My functional, loving, safe FOO allowed me to be my best self. H's FOO, on the other hand, was a nightmare. Even though H is a caring, loyal guy at heart, he built his life on a rotten foundation and therefore couldn't remain true to himself.
Pre-A, he told himself and everyone else how he had overcome his bad childhood. Somehow, unlike his messed-up brothers, he had come through it unscathed. He was the overachiever, the rescuer, the self-sacrificing hero.
Meanwhile, there was tons of toxic crap in containment deep down inside him. Of course, it was slowly leaking out constantly and requiring more denial and suppression.
I bought his story of triumph over adversity, and since I'm a healthy person from a stable FOO, I misinterpreted any red flags. I thought he was so strong, decisive and self-assured. Actually, he was anxious, insecure and driven to achieve more and more with less and less satisfaction.
Because he had been abused by the people who should have been his greatest protectors, he never trusted anyone, including me. He hid his mistrust from me because he couldn't show vulnerability.
He thought that to keep me from cheating, he had to be better than any potential rivals. Apparently, he was constantly on the lookout for men I might leave him for, and always competing with them. Meanwhile, I never even considered cheating and was busy looking for ways to make our marriage stronger and closer.
He was also afraid my family and friends would take me away from him. He even felt threatened by the close bond I have with our kids. In his FOO, there was never enough love and attention to go around. It was a very scarce resource. Even if you got some, it could be yanked away at any moment and given to something or someone else.
Isn't it ironic that HE didn't trust ME? I had the tools I needed to be a faithful: boundaries, positive coping skills, self-worth, and the ability to reach out for help. He had none of those things, and yet I trusted him implicitly and absolutely. I assumed that when the chips were down, he would behave in accordance with his core self. Little did I know that he didn't value his core self, and didn't have the skills he needed to hold onto it.
One thing I've learned from this is that what you do does not always reflect your potential as a person. I'm wary of that statement, because I know from SI that if you want to learn who someone is, you watch their actions. Yet, H is not personality disordered or selfish or a serial cheater. He has plenty of potential to be loyal and kind, and actually was for 11 years. But under the right stress, his unresolved FOO damage overcame his personality, his marriage vows, his dedication to his children--everything.
How could it be so powerful? I think because FOO is the foundation. It was his formative experience with relationships and intimacy. When you build your foundation amidst alcohol, emotional abuse, violence and secrets--your house is not stable. You have to tear it down and rebuild.
But H, especially with his shaky self esteem, did not want to admit that his foundation was teetering. That was too scary for him. Basically, the whole house had to collapse before he was ready to admit that there was a problem.
I know there are some who feel that FOO is not a factor in their infidelity situation, and I respect that. Also, when this came up close to d-day, I wasn't ready to explore it because it felt like excuses, so I understand that, too.
There are also people who came from lousy FOO situations who didn't cheat. That's admirable. I'm not saying that FOO "made" H cheat. But if he had grown up in my supportive, honest FOO, he wouldn't have cheated because he actually is a sensitive, faithful guy.
Dealing with FOO is a huge reason why I am able to be in active R. Now that my H is seeking help, building solid boundaries, developing coping skills and growing his self-worth, I can trust him to behave in harmony with who he really is (and always was).
A beautiful thing is that now that he understands what goes into "affair proofing" yourself, he can trust me for the first time in 15 years.
Anyone have similar stuff going on?
My H seems to have been brought up the same way as yours alcoholic father, emotional abuse, and a mom that would scream and leave all the time and like you wrote :
The rescuer and self sacrificing hero combined with poor boundaries is what lead to my H affair.
He also has felt I " deserve someone better" throughout our marriage ( I had no idea he felt this way)
Thank you for posting this it organizes a bunch of the information about my H that has come out and helps me wrap my brain around it better.
[This message edited by Wondertwin at 3:51 PM, October 18th (Friday)]
I have been trying to get my fWH to look at any and all of the factors that may have made him vulnerable to A ( notice that I didn't say caused the A). His FOO was definitely messed up. Father was Selfish, overbearing, violent, Mother was emotionally distant form her sons. BIL is a WS in a really good marriage. I read a good book "Getting Past the Affair". The book contains exercises for both BS and WS to complete and discuss. I could not get WH to do it but I went through the activities and it was shocking how many potential vulnerability factors applied to him. The most starling for me was the FOO vulnerability factors. Just BANG ON! I have absolutely no contact with FIL , nor do I intend on changing that anytime soon.
Just wish I could get fWH to see the factors for himself
Married 23 years - together for 29 years
DDay - June 10th 2012 then TT'd-June 2012 - July 2012 (and beyond????)
