This blog is part of a longer series of blogs on sexual desire (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four) and Part Two on swingers and swinging. In the previous blog on swinging I suggested that swinging smacks of child sexual abuse for adults and that the spouse who talks the other spouse into doing swinging is the perpetrator, the one who gets talked into it is the victim. This is new language to describe swinging behavior, but you need this background to follow today’s comments.
Swingers don’t make very good marital therapy candidates. The one who wants to do it, the one who tries to talk the other into it, the one who advocates for it, chides about it, prods the other, grooms the other spouse, this person’s mind is so far removed from the protection and safety and sanctity and respect and dignity of marriage that the suggestion from a therapist like me that opening up the boundary of protection in marriage and driving a semi-truck of evil and selfishness and chaos and trouble through it isn’t a good idea, this client is only going to get mad: Frickin’, fundamentalist, legalistic, narrow-minded, unenlightened therapist. And I’m sorry, but I’m going to have a hard time helping you be a better couple while one of you advocates for swinging and one is devastated. You can’t use me to explain to your spouse that “Open Marriage” is just fine. And if you both tell me that you love swinging, but you have these other problems and we don’t want help with the swinging, the swinging is just fine, I’m not going to believe it. You’ll get irritated very quickly with my skepticism. This is one of those times I’d really have a hard time referring you out. We’ll probably just have to shake hands and say I’m sorry.
That’s not to say ALL perpetrator spouses in swinging couples are always unrepentant. Sometimes they are very sorry because the temptation that they’d feasted on in pornography for years – the doctor is doing it with the nurse, the nurse is doing it with the patient, the patient is doing it with the housekeeper, then they all do it together and everyone is so happy, happy, happy- turns out to be a nightmare instead and the perpetrator spouse wises up and realizes this ain’t the road to happiness after all.Crap.We gotta stop doin’ this.What am I gonna do with this stupid semi-truck?But then we end up with this sad irony.The victim spouse came into swinging kicking and screaming and protesting and against her will. In order to overcome the victim spouse’s objections, the perpetrator spouse had to convince and argue, sometimes for years, that the marriage boundary is only in their hearts and sexuality is only an amoral act.It does not matter who this act is done with.It only matters that you are having fun.We’ll protect the boundary of our marriage in our hearts by only truly loving each other, but we’ll use our bodies to express our latent sexual desire and enter nirvana through this secret gate.Comeonitllbefun.Don’t be such a prude.You never want to have any fun.
The victim spouse intuitively knows it’s wrong and evil and degenerate and out-there and freaky and wants nothing to do with it, but the perpetrator spouse is so convincing and such a salesman, goading and pounding it in and showing the victim porn and on and on and on and so the victim spouse finally relents.She’s been converted to the view that sex means nothing between them.It’s just an act.If sex means nothing between her and her swinging partner, then it means nothing between her and her husband.She can’t play mental games like this.Her sex with her husband hasn’t meant anything for some time now, because he’s told her it just an act:Dogs copulating in the field while staring off into space.That’s not what he said, but she wasn’t prepared to play the mental games he was suggesting she play.Sex either means something or it means nothing.It can’t mean something with her husband and nothing with everyone else.She’d dreamed as a child that sex was special.She even wore white at her wedding and got all dolled up to show it was worth the wait and that there is something unique about the wedding bed and all her friends and her mother cried when she walked down the isle.That was all a ruse?Now he’s telling her all her ideals were a sham. Over and over.Sweetie, you gotta loosen up.You are so uptight.Lose those inhibitions.They are binding you.Her dream.What happened to her dream?You mean it’s not making love and looking into each other’s eyes and heart and soul?Not connection in love?Not tenderness, mutuality, longings fulfilled, oneness?Nothing special about it all?Nothing worth protecting at all?Damsel in distress?Forget that.The prince will join the giant and let’s get the other soldiers in here, too, and any other damsels we can rustle up and we’ll all ravish the damsel.Group rape is fun.Why are you crying?Stop it.Just loosen up, already.
Well, after you’ve been preached at, hounded and scolded and manipulated and groomed by the perpetrator for so long, pretty soon it’s all going to take hold and the victim is no longer a victim, but a willing participant—sort of. Yeah. Now this is where it gets really weird.
The only way any sane victim can be victimized and not go crazy is to find a mental game to play. They have to leave the extreme hurtfulness of the situation.Victims of child sexual abuse talk about leaving their bodies.I’ve had clients tell me it was like they were on the ceiling looking down on their perpetrator violating their bodies.It’s sounds a little psychotic, but I think this type of coping is a God-given way to keep sexually abused children from going literally crazy.It’s hard enough witnessing your dignity stolen from a distance.
Another way they cope with it is to think of something else altogether, while the act is being forced upon them. Strippers and prostitutes do this in order to stay sane and stay at a distance from what they are doing. Don’t get me wrong. It still hurts like the dickens. You can only escape in your mind so far. This is why so many of them are on drugs or alcohol. They are only acting like they are enjoying it. That big smile you see on the stripper’s face? It’s part of the act to get you to give her your money. What they are thinking instead is that this guy or these men are pervs and I’m doing this because I hate them and I’m exploiting them (it’s really the other way around, remember?). Just because you “pay” a prostitute or a stripper, doesn’t mean you aren’t abusing her. She’s been abused all along by her daddy or Uncle Bob and those pervs unwittingly trained her years ago how to survive and not go crazy. The only way that she could go through Uncle Bob’s shenanigans is to hate his guts while he did his totally perv and unspeakable thing. Or they are paying their bills in their heads or reciting a poem or a favorite song, anything other than I am enjoying this and I’m really sexual and wow this is awesome. Those interviews with porn stars and strippers and prostitutes you see on TV where they say that they are just sexual and it’s just an act and they are actually self-actualized in their sexuality and she shouldn’t be discriminated against and women are sexual beings and she’s just exploring her sexuality and it’s a good job and look at all this money? Don’t believe any of it for a second. It’s all part of the act. She’s quoting Uncle Bob! She’s really just a broken little girl acting out a script she’s been brainwashed to do. She’s anything, but happy. It’s only a matter of time before she totally breaks. She’s aging before her eyes.
