Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Why Isn’t She HAPPY Now?

Hi Chump Lady,

So my wife had an affair and after being found out asked for a trial separation. She said she had been “struggling with her feelings for me”, that whilst I was a great dad and someone she admired, she had changed and we had “drifted apart”. Yadda yadda yadda. I told her to make it permanent since she evidently didn’t want to save our marriage. She at least had the humanity to agree.

So here’s the thing: She said, although it was hard to see me so hurt by her actions, she couldn’t allow my reaction to “emotionally blackmail” her. Here was her logic:

  1. The fact she cheated must mean she wasn’t happy in the marriage (she couldn’t actually come up with anything I’d done wrong).
  2. If she wasn’t happy in the marriage, then she would only make the kids and I miserable and she’d just keep trying to cheat.
  3. Ergo, it was better we separated so she could at least be happy with her Twu Luv and I could be happy with someone else. (Not that she had much choice at that point, what with me saying “no more cake”).

Within a fortnight her Schmoopie had left his wife too. True Love Rejoice! They could finally date each other properly!

So why is it, three months later, I find our Switzerland Friends are sending her pity presents? That they are concerned because Drifting Wife is Suffering So Much.

I never got pity presents. I never got cards saying, “You’ll get through it, Chump!”

I’m sorry, but didn’t someone say they wanted out because they were unhappy? And that getting out and being with their Twu Luv would take them straight up the road to Happysville? That’s the Perfectly Reasonable Argument, yeah? And, the kicker is, by all accounts they’re still all loved up with each other. Her Schmoopie’s chump tells me he can’t stop blathering on about her (she’s stuck living with him at the moment, sadly). I’m pretty sure crushing reality will emerge one day, but it hasn’t yet.

Am I being unreasonable to want to shout: “HOW DARE YOU BE MISERABLE!!”?

I mean, she chose this outcome. She nuked our family, and that of her Twu Luv’s, because they could not bear to be unhappy. And yet, not only is she not happy, she’s apparently even more unhappy.

My brain would hurt if it wasn’t so furious.




Dear Billy,

Ah yes, the If-You-Didn’t-Want-to-Go-to-Chicago-Why’d-You-Get-on-the-Train? dilemma.

I must go to Chicago! Only in Chicago will all my dreams come true! I have purchased a one-way ticket to Chicago! I have boarded the train! Behold as I embark on an epic journey of self-discovery! Farewell, losers! (Throws glitter to the masses.)

(Trains stops in Chicago.)


I know, it’s maddening. You’re a chump, so you assume people who board trains to Chicago want to go to Chicago. And that people who leave their marriages to pursue Greater Happiness were unhappy and desired happiness. But the goal was never Chicago — which is a real place, with sights and smells and subzero gusts off frozen lakes — it was impression management. The promise of Somewhere Different. Of easy change without hard work. Of how one looks on the train platform in a fedora. Dashing? Mysterious? A star in one’s own biopic? But then the train actually leaves and deposits them.

And suddenly the reality of Chicago isn’t at all as it appeared in the brochures. It’s cold there. It smells like a stockyard. And they kind of miss Loserville. Chicago doesn’t make hotdogs the same as Loserville. And the taxes were lower in Loserville…

Couldn’t they just ask themselves why they got on a train to Chicago? No. That’s too honest. Instead, they feel dissatisfaction through the lens of injustice. Were they unhappy in Loserville? I’m sure that was your fault. Well, there’s unhappiness sometimes in Chicago too. Heads must roll.

So they start looking at other train schedules and deny they ever really intended to go to Chicago. It just happened.

How they discuss The Chicago Decision really just depends on the audience — and what they need from that person. To love them?  To go away? To try harder to please them? To give them pretty presents?

Charm? OMG, I’m so fabulous to be living in Chicago! It’s been a journey of EPIC self-discovery and I bought a snow globe! Follow me on Instagram!

Rage? How DARE you judge me for going to Chicago! That bad man made me buy a ticket! I was kidnapped! Forced against my will to board that train!

Self-pity? I am so sad and alone. A little puddle of sadness on the shores of Lake Michigan. How did I get here? Won’t someone buy me a pierogie?

See how that works?

So why is it, three months later, I find our Switzerland Friends are sending her pity presents? That they are concerned because Drifting Wife is Suffering So Much.

The easy answer is because they’re fuckwits who don’t share your values. (Hey, public service announcement — people who cheat on their spouses and abandon their children do not deserve gift baskets!)

But also understand, you’re not the only one she mindfucks. Mindfuckery is her basic operating system. And of all the channels on mindfuck TV (rage, charm, self-pity), self-pity is the most powerful.

Most people, especially chumps, are disarmed by self-pity. It can be hard to distinguish distress (Oh no! Someone’s in crisis! I must help!) from self-pity. (“I has a sadz.”) Self-pity is deflection from one’s own terrible choices. It’s not very deep as introspection goes, and its basic message is TAKE CARE OF ME! I CANNOT ADULT!

But as manipulation goes, it has hooks. The chump or Swiss friend or innocent bystander who swoops in can tell themselves they’re a hero who has a hanky/can save the day/has money to loan/can fix this just-stop-crying!

Fact is, a lot of people don’t stand back and look at the big pictures through the lens of basic moral values. They wonder how’d they look in a cape.

I never got pity presents. I never got cards saying, “You’ll get through it, Chump!”

You know why, Billy? Because you’re STRONG. Because you’re not manipulative. Because you’re probably reacting to this adversity with private suffering and stiff-upper-lip-ishness. You’re doing things, like caring for your children and I hope calling a divorce lawyer.

And where fuckwits see strength and competence, they think “Hmm, Billy can’t be suffering that much.” And they also think, thanks to your cheater’s narrative, “Billy is the Bad Man who made Ms. Sadz unhappy!”

Ergo, no presents for Billy.

So Billy, here’s your gift — Freedom. It’s monogrammed and everything.

Quit untangling her skein, if she’s happy or unhappy, or registering over at Sparkletwats R US. The woman just isn’t that deep. “Unhappiness” doesn’t make you lift wallets or cheat on your family — lousy character does.

