I have updated the first volume of the Coaching Archives E-Book, Left Behind: Dealing with Midlife Crisis & Infidelity When You Don’t Want a Divorce. It is now available for purchase in the store.

Overpowered

This post is a response to a few of the comments received from Part 2 of my series The Midlife Journey: Understanding, Accepting & Embracing the Outcome.

Background
The original series referenced the book Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. In it the author spoke briefly of her affair and the end of her marriage.

Orwhatyouwill
I don’t believe it’s impossible to avoid the urge to have an affair or any of the other harmful behaviors MLCers regularly take part in.

I don’t believe it’s impossible either. But impossible says nothing about the degree of difficulty or probability. It’s also not impossible for an alcoholic to refrain from drinking, but it’s hard—really really hard. I think there are situations where saying no to infidelity is a lot easier than other situations and I think the degree of difficulty may change when an affair is ongoing.

It doesn’t really matter to me that Sweetheart could have said no because he didn’t. I could focus on what he didn’t do that he should have done, but what a waste of my energy. Deal with reality.

Then there’s that whole part about making promises and taking vows and raising kids etc. that MLCers seem to forget about because of their “urges.”
Stayed
Me too. I have problems as well with “urges” that need to be scratched!

You are using the word urge in a different way than I use it. I don’t use it as an itch to be scratched or as a boys will be boys sort of excuse for dismissing behavior. Those are excuses people use for hurting people. The urge to abandon is not fully conscious. They are leaving and they know they are leaving, and yet often they haven’t a clue why. It’s sort of like a few of the Knowings I had that basically told me to GO HOME NOW. My body suddenly went into panic—physiological panic—while my mind was not in panic and I knew that I was supposed to be home—usually because Sweetheart was there and I would get to see him. It was like an urge—I was sitting in church and had an urge, something pulling me away and it was not from within. It wasn’t about a need of my own, that is not what I mean by urge to abandon. It’s more like the Shadow—Monster and other forces—pulling the MLCer away.

Urge
Overpowering magnetic-like force. This may be an addiction such as hand-washing in obsessive compulsive disorder or it may be a more chronologically isolated compulsion connected to a call to action from the soul or the Shadow or some other unexplained source—such as God. The MLC urge to abandon emanates from the Shadow.

But it may not even matter whether the urge is an itch to scratch, the pull of the Shadow or both. Of course we have problems with it. Sweetheart didn’t just leave me once, he left 8 times for a woman who had been crazy enough to fake a pregnancy the first time. Seriously what kind of person goes back to that? And yet he did. I can spin myself silly and talk in circles insisting that what he did was wrong and he shouldn’t have done it and to he!! with his urges. But that gets me nowhere. The truth is that he went and did what he shouldn’t have done; the urges won out during his MLC.

Elizabeth Lesser is not trying to defend her actions when she uses the word urge. I personally feel that she is trying to convey to us—the readers—the overpowering nature of the force she felt.

“I followed him because something inside of me sensed an urgency I had never known before. I felt I would die unless I went with him into a dark and beckoning sea.” (Broken Open p. 118)

I read no excuses in her words and I think that is because I saw the same things she is describing—I saw and felt those same words, but my position was as an observer. But I don’t usually get accused of making excuses when I explain with those words and yet she does. She’s the one who felt them in her own body and by describing her state of mind and feelings she is giving you guys—the betrayed spouses—an insight into what is going on inside the husband or wife for whom you are Standing. She can help you see inside—just a tiny bit. She may not be telling you anything knew, but she can be confirming what I have said or maybe what you have sensed.


Comments

Overpowered7 Comments

  1. I’m sorry f I sound impolite RCR, I really don’t get why you’re taken to defend the cheater so much in your latest blog post and to be so hard on the LBS. Maybe I’m reading it/sensing it wrong but to me they translate to a very accepting, empathic position towards the cheater/MLCer and a lot of hardness towards the LBS. Like in the abrupt, cold: “Deal with reality.” The LBS already has enough on their plate, I don’t think we need to be tell that we’re not dealing with reality. We are dealing with MLC reality on a daily basis, and, as you know, that is pretty tough.

    And, in fact, they could have said no. And, at least to me, it makes a big difference if someone said no and still didn’t managed to resist their “urges”, or if they simply went for it without even saying no.

