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Untangling the Skein

Untangling the skein of fuckupedness

Veronica Sawyer: Heather, why can’t you just be a friend? Why do you have to be such a mega-bitch?
Heather Duke: Because I can be.

From the movie “Heathers” (1988) 

Why do cheaters cheat? Because they CAN. It’s that simple. Do you need more of an answer? Okay. Because of narcissism. Because of a lack of empathy. Because they value ego kibbles more than they value your well-being. They did the cost-benefit analysis on hurting you versus cheating, and indulgence won. Sorry you’re a little spot of collateral damage.

One very common mistake chumps make is believing it is all way more complicated than that. They will invest all their energy in a pointless exercise trying to figure out the cheater — their FOO issues, their astrological sign, their addiction issues, their birth order, their purported low self-esteem.

There’s also the entire Reconciliation Industrial Complex deeply invested in having you go down rabbit holes (for an hourly fee) on Why Your Cheater Cheated. (Spoiler alert: It’s very complicated how you weren’t “meeting their needs,” but for $399 they’ll affair proof your marriage.)

At Chump Lady, we just cut right to: Is this relationship acceptable to you?

Figuring out your cheater is energy directed at them, which is energy deflected away from yourself. You’re asking why they are this way, instead of asking yourself the harder question of  — why am I hanging around this megabitch who’s not my friend?

I call this stage: “Untangling the Skein of Fuckupedness.”

The skein is impossible, but by God, you’re going to unknot it, piece by piece, make it linear and you WILL understand it.

Untangling the skein is a coping mechanism. You want to figure out what makes your cheater tick so you can ensure that they never do anything so devastatingly hurtful again. If it’s their FOO issues with their mom, well, you’ll call and make that counseling appointment for them. Not only will you make the counseling appointments, next you’ll get your magic marker and highlight all the relevant chapters in the affair books you bought for them on Amazon.

Stop it! Stop it right now! It’s not your job to figure them out! You only get to figure out YOU. What your values are, what you will tolerate, and what is acceptable and unacceptable to YOU. That’s it.

Most cheaters are very invested in you getting lost in their messy skeins. Heck, they don’t have to invent an excuse for their behavior, you’re doing all the work for them. There is nothing they can say by way of explanation that is not self serving and self pitying. The only thing a cheater can do is demonstrate remorse through their actions. Preferably a very generous divorce settlement. Failing that, a very generous postnup. (But don’t hold your breath. You can read why I think entitlement and reconciliation are at odds here.)

An explanation is not a balm. Getting lost in the skein prolongs your pain. Better to move toward acceptance. They did it because they COULD. So… now what? That’s on you.

This is an update on a classic post.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • You are absolutely right. If only i had realized this 5 years ago… Would have saved me a lot of heartache.  My husband tried to tell me “The ‘why’ is because I just didn’t care” and “just because I could”.  I should have “just accepted” what he was telling me and worked on myself!  Getting lost in the skein just prolonged my pain.

    • I actually think my FW enjoyed me untangling his skein. He was the centre of attention which is exactly what he craved.
      I wish I could have just dumped him by the side of the road and left him there. I actually did dump him be the side of the road but felt guilty so turned around to pick him up.

  • Your views on this stuff ring very true to me. Many of us, left by our cheaters, are made to feel as if we are failures because we did not get the opportunity to reconcile(which seems to be the gold standard goal at most support sites).
    I have researched this long and hard and agree with you that reconciliation is a longshot after infidelity and a “happier, stronger marriage” is such an anomaly, that it makes no sesne to pursue it.
    Yet, the support sites are full of “reconciled” couples, proclaiming the benefits of having an affair on their marriages.
    Less than 30% stay together, long term. one study found that of those, about 7% report having a happy marriage. So, we are talking a 3% success rate, in reality.
    My XW has made it a point to tell me her cheating was due to her “emotional needs” not being met. Yet, if anything, she was more neglectful of any of my needs, physical, emotional etc.
    These folks focus on themselves and have virtually no empathy or insight into how they treat others.
    If you really stop to examine how they conduct their lives, you may see that it is not only in the sexual fidelity area that they lack integrity. Thye lie about all tyoes of things.
    I am better now, away from the cheater. She can no longer affect me.
    Your site is much closer to the truth about these folks and the prospects after cheating, in my opinion. Thanks.

    • Thanks Arnold. I created this site to be the sort of place I wish existed when I was cheated on. There was a lot of conflicting advice, and a lot of encouragement to attempt reconciliation in the face of damning circumstances. And a lot of R Against the Odds! propaganda. I thank God every day my “R” failed and that I left. Frankly, with years distance, I’m amazed that relationship ever had any hold over me. There is a good world out there with good people in it. I’m so glad you’re on the other side now. 🙂

    • Arnold… I appreciated your comments here. I was cheated on by my wife of seven years and she left me for a married man nonetheless! I knew she had a troubled past: her dad was a long-term cheater, she was raped at 17… ugliness! Still… after having two children, I thought we could withstand the craziness of life. Four months ago she told me she had been having an affair with a married man for four months. I was devastated. I still struggle with my emotions but seeing comments like yours and reading this site helps me greatly. I gave away my personal power and let her walk all over me. I let her blame me for the affair, blame our past arguments on me… she laid it all at my feet. I’m now seeing how manipulative she was and how many lies she told that hurt our family. Now as a single dad of two young kids I’m looking forward to a more peaceful future without her. Thanks again.

      • Yep. You get all the blame and mental anguish, they move on to their “happiness”.

        I think the hardest part is the mental damage they do to the kids before the divorce, and then god forbid you say anything bad about them, and then the threats of court and how you’re not helping the children heal. How they just want to get along, and how everything they did doesn’t matter.

      • I think a “survivor” is someone who doesn’t internalize their worst childhood role models and therefore doesn’t end up doing unto others the worst of what was done to them. The people who end up internalizing and emulating abuse as adults are (pardon an expression borrowed from my mother) “walking abortions.” They’re zombies with pulses or poltergeists who endlessly reenact whatever horror-shows they experienced in the past.

        When I was young, I had a bit of confusion over whether other people were true survivors or “trauma-zombies.” Both my parents were survivors in the good sense. My dad had overcome life on the mean streets and was a combat vet and my mother was a ground-breaker in her profession. They’d been through a lot, learned a lot, put it to good use and, all my life, I felt more kinship with people who’d risen above various experiences. People like that can be funnier, more reliable, wiser, more empathic. The problem is that the trauma-zombies often pretend to be the latter. I got my brains eaten a few times before I learned to spot fakes.

    • Dear Arnold,
      I couldn’t agree with you more. Your story sounds just like mine. Wish I had found you CL 8 months ago! Particularly this skein of fuckioedness piece! Alas, I am a serious chump and I am
      completely guilty of much of the codependent behavior you describe. Your site has really propelled me the final steps to let go and no longer give a
      rats ass about my ex dog turd. Reading other people’s stories that they have been willing to share has also been a tremendous help. Nothing like a congregation of chumps to help lead me out of the wilderness.

    • Arnold this rings so true for me. The whole “emotional needs” not being met, but yet he was the one who was so much more neglectful of any of my needs, physical, emotional and was completely detached from our son.

      “These folks focus on themselves and have virtually no empathy or insight into how they treat others.
      If you really stop to examine how they conduct their lives, you may see that it is not only in the sexual fidelity area that they lack integrity. They lie about all types of things.”

      That is right on the money for my husband. I began to have so many problems with his integrity and victim’s mentality even before I found out about his affairs. Even though it still shocked me he would do something so terrible, in many ways I wasn’t surprised at all. He slowly surrounded himself with people who led gross lives with no integrity and pushed out all those family and friends who would actually call him out on his selfish, destructive behavior. It’s just so sad to me that some people let the bad and weak parts of their personality just run rampant over the good parts of them until you can’t even recognize them anymore. We might all have the physical ability to be cheating pieces of crap, but the majority of us don’t give the selfish bad side of us permission and let ourselves turn into trash.

      • This is what happened in my marriage as well. We had a “normal” relationship for twelve years until he started drinking about eight years ago and found a whole group of new friends which led to all kinds of new behaviors and interests, none of which included me.

        Many secrets and lies later, he has turned into someone I do not recognize. He’s a disgusting sexual freak – it’s like the alcohol loosened any restraints and his freak flag is flying high.

        Further, it’s my fault because of our “sexless” marriage and my coldness.

        He also had to spend all of our savings on webcam sex and “extra” money sent directly to his teenage webcam girlfriend in the Philippines. And strangers in hotels on business trips. And prostitutes at home. And Craigslist hookups.

        All necessary ‘cuz of my ‘sexlessness’ and ‘coldness.’

        And now he doesn’t love me anymore, doesn’t know if he ever loved me. His new version of our last twenty years overlooks the fact that I was there. My daughter was there. Our families were there.

        He’s living in an angry, drunken, fucked-up reality. Why would someone choose this?

        I wish I felt more “meh” about it all. We head to mediation next week.

        • Roaring – Please make sure to quietly consult YOUR OWN lawyer before and after mediation. You may want to get assistance from a domestic abuse program for local resources. Your husband’s behavior is emotionally, financially and potentially physically abusive and it is unlikely that he will be an honest participant in mediation.

          • Good call. I would also recommend seeing if there are any coercive control statutes in the region– civil or criminal– or even simply advocacy resources for victims of coercive control which can provide a framework for the court or mediator to understand the psychological and financial abuse involved.

          • Just noticed date of Roaring’s original post. Grateful that Chump Nation has been getting the word out about mediation. We learn through experience.

        • You are entitled to half the money he spent on those women. They are marital assets. Dealing with that kind of soon to be ex, I would think consulting a few shark lawyers would be best. You are a decent person and I bet he’s smugly planning on railroading you into an agreement for the kids, and for peace, and to make this end soon. It will be majorly tilted in his favor. Please get some (free?) consults with great family lawyers. The best you can. Good luck. He’s ugly so it will be ugly either way. Protect yourself and your kids for the future.

        • Remember that mediation is entirely about you fighting to get what you and you children need. As much as possible. His spending all of that cash without your knowledge or concentrate is a breach of his fiduciary duty to your marriage, which is a civil contract (license required). If he was your business partner, you would sue him for fraud. His lawyer will know what those words mean. Stay mighty!!

      • Christina,

        I think the realization that they never really had a “good side” can help speed up the path to “meh.” If you want scientific explanations for how some people manage to play the role of “good egg” for years and fool everyone around them while harboring a heinous secret self and heinous secret life, there are interesting– and completely hopium-free– studies and theories on serial killers and compartmentalization ( Those theories don’t just apply to serial killers and can apply to lesser criminals, but the operative word is “criminal.” It’s not a trait seen in safe, normal or “fixable” people.

        Speaking of patently unsafe traits, there are similar studies which conclude that batterers and other types of serial aggressors often have semi-split personalities, meaning they have different personalities which they can trot out at will in order to manipulate different audiences and targets (unlike someone with full blown dissociative personality disorder who’s not in control of when those splintered selves emerge). The ability to control and channel their own craziness in self-serving ways is what makes them criminally disordered, not merely mentally ill. One of the typical “faces” that these types will display as a pity ploy is their “inner victim selves.” Since abusers are typically repeating the abuse they experienced or witnessed as children, they usually were genuine victims as children and it makes their “victim selves” seem very believable and touching. Poor dears. You could mistakenly imagine this person has deep empathy for the downtrodden and that this makes them safer and more reliable. But, like the light from a long dead star reaching earth millions of years after the star blew up, the appearance of the “victim self” means nothing. That “inner child” died a long time ago and is just a very sympathetic-seeming mirage covering a merciless abyss.

        The short version of the above is just that abusers are very skilled and determined frauds. I don’t know what they get out of it. It seems like an awful way to live unless you live for only power and greed and kibble. Common sense would argue that a devil will get further in life if they take off their horns and pretend to be gentleman. There are more theories and studies (and horror movies) delving into the potential motives for it but, in the end, it’s hard to understand crazy and evil if you’re not crazy and evil. For now, the safest strategy is to put nothing past this guy and act accordingly. Get a good attorney like others suggest. Fight for every cent you’re due and be on guard for financial trickery. Consider a home security system because abusers typically hate losing and can go on rage benders.

    • It’s too bad I didn’t start on chump lady 5 years ago when my husband of 34 years cheated for a year with a friend of ours.all that happened when I let him stay after he begged was that the financial abuse escalated to the point of half of our life savings being blown by him on himself and the mental verbal emotional physical and sexual abuse escalated. I still stayed until he discarded me for new supply he us now on a full blown campaign to smear and destroy me. I regret not kicking him to the curb 5 years ago I would be healed or well on my way by now and would have some financial security. He even wouldn’t work for money last year to avoid paying spousal support. What a dick.

    • My ex wanted to reconcile. We tried 3 times. All it did was cause more damage to our children.

      The moment he told me he had been intimate with a family friend was the moment our marriage ended in my heart. Everything after that was just more pain.

  • Hey Arnold, I have an interview on this site you should check out with Dr. George Simon (on the bar to the right, under Brain Trust) and also check out his books (linked in the Amazon box) and his blog

    I also spent a lot of time researching personality disorders when this happened to me. It helped put a lot of into perspective. It’s not you. They’d be shitty to anyone.

