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When a man leaves a woman - Offra Gerstien PHD
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Someone posted this a long time ago when I was new here. It truly helped me. There are so many new people (breaks my heart) that I thought it beared posting the article again. It is long but it is worth the read. Hugs to all.
When a Man Leaves a Woman
Offra Gerstein, Ph.D.
Santa Cruz Sentinel
July 20, 2003
The emotional intensity is even greater in a Compounded Divorce pattern that entails the involvement of a third party. Here the left partner does not only feel abandoned; he or she feels replaced. The pain here is about having lost a primary position in the mate's life to another individual. There are added painful emotions about immorality, betrayal and failure.
Within each one of these divorce patterns there are additional subsets. One of them is the one associated with the third party pattern.
I will use an example of a man who leaves his wife while the other woman serves as a catalyst for the divorce. This pattern can also occur for a woman who gets involved with another man and leaves her husband.
A man meets a woman in the course of his life, he spends time with the new adoring female who makes him feel very valued and desired. At first, he only lavishes in the attention and feels invigorated. With time, he begins to compare his feelings about the new admirer to those he has for his wife. If he decides to break-up his family and start a new life, he is likely to go through the following psychological stages.
1. DEMONIZING THE MATE: The man is a decent person who is aware that his conduct is frowned upon both morally and socially. He begins to feel great guilt- yet, he continues his relationship with the other woman. In order to reconcile the conflict between his view of himself as a moral being and his unacceptable conduct, he resorts to demonizing his wife as a justification for his behavior. He ascribes to his wife many negative and unforgivable traits and behaviors. She may be seen as an inept person, wife and mother or even evil.
2. REWRITING HISTORY: Not only is the partner found to be irrevocably faulted, she has been so for the whole duration of the marriage. The husband re-creates a view of historical suffering and pain he has endured. He may say, "I have been unhappy in this marriage for 20 years" or, "She has made every day of our married life a miserable day." It is clear that it is a re-created story because of the exaggerated nature of the comment, its intensity and the lack of balance. The husband assumes no personal responsibility for his role in the so-called "long-term suffering." He seeks approval and support of others for having been a victim, which in his mind fully justifies his abandoning the family.
3. PUNISHING THE MATE: The man retells his newly developed view of his suffering often enough to believe that his wife deserves to be punished. She is the "offender" and his "persecutor" and thus needs to be dealt with harshly. The punishment is dished out through financial withholding, or worse, through fighting over the children. He believes that his wife is not entitled to receive any future benefits from him, sometimes not even those allowed by law. "She received enough advantages by having been married to me, she is entitled to nothing else." In many cases, he may attempt to deprive his wife equal, fair or appropriate access to the children. Needless to say, this divorce will be very bitter, lengthy, costly and detrimental to the children.
4. SEEKING APPROVAL: Despite all his vengeance, the man still wants the affirmation and approval of family, friends and curiously enough even his wife. He wants her to accept that she was primarily responsible for the break-up of the family and realize that he had no other choice but to act as he did. Sadly, he may impart this view upon the children who are traumatized enough by the divorce. The deep-seated guilt the man experiences about having left his family for another woman continues to plague him. For many, the strain within the original family leaves permanent emotional scars.
5. RESTORING BALANCE: The man expects the first wife to accept his new life and even be happy for him. He wants his wife to take the full blame for his need to escape the intolerable marriage. Therefore, she should also accept the "new reality" and make peace with his new girlfriend or wife. Since the first wife does not share any of his reconstructed views of their history, she is often unwilling to embrace his new life. With time, however, some couples learn to act civilly toward each other for the sake of their children. Few former mates accept the expanded family and may even become friendly again.
The partner who gets involved with another person is beleaguered by guilt.
To justify his or her socially and morally unacceptable conduct she/he may develop a five-tiered process. She/he first demonizes the spouse, rewrites the history of their union in negative terms and depicts him/herself as a victim and the mate as a persecutor.
This partner then moves to punishing the spouse for the alleged unforgivable acts. She/he then seeks approval from others and even his partner for being "forced" to exit the marriage. The last phase of restoring balance, whereby a normalized or a civil relationship is created, may or may not be achieved in every case.
If you have been a participant in this divorce pattern, or know someone who did, you are fully aware of the emotional turmoil involved.
Whether the leaving spouse is a man or a woman, the left mate experiences a hellish nightmare. I'll depict the emotional stages of a left wife, which are similar to those of an abandoned husband. These reactions are often reported to me in the form of sequential questions.
