Dealing with a Major Personal Crisis/Crisis

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The personal account below is not posted in Main or Discussion directly but here because it contains personal details the author does not want to be directly trackable to himself via a trivial Google search. The author is aware that linking and Wiki functions allow to make this connection but assumes that this will more likely happen only by persons who know him and his story anyway. Please respect this wish and don't mention the authors name in a link to this page. You are free to cite parts of this as per this Wikis license. You may of course make typographical corrections or add/correct links and references.


Back to Dealing with a Major Personal Crisis

Crisis

On an unplanned occasion she met a young man and they both fell in love. She didn't hide it from me, told me how happy she was to have met him. I misinterpreted it as a fleeting liaison of which there had been a few harmless ones before. But it wasn't. An escalating circle set in of talking about it, getting positive feedback, attention, making the best out of it, sadness, trying to limit the scope of it, appeal, jealousy, talking about consequences, desperation, begging, her retreat.

It was a development in weekly steps where the crisis deepened followed by a small success (when I achieved some understanding or concession) followed by a further deepening spiraling down.

The few interspersed family therapy sessions didn't help. The therapist couldn't follow the speed of the development. We/I were continuously behind retelling events and getting little help.

I thought every free minute about us during this time and wrote it down. I knew exactly what I wanted and how the situation objectively (or rather superficially) developed including the trouble spots - I just was always behind it a few days when she progressed further. I didn't have the initiative and could only react.

I remembered that she had had doubts from the beginning and that I wasn't her dream lover but dependable steady rock and that that might be at odds with what she had missed. I also rationalized the situation especially noting positive effects for us/her e.g. that she lost her depression and stopped displacement activities and was more affectionate toward me (initially). I also reasoned that I couldn't hold it against her because strictly she hadn't done anything wrong, been open and honest and it was a risk (not keeping her from flirting) I had taken knowingly.

I browsed online for advice and found (among others less matching) an online tale (German) which asked

* Why did you neglect her?

Did I? I had to assume that I did. At least in some part. It made me pay more attention and show more affection.

* Is she only interesting because you could lose her?

I had to admit that the crisis had rekindled my love for her. I burned as in the first year. But she wasn't interesting only because I could lose her. Interesting she had been all the time.

* You overlooked the option that she moves out and the children stay with you.

I took this advice and looked into rights and concluded that I had all the rights to stay and exclude her new one from our home. That advice was the key to getting initiative back later.

* Can you see both of you are jointly caring parents?

This I could. I found that this part of our relationship, this shared common goal wasn't actually compromised by this change. She clearly wanted to continue this - even if not with me on her side. We could still follow this path even if not as a unit as before. I only realized this quite some time later though.

I enumerated logical options for the relationship:

  • One relationship ends
  • Polyamorous relationship
  • We endure the tension

And ways her liaison could end:

  • Patiently wait till it abates
  • Urge her for more time for us
  • Force the choice between him and me (assuming at that point that she would choose me)
  • Urge her to end the liaison
  • Sabotage her contacts with him
  • Find help to break their relationship

The last two options I had heard of but didn't pursue.

Approaches Tried

What I tried/did during this time?

I did

  • focus full attention to all she said and did. This gave no clear results but it probably helped to be aware of the situation.
  • show signs of love, fondness, affection. It turned her away ("too much").
  • Write poems. Was seen as imitating him (though they were totally different).
  • explain the consequences it will have on all of us. It was seen as pressuring her with consequences.
  • ask for a pause, for time to heal. It was refused ("can't stand it").
  • beg and appeal.
  • cry and break down.

All in all I couldn't reach her and couldn't understand that I couldn't reach her.

I compromised assuming that a healthy balance for us could be reached. But it couldn't.

At some time I let him into our house to learn to know him. To explore the relationship option space. But I couldn't stand it. Him and her together and me out. She asked me on and off about it but I couldn't stand it for any extended period. It just didn't work.

After the fourth week I couldn't sleep more than four hours a day being too agitated.

After the fifth week I developed heart palpitation.

When she left in the fourth week she called relatives to look after me (without telling me). I was furious about her taking the easy way out. But it did help. It gave comfort and a way to get out of my circling toughts. That was the start of a reversal of the trend (even though the bottom was not yet reached).

All in all I lost over 6kg in the six weeks of the crisis and slept on average 5 hours a day (instead of about 7).

The crisis phase ended with continuous agitation and traces of suicide thoughts rationalized as "if he (her new one) replaces me and I only interfere, it might be best for the children if it is short and they all get the insurance". I couldn't live on this way.

Emotions

I am usually very balanced and this carried over to the crisis. I was torn but I was also calm a lot. I didn't fall into anger much and never into hat. Hate would have been stupid because it would have destroyed too much for no comparable reason.

Excessive jealousy would have been ridiculous but the jealousy I felt was appropriate. I considered polyamory. I didn't rule it out on moral grounds. But my feelings of jealousy about their behavior didn't allow it. It tore me. I don't know whether it had been different if she had loved us both equally.


Lessons

My individual lessons from this phase (caution: these may not generalize):

  • Random events can trigger a latent relationship issue (a kind of tipping point).
  • Write a diary in emotionally hard times.
  • Call for help early. Don't think that you can and have to solve this alone.
  • Look for advice. Consider all the advice you get. Choose advice carefully.
  • If you want to use professional help in such a crisis make sure to
    • find an experienced professional
    • have at least weekly sessions for both of you
    • (Note that this is different from help to generally improve marital satisfaction, what we set out to before the crisis.)

During the beginning of this phase I looked up research on falling in love and jealousy. I found out that infatuation has as one effect increased nerve growth and thus feared that the longer it took the more she would learn and adapt to him (and more away from me) thus the harder it would get for me to win her back.

Quotes and References

Quotes and references (found sprinkled in my diary):

We consistently find – across both men and women – that meals elicit more jealousy than face-to-face interactions that do not involve eating, such as having coffee.
Neuroimaging studies have found that being rejected, even by a stranger, activates many of the same regions in the brain as when experiencing physical pain.
Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the same principles that lead an infant to become attached to his or her mother or father – or both.
The chemicals triggered that are responsible for passionate love and long-term attachment love seem to be more particular to the activities in which both persons participate rather than to the nature of the specific people involved.
The long-term attachment felt after the initial "in love" passionate phase of the relationship ends is related to oxytocin, a chemical released after orgasm.[14] Moreover, novelty triggers attraction. Even exercising for several minutes can make one more attracted to other people on account of increased heart rate and other physiological responses
the role of the limbic system in love, attachment and social bonding. [...] our nervous systems are not self-contained, but rather demonstrably attuned to those around us and those with whom we are most close.

Continue to Dealing with a Major Personal Crisis/Catharsis.