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Can we discuss FOO trauma and the WS?

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DaddyDom posted 4/15/2021 11:11 AM

I know this is a potentially very hot topic for some, and so I will try to address it as gently as I can. It is something that means a great deal to me personally however, and a topic that I feel directly affects the ability of WS's to change/heal, and by extension, the ability of any couple to successfully R. My hope is to share my point of view with you for your consideration, and also to create an opportunity to solicit and better understand other points of view.

There is a common thought/phrase that I see quite often on SI (not pointing a finger at any one person or post) regarding WS's and their attempts to understand, and ultimately fix themselves by examining, understanding, and resolving trauma from their past, most commonly as part of FOO. The phrase goes something along these lines...

"I don't buy that having FOO trauma caused someone to cheat. I had FOO/trauma issues and the opportunity to stray, and yet I didn't choose to cheat."

It is pretty much "WS 101" to blame-shift and look for excuses and justifications for their actions, and when a WS finds something/someone else to blame their bad behavior on, they tend to do so while washing their hands of the matter and absolving themselves of all blame. This is understandably infuriating and damaging for any BS, and only further exposes the WS's lack of willingness/ability to own their choices and actions.In the same way that there is nothing about the BS or the marriage that can "cause" the WS to cheat in the first place, there is also no FOO trauma that will "cause" the WS to stray. It is always a choice. Always. I just want to make that clear.

Full disclosure for those that don't know my story, I blamed my actions on my FOO and other emotional issues for roughly 4 years straight during R. It resulted in me being incapable of accepting full accountability in the infidelity because I was too busy pointing fingers at everyone and everything else and trying to make myself feel better by shifting the blame off of me and on to my own victimhood. It is difficult, maybe impossible, to see yourself as an abuser when you identify as a victim. Until the WS can honestly accept their responsibility and culpability as an abuser, no growth or healing can occur. I mention all this, because I want you to understand that my point of view is based on my own failures and experiences. I have lived the process, and seen firsthand how much damage this can cause, but have also managed to work my ass off and come through the other side, and heal. The process has changed my life for the better, opened the door for R to occur, and removed a significant barrier to my wife and children's healing as well. These are the goals we are all shooting for in R.

For me, the bottom line is this. As long as the WS blames their past for their present behaviors, they will never heal. However, I believe it is also true that if the WS never resolves their past trauma, then they will never be able to heal in the present. They remain unsafe to themselves and others.

Okay, all that being said, let's address the topic at hand, which is quoted above... the belief that FOO and past trauma are simply excuses for a character flaw, and should not be tolerated.

The problem with this general train of thought is that it is "false logic". False logic is that which seems reasonable and factual on its face, while in truth, only applies to certain viewpoints or situations. To better explain this, consider these two statements:

"I don't buy that having FOO trauma caused someone to cheat. I had FOO issues and the opportunity to stray, and yet I didn't choose to cheat."

"I don't buy that having unprotected sex caused you to get pregnant. I've had unprotected sex lots of times and I didn't get pregnant."

I'm hoping that the false logic in the second statement is obvious. I hope that the comparison is also obvious. While it is true that people have unprotected sex all the time and don't get pregnant, that it in no way invalidates its truth. Unprotected sex is (generally speaking) the ONLY way to get pregnant, and so denying that fact based on personal experience is detrimental to those trying to get pregnant, by being told that there is no causality between the two. Nothing could be further from the truth. And a couple trying to get pregnant would fail spectacularly by not having intercourse. In that very same way, a WS who is trying to repair the broken parts of themselves that "allowed" (not mandated) them to have an affair, would most likely fail to recover if they stopped looking at their life and what factors contributed to the faulty decisions they made. They MUST dig deep into who they are, and why they are that way, in order to understand what's broken in the first place, so that it can be addressed and fixed. That is simply a step that can't be skipped or removed.

Next, please consider the following statement:

All people who have committed adultery lack self-respect and healthy boundaries, but not all people who lack self-respect and healthy boundaries will commit adultery.

This is simply another way of expressing this idea, but it might resonate with some people better. It is simply one of those things you cannot turn inside-out and expect it to look the same. Your spouse's faults and weaknesses were not the direct cause of the infidelity, but they were certainly factors in how your spouse became who they are, and how/why they react differently than healthy people do when they are facing stress and challenges in their lives. They need to learn healthy coping skills, develop healthy boundaries, and in some cases, build integrity within themselves from the ground up. That is no small feat, even with the best of tools and support. It is almost impossible when the tools needed are denied or delegitimized.

