The Exit Affair

We’re all familiar with this term, right? It’s what they call it when your spouse leaves you for someone else. I guess it differs from the “just want to fuck ‘em” affair somehow.

I’ve never liked the term but I couldn’t put my finger on why until recently.

…minimize the cheating and wrong doing, instead focus on the shortcomings of the relationship.

As in: Yeah, I cheated. But I haven’t been happy for a long time/we haven’t been happy for a long time/we’re not right together/our relationship would have ended anyway/we’ll be much happier apart/it’s for the best, etc. etc.

I think this is another form of manipulation. You’re not allowed to react, get angry or upset about them cheating on you, because instead they’ve switched the focus to ending the relationship as if the affair never happened- they’ve sidestepped and minimized the affair and gaslighted you into thinking your relationship was ending anyway.

Yes! That is exactly it. I was always left wondering if perhaps I deserved it. Maybe we weren’t right together. Maybe he would be happier with her. It wasn’t just an affair. It was an exit affair, which means I was to blame because I was lacking, our relationship was lacking. And everyone knows that if you have a shitty relationship the way to end it is to fuck your cousin. Or the person of your choice. Doesn’t have to be a relative.

He wasn’t just a run of the mill cheater, out having sex with new people because he liked a bit of strange on the side. No! He was still an upstanding man with great integrity. He was practically forced to cheat on me because our relationship was so awful.

An exit affair is all about the relationship; the cheater’s character can never be called into question. Because if the relationship had been better he or she would have never cheated. No, sir!

Someone else on Chump Lady chimed in with this:

You’re so right that the “exit affair” narrative is another form of manipulation, defined by a massive amount of side stepping and down playing.

That is precisely what it is. It downplays the shitty character of the cheater. It sidesteps the total destruction of lives caused by the cheating. And it manipulates people into believing that somehow this is an okay thing because who can argue against happiness and true love?

I’ve written about this before. People like to say they didn’t leave for the affair partner; their marriage was already dead, over. In other words, the affair was simply the catalyst that made them realize the marriage was over. I’ve long argued that, no, if you were still with your spouse up until the moment you began fucking your affair partner, you left for that person. You didn’t leave until you had a replacement lined up. Ergo, you left for that person.

You were too much of a chickenshit to leave honestly and ethically. You were content to sleep with your spouse and take advantage of whatever they brought to the marriage (you know, the long dead one), whether that was a paycheck, child care, laundry services, cooking, yard work, etc. You didn’t get out of this horrible, horrible situation until someone else came along and volunteered to do all of those things for you.

Or as another commenter on Chump Lady puts it:

Ah yes, the exit affair. I hate this term because whenever I read about what it means, it seems like the ultimate blameshift. The relationship was so bad that the fuckwit had to leave under the protection of an affair partner.

It focuses all of the blame on the person who’s being fucked over. It’s all about the crappy relationship. Nothing about the cheater’s crappy character. It’s not their fault, y’all! The relationship was bad! Their soul was dying from the weight of this cancerous relationship. Then this new person came along and suddenly they feel alive again! They can hear the birds sing. They can see the sun shining and marvel at how blue the sky really is. You can’t argue against that, right? So let’s dress it up in a pretty package and spin this sob story into something that has the cheater seen as the victim and the betrayed as the perpetrator.

I didn’t have an affair. This was an exit affair. Exit affairs are all about escaping bad relationships and finding well-deserved happiness. They’re not about sex and entitlement and people who lack a moral compass.

My advice? Don’t take the bait. It doesn’t matter how the affair is labeled. Even if the cheater leaves for the other person it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean their “love” is special. It doesn’t mean they’ve found someone with whom they are more compatible. It doesn’t mean it was your fault. It doesn’t mean that your relationship was lacking. It means they have an entitlement issue and shitty character. They are the same person regardless of who they’re with. Personality transplants don’t exist.

In Sickness and In Health

I was reading that other board that I’ve read for the last ten years or so. Somehow the topic of taking care of your sick, cheating spouse came up. One of the women knew someone who had found out after her husband died that he had been cheating on her the entire time he was sick. She wished she had known because she wouldn’t have bothered to take care of him.

