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Looking Back and Marveling at the Spackle

Dear Chump Lady,

I recently looked at family photos with my kids, including those taken with the ex. I hadn’t looked at them in a long time. I was dumbstruck at how checked-out my ex looked while I was beaming happily! How did I miss this?!

The earlier ones, he showed his pearly whites as much as I did, but then he stopped along the way and gives half-smiles with his eyes rather dull, no twinkle. I can’t help but notice other people’s photos now, including a famous couple — who just had a baby — with mom beaming happily and dad giving a half-smile looking like he wants to be anywhere else.

Am I hyper-imagining this now? Or is there some something to it and we might be able to tell who’s happy, who’s cheating, and who’s relationship might not last by simply looking at our photos??

Looking at my photos now is sadly a statement of how much spackling I did to keep the marriage going. I probably did notice his reluctance to take couple photos with me, but made-up excuses that he was tired, didn’t want his photo taken at the time blah blah blah.

Spackle meet Hole.


Spackle Queen


Dear Queen,

Don’t beat yourself up for being invested in your former life. Smiling, radiating joy. It’s what loving people do.

What you’re really asking is — how did I not know? It’s a kind of insidious blameshifting chumps perform on themselves. He Hasn’t Been Happy For a Long Time! I should’ve been able to read the tea leaves! And known he had a double life!

There are a thousand reasons people don’t smile in their pictures. Bad hair day. Constipation. Fear of social media tagging. You weren’t to know.

And he didn’t tell you. And that’s the important part — his “misery” was not communicated. He enjoyed your investment in him and ate cake. Grown-ups have agency. He had many ethical ways to check out of a marriage. Sulking in family photos is not one of them.

Did you project Happy Family on to him? Maybe. Or were you just a person who brought her A game and exuded love to the man who purported to love her back? It’s not stupid to love the people we’re in a committed relationship with. It just FEELS stupid after you find out the truth.

Monday morning quarterbacking. Hindsight is 20/20. Yada yada.

Spackle is a different beast. Spackle is making excuses for demonstrably shitty behavior. Does looking bored in a photo count? Spackle would be more like he didn’t show up at all for the family photo occasion and you slathered excuses all over it. “Oh, he’s very sensitive to flash cubes.” “You know how Bob is, he can’t stand next to senior citizens that long.” Whatever. If you were covering for him and lying to yourself, beat yourself with a wet noodle.

It’s still not a hanging offense. All relationships possess some degree of spackle. We all gloss, or poly-fill, the unsightly blemishes in our lives. A little spackle is necessary to get along. We recontextualize our partner’s more annoying qualities. He’s a lovable hermit!

However, when all you have is spackle and no substance, then you need to wake up. Lopsided, nonreciprocal relationships should be a dealbreaker for YOU. I’m sure if you asked your then-husband what his deal was with the pouty, wish-I-was-elsewhere photo demeanor, he would’ve denied it. Or plastered a fake smile on his face with eyes that said “fuck you.”

You weren’t dealing with an honest broker. And that’s the real problem here.

As for your family photos, I hear Photoshop has an erase function. #poutsBgone

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  • FW had ask me not to talk about a family trip to London & Paris when I came in to do log deposits. Even though I could hear him bragging to his patients about surfing in Costa Rica on previous trips. I said, what’s the big deal? He said he didn’t want employees to know, they would not get anything done. They’d plan to leave early. Blah, blah
    Turns out howorker would flip out on him when we went on trip and would hound him all day if she knew ahead of time.
    Trying not to beat myself up about that stuff like I used to do. Divorced now 1.5 years. Divorced took 2.5 years because of uncooperative FW and covid

  • I’ve got extended inlaw family photos immediately post Dday and after he told his family of his douchebaggery. I look dead and his family & him look sparkly.
    I did understand at that point that they rug sweep and project and mirror. Holy cow. It’s a like looking at testament of generational dysfunction. Utterly a horrible time for me in a culture of put up and shut up.

    • From my understanding, Overit, the cheater has already prepped his/her family in “how unhappy they are” so they utterly don’t care if you look miserable & unhappy. They think you deserve it too for treating their “baby” so badly!

      • Yep! That’s what they do. My ex actually told me he was actively planning our divorce for six years… but he didn’t know anything about the divorce laws in our state or anything about the process so I was thinking what was he doing for six years?!

        Actively smearing me to everyone we knew, that’s what. So I got almost zero support during the divorce because I deserved it all. So evil. I’ll never understand why all that was necessary. But it inspired me to go after him for alimony so I guess he has to pay for that evil. Actions do have consequences sometimes it turns out.

        • On one of the last night out with friends before DDay, the ex had nothing good to say about me. All stories were about when I had acted badly to him (i.e. got a concussion and had some rage a day after, which is a common side effect). I even said out loud, do you have any ~good~ stories about me?

          He was so in the habit of spinning me as the mean wifey to his howorkers, it was a part of his spiel.

        • I hesitate to ask, but why are you called KatiePig? You sound like anything but a pig.I read your letters a lot and think you are very strong. Woshing you well.

          • Oh, thank you for the compliment. Honestly, when I was going through the divorce, I was super low and he left behind a bunch of his stuff for me to deal with. It was a bad time for me. One of the things I found while getting rid of my ex’s stuff was a notebook where he had doodled a crudely drawn stick figure pig in a dress with KATIE written above it.

            And that was the first time I laughed since it had all started months earlier. I found it hilarious. The ridiculousness of everything hit me. A friend said, “He probably drew that of you while you were making him dinner!” and since I found it in the kitchen, yeah, he probably did. LOL Sitting at the counter thinking “Yeah, she’s a pig! I’ll draw her as a pig! That’ll show her! I’ll put her name on it so everybody knows it’s her!” It just turned him into such a joke to me.

            And it sounds weird but it’s become a thing for me. “I’m Katie Pig. Don’t mess with me, pigs eat people.” It just stuck. I don’t know, I feel like I’ve taken something back by claiming the name. I tell pig jokes now, I collect pig stuff. It’s been a few years and it still makes me laugh. I think it was supposed to break me but it somehow did the opposite.

  • Off -topic a bit, but it touches on CL’s note that “lopsided, nonreciprocal relationships should be a dealbreaker.” Feb 2 happens to be the day I finally did something about it. Each year I posted the following on Facebook as a reminder. Hope it gives any newbies some inspiration and hope.

    On this date, I said, “Enough is enough.”
    On this date, I rediscovered my self-respect.
    On this date, I refused to be played for a chump any longer.
    On this date, I stopped trying to make sense of the madness and took my first steps on the long road to acceptance.
    On this date, I realized I deserved something better, even if it meant going it alone.
    On this date, I emerged from a cold, dark hole to get my first glimpse of an entirely new season.
    No matter how brutal the winter may seem, stay strong and know your worth. Spring will come.
    Happy Groundhog Day.

    • TY for the reminder to remember our day of strength and beginning of reclaiming life . This will be a good focal point when I start to remember the D Days.
      Good time to go back and save those dates of progress forward

      • Yes, I think it’s good to celebrate the start of freeing ourselves, and all the steps along the way. They are so hard and can sometimes look really small. The day I told my lawyer to file, she said- you don’t seem ready; are you sure you want to proceed? To which I just nodded because inside I wasn’t ready. My heart was never ready. But my head at last had understood that I needed out. Sometimes those first steps are so hard, but we do it and are better for it later. I really hope some chump out there takes a small step today.

    • Happy FW Freedom Day! (or whatever you termed it). Sometimes I think we need to tangle up with a FW to make us stronger & wiser (I just wished it hadn’t been so long 😆)!

    • Oh, can I steal this! I want a declaration like this. Except mine will be ‘Happy Sept 13th’! Six years ago – Thank you Chump Lady and Chump Nation – couldn’t have done it without you!

    • I packed up my stuff and left my ex on April 1st. Happy April fool’s, jerk. I’m stronger than you’ll ever know.

  • Yup,
    Photo’s holding our baby daughter and it looks like he’s holding a stinking dish rag. No love, or joy, or enthusiasm on his face.
    I’m an excellent Photoshop-er if any needs FW’s erased from family photos!

  • There is nothing like a pouty Fuckwit to ruin pictures and memories. Looking back, I saw that exFW was never happy and always had a sullen look of dissatisfaction. I guess the photos helped his case to his family of how he was never happy and I was so awful. One of his major reasons for cheating was that he deserved to be happy and explore his true self. If he had been honest and had made his exit in an honest way, I would have been hurt but not as hurt as with cheating and betrayal. I will not untangle other than to think that he dropped his mask after almost 30 years and showed me who he really was. That is what mattered, finding out he was a lying, cheating piece of crap and there was nothing there to work with.
    Now as to pictures, I had a wonderful photo burning session where I was able to see the images of FW go up in flames. It was quite healing. There were some photos that I really liked and I actually took those and had him edited out (most were pictures with my son and the few events that FW went to with us and some family vacations). My son and I agreed they look much better than they did with a FW in them. My son is an adult and was one through the divorce. He is no contact with the FW (my fault according to FW). I did not keep any photos with FW in them because I would just get angry if I looked at them. The burning and deleting helped me but it may not help you.
    One thing of note is that FW never wanted any pictures not even of our son (who he claims to love and miss so much). I guess he doesn’t want primary Schmoopie and secondary Schmoopies to know that he once had a family that was happy even if he was not. He is just a sad sack of crap even though he believes he is living his best sparkly life after blowing up his family.

