Surviving Infidelity and Emotional Abuse
My intention of writing this article is to help women out there who are subjected to emotional abuse in their relationship as a result of infidelity. It is a lot harder to provide evidence of emotional abuse than physical abuse. You may not even be aware that it is happening to you in the first place. You may be sucked into an emotional roller coaster ride, as a result of being subjected to manipulation and mind games. On the other hand, when you are aware, you will be more empowered to act within your power, which is the key to surviving infidelity.
Being spiritual does not equate to being ignorant. Be as “shrewd as a serpent and as innocent as a dove.” – Jesus
One extremely smart woman client, Cathy (not real name), a Mathematics (Statistics) lecturer, was subjected to emotional abuse by her philandering husband, who convinced her that she should check into a mental hospital whenever she asked him if he was having an affair. This gave me the impetus to write an article to prevent women from being subjected to similar psychological abuse.
1. Prevention is better than cure
Please refer to article on how to affair-proof your marriage.
2. You cannot rely on classic signs of cheating especially if you have a husband who is of above-average intelligence.
The more intelligent (often indicated by level of qualification but not necessarily) the men, the smarter they are at wiping their trails, the harder it is to detect them. So you cannot rely on classic signs of cheating alone eg. lipstick on collar, car mileage etc. Usually, highly intelligent men resort to emotional abuse in the form of manipulation and mind games to cover their affair.
Note that being manipulative may not be their inherent nature and please do not judge them as bad. Every behavior has a positive intention even through the behavior may be unsavory. Realize that manipulative behavior may be serving to preserve an affair which may be bringing them fulfillment on certain levels.
3. What you must know about yourself.
It is hard to think clearly when someone is playing mind games on you. This is especially so when your heart is on the line. Often, if you are unaware of the manipulative tactics, you will not be able to see the writings on the wall even if they are highlighted. Even if your intuition suspected anything, you are more likely to disregard it.
4. Manipulative Tactics
a) Have you on the defensive.
When we are criticized, our ego naturally gets bruised. When that happens, we are more likely lose focus and not even care about any other pressing issue at hand and focus on us. The first instinct is to defend ourselves. Manipulators tend to exploit this human tendency.
By criticizing you and putting you in the self-doubting, anxious mode, making you feeling bad, the true issue at hand, can be side stepped. Suddenly you seem to be the bad person. You may even start wondering if your “bad” behavior is the cause of your initial confrontation. You may even wonder if you were more confident about yourself, not so insecure, then all this would not happen, that you would be happier as a couple.
b) They make you feel guilty (shaming)
They know your strengths and your weaknesses extremely well, more than you know yourself. They know how and when push your guilt buttons to induce guilt.
c) Constant put down/fault finding
This is an attempt to increase your self-doubt and decrease your self-esteem.
Suddenly trivial things about you irritate them. They will start to complain that there is no more milk in the fridge.
The treatment might vary in the beginning of the affair. They may treat you exceptionally nice or start finding fault. Whatever the treatment, their underlying emotion at this stage is guilt. Finding fault is a means of justification of their affair.
However, at a more advanced stage finding fault may serve as a means to prevent you from suspecting that they are having an affair. Nothing you do will ever be good enough in their eyes. They might treat you more carelessly.
If you are a well intentioned and conscientious spouse, you’ll probably spend all of your time and energy reflecting on yourself, trying to become a better spouse.
d) Throw a curve
Manipulators are adapt at sidestepping issues by throwing a curve as a means of distraction.
e) Underhanded Intimidation
Manipulators know how to intimidate a victim but not in the usual outright manner the rest of us use. It is subtle enough not to arouse suspicion in the victims. This enables them to mask their cheating.
f) They use their charms to disarm you.
Manipulators can be so deceptively nice to you when they feel appropriate that you can even disbelieve your hunch that something is not right. They charm, flatter so that you will weaken your defenses and surrender to their charms. They know fully well that each one of us have certain inadequacies and want reassurances. They will give it to you – no questions asked. By doing so, you regain your trust in them. They know what you want to hear and they give it to you.
g) Manipulative lovers.
