The revelation of an affair is frequently a shocking experience.
In long-term relationships the fidelity of one’s partner is, more often than not, taken for granted, providing an emotional foundation for the couple. Trust and a sense of security rest on this foundation. Strength is derived from this secure bond. This strength enables each partner to function relatively smoothly in the world, and to be open to new and growthful experiences that life offers.
If either partner has a history of having been at the effect of infidelity, betrayal, deceit or abandonment, either by previous partners or during childhood, things can be more complicated. The sense of security with a partner takes longer to develop, or may only partially develop. For these individuals the revelation of an affair can be their worst nightmare come true. In order to protect themselves they might caution… “if you ever have an affair, it’s over.” In these cases, Continue Reading »
Movies and television shows frequently portray affairs as exciting adventures, fun and mischievous; a way of breaking free from oppression… a conduit to a joyful existence. To the person contemplating an affair, it can seem like a solution to depression, boredom or worse in a marriage; desperately needed relief from intense loneliness, and/or a bolster to one’s self esteem.
The reality of the experience of an affair is almost always very different. The explosion of brain research in the last decade has shed light Continue Reading »
“How can I ever trust you again?” “How could I have ever trusted you?”
“Trust me, this will never happen again.” “How can I win back your trust?”
The sudden loss of trust is shocking. It may seem impossible to imagine ever regaining it. As important as it is, it is also true that before the discovery trust may have been something that was hardly ever spoken of. How often do spouses say something like, “I feel so much trust for you.”?
That’s because trust is so fundamental to any close relationship, that it functions as a backdrop that makes everything else possible. In a recent TED Talk a musical conductor spoke about trust between the conductor and the orchestra as the thing that makes the music possible. He refers to trust as “the most fundamental gel in ever single human relationship. Without it, everything breaks down.” As our lives unfold we tend to focus on what trust makes possible… the music…and go on the assumption that the foundation is in place.
We trust that tomorrow will come, that the ground will be solid, and that our partner is who we think they are. We trust that we are who we think we are to our partner. We base our identity, our sense of who we are to ourselves and to others on the foundation that is held in place by this trust. We feel safe. We trust our own trust. And most of this goes on unconsciously.
Infidelity drives home just how fundamental trust has been for your marriage at the very moment that it is shattering. Your partner Continue Reading »
I have just come across clarification on a statistic I cited in “Can Relationships That Start as Affairs Succeed?” In that post I stated that 25% of relationships that start as affairs succeed. I always thought that sounded a bit high. Recently this figure has been clarified by Frank Pittman. In the study he is citing, the divorce rate among those who married their lovers was 75%. Information is not available about the quality of the 25% of marriages that did not end in divorce. The study did provide information on the reasons that the marriages ended… Continue Reading »
Emotional affair? I thought affairs meant extramarital sex!
He tells me they’re just friends. Am I being too possessive?
Can’t I have friends of the opposite sex?
Isn’t it better to give him a long leash?
Emotional affairs have become a hot topic in the last several years, resulting in much needed clarity for some and complete confusion for others. Conflicts arise in couples where one person’s friendship with someone else leaves their partner feeling neglected and angry , but also confused and uncertain about how to respond. “After all, they’re just business associates having lunch. I shouldn’t be so possessive.” Continue Reading »
In this post I will address how children are effected by their parent’s affairs. In subsequent posts I will discuss the effects on adult children of affairs and offer suggestions for parents involved in affairs on how to best support their children through this difficult time. You may also wish to read about “Children of Affairs”.
Unfortunately, it is frequently true that when caught up in an affair you can unintentionally become disconnected from your children and their needs.
In other posts I have talked about the trancelike state of consciousness that one inhabits during an affair. In this altered state links between actions and consequences dissolve; in the euphoric bubble you inhabit you believe you can pursue an illicit relationship and no one will be hurt because you believe that you can control everything and so prevent this from happening. However, this is a grandiose assumption that more and more requires you to lie to, manipulate and avoid intimate contact with your family, sometimes with irrevocable results.
Many couples I see who are trying to work on healing from an affair Continue Reading »
If you are a single woman that has been seeing a married man for some time and reading this, chances are that you have already gone through the initial stages of infatuation and blinding bliss. In these initial stages you are not wanting to think too deeply about the realities you are creating in your life by pursuing this relationship. But as things progress and the honeymoon period wears off you start to have questions, you bring them up to you lover, but most likely come away with answers that leave you only partially or not at all satisfied. These questions have to do with what you mean to him, whether or not he will leave his wife for you, how he can justify cheating on his wife, whether or not he has done this before, or is cheating on you now. Getting these answers become more and more important as you become more involved and then obsessed with your lover and realize that you are not as central to him as he is to you. (I am using the term “the other woman” as a literary convenience because statistics show that married men have affairs more frequently than do married women. However, most of the following also applies to men who find themselves in this position.)
Rona Subotnik illuminates a list of paradoxical realities that you may find yourself living with as the other woman. Here is my version of her findings: Continue Reading »
I came across an interesting statistic recently; 25% of relationships that start as affairs succeed. Actually, I was surprised, if I had to guess, I would have thought the figure to be much lower. (For an update on this statistic go to “Can Relationships That Start as Affairs Succeed? Revisited”) But a statistic is just that, and doesn’t tell you anything about your own individual situation.
