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How to Get Over the Cruelness?

cakeHi Chump Lady,

I’m struggling over here as my STBXH told me two months ago he wanted to split. He then moved out a few weeks later. During this time he was completely cold to me and didn’t want me near him. Turns out he had been having an emotional affair and at one point he told me “I don’t want to hurt you anymore” and he literally thought moving out and then cheating was ok.

Reading your site has been great. I did all the things — begged, cried, begged, cried, rage text, etc. He moved out two days before my birthday and spent about 10 minutes with me that day. Recently, I found out he spent the whole day with his new partner.

Meanwhile, he doesn’t talk about filing for divorce. In fact, while he was still here, he made it seem like one day we would try again. Even after he moved out he said he would want us to get engaged all over again and have a new wedding if we came back together.

The struggle I’m having is how this affects our 7 year old. He’s very absent. Is it wrong to expect communication to our 7 year old every other day? Even if it’s just an “I love you” to his kid’s messenger? How do you get over the anger of seeing your kid in pain? Additionally, this is basically the exact same route his Dad went when he was a kid.

For now, I’ve told him we are going no contact except for the kid. He’s said some of the most cruel things about me — he’s leaving because I’m bad at sex and he deserves to have good sex in his life. We’ve been together 17 years and while our sex life had dwindled — he never said it was bad. Honestly, all the excuses he gives are all over your website, so I know he’s just full of shit. But I’m still struggling with not randomly rage texting and how to help my 7 year old during the process.

Additionally, I’ve told ex to tell our kid he isn’t coming home. He told him “I might not come back” leaving a lot of ambiguity for our child. How do I move forward?

Any advice is appreciated. Make me see the light. He recently told me he took a week off of seeing his affair partner and that’s why he had to see her on her birthday. It’s like he isn’t the person I know and he intentionally wants to hurt me.


Ready to move on


Dear Ready to Move On,

Take away the Fuckwit’s fork and stab him with it. Uh, metaphorically speaking. (If It Feels Good Don’t Do It… damn.)

Stop giving a rat’s ass what he wants or trying to anticipate what he’ll do next. You drive this car. Fuck him.

I know, you’re standing there all blinkered, “How can he be this person? How can he be so cruel? I invested 17 years in him and this is how he does me?”

Believe it. Act accordingly.

Why is he acting all vague and future faking you with talk of engagement? (That’s special. What’s the Kay Jeweler gemstone for cheaters? Cubic zirconia?) Why won’t he file for divorce? CAKE.

He enjoys your pick-me dance. He needs a back-up plan. And just because he hasn’t filed for divorce, doesn’t mean he won’t divert monies and eventually do it. Or screw you over in a myriad other ways. Which is why you need to put your big-girl pants on and says, “Fuck this shit.”

How could you be so cruel? Is untangling the skein. There is no satisfying answer beyond “Because he can. Because it doesn’t hurt him to hurt you. Because his dick is just THAT important.”

Get up off the floor and fight back. YOU see the lawyer. YOU call the tune. YOU model mightiness for your 7-year-old. When’s Daddy coming back? Daddy who? There’s one sane parent in town and you’re it.

Maybe he’ll get his act together and maybe (most likely) he will not. So if you want that kid to have the material things he needs (love and stability will come from you), get that child support court order in now. If you cannot bear the thought of divorce, and would like to stick around for more cruelty, at least get temporary support orders.

Oh, but he’s paying something? Don’t count on it. Get a COURT ORDER. Start meaning business on his abandonment. There are consequences. You think he’s going to impose consequences on himself?


No, because what’s working for him is having a wife and a Schmoopie and zero consequences. You can do all the heavy lifting on the childrearing and he may deign to text hello on a random Wednesday.

Is that acceptable to you?

No? Then take your power back. Call a lawyer.

Turns out he had been having an emotional affair

No. That’s what he’s telling you. Adults fuck. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, he’s checked out and not cleaning up his mess.

he told me “I don’t want to hurt you anymore” and he literally thought moving out and then cheating was ok.

He doesn’t care if he hurts you. That’s what his actions say.

For now, I’ve told him we are going no contact except for the kid. He’s said some of the most cruel things about me

Right. See how that works? You set a boundary, and he raged about it. You took away his cake with no contact — good for you! And Mr. I Don’t Want to Hurt You proceeded to hurt you.

The answer isn’t to give in on your boundaries, it’s to trust that he sucks and operate accordingly.

Consider parenting software. The bigger buffer zone you can build, the better. And if you haven’t already, meticulously document his abandonment. How often he sees or communicates with his child, versus what you do. You’ll need this in court. Do NOT pull your punches.

And scrub with bleach all the mean things he said. He’s blameshifting his horrific choices on to you, because he cannot face what a pathetic, disgusting person he is.

But I’m still struggling with not randomly rage texting and how to help my 7 year old during the process.

Do NOT rage text him. That’s documentation he can use against you. To show you’re unstable or cruel or whatever shitty false equivalence he wants to come up with to cover up the stench of his abandonment.

Also, it’s kibbles. He loves cake. He loves his centrality.

How you help your 7 year old is by taking the reins and being the sane parent. One parent abandoned his post. It’s up to you now. Let your child know you’re there and you care. You only control your side of the street.

Additionally, I’ve told ex to tell our kid he isn’t coming home.

NO! His actions communicate that. Stop trying to get your ex to take responsibility. Tell your child the TRUTH, “We’re getting divorced because Dad walked out.” You are every bit as responsible as your fuckwit for the nebulous “I dunno” games which would make anyone anxious.

Gosh! Depends on what Daddy does! Maybe he’s coming back? Maybe he’s not! I wonder which way the wind blows?

It blows how YOU blow it. Start blowing.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • RTMO – Please treat yourself the way you want your child to be treated. With honesty and not false hope. With agency and not fighting, freezing, fleeing or fawning. Put your support team together. Tell your child the (age-appropriate) truth and assure them you are taking the steps to protect your future. And then do it.

    • I apologize AM but I need to get this out there. If you are receiving Medicare calls they are scams and whoever is doing it is relentless. My husband can attests to that

      • “If you are receiving Medicare calls they are scams”

        HUH??? What are you talking about?

        And what is going on here , that six readers are giving this a “thumbs-up”?

        Isn’t anybody paying attention?

  • “Meanwhile, he doesn’t talk about filing for divorce. In fact, while he was still here, he made it seem like one day we would try again. Even after he moved out he said he would want us to get engaged all over again and have a new wedding if we came back together.”

    Mine did this too. Even though initially he wanted me to fill in the divorce papers he never actually filed them – I had to. He has also said stuff about “maybe in a few months/years we could try again” or “I would want to get to the point I’d want to propose all over again” etc. I think this is just their way of making themselves feel better about the abandonment/cheating and romanticising any future relationship/avoiding consequences of leaving. It’s not so bad if they’re “coming back” at some point right! The new relationship would be all sparkly and clean! Maybe they think if there’s a break and you get back together that all the cheating is just wiped clean from their record? That it’ll all be in the past? I don’t know and it’s not worth sticking around to find out.

    • Soon after D-Day, my then-STBX suggested we get back together again in “say, 3 years.” When he saw the look of astonishment on my face, he changed it to “5 years.”

      I think you make a good point that it’s a way for them to not feel so shitty about what they’ve done and wipe clean the record. “No one will even NOTICE the cheating years if we re-united. And I will have had my fun!” In their entitled brains, it’s a win-win.

      I wonder, too, if they are hedging bets. I mean, they might want to make sure they have a safety net in place in case schmoopie doesn’t work out. That they’ll expect us to get excited at the prospect of one day reuniting and WAIT for them speaks to their inflated sense of wonderfulness and entitlement.

      • Hedging bets is exactly it. A friend of mine got chumped when her husband got “tired of being married”. At one point post-divorce (they had kids, so she couldn’t go completely NC) he wistfully said “but you’ll take care of me when we get old, won’t you?”

      • I think if klootzak said anything to me about maybe he would come back and we could have another wedding and so on, I would howl with laughter until I peed myself.

      • They are so vague and vapid aren’t they. I had something similar. While being told that he wanted to move out (obviously omitting a huuuuuge part of the story) which was really some giant leap in my mind from someone who’d not really said anything and we have a family together to moving out and he talked about his house being family headquarters number 2 and we’d have two family houses and I’d go round there for dinner and he would be here to help me with stuff. It was so befuddling and sounded like we were going through some trial separation so of course I have to ask him outright, are we talking a trial separation or a split here, I’m so confused. Oh a split he said. But made me wheedle it out of him. It’s all just some kind of smoke and mirrors to make it all seem like they are a good person. I had never been so confused in my life. It goes to say, once I realised what had been going on this was soon followed but the worst character assassination and reasons why I made him cheat and devaluing our whole relationship entirely that seems to also be one of the fundamentals of this game (and probably the worst one at that).

        • What they’re doing is the same thing they do to their schmoopie, “We’ll be together as soon as the kids graduate”, “as soon as the dog dies”, “as soon as hell freezes over…”

    • Yeah, mine was going to get therapy and propose to me again when he was all better. After I left he denied he had ever said that.

    • Mine was too busy mooning over Schmoopie to be bothered to take the time to file for divorce. At first I was waiting for him to file and do the work if he didn’t want to be married anymore. He had already moved out and was seeing Schmoopie regularly so I figured divorce was next but he wasn’t filing and that was giving me false hope that eventually he might get his head out of his, er… cloud and come home. At some point I realized that I wasn’t ever going to be able to heal from the emotional trauma until we were divorced so I did the work to get that done.

      The good news for me was that he didn’t fight it. He wasn’t paying that much attention and just signed whatever was put in front of him and gave me everything I asked for and more. We worked with a mediation group that included an accountant, lawyer (both female) and a marriage counceler (male). Supposedly they all worked for us both and were neutral third parties. While the counceler was busy lecturing me about he need to be nice to Schmoopie and encourage the kids to have a relationship with her :(, the gals were quietly in the background putting together an agreement that gave me all of the advantages :). Ex signed everything. It is definitely to your advantage to take control of the situation and file while their minds are elsewhere,

      • Yep, strike while the iron is hot. Between panic attacks and stress vomiting over the frightening conversations that I had found on fuckwit’s phone, I managed to get him to sign over stuff and agree to things while he still had his head shoved up primary freak’s ass. It was probably only when their fairy tale imploded that he realized how much he had screwed himself over.

    • Add me the the list of chumps with a cruel ex who left, but didn’t want a divorce. I’m like…what??? His response: “I kind of hope it doesn’t work out with her, because I miss the kids and home.” There’s a reason my code name is “NotYourPlanB”. Your dude (ex-dude) is officially a lost cause. Talking about a new wedding with you while prancing around with her??? Nuts! You don’t WANT that back, it’s poisoned.
      And yeah, I totally get that it takes a while to wrap your head around this–I remember at the time it felt like chewing off my own arm to file for divorce, since he wasn’t pushing for it. It took me months to file, over a year to get really serious about pushing the divorce fully through (I was still futilely hoping the divorce itself would shock him into coming back…it did actually…for 7 days). But once you’re on the other side the air is so much sweeter.

    • My FW did this as well. In fact, the conversation where he dumped me went exactly like this:

      FW: I am not 100% with you and therefore I can’t be with you RIGHT NOW.
      Me: No, you can’t be with me, period.

      The moment he said that I put two and two together. I mean, RIGHT NOW?? When exactly, pray tell, will His Magnanimousness deign to come back?

      I will admit I gave that answer in the spur of the moment, not because I’d thought it out. And right after I said it, I began wondering whether I would actually be able to stick to it. But, somehow, I was!

      Due to a few things that happened after this, I do think FW honestly thought I would be mad for two or three months and the door would always be open. I don’t know why, since he was cheated on before we met and he also went no contact with the woman in question. But I am not asking consistency from FW any longer! 😉

      • Mine also said something similar! “I just don’t have both feet in the relationship right now”.. I said that we were married and either we work it out now or we don’t. He was “unsure” and ended up leaving anyway so I pushed for divorce.

        • Yup, had that conversation too. FW said “ I want to live there so I can think about whether I want to be married or not.” “There” was his recently diseased mother’s empty house two states away!

