I recently read your book, and it’s helped me a lot to not contact my ex-boyfriend (which had previously been very difficult), and to fully acknowledge his bullshit answers on evidence that never made sense.
I first (yes, first…) discovered his cheating about three years ago. It came with the baggage of gaslighting and blameshifting that made me question my actions and sanity, and feel horrible about myself.
There were a handful of instances that I’m aware of. He only admits to one of them, however, because it was the only one where I had evidence he 100% without a doubt cheated — he gave me an STD that he still insists was caught from a dirty toilet at work. (Luckily, it was an easily cleared STD).
Yet, there was a lot of good in our relationship that I miss all the time. The love, fun, companionship, emotional support (I know, that’s in contrast to what I wrote above). And, yes, I was addicted to our great chemistry — not just sex, but the way our personalities clicked and we enjoyed each other’s company.
My question is this. I’ve lately been more upset with myself than him. Upset with myself for staying as a “knowing, passive chump.” The first time I was blindsided, but then I spent three years working on our relationship despite the knowledge, pain, and lack of trust this was causing me.
I painfully kept everything a secret, and only told a few people and my counselor. Now I am single again, middle-aged, and he has moved on with his reputation intact with his friends and whoever else he meets. I should have walked away three years ago (or 2 or 1.5…) with my head held high, calling him a bastard, telling my friends and family, and knowing that what he did to me — including the gaslighting and blameshifting — was very wrong.
I’m so angry at myself for not being a stronger, more confident person with how I handled this. I’ve even told him a few times that if my self-esteem was higher and my upbringing more positive, I probably would have left right away. He actually seemed to understand and acknowledge that. (We have a strange dynamic of being loving and supportive on a lot of stuff while all this was going on in the background).
Your book (which I love, btw) discusses reaching “Tuesday” when the pain stops. What are good ways to reach Tuesday and no longer feel pain over my own passive chump behavior? I’m so angry at myself for not being stronger, more confident, and leaving him sooner. His actions may have chipped away at my self-worth, but so have my own.
Dear Regretful Chump,
Hey, don’t feel so bad. At least you’re untangling the right skein of fuckupedness — your own. So many questions here focus on “Why did the cheater do this to me?!” (I don’t know. Bad character. Entitlement. Bats?) When the better questions is “Why did I accept this shit?”
That’s a harder one to answer, but it’s really important work. Helps you shore up your defenses, examine your vulnerabilities, and do an internal chump audit.
Answering these sorts of I’m-kicking-myself questions is difficult, because I never want to traffic in chump blame. Intimacy makes us vulnerable — it is the very act of taking our defenses down. But we can pull the drawbridge back up when our boundaries are attacked. There’s always some risk to loving someone, but you must love yourself more and not tolerate abuse.
So let’s look at some reasons for staying with cheaters after discovery. First I’ll outline the why’s, and next the antidotes to the chump condition.
You only have so many tools in your toolkit.
How we respond to adversity is pretty seat-of-the-pants decision making. This crap broadsides you. So we reach for the tools in our life toolkits that worked before.
For example, when I got chumped I went with two tried-and-tested Tracy tools — I studied the hell out it — and I tried harder.
These are not bad tools. In fact, they’re great tools if you’re trying to finish a masters dissertation in Southern African history. However, they’re terrible tools when dealing with a sociopath. It’s like being armed with a wine opener when you should’ve had a ballistic missile system. (Actually, the all-purpose tool here is RUN! RUN AWAY!)
Which brings me to Fight or Flee. Those are tools. There’s also Freeze and Fawn (stayed paralyzed in indecision, or suck up and pick-me-dance.) If you want to do a deep dive into co-dependency stuff, read about the Four Fs.
Your tools are not necessarily pathological. They work in a lot of other healthy situations, but when you’re in an unhealthy situation, don’t arm yourself with a cork screw, okay?
You had sunk costs.
You enjoyed this guy, or whatever it was he was projecting and you were attracted to him, and you invested deeply in a dream of a future with him. It’s easy to let sunk costs blind us. (MUST KEEP INVESTING UNTIL I TANK THE ECONOMY!)
Bad guys aren’t always bad. They have hooks. No one wants to date an ogre. They want an ogre with aftershave and witty banter. But when you’re seeing deeply bad stuff (he cheats, he gives you an STD, he mindfucks you) — realize that witty ogre is a package deal with bad guy ogre. Figure out what your values are. If you just want a plus-one who smells good, this won’t hurt. If you want a life partner, it will hurt.
You were afraid.
Who are you without a plus-one? Do you matter?
Now I am single again, middle-aged, and he has moved on with his reputation intact with his friends and whoever else he meets.
Yeah and so? There’s nothing wrong with being single or middle-aged. And YOU moved on with your reputation intact. You didn’t cheat. No reason to keep his secret now is there? Forget about how he presents himself — how are YOU presenting yourself?
Never need someone THAT bad that you’ll trade away your values.
He mindfucked you.
Of course, it’s hard to stay true to your values when you stick your head in the mindfuck blender. The whole point of which is to make you question yourself, erode your values, and let the freak keep extracting value from you.
Our culture doesn’t support chumpdom.
Nearly every single resource out there on infidelity, except this one, encourages reconciliation with cheaters. Therapists do this (hello Reconciliation Industrial Complex), rom-coms do this (steamy affairs! edgy! chumps? controlling shrews who deserve their fate), Disney fairytales do this, (if I kiss an ogre, the rose in the glass won’t wither and he’ll turn into a prince!)….
OMG so much bullshit. And then there is the Esther Perel Industrial Complex (affairs are just exuberant acts of defiance!) No wonder the experience is shrouded in shame. You’re the dullard who wasn’t Meeting Their Needs. And he’s the Sexy Beast grabbing all the Happy with gusto.
Don’t despair, chumps. We’ve got antidotes:
Learn new tools.
You know why my book helped you? Because you learned a couple new tools for your tool kit — like giving yourself permission to be strong, or decoding mindfuckery.
It made sense, because the corkscrew wasn’t working. You had the wrong tools for the problem. The right tools make all the difference.
Create a new life.
You got sunk costs? Make new investments. In YOURSELF. Not a fuckwit.
Bravery feels much better than capitulation. Whatever freezing and fawning have going for them (rest from exhaustion, the occasional kibble), bravery kicks ass in self-respect dividends.
He can’t mindfuck you if you recognize it as mindfuckery. It’s not a smoothie in that blender — it’s bullshit.
Change the narrative.
