Your writing has been a life saver for me in the past few years.
Currently married 28 years. Separated 1 year.
Dead, loveless marriage for about 10 years, but I hung in there while I raised three kids, worked full-time and earned my doctorate. I believed he would see my worth and value and want to save the marriage.
A few years ago I started noticing STBX was always on his phone and hiding it any time I came around. About two years ago I confronted him and he freaked out, came charging at me and I toppled over. Our teen son was in the room and saw everything.
I started looking at his social media and noticed he had time and nice things to say to all his “friends” but never had any time, friendship, or nice words for me. He had a lot of “friends” who were women from his workplace from over the years. He had a lot of witty banter with them over silly things like their lunches, TV shows they were watching, news, etc. Meanwhile, at home all these years he’s been a mean a-hole to me and the kids. He blamed me for everything under the sun and said he had never liked me or even wanted to marry me. He even told that to my kids.
I found out he’s been on Facebook since 2016 and posting photos of our kids all along. Photos I had taken and sent to him. But he never mentioned me or included me in the posts. In fact, he admitted he had blocked me in 2016. On his Fb he comes off as a caring and proud single dad. I then looked at the phone bill and saw he was texting and having long conversations with various women “friends” from work and from his social media. But I realized he never texted me except to berate me for something I did wrong.
Seeing the evidence of his “secret” communications and “friendships” made me finally wake up and realize he is living a double life where I don’t exist. It made me sick and furious. He never apologized and instead got violent and angry with me. He called me a “creeper” (a word I had never even heard of). Finally, he smashed something of mine in front of me and my mom in a fit of rage because I was pestering him about his lies and his secret life on social media. I said, please leave or I’m calling the police. He left and it’s like he never existed. He texts the kids and sees them maybe once every couple of weeks. They visit him out of guilt.
I don’t know of any physical infidelity. But I feel cheated and abused nonetheless. I feel hurt. Taken advantage of. Lied to. I now realize he’s wanted to end the marriage for years but just never took any action. I am very angry and I just can’t believe how long I held out hope that he would love men again. I feel like a dope. I guess it’s Dr. Dope, since I completed my doctorate last year.
My kids are now young adults and their childhoods were boring and sad because their dad was a miserable dishonest passive-aggressive lump and their mom was a workaholic fool. Our family vacations ended about a decade ago when I started grad school and my mom came to live with us. He spent most of his free time either watching TV or sitting in his friend’s basement watching TV. He stopped helping around the house and has been basically a nasty roommate/ghost for 10 years. All this time, I had been hoping for a reconciliation, but now my eyes are open.
I am finding it hard to forgive myself. How did I manage to fool myself for so long? One of my kids is really depressed and down. He refuses to go to therapy (for now). I am hopeful that he will change his mind. But I feel like this is all my fault.
How do I forgive myself and move on? How do I heal from years of gaslighting from my STBX and from myself? I am in therapy. It’s still hard. I did the best I could under the circumstances, but I feel so guilty and sad nonetheless. I am grieving for our lost years and for my children’s terrible example of what a marriage should be.
Dr. Dope — but I’m awake now!
Dear Dr. Doctorate,
It’s going to be hard until you’re on the other side of this divorce. You’re separated. You’re still deep in the suck. Please don’t expect impossible things from yourself.
You can, however, drop the guilt.
You’re divorcing because you didn’t have an invested partner.
That’s not on you, that’s on him. Sure, you could’ve divorced him for being an uninspired lump, but that’s not who you are. You valued your family and you pushed through it. You did NOT have the evidence of his double life. How can you beat yourself up for something you didn’t know? Feel sick about it? Yes, I totally get it. Feel responsible for it? STOP IT.
That’s a bad habit from living with a fuckwit and you can jettison the Everything Is My Fault thinking right now.
How about you reframe this? You’re a mighty woman who finished a doctorate, all while raising children, working full time, and caregiving a parent. Oh, AND living with a withholding, non-contributing FW. Yay you.
Awake to your awesomeness. Your strength to endure this shit. To say enough. To set a good example to your kids that it’s never too late to start over and reinvent your life for the better.
He had a lot of witty banter with them over silly things like their lunches, TV shows they were watching, news, etc. Meanwhile, at home all these years he’s been a mean a-hole to me and the kids. He blamed me for everything under the sun and said he had never liked me or even wanted to marry me.
Devaluing. It’s what FWs do. Note: “He blamed me for everything under the sun.” Then you write to me and say “I feel like this is all my fault.” See a connection? It takes awhile to deprogram.
It’s natural to give a lot of opinion weight to those closest to us. It’s a power our intimates have, and why character matters. Because you can really abuse this power, as your FW so well knows. He had you believing you suck all the while he was extracting value from you.
He has to blame you because it throws everyone off his scent. HE HAS AGENCY. He was completely aware of his “misery” and lack of affection for you. And yet he did NOT attempt to fix it, go to therapy, end things honestly and fairly, or any other ethical decision on the decision tree. No, he decided to cast you as the Great Villain in his Unhappiness and enjoy the fruits of your investment.
he is living a double life where I don’t exist.
Your paycheck exists. Your childrearing exists. You’ve just been erased from the online fantasy he’s created with his prop children. Witty, urbane man with trenchant commentary on 90-Day Fiancé.
How dare you ruin his beautiful, beautiful cake? THAT is where the fury comes from. Because if he were truly miserable, he’d greet this discovery with relief and liberation, not RAGE.
Smashing things in front of you, charging at you, pushing you over, having a double life — it’s all domestic abuse.
That is why you ended your marriage — ABUSE.
Who do you feel you need to justify your decision to? You are absolutely allowed to leave an abuser. It’s totally for the best.
I am grieving for our lost years and for my children’s terrible example of what a marriage should be.
Well, come sit on the big squishy I Bred with a Fuckwit sofa of regret. Someone pass the chips. Who’s got the remote?
Yes, those lost years suck. But it’s not like you weren’t busy! You made three children! Built a career! Got a doctorate! You get to take all those parting gifts with you, minus the fuckwit. Yay!
Besides, you’ve got the rest of your life to set a good example. Assuming we even buy for a moment that you screwed up. Stick-to-it-tiveness isn’t a bad quality, only when it’s in service of a fuckwit. Once you discovered the secret him, you acted. That took guts.
Plenty of children from “intact” families go on to become FWs. And plenty of children of single moms go on to be, oh, leaders of the free world. Fuck the doomsayers, okay?
You won’t be grieving always. And while this is a hard passage for kids, just keep being the sane, stable parent you’ve always been. Keep setting that great example. ((Hugs))
This is coercive control, and it doesnt always look like broken bones and black eyes, although often escalates to physical violence and property damage when the abuser loses control. That is why separation and/or exposure is a high risk time for the target. The most effective tactic of the covert abuser is gaslighting – why would you leave if you dont even realise you are being abused.
Great points and such an important thing to bring up. The situation Dr. Doctorate lays out was coercive control that segued into outright domestic violence. The one assault that was clearly described was felony battering. She did not magically “topple over” on her own but was tackled or thrown or shoved to the ground. I suspect there were other instances that– when the smoke of understandable terror begins to clear along with the euphemized language typical of understandable Stockholm syndrome/captor bonding– will be revealed as direct violence and “terrorist threat.” By rights, Dr. Doctorate’s current therapist should be facilitating calling spades “spades” and be advising safety measures. Dr. Doctorate survived a batterer, full stop. She and her children were hostages and deserve the appropriate triage and support for this.
What makes it clear this was categorically a hostage crisis? Because the abuser eventually turned to violence. He wasn’t driven to it, it was always there. The fact that he was violent proves that the fear of this potentiality always existed regardless of whether it was only felt on a subconscious level as it typically is typically has to be within captor bonding. How was the fear maintained? Through the usual Sword of Damocles– coercive control.
Focusing on this abuser’s overt violence is not to suggest that his sub-violent forms of abuse weren’t devastating enough. It’s a myth that most abusers are constantly violent. According to domestic violence researcher Donald Dutton, most operate on a “beat by need” basis, preferring less legally risky and less athletic forms of psychological coercion and control, reserving overt violence for victims who seriously resist. The more skilled abusers rarely or never have to take their hands out of their pockets to frog-boil their prey into confused paralysis. Depending on region, just the pattern of coercive control alone may have broken statutes or laws. In Connecticut, Hawaii and California, victims of coercive can get orders of protection. In California and Hawaii, offenders can lose custody. In the UK, coercive control can get 5 to 15 years in prison. And, increasingly, coercive control is viewed by domestic violence experts as part and parcel with domestic violence. There’s a groundbreaking book on the subject, Coercive Control, written by forensic social worker and domestic violence researcher Evan Stark who worked on behalf of the shelter movement for decades and is now spearheading the campaign for coercive control legislation around the world. Stark’s book begins with descriptions of testimony by survivors that coercive control– the pattern of psychological control and coercion typically involved in all cases of domestic abuse– was the most damaging, crippling aspect of abuse even beyond direct violence.
Every human being is equipped with primitive animal brain that focuses solely on risk assessment. It’s often at odds with our perceptions that we live in a civilized world though actual crime statistics show that this risk assessment faculty is hardly outdated. In that sense, coercive control is the audible ticking of a time bomb except victims are typically gaslighted by abusers (and often by social contexts and, worse, inadequately trained or incompetent helping professionals) into viewing the bomb a “harmless little clock.” That’s where the crazy-making aspects of coercive control come in: the survivors are torn in half with their instincts and emotions roiling in terror while their conscious minds are being told the underlying nervousness and paralysis are self-generated. Healing will involve rejoining those forcibly split perceptions. So, rather than blaming herself and accepting the label of “codependency” for “staying,” Dr. Doctorate should be considering her own awesomeness for functioning as highly as she did during a 28 year hostage crisis– one year longer than Mandela spent in prison. The fact that her prison seemed to have no walls was just the illusion of gaslighting. The “walls” moved in in a flash the second she called out the abuser’s double life.