          In retrospect, this was a signal from him that I should do the pick me dance. But I saw that if he wasn’t decided yet to stick it out and make better our 30 year marriage, and HAD TO THINK ABOUT IT, he really wasn’t interested. It was his ploy to string me along.

          RTMO, your husband stupidly wants to believe that his moving out hasn’t already hurt you and your son.

          From an outsider’s view, he’s only interested in what he can extract from you. But having been a chump for so many years, I know what it’s like to be held captive by the FW’s promises, or any glimmer of hope that they toss out.

          Keep your righteous anger going. It will help get you through the divorce & to advocate for the best settlement for you & your son. It will also help you tell the truth to your son. There are some good columns in the archives about age appropriate statements and not adding emotion-laden opinions.

    • Yes, my ex husband said all this too. Honestly it just made me deep belly laugh (which gave him the sadz). After ALL the abuse- the absurd idea of a reality where I would ever want to willingly be married to him again!!!! 😂😂😂

    • My FW now-XW said the same thing, “I see us getting back together in X years.” They all really read from the EXACT same playbook, amazing! Out of all the people in the world, why would I choose someone that is a proven cheater? Unreal.

    • Yea, when I was I was in marriage rescue mode, Cheater said (as he packed for a business trip where he surely f’d Susan of Seattle)
      “I think we are going to have to divorce and later remarry”

      In what crazy uniform is that reasonable?

    • adding my voice to the choir
      that’s what my ex-FW also did. “Maybe one day, after all this craziness, we will find a way back to each other and back to the happy relationship we once had”. I held on to these words like a hopeful fool until I realized I was his backup plan and that these words would be his cop-out to absolve him from all responsibilities in case things don’t the way he expects with OW. Indeed, he came back 2 months later, only for me to finally gather the strength to leave him for good after a painful month of pick-me-dancing from my side. The second D-day was much worse and much more painful than the first. I wish he would have just walked out on me and never wavered. They just want cake and they don’t care whose hearts get broken in the process

    • So what page in the Cheater Handbook of Rules is this? They are all the same!!!!
      X used to say, when we were divorcing, ‘I don’t mind getting divorced, just so I can marry you all over again!’ Idiot. Cheater for 32 years. He’d also talk about us dating. Yuk, as if! I was CN educated at that point, so I just rolled my eyes or laughed at him.

  • You get over the cruelty by making your life fabulous all by yourself. All by yourself. All by yourself. You absolutely can do it. The early days are rough, get out and exercise, get out and go to a coffee shop and just be around other human beings without having to interact, get out and go to a movie and lose yourself in someone else’s story for a few hours (find a cinema with those fabulous reclining armchairs where you can have a drink delivered to your seat.) Avoid the friends who just want to rehash the train wreck of whatever happened in your life. You are trying to retrain your nervous system and your attentional brain to think up, find, and execute, things that are all about YOU and that you feel are pleasurable.

    Listen to Miley Cyrus’s song Flowers on repeat about 1,000 times.

    Tell your son you are divorcing his dad because he abandoned the both of you. Then do it.

    And give yourself nonstop hugs and ways to feel good and happy, or at least distracted from the present moment. This moment will pass, you will heal, it will be fine, you just have to get through this rough stretch. Wishing you all the best, XOXO

    • “Avoid the friends who just want to rehash the train wreck of whatever happened in your life.”

      Unless you want to rehash it. We all process this shit show differently. I was one who wanted to hash and re-hash!! I’m so grateful for friends and family who sat in my pain and let me talk, talk, talk.

      One of the huge advantages of this site is that here I can unload on all of you nice folks and, in so doing, relieve my friends and family of compassion fatigue. Also, CN “gets it” in a way that even the most well-meaning friends/family don’t! #mytribe 🙏

      • Yes, I also feel tremendous relief being able to rehash and vent here. Every time I am able to say, “Yes, that has been my experience,” it takes a very personal wound and makes it feel less personal. In the same way that FWs are all alike and so common, it makes my experience feel less unique which is especially good when I see other chumps being mighty. I see others who have walked the same path and survived – and even thrived! – and know that I can do it, too.

        And when I hash things with IRL friends, they get to hear not only the frustrations but the triumphs and the areas where I need help and they offer support. I am so lucky to have the great network of friends I do. I have 4 friends who are fellow chumps and 4 who are happily married and all of them are gems. I’m determined to forge a happy ending to this tale and I know I can do it. Sometimes the rehash helps one wrap one’s mind around the abuse and see how truly awful it is from another person’s perspective. I have spent too many years feeling isolated and trying to find my way out.

      • I could not shut up about it! Eventually I had to. It’s hard when you are participating in conversations and everything relates to some memory of your previous life.

      • I needed to hash and rehash, but I didn’t because I was humiliated, scared, confused etc.

        It came back to haunt me years later when fw and whore caused pain for my son and his family. I finally spilled to my brother about the nitty gritty of the abuse in the last year. It was also when I found CL. Wish she had been available in the late 80s, early 90s. We didn’t even have internet yet.

      • I gave the short version to 3 different people in the grocery store at various times, when I saw them again each commented on how much better I seemed physically and emotionally.

  • Everything CL said is gospel. All of it.

    My FW moved out even without warning, without being committal on what it meant. Wouldn’t elaborate or hold a conversation without becoming an almost nonsensical vicious a$$hole. Three weeks later he told me in a one-sided yell that he had signed a lease on a place and someday he would remarry and be the perfect husband. Did that mean he was filing for divorce, I asked? “No, I didn’t say that” was his reply. Two more months of dragging me and our sons through this game, then told me he was never coming home. Again, no decision on divorce, and he didn’t want to say anything to the kids yet. . Still two more months, then he finally told the boys he was going to divorce me because he “didn’t want to give them any more false hope.”

    Please not that he told them and not me.

    I threw myself into the RIC and toughed it out. The little guys and I prayed. I did absolutely everything the RIC said to do, believed them when they said it only took one spouse — even during separation — to save the marriage. The process was like being slowly chewed to death by a shark. In the meantime I didn’t financially protect myself or tell my attorney To go for FW’s jugular because…ya know…I was going to ‘save my marriage.’

    One year after abandonment, (almost two after Dday), an old friend’s wonderful wife told me to check out Chump Lady. Right here and now I can tell you that LACGAL and CL saved my life.. Suddenly I had a voice, suddenly it was okay to feel the pain and fury, suddenly I realized that playing games of patience were WRONG. I wasted valuable time. I wasted months and months of my life being eaten by that shark. But suddenly I felt like I could BREATHE.

    At some point my 11 year old asked, “If dad decided to come home and make things okay, would you let him?”

    I didn’t even pause, didn’t even have to think about it. “No. Dad has caused way to much harm now, even after he left.”

    And the 9 year old nodded seriously in agreement. “Yeah.” He didn’t want dad back.

    Kids are resilient if we show them they have at least one solid, strong, brave parent who has their back. The wibble-wobble of “maybe someday” and “what if” is what destroys them. So be there for your child, assure them that you will hold the world together and make sure they are just fine, but waiting for Mr. Fantasy-brain to get his act together and return is not useful, and definitely not fair.

    Cheaters have already proven what they are capable of — destroying you, destroying your child, destroying your family. Trust that it was intentional. And definitely trust that they suck.

    • I want to add one important thing that never gets stressed enough around here: Cheaters are cowards.

      They are chicken-footed snickering idiot cowards to the core.

      First, because if they actually had any complaints about the marriage, they don’t tell you. Second, because when they suddenly find “the love of their life”, they keep it a secret…and it’s a secret they keep until it’s exposed. Third, because one of the very first things they do when they’re caught is to start lying even more, control the narrative to others who find out, and start re-writing history.

      Obvious symptoms of cowardice:
      1) They use the word “amicable”… as in, “I want this to be amicable.” And that has all the ring of truth to it as Putin telling the Ukraine, 9Yes, I bombed you, invaded you, killed your people and devastated your cities…but now I want to work this out on friendly terms.”
      2) They immediately want their lawyers to say you can’t talk about them on social media or elsewhere.
      3). They will breadcrumb you to death with their willingness to “help support you” and the children for a few months so you can get on your feet. Again, like Putin promising to send food and water to the bombed cities so they can survive until he starts bombing them again.

      My best advice to any and every chump is this: Get an attorney immediately, and launch them on a campaign of tactical nuclear warfare. Take no prisoners. Chumps don’t start these wars…but we damn well need to understand how important it is that we finish them.

      • Totally agree with cheaters being cowards. When D-day happened for me, I thought well if there is the book Profiles in Courage then there should be the book Profiles in Cowardice and my then husband could have been featured. Adults have difficult conversations regarding their feelings, marriage, and if a relationship is no longer working for them. Cheating cowards gaslight, manipulate, and scheme behind their spouse’s back while trying to maintain their trustworthy spouse image.

        • All true.

          I am of the persuasion that cheaters don’t discover they were in a bad marriage until they are well ensconced in tingly dick syndrome.

          Then all of a sudden the BS just doesn’t measure up.

          They won’t make a move until they have used up all they can from the BS. Of course it just “happens” to generally coincide with exposure.

          My FW got an ethics complaint filed against him, then suddenly he was ready to bail.

          • 100% true. While there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, in all honesty these marriages really were fine until the cheater gets ‘tingly dick syndrome’. This is why most of us were blindsided, and this is why we are blown away by the cheaters’ massive re-writes of the marriage. And it seems rather unusual to hear of cheaters who outed themselves then left; the common theme is that they get away with it as long as they can, it gets discovered and then they start flinging and running.

            There is a self-centered immaturity to cheaters that borders on the ridiculous. They’re grown up enough to make big choices, but show the judgement of a twelve year old in for seeing the myriad of consequences. They wield their ability to lie and gaslight as though it proves their superiority…and then they tuck tail and butt-scooch across the floor when caught.

            It’s almost as though the cheating is only a symptom of something far worse: that they’re a genuinely awful person at the core of it all. It didn’t happen overnight, some of them just know how to cover it up for years. They’re like the psychopath who was a great neighbor or favorite cousin or helped the local charities…until the bodies in their crawlspace started to stink.

            So, in short, cheaters truly do suck, and any good qualities they seemed to have were probably just self-protective cover-ups.

      • FW’s last name starts with the letters COW. After dday I referred to him as Kevin Coward. Fortunately, I kept my maiden name so I was never Mrs. Coward.

      • HB,

        “Cheaters are cowards” It really is as simple as this. They are afraid of all the hard stuff. Including just being honest about anything. In my case, I have a STBX who is prone to rage and has narc tendancies. I have spent decades placating, walking on eggshells and making myself smaller and smaller to try to keep him happy. Spoiler Alert- Nothing is enough for him. So I work from a place of being afraid of displeasing him. I have for over 2 decades. Obviously, this has worked out incredibly well for HIM. Not so much for me. (I now have a therapist and am working on this) But anyway, my point is, I see him as having all the power and that made it hard for me to initially understand what a coward he is. He hid his affair for years, and even after DDay, he has continued to eat cake. Most of that is just that he finds the cake delicious obv. But it is clear that he is also afraid to leave because what if Schmoops doesn’t work out?. If I would allow it, I think the ideal situation in his mind would be for him to go test that out, and only finalize our divorce once he was sure of the Schmoops. That’s a coward. Sneaking around behind your spouse’s back with someone else? Coward. Rewriting history so that you don’t have to feel like a FW for cheating? Coward. It will never cease to amaze me how many different cheating situations us Chumps have all seen, and yet how similar the FWs behaviour/explanations are.

    • “someday he would remarry and be the perfect husband.”

      0% chance of him being even a mediocre husband. They are delusional.

    • Good for you, and I’m so, so glad your boys see it (both your mightiness and that your ex is a piece of crap).

      My cousins are messed up because their mom tried to shield them from the truth of their father – a cheating piece of shit who abandoned the family with a note on the kitchen counter, left his executive job so he’d look poor on paper, then used his mistress’s money to sue my aunt for years to get out of child support. He never paid a dime. I’m pretty sure my aunt’s early death from cancer was due to the stress.