Now that you’re out, make it easier for the next chump. Don’t wear the blame. What you did — love, trust, invest, give too many chances — is not a crime proportionate with cheating, emotionally abusing, and risking a chump’s health.
Heck, feel free to tell people you regret staying with a cheater. That counteracts the pernicious propaganda that cheating Makes Relationships Stronger. The more you call it out, or wrinkle your nose at Esther Perel, or just rock on as a single, middle-aged woman — the more you model MIGHTY.
We need more examples. That’s your job. There’s your Tuesday.
Excellent question and CL gives a great answer.
Our social narrative says if we do the right stuff, we will get the right result and relationship narratives say that people “give up top quickly” so I, like CL and the writer, tried harder and doubled down in all efforts to improve my marriage single handedly. That “fog” from yesterday…it was real but I was in it, not him. I was the person refusing to see what was really in front of me while he (while cute and charming on his crusty outer layer) continued to blame and mindfuck.
I stayed for all the reasons listed and I was a Christian wife who prayed for him intensely. I went to Church for his soul nearly every day for 7 years and at the end of it, I told God that I would no longer try to hold him (he wouldn’t go, he wanted me to throw him out so he would be blameless) and he could go wherever he wanted. I expected a move to California but instead he dropped dead.
To those like me, get out and when your mind starts to clear and you realize how abusive they were, be kind to yourself, you did what you could in the moment.
“efforts to improve my marriage single handedly”.
We chumps were often raised to feel responsible for others’ emotions, to try to control situations, to accept a lack of reciprocity. Marriage vows propelled many of us into a decades long effort.
Fortunately, it also means we are uniquely able to care for ourselves when that becomes necessary.
I was explicitly trained to do those things by my mother, who had learned it in turn from her father, (and he’d probably acquired this “skill set” when, after his own mother died, his father sent him to live with his grandfather and step-grandmother). I am still trying to balance my understanding that my mother was an abused wife with my anger over what she passed on to me. I can understand both that she was abused and that her implicit and explicit training and actions had very damaging effects on me.
I thought because my now-ex seemed nothing like my father that I’d escaped the dynamic. I thought I, unlike my mother, would be safe. I felt pretty superior that my life would be different from hers, because the last thing I wanted was to be like my mother and be abused. Turns out I’d brought the attitudes, “skills,” and practices I’d learned growing up to marriage with a man who was not an overt narcissist but a covert one, and who was quite happy to benefit from my “learning.”
Finally, your last line really resonates with what I’ve been telling myself in the five years since I left my now-ex, which is that I have to care for myself, to practice self-care, and to be my own mother, my own wife, and my own husband.
“I expected a move to California but instead he dropped dead.”
I’m sorry, Unicorn, not making light of your horrible experience at all, but that line made me snort out laughter. 😂😆. It was like a dead pan riposte.
Yes, unicornomore! I was definitely in a fog of cognitive dissonance, of my own projecting of my positive values onto him, of fear, obligation, and guilt, etc… It has taken a LONG time to get out of that, and some days I’m not all out of it. But it’s getting better.
Your cheater died unexpectedly ? So did mine, after years of turmoil. They say it was his heart. He had just turned 50 and was fit. I don’t understand. I am traumatized and I wonder if something in him knew it was the end and he needed to expérience more of life. So sad.
No. It’s the stress of cheating that kills them prematurely, especially if they have underlying heart conditions. It’s not easy to lie, deceive and cheat. The cheaters need to keep their lies and stories straight as to not give themselves up; then they do come in dangerous situations when they’re about to be found out etc.
I don’t know about that, Persephone. I don’t think cheaters find it stressful. Rather, they find cheating and duping us exhilarating. It’s not easy for *us* to lie and cheat, but they are not like us.
If there indeed is a link between cheating and early death, I think it’s more likely down to cheaters living a self indulgent lifestyle, which means they tend to abuse alcohol and not to eat as healthy a diet. I know my FW and his whore both drank a lot and ate a lot of geasy pub food. They did go to the gym religiously, thinking it would compensate for their lifestyle, but it doesn’t work that way.
Also, it is certainly possible to be physically fit and have an undiagnosed heart problem. A case in point would be the famous runner Jim Fixx. He died from a heart attack at 52.
Cheaters can drop dead at a relatively young age. Or the abusers and parasites can outlive a few spouses. 😉 🤔
So did Nabal in the Bible !
OHFFS, my alcoholic cheater dad lived to be 76 after drinking heavily for at least 30 years, smoking like a chimney for I’m not sure how long, but I think most of his life, and eating a terrible diet; he became a Type 2 diabetic in old age. I don’t know if he ever had any STIs, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Some of the women he was involved with that I met…hmm…how shall I say it…didn’t seem likely to practice safe(r) sex.
I have no idea how he lived so long; he must have had bulletproof genes. He died of congestive heart failure after a final massive heart attack. That’s how my mom told him he’d die if he didn’t take better care of himself.
“I wonder if something in him knew it was the end and he needed to expérience more of life.”
I can understand why, when you are so traumatized and grieving, you would want to assign him more benign motives, but that is a stretch.
He could have experienced more of life *with you* if that was his motivation, with travel and trying new things. I suspect it’s going to be more difficult to recover from this if you try to posthumously spackle for him. My condolences on your loss. That must be so hard.
There are a couple of studies about this, one which is included in the blog’s resource page about how lowered life expectancy can cause a shift to more aggressive mating strategies. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-90579-8 It’s a bit hard to follow but the idea is that when someone senses that their health, fertility and life expectancy are compromised due to disease or dangerous environment, they may switch from a “slow life strategy”– which involves having fewer but higher quality/more competitive children– to opting for more manic, less discriminate mating, theoretically to have more but less competitive offspring.
Then the other study found that men who cheat are more likely to die of heart attacks than non-cheaters despite the fact that cheating men typically try to stay fit. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/men-who-cheat-their-wives-more-likely-die-heart-attack-flna795283
All “sensing the end” did for my ex-FW was make him cheat. He got stage III prostate cancer at 45 out of the blue. No family history and he was very fit. Instead of taking it as a sign to become a better person if he pulled through, he decided to take it as a sign that you only live once so make yourself happy, and he proceeded to exit-affair our 23-year marriage (and move a thousand miles away and abandon our minor son in the process) because “he’d made a mistake marrying me in the first place.” Apparently, an out-of-work, uneducated hairdresser with big boobs was just the ticket to dump your family for. (Not saying there’s anything wrong with being out of work, or a hairdresser, or uneducated. He really just wanted a “hot” woman with big boobs, which wasn’t me.). Anyway, of course he beat the cancer. Then I heard after the divorce he had open-heart surgery, so now he’s protected from a heart attack, too. And our 19 year-old son still speaks to him. He’s the very definition of Teflon. Nothing sticks to him, nothing. I try not to be upset by that, but if I’m honest, it is upsetting. Can you tell I haven’t reached Tuesday yet? But I’m working on it.
