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A brief response from a psychiatrist


 HowCouldSheDoIt (original poster member #78431) posted at 2:40 AM on Monday, October 11th, 2021


Ok, I'm at rapt attention here! I love reading stories, which I guess is pain shopping, but I never really thought about why. But what your suggesting sounds like... it sounds unbelievable.

Are you saying that I might be addicted to the adrenaline of the trauma? Because I'm not, at least I don't believe I am. I'm not sure I'm addicted to reading stories or pain shopping, but I do really enjoy it, and as I read and write it has helped me make sense of things.


Thank you, I know! If there is safe sex then it is probably a very low risk, but still, it is a risk that I didn't agree to and it is being done behind my back.

Me: BH Early 50's
Her: WW Early 50's
D-Day Nov 2020
Married 21 years before D-Day
3 children
Working toward reconciling. The most difficult thing I've had to do in my life.

posts: 271   ·   registered: Mar. 3rd, 2021
id 8692599

DevastatedDee ( member #59873) posted at 2:38 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

Thank you, I know! If there is safe sex then it is probably a very low risk, but still, it is a risk that I didn't agree to and it is being done behind my back.

You just hit on exactly why none of it is about exploration or whatever flowery thing or "not about you" for the WS. Whatever they're doing, they're doing it with your body. We take all the risks that they're assuming without even knowing.

DDay: 06/07/2017
MH - RA on DDay.
Divorced a serial cheater (prostitutes and lord only knows who and what else).

posts: 4531   ·   registered: Jul. 27th, 2017
id 8692631

Seeking2Forgive ( member #78819) posted at 3:23 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

I just can't believe the completely unsympathetic dismissal of the real trauma that people suffer when a loved one betrays them as some kind of "opportunity for growth." People have an opportunity for growth every day. They don't need someone to stab them in the back to power up their growth opportunities. Never mind the fact that it's the WS in this circumstance that is the one who needs to learn and grow rather than minimize and blame shift. You want to see growth? Get a cheater to own their shit. That takes growth.

I owe the fact that I'm revisiting this 18 years later to this kind of blame sharing ideology of last century marriage counseling. I've been encouraged to find that professionals working on betrayal trauma actually speak to and understand what I experienced much more clearly than anything I read or heard at that time. It has helped me understand why I was so helpless to stand up for myself back then.

Guys like this are the flipside to that progress. In this increasingly narcissistic and nihilist society I suspect that there's a booming market of liars and cheaters who are happy to buy into that kind of "shared blame" and "learning opportunities."

Me: 59, BS
Her: 58, FWS
Dday: 11/15/03
Married 37 yrs

posts: 85   ·   registered: May. 18th, 2021
id 8692638

numb&dumb ( Guide #28542) posted at 3:52 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

Ok first off. . . a rando from a message board claiming to be a psychiatrist ? Sure. shocked

Even if that is true there is always someone who finishes last in medical school. KWIM?

If they were a psychiatrist who has kept up with the current research in infidelity I find odd that they side step trauma.

FWIW- Gottman is more about healing the relationship. Brene Brown has some good thing about shame that could be used by both WS and BS. Just like at SI. . . take what you need and leave the rest.

Perel? Neither I nor my wife found her very useful. Caution. The reason Perel has the reputation that she does is that too many WS have taken her words and used them to justify blameshifting and/or avoiding 100% responsibity for their choices. She also paints the WS as a victim not a perpatrator. Plus her training is in Art therapy not talk therapy. So some argue she is less well trained than the ICs many of us see.

I will say this. Anyone who claims to fix you for 49.95 plus s/h is lying.

Plus avoid Dr. Harley like the plague. He flat out advises doing the pick me dance and telling anyone and everyone about the WS's choices. His work was relevant decades ago. Today? Not so much.

My take? Phds generally do not have time to hang out on message boards dispensing free advice. Consider your source. . .

Dday 8/31/11. EA/PA. Lied to for 3 years.