Not everyone is capable of committing unprovoked violence towards a partner. The “walls” wouldn’t have “moved in” if they hadn’t always been there. If Dr. Doctorate found herself tiptoeing on thin ice for decades and trying to make the best of it, it’s no wonder.
Thanks HOAC for explaining the, ‘I’ll be overtly violent only when my covert methods fail to keep the victim in the place I want them, but am always ready to use them as part of my abuse toolbox’ tactics of the abuser. It’s not that they’re not violent, it’s that the violence isn’t always physical.
So true. Violence isn’t always physical or isn’t always aimed directly at the victim. According to researchers, abusers are notoriously “protean”– they’ll shift strategies and do whatever works to achieve the goal of having victims under total control and what works depends on what the victim values. I’m sure abusers’ wormy, narcissistic egos would be appeased if most victims feared the loss of an intimate relationship most of all but most abusers hedge their bets that this threat alone won’t be sufficiently menacing and, over time, will hold other things hostage.
Even the hint of intolerable loss of something passionately important to the victim (beloved career, friendships, family ties, etc.) or harm to loved ones, especially children, can be enough to break most people like piñatas. The more intolerable the threatened loss, the subtler the hint of harm can be because there are parts of our brains that won’t gamble over certain losses– again, especially harm to or loss of custody of children. In the end, just the sense that an abuser lacks normal empathy or has “selective empathy” that can be turned on and off make it a crap shoot to guess how that inhumanity may be expressed. Rebellion becomes like spinning a roulette wheel. Round and round she goes and what loss you’ll suffer, nobody knows but it will likely be very, very bad. So most average people fold under those circumstances. They won’t spin the wheel, they stifle rebellion and try to appeal to the abuser for amnesty. The more they can pretend to themselves that this appeal is “love” or true devotion, the more effective the ruse. The diabolical thing about abuse is that it turns something good about someone– the things they passionately love and live for– into a liability.
The East German Stasi were famous for using indirect threats of loss of or pain, suffering or death to loved ones as a means of “breaking souls, not bones.” It was featured explicitly in the film, “The Lives of Others.” Nabokov even gave the tactic a name– “the lever of love.” Most abusers use some form of this or another, even if it’s conveyed indirectly through financial abuse and control because poverty can be deadly. This is why financial abuse is listed categorically as a form of domestic violence.
Several leading experts in domestic violence have argued that the methods used by domestic abusers are virtually identical to the methods of professional interrogators or “torturers.” The fact that even the strongest and healthiest people will crack when subjected to certain stressors is evident in espionage policies, like secret-keepers keeping secrets from each other. For instance, even veteran spies aren’t normally given whole parcels of sensitive intelligence but just fragments because, if captured and subjected to certain interrogation tactics, all will predictably snap, bond with captors as a survival tactic (aka “captor bonding” or Stockholm syndrome) and spill whatever they know. If released, captured intelligence specialists– no matter how well trained they might have been in resisting interrogation– are routinely deprogrammed to “break’ whatever bond they formed with captors.
The reason bonding with captors is so hardwired in humans is probably to the degree that it works. Most torturers, like most batterers, aren’t completely immune to displays of loyalty by victims and will likely be slightly more merciful. The more seamless the display of loyalty, the safer the victim will be, at least until the moment they aren’t. That’s why most DV victims make a break for it in the moment when the danger of staying suddenly exceeds the considerable danger of leaving (victims face a 70-fold statistical increased risk of being killed while planning escape or in the two weeks after escape).
The deciding factor triggering flight might be an increase in violence or threats or less direct cues that things will likely escalate. Personally I think cheating– even if it doesn’t immediately come with an uptick in aggression (which it often does)– can be one of the more potent indirect threats of escalation. To the degree that abusers may be motivated to keep victims around and breathing as long as victims are of “sexual use,” there’s an inherent threat to the victim in being “replaced” as a sexual appliance. And this is where bystander attitudes especially contribute to entrapping victims further: the fact that the breaking point for many DV survivors may be the discovery of infidelity is often misconstrued by bystanders and bad helping professionals as either A) the victim fabricating stories of abuse out of jealousy; or B) proof that the victims didn’t “mind” all the other abuse and was only motivated to end things by jealousy. I’ve seen DAs refuse to prosecute because victims alluded to a batterer cheating. It’s ironic because, at least from what I saw as an advocate, virtually all batterers cheat. Either misinterpretation can fuel bigoted assumptions that victims are masochists and drama queens. But I think cheating acting as a flight trigger in DV is more about escalated risk causing a shift in the psychological survival strategy of playing possum.
If cheating feels especially shattering and threatening to a DV survivor or someone who sense their abuser could potentially be dangerous, it’s for reasons that go far beyond territoriality or possessiveness but this probably won’t be clear until they’ve escaped and achieved genuine safety. The state of “meh” is proof of it. Unlike genuine love, captor bonding can completely fade over time without leaving a trace of sentimentality.
Thanks HOAC – saving that one to my Notebook.
“The most effective tactic of the covert abuser is gaslighting – why would you leave if you dont even realise you are being abused.”
That is the stone truth. I wouldn’t have taken just FW’s word that I was the cause of marital problems. The thing was, my own family and best friend gaslit me the same way. When everybody you care about it telling you it’s your fault, you start to believe it might be true. FW was an playing the nice guy for public consumption and everyone bought it. If not for the mass gaslighting, I might have dumped him within the first few years. There were times when I was on the verge if doing just that. I never got an apology for the gaslighting either, just a self justifying; “But we didn’t know.” Nonsense. They knew me, and they knew I’ve never been a liar or an exaggerator, so if I told them there was something wrong with him (and I did) a barrage of judgement upon me should not have been the response. The could have at least asked why I thought so.
I do hope Doctor Notadope stops blaming herself. The system is set up to blame abuse victims and convince us we are being irrational and too nit-picky in our perceptions of our mates, which is societal gaslighting.
“my own family and best friend gaslit me the same way. When everybody you care about it telling you it’s your fault, you start to believe it might be true”
For me it was framed that everything was my responsibility. My parents blamed, so it felt normal when he blamed for everything. If it was my responsibility then if it went wrong, it had to be my fault. So if our marriage wasnt good, it had to be me.
Above…how the abuser only uses violence when they lose control…for years, I rubber stamped his decisions – house, cars, church – he picked everything. After Dday, I stopped letting him call the shots. I refused to move, I refused to buy a new car. He argued and argued about the car ..his last 3 car purchases were foolhardy and wasted money we didnt have. He wanted to buy an overpriced car that we didnt need and couldn’t afford and I said that his last purchase was “stupid”. He called me shit all the time but I never called him names. Me just saying the word “stupid” sent him into rage and he smashed things…it was awful
Your kids didn’t have to go back and forth between 2 homes. They didn’t have to wonder why dad never kept his visitation agreements. You kept it together for them. Yeah he wasn’t invested but at least he wasn’t at that time causing chaos and trauma. So you kept quiet and got a doctorate. You did what was best for you and the kids at the time. I commend you. You were in the trenches keeping it all together, keeping the family together. Now the kids are grown and you are an empty nester and looking around like what? No you have time to realize the marriage sucks. There is no marriage. He will not give you a real relationship. You should be proud of all you did.
PS- ALL moms feel guilt. You could be the best mom, you could be a SAHM or work. Doesn’t matter, guilt is part of motherhood. You are used to taking responsibility for everyone’s happiness. You gotta give that up. Your kid needs to take responsibility for his own happiness and life. Yeah you can help him, but you gotta let the bird fly out of the nest. It’s a radical mind shift. My daughter went to college. The FW chaos caused trauma for a few years before she left. Kids get affected by parents affairs. Affairs affect the entire family. Part of her blamed me. So it affected our relationship. I had to let go of her, stop caring so much, stop wanting a close relationship. Heartbreaking. But I kept being supportive, kind, sending her stuff. The sane parent. She has her own issues. She came around and actually apologized to me about her behavior. I was amazed she recognized that she was punishing me. FW caused the drama we just react to it.Felt great.
And for all the newbies who may still think they have a unicorn. There are no unicorns. This is a pattern o behavior that you will start o recognize. They go underground more, or use different AP platforms, tone it down for a bit till you are comfortable. But they don’t stop because they can’t they like it too much. They like cake. And you are not worth it to them.
Yes Chumpolicious – I should have been more sus when I noticed FW never included me in his FB posts. He only posted photos of himself with his kids on holidays. Also would show himself only in his profile pic, …..until I requested/insisted that he post a profile photo with both of us. He threw a huge tantrum andcame up with every excuse but I stuck to my guns and he finally did it.
You can’t change a FW unfortunately.
Mine on the other hand, had a picture of both of us smiling kind of “I’m a nice/committed guy” type of picture to go masturbate to all the single moms and attractive younger women he had as friends. I would have been happier if he would, at least, only posted his face in the profile picture. There is no “winning” with this men. They’ll find a way to abuse.
