8 Lessons Cancer Taught Me About Infidelity and Reconciliation

cancer infidelity

A chump with Stage-3 breast cancer writes in to say what she learned about marriage and infidelity: The reconciliation wasn’t worth it.

***

Dear Chump Lady,

Thank you for cutting through all the manure and simplifying the world of Chumphood. I am a slow learner and I am the wife that stayed and learned through experiences rather than from Chump Nation.

That said, Chump Lady has been an absolute lifesaver for me. It validated what I knew to be true. I won’t get into the weeds of my story, but 22 years ago and 3 small children in, my husband told me he didn’t love me and didn’t know if he ever had.

One month later he admitted to an emotional affair and assured me it was over. Eight months later she moved out of state and later out of the country. Two years later we had our fourth child. Five years later I found a benign-on-the-surface email exchange between the two of them. Let’s skip ahead to last December. I found out I have Stage 3 breast cancer. Subconsciously I have realized how much I have been listening to the noise of life and I am achieving some clarity in all parts of my life. Including my marriage.

Here are some hard won truths that I didn’t have to spend 22 years exploring but I did.

1. He told me who he was and I didn’t believe him. I should have believed him. 

This is multifaceted, but at its core, absolutely true. It deserves subtitles, because this is the part I struggled with most. My belief that if we could just fix [fill in the blank], we would go back to a good marriage is 100% untrue. There was so much we “fixed” and the marriage didn’t fix itself. He didn’t get better. Give up that dream.

2. The marriage I thought I had was already gone. 

The first 10 years of our marriage had some challenges, but I loved them. I loved being a mom of littles, juggling my career (which I changed to part-time to be with them more), building memories as a family, planning activities, trips, and just doing life. That was all real. His misery did not negate my happiness of those first 10 years. He said he had been unhappy for a long time. I didn’t believe him because I hadn’t been unhappy. But he really had been unhappy for a long time. Long before I met him. He had FOO issues. Let’s go there.

3. I figured out his FOO issues. 

This was a huge feat. It required a 32 year career as a professional counselor, lots of outside reading, more listening, and ultimately cancer. In other words, the price was too steep. Why? None of it mattered. It explained some of how he arrived at his belief systems but it does not validate the abuse he put me through. Nothing can validate that. Nothing.

4. Gaslighting, blaming, and infidelity are all abuse. 

Beginning at the very first sign of trouble when he told me he didn’t love me and maybe never had, I asked him what he wanted to do about that. He told me he wanted me to help him figure it out. I didn’t know about the EA, but he had already given me enough information to understand it. This was a backward way to blameshift his inability to empathetically love and trust a spouse. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change that. If he didn’t love me after 10 years of marriage and 3 pregnancies/children, I could do nothing more to top that. He was trying to put me in a position to solve an impossible problem. 

5. He did not respect me as a wife, the mother of his children, or even as a separate human being. 

It was the email exchange that gave me the AHA moment. I asked for so little (which is sad), but one thing I was crystal clear about was that he will never have contact with her again. She emailed a life update. He responded. She responded. He responded. I found it on his phone one night when I didn’t know how to work a smart phone and it popped up. Not only did he continue their relationship, muted as it was, he was willing to lie about the contact, omit the disclosure of it, and completely ignore my feelings about it. This was a pivotal moment for me. I realized that THIS was our marriage. He didn’t want to change. Nor did he want help. He wanted permission if he got caught, but he really did have selfish entitlement. This is not situational but a part of his character. 

6. Hindsight is 20/20. 

I could have skipped over all of these lessons had I trusted myself and swallowed my pride 22 years ago. He said he was in a dark place and conflicted about our marriage, the feelings he was having for the woman at work, and the lack of good feelings he had toward me. I was blindsided. That said, I could have simply asked myself the question you often ask (Chump Lady was not a blog at this point), “Is this acceptable to me?”

Truthfully, none of the options I had were acceptable to me but I was too short sighted and religiously entrenched to comprehend how damaging this state would be. I needed space to heal. I needed him to be physically out of the house. If we separated, I knew that it would be a road to divorce and I was afraid.

But that was exactly the right decision. Had I taken the steps toward divorce and completed the process I would have been doing everyone a favor. Now I see that. End the conflict within him by making the decision for him. That’s one thing I had control over. The only reason I considered it was to make him see the light. That he had everything with me and his children. That he would come back. Cancer makes one re-examine beliefs. My beliefs were dumb.. Why was I fighting so hard to save a marriage to a man that wasn’t committed? Why did I want a man that didn’t want to be with me?

7. My children suffered because we stayed together. 

In so many ways, this is true. We set an example of a broken marriage. I do not want this marriage for any of my children. I will be truly heartbroken if/when history repeats itself. My children deserve better than this. This is one of my biggest regrets. 

8. My husband has grown and evolved, but he will never be the kind of person I would want as a husband. 

That was the hardest sentence to type. Had I known what I now know, I would not have married him. If I had to do it all over again, I would have ended the marriage at the 10 year mark. Here is the truism: The most honest thing he told me was that he didn’t love me and didn’t know if he ever had.

I will never know if my marriage is one of mutual love and respect. I will always know that my husband is capable of infidelity, great deceit, entitlement, and selfishness. These characteristics are part of who he is. He has many redeeming qualities, but those flaws have popped up periodically and will continue to do so. They are incredibly damaging and abusive. Do not believe that they are anything but.

One more aspect I would like to address is my religious and spiritual dissonance. I live in a highly homogenous religious state and community. So, I grew up in the doctrine and followed all the rules, believed all the teachings, and expected all the benefits in my family life. I feared the consequences of discovering that I was lied to. That the teachings are incomplete or untrue. I feared having a crisis of faith. While I ran from that possibility (subconsciously, of course), it still worked its way into my consciousness.

