Fight or Flight: Guest Post by Liz at Infidelity Counseling Network

By Liz for ICN

10/4/16

 

 

Fight or Flight

 

 

Six years and one week ago, I overheard my husband on his cell phone. He was speaking to a woman. It was Tuesday.

 

I could feel and hear the blood pulsing through my neck. It was the sound of intense fear.

 

I thought to myself, this is it, I was right, that nagging thought for a while that there was someone else was true, I was not crazy.

 

When he had hung up, I went into his office, asking angrily who that was. He had some crazy answer, and I knew in that moment that despite how smart he was, at this, I was smarter than him. I knew I would find out, and SOON. I maintained my outward cool while inside was a total fight or flight response. I decided to gather information before a flight.

 

The next morning while he was showering for work, I quietly turned on his cell phone to check the call history. It had been cleared.

 

As soon as I’d gotten the kids off to school, I found some old cell phone records with a number that kept reappearing – a partial story. It took me four hours that morning that morning to register our phone bill online, download the call history, google some of the repeating numbers, and identify the owner of the most frequently-called number. So I called it, and she said I had the wrong number. At lunchtime I called again and got her voicemail. Bingo. Her full name was on the outgoing message. Now I had the information I needed…but I still did not know if I was ready for a “fight” or for my flight.

 

I wanted then and there to throw him out, but we had kids, I did not want to divorce their father. We were a family. So there was to be no flight. At least not yet.

 

I waited till Saturday. That very morning, his affair partner had left him a cell phone message and I had listened to it. She was trying to be calm while things were tense, but she loved him and would wait until they could be together. I told him then that I knew about her, and he confessed, saying it was just a few times, it did not mean anything to him. But I had proof of months of calls and her declaration of love. I asked where they had sex; he gave me hotel names. I insisted he end it immediately, and even suggested how he could do it so as to keep her husband protected. I thought myself a better person for my compassion.

 

We went to couples counseling, and I kept saying I believed there were many women for many years, and he denied it all. I insisted on full transparency. It never came. Now there was no fight…he simply would not talk about it.

 

By now, poring over cell records and hotel bills, I was getting to be a first class Private Investigator which was making me crazy. I had been in fight-or- flight mode for over 5 weeks, anxious and barely eating or sleeping. I was paying with my mental health.

 

After a while, I began to feel I had lived a lie. Every family event and holiday over the past 6-7 years was marred by the knowledge that he’d called various women on all those dates. Nothing felt sacred anymore. The betrayal I felt was boundless. Every special moment was spoiled. I saw myself as damaged, duped, betrayed, angry, and resentful.

 

I focused on his choices, and all the times he could have chosen another path but did not. I focused self-righteously on all the good I had done for others when our own marriage was disappointing.

 

This constant feeling of fight-or-flight made me lose my compassion and objectivity. I become a person who tried to survive day by day. I was unaccustomed to being this self-centered, angry, suspicious, jealous, snooping, distrustful person, and I did not like this new me. I knew I had to find a way to the other side, to thrive again.

 

For two years I was a wreck, later telling people that I’d had a nervous breakdown. At his request, I told no one other than paid professionals. I isolated myself socially, did only what I had to do, and avoided people and places that would trigger what I deemed my PTSD. Since I knew many of his affair partners, and had to drive by many of the hotels in my daily rounds of work and kids, it was hard to avoid it all. I made myself crazier by compulsive snooping, and it never helped me a bit, never made me feel safer, never made the situation better, and just perpetuated a cycle of craziness for me.

 

Above all, I wanted to talk to other women who had been through this, but found none. If I had to do it all over again, I would have told a select few people because not having the support was so tough for me. Later, we separated, and I told a lot of people. They all judged him harshly. And I learned that once you give someone your story, you can never un-tell them…so be careful about whom you chose to hold your intimate history. I should have told only people whom I was sure would be there for me and not judgehim. Everyone has an opinion about she/he would do in this situation, but until I had been there, I realized there is no black and white answer…only lots and lots of gray.

