POST 31: THE PAIN OF BETRAYAL

Yesterday, (post 31) I posted a summary of four peer-reviewed research articles as I see a need for getting these out. Prior to the 1990s there was no reliable research available on EDS. Finally, researchers see a need and an opportunity to find ways to gather data that represents what is happening in our societies. I will continue to posts summaries and I will be very selective. NO research undertaken among first-year psychology students will be included in my postings as this is invalid research considering the topic. The only valid reason to include research based on this type of convenient sample is to investigate predictive factors and to compare these with cohorts of different age groups.

More to come……

Clinicians, as myself have viewed infidelity as the most difficult and painful couple issue to work with. When a couple presents for therapy, I secretly hope that “please do not let it be infidelity again”. Alas, I see this more and more often as the main reason couples see a therapist. Already in 1989, Betzig stated that among 160 societies, infidelity was the single most common reason for divorce and in a later study by Amato and Previty (2003) this was confirmed (for references see Post 31).

Cano & O’Leary, 2000; Gordon, Baucom, & Snyder (2004, quoted in Lammers, et al, 2011), state that the impact of EDS are depression, a decreased psychological health and these consequences are long-term. Further, considering the prevalence of EDS among those who hold positions of power such as politicians, CEO’s, those with authority positions in the military, law enforcement and powerful industrialists is a reason for concern as these people serve as role models and are suppose to set descriptive norms for the general population (e.g. see Campbell & Wolbrecht, 2008). As you see I left out actors, and singers and “celebrities” who make money from scandals involving sex as these are not the role models I was referring to.

Please find an essay written by Anna Fels (slightly shortened) as it sums up the pain experienced by those who are betrayed and I hope that rather than picking up the pieces afterwards….more research will be made available on the impact of EDS to prevent at least some from giving in to impulsive and egocentric wants that…in the end only do harm…..a lot of harm.

From Anna Fels: a psychiatrist and faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical School.

“…in my clinical experience, it is often the person who lied or cheated who has the easier time. People who transgressed might feel self-loathing, regret or shame. But they have the possibility of change going forward, and their sense of their own narrative, problematic though it may be, is intact. They knew all along what they were doing and made their own decisions. They may have made bad choices, but at least those were their own and under their control. Now they can make new, better choices.

And to an astonishing extent, the social blowback for such miscreants is often transient and relatively minor. They can change! Our culture, in fact, wholeheartedly supports such “new beginnings” — even celebrates them. It has a soft spot for the prodigal sons and daughters who set about repairing their ways, for tales of people starting over: reformed addicts, unfaithful spouses who rededicate themselves to family, convicted felons who find redemption in religion. Talk shows thrive on these tales. Perhaps it’s part of our powerful national belief in self-help and self-creation. It’s never too late to start anew.

But for the people who have been lied to, something more pervasive and disturbing occurs. They castigate themselves about why they didn’t suspect what was going on. The emotions they feel, while seemingly more benign than those of the perpetrator, may in the long run be more corrosive: humiliation, embarrassment, a sense of having been naïve or blind, alienation from those who knew the truth all along and, worst of all, bitterness.

Insidiously, the new information disrupts their sense of their own past, undermining the veracity of their personal history. Like a computer file corrupted by a virus, their life narrative has been invaded. Memories are now suspect: what was really going on that day? Why did the spouse suddenly buy a second phone “for work” several years ago? Did a friend know the truth even as they vacationed together? Compulsively going over past events in light of their recently acquired (and unwelcome) knowledge, such patients struggle to integrate the new version of reality. For many people, this discrediting of their experience is hard to accept. It’s as if they are constantly reviewing their past lives on a dual screen: the life they experienced on one side and the new “true” version on the other. But putting a story together about this kind of disjunctive past can be arduous.

Understandably, some feel cynical if not downright paranoid. How can they know what is real going forward? How can they integrate these new “facts” about family, origin, religion, race or fidelity? Do they have to be suspicious if they form a new relationship? As my friend said in despair, “I’m just not a snoop; it’s not in my genes.”

And the social response to people who have suffered such life-transforming disclosures, well meaning as it is intended to be, is often less than supportive. Our culture may embrace the redeemed sinner, but the person victimized — not so much. Lack of control over their destiny makes people queasy. Friends often unconsciously blame the victim, asking whether the betrayed person really “knew at some level” what was going on and had just been “in denial” about it. But the betrayed are usually as savvy as the rest of us”

Considering the staggering percentages of those engaging in EDS born between 1953 and 1974: 27.6% for males and 26.2 % for females, we would nearly and delusionally start to believe that it is the new norm…and that maybe marriage is a joke and no more than a commercial event and a reason to get the family together…..the PAIN….tells us that no matter how common, in particular among the rich and powerful…., it is not worth it…people pay lifelong for the short-term “fun” if it even deserves that name.

I , as a therapists have yet to meet the cheating client who tells me “it was so worth it…I feel so good about myself”…………

 

2 thoughts on “POST 31: THE PAIN OF BETRAYAL

  1. Hear, hear to dominant discourses about this! I removed myself from lifelong friends due to the fact that, “I gave him too much rope, and ALLOWED him female friends” -yes, apparently being in a relationship means women are expected to be men’s keepers. Who knew??? I missed that memo. Same ‘friend’ – my former BFF – “you must have known on some level.” “He is such a lovely guy, he loves you and is so sorry. You need to move on.” Et cetera. Ummm. Thanks. Great idea. Do you have the instruction manual? I seem to have misplaced mine.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Very good post.
    There have been times I would look back at my first marriage (we were well off), wondering if perhaps it would have been better to have ignored what was going on and stuck it out until he got too old to care. I chose to leave because I’d already given him “chances” to start anew and each time I was disappointed and devastated. I was still young but fortunately wise enough to know, that wasn’t the example I wanted to set for our two daughters. I didn’t want them thinking it was okay to be a doormat. Yet, 40 years later I still wonder occasionally what I did wrong or what I could have done better, to make it work and to “fix” him. He had two more marriages after me that also ended the same and I was already number 2. No change. Now he’s single, alone, living the “good life” in a condo in Hawaii. BUT ALONE. I’m not sorry I chose to leave though. I realized that I was damaged in ways that prevented me from helping him had he wanted to be helped. Since then I have grown and have a confidence level now I never could have imagined then. He once said, “If I’d treated you right, you would have blossomed like a rose”. Fortunately, I would later meet the perfect gardener for me. So, there’s hope.

    Liked by 1 person

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