You’re getting her out of your life. Yea! That freedom looks good on you. Wear it proudly.


Enjoy this Chump Lady classic while I’m on vacation.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “Here’s your gift — Freedom. It’s monogrammed and everything.” YES!!!!! It’s worth more than anything else. Is she happy? Miserable? Who cares???? It’s not your circus anymore. You are OUT.

    But here’s why your stbx is unhappy – she thought EXTERNAL things would solve her problems. But the problem was and is HER. Wherever you go, there you are.

    The same happened with my exFW. He thought OW would solve his deep unhappiness. Clearly it was MY fault he was miserable. It was MY fault he hadn’t achieved his goals and dreams. It was MY fault he felt badly about himself. It was MY fault he had no money. So he left for a woman who flattered him and thought the sun shone out his ass. They’d had an affair for four years (lying to me the whole time) and they were finally out in the open and moving in together and it was all going to be wonderful.

    Except it wasn’t. It never had been. FW moved in with her, and realized he was still broke, unhappy, and working a job he didn’t like that much (that job was also going to “solve everything” because obviously it was his LAST job that was making him miserable…). They fought constantly, they didn’t have enough money (because he was bad with money, not because they didn’t have good incomes), OW expected FW to pull his weight with childcare, housework is a thing, etc. FW was still who he was, which was an abusive, angry, depressed, miserable alcoholic. Except now, instead of a having a faithful, responsible spouse (me) managing things for him, he had a flighty, mentally unstable, highly anxious, much younger, alcoholic, cheating woman as his “partner”. Three kids instead of one. Her ex husband. Two custody schedules that didn’t always align to give them child-free sexy time. Legal bills for his divorce. The list goes on. He took his misery out on OW and she left him, three whole WEEKS after they set up their “happy” home and blended family. Even before they moved in together, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. OW had tried to kill herself (she survived). They had an oops pregnancy and got an abortion, which damaged OW’s mental health. My son would report that daddy had kept him awake because he was on the phone screaming at OW. But FW and OW still thought the other was the answer to all their problems. OW said she left her husband because he was controlling and emotionally abusive. She jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire by getting with my husband.

    FW just never connected the dots that it was his abusive treatment of me that cooled my romantic feelings for him. You can’t call your wife fat, stupid, and ugly and then be surprise she doesn’t want to have sex with you as much (especially if you never even apologize to her). You can’t corner her and scream in her face, throw furniture at her, break her belongings, and wonder why she doesn’t hold your hand anymore. Even when OW left for the same reasons, his response was “all women are crazy” and “why are these women both falsely accusing me of DV?” No personal responsibility whatsoever.

    Happiness comes from within, and I think cheaters never understand this. That’s why they have affairs in the first place – thinking a change of scenery, or a fling on the side, or a new “honeymoon” phase – will solve their problems. Make them feel less trapped, less stagnant, more vital, younger, happier, whatever. It doesn’t work. And so they are miserable people still.

    My ex couldn’t take it, and took his own life. He never thought about changing his behavior, making amends, repairing what he’d broken, getting therapy. He blamed circumstances and other people to his dying breath.

    • You certainly did see the light! A fine synopsis of the FW story with specific examples but can applied universally. I’m years out but this story, with different details, is my story and it would have made a world a difference if I understood then what you are sharing. This is a public service announcement to all new chumps – thanks ISawTheLight

      • Fern, I came here to say pretty much the same thing, but your eloquent comment is just perfect. I’m in total agreement.

    • “FW just never connected the dots that it was his abusive treatment of me that cooled my romantic feelings for him”

      One would think that should be SO obvious. Scream at me, criticize me, do nothing to help me with any of the workload and then you cheat and claim it was because you weren’t feeling adored. Well, I ran myself ragged while tip toeing over eggshells for a few decades. I was too exhausted to make sure your inordinately large ego was well fed. And god knows I was not feeling adored myself, yet it would never of crossed my mind to cheat.

      I also do have concerns that mine will end his life too. I don’t want that to happen, but I also know if it does, it will not be my fault. I really think that when we actually GET to the divorce, and he has the freedom he so desperately wants, he will realize that he blew his life up for nothing. I don’t think he will regret losing ME (well other than him having to do his own laundry/errands/cleaning etc). I just know that I am actually NOT the cause of his unhappiness. But he won’t know that until he gets to the other side of all this. He’ll be the same unhappy person, but more isolated, and less financially stable. Being free to date can’t possibly live up to what his imagination has promised him.

      • Intimacy requires openess.

        Cheaters are never honest, so by definition, are never open. It will never dawn on a cheater why they will always lack intimacy. They will just keep blaming the chump.

    • One thing that stands out to me from this very sad story is that your ex was on a downhill slide from alcohol alone. As someone who was married to a dedicated, lifelong alcoholic, I learned that their judgment can be so impaired by alcohol that they are literally delusional. Their executive functioning is often highly compromised. And the cheating may come out of the fact that as the addiction progresses, they prefer other addicts to their sober enablers. I’m sorry your ex committed suicide; that’s a kind of desperate last abusive act, leaving behind so much damage.

      • He was also addicted to prescription pain killers, though he would be furious if it was ever suggested (somehow he always managed to have another “accident” right when his last prescription was running out).

        In the end it was sleeping pills and scotch that killed him. He’d been trying unsuccessfully to end his life for months. He’d severely damamged his body. It didn’t even take all that much in the end to do him in. He left a long note where he made himself out to be a victim of everyone and everything, dying a martyr to circumstance.

  • I’m a bit confused by the letter writer’s narrative, though things are often unclear at only three months out. Sounds like the FW wife got the separation she wanted. Her AP’s living arrangement is unclear. No mention of where children are living. Is it in a hastily arranged rental with their mother? Is that the reason for the “presents”?

    Presumably, it’s more sorted out now. A good reminder that FW’s happiness is not relevant when making decisions following betrayal. That also means there is no need to keep their secrets from family, close friends or lawyers.

    • It seemed clear to me. Billy states that AP’s original wife was stuck living with AP still (when this post was first written). Who knows if he’ll actually ever leave.
      If FW can’t furnish her own place, I guess she should’ve thought about that before she blew up two families.

