which is more disposable: income or people?

Mrs. Josh Dines

I am re-posting this because for whatever reason, this week has been the week of heartsick “what should I do?”s involving romantic relationships.

Admittedly, I get all sorts of mail from all sorts of people.  Friend mail. Blog mail.  Book mail.  Get a bigger dick mail.  Play with me, I’m at home alone and a 24-year-old housewife mail.  Hate mail and love mail.  Mail bitching that I dispose of friends too easily.  Mail that I disposed of my husband too quickly.  “I would have stayed if I were you” mail.  “I went through something very similar, and I stayed to work things out because vows were taken and a child was involved.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”  They weren’t in my shoes.  I haven’t been in theirs.  But I’ll tell you this much…

When I first discovered The Wasband wasn’t being 100% forthcoming, I assessed the steps I’d need to take to leave. You begin to measure things. You think in practicalities: finances, of children, of location, of where you’ll live, of how you’ll be displaced.  And the width of those measurements seems wider in the strides you’ll have to take, wider than standing still and believing it won’t happen again.  You think of everything you’ll need to now live without, but in that tally, you forget to include the lies and the half-detective nature you’ll take on as the relationship progresses.  That’s what you confront first.  Then you slip into a rosy nostalgia phase, where you worry about the things you’ll miss.  The cuddling, the closeness, losing “your best friend.”  The way you kiss, the way he knows all those things that you don’t want to have to wait for someone else to learn.  It’s tiresome just thinking about all the changes, all the do-overs, all the not-agains.  You convince yourself that what you’ve had is real, and “I’m not just losing a lover; I’m losing the person to whom I told everything.  My friend.”  And you believe he’s your best friend because you’ve been selling it to yourself that long.  But if he’s capable of what he’s done, he’s not only not your best friend, he’s a stranger.  And that is what hurts most, that realization that the person you chose became someone you don’t even know.  And you beat the shit out of yourself for letting it happen, as if it was your burden, your obligation, and under your control.  And then you question everything else, all your choices and wonder how you can ever trust… not just him, but in your own choices ever again.

And it’s so much easier when it’s clear cut.  When he’s a cheating bastard, than when it’s muddled in “shouldn’t”s but not in deal-breakers.  It’s harder to choose leaving when you can’t say, for certain, that he’s messed around with another body, not just a few heads.  Because when sex is involved, you’ve learned it’s gotta be a deal-breaker.  But what if he’s just entertaining things, playing really, a step closer to some fantasy he’ll convince you he’d never planned on carrying out?  And then you’re reminded, quite suddenly, of pedophiles. You’re certain you saw a segment on To Catch A Predator where hidden cameras confronted grown men at the doors of young boys they met on the Internet.  And during their interrogation, they still claim, even standing at the front door, ringing the bell, that they wouldn’t have done anything.  It began as porn, seeking out child pornography, and once that stopped becoming as titillating, he entered a chat room, where he was still simply “entertaining a fantasy.”  Getting off, believing he was chatting with a young boy.  And then a web cam was involved.  And the nexts kept coming, until he found himself at the front door, insisting he wouldn’t have done anything.  “I will never do it again,” he claims.  And not but two days later, To Catch A Predator finds he’s at it again.  They track his IP address, and he’s entered a different chat room.  He’s in therapy for it, he claims, but.  But he got caught again and still denies it.   

Those of us who allow for the width of that, make room for it in our lives, holding onto hope and believing in change, feel duped.  And we sit by and let him convince us that it won’t ever happen again.  “You’ll see.  It will be so much better now.  I’ll be so much better.”   He fesses up, eventually, once you present him with enough proof.  Otherwise, he’ll deny it forever and a day, realizing no good can come from admitting he’s done anything wrong.  And you believe him, somehow you allow for his remorse and believe in it, because it’s easier, for YOU, than not.  It affords you time to remain where you are; it’s a pass you’re able to present, a neat slip of paper that enables you to stay later, longer, resisting change.  Staying in a relationship where you don’t trust the other person is like staying in bed when you know it’s time to go to work.  It’s lazy.  It’s procrastinating.  It’s pushing off the inevitable. 

The very first time I discovered something I shouldn’t, I soon learned more lies would come buried along with it.  I remember finding measurements of girls written on a slip of paper.  Names beside the measurements and a phone number.  It was a slip of lined paper, and it was written in blue pen, his penmanship. And I called the number.  It was an escort service.  I couldn’t breathe.  When confronted, he assured me it was a bet he’d lost.  That the terms of his losing this bet were for him to get his friend Dave an escort.  “I swear, you can call him right now.  And you’ll be the only one on the phone.  I won’t prompt him.”  And I believed him.  I don’t think I called his bluff because I was too worried about how I’d look to Dave.  Some psycho controlling girl.  And time went on, us in our comfortable lives ordering in our  cheeseburger deluxes, medium rare with the fries well done.  We watched our shows and made plans for our future.  Vacations were planned.  He bought me a ring and had it engraved, “I adore you.”  You know what else he adored?  Lying. 

I found emails.  I found instant messenger conversations between him and other women, online women sometimes.  And there was always an excuse for it.  And people, even the girls themselves warned me, “Once a cheater always a cheater.”  And I refused to believe it.  I still don’t believe it.  I believe in the power of change when we want to change badly enough.  But when should you believe in their belief?  Do you do it only for the sake of the children involved?  Do you do it because this time is only the first time?  He’s shown you his character, and you’re fighting to believe, to convince yourself, that he really isn’t that way. 