How do adults cope with sexual abuse by their spouses in the form of swinging, swapping, and same-sex experimentation? Swinging opens the door to every perversion. It’s just sex, remember? It doesn’t matter with whom. Gender don’t matter squat, either. The plumbing works. It’s meant to be utilized, right?
Every right thinking victim knows intuitively that it’s not just sex. It’s supposed to be special. It’s supposed to be about love and connection and tenderness. So in order to keep from going crazy, they fall in love with their partners. Male or female. It makes no difference. Pandora’s box has been opened. The marriage vow has been deflowered and debased and debunked. There must be some love here somewhere.
And then a swinging victim asks herself why would I want to be married any more to my perpetrator? Sex didn’t mean anything to my husband, right? Just an act and all that? But it meant something when she did it with this swinger guy or gal. Finally meant something, just like she thought it should. She’s been looking for love all along and she finally found it when she swung with this guy or gal. Imagine that. He was nice. He was gentle. She looked me in the eye and soothed me while I cried. Sort of a built in revenge deal against her perpetrator. It’s a cruel world.
If her perpetrator has groomed her this far and this well, she doesn’t make a very good marriage therapy client, either. Sadly, no. I gotta get out of this marriage to be protected. I gotta be safe somewhere. He just throws me to the wolves. My husband is a crazy sex perv and all he thinks about it himself. Getmeoutofhere!
Before leaving this subject, I must write about how some couples end up in this semi-truck load of evil seemingly unwittingly.I don’t really think that, because the naïve are still responsible for being in positions to be duped.They took the bait.Don’t take the bait.Don’t be in a position or situation where the bait even looks attractive.Be far, far away.These people are not your friends.It’s time to leave, Honey.
Sometimes you will meet a really outgoing and friendly couple.But you notice after a while, that they are just way-way too forward about sexuality.They talk about it with both of you there.They talk to you about it when your spouse isn’t there.It’s great fun.They brag about their sexual exploits.They make crude jokes.They look at each other in this knowing sort of way.They invite you to watch porn with them…as couples.They openly flirt with you.They talk about their sexual activities in front of you.They invite you over to their hot tub.Things happen.One of you enjoys it.The other is appalled.Maybe you are both appalled.But now we’re both in therapy because one of us thinks the other should have put a stop to it before it got this far.Or that one of you was too enthusiastic and if that’s what you want Okay fine, but my marriage means more to me than that.Yikes!
Okay.Look.There are perpetrator couples out there looking for innocent victim couples to exploit.Avoid friends like this like the plague.They are grooming you just like two child molesters might work in tandem.Team perpetrating.Run away.Run away.The only person you should be talking about your sex life with is with your spouse or your pastor or your therapist.
If any couple or single starts talking to you about sexuality in any provocative way, you need to get out of there and never go back.
Your soul and the protection of your spouse and your marriage and your integrity and your commitment are worth more than a hot tub and a semi-truck full of trouble.
In recent blogs we’re been looking at different aspects of sexual desire in marriage. The first two looked at the one extreme of spouses who aren’t interested in sex at all (here and here) and the last one with spouses that think about sex way too much (here). Today we’re looking at another variation of spouses who think about sex way too much: Swingers.
By “swinging” I mean couples, who have affairs with either gender with their spouses’ full knowledge and tacit approval.Sometimes both partners are involved in the sexual activity.Sometimes the swinging spouse is the only one doing it, but seek, plead and beg for their spouse’s approval.In either case we’ve “opened” the door to relationship chaos and relationship problems are right behind.
There are some people who think an affair is only an affair if a spouse does it in secret. If I do it with my spouse’s full knowledge, participation and blessing, then it’s not an affair and we will avoid the pitfalls of an affair. My clinical experience has been just the opposite. The brazen, in your face, fist-shaking-at-God-and-all-convention nature of swinging creates even more chaos and relationship destruction than an affair. It’s a complete disaster.
It’s too bad I have to discuss this topic today.Unfortunately, I’ve had a rash of clients in recent months that have had some horrendous problems with swinging, swapping and some other creepy things, so I thought I’d better address it.I fear, like the teacher who has to explain a position that’s the total opposite point of view of the teacher whose student develops an interest in advocating for this opposite point of view even though the teacher was critiquing it.The student never even thought of that point of view until the teacher brought up the subject.Likewise, I fear that just by my bringing the subject up, there might be some unwitting reader, who sees me addressing this issue and then thinking that it must be Okay if Dr. Wall discusses it.He brought it up after all.So why can’t we?
Our society today is touting the merits of so-called “sexual openness”.If you’ll look you’ll find it preached in porn.If you don’t you find it preached on TV and in the magazines at the grocery store that your 14-year old daughter or son could easily buy and read.Sex is just sex.Sex is fun.Sex is recreational.The more sex, the more variety, the more partners, the better.A boundary around your marriage?How unenlightened is that?