    • Hi I’m the original poster and can clarify: when we split I moved into a flat 10 minutes away whilst she stayed in the family home (we mutually agreed this would be best for the kids). I took the kids 40% of the time as I was keen to coparent as much as possible (I worked full time, she didn’t). In a way, I felt this worked out very well for her, as she got to split her time being a full time mum with having free child care for a few nights to be dating schmoopy.

      He moved in during the pandemic and has stayed there ever since. In fairness my kids like him which, whilst shit sandwich for me, is better than the alternative of them living with someone who they can’t stand.

      But yeah… it added to the sense, at the time, of “everyone is adapting to suit your needs yet you’re the victim why??”

  • This is a very timely. I just got a whole blame shifting email from FWex yesterday. His life is ruined and it is all my fault! They all have the same playbook, and I am sure there are multiple chapters that go into detail on how to play the sad sausage and blame the chump. He made his choices and he did what he wanted. I did not have a choice in it or agency. I have no blame in his decisions.
    It is never their fault. I also like how they think their life will improve without the chump (in my case he also got no contact from his son) and then it doesn’t give them the happiness he thought. One of his mantras during divorce was how he deserves to be happy at this point in his life. Well he supposedly got rid of the problems that held him back but why isn’t he happy? I guess he has to live with himself and look at himself in the mirror.

    • My ex was absolutely gobsmacked that our divorce did not immediately result in his absolute joy. A friend once told me it was because “No matter where he goes, there he is”. It is likely also why I was able to be happy again, and marry again, and find happiness. Because I wasn’t looking for it outside myself. Yeah, my husband is part of my happiness, but he isn’t my source of happiness.
      My ex has had a string of “relationships”, including one engagement he managed to completely sabotage, but never seems to have found his “happiness”. Our child turns 18 in a couple of years and I don’t have to even entertain a single message from him again after that. I used to think it would be a day of celebration about that for me, but really, I just don’t care. At 50, I highly doubt he’ll ever figure it all out but it is no longer my concern. I’m busy being engulfed in a life I’ve built for myself and my family.

    • During the divorce my FW kept saying “it’s my turn to be a little selfish for a change,” which was jaw-dropping, considering that EVERYTHING in our almost 40-year relationship had been centered around his preferences and needs.

      At the conclusion of legal proceedings, he proclaimed he was going to “win me back.”

      This is not a game, and I am not an object.

      FW blew up our lives because he couldn’t let go of Schmoopie, so I said, “Go. Be free!”

      FW’s new life with Schmoopie didn’t work out – quelle surprise! I imagine it’s because she saw behind his mask and figured she’d be better off running back to her husband and children. OW’s husband had told me that he was going to fight for her, so I guess he won the pick me dance. It’s sad that his reward is living the remainder of his marriage under the cloud of betrayal trauma.

      FW, alone and middle-aged, is apparently, very unhappy. Seeming to believe that I’d be delighted to be his backup plan, he’s reaching out to me with invitations for “just a cup of coffee”& “how about a friendly dinner.”

      Oh FFS 🤦🏽‍♀️ The delusion, the entitlement!

      I’ve been following an artist on TikTok @alanahdontwanna who is rewriting church music with therapeutic words. Each day I sing her song:

      I love my life
      And I celebrate
      How much I’ve grown since I walked away
      I take up space
      And I choose my steps
      All of me is beautiful
      And I deserve rest


      • “FW, alone and middle-aged, is apparently, very unhappy. Seeming to believe that I’d be delighted to be his backup plan, he’s reaching out to me with invitations for “just a cup of coffee”& “how about a friendly dinner.””

        Oh lord, I got the same after schmoopie left him (she, too, eventually saw behind the mask and RAN for the hills). When I’d drop off my son, FW would invite me to stay for a barbeque, or he’d invite me to go bowling with them. I declined every offer. Why, oh why, would I want to do any of that with my abusive, cheating ex? But I’m sure he was surprised I didn’t want him back (I did pick-me dance in the beginning, but then once I got hard evidence of the affair, I detached emotionally from him, and found happiness on my own). I guess he thought I’d wait around for him forever. LOL.

    • Oh, the FW’s happiness! It’s central to all of our chumpy lives. We accommodate and accommodate and still, it usually seems to be the reason they cheat. My FW kept repeating that he realized how unhappy he was and didn’t he deserve to be happy?? Maybe if he’d said something before embarking on 7 YEARS of cheating we could’ve done something about it. But no, he finally confessed because he wasn’t as happy as he should’ve been and now he’s confessed so he should be delirious, no? Weirdly, he seems more depressed than ever. I.DO.NOT.CARE. I care about my happiness and our daughter’s happiness. Two things that never crossed his mind while he was out sleeping with everyone to find his own depraved version of happiness.

  • Sparkletwats R Us 🤣 I’ve always watched the “weeping females” get taken to dinner, brought casseroles, and shored up with happy hour cocktails; while I was always told “you’re strong we know that you’ll get through it”. It can be unfair because sometimes I would like a casserole too. I finally realized that I needed to tell people straight up “hey I could really use a casserole right now”. It’s more refreshing & honest than being passive & manipulative (which I’m sure is your ex-wife’s approach). Learning to speak up for your needs is a big part of slaying FWs too!!

    • I actually had one Switzerland friend tell me it was my fault my husband left me, I wasn’t giving it up enough, he was such a sad sausage, etc. Then he ended up crashing on THEIR couch and she started complaining about how him being there was causing issues in HER marriage. They divorced within a year and she ate some serious crow, but yeah, I never got the casserole. I’m good with that. I got the life. 🙂

      • “I never got the casserole…I got the life.”

        As a person who has spent her whole life as “the strong one” people count on, the person who just gets on with it and does the things that have to be done because, you know, what other choice is there, and who, like “Never Again,” has sometimes wanted someone to just bring me a casserole, I needed to read this sentiment, and I will store it up and remember it.