Here’s what I know: if someone is capable of being deceitful, of holding onto lies, of covering things up, they’re okay with it.  I don’t care if they don’t get physical.  Physical is just the result.  It’s all the steps leading to physical infidelity that matter.  It’s the emotional infidelity that matters most.  And once a person is capable of behaving differently when they’re alone than when they’re with you, there’s not only a  severe problem.  There’s cheating going on.  Doing things you wouldn’t dare do in front of your partner is cheating… and no, taking a shit and farting don’t count.  But giving some co-worker a massage, or IMing some girl the details of your relationship, or chatting in some online room asking a chick to describe the size of her areolas. That shit is cheating.  Doing anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in front of your partner, but doing it anyway, is cheating.  It means you’re capable of duplicitous behavior.  And you’ll do it again. 

If they don’t make themselves sick by their own behavior you can bet they’ll repeat it.  Equally as bad is the person who is sickened by their own behavior, who seeks out therapy even, and who still makes allowances for their own repetitive behavior.  Like the pedophile who an hour after therapy signs onto a myspace page pretending to be a young boy himself.  And sticking around in a world of “everything is okay now because we’re in therapy,” or “things seem so much better, closer even, now that it’s all out in the open” you’re almost certain to find yourself in the same compromising position again.  And maybe then you’ll get the fuck out of bed and to living a life where an extra income and deceitful people are disposable.   

This post brought to you by Stephanie Klein, author of about at least two hundred outbound emails stating just this in response to the overwhelming emails received with subjects reading, “What should I do?”  You should leave.  You should force yourself to do what’s hard because in the long run staying is so much more detrimental to your esteem and your own worth. Do I know you and the details that only you know?  No.  But I know enough, have lived enough, and have seen and heard enough to know when someone is kidding herself.  You know what it looks like?  A smile.  She forces a smile and talks about hope and faith.  And she hopes you’ll believe her so she can believe it too.



  1. BRAVO Stepahnie!! Im doing a dance around the house! WAY TO PREACH IT SISTA!!! Triple love you!

  2. I would have left, too. It's really no one's business why or how you left. What's important is that it was the best decision for YOU. And who can argue with the results?

  3. Excellent post Stephanie-after losing my first husband to a military accident, I faced a lot of judgement too regarding my decision to move on with my life. People couldn't believe I had the audacity to actually allow myself to-be happy, fall in love again, and get married. Actions definetely spoke louder than words, and I couldn't believe even those who were closest to me were so ignorant of what they said and did. In the end, I knew the only person truly affected by my decisions was me. It is my life and I decided to live it to the fullest. I believe this is what God put me on this earth to do. I am hopeful your readers seeking advice actually listen. Life is waaayyy to short to spend your time being unhappy. Thanks for reminding me of what I'm made of-guts and faith.

  4. My boyfriend cheated on me. Not physically (that I am aware of), but emotionally, and that resulted in the end of our relationship. I only found out by reading his email. He was angry that I had read his email- he tried to make the issue about me reading his email rather than his infidelity. Trying to deflect attention away from his problem, I suppose. I guess whenever you are suspicious enough that you want to read your partner's email, maybe it is time to leave. Go with your gut feeling.

  5. I am right there with Jennifer. Thank God nothing like this has happened to me, but I think if I was in a similar situation I would leave too- and what is most important is that it would be best for me and that's what should matter to outsiders. Great post, great voice, great that you can pass this on to other women.

  6. This is my favorite post yet – very empowering for anyone who has dealt with a liar. There are too many people who are okay with duplicitous behavior.

  7. Amen, Amen, Amen. I have been reading your blog for a very long time and this entry touched me more than ANYTHING you have ever written. I divorced my first husband because of infidelity and as far as I'm concerned, there was no other decision to be made. I know there are millions of people out there who deal with this everyday, but our common experience is what got me reading your blog. I found your book to be a comfort (not to mention hilarious and entertaining).

    The thing that saved me was having the ability to look into the future and see the same thing happening over and over again….and it just being harder to leave the longer I allowed it to go on.

  8. You are so right! I love the way you write! MY ex boyfriend was sending emails and IMs have sexual nature to other people. People he claimed were "just friends". Not only that but he would put me down as well to other people. When I took a step back and looked at our relationship I realized how controlling he was. Thats when I moved out and on!

  9. Friends question my decision to leave a psychotic stalker of an ex-boyfriend the same way they questioned me when I left another ex who had cheated on me…………."But he loves you……..how can you leave him?"

    I left because I love myself more.

    And those people who questioned me then and continue to question my status as a happy single person – I feel they were/are trying to justify their bad relationships by trying to keep me in one.

    Leaving has never been as hard as looking at myself in the mirror after I chose to stay and "work things out"………

  10. i am not sure what to think of this. do you mean you should ALWAYS leave? even if you are in the beginning stages of a relationship? not married? no children involved? early in my relationship with my current boyfriend, i would go out with my friends, make out with guys…have fun. we now live together and even though i no longer do these things…i don't think it would be the worst thing in the world if i did. we aren't married but we are headed that way. i love my boyfriend to death but i am also young and vibrant and want to have fun. i think your way of thinking is extremely conservative…to think that if you are with someone that its forever, from day one. there are ranges of emotions that people go through when they are together, its never a fairy tale (and if it seems that way, there are most likely bigger issues being shuffled into the closet). i also have a close girlfriend who cheated on her fiance as sort of a last fling before getting married…and now she is totally happy in her marriage (and her husband knows what happened). i just dont think you can say LEAVE to everyone. it sounds like good liberal, feminist advice…but life isn't black and white. i am sorry you were so hurt, but that doesn't mean that we all are as well.

