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Infidelity and illness.

(23 Posts)
Ormiriathomimus Thu 28-Mar-13 09:48:28

Having read many stories on here and elsewhere about infidelity (mostly male i must admit) there seems to be a common element - the betrayed spouses were ill. I suffer from depression - have for years and I know it makes me hard to live with at times (although I do all I can to keep it under control). I don't want to repeat other examples I've read about as they aren't my stories to share.

Is it about unavailablity? Does illness make the betrayed spouse less available and supportive. Do men feel inadequate to fix the situation?
I've just finished a book called' How to improve your marriage without talking about it' which suggests that men by and large are more motivated by shame and women by fear (putting it oversimply). I just wonder if perhaps when women are sick or struggling and their partners realise they can't 'make it alright' they feel helpless and generally useless (and angry about that)

I know there is no excuse. I'm not offering an excuse. I'm just pondering the motivation that makes previously loyal and reliable partners to do the unthinkable.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 28-Mar-13 10:05:46

I think your initial premise - that the betrayed spouse was ill - is quite wrong. People are unfaithful for all kinds of reasons, not necessarily all that rational

To tackle illness specifically I think it's true to say that, if a relationship is not all that strong to begin with, any serious challenge... and that could be money worries, job loss, the arrival of a child, difficult in-laws, an illness, etc .... will show up the cracks. So I don't think think these partners were 'previously loyal and reliable'. I think they were in it when times were good but, like rats, jump ship at the first sign of bad weather.

onefewernow Thu 28-Mar-13 10:13:17

I got facial cellulitis five times in 18 months at the end of my h's cheating, but before I formally knew about it.

It is a dangerous condition.

My GP said it was probably stress related. He also moved out for a week more recently, three weeks ago. Since then I have had viral conjunctivitis twice and formally diagnosed flu.

So some illness is related to the stress.

Ormiriathomimus Thu 28-Mar-13 10:26:06

"People are unfaithful for all kinds of reasons, not necessarily all that rational"

I suspect that if you asked the WS they wouldn't state illness as a reason (who would want to admit to being that much of a shit) but it might well be an underlying cause and not at all rational.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 28-Mar-13 10:35:35

It would be an excuse, that's all. People have affairs largely for selfish reasons often including impulse, instant-gratification, entitlement or opportunism. Some are more gnerally unhappy or dissatisfied in a relationship. Those are the kinds of 'underlying causes' that they are usually most unwilling to admit to because it's all rather personal and often very vague. It's far easier to cast around for something or someone else to blame, including illness if relevant.

I don't like the sound of the book you're reading btw... men have affairs because they feel helpless and useless? hmm Nah...

izzyizin Thu 28-Mar-13 11:13:22

Mmm.... IMO we are all unique individuals and I do not subscribe to the view that 'motivation' by fear or by shame is gender specific.

It also seems a particularly contrary logic to posit the notion of fear and shame as providing 'motivation' for indulgence in an act such as infidelity which is known to engender feelings of fear and shame - if anything, fear and shame act as deterrents rather than motivators.

A long term or life-threatening illness can cause some couples to cleave together, with one party manifesting feelings of great tenderness and protectiveness towards their less healthy spouse/partner which leads to them putting their needs first and doing everything in their power to make life more comfortable/bearable for them.

Others may find their relationships become strained for reasons that are too numerous and complex to list here but can include the healthy party feeling their life has in some way been put on hold or diminished by the chronic or prolonged illness of their spouse/partner.

Where the unwell spouse/partner is receiving considerable additional attention/affection from others, and where their illness comes to be the lynchpin around which numerous accomodations have to be reached, it's not uncommon for the healthy party to feel resentment should they come to believe their needs are being unacknowleged, overlooked, or otherwise neglected.

But, in all honesty, I cannot see that any of the above applies to your situation, Orm, and the simple fact is that your h is an arse who indulged in an affair with a much younger woman because she flattered his self-serving ego and made him feel in his prime rather than the actuality of him being over the hill.

Ormiriathomimus Thu 28-Mar-13 11:21:28

"But, in all honesty, I cannot see that any of the above applies to your situation, Orm, and the simple fact is that your h is an arse who indulged in an affair with a much younger woman because she flattered his self-serving ego and made him feel in his prime rather than the actuality of him being over the hill. !"

can't argue with that izzy!

but since I have put so much damned work and angst into reconciling with the stupid bugger I don't think it's unhealthy to look into the reasons it happened and make things better.

BTW the book itself didn't make the connection between male shame and infidelity. That was just my aimless pondering.

Ormiriathomimus Thu 28-Mar-13 11:22:47

"if anything, fear and shame act as deterrents rather than motivators. "

yeah and boy did they make reconciliation harder hmm

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 28-Mar-13 11:32:29

You're reconciling?.... That's the problem really. It keeps the whole nasty business top of mind and you looking for 'reasons' rather than letting the person go and consigning them and it to history.

madonnawhore Thu 28-Mar-13 11:41:53

It's very common on here to see the betrayed spouse has a history of depression or other mental health issues. My theory (for what it's worth) is that it's a manifestation of being saddled with a twat of a husband.