      • Also adding, that’s not a Switzerland friend. Having the audacity to tell you it was your fault your husband left you? That’s more like Vichy France

  • This bunch of Switzerland friends were not his friends. She had poisoned their minds for years about how unhappy she had been. Their pity gifts come from believing the lies. She moans about guilt. Generally speaking I think cheaters are chronic whiners who will never be satisfied.

  • It has been my experience that people who are unhappy have the choice to blame someone else, or to become self -aware of why they are “always” unhappy. If the unhappiness comes from within, they have to make changes. It is so much easier to blame someone else for all your problems and unhappiness.

    I am not saying that being around someone who is toxic will ever lead to your happiness. I am saying you have a choice to leave the toxic person behind. If I am unhappy with my job, I can examine my reasons for unhappiness. If it is the actual work, and I feel the desire to do another kind of work, I must be qualified for that work, and it must be available. If it is the toxic personalities I work with, my only escape is to leave those personalities. I must be the one to determine if I am ready and able to change jobs. Those things can generally be fixed. I cannot fix a toxic personality. I can search for a way to leave the personality behind. Self-awareness leads to self-actualization. It is doubtful your situation will miraculously change without any effort on your part.

    It is not your job to worry about why another person is unhappy. That is their job. Let them be responsible for their own happiness. I am sure you have plenty of other tasks that need your attention.

    • Portia, my therapist and I talked about this ‘unhappiness’ syndrome in relation to my mother. I identified my mother as a profoundly unhappy woman from a young age (which I’m told I would have been able to do from day 1 on the planet). Inevitably the ex was unhappy in himself in the same way as my mother. I’m a profoundly happy person. Both my mother and the ex consistently blame/blamed others for their unhappiness. My therapist explains this as you do. She says that they carry such significant wounds to their egos that they physically cannot bring themselves to the point where they look at how they contribute to and cause their unhappiness. They know the truth in a deep part of themselves. But looking at that truth is too painful because it involves probing the original wound. They can’t face that pain even for a long term gain. In my therapist’s experience, very few people who consistently blame and condemn others for their own failings ever look at the wound. They carry on blaming others, and they quickly believe what they tell themselves because it’s their defence against the world. It works for them internally at a shallow level, so they do it again, and again. The learned behaviour becomes part of the character. It becomes who they are. The unhappiness is the deep part of themselves which is niggling away saying ‘you’re not right’. That’s another wound to the ego, and the cycle goes on. How could you ever be happy in those circumstances. It is a horrible way to live. A red flag for me now is when I say to myself ‘I want to make you happy’, which I said throughout the 26 years of marriage and 63 years of life. I have to stop, and remind myself that I can’t heal anyone else’s wound. I’m responsible for healing my wound. If I make progress with that, I will be more consistently happy.

      • Relatives on both sides of my family tree have significant indicators for depression and alcoholism and several types of cancer. My dad’s side also contributes diabetes and weak bones. They were working class folks, who had to physically work hard to survive. Maybe their cultural problems made them more susceptible to those diseases. Maybe it was their attitude toward life. Oddly, there were few who complained. Most of them just got up every day expecting to work until it was time for bed. They were content to have a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. They never talked about being happy.

        My parents went to school and became teachers. They also had a strong work ethic that they passed on to their children. Neither of them ever seemed happy about anything. They expected to work, they provided for their family, but nothing the children did was ever enough. Nothing they achieved themselves was ever enough. They didn’t blame other people most of the time, but they were not really self-aware either. Neither was willing to define what it would take to make them happy, and then work towards that goal. Both would set goals for work, or goals for security, but not for happiness.

        Discontent seemed normal to me. Dysfunction seemed normal to me. But somehow, some way, I developed hope and the desire to be happy. When I realized I was unhappily married, I looked for ways to make things better (fix it). I examined my parents and FOO attitudes, and decided I wanted change in my life. I was willing to work on myself and my goals. When I discovered I was a chump, I decided my marriage was something I could do without, and when I was chumped again, I decided I could do without marriage. All along the way I worked on ways to make myself happy, peaceful, content, and ultimately joyful. I believe in the Pursuit of Happiness. I don’t blame other people for my problems, but I did learn other people can cause problems I can live without.

        I think you should praise your attitude and revel in your learned wisdom! Don’t worry about past mistakes, or your age. You don’t become wise without experience, and you don’t get experience without aging. You have learned some great truths, and you want to be happy. Bravo! Well done!

        • And THIS is why I read here every day, years after my (at the time) traumatic divorce. Thank you both, portia and Mighty Warrior, for your words of wisdom and revelation. I get multiple phone calls daily from two chronically unhappy family members who are constantly ruminating on their perceived misery. After decades of constantly hearing the same old gripes, I finally limited each caller to three minutes of carping followed by a mandatory feel-good grateful comment. Hoping they will skip the griping isn’t realistic, but my insistence on the required good news has made me dread their calls much, much less. Not hopeful that they’ll miraculously become sunshiny personalities, but at least I’ve taken action and am now controlling how much I participate in their abysmally negative energy.

        • I actually spent my first years with my current therapist working on learning how to be happy. That also involved learning how to manage emotion in general–being aware of what I was feeling in the moment, learning to attach that feeling to what I was responding to, and finally learning that no emotional state is forever. Now, I’m not talking here about clinical issues like depression (which I am also prone to) but rather how to notice moments of joy (hey, look at those geese overhead! Or how great is it that I have a moment to walk outside in the sunshine?). Part of that work for me was learning to be grateful, even when things look bleak and (as the great country songwriter Pat Green wrote) “troubles pile up big in your own backyard.”

          For me, I got to a happy life by living in the moment as much as possible, by taking control of my own emotional infrastructure, and by practicing gratitude. There may be other paths, but my own therapist encouraged me to pay attention, to notice those happy moments–and eventually to notice what Is “happy” for me.

  • “…people who cheat on their spouses and abandon their children do not deserve gift baskets!”

    Send this to my x! He feels 100% deserving of pity. He’s somehow incapable of appreciating that the one who tossed the grenade can’t complain that there was an explosion.

    I knew that man for over 35 years and would bet money that he is still standing there, holding the pin, and feeling sorry for himself because he thinks he’s being unfairly punished for simply “falling in love” and “wanting to be happier.”

