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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Why Can’t I Get Over My Partner’s Affair?

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. (more…)

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Sex After the Affair

The revelation of infidelity can bring  great emotional upheaval; everything suddenly feeling upside down and inside out.  The  relationship can feel shattered.  Yet, in spite of this, sometimes hope for the relationship’s survival  remains.  Many vow they would never stay with someone who crossed this line but when it’s real, it’s sometimes not that simple.    Sometimes, amidst  the relationship wreckage, love and passion survive.

Couples in this situation almost always experience changes in their sexual relationship.  Here are some common scenarios and the reasons behind them. (more…)

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How Can I Stop Obsessing Over the Affair?

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 (more…)

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“How Can I Believe Him When He Says He’s Not Having an Affair?”

It can be completely crazy-making to feel like you cannot get at the truth. Something doesn’t feel right between the two of you, he’s not around as much as he used to be, not as interested in you. You suspect he might be seeing someone else. You demand he look you straight in the eye and tell you this isn’t so. He does. Can you be certain you now know?

Not according to (more…)

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What Type of Affair is This?

During the traumatic throes of the discovery of an affair, finding the right label, and therefore, singular explanation may feel like a life preserver.

As you read through books and web sites, you’ve probably noticed that almost everyone who writes about affairs has some way of categorizing them. Here are some common examples:

 “intimacy avoiding”, “anger avoiding”, “romantic”, “exit,” “split self”   “availability,” “alcoholic,” “retaliation, “revenge,” “sexual,” “culturally enabled,” “emotional,” “sex addiction,” proving you’re still attractive,” “can’t say no,””….

However, in my experience, this is only a good start, rather than the final word. Most affairs do not have a singular motive, or cause, but are multi-determined, frequently one piece in a complex puzzle. Understanding this enables couples to be more interested in the whole picture, and lessens the need for blame/shame dynamics.

Let’s use John as an example. (This story is not representative of any particular client that I have seen. Rather it is a composite based on my experience with hundreds of individuals and couples.)

John’s affair started months after his wedding and continued for years.

John had secretly been (more…)

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“Mad Men” in Affairs

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…)

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