Dear Chump Lady,

I found your blog recently and have been reading all about ego kibbles and cake and chumps, because of a fucked up situation that recently came to light and is wreaking havoc in my life. I’m hoping you can help someone who isn’t a chump, but is currently being affected by a massive amount of cheating, gaslighting, and the works.

My fiance’s friend group is unhealthy, and has been since he and I met two years ago, but now it’s insane and unhealthy and falling apart. When I met him, he was living in a big house with two other married couples, and there were two more couples in their friend’s group (8 people plus my fiance). He moved out last year to get an apartment with me (yay!). Since we started our relationship, all four married couples have split up, all four due to cheating, and in the two most recent breakups (last week), one person from each remaining couple was cheating with each other. EACH OTHER.

I. Can’t. Handle. It. The cheating people also bullied their spouses into accepting open marriages to avoid feeling guilty. The whole past year this has been going on in secret. My fiance’s four closest friends. For about six months, they’ve been ignoring him and leaving him out of things while they run around, turning down all his invitations to get together. They’ve been completely unavailable to him, but NOW that everything’s come out and there’s disaster everywhere, all the cheating folks keep popping up and asking to talk with him. “OH I NEEEEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE. Let me pour insanity into your ear about how my childhood was so awful and I cheated without thinking about it (with my childhood best friend’s spouse, for a year) and now I want to hurt myself, and I demand you be available to me whenever because you’re my good friend, right? I know I ignored you for months, but you see now why I couldn’t talk to you then, right?”

These people have also been superior, snobby, and exclusionary the entire time of our relationship, giving him unsolicited relationship advice as well as treating me as though I wasn’t there. They never accepted me (I know this isn’t the point, but I spent a long time agonizing over what was wrong with me, finally going to a therapist and coming to terms with the fact that it wasn’t me). They went so far as to tell my fiance that marriage sucks and his friends are his “mirror” and he should listen to them, etc etc, and that I don’t “push” him enough. I never got comfortable with them, and even though I tried to get to know them each individually, they only ever wanted to socialize as a big group. Eventually, I stopped joining my fiance when he went to see them.

Luckily, he and I have worked to build a good relationship. We went through couples therapy for months to prepare for marriage, and a lot of that time was spent talking about his friends and why they treated me and our relationship like they do. He now sees their behavior as strange and unwarranted, thank God. We’re getting married in November and these folks were supposed to BE in the wedding, but he’s trying not to take sides. I’m having a hard time stomaching that, as well as their constantly filling his head for hours with tales of their infidelity and woe. I know I’m letting myself be affected by their past shitty behavior to us as we got closer together. He is crushed by this revelation of their characters, as he grew up idolizing these people (they’re a few years older). We’re going back to counseling over this, and I’m just SO ANGRY. It’s taken so long for him to create healthy boundaries with these people, and they have found a delightful new way to fuck with him.

I guess what I want to know is, how can I be a support for my fiance and what can I say to him? For obvious reasons, he can only talk to one of them at a time, and he is determined to be there to talk whenever any of them ask. This is very trying. I’m trying to understand this. Thank you. And thanks for being a voice of reason amid insanity!

Sincerely,

Civilian Casualty Bride

Dear CCB,

The problem isn’t your fiancé’s friends — it’s your fiancé. Look, that pack of hyenas he calls “friends” are narcissistic fuckwads. Why he doesn’t toss the whole lot of them says a lot about HIM.

You’re asking me how you can be supportive of your fiancé while he supports wah-wah crybaby cheaters who phone him up at all hours? Not gonna do it, CCB.

Ask yourself — if you were a cheater and you wanted some kibbles of “There, there, you poor sausage, what you did wasn’t so bad” — who would you call? A Catholic nun? Someone who would tell you you’re an asshole? Someone who wouldn’t pick up the phone? Or would you call someone you suspect won’t call you on your shit. Who, you suspect, adheres to the same crap values you have?

At best your fiancé is a spineless dude who has poor judgement in friends and won’t set boundaries. He’s just a big pussy kibble dispenser. At worst, he’s someone who’s okay with cheating. It’s all a big whatever to him.

Unfortunately, you’ve given me some evidence of the latter when you wrote “he doesn’t want to take sides.”

There’s a red flag! But before I launch into my Jerks Who Want to be “Neutral” sermon, let’s take a moment to reflect on your fiancé’s other acts of shittiness.