    But relying on an externals for happiness and to fend off his internal demons may have backfired. He was willing to lose me (obvi), but he traded in his entire family and most of his friends for this much-younger AP. I wonder if it was worth it.

    No doubt his internal demons remain.

    Oof. I’m almost tempted to send him a gift basket.

    • Last words I said to ex when he came by 2 days after divorce decree was signed to pick up the last of his crap, “I just hope in the end that this was all worth it to you.” He sheepishly walked away. I have no idea if it was worth it as that was almost 11 years ago. I did learn through the grapevine that the OWhore dumbed him right after dday but that he when on to marry a woman who wasn’t born when we married.

  • In my experience the character disordered are never happy with anything for long. A car/house/job/spouse. The lustre comes off and they start yet another search for the next ‘big thing’.

    In the meanwhile they scapegoat other, and play the victim.

  • My ex left over five years ago to live many states away, and there are still two people I have occasional contact with who are all about what “a poor soul” he is and ask me about his well-being. Note that these two people also haven’t been at all in contact with him (I’ve asked), so the question is indeed a bit odd. These were not people we were close to. They knew that the situation was devastating to me but remain on his team — yes, despite not having any contact with him at all. The divorce was final just before the pandemic. I haven’t been part of a couple in a long time.

    I came to realize that they have their own significant issues and keep them at arm’s length. In many ways, those who are close to me drastically changed post-divorce anyway. The people I have coffee with, celebrate birthdays with, and who text me that they miss me when I’m out of town are all post-divorce friends.

    Yes, things change.

    • I have met a few acquaintances like this. I think it’s strange that they seem to want to show how “caring” they are by asking about the XH but in reality they are dimwits who don’t realize that a divorce is devastating to everyone in the family. I don’t need to satisfy their curiosity. That’s all it really is – curiosity, and they are exceptionally impolite to ask ME about how he’s doing. As if he was my loving husband and was in the hospital with pneumonia!

  • “Most people, especially chumps, are disarmed by self-pity. It can be hard to distinguish distress (Oh no! Someone’s in crisis! I must help!) from self-pity. (“I has a sadz.”) Self-pity is deflection from one’s own terrible choices. It’s not very deep as introspection goes, and its basic message is TAKE CARE OF ME! I CANNOT ADULT!”

    It is flat out stunning, just how very much I needed this message today, this very second. Just so incredibly timely. And not even in regards to an intimate relationship.

    Chumps (many of us) still have a chump button that can get pushed, especially in tough times, no matter how much wisdom we gain or how mighty we’ve become. It’s a constant maintenance issue, lifelong.

    I was making the right choices, but I lacked the self-supporting conviction I needed to feel
    that sense of reasonableness that counteracts the constant soul-crushing second guessing so many of us know so well. This paragraph, in this time and place, is a balm to my soul.

    Thanks, CL.

    • Here’s an experiment: the next time someone starts a self-pity Woe Is Me routine where it’s clear their own choices are in play, calmly ask them “wow, that’s rough. What do you think you’re going to do about that?”

      Watch how quickly the channel shifts to rage.

    • This is why I read every day even though my divorce was well over a decade ago and I have a happy life now.

      • Yes, this site and the people who come and go, as well as the long-timers, is really a kind of graduate school for healthy life.

  • Just a thought, but if B-N-P’s Ex cheated because she was unhappy, and left him because she was unhappy and – shock horror – is still unhappy …. then perhaps his Ex should consider that she was the problem all along? But we all know that this won’t happen, because Cheaters are always short on self-examination.

    B-N-P should remind himself that his Ex’s happiness is a “her problem” not a “him problem.”


  • Message to all Chumps: you are entitled to have your ‘reactions’, and to express them, regardless of whether cheaters appreciate your ‘reactions’ and the expression of them or not. If they feel at risk of being ‘emotionally blackmailed’ by your reactions, that’s their problem to resolve with themselves. I am heartily sick of cheaters telling Chumps how they ‘should’ react, feel, express themselves, behave and so on, ad infinitum. Ex said that I made ‘other people feel very, very uncomfortable’. This was said to make me behave in a different way, to lose confidence in myself, to make life easier for him. It’s manipulation. You can’t cheat without manipulating a situation, second by second, to help you achieve your objective whatever the twisted idea of an objective in a cheater’s head might be. ‘Manipulation’ means ‘exercising unscrupulous control or influence over a person or situation’. Note that word ‘unscrupulous’. They lie; that’s manipulation. They will stop at nothing to get what they want; that’s manipulation. Billy was showing his cheater the door. She didn’t want to be shown the door so quickly and easily, so she tries some advanced manipulation by telling Billy what he means by his reaction and what she cannot allow to happen. This is unsettling because Chumps are characterised by fairness. They stop to think, ‘am I possibly emotionally blackmailing the cheater’ and they change their behaviour if they decide that they are (which they will because Chumps always blame themselves first). UNHAPPY CHEATER , BILLY DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOU AND HE WANTS YOU TO LEAVE NOW! IS THAT CLEAR ENOUGH FOR YOU.

    • Found this on reactive abuse from
      What is ‘reactive abuse’
      “Reactive abuse,” aka self-defense, is a term used to describe the behavior when a victim of abuse reacts to their abuse in a self-defensive way.

      The victim might scream, say insults, or even physically harm their abuser, says Elizabeth Jarquin, a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice and adjunct professor at Northcentral University.

      The point here is that the victim is not instigating the abuse, they have reached a breaking point and are reacting to prolonged abuse.

      • I understand the reaction to the actual abuser. But what if the victim with RA starts abusing another person who did not harm them? I’m thinking about child abuse, or domestic violence, or lashing out at siblings. They perpetuate the original abuse, and don’t even seem to realize that the monster has consumed them and they are now the monster. At what point do they self-assess and take corrective action? Or, is it even possible for them to learn a new behavior if they have reached a breaking point?

        I can understand the influences that create the problems and that it may well have a genetic link. But they have to become self-aware and choose to stop the abuse. In this case, I think it may be flight or fight, and in all likelihood, flight is ultimately better for them.