    • I feel like we should be friends: 1) 30 years together; 2) mask dropped on D-Day #4 when he knew that the “pick-me” dance party was officially over, 3) Never asked for any of the family pictures – not one, 4) Adult daughter hasn’t seen/spoken to him in over 4 years since the day we told her, 5) He’s a sad sack of crap.

      • I definitely think our FWs must be related! I found his trail of breadcrumbs just prior to the 30 year mark. I guess he wanted me to find out about the prime Schmoopie and the backup Schmoopies (I guess he had them lined up in case things did not pan out with primary Schmoopie who lived overseas). He is a sad sack of crap and when I had to have contact with him during the divorce (which he wanted to draw out even though the divorce was supposed to be his key to happiness and he deserved to be happy) he was all sparkles but absolutely no substance.
        I just cannot figure out how someone can be happy with just a sparkly relationship but nothing substantive (primary Schmoopie is 32 years younger than him). I certainly would not want to be him. I am so happy to be out.

    • burning photos. i love a good burn; it’s cathartic.

      i’m in the same trajectory–married 30 years. in fact, today is the anniversary of our marriage. happy groundhog day to me! a sign.

      i still have a box of photos to burn.

      one of my favourite photos from the wedding day is where we cut the cake under a glowing red exit sign. if that’s not a sign, i don’t know what is.

    • Chumped: I did crop FW out of our couples wedding photos. I looked mighty fine, so hell no, I wasn’t going to burn those up! The other photos I’m giving to the kids. They can decide to do whatever they want with them. Burn ‘em, shoot ‘em, cherish them, whatevs. I’m letting dead-fish eyes go! 🙌

      • You go! I had him photoshopped out of some wedding pictures and anything where I thought I looked pretty darn good. Also had him cut out of son’s baptism and birth pics. FW was not happy at the time. Having kid took kibbles away from him. I am just happy my son is happy, healthy and in the Navy. He turned out just fine.
        The burning part was good for me, I loved seeing his image go up in flames!

        • Love it that you found it cathartic burning him up! 🔥 I did enjoy flinging his wedding ring away into an abyss (after peeing on it & stomping on it some too). Btw: I might do this to any grave of his. He might want to cremate himself instead lol

        • Klootzak would not let me hold our child during the baptism. Not once. There are no photos of me with my only child at his baptism. It still pains me. The center of attention was our child so he had to hold him the whole time. When we got home and there was feeding and diapering to do he disappeared. He was all about the show.

    • The worst are the ‘memories’ that popup on my phone with him in it. I’m still deleting and archiving all digital photos with him in them, but it takes a lot of time to purge and no burning.

    • Wow, substitute 20 for 30 and I could’ve written this, “One of his major reasons for cheating was that he deserved to be happy and explore his true self. If he had been honest and had made his exit in an honest way, I would have been hurt but not as hurt as with cheating and betrayal. I will not untangle other than to think that he dropped his mask after almost 30 years and showed me who he really was.”

      I’m 4 months post-DDay today but I’m still in shock that I never really knew my husband. And, of course, he never said a word to me about being unhappy–lovebombing, future faking, told me he loved me every day. And cheating for 7 years. His main concern in the divorce seems to be money. Even when he bothers to bring up our daughter it’s for minimal interaction.

  • ” However, when all you have is spackle and no substance, then you need to wake up. Lopsided, nonreciprocal relationships should be a dealbreaker for YOU. ”

    Shout it.

  • Hmm interesting topic this one. I once went out with a guy (for a couple of years) who I have not a single photo with because he claimed he hates photos taken of him (who knows, people are different, I thought). Anyway, one Halloween, a few hours before trying to get with someone else, in front of me and his friends, he happily posed for photos with her. Apparently the hatred (or fear?) of photos was gone lol. Different guy, the one I married (and later divorced) found literally every excuse not to hang our wedding photos up in our flat that we owned (not ever a rental where you wouldn’t want to damage the walls or whatever). He couldn’t have been less interested in looking at or choosing the photos, then they were too big, he didn’t know how to hang them, let’s put them up in the next place, etc etc.

    So hey, maybe there is something to this “photo” topic in general..

    • Yes- there is something to this, I’m ceratin. Ex-hole didn’t take any of our photos (22 years) with him after we split. As I was spouse #2, it always bothered me that he kept no photos ofprevious wife and son (13 years). I really love to look at old photos. As an artist, I was asked to do a portrait of a friend’s wife. He must’ve had a thousand photos that he’d taken of her (in 5 years) and it was then I realized that I was the one that took all the photos in the family. Exhole had no interest in photos of me or us. The only time he showed interested was during family get-togethers. At the end of these events (all choreographed by me) he would insist we all sit together, him in the center with his arms hanging around kids shoulders, beaming like the patriarch he was. He owned us. Other than that, he never sat next to anyone. It took a long time for me to realize that he wasn’t there, except for kibbles and the legitimacy that Having A Family gave him. It still hurts to think he would never sit next to me, but other men/friends were happy to! And now my grandchildren are all over me (love it!!!) and he is a resentful old man with no family.

      • YES this was my experience. I have almost zero pics of me for the last 25 years. Pics of him and the kids that I took with him looking like the GRAND patriarch.

      • FW took pictures of me at the beginning of the relationship, and then pretty much stopped. I took pictures of HIM with our baby/toddler, but he didn’t do the same for me (just pictures of the kid), so I don’t have many pictures of myself with my son when he was little. One of my first clues that “she’s just a friend” OW was more than that was the fact that FW took pictures of HER with HER kids (“she doesn’t have anyone to take photos for her!”, to which I replied “neither do I”).

    • Guy #1 had a side piece the whole time, or wanted one, and didn’t want you putting up any inconvenient evidence of your relationship on social media.

  • This reminds me of a photo I saw of FW and schmoopie (I know, I know). She was beaming, and he looked like he was miserable and in pain. So much so that their friends were commenting on it. He was supposed to be “in love” with his “perfect woman” and he just looked so unhappy. Because he was. Nothing ever made him happy.

    • Spackle Queen here…. I’ve looked at OW & FW’s social media too. How could I not? Both of them threw “soul-mates, twu-wuv” in my face, I had to see it for myself. FW is beaming at first, but then wasn’t anymore. OW is also not posting couples photos anymore (her FB is open, not private). I guess OW didn’t make him happier either 🤷🏻‍♀️

      • SQ, now that you’ve looked at OW’s public Facebook posts and saw the photos, try hard not to look anymore. Even consider blocking her and FW. It takes time but it’ll be better to remove them completely from your head space.

        And now you saw the proof… he’s the same douche with OW as he was with you. His eyes will be dead again. No need to check anymore. (It took me a while to get there myself — it’s addictive)

    • During the second D-day, I found a photo of klootzak with one of his OW. And they just looked like two used up people. His bald spot was showing and smile looked weird. It was clear she wanted the pic and was the one taking the selfie and his face was not quite sure how to look. They don’t look like lovers. They look like she just saw him at a high school reunion and was excited to see him and he was not as thrilled. He just looked tired and she looked desperate. I wasn’t jealous one bit. Wish she’d come collect her “prize.” lol

  • Interesting enough I gathered all the photos of the two of us after The Limited stated, “I told he I haven’t been happy for years.” I put them in his car after Dday.

    Evidently, he saved them and showed them to daughter while she visited his elderly homestead with his ho in Florida. He looked happy in all the photos. I guess looking at them with ho present keeps her on her knees.

    • He probably showcases it now as “back in my younger aka happier days” lol as OW picks-me dance. Grrr…. I hate the misogyny & entitlement of FW men even if OW deserves it!

      • Back in his younger happier days:
        Before it shrunk to two inches
        Before he wet the bed
        Before he lost his hearing
        Before the years of drugs and drinking
        Before living in a community of 80 year olds

        And let’s not forget all the image management

  • I think it was the first real family photo with all the kids…An Olan Mills Special taken in a run down strip mall. It took longer than Cheater was willing to invest and he ran from the place screaming before the photo was done. I ran after him and begged then pretended like nothing happened.

    Yea, that was my life

    • You wore a Spackle Queen tiara as I did. There were definite times FW didn’t want to be in photos either unless I rounded him up & convinced him 🙄

      • SQ, we are legend – for all the wrong reasons!!

        Another photo disaster was one I recently spoke of. I knew he would never go to a photo studio, so I hired a photog to come to the house. His parents were in town and we could get a 4 generation photo of the guys with our new grandson. He told me that I “overstepped my bounds”…it was my family in my house – how can that be overstepping my bounds? Well, he got his way, it was the last family portrait ever.

        Im not out of spackle though…he had this running joke that he was trying to get away from me, so whenever someone took our picture together, he acted like he was trying to get away and being held captive, he did it for years. If challenged, he was KIDDING !!

