Part XIII: Surface & Root
As stated in my previous article, I have noticed a common trend: the presenting issue (reason why someone came to counseling) is never the actual problem. I see problems in two broad categories: surface and root.
The surface reasons my husband provided for his unfaithfulness were:
- Emotional: He felt a cataclysmic void by the disconnection in our relationship. He was torn in his soul at the “seeming” loss of what we shared; alone and emotionally abandoned, he finally shut down and sought comfort outside the marriage.
- Physical: In the past year we were hyper focused on everything wrong with each other and failed to pursue romance both physically and emotionally.
- Cognitive: He made the assumption that I did not love him and believed I wanted out of the marriage. In his private mental world, he thought I was “disgusted” by him. Not once did he bring these concerns to me for discussion.
I acknowledge these reasons as an honest evaluation of our relationship at the time; they are valid emotions and obviously he was extremely hurt. However, he made the choice to cross over the boundary line of monogamy and have sex with another woman. That’s not okay with me. Ideally, he should have approached me and together we could have discussed these feelings so we could work towards a mutually satisfying marriage. This would have been an opportunity to improve our emotional intimacy, instead he chose to cheat and no reason or excuse can justify that decision.
These are the root causes the man I love identified for breaking his code of honor by committing adultery:
- Insecure: The conversations we were having prior to the affair centered on him celebrating his 50th birthday within a year. He was looking back on his 49 years feeling dissatisfied with his accomplishments at that particular juncture in life. People who are insecure need to prove they still have what it takes because deep down they don’t feel good enough, desirable enough or whatever enough. He used an extramarital affair to reassure himself that he still had it going on especially since he was missing this assurance in his primary relationship.
- Damaged: Todd’s first marriage came to a screeching halt when his ex-wife and her lover concocted an elaborate scheme to ditch their spouses and share the same address. Todd was repeatedly lied to, deceived and made to feel a fool for being an “overly jealous” husband. He was verbally beat down for not wearing the right clothes or being a high (enough) income earner. When it was clear his dead marriage could not be resuscitated he left, but the damage was done. When I met him, his spirit was broken. He was angry, bitter and licking some pretty deep wounds. Their union produced a son, which necessitated continued contact between the two. Unfortunately even after their divorce communication remained volatile. He never processed the painful and intense emotions of his ex-wife’s affair. In the context of our marriage, he was acting out from this traumatic experience. He had felt the sting of rejection in his first marriage and he was not about to feel it again, so he figured he would call the shots this time. His motivation to leave me was fear driven.
- Confused: Todd explained that after we drifted apart, he felt he lost his best friend and soul mate. He ached to the core of his soul, as he desperately wanted back what we had, but assumed I didn’t want him because if I did, I would have pursued reconciliation. For him, the root cause of the affair was about our missing connection. He didn’t want to feel the rejection he felt in his first marriage, because…well it hurt. If the relationship was going to end, he wanted to be the one to decide when and how. Enter affair partner.