I think that’s a pretty understandable stance to take. And yet, there were others who said they would care for their spouse regardless.

Is it any wonder infidelity is glossed over the way it is? Here we have a man who is actively cheating on his wife while he goes through chemo. He’s sexting his AP and meeting up with her in between treatments when he’s well enough while his wife is left to do the hard work. The AP gets sex and promises, dinners and sexy texts, and a guy who gives her a case of the crotch tingles, and his wife gets to drive him to chemo appointments, wait for hours while he’s being treated, and clean up his vomit and diarrhea afterwards. And there are actually people out there who not only don’t see what the problem is but also try to frame it as though it is a character issue and anyone not willing to look pass the lies and humiliation obviously isn’t as good of a person as they are. It’s as though there is a moral failure with those of us who choose to cut toxic people out of our lives. Their mantra seems to be: When someone shows you who they are, bury your head in the sand and keep pretending they’re the person you want them to be.

One person said, “I would choose compassion, too. I think people often justify not having a compassionate response by pointing out how the person “should” have behaved.”

Hmmm…. interesting. Here’s a head scratcher for ya: Why isn’t the soul mate/twu wuv taking care of her schmoopie? I would think the compassionate response would be to let the AP take care of the sick person. You wouldn’t want that terminally ill Lothario to spend his last months with the horrid, asexual wife, would you? Isn’t it only fair that these two soul mates, destined to be together, aren’t kept apart for one. more. minute?

If the answer is because the AP only wants the fun parts of the relationship and none of the work I would say sometimes that’s what happens when you trade in your spouse for what’s behind Door #2. Sometimes you lay there in your own shit and vomit because your twu wuv doesn’t want to take care of you and you fired your former spouse from that job. Good news, though! Once you’re up and feeling better (and no longer making a mess… ewwww!) your soul mate will once again be available for fun times.

One of the ladies did remark at one point that if the situation were turned around the cheater would have no problem leaving his wife’s body in the middle of the street. She also recounted a story of how a friend’s grandmother nursed her husband back to health, and then when she got breast cancer he left her for another woman. To which someone else (also a very enlightened soul who wouldn’t let a little thing like infidelity steer her course) replied: For me it’s more of I won’t let another person’s actions dictate or change the person I am just by nature.

What bullshit. This is just more excuses, more blaming the betrayed spouse, expecting everything from the cheated on while expecting nothing from and giving everything to the cheating spouse. I will repeat: It is not a moral failure to cut toxic people out of your life. If your spouse cheats on you and you choose to walk away it’s not a horrible failing on your part. Cheaters are not entitled to forgiveness, or being taken care of when they’re sick and find out their fuck buddies are only available for the good times.

Again I ask is it any wonder that we betrayed spouses face the uphill battle we do? It’s our fault. If we had been thinner, smarter, blonder, tanner, had more muscles, nagged less, put out more, cooked vegan, baked cakes, etc. then we could have prevented our spouse from cheating on us. Now that we have accepted the fact that it’s our fault the cheating happened then it behooves us to continue to shove that shit sundae down our gullet and take whatever else humiliation the cheater has in store for us.

We’re mean if we don’t want to take care of a cheating spouse. It’s not fair that we expect their AP to do that job. We’re horrible people who judge and impose unfair consequences and hey, who died and made you God? You’ve no right to judge that person who has gutted you. If you weren’t such a bitter, hateful person you would gladly mop up all that puke and shit and let them bounce off with Pop Tart once they were feeling better. I’m so glad I’m a more enlightened person who would never let a person’s awful behavior dictate my own behavior. I will swallow mounds of shit in order to prove to everyone that I am a better person!

Again I say bullshit. There is absolutely nothing wrong with refusing to be treated like an appliance. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Your behavior is unacceptable and I will not stand by while you treat me this way.” There is nothing wrong with saying, “This is not acceptable and I will not tolerate it one second longer.” There is also absolutely nothing wrong with telling Romeo that if he wants to fuck Pop Tart when he’s feeling 100% then by golly you’re stepping aside and she can wipe his ass when he’s at his lowest.