        • Yeah he was “kidding” with one foot-in, one foot-out of the marriage, right? I accused my ex of that & he laughed. The poor, beaten-down man with his ball & chain he played it well.

  • My ex put into the divorce agreement that I had to divide the photos and send them to him since he took off to another state. Gosh, I dreaded doing that. With three jobs and dealing with two very upset college students who were living at home, I didn’t even start to do that until the divorce was final.

    After the judge signed off, the younger, 30-something associate took over and was completely professional and compassionate. He had been mentored by my older attorney who had retired and had a very similar personality. We immediately clicked and worked together so well.

    I told him during one of our regular phone calls that it was killing me to handle the photos. He said to play loud, angry music while I boxed them up. It worked (LOL). I cried a lot, but I got them all to UPS. Being the responsible type, I carefully packed them all inside bags inside the boxes in case the boxes got wet. My attorney said to carefully save the tracking because the whole divorce process had been crazy. We didn’t know just what my ex would object to because he was already viewing closeout as yet another game. Well, they all arrived, and I held my breath.

    My ex put them into his garage. Yes, a garage in a hot, humid climate. If they stayed there for long, all those photographs were toast. I told my attorney what had happened there, and he laughed and noted that even he knew that photographs required special care. He said his wife would KILL him if he put photographs into the garage.

    But as a friend of mine likes to say, not my committee.

  • My ex posed for family photos expressionless, like a mug shot. I thought it was because he was ashamed of the way his teeth looked. During the time he was living in an undisclosed location out of the house, trying to “work on his depression” that he said I caused, he came over & a photo was taken of us with a friend of mine. He had a smug smirk in that photo. What a big man with a fun secret: he was living with OW a few miles away. He was so proud of himself, because he felt desirable with two women wanting him! He looked like the cat who swallowed the canary.

  • The phrase “death by a thousand cuts” comes to mind. Was I too sensitive in being hurt my ex always walked yards in front of me and never once looked back to see where I was? Was this one of those not-a-hanging-offense offenses common to all relationships for which I merely needed to “apply a little spackle”? I could easily list a dozen–hell, two dozen!–more like this, or order them from minor to major, and this was before the “emotional affair” with the ex-student ramped up to creep-out proportions. Add them all together, and you get the picture: spackle was a way of life in my marriage.

    • I had one of those Adelante. I used to hide in doorways and wait to see how long it took him to notice – answer, a long time. I’m told it’s usually a sign of an avoidant personality. Or it could just be plain rude,

      • Mighty…that’s definitely an avoidant! My ex used to act so surprised to see me whenever he came around the corner. In our house. Where I should have been. He really had blanked me out, so I must of shocked him whenever I “reappeared”.

      • “I’m told it’s usually a sign of an avoidant personality. Or it could just be plain rude.”

        Or that he is an effing rectal orifice.

          • (1) thank you – – and I have enjoyed reading your comments and insights as well – – so this makes for a nice “full circle”

            (2) I have enjoyed saying “rectal orifice” – – because, a lot of the times, it takes them a while (sometimes QUITE a while) to figure out what I have called them.

    • Yep. I had similar experiences. Weeks before he was about to discard me/fess up to the affair, we went to a crowded outdoor concert with my sister and her husband. They arrived before us and texted us to try to pinpoint their location on this massive, crowded lawn. As we walked from our parked car up the hill to the venue, I lugged a cooler. X carried chairs and scurried ahead–so far ahead, in fact, that I lost him in the crowd. When he arrived, my sister asked, “Where’s Spinach?” He shrugged. She was shocked.

      Here’s the thing. By that point in our mirage, I didn’t think it odd at all that he would treat me this way. That’s the sad part. It takes an outsider sometimes to see the obvious. #neveragain

      • “By that point in our mirage, I didn’t think it odd at all that he would treat me this way. That’s the sad part. It takes an outsider sometimes to see the obvious.”

        Totally! I had a cheater just like that of you Adelante, MW, and Spinach. It really becomes normalized to not receive common courtesies or respect. I don’t think my cheater could’ve walked in stride with me/hand in hand if he were paid to do so, except for during the lovebombing stage.

        All the things I accepted and made excuses for…..and after the 2nd Dday, I also got the “I haven’t been happy for years” spiel. Yet the man had it so good! He is just never happy, and can’t see anything in me anymore but faults.

        So glad to know I am not alone. It really is “death by a thousand cuts”.

      • I know we’ve said it before here, but, for many of us, the devaluation in the end is what hurts the most in retrospect.

        He was no doubt thinking of her and planning to leave me for almost 3 years when, of course, I was clueless.

        Throughout that period, I didn’t know I was being tested and compared to her. She knew. She was pick-me-dancing. It’s like arriving at a wedding unwashed and wearing sweats because you have NO idea you’re going to a formal event, and your “rival” (that you don’t know about) has spent the day in hair and makeup.

        On a cross-country trip during the affair, he used restaurant recommendation that she had given him (at least I’m quite sure she was the nurse behind the beautifully written list of things to do and restaurants to patronize). Not only did asked me to take his photo in front of a site she’d recommended (not a selfie with me, obvi), but he also wanted me to text it to him so he could send it to his “male friend.” Male friend my ass. I thought it was odd and now am sure he sent it to her. Using me that way is just another bit of abuse. Fuck him.

        I saw in a diary he kept of that trip that he felt no sexual sparks. Well, as they say, if you don’t water the lawn, the grass won’t grow. He was busy watering a different lawn. But, of course, I was to blame.

        One other perhaps unrelated memory from that trip. He complained about the hotel room. It was a 4-star hotel and perfectly fine. I didn’t know what the hell prompted this sudden feeling that the room was not good enough for him, especially from a man who often stayed in fishing lodges with outhouses.

        Guess I missed the metaphor. I was the room.

      • “X carried chairs and scurried ahead–so far ahead, in fact, that I lost him in the crowd.”

        We – one single time ever – took a plane trip with 2 kids little enough to be in car seats. (Mostly we didnt fly much during that phase of life because it was too expensive). The outbound flight was overnight and without the carseats in the plane cabin, they would flop all over and not be able to sleep.

        In discussing the trip, Cheater said that we should check the carseats and I disagreed. We all know that travel with kids requires a huge effort and is hard even of both parents are fully engaged.

        On one leg of the journey, Cheater decided that the difficulty of travel was all my doing and I needed to be punished for not following his orders. We needed to get from one plane to another with a toddler and preschooler and 2 huge carseats and other stuff and the transfer required a shuttle ride to a different terminal.

        As soon as we got off the first plane, Cheater just walked away – into the crowd like you described. In my head I can still see his dark black hair bobbling with his gait until it disappeared in the crowd. I stood there with 2 kids, 2 carseats and other bags and had no way to get to the gate. All I could do was cry. An airport janitor saw me crying as asked if he could help and he literally got me and the kids to the next gate where Cheater was sitting alone in one of the chairs completely unconcerned about our whereabouts or well being.

        Some how, some way, I told myself that his antics weren’t cold blooded abuse.

    • Ugh! The walking ahead. They literally turn their backs on us. Ex would walk a dog by his side but if he was the slightest bit unhappy with me he’d walk several paces ahead and I’d have to half jog to keep up.

      • I think walking ahead is a power/control thing; they have to go first. (Just like they need to drive, hold the remote, etc.) It’s also a passive aggressive game; they pretend that it’s not intentional when it’s obviously a smug, cowardly way to show displeasure and “get you back”… for god knows what. And then when you let on that it bothers you, naively thinking this might help, they are secretly glad and continue to do it just to get to you. Which also makes me realize it’s gaslighting, because they try to make you feel crazy for noticing the pattern, and difficult for being bothered by it. Other times, as others have mentioned, they probably have forgotten we exist, or are being “avoidant.”

      • Sometimes my now husband walks like a toddler or hound who has to stop and see/touch everything. Just walking normally results in me being ahead of him, but I dont want to be the “walking ahead” spouse. On trips, about 300 times in a day, I stop, look for where he is and wait or circle back – I never want him to feel this.

  • I was a happy families Christmas card nut. The last year FW lived at home, when he’d already started his paid “girlfriend” relationship, I tried to get family photos over Thanksgiving. It was a huge effort of FW’s part to even sit with us (these were taken with a cell phone on a timer) and an even larger effort to get him to smile. In fact, he didn’t smile in any photo and in the end, I didn’t use any of those photos for our Christmas card. His eyes look dead in all of them, and in any photos I took for the next 7 months afterwards. “He’s under stress.” More like: he’s texting, calling, sc@wing, paying a street walker and does NOT want to look like a family guy. After all, his family was holding him back from his destiny.

  • Oh lord. It’s like stepford. Married 30 years, flat face like his father who was also a cheater, took no family photos but stressed over not having his HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOKS and the photo album of random women he took pics of in college. How did I miss this insane level of creepy? Our daughter is no contact since we separated, now divorced. Five years.

  • Interesting question. For me, Mr. Sparkles always looked happy in the photos… when he deigned to be in them 🙂

    He even went so far as to crop out the family and use the shot of himself for his personal ads. He looked great at our wedding and at our son’s baptism day. Wonder how many hits he got with them.

