Thursday, August 18, 2011

You're Getting Warmer...or Not

Martha Beck advises those of us struggling to make tough decisions (like perhaps, whether to forgive a cheating spouse? whether to stay in the marriage? whether to tell people what's happening?) to treat life like a game of "you're getting hotter, you're getting colder..."
My seven-year-old daughter LOVES that game. Ya know the one where one of you think of something or hides something and, as you try and figure out what it is, the other player helps you along by advising you whether or not you're getting close (hotter) or further away (colder).
Beck's approach is a good one for those of us whose minds are so muddled by the shock and trauma of discovering that our lives aren't what we thought they were that we can barely decide what to make for dinner. If we can find someway and somewhere to get still, most of us can identify a physical response to various questions – a sort of internal "you're getting warmer..." reaction.
It will likely take practice. Once dealt the blow of betrayal, your internal radar can often malfunction. Post-trauma, you might find yourself reacting in extreme ways to benign circumstances. The dog barks suddenly, for example, and you respond with a heart-pumping, car-lifting adrenaline surge. Again, that's where you need to be still and get back in touch with your gut/intuition/wisdom/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. It's there. It might need dusting off from years of neglect. You might need to apologize to it for ignoring its sage guidance. But if you take the time to refamiliarize yourself, it will be more than happy to play the game with you.
Do I want to leave? How does that feel in your gut? Terrifying? Liberating? Terrifyingly liberating? If you picture yourself on your own, how does that feel?
Can I forgive him? Getting warmer? Colder? Can you picture a marriage (forget for the moment how you're going to achieve it) in which the two of you are happy and fulfilled? Or is your gut freezing up at the possibility?
Get the idea? Give it a try...and let us know what you find by posting here.


  1. Mahoney (the keyboard warrior)August 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM


    I haven't read very much of this blog, but I was very intrigued by your post on "hysterical bonding". I would have never expected to think a large amount of women have an insatiable urge for sex with their husband so soon after discovering his adultery.

    I wanted to ask you, after this period of "hysterical bonding" was over was they any break whatsoever before you and your husband returned to a more or less normal sex life?

  2. Hysterical bonding is one of those weird post-infidelity things that seems counter-intuitive and, therefore, confuses a lot of us. And I think there are a number of reasons for it, not least of which is the comfort of physical intimacy in the midst of emotional pain.
    In my case, hysterical bonding gave way to a period of abstinence – once the "hysterical" part was over, I had a really hard time keeping the OW out of my head when I was in bed, which pretty much killed any desire. To be honest, four years later, I still struggle with it and my husband and I continue to work through it. Whether we'll achieve physical intimacy remains to be seen. Some days I'm hopeful...others not so much. Factor in other issues, such as his use of anti-depressants (which affects desire), my peri-menopause, death of my mother, life with three busy kids...well, you get the idea. I think each of us follows a different path back to "normal"...if we get there at all. Normal will forever be altered, I think, but with healing I think we can achieve a better "normal."

  3. Hi Elle - I just found your blog and have read every single post within 2 days! You capture the horrific experience of infidelity with eloquence, humor, optimism, realism, & humor. Now 7+ months into this nightmare, I felt & feel so much of what & how you've written about, from the hysterical bonding to the masochistic obsession about the OW, to the shock about a passifist (me) feeling violent (toward him) to the revelation that I as well as my relationship might end up in a much healthier place after working through this unusual-yet-all-too-common mess. It's like you're reading my mind (well, a much more succinct version of my mind)! Heading into the long US Labor Day weekend, I wanted to thank you for the courage to share yourself -- your true self -- with us. I look forward to more posts and to joining in this really important dialogue!

  4. Thank-you! Though our circumstances often vary, the feelings we go through are eerily similar. Yet they're hard to discuss with friends who simply can't imagine. Glad you found our club...sorry you had to. :{
    I look forward to your comments – the more we all share, the less alone (and crazy!) we'll feel.



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