I have a theory that some people who have affairs have attachment disorders from childhood and are actually cheating to avoid commitment.

cheating to avoid commitmentBy Sarah P.

Do you know how to spot a commitment-phobic person? It’s easy to spot the glaring examples of these people, but not so easy to spot clandestine commitment phobes. (I will call them CCP for short.)

Most people have probably seen or heard about the film Runaway Bride that starred Julia Roberts. Each time Julia’s character got close to the alter, she slipped on her running shoes and ran away from the church as if her life depended on it. She gave a reason for her behavior in the film: she did not get married because she did not yet understand herself.

Of course, in the end, she cultivates her own uniqueness and then she hunts down the man that she had left at the alter. She proposes to him and this leads to their actual marriage in a small, private ceremony. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Julia’s character is so obviously commitment phobic that it is hard to miss. What is more obvious than running away from the alter on multiple occasions? But, most commitment phobic people are much less obvious. In fact, clandestine commitment phobics may even appear to desire marriage. The worst part about clandestine commitment phobic individuals is that you do not see them coming until you have already been blindsided by their actions.

The origins of commitment phobia can be found in childhood. People develop attachment patterns based on their relationships with their parents or primary caregivers.

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Secure Attachment

Children develop secure attachment patterns when their parents lovingly meet their needs as infants and children. Their parents are engaged with their children to meet their needs for food, cleaning, and comfort. These parents respond to their child’s cries immediately and with love. This causes a child to trust a parent since they know that all if their emotional, physical, and social needs will be met.

These children often develop into trusting adults with a solid sense of self-esteem. These adults ate able to give and receive love in healthy and constructive ways. They are generally able to have good and mutually satisfying relationships with others. As adults, these people are generally not commitment phobic at all. They have a deep and abiding trust in others as established early in their lives by their parents.

Attachment Disorders

On the other hand, a child can develop attachment disorders due to several different experiences in their early lives. For example, they can develop attachment disorders if:

  • A parent does not respond to their cries or only does so occasionally and randomly.
  • A parent does not pay attention to their child in general. For example, the parent may not make eye contact, might not talk to their baby, or even acknowledge the baby because the parent is too preoccupied with whatever is happening around him or her.
  • A parent does not change or feed their child when he or she is hungry.
  • A parent physically or sexually abuses a child.
  • If there is general abuse in the home, even if not targeted toward the child. An example of this would be in a home where a wife is battered, but the children only witness the battering.
  • If a parent neglects a child physically, emotionally, or socially.
  • If I child is moved from caretaker to caretaker at random points and has no stability in his or her life.
  • If a parent has issues with drug or alcohol abuse.
  • If the parent is extremely narcissistic and only attends to the child when the parents need something versus when the child needs something.
  • A parent is away for extended periods of time, such as in cases where the parent has to leave the state or the country for his or her job.
  • When parents get divorced
  • Children who have been shuffled from one foster home to the next
  • Parents are emotionally abusive to their child and often tease their child, invalidate their child, and/or emotionally terrorize or threaten their child.

Children can develop several different types of attachment disorders: anxious/preoccupied, dismissive/avoidant, and fearful/avoidant. Often these attachment styles are part of the broader definition of and diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder as per the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Anxious Preoccupied.  
These adults have an extreme need for emotionally intimate relationships and can easily fall into codependency as adults. Some only feel good when they are around the person to whom they are primarily attached, such as a spouse. Often times these people have very low self-esteem and are afraid of being abandoned. For example, I know one person who suffers from very well-hidden anxiety and only feels emotionally safe and calm in the presence of his wife. His anxiety stems from childhood.

Dismissive Avoidant.  These people are incredibly independent and secretly believe that they don’t need close relationships and that they can look after themselves. But, the difference between an independent person and a dismissive avoidant person is that the dismissive avoidant person does not want close relationships. These people view themselves as invulnerable and come across as not needing any kind of close attachment whatsoever. They also do not want others to depend on them. There is no give-and-take in a relationship with this type of person. They simply will not give or let others get too close to them, even friends.

Fearful avoidant.  People who were sexually abused or who have experienced a profound trauma in their lives often develop this type of attachment style. They have a deep desire to get close to others, but they can never trust others and so they simultaneously push them away. They perceive close relationships to be associated with pain and so they are afraid to get too close because closed ties to anyone become synonymous with pain. They expect to be abandoned.

couple crisis

The Result

Around 70% of people do not experience changes in attachment styles over the course of their lives. The other 30% of people can have their attachment styles altered for the good or for the bad. For example, with extensive therapy someone with an attachment disorder might be able to develop a secure attachment style. On the other hand, someone with a secure attachment style might develop an attachment disorder due to traumatic life events as an adult.

This is where the topic of an affair enters the picture. I have a theory that some people who have affairs have attachment disorders from childhood. I believe that the dismissive/avoidant attachment type is certainly more prone to affairs than the other types.


I believe this is because an affair prevents a wayward spouse from getting too emotionally close to or dependent upon the betrayed spouse. If a wayward spouse has a spouse and a lover, then he or she does not have to get too close to either person. In fact, the affair is the perfect scenario because most lovers know that their married affair partner has little time for them. Often, they only see each other in stolen moments. The lover also knows that because the affair must be kept secret, the married affair partner will not be there emotionally for their lover on a regular basis.

The lover knows they will spend important holidays without their married affair partner and that they will never fully have access to their affair partner emotionally or physically. In fact, I believe that some singletons with the same dismissive/avoidant attachment style easily have affairs with married people. The dismissive/avoidant singleton often wants companionship, but they do not want the give-and-take that a normal relationship requires. They know that it will never be serious and so this allows them to have intimate connection without getting too close, too committed, or too involved.

If the married affair partner and the singleton both have the dismissive/avoidant attachment styles, then these affairs could potentially carry on for years and both parties are getting their unhealthy needs met in this way. Each has the unhealthy need for intimacy without real intimacy, companionship without real companionship, and friendship without real friendship. Real intimacy, companionship, and friendship are things that can only be experienced on a profound level with two people who are devoted to each other.

A Loving and Supportive Marriage is Good for Your Health

Affairs are like eating a junk food from McDonald’s while in the car. However, eating junk food from McDonald’s does not nourish the body, feed the mind, or cause a healthy body. Affairs do that to the soul.

On the other hand, committed and devoted marriages are like a full, gourmet five-course meal for two at a candlelit table. In the five-course meal, good conversation flows, the body is nourished, and it is a whole experience unto itself. Committed and secure marriages are good for the soul, the body, and the spirit. Research has shown that strong and secure marriages create health benefits for both partners. One study found that:

“Marriage cheers you up, improves your diet and helps you live longer, researchers say. It brings better mental and physical health, reducing the chance of premature death by 15 per cent, according to major studies in seven European countries. And the longer a marriage lasts the more the rewards accumulate – the only catch being that the relationship has to be loving and supportive. ‘Marriage and other forms of partnership can be placed along a sliding scale of commitment, with greater commitment conferring greater benefit,’ he added.‘That marriage generally indicates a deeper commitment might explain why marriage is associated with better mental health outcomes than cohabiting. Cohabiting relationships tend to be less enduring. The most widely accepted explanation is that being in a committed relationship means better social support is available. ‘Commitment seems to provide networks of supportive and helpful relationships, beginning with the spouse or partner, leading to more healthy lifestyles and better emotional and physical health.’ Many married couples are often unaware of the advantages, they said, but a study of one billion ‘person years’ in seven countries found husbands and wives were 10-15 per cent less likely to die prematurely than the population as a whole.” (1)

Some people with commitment phobia are fortunate it if they marry at all. I believe commitment phobia is being magnified in generation X and millennials.  These are the first two generations in recorded history that came of age after Roe vs. Wade came into law. These are the first generations that have access to birth control and women have access to professional careers where they can support themselves. There is less pressure on these generations than any generation prior. They simply do not need to marry and can lead promiscuous lives without consequence.

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The stigma of women having multiple partners has also decreased.  There is no longer a need for marriage and this is an environment where commitment phobia can thrive. People can stay single and simply use the excuse that they are looking for ‘the one.’ Only, they can spend their entire lives looking for ‘the one’ and many will hardly notice. John Grohol, PsyD says this about commitment phobia:

“People with a commitment phobia long and want a long-term connection with another person, but their overwhelming anxiety prevents them from staying in any relationship for too long. If pressed for a commitment, they are far more likely to leave the relationship than to make the commitment. Or they may initially agree to the commitment, then back down days or weeks later, because of their overwhelming anxiety and fears. Some people with relationship anxiety may confuse positive feelings of excitement for another person and the potential of a relationship with the feelings of anxiety. For instance, normal feelings of anticipation or may be misconstrued by the person as a panic reaction, or general negative anxiousness. Some may also just have a difficult time resolving the inherent conflict of romantic relationships — the craving of intimacy while wanting to retain their own individuality and freedom.” (2)

My Experience with a Commitment Phobe

I can say personally that I ran into a couple of these types during my time dating. There was one gentleman whom I have nicknamed “the use by date” guy. He and I dated for several months in my early 20’s and I really fell for him. I viewed him as someone I could have married because we were so compatible.  In fact, it was the late 90’s and one day with him felt as if it were a page out of a romance a novel.

You be the judge: We were having a 4th of July picnic for two at a small lake and no one else was around. We sat on a blanket by the lake and ate a picnic lunch. I realized I had fallen in love with him, but I refused to say anything about it. All was going well and then a flash thunderstorm began. We had no umbrellas so we took shelter under some trees. My sundress was getting soaked and so he chivalrously wrapped me up in his overcoat. He looked at me with his aqua green eyes and said, “I am afraid I have fallen in love with you. You are everything I desire.” I could not believe it. Was I hearing correctly? It was as if I were in a perfect dream, only it was actually happening.

Then he kissed me and held me. Soon, the rain stopped and we returned to what was left of our picnic lunch. He talked about me moving to his city, about 60 miles away, while he finished his PhD. Before I met him, I had debated getting an MFA at his university.  Here I was sitting with my dream guy, he just told me he loved me, and now he was suggesting I move to his city so that we can be together more often.

We began talking about the future and he was waxing eloquent about where we would live, what he would cook for dinner, and how we would be perfect for one another. I agreed and I was ready to burst with excitement, but I did not want to show it. Part of me wondered if something so wonderful could actually be happening to me. I mean, I was crazy about this man at the time. So, I listened and hid my excitement.

His next words went something like this: “You know, I make a wonderful pecan crusted pork loin and I can’t wait to make dinner for you. This is going to work out so well… When I was in undergrad, I had my undergraduate girlfriend. But, when I entered my Master’s degree, I decided to have different girlfriend for that phase of my life. I am so happy that you will be my PhD girlfriend…but you must understand that you are only my PhD girlfriend and so there will be no hard feelings when I move on to postdoctoral work…” At that point, I interrupted him and said, “What? You mean to say that you are putting a ‘use by date’ on our relationship and that I am no more than a milk carton that will expire?!” Yes, that flew out of my mouth.

He was taken aback and he did not understand why I would not be okay with it. I explained to him that if we were in love and getting along well that I would not want it to end—that I would want to progress to something even more serious and not break up. Again, he did not understand my point of view and believed what he wanted was perfectly normal.

At the end of the date, he said: “We will go forward and you will understand that this relationship will only last for the next three years.” I told him that such an arrangement would not work. He told me basically to take his arrangement or to say goodbye then and there. I chose to say goodbye then and there and as he walked back to his car, he turned around, tipped his hat, gave me a smile as if he were the Cheshire cat and said, “your loss.” Then he got into his red convertible and drove away.

At the time, my 20-something self was shattered. I wondered if I should have taken his deal. But, my self-esteem and sheer will was stronger than that. I moved to the coast several months later. After I had moved, he emailed me and told me what a connection we had had. He apologized for being so flippant. That gave me a little hope and I suggested we start a long distance relationship. I still had lingering feelings that would not go away. His answer was “no.” He felt we had a connection, but he “didn’t do long distance.” So, it was he lived 2,500 miles away and I stayed by the coast.

I soon met the man who was to be my fiancé. The “use by date guy” would call from time to time and complain about his current girlfriend. Three years later, I was engaged to the man I was supposed to marry, but he left me for the woman with whom he was cheating. After my fiancé left, “use by date” guy called more often to complain about his girlfriend. He was living with a girl whose parents had some real issues, according to him. He never wanted to listen to how I was dealing with a rough break-up even though he (at that time) said I was a good friend. I met the man who later became my actual husband and lost contact with the “use by date” guy.

About 14 years later, the “use by date” guy emailed me to announce he was coming to my city and he wanted to meet. He asked if he could call. I still had the same cell number I had for several years. I told him he could feel free to call me, if he wished. So, he called my cell phone and as soon as I said ‘Hello” he launched into a long diatribe about how foolish he was and how he never did find the love of his life. I tried interrupting, but he wanted me to hear him out. He said that given time and having dated a lot of ‘quality women’ he realized that he should have married me and he even said he was ready for a family and wanted to see me soonest.

I was shocked, but he was obviously up to his old tricks and was trying to reel me in for whatever sick game he wanted to play. I have to admit that I found great satisfaction in telling him I was already married, had been married for quite a while, and had two lovely children.

For whatever reason, he thought I was kidding. He told me he simply could not believe I was married. (I guess I was dog food, eh?) So, I repeated that I was married, had always been looking for a husband and not a fling, and that I had two lovely children. Then, he got defensive and started to tell me about all of the impressive women he had dated after me. I stopped him and asked what it was he wanted and why he was calling.

In that moment, he actually opened up. He told me about his married parents who hated each other; he told me of a miserable childhood fraught with narcissistic parents and how he was the scapegoat and his brother was the golden child; he said that his parents were so miserable that the prospect of ever getting married had always frightened him. He told me that the girlfriend whom he would call and complain about had been with him for almost ten years. But, ten years later, he still was not sure that he wanted to marry her and so she had had an affair and dumped him.

After that, he said he had dated many ‘impressive women’ but also said that the only person he had ever connected with on a deep level was me. He also told me that he had been in therapy and his therapist said he was a narcissist. (Go figure.) He asked me (only half kidding) why I had not waited for him to come to his senses so that we could be together. He spoke of promotion after promotion and world travel to exotic places. But, he admitted he was secretly jealous of married colleagues who had loving wives and small children.  Nevertheless, he also mentioned that many of his married colleagues were secretly jealous of him; they had already tired of the committed life and had one foot out the door.