      My cousins don’t know half of the abuse their father heaped on them and their mother. They still talk to him, even though he canceled their insurance when one of them was in the hospital after a car accident.

      I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but we need to teach children healthy boundaries and how to call out abuse for what it is.

      • Yes ! And one doesn’t HAVE to have a relationship with somebody just because one is related to the jerk.

    • HunnyBadger,

      How interesting that the RIC said “it only takes one spouse — even during separation — to save the marriage.” First, how could that ever possibly be true? (obv you know that now, but I am so sorry that you believed them and tried in vain) But also, RIC is notorious for saying both spouses are to blame for the cheating/the destroying of the marriage but when it comes time for saving the marriage, THAT can magically be done by just one spouse? It’s ridiculous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • One particular group in the RIC actually has a whole section on how just one spouse can save the marriage, even during separation. They encourage virtually every single thing that CL has nailed down; when they say “it starts with attraction” and requires infinite and unyielding patience, CL calls it “coaxing the timid forest creature.” The concept is both unfair and highly damaging, insisting that if the betrayed spouse can hang in their long enough, the wayward spouse (aka unrepentant cheater) will eventually come to their senses. The whole theory is banking on the idea that the standing spouse can not only stay sane and calm, but keep life, limb, home and children together while waiting for limerence to die. While it says that you’re going to feel all sorts of terrible things in the process, you absolutely must not share them with your cheater — or it will scare him/her away. It is broken logic. Like telling a rape victim that if she doesn’t report the rapist to the police or cause a ruckus, the rapist will eventually realize he loves her. Then they can carefully and slowly rebuild the relationship.
        In over three years of continuing to read the group posts, I’ve seen almost nothing but heartbreak and disappointment, some of it devastating. Every now and then a couple actually does get back together, but I have to wonder at what cost and how long it will last.

  • Dear Ready to Move On,
    I can understand your confusion. You’ve been blindsided. Bamboozled. The person you trusted with all your heart, with the most important creation you could imagine (an innocent human life–your son) has shown you he is a selfish a-hole. I agree with all of CL’s advice about taking control of the bus, which is now headed toward a cliff because of FW’s BS. Do not rage text him. Document everything and write it down and when you feel any kindness or feelings of longing toward him, read over the evidence. It will remind you why he sucks. Go to therapy. Talk to your friends. Get your support squad up and running. I lived your story, but add on about 10 years. The good news is that he revealed his crap character to you now! He didn’t sulk for a decade and live a double life. At least you know the truth about him. He is a terrible person. Only a terrible person would do all the shit he is doing. If you accept that he is a terrible person, all the things he’s doing will make sense. Your brain is trying to make sense of all the craziness–cognitive dissonance. Once you reach logic: he is terrible and he has shown he will hurt me and his child….you can take action to protect yourself and your child. Good luck! My heart goes out to you! You can do this!!!!!

  • Start blowing RTMO!!! His actions speak for themselves….he’s a cheater, liar, gaslighter, abandoner and ultimately all of those things equal to he is an ABUSER! If you stick around you will probably see the other abusive things you never knew he could do. Be the sane parent, tell your kid the truth (in age appropriate conversations) “I don’t know when Daddy will be back because he left us for another woman” or “I’m so sorry your dad doesn’t call, I hope you know I would never treat you like that because I love you to the moon and back.” are all good age appropriate responses to your 7 yr old. Don’t badger or belittle FW, just say the truth. Here is the big thing…..Do not sugar coat your FW’s actions! I repeat….DO NOT SUGAR COAT YOUR FW’S ACTIONS. No matter how painful they are do not sugar coat them, sweep them under the rug, or lie on his behalf to ease the pain. Why???? I know you think you are protecting your child but the reality is you are teaching your child several things that could later really hurt you and them. You are teaching them:
    1) that they can’t trust you (they already have one lying parent, don’t be the second)
    2) to accept abuse (by you sugar coating the abuse you are teaching them to accept it not just by FW but also by future relationships in their life with friends, romantic partners, bosses, etc.)
    3) that is ok for them to lie (this can really hurt them in their teenage years when they test their boundaries as they become more independent)

    Big bugs and be the sane parent! I know it hurts to see your kids hurt. It hurts me as I read your letter as my kids and I were in your shoes. And, know that I almost lost my kids because I didn’t take my own advise that I am giving you. FW’s are horrible people and they will do things that you would never imagine. I had a nasty divorce and then later a nasty years long custody battle just to “bleed me dry”. I sugar coated so much of his abuse to my kids that the court had a hard time deciphering between his lies and the truth so a guardian ad litem and psychologist got involved testing all of us and interviewing the kids. FINALLY it came out that he was forcing my kids to lie about me. The psychologist sat me down and told me I was this close () to losing my kids and all for what???? To sugar coat things to protect them!!?! He encouraged me from that point on to do the things I laid out for you. Now, I am brutally honest and open with my kids. They are older teenagers (about to be 16 and 18) and we talk about EVERYTHING! When I say everything, I mean it…, drinking, drugs, good behavior/bad behavior in others and ourselves, their a$$hole of a father, 3rd String….his next idiot, etc. I even talk to them about what is really going on with me so they understand I’m not mama money bags and they need to help out around the house and appreciate how hard I work for them. I am closer to my kids than any other parent I know in our community. We are tight and it’s healthy!

    So, I hope that insight helps. Set major boundaries with this a$$hat! Get the parenting software (it makes it that much easier to deal with these creeps). Get the COURT ORDERING child support (it’s THAT important!). Get lawyered up and get the hell out! Big hugs….You got this!

  • He said you were bad at sex. What he is too dense to see is that married sex is not bells and whistles but something better. It is what emotionally binds people together. So this new “love” of his is going to be just like what he had with you. It might take a couple of years. In the meantime you have moved on.

    His moral depth got lost or never was. If he equates new sex to love you have been living with a lizard whose prefrontal cortex is missing.

    • I have always found it confusing when people say others are good or bad at sex (barring the obvious extremes). It’s meaningless word salad. Sex is good between two people when they both want and enjoy the nature of the sex that’s occurring at the time. Nobody is “good at sex” for every other person on earth.

      From my point of view, I see western culture’s highly novelty-addicted perspectives about sex as something that’s taught, not innate. It harms us, individually and collectively, to view sexual relating in that narrow way. People who learn to grow out of a novelty-seeking baseline stop being entirely controlled by what’s in their pants all the damn time, and that is a positive game changer.

      I’m not saying it isn’t good to mix things up in the bedroom for fun, nor am I saying everyone has to focus on just one person sexually. I AM saying that we would harm ourselves and one another a lot less if we didn’t culturally accept boredom as an explanation for dysfunction and abuse, and if we didn’t view ourselves or others as “bad at sex” just because what we want from/during sex is different from what someone else wants.

      When mutual honesty, and respect, and consent, and grown up clear communication are in the front seat, everyone gets to make informed choices about relating and state their desires and dealbreakers, including during sex. When those things are missing, sex is bound to feel less good, or bad. Stands to reason, really.

      • Also, like, sex is a skill? It can be learned. If someone isn’t doing what you really like, maybe try communicating about it? FWs expect us to read their minds (at least mine did; I so often heard “I shouldn’t HAVE to tell you!”).

        And fyi, in my experience, OW is no better. After FW died I went to clean out his rental (i.e. get my stuff he took) and (even though OW had left a few months before) there was SO MUCH sex gear. A HEAP of lingerie (leather catsuits, etc), handcuffs, blindfolds, a copy of “The Joy of Sex”, etc. I’m not shaming anyone’s kinks or saying we have nothing to learn, but it just looked to me like they were trying SO HARD. FW and I had really good sex for years without much of anything extra (though from what he said we never had sex – such a lie). It wasn’t a huge effort for us. It’s as if the newness wore off pretty quickly for them and he realized maybe she wasn’t better than me/that great after all.

    • FW’s tend to complain, so much, about everything, it can be tricky to figure out what they, truely, are unhappy with.
      A woman I worked with, when I was younger, once said to me “There are two types of people – ones who see what needs to be done and just get on with doing it and others who will complain and try to get out of anything they have to do.” I can see this as chumps and fw’s now.

      • “…..others who will complain and get out of anything they have to do”.

        Yes – Fucktard walked away from
        the marriage and parenting. In the years I was with him he would argue about anything that required helping me to support family life in any domestic capacity. It was exhausting the fights he would create. Exhausting! I remember he would deliberately do things badly so he would cause such frustration from me that I would just do it. It was a deliberate ploy on his behalf. It wore me down.

        He got out of the biggest job of all – being a parent. He walked out of both mine and the kids lives to live his best life travelling and acting like a man without a care in the world with his piece of trash. I used to think karma may get him but on the outside he has a happy prosperous life. His kids have a relationship with him that suits him; they seem him occasionally and it seems enough for him as he has so many pursuits and hobbies so it works.

  • Google “gemstones for cheaters” and you get a bit of supposed wisdom at an article called “4 Gemstones That Heal Relationships with Guaranteed Results”. (Spoiler alert: Azurite “clears the confusion and doubts arising in a relationship related to infidelity, poor communication, and mistrust.”)

    With that in mind, a prose parody today, dedicated to RTMO:

    HYPOCRITE: “This dull, cloudy gem is the perfect accessory for the person who prefers masquerade over transparency. Wearing hypocrite signals to the world that the wearer is not one to be pinned down — the textbook ‘walking contradiction’ who can shapeshift to any situation (or at least wants to). Despite some minor superficial brilliance, buyers are cautioned that upon close inspection, hypocrite reveals itself to be a flaccid form of fossilized dung that can disintegrates with the slightest tension or exposure to sunlight.”

    Alternatives for the cheater to consider: Tourmalign, Dementoid Garnet, Anything yellow

  • File and have attorney file a temporary order stating this is your residence while he’s out. This will keep him from entering your home.

  • Ready to move on,
    Boy did this hit close to home. When FW left me, it was so similar. I figured out he was cheating with a coworker and confronted him and he left immediately. Walked out on me and our 9 year old son. He moved in with his AP coworker less than 2 miles away.

    FW barely spoke to our son… He wanted all the fun and time with AP… within days of leaving he took her and her kids for 4th of July fireworks. FW laughed at me that I couldn’t do anything legally for a year. He said he wouldn’t pay me anything. He didn’t care at all.

    I fell apart. I gave FW one chance to come back and he laughed. I had anxiety attacks. I lost 15 pounds the first week. My son also went through trauma. He was completely distraught that his dad had “changed” and was begging us to get back together.

    But I saw the crazy that FW was. And my brain took over my heart and slapped me awake that FW was not who I thought he was. I called friends and family and my rabbi. I got an attorney within 2 weeks and served him with adultery.

    I told my son the truth. I let him know what was happening and that I would be there for him and we’d get through this.

    Fight. Fight for your child when you can’t fight for you. Protect yourself legally and protect your son. This is hard. It’s sad and awful and expensive and scary. But fight fight fight. Do it for you and your child and it’s so worth it. Fuck that guy

    • I just don’t understand any state or country that does not allow a victim of abandonment which includes huge financial risk to have to wait a year to file anything.

      • In those places, could one file for a legal separation? So at least, if credit cards are wrapped up, that you wouldn’t be responsible for them.

        • I did some research and in US there are six states that do not have legal separation, you have to just file for D. However, you can file to get temp support, child support and some other things.

          From what I have read it seems that it is just that they use different terms. Legal separation just sets the rules for who does what etc. Which is just another way to set up child support, temp maintenance.

          For Instance Florida:

          ” Just because legal separation is not recognized in Florida doesn’t mean you cannot reach court-adjudicated decisions or agreements in areas such as child support and alimony without commencing a divorce.

          In Florida, couples seeking separation or financial support without commencing a divorce can take advantage of statutes which permit them to agree upon or litigate issues of spousal support, child support and timesharing (custody/visitation) without commencing a divorce.

          The couple remains legally married, but achieves legal separation in the form of a court order. If they have children and are living apart or are still living together, either spouse can request court adjudication of issues such as child custody and visitation rights (timesharing), and child support payments.”

          Don’t know about other countries.