Here is one more example, to make things clear:

When examining past trauma in order to better understand present paradigms and behaviors, and how they relate to infidelity:

It can be a cause while not being an excuse.
It can be a reason while not being a justification.
It can be a factor without being redeeming.
It can be a catalyst without exonerating.
It can be a basis without being an acquittal.

The Takeaway

The takeaway from all this is... when a WS starts to go down a road of self-exploration and seeking to understand themselves better in order to heal, I personally believe this should be a REQUIRED and encouraged habit. HOWEVER, it should also be made abundantly clear to the WS that it will NEVER be acceptable as an excuse or justification for their choices and actions. They own those things. Rather, they need to understand why they made the choices they did, and gain the skills necessary to prevent making unhealthy and detrimental choices again in the future.

If your life was so awful that it turned you into a broken person, that is horrible, but the culpability of that trauma is only applicable to the person who experienced it. In other words, the WS can hold the people who hurt them accountable for their own trauma, just as you can hold the WS accountable for the trauma foisted on you. However they cannot foist that trauma on you and then blame their past. In that same way, if a BS was cheated on, then remarried and cheated on their next spouse, they can't blame their own affair-trauma. It certainly might have played a part, yes, but we still own our choices.

Last thing. I can't tell anyone what to think or feel or do. You need to do what is right for you. I am offering this opinion for your consideration, and if you feel it doesn't apply to you, then disregard it. If you think I've missed the mark somewhere, or have more to add to the conversation, please reply and let's work through it together.

Neanderthal posted 4/15/2021 13:58 PM

Well thought out post. Thank you.

Becoming better people is the ultimate goal right? Not excuse making. When I first joined I believed we were just excusing bad behavior by citing FOO issues and trauma. But I have definitely changed my views on that. What changed my viewpoint was experience. Seeing in real life what a difference it makes in a person when they actually deal with their baggage, instead of avoiding or ignoring it. I've seen the changes directly inside of me, as well as others close by.

If you're a BS that's only experienced a unremorseful partner, with has no interest in improving and just spouts past FOO trauma as an excuse. I completely understand your viewpoint. I'd think its utter bullshit too.

Honestly it's not enough to not cheat anymore. The bar should be much higher. So then what? As a wayward spouse, there is literally nothing we can do to take the pain away from our partners. So why not dig in and fix OUR issues? Identifying and healing from past trauma is a win win. The wayward spouse is doing things that aren't easy but beneficial. While proving some level of commitment to their partner, by committing to themselves (I know that sounds selfish, but I don't know a better way).

I hope we can continue to discuss FOO trauma or any other life trauma for that matter (BS and WS included). If we can all agree rugweeping infidelity is bad. Why cant we agree that rugsweeping any other form of trauma is bad as well.

siracha posted 4/15/2021 15:16 PM

I think thats pretty fair . FOO trauma is real addiction trauma is real sexual assault trauma is real depression is real . I think noone in their right mind thinks all infidelity is just a shitty person looking for an orgasm . More often that not its a sad person trying to find a way to not be sad .
Just because someone is sad that doesnt mean they are good. As I've said before - rapists wife beaters serial killers etc often have trauma too but we dont buy into the idea that they need to be understood and mollycoddled as a first priority The first priority is to protect other people from their behavior at whatever cost to the criminals feelings .
Later on ofcourse society should look for explanations and therapies and pathways to forgiveness but never in a way that jeopardizes the innocent .
Similarly the main focus post Dd should be to protect the BS from the WS and their continued bullshit and bullshit induced damage . At a later date the WS needs should be important too, but only if the Bs is able to choose them for healthy reasons . Otherwise the Bs needs to just keep walking and not even bother about untangling this thread on the skein of fucked up ness .
Handling FOo issues and fixing things is all on the Ws and their therapist whether the Bs stays or goes. If the WS mentions FOo as part of an overall strategy of self examination and self improvement then its legitimate but often its an excuse a manipulation, an evasion, or even a trap for the kind hearted .

