Trauma Series Part One: PTSD and Affairs

ptsd and affairs

By Sarah P.

Anytime there is an affair, trauma is not far around the corner.

In fact, I have never spoken to a betrayed spouse who says something to the extent of: “Yeah, my spouse’s affair was no big deal. It’s just one of those things—no more hurtful than getting home late for dinner.”

If someone can find me that person—if that person exists—such a person is in deep denial OR such a person fell out of love with their spouse a long time ago and has become indifferent.  Nevertheless, I believe neither denial nor indifference can be this powerful.  Everyone is hurt by affairs.

I have written about PTSD and affairs before; however, trauma is a subject that still warrants more exploration and examination. Individual trauma overlaps with many different areas since people can develop PTSD after a variety of events.

Finally, the Gottman’s have developed a new, intensive class that offers innovative treatments for trauma related to affairs. I will be attending this class presented by the Drs. John and Julie Gottman next week.

My examination of trauma will be presented as a series that contains three different posts. This first post will discuss why some people can more easily develop PTSD than others and my post will explore the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.  My second post will examine practical methods of overcoming PTSD. My third and final post in this series will be a recap of what I learned at the Gottman seminar and how this knowledge specifically can be applied to your ongoing recovery from infidelity.

It Could Happen to Anyone

Fortunately, in the past 10 years, neuroscience has shed light on the topic of trauma.  Researchers have demonstrated the fact that trauma is all in someone’s head and it is very real—so real that is leaves behind changes in the brain.

One of the unfortunate aspects of trauma is that it overcomes some people while it does not overcome others. Some people seem to be more resilient than others, but this response to trauma does not make resilient people better.

I am simply stating that the development of trauma is complex. Trauma also exists on a continuum and some people recover earlier from a trauma while others recover later. I hope to provide some insight into why this happens and perhaps provide examples on how to speed along recovery.

One of the things that can cause someone to have more severe trauma than another has to do with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). This point was driven home to me when I interviewed Dr. Robert T. Muller, who is an expert on trauma and dissociation. (Stay tuned because Linda & Doug will be releasing a recording of this coaching session later this week.)

When people experience several Adverse Childhood Experiences, as adults, they are more likely to respond to traumatic situations by developing more marked trauma responses.

Adverse Childhood Experiences also directly correlate to increased chance of experiencing serious chronic diseases as well as increased probability that an adult will abuse substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and/or prescription or street drugs.

However, it is not all bad news. The impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences is softened by resiliency experiences during childhood. Resiliency experiences include both outside intervention and/or the intervention of a loving family member.

Click here to access the member’s area and listen to the audio recording of Sarah’s interview with Dr. Robert T. Muller of PTSD and Affairs

 

What is an Adverse Childhood Experience?

“Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse.

ACEs include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Mother treated violently
  • Substance misuse within household
  • Household mental illness
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Incarcerated household member.” (1)

 

 

The good news is that Adverse Childhood Experiences can be mitigated by several factors:

  • Positive self-image
  • Self-control
  • Social competence
  • Biological/genetic resiliency
  • Positive experiences with community role models such as teachers, neighbors, youth group leaders
  • Loving and involved family members (aunt’s, uncle’s, older siblings etc.)

“All people have biological and psychological characteristics that make them vulnerable to, or resilient in the face of, potential behavioral health issues. Because people have relationships within their communities and larger society, each person’s biological and psychological characteristics exist in multiple contexts. A variety of risk and protective factors operate within each of these contexts. These factors also influence one another.

Targeting only one context when addressing a person’s risk or protective factors is unlikely to be successful, because people don’t exist in isolation. For example:

  • In relationships, risk factors include parents who use drugs and alcohol or who suffer from mental illness, child abuse and maltreatment, and inadequate supervision. In this context, parental involvement is an example of a protective factor.
  • In communities, risk factors include neighborhood poverty and violence. Here, protective factors could include the availability of faith-based resources and after-school activities.
  • In society, risk factors can include norms and laws favorable to substance use, as well as racism and a lack of economic opportunity. Protective factors in this context would include hate crime laws or policies limiting the availability of alcohol.” (2)

As you can see, the affect of childhood trauma is complex since so many different experiences and biological traits come into play. Still, this research was too important to overlook since it seems that some can have the “deck stacked against them” because of early life experiences. This knowledge should cause us to have more compassion for both ourselves and others since no one can control what happened to them during childhood.

Several years ago, I worked with a woman who felt she could not shed a sense of negativity. I remember us talking about her childhood and everything she went through while growing up in an abusive and isolated family in Alaska. Remarkably, she had fought tooth and nail to get out of the situation, go to school, become a biologist, and do all kinds of interesting things. But, she said that every time she got up in the morning, she had the distinct sense that life was a game of pool and that she existed behind the eight-ball. She spoke of having to fight against this feeling so that bitterness did not swallow her whole.

This descriptive image of being behind the eight-ball so perfectly connects to what it feels like after D-Day and on the road to recovery.

The Nature of Trauma

The trauma of infidelity has a way of stealing one’s very sense of self; trauma pilfers the best of a person. I believe this is why trauma is so painful; it temporarily removes one’s sense of stability, security, and surety in life. It removes trust and replaces it with feelings of assault, bitterness, fear and a gnawing anxiety. Trauma cuts the line that anchors us and leaves us adrift in a sea of uncertainty.

It is no wonder that betrayed spouses develop full-blown PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms after finding out about their spouse’s affair.

“For most people affected by serial sexual or romantic infidelity of a spouse, it’s not so much the extramarital sex or affair itself that causes the deepest pain. What hurts committed partners the most is that their trust and belief in the person closest to them has been shattered. For a healthy, attached, primary partner, the experience of profound and/or unexpected betrayal can be incredibly traumatic. One 2006 study of women who had unexpectedly learned of a loved one’s infidelity reported such women experience acute stress symptoms similar to and characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)…

In part, the trauma of infidelity stems from the fact that while the cheater has obviously known about his or her extracurricular sexual behavior all along and may actually feel some relief once the truth is on the table, a betrayed partner is all too often blindsided by this information. Even when a spouse is not fully deceived, having had some prior knowledge of the cheating, he or she is usually overwhelmed upon learning the full extent of the partner’s behavior (after all, cheating is usually an ongoing pattern rather than an isolated incident).

Adding insult to injury, it’s not just anyone who caused this pain, loss, and hurt. The agony experienced by betrayed spouses – their reactivity – is amplified by the fact that they’ve been cheated on by the person they had most counted upon to “have their back.” Think what it would be like to have your best friend – the person you live, sleep, and have sex with, the one who co-parents your children and with whom you share your most intimate self, your finances, your world – suddenly become someone coldly unknown to you. The person who carries with them the most profound emotional and concrete significance in your past, present, and future has just taken a sharp implement and ripped apart your emotional world (and often that of your family) with lies, manipulation, and a seeming lack of concern about your emotional and physical wellbeing!” (3)

 

Unfortunately, anyone who has experienced the infidelity of a spouse understands exactly what it is like to have his or her spouse ‘coldly unknown to them.’  It is no wonder that betrayed spouses feel traumatized after they find out about their spouse’s affair.