  • Chumps shouldn’t assume ‘happiness’ based upon the longevity of the FW’S relationship. After all character does matter. A teenaged adult (man child) paired with an explosive AP with a long arrest record isn’t bliss; it’s karma. Long live that pairing.

    It’s been over 8 years and the oneness of a serial cheater with a bar ho alienated adult children and grand children. At some point the audience disappears and they are stuck in the grave they dug.

    He will ALWAYS be a serial cheater and she will ALWAYS alienate healthy adults with her abrasive abuse. Freedom is bliss.

  • Who in the hell gives pity presents to people who, of their own free will and for the sake of so-called happiness, leave their spouses?
    That’s even crazier than being a FW.
    Something tells me this FW told her friends a different version of the story than what really happened. Like;
    “He kicked me out because he was irrationally jealous of Bob. Bob was just a friend then. After my husband callously threw me in the street, Bob was kind enough to help me out, and so we fell in love.”

  • When your core person is unhappy, and you dont recognize that, instead of focusing on yourself you focus on external stimuli. Thats what narcs do try to fill themselves up with others, and no introspection or self awareness. That would threaten them. The subconscious is in the drivers seat.

    I think they can be distracted from unhappines if they are working towards a goal. Like hey once I get married and have kids, I will feel content. Once I get my Phd I will be happy and can really live. I know when I finished my post graduate work and training, I all of a sudden had alot of free time just working, and took me awhile to calm down not be flight or fight to baseline normal life. But I looked around and was happy. I liked my job I liked being married loved my kids. I felt happy and content.

    Imagine you worked towards a goal, completed your goal then looked around and felt dissatisfied. You are like Im unhappy. This was supposed to make me feel complete and happy and I dont. So maybe I start moving around alot to try and feel whole. Move jobs, move people, and after few weeks or months the happiness doesnt kick in so you move again. Always seeking, looking for that elusive happiness, contentment. Its like an epic saga. Except that at the end of the story they dont realize the error of their ways they dont look back at the havoc they wreaked burning down villages, and have their AHA ! moment. No realizing the error of their ways.

    I would pity them, I have pitied them until they start destroying me and my world and I have MY AHA! moment. Then you realize they are a hopeless case. You gotta let them go. There is no salvation for them. No redemption. They are not normal people.

  • “People risk everything on the hope that they can achieve joy by changing everything in their lives except themselves. They would like to press a button and have the old life go away and the new life appear. The human animal has an unfortunate tendency to identify the source of any unhappiness as coming from outside itself. The fault, as Cassius informed Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Our unhappiness is not in our marriages, but within us. Changing about our lives leaves everything important still the same, because we are the important factors in our lives, and we are the one thing left unchanged.”

    -Frank Pittman
    Private Lies
    (p. 250)

    Stick with the winners. If you find out your romantic partner is cheating, you’ve just been given hard proof that they are not a winner.

    Side pieces are not winners either, nor is anyone who engages in deceitful harm to others.

    • All relationships have issues. There were things I was unhappy about. My responses were to look at myself and talk with him. His responses were to lie, ignore me when I spoke up, maintain a secret double life, or not say anything.

      There was no relationship there. There was no chance for a successful marriage. It was a mirage.

      I’ve had a therapist in my life since I was 22, both of whom were extremely helpful to me. When we got together, he joined me physically in therapy but evidently chose to behave deceptively in that setting. He was like a childwho doesn’t want to eat but wants to make it LOOK like he’s eating by pushing food around on the plate.

      The credibility rating of a cheater is less than zero. This extends to their claims of “unhappiness”, as evidenced by their ongoing presence. There were no locks on the doors, firearms, or restraints keeping him here.

      When I am unhappy with a restaurant, I don’t keep going back there.

      • Blame, as many of us know, is also the number one response from a cheater.

        Last night I was watching a program about the Phoenix Sniper, Dale Hausner, local Nice Guy, who had shared custody of his toddler daughter. His arrest floored everyone who knew him. No criminal record whatsoever. One of the detectives said that it’s necessary for a serial killer to be very good at maintaining a double life so they can continue to offend. This is true for cheaters as well. The Nice Guy/Gal is the cover. The lying and cheating tells the tale of who they really are.

        • I know from experience that vacationing somewhere is very different from living there.

          Illicit relationships are an escapist vacation from the real life, and very different experience of a legitimate committed relationship.

          A unwitting chump is the most important piece of the construct of an illicit relationship. Without a chump, there is no more forbidden fruit dupers delight dopamine.

          The best response is to step aside and let them have real life.

          In chess, the Queen has the most power of any piece on the board.

          In an illicit relationship, the chump is the most important piece on the board, ironically exercising that power when you exit the game.

          • “A unwitting chump is the most important piece of the construct of an illicit relationship. Without a chump, there is no more forbidden fruit dupers delight dopamine.”

            Great point. It explains why FWs get so angry when you leave them and give them what they supposedly want. It’s a huge let-down for them when the triangle is no more. Of course they are never going to be happy. Real life will always disappoint them.

            • That chumps are the “most important piece of the construct in an illicit relationship” fascinates me. And I love how VH points out that our true power comes when we exit the game, removing what made the affair so “fun.” A Queen’s Gambit of a different sort.

              I’d be interested in learning whether cheaters realize this later one. But I suppose that would require some self-awareness….

              Perhaps this is why so many end up cheating again. They want to recapture that frisson of excitement that comes from sneaking around.

              I get my thrills in other ways. Recently, my 3 yo granddaughter grabbed my hand and told me she loves me. That’s the best “frisson” there is. ❤️

              • My daughter is sixteen. She is home from school with COVID. I am recovered and able to get to the grocery store. She called me to tell me she missed me and ask when I would be back. Beyond priceless. Traitor Ex will never get a phone call like that.

                But then, he’s the person who cared more about whether the side piece missed him.

