Tag Archives: Disloyal Spouse

How did my disloyal spouse become the VICTIM? ~D.A.R.V.O

victim

As a loyal spouse, have you ever wondered at the painful, destructive, abusive things your disloyal spouse says or does to you during their affair yet somehow they turn it all around and blame YOU, so that they become the victim and they are justified in their adultery?

Have you ever wondered how disloyal spouses convince their friends, their family,and sometimes even church leaders  and their parents,  that they are the innocent one but you are a BEAST?

Has your disloyal spouse screamed at you for HOURS and blamed their actions on “a tone in your voice” but never stopped to consider that if a tone justifies how they act…what must hours of screaming justify?

As coaches involved in marriage and recovery after infidelity, David and I come across this phenomenon fairly regularly and the loyal spouse rarely understands how it is possible to do that.  How could anyone look at the situation and spin it so that the one committing adultery is the victim?  Clearly the one who has been cheated on is the casualty, right?  Not on the one did the cheating?  So how do they do it?

It’s a concept that was first “named” D.A.R.V.O. in the 1990’s by Dr.  Jennifer Freyd–so note: this is not a concept taken directly from the Bible, but rather a way of giving a name to the method guilty parties use to spin reality so that they are victim. D.A.R.V.O stands for “Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim Order”…so you can see that in just one acronym it identifies exactly the procedure a disloyal spouse uses. D.A.R.V.O. is not UN-biblical; it’s just a way of labeling or naming the technique that the disloyal spouses use, and thus it’s a way of identifying it for loyal spouses.  Our hope in sharing this is so that when D.A.R.V.O. is practiced on you, you’ll recognize it and have the tools to deal with it.

So let’s go into what each letter of  D.A.R.V.O. means.

DENY–by definition, denial is “the statement or the action of declaring something to be untrue.”  Denial in psychological circles is a defense mechanism in which facing reality is avoided by denying the existence of the reality.  In the instance of D.A.R.V.O., the denial kicks in when the guilty party (the disloyal spouse) is confronted with the truth of what they’ve done (committed adultery) and held responsible and accountable for their choices and actions.

Some different examples of denial:

  • Outright denial or gaslighting. “That never happened.”
  • Minimization. “It wasn’t that bad.”
  • Amnesia. “I don’t remember doing that.”
  • Redefinition. “I have a bad temper, so you shouldn’t upset me.”
  • Projection. “You’re abusive and controlling. You hurt me.”
  • Conversion. “I did wrong, but I’m a changed person and won’t do it again.”

“How does denial work?” you ask?  Well let me give you an example.  Everyone has various values and emotions that affect the way we view reality: shame, greed, desire, revenge, ego, pride, public image, stubbornness, inertia, impulsiveness are all things that change the way we might interpret facts in a given instance.  So if you were at work and someone who’s younger and attractive invited you to lunch, but you knew that your credit card was near the max and your spouse would see it–because of desire, ego and public image, you might go off the lunch anyway and even offer to buy lunch…and all the while you’d be in denial of the financial and marital consequences.  You can see how infidelity and denial go hand-in-hand!

“What makes this denial different than a falsely accused innocent party who says it didn’t happen?” you ask?  When someone is actually innocent and they’ve been accused falsely, they might say “That’s not true!” and then do something like give a list of facts to prove their innocence.  But when someone is guilty and engaging in  D.A.R.V.O. the reaction is a combination of projection, denial, lying, blameshifting and gaslighting (see above examples).  In other words, the disloyal spouse might respond with an act of righteous indignation, claim YOU are the horrible one because you “invaded their privacy” or “how DARE you accuse me.” In the example above, a D.A.R.V.O. denial response to the loyal spouse who holds them accountable for the lunch charges might be: “HOW DARE YOU question my financial judgment! I’m not the irresponsible one here, why just yesterday you spent $125 just on groceries!”

This leads straight into the next step of D.A.R.V.O.–

ATTACK–An attack by definition is “an aggressive and violent action against a person or place.”  In this instance it’s the disloyal spouse being aggressive or violent against the loyal spouse who is holding them personally responsible.  Sometimes the aggression is physical–sometimes it is verbal/emotional/mental violence. Usually there is manipulation, threats, or bullying and the intent is to scare the loyal spouse into ending the consequences or “backing off” the insistence that the affair end!