Shirley Glass, author of “Not Just Friends” adds, “Traumatic events such as natural disasters and criminal attacks shatter our assumptions about our sense of safety in the world. In a similar way, the discovery of infidelity is devastating because it shatters basic assumptions about the security we expect in committed relationships. Most people feel safe from the betrayal of infidelity if they are in a loving relationship where both people have been disapproving of extramarital involvements. In intimate relationships, there is a truth bias, so people tend to take their partner’s word as truth unless there is a prior history of lying and deception. After the betrayal, the traumatized spouse questions everything they trusted and depended on. They say that they no longer know who they are married to or what their marriage stands for. The most severely traumatized are generally the ones who had the greatest trust and were the most unsuspecting. However, even someone who is suspicious and is initially relieved to learn that they weren’t paranoid, has difficulty accepting the reality of a partner’s deception.” (2)

It’s no wonder that it is difficult to accept a partner’s deception. It causes a betrayed spouse to live an anchorless aftermath, drifting with unfettered anxiety and shock. There is nothing to hold onto since one can no longer separate truth from fiction in the nature of the past, present, or future of his or her marriage.

Infidelity changes one’s entire worldview and forever colors the world. It changes one’s assumptions about the nature of life, the nature of people, and the nature of marriage. A world that was once bright and fun becomes cold and menacing.

If you feel traumatized after a spouse’s affair, you are not alone. It is a very normal reaction to a devastating experience.

“In fact, researchers have found the “emotional responses to infidelity to mirror those of other traumatic events, including shock, repression, denial, intense mood fluctuation, depression, anxiety, and lowered self-esteem,” all of which are symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). But what’s most shocking, and seldom talked about, is 70% of women with unfaithful partners met most criteria for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and 71% demonstrated a severe level of functional impairment in major areas of their lives…

Dr. Kevin Skinner, Clinical Director of Addo Recovery, a clinic specializing in helping relationships overcome infidelity and trauma, said “I have sat with thousands of betrayed spouses and have found that the trauma resulting from their discovery of infidelity holds almost identical symptoms to those who are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. And like PTSD, unless treated, recurring triggers will not only sustain their trauma but can feed and exacerbate it, regardless if the relationship remains intact or not.” (4)

For those of us who have lived through a partner’s affair, we know from experience that the above information is true. However, it is important that studies have validated our feelings and experiences.

Many people who have not experienced life as a betrayed spouse might contend that spouses should not or cannot be traumatized by the other’s affair. I believe others who invalidate the traumatized victim of an affair have one of several motives:

  • They do not know what to do with a person who has been traumatized by an affair.
  • Or, in the case of a wayward spouse, they cannot handle the guilt they feel knowing that they caused an innocent spouse to experience PTSD. These thoughts are too inconvenient since some wayward spouses just want their betrayed spouses to “get over it” or to “move on.”
  • They have never experienced traumatic feelings or infidelity and do not understand how someone could develop PTSD outside of a war zone.
  • They are frightened that they may one day be in a similar position and so they cause themselves to believe it is not as bad as it looks.
  • They are ignorant in general.

Lovemaking After the Affair

Before I continue to the diagnostic criteria of PTSD, I would like to discuss how trauma can affect a couple’s lovemaking. But, I also wanted to mention something that is not well known and would like to add a word of caution since lovemaking could impact future divorce proceedings and the settling of assets.

The trauma after an affair can impact sexuality in a couple of ways and both are extreme: one spouse might be so traumatized that they do not have intercourse for a long period of time, while another spouse might find himself or herself engaging in hysterical bonding.

I believe both reactions are caused by trauma, even though they seem to be complete opposites.

When a betrayed spouse is not comfortable having intercourse for a long period of time, it is because she (or he) is traumatized by the idea that his or her spouse could break the sacred bond of marital sexuality. When a betrayed spouse withholds intercourse it is because she knows the relationship has changed and she can no longer give herself in that way. Another reason she might withhold intercourse is due to fear or broken trust. This is a normal reaction to the trauma caused by betrayal.

Then, there is the complete opposite reaction: hysterical bonding. What is interesting is that betrayed spouses who participate in hysterical bonding are also very likely traumatized by an affair. Hysterical bonding can provide reassurance that her/his spouse still finds her/him attractive. It is also a way to reclaim the bond that always belonged to the betrayed spouse.

Neither response to trauma is better than the other. Betrayed spouses must do what feels right. Some betrayed spouses feel empowered and safe while withholding intercourse while others feel empowered and safe through hysterical bonding.

However, there is one very important point to consider in regards to marital intercourse after infidelity. While many states have no-fault divorce laws, other states do not. Seven states still allow betrayed spouses to sue for alienation of affection, while states without no-fault divorce often permit infidelity to affect divorce proceedings and perhaps asset distribution.

Now, I am not an attorney and laws change from state to state and this is not a substitute for a legal opinion. However, this topic is important enough to mention so that you can be aware of how your behavior toward a wayward spouse affects a future divorce.

In some states without no-fault divorce, infidelity can be cause for divorce and can also affect asset distribution, with distribution favoring a betrayed spouse. However, there is a BIG CATCH or a loophole in the law where infidelity can become a moot point and no longer be used as cause for divorce.

In such states, a betrayed spouse must NOT have intercourse with her/his spouse after she/he finds out about the affair. If she/he does have intercourse, she/he can no longer seek a divorce based on infidelity.

This is because some states consider intercourse to be reconciliation. If a betrayed spouse has intercourse after she/he knows about the affair, the laws considers her/his act both reconciliation and implied acceptance of the affair.

Thus, this would preclude her/him from being able to use infidelity as just cause in a future divorce case. This also could substantially affect the assets that she/he receives and she/he could end up looking at a very insecure financial future.

A Sad Story…

This topic was brought to my attention recently when I was reading a divorce blog. One woman talked about how her spouse raped her after administering a date-rape drug and how this would affect divorce proceedings. This is a very unhappy topic, but it is something that must be acknowledged. Here is an except of the story told in the woman’s own words:

“I separated from my husband in 2011 and got divorced in 2012. I can’t stop looking back and analyzing my ex-husband and the life we shared over and over again.  It’s like watching home videos and seeing the natural progression to the end.

My husband proposed by asking me, “Would you like to go on an adventure?” My married life was nothing short of an adventure, so he kept his word. Everyone thought my life was perfect – and I was taught by my husband perception is everything. My husband throughout our marriage thought he was a knight in shining armor to women – and I ended up repeatedly apologizing for his infidelity. I know it sounds crazy, but I apologized for making him do it every single time because it was my fault.

Here’s the moment I knew I had to not just leave but RUN: It was Memorial Day weekend and we were working on being the happy, perfect family. A couple months prior we had a typical elephant in the room problem. It was the same problem, just another day/year. The difference this time was that I had been sleeping on the couch since February. I refused to sweep it under the carpet, forget about it or better yet acknowledge the problem was MY fault and I brought it on myself.

My husband handed me a drink Friday night and that was it. The next morning I woke up naked on our bathroom floor sick. My head was pounding, the room was spinning and I could barely move. I closed my eyes and thinking even hurt. My husband was up and getting ready for a busy Saturday. He came into the bathroom to brush his teeth and noticed I was awake. He told me I was amazing last night and thanked me for exonerating him. Yes, that is right EXONERATING. Exonerating is a big, long word that hurt to even say. I had to remember that word because I never heard it before and I had to look it up. My head was pounding and I kept saying it over and over again.  Fast forward to today, four years later, and I wish I could forget the word.

I looked up the word exoneration and began to cry. The definition is to clear, as of an accusation; free from guilt or blame (he was exonerated from cheating). On Sunday I asked my husband what happened.  The last thing I remember was him handing me a drink Friday night and I could not remember ANYTHING until I woke up Saturday morning (it’s the same to this day – I don’t remember). He was cool, calm and casually replied he put something in my drink to see what would happen. Then he proceeded to tell me that was the best sex we have ever had and I was amazing.