Bring it, life. I am ready for you.

posts: 4976   ·   registered: May. 17th, 2010
id 8692643

Stevesn ( member #58312) posted at 4:12 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

Whenever I hear someone mention Perel I simply think of Dressed Up Fancy versions of Rug Sweeping and Victim Blaming all wrapped in a French (ok Belgian) accent (and I’m a Francofile, but wouldn’t take relationship advice from a damn one of them).

Sorry I think her approach is nothing short of having an open marriage.

Just my opinion.

fBBF. Just before proposing, broke it off after her 2nd confirmed PA in 2 yrs. 9 mo later I met the wonderful woman I have spent the next 30 years with.

posts: 3199   ·   registered: Apr. 17th, 2017
id 8692644

suddenlyisee ( member #32689) posted at 4:23 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

Interesting topic.

On it's surface, I can understand the concept of 'over-identifying' being a problem.

I can also conceptualize the Perelian view that affairs can lead to growth - real growth.

I've also lived the reality of moving forward from infidelity and the further down the road I get - the more I see most "experts" as potentially more damaging than helpful. Too often, their ideas bounce around in the echo chamber until they have a life of their own.

I've got an ex wife that *realized*, with the help of a therapist, that her affairs were the results of co-dependent behavior.
After a session where we talked about how 'unsafe' and 'betrayed' she felt when I checked her phone, she had an epiphany.
She made it 6 pages in to the book 'Codependent No More', literally highlighted something like "You cannot be accountable for how other people's feel", folded the corner of the page, dropped it in a drawer and asked for an open marriage.
Way ahead of her time, that one.

Current wife has dabbled through "Mating in Captivity" and "The State of Affairs", as well as some Perel videos.
As a BS who's read Perel, I cultivated empathy for my WS and questioned myself and our marriage from a different perspective. I thought it was a good exercise. I think, however that BS's see her work as more sympathetic to their failings - as permissive to being non-monogamous.

We're comfortable right now, because we have a great joint therapist, but as a result of a Perelian enlightenment that I don't happen to share, she feels she's in a better place that I am. That leaves something lacking.

Sooner or later, we'll have to face the fact that I'm still occasionally 'over-identifying' with my role as betrayed spouse because she's 'over-identified' with the Perelian concept of 'monogamy is at odds with human nature'.

The actual issue is simple: Although I have no problem at all with open relationships, I don't WANT one, never AGREED to be in one, and found myself IN one that was hidden from me by a web of lies and omission.

Maybe monogamy IS at odds with human nature.. which is why marriage vows are so serious.

Semi-pro BS in R

posts: 408   ·   registered: Jul. 6th, 2011   ·   location: Michigan
id 8692648

This0is0Fine ( member #72277) posted at 4:25 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

Yeah, she willingly accepts people just "making peace" with their partner having ongoing or multiple affairs. It doesn't even have to be a modern "ethical non-monogamy". Just "Oh yes, my spouse sometimes fucks someone on the side, but they come home to me, and they love me. I'm OK with this". Which is on the societal level, is at direct odds with the "pseudo-feminist empowerment bullshit" story she also buys.

"Men have been doing it for AGES with impunity, don't women deserve to do it too!" but also women giving men that impunity is fine. *shrugs*

When she accepts the stories of the downtrodden like that at face value, even more than accepting the stories of waywards at face value, it just takes away any credibility she might have had.

Love is not a measure of capacity for pain you are willing to endure for your partner.

posts: 1386   ·   registered: Dec. 11th, 2019
id 8692650

Thumos ( member #69668) posted at 4:30 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

A little analysis can help plow right through this nonsense for you. Let's translate this "psychiatrist's" advice:

I was very reluctant to write my response here

Sure. Sure you were

but I feel it might help, although you may not like it.

Translation: "I'm a somewhat passive aggressive random anonymous poster on the Internet. I don't really think this will help, thus the need to qualify my 'help' with a 'but.'"

As the old song lyric goes, "Some kinda help is the kinda help that helping's all about. And some kinda help is the kinda help ... we all could without."

It seems to me that you over-identified with the role of a betrayed spouse.

Translation: "I'm able to provide this arbitrary analysis via the web tubes without much, if any, empirical evidence. It just 'seems to me' so I'm going to roll with it."

