Divorced Him, Took Him Back — Am I a Unicorn?

A reader asks, “I divorced him, took him back. Am I a unicorn?”

Dear Chump Lady

I found you well after D-Day and divorce. FW/XH and I were empty nesters whose jobs took us to two different continents for what was to be a few years. There was lots of money due 100% to my career. We were to meet in Paris, Cairo, etc, every other month to reconnect (never happened) while we focused on the jobs we both loved.

After about 6 months apart, in steps the Other Woman, 20 years younger. That was followed by the same fact pattern we have all faced: denial, gaslighting, etc. Which was then followed by me hiring a private investigator on another continent to confirm that I wasn’t loony.

That was followed by me getting a lawyer, me moving money around, me giving our kids some money so there was less to divide with FW and finally me even convincing FW to sign over his half of our house to our oldest child.

Once all the funds and real estate were moved and safe – boom, my lawyer emails him the divorce docs with him getting 10-20% of all we had in a no-fault state because he was, I believe, truly ashamed of what he had done and chose not to fight me. (Even my lawyer said I should give him more just to avoid issues in the future, but I said no).

That was followed, sadly, by some pick-me-dancing and other things I wish I hadn’t done, including a brief wreckonciliation. Seven years ago this was, with divorce five years ago.

Where am I now?…..that is why I write to you.

We Reconciled

I’m still divorced, but about 4 years ago we reconciled – So we reconciled after one year post-divorce, with almost full no contact on my part in that period. Now: Under the same roof, money still separate, for first two years of the four, we slept in different rooms on different floors of the house I own with my oldest (who does not live there). XH had enough money still to runoff with the OW and build a new life with her royal ugliness, yet he did not. As far as I know she was the one and only OW in 35 years.

He is/has been very remorseful. Tearful, emotional. Not overly, but for me when appropriate and meaningful. But things are NOT the same, obviously. Kids all have gotten married in the last 4 years and grandkids have come along. All the things I didn’t want to lose — my family circle — I have back. My daughter-in-law doesn’t even know we are divorced.

Why Did I Take Him Back?

So there are days when I ask, why did I take him back? What is wrong with me? When we have a normal being-with-someone-a lot fight/spat, I want to immediately yell out for him to get the hell out of my life, that I should have never let him back in. He will say things like I am nasty and challenge him during these fights (my fault!). Exact words he used in the blameshifting phase prior to divorce.

So I share this with you and CN to show that even after remorse from the FW, even after FW did not fight for the 50% plus maintenance he could have gotten, it is nearly impossible to make things work. I frequently read your site so that tells me it ain’t over for me.

At some point you believed (but no longer do?) that there could be reconciliation under certain circumstances (remorse, both emotional and financial) and obviously no contact with the OW past, present, future. This no contact with the OW I know is the case and I do believe he will never cheat again and the remorse is there. What remains is generally a nice life with the occasional spats that send me into an utter tailspin.

So is he a unicorn, can I ever recover or do I pack up and run?

MaybeMaybeNot

***

Dear MaybeMaybeNot,

Yeah, so why did you take him back? What is wrong with you? These are excellent questions. Are you working on them in therapy? Because I’m the Leave a Cheater Lady not a prognosticator on unicorn odds.

Untangle the Skein

Even if he’s really sorry (I’m skeptical — does he pay rent?), even if he screwed himself in the divorce (was that generosity and remorse, or just basic idiocy?) — you still have to live with the mental gymnastics that he’s capable of casual betrayal. At this point, you’re not a chump — you’re a volunteer.

You know what he is and you had reasons — unstated here — for taking him back. Untangle that skein.

I can guess at your motivations, but what exactly does this guy bring to the table? Shared history? Small engine repair? Really great pancakes?

We were to meet in Paris, Cairo, etc every other month to reconnect (never happened),

So, he’s got a high-earning wife with an international career, who wants to enjoy foreign travel with him — and he would rather be boffing his much younger mistress while you’re away. He’d rather trade all his blessings — you, your intact family, prosperity, Paris — for fresh snatch. Those are his values.

And his de-values. You sound like a pretty hot ticket. And that’s not good enough for His Nibs. He thinks he deserves more.

I’m not talking monetary settlement — I’m talking about what he thought he was getting when he was fucking around on you.

denial, gaslighting, etc. Which was then followed by me hiring a private investigator on another continent to confirm that I wasn’t loony.

So, he’s pretty adept at gaslighting you. So much so that you had to hire a PI to prove you weren’t crazy. Why would you trust him now?

He doesn’t tell the truth — it’s found out.

I believe, truly ashamed of what he had done and chose not to fight me.

Or maybe he just figured he could manipulate a different outcome later. Which…hello? You’re together. Did he relinquish all claims to re-litigating this later?

You left out a salient detail — did the OW dump him?

Divorced Him, Took Him Back

So we reconciled after one year post-divorce, with almost full no contact on my part in that period.

I call bullshit. Of course you had contact (“almost”) — because he somehow negotiated his way back into your home. Was that via telepathy? No. You didn’t shut him down.

WHY? Really explore that. And explore what he was doing — because it doesn’t sound like he was respecting your I AM DIVORCING YOU boundaries. Sorry people act sorry. One way they demonstrate that is with respectful distance.

And it also sounds like you weren’t serious about the divorce. That it was taken up in the spirit of Harrumph! I’ll show you! I won’t call it punitive (because, hey, fuck around and find out, cheater), but it does seem like you put a lot of stock in him loving you despite levying deserved consequences.

You could just skip ahead to: Don’t have people in your life who push you to the outer limits.

Under the same roof, money still separate,

So, if he has a double life, you cannot track the expenditures. Useful. And you still serve as shelter and wife appliance.

XH had enough money still to runoff with the OW and build a new life with her royal ugliness, yet he did not.

So, she dumped him? Or he enjoys cake? This really isn’t the comforting scenario you think it is. The problem isn’t the Other Woman (she sucks, of course) — the problem is the character of the man you married. She’s could be anyone/any orifice. The OW wasn’t special. He could take the money and create dating profiles. He could cheap out and screw a co-worker or a high school crush on Facebook. When you’ve got lousy character, that’s what’s unsafe. Not the proximity of Schmoopie.

The Pick-Me Dance

Honestly, MaybeNot, you sound like you’re still in the throes of the pick-me dance. You won him! He dances to your tune! He’s sorry!

The pick-me dance is un-winnable. The only sane move is to quit.

As far as I know she was the one and only OW in 35 years.

You do not know that. Above, you stated you thought you were going loony from gaslighting. Also living together is no guarantee he won’t cheat.

A show of hands from CN — how many of us were living with cheaters who cheated on us? Oh, that’s about 95 percent of us. I think the other 5 percent lived in their cars.

He is/has been very remorseful. Tearful, emotional. Not overly, but for me when appropriate and meaningful.

Okay. Does he pay rent?

All the things I didn’t want to lose — my family circle — I have back.

You never lost them. You lost a fuckwit. You’re a complete family without him. Divorce doesn’t make you less than. It makes you divorced. This whole marital status thing might be the root of your Why I Took Him Back issues.

My daughter-in-law doesn’t even know we are divorced.

Secrets. That sounds healthy.

When we have a normal being-with-someone-a lot fight/spat, I want to immediately yell out for him to get the hell out of my life, that I should have never let him back in.

Yeah, that’s not a normal spat. “Get the hell out of my life” isn’t something I reserve for tiffs over the unscrewed mayonnaise jar or where we’re spending Thanksgiving. “I should never have let you back” is what you say to Freddy Kruger.

He will say things like I am nasty and challenge him during these fights (my fault!). Exact words he used in the blameshifting phase prior to divorce.

Character Transplant

I’m not sensing that character transplant. And what exactly is the cause of the friction? What are you fighting about?

At some point you believed (but no longer do?) that there could be reconciliation under certain circumstances (remorse, both emotional and financial) and obviously no contact with the OW past, present, future.

It doesn’t matter what I think about reconciliation (I’m skeptical, obviously) — it matters what you will tolerate. What your values are. You don’t have the financial vulnerabilities that tie most people to FWs, or at least give them pause about leaving. To me it sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself you’ve got a unicorn, like that would prove something to someone — Schmoopie, perhaps?

Winning the pick-me dance is never worth winning. Because the prize — a person who abused you — isn’t worth having.

This no contact with the OW I know is the case and I do believe he will never cheat again and the remorse is there.

You have no idea if he is or isn’t cheating or remorseful. You have your belief.

What remains is generally a nice life with the occasional spats that send me into an utter tailspin.

It’s a package deal — the “nice life” and the skidouts. The sense of security and the trap door of doom. The trust and the distrust.

You act married, but you’re not married. He’s sorry, but sometimes he doesn’t act sorry. He’s back, but sometimes you wish he’d go.

You signed up for these mental gymnastics, so you can’t be surprised that there are mental gymnastics.

You know who has a nice life? Your ex-husband. Other than your occasional fits of lucidity (which he deems nasty) and his performative remorse, he has his old life back. All for the low, low price of a divorce settlement he never has to live with.

Because he has you.

It’s never too late to leave if you want to.

****

Hey, just an announcement. The Tell Me How You’re Mighty podcast is up on Spotify now here.

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WalkawayWoman
WalkawayWoman
11 months ago

MaybeMaybeNot,
I could have been you. One year after I dumped my sociopath ex, the Lying Cheating Loser, I would have taken him back given the chance.

It took me much longer than a year – about four, if I’m honest – to detox my brain from the massive mindfuck.

But here’s what I remember from living with a cheater:
– The constant state of high alert.
– Always knowing the whereabouts of his phone.
– Never missing an opportunity to snoop through his phone, bag, wallet, computer history.
– Monitoring his location and cell phone activity (his phone was on my plan because of course it was) and searching every frequently appearing phone number.
– When things were temporarily calm and “happy,” still walking on eggshells waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And on and on.

The LCL was never going to be truthful or faithful. But even if I’d believed I had a unicorn, I had become someone I didn’t recognize and didn’t like.

I had always been a calm, somewhat conflict-averse person. But living with the constant cognitive dissonance turned me into a raging lunatic. Minor conflicts escalated into ridiculous knock-down drag-outs.

I’m so grateful I never had the opportunity to wreckoncile. Because the biggest wreck would have been me.

At 5+ years out, I’m happily single and have gained a truly charmed life. One that never would have been possible if I’d allowed that chaos agent LCL back in my life.

Chumpy VonChumpster
Chumpy VonChumpster
11 months ago
Reply to  WalkawayWoman

Walkawaywoman, you are absolutely correct in that it isn’t really a matter of having a unicorn but it’s what having, and staying, with a FW makes you become. I displayed all of the behaviors you mention above (and then some!) and it wasn’t until I also didn’t recognize myself and didn’t like myself that I realized I had to leave. I couldn’t trust the FW, so I had to trust myself and get out of that toxic situation for my own sanity and self respect.

Sandyfeet
Sandyfeet
11 months ago

I was miserable with myself for similar behaviors. Glad FW decided he need Howorker back in office, it lit a fire 🔥 under me. I was dealing with a cheater and a pill addict. Thank God I’d already had seen attorney. My adult kids said you were giving up time with us and grands for FW. I regret that, but I give myself grace. Married 36 years . I guess I was in shock

ChumpOnIt
ChumpOnIt
11 months ago

Same. I wanted to stay, wanted to understand, wanted to get past all of it, until one day I found myself not wanting to be around him, talk to him, was no longer attracted to him. That is no way to live.

WalkawayWoman
WalkawayWoman
11 months ago

Chumpy VonChumpster, I’m glad we both got out, and stayed out. Living like we did with our FWs takes a toll not only on a person’s mental health, but physical health as well. I’m convinced I would have eventually gotten seriously ill with something, had I stayed.

