turned to life coaches in lieu of therapists, because at least with a good life coach you can get some inspiration and problem solving skills. And maybe at some point, talking your problems to death just doesn’t help anymore.

  • Oh, sweetheart. I was married for 20 years; last 3 years of the marriage were so stressful and the sporadic discard so profound (I didn’t know he was rampantly cheating), that I developed a Betta fish hoarding problem. As my sister said, “you take care of those Bettas the way you want to be taken care of” (which made me cry with relief that someone understood). But…nothing says crazy like 60 individual tanks of betta fish in your upstairs. Trust me, my actual “crazy” was on full display.

    My X used it to his advantage–our friends knew about my fish-rescue (ok, hoarding), so he could explain why we “grew apart” (because Tempest was cray-cray). Never mind that he had started cheating 8 years prior with a graduate student in a torrid affair everyone knew about (but me), that he had been screwing other students and his online sex partners on lunch hours for the 8 years since gradwhore, and had a new GF the last year of the marriage that led to the most extreme maltreatment of all, leading me (normally a badass) to self-harm. I threw him out when I found the sexual harassment hearing notes about the affair with gradwhore 8 years prior, and learned about his other proclivities post-divorce (hello, private investigator).

    But, XHB (Hannibal Lecher) had visible evidence he could point to of “crazy”–fishtanks on every visible surface will do that to you. You know who believed that was the basis for his cheating? Other cheaters. Good litmus test for who to keep in your life–those who don’t buy the buy the line that ActuallyNotCrazy brought on her own marital demise–keep those people. Fuck the rest of them.

  • I still see my ex because now we have grandchildren and I don’t expect my daughter to throw 2 birthday parties. It’s hard because I know he told her that I was the adulterer. He married his second wife in a fundamentalist church that only allows re-marriage in case of adultery.
    I got an unexpedted boost to my esteem from my daughter, now in her 40’s. I was laughing off the adultery accusation when she got furious — she was furious because her step-mother believes I was an adulterer.

  • In our small university town, we have two hospitals. About 15 years ago, there was a very quiet scandal because the town psychiatrist had his wife in one hospital giving birth to his child and his mistress in the other hospital doing the very same thing. Psychiatrists and therapists are not moral authorities. Scum, however, is always scum.

  • CL is right. This bogus therapist is most likely a fuck buddy. Though why anybody would want to be fuck buddies somebody so inept and insensitive that you need to recite lyrics in your head just to get through it, I do not know. Maybe she’s so messed up that she enjoys abusive, one-sided sex with selfish pigs. Who cares. She may have a diploma of some sort and can hang her shingle out as a therapist, but that doesn’t prove she’s good at her job. In my experience, many (if not most) therapists suck. I saw my FW go through some doozies, and I’ve had plenty of them myself as a child and adolescent (suffering from anxiety) and so have my daughters, who both inherited the family tendency to anxiety disorders. So I believe I’ve seen a fairly representative sample. Most were next to useless at best, and those were the good ones. The others were oughtright damaging. I’ve seen ethical violations that were shocking. So I am not surprised this bitch is a therapist. I think fucked up people go into that line of work because they want to present an image of being the opposite of what they are. They think it proves that they are mentally stable.
    I do know good therapists are out there. My youngest had a fantastic one now. But you kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince like that.

    As for the neighbors, how do you know they think you’re crazy? If FW was talking shit about you to them, maybe they actually think he’s a creep who talks shit about his wife. Regardless, they are neighbors, not your nearest and dearest. Please stop letting other people’s ignorant opinions get in your way. Even if it turned out they all hated you, you would have the options to either not associate with them or to move. It sounds like you’re financially solvent and have no kids with this freak. So you can go anywhere and do anything you like. Most chumps can only wish they had so many options. You’re so young, ANC. Your future is wide open. Don’t limit yourself by worrying about what people think of you. You know who you are. To survive being chumped and thrive thereafter, you need to develop a fuck you attitude about what people think and say about you. It comes naturally to me, but I know it’s hard for some people. Work on it.

  • I love “reciting Hamilton lyrics”!!!!

    Except I have one question…..Hamilton songs last more than a quick minute, right? Three Blind Mice might have been a better fit in the case of my ex FW.

    Fly! You are so young and you figured it out!!!! No more FWs for you! No more wasted years trying to please a cranky, pouty, demanding manchild who could care less about what makes you happy.

    Fly little one! I’d bake you a cake to celebrate if I were close by!