People do it often because, paradoxically, being a victim of a transgression gives their lives meaning, which was otherwise lacking.

Translation: "See what I did there? I immediately flipped this around on you as someone whose life 'lacks meaning.' Though I can't define 'meaning' and won't, even if you tortured me with bamboo shoots under my fingernails, I'll just throw this out there to shove you off center and to make you doubt yourself.

Sexual betrayal can be extremely painful, eviscerating, and I feel for you!

"I feel so much for you I'm throwing in an exclamation point! It's the Internet equivalent of the compassionate head tilt."

On another hand (there is always another hand, isn’t it?)

Yes, there is, Mr. "Psychiatrist.' Yes, there is. Like on the other-other hand, I think you're a bullshitter.

it may be a catalyst for growth - yours, your wive’s, {sic} and you as a couple. To begin with, your therapist should help you to cultivate an attitude of curiosity rather than blame.

Isn't it interesting how certain folks constantly hold to this "catalyst" narrative? Would we say that about a tragic hit and run accident? No. This is deeply illogical, anti-rational even. A tragedy can be overcome. That doesn't mean the tragedy was a "catalyst."

This "psychiatrist" likes to use empty buzz phrases like "cultivate an attitude of curiosity." It's a completely meaningless term, and I would predict this poster would be hard-pressed to provide any specifics when asked for them. And notice how he shifts to "rather than blame."

That's some gobsmacking pretzel logic, right there.

I highly recommend Esther Perrel books "The state of affairs" and "Mating in captivity", as well as her Ted Talk "Rethinking infidelity".

Translation: "I can't bother to spell Perel's name correctly, but all of her drivel is a must-read exercise in justification, rationalization and navel-gazing."

My conclusion: this is a WH/WW who is still carrying around the motivating animus toward their faithful spouse and has absorbed a lot of adultery apologists in service of their infidelity.

[This message edited by Thumos at 4:34 PM, Monday, October 11th]

"True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure. The greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature."

BH (me): 50, WW: 49 Married: Feb. 1996 DDAY1: 12.20.16 DDAY2:

posts: 4301   ·   registered: Feb. 5th, 2019   ·   location: UNITED STATES
id 8692652

suddenlyisee ( member #32689) posted at 4:47 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021


You, my friend, have a gift..
Best play-by-play analysis EVER.

Semi-pro BS in R

posts: 408   ·   registered: Jul. 6th, 2011   ·   location: Michigan
id 8692654

sisoon ( Guide #31240) posted at 5:27 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

Every concept can be abused. Every concept probably has been abused.

That doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong with the concept.

Are you saying that I might be addicted to the adrenaline of the trauma? Because I'm not, at least I don't believe I am. I'm not sure I'm addicted to reading stories or pain shopping, but I do really enjoy it, and as I read and write it has helped me make sense of things.

I'll do some parsing of this paragraph.

Are you saying that I might be addicted to the adrenaline of the trauma?

What's wrong with saying that? The 'might' stands out for me. Does it fade into the background for you?

Because I'm not, at least I don't believe I am.

That's crucial information - crucial to you. Did asking the question hurt? Or did it evoke more mindfulness? (Those are not the only possible response, of course.)

I'm not sure I'm addicted to reading stories or pain shopping, but I do really enjoy it, and as I read and write it has helped me make sense of things.

That's one of the ways I used SI, too.

IMO, most of the SIers who post about pain-shopping are actually feeling their pain, which is essentially the opposite of taking on the Victim role. For sure, I sometimes read to reinforce my sense of Victimhood, but most of the time, reading here helped me process pain.

Even if I hadn't gotten that benefit, reading on SI, at least in G and R, told me that healing was possible, because member after member wrote about how SI helped them.

But even if a questioner assumes you're pain shopping and asks a pointed question about it, you can ignore the assumption, look inside, and come up with your own freely chosen answer. IOW, a poster can say, 'This is so.' That doesn't make this so.

If a statement by an anonymous source on the web evokes a strong response in a person, what does that person lose by analyzing their response?