 

Six years and one week later, I am stronger and wiser. Perhaps I am not the same trusting person, but the new me is one I finally like and which took years to accomplish. I felt so bad about myself for so long; if I’d been kinder to myself, if I’d been able to release myself from that intense fight-or-flight mode, my recovery might have been faster. But I accept now that I did what I felt I had to do. Now I am a good, kind, compassionate, and wiser person. I wish I could add “trusting” to that list, but that is still a work in progress.

 

 

By Liz

Volunteer at Infidelity Counseling Network

Get support to heal from infidelity – http://infidelitycounselingnetwork.org/counselor.html

Donate to help keep our services free for all women – http://infidelitycounselingnetwork.org/donate.html

 

 

 

 

I want to be Esther Perel

image
She is just so cool and says everything I need and want to say.

Commenting in Salon last month on Beyoncé’s Lemonade video that grapples, in part, with her cheating partner (“I know you’re cheating on me.”), Esther Perel in the article titled “Grief sedated by orgasm, orgasm heightened by grief”: Beyoncé, “Lemonade” and the new reality of infidelity“, applauds the singer’s frankness and platform used to plunge the public into the taboo infidelity, a conversation which Perel believes should be opened repeatedly. In fact, she believes that’s her job as a therapist and author–to help couples find themselves and their options past the ravine that betrayal opens between partners.

After noting the European and American moralistic difference in how couples suffer infidelity, she suggests Americans need to lose the strictures on discussion and judgment of both perpetrator and victim (think Hillary Clinton for staying when she could have left), which shames and thereby stifles examination of and learning from infidelity to repair,  renew or reject relationships shattered by infidelity.

After profiling American attitudes about the subject, she exhorts:

Given this reality, it’s time for American culture to change the conversation we’re having about infidelity—why it happens, what it means and what should or should not happen after it is revealed. The subject of affairs has a lot to teach us about relationships—what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. It forces us to grapple with some of the most unsettling questions: How do we negotiate the elusive balance between our emotional and our erotic needs? Is possessiveness intrinsic to love or an arcane vestige of patriarchy? Are the adulterous motives of men and women really as different as we’ve been led to believe? How do we learn to trust again? Can love ever be plural? 

These are important questions to begin the healing and ensuing path in any relationship that is pierced with this not always fatal rending. As Perel states, infidelity has existed longer than marriage, though she does not justify it as right for having lasted. She merely points to the reality of its persistence.

And just as Beyoncé is fire and ache, Perel is compassionate logic and measured reason, which is her (both) allure.

wp-1463449694631.jpg

Meeting Her: Guest Post from Patricia D, Volunteer at Infidelity Counseling Network

                                        
For those of us who have experienced infidelity, there is one particular moment we truly dread: meeting our husband’s affair partner (a.k.a. The Other Woman). Here is my story of that encounter.

                                                                             Meeting Her

Here’s what is going to happen. Prepare yourself. Imagine the worst thing you have ever experienced, death of parents, losing pets, awful natural disasters, locusts, any of it. Take all of those things, put them in a big truck, have the truck run you over, and maybe that will give you a tiny fraction of the pain and madness you will experience when you discover your partner has been unfaithful and your marriage is done.

Flashback to our Kentucky Derby party. And may I say, the last Kentucky Derby party we would ever host, and likely my last as well. My husband invited a number of women from his gym, where his workouts consisted of Zumba class, Skinny Jeans class, Ripped class – you know, activities where lots of women would be.

From the moment she showed up, almost everyone at our party picked up on something that was off. She walked in to my home like she owned the place; as it turns out, she had been there before. She brought a hostess gift, although it was addressed to “Kirby Baby”, complete with bubble-dot I’s and hearts. She barely acknowledged me. But I was committed to trusting my husband. She spent the afternoon drinking bottles of chardonnay, and suddenly was telling anyone who would listen about how her husband of 23 years cheated on her. As the evening progressed, some my family members pointed out that everyone had gone home except for her. At this point she was so wasted that I couldn’t let her drive, so I told her she could sleep on the couch. I thought since she was a friend of my husband that it was the right thing to do. The rest of us — except him — settled in to watch TV. She went to find another set in a different room, and then it was radio silence.