  11. Stephanie – I enjoy your writing but rarely agree with you. On this topic – I agree 100%. I hope women in your situation can listen.

  12. Leave–YES! For your own sanity..so you dont spend countless hours wasted looking for infidelity– youve seen it once– it most likely will continue and it has nothing to do with you– its about THEM and it ALWAYS will be. You will not change that person..They dont want to change– they enjoy this lifestyle of hiding and secrets- and deception–its thrilling for them.. it will never be that for you and they wont have that passion for you..it will all be spent on online relationships or physical relationships.. But I had to do what was best for my daughter…and even though it seems "wrong"–it allowed me to keep my sanity, my health and my child protected for her future– More times than not– they DO NOT and do not want to change. I support your decicion FULLY!

  13. I'm so glad you are standing up for yourself on this. I pity the women who have quilted you for getting far, far away from a marriage that was terribly toxic. I pity them because they don't have the guts to stand up for themselves; not enough care for themselves to say "I deserve better". You did the right thing & you should feel proud of yourself!! I think you already feel proud & comfortable with your decisions, but wanted to let you know that many women are so so proud of you too.

  14. First of all, Anne, I could have written your comment myself. I just left him. And like you said, he made it all about my invasion of privacy, and not about his infidelity. Cowardice. I'm better off. He is capable of duplicitous behavior, and I can't go through life fearing when the next shoe will drop.

    Stephanie, as with so many of your other readers, you always ALWAYS seem to write exactly what I'm experiencing and feeling at the moment I'm facing it. I couldn't breathe when I read this entry. And then suddenly, I could breathe more deeply, and I found a renewed sense of confidence that a) I did the right thing, and b) I will be okay.

    "Staying in a relationship where you don't trust the other person is like staying in bed when you know it's time to go to work. It's lazy. It's procrastinating. It's pushing off the inevitable."

    If only I'd read, believed and embraced that two years ago. But hindsight is for fools. I'm here now, and I'm moving forward.

    Bravo, bravo, bravo. Thank you for inspiring us.

  15. The problem with a lot of these cases is that women do not have the confidence to leave, to stand on their own.
    There's the what if's

    What if I dont find someone else?
    What if I am making a mistake and then it's too late to change my mind?
    What if I just cant do this because Im too weak?

    If women had more confidence a lot of our issues would slowly fade. But then of course you can go back in history and how the only way women could get anywhere in life was with a man, or by using her sexuality. And if your sexuality is all you have to get by and looks fade, where does that leave you?

    It's too bad that instead of supporting one another most women are catty and jealous. If women were to ban together more we wouldnt need to use our sexuality nearly as much, or looks or what have you. But it all goes back to confidence.

    good blog.

  16. Stephanie,

    I love this post. It feels like a long time since I have heard this voice from you and I missed it.

  17. Awesome post. I truly enjoyed every word.

    And to Jenny a few posts up…if you go out and make out with other guys, then you need to get yourself single and do what you have to do. You're trying to have your cake and eat it too by staying with your boyfriend and believing that it's okay to cheat. You're right, life isn't black and white…but vows, rings, and a $30,000 wedding later won't change your ability to just be with your husband. It's a mindset that comes with maturity. Either you want it or you don't. Like you said…you're young. So take your own advice and go have fun and stop playing grownup before you're really ready for it.

    And a piece of advice…as you try to explain away your situation to everyone that has been burned (such as myself a couple of times before I finally wisened up) and how us "good liberal feminist[s]" don't understand where it is that you're coming from…it's really you that doesn't understand what's going on with you. Sure we don't know your exact situation, but it shouldn't be so complicated and difficult to explain. Nor should you need to reference your friends whom also cheat to prove your point. Dishonesty is dishonesty any way you cut it. So, when you feel like saying "you just don't understand"…realize that it's probably you that doesn't understand…and you ought to do yourself a favor and go out to experience the world and all that your youth has to offer.

    Seriously, you make out with other guys and then call women who frown upon cheating 'liberal feminists'? Hello!!!! When did cheating become conservative???

  18. I absolutely agree with the sentiment that when trust has gone out of a relationship it's time to ship out. Absolutely. But…

    We are human. We make mistakes. And when you're in a relationship with someone who doesn't trust you from the beginning – someone who is jealous of every interaction you may have with a person of the opposite sex (or, you know, same sex if that happens to be the way you roll) the constant scrutiny and fear of messing it up can often drive people to conceal things they would normally be upfront about. And it goes from there…

    It's really, REALLY hard to be in a relationship with someone who is jealous by nature. And sometimes that jealousy is what drives people away. Not saying that if you're a jealous person it's all your fault when your significant other cheats (not at all) but rather that when someone feels trapped in a relationship they often do things that are destructive to that relationship BECAUSE they feel trapped.

    And yes. I've been there.

  19. Here Here! I agree with you totally Stephanie. I was married to a man very similar to your ex for 15 yrs and it took me that long to gain the courage to get out! I always made excuses saying its better for the kids, or he'll change, or therapy will make it all better but it just got worse. The bottom line is this: the sooner you love yourself more than you love him the better!!!! If you love yourself for the wonderful person that you are, then you will have no problem leaving the creep.
    Yesterday, July 4th, was my first "independence" day since my divorce was finalized!!!!! I am so happy now and my children (3) are too.
    Ps. Your book was fantastic! I couldn't put it down. Can't wait for the next!