I listened to his regrets, his fears, his failures and his successes. After all, he knew the charade was over and he no longer needed to hide who he was from me. He laid out all of his insecurities and told me who he was. I was a  safe person with whom he could be vulnerable—exactly because I was married. I wished him good luck and got off the phone. He has not contacted me since and I think it is best that way.

I have wondered if he was sincere. Had he really gained insight and was he really ready for a relationship? I have also often wondered why he set it up to fail and why he hurt me so much. I had long ago told him how badly he had hurt me; he had heard my tears on the phone years ago.

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Inside the Mind of a Commitment Phope

During our chat, he brought up some very interesting ideas. He discussed in detail his 40-something male coworkers who felt trapped by almost 20 years of marriage and longed for the single life. When their wives were not around, he said that these coworkers asked him the secret to dating beautiful women and if he could arrange meetings with girls in their 20’s for them. I do not know if these men were commitment phobic men prior to getting married or if they were having a mid-life crisis. But, I would imagine these were non-committal men who halfheartedly married.

Assuming that these men were the later, I wanted to talk about what was going on in their minds. When commitment phobic men marry, they oftentimes find ways to escape an intense emotional relationship with their partner. Often they disappear onto their fishing boats or onto the golf course on days where quality time with their partners could happen.

When they are home in the evenings, they can often be found watching the news during dinner and retiring to their home offices afterwards. Their wives may beg for more quality time together, but they just grumble, become passive-aggressive, and end up withdrawing even further. If their wives want to ‘talk about feelings’ they get a particular look in their eye that speaks of horror unseen. These men would rather be sent to the store to pick up feminine products — anything as long as it did not involve talking about feelings.

Honestly though, the above are examples of stereotypes. There are a million subtle ways to be married and to remain emotionally distant. Even the slightest look or move of a hand can silently say: approach me if you dare. So it is that spouses get the message that they need to keep their distance.

Committed Relationships are Frightening

People who are afraid of commitment may have been abandoned as children or alternatively they may have been smothered as children. Either way, entering into a committed relationship is frightening.

For the abandoned child, being in a serious relationship can often magnify feelings of abandonment and the fear of that person leaving. For that adult, it is safer to be the one who ends it so that they can be the abandoner instead of the abandonee.  After all, the child learned long ago that loving someone equals being left by that person.

For the smothered child, they learned long ago that some forms of love can be suffocating. Committing to someone in a close relationship can feel like actual suffocation and bring on bouts of panic since this is a feeling that invokes anxiety. They do not want to be assimilated into the Borg and will do anything to avoid it. For those who did not watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg was a predatory entity and it traveled the universe assessing every kind of biological and technological entity. Its purpose was to assimilate those entities into itself, which it viewed as the ultimate perfection. However, this assimilation came with the price of existing in an eternal mind-prison from which one could never escape. When you look at it that way, can you blame those who a deathly afraid of having their identity and freedom snuffed out?

A Brief Case Study

A man named Michael* has been in several serious relationships with great women. But, he simply could commit and the reason could be found in his family of origin. Psychiatrist Mark Banschick presents his case study:

“Michael himself isn’t even aware of how frightened he is of commitment… Michael came from a stable, intact family. But looks can be deceiving. His father devoted all his energies to a successful supermarket business and hardly paid attention to his kids, leaving Michael at home with two younger siblings and a demanding mother. To escape his mother’s tirades, Michael devoted himself to pleasing her, but he now carries a deeply ingrained fear of serious intimacy. Michael doesn’t want to be his father, and in many ways, he’s not. He’s intuitive and loving—but he still can’t commit. He’s been in an intensely committed relationship before—with his mother—and he doesn’t want to be trapped again. Commitment feels dangerous.”( 3)

In the case study above, it was clear that Michael was unable to get close to wonderful women because of the emotional incest that had been forced on him by his mom. He is an example of the smothered child who ends up feeling like a close relationship is a life and death matter.

In addition to having been smothered, Michael also had to give up his identity. He had learned how to suppress his own identity in an effort to please his mother. Since he was required to please his mom, he had learned that there was no such thing as emotional safety or unconditional regard.

Michael had been obliterated by his mother—the smothering he experienced allowed him no physical space to stand apart from her and the suppression of his identity as an individual also had been suppressed to please her. In essence, there was not space for Michael at all; neither emotionally nor physically. Understandably, he did not want to recreate this relationship with another person. His fear drove him away from the intimacy and companionship he craved. Intimacy did not feel like a warm, fuzzy place to be—it felt like a cold trap.

Sometimes the longing for connection and intimacy wins out in the short term. It temporarily overpowers the fear of commitment. When these people get married, the fear will always return and it often returns after the honeymoon phase wears off. The infatuation and high that people get from new relationships can only go so far. When it wears off, the person who is afraid of getting close acts out.

“One of the best ways for a person with a fear of commitment to keep their relationship at a safe distance is to get into a relationship that is designed to go nowhere. Usually, this relationship takes the form of an affair because the commitment phobic person knows there is hardly any chance for the partner to become involved with them in the longterm. They are basically relying on the fact it’s unlikely the other person will leave their partner in order to be with them…” (4).

The scenario above is a common one since most married people, in the long run, do not leave their spouse. For the person who fears intimacy, an affair truly is the perfect scenario.

I recently thought of a song from the 1990’s: Torn by Aussie Natalie Imbruglia. I like how the song describes what it is like to date a commitment phobic man from a woman’s perspective. Or, that’s at least what I believe it is about because that’s how it felt for me when I was in a relationship with “use by date” guy. But, notice how the song could also describe situations where there has been an extramarital affair. So, really it applies to both cases.

The video that goes along with this song is the most interesting part of all. Notice how in the beginning of the video she is singing and has a nice relationship with a man and they live in an apartment. Notice how the video progresses and their lives are being interfered with by other people who randomly walk through. Finally, toward the end of the video, the walls of her apartment are torn down and replaced by what appears to be a bar or another dark spot. At the end, both she and the man/boyfriend from the video stare at the camera with exasperated expressions as the camera fades out.



What about Women Who are Commitment Phobes?

I have spoken a lot about commitment phobic men in this post and now I would like to talk about commitment phobic women. It is often hard to spot these women until they get to their mid-30’s and beyond. This is because their behavior up until that point can appear to be normative female behavior for women seeking marriage.

For example, when women are in their teens and 20’s, they are all looking for a Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet. But, I am not referring to a Disney prince; I am referring to each woman’s version of “the ideal man” – aka her own personal prince charming.  

Sometimes this vision of the ideal man begins in the tween and early teen years. When I was 12, all of the tweens and teens had Duran Duran posters all over their walls. Depending on who you spoke with, they either liked Simon le Bon or John Taylor. Most girls liked John Taylor, but I was in the Simon camp. In the music videos, Simon had a hopelessly European air to him and he was more masculine than the others. (He wore slightly less make up…)

As women develop, they refine their own versions of their personal prince charming. Some women envision a muscular blond-haired, blue-eyes, man with broad, muscular shoulders wearing some kind of uniform. Others envision a tall, handsome, quiet bookish man with mysterious eyes and tousled dark hair. Some have a weak spot for men in the military or on the police force while others swoon over bad-boy singers. Each woman has a list of personality traits of her own personal prince charming, has envisioned what kind of house they might live in one day, and has even thought of what her wedding might or might not look like. Of course, not all women feel this way, but it is safe to say that a majority of women have defined in detail their own personal prince charming and how life will feel when he is in the picture.

But there also exist many women who use the list of traits to a fault and will not even consider a man unless he meets all 20 criteria. I once knew a woman who literally had 30 different points of criteria for her personal prince charming. However, as most women approach their late 20’s and if they genuinely want marriage and a family, they start to question the list. They start to dissect each piece of criterion carefully and decide if it is a must-have or if it is flexible.

I knew another woman who was looking for a man who fit this description: he had to be at least 6’ feet tall, extremely muscular, with blue eyes and a full head of blond hair (with no hair loss). But, he also had to have an upper-middle class income, straight, white teeth, and he had to be funny and capable of entertaining her constantly. He had to be a member of her political party and have her exact (vague) religious views. He also was not “allowed” to be a smoker and someone who casually drank when she said it was okay.

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But, that was not all—he had to have eyes only for her and never notice any other women. But, he also had to be a heterosexual with a high libido (for her alone.) He had to be sensitive yet strong, he had to be able to read her moods, and he couldn’t have any “psychological issues” such as fleeting depression or occasional anxiety. Why? Because those things made him “damaged.” (As you are aware, I do not view depression or anxiety as traits that cause people to be damaged. They are very real diseases and just as serious as diseases like diabetes.) Finally, this man had to think she was the most amazing person who had ever walked the earth and love her unconditionally.

Okay… does anyone know this guy?

I have lived in or spent time in almost two-dozen countries and I have never met him. Of course, I was not looking for him, so I may not have noticed him at all. Still, I believe that it is more likely to see a herd of unicorns than to come across a man with every single trait or attribute on that list. If a woman hits her 30’s and keeps a list as rigid as this, it is highly likely that she is commitment phobic.

However, if you were to ask her if she were commitment phobic, she would likely get angry. In her mind, she merely has high standards that you do not understand. Here is an addended version of an article by Dyanne Brown, as told to the Huffington Post. Dyanne does an excellent job explaining commitment phobia and the ultimate fear behind it:

“I believed that every woman was supposed to be salivating to walk down the aisle and marry the man of her dreams. I kept waiting for that feeling to kick in for me. It’s been 36 years and I’m still waiting. Getting married always seemed to be a logical decision rather than an emotional pull. Until I was slapped in the face with the truth that I am commitment-phobic. But, my first thought was, women can’t be commitment-phobic. It’s a male trait. Surprisingly, it affects women more than anyone talks about and it is becoming more common as women attain more financial independence… I dated a couple of nice guys who seemed to really love my personality, showed me consistent attention and thought about the possibility of getting to know me better. But, I went running, screaming in the opposite direction. Instead, I set my sights on the guy who barely returned my phone calls and texts. He was distant, disappeared for days or weeks and he made sure I didn’t feel special for too long. He wasn’t giving up anything in his life for me. He was the one who made my stomach flip and the one I got excited over when he finally gave me a sliver of attention. He was safe. There’s nothing a commitment-phobic loves more than a guy who has no intention of ever committing. It’s a relationship of torturous relief… I’m terrified of making the wrong decision and feeling trapped in my life. I’m scared of choosing the wrong guy, the wrong career, and what if they upgrade my phone while I’m locked in a two-year plan? Two years is a long time. But, seriously, as long as I don’t make a decision or a commitment, I feel free. But, in choosing freedom, I miss out on all the benefits of being committed. I also avoid all the other disappointments that can come from being committed. I think the biggest one is the fear of abandonment and rejection. In my mind, I can’t be rejected if my heart is never fully invested.” (5)

The most important point here is that fear of abandonment is at the very center of commitment phobia. As Dyanne points out, she cannot be rejected if she does not bring her entire heart to the proverbial table. She holds back in an effort to avoid her deepest fear.


My Fear of Being Abandoned

Actually, I can absolutely relate to Dyanne. I was never commitment-phobic, but I was terrified of being abandoned. I had a very secure childhood, but the dating world showed me that being abandoned came with the territory. Men were just as fickle as women.

My reaction to this fear was not being commitment phobic, but instead moving at a snail’s pace in a relationship. I let the guy lead, I did not give a lot of myself, and I focused on being friends first. Often, men never got past the friend zone. Sometimes I wonder if my husband married me because I was the only single woman who was not aggressively pursuing him. When he was young and single, he would actually have patients slip him their phone numbers with pleas for a date. No joke.

I was just the opposite: aloof and not impressed by his alleged status. I was this way because I did not want to be a notch on someone else’s bed post and then discarded. Plus, I had just gone through a relationship meltdown of epic proportions with my ex-fiancé. I refused to be a pleasant stop on the way to a man getting married to someone else. I refused to be in a serious relationship unless I was about 95% sure that I would be chosen that time and not discarded.

So, I kept my distance because I was terribly afraid of going through what I went through with my ex-fiancé. To me, dating felt like a life and death situation. I knew that if I were to be too trusting and give myself away, I may not have survived the next break-up. Fortunately, he and I got married and we have so-far worked out.

Honestly, I look back at that time and realize I was standing on the precipice of the abyss. If I were to have taken one false step, down into the abyss I would have gone and that time I may not have ever gotten out. Anytime I think about it, I get a chill down my spine.

However, I did not enter the dating scene that way. I had come from a good home, I was happy, sweet, naïve, optimistic, full of hope, and I was trusting. I gave and sometimes gave too much. My parents were married and they still are married. I figured dating would be easy. I figured a man and I would click, we would fall in love, and then we would get married and live happily ever after. In my mind, this was what people who were in love did—they got married.

But, after a decade of dating, I had become non-trusting, aloof, very cautious, pessimistic, and terribly afraid of going through another break-up. I had wanted to get married for a long time; everyone around me was getting married. But, I was no closer to realizing that dream. Most of all, I knew if I were abandoned one more time, I would have sunk into such despair and darkness that I never would have recovered my original self.

I think this is how commitment phobia is born in people who were previously trusting and securely attached. The world and the actions of others can have that affect. This type of commitment phobia is different than women who had insecure attachments from childhood.

In the end, my desire to be a wife and mom prevailed over the fear of abandonment and I gave enough of my original self to my would-be husband. Aloofness gave way to sweetness, caution gave way to giving, and a strong exterior gave way to vulnerability. I felt that I needed to show him who I really was since he was being persistent and was breaking through my walls. At one point, I had to trust enough to give myself over to the process. Yet, that non-trusting person was still there and I daily prepared myself for the eventuality that this too could end. I refused to have hope because he could have left at any time.

I am always amazed at how many blows life can throw at a person and how such experiences can change people forever. Life can take the most hopeful, optimistic, happy person and turn everything upside-down until the person is literally worn down.

In Summary

Commitment phobia is something that has complex origins. It can develop as a result of insecure attachment, or it can develop in a securely attached adult after they have experienced one too many traumatic relationships. Some deal with commitment phobia by never fully committing to a relationship and instead live life as serial monogamous. Others get married but they still do not give of themselves fully.

If they have a spouse who wants to be too close for comfort, they find ways to sabotage the marriage. The affair is the most effective way to sabotage a marriage for someone who is commitment phobic. They do not have to give themselves fully to their spouses or their lovers. They are at the helm of the relationship and they have perceived control over their lives. They can have the veneer of intimacy without genuine intimacy.