“Nothing sticks to him, nothing. I try not to be upset by that, but if I’m honest, it is upsetting. Can you tell I haven’t reached Tuesday yet? But I’m working on it.” Exactly why this is so hard to accept and get over.
CBN, I’d restate that as: So far, nothing has stuck to him.
To quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
” Though the mills of God grind slowly; Yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, With exactness grinds He all.”
You weren’t just gaslit by the Cheater….every movie & TV show out there displays “charmingly roguish” or man-boy behaviour that women are sufferingly supposed to put up with & to “hang in there”! Until we start walking away & not put up with this behaviour, will the entitled change! So do it for yourself & the the resulting effect helps the next generation change (unless your Casey De Santis seemingly wanting to drag us back into the ‘60s with her recent Jackie O get up). Tuesday to me means reclaiming myself, my truth & not letting anyone knock that out from underneath me!
You are mocking Casey DeSantis, recent cancer survivor, because you don’t like her clothing? That’s pretty mean and shallow.
Nobody made fun of cancer.
She was making fun of someone with political opinions she does not share, and who’s been hamfistedly trying to create a certain impression with highly stylized fashion choices. I got the joke.
I’m now also making fun of straw man arguments, because whoo-boy, did I get my share of arguing with someone who kept trying to disingenuously change the subject and put words in my mouth when my head was in the blender. I hate it when ANYONE does that, and I smell it and find it off-putting from many miles away these days!
Why is making fun of another woman ok just because you disagree with them? Sounds like you lost your heart in the ordeal… bitter and condescending not a joke !
The snark on this blog is equal opportunity.
I wasn’t mocking anyone for having cancer! I was mocking the fact that her husband wants to drag women back into the 50’s & 60’s!! & her attire is proving that!
So you are blaming the wife for the husband’s actions? I don’t know a single female chump who hasn’t encountered some version of that…
I agree with walking away from men with bad behavior but have no idea what would possess you to insert a jab at Casey Desantis and her choice of wardrobe. Very odd.
Jackie Kennedy had a cheater too.
And Jackie O was herself a cheater.
That’s correct. Her long term partner Maurice Tempelsman never divorced his wife.
Two cheaters-JFK and then Aristotle Onassis who carried on with Maria Callas (and probably others).
Nothing odd about it except for pointing out there is a certain political movement to drag women back into the kitchen.
I come here for support in dealing with betrayal, infidelity, my subsequent divorce, and building a new happy life. Can we please keep the political jabs and debates off of this site?
How about we let the hostess (and her assigns) call the balls and strikes. Meanwhile, feel free to ignore comments not to your liking.
OK, now back to ignoring comments not to my liking.
No wonder you got left . Pretty bitchy! Please ignore my comment if you don’t like it !
(Now it’s descending into name calling and personal attacks)
Meant to type the English word “enough”, not the Italian
It sounds better in Italian. I love that word.
That was uncalled for and totally below the belt, Terry. You must know we don’t ever blame chumps for FW behavior here. I suggest you stop trolling.
I was referring to someone’s condescending comments… a behavior. That’s not name calling. I also disagree with using this blog to voice your political agenda ! Divisive
Wee, victim blaming. Touching bottom here.
Hating on other people who did nothing to you is touching bottom . That’s the point !
Well sometimes politics affects women & culture so yeah it can be relevant to why male cheaters feel entitled to do so!
Ron DeSantis isn’t a cheater ! You are being judgmental .
That you, Ron?
I was a slow boiled frog and, looking back, I realise that I tolerated way too much for way too long.
I suspect that I had been fooled (or fooled myself) into believing that I in some way deserved what was being done to me and that everything would be better if I just tried harder. Additionally, I suspect that I am not the only Chump who invested in trying to fix the problems in my marriage without knowing that (firstly) that it was my now Ex who was actively sabotaging the marriage and (secondly), that the kids and I could forge a much better future for ourselves without her.
“I was a slow boiled frog” so sublimely perfect.
I was too, I just didn’t know it at the time. My cheating wife had multiple affairs over the first 20 years of our marriage. ONS, LTAs, while pregnant, with married men with pregnant wives, you name it. I suspected at the time but she always lied (of course). I would try to be a better husband and “fix the marriage”. After discovery, she wrote up a timeline and referenced several times where she was cheating and I was trying to “fix things” and she admitted for her “not so much”. I caught her waiting on her boyfriend after work once and a big fight resulted. She left and went to her mother’s house. She called the next day begging to come home. I said “you must break it off with the boyfriend (was an EA only at the time). She agreed. I find out on D-Day she never broke it off, saw hime for several more months and had sex with him in our house while pregnant with our daughter (yes, dna tested). I was flabbergasted. I asked “why did you want to come home if you had no intention of breaking it off”. Thanks to CL, I now know it was “cake”.
The UW manufactured, amplified marital issues to justify whoring around. Then sabatoged any efforts to “fix things” to maintain her cake….
As has been said here before, it takes two people working together to fix a marriage. And a cheater sitting in a counselor’s office blaming the chump doesn’t count.
A similar situation for me (aren’t they all).
I had 2 suspected ddays before the final one, convinced by FW that they were ‘just friendships goddammit woman’. It had been a long marriage with lots of investment. I was a snotty, head scrambled, shaky mess.
This Tuesday was my birthday! It was my third one without FW…. and the best one ever. I felt loved, appreciated, cared about and was spoilt. But the best gift is that My Tuesday came on a Tuesday. I really don’t care about FW. There is no longer anything there.
I’m 55, single and living my best life. If I can get here anyone can. Hugs to you all ❤️
A day late, but happy birthday !💫💫💐
And well done you for everything you’ve accomplished. xx
The fifties. An excellent age.
A belated happy birthday to you, Claire! I turn 55 this year, and like you, I’m living my best life.
I left the Lying Cheating Loser a few months before my 50th birthday. I’m so glad he wasn’t around to ruin that milestone birthday the way he ruined so many other special occasions.