  • Comment in two parts because it’s looong.

    Dear Not Actually Crazy,

    I love scarily smart OPs (which this blog seems to attract) because it gives me an chance to unload my reading list while knowing there’s a strong chance they’ll read everything and have the same electric, out-of-body experience of connecting dots that I did. I’m a kind of like a stoner who wants to get everyone high except with an epistemological, political and philosophical experience. That way there’s a chance there’s someone else walking around in the world who “gets it” and passes it on. Come to the dark side, we have cookies.

    You’re clearly not crazy but you’ve spent seven years or more being gaslighted into the ground by a genuinely evil operator. He built this cage around you intentionally and is sawing away at all your resources by maligning you– even employing a professional to this end– in ways that arguably threatens to damage your ability to make a living and form a social life and future. Since this appears to have happened during a “discard,” you might assume that he’s done messing with you but most abusers seem to be like Louis XV declaring, “After me, the flood!” They can’t bear the idea that former victims will move on to have fulfilling lives, as if those who can never form truly intimate relationships also can never really let go. Also, forget the common notion that you only got entrapped because you happened to have a preexisting vulnerability because, given what I understand about abusers, if it hadn’t been that particular vulnerability, he would have found another Achilles’ heel or invented one from your greatest strengths (which I think he’s done. Your accomplishments mean you have all the more to lose and he knows it).

     As a former advocate for battered women, I can say with certainty that these are all the earmarks of a batterer.  Surrounding you with “character assassination landmines” is the baseline thing that every batterer does which defines your STBX as such– short of actually breaking your jaw which, considering his MO so far, is statistically not out of the realm of possibilities. For now, he’s been so successful at identifying your psychological Achilles’ heels and menacing everything you hold dear that it hasn’t quite come to that. Not yet anyway.

    That brings up the first two books I want to recommend because seeing what happened to you through the lens of intimate partner violence can, as you move forward, help clarify and preempt the potential risks you might face and help in finding the type of support that won’t deepen and extend your trauma by minimizing, negating or whitewashing your experience as just, you know, garden variety “relationship dysfunction.” It’s abuse, full stop. What he’s doing is on the “batterer spectrum.”

    He may also be a narcissist but he’s first and foremost a rank abuser. I tell people that the following books are sort of clinical versions of Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?” that include research and citations: criminologist and DV researcher Donald Dutton’s “The Batterer” and forensic social worker and veteran domestic violence researcher and victims’ advocate Evan Stark’s “Coercive Control.”  

    “Coercive Control” author Evan Stark, who was one of the earliest proponents of the DV shelter movement in the US and UK in the 1970s, has more recently been spearheading a campaign to criminalize “coercive control.” Coercive control comprises many of the controlling but sub-violent behaviors by abusers that tend to lead up to violent abuse and spousal homicide. Creating civil and criminal statutes against coercive control enables victims to get orders of protection or prosecute offenders before these situations snowball to lethal violence. Aside from the book itself, the article can explain a bit about the history and application of coercive control but just take out the gaps in the URL (necessary to avoid the page’s algorithm that holds link-heavy comments back for moderation):
    ht tps://w ww.theacecc.c om/post/not-all-bills-are-created-equal-a-review-of-coercive-control-legislation
    Stark is also co-author of one of the best explanations for rampant clinical victim-blaming that I’ve ever read. His exhaustively researched essay on domestic violence, co-written and researched with partner Anne Flitcraft, is in founding psychotraumatologist’s Frank Ochberg’s clinical tome “Post-traumatic Stress Therapy and the Victims of Violence.” That chapter alone is worth a library visit because copies of the book are unfortunately rare and expensive. It’s a must read for any survivor who’s encountered shitty therapists or psychobabbling bystanders and abusers.

    Then there’s Dutton, who spent decades studying batterers and spouse-killers like bugs in prison settings and his body of work is one of the richest collections of related research and insights ever published that also seed and support further observations, insights and research. Like an environmentalist (whose name I forget) put it, “Facts tend to cluster around good theories.” So much can be drawn from Dutton’s research and insights. I think it’s a reflection of the dodgy politics surrounding domestic abuse that much of Dutton’s writing is decades old and the findings should have been common knowledge by now but still aren’t so that every page contains explosive revelations. “The Batterer” is probably one of Dutton’s more accessible publications and I suspect he had political reasons for writing it accessibly– in order to bypass a stubborn legal system and bring certain facts to public attention in order to improve enforcement against DV and increase prison time for offenders which, Dutton argues at several points, is the only thing that, along with intensive therapy, can even dent recidivism by a few percentage points. In other words, abusers on this spectrum are intractable and almost never change.
    (continued)

  • Part 2 of comment. Trying to mask URLs to avoid moderation delays didn’t work so this might show up a while after my first post (which is likely repeated. Oops).

