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The Pain Field

Original article can be found on Castimonia's website HERE

By Eddie Capparucci, Ph.D., LPC, C-CSAS

“I know what I am supposed to do, but I never seem to be able to get it right,” said Roy, whose wife is nine months post-D-Day after discovering his involvement with pornography and spending large amounts of money with online video chat. “I try to get defensive or have an emotional outburst when she is grieving, but I cannot stop myself. Her yelling, crying, and tearing at me leads me to want to run away or explode.”

Roy’s struggles echo the sentiments of many individuals grappling with the aftermath of their infidelity. Despite the guidance from therapists and coaches, the ability to support their partners through grief remains elusive for many men. 

Many techniques and strategies have been developed to help the betrayer remain calm while the betrayed partner is grieving. But the problem of men being there for their wives in these difficult times remains. It is often easier to help these men become sober than to assist them in helping with their partners’ grief.

 The Pain Field

So, what is going on here that leads to struggles among couples dealing with infidelity? Well, you have heard me say many times that to assist during times of grief, a partner must see his spouse’s pain. And many men have found this to be helpful. However, this concept goes much deeper. When an individual is betrayed, they go onto the Pain Field. 

The Pain Field, as I’ve termed it, encapsulates the harrowing emotional terrain that betrayed partners endure. It is a desolate place characterized by despair and fear, where healing seems unattainable. Amidst this anguish, betrayed partners seek comfort in their spouses, yearning for understanding and clarity of the infidelity. It often seems there is no escape from the Pain Field, and these partners could spend years wandering back and forth, facing what seems to be a hopeless situation with no opportunity for healing. 

And here lies the problem. Betrayers, during a grieving dialogue, flee the Pain Field, seeking comfort by utilizing various coping strategies such as defensiveness, gaslighting, lying, withdrawing, and aggressiveness, to name a few. When this occurs, the betrayed partner’s Inner Child becomes fearful and feels she is being abandoned or, worse yet, attacked. Emotional escalation occurs, and the situation is at risk of becoming volatile. What the betrayer has done is unknowingly dump fuel on the fire. And a potential explosion is on the horizon.  

As counselors, social workers, and coaches, we have all seen this scenario play out with destructive and sometimes horrific consequences. I firmly believe if the betrayer can learn to stay on the Pain Field instead of shifting to other fields, the risk of emotional escalation can be reduced during grieving sessions.

Here is an example of moving off the Pain Field. Your wife calls you at work and says she is having a bad day. You ask why, and she responds she had been thinking about your affair partner, who was her friend at one time. Later, when you get home, she seems okay. When you both get ready for bed, she wants to talk, and you listen. She expresses sadness about losing her former friend, and you do an excellent job validating her emotions. She then says, “I still don’t know why you would do such a thing.” You have heard that statement at least a hundred times, but it does not stop your Inner Child from jumping in. Instead of providing more validation and compassion, you answer, “Honey, there is no point in focusing on her any longer. I have not seen or talked to her in years and never think about her. She is not important to me.” 

You have jumped to another playing field and have communicated to her the following message, “When are you going to stop and let this go? It’s driving me crazy because I cannot do anything about what I have done in the past. I said I was sorry a thousand times. It was stupid, and I admit it. Can we move on?!”

Well, since you put it that way, the answer is NO! We cannot move on. But you have. You have left the Pain Field, and she is scared and most likely extremely angry. And rightfully so. 

Why Betrayers Shift Fields

Men unknowingly move away from the Pain Field and run to another field that serves as a coping strategy. He does this for one reason – fear. His Inner Child senses the direction of the conversation is shifting, and his spouse is becoming more upset. The Child believes, “We’re in trouble.” So, instead of taking a break to calm his Inner Child, the betrayer does what he has always done when faced with emotional discomfort and compulsively seeks to escape.

You move away from the Pain Field the moment you will become:

  • Defensive

  • Unemphatic

  • Impatience

  • Uncomfortable

  • Frustrated

  • Dishonest

  • Fearful and wilt

  • Aggressive 

Your Entitled Child enters the picture, and you believe you have done all you can to help, but the situation is helpless. But have you really done everything? Have you truly reached your breakpoint? 

