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 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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Affairs and Ultimatums

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 (more…)

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Does an Affair Mean the Marriage is Over?

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?   (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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The Seven “R’s” of Healing an Affair

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…)

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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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