    It’s clear by his arguments for greater enforcement and prison sentencing that Dutton didn’t fall into the typical trap of “identifying” with his study subjects which is probably why his work is so ground-breaking and indirectly supports other ground-breaking insights in victimology that can correct antiquated, victim-blaming assumptions and be, by extension, healing for survivors. Some highlights from Dutton’s work and the important concepts that, in my humble opinion, I believe it supports in turn (forgive the unclear paragraph breaks as I try to organize this):

    — Dutton observes that most batterers operate on a “beat-by-need” basis, generally opting for less athletic, less legally risky and more psychological, financial and emotional means of coercing and controlling victims and reserving the most intense abuse for victims who resist. It’s such a simple-sounding observation but I think it seeds a theoretical revolution in victimology. In other words, batterers arguably reserve the greatest abuse for victims with the highest self esteem and greater resources to escape and thrive. This flies in the face of old, debunked victim-blaming clinical theories which assume that the more beaten down a victim is by abuse, the more effed up they had been prior to abuse while, in reality, it may be the *exactly opposite case.* So Dutton’s basic clinical observation goes a long way towards substantiating DV expert Lenore Walker’s argument that– contrary to the old assumption that victims all suffered from preexisting “psychological deficiency”– most DV survivors had higher than average pre-abuse self esteem (backed up by the fact that more had careers prior to abuse than average). If anything, this may argue that abusers vary in taste in prey with some preferring to take down “big game” and collect tiger skin trophies rather than bunny foot key chains. It also substantiates that, while nothing can really be automatically assumed about the psychology or background of victim in any abuse situation, a great deal can be assumed about abusers according to their methods.
    Dutton’s observation also suggests that some batterers– if they find a handy psychological lever in their victims by identifying a vulnerability or something the victim is terrified of losing– may never have to take their hands out of their pockets in order to completely terrorize and paralyze their prey. A victim’s, say, great passion for their work or studies, passionate sociability or great love of their children can be weaponized against them, turning what are arguably sources of strength into a liabilities. If the abuser identifies a vulnerability– some sensitive point the victim would prefer to keep private (which applies to… nearly everyone on earth)– that doesn’t necessarily indicate that the victim was especially weak or “broken” if the abuser is also targeting social and financial resources, strengths, hopes and passions. In political repression, Nabokov dubs this kind of tactic “the lever of love” (that’s another somewhat related book recommendation: Nabokov’s “Bend Sinister”).
    Personally I wonder whether some abusers prefer tigers but “slightly limping” tigers going through some passing stage of hardship that makes them a little easier to take down while still providing a brag-worthy trophy. Whatever is the case, the success of an abuser’s tactics– again– says little about the victim and everything about the abuser because abusers will apparently do whatever it takes (abuse/beat-by-need) to this end.  

