When I read on infidelity boards, I’m always shocked to read about people’s shitty marriage counseling experiences. Not to diss all marriage counselors or the act of seeking counseling, but when it comes to infidelity, there are some serious quacks out there.
The quack experience usually goes something like this — a couple comes in and one of them is cheating/has cheated. The other one wants to save the marriage. And the shrink tells the cheater and the person gutted by infidelity that, hey, everyone is at fault here, and both people contributed to the current state of affairs (no pun intended). I assume the shrink slathers the blame around to make everyone feel equal — equal in their shame, by way of a perverse sort of welcome. I also assume this is done to win the trust of the cheater who is reluctant to be there. And the conversation goes something like, “Well now Betty, tell me the ways in which Carlton has failed you…”
Infidelity quacks seem to be operating from several flawed assumptions.
1) That people cheat because of something lacking in the other spouse.
2) That infidelity is just a symptom of larger marital issues and is not the main event worth discussing.
3) That you can “nice” people out of cheating.
Let’s take this crap point by point. 1) People cheat because something is lacking in THEM — connection, empathy, a soul. Cheating is about greediness, narcissism, and opportunity. You might actually be a crappy spouse, but you did not make your spouse cheat. That decision is on them 100%. There was a giant decision tree of available options (therapy with a non-quack, a divorce lawyer, an improving hobby) — cheating was the rotten branch they chose.
2) Once someone decides to cheat — THAT is the bullet in the marriage. THAT is the issue that needs addressing first before you get into your love languages, communication styles, and FOO shit. There is no point in discussing any of the rest of your marital relationship when one party is actively not committed to the marriage. It’s like choosing dinner selections on the Hindenburg.
3) Cheaters don’t need insight that cheating is wrong. They don’t need a shrink feeding their already inflated appetite for attention and ego kibbles by asking them about themselves and their childhood hang ups. They are grossly mistaken if they think that the cheater and the betrayed spouse want the same marriage. Because cheaters aren’t working from the same rule book. Cheaters KNOW what the rules are — they just don’t think the rules should apply to them. They need to be called out on their shit. (You can do more reading about the proper approach to therapy with disturbed characters at Dr. George Simon’s blog www.manipulative-people.com)
I had a quack experience once in marital counseling with my cheating ex. The guy just sat there impassively and asked us how we “felt” about everything. I told him about the infidelity, the rages, and how he wouldn’t agree to get an STD test. My cheater then piped up that he felt I was “punishing” him by asking for such a thing.
The shrink sat there and sagely nodded. Then told us that we needed to learn to “dialogue.”
I was so incensed that I called the practice. “I want a new shrink. This guy’s a quack. I’m married to a serial cheater. He’s a lawyer and a verbal steamroller. I need a pit bull shrink. Do you have one of those?”
The man on the other side said, yes, as a matter of fact he did. And he gave us Janet.
Janet was a tiny, Jewish woman with a New York accent that swore like a sailor and didn’t take any shit. She told my ex that he had his “head stuck up his ass,” that he was greedy, that he didn’t know what love was. She told me that I was “exquisitely codependent.” She didn’t pull any punches. She all but did a puppet show behind my ex’s head that said LEAVE HIM! LEAVE HIM NOW!
When my ex would try and give her a line about how he “didn’t remember” where he was on Christmas Day or with whom, she yelled at him “BULLSHIT! I’M A JEW. EVEN I KNOW WHAT I WAS DOING ON CHRISTMAS!”
When he would say something ridiculous (such as “I like being a narcissist!”), she would stop, pause, look at me and say ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION TO THIS? ARE YOU LISTENING? THIS IS WHO HE IS!
God love her, she wasn’t nice. She was effective. The therapy world needs more Janets.