    Again, for me, I had to learn that Mr. Sparkles was never checked-in. It was always… always… an act. Now, I do believe my fuckwit has NPD. His eyes always look dead like a shark’s eyes, but always a twinkle in his smile.

    Even now it’s disconcerting. Our son recently received an award which meant we had to be in the same room. Mr. Sparkles currently owes me money (shocking, I know)… but there he stood with his fiance, all shiny… wearing the latest plaid, puffer vest, and hiking boots (we live in the suburbs, practically urban… but I digress). He mirrors what he sees because inside he feels nothing.

    I guess all this is to say… every picture tells a different story. We have to be better at trusting our own instincts; honoring the red flags when we see them; have firm boundaries; and make sure that when we are showing up – we are our best authentic selves!

    Say LACGAL!

    • When I was in the dating trenches, I thought it so weird to see cropped wedding photos as profile pics. What story are they trying to tell here? They’re trying to attract quality women who like guys in suits, but wear them so seldom they chose to edit their wedding photo? That it was easier to erase a person than to dress up and take a new photo? Are they saying that they went through the trouble of the big commitment ceremony and then divorced (and started dating again) very quickly, or that their pictures are over a decade old? I find the edited wedding photo creepier than the “I like to smile over dead animal bodies” hunter pics. “I lost my wife appliance and have zero emotions about it. Applications now open.”

      • “I lost my wife appliance and have zero emotions about it. Applications now open.” I picture lazy, think they’re studs & entitled to women while making little to no effort men.

  • I remember when our son was a baby bringing home envelopes of photos. Most people flip through a stack of photos, see a particularly good photo of your baby then take a few extra minutes to look at it.
    Cheater would flip through a stack of photos of our son as a baby and instead of noticing our son in photos, cheater would stop and linger over photos of himself. Making comments about his appearance, recalling when the photo was taken, laughing at himself, sometimes he’d go through the stack of photos a few times to look at his own photos.
    Never making a comment about our son.

    • Brit: geez he sounds very narcissistic. I hope he’s gone on his merry narcissistic way! And your son recognizes that his Dad may be a disordered personality 😬

  • I believe there is something to the cold dead stares and lifeless FW faces vs. starry eyed chumps in pics and I believe it’s a very real indicator of the much greater problem (nonreciprocal relationship). However, I’m with CL….you can’t beat yourself up for not picking up on red flags of the past. All you can do is learn from and recognize them in the future to help yourself and others (for example: if your kid is in a relationship to a lifeless turd….notice the red flags and point them out so your kid can get out of a toxic relationship). Better yet, teach your kids about red flags and toxic people sooner than later (and when the opportunity presents itself) so they can start implementing and being comfortable with setting healthy boundaries with others.

    – Ex never smiled in pics and looked cold/heartless….he and his shit family blamed his dad and said it was “manly” not to smile. (Funny, he smiled in other pictures without me or the kids).
    – this was the case in every photo we took for 14.5 years together (even wedding pics) except in the very first ones when we were first dating.
    – fast forward to a couple of years before D-day and I physically look 15 years older than I was in my pictures. Dark circles, pale or grey-ish skin, wrinkles, weight fluctuations, dull hair, and a fake smile trying to spackle and keep me and the kids lives from failing apart. While my ex had the meanest death stare. The fucker wouldn’t even smile in pics with his kids. It was more of an annoyed Fuck You glare….even in the pics when he didn’t know his picture was being taken.
    – 10 yrs ago was D-day 1, divorce came a year and a half later. I look at my pictures now vs. before divorce and I look younger and healthier than ever. PICTURES DON’T LIE!
    – Now, I can see a shit marriage/relationship a mile away when people share photos of themselves. If there is an unrecripocating partner, they are pretty easy to spot. I’ve helped other women/families around town navigate through either divorcing a FW or if they do stay 😵‍💫 understanding what that looks like and the toll it takes on them and their kids. Interestingly all of them had FW that had cold blank stares for most/if not all of their relationship.

    • My family keeps commenting how much happier I seem after the divorce from that dead weight. So much energy went into spakling and trying to keep our family going. It’s easier as a single mom and not getting all the little cuts from him.

  • The photo thing can be so revealing in retrospect. Not quite the same, but the weekend before DDay we were at a family wedding (my side of the family). FW was acting strangely there and barely spending time with me. He did something he NEVER did before… danced with other women he didn’t even know. Very odd for the introverted FW I’d known 20+ years at that point.

    Then a week later was DDay… and soon after my family got the photos back. My cousin (who was aware of DDAY and my immediate divorce filing) sent me the photos from the wedding just weeks earlier.

    There’s a picture of the happy couple cutting the wedding cake — and there’s FW staring off in another direction looking annoyed (everyone else is smiling and laughing and watching the couple).

    And a photo of everyone watching the couple’s first dance… I’m smiling… everyone’s smiling… so is FW who is deep into his phone and clearly reading something to his liking.

    Those photos were included by my attorney.

  • I was so interested in a photo my friend sent to me, showing me holding her son as a baby and who is now just 18.I look wild. It was a happy occasion but there is no happiness in my eyes. I am frantic! Chaotic. There’s no peace there. 18 years later and over 3 years out from being dumped after 26 years, I like photos of myself. I’m 63, and I look younger. I look serene. I look beautiful which is something I’ve never said about myself before and something that the ex never said about me in the whole of those 26 years. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, for real. Ex always had a fake smile on his face. He and his brothers used to mock the ex MIL for her fake photo smile. He has exactly the same smile. Which makes me laugh!

  • I get that. Even my FW noticed that he looked miserable in photos. On D-day l, before I knew, we were celebrating our anniversary (not on the actual day, he’d spent that with his bitch and drinking with his bros) and we each took a photo of the other. Even though I was not happy in general at the time, thanks to his behavior, I look incandescent in that photo, because I was enjoying the day trip we were on. He, OTOH, has dead eyes and that forced half smile. No doubt he was wishing he was with his ho. He would spend whole holidays sulking over not being able to see her, and apparently even day trips without her were a chore.
    Since I had gotten used to the fact that FW often seemed disengaged, I didn’t think much of it at the time. I don’t consider it spackling, because there could certainly be other reasons for it, such as work stress, depression or just fatigue from a lack of adequate sleep. It turns out he did suffer a lack of sleep thanks to his late night porn sessions, but I digress. The point is we don’t have FW mind-reading powers. If they tell us everything is fine, even if it doesn’t look that way to us, what can we do? I asked him to go to MC and he would not. We give them the benefit of the doubt because we care and because it’s the decent thing to do. Once you know, you look back and everything seems like a giant neon sign with an arrow pointed towards them that says “CHEATER!” However, at the time, you could not have been expected to know. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

    • “Since I had gotten used to the fact that FW often seemed disengaged, I didn’t think much of it at the time.”


      On our last anniversary before DDay and knee deep in his cheating I could only drag him to a lunch since he was unwilling to do anything else and hadn’t planned anything (he never really did). I took a pic of him looking extra grumpy as a joke, but found out later he had spent the day sneaking off with his howorker and messaging her how hot she looked in those leopard skinned leggings. Ugh, what I let pass, but I was a preverbal frog in boiling water at that point.

  • Thanks CL, I embarrassingly did all of the projecting, A-gaming, spackling, standing on my head to keep the marriage going. I honestly thought if I did this/that or more of that/this that a light bulb💡 would go on in his head one day, “hey, I have a beautiful, smart loving wife & wonderful happy kids, I have to appreciate & cherish them”. Well, turns out no one installed a light bulb in that guy. I do appreciate you taking a stab at this (all very true & enlightening) & I will consider doing #poutsBgone. I’m going to chuckle & share that one all day long. Thank you kindly ❤️

    • And thank YOU, SQ, for sharing! CN loves the opportunity to contemplate even more examples of how our FWs are so similar. And CL humor always makes the pills easier to swallow. There is great insight and comfort in this crowd! ❤️

    • I laughed so hard at “Well, turns out no one installed a light bulb in that guy” 🤣🤣🤣
      I was the same with the FW ex. Spent years hoping he’d have a “come to Jesus” moment, turns out there was no light bulb in him for Jesus to spark LOL.

      • I used to hope for that as well. Meanwhile, he was implementing his exit strategy, suddenly neglecting me, going out golfing or fishing or ‘work’. Then telling everyone our marriage was broken while he kept smashing it with neglect. He had his sure thing on the hook so he was getting ready to leave. The one thing I realized is that this had happened before. He’d go long stretches not cheating. But probably always looking. I thought it was work stress. But no. He’d fall in love and be a cocky shit ignoring me and kids. then it would end. He’d be sad. Distant. Then sigh. Appliance is good mom and can cook. Yeah. That was his tell. Just more reason I hate him. The twat he left me for – they broke up. She ended it but now he’s telling everyone he broke up. Lol. He even lies to himself. Reading all these stories I realize how much I despise him and all the maggot cheaters we’ve been preyed on by. May they all get theirs soon.