Infidelity doesn't happen in a vacuum in an individual. It takes a selfishness, a sense of entitlement, a lack of personal responsibility, a disregard for others' feelings and an inability to put them before your own.

Living with someone like that would very likely trigger depression.

When I was with my ex I was constantly ill and had some mental health issues like anxiety and phobias.

Once I got rid of him for good, they all vanished almost overnight. Now I've been ill only once in the three years since.

I think Cogito has a point.

izzyizin Thu 28-Mar-13 11:49:56

Honey, you'll be chasing your tail if you look for reasons why it happened and, if you don't become a total nutjob in the process, you'll eventually conclude that he did it because he was willing to compromise his integrity and his marriage for the sake of a cheap thrill boost to his ego.

That's not a particularly edifying thought as it also leads to the conclusion that you're married to a man who has the spine of a snake and the morals of a tomcat.

This, in turn, is unlikely to engender any feelings of respect for him you may be attempting to nurture in your tender breast but, as he has been utterly disrespectful of you and all you have been to each other and been through together, you're best advised to mete out esteem for him on a daily, if not hourly, basis according to a system of reward for good behaviour.

Charbon Thu 28-Mar-13 11:58:49

With the general caveat that any differences between men and women in relationships are due to socialisation and not biology and that individuals are trained to behave differently according to sexual stereotypes, I have found that on some issues in affairs, men and women behave remarkably similarly. Any differences in motivations therefore lie in their individual characters and stories - not their gender.

Hence where a partner's illness is concerned, the main link between this and infidelity has been poor coping mechanisms on the part of the unfaithful partner. But it would have been the same if the faithful partner had suffered any loss at all and not just illness. Any situation which required the attention to shift and the unaffected partner to be strong, supportive and adult, would have found them wanting and looking for an escape. So on a timeline you will often see affairs occurring after a partner's bereavement, job loss, pregnancy or serious illness.

Those same things occurring in the unfaithful party's life have similar effects and it is equally common to see people having affairs when they are ill themselves (especially depression), have been bereaved or have suffered a job loss/disappointment.

As a diametrically opposing motivation which would confound your theory, increasingly I hear about people who are having affairs after a period of feeling that they are 'not needed' as much as they once were. Interestingly, not by their partners but by increasingly independent children, or at work or by friends. Those individuals will often be attracted therefore to needy OW/OM because this gives them a new role in life to 'fix' someone and be needed again.

I have come across one or two affairs where a contributory factor was a partner's untreated depression, but this was more part of an overall pattern of unhappiness with a partner who refused to help him/herself and the affair was used as an escape from the general misery.

Usually where illness is concerned, an affair arises because of an individual's own poor coping mechanisms and self-medication/self-reward when life gets difficult for any reason. Selfishness, in other words.

Charbon Thu 28-Mar-13 12:21:16

Having seen subsequent posts, I agree that with depression its cause often lies in an unsatisfactory relationship and it will often make a miraculous disappearance when the relationship ends but that's not true for more longstanding depression that pre-dated the relationship, or more serious mental health conditions such as bi-polar.

I'd add that it's not unusual for someone who has been through a traumatic experience like infidelity to read widely and search for a meaning for the experience. This is in fact far more healthy than shutting the experience down and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder thereafter, which is unfortunately very common. But in couples who are reconciling, it is especially important that the unfaithful party is the one who is doing as much, if not more reading in their quest to understand why they behaved that way.

If it's the faithful partner who is doing all the analysis, it often mirrors a script that characterised the relationship pre-infidelity; one person taking more responsibility for the health of the relationship and the caretaking for it. It would be helpful OP to see whether that is happening here.

Ormiriathomimus Thu 28-Mar-13 14:21:26

"If it's the faithful partner who is doing all the analysis, it often mirrors a script that characterised the relationship pre-infidelity; one person taking more responsibility for the health of the relationship and the caretaking for it. It would be helpful OP to see whether that is happening here.
"

Hmmm....... have a guess hmm

But dH is a great avoider of unpleasantness. I really want him to go to IC. I've had IC (briefly), we've had MC but strangely H hasn't been to IC.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 28-Mar-13 14:30:59

Reading books, posting here, IC and MC, agonising over his reasons for shagging around.... When you have to try this hard and jump through this many hoops and the being with him still makes you feel like crap, surely it's not worth it? Any special reason why you haven't separated?