It’s open marriage, baby. Open marriage?Who comes up with these terms that absolutely take away anything meaningful?The whole idea of “marriage” is that there IS a boundary around a husband and a wife.This boundary is sacred and to be protected.“Open” implies that there is no boundary.These people MIGHT say they have a boundary in their heart:We’ll do sex with others, but NOT love them.We’ll save our love for each other.We’re just shaking it up a little.“Open marriage” is an oxymoron: “An open-closed” relationship.These two are contradictory and will play with your brain.There’s no such thing as an open-closed relationship.It’s one or the other.If you introduce “open” into your boundary-protected “closed” marital relationship, you invite problems into your lives.The boundary of marriage is there to protect you, like a ship’s hull protects it from sinking.Smash a hole in the side of a ship and the ship sinks.Smash a hole in the boundary of emotional and spiritual protection in your marriage and your marriage and you and your spouse will sink.
Open marriage?It used to be called perverted.You can call it what you will.It doesn’t clean it up at all.
I hope this subject doesn’t even come up as a lifestyle option in your marriage.Just the suggestion of it as a possibility can create havoc on you and your spouse’s psyche.It’ll cause her to wonder what other perverted crap is rattling around in your brain and if that’s how you really think about sex, then why would I want to be married to someone like that?
Unfortunately, way too many people, both male and female, are training their brains about sexuality in porn and in porn there are no boundaries around sexuality and anything goes.You don’t have to get into porn much before sexual with anyone and anyhow and any time is the norm.But it’s NOT normal for marriage.Successful marriages anyway.If you feast you mind on perversion and splash around in the gutter, something’s gonna get dirty, and it ain’t just your brain.Pretty soon you’ll be like the 2-year old toddler wanting to do everything daddy or mommy are doing.This isn’t the road to blessing, folks.
Remember when you said, “having thee only till death us do part”? Remember that? Did you mean that? Really? Cuz, ah, I’ve heard waaaaaay too many times where one partner says some of the following and it sure doesn’t sound like a spouse is committed for the long haul to just their husband or wife when he or she starts throwing these doubts into the mix. I also know how difficult it is to admit to these things to a therapist and I’m guessing that a lot more clients have done them, or said them, than have admitted them to me. Sadly, nearly all the folk, who I’ve heard say these things, are men highly steeped in the unrealistic and emotionally damaging world of pornography. The women, who I’ve heard say these things, were often sexually abused as youngsters. I wouldn’t think that neither porn nor sexual abuse would be models for marital bliss. The following are samples of the language of this degenerate life-style:
-You don’t seem to have much sexual desire. Maybe if we swapped partners with another couple, the variety would get your sexual juices jumped started again.
-(Husband to wife) You don’t seem to have much sexual desire. Maybe if you did it with another woman you’d awaken your sexual self. Bring her in. I can watch. Or we’ll all do it together. Cool. You’ll like it. It’d be fun.
-Open marriage is fine. Lot’s of people do it and they are all fine with it. Look at this web site. See. These are normal married couples. See how happy they look.
-It’s just sex. You don’t love them. No, it’s just sex. WE love each OTHER. WE BOTH know that WE LOVE each other. We won’t love our swinging partners. We’ll both know that neither of us is emotionally involved with them. We’ll save our real love for each other. It’s just recreational sex. We’re doing it for variety. Sex is fun. Let’s have fun. Shake it up a little.
-He’s gay. It means nothing. As long as he’s not straight it’s Okay. He doesn’t even like sex with women. I could see why you’d be upset if he’s straight. But he’s not. We both know that.
-You don’t seem to have much desire for me. Maybe you are gay. You should check that out.
-It was a gay bar. As long as it’s not heterosexual it’s fine. You should only be jealous if I was dinking around with someone of the opposite sex who is actually interested.
-Just because I’m attracted to the same-sex doesn’t mean I don’t love you. You shouldn’t be jealous. It’s not the opposite sex. Don’t you know it’s only an affair if it’s the opposite sex? If it’s same-sex it’s totally fine. I can love you and still do same-sex things. It’s just sex and says nothing about our relationship. I can to both and still love you.
-If you don’t approve of me doing this (any of the above), this means you are a control freak and that you don’t accept me for who I am.You are mean and judgmental.You are the problem.I’m the one trying to improve our life here.
-I told you.It’s NOT in secret.It shouldn’t be a trust issue.I haven’t lied.I’ve been up front about it.You are such a fuddy-duddy.You are sooooo boring.We need to shake up our sexual life.I’ve had these fantasies for years and for you to deny them to me is for you to be casting judgment on me.
Hey, folks.I don’t care your moral stance.The above is the language of abuse.Sexual and emotional abuse.Yes, you can sexually abuse your spouse.Throw your spouse to the wolves and smile?That’s what you are doing.
Having thee only meant having thee only. You didn’t get a free pass to explore other avenues as long as your spouse KNOWS about it! What’s up with that? These people think that if both of them know, if they are “open” about it, that will take the guilt away, that will make it Okay, that will take the “wrongness” of it go away. If we both agree on a wrong thing being right, then our agreeing that it’s not wrong makes it not wrong. Wrongness is only socially constructed. There is no absolute evil. It’s only evil in your mind. If we both agree it’s not wrong, it’s not wrong.
Tell that to Bonnie and Clyde.
The language of a spouse who tries to talk his wife (or vice versa) into any variations on this theme of sharing his or her or both their bodies with anyone else, male or female, is the language of a sexual predator.Here, look at these pictures.See.All the people have their clothes off.See their happy faces.That’s what you should do.You’ll be happy, too.You’ll make daddy so happy.You like making daddy happy, don’t you?