I think it depends on what kind of freak they are. A creep looking for short term bangfests with experienced people who come ready with practiced porny sex skills may bet that typical mate poachers are more attracted to committed targets so they’ll flaunt committed status. A predator who prefers to draw in innocent prey might be more likely to play single.
Ali, I’m sure that those ‘women friends’ aren’t attractive at all, given they are ‘schmoopie SBs’ (SB = slut buckets) who show no respect.
🤣😂The GF must have objected to our happy couple photo and asked for his single one to go up again.
FW phoned me urgently one day to say that his FB account must have been hacked and he needed to change the photo (pathetic excuse – more likely ‘power of the pussy’)!
He went ahead and put his pic up but then I got angry and made him put our couple photo back up. I giggle whenever I think of this.
For 26 years the ex did not carry even one single photo of me in his wallet or pocket. When we had been going out for over a year, I had to ask him to take down the photo of his exgf that he still had propped up in front of his chair. He claimed not to have noticed that it was there! The photo remained even when she was engaged to someone else. I accepted what he said because I am a trusting kind of woman. 25 years later I was dumped for that same woman who, like Queen Camilla, had been in the background the whole time. Now I would never accept such a situation. My self-esteem is back and I see abusive, manipulative behaviour more quickly and clearly.
I am sorry to hear that. Sounds like my STBX.
Ex had one single photo of me, tucked away inside the top desk drawer at his campus office, and he mailed it to me after we divorced. He also included an informal snapshot (that I had stuck in a frame and placed on a bookcase) that my sister had taken of us on our wedding day as we walked back down the aisle of the church. The note he included said something about how he probably didn’t need those photos anymore.
During the 2.5 decades I spent with him, he kept an envelope of photos of former (clothed) girlfriends in his top dresser drawer; however, there were also several nude shots that he and one of the married floozies had taken of each other. He absolutely refused to get rid of them, because they were “part of his history.” Needless to say, it was a long, slow downhill for the next 24.5 years, until he found the next dope to marry, and until he gave me back the two photos of myself (pretty much simultaneous events).
He sounds like a moron. You are 100% better off without him!
After Cheater died, I found an old hard drive and had boyfriend crack into it. It had OWs resume in it, a document to a counselor where he said “I never loved my wife” and a file of photos of me – all the photos were horribly unflattering. Im not a bad looking woman and in the photos, I was in my early 30s but I looked horrible. Did he use these to convince himself or others that I was ugly and deserved to be cheated on?
Same here. Fuckwit’s profile picture was of him and the rat faced whore at a beach fishing competition. When I complained, he said I was being jealous and too sensitive. Fucker.
CNM Whatever happened to ratty? Did the happy couple stay together?
I’m happy to say I haven’t the faintest idea! 🤣. Total NC from the day I walked out of his flat, apart from some texts. He did try a hoover last February, but as I’ve learned here, that’s indicative of nothing except possible boredom with ratty. 😂
Good for you! I did the same and FW put me on his social media accounts (that I can see) and it’s his last post!!! Used to be so chatty, but those account are dead now. I’m guessing he has secret accounts now that I don’t know about. But he is STBX so who cares!
es!! Your situation was very similar to mine and I am also Dr Chump (my ex FW liked to tell family that he “bought” me my PhD like it was an iPad or something and my own hard work was meaningless). He also told me men didn’t care about intelligence with women—only looks and youth. I internalized a lot of that. Obviously, that’s not true—HE didn’t value my intelligence or hard work, but that didn’t mean all men wouldn’t. He was a real piece of work. Ironically, he’d brag about me constantly to others, when in private he’d make fun of me for being a “dork.”
Good riddance. And I promise, you’ll be so so much happier once you get through this. My ex FW also went on to say how single older women are not happy and only keep company of cats, etc. Also wrong (although I do have a cat who is much better company than my ex FW)
Hugs and hang in there!!! And welcome to a new beginning!
This middle-aged woman’s cat is a definite upgrade from FW. And I’m SO MUCH happier as a single woman in my 40s than I ever was married to FW.
Thank you! Finishing that degree was a lot satisfying than living with STBX.
So glad he’s gone!
I replaced my husband with a cat. Best life decision I have ever made!
Cats make me happy? And they are great company. Far better than a FW.
I’m a cat lady (I have three) but when someone makes a comment about it I like to say, “Excuse you, my cats have a father!” There’s lots of cat dads out there nowadays. It’s not like having cats makes a woman undateable.
Redkd, I think he was jealous of you. I’m glad you are happier now! And I have 3 cats and they are wonderful, loving, caring creatures. Nothing like STBX!
Also—the reframing advice is spot on. You ROCK!! It is not easy to raise kids with a non-helpful FW while working and writing and defending a dissertation (and all the rest). You’re a very strong person who did nothing wrong here.
Well the details are different but my story is the same. He ran our marriage into the ground whilst being wonderful elsewhere.
Then I fell for the co-parenting claptrap, which only works when BOTH parents’ actions reflect their words. Life starts to improve when you trust that he sucks and the less you have to do with him the better.
That’s what burns me up! He was a lackluster a-hole at home IRL to me and our kids, but mr. Helpful to all these online damsels in distress. Hours long career advice on the phone for these long ago work colleagues—they weren’t even currently working together. But never took any interest in my research or me. Ugh.
“I’m grieving the lost years”.
I think we all do. In the sense we grieve the years we spent invested in a fuckwit, when they weren’t invested in us. It’s natural.
But what CL tells you is absolutely true, so hang in there, you’re pretty damn fabulous. Xx
Dear Dr. Doctorate: I make CL’s words mine: “Yes, those lost years suck. But it’s not like you weren’t busy! You made three children! Built a career! Got a doctorate! You get to take all those parting gifts with you, minus the fuckwit. Yay!”
I am so busy now I barely have time to visit CN, much less think about FW. But today I did visit CN and your letter made me cry because I could have written it word for word, except instead of 28 years, I would have written 39 years. 11 more of being a chump and wasted time.
I hope your children respect and value you. All the best, you will be fine.
“You get to take all those parting gifts with you, minus the fuckwit. Yay!”
Realizing that the good parts of our life were MY doing, and I made them happen IN SPITE of FW, not because of him, was really encouraging, because I realized I could make a new life for myself that was even better. He didn’t take any of my good qualities away. And I have made a better life for myself than we ever had together. He took half my 20s and all of my 30s, and yet there is still so much good life to be lived. You’re doing great. Hopefully your kids will come ’round and see that.
I’m so sorry that you went through that. I am grateful for your vote of confidence. And for the freedom and peace of mind that are finally ours!
He was so jealous of you. You don’t have to scratch the surface much to see how pathetic your ex is. Imagine pretending to have that fake fb life where he’s the hero to his kids, while in actuality he’s got nothin, gives nothin, and exists more than lives. Once you get over his insults and poor treatment, you’ll recognize the sheer relief of not having to carry around 200 lbs of boring, weak and nasty. Hon, you’re free! The best way to set your children free of the miasma created by a inauthentic father is to start living life, laughing, having fun, finding the sunny side of the street. Do fulfilling things. Stop letting me boring drag you down. He took up a lot of space in front of your tv. Start redecorating. Plan a fun family getaway and rededicate your lives to choosing happiness and living authentically. Go. Fly. Free.
Thank you Trudy! You are an inspiration to me.
Dr Doctorate, you have described my life with the FW, except for the children because I wasn’t lucky enough to have them. After I was dumped after 26 years, over 3 years ago now, I discovered the affair with his exgfOW that had probably lasted for the whole of our relationship. She was his ‘soulmate’. I was 59 when I was dumped. The list of my faults that he gave to me was shocking. I blamed myself and some others blamed me, including my in-laws. He ‘hadn’t been happy for a very, very long time’. But he didn’t have the guts to do the right thing and tell me about his ‘profound unhappiness and sadness’. He, too, never apologised to me. The closest he got was that he was ‘saddened’. I know how you feel. The sunk costs, the humiliation, the feelings of stupidity, needed a lot of therapy to settle a bit and that therapy continues. I remember being at his family event 3 months before I was dumped. He went for a run with his disordered 22 year old niece who was all over him like a rash (she’s bipolar and has few inhibitions in consequence; he has no such explanation). I went for a walk and happened to see them together. He was looking at her with such tenderness that it broke my heart there and then. I should have returned home at that point but I hoped things would work out. My dad was also dying in hospital but I had been ‘required’ to go to the MIL’s birthday party and I was such a boiled frog that I weakly agreed. I have many regrets about that. The ex had not looked at me or spoken to me kindly or tenderly for 10 years. We had not had sex for that long – he was rubbish in bed with me so I accepted the situation. According to the emails I found, he was a giant in bed with the exgf and as you can imagine I blamed myself for that too.
Things are now much better. It’s easy for me to have no contact which has been a lifesaver. Very few people agree that how I was treated for so many years was abusive, but I know the truth and that has come to be enough. Give yourself as much praise as you can manage because your approach to where you found yourself has been strong, focused, and successful. Celebrate the small wins and recognise that it takes time to recover from 10 years of abuse from someone you loved. This was not your fault and it was not my fault. We married people of well hidden bad character. We lived to tell the tale when it could have been much worse. Keep doing what you’re doing and you will heal even if you have a few scars to wear as badges of courage.
MightyWarrior – Our timelines are nearly identical – I, too, never had children after marrying in my early 30’s. And FW’s family was closer both emotionally and geographically than mine. At age 61, I left and ultimately filed for divorce. I am grateful for and proud of the life I have. I expect to remain single throughout my retirement and for the remainder of my life. I grieve for the life I thought we had been building together, but will never again try to convince someone stay faithful.
