Power Struggles in Recovery

Marriages develop patterns, some good and some bad. It’s just what spending your life with someone does. When that marriage has been affected by infidelity, there usually is not only a pattern but a power struggle which emerges.  I’d like to highlight two power struggles, or scenarios if you will, that seem to be very common when dealing with infidelity and ambivalence.

  1. The unfaithful cheats and the betrayed are not only devastated but continues to pursue the unfaithful.  The unfaithful may still be involved with the affair partner or simply may be ambivalent, and the betrayed will do whatever it takes to save the marriage. Change, adapt, own what they need to own, maybe even beg plead and barter if only the unfaithful will come back home. The unfaithful may show signs of coming back, or may show some interest, only to in many cases reveal they are still involved with the affair partner and that they are ‘undecided’ ‘ambivalent’ or ‘unsure’ where they ultimately want to be. The betrayed will wait it out, or they will continue to let them be and inform them they will ‘be here’ when and if they decide to come home. It’s this mentality of ‘feel free to go figure it out and decide where you want to be and I’ll just be here waiting for you to come home.’ 

In this scenario, the unfaithful is the rock star. They are being pursued by both the betrayed spouse as well as the affair partner. Sure they are unsure or ambivalent and having been down this road before, I get it. But they are ‘in charge’ for the most part of how things are going to go. They will blame their betrayed spouse and justify their behavior with feeling ‘mothered’ or ‘controlled’ or you name it.  See the article series “How Could You” for more on that. Yet in order to take some of the power back, you, the betrayed have to stop chasing the unfaithful. You have to stop awarding the unfaithful this rock star status being chased by both parties. When Samantha stood up for herself and drew a line and said “where do you want to be”? She wasn’t playing games. She had an attorney standing by and wasn’t going to be taken for this ride of ‘pick me….pick me….pick me.’ She wanted to be wanted and wanted to be chosen and if not, she was going to go elsewhere. It grabbed my attention. It was sexy. It was intriguing. It was enough to make me pursue Samantha with a new respect. Yes, a respect as I was incredibly attracted to her respecting herself and at some level, demanding respect and appreciation. Yes I was mad about the marriage. Yes, I was angry about her rejecting me at times in the past, but this was a new Samantha. This was her taking the power back. No chasing me. No pursuing me. No begging. If the unfaithful perceives you as codependent or powerless, they will act on that and do what they want to do until you stand up for yourself and draw a line in the sand. It’s often at that scenario that they have a very quick, come to Jesus meeting with themselves.

  1. In scenario two, the unfaithful is a bully. They won’t get help. They won’t choose who they want. They are in the middle. They are an expert at using anger to justify and intimidate.  They continually hold over you, the betrayed’s head, the carrot of “well, I just don’t know where I want to be. I just want to take some time. I’m not sure. Don’t make me decide.” Or, they are with you and home, but refuse to talk about it and bully you with anger or hostility if you do want to talk about it or disagree with them. They know they are in charge and use their emotions to get what they want. If they don’t want to do it, then you’re not doing it and it’s their way or no way.

In this scenario, it’s a tough road. The anger and the bullying are intimidating to say the least. It’s a fear based approach on the unfaithfuls’ part and they know it. They use your own fears of them leaving you against you and are masters at taking the possible uncertainty and using it to empower them and disempower you. Don’t’ fall for it. Utilize consequences as a tool to get their attention and retake some of the power. Use consequences like possibly sleeping in another room, separating, or even filing for divorce if they will not acquiesce and get help, expert help, and the help you’d like to get. If they think and know they can bully you, they will. I had a masters in bullying. Samantha knew it, but gathered a couple strong individuals around her and refused to be bullied. She said we were separating and it kicked me in the teeth. I was devastated. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be with Samantha but I wanted to be in the same house as my kids and she knew it. If I wasn’t going to do recovery work (even though I was unsure) then I didn’t get to be in the house unconditionally. I didn’t get to tuck in the kids every night if she didn’t feel safe having me in the home.

While these two scenarios aren’t the only scenarios at all, they are very common in nature and enough of a backdrop to display how power can be taken back. 