2 amazing children
"Understanding love is one of the hardest things in life." - Fred Rogers
Just like many other WS, he's great at compartmentalizing and also feels he "triumphed" over his childhood adversities. Unfortunately, those pesky little boxes seem difficult to keep shut for a lifetime.
Sailorgirl, I like your attitude and approach. It sounds like you both are on a very good path forward to a healthy M. I'm happy for you!
I don't think we can use FOO as an excuse, but we also need to be careful not to say "I was abused (or had a crappy childhood) and I didn't cheat." Unless you had the other person's experience you really can't know--there are so many variables. And where else do we get our morals, our resilience , our self-esteem, our personal strength, self-awareness, etc, etc, except for our upbringing? When we talk about "broken" isn't this what we mean?
I can categorically say that I'm a "better" person than the OW because I would never dream of sleeping with a married man, or that I'm better than my H since I upheld our vows, but I walked the path of the happy, supportive childhood, with enough skills to send me confidentially out in life. As grown ups we all have to take responsibility for our actions and do our best to grow, change and hurt people as little as possible. But as fellow human beings perhaps we can extend a little compassion and understanding too.
Thank you for posting this it organizes a bunch of the information about my H that has come out and helps me wrap my brain around it better.
Completelybroken, I'm glad. That's partly why I write this stuff out--to organize it and think it through for me!
Wondertwin, I read your story and many of your H's personality traits are so familiar. We are a work in progress, too.
The most starling for me was the FOO vulnerability factors. Just BANG ON!
toughernow, I know. Is he starting to see?
StillStanding1, has your H done any digging? My never would have touched his childhood boxes because it was so painful, but he hit rock bottom with the A. It is amazing to see how many emotions he has to wade through because he never felt them in childhood.
As grown ups we all have to take responsibility for our actions and do our best to grow, change and hurt people as little as possible. But as fellow human beings perhaps we can extend a little compassion and understanding too.
Exactly catlover! Because my H did the first thing you said, it freed my heart to do the second thing.
Not sure if he is starting to see the connection yet.
He is still insistent that his FOO did not contribute to his A. I tried to explain that FOO issues don't cause someone to have an A they just make you more vulnerable because of how messed up emotionally you can be due to FOO issues.
Feeling so hopeless today.
God, I want to get off this ride.
[This message edited by toughernow at 10:22 AM, October 30th (Wednesday)]
He is still insistent that his FOO did not contribute to his A.
Do you mind me asking what kind of A he had? If his parents were abusive and neglectful, they were violating his boundaries and giving him low self-worth. Many WS's have poor boundaries and low self esteem.
It's also likely that he suppressed a lot of emotions that he should have been feeling as a child. (Fear, panic, abandonment, worthlessness) For my H, these emotions would leak out. During the A, he unleashed them on me. It came out as anger, resentment and blame of me, even though I had nothing to do with his childhood or his twisted A.
Any chance your H would go to IC?
I'm back here after a break and have discovered (through wonderful SI members) I may be experiencing the plain of lethal flatness (wow!). As others have said above, you writing this out really has helped to put things straight in my mind about my own situation (which you know has similarities to yours).
I'm so glad you wrote this and so glad I came back to SI today.
My FOO wasn't peachy, though, and this thread has been useful to me because one of the things I struggle with is the sense that this is all due to my inability to have normal healthy relationships because I'm so fundamentally fucked up. Frankly, I think a lot of people are here because they had terrible relationship models when they were growing up and have no idea of how to set appropriate boundaries, resolve conflict in a constructive way, or stand up for themselves. Please don't take that as blaming the victim, because it's how I think of myself. So in a sense I "blame" myself for picking a guy who clearly had issues that I was too stupid to see. OK -- now, that's how I FEEL -- essentially, that my deep fuckupedness got me in the ned. Like SG's WH, I thought I had triumphed over adversity to create a happy, healthy M and family. And now look where I am -- what kind of idiot am I, anyway? I was clearly fooling myself.
Anyway, getting back to the point: this sense that I'm doomed to a messed up life because of my own FOO is minimized a bit by hearing your stories of perfectly healthy upbringings but being equally fooled. I doubt that makes the rest of you feel better, but it does help me! So thank you.
I'm sorry about the plain of lethal flatness (the name says it all, really). I hope it'll be very much like when my family drove from D.C. to San Diego. We drove straight across endless, flat-as-a-pancake Kansas, and the whole monotonously flat eastern half of Colorado for what seemed like forever to my sixteen year old self. Then, wham, like something out of a dream, these towering, snow capped peaks loomed over us. We wound our way up, up, up into the Rocky Mountains and it was breathtaking.
