Is an affair an addiction?
I realize the futility of trying to explain my STBX’s behavior, but still would like to know your opinion about the claims that all this cake eating is some kind of addiction. Although new to CN, (D-Day Memorial Day), I have lived with people suffering from addiction most of my life. With that said, I do have some opinions of my own on the matter.
For me, there are some similarities. The compulsive, wreckless behaviors can feel the same. The secrecy, frequent dissapearances, missing money, excuses, and broken promises all remind me of the using and relapses I’ve witnessed.
I suppose there was even the possibilty of cheating during some of his week long cocaine binges, but it was lost on me back then. We both spent 10 years in 12 step recovery programs and I honestly felt we had worked hard on overcoming our own issues. I do think of addiction as an illness and see many of those behaviors as consequences of the illness. Much of it even seemed unintentional, since it went away during sobriety.
What is different, for me about his cheating is the whole devaluation process. It is so intentional and targeted. He is directly out to cause me harm (so far just emotional and financial). The look on his face as he detaches from me and the kids and the incessant complaing about how awful everything is here, it’s like he’s removed from reality. It’s like he becomes a totally different person. It’s totally creepy and seems nothing like his using behavior. So I have trouble referring to this new abhorent behavior as an addiction.
What I’m really disturbed and apalled by is that he is using his years in recovery to pick up women who are new to recovery at meetings. I suspect he is masquerading as some enlightened hero willing to help with sobriety (in exchange for sex). Hopefully someone catches on and does something to keep people at their meetings safe from him.
In the end, even if this question nags on my conscience, I have decided I am not willing to live with someone who behaves like this. If this is a new addiction, it is not one I’m willing to live with. I filed for divorce and am doing my best to stay sane while I decide if I want to battle over the house or leave.
This is an untangling the skein of fuckupedness question. You’re trying to make sense of his self-destruction, selfishness, and downright cruelty. Been there, done that, give me the chip.
As someone who’s has had substance abuse problems yourself, the addiction lens is understandable. And there is a lot of language around infidelity that likens affairs to addictions. Cheaters are in the “fog.” They need to grieve their affairs partners, it’s like detox, etc.
I absolutely do not doubt that there are neurotransmitter issues in play — that affairs are highs, that thrill seeking feels manic and wonderful, and that once you’ve brain-wired manipulative behaviors, they come quite naturally.
But I also believe in moral agency — that you know who you are hurting, but you just don’t care.
Addicts and cheaters do a cost-benefit analysis — what they want (drugs, money, sex) versus your well-being. Their wants win out every time. Addicts are completely cognizant of this cost-benefit analysis, thus the secrecy, thus the lying, thus the anger and indignation when you confront and and try to take away their opiate.
IMO, what cheaters and addicts have in common is narcissism. MY pleasure is more important. MY pain needs medicating (who gives a fuck about your pain? Did I create more pain? Let’s not dwell on that, give me another hit!) And cheaters and addicts shove all the responsibility on to the chumps who love them. Hey, cheater/addict is checked out. Guess who gets to pay the bills, show up for the school concert, and watch the children? Chumps.
Scharklady — I don’t know if cheaters are addicts. That’s a question for the professionals. Who knows what the Venn diagram is between addiction, personality disorder, and mental illness. What I do know from personal, painful experience with both, is that they are NOT available for relationships. And the healthy thing to do in these situations is DETACH. Detach with love, or without love, but SAVE yourself. Which is exactly what you’re doing. Good for you.
A couple more thoughts on this. First, the language around addiction and affairs bothers me because when we label things a syndrome, like “sex addiction” it gives chumps a framework of illness. Which seems to absolve cheaters of moral responsibility for their choices. Oh, they’re just sick. I need to stick this out! In sickness and in health! I can save this! We’ll just find the right doctor! They can’t help it!
In my opinion, yes, they can help it. They choose not to help it. I think the addiction model can keep chumps stuck in helper mode.
If you think in terms of addiction, how do you explain the devaluing? Oh, they just get ugly when you threaten their kibbles? It’s not Bob who is insulting me, it’s his addicted brain! He doesn’t mean it! And if he were sober, he’d be nice again! (Or maybe Bob is an entitled asshole who will treat you like shit, sober or drunk? Faithful or unfaithful? Because Bob values Bob most highly.)
Second, if anyone is an addict here, IMO, it’s chumps.
Kicking a cheater out is like kicking a drug. I don’t know how it is for cheaters quitting affair partners. Maybe we share some neurotransmitters there, but I know that when I was going through it eons ago, even as I was doing the most insane things — taking him back, having sex with him, spackling over or just outright denying his ridiculous lies — I KNEW I WAS DOING IT. I knew intellectually it was wrong. It hurt like a motherfucker. And I did it anyway. I needed a hit from that hopium pipe. I needed that validation from the person who was devaluing me. I needed the tiny, precious, kibble scrap he was throwing at me.
And when I got that tiny, precious, kibble scrap? It was HUGE. The high was so very high.
And the lows were so devastatingly low.
How did I break the cycle? With sheer mental fortitude and a lot of online and real life support. The big breakthrough, however, was no contact. I had to kick the drug. The person I was devaluing as an addict was myself.
You’ve filed for divorce. You’re kicking the cheater habit. I applaud you.
This one ran previously. I had a very late night writing about Thaddeus Stevens.