But, even those who are commitment phobic can change. In these cases, it is beneficial for a spouse to figure out the deepest fears of their commitment phobic spouse. Then, a spouse needs to create a consistently emotionally safe and nurturing environment for the commitment phobic spouse. However, this tactic is only for situations where there was no affair. I also must stress that what you feel is creating a safe and loving environment for your spouse may not be what they perceive as safe and loving.

For wayward spouses who had affairs because of being commitment phobic, they really need to go to therapy and get to the root of why. They need to do a lot of internal work and heal themselves before they can help you heal from the affair. They must have insight and change before the marriage can be repaired fully.

How about you? Do you have a spouse that you think might be commitment phobic in some way and do you think it influenced an affair? If so, how did the commitment phobia manifest in your marriage and/or day-to-day interaction? I would like to hear all about it! Many blessings to all of you and hope you are all well. Sarah P.


1 – Hope, Jenny. Marriage, the key to a better life: Study finds tying the knot means improved health and longer life expectancy

From http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1351287/Marriage-key-better-life-Study-finds-tying-knot-means-improved-health-longer-life-expectancy.html

2 – Grohol, John, PsyD. What Is Commitment Phobia and Relationship Anxiety? From http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/01/08/what-is-commitment-phobia-relationship-anxiety/

3 – Banschick, Mark. Modern Intimacy: Explaining Commitment Phobia. From http://greatist.com/happiness/modern-intimacy-commitment-phobia

4 – Do You Or Your Partner Have Commitment Phobia? From http://www.rethink-anxiety-disorders.com/commitment-phobia.html

5 – Brown, Dyanne. Confessions of a Commitment Phobic Woman. From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dyanne-brown/confessions-of-a-commitment-phobic-woman_b_5865982.html




    109 replies to "Runaway Spouse: Cheating to Avoid Commitment"

    • TheFirstWife

      Can you be a commitment phobe and still be married?

      • Sarah P.

        Hello TFW,
        Of course! Commitment phobia while married can manifest in that person having an affair. Very sorry if I did not make that clear.

        Hope you are having a good week!

        • TheFirstWife

          The article was vlear but it makes no sense to me. If you fear commitment you wouldn’t marry.

          If you fear commitment and ate married then an affair seems like another commitment (to me). I guess in the cheater’s mind there is no commitment to the OW/OM.

          This confuses me.

    • TheFirstWife

      I’m confused by this article. Are you stating that you avoid emotional intimacy while married but yet have an affair?

    • Butterball

      I’m not sure I buy the whole argument myself either but what I do find interesting and intriguing is the part about the childhood issues. I’ve read a lot of arguments that mid-life crises and affairs are often due to childhood issues but I have not seen any real concrete examples of how these issues actually lead people down this path after so many years. Everyone says as they come out of the crisis they have to face these issues.

      I know my husband has childhood issues but if anything in our marriage he learned with time to be a better husband than his father ever was to his mother, but now he went and sought out an OW deliberately and intentionally who would agree (yes agree from the outset) to put up with bad behavior from him, probably along the lines of the way his father was with his mother and him. The shocking thing too is that he stopped his father from abusing his mother by standing up to him himself when he was 16. It’s like everything he learned and achieved in his life about being a good person he has thrown out the window and doesn’t want to do anymore with this OW. And she tells him yeah it’s ok to treat me like shit because I love you. Yes, he told me she said that. Hello? Talk about negative reinforcement from her. I refuse to play the game myself. I refuse to lower my standards to her level nor do I accept his current self-assessment as an asshole. He always was proud to be good to me and I tell him you are not a bad person and I know you are proud to be a good person and I am trying to draw the line gently when he insists that he is just an asshole. Because I see how depressed he seems to have become since he lost his pride in being a good person and just wants to be accepted as an ass. He has always lacked self-confidence but now it’s like he is intentionally destroying his own self-confidence by acting in ways that are contrary to his own self-image. It’s all very strange and confusing to me. That’s probably the one thing I understand the least about what is going on.

    • Butterball

      He also sees her as someone he can control. Again probably like his father. And he has said he knows he can’t control me, but he also will admit I have never wronged him in all our time together so that really does he need to control someone who does the right thing by him constantly? To some extent maybe the need to control is because he has lost control of himself with his current actions and he is desperate to find something he can manipulate the way he wants it to be. I’m just wondering, where does all this wind up in the end?

    • Butterball

      He was a total gentleman when we met and he has not been that way with her. Yes we had our problems in our marriage and yes he could get pretty awful at times but there usually was a specific problem that I could point to and say that is why he was being that way, but with her he set out intentionally to be a jerk to see if she would put up with it and he told me that. I feel sorry for her in a way because he was so much better with me and I had the best of him and she has the worst.

    • Butterball

      While he claims to love her sometimes, he also says he loves no one right now and that he knows he is being selfish, and his attitude toward her is not the one of someone who loves another person but he really just wants to use her to achieve some goals and that is what he basically acknowledged to me before he even met her. And even at the moment if he doesn’t feel in love with me I know he feels a strong sense of responsibility to me, which I think is the best he is capable of now so I try to respect that. He’s a mess really. I feel sorry for him. Because eventually I hope he gets through all this but it is going to be really painful for him when he has to finally face up to everything.

    • Butterball

      He’s gotten into things really deep though now, probably deeper than most of your spouses will ever get and if I had known this was a mid-life crisis at the outset I know I would have done things differently and pushed for him to at least take things slower before he made any drastic changes to our life. I thought everything that was happening was being done from a rational standpoint on his end and so I accepted things that now I know it was a mistake to have accepted because he wasn’t acting rational and I had at least a chance at the beginning to pull him back from the edge but now he has gone over.

      • TheFirstWife

        Hindsight is a blessing and a curse.

        My H was always good to me except for an EA in his 30s and she was madly in love w/ my H but he was not in love w/ her.

        His last affair was total mid life crisis. I knew it but nothing I did could stop it or change it. He had one foot out the door for a crazy 29 yo tattooed drama queen that he knew 6 months.

        He refused counseling back then but goes now after seeing his family dynamics. Eye opening experience for him.

        I was willing to accept him as he was until he unleashed 30 years of pent up anger and frustration. So now our marriage has changed b/c I refuse to let things go.

        I call him on his behavior now and he doesn’t like hearing it. Be careful what you wish for – I am sure he wishes some things were like the good old days. Haha

        I now see how my H is s coward in our relationship. How sad.

        But I think your H needs professional help and please don’t believe everything he tells you. My H tried to lie his way out of the affair and I believed all of it. Until the OW sent me the emails that showed me he went after her and he was leaving me for her as well. It was all there in black & white.

        I was so stupid for trusting him and he blindsided me again with his lies and betrayal. So your H may be telling you he treats the OW poorly but there must be some reward or payoff for him. Otherwise he would not continue the affair.

      • TheFirstWife

        I feel your pain. It could be that he tried to write the letter to stop himself from going down the wrong path, but in the end he chose it anyway.

        I am sorry you have had to endure this. It is so completely frustrating to watch someone unravel in front of your eyes, and there is very little you can do to stop it.

        What are you doing for yourself during this difficult time? That would be my larger concern here.

        • Butterball

          At that time going down the path he has chosen wasn’t really possible so he didn’t need to prevent himself from doing it at the time. Neither were the circumstances that led him to do what he has done a foregone conclusion at the time either. Things could have been different and he would have never done this. It was just a matter of things that were completely beyond our control not happening as we wanted to in our life. Of that I am 100% certain.. I think it was more that I had chosen to make the same promise to him and he felt moved by that and decided to offer me the same in return and from the way he wrote the letter he was imagining what I was thinking and imagining me worrying about something that never crossed my mind, although in hindsight, I really should have been worried. I don’t think he thought through the implications of that promise fully. I need closure on this matter really by getting him to explain to me why he did what he did and for him to express remorse about breaking the promise but he’s not yet at the point in his mid-life crisis where I would expect an honest answer nor remorse. I’ll just get bullshit excuses so I have to just sit on this until he comes to the realization of what he has done and wants to make amends for it.

      • Fragments of Hope

        Butterball. I think you actually have a great handle on why your husband is acting this way and you are showing great compassion for him. I wonder if the childhood hurt of seeing his father treat his mother in that way was so traumatic (even though he did such a positive thing and stood up to him) that it imprinted on his psyche and he now feels compelled irrationally to step into his father’s shoes to repeat the pattern, looking out, in a way from his father’s eyes. This might be all mumbo jumbo. He may not feel deserving of the loving relationship you give him and sense things in himself that he despises, making him identify with his father’s awful actions. He is nearly playacting the bad in himself. I say all this because I’ve just read some extremely helpful books by Steven Stosney. He has one called Living and Loving After Betrayal. But the one I’m reading at the moment is Love without Hurt (turn your resentful, angry or emotionally abusive relationship into a compassionate one). The book shows how negative ways of interacting and feelings about the self (often coming from a family of origin) can lead to stonewalling, insulting etc and resentment but this is all undertlined by a feeling of self-hatred and then the actions themselves lead to further self-hatred then making the husband further berate and blame his wife or, in this case, find someone who will want him even when he’s bad. There’s too much to go into here but his basic premise is that people need to identify with their positive core values to feel better about themselves. He also has a Boot Camp to stop the negative cycle of poor interactions (I haven’t gone through that part yet.) I wish you well in negotiating this difficult situation. It sounds as if he may be having a kind of a breakdown probably in response to his early situation. He may need extra help to get out of it but I’d recommend checking out Stosney’s books at least for yourself. Take care.

        • Sarah P.

          Hi Fragments of Hope,
          Those sounds like great books that you are reading. What you are saying absolutely rings true for me at least.

          Thanks for the comment!

        • Butterball

          You know, re-reading this comment from you gives me some more food for thought. I think there might be another issue besides the abuse that may be a factor in all this. There is something that his father did that my husband resents because of its long term impact on my husbnad and while my husband didn’t do the same thing with me, he has done something that in a way had the same effect. It was never a big deal to me, but this was the same issue that he suddenly pvioted to the other day when we were arguing about something else and it is something he probably doesn’t feel good about. I think he may have some guilt about having turned out a bit like his father in his relationship with me. Things have changed though now and he’s no longer acting that way with me and that was something he angrily declared to me.

    • Butterball

      There is no “professional help” where we are. And believe me, there are details about the situation that would make it inappropriate even if there were. Actually I have had a chance to observe how he treats her so it isn’t just him telling me. And yes, i know exactly what the main hoped for reward is, and that actually is about the only acceptable thing about the situation to me, because it is at least something done with good intention toward me as well as himself but it is the rest that just is terrible. There’s no lies from my husband and no need or even possibilityto get away with lies but that is I think what scares him the most. Sorry I can’t get into more details but there are some basic things about my situation that are totally different.

      If you husband has started getting really angry that is a sign from what I have read that he is moving along with the mid-life crisis. There’s a point where they hit a deep depression and at that point they start lashing out.

      I don’t believe I was stupid for trusting my husband. The promises he broke with this midlife crisis actually were genuine and sincere when he made them.They were promises he went out of his way to make to me at the time about 3-4 years ago without me even seeking them or even expecting I needed them. I woke up one morning to a letter on the kitchen counter with a promise in it. And I still have that letter and I keep reviewing it over and over and saying why? Did he mean something else by this letter than what I thought? But we also talked about the letter and he reiterated the promise several times over the next couple years. Why would he go out of his way to make a promise I didn’t even seek and then a few years later do every single thing he said he wouldn’t do? That’s how it happened.I just wish he never made them because it’s not so much the betrayal with the OW that bothers me as much as the betrayal of the promise. And especially since his promise was in response to an identical promise I had made to him. It’s just his insecurities about his future really overwhelmed him and he saw no other way to deal with them.

      And the thing that nags at me is in the letter he said he thought if he did these things I would ask for a divorce. And when he told me this year I could choose between a divorce and accepting what he planned to do, I wonder whether he really expected me to choose a divorce and I caught him off guard by not asking for one and now he is stuck with me. I hope that isn’t the case. I know how valuable I am to him. Even the OW knows I am more valuable to him than her (she and I talked and she told me this-he praises me a lot to her). He’s torn though between us. This is what I feel.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Butterball,
        I concur with Hopeful that you can go outside your geographical area. However, if there is something about your situation that the law would classify as “illegal” then you obviously cannot see a therapist. Licensed therapists are mandated reporters. I have a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology, but I do not want to be a licensed therapist. One of the reasons for this is because I will have to make too many decisions mandated by the state that may not be a right decision or timing for a particular situation. Each family is unique and want people to have a space where they can talk about everything without worrying about external consequences. I would not want to have to call authorities if I thought it would make things worse and the fall out would be nuclear. However, that may not be your case. If it isn’t, what would cause you to be hesitant about seeking help? Just like Hopeful says, therapists have heard EVERYTHING. I am not a licensed therapist, but I will say nothing surprises me. I am pretty sure I have heard it all and I have heard things that most people would not think possible. And yet they are. When I was growing up, we lived in some areas where A LOT went on and I saw a lot (second hand) from a young age. Nothing shocks me. I will also say that a family member was in a ‘unique’ situation with her husband and she couldn’t seek a therapist because her husband had gotten involved in hard drugs and a couple of other illegal things. Her husband was a leader in the community, highly educated, from a well-known family, and quite famous in that regional area. Unfortunately, it did not end well. Luckily she and her children (who were innocent) were protected and came out unscathed. She attributes that to a lot of daily, consecrated prayer and right-living. She had never become involved in those things and had kicked him out when she found out about it. She was a good Christian and refused to get pulled in or participate. When he committed suicide, she was left to fend for herself and lost almost everything. He had committed suicide to punish her for not participating in or allowing him to live with the family while he was participating in all of these things. And yes, he had a mistress. He had gotten involved with a prostitute who had gotten him hooked on drugs. Once that happened, the prostitute pulled him into a whole other world of illegality. It’s a very long story and one that was never covered in the media. The local media took pity on my family member because she was so upstanding and they never broke the story. (Thank God.) Otherwise, this would have been a typical story they feature on 20/20 and true crime shows. Her husband definitely had a messed up family of origin. They were wealthy, but behind the facade there was a ton of physical, emotional, and alcohol abuse. He followed in his father’s footsteps but became a much WORSE version. It is said it had to end that way. But, she (along the help with our side of the family) had many interventions and did everything we could to get it settled. He was sent to the best rehab facilities many times over. (He did not believe in God and so could never connect with a higher power.) This happened over 30 years ago but it has still left its mark on my family member and her children. It’s very sad.