    — Another of Dutton’s deceptively simple but explosive observations is that many batterers engage in something called “masked dependency.” I don’t have The Batterer in front of me but I think it’s from that book if not from another of Dutton’s publications. From what I understand, “masked dependency” is when an abuser– due to whatever demented FOO issues they internalized as they transitioned from “former child victim” to “adult abuser”– harbors overwhelming shame about their own emotional vulnerability and especially their pathological, infantile emotional dependency on partners/victims. Consequently this type of abuser will attempt to conceal this dependency from onlookers, partners and even themselves and even go to great lengths to create the opposite (“You ain’t the boss of me/who needs you”) impression. While this type is apparently less prone to open misogyny, might give credible lip service to desiring “healthy” relationships and may appear less overtly jealous than other abusers, Dutton also argues at one point that the “masked dependency” type can be statistically more lethal. I suppose this relates to the “hungry dogs in the basement” concept that denied emotions are all the more incendiary. I think it also relates to Dutton’s concept that many batterers have quasi-split personalities (more on that later) that can explain how they first appear especially trustworthy to victims and bystanders and why their recall for their own destructive behaviors tends to be especially fuzzy.
    One thing that Dutton doesn’t discuss much in his work is something that I believe relates to masked dependency: that virtually all batterers cheat. Fortunately current DV researchers are starting to delve into that association which I always thought was under-reported and under-focused on.  Again, close the gaps in the URL for a link to a paper on it: ht tps://w ww.joplinlawyers.co m.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/FINAL-COPY-Infidelity-as-a-Consideration-in-Domestic-Abuse-and-Coercive-Control.pdf
    If you think about it, cheating is the ultimate way of masking infantile dependency by saying “Who needs ya, bitch” while simultaneously *fostering* dependency in the victim because the best way to mask one’s own weakness and neediness is to induce it in a partner by displacing one’s own sexual insecurity/dependency. Cheating could also be seen as an attempt by an abuser to “dilute” their dependency on primary partners by spreading the dependency out among more than one partner. Furthermore, cheating is a form of punishment of the victim (for “making” the abuser feel so dependent on them. See how that works? Abusers can’t own their self-generated demented behavior and must displace fault for it onto victims). And– at least according to my own personal theory– the sexual element of cheating lends to the concept of battering as a form of protracted rape. The abuser can thereby triangulate sexual control, punishment, the robbing of consent and violation by drawing in a “bully gang” who willingly participate in the act and thereby “greenlight” it, justify it as warranted and “deserved” and support it. In turn, the latter sort of controversially casts witting affair partners as technical “proxy rapists”– but that’s an argument for another day (anyone who’s curious can Google “mate poacher/dark triad/psychopathy” or “hybristophilia” for starters).

    — Abusers’ typical campaigns to gather support by proxies and collaborators (affair partners and “flying monkeys”) in aggression lend to the next explosive insight by Dutton– that batterers engage in something called “neutralization” (sometimes referred to as “reduction in self punishment”) in order to de-stigmatize their destructive behavior and recast it as justifiable. The following paper on serial killers and “neutralization” explains the process and the potential motives for the pattern of thinking better than I could (take out gaps in URL and click “download” for a free read): ht tps://w ww.mdpi.com/2075-4698/9/2/46

    — As far as Dutton’s description of abusers with quasi-split personalities, I think it can explain why many abusers are so diabolically effective at conning victims and bystanders, at least at first. Again, I can’t remember whether this concept was introduced in The Batterer or another of Dutton’s publications but I’m pretty sure that there’s reference to it in The Batterer. Dutton describes many batterers as “compartmentalized” which should be familiar to anyone who’s read pop-psych descriptions of narcissism. But it’s compartmentalization on a whole other level. For instance, Dutton describes abusers as often having an alacrity or attraction to reading or viewing materials from the “victim’s perspective.” As I understand it, because abusers were once victims in their own rights due to traumatic childhood events, among the different faces and personae they trot out in their attempts to get what they want from others is the former “victim self.” And that “victim self” will initially appear 100% credible and organic to the extent that most abusers genuinely were victims at some point in their lives before they transitioned into abusers. Their empathy for victimization appears to have depth and real foundations. But like the light from a star reaching earth millions of years after the star already died, this appearance of empathy for victims is an illusion. Abusers might weep buckets over lost puppies in the pound but only because they “see themselves” in misfortune but that view of themselves as perpetual victims is one of the things that makes abusers so dangerous because part of “neutralization’ mentioned above is when abusers attempt to portray themselves as victims of their own victims.
    Again, Dutton’s concept goes a long way towards letting victims off the hook for getting hoodwinked– meaning that it may not be due to any special flaw in victims’ perceptions or character because it appears that abusers show themselves to be better at appearing to have empathy and being “safe” than average. Along the same lines, Dutton argues that batterers tend to channel far more psychic energy into “image management” than average. In other words, even an abuser of low to average intelligence is going to be objectively better at appearing innocent, mirroring and conning than others.

    As a bonus, all of the above is a bane to lousy victim blaming therapists, bystanders and proxies. As far as using ED as a rationale to control, betray and gaslight someone, that would mean it’s open season on 75% of American women and 25% of men. So I haven’t seen any amended legislation legalizing coercive control and abuse of people with problematic relationships with food. Or FOO issues. Or people struggling to get masters degrees or battling cancer or caring for aging elders or disabled children or simply taxed from wrestling with important philosophical quandaries. But if abusers ruled the world (which they arguably do if you look at the psych profiles of CEOs and politicians), we’d all be on the menu. It’s beside the point. To grossly paraphrase Shakespeare’s take on jealousy, abusers “are not ever abusive for the cause but abusive for they’re abusive. It is a monster begot upon itself, born on itself.”