Almost Monday, we CN Chumps entering the prime of life are awesome in our resilience, gumption, and sense of humour. I’ve made a choice to stay single. For the first time since age 15 there is no man in my life and I love it. That’s not to say that life is always smooth and easy going. I am often lonely. But having spent Easter away with a married couple (my long-standing friend and her husband), I am glad to be free. The bickering, the sniping, the endless shopping for tat! I don’t miss any of that. Friend’s sister recently died unexpectedly in her late 60s. The sister had an affair in her 30s and there was a child. The man is still with his wife. The weekend away was always going to be difficult but I was a good friend and went. However, I am having to recalibrate the friendship. My friend started criticising the wife because she ‘sat on her bottom and was a SAHM’. I took a breath and said ‘X, the wife was not at fault, her husband was and is’. Later on, the husband started complaining to me about losing contact with my ex. I pointed out that he was free to re-establish contact and I would play no part in that contact. I was then invited to look at photos of me and the ex together, in ‘younger, happier’ times. I understand that, in grief, my friend and her husband are seeking to rewrite history to present the deceased sister as a saint who suffered for love (she never found another man or woman to match the cheating husband and pined all her life). The wife becomes the evil witch who kept the lovers/friends apart as part of the rewrite. I will see how matters progress. At least by going on the weekend away I got some sun and I don’t have to go to the sister’s funeral! She was always a joy-sucker!
Dear Almost Monday, I have accepted that I may be single for the rest of my days. And accepting that has given me so much strength. I am not scared. I am proud. I’ve lived and I’m richer for it. My hat is off to you and the many wonderful women and men on this blog who have survived abuse from the one person where they had invested everything. It takes a lot of character to pick up the pieces of your life and create a new one where you love yourself and give yourself all the warmth and friendship that your former partner wouldn’t give you.
Thank you for your kind words. No one deserves that kind of treatment. I feel that for me, it would have been better to be honest and make a break than to drag it out for so many years. But STBX is not that kind of straightforward person of integrity, so it did not happen. But, now it’s truly over and I am very glad!! Every day I wake alone and give thanks to my guardian angel!
“He blamed me for everything under the sun and said he had never liked me or even wanted to marry me. He even told that to my kids.”
You tried. You did what you thought was best. It’s hard to see the abuse when you’re in it, just as it’s hard to see the images in an impressionist painting if you’re standing too close.
And you’re not alone. So many of us couldn’t see the whole picture and now feel this guilt and regret. This is my personal struggle. My own kids tell me they wish I’d left him when they were in elementary school, well before any news of an affair.
I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we did our best given what we had to deal with.
p.s. This business of no photos of the spouse hits me. My ex was a physician and had photos of himself with his kids in his office/exam room. Never any with me. One patient asked if our daughter (then 16) was his wife. He liked telling me that story. Gross.
p.s.s I assumed he didn’t want pictures of me bc of some flaw in ME; I assumed that he didn’t want to have a photo of me because I didn’t measure up. I internalized that message, which is probably on me, but damn…. Now I’m trying to reverse all those negative messages.
My ex was a workaholic with a problem with prescription pain meds, so he was largely an absent father and husband. For many years, life with him was unpleasant, but I accepted that he had shelved me emotionally. He just wasn’t engaged and clearly didn’t value my presence. As the kids got older, they asked me multiple times if their dad even liked them. I tried to make excuses for him. That didn’t go over well.
But cracks developed, his drug use increased, and ultimately, he took off for the beach after a major mental health crisis. What I saw of the tip of the iceberg was very upsetting, but later when his attorney was oversharing with mine, I realized that he wasn’t what I thought I had married. There was yet more to the iceberg. That’s usually the case here.
So, it ended. He more than confirmed that I had to go on without him during the divorce and supposedly reinvented himself where he now lives. Our adult children want nothing to do with him, which of course is my fault in his eyes. Except he was an absent, drugged father for years who abandoned them. My older one commented not long ago that it was getting hard to come up with good memories of his father because of all the bad ones at the end. I got out pictures, hoping to help, but he didn’t want to look at them.
Sure I grieve the “what might have been.” Easter was hard with all the families at church coming together and seeing all the cars parked in front of certain houses in our neighborhood. The reality is that we never had that with my ex anyway. Life is different, but good. Our adult children are actually wise beyond their years from what they witnessed and very discerning on their relationships.
I am so sorry. I was brought up in a similar family. I still have a lot of anger toward my mom for accepting a lifetime of abuse. But then I did the same thing! Life is so hard. I wish you (and me) healing and peace and self-love.
Yes, I’m glad that my kids were commuter college students when it ended. We had time to work through why I stayed and to transition properly to adult relationships. If it had ended earlier, there would have been a custody mess and likely they would have moved far away as soon as possible. Later, they would have been on their own already.
As awful as it was, it was indeed all good in the end.
Elsie, I think it’s easier now that my kids are older. They can drive to see FW if they want. Often they don’t want to. But do so out of guilt. He is as present in their lives now as he was when he lived here–which is barely. That tells me that sharing custody would have been hell. It requires a lot of communication and negotiation. Two of the many skills FW doesn’t have. He’s too busy feeling sorry for himself and looking for attention from his lady friends on social media and through his phone. He even slept with his phone in his pocket. What kind of 50 year old man does that????
So your FW had/has a miserable life and it was all your fault. I can guarantee he will continue to have a miserable life without you but here’s the kicker…he will still place the blame on you. Oh and quite possibly the kids. He is going to realize that his life is not going to magically improve because he left you, he’s still who he is and always will be. Dr. you need to get to the pissed off stage before you can get to Tuesday. Fretting over what you did or didn’t do in the past and FW going on with his life as if you never existed is not going to help. Plan an outrageous holiday with you and your adult kids, go to the pound and get an unwanted dog, take up a sport that is really something you would not have considered in the past, splurge on a new wardrobe…I’m trying to tell you to move forward and not be a deer in headlights. I wish you and your kids all the best.
“So your FW had/has a miserable life and it was all your fault. I can guarantee he will continue to have a miserable life without you but here’s the kicker…he will still place the blame on you. Oh and quite possibly the kids. He is going to realize that his life is not going to magically improve because he left you, he’s still who he is and always will be.”
Absolutely. I watched this play out with my FW.
“I don’t know of any physical infidelity. But I feel cheated and abused nonetheless. I feel hurt. Taken advantage of. Lied to.”
You feel cheated, abused, taken advantage of, lied to, and therefore hurt because you WERE cheated, abused, taken advantage of, lied to, and therefore hurt.
Overtly, horrifically abused.
Cheating doesn’t require genital to genital contact. Deceiving an intimate partner, breaking the agreements of the partnership, redirecting intimacy and focus away from the partnership, and abusing one’s partner all take many forms, not all of them sticky.
He’s an abuser and a cheater, you’re a freaking superhero of mighty (it will be clearer later), and we’re here for you.
What a great comment, Amiisfree!! 💯 agree!!
It is so important to relieve the parental guilt of having children yes breeding with a person lacking in human bonding and emotional connection. Taking on the full weight of generational damage and DNA Gifts on one’s own solo shoulders is so hurtful. I have friends that got seeds from a sperm bank, ok they checked a few things …but then had those babies and they were born with defects anyway. Mood issues, genetic defects, learning disabilities. There is no guarantee no matter how perfectly you plan. I got” mighty “late in life but my example now will help my kids look for solutions in their own lives. They won’t make all perfect choices either. Let me lead the way to how you turn sour 🍋 into sweet tea! Drop the guilt, it just an anchor ⚓️
Thank you. You’re right. We can’t know what the future holds. We took a leap of faith. We loved with our whole hearts. We tried. All of that is gold.
Dear Dr Mom, you need to internalize the fact that your husband is an abuser. You have been in an abusive marriage. It does not take broken bones and black eyes to prove there was abuse. He started escalating and so you kicked him out. GOOD!! You’ve done well. I was in a very similar marriage for 25 years. My ex was verbally and emotionally abusive. I’m over 10 years out and I still occasionally start apologizing when I’m stressed.
I’m right there with you on the big squishy couch passing chips and regretting the example of marriage that my children saw. It sucks to realize you bred with an asshat. I have five adult children that I worry about. And a mother who needs me.
Here’s the thing–you did the best you could with the resources available to you. You were essentially living as a single mother raising a big family. (I know about “co-parenting” with a fuckwit. It’s all on you.) And you worked full time, AND you earned your doctorate. You are AMAZING. Your STBXH was jealous of you and all you accomplished so he tried to beat you down emotionally more and more.
Getting the divorce is one of the first steps in healing. Forgiving yourself is another. It takes time, but I have confidence that you will get there.
Also, those hours sitting in a friend’s basement watching TV? That’s his story. You don’t really know what he’s been up to.
You’re right Lizza Lee. I don’t know all that’s he’s been up to. I know enough. I don’t need to know more. Time to move on, forgive myself, love myself and my kids.
“I’m grieving the lost years”
Yes. I actually consider them stolen. ExFW acquired my years and devotion through deceit, lies, omissions, gaslighting and misinformation. When someone obtains something from someone by fraud, that is theft. That’s my exFW: a fake, fraud and phony.
I grieved for a misspent youth. I am working on my mindset because I do not want the past to keep me stuck. I am also inspired by many stories of people reinventing themselves at a later age, or whose great contributions to society came later in life. My understanding is that it is NEVER too late. I just need to believe it for myself.