  • Social media and posting pictures is what the XAss lives for. If he doesn’t have an audience it doesn’t count. I remember being treated like shit while out doing things with him. Then would come picture time. For the camera he’d put his arm around me, lean in and smile proudly. But when the camera was off….

    • My ex was like that too. He had to have an audience. It was most obvious during his parenting time. He took photos of EVERYTHING he did with our kid and put it on social media. He then lapped up all the praise for what a great, involved dad. Meanwhile he was fighting me over child support, didn’t buy clothes or shoes or school supplies for our kid, and was as uncooperative as he could be when it came to parenting. He was also a monster to me. I never felt the need to document all the things I did with my son, so of course, FW tried to paint me to the courts as a parent who just let the kid watch tv all day and never did anything with him.

      The same with him taking pictures of us when things were “good” between us. Then it was him and schmoopie. Just TONS of photos (where they looked happy). It must have been embarassing when she dumped him just four weeks after they set up house together.

      • Same. I started referring to the XAss (like that) as Instagram-Dad. He would only do parenting if there were pictures and praise. My oldest caught on when he took her to tea on his initial parenting time, snapped a shot of them and posted to IG, and then ignored her for his phone for the rest of the visit. She never went again, refused and referred to him emotionally blackmailing her.

  • She loved photo albums from Shutterfly and social media, she did well to hide the fact she couldn’t keep her vows. But this time it’s different, she’s learned a lot and is going to work at this marriage.

    • Do you mean she’s working on her new marriage to an O-husband? I’ve noticed that certain FWs tend to switch back and forth between being perpetrators in one relationship and victims in the next and on and on. It’s a bit hard to keep track because they especially act like victims when they’re victimizing others. But for every shark out there, there’s a bigger shark that can out-shark them. If she’s working on the new marriage, it’s only because she’s now with a bigger perp than herself. If you want to see Jedi-level spackling, watch a FW trying to spackle over the shitshow relationship they publicly destroyed their families for.

  • God. I spackled for 30 out of 40 YEARS, people.

    I wanted my kids to have the father I KNEW x could be.
    I accepted the fuckwit husband x was because I didn’t think I deserved better.

    So glad to be out of that shit show. Sorry my kids have to reconcile the truth with the lies I perpetrated.

    Everyday now stepping forward in the direction of wholeness and truth is the way out of the fuckwit quagmire. No contact.

    Everyone is not good deep down inside. The truth I had to accept. And there’s lots of soul suckers around. Quite the life lesson.

    Life is good. Keep going.

    • F#ckwits like our x’s take advantage of good people, or they wouldn’t be able to get away with their little games. I hope that you can get to a place where you don’t blame yourself for their bad behavior. Lord knows I’m still working on that.

    • Ioch: yes, it’s a real kick to the nether regions when you learn that life lesson! At least we did. No more pollyannas here!

  • The ex didn’t want me to hang photos in our home because wall damage ya know. I had things framed for him one Christmas then later hung them. No comment from him so I continued with art and kid stuff. The house didn’t fall and walls were not destroyed.
    He never asked for any photos during the divorce. I usually gave grandparents photos throughout the year and he moved in with his so I figured he had those however I’d never seen any displayed so he really probably never considered photos existed.
    When I was doing my picture elimination, I did send some of his parents. His mom had died so I thought he may have wanted those. Years later he sent photos of my friends that were probably tucked in the recesses through DS and unfortunately I was like WTF instead of keeping my mouth shut. I did burn a lot of ones with him. There was a large family portrait that I had arranged after I had healed a bit from cancer treatments. The kids were very small and looked so cute. I definitely was happy to be in that spot. He looked completely constipated. He absolutely did not want to be there. I remember how uncomfortable he made himself out to be and inconvenienced he acted. I angrily burned the fuck out of that one. I swept and covered his lies, actions, and my feelings for 33 ys. Fire is a great eraser of some things. I have a lot of fear/ respect of the damage Fire and Water can bring but as a tool, it’s great.

    • While married, he pretended to be social media inept and hostile towards people using it. Turned out he had FB etc. I never did due to his anger about those matters. He appears relaxed in those photos. I used them in every court appearance to prove how he spends his time and money. I could care less what he does as long as he chooses to follow the agreement.
      He hung with a younger crowd so there’s probably lots of pictures of him lingering on phones and internet.

  • “All relationships possess some degree of spackle” – should they, though? There’s a difference between accepting your partner’s less sparkly qualities, or seeing the good side and loving them anyway, vs. spackle. “He’s a lovable hermit!” No, he’s socially anxious and kind of a homebody, but that’s all right because he’s always here holding down the fort. To me that’s very different from spackle – a flimsy cover-up of a crack in the relationship.

    • Apidae: I understand what you’re saying. My own “loveable hermit” was a closet dating site cheater. How he must of sniggered over my gullibility.

  • Some days, when the blues hit, I fall down a Dateline hole. I watch woman after woman be murdered by her partner. They usually give the grinning shark a collared shirt, so the prison interview does not give away the true killer, as the plastic “journalist” asks faux shock questions.

    But almost every time, it is a husband or a paramour.

    And you think: How could she not know?

    I asked the Human Scab this very question one time, and his response still stops me cold. Makes my stomach turn to lead.

    He said, quietly, while dishing out a second helping of potato salad: I guess it depends on how good they are at hiding how they really feel.

    Remember: to charm is a verb. Someone is doing something to you. When someone is actively selling you something, like a used car salesman pushes a piece of junk that has been gingerbreaded up, you are so busy processing information, gauging sincerity – you quickly lose the thread of what is happening. You are off kilter. Constant mental vertigo.

    It is repellent that someone does it with your heart, your life- that someone is selling you something, conning you, about being a family.

    Don’t beat yourself up. I alway think, gruesomely, as those poor women saw the hammer swinging, or felt the hands shove them into the abyss…..I thought he loved me….

    What is the take away? Don’t get so busy and frantic that you lose sight of who you are sharing a roof with. Just ask Maggie Murdaugh. Who I find personally repellent, but she did not deserve to have her brains at her ankles.

    • SS: yeah your ex was clearly telling on himself with that line: “…depends on how good they are at hiding how they really feel”. Just like only a thief knows upteen ways how to steal.

  • My last photo of X is a candid. He is sitting at the high school stadium watching our son perform in the band. I intended to take a feel-good, don’t-we-love-Son-so-much picture but X turned his head at the last moment and saw me. Click. In the photo, with his eyes narrowed and lip curled in disgust, X looks both contemptuous and repulsed. I kept that photo on my phone for a very long time, as it proved quite the antidote for any ill-advised hopium.

    The other photo I still have on my phone was taken a few days after DDay. My S15 and D18 are sitting in the booth opposite me at Chili’s. They have been told that I am filing for divorce. They have watched their father go bat-shit crazy (but not yet violent). My babies are smiling bravely but the photo is drenched in their shock and pain. There is no spackle left for any of us.

    • Eve: I feel so bad for the kids caught in the middle of these FW’s shitty behaviour! I’m glad his nasty photo kept you away from hitting the hopium pipe though!

  • This reminds me of fuckwit, who claimed many times over 20 years that he hated having his photo taken, along with his bored expression in any image that was taken of him (I happily took images of my family, pets, friends and wildlife instead). Yet Mr. Camera Shy enthusiastically sent numerous self portraits of himself (including ludicrous selfies of his dick at half mast, hanging over a toilet) to the primary schmoops/dumbass along with a few other bottom feeders.

    He asked my sibling for some photos of me after I left him (along with wanting back garden tools that he’d given her years ago) a request that I’m grateful that she ignored and warned me about. No way did I want him to have images of myself that he could use for some questionable purpose; I recalled a case where a woman’s ex boyfriend used images of her to solicit men to rape her.

    • The dick pick thing is weird! How many of the women who receive them, OW or not, actually enjoy them, I wonder. One morning I got into our car with the FW and for some reason I opened the glove compartment. I pulled out a Polaroid of the FW, his older brother and a third man who was a chump (chumped by his long term girlfriend with the older brother). All three men had their arms round each other’s shoulders and were naked from the waist down, genitals pulled between their legs so that they looked female. I said to the ex ‘what’s this?’ He said ‘oh we were just messing around’. I questioned why the photo was in the car’s glove compartment (it had come from somewhere and had been taken at least 12 years before and definitely before we started our relationship). He gave some sort of vague unsatisfactory answer that I accepted but with puzzlement. I didn’t get the point of the photo let alone why he would have kept it, albeit hidden. It wasn’t attractive (and I appreciate the naked male body). They looked ridiculous, probably because they were wearing T-shirts etc on the top half. My guess is that exgfOW had taken it and sent it to him. But it was still ridiculous. I pushed it to the back of my mind. It definitely did not enhance his attractiveness. I think that one reason why I accepted the lack of sex for 10 years was because I didn’t find him sexy any more but I couldn’t bring myself to face that fact!

      • Mighty: that is some twisted bro stuff! So many have really taken the term “family jewels” to heart & really think their dicks are precious commodities; hence, why wouldn’t women love a stranger’s dick pix?! Blech. And blech.