-The demonizing process produces feelings of shock and dismay. "How could my partner betray me in the worse possible way? Not only did he have an affair that violated the marriage vows, but he compounded the betrayal by accusing me of causing it."
"Not only did he blame me for the failure of the marriage, but he also resorted to defaming my character. How could he believe that I am such an evil being after having loved me for years?"
"How could he be so callous and insensitive toward the children by depicting their mother in the worse possible light to justify his own immoral conduct?"
-The rewriting history is a major violation of the mate's reality. "How could he have been so miserable for 20 years without my awareness? Or worse, could all the joy I recall be a figment of my imagination?"
"If things were truly that offensive to him, why did he not complain, and not request change or seek help?"
Being punished for creating a partner's misery is a mind-boggling state.
"He started an affair, lied, deceived, violated trust and his commitment, started fights to escape from home and ultimately decided to leave the family, and I need to be punished? How unjust is this? Not only do I lose my whole life structure, but I am also seen as a greedy enemy? Please, somebody help me understand how my whole reality became so skewed?"
"To make things even more bewildering, he expects me to admit my wrongdoings, take full responsibility for the marriage failure and give him empathy for 'his suffering?' "
"I am also left with the task of preserving his dignity in the children' eyes while helping them with their anger, confusion and pain. In doing so, I am further accused of turning the children against him. What?"
"If all this isn't enough emotional torture, he now demands that I accept his other woman and rejoice in his well-deserved happiness. It is my task to help the children embrace her and welcome her into the fold."
"Since when did I select her entry into our lives? Does she deserve kudos for participating in the break-up of our marriage? How did I get assigned the job of welcoming a woman who stole my husband?"
Just reading this scenario is sufficiently painful, imagine living it? Those who have gone through this trauma describe it as "crazy-making." Such severe and emphatic distortion of their reality causes left mates to doubt their sanity. Recovery from this profound trauma is slow.
What can a left partner do under these circumstances?
First realize that all these five phases serve the leaving partner and have little to do with you.
Understand that this process is your partner's tragic way of dealing with guilt. His or her perceptions are the reconstructed ones.
Marriages are not unions between "angels" and "devils." Your partner's lack of any culpability is a clear sign of misdirected adaptation.
Talk with people who can affirm your view of the marriage history, interactions and your worthy personality.
Reassure yourself that you are sane and that the reality you are fed is created for your partner's self-exoneration.
Surround yourself with people who love and affirm you.
Remember that every parent earns his or her separate relationship with the children. Your youngsters will ultimately process these events appropriately.
This nightmare will end! With time, the healing will come, you will laugh and love again.and the sun will soon shine brightly upon you.
A man or woman, who leaves a partner due to an affair, may experience the five emotional and behavioral stages of the compounded divorce. Demonizing the spouse to justify abandoning the family, rewriting history in negative terms to create a theme of long-term oppression, punishing the mate for being an "abuser," seeking approval for self-vindication and perhaps some time later, restoring a cordial relationship.
The previous columns discussed these phases in detail and the trauma the mate who is left is faced to cope with. This segment will address the party who developed the outside involvement.
Divorce is a result of lost hope in relationships. Sometimes, however, it is not necessarily about a failed marriage as it is about a poor response to ungratified needs by one partner.
Most people are enamored by attention. It is normal to bask in the warmth of affirming people. It is also normal to enjoy being amorously sought by a third party. Many people flirt but do not lose perspective of their love and commitment to their families.
People, who allow outside relationships to divert their attention from the family, must look inside themselves for the reasons for their behavior. For some, the affair was an awakening that their needs were unmet by their spouses. For others, it serves as a catalyst for leaving a stale marriage.
For some, it is an attempt to improve a temporary feeling of low self-esteem. Others use another relationship to reawaken the partner to greater responsiveness. Another group of people may be reacting to the unhappiness they feel about themselves due to a temporary midlife crisis.
There are many other reasons for being vulnerable to attention outside the home, and it is very important to understand the nature of this pull. Once understood, healthy measures could be taken to rectify the problem.
Though not an easy admission, the partner who is tempted elsewhere may need to present it to his or her mate as a personal and/or a couple's crisis. It is advisable for both partners to explore the unhappiness one mate is experiencing in an attempt to reach a solution. What straying people describe is that they felt so badly about themselves and their marriage prior to meeting the third party, that their affair was inevitable.
Needless to say, when anyone is unhappy, it is incumbent upon that individual to analyze the source of the pain and handle it. Mentioning to the spouse some vague or even specific dissatisfaction is NOT a sufficient impetus for change. Change requires exploration, re-decisions and action.