    Also another great resource is

    • Thanks. I did read the interview and it was very good. I will check out his book and the other website you mentioned.
      May I recommend an author, Richard Skerritt. He has a number of e-books on personality disorders, and “Meaning From Madness” was particularly helpful to me, as it was written for the layperson.
      Skerritt is an engineer, I believe, who was married to a disordered, high functioning abuser. He has an interesting theory on the dynamics of BPD and NPD.
      I think men are left behind, somewhat, in the support for abused realm. The reading I have done has led me to see that women are abusive with about the same frequency. Also, women seem to be categorized as BPD more frequently and men with NPD or ASPD. But, there is some evidence that , due to the way we have been taught to view women, they are given the BPD diagnosis vs one of the others, when, in fact, they are NPD or ASPD. Apparently, BPD is thought to be less ominous.
      Anyway, keep up the good work.

      • Thanks. FWIW, I totally believe women can be just as disordered and abusive as men. My husband was married to a sociopath (22 years, serial cheater, total double life). You don’t really want to believe it, but then you read the literature and you’re ticking off every box. You can’t do that with ordinary people. The tendency to arm chair shrink is certainly fallible, but these folks are so… for lack of a better word — deviant. And of course, they don’t go in for counseling — if they do, it’s only to manipulate further. So it’s not like many are going to get an official diagnosis. I think what is telling about disordered people is — it’s not personal. They’re screwy with everyone. My husband’s ex also defrauded her business partners. My ex-husband cheated on his former wives and went on to cheat on other women after me. It’s What They DO. You just happened to cross their path and you were a good mark.

  • This is why, when possible, I recommend folks who have been cheated on research their victimizer’s past. This is often done in retrospect, after onehas been abused, vs prospectively in the courtship phase. So, the damage is already done.

    But, at least if you can access info on their past, it may help you in dealing with the doubt they implant, where one feels that he or she is responsible for having caused most of the problems in the marriage(one study found that the 50/50 pre affair problem cliche is , most of the time, not true when it comes to infidelity situations and the cheater, almost invariably, was the main source of the pre-affair problems).
    In my case, my XW’s own family came forward with info on her past(unforunately, due to the fact that they misguidedly hoped she had changed, they did not offer this info to me going into the marriage). Mutual friends, ones who had known her before i was around, also came forward.
    My XW, for the 8 years we were married, represented to me that she had obtained her bachelor’s degree from a good college here in Minnesota. Her brother and dad informed me, as I was going through the divorce, that this was untrue and that she had quit school her senior year and shacked up with a married factory worker in her college town.
    Her dad went on to inform me thshe had falsified transcripts, sending them home, to convince her parents she was still in school.
    I learned she had been involved with two other married men in the past.
    I learned she had slept with her high school soccer coach while a student and that , ironically, one of the guy’s she was cheating with some 18 years later, was her boyfriend at the time and had gone ballistic(one has to wonder how dumb this guy was to subject himself to her, again, and she soon jettisoned him to start a relationship with yet another married man.)
    I could go on and on, but my point is that , in some way, finding all this and lther stuff out about her helped me heal. It made me happy that I was no longer associated with such a monster and it confirmed that her problems predated me.

    So , look at your cheater’s past. Odds are the current cheating is not isolated and they are messed up in all types of other ways. That is why they are cheaters.

    • I consulted a psychologist and read some studies on “mate poachers” and psychopathy (apparently there’s a strong association on the advice of my lawyer who was trying to assess how likely it was the AP would boil any bunnies or burn my house down with the kids and I in it. The AP wasn’t just a side piece but also a cheater in her own right who’d been engaged at the time the affair began. I thought there was something extra creepy about a cheater who cheats with another cheater as if they’re trying to maximize the number of victims. That’s when I realized that FW himself had an identical track record. I pulled on a few threads from his past and discovered he had a long history of involvement with engaged and married targets. Why he married me is a mystery. Maybe he was whimsically dabbling with reform for half a minute.

      No one volunteered this information, I had to dig it up. Probably due to sexual double standards, it seems men are less likely than women to be trailed by buzz about behavior like this. Even if male interlopers are more likely to be attacked by male chumps, bystanders generally aren’t as scandalized when men poach (“he’s just sowing oats,” “players gonna play”) and any related gossip probably dies down sooner. But the ramifications are exactly the same regardless. Psycho, psycho, run don’t walk.

    • Arnold,
      If you looked at my past, you would run. I made a CHOICE to be an upstanding person. Some people mature, start making good choices and some just keep on the chaos train.

    • I looked for red flags; begged my friends to help me see anything and everything. I knew of a few and dismissed them giving him a chance that that was the past. I was completely bamboozled by him. Then by the RIC that I could somehow stand for our marriage and he’d be the good guy. It was a very bad risk to take. Now the list of the many ways he’s messed up is much longer. Seeing this now has helped me heal, too.

  • This is so enlightening. when my wife spent a week in a mental institution several years ago, they thought she had traits of Histrionic Personality Disorder. She agreed with that diagnosis and would often email me articles saying how amazed she was at how she fit the description. It’s helped me to see why being married to her was so difficult, and that I can’t take the blame for her cheating.

  • Can someone explain to me what FOO is? Random acronyms drive me nuts. Fear of…something?

    • “Family of Origin” — it’s shrink speak for whatever hangups you got from your folks.

    • Foo.. Right. I thought it was a short form of FUBAR.

      Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.

  • Arnold, you poor dear. My mom has BPD and I wish my poor dad had unburdened himself from her years ago…now its way too late and her alcoholism has pickled her and she is a freaking mess. They renewed their vows for their 50th wedding anniversary…he is better human than me, I would have run like hell from craziness like hers.

    I am guilty of spending a great deal of my life untangling my husbands fuckedupness and even though we did reconcile for the few years before he died (and I dont regret those years) I had a chronic sorrow from the whole thing that hung on me like a yoke.

    Never ever again would I tolerate from a man what I put up with from my husband. I now have a list of dealbreakers that is iron clad and I will have a prenup in the unlikely event that any guy ever makes it through the gauntlet of my dealbreakers.

    Move on and be happy, Im sure you have suffered enough.

      • No cheating. No lying. Must have empathy. Must be a grown up. I think that pretty much covers it.

  • (This is the first time I have had a conversation with him on skype IM while the other woman was sitting right there. I really did get immense satisfaction for giving her the disrespect she deserves. Read below.)

    Me: I am not a settler, i will not go out and find someone just cuz, so that leaves your kids without a dad.

    Him: Can the kid’s come for the summer?
    Me: I wouldn’t leave them with her.

    Him: that last statement wasn’t necessary
    [Me: thou dost ask too much me thinks
    Him: It’s just that I asked her and she said she would then that last statement didn’t fly too well with her.
    Me: tell her to take an enema
    HIm:She is a part of my life and therefore the kids will meet her.
    Me: anyways will you be around at 8:30pm?
    Him: yes , even if you weren’t keen on leaving the kids with her you didn’t have to say it
    Me: why not, she didn’t have to knock the kids legs out from beneath them, remember by comparison her feelings really don’t matter.
    Me, I’m gone, talk to your children later please.
    Him: fine later

    • It blows my mind! The other whore is all, well, she didn’t have to say something not nice about me! Well, other whore, you didn’t have to fuck her husband either. One of those offenses rates a whole lot higher on the rudeness scale.

      • KP,
        What I find astounding is that she was like “I don’t want to leave my kids with her.” And he said “even if you feel that way, you didn’t have to say it.” Ummm..YES she did. She is telling you that she doesn’t want her kids left with that person. So she NEEDS to say it so you don’t think it’s ok to leave the kids with her. It’s not like she said “I hate your gf, she is a whore” which while it wouldn’t have been polite, I wouldn’t have blamed her for either really. But logically what she said was actually important.

  • BINGO! We have a Winner!

    Thanks, CL. This is so exactly right. The longer you dilly-dally around with trying to unravel HIM, the more time you’re wasting getting to YOU. Piss on him. He did you wrong, and who really gives a gnat’s ass why? There isn’t a logical, reasonable, or tolerable reason under the sun – so it isn’t worth agonizing. The only person left who is worth any further investment of time and energy is you. Make it worthwhile.

  • Two months after break-up, as I struggled to figure out why he had cheated relentlessly, he looked at me, spread his arms wide, and said “Hey! I take a lot of attention!” by way of explanation. In my codependence I had made his well-being the focus of my life so he had as much attention as I had to give, and then some. He seemed damn near proud of himself.

    • Narcissists are pretty proud of themselves in general. They are also very charming…for when you get to “why did I fall for this person?” And “despite what he did to me, why does everyone think he’s so great.”

  • CL,

    I knew what this meant intuitively, but I only know just got around to reading your three essays. This is really good. Untangling the skein is a delaying mechanism, sort of like saying, “I’d better clean the apartment first before working on my dissertation.” It’s a self-soothing strategy for kicking the can down the road.. I also just noticed that you had Lundy Bancroft’s book on your recommended list. I agree with what you say above (and what Bancroft says). The narcs are not all that complicated. They do what they do because they can, because they do see themselves as superior, deserving or tragically denied/deprived. It’s really — and sadly — just all that simple. And the Chumps invest a huge amount of fantasy-spackle to keep the whole thing going…..

    Anyway, just got to this section. As always, you take your scalpel to the topic and lay it bare in all its banality. Let the Chumps Learn and Move On!

  • By the way, the banal is the soul of the narc, one of the most camouflaged and most obvious secrets of all time. Narc-spotting is a bit like those optical illusions (two women’s faces or a vase? a young woman’s face or an old woman’s face?) where you can’t see the other image at all and, and then suddenly you CAN see the other image. Narc-spotting is an art, and you are teaching it!

    Chump Son

  • Hi Chump Lady,
    Can you explain this to me? I was married to my husband almost 19 years and he was my boyfriend 3 years before we got married. He was soooo good to me. He loved to cook and cooked me dinners all the time. He did half the house chores, worked in the yard, always held down a job and worked his butt off. I worked too. He always made Christmas very special for us too and loved shopping for gifts and wrapping them. He also made my birthday special as well. We started a business together and he worked hard and I took care of the financial side of it and I held down a full-time job.

    He never changed how he acted concerning the things he did for me. However, he cheated on me with someone he worked with in 1999 (before we started our business). We separated and I forgave him and then after about a year we started living together again. Well, 7 months ago I finally got him to admit that he had been cheating on me again and he told me the affair had been going on for over a year before he left. Well, of course I went off and found the other woman on FB and sent her a nasty e-mail. She told him that she wasn’t the first and that he cheated on me before. Well, I knew about the woman in 1999, but now he tells me about another time he slept with someone 5 years ago. WTF??? How can someone be so good to me with such consistency for so many years, but ends up being a serial cheater throughout a marriage? I really need your advice and some help figuring all this out. Thanks.

      • Even though he treated me good every other way? He never abused me or anything. I just don’t understand it. It’s so upsetting.

        • Anyone that lies that well, for that long about something like this , must be a sociopath, IMO.
          They treat you well,so long as you are of use to them.
          Research his past. I bet there are signs of sociopathy.

          • Then does that mean anyone who cheats multiple times and keeps it concealed is a sociopath? I don’t know. I guess it’s just a strong word. Reminds me of serial killers. lol

            • Serial killers are at the far end of the sociopath continuum. There are many that have a differnet outlet for their sociopathy, like serial cheaters, con men/women, just overall cheats.
              Think about it. Your H is a serial cheater and showed no signs. He must be without a conscience to do that.

            • Marie, you need to read ‘The Sociopath Next Door’ by Martha Stout. Sociopaths on the whole are clever enough to work out that they don’t want to go to jail. Most sociopaths are alive and well, and living near you.
              Stout says: how do you get to see a sociopath? – By the trail of hurt and destruction they leave behind them.

          • Also, he is feeling guilty now because he still trying to do things for me even though he left me for another woman. Of course he never confessed to the affairs. I had to keep asking until he admitted it. What a mess.

            • That is not guilt. That is a trap, he’s attempting to manipulate you again and he’s already succeeded in making you believe he feels guilty. He does not. If he experienced guilt like a normal human, he would not have been able to constantly cheat on and deceive you throughout the marriage like you know he did. You need to protect yourself and go no contact with him.

            • Actually, he is probably acting like he feels guilty. Sociopaths and narcissist can fake real emotions. But they don’t actually feel those feelings. It’s hard to understand this from the outside. Talking to a counselor alone, may help you with this. (not to reconcile, but to help you work through the feelings and move on.)

              • Dupers delight. He’s knows what he’s doing. Building your trust while secretly stabbing you in the back. It’s the worst form of emotional abuse.
                It’s abuse, cheating is abuse.
                He hasn’t stopped cheating, he’s getting better at hiding it..
                Trust that he sucks.

    • Marie, my ex did this as well. He never talked much so I looked to his actions for confirmation of his caring. He did things like get up early to scrape my car of ice and have it warmed up for me. Even the day he announced he’d filed for divorce he opened the garage doors for me. Helped around the house, did dishes, laundry, left flowers for me in the car when he was traveling. It was very confusing to me too, I’d looked at those small gestures as his way of saying he cared even though he wasn’t very verbal. When I asked him about this after he left he said “I always enjoyed doing things for you.” It was so confusing.

      • Sounds like my soon to be ex. He is still telling me he loves me, cares for and worries about me. I really believe its all about him and the fact that he cant be seen as the bad guy. It is still all about his ego and hiding things from me.

        It is very confusing but when I put it into perspective it became more clear. Therapy has helped as well. Good luck….

      • Lyn, bingo!

        Theat is dead-on my husband.

        I am in Australia, waiting to move back to the US, and have nowhere else to go until I do. He keeps on doing things for me… Cooked us pasta for dinner the other night. Saw my hair bleach was on sale and bought some for me. Heck, he even gave me some of his frequent flyer points so I can fly back to the US to start getting my life together there… I still wonder what he’s going to try to pull while I’m away, because none of these do-good things come without some sort of price, trust me.

