Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Any Dating PTSD?

Dear Chump Lady,

This is a question about PTSD.

It’s been almost three years since my one and only D-day. I had the usual trauma response — dramatic weight loss, hair loss, rage, crying, general insanity. It faded in time. My life became stable and joyful and safe.

Since then I’ve dipped my toe into the dating pool a bit. I was involved with someone else for eight months. That relationship ended recently, with no bad blood.

But before and during this breakup, I was thrown fully back into the trauma response from the days of divorcing my FW. My recent companion is not a FW, but my body remembers. Even the idea of a partner leaving, even under the most respectful of circumstances, is apparently enough to send me into a flashback.

I know that some chumps swear off dating for various reasons. I’m not yet ready to give up sex at 49, but I’m concerned that my FW’s abuse has damaged me so deeply that I won’t ever be emotionally prepared for another relationship.

I’d be so grateful to hear from chumps who have had this sort of PTSD, and to hear any advice.


FKA Gray Rock Novice


Dear FKA Gray Rock Novice,

I think it’s human to bond. And it’s painful to un-bond. And that’s before you have all the baggage of having been chumped. So, I think it’s pretty normal to wear some scars, especially in the early days. You’re one relationship in, post-fuckwit.

First, let’s focus on the positive — you got out there, it wasn’t forever, and you parted respectfully. Well done on the relationship skills!

If it feels like it’s too soon to be out there again — by which I measure: can you dump and be dumped? — there’s no harm in taking some time off. Or at least some of the pressure off. You don’t need to be coupled to be happy or healed. And if you want sex, you can have sex. The problem is wanting sex and having standards. Any fuckwit can get laid — and they do, judging by our ex’s dating profiles. Until someone measures up, consider massages and battery operated boyfriends.

I’m all for standards and never needing anything or anyone so badly that you’ll accept abuse. Consider how you frame things. “I”m single because I have standards.” Or “I’m single because I really enjoy my independence.”  Or “I’m single because I am focusing on my ever-expanding pinecone elf collection” is much better than:

I’m concerned that my FW’s abuse has damaged me so deeply that I won’t ever be emotionally prepared for another relationship.

Translated: “I’m single because my ex fucked me up so badly I’m damaged goods. Forever.”

Don’t give him that power.

Seriously, fuck him. He wasted a good chunk of your past, don’t give him your future. You captain that ship. I have no idea if your future has a partner, but your freedom was hard won, so please ENJOY it. Revel in it. Be proud of how you survived that shit show. You’ve got scars because you’re a fighter who GOT OUT ALIVE. Is there someone in your life who can’t respect that? Next!

I’m not making light of the trauma and PTSD. I know how shattering it is to be betrayed and waste your love on a fraud. But the pain is finite. The rejection of one fuckwit cannot be the narrative center of your life. Refuse him that power. Look at your fears and anxieties, your trust issues and wrestle those motherfuckers to the ground.

Tracy, there are a lot of creeps in the dating pool. 

And apparently there are some pretty good people judging by a pretty good 8 month relationship that ended respectfully. I absolutely hate the “There are no good ones left.” Good people EXIST. Will you run into one? I don’t know. I had to go to Texas to find one — a place hotter than the surface of the sun, with insane politics, gun nuts, and jalapeños. Life is serendipity and tradeoffs. It’s not enough to meet a Good Person, if you do, you’re probably going to have to make some considerable sacrifices to fit this person into your life.

My advice is — build a great big life for yourself, so that if you do have to squeeze someone in there, they better damn well be worth it. So worth it that you’d live in a climate with 100 days over 100 degrees.

Yeah, what about my trust issues?

Trust your resilience. There is no 100% fool-proof way to avoid predators. Fix the picker best you can, don’t lead with vulnerability (Hi! I have scars! Nice to meet you!) , and know that if you get a creep, you’ve learned from painful experience how to enforce your boundaries.

That sounds like too much work.

That’s a valid response! So is getting out there and having 15 awkward coffee dates.

What about the PTSD?

If you’re experiencing a mental crisis — GET HELP. Talk to your doctor, get into individual therapy, spend some times on support sites like this with people who get it. Take the time you need to heal. There’s no shame in it.

Sometimes things bubble up precisely because you are healing. Because you’re safe. When you’re going through the crisis, it’s all you can do to get out. But then at some point in your new life, this shit rears its head. That’s pretty darn normal.

Years after I left, and was living in Texas with Mr. CL, I would get nightmares that my ex was trying to kill me. WHY NOW? Where the hell did this come from? My brain was just going there because it could. I wasn’t flooding it with escape adrenaline.

Feeling flinchy? Maybe you’re more healed than you think. Be kind to yourself.

So, CN — your Friday Challenge is to share how you’ve navigated your PTSD or trust issues. And please no gendered “they all suck” dating doom. Commiseration on dating is fine. Just don’t make it a Men Suck or Women Suck thing. Thanks. And TGIF!


Just an announcement to say I’ve uploaded episode 5 of Tell Me How You’re Mighty podcast to Patreon. In this one Sarah and I discuss mighty people who’ve inspired us — beyond infidelity. Sarah has a humdinger of a story. If you want the podcasts early — and ad-free (at some point I have to get this venture to pay for itself) — you can join for as little as $3 a month. And isn’t that worth it to hear some British quack call me angry?

We just recorded Episode 6 — an incredible story of mightiness from a CN member who was chumped while four months pregnant with twins! And she had two other kids! And she LEFT HIM and kept him out of the delivery room! #badass

Episode 7 we record today with CN member UXWorld and the topic is telling people your chump story. A further plug for Chumpalooza — where UXWorld will personally coach folks in the Moth radio method of storytelling. Don’t miss out! Please join us for a weekend of chump fun and solidarity.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • To be brutally honest I don’t think I ever dealt with the PTSD of my 26 year marriage to an AH! I’m almost 12 years divorced and I still had a nightmare about him this morning!!! My friends needled me into online dating and to be fair I met up with a few really nice guys, for drinks or dinner – just one jerk whose first question was “which hotel do you want to go to”? But in the end I just decided I was too wounded to ever go there again. I won’t live with someone again, I won’t give them access to my heart or my finances, and I will NEVER allow anyone to treat me like that again. And in a way that’s sad because while I’m fine on my own, I hated the feeling of “all men are bastards” that stuck with me for so long. I hated hating men because in truth I love men. That feeling passed after a while but I’m still adamant it’s never again for me!

    • Agree, Attie. I personally think a lot of it depends on your age and how long you were married (or with your FW partner – although for me, marriage took it a big step further and made it harder to bounce back from). If I were younger and had less trauma from my 30-year FW relationship (27 married), I’d probably try again to find one of the good guys, but it’s just not worth it to me, at least not right now. Too much risk, in so many different ways.

      • I do think age has a lot to do with it. Not everything but a lot.

        It is just so individual, hard to place general rules on such an individual situation.

        When I went through my D, my aunt talked to me a lot. She had been chumped at about the same age I was many years earlier. She said to think long and hard about remarrying. She had remarried and I do think they had many good years together. He however got difficult in his later years. He at one point wanted to sell out and move to another state. She didn’t want to, so she took the hard stance of, if that is what you want you take your share and go, and I will stay here. He folded. Honestly I am betting he wasn’t thinking straight in his old age. Anyway he died a couple years later and though I knew she did love him, he had been good to her and her daughter for so long, she likely was relieved that he was not going to tear their lives apart.

  • So I’ve been single for the greater part of the last 14 years with a couple of month long dating episodes and 1 year back with the ex (what the hell was I thinking?!) I feel like I’ve lost the capacity to even fancy anyone, let alone have another relationship. I’ve rebuilt my life, brought up my kid, and am doing well workwise. But dating? I’ve basically given up. I’m kind of not sure whether I’m capable of ever feeling anything again, so I might be single forever now. But it doesn’t matter, I’d rather be single and content than partnered and unhappy.

    • Me too. I can’t even imagine what would make a relationship worth it to me at this point.

  • I’m assuming the LW is divorced. For other chumps, I suggest that most are not ready to date or begin living their true lives until post-divorce. Of course this depends on each chump’s situation, length of marriage, children that may necessitate ties, etc.

    For me personally, I did start dating at age 55+. It was very much a slow, on and off again process. I never did find that person and am not currently dating but I never say never.

    I did the hard work on myself to get rid of the trauma, nightmares and feeling less-than. It took a wonderful therapist, meditation, medication (necessary for me), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and EMDR. DBT is a group oriented approach to living your best life and is a great experience for everyone at every age. EMDR eliminated the PTSD and fear. It’s a bit odd for sure but very effective. Anyone interested should make sure they find a therapist certified in EMDR. Anyone can say they are experienced but I believe this is one area where certification is necessary. EMDR can bring all kinds of feelings to the surface and you need to have someone familiar with what can happen.

    Eliminating anxiety or PTSD post-infidelity is something is chumps can relate to. We have been dragged through fire so it’s no wonder there are parts that are singed much less 3rd degree burns! Be kind to yourselves. But take a deep breath and try to shed that part of you. It is worth the time and effort.

    • I second EMDR. In the immediate aftermath, it was a godsend for me. I’ve continued to utilize it when nightmares or anxiety infiltrate unexpectedly.

    • Thank you Rebecca. As I have just started the divorce process, there is a mountain of work in front of me and I cannot think of dating right now. I like your attitude of never say never. I do believe there are good people out there and I’m sure I will meet some at the right time. I’m in no hurry to jump into a bad relationship just to be partnered. That thinking turned into my marriage, which yielded three great kids and a few good years, but mostly misery.

      My FW is a low self-esteem lump and I had the idea that I could help him fulfill his potential. Not only did he never amount to much, he blames me for his shitty life. I learned that each of us is responsible for fulfilling our own potential. Each of us has to do the right thing. Lesson learned. No more fixer uppers for me.

      Legally, I’m still connected to FW. But he literally has no presence in our lives. What kind of person just walks away like the last 30 years didn’t happen. A nut job. A covert narcissist. I miserable lump who wants to play victim for the rest of his sorry ass life.

      TLDR: I think I would be a terrible date until I can let go of my rage.

      • Or a really fun date if the date in question is still wrangling their own chump rage. The whole thing would probably shift quickly away from romantic overtones but could be hilarious.

          • I’m thinking of the Paul Rudd scene in 40 YO Virgin when he meets a fellow obsessed chump (but without the stalkery overtones). At this point my training wheels are great talky funny friendships with others. I usually turn men who ask me out into friends, sort of like a cave woman bonking brontasauri on the head and dragging them back to my lair for gossip and coffee. It weeds out the ones for whom “friendship” and “romance” are mutually exclusive which just strikes me as weird. It’s just a way to get my legs. At worst, I’ll be single but socially very busy.

      • Very similar situation but 17 years (10 married). He sees his kid still but not nearly enough. He’s in love with his mistress and thinks they will make it.

    • I just had my third EMDR session. Ten years out from discovering affair and 8 years since I have seen EX at divorce after 38 year marriage. My youngest son married in April and the trauma came back… trying EMDR as have had talk therapy for years…..I have no idea if it will be successful or not!

      • EMDR worked really well for me (FOO issues, divorce from a narcissist, panic attacks on the subway) – it took about 6 sessions to “kick in” but after that I felt so much lighter. I’d never heard of it before my therapist suggested it (and to be honest it sounded kind of woo-woo but I trusted her); I was doing pretty well with talk therapy but had gotten “stuck” and the EMDR sessions helped me get past it. Hang in there!

      • If you are willing, good or bad, Susan, please keep us updated. It’s helpful to other chumps to hear about your experience and, I think, worthwhile for you to articulate.

    • I haven’t done EMDR yet, despite having a trauma therapist, i started with LENS neurofeedback from Ochs labs and it has really helped me. I belong to a support group for christian women in marraiges with covert psychological abuse and doing LENS first is the recommendation coming from them.

  • I started seeing a man and let me tell you, I was always on the verge of ending things with him right out of the gate, I was so hyper vigilant to not get involved in another FW. I still see a therapist (to help me process not only having left the FW due to cheating, but also to process long-term emotional, psychological, and even physical abuse—the cheating was just the tip of the iceberg with this guy and ironically, the straw that finally knocked some sense into me. I suspect I will be in therapy for awhile—I can’t recommend it enough if possible for anyone navigating not only leaving a FW, but for processing afterwards) and she helped me to recognize that I didn’t want to just end things at the slightest worry—I needed to learn to trust myself and how I felt. And if I didn’t feel right or happy or good about things, then that was the important thing—not constant worry about him eventually cheating on me. I admit I still worry about it, but right now, we are taking things really slow and just enjoying one another (although we are mutually exclusive), which is where I can be right now.

    In addition to navigating the cheating, I also have even more PTSD due to other abuse (which I feel is worth mentioning on here because it seems to me that a lot of cheaters are also abusive in other ways). For example, my ex used to wake me up several times a week, raging because I moved too much, or snored, or “was looking at him, breathing” and made him wake up, etc. It took me weeks after I left him to appreciate that I was safe, no one would wake me up, etc. So, the first time I shared a bed with this new man, I had all kinds of triggers. This new man actually knows about the history of my ex now and he had to assure me on multiple occasions that he would never be upset if woke him up (and I told myself, also, that if he did get upset with me, I WOULD NOW LEAVE, which was so empowering for me to tell myself) and we’ve been seeing each other over a year and he has never even raised his voice once, nor has he done anything even slightly mean or disrespectful. I’m also still working on honoring my own needs, some of which I am not even aware of. Several weeks ago, his air conditioning was up pretty high (I live in Texas—Tracy isn’t kidding about the heat) and I was cold. He saw me looking cold and said, “Are you cold?” And I realized I was cold and hadn’t wanted (subconsciously) to tell him that I was cold and he should turn down the AC. He said, “Just tell me if you’re cold! I don’t want you to be cold.” But it didn’t even cross my MIND to tell him I was cold because for basically my entire adult life, my needs didn’t even blip on the radar. I know that sounds really bad, but I’ve improved a ton. I actually have to scan how I’m feeling on a regular basis so I can be more aware of my emotions, how I’m feeling, etc (by the way, this is only in my private life. At work, I’m totally different. It’s so strange). I’m going on a lot, but 27 years of dealing with the FW does leave scars (and it’s why I’m in therapy and will continue to be—that’s a long time to have dealt with that).

    This is a good question.

    • I’ll also add to my comment above—the man I’m seeing I had actually known for awhile (although we never even hinted at anything intimate when I was married—everything was one hundred percent just work colleagues and never anything other than that while I was with FW), so the fact that we already knew each other made this maybe easier. I do NOT think I’d be ready to just go out and meet a man via a dating app or what have you. That would be totally triggering!! No way. This relationship just organically developed. I’m not sure I could blindly meet people now. Maybe someday.

      • If this relationship didn’t pan out. But it very well may. I just don’t take anything for certain now.

        • Hi Redkd, I can relate to not making known your discomfort with the temperature. We surpress, surpress for so long with NPDs. So happy to hear that you have met someone who is kind and thoughtful.

    • Redkd,
      Your story made me realize something. I don’t plan to ever date. (Sure, it could change…but currently I can’t even see that day as a possibility. I have no interest and I think I might be one of those people that is fine unpartnered) And I always thought that if I did date, I would have a very hard time ever trusting anyone. And I thought THAT would basically be the “big problem”. But your story about the A/C? Yeah. That’s me. Two decades of always deferring to whatever he wanted. If I was freezing, I would get a sweater and a blanket and wouldn’t dream of turning down the A/C because he might get uncomfortable. THOSE are the insidious habits that would be harder to break. I truly hadn’t considered that. It’s something good to keep in mind and work on. Thank you.

      • Yes, it’s really eye-opening. When I first left him, I went to the grocery store to buy food for my new apartment fridge and there I was, in the grocery store, able to buy anything I wanted, and I didn’t know what I wanted to eat or buy. It actually made me slightly panicky to realize I didn’t even know what I wanted to eat anymore. So I wandered the aisles and told myself I could buy anything I wanted. I bought all kinds of weird stuff (unicorn hot chocolate was one item, lol). It took over a year to get to the point where I accepted the idea that I could eat what I wanted without ridicule or control. It’s so so insidious.

        • Redkd, I relate to your experiences so much – the waking me up angry because I moved (I spent so many nights getting cramps in my neck or whatever because I didn’t dare shift my position – meanwhile he’d be thrashing like a dying fish and snoring to wake the dead), freezing my butt off because the AC was on so high and it wasn’t worth the fight for me to even suggest we turn the temperature up. And once we split, having NO IDEA what I liked – what I liked to eat, wear, do, read, watch, drink, where I liked to go, or how I liked to spend my time. I had always done everything based on what he would like or what he wanted. If I did something he didn’t want me to, I was insulted, ridiculed, or given the cold sholder. I was basically an empty shell when he dumped me. It took about two years to “find myself” again.

          I will never, ever, ever, ever let another person dictate my life that way. I don’t plan on dating, but if I did, I’d end it at the first sign of control.

    • I can relate. My ex used to get. Angry about the compost and other house hold chores. I just got used to doing tasks on my own. When my boyfriend asks if I need help with anything my knee jerk response is to say I’m okay I got it. It blew me away one day when I was struggling with the recycling and he asked if I needed help and helped me anyway even though I said I got it.

      Moments like that make me really sad that I put up with the abuse for so long that I didn’t even realize what it meant to be in a relationship with someone that wanted to help and valued team work.

      • I remember lugging a heavy cooler and some bags of swim gear out the door of a country club with my son. FW had walked out with one light bag and said he would meet us at the car. The husband of one of my good friends called out to me, “Hey! Why isn’t FW carrying all of that stuff?” I just shrugged. I was used to being left to shoulder the burdens. I kept walking but he chased down my son and me and asked if he could help me carry some things. I was honestly a bit worried that if FW saw him helping me it would be more trouble for me. So I said to him, “That’s OK. I have got it. I’m pretty strong.” And he said, “You shouldn’t have to be.” And he looked sad for me.

        Years of conditioning have done this. I have spent two decades being afraid to ask for help and then not bothering because I knew I would be told no or I would be helped with a lot of grumbling. It’s hard to adjust and let someone help when we need it! I’m going to try to be better about this in the future.

        • YES!!!! I do the same thing. Once, FW was in a snit at a mall when our kids were small (we have FIVE, all in five years) and he stalked off and I was at the top of an escalator with five kids who were afraid to go down without being held (plus holding the bags, etc.) and I’m not sure how we made it down, but everyone was kind of staring at me and then him like “WTF”? Or the time I was pregnant mowing the lawn and some cowboy types saw me doing it when they drove past and stopped their truck, got out, and mowed the lawn. At that point, I actually took a stand and said if he wasn’t going to mow the lawn (he claimed to be allergic to grass), I was going to hire someone. But day in, day out, he never helped out unless it made him look good for a specific reason. And if I asked him to help, he’d get mad or just flat out ignore my request. Again, the cheating was just a part of it. Sometimes I’m glad he cheated or I may have stayed with this man, even though the way he treated me was horrific, even without the cheating.

          • Hahahhhaa, I love that he was “allergic to grass.”

            Their are definitely moments when I think the same thing. I would still be with my stbx if he hadn’t cheated. I would never have know what it’s like to be valued in a relationship.

            • Yes, that is one of the things I’m working on in therapy. The cheating was the reason I left, but I should have left for a million other reasons first.

          • This is seriously still a huge problem for me. It never occurs to me to ask for help. I’ve even had trouble paying people for help–it’s like I expect to do everything myself. I’m getting better but just this spring, one of my colleagues asked me why I was moving a heavy stack of chairs. I just said, “Why wouldn’t I?” He looked at me and said, “Use your words, LAJ. Ask for help.”

          • My Cheater abandoned me in an airport with 2 toddlers, 2 car seats, 3 carry ons and no possible way to get on the tram to the next gate. The fucker…to this day I can seen him walking away disappearing into the crowd. (A janitor helped me get to the gate where I found him, sitting calmly by himself…asshole). I hope when he got to Purgatory, God replayed this one for him on a giant screen

          • “Sometimes I’m glad he cheated or I may have stayed with this man, even though the way he treated me was horrific, even without the cheating.” THIS THIS THIS It was a blessing in disguise, even though it hurt so bad at the time.

            I also have a very hard time accepting help. I bought my own home in February, and it’s on a half acre. My neighbor saw me trying to mow with my battery-operated push mower and asked if he’d like me to mow the grass. I almost said no. But I DID accept the help, and I was proud of myself for doing that. My other neighbor actually gave me a lawn tractor (needs a bit of work, but stil). I accepted that too.