Chump-o-potomus
Chump-o-potomus
11 months ago
Reply to  WalkawayWoman

It’s incredible the PI skills we develop to catch our FWs in lies and uncover the truth. (The FBI should seriously consider recruiting from the CL comment sections for new agents.) Unfortunately, those skills become obsessions and it becomes toxic. I told my FW I wanted a divorce in large part because I didn’t like the woman I was becoming. Anxiety, depression, paranoia, the on-edge feeling when he got a text, the impulse to check the phone log to verify who sent that text, memorizing dates and times to make sure his stories line up, etc. It’s all too much and nobody should volunteer to live like that. I wanted a partner not a mental health crises.

SortOfOverIt
SortOfOverIt
11 months ago

Chumpo,
I didn’t have the option of becoming a PI. FW had a long distance affair. Our cells were on his acct, I had no access. His phone was fingerprint-locked. I had no access to his laptop. In fairness, I did any snooping I could, but it was sooooo limited. I did have enough info to know I was done with the marriage. And I found the details that he did give just made me hurt/crazy, so to an extent, less is more.

But here is the screwed up part. When I read here about Chumps that were able to get into cells/laptops etc and find ALL the details? I am almost jealous. I know full well that more details, what CL calls “pain shopping” would just be hurtful to me, but there is a part of me that would absolutely look for more if I could.

I am in a no fault state, so more details really would be of no benefit to me. I needed enough to know it was time to end it, and I definitely have that. (because he told me, he was going to leave me for the OW. That didn’t happen. They are over. And now I am leaving him because he cheated and he thinks I am a jerk for not fighting for our marriage)

Happy And Free
Happy And Free
11 months ago

I couldn’t agree more with you COP! I also got a laugh about the CIA recruitment job, because for years I thought we chumps could solve major crimes. We became super-sleuths. I also hated all of the sneaking into his phone, emails, texts… I erased all of his contacts. In the end, I hated who I was becomeing. Plus my FW didn’t deserve my time or energy.

FormerChumpenity
FormerChumpenity
11 months ago

Exactly. Memorizing dates and times to make sure the liar’s stories lined up. Creating Excel spreadsheets or detailed notes on paper with columns for these specifics. I mean, really! All of that time they took from our lives – of our own choosing, but we felt we had to to keep any shred of Sanity, when it was anything but! Missed out on sleep, workouts, visiting with friends and family, job opportunities, you name it. How absolutely tragic.

WalkawayWoman
WalkawayWoman
11 months ago

Oh, the dates and times thing! I had reams of “evidence” of when he lied about his whereabouts and activities.
All a part of my effort to combat the gaslighting.

LookingForwardsToTuesday
LookingForwardsToTuesday
11 months ago

Am I the only one who thinks that MayBeMaybeNot is not in the right place to be in a relationship with anyone, let alone an Ex-husband who cheated on her ….. particularly within a year of the Divorce being finalised? I would suggest that she needs to get some help to work on herself and understand what sounds like a very unhealthy relationship dynamic.

The great thing about properly executed “no contact” is it allows time to heal and to work out what it is that you really need.

LFTT

DrChump
DrChump
11 months ago

☝️word

BuildingANewLife
BuildingANewLife
11 months ago

This letter makes me sad. You are selling yourself short and all of the time you are spending with FW is time you could be spending with someone better. Why settle for someone you can never truly trust again? He showed you his true colors, yet you are ignoring your own instincts to get away from him. It’s been years and your doubts haven’t left, have they? That’s for good reason: cheaters cheat so it’s only a matter of time before another D-Day, and you find out you needlessly wasted precious time on this expired relationship. The world is full of wonderful, loving, and honest people. Find someone who respects you and build the kind of genuine relationship that you deserve. Or stay single if that’s what you prefer. Either option is better than the limbo relationship you are describing. Don’t talk yourself out of doing right by yourself. I predict you will be much happier when you have truly moved on with your life.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago

It raises concerns to hear the OP’s FW is still blurting “affair era” verbal attacks. It means the distorted thinking hasn’t changed. If the thinking hasn’t changed, nothing has really changed.

Frank Pittman always made the case that cheaters aren’t more sexual than average. Devoted couples who enjoy sex have more and better sex than any cheater. What’s wrong with cheaters boils down to disordered patterns of thinking, specifically the way they (exactly like domestic batterers) manage to rewrite the characters of victims so that, in their twisted minds, abusers assure themselves that victims “deserve it,” and rewrite events to cast themselves as victims of their own victims. The fact this guy manages to even momentarily erase context and back story– the context and story in which he is not a poor sausage victim of his partner’s unreasonable hostility and the context and story in which her suspicion, hurt, anger and one-foot-out-the-door posture are perfectly understandable due to his heinous betrayal, abuse and endangerment– in order to accuse the OP of being “nasty” or whatever means that his mind is still capable of gymnastic confabulation and prone to magically erasing inconvenient hard facts. Once he’s managed to rewrite events for even a minute, the rest is technical– simply stretching out the time he’s wallowing in “confabulation mode” long enough to line up rando orifices to bonk and then another few minutes to follow through.

Chances are, he’s already in the lining-up process. Not to suggest this as a strategy but just to make a point: if she were to use some of those ample resources to hire a PI to see what that guy does as he ambles about doing errands in town, I’m betting anything the snoop would bring back video footage of FW parking himself in a cafe and ogling, gawking, gandering and looky-looing at anything with an X chromosome and a pulse. There would be dirty-Santa smiles to waitresses and shop girls, a bit of banter and none of it innocent given his history. Studies have shown that ogling is among the best indicators of intentions to cheat. Flirting is as well.

But why take it that far when there’s already a clear indicator the thinking hasn’t changed? As much as the conscious mind might want to interpret cues differently, the unconscious lizard brain won’t miss the red flag for danger and the OP will never, ever be able to mentally or physically relax as long as she remains in the orbit of this goon. That level of stress can have huge health consequences over time. He’s still “that guy.”

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
11 months ago

“What’s wrong with cheaters boils down to disordered patterns of thinking, specifically the way they (exactly like domestic batterers) manage to rewrite the characters of victims so that, in their twisted minds, abusers assure themselves that victims “deserve it,” and rewrite events to cast themselves as victims of their own victims.” <— Yes..this very much

So I have this theory/belief…they indulge in the above behavior over and over until they wouldn’t know truth if you wit them with it.

I have shared here that Im Catholic and believe in Purgatory. I believe that in Purgatory, God removes all the filters of denial and self-mindfuckery from them and all they can see and feel is the ACTUAL truth.

I believe that when that particular layer of self delusion was removed, he was required to review all his actions and acts of abuse in their actual context minus denial. He likely already had to face hearing himself blame, criticize and insult me 10,000 times while simultaneously feeling both the love and hurt I had in my heart for him.

The ironic part is that for so many years, I loved him and he did not love me. I think it is likely that (assuming my theory that he exists on another plane of consciousness is true) he loves me for all I did for him but I dont love him anymore at all.

ISawTheLight
ISawTheLight
11 months ago
Reply to  Unicornomore

“he loves me for all I did for him but I dont love him anymore at all”

This is really well put. When FW was trying to hoover me (and prevent divorce), which was incited by the fact that I had taken off my wedding ring, he called me crying and told me how much me missed me. He proceed to list what he missed, and it was just a list of things I had DONE for him. It was nothing about my personality or my interests and passions or even my quirks or my voice or anything personal at all. “I miss you cooking for me”, “I miss having someone to watch movies with”, “I miss you taking care of me when I’m sick”, that sort of thing. I could have been ANYONE honestly. It had nothing to do with ME. And that is why we are so easily replaced.

I loved him for who (I thought) he was, not what he did for me (frankly, he never actually did much for me anyway), and when he showed me that he wasn’t that person at all and never had been, my love for him eventually completely disappeared.

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
11 months ago
Reply to  ISawTheLight

ISTL, yes. Im AMAZED that after all these years of processing this, there are still layers of the onion to peel back.

I think that I precisely fit Cheaters list of preferences (hair color, height, weight, shape of my butt, profession and temperament) but who I was didnt matter at all. He was likely really surprised by who he learned I was during his debrief with God.

Golly, this all feels so tragic…a Universe-sized missed opportunity. We could have been an awesome couple but we limped and gasps along until he broke us completely. I fantasize of what it might have been like for him to see me bloom away from his endless badgering and abuse…for him to come to a wedding or graduation with some gal and see me and my forever-husband flourishing.

ISawTheLight
ISawTheLight
10 months ago
Reply to  Unicornomore

I am sometimes sorry he’s dead and can’t see me now. He said I could never survive on my own, and would latch on to the first guy who came along so I’d have someone to take care of me (that is, when he wasn’t saying that I’d die alone because I’m such a frigid bitch). I wish he could see me with my 6 figure job, and my own house that I bought by my damn self without any help from anyone, living my best life with money in the bank doing all the things I love that he bullied me into giving up for so long. Me paying for and taking a trip to England by myself and not even feeling the effect on my bank account. My happy, happy kid (who is also quite astute on what is and is not an acceptable way to treat other people). My cat (he was allergic so we couldn’t have one). My friends (he said I didn’t have any and no one liked me, LOL). Me chumming with HIS family (god, he hated when I’d talk to them), sharing holidays and special occasions. Me rereading the same book 20 times in one year because I love it (he would ridicule me for reading things more than once). Me being healthy, and hey, a little fat even, and not caring one whit what he or anyone else thinks of my body. My confidence. How happy I am single. And how little he matters to me now.

On the other hand, my life is 1000X more peaceful with him gone, and much easier, so I am really okay with things as they stand.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago
Reply to  Unicornomore

That interpretation of Purgatory is incredibly poetic– removal of all self-exculpatory filters and denial.

You might really benefit from reading a book that’s in this page’s resources, “The Batterer” by criminologist Donald Dutton, who writes about, among other things, abusers and “infantile deindividuation.” He also writes about “neutralization” or the process by which batterers and spouse-killers manage to self-talk themselves into feeling guiltless.

When I worked as an advocate for domestic violence survivors, I was warned by the director of the program about a particularly terrifying moment I might witness in court where some batterer-defendant was forced to listen silently to victim or witness testimony in which the batterer’s heinous behavior and abuse was described in detail. Without being able to threaten or attack the victim or witness to stop the testimony, many defendants would become apoplectic, turn five shades or red and start to visibly melt down. Just as predicted, I saw this happen several times. It was so obvious and incredible that everyone in the courtroom would become tense and the marshal would shift their hand closer to their guns until it passed. Basically what was happening is that the abuser’s normal system of being able to filter, rewrite, deny and block out the reality of who they were was being flummoxed. Then you would suddenly see people who were otherwise smooth operators and charming liars start to completely lose it. I think it represents a precise measure of how far away from reality abusers are able to stray that they’re actually shocked when forced to listen to a factual recounting of their own behavior.

As far as “infantile deindividuation,” abusers can only love like infants– in a wormily dependent, one-sided way. My mother always used to say there would be no more dangerous human being than a 200 LB two year old. There’s little reciprocation, only needs and demands which, in an actual two year old, is a normal, passing stage. But in an adult, it’s lethal. It sounds like that’s what you were dealing with. If he said he “loved” you, he probably meant it– as far as what even constituted love in his stunted, petrified little psyche.

Just to qualify, “stunted and petrified” could make abusers sound impaired and sad sausage but the typical domestic terrorist is way too skillful at evading consequences to be considered “mentally ill.” They’re more “criminally disordered.”