After I put the kids on the school bus Tuesday morning I called an attorney for a consultation. That morning for the first time in 18 years of marriage I was physically scared for my life. There was no way I could sweep this under the rug, take the blame and apologize for what he did to me or continue with my perceived perfect life. I had no idea what I was going to do. I was a stay at home mom and just knew it was time.

I met the attorney and immediately filed for divorce. The attorney told me that my husband was correct with his statement – he was exonerated. I filed for a no-fault divorce.” (5)

 

This story is an excerpt from an article written by this woman. My heart truly goes out to her. This story serves as a warning to all betrayed spouses because her husband obviously had been researching the law and was well ahead of her. He knew that if she had intercourse with him, she could not file for divorce and cite infidelity as the cause.

The Guy Is a Sociopath

Like many serial cheaters, he only cared about himself and his own comfort. Since his wife was not participating in intercourse, he gave her a date rape drug so that she would not have superior legal standing. He knew full well that if she couldn’t cite infidelity, she would have to settle for a 50/50 asset split. I cannot tell you how angry her story makes me because it is a story of the ultimate victimization on many levels. Still, take her story seriously and never forget that serial cheaters will do anything to meet their own needs. If your needs are in conflict with theirs, they will destroy you if it means getting their needs met.

Of course, there is something else I would like to mention about her story. Her husband would appear to meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder. For those unfamiliar with the disorder, they would assume that sociopaths are all behind bars (less than 15% of people in prison meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder); that they are common thieves (wrong again); or that they do not live nearby (read the Sociopath Next Door).

These false impressions have kept people in the dark and allowed psychopaths to flourish. Most often, a psychopath is charming, handsome, extremely intelligent, is competent in his career, and flies under the radar. (Unfortunately, this also describes many talented and good people too.)

A excellent example of a psychopath was Ted Bundy. I live in one of the several states he passed through. Even though I do not live anywhere near where Ted lived, I know two different people who knew Ted personally. One of the gentlemen knew Ted when they worked in the state legislature together.

About Ted this gentleman has said, “Even though Ted confessed, I will never believe he did any of those things.” Then this gentleman nostalgically continued, “Good old, Ted. He was everyone’s friend; would give the shirt off his back if you needed it.” This fellow was no dummy either. He is a retired attorney and has worked in different government positions.

Then there is the fellow whose mom worked with Ted at a rape-crisis hotline. (Ted is better known for his work on suicide hotlines, but he also did a short stint on a rape crisis hotline.) This fellow has said, “Ted walked my mom and all the other female volunteers out to their cars each night because he did not want them to be attacked.” Indeed, Ted never laid a finger on any of the women he escorted to their cars.

Ladies and Gentleman, Ted Bundy was a great example of a psychopath. Most psychopaths are adept at modeling the behavior of good people; this is precisely how they are able to fly under the radar. Still, it is essential to know who they are and Martha Stout’s book “The Sociopath Next Door” is excellent.

But, I have digressed.

In summary, intercourse or lack of intercourse immediately after D-Day is most often a response to trauma. If you live in a state where infidelity can have weight during divorce proceedings, please be aware that intercourse can mean that you exonerate your spouse. Thus, it causes infidelity to become a moot point in divorce proceedings.

Diagnosing PTSD

While no one would question whether or not a war veteran has PTSD, some will question betrayed spouses who believe they have PTSD. I believe that PTSD caused by an affair is one of those “inconvenient truths” like global warming. No one knows how to address it in a way that is easy for all involved. So, they choose to invalidate people who have developed PTSD as the result of an affair.

Personally, I believe that many betrayed spouses develop PTSD after an affair. I am one of them who developed PTSD after my almost-husband had an affair.

A couple of months ago, I started having a recurring dream that brought me back to the moment my fiancé was breaking off our soon to be marriage. I had the same dream every night and I woke up crying each morning and running to the bathroom to vomit. The dream brought me back to the same emotional space I was in years ago and the dream was merciless.

After I found out about my fiancé’s affair and his supposed “engagement” to the other woman (only about two weeks after he violently forced me to move out), I was flooded with feelings that I had never experienced before. I started having the first panic attacks in my life; I had to take a small leave of absence from work because my panic attacks were uncontrollable and frequently triggered. It did not help that my ex-fiancé worked on the same floor in the same office building as myself and that I often had to interface with his team.

I had never seen a therapist in my life, but that situation brought me into therapy. The therapist told me that I was an emotionally healthy person who had developed PTSD as the result of a trauma. What confounded me was that I had not experienced any Adverse Childhood Experiences (according to the criteria) and yet I still developed PTSD.

Honestly, at the time, I simply did not believe her because I felt such a diagnosis did not fit me but most of all I felt it trivialized what war veterans experienced. I felt it was an insult to them to believe I had PTSD. After all, I reasoned, people only develop trauma after being shot at by enemy fire.

But, this was not true; I had developed PTSD and I was using sheer willpower so that I wouldn’t break down at work. I suppressed the trauma by constantly distracting myself with a million different activities and by dating. But, I never dealt with it and it came back to bite me after I got married.

So how is it that betrayed spouses can be diagnosed with PTSD? Therapist Donna Bellafiore explains:

“People can be considered to have PTSD when they have been exposed to an extreme trauma, the symptoms last at least a month in duration, and the symptoms cause excessive distress so that social functioning and job performance are impaired. One sign of PTSD is that the traumatic event is relived repeatedly in the person’s mind and this appears in the form of flashbacks, recurrent images, thoughts or dreams about the event…and even nightmares. Reminders of the event can cause distress so many people go out of their way to avoid places and events that remind them of the catastrophic occurrence.

There are three main clusters of PTSD symptoms, and all three of these groupings must be present for a diagnosis of PTSD.

Intrusive Symptoms: Intrusive and repetitive memories which stir up negative feelings experienced during the trauma can overwhelm a person. These memories can appear in the form of:

  • flashbacks (a feeling of reliving the trauma)
  • frequent, distressing memories of the trauma
  • nightmares
  • emotional and physical distress when traumatic memories are triggered.

Arousal Symptoms: PTSD sufferers experience physiological reactions, which indicate that they don t feel safe and they are physically on the alert to deal with danger. These can include:

  • being easily startled or feeling jumpy
  • hypervigilance (feeling on guard even when the situation is safe)
  • concentration difficulties
  • outbursts of anger and irritability
  • problems in falling asleep or staying asleep.

Avoidance Symptoms: People suffering from PTSD go out of their way to escape the overpowering memories and arousal symptoms. This pattern of behavior can include:

  • avoiding places, people or situations that serve as reminders of the trauma
  • avoiding thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma
  • memory loss about some aspects of the traumatic event
  • feeling emotionally numb
  • feeling estranged or detached from other people
  • feelings of hopelessness and helplessness about the future
  • decreased interest in pleasurable activities.” (6)

Do you fit these criteria?

If so, it is important to continually validate yourself and realize this is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Most of all, it is not your fault and your wayward spouse needs to understand the trauma they have caused. A wayward spouse must be extremely patient and never invalidate your experience. It is your life, your experience, and you will heal on your timeline.

Do not allow your wayward spouse to tell you that you should just get over it. The burden is on the wayward spouse for traumatizing you. He (or she) caused the situation and caused the trauma you feel. So, do not allow him (or her) to invalidate your feelings, criticize the length of the healing process, or tell you that you are the problem. Many wayward spouses like to make the betrayed spouse the problem so that they do not have to look at themselves.

In my next post, I will discuss things your wayward spouse can do to help you with your healing journey.  I will also discuss ways to deal with the negative emotions that occur as a result of infidelity caused PTSD. Finally, I will discuss some practical steps you can take to reduce the constant fight or flight feeling that is present with trauma.