        The reason I talk about this was she was in a similar situation to you in that she was dealing with very unusual things that she could not bring to light without authorities or others getting involved. She was also quite ashamed because he openly refused to give up the OW. She had kicked him out of their house, but he still had the keys and would often walk into the house with the OW and bully my her (my family member.) They tried to convince my family member that she was ‘crazy’ and that if she would just allow them to have a ‘threesome’ and live together everyone would be happy. The OW would also threaten her safety and play mental games. Again, she and her husband were high profile people at the time and this was something she could not take to a therapist because a media fiasco was sure to follow. She set her boundaries but her H and the OW kept violating them. The day she said no more and had divorce papers served was the day he committed suicide and she was temporarily left with nothing. Fortunately she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and finished her graduate degree and opened a successful business. These days, she is the walking definition of what ‘thriving after an affair’ looks like. She regained everything she had lost and more. She is singlehandedly the most successful woman I know personally.
        But, the other thing her story demonstrates is that it blows apart the myth that the OW is somehow better. My family member had been a beauty contestant winner in college and helped pay for school that way. She had a perfect GPA in college, had a successful career, had a ton of self-esteem, and was a good mom. The OW was an obese high-school drop out who was older than my family member. They were opposites in every single way. The OW was so jealous she intentionally tried to destroy my family member by taking her husband. It didn’t work and the two losers were the OW and my family member’s husband, but not my family member.

        Butterball, if you don’t mind sharing more about the confusion with the letter and your husband’s contrary actions, please do. Everyone here is anonymous and neither Doug, Linda, nor I have any desire to find anyone’s identity or to meddle. The site is here for advice and recovery, but we respect what people are going through and don’t interfere with choices. We may have a contrary take on something, but there is no meddling or outing anyone.

        • Butterball

          I am not afraid to seek counseling nor am I prevented from it by anyone or by illegal or illicit circumstances. I just don’t believe in counseling as a solution to problems and always have felt that way.

          I know what the best possible outcome is for everyone involved if we can make it work. However, I have to admit from some of your comments I know 100% you don’t think our best possible outcome would even be acceptable at all and you would condemn it. I’m just trying to get through the present day by day so that we can reach a better place in the long run and not have everything fall apart in the interim.

          • Butterball

            And I also want to add that success in my view does not mean leaving one’s husband. It means weathering the difficult times and honoring one’s marriage vows. My husband and I are committed to one another. It’s the nature of the relationship going forward that is in question, not the marriage.

            • Butterball

              And my situation is not unique. There’s many people in the same situation. It’s just that there is definitely an overwhelming element of mid-life crisis to it and that is not unique either. It’s just I am trying to fortify myself with knowledge and everything written on midlife crisis assumes certain possible outcomes that do not take into account a situation like the one we are in, even though it isn’t unique. Those possible outcomes could still happen to us. I know that. But the outcome we hope for and have even agreed upon is one that isn’t even envisioned as a possible outcome in everything written on the topic so I feel as if although I understand exactly what is happening now I don’t have any clue where it could go. And that is what causes me stress. Everyone says if you want the midlife crisis to be resolved certain things have to happen. Using conventional wisdom, i would have to come to the conclusion that if everything pans out as we have agreed upon my husband will be in a miserable midlife crisis for the rest of his life. That’s what is so frustrating. Wanting things to be a certain way and for us to be happy that way and being told it just can’t happen. Midlife crisis clearly follows a script and I wonder whether it is even possible for a man to just shortcircuit that script and break free from it. I know you don’t believe in biological explanations for these things but frankly from what I have read about others in the same situation I don’t see how such similar behaviors and actions and even down to the words spoken on the part of millions of people doesn’t have a biological or brain chemistry component to it. The triggers and the details may be different but its just too similar between cases to dismiss it as men or women being bad people. We wouldn’t say that about someone suffering from a mental illness, would we? There’s something my husband is doing that is wrong, and he knows it. I told him I needed him to act differently, I reminded him of the religious implications of what he is doing. I tried negotiating compromises with him. His response? “I can’t.” over and over. He can actually. There is no practical barrier to doing what I asked of him, no moral one either. In fact, it is the morally correct thing. He never said, “I don’t want to” and he made some weak excuses that he knows are bullshit too. It was “I can’t.” as if someone had locked him in a cage and he had no way to get out I really pressed him over and over in many different ways and the answer was always a very strained, “I can’t”. I pointed out to him how in the long run what he was doing would likely cause more problems than it would solve, as it is really something he thinks will solve a problem, but anyone with half a brain can see it will cause problems. The reply? “I can’t.” and in the end I just had to tell him I would be patient as I had promised him I would be. Because I could tell this went beyond just selfishness or arrogance or even disrespect for me. He truly feels he can’t do what he should be doing now. He says it will come in the future, but not now. So that shows he knows right from wrong. I’ll be patient but it doesn’t mean I accept his behavior. And he will have to see the consequences of that behavior on me. I’ll try to refrain from pointing it out explicitly but I won’t hide it either. Because actions have consequences. Because really I did everything to make it easy for him to do the right thing.

            • Hopeful

              Still not sure what you are talking about specifically. I think anyone can handle their relationships anyway they want. And they includes marriages. For me I knew what I wanted, needed and expected. So I worked to pursue that. What I have found is I cannot control anyone but myself. In the end that is the most powerful thing I have learned. I can voice my desires and expectations but then it is up to my husband based on the decisions and actions he takes. And then I make my decisions based on what I am want and tolerate. People are in open marriages, spouses have no desire to be intimate with their spouse but never cheat, spouses count the days until their kids are out is the house so they can leave… in the end I only care about my situation and am not here to judge others. If you are happy and everything is understood beteeen the two of you then that is great.

              I can understand where you do not believe in therapy, but have you ever participated and had a high quality experience? I personally would put my trust in a therapist with education, training, experience over placing it in religious reasons to not cheat or betray someone and to work through it. I am sure this will not be a popular statement but this is my experience. Being a Christian or of any faith does not ensure a moral compass. All I can speak to is my high caliber therapist who is excellent at his profession. I also hear about it on a daily basis from patients that walk up to me telling me how my husband had changed their lives for the better and kids come up to him and thank him for making their lives better.

            • Butterball

              I went to a therapist two times-decades ago when I was having a problem. During the 2nd visit, the therapist told me my problem was because of my relationship with my father. I have a very normal father and a very normal relationship with him. He had absolutely nothing to do with the problem I was suffering. Of that I was certain. Frankly, I was really taken aback by such a ridiculous suggestion and right then and there I decided this therapist was trying to seed my mind with problems that didn’t exist in the first place for whatever reason (maybe most people just believe what therapists tell them and he can get away with it, or maybe therapists just have their standard explanations and they apply them to everyone, whatever the reason it was nonsense and I knew it) and I realized the problem I went to him for wasn’t as big as I was imagining it to be. Therapists are paid for you to have problems. If you don’t have enough problems, they can create them for you to keep you in their pockets and if you aren’t smart you will never realize it.

              I also had a friend those days who had been raped 10 years prior. After 10 years, this friend was still in therapy. If therapy is so beneficial, then why would my friend need to be going every week still after 10 years? It wasn’t solving the problem. It obviously was just keeping it in the forefront of my friend’s mind after all those years to the point my friend wasn’t healing.

            • Butterball

              Therapists can say anything, but religion is clear. Recently my husband told me about some things that he DIDN’T do that are traditional to do in our community and I think he offended people by not doing them, but are not something that is really required of him. These things had nothing to do with me. He said “I don’t care what anyone thinks, as long as I am not doing anything against my religion or the law.”

              Having said that, and declared that to me, when I remind him of his religious obligations as a husband and he angrily says “I don’t care about religion” then really is this a man who is thinking in any logical manner? Is this a man fully comfortable with himself? Isn’t this just a man trying to compartmentalize things in his mind rather than be true to himself?

              Of course, I can’t control anyone but myself. But I do care about my husband and it isn’t easy to see him basically in conflict with himself, which is what this is, a conflict inside, not between us. Everyone will say I must let go and let him be, and yeah I can do that, but inside me I still feel his suffering, even if I can’t fix it. I still feel sympathy for what he is going through.

    • Hopeful

      Just FYI you can find help outside of your geographic area or online. My husband is in the mental health field and I choose to drive two hours each way to meet with someone. I found someone who is liscensed and has over 30 years specializing in marital and infidelity therapy. He is excellent. And trust me these therapist have heard it all. I understand you cannot go into details here but at least for me I chose to seek professional help so that I was looking out for my best interest.

      • Fragments of Hope

        I think you actually have a great handle on why your husband is acting this way and you are showing great compassion for him. I wonder if the childhood hurt of seeing his father treat his mother in that way was so traumatic (even though he did such a positive thing and stood up to him) that it imprinted on his psyche and he now feels compelled irrationally to step into his father’s shoes to repeat the pattern, looking out, in a way from his father’s eyes. This might be all mumbo jumbo. He may not feel deserving of the loving relationship you give him and sense things in himself that he despises, making him identify with his father’s awful actions. He is nearly playacting the bad in himself. I say all this because I’ve just read some extremely helpful books by Steven Stosney. He has one called Living and Loving After Betrayal. But the one I’m reading at the moment is Love without Hurt (turn your resentful, angry or emotionally abusive relationship into a compassionate one) he explores how men and women can through their own feeling of inadequacy, low self-esteem etc interact with resentment leading to stonewalling, dismissiveness, and all the other mechanisms that make their partners feel devalued, unloved and so on. In turn these poor interactions (some of which may have been forged in the family of origin) in themselves contribute in the perpetrator to a feeling of self-loathing. (And this kind of self-loathing can lead people to seek addictive ways of making themselves feel better, unconditional love/sex from the OW.) He says there are reasons that sometimes therapy doesn’t work, he offers ways (emphasising core values) that people can bring themsellves up out of their self-hatred and offers a Boot Camp in the book for positive interactions. The book may be irrelevant to your situation but I found it astute in addressing self-loathing. He also has a good handle on what men want to achieve in relationshps and how they feel when they don’t feel they are measuring up.

        • Fragments of Hope

          Steven Stosny’s site is compassionpower.com. It is all about seeing how people turn against their own good instincts and get caught in negative cycles and then feel shame and self-hatred for doing that, sometimes then leading to further poor choices. I found it an uplifting and positive approach.

        • Butterball

          It’s definitely not childhood issues that sparked what is happening now, there was another factor, but I do think you may have some point there about self-esteem issues. Although the cause of those self-esteem issues that he had since we married really has suddenly resolved itself this year and everything is looking up so much better than it ever did before in that regard.

          His father could explain the way he interacts with the OW. I know people wonder how I know so much about it but let’s just say things are a bit different in our case and no I am not doing any snooping to find out what I know. Yesterday I learned about something he hadn’t done for her that under any ordinary circumstances even with a stranger he would have done and with me he goes out of his way to do and actually a few days ago was insisting to do for me even when I didn’t want to bother him with it as it seemed so trivial.

          I think there is a self-esteem issue due to his age and other circumstances. When he married me he chose to marry me even though he was in a position at that point where he could basically have anyone he wanted and many people from his family and community were opposed to him choosing to marry me but he did so anyway. In terms of social position, I am much more a match for him though than the OW. We are both in very high positions in that regard. When it came time for the OW, he felt his value on the market had really really diminished greatly due to age and other circumstances. He didn’t choose her because he felt she was really perfect, but rather because he felt desperate and thought no one would accept him and she accepted him. He chose someone he thought would never possibly reject him. So really he has gone from having whatever he wanted in a wife to taking whoever he thought he could get. At least in his own estimation.

          In terms of the way he treats her, partially yes it is what he learned from his father. I think but also there is a cultural element to it because she is from his culture and I am not and let’s put it frankly, women in his culture have lower standards of behavior from husbands than I do. But that’s her problem not mine. It’s more just rather bizarre to have a husband that really is acting kind of shitty toward me in terms of being distant but at the same time I can see that he has always treated me better in other ways than he is treating the OW. So it makes me feel valued while being put on the shelf for a while.

          He’s really desperate though for me to see him as doing no wrong right now. If I even question anything, he gets very defensive, even if he is acting in a way that is opposite of what he might have previously said he would. He made some remark a few months ago about not wanting to waste money on expensive things and yesterday he told me about a relatively expensive purchase he made and when I said why did you buy that he got annoyed and ended the phone call. It wasn’t even so much the expense that bothered me but other implications of the purchase. I know it is something though that he has wanted for some time, but under the current circumstances it bothered me. It’s a bit irritating to have someone who needs to be right all the time who isn’t acting right!

    • TryingHard

      As usual you’ve done great research and have shared it with us

      There’s a lot of validity in this article. FOO issues are certainly prevelant in marriages and relationships. I know I have mine. I dint pretend to be perfect. Far from it.

      Delving into those FOO issues is daunting to say the least. My h has many. However were I to suggest he find a therapist to sort those out at his age would be met with a whole lot of resistance. He made very bad choices for a lot of reasons that I’m certain he’s not even aware. We talk a lot about his need for admiration and validity from others. In the past I used to let it go. No more. Now I gently stead him in another direction.

      His FOO run deep. His parents are takers. They view us and him as an extension of themselves. They are selfish cold people. Mine were just the opposite and he craves that. He adored my parents. But in the same respect it scared him too.

      For me this info is helpful to understand where he is coming from and certainly doesn’t excuse his bad behavior. Not just the affair but other disrespectful habits that have developed over the years. And it also helps me to see my own bad disrespectful habits and work to change them.

      I would say my h falls into the avoidant category. But over the last five years I’ve seen some cracks in that.

      FOO issues that affect ones character and personality rarely change no matter how much therapy one goes through. One has to have the true desire to and insight to delve into those issues but sadly I believe most cheaters won’t or can’t.

      Thanks Sarah for this article

      • Butterball

        Maybe because a lot of those things have a genetic basis, rather than being a product simply of upbringing. And that is why they can’t change.

        • Butterball

          And I think you are doing the right thing gently steering your husband. Therapists may have seen it all but no one knows our own spouses better than we do. I think marital issues are one area where knowledge of psychology and the like is helpful and I have gained so much knowledge from forums and websites like this one and others like it, but without the experience one has of living with someone day in and day out for years, one can’t really know the best strategy to apply in each case. I would not trust to put my marriage in the hands of anyone else to solve my problems as I would never forgive myself if went wrong and it was because I let someone else into the picture. If it will succeed or fail, I prefer to hold the responsibility for that.

