Infidelity and a Broken Marriage
I am sorry that you are going through such a painful time but it is wonderful
that you have started your healing through counseling and learning about
codependence. In a few years, you will look back on this time as
the start of a whole new life. You asked about several issues:
To make a long story short, I have left
my husband of 24 years because he had an affair, and he reacted to that
by emotionally and verbally abusing me.
My guess would be that this is not the first time that he has emotionally
and verbally abused you. Most likely he has been both overtly and
subtlely putting you down for a long time - since that is how codependent
Do you think my pre conceived idea that a husband
should be faithful to his wife dysfunctional?
No, your belief isn't dysfunctional. You probably have a
dysfunctional belief system around marriage in general since that is what
is taught in this society - the "get married and live happily-ever-after
fantasy," the "if I keep working at it hard enough, and keep being the
best wife I can be (also applies to some husbands) then he will eventually
change" fantasy. Our whole concept of romantic relationships is really
twisted and distorted in our dysfunctional culture - as I talk about on
my page about Toxic Love and Romantic Relationships
- which you have probably already read.
A healthy relationship is an interdependent one, a partnership, an alliance
- no healthy parntership can take place if trust is violated. If
one partner is lying and betraying the other there is no way that can be
a healthy or functional relationship (it might be functional in a have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too
kind of way in the short run for the betrayer partner, as long as the other
partner tries to pretend it is not happening - but in the long run it is
not functional for either because any betrayal is ultimately a betrayal
of Self - which will be paid for sometime, somehow.)
In order to violate trust in an emotionally intimate relationship it
is necessary for the betrayer to be emotionally dishonest with themselves,
to have little self-respect or True self-esteem, have a capacity to lie,
rationalize, and blame (that is redundant since rationalization and blame
are lies - the betrayer always blames the person betrayed because the only
way to live with themself is to convince themself that it is the other
person's fault.) A person makes a very sad statement about themselves when
they do such a thing - they are Truly a lost and wounded soul.
You have every right to expect and demand honesty and Truth in a
committed relationship - unfortunately the relationship was probably
not ever very emotionally intimate or emotionally honest because it is
not possible for any person to be emotionally honest (without which there
cannot be True emotional intimacy) until they began healing their childhood
wounds. We grew up in emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional environments
that were also Spiritually hostile. We were taught and trained to
be dishonest and manipulative in childhood. (Overtly manipulating
people is just one form of manipulation - trying to avoid conflict by
not have boundaries is also a form of manipulation.)
Even though I have taken action to detatch and
"find myself" am obsessing about their relationship and him constantly
and can't seem to find effective ways to stop that very painful practice.
That is because what you are feeling is not just about what is happening
now - this betrayal has ripped the scab off of a lifetime worth of betrayal,
abandonment, abuse - going back to your childhood. The wound that
has been gouged is the core wound - the little girl who feels unworthy
and unlovable. What is important is to not judge and shame yourself
- try to be as loving and nurturing to yourself as possible. Your
whole life has just been torn apart - of course it is going to be on your
mind.I talk more about obsession below.
Why do I keep "twisting the knife" myself? I am
trying not to drink my pain away, I have been drinking too too much. But
sometimes I just can't deal with it and I can't get rid of it. Any suggestions?
You have been hurt very deeply - it is important to accept that and
accept that it is going to hurt for awhile- being in your head "twisting
the knife" is actually a defense against being in your feelings - we obsess
about things because we are so afraid of the hurt and sadness we are feeling.
It feels absolutely overwhelming - that is because as a little girl (that
core wound) you were helpless and powerless - and now that this trauma
has opened up your core wounds you will find yourself often reacting to
life out of the part of you that feels helpless and powerless, unworthy
and unlovable - try to remember that that is the little girl and have compassion
for her/yourself. As for the drinking - you might at some point want
to try an AA meeting. You may not be an alcoholic - but an alcoholic's
reaction to pain is to drink - so it would be good if you kept an eye on
yourself (from the detached, neutral witness that I talk about on the page
to Love our self - not from the shaming judge) in regard to the drinking.