[This message edited by siracha at 4:03 PM, April 15th (Thursday)]

Thissucks5678 posted 4/15/2021 18:57 PM

I think this is an excellent post. I donít excuse my WHís actions due to his FOO, but I understand them so much more clearly after we dove into them. I remember after we visited his family the last time, all I could think was ďwow, I really get why you were the way you were.Ē

It doesnít lessen my pain, or what I felt after dday but it is eye-opening. He knew about my FOO issues, but I never knew about his until after dday. Itís crazy to think that now looking back, but he just blocked it all out and never talked about anything negative. I could go on and on about this topic because itís honestly fascinating to me.

Again, just want to reiterate that itís not an excuse and I agree fully, but once the BS is healed, itís very wise to pursue in my opinion. Untreated trauma is never a good thing. I am such an advocate for therapy because of this. I think itís why we hear about betrayed spouses turning wayward even in future relationships.

OwningItNow posted 4/15/2021 19:40 PM

Excellent post, DaddyDom. Exactly how I would explain it (but without doing it as well). Thank you! I particularly love the unprotected sex analogy and may have to steal that when the frustrating "but I didn't cheat" comment shows itself.

Fixing FOO does nothing for the past but everything for the future.

[This message edited by OwningItNow at 7:42 PM, April 15th (Thursday)]

MareP posted 4/15/2021 21:45 PM

Excellent post. For the first two years after DD I did not understand why I was making little progress. I changed therapists a little over a year ago and we started going back to my childhood and FOO. Coming to an understanding as to some of the why I was the person that I was has been a tremendous help. I still have much work to do, and I am still with my BS only because of her patience. However, only recently did I really think I had the capacity to change because of this understanding. Thanks.

still-living posted 4/16/2021 03:36 AM

Great post. The Ladder of Inference describes the process of establishing beliefs. FOO issues can often distort core beliefs. Core beliefs are established at early ages, during the ages of 7 through 17. To correct core beliefs a person needs to reflect on (or use reflexive loop on) FOO issues where the problem started. This is not a process of blaming or identifying excuses, but rather a process of agreeing you have been wrong all along, -no easy task for the ego. True change will occur only after a person admits they've been wrong all along and changes their beliefs. If this is not done, a person otherwise continues down the path of self-controlling to stay out of trouble resulting in not achieving a higher state of happiness.

still-living posted 4/16/2021 03:36 AM

Double post

[This message edited by still-living at 3:37 AM, April 16th (Friday)]

BeanLaidir posted 4/16/2021 09:50 AM

Thank you for this post, it really spoke to me as a BS. I didn't see a stop sign and hope it okay to post on this topic.

I still have a huge amount of empathy for my XH and the tragic events of his childhood. He was, and still is a victim of that time. It shaped him into the adult he became for sure. The responsibility for dealing with the trauma of his FOO issues as an adult always lay entirely with him though. And that is where it all falls apart.

Ultimately it is the responsibility of the adult who has had a troubled or tragic start in life to recognize that and find ways to process it so they can develop self-respect and healthy boundaries. Some can't even seem to see that they are damaged, so when their emotional crisis occurs they cannot even see it for what it is. This was certainly my XH's case. I don't blame his FOO for the lack of boundaries which led to his affair, even though I can see the way his emotional growth was stunted by his experiences as a child. But we all grow up and have to face the world as adults, and once in a relationship or marriage, and especially when we have brought children into the world, we have the ultimate responsibility for managing our own satisfaction with life, our own emotional wellbeing and our own growth. It is never the job of our spouse to fulfill that in us.

So, although my heart breaks for the little boy he once was and the shitty hand he was dealt, the anger still burns for the scorched earth he left behind when his resulting lack of emotional maturity resulted in ripping our lives apart. He had years of stability and emotional security in which to explore his issues but chose not to, and the consequences have been life-changing. None of that is the fault of his FOO, that lies with himself. I wish he had had the strength to address the past, and I hope those here who have a chance to do so take it.

grubs posted 4/16/2021 10:04 AM

The responsibility for dealing with the trauma of his FOO issues as an adult always lay entirely with him though.

This. The only interest of FOO issues post A are in how to, or even if you can, fix the brokenness. Never as a reason or excuse. Part of being an adult is moving past our issues from our childhood (we all have some as no one or family is perfect) taking ownership of our mistakes and flaws, and working on becoming the best person possible.

hikingout posted 4/16/2021 10:12 AM

I am glad you posted this. I have been trying to explain that for a long time now.

