Ask a Question

How does one eliminate the temptation for good?

For this first Ask a Question segment I am choosing to answer a question that was asked a few months ago in a coaching session. I am choosing this question instead of one from the new contact form because as I started to answer my original first choice from the form I came back to this answer, but it was only going to be part of the answer for that question. And so I thought I should write this one first—or revise it for a post—and then I can simply link to it when I answer the other question.

I already wrote about it this in a topic thread about Replay at the forum, so this is a revised pasting of that public posting combine with pieces from coaching sessions.

I offered a general answer first.
Time away and distance—No Contact, being completely unavailable.

Also consider whether the alienator is really a temptation. What did he gain with her? Chuck gained more chaos, depression, an angry and hurt wife, a controlling woman who wouldn’t let him make phone calls (he would sneak to payphones if he wanted to call me). He gained fear and threats—if you leave me I’ll… or you are responsible for my happiness and it’s your fault that my life isn’t going right—since you keep leaving me… Chuck needed to get to a point where he was strong enough to withstand the Emotional Blackmail and not give in. Once that no longer controlled him, she had no hold on him—there was no temptation.

Chuck’s Answer

I had to stop feeling guilty for leaving her.

Then he gave me some completely new information. About a week or so after he moved to our friend’s spare room he called her to ask how she was doing—to see if she was okay. She asked him why he was calling her. If you aren’t divorced don’t call me. Chuck said that made the final closure easy. He was not supposed to be calling her, but you can see that even when I set the boundary (the test of that came a couple weeks later when I moved away to help care for my Grandma) he still needed the alienator to help in his decision. Had she not told him to stop calling her, then what?

Does that new information change my interpretation?
No. Then what does it mean?

Rescuer Complex

He went on to explain (something I’ve always known) that he is a Pleaser and so he needs (it’s more than a simple desire, more like a compulsion or an urge) to make sure that everyone is okay. This has to do with the Rescuer Complex—also known as Knight in Tarnished Armor Syndrome (that armor really isn’t shining, so let’s be real about it!).

Does this mean the alienator made the final decision to end it since she did not welcome his call? Had he moved home with me I think he would have called her again and she might have been more receptive. I doubt that her attitude was consistent toward him on those first weeks and months. I completely believe he was only calling her to make sure she was okay and not to resume the affair because I saw this precise behavior with almost all of his returns and we know how those turned out.

We’ve been taught a lot about addiction in our culture, how it is so powerful that people will give up everything important for a fix. So we tend to understand the explanation of addiction—intellectually. This new explanation is about a complex, not addiction. What we do not understand is that complexes are just as powerful as addictions.

An MLCer doesn’t return to an alienator simply because they fail to meet return conditions at home and are kicked out. It may seem that way superficially, but what caused the MLCer to fail to maintain the conditions for returning to a marriage? What complex is at work that is causing them to go back to someone they don’t even want to be with at the expense of everything they want with all their heart?

Understand the Power of Emotional Blackmail

Another question from that coaching session: Shouldn’t the fear of truly losing the spouse, give him all the strength he needs to withstand the emotional blackmail?

No. Emotional Blackmail is stronger than in-fatuation; much stronger. It uses the power of toxic guilt. On some of the previous returns that failed Chuck told me that when he left her she was threatening him: If you leave you can’t ever come back; it’s over. And on those occasions he used those statements from her to tell me that this time would work because of what she had said. I usually just laughed at that; I knew her threats were empty.

Look at his answer to the question again. He had to stop feeling guilty for leaving her. He had to stop feeling guilty for everything he was blaming himself for having done to her—she chose to prey on a married man. She chose to fake a pregnancy to get him to come back to her. She chose to threaten not to fix a medical condition and die instead—we think that was fake since she didn’t fix it. She chose to come to our house and make a scene which resulted in her being removed by the police. She deliberately told him he was responsible for her feelings and that he was to blame for her life being messed up and that it was thus his job to fix it.

All he wanted was to be set free and when he called and she was not receptive, that did it for him. It was so simple, but he needed that sort of consent from her and apparently it only took her turning him down that one time to break the cycle—of course he had to be ready and not try to resume the cycle himself.

Live Apart

There are conditions to being married. After an affair—especially when the alienator and your MLCer have been living together, bend over backwards to not let your spouse home until they have lived somewhere else outside of the affair for a year—and they must know that if you discover the affair is still going on, the clock starts over. Where they will stay may be a challenge, but it is their challenge, let them figure it out.

I know that this one thing may be the piece that you want to argue and not do and hedge your bets that in your situation it will work without this step. I know this because I kept doing that and he left and came home 8 times! EIGHT! Those returns did not simply fail because they were premature. Maybe they would have or maybe not. I personally feel that #7 would not have failed—that was the one where I kicked him out and I think #6 would have had a chance as well—that was the return during which he took the affair underground for a year.

