The Power of an Affair to Delude: The Foolishness of Bobby Petrino
A lot of people are nervous to go to therapy for various reasons, but I’m sure one of them is to not be confronted with what I’m going to share here. Really, I’m a pretty nice guy and I’m not too mean. I’ll even let a bunch of stuff slide if I think we can get somewhere from a different route. But I’m having a hard time just sitting back and let Coach Petrino’s explanation of his affair fall without first tossing it in the air a bit.
If you remember the coach was caught having an affair with a lady 26 years younger than him (Jessica Dorrell), whom he hired. It all came out after he got into a motorcycle accident with her on the back and tried to hide it. He ended up losing his job over the lies and deception, not to say the hurt he caused his wife and four children and his fellow coaches, players and the Razorback Nation.
The explanation of his affair from Petrino I’d like to comment on was released to the Associated Press and reported in USA Today after a request using the Freedom of Information Act and included the notes Razorback Athletic Director Jeff Long kept while he questioned Petrino after Long found out about Petrino’s coverup. The USA Today reported:
Petrino told his boss that his affair with Dorrell began with a kiss last fall and ended sometime in February when the two decided to simply be friends.
Let’s clear this up: Affairs don’t start with a kiss. And they don’t end when two affairees decide to just be friends.
Affairs start long before the kiss. It started the first time he felt his heart crossing a line in his thoughts about Dorrell or the first time she crossed a line in how she treated him and he did not tell his wife about it.
When I ask my clients, when did it cross “the line,” most know immediately what I mean. Either Patino or Dorrell may have crossed a line.
Actually, you don’t want to even be close to the line. You don’t play frisbee right next to the edge of a cliff. You play far far away.
This is one of the benefits of being married. You can talk with each other about crazy people that are seeking to cross lines with you and the temptations you face at your work and life and the two of you can talk about how to handle these crazy people and the temptations and you can keep your dignity instead of crossing a line, because the vultures are circling looking for an opportunity to come down and pluck out your eyes.
In therapy I liken the temptation to have an affair to a slippery slide. Every step up the ladder is one more decision closer to an affair going beyond emotional to sexual. By the time you are kissing your affairee, you are more than likely dancing on the top of the slide. For most there have been dozens of decisions they didn’t talk about with their spouse, all of which are secrets. The power of the secret is the secret and delusion reigns. The fact that Petrino says his affair began with a kiss is a sign of that delusion.
The second mistake Petrino made was thinking if we stopped the affair sexually, we can remain friends.
Ah, no. If someone led you down the road to an affair (a devastating road strewn with the bodies of your loved ones, friends, colleagues and your dignity trampled underfoot), the last thing you are going to want to do is chum around with that person. No. That would be, like, you know…..stupid. The two of you have proven that together you can’t respect boundaries so, no, we aren’t going to tempt each other to cross boundaries again. The affairee needs to be off your list, off your contacts, off your cell phone, off your email list and all the old emails and gifts and pictures and momentos destroyed. We are done with that lifestyle. Done. Done and Done. If your affairee refuses to honor these boundaries, you change your email and/or cell phone number. We don’t mess around with this stuff.
If they still refuse, you may have to call the police.
I’m not kidding.
The reason we don’t mess around with this stuff is not to appease your spouse who is understandably pretty upset by this if you’ve had the courage to face it with him or her. That’s a byproduct. No. The reason you don’t mess around with it is because you don’t want to tempt yourself again. Affairs that are over sometimes do heat up again. Keep all the logs off the fire. The embers are still there.
Telling your spouse about all these things before you end up going up the slide is the way to go. Then you’d never go down the slide in the first place!
If you are on the slide and don’t know what to do, give us a call. We’ll help you face these things so you can deal with it and learn from it and have the courage to face your spouse honestly, so that, over time, you can get your life, marriage and dignity back.
Dr. Bing has dozens of blogs about affairs. You can look through the list here.
On other well-known figures and their affairs and Dr. Bing’s comments see:
Part Three On Lessons From Tiger Woods: Needed: A New Culture Where Sexuality Is Protected In Marriage