I believed in the ecclesiastical leaders and suffered some spiritual abuse by the leader of our congregation when he listened and talked to my husband about his emotional affair. He then called me in and lectured me about service and forgiveness. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to come out of the meeting pissed.

Years later my husband was more humble and went to discuss a sexual addiction with our leader that had changed by then. Our clergy are laymen that voluntarily serve the congregation. He listened to my husband and then asked to speak to me. I said no. He pleaded. So I gave him the treat of seeing my full wrath. I gave him the full history, peppered with as many “F” words as I could fit in. This dear man did not lecture me. He listened to me. By the end of my rant, he had his head in his hands. His response (silence) was the best spiritual medicine at the time.

We live in a patriarchal world and I am part of a religious community that is particularly stuck in the patriarchy. There has been an effort to shift this in recent years, but it is still what it is. This does not leave me stuck or helpless. The best thing I can do is explore how the teachings during my formative years (which included some of my adulthood) are simplistic and harmful, particularly for women.

I haven’t left my church. I am trying to figure out my relationship with God but I am angry at him, but I have also grown in my relationship with God throughout this. Just because I go through phases where I’m not speaking to him, he hasn’t stopped speaking to me. God is my Heavenly Father and He loves me. He does not wish harm on those He loves. He doesn’t want me to be abused or be in an abusive relationship. It is absurd to believe that He puts the concept of marriage above the well being of the people within it. 

These are the lessons I have learned by living the life I chose because I didn’t think I had choices. If I could do it all over again, I would make different choices. The price to pay was far too steep. I’m not angry. It no longer hurts. My husband is no longer abusive, as far as I can tell. I navigated a way to stay married. He navigated a way to be kinder. It wasn’t worth it.

Nancy

***

Dear Nancy,

Thank you for writing this out so that we all have the gift of your hard-won wisdom. I don’t really have much to add. You know your mind and don’t need any advice. So please accept this big long-distance hug. (((((Nancy)))))

I wish I could give you the sort of loving partner you deserve. After you kick cancer’s ass, you know, leaving a cheater is still on the table. The future is precious and you don’t need to spend another moment with a man who doesn’t love and respect you. A marginally kinder sex addict? I think you’re still folding your needs into tiny origami shapes and stuffing them into the recesses of your soul.

But I can understand too, that as you’re fighting for your life, the last thing you want to think about is divorce. So, I’d focus on this important point you made: you’re real.

I loved being a mom of littles, juggling my career (which I changed to part-time to be with them more), building memories as a family, planning activities, trips, and just doing life. That was all real. His misery did not negate my happiness of those first 10 years.

Don’t let his misery negate you now either. You’re a beautiful person who invested and loved with her whole heart. Big healing hugs from Chump Nation.

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Stepbystep
Stepbystep
11 days ago

Nancy – Thank you for using your precious time to share your wisdom and thank you to Chump Lady for linking to the posts which expand on your conclusions.

Many chumps from lengthy marriages have experienced betrayal during life’s most significant moments – births, illness and deaths. It provides firm evidence that cheaters cannot be “loved” back into being people of character.

The heroic efforts of chumps to save a marriage by themselves is a resource best tapped early and used to save themselves.

You are clearly strong and insightful, and I hope you have the support you deserve.

Archer
Archer
11 days ago
Reply to  Stepbystep

It’s no coincidence they ramp up the cheating during our vulnerable times like pregnancy, job loss illness. My own therapist pointed out that pattern. These evil fuckwits cause our health to deteriorate physically and mentally

Shadow
Shadow
10 days ago
Reply to  Archer

Yes, doing this to the person you’ve vowed to love and cherish when they’re ill is pure evil and, as Tracy says, a form of very nasty abuse! Please God cheating will soon be classified as a form of Domestic Abuse and cheats will be made face proper justice for their crimes against us, instead of us having to go through divorces, especially “no Fault” divorces! We should be able to just get the “marriage” swiftly annulled in the Civil way. I also think a Church annulment should automatically cause a Civil annulment too, but it doesn’t unfortunately.
Nancy, thank you for sharing your story, you’re a very wise and brave woman and you deserve respect, love and loyalty. I take my hat off to you! God bless and keep posting when you’re able for it, we’re here for you!

Chumped in KC
Chumped in KC
11 days ago

It seems to me that sometimes, not all the times but often enough for me to mention it, cheaters pick these times of great stress to “target” the chump, cancer being one of them. It’s the “kick ’em when they are down” philosophy that narcissistic cheaters tend to have. Charming character, right? This is no accident or coincidence, btw. They want to “attack” when their “loved one” is most vulnerable. That’s what predators do. The problem with these types of people is that they have BAD character, and that cannot be changed, ever. Maybe it can be slightly improved with a ton of work on themselves, but these people rarely want to do the real, hard work for this, and thus, don’t change. But they sure expect the chumps to do this work!

But all of us here know living on hopeium is one of the first reactions to being betrayed, because we can’t believe the person we chose is capable of such deceit and betrayal. So leaving them is easier said than done, and it won’t happen until the chump is ready. That can take 2 day, 2 months, 2 years or 20 years. It will be different with each person. The chump should not be judged for this or judge themselves for this.

The best thing here is to do what you feel is right for you while taking care of yourself and putting yourself first. This is a new thing for many of us, putting ourselves first. It takes practice!

Best wishes to this woman and all the chumps here. We are mighty! We can do this!

jomarch
jomarch
11 days ago

It explained some of how he arrived at his belief systems but it does not validate the abuse he put me through. Nothing can validate that. Nothing.