My FOO didn't cause me to cheat. My foo taught me feel worthless and sad, and shaped my thoughts about myself and my behaviors.

In all reality, in most ways as an adult I have done amazingly well for someone with the background and examples I had growing up. I think that's why it's so shocking sometimes to a BS to think of how things can be personally interrelated.

I am a highly functioning person. Both of my IC's mentioned this early in our sessions. I have a high end career, I have done a good job raising 3 very special, accomplished, talented individuals. My husband prior to my affair was the epitome of what most people look for in a spouse. Noone would have guessed what was below the surface. It's no surprise why my husband was so very blindsided.

I think for a large portion of my life, I simply felt like an imposter. I kept waiting for someone to realize I really didn't measure up at all. The longer time went on the more of a pressure cooker that was. I kept doubling down my effort to keep up what I think I secretly thought was a facade until I didn't know who the hell I was or what I wanted any more. I buried myself in keeping myself ridiculously busy which I have learned now is a huge indicator of trauma response

I have since learned a lot of the stuff people thought and the way I presented WAS TRUE. WAS ME. I wasn't an imposter at all. I just didn't have the self worth to believe I deserved all of the things I had and instead of being grateful it made things so much worse.

Now that my interior matches my exterior, I am no longer battling with all the pressure, the sadness, the worthlessness, and all the negative self talk.

It's truly a shame I felt such a strong urge to burn down my life because I didn't feel I deserved it.

But, truly, these were my choices. I knew what I was doing was very wrong. I chose every single thing. Even the stuff before my affair that was making me so miserable. In hindsight I can see why I wanted to escape, but it was myself that I needed to escape. It had nothing to do with my exterior life at all and I had the ability to fix that all along.

I can hate what I did. I do, and probably always will. But at some point the keys to the kingdom so to speak is to heal those FOO issues so that your construct/wiring will change. At some point, by doing that you can become someone you love and are proud of. And by doing that, you will not need the outside validation. You will not need someone else to make you happy. You will be responsible for your own happiness. You will not need to hustle, manipulate, lie, or any of the other stuff you keep present to keep the imposter stuff going. This is what makes you a safe partner - not just for someone else but for yourself too.

I can not say how much tracing my foo to who I have become improved my life and how I show up for others. I had no idea I was carrying anything around. I do understand why it gets a bad rap when people blame it on that rather than saying "I am obviously a fucked up person who makes fucked up decisions and I need to figure out how not to be that way any more. I never want to do this to someone else or myself again".

By recognizing where my behaviors and thought patterns coming from so much dissolved. I could see how silly a lot of the thoughts that was creating.

I am a work in progress, and always will be. But, I would rather be a work in progress with my eyes wide open rather than mindlessly looking for anything and everything that might make me feel happier and latching to all sorts of solutions that were actually so counterproductive.

[This message edited by hikingout at 10:15 AM, April 16th (Friday)]

Zugzwang posted 4/16/2021 11:33 AM

Great post. I was just thinking about the FOO trauma when that police chief was caught with something like 7 APs and married. He gave an interview on Dr. Phil that my wife and I watched. He kept trying to clarify that he cheated because he wanted someone to just talk to and for ego kibbles. His FOO was brought up. It is hard for people to wrap their brains around men just wanting illicit friends and not just a romp in the hay.

Like you said FOO goes beyond just trauma, but learning coping skills too. Having the same FOO and choosing to not cheat, is a combination of moral values and coping skills. Having the same FOO and choosing to cheat is having no moral values or nearly not enough and horrible coping skills. I can say my values were non-existent only if it affected me and my coping skills didn't even exist. One drop of depression and everything was doom and gloom.

DaddyDom posted 4/16/2021 11:36 AM

Zug! Good to hear from you! Been hoping you'd drop by. :)

Derpmeister posted 4/17/2021 15:43 PM

Really good post.

@Hikingout
I always love your posts, it's like hearing my wife speak if she wasn't still so stuck in the self hatred that makes her flee into clinging to being misunderstood in her FOO issues.
She has a very similar background and coping mechanisms you grew out of. Much love.