This idea that we operate in a vacuum is ludicrous. If every time my fictitious friend Rosie comes up to me she spits in my face and bites my nose, I’m going to stop hanging around with her. And yes, by golly, her behavior does dictate my behavior. If Rosie weren’t a violent asshole who assaulted me I’m sure I would be wiling to spend time with her.

If every time my fictitious friend Cinnamon comes over she steals things from my house, I’m going to stop inviting her over. And yes, by golly, her behavior does dictate my behavior. If she weren’t stealing me blind every time I had her over for dinner I would continue to invite her over. But since she steals from me I’m severing this relationship and not giving her another opportunity to take shit that doesn’t belong to her.

If every time I hang out with my fictitious friend Hannah she lies right to my face I’m going to stop hanging out with her because it’s very difficult to have any kind of a friendship with a person who lies to you constantly. Again, you might have guessed it by now. Her behavior, her lying, does dictate my behavior- whether or not I’m willing to be friends with her.

So can we please stop acting like fucking a person suddenly gives them special permission to do whatever they want to you? I wouldn’t lobby the prison and ask to take care of my terminally ill rapist. I wouldn’t volunteer to take care of the person who killed my mom or child. I wouldn’t wipe the ass of my kidnapper or clean up the vomit of my mugger or give rides to the doctor’s to the guy who embezzled money from my company. Why would I offer to do that for the person who lied to me, cheated on me, humiliated me, and financially raped me?

This is the kind of crap we come up against in real life all the time. Once you leave the comfy confines of Chump Lady’s blog you usually run into all the people who don’t think infidelity is the real problem. They want to examine it from all different angles and assign percentages of blame (because the cheater didn’t cheat in a vacuum, of course). They want to encourage being friends with the cheater and doing things for them. In fact, there is no greater sign of maturity than claiming to be “best friends” with your cheater and socializing with them. The problems occur when the bitter, betrayed chump refuses to forgive, refuses to be besties, refuses to do photo ops, refuses to cooperate, refuses to maintain the cheater’s image. Yeah… I don’t think so.

There is something awful about this idea that even though we know if we were the ones who were sick this person would walk away without a second glance, would happily dance on our grave, would fuck someone else while we crawled to the toilet to vomit and then cleaned up after ourselves because no one was there to help us, that we are somehow morally lacking if we don’t rush to help this person. There is something horrible about this idea that even when someone is betraying us and humiliating us and using us we are supposed to say, “Let me help you. I want to take care of you. It is my duty.” There is something almost evil about this idea that people who wouldn’t consent to being mistreated in such a way are somehow lacking compassion and humanity. We are somehow less than those people who would fall all over themselves to help an abuser.

It brings to mind the story of the boy and the frozen snake. You know the story, right? A boy comes across a half frozen snake on the mountain top. The snake begs the boy to take pity on him, put him in his pocket and take him down to the base of the mountain. The boy says, “No! You are poisonous. You’ll bite me and I’ll die.” The snake assures him that he wouldn’t do that to the boy; if he would do this one favor for him he promises not to bite him. Please! He’ll die if the boy doesn’t take pity on him and help him out! So being a kind soul (one of those non-judging sorts) the boy takes pity on the snake and picks him up and puts him in his pocket. As he walks down the mountain the temperatures slowly rise and the snake slowly begins to thaw out. Not long before they get to the bottom the snake bites the boy, sending a shot of venom though his body, essentially killing him. “Why did you do that to me? I took pity on you! I carried you down the mountain as you asked. You promised you wouldn’t bite me!” To which the snake replies, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”



Was He Always Cheating?

I don’t know why but a thought suddenly popped into my head. I hadn’t thought about this in years. It didn’t even occur to me either time I was finding out about Harley’s glorious presence.

Waaaaaay back in the beginning of our marriage, like year 2 or 3, I remember seeing an email from him to what was obviously another woman. He was complimenting her breasts and asking for more pictures.

I know what you’re thinking.

Jesus Christ, Sam! You said you thought he’d never cheat on you. The real head scratcher is how on earth you thought he wouldn’t cheat on you?