My point is like Hamlet's: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

If you want to heal from being betrayed, think and feel. Jumping to conclusions is probably the wrong approach.

[This message edited by sisoon at 5:41 PM, Monday, October 11th]

fBH (me) - on d-day: 66, Married 43, together 45, same sex ap
DDay - 12/22/2010
Recover'd and R'ed
You don't have to like your boundaries. You just have to set and enforce them.

posts: 26130   ·   registered: Feb. 18th, 2011   ·   location: Illinois
id 8692661

Dude67 ( member #75700) posted at 6:14 PM on Monday, October 11th, 2021

This "psychiatrist" sounds very much like something your WW might be thinking and saying.

posts: 141   ·   registered: Oct. 21st, 2020
id 8692666

KingRat ( member #60678) posted at 8:12 PM on Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

I was very reluctant to write my response here, but I feel it might help, although you may not like it.
It seems to me that you over-identified with the role of a betrayed spouse. People do it often because, paradoxically, being a victim of a transgression gives their lives meaning, which was otherwise lacking.

Forget the Ester Perel mumbo-jumbo because I think that is a red herring in the message. I think though it is important to focus on the quoted part of the response you posted. Now I do not think that statement is completely accurate; however, I think there is some truth to it. I do not agree with the reasoning though. I believe people who have issues with conflict avoidance can resort to embracing a victim role because it can become an excuse to take difficult but otherwise necessary action.

Here is a passage from a book that I enjoyed that deals with this issue directly:

"I described a patient who complained that her husband was habitually late for dinner. Dinner was ready at 6:30, but he often came in as late as 8:30 without calling to let her know that he would be late. She asked me, "Is that right?" in a tone that implied that she was the victim of wrongdoing. I tried to explain to her that the key question wasn't whether it was right or not, although one would tend to agree with her in principle. What she said may have been correct, but in any case, it was irrelevant. I wanted her to see that she was viewing the situation as a passive victim, which was neither productive nor adaptive.

Many people think they are entitled to good treatment. The truth is that they are neither entitled nor not entitled to it. The significant issues are what is going on and how do they feel about it. This woman would have been better off actively facing the facts of the situation and acknowledging her emotional reactions rather than personally judging it and feeling victimized by it.

If you are being robbed, you don't sit around thinking, "This shouldn't be happening to me. It isn't right." Instead, you react. You may defend yourself, call the police or try to run away. Constructive action is the opposite of victimized brooding.

The woman whose husband was late for dinner had every right to feel angry and to consider practical action if she wished, but to try to justify feeling victimized was maladaptive and ultimately meaningless.

Even in the most extreme situation, such as a concentration camp, feeling victimized is not adaptive: Feeling your anger, planning an escape, attempting to survive any and all of these courses of action are preferable to indulging powerless, victimized feelings. Your attitude is a vital factor in determining whether you will survive or perish, succeed or fail in life. Viktor Frankl contended that many of the survivors of German concentration camps were able to endure because they refused to give in to feeling victimized. Instead, although stripped of all their rights and possessions, they used one remaining freedom to sustain their spirit; the freedom to choose what attitude or position they would take in relation to the horror they faced. "It was the freedom to bear oneself ‘this way or that,' and there was a ‘this or that.'" (Frankl, 1954/1967, p. 94)

Maintaining a child victim role leads to chronic passivity. Victimized feelings are very often appropriate to the child's situation. Children are without power, are helpless and are at the mercy of their parents. Later as an adult, things happen that are sometimes beyond your control and understanding. However, the adult who is still playing the child victim role responds like the deer that sees a mountain lion approaching and instead of fleeing the danger becomes paralyzed. This person just keeps noticing over and over that the situation is unreasonable, unfair or threatening but doesn't make the appropriate adaptive responses. In the case of the woman mentioned above, the tip off to the fact that she really preferred the child victim role was that she never made any substantial attempt to change her circumstances. Like so many of us, she would rather feel justified in complaining endlessly about her unfortunate circumstances while passively registering her dissatisfaction than actively changing her situation.