I enjoy posts like yours because I know reconciliation is 100 per cent possible but only if the WH takes responsibility and commits to mending himself and his marriage. I'm very proud of FWH, he had a lot to work through, we both did, but it's been so worth it.
[This message edited by Healinggirl at 3:24 AM, November 11th (Monday)]
D Day 11 November 2012
You can't scale a mountain in a single step
I had a wonderful upbringing. My parents were loving, encouraging, and gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities. I could not have asked for a better parents.
So I thought we had similar upbringings, and in many ways, we did. Same ethnicity, same religion, same values.
But here's the difference, which came out in a recent conversation: FWH's parents were not ones to show affection--either to each other, or to their three sons. They did not believe in praise--as my FWH put it, good behavior and high achievement were expected as a matter of course, so why praise something that is not viewed as extraordinary?
My parents, on the other hand, were very affectionate (with each other and with me), and praised me for achievements.
FWH has always had an unshakeable feeling of being a failure, despite blatant evidence to the contrary on a number of levels. I now realize where this comes from.
OW thought FWH was God Almighty. I mean, she idolized him. I can see where that level of admiration must have been difficult to resist. (She is also very pretty.)
Me? I merely admired and loved him. I am fairly demonstrative, so he could not have failed to feel love and praise from me, so one of my struggles is trying to understand why that was not enough.
And now, of course, since I have exposed the A, he does feel like a failure with regard to me and our marriage, and for once, that feeling is justified. As we work our way through R, I need to be careful to praise him for good behavior, build him up. Despite my anger and hurt over the A, my heart goes out to him. He is a damaged soul.
D-Day: August 14, 2012
9 year LTA with former co-worker and family "friend"/7 years EA+PA, 2 more years EA
The frustrating thing about it, for me, is that it's not like he suppressed anything about it. It's been part of our shared story for a long time.
Well, my H didn't suppress the basic facts of his awful childhood . . . He would say, "My dad was an abusive alcoholic. He and my mom fought over who had to take the kids when they divorced." But it was as if it happened to someone else. He tried to suppress all the emotion of it: panic, helplessness, worthlessness, anger. Neither of us realized how much it had affected him. He buried the clues (insecurity, resentment, perfectionism).
I wish there were more info out there about FOO and infidelity. I knew that as the son of an alcoholic, my H was prone to codependency. But, I'm a mentally healthy woman with no addictions, and we had a marriage of equals, so I didn't think it was an issue. I knew he himself did not any drug or alcohol problems, and he is loyal to a fault. He's not flirty or touchy and never tells dirty jokes or uses sexual innuendo . . . I didn't know that he still had a huge risk factor for infidelity--FOO.
Anyway, Blobette, you're right--lousy FOO is not a curse! (Nor is "Leave it to Beaver" FOO an inoculation against fuckupedness.)
I thought I had triumphed over adversity to create a happy, healthy M and family.
You did. You created the happiest, healthiest M and family you could have with your H and his damage. With a healthy H, the sky's the limit for you!
[This message edited by sailorgirl at 6:39 PM, November 11th (Monday)]
This is not an excuse for the A. He owns that. But FOO issues create very concrete reason's Mr. LYM did not develop a sound, healthy personality. A bit of OCD, the need to be in control, and the lack of recognized boundaries hit him like a brick. His moral self is lacking and he now knows he has to be aware every single day to do better. And so do I.
Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose
don't think we can use FOO as an excuse, but we also need to be careful not to say "I was abused (or had a crappy childhood) and I didn't cheat." Unless you had the other person's experience you really can't know--there are so many variables.
A marriage is such a dynamic system its hard to make firm statements.
In our situation we both had FOO issues that led to intimacy issues pre-A. My wifes FOO coping mechanisms very much played into her ability to spawn and nurture her A....compartmentalize, deny feelings, please people, conflict avoidance.
I agree it is unhealthy to use FOO issues as an excuse, but think it a fool to ignore their influence. For someone to say they came from a ________ messed up home and it NOT affect or influence who they are push themselves into the HIGH RISK category for starting and maintaining unhealthy cycles.
My own FOO issues were buried until months of IC following my wifes A. I may have never uncovered them had I not had this trauma.
I am not grateful for my wifes A. I am just shocked at how I did not realize something so influential in my life...how I dealt with life....could have been so hidden from ME for DECADES.
It was scary....now I embrace the parts of me that are less known.
I posted recently that I am broken....but have never felt more whole. This is what I am talking about.
The pain sucks. But I am cool with that as long as I am growing. This desire to grow is what makes my pain bearable. May I never stop growing!
God be with us all.