What the heck is this you may ask?
The last three years have been quite the learning curve for us as we explore the complexities of infidelity, secrets, lies, duality, and narcissistic abusive behaviours.
It’s a learning curve that I never imagined I’d be on—in saying this—I’m thankful that both Dave and I possess a growth mindset that has worked well for us, especially in recovery.
So now as I prepare to launch Affair Recovery Counselling, I’m diving deep, not only out of personal interest but also from a clinical perspective, and I’ve come across some of the most fascinating discoveries.
One is this metaphor of the Secret Sexual Basement by Dr Omar Minwalla, it helps us to understand intimate betrayal and the trauma associated with it.
I guarantee that I’m going to fail to do justice trying to explain what the SSB is myself, but I’ll give it a shot and if you want you can listen on the Helping Couples Heal (pt 1) podcast. Even if you’re not impacted by infidelity yourself, his model is certainly enlightening for understanding betrayal trauma.
If you’ve read our story you’ll know that we had years and cycles of crazy-making behaviour. Years of me and the kids knowing that something was “off” but not being able to put a finger on it—the Secret Sexual Basement (pt 2) has made perfect sense of our experience, and with remarkable accuracy. It’s like Dr Minwalla has illuminated a brilliant spotlight on another overlooked aspect of infidelity. He has a couple of great acronyms that may become part of the DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) IAD—Integrity Abuse Disorder and DCSR—Deceptive Compartmentalized Sexual-Relational Reality, he gives in-depth descriptions in the podcasts.
Here’s my abridged version of the SSB
There’s a house where the family live, Mum, Dad, kids, pets etc and in the house, normal life happens. There’s work, sport, church, celebrations, social life yadda yadda yadda, it all looks good and regular, just like everyone else in the community. No one from the outside would suspect that there is anything unusual about this family. But let’s say Dad (could be anyone but I’ll just use Dad as an example) decides he is going to build a basement that no one else is going to know about, it’s just for himself, somewhere for him to disappear to and visit when he wants—maybe it’s his own secret mancave? Not even his own family know that he’s going to build it. Anyway, in this secret place, he seeks pornography, emotional affairs, sexual acting out, prostitutes, online sexual/romantic chats etc. He’s messing with/altering the foundations of the home, this in itself becomes destabilising and traumatic. (pt 3).
At no time has he said, “Honey I’m thinking about building a special space for myself and this is what I want to use it for, what are your thoughts?”
The fact that he has done this without consulting the family is the very beginning of abuse. Why? Because once he has begun to plan this secret basement it is the beginning of deception and once he has gone down into the basement which is pretty dark, he will come up different. The family begin to sense that things are a little off, but of course, the basement world is secret and compartmentalized so they are unsure of what it is that they’re feeling. The gaslighting, manipulation, deflecting, withholding, defensiveness, minimisation and lying start—a cycle of psychological, emotional and relational abuse. Basement activities invoke feelings of deep shame and this shame sticks to the person who visits remaining with them when they go back upstairs.
It’s light and dark…
As a therapist and betrayal abuse victim, I believe that all acting out behaviours must be addressed with compassion and understanding.
Most unfaithful partners are willing to own the affairs or acting out yet are reluctant to label their actions as abusive. I get that, however we miss a vital part of recovery by overlooking the serious impact someones secret sexual basement-dwelling has on everyones’ life above floor level.
It’s not so much how often one goes down to the basement, it’s the fact that the basement even exists at all!
Makes good sense to me.
P.S. Hey friend if you’re reading this and you can relate to any part, please reach out, you’re not crazy, you’re not alone, your feelings are valid and your well-being and safety is important. Denial is not a place you want stay…