But, of course, the child is not happy. Something cries out inside of the sexual abuse victim that all is not well, that something is wrong, that what daddy is doing is wrong, that daddy is a crazy person to be avoided at all costs and now I have these terrible secrets I dare not share with anyone. Now I feel like I’m going crazy. I hated every minute of it. I wanted to kill him. It felt good. It felt horrible. It felt wrong. I was scared. It felt good. There must be something the matter with me. I have no control over my body. I’m just here to make him happy. I am invisible. I feel so exposed. Sex is dirty. It makes me feel dirty. Everyone can see how dirty I am. I can’t look anyone in the eye anymore. They might see inside me. Hide. Hide. Hide. Secrets are the way to peace. Peace. That’s all I want. Peace. What is peace? I barely remember peace.
If you’ve ever worked with sexual abuse victims, then you’ll know what it sounds like to talk to someone whose spouse has used those earlier excuses I shared above.It doesn’t make it right for your victim to be 10 or 20 years older or that your victim is your spouse.You are sexually abusing your spouse and dressing it up with guilt and manipulation and control and making your spouse the problem if he or she doesn’t cooperate with you.It’s all about you.
If you tell these things to her you will plant seeds of doubt in her head about your integrity and the veracity of your marriage.
If you do these things or insist or persuade her to do them with you, you will convince her beyond all doubt that you are a selfish perv, out to throw her away to the dogs.
The number one complain I hear from clients whose spouses have insisted they try any variation of the swinging lifestyle is:
Why wouldn’t he protect me?Why would he throw the integrity of our marriage away?Why is his selfish desire more important than my emotional well-being and the dignity of our marriage?Why?Why?Why?Why won’t he protect me?Why won’t he protect me?I must not mean anything to him.
It’s pretty hard to be married to your perpetrator. There ain’t many people that are going to sit around and be Okay with that. Maybe if your spouse was sexually abused as a child she could tolerate it for a while, but only because some other abuser got there first and conditioned her to swallow her opinion or her conscience or her dignity and to just be the object of her abuser’s pleasure and she has no life and no say and her feelings don’t matter and that her job is to make you happy and do what you want. She’s been taught, maybe for years, that she needs to just roll over and die. She doesn’t exist.
I hope, instead, a little lightbulb goes on in her head that says, “this is the same thing that daddy told me when I was 10-years old! My frickin’ husband is doing the same thing! This is NUTS!”
I thought sex between a husband and wife was supposed to be special?I thought it was supposed to be protected.I thought it was supposed to be holy.I thought it was supposed to be about just us two?Nobody else.Tender.Longings fulfilled.Vulnerable.Naked and not ashamed.Looking into each other’s eyes.The connection of our souls.The joining of our spirits.The reminder of our oneness and our vows and our commitment.The germination of the next generation.
You mean sex means NOTHING?AT ALL?JUST A RAW ACT?With anyone?You tell me this over and over and over and over.You believe this?You mean I’m nothing to you?There’s nothing special about me?Why are we married, then?
If she tells you it’s Okay to swing?If she tells you she even enjoyed it?If she tells you let’s do it again?
Be careful.You’ve just taught her to lie, remember?She’s supposed to make you happy, even though her inner core is screaming in protest.She’s just supposed to be sexual with these people and NOT feel anything.You are teaching her to lie to herself.It doesn’t feel right to her and she does it anyway.You were so happy.You thought she was enjoying it, too!HA!So what’s going to keep her from lying to you?She’s already lying to you when she says it’s fine.You told her it’s fine.She knows better, but says it’s fine anyway?
Wow.Now we got a mess.Now you can’t trust her?She enjoyed sex with that guy?She fell in love with that woman?More than with me?You liked him?You weren’t supposed to like her.We were just going to have some fun.Sex is fun.Recreation.You love him?You aren’t supposed to love her.How can I ever trust you again?
Dr. Wall, she was just supposed to be sexual with him.She fell in love with her.I feel so violated.Tell her she done wrong by falling in love with the guy (or gal, as the case may be).
Welcome to chaos. Welcome to relationship Hades. Welcome to an emotional wasteland. Welcome to fear and dread and worry and anxiety and loneliness and feeling lost. Welcome.
It’s just sex, right?It doesn’t mean anything.
Tell that to your shrink. You’re going to need one.
Hang on to your hat. We’re in for a wild ride. This is part of a larger series On Healing From An Affair. For the first click here. For the entire series click here.
I don’t think I will ever be able to trust him (her) again. I don’t believe anything he (she) says.
Many clients after finding out of their spouses’ affair
(For the purposes of simplicity, person A is the one violating trust and person B is the spouse NOT violating trust. The person or thing that A is violating trust with is C.)
When trust has been violated in whatever form (lies and secrets about affairs, pornography, homosexuality, alcohol, drugs, and money, to name a few) insecurity and chaos ensue in human relationships.This is an axiomatic law of the universe.If B and A trust each other one-day and then B finds out that A violated trust (lied about something they did or didn’t do or said or didn’t say), then B loses trust in A.It will now take A quite a while to earn that trust back.
The moment that B finds out that A has broken trust, B won’t be able to trust A and B will be AUTOMATICALLY INSECURE about B’s relationship with A.If B is insecure, B will NOT be in B’s best behavior.Insecurity does not lend itself to chillin’ and 8 hours of restful sleep!