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
11 months ago

Dang HOC, you always have such interesting details to add… thank you

chumpedchange
chumpedchange
11 months ago

“abusers assure themselves that victims “deserve it,” and rewrite events to cast themselves as victims of their own victims”. this is perfectly put! Thank you HoC.
– And this made me laugh, it’s the ugly truth made funny “There would be dirty-Santa smiles to waitresses and shop girls, a bit of banter and none of it innocent given his history. ” Dirty-Santa smiles – teehee my ex spouse had one of those old white guy, white/grey chin patch and moustache (and he was scarily pink underneath it). Ugh… If I never see one again it’ll be too soon.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago
Reply to  chumpedchange

Dirty Santa– oldsters perving on youngsters by feigning benevolent grandpa vibes– bleurgh. I guess it’s all the more horrible if they actually look like “Indy rock soul patch/Alternative Mall Santa”!

alas rainy again
alas rainy again
11 months ago

Dear MaybeMaybeNot, of course I concur with Chump Lady’s excellent advice! I noticed you mention “My daughter-in-law doesn’t even know we are divorced.” Oh dear! So you both are keeping up appearances? Are you gaining something from this situation ? To me, that need for intact appearances smells of (covert) narcissism. Control. I was acquainted with that behavior by reading “Why does he do that” by Lundy Bancroft. Ex-FW’s crazy behavior suddenly made sense and I could finally understand the situation I was in. And get out! Get out! Get out! It was not easy to abandon my wedded life. It’s been two years and I am still stabilising my new single life. But I find it so much saner! My integrity is important to me. Best of luck {{{😘}}}

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago

Bancroft really boils down a lot of cutting edge clinical wisdom on abuse and makes it accessible which people undergoing massive trauma need– bite sized concepts, easily digested. Dr. Ramani is another who has a real understanding and manages to boil it down. This is a great presentation on how victims of narcissistic abuse are often secondarily abused by “toxic positivity” zealots who urge them to “forgive”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAfSsDTz1Mk

MrWonderful’sEx
MrWonderful’sEx
11 months ago

I just finished reading that book and also found it helpful. FW met many of the profiles but mostly, he is a control freak. Not that I care. He is not acceptable to me in any way. Moving on….

KatiePig
KatiePig
11 months ago

I second the recommendation to read Why does he do that? I almost didn’t because my ex didn’t physically abuse me but he did talk about murdering me at the end so someone convinced me to read it. It was enlightening. So many things started to make sense.

FYI
FYI
11 months ago

“My daughter-in-law doesn’t even know we are divorced.”
This was the huge flag to me. The poster, the ex, AND THE SON are all participating in this secret. Why can’t the son tell the truth to his own wife?

Letitsnow
Letitsnow
11 months ago
Reply to  FYI

He’s got you in a perpetual state of shame.
Get out.❤️

FormerlyKnownAs
FormerlyKnownAs
11 months ago

My ex FW was cheating on me for years and when he got caught he asked for an open relationship. He said this would involve being with me (and our child) about half the time and with her the other half. I gave it a thought because I didn’t want to lose him. And then I woke up!! I couldn’t imagine a life where he would be hanging around the house being a half assed husband while really wanting to be with her. I realized that he didn’t care about me at all so why was I trying to cling to a dream of a part time husband?so my question is: Why on earth would you take a husband back who doesn’t value you? It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t cheat now…

Dontfeellikedancin
Dontfeellikedancin
11 months ago

☝️So much this. Who has time for a half assed partner?

It never gets better
It never gets better
11 months ago

This was me. I took it a little further. After 9 months of divorce, I wrekoncile. He will play around, you know, every time I bring up the hurt, he will find another OW and leave the house. He did it twice. The mental and emotional abuse was terrible.
Then, when COVID was happening, I think he had it in the very early months of 2020. We thought he was dying. So I moved to his place 🙄. We started to play family and a year later, I remarried him.
The day after wedding two, he was still conversing with a woman who I had found naked pictures and two months later on my birthday, I realized he was still in a full blown affair.
I left, we are divorced for the second time around.
He had no desire to change. At all. Now he travels international to meet women. It never gets better, if evolves to the worst.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago

Whenever I read these stories that take place after decades of marriage, I just keep thinking how cheaters are such appalling “objectifiers” who see only body parts, not souls while, at the same time, the average person’s exterior is… just average. The odds are vanishingly low that any of them would make People Magazine’s yearly “sexiest” lists and, statistically speaking, very few are going to be rich enough to purchase themselves top shelf bootie. Without any soul or integrity to speak of to light things up from the inside, that’s all cheaters and their collaborators have got– the average flawed carcass. That’s why I imagine binge drinking has to be a frequent component of it since all parties would require very thick beer goggles to project all these glam fantasies on the other parties.

What a pathetic circus. Meanwhile people with integrity are never pathetic, never just the sums of their earthly forms.

Dontfeellikedancin
Dontfeellikedancin
11 months ago

HoC I appreciate this very much. Even FW, who cheated with someone “sexy” who “flattered” him, recognized that she was an empty shell and didn’t want to leave and be with her. Too bad by telling me this (trying to convince me it was over) he failed to predict that I would see the hypocrisy – he’s a pretty, empty shell too, so why would I want to stay with him any more than he wanted to stay with her?

I don’t talk to him except about the kids, but I’d still love to tell him: he both overestimates and overvalues his physical attractiveness.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago

LOL, FW in my case seemed to draw a big fan club in very specific demographics: elderly, sexually repressed church ladies and provincial Karens with butterfly tatts, acne scars and beer guts.

It always kind of baffled me how excited some of these women would get about him. When I was in the hospital giving birth one time, the doddering nurses’ aids were all over him. And I would see Walmart greeters light up like Christmas trees if he even looked their way. Huh? I’m from NYC and lived in Paris. I’ve seen a lot of staggeringly specimens who don’t even seem human. In comparison, I guess he was “okay.” Had all his teeth. Sort of fit. A square jaw. But matinee idol? Meh. I married him because I thought he had character, not for his looks. Silly me.

Roaring
Roaring
11 months ago

Excellent insight expressed beautifully.

Tornup
Tornup
11 months ago

I can relate to this. They dont want to be accountable and if you make them face themselves they go find a new OW to boost their deflated ego of seeing their nasty character. I think my XH was a nice man. Something snapped, but it doesn’t matter what happened. It happened and you have to accept that you can’t change that and acceptance and time alone takes time. That dreaded time.

ISawTheLight
ISawTheLight
11 months ago
Reply to  Tornup

“if you make them face themselves they go find a new OW to boost their deflated ego”

FW told me that “too much has happened between us” and that he needed “a fresh start”. Meaning I knew what he was like and what he was capable of, and he didn’t like that. He’d rather go for some stupid girl who looked at him with stars in her big cow eyes. Except, as I pointed out to him (to no avail), wherever he goes, he takes himself with him and that a new start didn’t erase the things he’d done. The new girl found out soon enough what he was like and got the hell out of there.

Sue Legree
Sue Legree
11 months ago

Love Chump Lady’s advice here. To me, it seems as if your appearance of a married “status” is trumping everything else. You are believing the story you are telling yourself. Maybe it’s to cover up the fact that you married this loser and had children to him. I think you just wanted to prove to the OW that the big prize is yours. You are not married, nothing is put back together, you are rambling around in all the broken pieces of a doomed scenario, just waiting for that one spat to end it all. Not a fate you deserve, just to keep up appearances. Run like your hair is on fire, you are demonstrating to any woman in your life, that any man is better than no man. That just ain’t so.

Gentle Reader
Gentle Reader
11 months ago

Maybe, I assume you are at middle age as you mention 35 years. There’s no shame in divorce and the reason I think that is some of it is you said I have my circle back.. You never lost your circle. I am telling you the only way you are going to come ahead if something happens to him first. If it’s you possible you have left problems for your kids. On the cheating you have no idea who or how many. One is only what you know about and for how long. Is he just better than nothing? You let him back so he can live the good life. If you are regretting this and think you can’t end it you can. Please do not let shame keep this going. Please don’t let crocodile tears keep you. Please don’t let you never gave him and he is sorry keep you. Are you absolutely positive on his activities? Do you feel if he is cheating thats the only reason to end it? It’s not. It’s just not working and I can’t get past it. You can also hire another PI if you want. Don’t let shame keep you back.

DrDr
DrDr
11 months ago
Reply to  Gentle Reader

Good point. Cheating is not the only reason to leave a partner. Could be you just don’t want to be with them. They voted for Trump or have a porn addiction. They pollute the environment or cheat on their taxes. Can be any reason.

Erin
Erin
11 months ago
Reply to  DrDr

“Voted for Trump” – that’s a deal breaker!

OutButNotDown
OutButNotDown
11 months ago
Reply to  Erin

🤣

Goodfriend
Goodfriend
11 months ago

MaybeMaybeNot, you wrote that “All the things I didn’t want to lose — my family circle — I have back.” What exactly did you lose or fear to lose? You never mentioned losing any part of your family circle, including in-laws, just mentioned losing him because you wanted to be rid of him. You said your wealth was 100% due to you, you kept your marital home, and you were mighty in managing finances, getting a private detective who dug up the dirt cheater wouldn’t admit to voluntarily, and aside from a brief wreckonciliation and some pick-me dancing, getting the cheater out of your life.

Or not, because, “So we reconciled after one year post-divorce, with almost full no contact on my part in that period.” If there was almost full no contact on your part, how could he contact you enough to convince you to see him face to face, much less to reconcile?

It sounds like you really, really want to have the upper hand after he betrayed you. And like you want image management so desperately that your own DIL doesn’t even know that you are divorced. Your ex was hiding his affair(s), and you seem to be dancing very hard to hide your divorce. You let him move in, albeit initially in separate bedrooms. You are marriage policing–you’d have to be, if you “know” he isn’t seeing the OW that you knew about. You wrote that “What remains is generally a nice life with the occasional spats,” yet when you let your control slip, you want him out of your life.

As Chump Lady asked, what exactly does he bring to the marital table? Is it the pretense that he didn’t leave you, even though he cheated? The appearance that your marriage is fine, even though it’s over?

You should contact a good therapist, to find out why you’re willing to put yourself through this sham. And also an attorney, because by taking him back and hiding your divorce, from family no less, you may have given him grounds for a redivision of the assets you were so proud to maintain. You wrote, parenthetically, that, “(Even my lawyer said I should give him more just to avoid issues in the future, but I said no).” You ignored your own lawyer’s concern that your ex might have legal grounds for financial claims, then compounded it by allowing him to move back in with you and pretending to still be married (to your new in-laws and who knows who else), without any written agreement about what reconciliation means. Can he claim a common-law marriage now? Tenant’s rights? Spousal support?

Tracy summed it up very nicely: “You know who has a nice life? Your ex-husband. Other than your occasional fits of lucidity (which he deems nasty) and his performative remorse, he has his old life back. All for the low, low price of a divorce settlement he never has to live with.”

You took quick action to protect your finances, but don’t mention ever taking time to deal emotionally with the loss of a 35-year-marriage; instead you pick-me-danced and did other things you say you regret, including a brief wreckonciliation. And then you let him move back in. Now you ask Tracy if he’s a unicorn or if YOU should pack up and run. Huh? Your options aren’t all or nothing. Why not tell your supposedly remorseful and contrite ex-in-name-only that YOU need some space to figure things out, and ask–no, tell– him to move out temporarily so you can do so? His response may not tell you if he’s a unicorn, because he may be counting on a long con to win you back. But you can at least give yourself a chance. It sounds like you lack the confidence or desire to stand on your own in an empty nest. Give yourself a chance to fly without him.

Attie
Attie
11 months ago
Reply to  Goodfriend

I was just coming here to mention the “common law” situation but you beat me to it. In some places, the fact that a couple are living together gives both parties certain rights – like giving your ex-husband a claim on your property and even possibly alimony. I would have him out of there quicker than he could say boo to a goose, for that reason alone!