  20. Though in all honesty, I thought in your book you didnt leave him? You asked if he wanted the baby, he said no and things went downhill from there, but this was after you found him cheating, right? I mean, you still gave him another chance because you were pregnant, right?
    Or am I getting the time of events wrong?

    FROM STEPHANIE: I made the choice to end things. It took me a while to get there, though, as it should, really. It's a big decision. Here's something I didn't include in the book:

    When I first found out, I called in to the Dr. Joyce Brothers show and told her all the details about what I knew so far. She told me to stay with him, to have the baby, and for him to get to therapy. She said he was acting out, shirking responsibility. He runs and hides from it, she said. He did it when we got married, and again once I was pregnant. Peter Pan Syndrome. He said he'd do whatever it took, that he'd stop talking to this other woman… but as I soon discovered, it was all a lie. He continued to hide things, trying to save his reputation, and I realized he had no fucking character. And that I would be disgusted with myself if I stayed.

    In a week small moment, the night before I went through with the abortion of our child, I called him to ask if this was really what he wanted. I didn't want to feel like the only one responsible. I needed to hear it from him, and even if I hadn't, I'd really already made up my mind. It was over. We aren't at our best when go through things like that, but we can become our best when we go through things like that.

    The pregnancy and the marriage because I knew I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I stayed with him. I knew I would constantly be checking his Amex bills, his phone logs, and my back… it was no way to live.

  21. I cheated on a boyfriend, having sex with an ex-boyfriend while we were together. I was in college. It was obviously wrong and absolutely duplicitous. And I grew up. I got it out of my system, not just the sex, the lying. The hiding.

    I grew up to realize this: if I found myself wanting more, wanting different, wanting other in a relationship… it wasn't the right relationship for me. Of course there's always temptation, but if you're willing to lie and hide things, it also has to mean you're willing to risk losing the person you're with. Hoping to have your cake and eat it too is where people get into trouble. And I would not remain in a relationship if I felt the longing to kiss boys, etc. at the beginning of things. If you have that "exclusive talk" you shouldn't be making out with other people. And if you are, and feel okay chalking up to being young, then you really don't take the exclusivity or your relationship seriously.

    If you're involved in an exclusive relationship, even if it's just the beginning, and you find yourself kissing other boys, you probably shouldn't be in that relationship, not necessarily because of the person, but because you're clearly not ready for it. You can't be. You're living a lie and not being authentic with yourself or others.

  22. Agreed 100%. Once a cheater always a cheater. You made the right decision. Maybe a little late, but you did it nonetheless.

  23. Stephanie,

    Were you speaking of your current husband when describing the details of "his" infidelity or was that your previous husband?

  24. Stephanie – thanks for this. As a strong-willed, independent-minded, and loyal woman, it's wonderful to hear someone else stand so strongly for what's right and decent. It can be so easy to slip into the cracks of wishful thinking and self-delusion. As a child and teenager, I watched my mother involve herself in several extra-martial affairs, both physical and emotional, and I've vowed to never be the kind of woman she is. I just hope I can find a man to match my convictions.

  25. Jenny,

    I write to you as a 24 year old girl who used the same reasons you did to justify cheating. I thought, heck, why not? I'm young, and why be committed to just one person? I thought myself too pretty to just settle for the guy I was with. I didn't want to close any doors. When I cheated, I would overcompensate with my then-boyfriend by being overly cuddly, romantic, etc. I blamed him for my cheating (internally), when it all boiled down to a low self esteem on my end and immaturity. Worst of all, I would accuse him of cheating (?) just because I felt so guilty.

    But back to immaturity. I wanted everything; the boyfriend to run home to, and the excitement that comes with cheating, and kissing different lips. The adrenaline was a crazy rush. But in the end, all I was left with was a feeling of guilt and stupidity.

    I once spoke to a psychologist about it, and she told me that I was covering my bases well. I could never really be fully committed in a relationship when I was being physical with someone else. Hence, I kept one foot out because I wasn't fully developed as a person. I didn't want to sacrifice myself, but I did want his sacrifice on commitment, and fidelity, etc.

    I'm 24 now, still young, vibrant and married. And the benefits that come from being physically and emotionally involved in my relationship are ten fold the adrenaline that I sought in my past.

    So I agree with the others, that this will come to you in time. But stop hurting yourself and your boyfriend. It isn't worth it, I promise.

  26. So much easier said than done.

    FROM STEPHANIE: I never said it was easy. It sucks the big fat hairy moose cock. But in the times where we hurt the most, we really do the most growing. Not that growth seems like the most appealing sell, but when you're going through it… and it hurts like hell, there is comfort in knowing that your soul, your journey, is progressing, that you're at least moving forward as hard as it is. And it totally prepares you for anything else thrown your way. It's a reminder… "Shit, I got through that, so I'll get through this too."

  27. It is hard as hell. It is questioning myself, it is being lazy, it is hoping and it is a waste.
    It needs to become reminding myself that I am so much more than I feel in my current relationship.
    Thank you.

  28. And actually, this speaks to the other woman as well. She cannot think much of herself if she's willing to be with a man who's involved with someone else. I know of people who've been with married men. I absolutely judged them. I couldn't make room in my life for people who didn't make room for themselves in their own lives. They weren't living fully in their own lives. They didn't/and don't have enough respect for themselves to want more from the people in their lives.