As so many of us did, I shaped myself to his wishes and dreams. I gave up a career, raised the kid, gave up my financial security. I absolutely grieved for several hard years after I left.
Its 7 years later. My kid is just finishing his first year at college and doing great. And I just won a new upwardly mobile position at the job where I first started as a 30 day emergency hire in 2016.
My dreams are not the same as they were 30 years ago. I have made new accomplishments, some I never would have dreamed of. And my life is completely more fulfilling, happy and fun-filled than its ever been.
Hang in there. You got this.
Queen of Shade, as long as you are breathing, you have the potential and the magic inside of you! I am wishing you lots of love, peace, and healing.
Your FW is like a black hole. He keeps sucking in light(women) wherever he can find it, but it’s never enough because there’s nothing in there. You were the one that was the sun light. You looked after your children, you worked, you looked after a parent, you got your PhD. Those are not lost years. Those are full years of getting up, doing what you need to do, and just keep going. Actually, that’s a full life. He was the anchor trying to pull you down, but look at you, you’re not down. You are free!
And the better you were at whatever requirement was in front of you the worse it made him feel. You were never going to let yourself be number two regardless of how he tried to make you feel. That means you have a strong sense of self. Jealousy is ugly and I’m guessing it made him very ugly.
Letgo, I think you’re right. I think he was shocked when I kicked him out.
You will have work to do with your kids and in therapy later, but that is for later – right now your priority is to get this FW completely out of your life. GET A LAWYER if you don’t have one already and start locking down your money and property.
The “no pictures” of me or us as a couple didn’t click with me until I was cleaning out his office at work after his death. Just pics of him and him/kid..then it smacked me. But he did need my paycheck and my wife appliance skills.
Well, Payback With The Same Coin as the Swedes say…walk into my house in another state now and you’d never know he even existed..
I was pissed for a long time about the years I wasted…but 7 years out…I’ve become very Zen about the whole thing…and I have no regrets. I like to believe he’s “on the other side” having to explain his behavior to his mother, my father and a few of my deceased uncles who he loved (and who LOVED ME)!
“My kids are now young adults and their childhoods were boring and sad because their dad was a miserable dishonest passive-aggressive lump and their mom was a workaholic fool”. That was my marriage. My parents marriage was the same so no wonder I married my dad & played the suffering role of my mom. It takes a lot of work to break that cycle. I did in some ways by getting higher educated (as did you) so I didn’t have to remain married to him to survive (as did you) so let’s give each other a break, okay? There’s still too many entitled misogynist jerks running around so the pool of caring & engaged men is still rather small IMO.
Orlando, you’re so right. My parents were not the best example. But, I am trying to do a better job for my kids. Thank you and I wish you all the love and peace out there!
It’s always a big red flag when they make a huge effort to exclude you from public sight. I had two cheaters do this. One back when I was a teenager just graduated high school and in my first college relationship, and the second in my late 20’s right after my divorce.
First one started mentioning me less and less. I started to clue into that, but a big tip was when we were both in a car accident (he was driving) and he started describing it on social media using “I” instead of “we.” “I was just in an accident.” “I went to the hospital and I am ok.” Kicker was “I had a passenger with me and they wanted to go to the hospital.” Failing to mention his “passenger” was his girlfriend.
I confronted him about it and said he’s acting like he doesn’t want anyone to know I exist.
Then I found his whole separate secret profile and a whole separate group of friends I didn’t know about and never knew about me. Oh and one of them was his other girlfriend.
Second one I lived with and he was an angry abuser. He told me not to tag him or post anything on his Facebook and explicitly said because he didn’t want other people to know I lived with him, and the reason was because “They think you’re crazy and they’re telling me I’m crazy for being with you.” Like it was some kind of way of protecting me.
If they can’t include you publicly in their lives then they absolutely shouldn’t have you in their lives privately. It’s all or nothing. You’re nobody’s secret.
Second one I lived with and he was an angry abuser. He told me not to tag him or post anything on his Facebook and explicitly said because he didn’t want other people to know I lived with him, and the reason was because “They think you’re crazy and they’re telling me I’m crazy for being with you.” Like it was some kind of way of protecting me.
This sounds like STBX!! Kicking him the eff out was one of the best days of my life!
Both ex’s were from seemingly wonderful intact families, both ended up treating me horribly, blaming me for their unhappiness and even saying that they didn’t want to get married!!! Why do FW’s say that after the fact? I have pictures to prove both looked super happy on our wedding day.
I was NOT happy with ex #1, he had all kinds of big MH issues and an addiction (I found out towards the end). But I stayed, tried to help him for years, and figured it was better than divorce (kids). He just devalued me more and more each year. Why do chumps stay so long….at the end it’s like there’s nothing left of us and they hate us.
– it makes me sad that I’ve given FW #2 so much brain space since Dday. He married OW, and that whole discard trauma hit me harder than trauma #1.
– Chumps just really love hard and deep, even when we know we are being devalued. It’s all so devastating. What personality traits makes us chumps?
I even remember several 1 way friendships in my younger years.
In my case, I have a chump mom and many Chump aunts. A mother wanting happiness, love, respect, is just unheard of!
I have a mom who was chumped too, supposedly, once and then he ‘picked’ his marriage. I’ve often thought of how horribly messed up my father was, but haven’t thought much about how devalued my mom was. Frankly, we would have been better off without him- except for the financial piece.
“.at the end it’s like there’s nothing left of us and they hate us.”
That is a good observation. It is weird, but there it is. I do think a big part of it is they have, as CL says, extracted all the value from us that they can, so yes as you say we are used up in that sense.
Or, maybe it is they who are deflated? They have reached the limit of their soul-sucking and want to move on to a new supply? Energy vampires.
“both ended up treating me horribly, blaming me for their unhappiness and even saying that they didn’t want to get married!!! Why do FW’s say that after the fact? I have pictures to prove both looked super happy on our wedding day.”
The re-write history in order to justify their actions. Standard operating procedure for FWs. Everything they say about their cheating should be looked at under the lens of their need to avoid blame and justify their behavior.
Thanks, Dr. Doctorate, for submitting this letter since it resonates so much with my experience and that of others who are sitting on this big squishy sofa. Reading CL’s advice to you was so therapeutic. I hope you can lose the guilt and re-frame the narrative, and go hard after a fulfilling life free of his nastiness.
Unlike your story, however, my cheater got his high by having our family photo posted in various places, including his WhatsApp profile picture, WHILE conducting his double life with the OW daily through WhatsApp. So, for every inappropriate message between the two of them they both saw our family photo while composing and sending. Sick! Even though we’re separated, I think he still gets his high off of keeping our family photos up, as if we’re a happy family that he can show to the world even while being a jerk to me. Ugh.
Yes. I think there is a personality type that wants to appear normal to the world. And chumps provide that cover.
Also keeps the OWhore off balance and on her toes.
What has helped me is to forgive myself for failing to see how bad it actually was, and I dare say, to forgive them at some point when you’re ready.
I am not friendly by no means, but she does not have the power to affect my mood anymore.
“she does not have the power to affect my mood anymore”
This is what I consider “forgiveness”. It has nothing to do with the other person’s behavior. It just means I am not giving them and their actions any power in my life anymore.
YES! “Forgiveness” means giving up any need (or desire) to seeing them hurt, suffering or punished.You give up the need to “get even”.
“Pardon” means to restore to previous status. You do not have to let them back into your life in the way that they were in your life beforehand. You can set boundaries. Or not let them back in at all.
You forgive the offending party for your own sake.
You pardon the offending party for their sake.
It is the Mother (or Father) Archetype that forgives.
It is the Queen (or King) Archetype that pardons.
I’ve never understood what “forgive them” is supposed to mean. I’ve always thought forgiveness was predicated on remorse and wanting to make amends where possible. You can’t forgive someone who shows no remorse, and makes no attempt at amends. At least I can’t.
“Forgiveness” does NOT mean the SAME THING as “Pardon”.
This is what I have come to understand: forgiveness is predicated on you being able to release yourself from them – because if you are holding on to anger and resentment (regardless of how justified you feel it is to stay angry and resentful), then they still have a hold on you. (And you are doing all of the work for them.)
PARDON means “to absolve from the consequences of a fault or crime”. If there is no remorse, and no sincere attempt to make amends (in all the ways that you need), then there is no reason to absolve them from the consequences of their actions. There is no reason to let them back into your life. And if there ever is, you get to decide on the terms and the boundaries.
George Carlin once pointed out that we think in language. Knowing what something really means helps us to clarify our thinking. (It is like the fact that “nice” and “kind” are two very different words with very different meanings.)
From what you have posted, you have been through a hell of a lot. And you have also done an enormous amount of work to heal your life. I hope this helps.
Thanks. I do understand what you mean about the difference between forgiveness and pardon, but I don’t think I agree that feeling anger and resentment means that they still have a hold. Well, yes, of course it does – what I mean is it’s *necessary* for me to retain anger and resentment, because remembering *why* I still feel these emotions protects me from those who would perpetrate that same abuse on me now. It took me a long time to wake up to the fact I was experiencing abuse, for so long I believed him that it was my fault, he’d never been like that with anyone else, etc. So retaining that anger and resentment is a protective carapace for me.
and I do agree with your point of view as well. (Anger helps to keeps me motivated to fight injustice, and to have the courage to speak up when it would be easier and safer to just keep my d*** mouth shut.)
Anger is a pain, and pain can let us know that something is wrong. (Like when you break a leg. And to continue with this metaphor, even during the healing process, while doing the therapeutc exercises to help us to walk again, there is an awful lot of pain. Just like there is pain involved in rebuilding our lives.)