Attacks typically include almost anything including accusations, legal threats, intimidation, warnings of physical attacks (such as destruction of property or harming a pet), warnings such as “watch your back because when you don’t expect it, you’ll get it!” threats to ruin your credibility or reputation, ridiculing you for trying to hold them accountable, and pretty much any other abusive tactic the disloyal spouse has ever used before.  Women often use crocodile tears as an attack, because they know they can get their spouse to stop if they just cry.  Plus, they can always say: “I can’t believe you’d hurt me by saying that!”

…which this leads right into the final step of D.A.R.V.O.–

REVERSE VICTIM ORDER–There really is no dictionary definition of this phrase, but we should discuss what a victim is.  A victim is “the person harmed or injured as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action,” and as it relates to infidelity, the loyal spouse may have been a jerk prior to the affair, but once the disloyal spouse chose to deal with it by committing adultery, the loyal spouse, the marriage and the family became the injured parties.  The person who made the choice and followed through by committing adultery is not the “victim”…just so we are clear.  The marriage was torpedoed…and unless the disloyal quickly repents and is completely remorseful, the family is also in danger of being destroyed.

Now that we are clear, in order to reverse the victim order, disloyal spouses often use a technique called Persuasive Blaming.  They convince the loyal spouse that their internal, personal issues are external–or in other words, caused by someone or something else.  I VERY typical example of this is “I had an affair because you….”  It’s the same method that abusers use to convince their victims that “I got mad because you burned supper” or “I hit you because you deserved it.”  Once the loyal spouse is persuaded to view the issue backwards like that, then the disloyal can keep the focus off the real problem (themselves) and try to force the focus and blame onto the loyal.  AND once the blame is on the loyal, then they can portrait themselves as the victim!

So in summary, D.A.R.V.O. would be when the disloyal spouse first DENIES the infidelity, ATTACKS the loyal spouse (putting the loyal on the defensive), and then , once the loyal is off balance, acts as if or claims that THEY are the actual injured party!  Here is what an example of D.A.R.V.O. might sound like:

LS = loyal spouse

DS = disloyal spouse

LS: “I have the phone bill, a printout of our credit card statement, and a printout of the text messages between you and XXX at work. I know you have spent 5000 minutes on the cell phone this month; you’ve bought her gifts on our credit card, and you sexted her.  I will not tolerate adultery in our marriage.  Please pack your things and be out of this house by sunset.”

DS:  (screaming) “What are you talking about? I didn’t do any of that! Of course we went to lunch once or twice, but it not like it’s an affair! You just trying to control me!  I can’t believe you’d invade my privacy because you have trust issues.  Who do you think you are?”

LS: “I told you, I have the phone bill and credit card statement right here..”

DS: “I swear if you try to tell everyone I had an affair, I’ll tear you to shreds in court.  You’ll lose the house AND the kids and be out on the street with NOTHING! Give me those stupid papers…look at you holding those papers like they were some kind of shield? Don’t you know better than to threaten ME!? “

LS: “I’m not the one who threatened you. You are the one who chose to have an affair….”

DS: “It’s not an affair for crying out loud! We’re just friends, and plus I wouldn’t even be friends with her if you’d ever shut up and listen to me. You know how much I love to talk but do you ever listen to me? NO! You think you know better and sneak around behind my back lying to everyone about me when I’M the one who has had to put up with you and your constant b.s. for all these years!”

Help! How do I deal with discovering a secret affair child? Part 1

affair child

We recently had someone write with a request (slightly changed for confidentiality):

Can you write about how we should deal with discovering a sibling born out of adultery? In this case the Loyal Spouse was not aware there was a child conceived of adultery, as the child was hidden and never revealed. The Disloyal Spouse introduced their parents and siblings to the hidden child, and they helped the Disloyal hide the child until the marriage was over. How do I deal with this discovery?

We’re going to answer this request from two points of view.  First–today–we’ll answer “How a Loyal Spouse, married several decades, would deal with discovering their Disloyal Spouse had a child that they didn’t know even existed from an affair in the past.” Tomorrow we’ll address “How a young adult would deal with discovering their parent had other children by other people.”

In the first instance, the Loyal Spouse and Disloyal Spouse were married for many years. Apparently at some point in the past, the Disloyal Spouse had an affair and created a child with the Affair Partner. The Loyal and Disloyal did not split up or divorce, and they continued with their marriage for many more years,  and they had a family together … children.  Whether the reconciliation was successful or a rug-sweep we don’t know; whether issues were addressed or avoided we don’t know.  But we do know that the Loyal Spouse did not divorce the Disloyal for many years, and we do know that the Loyal Spouse didn’t know there was an affair baby.  That child was not part of the Loyal Spouse’s life or part of their family unit.