Principled Life
Principled Life
11 months ago
Reply to  Goodfriend

I agree with Goodfriend. Maybe, where are your emotions? It seems your only access to them is when you have a fight with your husband. Do you love, trust and respect this man, and does he behave in a loving, trustworthy and respectful way to you?

I think you need a good therapist for you to help you sort through this. And advice from a lawyer. I know unicorns exist but I’ve never known anyone who actually turned out to be married to one. I fear yours is just a jackass with his unicorn mask firmly in place because benefits, and your gut knows this and tells you during spats, when you let some of your feelings seep in.

VulcanChump
VulcanChump
11 months ago

I feel like even in the most equitable and civil divorces (not involving abuse and/or cheating), taking back your ex later still doesn’t make sense. I hear about couples getting married a second time and it blows my mind because aren’t the same irreconcilable differences still present? (Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner come to mind…)

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
11 months ago
Reply to  VulcanChump

And Robert Wagner accidentally killed Natalie during a fight on their boat and dumped her body in the water to cover it up

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
11 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Schorn

According to Natalie’s sister, Natalie was terrified of the water. Lost all respect for Christopher Walken for not intervening when the couple was fighting in their cabin.

Roaring
Roaring
11 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Schorn

And, sadly, Christopher Walken, who was on the boat, probably knows the truth about what happened.
Which confirms that turning a blind eye to injustice only emboldens it. I ignored so many red flags that x essentially started just wearing it. Head to toe.

I always hated RW and men who look/act like him, tho. It surprises me when others can’t recognize the phoniness and schmooze. SO MUCH COLOGNE.

My uncle was that kind of guy – an insurance SALESMAN (good at getting his way) in his small, mid-western town in mid-century America – and he ruined my aunt’s life. She never left him (ages 17 – 60, her first and only), even after he fathered a child with the next-door neighbor (poor aunt P couldn’t conceive – possibly undiagnosed STD from him), slept with all of their friends, dragged her into 70s era swinging (as bad and tacky as you think it is), humiliating her and it was terrible because, clearly, everyone in her social world and family knew. Seriously, why do I know about any of this?). But even grandma/her mom encouraged her to stay. The sad history of our culture normalizing abuse/inequality as the status quo, often attributing it to human nature itself, hurts all of humanity. I don’t think that’s an overstatement.

It’s been a long uncharted journey to get to the place where we collectively name and call out this shit.

Any way, my beloved aunt starved herself to death six months after he died (both aunt and his current OW never left his bedside, w/ OW holding his hand).

MollyWobbles
MollyWobbles
11 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Schorn

My STBXFW went out to dinner with Robert Wagner once. (Wagner was friends with FW’s agent) The mf’er JOKED about killing her. He absolutely did it.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago
Reply to  MollyWobbles

Holy shit, he did a Claus Von Bulow?

FYI
FYI
11 months ago
Reply to  MollyWobbles

o
m
g
😵

VulcanChump
VulcanChump
11 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Schorn

Apologies, that was a bad example.

ImmaChumpToo
ImmaChumpToo
11 months ago
Reply to  VulcanChump

VulcanChump – I think it was a PERFECT example for NOT getting back together with an ex! I think too many of us Chumps can be dismissive of the dangerous nature of FWs.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago
Reply to  VulcanChump

It was a perfect example.

susie lee
susie lee
11 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Schorn

One of the few celebrity situations I ever followed.

I adored NW, on the old talk shows and interviews she always came across as so sweet and real. Not to mention talented.

I have never been much for conspiracy theories, but that one sticks in my head to this day. I just don’t trust RW is who he portrayed himself to be. Or was, I don’t know if he is still alive or not.

Attie
Attie
11 months ago
Reply to  VulcanChump

Burton and Taylor too!

DrChump
DrChump
11 months ago

I romanticize about the life I had with FW. I wish I could have that back. Our friends, the trips, the house we had down south and our apartment in NYC. Both of us doting over our son. Yes I wish I had that but I know the woman I had that with doesn’t exist anymore so it can never happen.
The only side of her I every saw during the 21 years together (married 18) was loving and caring up until Dday. After Dday she was/is a callous, cold person I didn’t /don’t recognize. My pre Dday perception was not my reality and I can see now how I spackled. Getting past the what should have been is hard and I find it best to replace those thoughts with the curiosity of what will the future hold and how I have never been more free.
Have a great day everyone

NoMoreMsNiceChump
NoMoreMsNiceChump
11 months ago
Reply to  DrChump

Same here. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the condo I shared with GG. I don’t miss him, however. I don’t miss his constant criticism of me, his weapon-grade laziness, his “late nights” at “work” (he worked as a community college tutor so nope on that one), or the epiphanies years later that he had yet another AP. One of the reasons I was so angry when the Glorified Gigolo asked for a flat-screen TV as a “parting gift”, besides the sheer chutzpah, was because that was the moment that I realized that not only did he not love me but that he never had. I know what love looks like and that’s not it. My peace of mind is worth more than all the real estate in the world.

sleepyhead
sleepyhead
11 months ago

Yeah, I miss our old Brooklyn condo too. But a couple of years after the divorce (which left me homeless for 6 months), Hurricane Sandy came and blew the roof off the place! Divine retribution.

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
11 months ago
Reply to  sleepyhead

I recently learned of a cheater who got his New Jersey house in the divorce and it was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy ! LOL

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
11 months ago

Im probably not the best person to give advise for this situation as I never did manage to leave or divorce my Cheater. What I find compelling is the belief that this dude only cheated once in 35 years. As I have shared here, when I learned of Susan of Seattle, I would have sworn on the lives of my children that he had never previously cheated but I was proven terribly wrong on that count.

I also lived the experience that I did not admit to myself how abusive our marriage had been until I was in a safe place. I wonder if there was more suckitude than she is willing to admit to herself.

The writer will do as she likes but For the Love of God and All That is Decent…she ought never ever combine finances with him ever ever again. There is no point or need to be married to him. He had his chance and blew it.

SortOfOverIt
SortOfOverIt
11 months ago
Reply to  Unicornomore

Uni,

I think a lot of us found out about one AP, and assume that was the only one. Probably because we are so shocked that the ONE exists at all, there is no room to believe there were more. And we all know FWs are not forthcoming with the truth, they barely admit to the stuff we have hard evidence on, they surely won’t volunteer stuff that we can’t prove / don’t suspect.
And with CL/CN, we all have seen just how much more baloney always seems to exist.
What’s funny is, we all learn that the AP is not special. Much as the FW wants to say “I only blew up our lives bc I can’t ignore my soulmate/twu wuv/destiny”, we all see that it’s NOT that. The FW would replace that AP in a minute. Yet if we are smoking the hopium pipe, we want desperately to believe there was JUST one and it was a momentary lapse in judgement and hence, as long as the FW avoids that one particular person, all can be well again. But it is almost like, to believe that, you have to believe that the one AP was something special. Was this one person that just had a magic pull for whatever reason. But they weren’t special, and that means the FW likely had others. And likely will again. Especially if one takes them back after cheating.

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
11 months ago
Reply to  SortOfOverIt

SOOI, yes. I look back on a really bad time of our marriage and I was anxious, miserable and had a lot of physical manifestations of stress that were puzzling to me. We had just moved for Cheater to go to grad school and before the move he had suggested that me and the 3 kids not move with him (it was for over 2 years, so that idea was so absurd to me I literally thought it was a joke).

He fulfilled the obligatory customs of a devoted husband (saying “I love you”, anniversary gifts, checking in logistically) but SOMETHING was very off and my conscious mind could not connect the dots. Like you describe, I could not grasp that there might be one AP. I am now suspicious that there was something akin to an orgy club amongst the students in his school.

He had a friend who was divorced and in the process of remarrying and I think he was a Cheater Coach in this realm. I know that he warned Cheater to never get divorced…that the complications were awful. (My naive self thought that his warning to not get divorced was an encouragement to be a good husband – oh my how naive I was!!). I think now that this dude was teaching my cheater finer points of The Double Life.

KatiePig
KatiePig
11 months ago
Reply to  Unicornomore

I was also completely shocked to find out my ex was cheating before we even got married. It was fake the whole time. That was so hard to accept and I never suspected it but it’s reality.

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
11 months ago
Reply to  KatiePig

Yes. When I first learned/realized that he had actually cheated all along, my mind was boggled and I struggled to grasp it. It was 2.5 – 3 years after his death that I got enough data to finally connect those dots. That was almost exactly 8 years and after massive levels of processing (some of which intrusively preoccupied me when I was a newlywed and should have been enjoying my new life) I think I have finally found equilibrium with the whole thing.

My biggest challenge now is to not accidentally drop a “what an asshole” bomb (or similar) around my kids.

susie lee
susie lee
11 months ago
Reply to  Unicornomore

I agree, at the very least do not marry or in any way co mingle assets. Even living together is some areas can create a common law marriage. At the very least he should sign an agreement to be able to live there.

My guess is he is trying to re-establish enough to get to rehash the settlement. And nasty as he was he may have, or be able to establish a good legal case to do so. My guess is he has already been given legal council.

IcanseeTuesday
IcanseeTuesday
11 months ago

The decision to not share the truth with the DIL suggests that adult children (and others?) are being asked to join in deception, gaslighting and re-writing history. Which indicates that the unacceptable traits of the cheater have simply become the norms of the family.

Check with a lawyer to see if financial assets are vulnerable – since that propelled action in the past. Watch for actions – not words or tears – to see if respect, affection and reciprocity exist in the current relationship. Take all the facts to an individual therapist for help in finally dealing with the emotions.

Beachgirl
Beachgirl
11 months ago

This one is super triggering. I too divorced my cheater and then months later was lulled into thinking about reconciliation. I remember it like yesterday when he got down on one knee and pledged he had learned his lesson, how much he loved me and how he wanted to run off to Vegas to remarry. An Oscar worthy performance, but that nagging voice in my head would not let me rest, later that night I pulled out my bag of Cheater Policing tools and found as soon as he left my house he was planning a sex hook up with some rando he had just met on one of his sex hook up sites.

Sorry Maybe Maybe Not, but people who are able to live double lives while smiling in our face do not change, they just learn how to be better liars.

Fourleaf
Fourleaf
11 months ago

“As far as I know she was the one and only OW in 35 years”

It’s always worse than you know. Make sure you continually get STD tests and bloodwork done to catch anything new that will come up or anything old that he gave you that’s been doing damage for years.

When I was certain that there was only two OWs in our marriage story, we reconciled and worked on our marriage. He left me, a year or so later, for a third OW (he married this one). After that, I found out about a secret OW he had before the first one that ripped our family apart. I didn’t even know about that one!

You only know what you know, but stats roll high that there’s not just one fork in his utensil drawer. You don’t have to go digging to find out more; just know that there’s so much more than he’ll ever admit to.

Go see your doctor (if you haven’t already) and request all the tests to check for all the things he could have given you over the course of 35 years. Leave no stone unturned; your health is important.

❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
11 months ago

This doesn’t sound like a nice life to me. This sounds like a different seating section in hell. I feel sad reading it. Keeping secrets is what sick families do.
The reality alarm keeps going off, interrupting the play, and the snooze button is starting to fail.

Maybe do some writing? What you want, what the payoff is, and what you really have, and see how it all fits together. I find writing very helpful and revealing.

I hope you have or can find a great therapist to assist you in sorting this. I wonder if some very old family of origin issues are playing out.

Spinach@35
Spinach@35
11 months ago

“This sounds like a different seating section in hell.”

So good, VH. So good.👏

❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
11 months ago

Clairfying…

Do some writing on what you want.

Do some writing on how it actually is, and see if you can determine what the payoff (aka “secondary gain”) is for how it actually is and write on that.