          • I’m in Florida. When I filed, before COVID, my attorney said let me know as far ahead as you can when you are running out of funds to live on, an emergency hearing before a judge can take 2 months to get on docket. That was crazy, I’m sure it’s worse now.

            A fault divorce in South Carolina still has a 90 wait requirement.

            Fortunately, I instigated our selling vacation property. It helped me pay the bills.

      • Well, its because the little lady is going to regret her decision, y’know. /s

  • It always breaks my heart when I read these letters from chumps who have children. It’s bad enough to abandon and betray another adult, but to do it to innocent children is beyond the pale.

    • It’s heartbreaking, they think nothing of imploding their children lives.

    • Most cheaters have no problem dumping the kids along with the spouse. I know it’s hard to wrap our heads around that but it’s how they operate. Of course society still frowns upon child abandonment and pretty much shrugs on marital cheating. So the cheater has to pretend he/she is still interested in the kids but it’s just an act to appease.

      • Until the legal filing, a FW is off the hook for any thing! No wonder they don’t file. It keeps you in the place they want, doing all the adulting.

  • The proposal to possibly get back together somewhere down the line is a window into the serial cheaters inflated sense of self-worth and entitlement. As if anyone would want to circle back to . . . a pile of runny dogs sh*t.

    • And the gobsmacking idea that anyone with a sense of self worth would just wait around until they were ready!

    • Amazingly, I have an acquaintance that took a FW back twice. She’s my age, mid 60s. I don’t know how unless she thinks he’s aged out of cheating, do they ever?

      • Apparently, in a conversation with my 11 year old, she said he’ll always be a cheater. He said, no, I’ve outgrown that. Yeah, selfishly I hope he cheats again so his flying monkeys realize he’s the problem. Not me, as the story, I’m sure he has spun.

  • I would so have this entitled ba$tard served in the most public place possible. By a big, burly deputy sheriff. Bonus points if you live in a fault state and serve the Schmoopie with an alienation of affection charge at the same time!
    I had my FW served at his work and it was delicious!

    • My fuckwit was served on Valentine’s Day, at his flat, and the rat faced whore opened the door to the process server.🤣😂. I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall.

      • That’s perfect.

        I noticed when my divorce decree came in the mail the judge had stamped it on 14 Feb. Since ass-wipe rarely ever did anything for V-day, I took it as the best gift he could have ever given me.

    • Oh, yes! My entitled ba$tard was served at work in his law office (but not by a deputy, since ex had been having a 3-year affair with Deputy Boobjob Skankenstein), but by an imposing State Trooper who apparently wasn’t very nice to the entitled ba$tard, I heard later. Entitled ba$tard hadn’t been nice to this particular Trooper in an earlier court case when he was testifying against one of ex’s scumbag clients. Karma for all! Heheheh.

  • He isn’t the person you know. The person you knew was a mask that he wore. You don’t know the real him. That’s why what he’s doing is so shocking to you. Work on accepting that. Just from my own personal experience, that will help. Once you fully accept it and grieve that the person you loved didn’t actually exist, you can move on. It takes time though.

    • So true! Recently, an accountant we both use told me that “[insert FW name] has changed.”

      Once FW’s mask fell, he let loose, revealing his true self and apparently burning bridges. During our married days, I often acted as human fire extinguisher, snuffing out potential inter-personal problems. Not anymore. 🔥🧯 He’s free to alienate anyone he wants. And I’m relieved of a job that I never should have taken in the first place. Live and learn.

      • I used to call that job, reeling him in…glad to be finished with that job. ✔️

  • Never tell him what you’re going to do.., just do it. Any information you give him or anything you say, has the potential to be used against you. He is not your friend.

  • First, no one should beg a parent to love or pay attention to their kid. If your cheater can’t be bothered, please don’t insist he see or talk to his kid. No kid should be forced to be with a parent that has no interest or is annoyed that they have to spend time with them. In my book it’s better to set kids straight that they have a defective parent and it has absolutely nothing to do with them they just got dealt a bad hand in the father/mother department. Kids will learn to navigate with a shitty parent but feeling like you don’t measure up and begging/hoping your parent will love you? Well be prepared for years of therapy and depression.
    Second, your husband was cheating on you while you were still married and living together. Forget the emotional affair bullshit and they didn’t get together till he left you crap. You are now one of his back up plans if it doesn’t work out with his OW. So he throws you a bone with the getting engaged and having another wedding tease. That would really piss me off. So divorce his ass, get child support and hope that this defect stays far away, if only for your kid’s sake.

    • “In my book it’s better to set kids straight that they have a defective parent and it has absolutely nothing to do with them they just got dealt a bad hand in the father/mother department. Kids will learn to navigate with a shitty parent but feeling like you don’t measure up and begging/hoping your parent will love you? Well be prepared for years of therapy and depression.”


    • “If your cheater can’t be bothered, please don’t insist he see or talk to his kid.”

      This blog helped me realize I was moving my pieces on the chessboard AND his when I bent over backwards to get him to interact with the kids or show up. When I stopped adulting for him, he never stepped up.

      That’s on him. That’s his decision and his great loss.

    • Raising hand in testimony. I remember those forced weekends with my father, who obviously had no idea what to do with me and resented every moment. Those days didn’t last long. He completely abandoned us even before we left the town and state we were born in. It was communicated to me (through my father’s new wife) that it was up to me to make sure I had a relationship with my father. It took me way too long to process the fact that my father had no idea of how to be a father and didn’t even care to try. And that is probably a major factor in why I choose to be with a man who was also emotionally unavailable to me. Father covert narc, married covert narc. Go figure. Took me 50 years to figure it out – finally.

  • Are you familiar with “Rose, Thorn, Bud”?

    It’s a brief exercise which helps young children sort through their feelings. Good for afterschool or before bed. Rose: What’s something good that happened today? Thorn: What’s something uncomfortable that happened today? Bud: What hopeful opportunity that happened today?

    Just a quick conversation which reminds both of you (!) that feelings pass.

  • Oh please not that tired out “emotional affair” story again! On behalf of Chump Nation can someone — anyone — please contact Fuckwit Nation and ask them PLEASE just once come up with some new cover stories, just to keep us interested?

    Hopefully update their playbook so it doesn’t insult our intelligence?

  • Dear Ready,

    Every one of us here who has never even met you actually cares about you and your child. This is the lifeboat. Come here daily or more, read, and gather strength and suggestions.

    I can’t add anything to the invaluable
    suggestions from Chump Lady, but there was one I did a little differently. I didn’t put on big girl pants or underwear. After I rallied the safe and trustworthy troops (trusted friends, lawyer, therapist, and Chump Nation), I put on my combat gear and laced up my shit kickers. I put on my thinking cap and donned my magic helmet. I put on that bullshit proof suit of armor every morning when I wake up and don’t take it off until bedtime when I put on my protective Kevlar pajamas.

    I learned here how and when to mute myself and how to engage with the enemy (aka fraudulent spouse, Traitor Ex).

    Cheating is a declaration of war. The cheater regards you as an opponent. They are NOT your friend. They are NOT on your side. They are NOT on your team. THEY ARE YOUR ENEMY.

    Think and act and dress and respond accordingly.

    If I had a genie that would grant me three wishes got for you, they would be

    1) Do not let Ready ask, beg, or otherwise appeal to that evil MF AH to come back ever again.

    2) Hook Ready up with a great lawyer and a great therapist and the rest of her army.

    My third wish has already been granted. That you have found this place. I am so sorry for your loss and pain.

    Welcome to the lifeboat. Get in and let us row you and your child to the far better life you deserve.

    • I listened to Sia’s “Unstoppable” all the time to keep me in this mindset. I like this because it doesn’t ignore the pain, just says she won’t let it show. Abusers love to see you in pain and falling apart. Cry when you’re alone, and put on your armor.

      All smiles, I know what it takes to fool this town
      I’ll do it ’til the sun goes down
      And all through the nighttime
      Oh, yeah
      Oh, yeah, I’ll tell you what you wanna hear
      Leave my sunglasses on while I shed a tear
      It’s never the right time
      Yeah, yeah

      I put my armor on, show you how strong I am
      I put my armor on, I’ll show you that I am

      I’m unstoppable
      I’m a Porsche with no brakes
      I’m invincible
      Yeah, I win every single game
      I’m so powerful
      I don’t need batteries to play
      I’m so confident
      Yeah, I’m unstoppable today
      Unstoppable today
      Unstoppable today
      Unstoppable today
      I’m unstoppable today

      Break down, only alone I will cry out loud
      You’ll never see what’s hiding out
      Hiding out deep down
      Yeah, yeah
      I know, I’ve heard that to let your feelings show
      Is the only way to make friendships grow
      But I’m too afraid now
      Yeah, yeah

      I put my armor on, show you how strong I am
      I put my armor on, I’ll show you that I am
      I’m unstoppable
      I’m a Porsche with no brakes
      I’m invincible
      Yeah, I win every single game
      I’m so powerful
      I don’t need batteries to play
      I’m so confident
      Yeah, I’m unstoppable today

      Unstoppable today
      Unstoppable today
      Unstoppable today
      I’m unstoppable today
      Unstoppable today
      Unstoppable today
      Unstoppable today
      I’m unstoppable today

      I put my armor on, show you how strong I am
      I put my armor on, I’ll show you that I am
      I’m unstoppable
      I’m a Porsche with no brakes
      I’m invincible
      Yeah, I win every single game
      I’m so powerful
      I don’t need batteries to play
      I’m so confident
      Yeah, I’m unstoppable today

  • This is such good advice. I would add that this fuckwit is so foul that you shouldn’t try to force a relationship between him your 7 year old. He’ll only manipulate the child like he did you. The bastard gets off on it. The less time he spends with your child the better. But get that child support order. He’s not going to pay unless he’s forced. He doesn’t want to be a family anymore. I know how hard it is to come to that realization, especially with a young child. My daughter was an adult and already in therapy when she realized her father didn’t want a relationship with her, so she was able to let it go. Your child might also benefit from some therapy.

    To reiterate CL for emphasis; emotional affair my ass. He’s as much as admitted that was a lie by saying he left you for sex.
    Those cruel things he said to you are probably approaching the truth to him, only he has it twisted. He doesn’t appreciate the sex he had with you, not because you’re bad at it, but because you’re not a whore like his AP. These guys often have a madonna whore complex, so their turn on is the kind of slag who has sex with married men. Decent women aren’t sexy to them. He’s sexually dysfunctional, not you. My FW was like this as well. His AP was a disgustingly promiscuous serial cheater. He admitted that was a turn on for him. Gross! There’s nothing you can do with a turd like that but dump his ass and get every dollar you can out of him. You can’t convince him to be a good father or a decent human being, so stop trying. He is your enemy. Treat him accordingly, but with the law, not rage texts.

  • Dear Ready,

    Listen to this.

    I met a man after escaping the Cheater. I found out that he was living with another woman the entire time we were dating. Having been just been pulverized, I told him calmly- NOPE.

    He said this: But I don’t know if we are going to work out. I need Christine there in case we don’t work out. Why can’t you understand this???

    He actually said this, all earnest and the big “What’s the Problem Eyes?” It’s like these people believe everyone else is an extra in the Drama of Their Life. I blocked him.

    A few months later, Christine sent me an email. She had become an internet sleuth as well, by necessity. This guy was HIV Positive. She is now too. She explained to me, after I called her, that when she got the results and drove home to confront him in a blinding rage where she honestly thought about stabbing him, he was like: It’s manageable now. I sometimes don’t even test positive with my retro virals. It’s like diabetes. What’s your fucking deal?

    Head explodes.

    She had no health insurance. He lived in her apartment, ate her food, used her gas, borrowed her car and threw trash in it, used her internet, ran up the power bill. They had been together for 6 years. He hid his positive status for 6 years. She only found out because she kept getting mouth sores and UTIs and her GP finally ran the gamut of blood tests to nail down the cause. She knew it was him as she had never sleep with anyone else. This guy was very good looking, charming, tall and ripped. He still has hordes of females salivate over his Insta – it is sickening. Appalling. I want to blast them all – Got AIDS? – but you know- consequences.

