Something I desperately wanted was to identify a root cause, the one thing that was at the bottom of my husband’s betrayal. If only the answer were so simple. Unfortunately, there are a myriad of factors, many of which are unique to the relationship. One factor that contributed to my husband’s infidelity, I believe but have only circumstantial evidence for, is my birth control.
I know that this might sound a bit farfetched, but please bear with me for a little while, and I will explain.
After the birth of our little one, we decided that we definitely did not want another child. However, I was still breast feeding at the time and our choices for birth control were limited by that factor. We opted for what was generally agreed to be the safest choice for a breastfeeding mother: the implant, an inch long, progesterone-infused, plastic stick that is inserted into the underside of the arm (a procedure which hurt me more than an IUD, by the way). The side effects can include such things as weight gain and moodiness. What was not really described is the insidious nature of these potential side-effects, the way that they can slowly, nearly unnoticeably become part of daily life. For instance, I thought the weight was remaining baby weight that I just would not be able to easily lose. I did notice the moodiness, but I became decent at recognizing it for what it was and it seemed to decrease over time. What I did not notice until after the stick was removed was that my general outlook on life had slowly deteriorated. My disposition had turned angrier. And what was nowhere mentioned is the secondary effect these hormones can have on people living in close proximity. I don’t think that these secondary effects are even studied, certainly not with birth control pills and only somewhat with couvade syndrome, better known as “sympathetic pregnancy.”
My husband has always tended towards these hormonal sympathies. While I was pregnant, he got a good dose of relaxin and had to be extra careful of his joints, for example. A few months after the stick was inserted, he too began experiencing some of the hormonal effects. In retrospect, this marked the time when my husband started gradually sinking into a depression. He felt disconnected with the world and began to drink more. He describes the time as “being sucked into the abyss” and not being able to pull himself out. He began to feel increasingly detached from me, and as that feeling grew, so did his compulsion to seek comfort outside of our relationship.
Two and half years later, we decided to have the stick removed (it was generally uncomfortable and caused frequent menstruation) in favor of a non-hormone based IUD. Within a couple weeks of having the stick removed, our moods began to shift back towards normal. It seemed to me that we were finally beginning the slow ascent from early parenthood into something more sustainable, where we could have time and even fun again.
A month after the stick was removed, I discovered my husband’s infidelity.
I’m not blaming the birth control for the choices that my husband made. Clearly, he is responsible for those. However, were the situation different, were some factors changed or removed, his choices may also have been different. And it does bear mention that there is a strong correlation between 1) the insertion of the birth control stick and the deterioration of our moods and relationship and 2) the removal of the stick and the beginning of our slow ascent. Unfortunately, much irrevocable damage had been done in the meantime.