  • FWs badmouth you to justify their horrible behavior/cheating to others, and to themselves. As my Mom always says in these situations, “Consider the source,” and don’t put any stock in what people with an agenda have to say about you. Yes, it’s frustrating to have unrelated third parties convinced you’re crazy, but if they are close enough with FW to believe what he says about you, then they’re likely not very good people anyway.

  • Validating your worth through the opinion of people like this is not advised. There are many other ways to judge self worth (accomplishments, positive relationships, inherent self feelings, etc.). You’re in a low place, so I get why you care…but fight the urge to care at every single turn. Check out of this cluster F of a situation, get through your divorce as quickly and painlessly as possible, and build the next best chapter of your life as an independent, hard working woman.

    Stopping caring is a practice. In the beginning you have to intentionally fight the overwhelming urge. Do something to district yourself every time you find yourself thinking about this or having a feeling about this ridiculousness. I became a work-a-holic and a home organizing nutjob during my time trying to get my ex and his ridiculousness from living rent free in my brain. It helped to get my mind away from all things him. Its pretty much “fake it till you make it” at first, but over time it gets easier, and then one day you realize you haven’t thought about this at all for 24 hours, then 48, and so on. Celebrate those milestones!

    With that being said, if this lady and your ex do anything to actually slander or defame you publicly, consider hiring a attorney to send them a cease-and-desist letter. Otherwise, walk away from this toxic gossip.

  • “Please take a big, cynical step back. History is replete with examples of abusive, blameshifting Mental Health Professionals. Schizophrenia is caused by cold mothers. Single, unwed mothers are mentally unfit and must have their children adopted out. Lobotomies.

    Before I am besieged with comments, I’m not saying all therapy is worthless. I’m saying therapists are prone to cultural, institutional, and personal biases like the rest of us. And at the end of the day, the final arbiter of your worth is YOU.”

    TUMULTUOUS ROUND OF APPLAUSE.

    Thanks so much. I have the recent psych degree to confirm all of the above.

    I also have a friend in the throes of a messy divorce who has suffered from a terrible psychologist who simply affirmed her husband’s abuse of her.

    We’re looking at a change to a trauma informed counselling service now (with a sliding fee scale!)

  • My ex-fuckwit is a LMFT and I used to believe that “therapist” was a reliable title. Now I know better, just like everyone there are good people and assholes.

  • As a psychiatrist I can assure you there are unprofessional, unethical and overconfident therapists, as well as personality disordered and substance-misusing folks. There are lots of cheaters too including psychiatrists who have sex with patients. So please don’t feel the uninformed comments of this woman carry any weight!

  • I live in a small town where I see my former in laws a lot. The emotional stress of “do they believe his story” gets a lot lighter when I realized this. “He told them I was a crazy terrible mother. But he NEVER comes to get his kid. Why isn’t he trying to save the baby, who he claims is the only reason he married my worthless behind?” To their credit, they offered to help, and found that the primary reason for my crazy was their son.

    People around me and around you know BS when they hear it. Filling your time with friendships and goals will gradually tune out the stressful undercurrent of real or imagined gossip. I was too busy functioning to respond to accusations that I wasn’t functioning. You got this! And the next time you sing musicals, i hope it’ll be full voice in a fun setting.

  • Big wow. You are awesome 👏! Surround yourself with good friends. Get your own therapist. A lot of people who are therapists have their own mental issues. Realize they are both cra cra. Live your best life.Time helps heal all wounds and living your best life helps. Eventually you get to meh. Best to pretend they do not exist. Find a nice man, they are out there. My hat goes off to you. At 25 you can build a long beautiful life. Just fix your picker.

    Dating him as a teen can be problematic you bonded with him, he wasn’t a fully formed human. Alot of mental illness emerge as a young adult and gets worse with time. Ask me how I know. He and the therapist with have a shit show life and you will get to witness it and chuckle. In the meantime you have to pretend they don’t and never existed. De Nile is a River that runs deep!

  • Oh ActuallyNotCrazy.

    I am late to this party but I can’t even begin to tell you the things my XH did to try and convince me I’m mentally unbalanced.

    Full disclosure here: I, a seminary student, at one point wrote the Other Woman a letter chiding her for being a Christian adulterer. Not my most “meh” moment (this was my pre-Chump-Lady era), but I did not in any way threaten her or call her names, I simply pointed out what a blazing hypocrite she was. (She later dumped my husband to marry a pastor and became a pastor’s wife, btw.)