Alcohol can keep us stuck in the suffering when what we need to do is walk
through the pain.
We have 4 children, 2 at home with him. I hope
that we can have a friendly relationship in the future, as we have connections
with the kids. I find myself wondering how to act.
Well, it would probably be better not to interact with him or
the kids when you have been drinking for right now. It is also important
that you have a counselor that you trust and some caring adult friends
you can talk to about what is happening rather that talking to the kids
or him about it. Some Twelve Step meetings would be good - Co-Dependents
Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous (you don't have to be an alcoholic
to go to "open" meetings), Al-Anon. etc. There are also various other
types of support groups - a womens group would probably be good.
I believe very strongly in the absolute value and importance of a Spiritual
relationship with a Higher Power. Any type of Spiritual support that
helps you to feel better about your self is good (some religious beliefs
do not support you in feeling good about self and those I do not consider
As for the future - You have just started on a journey that is going
to take you to your Self - that is why this is good news and a new beginning
for you. As you mentioned, you have realized that the relationship
wasn't healthy even before the betrayal - now is when you get to start
learning about what healthy behavior is and that is going to teach you
how to be more Loving with your self - the future is going to be a great
(and scary) adventure - If the person who you will be a year from now could
materialize in front of you right now and tell you what her life is like,
you probably wouldn't even be able to understand what she was talking about.
You are going places internally and Spiritually that you don't remember
ever being before- it will be quite an interesting ride.
Have compassion for your pain and get the help you need to see things
more clearly - when it is most painful remind your self that "this too
shall pass" but it is going to hurt a lot along the way so it is important
for you to have patience with yourself. Read the articles starting
with Learning to Love your self and they should help.
Let me know how you are doing and feel free to write and ask anything
I can help you with.
I was moved by your description of my husband "the
betrayer, deceiver, abuser" as "a lost and wounded soul". Even though I
have been very angry about his actions, I know he is in pain and I hurt
for him. It is interesting that he has signed several of his letters to
me in the last few weeks "lost and alone" or "lost and confused". I'm not
sure what "lost" signifies (and I don't know if he does either ) but he
evidently feels it.
More from Infidility
Lost is what we feel when our life has no meaning and purpose.
We were taught to try to find meaning and purpose in life from material
things, from outer or external manifestations - and that is dysfunctional,
it does not work. Here are two quotes from my book about this:
"This dance of Codependence is a dance of dysfunctional
relationships - of relationships that do not work to meet our needs.
That does not mean just romantic relationships, or family relationships,
or even human relationships in general.
The fact that dysfunction exists in our romantic,
family, and human relationships is a symptom of the dysfunction that exists
in our relationship with life - with being human. It is a symptom
of the dysfunction which exists in our relationships with ourselves as
And the dysfunction that exists in our relationship
with ourselves is a symptom of Spiritual dis-ease, of not being in balance
and harmony with the universe, of feeling disconnected from our Spiritual
"As was stated earlier, Codependence could more
accurately be called outer or external dependence. Outside influences
(people, places, and things; money, property, and prestige) or external
manifestations (looks, talent, intelligence) can not fill the hole within.
They can distract us and make us feel better temporarily but they cannot
address the core issue - they cannot fulfill us Spiritually. They
can give us ego-strength but they cannot give us self-worth.
True self-worth does not come from temporary conditions.
True self-worth comes from accessing the eternal Truth within, from remembering
the state of Grace that is our True condition."
Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
Ultimately we feel lost because we feel disconnected from our Spiritual
Source. We have a hole in our soul and we keep trying to fill it
with outside things because that is what we were taught defined us.
We grew up in emotionally dishonest societies that taught us that if we
were good enough, did enough, did it “right,” we would get rewarded
we would get to “happily ever after.”
That is not the way it works.
