Mind Your Business: Christie and Shannon

Spousal Snooping

"I don't trust my husband, Shannon, so I have to spy on him all the time," says Christie, about her spouse of nine years. "I ask him 50 to 100 questions a day:  Where did you go? Who were you with? Who all was there? How many women were there? Did you flirt with them? Did they flirt with you? Did you miss me? Do you still love me like you used to?"

[AD]"My wife, Christie's, snooping is so out of control, I'm ready to pack up and leave," says Shannon.

"I check Shannon's cell phone bill to see if there are any unrecognizable phone numbers, and I check every number," says Christie.

"If there are any there that she doesn't know, she will call them, and if a woman answers on the other line, she will interrogate them," says Shannon. "Christie will get into my e-mail and read all my e-mails, even the spam."

"I smell my husband's clothes on a regular basis, to see if there's perfume from other women. I go through Shannon's wallet to see if there are any names and numbers of other women. I constantly check Shannon's hand to see if he's got his wedding ring on," she explains.

"Christie monitors my showers because she wants to make sure that I'm not cleaning up for another woman. I have no privacy whatsoever. Christie is always in my space," he says.

 

"I've driven around to see if Shannon is in places where he shouldn't be. I snoop in his truck to find papers, names, phone numbers, letters, things that a woman may have left in there," she says.


"Christie has found hair in the truck, but they belong to my daughter, or her," says Shannon. "I am already looking for places to stay. That's how close I am to leaving my wife."

"After Shannon's father passed away, he had an emotional affair," says Christie. She begins to cry. "I can't stop. I don't know why I do the things that I do."

 

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"Tell me your best theory of why you do this," Dr. Phil says to Christie.

"I'm insecure. I'm terrified he's going to leave," she says, her voice quavering.

 
"Has he ever left before?"

"No."

"This consumes you every day, all day, doesn't it?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Yes, it actually is taking over my life," she says, wiping her tears away.

Dr. Phil goes over a typical day for Christie and her snooping. "First thing you do, while Shannon's in the shower, you check all of the numbers on the cell phone, you go through his wallet, you go through everything you can get your hands on while he's in the shower. And I assume you know that right?" he asks Shannon.

"Yeah," says Shannon. "I've walked in on it several times."

[AD]"Then you take the kids to school, and from 8:00 to 4:00 you'll call Shannon 10 or 15 times and quiz him about his day. 'Don't flirt too hard. Think about me. Call me later.' It just goes on and on. You ask about lunch plans. Then, you'll start your chores and your snooping around the house, and that includes going through his drawers, clothing, pockets, looking for numbers, receipts, anything unusual. Smell clothes for cologne, check all of his bills, anywhere that he has been or touched. You're all over it every day, all day."

"It's an obsession that I have that I don't know why, and I don't know how to fix it," says Christie. "I mean, every moment that he's not around, I'm constantly thinking negative things."

Dr. Phil asks Shannon, "What's this doing to you?"

"The only way I feel like I could stop [it,] is to leave, because if I'm not around, she won't obsess about it. That's the only solution that I know," he says.

"How does it feel to hear him say that he's thinking, 'I've got to escape somehow'?" Dr. Phil asks Christie.

"It makes me want to stop, but then it just makes me do it more," she says.

[AD]"You've heard that old saying, 'What I fear, I create'?" asks Dr. Phil. "You fear he's going to leave you, and so you're doing exactly what will guarantee you that he, or anyone with any sense of self, would do. They would leave you and say, 'I cannot, and will not take this anymore.' So, you get that logically, but emotionally, you can't stop?"

"Right," she says, wiping tears away. "I feel like if I don't do these things on a daily basis, like call him 20 times, and if he doesn't answer, I call again and again until he does. It's like I get a panic-stricken feeling."

"This is a test. You're pushing him really hard," Dr. Phil tells her. "Every time he answers the phone, every time his shirt doesn't have perfume on it, every time you don't find a receipt, it's like a drug addict getting a hit. It gives you a moment of relief. But as soon as the anxiety starts to build, you've got to have another fix. That's why the incessant questions, that's why the incessant phone calls, that's why the incessant looking. And every time he doesn't leave, every time you don't find something incriminating, then he passes the test and you get a temporary fix, right? Does that make sense to you?"

"Yeah," she says. 

"Now, play 'What If' with me," says Dr. Phil. "What if you find a receipt where he's taken some woman to lunch? What if you do?"

"I would just ask him about it," she says.

[AD]"And then what if he said, 'Well, you're right. We had lunch, and then we went over to the Sleezoid Hotel, and we checked in, and we had sex, and I'm having an affair, and I'm going to leave you, actually.' What now?"

"It would just start a whole new argument," she says.

"No, not with him. He's gone," says Dr. Phil. "What would you do?"

"Survive. I guess I would have to live with it," she says.

"You would be hugely pissed, right?"

"Yeah."

"This is a test. You're pushing him really hard," Dr. Phil tells her. "Every time he answers the phone, every time his shirt doesn't have perfume on it, every time you don't find a receipt, it's like a drug addict getting a hit. It gives you a moment of relief. But as soon as the anxiety starts to build, you've got to have another fix. That's why the incessant questions, that's why the incessant phone calls, that's why the incessant looking. And every time he doesn't leave, every time you don't find something incriminating, then he passes the test and you get a temporary fix, right? Does that make sense to you?"

"Yeah," she says. 

"Now, play 'What If' with me," says Dr. Phil. "What if you find a receipt where he's taken some woman to lunch? What if you do?"

"I would just ask him about it," she says.

[AD]"And then what if he said, 'Well, you're right. We had lunch, and then we went over to the Sleezoid Hotel, and we checked in, and we had sex, and I'm having an affair, and I'm going to leave you, actually.' What now?"

"It would just start a whole new argument," she says.

"No, not with him. He's gone," says Dr. Phil. "What would you do?"

"Survive. I guess I would have to live with it," she says.

"You would be hugely pissed, right?"

"Yeah."

"For a while. Then you'd get over it, right?" asks Dr. Phil. "Would you shrivel up and die? Would, like, your brain run out your ear or something? You would, to use your word, 'survive,' right? All I'm saying is answer the question. What if it does happen? Great guy, I'm sure that you love him. I'm sure you don't want him to do that, but if he does, you'll be fine. Won't you?"

"I hope so," she says.

"What I'm trying to do is turn on the flood light, so you see that this catastrophic thing that has you living in such gothic fear, just really ain't that big of a deal," says Dr. Phil. "I don't mean to say that your spouse having an affair isn't a big deal; it is a big deal. It's not a life-ending deal. It's not an all-consuming deal. It is not something that is the end of you, it's just not the end of you as we know you. You would get over it. People do all the time. So this horrible thing you've got out there is just unlikely to happen. It's disproportionate," he tells her.

 

[AD]Dr. Phil continues, "I think you have an acute anxiety disorder, and I think that what has happened is that you have begun to cope with that through this incessant checking to give you immediate relief. An immediate gratification is a real powerful thing. You need some other ways to manage your anxiety, and if you had other ways besides haunting him every moment of his life to manage your anxiety, you wouldn't need to do this anymore. So what you need are some other coping skills, and there are a number of things you can do in that regard."

Dr. Phil offers to get Christie some help. "I want to get somebody in your town whom we will communicate with very, very specifically and give you some alternative coping skills so you can get some rest. Because don't you want some peace, to be able and enjoy your husband?"

"Yeah," she says, crying.

"You don't want to do this, and you don't want to run him off. You just want some relief, and I'm going to help you get that. And you know what? It's not going to take very long to get it done, and you're going to be amazed."

 

 

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