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.
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?
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.
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.