Relationship-Case-Studies: Betrayal

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Beverly and Chris: A Study in Betrayal

Beverly and Chris were married for 7 years. Chris was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who had been clean and sober for several years before he met Beverly. Beverly was a successful professional and Chris was a hard-worker in a blue collar job. After several years, Beverly suggested that the couple start a business of their own. They decided to invest in rental properties which they hoped would help grow their savings and allow them to travel and enjoy life more. They got a second mortgage on their home and bought several fixer-uppers in the same town where Chris worked. Things did not go as smoothly as expected, but they kept working on it and trying to deal with the stresses of a new business together.

After about a year, Beverly came home to find Chris crying and upset. She asked him what was wrong and he said he had to move out and "see what he wanted in life". Beverly was caught totally off guard and was devastated, but had no choice but to let him go. He left immediately and, in a week, came back to pack up his personal belongings. He told Bev he was staying with friends. In the meantime, Bev worked the busines on her own. About a month after Chris left, Beverly received a call from the bank that her business account was overdrawn. After meeting with the bank, she discovered that Chris had been funneling money out of their business account for some months before he left. When Beverly finally reached him, he minimized the theft, but said that he would reimburse the account. A couple of weeks later, Bev found out from friends that Chris was seeing another woman, someone he had mentioned as a new acquaintance at work. After two small checks, Chris stopped paying Beverly back.


I definitely agree with the poll results on this one. There is not much hope for this relationship. Chris has a history of addictive behavior in the past. While he had been clean and sober for some time before he married Bev, he is almost always a bit more fragile to reacting to stress with a relapse. Obviously, Chris had been secretive about his feelings for some time. By the time he decided to talk to Bev about it, he was ready to leave. Not talking is definitely a red flag for relapse for an alcoholic.

It looks as if Bev was the codependent in this relationship because she was the one who made the suggestion to start the business. Reading between the lines, she takes the lead in trying to "help" Chris by trying to make him into an entrepeneur. She married a blue collar worker and then wasn't accepting of the limitations that might mean for her in terms of their lifestyle.

When the business started to flag, Chris wasn't equipped to deal with it in a direct way with his wife. Instead, he started seeing another woman and lying to Bev about it. Alcoholics are extremely adept at rationalizing destructive behavior. I'm not sure what Chris was telling himself about betraying his wife, but by the time he began to steal money from her, there is a very strong chance he had started drinking, drugging, or gambling. This was the point where he was in in a complete relapse, and it was only a matter of time before he would be found out. Chris bailed out with more lies before he had to face that consequence.

The negative prognosis for the marriage is cemented by the fact that, even after he was found out, Chris made no attempt to be honest, apologize, or take responsibility for his actions. He resorted to addictive behaviors like rationalization, minimizing, and more lies.

Bev should move on and deal with her own issues around this marriage. Let Chris continue to run the course of his relapse. Hopefully, he will get back into recovery before he hurts anyone else.

A postscript for Beverly: She can take some steps to stay out of the codependency role by being completely honest about Chris's behavior to family and friends. To do otherwise would be a continuation of caretaking, "protecting" Chris from having to face the consequences of his actions. By the same token, Beverly will be extremely vulnerable to Chris's "charming" side should he try to reconcile with her. Chances are also strong that he will attempt a reconciliation because addicts are very dependent on their codependent partners.

Another postscript: I don't want to give the impression that recovering addicts are bad partners. Recovering addicts who are actively working a program can be very good partners because they have been forced to look at themselves closely, are used to talking about and listening to feelings (in group meetings) and can be insightful about behaviors and motivation.

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