          • Butterball

            And I have to admit also that I have learned far more about how to deal with the situation from the experiences of others such as Doug and Linda and other web sites by people who have gone through their spouse’s midlife crises and came out with a better marriage in the end because they really get it. Nothing substitutes for experience. I’ve been very selective about whose experiences I read because I don’t want to follow people who are failures. I see a person who is bitter, I move on, because inevitably that person will wind up in a divorce. I see a person who has love, compassion and patience for their spouse, I read, because I notice those people have much more success in having better marriages in the long run. As much as people say that there is nothing we can do about our spouse’s midlife crisis to change them, it’s patently obvious that while we can’t directly change their behavior, we can make the environment one that they will feel more comfortable in choosing in the end.

            Sarah P. is obviously a very educated and intelligent person and she may have seen a lot but unless she has experienced what we are going through, she will NEVER truly be able to understand it. She seems very quick to pass judgment in my opinion and to advocate for dumping spouses. And yes, I judged others in the same situation I am in myself in the past and said I would dump my husband in a heartbeat if he did what he has done…until it happened to me. And then everything in my mind changed about how to react, what to accept, how to feel about my husband. You can read all you want and learn all you want and become an “expert” therapist but in the end this is all about feelings and if you don’t feel it yourself you can’t possibly know or really understand what it is like.

            • Shifting Impressions

              I guess you haven’t read Sarah P.’s story. I am sorry, I just need to come to her defense. You seem to be fairly judgemental of Sarah P. She has shared her own heart wrenching story with all of us more than once. She writes for this site on a regular basis and is very quick with her support for all of us.

              Of course our situations are all different and our choices in the end are our own to make.

              We are not here to judge each other but to share our experiences and support each other.

            • Sarah P.

              Hello Shifting,

              Thank you for your kind words– they mean a lot to me. Yes, I am here because I am passionate about supporting others who are going through a tough time. Doug and Linda have never asked me to participate in the comments. I do it solely because I care about everyone who is here, whether or not my writing resonates. This is a site that I spend a lot of time working on because I realize everyone here is a real person going through a struggle. Sometimes, especially if someone cannot see his or her therapist in a timely manner, folks can come here and get timely advice from everyone. Like you said, everyone’s story is different and there is a unique solution for everyone here. I know for myself that if I were to ever find out my husband was cheating, I wouldn’t react the same way that I did with my ex. I gave up on that almost marriage because we had no kids. Unfortunately, we owned a house together, had joint bank accounts, and even though we were engaged, we had all the complications of marriage. We were just shy from being considered common law in my state, but had intended on getting married regardless. I gave up because of the way he handled it– there were things he did that couldn’t be taken back. The other thing was, the other woman was a very aggressive and I have heard narcissistic person who had sunk her claws in and she refused to give up. Since I didn’t have kids, I decided to walk away from the battle and allow him to do things on his terms. It also sucked that we worked together. UGH. Of course, he would sometimes hunt me down when I was alone and he would corner me and hit on me. I asked HR to inform him he wasn’t to approach me any longer. He is married to the OW and they have kids. I also recently found out she is about 8 years older than him. That would have put her at the tail end of her ability to have a family. So, no one she held on with ferocity and does to this day. We had had a brand new house and he bullied me to move out (so she could move in.) Then he demanded I pay half the mortgage. (I didn’t do that.) Around that time, the real estate market had a mini-crash in our area and the home builder was being sued for some issue with the ceilings on the houses. I had cashed out all my savings, stocks, and bonds for my half of the down. So, when all that happened, we sold it at a deep loss and I lost tons of money. He wouldn’t buy me out or let me turn it into a rental. I had to start from scratch after that breakup. Just about everything I had saved in my 20’s was gone and I was approaching 30. As you know, it was a horrendous break up since he choose to play mind games so that I wouldn’t find out the truth. I had to find it out from a mutual friend whose husband was at a work function and the OW was with my ex and she was introducing herself as his fiancee. (This was about 3 weeks after the break up!!) Since we did not have kids, I had no reason to fight. I figured he had shown his true colors and that I was spared from a life with a flake.

              However, if my husband were to cheat, I would probably fight like a momma bear for my marriage. In an ideal world, everyone could heal their marriages and stay together forever. That is the ideal. But, sometimes things happen that are not amenable to such a situation. I know for sure that I would out the other woman and let everyone know what her character was like. I would also out him. Anything to wake him up. I know I would be as mad as a badger if he were to cheat. I used to be passive, but that experience taught me that being passive just makes it easier for a spouse to take advantage. So, yes, I would fight for my marriage. I would hope that I would win, but I also realize there would probably be a point of no return for me and that would be it. But, I have not been in this situation with him specifically, so who knows how I would react. I am just sorry affairs have to happen at all. So much pain could be avoided if wayward spouses really wanted to avoid it.

            • Shifting Impressions

              Sarah P you are so welcome. I so appreciate what you bring to this site. I know you put a lot of time and effort into it. Thanks again.

            • Sarah P.

              Thank you, Shifting 🙂

            • Hopeful

              I want to say I appreciate Sarah P so much. I do not always agree but we have excellent discussions on here. And that is too bad you had a negative experience with a therapist. Therapist vary a lot based on their training. Some believe in ongoing forever but many believe in establishing a plan. That is what my husband does. There is a set issue/concern and a plan with weekly/monthly objectives. He does not want to see someone forever and he thinks it is crucial that patients feel and see progress in their lives. It is like any profession there are good and bad out there and also many different types to fit our different personalities.

            • Sarah P.

              Thank you, Hopeful, I appreciate you too and everyone else. Everyone here is engaged in the conversation and wants to help others. That is the best of all 🙂

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Butterball,

            The fact that you won’t put your marriage in the hands of someone else is absolutely correct. I have my opinions and my recommendations, but they are to be taken with a grain of salt. They may or may not work for the individual and what I say certainly doesn’t go for anyone unless they feel it resonates with them. But, even then, the decision is up to them. Ultimately, no therapists should make decisions for their clients or expect to make them. I am sorry that you had a bad experience with a therapist. I can understand why you would be frustrated if a therapist pulled something out of the air and gave you a label that was not even true. It is a very hurtful experience. I would also be cautious of therapists if I had had such an experience.

            What is it about your situation that bothers you the most? Is it your discomfort for him or the fact that he keeps saying that he cannot do what you request? (Or is it both?)

            I am not going to tell you that you should leave your husband if you have decided to work on your marriage. But, it is clear that this situation is wearing on you. So what can we do to be most helpful? Maybe just writing it all out will bring clarity.

            • Butterball

              I do. In a private notebook.

              The most helpful thing to me so far in the process has been stories of others who successfully dealt with similar situations and their marriage came out stronger. Kind hearted people who truly loved their spouses and cared that their spouses came out in a better place as well as the marriage.

              Also some sites where the midlife crisis is described in detail. I can see the stages he has already gone through and where he might go next. Knowing what is going on inside him when he does and says the things he does from the perspective of a MLC is really really crucial. There’s a script to it all from his side and in a way he has lost his own personality completely and started following the script instead, but it’s also clear we have to react in a certain way to get through it successfully ourselves and come out with a spouse in the end. But we also have to be flexible enough to adjust to the individual. All these sites that talk about us following certain rules and people obsessing over those rules I see them failing miserably. Because they lose sight of their spouse as a person and instead just try to apply someone’s advice to their marriage blindly as if it is guaranteed to save it. If only it were that easy….

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Butterball,
              I see where you are coming from. If this is a MLC, then it would appear he would come out the other end. If you stay and wait, then you will probably stay together.

              But, here is the question–have you determined your own timeline for how long you are willing to be supportive? My impression is that your H has said that he will not do certain things that you would like for him to do but that he wants and needs you to accept certain things that he does, even if they are against your wishes. If this is not correct, please let me know.

              I realize that he has some family of origin trauma and that this is likely combined with a MLC, but I believe each woman needs to figure out her own timeline. That is, do you think you could be in the same place 5 years from now and be okay with it? If you can be, I say more power to you. It is something I would be unable to do for an extended period of time because it would wear on my spirit. I could be compassionate and kind and take the high road, but it would still wear on me as a person.

              If you are able to maintain your spirit despite it all, I would be interested to know how you do it. I know there are others who are in the middle of things right now and need ideas on getting through the day to day. Any suggestions on practical things that you do would be appreciated.


            • Butterball

              I’m in it for the long haul and I know eventually he will have to do what I expect him to do or actually will want to do it or he will have to find some really ridiculous excuses to explain himself. In fact, I am not even certain he really wants to be so contrary but he has an immediate “need” in his own mind that has to be taken care of ASAP and if he acquiesces to what I want he fears that it will be more difficult to get that need satisifed. I expect it might be a lot faster but for various reasons I think he has his own self-imposed deadline of 3 years. If in 3 years things don’t work out for him as he wants them to, I probably will still be in the picture and in a more enhanced position and appreciated position than before but at the same time he will also face a new crisis at that point about the fact that he hasn’t been able to resolve the issue satisfactorily that drove him into the MLC in the first place.

              Then there is also something I am waiting for news on that will come before the end of the year. I actually told him this news was coming months ago when I first learned about it to try and get him to be patient and see what would happen before making any drastic moves, but he didn’t really pay much attention at the time. It could have no impact on our situation if it turns out one way, but it could also open up the possibility that the root cause of the MLC is possibly no longer a done and sealed issue that we can’t solve anymore although it won’t mean a solution is guaranteed either, but it may be a 50-50 situation where if we try something it will all be as we wanted, but the fact that he went down the path to solve it that he did and has gotten in so deep will turn everything upside down for us and force a lot more difficult decisions upon him than if he had been patient and just waited to see what our options were. So if that happens it will put more turmoil on him but it also will open up possibilities that I never thought possible and I am cautiously optimistic about that.

              Basically, I have no idea where this will wind up and really the biggest factors are things out of my hands.

            • Butterball

              And I should say this potential news I am keeping quiet about until I see which way it goes.

              If it turns out to be a dead end, no need to throw it out there now and make it look like I am trying to throw a wrench in everything without basis.

              But if the news turns out as I hope, I will let him know where things stand exactly and he will have to deal. He also will be in a position that he knows at that point if he doesn’t bend toward whatever I ask of him, I will be in a much better position if I were to leave him. I don’t want to leave him, but he will realize it gives me a lot more leverage and my options might actually be better in some regards if I did leave him if he doesn’t bend. So I am sitting pretty now and biding my time. But this has the potential to really short circuit the midlife crisis big time and force him to face what he is doing and whether it is all worth it.

              If his inattention a few months ago costs him a big price in his life so be it. He made that choice.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Butterball,
              It sounds like you have a plan and have a handle on the situation. It also sounds like you have leverage. I am hopeful that you will be able to work something out if that is what you desire. He is fortunate that you are being patient with him.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TryingHard,

        I am really glad that you enjoyed the article. Can you share with us again how you preserved your marriage through it all? What things did you do that contributed to him repairing the marriage with you?

        You were one of the women who took a strong stand in the situation and it seems to have benefitted you (more or less) in the longterm.

    • Rachel

      I have to share my continuing store as I find it very amusing. For weeks now the ex has been emailing me asking for me to meet him for a drink. I have not responded.
      Then I got one saying ” I think your were right about the anesthesia “. Six years ago he had neck surgery resulting in the start of Mr. crazy!!!! We all noticed the change, but not him.
      Thanksgiving a happy Thanksgiving email in the morning, then another one at night hoping I had a good day and how thankful he is for our boys.
      In early November my cable, internet account listed him as a user . I immediately called and told them he has been removed for 3 years, why is he showing up now??
      Last Sunday I received an email for yours truly asking me if I removed him from the account. No response from me, I immediately called the company and questioned why was he asking this?? He had tried again to get into my account. A special message is now on my account that tata is not allowed to be on.
      The other night he questioned my older son to ask me to put him back on because he is now missing his list of contacts. Really, after 3 years???? This should have been done well beforehand!
      And wondered if I knew that removing someone’s email address on an account is a FELONY!!!
      Yes a felony!!!!! Hahaha.
      Always playing the victim!!!! #100% NARSARSISTIC

      • TryingHard

        Rachel— OMG he is too much. Seriously too damn much. I think he’s getting dementia. I can’t believe how focused he is on you.

        My dear you have got to stay the course with NC. Have you ever heard about the Grey Rock theory? If not google it. It works amazingly well with Narcs like your ex. Haha he is acting like the fat third grader jumping up and down to get your attention cause he misses all the cake that was you!!! Must be sparse at the pick up joints he loves to hang out in.

        I feel like I’ve watched your life unfold here and am so happy how well you are doing without him. Hugs to you Rachel

      • Sarah P.


        I am glad you are out of that one. He does seem extremely narcissistic. When there is a narcissist, there is no concept of a mutually satisfying relationship.

        But, that is an interesting point about anesthesia. So did his personality seriously change right after surgery? I have heard accounts of people whose mental health is affected for years after general sedation. General sedation requires such a potent cocktail of different drugs and they interact with people’s own brain chemistry. Some people (with no mental health history) have been known to hallucinate and jump off buildings. Scary.

        I am glad that you are out of there because no matter how long someone stays with a (clinical) narcissist, there is no having a better relationship. I have seen someone in my family stick it out for almost 50 years now. The narc has just gotten worse. This person has become completely alienated from his family because the narc chases everyone off intentionally, especially his blood relatives. The longer the person stays, the harder it is to leave the narc and the more the narc alienates him so that he won’t have any ‘healthy’ voices in his life questioning him why he stays. I can tell this person will only leave the marriage by passing away. And he will pass away a very lonely person full of regrets since he stayed with the narc. These days even his own kids avoid him because of the narc. The narc ensures visits and interactions are full of yelling and nitpicking and won’t let him see his family without the narc present. It’s a SAD situation and I feel like the narc won’t be satisfied until she has destroyed his soul. It is really sick.

        So, I am glad you saw the future and got out. I am sure it was hard at the time, but it sounds like you are doing great now!

        • Butterball

          I’ve read that at least in the elderly, like over 65, anesthesia can have permanent effects. It’s very possible something did happen with it. Or perhaps the surgery itself just reminded him of his mortality and he decided to make some changes.

