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men and compartmentalizing

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LearningToFly posted 5/18/2013 01:47 AM

Today my husband and I went to marriage counseling. I talked about how my husband was not there for me emotionally. He disagreed. I gave the example of how in November while I was making a memory board for my sister who just died from a battle with Leukimia he was 6 feet away instant messaging his girlfriend, while at the hotel before the funeral he created a new email address so that he could move their communications away from his regular address (I didn't have the password to it but I knew the original one existed) and how when we got back he kept telling her how much he had been thinking of her. (These are emails I have access to now). He said that he remembered holding me when I cried and talking to my parents at the funeral to comfort them. He also reminded me that we had a good talk on the 5 hour drive to the funeral. (Which I agree, I thought we were conncecting which hasn't happened much for years.) I said that even though he did those things, he was able to be completely disconnected and lie and cheat on me while all this happened.

He said that he is a man and men compartmentalize. He goes to work and doesn't think of his family. He comes home and doesn't think of work.(Thats a lie-his career was his first and longest affair). He could hug me and be there for me at the funeral and then get on the computer and be there with her. I don't think this is right. I told him that I wanted to be part of his whole life and I didn't want her to be any part of his life. I also told him that I didn't like being in a box (how he described his ability to focus on more than one relationship) I have heard that men enter rooms in a house and close the door to focus while woman see all the rooms with the doors open. Compartmentalizing verses Globalizing. It just seems that he is over the top in his way of seeing life.

I would like to know, is this normal or not. I have been married for more years than single. I haven't gotten to know other men deeply because my eyes and heart have always been focused on my own husband. Am I expecting too much to want my husband to lower the sides of the boxes and let me be a part of the other boxes? And the top priority in all of his life?

[This message edited by LearningToFly at 1:51 AM, May 18th (Saturday)]

RedWheelBarrow posted 5/18/2013 03:42 AM

My WH said the same thing. It's a male thing - compartmentalizing. I would say it's really a problem with the person who can so fully disengage with one part of their life while engaging with others that may be more or less significant. Not a fully integrated human. Also known as a dirtbag and/or jackass in our home.

jb3199 posted 5/18/2013 05:40 AM

As a workaholic, I can only describe my mindset....and I am sure that my wife would wholeheartedly agree with you about work being the first priority(and love), with family a distant second.

I can admit that my work ethic is a problem/condition that I battle with. I have always had the need/obsession to not fail my family. My career does not help this matter, as it is an individual business that I have had a stake in for over 20 years. I never had felt that it has prospered until the harsh financial times of the late 2000s. These days have really made me open my eyes to how much more secure I was financially then than I am today. And it seems that I have to work even harder now to try to ensure stability for the future.

Again, this is my situation. But when I am at work, I do focus entirely on such. I keep thinking that easier times are just a few lucky breaks away. But my focus on my work is based on my drive for my family...and there surely isn't any room for other "compartments"----because I don't want any.

My family is my is what I care about more than anything....but it appears the opposite because of my compulsion of not letting them down financially.

Is that acceptable? I would assume not. Work takes more of my life than my family does.

But it doesn't change the fact that my family is most important---and my backwards way of showing such.

Again---just one man's messed up way of thinking. I have always been this way.

Tred posted 5/18/2013 06:06 AM


One thing that seems consistent about waywards (men and women) is their ability to compartmentalize, to separate their affair life from their day to day life. The affair is an escape, a fantasy, and it needs to be in it's own bubble where reality doesn't intrude, or the bubble will burst. Read in the wayward forum from the remorseful spouses - a lot of them will talk about how they can't believe they were the person that acted that way. In the early days, they rewrite the marital history, I think to minimize the damage that they have caused.

It will take a long time (well, it will for me anyways) but eventually you learn that it wasn't about you at all - you could have been riding a unicycle in a sheer leotard juggling chainsaws and segueing into a pole dance and it wouldn't have gotten into his fantasy bubble. It's only when real life pops that bubble, which is what happens when the A is exposed, that the compartmentalizing becomes apparent. During the A, they don't think about it, they have their fantasy life and their real life. They tell themselves that they were there for you the whole time, but that is obviously not true - every ounce of energy spent on the affair was stolen from you and your family. Your H might need individual counseling to help him realize this.

wanttogoforward posted 5/18/2013 07:00 AM

Some people are just very good at compartmentalizing and separating all emotions.... it took me awhile to catch onto what my H was doing because he seemed to be able to do the same thing.... while at work he was all into communicating with her, and while at home he was all into me. It was only a very few odd things that made me stop one day and wonder what was going on.