I feel this. I didn’t leave my Fw till I was 53 and want to punch myself in the head for not leaving when my kids were small. I instead left with teens. I get so angry sometimes at the lost years that were spent mostly alone with the kids. I am getting over it and as I get close to being an empty nester I see I am free!! I work remotely and am thinking about a couple of years in Portugal! Or Bali or wherever! Yeah I am mid 50’s and single and I am well yeah so what I got the time with my kids and I am free and I have discovered I am enough. Good luck on your journey
I feel it too. I left when I was 65, although fortunately no children. I too sometimes want to kick my own arse when I think of all the good years I wasted on that fuckwit – 23 of them. 😡
I filed when I was 65 18 months ago when he left “to think” after a particularly bad period of abusing and cheating. I was married34 years to a narcissist, serial cheater, and abuser. My girls are in their 30s with their own families and my precious grandchildren. I stayed until then to keep our family intact and because he had talked me into early retirement several years before so we could move for his second career. I was a fool. I dreamed he would get “better” with age, not worse. I’m still working on my Tuesday. I’m much closer now than I was 18 months ago.
I left (after 31 years together) the year I was to turn 50. Thankfully I had realized that I couldn’t control his behaviour and that by staying, I was setting a terrible example for my 2 children who were in the late teens. This was pre-ChumpLady days. I became an empty nester 4 months after separation and was not living in my mother country, was in a different hemisphere (far less sunshine and colder) with no family other than my 2 children. It was hell. Fifteen years later I recognize and celebrate my courage and know, right down to my inner core, how brave I was and still am. I am free. I am still single and that’s really quite ok with me. I too am looking at living in Portugal for a couple of years – I am free to flirt with the idea and am closer to turning it into a realty. Tracy made me realize that I could give myself permission to not forgive him which kept me stuck for years – I found acceptance, peace, grace and celebrate my freedom.
“It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all.” Maya Angelou
I loooove Maya Angelou. I cry every time I read or hear Still I Rise.
She had so much knowledge from so much living.
When people show you who they are believe them the first time. If there is a better motto to live by I have not seen it. Thank you Dr. Angelou.
I’m using the tools I learned in living with a FW to gain a life now. Gaslighting meant I had to have every single angle covered with documents and verifiable results — so I got my master’s and paid for it with a graduate assistantship in RESEARCH. I was stuck doing the same exact thing and listening to the same old complaints about everything and constantly trying to make the ogre happy so I’m getting a bachelor’s in a NEW field (nursing) and last night my professor told me that I am “doing SO well in his anatomy and physiology class that it is ridiculous”. Turns out all that leg work and constant preparation just to walk on eggshells and deal with a complaining (and abusive) FW was great prep for researching and studying for a brand new degree. Getting good grades is a piece of cake compared to dealing with that bullshit!! (I’m single, 53 years old and loving life without a FW)
Regretful, you left and that is the important fact. Normal people aren’t designed to abandon loved family members easily or quickly and most of us didn’t without a lot of pain, time and confusion. And most of us (**raises hand**) would change that if we could.
I have a friend who found out her husband was cheating when she caught him with his affair partner at the mall. She confronted them both and after they drove off, went back in the mall to sell her wedding ring at the jewelry store, made an appointment with a lawyer and called a moving company to schedule a move the following day.
She’s my hero, but is made of sterner stuff than me, and of other friends who were cheated on.
Most people have no idea of the trauma that is caused by this kind of abuse, or how long it takes to understand it. Some, like my friend, are capable of immediate action, but most of us get stuck. I wish you much serenity and joy in your new life.
Principled Life, I really like the “selling her wedding ring at the jewelry store after catching the FW with his AP” part of the story.
FW admitted to an emotional affair and apologized and like an idiot I 1) believed him that it was “only” emotional, and 2) that it was over. I stayed, trying desperately to save my “marriage”, for nearly four years. I wish I had filed for divorce the next day after that conversation. However, I recognize that I was raised in a culture that doesn’t divorce, and that places great value on self-sacrifice and service to others (very religious). Self-care wasn’t encouraged, nor was consent. It wasn’t easy to break myself of that mindset, even though I had left the church years before. We had a child, I’d invested 15 years in our relationship, etc. It was scary to be on my own, to worry about my son having a “broken” home (it was already broken, but I didn’t see it that way). Starting over in my 40s wasn’t something I’d ever planned on.
In the end, things had to unfold as they unfolded, and by the time I DID file for divorce, I was all in and had no more desire to be with my husband (my lawyer encouraged me to wait until I was ready; we prepared, but didn’t act, for quite some time).
CL’s advice to invest in yourself is priceless. When I started doing that: planning my future, getting my ducks in a row, pursuing my own interests and hobbies (things that FW had discouraged me from doing), I got to “meh”. I started paying off my debts and saving money. I stopped obsessing so much over what FW and OW were doing because I was busy with MY life. I decided to leave them to it, and focus on myself and what I could do to make my life good. It was only then that I could truly go grey rock and let FW’s attempts to goad me into an argument or bring me down just slide off my back.
After I emotionally detached, OW and FW blew up their relationship without any help from me. They’d lost their target and turned on each other. FW started showing his true colors and OW left. FW ended up taking his own life.
Now, a year and a half later, my life is better than I ever imagined. I’m happy, I’m free. I have peace and contentment. My bank account is healthy. I just bought my own home. I have a great job. I have found I really enjoy being single. I’ve nurtured my friendships. I enjoy my hobbies without criticism. I’m comfortable in my own skin.
There was a time when I thought I couldn’t live without FW. When I thought I’d never be happy again. When I didn’t know how to face the next day. When I was very, very sick. When my self esteem was non-existant. When I didn’t even know who I was. Now, I can’t imagine ever going back to that life. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I look forward to the future (rather than bracing myself for impending disaster). I’m healthy again. I’m more confident than ever. I like who I am, and I know myself better. If I can do it, anyone can. I’m a bit more cynical, but I know that I would never again tolerate the kind of treatment I received from FW (which at the time I thought I deserved). And I think that’s a good thing.
I have forgiven myself for not leaving sooner. For not seeing how badly I was being abused. For not recognizing that the affair was happening. I did the best I could with what I had. We can only go forward, not back. We can learn from our mistakes. We can use our experiences to help others. To beat myself up for what I should have done is just a waste of time. I already wasted enough time on FW. He doesn’t deserve one more minute of my attention.
I could have written this.
It has been very humbling, the sinking in the heart that I was targeted because of FOO issues/abuse.
And that I was such a great hostage for the fifteen years of the marriage and divorce.
