gaslighting and how wayward spouses use it

By Sarah P.

While the title of this post seems comical at first, this is a title that is quite literal since it hints at gaslighting. I wanted to revisit the topic of gaslighting and how wayward spouses use it.

It is essential to understand it and recognize it to preserve your equilibrium as a betrayed spouse. I also wanted to talk more about situations (like mine) where a wayward spouse refuses to acknowledge that the “other person” exists.

My ex was – and continues to be – someone who is completely invested in the idea of refusing to acknowledge there was “another woman” despite mountains of evidence and hundreds of eyewitness accounts.

Bigfoot has that too—but the evidence of the other woman is all over the internet in the form of photos of her and my ex. Then there is their marriage license and their children’s birth certificates.

However, if you were to talk to my ex, he would not acknowledge her or his children. They are all figments of a collective imagination because he is invested in the illusion that he is a good person, but to stay invested in this illusion, he must deny the facts: her, their marriage, and his children.

I wonder if his children know they are “imaginary friends” left over from my ex’s childhood. (Satire). Note: I truly wish no ill on his children; I am pointing out my ex’s comical behavior, which is part of gaslighting behavior on his part.

Some are fortunate if their spouse (at some point) admits that the other person exists and that the other person is not a figment of a betrayed’s imagination.

It is terrible when a spouse cheats, but it is more terrible when a spouse (despite mountains of proof) will do anything to make a betrayed spouse (or betrayed fiancée) lose their grip of reality.

This was what happened in my case—it was something my ex and the other woman attempted to do. 

Thankfully, they did not succeed.

Revisiting Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a topic that needs to be revisited frequently because I believe we need to be collectively reminded of it. We also need to be reminded that what our wayward spouse is doing is not some kind of collective illusion. That way if we experience it, if a friend or loved one experiences it, or if we see it happening, we can hopefully ensure a gaslighter does not succeed.

One time Doug and I interviewed a private investigator about infidelity. The investigator mentioned that he encountered men who would be caught in bed with a lover by the wife and the husband would say something to the effect of, “I don’t know how she got here…the woman fell out of the ceiling.” That is gaslighting taken to its fullest. The gaslighter knows his wife has two eyes and can see what is happening, so the gaslighter says the woman happened to fall out of the ceiling—because it was not his fault. “Strange women fall out of ceilings and into bed naked all the time,” says every teenage boy when he is thinking of his ultimate fantasy.

But, wives know better than that.

However, if a wife is married to a gaslighter, he will refuse to admit reality, no matter how real it becomes. Finding another woman in bed with your husband is pretty real…and heartbreaking, and shocking.

Today I was thinking about the lengths my ex went to in an attempt to make me believe there was no other woman. The irony was that he was constantly bringing the other woman to events where there would be mutual friends and where she would tell her story of how she spotted him across a room, was determined to poach him, and succeeded. Aww, isn’t that (not) an example of true love?

He also told everyone (except me) that the other woman had moved into my home. He and I worked together in the very same company and on the same floor. Coworkers were meeting the other woman a lot. However, he took great pains to make me believe she did not exist.

Wouldn’t it have been easier for him NOT to bring the other woman to events where she would regal my coworkers with the details of how she took me down?

I have never cheated on anyone and so it is impossible to imagine what was going through his mind.

But, if he wanted to keep the other woman a secret, all he had to do was NOT bring her to events and NOT move her into my house. That’s it.

He could have moved into an entirely different house with her, which was one thing I was working on with my attorney. But, my ex would not accept moving and he gave no reason.

To hear it from him, there was certainly NOT another woman in my house refusing to move. In fact, she certainly did NOT help make his decision because she (the other woman) was off on the golf course with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster—who also do not exist, let alone play golf. (Satire).

People who cheat and then gaslight (even though there piles of evidence as to their cheating) are not rational. This is why I will never understand it, but I will keep trying.

Orchestrating the Grand Illusion

I wanted to examine a small part of this story to illustrate what gaslighters do in order to orchestrate the grand illusion.

Gaslighters (like my ex) often foil their own plans. However, if they do not manage to foil their own plans, I still would like for anyone reading this to recognize gaslighting.

My ex gaslighted me to the point where I started to think he was dating “the invisible woman”—as in the female counterpart of the “invisible man” who had to wear glasses, so that non-invisible people could see the invisible man instead of running into him. 

Since no one can see an “invisible woman,” she is placed in the same category as other rarely seen figures such as Nessie and Bigfoot. My ex was hoping that if he told me often enough that she did not exist, I would start to believe it.

Over the years I have been tempted to ask my ex why he did what he did. That is, why couldn’t he just have moved out and told me he had fallen in love with someone else? Why couldn’t he just have apologized and left the situation gracefully along with all of his worldly affects? Why couldn’t he leave my stuff alone?

However, such a confrontation would be futile because I truly believe he would tell me there was no other woman and tell me he remains a bachelor to this day. It would not matter if some people I know sent me his wedding photos – photos I did not WANT to see — but, that is another matter entirely. He married the other woman and they have children. People email me from time to time to tell me about it.

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(By the way, I would actually never confront him because I do not want to talk to him let alone experience more gaslighting.)

I do not fault him for falling in love with someone else or marrying the other woman.

I fault him for how terribly he handled the situation, considering that he knew me so well. He knew I would have been very sad, but he knew all I would have asked was for him to move out, take all the jewelry back, let me buy him out, and I would have asked for him to leave peacefully.  That’s it. No drama.

I have never been a yeller and have never touched anyone in anger. He knew that too. He knew the worst thing that would have happened was I would cry, look for a roommate, and try to salvage my investment.

I would not have told coworkers because he had already told them himself.

In fact, he told everyone but me.

The other woman liked to brag about her epic “take down” of me even though I had no idea there was a competitor. I had never even met her—not even among our circle of acquaintances.

One cannot compete if they do not even know they are competing.

My friends at the time would have told me to try to win him back, but I would have broken up with him. I do not do cheating and always broke up with boyfriends who had cheated in the past.

In the past, my friends told me to fight for a random boyfriend, but I would always walk away. When I dated and a man was trying to set up a situation where I would compete against another woman, I would walk away. In my mind, all I had lost was time and I refused to lose any more time over a man who needed more than one woman.

That was when I was single. My ex knew that. He knew that I would have handled the break-up very graciously and simply given him his part of the down-payment (which was not much) and asked him to move out. That would have been very drama-free.

To this day, I do not understand why he had to create drama. That is the big question—my ex knew I did not do drama. So why?

Why gaslight, why did he need to batter me, and why he had to lie, especially since he told everyone else the truth. I was not going to cause him trouble, so why, why, why?

I have never cheated, so I simply cannot get myself in that frame of mind.

The Realtor

My ex apparently liked to find a way to turn every tragedy into lemonade. 

I was asking him via my attorney to leave (long after I had left) so that I could buy him out OR to agree to place the house on the market. I tried to get him to leave after I had to leave for my own safety.

My ex told my attorney that there would be no discussion about buy-outs or around the topic of a realtor because he had already hired the realtor.

The realtor my ex hired was married to my ex’s then boss.

My ex was hoping that in hiring his boss’s wife to sell the house, he would get a promotion. The boss had not talked about giving him a promotion if he did that—his boss knew that was illegal.

But, my ex assumed that if he hired his boss’s wife, his boss would find a reason to give him a promotion. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Note: This ploy did not get my ex a promotion—someone I knew said my ex ended up being laid off. But, my ex could not read the future and assumed that he would get a promotion from hiring his boss’s wife.

I asked my attorney at the time if this was even legal and my attorney told me to let it go. In 20/20 hindsight, I probably should have let my attorney go. I am not versed in real estate law, but I find it a bit odd that hiring the wife of one’s boss to sell a house (even though the other owner did not agree) is a bit suspect. But, my attorney told me to let it go. So, I let it go. And this was well before the movie Frozen came out that featured songs about letting it go.

Like any good gaslighter, my ex had called my attorney – after my attorney let my ex know that I had discovered the other woman – and the charade was over.

My ex called my attorney and spent the good part of a day convincing my attorney there was no other woman and it was a big misunderstanding.

He told my attorney break-ups are so difficult and it must have been so difficult for me to know he was moving on—and how he had such compassion for me.

Note: This was the same man (my ex) who physically battered me  (and did some other things) and then sped off in his car, so that it would have been impossible for the police to find him (on the off-chance I had called the police.) Instead, I was in too much shock to think clearly.

Here is an important point:  Gaslighters are invested in fooling their victim’s support system so that the victim has no one to speak with who validates their reality.

This is why my ex was trying to fool my attorney. Luckily, many people had already met the other woman and were coming to me constantly to remind me of reality.

So, I let my ex put the house on the market with his boss’s wife, the realtor. I knew the boss’s wife since I had had dinner with her several times. She was likable, but obviously, he had gotten to her first.

The house was not selling and I told my attorney to tell the realtor and my ex that they needed to have an open house.

One of my friends was going through a horrific divorce at this time. He had been married to a cheating gaslighter.  His wife kept a detailed journal of her exploits with the handyman, the dry wall guy, the pool guy, the lawn care guy, and any other random guy that worked on their house remodel.

My friend took the journal, made photocopies of it, put the photocopies in various safe-deposit boxes, and then returned the journal to his cheating wife’s drawer. He was clear-headed through his divorce, whereas I was barely treading water. (And yes, this is all open information.)