1) He didn’t distance himself from his friends when they were cold and unwelcoming to you. I believe the terms you used were “superior, snobby, and exclusionary.” They excluded you and he went along with that. Worse, when you wouldn’t tag along, he went without you.

I’m not saying you have to be glued to the hip with your boyfriend. Or that you both can’t have other friends outside the relationship. Or that you have to do everything together. That’s not the point. The point is — they were rude to you. They slighted you and let you know you weren’t cool enough to hang with them — and THAT didn’t make your fiancé question his judgement about them. No, he hung on and got his nose out of joint later when he kept calling them to do things, and they were too busy banging each other.

So not only did he not put distance there — he chased them. I really don’t know how else to interpret that other than hanging with the cool kids means more to him than your feelings do.

2) The hyenas gave him unsolicited relationship advice that was negative about your commitment and you. Did he shut that shit down? No, apparently he told you about it. They are his “mirror”? WTF? Is he no one unless his friends tell him who he is? Maybe that’s one for the spineless pussy column. He is sharing his joyful news of engagement with these people and their reaction is to tell him how much marriage sucks? And it never occurs to him that he needs a better class of friends? Way to revel in his happiness, there. Friendship FAIL.

Then the moment comes when he is shocked! just shocked! that’s they’re all a bunch of cheaters.

He’s so shocked and upset that….

… he keeps taking their phone calls.

He is so “crushed by these revelations of their character” that…

he doesn’t want to take sides. They’re still in the wedding. And you’re supposed to go along with that.

Oh yeah, I can smell the stern disapproval from way over here in Texas.

Here is where I launch into my Jerks Who Want to Be Neutral sermon.

Somewhere in this clusterfuck, CCB, are some chumps. Unless every single one went along with the open marriage gig, someone got grievously played. Their marriage fell apart. They’re shattered. And their “friend” there, Mr. Switzerland, would like everyone to act like it never happened. Just show up for my wedding. Let’s be cool and hang out again like we used to! He’s not going to judge. Apparently he’s not judging when they call, which is why they keep calling back. All the kibbles! None of the judgement! Everyone gets to stay friends!

Why isn’t he going to judge? Because he’s got shit for values. His attachment to these people isn’t that deep. He wants whatever sparkle they can confer, he isn’t really invested in who hurt whom. His heart isn’t breaking for the person(s) who got betrayed. No, he’s conferring comfort and kibbles to the cheaters that betrayed them. Because he doesn’t want to Take Sides.

But he’s taking a side. He just doesn’t want to be called on it. He’s still with the cheaters. His actions say What You Did Wasn’t That Bad That I Still Won’t Be Your Friend.

Hell, you can be in my wedding!

And isn’t THAT rich? Yeah, come celebrate my day of monogamy and commitment! Let’s have people in the wedding party who are on record with how much “marriage sucks.” And who didn’t keep their vows themselves.

THIS is who he chooses. THIS says a lot about your fiancé.

And here is where I tell you what you probably don’t to hear as you’re neck deep in wedding prep. This guy isn’t marriage material. He’s not ready for marriage. He doesn’t know himself and he can’t stick up for what he believes in (assuming he even knows what he believes in). And I’m not sure he’s going to figure it out in 8 weeks.

And you’re taking an enormous risk marrying a guy who keeps company with a nest of cheaters.

You can throw a lot of counseling at this, and good luck with that, but the best shrink in the world can’t give your fiancé a character transplant. The best I can say about your fiancé is that he’s immature and spineless. Ask the folks here how it worked out for them marrying someone whose values didn’t align with theirs. Who were on different pages when it came to monogamy and loyalty.

But his love for you will transcend all that! He’ll get his shit together and leave these losers!

I don’t see any evidence of that. He loves you… and he still picks up that phone.

Please give this marriage thing some more thought. (((Hugs)))

– Chump Lady

{ 219 comments }

Dear Chump Lady, Got close to meh, and then… boom.

by Chump Lady on August 29, 2014

MEHHey CL,

I’m a soon to be divorced dad with primary custody of my two adorable kids, 8 year old boy and 4 year old girl. It’s been about 10 months since D-Day, although I was naïve enough not to notice the affair with a married co-worked that was probably going on under my nose for at least a year. My wife started to seriously abuse alcohol last summer, to the point where she was falling down and injuring herself. We entered marriage counseling under two conditions – no contact with the OM and a serious attempt to cut down on drinking. In the ensuing months, while we were in therapy, she promised at the beginning of each session that she would stick to the plan.