  • Many of us chumps think the cheater is having ‘mid life crisis’ or trouble at work, or a episode of depression. We tend to look for familiar explanations first. And that is normal.

    • M: too true. I thought all of the above were reasons for FW’s behaviour. Nah. He just wanted to be a deceitful asshole & fuck strange. Sorry to be blunt (for any sensitive ears), but that’s what it boils down to.

  • I too became a photograph sleuth trying to see what I missed. I’ve come to my own conclusion – perhaps completely wrong – that great body language in pictures doesn’t mean anything -TJ and his chump had great body language, but not great body language could mean something. The only thing is, now with pictures going everywhere and being blown up etc. a lot of people are self-conscious in pictures… so it’s hard to know if you’re capturing the truth.
    I will say though that I read a lot about furrowed eyebrows in Narcissists, and although it was subtle and I didn’t notice at the time, I definitely saw this eyebrow look in FW’s pics closer to Dday.

    – Although it doesn’t always mean anything, two of my very solid happily married friends do have great body language in family pictures… H not leaving a space between them and their wife. Husbands touching their wife. Husbands feet pointing towards their wife. H’s standing next to W instead of the other end of the picture in a group shots. No furrowed brows!

    I think it’s harder to tell with women because many women I know are just trying to get a flattering pic ugh … And this can overtake them when posing for a picture.

    • Hmmm…I’ll check for furrowed eyebrows in the pix. I know my mom often has those, but she’s a deep-thinker too (she doesn’t have that when smiling for pix though). I do know that FW often smirked though.

  • I saw a fun ‘would you rather’ question recently on the road to meh:

    Would you rather
    Go back to six years old with all your knowledge of today intact
    have a million dollars?

    I’d take the $. I don’t want to erase my kids but have no desire to relive my marriage either. A million to help the kids and retire comfortably sounds just right to me!

    • I love my son so much. Sparing myself heartache but missing out on that awesome kid? Never. I’d go through it all again to get him.

      I’m really happy now. I’m FW free. I have a wonderful kid. I’ve got good friends. My life is great. So hand me the cash.

    • I would take the years. My kids would be 11 and 13. It would be years of fun with them and I could have gotten them help younger.

  • I see the same checked-out look in the family photos, but for me it feels different. I remember these days — so many of them — where he is sulking and cranky and taking everything out on us, and my daughter and I just assume Daddy’s in one of his “moods”. Later, it turned out that his prize weekend activity was getting rentboy sex on the down-low claiming he’d just been running chores and driving around while we waited at home to see whether the family would do anything fun over the weekend. So naturally, time he spent with us was time he felt was wasted.

    I look at it differently. I remember how he went out of his mind when I filed for divorce, how he wept openly begging me to stay. I look at those pictures and think about how much he missed, being there and yet not being there … because my daughter and I would be having a terrific day ignoring his sour face. And, he could have looked at the great life he had and appreciated it in the moment.

    Several months before D-day, he disappeared on one of his Saturday things. My daughter was having a really bad depression. She was about to leave on a semester overseas and was incredibly anxious and depressed. We had planned to stop by the bank that morning to make arrangements for her to have access to spending money while she was overseas, and since the bank had a branch near the beach (we lived in LA and the beach was Malibu), I suggested we just take a drive out to the beach while we were there. We had a terrific day, took a million pictures just with the two of us. When we got home and FW asked where we’d been (a question he himself never answered), he got really upset that we went without him.

    Well doesn’t that just suck. Because he could have been remotely curious about what our day was going to be like, sitting around the house waiting for him to finish up his business.

    He got exactly what he wanted, and it turns out that’s his self-selected punishment.

    • Walk, sounds familiar! My daughter and I would hang around for what we called “papa time”. How embarrassing is that? The time he would give us was so rare, it had a name. We would wait around for him to stop working (turns out it was porn, hookers, sex clubs, hookups and just generally keeping us waiting). He would show up to do things with us when he damn well felt like it and we lapped it up. As for photos, he didn’t take that many of us as a couple. He also wouldn’t friend me on Facebook. He said the reason was that he hated FB and only signed up for finding old high school buddies. He lived a double life and that took all his energy. He were just the two dummy doll family members on the side. The puppets. In our family photos he has a gigantic, fake grin. I used to wonder where it came from but now I know. He plastered that look on for the days he’s was playing husband and father.

    • Klootzak plays out of the same playbook. Disappear to “networking events” or “shopping at Home Depot” or gone on “work trips” and we were supposed to stay home, cleaning house and waiting for his triumphant return. If we did anything fun while he was gone, he would raise a stink about it and accuse me of excluding him. I wasn’t but things were so much easier and more fun without him being a wet blanket and I felt it was only fair that we could go to a museum or have dinner with friends while he was off having a good time where ever he was. He did not agree as we were not supposed to be having fun without him. How dare we.

  • Oh, sigh, photos.

    I was the one who took most of them, because only I cared to document our family. Consequently, there are a lot of photos of our son, and a good number of them of my son and his father. Very few of me and our son, and those were taken only because I asked him to take them. If there are photos of the three of us, it’s because we were with his family, and he liked to put on the happy family show for them (the only times he ever bought me gifts were when he was on solo vacations with his family, too).

    He never ever once put a photo in an album. I did that. Then, when I was moving out, he demanded I leave albums and photos so he could copy them. I found out later he bought a scanner and scanned them all for himself; naturally he didn’t offer me a copy of the electronic file. I got the boxes and albums. I went through them all and threw out any with him in them, figuring that he has those and our son will have access to them.

    And oh, nasty selfies. After he decided he was a “woman in a man’s body,” he sent me selfies: of himself “tucked,” of his penis sticking out of women’s lacy underwear, or in a garter belt and fishnet stockings with his hand wrapped around his penis and semen dripping off it. He couldn’t get enough of himself. How fitting that the only photos he was ever enthusiastic about were of his masturbatory fantasies of himself.

    • “…..or in a garter belt and fishnet stockings with his hand wrapped around his penis and semen dripping off it……the only photos he was ever enthusiastic about were of his masturbatory fantasies of himself.”

      Oh F. F. S.

      I am so glad that you are free of him.

  • My ex looked happy in all the pictures. It was me who seemed to fade. Some of the last photos I have, I’m smiling but I look like I’m in pain. I’m sure it helps his narrative that I was the problem. LOL That used to bother me but I don’t care anymore. I used to be a happy, energetic person even with all the rough things that happened in my childhood, and now I get to be that way again. Nobody kicks me for it anymore. It’s really nice. I’m sure he’s still fake happy but I’ve seen what’s behind that. He’s miserable all the time, it’s all just for show. I wouldn’t trade with him for anything.

    • That was me too. When I look at old family pictures, it was obvious that I was not happy – probably exhausted and frustrated. I look so much happier in all my pictures now, and everybody notices!

  • This was something apparent early on , we thought he didn’t like his smile but it was so much more sinister than that. The monster is now in full sight having fully realized all that I put aside or excused during the 20 T year marriage having divorced six years ago.

  • Photos are a big one for me. It was absolutely my experience that seeing pictures of FW’s eyes were the jolt I needed to know that something was very, very wrong.

    As I sat beside him at our adult child’s wedding, I remember feeling this chilling foreboding. FW was radiating such weird vibes. I didn’t know it on that day, but he was having an affair with his howorker. When D-day came, 7 months later, and I looked again at our kids’ wedding photos, the dead coldness in his eyes gave it away. How had I not seen it more clearly?

    Fast forward a couple years. I was completely gutted after a heartbreaking round of marriage counseling, pick me dancing, multiple additional D-days, etc. At this point, we were in the pandemic lockdown. I requested a separation, and started the process of divorce.

    All this while, in the face of incontrovertible evidence and occasional actual confessions, FW would otherwise maintain that it was only an “emotional affair,” and that it had started in 2018. I was whirling in the mind fuck blender.

    FW wanted to hide the separation from his extended family; only our kids knew that we were separated. He would devise reasons to come over and visit me, and then, while he was at my place, he would start a FaceTime with his parents, so that it looked as if we were still living together. This manipulation and lying absolutely broke my heart, but as both his parents were terminally ill, I let him talk me into participating in the charade “for their sake.” News of a separation might kill them, and FW kept saying he was going to fix everything and save our marriage, so why hurt them unnecessarily?

    The day came when his father took a bad turn, and was within hours of dying. FW was on a business trip with OW (during lockdown, when no one was supposed to be traveling, but rules never applied to him) and he refused to cut that short and come home. He was not here when his father passed away, because there was nothing more important in his life than “business trips” with Schmoopie.

    Because I have the largest historical collection of digital family photos. FW’s family asked me to provide a selection for a funeral slideshow. I will never forget the wrenching grief of going through four decades of photos. What I realized in the process, though, was that FW’s entire countenance and expression shifted in 2015, three years earlier than his narrative of when the “emotional affair” began.