See also  He Said, She Said: When the Wayward Spouse Plays the Victim Role

He had ‘the proof’ from the cheater herself in the form of her journal and so he knew the facts. Knowing the facts kept him sane.

At the time, my friend was a real estate investor and was always looking for properties in the area. He offered to go to the open house to see if my ex and the OW were trashing the house or if they were actually taking care of it.

What actually happened when my friend went to the open house surprised him.

He was the only one there at the open house. He started asking the realtor standard questions about the property itself but not about how it came on the market.

But, once the realtor started talking, she spilled the entire saga of the other woman and her takedown of me to my friend. I knew this realtor was a very chatty person and my ex had not counted on that—he was thinking about promotions. So, his realtor spilled the beans to my friend.

My friend got to see the OW’s clothes in my closet, the photos of the two of them, the OW’s stuff and my ex’s stuff. My ex and the OW were certainly living together.

The realtor told my friend why she felt the house could be gotten for a bargain – because of the bad break-up – and how he should make a low-ball offer. My friend said the realtor talked about the idea that sometimes people fall in love when they are engaged to others and they should not be blamed… it’s just how life works.

But, the thing that stood out was that the realtor who was supposed to sell the house told a stranger to make a lowball offer due to the dramatic break-up. (Realtors who have their client’s interests in mind don’t do any of those things.)

Once again, there was another person I knew who heard the entire saga of the other woman. What the realtor told my friend matched what many others had told me.

I had my friend talk to my attorney—just man to man.

Why did I do that?

Who knows.

Maybe it was because I was trying to keep my sanity and if my attorney thought my ex was a swell guy and kept repeating it to me, he probably would not have been invested in doing his job correctly.

My friend was happy to talk to my attorney. That got my attorney back on my side and my attorney kept repeating that he could not believe such a “nice guy” could do that. My attorney was not used to being ‘conned’ since he assumed people who acted nice were nice.

However, my ex was very invested in turning my own attorney against me and it had worked for a short time. My attorney kept saying out loud that he could not understand how such a rational guy could do such a thing.

My ex was attempting to gaslight everyone who was helping protect me, so that he and the OW could seize my assets and live happily-ever-after.

If I had it to do over again, I would have hired the meanest attorney in the state. I would have done many things differently like not getting involved with him. Ever

But, life sadly does not allow those do-overs and that is very unfair.

Since then, I have learned an excellent attorney is almost EVERYTHING— specifically in my state. The rules change from state to state and from situation to situation, so that might work for me may not work for others.

Betrayed spouses must be aware that gaslighters hope to infiltrate the realities of their victim’s friends and family members. A wayward spouse who is cheating might plant the seed in his or her spouse’s family that the betrayed spouse has been imagining things, has been misplacing things, has been forgetting things, or perhaps the betrayed spouse is depressed.

Note: Gaslighters will misplace their spouse’s keys intentionally and then tell their spouse they are forgetful. It’s a signature move. Gaslighters will also tell their spouse things and then claim these things were never said. Then a gaslighter will go and tell their spouse’s friends that their spouse is forgetful.

That way if the wayward spouse is caught by the betrayed spouse, the wayward spouse will have paved the way for the betrayed spouse’s support system to question the betrayed spouse.

People who are not gaslighters cannot imagine why someone would do this. It took me years to find a word for what my ex had been doing. I noticed my ex had been attempting to alter reality and it was intensely cruel, but I had no name for it.

After Dr. Robin Stern wrote The Gaslight Effect, the phenomenon had a name and thankfully the word gaslighting was filtering into self-help articles everywhere. I knew the experience was intensely painful, but had no name for it.

Trying to describe what was happening at the hands of my ex to other sane individuals was also difficult because none of us understood why anyone would do that.

I do not understand why anyone would do that either. I have come to intellectually understand that gaslighters want to do all kinds of wrong things to people they allegedly love.

But, I still cannot understand why. I cannot understand the motive.

Why would anyone want to victimize someone they love? Why would anyone want to victimize someone – like a betrayed spouse – who did nothing wrong?  Why torture someone?

the blame for infidelity

Why is Gaslighting So Dangerous?

Gaslighting is dangerous because it is meant to destroy the sanity of the target. If the gaslighter is a cheating spouse and the person being gaslit is a betrayed spouse, it is essential that the betrayed spouse has a group of people to serve as reality checkers for the betrayed spouse.

A cheating spouse gaslights with the hope of destroying any energy the betrayed spouse has to fight the situation.

Or, a gaslighter hopes to have the betrayed spouse believe the gaslighter’s reality and thus believe there is no “other person.” Just like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, the gaslighter wants you (the betrayed) to believe the other person is a mere figment of the collective imagination.

Also, if the cheating spouse can destroy the entire reality of a betrayed spouse, the gaslighter is sometimes okay with that. It puts the gaslighter in a position where he or she can control the betrayed spouse.

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Some people do not have remorse and if a gaslighter is someone who cannot feel remorse at all, he or she will have no remorse if his target’s entire reality is destroyed.

Setting out to destroy a person’s sanity is a very cruel thing to do. It is such a cruel and powerful thing to do that this is a tactic used in situations with prisoners of war.

If you are someone who likes to read any kind of military history or if you read prisoner of war stories, you will recall that the goal of an enemy is to break the resolve of the POW to get information.

Often, breaking resolve goes along with breaking a prisoner’s reality. Gaslighting tactics have been used on almost all prisoners of war, even if these tactics were not called gaslighting at the time.

Today, I was reading stories that occurred in the infamous Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. American POWs were physically tortured so that they would provide information.

However, some POWs were also thankfully aware that they could not believe what their captors said or did. Many POWs realized that the captors were aware of how to use mental techniques to break the POWs.

Captors sought to create intentionally misleading situations to break a POW’s reality, which often broke their resolve. With no resolve left, where is reality? What was someone fighting for and why? Often that is when many people give up.

In reading these stories from Vietnam, I realized that people can often withstand physical torture if they keep a positive state of mind or find ways to have hope.

However, it is the psychological traumas, the baits and the switches, the moving the goal posts, the smoke and mirrors, and other manipulation tactics that can break people.

I have noticed that wayward spouses at one point or another, will intentionally use gaslighting tactics. (Sometimes a wayward spouse will admit fault immediately, tell the truth, and this is wonderful when it happens.) However, most wayward spouses use gaslighting tactics at some point.

Unfortunately, some people have been in marriages where they have always been gaslit, well before an affair starts. Gaslighting is also a tactic all abusers use at one point or another.

Sometimes betrayed spouses are unaware they have been in an emotionally abusive marriage for their entire married lives. Some betrayed spouses become aware after they start reading about affair recovery.

Gaslighting is serious business and has serious consequences.

Here is an addended article about gaslighting from an author named Alex Myles:

“One of the main reasons we may not recognise it is that many of us will fail to believe those we trust and love are capable of manipulating us (it is this denial that keeps the dynamic going.) Also, the gaslighter will most likely be highly skilled at covering their tracks, keeping things subtle and being a skilled master or mistress of deception.

Gaslighting is one of the most extreme, dangerous and effective forms of emotional and psychological abuse and is mostly carried out intentionally. Gaslighting is a game of mind control and intimidation that is often used by narcissists and sociopaths as a way of controlling, confusing and debilitating someone.

The whole intention of gaslighting is to decrease someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence so they are unable to function in an independent manner. The person being gaslighted will eventually become so insecure that they will fail to trust their own judgment, their intuition and find themselves unable to make decisions.

Eventually the victim will become so unsure of what reality looks like that they become completely dependent on their abuser. The abuser will appear to the victim to be the only one to have a clear grip of their mind and also of what is going on around them.

The abuser will systematically and frequently withhold information and then deliberately alter facts to disorientate their victim.

They may also remove things from certain places and then deny doing so to destabilize and confuse the other person.

The abuser will refrain from mentioning specific details and then convince the other person that they had told them, so the victim thinks they are losing their memory or their mind.

They may say things to make their victim feel insecure and jealous, for example, deliberately mentioning a certain person in a way that makes it sound as though there is more going on behind the scenes. When the victim questions this, the abuser will accuse the victim of having trust issues and this will falsely further confirm in the victim’s mind that they have serious insecurities and also, that they are extremely paranoid.

The abuser will make up very convincing lies to deliberately upset the other person and then call them names, mock them and put them down for getting upset and for overreacting. The abuser will also make light of anything that the victim feels is important to make the victim’s opinions, life-choices and thoughts seem juvenile or that they are inferior to their own. It is likely that the abuser will laugh at or sneer at their victim, but when questioned, convince their victim that they were imagining it.

The victim will have no idea what to do to please or satisfy their abuser, and will often try anything to win over their abuser to regain the affection that was shown in the beginning stages. By now though, it is far too late. Any little amount of respect that the abuser had for their victim will have been completely depleted and it is very unlikely that the dynamic will change again.

The abuser will often walk away from their victim leaving them with a deep sense of frustration, shame, guilt, anger and often riddled with anxiety and depression. The victim is usually left in a vortex that they will struggle to climb out of.”(1)


This author did a great job of articulating the details of gaslighting and why it is so harmful to the recipient. I believe that anyone going through an affair needs to be aware of these tactics so that they can stay clear-headed.

Do you have any gaslighting experiences where you were the recipeint?

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Inside the Mind of the Unfaithful
Understanding Why Cheaters Do What They Do

Doug talks with several ex-unfaithful persons who share their experiences, thoughts and feelings.  They answer the most asked questions betrayed spouses typically have for the cheater.