            I’ve also gotten better about hiring people rather than trying to do all the household repairs myself. FW was so tight with money (unless he was spending it on himself) and we were constantly broke due to his mismanagement that we never had money to spend on contractors and repairmen. Now I have money and so when I needed some plumbing done I … called a plumber. It cost $800 and I just … paid it and my bank account was fine. It was a really weird experience.

    • My cousin and his daughter were just visiting my area and we did some road tripping together; they left this morning. My cousin enjoys driving in part for the moments where he can speed up and feel the car’s power. A couple days ago we were on a winding mountain road that I knew he was unfamiliar with. He was speeding and I was lurching in my seat, feeling increasingly uncomfortable both in stomach and in nerves. I finally asked him if he would mind sticking closer to the speed limit. He immediately apologized, dropped his speed and the rest of the ride proceeded comfortably.

      I was profoundly surprised. I’m still processing how much pouting, sighing, annoyance and non-compliance I had tensed up to expect from him. I did NOT expect an apology in a kind tone, and an immediate validation that someone might consider my feeling scared a valid reason to curb his own risk-taking pleasures. I’m still processing. I mean, I almost didn’t say anything the whole ride, out of pure instinct. Also processing how often I felt compelled to say lol sorry for being a suck (I didn’t say it; I just noticed the urges). I have this deep thing about not wanting to be a buzzkill.

      I think that’s a dimension of PTSD in that my genuine fear responses, in light of literally being put in more physical danger, are being internally overridden as being too needy / too girly / too sucky. I know what FOO thing this comes from but I didn’t realize that at almost 50 years old I’m still afraid to ask a man to slow down because I’m uncomfortable (i.e. more afraid of his reaction than of my safety).

      It almost makes me want to cry, to think there might be people out there who might care about me that much. This past week, two of my ‘closer’ friends: one, a guy I’ve known for years, asked to crash at my house as a favour and then proceeded to hit on me three, four times, to the point of my lol deflections turning into an “I’m serious; lay off” that made him get pouty. So that friendship is pretty much done. And friend number two just decided to tell me, her Black friend, preceded by a “you probably won’t like this, but,” that she and everyone in her country are taught that Black people are n-words (she used the word), and she also had a graphic description of how they see Indigenous people. I was driving so I did not have a chance to ask WTF. She calls me her ‘dear friend.’

      How else is that instinct, to ignore, minimize or have contempt for my own fear, working in my life right now? It certainly has informed how much I put up with or presume shouldn’t be a big deal when interacting with dating partners. Like, my body is suddenly asking, are you telling me it is legit to ask someone to slow down when they’re speeding? If so, then this gives context to all my relationships. Because I’m here asking myself if I’m too judgy for writing off the male friend who suddenly got pushy around sex or considering writing off the white lady who seems to want to let me know that she and her family basically think of people like me as subhuman but hey isn’t it great they’re making an exception for me and also please don’t get hurt if they slip up and say something casually hateful?

      Sigh. Public life / society / the workplace isn’t exactly full of messages that our safety matters.

      TL;DR: Being yelled at / punished / gaslit for protesting mean or risky behaviour can have serious long-lasting impacts on one’s nervous system and judgment. I guess one important standard for dating is having conscious boundaries around how safe people must be before they’re allowed close, and to believe our tenderness is worth protecting.

      • Yes—we have to tell ourselves, “I matter. What I want matters. I have agency.” Over and over again to change the narrative that we don’t matter as much as other people, due to that conditioning.

    • I think I would not ask someone to adjust the temperature if I were at someone else’s home. In my own home, I spent 20 years expressing my needs regarding temperature and being shut down. I was not allowed to have the house at a temperature comfortable for me. Someone else’s needs always came first. When my son was almost 3 years old, FW was on a work trip out of the country in January. We were in the US and he was in Germany for 2 weeks. It got bitterly cold and I was freezing in the house. I went to adjust the thermostat and found that FW had put a passcode on it. When I asked him for it, he wouldn’t give it to me. He said if I wanted the temperature changed I needed to ask him and he would operate the system from his phone. And of course, there was a time zone difference and he was working where he could not always have his phone with him, so might not be reached at all. But how effed up was it to be cold in my own home in January and not be able to just go turn the heat on or up?

      There are no words for how blissfully content I can be to be alone without anyone else controlling everything. Dating and romance do not even cross my mind. I might seek therapy to deal with issues if any come up, but I personally won’t do so with an eye toward romance. I do not ever wish to allow another person to have the potential for that level of control in my life again.

      • A passcode on the thermostat! Wow, that’s an asshole move indeed. Mine would just wake up at night and say, “It’s really hot in here! Did you touch the thermostat???” And even if I didn’t, nonsense would ensue.

        And yes, this was at my new guy’s house, so not wanting to ask him to adjust the AC in his home was part of it, but I do spend quite a bit of time there (so I make myself at home, for the most part) and it was REALLY cold. I could have asked to borrow a sweatshirt or something (I didn’t have one with me since it’s a million degrees here and I didn’t pack one), but I didn’t even make a mental note that I was cold other than very fleeting.

      • “There are no words for how blissfully content I can be to be alone without anyone else controlling everything. Dating and romance do not even cross my mind. I might seek therapy to deal with issues if any come up, but I personally won’t do so with an eye toward romance. I do not ever wish to allow another person to have the potential for that level of control in my life again.”

        Pretty much sums up my ideas about future romance.

    • “the cheating was just the tip of the iceberg with this guy and ironically, the straw that finally knocked some sense into me”

      Same. I put up with an awful lot of abuse because I was a “til death do us part” kind of person, but the cheating crossed a hard line for me and that was it. In the end, it was a good thing it happened, as it freed me from living in hell.

  • EMDR for my cPTSD has been a huge help. It’s hard to walk through, but coming out the other side was seeing the world new again.

    I’ve settled on not actively seeking out a relationship, though I retain the right to change my mind in the future. I’m currently good with things the way they are. If there is someone later that I want to add to this life, then great, but the security and the independence are pretty darn awesome right now.

    Advanced Bitches’ Ladder of Trust is where I live my life these days.

  • I actually have a diagnosis of CPTSD. I had been seeing therapists and had originally been told it was GAD, generalized anxiety disorder, but I had kept saying “I didn’t used to be like this” and the anxiety and panic attacks didn’t start until after a very abusive relationship. I wasn’t anxious about everything, and I wasn’t afraid of all men. It was very specific behaviors from men I was trying to have a relationship with. I had a new therapist who told me the specificity of my symptoms sounded a lot more like PTSD than generalized anxiety.

    She told me the difference between GAD and PTSD is that specificity. GAD usually is anxiety about the future, worst case scenarios that haven’t happened, and things that are very unlikely to happen, and the triggers can be anything. Sometimes it’s unknown what the triggers are and panic just has random onset.

    PTSD is fear of the past repeating itself. It’s useless to ask someone with PTSD “what’s the worst that can happen?” because the worst has already happened. Episodes are triggered by situations that mimic the original trauma. For military vets, it can be the sound of fireworks. For someone who has been through abuse, it can be a behavior pattern. For me, it was the silent treatment. My abuser would use it as a manipulation tool and as punishment. A tirade would always follow periods of silence, and I would never know how long the silence was going to last or what he was even mad about. Often it was something he’d made up. Believe me this carried into my other relationships. Periods of silence or unanswered text messages would give me massive panic attacks.

    It has been years, and a lot of therapy, and I am on antidepressant medication (take it if you need it!) And I have a partner who understands and listens to me and has made a great effort to be a partner. He’s never made me panic over silence. They’re out there. It takes time.

  • No dating PTSD because I don’t date. One reason is I’m 65 and the pool of viable age appropriate options is nil or kinda gross from what I see. FW was living with some one within three weeks of the break of our 31 year relationship. Mind blowing. I don’t find people attractive or interesting anymore. If men pay attention to me I start feeling angry and protective. I had EMDR, meds, therapy. Got me through but it has not been the same ever since the breakup. It’s like the old me is gone and the one left is a cynical hermit who prefers her pets

    • I’m with you. I was 45ish when I went back into the dating pool (first husband didn’t cheat that I know of but I did catch him lying to me – a lot). It was weird enough dating at that age, but I thought I found an honest guy. Ha!

      The Python turned out to be both a big liar AND a serial cheater. Twenty-ish years later (plus divorced for a second time) I have no desire to wade into the dating (cess)pool again. I don’t call it PTSD but I’m twice bitten by liars and now twice shy.

      Plus, at 65ish it does seem like a large proportion of men are looking for much younger women. Not all, certainly, but the non-liar population of guys my age that are interested in women who are age peers seems limited. I’m too scarred by skilled liars to try again. Pets are loyal and loving and don’t lie to you.

  • I’ve started EMDR sessions with a registered therapist and it’s really helping to reduce the panic, flashbacks and physical sensations that were frequently triggered by events and conversations.

    • Hey Welshchump, fellow Cymraes here. Can you recommend your therapist, as most resources I find tend to be US specific. Diolch yn fawr!

      • Hia WelshChump- as another fellow Cymro, I’ll second that request for a decent EMDR therapist! Diolch! 🙂

  • Man, it’s tough out there. After my divorce, I didn’t date at all for almost 2 years, then decided to broach a romantic situation with a friend of 30 years who actually helped me through my divorce. She knew everything I had been through and so it felt safe. Then she used some manipulation tactics — canceling dates, the silent treatment, some other weird things — so I broke it off. We later had a conversation about it, and she said she definitely manipulated me on purpose in order to get me to “chase her”. She said — “I watched you chase a narcissist for 10 years, and then I tried to get you to chase me and you wouldn’t do it, so I got pissed.” She also admitted to secretely dating another man behind my back while we were dating. They were close enough that he proposed to her. She declined, but the damage was already done. If you can’t trust a friend of 30 years, who can you trust? In 30 years of friendship, I had never known her to be like that even one iota. But the moment a romantic situation was introduced, it’s like she became a different person.

    I didn’t date after that for another year, but eventually met what I thought was a great woman — all of my friends and family loved her and gave the stamp of approval, we had a ton in common, and it felt incredibly safe. She was also a therapist and understood all that I had been through and it felt like an amazing match, only to find on recently that I was just chumped again, bringing up all types of PTSD issues.

    Moral of the story: It’s really, really tough out there. I’m not going to give up, but you have to be very, very careful. I was extremely careful myself — only dating those two people since my marriage crumbled — and running my new partners past friends and family because I was concerned about my picker, and I was still chumped on both.

    Gonna take some time off and get back out there eventually.

    • Wow, that sucks big time. Sending hugs and hope you find somebody worthy next time.

      • Thank you. Honestly, it’s more sad than anything. I don’t even have the gumption to get angry at FWs anymore. Just move on quietly and with dignity.

    • “I tried to get you to chase me and you wouldn’t do it, so I got pissed.”

      It will forever blow my mind that there are people out there who think like this. Maybe I’m a simpleton, but the idea to hatch devious manipulative plots never occurs to me. I read here because I need reminders like this on the daily to not project my values and ways onto other people.

      • It’s like some are “Manchurian candidates” who are triggered from seeming normal and mature into instant, infantile dysfunction when facing potential intimacy. It’s not just romantic intimacy but any intimacy that launches some people into a weird shift. I’ve seen women like this who fuck up friendships and work relationships in similar ways. I can sometimes see it coming. I have no idea why but, in RL situations people can quickly find themselves oversharing with me or blurting out things they’ve never told anyone. I don’t think I come off as an earth mother type but it happens a lot. When my kids were small, even random kids on the playground would run up to me, part their hair or pull up their sleeves and show me surgery scars or talk about the time grandpa abused them or whatever. But with adults, the moment after this happens is the telling point because some will freak out completely like a novice skier who hits a patch of ice and finds themselves going too fast (clumsy analogy for intimacy). No matter how supportive you sound in response, the person may suddenly turn stabby, passive aggressive or cold immediately following this as they come up against their own long-standing pit of generalized distrust. Hello Cluster B. I get the feeling that even sounding expertly and generically supportive in this situation is a fail if that person has only ever known people who would feign support in order to exploit or take control or if that person would do the same themselves– use a “helpful” pose to exploit or take control. So they’ll quickly try to turn the tables to “show you who’s boss.” I can just imagine what people like this are like in close relationships.

        I’ve gotten into the habit of slowing things down or steering conversations away from deep blurty disclosures if I feel them coming on. People who don’t have issues with intimacy tend to wait much longer to get to really know others before they disclose. They can skirt very close to subjects with personal relevance without, oops, barfing it all out because they’ve probably already told a lot of people close to them.

        This doesn’t apply to A) interactions online where people are protected by anonymity and so everyone blurts; or B) collective advocacy, activism and therapy situations; or C) people who’ve literally just emerged from serious trauma because everyone in that situation has a tendency to let things slip. In the latter case, you can usually tell because they’re still all quaky and wild-haired about whatever they just went through. In that case, I just say supportive things about justice or share practical resources– the kinds of things that would have helped me in similar straits. Then I duck and hope they don’t turn out to be Manchurians.

    • Oh my gosh. Layne, you sound like a lovely guy (with some good self-knowledge and understanding of people), and it’s striking to me that your well-honed screening skills didn’t alert you to what would come, from these two dating partners. I’ve had similar experiences. As you say, it’s tough out there!

    • Wow. Just wow. Those are two really terrible experiences. But on the plus side, you figured it out before you got married to one of these cheaters. That’s real progress.

      I’m not sure if you will ever see this, but I have two thoughts, reading your story.
      1. I think your criteria for dating is off. It would seem that knowing someone for many years or finding someone your family and friends are enthused about would be a way to check on your picker. And of course, if your family and friends see a million red flags, that would be helpful!

      But here we all know (or learn) that f*ckwits are capable of hiding their duplicitous natures for months, even years. You’ve gotten to the point where you can see through this, given time. But you haven’t done the work on the front end–figuring out the things these women have in common and where that attraction comes from.

      My HS off-and-on boyfriend was the first in a long line of guys who put me low on the priority list, who had addiction issues (drinking, in particular), and who turned out to be big talkers and low achievers. I traced my dating history from the beginning (age 16 or so) to age 62, writing about each relationship to open up my memory. The patterns were there, and they had links to my FOO issues, too. The HS boyfriend was actually a boy my mother had pointed out, and he was a lot like my dad. (And both my XH and Jackass were men I had known for years before getting involved with them romantically). So while you are off the market for a while, do that work. What you discover about yourself might surprise you.

      About the first woman and the psychologist. One thing they have in common is being manipulative. It might be worth it to do some reading on Dr. George Simon’s blog, “Manipulative People.” The other thing they have in common is poor character that they kept well hidden in the beginning. I think fixing your picker will involve moving the needle away from “manipulative people” and assuming that because someone has knowledge of your bad experience or academic knowledge about trauma they will be “safe.” Nope…just as child molesters are drawn to places with kids (coaches, teachers, Scout leaders, priests) predators are drawn to people recovering from their wounds and come disguised as people who want to help you through your pain.

      Just my thoughts. Get back out there when you are ready to look for someone whose character you admire for its own sake. See Dr. Simon on character and love. Sorry for the long response but I think you can fix this once you see the problem.

      • Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful response. I appreciate it. Looking into Dr Simon right now.

      • Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful response. I appreciate it. Looking into Dr Simon right now.

  • I got the hang of dating. Took a while. Had a “long-ish” relationship, had shorter things. I was ghosted and I learned to break hearts. I learned to say “thanks but no”.

    I met a few weirdos. I probably was a weirdo to someone. I was thrown by a breakup and that turned into a great lesson.

    It wasn’t until I was remarried that my trauma showed up; when it was safe enough.

    I’ve had to do some serious work with a trauma-specific therapist and often still, have to remind myself what’s trauma/triggers vs what’s an actual problem.

    Do I don’t have a great/gross dating story, thank God. It was a time to learn and grow.

  • For me it’s still early days I guess. The divorce hasn’t been finalized and it’s only been 6 months since I finally decided and took myself out of the equation of wreckonciliation for good. But I’m in my mid 30s and really want to believe there is someone out there for me. I already let go of the dream of having another kid (which I think was a big part of staying in the limbo and trying to save my marriage), but I still want to have somebody to share my life with. I think it will take a long time though to really start dating again. There have been some occasions where I felt someone liked me and maybe wanted to ask me to hang out, go on a date or something.. and I felt my internal brakes pump instantly. I keep having these weird sexual dreams about random/unknown men and sometimes FW as well, so I guess there are some needs to be met, but I’m really not there yet.

  • It’s been over five years since I dumped the Lying Cheating Loser, and I don’t actively date.

    It’s taken me this long to process the trauma. In addition to the constant infidelity, he also subjected me to verbal, mental, and physical abuse.

    The worst thing – and what I believe took the longest to release – was living in a constant state of hypervigilance for all those years. I can’t begin to imagine what that does to our body and brain, long term.

    I’ve been on and off the dating apps, and have concluded they don’t bring out the best in me, nor in anybody else. I do believe it’s possible to meet someone great that way, but for me, the ROI hasn’t been there. And that’s okay.

    I believe what allows me to keep my generally positive outlook on life, love, and relationships is my ability to witness and celebrate love however it shows up in my world: married friends who have secure, reciprocal relationships based on mutual respect. My friends and kids, and the way we show up for one another.

    Every human needs love and belonging, but it’s so much broader than just romantic relationships. And we can all cultivate it in small ways every day, if we’re intentional about it.

    • I also hate what dating apps do to me. I still dabble, but for very short fits & bursts w/long breaks in between.

  • My life is a.Christmas tree, and any relationship I enter into is going to be an ornament on it.

    I am not ready for dating. I am five and a half years out from a DDay ended a “relationship” of twenty-seven years, half my life at the time. I am not in the least bit afraid to wait as long as I need to before I date again.

    The more healed and healthy I am, the better I will discern.

    My sexuality is cast iron chain linked to love and trust. It is no wonder I had a dead bedroom with Traitor Ex. My body and my mind were in conflict about his trustworthiness. My body was right about him all along. I just thought something was wrong with me.

    Whatever issues I have around sex, they cannot be worked out with a lying cheating abusive male masquerading as a Nice Guy. I have all the time in the world to do right by me.

    I was at a meeting recently and a woman was talking about her rape. She said she was not looking to him for closure, for apologies, for amends. She said she decided she was going to make it right herself. I loved that and adopted it immediately.

    When my body says GO I will GO. At this time it’s a very clear STOP sign, and listening to my body’s message is the biggest lesson from all of this.

    • PS

      Speaking of discernment, a liar cheater thief is a poor choice for an intimate partner. As is someone willing to be a side piece.

      Intimacy requires honesty. There is no truth between cheaters, liars, thieves, and therefore no actual intimacy. You can have sex and relationships without intimacy. I did that unknowingly for twenty seven years. 😪

      The world of high end designer handbags has been infiltrated by counterfeiters. They are now so well done that it can be very difficult to tell the genuine from the counterfeit. There is now a cult of women who seek out and deal the counterfeit bags, and they are proud of it. I will never be one of them. . They don’t care who they hurt. They don’t care if what they have is genuine or counterfeit. Their behavior actually brings down the value of the brand whose status they seek. They aren’t bright enough to put that together.

      Love, bags, people. To people cool with cheating, appearance is everything and how other people feel or how their behavior impacts others is not important. How someone behaves in one area is how they tend to behave in all areas.

      Nothing feels as good as genuine, clear clean honestly gotten gains. That extends to dating when my whole being is ready, and with people who are genuinely available, cleared for takeoff. Truth and honesty, aka capacity for genuine love only need apply.

      Why would I want a cheap knockoff, which is what cheaters and side pieces settle for? There will always be something off even if no one knows, and it will never feel as good as the real thing.

      My four cents for the day.

      • Dear VH, thank you, as always, for your wise words. I also experienced a long mirage where my mind and body were in conflict about my (now)ex’s trustworthiness. I was with him for 22 years, married 19 a little more than 2 years since I ended it. I thought our marital issues were mine as well, until I finally had the evidence and everything became clear. My peace now is worth more than any relationship.

      • “Speaking of discernment, a liar cheater thief is a poor choice for an intimate partner. As is someone willing to be a side piece. Intimacy requires honesty. There is no truth between cheaters, liars, thieves, and therefore no actual intimacy. You can have sex and relationships without intimacy. I did that unknowingly for twenty seven years. 😪”

        Same. That’s the kicker. Isn’t it. There really was no intimacy in my 35-year mirage, and yet I thought there was. This is the mindfuck. It’s what makes me dizzy when I look back on it all. What was real?

    • “My sexuality is cast iron chain linked to love and trust. It is no wonder I had a dead bedroom with Traitor Ex. My body and my mind were in conflict about his trustworthiness. My body was right about him all along. I just thought something was wrong with me.”