Be aware of friends of the opposite sex of your spouse who go out of their way to be nice to you. I know of a lady who bought books for her lover’s kids in the presence of his wife. She admitted that she did it so as not to arouse any suspicion and it worked. The wife never suspected a thing.
This is when the manipulator refuses to admit that they’ve done something harmful or hurtful when they clearly have. It is a way to lie (to themselves as well as others about their intentions. This “Who…Me?” tactic is a way of playing innocent”, and invites the victim to feel unjustified in confronting the manipulator about the inappropriateness of a behavior. It is also the way the manipulator keep doing what they are doing This type of denial is not primarily a defense but a maneuver the manipulator uses to get others to back off, back down or maybe even feel guilty themselves for insinuating that he’s doing something wrong.
You can expect any kind of response from them except to come out clean and confide. Instead they will lie and rationalize that if they were cheating, why would they be with you. This form of rationalization sounds logical enough to fool you into thinking that what they are saying makes sense. It only enables them to carry on with what they are doing because they know you buy into this rational explanation.
It may be an outright lie, as in if you ask them if they are cheating, they will deny it outright.
The other type of lying may not be too obvious. I call it the “sums of the parts don’t add up” type of lying. There may be many loopholes in the story that may not tie up properly. The story may change a week later. You might start to question the integrity of your memory.
j) Changing the rules of the game
Any previously agreed upon rules, whether implicitly or explicitly, may change to suit the manipulator’s actions. One minute they say one thing and another minute something contradictory. This will make you wonder if you are the one losing your mind or your memory.
5. Other subtle signs that they are having an affair
- They become less caring and less supportive of you. Less supportive of your goals and dreams. But they want you to be there for them.
- They spend more time with friends. But act distant towards you.
- They have bargaining power. So you will always have the raw end of the deal. Win/lose.
- You find that they become less and less reliable. This may add to your insecurity. Let’s say you have a dinner date. They are going to make you wait. They will be careless about your time.
- They might suddenly turn insomniac, staying up wee hours into the morning. They might be worried about work or business, but if it happens in several days in a row, they might be staying awake contemplating their next move.
6. How to survive infidelity. How to handle manipulation.
- Do not waste time trying to understand the motive behind why they are behaving the way they are you are being treated the way you are. Do not try to rationalize or psycho-analyze. For instance, do not think “He is afraid of something, so he projecting his hurt onto me. With patience and understanding he will overcome it.” You spouse may be all those things but if he has used manipulative tactics to conceal his behavior, chances are you may be encouraging it inadvertently.
- Learn to be a better judge of character. Unfortunately this often comes with experience. Go by actions, not intentions.
- Do not be an over-conscientious person. Many spiritual people tend to be.
- Know yourself better. Find out your weaknesses, any avenue which will might leave yourself vulnerable to exploitation.
- Do not confront. This will only invoke a denial response. Since they know your weakness, they might know how to elicit the response they are looking for. So you have to be strong in remaining detached when provoked.
- Learn of ways to have a better self esteem. This is especially important if your sense of self-worth comes from being being married or from your spouse or both.
- Find ways to become less dependent on your spouse – emotionally and financially.
- Manage your finances properly if you are suspicious.
- Know the limits you are willing to accept.
- There is not excuse for cheating but you should spend some quiet time thinking about what went wrong. If there is any part of you that leaves room for improvement.
- Look into ways of improving yourself eg learning new skills.
- Pray. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Rediscover God.
- Get involved in charity. That accumulates good karma. Life can only get better.
If you are wondering,
- I knew we were having problems but how could my partner have done this to me and our relationship.
- I don’t know if my relationship can be saved
- How can I stop thinking about the betrayal and deception
- I don’t know if I will ever feel right again or even be able to trust anyone enough to be in another relationship.
A good resource to read by an expert therapist on extra-marital affairs, Dr Reena Sommer: An Anatomy of an Affair. Learn how Valentine’s day gifts can expose a cheating spouse!
- In Sheep’s Clothing