There is this, let’s call it, condemnation of you are unlucky in life, you are undeserving. People around doing concern shaming (one wouldn’t even realize, believing people meant well, whereas the venom seeps in), very subtle condescension, other forms of subtle blame-shifting. Then the stance, certainly anyone can get a job, when one is sabotaged, dependency foisted on you, etc. Education perhaps sadistically encouraged and then the preventing one of attaining anything with it. And this wearing down both men and women, deemed of a certain sort. The bullies deemed all right, the winners. Maybe seemingly very nice person-bullies, that just block others from living, from having any life whatsoever. They even decide whether you are to reproduce or not. The bullies are those who should reproduce, the others, wiped out by taking away access to resources and possibilities.
The phrase I use to describe myself is “stubborn optimist” because I believe if I just keep trying it will get better. Which is great when learning a new skill. Not so good when I need to admit that the project just isn’t working. I believed if I just kept trying my marriage would get better. Well, no. I should have just jumped ship when he started getting mean. But as everyone knows, it sort of sneaks up on you, until you look up and realize it’s been years of a bad relationship.
It is the one thing that to this day still bothers me a bit, I let him get mean and nasty. In the context of a 21 year marriage it was only about two years, the worst being the last few months.
I was confused, scared. There was no internet info because there was no internet in that time frame. I was ashamed, kept thinking the person I knew would re appear. Never did. I was lucky to get away when I did. He self destructed in pretty fast fashion after we D’d. She didn’t get what she thought she was getting for sure.
“kept thinking the person I knew would re-appear.”
This kept me stuck for a long time too, Susie Lee. He never really did and I’m left to wonder if it was a case of over-spackling on my part or if he just revealed the person he always was. But the good news is that now I don’t really care, I’m just glad he is out of my life. But the question is worth considering so I have the skills in dealing with other people in my life and also in advising my now young adult children.
susie lee, I think…this is what my mother kept thinking. She kept trying to deal with my father like he was a rational person when in fact, he’d become an irrational, verbally abusive, and unfaithful alcoholic. I think it took her years after their divorce to accept what he became.
Very good response, CL! Thanks. And I hope we all in our bravery are changing the way infidelity is viewed by the majority of the world, i.e., most of the world sees it as somewhat benign. In fact, when I was young and naive and before somebody mindfucked me for 30 years, I didn’t give infidelity the gravity it deserved. I saw lots of soap operas throughout my youth and though things like that happened, it didn’t seem to be as crippling to the chumps on TV as it was to this chump in real life. When it happened to me I was completely devastated and on the verge of doing myself in. That was never portrayed by the beautiful young actors and actresses. In fact, the focus was on the betrayers: ‘Love was bigger than the both of us!’ (Subsequently, your cartoon of the old guy in tighty-whities hugging the girl with her hair streaming behind her is so apropos.) Nobody focused on the devastation left behind. That kind of stuff was too yucky, too difficult, and nobody wants to see the ugly remains anyway. People just want to see beautiful people in love. One thing that struck me so much in Regretful Chump’s letter was “I was addicted to our great chemistry — not just sex, but the way our personalities clicked and we enjoyed each other’s company.” After I’ve been free of my fuckwit for over 8 years, I now realize that our ‘personalities clicking’ weren’t necessarily clicking. He mirrored what he saw in me and that’s what clicked with me. I saw somebody who liked the same things that I did. I love to dance and when we were first dating, he danced with me all of the time. Once we got married, he didn’t dance with me anymore. I like to hike and camp. And when we were dating, he did too. Then once we got married, he would rather sit and watch basketball, baseball, football, and golf (and probably curling). I could go on with other ‘clicking personalities’ and how they changed after we were married, but my point is to a newbie, you cannot trust your attraction to somebody based on your personalities clicking. That’s great if they do, but I think if we all take the time to know ourselves first, learn to love ourselves, and learn to know what we will and won’t put up with, then the chances of discerning a loving, giving person are greater if one was to enter our sphere. And our personalities may not click in all areas, but if there’s mutual respect, there’s a greater chance for love.
“(Subsequently, your cartoon of the old guy in tighty-whities hugging the girl with her hair streaming behind her is so apropos.) ”
I rolled laughing at that cartoon. It depicts my ex and the adultery partner so well. He had what is commonly called a beer gut, though in his case he didn’t drink, just basically a pure carb diet. She was short and also had a beer gut. (please no lectures) she was and she was also a liar and a low life just like he was.
I think most time the underground rutting is just like that picture portrays.
Yup. I find myself thinking a lot about how klootzak mirrored me. Oh how he liked everything I did! Then once we married he started to chip away at everything I enjoyed. And so I lost touch with all those things I loved. The things that made me ME. And after he wanted to discard me it was “we have nothing in common.”
LW, you say you “have” a strange dynamic with your ex – does that mean you’re still in contact with him? If you are, that’s part of what’s feeding your self-criticism – because he’s still gaslighting you with “there’s still some good here” and his supposedly great “reputation.” 100% NO CONTACT! Block him on social media. Block his number on your phone (and change his name to Cheating Liar, Don’t Answer in case something goes wrong with the block and a text/call gets through). If you have mutual social acquaintances, let them know you don’t want to hear updates, and if they don’t respect that they’re not friends.
If someone stomped on your foot, you wouldn’t expect it to stop hurting until they STOPPED stomping on your foot, right?
When something breaks that I love, my first instinct is to fix it. Even if I can get another identical object, I still first try to repair what broke. When a favorite beauty product is discontinued, there is a period of mourning. I have to resist the urge to look on eBay, attempting
to postpone the inevitable and certain eventuality of life without Bain de Soleil Gelee Orange. When I totaled my car (much more dire than it sounds; it doesn’t take much damage to total a Mercedes), I agonized for a week over which course of action to take as I had planned to drive that car until the day I die. (I decided to restore it, which turned out to be the right decision. It’s one of a kind and I get regular offers to buy it).
For Pete’s sake if I have this attitude toward inanimate objects, it makes sense I would be even more inclined to try to repair my marriage, which was not an object in my life but the foundation and the fabric of my life. Cheating is very common and the conventional wisdom (really conventional idiocy) about it only backs up the notion that it is normal and fixable and not a big deal.
When it happened to me at 25 with a live-in boyfriend, it was painful, but he was also an overt jerk. When it happened to me with Traitor Ex, to whom I was married, with a child and business we had created together, and his Nice Guy facade, everything I thought or believed about infidelity went out the window. My instinct to fix, as if were my favorite car or coffee cup, was naturally there. What was overwhelmingly in my head was everything telling me this was not something that could be fixed, and it took some time to override the instinct to repair.
