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How to best advise newcomers

DaddyDom posted 2/21/2020 16:10 PM

When new WS's first come to SI and tell their stories, the first advice that we respond to them with is usually the type that I refer to as "damage control" advice. It is very situational in nature, and is focused primarily on the BS's initial needs. So for example, we often recommend things such as:

* Establishing NC right away
* Telling the betrayed spouse about the affair
* Being transparent (expose passwords and any evidence)
* Being honest, no TT
* Reading things such as HTHYSHFYA and the reading library
* and so on...

All of these items are very good advice of course, and for reconciliation to even be a possibility, they are the first steps that most likely need to be taken.

What causes me to bring them up is that, in my own experience, while I was still in the mindset of newly minted WS, I ended up focusing on these things and seeing them as a long term strategy to "fix" my relationship. In other words, it reinforced the internal mantra of "do what's needed to make others care about you so that you will feel valued again" that was already cemented in my head, and key to the reasons that I had an affair in the first place.

Just to be clear, it wasn't the recommendations themselves that were a problem, it was how I framed them in my head. As an overwhelmingly selfish person, I could only see these things as steps to take in order to arrive at the outcome that I wanted (or in even clearer terms, how to manipulate my spouse into loving me again). More importantly, I could not see myself, and so my internal dialog was that I was doing everything I could to save the marriage. The internal lie, the one that I believed with my heart and soul, was that I was a good guy who loved my wife and would do anything for her. The truth that lie blocked from me, was that I believed that I was a person with no intrinsic value, and that the thought of losing my sole source of external value (my wife) was more terrifying to me than death itself. I just could not see it.

Over time, while reading posts on SI, I have come to the conclusion that this sense of no intrinsic value (not loving oneself) is something that it seems all WS's have in common. The reasons for it vary from person to person, but when I read and respond to others, it becomes clear that anyone who cheats, by definition, does so because they lack the healthy boundaries and coping skills that a person with intrinsic value has. If they had it, they would never have considered cheating in the first place.

I am still in the first quarter of year four, and only now beginning to "get it" to the point of actually understanding who I am and how this whole thing started in the first place. I floundered for so many years and caused so much additional pain and trauma to my family because of that. So naturally, it makes me wonder how things could have been "setup better" in the first place? What might have helped me to get "out of my head" and realize that, long term, what I really needed to do was not focus on the "damage control", rather, I needed to focus on myself, and to understand that the affair was simply a result/symptom of a much deeper problem, one that has been growing since childhood, and one that would continue to hurt me and everyone in my life unless it was dealt with.

As an analogy, if a person hit a parked car while driving drunk, our first advice to them would be "damage control". For example, "offer to pay for the damages" and "get a good lawyer" and even "Be prepared to go to jail". But these things don't change anything long term, because the person is still an alcoholic, and will most likely just get into another accident next time they go drinking. The real solution is to stop drinking, and if we are to be honest, even alcoholism is eventually traced back to trauma and avoidance and loss of self-value and coping skills, right?

So here is my question... how can we help newcomers to understand both parts of what they need to do and what to expect? We've nailed down the damage control advice, which takes care of the short term things they need to do. But how do we help guide them to understand that if they do not do the work on themselves, and if they do not figure out and tend to the trauma (or other conditions) that led them to feeling so devalued in the first place, that they will likely remain "stuck" in the mindset that got them here in the first place?

New BS's tend to have a much healthier (IMO) mindset usually. They usually ask, "How do I survive this?". WS's by contrast, tend to ask, "How do I fix this?" If we can help them to escape that mindset (because it can't be fixed, it can only be survived) then maybe they wouldn't languish in the fog for so long?

JBWD posted 2/21/2020 20:13 PM

Interesting proposal, and I think an additional factor needs to be considered- While the situations and some of the contributors in character flaws are fairly consistent (I agree with your self-value assessment) the individual people approaching SI are not.

Simply put, the individual is the largest variable.

I think that we see the best possible outcome given this variation in individuals- Both betrayer AND betrayed.
There are cheaters who quickly recognize and appreciate the pain theyíve caused, and those who simply canít. And there are some BS who canít get past it. And thatís the best for them.

I believe that we see those who are ready to hear and those who arenít. The latter are the ones who come here, get a few 2x4s, then disappear. We have to factor in the fact that there canít be a 100% success rate. tís the same ďgive it timeĒ factor that we continue to advocate in discussing R. The understanding isnít automatic.

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