Alex Myles. Gaslighting: The Mind Game Everyone Should Know About. From


    56 replies to "When Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Other Person Are All Best Friends in their Non-Existence"

    • TheFirstWife

      What is the difference between gaslighting and just plain lying?

      • Tired

        TFW, I think it is hard to tell sometimes because for one, this term is thrown around a lot on infidelity forums. I think someone can lie without the intent of trying to make you think you’re crazy. But the outcome is often the same…you still doubt your reality. Did you really hear that right??

        Example one…my husband came home one night and I said when he hugged me, ‘you smell like beer.’ And he was late too. Not long after we had reconciled. I then let it go. But I knew something was up. He later admitted that the other woman was waiting for him after work and they went to a pub where he told her to leave him alone. Apparently she confronted him crying. I later found a bank record that confirmed a payment for no more than one drink for each of them. I don’t think my husband was trying to psychologically abuse me. I think he was just covering his ass. However, the effect on the victim is often the same…you start to doubt yourself. Did I really smell that beer or did I imagine it? Hmmm.

        Example two…I found a gmail message in his inbox something along the lines of ‘you changed this account password’ for an account I had never heard of. He tried to tell me it was spam. Yeah, right. And I came down in the last shower. Ok, let me take your phone then i said. So I reset the password and lo and behold, there was an account i did not know about full of messages from the OW. Spam my butt!

        But my point is, he was lying to cover his ass. It is still gaslighting in my opinion, because no one really knows anyone else’s true intent. They may not be trying with malicious intentions to make you think you are crazy, but it has the same effect. You still doubt your reality and it is an asshat and nasty thing to do.

    • Sarah P.

      Hello TFW,

      Thank you for the wonderful question. I have noticed articles about the differences between gaslighting and lying can vary. But here is my opinion on it.

      1) Lying CAN be one of many tools that is intentionally used by a gaslighter to (also intentionally) erode the very reality of their victim. The gaslighter wants to erode the reality of the victim so that the gaslighter can control them psychologically AND/OR break them psychologically.

      2) There are different types of lies with different intentions behind them:

      -When a 3-year-old’s favorite pet is run over by a car and the child asks where his pet has gone, a parent might say that their doggy or kitty decided to take an extended vacation to a happy place with lots of fresh air, millions of toys, the pets favorite treats, and where the doggy or kitty has tons of friends to play with. The parent will reassure the child that the doggy or kitty still loves the child but sometimes doggies and kitties like to go play at the park all day just like little kids do. The doggie or kitty wants to have a fun time at the park and might be gone a while. The parent could suggest to draw pictures of the doggy or kitty and realize the doggy or kitty is out having fun while still loving the child with all its heart. That is technically a lie told. The parent told the lie because the parent does not want to explain the pet’s gruesome death, which would likely cause the child immense pain. Children may not even understand death. One day the parent will tell the child about the giant dog park in the sky that dogs go when they die. But, telling a three-year-old that their pet was smashed by a car and will never return could be a bit much. So a parent tells a lie about a place where pets go on extended vacations. The parent is trying to soften the blow to the child because they love their child and want to protect them.

      -A cheater lies about his or her affair or lies about his or her where abouts. A cheater might say they are lying to protect the betrayed spouse from pain, but that is not true. They are lying to continue the affair (keep eating cake) and/or avoid consequences due to their cheating behavior. That is a lie based on pure selfishness and entitlement. They want to get away with something and cover their butt.

      -Then there is the gaslighter who decides to use lying as one of many different tools to intentionally destroy the core being of their spouse. The gaslighter is less about avoiding consequences and more about actively destroying the very core reality of their victim. A gaslighter can use lying as a tool to destroy the victims core since destroying the victims core is their end goal. They can also use other tactics such as moving keys, pretending that they never had certain conversations with their victim, telling their victim they are seeing and hearing things, or other manipulation tools. But the end goal remains that they want to destroy their victim.

      I would say a standard cheater lies to cover their butt so they can have cake. They lie when asked questions. Otherwise, they go about their daily business and generally tell the truth as long as they are not asked about the lipstick on the collar. If a wife asks about the lipstick on the collar they might say the dry cleaner gave the wrong shirt. But otherwise they go about their normal day because they often just want to cheat but not lose a marriage. Many men who cheat have reported they were happily married when they did so and did not want to end their marriage. They just wanted variety while still coming home to a wife and family and while still having a physical relationship with their wife.

      A gaslighter who cheats uses all kinds of tools (and lying as one of many tools) to intentionally destroy a victim at their core. Their intention is the full emotional destruction of their target. Gaslighting can be very active in its intent.

      Unfortunately, there are many gray areas.

      What do you think, TFW? Have you observed examples of lying versus gaslighting? I don’t know much about what happened in your day to day life when your H was being fooled by the OW, but it always seemed like he was covering his tracks— standard lying. Or did it feel like he wanted to obliterate you by gaslighting you?

      Anyone else? Has anyone else determined a hard line between gaslighting and lying?

      Was anyone gaslit during their spouse’s A?


    • TheFirstWife

      During my H’s first 4 year EA he denied it was inappropriate. He denied it was an A. He stonewalled by refusing to answer questions or discuss anything.

      The friends in his office knew more about the conversations between him and the OW than I did.

      He tried to make me believe I was over reacting and jealous over nothing.

      That is the part I think is where he gaslit me / but I’m not ????% certain.

      In his mind he believed that no sex = no A. Now we know differently.

      And this OW was a poacher too. I knew the moment I met her what she was up to.

      It took her 4 years but the day she called me to ask me if it was OK if my H went to a wedding with her – well that was her move.

      So I was just wondering if he did gaslight me during his first EA or if he just lied.

      Finding out 15 years later he knew that “friendship” was wrong – from the second OW who told me – I guess it is obvious he knew what he was doing and being manipulative all along.

      And gaslighting. Trying to get me to think I was over reacting. Interesting revelation.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TFW,

        I am really sorry you had to go through this twice. :-{{{

        Unfortunately, emotional affairs were not understood as such until recently. (Maybe the past 10 years?) I had not really heard the concept being used often until about 10 years ago. Even in my twenties and early 30’s, I did not know emotional affairs existed. I was so used to any man I had dated as having close female friends. I used to believe it was possible to have close female friends that were like “sisters” to a guy. Only after finding this site, did I understand emotional affairs. My friends were not aware of them either because so many people from Gen X hung out with men and women equally. During my twenties I saw this as 100% normal. I had male friends and female friends and I was never attracted to my male friends.

        I only became aware of emotional affairs when a very aggressive spouse poacher started working with my husband in late 2012. I was not even aware of her until one day I showed up with brownies. I used to bring in food all the time just as a courtesy and not as a way of checking up on him. I knew a lot of the people he worked with and knew they also did not get formal lunch breaks. So I would bring in food for the group merely as a kindness. I like to bake and cook and so I would make a point in bringing homemade treats for everyone because they were in a high-stress environment. When I worked full-time in high-tech, this is when the food habit started. Our teams would something work in windowless rooms for 12 hours a day. At that time what we know as the 3G phone was merely an idea. I was on the team that had to figure out how to create a phone that would stream video and hopefully one day make video calls. At that time it was a pipe dream and we put in long hours figuring out both the technical aspects and then how to make it happen. That was a deeply rewarding project because I knew at the time we were making history. It was exciting. Anyhow, I would bake things every other night so that our teams had lots of snacks (as a moral booster). I carried this habit through all my jobs and also did it for my husband’s jobs. It’s one of those things I liked to do.

        So, I had baked brownies one day as a courtesy and brought them in. I will never forget the day when some woman I had never seen was sitting next to my husband and looking at him with rapt attention. He knew I was coming and stood up and introduced me to the new people and gave me a quick hug. That lately dramatically stood up from her chair, gave me the “I want you dead right now” look and stomped off in her stiletto heels. She was a physician assistant who wore heels to work. The patients hated her and she got horrible reviews. It was easy to see she was used to getting anything she wanted. I could tell she was a brat by the way she acted, the heavy make up, the stilletos, the hair extensions. . So, I started bringing in more brownies and saying hello. Then I started bringing in my kids. She would fawn over my H when I was around. I asked him about her and he said, “just a friend.” There was no “missing time” or change in his schedule. But, she made it clear she was targeting him. That is when I started finding a word for what I saw was happening. The phrase “emotional affair” came up. I did a background check on her. Two divorces, both initiated by the husbands, and one record citied infidelity on HER part. I also saw in her work history she would last only 3 months at one place and bounce around. That’s when I also discovered the term spouse poacher. I told him he was no longer allowed to be her friend and if he wanted to continue the friendship, I would file for divorce. Low and behold, two weeks later my H said she was engaged to a vet. I went in and after she was engaged, she chopped her hair into a super-short bob, wore no make-up, and baggy scrubs. She looked like any other person. She moved back to the Midwest and got married to her husband. I found his photo online and felt bad for him, It was easy to see he was naive and sincere. But now she is 2,000 miles away. I think they may have been headed for some kind of affair but there was no proof and no STDs or abnormal paps.

        Back to your H. It sounds like he was a “covering his tracks” liar because he did not want to give up the ego boost that comes from EA’s. Unless I don’t know something, it has always seemed he was a garden variety liar to cover his tracks, but I never got the sense he wanted to destroy you at your core. Get you to turn a blind eye? Absolutely. But destroy you at your core? From what you have described, no, I don’t think he was trying to destroy you. What do you think? Was he ever trying to intentionally break you as a person or did he just want you to pretend nothing was going on (which would involve standard lies.)