In short, I get VERY ATTACHED to people and things I love. I take care of people and things I love. I don’t act destructively toward people and things I love. If a person or thing is valuable to me, my first instinct is to repair if something is broken.
Traitor Ex DOES NOT GET ATTACHED TO ANYTHING OR ANYONE. He walked away not just from me, but our child, our animals, every single object in our home, including his own stuff. He does not take care of people or animals or things. He is careless and destructive, with people, with animals, with things.
This reality was obfuscated by his Nice Guy persona. Look at the Murdaugh family picture, everyone smiling in their formal wear, at their lovely home. They had FRIENDS. Appearances deceive. Actions tell the truth. I need to remember pay more attention to the actions than the appearances. Especially actions that are evidence of dishonesty.
The careless and destructive has extended to the primary known co-homewrecker, his “sole mate”. Aside from being an illicit relationship, which is the number one worst way to begin a relationship, he was caught on Tinder and continuing to patronize the massage parlors while living with her.
It took a while to realize that the marriage was a MIRAGE, that it was totaled, that there was not even anything to fix. It was, and still is, really scary to admit to myself that what I had was a story that I made myself believe for a long time. I did not have the Mona Lisa with a tear in it that had to be repaired at any cost. I had a worthless forgery.
Realizing the true value of what I had, which took time, was what made it possible for me to let go of it. We see when we see, and we stay hooked until we can unhook.
Some people never see, never unhook, and one day they get their head blown off by their own spouse/father.
“much LESS dire than it sounds”
“Invest in yourself” is truly the best advice. I sunk so many years into placating an impossible to please person. If I had spent that time and energy on attempting to make myself happy instead of him – I can’t even imagine where I would be today, because honestly, I still don’t support and love myself even a quarter as much as I loved and supported him.
Super timely re-run for me. I stayed through multiple rounds, each one getting worse, but each time throwing my tools of optimism, hard work, integrity, belief in marriage counseling (4 times!) at the situation, never knowing that he was actively undermining everything I did and taking his secret sexual basement crap further underground ever time. It was exhausting and so very confusing, and the confusion was itself exhausting. By the end, I have serious health problems (working on them!), took serious damage in my career (working on it!), and have a lot of general damage to treat/reconcile/get over. Now, 2 years after separation and 18 months post divorce, I still have many of the same questions as the LW, and I still sometimes fall into habits of self-blame. But, I am committed to learning new tools. One of the most bad ass experiences I had after my last DDay, when I was preparing to leave but he didn’t know that yet, was to tell him I wasn’t interested in a FIFTH go-round with yet another marriage counselor. He did ask about it… oh so reluctantly, but he did mention it…no doubt expecting me to jump up and down projecting my values onto him again, believing his mere mention of counseling was telling me he was willing to work and change… but by then I had years of reading Chump Lady behind me and I just said “no thanks.” I wish I could have come up with something withering and witty in the moment, but “no thanks” got the job done. His mom still had the audacity to express her concern to me that “we” just needed to work harder… I just went no contact with her.
I’m the past 8 years I’ve spent time thinking about what my part was because I have to admit there were red flags from the first date and I disregarded them. I wanted to figure this out to protect myself from choosing another abuser. This statement resonates: “Never need someone THAT bad that you’ll trade away your values.”. BOOM…. need….
I had a lot of big traumas in my childhood including a psychopath mother who kicked me out on the streets after my dad died when I was 15– this was after a lifetime of abuse- sexual, physical, emotional. I was in survival mode for years. I longed for security, a place, a family who wanted me. Having a baby as a teenager made the need greater. When XH offered me stable housing — said his dad would help us (I was in law school with a 3 year old and douche bag landlord was threatening to evict us for “excessive family noise” 🤬🤬🤬🤬) I jumped at the chance to have a home, a “dad!” My need felt bottomless from years of scarcity.
I’m kind in my thoughts towards my 22 year old self. I was doing my best to survive and provide for my daughter. When Dday came I was 47– had been a lawyer for decades— part time so I could care for our family. Two older kids grown – two at home. XH earned 7x my income and supported our lifestyle. Having him abandon me and the kids triggered a deep fear. It’s taken years of hard work to get to where I am today. At 56, I’m increasing my income exponentially. My kids are all grown. I own my home and have an income producing rental. I have funded my retirement. I have been engaged to a reciprocal partner for two years and we just bought a dream farm property together this week, which is a lifelong dream. I finally feel some measure of security. My walls sing day and night. No one can ever destroy me again.
I also grew up in less than ideal circumstances (understatement…), and growing up wanted nothing more than security, safety, and a normal family. As a young woman I earned a PhD, an academic job, and tenure, and as a professor I put money away for retirement. I thought I had a husband in an equal partnership who shared my values (which included an equal partnership). Turns out I didn’t. Turns out he saw me as a lesser woman from the beginning and latched on to woman after woman he made sure to let me know he considered them superior to me (starting with his sister), most of them young women he mentored either as students or as junior professors, all of whom reflected back to him his own (imagined) glory and helped him assuage his feelings of failure to achieve what he thought he should have.
When I left my now-ex, I, too, felt that lack of safety and security, and a deep fear, especially over whether I could make it alone. Thankfully, I had a secure job and a retirement fund–because even when I was married I never forgot that I might end up on my own. (This is one lesson my mother taught me that was wholly positive.) My mantra was “It’ll be ok. I’ll be ok.”
And now I am. And it is. Circumstances can change on a dime, but I now know I am enough. I can get by. On my own. With a little help from my friends.
It’s amazing all you have done given what you went through. Law school with a young child? That is incredible to me! And after having been thrown out at 15. WOW.
My narc mother pushed for me to go to law school though my heart wasn’t in it. She believed I would have a lucrative career and support her the rest of her life because I “owed” her. I worked while I was in school and paid far more than my fair share of expenses. When I married klootzak, I admit it was probably in part to escape her. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
I think your overwhelming in the majority with the “hanging on to long” approach that most of us take. I am in total aww of the people who discover an affair and immediately go no contact, hire an attorney and kick cheater to the curb. From what I see on this blog most of us go through numerous Ddays and agonize about what we are going through.
For me it was fear and familiarity that kept me trying. I tried for way to long, I was still trying after the divorce. Finally my heart caught up to my head and I did the right thing. No Contact.