About twenty minutes later I went to find my husband. Boy did I find him. On top of her, in one of the guest rooms, full-on making out.

I never thought I would be in this place. I’m sure many women have said that exact same
thing. Everything had seemed too good to be true when we settled into our new house; I’d worked my ass off to be able to buy it, completely on my own. We don’t have kids, by choice, mainly because my career kept me traveling, and so for ten years we seemed the perfect married unit. We never really fought, and I never once pressured my husband to get a job. It all worked, or so I thought.

What was going on in the background? His father had recently died; I was traveling a lot for my career; we had lost all the equity in our first home in a bad market; our beloved Labrador had major surgery; my father became sick and died a horrible death six months later; his sisters were feuding over the estate after his mother’s death; I had put on 30 pounds; he had many years of career troubles. Or maybe it was something else. Something different.

After his father died my husband decided to lose some weight. He had always been a big guy, and this was good for him from a health standpoint. Although, as it turns out, his motives were altogether different. He began to drop weight, spent a lot of time with a woman in our apartment complex, and then he started telling me lots of things that were not true.

The first time I found out my husband told me a major lie I was completely devastated. In hindsight, it’s possible that there have been lies all along, but in my mind they were just small, harmless lies. The big lie though, involved a hockey game (I love hockey) and the woman in the apartment complex. She became a divisive factor in our relationship, and turned me into someone I didn’t want to be — a jealous, angry, suspicious wife looking for evidence of an affair. Of course, I had every right to be suspicious, and after a year and her saying just horrific things about me on text messages, the kind of things that typically only a mean teenage girl would say, he abruptly ended their “friendship”. A few weeks later he had a new one on the line. This time I wanted to trust him, so I did. I assumed the lunches were innocent. He said the texts were just flirting. Know this ladies, no good can ever come of flirting text messages. Ever. Ever. Ever. And this was no exception.

When you think about those moments in your mind, or you see them in movies, or hear about them from your friends, you always think you will react a certain way. I’d assumed I would become enraged, loud, vindictive. But this assumption was diametrically opposed to how I actually reacted. Looking back, I am really proud of how I handled it, that night at our Kentucky Derby party when I caught her and my husband making out in our home.

I politely told her she had to leave.

I calmly asked how long this had been going on. They both denied anything was going on.

And just to show you the type of person she was, she insisted on driving home even when I told her she was unfit to drive because she had drank four bottles of chardonnay.

So I explained that I was not concerned about her wrapping herself around a tree, rather the possibility that she might harm someone else and my potentially liability in that situation. Her response? “Well, that’s why you have insurance.” My response? “Get the hell out of my house, now.”

Crossposted at http://www.drpsychmom.com/2015/04/17/meeting-the-other-woman/ and http://eldamlopez.com/female-chronicles-story-two/

By Patricia D.
Volunteer at Infidelity Counseling Network
Get support to heal from infidelity – http://infidelitycounselingnetwork.org/counselor.html

Donate to help keep our services free for all women – http://infidelitycounselingnetwork.org/donate.html

Support Others Supporting Others: Infidelity Counseling Network Drive

  
Posted on Infidelity Counseling Network yesterday, Praveen Kumar’s Reasons Why Couple’s Cheat on Each Other in boldsky limitless living cites the statistic that ten percent of marriages are headed for divorce due to infidelity. Though unverified in the article, I don’t doubt that is true. Anecdotal evidence from my former practice conforms to that reality. Kumar goes on to state that most cheat before they separate and then lists the reasons for cheating in relationships: neglect, dissatisfaction and boredom, essentially. 

While these reasons are no revelation, some of the statements the author makes are rather surprising. For one, she distinguishes male from female patterns:

The cheating patterns of men tend to be a bit different than that of women. Some men would perceive cheating as just having fun outside the relationship.

And women don’t? I am curious as to the basis of the author’s conclusions. Which studies differentiate men and women’s cheating patterns on the basis of fun? Seems to me the validity of the article’s conclusions would be more compelling and interesting with some foundational support and less bias. In Kumar’s brief summation, men are presumed to be superficial weasels–of which I am sure there are plenty–and women victims. 