Feeling torn between two lovers can be an agonizing experience. Besides the guilt, and fear of discovery, you also know that sooner or later you will have to lose someone you love or have loved. Thinking about this, you may wonder what the chances are that a relationship that starts as an affair will succeed. Continue Reading »
Most likely if you are reading this you have been struggling with whether to tell your partner for a while. It’s natural to feel paralyzed, and unable to think deeply about your options. The issues involved can seem endlessly complicated; any route you take resulting in emotional upheaval for everyone involved. Revealing your affair will undoubtedly alter many important relationships in ways that you cannot predict or control. The situation is less difficult if you are clear that you want to leave your relationship for your new lover, but if you have now realized that in fact, you have made a mistake and want to save your primary relationship, or if you don’t yet know who you really want to be with, Continue Reading »
You are probably in shock. You might feel as if the floor has opened up under you. Suddenly, there is an emergency and a strong need to take some action right away; you may have already left or thrown your partner out, or you may feel on the verge of doing so. But this may not bring you any real relief.
Your sense of safety, of trusting your own experience, of your place in the world, has suddenly been shaken to the core and the person you usually turn to for help is the very person who is the cause! Continue Reading »
If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, has it made a sound? The intrigue this question provokes is related to a central idea in postmodern philosophy, which is; a phenomena cannot be truly perceived apart from the context in which it is situated. A very obvious example of this would occur in a visit to the zoo, where we watch animals and think we are seeing true animal behavior. But what we are seeing are animals behaving in cages while experiencing being observed by humans. Their behavior is altered in ways that prevent us from knowing their most true nature. What has this got to do with undisclosed affairs? Continue Reading »
Over the years I have helped many Asian American couples heal from affairs. Many of the couples involved have been first or second generation Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese or South Korean. These are the Asian countries whose cultures are most organized around Confucian philosophy. Yet, when I ask, invariably, each person in the couple has never read any Confucian philosophy, even as a child.
Even though Confucianism functions somewhat like a religion, it isn’t one. A religion has a godhead. Confucius was a mortal philosopher.
Also, most modern religions have doctrines that are readily accessible to it’s adherents. It is preached in sermons, read in the Koran, or talked about in Hebrew school. As a result, this doctrine can be thought about and made a part of one’s life in a personal way. For example, a Catholic person can know that her religious doctrine states that abortion is a sin. This is something concrete and readily accessible to reflect upon. She can still consider herself Catholic, but choose to disagree w/ this part of the religion. Jewish people can still be Jewish even if they are “secular Jews.” These doctrines are explicitly taught in childhood, as opposed to only implicitly conveyed through family culture as is more the case with Confucianism.
To understand how Confucian philosophy can shape a marriage Continue Reading »
By “getting over” I don’t mean forgetting about it, or somehow making it okay. But I am writing to you if you find yourself consumed by pain and anger and obsessive thoughts that feel unrelenting over a long period of time, and if you don’t have a sense that these experiences are part of a healing process. I am writing to you if you feel that your marriage is somehow still worth saving even though an affair has occurred and even though you feel so stuck and can’t imagine eventually being able to heal. Continue Reading »
“Should I give my partner an ultimatum…the other person or me?” This is a question I hear frequently.
Discovering your partner’s affair can be traumatic enough. The best chance for healing the marriage is if the affair is relinquished and all of your partner’s energy turns to you and your relationship. But this doesn’t always happen. Some people in affairs are up front about not being willing to end some kind of involvement with the affair partner. Some do end it and then Continue Reading »
It’s definitely what most people believe, and tell their spouses early on. “If you ever have an affair, it’s over!” There are many reasons some find it important to take this stand at the outset. But sometimes, once it happens, it all seems more complicated.
For a long time it was commonly believed that affairs were actually the leading cause of divorce. But now we know that is not true. The most recent studies show that only about 25% of divorces are attributed to affairs.
So what is causing so many divorces? Continue Reading »
You are in the aftermath of your partner’s affair, trying to work things out. It’s a time of great emotional upheaval, everything upside down and inside out. Your relationship feels shattered…you feel shattered, yet somehow something survives and you still hope to work things out. It might be the thing you thought you would never do, stay with someone who has strayed, yet you find that now that you are in the situation, it’s not that simple. Somehow, amidst the outrage and devastation there is still love.
Couples in this situation have to rethink their sexual relationship. In my experience one of three things happen. Continue Reading »
Obsessing over the affair is an absolutely natural and normal response to the trauma you have experienced.
If you find yourself unable to, at times, stop turning over the lies, snippets of conversation, unanswered questions, things that don’t add up, or visualizing the same devastating images over and over, know that although this can be agonizing, it is actually Continue Reading »
In order to help yourself when you can’t stop thinking about the affair, it is important to understand the different functions obsessing can serve in your healing process.
My first and most important piece of advice is to try to stop beating yourself up for those times when you can’t stop going over the details, questions, lies, or things that just don’t add up, over and over again. (For more about lying click here.) It is important to understand that this is a completely natural and normal response to trauma, something that almost everyone in your situation experiences and that it is also Continue Reading »