    I know a woman who has been the long-term girlfriend of a married man. She says she gets what she needs from it. Her needs are met. And I say, she hasn't begun to learn how to need. She sets the bar way too low. She expects he'll leave his wife, as they all expect. The wife is prettier, successful, talented, and he's with her… which in a sick twisted way makes her feel good and worthy because she thinks so much of this wife and is honored to be considered in such good company. She sees his wanting her too as a compliment. Talk about seriously fucked up. He says the marriage is just for monetary reasons… that he cannot leave her or she'll take him for all he's worth. So they live secretly, and she settles for it. And I feel so sad for people who choose to live this kind of life. I cannot imagine if their younger versions of themselves learned of this current behavior they'd feel proud or okay with it. It's gross what we allow for in our lives due to crap self-esteem.

  29. Again, I think it goes back to confidence and I think that has been one of our major downfalls. We live in a society where we are never satisfied with ourselves. You dont see men doing this, it's always the women.
    If only I were prettier…
    If only I were thinner…

    Just comes down to having confidence in yourself and believing you are worth more.

    I do remember that part of the book now about the phone call, but let's say he had said yes, what would you have done? Can you honestly say you wouldnt have gone back to him?

  30. Great post. Great, great post.

    I think most people who encourage others to stay in dying/unhealthy relationships are people who hold too tightly to the "fairy-tale" ideal of relationships. Yes, ideally it would be fabulous if people in dying relationships could work together, blood sweat and tears, to fix problems, change proclivities, grow together again. Sometimes that happens. Didn't happen for me. You can only put so much work into something before it either blossoms or dies.. and if it's dead, it's time to move on. Some things will never end "happily ever after." Some things just need to end, and then you work to find what really makes you happy.

    I really enjoy your blog and I enjoy your writing style. But this post really makes me admire you, Stephanie.

  31. I am a loooooooooongtime reader, first time poster.

    I am also a lesbian who finds a lot of truth and comfort in what you write.

    This post really hit close to home. I just got out of a relationship with an alcoholic, not my first relationship with an alcoholic, and there was a definite point where I had to say, as you said, I love you, but I love me more. Thank g-d I had the clarity of mind to say, I can't go around this bend again. It always ends up in the same place.

    I have to believe that the right relationship isn't one where there is constant suspicion, disappointment, excuse-making and anxiety.

    Thanks for this post — I thought it was spectacular. Now you just need to bookmark it on the side of your homepage so we can all find it when we need a kick in the pants!

  32. Interesting title. But I feel like this post marginalizes the person YOU chose to make disposable – the child you were carrying. I can certainly get behind the "once a cheater always a cheater" pep talk and the decision not to remain in a relationship devoid of trust, but I can't understand turning around and resorting to an abortion as part of the solution. Had you miscarried (in the context of a healthy relationship), you would have mourned the loss. But you chose to terminate the pregnancy because the baby's father was a lying jerk. If that were the test for abortion, I have a feeling there'd be a huge decline in the world's birth rate. Talk about punishing the child for the sins of the father. But it doesn't seem like the decision not to have the child increased the speed of your recovery from the break up of the marriage. What was your rationale at the time? I guess my question is what did you hope the abortion would accomplish in the bigger picture? Was it that you didn't want the child anymore or that you didn't want to be reminded of its father? I want to make clear that I'm not making any comment here on abortion in general or a woman's right to choose, which is of course, hers alone. I'm just wondering about it in this specific context where it was a longed-for baby one day and a footnote to infidelity the next. I'm not daring to presume it was an easy decision either. It's just part of the equation that I find it difficult to identify with.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Perhaps you should read my book if you want a more complete answer. And I know, LB, that you have read it. It's not a cop-out answer, either. No one knows what it's like to be in those shoes until they're in them, and then they look within themselves and follow what their most authentic self tells them. I have two children now. And I still don't agree with your statement, "this post marginalizes the person YOU chose to make disposable – the child you were carrying." Because it wasn't a person yet. It wasn't a child yet. I called it baby because I knew it could have been but at that point, during my first trimester, it wasn't. Not to me. And that wasn't some justification to ease some kind of guilty feelings I ought to have felt. It's what I believe. And, I'm quite sure if I discovered one of my children, if carried full-term, would have down syndrome, I'd choose to end the pregnancy. And I wouldn't write it off as, it wasn't a baby yet if it were in the second trimester. I would know that it hurt, that it might feel something. I would. But I think I would still make that decision, but the truth is, I've learned not to say 100% what I'd do in any situation unless I've been there. Because none of us really knows until we're in it.

    I was true to myself. I did not want to be tied to him, but that wasn't why I decided what I did. I wanted a family, not a baby. And yes, my husband could have died. He could have left me with a baby, not a family. But right then, as soon as I found out about the lying, as quickly as I had learned things, I had the opportunity to make a decision about the rest of my life. I had that privilege, that right. I aborted that pregnancy earlier than I'd miscarried the second time I was pregnant. Would I have been alright if I'd chosen to follow through with the pregnancy, yes. My life would be very different than it is now. I'd be very different. And I don't, not for a second, regret my decision. I don't stay up late at night wondering what my decision signifies in society. I did what my heart and soul, deep inside, knew was best for me. And that's all any of us can do, if we're lucky, be able to access that and act on it. Preaching is now officially over.

