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. 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. 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.