        Telling you that you are reacting over nothing and being jealous is a “cover the tracks” lie. Gaslighting is a very vicious and cruel act done intentionally. Did he ever do cruel things so that you would break in half as a person?

        But, you live in your marriage so it’s hard to say if he is a genuine gaslighter. Do you recall any behaviors where he wanted to obliterate you at your core?

        So sorry for both EA’s. Just realize it was never something you caused and you are worthy of monogamous love– you know that, but I like to remind everyone here of their inherent worth regardless.


      • Tired

        TFW, I don’t think he was gaslighting in the true sense of the word. I think your husband was lying to cover his tracks. I had never heard of an emotional affair either and that’s the thing. No one does until they are affected by one, not even the cheater. They tell themselves all kinds of lies to minimise and deflect. It was not an affair because there was no physical intimacy…until it happens. But all the things that lead up to this are because of the emotional bonding that is occurring. And that is what they need to learn about themselves. Married people can’t do this!!

        The cheater might not know what an emotional affair is, or be trying to lie to themselves. They do this so they can keep doing it and not feel like a dirty cheat. But they MUST know it is wrong, even if they do not think they are cheating. I mean to me, me going out with another man to dinner and not telling my husband about it is wrong. Yes, you might be able to convince yourself that you are not cheating but you would still know you were being dishonest. Otherwise why would you not tell your partner what you were doing? And that’s why your husband told the second other woman that he knew the other ‘friendship’ was wrong.

        In my husband’s case it was a slow breaking down of boundaries over many months and making excuses for that behaviour that led to the affair. When I found out and pointed out some of these behaviours, he admitted doing things like not telling me about meals out, and buying a burner phone were dishonest. However he was not going to admit it until it was shoved into his face. Stupid is as stupid does…

    • Rose

      Yes, I am WELL aware of gaslighting. In fact, when I finally realized it was happening and accused my H, he got irate. But it’s absolutely what he did, including hiding things and telling me I was nuts and then saying these things (my watch, clothes that were missing) never existed!

      • Sarah P.


        That is so scary and I am so sorry. My hope is that you have been able to keep your sense of self through all this. It is very difficult to live with someone who did those things in the past. Did you say the other day that your H can become full of rage? If so, I want to hear more of that. It is so crushing to live with someone like that and I have some ideas for you.


        • Rose

          Hi Sarah, yes, he has always been a man full of rage. He used to take it out on the kids, and then when they were gone, me. 2016 was the worst I ever saw. This was after the EA with his cousin. He exploded at everything, and you never knew what was going to set him off. I learned, though, through nursing and working in the ER with abusive patients, to just walk away. He has never been physically abusive but the screaming is bad enough. The last time it happened, he started screaming at me in the house. I got my puppy leashed, got the car keys, and walked out and got in the car to leave. He followed me, screaming all the way. Neighbors were outside. He then took off around the block, screaming like a lunatic. The best thing to do for this, for me, is to walk. I looked him square in the eye then and said “You don’t scare me.” There is no speaking to someone when they are exploding like that. I did tell him at that point “Do it again and I will leave.” It never happened again except for a couple of weeks ago, but I could tell he was starting up and I went in the house before he could escalate. I have to say that NOT ONCE has he apologized for this behavior. I insisted he go to therapy and go on antidepressants for this. He saw a counselor 3 times and said he was cured. Then his PCP put him on antidepressants which worked great. He was mellow and relaxed. About 2 months ago I was filling out some paperwork for him and needed to list his meds. I asked him “Where are your antidepressants” because I couldn’t find them. He didn’t know. I said “Aren’t you taking them anymore?” He didn’t know. I said “Who does NOT know if they are or are not taking a medication???” I made him check his medical record and sure enough, they weren’t listed for about 3 months. So he stopped taking them cold turkey (which, if you know anything about antidepressants, is a stupid idea). My counselor made me realize there isn’t a damn thing I can do—that I can only control myself and my own reactions and no one else. So if it happens again, I need to decide what to do. But the walking on eggshells is just awful. In 2016 he thought he’d do some “blame shifting” and turn the tables on me for all his affairs. Didn’t work.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Rose,

            Unfortunately, I am intimately familiar with emotional abuse and rage issues. I am also intimately familiar with what happens when a person stops their anti-depressants and then lies about it.

            I come from an extremely peaceful family.

            After I got married, it took me a while to learn that rage is the only language my in-laws speak. (Especially my mother-in-law).

            By the way, I do NOT believe is fanning the flame where society wants to make daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws enemies. I have seen cases where mother-in-laws are amazing and their DIL’s are extremely unkind and vicious people. It goes both ways.

            Anyhow, my H did not even realize he came from a family where the language was rage. They kept him VERY close (as in not encouraging any kind of friendships) and so he did not see what normal was. All he knew was that he said when he met me he had never felt so unconditionally accepted, loved, secure, and non-anxious in his life. All his words. I am his walking “valium bottle.”

            Relationships with his family have been problematic. All visits have been disasters of epic proportions. I have stories that most people never would believe. My parents have seen it — the insane ways my MIL acts– so I am not the only person who has seen it. It has left my parents speechless.

            We have no context for it. I have studied psychology for years, but realized I needed a Master’s degree in it just to try to unpack what was going on with my in-laws. Between my ex and then my in-laws, that was the catalyst that caused me to drop everything and get a second graduate degree (in psychology). It saved my life. TRULY.

            I have never seen any kind of rage like the rage from my husband’s family. As you can imagine, visits are limited. I have attempted to build bridges, but my MIL had flat-out said to me, my husband, and her own husband, that we have the problem and she refuses to change. If she starts throwing things during dinner, that is our problem, not hers. No one knows what will trigger her. So, visits stopped years ago.

            My husband is great until he speaks with his mom. His mom triggers him and guilts him and then he gets frustrated. I do not tolerate it, although I tolerated it before I got my psych degree. I gave him a pass for hurting on the inside. After my degree, I told him he is allowed to hurt but must go on a drive or a walk or even limit contact with his family if he cannot even talk to them without being triggered.

            No one must tolerate rage, although this is a topic very few people speak of publicly over dinner. There is so much shame around living with someone who rages.

            I do not tolerate it and no one else has to either.

            I have mentioned before there was a time in my marriage where I took my kids and left for a month. This was 8 years ago. It was not because of an affair. It was because my husband was so angry with his parents and refused to get help and was starting to be very unkind and blame us for his unhappiness. So, I scooped up my kids and left. He got to experience an entire month without any contact to sort out who the problem was… and he figured out after a couple of days, we were NOT the problem. But, he really needed a month to feel the pain of what he could lose if he did not shape up.

            During that time we were gone, he got to experience calls from him mom everyday– she begged to move in with him. (Yes, she and my FIL are married and always have been. My FIL is a decent and hard working person, by the way. I feel terrible for him, but he refuses to do anything about his situation. Anyhow, my husband got to experience his mom and realize she was trying to get us divorced, the same way she got him and his first wife divorced. His mom is really ill– truly ill– as in need of a serious psychological; intervention and probably extended hospitalization. The cruelty that she expresses toward everyone and anything is unlike anything I have EVER seen. Kicking random animals? Check. Attacking people for no reason? Check. Coming up to a person and telling them how ugly and terrible they are for no reason? Check. This is the tip of the iceberg and my H knows all of this. I do not say anything here he does not know. And again, this is the tip of the iceberg. When I was in my psych program, I assumed I would come across case studies that would be similar to what my MIL does. The answer was NO. The worst thing they could come up with for case studies were a picnic. This is a side project I need to explore because I have become aware of others (through reading random online blogs) that have very ill parents or in-laws that exceed the understanding most psychologists have.

            So yes, I know rage. I would recommend any book by Patricia Evans as well as her website. The Verbally Abusive Man.If you have not read her material, I say RUN and do not walk to get her books. She also does phone consults. My humble opinion is that she is the GLOBAL expert on rage and psychological abuse. She has more understanding than any other psychologist I have ever come across. Her books are light years ahead in understanding these issues. I would also recommend a phone consult. I have interviewed her for this site once and all I can say is WOW. She is one of a kind. I have no words to describe how truly awesome, wise, compassionate, understanding, humorous, insightful, and every other positive thing in this world you can think of. That is Patricia. Her books will tell you exactly how to deal with these issues.

            Even if your husband has calmed down for now, I have experienced personally that rage can be very cyclical in nature– kind of like the cycle of abuse. It can follow the same pattern as the “cycle of abuse” only it does not involve physical abuse. It involves rage (versus hitting). Things can seem calm for a while and then- BOOM!

            Full on rage.

            If anyone else is in this situation, please talk about it. That is if anyone who has a raging husband or a raging wife (Yes, women rage and it is TERRIBLE) please talk about it.

            I am talking about my experience with it in an attempt to remove shame. If it is cloaked in shame, no one will talk about it. If no one talks about it, they might become depressed or worse.

            I will not tell anyone to get a divorce because that is each person’s choice. Relationships exist in a gray area. I have also found abuse exists in a gray area. Very few people understand domestic violence, whether physical or verbal. I do believe I have an understanding of it. The worst thing anyone can do to a victim of domestic violence is tell them they must leave or they will not get emotional support. These people are not strong enough to leave and need emotional support (perhaps ver a couple of years) to even have enough self-esteem to understand there is another way. They need to be built up and given safety plans while in the abuse. Otherwise, they stop talking to the people who could support them.

