Archives for October 2006

Marital Infidelity: Are You the Constant Object?

One of my coaching clients is playing the role I call the “Constant Object.”

He is a rock. His mission is to hold the family together. He’s focused on parenting – giving what she is not. He vows to hang in there although his family and friends tell him to “move on.” He uses a skill he learned from me – charging neutral – and refuses to react to her.

She is having a rather open, blatant affair with a neighbor. She is “in love” and fits almost to a “t” the characteristics I describe in affair #4: “I Fell out of Love…and just love being in love.”

He receives mixed messages from her daily: “You are important to me. I love you, but am not in love with you. You are a wonderful person. She may touch him. She will call him almost daily and unexpectedly at his workplace, often without any significant reason.

At other times she talks of moving out to live with her boyfriend. She says the marriage is over, but has not filed for divorce. She frequently and angrily “throws a fit” if he hints at repairing their relationship. She lies where she is going and what she is doing. She says it is time for her to follow her feelings.

She is like a leaf blowing in the wind. She claims that her feelings are vital to her, yet interestingly shuts down and withdraws when it comes to expressing appropriate feelings such as sadness or fear. She is adrift and running from her internal emptiness – running naively toward that which she thinks will fill her emptiness – another man. She is lost.

Such a lost soul needs a rock, someone constant, predictable and safe to attach to. She has that. She needs that.

He now knows that. He can with more compassion view her struggle. He waits for the day when consequences will open her to her pain and emptiness and propel her to another level of growth and healing and self understanding.

When will that happen? We don’t know. How will that happen? We don’t know for sure.

His work is entertaining answers to the questions:

For how long will I tolerate this?
How will I draw the line, if I must?
What are intermediary steps I can safely take with her to guide her to the consequences of her behavior and possible healing?

A Cheating Spouse: History Repeats Itself

I ran into it again today, in one of my coaching calls.

This phenomenon may seem odd to most. Most never imagine it to be a possibility. But, for someone who has logged more than 30,000 hours of direct counseling, I’ve encountered it over and over again. It does happen and happens often.

The “it” is a person repeating the same actions of his/her parent.

The scenario today was of responsible loving mother/wife doing an about face.

Within a short period of time she developed an intense attraction, almost obsession, with her boss.

It grew into a full blown extramarital affair with her moving out, going on weekend trips with him, dressing provocatively, paying minimal attention to her 5 year old daughter and in essence, orienting her life around this new man.

She raged at her husband, blamed him for the affair and would wait impatiently for her next encounter with the other person.

Her history revealed that her mother exhibited almost exactly the same behavior to her father when she was as little girl – 5 years old!


I don’t think so. I’ve encountered this behavior far too often to dismiss it.

I believe the pain, guilt, hurt, fear and confusion we experience when traumatized as a child is somehow locked inside a person. We vow (at some level) that it will never happen to us.

However, when the biological child becomes the age of the little girl who suffered the abandonment, all hell can break loose.

It is a crisis. There is an attempt to “resolve” this pain, but the avenue chosen is often similar to the destructive path taken by one’s parent. There may be good psychological reasons for this, but I don’t want to go there now.

Suffice it to say that the husband suffers in disbelief and confusion. He no longer knows his wife. He receives well intended advice to “move on.” But he can’t.

A part of him knows her pain. This intuitive knowledge holds him to her. He waits, patiently, for her to face her demons, for her to gain the clairity of awareness and internal healing that will free her from the history of her mother.

Infidelity and the Determination to Hang On

These thoughts come from a coaching call with a client who doggedly wants to hang on to his spouse and repeatedly tries to forcefully convince her of the errors of her ways.

He, like many I coach, are tied to the hip of their spouse/partner. And that is understandable.

After xx number of years sleeping with a person, sharing meals with that person. raising children together, celebrating Holidays and birthdays, paying bills, vacations together, seeing the best and worst of another, allowing the other to see the best and worst in us, and living out the good, bad and ugly of life we form a bond that is nearly unbreakable – even if marked by intense pain and disappointment.

He, like some of you, is fighting like crazy to keep his relationship. He doesn’t want to lose her (and all that she represents).

He, like some of you, out of his fear and pain, says words that push her away, although he wants her close. Because she is lost in her own pain and lostness, she cannot hear beyond his words.

If this is your scenario, please consider trying on some of these suggestions.

1. Appreciate the power of your determination. You are doggedly determined. You will not give up. Embrace that as a power of your character. Examine other areas of your life where you show that same kind of determination. Smile at yourself for your persistence.

2. Take small steps to be more subtle. Care for yourself in kindly small ways.

3. Watch carefully the response you get from your spouse/partner when you resist less his/her attempts to pull away from you.

Your determination can never be taken from you. And, you can learn to use it in more subtle and perhaps more powerful ways.