      • TheFirstWife

        He is the gift that keeps on giving (not)

        He is a bad mightmare that just keeps popping up over and over again.

        I don’t know how you stand it.

    • TryingHard

      Hi Butterball
      I have to say I’m having a hard time following your story. But you said many things that are giving me a hint.

      I like what you said about him choosing the OW. Yes in many cases MM choose women that are lesser. They chose them because they are willing partners, make themselves very available and are highly unlikely to reject, rebuke or challenge them. These cheaters are indulging in cake eating. They have both worlds. Their wife at home tending to all those needs and showing a good front. Then they gave their nasty mistress. He gets to live a double life.

      But double lives are untenable for most people. Often both worlds collide as I am thinking will happen when this mysterious event you are talking about happens at the end of the year.

      Yes you probably will have the upper hand if this event requires an intact marriage but what do you really have in the end?

      Also you mention the cultural differences and I think I’m starting to catch on to your circumstances. Cultural differences throws a whole different element into the infidelity bi fine care if it’s race or ethnicity or religion. It’s as impacting to a cheaters mind set as FOO issues.

      I’m sorry you are struggling with your husbands disrespectful behavior and ut sounds like you are a smart resourceful woman who is handling the situation the best you know how and what is working for you.

      I wish you all the best.

    • TryingHard

      LOL maybe there should be disclaimer on anastesia “warning use of anastesia may turn you into a narcissistic asshole.”

    • Butterball

      I don’t think the cultural differences between us are so much of an issue here really. We’ve gotten along well and from the beginning we adopted the best of each culture into our life and lived in both our countries over the years and it has all worked well for us. He didn’t choose someone from his culture though because she was from his culture. It’s because that is all that is around us now where we live! The odd thing about him though is his natural personality from when I met him was almost like a cross between his own and my own culture, even though he had met perhaps one person from my culture in his life before he met me. So really inherently he is different from people from his own culture. In fact, his behavior with the other woman while normal for his culture is kind of out of character for him, oddly enough.

      The mysterious event is something totally non-personal, but it could impact us personally. It will come in the form of a press release announcement and maybe then get reported on in the news. It’s something that if I had known it could be possible a year ago, and it actually was announced over a year ago, that there might be news coming, everything could have been different now. But as it was, I didn’t find out about it until this past summer by chance.

      I wouldn’t call my husband disrespectful as much as cluelessly acting badly. He sincerely thinks he is being respectful but he just got himself into something without taking the time to think it through about how he would handle it and now he is flailing around and I try to gently guide him in that from time to time when I can get away with it.

      I’m more concerned about the whole midlife crisis aspect of it, because that really takes over someone’s mind and controls them. On the other hand that also allows me to be more forgiving of his behavior. It’s as if a lot of their free will is sucked out of them in this state. I’ve read so much about mlc that it seems to me that they are on autopilot and no one not even they themselves can control the direction they are taking. So can I really judge him for that? Our circumstances that led to this MLC were probably unavoidable at best, and at worst due to choices we made jointly about our life. But there is absolutely nothing I could do to change the circumstances now, although he could, which is why all this happened. The mystery event thought could be a total game changer from my side and give me the power I totally lack now. That will be my D-day so to speak if it comes to pass. I feel no regret about that though because if this all had come a year earlier it would have taken no thought whatsoever how we should proceed. The path would have been clear and the same for both of us. It’s his choices from the past year that will make his head spin, so be it. Actions have consequences and he will have to deal with that.

      • TheFirstWife

        Regarding mid life crisis. My H had one and it almost led to our divorce.

        The year he turned 50 we were married 25 years. However I cannot tell you the number of times in a six-month period The divorce word was used. By him.

        Infant the day he had his George Bailey/It’s A Wonderful Life moment he asked for a divorce and begged for a reconciliation in the same day.

        And 3 years later we are still together and happy.

        It is very difficult to watch someone become unglued right in front of your eyes, and there is almost nothing you can do to help them.

        I’m not sure how an affair solves ANY problems but that is how my H dealt with his mid life crisis.

        He literally ended his sffsir about two seconds before I picked up the phone and called the OW to find out if she knew why my H was acting crazy.

        And that is how I found out the affair was still going on or had JUST ended. I then told him to get out. Not going to tolerate this any longer.

        Boy did he work his butt off to get me to stay and change my mind. He only started therapy recently but better late than never. ????

        • TheFirstWife

          S/b in fact the day he had his…

    • TryingHard

      It sounds like to me at least you have it all figured out and have great control over the outcome and consequences for both of you

      Congratulations and good on you. Best of luck for your future.

    • Rachel

      LOL trying!!! He was always a narcissist but got worse at the age of 50. Same year he had the surgery. He had been in touch with his soulmate our entire marriage. Happy Birthdays, merry Christmas emails and texting.
      His shananagins are going to make some interesting reading when I write my book.
      He’s just a mess. Never an email of I miss you or I made a mistake but just jabs to say hey, remember me I made your life miserable and still am.
      In January I will be changing my name back to my madien name and I will have a new email address. The ex will not be privileged to it. I had in the divorce decree that old money bags has to pay the boys car insurance. They are on my policy and the ex pay. I will be removing them from my policy in August when the policy is up. I had a cheaper rate keeping them on my policy but with the ex paying 15 minutes before I was going to be cancelled opened my eyes. Two hundred dollars isn’t that much more for peace of mind and calmness for me.

    • Butterball

      I’ve got a new family of origin issue.

      Since yesterday my husband has been rewriting the history of our home itself. He built it, he furnished it. It’s not bad, even if it isn’t perfect. And now it is crap in his mind and that he is using this as an excuse to avoid me.

      This is someone who I lived with at one time in a one bedroom apartment and we were so proud of ourselves being clever in getting all our furniture for free from people or dumpster diving. When we got married we promised we would stay together even if we lived on the street.

      I grew up in a relatively well-to-do family in a nice home. My husband grew up in dirt poor poverty but he overcame it and achieved a level of success that makes him one of the most respected and prominent people in the community.

      I responded by pointing out to him he was the one that built the home and also who chose most of the furniture and we hadn’t actually finished all the remodeling work we planned in the house before he started his Midlife Crisis. I told him it he didn’t like it we could work on it together and make it nice. But I also reminded him I didn’t marry him for material things like the house but rather for him. These things I pointed out by text because by that time he decided it was best to end our call. So I don’t know his reaction. I probably won’t get one.

      The fact is though I grew up in a more comfortable home than we now live in and I am happy. He is living in a home that is a more comfortable home than he grew up in and he isn’t happy. Go figure.If I can be happy with less than I had growing up, why can’t he be happy with more?

      • Butterball

        I should add he was offering to make changes to the home for me that I wanted from the outset, but at the same time complaining about the things he doesn’t like in the home. Maybe I need to focus on getting him to make the changes he wants so he has no excuses to hide behind.

        • Butterball

          I’m really starting to understand how childhood issues are at the core of mdlife crisis. The ironic thing is that I was planning on the first thing I wanted to start up with our remodeling was to make a space that would be very similar to the home he grew up in, and frankly that he and I both know will be more comfortable. I intended it so that he would have a place to escape to once he gets into that period of his midlife crisis where he wants to escape from everyone but I think it actually will be a good thing to go ahead with it so that it serves as a reminder of how his nose in the sky attitude about our home was bullshit. He won’t appreciate it immediately but with time he will.

          • Butterball

            I meant to restart our remodeilng when I get home later this week.

            • Butterball

              Also, the OW grew up in a home very similar to the one my husband grew up in. She’s obviously got her nose in the sky too now.

            • Butterball

              Well, now he called me up angry about the last text i sent in which I told him we would be going through difficult times in the coming months but I indicated my intention to weather it. He didn’t like the idea that I said there would be difficult times. He’s as much in a fantasy with me as he is with the OW. Our life is supposed to be so great and perfect and I am not allowed to be unhappy about anything. I guess this is when I just need to suck it up and fake it until we make it.

            • Hopeful

              It sounds like affair fog or whatever you want to call it. Now looking back and from what my husband told me he had to rewrite what was going on at home. If he thought our marriage, me and our life was so great then he would be even a bigger jerk. I have not changed at all since dday and he acknowledges that. He has changed and sees things for what they are vs to justify his poor behavior. Until they break away from it and see life for what it is and make a commitment to their life then there really is nothing for them to be positive about. My husband now looks back and is sad about all that missed time. But we focus on today and our future. It has been a hard recovery but each day seems a little better.

            • Butterball

              I’m trying not to look forward at it as lost time, although it is that my husband always took lots and lot of time with me and in terms of what they call love languages, this was the most important thing that made me feel loved. He didn’t have close friends. He would rather spend his time at home with me than go out. Even if we were just sitting in the same room but not talking.

              He’s at a point in his career though where things are really taking off where in the next few weeks he is going to be juggling his private business, a new CEO position of a new business that he is a partner in, and another new job. He wouldn’t have much time for me even if there wasn’t an OW so I’m not going to worry about that. The OW however is very demanding on his time and this already is bothering him and it is something he has told me himself. At first he seemed to enjoy her demands of his time while it drove me mad, but now it is his turn to start to feel pressured by her and I can see that she is continuing to be unreasonable in this regard. My best strategy is to NOT ask for his time, because that will make him appreciate me more. It’s hard because it feels like giving up what made me feel loved, but I think in the long run it will draw him back to me because he simply can’t handle any sort of pressure right now.

              To some extent my husband is trying to demonize me like yours did to justify to himself his behavior, but I think he knows I won’t buy it because he really does NEED me in his life in ways that the OW would NEVER be able to fulfill. He’s even made the OW feel this way about me and she told me this. So he can’t get away with this kind of talk. This is a man who even if he was pissed off at me after a fight and didn’t want to talk to me for 2 days, after day 1 would ask me a favor if he needed it and I would help him and then he would go back to silent treatment. His need for me would always override any negative feelings he has, real or rewritten. That part of his personality has not changed.

              Instead, at some level it is actually more that he expects me to regard him as perfect, doing no wrong and incapable of hurting me at all right now even though deep inside he knows this is nonsense. Before he fully descended into the fog, he told me he didn’t want to hurt or humiliate me and he even brought that up indirectly again when I was complaining to him two weeks ago as if to say, “You told me I wasn’t hurting you so why are you saying that I am now”. I really feel he wants me to be the one who rewrites the present for him to help him get through this. He wants me to fake it until we make it. In fact, at one point too before he was fully in the fog we talked about faking it until we make it. And so I guess I signed up for an acting job for the immediate future so that is what I need to do. My husband and I were always best friends and he trusted me more than anyone. I feel he still expects that from me even though he’s not sure whether I feel he is worthy of it or whether I will give him reason to continue to trust me. So I have my work cut out for me to prove it to him.

              It’s great to hear though that things are looking up for you every day. I hope to be there someday and I think eventually we will be. I think I will go look for your other posts here and read some as I think you sound like you have some wisdom I could benefit from.

            • Butterball

              Oh, I forgot the other thing that he has on his head right now, exams to study for. He is doing a graduate degree and he has already put off his final exams for 6 months and another 6 months because of his midlife crisis. Even if he does decide to spend time with me, I think I will encourage him to just sit with his books in the same room with me and I do my own thing. That’s the best thing I can do for him now is to help him to succeed by giving him the space to study. He’s really overbooked right now and if anything that will be the downfall of the OW’s greedy personality.

            • Hopeful

              I am glad it helps! It can and is such a hard thing to go through. And until I faced it I did not understand it totally. I figured I would have left my husband if this happened. It is interesting since my husband always praised and thanked me for all I did. I have amazing cards, notes, gifts and memories from him during those years. He tells me it was all real and based on how he felt. It is hard to comprehend as I would never do that. But he says he never wanted to leave me. But he was selfish, immature, seeking an escape and acting as a taker. I have forgiven him and that helped us both a lot. Neither of us will forget but the forgiveness I think allowed him to open up and process it all vs feeling defensive. I know you are against therapy but I so wish you could go to mine or find someone Iike them.

              My husband did talk a lot about love being a verb not just a feeling. He stopped treating it like a verb. We were always close but now it is different. Going through this has allowed us to get to another level. Not that one either of us would wish for but we are embracing it.

              One article that stood out to my husband and he read and refers to a lot is Masters of Love in The Atlantic by John gottman. It is well done and it really struck a cord with my husband early on and he still refers to it. For me Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass was the most helpful. I like John. Gottman’s Boone too. He focuses a lot on relationships.

              Over time you will figure this out. Just be sure to take care of yourself. Again what helped us most was setting clear boundaries.

        • Butterball

          Now that I came home he admitted actually he likes our home the way it is because it is simple. I just found it a disaster zone when I came home so that may explain why he was unhappy with it. But we have been organizing and cleaning things up and that has made a huge difference.

    • Butterball

      I wouldn’t have thought I could take it either, but I love him. So what can I do? I do know that knowledge about midlife crises and the stages and the behaviors involved are absolutely essential for where I am already. I shudder to think if I didn’t know all this how I would be reacting now. I might believe all the stuff he says, I wouldn’t have the patience, etc. I’d say that all those who say you can’t do anything about your husband’s midlife crisis are wrong. Sure you can’t push them to do anything in any particular way you want it but at least you can know that it isn’t about you and it’s about them and that someday things can get better. It allows you as the AA mantra says, to accept the things we can’t change. I can’t imagine without that knowledge that 95% of marriages could survive. Of course the BS would throw the towel in. How could you not if you actually thought your husband actually felt the way he talks and acts? At best, you would think he had lost his mind and was mentally ill.

      The knowledge lets you focus on the good in your spouse and remember who they really are inside even if they aren’t showing it now. As hard as it is for me now, I know it must be much worse to be in his shoes. To see him hurting so much and he doesn’t even understand why is almost heartbreaking. Especially since I can’t do anything to take away the pain for him and he has relied on me so long to be his support.

      • Butterball

        I’m just thinking about how the childhood abuse he endured might play a role in all this although it isn’t something that has surface in recent years. In our first year of marriage he would be fighting physically with someone in his sleep when he dreamt and he also acted odd in ways that honestly I don’t even remember now and then one day he confessed to me what had happened to him as a child as an explanation for his behavior. His father was a drug addict and the impact of the drugs made him beat him and his mother and that also had financial implications because he owned a lot of land but sold most of it to pay for his habit and in a way that impacted on what he and his siblings own today. It would have been much more if he hadn’t squandered it. The fighting in his sleep stopped completely and the issue of the abuse never really came up again although the squandering aspect definitely has come up in the intervening years but maybe there is something that is returning to him now from either issue. In what way I can’t say at this point but it is something I will keep an eye out for. For some very logical reasons it was something that was sort of out of sight out of mind until the past year or so but now he can actually feel the impact of his father’s poor financial choices from years ago as if his father hadn’t made those choices certain things about our life would be different. At the same time his father really was part of the reason for his success. He made sure he got a good education and did not hesitate to support him in that so he also respects his father for that.