            So if anyone is suffering any kind of abuse, you can talk about it here. I will tell you about safety planning, I will tell you what you need to do if in danger, how to find a therapist, and I will give you lots of resources. I will give you my OPINION. But, I will NOT shame you. I will give you resources and hope you can find solace in them.

            I have family members who experienced severe domestic violence. These were people who married abusers. (The abusers were NOT blood relatives). From the outside looking in, people would think a woman like that would never be abused. But, there are a couple of them who were. And we had to rally around them even when they stayed. Because if we did not, they never would have gotten the courage to leave and would have ended up dead. That is my personal experience at least within my own family.

            Life is NOT cut and dry. I am thankful I have two wonderful parents who provided an abuse-free, supportive, and emotionally calm and uplifting home. But even my parents had a rocky start (between them) that thankfully they quickly worked out. If they had not, my dad’s parents were there and would have raised me for my whole life. They raised me for about my first four years until my parents could grow up. Luckily my parents grew up and turned into the great people they were meant to be.

            But it takes work.

            Rose, let us know how we can support you.

            Anyone else out there struggling with rage in the household? There is no need to be ashamed.


            • Sarah P.


              Rage and anger are two different things.

              Anger about an affair is a-okay. Having fits of rage because of your partner’s affair is also okay. It’s just that you need to channel it by punching
              pillows. Having rage over being abused is also okay.

              The kind of rage that is NOT okay is when you rage at the people who are INNOCENT.

              Wayward spouses need to STOP being angry or full of rage at their betrayed spouse.

              Betrayed spouses? Be angry and full of rage all you want. Someone hurt you. Just make sure to sign up kick-boxing, or write your spouse hateful letters that you BURN, or scream into pillows. I even give you a pass for screaming at your wayward spouse if they refuse to acknowledge that they hurt you. Just don’t let anger consume you.

              Betrayed spouses are allowed to be angry. Anger is part of the 5 stages of grieving.

              Anger at being betrayed is NORMAL and I certainly give you a pass if you tell off a very clueless wayward spouse who continues to hurt you. Just try to find a way to move on from it.

              If there is anyone out there who rages at innocent people, let me know why. There is always a reason. If we can find out why, it is possible to stop. You are welcome here too.

              It’s time we open up the conversation on anger so that it is no longer shameful. Anger is a normal human emotion and not a shameful one.


    • TheFirstWife

      Rose I don’t know how you can still live with your H.

      Every time you post something it just paints a darker picture. He doesn’t deserve you.

      • Rose

        TFW, thanks for your concern. It doesn’t happen anymore because I called him out on it. I don’t thInk he knew what the word was until I said it to him. It stopped also because I was on high alert. I know when he is lying and I know when he is gaslighting. Not only that but I am trying to “detach” from him.

    • TheFirstWife

      Rose I hear you about the yelling.

      My H was not a big tirade kind of person. Very very rarely. But during his A he sure was snappy and hurtful.

      Then after DDAY2 during R I would say things and a few times he got irate.

      And I just stood my ground and yelled back. Recently he got really mad at me for something I said and slammed something down.

      I made sure he knows that will not be tolerated ever again.

      I’m glad you found a way to handle it.

    • TheFirstWife

      Sarah. My MIL (and her parents and some of her siblings) are very much like your MIL.

      My H cut contact with her right after we married. When she passed we were not on speaking terms.

      She would rage st everyone and anyone. If you said to my MIL “Yiur hair style looks nice” she would rage st you with “what are you saying? My hair didn’t look nice yesterday?” – she could not accept a compliment w/out getting angry.

      Luckily my H does not have those traits st all. But no one in his family really stood up to his mom but him.

      Everyone else tiptoed around her. Walked on eggshells.

      What a sad and unhappy life she had. Only one if her children has the same issue. But we don’t tolerate it. The rage cycle ends with this generation.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TFW,

        So you know and have witnessed exactly what I am talking about. One time after A LOT of praying and asking God to help me find something lovable about my MIL, I did find it. When I told her very sincerely after we were getting on an airplane ,”I love you,” and I MEANT IT, she physically pushed me and started screaming. She was screaming: “You don’t f***ing know me. You know nothing about me. How dare you say that to me.” A-okay. I never said that again. However, God forbid someone told her she was less than a Goddess and all hell would break loose. Sadly, she has no friends, though many have tried. My FIL owned a large business and had a large group of friends, family members, and business associates. One by one, they all stopped coming over. She would stage some kind of rage-ful incident (that she alone had planned) to drive people away. The troubling thing is that she knows what she is doing. She makes a game out of tormenting her own children and when they don’t tell her how much they love her after she torments them, she turns up the tormenting by 100 times and says things no one can ever take back. There are certain things no one should ever say in anger, because they cannot be taken back. And the things she says go BEYOND, “I wish you were never born.” I am talking about things far beyond those words.

        For all the mother-in-laws out there, I am heartbroken. I am an only child and so was my dad. We have a small family and have had to make family. When I was a teen, my parents would say out loud, “We don’t care who you marry. We will unconditionally accept him and his family as ours. We cannot wait to be part of a bigger family.” And they have treated my in-laws like this since day 1. My FIL has returned the kindness when he can, but all of his communication is monitored by my MIL. My parents tell my H that he is their “son” and write him cards re-iterating this. We have many friends we have adopted as family over the years, but having this situation with in-laws has been heart-breaking.

        My heart was broken when it did not turn out that way– that I did not marry into a loving family.

        TFW, that is excellent that you broke the chain of inter-generational abuse and said NO MORE to the rage cycle. I am doing the same thing in my home– or at least trying.

        TFW, can you tell me how you stopped the rage cycle? What I mean is, some of these families are so enmeshed that the good family members refuse to separate from the bad ones out of guilt. The good ones think if they “love enough” the bad ones will change. This is simply untrue. So how did you convince your H it was unacceptable? How did you draw the line without him being full of guilt or rage against you?


    • Rose

      I got tired of the eggshell walk. In 2016, the year after he had an EA with his cousin, he decided to turn his anger on me. I had gotten a fabulous job in a nice office. Since I had lost weight and bought all new clothes for the job, I was of course having an affair. He started stalking me and following me to work. He told me that all my perfumes reminded him of old girlfriends of his and that I was to wear ONLY the perfume he gave me. So I asked him what Julie wore (his second EA) and he raged and raged. I threw it all away including a huge bottle of Chanel…my favorite. That one reminded him of his 450-pound high school girlfriend. I haven’t worn perfume in 2 years. I even got rid of some fancy crystal bottles I had for them and any scented lotion. I should have kept wearing it just to piss him off more but now it pisses him off that I don’t. Sigh.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello Rose,

        That is common projection… you lose weight, get new clothes, and you must be having an affair. He was having an affair, but was so angry you also might be having one that he stalked you to work. LOL. But not actually funny. It’s extremely STRESSFUL.

        I am sorry you had to throw the perfume away. I have a bit of a collection of perfume I don’t wear but bought throughout the years. I bought these wall cabinets with mirrors on amazon and drilled them next to my sink. I may not use them, but they serve as reminders of different time periods. I went ‘perfume free’ by choice a while back. Or, if I wear it, it is in the form of scented shower gel. That’s all I can do because I am unable to tolerate intense perfumes as I got older. As for your H and being reminded of a HS girlfriend, that is HIS problem. You know that– I am just reiterating it.

        Rose, I do not want to sound condescending, so since you cannot see me, please know that if you were sitting in front of me, I would be looking you in the eye and speaking to you in a compassionate voice: you deserve to be cherished and loved for who you are. I am sorry that your husband at this moment in time cannot see your inherent worth. But, I assure you that the reason he cannot see it is because he cannot even see his own worth. He projects his own self-hatred and rage against himself onto you. You did nothing to deserve it. I would never ask you to leave because life is complex. All I want you to know is that you are WORTHY and LOVABLE no matter what your H does.

        This goes for all of you betrayed spouses here– whether you are male betrayed spouses or female betrayed spouses. I am sorry that there will be days where your husband or wife cannot see your inherent lovability. This situation REALLY HURTS. It is the kind of hurt that can tear your heart in half. But, please do not let it. I do not know you, but I “see you” and know that what is happening to you was not caused by you. No matter how hard it gets, please remember you are not the cause of your spouse’s treatment of you. And please know you are allowed to get in the car and take a long drive if your spouse rages. You are allowed to lock yourself in your bedroom if your spouse rages. You are allowed to set boundaries on how you are treated and let your spouse know in advance what you will do if they rage– you might get in your car, or lock yourself in your room with noise cancelling headphones, or you might even go onto a blog and tell others your story. That way your raging spouse is accountable.


    • TheFirstWife

      I cannot take any credit for stopping the rage cycle. My H was not born with this rage or anger and/or did not allow it to become learned behavior.

      We had little or limited contact w/her since my H was in his mid twenties. We had no contact w/ her after our first son was born. When she passed away we had no contact w/ her for years.

      It is sad it had to come to that. But we decided to no longer put up with her verbal abuse. We had to make a choice and we chose “us” over her.

      I always had hoped to have a loving family on both sides. But after witnessing my mother having to live w/ my crazy grandmother (her MIL) I hoped I would not be in that situation.

