A friend recently contacted me to say he thought this might be his marital relationship which is now a filed and proceeding divorce. See 7 min. video clip below. I agreed with him that he was being manipulated by a narcissistic soon to be x wife. I am not a psychologist and my opinion of his relationship is based on observations over the years of this man and his soon to be x wife and my own codependent recovery journey.
Many times people that are not whole and healthy psychologically “hook-up” and each half of a not complete person “completes” the other. This is what is joked about in Codependents Anonymous circles as the “Jerry McGuire Syndrome,” and notable experts such as Dr. Henry Cloud also correctly tell us that two incomplete people do NOT complete each other, but reduce each other through unhealthy co-dependence.
We also know that it may be possible to get healthy together if BOTH people in the relationship are willing to admit and work on their own faults, hang ups and habits, but it is also just as likely they won’t and stay together in a dysfunctional dance for years, decades, a lifetime or at least “until the children are grown,” and then have to look at each other and see a stranger in the “empty nest.”
I can’t tell you what to do. You must discover what is best for yourself. Hopefully some of the posts and resources here can help you. See http://locator.coda.org/ for more on Codependence.
Whether you’re just struggling through the holidays and still married or in the middle of a divorce or post divorce (See How Church Divorce Recovery Groups and The Law May Differ) post here in this blog and think about and pray about (if you have a faith or believe in a higher power), read some of the other posts here and consider carefully. I hope this blog helps you to make the right decision for yourself and your family!
Yesterday, a friend going through divorce told me the Pastor at his church running the Divorce Recovery Program has been telling the current group they must “always be trying to reconcile.”
While there is certainly a time for reconciliation, once the parties have retained attorneys, a divorce has been filed and is proceeding through the court system you will actually be hurting your legal case by seeking reconciliation with your soon to be X-spouse.
I told my friend to “kindly” ask the Pastor “Are you giving me legal advice Pastor? Because if you are my attorney has told me in no uncertain terms this will actually hurt me legally!”
That being said, it is also important to think about the timing of things:
- You tried or didn’t to reconcile BEFORE filing for or your spouse filed for divorce
- If reconciliation FAILED then you either sit in separation anxiety sometimes in the same home or you proceed with a divorce
- Depending on whether you’re a member of a religious faith you will have certain views about finalizing a divorce and what that means for your life and your soul. If you’re not involved with a faith or denomination, then you should proceed with a divorce because you are legally married with all the consequences of debt, assets, etc. until you’re not married
- Even if you are involved in a faith / denomination there comes a point where there is no more hope for reconciliation. A dear friend of mine who is older actually saw his Rabbi on my behalf and the Rabbi advised correctly in my case to get divorced as quickly as possible. See the final paragraph here to understand why that was good advice
- Depending on what STAGE you’re in, your faith and your lawyer you will either proceed with the divorce or reconcile
Confused? Go to many different support groups, talk to people at all these different stages, talk to your lawyer if you have one and make a decision.
The only thing I would say you should NOT do is nothing. Like having a medical condition that is progressive your marriage either works and you stay together to make it work or you sit in dysfunction. See posts on this blog from Michelle Weiner-Davis the divorce buster in Boulder, Colorado who I very much admire. If your marriage doesn’t work you or your spouse might begin going out with others while you’re still married (never a good idea even with “no fault” divorce states of which are the majority. See posts to that effect on this blog. Or you lead lives of quiet separate desperation leading to anxiety disorders and depression (also not a great idea).
DO SOMETHING… Don’t just sit in it. If you can reconcile DO IT. In my case my lovely wife of 18 years was actively involved in an affair with a married man in another state and not only was there no chance of reconciliation (I tried and was laughed at), but my now x wife was un- repetent, arrogant and dismissive and actually told me, her family and our daughters there was nothing wrong with her affair because “she filed for divorce.” Really?! And if that wasn’t crazy enough she also told me “we can always get re-married.”
NO THANK YOU!!!
Another excellent email from Michelle Weiner-Davis I just received and am reposting. As I’ve said before I found her resources and coaching very helpful when I went through my divorce in 2009 following my x-wife’s affair.
My Affair “Just Happened”
I’ve been a therapist for a very long time. I’ve encountered people from all walks of life with varied viewpoints, personalities, strengths and idiosyncratic quirks.
I’m never bored, rarely shocked and almost never irritated. But the operative word here is “almost.”
I have lost count of the number of times when a spouse who’s been unfaithful says, “I wasn’t looking for an affair, it just happened.”
It’s as if these people were simply going about their days, minding their own businesses and alas, they suddenly found themselves stark naked in hotel rooms having breathless, passionate sex.