        Marie, keep in mind that these are also narcissistic behaviors. They are not being done to GIVE you something, they are being done to GET him something.

        Ask yourself how guilty you feel, and how much more it feels like the problems in your marriage are your fault when he does these things. He is doing it primarily to get his ego kibble. Seriously.

        (And wow, it cements it well in my mind to say it, too, so thanks!)

        Until I can get the hell out of here, I have taken to trying to view these gestures simply as, “Well, thanks. Great. One less thing I’ve got to do for myself during this troubling time.” Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail and find myself back in that place of guilt and blame. When that happens, I come back to chumplady for a literary slap across the face.

        Your feelings that are generated by his very insincere “do-gooding” are designed to have this effect on you. They are most likely pre-meditated, and are therefore passively aggressive, rather than kind or caring. Don’t be fooled!

        • Sounds like the asshole I’m married to. I’m baffled by the acts of “goodwill” after years of manipulation and gas lighting. It remains to be seen whether he lives up to his promises to see me and our son “whole”. WTF does that mean anyway? In the meantime, I’m taking what I can get from the cheater. He wants to do something nice for my sons and me just to make himself look better? Fine – as long as it helps me and them, too. I figure karma is a bitch and he will get what he deserves soon enough. I do wonder though if I’m handling it right, but this shit is so messed up I can’t imagine what right would be.

        • Mine is trying to pull this same shit. Acting all lovey dovey and nice and “take all the time and space you need” but “I really miss you” but also, oh, turns out I’m still seeing the OW behind your back, but here’s this nice huge helping of GUILT while you try to get away.

      • Lyn,
        My ex and I were still in contact for years, in part because he was showing up and doing things for me, also gave me money for things I was doing involving his grandkids that I babysat. It also made me believe he loved me, along with the RIC I gave him a lot of points for this stuff and professing his love.
        It confuses me, too.
        Glad I’m out.

    • We were married to the same guy. We dated for 3 yrs before marriage and married almost 20. He was a pretty good guy to me but I never really trusted him 100%. I was right not to.

      • “He was a pretty good guy to me but I never really trusted him 100%.”

        Wow, that’s exactly my experience, ThrewHimOut. My gut knew before my brain did that I couldn’t trust my ex, who I had dated for about 2 years and was married to for about 13. We moved to a new city not long after we married. Perhaps 6 months later, he went on a business trip, and one of my coworkers (not someone I knew well) joked about the possibility of him fooling around while he was away. I remember that sinking feeling that made me realize that in my gut, I knew that I didn’t trust him to be faithful. (For example, I wince as I remember how I felt when he’d ignore me and catch the eye of other women in an elevator.) D-day #1 was about 8 1/2 years after we married. I only found out because we stopped by his place of work one evening on our way home, and I took the opportunity to go through his desk drawer and found a note from his affair partner (as an excuse, I said I had been looking for some Kleenex or something).

        I didn’t really it at the time, but I had FOO issues that made me think I wasn’t good enough for him, so a part of me felt it was partly my fault he cheated. When you don’t feel particularly loved when you’re growing up, that can make one feel unloveable. The fact that he otherwise “was a pretty good guy to me” made it even more confusing. It’s taken me years to really understand the dynamics.

    • Marie,
      Life did not put FW in the position he believed he ought to have. around was a short cut distraction.

    • I talk on here about shitty things my ex said and did but the reality is that he seemed quite nice more than 90% of the time. Which is why I would believe him when he would chalk some random nastiness up to stress from work. I thought I had a good husband, I thought we had a really good relationship. It was fake the whole time. Read some books about psychopaths, it’ll shine some light on it.

    • Hi Marie,
      This frame might help you wrap your mind around it, so that you can better protect yourself. He identified as a great husband and so that is how he acted, but it is not for the reasons which feel intuitive to you. It’s NOT the kind of adoring bond where it’d pain him to hurt you, like it is for you, or he wouldn’t have cheated on you like its nothing. He’s living a story in his head that he is Prince Charming. You were just playing a role in his drama. What’s dangerous is that your role can change from beloved queen to big bad whom he must destroy, or an annoying nothing to be discarded.

      Some of the most toxic chemicals are those which are almost identical to sugar or other nutritious substances. Antifreeze tastes great, but it’ll kill you like nothing else. This is the case with good people (chumps) who fall in love with cheaters who don’t “love” that way. You mentioned serial killers. Like many, you don’t seem to realize how well they fool people. The BTK killer looked like a great family man. Experts were scared at how well he could compartmentalize.

      It might help to read up on high functioning narcissists. They’re particularly good at passing for upstanding normal. There are reliable indicators to tell the difference between them and someone on the level. Is he allergic to blame (except on a joke)? Is he smug? Envious? Jealous of other’s success? Congratulates himself a little too much on being superior to others? A little off on how much he feels shame? You don’t need to psychoanalyze him though. Cheating alone is enough of a red flag to start protecting yourself. Plan as if he’ll betray you if he can. There’s a good chance you’ll see his mask slip at some point, and then you’ll understand why the chumps here are right.

  • Arnold, I also sent this to Chump Lady…What are your thoughts too?

    What if I feel that the reason my husband cheated was my fault? My husband left me 7 months ago for another woman. He said he got tired of me rejecting him for sex. He said me rejecting him was like a dagger to his heart. I feel so guilty about this. I know that he is telling the truth because he said it before he started his affair over 1.5 years ago. We had piles of bills from a failing business and I was never in the mood for sex because all I could think about is how to pay off our bills and get out of debt and make the business successful again. He took my rejection as if I wasn’t attracted to him anymore. I didn’t look at it that way at all. I love him. I’m a mess. Please help with some advice.

    • Marie,
      First, I am so sorry. Being betrayed is by your spouse is unbearable pain.
      Second, your spouse cheating IS NOT YOUR FAULT. He CHOSE to do so. Whether or not you rejected him, your business failing (debt), kids, stress, whatever is not really the issue. These problems are def problems in the marriage. And if he was so unhappy, he could have spoken up then to say he needed these things resolved and work on them, or he wanted out (honorably). He chose instead to lie to, cheat on, and steal from his wife and family. Time, attention, honesty, integrity, love, etc.. All a farce.
      He most likely was so “giving” because he tried to over compensate at home for what he was doing away from home (cheating) AND to also keep you from suspecting anything. But you pulled his mask off his face, Marie. And his real face is unsightly and disfigured. His character? None.
      Marie, he is blame shifting now to put the accountability of his cheating on you. This is NOT your shame. Not your guilt. not your responsibilty. It is on him only.
      Reciprocal marriages and relationships are hard work. They take effort. Communication. Give and take. Sacrifice. Selfless at times. Cheaters don’t deal with these problems. They cake eat. A healthy, reciprocal relationship is impossible to have with a person who cheats. Period. While you were busy figuring out how to pay the bills and keep your business afloat, he is off to races with some side dish(es). Vile and disgusting.
      Good luck Marie. Stay strong. And remember, do NOT EVER let his guilt and shame become yours.
      PS He might not have given you any signs he was cheating. This is not your fault either. He was really good at covering his tracks for awhile. But eventually, the truth comes to light.

    • So, what’s his excuse for all those other times he cheated on you? He’s a serial cheater Marie. He will make up any excuse that hurts you and gives him a chance to get away with it. He’s literally attempting to hurt you more and do more damage to you even after he hurt you by leaving you. And it’s working. You have to go no contact. I was married 20 years and I thought he was my best friend. I’m telling you, when I went no contact, I started to heal. It still takes time but you aren’t going to be able to start the process with him still dumping on you and blaming you and hurting you. Cut him off, let the lawyers talk for you.

      He is not the man you love. The man you love did not exist. He never existed. It was a costume this monster put on to trick you. That’s why he seemed so great, he wasn’t real. I know that hurts terribly but you have to work on accepting it so you can protect yourself. Do not be alone with him. It doesn’t matter that he never hit you, these are the type of men who kill their families. The fake persona psycopaths. I never thought my ex would harm me, he never hit me or pushed me or anything like that. He was planning to kill me for years Marie! When some nice family guy who everybody liked brutally murders his wife people are shocked but men like your husband and my ex are these men. They had secret lives. Normal people cannot maintain that, not for 19 years. Not even close.

      Read everything you can about psychopaths. The psychopath next door is a good place to start. They aren’t all serial killers, most of them are not violent… unless they feel it would benefit them most. Don’t risk that. Read what you can and it will help you understand. The BTK killer is an interesting case too, his daughter talks about how he was a good father. But his family was just his cover, and when he got caught, he didn’t care about them at all anymore. I understand the need to understand, I went through that too. But stay away from him, change your locks, don’t let him have access to you, and don’t be alone with him. You’ve found he’s been deceiving you for years, there’s no telling what else you might find during the divorce process.

      • ☝🏻This 👏🏻 I’ve come to the conclusion that when the narcopath’s mask slips, I’m only seeing the tip of the iceberg of their duplicitous deeds.

      • KatiePig… It so wasn’t real. It’s still a stretch to believe this. My mom asked me if I’d be in touch with FW when I move back home. No way – I can’t.
        Then I explained to her that he was a chameleon. And that now I know I could get sucked in so I must stay away. Even if it means I don’t see his grandkids whom I love dearly.

    • So instead of putting his efforts into helping you boost the business, he drained further resources by spending money and energy away from it on an affair. Cheaters always find a way to make you to blame for what they did. Don’t take it on board.

      • Also, you are taking his word as truth still and what he’s saying as face value, despite the fact that he lied and deceived you for a long long time. Don’t believe anything that someone who is willing to be deceptive and lie to your face for years says.

  • Here’s a skein I’m “trying” to untangle. I had an aunt (married to my deceased father’s brother) that I adored. After dday she was supportive but sort of icy. We had a serious falling out almost 2 years ago (topic not important to this comment). Three years ago she asked for my then stbx’s address so she could send a birthday card – I gave it to her, what did I care? Long story short I received a letter a few weeks ago from my uncle stating that my aunt had died – she had a number of health issues.
    A week after that letter I received a sympathy card from my now ex!?! I went NC early on to save my sanity & we have never had a real conversation since he left. He wrote that he was sorry to hear the news about my aunt (my uncle must have sent a letter to him as well). Sorry that my aunt died, you bastard! You weren’t & probably still aren’t sorry about what you did to my beautiful life! I shredded the card.
    Next day I get a card from his parents – I have had no contact with them since ex filed for divorce and they are sorry too!?!
    WTF is wrong with them? It even creeps me out to think that I was a topic of their conversation with their son. But they have no clue about what my life has been like since they shut me out. They have no clue either that I hadn’t had any contact with my aunt in some time. That card was shredded too.
    Why did they do this? I’m healing & have moved on so why haven’t they?

    • It’s a way of telling the world your estrangement from them is your fault because they are decent people. It’s gutless because they will never say sorry to you because their lives have moved on, unlike yours, and the future is what is important now.

      In other words keeping the peace with you isn’t even worth a “I’m sorry you feel that way”.

    • I am guessing the aunt sent a card letting him know that she no longer had contact with you and is dying, and probably some weird stuff about you. She may have been a cheater herself and felt a conflict between supporting you and her own agenda. That’s all guessing but all I got.

      • Sorry I didn’t get the 3 years ago bit. She sounds narcy and it sounds like her saying, I am going to be friendly with your ex, was her way to trying to needle you. She may have been feeding information about you to your ex for the last 3 years.

    • Hurt1,

      You posted your comment almost a decade ago so what I’m writing is for fellow citizens of CN. The paper shredder is the proper receptacle for the card. And stay strong on no contact. Silence and not responding to goading emails/letters/texts etc. is the power move when dealing with abusers and their flying monkeys.

    • Update…hard to believe that comment was just about 10 yrs ago. It bothered me for some time that both ex & his parents sent me sympathy cards after 3 yrs of no contact. One day frustrated that the grass trimmer kept crapping out (lawn work was always done by ex before he left) I tossed it aside, marched into the house & fired off an email: “You & your family need to stay out of my life – a beautiful life that was ruined.” Almost immediately FW replied with: “OK, didn’t mean to upset you, sorry for your loss, it won’t happen again.” And it didn’t. When I got the reply I didn’t feel mighty at all & think I had a good cry. But looking back I set a boundary of being left alone & it worked. If FW was reaching out in any way & using the sympathy card as a conduit, I shut that shit down!

  • Thes folks have no insight into themselves or their actions. I have seen this before in my XW’s. They can do something as monstrously abusive as cheating, and then try to discuss the weather with you, make small talk, even reach out to your family.
    My first XW would always ask me to greet my family for her. WTF? Thye hated the bitch after what she had done to me and our kids.
    Never try to figure these folks out. Thye are wored very differently than normal folks. They have really fucked up defense mechanisms in place. They are a different species. The sky in their world is a vastly different color.

  • I have decided to no longer work on this skein. My stbx is the tangled up mess, not I. As soon as I told him he could have his divorce, he went back to his “emotional affair partner.” Yep, two pastors having an affair and handing out marriage advice left and right. It boggles the mind.

  • Please forgive me for being off topbut I haven’t been able to figure out how to post a question or the proper place to post a question could someone any one point me in the right direction please. thank u

    • I think there is a “contact” thing you can click on at the top.

  • Ref: About Chump Lady, Septerber 17, 2013, Ken Tuck (my tangle).
    My Mom in 1956 would take me to play with cousins having all the childhood illnesses (so I’d build up immunity) and gave me also every vaccine available (what a great Mom). She wanted to protect “her” most important “work of art…her only son”.