Finally, I will leave you will this poignant poem about trauma by Andrea Gibson:

“The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables.
Said if I could get down thirteen turnips a day
I would be grounded, rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away
to where the darkness lives.

The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight.
Said for twenty dollars she’d tell me what to do.
I handed her the twenty. She said, “Stop worrying, darling.
You will find a good man soon.”

The first psycho therapist told me to spend
three hours each day sitting in a dark closet
with my eyes closed and ears plugged.
I tried it once but couldn’t stop thinking
about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet.

The yogi told me to stretch everything but the truth.
Said to focus on the out breath. Said everyone finds happiness
when they care more about what they give
than what they get.

The pharmacist said, “Lexapro, Lamicatl, Lithium, Xanax.”

The doctor said an anti-psychotic might help me
forget what the trauma said.

The trauma said, “Don’t write these poems.
Nobody wants to hear you cry
about the grief inside your bones.”

But my bones said, “Tyler Clementi jumped
from the George Washington Bridge
into the Hudson River convinced
he was entirely alone.”

My bones said, “Write the poems.” 

-Andrea Gibson

If you have been traumatized by infidelity, please tell me about how it manifests and any coping mechanisms you have developed.

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Regaining Control:
Dealing With Obsessive Thoughts, Triggers and Memories of the Affair

Arm yourself with a variety of techniques, practical strategies and  knowledge to help you to manage those intrusive thoughts, triggers and memories of your partner’s affair.

 

Sources

SAMHSA. Adverse Childhood Experiences. From https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/practicing-effective-prevention/prevention-behavioral-health/adverse-childhood-experiences

SAMHSA. Risk and Protective Factors. From https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/practicing-effective-prevention/prevention-behavioral-health/risk-protective-factors

Weiss, Robert, LCSW. Understanding Relationship, Sexual, and Intimate Betrayal as Trauma (PTSD).  From https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2012/09/understanding-relationship-sexual-and-intimate-betrayal-as-trauma-ptsd/

Red, Walter E. The Side of Infidelity No One Is Talking About. From https://familyshare.com/22245/sponsored/bloom/bloom-the-side-of-infidelity-no-one-is-talking-about

Mary, I Knew it Was Time to Leave When My Husband Drugged Me. From: http://divorcedmoms.com/articles/i-knew-it-was-time-to-leave-when-my-husband-drugged-me

Bellafoire, Donna. The Aftermath of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. From http://www.drbalternatives.com/articles/gc5.html

 

 

 

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37 Responses to Trauma Series Part One: PTSD and Affairs

  1. Shifting Impressions June 6, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    The info in the grey box about trauma pretty much describes word for word what I felt after d-day. There was no adverse childhood experience.

    I think cried almost everyday for at least three years.
    The first year my sleep was effected. It took a long time for me to be able to fall asleep if my husband was in the bed. If I did fall asleep I was easily disturbed
    There were dreams….not so much now….but I had one a few nights ago..
    Lots of triggers….much less now
    There were days I felt like I couldn’t breath
    Now when something difficult happens…..it can throw me back to that emotional state, for a short period….I just can’t cope as well.

    The ways I found to get through are as follows:
    Lots of reading on the topic of infidelity
    Personal counseling
    A few close friends as support
    This site….is an absolute life line
    Writing out my feelings
    Allowing myself to feel my pain and grief
    Using my creativity as a type of therapy….pouring my pain into my work.
    Embracing what is good in my life
    My faith

    After three and a half years, I am much better…..but there is still a way to go.

    • Sarah P. June 7, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi Shifting,
      I am so happy that you are getting through the trauma. As always thanks for sharing your story. I agree with everything you have said about how to get through it.

      I think the thing I realized a long time ago (for myself at least) is that we don’t live in a perfect world. However, we can use each traumatic situation for the good of ourselves and for the good of others. Using it for the good of ourselves means seeing it as an opportunity to grow emotionally and spiritually. Don’t get me wrong — others heal in their own way– my way is not the way. It’s just the way I have chosen to look at my life for now at least.

      What are the most powerful lessons you learned from this experience?

      • Shifting Impressions June 8, 2017 at 10:30 am #

        Sarah, I am also a believer that good can come from tragic situations. And yes the lessons can be powerful.

        I learned the following:
        I am not alone
        My children have a great capacity for love and forgiveness
        My friendships became stronger
        By coming through this…maybe our marriage is actually stronger than I thought
        I am stronger than I thought
        My faith is stronger
        Although I am changed I am not hard….and still willing to be vulnerable

        All that said…. I would rather this never happened, but that cannot be changed. forgiveness is closer than I ever thought possible…..but one baby step at a time.

        • Sarah P. June 9, 2017 at 12:42 am #

          Hi Shifting,
          Those are powerful words. Thank you for them!
          You discovered a very powerful key: while you prefer it had not happened, you are not going to let it ruin your future or harden your heart. I am at the Gottman conference this week and can’t wait to share the material.

          Many blessings,
          Sarah

  2. Butterball June 7, 2017 at 4:36 am #

    Hi Sarah, do you have any comments on ACEs and childhood PTSD and its causing a propensity toward having affairs in midlife?

    Also, in that same context, how do you think being exposed to incidents of child abuse by others during an affair in someone who was abused as a child would effect their behavior.

    • Sarah P. June 7, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

      Hi Butterball,
      I believe that ACE’s can be linked toward a propensity to have mid-life affairs. But I don’t have any proof of that. I am heading out to the Gottman Affair Trauma training today and hopefully they will cover all of this and provide sources that back up my opinion.

      On the other hand, I think it’s fair to say ACE’s are indirectly linked. When someone experiences ACE’s, then it directly correlates to later alcohol and substance use. And when people use alcohol or substances their inhibitions are lowered. ACE’s also directly affect the incidence of depression; they have found depressed men can use an affair as a bandaid to cover the depression.

      Heart’s Blessing has a great site that addresses only mid-life affairs. This is her area of expertise so I would welcome you to do some further reading there.

      • Sarah P. June 7, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

        PS-

        Butterball, I am going to address the second question. Let’s refer to the people as X and Y.
        Y experienced childhood abuse and when he had an affair with X, he noticed she or someone in her family was abusing children. Is that the scenario you are asking about? If not, please let me know. Otherwise using this scenario I would say that unless Y recovered from childhood abuse, he would see the abuse of children and it would either bring out feelings of being reviled by it OR it could seem normal. So I don’t know how much it would affect their behavior. Please be more specific about the situation if you feel comfortable doing so.

        • Butterball June 9, 2017 at 12:20 am #

          That’s a very good question actually and relevant to our current situation although it isn’t what I was asking.

          My husband is the one who suffered abuse as a child at the hands of his father. And in fact, there was an incident just two days ago where husband’s brother severely beat his two teenage sons and my husband stepped in and took them to the hospital for x-rays because he was worried he had broken their arms. Fortunately there were no fractures.

          I have been observing my husband to see if there is any overt reaction to it but if there is it is being meted out at the OW, because he has been mostly distant but cordial with me since it happened, but I do sense there is some problems going on between him and OW, but I know there were problems in the days leading up to the incident, so it could be totally unrelated. But i know he was silently angry at her about something the day after and then the next day blew up at her

          But overall, he does not seem to be really aware of the situation and its implications.

          • Shifting Impressions June 9, 2017 at 11:33 pm #

            Butterball
            I hope charges were laid against your husband’s brother….taking the boys to the hospital is just part his responsibility to his nephews.