I think the key thing is know who is “in charge” – is it the pain? or is it our own self? I do believe that we can work to manage our pain and our anger. The victory comes when we are in charge of our emotions.
BTW, CNM6, I admire you. You have guts and grace, both together at the same time.
Thank you, Little Wing. I appreciate it xx
I like your words today, Dr. Doctorate. I did the same; 40 years married before a sudden reveal of his secret double life. It’s been three years now since D-Day. Recently, I was remembering how angry he would get when I called him during work. He was SO BUSY! And what could be so important that he would need to climb down a ladder and get his phone out of his pocket? Me. Our children. Our life. It was me that was important. I never, ever called him to chit chat. It was always about something he should have cared about – had he been in the marriage with me.
Every day, I mourn all those lost years caring and loving a person who was getting his jollies by abusing me and watching me suffer while he was getting blow jobs in the closets at work. I doubt that will ever change since so much of my life is lost to that great failed project where I tried to be a marriage and family all by myself.
I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve any of that. I hope you have love and peace now that you’ve left that relationship.
Time – I understand – that’s the one commodity I grieved over the most – the lost years – 30 years of my life living with a man with a double life – I had no clue. Truly had no clue, The wasted years tolerating his horrible narcissist family – catering to his needs while he built his career. I kept searching for a Time Machine to start over. Like unicorns, time machines do not exist. As Chump Lady said – celebrate the great things – the little things – the you survived and now you will thrive things. You can’t address issues you don’t know about. I’m so proud now that I came through the dark decades stronger – but it took doing the Pick me Dance ( long before I knew thanks to CL it was a pick me dance) and I blamed myself etc – all those things that nice people with integrity that we Chumps do. Celebrate the fact you are vertical – still standing and now smiling. Not your fault – his actions don’t and never will define you.
“grieving the lost years”
i’m 2 1/2 years out of D-day and am feeling quite grievous these days. i don’t know why. things are calmer (sorta) and i’m stronger (kinda). i think i’m grieving my self. that i was a such a dope and got caught up with a man with hidden bad character, that my life swerved into a path that was not entirely of my own making. i dunno.
it feels like the hardness around my heart, the one i had to engineer to manage all the legal stuff, is breaking away, and my heart is tender.
it’s not like i’ll get back to who i once was, that’s not possible.
PS this likely isn’t the place to share tenderness but here i am
This is the test for us, I think. Can we be strong enough to make the cruel cuts needed and then find a way not to be bitter and negative about the rest of life and the rest of humanity.
My 95 year old mentor kept saying to me, “Don’t stay there. I don’t want you to end up bitter for the rest of your life.”
I started dating a bit over the past year. I try so hard to be open and optimistic. And I keep uncovering users and fuckwits in the wild, roaming, looking for their next unsuspecting wife appliance. It’s hard not to just revert to a numbness that humanity is broken.
“I try so hard to be open and optimistic.”. Maybe that’s the problem, not just for you, but for most of us. Perhaps that’s why we “keep uncovering users and fuckwits in the wild, roaming, looking for their next unsuspecting wife appliance”. (good one 👍🤣) Maybe we should be adopting cynicism and pessimism from the start, we wouldn’t then be upset when we uncovered the shitbags, and pleasantly surprised when we uncover someone genuine. Because I do believe they’re out there, I’m just not interested in looking for them. 😁
“it’s not like i’ll get back to who i once was, that’s not possible.”
You don’t want to. That’s the person who “got caught up with a man with hidden bad character”.
But you CAN be someone new. Someone you really like. Someone who is awesome. Someone you can be proud of. (Though it sucks to get there.)
“it feels like the hardness around my heart, the one i had to engineer to manage all the legal stuff, is breaking away, and my heart is tender.” You’ve been in defense/survival mode. Anger is like a shield. Keeping busy and doing what needs to be done keeps the feelings at bay (which is why people can be calm in a crisis and then break down later when they are able to fully grasp what happened). You are just starting to actually process everything. Feel the feelings and know that THIS TOO SHALL PASS. I’m so sorry. There was so much trauma and PTSD that hit me several years after FW and I split. I thought I’d end up a bitter, angry, miserable person. But I didn’t. I’m happy. I’m at peace. But I’m also wiser, less tolerant of bullshit, more skeptical. I still have a big heart. I gained back my confidence, I trust my gut again, and I am curating (love that word, saw it in a comment a few days back) a life that I take joy in. I’ve rediscovered hobbies and passions I’d given up because FW didn’t want me to do anything that wasn’t centered on him. I find beauty in the little things. I could never have told FW to come look at how pretty the stars were. He wouldn’t have cared. Now I bask in their beauty.
2 1/2 years is still early. I would say things started blossoming around 4 years post D-day (I know that’s hard to hear). Cry if you need to. Be gentle with your tender heart. You will be okay.
Right there with you. The anger that propelled me through this mess for so long has left and I feel like a sad, deflated balloon. I’ve done the Leave a Cheater bit, now I need to gain the life, but that means dismantling (painfully) my own mechanisms that lead to choose or tolerate less than stellar behaviour from others. It’s a painful, tender process, but I take heart that I am still moving through things, not concreted to one spot. I have realised lately that a few people view me as bitter for my attitude toward FW but when I am alone, I am finally facing the hurt beneath the anger. It’s painful as shit, but I know I will get there, and you will too. Thank you for sharing, it gives permission for others to bring forth their vulnerabilities also.
“PS this likely isn’t the place to share tenderness but here i am”
Oh, but it is. Share it where it’s safe and will be appreciated. Outside the occasional troll, your heart is safe and appreciated here. ❤
We are all tender. I don’t think mine will ever go away. I never really had the anger stage- moved straight to hurt. Sadly, I think I will always be hurt regardless of what my life ends up looking like. I made the mistake of pain shopping thinking Karma had probably arrived, and instead I saw that he married OW. I really paid the price for my curiosity. It set me back. Moving on….again!
This is *exactly* the place to share tenderness. For *you*. xx
I’m 6 years out from D day, and I still occasionally feel grief. I don’t know how long you were married, but I think the length of it is relevant. 24 years for me, it’s a big chunk out of one’s life.
“I think I’m grieving myself”. Yes. Grief for that trusting, believing person who put faith in an arsehole. Because betrayal changes you fundamentally. I know it has me.
I don’t have any neat answers to what you’re feeling, I don’t think there are any. But you’re not alone. ((hugs)). xx
I have not had your same experiences, but I have had so much abuse and so much guilt. Chump lady always says “know your worth “ but I secretly have naysayed that. I have been to therapy for forever and do not get my worth. Mine too abandoned me without actually leaving, and when I asked questions, I too was greeted with rage. Not fun. Alas, they come back. Hugs for all of us.
No! They cannot come back! You can only begin healing and uncovering your worth when you cut them out of your life completely! Get a good attorney and cut them out so completely that you never, ever have to communicate with them the rest of your life. Read your CL book again? Sorry for the rant if I am misunderstanding. But, the CL book is all about making this cut so you can begin to live again.
This book helped me step into radical self acceptance:
Look for another therapist, one who understands trauma. It took me a few tries to find one who actually helped me, and she was wonderful. I watched a lot (a LOT) of YouTube videos about narcissistic and abusive people which helped me understand it was not my fault. Dr. Ramani is good place to start. If you haven’t read “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft, read that. It’s free online as a PDF, just do a search. I also found “Psycopath Free” very helpful.
Get away from your FW. Far, far away. You cannot heal while you are still in his circle. His rage isn’t safe for you, either. If he gets an inkling he’s losing control of you, he could be very dangerous. Kick him out, or leave. File for divorce. No contact (it really made a world of difference once I mastered it). NO GUILT. You didn’t deserve ANYTHING he did to you. It’s him. That’s why he’s angry when you confronted him. You, YOU, have to decide whether he can come back into your life or not (don’t let him! I failed at this for awhile too).
Once you are away, and safe, THEN you can rebuild yourself. It’s slow and it can be painful and hard. Abuse and secrets destroy our sense of reality, our personalities, make us doubt every choice, make us suppress our needs, wants, and desires. But there’s a whole beautiful world waiting for you. And hey, you don’t feel your worth right now? Fake it til you make it. I felt like dogshit on the bottom of FW’s shoe when he left me. Ugly, stupid, worthless, heartbroken, and alone. I thought I’d never be happy again. I barely even knew who I was. I found a lawyer anyway. I took steps to move forward. If I can dig my way out of that and find more joy and happiness than I thought possible, so can you.
Find something, one small thing, that you used to enjoy and do that. My life had been so consumed by FW that I no longer knew what I liked or liked to do. I had to look all the way back to when I was a teenager. I remembered three books I had enjoyed and gotten from the library multiple times. A book on English cottage gardens, and two home decorating books with beautiful pictures. I thought to myself “I remember liking THOSE”. I went on Amazon and found them (all out of print by now). I ordered them and read them, and that was the first step to finding “me” again. It could be a song, or a band, or a hobby, or a place you like to visit, a restaurant you love that FW didn’t like. Anything, no matter how “insignificant”. Do it just for YOU. Because YOU matter. You can do this. We are all here to support you.
If you want a playlist of music that helped me, I’m happy to share. Just ask. I found music very healing.
I’d love to see your playlist, Light!
I hope you like it.
“Alas, they come back.”
Not if you bar the door emotionally. In fact, put an emotional moat around the house and pull up the drawbridge.
