I have realized that now during our affair recovery process I need him to take care of me more than ever. I am exhausted.  So I explore how affair recovery for people pleasers involves challenging societal codes and embracing self-care to heal and thrive.

affair recovery for people pleasersBy Linda

A couple of weeks ago we had our affair recovery session on self-esteem after an affair.  Obviously this is a huge problem for the betrayed spouse and Jeffrey Murrah pointed out that it is especially difficult for someone who tends to be a “people pleaser”. 

They depend on their spouse for approval and to determine their self worth.  When a betrayal takes place and the cheater conveys that it was the betrayed spouse’s fault or that they were lacking in some area this information is devastating to the betrayed.

This information allowed me to look at myself and realize in many ways that I am most certainly a people pleaser.  I come from a long line of people pleasers.  Unfortunately it is in my genes. 

I have concluded that it is something that I should look at negatively rather than being a positive personality trait.

I don’t want to go on the rest of my life being this way.  And I definitely don’t want to pass this trait on to my daughters.

So I decided to combat this situation the way I have with everything this past two years – acknowledge it, find as much information that I can about it, and somehow begin to change it. 

As I searched the internet for characteristics, behaviors, etc. I found a list of books that I felt would be helpful.  The first being “Too Good For Her Own Good” by Claudia Bepko and Jo-Ann Krestan.  I really liked this book because it validated many of the behaviors that I have displayed in our marriage and the implications of those behaviors.

See also  47 Lessons Learned From an Emotional Affair

The authors state that women live by a code labeled the Goodness Code.  They state that this code defines what it means to be a female. 

While many of us probably feel some freedom from the traditional aspects of these hidden rules that seem to impact our mothers, they still have a lingering hold on our subconscious.

We may have changed our behavior in many of these areas, but the fact that we often feel mysteriously bad in spite of these changes in a signal that the code is still in effect.

One aspect of the code is Be Attractive.  A woman is as good as she looks.  The next is Be a Lady.  A good woman stays in control.  She does not get mad or have needs, or eat, drink or be merry. The last one, Be Unselfish and of Service, means a good woman lives to give.

Regardless how crazy these codes appear, I  believe I lived by everyone of them.

The authors then go on to explain how each of us lives the code.  The one that resonated with me was “Be Competent Without Complaint.”  This is when a good woman does it all and never looks overwhelmed.

I always felt that I needed to be responsible, competent and able to do it all.  I needed a career, marriage, motherhood and housekeeper – without asking for help.  If I had to ask then I wasn’t good enough to follow through on all of my jobs. I didn’t have needs.  My job was to make sure that everyone else was happy and cared for.

See also  It’s Tough To Stop an Emotional Affair

Unfortunately that type of thinking made me very tired, unhappy and resentful.

Since I was following the code, I rarely displayed my anger or asked for someone to take care of me.

Looking back before Doug’s emotional affair, I realized how desperately I needed for Doug to take care of me.  It was the major cause of my unhappiness and my discontent in our marriage at the time.  I needed him to cover me up with a blanket and give me a pillow when I fell asleep on the couch every night and tell me it was okay.  He should have hugged me and comforted me when I was so stressed that I would go off on one of my tangents.  I needed to feel that it was okay for someone to take care of me.  It was okay to be selfish. I would still be loved and respected.

I also have realized that now during our affair recovery process I need Doug to take care of me more than ever.

There are days that I feel myself drifting away.  I feel like I am on the ocean and I don’t have the strength to pull myself back to shore. I long for Doug’s strong body to swim out to get me and pull me to shore and cover me up with a warm blanket.

I need him to take care of me, and help me heal from the pain I sometimes still feel.  I need for him to provide the safety and security that I am missing in my life.  I have concluded that I am exhausted from following The Code.  I don’t want to be good anymore.

See also  Cheating Spouses - 6 Reasons Why Their Affair Won’t Last


    23 replies to "Affair Recovery and Living by The Code"

    • Kathy

      Linda, I can’t thank you enough for this post. This is me to a “T”. I went straight to Amazon.com and ordered this book.

