Reality Fragmentation is when you discover that the reality you thought you were living is a fiction. Instead, you have been living in an entirely separate reality, but you didn’t know it.
One of the most emotionally damaging things you can do to a person is to make them doubt their ability to perceive reality accurately. Reality Fragmentation and the resulting disorientation create a feeling for betrayed partners that they are losing their minds. A partner recently was reflecting back on this early stage and said to me, “I thought I was going crazy. That I was truly losing my mind and going insane.”
One of my clients who is experiencing Reality Fragmentation keeps saying to me, “But my husband and I had a great marriage. We were emotionally connected, we were intimate, we had hot sex, and we were madly in love with each other. How could he have been disconnected and distracted without me knowing it? It doesn’t make sense.”
She has just found out that when she met her husband he was actively engaged in compulsive sexual behaviors outside of the relationship. He was looking at porn obsessively, seeing prostitutes, sexting with random people on line, and visiting massage parlors. For her, their emotional connection felt real and better than any previous relationship she had experienced. She thought they were deeply bonded, faithful to one another, safe and secure in their relational and romantic connection. When she discovered his secret sexual life, it threw everything she thought she knew into chaos.
This individual is in the process of revisiting her relationship and trying to understand what happened. How could she have felt so safely connected while her husband was spending hours each day acting out? How could she have thought he was present with her, attentive, and on the same relational page, when all along he had a separate secret sexual life?
My client has a narrative that she has been telling herself about her, her spouse and their love story for a very long time. Now this narrative no longer makes sense. It doesn’t add up when you consider the other part of the story that has been unfolding unbeknownst to her. Now she is faced with having to let go of her narrative, which means letting go of something that felt certain and predictable. Now she has to figure out what the real story is. What has truly been occurring between her and her spouse?
If she clings to her old narrative and does not find a way to open up and ask new and difficult questions, she will never learn what has really been happening in the relationship. She will miss out on discovering that there is a whole different level of connection and secure bonding available in relationships that she has not experienced before and that she and her spouse can learn to do for and with one another. She will miss out on learning about herself and growing in ways that bring new freedoms and joy into her life.
While it is always scary to leave behind something that felt certain or at least familiar, it is the letting go that opens space for something new to come in. Often that new thing can change the course of life in good and surprising ways.