What I was doing with this boundary was setting up a respect for the marital relationship by not allowing relationship-hopping. I’d tried that by allowing him to house-hop and not sleep in the bed with me, but let’s face it; marriage is more than sharing a bed for sex, slumber, cuddling… Marriage is shared household duties and parenting—if you have children—and activities together and…

Living apart was not a period of decision in which I left him hanging and wondering whether we would be together in the end. It was a specific step in our reconciliation process and it included counseling. It also included me staying home for periods that became gradually longer as the year progressed. Exceptions were also allowed, in the beginning of the separation I was home for 2-3 weeks because Chuck had surgery and needed someone there to care for him. This was a challenge because I still had to leave before he felt ready to be caring for himself, but he needed to feel that sort of loss and fix it himself. And yet it was just as important that in the beginning of that he not feel I would abandon him to prove a point by following a rule too rigidly. Standing is about balance and that includes the reconciliation period. For that matter, life is about balance.

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The Affair: How Does One Eliminate the Temptation?380 Comments

    • Chuck is busy fixing the garbage disposal, but I will talk with him about this tonight and see if he has any insight.
      My answer is that they do feel guilty for both–Chuck certainly did!. That was what made it all so difficult; it was a double bind in which both paths hurt someone.

      So the question becomes why do they then select the path that leads to the alienator?
      Because they feel they've already failed on the other path—since in most cases of MLC they have been married for 1- or 20+ years.
      I also want to say that they give attention to the path of the person who is guilting them (using Emotional Blackmail) the most. But this may not be true in the beginning because at that time the alienator is the fantasy and Emotional Blackmail has not yet become the force of entrapment. In th beginning it is the left behind spouse who may be using Emotional Blackmail in their shock and desperation, but since the MLCer already feels they have failed with that spouse; this beg-n-pleading is a repulsive force that validates the MLCer's decision to escape.

  1. My H has been saying throughout this crisis that he feels guilty, alternating with "he's overcome that guilt", then going back to he's tired of feeling guilty (for having left me/us), and had said that he wanted to divorce because he was tired of feeling guilty. I no longer tell him anything about what is happening at home, as he says that I'm just trying to make him feel guilty, and he gets angry if the children tell him how they feel, saying that they are treating him badly. I do not know if he feels any guilt with regard to OWs, as there have been a number. Latest one has a stronger hold and makes a big deal out of being his girlfriend, from what little I know. Resisted emotional blackmail with first OW (ended it), now with this one started divorce thing again. Seems he needs a someone else to make that decision.

  2. The info about living apart from H after he leaves OW is on my mind and a good idea. 5 months ago my H left OW after living with her for 2 years. But he moved in with his sister and family. Getting spoiled like crazy. They do everything for him. Cook, clean, wash clothes, being there for him, etc. etc. He is having fun there. So in that case, Is it the same? Can he/we accomplish the same thing if he is not on his own? And of course to make sure he has that year living apart from OW. And what if he still sees other woman, and I just don't find out?

    • Living on their own is not the point and purpose of the living apart; the only purpose is about it being a time between relationships. If he is continuing to have relationships during that period and you are unaware, there is nothing you can do about it. Do you suspect? Is this separation something he feels is an officially transition toward coming home–so part of a reconciliation process? If so, are the two of you in counseling together? What is he doing to rebuild your trust?
      Chuck was home for a year–all of 2007–and he resumed the affair soon after moving home but this time he kept it secret. So I did not know he was still in an affair. But he was also not really doing anything that would rebuild my trust–he just wasn't also doing anything to unbuild. I did not suspect the affair was still going on, but I was also not shocked when I discovered it was. That was different than our time apart after he ended the affair. We were in counseling and he was seeming more trustworthy and helping to build my trust. It's hard to think of specific actions and things he did to label and name because when I try it comes out more as the energy was different. He seemed more stable, whereas in 2007 he had still been an MLCer in moods and so that year I did not once think his MLC was over, but in 2009 (I moved to help Gram at Thanksgiving 2008) he felt stable to me.
      You may or may not accomplish as much since he is also being spoiled by his sister and that may or may not be something that shows itself until you are living together again. That is a reason you need to be in counseling now–before living together again.

  3. My H had an EA which I discovered in May 09 (not sure how long it had been going on for but I suspect less than 2 months). I found out because she moved overseas and his grief bubbled to the surface. I asked him to cut contact but he never actually said he would. I discovered in the Oct that he had continued contact whilst falling back in love with me. I was furious and he was worried about losing me. He promised to 'fix this' but that amounted to nothing really. In the following July (2010), he told me that he had actually continued contact with the OW until the Dec 09 (huge risk). Their last contact had been a phone call he had made to her in which he said 'you are going to have to tell me to f–k off because I can't stop this'. She told him that she wouldn't do that so it became his decision to end it. H eventually left home in Jan 13 and started a PA with a different person and people are now asking me how I will ever trust him again. When you described Chuck as having a different energy when he was more stable, I knew exactly what you meant because this is what I am looking for and I am confident I will know it when I see it.

  4. Pingback: What if the Affair Starts Again? | Love AnyWay

  5. why do they leave and destroy a goo family/marriage. It's been 5 years and since he began all this he has divorced me. When will all this maddness end? He hates paying alimony but gives me extra only to put me down publicly on facebook. He ignores me and says he hates me. I don't understand because I feel love in my heart for him. I just wish I knew when the heartache would end and he would come back.

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