      I’m only really starting to process how that was true for me too. I’ve been exploring different sexualities (on a theoretical level!) and have come to the conclusion I am demisexual. Without the trust, there is no desire. My reluctance to have sex with FW in the last few years of our marriage is, I believe, directly tied to the fact that his abuse destroyed my sense of trust and safety with him. I did have a lot of sex with him during our separation, but that was desperation, not desire. I was trying to “win” him back, which was stupid of me. (I also didn’t know he and OW were physical, or I would never. Gross.)

      For now, I am completely fine being single and celibate. I don’t really think about sex and I don’t need it. I certainly don’t need it enough to compromise ANYTHING in my life (which is finally very, very good). I will certainly never again center my life around a romantic relationship. As you said – an ornament on your tree.

  • Official PTSD diagnosis here – and blessed to have had a therapist who tackled this particular issue head-on, advising me that new relationships would never be the same as they were before FW, and helping me to frame a new strategy for feeling safe, which included taking things slowly, being willing to walk away at the first red flag (that was hard the first time, but so empowering), and even “investigating” the person online in detail before things went too far.
    The other thing she helped me with was, in my opinion, far more important: how to date myself. Going out alone was hard at first, but I have come to enjoy it. I go to concerts, movies, restaurants, festivals, and even travel overseas on my own, and I love it; there’s always someone around to talk to if I choose, or blessed solitude and focus if I would rather. And for my last birthday (64) I gifted myself a new battery operated boyfriend, who always does just what I want, and doesn’t snore afterwards. 😉

  • Besides therapy, I have found the Crappy Childhood Fairy site to be helpful. She offers free resources like her “Daily Practice” to help keep C-PTSD manageable and your life more peaceful and healthy. I think whether your PTSD began in childhood or during a destructive relationship with a cheater, her videos and methods are helpful.

    As for me personally I’m not yet divorced and less than two years out, with a lot of communication mistakes made before I found Chump Lady. Thus, my traumatic messages kept happening for a while after I left. So at this time I am nowhere near interested in losing my newfound independence, safety, and peace for the possibility of another relationship.

    Dr. Ramani recommends waiting at least a year after the end of a narcissistic abusive relationship before getting back out there in the dating pool. She talks about this in several videos I believe but here’s her breakup 101 video:

    Right now doing grey rock before my divorce is final, I am getting to know myself for the first time in adult life, really, and learning LOTS about narcissism and healing from abuse and betrayal trauma. The space I have in which to learn and heal and discover the real me is too precious to give it up anytime soon.

    That and the damage my STBX of 28.5 years did to me with marital rape (which I only identified as such fairly recently thanks to great therapists) makes me dis-inclined to even want a physical relationship with a man again. Who knows whether that will heal with time. I am never saying never, but I am also very content with living single for the foreseeable future. 🙂

  • Brainspotting/EMDR trauma reprocessing work is very effective for some. Helps me.

    • Also, as a currently remarried person, I’ve come to the conclusion that if this marriage ends, I won’t ever really “date” again. I like enjoying time with good people, including sexy time, but I don’t like the nature of dating, and I don’t like modern sex culture.

      I don’t like inauthenticity or poor communication. It’s a rare bird who wants to speak openly and honestly, especially about sex. Most people act like establishing (and re-establishing) consent, sharing preferences, and understanding the person you’re with BEFORE getting intimate, ruins the moment. I think those things take the BS out of relating and pleasure so we can all relax and share what’s awesome for both people, which is the opposite of ruining it.

      I guess I’m realizing that it may be partly true that my negative response to modern romance culture isn’t an indicator that something is wrong with me, but rather is an indicator that the whole setup is shit and I just can’t unsee that anymore.

      • This is where I’m at. I’m open to partnership but I can’t stand modern dating culture and refuse to try dating apps again due to the rampant sexual harassment and disrespect. It was like taking on a 2nd unpaid job to wade through a sea of catcalling and dicks. I’m not afraid to meet people, but I shouldn’t have to suffer to do it.

        • There was no online/internet when my Dday hit. I am glad, I do prefer the old way of just meeting folks in regular life activities. I get that now days many folks get so busy there is not much time or opportunity.

          On the other hand I think if there were no online, folks would still be doing fine without it. Folks find a way and there would be more organic ways to meet.

          My best friend who divorced a couple years before I did actually did the dating service where you went in to an office and made a tape, and the dating service would get the info out. It was the granddaddy of online dating. It was a Christian group, and she dated a few times, and actually did meet a great guy and they are still together today. So who knows I guess.

          • It’s 100% gotten worse, especially for women. The apps are heavily men now because women keep fleeing due to the rampant abuse on those platforms. I tried it myself and lasted 2 months. It was awful.

  • I did complex trauma therapy for almost two years … just recently “graduated” if that’s the correct term.
    I was married almost 37 years, and while I am convinced I don’t ever want to remarry, I am in a relationship with an old childhood acquaintance. He is a lovely man whom I enjoy spending time with.
    Nobody gets to their mid-sixties without some kind of baggage. It is up to me to decide what is acceptable and what I want out of a relationship going forward. I also spend a hell of a lot more time paying attention to actions and not words. He’s far from perfect, but he is kind, decent, caring, respectful and makes me laugh. If his actions ever veer in another direction, so will I.

  • Time and new practices heal. I would ask you if you feel like, at any point, no matter how small, you have felt like you had to “give in” something to this new partner. Something minuscule of that nature can be very triggering, especially if not enough time has gone by and enough reforming of the mind and the heart.

  • I would say that I am a lot more cagey about letting anyone near me – physically or emotionally – than I used to be in my pre-Ex-Mrs LFTT days. I frame this in terms of knowing that I am very good at being single and loving the life that I have built for my kids (now young adults, but 2 of the 3 of them still live with me). I have yet to start dating, despite being 7+ years out from D-Day, but my view is that I want to build on what I have, rather than sacrifice or risk it for the sake of a new relationship.

    If the right person comes along then great, but if not …. then also great.


    • This sounds very healthy, LFTT. I’m pretty much the same. I’m not completely closed off to the idea, but I’m totally fine if it never happens. I will certainly never risk what I have built for myself and my son (he’s been through enough, poor kid). Right now my life is full and happy and peaceful.

  • I’ve been with a new partner for over two years now, but the trauma of my 35-year abusive relationship bubbles up every once in a while. We can be happy in our new lives, but there’s a pain that persists. I find it hard to explain.

    When a friend recently made the comment that you (Spinach) are “good now,” I knew she meant well, but I felt it discounted the trauma of my mirage (thanks, VH). To me, there’s a hint of “the ends justify the means.” Yeah, you were abused and betrayed, but hey, look at you now! You’re with someone who was “meant to be.” I mostly agree, but at the same time, it hits an off chord with me.

    Perhaps this is an unfair comparison, but if someone loses a child and manages to give birth to another, it doesn’t mean they will stop feeling the pain of the terrible loss.

    I hope some of you understand what I mean. If so, you can probably articulate it better.

    • “We can be happy in our new lives, but there’s a pain that persists.”

      I get it completely, I think it is just there and it always will be for me. I have been so blessed in my second half, still am. As you say though, the end does not justify the means. There will never to an ok stamp slapped on that behavior.

  • Been divorced about 3.5 years. Didn’t always feel like dating was safe in the early Covid days and during some surges. Also remember monkeypox & wondering if it would jump en mass to the hetero population? However, I have dabbled in dating, and it’s been good practice of enforcing my newly discovered boundaries (didn’t really have them before). It’s also been mildly reassuring to discover that the opposite sex doesn’t think I’m a troll, mom bod & all. With a younger kid though, it’s hard, and that’s ok. Much of my free time isn’t my own, and what I do have I’d often rather spend on my hobbies / friends/ or my house.

    I have discovered a preference for dating other single parents, so finding someone I’m reasonably attracted to, shares my values, shares some interests, AND with a custody schedule that occasionally lines up feels like looking for a needle in a haystack. Now just might not be the most realistic time for me to find a partner, and that’s ok. I’m open to it though, and vet ruthlessly.

    • “Much of my free time isn’t my own, and what I do have I’d often rather spend on my hobbies / friends/ or my house.” This is where I’m at. I honestly just don’t want to devote the time to dating (I’m also shy/awkward with meeting people and a first date sounds awful, and LOTS of first dates sounds like hell.)

  • Dear letter writer,

    I don’t know if you’ve received a PTSD diagnosis or if you mean you feel traumatized. If the latter, I STRONGLY recommend seeing a trauma therapist for evaluation and treatment, if you haven’t already. It doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence. Support and better mental health are very possible.

    Source: I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. It was validation for me that I wasn’t crazy and my experiences were real, AND it allowed me to finally get the help I needed. Life is much easier these days.

  • I have a lot of issues due to X’s behaviors. Lots!
    But one thing I’ve realized is: I will never, NEVER feel the same way about a relationship ending. There is just no way I could ever go to the depths I went to when I discovered his secrets. It’s more than just a “shields up” attitude, it’s hard to explain, but I just know, I could never be that devastated again.
    I survived that, and nothing could come close, – so I’ve had a nice relationship going on for a bit, and if he left me, or if I discovered anything going on, saying “so long!” would not even merit a tear.

  • The body knows the score and Heartbroken are great books that explain the body’s trauma response.

    Id say it took me a good 3 years to clam down. I noticed just recently that my startle response is better. I used to jump and scream at any little thing. But part of it is genetic because I tend to be calm and get over things quickly. If I were in a car accident and not injured, I could do CPR, stop bleeding, use the AED, soothe people, ect.

    Time heals all wounds. I think that the farther out the trauma is the better you get. Thats why No contact is good. If you have contact and they try all their old tricks on you, thats not good. Putting yourself in harms way to be retraumatized.

    But there are things to calm your system. You could meet with a Mindfulness CBT therapist, they can help you develop strategies to deal with PTSD. Trauma therapists.

    I found walking in nature was good.

  • Not dating and no real desire to date. The betrayal trauma is too real and too deep. It’s been more than two years. I miss intimacy, but I don’t miss sex.
    My therapist and I have had long conversations about this, and I am at a place where I am truly ok with the possibility of not coupling up. I am working on becoming the best ME that I can. Defining the person that I want to be and making that person a reality.

    • ” I miss intimacy, but I don’t miss sex.”

      I agree.

      I have the further trauma the FW was and remains the only person I’ve had a sexual relationship with, so sex is inextricably linked to him. And while some of it was good, some of it was abusive (especially later on). I just don’t know if I could open up to someone again like that. I have some physical issues as well that preclude ceertain activities. And while I am convinced that I am demisexual for sure, I have also wondered if I’m just asexual, as there are times when I am actually repulsed by the idea (not of other people doing it, but of me doing it) and most of the time it’s not even on my radar. It just all seems so awkward. I’m bisexual (though I didn’t acknowledge that til recently – thanks evangelicalism) so I’ve toyed with the idea of maybe dating women, but it’s also awkward to be like “you’re my first female lover” when you’re 43. I don’t know.

      But I miss kissing and I do like to have someone to talk to and cuddle with, and hold the other end of the shelf while I mount it on the wall. But FW wasn’t great about any of those things in the end either.

      I think I’ll be happies staying single and having a few good friends.

  • Because my FW used dating sites to meet some of his hook ups and his final OW I was sure they were not for me. Two years post divorce and after much therapy, a good girlfriend talked me into going online. I was naturally hesitant as even commercials for Match gave me anxiety. I knew that she had met and married a great guy from Eharmony. So I decided to give it a shot. I also chose a few other sites(not Match) to place my profile. This was 2013 so just on my laptop, not phone. I went on many first dates, a few got as far as five dates over the course of a few months. It felt like having a second job, messaging and vetting. A few month in I messaged a man who lived across the country from me because his profile was filled with commonality and kindness. A week later, I messaged him again because honestly I had forgotten I had messaged him already. He responded (he thought I was really into him as I had messaged twice). We messaged for awhile, then texted, then talked on the phone for hours. Come to find out we had many connections including that he was best friends with my cousin in grad school. We dated long distance for two years, meeting in person every four to six weeks. I was very honest with him about what I had been through with my FW. He was appalled that any man would behave so dishonorably. We married in 2015 and I have never once felt unsafe emotionally with him. Do I ever get triggered? Yes, but not by my husband. There are good men and women out there.

  • When I started dating again, a thought I kept in my mind was, don’t make someone pay for something they didn’t do. So every guy got to start with zero strikes against him. However, I didn’t feel I owed anyone any chances at all if something felt off. What’s most important is to work on your self-esteem so you don’t accept poor treatment from anyone. Aside from that, I tried to look at each new date not as possibly the start of a new relationship, but as a nice reason to get dressed, fix my hair, and enjoy some coffee or a walk and conversation with another human being. It took the pressure off.

  • For what it’s worth, here’s my 2 cents. When I got left by cheater FW asshat, I started seeing a therapist just a few weeks later (on the recommendation of my attorney). I saw the therapist every week for over a year and we worked on helping me through the divorce and the trauma. At about the year mark, I was fully divorced and the therapist recommended that I just start dating (using Bumble if I wanted to). She just wanted me to see that I was ok. I felt broken and ugly and that no one would want a 45 year old woman with an elementary school-aged child. She and a couple of friends told me to just go out on dates with zero expectations.

    So I did. I went out with about 5 different men (I chose JDate because I’m Jewish and FW wasn’t…so I figured I’d try to at least to find commonality in religion & culture this time). And my friends and therapist were right… it was definitely an ego boost. I felt better about myself. I met some nice men. No one was super scary (one admitted to being a FW in his past…so that was an easy NO …. another started writing crazy texts on my phone, so I booted him instantly too). But mostly it was fun and no strings dates (I didn’t even do more than kiss a couple of them after a few dates). But then I found one out of those 5…and we’ve been together now 7 years! It’s imperfect. We both have past issues. And I got another therapist that I stayed with for 4 years to work on my PTSD (that was not just from the DDay — I discovered past things that were affecting me) and other issues. And guess what? He has a therapist too.

    I think therapy is important to deal with all of this. I was very reactive to everything after DDay …I had so many triggers and anxiety attacks and fears that would not stop even after my divorce and then starting s relationship. I knew I had more work to do. If you still have a ton of fear and reactivity — you might want to think about getting more support. For me, EMDR was not so good. It shook stuff up to much in my brain and I’d have crazy flashbacks. So I did gentler things and meditated more too. So even if you don’t want to date anymore — that’s fine. But consider more therapy?

    • You’d almost get the feeling that cheating is a deliberate psychic form of FGM (for she-chumps) and emotional castration (for he-chumps). They want to brutalize us so much that it makes it hard to move on.

  • I’m at Tuesday and meh regarding my past marriage and divorce.
    I’ve been out in the dating world for several years since I was separated and before the divorce was final.
    I’ve had bad luck out there. So I’ve decided to just be alone now and “Do me” I know some have been successful with dating but it’s not been my experience.
    I do miss having a partner but so far I’ve not met anyone that can be that for me. If I meet someone great but I’m not banking on it. I’m 64 years old and don’t really see a future with a partner. I’m working on just loving me now.

  • Wow, dating is a tough thing. I went through a pretty lengthy battle to get divorced from a FW. In our state, you are married until you are divorced so to avoid adultery you do not date (unless you are a FW in which case, you date, advertise your availability, hook up with people and find some prostitutes wherever you may be). I did not date because my lawyer said not to and because I was not healthy enough to do so.
    As a newly minted chump, I was a total train wreck. I tried the RIC and because of all my beliefs and upbringing tried to save my marriage. The cold hard facts were that nothing would work when you are dealing with a lying cheater who wants to lie and cheat. While I was still in the early days ((COVID was still in full force), I got a phone call from work. It was our office manager, and he was asking us about our emergency contacts and our spouses. Well, that hit me at the totally wrong time and I somehow managed to telephonically emotionally vomit on this poor man. Eventually, we went back to the office, and I ran into him and apologized profusely. He then told me the story of how he had been chumped 16 years earlier. It was kind of a relief. Soon after that, (well maybe not soon but after a shorter stressful time when the FW understood what his consequences would be if he went to court), I was getting my name changed and ran back into my fellow chump. I apologized again and I am sure he thought I was some kind of nut, but I will never forget how I was that day on the phone. Oddly enough, he asked me out. We have been dating now for about five months. Both of us still have some scars but we have a nice relationship and respect the fact that we have a life outside of the relationship. We have our friends and activities that we do separate, and we have a great time together and respect each other. I have found out what reciprocity is. It is not perfect because we are two different personalities, but we have accepted each other, and it is comfortable. I am not certain what the future is but right now it feels good, and it is a very stable and calming relationship.

  • I recently ended a 5 month fling because it just wasn’t working, it wasn’t going to grow into more. There were times when I had ABJECT terror and feelings of unworthiness when he was slow to respond to texts that I now recognize had everything to do with my own FOO issues and the devastating discard.

    Sometimes I have to gut check with my therapist that the sequence of events from 2011-2016 qualifies as PTSD worthy and she stares at me agape. “Any ONE of these is worthy” she says.

    Extreme isolation from siblings/emotional abuse and neglect from mother
    Both parents and best lifelong girl friend all died in 2011
    Abandoned for younger woman in 2014/faced Cervical Cancer ending fertility while OW had a baby
    Gradually lost relationship with stepdaughter due to Narcissistic demands for loyalty from FW and OW.
    21 year Son died of prolonged illness in 2016 just as we were staring anew and had just taken a great vacation together as a family of 3 instead of 5
    Financial fallout of being the guarantor for son’s extensive healthcare needs. Not being able to buy the home I had planned and having to do major repairs on the crappy modular home I inherited from my parents while FW bought a home with OW.

    Here’s the two good things, though. When I would have those weeping attacks of self doubt with the recent guy, I KNEW they were my own conditioned reactions to abuse. I didn’t let on or punish him for my past. But I DID realize I was doing most of the work. I was cooking for him, being the sounding board, “dancing for coins like a demented calliope monkey.” So I stopped. When after five months we still were not official, I left his social media. When he took several days to respond to a text I left HIM on read. I asked myself if his communication style was worth the effort of mine. I decided no. He sent me an angry text accusing me of dumping him. I said, “This isn’t working for me. We don’t share the same values and there is no space for me in your life, and I’m not a “Fill the edges” type.

    I haven’t looked back. That’s progress.

    • I believe we were raised to please others and put our needs last. You realized the relationship was not reciprocal. You are not interested in providing service that is not appreciated. You want someone to do things for you, the same way you do things for them. It is not a contractual tit for tat. It just means they want to please you the same way you want to please them. If it is always one sided, then there is no true relationship. It is relatively simple to explain what reciprocal means. Unfortunately, it takes time for women of our generation to be able to admit we even have needs, or that it is important for those needs to be met. I love your image of “dancing for coins like a demented calliope monkey.” You made a good choice not to do that anymore, and you made good use of your sense of humor to ease your pain.

      After reading your posts for several years I can assure you if I ever got the chance to enjoy your cooking, I would find some way to do something nice for you! You make me so hungry just talking about your cooking! I am not a great cook, so I admire those who are. Your “can-do” attitude and feisty humor show me you would be a fine friend to have.

    • I’m so very sorry about the many devastating things you went through in the years you describe, and especially about the loss of your son. My heart goes out to you. It sounds like you’ve worked hard in your therapy and your healing–very inspiring to read how you’ve reclaimed your life and your space.

    • I hope this posts — I made a comment earlier that somehow did not post. Basically I just wanted to cheer you on for your resiliency! I’ve followed your comments for a long time, and you are funny and resourceful, and deserve much better than what you have received. You are talking about expecting a reciprocal relationship here. When you realize you are doing most of the work, and the desire to please and maintain a supportive world is only flowing one way, you have to call it quits. You are worth the effort it takes to love and be loved!
      I don’t think I ever experienced PTSD, but I do have some tender, sensitive parts that can cause me to be heated in my response. Bravo progress!

    • The fact that you are still standing is proof of your mightiness, Luziana. And to know and say that you “aren’t the ‘fill the edges’ type” is indeed progress.

  • It’s been over a year and tried dating a few times with nothing going anywhere, I definitely feel ready, and found them to be fun. I’m in my late 30s and it’s been interesting interacting with women again, especially when I hear that I’m refreshing and fun to date. I do have a question, are there that many creeps out there?

    I am dating myself a lot and do many things when I don’t have my boys. I am finding some contentment in my singleness, but it sometimes feels like something is missing.

    • I don’t think there is any set time, it is so individual.

      My rule (only for me) was no moving in, or marriage for at least five years post D. But dammed if I was going to let the ass hat steal more years of my life.

      I think everyone should as soon as they are ready “get out there” by that I mean get out there and do things, have some fun, hobbies etc. If you meet someone who interests you fine, if not fine.

