Infidelity requires a monumental level of disrespected towards the spouse and marriage. So – how did I not notice that my marriage, which not only I but my friends and family would have characterized as one of the happiest and most stable relationships in our circle, had turned into such a pile of crap that the only way my beloved husband could cope with the stress he was experiencing in his life was to have sex with another woman? I don’t think that the marriage was actually a disaster. I just think that he started to see me as a part of the problem since I wasn’t able to provide the solution to the stress and dissatisfaction caused by changes at his work, by age, and by the stress of a string of family illnesses .
So why the frog? Many times when a writer or speaker wants to make a point about the dangers inherent in gradual negative change, they use the boiling frog analogy. According to the theory, if a frog is dropped in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and ends up boiled instead of leaping to safety. The idea is that we miss the danger of negative change if it is gradual. This analogy may help explain why so many spouses, when confronted with evidence that their spouse has checked out of the marriage, are so stunned and devastated. Were there signs? Probably – but in my case they were little ones, no more than hints of dissatisfaction that were easily explained away by stress and circumstances. The little stresses became chronic irritability, which got worse and worse as he turned into a grouchy angry man. If he had changed from the man I married and lived with for more than two decades into that really irritable, consistently angry man over night, I really believe I would have fought the behavior – either stopping it, getting help, or ending the relationship without all of the pain and devastation caused by cheating and lying and having my needs ignored and minimized.
But like the path to healing, the path to disaster was slow and gradual, with stops and starts. Everyone has an off day and snaps unnecessarily, anyone can have an especially busy work period when coping with family demands seems overwhelming…and so the excuses started…and the priorities shifted…and the picking up the slack occasionally became a regular occurrence, and the travel and extra work became habit, and suddenly the grouchy demanding critical person who wasn’t around very often didn’t really feel that welcome when he was…and even with some reconnection and sharing, without either of us realizing it, the relationship became too fragile to cope when we reached that critical boiling point. When life handed both of us situations that called for all the strength a solid relationship would have provided to enable us to jump out of danger, it was too late.
P.S. Scientists swear that this example is not true – the frog jumps out when the water heats up. I was obviously not as smart as the frog.