    Also, I have twice been at that “something inside of me sensed an urgency I had never known before.” And have been “aware only of an overpowering attraction” and twice I said no. And, believe me, it was like nothing I had felt before, it was tremendously hard to resist. I do know about the urgency and urge first hand, I’ve felt it in my mind and body. It is possible to say no. At least on a non-MLC situation it is. And it is possible; even under that urgency not know before to know that it will only bring grief.

    Elizabeth Lesser gets accused of making excuses because she is making excuses for her behaviour. You didn’t do it, did you, give in to the overwhelming urge? It is different. You felt it, you can explain it but you are not using it as an excuse. Elizabeth Lesser did not have a MLC, did she? If she did not have a MLC it is nothing but an excuse.

    And how exactly does an insight into our spouses urges help us? How does it help to know “oh, poor them, they had a urge they could not resist” … Bottom line, we have to go under all this because of an urge?… That is way too little of a reason to cheat, let alone justify all their behaviour. If we’re talking depression or addiction, that is another matter, but an overwhelming urge?… To me if is a kidish, silly reason for the destruction an affair or a MLC cause.

    I would say we don’t so much want to have cheaters/MLCers explain their reasons, more hearing them apologise for the pain, hurt and damages they caused and offer to give any possible restoration they can.

    Or maybe it is just me that rather than explanations would like to see solutions. Yes, I know… it is MLC… it has to be through… Even if I think it has biological/brain chemical reasons and it does not have to be the way it is.

    • Hi, Anne – I don't think RCR is actually excusing the MLCer's behaviour, it's rather showing some explanations, mitigating circumstances if you want but never an excuse. If one fails to act responsibly there are no excuses – but usually lots of more or less valid excuses. I guess the MLCer sees his explanations as excuses – as long as he/she is in MLC; seeing them for what they really are probably is too painful for them to accept just yet. For us as LBS hearing the explanations might actually help us to forgive the MLCer in time – and understand his/her motives. This probably is the key to prevent another affair should we ever get back together again

      • Yes, I think understanding helped me to come to forgiveness which helped me in detachment and my own Mirror-Work. It also gave me hope, because before I caught on that I was a wife with a sick husband, I thought there was nothing I could do. Acceptance and Surrender do not mean there is nothing you can do because I still have power over me–with God's guidance of course.
        I told Sweetheart–pretty early in MLC, probably during his first leave–that I forgave him before he ever moved out. He had not yet had sex with the alienator and I forgave him for the future act because I knew it would happen. I could see it was not only not within my control, but inevitable. Maybe it was something intuitive, maybe it was just a big DUH given his behaviours–probably both.
        I decided to Stand before he had physically committed adultery–though it was planned. And I knew that if I was going to Stand and reconcile our marriage, I needed to forgive. It's a process and so was I truly at forgiveness or just in the process…well probably in the process. But I have to admit looking back now and at the time I feel as though I forgave. My anger was for Monster and the MLC…okay and that nutso alieantor. But I also will admit that I was so relieved that she was nuts. I've got to say that I often even felt lucky for that! My husband was in MLC, divorcing me, cheating and I found a blessing that was within that situation. Weird.

  2. I wrote deal with reality in a paragraph where I was explaining what I needed to do. Though I believe it is something we all need to do, it was not an imperative directive to LBSs.
    Empathy is another unconditional. I don’t reserve it for victims. I feel that by learning about the motives behind infidelity we can come to a better place of understanding–and that does not mean we come to believe infidelity is justified.
    It’s not something I necessarily recommend, but I got inside the head of MLC to understand it–or at least understand it as I can without ever going through my own MLC.
    Cheating is inappropriate–unacceptable behavior. But that is a different use of the root accept than Accept the process or situation which is about accepting that which is not within your control as something that is happening even if you don’t like it. It doesn’t mean do not apply consequences, it is simply about Acceptance which is in a way dealing with reality.
    Of course a person can say ‘no’ to an addictive or overpowering force. But can is not will and once they have not resisted, not said ‘no’ and instead fallen instead, we need to deal with that situation. We need to deal with the situation we have rather than the one we wish we had.
    So there is some sort of excuse that works for infidelity or giving into an urge and it is MLC–and that is the only excuse? I don’t buy either. There is not excusable (justifiable) excuse other than a spouse who is brain dead and has been in a coma and her family is fighting you in court to not let her die (the Terri Schiavo case). But I am not going to limit that sort of overpowering force to MLC either. Why? Because I have only studied it in an MLC context and I don’t know that it is not just as powerful in other contexts. I do not think that most infidelity is like that at all–an overpowering force. I think once there is in-fatuation it may come to that, but for many (not all) sex enables the in-fatuation…so the person has already cheated and now the in-fatuation just keeps them hooked.
    I think there are many people out there who can explain there infidelity to betrayed spouses–and by explain I do not mean excuse, but offer us insight into their emotional state and motivations at the time of decision and during an ongoing affair. If that person is not coming out and also stating directly that what they did was wrong I expect that most LBSs would criticize them. But it’s not always going to be explained with words an LBS wants–similar to reconciliation and apologies are not Hollywood endings.