I call B’s behavior in a situation like this (e.g. B finds out that A is having an affair with C) “freaking out” (e.g. emotional craziness, yelling, snooping through A’s things, kicking A out of the bedroom or home, telling everyone and their mother about A’s violation, etc.). In an insecure situation, this is normal. However, freaking out is not a relationship enhancer either. It’s understandable. It’s not helpful, but it’s understandable. If B doesn’t freak out, that would mean to me that A’s behavior is fine to B: That A’s affair with C is acceptable, or that A’s love affair with pornography is normal, or that A’s affair with a same-sex person doesn’t matter or that A’s lying about money or whatever else is, well… that’s just who A is. A, for example, is spendy.
No.Please.Come on B.Grow some backbone.If A does secret, lying things and doesn’t tell you about them, then you should be frickin’ upset.Okay?For a long time.
This doesn’t give you the right to tear into A like you are a lion and A is a zebra. But it gives you the right to be a basket case and to cry your eyes out and to not be able to concentrate and to have sleepless nights and to wonder profusely about your future with A and to doubt if you want to be with A or not or fear that maybe A will leave you and other thoughts too numerous to mention racing through your head like debris from a tornado. Scary thoughts. Fearful thoughts. Conflicting thoughts. Up and down. All-over-the-place thoughts. Normal. Normal. Normal, any time A violates trust with B and B finds out.
Sometimes B freaks out so much that B does hurtful things to A to get back at A for the pain that A has caused B (such as B lashing out at A, B trashing A’s stuff, B snooping and going through A’s cell phone, emails, receipts, physical violence, B having a revenge affair). This is NOT helpful and it is NOT acceptable.You are NOT justified to hurt your partner if your partner has hurt you.This is how relationships self-destruct. For example, if A has an affair, A hurts B.Now let’s say that because B is hurting due to A’s affair, B hurts A in revenge.Now what’s A supposed to do?A will be really tempted to hurt B back, too, and on and on we go until there’s nothin’ left but lawyer bills for years and years.So B: Keep a lid on your anger.A’s behavior does NOT give you the right to hurt back.You have a right to be angry.You do not have the right to do angry things.
Repeat this to yourself: I have a right to be angry. I do not have the right to do angry things. I have a right to be angry. I do not have the right to do angry things. I have a right to be angry. I do not have the right to do angry things.
Now let’s look at something that sometimes happens in these situations: Let’s say A has violated trust and B is freaking out. Let’s say that A is sorry that A did whatever with C and doesn’t want to be involved with C ever again. If B gets a lecture from A at this point, that B is being unfair and that B needs to trust A, because, after all, A has admitted (hopefully!) that the behavior that A was doing was wrong and has declared and promised and sworn an oath and vowed and testified that A will no longer do whatever with C anymore, that B should trust A and if B doesn’t trust A, that the problem is no longer A, but B!!! This is A’s logic. Now, all of a sudden B is the problem!!
If you are B, I hope, if you hear this from A, after A has violated trust, that you are pissed.
Can I say pissed in a blog?
If this happens to you, here’s what just happened:
A does something selfish and hurtful in secret with C
B finds out somehow about A’s secret life with C
A apologizes and says A won’t ever do whatever with C again
B is hurt and says as much
A is mad at B for “not trusting” A because A said A was sorry and wouldn’t do C again.In other words, A has turned this around and made B the problem!!
Whoohoo for A.
Solomon wrote about this sort of craziness 3000 years ago, before Freud and all the fancy therapy psychobabble words we throw around today:
Rebuke a fool and he will hate you.
A making B the problem will NOT work.Certainly B will have to be careful to not be hurtful back to A.This will be a temptation.But look.Someone has to have some self-control here.A showed that A has no self-control with C.B needs to have enough self-control to not hurt A.Someone has to STOP the cycle.
But the bottom line is that B shouldn’t trust A until A proves to A and to B that A is trustable about C and everything else!
And this will take some time.
You can lose trust in a moment.It takes a long time to EARN back.You shouldn’t be trusted unless you are trustable.
If A thinks what A is doing with C is fine and is going to continue to have intimate contact with C, then trust will NOT be built, even if A is honest about A’s involvement with C.As long as A is involved with C we are NOT going to be doing any marital therapy.I call it “Chaos Management.”As long as A is involved with C, B will be in perpetual freak out mode and NO healing will take place.This is a common scenario with men who do porn and want their wives to be fine with it or spouses who fall in love with their affairee and want all their family to love C, or spouses who announce they are gay and want their spouses (and children and other loved ones) to be Okay with it and if everyone isn’t Okay with it, then A turns B into the problem: You are persecuting me.In scenarios like these chaos ensues throughout the entire family.It doesn’t matter WHAT C A is involved with: The results are the same.
But, if A is done with C, here’s the formula to earn trust back:
Trust equals what you say matches what you do over time as long as the relationship is improving (including A no longer being involved with C).
Trustable = what you say = what you do + time + relationship improvement (including A no longer being involved with C)
If what you say matches what you do, but A violated trust yesterday, it is too soon for B to trust A. Once trust is lost, trust has to be EARNED back.
If what you say matches what you do, but the relationship is not improving it will be difficult for B to trust A.
If what you say does not match what you do, then B won’t trust A.
If what A says matches what A does, but A is still involved with C, or stops being involved with C and then goes back to C, but all along is honest with B about A’s involvement with C, then trust will not be built.
If any of these elements is missing trust will not be forthcoming.
NOR SHOULD IT. And A has no business making B feel guilty for not trusting A, if the elements of the formula aren’t all there.
If B trusts A and any of the elements are missing, then what we have is, at best, wishful thinking. You can’t build a relationship on wishful thinking. You build a relationship on both parties (A and B) being trustable and both parties (A and B) trusting the other party over time.