      Unfortunately my MIL was as bad or worse than my grandmother. My grandmother was very nice to her grandchildren she just made my parents’ lives a living hell.

      I was lucky my H decided to cut her off. It was his decision. He had enough. Of course we were the family outcasts b/c no one else in the family would stand up to her. They tolerated her abuse.

      My SIL suffered insults and verbal abuse for decades. She has such anger and resentment b/c of it. I feel badly for her. But her H (my BIL) allowed it.

      I know I will be a better MIL than that.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi TFW,

      You are fortunate that your H had the presence of mind to understand what was happening and that he was willing to make the choice to stop the insanity and not allow it into his house.

      I feel bad for your SIL since her H allows it. The first time my MIL did something truly outrageous, I had been married for 2.5 years. I had my infant son in my arms and my MIL came and found me and attempted to attack me. She had an argument with my H and since she is not mentally well she came to attempt to attack me because she felt I was controlling my H’s mind. Uh no.

      I don’t have mind control powers (lol) and what they were discussing had nothing to do with me. He said something she did not like, she assumed I was controlling his mind, and came after me.

      (Satire) Hey everyone— how about that. Mind control powers. Wouldn’t those be neat? I would “mind control” all the banks to pay off everyone’s mortgage and forgive credit card debts. Then I would “mind control” all the governments of the world to destroy all nuclear weapons and then to end world hunger. But most of all I would mind control everyone to STOP having affairs. Since none of that has happened I think it’s safe to say I cannot control minds. (End of satire)

      Anyhow, my H removed MIL from our house and put her on a plane home. She had almost injured my son. I told him that this was intolerable and I would be happy to offer an amicable divorce. I told him in my world, life doesn’t work like that. I said I have zero tolerance and if he wants to stay married to me, he cannot support such behavior.

      He has not gone no contact. I just made it clear that he would have to stand up and have a no tolerance policy towards that behavior.

      Otherwise he could have an amicable divorce. I told him I loved him and that divorce was not what I wanted, but that would be the choice.

      He has a relationship with his mom and I am always kind whenever she texts or emails. I send birthday gifts and mother’s day gifts. I refused to return hate for hate. However I do set boundaries. And as long as there cannot be just normal behavior— I don’t even ask for niceness. I just ask for being normal. That’s it.

      No swearing, no yelling, no attacking people, no throwing things. Until my MIL agrees to that, we don’t visit. What is unfortunate is that my MIL would rather have her tantrums and NOT see her grandchildren than act like a civil human being and see her grandchildren.

      I have told my H he is free to visit his parents any time and all he wants. I have even told him to go.

      But me and the kids won’t go until MIL agrees to refrain from swearing, throwing things, and yelling.

      My husband refuses to go without us even though I have encouraged him many times to go. But he won’t.

      I feel sorry for your SIL because her H allows her to be abused. This destroys people’s souls chip by chip. It’s a crime— an emotional crime, but a crime nonetheless.

      I just noticed France formally acknowledged the crime of emotional abuse. I don’t know what they will do about it. But, I think the fact that they identified it as a real phenomenon (versus something to be brushed aside) is a start. It’s a win for all those who have been emotionally abused— whether the victims are male or female.



    • TheFirstWife

      Sarah. My MIL passed away about 10 years ago. We had been no contact for many years. That was my H’s idea. If you don’t like his wife – then the relationship is over.

      My H could not see it speak to his Dad b/c my MIL controlled the family.

      And sadly my SIL who suffered the verbal abuse has long term anger issues against MIL but also her H for not putting a stop to it. Allowing it to happen for 30 years.

      And the truly sad part is I never had an argument or anything happen to cause this. She was just jealous and unhappy and took a position that she wanted to break us up after a few months of dating. And she was determined to win.

      Life is too short – my H decided to move on. He was not going to play games.

      And the immediate family talks about how nice she was blah blah blah.

      But she battled with her siblings (more than 10). They all battled each other – even in court. Legal battles. Fights. Rages of epic proportions against generations of family members. Factions. Not speaking etc.

      We just didn’t engage in that behavior. Ever. Life is too short.

    • Rose

      Thanks Sarah. I appreciate the support.

      One thing I have noticed is that I am becoming increasingly annoyed with little things he says and does. Whether that is because of the As or just me not being to take it anymore I don’t know. I almost feel shallow when I reflect on this and wonder if it’s a normal reaction. For example…we took our son, daughter, and toddler grandson to our family reunion this last weekend. H has ZERO patience with the grandson and was yelling which caused a meltdown for the toddler and put us all in a bad mood. He also ignored the fact that when a 2-year-old needs to eat, it is time NOW. But H has always been ignorant of other people’s needs (including mine when I was diabetic) on a trip in favor of getting wherever fast. Then he wore socks with sandals. Then he berated our son for dressing too “gay” for the family. In front of H, I said “It does NOT matter what anyone thinks of you–you be you.” H fumed about that. He has lots of physical issues and complains from the time he gets up to the time he goes to bed. Mostly I ignore them but this time son and daughter got to hear them too. The man just CANNOT be happy and I’m sick of it. But does that make me a bad person? I feel like he acts older than my 90-year-old uncle and find myself fantasizing about what it would be like to be with someone younger. I know that’s not right but I was SO annoyed this weekend!

    • Rose

      ETA, the antidepressants helped him with his attitude but you can’t make anyone do something…I’m just having trouble with his attitude (and mine). I haven’t said a thing to him about his constant complaints because he’ll just explode with his anger again.

    • Rose

      Sorry for the rants. But here’s another that put me over the top. My cousin is 6 years older than me and retired…so is her husband. They both retired years ago with great pensions and built a mansion. Every time I go there I come home so depressed because I will never have that. It’s not just a mansion. When her H retired, he put his heart and soul into it…he built the cabinets by hand, poured the concrete floors, built her an incredible garden on their acreage…all while taking care of his elderly mother. My house on the other hand makes me cry…there is so much to do. We have boxes of laminate flooring that turn 10 years old this year. We bought cabinets for the kitchen remodel 3 years ago. H “doesn’t have time.” I want nothing more than to get out of this house and have my dream house (I don’t need a mansion!) and for H to realize our future is worth more than his abusive mother’s needs. I can’t do all the work because I work FT and can’t afford to hire it out. He moved us into this house despite my opposition (long story) and I want out.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi Rose,

      Rants always welcome.

      In fact, I have thought about posting a formal notice telling everyone this is a safe venting zone. People can vent all they want about their own stuff and it’s ???? okay. They can scream here all they want about the wayward spouse and another person. Screaming = all caps. Lol.

      That’s one of the reasons the comments section exists. People can vent about their spouse here since often it’s not safe to do so with family members. Family members might invalidate a betrayed spouses reality for many reasons. Or maybe family members don’t know and so people can let their steam out here.

      What you are feeling is normal. I am not judging you, but I am surprised you put up with your H’s attitude for so long. On the other hand, that’s also a testament to the power of gas lighting. It probably took a long time for you to realize you cannot please someone like your H.

      Thinking about leaving is normal. He has emotional affairs with others while emotionally abusing his family.

      It could have gone that way for me- that is being stuck in emotional abuse, but I have a zero tolerance policy. When my H starts doing behaviors he learned growing up (since no one in his family is normal) I tell him no way. My FIL was/is the most normal but always had to work or MIL would spend them out of house and home. My FIL is normal in comparison to the rest. He is a reasonable person — in that you can reason with him and he has common sense. He is also a brilliant self-made businessman. I have no idea how people are brilliant at running their own businesses, so I admire that. I function well within corporations, but don’t have the skill set to build an empire. And my FIL has the ability to talk to and befriend anyone. But my FIL was not around. He was working 14 hour days at his business. So my MIL raised my H and my H told me he would watch TV shows like Family Ties or The Cosby Show to “study” how normal families behave.

      My H is great until there is a stressor. Then he will fall back on a negative emotional behavior and I will stand up. Medication also helps my H, but he will often “forget to take it” due to the shame his mom has put on his shoulders because he has to take medication.

      Sounds like you have hit the last straw. I would never ask anyone to leave unless they are in physical danger. But I would also say I don’t recommend staying married to people who are emotionally abusive if you don’t have to. If you divorced him, I would see that as an empowering step. However, that is my opinion and I still support you if you stay.

      And yes, you deserve a mansion like your cousin.

      That is a sad story about your H criticizing your son’s clothes.

      Tell me about your H and his abusive mom. Sounds like we are both married to men with abusive moms. So how does your H put his mom’s priorities above your marriage? And is his mom an emotional or physical abuser or both?


    • Rose

      I do deserve a mansion! But I don’t want one. I want to be able to sell this place asap as the value has skyrocketed. It is huge and too much work. But we can’t sell or even have it appraised unless these things get done. I want a new small house with room for dogs to run. Sometimes I want to scream at him that this is all his fault but I don’t. I don’t believe screaming gets anything done.

      I also believe in for better or worse which is why I feel like a jerk for not being able to put up with his pain. But then there’s the pain he put me through that will never heal and which I can’t complain about.

      His mom is alcoholic, narcissistic, and emotionally abusive to him and for 30 years to me. He has someone he pays to care for her 3 days a week and he does the rest. I have asked to increase the caregivers days to 4 instead of 3 but so far he has not and gets angry when I nag about it. He says he is doing it so we get her house but his sister will fight him on it though she hasn’t seen her mother for 8 years. Anyway I refuse to see or talk to his mother and feel like she made her bitter bed a long time ago.. She can sleep in it.