What can I say? I’m slow in the driveway. I found out five years ago (twice in a three month period!) that he’s capable of betrayal. I’ve been living through this shit show for the last three years. I’ve been busy. With all this trauma I’ve been dealt I think I might have repressed the memory.

Do you want to hear the story or not? I thought so. Let’s stop picking on me and concentrate our efforts on him.

It’s been twenty years or so; the story is a little faded at this point, but some details remain sharp. I remember coming across the email and being hurt, pissed, and horrified. I remember thinking, “Oh God, I need to lose weight! I’d better get started before it gets out of control; right now it’s not so bad, just a few pounds. But if I keep ignoring it he may find someone else and I’ll be wishing I had started losing weight back when I first found out his attention had started to wander.” That’s pretty sad, isn’t it?

I’m pretty sure this happened at the same time we had tickets to go see Patty Loveless. I know we were not talking and I so badly wanted us to be able to communicate. I’m pretty sure we weren’t talking because of this.

When we finally did start talking he told me it was pictures he had seen online. I questioned why he emailed her then and his response was that this was the way it worked. You complimented their pictures in the hopes that they would send you more. That’s all it was. He didn’t know her. He hadn’t ever met her. She was some woman on the Internet, posting naked pictures of herself.

I wasn’t happy about it, and I let him know that, but I bought the explanation. It has stayed safely tucked away for twenty years.

Until now. Now I realize I was quite naive. I so solidly bought into this idea that he was loyal and would never cheat on me, that even when the signs were there I couldn’t comprehend what was going on.

Maybe he was telling the truth and this really was some amateur (or not so amateur) Internet porn star. Maybe he had never met this person. Or, maybe it was a co-worker. I don’t think he ever met up with this person, although why I should give him the benefit of the doubt is beyond me. It doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. Once again I am shown that he was never the person I thought he was. The signs were always there. I was oblivious to them.

I know it’s a fruitless question but I’m left wondering, “Was he ever faithful to me, or was he cheating from Day 1?” The positive side of this is that I keep being given ample evidence that he sucks. It also proves that whatever it is that Harley thinks she’s got, she doesn’t. That man has deep, dark secrets and they just keep coming.

It’s like the scene in Men In Black when the alien takes over Edgar’s body. CF wears a suit of lies. It looks like everything you want. It looks like someone faithful and loyal. Someone who has achieved great things and has much success. Someone who values a partner and a family. It reflects back whatever it is you want. It’s an illusion. The person CF claims to be isn’t real. He’s just an alien in an Edgar suit.



I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

As you probably know by now I read a lot of different blogs. I’ll be reading one and there will be a link that looks interesting at the bottom of it so I’ll click on it and I keep doing that and before I know it I am learning some very interesting things.

For example there are a lot of people out there who cheat, but instead of calling it that they like to say they are non-conformists, or they practice non-monogamy. They believe that most of us peons are way too sheltered to understand this new, enlightened way of conducting relationships and they will be looked down upon by the unwashed masses so they can’t dare breathe a word of it to anyone!

I’m probably one of those peons so more than likely I’m way off base here, but when I think of non-monogamy I think of someone who doesn’t want to date only one person. I think of someone who wants to play the field and not settle down. I don’t have a problem with that. I can’t think of a single reason that anyone would have a problem with that.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. See, when they say they prefer non-monogamy what they really mean is, “I don’t have a problem with fucking your spouse.” I don’t know about the rest of you but I think that’s a whole lot different from, “I prefer not to settle down with one person.”

You feel free to go out and fuck as many people as you want to; I won’t judge you for it. When you start fucking my spouse? I’ve got a huge problem with that.

Polyamorous? Open marriage? Swinging? New piece of ass in every city? Knock yourself out. If both people know about it and both people are on board who am I to say you’re wrong? I wouldn’t want it for myself but I’m not going to judge someone who does. Obviously, I would not be a good fit for someone like that as a romantic partner; however, I would have no problems being friends with them. I’m not going to shun anyone.