The way it has worked way too often for families in our dysfunctional
cultures is like this:
Two people got married. He started working on his career
which would allow him to support his family - which is what he has been
taught defines him as a man. She starts working on being a good wife
and mother - which is what she has been taught defines her as a woman.
They were both abandoned, deprived, and abused in childhood in some way
and are trying to make up for it by trying real hard to do life “right”
to prove they are worthy individuals. Neither one of them has the
slightest notion of what emotional honesty is - so it is not only impossible
for them to have emotional intimacy but they don’t even know what it is
that is missing. They work real hard on making their life work.
They do all the things a “good” family is supposed to do they go
on vacations, they buy a house, they pursue the “American Dream” (or English,
or Australian, etc.) They are so busy making a living and raising
kids that they don’t even have time to stop and take inventory so that
they can figure out what is missing. It is just a kind of vague uneasiness,
that is confusing and scary, that creeps in once in a while - but we keep
it at bay by keeping busy or watching TV or working in the garden or golfing
or whatever. Sometimes we do it with drinking or food.
This is of course a generalization - it probably applies to 20% of baby
boomer families. Probably another 35-40% stayed together in spite
of the infidelity or without any infidelity - but also without any True
emotional honesty or intimacy. Sometimes it was the woman who cheated
on the man. There are also families where the mother was the rager
and the father the protector - or where both raged, although usually there
was alcoholism involved in those cases. This 60 % were the best middle
class families, the ones that really looked good in the community, the
ones others looked at with envy because they obviously were successfully
living the American Dream. The other 40% of the families were the
overtly dysfunctional ones - alcohol and physical abusive and incest.
The really poor families, or the really rich ones where the aberations
of behavior can really be bizarre. This 40% were the ones the 60%
looked at to prove to themselves that they were doing it “right.”
(These figures have no known statistical basis, they were basically pulled
out of thin air - but I am sure that they are someplace in the ballpark
of what an honest statistical analysis would find.)
The man finds himself baffled by the emotional needs of his wife and
kids - and tries to control the situation the only way he knows how (the
only way he has permission to) with anger. The woman tries to shield
her children from her husbands anger. The man has arrived at mid
life and his career is not really fulfilling him, he can’t satisfy or control
his wife and kids, and he does not have the least bit of cultural permission,
role modeling, or training in how to be introspective and try to understand
his emotional wounds - so he does something to prove to himself that he
is a man, he has an affair.
The woman finds out. Is devastated - “How could he do this to
me?” "I have given him the best years of my life.” etc. She
takes it very personally and thinks that she must have done something wrong.
Suddenly, her whole life is exploded - all the energy and hard work and
sacrifice, all of the years she tried her best to be a good wife and mother.
The kids are grown, or almost, and all of sudden she is faced with not
being a wife and with no kids at home - her self-definition and self-worth
down the drain. And she lives in a culture that says that women are
not beautiful or desirable after a certain age.
Pretty Normal in an Emotionally Dysfunctional Society
And the sad thing is that both the man and the woman swing between shaming
and blaming themselves and shaming and blaming the other - when both were
set up in their childhood. It is not that they have done anything
wrong - it is that they were set up to fail by an emotionally dishonest,
Spiritually hostile civilization. Their whole adult life has been lived
according to a false belief system. Their patterns were set in childhood
and what has happened in their adult life is a result of their childhood
emotional wounds and mental programming. The infidelity is just a
symptom - it is not the cause. What happened wasn’t personal because
neither one of them really knows who he or she is - let alone who the other
person is. It is very sad.
And yes - I think that all of those families are/were dysfunctional
because the civilized culture they lived in was/is dysfunctional and emotionally
dishonest. Of course some were much better than others - but the
best of them were still trapped in the cultural dysfunction that was based
on a false belief system about the meaning and purpose of life.