    But these Great Depression Era parents forgot to give me the most important gift of life…”good/loving/parents”. By 8 yrs, they asked me, “which parent did I want to live with…we’re getting a DIVORCE”. In 1957, no one got divorced and there was so much Shame on everyone…we were all “white trash.” Note: they had both been cheating on each other for years (and would continue to do so thought my life). My Mom even dropped hints that “maybe Dad wasn’t my ‘real’ dad.”

    So at 8 yrs, I REFUSED to chose and demanded to live with relatives/friends rather than them! The upside: I was now completely “inoculated” against cheaters, failed spouses, and shitty families. Good on me!

    …but I wasn’t “inoculated” against strangers in the world that could pull me in, mind fuck me, take my money, take my peace of mind, pull me away from my family, and finally, leave me suicidal. I am now! This young man of 22 at first, looked like a lost sheep of God, and he told me that he believed God had sent me to him to “help him”…and I “swallowed it hook, line, & sinker!” He was always will be, damaged beyond repair…return to manufacturer…sorry!

    I now know God wants me to take care of myself, my wonderful wife, and tell every MF’ing “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” out there…You’re going directly to Dante’s Second Level of Hell…it was made just for folks like you! Sorry I met ya…wouldn’t want to be ya!

    Meeting a Narcissist has been the worst thing in my long life (much worse than cancer), but surviving him has been my second greatest accomplishment (great wife and family as number one gift to myself ever).

  • What if they don’t respond to “please leave…. LEAVE.” and they stay around, they make one appointment with a counselor by themselves, keep staying up until 2am every night working on the big project that will bring in money to them, finally, when you have been the sole bread winner for the last few years? With children in the mix, and a stubborn unemployed serial cheating spouse who cannot really sit down to feel remorse except a handful of times, who has one AP who knows now he is married and a father, and other ‘little’ side affairs (aka emails, Skype messages, Craigs List history) and then doesn’t do anything to really change his ways; who doesn’t bring income, no support of any kind that a marriage should provide, and keeps you hostage. And gets angry that you yell at him all the time. I feel sad for the kids, caught in between, with the future of a single parent. But the serial spouse stays around, passive aggressive, feeling sorry for himself, oh working SO hard trying to make the next big thing that will earn some income but doesn’t bother with looking for a real job in the mean time to pay any of the bills, and you are scared that he may go jump off a bridge when you yell one more time “Enough. I can’t do this any more. Leave”, because he is Silent, sad looking, concerned looking, trapped looking, but he stays around?

    • You see a lawyer. Like yesterday. This is intolerable and you do not have to tolerate it.

      No one can force you to stay married to this person. There are legal consequences if you have kids and a mortgage and you move out, (it can be construed as abandonment, and might affect custody) so make your escape plan with an attorney. But MAKE A PLAN.

      Stop expecting consensus! I told you to leave, so of course, you’ll leave! If he’s passive aggressive, he will DELIGHT in denying you.

      Just act in YOUR best interest and stop putting energy into what he may or may do and if he likes it.

      Oh, and the suicide threats are classic. You don’t control his mental state. And he’s manipulating you. It’s emotional blackmail. Call his bluff.

    • This is very familiar to me, you have my sympathy. One thing that saved my sanity was finding out from a girlfriend that I could go to counseling for free. I’ve been seeing my therapist for months, and she has helped me regain my spirit. I kept telling her my ‘poor baby husband with depression, no job, and suicidal stories’ , and she would help me see how HE HAS TO CARE ENOUGH TO GET HELP. It’s not our job, we’re already doing enough! They like to keep us exhausted.
      Call a women’s shelter, or the state abuse line (it’s at least emotional abuse), or look for Volunteers of America- that’s who I go to, and they’re great! Anyone who says they will kill themself if you leave is actually threatening you, but you may be to beaten down and tired to see it.

    • Same story here. My husband thought he was entitled to not work for money because he ran a business(into the ground losing half of our retirement money and denying it the whole time). We have 3 properties and I had to struggle to cover all of the bills them when I had the gall to insist on a paycheque for the last 5 weeks I got discarded. He already had his new supply and no spousal support for me because he had no income for the previous year. POS! !!!

    • I had to make a deal with mine to get him the fuck out. I postponed when he had to start paying me alimony. He was making like four times what I was making and claimed he couldn’t afford to get his own place and “Can’t I just live here until the lease is up to save money?” like I was his fucking mommy! I even had to pack his shit up because he wasn’t doing it and I wanted him the hell out. I could have fought him in court but it was faster to do it this way. It still makes me sick how he tore me down and insulted me and acted like he couldn’t wait to start his better life without me… and then he wouldn’t leave.

      And we were renting, it’s not like he was expected to give up a house. He didn’t want our son so it made more sense for him to move out of our apartment and get a place for just him. He had zero real reason to want to stay there, he just wanted to make it all harder on me.

    • The suicide threats, or simply the concern you have that that may happen because you expect normal behavior from him, are not your problem. It’s just like cheating. You can’t make him cheat, and you can’t make him kill himself either, certainly not by simply expecting normal, decent behavior from him. That’s on him. If he’s threatening suicide, call the police or a crisis line and ask for a well check. If they are just threats to get what he wants or to guilt you, I guarantee that will stop them. If he’s really suicidal, you’re not competent to deal with his suicidality (unless you’re a mental health professional), so either way, best to just call for a well check.

  • My “skein” is not the usual-my husband came out after 20 + years. He swore, swore he never acted upon it. I believe it-he is very uptight about the whole thing. He said he still loved me we wanted to try to stay together, kids, family. We tried for a while to make it work. We couldn’t and I have been trying to untangle that skein for a long time. This article actually helped me-understanding that the untangling/trying to understand was a coping mechanism, and in the end there is no understanding. It is what it is-fuckedupness. It’s not about me-it’s about him. There is nothing he can say or do that is going to make me feel better. I know it’s on me to get it together and move on, still sometimes I can’t help but reaching for that skein… still trying to untangle it.

  • Wish I had found this site during my first marriage. I think I did every idiot thing going. What a massive waste of time and energy that was.

    Once I was finally out (and it took another 6 months to clear my head), I caught on. Never again.

    Better late than never.

    • We have ALL made a ton of mistakes….you don’t expect to get fucked over so you really don’t have a plan of action. But I’ve been cheated on twice (and once caught a BF on a dating site…ok so three times) so I’m getting pretty good at it.

  • I’m at this stage right now : Untangling the Skein of Fuckupedness
    That’s why I am here reading and commenting on your awesome site 🙂

  • I live this website, my StBX, is still blaming me for his affair. And now he wanted to leave our kids with me (on his weekend) so he could go to the ow sons birthday party!!! How sick is that. Oh that apparently is my fault as well, because I thought it was too early for them to meet her. What’s worse is he had not seen his kids for 2 weeks, we were away, so I stupidly assumed he would want to spend the whole weekend with them. It breaks my heart that he is not putting them first.

    How do I deal with that??

    • If you figure that out, Gail – let me know. It breaks my heart that I have to watch my kids having their heart broken.

      This past weekend, my kids, without my insistence or assistance, phoned their dad to wish him a happy birthday. This finally released me from my policing their relationship.

      They are clearly capable of attaining and maintaining a relationship if they want. I can bow out, knowing they have the skills.

      Doesn’t make my heart break any less that they get so little from him.

    • Rule 1. Never expect sensible co-parenting. Assume any arrangements will not stand in the face of another call on FW’s time. Use family/friends/paid sitters if there is something you want to do that the children can’t attend and where there isn’t a reception they can sit in.

    • You enjoy that you get extra time with your kids, and you document, document, document. Save communications, write down dates/times, etc.

      A long enough pattern of this and you can often end up with a better custody arrangement.

      My ex routinely dumped our son with me on “his” days to go out with OW. I took every one of them as an opportunity to spend more time with my kid. I never said no (maybe he took advantage of me, but I won’t turn down time with my son). FW was trying to say that I was “keeping our son from him”, but I was able to show every time he’d backed out of taking our son, every extra day and holiday he’d turned down, all the times FW had be “too sick” to take the kid or when he’d had me take our kid because the kid was sick (he HATED taking care of our son when he was sick, or when our son was sick), etc. It was pretty obvious that the reason FW wasn’t seeing our son more had nothing to do with me. Eventually the magistrate awarded me majority custody.

      My ex killed himself shortly thereafter (son was 9) and I have my son full time now. He’s doing great with just one parent. Yeah, it’s hard for kids when a parent clearly doesn’t prioritze them, but they can be fine. Just be the stable parent who is always there and don’t try to force a relationship with the other parent. It’s not your job. Let your kids talk about it if they want to, and sympathize with them.

      It is sad that the kids don’t come first, but honestly some of the things my son was picking up from his dad were anything but good. Minimizing contact with a selfish, narcissistic, misogynistic cheater isn’t necessarily a bad thing for your kids. Your ex will likely continue to disappoint them, so it’s better to focus on helping the kids deal with that than it is to try and make a relationship with their father happen. He has to want it, and it’s clearly not something that he prioritizes.

  • My cheater did give me a VERY generous divorce settlement. Way more than any court or judge would have decreed. I guess that’s one of the reasons I stayed hooked in his skein as long as I did. Also he would do anything for me.

    • What is a generous divorce settlement? I am looking into a post nuptual agreement after finding out he had been cheating with a 20 year old girl from his lab… so-called-love, gifts, “difficult to disengage with her”, making out like a teenager, texting all the time until he got caught one month into his first physical encounter with her. I’m wanting to know what are the things I should expect in a post nuptual.

      • When mine cheated 5 years ago, I thew him out. 4 months later, he came back crying and begging to return. All I heard was how hard it was on HIM. His apologies seemed thin. However, he agreed to a post nup giving me the house, any monies in my name or the kids names, the timeshare and much n of our personal belongings. You must give them sometime (in legal terms it’s called “consideration”, or it will never hold up in court). It was such a huge and earnest demonstration…. and I bought into the idea that it represented remorse. GET that post-nup, but don’t be fooled into thinking it means they will change. The narcissist, feels entitled. I found out this year that his on line and off line debauchery went on all throughout the marriage. So yes, I got the assets in the divorce along w a decent settlement for child support
        But it still fucks you up emotionally. His freedom was more important than the money. He is now romancing his next unfortunate conquest while I lick wounds and wrestle with my embarrassment. I was always able to smell a rat, except for the narcissist I married. Having kids and becoming isolated didn’t help. I just got turned on to this site. I like it!

  • I found this site a few days ago, and have been reading posts everyday. Thanks to our fabulous CL and all those who have posted. It surely is validating to know that serial cheaters are monsters (I would not consider them humans) that do exist in our world, and unfortunately, in our life. I had been in a 25-year marriage (during those years, I had to suffer the unbearable pain of discovering my exH’s dealings with other women every couple of years) before I finally divorced him a year and half ago. It was a very confusing and soul-tormenting relationship, with him being exquisitely caring to me after the discovery and then once the crises was over he would go back to his cheating behaviour again. He had written letters of promises to me in which he vowed not to cheat again and swore that he loved me, not any of those women he had slept with or had internet affairs with. He had admitted that he had a problem, and begged me to help him. He volunteered to see a counselor, etc., etc. In the end, however, I was devastated to learn that nothing had really changed in him. All he had done was to entrap me in the marriage because I was useful to him. We are immigrants in Canada. I worked very hard to get education in this country and got myself established professionally. He didn’t have a stable job, but was busy entertaining himself with other women all those years, although he did do work around the house. To this day, I’m still upset with myself that I let him abuse me for so long. I thought we loved each other, and we shared a wonderful son, and we could eventually work things out, and life would be rewarding in the end…. His last affair was so atrocious that I knew right away, as soon as I discovered it, that our marriage was over….

    What a journey, this last year and half! I’m so glad that I survived. There were so many times during those initial months when I felt so broken that I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it…. Yet, I was strong enough to reach the phone to call crises line, because I wanted to live for my son, for myself.

    I still think about what he did to me everyday, but I can definitely feel more and more relief as the days go by. I wonder how long it would take for me to fully recover. It does feel that the marriage was a toxic addiction that I’ve been trying so hard to break free from….

    Anyone who’s further along in your recovery process? And what are your experiences/insights on a healthy, real relationship? Is it possible?

    • It took me about 4-5 years to heal from my 15 year relationship (10 married). So be patient.

      I can’t speak to having a healthy relationship. I’ve decided to stay single and I’m loving it.

      Glad you found CL. Keep coming here. Read the archives. It’s a wonderful community.

  • Alene keep going. Read CL’s blogs, read all the amazing posts from many resilient chumps from all over the world. You may feel alone but you are not! Be brave. Time is our most amazing friend. (Although it does not feel like it sometimes)
    I especially like Tracy’s quote “know your worth” it’s my mantra. You are worthy and deserve to be treated with respect. Cheaters do not respect anybody.
    Know your worth.

  • Arlene keep going. Read CL’s blogs, read all the amazing posts from many resilient chumps from all over the world. You may feel alone but you are not! Be brave. Time is our most amazing friend. (Although it does not feel like it sometimes)
    I especially like Tracy’s quote “know your worth” it’s my mantra. You are worthy and deserve to be treated with respect. Cheaters do not respect anybody.
    Know your worth.