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I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your blog posts. They are a source of strength to me. My husband had a one night stand back in October - very out of the blue and very out of character. He was/is terribly ashamed and guilty of his actions. This has now turned in to what can only be described as a midlife crisis. We have two children, 9 and 2. He is ambivalent, says he loves me as family but can't be intimate with me anymore. He is vilifying me, for sure. To say he has changed is an understatement. The other woman is no longer in the picture. He lost his father in Feb which has only fuelled his dispair. We are sleeping in separate rooms. I just wondered what your thoughts are surrounding midlife crisis and an affair initiating a downward spiral especially when shame and guilt were initially such a huge factor.

midlife crisis

well Bobs, I sure appreciate the compliments. it means so much and encourages me more than you know. the midlife crisis ordeal is tough, but not the ace of spades at all. many times mid life crisis's are actually crisis's of unbelief and regret. perhaps he is struggling with regret or maybe unbelief or just plain shame. this article on shame may help: https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/infidelity-recovery-understanding-the-paralysis-of-shame also, many times men are not able to be intimate due to shame and other issues associated with the affair, affair partner or pornography. also, one may use the mid life crisis as an excuse to simply wallow in self pity and shame and self absorption. i know that's direct and a bit harsh, but it's true. don't let him use the midlife crisis card as some excuse to treat you terribly and simply wallow in shame and self pity. he had an affair you didn't and he has to take responsibility. if you're chasing him or pursuing him I would stop immediately. i would no longer pursue him at all and I'd celebrate he is out of the room and in the guest room. i would celebrate the fact that you don't have to perform and you don'thave to have any expectations upon you right now emotionally or sexually. then, i would read this article on getting him to cooperate and consequences: https://www.affairrecovery.com/dealing-infidelity-how-get-your-mate-cooperate-without-being-controlling i would then push for the ems weekend to get help for the midlife crisis and for healing to you and your spouse. i also wouldn't rule out that there may be something going on behind the scenes that he may not be telling you about. it's not uncommon at all, especially when a man isn't able to perform or doesn't want to perform or is distant but there is allegedly no affair partner. fact is, there are reasons he is feeling what he is feeling and doing. not to create a false concern, but the numbers are far too indicative of this type of behavior and it's at the very least worth keeping in the back of your mind to remember. i sure hop this helps. reach out any time and i'll be happy to continue the dialogue.

Thank you so much , Samuel. I

Thank you so much , Samuel. I'm not pursuing him as such but I am very positive and I have told him I am not going to give up on the marriage. I'm feeling great about myself - which is odd, this whole experience has been life changing for me. It's almost like we haven't even tackled what he did yet, I feel like I'm just fire fighting. He nearly left just after his Father died. In our last counselling session I said that I wasn't even sure I wanted to stay married to him as I deserve SO much more than this. That's the first time he's heard that from me.

Standing up for myself

This is very good information. I remember the day my husband realized I was not playing his game any longer and I was taking my power back. We where having a discussion after I cleaned out the master bedroom closet and I said sort of joking WOW if I had this closet to myself it would not even be half full, funny I thought women where suppose to have more clothes than their husbands. He was HIGHLY irritable at the time and would take things way wrong. So he said if you want the closet to yourself that can be arranged. I had had enough, I said if that is what you want. I know you are only going to therapy and half way doing the work so that at the end of this you can face your family and say well I tried my best, but she tossed me out. I will not toss you out, I will not take the blame for any of this, but feel free to leave if that is what you want. He said you can't afford things without me. I had made up a budget and done some hard thinking about it over the past few weeks before this. So I went to my night stand whipped out my budget and said that is where you are wrong. I can make it with out you. Don't kid yourself into thinking that. I will not be trapped. I will file bankruptcy before I stay in a marriage with someone who is not sure they want to be here. Besides look at my information, the only thing I will loose is you and cable. It will be tight, but we can make it without your paycheck.
Took it a little time to sink in, but within the next few days there was a change in my husband and things slowly started to improve.
I watched my mother take back my step father after 3 affairs because of money. I refuse to have to do that.

Hi Samuel, thank you so much

Hi Samuel, thank you so much for your blog. I have found your information from the betrayer's perspective very helpful. My husband was very remorseful and did all he could to help me when he came clean about his infidelities. I believe he acted out due to sex addiction. He says he made sure these women were women he wouldn't fall in love with. Just used the infidelities as an escape. Long story, but after 2 months of being very attentive, loving, open about his feelings, rededicating his life to God and says he's delivered from porn addiction, he has shut down. He refuses to look into why he behaved the way he did and thinks I should just get over it now. When I have bad days he refuses to say sorry anymore and just seems hardened now. It's only been 4 months. Our counselor said today that I may never get all the answers I need so I should agree to one more time where I can ask him questions, ie an hour then agree to never ask questions about the infidelities again and to work at being present in our relationship and work on intimacy. I got frustrated with her because I think she's causing harm, telling me that in front of my husband who has always had such trouble being open about his feelings. We are sleeping in the same bed most of the time but how would you deal with this? Thank you!