“I have been to therapy for forever and do not get my worth.”
Maybe your therapist is not the right one for you.
Dr. Minwalla’s secret sexual basement hits on a lot of the issues that you have shared with us in your relationship here. The compulsive, addictive, or entitled behaviors that he describes as IAD- integrity abuse disorders.
It includes the lying, the deception, the gaslighting, the victim-blaming, the cover stories, the psychological manipulation, all the things that you have mentioned going on in your life. They ARE abuse!!
Even without the sexual affairs, which I’m not convinced is not also happening there, this guy has a whole other life going on and he’s put you on the top shelf with all the other toys he may not be fully done with, but doesn’t much care about anymore.
Do you deserve to be treated this badly by someone you love?
It is not your fault, it is his shortcomings that have created this situation. It is his choice to abuse you, you did not cause this and you certainly do not deserve it. No one does.
This man has been abusing you for many years and the only question for you should be the gold standard one, is this situation acceptable to you?!
His cruel and entitled actions against you have caused you to question your self worth, it’s left you confused and emotional, hurt and devalued, you have self blame you don’t deserve to own and you are traumatized by his actions, as are your children. Does that sound like love?
Is any of that acceptable to you?!
He knows he is hurting you, but will not let it interfere with the fun life he desires, that he feels he deserves over and above any need of yours or your families. Is that the kind and loving partner you want to grow old with?
You’ve been caught in the fog of it all for years, hoping for a better tomorrow is a dangerous, addictive drug. Ask me how I know.
It was painful to me when you said, “ I believed he would see my worth and value and want to save the marriage.”
I said the same things to myself for 38 years! We love so very much and we want the intact relationship and family, we are willing to sacrifice our souls to get it.
But they don’t care at ALL about us!!
It’s always been about their lives, their wants, and what they are entitled to getting.
I found a filled out questionnaire cleaning out my ex’s closet back in the day from a urologist’s office. On it he stated he was single, having sex three times a day. ( we were married some 30 years and maybe sex once a week or so) He saw the doc to get Cialis, which he use to keep in his truck and I would go out every now and again and count the pills in the bottle with great internal anxiety, hoping it was the same number as the last time my heart was beating out of control counting the pills. 27? Or was it 28?!
He didn’t use Cialis with me, he told me. So I imagined I was the one he TRULY wanted to be with and he was just freaked up in the head or something screwing around and would deeply regret hurting me and his family someday.
He wouldn’t do well at all if I left him. I HAD to stay to save him from himself is what I would tell my unknowing abused self. He can’t want to harm us, can he?!
I was giving my life to save his, but I mattered nothing at all to him, and I just wouldn’t or maybe couldn’t let myself see that at the time.
Whatever the narrative we need, we use to get by. We are trying to blame some of it on ourselves, because at least that’s within our control to fix. At least it’s a chance! Hope!
I was not willing to let go, so I held on longer than I should have and it’s really done great harm to me, most likely permanently I’d say.
You have way more value than you are allowing yourself to see, Doctor D. We can all see that just in your short letter!
The ongoing abuses cause us such great harm.
It hardly matters if his dick is in on the abuse ( most likely is!) it’s abuse even without that element.
Just choosing to neglect your family over and over is abuse. You and your children are being harmed greatly by this entitled man, that is just not the way love works.
A great deal more will reveal itself to you after you leave and you will never regret making that choice to do so.
He is a damaged being and will never change, no matter how fun and liked he appears on the surface to others.
You and your kids can be solid, loving and a whole complete family without his toxic input to your worlds.
Lose the selfish loser and let your light shine bright in the world as it was designed to do. 🌷
Today is the 5th anniversary of my divorce, which makes me feel a bit down, to be honest.
But then I realize I don’t have some person doing me great harm every day of my life anymore, that’s a wonderful positive. I feel so much safer in the world today than in that marriage. Freedom from a toxic person telling me I have no value over and over again, makes me feel great relief and gratitude for the peace and love that shows up in my life now.
We are all better off out of these very toxic and harmful relationships, we just have to stay strong and step out of the trauma they have caused us. And we all will and be sooo much the better!
You did not deserve it!
“Today is the 5th anniversary of my divorce, which makes me feel a bit down, to be honest.
But then I realize I don’t have some person doing me great harm every day of my life anymore, that’s a wonderful positive. I feel so much safer in the world today than in that marriage. Freedom from a toxic person telling me I have no value over and over again, makes me feel great relief and gratitude for the peace and love that shows up in my life now.”
You brought tears to my eyes. Congratulations of 5 FW free years.🥂
“He wouldn’t do well at all if I left him. I HAD to stay to save him from himself is what I would tell my unknowing abused self. He can’t want to harm us, can he?”……. thank you for writing this. I felt this too, for years. In fact, I studied aspergers and even went to several appointments with an aspergers expert. He needed me. He didn’t have the ability to understand how much pain he was causing me, but I certainly couldn’t just walk away and let him fend for himself in a world he was so incompetent in.
The joke was on me. He milked this one for several years at the end of our 40 year marriage. Letting me think he was incapable of being a fully functional adult. I thought I was looking at the next 30 years of being a caretaker. And I WAS WILLING TO DO IT!
Joke was on me. He did me a huge favor by sneaking off with schmoopie. She can caretake him – as I still do believe he is way less able to handle his own life than he proclaims to be. And I it was completely proven to me a few years earlier that he would not lift a finger to take care of me if I ever became ill or needed care.
TG this is an interesting comment ~ anything can be manipulated and weaponised by these psychos if they can work out a way to do it.
When my son was diagnosed with autism, I started down the rabbit hole of where is this coming from. FW was oppositional to any suggestion he had autism, wouldnt help with diagnosis and appts, although when I dragged him to one appt my son’s paed said straight up to FW that he was autistic. Toward the end FW started saying random things like “perhaps I am just like my father” and “I cannot connect to my own children” thus making me think he was developing some insight since he never spoke about anything beyond the superficial. I think you are right though, looking back, it was just another bullshit trick to keep me on the hook to be his lifelong caregiver. After we separated he started obstructing our child getting help ~ so actually he didnt give a shit about anything but control. He also said things to suggest he had a serious mental illness (body dysmorphia for one), but when I politely asked him if he was getting help because it might affect his parenting, suddenly lo and behold there was nothing wrong with him, his writing style changed from what looked like someone dissociating to just your average fwit, and he accused me of using his mental health as a “weapon” against him: “and I wont let you do that to me”*
*cue to stick head in blender
I thought my ex NEEDED me for most things.
I was one of those chumps who did “everything.” Yes, he worked. Yes, he withdrew cash from the ATM. But he couldn’t seem to do anything beyond that.
It’s almost (ALMOST) impressive that he managed a relatively complex double life. He even purchased plane tickets ALL by himself. Imagine that!! Recently I saw that he has a VENMO account. Knock me over with a feather!
p.s. He was emotionally fragile. I thought he needed me to regulate his emotions. I actually think he did in a weird way. Here’s my own crazy: I thought I could keep him from committing suicide. That was a constant worry. He was often depressed and two of his immediate family members suicided. Talk about a waste of energy on my part. *sigh*
My FWs father didnt know how to work a microwave, but was an alderman, chair of multiple boards, and ran a successful business. There is now a commemorative walk dedicated to his many and varied contributions to the community. But he didnt know how to work a microwave ffs.
Chump Lady, I could not love your response more. After the letter writer signed “Dr. Dope”, your opening greeting to “Dr. Doctorate” got me all misty-eyed. Yes. We’ve been berated and broken by others long enough. We cannot afford to do it to ourselves too.
Dr. Doctorate, I feel for you. I know this grief of “lost years”. Like CL writes, you valued your family and you pushed through it. Me too. We value our families still, and we continue to push through. With you.
I like to think that FWs suffer more from the wasted years than Chumps. FW’s attitude and treatment toward me changed 6 months before I was blindsided. She said she was depressed. Never saw any hint of a problem before that and thought I had the perfect marriage. So I suffered for 6 months, meanwhile FW had been engaging in affairs for 6 years so obviously she was unhappy for a much longer time and had to live with her secrets. As Tracy says it was real for me
I doubt they do.
I think they stay because they are extracting value from the marriage. If they weren’t they would be gone, it isn’t like they stayed because of their good character.
Once they have extracted all they can, time to devalue and blame the chump.
I think you’re in danger of falling for the fuckwit narrative, please don’t.
1) she had affairs because she was “unhappy”. No, she had affairs because she felt entitled to have them. Many, many chump stories here and elsewhere, of marriages that have, on the surface, everything that a normal person would be grateful for – solvency, nice home, children, a loving spouse. But these people have affairs. The tell that it’s not because they’re unhappy, is that they keep them secret. So they can continue to extract use from the wife/husband appliance, but enjoy the thrill of a new body.
2) They feel guilt from ‘having to live with their secrets’. No, for most of them, that’s a huge part of the thrill, “I/we know something you don’t ” – duper’s delight.
You suffered, she didn’t. It was real for you, not her. I’m sorry. xx
I would add that emotional online infidelity is cheaper and perhaps easier on the conscience for these types of cheaters. They can go online for hours and get their sick kicks and then IRL they are “innocent.” By living their double life online, they didn’t even have to put on a clean shirt, brush their teeth, and actually go on a date and risk rejection or discovery. They justify it all with blame shifting: “I never wanted to marry you anyway! I needed ‘friends’ because you’re an angry controlling bitch!”