  • I have been searching for answers that make sense. My husband is a serial cheater and liar. After reading many articles/blogs I found your website. Thank you so much CL for writing the truth in clear terms! You help me be sure that I am sane. The craziness is his and I can’t solve his problems. I see now that I never could. That is a job for God alone. I am regaining my life now. My kids and I can move forward and enjoy our lives without his drama. Thanks again for the clarity you have given me.

    • I’m amazed by the stories here of people that have had bad experiences, similar to mine. My now ex, mother of my 3 and 5 year old was having an affair (and I believe still is) with a man she works with for four months before she told me. I tried to get her to come back to the relationship but now, four months out I’m glad she didn’t! I now see how much drama she brought into my life and the lives of my kids with her insanity. I too am regaining my life at 40 and believe there are far better things to come in my future that what I’ve left behind.

  • I’m so glad I found this site. I tried for months to get my ex to come back, all the while she blamed me for her having an affair with a married man while I was home watching our two kids. My therapist had met her and told me, “it’s not you… it’s all her!” But even still, your partner blames you, yells at you and you feel somewhat responsible. I now see how much better off I am without my ex’s drama in my life and my kid’s lives.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • what about the spousse who cheated 2 years straight is that different then serial cheating? I mean really keeping up such a double life either way

  • thank you so much for your site. and for your bluntness. my divorce was final in march 20 2014. we separated for the 3rd time in january and i was STILL trying to make it work. i did not believe in divorce. i thought that everything i was doing was to save the marriage, now i am not sure of anything anymore. EXCEPT THAT THIS IS HIS FAULT not mine. yes, he cheated on me before but “only when we were separated”. shrugs idk if i believe that anymore. the last time i knew he was with OW. He was in the process of moving in with her. we were separated for 2 years, and he would tell me he wanted me back when he was drunk (and he drinks alot…alcoholic) i wanted him to tell me when he was sober but he never did. so i thought it was my fault that i let it go on for so long. i wanted him back, i did not want a divorce and for my children to have a broken home. so i begged him to come back and he did. 5 months after he came back, my 25 year old daughter past away. 2012 was a blur for me. i was completely “out of it” and in a fog. i cant tell you what happened that year at all. Jan 2013 the fog was lifting and i started wondering why i paying all the bills and him not contributing anything. his excuse was he only made 200 a week. found out in june that he was making 500 to 600 A WEEK!.

    anyhow, 2013 was a train wreck. he was hiding money, what he was spending it on, hiding other things i still dont know, drinking more, started staying out all night, not answering my calls or texts, looking at dating sites, and of course blaming me for everything. gaslighting to the extreme. i was (am) really messed up in the head. i knew he was struggling with something. i believe the death of our daughter triggered something. i used to “take care of him”, i was the perfect supply. and i really didnt mind it because that is just what you do when you love someone. he was actually a good man, a fair husband and dad. but before he did give back up until last year.

    i still dont know what happened. but i just couldnt deal with it anymore. i was still struggling with my grief. he told me i got boring because i didnt want to go out, go to friend, and drink. i wanted to stay home, fix the house, garden and spend time with my family.

    so he didnt come home on new years eve, i packed his stuff. nicely, folded and in boxes. the next day he picked it up and we went to the notary down the street to sign the divorce papers i filled out at 3am. he never said a word. so in january, we talked about marriage counseling, he agreed. i asked him to go to aa, he refused. feb 9, i took him another box of stuff, he brought his girlfriend to the pickup place. it was not pretty.

    the next day i filed for divorce. somedays i regret it. but i am not going to fight another woman for his love. i could put up with the drinking, the not coming home, even the lying and hiding (i thought it was all tied in with the alcoholism) i still believe he is struggling and lost. i now think he has a personality disorder (signs of narcissistic, borderline and sociopath) i also believe the alcohol abuse, and probably substance abuse (i think he is on meth) is a symptom and not the cause as i previous thought. i hurt for him. i wanted to save him. he needs help. but i know it is not my job to do it.

    this post was great, because i find myself trying to unravel what happened last year. where did it first start, where did i mess up. should have, would have, could have. i dont know. part of me still thinks he loves me and just going thru something. part of me would still take him back. but honestly, i cant. i dont want a man that can leave his wife and kids. i think she was an exit cheat. because he wasnt man enough to just tell me. he actually told me before the divorce was final that he still loves me, but he loves me enough to let me go because he cant stop hurting me. awwwww…..blech!

    so i am trying to STOP unraveling, STOP trying to figure why and How could he do this to me. and STOP worrying about when he will come back (cuz i know he will eventually) i was the best thing that ever happened to him. and i am the only person who truely cared for him and tried to make his life “better”.

    now, i am struggling with my 2 boys (age 8 and 12). if he sees them, it is because i call him to come get them. if he talks to them it is because i call him and hand the phone to the kids. right now he is not paying child support because i refused to give him some truck in my yard. so i am looking into garnishing his paycheck. it didnt have to be this way but this is how he wants it. my hands are tied. he gave me no other option. yes, i still feel guilty. it feels wrong to me. not the right thing to do. your site is helping me see that i did everything i could and he should have handled it differently.

    • What your describing here isn’t love, it’s a train wreck in slow motion with toxic chemicals spewing everywhere!

      I’m sorry you lost your daughter that is awful! But you have to start believing in yourself, start loving yourself, and start seeing yourself as a person that has value!

      And for God sakes, stay the hell away from that loser you now call an ex husband!!! He’s a sinking ship, you’re not and stop trying to “figure it out”, your job isn’t to fix other people! Your job is to take care of you first and your kids second, that’s it! Unless you like being a doormat for deadbeats, take your dignity and get on with your life.

      • Thank you Joe Casey. my life is a train wreck. today i am a crybaby because idk… i guess i miss him, or i miss having someone, or i hate being alone. or shrugs, everything.

        i am trying to stay away from him, but like the true chump i am i still love him. for me it is not a job to love someone, to want better for them, to help the person you love out. but ya, ya, i get it. he doesnt care. and doesnt reciprocate.

        ironically, you are not the first to say i was being a doormat. it makes me laugh because i actually do not see that i am door mat. i sit here and cry, what did i do wrong, what could i have done better. and i fail to see all these horrible things he did to me. i guess my short term memory is crap. i easily forgive and FORGET the bad. i was the perfect supply and didnt even care i was a supply. i would have kept giving and giving and giving……. so why did he leave me? or was it that i finally did get fed up with it. (i did kick him out more times just last year then i would panic and ask him to come back. last time i kicked him out was on news years day, and he wouldnt come back)

        funny thing is i am actually really strong. independent, self reliant. i dont even know when i got so turned around. and ya, i am working on myself. getting better. today is just a bad bad day. i cant stop crying. my heart is hurting and breaking all over again.

        but i appreciate your reply. this site brings me back to reality on days like this when i am full of chumpness that i make myself sick.

        • No one likes being alone except maybe the unibomber! We all need people in our lives but live yourself enough to be single until the RIGHT person comes along to fit into your life. There are good men out there, don’t give up hope and don’t settle for someone that makes you feel like less than who you are!

          • thank you again Joe. i still have my days. but i think i am FINALLY getting that last part. when i think about all that he didnt do, and ya, i deserve better. i was just a strong believer that marriage was forever and you dont divorce…YOU FIX IT…. but i couldnt fix it by myself and i was alone long before he left. i dont know about good men out there. but at least i am not a doormat

        • Mo, I’ve been where you are. Try melanie tonia evans website. I had great help using her NARP program. Do all you can to turn your loving energy towards yourself.

        • MrsM, I can relate to you so much. I my crying reading your post because you are so much like me. I have been treated so bad all my life. I turn the other cheek and say hit harder. I am working on my issues and I know I have a long way to go. I know if I remain strong knowing that the path I am taking to better myself will eventually free me form this hell I am in. “funny thing is i am actually really strong. independent, self reliant.” You are this person and so am I. Lets both live up to who we truly are.

          • mrsvain is mo and MrsM

            i still hurt. but reading CL has opened my eyes on a lot of things. sad thing is i still love this asshat that loved to hurt me. i just cant understand why he left me when i was basically doing everything right. and i didnt even care that he was an asshat. oh well.

            i think the thing that bothers me the most (at least today) is that i wasnt worth fighting for. everything i done for him in the past means nothing. even thou i loved him thru thick and thin, meant nothing. it is really a blow to me, knowing that i could do everything right and still get left like i wasnt anything more then a piece of trash. 14 years. and nothing.

            i need to work on me, yes. i am still pretty (something i get told often when i tell people i recently divorced and something i been told all my life really except from XH only one a few occasions hence the screen name mrsvain(had it since high school)), i am a little bit overwieght but working on that. i feel old and tired. i feel like nobody wants me. i feel like i am no good to anyone. but then my upbringing kicks in and i know i am a good woman. i was a good wife and a good mother.

            it just sucks that nobody seems to care.

            • Trust me, it will get better. So much better. I cried every day, several times a day, for nearly 2 full years. Went for therapy twice a week for 2 years. Finally the cloud lifted. Meanwhile the ex has been married two more times. So glad I am out of that craziness.

              You are a good person, this was not your fault. Some people are just wired wrong, and it isn’t for us to try to fix them. That is way above our pay grade.
              Take care of yourself and your children, hold your head up high, and know that this too shall pass. Better days are coming. They did for me, and they will for you, too.

              • thank you Val. i believe thing are getting better. i still have my down days. but when i go there now, i tell myself 2 things. not my monkey, not my circus and it doesnt matter anyway. because all his (and her) craziness doesnt have anything to do with me (even if they try to make it so) and whatever i thought i needed to tell him, explain or whatever really doesnt matter.

                i hate being alone but i was alone for a long time already. i DO NOT WANT A MAN WHO CAN WALK OUT ON HIS WIFE AND KIDS. i will just do one day at a time.

        • ” i fail to see all these horrible things he did to me. i guess my short term memory is crap. i easily forgive and FORGET the bad.”

          WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Every last horrible thing he did. When you start to feel sad or sentimental or miss him or blaming yourself – read it. Over and over.

          Honestly, this helped me stop “loving” him. I cried for three years wondering what I’d done wrong (like you, I was good to him and gave and gave and gave). I realized in time it wasn’t me at all. He ended up treating his “perfect” OW exactly the same way. Because the problem was him all along.

          The other thing that really helped was filling my life with good or positive things. Especially things I stopped doing because FW didn’t like them or approve of them. Reconnect with friends you may have lost. Pick up hobbies you let go of because your attention was on him. Take a day trip. Try a new restaurant or go to a movie/concert/play you ex wouldn’t have enjoyed but you would. Bit by bit the new life crowds out the old.

          I love being alone. I was lonely in my marriage, but I’m not lonely now. My life is full of peace and joy.

          I’d suggest looking up some videos on trauma bonding, because that’s what you’re experiencing. Not love. I thought I was in love with my stbx husband. But when I healed, all those feelings completely disappeared, and I had no sentimentality left for him. OW left him and he started reaching out to me, probably expecting me to jump at my second (third, hundredth) chance to get him back, and I felt absolutely nothing for him. No sympathy, no attraction, no desire, no love. Nothing. It did take about 4 years and a good bit of therapy for me to get to that point. But I got there.

        • Journaling may help you. It did me. I spent about a year writing down the things he said/did that made me upset, was confusing, didn’t make sense. And then I would re-read it when I started to get fuzzy and nostalgic about the mirage that was my marriage. It would immediately put my perspective back where it needed to be, on reality. The week before I left him, I burned the journal. It felt great because I knew then that he could no longer gaslight me into believing how ‘wonderful he and our marriage was’ when it was really an abusive trainwreck.

  • CL, after over 10 books on why he is the way he is, I came across your blog. I am so grateful because now I am purchasing books on how to overcome my codependency issues. And now of course your wonderful book. I finished it in two days. Thank you for all that you do. And Thank you for helping me wake up from my FOG.

  • “Not only will you make the counseling appointments, next you’ll get your magic marker and highlight all the relevant chapters in the affair books you bought for them on Amazon.”

    I feel naked! Haha, I actually laughed out loud at 1am because I still HAVE the highlighted copies of The Five Love Languages, Driven to Distraction etc etc that I pored over while he was out boning God knows what. Two years later and I’m still cursing his parents for HIS shitty decisions! Fuck him!! Thanks for the wake-up call, CL.

    • Hi every one. A cheater here. Recent one. After 18yrs of marriage I found a “friend” who understands me. I am so glad I’ve found this blog. It helps me see me for what I am. Selfish, deceiving, and basically a traitor. From this blog I see my wife is co-dependent. I’ve tried to leave and she begs me crying to stay. She uses all the trick here, new clothes, cooking more, no more yelling, trying to encourage me to therapy. I’m truly trying to help her see, I am just a bastard. I met somebody, liked it, went after it, and after coming home to “reconcile” I kept seeing her. From this blog I’ve made up my mind to leave. I’m gonna use some of this wording to describe myself to her and stop using these dumb excuses. I want her to move on from me and I’ll do do everything I can to support her financial, and emotional health. I also love my children dearly so we will have to work with one another in that respects. I want to see her do better than me. Thank u everyone for your candid remarks. I am going to use all of this pain to become a better person.

      • If you’re going to continue the affair, leaving is the more responsible option. On the other hand, if you want to become a better person, you could start by doing what’s best for your family. If you’re not going to end the affair, that means leaving, so that your children don’t have to watch you abuse their mother. If you want to get on the fast-track to becoming a better person, you can end the affair and make it up to your family by offering your wife a post-nuptial agreement and seeking out counseling for the issues you have that led you to think cheating was okay.