      I was 40 and worked for DoD. Meeting single men was going to happen. I honestly thought I never wanted to get married again, but I knew romance was going to happen.

    • Hi Josh, yes… there are that many creeps out there. Also, as you start to fix your picker, there’s a lot of behavior that you won’t tolerate anymore, so that raises the percentage of “creeps.” I think the prevalence & availability of hard core porn has also warped the minds of a lot of men out there, and unfortunately have upped the objectification of women in their mind.

      But, I’ve still met what seemed like decent, solid guys out there, just the logistics get trickier depending on your phase life (I.e. parenting younger kids).

      • “I think the prevalence & availability of hard core porn has also warped the minds of a lot of men out there, and unfortunately have upped the objectification of women in their mind.”

        100%. Frequent porn users are much more entitled, expect women to do anal and every disgusting fetish under the sun, and treat women with callous disregard. Their brains have been altered and they can lose IQ points if they are heavy users for years. There are studies backing up the damage it does.
        I’ve seen it happen to FW. He used to be fairly intelligent and not a bad guy. He became a moron as well as an abusive cheater, and he knows it’s his many years of daily porn use that did it. But he chooses to use it anyway, so it’s his own fault. Now his porn is all he has. The pussy buffet it encouraged him to believe was out there has not materialized. Naturally he blames me. 😁

        • My ex FW is also a heavy user of porn. I already was concerned he had a problem before the divorce but I found out it was much, much worse than I had ever imagined during the divorce.

          I wonder sometimes if I married a monster or if he turned himself into one over the years. I’ll never really know either way though, and it wouldn’t make any difference for me.

          • It may be a bit of both, KP. These fuckwits had tendencies, which is why porn was so attractive to them to begin with. Their porn use increased the entitlement, misogyny and deviance that already existed. If I think back there was some of it early in my relationship with FW. I just didn’t see it for what it was at the time. However, the porn made it dramatically worse. He’s barely human now.
            You’re right, though. It doesn’t make any difference how they got that way. What they are is poisonous and they aren’t going to change.

      • Yes, the seasons of life definitely affect how dating goes, especially if you want to protect your kids.

        As for dating, I guess I ask myself, if I am changing have have some hard boxes, I must expect that from myself also. Would I want to date me?

    • Josh–

      It’s not so much that every other guy out there is a dangerous creep. But because almost every woman on earth has had at least one brush with a dangerous creep, men who are “nice” in an untempered, unreflective, overly sheltered and slightly shallow way and who haven’t really firmed up their principles in response to life’s trials and tribulations, simply aren’t very relatable and can even seem callous or dodgy at times. Example off the top of my head: non-cheater guy who has no problem hanging out with his cheater friends from college. He can end up gaslighting a partner inadvertently because he just can’t– or stubbornly won’t– understand his partner’s concern over his choice of company. And stuff like that.

      I wasn’t raised religious but my mother loved to quote the bible for fun. Her favorite quote for dealing with nice-but-not-nice-enough people was “Thou runneth neither hot nor cold but lukewarm and I shall spit thee out.” By that token, a loyal, consistent type with life experiences that have made them insightful about themselves, other people and life in general is the definition of “hot.”

      So I would imagine your stock runs high for people with the same character. You’re also probably unfortunately a mark for Cluster B types who aren’t able to make up their minds between hoping to find a nice guy who might magically “change them” or going with the skeevy double of their rotten dads (so they often do both at the same time). I think it takes time to see through the “mirroring” behavior of scam-artists like the latter and I suspect she-FWs are even better at pulling the wool than male FWs because of that helpless cuddly dumpling act that female predators put on. But there are a lot of good honest souls out there looking for other good honest souls.

      • Unfortunately, I married and lived with a diagnosed Narc, it finally hit me when the counselor we were with mutually said “she’s a black hole, no amount of validation or empathy you gave would be enough for her”. It really brought me out of the fog.

        • You may have dodged a bullet if the counselor saw through her and she didn’t manage to get the latter to triangulate against you. That seems to be a common tactic with narcissists– weaponizing therapists.

          • She was awesome, she cut through the BS. My ex stopped counseling with her because I think she held her to account and found someone else, even after singing her praises prior to all this. She was a tough, but fair counselor. Picture a mid-70s chain smoker who’s been counseling for over 40 years. She passed this year, and the world lost a great soul.

            • I have a place in my heart for grittily earnest, chain-smoking latter day intellectual types. My parents had friends like that– a disappearing romantic breed. They’re usually the sons and daughters of war or turmoil that ended up making the stakes clearer but the smoking reveals the scars. RIP to your amazing therapist.

  • I firmly believe that the newly “devastated” should wait a good couple years before they jump back into the dating world. But I also know that society believes and sort of encourages you to “get back out there” and find the right person (like another person is the ONLY answer to your ever being happy again!). Being 7 years out from final D day/death of FW-time alone has really given me better vision and an understanding of myself.

    I did date (long distance-it worked as he was a teenage friend/recent chump himself who had the ability to fly into see me monthly) right out of the gate…looking back at that 9 months, I sort of view him as a “pressure dressing” to keep my heart from bleeding to death! Didn’t work out, we still text on occasion-he’s remarried but I get the feeling that might not be going so well as he really didn’t ever spend any time alone to “let things settle”. I also did the online dating thing some, went out with a couple of them like 5-6x..nice guys, just not enough there for me to feel like I wanted to let them into my world. Haven’t been back online or had a date any other way in 2 years-that’s fine.

    Maybe going thru menopause a few years ago has also made me “meh” about relationships!! I have a cute little rechargable “boyfriend” that is there when I need him. And I sleep like the dead without a snorer in bed with me. Also sleep well and have no anxiety issues anymore as I supplement daily with magnesium. Check it out people-it might help y’all out more than you think! Honestly? I also don’t want to put the energy and time into dating-that sounds horrible but it’s the truth. I have a good life now and have absolutely no intention of screwing it up with the wrong guy-I’

    Being ok with doing things alone is something that just takes some time. But once you get OK being alone, you have much clearer vision people. Trust me on that one! I’m not ruling out another relationship in the future, but I’m not going to make it the sole quest of my life (like some folks do, which always just kind of breaks my heart-desperation isn’t a good look).

    • Not having a snorer next to you is everything, IATC. I also find the desperation some people have to find a mate sad to see. I agree with your comments.

      I get most of my magnesium from epsom salts baths. Magnesium is better absorbed through the skin than the gut. There’s nothing like a hot bath in epsom salts for relaxation, too. Add essential oils (not artifical fragrances, they’re toxic) and you can feel almost like you’ve been transported to a hot spring in the wilderness. If you can afford it, magnesium chloride salts are more effective than the standard magnesium sulfate.
      Some people swear by magnesium sprays and creams as well.

    • “And I sleep like the dead without a snorer in bed with me…Honestly? I also don’t want to put the energy and time into dating-that sounds horrible but it’s the truth. I have a good life now and have absolutely no intention of screwing it up with the wrong guy”

      I feel exactly the same. I don’t want anyone in my bed! I love sleeping alone. It’s so nice after being with restless sleeper who snored and got up 5X a night to pee, but would scream at me if I so much as moved a muscle. He sweated like a pig, too, so our bed was always gross. Mine is so clean now.

      I’d rather spend my time reading, or working on my house (MY house, which I bought, by MYSELF), or gardening, or playing with my kid, than on dating a bunch of guys (or girls, I’m not picky), most of whom will either be awful or won’t go anywhere, or won’t be my type, or whatever. I hate small talk. I hate all the “get to know you” stuff. FW and I had been friends for three years before we started dating, and he was my first and only romantic partner, so I never really dated anyone that I didn’t already know (other than one awkward date with another guy). I’m 43 and to start dating now… Ugh. Not worth it.

      But even if I did, I don’t think I’d ever live with someone again. I LOVE having my own space. We can be neighbors and visit sometimes.

  • Wow did this post stir up a lot of thoughts so please forgive the length of this. I have a different potential take. Maybe FKA’s PTSD reaction pre-and-post breakup with the partner of 8 months weren’t just “baggage” based on negative past experience but new and far more finely calibrated intuitions about that new guy?

    Maybe the gut instinct wasn’t that this guy was a dangerous creep but perhaps a signal that he wasn’t quite good or decent enough to be truly on par with someone whose bar for character had been (wisely and rightly) raised by traumatic experience. But I’d still probably argue that if the reactions to this last guy felt like “trauma flashbacks,” there’s a chance the guy was a covert “sleeper” abuser. Without seeing the actual evidence of this, FKA could be left feeling confused or doubting her feelings. I’m bringing this up because, if I were to oversimplify the reason I ended up married to a FW for more than 20 years, it was because I ascribed certain initial flutters of negative intuition about him to lingering “PTSD” from the workplace stalker I’d prosecuted just before I met FW.

    As it happens, the negative intuitions I’d had about FW were spot on. But there were several things that prevented me from trusting those intuitions, mainly, of course, that he, like a lot of coercively controlling people, talked a great game and could mirror like a pro for extended lengths of time. Secondly, there was a very pervasive victim-disparaging cultural message at the time that victims are damaged goods and necessarily “clouded by trauma” and, by extension, it’s not possible survivors have gained certain super powers or value from traumatic experiences like amped-up more accurate intuition. Another point of confusion is that I wasn’t raised religious and grew up in a hyper-rationalist culture so I really had no framework to understand my newly amped-up intuitions and that they might be an extreme early warning system based on intangible cues and coming in forms like weird dreams or body sensations. The flashes were so uncanny they were almost on the level of magical realism. Back then, those feelings would mostly be contextualized as “religious visions” or psychic network nonsense. In other words, the almost “magic” quality of my new intuitive superpower clashed with modern, run-of-the-mill rationalist concepts of how the mind works and I risked sounding nuts if I tried to explain to anyone what I was feeling and sensing. Consequently, when I continued PTSD therapy during the first year of marriage, I kept ascribing a lot of the bad “uh oh” feelings I was having towards FW to “echoes of the past.” The therapist, as well-meaning as he was, missed a chance to help me consider that the feelings I had were actually based on the present.

    Then there was the fact that, at that time, the bar for domestic abuse was set in hell– violence, broken bones, attempted murder– and I wasn’t getting “violent” vibes from FW so what was I complaining about? There was little understanding of coercive control back then. And finally ,there’s the infamous “protection racket” effect for people emerging from violent experience. Statistically, women (in particular) who’ve been victimized once face a 50% risk of falling prey to another abuser because the increased fear of being alone and the need for a body guard make them sitting ducks for someone playing “rescuer”– the pose that the worst abusers always take. The latter risk is intensified by the fact that a lot of “nice guys” (and “nice people” in general) really aren’t nice enough and tend to have a biased view of women who’ve had traumatic experience as “damaged goods” or “having too much mileage.” Nice-but-not-nice-enough people might react somewhat squeamishly if a woman opened up about previous violent experience and also might be rattled by a survivor’s increased sensitivity to issues of gender equity and social justice. This gives an advantage to faux-ally types whose mirroring and faked empathy can shine in comparison to your average Joe who hasn’t quite worked out his own stance on patriarchal values, has led a pretty sheltered life himself and, rather than rising to the occasion, might dismiss a survivor’s raised bar as “having issues.”

    I’ve learned a lot and my perspective and world view have changed since then. For one, I’ve had all kind of experiences that have proven my amped-up intuitions following past violent experience are dead accurate in many cases. For example, without knowing how I knew, once when I walked into a meditation center, I took one look at the framed photo of the famous new age meditation guru and knew the guy was a serial pedophile. Ten years later, he was in all the headlines for raping countless children. Another time I wrote down the license plate of some older white guy who was hanging around a children’s softball game in the park. I’ve never been a “Karen” who flips out in suspicion over random bystanders. The guy just looked “wrong” and my autonomic nervous system went slightly haywire. Two months later, I read a report in the paper of an attempted child abduction describing exactly the same guy I’d seen, even wearing exactly the same clothes. I called police and said “For what it’s worth…” and offered the plate number. I read later that he was captured and convicted based on victims’ ID and other evidence. I never testified because there was nothing I could testify to. Another time, while pregnant, I was racked with creepy feelings about a particular boss who, 12 years later, was in international headlines for allegedly raping a dozen women. I felt exonerated for quitting that job.

    In all the years since I was stalked and assaulted and escaped attempted rape, I can’t remember a single instance when I had that heart-pounding, sweaty-palmed, teeth-gritting, serial-bad-dream reaction to some benign and innocent person. At most the traumatic experience made me a little shy or nervous or discerning when meeting new people but nothing even close to “acid-flashback” level. That’s because if there was any “flashback,” it was remembering a certain psychic/intangible “smell” because I was being currently reminded of it by someone who had a similar “smell,” that’s all. My nervous system simply kicked in to remind me in no uncertain terms what the smell meant: “Danger, danger.”

    It took a long time to trust those flashes but I eventually started to and I can point to times that reaction probably saved my kids in certain ways. But it was kind of like having a third arm at first. A third arm might be able to bench press a thousand pounds but off-the-rack clothes don’t fit and you feel like a freak at cocktail parties. But the more those “flashes” of intuition proved accurate, the more I started getting mad at all the disinformation and spin that made me second guess this incredibly valuable radar system. I learned to say “screw the hyper-rationalists”. Chris Hedges book, “When Atheism Becomes Religion,” isn’t a pan of atheism or a plug of theism but about the new rationalist cult of “fundamentalist scientism” (which, since Hedges wrote the book, has emerged as a monetized, all-purpose front group for multiple industries like arms, oil, chemical, etc.) which, for one thing, disparages and denies the existence of human intuition. Hedges’ main point is that our conscious minds aren’t smart enough to fully understand how our own brains and psyches work. Hedges doesn’t mention the “quantum brain” theory of Roger Penrose (Nobel laureate in physics) but the argument is along the same lines. Sometimes we know and sense things without rational evidence and, rather than dismissing those flashes out of hand, it may be worth investigating whether these intuitions arise from fear and bias or from “supra-rational” intuition that our conscious monkey brains don’t quite grasp.

    Another update: Rather than viewing myself or any true survivor as “damaged goods,” I’m now a bit of a snob about it. The only “damaged goods” are “non-survivors”– people who internalized the worst of what was done to them and become as evil and sketchy as the perpetrators who originally traumatized them. The latter are the abusers or “trauma zombies” and those are also the people who tend to constantly mistake internally driven fears and biases for “fact” as they go around projecting their own skeezy characters on the innocent. In other words, those who are not abusers who internalized past abuse and end up victimizing others have more reason to trust their intuitions. One exception might be some harmlessly delusional person with some inflammatory brain disorder but most average, innocent, functioning people should heed their alarm bells– at least check out whether there’s some fire behind that smoke.

    The good news is that the more we learn to interpret and trust our intuitions (at least enough to investigate the smoke), the less painful and disruptive those periodic “flashes” become. They’re still “clear” but not so cataclysmic that they threaten health. There’s even a wonderful theory in psychoanalysis by a 20th century shrink named Kazimierz Dabrowski called “Positive Disintegration” (look up Wikipedia article on it for intro) about how those who allow themselves to heed intuition and value their sensitivities can eventually evolve into truly stable and integrated people.

    I think it’s true that true survivors can be wiser, generally better company and very constructive in a social sense. I have a soft spot for very naive, sweet and sheltered people– like children– who believe the world is a beautiful place. I want to protect their innocence. But for close company and support, I especially value true survivors. Studies have shown that, for instance, many Holocaust survivors ended up with an increased sense of empathy, social justice and joy over the small and simple wonders of existence. And look at history and who the main pioneers of humanist progress and deeper truths have been: survivors (of whatever). Who have always been the main people calling attention to, say, the dangers of toxic dumping or dangerous pharmaceutical drugs or the early signs of a dangerous political regime? Survivors.

    Sweet, beatific, naive people are one thing but this is far different than stubbornly sheltered denialists who’ve developed Calvinist defenses for their denial of reality and their view that their lives are good because God loves them more. I really don’t have much use for the latter. Unfortunately, well-to-do white people from first world countries who are living in a rare and buffered period of history that promotes an attitude of exceptionalism are those with the power and platforms to create concepts of “normal.” The problem is that what constitutes an abnormal, outrageous traumatic experience to an exceptionalist, stubbornly-sheltered westerner might be “last Tuesday” for a lot of the world. The more I’ve traveled and lived in other countries, the more I’ve noticed how different the dialogue about trauma can be. For instance, living for a time in a South American country that’s still recovering from a string of past violent dictatorships that claimed so many victims and such a wide range of victims that it’s left a national impression that “bad things can happen to good people.” The fact that some former victims have risen to positions of national authority and politics has removed the sense that victims are all pathetic and clouded and were probably weak sisters to begin who “attracted” misfortune. I have a feeling this is why conversations with average people can veer quite casually into discussions of all sorts of harsh experiences, get passionate and emotional for a minute, then, when everyone has “pinged” off the others and is reassured they’re in understanding company, the conversations swing back to something unserious and everyone is laughing. It’s so wonderful to not feel like traumatic experience makes us freaks and to even feel like it gives us value and more points of bonding with others. This is why I suspect it’s easier to recover in environments where the basic tenets of survival are more widely understood and harder to recover from trauma in artificially sheltered societies which view traumatic experience as damaging baggage and where people have the luxury of the Calvinist view that bad things only happen to defective, weak or bad people.

    This is all a long way of saying that maybe FKA’s radar isn’t “damaged” but “upgraded.” I would never thank trauma and evil for improving our intuition since I think most of us could have eventually learned that wisdom from books and listening to other people. Screw the evil “teachers.” But I think relatively innocent, decent people can stand in awe of our amazing human survival mechanisms, faculties and ability to adapt and maybe just give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that, if we’re smelling “smoke,” it might not be just from “past fires.” Just food for thought.

    • Hell of a Chump, I love your posts and this one really resonates with me. Thank you.

    • “This gives an advantage to faux-ally types whose mirroring and faked empathy can shine in comparison to your average Joe who hasn’t quite worked out his own stance on patriarchal values, has led a pretty sheltered life himself and, rather than rising to the occasion, might dismiss a survivor’s raised bar as “having issues.”” This was my FW to a T. OW JUMPED at him, because FW was all sympathetic to her stories about her abusive (really just an asshole, from what I’ve heard) husband.

      As far as intuition – I’m now an atheist, after having left the evangelicalism I was raised in about 20 years ago. However, I do think there are some “instinctual” things beyond the rational mind (really, how could there not be?
      Animals have instincts, why not us?). FW gaslit me for a long time and I didn’t trust my gut, but I still had those flashes of intuition. And it was SO validating for me to later find out that EVERY SINGLE ONE had been 100% correct. Every time. And so I have learned to trust my intuition again, and react to the “vibes” I get from people. It’s been a journey. I do think, if you take the time to process it, trauma can ceratinly bring a more refined awareness. We need to trust it and not brush it off as trauma lingering from the past.

  • I’m definitely a bit damaged. I just don’t attach anymore. I leave after the most minor of red flags. It’s like I went from not leaving at serious major red flags to leaving if I don’t like how someone is breathing today. I don’t even feel anything when I do leave. I just forget them. It’s messed up. I do prefer this to former chumpy people pleaser me but I worry that I’ve become the problem now. I’m so much more popular now than I was before my first marriage. I don’t know how to feel about it.

    • AmItheProblem–

      Do you remember how CL loves to repeat that Merlin quote about how the only answer to the things that nearly destroy us is to learn everything we can from those experiences because that knowledge is something that can never be taken away? I would recommend giving yourself permission to “study”– in a deep, call it “intellectual” way– human evil vs. human good and everything related– psychology, criminology, etc. Whatever relates to your experience is your playing field and your rightful territory. You are allowed to be the “expert” of your own experience.

      The reason I suggest this is because it helped me to make my reservations about people more “surgical” and specific instead of writing off the whole species which I felt like I was on the verge of doing at certain points in my life. Overgeneralizing evil to the whole species is an understandable reaction that I totally relate to. If the person closest to you stabs you in the back a thousand times, it feels like it might be time to throw in the towel and stop hoping that anyone might have principles or be trustworthy. But if you start to look into issues of “red flags” in behavior and the backgrounds and psychology of different types of people, suddenly differences start to stand out very strongly. It can increase our ability to trust our own judgment in determining whether another person is safe or unsafe. This isn’t a contradiction of CL’s recommendation to avoid “untangling the skein of fuckedupedness” in abusers in order to “fix” them. It’s not about fixing shitty people but just in creating a system to determine whether other people are “good witches” or “bad witches.” It’s about “fixing the picker.”