See how all this fits together.

Keeping things in my head keeps me confused. Writing really helps clarify. It’s one reason I come here and post so often. What I write here is what helps me too.

❤️

❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
11 months ago

Yesterday I mentioned the murder of Darlene Krashoc. She was possibly the only victim of her killer, Michael Whyte, who evaded law enforcement for thirty-two years. He was arrested at his very nice upper middle class home in the presence of his wife, who had no idea she was married to a monster.

Would I date him, knowing what he did, even if he never did it again? No.

I have no idea how we get so focused on whether they will ever do it again. It’s WHAT THEY DID that should get the headlines and the billboard and stay at the forefront.

I think it’s best if people who are cool with cheating stick together. People who are not cool with cheating should stick with people who are not cool with cheating. I’ve never seen it work when the two mix, and why would it?

Goodfriend
Goodfriend
11 months ago

“I have no idea how we get so focused on whether they will ever do it again. It’s WHAT THEY DID that should get the headlines and the billboard and stay at the forefront.”
Velvet, this is brilliant. So often we hear, “Everyone makes mistakes.” But everyone does not choose to make the multitude to choices that go into cheating once, let alone an affair.
I wish I had this line a few years ago when people were asking me why I didn’t forgive him. I hope that newbies here, who are getting asked, will use your response, and that it will make people think.

SortOfOverIt
SortOfOverIt
11 months ago

VH,
You are so right, it’s what they DID that matters. What they did is a concrete fact that one can extrapolate from (ie, they are willing to lie, to cheat, to hide the truth, put your well being at risk) I think that when chumps focus on “but maybe they will notdo it again?” it is a matter of hopium. It took me a long time to accept that my life was imploding and I couldn’t stop it. At the time he was planning to leave for AP, and I knew deep down that even if he didn’t, I was just done. The marriage was no longer acceptable to me because of what he DID, no matter what he MIGHT do better in the future. BUT even knowing that, I was so sad and scared and stunned…that I was almost bargaining with the universe. “What can make this go back to the before times*?” Sort of magical thinking , I guess. It was a place of desperation brought on by my fear of the unknown. It took time but a scary as the unknown is still to me, a future with him would be worse, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, knowing that the next time would be worse because I KNEW he was capable of it this time and stayed anyway.

*also worth noting that I never defined what the “before times” meant to me. Was it before I KNEW he was having an affair, or before he ever HAD one? The fact that I never considered that there are two “befores” and the difference between the two tells me that deep down I knew it was all magical thinking. It wasn’t that I wanted my marriage back… more that I didn’t want to suffer through the pain of divorcing and forging a new life.

Kara
Kara
11 months ago

I don’t even fully understand what happened here. You divorced and then moved him back in but you sleep in separate rooms and you’re not together or are you???

Adelante
Adelante
11 months ago

MaybeMaybeNot:

CL is, as always, right. The conditions for his cheating are very good: his money is separate from yours, so you don’t know what he’s spending it on, and he got very little in the divorce settlement, and that financial disparity gives him the perfect justification (in his mind) for resenting you, so cheating to him would only be “fair.”

He’s got a good deal going, I’d say, as long as he continues to provide a semblance of remorse–tears and emotion–that you will interpret as meaningful–except for those glimpses behind the mask when you argue and he resorts to the same script–with what it reveals about his attitude–as when he was cheating. As for his actions matching his words, well, you don’t know what he’s doing with his money, and I’m betting you don’t know what he’s doing with his every moment of time, either.

Whether what you’re seeing is genuine remorse or the genuine imitation naugahyde version you don’t really know. You’d like to believe it’s genuine. You think it could be genuine. But you’re not sure, because there are those moments when his former cheating persona emerges; that they emerge in a “spat”–not a knock-down-drag-out fight–kind of gives you pause. And that’s the issue, isn’t it? You don’t really trust him, so when you argue, all the uncertainty of the present and the resurgence of the past unnerves you and you feel exactly as you did before (PTSD!).

The question for me is this: are your feelings of wanting to cut him loose telling you you should or are your feelings the result of past trauma that you haven’t learned how to let go of in you new “safer” non-marriage marriage. It seems to me that you’ve tried to do damage-control, and set up a situation in which you feel more “safe” letting him back in your life. Heck, you may even feel like you have the upper hand: you have all the resources, he’s living in your house, you aren’t married. But what you’re finding is that despite all this damage control, you aren’t certain and you aren’t safe.

Maybe most of the time it’s tolerable, and most of the time you can tamp down your feelings and believe in his reform. Maybe you even find yourself thinking the problem is not him, but your volcanic urge to tell him to get the hell out of your life. Personally I would not want to see a therapist and spend my time trying beating myself up for failing to believe he’s really a unicorn. That you say you write to say “it’s nearly impossible to make things work” and that it “ain’t over” for you–to me, that says it all. No matter the money, no matter the disappearance of the OW (but are you sure?….), the trauma lives on and the trust is gone.

Spinach@35
Spinach@35
11 months ago
Reply to  Adelante

I think those volcanic urges to kick him out come from your subconscious self that is usually kept at bay so that you can go on with appearances. Listen to “that” voice. You know he’s not good for you.

That you wrote to CL is another hint that you really do know that you should leave the cheater and gain a life, that unicorns don’t exist. Good luck.

p.s. I, too, was married 35 years and have noticed that many others here on CN say they were married that long. What’s with 35 years?

Adelante
Adelante
11 months ago
Reply to  Spinach@35

35 years here, too. But I should have left at 32 at D-Day.

Erin
Erin
11 months ago
Reply to  Spinach@35

35 years for me too at D-Day.

DrDr
DrDr
11 months ago

Dear MaybeMaybeNot,

You sound like an amazing woman. A real high-achieving bad ass. Maybe you feel like if you do kick him out of your life somehow it is a poor reflection on you? Especially since he has done some performative remorse. I certainly felt something similar. I was afraid to look like a failure, like an evil bitch. I would do anything to stay married. (Still married 28 years, but I’m meeting with attorney next week). BUT…FW was just taking advantage of my insane desire to stay married. He did nothing for me or his kids for a decade. He acted like he didn’t want to be anywhere near us. Like we were an inconvenience to him. He lived on his phone and his social media accounts. He refused to go to counseling. He said he never wanted to get married in the first place. (The truth: He was lucky I married him and gave him three great kids, a home, health insurance, savings …)

I think you should listen to that voice that says you wish you had never let him back in your life. Why can’t that be the truth? Anger is like a shot of pure energy. In one fight with my FW, I felt a white hot energy burst up out of my chest and I screamed out, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” Theses are words I had never said to him or even thought before that moment. In that second, I felt nothing but hatred at being treated with contempt for YEARS! I had spackled like it was the end of the world. In that moment I knew that if I stayed with him, I would DIE. He had devalued me for years and I had officially reached my limit.

The very fact that you are writing in to CL and CN tells me you have some feelings you are trying to push down. Why?

Another thing I felt very strongly and still do on some level is the thought of FW dying alone. It breaks my heart and is one reason I would have stayed with him if he had done even the slightest amount of work to repair the marriage. But he did not. When I told him I was unhappy he looked at me like I was nuts. His response: You think YOU’RE unhappy???? What about ME?!!!! On top of living some fucked up secret life online, he acted like a brat in real life. I thought: “Is this the person I want to grow old with? Do I want to wipe this man’s wrinkled old ass?” No.

It’s OK that you have all these conflicting feelings. As CL says, what are you willing to tolerate? Do you want to grow old with someone you hate? Do you want your grandchildren to see that and think it’s normal?

You sound like a great person. Love yourself and explore your fear of being alone or of looking like you made a mistake. I found this therapist Alan Robarge and his videos on attachment trauma really helped me. https://youtu.be/Y-w-0fB_71Q

I am sending you peace and healing. You are a QUEEN! You can be yourself AND be loved and respected. You can get out of the marriage and still keep the loving relationship with your kids and grandkids. There is no law that says you have to keep FW in your house or your life.

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
11 months ago
Reply to  DrDr

Oh Drdr,

Please stay strong and know that in your kindness to point out that the writer is a Queen, SO ARE YOU! You did everything and more to nurture a wonderful marriage were your husband not a selfish Cheater. Your descriptions of your experiences and feelings are to real and raw to me.

With regard to the prospect of growing old with your Cheater…please know that my Cheater was 3rd (that I know of, it might go back further) in a generational line of men in his family who were shitty husbands. My son recognized that he had the makings of a shitty husband and broke his engagement – perhaps the most decent thing he could have done. My Mother in law ( a flawed but good woman) stayed with hers for SIXTY fucking years and he was a jerk to her to his last breath. PLEASE DONT DO THIS !!!

Stay strong and let that white hot anger you felt push you forward. Like you, I gave my Cheater THOUSANDS of chances to be a decent human and he pretty much spurned all of them. You are mighty and can come out the other side of this.

DrDr
DrDr
11 months ago

Thank you. I agree that living an honest life with integrity is the only way to go. Living with secrets is painful because it builds shame. People who truly love you will love you even with your imperfections. Maybe even more so. I decided to be ok with being a “divorced woman.” I decided to reframe it as: “a strong woman who respects herself , she’s been through some shit, but she lives an honest life. She’s OK with leaving a toxic relationship even if it took 28 years of her life.”

I also thought what would Jesus say? He would say: “you do not deserve the abuse. Get away from someone who is abusive to you and your kids.”

Life is on your side. Would you ask your kids or grandkids to stay with an abuser?

ChumpedForANewerModel
ChumpedForANewerModel
11 months ago

This just seems incredibly sad to me. Why would anyone want to live with a person they continue to distrust. A person who lies, gaslights and cheats on them. OP is selling herself short for the benefit of appearing to be married. This guy is not a Unicorn. He is just a FW who continues to benefit from you. This does not seem to be a healthy relationship.
Personally, I spent way too much time being the marriage police and I even tried the RIC. I could not trust him and once you break trust, it cannot be recovered unless there is genuine remorse (I am not sure if it can be even then). I would never get back together with FWexHusband. Not for all the money in the world, not for all the promises of sunny days and not even if I could get back my youth. There is nothing there to work with.
I have found out that there are men out there who do want a healthy relationship, men who will reciprocate and men who can be faithful. My Super Power ability to make men cheat on me has magically disappeared! How can that happen? I know I found my fellow chump entirely by accident. I am lucky to have met someone that can understand and accept me. Trust me, these people exist. Finding them is a lot easier than staying with a cheater in hope of that cheater being a unicorn. Even if you don’t find anyone that is great too. Just being away from the cheater drama is the best feeling in the world!
I really hope OP listens to CL and the CN. She is not living a life; she is existing for appearances sake.

Michael is Mighty
Michael is Mighty
11 months ago

Men don’t feel sad about fucking hotter, younger women.
Those are crocodile tears.
You are playing house in elaborate Kabuki theater.
Hire a P.I. right now ..today…and see what they find.
What would have changed to make him suddenly be an honest person?
Nothing.
He is slow walking you into a long game of you being the money heavy hitter while he does exactly as he fucking pleases.

Debbie
Debbie
11 months ago

MaybeMaybeNot:

Your XH is a big bag of garbage which has gone rancid. This is why your household stinks.

Don’t keep garbage in your house. Put it out on the curb, and let some OW take it home to stink up her house.

Motherchumper99
Motherchumper99
11 months ago

What a hot mess. I read posts like this and I’m very grateful for unanswered prayers. MnM…. The fact that you’re writing here is enough to end it for good. Question why you’re lying to your DIL … that’s not ok in my book—

Kaela
Kaela
11 months ago

My tearful, remorseful “unicorn” cheater was hiding a burner phone that I found by surprising him with a physical pocket search when he wasn’t expecting me to do it.