Now, if what A says matches what A does over time and the relationship between A and B is improving over a long time and A is no longer involved with C, and B is still madder than a pistol or still freaking out and losing it, well, then, B may need some guidance on how to put B’s life back together. That certainly can happen, but I’m not worried about B being upset for quite a while.
How long is a while?
This varies from person to person, but I usually would say:
For six weeks to 3 months B will obsess about what A and C did 24/7 from the moment that B finds out that A’s involvement with C is over.
If A lied about C for a LONG time or A’s behavior with C is with B’s sister or brother or best friend or pastor (!), then B will think about A and C for longer than 3 months.Six months?Maybe longer.
Why so long? What A did is create an emotional wound for B. Emotional wounds take time to heal, just like physical wounds. A broken leg takes a long time to heal. So does a broken heart. This is NORMAL!
After the 6 weeks to 3 months, B will think about it randomly for a year, like when A’s behavior with C is on the news (such as Tiger Woods’ recent problems) or in a song on the radio or a TV sitcom. The first year will have some rough spots here and there. The second year should go better. This is assuming A’s behavior and contact with C has STOPPED, the couple is in therapy learning how to deal with all this hurt in helpful ways and that they are growing and reconnecting as a couple and that A’s behavior matches what A says over time.
If A has a relapse and does whatever with C again, well then, B’s healing will take longer.Much longer.Not additionally longer, but multitudinally longer.Some B’s cannot take a second violation for fear that A has an habitual problem and that B will never be able to trust A again.It would behoove A to not do C ever again, if A wants a long-term relationship with B.Sometimes, if A goes back to C in whatever manner, B says, Okay, I can see what is important to you and B divorces A.This can be particularly sad, if A was having a hard time ending A’s involvement with C and then A finally gets it and breaks off contact with C for good, but by then A and B are divorced.Too little, too late.We could say that A did not learn A’s lesson soon enough.That would be a bummer.
The key to the relationship healing after A has violated trust is for A to be trustable over time, for A’s words to match A’s deeds, for A to tell B what A is doing and thinking, for A to stop all contact with C and for A and B to work on improving their relationship.This isn’t an easy thing to figure out on your own.
This is where a therapist like myself can help.We can give you a road map through this scary wilderness.
If your therapist doesn’t give you a road map and just nods and says eh-ha, then fire his sorry butt and give us a call.
In my last blog I explored the role of divorce and absent fathers in the rise of cohabiting of young unmarried male and female couples in our society. If you haven’t read that blog, you will want to read it before this one, as today’s blog is building on the thoughts shared there (Today’s blog is part of a longer series of consecutive blogs on the subject of cohabitation outside marriage. So far I’ve looked at the legal problems of cohabiting, how cohabiting hurts sexuality and creates mistrust, how cohabiting promotes impatience, how cohabitation encourages money problems, and the effect of absent fathers on creating a climate that encourages cohabitation.).
“The last thing an immature young man needs is a young woman trying to help him grow up by sleeping with him for nothing.”
Dr. Bing Wall as quoted right now.He just wrote it.
My theory, that I explained in my previous blog, is this: Young women and young men, who are willing to cohabit with each other without marriage, often don’t have good relationships with their dads (mostly through divorce, but intact jerks for fathers apply).
As a result of dads not being around, young men, who are willing to cohabit, are, by and large, immature.They don’t have dads around to challenge them.Cohabiting doesn’t help them grow up either.A generation ago young men used to have to wait to be sexual with their future wives for whom they yearned.They had to prove themselves.With cohabiting there’s no waiting.Instant gratification.
Young women, without dads, often struggle with being loved and really, really, really want and need affectionate and caring attention from loving dads.Their dads didn’t commit to them and weren’t reliable.They need their boyfriends to show them they are different by REALLY, REALLY committing to them (i.e. marry me!). Even though she wants to be married, she has such a need for a young man to shower her with the attention she never had from her dad, that she is eager to enter into cohabitation in order to win the guy of her dreams over.My belief is that fewer young women cohabit without marriage, who have healthy and warm relationships with their fathers.With present, loving dads, these young women aren’t desperate!They know they are valuable.They don’t have to prove anything.They can wait.Patience is good for women, too!
When women, without close relationships with their fathers, cohabit, they eventually begin to pressure their live-in boyfriends to marry. Of course, he’s not at that stage yet emotionally, but she is, and so these two different goals don’t make for smooth sailing. Unfortunately, the very thing she wants and needs (a loving, committed man in her life), is the last thing she gets. By moving in with him without a ring and a wedding and a license and a reception, she is conveying to him that she’s not worth waiting for, she’s easy. This act of moving in or “sliding,” which has only recently become common, without a bona fide mark in time that has accompanied human history for millennia in societies across the world (You know…. A wedding!) conveys to everyone else and each other that there is NOT MUCH OF A COST INVOLVED AND IF THERE IS NO COST INVOLVED (WAITING, PLANNING, HOPING, DREAMING, ANTICIPATION, LONGING), IT AIN’T WORTH FIGHTING FOR!!!! There’s no challenge for him. It reinforces his leaning toward immaturity. And her eventual push to marry comes across to him as desperate and bitchy, devaluing her in his eyes.
If a young women struggles with being loved and a young man struggles with growing up, it’s not gonna help anyone if she lives with him without marriage in order to finally have some man love her (Look, her divorced dad loves her, no doubt.But he only sees her intermittently, so when he sees her it takes days for her to warm up to him and trust him and then she has to go home again.How can she trust her dad who’s never around?She doesn’t know him well enough to understand his sarcasm or his chiding.She takes it personal and writes him off.He goes, “What’s her problem?”He says to himself she’s rebellious and won’t take advice.He withdraws from her because he feels rejected.It’s a lose-lose.).