    • Rose

      Oh and yes, he absolutely puts her needs above mine. We have a big recliner chair in a room and it needs to get moved downstairs…for the last 3 months. I kept asking him to help and then stopped. But he had to rush out and get a lift recliner for his mother. With his bad back and arthritis, he lifted that thing out of the car, carried it into her house and arranged pillows for her. That’s just one example.

      I told my daughter in front of him this weekend that I was going to start ripping cabinets down in the kitchen this week by myself.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi Rose,

      Yeah, (in truth) I don’t want a mansion either. I am a fan of the Tiny Home movement. But, in your case a mansion is kind of like a metaphorical “gold star” for putting up with garbage for years. You could always sell it and get three separate houses: one for you, one for your son, and one for your dogs. ???? You can go to REI and get a grossly overpriced tent for your H and his mom to share. (Because misery LOVES company).

      The above paragraph was meant to make you laugh.

      By the way, since I still have kids at home we watch Pixar films. When I saw this Pixar short in the movie theatre I thought it was the perfect illustration of a relationship between a narcissist and codependent. Your H would be the stork and the cloud his mom.

    • Rose

      That IS what I want! Honestly when the next thing happens where he chooses his mother instead of me, I might ask him to just stay there for those days instead of coming home.

    • Sarah P.


      You and everyone else makes the rules and sets the boundaries for their life. If you want to tell your H to not bother coming home, that’s perfectly fair. But you don’t need my permission— you follow your heart and intuition and do what’s best for you. You do not have to put your husband’s needs first because he is emotionally abusive and has EA’s. Two strikes against him. Then putting an abusive mom before you? Well, three strikes.

      Note, this is specific to your situation. In general I believe we stand by elderly parents and put our spouses needs as a priority. But if an in law is abusive and if a husband is abusive and has affairs, this is a game changer. No one should put up with abusive people because it destroys a soul brick by brick. Children cannot do anything about their situations but adults can. Anyhow, you know what is best for you.

      I believe all of us are called to love our spouses with all our hearts. But if a spouse cannot return it and refuses to return it, it will leave us feeling alone and angry.


    • Sarah P.

      Rose and everyone else- you deserve to be loved and appreciated for who you are. I have found that the issue with people who have affairs are the problem. I have seen women throw away great men only to have them snapped up by someone who is crazy about them. It’s the same for men. I have seen men throw away some terrific women and they are shocked that every other man on the planet saw the value in their wife except for them. The person who does not see your value is an issue.

      My ex assumed I would never get married. I still don’t understand why he was cruel when I was never cruel— not even during the break up. He told me (knowing I wanted to marry him and have kids ASAP) that I would die in a plane crash before I would find someone. He didn’t even tell me that during a fight. I was sitting quietly and reading a book on financial planning and minding my own business. He came and told me that and walked away. It’s truly insane how UNCLEARLY a cheater sees his betrayed spouse during an affair. I was married to a doctor 14 months after my ex broke up. My ex was a project manager in high tech just like I was. I always got the better projects and it occurred to me today that he may have cheated on me because of it. Before 3G phones existed, they gathered a team of people from all over the company. We were picked and could not apply. I was one of the first put on that project and was put on that team when 3G phones were only and idea and I saw them through all the way to creation and launch. Meanwhile he was put in a job pushing papers. (I think he was pissed he wasn’t picked). He said he wanted a successful woman but in reality I think he didn’t want someone more successful than him. That could have played into it, but I am not sure. I come from a family of women others might define as high achievers. What is normal for women to do in my family is not normal in others. I never realized that these things could be threatening until one of my female friends told me this recently. She too came from a family of high achievers and noticed how brutal the dating market is for someone like her: smart, gorgeous, self sufficient, extremely successful. By the way, I am not talking about anyone I know through this site. I am talking about someone I have known for many years in real life.

      Any other women suspect husbands may have cheated because the wife was more successful? (I am NOT more successful than my husband. Lol).


    • Sarah P.

      PPS- For all the women out there, I wanted to say something about beauty standards since they are such a focus in this world.

      Both research and observation shows that physical beauty does not correlate to affairs or even success on the dating market. Almost all mistresses are less attractive than the wives (according to the husbands who cheat).

      I have also noticed there is a large gap between what men find attractive and what women THINK men find attractive. There were some studies in the UK. Women were asked to design the perfect woman (according to what they thought men wanted.) Then men designed a woman. The two “designed” (and fake) women could NOT have looked more different. It was astounding.

      I have also found that men judge women as more attractive than women judge themselves. I had many friends in college— male and female — gay and straight. I noticed how women talked about each other or assessed their own beauty. I found generally that women can add 3-5 points to whatever they think they are.

      Studies have also shown many men prefer curvy women and swimsuit models do not reflect tastes. Swim suit models are not even “real” to most men and that’s true. Sure they look “hot” on a page because they are photoshopped to push some primal buttons. These women are heavily photoshopped to get men to stare. However, in real life, I have found men like a large variety of looks and body types.

      We often go to Hawaii and I like to watch how people behave on the beach because their inner self tends to come out. This last time we were there, there were many very thin college students wearing thongs. They were hoping to get looks but people avoided them, even the surfers. My kids were OFFENDED and still talk about it. I remember watching this super thin blond prancing in the waves and hoping random men would snap photos. There were lots of heterosexual men there. Then there was another woman who (like me) wears long sleeved rash guard shirts and baggy board shorts. She was not skinny— maybe a size 14 which is a nice body type but not a 00. She took off her rash guard to reveal a bikini top when she was washing the sand off in the beach shower. Men took their iPhones out and started filming. Most women I know would guess the thin college student prancing in the thong would get the pics. That’s not what I saw. The men were interested in a busty lady with hips and a flat stomach. Proportional but NOT thin.

      I think it’s important to talk about these things because so many women think they are ugly. My mom is in her late 60’s. She is 5 feet tall. She is not thin and she has never had any kind of surgery to look youthful. Not even Botox. Nothing. But men still hit on her. I hear men in their 50’s saying my mom is beautiful. Often the guys in the neighborhood will tell me my mom is a “looker.” If you were to ask my mom what she sees in the mirror, she will tell you she sees an old, fat lady. That is not true. She dresses elegantly, colors her hair, does her make up, and is extremely classy and kind. Others see her as beautiful but she cannot see it in herself. I wanted to let all the women know out there your H did not cheat because of your appearance or age. I have found NOTHING to suggest the age or the appearance of the betrayed spouse plays into it.

      I felt it was important to add that. Every woman is beautiful in her own way and I have found most men see it that way. If a woman does the best with whatever she has (well groomed and cute clothes) I have found that’s enough for most men.


    • Sarah P.

      And one more caveat! I am not hating on thin women. I have found most women I speak with in real life complain about their own weight. I had a wonderful friend in college. She had been bullied her whole life for being underweight. She had a genetic disorder where she had to eat enormous amounts of food to maintain 85 pounds. One time she invited me to visit her city for the weekend. Her parents treated me like an honored guest and that was weird. Her mom pulled me aside and told me I was the only friend her daughter brought home for years. Her mom thanked me. I did not know there was an issue until her mom told me. I had no idea. Apparently the other girls had shunned her and the only boyfriends she had ended up breaking up with her and telling her they were gay. She would say about herself that her super power was turning men gay. That was ridiculous and I told her so. She was a very pretty and kind person and she had a cute figure. But people were cruel because she did not fit “the norm” on that college campus. So no woman escapes the judging eyes of this culture. I see messages all day that would indicate none of us are enough. But the truth of the matter is we are ALL enough.


    • TheFirstWife

      Sarah. That is an excellent point about men fearing successful women. I had a BF from age 18-21. I have mentioned in the past he wanted to marry. Live in our small go nowhere town. Hang out in dive bars (small town hole in the wall type places) and play in 7 softball leagues, bowling leagues, etc.

      Point is I wanted more out of life. I got some skills and moved ahead in a career.

      He hated it. He was jealous.

      I then decided to go to college. He tried to derail me. Said “he was the guy and would take care of me and college is not necessary”. No one in his family went to college. No siblings, no in laws – no one.

      I went anyway and of course that relationship ended. I could not take being smothered by him. He had no drive or ambition.

      When I went to college I had a career established. But I would never move ahead without a college degree.

      And then I realized how many guys could not handle a girl with a career or successful. They were threatened by it.

      My XBF was extremely threatened by it. And it was a non issue for me. Until he made it an issue in his mind. His petty jealousy and tremendous insecurity destroyed us.

      He would make nasty comments – like asking me if I sat in my boss’ lap. He would belittle me constantly.

      It wasn’t until I met people who were more like me – going to college and getting good jobs and not threatened that I knew I found a better group of friends.

      When I met my H I had my career and he was never threatened. We were in college. His career has been successful. He would not care if I was more successful though.

      In fact he would encourage it.

      I think you touched on a major point about your XFiance. He was clearly bothered by your professional success. Better you found out before you M.

      And my XBF? He told me when I broke up with him (after he cheated on me) that he hoped I met a guy who just wanted to “F” me. That was his parting gift at break up.

      PS when his wife unexpectedly passed away leaving him with two young children – I sent flowers from my family b/c we grew up together and his family was always nice. I never met his wife but felt badly for him and family.

    • Sarah P.

      Hello TFW,

      Thank you for your lovely comment.

