The Betrayed Spouse Fog is a term primarily used to describe the state of mind and actions, or lack thereof, of a Betrayed Spouse who is struggling with accurately sizing up the situation before and/or after the affair is discovered. Much of this is an attempt to reduce the pain they are going through.
This article will explain the Betrayed Spouse Fog and offer suggestions for those who are experiencing it. Take heart: there are many lights to guide you through the fog.
Stages of the Betrayed Spouse Fog
Initially, the Betrayed Spouse finds recent events so traumatic and incomprehensible that they will take refuge in denial. This denial can be as minor as an immediate burst of anger and crying out “no, no, no!” or a complete refusal to accept that there is an affair at all. This self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument.
In its more moderate and commonly seen form, it is represented by a Betrayed Spouse who will Google infidelity and other affair terms compulsively, until they eventually register on a infidelity help forum. There they will post a story with many red flags, including catching their spouse in lies, yet they will continue to believe much of what the Wayward Spouse tells them. In one known instance, the Betrayed Spouse caught the Wayward Spouse and the affair partner coming out of the marital bedroom together. The Wayward Spouse insisted that he was just showing the other woman a picture that had been on the wall in there for years. In another, a Wayward Spouse was caught in the act of sex, but later insisted that the Betrayed Spouse had imagined what they had seen. In both these cases the fog was so powerful that the Betrayed Spouse needed others to point out to them the reality of their situations.
Those in the Betrayed Spouse Fog are often reluctant to utilise tools in the Betrayed Spouse’s arsenal such as exposure. They will say that it is only for the bitter person out for angry revenge. They will expend a great deal of effort shooting down sound advice from people with many years’ experience, citing that their Wayward Spouse is not like other Wayward Spouses, despite all the evidence to the contrary. In general, what they are actually hoping for is a magic bullet that will stop the affair and return their spouse as quickly as possible to the marriage, with the least amount of effort and stress. Their preference is for Marital Counseling, reading self-help books, doing the dishes more diligently, giving their Wayward Spouse foot massages, etc. — actions that have very little effect except to keep the Betrayed Spouse from focusing on the actual problem — the affair itself. They hold on to the belief there there is a magic bullet that will fix it all.
Some Betrayed Spouses will rely on denial: “I feel fine.” Or, “This can’t be happening, not to me.” Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. Denial can be a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and, unfortunately, some can become locked in this stage.
The Betrayed Spouse often presumes the worse-case scenarios. Many find the standard advice unpalatable, and feel only fear as they envision what may happen as the future unfolds. They have a tendency to re-write the history of the marriage and the Wayward Spouse, idealising both unrealistically. They may take the blame for the affair immediately after D-day with statements such as, “I may not have been the perfect spouse,” even though we all know there is no such thing. They may take the blame for the Wayward Spouse’s actions. Some Betrayed Spouses can say the most irrational and inappropriate things, including declarations of undying love to an active wayward. Some Betrayed Spouses take refuge in feeling totally helpless.
3. Befriending the Other Woman or Other Man
In some cases, the Betrayed Spouse tries to make friends with the affair partner. This effort can be an attempt to get the affair partner to realise that s/he is a “nice person” as well as to appeal to the affair partner’s “better side” to let the Wayward Spouse go, and for everything to “return to normal.” Unfortunately, most Betrayed Spouses initially struggle to grasp how very little the affair partner is considering, let alone caring about the Betrayed Spouse, including the Betrayed Spouse’s feelings or opinion of the affair. A significant portion of the Betrayed Spouse Fog is a lack of understanding of the Wayward Spouse and affair partner mindset — The Wayward Fog.
Another reason a Betrayed Spouse may try to befriend the Wayward Spouse’s Affair Partner is to try to educate him/her. This is primarily motivated by a hope that if the Betrayed Spouse can help heal the affair partner’s own marriage, the affair partner may choose to stay with his/her spouse and stop pursuing the Betrayed Spouse’s spouse.
A secondary definition of Betrayed Spouse Fog is the physiological response. The Betrayed Spouse is often in two minds over advice and can waver madly from agreement to rejection of it.
A. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
There may be a sort of haze that permeates everything for the first few weeks, causing decreased mental acuity. This is caused by a depressed limbic system. The neurotransmitters in the brain become affected by stress, which is one reason that thinking straight becomes so difficult, and often nearly impossible. In times of stress, the limbic system has the capacity to shut down the “thinking brain.” It doesn’t stop working, it just stops working effectively. More detail on the limbic system and how it responds during periods of trauma can be found on the PTSD guide here.
B. Other Physical & Mental Health Effects
There often are physical responses as well. It’s not unheard of a Betrayed Spouse losing 25-30 pounds very rapidly. It is also common to hear of a Betrayed Spouse going up to 48 hours without sleep or food. It is difficult for the mind to function when under a level of stress that leads to the body falling apart. Part of this results from the conflict caused by having trusted this individual for a considerable length of time, and some of it is fear — fear that the marriage is over, fear that any action they take will drive the Wayward Spouse to his/her Affair Partner. The Betrayed Spouse also loses faith in their thought processes and decision making, often erroneously assuming that they were wrong about the state of the marriage. Ergo, they cannot trust their judgment in any area.