      • Butterball June 9, 2017 at 12:37 am #

        Someone recommended Bessel van der Kolk’s work on PTSD and I read one of his books and while he does not deal with affairs per se I could see a lot of relevance to my husband’s MLC in it all.

        I know I haven’t posted here in a while but over the past few months I really have come to the conclusion that living with MIL is the biggest trigger for all of what has happened. It has taken my husband back to the days of his childhood when his father was abusing him and he is alternatively re-enacting his father (mainly with OW, not so much with me, he even admitted he treats her much worse than he treats me and I think to a great extent he is intentionally avoiding me to protect me from the worst) and acting like a teenager. When he re-enacts his father he can’t even sometimes understand me when I speak English to him, it’s as if he is possessed by his father who didn’t know English. It’s quite odd. For example, we were doing some house repairs and we were speaking English and getting along great and suddenly he switched into his native language and became increasingly agitated. Eventually MIL came in the room and without any provocation whatsoever he shouted at me in his native language to go to hell and leave in a voice just like his father and then as we were completing the work he slapped me across the face because I disagreed with something MIL was doing.

        I managed to kill off the father-in-law persona for 2.5 months when we reached a very low point and he was afraid he was going to lose me. I’ve seen it briefly since then but not very frequently as I stood up quite strongly to him about two weeks ago when he flew into a rage and afterward he actually apologized and told me he was angry at himself when he acted that way, although he tried to blame me too at the same time. But that was only the second apology to come out of his mouth since I have been back home for 6 months now so that was significant.

        then there is this teenager persona that likes to make personally mocking jokes. As for the teenager persona, that one comes out when MIL is present only. I avoid spending time with the two of them. That seems to have died down somewhat too as I made a concentrated and obvious effort to avoid it.

        Oddly enough, when he is alone with me he is usually quite nice. I’ve also seen what can only be described as a demonic anti-religion persona. He rejects religion because he knows he isn’t following it, rants and raves, and then suddenly within minutes, it’s like the demon disappears and he becomes COMPLETELY normal as if the MLC never happened and the old version of him reappears for a few hours

        All of this seems to me to be PTSD related.

        I also had a chance recently to have a conversation with his sister who is 3 years younger than him. She’s totally uneducated but I explained to her about MLC and because she was able to witness my husband’s childhood firsthand and saw the abuse, she completely 100% agreed with my assessment of the situation. I did not expect her to buy into it like that but she totally did.

        • Butterball June 9, 2017 at 12:38 am #

          Oh yes, and I love Hearts’ Blessing. I read her over and over every day.

          • Butterball June 9, 2017 at 12:45 am #

            And one more point, my husband has 3 ACES: physical abuse, seeing his mother abused, and substance abuse by his father

            • Sarah P. June 9, 2017 at 1:15 am #

              Hi Butterball,
              I am sorry to hear that your husband has three ACE’s. That is very sad.

              But, my first concern rests with you and your safety. If your husband slapped you across the face, I am sure this was not the first time he acted out physically and it won’t be the last.

              Now I am not going to tell you what to do but I would like to ask you to take measures to protect yourself.

              I think something deeper is going on with your husband and yes it is due to trauma. But it might be different than a mid life crisis.

              Your description of your husband leads me to believe that he struggles with dissociative identity disorder. There are very mild forms and severe forms. But it can always be traced back to childhood trauma and the subsequent splitting that occurs after a child is traumatized. There is a fantastic book called The Myth of Sanity.

              Now dissociative identity disorder is grossly misunderstood and it is portrayed incorrectly in movies. It is not some kind of sensational disorder that is easily noticed.

              So think of the concept of social masks. Many people wear social masks such as “their work face.” They may go to work with a cold and pretend to be okay because they don’t want to seem like a burden. Then there is the face or side of themselves they show their partner. That’s normal and here is how you can picture it: picture a box with no compartments that has a myriad of different tools. The bid symbolizes the person and the tools simply symbolize different aspects of themselves. But all of the tools are together in one place and a social mask just means pulling out a particular tool to do the job. (Smile at work; don’t frown. Be more aggressive in negotiations with a used car salesman than you are at home.)

              Here is how it looks when someone has dissociative identity disorder. They still have a box that looks the same on the outside. But this box contains at least two compartments and different tools are stored in different compartments. This is because those compartments developed as a result of childhood trauma. There can be a couple of them or many. So someone literally has different personalities that come out like: the abused child, the irrational father, the good husband, the philanderer, the calm person, the person who flies off the handle. So the irrational father cannot access the tool that belongs to the calm person. The abused child cannot access the strength that comes from the good husband. Someone switches personalities when they are triggered by a certain external stimuli that brings a personality forward and puts another back in the box.

              Here is the kicker. All of us have this to some extent but a normal person has different shades of behavior that are part of a core personality. Someone with DID no longer has a constant core and all of these different aspects have split off as different personalities.

              The man described in The Myth of Sanity is actually a doctor. The female author has a wonderful case study of how this guy seems functional to the outside world. There are no neon signs announcing someone has DID. But if someone experienced trauma and if they have these personalities that are triggered and take over, they might have it.

              But triggers in themselves have absolutely nothing to do with DID in that everyone can get triggered and cry or be angry, but they don’t switch to an entirely different person.
              It’s hard to describe so I recommend the book to everyone. It’s not what you think it is so read the book.

              But again your safety is first and foremost. I am very sorry that you are having to experience these things. Please develop a plan in case things get out of hand.

              • Butterball June 9, 2017 at 5:04 am #

                I agree that it is like the personalities are in a box After he slapped me I did firmly say “Don’t touch me again” and walked out of the room. An hour or two later when I saw him it was as if it never happened. He was totally normal with me.

                There was another incident where he tried to create trouble between MIL and myself. It was actually quite funny what he was doing and I just laughed in his face. A week later I brought it up in a conversation. He had absolutely no memory of the incident, none whatsoever. Not in the slightest. I recounted what happened, and he laughed as if I was telling him about someone else.

                I have done a lot of reading and I think there are issues with memory and inability to feel emotions going on with him.

                The time it stopped for 2.5 months was when I was ready to leave him and he knew it was real. He also stopped acting this way with OW at the same time as far as I could tell, which is kind of interesting.. And a big part of his wanting to get involved with her in the first place was wanting to have someone who would put up with his self-perceived “nastiness.” In fact, he immediately started to withdraw from her when he stopped this personality for a while and even was actively seeking my help in avoiding her, although that didn’t last.

                One thing that gives me hope in all this in being strong in the face of this personality, when it is safe to do so, is that my husband himself stopped his father’s abuse of his mother by standing up to him when he was 16 and threatening to kill him if he didn’t stop. He was successful. So I look at it as if he is being like his father, then he needs someone to draw a red line for him if he is going to outgrow this habit he learned from his father. OW won’t do it. MIL won’t do it either, she’s got the idea that this is what ALL men do

                I am finding being assertive with this aspect of his personality and challenging it does seem to have an effect. Like I said, the last time he got really crazy, I did not stay quiet. I challenged him, told him how wrong and unfair he was being, even he wanted me to shut up, I refused. That is when he came to me later and actually apologized, saying he was angry at himself for saying all these foul things.Before he came to me, I had discussed it with MIL, and we agreed that he was NOT angry at me, that actually he had come in the room already angry at someone else but due to childhood fight or flight conditioning, his brain reacted to who was in front of his face which was ME before he had a time to even process why he was angry. That I was able to trigger an apology was HUGE because the only time he has apologized for any of his bad behavior over the last six months was during a minor argument we had over whether he wanted to buy one or two packs of sewing needles, so you can see how I was able to break through his fog a bit.