        I could be totally wrong about this being a factor but it doesn’t hurt to at least speculate in my mind so that if something comes up I don’t get caught off guard by it.

        • TheFirstWife

          Butterball. Your H is under an extreme amount of pressure. New CEO job, two other jobs and grad school exams.

          He is having a mid life crisis AND is heading for a nervous breakdown with all he has going on, plus an affair to boot.

          What is he running from overloading his life like this?

          My H’s midlife crisis was fueled by his career at the time he hated his job and was making less $ b/c he took an opportunity that did not pan out. He was frustrated and stressed about $ & bing bang boom – AFFAIR.

          I thought at times he was going crazy because of his behavior. I went along with his crap for many months until I could not take it anymore. He wanted a divorce & changed his mind and wanted a divorce & changed his mind over 2-3 days.

          He was becoming unglued. Hard to watch someone you love go through this and there is very little you can do.

          I finally had enough and was scared for him and called the OW for help. I did not know the affair was still going on. AHA! That explained everything.

          Soooo long story short I had my answer. I knew what was causing his temporary insanity. The OW. The affair. The mounting pressure of his two lives colliding and forcing decisions from him.

          Please be careful with your H. He is on a tightrope with all he has going on. And I hope he comes to his senses soon.

          • Butterball

            Actually, the job stress has nothing to do with the midlife crisis. He took on extra work responsibilities only in the last few weeks after he was fully in the fog. His workload and studies were perfectly manageable at the time the crisis started and if he hadn’t chosen the path he chose the workload might be heavy but still might be sustainable for a while. However, I think the extra workload actually will help him to see that the path he has chosen won’t bring him the life he prefers and that things were better for us before he took all this on and that the only way will be to correct his path.

            • Butterball

              I know that might not make a lot of sense to you all, but as I said our situation is a bit different, and for various reasons the working schedule plus some new economic realities we are facing will likely play a big role in HELPING to puncture the fantasy life he has built up in his mind. Even yesterday he was complaining about the distance he will have to drive for one of the jobs and I know him-it will bother him every time he goes. In other cases I can understand how being overworked could lead to a MLC but in his case the overworking will actually probably hasten the course of the MLC because it actually is the EFFECT, not the CAUSE and it is an effect that he will HATE. And it is an effect that only could be cured by following the path we were on originally before all this happened.

            • Butterball

              And actually just to answer your question, he’s unlikely to be running from anything by taking on all this responsibility. You take one step and it has consequences. Working more is a consequence of his midlife crisis. Think of it like getting a sexually transmitted disease in a n affair. He sort of has no choice about it and its not something he likes.

        • Sarah P.

          Hi Butterball,

          I am glad that you have disclosed more because I understand where you are coming from 100%. I don’t see any reason to leave your marriage and I would fight for it if I were you.

          Unresolved childhood trauma causes people to do all kinds of ‘acting out.’ Even without trauma, he is also under more stress than most humans can handle. Also, the fact that he is a CEO would mean that he would naturally attract what are referred to as spouse poachers. There are people out there who don’t want to do the work required to find a high quality spouse and so they wait until a high quality married person comes into their lives. I don’t know how your H met the OW, but there is evidently a ton of manipulation going on behind the scenes. If I were in your position, I would fight for my marriage too. No question about it. Don’t let the OW win.

          But, you also have your own power in this situation. Of course you can stay in your marriage, but you don’t necessarily have to sign up for an acting job if you don’t feel comfortable with it. Here is why: ultimately, deep down, most wayward spouses want the betrayed spouse to stand up to them. This does not mean leaving, it doesn’t mean yelling, and it doesn’t mean being dramatic. It just means living with dignity and being able to say with a quiet confidence something to the extent of: “I am not okay with being in this situation, but I am not leaving either.” It’s great to be a shiny model of integrity and quiet calm. Deep down every man knows that if a woman is willing to go with a married man, that woman is NOT trustworthy. Deep down your husband knows that you are the one with integrity and who has stuck by him all these years.

          Let me give you an example of what it looks like when a man married the OW. This is what happened to me with my ex. That is, he dumped me and ultimately married the OW. I have never been a OW and I have never cheated. Anyhow, the OW gleefully broke up our relationship because she felt a sense of power of being able to get someone to walk away from everything. He also lost financially just as I did. I lost everything except for my 401k. (Thankfully). Anyhow, the ended up getting married. He and I had worked together and had many mutual coworkers. One coworker (and friend of mine) sees him at networking events. His wife always shows up, always directs the conversation, and always keeps her hands on him physically while digging her nails into his arms as he speaks. You see, she knows that in the end she got a man who was unfaithful. She knows she cannot trust him and he also knows he cannot trust her. They go everywhere together, he has had to take down his writing blog and all of his social networking profiles, and he has no life outside of her. My point is, the relationship that someone gets is after an affair is not a good one and it never has trust at the foundation.

          My point in telling this story is that you naturally have the upper hand. One day it will start nagging away at your H that he already has someone with integrity (you) who has stood by him. He already has a best friend and life partner (you). He will contrast that with the OW and start asking himself if quality people are like the OW. He will realize that quality and trustworthy people don’t engage in affairs with married men. You just have to hang on and fight for what is yours. But again, you don’t have to go along with the attitude that he wants to see in you if you don’t want to. He is asking you to give up your dignity and you don’t have to do that. You can keep your dignity and remain in the marriage.

          This is just my opinion, of course.

          Even if some of the things I say would indicate that women should leave their marriages, I don’t generally believe this. I generally believe in working on marriage and staying the course. But, sometimes deal breaker come up (such as when a wayward spouse is a narcissist) and that is when I start questioning whether or not a woman should stay. I have a friend who was married to a narcissist for 30 years. She recently got divorced but not because of an affair. She realized that if she stayed, she would lose everything. Her husband was a narc with an excellent retirement but he had a gambling habit that caused them to owe 60k in back taxes. He refused to stop and after many years she realized she had to “get off the Titanic” or she would go down with it. She got out right before the Titanic went down. I know the man and the situation well and I agree that what she did was 100% the right choice. There are some people who will not change and who engage in self destructive behaviors that affect the other spouse.

          I don’t see your situation as the kind that would require leaving. It sounds like you have a plan and want to stick it out. I would do the same thing. The stakes are high.

          By the way, your husband and mine have something in common. When we first got married he would do sleep fighting but not anything that affected me. He would be tossing and turning and I would wake up. He would have his arms out in front of him. I would wake him up. We talked about it a couple of times and it stopped for whatever reason. Only several years later did I realize he came from an abusive home. He had been hiding it from me because he didn’t want me to dislike his parents. That didn’t work. Even though he did it from me his parents (especially his mom) would do abusive things in front of me. So I told him he needed to tell me what was going on. I told him that I am smart enough to know that his mom didn’t just develop such behavior over night. Anyhow, these things leave deep wounds. It is extremely sad.

          I have pretty normal parents. No abuse in my home and lots of support. My parents are kind and gentle people. My H clung to my parents the first time he met them and I never understood why until I found out about his parents. Now I understand why. He has a family that unconditionally accepts him and loves him now. (My parents). Abuse leaves its legacy. Hopefully your H will see a therapist about his childhood. I think if he were to speak with a good therapist about his childhood, the affair would fall away.

          • Butterball

            He’s not a CEO by training but he is in a career that would be attractive to an OW nonetheless. Yet he saw himself as totally unworthy of a woman’s attention actually oddly enough. But I can’t blame it on his career or any sort of manipulation behind the scenes. I can think of two men right off the top of my head that are in the lowest of low careers who managed to get themselves into the same situation as my husband is in so I don’t buy the stereotype.

            The big difference between me and the OW is she is young and jealous and naive and I am old and patient and wise. He’s enjoying the jealousy now and her possessiveness but sooner or later her shine will wear off and such behavior will bother him, also because he will find it harder and harder to keep facing me while continuing this way.

            It’s not about quality here. She has her good qualities too but someone like her is a dime a dozen and I am a needle in a haystack. She could be replaced, but I can’t be. The benefits my husband gets from being married to me he won’t find in her or anyone else, and he knows that deep down inside. He knows he is lowering his standards with her. Two nights ago he was calling me up saying if you think the immediate future will be difficult (as I had just said to him in a text), then don’t come home, there’s no such thing as difficult. Then 16 hours later he was on the phone asking me to help him with something that the OW could never help him with and I spent 3 or 4 hours online with him helping him with what he needed. Also a few days ago he was stressing out about a situation that he thinks will affect my ability to help him in a way that he is very dependent on me for and he was so concerned that it couldn’t be resolved. He would be lost without me and I know it. My secret is not that he will realize I am morally superior but simply that I am irreplaceable and he can’t afford to lose me.

            Also you are right about the dignity. I think next time he spouts off one of his justifications I will tell him that he is free to believe whatever he wants but that he will never manage to convince me of it, so he should just save his talk. He has told me he doesn’t want to hurt and humiliate me and I believe he doesn’t WANT to but I also told him he can’t avoid it if he keeps on the path he is on.

            There’s another site that talks about mildife crisis and he fits the description of a “clinging boomerang”, someone who can’t really separate himself from the spouse and needs her validation. The advice is to give him that validation until he feels secure, and then once things start to cool down with the OW, you can make demands on him. Not sure if the second half will come to pass but definitely I can feel on my own that the first half is what is needed now.

            • Butterball

              I’m thinking more about the whole childhood abuse thing. As I said, my husband never said much about it but I do remember him saying he was a troublemaker child as if to justify his father’s treatment of him, although he knows of course it was due to his drug addiction. I don’t believe it entirely though that he was such a bad child, maybe that is what his father convinced him to believe. I bring this up now because from the outset he told the OW he wasn’t a nice person and that she would have to bear him. We had our trouble in the early years of marriage but in the last few years I can say he really became a much better person and it is rather a shocking regression in my mind for him to tell the OW that and I have sent him text messages saying that I don’t view him that way because really it is just horrible for him to see himself this way. I’d been puzzling why he suddenly latched on to this characterization of himself as it is the opposite of how he has seen himself with me but maybe there is something to this here. He certainly has been acting it out with both of us.

              The other odd thing about his childhood is although I know he had 2 best friends in childhood and has other friends from his childhood that he still sees, almost all his stories about his childhood involve animals-pets and farm animals and just random wild and stray animals. I get the impression he spent a lot of time alone or at least not with humans. He only has about 2 stories about being a troublemaker, whereas I was generally a good kid but I have lots of stories about troublemaking that I got away with that no one ever could trace to me and I have told him lots of those stories. If stories are anything to judge by he was a lot better kid than me. Something just does not add up in his stories..Not sure what but if you heard him talk about his childhood you would think that he was like Tarzan raised by apes..Oddly, he sent me a message two months ago about how he wanted to buy a certain animal but people would laugh at him if he did. It was a remark that came out of left field.

              I’m thinking maybe I should buy him the animal that was his favorite when he was a child. It’s a farm animal that we could get some benefit from. It might bring back some of the comforts of his childhood if otherwise he is struggling with issues related to that subconsciously. I’ll have to look into that when I get home.

              You’ve given me a lot of food for thought. Not sure it makes much of a difference in how I approach him but i am the kind of person who likes to at least understand what I am dealing with from all angles. I had read a lot about how midlife crises are often related to childhood events but I had a hard time seeing how that could be in my husband’s case and no one ever gave any examples of it so it it just seemed like psychobabble, Also, since i don’t have any sort of childhood trauma it was hard to see how childhood could have such an affect on a middle aged man, but now I am starting to see how this could actually be the case with my husband.

              It doesn’t help that he is treating me badly, that probably just reinforces his characterization of himself. Not sure how I can counteract that.

            • Butterball

              And it doesn’t help that the OW’s response was, “Since I love you, I will bear you.” The CORRECT response would have been “Don’t say that about yourself, you are a nice person.” She only is reinforcing his bad view of himself and that really pisses me off.

            • Butterball

              And even we had our issues in the beginning of our marriage before our marriage he was absolutely an absolutely perfect gentleman, not the brute he is with the OW. We had one fight before we married and it is still, not surprisingly, something we still argue about today from time to time. But other than that, he did not see any need to warn me that he was a bad person like he has done with the OW. It’s just odd.

            • TheFirstWife


              I give you credit. If I knew my H was involved with OW there is no way I hell I would be on the phone or online helping him for 3-4 minutes let alone hours. You are a better person than I am.

              I was patient with my H to a fault and allowed him to dictate our marriage terms during the aftermath of DDAY1. I stayed calm and rational and understanding and truly tried to help him.

              Until DDAY2 6 months later.

              Then he realized what he had done and knew I was no longer going to help him with his midlife crisis. And he had better start turning this around b/c I was ready to walk out the door by then.

              My biggest regret is that I didn’t listen to Dr Phil and his advice “you teach people how to treat you”. I was a doormat basically our whole marriage and ecxept for a few instances I agreed or went along with his ideas or plans.

              Now it is a different story. We argue more now b/c I will not back down or “just go along to keep the peace” and he is not used to me standing up for myself.

              So our dynamics have changed but one thing is very clear – he has no more options or chances. One false move and he knows it is over. I have given him every opportunity the past 3 years.

              He has broken my trust, killed my self esteem and crushed me emotionally with his affsirs and lies and ego and selfishness. he always treated me well but looking back I wish I would have stood up for myself more often.

              I give you credit b/c I would never wait out an affair ever again. I did it for 4 years with his first EA and I realize that I set the tone for him thinking he could do it again. Except the second affair he had deep feelings for her and was ready to leave me for her (though he denies this).

              Maybe if he thought I would kick him to the curb then he would not have had affair #2.

              My patience and understanding got me nowhere except him thinking he could do it again. So he did. so now he is afraid I might leave him because of all he has done. Affairs, not calling and telling me when he will be late or where he is, staying out until 3am with no notice or call, extensive travel schedule with work, sports every Saturday morning without fail, etc.