    Then it clicked. He started that job in 2015. That was the year he met OW. That was the year he became obsessed with weight loss, fitness, diet, new clothes, new underwear, manscaping, little blue pills, crazy contraptions for lengthening and straightening his eggplant. That was the year he surprised me with a sudden turn to negativity, sarcasm, criticism, and contempt. I thought it was a midlife crisis. I thought he was reacting to the illnesses of his parents. I did everything in my power to support him and help him through his hard time, only to discover that I was spackling over my own betrayal.

    There is so much in life that we can only see in hindsight. It would have been ridiculous for me to end my marriage in 2015 based on a blank expression in a photograph. Heck; I hadn’t even noticed the blank expression until five years later. I think what this topic highlights for so many of us, though, is the importance of listening to our guts. The photographic evidence after the fact is what gives the validation that we, who have been decimated by years of gaslighting, so desperately need to reassure us that we were not crazy.

    • ActaNonVerba, everything you wrote resonates with me 100%. Those business trips during lockdowns, never ending office happy hours, complete avoidance of me, new clothes (he used to hate shopping), skin products (he never used even a moisturizer before), elevator selfies (it was so unlike him), elevated ego, empty promises of I will correct things..
      It was such a waste of time trying to understand him trying to be patient with him. He did not deserve any of my kindness.

  • The whole not knowing if someone is ‘happy.’ M. Obama said she wasn’t happy for years……her H I don’t think assumed she was cheating! That argument is another &$@%#/. People get unhappy with all kinds of things during their life- normal people don’t jump
    to thinking about cheating!

  • Omg…this just happened to me. We took Christmas photos last December. I was in a frenzy color coordinating outfits for our 3 small kids and myself. I did my hair, put on a nice dress, did my make up, and made sure the kids were spectacular and clean (not a small feat with 3 kids under 4). FW literally put on a shirt he wears to work all the time, didn’t even bother to tuck it in, and wore a pair of casual loafers that again, he wears to work all the time. The photos are so telling. I’m smiling hard, happy to be with the kids for Christmas and he looks disheveled like he was dragged there. No spackling over here, I’m lining up my ducks.

  • I think they do it on purpose…. Even if it’s almost on a subconscious level. They want everyone to think “oh, the poor thing, so sad” so they play this pre-emptive sad sausage routine. My ex was the same. I noticed it. And it’s really obvious in the photos. It felt horrible. I’m so much happier without that energy around.

    Also, I imagine it’s worse having a cheater who DOES play the part of the loving, happy, doting, smiling, committed spouse and father. That’s more of a headfuck.

    What’s interesting about the checked-out photo-pouters is how they suddenly become Hollywood super dad after they leave. Sooooo confusing for the kids.

    Like their cosplaying good parenting to the new love interest when they haven’t looked at their kids for months before that

    • Oh my God, I’m living this right now. Suddenly volunteering to spend time with kiddo every weekend when he would throw a fit if I didn’t take kiddo with me to the grocery store before. The latest expensive hobby [to cover for affair time] or jerking off in his mancave were always more important than literally anything or anyone. Kiddo is sucking it up at the moment and I’m trying to be patient.

      • CC I saw someone post on SI that the problem with being a Disneyland Dad is you have to spend the entire weekend on a rollercoaster (the poster for some reason only had weekend custody of his kids and they demanded he take them to the local theme park the whole time). Maybe you could encourage some god awful activity for them to do together which your child enjoys and watch your ex suffer. My ex started going to skate parks, and tried to do stunts alongside 10 year olds, which resulted in various injuries. Our son started hiding when dad rocked up with his razor scooter.

  • The thing that really knocked me for a loop when I found all of my cheater’s pictures in his various Meetup groups – a different OW in each group (what can I say, I didn’t know he could juggle that well) – was how extremely HAPPY he looked in each and every photo. It made him look so much more handsome that I actually remembered just how he had caught my attention in the first place. Sometimes you just can’t see what’s right in front of you because you’re all caught up in living life as it should be.

    • I found a photo of FW and AP on Facebook, and the usually miserable git had a smile so wide he looked like the entrance to Luna Park

    • That is kind of my experience Linny, I mean up to the year of discard. Quite frankly, I think he was having a blast. He had me doing his bidding, and also a regular sex life with me, and a totally separate romantic life.

      He crashed and burned at his own hand, but for a long while he was flying.

  • I am sooooo going to buy Photoshop. Two decades of photos where I looked really nice and there was a klootzak ruining the photo. lol

    I looked back on some photos taken in the few weeks before the last D-day. We were on a carousel with our 4 year old. The child and I looking so happy and klootzak looking dazed with a wan grin. He looks like that all the time in any photos we are in. Not in the photos for the OW, though! He took selfies of himself with our child to share with OW and you never saw such a big, warm smile in your life. I like to call those his Father of the Year photos. Mr. Image Management. “Look what a wonderful father I am!” He even mentions it on his LinkedIn bio that enjoys raising “his” child. As though I am dead or don’t live in the house. As though he is not married. Where is he right now? Off for a long weekend with a lady, of course!

    Who is raising our child? Well, I guess that would be me. Plastering that stuff on LinkedIn doesn’t make it so. Who cooks, cleans, irons, takes the child to lessons, supervises homework, checks the report cards, goes to the musicals, takes him for play dates, and works a full time job? That would be me. I’m usually behind the camera getting photos of our child having a great time with friends or singing on stage. Maybe I show up in photos, usually looking a little frumpy but always the smile is genuine. Because I am authentic in the things I do and with the people I’m with. I’m not a mask. Inauthentic people are often obvious in hindsight. I won’t regret being happy when I’m happy. Disordered people like FWs always have half their minds on the next fix. It explains their vacant look.

    • FW did an interview for a YouTube channel and referred to how hard it was to “be a single dad”. This was during Covid lockdown. Our son had been living full time with ME for three months. Like you, I did all the actual parenting even when our kid was splitting time between us (or when we were still married and living together). And when we went back to that, FW had Schmoopie (and often her kids) there constantly. He was hardly a single dad. And even so, it was 100% HIS choice to end our marriage.

  • I do not celebrate birthdays, but on one of my birthdays, I happened to arrange a quiet celebration with some of my dear childhood friends. We have been very close but since everyone lived in different cities and countries, we never had a chance to get together like this before. It was a very special day for me. We were in a lovely seaside town in Italy.
    This was exactly one month before DD. I had not forced my ex-husband to be there, because he was so busy at work, day and night, acting all weird and annoyed for months. I was gently approaching him, trying to comfort him not knowing what his problem was. I was literally walking on eggshells. He was telling me, you should go, have fun with your friends. You never did it before with them!

    He showed up in Italy unannounced, I was so happy to see him that I literally cried with joy. He was all aloof, looked totally bored in that beautiful setting, was acting weird towards those nice people as if they were the most boring people on earth. I clearly remember how sad I was, he was just unapproachable.

    The pictures. We have taken only a few pictures and he ruined them all. Everyone looks happy and elegant except him. In one of them he opens his mouth as much as he could. In the other he fully sticks his tongue, and opens his eyes as if trying to pop them. The 3rd and the 4th the same. He did everything to ruin that day. At that time I thought he was trying to be funny.
    The reality was, he had come to my birthday after a long vacation with his low-class ap. The vacation was in Italy, in a city 100 miles away from where I was. Yes, you heard it right.
    I erased him from all those pictures. They look wonderful now.

    • What a monster, NFV. I hope you and your friends can find a way to get the gang back together and take some new photos to celebrate your freedom!

      • Bread&roses, thank you! I really hope that we can do that again, without having to deal with an entitled liar.

  • I noticed the same thing with photos. My ex never wanted his picture taken and when I pushed he looked ill-at-ease – and certainly never looked like he want to be next to me! Now I understand why!

    I threw away every picture with him in it so I never have to see that again!

  • My ex piece of shit had a big phony smile on his face in pictures. That was his MO…..fake it for image management. But he’d be a passive aggressive prick with that phony smile so he didn’t have to own anything. I put up with it for years.

    Meanwhile his trash ex gf was feeding his pathetic ego. We actually took a trio out of state with my kids and I found messages where he’d told her he went by himself.

    I ieft him in 2018…..only regret is not doing it sooner.

  • I had the opposite experience. The FW performed for photos, getting increasingly ecstatic and goofier. Fast forward to post DDay and him posting a slew of pics with his much younger sidepieces gripping them hard and faces smashed together, or sticking out their tongues. Side effects of spending extra time with carefree women a generation younger?

    He also never took photos of me. There are virtually none of me with my children as babies. Only what my mother took when she visited. If he did take a pic of me it was horrible, blurred and me blinking. I used to joke that I’d gift him a photography class one of these days. (forehead slap) He just didn’t regard me very much. They were a big difference from the pics that my brother took of his wife and showed off. I noticed.

    • Same experience.
      Our memories in photos are of him and the kids.
      I’m nowhere to be found.
      Random selfie’s or asking for him to take a picture of me on my birthday.

      If he films the kids he always makes sure to not get me in the clip. It’s awful.