She didn’t and it got worse. She was drinking by 4:00 PM and passing out by 9:00 on nights where she was home. Or she was out at all hours with OM while I babysat our own children. When she wasn’t out with him, she was locked in the bathroom talking to him on the phone (including Christmas Day) or texting him openly while I sat next to her on the couch. She eventually took to drinking for breakfast on weekends to the point where she was legitimately unfit to be alone with the kids.

In March, she was removed by the police from our home, while drunk, after persistent neglect (bordering on abuse) of our kids and a complete disregard for me, her husband and “best friend” of 12 years. It’s been a long slog of court appearances and custody hearings since then, and she has had her ass handed to her every time by probate or (if we made that far) the judge. I’ve been working very hard to let go and get to meh and thought I was making progress.

However, when going out with family friends, drips and drabs of information keep finding their way (innocently) into our conversations. Last night, a stream of particularly disturbing – check that, infuriating – new details fell into my lap and I find myself back at the beginning, hating her, her boyfriend, and what they’ve done to my family with the power of 100 suns. Except for once a week, court supervised visits, I’ve been pretty good about going NC. But after a night without sleep, I feel an overwhelming desire to lash out, confront, and wreak as much havoc as I can. She is without question a pathological liar, and I could pull a few cards to make things very uncomfortable at work and with her family.

I’m sure a lot of chumps out there have been in the same position. How do you step back from the edge when I’m continually reminded of what a terrible person she has become and what I complete and utter rube I was to let all of this happen?

Thanks,

Opposite Spouse

Dear Opposite Spouse,

Yeah, you’re still in the throes of trusting that she sucks. How much more can she suck? Well, apparently more and more! as you have found out from friends and family.

But before I get into the particulars of how you can get your meh back – huge kudos to you for gaining custody of your kids, going through the meat grinder of court, getting supervised visits, and managing no contact. What you’ve accomplished is MIGHTY. So please take a moment to bask in the admiration and bro hugs from Chump Nation. You get the Sane Parent award. You are modeling incredible strength and resiliency to your children, and you are protecting them from abuse and neglect. You’re a hero.

As for your ex — if all of her crazy is due to addiction, you’re also doing right by her as well. (Not that you expressed any guilty feelings about that, but you’re a chump, so I’m just checking.) As they say, “never get between an addict and their bottom.” By imposing consequences — calling the cops, leaving the marriage, receiving custody of the kids — you’re allowing hitting bottom to happen, IF it’s going to happen. (Of course, for some epic fuck-ups it never happens.) But it wasn’t going to happen if you stayed in that mess, trying to manage chaos. So, more kudos.

Now, about that meh. Part of no contact means you need to cut friends and family members off at the knees the minute they mention her or what she’s up to. You don’t need to know. It’s only going to upset you and ruin your precious meh.

As you have custody and the time she gets with the kids is “court supervised” — you’ve done everything in your power to protect your children from her fuckupedness. Excellent. So you don’t need to know particulars to spare them from harm, you’ve done that.

So, the only horrors left to learn are either a) what fresh hell she’s up to now, or b) shit she did behind your back before that you didn’t know about.

On “a” — you don’t need to know. If you truly trust that she sucks, you can only expect more tales of chaos, drama, and self destruction. That is who she IS. That’s the path she has chosen. And if she gets off that path, toward sobriety and responsible living, I’m sure she will inform the court and you’ll hear about it.

On “b” — there’s a point at which you don’t need any more information. You’re past that point, my friend. You can do the calculations and arrive at “she sucks” right now. You don’t need more evidence. If someone were to tell you something new along the lines of she once saved Haitian orphans from earthquakes, okay, you might have to recalculate. But you’re not learning those things, you’re probably learning she slept with more people, or fucked you over in some other fresh, imaginative way. You don’t need this, because it just underscores what you already know — SHE SUCKS. Trust that. Stick with NC.

Explain points “a” and “b” to your friends and family. You’ve got enough on your plate trying to maintain your precious equilibrium and raise two kids, you don’t need to know about the ex’s life. Put it out there and then enforce that boundary.

Next, on the revenge and telling people at work how horrible she is? Bad idea. First off, if she’s as drunk and crazy as you say, they know it. Her having a job helps you, gives her incomes, keeps her occupied. Don’t mess with that. Second, revenge is poking a tiger and you don’t need the blow back. And third, it messes with your precious meh. Protect your hard won tranquility.