                I know I can’t stop the MLC but I have made a conscious choice to disengage with him in situations where he could start showing one of these personalities or actively confront it when it goes too far and I am definitely seeing improvement. When he gets angry these days, it’s more his old self, the usual sort of remarks he would make before MLC when he is angry are what comes out or he just doesn’t get angry at all where he might have before MLC. He has not been mocking me at all for a long time now either and that I did challenge at one point directly by telling him I didn’t want to be around him and his mother because he kept making fun of everyone, and that part of the personality is dying down although it did continue for a while after our talk. I think he has reached a point where consciously he knows he cannot continue to act this way with me if he wants to keep me. In other words, he’s growing up a bit.

                I know it sounds bad, and he is definitely still in full replay, but I do feel the childhood issues that he was directing at me are much much more under control than they were. The angry father one has made only very few appearances since 3 months and the mocking one maybe almost 2 months. These two personalities were coming out on a daily basis before so it is a real improvement. His moods still cycle but I feel he is cycling more as himself at this point, if that makes sense.

                The new one though is the religious guilt one. This one is truly odd. He actually turns holy books upside down and grabbed a religious book relevant to our situation I had on a nightstand and told me I didn’t need it and frantically tried to open one closet to get rid of it and when he couldn’t get the door open he quickly threw it in the dust in the bottom of the other closet. He left the room agitated and I thought oh well I won’t see him for a while but then a few minutes later he came back and spent time with me acting as he did before MLC, COMPLETELY his old self, no explanation for the incident, so really the religious guilt about what he is doing is eating at him now and it is as if he is battling the devil inside himself.

                OW is also losing her luster and there are certain factors that have come up in their relationship that were completely unexpected and uncontrollable that make it more than likely to doom the whole thing and he is not going to get out of it what he expected at all. So I am just letting that play itself out.

                It is still a classic MLC. The confounding factor though I think is the fact that he is now living with MIL for the first extended period since he left for college 23 years ago. He’s put back in a childhood mode and this I think triggered memories that he had repressed and is going through childhood issues as Hearts Blessing describes.

                I have to say he changes his personality by the month and is definitely not stuck but where he is going or where he will wind up I don’t know, but he is definitely churning through a lot and rapidly. There was even one month where MIL was like the OW. It started with him sending OW home to her family for a few days and then MIL clung on to him for dear life and I just got out of the way because she was obviously not wanting me around and the rest of the month he and MIL were inseparable. And then that month ended with him withdrawing from everyone and burying himself in work, so work became the OW for the next month. That he constantly changes and tries different things out gives me hope that he is burning through whatever he needs to burn through to get where he is going.

                • Butterball June 9, 2017 at 6:15 am #

                  Oh and just to reassure you, here’s something really interestingand odd about the whole thing. The slap was an exception, not the rule. Although my husband’s father was brutally physically abusive with him, some of it could be called torture, his re-enactment of his father is actually 99% verbal, not physical, at least with me. He starts to talk in an angry voice exactly like his father’s intonation, in his native dialect, and often will not respond at all when I speak to him in English. He sometimes re-enacts it simply by telling me to do something in his native dialect, rather than English. In fact, it is the perfect match of the voice with his late father’s voice that makes it clear to me that he is acting like his father, and not just garden variety anger. Because even when he has been angry at me in the past, he might swear at me in his native language but he did NOT sound like his father when he did it, he sounded like himself. Does that make sense?

        • Shifting Impressions June 9, 2017 at 11:37 pm #

          Butterball you don’t deserve to be slapped across the face or have your husband involved with another woman. That’s not how you treat someone you love. MLC or not your husband is accountable for his actions.

          • Butterball June 10, 2017 at 2:59 am #

            Yes, he will be held accountable for his actions, when the right time comes, and I am sure he will hold himself accountable actually.

            The problem is now he is in an emotionally regressed state. In our first year of marriage he confessed to me that he was never happy a single day as a child, that his father beat him, sometimes even did things that could be called physical torture He said he was a troublemaking kid and that is why his father beat him. He did this to explain to me some strange behavior of his at the time, he had a lot of self-awareness then but I think he has suppressed all those memories since. He grew as a person and became very calm in his demeanor over the years, and then moving in with MIL, something snapped.

            His sister explained more to me about it actually and I learned that his father was kind of like an Asian “tiger mom.” He would want to go play sports and his father would beat him to get him to study instead. And she told me he wouldn’t back down from his father in fear like his brother did, so he bore the brunt of his father’s violence.

            He has told me he has no feelings for anyone now, that if his feelings returned, he would wish he was dead. When I told him if I could describe him with one word, robot, he totally agreed. Basically, I can push a button and get him to bring this or that or do this or that, but he feels nothing.

            Underlying all this is probably childhood issues bubbling under the surface brought back by moving in with MIL, on top of that add the guilt of the OW relationship. I have told him many times I know you love me and that you don’t love OW. He won’t disagree. Yet, he can’t tell me he loves me. At one point I said look, I know you love me, and I love you, but logically, since you can’t feel anything, there is going to be a wall between us where that love can’t pass through either way, and he agreed.

            I know my husband is in a bad state but forget about psychological help. This sort of treatment is just not available where we live and not culturally acceptable. I’d be better off getting him exorcised by a religious person actually. It would make more sense.

  3. blueskyabove June 7, 2017 at 11:06 am #

    There is a wealth of information available to us right at our fingertips. For instance, from a very limited research of my own I was able to ascertain not only the symptoms of PTSD, what percentage of the population is affected by it, the more successful forms of treatment available plus the usual duration for such treatment.

    I read the following repeatedly: “Research shows Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy are two forms of CBT. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has also been used effectively. Length of treatment – up to 6 months.”

    In all instances a more detailed explanation of the treatments was included along with brief descriptions of medications usually prescribed. The medical community is almost as bad as the government when it comes to attaching a label to something or someone. It isn’t enough to be sad and hurt. Oh no, you must be suffering from PTSD. Luckily we’ve got a pill for that…along with a whole host of side effects you may have to deal with later. But, you don’t have to worry about that ’cause I can fix your problems. Sarcasm? Absolutely. The truth is-> Only you can fix it.

    Now before you go getting “all skinny in the nose” as Archie Bunker used to say and accuse me of being part of the “ignorant” people referred to in the above post, please hear me out. Don’t let other people label you. It makes it really hard to regain your sense of self-worth.

    Instead…be kinder to yourself. Seize the day! You want some control back in your life? Take it. Don’t ask for it, take it. Instead of complaining about having to do all the work, grab it with both hands and say, “I can do this!” There are so many people out there that want you to say you can’t. You need to turn around and say, “Watch me!” I’m not suggesting it will be easy, I’m saying, “You’re worth the effort.” If you don’t believe in you, nobody else will either. Don’t expect your spouse to be your best friend. Be your own best friend. If you want to rise above the muck and mire, learn from the experience, and become a stronger, more confident and beautiful human being then you can’t run away from your problems and you can’t let others determine what’s best for you. That’s what our spouses did…some temporarily and some permanently. You deserve better. From your first breath until your last, you are the only one that’s always with you. Learn to love yourself.

    ”This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” – Shakespeare

    • Sarah P. June 7, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

      Hi Blueskyabove,
      All great points you make about being there for oneself. I will be heading in that direction for the next post because it’s one of the things we must do. However it is often difficult to do so in the face of trauma. A person’s brain is physically affected by trauma. Yes it leaves a physical mark and not just a psychological one.
      But your advice is right on. We must eventually rise above.
      Believe it or not, I am not the type to say a solution is in a pill. Pills are like bandaids and they help people soften the blow while they are doing the required psychological work to get through the trauma of an affair. But pills don’t solve problems and they are optional. There are a few cases in the minority where I would recommend them for a short period of time, but I normally don’t recommend them since the wound must be healed by recovering psychological wholeness. I wholly agree with your paragraph stating the importance of personal power. Each of us must reclaim it at on point or another. Sure we didn’t cause the PTSD but we must reclaim the very self that trauma seems to take.