When couples refrain from problem solving together to enhance the well being of both, they put their relationship at risk. Partners who unsuccessfully tried to rehabilitate their marriage may agree to separate for the personal happiness of one or both mates. If this is done jointly, the chances of moving to the five-stage pattern of the compounded divorce are less likely.
When the tempted partner withholds the information in order to spare himself or herself and the mate's agony, he or she may only embark upon a much more devastating course.
Seeking solutions to guilt, the straying spouse resorts to blaming the other. To justify actions that one knows are morally and socially unsupported, he or she uses exaggeration of hurt and its duration. To gain social support, one resorts to soliciting empathy for having been a victim. Punishment is used to repay oneself for all the perceived injustices.
To regain esteem of others and the partner, the mate is faulted as not accommodating enough. All these protective mechanism are avoidable. This pattern of divorce is akin to a tragic drama in which one misconception by one person starts a sequence of devastating consequences.
Self-understanding, inclusion of the mate, honest exploration of the real causes of one's unhappiness and seeking help, are all ways of preventing this agonizing process. If you are a spouse who got involved with a third party,
Use this behavior as a warning sign that you are in a personal crisis and in need of help.
Your unhappiness does not lie solely with your mate's being or behavior. If you think it does, talk to your partner or seek professional help.
Be aware that an unhappy marriage is often composed of two dissatisfied people. Have you considered your partner's side?
If you decide to work on the marriage, the other relationship must be terminated. One can not be fully emotionally invested in two intimate relationships at the same time.
If you choose divorce, be regretful, humble, contrite, kind and empathic with your family for the pain you have caused them.
Realize that your children are the innocent victims here. Show them love and consideration by being respectful of their other parent. Give them time to adjust.
It is your responsibility to make every effort to accommodate your family. Help them live as well as possible to reduce the impact of their many losses.
Posted on 01/03/09, 07:03 pm
9 Replies Add Your Reply
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Reply #1 - 01/03/09  10:31pm
" I love this article. A friend gave it to me about a year ago when my H left me for the ow and every time, he tells me how terrible I am and how he had no choice but to leave, I read this article because he follows it to a tee! He tells me how he has been a victim our entire marriage and how he had no choice to leave, blah, blah, blah. Poor him!!!! "
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Reply #2 - 01/04/09  7:24am
" Hey! Did someone write about my life and NOT tell me?! This is my Ex H to a T! All of it!

Great post! I am printing it off as I type and grateful to have it. (I should have had this 3 years ago when I was going through all of this -- it's like a crystal ball telling me exactly what would happen.) I hope so many of you take it to heart!

Laurie "
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Reply #3 - 01/04/09  4:19pm
" newwoman2008, that was very interesting. Thank you for sharing. "
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Reply #4 - 10/12/13  12:03pm
" My soon-to-be left me in may 2013, he follows this to a tee. He left cause I finally caught him cheating.He made me feel like the worst and lowest woman on Earth. All the things he said he loved about me ,he turned around and said I was nothing. He deserved better. I divorce is going to be very bitter,not because of me but my soon-to-be wants it that way.
He said he was the victim ,and he can't stay in a bad marriage.WOW! "
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Reply #5 - 10/12/13  12:10pm
" Remember it isn't always the man. i know how it feels to be in your shoes.

why can't some people just own up to thier own bullshit?
why can't they just own thier choices rahter than blame anyone but themselves? "
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Reply #6 - 10/12/13  12:32pm
" The article states it works for the woman leaving for the OM as well "
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Reply #7 - 10/13/13  11:37am
" This is the best article I read of this subject. Complete and correct with my situation. "
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Reply #8 - 10/13/13  2:34pm
" OH, I remember reading this awhile ago.. and oh yes it does follow his behaviour... ONLY, when he wanted to come back or wanted me back, he would re-wright History again!! To the positive way again, then when someone batted their eyes at him, the other story came his truth again. I think I've gone threw this "I love you, your my soul mate, we are good together .. blah blah .. to I have tried to leave you so many times and I can't and it's your fault, you never did anything, blah blah blah. I didnt' make him go or stay, his sick addict and bi polar, low self esteem yet megalomania did. To bad too.. I told him to go afew times, but no he didn't want to.. so, now I am disconnected from this, from him. "
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Reply #9 - 10/14/13  1:20am
" Wow, not only is this my wife, but the other comments are unanimous as well. Are they all this way??? "

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