    Keep messing around with this man, and your hurt feelings will seem like a cuddle with an Corgi if he really gets going with his cruelty.

    Think of him as Ebola. You can’t touch it or you will have bloody diarrhea until death. You can mourn him later (or maybe not). Run from the disease.


      To emphasize the seriousness of what was Sameul said above, here is a link to my friend’s obituary who died from AIDS. She was intimate with three men in five years. When we met I remember her telling me that she had mouth sores, and “if this is as bad as it gets I can live with it.”

      Cheaters should be regarded as rapists and murderers, because they are.

    • ” It’s like these people believe everyone else is an extra in the Drama of Their Life.” That is EXACTLY what they believe. Of course we are all central to our own lives – but these disordered people refuse to believe that anyone else feels that way. To them, they are the only “real” people and the rest of us are just the supporting cast.

    • I had a partner do exactly this to me, but it was herpes. This behavior is assault. Keeping a positive STD diagnosis from a partner is a crime. If she has no health insurance, she needs to find a Ryan White program nearby. Check the local hospital or clinic to see where she can go. Her meds would be covered.

    • That’s horrible, appalling, so unfair…

      They never think about protecting partners

    • Google Philippe Padieu and how he had a rotation of women in his life, who he knowingly infected with HIV. Imprisoned for assault. The women were not aware he was such a busy boy, and lying about dating women concurrently.

    • It’s not “LIKE these people believe everyone else is an extra in the Drama of Their Life.”
      It’s “these people believe everyone else is an extra in the Drama of Their Life.”

    • It’s stories like this (and my own experiences) that encourage me to never date again. I’m better off on my own.

  • I used to be an introverted, meek mess (still am, truthfully). Definitely a follower, not a leader. I was happy to let my husband take the reins and play the loving, background wifey to his King of the Castle. And I was fine with it because, to a small degree, that’s the kind of relationship my parents have, and, to a much LARGER degree, that’s the kind of relationship his parents have (I never once saw his father cook, clean, or serve meals to his mother; always the other way around). I was moderately okay with being this kind of traditional wife. I didn’t want to be a girl-boss; I wanted to follow my husband’s lead.

    Well, my husband abandoned me (twice) for “greener pastures,” each time leaving me on my own with small children to raise.

    I had to give up my dreams of living as a loving and doting wife, because I was wifed to no one. I was the man of the house. I was King of the Castle. There was no one left steering the ship but me.

    We don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re forced to be capable. For me (the house mouse who only ever dreamed of doting on her husband like a wife from another era), I had to pull up my big girl panties. My biggest fear was that my husband and whatever “true love” girlfriend he had at the moment, would try and get full custody of my children in order to legitimize their narrative. So, I wrote my own separation agreements (twice: once for each time he left); I got a lawyer and finalized a divorce (he never bothered); I learned how to drive myself everywhere; I learned how to balance the household budget and pay taxes; I learned how to apply for funding and I found the kids and me a home; I learned how to use power tools to install medicine cabinets and do basic household repairs. And I did it all while still in love with my cheating FW (that took years and a lot of work to finally rid myself of).

    I’m not trying to brag because I’m no superwoman. I get often get lost when I drive and I’m not particularly good with tools. Still, I drive myself places and I eventually figure out a way to build those shelves for my kiddo’s room. And I’ve had to lie and say that I have a boyfriend/husband to get creepy men to not see me as a target. But I still mourn the life I was promised and the life I dreamed of where my children grew up with a father who worked hard and came home to freshly baked cinnamon buns.

    Well, I’m both roles now. I work hard and I still make those cinnamon buns. Once those big girl pants were pulled up, well, I never wanted to go back. I mourn my old life but I LOVE this independence. I’m still an introverted house mouse, but I can never see myself going backwards by accepting another relationship where I dote on a partner who doesn’t dote on me. It feels really good to captain my own ship.

    To the letter writer, you may feel like it’s impossible but you’ve got this. The FW was an anchor holding you back. Divorce him, even though it’s hard right now. Take the reins, control the divorce in your favor, and protect you and your child. Then, sail your ship. The waters will be choppy for awhile but you are going places!

    • You are MIGHTY. Some women in your situation glom onto the first creepy man who wanders by. You stood up and did what you had to do for yourself and your kids. Give yourself all the damn credit!

    • Someone said to me recently, “Somebody has to be pretty darn good to be better than nobody” and your post expresses this beautifully! I feel the same way.

  • I wish that somehow, some way, we could learn about walking away from sunk costs earlier in life. Cutting your losses is like applying a tourniquet to stop losing your life blood. If we could understand things are never going back to the “good ole days and ways” and that we were delusional at that time anyway, our lives would be so much better.

    I don’t want to discourage dreaming or working hard to achieve goals. I do want people to understand what a lost cause is. Even though it is difficult, I believe children need to learn early that life doesn’t always turn out like you want it to, and that you cannot blindly believe people are who they represent themselves to be. It is like the moment Little Red Riding Hood discovers the wolf is in her granny’s bed, pretending to be granny. That is not the time for Red to worry about granny, that is the time for Red to get away from the bed! It is appropriate to believe granny has already been killed by the wolf, and Red has to save herself. I would not teach my children to count on a random woodsman to show up and kill the wolf, or that granny and Red can be miraculously restored to life. That is RIC thinking. If you are being hunted by a predator, believe the predator can kill you. Start thinking about how to protect yourself and save yourself from the predator. Don’t be fooled by a predator who pretends to be a caring spouse. He does not care what happens to you, there will be no future, fight for your life. You learn to accept that your perception of your past life was probably clouded by deception and a desire to believe in something that truly did not exist. If granny is dead, or your marriage is dead, there will be no miracle restoration of life. You can mourn the loss of your perceived dream life later, when you are safe.

    I know my version of fairytales may not be popular. I believe they prepare children for the realities of life. I learned not to look for a prince to save me or carry me off to live happily ever after. I learned to save myself. When my children were young we read stories together. We discussed the stories, and the difference between fantasy and reality. I probably concentrated more energy on discussing the villains and their motivations. I wanted my kids to understand there would always be evil in the world, and sometimes the hero would not prevail. IMHO they needed to understand loss just as much as they needed to understand hope. My sons grew up understanding that their quests would require sacrifice, and they may have to endure hard times. It did not kill their hope, or dreams. It did make them more realistic about how to achieve their dreams.

    Chumps are vulnerable because they believe in hope and dreams. We strive and endure hardship in pursuit of those goals. We have to learn that some of those dreams will not come true, and some of our heroes are actually villains in disguise. Sometimes we have to abandon a dream to save ourselves. Sometimes we have to cut our losses. That is reality.

    • Standing ovation, Portia! I agree this is such an important life skill and pray that my daughter grows up with an ability to see the realities of life clearly, while also not losing hope, and, above all, trusting in herself. It’s a delicate balance, for sure, which is unfortunately most times lived and learned. My eyes were opened hard post-D-Day, but I had a solid foundation and navigated my way forward. I try to model all of this for her, and I think in having to be a model for my child, I have maintained my footing. She was my reason for getting out, and she continues to be my reason for trying to make the best possible choices I can for both of us.

  • The cruelty is hard. It is even harder when it isn’t deliberate, they just don’t care. Your feelings are not important but Schmoopie’s feelings are. “I can’t do that to Schmoopie”. “Schmoopie cried when I told her we were going to try marriage counseling”. “Schmoopie’s husband was so cruel to have cheated on her and she was so kind to have taken him back”. “Don’t you feel sorry for Schmoopie?” GAh!

    And the whole “you are not good at sex” thing. That one is so personal and cuts so deep, especially if you thought you still had a sex life up until that point. It implies that you have an unfixable flaw that makes you unlovable or at least undesirable as a romantic partner. I got “I love you but I am just not passionate about you” (his version of ILYBINILWY). Ex claimed that I was the one with the low libido but I was the one who could climax with straight up sex with a partner of 20 years. He is the one who needed awkward (sometimes painful) positions and apparently strange to get off. We were down to about once a week or so but that was intimate enough for me to know he was having trouble getting it up and climaxing. I gave him a lot of Grace there because I thought it was an aging thing and he couldn’t help it. Turns out, he was getting his rocks off elsewhere and just didn’t have anything left for me. He claimed I was never interested in sex but he was the one who was only ever interested at three in the morning waking me out of a deep sleep, five minutes before my alarm went off, or five minutes before I needed to be out the door to get to an appointment. If I tried to get frisky in the evenings after chores were done and kids were in bed, well, he always had something more important to do. The point is, it’s all lies and if he says “you are not good at sex” he is most likely projecting and if you stop to think about it, you will realize that truth.

    And then there are the kids. They really don’t stop to think about the impact on the kids. Ex has some vague understanding that I got hurt and that I might have had at least some reason to have reacted with some level of disappointment towards him but he has no understanding of the fact that the kids got hurt too. Their dad prioritized Schmoopie over them too. He resents them for not loving Schmoopie as much as he does and any hint of insult or disrespect from them towards him or her throws him into a rage. When they don’t behave as he wishes he also get more angry than he should and doesn’t understand that “do what I say because I am the adult and I know best” doesn’t work when you have given up all of your moral authority by tearing your family apart to satisfy the needs of your dick. He totally doesn’t get that and thinks the kids are just being bratty and difficult. Keep in mind that we are talking about the older two “kids” who were 14 and 16 when everything went down. They are now 20 and 22 and he still thinks they are just being bratty. At first he blamed me for turning them against Schmoopie in particular. I think he now gets that I am not indoctrinating the kids against her but he still thinks that it was my pain that turned them against that relationship. He doesn’t understand that they have their own pain completely apart from me. He prioritizes Schmoopie and her kids over them regularly and they notice that. Schmoopie’s entitled and easily offended attitude isn’t helping. She seems to think she is entitled to everyone’s good will and respect just because she is Ex’s partner. Not so, she has to earn it and so far she has not made any real effort to do so from what I can see.

    Anyway, enough ranting. Now the good news. Eventually you can get over the cruelty simply be being away from it and going on to live your best life without him. I am more relaxed, happier, and have way more self esteem now than I ever had living with ex.

  • Chumplady called it as it is… do all these things. This guy is a plain vanilla version of all the cheating, lying, selfish, entitled narcissists that drove millions to this site. Trust he sucks. You don’t. Get that divorce started today. Go grey rock-
    I’ll consider it

    These are only words to use with the abusive fucker. Nothing more. And no talking on phone or in person. Email. And wait to respond unless a true emergency.
    The relationship is over. Now act like it- you’ll feel better sooner if you do. It will take 3-5 years to be happy and at peace but you’ll get there— we all do if we follow Tracey’s lead. Is it hard? Hell yes! But living like you are is worse. Ask me how I know 🤦‍♀️😢

  • I’m so sorry. Do NOT take him back EVER. He has devalued you to such an extent he will never value you. If you keep engaging in this shit show, your self -esteem will be hard to find.
    1st ex kept coming and going (No OW as far as I know, but big MH issues), and it did me in. I didn’t have the strength, foresight or energy to do much about it. I was in denial and hopeful.
    Anyway, these stories never get better in any way, including $ if you stick around.
    Who knows what this FW is?????? But we know what he isn’t. He is not good for you.

  • So the big motivator for me to get things in motion and file when my ex was the one to leave was:

    Because he left – if I filed for child support – he would have a hard time getting primary custody (not that he wanted it) but that was the most important thing for me.

    I know legally it’s different everywhere – but he had no claim even on little things like final say in extra curriculars ( you need that) or religion etc.

  • Excellent advice from ChumpLady. 100%. You could not pay for better advice. Find people to support you in following it.

  • He’s not coming back, he’s cake eating. And he’ll continue to say mean and cruel things because he has no self awareness and is selfish.

    I continue to receive garbage from her, I don’t even respond to it.

  • Oh, my heart hurts. What an absolute a$$hole. This happened to him, and now he is doing it to his own child?? RTMO, please get your son into therapy ASAP. I truly believe that children are often like chumps in that they internalize a belief that they were somehow responsible for chasing the FW away. Make certain your child knows this has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with the FW’s shitty and entitled behavior.