It’s not going to help him if he finds a woman willing to share his bed and he doesn’t have to stand at any altar and, you know, commit and promise and everything.It would be much better to wait for sex and marriage, so he learns a little patience, and he learns to work for something, and to pursue a goal worth having (You know, grow up!), but with cohabitation, he can have everything right now without the mature part (You know, marriage!).
Does it get any better than this?Whoa, baby.And she wants sex! Woohoo! She even cleans the house! Are you kidding me? Dang. And for the first six months she never even complained!!!!Nirvana, Baby!And I can go out with my buddies and drink beer and she’s just so happy to have me around when I’m around. And did I mention the sex?And clean sheets!Ha!I didn’t even know I liked clean sheets.
But alas.All good things come to an end.Six months, tops.You can figure this out right?It occurs to her that she’s doing the bulk of the work around the place.It occurs to her that he likes his video games or computer or his shotgun or his stock car or his _________ (fill in the blank, but it’s not her) more than her and that he barely lifts a finger and he wants sex all the time and like what’s in it for her?So she starts sharing her opinion.
And that’s when the fighting starts. He didn’t want her opinion! She thought he’d want her opinion. Not if you are going to be mad about it. No, no, no. We’re roommates, remember. You don’t get mad at your roommate. That’s impolite. You just go with the flow. Married? Are you kidding? Why would I want to marry somebody, who acts like a crazy woman, nagging me all the time about never being around and not growing up and being immature and when am I gonna be a man (Ah, that’s the message he should have gotten from his dad, remember?) and how come I never help and am I some kinda sex perv, cuz all I think about is sex? She’s just on my case all the time. All the women are like that. All my buddies, their girlfriends treat them the same way. No way I’m ever getting married. Not if she’s gonna fight all the time. That’d end in divorce for sure. I don’t want to be divorced.
And she’s thinking, he won’t listen to my opinion. I can’t say one thing without him getting mad. He doesn’t lift a finger. He’s taking advantage for me. He’s just using me. He won’t commit to me. He’s so lazy. I can’t respect someone who just __________ (fill in the blank with your self-absorbed immature behavior of choice) all the time. What kind of crap…..?
Of course, these respective attitudes don’t do much to endear each other to each other and so they go their separate ways and they break up. In spades. Way, way, way more often then couples who wait and court and get engaged and wait and save their money and court and wait some more and then get married. And as I’ve said before, cohabiting couples, who break up, are hurting really badly, just as if they divorced. But now, it just disappears from their past. “Oh, me? Yeah, well, I used to live with a girl once. For a year or so. Yeah, she was a crazy woman.” Or, “I only lived with him a couple of years. Yeah, I broke up with him. He was so into himself. He never grew up. Like he was 14. All he did was ______ all the time. I heard he’s still acting that way.”
Like it never happened.Like it didn’t really affect them.
Oh, yeah? Hmm.We’ll see.
And nobody learns anything. Not anything good, anyway. He learns he doesn’t want to be too committed to a woman or she’ll henpeck him to death. She learns that she still has an ache in her heart and she’s out looking for mister right. And she’s looking and looking and looking….
Great. So let’s be real and change the years of adolescence from 13-19 to 11 to 35. May as well face reality.
Here’s a thought: Grow up! Court! Wait. Get engaged. Plan your wedding. Let your relatives host a wedding shower for your bride. THEN get married! Then move in with each other! Then be sexual (Dr. Wall…this just sounds so, you know, old fashioned and everything. You are so out of touch.)! Take Responsibility. Share your life with someone ‘til death do you part. Commit. Really Commit. Share oneness, respect, mutuality, dreams, hopes and aspirations. Have kids (Hey, they are only little for a little while! You can handle it.). Live in community. Be involved in citizenship. Go to church together. Grow old together. Accept each other. Did I mention love? And the sex. Sex with the same lover for 50 years? Sixty if you’re lucky? Are you kidding me? Woohoo! Being known. Really known. Secret jokes. Laughter. Secret teases. Furtive glances. Still. Forty years later. Your lover and companion standing next to you by your hospital bed. For the sixth time! Burdens shared. Burdens lifted. Burdens faced. Victories won. A few defeats. Being loved anyway. Leaving immaturity back in Junior High where it belongs.
He suggests that young men, without everyday intact fathers, struggle with immaturity and young women, without everyday intact fathers, struggle with being loved by a male. Both seek to meet these needs by cohabiting without marriage. For the entire series on Cohabitation click here. For the first in the series click here.
Grandchildren are the crown of old men,
And the glory of sons is their fathers.
You know, after you’ve talked with hundreds of cohabiting couples, you come up with a few observations. I’ve connected some dots here and there. I have some hunches about unmarried cohabiting couples (see my other thoughts about cohabiting couples in the four previous blogs on this subject: Cavalier About Marriage, The Downsides of Cohabiting Without Marriage, Cohabiting and Impatience, and Marriage, Money and Cohabiting). There are probably a hundred reasons why young people cohabit (the availability of birth control and abortion, the high cost of living, the emphasis in our society on career development before marriage and the late age of marriage, which is now around age 26, and the deterioration of the Judeo-Christian ethic, to name a few). For the purposes of this blog I’d just like to narrow it down to one.My hunch is this: Young men and women who cohabit with each other have a high incidence of growing up with an absent father, whether from divorce or their fathers living at home, but being distant.