      • Butterball June 9, 2017 at 5:12 am #

        Yes, what happens especially in people who suffered childhood abuse is that the emotional part of the brain reacts before the part that process what has happened ever does. I know a woman whose husband cheated on her briefly a 4 or 5 years ago but who also suffered childhood abuse herself and she cannot move past her husband’s affair. She keeps triggering memories of it and cannot forgive even though her husband has been so kind and tried to make amends. I would not be surprised if her inability to deal with it is due to the way her brain was rewired by the abuse she suffered.

        • Sarah P. June 9, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

          Hi Butterball,
          You are spot on about the brain reaction that occurs before there is emotional processing. That’s one of the many issues that occurs after someone has suffered a profound trauma.

          I am going to do some straight talk here because I see a larger issue than the affair. I believe your H’s affair is merely one of many symptoms of acting out.

          Your husband has a profound problem and it has caused him to emotionally abuse and also (once) physically batter you. Angry physical touch is technically considered battery. A slap is unacceptable.

          I believe you are caught in an unhealthy codependence with your husband. He acts out and you tolerate it. You staying there sends the message to him that you tolerate his behavior even if you know in your mind his behavior is problematic. Actions speak louder than words and both your husband and the legal system would consider the fact that you stay as being okay with his behavior. Because the law looks more at actions than intent when it comes to these specific situations. The fact that you stay demonstrates you are locked in an unhealthy bond, possibly even a trauma bond, with him. Even if your intent is different, it doesn’t matter. This goes further than wanting to keep a marriage after an affair. His behavior is a problem whether there is an affair or not.

          Now I hate being a naysayer and I am not trying to sound unsympathetic to your situation. But your husband needs help.

          I am still not clear where the OW fits. I am going to assume that she lives with you and I would like to know more about how that happened.

          Go ahead and tell me everything that is going on so that I can help you. You don’t need to put it in the comments either. Anyone who emails me is assured automatic confidentiality. I will listen without judging your choices and when I indentify something such as a codependency it does not come from a place of judgement. I am trying to identify all of the puzzle pieces that make up the puzzle. Once they are identified you can start finding ways to deconstruct the nightmare puzzle.

          sarah.emotionalaffair.org@gmail.com

          Anyone else is welcome to email too.

          • Butterball June 9, 2017 at 9:54 pm #

            Sarah-I think you may be reading a little too much into this as I am only discussing a small portion of my husband’s behavior and it is the extreme part because it is relevant to the topic at hand. In some ways, he has become more responsible than ever before.

            I have participated in other forums that are dedicated to MLC and his is a classic case of MLC. He went through the stages HB described, namely denial, anger, then replay, and he already shows shades of depression and withdrawal from time to time.

            If there is any unhealthy bond frankly it is between him and his mother, not me and him. OW may be a symptom but that relationship is on its own shaky track and so I really don’t lose sleep over it, but I believe MIL is the cause of a lot of what is going on including the relationship with OW indirectly.

            I do everything I can to avoid being together with both of them because he acts up like a rebellious teenager and troublemaker when she is present. When she isn’t present, he’s pretty normal most of the time with me and really desperately wants me to be happy, but he seems to have become clueless as to how to make me happy anymore due to his MLC mushy brain.

            In fact, he knows very well now that I am avoiding the two of them and he now tries to create situations for trouble between us. For example, tonight she was boiling some milk her DIL sent to us and when he saw what was going on he told me we needed to split the milk between us (he brought home her old fridge from his clinic so she has her own fridge now-he claimed it was because we were arguing over sharing one fridge but we weren’t and she has only started to make trouble since he brought her fridge home and now she wants to control where the food goes). I told him I am not coming to discuss it and she can put the milk in one jar in any fridge and be done with it. I flat out refused to come to the kitchen to discuss it. I left it to the two of them. Since he failed to get me to stick around with him and her when he was in a mocking mood, this is his new way to try to create trouble between us-creating situations about sharing food.

            In fact, he has an obsession with food during this whole MLC. It seems to consume 80-90% of discussions we have in the house and problems. I have no idea why as this is a man who grew up with plenty of food on the table. His near total obsession with food is totally bizarre and I cannot explain it.

            To be perfectly honest, I am not sure I am even the target of these antics or just happen to be in the way. There is something odd between him and his mother and really what I try to do is keep away from it all. Clearly there are childhood issues playing out here and he tries to suck me into it but I am doing my best to stay out of it. I told my SIL about this and she agreed it was best I distance myself from them.

            I know of other people whose spouses had MLCs and the MLCer had an almost OP relationship with one of their parents or even grown children. So it’s not totally unprecedented.

  4. Shifting Impressions June 9, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    Sarah, I just listened to your interview with Dr. Robert Muller….. I found it extremely validating. Thank you so much.

    We have made a lot progress but the interview helped me pin point a few road blocks in our recovery.

    Thanks again

    • Sarah P. June 9, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

      Hi Shifting,
      Thank you for the compliment– it means a lot to me. I liked what Robert Muller had to say as well. He is great! Hopefully when/if another book comes out there will be another interview. What part was most helpful?

      • Shifting Impressions June 9, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

        I found him to have a very compassionate demeanor…if that makes sense. I felt he validated my experience over the last three and half years. He also validated that I am on the right track in overcoming what happened.

        I couldn’t agree more on his take of forgiveness. Also, how many of us betrayed spouses are thrown back into crisis mode when we find more information (as the cheating spouse usually dribbles the truth out bit by bit) His statement about being in trauma during a crisis. We can’t work on forgiveness or healing when in the middle of a crisis. If only the CS would realize how they slow down the healing process by withholding information.

        He helped me understand another reason the CS doesn’t want to “talk about the affair”. They feel so bad that they hurt someone they love.

        I found it all very relevant…..so much so, that I ordered his book.

        Thanks again

  5. TryingHard June 10, 2017 at 10:34 pm #

    Ok sisters and brothers in this shit show. Sertiously weigh in.

    The OW is lying in the hospital dying as I write this I’ve
    known for 3 days. Haven’t told h. She will die along with all her secrets. Do I tell him or wait until she’s dead. Then what??? She was a part of his life for 4 years. Si he says I don’t care?? Or he laments his lost love??? She was a sociopathic waste of oxygen and yet I feel sorry for her and her family. Damn you empathy!!

    Do I tell him or not or wait until her pathetic obit shows up in the paper? Either way I plan on a fiscusdion about her. I’m confused and angry all over again.

    Please help me decide what to do

    • Sarah P. June 11, 2017 at 2:19 am #

      Hello Dearest TryingHard,

      Empathy is a gift and you have a very big heart to be thinking about the OW, her family, and your husband at this moment. You can only follow your heart and your gut feeling in this very unusual circumstance. Your heart and gut instinct will inform you.

      But since you asked for advice…

      Empathy is a gift that SHOULD NEVER be wasted on sociopaths.

      And, your big heart should not be focused on the needs of two people who profoundly hurt you. Your big heart should be focused on you alone in order to protect that big heart of yours.

      These are two people who blew your life apart and did not consider how their poisonous and treacherous actions affected you. They unthinkingly followed their own needs while trampling over your heart.

