But the Times They are A-Changing

You dont find the happy life. You make it..PNG

60 years of marriage and never a cross word, and never a serious argument. We never went to bed without making up. We always sorted out our little differences. And any differences were, really, insignificant.”

So said my Dad when he and my mom were celebrating their ruby anniversary.

Now I grew up in that very same home, and my recollections differ somewhat from my Dad’s. But, to be completely honest, their marriage is inspiring. It would be hard to find a couple who have loved so honestly. So, I’ll allow my dad to have his select memories.

But, still, it leaves me wondering how many young adults will be able to look back and say they, also, knew true love. Is it still possible to be so faithful to another, and to always love that person, and treat them with respect? I’d really like to think that the answer is yes.

But today we all have cell phones, and we have the internet … and I fear that this has altered and changed relationships. But maybe that’s not true, and there’s room for idealism. Perhaps there is no need for that dash of cynicism.

So for my daughters, and the daughters of my friends and relatives, here is what I still wish, and hope, for you:

I hope that you will marry, or partner, with someone who will always be faithful – in every way – to you.

I hope that you’ll find someone who cares about your heart, and chooses not to hurt you, or damage, or betray you.

I hope that you’ll both choose to admit if you feel tempted – because you have resolved to keep the promises you made.

I hope you won’t have secrets that hurt and separate – but you will choose to value and practice openness.

I hope that you’ll feel cared for, protected, safe and loved.

And I hope that you can say that your partner was your friend, a lover who was loyal and caring to the end.

 

Betrayal and Numbing

Emotional numbing is a reaction to events that are shocking, terrifying and which cause us great distress. That is, our brain seeks to protect us against being traumatized by erecting strong defenses which are hard to penetrate.

Thus, when a secret life’s discovered and the truth first comes to light the shock can lead to numbing in the partner or the spouse. This happens automatically; it’s outside our control.

However, ‘(although) we might use this coping mechanism during traumatic events … what is dangerous about numbing is that it doesn’t work as selectively as we might like it to. Generally, when you use numbing as a defence, it numbs not just the bad stuff, but you experience good feelings less vividly too.[1]

Perhaps this is something you’ve experienced as well.

So, what kinds of symptoms indicate emotional numbing? They include:

  • A dampening of all emotions. This includes being unable to experience positive feelings (such as hopefulness, enthusiasm, optimism, excitement, happiness and joy). This state is known as emotional anesthesia.
  • Feeling detached and distant from others (so their experiences, or what they say and do, have little or no impact on you).
  • Being unable to feel close to others with whom you share an intimate relationship.
  • Being unable to express, give or receive affection or tenderness.
  • A loss of interest in activities, hobbies, or work which were previously rewarding.    

Also, it can hamper our ability to concentrate and think, and impact our ability to function properly. That can make it hard to cope and deal with normal daily life.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, and are dealing with betrayal, please know that it is common. It’s a struggle many face. However, it could be helpful to discuss it with a counsellor or doctor. Don’t isolate yourself. You do not have to cope alone.       


[1] Cori, J.L. (2009). Healing from trauma: A survivor’s guide to understanding your symptoms and reclaiming your life. Boston, MA: Da Capo Lifelong Books.

To Tell or Not to Tell? That is the Question.

One of the most difficult questions people ask is “Should I tell the children or our families, or should it just remain between the 2 of us (my partner/ spouse and me)?”

There is no easy answer to this very troubling question. It is something you must think through, and weigh up, for yourself. Also, it is something I would urge you to consider carefully. Don’t give into the pressure to make your mind up NOW. In my opinion, it is better to be hesitant and cautious than to make a rushed a decision which you regret later on.

Here are a few factors to bear in mind as you contemplate what might be the right choice for you:

  1. Once the story has been shared it cannot be ‘unshared’. If you and your partner recover from this, and manage to build a completely different life, other people won’t forget and it may influence how they see you (both).
  2. Although you can choose to turn your back and walk away, to end your relationship, and find someone new, the person who betrayed you will always be the dad or the mom of any children you have had, and raised, together. This is a crucial point to bear in mind. If you disclose everything that your partner has done it will likely affect their relationship with him (or her), and possibly affect it for the rest of their lives.
  3. It’s worth considering the age of your children. For example, what’s appropriate to share with a 16-year old will not make sense to a 6-year old. Also, timing is important as children get stressed too. They have exams, school anxieties, and numerous other issues. Is this the right time to drop a bomb like this? If you decide you’re going to share it, pay attention to the timing.
  4. Are the children at risk? This is a very important question to ask. Hopefully the answer to the question will be ‘no’, and you can take that out of the decision-making process. However, if you’ve any doubts at all, then you must have the courage to face them honestly and openly. You must protect your children, no matter what the cost.
  5. If you decide to tell your children (however old they are) they are going to need support, and may want to talk things through. Ask yourself: Do you have the reserves to deal with this, or should you maybe wait until you’re less traumatized? Also, they have the right to share how they feel with other people. Hence, it may mean that your family and your social group find out.
  6. You might feel like a fraud if you choose to remain silent. You might feel you’re colluding and are sharing in a lie.
  7. What if the children learn the secret later on, or if they learn from someone else, and they argue ‘it’s not true’? Just think about how shocking that would be for them. They may also think that you’ve deceived them as well, and this could influence their relationship with you.
  8. It could be argued it prepares your older children for real life. Your children may be struggling with the same kinds of things, and this could be a way to talk about its seriousness, or to help them with a battle they are facing on their own.
  9. If you’re open with your children (and especially adult children) it may remove some of the shame and the stigma that surrounds a sexual addiction or dependency. Also, a secret can be powerful and can hold a person hostage. If you choose to be authentic, you might find that you feel freer.
  10. It can lead to more support and accountability. If a partner who’s addicted is committed to being free, then others can encourage them to stay true to themselves, and to keep on working to maintain the ground they’ve gained. Also, the spouse or partner can receive greater support as they seek to come to terms with the devastating news. However, you will need to assess if your family and your friends will genuinely support you, and will want the best for you. Sadly, others may be glad when they learn about your struggles – and this could simply add to the pain you’re carrying.      

As I said at the beginning, there is no simple solution. Peoples’ situations differ. It requires careful thought. And if you feel dazed and confused wait a while; there is no rush. You can always choose to share when you are ready, and are stronger.