    I know my xFW was messed up by his dad leaving, then doing the “disneyland dad” thing for a few months before he took a job out of state and moved permanently out of their lives. FW would talk about eagerly waiting for his dad to show up, how his dad was always late, and sometimes didn’t show up at all. Oh, and he never paid a dime in child support, even though ordered to. More easily enforced now, than in the ’60s, I think (hope). When his dad moved away, FW got a total of 2 cards and a single phone call in 15 years from him.

    My heart went out to the child, but my xFW was an ADULT when he did the horrible things he did. He absolutely had agency and the ability to leave if he was so desperately unhappy with our marriage. During his 7 year affair, he kept up the mirage that our marriage was as strong as ever.

    My FW accused me of changing after our daughter was born. Duh? But he said it in front of HER. As far as I know, she has little to no contact with him, and only when he reaches out to her. She was in her 20s when it went down, but still went to therapy to deal with the aftermath. I’m glad she did.

  • You are my rock, CL. Thank you! I wonder if there will ever be a time when I don’t feel the need to come and sit for a while here with my fellow chumps. There’s no fog here. I can sit across from anyone in the group and connect immediately because we’ve lived it. We don’t need to defend ourselves or come up with long explanations here. This big squishy couch helps me get through the pain. And I get past the feeling of needing to tell my story to others who will never understand.

  • There’s so much good advice here that I wish I had had. Thanking of the cheater as your enemy is spot on. It will stop you from trauma bonding. They are not on your team, they don’t care, they have moved on.
    As others have said, I would keep it brief, and to the age appropriate point with your son. Fuckwit might very well get shared custody.
    Many insist on shared custody to avoid paying child support. Even though he’s a Fuckwit, your son might be able to have a good relationship with him eventually.
    I know that seems impossible, but it happens.
    This one struck such a chord with me, because I kept accepting 1st Ex back, for the kids, for him, because he wasn’t well, and I thought for myself. Now it’s so clear to me. If somebody expresses that they don’t want to be there, open the door and send them out and get on with your life.
    Protect yourself. You have to think of it this way, if the person you’re married to isn’t protecting you, while you are married… Imagine how little they will protect you once you’re divorced. It’s important to have everything on paper, and to think of your future and your kids future.

  • It’s the last day of Passover, so maybe that’s what triggered the image of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and parting the Red Sea. Ready to Move On, you wrote that “STBXH told me two months ago he wanted to split. He then moved out a few weeks later.”

    Well, the waters WERE PARTED! Walk all the way through them to the other side of that Promised Land of Tuesday and the better life of freedom from a cheater that comes after it.

    Take all of Chump Lady’s advice to file for divorce on your own, get child support, and go no contact. Gray. Rock.

    Your STBX thinks he’s the decision-maker here, leaving you when he wants, reuniting when he wants. Sounds like ‘ol Pharaoh to me. Be like Moses and let the waters come together again and drown him (metaphorically speaking, of course) when you’re on the other side.

    Side note – is it just me who mentally fills in a few extra letters when I see “STBX” and turns it into “SHITBOX”, or does anyone else do that?!

  • Im short on time, but let ma spare you the 15 years it took me to figure part fo this out:

    My Cheater (who said many of the things your cheater did) was soul crushing, life altering, assbastard cruel. I now believe he did that because hen he did, I became so upset that I could don’t function at my baseline level…he neutralized my power for a time window where I would become quiet and maybe even doscile because I was inwardly in profound crisis. He did it to manipulate and get his way in the moment. He was mean and selfish enough that getting his way in the moment was worth whatever pain he caused.

    • “…he neutralized my power for a time window where I would become quiet and maybe even docile because I was inwardly in profound crisis.”

      That is some damn good insight into how cheaters and other narcissists behave, consciously or unconsciously. Hopefully I’ll never meet one of them again, but filing this away in case I do.

    • “He did it to manipulate and get his way in the moment. ”

      I honestly believe that is in large part what my ex did. He needed me to keep quiet until he could get control of his life again. (he was outed by an ethics complaint filed against him).

      So my pain did not matter, he had to regain control.

      Just a note: he never did regain control, the mayor kept him on as captain and his right hand man for about six months before demoting him and putting him back out on patrol. I think fw thought he just had to kiss hiney a bit and he would be in the in crowd again, and all would be forgotten (I thought that too). Nope they were just dotting i’s and crossing t’s for legal purposes I assume.

      In the newspaper they called it an “organizational change”, but everyone knew. I assume that was to allow him to keep his raise. But that raise wasn’t what he wanted, he wanted that power and that office right next to the mayor. Camelot only lasted about two years for him.

    • This is so true, so mean and selfish that would do anything to disarm you and just take the heat off them and their horrendous lies. Mine did this to me a week after my dad’s funeral (my mum died when I was a lot younger). What kind of decent human being would do that to someone at one of the worst times in their lives. A total and utter lowlife, that’s who.

  • I’m 4 years from divorce and 2 from abandonment. I haven’t been on this site in quite a while. I wish I had been stable enough to follow Chumplady’s advice from the beginning. Please listen to the wise folks here. Your ex has been ex for a while. It’s not your fault. Get a lawyer, get a private investigator, get all the money you can, get all the custody you can. Don’t compromise on anything. Don’t believe anything he says. Get it done now, and don’t look back. You will regret every concession you make, so make only those you’re forced to. Please take this to heart. Don’t live with regret on top of heartbreak.

      • Hi Boudicca,

        Thanks for asking. Some days are better than others. I still struggle with how much the ex screwed me over financially. He just married millionaire schmoopie, and they’re living “happily ever after” at the country club, while I worry about paying for tomorrow. But I have a nice home and I just completed the requirements for my teaching license, so these are small gifts. I keep wishing karma would visit him, but I’m starting to lose faith in the universe. It seems as if he’s been rewarded, rather than punished, for all the fraud. And I still don’t have the money for a good attorney, so while he makes $300k a year, he gets to pay me 18k in alimony, which stops in 2 years. This leaves me with a new teacher’s salary and no retirement at the age of 60. I am a living lesson in what not to do when your husband cheats. I wish I had a happier ending to share.

  • Dear Ready:

    I am so sorry. You are in the twilight zone, where you stepped on an IED and your world explored into shards…and the man you loved and thought you knew has morphed into an unrecognizable monster who gloats at your disbelief and pain and stares emotionless at the pain his own child endures.

    All of us have been there. It seems unsurvivable when you are in it, but you will survive this. Your marriage won’t, though…and when you you are in your right mind again you will recognize this as a good thing.

    Here is the advice I wish I’d had:

    Your husband is a disordered person, always has been and always will be. Isn’t anything you did or anything you can change. These people don’t change, although they often lie about changing.
    Your husband’s affair was physical. He is lying about it being only emotional, and it is unlikely it is the only affair.
    You must protect yourself and your beautiful, hurting child. See a lawyer. Get yourself and your son a therapist. Go no contact. All those cruel things he said to your stunned and grieving self? That’s the real him.
    Your husband enjoys hurting you. He enjoys hurting you. Not your fault and nothing will change it. I’m so sorry that he wasn’t the man he pretended to be.
    The divorce will be ugly no matter what you do, because your husband is an ugly person. He will try to hurt you financially and emotionally. Document all the things he does and says, because your mind is too hurt to keep an accurate record. Every phone call to your son, date, time, and duration. Get custody if you can.
    You will survive this, and your son will as well if you can be strong and sane.
    And try not to long for the life you once had, because you never really had it. It wasn’t real. The good news is that a better and authentic life awaits you.

  • Ready, it is amazing how fast and far the mask slips when they let it go. My ex always told me our marriage was sacred to him because he saw how horrible it was when his father cheated on and left his mother. He told me he didn’t care about money. His unnecessary scorched earth behavior in our divorce belied both of these statements.

    They lie until it is no longer expedient and then you see the true them.

  • My STBXH had nebulous partners. When he produced his D day it was nobody in particular, just random woman! He was playing cruel and deceitful with me regarding
    his variety. So you don’t need one person to get a D day. My STBXH was using a shot gun for any woman who would have sex with him. So to me, it’s a state of mind like emotional affairs are. In a way, these kind of people are fishing for an excape,any way out is fair game to lose the boredom of being an adult or having real responsibilities or a challenge in life. Challenges like your illness, a pregnancy like my first husband’s escape hatch. What comforts me about these types is that they would not be there for you when the chips are down. Not there for you when things got tough. Not present and always seeking the flashing exit sign. They will bail sooner or later. They pretend to love but they are vacant actors in the play of our lives. So it comforts me to know that truth.Their souls are hollow like a chocolate Easter bunny that crumbles with the first bite. I did not want that because if I ” won the turd back, ” when would he pick to leave me again? Would he bankrupt me with his spending? Would be use all our marital funds, would I get the next STD or STI like did happen to me. We must protect our little ones and ourselves from disordered minds. There is no sense in cheating, it is ALL about them. The sooner you know this the better.

  • I was struck by how many statements in your post are about what HE may or may not do about the marriage:
    *he doesn’t talk about filing for divorce;
    *he made it seem like one day we would try again;
    *He told [kiddo] “I might not come back.”
    Why doesn’t he talk about filing for divorce? Because the consequence of divorce is COURT-ORDERED SUPPORT. As part of the divorce process, there will be an order of support. He will lost 1/2 or more of the property you’ve accumulated in marriage. He’ll have to pay an attorney. His custody times will be fixed and he can’t operate on a whim. He may have to pay you alimony! He may lose 1/2 of his retirement account.

    So not filing for divorce means he sees it in his interest not to deal with these pesky legalities like supporting children in a fair and consistent way. And as CL says, you’re Plan B if Schmoopie doesn’t work out. He wants you to be there waiting and hoping he’ll change his mind.

    The other line that strikes me as important can be looked at in two parts:
    *It’s like he isn’t the person I know
    *….and he intentionally wants to hurt me.

    “It’s like he isn’t the person I know”: This is you looking at his image in your mind not the man as he actually is. He’s the person cheating on you. He’s the person who moved out on you. He’s the person who says cruel things to you. He’s the person indifferent to the suffering of his child. That’s who he is. The image of the old husband? That’s was the guy he wanted you to see, until he started devaluing you prior to leaving.

    Read up on the cycle of relationships used by narcissistic people (and other disordered). Once you see that your STBX is one of many who cycle through relationships once a source of kibbles has lost its snack-ability. You can start here.,are%20of%20no%20further%20use.Dr. George Simon’s website is also very helpful.

    Finally, it’s not that he “intentionally wants to hurt you.” It’s that he is intentionally hurting you. He’s hurting you! And your child! Affairs are intentional. Moving out is intentional. Saying horrible things–intentional. So leave out the “wants to.” He doesn’t even register you in his thoughts. It’s all “me me me me me.”

  • Use a parenting app to schedule visits, don’t engage with this traitor, it’s not healthy for you
    Get to a lawyer and they will advise you how to secure any joint assets
    Get an interim order for child support right away
    Assure your child that mom and dad both love him and you will all get through this

    FW is about to see the true consequences of being a FW, and you need to get your ducks in a row

    • I don’t think you should say to a child that the cheating, abandoning parent loves them. It’s demonstrably a lie, and the child needs to be able to trust that the sane parent won’t lie to them. You and your child will get through it, leave the fuckwit out of it.

      • Totally agree. I don’t think it’s a good idea to acclimatize kids to the idea that the spotty or shoddy version of love exhibited by most FWs meets the standard of the sane parent’s idea of love because, at the very least, that compromises the sane parent’s standards and standing in the eyes of kids and, at worst, sets kids up to accept that spotty, shoddy form in friendships and adult relationships. That doesn’t mean the sane parent has to dispute every time the FW makes claims that they love their kids and say, “No, s/he doesn’t love you, don’t believe it.” But I wouldn’t sign off on it by telling kids that’s my idea of love.

        Personally my kids are all given reading lists and a lot of those books are pre-approved for defining things like love, loyalty, authenticity, trust, etc. in ways that I agree with and for illustrating how coercion and control are often disguised as love. One of my sons is currently reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” the other is reading Primo Levi and my daughter is reading “Wild Berries” by Yevgeni Yevtushenko.