This example refers to the baby boom generation because that was the
last generation that really grew up in such a black and white / right and
wrong world. The previous generation, more couples stayed together
because they had less permission to divorce. The next generation
after the baby boomers, had more permission to divorce so their patterns
were different - although just as dysfunctional, in different ways (including
that some women felt that they were not only supposed to be good mothers
and wives but also have a successful career.)
So you not alone.
We have all been lost, trying to fill the hole in our soul with whatever
we could find that would work in the moment to help us keep from feeling
the emotional pain - alcohol or work or family or sex or religion or whatever.
So, finally realizing that we feel lost can actually be the good news because
we have to own that we feel lost before we can start to seek to find the
Spiritual connection that we have been yearning for our whole life.
My counselor suggests that I avoid all contact
with him, (he says "you can't save him, save
yourself") but he will not stay away from me. My
suggests that whatever he does or says at this point will be
to get me to do what he wants me to do.
The way the dynamic in a dysfunctional relationship works is on a come
here - go away cycle. When one person is available the other tends
to pull away. If the first person becomes unavailable the other comes
back and pleads to be let back in. When the first becomes available
again then the other eventually starts pulling away again. It happens
because our relationship with self is not healed. As long as I don’t
love myself then there must be something wrong with someone who loves me
- if someone doesn’t love me than I have to prove I am worthy by winning
that person back. On some level we are trying to earn the love of
our unavailable parent to prove to ourselves that we are worthy and lovable.
You do not have the power to make him love himself, you only have the
power to change your relationship with your self - as your counselor says.
I have to admit, that because he has seemed repentant,
and has made some effort, I have allowed a
little hope to creep back in to my heart. I
don't want to be alone, and I sure don't have any thought of trying to
someone else. (In fact the thought is repulsive to me.) I don't
where to go from here. I don't want to mislead him.
No one can tell you what your path is - only you can decide that.
What is really important is to be honest with our self. When someone
who has been betrayed by a spouse says to me that they are going to take
them back because they “love him/her,” that is never the Truth in
my experience - the real reason has to do with fear. And making our
decisions based on fear (of being alone, of being unable to support self,
etc.) usually just gives more power to the fear - it is not bad or wrong
or shameful, it just does not work to help us find some happiness and fulfillment
in life. Making our life choices based on fear is not a very Loving
thing to do for ourselves and indicates a basic belief system/inner child
programming that we are not worthy or deserving of anything better.
It is not a very kind thing to do for ourselves.
I have suggested counseling for him continually,
he has even gone a few times, and has been
on Depakote for anger management, but he quit going
and has run out of his med and argues that a "stranger" isn't
to help. He is drinking and using some drugs, and seems to be full of anger
and frustration. My counselor suggests that the only way we can
have a healthy relationship is if we both go THROUGH a therapy program.
I have told my husband that I think that is true. My husband
that if two people love each other, they should be able to work things
out on their own. He has said that he would do "whatever it takes"
but he has not called to make an appt. and I am not going to nag
or do it for him.
Congratualtions on not doing it for him.
He has to become willing if there is any hope of change. It sounds
like he could use Alcoholics Anonymous. Talking to someone who is
under the influence of alcholol or drugs is a waste of time - you are just
talking to the disease.
The problem with the “two people loving each other”
theory is that no one can really know what Love is unless they Love and
respect them self. If we don’t love and respect our self then
what we feel towards someone who says they love us is more like gratitude
to them for loving “poor unlovable me.” That is the kind of gratitude
that usually turns into resentment and anger.
What do you think? Am I being gullible? Who should
believe? My sister agrees with my counselor. I am blowing whichever
the wind blows.
I think you are lost and confused and scared to death. I think
that whatever you decide about your husband is just dealing with the symptoms
and not looking at the cause. It might be Karmically necessary for
you to go back with him and experience some more pain. It is
possible that you will need to go back with him in order to get to the
point that you are in enough pain to start dealing with the cause - which
is your childhood wounds. It is possible that you really are
an alcoholic and need to get back together with him to give yourself an
excuse to drink. It is possible that your path in life is to live
the rest of your life with someone you don’t trust.