      Since I’m one generation away from working class immigrant background on my father’s side, I know there’s a kind of prohibition about us “regular folks” delving into social science or thinking we can grasp those “big ideas” and statistics. Like what right do we have? We’re not the elite brainiacs! How can we ever understand that shit? But, in my experience, no one understands that stuff better than “regular people.” And we do absolutely have a right to “delve” because science and statistics are political. Science and “intellechull” concepts often form policy and law which gives all of us a right to inspect these things and weigh them. When I worked as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, I saw flashes of pure genius from people with only seventh grade educations or who were from regular workaday backgrounds. The learning curve of survivors of trauma who are trying to save themselves and their children or grandchildren is much faster than for less experienced people. Trust it. Experience is a superpower.

      One place to start is to study the weird world of clinical narcissism. It’s sort of a broad heading but it’s a popular subject for dissection so there’s some interesting things emerging from it, I’ve been really impressed with the work of “Dr. Ramani,” an online psychologist with a popular Youtube channel. Just Google her name + “narcissism” and then click her channel for all past segments. Since all her segments pretty much end with “dump that asshole,” I don’t think it’s about “untangling skeins to fix the poor abuser” but about understanding the face of evil the better to distinguish decent and innocent people from awful and abusive people.

      • Good post again HOAC, as usual. You’ve such a lot of insight, experience and wisdom to share, thank you!
        I follow Dr. Ramani among others and due to their info ad reading up on how cocaine changes the way the brain works, have come to the conclusion that my STBXH has indeed developed Cluster B personality traits to the point of becoming personality disordered. I also have come to suspect he was already high in traits of what is called “vulnerable narcissism” although not to PD level, so it’s no wonder he’s become as toxic as he has, what with that and the serious, unhealed childhood trauma and his toxic FOO. I find this knowledge is helping me get it all in perspective, come to terms with the inevitability of it, and that it’s nothing to do with me! He’d have gone haywire eventually no matter what. I’ve not so much been untangling his skein as empowering myself as knowledge IS power and it’s information that wins wars!
        I am intent on winning, not in terms of annihilating him ( he seems hell-bent on doing that to himself!), but in terms of empowering and healing myself!

        • Thank you, Shadow. I agree. I think it’s mostly “untangling” when we’re in the stage of trying to “fix” abusers– like trying to defuse a bomb when you’re locked in a cell with it and don’t know how to get out. But for survivors bent on escape or who’ve already jumped ship, it can empowering to pin their perps to slides and study them like bugs. It’s not just a punkish way of turning the tables (admittedly fun, especially because abusers and their apologists typically weaponize therapeutic language against victims. Hah, take that, shitheads) but, like you said, it restores perspective. One therapist I knew said abuse is primarily a form of “perspecticide” so restoring perspective would logically be a huge part of recovery. It also (again) helps survivors identify abusers with more accuracy the better to avoid them going forward, avoid more trauma and avoid overgeneralizing danger to non-dangerous people. The latter also addresses and corrects a major remnant of abusers’ “perspecticide” since their warped world view is that decency doesn’t exist and can’t survive in this world leaving “kill or be killed” tactics as the morally justifiable (to abusers twisted minds) option on top of abusers’ favorite stun-gun message that victims will “have nowhere to go” to ever find love or help or safety again. Oh yeah? Well that doesn’t seem so true when people gain the skills to identify these assholes from a thousand paces and distinguish them clearly from good eggs.

          By the same token, I think there’s another, maybe subtler empowering aspect to survivors feeling deputized to delve into the “annals of abuse” (subtract one “n” and you have Perelism and all the victim-blaming junk science lol)– that there are all these cutting edge researchers with fancy posts and clout and degrees who lead their fields all while daring to square off with the league of abusers. The reassurance isn’t intellectual but way more primal: victims get the message that the “La Resistance” is out there, on their sides and, furthermore, thriving. Survivors might conclude that they themselves have a better chance of making it through life with all those ass-kickers roaming around like honey-badger-don’t-give-a-shit. I think that’s because what mostly gets in survivors’ ways isn’t so much “low self esteem” following trauma but lingering poor esteem for the world so that’s a major “abuser perspective remnant” to correct in every way possible.

          • “But for survivors bent on escape or who’ve already jumped ship, it can empowering to pin their perps to slides and study them like bugs.”

            HAHA. But seriously, it help me to heal SO MUCH when I started researching narcissism (Dr. Ramani is a favorite). It did give me persepective and helped me stop blaming myself. It also really helped me be prepared when dealing with him during custody. It was like studying some form of wildlife. I’d send a message about some parenting thing, like scheduling, and sit back and watch, and be like “and here we see the narcissist throw a temper tantrum because you did not take the bait when they insulted you” and the like. To view it with detachment and let it roll of me like water off a duck’s back. It wasn’t done with any thought of fixing him or helping him. Quite the opposite. It made me realized there was no fixing him. And that allowed me to walk away (emotionally – he’d dumped me so I wasn’t physically with him, but I remained emotionally attached for quite some time). He died two years ago, and I honestly don’t feel any grief for him, and have not the smallest bit of love left. While I did cry initially on finding out he was dead, it was more for my child’s sake. But for myself, my overwhelming feeling was RELIEF. The abuse was over and I could breathe.

            • “Like watching some form of wildlife…” LOLOLOLOLOL We all become Richard Attenborough!

              [whispering] “And now… in the darkness… from behind the fronds of the tochodendrun, we hear the grunts of the spotted fuckwit at a distance of three or four yards… These are not yet aggressive grunts but they are quite enough to chill the blood in the blackness of the night…”

              I’m so glad you’re free.

  • I had a long-term and a short-term marriage. I was young when I first married. I did not wait long enough to re-marry. I did not think about why I was getting married, I just believed I “should” be married. All of the mistakes I made when I was young, and when I was married, were related to my concept of who I “should” be, and what I “could” tolerate. The sad story for me is that I never observed a happy marriage. I had no expectations of being happy, long term. If I was sexually compatible (I didn’t know about the sexual basement, or even imagine it) I was content.

    The strange thing is that I was raised in a repressive, mostly misogynistic environment, but I was able to be independent and think outside the “box” I was raised in. I think it was because I was an avid reader and spent a lot of time thinking about the different ideas and cultures I learned about while reading. Since reading is a solitary and quiet activity, no one ever thought to question the danger of the revolution that was happening in my brain.

    When I finally was able to declare independence, and leave my parent’s home, I started a very long journey to my true independence. I fought many battles against the “should” culture I was raised in. After the last divorce, something in me started forming a different self from the self I was raised to be. My attitude toward men changed.

    It is important to note I had already had children, worked, earned my degrees, while this quiet revolution was going on. My needs had definitely changed from the needs I had as a young woman. I am in the last chapter of my life now, and I do not need a man for anything. Men tend to find this disconcerting. The last man I did try to date did not like it at all. He said “I thought you would change, and start to need me, but you haven’t.” I thought that was a good thing, but obviously he wanted me to become dependent because he thought that was what I “should” do. I tried dating sites, but I found it to be too much work to sift thru the liars and predators. I hope it can work for some people, but I decided it just was not worth it for me.

    Now, I am not dating. I go out with a group of friends, usually for music. I am more friendly with women, most of us have had some common experience. Most of the men I know are just not attractive to me in that tingly, I want to date you way. Maybe I will never tingle again? Most of the men I know are unavailable anyway. I just know whether or not I am physically attracted almost instantly, and that there must be something more beyond the attraction for me to even consider another relationship at my age. When men do approach me, and I know I am not interested I just tell them I do not date. I have been there and done that and don’t want to do it again. They can think whatever they need to think, but I am kind about it. I am willing to take any “blame” they may assign, because I really don’t care what they think. It is nice to know they still find me attractive, or perhaps they still perceive that I may be useful? Who knows? But clearly, my needs have changed, and I do what I want to do without worrying about what my culture tells me I “should” do.

    I do not believe there is any quick fix to get over the damage done when you have been chumped. You have to find your own path to MEH, and you have to believe you are worth any struggle necessary for you to be happy.

    • “My needs had definitely changed from the needs I had as a young woman. I am in the last chapter of my life now, and I do not need a man for anything. Men tend to find this disconcerting. The last man I did try to date did not like it at all. He said ‘I thought you would change, and start to need me, but you haven’t.'”

      This is a real test for anyone. My first therapist said that one requirement for a relationship in his view was not “needing” one and not “needing” the other person. It’s quite another thing to “want” someone in your life rather than “need” him or her.

      [I hope this is posted. I was on Safari and for some reason it was marked as “spam.]

  • I was thinking I’d never date, but a friend of mine (a pastor who is also a licensed therapist) mentioned a friend of his who had been widowed earlier this year after forty years of marriage. This guy apparently cared for his wife through several years of cancer and is a solid individual that my friend has known for 35 years. Apparently, my friend mentioned it to his friend because the guy has started making an effort to talk to me and is in the same twelve-step group I go to, working on his grief. I think he’s a possibility. I’m intrigued.

  • I can imagine a break-up, even a respectful one, might bring back some of those feelings. I’m staying single because I just don’t have much interest in, or patience for, a relationship. For the first year after Dday, I was determined to know what reciprocal love was like. But as I healed, I started to lose that desire. I now feel at peace with not experiencing that. There are a lot of things I haven’t experienced, and that’s okay.

    CL is right that you have to be okay with being single before getting into a relationship. You can’t be thinking you’re doomed unless you have a partner. That’s when you lower your standards and ignore red flags. So I’d say resist the cultural pressure to be coupled up. If it’s only sex you want, and the do it yourself option isn’t working for you, sex is easy enough to get. You can find yourself a fuck buddy. Just remember that there’s no guarantee you won’t catch something. Even condoms aren’t that effective for preventing HPV and herpes.

    As it happens, I just got hit on yesterday at the beach. Some guy used the pretext that he wanted advice about where to find good swim shoes, and to warn me repeatedly about clam shells. He didn’t believe me when I told him my feet were so toughened by running that the shells don’t cut me. Maybe my heart, as far as romantic attachments are concerned, is the same as my feet. I don’t know. All I know is I wasn’t even flattered at the interest and couldn’t wait to get rid of him. I had a lovely swim while the forlorn guy watched me from the shore. I don’t want to be that sad person watching the world go by, waiting for somebody else to provide them with happiness. I relish opportunities to enjoy my freedom. If I want to go to the beach, I don’t have to consult a mate or ask him if he wants to go with me. I don’t have to help him with his swim shoes or listen to him complain about clam shells. After 30+ years of living with a manbaby, that is priceless.

    • ” I relish opportunities to enjoy my freedom. If I want to go to the beach, I don’t have to consult a mate or ask him if he wants to go with me. I don’t have to help him with his swim shoes or listen to him complain about clam shells. After 30+ years of living with a manbaby, that is priceless.”

      YES. I love this. This is the best part of being single.

  • this was such a great question, and of course all the answers, pointers, help by CL are worth rereading, rereading again then saving for daily reference.

    I’m 3 yrs 3 months past dd. I did date, become involved with someone I already knew. For sure I was guarded, but thinking back I’m sure my gut was sensing what my brain/heart couldn’t. Had I asked myself if this, him, was acceptable to me I would have said this isn’t working for me and moved on. But I didn’t do that. Fast forward a little more then a yr I find out he’s just another fw. The next was someone who said just friends, go slow, see where it goes yadda yadda yadda. He couldn’t last 3 months as friends dating and getting to know each other and grey rocked me. Whatever. The 3rd and last was another piece of work, who says he’ll never hurt me, goes on about how we’re all damaged etc, then in his words he got caught by his ex when coming up to my place to visit. She messages me to let me know he was up here and did I know they had been talking a lot and had a tea date. I don’t need that shit.

    I’m going to be 61, I’m at the point where I just can’t be bothered with the bs. I seem to be a magnet for fw’s. I’m doing my own thing, enjoying (somewhat) my own space. However, I am struggling with depression, existential crisis, eco crisis and really feel hopeless, (almost) nihalistic. I’m not in the right head space to be in a relationship but I am getting some limited help.

    I came across this yesterday and find important for my process:

    “The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it is not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of the other person—without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other. ~Osho

    (Book: The Power of Love)
    I’ve also learned in my process that the ‘love’ expressed by these fw’s has always been conditional. That’s not love but manipulation and for some reason I think I have this idea I can accept this, but I can not.

    • “The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love.”

      So true. In fact I think for me and maybe many others that is how my first marriage lasted so long. I spent a lot of time alone, since we also spent good times together and he always had the excuse of so much work; I didn’t put any nefarious reasons to it. But, I never had any trouble being alone. Reading, working in the house, of course in the early years childcare; but once he reached middle school, well just more time for me.

      He of course took full advantage of that, but still I am ok with me.

  • i’m 58 and, frankly, i find men my age weird. they’re angry, mansplain, and say weird shit. and strangely silent. for example, i was out and about doing my thing and whistling. it was a good day, you know? the sun was shining. i was feeling competent. some guy with a bad dye job walks up to me and says, “you know, women aren’t supposed to whistle.”

    i laughed. and said, “what a weird thing to say to me.” i whistled and went on my way.


    i just do my own thing. i go to therapy and exercise and eat well and love my family and friends. that’s enough for me. i don’t have the bandwidth for men. they’re inscrutable creatures with fantasy lives, and i don’t know if i want to know anymore.

    • I have also noticed this generational thing – some sort of a line in the sand. Somewhere between 1960 and 1970, little boys were allowed to become something besides John Wayne. My dating sample pool is small, but this is intriguing to me. And sadly, I’m in the John Wayne’s target pool. Especially since most of them believe they are entitled to a wife ten years younger, no matter if they have the physical or mental health to be a full partner. It’s a sense of entitlement. And seems to generally be a more bigoted and closed definition of who they should be attracting and what that person should want to provide for them in a relationship.

      The younger group, I think, would be open to dating an older woman but they just don’t think to open up their online dating profile search parameters. I can understand why they could be hesitant. But, I think they’re missing something that could be a great match.

      We all age very, very differently.

      • So many men lie about their age on their dating profile. They list their birthday so as to appear 41, but in the profile say, “BTW, 46 can’t change it.” Um, that’s because you lied so you would be included in younger women’s age preferences.
        At least they reveal themselves as liars right out the gate so I can immediately swipe left, but still, bleh!

  • OK so I got MARRIED 3 years after my first D day. My #2 man had been chumped himself so though it took Years to get solid and trust each other, it worked for us for many years. I’d have a chump flash back, he did too. We healed together over several years. Until my chumped spouse decided to have several affairs in the dark and yes he fooled me. Chumping me again! Chumped by a chump!! I filed quickly because my XH knew better than any living human being alive,how much this had destroyed me before. He said he was just teaching me a lesson on his needs that’s all. So yes, chumped x2. Still we had great years and fun times. Joyful trips, bed and breakfasts, great meals out. Raised his kids and my kids. So the last three years of horror and pick me dancing( unknown by me) taught me enough to take hit #2. I am so grateful to be independent and in my own apartment. I am so very grateful to have had many good years before the years of terror. I know I can leave someone and I know how to file. I know how to get a prenup and legal protection from abuse. I know good lawyers, good therapists and good friends. I do hope the life living classes I have taken via sick partners will keep me safer in my future. Men will be just dessert for me from now on. Have you ever been to a restaurant and they bring out those platters of pastries and chocolate fudge volcanos and cookies that are 8 inches? Well you look that tray over and say yes or no. Pick and choose..PTSD does not last forever and I can cope with whatever life brings me after the nightmares have subsided.Each healthy choice I make keeps me strong, not weak. But I must be able to live without dessert if necessary and say no. I must hear my voice saying, never again.

  • It’s been five and a half years since I left, almost five years since the divorce was final. For three of those years I was focused on my declining mother, who died last September, and in the time since then I’ve been grieving and taking care of her estate. I am not healed from the demise of my marriage, because I moved almost directly from divorce to focusing on my mom.
    Right now, I am playing catch-up on a life I put on hold for three years. Just this week I arranged to buy a house from a colleague who is moving. It’s a 1920s bungalow, lots of hardwoods and woodwork, well kept and with a wonderful garden, in a small hidden neighborhood where several other friends live. Just this week a stray cat came into my life–my last cat died a dozen years ago, and a cat was high on the list of things I have wanted to do (pretty much right after “buy a house” in fact). Just last night I learned from my son that my closeted ex finally told our son about his secret life (he thought my son already knew, and according to my son was nonplussed when he realized he’d spilled the beans).
    I am nowhere near ready to even entertain the thought of another relationship. I have an estate to settle (and my mom’s condo to sell), a cat to bond with, writing to do, places to see, with trails to walk, a picker to fix (mine is seriously skewed), and a life to build. I will never date, in the sense of actively looking. I never even dated when I was single, before my 35 year marriage. All my relationships arose spontaneously, from people I met in classes in college or at work (I met the ex at work). I doubt I will find someone serendipitously in the future, but if a “spend time together doing things” relationship should happen, ok. But I don’t want ever to be married again.

  • This post is semi-triggering for me. Not really, and I do think it is a great topic. But it’s making me think about things I don’t want to.

    I am in the beginning stages. FW is moving out soon. It’s been years in the making. The AP is out of the picture. He is going to start dating immediately. (Well as immediately as he can find someone to date, and it will not take long, he’s already perusing the dating sites and cleans up well) In the meantime, I, the chumped, have no desire to date..ever. I recognize that even if I was extremely interested in doing so, now is not the time. I need to heal after 2 decades of ick . And I very much look forward to that journey, of healing myself. But there is a very non-meh part of me that is incredibly irked that he gets to see this split as a fun time when he can sow all those oats and date in the OPEN. We are splitting up belongings, and are doing so amicably, but for me, it’s a semi-painful chore, and for him, it’s getting his shiny new sex pad ready for the fun times.

    I know that I need to just re-focus. None of that is my concern. I have plenty to worry about other than where his dick will go next. I should be rejoicing that it’s not up to me to keep track of it anymore. I know all of this so well. But it’s sticking in my craw that he will walk out of this with a healthy desire to find romance, and I am left feeling like my entire sexuality got shipped off to Alaska. I also am forgetting to trust they suck.

    I think I am having a momentary relapse into “but what if he goes on to be the best HIM for someone else?” Spoiler alert- he won’t. They never do. This board is full of chumps that can give me 10000 examples of them NOT doing it. And even if a miracle occurred and he did do a 180 and become a wonderful, loyal, kind man for the next woman, so what? I have to move forward based on reality. Reality shows that he is not a loyal and kind man to ME. I can’t stay here and hope for a miracle. He has shown ME the lesser quality version of himself and I need to base my choices on THAT very real version that has been presented to me for 20 years. I need to stop worrying about the great guy that could suddenly pop out of nowhere that someone else will “get”. In the meantime, that someone else is not going to be the AP, it will be some innocent woman that shows up. So if she gets a great guy, good for her. I think today has just been a bad day for me. I will get my head straight again. Thanks for listening to my TedTalk.

    • “But it’s sticking in my craw that he will walk out of this with a healthy desire to find romance, and I am left feeling like my entire sexuality got shipped off to Alaska.”

      There’s nothing healthy about his fantasy of a pussy buffet waiting for him. Somebody gleefully setting up a sex pad is not looking for romance, he’s looking to use women like toys.
      It is not healthy to take pleasure in the end of a marriage. He is not normal. Women are much more aware of narcissistic men now then when you first got together with FW, so I suspect he won’t do as well as he thinks. Even if he did, it wouldn’t fill the hole. Remember, you do not have a hole that can never be filled, so you win no matter how many notches are on his bedpost.

      • Well that helped! A lot. I have been doing really good at not wallowing in the icky stuff. I really have. Obviously, it hasn’t been perfect, I’ve had moments. But in general, I have been good at redirecting myself away from the thoughts that just don’t serve me. But the past few days, and today especially have just been rough for whatever reason. But you are right, there is nothing healthy about his attitude here. It’s just more of the same entitlement. His desire for illicit sex is what landed him in this mess and he is going to just continue that unhealthy pattern. Thank you for helping me see that.

        To be clear, he isn’t 100% gleeful. There are lots of sad sausage moments too. But I can see the undercurrent of excitement there “at certain angles” if you will. A new living space meant to impress, while I couldn’t get him to clean a single fork in 20 years.

        Ironically, feeling completely turned off of romance right now is probably a super healthy response. I am dealing with the fall out of decades of BS, why would anyone in their right mind be looking for love NOW?

    • I am also having that kind of day today, and I really appreciate what you’ve said.

      • I hope your day turns around. But if not, it’s ok to sometimes not feel so great about chumpdom. There’s nothing great about it.

    • SortOfOverIt, please give yourself some grace. FW is still there. He may be moving out soon, but while you still have to deal with him, he will take up real estate in your head. Once he’s out and everything is split and separate… THEN you can breathe fully. And you’ll get to meh. And as you said, you can rest assured that the shitty person he is will remain the shitty person he is no matter who he’s with. No one will win any prizes if that date that FW — they’ll all be victims of his crap. But first — let’s get that FW out of your life.