Hm. That’s what my STBX was doing for YEARS and I never had the time or the strength to look at ALL his social media accounts until one day…. Then, he justified his disgusting behavior when I confronted him. Caught with his virtual pants DOWN! And he was angry at ME? Like dude, you have no time to interact with your own kids but you’ve got time to post pictures of your lunch on instagram?????? FW!!!
Then my own kids are like, what’s the big deal? It’s just social media. Well, we are living in different times. Everyone is posting everything. But time spent on social media is time NOT spent on your kids, your home, your life! And the big deal is, if these truly are just “friends,” then why did he block me from his FB? Why is he making these calls to these women when he’s not home? How come I don’t know any of these people he is texting 40 times a day when he texts me 0 times? He’s got time to post shit all day to these people who don’t even work with him? They’re just out there people that are his friends??? But also manage to post a lot of pictures of their cleavage? HM?
Dear DD, I headed straight to the comments on this one before I even read CL’s response because your story is almost exactly my own. I’ve been reading here for years, and yours is the first letter that made me cry because I identify with it so much. Virtually every detail is the same as my story (with the exception of the physical abuse and breaking things, fortunately). Just know that it gets better, much better. Hugs.
P.S. And oddly enough, I never blamed myself. Never. You do not need to forgive yourself. You do not need to feel guilty. You weren’t to blame. I know it’s hard now, but you will see that one day. A Tuesday, maybe. 🙂
It is your tenderness that is the gold. I wish you all the peace and love there is!
Dr, you’ve gotten some great advice. I just wanted to add that you need to make it clear to the kids they have nothing to feel guilty about. It is not wrong for them to refuse to visit the man who abused their mother. Sperm are sperm and DNA is DNA. They aren’t love. Your STBX has shown how little feeling he has for his kids by his abuse of you, his neglect of them, and destroying their intact nuclear family. That makes him in effect just a donor of sperm and DNA. Some would say that’s harsh, but it isn’t. It’s just and it’s fair. They are not to feel ashamed if they don’t have warm feelings for him, or if they are conflicted. Please talk to them. It’s so important. I suspect he may be gaslighting them that they are in some way to blame and that he has done nothing wrong.
Agree, OHFFS. There is so much noise about how you’re never supposed to speak ill of the FW in front of the kids, but I actually felt a duty as a parent to be sure that my then teenage son knew who he was dealing with so he hopefully wouldn’t be duped and gaslighted like I was. It was a fine line to walk trying to convince my son that his FW father loved him, while at the same time communicating to watch out for him. Ugh.
I also made sure my son knew not to be ashamed or guilty about any of his feelings, and that FW’s behavior was not a reflection on him or me, so he didn’t have to hide what happened. I think he ended up telling all his friends, and I’m sure it got gossiped around the whole school, but I didn’t care bc we did nothing wrong, and I think it was healthier than my son bottling up his feelings and feeling ashamed and hiding it. At the time, he refused a counselor, and I wanted to be sure he could speak freely to anyone about it.
” I now realize he’s wanted to end the marriage for years but just never took any action. I am very angry and I just can’t believe how long I held out hope that he would love me again….Meanwhile, at home all these years he’s been a mean a-hole to me and the kids. He blamed me for everything under the sun and said he had never liked me or even wanted to marry me.”
Yup, this is EXACTLY the person I was married to for 26 years.
He showed me in a thousand ways (not an exaggeration since he did it every day for years) that he did not love me and wanted out. Mine wanted to look like to poor souls whose wife threw him out for no good reason of ran off with another guy. He told me that he wished that someone would come “steal me away” but I was faithful and not willing to be stolen. He told me that our Catholic wedding was never valid because he was so reluctant that his consent was not valid.
This morning as I was driving to work, I imagined what big family events (weddings, graduations) would have been like if he had lived. I fantasized of introducing him at events as “the XH who fucked his coworkers”. I will admit that I likely wouldn’t have said THAT at a kids wedding, but it was all in my mind, so I could.
Like CL says, we bred with fuckwits and we all lost years. You, however did great and can now correct your direction. So your kids had dull lives with a FW dad? I took my daughter to 6 countries as a teen/young adult and we had great times – without him. My sons dont like to travel and I dont know how much of that was their dads trip-rage – if you are in the same spot, start with small fun things and build from there. This year we are renting a villa on a Greek island and each adult kid will have a room and bath for them and a partner. They are wild hippies so their partners are a fascinating range on that flag with all the colors plus black and baby pink/blue.
I get the regret, but there is life to live and you are mighty and awesome.
“He told me that our Catholic wedding was never valid because he was so reluctant that his consent was not valid.”
🤬Your consent is was what wasn’t valid, because it was given due to false pretences on his part. Fuck that guy.
You are an inspiration to me!
Green island💛 sounds like a dream
I’m so happy for you and your family!!
I definitely feel what you are saying. I feel like I was used as a front for this guy who wanted to look normal and respectable or maybe he felt like he owed it to his parents to give them grandchildren and I was dumb enough to get on this ride to crazy town. On the outside he seemed like a sweet gentle person, but I eventually learned that underneath he was a seething, envious, a-hole. I think he’s even jealous of his own children who are growing into wonderful people despite his minimal emotional investment. Every little inconvenience sent him off a rage cliff.
So I learned to tread lightly, do everything myself, and seek validation elsewhere: grad school!!!! Because, like you, good Catholic. It never occurred to me to dump his sorry ass. I thought marriage vows were forever. It’s taken me years to get to a place where I can proudly say Jesus would not want me to let myself be abused. Jesus would say: Get moving! God made you to live in peace and joy and hope. Don’t hide your light under a bushel, etc.
I want to share this podcast from Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, which I found very eye opening: “Married men who create false identities online and prey on single women to use to fulfill their own needs is becoming more common.” You can find this episode here: A Date with Darkness Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/married-men-misrepresenting-themselves-as-single-while/id1271234927?i=1000600173445
This was the hardest part for me and most people didn’t get that. I was so beyond over him but that wasted 20 years of my life haunted me. That was so much harder to get over.
I remember actually being accused of not being over my ex and wanting him back when really I was just feeling suicidal because 20 years of my life was a total lie spent building a kingdom of shit and I was having to start over like a new adult in my 40s. Thinking about every wasted opportunity, lonely times doing everything myself while he was away for work, sacrifices I made for someone who never cared about me, etc. It damn near killed me. Once I found out he was into kids, I wanted nothing to do with him. But that didn’t make the pain of losing 20 years of my life easier. The more I learned about how scummy he was, the harder it was to forgive myself for wasting two decades on him! It didn’t make it easier!
I look at it as a learning experience now but it took me a couple years to do that. I view it as a trial to prepare me for something better, and give me the knowledge I need to do whatever it is I’m meant for. It’s helped. I feel good most days now and I can’t remember the last really bad day where I beat myself up for all the lost years. Anybody going through it now though, it took me a few years. It wasn’t a quick process.
It’s also really helped that I’ve been able to move into a house with a washer and dryer instead of the third floor walk up I had to move into after the divorce where I had to haul my laundry up and down all those stairs to the laundromat. I had to really live like a broke college kid for a couple years but it eventually paid off and life is easier now.
“but that wasted 20 years of my life haunted me.”
I think so many folks even professionals just don’t get how devastating losing those years are.
Like you I spent two decades helping him build his status in the community, and in politics; the moment he secured it (or thought he did) he drop kicked me to the curb.
I gave up promotions because he didn’t want me to travel. Went along with things I didn’t really want to do in terms of money, but he convinced me it was good for “our” future etc.
No one would tell someone who was kidnapped and kept in a basement against their will that they shouldn’t grieve that lost time, but us “get over it, marriages end”.
They flat out steal our life for their own purposes and they get out and live, the years aren’t wasted for them because they are getting value, and they are out doing whatever they want to do.
I’m so sorry you went through that. You are a good person who was deceived. I wish you love, peace and everything good!
I totally understand how you feel. 35 married then abandoned like myself, it takes time to regain your confidence and think clearly. Stay strong and remind yourself that your so much better than living a lie with a narcissistic cheater.
You deserve better. Good luck 👍
Kathleen, you’re right! As long as I stayed in that messed up relationship reality, I was agreeing to be the emotional dumpster. Not anymore! No one deserves to be treated like that.
Emotional dumpster. Describes it perfectly.
Thanks CL I needed to hear this too…..
I totally agree. Give yourself some GRACE. Drop
The GUILT. I needed a therapist to tell me the same. I just needed to hear that and to know it was ok. So I am sharing with you.
We’re very similar here. All of us have experienced something very mind blowing and abusive. It takes a lot of time to unwind the damage. Part of it is taking all the responsibility and all the blame. But we have to be easier in ourselves.
Congratulations on your doctorate it not only took all your free time but a lot of money I’m sure. Be proud of yourself and read CL’S response regularly. I know I did when she responded to me once!
Big hugs and peace to you and yours.
Shann, you’re right! The longer I am away from FW, the easier it is to believe MYSELF and not his dumb reality. Onward and upward!
For whatever it’s worth, the way Dr. Doctorate describes his behaviors sounds like she got the sociopathic flavor of fuckwit. I found out I had been with one of those, as did the other woman (although we were both kind of the ‘other woman’ to one of his personas and then there were all sorts of weird things he had on the side). We briefly got to compare notes after the whole crazy mess he’d made of his life fell apart (which is where Dr. Doctorate’s descriptions ring a bell), and all I can say is that all of us who knew him were better off without him in our lives, and Dr. Doctorate can look forward to immeasurably better days ahead.