      If I were in your shoes, here is what I would do:

      1) I would NOT tell your husband the other woman is dying. He needs to find out this information on his own.

      2) If he dares to mope about it, I would go nuclear on him.

      Why? Because she came in and stole what was yours and what they did together was a form of HATE and not a form of love. Your husband has no right to mope about this and this time around he needs to consider YOUR FEELINGS. He cannot be coddled by you– he must be a man and understand how this impacts you.

      I have come to the conclusion that there are some people who exist who are more evil than good. They are NOT the majority of people; but they do exist. From the journey you have shared here, I am going to say that this particular other woman is more evil than others. People who do numerous evil acts to numerous people will have their day or reckoning. Some of us will always stand at the sidelines and think we would never wish such a reckoning on our worst enemies– and we truly don’t wish it on them. Still, any feelings of sympathy are wasted. After all, evil people are the same people who so blindly and willfully (and perhaps gleefully) harmed others and felt not a twinge of conscience in doing so. I believe we must step back and merely realize we should not waste anything on them, because they certainly would not waste even the smallest kindness on us.

      That is my straight-talk for the evening.

      Remember, forgiveness does not mean forgetting and forgiveness does not mean we must waste any kindness on someone who harmed us without even a thought or an apology. Forgiveness simply means we have let go of the anger and we have done it for us. We no longer allow the anger to control us (for our own sake) but forgiveness is always for us–never for the person who harmed us.

      On a tangent but here is another take on forgiveness:

      “Though society pressures you to forgive the person who wronged you, the truth is that forgiving may be the worst thing you can do. Many religions and therapies focus on forgiving a perpetrator so that the victim can ‘move on.’ The goal is to make sure that the victim does not become fixated on the hurt. This element is critical because if you become completely obsessed with your victimization, you will not be able to function. That is a fact. Fixating freezes you.Forgiveness comes from within. It is not something that can be forced. Either you can do it or you can’t. If you cannot, then don’t think that you are a bad person or that you failed in some way. In some cases, forgiveness is just not possible. You may learn not to despise the perpetrator, but saying you forgive can be hollow if that is not what you truly feel. Don’t give in to peer pressure. Don’t say you forgive someone when you don’t. It won’t make you feel better, and it won’t make your life easier. On the contrary, it is not about making your life easier when someone asks you to forgive. The purpose behind the question of forgiving is to make the person asking the question feel better.

      For some, they want you to forgive because it will make family functions seem normal. Others will push it on you if your trauma is interfering in their lives. If you would just forgive, then life could get back to what it once was.”
      Source:
      https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/disturbed/201208/why-you-dont-always-have-forgive

      Either way, it is all up to you– you must be true to yourself in the end so that you don’t kick yourself with later regrets.

      Many blessings and big hugs during this terribly stressful time.

    • Butterball June 11, 2017 at 8:44 am #

      I wouldn’t tell him she’s in the hospital and I wouldn’t tell him she’s dead. Let him find out on his own if he does find out at all. Because I could see him interpreting this as you gloating about her demise and that will only fly back in your own face. Keep yourself away from it. You could be sabotaging everything for yourself.

    • Shifting Impressions June 11, 2017 at 10:54 am #

      Trying Hard
      Butterball has a good point.

      This might be a really good time to practice that detachment thing. Your husband will find out about her death in due time…..and then his response will be what it is.

      Sarah is right about listening to your gut.

      I totally understand how this information would bring up all sorts of emotions in you. I would try to separate those emotions from the decision at hand. Ask yourself some questions. Is it your responsibility to inform him?? What would it possibly achieve? Would he throw it back in your face? Would he think you are gloating?

      You do have a big heart to feel sorry for her and her family…..would your husband see it that way???

      Lots to think about that’s for sure….. my first reaction was for you to detach and do nothing.

      Take care….we are in your corner.

      • TryingHard June 11, 2017 at 1:33 pm #

        SI–you are correct. I am overthinking this and detach is the right thing to do. The last thing I want to do is gloat. While I never wished her well I never wished anything on her other than to be out of our lives. But I do wonder the repercussions, if there will be any, may occur. Most far out and dramatically is there going to be a deathbed letter penned out to him or me?!?! I know pretty irrational on my part. But these crazy scenarios run thru my head.

        As I said for now I’m not going to say anything even for the sake of honesty. After all those two kept plenty destructive secrets from me for a long time. She certainly had many evil wishes for me!!

        Detach is the correct thing to do now. Thanks for reminding me 😊

        • Shifting Impressions June 11, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

          Trying
          We often spend way to much energy worrying about scenarios that never come to pass. Should they come to pass you will deal with them at that time.

          There is an amazing power in detaching.

          • TryingHard June 12, 2017 at 8:13 am #

            Hi SI—I know I spend way too much time worrying about what may or may not happen. However more often times than not, it happens!!! I guess since DDay I have an extreme aversion to surprises. An aversion to being caught off guard.

            Well as it turns out the OW died Friday. I found out yesterday. So I waited until just before dinner as we were sitting outside. We had a great weekend and I hated to see it end especially with a conversation about her.

            Anyway I told him and we talked for a while. It was good. I asked for reassurances and he gave them. But I certainly don’t think he felt I was gloating. I also didn’t see any sadness which I think is quite odd. There was no emotional reaction of any kind.

            Thanks for listening and giving your input. You all saved me a trip to my therapist 😊

            • Shifting Impressions June 12, 2017 at 11:23 am #

              Trying
              I’m glad to hear you were able to talk to him about it.

              No emotional reaction might not be all that odd…..some men (my husband included) are very good at compartmentalizing. Or maybe he knew that showing any emotion (no matter what kind) in front of you wouldn’t be a good thing.

              Anyway….always happy to save you a trip to the therapist.

              Take care…

  6. TryingHard June 11, 2017 at 11:11 am #

    Butterball and Sarah
    Thanks fir your input. You’ve made great points that I am taking to heart.

    I feel at this point I won’t tell him she’s in the hospital. What if she makes some kind of miraculous recovery and my information is all moot. as a human being I do pray for her recovery fir her family’s sake. I have to. Yes she’s despicable to me but not them.

    Her death represents a The chapter completely closing. And yes my h better not show any grieving and I would go nuclear if he did. I dint think he will. I think he will be relieved she is gone. I know his biggest lingering fear is she would contact me to tell me her side. If she’s dead that threat dies with her. I got to say I always thought she would contact me.

    I guess also I’ve been lamenting this information for the sake of honesty and openness that I expect from him. What if he knows and isn’t telling me for the sake of continued peace? But I truly don’t think he knows.

    Once she dies I think I will tell him. Or show him the obit. I want to see his reaction. And like I said pretty sure there will be a discussion. What that discussion will be I have no idea. But someone who played a big role in our lives will no longer exist for both of us.

    And trust me I know just because she is gone there aren’t hundreds more who could take her place. Her being dead doesn’t mean he can’t have another affair. And that’s why I can’t wish bad on her. She has certainly created her own misery. She’s a victim of her own bad choices while she was in this earth.

    For now tho I am keeping my mouth shut. I’ll let you know what happens.

    • Sarah P. June 13, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

      Hi Trying,

      I am glad that the situation did not turn out to be bad and that this chapter is behind you. Have you spoken about it since?

      Sarah

  7. Randall June 12, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

    My wife killed herself after her affairs. Unresolved trauma is hard for all. @zautopsy

    • Sarah P. June 13, 2017 at 6:16 pm #

      Hello Randall,

      My heart goes out to you and it absolutely breaks for you. I am so very sorry to hear that you lost your wife to suicide. Please tell us your story, if you wish; we have a group here that is extremely supportive.

      Sarah

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