As for feeling like a rube? Oh, join the club, Opposite. We’ve ALL been there. You’re in the company of chumps here. Here’s something you can work on — exploring who you were in that relationship. Were you codependent? Did you ever enable? Did you make your needs small? Did you accept continual disrespect and violations of your boundaries? Did you grow up doing that? Go explore this stuff in therapy, or online, or with a host of self-help books. But do take a hard, unvarnished look at yourself and say  NEVER AGAIN will I stay in a relationship that chumps me. Fix the picker, as we say here. You do get to control you and your vetting process for the people you allow in your life. You don’t control the ex’s crazy, but you do get to control your own shields and forcefields.

And remember too, Opposite, when you’re feeling like a rube — you are an AWESOME person. I’ll say it again — you’re a HERO. You saved your kids. You saved yourself. Think of how hard you worked to stay in that marriage and hold it all together. You’re Atlas. You take all that strength and love with you forward. And now, instead of wasting it on this dreadful woman, you have it to give to the people who are deserving of you — your kids, the loved ones who’ve had your back, and some day (when that picker is recalibrated) to a good person who can love you right.

Better days ahead, OS. You’ve been through the worst of it already. Don’t look back at the crazy you left behind. Just keep moving forward in mightiness. (((Hugs)))

{ 70 comments }

Dear Chump Lady, I’m meeting his bitch-ass lawyer

August 28, 2014

Dear Chump Lady, I’m going tomorrow to meet with my ex, his bitch-ass lawyer (seriously, she’s evil), my lawyer (who might be too nice), and the guardian at litem. He’s trying to take primary custody because I moved an hour away. And also trying to stop paying spousal support. (Agreement said I needed to live […]

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Create Some Fake Credentials for Chump Lady!

August 27, 2014

Emboldened by Esther Perel’s questionable credentials (as discovered the other day by Nomar and TimeHeals), I thought it’s about time I fluffed up my resumé. I mean, what’s keeping me from a TED talk and international corporate stardom? Goddamn it, I need an Institute! There, let me shove Ginger, my Australian shepherd off the cushions and declare the […]

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Meaningless Flings and the Myth of the Good Cheater

August 26, 2014

So as of yesterday Esther Perel now follows me on Twitter. Which is big of her considering I told her to bite me. On the other hand, there might be something in it for her as she’s writing a book on infidelity, according to the New York Times, and is only taking on new clients “who […]

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It’s not an affair! It’s an act of “exuberant defiance.”

August 25, 2014

Esther Perel can bite me. I know that’s not the level of erudite discourse called for when debunking a pre-eminent Belgian psychotherapist. Perel is the best-selling author of “Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence.” I mean, who am I to quibble with “one of the world’s most original and insightful voices on personal and professional relationships“? Who dares to […]

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Mistress Greeting Cards… Really.

August 23, 2014

      Who says cheaters aren’t thoughtful? They disappear on their families, court STDs, and spend your savings on Back Page hook-ups, but hey! they send greeting cards. Sure, they fuck in Walmart parking lots, but they’re kicking their classiness up a notch with missives like “Roses are red/Violets are blue/It’s a good thing my husband/Doesn’t know […]

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They’re Not “Wayward”

August 22, 2014

May I just take a moment to say that I hate the term “Wayward”? As in “wayward spouse,” (WS) or as it is known in balder terms: cheater. “Wayward” sounds soft in the head. Like they weren’t off pre-meditatedly boinking someone they met on Craigslist but rather got befuddled, lost their car keys, and couldn’t […]

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Confessions of a Better Sort of Cheater

August 21, 2014

Did anyone see “Confessions of a Suburban Cheating Mom” on HuffPo this week? It’s wasn’t the bodice ripper you’d imagine. What I imagine a cheating suburban mom sounds like: I put down the juice box, told Carly to watch an Elmo video, and furtively texted my lover. “What are you wearing, Handsome?” Me, I was wearing […]

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Dear Chump Lady, Did you take the drugs? Did they help?

August 20, 2014

Dearest Chump Lady, I need your help. First a little background…. I found out 2.5 years ago that my husband of 32 years had a lifetime girlfriend. I felt like someone was sucking out my guts with a vacuum. But I crawled to the phone and booked a marriage counseling appointment for both of us. […]

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