If you get the opportunity to work with your loved one to vanquish the Problem, don’t mistake this opportunity for the Problem, itself. You could blow your chance because of the presence of your own Problem.
Let’s say your husband has not been able to keep it in his pants. He’s flirted with others, cheated on you, and generally made a mess of things. Now, you’re sitting in a restaurant, having a nice meal, he leans over to you, and says, “See that woman over there, I’m going to have a hard time keeping my eyes off her.”
Before you lose your lunch, be glad he’s telling you this. He’s telling on his Problem. He’s trying to enlist you in a fight against it. He’s not just a hound dog who’ll never change; what he’s exhibiting is a sign of progress.
At the core of every Problem is a piece that ain’t ever going away, nor should it. There are people who are sex addicts because human beings are attracted to other human beings. That’s also why we have passion. There are people who are compulsive gamblers because it’s thrilling to take chances. That’s also why there’s bravery. There are people who are drug addicts because human beings want to escape ordinary life. That’s also why there’s fun. There are people who are verbally and physical aggressive because human beings want to make their ideas prevail. That’s also why there’s leadership. The Problem should not be confused with these core qualities. The Problem has taken these qualities hostage, and made them it’s slave.
Getting back to our example. I left you at a restaurant, beginning to lose your appetite. The Problem is not the attraction your husband has to other human beings who aren’t you; the Problem is what he’s done with it. What he used to do with it was handle it on his own. Back then, he would see a beautiful woman and he’d be all over her; but, if you asked him what he was doing, he would say he didn’t notice she was there. He did this because he was ashamed. Maybe he also had a farcical desire to protect you. Feeling shame never helped anyone do better. Shame drives people underground. And trying to protect you by keeping secrets from you, gave you the indigestion you’re feeling now.
So, what should you do if he says he finds another woman attractive? Well, if you admire her, you should say you think she’s beautiful, too. If you don’t, then in the most uncatty way possible, say why. The idea is to take this dangerous situation, this bomb that’s about to go off, and defuse it. Turn it into an ordinary occurrence and it’ll stop being something special.
You can also praise him for being aware and getting help for his triggers. This is what we counselor-types try to teach addicts to do all the time. We don’t try to teach an alcoholic to pretend that they’re not near a liquor store, that’s not possible; but we do teach them to notice when they’re walking towards a liquor store. The Problem is not that they notice liquor stores; the Problem is that they walk in them without thinking through what they’re doing. The more aware of their preoccupations they are, the less preoccupied they will be. Then we teach them to get help. Never handle a trigger alone.
You might not be the best person for him to confess his triggers to. Hearing him say he finds another woman attractive, even if it’s just a stranger across the room, may just be too much for you. That’s what your upset stomach is trying to say to you. The hurt from what he did before is still too raw. The memory makes you want to puke. If that’s the case, then this is how his Problem possesses you and becomes your Problem. You’re being triggered when he says he’s being triggered.
At the core of your Problem is a piece that ain’t ever going away, nor should it. You’re jealous because relationships matter and can be threatened by bad choices. That’s also why we have fidelity. Your Problem should not be confused with this core quality. The Problem has taken your fidelity hostage, and made it it’s slave.
Don’t try to pretend that you’re not jealous, that’s not possible; but do notice what you’re doing when you’re jealous. The Problem is not that you’re jealous; the Problem is when your jealousy prevents you from teaming up with the person to fight the Problem that’s making you jealous. The more aware of your preoccupations you are, the less preoccupied you will be.
If you can’t do this, get help. Your husband needs help because he won’t be getting it from you. You need help because you’re being triggered. Never handle a trigger alone.