This.
I spent over 30 years trying to help a messed-up man grow up. He didn’t want to; he just wanted his addictions. I neglected my own hopes, dreams, growth, and health waiting for him. It wasn’t worth it. I finally realized I would never trust him, and I finally left. I wish I had left when a therapist told me he would never change, 5 years in.

SortofOverIt
SortofOverIt
10 days ago
Reply to  jomarch

Me too. I wasn’t so much trying to fix him as much as I just put up with his anger issues for decades thinking that I was being loyal and that this is what love is, loving them despite their “flaws”. Then he had an affair and blamed me. I didn’t “love him enough.”

That blame shift was harder for me to accept than the cheating. I felt like I gave up everything for him and he had the audacity to say it wasn’t enough. I didn’t make the big sacrifices some chumps did, like giving up careers to move for the FW. Mine were more constant. I went out with friends a few times a year, passing up most invites because I knew he’d sulk for days prior to and days after my evening out- making it not worth the 2 hours of fun I had. Giving up a gay male friend because he was so jealous. I never did anything that would justify his jealous feelings. I don’t say that to brag of some perfection on my part, I simply lived in constant worry of him being angry and hence anything that I thought could possibly set him off, I avoided. And it still didn’t work. He was suspicious of everything I did. NOW of course, I recognize this as deflection. HE wasn’t loyal so he accused me of the same. I had no idea.

In any case, after living with years of those kinds of accusations, to have him cheat was just incredible to me. I was almost more upset by the audacity of that than by the actual fact of it, if that makes sense.

He is now in counseling. He didn’t believe in counseling while we were together. Suddenly now that we are beyond repair, it’s something he is interested in? That he could possibly get better and be a better man for his next partner can at times be an upsetting thought. (He is not with Schmoops, we are split up and he is dating, so “next partner” is not someone that I will have any reason to disdain ) When that happens I remind myself that any improvement he gains will benefit our kids, so at least there is that.

Shadow
Shadow
10 days ago
Reply to  jomarch

I feel I did the same and I too ended up a shell of the person I had been, a fat shell!!
But, as they say on Mumsnet, women aren’t rehab centres for broken men! I only wish I had copped onto that long ago!

SortofOverIt
SortofOverIt
10 days ago
Reply to  Shadow

I feel like a shell too. I’m trying to find my way back to “me” but it is really hard. I’m not sure if being empty is just so ingrained that it’s habit now, or if I am suffering from low grade depression. My daily to day life is more peaceful as I no longer live with him. But I don’t feel happy. Most of the time the best it gets is “calm”. Which is certainly an improvement over what I had with him around. But I’d like it to be more fun.

Chumped in KC
Chumped in KC
11 days ago
Reply to  jomarch

Same. Narcissists. They seem grown up in some respects and even look like an adult, but they are really children inside with arrested development. They will forever be Peter Pan and there is no fixing or helping them. And really, as Tracy always points out, that is not our job anyway. It is our jog to take care of ourselves only. I am working on leaving too, 2.5 years in. Getting finances in a place were me and our disabled son can make it without him. I split my time between this Blog and watching Sam Vaknin on youtube. Both Tracy and Sam are right in their own respect and subjects they speak on. Both have been so helpful in me getting to where I am today. Very thankful!

Leedy
Leedy
11 days ago
Reply to  jomarch

It resonated with me too. You (Nancy) put it so powerfully:
“I figured out his FOO issues. This was a huge feat. It required a 32 year career as a professional counselor, lots of outside reading, more listening, and ultimately cancer. In other words, the price was too steep. Why? None of it mattered.”

JeffWashington
JeffWashington
11 days ago
Reply to  jomarch

This resonated very deeply with me as well. People are their choices.

2xchump
2xchump
11 days ago

So many can write an epilog to their lives of not leaving the Chester and staying: for the kids, for the lie, for the hopium, for the good family, inlaws, church, insurance,house, job, finances…and the list is endless. Regrets are not hard to catalog from the knowledge that you cannot and will not have to leave now. That must be a comfort and peace at this most difficult time as you fight for the life you sacrificed for your family.
Decision made, he stayed right? My experience with a sex addict was horrific, my experiences with someone who used me and hurt me due to his FOO issues was inhumane. Those words I do not love you were a shock and having a new born.at that time?? And so many other pivotal events closed no slammed the door to staying..so I would not argue with your decision and rationale or your looking back with grace for yourself. I will do the same. Looking back with grace and love for the decisions I made to save the person who loved with her whole heart. There are no easy answers nor bows to tie on this package of staying with abusers. We make our own decisions and live with those consequences. All is well.

Nancy
Nancy
11 days ago
Reply to  2xchump

I purposely kept the story simple but it is anything but. The sexual addiction caused all kinds of inhumanity. I am choosing to be kind to myself and let my story be of use to anybody who can learn from it. I loved. He didn’t. I tried to understand. I wrote many emails trying to EXPLAIN things to him. Im not calling it all a waste of time as it made me who i am. I am calling out the cost to arrive exactly where CL has been preaching. It was just too high.

2xchump
2xchump
10 days ago
Reply to  Nancy

Nancy, we all make difficult decisions every day. Stay= consequences, Go = consequences. We don’t know what would have happened if we had taken the road less traveled..which is for some of us to leave. The cost is staggering either way. But to me, my body was a temple and did not belong to my husband(s). It belonged to God and was given to me to care for. When that sunk in and what my ” Godly husband ” was doing to me, what I allowed this sex addict to do? And to hurt me repeatedly intimately and with EAs and OW? I could not alliw it to be me. Let it be someone else but I was of value, great value to God who made me and to myself. To know others have seen changes, or found peace or can adapt or take care of their precious selves in the midst of this horrific addiction and other abuses is encouraging for those who have walked this path of tears. That even with intimate abuse and chaos, there is peace in the storm, well i.am comforted for those that stay for so many reasons. For you Nancy I wish Healing, because there is much you can do and have done already to protect and care for yourself. You value yourself and will always hold yourself with love. You will never be alone if you are connected to a God of such love that it makes up for everything. We all do our best with what we know and with what we can see at the time. You certainly shared your heart with us. Thank you for such love and your gift.

