by Marla Keller
We have been married for over 28 years. And I have been happily married for most of that time, absolutely in love with Jami and in awe of his love for me (which is how I feel now, strangely enough). It was 17 years ago that my world came down, shattering around me. I remember being in fetal position with my heart crushed hoping I wouldn’t breath again, but knowing that we had two small girls, ages 8 and 9, who depended on me. Jami checked himself into rehab for relationship issues, and I made sure the girls went to school on time, were fed, and did their homework. All they knew was that “daddy was learning how to be a better husband and father.”
What I realized is that his cheating for the first 12 years of our relationship (with different women) was really about my worth, not about him. [Note: Jami takes full accountability for his side of the street, and he also had plenty of things to heal through.] It cut to my core fear of never being enough—not smart enough, not pretty enough, not the right shape—which I had held on to for a lot of years way before Jami came around. I had to do the difficult process on me for “us” to ever work. I realized that Jami is not my “Savior” and I am not his. That was tough. It was my job to save and restore the good in others, because it helped me feel better about me.
You know that big word “Codependent?” That was me to a “t.” It’s a big word that simply means that I did for others because it made me feel better when they felt better. I was so angry when Dr. Russ Warner at Family Week told me this! How could I be codependent when he is codependent??? This did not fit my paradigm at all. He did tend to be more narcissistic than I was (another big word that we are all on the scale of that means more selfish), but his issue with other women was codependence. Ughhhhhhh! Needless to say, I was not happy.
Every relationship has a control/abandonment cycle. And I was the identified controller and Jami was the identified abandoner. Rest assured, you don’t have to live this way forever, but you do need to identify it and stop it. This is how our daughter and Passion Provokers blogger, Ariel Minter, describes the two types of people:
The Controller (More Codependent)
I am in charge. I am aware of most possible outcomes, and I make sure they happen. I like people to perform as I expect. If you don’t clean the kitchen to the standards I am used to, I will clean it over again to make sure it gets done the right way (and hope you’ll watch me do it so it’s done properly the next time). I like to feel as though I have the power. In a relationship, I like security and am willing to do anything I need to do to make that happen. I will vocalize my opinion, and if you act in disagreement of that I will get upset. Most of the time, it’s “my way or the highway.” I use phrases like “You should…” or “You ought to….” I get jealous easily. I like attention, especially yours. If you say no to something, I will probably try to get you to say yes another time.
We all have characteristics of, and most of us can be, a Controller.
Now, what about the Abandoner?
The Abandoner (More Narcissistic or Selfish)
When things get weird, uncomfortable, or too close for comfort, I will likely just stop responding. Like that time we were arguing and I just walked out of the room, or when I didn’t respond to your text. My “safety blanket” is avoiding or leaving. I don’t usually push my opinion, and if you say no I won’t bring it up again (sometimes I do this to spite you). I close myself off emotionally. I know this drives you crazy. And to be honest, I sort of like that. I often react this way when I feel controlled. It’s the only defense I feel like I have, and it works.
Again, that is an extreme example. But you get the idea. This is fixable, and identifying it is your first line of defense against it hurting your relationship. We learned these things along the way, and teach them to our clients. It’s not easy. What we have done, and what we give to our clients, is a simple process, but it’s definitely not easy.
We made it through the tough stuff. I discovered my worth over time, and that I didn’t need to control everything around me to feel safe. And Jami discovered his worth, and didn’t need to abandon to feel safe. We also discovered love again, or really for the first time. We always loved each other, but now we had the tools to love without strings, and to forgive, and to have good boundaries with each other.
Five Tips for Staying After They Cheat
We all have hurt and pain. And we need each other to get through it. I promise that if you follow these guidelines you will find peace, empowerment, joy, and love again. It’s not easy, but it is most definitely worth it!
Marla and Jami
Cofounders of JamiAndMarla.LOVE (fka Passion Provokers and Keller Coaching) Jami and Marla are proud to bring a new level of success to coupleships worldwide with their unique coaching, mentoring, and consulting process. Their blogs are not only informative for coupleships they are personal. For over 25 years they have been helping people create emotionally and physically intimate coupleships.
Ariel is a freelance blogger, web designer, and SEO consultant. She is 23 years young, married to her soulmate, and a proud “mother” to boxer Bruce and Yorkie Dexter. She focuses on writing content that is raw and relatable. (Info relevant at the time of writing, circa 2013-2015)