It’s easy to take pot shots at dads in our society because they’ve been relegated to the role of being virtually worthless. Women are divorcing their husbands, thinking that their respective children will be fine if they only see their dads, oh, say 8 days a month.Yeah, that will do it.A woman, with this frame of mind, will be tempted to think that her sons and daughters don’t really need their birth fathers, just a man and any man she happens to fall in love with will do, so she marries some other dude with even less fortitude than the last one, but at least the last one actually LOVED her kids.This one, at best, thinks her kids are a nuisance and, at worst, thinks they are all psychos.
We used to tell mother-in-law jokes. Now, the dregs of society are the divorced father, who never sees his kids or never pays his child support, or the dad who’s never home and always working or always drinking. What a bum. Of course, if you are a divorced dad you know how difficult it is to fulfill the role of father when divorced because fatherhood is meant to be a full-time job and if you are divorced you can’t be a full-time dad. You’ve been fired. Most kids live with mom after divorce. Dads’ a sideshow, reduced to taking them to Chuck E. Cheese’s on weekends. Every other weekend at that. This is what dads do? For crying out loud. It’s just sad.
And don’t tell me divorce doesn’t affect the kids and your divorce decree is fair and the kids spend 50% of the time with mom and 50% of the time with dad. Kids need a mom and dad 100% of the time. What’s fair about living in two houses, never having roots and being a nomad? What’s fair about never being settled? What’s fair about two sets of rules? And if both mom and dad marry some other blankety-blank, now we’ve got 4 sets of rules and everyone’s tugging at my loyalties and I’d just like to forget the whole bunch. What’s fair about that? Divorce isn’t fair. And what’s normal about being a parent, a mom or dad and having every 3 or 4 days completely to yourself and then 3 days later there’s kids again? How long before you do that and you become completely undone? What’s so fair about that? Motherhood and fatherhood are supposed to be full-time jobs.
Kids need a mom and dad. No, not two dads or two moms. That’s just creepy (Please see my other articles on this subject: here, here and here). Kids need a mom who says, “You poor dear. Come here, let me take care of that.” Kids need a dad that chides. Goads. Spurs on. Challenges. How can you ever grow to be a man or a woman if you don’t have a dad standing there with his arms folded at the appropriate time with a scowl on his face and says to you that what you just did isn’t gonna cut it and you’re not gonna make it if you live like that? Come on, you know you can do better. Enough of that already. I expect more of you. Some kids rebel, perhaps, some not. But every kid wants to please his dad. Every kid wants the approval of his father. I didn’t just make this up. Three thousand years ago King Solomon wrote:
Listen to your father, who gave you life.
My son, keep you father’s commands.
But the verse that really is a kicker on this deal is the one at the beginning of this blog. Look at it again:
Grandchildren are the crown of old men,
And the glory of sons is their fathers.
The glory of sons is their fathers. Wow. Talk about responsibility. Talk about a sense of purpose and pride. We all WANT to respect our fathers. It’s a very comforting thing to have a father you can look up to. The verse above talks about sons and fathers, but you can bet, given the writer of Proverbs’ penchant for keeping things concise, (see my earlier blog on the use of “sons” in Proverbs), that daughters are included.
It’s difficult to respect a dad if he isn’t around, whether by choice (he’s a drunk, he plays pool or golfs all the time or is gone for work or church!) or circumstance (fired from fatherhood by a divorce decree).If he’s not around enough neither gender is going to understand his abruptness.He’s to the point.He takes the direct approach.He doesn’t hold your hand.He says go do it.Don’t let the world push you around.Make your mark.But this is all interpreted as intrusive, invasive, insensitive, sarcastic, mean, even abusive.Why?There’s not a daily relationship there.These kids don’t understand nor know their dads.So they write them off.Reject them. Scoff at them.It it any wonder these dads withdraw and rarely come around.I’ll just leave them to the wolves.I guess they’ll have to learn the hard way.So what happens to these girls and boys with no dads?
Another related hunch I have, is that children get a larger share of their identity from their mothers in their early years, say before age ten, and during their teen years get the lion’s share of their identity from their fathers. Absent the father from a teenage boy and the boy will struggle with immaturity because he doesn’t have a dad to kick his butt once in awhile (Relax. I mean, you know, “challenge” him.). Boys need to be exhorted, urged. This God-given adoration of boys for their fathers is used by the wise father as a way to train up his son in the ways of life: To teach his son honor and honesty and hanging in there and not giving up, to “Man-up,” bear responsibility, do it with pride, develop your gifts, be a blessing to the world, sense God’s hand on you shoulder. Only a dad can do this. Did you hear me? ONLY a dad.
The daughters without dads will wonder if they are lovable to the opposite sex: You know, males.Mothers can’t teach that to their daughters.Only a dad, who is there, at home, every night, who goes up to his daughter and tells her he missed her and how is she doing and what’s new and he loves her and he hugs her and he says he’s proud of her and you go girl and you can do it and I know it sucks, but I know you can solve this deal. Only a dad can fulfill that role.If dad isn’t home, if dad doesn’t hug me, if dad doesn’t talk to me, if dad doesn’t believe in me, if dad doesn’t give me advice and actually SHOW me how to do stuff (Be sure and check the oil when you fill up with gas.Here’s how to do it.), then, ah, there must be a boy out there who will.
And we’ve created the perfect storm: Immature boys very willing and able to cohabit without marriage to unloved girls very willing to cohabit without commitment and needing to be loved. Neither of them had a dad who showed much commitment to them. Neither learned respect of men or what it means to be a respectable man (ah, you know, someone you can rely on…..always). Commitment is in short supply all the way around.
So then we get these two young people together without the commitment of marriage and what do we get?
Stay tuned. My next blog will explore this dynamic.