      • Doug

        Kathy, Thanks, if I can think of one positive thing that has come out of Doug’s affair it would be that I had the opportunity to look at myself, learn about what makes me happy and how I can grow into a better person. Everything that I have learned in the last two years has been enlightening. I feel that I am no longer walking through life in a trance and allowing everything to remain as it was. I am learning, growing and striving for a more content and fulfilled life. I definitely have a long way to go but I haven’t given up on the process. I am also proud that Doug has come along in the journey, I see so many signs of him growing and changing. It was needed on both of our parts, it is just unfortunate that it took the devastation of an affair to open both of our eyes. Linda

        • Melvin

          Hi Linda,

          Great topic; appreciate the thoughtful insight and book reference. A question if I may. Are you doing anything new these days just for yourself (after the affair) that you would not think of doing previously (before the affair) ? Specifically, something just for you, for your own enjoyment. I am thinking like dancing lessons, exercise classes, shopping trips for yourself, etc. Not implying that you are being selfish or anything like that – just curious. Feel free to elaborate also.
          Thank you.

          • Doug

            Melvin, yes! Early in our recovery I realized that I had taken on too much of the responsibility for our lives and our marriage. I pulled back on everything. I let things go that I normally wouldn’t have. I began going out with friends, exercising, just sitting in a chair and reading. At first I felt very guilty, it was difficult for me, but now I feel that I am on my way. I know that in other areas I have a long way to go, such as voicing my opinion, asking for what I need, not taking a lot of the responsibility for our marriage. I feel that trying to be so good and competent took away the opportunity for Doug to really prove what a good husband he is. When I think about it I wouldn’t want to live with me sometimes either, it was just too much to handle. (Oh I want to take dancing lessons also, I think it would set me free.) Linda

        • D

          It is funny how you mention that it took an affair to open up your eyes. I have heard this a lot that maybe his affair was a good thing. Good thing? Not so sure……absolutely not a good thing. However, the affair has opened up our eyes to what was broken in our marriage. We are mending these fences and building a stronger relationship. We are more aware of communicating our needs to each other and our children in a more positive and respectful manner. I am so glad that we are doing this more instead of just fighting about meaningless things. The little things do not matter as much or we have worked TOGETHER to make the little things work. Our MO before was always YOU DO IT……not WE will do it.

          I am learning that this is a new start. We are not going to revisit the past but live in the present and hope for the best future together possible.

    • Lesli Doares

      I hear you and I see this in my practice all the time. I believe there is a true misuse or misunderstanding of the word “need”. If it truly is a need, then you can’t choose to have it or not. No one would say they didn’t “need” food. We all have needs-the problem is that emotional needs, unlike physical ones, aren’t the same for everyone. This is where the confusion and challenge come in.

      I also strongly object to the term “selfish” when it comes to self care. It is not “selfish” to meet your own needs. It’s selfish when you meet them without regard to others.

      Keep the great posts coming.

      • Doug

        Lesli, thank you for contributing to our sight. Could you recommend any resources or good books on this subject? You are correct about using the word “selfish”, a mother who takes time away from the children to exercise is not being selfish, unfortunately many of us have learned that we need to put everyone first, our needs are not important, and we feel guilty if we do anything for ourselves. I believe that is why it is important to have a good support system that encourages a woman to spend time on herself and does not condone her for doing so. Linda

    • roller coaster rider

      Boy, how much of what you said today applies to the ways I’ve lived my life, Linda. It’s kind of tricky for me, though, figuring out how to be the person I want to be with the character qualitites I think are important without just losing perspective completely and making it all about pleasing everyone else. Thanks for this post.

      • Doug

        roller coaster rider, I am also struggling with this. I find pleasure in caring a others, I like being a “good” person, but I have realized that I have to be more assertive and have boundaries. I believe that being aware of some of the behaviors that I engage in are not in my best interest has helped tremendously. Now I am learning how to handle these situations differently. It really goes against my nature but I have realized it is not healthy for me to continue being this way. Linda

    • Paula

      The thoughts of many, if not all of us, Linda. I think we do this (at least partially) to safeguard ourselves from straying partners, if we are superwoman/man, no partner would ever stray from our near perfection! (Although, of course we feel anything but perfect, with the strain of trying to achieve it all.) Didn’t work, damn! Just serves to make you more unhappy when they do. It is a VERY hard habit to break, as you say, it’s hardwired into many of us.

    • Paula

      Just to add, my other half got angry with me this morning for bringing this up, as he says he was trying to tell me this for years! A big part of the attraction of the OW was her selfishness, weird, huh?!! She has absolutely no understanding of putting herself last, it’s always been all about her; which explains a lot about how she’s got to 44 with no long term relationship behind her, other than with her young son, who gets shunted about to whoever will help look after him, which sounds bitchy, but this woman is very career oriented (she’s had to be, she’s always been the sole breadwinner, so you can’t really blame her) and travels a lot in her high-powered career. This is the frustration I have, she is very able to just sweep it all aside and carry on, no damage done to her, and I still obsess about wishing she could have seen things from my perspective, and I know it’s not healthy, but can’t seem to stop myself. But I don’t want to be that self-centred, it does feel good to help, as Linda mentioned, but I also know it is a habit that needs to be tempered a little. New shrink next week, have fallen into another deep hole lately, damnit!

