THE SPLIT SELF - what is it?

H self-identified as a combined "split self" and "exit" type affair according to Emily M. Brown's affair typologies in Affairs: A Guide to Working Through the Repercussions of Infidelity (also see her website  Brown suggests that sometimes the spouse (me) in the split self affair may also be a split self.  If that is the case, then the counselling recommended for recovery for the spouse is similar to that for the betraying partner.

The split describes the division between two sides from which one may act: their feelings and their need to "do the right thing."  A split self will act out of one or the other; it is difficult for them to choose behaviors that account for both their feelings and their responsibilities to others.   The affair sparks a connection to their emotions which they didn't have before.  The betrayer may feel torn between two choices coming from each side of the split: stay with spouse (the right thing) or be with OP (it feels right).

Brown warns the betrayer a decision made too early about leaving the marriage, before the split is reconciled, may be later reversed.  A solution once the internal split is healed would validate their feelings in a way that is responsible.  I picture a pendulum here, where sometimes we may swing too far to one extreme before we find balance between two places (being responsible to others while acknowledging our feelings).  This makes a lot of sense to me, as I try and understand what a split self is, and look at how it may apply to me.

I don't identify as strongly with the split as H does, however, I see elements of it in me.  I have tended to judge myself, try and do the right things, regardless of and even counter to, what my feelings indicated.  I was aware of my feelings but didn't always act upon them.  Feelings alone have the potential to drive me to act at the expense of my responsibility to others, in a way that can be extraordinarily selfish.  Only doing what is right for everyone else while ignoring my needs is the opposite and also detrimental.  The balance is to behave in a way that honours what I feel while being ethical and responsible, that is doing the "right" thing with respect for how I feel with minimal harm to others.

Splitting our assets during divorce challenged me in this area.  How did I acknowledge my feelings and needs while being responsible to its impact on H?  On one extreme, out of anger, one could take their spouse "to the cleaners," with disregard to its consequences.  Or, one could ask for nothing while ignoring one's own feelings and need for self-care.  There is a balance in the middle somewhere that honours one's needs while being responsible to the well-being of the other.

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