The problem arises when the so-called non-conformist wants to “non-conform” with someone else’s spouse. You know what’s going on. The cheating spouse knows what’s going on. The only person who doesn’t know what’s going on is the duped spouse. That person is being lied to and betrayed. That’s not okay.

Frankly, I don’t want to hear the tired old line about you not making vows to the betrayed spouse. You know your non-conforming buddy is married. You know the spouse doesn’t know and hasn’t given consent. You’re still fucking that person. It’s a shitty thing to do to another human being. Period.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but fucking someone else’s spouse without their knowledge is not edgy and non-conforming; it’s selfish. People aren’t against non-conforming relationships. They’re against people having a non-conforming relationship with their spouse. Again, open relationship, polyamory, swinging… Two (or more!) consenting adults can do whatever they choose. They’re not prejudiced against non-monogamy. You want to keep your options open, good for you. They’re not, however, excited about you being non-monogamous with their spouse. That’s an asshole move. You want to label that as non-monogamy and non-conforming instead of what it really is- cheating? That’s an asshole move, too. As well as being dishonest. Most people don’t like dishonest assholes.

Not a Bitter Bunny

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.

The Pain Olympics

With all that’s going on in Rio I thought this was an apt time to write about this.  You’ve all heard of the Pain Olympics, right?  It’s an amazing competition where there are no winners because, let’s face it, if you’ve won the Pain Olympics then your life is pretty much shit. Sometimes it’s where someone tries to one up someone else. Oh, your husband of 15 years cheated on you with his secretary? Well, MY husband of 20 years cheated on me with my sister! To a lesser extent it can be when other people tell you that your pain is nothing compared to all the starving children in North Korea or the people who have lost limbs in war or… or… or…

I first encountered this when I was going through all of my pregnancy losses. There was what seemed like real competition between women who had children and were experiencing loss and those who didn’t have children and were experiencing loss. I got to the point though where I finally figured out it’s not that one person has it worse. It all sucks; it’s simply a matter of different issues.

When it was between miscarrying mothers the big issue that women with children faced was the fact that many times their loss wasn’t looked at with sympathy.  They were frequently told to be thankful for the child or children they had. I think that’s horrible. A loss is a loss and just because a woman has one or two or more children already doesn’t mean that she wants this next child any less than the person who has no children. At the same time a woman who has no children may be gaining a lot of sympathy but she’s also facing the fact that she may never become a mom. That’s a whole other kettle of fish. They have different issues; neither has it better or worse. There are no winners in the Pain Olympics.

I sometimes see that with infidelity. And again, it all boils down to different issues. At different stages you have different issues.  Different sexes have different issues. No one has it better or worse, although there are definitely some really shitty situations out there.

For example when it comes to men vs. women very few men suffer the financial struggles that a lot of women endure. I read somewhere that after a divorce a man’s lifestyle generally improves  while a woman’s lifestyle generally decreases. Stay at home dads are still far and few between which means they’re not wondering how on earth they’re going to provide for their children in the event of a divorce. The last statistic I saw on women and staying at home was that 50% of women choose to stay at home. That’s a lot of women who are potentially facing divorce that are financially dependent on their husbands. The opposite doesn’t seem to happen quite so often. On the other hand it’s still an uphill battle for most men to get decent custody of their kids. Very few men become the primary custodial parent and getting 50/50 is still an uphill battle for most.  I can’t imagine anything more painful than having your wife cheat on you and then losing out on seeing your kids every day and on top of that having to pay your cheating ex-wife child support and possibly even alimony. What a shit sandwich! And it’s not one that women frequently are asked to eat. Also on the plus side though is it seems most men are seen as “valuable commodities” once they’re back on the market. I’ve heard many men be told that “their stock will trade high” in the dating world. You’ve got a good job and you’re a good father? Should you choose to return to dating you will probably have very little trouble finding dates, according to what I hear.