  33. thanks for the concern….but i still 100% disagree with your statements. i don't need to "grow up" or "not be in a relationship." and i also laughed about the vows, rings and $30,000 wedding comment. that is just not part of me. and i would never need any of that to prove my love for anyone.

    first of all, my friends and i are all dedicated, educated, talented women…and we have all gone through the same issues. one thing that sets us apart from the women on this comment board and stephanie….or what i can i tell from these comments….is our reasons for being with a man.

    and i never cheated….my boyfriend and i were never in a closed relationship…especially not 6 months into it. he knew about everything i did…and we laughed about it later. so i wasn't hurting anyone.

    regardless, i don't need to defend myself to anyone. and i am CERTAINLY not lying to myself. please. i have been to therapy.

    my point was that you can't make a blanket statement that says LEAVE. every relationship is different. and when i say that its sounds feminist and liberal to make that statement….its because i think there are a lot of women out there who get hurt this way and then think they are strong and liberal just because they walk away. if they hadn't fallen for the conservative notion of a relationship to begin with, they would have never been hurt. a strong woman to me is one who defines her own notion of a relationship. not what society or (gasp) GOD tells her it should be.

    FROM STEPHANIE: "My boyfriend and I were never in a close relationship" pretty much says it all. If neither of you took it seriously, and you both laugh about it now, then it wasn't lying or cheating. This post is about being in a relationship where your partner is deceiving you. And there's no justification for that, especially not "feminism."

  34. Hey there Jenny,
    If you were in an 'open relationship' then why worry about the 'leaving' aspect…as you obviously weren't cheating. Did you think that you were cheating because after your clarification, it seems that no one would have thought that you were…

    I honestly don't understand your labels though. Why is walking away from a debilitating committed relationship liberal, but not also making out with other people while in a committed relationship? And what is your idea of a 'conservative' relationship because I don't feel that you've been clear on what exactly that means?

    Furthermore, no one here is talking about the expectations of God or society regarding a relationship. Nor has anyone said that you aren't dedicated, educated and talented. No one has said anything in regards to that. What they have discussed is your written statement regarding cheating in your own relationship: "we now live together and even though i no longer do these things…i don't think it would be the worst thing in the world if i did. we aren't married but we are headed that way. i love my boyfriend to death but i am also young and vibrant and want to have fun."

    Your 'but' is your problem. You're stuck on the 'but'. Until you either settle for what you have or meet someone else, that 'but' will stick with you. That 'but' allows for excuses. It allows for discretions. Just because I'd never cheat on my boyfriend now doesn't imply that I'm none of the things that you are…I'm only 27…but I don't have any 'buts' anymore that linger around my head. They've gone away because my boyfriend and I adore each other, we talk about everything, we laugh all the time…we've both been through very bad relationships and now know what we both want and expect from another person. I am young because I chose to be at heart (and by age), but I don't need it to stand between myself and my ability to commit to another person.

  35. I can't speak for Stephanie, Jenny, but I'm reading a big difference between your situation and what was Stephanie's situation.

    You would make out with other guys when you and your boyfriend FIRST started dating as very young people, per your words. Stephanie's ex had committed to her, exchanged vows, yet was playing deceptive mind games WHILE they were in a mature married relationship. BIG difference. The level of committment made equals the level of hurt inflicted when the committment is broken.

    I'm having a hard time reading where Stephanie said, in your words Jenny, that "to think that if you are with someone that its forever, from day one." If that were true, she'd still be married to her ex, no?

    To me, it's a similar issue to what Stephanie posted about swinging. Some are okay with open relationships, others aren't. Open relationships carry more potential for emotional danger than monogamous ones, and that's not worth the risk to everyone.

    But now that I think about it, it's not the same at all. It's swinging versus deceiving. Very different things.

  36. So.. none of the post applies to you, Jenny. So what's the problem?

    (scratching my head)

    Every relationship is different. But the most crucial elements of any relationship are respect and honesty (and fabulous sex, but who's counting. ha.).

    When two people have an understanding and one decides to change the rules without consulting the other, and when The Rule-Changer refuses to make the changes necessary to preserve the relationship, what exactly is left for the "screwed-over" party to stick around for? In my opinion it's not even strictly a romantic relationship thing, it's a rule of human behavior – someone repeatedly disrespects you and refuses to acknowledge it, you do what you have to do to preserve yourself.

    What exactly is your idea of a relationship, Jenny? and how does it differ from "the conservative notion?" I'm not asking to be snarky at all. There's obviously disagreement here, and I'm having a hard time reading into your thoughts. Just curious.

  37. Hey LB, that was pretty slick, claiming you didn't have an agenda there. Having never been pregnant and never been married, I think I'd abort too, if I found out while pregnant my husband was cheating on me.

    My roommate was married four years, cheated on for the last three. Her good friend begged her to hire a PI, and she finally did. She was lucky enough to not have had children with her husband yet, and to have a supportive family. She divorced him.
    I believe that some things don't warrant second chances. Stephanie, I think the people who write to you asking what to do about cheating spouses probably do.

  38. Ya know, I have a three year old who was pretty close to being stem cell research :D
    I almost chose abortion, I even had wine at Christmas thinking, "Well, it's a done deal. Im not having it"
    As close as I came to that abortion I do not regret my decision at all, jesus, I cant even imagine.
    But had I gone through with it Im sure I would be resolved to the fact that not having it was what was best for me.

    LB, that was pretty harsh and nasty. Coming from someone on the flip side of it if I were Stephanie I'd tell you to go to hell.

    Until you've been there you have NO idea how you will handle it. Oh and for the record, I was one of those who said if I got knocked up and wasnt married, I would definitely have an abortion.

    Again, you just dont know what you will do, and telling a woman she has sacrificed a child for her own life is just inappropriate. You're not god. Shit like that gets on my nerves. Why do people feel this need to butt in your life tell you what you should and shouldnt do when your life has zero effect on theirs.