Some of those cheating men don’t even feel guilty unless they are cornered. When it comes to women, most of them resort to cheating when they are emotionally dissatisfied or feeling lonely in their relationships.

However, attributing dishonesty and overall bad behavior to one gender strikes me as a hasty generalization. Shortcutting the work of proof and relying on stereotypes perpetuated by cultural lore or media does no one any good. Moreover, it makes fluff of some serious consideration: the causes of infidelity and its immediate and collateral devastation to spouses and children.

One non-profit organization that focuses on those life-altering effects of infidelity is the aforementioned Infidelity Counseling Network, which is having a fundraising drive today. While I have balked at some of the articles on their website as genderist, favoring women, I have since come to realize that their services would logically benefit those who come forward to seek help from the heartbreak and trauma of cheating and resulting divorce: most prominently women. 

There is currently debate in the field of evolutionary psychology whether an innate, evolved sex difference exists between men and women in response to an act of infidelity; this is often called a “sex difference”. Those that posit a sex difference exists state that men are 60% more likely to be disturbed by an act of sexual infidelity (having one’s partner engage in sexual relations with another), whereas women are 83% more likely to be disturbed by an act of emotional infidelity (having one’s partner fall in love with another) (Buss, et al., 1992). Those against this model argue that there is no difference between men and women in their response to an act of infidelity.

This excerpt from Wikipedia citing The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests there are sound reasons to believe that women are more affected by infidelity than men, and thus, it would seem, along with socially constructed beliefs men hold about confessing emotion and weakness, women are more likely to avail themselves of counseling services for their pain.

And so, I believe there is a necessity to support nonprofits like Infidelity Counseling Network, a group of professionals that inform and support those suffering from the pain borne from betrayal, loss, and rejection, some of the profound suffering resulting from any broken relationship but especially from one irreparably or remediably damaged by cheating. 

An invaluable public service focused on healing and compassion thrives only on the support of the many who believe in spreading the wealth of giving, caring and sharing.

Here is the link for this Cinco de Mayo support drive:  Infidelity Counseling Network May 5th drive.
Peace.

“The 9 Most Overlooked Threats to Marriage”

IMG_0280.JPG

Kelley M. Flanagan’s Huffpost article isolating the most threatening issues to a long lasting marriage is interesting, hopeful and thoughtful, even if somewhat obvious and common sensical. I especially like the introduction as she reminds me how humans are short cutters and labelers in nearly everything. She comments that communication always takes the rap for failed marriages, which is untrue.

When I have my students write an essay on marriage and counseling, the parroted mantra is marriage breaks down for lack of communication. Counseling helps couples communicate better. Well, that always seemed to be broad to incomprehensibility as well as reductive. Whenever two people show up in a room it’s more complicated than that let alone show up to a supposed life-long commitment.

I particularly like the point she makes about marriage and loneliness:

Marriage doesn’t take away our loneliness. To be alive is to be lonely. It’s the human condition. Marriage doesn’t change the human condition. It can’t make us completely unlonely. And when it doesn’t, we blame our partner for doing something wrong, or we go searching for companionship elsewhere. Marriage is intended to be a place where two humans share the experience of loneliness and, in the sharing, create moments in which the loneliness dissipates. For a little while.

As a 34-year marriage veteran, I can speak to the greatest advantage of marriage, regardless of the perceived strength or quality of the union, which is the frequent haven from loneliness even as couplehood sometimes increases loneliness or at least puts that human condition in sharp relief. Flanagan reminds her readers that marriage is neither a panacea nor a merging. When she goes on to point out the shame baggage marrieds bring to a marriage, she hammers home that point that–and I’m extrapolating a bit–the union is of two individuals not a solitary unit.

The rest of the article underscores the more obvious and familiar about boredom, blaming, not taking responsibility and the like. She does mention another item that resonates with me, two actually: marriage is life and empathy is crucial to survive and thrive in both. True?