Ormiriathomimus Thu 28-Mar-13 17:00:28

30 years together, 3 kids, love, we like being together, we make each other laugh.... that enough? But yes, I agree on the surface it would be much easier to leave. But I don't want to. Neither does he. And it isn't all bad. A lot of the time I am happy.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 28-Mar-13 17:09:30

A lot of the time you're happy but a lot of the time you suffer from depression and entertain the idea that somehow this has given your husband the green light to screw around... I'm glad you make each other laugh but I think you'll never quite get rid of that bitter taste in your mouth and, in quiet moments, you'll find yourself looking at him and wondering if you've done the right thing.

Hatpin Thu 28-Mar-13 17:21:35

"DH is a great avoider of unpleasantness"

Well that's surely part of your answer right there?

TisILeclerc Thu 28-Mar-13 19:53:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hatpin Thu 28-Mar-13 21:44:09

Sorry Orm had to post and run earlier but that phrase you used really jumped out of the thread.

If his general nature is to avoid unpleasant, difficult or arduous things in life (perhaps more often emotional things rather than practical) then it does explain why he may have chosen to escape into an affair, where everything is about pleasing himself.

And the very thing which might help him understand his behaviour better, and tackle it (IC) he is not doing?

It's not about the situations / circumstances he tries to avoid. Its his way of dealing with things that matters.

Charbon Thu 28-Mar-13 23:53:23

Avoiding unpleasant or difficult situations is a significant risk factor in infidelity. To use Mumsnet parlance, it is a 'red flag' personality trait, but is unfortunately not one that gains much publicity in anything you might read in the media or in some of the worst self-help books about this issue.

The most helpful approach in infidelity is as another poster said, to realise that it never happens in a vacuum and that there will always be personality traits, attitudes and behaviours that have led up to that point and which eventually permitted those actions. Only if an individual works to identify them, acknowledge them and change them, can there be any long term hope for change. I'd therefore suggest your husband works on this area of his personality and behaviour if he wants to prevent repeat infidelity. Individual counselling could really help with this, augmented by reading and discussion with you and any friends he might have confided in.

Often an individual will measure his growth in this area by testing himself in a situation that previously he would have ignored or failed to tackle. Examples are being the lone voice of dissent in a situation where it would have been easier to have turned a blind eye, risking unpopularity by stating a contrary view, confronting a situation instead of running away from it. As anyone knows, an individual's comfort zone widens with practice until some behaviours become second-nature.

I would be circumspect if I were you about other people's projections about your decision to reconcile and stay in your marriage OP. The strengths you've attributed to your relationship are extremely positive and are noticeably about its ability to enhance your life. They do not relate to peripheral factors such as parenthood, finances or coupledom. You speak of individual qualities such as love, shared history and humour.

Something you might want to think about is that it is understandable if your own needs change as time passes. The early discovery period is often about the affair itself, whereas the next stage is to find links from past behaviour to what happened and to work on eradicating those behaviours in the future. As you've identified that you are repeating old relationship habits by taking responsibility again, this might be a good time to step back and pass that responsibility over.

That can be a make-or-break step in the relationship because it might feel counter-intuitive for you to stand back and for your husband to assume responsibility, but if you are to create new relationship patterns and scripts, this is an essential stage.

Your husband is probably waiting for you to make it a condition that he goes to individual counselling, whereas it would be better if he reached the conclusion himself that in order to change his lifelong behaviours and attitudes, only he can decide what needs to be done.

It is always a measure of progress when someone in your husband's position realises that he needs to change for his own sake in his quest to be the person he wants to be, regardless of the benefits that can be accrued if he becomes the sort of person others need him to be.

Ormiriathomimus Tue 02-Apr-13 16:07:05

Sorry for the delay. Not been here. Thanks for all your responses.

charbon - I am trying oh so hard to step back. But it's hard to break the habits of a lifetime. And I find myself saying stupid things proudly to H like 'Look, I didn't do the washing up last night' hmm.

Charbon Tue 02-Apr-13 16:34:05

I suppose the obvious rejoinder to that though is - did he do it instead? wink

I think it's tremendously difficult to change ingrained behaviour and the difficulty for you personally is that this competence is absolutely appropriate in many life areas; work for example. The difference between this and your husband's possible character traits is that passive-aggression and ethical weaknesses are never positive behaviours in any normal situation.

You might want to think about telling him that you are stepping back and using the time to re-evaluate what you want based on your belief in his capacity for change. That you will watch and wait but will not be taking sole responsibility any longer for the health of the relationship.

Sometimes what happens then is that the person in your husband's role will see what is at stake and will realise the threat of doing nothing different will result in the relationship failing. But sometimes he won't and will either make a poor risk assessment or inwardly assume it's a hollow threat.

Being totally realistic with you here, what sometimes results is an uneasy truce that suits the participants on an everyday 'getting things done' level. It suits neither to end the relationship, but there's a grudging acceptance that the relationship is never going to be what it could be, or should be to meet both's needs. It seems to me that there is a far greater risk of your needs not being met, than your husband's.

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