      Turn this into a better day. Do something nice for yourself. Call a friend and laugh. Or just go take a walk and remind yourself that you’re nearly free 🙂

    • Sortofoverit: What you write about made me think of this Ramani segment.

      It also reminds of this episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk gets trapped on a weird planet with a giant, pulsating, malevolent brain that gradually sucks out Kirk’s identity. Of course Shatner has this Shakespearean scene where he falls to his knees and stutters out something like, “Losing… my memories… and my… sense of self…I… don’t…know…who…I…am!” Then Scotty beams him up or something and Kirk’s consciousness is restored.

      Just remember you’re still not quite off Planet FW. He’s still pulsating malevolently in close enough proximity to you to keep sucking out your perspective and replace it with his twisted, nihilistic FW world view. All the rest of the world can see is a beautiful but psychically exhausted woman with character and endless possibilities finally getting free of a ridiculous aging lothario whose grandiose delusions are about to crash headfirst into reality, get fleeced by a series of ticky-tacky hoochies with colder souls than his own and will likely die alone and pathetic in some old age facility with no one coming to visit him or else by the side of a slightly melted last conquest who can’t wait for him to finally croak.

      Of course you can’t see this yet. None of us can until Scotty beams us off Planet FW.

      • “All the rest of the world can see is a beautiful but psychically exhausted woman with character and endless possibilities finally getting free of a ridiculous aging lothario whose grandiose delusions are about to crash headfirst into reality, get fleeced by a series of ticky-tacky hoochies with colder souls than his own and will likely die alone and pathetic in some old age facility with no one coming to visit him or else by the side of a slightly melted last conquest who can’t wait for him to finally croak.” Perfect! Am chuckling.

    • I don’t understand the idea of FW being better for someone else. If he couldn’t be better for me, while I was doing 99% of the work, he sure as hell won’t be able to pull it off for someone else. I am sure of that. If he thinks this is his time for sexy fun happenings—good luck! It only means he’s an idiot. Being truly intimate and trusting with another person is a heavy lift. It’s not a walk in the park. I gave him the best chances for success and he still fucked it up! And that’s my two cents.;-)

      Chumps, you gave it your all and that’s why you’re so hurt. FWs gave it a half-assed try and that’s why they can move on so quickly. Believe me, you are the winner!!! You now have PEACE of mind.

    • My FW moved out a few days ago. Had to stop by for a paperwork exchange and when I saw his new apartment bedroom, new mattress, down pillows, cozy lamp I was weirdly envious and bereft — although I know his place will be porn and hooker central soon. I wanted him out but here I am dealing with the house, the extra bubble wrap, kid coming home from camp and about 20% of my former spending power. Guess the route is No Contact. Hang in there

      • Yes, hang in there like your life depends on it. Your perspective is going to radically change over time. You just spent too much time in mind-bending proximity to a radioactive fantasist. They’re so delusional that it’s hard to fight back against their delusions. We’re all human and it’s easy to fall for abuser’s tendency to channel most of their psychix energy into fueling their own delusions and image management (an actually measured, clinical observation). His fantasy of living like a well-hung, rippling twenty year old college stud bonking an endless series of supermodels is about to crash into a brick wall of heartless grifting whores, capped finances and the rigors of age for the psychologically unhealthy. But, by then, you’ll be at meh, onto a beautiful life and won’t bother to check up on him.

        • “is about to crash into a brick wall of heartless grifting whores, capped finances and the rigors of age for the psychologically unhealthy.”

          Yep the hotness of his whores will be directly related to how much cash he has to throw around. He better stock up on beer. They look better at closing time.

      • StandFast, I feel for you. I remember the ex joyfully telling me about his ‘luxury’ flat in a very smart part of London. ‘It’s got a pool and a gym’ he bragged. Followed by sad sausage face and ‘I really want you to see it’. I didn’t know about the affair with exgfOW at that point. All I knew was that I had been dumped after months of horrible discard and a lecture on my faults. My confidence was non-existent and I had lost 2 stones in 3 weeks. I remember staring straight at him and saying ‘why would I want to see your flat?’ Cue repeat of sad sausage face. The ex was glowing with joy about moving out. Ironically, lockdown hit 6 months later and he was stuck in his luxury, no outside space flat and wasn’t allowed to use the pool or gym during the 4 London lockdowns. The rent was also cripplingly high. Overall he looked like a stupid fool, which he is! I laughed about that as I enjoyed the suburbs and my large garden.

    • I reckon most of them can go hunting for strange on dating apps because they don’t see human beings, just things with bits to grope and holes to poke! Maybe , if the woman is gullible enough, she’s someone to fall for their sob-stories about how horrible WE were to them, how WE didn’t give them the lurve they needed, but no mention that they deprived US of what WE needed! They have little will to truly LOVE, so I doubt he’ll ever be truly content with anyone! As for their next victims, erm, I mean partners (Ahem!), the best of bloody luck to ’em! They’ll need it!
      Meanwhile, we chumps need to focus all our love, care and compassion on ourselves, any children we have and those who deserve it i.e. not FWs! I do get it that it sickening though! I still want to get some justice, that he’ll regret what he did to me, but I won’t care because I’ll be thriving without him!

  • I recommend reading or listening to What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing
    by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry. There’s so much to learn about how our lower brains store trauma and what is and is not helpful in recovery. The things I’m learning are giving me hope for resilience and wisdom and a future filled with all the best kinds of love.

  • I don’t want him to have power over my future. I thought I was going well and after 5 years I started dating and have been seeing him for 2 years all is going good until yesterday.
    I have been crying non stop. I am an Office Manager and had to deal with a Sexual Harrasment Complaint. It sent me back 22 years to when I was 7 months pregnant and my husband was being investigated and lost his job due to sexual harassment. I didn’t know then that is was not his first time being complained about (or his last) I made the excuse that people didn’t understand that he was on the spectrum and had trouble with social issues. It was a devastating time for me having just left my job to be a first time Mum comforting my husband through the allegations and job loss. 17 years later I realised that he knew exactly what he was doing and just not everyone was open to his advances!
    Back to now I confided with my supervisor and he handled the meetings etc but the tears just won’t stop. Is this PTSD? I don’t want to get out of bed today.

    • IDeserveBetter, it does sound like PTSD, or else (if you’re like me) just intense grieving about the troubles of the past. I’m sorry it’s so rough today. And I really hope that the pain passes soon. (What happens to me at times when there’s anything parallel to this is that the grieving can be surprisingly intense for a day or a few days, and then the wound kind of closes up again.) Sending hugs.

  • I was so angry right after my stbx left the house. Any man that talked to me, my immediate reaction was, I bet he’s cheating on his partner.

    My best friend said not all men are like my ex and my ex can’t take away my future as well as my past and encouraged me to start dating. I started just for fun and my perspective on men changed. Anyone that didn’t meet my standards, I texted and told them it was nice meeting them but they weren’t a good fit for me. I always told men that my ex cheated and that was why I was separated before I met them. I was always clear that if a man cheated on a former partner I didn’t want to meet them. I had a few dates where men showed up and after talking for awhile told me about their cheating. Lol. I told them it was nice to meet them but I wouldn’t meet them again because I couldn’t go through that again and I don’t trust them. Integrity is so important. If you get someone talking they usually tell you their story.

    Tracy and CN really saved me. I read CL everyday. I’ve worked on my picker. The thing that always sticks with me when i was dating was, the question this relationship acceptable to me and do I want to model this behavior for my son.

    I’ve met some lovely men, but I really love being on my own. My life is complete without a man. I didn’t really think I would find someone good enough for me.

    Then I meant my boyfriend (also a former chump). I can’t get over the difference having a partner that reciprocates and participates in my life and my sons life. I never thought I would have a relationship like this. I know that if the relationship changes and it is no longer acceptable, I will be happy on my own.

  • I enjoy having male energy in my life in the form of friendships. It might even be nice to have a regular companion for movies, etc. But as a chump in my mid-60’s, I’ve had enough loss. It took me three years to adopt a senior kitty and she gets the last little bit of risk taking I have available. Is that PTSD?

    • ICST, I’m a chump in my 60s too. Chumped at 59 and nearly 4 years out. I agree with your sentiments. A widower about my age suggested on Thursday evening that he had a spare ticket for a local comedy event if I wanted it. I immediately got into an anxious state! I ended up saying that the event was ‘too far away’ (it’s not). The poor man wasn’t even necessarily suggesting that I go with him. I’ve never been confident in this situation and it’s something I could talk about in therapy. I don’t because my brain won’t let me consider the possibility of another relationship emotionally. Rationally I get it, but emotionally I’m terrified of ever going through the pain of being dumped so brutally again. I prefer not to take the risk.

      • MW – I think we “older” chumps have dealt with a different set of experiences. I did read that the largest category of single households is men over 70, but I haven’t seen that in my suburban community (thanks, covid). I’ve already experienced the death of parents and older friends. I expect each year will bring the loss of contemporaries through death, physical ailments and/or moves. Dating with a goal of merging homes or remaining family seems nonsensical when I need to be focused on my own aging plans. And I now have requirements for reciprocity – I won’t become a rejected appliance again.

  • I’m a pretty nurturing person naturally. I’m that person who will be your biggest cheerleader and bake you some brownies while I’m at it. I hear often that I’m a good listener. In high school, girls used to always want to hang out with me and my best friend because they said we made them feel like they belonged and we built everyone around us up. I’m that sort of person. I was a very good wife. I did a lot for my family and I did it out of love, not because I’m weak or uneducated or any of the other insulting things that are sometimes said about women like me.

    I found that a lot of well meaning women said things like “well, you”ll never make that mistake again, will you?” And the mistake they are referring to is loving and caring for my family. It made me so incredibly sad. I’m not ever allowed to be myself and love anyone again or I deserve to get hurt like this again? Really?

    My own sister said to me, “Well, if someone lets you use them then you should use them, it’s the right thing to do because they let you.” She said that to me just a few days after I had helped a blind woman count her money at work and organize her wallet. So I should have robbed her?! The “right” thing to do would be to take some of her money since I could easily do that? It’s morally sound because she let me by asking me for help?!

    I feel like that would be the road to bitterness for me. Refusing to be myself and love good people because some bad people hurt me in the past. Fuck that. I’m right back to being my cheerleader self. I’m not letting bad people change me and I’m not going to punish all the good people in my life because of them. Cancerous people can be cut out as they are discovered but I’m living my life without fear of my kindness being weaponized against me. I’m with a good man now and I may spoil him but he’s good to me and if I find out different, well, I survived it before so I can survive it again. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy life.

    • Fair play to you Katie Pig, you are right, you should keep being yourself, and love yourself as you sound a really lovely person, the sort we should all be very glad and grateful to know!
      I’m not being funny but what your sister said is well dodgy! She thinks that we SHOULD use people, just because they let us? That’s not right at all! Bang out of order in fact! It reminds me that we should be discerning. I hope your sister is sound really, and just needs to have a little word with herself that it’s WRONG to use people?

      • I don’t talk to my sister anymore. She said a lot of really dodgy stuff after my divorce. To the point where I think she doesn’t have the ability to care about other people. Our father had antisocial personality disorder so I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise but it was a terrible disappointment.

    • “not because I’m weak or uneducated or any of the other insulting things that are sometimes said about women like me.”

      Yep, or the all too common, you are co-dependant because you loved and trusted your spouse.

      Like you, I am still the same me I always was. I give fully, difference now is I have been with a man for 28 years who gives back. I love to pamper him, not because “women of my generation did that” or some other insulting reason, but because I enjoy it and he deserves to be treated well; just like I do.

      It reminds me of the child care wars of the 70s. I can’t count the times at the ball park or PTO, a woman who worked in retail would make a disparaging comment about how “it’s so nice you can stay home” Usually Like I was floating in luxury and not skimping, and managing so that I could be the one to care for my son. The fact that my ex fw didn’t do right by me does not nullify my value in my sons life. (I was also, cleaning a couple houses with my son in tow to make a few extra bucks). I never mentioned that to them. My son was a very easy/well behaved child so setting him up with his books and toys while I cleaned a house was pretty easy to do.

      By the way not a thing wrong with retail, lots of opportunities there along with lots of hard work. It just happens in my circle I didn’t hang with female doctors and lawyers who mom shamed me.

      • Oh, I can so relate to everything you wrote. I got the whole, “you really didn’t know what he was doing?” because I did trust him and didn’t snoop but then when I finally looked I got “How dare you violate his privacy?” Like WTF?! Both are wrong?! So nothing I could do was right?!

        Ugh. And the jobs. I used to work from home or work nights so I could be home with my son during the day. I also got treated like I was some pampered trophy wife while I scrimped and struggled to pay bills and went without basic things, often while working. One “friend” said to me, “well, you didn’t work…” I worked three years of overnights in a warehouse alone, how the eff did I not work?! And then she looked shocked and said, “oh yeah, that’s right.” My ex’s narrative was that I only worked 8 months of our marriage. I have no idea which job is the only one he counts as a real job.

    • Ah, we’re all damned if we do and damned if we don’t do what-the-eff-ever. If you were, say, a traveling CEO who sometimes had to miss holidays and birthdays to afford family ski adventures in Switzerland and semesters at the Sorbonne for all your kids, bystanders would have criticized you for not being EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE NOW.

      It’s very Sneetch-like. Victims get critiqued for contradictory things because the main message of blamey bystanders is that the bad thing happened because you did something wrong, ergo the bad thing wouldn’t happen to them because they– favored by God as they are and born with magical condoms against misfortune– wouldn’t have done that wrong thing which they’ll randomly snatch from whatever they perceive you did or didn’t do. It’s called the “Safe World/Just World” effect, a primitive logical fallacy that unreflective people engage in. In my experience, the people doing this are inadvertently confessing one of two things: A) that either they or someone they’re pathologically dependent on has committed the same offense you experienced; or B) they can feel that same offense bearing down on them like a speeding train but, instead of getting off the tracks, they spew condemnations at victims as if making sacrificial offerings to appease angry gods will stop the train. The latter are that much more likely to experience the offense just by virtue of blaming the victims of it.

      What people who engage in this don’t realize is that the “Safe World” view can politically metastasize to the point of inviting mass victimization. That kind of social Calvinism typically takes root a piecemeal way with repressing easy targets like women, immigrants, the poor, etc. But the louder it gets in a culture, the more it emboldens evil, kind of like saying the name of Sauron aloud. In certain South American countries which, in the past, experienced violent military dictatorships which abducted, tortured, killed and “disappeared” hundreds of thousands of activists, journalists, artists, high school kids protesting bus fares or reading the wrong book, pregnant women, unionists, constitutional scholars, priests, nuns, homosexuals or anyone who sneezed wrong, the stock victim-blaming response of bystanders who witnessed neighbors being rounded up or random people yanked off the street has been memorialized in national shame: “Algo habrán hecho” or “They must have done something.” You’ll see it on ironic banners during memorial marches and everyone knows what it means when it’s thrown into conversation or news commentary. The universal awareness has made it very hard for anyone wishing to spew “Safe World” blame at any brand of victim which, in turn, has likely made it harder for future dictatorships to take root. In short, if you could boil down one thing that ushers in violent authoritarianism and one thing that, if blocked, can act as a stopgap against violent authoritarianism, it’s the Safe World bystander effect. Get people to stop saying “Sauron,” i.e., “Algo habrán hecho.”

      How’s that for a grand theme? The people inventing fault in you aren’t just thoughtless jerks but are on the wrong side of global history. Take that blamey mofos.

      • Oh, that’s very interesting. I always think of your A. scenario when I encounter this type of thinking but I had not considered the B scenario. It makes me think of a couple of people I thought were genuinely good people and I was surprised when they turned on me. I wonder if that’s why they reacted that way. I don’t wonder enough to reach back out to them and ask LOL but it is very interesting to think about.

        • KatiePig–

          Lol, I did find out what happened to blamey bystanders in certain situations. For one, out of morbid curiosity, I did this very weird thing of “interviewing” several in the midst of a particular workplace crisis and got all the blamers’ “backstories.” Then later I’d catch wind of the “denouements” because working in media meant there was always a crap-load of harassment, sexual aggression and abuse of power which reveals the characters of everyone involved. Also, when fame-grubbing people go down in flames, the gossip spreads more explosively or the stories end up on the six o’clock news. Results of my “misanthropological” social experiments:

          1)Knee-jerk victim-blamers typically grew up with protracted domestic abuse of some kind and typically remain enmeshed with their own abusers. They’re “trauma zombies,” not genuine survivors (the latter are typically more reliable in crisis, not less, or at least don’t behave negatively in crises). Some may even think of themselves as “woke” and theoretically support social justice but the second they witness anything with similar dynamics to the abuse they grew up with, they’ll be instantly triggered into blaming the victim in the situation. [Seeing this happen the first few times is chilling and jaw-dropping because it’s like we don’t know who anyone really is until that moment. But, over time, it’s possible to pick up on subtler red flags which can more or less predict the reaction].
          2) Those who victim-blame as a form of bullying or to silence victims who report/speak out always turn out to be abusers themselves.
          a) The latter mostly end up eventually getting “done in” by bigger sharks to the extent that they’re compulsively drawn to company which resembles their own abusers, almost like some Freudian death wish.
          b) But if they seem to go on without dramatic life upsets, they’re usually one of two types of psychopath– criminal or “sub-criminal.” The former might be exceptionally good at not getting caught for their crimes (rare). The fallout seems to hit the next generation in their families with a lot of tragedy, failure, disaster and early death. But I think the more common type is probably sub-criminal functional psychopaths. There might be some poetic justice for the latter type in the case they ever had creative ambitions because they never seem to achieve real heights. Workaday psychos whose “crimes” are limited to petty coercion and backstabbing and unfair power struggles are invariably plagiarists and become emptier and duller with time. They fade with a pathetic squeak.
          3) Those who aren’t typically abusive in their own rights but victim-blame just to “distance” themselves from victims in their midst out of fear of the same fate typically end up being victimized themselves.
          4) The caveat to all the above is that sometimes the worst, most dangerous predators use “victimizing situations” to distinguish themselves as heroes or rescuers. They’ll make all the right noises, know better than to knee-jerkedly “victim blame,” and can shine in comparison to all the other half-baked or negative reactions of bystanders. These types are tricky at first to distinguish from people who are simply compelled by good character to do the right thing except that a) the faux-hero is someone who is typically a new person on the scene and an unknown quantity. Anyone who really knew them or their history would see through the lie. And b) They’re often way too “flashy” and dramatic about playing hero. People with character tend to proceed quietly and cautiously around fraught situations.

  • Hello — FKA GRN here! I can’t thank you enough, CN, my sentinels. (Hell of a Chump, I thank you extra for your incredible recasting of PTSD as ability rather than damage.) Chump Lady, all blessings upon you, today and every day. This community rescues me over and over and over. Thank you.

  • I’m sticking my head out here because I see a misunderstanding about PTSD. Similar to the misunderstanding about depression (you cannot think your way out of it).
    Many of us have these symptoms early days, but we recover, and then it is not PTSD.

    I am 15 years out and I have a clinical diagnosis of late-onset PTSD. For the record, I have a great trauma specialist, and I still check-in.
    There is a comment in this article about taking your power back. Great goal, embrace that. The comment misses the fact that PTSD is about the limbic system. Limbic happens before you process logic. You can take your power back 100% and still have the limbic brain sabotage you.
    My 1st experience with PTSD was a social dance instructor getting too close physically (reminding me of…), purely in the fun of dance. It sent my (usually normal) blood pressure to 199/188 for two weeks. You cannot tell your body to lower BP. You get hospitalised for this BP.

    My adrenaline literally ran 24/7 for a week and a half. Try out-think that! It then started and stopped at random. Good luck out thinking that!

    The dance instructor was kind and has been super supportive because they frequently see rape victims being sabotaged by their Amygdala. Most give up dancing.
    You cannot therapy out of PTSD. I am still dancing 5 years later, I ended up going more that I would have (yay, exposure therapy). I am better, but my limbic system still sabotages me from time-to-time.
    PTSD is not a choice, it is a consequence.

    We build a fantastic life. The lizard brain kicks in. I still have adrenaline then runs for an abnormally long time.