The ability of the human mind to justify and separate what they are doing is amazing- and not amazing in a good way. I have seen it many times.

doesitgetbetter posted 5/18/2013 10:15 AM

It's not just a guy thing, hogwash. My MIL taught my H how to compartmentalize, so he learned it from his mother of all people. I know plenty of women who do it as well. It's a coping mechanism. I have several paramedics in my family, they ALL compartmentalize to at least some degree, it's the only way they can let their children out of the house. Same can often be said for cops, firefighters, doctors, etc. Many of them compartmentalize so they can allow their family to live rather than lock them in the house so they never get hurt.

It can be changed though. My H is a perfect example of that. It took a very long time for him to get through that, and we had to do some intense couples weekends at Retrouvaille, but he is no longer a compartmentalizer.

For example, when our oldest child was born, our son was immediately sent to a children's hospital and we were told his chances of surviving the night were not good at all. Turns out he survived and was let out of the hospital about a week later. I cried like a baby every night that my baby was in the hospital and not at home, but H never did.

Fast forward to 9 years later, 8 months after DDay. We are at Retrou on the last day. We do the assignment given to us, and H hands me his paper. It is soaked with tear stains. He then starts sobbing uncontrollably while I am reading it. It's all about the day we almost lost our son and what his feelings are about that. He was carrying on that day as though it was the day our son almost passed away. He had finally opened that box and was feeling that day in all it's sadness, 9 full years after it happened.

So they can learn to live a life without boxes or rooms in their head, they have to choose to and do the work to open doors and open boxes though.

hopefulmother posted 5/18/2013 10:28 AM

My H said the same thing. They think they are compartmentalizing. They think it works, but we know it doesn't or they would not have gotten caught.

Really, it is just their excuse to explain how they can do what they did and still LOVE you and their family at the same time.

It is sick and like others said- not healthy for an adult. It is okay for a child to do it to protect themselves (or an adult to do to survive a dangerous situation), but come-on not a healthy adult in a relationship. Bad coping skills. He needs to work on that.

My H does the same thing. I agree. He should lower the walls and let you into all aspects of his life. Otherwise, he may as well be single. Keeping the walls makes it easier for him to do it again.

LA44 posted 5/18/2013 11:37 AM

Compartmentalizing is not just a man thing and not always a bad thing. It is something that Emergency care workers do every single day. Think of the chaos they are faced with at a roadside accident - but they block it out, stay in the zone and focus on saving the life in front of them. Compartmentalizing is also a trait that most entrepreneurs seem to posses.

That's an example of GOOD compartmentalizing.

Tred's entire summary is excellent so I am not going to spend long adding my two cents. Suffice to say, you are not alone. I read up on compartmentalizing on a site called, Marriage If you go to that site and search for compartmentalizing you can get a good understanding of it. It was written by a WS. I also do read a lot of the WS Thread. Lots of insight there.

To respond as to whether it is reasonable for your H to lower the boxes and let you be a part of those....well, as the BS I would say that we all have our private matters. I do think your H needs to show 100 % transparency with regards to the A. But I also think we all need our own space and interests.

I hope that makes sense.

Hugs to you.

Ashland13 posted 5/18/2013 18:19 PM

Does anyone think that compartmentalizing and detatching are similar things? I don't think of detatching as a long-term word or short-term but both.

Like people who don't think of home at work-they detatch their thoughts from the people there while they focus on what they're doing.

It doesn't seem like a bad thing per say, so long as it's kept in check like a lot of people do. I have trouble doing it, but it's advice I'm given as a BS in the face of all this trouble and decision-making.

Another way I was told about it is when we put one task away and get out another...if we aren't thinking of the first task any more, perhaps we are "compartmentalizing"?

h0peless posted 5/18/2013 18:55 PM

I wish I could compartmentalize. I would have done much better at work this year and gotten a whole lot more sleep if I could.

hopefulmother posted 5/18/2013 21:35 PM

I think some confuse focus and multi-tasking with compartmentalizing. I am fantastic at focus and multi-tasking, but I don't forget that I have a family and husband at home.

Like I said, what the WS does is wrong and unhealthy. Like LA44 said, it is better for uses with danger involved. I am really interested in your link about that though.

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