There are many possibilities. I think you have a lot of lost and
confused and terrified feelings in front of you either way. I
know that you are Unconditionally Loved by The Great Spirit no matter what
you do. The question is not what is right or wrong - it is what
is the most Loving thing to do for your self.
I was abused as a
child by my stepfather. I felt abandoned by my mother and
father. It is interesting that you seemed to know this. I have
admit that in the last 2 years, I have felt abandoned by everyone,
God himself. I can't tell you how many times I asked Him to help, to save,
Everyone was abandoned, abused, and deprived in some way. Everyone
feels abandoned by God sometimes. The core of our pain, the original
wound that we are healing is feeling abandoned by our Creator. We
are healing the feeling that we were abandoned by God through healing the
feelings of being abandoned by our parents. It is very important
in my view to own our right to feel angry at God. (I talk about this
on Question and Answer Page 4.)
My belief is that my Higher Power always gives us what we need not what
we want. In my experience, though I often get angry at not getting
what I want, as I look back over my life I can see that my Higher Power’s
plan for me was always better than my plan and that it was always
leading me somewhere better.
This very painful and traumatic event in your life can be the start
of your Spiritual Awakening. It is very possible that you could be
looking back on this time in the years ahead and be grateful that you were
set free from your old belief systems and led to start down a path that
will bring you much more Joy and Peace than your former life was bringing
Thanks again for your precious time. I appreciate
the fact that you take the time to consider
the big picture and everyone involved. I know that
" tell the S.O.B. to hit the road!" is not thoughtful advice.
Everyone is wounded. We all need to heal. I hope that my
web site and I can be of some help and comfort at this very painful and
terrifying time. Again, I am sorry you are having such a hard time
- but please know that there is a God-Force that does Love you Unconditionally,
and always will no matter what decisions you make.
I am finding out that there is more sadness now because
I am with myself, experiencing feelings & it is so painful, I feel
really alone. I tryed to explain to my husband that I really have
alot of fear, anger & sadness & he says, "Don't think about it"
-- think about building a new home, going back to work & maybe buying
a sportscar---that now has triggered more sadness for I am alone in the
journery of self-discovery & healing. ( Now day later & I have
had some time with friends & sunshine & realize I am not alone.
My Higher Power & the Spirit is with me & many others in the recovery
process--must have been the disease in me yesterday).
Taking the year off work in Canada wrote:
Because you don’t have your work to distract you and keep you busy you
will feel the feelings even more. You will also get in touch with
the reality of the lack of emotional support or intimacy in your relationship.
You are alone in many ways, and will feel alone a great deal of the
time. When the inner child/core wounds are up you will feel alone,
powerless, hopeless, and helpless. You are never alone Spiritually
- although it sure feels like it much of the time. That is one reason
it is so important to use tools as Positive Affirmations
to balance the emotional pain and fear with some Spiritual Truth.
The more you can learn to be a detached observer so that you can be your
own Loving Parent - the more you will be able to intervene in your own
internal process to remind yourself about friends and sunshine and such.
I wonder if being with a spouse who is wounded
& not interested in recovery & looking @ his own codependence is
harmful to my health & ability to heal ?
You can do your healing no matter what. The Universe will provide
you with what you need (not necessarily with what you think you need) when
it is time. If you need to leave the relationship you will do that
when it is time. There is no need to rush any decisions now.
Your healing will affect him because it will change the relationship
dynamics. Whether he decides to change eventually is something that
falls in the More Will Be Revealed category. I recommend that you
just nurture yourself right now and as one twelve step program says “Uncover,
focus on your healing
and sorting out your issues. The issues with him most likely have
to do with your father although they could
also be about your mother. Whatever is happening in the now is a
reflection or symbol for something that happened then it
is happening now to help you get in touch with the issues that you need
to heal. Everything is unfolding perfectly.