      • Doug

        Paula, you know every time I read a book about relationships,personalities, etc. I find myself thinking about Doug’s relationship with Tanya and if she had a certain desirable personality type, or really knew how to succeed in a relationship, really knew how to keep a man happy etc. It is all really stupid because I believe it really had little to do with her personality and more to do with how she saw him in the beginning of the relationship and how she treated him. She gave him attention, made him feel desirable, etc. I think it is really difficult to actually know the full person when you are only seeing her in the best light. Once she became more demanding and jealous and Doug showed his stubborn and impatient side I believe that things were not so rosy. It is really hard to try to compare how the OP was to us, it really is a losing battle, I think it had less to do with personality and more to do with attention and admiration. Linda

    • Roller coaster rider

      Another post that I’ve been chewing on all day! Paula, I am sad to hear about the depression and hope for relief for you…but I think while people pleasing is not good, having an affair is the ultimate act of selfishness and so I guess the middle ground of healthy self-care combined with boundaries and being able to express opinions and needs would be the way to go. My friend told me this morning that my H’s affair was just another way of getting high. He wasn’t out there saying, “wow, what a great person, think I’ll throw away my life and my wife’s sense of well-being to pursue a relationship with her!” No, she was just there when I wasn’t and made herself very available. And also very selfish. I sure don’t want to be that person.

    • Roller coaster rider

      Oh, and Paula, just because it seems like the OW just waltzes away with no consequences, don’t be so sure. We haven’t seen the end of the story yet. Maybe she really knows inside that she is a cheat and a thief.

    • Paula

      Thanks Linda. Yeah, I know, but I knew this woman, for even longer than he did, we grew up together, met at middle school. I just want to stop thinking about any of it, it’s so unhealthy to keep it on a loop in your head, but I’ve done a lot of work in the last two years, one month (and counting!!!) and still haven’t found the OFF switch, even through some separation time it was still on full, even then, I got no respite, and I’m so tired of it. Glad I’m getting some more help, but bloody sick of what I’ve turned into.

    • changedforever

      Wow – this was me too Linda. VERY demanding position in my (casino/hotel) industry – raising 3 children all at home (then 20-17 & 15 at time of H’s affair last summer,) I was the ultimate family (& extended) supporter, never missed a birthday, special event, house kept immaculate, did the ‘sleeping on the couch thing too,’ mostly out of complete exhaustion! Didn’t see ‘ it’ coming – dealt with son’s family trauma & he & I ‘triumphed’ that (only to find out that H was cheating w/a coworker while I was ‘saving my son’s life,’ thru it all.) But I was ‘living by the code’ and I hate it that I was…
      [“Be Competent Without Complaint.” This is when a good woman does it all and never looks overwhelmed.] This one summed it up for me – This…WAS me! But never, ever again…….

    • JS

      I read this post yesterday and purchased the book you mentioned today. I’ve been reading it for over an hour, and I find myself sobbing at some parts. I’ve wasted so much time in my 40 years being a people pleaser to folks who crapped all over me, including my husband. He said I wasn’t attractive enough any more, that I didn’t do enough for him, and that she made him feel like he “still had it.” Even after all I’ve put up with, I tried to adjust even more, post-EA, to make him happy. Meanwhile, he doesn’t talk about anything he doesnt want to and continually asks when I’m going to get over it. I’m so pissed right now. Thank you for the book reference. It’s been a tremendous eye-opener, even just pages into it.

      • Doug

        JS, it was a good book, but it also left me a little angry, I am not sure if the anger was toward myself or toward Doug. I do know that if I hadn’t been such a “good” wife I definitely would have handled Dday much differently. I look back and think how stupid I was that I allowed his opinions and comments to affect me so much. I have just ordered another book titled Too nice for your own good. I am pretty sure it is similar as the other, I will let you know. Linda

        • JS

          That’s exactly how I’m feeling about D Day. I think if I had not been such a people pleaser, I would have shown him the door. Then, rather than him setting the recovery rules, I would have had the upper hand and likely more respect for myself at this point, and he’d have to prove his way back in. I’m also unsure who I’m more mad at – him or me. The book is helping me see this is a reality in all areas of my life, and it’s beyond time to change that. Doormat, no more! Yes, please do post about the other book. Thank you so much for your reply and for all you put on this website. It’s been a lifeline for me.

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