They don’t get character transplants. They just get better at playing 4D chess.

The only winning move is to quit.

Chump-o-potamus
Chump-o-potamus
11 months ago
Reply to  Kaela

100%. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And we’ll drive ourselves nuts focusing on finding the ways they’re cheating instead of accepting that the “will” is the problem.

ICanSeeTheMehComing!
ICanSeeTheMehComing!
11 months ago

I will never forget when in the midst of my tears and despair over the loss of my marriage and my family imploding and having to “share custody” of my third grader… Mr. Sparkles looked at me with his black shark-eyes and said, “Wouldn’t it be romantic if after all this pain we remarried someday?”

That was when I knew to my core I was dealing with a truly disordered person.

You are too MMN. You’ve forgotten the cardinal rule with these fuckwits: they always need a spouse appliance to make them look normal to the world. You didn’t find a unicorn, he found a dupe. I hope you find your mighty again and get on the path to a cheater free life… vs. a future of sleeping with one eye open all the time (especially on your assets).

Cam
Cam
11 months ago

“Wouldn’t it be romantic if after all this pain we remarried someday?”

OMG, he’s deranged. I’m so sorry. I hope you’re in a better place now.

Apidae
Apidae
11 months ago

There’s an awful lot of “almost” and “as far as I know” in this letter.

MMN, please get counseling. You haven’t reconciled – you punished him with a divorce and then took him right back. Your lashing out every time you disagree, and dragging your family into hiding the truth, shows that all you did was start buying spackle in the giant Costco sizes.

KatiePig
KatiePig
11 months ago

He cheated on you and now he gets to live in your house rent free… I’m sorry but what the fuck? If I come smack you with a hammer and steal your wallet, will you buy me a new car?

Yes, this is wrong. What you are doing is wrong and self destructive. Kick him out, go actual no contact, actually tell people in your family that you are divorced, and work on getting healthy. Once you are no contact with him for an extended period of time and get your head straight, you will realize how completely insane this is.

Lizza Lee
Lizza Lee
11 months ago

MaybeMaybeNot, I’m sure you’re really smart about some things because you have a cool career and have been able to go lots of interesting places. But you’re not being smart here. Depending on the laws where you live you may have acquired yourself a common-law husband and would have to re-divorce him to get rid of him. Your daughter-in-law doesn’t know you’re divorced?!? Good grief! PLEASE consult an attorney about that.

Also, IME, cheaters just get better at hiding it. If he is ever out of your sight he could be seeing someone else. It’s hard to call it cheating because he does not have a commitment to you.

Since your children are all adults you are starting to get older and need to think about retirement and end of life issues. Is this the person you want to be making decisions about your care if you were to have a sudden major medical problem? Because he’s the person who lives there. Would he tell medical personnel that you’re divorced and he doesn’t have a say in your care? Of course not! Do you really trust him that much? I wouldn’t if I were you.

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
11 months ago
Reply to  Lizza Lee

Or she could just die mysteriously in her sleep one night. And who would ask probing questions ?

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot
11 months ago

Thank you CL & CN for your feedback.

Let me answer some questions first:
• I do not get a formal “rent check” from XH. He does cover all his own expenses and contributes to joint ones from running the house (which are low at this point as there is no mortgage). In anticipation of more questions on this, I’d say yes, I probably pay more because I do the grocery shopping mostly.
• Did he screw himself in the divorce because he is an idiot? Well no, he’s not an idiot. The process was managed largely remotely because we were both away at our international jobs. Absolute motives on his part? Maybe remorse? He didn’t even get a lawyer despite my lawyer telling him he should. My initial offer to him was very low ball and so there was some back and forth and we finally settled on him getting about 20% and no maintenance.
• We are both retired -me very recently – so in proximity of each other 99% of the time. Him running off one night to meet with random women he meets on dating apps is not happening. I know you are all skeptical, but this is one thing I am very sure of given our current lifestyle and location. OW was a howorker and lives 5,000 mile away.
• The OW did not dump him, of that I am sure. From some unhealthy, on my part, social media stalking 4 years ago it was clear she was desperate to get him back. She is from a poor & unstable European country 5,000 miles away and has a daughter in her 20s. XH was a meal ticket for her. There is no way he as seen her in the last 4 years.
• One DIL doesn’t know we are divorced. The full rest of our universe does. Friends and family included. There are reasons (not worth getting into) why this one DIL doesn’t know, but as I write this, in fact, I am not sure if she doesn’t know at this point.
• You are right on many counts and certainly I have no way of knowing if OW was the one and only.
• I was in therapy for a while but my terrific therapist sadly passed away and I haven’t replaced her.
• Did he relinquish his claims to re-litigate? I never thought of that. He never got a lawyer initially, as that is not in his culture to do (he’s a naturalized US citizen from Europe). I would be surprised were this to happen. But I was also surprised by his affair!
• Over the year of NC I got an email from him about once every month or so, to which I replied with a cursory “thank you”. So not real NC as defined by CN. First time I heard CL refer to “respectful distance”. I think I sort of had that. I was back in the USA by this time. And he had ended his job abroad (in the country where he met the OW) and was back in his home country with his family. So we were nowhere near each other for the year of “partial” NC.
• What are our spats about? Truly normal stuff. Not quite toilet- seat- left- up stuff (that was long ago resolved). I cant recall the actual stupid reason for the last spat. They are also quite rare.

So I don’t feel I am in the “keeping up appearances” space. Everyone that matters knows we are divorced and they also KNOW WHY. Do I have FOO issues that brought me to this place? Don’t we all?

So what DOES he bring to the table? No to the small engine repairs (that is more likely to be me!) and No to the pancakes. Shared history & children and now grandkids – yes.

I don’t feel like I am still in the middle of the pick-me dance. Maybe I am kidding myself. He knows that one, just one, OW-text, one false move and I am gone. I feel strongly that I would walk. But again, maybe I am kidding myself in line with my other mental gymnastics.

I am also not “marriage” policing. That ship has sailed.

I am not afraid of flying solo either. I was always a very independent person, starting from a very young age.

So does anyone out there believe there can be genuine remorse? Is a FW incapable of it? NEVER, EVER?? One response read that “trust can only be recovered if there is genuine remorse”. Followed by saying that she doubts there ever can be…

I don’t know if the extra details offered here changes my story.

To me my story is: XH is remorseful (with complex known only to him motives), but if I chose to remain in this arrangement, I will be performing mental gymnastics to the end of time with possible financial and other consequences.

Adelante’s reply in addition to CL’s really spoke to me. That is the essence of where I am.

Thank you all!

OHFFS
OHFFS
11 months ago
Reply to  MaybeMaybeNot

“So does anyone out there believe there can be genuine remorse? Is a FW incapable of it? NEVER, EVER??”

Not never ever. People can reform themselves and develop the empathy to be remorseful, but not without a lot of hard work. What’s he done to demonstrate his remorse, other than cry, say he’s sorry and promise not to do it again? What’s he done to work on himself? If the answer to either of those questions is nothing or not much, you don’t have a unicorn.

IMO, this depressingly common type of male cheater, one who picks a much younger AP, is always a bad risk.This is a person who prioritizes feeding his ego and getting porny sex over his family, over decency and over common sense.

❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
11 months ago
Reply to  MaybeMaybeNot

Dear Maybe,

“We are both retired -me very recently – so in proximity of each other 99% of the time. Him running off one night to meet with random women he meets on dating apps is not happening. I know you are all skeptical, but this is one thing I am very sure of given our current lifestyle and location. OW was a howorker and lives 5,000 mile away.”

Side pieces reside in the phones. You can be in proximity of each other 150% of the time and they can still be cheating. Sitting on the couch watching a movie together. On the phone after you fall asleep. You can’t ever be certain of what they’re not doing. Some people can live that way. It doesn’t sound like you can. Plus you have no access to what is in his heart and mind.

Everyone who ever lived has FOO issues. But I never close the door to going back there and digging around; I’ve been peeling the onion layers of that stuff since 1985 and they’ve never stopped coming. I’ve been on my own going on six years now….by far the longest I’ve been by myself since my first boyfriend at age 12 (I’m 59 now) and am running into some pretty intense FOO onion layers that would never have come up otherwise.

❤️ Just an FYI ❤️

Lindsay
Lindsay
11 months ago
Reply to  MaybeMaybeNot

Why did you write to Chump Lady in the first place, then? Trying to convince us or yourself?

Chumpkins
Chumpkins
11 months ago
Reply to  MaybeMaybeNot

I’m glad you replied MMN. You want answers and we like puzzling out these mysteries. I think that it might be smart to ask your lawyer if there is any possible gotcha with him living on your premises. Common law marriage? Would it strengthen his claim on your assets if you died first, etc? He has an angle. You came here because your gut is telling you something is wrong.

Even if he can’t glom onto your assets, this situation is sure good image management for him. You’re making him look better to your kids & family. They know why you got divorced, but they’ll think it can’t have been that bad if you still live together. This will help the FW manipulate your other family members some day.

What are you getting out of his presence in your life? This situation is much more to his benefit than yours: image management, your room & board, and proximity to potential prey. It can even be a bonus for him if there is no pressure for him to sleep with you anymore, since FWs lose attraction to their mommie-slave wife-appliances. It does sound like you were the parent in this relationship. Avoiding intimacy is another reason why FWs push for long distance relationships.

I’m going to mention one other possible motive for why you are agreeing to this. Sheer habit. Removing him totally from your life would be breaking a habit of decades, which is tough. It’s still hopium even if you never want to be intimate with him again. Hopium is about avoiding change too. So keeping him there means you get to keep old habits, mental & emotional. Maybe that’s enough for you (although this site won’t agree).

But think ahead… What happens if he gets one of those retirement-age serious-illnesses? Do you want to be his nurse & purse? It is likely that family, habit, & your own conscious will press you into that. Would you want to rely on him as your nurse? I know one case where the FW wanted to get back with her after he had a stroke & needed care. His sob story almost convinced her, until her friends said that he wouldn’t be on the street & he should have mentioned that Medicare would help him.

CBN
CBN
11 months ago
Reply to  Chumpkins

This!!^^^ Every single point is spot on.

CBN
CBN
11 months ago
Reply to  CBN

I’m referring specifically to Chumpkins’ post, but everyone has given good advice.

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
11 months ago
Reply to  Chumpkins

Ugh. It would be like evicting a tenant that hasn’t paid rent in years, aka a squatter. Legal fees and the stress.

threetimesachump
threetimesachump
11 months ago
Reply to  MaybeMaybeNot

Actually, DefinitelySpackling,
You do not get any RENT. “Formal”, on a paper “check”, or otherwise.
You pay for his food.
He pays much less than half of the joint household expenses. “Contributes” is a very vague term. Since you didn’t say “half” or “most”, I’ll assume that he pays much less than half.
This is called “FREE room and board”. Call a spade a spade.
And that’s just the here and now. When he gets a lawyer and takes you back to court in a divorce 2.0/common law/palimony suit, he will be sitting even prettier.

Cam
Cam
11 months ago
Reply to  MaybeMaybeNot

The only thing these details change for me is it confirms he’s taking advantage of you. Not paying you rent? He’s a bum. Also, “everyone that matters know we’re divorced” – does your DIL not matter? WTF?

I am also not “marriage” policing. That ship has sailed.

Respectfully, you absolutely are marriage policing if you’re writing here, even if you’re no longer married. You’re dedicating a huge amount of your time trying to make sense of your non-relationship and whether you have things that should be a given (like trust and respect).

So does anyone out there believe there can be genuine remorse? Is a FW incapable of it? NEVER, EVER??

Can someone be remorseful after shooting you? Would you want to try again with such a person?

