As online infidelity resources go, Chump Lady is an unusual blog, in that I don’t write much about myself. This isn’t one of those personal-struggles-with-an-unfaithful partner diaries. Nor am I offering services as a shrink, lawyer, shaman, or life coach. My authority on this topic comes from lived experience. I was once chumped by a sociopath, a man with a double life going back decades.
Chump Lady is the wisdom that I wish I had the day I woke up in bed with another woman’s thong stuck to me. It is the brain dump of everything I learned (painfully, stupidly) about infidelity. This blog is the trial-tested results of What Not to Do.
After I was years out of that nightmare, and happily ensconced in my new life, I decided to put those lessons online with the hope that I might shorten someone else’s learning curve and save them pain.
When I had a D-Day in 2006, all the resources then were predicated on reconciliation. What did you do to make them cheat, and how are you going to improve yourself to win them back? There wasn’t a single place that said “Leave the jerk. You’ll feel a lot better for it.”
I decided to build the support site that I wished existed. That was snarky and called out crap. But compassionate and funny too. Turns out there were a lot of chumps out there hungering for a new narrative.
So enough of the Mission Statement, Tracy. Give me the torrid details of your D-Day.
In 2006, I married a man who turned out to be a serial cheater. I discovered his infidelities 6 months after the wedding, when his long-term mistress (there were others) called to inform me of her existence. I had no clue. I had just financed his career move, had a custody trial to relocate my son, left my job, and purchased a 100-year old fixer upper house with him in a no-fault divorce state.
It took me about 18 months to disentangle myself from that nightmare, and a couple of protection from abuse orders. Turns out he had a double life spanning back at least 20 years. (That took awhile to find out. People who cheat tend not to lead with unvarnished honesty. I’m sure I still don’t know the half of it.)
During that time, I fitfully tried to reconcile and I fitfully tried to leave him. I spent a ton of time on online infidelity forums and noticed, after reading thousands of stories, that cheating is terribly predictable. There are only so many moves on the chess board to mindfuck someone. I saw a lot of chumps making the same mistakes I was making and cheaters manipulating them with aplomb. (Only 14 D-Days? But, but! I was going to come out of the fog!)
However, the peer support was invaluable. No one understands this crap like someone who has lived it. I owe my sanity then to the kindness of online strangers. Even if we were all stuck in some save-your-marriage hellscape, many of us were breaking out.
I left and was stranded in Lancaster County, Pa. Amish country is a disorienting place to experience Jerry Springer-level drama. Essentially, it is the most wholesome place in the entire world.
But I liked it there. I found a newspaper job and I bought an old farmhouse on the Susquehanna River, close to my son’s school, thinking I would live there forever. It had an idyllic garden full of apple, pear, and cherry trees. My son had a Huck Finn existence, between his friends, dog, mud and railroad tracks. I thought I’m going to finish raising him and just die here. They can bury me next to my peonies.
Then I met Paul. The best laid plans…
Vowing never to move my life for a man again, or remarry, or countenance even the acquaintance of another lawyer – I remarried a Texas trial lawyer. In 2009, I met Paul at Jazzfest in New Orleans in front of Solomon Burke, (who was performing “Cry to Me” while sitting on a giant throne.) Paul was also a chump, married for 22 years to a serial cheater who seduced her last paramour as a troll priestess playing World of Warcraft. (Yes, the cheaters were trolls.) Having met the only person with a crazier story than myself, it was kismet.
We’ve been happily married since 2010. (I say Paul sweet-talked me 1700 miles to Texas. You can read about my love of Paul and my antipathy toward Texas here. The ass-kicking karma in all this, is that today my son identifies as a Texan, loves jalapeños, and says y’all.) In 2016, we moved to D.C.
Life reconstitutes itself. I never would’ve known this good man, had three sons, learned “Cotton-Eyed Joe” or had years worth of adventures, if I hadn’t found the courage to leave an abuser. I’m not saying every happy ending involves a new partner. (I would’ve been content to die face first in a bed of peonies.) But it does mean don’t let a cheater be the last thing you invest in. Don’t give them the centrality. Move towards joy. Go love people worthy of you.
Leave a cheater, gain a life.