In facing one's feelings, it is important to note that feelings do not require any justification. They are automatic responses to favorable and unfavorable events, and people's feelings cannot be judged as right or wrong. Clean anger is merely proportional to the frustration experience regardless of any rational considerations. It is more advantageous to experience feelings than to deny them or cut them off. However, actions, unlike feelings, have consequences and must be considered in relation to both moral issues and rational reality concerns. Therefore "acting out" emotions, particularly angry emotions, must remain under a person's control. For example, a feeling of murderous rage can be considered innocent, but to make sarcastic remarks has consequences.

"Victims" deal in judgments and "shoulds" in interactions with others. They operate on the basic assumption that the world should be fair: "I should have been loved by my parents." "My children should call me or write to me." "After all that I've done for her, the least she could do ..." This type of preoccupation with "rights" and "shoulds" is irrelevant to the real problems that we are all faced with; it leads to inward brooding, righteous indignation and vengeful feelings. Worse yet, angry, victimized feelings are bottled up inside, contributing to depression and psychosomatic disorders.

In conclusion, playing the victim is maladaptive. Even though passive manipulations may occasionally work, taking this powerless position hurts the perpetrator and is never in one's best interests. In the long run, it does more harm than good. People can control their destructive urge to play the victim by acknowledging that their personal world and the external world contain many inequities and social injustices that are discriminatory and unfair to individuals or groups of people, yet they can take power over their lives. Despite these negative circumstances, there are active remedial solutions available to make an effective adaptation."


Gently, in your situation I feel this can be applicable. I mean, this entire thread is basically a manifestation of the same issue. I see a great deal of conflict avoidance in your situation. For example, apologizing to your wife for stating your valid feelings to maintain peace is a perfect example. You are not allowing yourself to process your feelings and address the elephant in the room. Instead, you bring up the conflict to others that you know will validate your feelings in with an "is this right" implication. And while we all agree with you, believe your feelings to be valid, and wish to support you, we cannot get out of infidelity for you.

I think venting is great because it can prevent valid feelings of becoming inappropriate action, i.e. the murderous rage. But it is highly problematic when it displaces necessary action. Venting should always be a supplement, not a substitute, for surviving infidelity. But people who are conflict avoidant should be careful because it could easily lead to substitution without mindfulness. Unlike the quoted statement, I believe it victimization can become an excuse to avoid further painful, but necessary, action to remove yourself from this limbo and begin the process of restoring your sanity.

None of what I said should be taken as you should never vent or cannot feel victimized. Like all things in life, the degrees to which are reasonable and appropriate all exist on a spectrum. Your feelings are valid; we all agree with you and support you.My post is not meant to demean you, but to provide some constructive criticism and provoke mindfulness. You may not be ready, but it is important to be aware that you cannot expect to change or feel better until you begin to take action and address the inevitable conflict.

This is not meant to say you must D either. For some people, in re: their own personal circumstances, D is not a viable option. But for those people, it is important that they not pull any punches or deny asserting their grievances and initiating appropriate conflict. It may not feel like a victory, but if you leave nothing out on the floor, then it is never a defeat. Take power you have, even if it is minimal, and use it in an assertive manner to resolve this issue. That first starts with being honest with yourself and what you want to accomplish.

posts: 665   ·   registered: Sep. 18th, 2017
id 8692994

 HowCouldSheDoIt (original poster member #78431) posted at 10:29 PM on Thursday, October 14th, 2021

I don't want to take anything away from the other posters here, but two posts stood out that were well thought out and helpful to me:

Sisoon I absolutely love the concept of healing requires digging in and allowing yourself to feel everything. Feel the pain. Question why something gets a rise. Explore. Examine. I love how you think.

KingRat You have the kind of "bedside manner" a therapist should have. Thank you so much for re-typing and sharing the words from the book. I can identify with a lot of it. I especially like the concept of none of us being entitled to anything, and it being irrelevant. What book is it, if you could?

Me: BH Early 50's
Her: WW Early 50's
D-Day Nov 2020
Married 21 years before D-Day
3 children
Working toward reconciling. The most difficult thing I've had to do in my life.

posts: 271   ·   registered: Mar. 3rd, 2021
id 8693211
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