I was reminded this past Tuesday night during a Live Q&A Call for the launch of Taming Triggers Solution Online Course, that from time to time it can be helpful—even essential—to re-visit topics, especially when they’re as important as your rights as a betrayed partner.
More than one partner on the call expressed distress, upset, or downright resentment about engaging in activities that she wasn’t comfortable with, but that she felt pressure to engage in either because her spouse wanted her to, or because she thought the task or activity was her job and she didn’t have a choice.
In the first one to three years after the discovery or disclosure of chronic sexual betrayal, betrayed partners are literally flooded with triggers . . . and pain. Common activities, events, and situations that are commonplace to the average person are a source of intense anxiety and dread to a betrayed partner. Some events may even precipitate a panic episode.
For example, pre-discovery you enjoyed going to a public theater to see a movie with your spouse. You may not have enjoyed the gratuitous violence or sexual content that is so common now in popular movies, but you got through it without much difficulty or upset.
Fast forward to post-discovery, and those same movies are now excruciating and painful for you. So much so that you would prefer not to go.
You may push yourself to maintain a pre-discovery routine, habit, or ritual you once shared with your spouse. You may even start engaging in research prior to going to the theater to get more details about specific sexual content in the movie. But you may still feel on edge, and you may not want to go.
And this is why I want to revisit your rights.
In truth, it is not the end of the world for you to decide that for a period of time—say a few months or even a year—that you will not go to a theater to see a movie. Or maybe you prefer to watch movies at home where you can easily leave the room or turn it off if the content is too activating or triggering for you.
Give yourself permission to choose to engage—or not engage—in activities that cause you discomfort.
If you used to love cooking dinner for your spouse or doing his laundry or picking up his dry cleaning pre-discovery but now when you do these ordinary tasks you can literally feel the smoke coming out of your ears, you need to pay attention to and attend to your anger and resentment. It’s trying to tell you something.
Anger is the emotion of boundaries.
If you need to take a temporary break from cooking, cleaning, laundry, or other chores you used to do for your spouse for a period of time while you process your anger and begin setting boundaries, no one will go hungry or without clothes!
Of course, you may get a little attitude back from your spouse or some pushback. And often this kind of resistance will be enough to stop a betrayed partner’s boundary work in its tracks. Don’t let that happen to you. Your resentment is toxic to you, to your relationship, and your children if they’re still living at home.
Remember that your spouse is an adult. If he (or she) was living alone, he would make or buy his own meals, wash his own clothes, and run all of his errands. There is no need for you to do so if you don’t want to!
You have a right to say no.
And if you’re the unfaithful spouse, the simple acceptance of your partner’s choice not to do something as minor as going to a movie with you will go a long way toward healing and repairing your relationship, as well as building trust that you can listen to her and accept her reality.
Take some time to reflect on any activities you’re currently engaged in that are causing upset, distress, anger, or resentment and ask yourself how you can eliminate the cause, even if only temporarily. You are responsible for your own happiness, but no one else’s The people in your life who have the capacity to truly care for and love you will support you doing what is in your best interest.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2018)
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