Learn from your experience so you can recognize and heed the red flags next time around.
It was only recently that I got hold of the end of yarn that untangled a big chunk of my skein. Of why I stayed with the Lying Cheating Loser for four years when it was raining D-Days. Of why I picked him in the first place.
I realized that most of my adult life, I’ve been seeking challenge, adventure, the unexpected, the unconventional, the extraordinary.
I moved from Sweden to the US at 21. I built a housepainting business in my 30s when ex and I had three little kids and two nickels to rub together.
And my arguably boldest move: sinking my modest inheritance into a 1930 brick Tudor Revival auction property in a new town.
In the LCL, I saw a similar challenge, containing many familiar elements: the “opposites attract”, the unconventional (he was 15 years younger), the “extraordinary.” I put extraordinary in quotations because I now understand that it was just lovebombing and dysfunction with its mask on.
If I could build a relationship out of that, if I could win the love of such a sparkly, damaged human, that would be proof I was extraordinary too. It would somehow validate my path and my choices.
At the end of the day, the same tenacity with which I clung to my cherished outcome of a happily ever after with the LCL, is the reason I’ve been able to build this unconventional, creative life I now enjoy. I get to be the single, crazy cat- and plantlady, working artist in her painted cottage.
Had I left the LCL sooner, I’d have fewer scars, to be sure. But would I have learned my lesson?
Here’s the thing, Regretful Chump, not many people have the tools to deal with the dysfunction of a serial cheater.
If your family of origin was really messed up, you did what you had to do to survive and get out of there. Coping with a messed up parent when you are a child does not give you what you need to dump a cheater. Instead, you continue using the old tools of childhood that kept you “safe”.
If your family was pretty much “normal” you still don’t know how to deal with it. You assume that those in your inner circle have your best interests at heart. It’s totally freakish to realize that the person you are committed to only cares about him/herself.
I think many of us regret staying as long as we did. I know I do. I was married to the ex for 25 years and have five children with him. He did not cheat the entire time of our marriage, I think. I don’t really know. All I know for sure is that he was cheating at the end and he was verbally and emotionally abusive for the last 10 years or so of the marriage. I should have left much sooner.
I’m sure we all stayed too long.
Don’t beat yourself up.
For future use:
Anyone that tells you you caught anything from a toilet seat?
Or “from a patient.”
My then-husband, a physician, told me that he got genital warts “from a patient.” I was in my 20s. Believed him. My male gyn didn’t correct me. It wasn’t until I was 59 and getting divorced that a female gyn told me, “Uh, no. He didn’t get it from a patient unless he had sex with the patient.” Dammit.
Spinach@35, that probably was a true statement because he probably slept with at least 1 patient. I mean, if you’re going to cheat, why worry about professional ethics?
Just right on target CL! Especially this-‘ Don’t wear the blame. What you did — love, trust, invest, give too many chances — is not a crime proportionate with cheating, emotionally abusing, and risking a chump’s health.’
I hope to show by my actions that this is truth. Feeling guilt over leaving my cheater is not for me anymore! He’s great at poor sausage, telling our sons I abandoned him. I was so surprised to hear that, but I’m glad I see through it now!
I’m investing in my own happiness, and of course those who’ve been so good to stand by me.
Once you finally see through their lies and manipulations you can’t unsee it.
This morning i threw an apple, celery, carrots pinapple, greens and cashews in my blender. Watching the foods whirl into a healthy drink my mind went to Tracy’s words of putting my head into a MF blender when my STBXH told me he had been attacked by woman at work because he was irresistible! He told me this happened all the time to other guys, so it was not his fault he had sex at work!But the OW turned my STBXH into HR! That was the last doozy because i filed for my own safety. Yes I stayed too long because I chose to believe lies since the good times SEEMED to outweigh the abusive MF, blame shifting, gas lighting times. But the good times got less and less and the harsh times came more frequently. I also did not recognize being used rather than being truly loved. Being of use rather than loved was a heart breaking 💔 bitter pill to swallow. That I meant nothing to him. Maybe not for the entire 32 years perhaps, but the entitlement, arrogant,sex focused tiger cub grew up over the years to be a vicious woman hater and user. I fed the cub for years ( my part to realize)but now he’s going to a zoo where he can mate and eat raw meat at his leisure.( My apologies to all the real tigers. You are more reliable)
As a counselor at a domestic violence shelter told me: “even wifebeaters bring their wives roses.”
Of all the regrets expressed on CL’s site, IMHO, the most frequent one expressed is “I wasted my precious time.”
We all learn at different rates, we all do not start with the same support systems, we all have different FOO problems, but we all lived with a cheater. We all will not react to that point of connection in the same way. Just be happy you are out and try to spend the time you have left making yourself happy. Middle age is not the end of the world, it is merely the middle of your expected life span.
I was middle aged with young children when I finally became free. I am now enjoying retirement with adult children. If anything, I am much happier now than I have ever been in my life. I know who I am and what my boundaries are. I am not afraid to leave a toxic person behind. Do not let other people’s opinions determine the course of your life or the extent of your happiness. I would not have had that insight when I was young.
Ah, the unicorn graphic. Sadly, the stories are similar no matter how old or how long.
I regretted staying for so long, but then I didn’t have custody issues because both kids were in college. They were local and living at home, so we could work through the mess together gradually. He had almost no contact with them in the first year, and I just stepped back and let them figure out the meaning of that. Despite enabling their father for years, they had some level of loyalty to me, especially after I owned up to my own mistakes.
I think earlier would have had its own negatives, so I don’t worry about it. Live and learn.
I stayed too long, and my reasoning was a weird blend of a few things.
Firstly I felt I’d made my bed. I knew things weren’t perfect between us before the cheating but thought I could handle it because maybe my expectations of a good relationship were unrealistic and I knew I wasn’t always the best partner eg. I would get frustrated and impatient with his seeming cluelessness about relationships and equal distribution of household labour (I thought he was on the autism spectrum at one point, but in hindsight, I see it as a more sinister kind of weaponised incompetence, as once he realised I was determined to leave, suddenly everything around the house was done to perfection, without constant reminders). So guilt for my part was a factor, I knew I could have been better and done better, and despite seeing the outrage of him accusing me of being awful to him, I knew I hadn’t been easy on him. I now know that schmoopie was coaching him in the background, which was basically causing arguments about every aspect of parenting a new child. Combine that with the life-shock and basic physical exhaustion that comes with having a new child, and I was very short on patience, meanwhile wondering what the fuck was wrong with my formerly meek and mild partner that wanted to fight me on everything. And I told him that, which was then weaponised against me.