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
11 days ago

Dear Nancy, Thank you so very much for taking the time to reflect. I’ll pray for you to be at peace and for complete healing. I commiserate with you knowing that there was no ‘saving’ of a fuckwit. That’s who these people are. I wish I had not lasted so long with my fuckwit (30 years) because I, too, believe I modeled dysfunction to my children. One seems to have followed in his fuckwit dad’s shoes, another has divorced his cheater wife (after the 3rd time), and the other hasn’t married. Alas, we can’t go back. My fuckwit did have good qualities, and many people believe he was a good man. I agree that he did good, even great, things; however, his treatment of me, the lies, the gaslighting, the subterfuge, was all abuse and undermined my self esteem. Just because he had good qualities and he treated others very well, does not mean he was always good. I learned very late that not everything you love is good for you. I even almost succumbed to suicide to end my pain. I’m so, so glad I didn’t off myself for a fuckwit! I’m just now leaving a family reunion and though the landscape is rather plain, it’s so dear to me for all my memories and the good times had by all. And I will ever be grateful to the fuckwit that he always made sure our family was able to attend. I had great memories as a child and now my children have great memories since we brought them as children. Could I have done it wthout the fuckwit? Of course, but I am still grateful that he made it a point to bring us here as a family. And I hope to be here with my grandchildren making memories. The point is that we cannot go back and so we have to be grateful for the good. I wish that you find the strength and the wherewithal to remove the fuckwit from your life, and that you recover enough to live many, many years no longer playing the fuckwit mind games. Peace and freedom are so wonderful. May God grant you this now.

Nancy
Nancy
11 days ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

Amen to all of this. Nobody is all good nor all bad. I know that I stayed in my conflicted state because there are good things about him and our life together. Like you said, I feel gratitude for many of those things. That said, infidelity, lying, and gaslighting is still abuse. It doesn’t matter that he had a hard childhood or he learned it from his dad. I care why he believes in his way of parenting. I care why he cheers for a certain team. I don’t care why he is abusive. It’s unacceptable regardless of the reasons.

Archer
Archer
11 days ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

At pretty close to 30 years of sunk costs I’m grateful for Nancy’s post and your comment, to see that divorce is really the only sane option when married to a narcissistic serial cheater

Shadow
Shadow
10 days ago
Reply to  Archer

I now believe that victims of all sorts of domestic/relationship abuse, including cheating, should be able to get a Civil Annulment, because anyone who would choose to abuse someone who loves them was never fit for marriage in the first place. We should also be able to find out then if someone has had a marriage annuled and the reasons for it, so if it was for abuse of any kind, including cheating, we can make an informed decision about whether or not we want to continue having them in our lives. I would hope most people would say NO to such people! The harder it is for abusers to suck n potential victims, the more likely it is that the passing on of dysfunctional character traits can be diminished, and we’d have fewer abusers in this world! Not none, I’m not that naive, but fewer!

JeffWashington
JeffWashington
11 days ago

Nancy, thank you for framing this whole experience so beautifully.

WHEN you get divorced from cancer I am excited to hear about your next divorce!

I pumped a fist in joy when I saw that you let the layperson have it-particularly after what you had already been told. There are some things that simply should never be forgiven.

We are here for you!

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 days ago
Reply to  JeffWashington

I was also wowed by the “cursing” incident with the church layperson. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall. I’ve noticed that, when my more demure, stoic friends who typically never use off-color language finally, finally, finally lose patience over some gruesome injustice and drop some f-bombs, something radiates from it– a kind of high wattage power– that never does when a habitual potty mouth uses the same words. I’m not talking about the shock factor when a non-curser suddenly curses a blue streak. I mean the words– and the anger fueling them– seem to be genuinely much more powerful coming from someone who’s always calm and enduringly diplomatic.

I passed on to my kids he same warning my parents gave me– that the downside of habitual cursing is that it stops having any meaning or oomph.

Shadow
Shadow
10 days ago

Yes! Irish people swear a lot, it’s almost just aprt of everyday language and there’s even a sort of innocence about it, which I suspect is because those Anglo-Saxon words were brought here by the Brits and , as Irish people weren’t allowed education for Centuries, and spoke Irish only until about the middle of the 19th Century, they picked English up from the occupiers and and probably didn’t realise swear words were actually swear words for a long time! My parents never swore, or I never heard them, which is unusual but they were very devout. My grandmothers did say “feck” alright but that’s not swearing so I try to use that instead of the rude version, as I’m trying to clean up my language. After decades of being lapsed and as swearing is part of everyday language in England too, it’s not easy but I’m getting there!
I do remember though that my father DID swear once, when I was a teenager! There was an item on the News about one of your Presidents, I can’t remember which, it might have been Nixon or Carter, had had a special coating put on his limo to stop bird poo from sticking to it! My dad was quite annoyed by this and declared “Sure who does he think he is, that the birds can’t even s*&t on his car!!” I was was quite shocked and said “Daaaad! Oooh!” but it was funny too! He was a bit embarrassed I think, hehehe!

Elsie_
Elsie_
11 days ago

So true and real. A conservative religious community was also very much a part of my story. My ex was from a family that was even more conservative than our local church.