    • FT, I had these terrible body trauma sabotages too, it took me years to even figure out what was going on with me. I had no words for it. I found trying to get to the seat of the traumas so traumatising too, it was hard to live everyday life then. I did get to the point where I could recognise what was happening in my body, as if observing the trauma reaction from a more calm perspective. I have noticed very little trauma sabotaging since I started with a therapist who combines mindfulness with Inner Child work. He is extremely observant and has helped me learn to stay present and Idk exactly what happened, but I’ve not had any spaced out inner horror movies for about a year now. I wish you healing 🙂

    • God love you FT , that must be hard to live with! I hope and pray you can get the help you need and are fully healed soon but as you say, it’s your limbic system and you can’t think you’re way well in that case!

    • Good info.

      I had read some of it before in my research.

      This is why though I think everyone should do the healing work, I am not one to think we should put our life on hold until we are totally healed, because we may never be.

      We can rebuild our a life and manage our healing at the same time. It is just something we have to decide ourselves in terms of “getting out there.”

      To me rebuilding a life is a part (though not all) of the healing process.

    • You’re so right that calendar poetry on self esteem tends to do jack shit to improve trauma response. Personally I never thought “low self esteem” had anything to do with why victims get victimized or have difficulty recovering but actually “low esteem for the world” or lack of assurance that anyone would give a damn or help them. But I’m not sure that anyone here is saying that PTSD is a choice. It certainly wasn’t after I was assaulted and nearly raped (three separate times. Long story– I worked in media before #MeToo. Weinstein clones abounded).My voice quaked if I tried to talk about these experiences for a long time. Whereas we can’t control autonomic nervous response to reminders and intrusive flashbacks, I’ve learned that there are social factors which may sometimes help take the heat down considerably.

      When I did advocacy for survivors of domestic abuse, researching these things was part of both training and advocacy where we’d share the science with survivors so that they could be the “experts of their own situations.” That was considered controversial at the time but it was also pretty successful. It’s interesting how the learning curves of people fighting for their lives and their children amp up to PhD level. Typically everyone would absorb this stuff so thoroughly they could repeat it with their own elegantly clear lay analogies to others. The service I worked for minted fresh activists like breeding bunnies. I saw a few former clients speaking out for related causes on news shows over the years. Their voices no longer quaked. In fact, they represented like bosses. I did hosannas at the TV.

      Aside from understanding their own neurofeedback reactions to traumatic stress, it seems like many survivors largely focused on rejecting typical bystander and clinical victim blaming and all the ways that it directly mirrored their own abusers’ paralyzing blameshifting. At least that was a very popular pastime. Sort of like how CL throws media examples of cheater apologism into the ring with chumps like throwing meat to starving wolves as we all tear apart the bs, we used to throw examples of victim blaming/shaming malarky into the ring in the same way. Everyone got a huge kick out of it and came away with sharper teeth for identifying and processing bs. All the same, I wouldn’t say that “understanding” was the magical elixir that cured PTSD but maybe more like a cancer patient getting rid of allergens in their diets to reduce overall inflammation and better the chances of treatments working. Survivors also read and passed around clinical stuff on abuser psychology which I think helped give people more confidence in their own ability to identify potential future abusers in more surgical ways rather than generalizing that everyone in the world might be dangerous. That’s just one less stressor impeding recovery, one less inflammatory “allergen” in the diet. Reading clinical criticism of victim-blaming theories and bystander responses and then feeling deputized to criticize these concepts themselves as a political act seemed to calm people down a lot too. You can always tell when this happens because the gallows humor starts cranking up. Laughter is the sound you hear when people start feeling less endangered. But more than anything, I think the message that there’s a whole world out there– including big shot academics with fancy university posts and clout in making public policy who write tomes on victimology and abuser psychology– that will not only not blame victims but may deeply support them and furthermore bring abusers to heel is what would start to saw away at PTSD. Social remedies for social injuries.

      The above has also been reflected in studies of how wider social response to trauma survivors can mitigate duration and intensity of PTSD symptoms. I remember the most common example given were studies of Vietnam veterans who, on returning to the states, faced an unprecedented amount of public shaming over participation in an unpopular war. Statistically, these veterans apparently experienced far more intense and extended PTSD symptoms and had much worse outcomes than veterans of past wars who’d had equivalently traumatic experiences but were not met with public blame and shame. Then there are other studies involving Native American sweat lodges and how tribe’s ritual gesture of willingly sharing in returning warriors’ suffering (by getting into the painfully hot lodge together) helped to heal the warriors’ psyches.

      No perfect answer but some things seem to reduce the suffering and some things make it worse. For me, seeking and actually getting justice in two instances helped enormously. Since only about 1.5% of victims of similar crimes ever see justice, my situation was a bit of a rare social experiment on the “Effects of justice on PTSD symptoms.” In any case, I was suddenly noticeably better the very day after a jury of peers ruled against a workplace psycho. The jury got in the sweat lodge with me in a sense and acted as a reminder that the world is not filled with only perps and their apologists. Simply feeling safer moving forward may have been like, say, getting stinky toxic chemical cleaning products out of my environment during chemo.

      Of course now I feel that the general lack of justice for survivors of any form of abuse or violence is a scourge against humanity and I’m invested in seeing this change. How do we even know how most people will respond to treatment for PTSD when they’re still chronically exposed to the inflammatory toxin of lack of social justice?

      • “How do we even know how most people will respond to treatment for PTSD when they’re still chronically exposed to the inflammatory toxin of lack of social justice?”

        This is a good question. I do think getting justice helps. At the same time, knowing that injustice is happening all the time to others has definitely hindered my recovery. The thing is, I used to be active against injustice until the PTSD. I had my own political/social issues forum for ten years. Before that, I was the host of a feminist discussion group on a popular website. I participated in protests. I had been involved in activism since I was a kid, since both my parents were passionate left wingers. Post PTSD, I feel the need to hide away from this rotten old world rather than take it on. I just can’t handle it anymore. It used to be there was almost nothing I couldn’t handle.
        So I’m thinking I probably do need to force myself back into action somehow. I was doing some advocacy for awhile online, but I couldn’t hack even that and am actually afraid to get back to it. What I once felt was an important part of my life’s purpose, which energized me and gave me hope, is now painful. I’ll keep trying. Thanks for the reminder.

        • I totally relate to going through periods where it’s like my nervous system couldn’t handle even abstractly wading into activism and advocacy again. On top of that, talk about a philosophical shitstorm: all of life’s mysteries and enduring questions are clustered up around this very thing.

          I know that part of my hesitation to wade back into advocacy/activism/causes/whatever is that not enough time had passed to heal my nerves. Aggghhh, acid flashbacks! But, from repeat experience (mostly from working in a shitty industry before #MeToo), I know that reaction eventually starts to ease up. I don’t even bother taking meds for it aside from a little Valerian root because I know it’s just going to take its course either way. I wait for the really cataclysmic physical symptoms to calm down a bit before taking the next step which, though still nerve wracking, eventually don’t lay me out for a week.

          Then I’ve identified part of my hinkiness about delving into advocacy again is because I’ve sometimes felt like a “failed experiment” myself, like what could I possibly have to offer anyone in terms of the “map to survival” when I just ended up being victimized again?? But, just in terms of the latter perception, it started dawning on me that I’ve probably fallen for one of the biggest myths of victimology: that “high self esteem” or strength of character are like magical condoms against predators. Every time I fought injustice, I must have superstitiously believed I was building a force field against further injustice. Ugh, it’s in the same vein of “power feminism” tropes or thinking bulls won’t gore you because you’re vegan. Nope. In some cases, strength of character, experience, a bit of wisdom (all good things) might make us bigger take-down targets because predators vary in taste in prey just like hunters. Some like hunting bunnies and squirrels and some prefer big game.

          And strong people have their own Achilles heels. It’s also sort of like how certain superpowered immune alleles in particular ethnic groups with positive protective qualities against things like cancer or regional pathogens or parasites can– given the wrong modern toxic exposure– be doubled back as worse autoimmunity (“Asian flushing disease” is one example. In other words, sometimes our strengths can be weaponized against us like cutting Samson’s hair). To paraphrase Thomas Hardy, strong people often fall harder just for not being accustomed to being weak. But that in itself is an interesting experience, one that’s surely shared by countless other people, some of whom might need help processing all the ins and outs of it and weeding through the misinformation about the experience. Once we get our own “maps” to survive and process this stuff, it could benefit others.

          But there’s another related hitch to developing that “map.” I think there’s a tendency for some to wait for their “life stories” to work out with inspirational “happy endings” before they think they can pitch in with their experiences to support others, otherwise they fear they’re only carrying a gloomy or nihilistic message. For one, this might be a remnant of abusers’ “perspectide”– killing victims’ perspectives and replacing them with abusers’ nihilistic “nice guys never win” world view. There’s another thing that needs recovering from. Another remnant for survivors of relational abuse in particular is the idea that things “working out” might be successful remarriage. For others, they might feel like they have to truly embrace single life and its joys before they wade in and contribute with hopeful messages. But why do we have to achieve “happy endings” before being able to support others or a cause? I think it’s because the sense of having resolved our lives gives us enough emotional immunity to stress to face uglier realities that other people are living through. We’re personally okay so we can afford to spend some of that “okayness” on helping others in dire straights. That’s another “need more time to heal” issue.

          But, at least for myself, I also detected a little middle class mainstream first world exceptionalism in my own sense that my life had to be “resolved” before I could contribute anything. That’s not about healing physical symptoms of trauma but about expelling cultural bs and resolving a big gap in logic. Are people working for change always living the lives they know they deserve? A simplistic example might be, say, resistance fighters living rough in the woods who don’t yet know how the war ends. And, in terms of “relationship happy endings,” think of, just for an example, cis African American feminists dealing with issues like such an unfair percentage of AA men being incarcerated and other social issues that unjustly destabilize families? So these feminists aren’t allowed to talk about intersectional equality and what constitutes healthy personal relationships if, in spite of being perfectly geared to and deserving of wonderful, stable relationships, that might be harder to establish because of exigent political circumstances like gross inequality?

          There’s so much “data” in trauma, so much to learn, so much misinformation and cultural bs myths to untangle, always endless new layers to uncover and even the perceptions of those things can change through each stage of life. It’s bloody exhausting. It’s like being served plates full of piano wire and whale bone and being forced to chew through it all to come to deeper understandings about life, the human condition, etc. The final question is is the big one: is it even worth it? Is there some enduring state of peace and stability waiting at the and of that process?

          I honestly don’t know for sure. I suspect so. I’ve seen examples of it. I think of Camus’ Sisyphus analogy– that ultimately the reward is in pushing the stupid rock up the hill. For me, being a social type, that implies the collective nature of the effort– just being on the right side of history and finding better, wiser, safer company there. And in that collective is one little remedy for softening PTSD: safety in numbers and having better and probably more interesting and funnier eggs in your lifeboat. I remember hearing something like this in a speech by a well known climate activist from India trying to exhort people to join the cause: she basically said, “Come to the dark side. We have cookies” (“people in this realm are more fun”).

          At the very least, if our teeth don’t break in the process of chewing all that whalebone and it doesn’t perforate our intestines and kill us, we do end up with “sharper teeth” in processing those indigestible things. And that’s a small “gift” we can end up sharing– the tricks for faster and more efficient chewing.

          This was long, sorry. Can you tell I’ve thought about it a lot?

      • FW dying helped my PTSD reactions a LOT. No more racing heart, no more sweaty palms, no more having to sit down in the middle of a store because some ELSE got a text message and the sound made me panic and struggle to breathe. I haven’t been in a lot of situations that could trigger my PTSD, like another relationship. I think if a man yelled at me or got up in my face, I might freak out on a primal level. There are times when I get triggered by my son (only 11) when he gets angry at being told to do something, or stop doing something, and he pushes me or says I’m stupid. I’m working on that. So yeah, it improves, but I don’t think it ever goes away completely.

    • FT, this resonates with me. I sometimes still have the adrenaline rushes and the terror. I still have nightmares every night. As you say, PTSD isn’t something you 100% recover from even with therapy, and logic doesn’t overcome it. You can logically know there is no real danger, yet still be terrified. I have found Welbutrin and benzos (for the panic/adrenaline attacks) helpful. I have done a lot of self care and cognitive work. I’ve learned techniques to help bypass the limbic response to some degree. However, there’s no denying that my brain has changed and I don’t think it will ever be the same as it was.
      There is definitely a difference between a normal response to trauma and PTSD. Dating could certainly bring up bad memories and cause distress. That’s normal. PTSD is a step beyond that. Distress isn’t even the right word for what you experience when it’s PTSD. I’m not sure what the right word is.
      Sending you my best wishes. It’s tough.

      • OHFFS I’ve discovered a channel Visceral Gravitas on YT that you might like to check out. I watch the Meetups, not game to join in yet, or ever, and have vacillating levels of interest in healing work. I like some of his observations about people’s behaviour, trying to take up space, etc.

    • “PTSD is not a choice, it is a consequence.” Thank you for this reminder.

  • I have sometimes wondered if I’ve got what’s termed “Complex PTSD”, a mild version, because of my upbringing, subsequent abusive relationships and a high-stress job as a nurse, then being a single mum on State Benefits with no support from son’s dad , elderly infirm parents living in a different country, no support at all from extended family, and only support from friends when we moved back to my home town, then from STXH for a good few years whilst we were together. Before he became a coke-head!
    I was definitely becoming clinically depressed the last few months of him living here, and I realise I had been very anxious ever since we moved to Ireland. I’m still dealing with anxiety now and though it’s easing, I would never feel totally safe whilst I am living around here as he has made a veiled threat and minor assault on me. I haven’t had any contact with him since 21st June and that was only by email as I ignored his texts and calls. He still has stuff to clear out of my garage and although my son will deal with him, I can’t wait until it’s all out and he’s gone as it does seem the longer I have No Contact with him, the less anxious I feel. I can’t wait to get sold up and moved back to England though. I have to get away from this place, and leave Ireland if I am going to be able to rebuild any kind of fulfilling life for myself, and truly heal!

    • Economic violence is considered among the most devastating and it sounds like you’ve faced a considerable amount of this– made so much more terrifying because you’re guarding precious cargo (a child).

      On top of this, minor assault is still criminal assault. Bear in mind that more than half of domestic murders were not preceded by reports of physical violence so even “minor” violence ticks up that risk factor. Also veiled threat = coercive control, which is also criminalized in Ireland. It’s no wonder you’re anxious– you’re at significant statistical risk. But when you’ve had that intangible “gun” pointed at you for a long time within an abusive relationship, the “gun” stops seeming real. It can also start feeling like it’s “overreacting” to act like the gun is a gun (why do we all get so embarrassed when we’re in danger and act like we don’t want to “bother” other people when a mess we didn’t cause starts to boil over? It’s a mystery but pretty universal). I think that’s just a symptom of exhaustion. When living under sustained duress, there’s this thing that can happen which I think of as “falling asleep in the snow.” Our nervous systems and stress reactions become so exhausted from living under chronic threat that, like a traveler lost in the howling tundra and developing the sleepiness that comes with hypothermia, there might be a deadly impulse to just lay down in a snowdrift “for a minute.” We don’t see or feel it happening and lose a sense of the danger. In medical terms it’s probably related to adrenal fatigue but you would know more about that than I do as a medical professional.

      From what I’ve read, there seems to be a primitive part of our brains that performs the single task of factoring risk all day and all night. The little risk manager is a statistical and mathematical genius and will pull almost intangible cues of possible danger out of the air, out of tones of voice, gestures and silences, the direction of the wind, the level of local police effectiveness, the relative vulnerability of the person at risk, whatever, and then files its reports. Relative risk is more than enough for that risk management faculty to send up flares of warning because it’s deaf to minimization, denial, whitewashing, social prohibitions against victims who “tell” and abusers’ timid woodland creature posturing and will always err on the side of safety. If it detects relative risk, it sends body signals in the form of anxiety, dreams and intrusive flashbacks. I think of the latter as a prompt to boost defenses, almost like the fight training app in The Matrix. It wants us to, say, take self defense courses, put up security cameras, file for a protective order or file charges. And it won’t leave us alone until we start doing some of those things and the source of danger is contained. But another danger is burning out from all the warning flares and “falling asleep in the snow.” I think the book The Gift of Fear has a similar view of it.

      Anyway, only you know your situation and the risks and dangers that may lurk on all sides. Perhaps putting this guy in jail could cause even more economic hardship. Perhaps local law enforcement sucks. But if you start taking measures to protect yourself, even if it’s first steps like seeking out support from groups focused on DV and coercive control, your relentless little risk management faculty might start to ease up once in a while and stop haranguing you so mercilessly. Please be safe and never, ever be embarrassed about potentially “overreacting” considering what you’re dealing with.

  • “Don’t give him that power” – yeeessss!!! This really speaks to me. I started life with CPTSD already, and DV, FW’s and a few close shaves with death added to that, but I always bounced back (big believer in the power of enthusiasm). But after 20+ years with the last FW, I confess, I was really starting to believe I should just give up on myself and on life. But Tracy is SO right – F’ em! I d-e-s-e-r-v-e a better life more than ever!

    This post was transformational for me, I hope it helps FKA GRN too. Thank you and blessings to Chumplady xx

  • I don’t have enough of a work-life balance right now to really make dating a reality (working near 70 hour work-weeks for FedEx Express makes it hard to be available for dating). Plus, I’m now half to three-quarters bald (thank you, maternal grandfather?😂), 55 1/2 years old and have no illusions that I’m as attractive as I might have been in my 20’s.

    Also, my little New England state seems not to be a great place for dating, unless you’re younger. And dating at my age seems to be much more difficult than it might have been when I was younger (hard to say for sure as I only had two girlfriends in my life, and I married the second one). There seems to be a lot of damaged people out there (I don’t want to single out women, because I’m sure there’s just as many damaged men. I’m just not looking to date them! 😂).

    I will say that there seems to be an awful lot of women on dating sites that simply want to put themselves on a site, but aren’t actually able or interested in actually taking the risk of meeting w/someone. Which is depressing, and why I’ve basically decided that if I’m going to meet some woman right now, it’s going to happen organically in my actual real life. All of this is of course my personal take on things, which is as flawed as I am.

    I know I just heard a woman on an NPR show that won some outdoor survival reality TV contest a few years ago and that has recently written a book say she thinks we should all be surthriving (her new word combining surviving and thriving, don’t ya know?😁), but i’m content w/surviving right now.

    As for PTSD? It’s minimal to non-existent at this point, I think. I’m now six years plus out from D-day and four years plus out from absolute divorce. Occasionally I have a bad dream involving the FW XW, or something triggers me to remind me how awful she treated me, or I get a little more insight into how awful she treated me.

    But for the most part, my life is calm and smooth, relatively speaking. Which I owe mainly to hard grey rock w/the FW XW, and my determination to appreciate that life can always be worse, and to always look on the bright side of life (thank you Eric Idle!). Those two things keep me as happy and peaceful as I can be, I believe.

    I would like to relate that earlier in the week, my younger daughter, who just moved out of my area and down to North Carolina and temporarily in w/my kids’ favorite aunt [one of the FW XW’s older sisters, who just moved down there herself from NJ (where the FW XW and I are originally from) into an expensive big home south of Wilmington, NC], texted me to determine when I was coming down to visit her in August w/her younger brother and where we were staying.

    I texted back that we were heading down in the middle of August in a rental car, and staying at an Airbnb near Wilmington, NC. Within 15 minutes of me sending my text, I got another text. I thought it was my daughter replying, but it turned out to be the FW XW’s older sister, the favorite aunt my daughter is spending the summer w/while looking for a job/place to live near or In Wilmington, NC.

    To be clear, because I knew the kids would likely always consider her the favorite aunt, I’ve tried to maintain a peaceful and slightly positive relationship w/her since D-day, despite her support of her sister’s actions towards me.

    It’s complicated. I believe she’s a fairly good person, but her gentle defense of her sister’s actions towards me made me realize she’s not really on my side, and that I have to be on my guard w/her. The FW XW is the youngest of seven and I’m sure there are FOO issues for her and all her siblings, but they all took turns raising her to a large extent and continue to try to protect the “baby,” even though I believe they’re doing more harm than good not holding her accountable for the shittiness of her actions.

    But then, almost all of them, w/the exception possibly of the favorite aunt, have cheated in their relationships, so they’re all fucked up narcissists, most likely.

    My older sister is a little too religious and conservative in her thinking for my kids to consider her a favorite aunt, but she was there for me post D-day like nobody else, and I’ll always love her for that (and my son got more of her love too, as the only minor at D-day, so he’s more inclined towards her than my daughters).

    Plus, I’m mature enough to separate my love for my sister from my personal disagreements w/her conservative religious and political views. The kids aren’t, especially my daughters.

    Anyway, the favorite aunt texted me the following:

    Hey there! I understand from (my younger daughter) you and (my son) plan to come down to Wilmington for a visit. Please stay with us. We’d love to have you – we have the room and I’d hate for you to spend the money on an Airbnb.