              His affair started out of revenge b/c I put my foot down on something that was very important. I told him he could not do something and he was angry and acted like a spoiled brat and continued to do it. A few weeks later he meets OW and she works for him and a month later BOOM!! Affair. Mid life crisis. Wants a divorce.

              And now I am supposed to believe I am everything he has ever wanted. Except the 18 months he was unhappy with his job, me, marriage and he took out all his frustrations on me. Cruel and mean whereas that never happened before.

              I just wonder why I wasn’t good enough. Why he wasn’t happy with the lifestyle he had. His friends were envious b/c I hardly said no to golf or tennis or sports events. I felt he worked hard and enjoyed time relaxing with his friends for an afternoon.

              He needed some time away and to himself. He is a great dad and did so much for our children. I always recognized and told him that.

              In any event in my case patience and support went completely unnoticed during his affair. Would not do it again.

            • Butterball

              I’ve never been a doormat. Until this time, we have always made decisions together, but now that there is another woman involved it’s not like that entirely anymore and that hurts. But today we discussed his job interview and whether it was worth the exhaustion of driving back and forth and getting a schedule that would mean 12 hours working some days plus commutes. I’ll help him because I won’t be happy with myself if I am a bad person toward him when he needs something reasonable, but if he is intentionally or illogically behaving badly toward me I am not going to just roll over and accept it. Yes, I am willing to be patient but he knows exactly how I feel about it. And he will have to compensate for it later. I expect going forward to be treated better than before all this happened. I have already decided that now. I want him to be proud of how he treats me. As you say, we teach others how to treat us and that is what I need to do. I can’t control how he is acting with the OW but I CAN set the tone for how I expect him to act with me.

              There is one thing that I have been lenient with him about all these years and there were reasons for it but I also wish I had been more firm about it and once we reached a point where the reasons disappeared he went into the midlife crisis. I did actually put my foot down on this issue several months ago and told him it wasn’t going to be like before anymore and I would take charge of what it was my right to take charge of and he didn’t argue. However, I feel my leniency didn’t actually make him happier all these years although he also appreciated it and maybe more it put guilt on his head and I do have a feeling this is an issue that will arise as he works out his midlife crisis. And that’s fine with me as long as it permanently changes the dynamics between us going forward because that would be the best for us both.

              Your husband does sound like he was a royal jerk for a while but I wouldn’t let it make you feel you are unworthy. He learned your value rather than just take you for granted as a result of the affairs. They taught him a lesson. And remember he is with you now, not any other woman. He was ready to leave you and he could have. Bu the didn’t and that is what counts in the end.

            • Shifting Impressions

              You say you can’t control how he is acting with the other woman but you can set the tone for how he acts with you…….He is treating you with total disrespect just by the fact that there is another woman. He has broken his marriage vows to you.

              You might want to read Doug’s next post about the manipulation that cheaters use. The audio in that post is very enlightening.

              Mid life crisis or not he is still responsible for his actions. As I read your comments I feel like you are caught up in the actions of a master manipulator. I sort of feel like I fell in a rabbit hole when I read the reasoning……none of it makes sense to me. He is treating you very badly by the very act of having another woman.

            • Butterball

              As I said, there are things I don’t want to mention about this here but manipulator her is not.

            • Butterball

              I meant to say he is not a manipulator.

            • Shifting Impressions

              You might want to read the book IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING by George Simon. I just spent all evening reading it and it’s a real eye opener.

              We don’t always recognize when we are being manipulated. It can be very subtle. He gives a lot of clarity on the subject.

              You might want to reconsider…….He is cheating on you and yet is playing on your sympathy.

              I know you don’t like what I’m saying but please think about it.

              As I read this book last night, I realised that my husband used many of the manipulative tactics mentioned in the book during the EA and after D-day to avoid talking about the EA. It was all very subtle but pretty effective on his part.

              I am not trying to cast judgement on you but please consider that there is a good chance that there is some manipulation going on.

            • TheFirstWife


              I think you are a very kind person. I was too. I was also taken for granted and manipulated.

              Now I no longer do his laundry. I am no longer his servant in the sense that he has been made responsible for himself. I bent over backwards to give him an easy carefree life. Now I don’t put his needs first.

              He picks up his own dry cleaning. He goes to the grocery store more often. He cleans out the garage and keeps it neat instead of me doing it.

              Our dynamics have changed and I put myself first. You may think I am selfish but I am not. I just make sure I am happy first, my needs are met first instead of last. I don’t run around town drinking or making a fool of myself and I go to church and volunteer and have my own business and a regular job. So yes I am busy but I alway put family first.

              I don’t dovmy children’s laundry either. I don’t clean their rooms or bathrooms. I have removed the maid service from my job description as it went unappreciated for years. If I put your clean clothes in your room and they are thrown in the floor and shoved in a closet then the freebie ends. That was my children’s choice to make. Now they live with chores b/c I will not tolerate a dirty house so they have to clean it. Weekly. Not an option.

              I wish I would have set boundaries sooner with my H. But I did everything out if love and kindness and respect.

              In my opinion cheating = disrespect

              So while you may continue to live and support your H during his affair (as I did for a year and for 4 years during his EA) it appears to be falling on deaf ears. I understand you don’t want to be mean. I don’t either. I am not mean. I just will no longer be generous to a fault.

              That is not being mean that is setting boundaries.

            • Butterball

              When I am nice to my husband, I am putting myself first. I don’t know what your religious views are but for me, I’d rather do something that I know will please God (ie be nice) than do something just to spite my husband. It makes me feel good about myself even if my husband is doing something that isn’t making me feel good. This has nothing to do with my husband’s relationship with the OW, it’s just how I have always been.

              And yes my husband does stuff for me too. It’s not a one way street. Today I was the one in need. I was stuck in a noisy office surrounded by smoking employees for over an hour trying to get something done related to our second home where I am now, and I was dealing with lazy employees and I was getting nowhere. I called him up in frustration and asked him whether the errand even needed doing because I wanted to walk out then and there. He told me to just sit tight for a few minutes and he would call me back. So I waited, and then he called me and told me “You see that man at the desk behind the counter. He’s the director of the office. He will take care of everything for you.” Unbeknownst to me my husband had done the man a favor a few years ago and had saved his number so he called him up and asked him to help me. I was done and out of there in 5 minutes.

              To me that is how you teach someone how to treat you. You act as you want to be treated yourself.

            • Shifting Impressions

              TFW is talking about setting boundaries…….this isn’t about being spiteful to your husband.

              My religious beliefs are also that I take the high road, so to speak.

              Does your religion allow for him to have another woman??? It was really nice that he helped you out. But by allowing him to break your marriage vows with another woman aren’t you teaching him that it’s okay to disrespect you?

    • Hopeful

      I agree with tfw. That is a lot and the with his childhood histrory. I think that can shape and influence all aspects of your life. I know also when someone is under additional stress that is when you revert back, struggle, fall into old habits, seek escapes. My husband’s affair years were way before midlife crisis time typically. He was young, successful but having kids and a traditional life that he pushed for overwhelmed him. Also my husband had nothing “bad” happen to him but he got attention for his talents and a lot of pressure. I never really knew how extreme this was but as he grew up he lost that entire identity. I think that is a big aspect of why he cheated. His families focus was not on the right thing, it was not like he was abused or the treated him poorly but I can see how it affected and still affects him today. And he has to work really hard not to slip back into those mindsets.

    • TryingHard

      SI— I couldn’t agree with you more. I do not understand how a BS can say there’s no disrespect when their husband carries on a relationship with another woman or man. Affairs are the epitome of disrespect!!!! I don’t care if the affair is the result of a mid life crisis or otherwise. Mid life crisis is a choice. It’s not a tumor for crying out loud. He/she CAN control themselves. He/she is choosing not to control or face the aging process and their ow n mortality. That’s what a MLC is. Making excuses for it is called denial and that can be treated too.

    • TryingHard

      SI–I’ve seen George Simon books referenced on other blogs. I think he has a good message and lots of good info.

      How would you rank his advice? Doesn’t he advocate leaving a cheater as he contends they are quite incorrigible and non-repentant? Which I believe some are.

      I may be wrong but I’d like your take on it. I think you have a good mind for sorting out all this relevant reading material.

      I can’t begin to tell you how many books I’ve read and some are real crap.

      Let me know and thanks

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Trying,
        If you don’t mind my asking, are you looking for both affair books as well as books that deal with personality disorders and manipulation? Let me know what topics are of most interest and I can send some titles. Hope all is well!

        • TryingHard

          Hi Sarah

          I’ve heard a lot about George Simon and his work from another blog. I downloaded the book SI recommended In Sheeps Clothing last night

          As you know I am dealing with some pretty negative manipulation in my life right now and it’s still on going. I need to send you some screen shots of the texts. My therapist says I’m doing the right thing but I am emotionally exhausted and truly teetering on giving up and just not giving a damn anymore.

          H has been great but I am beginning to feel very resentful toward him and his avoidant personality. I’m feeling used by everyone. I can’t be myself for fear of severe consequences.

          No matter what course I take I feel I’m always the bad guy. Nothing is normal or peaceful in my life anymore.

          No I don’t need anymore affair books. I am interested in reading Dougs info on inside the mind of a cheater but don’t see the link for it

          • Shifting Impressions

            I am so sorry things are so very difficult for you right now. The link is right at the end of this post before the sources are listed.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Trying,
            I am so sorry that you are going through turmoil and that nothing is normal and peaceful anymore. You deserve that little house in Normandy or outside of just outside of Paris.

            Go ahead and email me screen shots if you want. If I can see the dynamic, I can give you my take on what I think is going on and what books to read.

            Without knowing the whole story, here are some good books that expose what some people do to emotionally harm others:

            Stop Walking on Eggshells- Paul Mason

            The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide – Alexander Chapman

            Malignant Self Love – Dr. Sam Vaknin (This is the MOST unflinchingly honest look at narcissism I have ever encountered. The author is a self-admitted (but also diagnosed narcissist) and he is brutally honest about what goes on in his mind and how to deal with people like himself.)

            It’s All Your Fault – Bill Eddy (This book is how to handle high conflict personalities. He has several different books dedicated to dealing with HCPs in different arenas.)

            The Sociopath Next Door – D. Martha Stout

            The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists – Eleanor Payson

            I don’t know if that is what you are looking for, but they can hopefully give you tools to deal with those who are causing chaos around you. You deserve to have some peace in your life. Hope the next week is better for you. Fingers crossed.

    • Shifting Impressions

      Trying Hard
      This particular book “In Sheeps Clothing” isn’t about cheating but about manipulation something that cheaters often resort to during and after the affair.

      It helps one spot manipulation but also that our greatest power is our own behavior. In my case any manipulation by my husband has always been subtle because he’s such “great guy” right.

      So whether one leaves or stays isn’t really the point. But if one is being manipulated this is the book to help understand and stop the manipulation. I haven’t really had manipulation clarified for me in this way before.

      As you and I both know it is easier to spot someone else being manipulated than when someone is manipulating us. The book talks about how the manipulator knows exactly what weaknesses to tap into when manipulating someone.

      Case in point when we watch someone being cheated on and the BS is all concerned about the poor cheating Spouse rather than facing the issue of infidelity at hand. In my humble opinion there is some master manipulation going on in these cases.

      I have watched some master manipulators in my time……even under the cloak of spirituality and this books calls it out very well.

      Nice to know someone thinks I have a good mind LoL!!!!

    • TryingHard

      SI–Thanks so much for the info on the book.

      Yes I too am easily manipulated and I know it’s partly because I am trusting and I give people the benefit of the doubt. Well I’m learning.

      I’m going to order the book for my kindle today.

      And of course you have a good mind!!!

      • Shifting Impressions

        Well there are days, when one wonders…..I must be getting old Lol

        You will have to give me your take on the book when you’re done.

    • TryingHard

      Thanks SI. I’ll look for it.

      Tough times indeed. LOL getting pretty sick of the tough times and I don’t seem to be able to get away from it. It’s not really anything directly related to my husband’s affair, it’s just all sorts of challenges that I’m pretty tired of dealing with. I’ve always been the pleaser and the go between and the intermediary for all our relationships. And yes it gets me in all kinds of trouble because try as I may I just can’t seem to please everyone and no matter what I do it’s wrong or questioned or I have to eat another shit sandwich, which BTW, I am getting pretty good at!!! But I have had my fill of shit sandwiches. I want off the shit sandwich buffet!!! I want oatmeal, plain fucking oatmeal!!!

      I was looking at a cruise for the xmas holiday but my h didn’t think we could get away from work as we are in the middle of a huge project.

      LOL I told him last night that I could leave on that cruise and he could handle all the xmas stuff and family and all their issues.

      And BTW my h and your h must be brothers. Yep mine knows how to avoid all situations and knows just how to fly under the radar so as not to be detected cause “he’s such a great guy” Um, yeah, right……

      Thanks for listening. Sorry to dump all this here.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Always ready to listen…..no apologies necessary.

        You know, I don’t know if this helps but when I was reading all the manipulation stuff one statement really struck a chord with me. You always hear the stuff about how you only have control over your own response and your own integrity and on an on……that is true.

        But he said your power is in your own actions. YOUR POWER IS IN YOUR OWN ACTIONS!!!!!!. Just thought I would repeat for emphasis. The more I mull this over the more powerful it feels.

        Yes those “brothers” have a way of setting us up to be the bad guy.

        • Shifting Impressions

          By the way those Shit Sandwiches are damn hard on the indigestion……maybe just throw them out instead!!!

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Trying,
        I vote for the solo cruise 🙂

    • TryingHard

      SI–Thanks for the shoulder. I started the book last night and read about 5 pages before passing out.

      Indeed yes, the power is in our actions. And when I act differently than when wife, mom, sister, friend, DIL has acted in the past ie DOORMAT well it scares people.

      You can’t even imagine what they say and do. LOL I even have my therapist shaking her head! Ha I’m always saying no you don’t understand this stuff really happens and they really say this shit to me!!! Sometimes I feel I’m in the middle of the crazy orbit and just can’t get out!! I can see the sanity orbit and I keep reaching for it and just when I think I’m about to catch it BAM they suck me back in.

      I don’t know if you’ve heard about Grey Rock but I am adopting that attitude any more.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Trying,
        If some in your extended family say things that almost sound fictional, then they must be related to my in-laws. My in-laws say and do things that even screenwriters could not come up with. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. I have often thought of writing a ‘fictional’ book about it because people would be entertained by the level of absurdity of it all. Keep saying ‘no’ and watch the chaos makers wonder what to do.

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