I forgot to mention that

I forgot to mention that while I want to save our marriage, I don't want to live with a man I can't trust my heart with anymore. I love him but am willing to let him go. I got a bit irritated with our female counselor and said "have you bee through infidelity?" and she said no. I definitely won't be going to her again because I don't believe she's trained to help in this area, even though I agree with some of her advice for sure. My husband thinks I'm just too obsessed with this issue now and should relax and work on just being happy and says he shuts down because he "loathes conflict." I don't like conflict either but don't agree with shoving problems under the rug. Sick of his immature attitude.


hi there. thank you for your kind words. there are a few things I'd look out for. for one, if there has been a change this drastic, sometimes, and again , sometimes, they are acting out again . he may be back involved in the stuff he was once involved in. it's a very real reality. i'd look into it, but carefully. or there may be new stuff he is now involved in so look strategically and carefully as for that drastic of a change, there is something going on in the area of relapse, or in the mental approach he is taking. i never assume they have relapsed, but something is definitely amiss ya know? if there is nothing new, then he may be struggling with shame as shame can be disabling big time. but he may need some tough love as charles dobson puts it. i'd read that book. i'd also read this article if you haven't already. actually two articles: https://www.affairrecovery.com/dealing-infidelity-how-get-your-mate-cooperate-without-being-controlling https://www.affairrecovery.com/newsletter/founder/is-your-marriage-pleasing-versus-loving IF he thinks you'll roll over and allow him to just be this way, he will be this way that's for sure. i'd encourage you to be strong, but loving and let him know you're NEVER going back to business as usual and you're not going to simply go back to where you were. EVER. and that if he's unwilling to participate in recovery methods and principles, that there will be consequences like the above article states. i'd do the bootcamp if you could asap with him as well as a course to help prime the pump and find out what's going on. you may also need to do a lie detector if you feel like you can't get him to open up and be honest. also, in terms of trust, youll never want to or be able to trust him again like you did before disclosure. you're not supposed to really. you'll never be that naive again and you're not supposed to. it's a new normal now. you have boundaries. checks and balances. if it's only been 4 months and he's resorting to old habits, something is not right definitely. so i would act quickly, strategically and lovingly but firm. i hope this helps. remember, he can't change himself and he can't change things on his own. no reflection theologically about God or God's power, but the last thing he needs is to be white knuckling it on his own. he needs help as ap to stay clean and sober and to walk out his journey. it's going to be a long road ahead even if he was doing what he needed to do. that's the truth. it's a process and a journey. thoughts?

Thank you for the above info.

Thank you for the above info. He was always good at shutting down so it's hard to tell. We've been married almost 26 years and I found out about porn early in our marriage when I was in my late 20's. Anyway, when we did go to church in our early married life he wouldn't take communion and never seemed enthused about going to church and quit eventually. I believe God brought his infidelities out in the open by alerting me to a few incidences that didn't seem right, and apparently according to my husband, they were innocent but he believes God said "your sins are going to finally find you out." In January, I pinned him down, with the bible in my hand and I made him swear to me on the bible before God, that he has never committed adultery. And so he told me the truth. It took about a week or so to get the full truth out of him about how many people he had been with, then the longer term woman he saw off and on for almost 2 years. He was very cooperative in the first couple of months regarding questions too, even though he says he can't explain why he had a long term off, on relationship with the last women. He keeps saying just escapism. Anyway, I have been able to get lots of truth out of him by using the bible. He goes to church willingly now and says he's learned he needs God and has proven he can't live without God in his life. He even takes communion. So it seems I can get the truth out of him if I resort to asking him to swear before God on the bible, lol. I don't think I need a lie detector. I will sit him down again and ask if there is anything he is hiding. He swore he would never deceive me or betray me again and that when he is tempted, he would tell me first or leave the marriage. I definitely don't trust him though, because I know what he's capable of as well as him pulling away from me. I will take your suggestions above. Thank you again!

Don’t think he needs recovery

Hi, my husband revealed to me (under I believe Gods divine appointment and circumstance, where he had no choice) that he had slept with prostitutes etc & that was 2 years ago. I am only finding it out now 2 years post incident. Since the 2 years ago, he has actually been more committed to our relationship and also family, and things have honestly been much better than it’s been ever. Since D-Day, I requested him to do recovery work but he is not quite willing to. On the surface things seem fine, I don’t know whether it’s fine internally but he’s for sure a better man now than before. I am so confused how to behave. I am dying inside, but the marriage is getting better. If I push for recovery work, for sure he’ll balk & all the good things we have now will also go with it.

What type of affair was it?

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