  39. Crap, sorry for not making sense in my last sentence by failing to complete my thought. "Stephanie, I think the people who write to you asking what to do about cheating spouses probably do know what they should do. They just want someone else to tell them so they don't have to take responsibility for their actions."

    FROM STEPHANIE: I think any time we ask for advice, we already know what we want to hear somewhere deep down, what we're hoping to hear, right? And then it's up to figure out why we want to hear what we do. Is it because it's easier and allows us to stay stagnant, resisting change? Probably. We, all of us, look to rationalize so we can live with ourselves and our choices. Sometimes though, we learn no amount of convincing feels right.

  40. Stephanie: I've been reading your blog for two years and was never tempted to comment until this entry. Thank you thank you thank you for writing it. Despite all the "oh but you shouldn't have dont that…" mail that you are bombarded with, maybe it will please you to know that once in a while, when you write about something like this and post it, and through some serendipitous act, somebody on the other side of the world will read it, who really, really, really needed to be told exactly what you said.

  41. "And those people who questioned … I feel they were/are trying to justify their bad relationships by trying to keep me in one."
    This, Stepheney, hit the nail on the head for me. People who say "How can you leave him?" are often people who not have the strength to end their own (bad) relationships. But they don`t have the right to judge. It`s your relationship and if there`s anything you think you can`t deal with, you have to go. No matter what it is, no matter how unimportant it may seem to other people. It`s only your decision because this is your life – people have their own lifes to make the best out of it, or, if they like, the worst.
    Okay, I`m done.

  42. i'd just like to say that most people bring children into this world to increase the quality of their life…to make it more enjoyable…more joyful…and if having a child is not going to accomplish that than you're defeating the purpose…i.e resenting a child, down syndrome etc
    facts change and when they do you adjust your course accordingly.

  43. There is no doubt that you were right to leave him – it was right for you and you knew it your heart and you shouldn't have to justify your decision to anyone. Also, it took courage and you should be commended for that. But, I just don't see how you can advise anyone who discovers dishonest behaviour from their partner to end the relationship. Every person, every partnership is so different. There are so many other potential factors that could make someone else's situation different from yours, surely? It feels like many people are saying here that anyone who doesn't leave that kind of situation is weak and deluded. To me, that's just as judgemental as the people who criticise your decision.

  44. "I wanted a family, not a baby"

    Do you not consider women without husbands families? I have two children. I haven't had a husband in over eight years. We ARE a family.

    We do not need a man in our lives to make it so.

  45. this is still, by far one of my favorite posts.
    every time i read it i feel better about making the decision to stop calling that liar i married my husband and officially making him a was-band.

  46. Long time reader, first time commenter… What else to say but been there done that, too… Made him a was-band, as well.. But, unfortunately, it took time… I forgave the first instance and then took on the half detective nature you refer to… He was all deny, deny, deny… Frankly, I was too shell-shocked after 7 years of marriage to think that he could cheat on me.. We had the family plan on the cell phone bill so I took to analyzing all the calls.. Guess what I found… late night calls to an area code where I knew that he didn’t know anyone (well, no one that I knew) that lasted too long… Got up the nerve to call the #… She felt bad for me, couldn’t believe that he was married… What really hurt was that he met her with his best friend, who had been over to our house countless times… Best friend told her that was-band was separated… Well, he’s more than separated now… Wish that I could say that was end, too, but it wasn’t… Stuck with it until I was such a basket case, a neurotic mess… Mid-snooping another time, I started to cry… That lasted for 2 minutes and then suddenly I stopped… I said (out loud to myself) I AM NOT GOING TO LIVE LIKE THIS! And that was it… Initiated divorce proceedings the next day… I apologize for the rambling post but I haven’t told this full story to many people… I am an Ivy League educated girl with an apparent relationship IQ of zero… All of this is just to reconfirm what Stephanie said… Don’t stay–he’s not your friend if he can treat you so poorly.. We would have had our ten year wedding anniversary last week, but I have NEVER ONCE regretted my decision to end it!

  47. You captured the real torture of those moments. All the “detective” moments, the slow ripping away of yourself because eventually every moment and thought is questioned, current and past. And you end up a shredded emotional bundle of insecurity. Somehow you become the bad guy for being paranoid or for not trusting and in the end you are the so screwed up you need therapy just to find the person you used to be.
    Run. And fuck everyone who tries to question your decision on it. Its not worth losing yourself for.

  48. I have to say that this doesn’t only happen to women, it happens to men also. So often we’re forgotten as being vulnerable. My wife stepped out on me with a co-worker and defends her actions by claiming it’s not an affair if sex wasn’t involved. When it comes down to it, “sex wasn’t involved” only because its something I couldn’t prove; but even still, you ar so right, emotional affairs are so much worse. Unfortunately, for a man, when this happens its next to impossible to obtain a divorce and retain custody of a child, so in fear of losing my little boy for good, I’m stuck.

  49. The same type of behavior happened with my boyfriend of over 5 years. He says he wants another chance but what he did… I don’t know how it can ever be repaired. You can’t go back to how it was but how can I ever go back? He is like a stranger to me. I don’t recognize him anymore and it makes me sad but hopeful that someone else will see me and know I have so much love to give and would like to receive the same love back.