Then there’s the difference between divorcing in your 20s vs. your 30s vs. your 40s vs. your 50s and on up. I would imagine that in yours 20s you can’t even believe that what was once a bright promising future has turned into a nightmare so quickly. You get married and you think it will be forever and within only a year or two (or maybe a few more) you’re facing infidelity and divorce. That’s the way I felt after my first miscarriage. It had taken forever to finally get pregnant and then when I did I only got to enjoy it it for two weeks before it was all over. There were days I couldn’t quite grasp that it was all over already.

I also think that as you get older more challenges present themselves. I’ve often thought that it would have been so much easier if this had happened when I was in my 30s. It would have been easier to reinvent myself, easier to go back to school, easier to get hired, and more time to make money. But then I think of those women who are starting over in their 50s and 60s. I don’t know how they do it, but they do!

They have unique challenges as well. The older you are the closer you are to retirement. You’ve probably got a lot of years together with that other person and just as you think you’ll be enjoying your golden years he or she yells, “Surprise! I’m done with you! Let’s split everything up and go our separate ways.” I’m not sure how easy it would be to recreate yourself at 50 or 60. I definitely think it would be hard to get hired and if they don’t get a great settlement (or aren’t independently wealthy) they may have a rough remaining life. I’m don’t know how you pick up and rebuild after spending 30-40 years with someone and having that person discard you.

It’s not just the financial end of it either. I think you have many more chances to date the younger you are. I also think you have a much better chance of creating a family with someone else the younger your children are; unfortunately, that usually corresponds with our own ages. And for those who say you can find love at any age? While that may be true it’s also true that women typically live longer than men which means that as you enter your 50s and 60s and 70s as a woman more and more of your potential dates are dying. Sorry to be morbid but them’s the facts!

Those who have been married many years are dealing with their own issues. I am amazed at the number of people I see over on Chump Lady who have been left after 25, 30 and 35 years. It blows my mind. For myself I feel like I wasted 20 plus years of my life with CF and I wonder if it would be any better if I had ended it after only 5 or 10 years. Perhaps I would have had another chance at happiness. I’m 47. Even if I met “the love of my life” how many years would I really get with him? And yet I feel for those who are divorcing after only a few years. Again, I think it must feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you. You got married and thought it would be forever and it wasn’t. I’m not someone who ended up divorced shortly after I married so I don’t know what all their challenges are but I am sure they have their own specific issues.

For me the biggest issue I have to get over is the difference between women with jobs and women without jobs. I read about these women who have just graduated or been promoted or they’re talking about how once they threw their cheater out their lifestyle improved so much. I really have to take a step back because I sometimes feel myself thinking, “Man, if I had a good job and could support myself and my kids with no problem this would be so much easier!” But I know that these women all have their own challenges.

There are those who are mourning the fact that they were madly in love with their partner and those who thought of their spouse as their best friend with whom they did everything. Some people are dealing with serial cheaters. Others are dealing with spouses conducting long term affairs. Some are dealing with partners who have cheated since the very beginning (or maybe even before!) of the marriage and others are dealing with people who are wondering what they did to cause the cheater to cheat after x number of years. Some people are dealing with a cheater who leaves for the whore. They walk out the door and never offer the betrayed spouse a chance to win them back. While that sounds horrible (and is basically what happened in my situation) there are those who would say we are the lucky ones. Sometimes they try to hoover you back in and they mess with your mind. Those who deal with the cheaters who try to come back swear that’s the worst. Some are left for others who are seen as physically more desirable or are younger while some wonder what on earth their dipshit spouse sees in the whore. People deal with the whore being a co-worker, a best friend, a family member, a long ago girlfriend or boyfriend or a random stranger. Some deal with the fact that their spouse is cheating with prostitutes. There are all kinds of possibilities.

And of course, when you’re talking about unprotected sex you need to mention STDs. Some people have been “gifted” with incurable diseases, others with the more curable type. One woman shared her story of how she miscarried thanks to the STD her husband passed along to her. Others talk about cervical cancer that was caused by the HPV virus their husbands gave them. Awesome!

I always wonder if it would be easier to be left for someone of the opposite sex, i.e. if CF was gay. I hear about this on occasion. I truly don’t know how I would feel. On one hand I think, “Well, it’s not me. Obviously I’m not his type.” On the other hand I could very well be thinking, “Why the hell did you waste my time? Why did you have kids with me when you knew you weren’t into women?” In the end though I think cheating is cheating and it would hurt no matter who it was.