        You’ve mentioned that your wife is co-dependent, and that you want to help her. Be careful of twisting this into a justification of your own behavior. Remember: She is acting out in reaction to how you hurt her. Your leaving her will make her feel worse in the short-term, and will take a toll on your children. That will still be better than them leaving with an abusive cheater, but let’s not kid ourselves: You couldn’t stay faithful to your wife, what makes you think you will be there for your children down the line? These aren’t things you get to fix at a future date; the choices you make now will impact the people close to you for the rest of their lives.

        Don’t read this as me saying “Stay together for the children,” because it’s not. I’m only saying that, if you want to become a better person, you can start right now, and that means ending the most egregious of your selfish and abusive behaviors immediately.

      • She’s not codependent. I hate that people throw that term around. She’s your WIFE and her whole life just got destroyed without her consent. OF COURSE she’s trying to save it. This isn’t a failing on her part. It’s not a weakness of character. It’s what most NORMAL people do when everything comes crashing down around them, they are betrayed by the person they most loved and trusted, and then betrayed AGAIN.

        You made a fool of your wife and the life she thought she was leading. You were selfish, thinking only of satisfying your own desires.

        Don’t try to “help her see”. Be an adult and file for divorce. Offer her a generous financial settlement. Give her the house if she wants it. Spousal support if she’s entitled to it. Pay your child support. This is all on you.

        Direct your wife to this blog, then GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE. This place isn’t for cheaters, it’s for CHUMPS.

        You sound a lot like my ex when he was in one of his “remorseful” phases. He too said we could reconcile and then kept seeing OW behind my back. You’re right, she could do a lot better than you.

        And don’t cry about your “pain”. You chose this. Always remember that. Your wife’s pain is the only pain that counts.

        You comment below that you want a 6 months on/6 months off schedule. I don’t know how old your kids are, but this is a HORRIBLE suggestion and I hope she fights you tooth and nail for something more humane for your kids. I hope she gets full custody. It’s a strange way to show your children that you love them, emotionally destroying their mother because you wanted some piece of ass. Get them therapy, and don’t expect them to welcome your whore, or to be enthusiastic about seeing you, especially if they’re old enough to put the pieces together for themselves. You’ve destroyed their stability, and that follows kids thier whole lives.

        This is harsh, I know, but I’m not sure what you expected coming here. A cookie for realizing how disgusting you’ve been?

        I hope you do become a better person, for the sake of your kids.

          • Thanks. I only just now realized this comment I replied to is almost 10 years old. I hope this man’s wife found her mighty too.

  • It took me much longer than it should have to figure out the answer to “why was he doing this to me?”

    I was letting him.

    • I appreciate your reply. We have “counseling” at my workplace that is done in confidentiality. I have an appt tomorrow at 1pm. You are correct, I do not want to justify my actions by saying, I’m “helping” my wife by walking away this ending her co-dependency. I apologize if it came across that way. I know it’s gonna suck. Big time. For her and the kids and for me as well. I do know I’m going to be responsible for my children because its the person I am. I’m willing to keep them 6 months and let her have them 6 months. I’m not your typical father or daddy dummy. I cook and clean as much as and as well as my wife. I am a real father who educates, instructs, and molds his children. I do drop off to school, pick ups, homework, and discipline. I pay the bills. None of this is being said with the narcissistic viewpoint, this is reality. And none of this is being said to reduce my wife’s beauty physically and spiritually. Because I feel she’s an outstanding woman. I confessed to my wife. I didn’t get caught. But I have to admit that I didn’t leave because I felt guilt and fear of changing everyone’s circumstances drastically. It was “for the kids”, not because I was so in love with my wife and regretted my actions and was determined to never see the OW again. Honestly, when i was with the OW it felt right. I didn’t change my cell number at my wife’s request and as soon as she contacted me I made myself available. I continued to see her and hide it even after “reconciliation”, x2. I’m not the kind of person who can just live like this though. And i hate the torture im putting her thru. Im not the guy who resolves to cheat and stay with their wives indefinitely. I have acted in a cowardly manner by not being honest in recent months, but I’m no punk in general. I would rather live in my reality, even if it sucks, than a fantasy world. I guess at this point, since I’m not committed to saving the marriage, I feel I should move on. I can’t sleep at night like this. Not being said to justify my behavior, just stating a fact.

      • It sounds like you’re in for a bit of a ride, but it’s good that you can start being honest with yourself. I just hope you can stay committed to a fair divorce settlement with your wife, even when it gets hard. You should also make sure that you take responsibility for your actions, and don’t let yourself or anyone else place blame on her for your affair.

      • Kelly, are you sure you are not my STBXH? You sound exactly like him. He cooks and cleans much better than me. He wants to take care of the children half the time. He educates, picks up, disciplines, etc. He pays the bills on time. He wants to give me a fair divorce. He says I am strong, outstanding and tells the children he loves me still (but not enough to want to be with me, or in that way…). He thinks we can still be “friends” because he is not like the other cheaters. I probably am (was) as co-dependant as your wife …the point is, you can never make it right, no matter what a good person you think you are or how hard you try to make it up. You deceived the person who loved and trusted you the most for an extended period of time. You decided her emotional, financial, social, health, future for her without her participation. And the devastation is just beginning. My husband doesn´t know yet that his daughters know about his cheating because he is abroad, but when he comes back they will view him in a completely different light. I told them in an age appropriate way but it is still devastating for them to think that their father (who is so ethical and can´t stand his children lying) told the biggest lie of all and devastated their mother and them. And if your OW has children and you live with her in the future, your kids are going to feel further betrayed. In the end, we are adults and have to deal with this, but you didn´t realize that the ones you hurt the most and were completely innocent of your deception, are your kids. You should have told your wife at the beginning, when you were getting feelings for the OW…then there would have been a chance for a reconciliation or for a decent divorce if things didn´t work out because you couldn´t deal with the problems of your marriage and preferred to exit. It is too late now: so sorry for your kids and wife.

        • I agree, so sorry for my kids and my wife. I dont feel I said I cook and clean much better than her. I am pretty domesticated though. I am going to see my children daily because I love them and will not be a weekend Dad. I just made those statements to say I am prepared to have my children live with me for extended periods of time and be “in the routine.” By that I mean, not the Dad who shows up on the weekend with new shoes and takes the kids to candyland, but the Dad who can drop off to school, pick up, cook dinner, and just overall be in the grind. Not leaving the raising the kids to the woman in the situation and skipping town type of Dad. I mean being resolved to be best father I can be under the shitty circumstances. I am sure I do sound like your STBXH. Despite racial and economic differences, people are people. Those with deficits of my nature that come to light probably present the same much like people with symptoms of the flu. I understand I will never be able to make it right and things will always be “broken.” Its like glueing together a precious glass vase after being shattered. It will never have it’s original beauty. But thats all done now. I told my children myself what I did in an age-appropriate way and will do it again. I probably will not end up with the OW because I want to fix myself and concentrate on helping the children through this. I also will not have my children visiting me living with AW. Its bad enough as it is without seeing Daddy with Mom one day and then not, much less seeing me with somebody else along with her child. I will live on my own, absorb the pain I caused, and move forward in the future stronger. I also know what Ive done is not fair to her. Not in the least. But there is cheat and leave your wife and abandon your kids only to see them on holidays and provide no financial support and malign her good name and qualities vs cheat and leave your wife and take care of her and the children financially and support your childrens emotional growth by daily conversation, and physical presence and acknowledge you f…..d up and left a good woman because of selfishness. There are criminals, and there are criminals. Some steal bikes, others murder and rape. Obviously I’m the criminal. Im not avoiding that fact. I may have handled emotional issues between my wife and I like a child, but that is not the whole of who I am. I also will not allow it to categorize who I am and become from this point forward.

          • Thanks for your honesty—you might even be a unicorn. What angered me most is that my husband did not know how to do the right thing at any moment. It was as if I had to tell him what to do, because he had no clue and thought it would be easy for me because I am “strong.” No one is strong in such a situation, but at the same time we are forced to make the hardest decisions of our lives and to “move on.” If you can do anything to alleviate the decision making and the moving on part, you will be better than other cheaters. Also, if she wants to know details about your affair please tell the truth. For some reason, having that information, however painful, helps to bring back some of the power that was taken when in ignorance. It is also much, much worse to find out later, from another source.

      • Kelly, sorry…I imagine, if you are sincere, that you are trying to look for ways to make it better for your wife and here are some tips that would have helped me:

        1) Confess (I caught my cheater, so you have points there)
        2) NEVER blame your wife for the affair or say anything that might imply that you cheated because….
        3) Do anything she asks you to do, honestly (I asked my STBXH to not see his OW until we finalized the divorce, he agreed but I discovered he was lying and only stopped seeing her for a week – their passion probably grew more, so it wasn´t smart thing to ask, but I did it to have a sense of dignity while I was going through the most humiliating process of my life).
        4) Even if you don´t care, act like you do care (in her favor and the kids) about every detail of the divorce process. Take care of the paper work, the lawyers all the dirty work but by informing your wife 100% of every detail. (I ended up having to do all that, and it makes me even angrier that I had to help divorce him, pack his boxes of stuff, make all the arrangements at school, etc)
        5) If she asks for No Contact, please respect this. Do NOT to talk to her, be nice to her, send her flowers, congratulate her on her birthday, bring up nice memories of the past etc. Realize that all those actions are more humiliating than anything else because you no longer share those memories with her, and they are now all in question. You not only screwed up her future, but also her past. Even if you never cheated before, there will always be that doubt that maybe you did more than once. Maybe during that family trip three years ago, you were sexting with your “special friend” or maybe on those days you came home late from work ten years ago, you were also with someone, or on trips that you did not go with her. Everything in your past relationship becomes a big question mark. I have learned that No Contact is the only way to begin healing. Any contact that is verbal, triggers the trauma all over again.
        6) By no means try to become her friend or lover after divorce, even if you think you want to be with her again. This often happens because you will see her in a new light and you will miss your family and she will become stronger and more attractive to you at some point as soon as you have to deal with the reality of real life with your AP. But entering her intimate space of feelings when you already abandoned her is even more devastating a second time. So please don´t her again.

      • What made you seek a “friend” after 18 years of marriage, and why, if “it felt right with OW”, did you do 2 false reconciliations?

        • My wife has a temper. That is all I will say without seeming like I’m maligning her character because I am not. I dealt with it in the wrong way. I say wrong, but I was trained to never argue with a woman, never make her feel bad and of course never abuse her physically or emotionally. When I felt like I would explode, I said nothing. This was so I didn’t break those rules. Problem was, I never said nothing, and nothing, and nothing for years. I allowed resentment to build up instead of addressing the problem like I should have. I started this habit as a boy and it grew in the husband I became. Years of resentment and I plain disliked her, but stayed out of scriptural obligations and for the kids when they came. But my lack of interest in her as a person declined. I more wanted to take care of her, not be with her. Like all the cheater cliches I read on this site, the friendship “just happened”, although I guess subconsciously I may have been looking. In either case, yes we happened to just meet, but I have deliberately pursued it to my and my family’s downfall. I did 2 reconciliations because I dis want to do the right thing. Each time though, I failed to realize how strong my attraction for the OW had become. My selfishness overrode my desire to re-establish my relationship wih my wife. Of course I could talk for hours. She also has a whole nother side of this. But I guess for now, that’s my brief synopsis. I will also say, earlier I mentioned my wife’s temper. As a result of this she has made a 180 deg change. I am the one who became so hardened under her nose even when she didn’t realize it. So like I said, my selfishness and hard-heartedness has overpowered my desire to soften. So like I’ve admitted, it’s all very sad.

          • So Kelly, how did you meet this Other Woman? Do you work with her? It seems you left out a lot of details about how this affair just “happened.”

              • Sorry, I didn’t read your whole story at first. So it sounds like you plan to break things off with this OW which is probably wise considering the fact that at some point your kids are going to learn of this OW and you’re right, you don’t want to make it harder on them by shacking up with someone you are leaving their mother for. I’ve seen it happen and it can cause severe anxiety and depression in children. A good friend of mine went through something similar with her ex-husband and her daughter had to be hospitalized multiple times for cutting herself as the result. Please don’t do that to your kids. Plus you mentioned she has a child which even compounds the matter… what a mess!

                You should also ask yourself why you became so obsessed with this OW. Often times what people in affairs think is “love” is really just infatuation confused as real love, because there is a void in one’s life and the affair fills that emotional void. Consider the void is within you and to truly become the better person you now claim you wish to be, you have to give yourself the chance to heal without simply using sex as a coping mechanism.

          • Kelly there’s something else you didn’t mention, are you still seeing this Other Woman or are you going to break things off with her and get yourself together?

          • I’m sorry if I offend fellow chumps – but damn this is very triggering. You (FW) sound just like my ex; with excuses and desire for image management. There are a lot of convenient omissions and this is only your side of the story. I don’t think you will ever truly understand the lifelong damage – to your wife and children – you have done by your CHOICE. You DO understand your image and reputation – and that is why I am very cynical here.

            As I said, this is very triggering to me… this was my safe space and to know you’ve been lurking and privvy to a lot of people’s pain and still projecting and subtly blaming just blows my mind! Reread CL’s first paragraph…you cheated because you can…because you come first….and everyone else is collateral damage. If you want insight into yourself, buy CL’s book. Go get counselling/professional help but do understand that this site is for CHUMPS not CHEATERS.

      • “For her and the kids and for me as well.” SERIOUSLY???? You’re going to lump your pain in with that of your (betrayed) wife and (betrayed) kids? YOU CHOSE THIS.