    • And now that I’m thinking about it, he was posting odd pouty selfies they year or two leading up to the cheating. Poor “unhappy” guy. /s

  • Ah yes – very relatable. You wonder who lives in the fantasy world because I too didn’t notice until afterwards what a miserable git FW looked in family snaps. What I did notice at the time it happened, was that when FW and I backpacked years ago for 6 months, and we got home and printed the photos, the ones he had taken just of me (in front of the Taj Mahal, floating in the Dead Sea etc) didnt exist – he hadnt even take them. Because he was so vague, I concluded he didnt know how to press the button on the camera properly, although suspiciously he seemed to know how to take photos of other things. Now of course I suspect it was deliberate, part of his lifelong quest to make me invisible and irrelevant.

    • Weedfree, great nickname, I love it:)
      I detest some of the vacation pictures I have. We went on to several international vacations right after he felt entitled to start an affair behind my back. I still feel sad thinking about those days. I did a lot of reading about the cities we visited, he asked me to make plans because “I was so good at finding the best spots”. I spent hours and prepared surprises just for him. He loved it all. But it is scary to think that he was lying to me the whole time. A merciless, heartless cheater. He would spend at least an hour in the toilet- now I know that- he was just texting to his low-life ap, and most likely lying. Would he have said I am having a very romantic vacation with my wife?
      I got rif of those pictures. It feels much better now.

  • I remember noticing and asking ex why he wasn’t smiling in our holiday photos. I can’t remember his answer. Some BS excuse which I chumpily believed. After he left and I found out about the 4 year affair it all made sense. But as CL has said “You were happy and enjoying your life so his fake life doesn’t mean your life was fake” I still have great memories of great holidays and I don’t care if he was miserable. He could have left at the beginning of the four year affair but was a coward.

  • I have no photos to look back on. I went through all the photo albums and ripped every single picture of FW to shreds after I found out. I kind of wish I hadn’t done that because I think I should have waited to see if my son wanted them, but I was in no mental state at the time to consider things like that.

    OP, there is no one who spackled like I did. A few examples:

    A friend told me that a fellow soccer mom came up to her after one of my son’s soccer games and asked my friend what the deal was with FW and me, if FW and I were still married, hated each other or what, because FW ignored me, acted like he didn’t know me, didn’t stand by me, didn’t talk to me, for the entire game. I remember being insulted by the question and laughing it off. Mind you, this was one of only two games FW ever attended, including baseball games, swim meets, etc. He also never attended school functions, parent-teacher conferences, nothing. I convinced myself that this behavior was “normal.” Clearly it wasn’t, and clearly everyone saw it but me.

    One day I was at home and the doorbell rang. I opened the door and there was a woman standing there. She looked at me in shock and sputtered out, “I didn’t know he was married.” I said, “Well, he is,” and she scurried back to her car and drove off. At the time, I thought it was odd that FW’s friends wouldn’t know he was married. I was upset for about 5 minutes and then convinced myself that it was “normal” somehow that I never came up in conversation with his friends. I didn’t even ask FW about it. (She was clearly just a friend — FW was quite superficial, and this woman was older and not physically attractive, but still, it was evidence of a double life that I ignored.)

    I opened a letter addressed to FW because I always opened all our mail. It was from his secretary at a former employer. The letter went on and on about what an ass FW was, how he treated her badly, how she wanted him to know how she felt, etc. It wasn’t crystal clear from the letter that they had a romantic or personal relationship, so when FW told me she was a bad secretary who was just upset that he was hard on her at work, I believed it.

    I could go on and on and on and on. I guarantee no one spackled more than me. So please forgive yourself for not seeing the truth from just pictures.

  • I am sure many of you experienced the same thing. Ex-husband occasionally posted pictures of us together on social media. Then suddenly it stopped. It is weird but it stopped almost overnight. No pictures together, and absolutely no pictures of us on social media. Many people noticed this as it was ridiculously obvious. We went on vacations but he posted pictures of himself only, trying to look cool etc, and pretended that he was alone. When I wanted to post a picture together, he started saying I do not want people to see us, they get jealous.
    It was really upsetting and he knew it hurt me. Zero empathy and full entitlement. He was clearly sending a message to his low-life ap that he was alone, which makes me laugh. What a liar.

    • That reminds me of something similar. I noticed that there wasn’t a single photo of me in his FB feed for a couple of years. Except for the one I made him take and post when we were on a trip together. There were more photos of him with is female coworkers than his wife. You can guess what happened there.

      An old college friend (male) mentioned that post DDay and that he noticed that there was a lot of flirty interaction with the XAss and young single women that he saw on FB. I was blind. We supposedly had one of those great marriages that everyone envied, only it had become rather rote over the years, which I attributed to raising kids.

  • The only evidence of cheating in family pix was an uptick in flaming vanity. FW grins in every photo except for one Christmas day family pic taken right at the beginning of the affair where, instead of smiling, he’s nearly smirking. It’s more like some douchy soap actor trying to be cool and sexy than a duper’s delight vibe but it’s creepy and inappropriate either way. Nothing says “narc” more than trying to look sexy in a photo with your kids or grandma. That expression doesn’t appear again but probably only because he started getting a double chin from all the boozing and bistro-binging he and the AP did during the affair so he seems more focused on trying to tilt his head up and hide it in later photos. He also squares off to the camera in all subsequent pix so his newly cantilevering gut doesn’t show. My lawyer found a link to the AP’s family Instagram and it was sort of anthropological seeing the AP’s abusive little drunken cheater trad-dad taking the exact same posture in family photos. It’s sort of the pathologically-cheerful-grin/chin-concealing-jut-jaw/full-frontal-sucked-in-gut-puffed-up-chest-doesn’t-know-what-to-do-with-hands pose.

  • Before I married the guy he was so photo happy. Desperate to show the world we were happy together. After we got married 28 years ago, like soooo many other things, he suddenly left all the photo taking and organizing to me.

    Throughout our mirage I overfunctioned while my h underfunctioned, coasting along and eating cake. While trying to project an image that he was an active, loving husband and father.

    I should have known something was up when, right around the time of his affair with howorker starting, he suddenly got really into taking selfies and pictures of his surroundings but not sharing them with me. They were for her.😖

    • OutButNotDown how about elevator selfies? It was so weird to see my ex-husband eerily smiling at elevator mirrors frequently to take selfies. He used to make fun of people doing such things.

      • Oh my, what a strange hobby to pick up! Sorry you watched your ex degenerate into he used to make fun of like that.

    • I could’ve written the same thing. Do the FWs follow a script? Part of their selfish narcism? And what is it with the photos?

    • I found ‘sexy’ selfies he took in our bathroom, which he sent to his howorker while I was a couple of feet away probably making dinner or cleaning up. I found it so gross. I repainted that wall a different color because I couldn’t’ stand to see it once I knew what is was the backdrop for.

  • I purposely left behind all the wedding photos and albums. Scattered them on the library floor and split. HoWorker/Wife then cleaned out my house, and threw almost everything I left behind, including hundreds of dollars worth of food in my pantry (I intended to come back for that). Anyway, apparently Asshat didn’t want to throw away the wedding shit, so he used the kids to sherpa them back to me after their Christmas visit during the divorce. I had to plaster a big smile on my face when they handed me the boxes and just said “thank you” with my inside voice screaming “WTF”.

    They’re worthless.

    • When I cleaned out our house (to sell it, after FW moved out) I found photos of us taken out of their frames, or turned face down. It was kind of funny. I mean, my wedding dress was hanging in the bedroom closet and THAT never seemed to bother OW.

      I ended up keeping the wedding album, because I looked AMAZING in those photos, and I had designed and planned everything and it was a beautiful wedding. Everyone said it was the best wedding they’d been to. I was proud of all the work I put it. Strangely, FW fought with me about that wedding album, even though all he did for our wedding was show up.

      • The effort they use to “annoy” us is so funny! I’ve put the photo albums in the very back of my extremely cluttered upstairs garage. When we were married in 1993, everyone thought I had spent way more than I actually had which gave the impression to Asshat’s family that I was high maintenance. The complete opposite is the truth and HoWorker/Wife is actually the one who (as my attorney said repeatedly) “who wants it all” while always wearing flannel and jeans. So I don’t mind keeping the photos as it was a very classy event & I look so much better than her wedding photos, although I took great pleasure in throwing away my parent’s photos–cathartic!

        She also put my wedding veil on my pillowcase–she’s absolutely nutters!

  • A bit different for me. The most notable recent pictures of him are quite adorable. He had some cute selfies with our dog, all cute and cuddly. Pretty certain those were taken for dating profiles about 3 months before I woke up for final DDay. In a drunken night a couple months later, he let me look at his phone and said he was “pretty sure” I wouldn’t scroll past any dick pics.

    You know, I am remembering a selfie of us near the end that I had to force. I have to find it. My memory of it is how grumpy and disengaged he seemed but that was pretty routine. Of course, he couldn’t drink or get super high around kids and in public, so the rage was just smoldering under the surface, ready to break through at any moment.

  • Since I found out on our honeymoon that he was cheating and lying and etc I haven’t looked at my wedding pictures ever. I’m not even sure where the disc is.
    But I have a lot of pictures of us on trips, since I tended to take pictures more than he did, and I’m still not sure what to do with them. I know I enjoyed it all, but I still can’t seem to hang up anything in my house that we did together.

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