My colleague and friend Carol (The Coach) Sheets tells betrayers that their bucket is bigger than they think. She is referring to the fact that you can handle more emotional discomfort than you give yourself credit. Instead, you quit, like you always have when dealing with emotional distress. When this occurs, you act in ways you did when in your addictive state.  

How to Stay on the Pain Field

You will only consistently stay on the Pain Field if you commit yourself to doing so. And you cannot make that commitment when you find yourself in the Pain Field. Instead, you must plan before these discussions. Here are four things to focus on that will allow you to stay with your wife in the Pain Field. 

1. Slow Everything Down

You have heard me say this many times and know it is my number one recovery rule. There must be a commitment to slowing everything down – and I mean everything. Learning to slow your breathing, pulse rate, compulsiveness, reactiveness, and assumptions are just a starting point for staying on the Pain Field. 

By slowing everything down, you will be better prepared to manage difficult conversations and respond humbly and caringly. You will resist the urge to rush through uncomfortable conversations and sit with the emotional discomfort you are experiencing. Use daily meditation to help you learn to quiet down the negative noise in your head and to realize when you are starting to dysregulate emotionally. I have a library of meditation music donated by therapist Bill Herring and would be happy to send you a link if you email me at

2. Quiet Your Inner Child

Your Inner Child is a source of turmoil and can erupt any time, driving you to respond defensively or dismissively. It is important to quiet your Inner Child, allowing you to maintain calm during these challenging interactions. The Child needs to understand you will not be bringing his child-like emotions into the dialogue, but instead, you will seek to remain engaged and attempt to answer all questions without a hint of defensiveness. You must quiet your Inner Child before getting into the discussion. Should your partner bring up a topic she wants to discuss immediately, inform her you will step away for five minutes to ensure you are in the right mindset to assist her. If she complains about your leaving, tell her you will be right back to sit with her in her discomfort. 

3. Be Present and Engaged

Merely being in the Pain Field is not enough to help your spouse feel safe. Instead, you must be prepared to be emotionally present, involved, and genuinely attentive to what your wife is experiencing and her emotional needs. Again, you prepare yourself for this by taking a moment to settle yourself before the discussion begins. Remind yourself that she needs you. Also, tell yourself that you will not see hostility, but instead, you will identify and stay focused on her pain points. This may require you to take additional short breaks when you feel yourself becoming emotionally dysregulated. Do not let yourself get there; instead, regulate and go back to continue the conversation. The breaks do not need to be long.

4. Identify the Pain Point

Your infidelity is the cause, but not the core, of your spouse’s pain. Engage in calm, curious, and compassionate inquiry to uncover the trigger points. Identifying the pain point your spouse is feeling during the moment is essential. This pain point often goes beyond the action and taps into deeper fears, insecurities, and trust issues.

For example, you fail to call before heading home as you have promised. When you arrive home, she is upset, and you believe it is because you forgot to call. However, your absent-mindedness is not the pain point, it is the reason the pain was generated. Her pain point could be several things, including feeling forgotten. 

The pain point is not an action or inaction you have taken but how that action or inaction makes her feel about you, herself, or the relationship. Seek the pain point. And if you cannot identify it, try. It is okay to be wrong. Or ask her, ” Can you explain what emotional pain you are dealing with now?”

And ladies, please try not to get upset with him for being unable to identify your core emotional pain. Remember, he is most likely emotionally undeveloped. Instead, I hope you find some contentment, realizing he is staying on the Pain Field and wants to understand more.

Final Notes

For the betrayer, the Pain Field is filled with landmines, especially when the pain point shifts midway through the dialogue. If that happens, and it often does, do not run but instead refocus your effort on locating the new pain point.

And for those who have been betrayed, please understand that he will not be perfect in staying on the Pain Field. His Inner Child is very powerful and works behind the scenes to seek coping strategies to move toward comfort. If you see him moving off the Pain Field, mention it to him. Allow him to take a break and come back and try again. 

I mean, what is the point? Does it matter whether he gets it right every time or ultimately works to help you deal with your betrayal trauma? 

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