    I was gobsmacked, to put it mildly. It’d already been a long and difficult week here in my New England state w/severe flooding in the area I deliver to for FedEx Express. I literally got stuck on a back dirt road that was heavily eroding on both sides due to flooding while trying to escape to a safer area.

    I had to abandon my company van to flooding water and stay overnight in a big state welcome center/gas station until the highways were reopened to traffic the next day to allow my senior manager from FedEx Express to come get me. I’d just gotten through those two days of flooding and now worked a 13 hour day, and I was extremely tired. My brain was having a hard time dealing w/this offer.

    I reached out to my sister and brother, but it was late and neither was available. I finally came up w/this response to my ex-sister-in-law’s text on my own:

    (Favorite aunt), that’s really sweet of you and (her husband) to offer that to (my son) and me. Let me get back to you about your offer by this weekend, ok? Probably on Sunday. It’s something I’d need to think hard about, for what I hope are obvious reasons. None of which exactly pertain to you or (her husband), so please don’t take this as a slight. On the contrary, I’m very honored you were willing to offer this to (my son) and me (especially me [this is not me adding something in for CN but what I actually wrote in the text, to be clear]), but then again, you guys have always been that way.😊 Also, I just worked a 13 hour day, and I’m bushed. As always, I hope you and (your husband) are doing well. And in case (my younger daughter) hadn’t mentioned it, I asked her to thank you both from me for helping her out in her big move by putting her up, and for other things, I gather. You two are a great aunt and uncle team, and you always have been. Love you both.😘

    She replied:

    No worries. Of course we respect your decision – just want you to know we are here and you are welcome. Whatever you decide we fully expect to have a proper visit with you ❤️

    I ended the exchange w/:

    Thank you. I can guarantee you will at least have that.😊

    Not that I enjoy being somewhat deceitful, but I don’t see how I can avoid it w/out alienating my kids. I don’t think they fully grasp yet how much their mother and her family’s continued response to their mother’s betrayal (support the FW XW and her actions no matter how she hurt me or our family by those selfish actions) continues to be a problem for me.

    They have an entirely different relationship w/their mother and her family than I do, which, of course, is to be expected. I don’t know that they’ll ever fully get how we’ve been adversely affected by the FW XW’s actions and all of her family’s support of it, and unfortunately, me most of all. Can’t control anybody else though, and I have a hard enough time controlling myself.😐

    So, I try to maintain a minimal positive relationship w/this sister of the FW XW and one other, that is in a long-term relationship w/my nearest older brother that no longer talks to me because I got the FW XW pregnant w/our son. That’s a whole other stupid story.🙄

    My plan is to wait until Sunday to fully reply, and say thanks but no thanks to the ex-sister-in-law. I’ve already pretty much paid for the Airbnb, and as much as I’d love to save the money, I don’t need to be triggered by staying w/them. The FW XW and her shitty partner have already been down there to visit this past spring.

    I don’t need to be thinking about whether this is a room they’ve stayed in that I would then also be staying in.🤢🤮 Also, whenever the FW XW and I would visit this sister w/the kids years ago, we were always intimate. I don’t need to be reminded of those formerly happy, now forever horribly stained memories. Fuck that shit. Just say no to triggers.😂

    Finally, I need to know I have a safe place to retreat to. The FW XW’s sister’s place would not be safe. I will visit them properly, but if the subject of the FW XW or her partner comes up, and things turn ugly, or I’m being unjustly criticized for how I’m handling things, I need to know I have an out. All this makes the price of the Airbnb more than worth it. It might just make it near priceless, and therefore a bargain.😁

    Thanks again to CL and all of CN for listening to my thoughts regarding and recountings of stupid shit I still have to deal w/while gaining a new life. I hope someday to have some dating experiences to relate, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for it to happen. Onward and upward should be one of CN’s mottos. It is for me. Peace and lots of love to CL and CN.😊

    • TLR, I don’t think you owe them a proper visit at their home. They are good to your kids for your ex’s sake, not yours. It’s one thing to thank them for all they’ve done and for their offer of lodging. It’s quite another to have an awkward sit down where (best case scenario) they will studiously avoid mentioning ex FW, but you’ll sense they are barely holding back, or they will take the opportunity to catch you up on the latest news of her pathetic selfish life. I say if you aren’t comfortable with visiting their home, but they insist on seeing you and you don’t have the heart to refuse, make it happen on neutral ground by inviting them out to dinner. Just a thought, since the house brings back bed memories.

      • Thanks for your two cents, OHFFS.😁 I will consider doing what you said. I really appreciate your thinking about my situation.

        Just to be clear, I’m maintaining minimal, very spotty, positive communication w/them so my kids don’t get stuck in an awkward situation between us. Also, they’ve moved south from NJ to this new, expensive and big house in NC. It’s a different house than the home they had in NJ where all my intimate memories took place. But it was always visiting them where these intimate moments happened, so if I stayed overnight w/them wherever they are, I’m still likely to get triggered. So, I will let the favorite aunt know that I respectfully decline her offer to stay w/them. I absolutely need a place to be able to retreat to if necessary.

        Hope you’re doing well, OHFFS!😊

    • Sounds like you made the right decision. These FWs screw up so much, and it appears sometimes they just bounce along and never give it another thought.

      As for your balding. I am an old lady now (73) but just so you know I was an attractive and hard working 40 year old when I got discarded. I went on to meet a very good man, (age 50) who by the way was bald on top, with hair around the sides (neatly kempt). I thought he was very attractive and still do after almost 28 years of marriage.

      Even after suffering a stroke this year, he is as sweet and kind as ever. He has made really good progress, and I have considered it my honor and privilege to help him through this. He would have absolutely have done the same for me.

      You just never know who you might meet. But either way you seem to have build a good life. That is the thing with so many of us chumps, we do go on to build good lives because we understand better than most how painful life can be at times.

      Have a great trip, and have your visit at your daughters place or at a restaurant with the aunt. It sounds like going to her house wouldn’t be great for you.

      • susie lee, I’m so happy for you. Your story gives hope to those of us who think they could try again, but either aren’t able to right now for whatever reasons, or are finding slim pickings in our areas. Or both!🤣

        The same younger daughter who my son and I will be visiting texted a picture of me to me sometime in the last year. It was a picture of me as a young man in either high school or college. She had to have gotten the picture from the FW XW. Go figure. Her comment to me was something like, “hey Dad, you were a really cute guy!” My reply was, “as opposed to now?🤣”

        I’ve never been one to think I was an Adonis. That hasn’t changed, and I think that’s healthy. But hopefully, at some point in my future, some good woman I also find desirable and worthy of love will think the same of me. Despite time’s effects on me.

        Thank you for being that type of woman for your husband. Appreciating him for all of him, not just his looks. And for sticking w/him when he’s down, as w/his stroke. I’m getting choked up just writing about it. Please continue to love and appreciate everything he brings to you. It sounds like he does the same
        for you. Reciprocity really is important in a relationship, isn’t it?

        I thought I had someone like that w/the FW XW, but we’ve all unfortunately seen that train wreck in our own lives played out differently, and yet essentially the same. We were with a person who was superficial in all the ways that mattered most. At least when they showed their true selves to us, we didn’t just go quietly, but showed that we’re not standing for that awful bullshit.

        Thanks for all your thoughts and well wishes, and best wishes to you, susie lee, and your husband. And to all the susie lee’s and their husbands or partners in CN and beyond. You may not realize it fully, but you’re making the world a better place.😊

  • For me, it was all about learning to trust myself and my own capacity for making good judgments about people. At this point, it’s unlike I would make another really bad choice, but it’s also true that it takes time to know people and it’s possible to waste a bit of time on someone who is a hollow person. But in my experience, fixing my picker was pretty much the end of even running into these users and abusers. They are generally pretty good at finding people who have unhealed wounds from childhood or other experiences. They don’t want strong, confident, and observant people.

    Here’s a list of what I worked on:
    1. First, before I could even think of dating, I took time to identify and work on the old personal and FOO (family of origin) issues that contributed to my broken picker. Going back to high school days, I was often attracted to guys who drank too much or were unavailable or who didn’t value me. So that was something I had to work on–getting attached emotionally to people who weren’t going to be good partners.
    2. This work was also good for helping me get over the betrayal by Jackass. It helped me to see him as a “type” and not as some super-special soulmate. Looking at my patterns made me see that I have at least some control over what happens in a relationship.After all, I am very good at picking friends because I don’t use my friends as a way to fill old childhood needs. You can find a good partner if you are really looking for a friend and companion and not someone to meet needs you had at age 3 or 5 or 11 or 15.
    3. I followed CL’s good advice to pay attention to character instead of superficial things like looks, job, etc. This is how I pick friends, after all! My friends are all good people, kind, empathetic, hardworking, and good at the give-and-take required for longterm friendships. That meant I had to know what character traits are important to me in a friend or partner and learn how to spot them.
    4. I had to learn to go slow and get to know a man before getting too involved. Here is where dating and friendship are not at all alike. Dating partners are almost always putting their best foot forward, while friendships evolve more organically, with people having opportunities to see and assess a person’s character. When I was younger, I had “friendships” that were more like my dating relationships–sort of one-sided and maybe a bit codependent. It’s also true that I’m not always an “easy” friend because I grew up not comfortable with letting people in too deep. I’ve gotten better at choosing and maintaining friendships. I just had to apply that to dating.
    5. As a former devotee of “instant relationships,” I avoided jumping right into physical intimacy. I had to pay attention to my own reactions to what a man says and does and not ignore or spackle things that made me uncomfortable. I had to make judgments about someone’s values, goals, habits. That takes time; I decided not to allow “romance” to hijack my good sense.
    5. I had to know what I want in my friends as well as someone to date. What kind of people do I want to spend time with? How might a dating partner fit into my overall needs for human contact and companionship? For example, I have my female friends who are the people I go to when I want to endlessly ruminate over some decision or issue. I don’t necessarily need to do that with a dating partner. But I do deeply need someone who likes conversation, who reads, who has empathy for others less fortunate, and (very important) who wants to comfort me if I need it.
    6. I had to know myself and what’s good for me now. I decided don’t need a dating partner who is available 24/7 but I do need one who makes me a priority while understanding I too have a life. It’s OK if a guy is grandchild-crazy but not if every weekend, every trip, and every decision involves the grandkids. And I have an established career that involves travel and contact with young people–and that is not going to change.
    Obviously, someone younger than I am will have different goals. There’s nothing wrong with wanting or valuing a spouse or committed partnership more than a big career. But the lesson for me was to know WHO I AM and WHAT I NEED. I know at my age I do not want to remarry. But I learned I do want a man who is financially responsible and takes care of his home. I don’t want to visit a place that is dirty and disordered or to be some man’s “nurse and a purse.”

    I don’t worry about “trusting” others. I have learned that I am strong and resilient enough to weather the disappointments (and heartbreaks) that come with human relationships. I’m old enough that some of these heartbreaks don’t involve cheating but rather, illness and death. There is no way to love others (lovers, friends, family members, pets) without the risk of loss and pain. Just the act of adopting a pet is to trust that you can survive the loss that is likely to come sooner than you want it to. But the alternative is to live a life walled-off from love and joy and companionship. The key is to take care of all that old emotional business. Your partner can’t fill in the old pain and loss and abuse of your childhood. A new partner can’t “heal” your betrayal. Your “inner child” can’t run your romantic life. You can take care of that sad inner 5-year old or the rejected adolescent by just remembering that he or she is still in you and you can listen and then remind yourself: I am grown now. I can meet my needs. I do not need a partner to be the parent I never had. Live in the present moment, physically and emotionally.

    • LovedaJackass, Wow, just wow. This is one of the best things I have ever read on this site. I am copying this to send to my friends and daughters. Thank you for sharing this wisdom!

      • Agree with both your comments Falcon… LAJ is Chump Nation’s living treasure ❤️

    • I’ve followed your posts for a long time. We have many life details in common and are close in age. It often amazes me when you comment on something that has been rambling around in my brain, and it’s almost like talking with myself! But seriously, your comment about wanting someone who likes conversation, who reads, and who has empathy for others resonates with me. My friends could not believe I had reading on my list of must haves. They thought there were many other things that were more important. I told them their needs were different from mine. Conversation and reading and empathy are strong indicators of many other traits that are important to me considering my FOO background and my work in education. I don’t want to be “a nurse and a purse” either. I think we finally realized we have needs and are entitled to have those needs fulfilled instead of stuffing them down and tending to his needs, and then being resentful because we are not being appreciated or valued.

  • This is an amazing reply to Gray Rock Novice. Thank you, Chump Lady.

    Novice, I’m four-and-a-half years out from dday, and I still have panic attacks around my ex-friend AP. I’ve also started having PTSD triggered when my X is near (ever since he and AP went “official”). Around the time X moved out, I started having severe anxiety about driving on highways. I cannot imagine how it effects romantic relationships. Haven’t ventured near that territory, and I’m breaking into a sweat just typing the sentence. Without a doubt, the ripple effects of betrayal spread far and wide. I get it.

  • Thank you for not allowing the negative all about “there’s no good ones left, they’re all married, they’re all “crazy” and so on. These are the exact things help to keep people “stuck” in fear
    TSA is giving us a long awaited raise- I will be rejoining your patreon🩷now

  • Minus the 8-month relationship/dating, I’m right there with you, FKA. I’m also 49, have been clinically dx’d with PTSD, and am three years post-Dday. I’m also definitely not ready to give up sex but the whole dating scene feels like way too much work. It’s easier to rely on my BOB and skip the whole intimacy piece for now (and maybe for forever, but I have learned to never say never).

    Recently, it occurred to me that my hesitation to meeting anyone new has less to do with a categorical mistrust of men and much more to do with my tendency to fall back on “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” IOW, I’m open to dating again because I do believe there’s more good than bad out here, but I fear that I’m not healed enough NOT to self-sabotage. I worry that I’ll always be looking for the signs that I somehow missed in my marriage, and that because PTSD does a real number on brain chemistry, I’ll find those signs whether they’re really real or not.

    It’s also occurred to me, though, that keeping myself wrapped in my little mistrusting bubble might not only be doing me a disservice (I am well aware that loneliness is strongly correlated with physical and mental health issues). It’s also disallowing potential partners the opportunity to meet ME, even though “me” can still be a hot fearful distrusting mess sometimes. Despite what my narcissist told me, I’ve never stopped believing that I’m a good person. I’m funny, I’m reasonably intelligent and somewhat attractive, I have decades-long friendships to which I’m extremely loyal, I’m hardworking, and cooking for others is my passion. By cooping myself up, I’m denying the pleasure of my company (kidding but not really) to people who might benefit from it. I’m not articulating that well at all; I hope that doesn’t sound conceited. I’ve just started receiving little reminders that I might still have something to offer, even if I am a middle-aged empty-nester Chump who’s had to start over after a 15-year relationship.

    I’m rambling at this point. I just wanted FKA to know how much I needed the share and Tracy’s answer and all of the fantastic input from CN today. Loveyameanit.


  • It sucks out there. I’m 64 Female. I put myself on a dating site, and the only responses are men in their 70s.

  • The problem is once I start hearing “life stories” I get twitchy. I don’t trust myself so how can I trust anyone else right now? At my age it is easier and more convenient to be single. While sex is fun it isn’t enjoyable when it reminds you of the confusion you feel about whether you’re with a “reasonable facsimile of a loving human being” or with a lying liar who has already “left you” in search of someone or something else. The old adage “all sex is good sex” isn’t right when you’ve had bad sex or great sex with someone leading a double life who makes you believe you’re the only one in their life. Flinch, flinch, flinch.

  • Older men have never bothered to develop the skills that would make them attractive partners to older women who no longer need a man for reproduction, social respectability (ugh) or money ( thank you Title 7, which is 50 years old next year, the Equal Pay Act, the pregnancy discrimination act, #MeToo, etc, all the things that have made women no longer financially dependent on men!). They didn’t need to in the past to get a lady, and they haven’t figured it out yet. I think of how when women entered the workforce in huge numbers for the 1st time in the 70s, we had to learn new skills. We did it. Men are facing a new environment with what women expect and demand, and I don’t see them learning the new skills fast enough, at least with older men. ( The younger men have picked it up because they have to, plus many of them were raised by feminist mothers who didn’t want them to repeat the mistakes of their fathers). Men need to up level their skills. Then women will want to be with them.

    • “Older men have never bothered to develop the skills that would make them attractive partners to older women ”

      Couldn’t disagree with that more. I know many who are amazing and had second marriages, and single respectable lives that were really good. Though, of course if the word “some” was there I would agree. Older men have gone through a lot of changes through the years same as us women. Some learned and grew, some didn’t.

      • Here, here, susie lee! Falconchump, if you stereotype men or even a group of men, you’re going to disappoint yourself. It’s the old self-fulfilling prophecy problem. There are some of us who are learning new tricks, or who were wise/empathetic enough to discover them already.

        I can tell you I’ve seen through the dating sites how many women are not learning how to successfully date after their twenties, when all they might have had to do was rely on their younger looks to get attention (this is not to say there aren’t many older attractive ladies, so please, don’t take offense).

        But I don’t care to stereotype all women based on those relative few I’ve observed not handling the older dating scene well (and of course, that’s from my flawed perspective, just as everyone else comes from their own).

        To me, women come in all types of character, just like men. No one sex is perfect. We’re all human, and fallible. And some of us have more solid and desirable characters than others.

        I try not to apply stereotypes, but evaluate each person on his or her own. It’s how I’d like to be looked at, rather than relegated to just being viewed as a man, and told I’m inferior in general to women as a whole. Women don’t or wouldn’t like the reverse of that, so why should anyone else?

    • Actually, as an older man, I’m just attracted, or seem to attract, the same type of women who’ve been terrible people and terrible to me. I am learning now to take a step back and trust my gut instead of plowing forward without any forethought. I wound up on this very site years ago when I googled up the article on how to fix your broken picker. I don’t need to up my game, I need to learn how to enforce my boundaries and that means not just recognizing the same type of fuckwits I’ve dated, married, before but discarding them before I get into trouble – again. I wish I knew why or how I keep attracting women with bad backs who spend their nights taking muscle relaxants, pain pills, drinking beer and/or wine to dull the pain, complaining about the pain, and then taking sleeping pills to get to sleep. During the day they seem so normal and attractive. 😳 At my age it is really hard to blame my parents 🤣

  • Sorry I dont have time to read all the responses, but I decided that he stole so much of my past, I would NOT let him steal my future. When he died, I was just positive that there was a love for me out there. I was reconnected with someone from my distant past and even though neither of us are perfect, we do well. I just returned from a trip with my adult kids. My kids and husband dont mesh so when I do stuff with my kids, he keeps the home fires burning. I came home to roses, fresh baked bread, and a massage. I seriously love my husband and I love my kids but accepting the fact that they dont need to all love each other is a sad but workable reality in my life. The kids are 27, 32, & 34 so are off living their lives…its all good

    Oddly enough…I am very thankful for my now husband, yet as sure as I was that he existed, Im strangely certain that he is my one shot and if anything happens to him, I think I will get a dog and a fabric sofa (eschewing the leather sofas that testosterone influenced beings keep buying).

    • “but I decided that he stole so much of my past,”

      Same here. Oh it took me a year after he discarded me to rebuild my physical and mental self, but I always knew there would be more romance for me. I was young attractive, and not ready to be a nun. (not that there is anything wrong with that).

      I honestly thought for me I would have romance but didn’t think I would ever want to remarry. I did, but we were together a long time before we did marry.

      All my shit went down before internet, so I didn’t have anything to go on, except my common sense and my sweet Dad and brothers. I didn’t do everything perfect; but I never did anything I was ashamed of, or to hurt anyone. I was extremely loyal, and physically loving, so i came to a point of to hell with him; if he doesn’t want to be the beneficiary of my affection, someone who meets my higher standards will. And he did and still does.

      I didn’t go through a stage of “sampling” I didn’t need to because I didn’t go out with the first guys who asked, they just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t go out until I met someone who met my standards both in character and level of success, and it took several months to access all that before we went out for the first time. I deserved the best and that is what I went for. I am sure he was assessing me too, as well he should have.

      Your kids are still in those hectic young building years; you might find as they get into their 40s or so their feelings change. My son always liked my H, but honestly in those 20s and 30s, he was just busy so though we visited and kept in touch, his focus was rightly on his family and building his career.

      Now he is retired and we see each other a lot more and he was the one who helped me take care of my H through his stroke recovery. Re built our steps, helped me re arrange out the house for easy moving about, set up my accounts so I could manage it all etc.

      H’s kids are great, but they are still working and raising young kids, so they couldn’t help as much.

  • >
    %d bloggers like this: