Continued from my previous post about the path to betrayal from John Gottman, PhD:” I begin seeing my partner as untrustworthy and am more likely to leave them.” If they do not have my back, if I cannot trust them, their value diminishes significantly. As their value diminishes, it becomes obvious that staying is not a wise strategy.
“I begin forming liaisons as they substitute for what is missing in the relationship, giving permission to cross small boundaries, and eventually cross bigger ones.” The person moving toward betrayal is not yet conscious of what they are doing. They are justifying their behavior to themselves even if no one else even knows what they are doing.
“You may begin to justify behavior that would otherwise repulse you. You may change your morals briefly while you are clouded by what is happening. You may feel desperate, trying to get your needs met. There is still time to turn back and yet your judgment is impaired at this point, making it a bit harder.” The person moving toward betrayal is not intentionally hurting the other. They are hurting the other, but the intent or motivation is not there. The motivation is to get their needs met. Only later do they look back at the behavior and realize what they did and how they hurt the other person. At the time, it seemed like a matter of survival to them and they simply did whatever was necessary to survive. This part of the counseling is often very confusing to the one who betrayed as well as to the one betrayed. They both feel very wronged by the other and quite misunderstood.
Taking a few steps back, it is easier to comprehend how this happened and how good people could be so self-absorbed in the situation.
I had someone accuse me of saying that an affair was therefore acceptable. Please do not confuse “understandable” with “acceptable.” The person having the affair may have had diminished capacity, they may have been unconsciously lying (“denial”) to themselves and yet they are responsible for their behavior and still need to face the results of their behavior. They always had a choice.