    • We’ll be here whenever you need us, Ready. Unlike the FW, we care. It seems impossible that complete strangers on a blog could care more about you than the person you spent most of your life with, but there it is. It hurts, but it has to be faced in order to heal. Lots of ❤ to you.

  • “He’s blameshifting his horrific choices on to you, because he cannot face what a pathetic, disgusting person he is.” Oh, CL so true! Ex was the sweetest, easy going, thoughtful man. He was the best – we were 2 peas in a pod. My bestest friend ever. But the moment I questioned him about something that just wasn’t right he switched to an evil warlock in a split second. It was terribly frightening to see him rant and rage over how much of a horrible person I was to him. He moved out 3 weeks later & filed for divorce shortly after that. He would call and harass me about financial issues. It was all so traumatic that I ended up being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. Never in a million years would I have thought my marriage would end like that. I was waiting for the death do us part stage of life

  • Why are cheaters typically so viciously cruel to primary partners? It’s the same as asking why batterers batter and, what’s more, the answer is pretty much the same. If anyone feels compelled to untangle skeins, untangling it in that direction would be the sobering choice, so here’s my extended spiel on it below. Please pardon how dry this sounds. It’s a lot to condense but there are links and authors mentioned if anyone wants to go to sources.

    I think it would simplify chumps’ options if we were encouraged to view cheaters as would-be batterers. For one, as a former advocate for domestic violence survivors, I never encountered a DV survivor who wasn’t also cheated on in some way. That view of cheating is only slowly getting official recognition as a common component of intimate partner violence, either as a tactic typically used by batterers to paralyze and “coercively control” their primary partners or as a reflection of batterers’ underlying agenda or both.

    As far as abusers’ agenda, personally I’ve started suspecting that battering is, at root, a protracted sex crime, the goal of which is to enforce sexual double standards (total sexual freedom for perps and none for victims). On that model, cheating would be a given. The sex crime concept doesn’t exempt female cheaters if it’s true that women most often express aggression indirectly or, you could say, “protractedly.” In any event, for an abuser to enforce this level of sexual hypocrisy isn’t easy to the degree that human beings probably departed from our “poly” ape ancestors to evolve as basically monogamous– even if this is expressed as a hypocritical demand that intimate partners be monogamous. One way to determine if a tendency is hardwired is that it takes terror and trickery to crush and divert hardwired human traits and preferences so, on that model, domestic abuse would be pragmatic and intentional because the only way to stymie and crush someone’s expectation of monogamy from an intimate partner is through abuse. That makes the abuse pragmatic and not an expression of mental illness. That doesn’t mean abusers always act and think in reality-based ways. Another thing that’s hard work and a full-time job is rationalizing abuse– typically at the expense of victims– in order for the perpetrator to unburden themselves of stigma and guilt so that they don’t “smell” guilty to bystanders and prospective prey, can evade detection and consequences and continue to perpetrate. The blame-shifting, particularly because it works best if the perpetrator can fully delude themselves that it’s true, is never grounded in reality and can sound “crazy” but serves a purpose, so is a bit more of a “crazy like a fox” type of crazy (click “download” for a free read of a paper on systems of criminal rationalization:

    Anyway, this is why I think one of the things proving that cheating relates to domestic violence and that cheaters should be viewed through a “battering” lens is the typical cruelty involved. Cheating is rarely ever “just cheating” but mostly comes with a range of other escalating abuses– verbal, emotional, psychological, financial or physical. In one sense, cheating almost always involves physical abuse because, as CL points out, it potentially exposes victims to deadly STDs. The fact that the victim may be unaware of being put at risk doesn’t discount the chilling criminality of the behavior involved any more than it would if the perpetrator played Russian roulette with a loaded gun pointed at the victim’s head only while the victim was sleeping.

    But even without the risk of STDs, the psychological abuse typically involved with cheating has every earmark of being an escalation towards violence and should automatically be viewed this way. Because the world is only starting to catch up to the concept of “coercive control”– an emerging category of criminal intimate abuse involving patterns of emotional and psychological entrapment and coercion that are listed by most survivors as the most paralyzing, damaging aspects of DV even beyond physical violence– most chumps don’t realize they’ve been subjected to IPV or intimate partner violence unless the abuse escalates to outright injurious physical assault. Even in the case of direct physical assault, victims may feel socially pressured not to label it as “battering” on a sort of demented sliding scale that has no bottom (“Well, you were shaken/pushed, not struck, so it’s not battering.”; “Well, you were struck, not stomped, so it’s not battering”; “Well, you were stomped, not shot, so it’s not battering” and on and on until the victim is dead). That demented sliding scale of minimization actually starts with the failure to recognize that coercive control is on the DV continuum. The failure to recognize or label certain behaviors as abuse– which sums up the profit model for RIC therapy and CSAT or “sex addiction” therapy when applied to coercively controlling partners– constitutes a failure to warn because survivors may be misled about their abusers’ MOs (which are inherently, categorically destructive), whether the abusers’ behavior can be redeemed or “fixed” (recidivism for battering is nearly 100%), and may not seek appropriate resources, support and therapy which can, in turn, lead survivors to minimize the damage they’ve experienced, internalize fault for it and, even more dangerously, be left unprotected against the statistical likelihood of escalation.

    It’s arguably better for victims’ mental health to accept the DV association, not to mention safer. When it comes to anything carrying risk of bodily injury or death, “statistical likelihood” of escalation should be sufficient to take serious protective measures. It’s not overreacting, even if there hasn’t yet been any physical violence, partly because it’s a myth that most batterers are violent “all the time.” Leading experts on batterer psych like criminologist Donald Dutton point out that most domestic abusers operate on the “beat-by-need” basis, preferring less legally risky, less athletic methods of crushing their preys’ agency and self-esteem and reserving physical violence only as a last resort when victims resist. In other words, there’s really no point in taking the risk or making the exertion of beating someone down who’s already lying inert and face down on the ground. It’s only pragmatic if the victim is still standing and couldn’t be taken down by other means. This is one of the things that has called into question the old, debunked theory that victims of domestic violence necessarily suffered from pre-existing “low self-esteem” that “drew” them to abusers on some dysfunctional Voodoo tractor beam and prevents them from leaving because, on some mysterious level (“mysterious” because there’s no evidence this is true of most victims), they “need” to be abused. But the beat-by-need pattern suggests the severity of abuse typically reflects the degree to which the victim is resisting and resistance suggests existing self-esteem. The same goes for the abuser’s level of emotional abuse and cruelty. Why are they being cruel? Because you’re resisting on some level. Your basic self-esteem is thwarting their agenda so they campaign to divest you of that problematic self-esteem in any way they can. That’s battering in a nutshell, or at least the introductory stage of it known as “coercive control.”

    If cheating is simply a manifestation of domestic violence, it has nothing to do with love by definition. People in the throes of actual love tend to turn into big hippies and will become more sensitive to the emotional states of other people. If that’s not the case, then what’s driving them isn’t love or even sex in the healthy sense. Someone motivated by love doesn’t viciously attack anyone who impedes sexual expression of that “love” but you know who does? Rapists and batterers.

    It can be confusing for survivors of cheating to wrap their heads around the “rapey” aspect of abusers’ sexuality when the abusers’ shift their rapey MO to another target. For this purpose, I think “rapistic” sexuality could be described as sexuality devoid of empathy which objectifies both objects and obstacles and is capable of doing harm to both objects and obstacles if thwarted. You could even argue that rapists are sexually “needy.” They have “unmet needs” but it doesn’t make them sympathetic, it makes them dangerous. If you think of batterers as “protracted” rapists rather than stranger-danger rapists who brandish weapons from the get-go or leap out of bushes, batterers in the courtship stage of grooming new “objects” will try to conceal– at least from the immediate target– their underlying aggressive motives on the principle of catching more flies with honey. One way to do that is to split the agenda and separate aggression from sexual grooming, at least until the predator manages to hobble and entrap the second target. From that perspective, it would make sense that the underlying aggression would be diverted away from the newest target and channeled elsewhere, mostly towards the betrayed primary partner, both because the chump partner might impede the abuser’s agenda and because, like a dog with two bones, just because the dog has collected a second bone doesn’t mean they want other dogs to get the first. Short of being able to lock their primary partners in underground cells, one way abusers can try to prevent their primary partners from moving on to subsequent relationships is by enlisting the victim in their own entrapment: by convincing the primary partner that they can’t move on, that no one will want them, that they’re contemptible and worthless and, without the abuser, will die alone and unloved.

    If you ask a cheater why they’re so cruel and abusive to chumps, few are going to answer “To keep them from moving on and having sex with other people.” That would be the last thing many abusers would admit because of another peculiarity of abuser mentality, something called “masked dependency.” Again, abusers don’t “love” in the sense most people think of it, but that doesn’t mean they don’t develop extreme, pathological, infantile dependency on partners. It’s been theorized that, in some ways, they never grew out of the infant stage of depending for survival on parental attention. In pop-psych, attachment disorders like this are often viewed as sad sausage traits worthy of sympathy. But criminologists would probably argue that there’s no human being more dangerous than a ambulatory, two hundred pound six month old raging for mommy’s boob. The abuser’s survival isn’t actually threatened by partner abandonment but, to abusers, it “feel” like this is true.

    This above is the place where abusers get pretty close to stark raving. If you’re around one long enough, you’re going to get glimpses of that crazy abyss. If it weren’t for all the clever, systematic, organized strategies that adult abusers coldly engage in to serve this agenda, they might be certifiable but they’re just too effective and selective and skilled at image management to qualify for a “crazy” exemption, even if the syndrome typically begins with being victimized in childhood and may involve underlying “vulnerability.” According to Dutton again, because many abusers were emotionally stunted by abusive environments in childhood and may have developed deep shame over their own feelings of vulnerability, including feelings of dependency on others, many abusers will go to great lengths to conceal this dependency from others and even themselves. Dutton doesn’t speculate further but I think cheating would be a logical way to hedge bets and “dilute” an abuser’s infantile dependence on a primary partner by spreading that dependency out on more than one. They learned as children that they can’t depend on mommy’s boobs or attention to be available when needed so, as adults, they may go out and find alternative wet nurses as backup (again, this doesn’t exempt she-cheaters even if their psychosis seems to be aimed at male victims. We all had mothers). At some point the abuser may transfer more of that loveless and secretly desperate dependency to the “wet nurse” and/or the primary partner may become suspicious and threaten to leave, at which point the giant baby’s abandonment fears will be triggered along with the impulse to hobble their primary partner by whatever means necessary, not excluding murder.

    Depending on the length of the primary relationship, even abusers who successfully transfer some of their wormy dependence to a new target would still probably feel greater pathological dependence on the longer term partner and therefore greater rage if the primary partner escapes. There may also be a built-in bias in the case the secondary target is a knowing “side piece.” The abuser may not invest in or depend on a “side piece” as deeply as they would a primary partner because the witting affair partner, by showing willingness to cheat and deceive, wasn’t seen as reliable or trustworthy to begin with. This brings up another note about batterers’ infantile dependency which could explain the tendency of cheating abusers to be particularly cruel to primary partners. DV research Dutton theorized that adult abusers typically witnessed their mothers being systematically abused by another adult and, while recovering from injury or trauma, these mothers would be less available to their infants, whether physically or emotionally. That doesn’t mean the maternal figures might not have been abusive or withholding in their own rights but, to an infant, simply being rendered less available makes a maternal figure seem unreliable and dangerous no mater how well intended or devoted the mother might have been. The infant may also equate the maternal figure’s injured state with lack of availability/abandonment so that signs of emotional pain and vulnerability in future partners might trigger extreme rage as much as cues that the primary partner is preparing to escape. So abusers’ cruelty is self-fulfilling. An abuser might be cruel to a primary partner because they fear the victim will leave and move on or simply because the cruelty is causing pain and pain in the victim itself signals potential unavailability. If the same abuser is showing selective empathy to an affair partn3er it could arguably reflect lower investment. In any event, that exemption will only last as long as the secondary partner remains secondary.