        Repeat “I CHOSE THIS” over and over until you stop feeling sorry for yourself. The person who cuts their hand while they’re stabbing someone else doesn’t get any sympathy for their pain.

        Choices have consequences.

  • My first XW, Kelly, has been abiding by no contact, as our kids are now grown.
    Best thing you can do for your wife is to try to have as little contact as possible, IMO.
    I do much better when I have no contact.

  • Kelly,

    IM humble O, sometimes legal-separation for a couple of years or until you want to marry again is a good thing. During this time, you both can try on other relationships, seek counseling, figure yourselves out.

    Cheating is when the other partner is not aware of the sexual transgressions. Being separated helps both parties explore other possibilities.

    Going outside your marriage for gratification because YOU were unable to address your spouse’s outbursts sounds like “sexualized anger” and is a passive aggressive tendency. The old, “I’ll show her.” You may not love your wife anymore at this time and even blame her for your affair but everyone needs to slow down.

    You sound like you have remorse. The OW is into married men, so she’s no prize. I think you know this. You are relying on the dick to find the love and connection that were missing in your relationship. That will go away.

    Just keep everything on the table. Your wife gets to make a decision,too. Living on her own will empower her. She may find someone who is fiery like her and doesn’t become more quiet then has an affair or not.

    Just my two cents.

    • “You sound like you have remorse.”

      I don’t see remorse. I see someone who found out that actions have consequences, and he doesn’t like them. Saying things like the affair “just happened” shows a lack of responsibility. Mentioning the pain HE is feeling is a sad sausage routine. “We are all suffering.” I don’t give a shit if the cheater is suffering. Good. He should. And he shouldn’t bring it up when talking about what his wife and kids are going through and will go through.

      And yeah, that OW sounds just like my ex’s. No prize at all. She cheated on her husband with mine. Then carried on with my husband behind my back after he and I agreed to try and reconcile. She was as shallow, selfish, and disgusting as my ex was. They deserved each other. Water seeks its own level.

      I feel so sorry for the wife and kids in this situation. Hopefully the wife’s life improves dramatically once she’s free of this guy.

  • Oh Chumplady keep talking to me and make me see the light. I have just recently discovered your website and so wish I had found it long ago.

  • Where have you been I needed this in 1987, his first affair, and 1999 his second affair (that I knew of), and 2013 after 37yrs of marriage divorce due to yet another affair.. Then 5 yrs of beating myself up for the what did I do wrong, not skinny enough,not tan enough, not fun enough (I can drink beer with the bestt of them), he just wasn’t HAPPY…Really, and my three daughters have ditched me because everyone else moved..Yeah he moved on way before I ever knew it….

  • The reason it is not worth trying to untangle the skein of fuckupedness is because one word explains everything and every situation and action – TODDLER

    When every query was perfectly explained by the fact that he was a toddler, no more time was wasted trying to find an “answer”.

  • Delightful! Permission to stop trying to figure out what causes a gaslighting bullshit artist to do the things he does. I’m just at the cusp of letting it go. Nothing covert about his narcissism.

  • I’m reading all the posts…
    The moment we drop the “ fuck- and-pick-me-dance” there is nothing there…. suddenly I see that I was the partner( proposing sex, fun activities, planning dates, asking for more time, sticking to values) who actually WAS looking inward the relationship, trying to understand, fix, explain all the craziness done to our marriage.
    It was me- the biggest chump of all- who was also blamed for everything…

    I sit and think: I was neglected, often left alone with 3 small children, my emotional needs were not met, my sexual needs were not met, I was gaslighted from the start- yet it was me trying to fix “ the problem”( myself)

    Now… all the horrible things didn’t push me to start hooking up, spending money with male prostitutes, getting oral from strangers or having unprotected sex with others…
    Yet, it seems that for my H- house not being clean enough, or laundry not being folded on time- were legitimate reasons for cheating.

    Couldn’t understand that for a long time.

    When I look at it now: I had a role to play in his life; being a faithful wife, loved and appreciated by his family, mother of his children , taking care of the
    “ family unit” … while he was doing whatever he wanted .

    THAT IS WHY : when I stopped the pick-me-dance ( fixing ,proposing solutions) I started living in a grey zone of big nothingness…

    No need for any fix, my feelings- who cares?
    He can ask for affection… or not.

    Ugh… I’m such a stupid chump

  • Yes, I have wasted countless hours even though it was crystal clear. She was cheating on me with her best friend’s husband while I was tending to my dying parents (both with cancer) in front of my 7 year old daughter after 25 years of marriage. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it… And still trying to understand why, and how and maybe only if….

    I am in a much better place now but struggling with having my child next to the scum bag she cheated with…

    Thanks for the articles, very inspiring.

  • Out of everything on this immensely helpful site, this is my favorite. When my mind wanders instead of embarking on the never ending trail for the thousandth time I just recognize what i’m doing and think “You’re untangling the skein of fuckeduppedness again.”.

  • This article has been helping women for ten years now. Today it helped me. Sometimes i forget but Chump Lady makes me SEE. Thank you for that, refocus back on ME !

  • “There is nothing they can say by way of explanation that is not self serving and self pitying. The only thing a cheater can do is DEMONSTRATE they have remorse through their ACTIONS.”

    This applies to every single type of person who will fuck you over, ever. I’ve had some heinously bad experiences with “activists” who were “advocating” on behalf of “people like me,” while routinely stepping on, laughing off, profiting at the expense of, and just generally harming me. At this point, I have only ONE response to ANY type of person who attempts to weasel their way into my good graces as an “apology” or a “gesture of goodwill.”

    So you wanna fix it? You wanna help? Make the environment better. Do something useful for society as a whole. Donate to something direct, kinetic, and honest. Keep doing it. And finally, most importantly, never attempt to directly win ME over again.

  • Right now there are people all over the United States, trying to untangle the skein that is the make up of Lori Vallow. She and her new husband managed to have six or seven people dead. It was a match certainly not made in heaven. It is such a fascinating trial because there’s enough of this skein to keep psychologists and psychiatrists and people like me untangling for years. I have finally decided that she just got tired of people and something happened to them. The spider and the web that’s as bad as deep as it is. She just wanted all those people gone so they were.

  • So true.
    I untangled the skein for a long time. I believe I did. And at the end of the rainbow, I realized he sucked. He had all sorts of problems that made him cheat. I realized yes, its me! I am the one choosing him. Staying. Now kicking him to the curb. While others wouldve run and not invested in him.

    So I untangled my skein. I look so great from the outside. So successful, so presentable, so nice, so level headed! But holy cow, I have alot of issues. I always knew I did from a messed up FOO. No one forced me into an arraigned marriage! I love Dr Laura and she says all the time how now that women have all this freedom to make choices, we make bad ones. It would be better to have our parents choose for us. Looking back I agree.

    • Sorry to say something that may burst your bubble, Chumpolicious, but I cannot love Dr. Laura.

      While married to her (first) husband, she met and hooked-up with a married man who was also the father of three children.

      Her “Dr.” appellation does not come the field of family and/or marital counseling. It comes from physiology. (The effects of insulin on lab rats.) Where I come from, using “Dr.” to mislead people into assuming that you have an expertise in an area where you have none is considered disreputable.

      Oh, Laura Schlesinger can talk a good talk. But she does not walk that talk. IMO, her lack of integrity is as great as her ego.

      Sorry again to say something that may mar your image of her, but I have always believed that the harshest of truths will serve me better than the silkiest of lies.

      • Thanks for the additional info Little Wing. I always knew she didn’t hold a doctorate in clinical psychology. Plus she seems to blame women for their problems and struggles. A former friend who is in an abusive marriage swore by Dr. Laura so I did read one of her books and listened to her radio show. Not impressed.

  • untangling the skein is a weird one. i did lots of it:

    wondering if he had a tumour
    wondering if it was related to his alcoholism
    wondering if it was related to his FOO who are highly dysfunctional, enmeshed, and don’t face issues
    wondering if it was a mid-life crisis

    there was an attempt to work with a marriage therapist but during the first session, my X gave me a performance review and “fired” me. the therapist laughed. i don’t blame her. it was fucking weird.

    it’s taken 2 1/2 years to realized that it was because he’s not capable from an emotional perspective and that he could and did find others (younger, stronger, faster) to “adore” him. he’s just not made of much, you know?

    but today, it doesn’t matter, because I’M OFFICIALLY DIVORCED. there will be cake. i will celebrate with family and friends, and sit at my desk. i’m all right (older, steadier, wiser).

    • Happy day for me, too, when I got the official call, and happy too, when I got the paper copy later.

    • Damitfeelsbad,

      I also wondered if he had a brain tumour. It wasn’t the cheating that made me wonder, it was other new behaviours and beliefs. He did a 180 from being a skeptic to believing all sorts of “woo woo” stuff that he would have absolutely laughed at previously. Even my therapist said “he sounds delusional, IS he actually mentally stable?” And he is, I think he is grasping on to everything his psychic AP says because he wants to believe it. Btw, she wasn’t always psychic. They were together for years and then after a break she called him and said she woke up psychic one day, has had visions and her spirits tell her they are meant to be, have been together in past lives and will become rich once he finally leaves me and they can be together. Oh, and he shouldn’t feel bad leaving his family, as I will find my soul mate once he is gone. Who wouldn’t want all that to be true?

      • man, what a dope your X is.

        what can you do? #nothing

        • Yup, my bestie is furious at him for what he’s done to me, but she said “there is a teeny tiny part of me that actually feels bad for him, because I do think that one day he is going to really regret this.” I am not holding out for that day, but I do think that someday he may realize just how stupid he was to fall for all the woo woo shit. That or he will buy in 100% and start his own sex cult.

  • This is off topic but not really. Mods I get it if you delete.

    I read academic studies related to misbehavior within sexual relationships. Don’t ask. Anyway, I just saw a study regarding men’s use of sex dolls. Apparently men are buying these things and hiding them so their wives/girlfriends won’t find out. Won’t find out what? That they’re whacking off with very large flesh lights? That AI is coming to get us all? (As you might expect, AI is now being built into sex dolls.)

    The study was done in Nigeria in 2018, so maybe it’s not relevant to your beloved!

    Anyway, happy Thursday, everyone! And good luck!

  • Someone shared this with me and, while it isn’t specifically about cheating, it sure does hit the heart of the matter of how being a thing FOR any other person is NOT my job.

    Cheaters lack the ability to be truly WITH a partner. They deceive and betray. It’s their nature. It is NOT our job to become any thing for them. There is no thing we could become for them. They are not “with” people. They are “at” and “around” and “behind” and “without” and “instead” and “because it’s different and I constantly crave novelty” people.

    Be you. Nothing else is your job.

  • I spent the entire 35 years of our marriage and the years before it untangling his skein. He loved that I was, as CL says, “invested” in untangling his skein, because it kept my attention and energy directed at him. He rarely had to be overtly self-serving and self-pitying because I was only too willing to spackle over his shortcomings and the hurts he dealt out to me as the result of growing up in his dysfunctional FOO.

    I’m five years out from leaving him, four and a half since the divorce, and I’ve finally kicked the habit of untangling his skein. In fact, I’m not even tempted any more. I’ve got my own life to invest in.

  • The only part of “untangling the skein” that I found helpful was learning about narcissism and abusive people (“Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft was life changing). It helped me see that it wasn’t me, it was how he was. It allowed me to prepare for and predict his reactions during the divorce and with custody and co-parenting (such as it was), and to let his attempts to goad and insult me just roll off my back. I could say to myself, “There he goes again, throwing a temper tantrum because I won’t do what he wants”, when he’d send a vitriolic email maligning my character after I’d asked him a simple question about scheduling or something. Or “he’s trying to upset me” when he’d intentionally name drop OW in communications about parenting where it was completely unneccessary. It helped me emotionally detach. It wasn’t an attempt to understand him so I could solve his problems or so we could reconcile (though I DID do a fair bit of that in the beginning), but so I could learn how to deal with him in a way that minimized the harm to me and our child.

    • I agree. What I learned while serving on the marriage police force was for me — not him. The evidence hardened my resolve to divorce, not reconcile. Once your eyes are opened, you cannot ignore or spackle anymore.

      My small time of untangling made me wonder how I had missed so much. I realized I had been programed to be an enabler by my FOO and culture. I realized I was worth more, was able to be independent, and was better off without him.

      CL is absolutely right about cutting your time short, though. Do not waste your time trying to fix him or finding out why. Figure out what you need to do to protect yourself, and work on your defense system. The more you learn about what he has actually done the more disgusted you will be. You don’t need to know more; you need to say ENOUGH.

      Of course this system works for any ex, mine just happened to be male.

  • Boy did I go down that rabbit hole… couples therapy with two different therapists (he lied the whole time) and I had to schedule all the appointments and pay the bills (with our joint account to which he contributed “some” of his monthly earnings – I subsequently learned he was holding back whole bonus checks).

    Then after discard, the looking at what did I do wrong; how could I have tried harder; surely he loved me once, I can make him love me again…. Right?

    9 years out now. Co-parented the early days with software, email and text. Haven’t spoken to him since 2016 though he shows up at our son’s events and such. No need, nothing there for me.

    And reading this… a light bulb went on… when you think about trying to untangle the cheaters skein, ask yourself… would they do the same for you?!?!? RECIPROCITY… we talk about it being a cornerstone of a healthy relationship. A cheater could care less about it… they are a kibble vacuum. That’s how they can walk out on pregnant spouses or partners going through chemo, or just us everyday husband/wife appliances… it is only about them.