  • In 1995, Asshat was in the military and we were living in Hawaii. We got together with a bunch of other people for Thanksgiving. I brought a sweet potato dish that my mother always made. I was surprised when people were coming back for seconds and it was eaten all up. I remember getting a feeling in my heart when someone gave me a compliment about my cooking. I guess I’d been devalued by Asshat for too long and even a simple acknowledgment felt wonderful. Anyway, this person and I started talking and he eventually looked at me and said “You’re not mean at all. You’re very nice”. And I thought, Asshat must tell everyone what a horrible person I am. Of course, it was later confirmed (in 2012) that he was having an affair during this time.

    Asshat has been playing the victim for years. I’m surprised we lasted 25 years. I think it has been a real shock to him that I’m not mean, but he has to maintain the facade. Mrs. Asshat is really the one who’s a demanding witch.

    Agree with CL 100%. Asshat jumped on a train and took his character with him (I kinda hope to see him derail one day, but I’m not holding my breath). Good riddance.

    • “You’re not mean at all. You’re very nice”

      WTF. Who says this to someone they don’t even know??

      I’m tempted to think this guy was covertly trying to warn you, otherwise his comment is too strange and inappropriate.

  • Freedom is the most important thing. The freedom we didn’t even realize we were missing, when we were in the clutches of a Fuckwit. They were so charming, or needy, or bossy, we were just trying to get through each day and be loyal! To hell with that, grab your freedom and go.
    I think most of these cheaters are narcissists, so once they leave, it can’t work out well, with their nasty outlook on life, and using everyone to boot. And after the presents, and the pity, their friends get sick of their shit, too. At least that’s what happened with mine, your results may vary.

  • ‘Hey, public service announcement — people who cheat on their spouses and abandon their children do not deserve ……..’

    Would make a Good Friday challenge
    Even without the abandon children part!

  • “wherever you go, there you are”

    Powerful words.

    I was side swiped out of FWs life. Replaced by a younger model who he could lie to more easily. I’d always call him out on any blatant bullshit. Shame I wasted time dancing for him. I stopped that as soon as it was all clear to me what he was up to. In the detonation he lost the respect of my adult children. Two out of the three see him…. rarely. The other saw through his facade and called him out on it. He didn’t like it so refused to meet her newborn baby…. bad move on his part because there was no way she was going to engage in the pick me dance. She dropped the rope and walked away. FW tries to manipulate the children against each other, yeah good luck with that!!

    I recently heard that while at work FW was punched due to him ‘touching up’ a woman. I guess once the mask slips it hits the floor and smashes. I’m sure he has a 1000 reasons why the woman was mistaken but it brings me back to “wherever you go, there you are”.

    Hugs to you all ❤️

    • Touching up a woman. Gross.

      “I guess once the mask slips it hits the floor and smashes.” Yep.I second this. x seems to no longer give a shit. He’s alienated a slew of people, including an accountant, a financial advisor, and his own lawyer. And these are just the ones I know about, and I’m NC. I guess once he realized the jig was up, he stopped pretending and let his furious, I-don’t-give-a-fuck flag fly.

      I’m so happy I’m no longer in that disordered person’s orbit. AP won that privilege. #notagbacks

    • “I was side swiped out of FWs life. Replaced by a younger model who he could lie to more easily. I’d always call him out on any blatant bullshit. Shame I wasted time dancing for him. I stopped that as soon as it was all clear to me what he was up to.”

      Exactly this.

  • I feel how being strong only gets you rewarded with neglect because “wE tHoUgHt YoU cOuLd HanDlE iT” while playing the victim and turning up the self-pity is seemingly what gets you actual support. It makes it tempting sometimes to throw in the towel and just start whining like a brat.

  • When this Chump wrote in, he was only 3 months or so into separation. It’s not surprising that he was still laser-focused on the cheater, the flying monkeys around her, and Schmoopie. But Meh (and happiness) comes from getting to the point where we don’t think about the cheater and the people around him or her and instead focus on ourselves, the life we are building, and the people we want to keep in our lives.

    That’s one of the hardest things about the aftermath of D-Day. We come face-to-face with the fact that we have “friendships” with people whose values aren’t in align with hours or whose character is not what it should be. We learn that we have acquaintances instead of friends or our friends are more attracted to disorder and dysfunction than solid character and mental health.

  • I remember for a long time resenting that my XW couldn’t even be a good winner.

    I understand being upset at losing (your job, your marriage, your kids, your life). But XW won: she got everything she wanted (new job, new town, new marriage) and lost nothing (still access to kids, and I am still picking up the parenting slack). And yet she is still angry.

    I’ve come to see, though, that she is basically an angry person. She can divorce me, but she’s still the same person. She has years of unvoiced, unresolved grievances with everyone she ever worked with, and (as I found out during the discard) she had years of unvoiced, unresolved grievances with me during our marriage. I’m confident that she is fast accumulating unvoiced, unresolved grievances with AP-now-husband, because that’s how she operates. If she manages to line up someone better she’ll swap him out for someone new, but I’m sure I (and he!) won’t have any idea until it has already happened.

    • I’ve come to understand that people accumulate grievances like that because of a thwarted sense of entitlement. It’s about others not meeting their unreasonable expectations based on what they imagine they, in their specialness, deserve. There’s an old expression about people who think the world owes them a living which fits this type of person.

  • Billy-No-Presents, you need to put yourself on an information diet about your ex. Who cares if she’s unhappy? Who cares if the AP is her Twu Wuv? You don’t need to hear about, or know, ANY of this. All you need to know is 1) issues related to the kids (Family Wizard is good for this) and 2) information about the divorce and attendant legal obligations (this should be filtered through your lawyer). Her emotional state and her relationships are No. Longer. Your. Problem.

    Anyone else telling you about your STBX and her problems should get cut off with “Hey, I don’t really need to hear about that” and a firm change of subject.

  • If Schmoopie’s chump is having Schmoopie’s twu wuv repeatedly shoved down her throat, I think it’s pretty clear Schmoopie’s not enjoying Chicago either. It’s like how the Nirvana song Come as You Are presages Cobain’s suicide with the lines

    No, I don’t have a gun
    No, I don’t have a gun
    No, I don’t have a gun

    In other words he had a gun. It’s not just excessive protest that cancels a claim but unbidden redundancy. You can just imagine the exchanges between Schmoopie and his chump:

    But I love her.
    I know, you already said.
    But I do. This big!
    I don’t need to hear it.
    But I love her, I’m so happy.
    Enough already.
    But our love transcends the stars.