3starsinthedark posted 4/19/2021 08:20 AM

[This message edited by 3starsinthedark at 1:32 PM, April 20th (Tuesday)]

MrsWalloped posted 4/19/2021 10:02 AM

I do understand why it gets a bad rap when people blame it on that rather than saying "I am obviously a fucked up person who makes fucked up decisions and I need to figure out how not to be that way any more. I never want to do this to someone else or myself again".

Anything that even smells like excuse making will get called out. Saying that you're Hannibal Lecter reincarnate is nice and easy and tied up in a pretty bow and will get lots of heads nodding. The truth is a lot more complex.

I kept waiting for someone to realize I really didn't measure up at all.
Yep. This was my biggest fear in life. That I would be unmasked for the obviously worthless person I truly was and the only way to prevent that from happening was by being Little Miss Perfect in all aspects of my life.

DaddyDom, This was a great post. Thank you. One can and should work on their FOO issues without using them as an excuse. And if you truly want to become an authentic person, I don't see how ignoring them gets you there. In fact, it prevents you from that and in terms of infidelity, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Buck posted 4/19/2021 12:56 PM

I think this is one of those topics where I'm actually grateful I'm a MH. I don't have to bullshit myself about "whys", it's pretty simple in my case.

So FOO issues don't cause you to confuse right from wrong, you don't lose your moral compass or forget vows but they do cause you (indirectly) to fuck someone else. Is that what you're saying? The sheer mental effort some of you expend to avoid personal accountability is insane and it's odd that these FOO issues that are so profound, yet they only cause you to do things that have dire consequences - like cheating, gambling, or substance abuse.

I mean come the fuck on, you aren't stupid, cheating is fun. We all know it. We've seen the movies too. The whole new relationship energy thing, validation and ego boost from someone new finding you worthy of pursuit, it's taboo, discovering a new sex partner, and the excitement of the experience. It's not an unpleasant thing while it's going on. Plus, you'll never get caught. Then the shit hits the fan for whatever reason and you're dumbfounded at the damage. I would wager no single WS ever thought the fallout from cheating would be so extreme. It's hard to think that you rationalized this behavior in the first place while you're dealing with your entire life in tatters.

I guess why does it need all of this complication? Why can't it be as simple as it was fun and exciting but it turned out to not be worth it, and I also didn't quite gauge the consequences correctly?

And why don't these FOO issues ever manifest themselves in a positive way? Why not learn from your experiences and live differently? Why don't these issues cause you to volunteer at a children's hospital or cause you to pull weeds in a community garden versus fucking someone other than your spouse?

I just think you're doing yourselves a disservice focusing on this.

leavingorbit posted 4/19/2021 13:45 PM

it was fun and exciting

Yeah, I dunno, Buck, but my first step would probably be asking the question why I think something is fun and exciting if it hurts other people. Asking myself where that came from. Speaking for myself, I was miserable. For a really long time, probably my whole life, miserable or unhealthy. And I wanted it to stop, and I wanted to stop hurting the people I said I cared about. So...

I'm not saying you have to ask yourself that question. But you could ask yourself if you wanted to: why did I think this was fun and exciting if it hurts people? Why do I not care about hurting people?

Thanks for the post, DaddyDom.

Buck posted 4/19/2021 15:42 PM

I'm trying to say the whole notion of FOO trauma causing you to cheat is blameshifty IMO. I just can't quite see how childhood issues can manifest themselves as cheating years and years later. Especially since every single person here knew cheating was wrong and still made the choice. I would also add that not a single person here intended to get caught, and if they did entertain that thought, they didn't anticipate the consequences being so severe. That's all.

I would rather hear someone that's been unfaithful say: I knew cheating was wrong, but I was tempted and I chose to cheat because I thought I could get away with it. I enjoyed the sex\attention\kibbles\emotions\whatever while I was in the A, but looking back at it now, I see it differently.

I think the pain and fallout from cheating is so significant that we look for significant "reasons" it happened. When oftentimes the truth is the choice was made without much thought at all.

LifeDestroyer posted 4/19/2021 16:03 PM

Buck, not a single person on this thread has said they used their FOO issues as an excuse or reason they had an affair. I believe this thread was made in response to comments like yours. We should still be allowed to discuss our FOO without being accused of using them as an excuse. We have all had a fucked up life. Whether we betrayed someone or not, we still have the right to discuss our issues. We still have the right to dissect our past to see how it could have possibly played a role in who we became. That doesn't mean we are using it as an excuse for our behavior and choices.

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