    Put that energy into your own healing. The further you detach and remove yourself from being responsible for them, the sooner your recovery and healing can take place. #gonotcontact #putdownthehopiumpipe

  • Such a great reminder! I took back my agency once I started acknowledging the certainty I had that XH’s lying and cheating was not ok with me. He had to go. 26 years invested, 4 kids, financial upheaval, FEAR….. I was physically ill I was so scared to live a new life. But, XH did what he did and it wasn’t compatible with how I needed to live. So… no choice but to trust he and his APs sucked…. Go no contact. Get the divorce. Build a new life. It’s been 9 years. I have a very full life. Life is worth living. I will never approve of what XH did to me and our kids, but he DID do all that, and more, I’m sure.

    • I assume because this is a reworked post. If you set the comment button at the top to “Newest” you’ll get the comments from today first.

      • This hasn’t happened with other repeats. Methinks it’s a glitch.

  • Lately I’ve been trying to get off about 30 pounds I’ve accumulated over the last few years. I blame 2020… but let’s face it, it’s 2023. I’ve restarted diets repeatedly. And I do very well for a few weeks. But then something goes sideways as does happen for many. I’ll have my healthy dinner and sit to watch TV later and can’t resist candy or a snack. I’m not hungry. I don’t need it. I know I shouldn’t. And I know it will only hurt me. Yet I can’t resist the “indulgence.”

    I can’t untangle my own skein. I can’t figure out why this keeps happening. But I’m still working on it, and I know I’ll be successful for me. Why? Because I want to be. I want to do this for me. I care about me.

    Why did I talk about my dieting issues? Because I suddenly saw a correlation with FWs. They cheat to meet their own needs. They might “behave” for a little while (only when caught, mind you) but they want that indulgence. And they’ll find to a way to get that cake. Because they are meeting their own needs.

    They aren’t going to stop cheating for YOU. If they are enjoying the indulgence and don’t want to stop for themselves, they won’t stop. They want to cheat. They can cheat. They have no reason to stop because they are getting what they want.

    Sure I’d like to lose weight for my boyfriend too. But the real motivation has to be FROM ME and FOR ME.

    Only FWs can decide to stop cheating. It has nothing at all to do with you. I know that’s been said a million times, but somehow my own food issues helped me see it more clearly today.

    Not sure if that helps anybody. But it helped me this morning. And now I want to eat better even more.

    • Good analogy, MichelleShocked!

      I am 2 years out from divorce, and I do not think about FW anymore. It was almost an obsession, prior to finding CL.

      Now I may get a glimpse of that skein of yarn and think “What an icky ball of yarn – how could I ever have touched that?”

      It became crystal clear, after I separated, just how disordered he is – to be driven by his desires and watching his family be hurt.

      Kudos to those in the helping professions, to try to counsel people like this, but I chose to remove myself from further harm.

    • True, MS. I’ve always believed that people can change bad habits if they are motivated enough and by the right reasons. That’s providing it is just a habit, and not indicative of something deeper that requires therapeutic intervention. Some people do overeat to stuff down feelings of self loathing, and in those cases, they won’t lose weight until they first deal with that. Stress eating and boredom eating, otoh, are just habits.
      So is fucking people to get an ego boost.

    • That’s a great analogy MS. Doing things for yourself make is so much easier.
      I lost 28lbs by working with the woman who hosts this podcast. She has a lot of the same mindset work as CL. I think of her as the CL of healthy eating 🙂
      Check out her podcast – you might find it helpful. Hope it’s ok to post this only somewhat related resource here.

  • I know I tried to untangle the skein because the cheating, at first, seemed like a one off. His carefully crafted good guy persona was THAT good. The cheater was invested in continuing our life together, where he could cheat on business trips and come home and be Mr. Stressed Out-I WorksoHardForMyGamily guy.

    Not to mention that the cheater knew he was fooling me all along and threw out little tidbits of “yarn,”hoping I’d stay fooled.

    Yes, I went to AlAnon when he said “I’m just a drunken philanderer. If I stop drinking, I won’t go looking for women.” Yes, I scheduled couples counseling when things just didn’t seem right and I believed that he was sober and faithful. Yes, I went to SAnon, when the porn habit came to light. Yes, I went to the CSAT, when he revealed the “childhood sexual abuse.”

    Blegh!!!!! The cheater (abuser) confused everyone in his orbit.

    Because of this, when I am confused by a person’s actions, I take that as a huge red flag.

  • I have finally given up on untangling the skein, but…STBXFW hasn’t! Does anyone else have a FW who is constantly in therapy, programs, etc to find out why they did the terrible things they did? Mine always seems to have a new answer and has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on reconcilliation programs BY HIMSELF. He is constantly searching for the reasons that he abused me for 30 years. At first he blamed religion. His strict religious upbringing caused him to “act out” sexually. Then it was that (and brace yourselves) he “cared too much about others and needed to help them”. Those poor strippers NEEDED him to get lap dances and give him blow jobs. If he didn’t stalk our neighbor who would be looking out for her?? Next he has learned that he “seeks validation from others” because his Mommy didn’t love him properly. This one really pisses me off. His mother was a saint! He was an only child who was loved in a way that most kids dream of. Now he has moved on to “neediness” being the cause of it all. And each time he comes up with a new excuse he comes to tell me how he’s changed, how he’s a “new man” and how I should take him back. It’s insane! I finally gave up untangling the skein. He did what he did because he felt entitled to do it and the relationship is unacceptable to me. End of story. But he has to come up with every excuse in every book to justify his abuses. It’s insane! I’m glad to be able to say that I’m a meh and it no longer works on me anymore. But the man just won’t give up! Anyone else have this type of FW?

    • MollyWobbles – Since I first became acquainted with you on this site, I have observed how you have grown as a person. What you say, and how you say it, has shown how strong you have become in power and certainty. Your “Mighty-ness” has been a joyous thing to witness.

      • Oh my goodness, thank you SO much!!! I feel like I’ve grown stronger but it’s a beautiful thing to know that others can see it. That means the world to me. Thank you!

        • and I love your “handle”. (Big “Harry Potter” fan.)

          Blessings on you. May you have a lovely Mother’s Day.

    • AFAIK my FW is still in therapy, but he merely occupies a chair, nods to his therapist, and does absolutely nothing of value with it. After five years of it with three different therapists, plus various support groups, he’s only gotten worse.

      • I totally understand OHFFS. Mine has been in therapy, support groups, and RIC groups (by himself!) for over three years and pretty much all it has done is give him excuses for his behavior. He sits around with people who tell him that nothing he does is his fault and turns himself into a victim. It’s mind blowing honestly.

  • Such a classic. Once I had down that there was just no…path…forward, I didn’t have any problem letting go. Sure, I was sad, but I finally got that he would never take me seriously again. I had to do some work to figure out why I tolerated it that mess, but I’m better for that struggle.

    • I think the question “is this relationship acceptable to you?” is just pure gold for Chumps.

      In the time just after DDay, we see so many chumps that are just so stunned that they can hardly think straight. Too many thoughts are racing and one thing that is super common is the need to know everything and worse, to try to understand it. Sometimes a Chump might have a good amount of evidence of the cheating, but maybe it isn’t quite conclusive enough for them to really think it’s the end of the marriage. I think sometimes we might want to think the situation is less dire than it is, as it is early days and all we can see is our life imploding. So we hang on to hope. But I think “is this relationship acceptable to you?” cuts through the bullshit. For me it was, Do I want to be the marriage police? Do I want to wonder what he is up to for the rest of my life? Do I want to risk that I waste another 10 years on top of the 20 I already wasted, only to find out he is still at it? NO, that is NOT acceptable to me. Period. His skein isn’t even a factor, I simply do not want this shitty relationship. His motives and excuses don’t matter.

      Not to mention, while there are some exceptions here who had spouses who were wonderful aside from all the cheating, it is far more common to see that the cheating was just the tip of the iceberg and these people were complete asshats in so many other ways. Mine is a huge asshole, aside from the cheating. (which coincidentally made me more ragey to find that he was cheating when I had been putting up with all his other bs for 2 decades. This marriage should have NEVER been acceptable to me, but the cheating just put the nail in the coffin)

      • Once I was out of his orbit of bad behavior, which at the time I didn’t even realize including cheating, the real struggle became to understand why I put up with such terrible treatment. That was hard to face. But Elsie nailed it in the comment above, “I’m better for the struggle”. Almost impossible to do that deep internal work when your life is imploding.

      • Absolutely. You won’t get anything different, so is this what you want?

        I decided, no that wasn’t what I wanted. Then he behaved so badly during the divorce that I had no doubt. Even his attorney couldn’t stand him.

  • I don’t think this point can be made often enough. I ended my marriage 10 years ago, and just last week I got a string of a dozen emails over several days trying to ensnare me again. (I replied once to the initial email in regard to one paragraph that referenced a financial issue related to one of our kids). I don’t know why he needed to sling Bible verses at me, threaten me with legal action, demand we talk because I still don’t understand the “true cost” of my decision, insist that I never contact him again (note, he was the one who began this chain–I don’t think I’ve contacted him in at least 3 years). Nor, do I want to know any longer what is at the center of his ball of snarled yarn. They can tie knots faster than any of us will ever be able to untangle them.

    • Wow, ten years later and still trying to gaslight you. That’s one persistent FW.

      • I think it becomes standard operating mode. They probably don’t even realize how much they do it. Not that it matters one bit. NC is the way. Forever.

    • Mine reappears periodically like that via email. He hasn’t lived in this state for almost six years. The last time I initiated contact with him was to tell him that I had mailed something relevant to closeout. That was some years ago.

      My theory is that he pings me whenever he’s lost another girlfriend and is lonely. I reply only because it shuts him down, only a few sentences at most. Then another year or so passes…He’s retired, so those emails may end at some point. Maybe.

  • This morning I was reviewing my copious notes post D day hour one, from 9 months ago next week. I had asked my husband to go for a walk because I was about to confront him on his horrible behavior that mimicked my first cheaters behavior 34 years prior To The T almost word for word. As we walked i asked him if he loved me,OH Yes, he said. He wanted me, he wanted our marriage he wanted our home. He was putting me first, going to a men’s conference, talking to a counselor he said..then after an hour of swearing true love, I asked him if he had been faithful to me. Silence. I had to ask him FOUR TIMES. After the 4th time be dropped on the ground outside our house and told me he had been raped at work and it WAS NOT HIS FAULT! She drove him to it. When I got more details it was compulsion and consensual except his performance was so bad she turned him into HR!! When i said I was done with him he switched the undying love for me into how was he going to survive without his stuff if I kicked him out?? Where would he park his trailer and his motorcycle?? He blamed me for driving him into other strange arms and his high testosterone levels would not let his penis rest day or night. His bipolar disease drive him too but saying NO to him anytime he made demands was the real reason. So my STBXH showed me his skein and I didn’t have to think twice. What upset me was he only hated the consequences not losing me at all. HE DID NOT LOVE ME. Hard as it was to know that and see how mean he had been, how utterly selfish during our divorce process,how it’ is all about him…I was beyond shocked for who this man was when the mask dropped. A Horrid person i thought who SAID he loved me. I would say to anyone, file for divorce and see how truly sorry they are. See about how they settle, what funds they hide, how they do child support and care. As Tracy CL extraordinaire says, There is your sorry, there is the love they sweared they had for you. My husband’s forever love melted like cotton candy in a rain storm. Melted away. He has been the worst character I’ve ever seen and had an online girlfriend move into my house a few weeks later. There was my sorry. I documented every word for the past 9 months and my STBXH is despicable. I would have stayed if I believed his earlier pretend made up words, but his mask slipped. Believe that they suck and ask yourself if you prefer lies to the truth. It was NOT acceptable for my precious self to be treated like that and fooled. 2x chump never again

    • I like the points you made about filing for divorce and see what happens. And then “love melted like cotton candy in a rain storm.” I’ll be borrowing that to describe what happened to me. As long as I was there everything was fine (if I was being agreeable and not calling him out.) When I filed for divorce the third time he must have realized I was serious and no longer had any reason to stay married to him, and then he’s initiated the no contact. Thank goodness for that.

    • If you go to the top of the “Comments” part, look to the right side. There is a place where you can choose from these: “Oldest”, “Newest” and “Top Rated”.

      Best of luck!

      • I know, LW. It’s just that the other repeats did not show posts from years prior even if you selected oldest. Maybe it’s a new feature, but if so, it’s confusing. People have been replying to posters who are long gone.

  • I did not keep quiet when shortly after ex cheated in 1974 (less than 1 year of marriage), I told my family. I told co-workers. I was waiting for approval to end it. I was waiting for someone to say ‘you could just leave’ or ‘is this what you want.’ Instead their silence or worse their ‘that’s how men are …’, ‘we don’t divorce in this family’, ‘ you need to get over it,’ put pressure on me to keep quiet and stay and be a good wifey. It was the era of trying to understand the other person’s point of view. I did workshops, I read books, I dragged him to Marriage Encounter.

    I left when I came up with a reason that seemed ironclad: ‘I can’t have this type of behavior and marriage modeling for my children.” The kids were toddlers.

    I was in my mid-60’s before I began to see what it had done to me. I live with a bit of regret for not leaving about 9 years sooner than I did.

    I know if I had had a community of support such as ChumpLady, those 9 years would have looked very different. It was 9 additional years of giving up what I wanted to do and living my life inbetween the chinks of light I saw in-between his cheating and drinking.

  • I love reading these classic posts. It might be my 100th time reading them, but they never get old and never lose value.

  • When I left my FW XH, one of his friends who took my side summed him up in one sentence. “He’s lived off his mom all life and that’s all he knows.”

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