    I think on some level FWs know they’re juvenile fantasists chasing some fleeting “high” that will only last as long as “4-ever ‘n ever” with the new fuckbuddy is thwarted. It’s why they cheat and keep chumps around as a backup– to put off the moment when cheaters are stuck only with each other, the buzz fades and the epic hangover begins. It sounds like Billy’s FW has already crashed while her Schmoopie is licking the carpet trying to lap up any scattered bits of blow after a party.

    Sorry for all the metaphors and analogies. Today’s post really triggered them. And I have more! As for why shallow people often clusterfuck around the cheater and negate the chump, you see the same primitive social fawning behavior towards aggressors in domestic violence situations and among chimps. Unreflective types knee-jerkedly cuddle up to the most dangerous individual in the mix as a way of groveling for amnesty. It’s a sort of boxer’s clinch in recognition that the aggressor’s impaired empathy probably means they’re capable of even scarier behavior. I think it’s proof that most people unconsciously recognize that cheating is abuse and that cheaters are criminally inclined. It’s also a great opportunity for Billy to completely escape the knuckle-dragging jungle along with the ape spouse and find more evolved friends. That’s one upside to the chump experience. It really separates the wheat from the chaff and the humans from the monkeys. When you encounter people who have a humane perspective on infidelity, it’s like a secret handshake indicating higher brain processing.

    • “…Schmoopie is licking the carpet trying to lap up any scattered bits of blow after a party”. Oh wow, HOAC, that line is pure poetry, so descriptive! To think I had hardly recovered from yesterday’s CN gem of a quote of a distraction technique being described as a “suicidal ideation squirrel”. Keep on here please, I love reading your posts!

    • “But our love transcends the stars” – Captain Awkward has a great insight about how when people are confident about their choices and their relationships, they don’t need to call in the Universe to witness. As soon as you hear someone blathering about how their love was fated, or that the stars were aligned, you know that deep down they’re aware things are on a shaky foundation.

  • My take is the cheater wife is “acting” like she is miserable to friends, acquaintances for sympathy, instead of derision. So you see, yes, she cheated but you apparently drove her to it by making her soooo unhappy…what else could she do? It’s really all the chump’s fault. She’s faking being miserable because showing that she is happy would put her in a bad light. All the world’s a stage.

  • This is so familiar! He wanted out, he wasn’t happy, he dumped me…. Then everybody felt sorry for HIM and supported HIM! It’s so bizarre.

  • A FW is gonna FW. That’s how I see it. My ex chronically has the sadz. When I met him, he was sadz that he was 29 and didn’t have a wife and kids. Then he got a wife and kids and he had sadz because of all the responsibility. He missed his freedom! Now he is free as a bird, and he has the sadz because he is all alone. He is just a miserable person. He is only happy when he is being entertained. He has zero ability to entertain himself. I’m just glad it is not my problem to keep him happy anymore.

  • Yeah, it takes a bit to internalize, “Trust that they suck!”

    Yup, according to the FW XW, I was having a midlife crisis. Nope. It would be closer to say that she was having one, but that would take away from the fact that this has always been her M.O. in handling relationships.

    She gets unhappy w/the state of things in a relationship, and finds a replacement for her partner, cheats w/the new partner, then leaves to be w/the new partner (relationships aren’t supposed to be hard, she must think🙄. Yeah, stop. Reverse that. Thank you).

    And I’m the only one w/enough history w/her to see it. Her family is all screwed up like this. I just spackled and thought she was going to be the exception to her family’s rule. Wrong again, dear. That’s why I can laugh now when I think to just after D-day, and her nine years older sister telling me she (the FW XW) hadn’t been happy for awhile. And that’s why in their minds, the affair was a logical (and reasonable!) outcome.

    Neither the FW XW nor anybody in her family can understand that it wasn’t my job to make her happy. I certainly tried not to make her unhappy, but I’m sure my depression and onset of diabetes, both of which greatly sapped me of energy and initiative, sucked for her (and my kids) to deal with.

    But as CL says, she could have left me in an ethical and moral fashion, by telling me directly that she couldn’t go on w/our relationship, and was leaving me. Which would have killed me too, but which I should have at least eventually had to respect her for doing. She had choices. She just chose a cowardly, shitty choice.

    So, seduce and/or be seduced by your letch of a rich, older, long-time married boss (forty years married, although he was fooling around or trying to for at least twenty of those years. The asshole), fuck around w/him while I’m working and you’re supposed to be, then turn cold as ice to your husband, until he has to question what’s going on. Then leave him for said boss. What fantastic choices she made.🤣

    Then she expects me roughly six years later to be cordial/friendly to her. No apology or anything close to one, ever, to me or as far as I know, our kids, for the damage she/they did . Not that that would do it, but Jesus Christ. You want cordial and you haven’t even done that? That’s a fuckwit. And no, it’s not happening.

    Be careful what you wish for, fuckwits. The chumps on this blog are aiming for you to get it, now that we know just how much you suck.

    You wanted to cheat and/or your cheating partner so bad? Go. We’re leaving you behind, and finding worlds of our own. FUCKWIT FREE (FF? Or FWF?)! Either way, we’re headed for peace. You can have your pathetic circus you call a life. Leave us out of it. And don’t fuck w/our kids.

  • Hi all – Billy, the original letter writer here. This was certainly a blast from the past! I just wanted to post again to say two things:
    1. A huge thank you to Chumplady and Chump nation. You have no idea how much this response and everyone’s comments helped drag me out of the hole and help me through the following years. Honestly, I feel emotional recalling it.

    2. I am proof that leaving a cheater gains you a life. I’m now with a new partner (who similarly spent a decade with a narcy ex) and it’s made me realise how imbalanced my previous relationship was and how much better things are now. Tuesday does arrive eventually. 🙂

  • I wonder what happened to Billy….
    Would be good if the past letter writers wrote in again to update everyone on their lives. I’d like to see a “where are they now” post.

  • >