Therefore, to the Loyal Spouse, discovering that there was a hidden affair child would be equivalent to discovering adultery that is going on right now.  The trauma of discovering infidelity is in the present because the discovery is in the present–even though the actual unfaithful activity was many years in the past.  From the Loyal Spouse’s point of view, this will be “as if it is happening now” because the shock is occurring now. This is what it feels like: “Finding Out: What It Feels Like to Hear that Your Spouse is Having an Affair

How would the Loyal Spouse deal with this?  Well our whole site is full of ways to cope with discovering your spouse had an affair!  You could start with this series: “How to Rebuild After an Affair: Step 1 Forgiveness” (there are links to the other steps) and this series is all about the stages that occur as you deal with discovering adultery (again there are links to the other stages).  The Loyal Spouse is going to have to work through this traumatic experience.

But overall I think we would recommend that the Loyal Spouse ask themselves “What does the Bible say about dealing with trials?” and “What does the Bible say about dealing with difficult people?”  How did Jesus respond to people who challenged Him and tried to trap Him?  How did He respond to those who were rude or sinful? Was He harsh or dismissive or abrasive?  Nope–He showed patience, He rebuked when it was necessary, and sometimes He remained silent.  Copy Jesus when dealing with both the Disloyal and the Affair Partner.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you

~Luke 6:27–31

It’s pretty clear in this verse how Jesus wants us to act, even toward those who are our enemy. That’s not to say that we are commanded to be a doormat and allow our enemies to keep hurting us, but we are told to be so profoundly changed by the Holy Spirit with us that we do the exact opposite of what comes naturally.  We are supposed to be so different that we are transformed.

Tomorrow, Part Two of this little series.  We’ll talk about how a young adult would deal with discovering their parent had other children by other people.

What the Disloyal Spouse Can Do to Save Their Marriage

 

apology1. No Contact with the Other Person (OP).  Under no circumstance should you in any way have any contact with the Other Person!! Delete them from your contacts and then delete the means by which you stayed in touch, and if that means the inconvenience of changing your cell phone number then so be it. Endure the consequence of choosing to use that device to compromise your marriage! For me, I had been in touch via a secret email account , via a second FB account, via a game, and via the game’s forum…so I deleted the secret email altogether, deleted the second FB account and then stayed off FB altogether, removed the shortcuts for the game, deleted the game, and removed the bookmarks for the forum. The point here is not to think “What’s the bare minimum I need to do here in order to appear like I’m removing all contact while keeping one last way of contact open?” but rather to REALLY HONESTLY DO IT. Cut that person out of your life. Go over and above to remove not just the ways you did contact, but ways you could be tempted to contact.

Final thought: often people use their cell phone to either text with or call the OP, and it’s not enough to “remove them from the contact list.” It is much more thorough to get a new phone number. Now you may be tempted to think: “But all my work contacts have that number and it would be so inconvenient….” but you know what that shows? You are thinking of yourself and making YOUR life easy and “to heck with my spouse!” You are a grown up and you chose to be unfaithful, so it is reasonable for you to now endure a little inconvenience in order to go all out in ending contact. You may others endure pain for you–now it’s your turn, and it’s fair.

2. Transparency. This one will be difficult and scary, I guarantee! Being transparent is not just being honest, but rather being “see through.” Right now you have been hiding behind masks of “who you are” “what you think” and “what you feel”…holding up a false facade for your spouse to think you are who you are not. My guess is that you felt things that hurt and you were afraid to say them out loud or you felt unheard. My guess is that you thought things that were were ugly and things you knew would hurt your spouse so you didn’t want to share them…maybe avoiding the trouble you’d get into if you said “the truth.” My guess is that you want people to see you as “a fine, upstanding pillar of the community” and speak highly of you…when you are not ACTING like a fine, upstanding pillar of the community with high morals and character! Soooo…..you lied. And the lies caught up to you! NOW in order to save your marriage you are going to have to go against what you’ve gotten used to, and not only “tell the truth” but also open up about WHO you are, what you honestly FEEL, and what you truly THINK.

