Healing After Infidelity: The Importance of Finding Meaning in an Affair

When couples get stuck trying to emerge from the emotional devastation of an affair, it feels awful. The same hurtful arguments are repeated over and over, resulting in scabs yet again being torn off emotional wounds, and new injuries being inflicted. After a while, it can seem like divorce is the only answer.

It may feel counter-intuitive, but many couples do recover from the devastation of infidelity and go on to have a relationship that they never thought was possible.

There are two basic stages in the healing process. (more…)

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How Do Affairs Affect Children? Part I

In this post I will address how children are impacted 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”.

Many couples I see who are trying to work on healing from an affair (more…)

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About Conversations That Heal Affairs Part I

“We have the same conversations over and over.  She gets triggered and tells me about it.  She’s in a great deal of pain.  I listen and tell her I’m sorry. I am sympathetic.  Sometimes she even lets me hold her.  But we just keep going through the same events, the same emotions, just as intense, again and again. This feels like hell.  Will it never end?  Why isn’t she getting over it?”

 

This is where many couples who are attempting to heal from infidelity find themselves at the beginning of marriage counseling, after trying to heal on their own.  They realize, that despite their best efforts, there is little sense of being in a process that feels like it is going anywhere.

There are many ways to think about why couples get stuck.  Today I want to focus on one part of it… the quality of presence that the person who has had the affair brings to his or her partner when they are triggered into intense pain and emotional turmoil over what has happened.  Healing conversations do take two, and the discoverer of the affair’s work is to develop a willingness and ability, despite being traumatized, to share their experience with their partner in a way that they are most likely to get a response that feels supportive.  In a nutshell, the more one attacks, the less likely this is to happen.

But let’s say, for the moment, that the discoverer of the affair is sharing their experience directly, earnestly trying to convey what is happening emotionally when reminded of what has happened… the reminder perhaps triggered by a song, a place, a new email that surfaces….  What can the person who had the affair offer at these times? (more…)

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Why “Being Good” Won’t Heal Your Affair

I don’t know why she can’t get over this. I ended the affair, have been spending much more time at home, doing more around the house, paying more attention to her, being more affectionate. I’ve told her I’m sorry and reassured her over and over that it was a mistake, that I love her and it will never happen again. I’m being so good! I don’t see why she won’t let it go!

I’ve heard these bewildered voices countless times. It can seem incomprehensible that despite one’s best efforts (more…)

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Heading Towards an Affair?

Of all of the people who show up for therapy struggling with some aspect of an affair, those in the infatuation, pre-affair (or maybe emotional affair) stage are the least likely to appear. This is such an important decision, you’d think one would seek assistance in reflecting on the implications of taking such a step. In fact, I expect that this post will generate many less readers than others I have written. Why is that? (more…)

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Difficulties Couples Encounter Trying To Heal From An Affair

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, (more…)

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What Happens to the Brain During an Affair?

Affairs in film and television series are often portrayed as exciting adventures, fun and mischievous; a way of breaking free from oppression… a conduit to a joyful existence. Embarking on an affair can seem like a solution to marital difficulties that have led to boredom, depression, low self-esteem or intense loneliness.

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 (more…)

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Rebuilding Real, Deep Trust After the Affair

“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 (more…)

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Asian Americans and Affairs

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 (more…)

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