      You are so very correct about your XBF and I applaud you for saying NO to the small-minded life he had planned. I applaud you for going to college and having the foresight to see that even though you had a career, the college degree would help you move forward. (I think we all know that not all young women can see ahead into the future, understand what they need to do to succeed and then do it despite a smothering boyfriend.) That takes a lot of courage, focus, and intelligence to know early on what you need as a person and then to do It — to know your life path and not be taken off that path. It appears your X was devaluing you and belittling you even within the relationship before the break up. And what a cruel thing for him to say— to basically tell you he hoped you would be used for your body and then discarded.

      I love it when women take a stand for what they want based on knowing what they need.

      TFW, not all women had the opportunity to go to college even if they wanted to at the time. Do you have any advice to give to betrayed spouses who might be facing an uncertain future and who might like to go to college?

      You also mentioned you worked at a law firm. One day I would love to hear your experiences working in the firm and what you learned there that could be applied to this topic of infidelity. Were there any “must do’s” that you learned applicable to betrayed spouses? You probably saw a lot of really interesting things and tucked them away in your mind.

      I am NOT asking for legal advice. I am just asking what you learned about human nature when divorce might be on the horizon. Anyone who works in the legal field – even legal assistants or paralegals— get to see a lot about human nature when things fall apart. And just from working in my aunt’s firm during the summers, I realized the paralegals held everything together and knew so much about what real life looks like when there is contention.

      Would love to hear about your career and also know if you have some wisdom to share based on seeing how people act during divorces. It’s great to warn folks of pitfalls.

      Yes, it takes a certain type of man to handle a strong, intelligent and capable woman. Glad to hear your husband loves those qualities in you.
      Rather, I can intuit that he loves the idea of you being successful.

      Finally, that was wonderful for you to send flowers to the X’s family. It was the right thing to do regardless of the past. My heart aches that small children lost their mom. Did you ever find out what happened to the wife? Was it an accident? So very sad for this family.


    • Rose

      Two years ago I told H I was going for my masters. He told me I was too old…I’m almost done. It just takes someone to tell me I am too old or can’t do something to get me started! When I brought this up recently, I got the gaslighting. He said “I never said you were too old (he sure did). I said you’d never make money than you do now so why waste your time?” This from a man without any college at all.

    • TheFirstWife

      Rose Sometimes I want yo just punch yiur H. He says such stupid things.

      Sarah – I worked for a many years. Learned a lot. But you can see I was still caught off guard and unprepared at DDay 1. .

    • CatMandu

      I’m still dealing with not catching it. I was a investigator for DOD for many years. It can happen to anyone. I’ve been trained in interrogation and recognizing liars and behavior but I missed it at my own house.
      Never beat yourself up for missing it. I did.

    • Sarah P.


      Woo-hoo! I must say: You go, girl!! Rose, don’t take in any of these negative and NOT truthful things he says. I think I need to write another article on emotional abuse and how to handle it. This is a topic so complex it needs to be discussed again.

    • Sarah P.

      TFW and CatMandu,
      This is the ultimate irony of infidelity. A betrayed spouse can be in a situation where they could see the signs loud and clear. But they do not.

      I have heard women (who have not been cheated on) say that wives “always know” and choose to turn a blind eye.

      That is so untrue. Wives do not always know.

    • TheFirstWife

      Sarah. I worked for a D attorney for years

      If my H did not come home (hours late) and admit the A – I would have no idea.

      He was never late (except that night) where he was unreachable. In the past when he was late I could always reach him.

      No money was ever missing

      I had never checked his phone and never had a reason to

      Everything seemed fine

      He never mentioned he was unhappy

    • Sarah P.


      Your husband really covered his tracks. Did you ever ask him why he never mentioned he was unhappy?

      Btw, I do NOT believe he was unhappy because there is too much research out there that indicates happily married men cheat. (No joke. This is a real thing).

      I also wonder how he paid for the affair with no missing $.

      I also wonder how he carried on this affair if he was never late. Did you ever ask? And if you did and if he answered, what did he say?

      Were you ever able to find out the actual real name of the OW and look up her photo?

      For some people this is helpful— to know the identity of the other person and to see the FB page and photos — and for others it is not.

      Obviously my ex would not admit the existence of the OW. But knowing who she is, what she looks like, and where she works actually gives me a sense of peace in a weird way. She knew who I was and everything about me when I had no idea there was someone else. So I am not trying to be petty. If this person (the OW) knows all about me, it’s a relief to know who she is. It “demystifies” the experience. I assumed she must be some really hot babe. In reality, she is 10 years older than him and is not attractive. Her personality shows on her face. That is she looks so ruthless and mean that it overpowers any beauty she might have had.

      Someone I know told me what he named his daughter and how it was spelled. Since my ex was a HUGE blabber mouth about the specifics of his intimate experiences with women he met before me— that is I got the graphic details- I know something his wife probably doesn’t know. He named his daughter (including the very specific spelling) after his first serious college girlfriend. The details of the physical relationship he had with this lady were pretty gross. I cannot imagine he told his wife that their daughter is named after the woman he did blankety blank blank blank with. (Fill in the blanks with some of the grossest things you can come up with and there you have it). But knowing what I know of the OW (his now wife) she is so sick in the head that it didn’t even hit her radar that their daughter is named after that person.

      Any way it’s sliced, it’s sick.

      I know so much about my ex because we worked in the same industry and knew hundreds of the same people. Some of those people will see him out and about and send me unsolicited emails about him. I lost any feeling for him YEARS AGO. What I continue to suffer from is the “why” of it all.

      How about you, TFW? Did you say the OW sent you emails? That would indicate you have an idea of who she is. Did she apologize to you? Did she tell you to just give up and let her have him? What was she like?


    • TheFirstWife

      Sarah. He was unhappy but with himself not me. He was in a career funk.

      So he allowed his career dissatisfaction to spill over to his entire life.

      He was not unhappy with me. Until the A.

      Yes I know detsils of the OW. They went out on dates a few times – maybe 5 or 6. Two were for coffee before his work meetings in the City. One or two were bars (1st time they met was a my a bar – maybe he bought her a drink or two).

      I suspect maybe an inexpensive woven bracelet from South America when he was traveling – not sure if he gave it to her or they were joking about it.

      Yes he hid his tracks well. very well. But it was not hard to do given his career. He could say meeting with client to 8 pm and it would be legit.

      I know what the OW looks like and detsils were easy to find. She lived on social media so it was all out there. Available. Easy to find. She was single.

      She told me when she told her brother she was dating my H – her brother was furious with her. He just married and told her exactly what he thought.

      I guess she did not listen to him b/c she appeared a third time to rekindle the romance. My H ghosted her. I told her to find someone else to be friends with and get some professional help. Never heard from her again.

      Apparently she did not take too kindly to either suggestion. Lol.

      I know she is recently married. I know she was cheated in by other guys. Live and learn! Karma.

    • Rose

      TFW, he says thoughtless things like that all the time. Yesterday he wanted to know if I was going over to his mother’s for her 90th bday. I was incredulous. I said “Feel free to wine and dine her and buy her everything she wants from Jewelry TV but no, I will not be seeing your narcissistic, abusive alcoholic mother.” He tried to guilt me into it but got ignored. Story of my life.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi TFW,

      Your assessment of your situation is ???? correct. Typical midlife crisis stuff for him including the career funk.

      And of course there is the moment where they are happy until someone else hits their radar.

      I mean this satirically and as a JOKE, but it’s kind of like they are walking happily around on the “beach of life” and walk under a tree and a coconut hits them on the head. Someone else’s coconut. And that coconut causes temporary brain damage and they realize they are no longer happy with you because there is this coconut that hit them on the head. They are only happy with the coconut that gave them brain damage. And in their brain damaged state, that coconut resembles a woman who will provide ego feed. Hooray! So off they go buying a woven grass bracelet for the coconut that made them unhappy with their marriage. Then one day they wake up.

      I LOVE that you told her to find another friend and get professional help. That is hilarious.

      But those words do not compute with coconuts. Luckily she rolled her coconut self up to a single coconut and they are getting married.

      What does your H say about that – the marriage — or does he know?

      I hope he tells you he is a lucky man because you held the family together while he was off having pina coladas. Does he ever acknowledge that he is fortunate? Sure hope so!


    • A

      Hi Sarah

      Yes he knows how lucky he is. He tells me all the time that if I didn’t hang in there we would be D.

      He is thankful and grateful we are together. And it shows. Lol

      He doesn’t know she’s married. I never told him I knew that info. But karma will come her way. I’m certain of that!

    • Rose

      Hi all, I listened to a great podcast today. If you haven’t heard Dear Sugars, you should. The latest episode is all about emotional abuse which has affected some of us…me for sure. I listened on Spotify but it’s probably on iTunes as well, or Google it.

    • Sarah P.

      Hi TFW,

      Glad he understands he is a lucky man.

      Yes, karma has its way of working. One of my failings aka “being human”’ is I wish karma were more instant. If it were, it could possibly serve as negative reinforcement for those who ruin the lives of others.

      For example, if a child gets an extremely painful slap to the hand each time he reaches into someone else’s cookie jar to steal cookies, one day he will stop doing it. One day he will stay at home and make his own cookies or reach into the cookie jar at home when mom gives him permission.

      Karma is that metaphorical slap, but often it’s delayed. Often it doesn’t come until the metaphorical child has eaten all the cookies in 30 different cookie jars that belonged to others. Sometimes a person does a lot of damage to so many before karma comes along.

      I like the wise words of John Lennon:

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