To me there were two parts to this transparency thing. First, I had hidden my computer, my secret email, my second FB, etc. from my Dear Hubby, so Part One was relatively easy–I let him in. I realized that a GIGANTIC part of my issue was that I had shut him out of my life and myself by excluding him. So Part One was to actively INCLUDE him in every single thing I did all day long. The easy stuff was letting him see my computer, letting him have my passwords, not locking things down and hiding them from him, letting him see my secret stuff, and letting him see me delete it all. We deleted everything TOGETHER so that it was like a ritual of ending the old/beginning the new. As I said, this was the easier part for me!

Part Two was to actively practice letting him see the True Me…with all my warts and everything… and then see if he really loved me! If I had a thought that was not so lovely, but it was true–I shared it. If I had a feeling that was painful, I didn’t bury it but instead I shared it. And sometimes my thoughts and feelings were “not all that great” and I let him see it! Now, did I come right out and say everything unedited? No. I realize that sometimes, in the heat of the moment my head “sees red” and I think swear words, and repeating that wouldn’t be productive–but what I WOULD do is let him know I was angry…REALLY angry…and that in order to be respectful to him I needed some time to settle down before I could discuss it. So share the truth (anger) but in a way that is still respectful.

3. Commit to actually DOING the work, not talking about it. Lots of people miss this one. They talk about “going to a counselor” and they talk about “doing whatever it takes to save our marriage” but then when it comes down to facing themselves in counseling or facing their fears or facing what they’ve truly done…it’s too much and they avoid, run, hide, flee. So right now, purpose in your heart that you KNOW you are going to have to look at YOU and ways YOU perceive things and ways YOU cope with things, and it’s going to be hard and scary…but you are going to DO it. When your counselor says “Write this journal or list”…you do it. When you come up to something that is hard or scary or painful, rather than avoiding it, make a promise in your heart to not run away. Rather than falling into your old pattern (which got you in this mess in the first place), remember and try the NEW pattern.

Final thought: There is no “say”…only do. Do not tell your spouse a bunch of promises about committing or doing anything blahblahblah. Your spouse does not believe you right now, AND by your actions you’ve already demonstrated that your commitment means nothing. So instead of telling them, just let your actions show them. Seriously, do not promise. Just DO IT.

4. Gather evidence of love to get through withdrawal. When you have an affair, it’s very similar to being an addict, because what you are addicted to is the “high” good feeling of someone thinking you’re wonderful. There actually is brain chemistry that goes off when you’re “in love” (infatuated) and thus, once you feel that rush of good feeling, you want more of it and the affair continues. When you end your affair and return to your spouse, to you it is going to feel like you are losing the “good feelings” high from OP, and turning to the person who made you feel bad in the first place (NOTE: I’m not saying that is the truth–just “how it feels.”) To you, it will feel like a huge LOSS because you are losing that person who thought you were great–the person who gave you that ‘infatuation high’ feeling!

So once you initiate No Contact, there is going to be a period of what I call “withdrawal.” Again, it is an analogy and not exactly like addiction withdrawal, but it is somewhat similar enough that it helps people understand. When you were in contact, the contact was “the drug”…so when you remove “the drug” you go into withdrawal: namely, the first couple days every few minutes you think about the OP, you think of excuses to contact them, you crave that contact, you NEED that contact! Gradually it begins to feel more desperate, and to some degree just like cold turkey, you just have to get through this. I did two things: 1) I told myself to wait 15 minutes “I will put this off for 15 minutes and check how I feel in 15 minutes.” Then in 15 min. I put it off again for 15 min. all through the day. The next day I put it off half an hour, then an hour, and so on and so on. 2) I gathered reminders of love, so that when I was craving something positive, something that loving, something that shows caring about me, I looked at my Dear Hubbies old love letters, an old card from him, a drawing he made, songs he wrote, etc. If I need the positive “high” of love, I went to my DEAR HUBBY to get it…no one else.

5. Spend “fun” time with your spouse. Right now, when your spouse thinks of “you” s/he associates you with painful emotions and hurtful thoughts. YOU=Pain, to your spouse. Often times, people get so focused on saving their marriage, and working to fix it, that all they do is the deep, long, intense talks and the tears…and they forget to be the kind of person their spouse would want to be with. So that association of YOU=Pain is enforced (because you=deep, long intense talks, navel gazing, and tears). It is REALLY important right now to begin to look at yourself and think: “If I were in my spouse’s shoes, would I date me right now?” and if the answer is no, then start to become the person they would date again. I’m not talking about “Go buy roses” –I mean being the kind of person with whom they would associate good or happy times! Be the sort of person who is interesting. At some point, you had things in common that you both enjoyed or that you shared together: music, sports, hobbies…something. So rather than being “a downer” who always talks about hurtful stuff all the time…on the occasion, take the pressure off, tell your spouse you just want to be best friends right now who really care about each other, view your spouse as your very best friend to whom you tell everything, and once-in-a-while, take them to something fun. Go to a concert, not as their date, but someone who is interested in a band they also love, and share the fun of hearing a band you both like. Begin to change to YOU=Positive. You=listen without judgement. You=share fun times. You=good feelings. Get it?