Secondly, I was in survival mode. I had a new baby and the OW in this case was a very unbalanced, damaged person who was coaching FW, the plan being (in her mind anyway, from what I can work out) that once I found out about them, I would pack up and leave and she would move in and take my place, up to and including helping to care for my infant. This was happy ending massage parlour schmoopie who considered herself a good role model, and there was no way in hell that I was letting her near my child. So I felt I had to stay to limit the fallout from cheaters horrendously poor judgement as well.
Thirdly, I am a stubborn person who never gives up on anything, even when the dead horse is rotting under me, and always considers there is a way to fix things, I’ve just got to find it. Walking away, after I had waited so long to have my child would seem like failure, especially since I had come from a childhood where a parent’s cheating had broken up my family and I had (I thought) been so careful to avoid a repeat so I could have my own little family.
So yeah, it was a perfect storm of guilt, survival and stubborness that made me stay another 5 years rather than walk out the door, but finally I realised that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life with someone I no longer trusted or respected. Looking back, he had only really cut out the shenanigans and ‘fallen into line’ at the time of the affair, when I had told him I was quitting and the assets would be split and he realised he’d lose the convenience of our relationship. And I wanted to be in a relationship where I was more than that to someone. So, yeah, I think most of regret something, whether it’s staying too long, or putting up with the shit they gave us before Dday that they we inevitably see down the line. But we’re all human, and we do the best we can at the time with the toolbox we’ve got at the time.
“This was happy ending massage parlour schmoopie who considered herself a good role model, and there was no way in hell that I was letting her near my child. So I felt I had to stay to limit the fallout from cheaters horrendously poor judgement as well.”
Yikes! I totally get that.
” … he gave me an STD that he still insists was caught from a dirty toilet at work.”
It’s 2023, for cryin’ out loud. And people are still using that one?
Regretful, as CL says, there is no reason to keep what you went through secret. I’m not suggesting you call up everyone FW knows and tell them, but feel free to tell people in your life. If it gets back to FW’s circle and he’s exposed, so be it.
Btw, staying for three years is minor league chumpdom. We have chumps here who stayed for 10, 20 and more. Cut yourself some slack. It’s hard to let go of somebody you have loved, even if that person proves undeserving.
My first d-day was year 4. I had a new baby and my stbx was a master blameshifter. I endured many more d-days, promises, and apologies. I stayed 40 more years. Instead of blaming myself for staying so long, I try to focus on my amazing kids. They are the good thing that came out of that mirage of a marriage.
Join the club. Pretty much all of us want to kick our own asses for not leaving sooner.
The important thing is that you’re out now.
I read this letter and wondered if Regretful Chump is no contact with this jackass. I hope so.
Yes I “clicked” with my Narc too. I thought that was a special thing too. I was young and naive and hadnt had too many relationships. I had never felt about anyone the way I felt about him. It was all encompassing, felt like true love, I thought he was “the one”. I was smitten. It was intense. But me being 19 and not having had any “adult”, relationships, few boyfriends, had no idea.
I came to understand over time that he “clicked” with everyone he met. Super funny, attractive, intelligent and charming. Gay Men, women and transgendered folk alike, he all
“ clicked” with. Everyone came away thinking wow aint he something special? He made them feel special too! He really got them. It was special. I mean how many opportunities do you have in life to meet someone that special who you truly just” click” with?
Im sure some of them would say oh gosh darn what a nice guy, but hes happily married, thats too bad because I know we would have been great together. Others would say, we would be together if only that pesky wife would get out of the way! get terminal cancer or an accident. The gay men would say, shes a beard, the poor thing has no idea that hes gay! If he came out of the closet we would totally be together!
Still others would say, we “clicked” in that special way! Its so rare to meet someone who makes me feel like that. And yes I know he said hes married, but he didnt say happily and he seems receptive, and you know what? Relationships overlap in life. All my relationships overlap! And my other 2 spouses let me down! They started off so well, but I can tell this one will be different. For one thing hes cuter, thinner, funnier, smarter, more successful. This is meant to be because we “clicked” and it feels special!
What a load of BS! After one of my D Days I said to him, you know I just realized, that you “click” with everyone. I thought it was a special thing with us, buts its not. Not at all, because its with everyone. He reassured me that he choose me. Said I was his ideal woman. Had never felt the same about any other woman, thats why he always came back to me, and wanted to grow old with me. Ha! Said and did all the right things. Hes choosing me, I won the prize. You feel placated, you want your life not to change. But life is always changing. Thats the only constant. Then one day you wake up and realize you dont trust any thing he says. How is that workable? Thats Meh. Thats very freeing, when you can let go of the BS.
So you got involved with a married man ?
I don’t think that’s what she meant. Maybe I’m missing something but I assume she was voicing the attitudes of other people towards her marriage.
I didn’t pick that up anywhere in what poster wrote.
She was clearly imagining what all the other persons he “clicked” with, felt.
i need a t-shirt that says DO NOT WEAR THE SHAME.
He wasn’t “loving and supportive” when he agreed it was your issues that allowed you to accept his behaviour. That is so horribly horribly manipulative and abusive. He was continuing to build that lovely traumatic bond in you that allows him to continue getting what he wants which is to abuse you. It’s not loving – it’s lies and it’s part of the package of abuse.
Perfectly stated 13yearsfree. The enjoyment is in the power and the control which is the goal of the abuse. Mirroring (“We just click so well!”) and blameshifting (“These are all your issues chump!”) are the FW tools that are used selectively and over time combine as powerful intermittent reinforcement tools used by the FWs, which makes a chump question their own instincts and their intuition. This keeps deepens the captor bond and keeps the chump super stuck. The cure is to urgently deploy the Run Run Run tool as CL so wisely says.
*keeps / deepens
Maybe this falls under the sunk costs category – but I know what kept me hanging on as long as I did, (as long as I didn’t know about the affair, that’s what finally made me quit) was our children. Every time I reached my limit on “this relationship is no longer acceptable to me”, I would look at them, envision telling them I was leaving their dad, breaking up their home/family, and I couldn’t do it.
There is a wonderful book called “How He Gets Inside Her Head” by Don Hennessey. I have read a lot (a LOT–I work in a bookstore) of self-help books and besides ChumpLady’s book this is the only one that gets 100% rating from me. (Some others I’d give 95% since they are also very good but this one is GREAT.) I highly recommend it.