    What overwhelming urge didn’t I give in to? I do not talk of an urge that involved an attraction to infidelity or some other specific sin. I did give into my urges because they were specific Knowings telling me to GO HOME NOW! I can only explain it in that sense. I have not felt an urge toward sexual temptation.
    It’s not insight into the urge, the insight is that there is an urge–some sort of overpowering force. It helped me tremendously because I could see it controlling Sweetheart and I could see him fighting it. The first 2 or so weeks after Bomb Drop were a confusion for me–it didn’t make sense that my husband wanted a divorce and now he was suddenly being mean. Then I saw it, I saw the fear and confusion and how hard he was resisting and yet still being pulled away from me. He went Monster and he cycled–within maybe 2-3 hours there were different personalities and behaviors and I finally realized I was not a wife in a bad marriage, but I was a wife with a very sick husband. That was a turning point and thank God it was only a few weeks after Bomb Drop.
    You don;t have to undergo anything. Standing is a choice. Of course when you choose not to Stand, yeah there’s still crap to go through because that other person is still going to throw it at you. Learn to duck I guess. That doesn’t mean it’s fair. Of course it’s not fair. But it still happening.
    There is no reason to cheat. It’s not excusable. But it happens anyway and one of my jobs is to learn and understand what is going on inside the cheater so that I can explain it. I needed answers–explanations–and people weren’t giving them to me…often because they didn’t have or know them either. That didn’t mean I would like the answers. He’s cheating because he’s gone nuts was pretty much the conclusion I came to and the going nuts was MLC.
    The overwhelming urge is just one piece of it and it goes with the depression and the urge is another way of describing addiction…and yet I resist using that word before sex because what has caused the addiction. It’s the start that pulls them under.
    Will an urge alone do it?
    Will depression alone do it?
    For some the answer is yes (since people not in MLC or some crisis cheat too), but not all. Sweetheart needed the perfect storm of things coming together for him to do something as terrible as cheat. I don’t know what his MLC trigger was–and maybe it was just a big context rather than some identifiable event. But he gets depressed–seasonally–and cheating is not a temptation.
    I don’t think MLCers can explain their reasons. Some may toss out excuses, but do we buy them? I don’t. Sweetheart doesn’t know why and he was unable to explain it then as well. Maybe he knows the why’s as I explain them–the intellectual explanation. But I don’t think he understands them emotionally and I don’t think he feels them, so if he were to give an answer as to why, perhaps it would not be his personal answer, but an explanation that is general and textbook. He couldn’t explain back then and thinking about it just got him confused and caused more cycling and Monster. The Urge To Abandon is just one component of MLC–not the only component.
    We all want solutions. But what we have to do is Accept that we may do everything perfectly as a Stander and our MLCer may not come home as mine did. So there are solutions that may lead to personal growth and joy and yet no reconciliation and there are solutions that may lead to reconciliation–but not in all cases.
    Mirror-Work is important for the personal side and reconciliation side.

  3. Hi RCR and happy Thanksgiving. I want to go back to the book… I know I had a really strong negative reaction to Lesser and I have been interested in why because I don't often (ever really) feel that way about the books I read. Usually, I take what I can use and just disregard stuff I don't agree with or that doesn't make sense to me. Lesser's book really bothered me in a different way. I know there's mirror-work for myself in this, so I posted about the book over on the midlife board a while back (maybe a year ago, I don't remember) and then mentioned it to you.