XH is remorseful (with complex known only to him motives), but if I chose to remain in this arrangement, I will be performing mental gymnastics to the end of time with possible financial and other consequences.

You have NO IDEA what a liar truly thinks or believes, because he’s a liar. I’m serious. You’re projecting your own morals onto a man who blew up your marriage and now needs you to pay the rent. You have no idea how many other affairs he had during your marriage. You think he didn’t have other mistresses, but the truth is you’ll never know and he’s not going to tell you anyway because he’s a liar. You’re driving yourself crazy trying to square a circle.

I agree with the latter part of your statement, that you will be performing mental gymnastics to the end of time with possible financial and other consequences. Is this acceptable to you?

Lauren
Lauren
11 months ago

All this lady’s FW has to do is shed a couple tears and say he’s sorry, and she’s content to look the other way and pretend all is well. Couldn’t be me, so glad it’s not. Would bet millions of dollars that he’s still cheating, he’s just gotten better at hiding it.

sketter mooch
sketter mooch
11 months ago

While the affair may be over, his shitty character is forever. You have the family unit intact, but it will never be with the ignorant, or innocent, bliss you had pre-cheating. He’s the kind of human who can rationalize abusive behavior and that doesn’t change.

MrWonderful’sEx
MrWonderful’sEx
11 months ago

As one of the many who is financially trapped and has had to work and beg for pennies to get in a position to finally file and have a chance to get away from klootzak, I can’t empathize with the OP at all. FW is a barnacle on her ship. He keeps hanging around but doesn’t seem to make it sail better. What is going on here? Fear of being alone? Familiarity? Fear of not finding a new romantic partner or never having sex again? Loss of status as a married person? I’m baffled. If it were me, I would have ridden off into that glorious sunset having lightened my load.

As alwaya, OP, “Is this relationship acceptable to you?” It doesn’t matter if he is a unicorn. Even IF he is remorseful and will never do it again, you are not obligated to forgive nor are you on the hook to let him back into your life for bed and board. Good grief. Get therapy for yourself if you must but DTMFA!

FinallyFreeChump
FinallyFreeChump
11 months ago

There are no unicorns. My D-days were a decade into a marriage when I found out he was cheating from the get go. Two years of RIC hell, this was before CL, meeting with a lawyer, getting a post nup and I stayed. I stayed out of financial fear of supporting my kids alone. Another decade went by.

You know what, I’m pretty sure he never cheated again but he still sucked. His sad sausage remorse, fake sex addiction, boo hoo me. His ENTITLEMENT never went away. He got the fabulous, caring, supportive wife appliance and I got….

I’m so glad I left him. I’m two years out and happier than I ever was with FW. There are no unicorns.

Letgo
Letgo
11 months ago

He wants access to your money.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
11 months ago

Maybe Maybe Not,

A long time ago I read some studies about how, in kindergarten, half of all gifted students are female but, by seventh grade, only a quarter. Researchers investigated what might have happened to cut the number of gifted girls in half and concluded that social strictures against females being “exceptional” and more repression towards girls who display some of the natural traits of “gifty-ness” (talking when others think they should be quiet, being quiet when others think they should talk, quirky senses of humor, specialized interests in some things and less interest in “normal” popular trends, etc.) had triggered some to hide their lights under bushels rather than face rejection and others into depression. There are more recent studies on how women are still penalized for career success, particularly when in the role of acting authoritatively (which, you know, is pretty much required to lead). https://hbr.org/2013/04/for-women-leaders-likability-a

You sound like an incredibly successful individual and very smart. But successful people, maybe particularly successful women, often feel under added pressure not to “fail.” Not everyone loves you when you do well so I don’t think it’s solely vanity that drives successful people to fear failure but also a sense that they’ve got some scary detractors lurking around like vultures waiting for them to fall. And then there’s the fact that very intelligent people can, for better or worse, be very clever in how they rationalize things to themselves. Furthermore, highly intelligent people often don’t socially “mesh” or connect with that big a percentage of people (nothing to do with narcissism– gifty kids often have difficulty finding a social niche) and highly successful women in particular can face the aforementioned sexist scrutiny. While some may perceive certain advantages open up every option, in reality I think it can highlight certain fears and pitfalls. To paraphrase Thomas Hardy, sometimes strong women fall harder than weak ones. And they’re just as likely to be entrapped in abusive relationships because it’s a stupid myth that abusers only seek out the weak. Like hunters, some abusers have a taste for “big game” and think a tiger skin rug has more bragging rights than a bunny foot key chain.

Personally I’m not a rocket scientist but probably middling smart and, since I interrupted work to care full time for a chronically ill kid, we’ll never know if I was destined for a glittering career, never mind the fact that I worked in a nasty, narcy, competitive field, don’t miss it and prefer a quieter role. But I once loved my work enough to recognize the ups and downs of being driven as a woman and I’m at least smart enough to recognize how women smarter than me are penalized and possibly even easier to entrap. So I think what you need is a really brilliant, not to mention later wave feminist (one of the waves that came after the sex-pozzy cheating-is-exuberant-rebellion idiot Instagram wave) therapist who gets all the above. I found one like that: a tiny, cheerful academic department head in her early sixties who, despite her glamorous heels and scarves and perfect makeup, periodically got herself roughed up and pepper sprayed in women’s advocacy demonstrations. She was a literal expert in PTSD and domestic abuse and so cutting edge about it that she didn’t have a victim-blaming bone in her body. She could finish my sentences (she’d mostly resist but it was fun and highlighted our affinity when something I would say would make her bristle with ideas). She’d point out sometimes hysterical ironies I’d never thought of, discuss things in historical, scientific, philosophical or intellectual ways or, conversely, point out when I was using intellect to trick myself and needed to get back down to my emotions instead. She was a Godsend. She didn’t even argue about the dangers of women ending up with the wrong therapist and hardly blamed some for being wary. She was enormously critical of her own field.

And working with her quelled another fear I didn’t know I had about how the experience of surviving abuse becomes just one more thing that can make us feel set apart from others right at a moment we fear being forever alone. Sort of like having a third arm that can bench press 500 LBs, the experience of surviving trauma can eventually endow us with wisdom and a lot of important data. But it’s hard to proverbially find anything off-the-rack that fits and that extra “appendage” can make us feel like freaks at cocktail parties. But this therapist was so far ahead of the game in her personal and professional life and could demonstrate how that extra knowledge/third arm could be turned into pure advantage and, rather than being isolating, was also a point of deeper bonding with amazing people. She seemed to have such a great life and, rather than making her morose and bitter, her knowledge of dark and serious things seemed to give her greater appreciation for the simple wonders of existence. It gave me hope. It showed me that there are legions of people “out there” who will get it.

Magnolia
Magnolia
11 months ago

This is brilliant writing, HoC, and gives me a lot of supportive fodder for thought.

ivyleaguechump
ivyleaguechump
11 months ago

Dear Maybe –
I remember reading something from “Cheat in a Nutshell” (I think) in which a cheerleader for the RIC, who had been cheated on YEARS before, had reconciled and, by all outward appearances, had a unicorn.

Maybe she did, and maybe she didn’t. At any rate, I think the name of the chapter was “Why Peggy Cried” or something like that. It described how she got up in front of a group of people at one of her RIC workshops, to describe how wonderful reconciliation could be, but then was triggered by something, which caused her to burst into tears. Not tears of joy, tears of trauma. And this was YEARS after her DDay.

What I have learned from CL, CN, and other sources, is that even IF the cheater genuinely changes going forward, they cannot undo what they did. They can’t unfuck that other person(s). They can’t change the fact they gaslit, manipulated, and lied to you while they were supposed to be the person you could trust the most.

Good for him, if he has genuinely changed. I want to believe it can happen. But I also believe the chump cannot truly heal unless the FW is out of their life. Not temporarily, for good.

OHFFS
OHFFS
11 months ago
Reply to  ivyleaguechump

It was 25 years after her Dday.
Imagine going through that for 25+ years. 😨

OHFFS
OHFFS
11 months ago

It seems to me that you were not divorced long enough to detox from him. As CL says, there was contact or you wouldn’t be back together. It sounds like you ran back to what was familiar, and to claim your prize in what you tell yourself was a fuckwit MMA match with a much younger woman. Winning that, while it may be an ego boost, is not a source of healthy self worth. This sort of thing happens when you don’t give yourself enough time to get your head straight about the cheater.

Him not running off with OW probably means that after the bloom was off the rose, he realized OW wasn’t worth it. That does not prove he loves you, it only proves she sucks. Maybe she couldn’t afford fabulous vacations and a luxe lifestyle, and after coming down off the high of playing international fuckboy, he realized those things are more important to him than pussy.

That being said, we don’t know him. You say he’s remorseful. Did he prove his remorse by signing a post-nup with a no cheating clause, which means you get all assets, savings and investments and get to keep all your income if you can prove he cheated? If not, propose this to him. Tell him you need it in order to trust him again. See how he responds. I’m guessing he won’t be jumping for joy. If he refuses, you have your answer. He intends to cheat.
If he agrees, it still won’t establish that he’ll never cheat. He may think he’s so clever that you’ll never be able to prove it. However, it will make it less likely, and maybe that’s enough reassurance for you.
If I was in your situation, I would scrap the whole thing, but I don’t think you will. As I read your letter, you aren’t really asking if you should leave. You seem to be asking how to make it bearable to stay, but CL doesn’t do that. She doesn’t knight fuckwits as Unicorns of the Realm. None of us knows what your FW will do, or if you’ll ever feel better. That’s an unsatisfactory answer, so I’m sorry. The only thing we can say for sure is the odds of him never cheating again are not good. In fact, they’re bad.

“Cheating partners are three times more likely to cheat again. A new study from the University of Denver (DU) has found that partners who cheat are much more likely to cheat again in other relationships. The analysis, which was focused on hundreds of unmarried individuals, also concluded that people who get cheated on have a higher risk of getting cheated on in the future.”

https://www.earth.com/news/cheating-partners-cheat-again/

Now me, I would not risk going through that hell again, so I have no intention of even dating. You must be more resilient than that, or you wouldn’t have tried again. So how resilient are you? Could you go through that agony again? You need to ask yourself these questions and sort out what’s going on with you. The work you need to do is not about trying to figure out if he’s cured of his crap character. It’s about you and what you are willing to go through in order to keep what sounds to me like an expensive housecat, one whose presence in your life makes you anxious.

Lindsay
Lindsay
11 months ago
Reply to  OHFFS

A lopsided post-nup like the one you’re proposing will be thrown out in any court. Just an FYI. I see post-nups are a popular suggestion here and elsewhere, and the thing people fail to realize is, no judge will honor something that is strongly one-sided. They are rarely worth the effort and expense it takes to prepare them. I believe it’s part of spackling to have one, tbh…

OHFFS
OHFFS
11 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay

I guess it depends on the jurisdiction, Lindsay. I was told it would hold up as long as both parties had legal represenation, it was prepared by a lawyer and signed in the presence of both lawyers, as that would establish there was no coercion involved. You certainly have to right to agree to something which is unfavorable to yourself. A cheater could then only cite poor representation by his lawyer or mental health/cognitive impairment to successfully challenge it.
FW’s lawyer told him the same. It certainly won’t hold up if it’s a do it yourself job.

It’s really only useful as a test for a FW, IMO, which is why I suggested it. That’s how I used it and the cheater flunked. I’m betting the OP’s FW would fail as well. I can’t imagine living with somebody knowing that the reason s/he is not cheating is only financial, so I would never sign such a document and keep a cheater. Ugh, how depressing would that be. It is handy as a means of unicorn busting, in my experience.

hush
hush
11 months ago

Oh hell no, this is like watching a trainwreck about to happen. RED FLAG: He’s definitely a user who is scamming her for a free place to live, food, and sex. What a fantastic deal for him! He’s hardly had to do anything effortful to get back with her, just write some flowery BS and he still gets to verbally attack her, too.

Cohabitation and holding herself out as a married person often has legal meaning in many jurisdictions. Betcha he is going to flip the script on her and void that divorce settlement by her acting like they’re married.

Hopium about unicorns and Europeans who don’t do divorce or whatever – look, it is a helluva drug. I suggest she quietly consult a lawyer to see if she’s undone her settlement by agreeing to this lopsided wreckonciliation.

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
11 months ago
Reply to  hush

This. What are the laws in European countries regarding common law marriages not domestic unions or partnerships.
I feel sorry for the daughter-in-law that has married into a family of liars and fraudsters.

ChumpBucket
ChumpBucket
11 months ago

MaybeMaybeNot,
The one question that ChumpLady asked that kept replaying in my head when I was on hopium and thinking I won the pick me dance was this “was his cheating and other emotionally abusive behavior acceptable to me?” The FW had done a lot of therapy, started a 12-step program–he appeared to change in a lot of ways, but things would come up that showed he was still blame shifting, not really remorseful, and still pretty narcissistic. Maybe your FW changed, but their cheating changes us. Was his behavior acceptable to you? Can you live with feelings of mistrust? Can live with the trauma response you now have when you have spats with him? Can you live with the immature behaviors that he still has? It doesn’t sound to me that this relationship offers what really needs to occur in a relationship, which is a solid foundation of trust and emotional safety.

Daughterofachump
Daughterofachump
11 months ago

MaybeMaybeNot, No, you’re not a unicorn. You’re unhinged.

For frak’s sake, leave this loser. At least this time, you don’t have to get divorced.

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
11 months ago

MaybeMaybeNot, I was you. I ‘had my circle back’ when I reconciled with the lying Fuckwit. I was so, so desperate to keep my family, that when I reconciled with the lying Fuckwit, I knew that I was choosing to believe a liar. And each time I doubted, I told myself, ‘Amazon, you still have your family.’ Four years later, the lying liar was back to screwing around – maybe not physically… yet, but he was seeing the OW again. But by then, I really was done. I did not want to play his game anymore and I divorced him. I figured that since I almost divorced him once, I could truly divorce him for good and it wouldn’t kill me. However, after my divorce I was a total mess because I started doubting myself again, feeling ashamed, and thinking, “If I had just not completely severed the tie maybe this time he would have changed for good.” And worst of all, my fear was realized, I lost part of my family; I no longer had my circle. My youngest son chose to keep his lying Fuckwit dad and the OW wife in his life instead of me. Talk about being mindfucked! My ex mindfucked me and then my own son mindfucked me! That just messed me up more and I went over and over wondering what I did that was so wrong to lose my son.

8 years later I cannot tell you that I no longer have doubts. Sometimes, I still have doubts at least where my son is concerned. But I have no doubt whatsoever that divorcing and getting the fuckwit out of my life for good was the absolute best thing I did. I no longer have someone gaslighting me anymore and making me doubt myself.

Whether or not your fuckwit is cheating or not cheating, you are not at peace, and you will never be at peace with him. He didn’t get a character transplant. He’s still the same shitty guy who did all of those things and that has no respect for you. He’s still playing his mind games on you, and you are stressed once again doubting yourself. I told myself (and others) that if the fuckwit never had another woman, that I would have stayed married to him until I died. Oh, I would have gotten stronger and battled wits with him, calling him out on all the bullshit, but I would have stayed married to him just to keep my circle. After my divorce and going completely no contact, years later I finally realized that I was very much alone in my marriage. I never had a partner; I had a full-grown abusive child for a husband. And as he got older, he got worse. He didn’t even try to hide his disdain or disrespect for me anymore. It took me a few years post-divorce to realize that I never want to be with someone in the same house and feel alone again. I’d rather be single in my own house.

Maybe you’re not there yet, but since you’re already divorced, I suggest you come clean. Tell your son that you made a mistake choosing to believe his dad because you were desperate to save your family. Tell your son, that in your attempt to save your family, you are losing yourself, your self-respect, and that you can’t do this anymore. Tell him that you deserve peace in the undetermined number of years that you have left on this planet. Tell your son that you’re going to have your ex move out and that you’re going to move on, and tell him that you’re going to do this for nobody else, but you. Tell your son that you hope he and his wife understand. You will do more to establish credibility in your son’s eyes by finally putting yourself first, than by saving your dysfunctional marriage to a lying fuckwit. Just because you’re older, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have all of the right answers, but you’re learning from your mistakes. Then DO IT!!! Kick that fucker out!

Blah Blah
Blah Blah
11 months ago

I took the FW back after divorce. He expressed remorse for awhile, he looked like he was in all in & we were happy talking about a fresh start & looking forward to the future. Three years later, he slowly slipped back into his old self critiquing & devaluing me. Then he was secretly on the dating apps again & then when he found OW who clung to him with all her “twu wuv” & “we are soul mates” language, it was enough to convince him to leave me for her. Luckily I didn’t remarry him, but it still hurt like a hot damn. I sincerely hope you have a better outcome than me, I really do, but I have a sneaking suspicion my story will be your story. Maybe (or maybe he did who knows) my ex-husband didn’t initially plot to use me as a plan B, but it certainly felt like it afterwards. Being a backup until something better comes along for them, was a devastating blow to my mental health. I hope you protect yourself as best as you can if you’re going to remain sticking it out. Funny thing, my ex was just trying to catch my attention at a kid event & I completely stayed away from him. I’m not going in for a third swing at the bat as I suspect OW is now herself on the Plan B trajectory.

NotANiceChump
NotANiceChump
11 months ago

That you’re on this website and writing CL tells you all you need to know about the right choice here. In my experience, once you start seeking significant outside validation for a choice the you yourself is questioning, the answer is: nope, stop it, make another choice. You get one life. Do you want to lead it “making due” and always being on high alert and emotional instability with this guy, who disrespected you in the worst way possible? Or do you want to thrive? You cannot have both. What do you want to model to your adult children and young grandchildren? You deserve to be cherished and loved…this guy does not offer that in any substantive way. Staying with him = long term emotional suffering.

2xchump🚫again
2xchump🚫again
11 months ago

I don’t know, these unicorn believers make me so tired. It’s as if they want to rub our tear stained chump faces in their brilliant solutions that we are too poor and ignorant to think of ourselves. Hey ( they seem to say), I’m still MARRIED but I cringe sometimes! I have a fight and i get the sadz too!!!What is that? Whaaaw…I’m filthy rich and smart and I have a husband oh wait an XH!! She’s using him and betting she has a winner and XH can tell any woman he wants the Truth. “Sugar plum, I’m not married, we just LIVE together.” That age old “come on line “is TRUE! One less lie for all the OW! You know who is the brilliant one?? XH, face in cake and fewer lies to make up and living the dream. Family ” Intact”, lies dished out like Halloween candy …but hey, they are true! Shhhh don’t tell daughter in law!!!! Crazy package deals. A few months ago after D,day, I was given the name of a woman in our church whose husband had had affair(s) and she stayed. I was hoping I could reconcile ( not really)and asked her how she did it. When I contacted her, her eyes opened wide and she said..WHO.TOLD YOU? She was full of fear her husband would hear about others knowing he had OW but no consequences!! She said shhhhhh, no one is to know!!!!!! Our conversation ended in seconds. Does she have flash backs? Who knows, Does she have fear ?who knows…but she is not a victim all tied up in knots, she is a volunteer. She could have been wealthy leaving but she chose to stay and keep the family together. She gets her wish though the cost may be high. She still has the perks. I get it but I’m not happy this maybe lady wrote CL for support. It sounded like bragging to me. I’d put a GPS on her XH and cameras in his car, I’d put a nursery or doggie cam in his room and a get a copy of his phone texts, computer info etc..betcha he’s got a great side life going, but who cares..he’s not married! Perfect life for both of them. Potatoes and gravy.

Leftbehindlily
Leftbehindlily
11 months ago

You love your children and grandchildren? THINK of the example you are setting for them!

Stephen
Stephen
11 months ago

Wow. I just now read this and that dude has it made with this woman. He is the one who gets to pretend to be the happily married man to everyone rent and probably utility-bill free. He gets to manage his image to everyone. The letter writer on the other hand has to wrestle with everything that happened so she can put on a “happy marriage” show for everyone who does not live with them under their roof. If it wasn’t for this letter I’d almost say she weighed out the options and decided that this life she now has, that she created for herself, is acceptable to her. Unfortunately, after living in a suburb in central Virginia for almost 8 years I met an inordinate number of “wives” just like this woman. They choose to cheat or be cheated on and accept that life rather than getting divorced because of the kids, finances, the extended family, friends AND they have no shame in telling everyone they know about it and their educated choices. They have their own little cliques too. I moved away from that shit because that was not acceptable to me when my life took a similar turn.

MaybeMaybeNot
MaybeMaybeNot
11 months ago

Dear CL and CN

I wanted to close out this thread with my final thoughts.

Thanks to all those, including of course CL, who were kind, thoughtful, yet direct and forceful, in their responses. All helpful for me to think things through.

I thought CN was a judgement free zone, but found that not to be completely the case. I don’t recall giving my salary or IQ in the post yet a handful of folks couldn’t relate, thought I was bragging (say what?), or in other passive-aggressive ways ridiculed me. You know who you are and the good news is that you are in the minority.

The “not paying rent” issue appeared repeatedly – so I ask those bothered by that – if XH were paying rent would you be OK with my “arrangement”? Or would he also have to pay for my teeth-whitening? Then you’d be OK? Clearly, you missed the bigger point. I’ve had adult kids and close friends in crisis live with me rent free for extended periods. So, no, I don’t keep an Excel spreadsheet of expenditures and the second it is no longer 50/50 go into a frenzy. And btw, it is close to 50/50. Regardless, the split of housing expenses is so, so a non-issue here.

I also mentioned that one DIL might, I repeat, might not know we are divorced. There is a reason for that. I agree it is not healthy, but at this point she may know. She lives far away and I don’t see her often. But everyone else knows, and knows why, including the mailman and contractor. When we are in Home Depot and the saleslady says something like –“your husband asked for this”, I don’t blurt out – “oh no, he is my XH, we are divorced but live together. I took him back after he cheated on me because I believe he is truly remorseful”. Would that make you judgers happy?

CL said it best. She is not in the unicorn prognostication business. My post was more about the continued pain of infidelity, even if your FW morphs into a unicorn. I am not saying mine did because I know I will never really know and must answer the question if I can live with that.

Thank you again
MMN

EmoChump
EmoChump
10 months ago
Reply to  MaybeMaybeNot

Dear MaybeMaybeNot – I wrote to Tracy as EmoChump in 2013. The emotional affair my ex had then of course later turned out to be physical. As best I know, the affair lasted from 2009 to 2014. After that, I, or maybe we, then tried to make it work. Therapy, couples counseling. Her attitude in many ways was not as good as that of your FW. The AP lived in the same town and was a true weirdo. He kept trying to apologize to me. But of course didn’t really mean it. Then, in late 2020, my ex announced she needed to have conversations with him to sort out her still messed up head. I left the house. We are now divorced.

I write because she has said she wants to come back. Her AP is living with someone else.

I won’t do that. Part of me wants the same things you do. But not enough. I knew what happened before would always gnaw at me. And screw being plan B. I’m better off now. I no longer try to untangle the skien.

The two of us are cordial. I’m ok with communicating with her about our kids and respective families.

Good luck to you, sending you good vibes and positive thoughts.

Marco
Marco
10 months ago

Repeated infidelity is not uncommon. Prepare for that day.
While you keep.yourself in this there’s no to go find Mr Right,