Then there are the people who abandon their children vs. those who mindfuck the kids. People who are engaged in nasty custody battles and people who are cheated on that end up losing their kids to the cheater’s mind games.

While I am grateful I don’t have to share my kids with the whore due to their ages I also realize it will make it much more difficult for someone else to come in and be a father figure to them. At the same time, I’m sure that those with very young children who must send them off and then listen to them talk fondly about the affair partner think I’ve got it made. Other people deal with their kids having a relationship with the other parent and their affair partner even though the kids are grown. Again, I can’t imagine the heartache behind losing your spouse AND your children to a home wrecker. I can’t imagine dealing with my children having a fantastic relationship with Harley.

Some people divorce and yet they are able to keep the family home and their kids remain at their current schools. Other people end up having to sell the family home and perhaps even move out of town. Some are living at homeless shelters or on air mattresses in empty apartments.

I’ve heard of people who have never received a dime in support from their cheater whether because they got screwed in the divorce or because the cheater just never paid while others end up with incredibly generous settlements. And most men, of course, don’t end up with support orders, although I suppose they could end up with a nice settlement (perhaps not having to split a pension or 401k, or getting the house). I’ve heard of cases where the cheater spent college education funds, mortgaged the house to the hilt, and blew through all the savings and retirement accounts.

There are people who are dealing with abusive cheaters, people who have had their lives threatened. One of the saddest cases I’ve ever heard of was a woman whose son was murdered by his cheating father and then later his family burned her house down, killing her family pets. There are no words to express the horror of that situation.

I’ve also heard of people who find out about the cheating or are left by the cheater while they are dealing with a serious illness, usually cancer. Others are dealing with the serious illness or death of a parent or child when the cheater pulls his or her shit. Nothing like being discarded just when you need someone the most.

Some of us are extremely lucky to have very supportive friends and family. We don’t deal with so-called Switzerland friends and we don’t lose many friends in the divorce. Some of us even keep the in-laws. I know that I am very fortunate in that I have a mom who was more than willing to open her door to me and my kids while others are living in less than stellar conditions. I know there are those that lose friends in the divorce or whose in-laws never talk to them again (yeah, that would be me- no big loss). Some don’t have family left, or the family that is left is either not supportive or they’re outright hostile about the divorce and support the cheater. Again, I can’t even imagine.

There are so many different “events” in these Pain Olympics. Does it really matter who has it worse? It all hurts. It all sucks. There are so many crazy variations. While we might get lucky in one area we could very well get run over with a bus in another area. I’ve got supportive friends and family. I have a place to stay and my children are in no danger of turning against me. I have no STDs and so far our divorce has been free of violence. However, I also wasted 20 years of my life with a man who left me for his cousin, spent our money on her and her kids, abandoned his kids, and has pretty much once again dismantled our lives, causing us to start all over. My kids don’t live in the family home. They’ve had to switch schools. Oh, and I have no job and the douche I’m married to is quite possibly faking a nervous breakdown so he doesn’t have to pay me anything. I’ve got my struggles and other people have theirs. I have a friend who was also moved over 2000 miles across the country before her husband declared he couldn’t be married to her anymore.  Unfortunately for her they moved to a state that didn’t give her alimony, despite the fact she had been a stay-at-home mom to four children for more than ten years. A fellow blogger had two babies in diapers when her husband walked out, moving over 2000 miles away to start over with someone else. What the hell is it with men and moving 2000+ miles away? Is that the magic number? Another friend of mine who was divorced long ago dealt with an abusive cheater who cleaned out their bank account and managed to brainwash their child and turn him against her for almost ten years. As if that wasn’t enough he also dragged her to court repeatedly, despite the fact that he earned six figures and she was barely scraping by. We’ve all got horrible stories. I like to remind myself that everyone has their own Hell to journey through because again, no one wins when they’re competing in the Pain Olympics.  By it’s very nature winning means losing. I wonder if that means losing means winning?