C. Deception, Truth Bias
The truth bias significantly impairs the ability of relational partners to detect deception. In terms of deception, a truth bias reflects a tendency to judge more messages as truths than lies, independent of their actual veracity. When judging message veracity, the truth bias contributes to an overestimate of the actual number of truths relative to the base rate of actual truths. The truth bias is especially strong within close relationships. People are highly inclined to trust the communications of others and are unlikely to question the relational partner unless faced with a major deviation of behavior that forces a re-evaluation. When attempting to detect deceit from a familiar person or relational partner, a large amount of information about the partner is brought to mind. This information essentially overwhelms the receiver’s cognitive ability to detect and process any cues to deception. It is somewhat easier to detect deception in strangers, when less information about that person is brought to mind.
A third interpretation describes a Betrayed Spouse with a 180-degree view of actual events. Their fog is in regard to their own flaws and how that may have influenced the marital breakdown — “I’ve been such a great spouse, a perfect little angel, and I accidentally married a manipulative, hell-raising fornicator…” They can be abusive, disinterested and/or controlling, unable to accept their own contribution to the breakdown of the marriage. Many indulge in feeling victimized and wallowing in an extended pity party.
Suggested Solutions to the Betrayed Spouse Fog
1. Reality Check
Betrayed Spouse Fog due to denial is best overcome when you are slapped in the face with reality. As cliche’ as it sounds, “The first step is admitting you have a problem.” The Betrayed Spouse Fog is nowhere near as intense as the Wayward Spouse Fog, and can much more easily be overcome. But, as with any problem, the solution lies only within you, yourself.
2. Defense Against Succumbing to Over-Dramatization
Adding to the fog is the Betrayed Spouse allowing him/herself to be sucked into the drama that often surrounds an affair. The Betrayed Spouse’s efforts to move from a foggy state to a clear-headed one must be repeated over and over again, which adds to the hurt and trauma. It becomes more difficult to break with each cycle, as the habit of capitulating becomes ingrained.
The Betrayed Spouse is the one responsible for breaking this cycle, either by strengthening boundaries, by separating themselves physically from the Wayward Spouse via Plan B, or some other form of no contact. Sometimes this regression is referred to as “clock resetting.” The theory is that any contact with the Wayward Spouse resets the internal recovery clock of the Betrayed Spouse back to zero, sending them back into a state of panic and dismay. Refusing to take charge, or allowing the Wayward Spouse to woo the Betrayed Spouse just enough to get the Betrayed Spouse to stop with exposure or filing, or continuing whatever cake-eating opportunities the Wayward Spouse wants could derail any progress the Betrayed Spouse has made in personal recovery.
Anti-depressants may help. Anti-depressant medication does not numb the betrayed spouse to the crisis; it actually helps raise them above the emotional reactions that might otherwise prevent clear-headed thinking. Why go through unecessary suffering and risk the consequences of poor choices when medication is available to help ease pain and improve concentration in this time of unprecedented crisis? Additionally, they help with coping with day-to-day activities, as life continues and waits for no one. The Betrayed Spouse still needs to get up, go to work, take care of kids, aging parents, etc., in the midst of it all.
4. Stages of Grief
Whether the marriage recovers or not, there are normal stages and progressions of grief the Betrayed Spouse must go through. The following is a description of these stages, popularly known by the acronym DABDA. While this describes the grieving process in terms of a person’s death, the death of a marriage is no less traumatic, and DABDA is equally relevant.
Denial — “I feel fine.” “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
Denial is usually only a temporary defense. It is generally replaced with a heightened awareness of possessions and individuals that will be left behind after death. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become locked in this stage.
Anger — “Why me? It’s not fair!” “How can this happen to me?” “Who is to blame?”
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing grief-related anger.
Bargaining — “I’ll do anything for a few more years.” “I will give my life savings if…”
The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand I will die, but if I could just do something to buy more time…” People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example “Can we still be friends?” when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death.
Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?” “I’m going to die soon, so what’s the point?” “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the “aftermath.” It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation.
Acceptance — “It’s going to be okay.” “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”
In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event. This stage varies according to the person’s situation. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, who must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief.
5. Seek Support, Research & Evaluate Options, Learn about Tools, Make a Plan, Take Action
The Betrayed Spouse doesn’t need to try to do this alone. There are many books, web sites, and forums dedicated to infidelity, and helping the Betrayed Spouse get through it. Forums such as Marriage Advocates are made up of people who have experienced infidelity on one side of the coin or another, and are more than happy to offer support and encouragement to those who come here.
Marriage Advocates has many resources freely available for Betrayed Spouses, Wayward Spouses and Couples just wanting to make a good marriage great.