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Book: Cheating in a Nutshell: What Infidelity Does to the Victim

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GuyInPain posted 8/31/2020 06:07 AM

Book Review
Cheating in a Nutshell: What Infidelity Does to the Victim

I recommend to readers the book Cheating in a Nutshell: What Infidelity Does to the Victim, published in September 2019. It’s written by an advice columnist couple, Tamara and Wayne Mitchell, on the basis of 3,000 letters they’ve received. They’re not professional psychologists, but they’ve done an impressive amount of psychological and sociological research. They have an overly pessimistic view of the viability of a betrayed staying with a betrayer, but they say some things that, from my experience, I think are true:
– Infidelity marks an indelible before and after in a marriage.
– Most memories fade, but trauma memories are unique in not fading.
– Staying with a betrayer is biologically as well as emotionally counter-intuitive.
– DAST is the natural reaction to betrayal: Disgust, Anger, Suspicion, Trauma.
– Reports of post-betrayal marriage improvement are probably false or exaggerated.

Among many sobering and sometimes devastating resonances I find in Cheating in a Nutshell is this: 80% of relationships where cheating occurs end – relationships, not marriages. So, yes, while research suggests that only 30% of marriages end after cheating, when cheating occurs while unmarried people are ‘dating’ or in a ‘longterm relationship’ or ‘living together’ – well, they do the obvious: end the relationship.

Cheating in a Nutshell is a tough and well-researched book that counsels victims of cheating to leave those relationships because they will never recover. The authors’ arguments are well made and powerful. However, while they uncover lots of important truths along the way, they don’t have the whole truth. There are just too many of us who have made a go of it after suffering adultery. But the book does reaffirm the hard lines of some truths: Adultery is abuse. A marriage will never be the same. Trust can never be rebuilt entirely. The reactions that many betrayed spouses feel are not the result of personality peculiarities but are built into the human organism biologically.

Here are some particular insights:

– Degrees of trauma correlate with sources: Trauma from natural disasters like earthquake, fire, flood, heart attacks. Trauma from inadvertent human action, like many car collisions. Trauma from deliberate human action, like assault, murder, workplace intrigue. But trauma from deliberate human action by an intimate, by someone whom you have let into your inner sanctum of intimacy, is the most severe and searing – here is where adultery fits. It’s why in virtually all societies divorce is accepted for adultery.

– Trauma treatment typically includes removing victim from the scene and assuring the victim that they are no longer in that situation despite the dreams, flashbacks and so on. But when an adultery victim stays in the marriage they are staying at the scene of the crime and staying with the perpetrator of the crime. So it’s no wonder that staying in the marriage is not only difficult but that the flashbacks, the replaying, and the struggle with relationship continue indefinitely.

– Lying: ‘A lie is an assumption of power over another. A lie is an assault that attacks not only the dignity of the other person but also their physical and mental wellbeing. A lie steals power from the one deceived. It reduces their alternatives. It causes the betrayed person to act as they never would have acted had they known the truth. A liar deliberately feeds inaccurate information, and when there are children, the lies reverberate in their lives as well. As ethicist Sissela Bok says, ‘The greater the actual gap between role and reality, the more constant the need for concealment.’ The more the concealment and the longer the concealment, the greater the damage. . . . Infidelity wounds because it is an attack from the human being with the highest level of access to our private, personal, intimate information. No one else possesses that kind of knowledge or that kind of power.’

– The authors deconstruct forgiveness as commonly understood as saying, ‘People who do bad things always get to win.’ And: ‘I gave as a victim, and now you are telling me to give again. That puts me in a way to be victimized a second time.’ Yes, give up the resentment, but also exit the relationship, otherwise your cheating alarm will always be on. And: ‘More forgiving spouses experience a constant level of psychological and physical aggression from their partner. Less forgiving spouses saw aggression from their partner decline over time.’

– ‘How people manage to stay, and the likely answer is through cognitive distortion. People often stay with a cheater by kidding themselves about their own and his or her motives. They also stay by trying to accommodate to the pain they feel and making it the new normal.’

As a betrayed spouse, I’m committed to healing and reconciling in my marriage, and my wife and I have made a lot of progress. Cheating in a Nutshell argues otherwise, and I disagree with the authors’ pessimistic conclusion. Nevertheless their insights are helpful for us betrayed spouses to keep in mind.


LadyG posted 8/31/2020 06:50 AM

Great Book Review.

In a Nutshell, the authors are spot on about what I have and still am experiencing after staying in a marriage far too long.

TheLostOne2020 posted 8/31/2020 07:44 AM

Does the book give any insight on how to recover?

GuyInPain posted 8/31/2020 09:56 AM

To Lost One 2020: No, this book does not give insight about recovery within a marriage because the authors do not believe recovery is possible within the marriage. For them, the only route to recovery is to leave the marriage. Moreover, they believe that efforts to recover within the marriage are futile & that marriage counselors who try to help people recover within the marriage are selling a false product. They're pretty severe!

As I said in the review, I don't agree with their pessimism, but I do appreciate how they highlight lots of important issues with a hard edge.

You, Lost One, have exited your marriage. The authors of this book would say you've done the right thing & that you've taken the only viable route to recovery for yourself.

I'm still in my marriage & I intend to continue married 'until death do us part.' Staying is not easy, for I continue to struggle with the wounds, but it's been the right route for me, I think my recovery will continue through the rest of my life & I expect the scars will never disappear.

Clearly lots of other victims of adultery are staying in their marriages & are experiencing substantial levels of fulfillment, as am I. So that's where I disagree with the authors of this book. Again, though, I found they had lots of important things to say, hence my positive recommendation.

GuyInPain posted 8/31/2020 09:57 AM

To Lost One 2020: No, this book does not give insight about recovery within a marriage because the authors do not believe recovery is possible within the marriage. For them, the only route to recovery is to leave the marriage. Moreover, they believe that efforts to recover within the marriage are futile & that marriage counselors who try to help people recover within the marriage are selling a false product. They're pretty severe!

As I said in the review, I don't agree with their pessimism, but I do appreciate how they highlight lots of important issues with a hard edge.

You, Lost One, have exited your marriage. The authors of this book would say you've done the right thing & that you've taken the only viable route to recovery for yourself.

I'm still in my marriage & I intend to continue married 'until death do us part.' Staying is not easy, for I continue to struggle with the wounds, but it's been the right route for me, I think my recovery will continue through the rest of my life & I expect the scars will never disappear.

Clearly lots of other victims of adultery are staying in their marriages & are experiencing substantial levels of fulfillment, as am I. So that's where I disagree with the authors of this book. Again, though, I found they had lots of important things to say, hence my positive recommendation.

Cooley2here posted 8/31/2020 15:10 PM

They have an advice column that covers many areas of human behaviors. I have followed them for years.

There is an old opinion article titled Lying by Jonathan Wallace. It covers lies in all situations. It is The best expression of why we hate lying in all forms. He published in Ethical Spectacle in 2000.

There is also an article by Anna Fels in the New York Times from years ago. Both cover cheating.

gmc94 posted 8/31/2020 19:26 PM

Thanks for the blurb GuyInPain

And thanks to Cooley for the Wallace piece. I'd read the Fels piece shortly after dday (I think it's called Great Betrayals) and found it resonated quite a bit. But I'd not seen/heard of the Wallace piece and man oh man did it hit the nail, so to speak.

sundance posted 9/23/2020 17:52 PM

Interesting. Thank you for posting.

steadychevy posted 9/25/2020 19:34 PM

I've read this book and actually used points out of it in posts I've made on threads. I believe it is the most accurate book or article I've read about what adultery does to the victim. I highly, highly recommend it.

[This message edited by steadychevy at 4:50 PM, September 26th (Saturday)]

Striver posted 9/26/2020 18:07 PM

Honestly, if I'm writing a book, I'm only recommending R for extenuating circumstances. Kids, money, etc. That is the general case.

BSes here in R who want to stump that there specific case is fantastic, that is their business. Writers write to a general audience. Generally, R is not so good. Specifically, not married, no kids, it's often a disaster.

Thumos posted 10/6/2020 00:09 AM

Welp seems to line up pretty well with my experience! I need to check this book out. Seems to confirm the thread I recently started “adultery as abuse” and confirms the logical pathway I’ve walked through the last four years. As painful as it will be for my kids I’m looking forward to getting free and clear of this!

Thumos posted 10/6/2020 21:38 PM

I’m now halfway thru this book - it’s concise, well written, and well researched. Hard to argue with the conclusions.

Thanks for the recommendation!

I heartily recommend this book and it was very calming to read. It made me realize my own conclusions are sound, my feelings are completely valid and correct and backed by science — I’m on the right track and headed to a better life.

