Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mind Movies: Stop the Endless Sex Tapes

Master Mu is a stone Zen cat that sits on my desk. He's kitschy...but I love what he represents: Stillness. Serenity. Awakening. A way out of suffering. (And, perhaps, too much disposable income?)
But especially that one about a way out of suffering. Master Mu comes complete with a little booklet that offers up a whole lotta common sense in its teensy pages. Master Mu tells the story of a girl who didn't finish her homework. She tosses in bed, worried and anxious about what will happen in school the next morning when her teacher finds out. Her mother will get mad if she gets out of bed so she thinks her only choice is to stress about it. Until! Until it dawns on her that, right now, she's not in trouble. Right now, she's in her cosy bed. Tomorrow, she will suffer when her teacher finds out. But that's tomorrow. Why suffer dozens of times over when we can only suffer once, suggests Master Mu.

What does this have to do with the endless loop of mind movies we betrayed wives all too often subject ourselves to? You know the ones! The ones that serve absolutely no purpose and likely have no basis in reality because nobody, not even porn stars, can have the type of passionate, agile, continuous sex that we imagine our spouses engaged in.

So please, stop doing this to yourself. And you are doing this to yourself. Your spouse may have hurt you with his betrayal...but you're now hurting yourself over and over and over.

Try these ideas:
Imagine a huge red stop sign every time your mind starts to go down the path that ends with your husband having sex with someone else. Or whispering I love yous. Or whatever particularly fetid fantasy you have. If you can, give yourself a stern out-loud "Stop!" It might take a few times (or a few dozen times) but eventually the stopping will become automatic and you'll be able to head-off your thought process before it takes you somewhere dark.

Or consider wearing an elastic band around your wrist and giving it a good snap whenever you start to think things that damage your psyche.

You can replace the mind movies in which you play voyeur to your spouse's affair with something that feels empowering. Remember that constantly focusing on the "other" – spouse, other woman, whatever – disempowers you. One thing that worked for me was replacing my mental sex tapes with mind movies of me behind the wheel of my car chasing the OW naked down the road. I imagined the fear on her face. I imagined her flabby butt jiggling. I knew, of course, that I would never do such a thing. But imagining it always ended up making me giggle. Which was a helluva improvement over the tears that the other mind movies elicited.
If you're a better person than I and can't fathom imagining inflicting pain and/or humiliation on the OW, try a mind movie of you doing something that makes you feel good: winning an award, running a marathon, hanging with your kids. Anything that replaces painful images with positive ones.

Have you been able to successfully control mind movies? Share your success story...or your hopefully-soon-success story with us. 


  1. I just want you all to know that I am a male, married for 7 1/2 years, who also was left for the embraces of another person she had known for a month. Sex after a month of knowing someone. When you're still married, legally, but agreeing to separate.

    Now we're trying to work it out, back together... but this is killing me. The last man she slept with was him. She doesn't want to touch me... even though I want more than anything to work it out.
    These inner sex tapes are killing me, making me succumb to long bouts of crying when alone... making me alternately angry and regretful.

    Thanks for your post. Hopefully this will help.

  2. I'm so sorry for what you're going through. It's truly excruciating, isn't it?
    You say she's back with you and that you're hoping to work it out. What is she doing to deserve you taking her back? Is she expressing remorse for what she did? Will she talk with you candidly about why? Are you seeking counselling to figure out how to ensure she doesn't do this again? She's violated your trust and, in order to earn it back, she's the one who should be honest and compassionate and doing what she can to help you heal. If she's not willing to do that, then I don't think there's much hope at this point for your marriage. Is she still deep in the fog? Does she still think the affair was wonderful? It can take awhile for spouses to snap out of it – to truly absorb the pain they caused and that the affair was two self-absorbed people acting selfishly.
    In the meantime, are you doing anything to help yourself? I think, for men, the sex can be a killer. To imagine your wife with another man can make you feel emasculated. Please remember that there's no excuse for her choice to go outside your marriage. She, like most married men who have affairs, probably liked the vision of herself in another's eyes. She could reinvent herself with someone who didn't live with her day in and day out. But it's a fantasy...and can't possibly be sustained.
    Do what you can to focus on something – anything – other than the mind movies, which really are you simply hurting yourself over and over. She's already done what she did...but don't beat yourself over the head with it. Do you have friends you can lean on? Family members who can help you through? It's crucial to have support.
    And good luck. I hope you're able to find peace, either with her or without her.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I read it at the edge of my seat. Any little advice helps.