The breakthrough for me was when I realized that the marriage I thought I had was gone and had been in a horrible tailspin for years. The long-distance separation just confirmed what I already knew in my gut and had been squashing for years. No amount of religious guilt was going to turn that around, and “pray it away” had to be replaced with action.

When I decided to email him that reconciliation was off the table, I didn’t even discuss it with anyone. I was convinced, and that was that. I told the church leaders afterwards, and they were supportive. Of course, he blamed-and-gamed, but I wasn’t going to be moved.

Ultimately, he said he wanted a divorce. OK, I agree. He pledged his always love and said it would be quick and easy. He would give me more than the law allowed. I laughed. He insisted.

I was right. Within weeks, it was a mess, and thankfully, my very gifted attorney got it all straightened out and settled, but not without drama, time, and expense. Yes, the man who divorced me in that horrible mess was the man I married. If I had reconciled, it still would have gone down, maybe even in a worse way.

A friend asked me recently how I feel about all that now, years later. My response was, “It truly didn’t have to be that way.”

One last time
One last time
11 days ago

Nancy, first of all prayers to you on your journey.
It is amazing how fuckwits share so many traits
Mine told me she wanted to leave 14 years ago. I convinced myself, with her help, about her just being confused and tearfully thanking me for believing in us and not giving up on her.
She texted a friend about going out with a male coworker for drinks. To do bible study I’m sure. She said she was just being silly. I believed her
She asked for divorce several more times. Rinse and repeat.
D-Day. It was a lapse in judgement. A moment of weakness. Her messing up
D-Day plus 1, she assured me the affair was over and she would honor the marriage while we determined where we were going. She texted him and asked for “one last time”, hence my username.
When someone tells you who they are, BELIEVE THEM. When someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE THEM. Unicorns might exist, but they are incredibly rare, and its not worth the cost to believe your fuckwit is one. The disrespect, lying, double life, gaslighting. That’s all you need.
What it finally took for me was continuously looking at the pictures, texts, screenshots, recordings, etc. It hurt like a motherfucker, but it has finally broken the trauma bonded, low self esteem hellhole I allowed myself to exist.

Nancy
Nancy
11 days ago
Reply to  One last time

If unicorns exist, they don’t lie twice. They don’t gaslight again. They don’t disrespect your personhood. They feel true remorse and change everything, and I mean EVERYTHING to help you regain your sense of safety.

Mehitable
Mehitable
11 days ago
Reply to  One last time

“Unicorns might exist, but they are incredibly rare, and its not worth the cost to believe your fuckwit is one. ” This is so true. There are unicorns….or maybe people who convince themselves they’ve got one…..but they are very rare. When a person reaches a point where they actively cheat on you- they actually are looking for someone and willing to fuck them and lie to you and maybe steal your money and time…..your marriage functionally is over. It’s just an illusion or social convenience. As I always say….even if they do end it and try to be faithful….YOU WILL NEVER VIEW THEM THE SAME WAY AGAIN. There will always be a taint there and it doesn’t go away. People can talk about forgiveness or having a new marriage or any of this stuff till they’re blue but the reality is….YOU NEVER VIEW THEM THE SAME WAY AGAIN. There will always be doubt there, hesitancy, the possibility of a trigger will always be there. Unless you reach a point where you truly do not care about them or what they do, and why stay married to that.

SortofOverIt
SortofOverIt
10 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Mehitable,

This is so accurate–> “When a person reaches a point where they actively cheat on you- they actually are looking for someone and willing to fuck them and lie to you and maybe steal your money and time…..your marriage functionally is over.”

According to him, my FW had a single affair decades into the marriage. Odds are that wasn’t the only cheating he did, but I am not aware of any other cheating. I was clueless until he admitted this affair.

But what struck me was that he had to be OPEN to cheating for that to happen. He met her on Twitter. Twitter isn’t a dating site. I don’t know the details of how they fell in love, thank god. But my point is, he had to be open to flirting and interacting in ways that a loyal spouse doesn’t act.

The media shows us these examples of cheating, like say the movie Fatal Attraction. Michael Douglas is portrayed as having a truly happy family life with a gorgeous lovely wife. He meets Glen Close at a work related business meeting and things spiral. Now, sure, he makes some really terrible choices. And the audience is not meant to be sympathetic of those choices. But it does all happen fast. And he is not portrayed as if he woke up hoping for an opportunity to cheat. Realistically, most of our FWs probably didn’t end up cheating like that. I am certain that mine was out acting like a single guy and probably had many, many, many interactions that I wouldn’t have been ok with long before he met schmoops and had a full blown affair.

I was frequently told he made “A” mistake. We have all heard that. We all know it wasn’t a singular mistake. There was a time when they were just thinking about it, toying with the idea and could so easily have turned back but they didn’t.

I mentioned on another comment that my FW was super jealous. All he had to do was think “how would I feel if she was out here flirting with internet strangers?” and then CARE even just a little. And this could have been avoided.

Nancy
Nancy
9 days ago
Reply to  SortofOverIt

I particularly like the phrase, “Mistakes were made,” like it is a passive activity by an anonymous person. The truth of it is that FW made a series of abusive choices because of believing in his or her own entitlement. It’s not one decision. It is a frame of mind that is incompatible with a committed relationship. It spans a longer time period than the infidelity.

SortofOverIt
SortofOverIt
9 days ago
Reply to  Nancy

Exactly! He once accused me of not trusting him. This was post-DDay. He felt that he only lied about that “one thing” and hence should still be trusted.

If it all wasn’t so hurtful and damaging a lot of this would be absolutely hilarious. So much of what they say is so incredibly DUMB.