6. Be accountable to someone. This reconciling is HARD, so don’t think to yourself, “Oh I got this. I can do this by myself.” Find someone who is a GUY who can be your mentor. Find someone who will know when you are lying and sneaking around and who will call you on it!

7. End Love Extinguishers. Okay I view the love in a marriage like a campfire. There is stuff you can do to the love that builds the fire (that’s a love kindler) and there’s stuff you can do that puts out the fire (that’s a love extinguisher). We all do both, but lots of times what happens is we get so caught up in life, work and bills that we don’t realize we pretty much love extinguish ALL DAY LONG… and we’ve kind of dropped the love kindlers. Now most counselors will tell you to “date your spouse again” and whatnot, and that almost never works, but here’s why! You take your spouse out to dinner (love kindler to them) but then you complain about the bill and make a scene to get a free dessert (extinguisher to them). YOU think you should “get credit” for the dinner, but the dinner was a positive and a negative to the flame of love, and nothing built up! So it feels like spinning your wheels (because you are)!! In reality you don’t need to start dating your spouse–you need to stop the love extinguishers!

So if you really, really want to start working on building love, look at your own self. What harmful spirits do you have inside you that are putting out the blaze of love in your marriage? Are you a scorekeeper? A faultfinder? Disrespectful to your spouse? Withholding? No tender touches that don’t lead to sex? Unstable employment? Hidden debt? Don’t help with the house or kids? Discourteous? Give them the silent treatment? Angry explosions? Attack dog…attacking your spouse? Passive-aggressive?

Don’t think “Yeah, but s/he….” or “Those describe my spouse!” because what we are doing here today is to look at YOURSELF–HONESTLY. If you can say to yourself, just privately, “Yes, I do that” then pick that one and work on that one. If you are a scorekeeper, how can you learn to stop keeping score and give of yourself, your time, and your everything freely without expecting a reward for what you did? If you have had unstable employment, how can you demonstrate with your actions that you want your spouse to feel safe financially like they aren’t going to have to scramble to pay rent right before eviction? Again, this is not the time to make promises…just pick a couple of those typical love extinguishers and work on them, and let your actions speak for themselves.

8. Re-start Love Kindlers. After you’ve worked on becoming the person you want to be, after you’ve done the work and made changes, after you’ve stopped some of the bad habits that have inadvertently been destroying your marriage–THEN if your spouse is willing, you can re-start love kindlers. These are the things that people do to show love through their actions, and this is probably easier for people to do than the love extinguishers and that’s why they start here! However, think about this: at one point you and your spouse got along well enough that you two wanted to get married. You had some similar interests, enjoyed each other’s company, couldn’t wait to be together, couldn’t wait to talk, and did all kinds of goofy things to help love grow. Well…that means you already have a foundation to rebuild on! Think back to the days when you were dating, and become the person who attracted them again. They liked you! So there is hope….

In conclusion, I want to remind you that you committed adultery. Say it: ADULTERY. Your spouse would be 100% within their moral rights to walk away and never give you another chance. Some people are not able to get over infidelity and it is a deal-breaker for them. Period. And here’s the super important part: THEY are not the one who broke the marriage–YOU ARE because they were faithful and you went outside the marriage! If your spouse chooses to walk away, they are walking away from the rubble of the marriage that was, because you nuked it. If your spouse does give you any sort of chance, you have GOT TO think of it not as something they owe you or as a second chance you expect, but as A GIFT. Priceless and Precious.

You can choose to change whether your spouse continues the marriage or not, and I personally suggest that you do change. And here’s how we can tell if the change is “real”–we would see you doing 180 degrees the opposite of what you used to be doing, and more importantly, we would see you taking the time for your life to demonstrate, through your behavior and actions, that you are DIFFERENT! The thief doesn’t only stop robbing-they do actions that help others! The liar doesn’t only stop lying–they start telling the truth. The adulterer doesn’t only stop the affair–they start acting in a way that protects their marriage and spouse FROM YOUR OWN WEAKNESSES.