    See, she feels she committed no ethical or moral breach, as "(she) had already told (me) (she) didn't want to be with (me)" and "didn't think we were getting back together." So in her view it was I who should have let go but who wouldn't let go. I knew she was dating him... I couldn't do anything about it! We were separated at the time, but it was new, and frightening.

    She and I talked via text message (I was living with my parents) and she said that she wanted me to come over on some silly threadbare pretext, like "pick up this book that came in the mail for you." It was then that she told me that she wanted me to move back in, and to be married. This was two weeks after she had f*cked this other guy. She told me that she loves me and wants to be married to me forever, that she had tried to pray for guidance and all that would fall out of her mouth was "Give me the strength to do what's right, to go back to my husband."

    I don't know what to think. She falls into bouts of intense clinical depression... she has been really depressed and robotic lately, wishing only to watch movies.

    The plot thickens... in 16 days I leave for four months to go back to grad school. She has insisted upon staying here across the country, and has insisted she will be faithful... asserting that she has always been faithful to me while we were still together (conveniently editing out the emotional affair that initiated the entire separation crisis.)

    So, so tired and confused. And yes, certainly, emasculated. My own wife doesn't want me, and needs divine strength to face the day at my side.

    Tortured in Texas

  4. Texas, It's my personal conviction that, until she gets her depression under control, putting your marriage back together is going to be a challenge. She might even have used the affair as a sort of self-medication, a way to to feel something beyond despair. That's not to say it's okay...but I think many depressed people use extreme behaviour to cope.
    In any case, are you getting any counselling yourself to help you deal with this? It's traumatizing (and that's not a word I would throw around unless I absolutely believed it) to discover infidelity and can create all sorts of tangential issues – lack of sleep, depression, inability to focus... With you heading back to school, you really need to ensure that your head is on straight. Please find someone you can speak to.
    Regarding your comment that you wish there was something for men like this site, please check out There's a thread on that site that is exclusively for men. You have to register but you can use a fake name – most do. Then click on the I Can Relate thread and scroll down until you find the Betrayed Men section. There you'll find lots of men who know exactly how you feel. You might not always agree with them, but you'll likely recognize their pain and perhaps learn from them as well. There used to be a couple of really wise souls in that section that had helped a lot of men.
    Of course, you're completely welcome to continue to read and post here. Either way, please know you're not alone and you will get through this.

  5. I was really bad about obsessive mind movies (aren't all of us Betrayed Spouses?). I had to put a stop to it. My therapist told me to think of a safe and empowering place, maybe men fawning over me. Here's what I came up with: I imagine myself surrounded by my support team (all the people who know what's going on in my marriage and are supportive of me). I imagine that my husband is across from me, facing me, sometimes with the OW standing beside him. Then in my mind, I start placing my support team in designated positions around me, with the most angry and fierce in front of me facing my husband. These would be my brother, a good friend, my BFF's husband, etc, while others such as my BFF, sister-in-law, another friend who is also a Betrayed Spouse, would be by my side comforting me. All are telling my husband to STOP hurting me. They're protecting me. Imaging this makes me feel strong and loved.

    Now that I'm in reconciliation, the mind movies have diminished, but if I start obsessing, I think about my tasks at work the next day, I plan my day, errands I need to run, etc. Boring, but at least I distract myself and feel like I'm getting something done!



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