Mehitable
Mehitable
11 days ago

This is a heartbreaking story of so much waste, sadness, abuse, anger….so many things that make a toxic swamp out of life….and in which immune diseases like cancer, grow. My husband took care of his very demented father for 10 years (and we had my demented mother years before that) and he ended up with cancer. I have seen other people in difficult family situations and marriages develop various autoimmune diseases. I think we have to consider not only how a situation is affecting us (and kids, etc) emotionally, but physically as well. It is SO common to hear of abused, deserted or overwhelmed spouses developing diseases like this as all this toxin and stress needs a place to go. It breaks down the system.

ChumpNoMore
ChumpNoMore
11 days ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Totally. I have done a bit of reading around the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies and the correlation between ill health and the number of ACEs a child has. Fascinating stuff. Also relevant are the factors of resilience.

GayDivorcee
GayDivorcee
11 days ago

Nancy,

I am so sorry you find yourself at this cross road in your life. I thank you for your insights – they are simply and eloquently stated.

I too spent decades of my life trying to help my dear ex-husband. The final straw was him simply up and leaving in the middle of the night to attend a drug fueled sex orgy. This was in April 2020 – during the pandemic, before vaccines, before treatments, when we were all afraid.

He came home hours later, cuddled me in bed and lied to me for days about where he was until the truth eventually trickled out. He didn’t care if he infected me. He didn’t care if I lived or died. His wandering dick was all he seemed to ever care about.i was simply a useful husband appliance. Until I was too much trouble to bother with.

i wish I had known about your truths and Chump Lady years earlier. I should have divorced him after the first DDay 1 1/2 years after our wedding. It would have short circuited so much misery,

Mr Wonderfuls Ex
Mr Wonderfuls Ex
11 days ago
Reply to  GayDivorcee

Big hugs to you. Klootzak was also sneaking out to cheat with randos he met online in the early days of the pandemic. I didn’t find the evidence of it until last year. We had a young child at home and were taking all these precautions and here he was sneaking off with APs he found on fetlife. They couldn’t be more shallow….

Mehitable
Mehitable
11 days ago

I may have missed something here but it sounds like this lady is still married to this FW and it doesn’t sound like it’s worth it. It sounds like it’s sucking the life and soul out of her, possibly literally to be with someone….SHE doesn’t love anymore. Because when you go through all this crap with them, and you stay, usually at the end of it you realize…..I don’t really love him or her anymore now either. THEY KILLED IT.

It’s never too late, Nancy, you can end this and be free of it, and live a peaceful life on your own with your kids and friends. Possibly another partner down the road, but we don’t always need that. It just sounds like your marriage is so….gray….at this point, I’d say why bother. I’d like to see you go back to living your life in technicolor but as long as you have this millstone around your neck – and it’s exactly what I say….YOU WILL NEVER VIEW HIM THE SAME WAY AGAIN as you did before the affair. Now you know what he is capable of, he’s not the guy you thought you were married to. Even if he never does it again, and you think he’s changed….well….you once thought he’d never do anything like this, you once thought he loved you and you had a good marriage. How do you know any of that is true now or true in his mind? You don’t. If you’re still together and you can do it financially or healthwise, I’d get a split. Maybe you will come together again down the road but I don’t think this gray life is good for your health. And as far as the religious people go….they can all go fuck themselves because they just want to keep things quiet on the SURFACE. Most of the organized religion people are all about the surface. And don’t be angry at the Creator spirit, God or Goddess or Baby Godlet, or whatever…..it just created everything, it’s not responsible for what we do or how we react or our choices. WE ARE. For those of us who are Bible believers, we have that as the blueprint of our lives…..we need to make better choices based on what we know is right and true deep inside. Everything else is a compromise we usually come to regret.

Last edited 11 days ago by Mehitable
Ruby Gained A Life
Ruby Gained A Life
11 days ago

Nancy, that was as elegant and complete summing up of marriage to a cheater as any I have seen. I’m sorry you reached those inevitable conclusions because of/when you have cancer. So much of what you’ve said rings absolutely true for me. I have my journal open and intend to spend some time reflecting on what you’ve said. Thank you.

Nancy
Nancy
11 days ago

Hugs.

Rudogsmom
Rudogsmom
11 days ago

Nancy, I relate so much to the infidelity part of your story. I believe we grew up in the same faith and although I Ieft the church many years ago, that patriarchal programming remained ingrained in me and contributed to me putting up with a lot of bullshit from my FW. I see now how patriarchy contributed to his fucked up beliefs about himself, marriage, and the world helped him continue to be a selfish, deceitful creep. I’m so sorry and sending healing energy your way.

Nancy
Nancy
10 days ago
Reply to  Rudogsmom

It’s barely veiled, isn’t it? I think one of the good things that came from my marriage IS my faith crisis. I realized I made decisions based on fear rather than love. It’s been a liberating experience. I have much more empathy for those asked to lead and also see them as my equals rather than gifted with special powers. To clarify, I developed empathy for them after I concluded they don’t possess any special powers that I can’t access. I had to go through the “pissed” phase. I have developed a reputation for my lack of filter at church and I’ve found that this is exactly what we need. I don’t feel the need to either throw the baby out with the bathwater nor do I feel the need to burn it all down. I want to stay and I have a lot to offer. But I come with a lack of damn to give. I’m the one sitting in the back on the hard, metal chairs that snort/laughs out loud when someone says something misogynistic. Of course, this happened at work, too, except I was more points in calling it misogynistic. Truthfully, most members feel the way I do. But they need me to call out the outdated beliefs of the few, wayward patriarchy. I will oblige. 😂

Adelante
Adelante
11 days ago
Reply to  Rudogsmom

My father grew up in the Mormon church, and although he left it in his 20s, the patriarchal programming he received conditioned the way he related to my mother and to his children, in particularly damaging ways to his daughters. It was as if he thought he owned us, that we had to obey his every command, center him in our lives, and derive our sense of worth from being “his.” He thought he could tell me who to marry, and what to name my child. He told me that as a woman my first duty was to my husband, and that my mother had failed in her duty to him–and he, I found out after he died, cheated on my mother! I, too, have no doubt that this patriarchal toxicity contributed to the difficulty I had leaving my husband.