    My then-STBX used that letter to try and convince me I was crazy. Only an insane person would tell a Christian that she shouldn’t commit adultery, apparently. He showed the letter to a therapist taking dance lessons at his studio who also reportedly concurred that I am a crazy woman and only a mentally unbalanced person would write that. My XH called me “psycho” and “dangerous.”

    It’s been 8.5 years. I moved on, finished my master’s degree, remarried, got an awesome job working for law enforcement (which involved the most strenuous background check ever—they wouldn’t have hired me if they thought I was even a little bit “psycho” or “dangerous”), bought a five-bedroom house, and am now working on a PhD. I just gave a killer presentation at a Christian conference in November and had two well-known publishers tell me they are eyeing me for a book on my dissertation topic. I just had a tweet go viral and get shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media. Life is peaceful, drama-free, good, even exciting–in the right ways.

    Meanwhile, my XH (who is a clinical sociopath) still lives in a sad little two-bedroom rental (which he shares with his girlfriend’s homeless mooch parents), has constant trouble with money and adulting, and still regularly lies to me about the most insane stuff. Yet I’m supposed to believe I was the problem in my former relationship.

    This woman your cheater is talking to is probably BOTH screwing him and is a terrible therapist. But even if she’s only one of those things, so what? I promise you, the best revenge is moving on and living your life. Promise.

  • ANC Inhope you get out while you still have your life ahead of you. I don’t think anyone who knows me knows that my husband cannot accuse me of being crazy, or a bitch, but I am pretty sure he presents me as frigid. My SIL, who is actually supportive of me, made a comment early on like well if you have a different sex drive than him he should have talked to you about it. I nipped that in the bud and was like, no that’s not it! He always was too tired, or had a stomachache or had bad gas. After a few months of nothing I would have to INSIST on intimacy. But mostly I don’t care what people think about me. I wish I had gotten out when I was young like you. I didn’t know about the cheating back then, but I did know he was mean, had laid hands on me a few times and would say things like, if I didn’t live here there would be rats running around, or maybe we shouldn’t have children, you might forget them in the bathtub or something. (I turned out to be an excellent mother IMO).

  • fuck wits are charmers, women like to think they are special and the chump didnt treat him right. u let a af babysit u cats on u wedding day, wow. he has issues u fw, his parents always sub him with cash. how did his dad treat his mom, but u might not n what goes on behind closed doors. adults are supposed to have a varied healthy diet. people will conplain but ed is a coping mechanism, i knew a chump adult woman who weighed 2 and a half stone, he cheated on her. shes alive but spent years in a psych hospital. u trapped in u own hell. u not responsible for his behaviour. he treats u badly because he knowns he will get away with it.

  • Your neighbor sounds sleazily unprofessional; a good therapist would realize that a cheater is likely to give a very biased account, and take everything they said with a boatload of salt; and would not be likely to get involved with a neighbor’s affairs in the intimate way that she has. I agree with CL that the neighbor is more likely to be auditioning to be or already one of your husband’s OW’s. I hope you can get away from that neighborhood! Maybe you could start planning to move closer to your job? Your present area sounds like such a disturbing place to come home to! Best of luck with your new career, you rock!!!!

  • Ah! Those rare, aquatic flying monkey sirens! These are pseudo-psychology spewing ones too! Bonus!

    If you listen, their singing and songs WILL crash your recovery upon the rocks! Then they will promptly let you drown or eat you alive (noice!). Sirens thrive, by telling you something you want or think you “need” to hear, causing chaos. The will lure the chump away from grey rock, assuredly.

    My xh had a brother (creepy therapist who lived off his recently divorced girlfriends that were clients), fed xh husband all the lingo he needed to diagnose me.
    Literally, the buckshot of YouTube diagnose, throw enough terms into the soup so it sounds legit.
    It. Is. All. Bullshit. *WHY I actually tried to defend myself against these diagnoses I’ll never know.

    In fact, I was such a villain, I renamed myself Magneto, because if I have to be the villain, I’m going to be a cool one. 🤨

    Seriously, at one point I listed almost 24 labels/diagnosis that were attributed to me by xh.
    It does throw you for a loop, especially if you are a self reflective person. Ie: well adjusted person.

    Guess what!?!? Since the divorce I have been miraculously cured of all atrocious afflictions!
    #CheaterFreein23!

    Magneto

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