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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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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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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Questions and More Questions About the Affair

It might seem like the questions will never stop, or that there are no answers that can satisfy.  However, there is a kind of “healing intelligence” behind these questions, and they usually occur in roughly the following sequence.  Although there can be more than one motivation for asking a question, a bit of introspection will reveal the core of what you are searching for.

Shock:  “How could you do this!?”  “How could this have happened!?”  “Do you have any idea what you have done to me?”  These first questions frequently are the emotional equivalent of shaking your partner by the shoulders as (more…)

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Forgiving an Affair

You’re all over the place emotionally; enraged, hurt, humiliated, terrified and very confused.  How could this have happened?  It couldn’t have.  But it did!  But it couldn’t have.  This can’t be real.  It happens to other people.  But it did happen.  It happened to us!  But it couldn’t have…

You might start to wonder what you did to cause this.  The answer is you didn’t cause it.  But still…  (more…)

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