Rudogsmom
Rudogsmom
11 days ago
Reply to  Adelante

Right, it’s generational. My ex-FW was also raised in the Mormon church, served a mission, but left in his 20s. That patriarchal BS is definitely ingrained in him as well. I don’t think he ever saw me as a human being. I think the term “wife appliance” is so perfect for how he viewed me. And maybe even an appliance that was an extension of him. Ugh. It’s so awful and even though we weren’t a church-going family, I worry about how this has affected my three adult children. We live in Salt Lake City and are surrounded by it. I talk with my kids about it a lot, but still, it’s everywhere here.

Nancy
Nancy
10 days ago
Reply to  Rudogsmom

If you’re comfortable pointing it out, do. I can honestly do it without anger and wrath these days. If you’re not comfortable doing so, simply remember that nobody has magical powers that you can’t access. If they are claiming they have them, pity them. Their lack of self confidence leads them to lean on their supposed access to More Spiritual Gifts Than You Have. Don’t buy it for one minute. Humility begets inspiration. Not church callings. Not church activity. Not being a man. Being a mom begets a great deal of humility and this often leads to inspiration. But the patriarchy exists everywhere. Look at Washington, DC. Keep teaching your kids to recognize the patriarchy. Reject it at the very least or drive 45 minutes south and I’ll demonstrate my subtle art of challenging it. Is mocking subtle? Clearly I need more practice at kindness.

Adelante
Adelante
11 days ago
Reply to  Rudogsmom

My father was the only one of his family who left Utah, and I am grateful to have grown up next door, in Colorado (especially as opposed to Arizona or Idaho!).

Divorce Minister
Divorce Minister
11 days ago

So often the Christian community talks about regretting NOT “fighting for your marriage” but fails to see this side… regret for staying. I am trying to change the narrative on this in my circle of influence… in fact, I just launched a Cheated On support group last night (in Rochester, MN). CL and CN are doing so much heavy lifting exposing this dark reality that SO needs exposure to the light. Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your hard won wisdom with us all!

Shadow
Shadow
10 days ago

As divorce isn’t even recognised in the Catholic Faith, “fighting for your marriage2 doesn’t seem to be a thing, but a memebr of the Marriage Tribunal, that deals with annulments, is called “The Defender of the Bond”. I’m really praying that in my case, the Defender of the Bond is someone that recognises that unless the bond is both ways, it’s not worth defending because only one of us bonded with the other-myself to him, and I’m now of the opinion it was a bit of a trauma/captor bond. I hope they accept it wasn’t a sacred bond anyway1 Surely Our Lord doesn’t want us in bondage to someone who never really loved us for who we were at all, because they don’t see other people as human beings, but as objects, which are either useful or not! My STBX sometimes referred to other bloke’s live-in partners as “a bit of cushion”! That should have rang my alarm bells , shouldn’t it? All I ever was to him was a bit of cushion, something to make his life more comfy! I’m sure he never loved me as Christ loves the Church anyway!

Elsie_
Elsie_
11 days ago

Sounds like a needed group. Keep us posted.

Yes, I’ve had people in the Christian community ask me if I felt like I fought hard enough for my marriage. That’s kind of a nasty post-mortem, but whatever. I’m toughend up from years of questions like that.

The bottom line is that I had been fighting for marriage and family for over a decade with zero progress and a deeper downward spiral. It was time to end it. No more staying!

Shadow
Shadow
10 days ago
Reply to  Elsie_

If you were the only one fighting for it, then there was no way it’d work. Marriage isn’t war, where one triumphs because they’ve defeated the other. Marriage is a scared partnership, where either both strive to love the other selflessly and do the work needed to keep it healthy, or the marriage can’t thrive and often, can’t survive. Not as anything good, true and life-enhancing anyway!

Shadow
Shadow
10 days ago
Reply to  Shadow

I meant “SACRED partnership” not “scared partnership” although in us chumps cases, we probably should have been scared?!!

Elsie_
Elsie_
10 days ago
Reply to  Shadow

LOL. Well, I was indeed scared of my ex at times. Shortly after he left, I saw a different therapist, and she keyed on the years of veiled death threats as being an issue. Then we weighed a protective order at two points during the divorce process because of comments he made to his attorney.

However, there was just so very much wrong amid the character issues: insecure attachment, addiction, NPD/BPD, and a surface religiosity where he twisted the Bible to fit his needs. It had to end.

Shadow
Shadow
9 days ago
Reply to  Elsie_

I have read about your Ex, Elsie and he does sound like a very disturbed and disordered person! Is he the one your lawyer used to call “the Boy” and even his own lawyer thought he was a horror? He clearly was a walking hazard, wasn’t he? I’m not surprised you were scared of him and you must be so relieved to be out of it?

Elsie_
Elsie_
9 days ago
Reply to  Shadow

Yes, he had formal diagnoses on NPD/BPD, on the malignant side. I am indeed thankful every day to be out of it.

Mine knew that (of course) and called him “the boy” with me. He said a 60-something man behaving the way he was didn’t deserve more. His own attorney called him the “worst client ever” and way overshared with mine to the point that I had to tell mine to stop telling me what was said because it was so triggering.

But we got it done.