    If you ask most domestic murderers why they killed their partners, some aren’t going to admit to a possessiveness or jealousy motive. They may admit to any other motive, even ones bringing stiffer penalties, rather than expose their shameful dependency. In fact, because abusers who mask dependency are statistically more likely to commit extreme or lethal violence against partners (Dutton again), it makes sense that most who kill their partners would have difficulty admitting to thwarted dependency as a motive. This is why I didn’t think police should have taken at face value Chris Watts’ claim that he killed his wife and daughters solely to get them “out of the way” of his affair. The bigger motive may have been that his wife had discovered the affair and was threatening divorce. The cold-blooded killing of his own children may simply have been to get rid of witnesses or might have been, as academic feminist John Stoltenberg argues, because abusers view children as “symbolic penises” competing for their mother’s attention. The same could be true of Scott Peterson. In both cases, the victims were pregnant and the leading cause of death for pregnant women worldwide is domestic murder, second only to car accidents. The perpetrators didn’t want other dogs– or even their own offspring– to get their first bones.

    Going back to the issue of cheating as coercive control and as a red flag of potential violence in itself, in the case of Watts and Peterson, there had been no reports that either were violent to their wives prior to murdering them and neither Laci Peterson nor Shanaan Watts were officially listed as victims of domestic violence. But, as many chumps know, cheating alone might strongly suggest both victims were previously subjected to forms of coercive control as a facilitator to cheating. As more is understood about coercive control, one day evidence of cheating might be enough for victims to take serious safety measures without having to defend their actions to apologists.

    • @HellOfAChump

      In short, what is known in social psychology and applied in criminology as: Malignant narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, and the “dark triad” and “dark tetrad” descriptions.

      • Spot on. You boiled it down to brass tacks. Unfortunately because we’ve got profiteering apologists like Esther Perel and the RIC establishment psychobabbling the issue to death, sometimes hairs have to be split. 😉

    • “one way abusers can try to prevent their primary partners from moving on to subsequent relationships is by enlisting the victim in their own entrapment: by convincing the primary partner that they can’t move on, that no one will want them, that they’re contemptible and worthless and, without the abuser, will die alone and unloved.”

      Exactly. FW was “so happy” with OW, but he kept me on a string for years and actually SAID those things to me. I’d never find anyone like him, nobody liked me, I’d die alone, etc. (Although on the other hand he’d say I WOULDN’T be alone because I was attractive and a slut and would have no trouble trapping another man – FW was nothing if not self-contradicting; he also regularly told me I was ugly and gross.)

      I did believe for awhile that no one would want me, but I actually got asked out quite a few times while we were separated. In the end, I’ve chosen to be single because PEACE.

  • Excellent excellent advice. Start moving forward- without him. Don’t look back – you and your child will have a beautiful life, start constructing that now. Every time you are tempted to rage text imagine that you are putting your child in danger – it’s either this jerk or your child. You would pick your son in a heartbeat.

    • Exactly, Sally. If not for yourself, do it for your child, Ready To Move On. The rage texts, or even seemingly innocuous communications, could jeopardize financial and custody arrangements. Time to cut through the fog. You can’t afford not to. Starting right now. We believe in you!

      One of my biggest regrets: I wrote many rage texts and emails in the months following my final departure. I was so angry that this person I had shown love and loyalty to for years had been leading a double life and had willfully destroyed my life as I knew it — with zero empathy or understanding about how cruel and unjust it was. He walked away unscathed, and I was left broken and with nothing. To add insult to injury, he was a hypocritical freak, claiming I was unstable when he was the abusive and volatile one, whereas I had been steady and supportive through years of his self-pitying chaos-making and only fell apart at the bitter end, when everything came out and the psychological, financial and physical abuse escalated. (And even then, I was still honest and decent and far too forgiving, and kept putting one foot in front of the other.) I was a Pick Me hostage and hanging on for dear life, yet I also was furious and knew how fucked up he, and the entire situation, was. Shit sandwiches all around, and being that helpless did not leave me with many good options for expressing and dealing with the mess I was left to clean up. The rage texts/emails felt like something, but in reality, they were futile and self-harming.

      The mind blender mindfuck continued as long as I continued to engage, even after I left. I left the area and walked away with nothing because thanks to the uneven dynamic, I had no recourse: I had no legal claim (we weren’t married and I wasn’t on the deed, despite of fifteen years of love, investments, commitment and sacrifice) and our home was in FW’s hometown, plus he is a charming Nice Guy and a shameless liar and manipulator who garnered sympathy and created a very twisted (and constantly shifting) narrative about “us.” I wanted to die; I had no hope for my future, the pandemic was in full swing and the housing market is a nightmare; I was on the cusp of 40 without a home or family of my own, with nothing but sunk costs and PTSD to show for all those years; my whole life felt like a lie; and I felt betrayed by my “partner” and many people I cared about. I didn’t care about anything, and definitely not whatever was left of my dignity. I’m sure my outlook and emotional/cognitive functioning wasn’t helped by the fact that I wasn’t sleeping or eating and had been traumatized by the escalation of IPV and the early morning/late night stalking after I left. (Hard to say which felt worse — the creepy unwanted attention, which admittedly felt in some ways like “love,” or the sudden abandonment after pretending to “get it” and want to make genuine amends. Crazy how the brain works in the middle of it…) I didn’t care how the rage texts in the midst of the two ugly extremes of phony hoovering and false promises vs. broken promises and abandonment/devaluation, neither of which felt close to genuine love or fairness, made me look. Nothing mattered anymore, and this fuckwit had taken advantage of me and destroyed my life, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I thought I had nothing left to lose or gain, and I could not stop myself. I felt less in control of my words and actions than I ever have, and it was mortifying and terrifying. I wanted him to see and to stop, and l to make amends, be accountable and give me closure. The harder I tried, the more helpless and hurt I felt, and ashamed. I was feeling worse and worse and the suicidal ideation started to scare me, and one day after yet another heartless and futile exchange, huddled on the floor of my tiny new apartment in my new town, I accepted that contact was literally killing me and that I needed to take control and close the door forever. From there, I treated FW as an addiction and just bare knuckled my way through NC. I still wanted to send FW the bill for my STD panel that arrived, or the articles about abuse I was finding that described him to a tee, or the awful emails and future faking I occasionally found from our past, or the “sweet” photos of us and notes from him when he was secretly cheating, or the nasty AP correspondances. But eventually, the urge for remorse, closure and amends (from FW) subsided, and it rarely ever comes up now, two years later (and when it does, I know better than to let that FW know I still even think of him, even if only to think of what a POS he is).

      Unfortunately, now I have to live with shame and regret over my actions, after fifteen years of being mighty and the sane one, because of my trauma and grief-induced flailing for a couple of months. Now, I do care about my dignity. I also wish I could be more open about what he did. But FW has all kinds of “evidence” he can use against me that, to non-chumps and people who don’t know and love me, would make me seem bitter and crazy (even though every messy thing I wrote was heartfelt and deserved and true). I have plenty “on him,” and the story speaks for itself, but I just am not the kind of person to go there, even if I could. Plus, even before he had this ammo, he was spinning a false reality behind my back to cover his tracks and manage his image, so I have never wanted to openly share what he did (especially the physical abuse or the mortifying emails to me and to AP’s) with anyone who might let him know, because his response would hurt me even more. Instead of owning it, he would lie and attack me even more.This is why I’ve cut out even he mutual friends who I genuinely do like. It’s just not worth it. I want peace, even if it means eating shit sandwiches and letting lies stand.

      • I can empathize with so much of what you said. It sounds very much like how I dealt with the breakup. Especially this: “I accepted that contact was literally killing me and that I needed to take control and close the door forever. From there, I treated FW as an addiction and just bare knuckled my way through NC.”

        It worked. And my life is so much better. I too wish I’d kept my dignity, but the past is past.

  • Divorce him ASAP. Right now you can probably get a good settlement and child support. He wants to be with schmoopie. If you wait the shame and guilt, what little there may be will wane. He will get bored with schmoopie and enjoy a good fight in the divorce. It’s exciting and dramatic for them to fight you in the divorce and they get to be the center of attention. They get to complain to their lawyer, schmoopie, your kid, family and friends. Make you the villain. This is what CL means when she says they want centrality.

    As far as your child goes. Unfortunately, FW is not his dad he was a sperm donor. He donated his genetic material. Dad is a verb. You need to parent to call yourself a mom or dad. You need to tell your 7 year old the truth. That his dad chose the AP over him and you. Kids are not stupid. His sperm donor texting an I love you every few days is not real love or parenting. Be the sane parent focus on your boy, he needs you to make him your top priority. Honestly, he will get over him eventually and probably not care.

  • Yes!

    “what’s working for him is having a wife and a Schmoopie and zero consequences. You can do all the heavy lifting on the childrearing and he may deign to text hello on a random Wednesday.”

    Divorce him. Get child support. The way it is now is 100% working for him, monetarily and emotionally with both of you chasing after him and waiting on his move.

    My FW worked away from home for years. Came home whatever weekends he wanted to, just show up and there’s his family all taken care of and excited to see him! Saw the kids a few scattered days a month with me still doing much >50% of the care when he was around.

    DDay +5 months, I filed and got a child support order. He bitched and whined quite dramatically about the cost of it all, “how am I supposed to LIVE???” He stomped and snorted about His Rights as a Father. I didn’t back down.

    Well wouldn’t you know it, ALL OF A SUDDEN he had a whole dang week every month to spend at home taking care of the kids! Sometimes more! Never did that before, when the wife appliance was around & he didn’t have to pay for the time away. And guess what, the kids LOVE it and don’t even register that it’s not nearly 50%.

    He bought a whole 4 bedroom house here too, just to spend that one week with the two kids. He still lives the rest of the time away. And after years of insisting I didn’t need/he couldn’t afford a lawn care service to help me, and me struggling up the hills with the push mower, he now pays lawn care for his own house. They will give LESS than the minimum, unless it’s them feeling the pain/shame that comes from not doing their part.

    He will not give you or your son one minute, one penny unless you enforce consequences. A FW is perfectly capable of telling him/herself the kid is taken care of and go about patting him/herself on the back for being such a “good person” for the crumbs they leave their family. Use the court to show him that the money and time he gives is far less than the minimum. Make him face what a shit he is. Seriously my FW was astounded at the (notoriously low) state mandated child support. He had fancied himself as generous!

    I still do the majority of child rearing and almost all mental/emotional labor, but I feel much better about it now that there is a system of documentation and compensation on place. The lawyers are a massive drain in time & money, but worth it if they bring you some peace of mind. Just file!

    • Oh for reference, kids were 7 & 4 at the time of the split, now 10 and just turned 8.

    • The moment my attorney asked for child support, FW was “miraculously” able to work from home. After a year of insisting it was impossible.

  • Dear Ready to move on.. You know what.. reading this just really pissed me off. And all I can say to you is: fk this motherfker. What a piece of shit. And another thing. Right now it’s still early and you’re still kind of confused and it can be read from your letter that you would give him another shot, if he were to come back, act nice, apologize, blah blah.. DON’T DO IT. He WILL come back. Once you lose interest, once he starts feeling you don’t want him back, that you’ve accepted the reality.. he will come back. Just stay strong and remember what an asshole he truly is.

  • I’m sure it’s been repeated a lot, but try to trust that they suck. Instead of asking, “How could they be so cruel, why are they so cruel?”, just say, “They are cruel. I don’t know why, but they are very, horribly cruel”. Then tell yourself, “I don’t deserve this cruelty”. And ask yourself, “Will I put up with this cruelty? How am I going to respond to this cruelty?” Make an active plan to get away from it. Once you are safe you’ll have time to unpick it a bit more, if you so wish, but just like the person in the burning house, you need to get out. Best of luck, you deserve so much more.

  • Speaking of cruelty! My shtbx emailed all our friends (without telling me) to say that we had split up! Also to say that he had reconnected with the love of his life – his high school gf who he had been humping behind my back for at least 6 months. He concluded by telling them that I was “very angry”. A friend who didn’t approve told me about it. When I asked shtbx why he did it, he said that he was getting even for me ringing my family and his to tell them about it privately before going public. What a jerk!

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