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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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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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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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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“I Told You If You Ever Have an Affair It’s Over!”…

you remind him, glaring.  And so begins many courses of marriage counseling.

It’s a predicament.  You’ve just found out you’ve been betrayed in the one way you vowed you would never tolerate.  This is awful enough.  But the idea of breaking a vow that you made to yourself, as well as your partner can be making you feel (more…)

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Why Don’t I Want to Apologize for the Affair? Part I

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…)

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How to Help Your Partner Heal From Your Affair

The discovery of an affair is traumatic for everyone involved. However, there are important things you can do to help your partner heal over time.

It can be useful to think about trauma as something that actually wants to heal.  If provided with the appropriate conditions, it frequently does. Your partner  probably feel that his or her  world,  life,  identity, and  marriage has been shattered.  Natural reactions  include feeling betrayed, panicked, rageful and vengeful, and ultimately very deep, and previously unimaginable pain. I frequently hear “the ground opened up under me,” or (more…)

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Who Should I Tell About the Affair?

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…)

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