Leedy
Leedy
11 days ago

Nancy, this is a hugely powerful letter. If I had read it when I was wavering about whether to divorce my first husband, the depth of reflection and insight in your letter would have absolutely settled the question, saving me a lot of second-guessing and angst. (I did ultimately divorce him, after two years of separation in which we “worked” on things with a therapist.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more eloquent, compelling piece on the costs of staying. So you have given fellow chumps a gift.
You mention the regret you carry (particularly in regard to the impact on your children). I feel bad that you have these feelings of regret, which chime with some real regret that I have in connection with both my marriages to cheaters. My wish is that all of us chumps might find a way to step away from regret. If we could all find a way to lift one another out of these feelings of regret–which give us a suffering we do not deserve–it would be so wonderful.

Nancy
Nancy
10 days ago
Reply to  Leedy

Well said.

luckychump
luckychump
11 days ago

Nancy, I want you to know we all understand. Especially thoughts of suicide, and in my case homicide. No I never did it, but I certainly fantasized about both.
Just when I think I have seen all the misery and heartbreak these FWs can cause, a letter like Nancy’s brings pain and betrayal to top of mind again. Particularly painful is the wish that I had never met him and never married him. Oh, and of course, the 43 years I wasted on a FW, who betrayed me in the worst ways ever. Sadly, I can never mention my regret for the marriage to my children, or any friends who haven’t experienced infidelity. They would not understand the twisted prism with which I now view the past.

Nancy
Nancy
10 days ago
Reply to  luckychump

This thought process brings with it the added burden of wondering if you would have had your children if you hadn’t married him. It’s a moot point yet provides an extra layer of guilt.

Spinach@35
Spinach@35
11 days ago

Nancy, thank you for your heartfelt and thoughtful letter and for this line in particular. It really resonates with me: “I will always know that my husband is capable of infidelity, great deceit, entitlement, and selfishness. These characteristics are part of who he is. He has many redeeming qualities, but those flaws have popped up periodically and will continue to do so. They are incredibly damaging and abusive. Do not believe that they are anything but.”

Should Know Better
Should Know Better
11 days ago

So much of what you said echoes the things my wife said to me. I got the “I don’t love you” speech after D-day, but then the same “I can’t believe I’m the kind of person who could do that.” I’m sorry you spent so long going down the wrong path.

But, just like his misery can’t take away your happiness from the early years of your marriage, don’t let the fact that you made the wrong choice totally color everything you see about the last 22 years either. “It could have been better” is always true this side of heaven. Don’t dwell on the hurts and missed opportunities, but remember the joys and triumphs with yourself and your kids.

Everyone here fucked up in mistaking our chosen partners for fully developed humans, when all of them are missing something fundamental and necessary. Most of us continue to cling to those mistakes despite mountains of good reasons not to. Thank you for sharing your insight with us.

Nancy
Nancy
10 days ago

Wow. A truth teller!

DrChump
DrChump
11 days ago

The “gift of cancer”. So powerful, It bought me to tears. You cannot blame yourself. One will leave when the pain of staying becomes worse than the pain of moving. I am sure you stayed for your children. I will pray for you.

Nancy
Nancy
10 days ago
Reply to  DrChump

Cancer sounds bad and scary and the tumor was a bigger than we thought. But between CN and I? It’s not going to take me. 1. My doctors are all optimistic I’ll be cured (in 10 years), but more importantly only the good die young. 😉

DrChump
DrChump
10 days ago
Reply to  Nancy

Nancy I am so sorry you are going through this but happy to hear your prognosis. I had lymphoma 6 years ago. Cancer opened my eyes.
My medical group fired me while I was going through chemo. At time same time loving wife became distant. Blamed myself and felt her lack of going to my chemo’s was because she could not handle it. 3 years later I found that she was cheating while I was at chemo.
life is crazy. Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary of my divorce which happened 10 months after a blindsiding Dday. Tomorrow is also my birthday. Funny how that works. Will pray for you. Thanks for your post

somanyshmoopies
somanyshmoopies
10 days ago

Nancy, I am reading your letter a day late and you may not see my response, but I can tell by your words we share the same faith. My experience with clergy was similar the first several years, and I attributed that to their being unpaid laypersons with no professional counseling experience. But luckily I realized in time that my ex was a master gaslighter,blame shifter, and outright liar—and that he was probably lying to his ecclesiastical authorities as well. I started asking for alone time with my church leaders and let them know that I understood their need for confidentiality, but here’s what I know. It became apparent rather quickly that my ex told a different story. I even addressed the stories I suspected he was telling about me (lack of sex, lack of support for his vocation, etc. —all untrue—and I could tell I was correct in my guesses) I always found support, sympathy and even encouragement toward divorce from my ecclesiastical authorities, and he quickly lost his membership. I’m sorry your experience was so different. My faith was shaken by my ex but never by my religion, and I feel so much sympathy for anyone who has a different experience. I still feel guilt for staying too long,modeling a bad marriage to my children, and putting up with a spouse who prioritized his work above family, but my children are a joy and they love each other, so that much turned out right. There is power in truth. I appreciate your bravery in telling your story and pray for your complete recovery. ❤️

Cal
Cal
3 days ago

You’re amazing, Nancy. Everything you’ve given us here has been fought for in the trenches, and you’re still there fighting cancer. Shame you’re still with the fuckwit, I’d just love to see you have more, better, the things you deserve. CL is right – you can always still leave.

I remember being new to God, and chatting with a friend (one of the people I’d gotten to know God through) about prayer. Her face when I mentioned that I would get angry, that I’d question and demand and swear – not horror, amazement, because she’d been raised to always be polite about it. I had no background so I was going with what I had, which was: God is big enough to take it 🤷 So I love that second clergy of yours, just sitting there and letting your rightful anger exist.