[This message edited by Thumos at 9:41 PM, October 6th (Tuesday)]

Thumos posted 10/7/2020 11:03 AM

Finished this last night and posted a long set of observations in another thread here on SI. This was an excellent book and a much needed antidote to bad advice on reconciliation. Thanks very much to the authors for coming out with it!

TX1995 posted 10/7/2020 11:52 AM

So should I read this if I *want* R but am stuck? I want R because I currently am living with someone who is what he was supposed to be when I married him (vulnerable, honest, invested, puts me and the family above everything and everyone including his parents and family, willing to do anything and everything I ask, etc.). R would be best for my children, period. I also am not at a place PTSD wise where I could emotionally handle a divorce, separation from my children, getting a job (I SAH), him dating other people, etc.

However, it remains that he screwed his co-worker and lied to me about it for two years post DDay. I hate myself for wanting to stay.

I guess what I'm asking is, I *know* what it does to a victim. I am the victim. I cannot shower, pray, meditate, journal or be in my head in peace. Will this book give any nuggets that are helpful? Sounds like it was helpful to you, Thumos, and validation of your choice. Or will it make me feel worse than I already do for staying?

Thumos posted 10/7/2020 13:08 PM

Will this book give any nuggets that are helpful? Sounds like it was helpful to you, Thumos, and validation of your choice. Or will it make me feel worse than I already do for staying?

I can’t say it will make you feel worse, but it won’t make you feel better.

It didn’t make me feel worse about staying for four years. Not at all. In fact I found it very calming and it made me feel at peace.

Also as a betrayed you obviously know about the terrible stew of emotions you’re in — but this book will help you make much better sense of it and get some clarity. I wouldn’t say it offers nuggets. The whole book is a wisdom book.

I found it very insightful and affirming. I think you will too. They don’t try to guilt people for staying — they will just bring a tremendous amount of clarity and help you see what you’re really signing up for.

[This message edited by Thumos at 1:12 PM, October 7th (Wednesday)]

TX1995 posted 10/7/2020 15:00 PM

Thanks Thumos, that is helpful. I think I will give it a read.

Thumos posted 10/8/2020 17:14 PM

However, it remains that he screwed his co-worker and lied to me about it for two years post DDay. I hate myself for wanting to stay.

I guess what I'm asking is, I *know* what it does to a victim. I am the victim. I cannot shower, pray, meditate, journal or be in my head in peace.

I am sorry this is happening and I can certainly relate. I used to pray, meditate and journal. I can’t do any of these activities now. Hopefully in the future. I can also relate to the inner struggle of staying and the self loathing. I don’t have any great answers — just wanted you to know I’m thinking about it and understand how hard it is.

DevastatedDee posted 10/15/2020 11:01 AM

I'm halfway through this book, Thumos. You sold it well, lol. It rings quite true to me. All the anger, disgust, etc. I did not feel true to myself from DDay until I walked out that door into my new home. All the pieces of myself came together when my actions lined up with my feelings. Nothing else could have made me whole again.

Stinger posted 10/15/2020 16:45 PM

I found their website a long time ago. Now, I am anxious to get their book.

I remember they made the point that, instinctively, we all want to be loved by our spouse exclusively. Now, we know that is no longer possible. Thus, the recommendation to get out. A betrayed knows with certainty that their spouse does not love him or her exclusively.

inthedarkness posted 10/20/2020 10:01 AM

In reading the synopsis given by GuyinPain, I could see myself over the whole process of trying to save my marriage. And their resolution is to bail on the marriage.

I did bail on the marriage, but I didn't get divorced though I went through the initial steps. I realized I just don't care about anything much anymore. I don't care if he's here or if he goes. But he won't leave because he says he really loves me now and is all in after some 30 years. Sure he has a lot of issues but they really didn't become obvious to me until he couldn't placate me anymore after I had had enough. In a nutshell, I got tired of being disrespected, he distanced himself and mentally checked out of the marriage that he was half-in anyway.

I loved the man I thought he was, I ignored certain issues and let them go until I couldn't do it anymore. The secret relationship (of which I just don't have the proof to foster a confession) will always be that he did do it but I just can't prove it and he'll never admit it. Trying to get to the truth and seeing who he really was left me to think - Why am I doing this anymore? Do I want to live with someone who isn't real and honest? How much pain do I have to deal with and why am I pleading with someone to care about me who simply doesn't (regardless of what he says)?

So I can see the point they make to leave as realistic and in the best interest of the betrayed. I also suggest that people do it before they are so worn down that they are numb to living.

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