It just happens?
Uh, I don’t think so.
Affairs aren’t spontaneous; they require planning and decision-making.
Frequently, the choices people make that pave the way for an affair- dinner with a co-worker, meeting an old boyfriend or girlfriend for a drink after work just to catch up, having lunch with an attractive, single neighbor on a regular basis or sending a lengthy Christmas update to a long lost heart throb- can seem relatively innocent.
But one dinner date or late night conversation often leads to another and another and another.
The talk becomes more personal.
Confessions of marital dissatisfaction begin to surface; the listener becomes empathetic and supportive.
But the riskiness of this behavior is minimized. People tell themselves, “I just needed someone to talk to. I wanted an opinion from someone of the opposite sex.”
If you’re complaining about your marriage to a sympathetic ear, you don’t need a degree in psychology to know that the implicit message in these conversations is, “I’m unhappily married. Want to fool around?”
You can tell yourself that you’re not doing anything wrong, but the truth is, this sort of interaction is a sheer, slippery slope.
Then there is alcohol, the inhibition-buster that “made me do it.”
And while it’s true that many a bad decision have been made while under the influence, having a drink is a decision. Having two drinks is two decisions. You can do the math on the rest of the story.
What about bad marriages? Don’t they justify being unfaithful? After all, life is short. We only have one go around, right?
Look, life is short and feeling lonely in marriage is no way to live.
But dulling one’s pain through the instant gratification of hot sex or emotional closeness with someone who doesn’t argue with you about bills, children or the in-laws isn’t an effective or lasting way to fix what’s wrong.
There are infinitely better ways to combat loneliness, a sexual void or marital unhappiness.
Help is out there.
Furthermore, what’s always amazed me is how differently people react to similar circumstances. I’ve met people whose marriages were sexless for years, and although that made them miserable, they simply could not cheat.
I’ve met other people who, when their relationships hit predictable bumps in the road, rather than work things out, they sought comfort in the arms of strangers.
Unhappy marriages don’t cause infidelity.
Being unfaithful causes infidelity.
In fact, infidelity complicates life enormously for everyone involved, a fact that should not be minimized when planning the next “just friends” Starbucks break.
People who say their affairs just happened aren’t necessarily intentionally trying to justify their behavior; they often truly believe what they’re saying.
They simply lack insight or awareness of the ways in which their actions, however subtle, have led them down destructive paths.
But in the same way that affairs don’t just happen, neither does healing from betrayal.
Unless those who have strayed look inward and take personal responsibility for their choices, they will not be able to get their relationships back on track when they’ve gotten derailed.
Instead they’ll see themselves as victims or reeds in the wind. And in my view, sorry, but that’s just a lot of hot air.
p.s. I’m always interested in your comments. Write me: email@example.com
For more advice and help, read my latest book: Healing from Infidelity, The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair.
This just came into my inbox from Dr. Henry Cloud. I am not a subscriber and so I don’t have any first hand experience with it, but Dr. Cloud’s reputation is outstanding and if you’re struggling with boundary issues it certainly might be worth a try!
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I found it helpful to have at least 3 meetings per week as follows:
- Church. I go to an Evangelical Christian Church, but whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Islamic or any other faith I believe it is important to work the spiritual components of your struggle within the principles of your faith. If you don’t believe in God, then I encourage you to seek because you may find something very beneficial. Remember, not all churches are the same and you may have to visit several and more than once in order to find a church home.
- Counseling from a professional therapist to work on your relationship skills. One of the jokes in divorce circles is “if you had taken the steps you’re taking now to get physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy BEFORE the divorce, you might never have gotten divorced!” Of course there are abusive relationships you must leave, but you will benefit from watching this classic 22 min. video by Dr. Henry Cloud a PhD Psychologist and PhD Theologian on “Foolish, Wise, and Evil People.” https://youtu.be/ruoPQuePhV8
- Group Divorce Support meetings. I found it helpful to go to such meetings in a church setting.
- 12-Step Groups. I am also a recovering co-dependent and so as you can see in a previous post codependents anonymous was helpful to me. If you have other addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. you can and should find a 12 step group. Learn more at these links:
- Physical Fitness is so important to reducing stress and keeping a clear head! Excerpt: “Stress is an inevitable part of life. Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives, according to the most recent ADAA survey on stress and anxiety disorders. When the American Psychological Association surveyed people in 2008, more people reported physical and emotional symptoms due to stress than they did in 2007, and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year….While all of these are well-known coping techniques, exercise may be the one most recommended by health care professionals.” Source: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st