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…)
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…)
“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…)
You might be surprised at how upset your partner is about your affair. The amount of rage directed at you can be overwhelming. Your spouse’s depression and withdrawal may be highly anxiety provoking. Although you both might want to work it out, you can find yourselves tossed about in a turbulent sea of emotions. You may feel desperate for a way to fix things, (more…)
“Men weren’t really the enemy – – they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill” Betty Friedan, Christian Science Monitor, April 1974
“Mad Men” portrays this “mystique” … women as subordinate and submissive, housewives, maybe secretaries, always standing behind their men, and only able to derive status from their husbands’ positions. The women who dared to deviate from this arrangement paid dearly (as did the women who submitted to it).
It appeared that men had it all… power, control, status, in general..superiority.
But Don Draper (more…)
Everyone has their own personal beliefs about affairs. These beliefs can stem from how we saw adults around us behaving with each other during our childhood. They can stem from how our parents and other relatives talked about and regarded affairs, from the particular culture you grew up in, and your religious upbringing and beliefs. Sometimes beliefs about affairs are really rationalizations that allow the affair to go on. If you really believe these things, than you don’t feel that you should have to apologize and you may be truly shocked at how traumatized your partner is upon discovery. Janis Abrahms Spring lists some beliefs that justify affairs (and I’ve added a few of my own):
It’s okay if I truly love the other person.
It’s okay if it’s just for sex and my partner remains the most important person to me.
It’s okay as long as we don’t actually have sex.
What my partner doesn’t know won’t hurt him or her.
A one-night stand (more…)
It can be confusing to know that you have betrayed your partner’s trust, to see him or her so devastated, and yet be unable to feel true remorse. This lack of remorse can be the final nail in the coffin of a marriage. You can see that it leaves your partner feeling more betrayed, enraged, disgusted, and/or withdrawn. You can see their panic and feel the tenuous threads holding you together fraying. What you might not know or want to think about is how your lack of sincere apology leaves your partner feeling as if they now mean nothing to you and the lover, everything. However, sometimes that is not the case at all, yet you still don’t want to apologize. Here are some common reasons:
Deep down, you had the affair to get out of your marriage. This is commonly referred to as an “exit affair.” But sometimes this motive is not experienced on a conscious level. In my experience, it can take someone a long time to come to grips with the desire to leave a marriage and the familiarity and/or safety that it represents. Acting out the wish by having an affair can be the first step towards this realization. Ironically, acting out feelings can keep us from being in touch with them.
You’re too angry. You haven’t been able to get through to your partner all of these years, either because (more…)
Whether you are the other person, the discoverer, or the discovered, virtually all of your relationships have been altered by the affair.
Especially at first, the impulse to keep the affair a secret is usually very strong. Certainly, the person having the affair doesn’t want anyone to know, and the secrecy can even add excitement to the affair relationship. However, if you are feeling conflicted about the affair, it may be painful (more…)
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, (more…)