What is up with people accusing Chump Lady of being bitter and angry, and refusing to move on? The critics say they have read her stuff, but have they really?
I get it. If you want to reconcile you probably don’t appreciate hearing that the cheater in your life is not sorry, there’s nothing you can do to prevent more cheating, and that your chances of living happily ever after are pretty dismal. You probably don’t want to hear that your super special snowflake cheater is an entitled cake eater who will lie to keep that comfy existence. They don’t want to hear that you can’t prevent them from cheating again, and while it may be comforting on some level to hear that it wasn’t your fault, it also means you can’t control whether or not they cheat again.
As someone pointed out, though, her tag line is: Leave a cheater, gain a life. She believes in YOU, her reader, the person coming to her site for help or an empathetic ear. She believes you can rebuild. You can go on and have an amazing life- without your cheater. She encourages people not to put up with the lies and the excuses and the entitlement. She encourages people to drop consequences on the entitled cheaters. She asks the important question: Is this relationship acceptable to you? She tells people to focus on themselves and not the cheater. She’s not willing to sit there and smile pretty while eating the shit sandwich. She doesn’t believe in asking yourself what you did or didn’t do to cause another person to cheat; she instead asks you to examine what is lacking in that person that they believed cheating was acceptable.
Furthermore, while she may not be a big proponent of reconciliation she does tell people who are going to go that route to protect themselves. Get a post nup. Get tested for STDs. Run a credit report. Make them be responsible for making that therapy appointment. Make them show you they are sorry! Put the responsibility back on them.
God, I wish I had read her back when I first found out about Zack and Harley. Things could have gone so much differently. She encourages people to put their needs ahead of the cheating spouse’s, which is the opposite of what most reconciliation sites preach. I figure either we would have divorced before our cross country move, or we’d still be happily(ish) married. Instead I listened to those who bashed her and believed she had nothing to offer. I did read an article or two, but I was so used to reading blogs written by people about their own lives that I really didn’t “get” Chump Lady at the time.
I think that’s the key, though. She won’t shut up. She won’t take responsibility for her husband cheating on her. She doesn’t let the people who write to her take responsibility for the person who cheated on them either. She continues to shout from the rooftops that adultery hurts families. She doesn’t whitewash it and make excuses and pretend that it’s no big deal.
I don’t see how anyone who reads her, really reads her, could say she’s angry and bitter and can’t get over being cheated on. Her blog rarely mentions her own situation; on occasion she will point out something that happened, but most of it is general musings, unlike most blogs which are focused solely on the writer. She’s married to a fantastic guy who treats her like a queen. She has an extremely popular website. She wrote a book, for crying out loud! She recently went to Paris and bought pants at $300 a pair! I’m fairly certain she’s doing okay. Plus, as someone who has actually met her I can tell you she is absolutely lovely.
The bitter, angry commenters? They’re not bitter and angry, but like Chump Lady, they refuse to be silent. They tell their stories. Frequently, those stories are not pleasant. It’s really hard to keep the narrative that cheating is no big deal when you listen to a woman talk about how she lost her baby due to an STD her husband gave her thanks to his affair. Or when you hear a man talk about how he had to paternity test his kids because his wife cheated on him constantly. Or when you hear the heartbreaking story of the woman whose younger son was murdered by his philandering father. I remember the woman who wrote about saving up to take their young children to Disney, and her husband left them and took his mistress instead. I remember the man who was home recovering from surgery and almost died because his wife was out fucking their pastor when the A/C in the house went out; between the heat in the house and a reaction he had post-op he almost didn’t make it. Then he ended up losing everything in the divorce. I remember the woman who found out her husband and his mistress were slowly poisoning her, and the man who had his cheating wife telling her various affair partners that he was physically abusing her. There are several women who have talked about being framed for domestic violence by their cheating husbands, men who have to pay alimony to cheating wives (obviously don’t live in Virginia), women who have been left destitute by their husbands after decades of married life, cheated on spouses losing their children to the cheater, and story after story of children being deserted by fathers and mothers alike. They simply won’t shut up about the destruction of their lives once upon a time. That makes cheating apologists uncomfortable. They must keep the narrative going that cheating is no big deal and everyone does it and there must have been something wrong in the marriage, and those people with their stories fuck that up.
Those readers aren’t bitter. They’re telling their stories. It’s not their fault the stories aren’t happy and all sunshine and roses. Here’s the part so many of the critics overlook: Most of those people have happy endings now. They can talk about how much better their life is now- without the cheater.
That’s the whole purpose of Chump Lady. If you read her very first posts she will tell you she created that blog as a brain dump to help others who are going through this. She did it so they don’t have to make the same mistakes she did. Here is what I learned, is the basic premise. The posters who have been around for a while serve the same purpose. They are there to let the newbies know that while it seems dark and insurmountable now, the pain is finite and a wonderful, new life is out there. They, too, try to warn the newcomers of the pitfalls of reconciliation. The stories they tell serve as warnings; it’s not what they dwell on forever and ever.
Chump Lady encourages getting to the state of “Meh”, that blissful state where you don’t give a damn about the cheater and what he or she is doing. You are way too focused on your own life and all the wonderful things happening for you. She encourages people to be mighty. Tell me what makes you mighty, is a frequent blog topic on Fridays. You can list everything, from merely getting up and showering when you’re in the very beginning stages of the hell of infidelity, to people who are returning to school, getting promotions, installing garage door openers, and warding off bears (seriously- there was recently a woman who was cleaning up after a freaking bear!).
She offers up a message of hope. She doesn’t encourage people to stay bitter. Yes, use that anger to propel yourself out of the situation but don’t stay in that state of mind forever. Get out! Move on! Create a better life for yourself.
Personally, I think we need a little more Chump Lady with her message of encouragement, putting the focus on what you need and whether or not your needs are being met, and not blaming the cheated on spouse, and a little less of those who continue to defend cheaters and blame their victims.