    I read the book a while ago now, but it was recommended to me by my divorce attorney. She found it very deep and meaningful. She was married with young children, so I don't believe that MLC had touched her personal life, but I'm sure she saw its fallout daily in her work. The book affected me so strongly. I found it… offensive, I guess, that Lesser would create this whole system of basically encouraging people to re-create themselves. In the context of concurrently watching the process as the LBS of an MLCer recreating himself… it made me ill. And then to read about Lesser's own Phoenix moment or whatever she calls it… the shaman lover and coming alive sexually and finding herself and how she used that new energy to create a new "her." Ew. I felt the same about Eat, Pray, Love. The poor husbands.

    I don't know. What makes us different than other animals? Our souls, our self-consciousness, our civility. Civility, to me, includes the codes of conduct that are accepted in our culture. Ten commandments, Golden Rule, morals, laws, vows, whatever else.

    The uncontrollable "urges"… the inevitable falling into the abyss and coming back up by having sex with inappropriate people…. it's just senseless and I have no other way to view it. I think it must be somehow ingrained in humans, for some evolutionary reason, some crazy mix of hormones and whatever come together to cause this. I don't have that figured out. I just found it a bit… revolting that Lesser would turn this around, make lemonade from her lemons, and decide to "help" others achieve the same wonderful thing with their lives.

    I don't see it as heroic and I think it's a bit sick that after it happens, someone uses it as a "defining moment." Of course, you have to move on and accept the reality that you did this. And of course, every experience gets us to where we are today, and if we like where we are today we can be "thankful" that we took the path we took and call it the "right" path or the "inevitable" path… but I still see that as wrong thinking. It's justifying what happened because of the later result.

    Granted, we all need to grow and change and we should all try to be authentic and true to ourselves. I just found Lesser to have this weird mish mash/misreading of some writers and thinkers who I admire. It occurs to me that Lesser struck me like my WS did when we were in MC during a false R…. our MC gave us some readings to do together to discuss and his take on them was so bizarre and "off" and different from my take and I felt that he was suffering from "wrong thinking." It was like he would consciously ignore the point the writer was obviously (to me, and to the MC) trying to make, and come up with his own take on it which was MLC/senseless. That is how Lesser's book read to me.

    I realized my reaction to that book was odd and I am interested to hear how others read it… not taking it the same as me. I still have strong emotions about this whole experience and for some reason Lesser hit on a sensitive spot for me.

    Last thing, and it's kind of off topic, but it's about "urges." For some reason when it comes up in the newspaper I particularly notice that word. The East Coast rapist has recently been in the news and he described his uncontrollable "urges" to rape more women than he can remember. I also read something recently about John Lennon's killer (must have been the anniversary) and the guy talked about his uncontrollable urge to kill Lennon. Serial killers have those uncontrollable urges. Pedophiles. Etc. I don't know where I'm going with this, but I just think that this experience of the shadow urging the person to something horrible is a common theme. Why do some allow it to take them over while others do not? For some the shadow just simply seems to stay buried, the urges don't awaken. For some, the rules of civility, the vows, the commandments, whatever, are enough to stop them. But this, I think now, is just a facade, an illusion. Some give in to the urges, some (many?) suffer because of them, some accept them, some seem to revel in them or compartmentalize fully so they forget them. The human mind/soul/psyche is so strange. Anyway, thank you for giving me some things to think about.

  4. Thank you so much for your reply, RCR. I think if I use comoulsion rather than urge it makes more sense to me. Including in the Urge to Abandon to The Compulsion to Abandon. Compulsion has that overpowering feeling in it that, for me, urge does not.

    I was talking about practical solutions, not personal/spiritual growth ones. Palpabkle things that mitigate or sort, if not the MLC, the LBS issues. There is no Charity for MLC/LBS so we do not have the resources to lead a helping hand in practical matters.

    In my viewit would be more important to tell the cheater/MLCer how the betrayed spouse/LBS felt/is feeling, than concentrating in telling us how they felt. That is, of course, relevant, but here on the board we’re aware of how they felt. But they don’t have a clue of how we felt (and most likely we have no idea how (when it will be possible) to tell them.

    We’re dealing with a very imbalanced situation. One side is aware of what the other is going through/feels, the other side as no clue about what they are going through, let alone how we feel. How are they going to understand our side if they don’t even understand theirs? I wonder…

  5. I think seeing the person with mlc as ill is the key to forgiveness, once I realised that and understood the nature of the illness it began to make some sort of sense. I was certainly angry with him and the alienator initially but this faded. I wouldn't have abandoned him and our marriage if he had a physical illness & the same was true of mlc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge