The Ground Hog Who Ate My Brassica

"If you don't take care of your man, somebody else will." Isn't that what the girls in the back room say? Maybe only gum-smacking hussies utter that, though I'm not so sure anymore.

In my office, clients sifting through the wreckage of an affair say it best: "What the!?!"

Frankly, it's what you might say when, at 10 PM, you find yourself outdoors, rain dripping from your tired cap's brim. A real-live whistle pig staring directly back at you.

Whistle pig is just another name for a groundhog; the rodent whistles when it gets wound up.

Never mind the name. Last week, a gaddam groundhog got his giddy on with my good-girl garden. Peas, plundered. Raddichio, ransacked. Brassica, butt-naked to the stalks.

Brassica? Brassica is the cabbage family like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and collard greens. But again never mind the names.

The full-on indulgence of the groundhog gave off a whiff of debauchery. Even the lettuce, lied back with abandon. It's tousled nibbled leaves hinting there was a cigarette shared.

What the?

Matters got worse. The illicit lover hadn't left my garden. Upright on hind legs, nose sniffing the mist, he baited me with a look that said, "Hey, gurrl. Where've you been?"

Truth is, if I've been dismissive about my garden (and I have been), then there are some hard-to-swallow but necessary facts for me to digest. 

In couples counseling, it's a bold and fragile part of my work to introduce any such notion to an injured partner. They're hurt, they're furious, and wait:

“How is it that the affair became my fault?”

Yeah, that sorta ticks any of us off.

It's not on us. Each of us is responsible for our own choice of behaviors. That's sorta obvious. What's less obvious, writes Donald Baucom, Distinguished Professor at UNC, is that although our partner's affair is not our fault, each of us makes our relationships susceptible to affairs. Gardens, not excluded.

I agree, hard to stomach. So, go ahead, kick some ass-paragus before sipping a bit of what  David Brooks writes

“In a good relationship, you identify your own selfishness and see it as the fundamental problem. You treat it more seriously than your spouse’s selfishness.”

Face To Face With That Whistle Pig

Whether I failed to see this with my garden or willingly ignored it, there I was, face to face with a hungry suitor who loves my garden maybe even more than I do.

And, although I half-expected myself to be afraid of facing-off with the rodent Romeo, I wasn't. On the contrary, I felt for him. Silver tufts in his brown-sugar coat signified years of surviving many stormy nights.

I stood still. Was he afraid of me?

Frantically, he fell down onto all fours, trying to dig his escape beneath the fencing. Only, he couldn't. The fencing went down two-feet into the earth. His long-claw paws scampered this way, then that way—then, this way and that way again. Finally, a loosened hole in the garden-netting let him slip out into the nearby woods.

No time to lose, I set to work fixing the fence.

Below The Ego's Blow

Fences, it would seem, exist in our minds too, which brings us to Eckart Tolle, the spiritual guru, whose face sorta looks like a gopher's (in a cute way), and he can pull it off given his brilliance. He tells us that, when we are ticked off or bummed out about a betrayal, a loss, or a comment—even a smidgen—then our ego's gotta go.

In other words:

It’s not about the blow to our ego. It’s about the loss of our ego.

If you've no ego to invest in anything, then there's nothing to upset you.

Let me clear my throat here. "Sorry, Tolle, let's not kid ourselves. That whistle pig is spoiling my garden. All that hard work."

Tolle doesn't strike me as the kinda guy who enjoys the occasional f-bomb, but if he did: "Fuh! Tipsy. Try to listen. No one can take away your essence. No thing, no person, no gaddam whistle pig."  

In this scene, what if Tolle even swigged a shot of WhistlePig rye whiskey? (Yes, there is such a thing.)

Slamming his shotglass down, he'd say, "The groundhog isn't your enemy, your gaddam ego is. Loss and failure aren't bad; you just make yourself feel bad about them."

Words To Sleep On

The night of the groundhog affair, his challenging words helped me finally get some sleep. I felt calm.

Until sunrise, that is, when Tumbles mewed about the scent of things, and I worried (a lot) about my Fort Knox reinforcements: Three hours in the dark the night before, stitching galvanized wire into the fence webbing.


The most wise of all human virtues might be one’s lack of self-importance.

But, if it comes down to that, you might say that I'm in tremendous trouble. And, I'm not in trouble because Groundhog the Great is still getting into my garden. (He is.)

I'm not even in trouble for (hopefully) having to face the success of the Hav-A-Hart trap I set in my backyard. (Carrying the grizzly hog in a cage?) 

I'm in trouble because, with an eye on humility, these are only garden greens that I so dearly vie to keep—making me all too uncomfortably aware: There is no Hav-A-Hart trap to stop time, to stop the loss of those I so dearly love.

Is there?


Tumbles and the scent of a groundhog: Somebody's been sleeping my bed.


Back Of The Seed Packet

Factors of Injured Partners that Make Relationship More Vulnerable & Susceptible to Affairs

Note:  The researched factors listed below do not mean that an injured partner is the cause or the fault of an affair.  The factors only lead to susceptibility. Only the person who had an affair is responsible for their choices and actions. There is, of course, a separate list regarding the factors of the person who has an affair, and if you'd like a peek at it, just email Tipsy.


Factors Existing Before Affair

  • Overlooking partner’s sensitivities and needs: e.g., emotional, physical, personal growth
  • Unrealistic expectations or demands placed on your partner
  • Difficulty in recovering from disappointments or conflicts
  • Difficulty in recognizing/dealing with differences in ways of thinking and feeling
  • Negative behaviors that were too frequent or intense: 
    1. Excessive criticism
    2. Sarcasm
    3. Depreciation of compromises
    4. Stonewalling or silent treatment
    5. Ignoring or closing down partner’s bid for a talk or affection
    6. Too often distracted or preoccupied elsewhere


Factors Contributing to the Initiation or Continuation of an Affair

  • Ignoring signs of partner’s increasing emotional or physical withdrawal
  • Minimizing partner’s concerns about the relationship, or requests for couples counseling
  • Reluctance to work on own contributions to relationships pre-affair difficulties
  • Overlooking partner’s behaviors reflecting possible problems with boundaries:
    1. Excessive flirtations
    2. Time alone with an outside person
    3. Secrecy or stonewalling about interactions with another person
    4. Inconsistent explanations


Barriers to Your Own Recovery

  • Reluctance to engage in self-care behaviors: 
    1. Emotional health
    2. Physical health
    3. Social support
    4. Personal interests
  • Fear of vulnerability, which leads to unwillingness to risk closeness again
  • Moral convictions
  • Personal pride
  • Influence from outside friends, family, or colleagues who discourage primary relationship


Barriers to Your Partner’s Recovery--Even though the Jerk Had An Affair

  • Difficulty in reducing intense negative emotions--anger, rage, anxiety, paranoia, grief--making positive healing interactions or constructive discussions more challenging
  • Efforts to hurt, retaliate, or undermine the partner: e.g., via telling family members, children, or friends who support your relationship
  • Persistent pursuit of additional or repeated details that do not contribute to better understanding the affair’s precipitation, continuation, or future susceptibilities.

References: E. Perel, 2013; Baucom, Snyder, Gordon, 2011, J.A. Spring, 1996