  50. Another long time reader, first time poster here. I first read Straight Up and Dirty when I was knee deep in a relationship with an alcoholic. Even though your ex had relations with other women, mine had relations with bottles, lots of them and the feelings of betrayal were exactly the same. Just change finding phone numbers on slips of papers and chats on the computers to finding empty wine bottles in the closet and vodka bottles in the bathroom cabinet. I remember very clearly reading it 3 years ago and seeing red flags go up. I read it again towards the end of our relationship and the red flags were still there, waving away. This post is just what I needed to read tonight, as I sit here alone on a Friday night, wondering if I did the right thing by leaving him a year ago, finally. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, we weren’t married, but I thought I would spend the rest of my life with him. We had our wedding planned, our future children named, our life together planned out. But he loved the drink more than me and I couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know if you read these comments, but if you do, I just want to thank you for being one of the little voices in my head that told me I worth more than he was giving me. I am single now and scared to death that I am never going to find someone, but this post reminded me that I miss the idea of him, who I thought he was. And that I did the right thing. So thank you.

  51. I didn’t read it the first time, and he wasn’t a cheater. But he cheated me out of so much and you capture so many of the emotions “the person I chose became someone I didn’t know.” So often I’ve said that the man I divorced, wasn’t the man I married. Although it broke my heart to break his, the further away from him I got, the better I became and now, 6 years later and 4 years into the best relationship on earth, I know it was so right for me to leave. And I heard recently from a mutual friend that the ex seemed to be “bitter” 6 years later. And yes, last week the constable stopped by my door with a subpoena back to divorce court. The Ex wants more money. His gravy train ended, boo hoo hoo. He wants more.

    So I’m going to divorce court again. Wish me luck Girls. I’ve dug my heels in and am saying NO MORE!!!

  52. I wish I’d read this (and felt this way) eleven years ago. I feel like I’ve now wasted my life in 20 year marriage “for the sake of our child”. Now I’m 44, bitter, angry, and miserable.

  53. Funny thing. I was just about to email you on your thoughts about something like this.
    After 2 years of traumatic process of going through the hardest heartbreak with the was-fiance, i bumped into him and his current gf. IN another country even. The girl who he hooked up with 3 weeks after he told me ‘he’s done’ which was 2 months before our wedding.
    It’s been 2 years, and i cried, lost, and felt miserable.
    I thought i’d gotten over it, because i’ve found a guy who truly adores me, and yet, the moment i saw the was-fiance and his bitch, i crumbled, got a panic attack, and ran the other direction. Something which i wasn’t prepared for. Haven’t i healed? Why am i still afraid of seeing him?
    He didn’t see me thank god, but still. It was a horrible experience, and now i’m 10 steps back again. i feel recluse, and almost agoraphobic for fear i’d bump into him again.

    I’m thinking, for f*ks sake, when will it end!?

  54. What timing…. I am in a wedding very soon where I have to toast to a situation just like the one you describe. I have tried my best to believe what my friend believes – that he has changed and that although he lied and lied (with excuses of mental problems and drugs), that they will live happily ever after in the end. They counseling, the promises, all of it – it makes me sick because I know the bottom will all drop out at some point. As a good friend, like before, I will be there for her when this happens (which I sadly believe is inevitable) because what else can I do? She loves him, she trusts him and even though it’s clear that his moral compass is facing the wrong direction, she can only see the picture in her head of the white picket fences and happy family times that he’s been promising her since he came back crawling…

    I guess it will be what it will be…

  55. Stephanie,

    I so needed this post today. There wasn’t cheating but there were secrets about money and various things…. and I kept going back. Done.

  56. This also really hit home today. I’ve wasted 16 years with a man who I knew from the start I should not have married. But as you say, the invitations were sent, wedding dress was fitted, etc. and I felt I couldn’t get out. 16 years anf 4 kids later here I am still miserable realizing that he was not the right person for me.

    I’ve done some pretty horrible things. Yes I was the one who cheated, lied, and blamed it on him. In reality I did it because I was miserable and looking to make myself happy. I’ve since taken responsibility for my actions.

    So now I am here, in that spot, figuring out how to get out. Figuring how to sell the house, move the kids, manage money, manage schedules, etc. I’m on the five year plan-it’s the soonest I can get out without totally screwing myself financially and my kids. But I feel good in that I have a plan.

    Thank you for reposting this and for all the stuff you write. I am a long time lurker who really enjoys reading what you write.

  57. What if it has nothing to do with cheating but everything to do with his money, careers and finances? What if his dreams of being an “entrepreneur” are negatively effecting your desire to move forward in the relationship and even after repeatedly begging him to “get a job” he outright refuses? Is that a deal breaker? Is that reason to end things or is it too superficial? I would want him to support my dreams, no matter how unrealistic, but at the same time I want someone who will be able to support a family. Am I flashing back to the 50’s? Am I sounding too dated?

  58. I really needed to read this today. My now ex left for boot camp at the end of June & a few days later I received an email from another woman claiming to be his girlfriend as well. I had, had suspicions but could never “prove” anything. I didn’t want to believe her at first but I’ve decided to trust my gut & called it off. Because no one deserves to be lied to by the person they thought was their best friend. And I don’t think I could live with myself if I stayed, always worried. So thank you, thank you for helping me remind myself that it’s not worth staying no matter how much I miss him at this moment.

  59. I couldn’t agree more. I hate it when people accuse me of being a coward because I got divorced. Seriously??!! Coward, my ass. That took all the courage I could muster! Or they say I’m a quitter, but they don’t consider the nine years of NOT quitting I did before I finally got smart. Sometimes quitting is the smartest thing you can do for yourself. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

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